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Indiecade East showed why PS4 needs more 4 player games

Mercenary Kings Screenshot - Platforming and shooting

Sony’s showcase at Indiecade East this year presented a nice selection of indie games coming to the PS4 and Vita in 2014. More than half of those PS4 games had four controllers and players surrounding them laughing and yelling. Couch gaming is making a comeback, and it can’t come soon enough.

On PS4, your 4-player party game choices are currently limited to Tiny Brains and Super Motherlode, two games that haven’t exactly lit the world on fire. That’s why Indiecade East’s showing was so exciting. These are the games that will get you to buy more PS4 controllers:

Sportsfriends

Sportsfriends - Super Pole Riders

Sportsfriends is actually four games in one. Three out of the four were available to play at Indiecade East.

First up was Super Pole Riders, which comes courtesy of QWOP and GIRP developer Bennet Foddy. The game retains his style of intentionally awkward, physics-based controls and applies them to a 4-player competitive sports game. Each player in this two-on-two competition is equipped with a flexible vaulting pole that they can rotate to propel themselves into the air or simply whack other players. In the center of the arena is a ball on a wire, and it’s the goal of each team to push the ball along the wire, to a target on the far end of the arena. Awkward physics interactions and silliness ensues. For an idea of what the game is all about, you can actually play the original version of Pole Riders on Foddy.net.

Next we played Hokra, which I actually covered at last year’s Indiecade East as well. This one is a minimalist game of two-on-two keep away, where players (as simple squares) can perform a dash/tackle to steal the ball or pass to their teammate when they have the ball. The goal is to bring the ball into your goal and hold it there for as long as possible. The team who fills up a meter first is the winner. Playing with fellow GameZoner Brianna Peterson, I was surprised by how quickly we were able to develop teamwork and winning strategies in this incredibly simple game.

Last of the playable games was BariBariBall, a game that was heavily featured at last year’s Indiecade East, but I didn’t have a chance to play. The concept is fascinating, as it clearly takes a page from Super Smash Brothers, but applies that game’s concepts to a ball sport. Players can double, triple, or quadruple jump as long as their stamina holds out, and the goal is to drop the ball into your team’s bottomless pit for a goal. Falling in the pit yourself costs a point, and it’s easy to do if you run out of stamina. The game becomes a careful risk/reward gamble as you try to get the ball into your goal without going down alongside it.

Towerfall Ascension

Towerfall Ascension on PS4

As much as I liked Sportsfriends -- and I can certainly see it providing at least a few hilarious nights of drunken antics among my friends in the future -- Towerfall is the game I see adding to my shortlist of definitive party games. This is some Bomberman-level competitive quality gaming right here. My friends and I originally played Towerfall on an Ouya, which seriously hampered how much fun we could actually have with it. Controller support was a mess, lag was rampant, and our fun didn’t last long. This is a game that deserves a better platform, so I’m really glad it’s coming to PS4 and PC as Towerfall Ascension.

The basic gist is four-player bow and arrow combat in 2D arenas. Players jump, shoot, and dodge, while managing a limited quiver of arrows and a variety of arena hazards. When the game rewinds for a quick replay of the match-winning kill, it’s almost always followed by raucous laughter and smack talking.

Mercenary Kings

Mercenary Kings split screen

I played Mercenary Kings very briefly at Indiecade East, but I could see the promise in its Metal Slug-meets-RPG mechanics premise. Here’s a preview that does a better job of covering what Mercenary Kings is than I could based on my brief playtime. But I can say one thing -- this is yet another promising 4-player game, that, if you can get past the need for split-screen, could provide some more long-term fun than the aforementioned party games.

Now I just need to start saving my pennies for some extra PS4 controllers before these games hit.

Enjoy random thoughts about the latest games, the Sega Saturn, or the occasional movie review? Follow me @JoeDonuts!

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Joe Donato Video games became an amazing, artful, interactive story-driven medium for me right around when I played Panzer Dragoon Saga on Sega Saturn. Ever since then, I've wanted to be a part of this industry. Somewhere along the line I, possibly foolishly, decided I'd rather write about them than actually make them. So here I am.
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