Author Topic: Gamescom 2022 Round-up: Where Indies Rule the World  (Read 418 times)

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Offline whilhorst

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Gamescom 2022 Round-up: Where Indies Rule the World
« on: September 03, 2022, 06:00:00 AM »

Hands-on previews for Sonic Frontiers, Anger Foot, Gori, The Last Worker, SCHiM and much more!

It’s been a long three years, but finally Gamescom returned this year as an in-person event in Cologne, Germany. Gamescom is the largest gaming convention in the world. E3 may be catching the most eyeballs, but the sheer size and attendance of the event in Cologne blows it out of the water. Though the overall event was as much fun as it has always been, it did feel rather empty in comparison to previous years. Mostly due to some of the largest publishers deciding to not attend the event this year for various reasons. Sony, Activision-Blizzard, Square-Enix, EA and yes even Nintendo forgoed attending the event, which made a lot of smaller publishers and developers pick up the slack. Honestly, they did a fantastic job and while I haven’t played all these games on Switch hardware, I still wanted to share my overall impressions from seeing a ton of new games making their way (eventually) to the Nintendo Switch. The games below are listed in alphabetical order and will have a description of what system I played them on or was given a hands-off demo for. So come with me on my journey to Germany and let’s see what you need to look out for on Switch in the upcoming months.

Anger Foot - Hands-on Demo [PC]

Developers: Free Lives

Publisher: Devolver Digital

One Sentence Pitch: Hotline Miami in First-Person

Pounding beats, a maddening difficulty and an intensity that I don’t think was matched by anything else at Gamescom. Anger Foot is the next game from the team behind , Genital Jousting and Broforce. In Anger Foot you interact with the world by kicking everything in your path. From breaking down doors, to destroying enemies to cranking valves. The controls feel precise and responsive and each kick has a… well, kick to it. You make your way to the end of the level by killing all the enemies that stand in your way. The AI felt pretty merciless and will do anything to kill you. You can also pick up weapons to shoot with, or throw them to stun enemies. It really feels like playing a version of Hotline Miami in first-person. The world design is pretty colorful, with a lot of visual gags and unique enemy-designs. I will say that playing the demo did feel pretty exhausting after a while. You die in one hit, so the game truly becomes a matter of trial and error and knowing where enemies are located to optimize your run. It’s going to be fun to see the speedrunning community pick up this game and go nuts with it. While Anger Foot hasn’t been announced for Switch yet, it wouldn’t surprise me to see this game make the jump to the hybrid console. It would be kick-ass to play this on the go sometime in the future.

Backbeat - Hands-off Demo [PC]

Developers: Ichigoichie Inc.

Publisher:Ichigoichie Inc.

One Sentence Pitch: A musical puzzler that combines XCOM with timeline management.

If you have played Ichigoichie’s previous game Hexagroove Tactical DJ, you know that their knowledge and expertise lies in building on top of musical concepts. Using multiple musical systems that each impact one another and make you learn and perfect their mechanics. While Backbeat has a completely different approach than Hexagroove, it is still without a doubt an Ichigoichie game. Backbeat follows the story of Watts, who in 1995 decides to put together her own band to compete in a battle of the bands. The style is very pleasing and sees you controlling each character from an isometric point of view. The goal of each level is quite simple, move all the characters to the end goal and avoid being caught by guards. The trick is that these puzzles all follow the rules of the timeline in the top-left corner of the screen. Meaning you only have so many turns to move around and play each stage. Each character has their own movement pattern that impacts the puzzles. Some characters can move multiple squares, while others only move around once. Sometimes there are obstacles that need to be dealt with, by having a certain character control a gate or using their special ability to pass by guards. You may be wondering where the musical-aspect comes from then. The game is designed in such a way that the movement and direction of each character influences the music being played. This is also how you are graded at the end of a level. Making a turn at the right beat increases your score and actions. There’s a lot of mechanics and components going on at the same time, but whereas I was often getting confused by Hexagroove’s more intense mechanics and timing, Backbeat gives you time to think over your actions and rewind in case you want to try something else. This gives it a really unique vibe that is definitely something that puzzle and strategy-fans should keep their eye out for. In addition, the game’s soundtrack is killer with a lot of funk and jazz influences that use a live recording that makes the world and characters come alive. Also, be sure to check out their website if you want to relive that 90’s nostalgia the game is going for.

