The unlikely games that stole my heart this E3
E3 2014 didn’t disappoint with regards to hard-hitting, triple-A titles. Exciting as those games are, they are somewhat boring in the sense that they are to be expected. If Naughty Dog hadn’t showcased Uncharted 4, Ubisoft hadn’t shown Far Cry 4, Bungie hadn’t shown Destiny, and so on, it wouldn’t have been much of an E3. Even so, the projects from the big boys of the industry are less a surprise on Christmas morning and more the priceless objects you see as stroll down Market Street. Impressive, promising and worthy of hype, but obvious.
The real surprises are the games that show up out of nowhere, in no way hinted at by preceding fiscal reports, teasing tweets or videos, but wow audiences all the same. These are the surprises that added that necessary spice to my E3 experience this year. Feel free to share the wonky or unexpected games that stole your heart in the comments.
Ori and the Blind Forest
Pairing a small but adorable protagonist with a scarcely useful but loveable partner has become a pastime of indie games, arguably catalyzed by ICO, and is often paired with 2D platforming and puzzling. Of course, things are usually popular for a reason, and the reason for the pervasiveness of this particular formula is that it’s an innately endearing character dynamic which, in the right hands and paired with engaging gameplay, often makes for a cathartic experience. Ori and the Blind Forest wasn’t coy in showing that it aims to capitalize on that theme, but also showed that it will do so with a gorgeous hand-drawn aesthetic juxtaposed with fluid motion and platforming.
And as much as I’d love to curiously suggest that “there’s just something” about the trailer, I know exactly why I was so fond of it: The shots in which the giant owl stomps to the deep bass of the song are a sign of good directorship and were incredibly effective. The only thing I’m confused over is whether they were more effective than the grand light show Microsoft put on for the game during their conference.
It’s not strange for Sony to support their new system with one of their most popular IP, but with LittleBigPlanet Hub still in our rear-view mirrors, LittleBigPlanet 3 certainly wasn’t the most likely exclusive to make an E3 apperance. As a result, reminiscing in the splendor of Media Molecule’s arts-and-crafts world and expansive multiplayer and pondering the new mechanics offered by newcomers OddSock, Toggle and Swoop came together in a delightfully promising way. I’m sure I’m not the only one eager to take the reins of the new four-man gang in LBP3 later this year.
There’s a certain charm to Kirby’s Epic Yarn, and seeing that applied to my personal favorite Nintendo poster child was a treat to see announced. From its reveal trailer alone, it’s clear that Yoshi’s Wooly World takes advantage of Nintendo’s vaunted yarn mechanic more thoroughly and creatively than ever. Our woolen dinosaur and his vibrant world pop off the screen; the world oozes color, and looks to truly behave as though it were stitched and knitted together. Better still, Yoshi’s iconic eggs have brought a host of new gameplay options to the table, from creating platforms to making unique eggs.
I have fond memories of co-oping my way through the original Magicka with friends. Cackling as we obliterate our teammates and upon discovering new spells, and those fleeting moments of genuine cooperation necessary to take down the game’s larger bosses. As such, I’m quite excited to learn to spell again, though I doubt I’ll make the jump to PS4. Can't beat the PC experience if you ask me.
The game’s reveal trailer is also an absolute riot. So there’s that.
I’ve done nothing but give our editor-in-chief an earful of reasons why I love Splatoon from the moment I saw it announced, and for (what I would call) good reason. The design behind the Inklings and the battlegrounds they’ll be redesigning leaves plenty of room for innovative features.
Because the overarching goal of the map is to take control of areas by distributing your team’s color, there should never be a dull moment in Splatoon matches; even if there aren’t enemies in front of you, you always have a clear objective. The ability to draw your own paths—through perforated surfaces, up walls, around corners and so on—using your ink and then traveling quickly through them in squid form is a stroke of genius and can only bring the game’s maps to life in new ways, allowing players to truly create their own paths, as each new round will bring new ways to walk through your color.
Utilizing the Wii U gamepad as a map of the battleground demonstrates just how useful the not-so-little tablet can be for mainstream gaming experiences, and will allow players to better coordinate with their team and keep track of the match’s progress. Arguably best of all, Splatoon is thematically rich. A world led by Inklings with the ability to become squids (incredibly adorable squids, mind), super weapons in the form of paint rollers, ink cast as ammunition—it all ties into an umbrella theme of ink, with a pretty little bow of gorgeous visuals on top. I have extremely high hopes for Splatoon, if only because its games like it that make me value the Wii U as a system.