Tag Archives: PlayStation

PlayStation E3 2015 Recap

PlayStation E3 2015

Sony this year came out with some heat. We all thought most of it would just be rumors because—let’s face it—a lot of it sounded absurd. A comeback? A remake? Oh come on. We should know better by now. Go back to your village and take your pipe dreams with you.

But wham, bam, holy shit. We really shouldn’t be calling out “winners” for this sort of thing, but this press conference did actually bring down the Internet. Feel free to read on or rewatch the entire thing.

The Last Guardian

Ummm, what? I guess sometimes vaporware comes back from the dead. After being in and out of development and existence for the past 2007, it was pretty safe to assume the long awaited project was simply dead and buried. After the trauma of numerous rumors, the latest rumblings that we’d see The Last Guardian at this E3 seemed to only freshen up old wounds.

But it’s all true. Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida confirmed it would release for PlayStation 4 in 2016. Coming from Team Ico and director Fumito Ueda, the same combo that brought you Shadow of the Colossus and Ico, its expectations were high. After all these delays, are they just as lofty?

Horizon: Zero Dawn

Guerrilla Games, developer of the Killzone series, is throwing quite the delicious curveball here. Going from a stock FPS to this is rather incredible. Perhaps filling the PlayStation 4’s required space marine quota earned them some laterality.

But Horizon: Zero Dawn has a fascinating premise. Something along the course of humanity’s development caused them to plunge back into a pre-civilization structure except machines are still rampant and necessary. So instead of hunting for food, they hunt for parts. Sure, the gameplay looks fun enough, but that setup is incredible.

Hitman

Even if you don’t care for the Hitman games, this is a well put together trailer. It finely composes the idea that he’s a killer of tactics, brutality, and skill. Also, the backing track that surreptitiously features ragged breathing slowly sinks in and is reinforced by the kill shot.

The trailer itself, however, doesn’t reveal much except that the series still animates people a bit too cartoonishly. I guess Square Enix assumes we already know what to expect from the game, which is kind of a sad notion anyway. Hitman lands on PlayStation 4 and PC on December 8. (Franchise reboots that simply start off with the same name is an organizational nightmare, by the way.)

Dreams

Media Molecule is still very much about games in which you create, if you were wondering. The latest is Dreams, and while the trailer is very obtuse about what you’ll actually be doing, you’ll definitely be creating…something.

It looks like you’ll be using your controller to sculpt out characters inside of scenes. The “dreams” motif comes in where everything is fast and impressionistic rather than details and builds upon a previously known (read: made) lexicon of items. You can then grab your creations and puppeteer them to life. (The short demo preceding the trailer shows more than anyone could ever say with words.)

Destiny: The Taken King

While I found Destiny to be somewhat lacking in its original release, the more that Bungie puts out for the game, the more I want to go back and play it. It seems like they’re solving the two biggest problems simultaneously with each DLC, being the lack of content for a massive world and a refinement of how to use that world in interesting ways.

Coming September 15, The Taken King will cost $39.99 for the regular edition and $79.99 for the collector’s edition, both of which will also include Destiny itself. The expansion will include new Guardian subclasses and super moves.

Final Fantasy VII

Part of the crazy heat Sony threw around yesterday. Even more dubious than The Last Guardian comeback rumors, we heard voices on the wind talk of a Final Fantasy VII remake, something fans have been clamoring for since dinosaurs walked the Earth.

And now it’s happening. This isn’t a tech demo or a PC version or an upgraded PC version for PlayStation 4, but this is a remake. At this point, it’s unclear as to what that means. This could end up just an HD remaster for all we know, but hopefully they’re not just misleading us with the word “remake.”

The bigger question, however, is if anyone still cares. Tetsuya Nomura is coming on as director after guiding the Kingdom Hearts series (and directing Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children) while Yoshinori Kitase, original director of Final Fantasy VII, will be returning to produce. Is that enough to garner interest beyond the 18-year-old fan base?

No Man’s Sky

This is the first lengthy gameplay demo anyone outside of the press has seen from No Man’s Sky. Hello Games co-founder Sean Murray hopefully imparted upon the audience the sheer size of what they’re attempting with this procedurally generated universe simulator. (If you still don’t get it, read this piece over at The New Yorker.)

Still no release date, but we do learn that every world is fully destructible. Plus there are fish!

