E3 2011 Coverage: Little Games, Little Cash, Big FunJuxtapoz // Friday, 10 Jun 2011
Sometimes games don't need to be full length titles with 20 hours of gameplay, full marketing campaigns, and national chain store launch. Sometimes simple, small, unique arcade style games can surprise you with their depth. With most regular games costing $50 or more, these games can provide hours of entertainment with most ranging from $5-$15.
Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet (Shadow Planet Productions)
With all the exhibits overwhelming your senses and fighting for your attention, it's rare for a smaller title to catch your eye by merit alone. This game has such a unique look, I couldn't help but queue up for the chance to experience it. You are a small disc shaped flying robot, reminisint of the movie "Batteries Not Included," who flies around a cave like environment in a fun 2-D sidescroller fashion. Your ship can be upgraded with weapons like grappling craws, buzzing chainsaws, and laser blasters. They protrude from the bottom of your ship and can be aimed in any direction as you fly around. Part puzzle game, part shoot-em-up, there is a little bit of everything in here. With each enemy I encountered, I found myself leaning and swaying with the game as my ship danced around the screen avoiding enemy fire. The 3-dimensional feel the game has is amazing considering how simple the design is.
Only a playable demo at the exhibit, I am downloading this as soon as I can come July.
Rock of Ages (ACE Team)
Games that take you through several decades of history often end up being less fun gaming experience, and more hidden history lesson. That is not the case in Rock of Ages. Part tower defense game, part Super Monkey Ball, you first must build up your defenses via various towers, catapults, exploding barrels, other various medieval weaponry, and cows. Yes cows, which actually have to be aimed in the direction you want them to attack in. You are placing these as a barrier between your castle, and your opponents boulder(with various power-ups) rolling towards your castle. Once you complete your defenses, you switch to offense, assuming your minions have completed shaping your boulder. You are the boulder rolling down a track, with multiple paths, attempting to avoid the same defenses your opponent has installed.
The game starts in Ancient Greece and continues through the Medieval, Renaissance, Rococo and Goya time periods as well. Amazingly this list was narrowed down from a much largers list of 16 time periods including Neoclassic, Prehistoric, and Impressionism. The peasants that occupy the track are 2D flat paper-craft looking people, which add a nice contrast to the 3D elements as you barrel down the track. When I found myself asking the "assistant" if I could stay on the console for another round, I knew I had found a game that would have the replay value that none but the most addictive titles contain.
The narrative is really what sold me on this game. From the moment you awake this deep, dark, a Morgan Freeman like voice tells the tale of the game as you are living it. The levels you encounter build themselves as you are walking through them, showing you beatifully lush 2D hand painted artwork. While simple, I quickly learned that my usual style of rush in slashing gaming while effective, was not the best angle of attack for this game. Blocking and dodging, while awaiting your oppurtunity to attack is much more effective. Your character, only referred to as The Kid, is attempting to build a land to escape to called "The Bastion" after some disaster caused your original land to split into two.
As I mentioned before, the land rebuilds itself as you progress through it, but is also equally falling apart as you leave each respective area. As you progress you pick up health potions, spell potions, and items only described as "Something Heavy" or "Something Shiny" assumingly to help you along your journey. At certain times the shield, bow and arrow, and hammer combination had me thinking back to Legend of Zelda, which in my opinion is a very, very good thing.
Controlling the elements has long been a dream of man, from the stone age to the modern age we have fought to utilize these awesome powers to our advantage. Well now you can, and your elemental powers can be used to aid a young struggling tribe of humans who have lost thier memories. By collecting elements like earth, water, and even lava, you are tasked with protecting your tribe from natural disasters, while leading them from totem to totem attempting to assist them regain their history. Building land bridges to cross water barriers, removing land to redirect water, and collecting lava and redepositing it to create mountains, are just a few of the ways you can help lead your people.
And just like real life, earth erodes with time, leaving you to remember to keep your already established villages connected to the remote ones you expand to. You also get special powers such as Jellifying Water, which allows you to build water trails similiar to Moses parting the seas in the Ten Commandments. And you are not manifesting these elements, you are drawing them up from the land, bodies of water, and volcanoes in your surrounding area. Nominated for no less then 5 awards at E3 including Best Puzzle Game, apparently I was not the only one enjoying this game.