Summer Vacation is Over

Hello, lovely readers! If you haven’t noticed, I took a break from writing during July, and gave myself some vacation time for the first time in forever. My plans were minimal: sleep, travel, and play a bunch of video games. Not everything went as planned (I slept, but I’ll be traveling throughout August), but I’m fresh and raring to go. I thank you for your patience.

As far as August goes, we’re entering the time of year when major releases start picking up once again. That’s when all the big compromises on this list get made. Starting with a list of fifteen or more games I might want to include, I generally begin the selection process by cutting from both ends. I try to make room to include games I really want to talk about (Guacamelee), and at the same time weed out games I have no strong interest in (MaddenBlair Witch). There’s some variation month to month, but being able to cull and shape these lists, especially when there’s so many games to choose from, is always my favorite part of the project.

It’s a good month to get back in the groove, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of the year brings. On my end, my major goal is to play more games, get some reviews going, and tackle everything I want to do with 100% effort. I don’t exactly know what my release schedule will be like going forward (I’m looking for freelance writing positions, too), but I have a number of projects in mind that will keep things interesting. Sometimes, this may mean I’ll miss a week or two because I’m bearing down on something special, but don’t think I’ve forgotten you. You’re all amazing.

Anyway, video games are back, I’m back, and it’s going to be an interesting ride for the rest of the year. I hope you’ll be here to ride it out with me. See you in September!

But can it run on Windows 95?

Exodemon (PC)
Publisher: Kuupu
Developer: Kuupu
Release Date: 8/3/19

What is it?
Developed by a small team in Brazil, Exodemon is a first-person shooter inspired by older titles like Quake and Hexen. If you’ve heard about this game before, that’s because it’s been in the Steam Greenlight program since 2016. Demos and previews have been out for years, and if their itch.io page is any indication, Kuupu has been getting the word out in their own way. If you’re looking to travel back to the halcyon days when “games used to respect your intelligence,” (direct quote) then this is probably something you’ll enjoy. If you like the way games today have embraced accessibility, well, hopefully Exodemon is fun to play anyway.

Why is it important?
I continue to be fascinated by retro-revival trends in games, and love that designers have moved into recreating the crude early 3D designs of the 90’s. It still seems risky, but this project started as a gamejam idea, has had a decent amount of exposure over the years, and has been available to play in some form for a while. Hopefully, this is enough to ensure that Kuupu’s vision is polished and fully realized, but game development is tricky. Nothing’s certain until that 1.0 build gets pushed out the door.

BAT. SMASH.

DC Universe Online (Switch)
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Daybreak Game Company
Release Date: 8/6/19

What is it?
A few months ago, I talked about my fascination with the idea of MMOs appearing on Switch. In my view, offering a subscription to something like Final Fantasy XI with the Switch’s online fee could entice more people to sign up for the service. DC Universe Online is free-to-play though, so the appeal here is a bit different. The potential of the genre rests in how Switch audiences react here. Success here could mean more titles like Elder Scrolls Online making their way over. but if it fails, there’s no incentive for anyone to replicate this experiment ever again.

Why is it important?
It’s important to remember that once upon a time, Daybreak Game Company was known as Sony Online Entertainment. With Sony, the company launched several successful MMOs, including EverQuest and PlanetSide, and was a major division until they went off on their own in 2015. When DCUO launched in 2011, it was a PS3/PC exclusive – a first party title. Eight years later, it’s the only Daybreak game to come to other systems. It may not be the most popular MMO right now (WoWFinal Fantasy XIFFXIVEVE Online, and ESO say hello), but its presence adds a new wrinkle to the hypothesis they everything can be played on Switch.

Trust in delays, even if they’re frustrating.

Guacamelee! One-Two Punch Collection (PS4/Switch)
Publisher: Leadman Games
Developer: DrinkBox Studios
Release Date: 8/6/19

What is it?
Guacamelee Super Turbo Championship Edition and Guacamelee 2 have already been available digitally on PS4 and Switch for a while, so this retail release is nothing new. However, I decided to put it on this list because I’m psyched to pick it up after a few delays bumped it from May to August. Both titles are highly regarded Metroidvania-inspired platformers and I look forward to finally playing them. With any luck, I’ll be picking this up in less than a week’s time.

