Enter the Gungeon
Kat:I know what you're probably thinking: "Oh good, another quirky indie roguelike with pixel art." Obviously, there hasn't exactly been a shortage of them lately. But Enter the Gungeon is worth at least a look, if only because it does such a good job on executing on its premise — a bullet hell roguelike.
In Enter the Gungeon, you pick one of a handful of mysterious dungeon divers — along with a few secret unlockables — and set off to find a gun that can alter the past, which lies at the bottom of the... er... Gungeon. The gameplay resembles that of a twin-stick shooter, with the right stick being used to aim, and R1 being the trigger. Characters have four hearts, but they deplete quickly unless you use Enter the Guneon's secret weapon — the dodge roll.
Creator Dave Crooks is a big fan of Dark Souls ("It's my favorite game of all time," he told us), and the dodge roll is his homage to a similar mechanic in From Software's dungeon crawler. Mastering the dodge roll is required to leap over the bullets that fill the screen at various points, and it's especially important when fighting bosses, which are particularly bullet happy. Once you get into position, you can return fire with a large variety of guns, including the Chain Rocket Launcher, Black Hole Gun, and the Fossilized Gun, the last of which shoots oil that you can then start on fire.
In an interesting touch, all of the rooms in Enter the Guneon are hand-crafted, but stitched together procedurally. With that, Crooks hopes to pair the inherent replayability of procedural generation with the careful design of premade levels. That combined with its large number of clever guns and interesting use of bullet hell mechanics may be just enough to separate it from the many other roguelikes now filling the indie space. It'll be out on PlayStation 4 and PC later this year.
Everybody's Gone to the Rapture
Jaz: Each time I see this game, I walk away a little more impressed. The creation of The Chinese Room, known previously for acclaimed indie titles Dear Esther and Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, Everybody's Gone to the Rapture is an experimental storytelling game that puts the player firmly into their own shoes, on a mission of their own discovery.
The plot follows the events of a mysterious apocalyptic catastrophe, although at first glance, you'd be fooled into thinking the rustic village in which the game is set is anything but post-apocalyptic. The landscaping looks absolutely beautiful, with an astonishing attention to detail that gives the game a look that can only be rural England. Quaint cottages, pubs and even a village shop, church, and hall are meticulously crafted, and the end result is one of the most realistic-looking environments I've seen in any game.
What's going on? Where is everyone? Finding that out is the game's objective. To do that, the onus is on exploring the game's lush environment, looking for the means to trigger audio artifacts that feel like you're watching and listening to the ghosts or after-images of people caught in the midst of the events that unfolded prior to the start of the game. These audio vignettes are what the game is all about, and it's up to the player to piece them together to make a greater sense of the mystery.
It's an esoteric premise that certainly won't be for everyone. The pace of the game is slow, and Everybody's Gone to the Rapture's lack of visceral action is not for the impatient. But for those who're willing to try out what is basically an interactive storytelling game, it's looking exceptionally intriguing. And it does look and sound absolutely phenomenal. Set for release this Summer, we're really looking forward to experiencing more of what this game has to offer.
Kat: I'm sure that I've seen a game like Hollowpoint elsewhere, but I can't quite place it. Maybe it's because the aesthetic reminds me a bit of Shadow Complex. Anyway, Hollowpoint is an intriguing little shooter that meshes 2D side-scrolling combat with 3D cover-based shooting. It's primarily a co-op game, with the typical goal being to kill as many bad guys as possible while staying alive.
That's easier said than done. Enemy soldiers come in waves, and if they manage to get around your cover and surround you, they can become overwhelming. As such, teamwork is paramount, as it's pretty much impossible to fend off the waves of enemy combatants on your own.
Unfortunately for me, the journalist I was paired with (not Jaz, fortunately) kept running off and dying, leaving me to try and fend off half a dozen bad guys on my own. I had some success with my sniper rifle, but the 3D aiming felt a tad wieldy, and it wasn't long before I was surrounded. Something tells me you'll actually want to bring a friend with you for this one. Well, a friend who won't run off and leave you hanging in the middle of a firefight.