Shenmue III

And here’s the real surprise of the event. No one was even expecting this, but Yu Suzuki, creator of an immense number of classics like Space Harrier, Out Run, After Burner, and Virtua Fighter, came out on stage to announce that he’d like to revitalize the Shenmue franchise through Kickstarter.

And then everyone lost their god damn minds. Which is the appropriate response, I might add. It brought down Kickstarter itself for a brief time as it rocketed up hundreds of thousands of dollars in a matter of minutes. It’s already hit its $2 million goal in its first day. If you’re not jacked for this, then you’re a fool. Or you were too young to have played the first two.

Call of Duty

Now we know why Call of Duty was mysteriously absent during Microsoft press conference. PlayStation CEO Andrew House announced that Sony will get all of the military shooter’s map packs first. The deal will start up with Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, coming to PlayStation 4, PC, and Xbox One November 6.

Map packs have traditionally gone to Xbox platforms first since Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare back in 2007. While not necessarily everyone’s thing, this is a huge move for PlayStation.

Firewatch

Firewatch is pretty much exactly the kind of game I love playing. Or at least it’s the kind of game I love thinking that I would love playing based on the trailer because the trailer sells a very particular kind of game.

The adventure game from Campo Santo and director Jake Rodkin (co-host of the Idle Thumbs podcast) tells the story of a fire lookout in the Wyoming wilderness in 1989. Numerous mysteries begin to unfold as he goes about his patrols.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

While the return of the Uncharted series still doesn’t seem like the best creative decision, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End still looks pretty incredible. Like, visually, I mean. It seems like it’ll play like the other games, so you probably already know if you’ll be into that or not, but there’s certainly something to be said for a masterful refinement of a craft.

After a little technical hiccup where protagonist Nathan Drake froze in front of a still animating crowd, we go on a classic Uncharted whirlwind ride of shooting bad guys, running from overwhelming odds, shooting more guys, and (as a franchise first) driving a vehicle. Oh, and crackin’ some wise. Don’t forget that.

There are some other odds and ends that came out of the conference (like a new Street Fighter V trailer), but that’s the gist of it. There were several genuine surprises, capping off a rather momentous start to this year’s E3. Look for more coverage as the show continues the rest of the week.

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Sony Gamescom Recap

Sony Gamescom Recap

Yesterday was pretty interesting. It was basically press conference day, or Day Zero, of Gamescom over in Cologne, Germany, similar to the day before the madness starts in Los Angeles for E3. The difference, however, is that there are far fewer than E3. Yesterday saw EA and Sony take the stage (Microsoft just went for a smaller showcase event) and both highlighted what they have currently going on and what they have to look forward to.

EA was, well, EA. There were no big announcements, though there sure were big trailers, the biggest of which were for Titanfall and Battlefield 4. They also showed off The Sims 4 (with an extremely…odd example of human psychology and emotion), FIFA 14, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, Need for Speed: Rivals, Dragon Age: Inquisition, and Command & Conquer. Titanfall, if you weren’t aware, looks great and, based on what I’ve gotten my hands on, plays great, and Battlefield 4 looks pretty and, well, that’s about it. Not much to say there besides Levolution. (God damn nonsense marketing.)

But then Sony went up and opened with what can only be called an interactive theater art piece. Shuhei Yoshida, president of Sony’s Worldwide Studios, sat motionless in a giant armchair facing away from the audience. Then he just began to mess around with the PlayStation 4, signing in and streaming Killzone: Shadow Fall before seamlessly jumping into the action himself (and then tweeting a screenshot). It was nearly five whole minutes before a single word was uttered.

Things went less stranger from there, though the camera man was regrettably chaotic. So here are the highlights!

Sony’s Indie Acquisitions

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number

After announcing that Borderlands 2 would be making its way to the Vita, president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe Jim Ryan revealed that Fez, Starbound, and Velocity 2X would all be headed to the Sony portable as well.

We’ve known for a while that Phil Fish was in talks with Sony to get Fez onto the PlayStation Network, but combined, the three acquisitions (with Rogue Legacy from Cellar Door Games and Wasteland Kings from Vlambeer and and and, talked about later in the event) represent that Sony isn’t just interested in bringing developers into the fold but also getting interesting games along with them. Starbound and Velocity 2X have existed for quite some time before yesterday, and Sony saying that they managed to convince the developers to partner up and port those games over show a commitment to their new philosophy.

