Five Gems From PlayStation Experience 2016

Earlier I covered some of the major announcements coming out of PSX16 (PlayStation Experience 2016), and while big budget titles like Last of Us Part II and Marvel Vs Capcom Infinite are very exciting, Sony also showcased many smaller indie titles on the convention floor that I am excited to share with you. Just because a game has a modest development budget doesn’t mean it can’t be an amazing experience, and I’d like to highlight some gems that I found in the corners of PlayStation Experience.

I’ll begin and end my list with two of my favorite discoveries then list the rest of the games in no particular order, but first, an honorable mention.

Honorable Mention: Windjammers

While technically not a new game since it originally came out for Neo Geo in 1994, DotEmu has rebuilt this game from the ground up, and added an important piece: online battles. Windjammers is what happens if you cross 90’s style fighting games like Street Fighter with Pong. Somehow that bizarre mix ends up being addictively fun. There is only one button besides the analog stick used, but with that one button you can slide toward the disc, or throw it and try to get it past your opponent. You can also do trick throws by rotating the analog stick as you release the disc, or perform your character’s special move by mashing the button while catching a “lob”. It seems simple enough, right? But wait until you are in a match with a ridiculous back and forth rally of disc throws; when you finally score that shot, victory has never tasted sweeter.

EarthNight

Spacediving from a spaceship far above earth, landing on a dragon’s back, jumping and grinding and slashing and stomping through waves of foes and shiny trinkets…stabbing the dragon’s head frantically before he shakes you off…and diving through space toward the next dragon…does it get any more metal than this?

I never thought I’d be excited to tell you about a roguelike endless runner, but here we are! To be fair, EarthNight isn’t really an endless runner, since there is an end to each stage, and eight levels of dragons before the final challenge. Each dragon has a beginning, middle, and end, and each of those sections has five randomly selected layouts, so each playthrough will be unique. Every element of this game shines: the controls were tight, the characters Sydney and Stanley fun and memorable, the hand painted art design is bright and fantastic. Chip musician Chipocrite matches and enhances the energy of each stage with his brilliant compositions; EarthNight will never be played on mute at my house.

EarthNight was my personal game of show, and if you’d told me before I entered PlayStation Experience that I’d be gushing about a runner, I would have laughed at you.

The Church in the Darkness

Most stealth games place the player in control of a soldier, ninja, or a corporate spy. This game from Paranoid Productions has the player infiltrating a religious cult in South America in the 1970s. As Vic, an ex-law enforcement officer, you travel to South America to get into a Jonestown-like cult named Freedom Town and check on your nephew, Alex. Play how you want; you can avoid detection completely, take on the guards using non-lethal methods, or kill anyone who gets in your way. The environment changes each time you play, and depending on the choices you make, you will experience a different story every time. If I wasn’t already hooked by the branching storyline and controversial setting, the fact that Ellen McLain (GLaDOS in Portal) voices one of the cult leaders makes this a game cements my interest in The Church in the Darkness.

Starblood Arena

I had the opportunity to try many PlayStation VR titles at PSX16, but none had the layer of polish and instant familiarity that Starblood Arena displayed. As a first person arena shooter in VR, you might expect some confusion maneuvering in 3D space, but the games controls are simple, fluid and intuitive. Head tracking is used to great advantage for aiming, and while the player’s ship can travel any direction in 3D space, I did not encounter any discomfort thanks to the steady framerate and smooth animation.  Starblood Arena features Team Death Matches and Battle Royale modes with 2 to 4 players, and each customizable spacecraft has it’s own unique pilot and design. It was a lot of fun to jump in and play, and I look forward to gunning down my PSN buddies as aliens and robots when Starblood Arena releases.

Move or Die

This friendship ruining game is playable by up to 4 players on the same screen, or you can join a game online. Each cartoon character (I’m partial to the bare-bottomed PootPoot) loses health when they stop moving, hence the title. The rules change every 20 seconds with each round, including modes like Jump Shot, Chainsaw Backstab and Rocket Run, each with their own unique mechanics and level design.

Perfect for a quick match when your friends visit, Move or Die earns my recommendation as a game to check out for your PlayStation 4 in the near future.

Aeero

This game came out of left field and smacked me silly and left me staring slaw-jawed at the screen. Developed by just two guys at aptly named MadFellows, this shooter features fantastic licensed music that is enhanced when the player guides their spaceship onto a glowing track with the left thumbstick or shoots enemies selected with the right. Piloting your craft through gorgeous futuristic environments and taking on huge screen filling bosses is exhilarating thanks to the integration of the music tracks which come alive when you’re on the right track and hit the targets. I’ve played other games that changed the music  based on how you are doing in the stage, but Aeero does it in a way that makes it all one integrated fantastic experience, not just a gimmick. I can’t help but compare this game to Rez, and it compares well.

I hope I was able to share a game with you that excited you and that you haven’t heard of before. If so, I’d love to hear from you in the comments section. As always, stay tuned to our weekly podcast for more information on these games and others as it becomes available.