The final version will support up to four players, with missions and levels being procedurally generated. It will include a Tech Tree and customizable loadouts, lending the gameplay some depth outside of the actual shooting. Aside from submachine guns and sniper rifles, characters will have access to items like a personal cloak, which should come in handy if your teammate goes full Archer and decides to try and go on a personal rampage.
Oh sorry, do I sound bitter?
Anyway, assuming Ruffian tightens up the controls, I think Hollowpoint has the potential to be a really interesting little co-op shooter. I look forward to playing more.
Jaz: Brought to you by Housemarque, the Finnish development team behind Resogun, Dead Nation and Super Stardust, Alienation is an isometric, top-down, twin stick shooter that pits you - and hopefully up to three friends - against an alien horde that's invading Earth.
Players choose one of four classes, including a melee/ninja specialist, heavy weapons bearer, and healer, and take them into battle to save the world. Nothing particularly new here conceptually, it must be said, but the high-octane execution of what's considered to be the spiritual successor to Dead Nation does make it pretty damn exciting to play.
The pre-Alpha demo that was on display at the showcase featured one level, which was a trek through a post-apocalyptic urban environment crawling with all manner of alien monsters, ranging from swarms of bugs to a hulking, screen-filling boss who lurked at its end. As you might expect from Housemarque, the action is basically mayhem, with an overwhelming number of monsters running, crawling and jumping all over the place. Fortunately, players are armed with an impressive array of weapons to deal with the threat, and assuming you can stay out of harm's way, the slaughter rate of the aliens is entertainingly high.
While it's very early days for Alienation, so far it's looking promising. Inevitably, it feels somewhat derivative of other top-down shooters, but the sheer speed and intensity of its action helps it stand out from the crowd. What will be also be interesting is to see how the PvP side of the game develops. Details are scant at the moment, but apparently, you'll be able to go rogue and enter other players' games as a "bounty hunter." That sounds like an intriguing option - particularly as Housemarque have said that it's been influenced by their experiences with the Dark Souls series. Quite how this will play out remains to be seen, but it sounds like it'll add an interesting spin to the proceedings.
Towerfall Dark World
Kat: Towerfall is such a wonderful little multiplayer game if you can get four people together to play it. Its matches are the purest chaos, with arrows flying out from the side of the room and archers dropping from the top of the screen. Games rarely last more than a few minutes, and even one who is well behind the pack still has a chance to put together a good run and win it all.
The new Dark World expansion, set to be released later this year, adds a host of new content to the original, including alternate skins for the various archers, new levels, and new weapons. Of them all, the most interesting addition was the Sticky Arrow — a bomb arrow that can be set off on command to catch multiple players at once. It reminded me of my days getting blown up by mines in Goldeneye 007.
The co-op campaign is also getting a boost with procedurally generated levels and at least one new boss, which will hopefully give that element of the game a bit of a boost. It was fun in Towerfall Ascension, but I rarely had cause to venture into it. The competitive multiplayer is absolutely where it's at. Someone is so getting blown up by a Sticky Arrow when Dark World launches later this year...
Jaz: Although Trans-Galactic Tournament bills itself as a multiplayer online battle arena, it takes a more open and friendly approach to the genre, with a focus on fast games, much smaller arenas than you normally expect from a MOBA, and easy-to-understand rules and heroes. The product of Kiz Studios, the free-to-play game features three different 4 vs 4 multiplayer modes across six different arenas, which include a capture-the-flag type game, and a mode where you fight over five different nodes in a push-pull battle for control of the environment.
Players control one of ten champions, either offensive, defensive or support, which can all be tweaked and customized to change their playstyle. For example, by adding a higher chance of scoring a critical hit at the cost of a slightly longer respawn rate. There are more than 100 different power-up choices, along with 30 different weapons, which can also change the champion's statistics. This certainly adds an interesting aspect to the game, since the customization options are impressively diverse when you look at them cumulatively. Once a player is happy with their selections, they can then take their character into battle - either offline against bots, or via online play with up to seven other people.
Each champion has four unique spells or moves, plus two passives, and the objective is to simply dominate the opposition by fighting them directly. Combat is simple, and the the game seems to be very easy to pick up and play. In that sense, Trans-Galactic Tournament feels like something that would appeal to kids, or to those who have no prior experience with MOBA games.