Vita Price Drops

PlayStation Vita at Gamescom 2013

As of yesterday during the press conference, all Vita models are $199, down from $249 for the Wi-Fi and $299 for the 3G models. This coincides with a price drop in memory cards, the 4 GB going from $19.99 to $14.99 and the 32 GB going from $99 to $79. Both of these are pretty big news seeing as how price is probably the biggest hurdle for consumers to clear now that Sony has put on display their commitment to making the handheld work. They’ve got new games, they’re porting over popular games, and they’ve got new, lower prices. This could be a big move from the company.

Gran Turismo Date and Movie

While the Gran Turismo has long since stopped getting me all revved up, I do realize that each release into the franchise is a fairly big deal. As such, we can all look forward to Gran Turismo 6 on December 6, 2013, though a new trailer should hold us over until then.

We also got confirmation on those weird movie rumors floating around a few weeks ago: The Social Network and Fifty Shades of Grey film producers Michael de Luca and Dana Brunetti are indeed working on the big screen adaptation of Gran Turismo. Because that makes sense.

More Potshots at Microsoft

Andrew House at Gamescom 2013

Overall, you could say Sony is confident. They’ve got some great exclusives lined up, they’re getting great feedback, and they’re console ostensibly works. I would say they’ve earned some of that swagger. But they also continue to take potshots at Microsoft. Remember when they made that video demonstrating how sharing games works on the PlayStation 4? Well, now they’re eschewing the production values and just going for body blows. Andrew House, president of Sony Computer Entertainment, had this to say as he announced the launch date of their upcoming console:

“While others have shifted their message and changed their story, we were consistent in maintaining policies and a model that is fair and in tune with consumer desires.” (They also tweeted something to the same effect.)

It’s an obvious and pointed jab at the fact that Microsoft did a 180 on pretty much everything people were complaining about. It started out fun and cute, but now it’s becoming, I don’t know, aggressive? Instead of pointing out what they’re doing right, it feels an awful lot like Sony is pointing out now what Microsoft is doing or has done wrong. At what point does it become too much?

Indie Announcements

So we already know Sony is bringing over a few existing, high-profile indie games over to their platforms, but they’ve also got new ones coming, too. The big one that really grabbed people was this horrifically strange and dark game called Murasaki Baby, a side-scrolling touch-control platformer for the Vita from Ovosonico. You play as this girl with an upside-down(?) head and must traverse a terrifying landscape by seemingly breaking through the fourth wall to aid her.

Tequila Works is also developing Rime, a beautiful action adventure game that looks like a cross between Ico and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. You may recognize the studio as the one behind Deadlight, the 2D survival horror game from late last year. It was a promising game full of neat ideas but ultimately failed to execute many of them. Hopefully they can get both halves working together this time because boy is my interest piqued.

The Chinese Room, the developers behind the fantastic and hard-to-explain Dear Esther, is working on Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture for the PlayStation 4. They’ve already got Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs in the works, so it’s obvious they’ve got a thing for atmospheric titles, and this looks extremely that. It’s a first-person adventure game made in CryEngine 3 and, well, that’s all we know.

There’s also a band festival simulator thing called BigFest where you’ll promote events and bands and I don’t know but it looks interesting, thought admittedly we’ve known something named BigFest has existed since January. Helldivers and Resogun, a top-down and a side-scrolling shooter respectively, also look pretty neat.

Launch Date (and Other Things)

PlayStation 4 with controller

Perhaps the biggest piece of news from yesterday is that the PlayStation 4 will officially be launching in North America on November 15th and in Europe and Latin America on November 29th. Pre-orders are already over one million, so jump in now if you so desire. Or don’t, whatever. I’m not your accountant.

In regards to services, Sony has officially partnered with Twitch for streaming and you can now listen to music while you play games via Sony’s Music Unlimited service. Plus there’s this new broadband access plan that sounds pretty gross since it includes tiered access priority, but who knows. It might prove fruitful for those struggling to get consistent Internet access.

Oh, and we also got a new trailer for both Infamous: Second Son and Watch Dogs (with a movie incoming) and a new gameplay demo of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.