Coffee Talk - Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly - hands-on demo [Switch]

Developers: Toge Productions

Publisher: Toge Productions / Chorus Worldwide

One Sentence Pitch: Feels right at home after the original.

I can be very blunt here. If you liked Coffee Talk, you’ll love Coffee Talk - Episode 2 without a doubt. The game has retained its visual novel-like structure with some refinements in the interactive elements and some new ingredients for the coffee bar. The writing is still excellent and the new characters I got to meet in this demo definitely made me very curious to see what else episode 2 has brewing. I really liked the interaction between Lucas the Faun and the Banshee Riona and it was great to see Jorji the officer return as well. The Switch version seemed to run quite well, although there was some noticeable stuttering during the serving of the drinks. Nothing a bit of optimization can’t fix and the game is still on track to release sometime in 2023. I’ve already put in my order and can’t wait to chug down this drink once it arrives.

Desta: The Memories Between - Hands-on demo [iOS]

Developers: UsTwo Games

Publisher: UsTwo Games/Netflix Games

One Sentence Pitch: A roguelike turn-based dodgeball game that is accessible for anyone.

I will immediately admit that the first reveal of Desta: The Memories Between did not grab me. There’s a legacy behind UsTwo Games (creators of Alba: A Wildlife Adventure and more notably Monument Valley), but that first trailer just did very little for me to explain what the game was about. Thankfully after getting hands on with the game for a good twenty minutes I am happy to report that I have come around on this opinion and Desta is shaping up to be something really unique. In this game you traverse different dreams, in which you choose different characters to play a game of magical dodgeball. The game uses a turn-based combat system where each character can perform multiple actions and uses their own special abilities to control and fire the dodgeball. Just like in actual dodgeball, the goal is to hit your opponents with the ball. Trick-shows are definitely encouraged and the way in which the systems build on top of one another is very impressive. Desta’s ability allows them, for example, to gain an additional action if they end their turn holding the ball. But there’s also a character like Jack, who can teleport across the map at the cost of two action points. I also like how the shooting of the ball is an actual mechanic. On the tablet I played I needed to pull back the ball like a slingshot and fire it at the opponent. It gives you very precise control of the ball and I can see how this encourages multiple styles of play. While I didn’t get too much of a feel for the story, it is definitely heavy on the narrative as the characters you meet during the day, will later show up in Desta’s dreams as playable characters. Finally the soft colors and cell-shaded look makes the game a joy to look at as well. Not too surprising from the team behind Monument Valley, but moving the camera around and finding the optimal dodgeball angle never felt boring or repetitive. The game comes to Netflix Games first later in the year, so if you happen to have a Netflix Subscription, you can definitely give the game a spin there first. The Switch version will follow at some point in the future.

Figment 2: Creed Valley - Hands-On demo [PC]

Developers: Bedtime Digital Games

Publisher: Bedtime Digital Games

One Sentence Pitch: A Narrative action-puzzler with some catchy tunes.

While I haven’t played the original Figment, this demo grabbed my attention with its beautiful art-design. You play as Dusty as you run around in a world that’s designed after the human mind. In a similar way to something like Psychonauts, you deal with several mental issues plaguing the mind. From somber thoughts that creep up and block paths, to manifestations that hurt the mind in more proactive ways. In the demo I was chasing around a large swine that was causing harm. The only method of defeating it was luring it into the lights that would cause it to transform back into a little piglet. The main gameplay combines combat and puzzle solving and the developers mention that it is a great game for parents to play with their children. The puzzles in the demo weren’t too challenging, but for a younger player it will definitely be enticing. The game also features a companion system, similar to the two-player mode in Super Mario Odyssey, where one player controls Dusty and the other controls Piper, a flying friend that can help the player at any time. Most impressive was the boss battle and sound design, something that feels akin to musical bosses from something like Mario + Rabbids or Conker’s Bad Fur Day. This game is certainly something to look forward to if you want a more straightforward action-adventure game that heavily relies on its music and design.

Gori: Cuddly Carnage - Hands-on Demo [PC]

Developers: Angry Demon Studio

Publisher: Wired Productions

One Sentence Pitch: What if Devil May Cry and Tony Hawk Pro Skater had a furry baby together?

