Mighty Quest for Epic Loot (PC)
The promotional image for Mighty Quest that stuck in my head was that of a burly man in a dress sitting daintily on a throne, surrounded by gold. It’s a striking image and one that I thought would guarantee a certain sense of humour. Disappointingly it’s not quite the dungeon crawler crossed with Monty Python I had hoped for but it still keeps tongue firmly in cheek as you fight ferocious chickens, barrels full of tentacles, and shambling zombies hindered further by being stuck in stocks. It’s brought to life by a very clean art style. Heroes have strong jaws, wizards have excessively long beards, and all are painted in an unfussy colour scheme that appears very bold and bright on screen.
Knowing little about the game going in, I was surprised when my initial quest for said loot lasted only a few minutes. There’s still levelling, loot and skill but this isn’t the sprawling questline of Diablo, more a short romp meant for repeat visits. However, the change with each trip doesn’t come from Ubisoft’s designers but the other players in the community.
Every player has a castle, their base of operations, which is stored online and each is customised with a host of traps and creatures, some of which are far more fearsome and deadly than those mentioned above. They may not be your first thought when it comes to decorating a new home but in Might Quest other players will choose to steal into your castle and make off with your loot. If they make it through within a predetermined time limit then they’ll take a large slice of your hard earned treasure so it’s down to your “décor” to delay them for as long as possible.
It’s a great dynamic. Mixing tower defence with a dungeon crawler, but with the added twist that because on your own sorties you battle exactly that which you’re fortifying your own castle with you know their strength and weakness. Combine that with the bite-size level of commitment you can put in and you have a very novel concoction that won’t consume your life but will make it more interesting.
Walking with Dinosaurs (PlayStation 3)
Dust off your Wonderbooks as Cologne has seen an influx of games to support the AR flickbook. Well, two. The first of which is tied in with Walking with Dinosaurs.
Tucked on the floor, sat cross legged and possibly a little too excited due to my love of terrible lizards, the demo opened with a cinematic showing two carnivores having a scrap. The visuals, lacking when compared to the recent BBC documentaries, were interspersed with quick time events. A swish of the Move this way and that would cause your dinosaur to dodge this way and that, although it wasn’t clear which one was “my” dinosaur.
After that I explored the unearthing of a stegosaurus. Each step saw the Move used as a variety of tools; a saw to remove excess rock, a brush to dust down the bones, and finally a gravity gun that swung the bones into place. Soon a fully recreated skeleton sat on the page in front of me before slowly morphing into a living creature that grunted at me and wandered off.
As with the Book of Spells, Walking with Dinosaurs seems more a toy than a game. Each page contains a bite-sized feature, ranging from quizzes to full AR scenes where you feed your newly reconstructed/revived dinosaur. There’s plenty of variety but in terms of depth they won’t keep older players engaged for long. However, for those of younger years and with a penchant for prehistoric monsters I can see them lapping this up.
Puppeteer (PlayStation 3)
If ever you want an example of how not to do a show floor demonstration, Puppeteer should be your test case. Obviously using the tutorial level from the full release, page after page of text threatened to beat me and my co-op partner into submission before even a button was pressed. It may look gorgeous but it doesn’t half go on.
Sadly because of this drip, drip, drip of information it was hard to get a true handle on this charming 2D platformer. One of us took the role of a ghostly, floating cat and the other a boy without a head, the former being able to scour the background and find a variety of new bonces for the latter. Spooky skulls, web-spinning spiders and chunky bats can all be wedged on top of your neck and each hand you a new talent. Most of them were strangely unintelligible as executing them usually only meant the boy did a little dance or spun himself up in a cobweb, but apparently they’re key to getting through certain environmental puzzles. Things became clearer towards the end of the level as the boy also received a pair of scissors. These he wielded as a sword and everything fell back into more traditional tropes as you hacked away at baddies.
All the time the strange interplay between the cat and the boy felt very stilted. Rarely would the two have to interact and so the whole notion of co-op was curious. One would act, then the other, the only real interplay being when the cat held down foes for the boy to chop at, though again I feel the demo was not being very forthcoming with information.
It was a very poor demonstration of what could be a stunning game. The layered levels feel as though created in Little Big Planet but brought to a new sharper finish as ever knot and ring could be seen in the wooden puppets. I’m not writing it off but let’s hope the PSN demo will be far more targeted.
Ryse (Xbox One)
At first glance Ryse appears to be a title moulded in the same vein as God of War, Microsoft’s attempt to try and capture the market for old world violence from Sony. By the time my fifteen minute demo had drawn to a close it seemed that those initial comparisons were not too far off the mark. I was playing co-operatively as part of a two-man team and had to fight my way through waves of enemies inside a Coliseum, although it wasn’t apparent whether this was part of the main campaign or merely a side game.