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The Overt And The Subtle Of The PlayStation 4

The Overt and the Subtle of the PlayStation 4

Last night was the oddly protracted unveiling of the PlayStation 4, otherwise known as the most recent entry in a long line of poorly kept industry secrets. Over a wide breadth of news outlets and, presumably, an equally varied collection of shady, fedora-donning back alley sources, we knew pretty much everything that was worth knowing about Sony’s new console before they wanted the public to know. New controller? Check. Built-in share functionality? Double-check. A smattering of specs? Checkarooney. We knew everything.

Or did we? In a rather quality press event (seriously, compare it to E3 and you’ll be amazed that companies didn’t collapse last June), some surprises lay in store for everyone watching in person and online. Strangely, though, folks managed to miss out on some of the bigger ones in light of flashier announcements. But these are huge deals! Understandably, without some knowledge on the matter, they’re easy to miss, but these do merit some discussion.

8GB of RAM

PlayStation 4 architecture

Quite frankly, 8GB seems a bit like overkill, but the drastic bump is quite important. Consider the fact that the Xbox 360 had 512MB GDDR3 RAM and the PlayStation 3 capped out at 256MB. Megabytes, not gigabytes. That is totally and utterly absurd. But it also makes sense. If you go back and look at interviews with developers are these next-gen consoles, the number one response is invariably something about more memory. They’re tired of delving into the realm of diminished returns with optimizations and hording like animals.

Of course, all 8GB is moot without something that can utilize it, but hopefully the PS4 can deliver on that, too. An 8-core, 64-bit CPU and a GPU capable of 1.84 teraFLOPS just might do it. The jury is still somewhat out on what the Cell architecture is fully capable of, but consider that the PS3’s RSX GPU was doing 400.4 gigaFLOPS. Giga to tera, mega to giga. I think we’re in for something big.

You should also know that the 8GB contradicts earlier leaks reporting 4GB. This is a non-trivial change and probably explains why we didn’t see a console; they’re still working on putting all the stuff in it.

Simultaneous Play/Download

PlayStation 4's second chip

This, on the surface, isn’t that big of a deal. OnLive solved streaming (as much as they could, anyways) and Gaikai improved on all the stuff surrounding it. As much as it can be, streaming a game while downloading it is largely a trivial problem at this point (though, I should point out that “trivial” in this case is very much a relative term to figuring it all out from scratch; it’s still a huge obstacle). This is nothing like what some people thought it was—core engine stuff was downloaded first and then you could play as sequential assets were downloaded—but consider this: in tandem with fast suspend/resume capabilities, is it possible that you could play a streaming game and immediately jump into your local version?

If a whole-cloth dump of memory could be shuttled across Gaikai, could it be possible for the PS4 to fast-load it and launch your local game right where you left off online? This completely eradicates the barrier of traditional demos. Before, those little slices would begin and end and you would have nothing to show for it except 15 or so minutes of boredom once you play the retail version. If this is the case (or even if it’s not since I guess you could just keep streaming and achieve the same thing, but if you can get better quality, you’ll want the better quality), it becomes an impulse purchase. Buying and downloading a full game after its trial becomes as easy as picking up a pack of gum in the grocery store checkout.

It also goes without saying that the second chip that makes this possible as incredible potential beyond this simultaneous play/download trick. Like, huge.

Media Molecule

Media Molecule at the PlayStation 4 reveal

A lot of people hemmed and hawed at Media Molecule’s demonstration yesterday. It was predictably cute but it was also unequivocally a tech demo. Untitled and utilizing something that even Sony seems to have forgotten about—the Move—it was pretty unclear as to what Media Molecule was doing besides showing off how much fun it is to work at Media Molecule.

But if you’ve ever done any 3D digital modeling, you’ll immediately understand the possibilities of what they showed. It’s ZBrush but with a real world sculpting analog. Instead of manually adding basic shapes and nudging things around, you can now immediately sculpt a rough mesh of your final design and then delve into it afterwards for finer tweaks. This eliminates hours of work out of the 3D sculpting process.

And then all the puppetry stuff seems like something Media Molecule (and possibly only Media Molecule) could turn into a game. Charming, whimsical, and fun. Is there any other way to describe them? Well, besides “the new Nintendo.”

Just kidding!

For now.