Why is it important?
With the first game getting an
an 89 on OpenCritic and the second one an 86, they’re not games you can easily ignore. This new release comes with a few goodies that’ll make the purchase more interesting, like a manual, codes for soundtracks, and a poster, but beyond that I’m just using it as an excuse to play these games. I love Metroid, so this should be just as fun. That’s how that works, right?

“…and the reason is, I’m the President of the United States.”

Metal Wolf Chaos XD (PC/PS4/XB1)
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Developer: FromSoftware/General Arcade
Release Date: 8/6/19

What is it?
Metal Wolf Chaos
has always been a white whale for fans of weird and campy titles. Developed by FromSoftware long before the Souls series, this mech game came out exclusively for Xbox at the end of 2004 in Japan. The plot concerns the 47th President of the United States, Michael Wilson, as he fights off a coup d’etat lead by his Vice President, Richard Hawk. Ironically, the game never left Japan, and people only became aware of it when clips popped up during the early days of Youtube. Just listen to that dialogue! The actors are clearly having the time of their lives.

Why is it important?
You’re playing as the President of the United States fighting the Vice President in giant mechs. It’s idiotic action. It’s political parody. It’s a game that’s likely going to be as fascinating now as it was in 2004. A PS4 retail release is planned thanks to GameStop and Special Reserve Games, but for my money, I can’t see myself getting this on anything besides an Xbox. A game so passionately about America belongs on the most American of video game systems.

I’m sure it looks less complicated in real life.

Killer Queen Black (PC/Switch)
Publisher: BumbleBear Games
Developer: BumbleBear Games/Liquid Bit
Release Date: 8/20/19

What is it?
Based on the 2013 arcade game Killer Queen (itself based on a real-life game from the same creators), Killer Queen Black made a splash during the E3 2018 Nintendo Direct. Since then, we’ve learned that the game is also coming to PC at the same time as the Switch, and to Xbox One at a later date. This team-based, strategic platformer looks like a lot of fun regardless of where you play it, but I sort of wonder if this had been the plan all along. It feels like a Switch exclusive that suddenly became not an exclusive anymore and that’s why it’s taken so long to come out. I can’t prove any of that, but that’s what it feels like to me.

Why is it important?
I had no idea what Killer Queen was. I didn’t even know there was a scene for original arcade games not based on existing IP, but I’m glad one exists. It reminds me of Towerfall and Super Smash Bros in a way, but it has a unique twist all its own. If it did well in arcades and works as a real life game, then we could have a real underground phenomenon here. Which is great, because the last time a sport really took off it was Quidditch, and the world is a much different place than it was when Quidditch was popular.

Making a forest feel like home.

Life is Strange 2: Episode 4 (PC/PS4/XB1)
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Dontnod Entertainment
Release Date: 8/22/19

What is it?
Life is Strange 2 still exists, and though I have been following the game since the beginning, I don’t know anyone else who is. If it’s because people are waiting for all the episodes to come out, or if they lost their patience over the slow episodic release schedule, I don’t know. What I do know is that the previous episodes provide a stellar experience. It’s been a fantastic game so far, some technical issues aside. Episode 3 is the best episode yet, and I look forward to seeing where Dontnod takes the story. They have a lot to live up to.

Why is it important?
The future of episodic games is in doubt, and Life is Strange 2’s performance is example enough of that. I’m sure development’s been stressful, and the severe wait between episodes is a necessity. So far, I think it’s all been worth it. The storytelling is phenomenal. The choices are more important and interesting than ever. But if no one else is playing, then it’s hard to know if anyone will care.

Tokyo RPG Factory pumps out some nice looking art.

Oninaki (PC/PS4/Switch)
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Tokyo RPG Factory
Release Date: 8/22/19

What is it?
Oninaki is the latest game by Square Enix’s Tokyo RPG Factory subsidiary. Watching the trailer, the story seems to be about a group of people called Watchers, who help keep the balance of life, death, and reincarnation. On the surface, it feels a little like Final Fantasy X, but like other RPG Factory titles, there’s probably more going on underneath. That’s been the M.O. of their games so far – a vague reference to another Square game helps act as a conduit to draw people in to something different. It didn’t exactly work for the company’s two previous games, I Am Setsuna and Lost Sphear, but it could still happen. Maybe Oninaki will be the one.