All things considered, Gori: Cuddly Carnage was the biggest surprise of the show for me. Especially funny after the release of Stray earlier this year, Gori sees you playing as the titular character. A cat using a transforming hoverboard that is equipped with blades and swords. Traveling through Neon-lit cities and sequences, you fight all sorts of bizarre monsters in a world that hasn’t been too kind to humans. In this demo I was mostly chasing a nightmarish creature that was sending waves of unicorns to stop me. The game is a third person action game in which movement just feels incredibly satisfying. From grinding on rails of light, to wallrunning against neon billboards to just using the dashes and jumps to clear gaps, the game feels super tight to play. At times it feels like a proper 3D Sonic game that isn’t hampered down by the need to move at blistering speeds. This also allows combat to flow a bit more naturally. Though I did find some of the enemy encounters a tad too repetitive, the overall style and methods in which you can dispose of enemies feels fantastic. Especially once you throw upgrades into the mix like the use of a shield, ranged attacks and parries. The game is surprisingly violent, so don’t let its cute exterior knock you off guard. Playing Gori was just a great time. My one reservation is to see how this game will perform when it makes its way to Switch. One of the developers was definitely hesitant, since the Switch version will require quite a few compromises. But don’t let that get you down. If you’re into 3D action games don’t let Gori skate you by!

Jackbox Party Pack 9 - Hands-on Demo [PC]

Developers:Jackbox Games

Publisher:Jackbox Games

One Sentence Pitch:More games, a good pack, you know what to expect.

I don’t think I need to explain to anyone what the Jackbox Party Pack is. These collections of varied party games that can be played with anyone via online devices have been a staple of gaming streamers for years now. The 9th edition of the party pack comes with five new games, including the 4th version of one of the most popular games, Fibbage. While we were given explanations for all the five games, I ended up getting a full hands-on playthrough of one of the five games. There’s definitely a nice balance of creativity and ingenuity on display here. From Roomerang, in which you play a reality TV show and try to stay in the game for as long as possible. Junktopia, which sees you trying to sell all sorts of unique items by giving the item an elaborate backstory and history and thereby increasing its (perceived) value. Quixort, which is a trivia game meets tetris, in which you need to stack the falling answers in a particular order based on a particular prompt. And finally there’s the fourth iteration of Fibbage that has gotten a batch of new questions, prompts, final fibbage options and even fan-submitted questions.

The one I got extensive time with was a game called nonsensory, which combines both drawing, writing prompts and guessing games. Each player gets a prompt and has to write a sentence or make a drawing based on a percentage that is attached to the prompt. For example “a sentence that has a 70% chance of being in a James Bond movie” or “A person that is 90% exhausted.”. After writing or drawing the prompts, the other players have to bet on the percentage that was attached to the prompt. Players are able to double down on their bets which can lead to a massive lead in points or losing all the advantage they’ve had up until that point. I found the ruleset of Nonsensory to be pretty easy to understand, which is what I think makes a great Jackbox Games. The overall variety of the pack seems pretty impressive as well and I’m especially looking forward to trying out Roomerang and Junktopia. This party pack also features some new quality of life changes like localization for German, French, Spanish and Portuguese (with some prompts being changed to fit their respective markets) as well as a new safe streamer mode, in which streamers are able to kick players. As well as an expanded audience of 10.000 participants. The game launches simultaneously on all platforms later this year and should be something for streamers to look forward to!

Please, Touch the Artwork - Hands-on Demo [PC]

Developers:Thomas Waterzooi

Publisher:Thomas Waterzooi

One Sentence Pitch:Varied puzzles that make you believe Mondriaan would’ve been a fun game designer.

This game actually released this week on Switch, so can try it right away with a free demo! Please, Touch the Artwork, tells its story using different types of art that resemble the works of famed Dutch artist Piet Mondriaan. Most well known for his work Boogie-Woogie and the use of straight lines and primary colors. The game takes an unique approach and creates three different types of puzzles from these concepts. Some mean coloring in different panels, others are guiding cubes to a specific goal and yet others see you tracing lines across the artwork. It feels like a very fresh puzzle experience that should be approachable for all ages. Due to its style it definitely stands out from other puzzle games and feels like a perfect harmony between design and visual presentation. The one downside is that I’ll never be able to look at a Mondriaan painting in the same way ever again.

The last case of Benedict Fox - Hands-on Demo [PC]

Developers:: Plot Twist

Publisher: Rogue Games inc.