No Price, No Date

PlayStation 4 release window

Not showing a console isn’t that big of a deal. I imagine the people that wanted to see it are the same people that don’t fully understand that since the start of this generation with the Xbox 360, service now trumps hardware. Every single time. It wasn’t just that the 360 was cheaper, launched first, and had the first indie star of the generation in Geometry Wars, but it also had Xbox Live. It was a paid service, sure, but it also was better than the PlayStation Network in almost every way.

That’s not to say, however, that hardware doesn’t matter. If Sony dicked around on stage for two hours last night and didn’t reveal any specs, the fans and press would be lambasting them across the board. However, they did, but they held back two key points: price and date. Why? Because Microsoft.

Microsoft has yet to announce its new console. Very little is known and the only thing we’ve got so far is some unconfirmed rumors outside of the Sony event last night about something in April. Who knows, but now Sony has the upper hand. It’s a very small, slight advantage, but I’m guessing they’ll take it where they can get it.

Getting out of the gate isn’t as important this time around as it was last time (last launch was still very much a Wild West sort of milieu with impulses and curiosity largely driving consumer decisions; this time will be much more measured), but I can pretty much guarantee you that the PS4 will launch in November before Black Friday. But if Sony decides that they need the edge, they can maneuver the PS4’s release date according to what they see from Redmond.

As for the price, well, it’s pretty much guaranteed Sony will be taking a loss on the PS4. Like, a big loss. The only question is how big. If Microsoft announces something high, Sony can go slightly higher without much recourse and stop some of the bleeding. Otherwise, they’ll have to match Microsoft and hope they can recoup on software during the holidays. This event was definitely a power play, but it was also not without its safety nets.

Watch_Dogs Security Camera

Watch_Dogs at the PlayStation 4 reveal

I’m not sure if you noticed at the very end of the Watch_Dogs demo, but when the game zoomed in on the security camera as the player was escaping on top of the train, a word popped up over it. No, not a world: a name. It is the gaming handle of Frag Doll Edelita Valdez, otherwise known as PixxelFD. Apparently that camera was controlled by another player in realtime, even as the player was walking around down in the streets doing his protagonist thing. Um…WHAT.

Strictly speaking, this isn’t a PS4-exclusive thing (at least, I don’t think it is), but it is a really interesting thing to keep in mind the next time they show off Watch_Dogs.

Wrap-up

Those were some of the less discussed aspects of last night that I found really interesting. The big stuff like the share button and Ustream partnership, Bungie’s Destiny, and Mark Cerny’s both soothing and unsettling voice are all the talk around the water cooler, but some of this small stuff is too good to let slide under the rug.

Of course, it wasn’t all puppies in top hats and rainbow ice cream last night (see: Square Enix, Blizzard, and remarkably unremarkable first party offerings), but there’s so much time between now and launch. PAX East will undoubtedly house some more announcements either to continue the buzz or subvert Microsoft and E3 will almost definitely have some big news. Of course, remain skeptical since nothing has been put in our hands like with the Wii U announcement, but so far the PS4 seems promising.

That is unless you’re John Teti.

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How To Define A Generation

How To Define A Generation

We’re on the cusp of yet another console generation. Well, it already started with the Wii U, so I guess you could say it stumbled a bit off the line. That’s not any commentary on the quality of the console (great) or the software (okay) but rather that the Wii U launch was unequivocally problematic. It definitely wasn’t a disaster, but so much of it could have been better. Hopefully the next Sony and Microsoft consoles will do better.

They had better, anyways, or they will have much bigger problems to face than a lack of identity and awareness. There will be a bevy of Android powered devices (led by Nvidia Shield, Ouya, and GameStick and whatever else people feel like Kickstarting along the way) and the resurgence of PC gaming to deal with. And then there’s the fact that most mobile gaming originates on iOS devices and mobile gaming is becoming an increasingly bigger and bigger player on the field.

What I’m saying is that there’s a lot of noise on the gaming platform front. It is no longer just the PlayStation and the N64. It is no longer just the Game Boy. The gaming console landscape has become so muddied that it might as well be mire of proprietary technology and services. As a consequence, it has also become more and more difficult to define what a “generation” of gaming is.

This is especially true given the fact that this console cycle has been inordinately protracted. Eight years it’s been going on. Eight. Years. November 16, 2005, was when the Xbox 360 was first released in the US and that was when the clock started ticking. It ticked and ticked and ticked and it’s long run past its alarm.

