Riley the dog makes an entrance as we make an exit.
By Jamin Warren at
What amazes me about E3 each year is its utter, stubborn timelessness. This is my fifth year coming and each outing offers the promise of difference, of some change in the air. But each crowded show-floor, each ripping bass rip at the end of each trailer, and each iridiscent, irradiating branding element suggests that it’s the same as it ever was.
And yet, there are always diamonds in the rough. Here are some of my favorites for the day.
If you don’t know Japan Studio, you should. They lack a front person to sell the studio, but their fingerprint is all over some of the best games of the last decade including Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, Patapon, and Echochrome. Rain fits their oeuvre perfectly.
Initially, the studio conceived of a character who was invisible, but their producer said the team struggled to communicate exactly where this character would live on-screen. As Ralph Ellison could have told you, lacking a visual presence poses some significant challenges. As it turns out, rain is excellent foil to faintly illuminate the little boy you must guide through the naked city streets.
Games have struggled with noir as a genre for quite sometime. What the style requires is nuance, not the a strong suit for the medium. But the tonal simplicity and addition of love interest (or threat) communicates pathos quite well. The piano tracking score is a nice touch as well.
Super Mario 3D World
Years ago, I detailed the cutthroat impulses inherent in the four-player melee of New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Competitive multiplayer games always require a level of heartlessness but Nintendo had inadvertently created one the most diabolical titles I had ever played. My urge to physically assault my cousin while jumping through the halcyon world of Mario was unparralled.
It is with happiness I can report that no such bloodlust emerged during my session of Super Mario 3D World. We four journeymen—Peach, Mario, Luigi and Toad—danced with ease through three levels without stepping on each other’s heads. The pace is still quite manic, but the blood pressure stayed low.
Also, Cat Suit Mario. Just saying.
Ricky Haggett and Richard Hogg have been working on variations of Hohokum for more than 5 years, so it’s nice to see the duo come closer to a release. Imagine Snake if the serpent had escaped the confines of your Nokia, taken to flight, nibbled some mushrooms, and blissed-out with technicolor creatures of the sky.
Pop-up books are quite in vogue these days (fellow Sony release Tearaway also adopts some of that mood) and Hohokum’s mystery was welcome. “If someone figures out how to actually play, we haven’t done our job,” Hogg told me. Here’s to trying!
Titanfall photo via Chris Alcoran.
By Jamin Warren at
Instead of the usual onslaught of E3 news, we decided just to highlight the best of what we've seen so far. In the first half-day, I picked up a couple promising ventures.
“It’s a really terrible movie,” Twisted Pixel CEO Michael Wilford tells me. “You should totally watch it.”
Wilford has forgotten the name of the disastrous Michael Jackson venture that had the singer green-screened during its production, but the memory sticks with him. Twisted Pixel, as their name might suggest, actually has a yearly office contest to find the worst movie and their latest outing Lococycle feels pulled from the plot of one of those films. You play as a sentient motorcycle named I.R.I.S. who breaks free from a repair shop, but you have a guest. An unwitting Hispanic mechanic named Pablo has his pant leg caught in I.R.I.S.'s chasiss and is dragged along for the ride. You can’t make this up.
The challenge, of course, is making a "bad" game that actually isn't bad. Wilford says they've watched so many B-movies that "they know exactly where the line is." Voice talent from Freddy Rodriguez (Six Feet Under, Grindhouse) add a Hollywood punch and the manic gameplay style keeps the dialogue bristling and the dark humor bubbling. (Rodriguez's character Pablo only speaks Spanish, but since I.R.I.S' translation function is broken, she just chats with him casually while he begs for his life.)
Lococycle will be a near-launch title for Xbox One so look for it in the fall.
Icycle: On Thin Ice
Illustrator Saul Bass was best known for his work on the title sequences of films like Vertigo. Before Bass, movie titles were little more than the perfunctory lists of actors and crew names. Bass made the first momemts of his films crackle with expectation and showed how design could be just as a cinematic expression as the film itself. "I want to make beautiful things, even if nobody cares," he told an interviewer in 1986.
British designer Reece Millidge has taken that philosophy to heart with his charming new mobile title Icycle: On Thin Ice. Mobile games suffer from the same lack of style and panache as movie titles in Bass' age. On Thin Ice is lovely to look at and Millidge's profound use of background add diversity to a simple platform style of game. Each sequence is a puzzling little vignette and On Thin Ice's simplicity belies Millidge's painstaking construction.