Why is it important?
It’s hard to argue with with the idea behind Tokyo RPG Factory’s output. I like that Square is actively trying to figure out what it was that made their RPGs so ubiquitous in the 90’s. They just haven’t succeeded in doing that yet. I Am Setsuna ended up with an aggregate score of 75 on OpenCritic, while Lost Sphear stands at 70Oninaki looks promising enough to do better than those, but that’s no guarantee. This is definitely the one to watch this month – I’d like to believe it’ll do well, but the track record doesn’t back that up.

There’s no “V” in Control.

Control (PC/PS4/XB1)
Publisher: 505 Games
Developer: Remedy Entertainment
Release Date: 8/27/19

What is it?
The latest game from Remedy Entertainment (Max Payne, Alan Wake), Control puts players in the world of Jesse Faden, the newest director of the Federal Bureau of Control. The FBC is responsible for all things paranormal and, wouldn’t you know it, now that Jesse is in charge, all hell has broken loose. Jesse must make her way through the FBC’s headquarters, the Oldest House, to defeat a mysterious enemy called the Hiss. Unlike other Remedy games, Control is inspired by Metroidvania concepts where unlocking new abilities helps open more areas of the Oldest House. Remedy’s games aren’t always the highest sellers, but this mix of exploration and X-Files style is intriguing.

Why is it important?
Control has been getting a good amount of buzz, which is expected for a developer of such high pedigree. It’s already important this month because of that. What’s more important, however, is how this shows the evolution of its publisher, 505 Games. Once known for titles like Naughty BearSniper Elite, and later Cooking Mama games, 505 is now responsible not only for Control, but also the upcoming Indivisible from the developers of Skullgirls, and the recently released Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night*. Their titles are increasing in quality and importance, and should Control do well, we may soon see them rivaling other B-tier publishers like THQ Nordic.

Anime Cop Simulator 2019.

Astral Chain (Switch)
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: PlatinumGames
Release Date: 8/30/19

What is it?
Bayonetta 3 is still on the way, but Nintendo’s productive partnership with PlatinumGames seems to have taken an interesting detour into a new IP. From what I understand, this stylish action game uses two characters at once – the main character, a rookie cop, and a monster called Legion that can be captured and used in the environment kind of like a Pokémon. It also reminds me of Capcom’s Asura’s Wrath, and comes from a beloved developer. We may not know when Bayonetta 3 is coming, but this should tide fans over until that time comes.

Why is it important?
This is the directorial debut of Takahisa Taura (Nier: Automata) with supervision by Hideki Kamiya (Devil May Cry, Bayonetta). I see this as a passing-of-the-torch moment that gets people excited because Kamiya is on board, but gives a platform to Taura, who has already had an interesting career working on games like Metal Gear Rising. It’s a great opportunity for a new generation of game directors to make their name, and is something I’d love to see Platinum keep doing as they continue forward.

Starring a man who looks like Chris Cooper…

The Dark Pictures: Man of Medan (PC/PS4/XB1)
Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment
Developer: Supermassive Games
Release Date: 8/30/19

What is it?
The Dark Pictures is a new anthology series and The Man of Medan is the first installment. Like Supermassive’s hit title, Until Dawn, this will essentially be another horror adventure game where audience members are encouraged to participate and help the player make decisions. With a two player co-op mode and a “Movie Night Mode” that supports up to five people, the options players have run deeper than before, and will likely be a hit on the streaming circuit, too.

Why is it important?
Supermassive’s path forward since Until Dawn has been strange, with a focus on PSVR and PlayLink titles over larger projects. The Man of Medan seems to change that, but with a price tag of $29.99, it’s hard to be sure. I get the feeling that The Dark Pictures will be more episodic than we think, despite each episode being its own distinct story. I predict it’ll be somewhere between an episode of Life is Strange 2 and a full title like Until Dawn. Still a decent chunk of content when you get down to it, but one understandably produced on a shared budget.

It’s just like that 2002 film, Ghost Ship.

Ten Games to Look For is a feature I write up every month, compiling the games I think are worth covering every four or so weeks. If you’d like to contact me about this feature or anything else I write, you can contact me on TwitterYou can also email me at dcichocki(at)tiltingwindmillstudios.com. (*)I should mention that I was a backer of Bloodstained when it was on Kickstarter.