LOS ANGELES — Last week’s Summer Game Fest was mostly a virtual affair, full of video game trailers that may or may not launch in the next 18 months. Still, as the gaming industry moves closer to convention preview normalcy, we’ve scored invites to two events in early June with playable games to come.
You may have already seen my biggest highlights from these events: Street Fighter 6which is fantastic, and sound borders, which is strange but promising. This article sums up the “best of the rest”, based on hands-on testing at the Summer Game Fest Play Days event in Los Angeles and a series of remote demos from the Tribeca Games Festival. The events were missing some of the world’s biggest developers and publishers, no doubt because many of their games have been pushed back to 2023. Despite this list leaning more towards the indie side, we’re backing these game preview highlights thanks how they felt playing.
Cuphead: the delicious last dish
Platforms: PC, Xbox, PS4, Switch
Planned release: June 30th
Connections: Steam | Nintendo Online Store | Xbox | Official site
The infernal brutality of Cuphead will return later this month as a $7.99 DLC pack. If the sample boss level I played is any indication, this DLC will hit a sweet spot for fans of the series instead of turning the Cuphead formula upside down.
A new playable character, Ms. Chalice, is available as a “charm” that a player can equip at any time, and she comes with a few novice-friendly perks, including extra health, double jump, parry which doubles as a dash forward and a somersault which adds a few frames of invincibility. His new abilities weren’t necessarily imperative in the new boss battle I played, though due to his terrible CupheadI always struggled with the three phases of combat, which included an abrupt transition to floating and rotating platforms (think Super Mario WorldReznor’s second fight).
She’s available in a new campaign that executive producer Marija Moldenhauer says Ars is comparable to the original game’s third island, which featured seven bosses and two platforming levels. Moldenhauer says the DLC will have six bosses, which she says are more involved and complicated than the standard game selection, but she wouldn’t otherwise clarify what else the DLC will contain.
Moldenhauer also says that the DLC includes almost as many hand-drawn animated backgrounds and images as the entire standard. Cuphead country. It could mean the boss battles I haven’t played yet are even more intense or there’s another massive platforming challenge coming up. Either way, $7.99 seems like a must-have DLC option for anyone who’s ever invested in Cupheadof meticulously hand-drawn 2D action.
Platforms: PC, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PS5, PS4
Planned release: June 28
Connections: epic | NHP | Xbox | Official site
EA and Codemasters hosted a F1 2022 gameplay demo to show off the newest feature in the series: VR racing. Codemasters producers on site confirmed that the studio’s combined brain trust had matured enough to add a VR mode to F1thanks to contributions from those who have worked on VR modes in DiRT Rally and Driveclub VR. (Evolution Studios made the latter before Codemasters acquired it in 2016).
The game maker’s kiosk combined Fanatec’s CSL DD F1 bundle with a Quest 2 VR headset. Good news, the result strikes the right balance between fidelity and performance, as well as considerations for VR comfort when browsing. F1– worthy from the outset. The only comfort exception came in times when particle-filled clouds from the game filled my game view, causing my headset’s frame rate to drop. This problem usually occurred after a gnarly spin-out when I was driving with all the driver aids off; when I looked into the optional F1 mode for dummies, all assists, F1 2022 looked like a fantastic carnival ride.
Codemasters didn’t have much else to show for F1 2022 at SGF, but the ride was fun enough to get me excited to play its VR mode on my PC when it launched on June 28.
Platforms: PS5, PC
Planned release: Early 2023
Connections: Steam | NHP | Official site
At some point, the oversaturation of “adventure-seeking” indie games (better known as “Metroidvanias”) has got to run its course, right? What can anyone else do to top the critically acclaimed likes of hollow knight, Axiom Edgeand History of the cave?
Although I am not immediately convinced that animal wells will surpass other greats of the genre, my one hour demo got me very, very intrigued. On the one hand, it has new and beautiful ideas for rendering pixel art, thanks to its sole designer, programmer and artist who built the game engine from scratch and condensed the complete package so far to a limit of 10MB. The game’s lighting and physics models are some of the most impressive I’ve ever seen in a 16-bit aesthetic, perhaps even surpassing the pixelated madness and chemical reaction of Noita.
Additionally, this adventure has some clever ideas on how to completely skip combat. animal wells asks players to focus on tricky maneuvers, puzzle solving, and finding hidden paths as they unravel the mysteries that mask its lack of dialogue. Instead of wielding weapons, your eight-pixel blob of a hero should make the most of items like firecrackers – which cast lighting effects on the 2D world while scaring potential enemies – and a whip to handy grappling hook that can be thrown into crevices to grab otherwise untouchable elements of the world.
Snappy controls and otherworldly pixel-art designs made my demo experience with animal wells memorable so far, and I’m looking forward to its eventual release (currently tied to a vague “early 2023” window).