Icycle: On Thin Ice will be out later this year.
While other companies were busy putting Drake on-stage and feeding the thousands with food trucks, OUYA took a slightly different approach. The $99 Android console held an open-to-the-public street caravan with a giant orange RV showcasing some of the console's newest titles. Tucked to the side was one of my instant favorites here at E3, Matt Thorson's Towerfall.
Harnessing the crazed energy of fighting games like Super Smash Brothers, Towerfall was easy to pick up and jump right in. Only one hit from your arrow kills others, leading to one lightning round after another. Platformers were quite in vogue with indies in the past couple years; perhaps brawlers are the next shiny new thing.
Towerfall will be out June 25th.
E3 photo via Rick R.
By Jon Irwin at
Good things happen when games stop holding your hand.
By Kill Screen Staff at
Microsoft and Sony showed off their big guns yesterday. Today, Nintendo took to the airwaves and fired back with hoverkarts, cat suits and a double helping of Smash. Prepare for trailer-dump in 3, 2, 1...
The next console Mario game, Super Mario 3D World, is somewhat unexpectedly a follow-up to their 2011 handheld gem.
The next mascot racer, Mario Kart 8, takes a page from F-Zero (R.I.P.) with anti-gravity courses and lopping tracks.
X will make you believe.
The Witch returns in Bayonetta 2, newly-shorn and packing as much high-heeled firepower as ever.
Now chores include smacking heads... introducing your favorite new brawler: The Villager in Super Smash Bros., coming to 3DS and Wii U.
Also playable on the floor are the HD-ified Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, a new Donkey Kong Country sequel, the wack-tastic Wonderful 101 from Platinum Games, and a couple of 3DS titles no one will talk about this week before selling millions upon millions, Pokemon X/Y.
Elsewhere, Chris Baker spits truth about TwitchTV's exclusive deal to become the "SportsCenter of video games" for Xbox One.
The new Killer Instinct is F-F-F-F-Free-to-play??
And one blip in Sony's attempted Red Wedding moment is the admission from CEO Jack Tretton that third-party publishers can decide whether or not to implement a Season Pass policy on their games. Let the onslaught continue.
Too much!! My back! Help?
By Clayton Purdom at
The Swapper's soupy synths echo and evolve the hum of ionised air pioneered by Edgar Froese and Eduard Artemyev.
By Jamin Warren at
Sony's made up its mind. Microsoft needs to stop dancing.
By Jon Irwin at
Two recent reboots attempt to adapt.
Thousands disembark noisily in L.A., an E3 alternative arrives across the pond, and a New Leaf finally falls
By Kill Screen Staff at
The Electronic Entertainment Expo finally begins with a host of conferences today before the showfloor opens tomorrow. Here's a primer from The Guardian about just what to expect. In a word: noise.
If you're not in Los Angeles for the show, hop on a plane/train to London and attend ETOO, a cheekily-named alternative to E3 and England's answer to all that pomp and circumstance. (Disclaimer: ETOO was co-organized by the writer of above article.)
Tynan Sylvester, whose book Designing Games is out now, gave a talk at the Ottawa International Games Conference about what developers call "the simulation dream." Read to find out why electrical outlets look confused.
Speaking of simulations, Animal Crossing: New Leaf has arrived on North American shores! Along with a brand-new 3DSXL design. Too bad they ditched the Real World parody TV ads, though...
Arguably the greatest thing to come from a Twitter account, Molyjam is back. The game jam based on @Petermolydeux's tweets, themselves faux-suggestions inspired by Peter Molyneux, is returning this July. Get ready for world-changing hubris with a wink.
Tomer Kagan can tell the future. Or so he claims, well enough to grab almost $30 million in investments for his Quixey start-up, an app to help you find apps. So tell us, Mr. Kagan: How much will the Xbox One and PS4 cost?
Buried in the pre-E3 hype came the best news on the summer so far: A new game based on GameMaster CX, the Japanese TV show were Shinya Arino plays really hard games to completion, is coming to the 3DS.
And last but least, to counteract all the glitz and blam coming out of L.A. today, let us present to you a story, told by Gaijin Games and written by the Wii U players of Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien, about commitment, struggle, and the fight to remain relevent in an ever-shifting landscape. Enjoy.
Happy birthday, Ma!
By Ryan Bradley at
A chat with Dr. Mae Jemison, American physician, astronaut and first African-American woman in orbit