Another year, another trade show. This year we decided to go all-out and have not just Teflon out on the field in Cologne, but me too. It was my first ever Gamescom and I had a very good time, getting to see games both big and small, both AAA and indie.
Given the sheer volume of games we saw, we felt it best to try and bring some of these together in a series of roundups. We will have several more indie roundups, as well as more coverage on AAA games, but let’s get the ball rolling.
Where The Water Tastes Like Wine
Where the Water Tastes Like Wine is one of those oddities that on paper sounds similar to Gone Home or What Remains of Edith Finch, yet actually is nothing like either of them. Instead the idea is that the player is tasked with roaming 1930s Prohibition America as a hitchhiker, doing odd jobs for money to fund the cross-country journey, as well as encountering events that turn into stories.
Each event is played out like a choose-your-own-adventure story. There’s no consequence per-se as to what the outcome is, but it does reflect on the kind of story received afterwards – whether it’s a funny story or a scary story depends on the decision made when the time comes.
Those stories are essentially the ammunition for convincing campers to open up about themselves, depending on whether they are told the right style of story or not. The more they open up, the more passionate and compelling the story they tell you back is, which given the deal made with a Werewolf in the beginning was to find the best and most true stories, is an interesting concept.
What makes Where The Water Tastes Like Wine stand out is the concept itself, which is a more interactive way of presenting a visual novel-like narrative, while at the same time having a pleasing art style. Music also is creatively handled – changing the same song into a different genre depending on the music most popular in the state the avatar is walking around in. It’s got some great ideas and we hope that the game has plenty of replay value with the stories the player encounters. The game launches some time in 2018.
Yoku’s Island Express
Initially the concept seemed somewhat alien, but a Metroidvania platformer where the movement is based off Pinball Tables made for some compelling gameplay. The biggest problem with most pinball tables is that they usually are confined to a small space. Here in Yoku’s Island Express, there’s a whole world to explore with lots of charming denizens to talk to and quests to fulfil.
Controlling the game was so straightforward that I was naturally at home after a couple of minutes of play. Where things get interesting is with the level design, where you may need to collect explosive snails and fire your ball into barricades to pass, or shatter crystals to lead to a switch. It also feels like a proper pinball table in that the physics work as one would expect them to.
After about 10 minutes I suddenly remembered Sonic Spinball for the Sega Mega Drive, but the key difference here is that it’s a far more forgiving affair with even more nuance. Your penalty for getting hit is merely losing accumulated collectables, rather than the archaic lives that Sonic Spinball had.
It’s also infinitely more charming with its bright characters and whimsical score. In comparison, the dark Mega Drive title was notorious for having a terrible soundtrack. I’m excited to see where this little charmer is headed as the two sections played felt like a small slice of the main game – which will be made available for Switch, PC, Xbox One, and PS4 sometime in 2018.
All-Star Fruit Racing
Have you ever played Mario Kart and thought, “This is great and all, but I wish it was all fruit and none of this Mushroom Kingdom nonsense”? Well in that case, All-Star Fruit Racing is the exact game you’re after! In fact, it goes beyond simply re-skinning Mario Kart and has some fascinating ideas of its own.
Naturally, all of the environments are themed after various different fruits with giant strawberry buildings and the like, and there’s a ton of content to work through with twelve cups spread across five islands that equate to the five seasons. That’s right, there’s winter, summer, spring, autumn and… “special”, which is about as close to Rainbow Road as you’ll get.
There’s tons of characters to choose from, and each kart can be extensively customised with different paint colours, patterns, horns, aerials and so on. Each character has a distinct ultimate ability, and it’s really with the pick ups and attacks that this game stands out. Instead of items, you pick up fruit slices that fill up four separate meters. Once filled, you can unleash them individually or combine them with other fruit elements to come up with different attacks, using the D-pad to mix and match as you race, and there’s a great amount of variety to the attacks on show. Of course, you’ll need all four filled up in order to unleash your ultimate.
If you don’t get on with the system, you can simply switch game modes and have more standard item pick ups, “dragster” races without pick ups, Elimination races, and so on. The only failing, on a personal level, was that I simply didn’t get to grips with the drifting in the game. In the short amount of time I had, I couldn’t figure out how much it would make me go sideways and how much I could control it. Of course, that’s what the next few months of Early Access are going to be for.
All-Star Fruit Racing is heading into Steam Early Access on 4th September, before getting a full release on PC and console in 2018.
Sword Legacy: Omen
Arthurian legend is a commonly ventured setting, but Sword Legacy: Omen opts to go one generation before – to tell a tale spanning over several chapters about Uther, who would later go on to be called Uther Pendragon. It’s certainly a far grittier tone, despite its almost graphic novel style, but there’s some neat ideas being shown.
Each of the men and women in Uther’s entourage have their own skillset, making this far more of a tactical RPG than pure turn-based strategy. Merlin has magic, while Duanne is more adept with a lance. These skills allowed for some compelling strategies that allow players to get the upper hand when faced with insurmountable odds.
Areas can have multiple battles, as well as locations to search for loot and narrative. Even halfway during the demo I had a healer join the party, only for several party members to meet their demise thanks to the enemy exploiting height advantage. Maps are designed in such a way that no battle feels the same.
If I was to make one criticism at this stage, it would be that the pace is somewhat on the slow side. It doesn’t need to be as frantic as the recently released Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, but when XCOM and similar tactical games move at a significantly faster pace, Sword Legacy: Omen feels that tad bit too sluggish for my liking. Not being able to skip dialogue is also a big bugbear of mine.
Sword Legacy: Omen isn’t far from launching either, allegedly planned sometime this year, but with the strength of the competition in the Turn-Based Tactical Combat scene growing by the minute, there’s a danger this one might get lost in the mix. With any luck, there’s more to this one than meets the eye.
If you enjoyed this coverage, we have plenty more coming your way. Keep an eye on TSA for more indie games getting some time in the roundup spotlight in the coming days and weeks.