Our first task was to take down waves of barbarians, all of which fell quickly. A combination of attacks can be used from quick stabs to heavy blows, and your centurion also utilises his shield as both an offensive and defensive tool. Fans of 300 will also be pleased to learn that a heavy Spartan kick is also available which stuns the enemies allowing for follow up attacks. Littered around the arena were spears (usually stuck into a deceased corpse) that can be picked up and subsequently thrown. An element of timing was required here to ensure contact but they seemed to usually result in an instant kill.
After damaging your opponents enough, a symbol appears above their head which indicates that the assassinate move is available. After pressing B to initiate it, time slows and a variation of button presses can be used to chain together a series of killing blows until the target is no more. In one sequence my character launched the barbarian into the air, before delivering a big vertical swipe to the helpless soul. It’s all very slick and violent but not unlike what has been seen before.
Any preconceptions that Ryse was geared more towards reality soon evaporated however, when the developer informed me to press the right trigger when I was surrounded. A great blast of lightning energy enveloped the screen, instantly killing everyone. I used it several times throughout the demo and it certainly helped with crowd control when needed.
The camera was positioned very close behind the player and whilst it does a good job getting you amongst the action, it did leave to some problems when certain foreground objects obstructed the screen and with enemies behind. It was manageable but still a bit of an issue at times. Graphically Ryse looks quite decent, but nothing about it really screamed next-gen to me. It’s not an ugly game by any means, quite the opposite, but if you were looking for a game to show off to your buddies upon the release of the Xbox One, look elsewhere.
After destroying the hordes we moved into another arena, this time we were tasked to burn some tents by knocking over flaming cauldrons, all the while fighting our way through more barbarians. After a while the chief barbarian appeared. I was expecting a tough boss fight but in actuality he fell just as quickly as his brethren. As quickly as that it was over. Whilst I enjoyed the experience I still couldn’t shake the fact that it was a little bit too similar to God of War. For those not blessed to have played these titles then that won’t matter but for others there are question marks as to whether there is enough about Ryse to make it stand out on its own. Time will tell and of course Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Peggle 2 (Xbox One)
Without doing anything particularly special Peggle, at least in our group of friends, developed a personality. Silently Bjorn and his friends would sit alongside each level, providing you with special powers but very little of their of character but we projected onto them wise but senile old fools, sexually confused hairstylists, and a host of others that probably would send us to a psychiatrist if we revealed them publically.
Peggle 2 is bringing us back from the brink as it provides its own character traits. The core of the game remains the same but each of the mascots are now given a makeover. For one they embrace a style more akin to webcomics with strong lines and exaggerated expressions. They no longer look glib on the sidelines but watch the ball as it travels, offering oohs and ahhs as the balls career about the level. Bjorn seems to have turned into an rock star as he throws up the horns in appreciation of skilful shots and struts wildly, wind machine blowing through his mane in classic 80s hair rock fashion, as you hit the final orange peg. Though worryingly he also appears to be having a bowel movement when he magics up each level.
Not all the original Pegglers return and the roster is refreshed with a host of debutants each bringing their own special powers. The only one revealed so far and playable at Gamescom was Luna, a ghostly child with large eyes and a touch of the supernatural about her. Her talent makes the ball fly straight through blue pegs, still clearing them but making it far easy to reach the crucial orange ones.
In a game that is so based around the random bouncing of a marble around a pinboard this injection of personality is welcome. It has a light tone about it and a sense of humour that at times seems very bizarre but fits right in with how I’d already painted the established Pegglers.
Age of Zombies (Vita)
Tucked away in the corner of the dedicated Vita portion of Sony’s booth sat a selection of smaller and less fashionable titles. Tokyo Jungle is apparently coming to the handheld, as are a selection of titles seen previously on iOS and beyond. What caught my eye however was a zombie tyrannosaur.
The plot is thin but anything that reaches that conclusion must be explored and apparently an evil doctor has sent zombies back through time and they are altering the course of history. Of course the only natural solution is sending back a cocky lead character with a gun to mow the undead down before the brain hungry evils destroys humanity.
That’s where the fun stops. A twin stick shooter its sole goal is to throw hundreds of zombies at you, all shambling in your direction only to be mown down. That’s it. It’s bullet hell but with corpses and all you do is shoot back. It’s a mundane experience as they walk merrily into the firing line and offer no resistance other than through sheer numbers.
After three levels of tedium the T-rex did appear to liven things up briefly. He at least wanted to attack me and for a brief while I felt threatened but for all his bluster he was again just a giant bullet sponge. If there had been an attack pattern or a dedicated weak spot then things may have got interesting but I guess if they were that clever they wouldn’t have gone extinct.