Before this, the longest a generation ever went was six years and the delineations were much easier to deal with. From the hardware standpoint, each console iteration was such a sizable leap forward that it was nigh inconceivable such devices were ready to purchase for somewhat reasonable prices. Do you remember all the hullabaloo about the PS2 being powerful enough to run a space shuttle or something? That may have been mostly nonsense (it was before anyone realized that space shuttles are by necessity easy to power and manage), but it was still in stark contrast with the fact that the PS1 would not have been capable of doing the same. When we doubled the memory in each Nintendo console, it was a big deal. We couldn’t believe that suddenly so much was capable in our video games.

We went from 2D to fake or limited 3D to full-on 3D to…what? We hit 3D and then did what? Those previous jumps were enabled by these hardware improvements and facilitated our definition of what made a console generation: just look at what our games are capable of. But now that there is just about no limit to the correspondence of what we want and what we can make, that dividing line becomes much harder to find.

Motion controls helped, but that was a trope. 3D displays were mostly a novelty (look at its sudden disappearance from CES). The defining trait of this seventh generation might be that this was when we were sated. Obviously technical specs will be improved and the like (the Wii U is a fucking haus compared to the Wii), but for the most part, this is like how few people will notice or appreciate the difference in using a PC with 32 GB of RAM instead of 16 GB.

And then you throw into the mix mobile games and we’ve got a big ol’ mess. New iOS and Android devices come out so fast that the joke of the phone or tablet you buy today is the one you throw away tomorrow is pretty much a natural law at this point. The devices make such huge jumps in terms of power in such short amounts of time but the games remain compatible, so they have little to no discernible gaps that provide easy definitions. 2009 saw the release of both Canabalt and Angry Birds. Today, we have Joe Danger Touch and Angry Birds Star Wars.

The differences are negligible because on the mobile front, games are distilled and boiled down to their entertainment essence. The additions to the endless runner formula and the Angry Birds formula have obviously come from years of refinement, but any mobile game today could have come out back when iOS debuted and no one would have called witchcraft.

With the rapid rise of mobile gaming and the exploration of its homogenized harvests, the home console counterparts of video games has fallen into the same track of imperceptible generational boundaries that PC gaming has had for years and years and years. PC gaming has largely mirrored home consoles in terms of generational titles since games are often ported to or from the mouse-driven hemisphere. Its interminably and freely upgradable hardware leaves the question of what belongs to where up in the air.

But now that PC gaming has come back up thanks to the help of Steam, it has become less “mirror” and more “peer.” However far PC developers want to push user machines, that’s how far they’ll go. There is no generational gap for them. And since consoles can now operate on a lower magnitude of PC power (instead of distinct releases for the two), people no longer see the console jumps as much as they used to. PC is now an evergreen preview of what’s to come next.

All of this works in concert to muddy the waters; we can no longer see the sharp steps we have to take up to the next generation. It’s all a gentle slope, but it’s kind of amazing no one has even asked whether or not we need to take the journey. Obviously we do, but sooner rather than later, the answer may change to obviously we don’t. It’s a question of how much longer will our aspirations outstretch our means.

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Why Not Guacamelee!

“So why can you turn into a chicken?”

“Why CAN’T you turn into a chicken?”

Though the response doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, it’s very fitting of the world of Guacamelee!, an upcoming Metroidvania-style game about a luchador, alternate dimensions, and absurdity. In the time I spent playing the game and speaking with Drinkbox Studios designer Chris McQuinn (who said the chicken thing actually has some serious story implications), I gleamed two facts about Guacamelee!: it’s 100% silly, and it’s 100% worth your time.

As previously mentioned, you can turn into a chicken, but as you would expect due to the nature of luchadores and the title of the game, you also have a wide variety of melee moves at your disposal as you explore the world in search for El Presidente’s daughter. You are down-on-his-luck Mexican Juan Aguacate and you can punch, kick, dive roll, wall jump, air charge, and so much more to get around.

And as is true of Metroidvania games, not all of these abilities are unlocked right from the get-go. At one point in the demo, you are presented with two paths: upwards or through a door (opposite an entrepreneurial personal trainer, but we’ll get to him later). Upwards, however, is seemingly unreachable at this point. You can see the exit up top, but with the lack of any platforms along the way, you are left with two sheer walls and a very ornate door, so the door it is.