One Sentence Pitch: What if we put investigative detective work in a Metroidvania?

I really just want to quickly shout out The Last Case of Benedict Fox in general. While it isn’t coming to Switch (yet?) this game is absolutely one to keep in mind if you’re a fan of Metroidvania games with a dark twist. You play as Benedict Fox and are exploring the research of his late father in a dark and twisted world. The game is a 2D platformer that visually reminded me of Ori and the Will of the Wisps, crossed with a cinematic platformer like Another World. Thankfully the game has a high speed and combat feels crunchy. You can stab with a knife, or fire off a single bullet from your gun. All the while you collect energy and ink to enhance your powers via a tattoo that you can upgrade back at a manor hub world. All the while you collect clues in the world about what happened to your father and why his history with Benedict is so fraught. This game really caught me by surprise and while it’s coming out on Xbox Game Pass next spring, it is certainly one to look out for. Who knows, it may even make the jump to Switch at some point in the future.

The Last Worker- Hands-On Demo [Switch]

Developers: Oiffy, Wolf & Wood Interactive

Publisher: Wired Productions

One Sentence Pitch:An all-star cast for a first person narrative driven game that definitely a-political./p>

I think what sets The Last Worker apart from much else is that this is the first time I’ve heard about a game that was fully designed to work flawlessly in VR and then ported to the Nintendo Switch. As the developer told me as I was playing the demo: “I figured if it has to work on a VR-headset for two screens rendering at 1440p, then it must be easy to run on a single screen at 1080p.”. Honestly he was not wrong. The Last Worker sees you as the last warehouse worker in a not-so-dystopian future working for the Jüngle company. Any resemblance to existing names or people is totally coincidental, the developer assured me. The game sees you moving boxes while being guided by a little robot called Skew (voiced by the legendary Jason Isaacs). Unfortunately a big event like Gamescom isn’t always the best moment to truly get a feel for a sober narrative driven experience, but the design and mood of the world was immediately noticeable. Its cartoony cell-shaded style gives the Last Worker a lot of personality. Both in its character design as well as the way in which you interact with the world. You control the game by flying around in a small hovercraft-like unit, where you have to avoid machinery and safely deliver packages from the warehouse to the consumer. The story is really shaping up to be something unique with performances from Zelda Williams, Olafur Darri Olafsson and David Hewlett. If you’re into proper narrative games and are looking for one that is actually fully optimized for Switch, then The Last Worker should definitely be on your wishlist!

SCHiM - Hands-on Demo [PC]

Developers: Ewoud van der Werf

Publisher: Extra Nice

One Sentence Pitch: A cute shadowy blob that makes its way through a wholesome Dutch world.

Am I biased when it comes to talking about SCHiM? Yes. As much as I’d like to avoid it, SCHiM just ticks a lot of personal boxes for me. What started out as a graduation project, turned into a worldwide sensation with multiple trailers being picked up for several major showcases and the game even being part of the 30-game selection of next week’s Tokyo Game Show. But even with all the hype, I hadn’t had a chance to sit down and play the game myself. SCHiM sees you controlling a small little shadow blob that could’ve come straight out of a Studio Ghibli Film making its way across all sorts of environments. From busy streets, to a small park, alongside canals to a bus stop. Your goal is quite simple, to reunite objects with their shadows and use that to travel further and find your own human that has lost his shadow. The best way to describe gameplay is as if Untitled Goose Game was a 2.5D platformer. You view the game from an isometric perspective and can move only between shadows. If you ever miss a jump you’ll be reset to the last shadow you inhabited. This makes the game very accessible and allows for lots of interactions with the objects. From making bike bells ring to launching yourself via the shadow of a billboard on springs. The inventive ways in which you move about and around in the world was a joy from beginning to end even though the demo only lasted a short while. SCHiM is a game to look out for and something that may work as a great stepping stone for introducing family and friends to videogames.There’s no better definition of the term wholesome than seeing SCHiM in action.

Sonic Frontiers - Hands-On Demo [PC] (Only fifteen minutes)

Developers: Sonic Team


One Sentence Pitch: Sonic Team attempts to reinvent the franchise for the…. Fourth time?

