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Gamescom 2017 Roundup – Monster Boy, Keyboard Sports, Ruiner & More

Close to the Sun & Crossing Souls

Gamescom might be a few weeks behind us now, but we continue to plug away at the huge number of games that we played at the trade show. This particular roundup brings a mixture of Devolver Digital published titles, a BioShock-like horror game, Monster Boy and more.


Ruiner

This one is out very soon and looks very brutal and accomplished. Ruiner is a sort of twin-stick shooter with a neo-dystopian oppressive feel. I’d seen it briefly at EGX Rezzed, but the version that came to Gamescom revealed more about the main gameplay and showed off more of its character.

Things began with a romp through a factory/base of sorts with a disembodied voice ordering me to “Kill the Boss”. With a dash and slow-down mechanic to enable for swift movement, this quickly became an enjoyable bit of the “ol’ ultraviolence”, to take a phrase from A Clockwork Orange. But things were never what they seemed as occasionally a faint voice tells the player to defy that order.

I never met the “Boss” the game asked me to kill, but I did come across a guy with a shotgun that I needed to keep racking up the minion kills in order to keep an arbitrary countdown from expiring. Once he was dispatched however, the avatar’s systems shut down as a hacker takes full control. As he wakes up, I am given the choice of upgrades that are switchable in the middle of a level at no cost – a touch that’s appreciated since adapting on the fly is encouraged.

What ensues after that is a brief exploration of a fictional futuristic Asian inspired town, much like Blade Runner’s 2019 depiction of Los Angeles in many respects. Before long I was exploring a parking lot filled with crazy guys with melee weapons. The hacker was a lot more belligerent as time went on, even rewarding me with currency and new weapons at the end of each encounter, at the cost of everything the enemies dropped.

To say any more before its release date later this month would do Ruiner a disservice at this stage. It’s probably the most ambitious of the games Devolver Digital put on show and is shaping up to be a fun if somewhat oppressive romp.


Keyboard Sports – Saving QWERTY

This next game is charming, rather silly, and rather intuitive. Keyboard Sports is one of those games that on paper sounds bizarre but when actually playing it falls into place. Each scenario requires you to press buttons on the keyboard. It’s up to you to keep QWERTY alive. It’s a heavily expanded version compared to the version that appeared in the Humble Monthly November 2016 Bundle.

I asked the developer what sort of customisable options players have. After all, keyboards come in all manner of different configurations, and shapes. Apparently there are common keys throughout each layout, T for example, so each major key will be universal. Enter keys can differ between laptop and desktop keyboards, so naturally there’s support to represent your keyboard.

The short demo was incredibly charming and not without challenges, with the particularly tricky final part requiring me to hold down one button to keep QWERTY standing on the spot, while firing at enemies with another button. This second button determined where he shoots. It’s very silly and surprisingly engaging. Keyboard Sports therefore is definitely one to look out for, though naturally only for devices that use a keyboard!


Monster Boy And The Cursed Kingdom

Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap had a re-release of the third game earlier this year which was met with a decent amount of praise, but this is quite confusingly called Monster Boy – a continuation of the original series, made by a completely different developer and published by a different publisher. Both games however had the blessing of series creator Ryuichi Nishizawa, who has given advice for both games.

Those who have been reunited with Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap will find a lot of familiar ideas here, only you can switch what animal you are far sooner and in a less convoluted way. While the human form is relatively basic, he can use items such as iron boots to sink to the bottom of the ocean, while the Pig form uses magic and sniffs out secrets, and the Frog form can create ice bridges with his sword connecting with water and use its tongue to eat and fling back projectiles.

Both levels on show were relatively short, so beyond that I wasn’t able to garner much. Still the reworked art style that’s new for 2017 looks pretty good, though part of me preferred Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap’s more stylised visuals. There is far more going on on-screen with Monster Boy And The Cursed Kingdom though. It’s a decent effort and I hope to play more when it eventually releases.


Crossing Souls

“Did you ever watch The Goonies?” one of the guys behind Crossing Souls asks me as I pick up the pad to play. This question put me on the spot. I’d heard about The Goonies from many people, saying it’s one of the iconic movies of the 1980s. I was born shortly after that movie was released, meaning I was just that tad too young to really be exposed to The Goonies, so I said “No.” If the developer’s face is anything to go by, I’m apparently missing out on something.

After briefly reading a description of the premise shortly before writing this, Crossing Souls is a game that’s been in development for over 2 years and has an eerily similar premise of a group of friends stumbling across an item that will lead them onto an adventure – only instead of a map to lost treasure; it’s a pyramid from space on a dead guy that makes ghosts appear.

What I played of this 2D pixelated top-down adventure was the introduction – allowing me to meet the cast of characters. Some excelled in fighting, while others had increased mobility with the ability to climb, or traverse longer distances when jumping with boots. There’s even a character who is the little brother of the main protagonist, who literally does nothing. I’m sure he’ll have more significance later, but in the early stages he’s as useful as a flannel.

Still I enjoyed getting to grips with the different play styles of each of the four friends who weren’t there just to make up the numbers. The writing feels somewhat on the nose, though as homage to the 80’s movie ‘classic’, this comes as little surprise. It’s out next year and may scratch that itch for those wanting a Goonies style adventure.


Close To The Sun

In an alternate version of 1890, Nikola Tesla rose to prominence off the back of his many fantastical inventions. His mastery of electricity has gone far beyond what he was able to achieve in reality, bringing him riches to further his experiments. It also allows him to set up a ship-based commune for likeminded intellectuals, but something goes terribly wrong, bringing journalist Rose to the ship to search for her sister, Ada.

There’s more than a few Bioshock overtones to the game, from its Art Deco stylings in the environment to the kinds of idealism that saw this community founded and then collapsing in on itself, not to mention the regular communication from characters over the radio – though hardly something exclusive to BioShock. However, there’s none of the spliced battling and tense combat situations. Instead this is a horror game through and through with no weapons and with Rose struggling to survive dangers that now threaten this world.

That’s not to say it doesn’t have some tense and creepy moments. For whatever reason Rose can witness some of the events that transpired in the past, entering a grand hall and being treated to dozens of ghostly visages enjoying a party, only to be startled as a piano crashes to the ground, and there’s some inter-dimensional weirdness at play with a shadowy monster chasing her through its halls. Mixing up the action of running away are puzzle sections that have you searching for cogs to activate the mechanisms in the ship.

It might have some rather familiar elements, but there’s an interesting and well constructed world here to explore, which you’ll be able to do so some time in 2018.


That’s all for this round up, but we’ve still got plenty more Gamescom coverage to go, and there’s plenty of major games we’re yet to talk about!

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