You eventually return to this room, but as a slightly more improved luchador than before. Taught to you by an old man that can turn into a goat (or is the other way around?), you learn the Goat Jump, which is basically a wall jump but presumably in reference to how mountain goats seemingly and effortlessly ascend near vertical cliffs. So you have an open world with progress cordoned-off by gaining additional abilities from currently accessible areas. Metroidvania? You bet. Only Metroidvania?

Not even close.

Remember those alternate dimensions I’d mentioned earlier? Well, they play a significant role in the game, too. Throughout the game, there are floating portals, black hole-ish things hanging around in the world. Whenever you touch one, the world flips into one of these alternate dimensions (such as The World of the Dead and The World of Nightmares, neither of which sound particularly pleasant to be in). These transitions will affect the existence and placement of traversal elements and environmental obstacles as well as enemy vulnerability. It happens in an instant and will require you react accordingly. If you think you can stop to catch your breath, you’re dead wrong.

You may start out by wall jumping across an open chasm, but you’ll pass through a portal, swapping in the fickle solidarity of another wall for abject emptiness and certain doom in the pit below. But then you’ll have to avoid another portal to get through to the other side that will allow you to fall through to your goal. It feels a bit like the water-freezing mechanic of Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, which is a good thing considering that was one of my favorite parts.

They also add a nice wrinkle to the co-op play where the second player takes the place of an ostensibly female character named Tostada. If you don’t work together to time jumps together, you’ll quickly get out of sync and one of you will probably be cursing the other as you fall and die. Dying isn’t that big of an issue, though, as you’ll simply come up as a bubble à la New Super Mario Bros. Wii. You’ll float around until your partner can come around and pop you out of purgatory. I don’t know what happens if both of you get bubbled, though, as my newfound PAX buddy and I were not wanting for skill.

But the biggest thing Guacamelee! has going for it is that the game is just absolutely funny. Upon meeting a mostly ineffectual seductress, she eventually succumbs to being overt rather than subtle and even finds time to make a pun along the way. It’s hard enough to make a game entertaining but to create one that will have you outright laugh out loud is a feat in and of itself.

This is on top of, however, the fact that it is also a tight brawler. Things can get a bit hard to keep track of and you will occasionally feel overwhelmed at the fault of the game and not your skill, but the breadth of your abilities makes for some fun combat. You can punch and kick and whatnot, but you can also grapple with enemies and kick straight into the air for either additional juggling or heightened jumping capabilities. Rolling will get you out of sticky situations and past thorny walls. It feels a bit like Shank in the way that every move is short yet impactful but it is also much more about movement in combat than straight-up ravaging foes.

And either out of coincidence or homage, there is a portion of the demo that is similar to the Skulldozer level of the Mariachi-theme area of LittleBigPlanet where you are running away from a giant, stumbling, bumbling dragon-ish beast in a bit of forced scrolling platforming. You’ll beat up a few guys along the way, but by and large, the best way is to avoid them altogether and handily navigate your way to safety rather than punch your way through.

These aforementioned skills are things you can upgrade, too. That trainer in the room I mentioned before will trade skills for coins, improving your melee damage or health or whatever. It makes upgrading easy without the need to include experience points.

But Guacamelee! is also still very much under development. Just to the left of the trainer is a chest full of coins, enough, actually, to help you actually afford an upgrade. As I played, McQuinn said, “you know, it seems like it would be better for the chest to come first.” And you know what, he’s not wrong. That definitely would have helped understanding the trainer menu a bit better and removed an unnecessary instigation of trainer dialogue.

With that being the only qualm I have so far in my short 15 minutes with the game, I must say that I’m extremely looking forward to Guacamelee! It looks to be a more than capable side-scroller with the Metroidvania trappings that make me play and obsess over Metroidvania-style games; it’s genuinely funny; and it looks so incredibly charming.

Though playable since PAX East this year (and announced just the October before that), this is the first I’ve had with it and you know what? Everyone was right; Guacamelee! is pretty great. As I bring up that the only moderately recent luchador-themed games involved Saints Row 3 and that one pretty bad brawler for XBLA, McQuinn is sure to point out that they are trying to explore the lesser known parts of Mexican culture without poking fun at it, which seems that so far, they’ve done.

But still no word on that chicken. Look for Guacamelee! on PSN and PS Vita sometime next year.

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