I went to the SEGA booth every day to request permission to play the extended demo for Sonic Frontiers. But every day they were unfortunately fully booked. I had honestly given up hope, until a friend of mine told me that the TikTok booth of all places had a demo for Sonic Frontiers playable on the show floor. Now for those unfamiliar with GamesCom, the public show floor is always crowded beyond belief with long lines of people wanting to play the latest games. As someone from the press, we tend to make appointments beforehand in the business area, so that we can play these demo’s in peace and maybe even talk to a developer. But for Sonic Frontiers I made my way to the TikTok Public Booth, stood in line ( for admittedly a relatively short time) and got my hands on a PC demo of Sonic Frontiers. While the story completely washed past me (Sonic waking up in a weird glitching world while being watched by a strange being and him being guided by a mysterious voice) I held my breath as I gained control over the Blue Hedgehog and started running.

And I didn’t hate it.

Now, to judge this demo based on the ten to fifteen minutes I got to play around with it before a TikTok Staff Member told me to make room for new players is not exactly representative. Many other people I talked to, who did stand in line for over an hour to play the same demo at the SEGA booth for an extended period of time, had a far worse time with this demo. My expectations were pretty abysmal to be honest but I still felt that I wanted to see how Sonic Team wants to present this reinvention of the franchise.

Let’s begin with the obvious and most notable aspect. Even on this PC build of the game, it looked absolutely awful. You’ve probably seen some fanprojects of a Sonic game built in the Unreal Engine that are probably looking better than this. Frequent pop-in, terrible use of shaders and visual effects made Sonic Frontier immediately look off. Even during the cutscenes it was shocking to see how bad the game was looking on PC. Especially for a game that will be releasing on both the last generation and the current generation of hardware. This has made me very curious about the performance of the Switch version, but we’ll get there when we get there.

So while the graphical design and visual pop-in didn’t make a good case for the game, the gameplay itself I actually found pretty enjoyable. The sense of speed in a Sonic game hasn’t felt this good since something like Unleashed. The wide open areas of the overworld make traversal quite fun, especially with a lot of interactive objects like grind rails, bumpers and boosters. The fact that you aren’t restricted by the linearity of a level design or the sluggishness of a Sonic hub world is rather refreshing. Quests and objectives work in a similar way, while some are rather straightforward, you can find items scattered around the open world and use those to unlock additional levels (like the subspace ones you’ve probably seen of Green Hill Zone). While the puzzles never required too much brainspace on my end, I did like the incorporation of the new trail mechanic. Unlocked via the skill tree, yes there’s an actual skill tree in this game, you can hold down the Y button at any time to have a blue streak follow Sonic’s footsteps. This can be used to draw circles around enemies and objects, sort of similar to the approach in Pokémon Ranger. When encircled, Sonic dashes towards the enemy and deals a good amount of damage and can even stun opponents. While the mechanic seems to have many uses and has to be incorporated in puzzles as well, it feels like an interesting method to spice up Sonic’s general moveset. I can see how this may be a choice to influence the next decade of Sonic titles and so far, if you ask me it has potential.

Another thing that surprised me was combat. The first footage released by IGN of Sonic Frontiers made the combat feel slow and sluggish. Especially when dealing with minor enemies seemed to take an absurdly long time. But it seemed that during this demo defeating enemies was much more doable. I really enjoyed the ways in which Sonic can engage with combat during the demo. From dealing regular kicks and punches, to using that streak ability to stun the opponent, to actively dodging out of the way of an attack by hitting the RB button and then using that opening to deal massive damage. It maybe isn’t as instant as his old Homing Attack, but it does feel weighty and make enemies a more formidable obstacle in an open world where running around them is also a valid option at all times.

What stood out to me most at the end of my time with this demo is that Sonic Frontiers still feels and plays like a modern 3D Sonic game. Whether that is something you enjoy is definitely subject to opinion and taste. As someone who has enjoyed quite a few of the 3D outings, especially around the Unleashed and Generations eras, this clicked with me immediately. The open world is something that needs to be experienced for a longer time to fully judge, but for now it feels like a right fit for Sonic. Now whether this game will run well enough on Switch is a matter of waiting till we see it in action on the go, but hey, if Mario, Zelda and Kirby can do it, Sonic shouldn’t have a hard time with this right? Right…?

And that’s all that I’ve been able to play around with during Gamescom. I’d like to thank the individual publishers and developers for being so gracious with their time and letting me play and experience their games. We should definitely hear more about these games as we get closer to their release date. Let us know which one of these seemed most interesting to you in the comments!