I think everyone would agree that Sony’s support for smaller, indie games has been excellent for quite a number of years. It’s not just that they’ve been bringing a lot of the games to PS4, but they’ve also been doing a great job at helping to promote these titles. Their recent Digital Showcase event was a perfect example of this, where Sony showcased a selection of first and third party PSN titles. Hosting it on the 29th floor of Millbank Tower when the lift broke may not have been the best idea, but I don’t think we can blame them for that.
Lift issues aside, Sony’s showcase did a great job of introducing me to a host of new games I hadn’t seen before. You’ve already seen my views on Bound and Headlander, but here’s another four titles from the same event.
Tricky Towers | PS4 & PC | WeirdBeard | TBA
If you were to make a list of the most recognisable games of all time, Tetris would almost certainly be in the top five. This familiarity transfers over instantly to Tricky Towers, which is, essentially, a trap. While Tricky Towers might look like Tetris at first glance, that’s only the very surface layer of what’s on offer here.
You see, Tricky Towers falls into a more recent type of Tetris styled game, in that it has physics enabled. Your blocks have a real weight to them, and mispositioning them will cause them to tumble into the abyss. Given that this game also features multiplayer, then getting things wrong can easily cost you the match.
It’s not the physics or the multiplayer that really sets Tricky Towers apart though, it’s the fantasy presentation. While you’re still controlling blocks as you’d expect, you’re actually playing as a wizard who floats on a cloud by the side of your tower. This isn’t just a presentational element either, you have access to magic spells to help you against your opponents.
Every time you earn a spell, achieved by building your tower to a certain height, you’re given a choice between a spell that will bolster your own tower or do something to your opponent’s. These range from simple powers, like slowing the descent of your opponent’s bricks, to spells that actually prove incredibly useful, with the ability to set one of your own bricks in stone and use it a new base being one of my favourites.
While Tricky Towers does feature a single player element, this is definitely best played when you’ve got a few friends over. In fact, it’s got a similar social feel to Towerfall Ascension, in that it’s probably the perfect game when you’ve got a few drinks to hand and, possibly, a pizza.
Dino Dini’s Kick Off Revival | PS4 & Vita | The Digital Lounge | 2016
I’ve always felt that FIFA and PES are fairly accurate representations of football. I mean, I know they’re not one to one representations – the fact that people talk about “FIFA goals” makes that clear – but they seem like they capture football to a fairly good standard.
Ten minutes with Kick Off Revival makes it clear that, in many ways, those behemoths have got it completely wrong. On reflection it’s obvious that balls simply don’t behave like they do in FIFA or PES in real life, even the best footballers can’t keep a ball under such tight control constantly.
It’s actually a real challenge to keep the ball under any kind of control in Kick Off. If you move at high speed and abruptly change direction then the ball will continue on its original path, pretty much as a real ball would. You can hold down the game’s one button (seriously, everything is bound to a single button) to dribble, but you move a lot more slowly and open yourself up to crunching tackles from your opposition.
Really, Kick Off is going to be one of those games that you’ll have to work hard to master. Whereas FIFA sees me permanently sprinting everywhere, such a tactic is even more doomed in Kick Off than it is in FIFA. This is a title that requires real finesse, with very small movements of the analogue stick being required if you want to exert any control over the ball.
Despite this initial difficulty hump, Kick Off really is a lot of fun, and it’s nice to see a game working hard to model elements of football that other titles have ignored. As I was just two in 1989, I can’t tell you how accurately Kick Off Revival recreates Dino Dini’s original Kick Off titles, but I can tell you that his return to the series in Revival is fun, and a little bit silly.
Alienation | PS4 | Housemarque | 23/03/16
The twin stick shooter genre and I have an odd relationship. While I rarely go out of my way to play them, I actually tend to really enjoy spending time with them when I do. Alienation, the next title from Housemarque, was no exception to this rule, and it’s certainly a game I could see myself spending more time with.
As you may have guessed from the title, Alienation is a sci-fi title that tasks you with defending Earth from an overwhelming alien invasion. You play as a space marine in a suit of power armour who can take a decent pounding before being wiped out by the enemy hordes.
Beyond the normal weaponry, it seems like there’s some character customisation as well, with a variety of special abilities bound to the face buttons. The character I was playing as could drop mines, which was an incredibly useful feature that allows you to draw your alien opponents into bottlenecks and wipe out a huge number, as well as unleash a devastating radial blast that wiped out everyone in a close area. Of course, these abilities operate on cool downs, meaning you’ll have to manage your usage.
Drop-in/drop-out co-op is a big part of the game, and it’s fair to say that Alienation is a lot more fun when you’ve got someone working with you, particularly when their abilities complement yours or, in my case, they’re much better at taking down aliens than you are. The only slightly odd element is that if you stray too far from your partner you’ll be teleported to them without any warning, although presumably that’ll be tweaked in the final version.
Overall, Alienation has controls that feel tight, an absolutely stunning visual style, and enough variety in the enemies you’re pitted against that you’re forced to work out the best plan of attack in each encounter. Housemarque have also done a fabulous job of putting a sci-fi spin on their version of Earth, leading to a game that feels really distinctive and, most importantly, fun.
What Remains of Edith Finch | PS4 | Giant Sparrow | 2016
It’s difficult to talk about What Remains of Edith Finch. For starters, time constraints at the showcase got the better of me, stopping me from playing through the whole of the demo. However, more pressingly, Edith Finch is so incredibly weird that it seems like it’d be difficult to describe even with a full play of the game under my belt.
You play as the titular Edith Finch as she explores her family’s history and their home, with two seeming to be inextricably linked. It’s a house that seems to have sprawled vertically over time, and contains a frankly ludicrous number of bedrooms. There’s one room for each of Edith’s ancestors, with each having been sealed upon the inhabitant’s death, although when Edith arrives at the now empty house one has been broken into.
Keen to explore her family’s past, Edith explores this, the room Molly Finch; the first inhabitant of the house to die. It seems like diaries are going to be a significant part of the game, and reading Molly’s triggers a flashback to a night where she eats some stuff she’s really not supposed to and, seemingly, turns into a cat.
It’s not as if there’s a transformation sequence or anything like that, it’s just that one moment you’re a young girl looking at a bird and the next you’re a cat trying to catch and eat said bird, clambering your way across a tree. It’s an unusual sequence to say the least, and transforming into animals seems like it’s going to be a theme throughout the game.
Given Giant Sparrow’s pedigree with The Unfinished Swan, it shouldn’t be surprising that What Remains of Edith Finch is more than a little unusual. It’s clear that they’ve got a very specific tale to tell with Edith Finch though, and while its presentation may be a little bit out of the ordinary, what they’ve shown so far is certainly enough to intrigue.