It’s been three weeks since we’ve had a big, AAA release, but as has been the case for almost the entire year, there’s really only one big game worth putting any time into, as every other release is so low key that they’re almost not even worth mentioning. I can’t say that any of these won’t be hits later on down the road, but for the most part, there’s really just one big game coming out with other stuff to satisfy the niche crowds.
Rage 2 (PC/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases May 14th
After a blistering, hyper colored reveal last year, Rage 2 has kind of quietly been sitting in the shadows, without much of a mainstream marketing campaign, and that might be for a reason. After watching the trailer, I just get this vibe of…I don’t know what you’d call it…douchebaggery…but more than that, it almost hearkens back to a time in gaming when it was dominated by men who like doing man stuff and they didn’t have to share with the girls. This game seems to be firmly stuck in the past, with dated, and out of place humor (is that a gay joke in the trailer?), unnecessary profanity, and if you watch the trailer to the end, the game is literally obsessed with the past. Maybe I’m not into this kind of thing anymore because I’m not a young person, and it’s entirely possible that 18 year old’s out there think this is the coolest, funniest shit they’ve ever seen. I guess if you’ve grown up watching Deadpool and playing Borderlands, then yeah, you might think this is peak comedy, but as a wise man once said in a movie that probably helped start all this comedy macho crap, “I’m getting too old for this shit”. I hear you Murtaugh, and to this 38 year old guy, Rage 2 looks like a been there, done that retread of the same garbage I’ve been playing my whole life. Oh man, and I haven’t even gotten to their asinine Twitter account that tried to start a feud with a journalist. Check out this article if you need some clarity: Twitter Fighting With ‘Rage 2’ Turned Me Into Accidental Marketing
A Plague Tale: Innocence (PC/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases May 14th
Taking the dual character aspect of games like Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons and A Way Out, comes the game A Plague Tale. You will play as Amica and Hugo, a sister and brother, trying to survive during the time of the Black Plague. Through a series of puzzles and brain teasers, you’ll need to navigate past hordes of disease filled rats, and sadistic knights who are trying to murder you. In other words, it’s a family game.
Bubsy: Paws on Fire (PC/PS4/Switch) – Releases May 16th
The developers of the BIT.TRIP series got the rights to develop a new Bubsy game, for some reason. I can’t tell if this is an endless runner style game, in the vein of the BIT.TRIP Runner titles, but the stages are side scrollers with various hazards, enemies, and pits that you must dodge by either jumping, ducking, or sliding…so maybe? There are also horizontal shooter levels, and behind the back, 3D tube running levels akin to those Sonic 2 bonus stages. There are quite a few YouTube videos of people reacting negatively to this game, which…why? Whatever, it’s Bubsy, take it or leave it.
Some choice videos, complete with horrible thumbnails.
Alt-Frequencies (Android/iOS/PC) – Releases May 16th
Taking the biggest risk this week is an interesting looking indie game from Accidental Queens, makers of A Normal Lost Phone. In this unconventional title, you will use time travel-ish techniques to listen to various audio clips, taken from a multitude of sources, including morning DJ shock jocks, to right wing talk radio, to whatever else you can still find on the radio. Using audio you record from each of these stations, and then sharing that information with others, you can change the course of the day and unlock new information which will ultimately lead to solving this mystery of political intrigue and conspiracy theories. The game also purports to have an all-star voice over cast, including several prominent YouTube “stars” and podcasters, as well as actress Jasika Nicole from television’s Fringe.
Ports and Re-releases:
Castlevania: Anniversary Collection (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases May 16th
Konami jumped into the retro game collection craze with both feet by announcing three titles, an arcade collection (basically a Gradius collection), a Castlevania collection, and a Contra collection. With a somewhat lackluster and lukewarm reception to the arcade collection, I have a feeling this next title is going to finally show why this was so exciting. By collecting the first four Castlevania games in one package, they’ve already shown that this is more than worth owning, but by also giving us two Game Boy titles, the underrated Genesis title (Bloodlines) and a Japan-only NES game (Kid Dracula), they’ve really nailed it here. Yeah, Castlevania II might have some esoteric gameplay issues, and the Game Boy games might be a bit barebones in comparison to the NES games, but the fact that we have access to these titles in a legal fashion is a real treat. Let’s hope the Contra collection closes this series out on a strong note.
Blades of Time (Switch) – Releases May 14th
This forgettable game is the sequel to the even more forgettable game X-Blades. If you can remember this on name alone, then you are probably excited to see it getting a Switch release. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, well then you’re probably okay just skipping it.
Sniper Elite V2 Remastered (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases May 14th
What do you call a remaster of a remaster? A re-remaster? Sniper Elite V2 came out in 2012, seven years after the original title, and was basically a souped-up version of that game, and featured several improvements to graphics and game play. This remaster features even better graphics, and includes all of the DLC from the original V2, as well as new playable characters and multiplayer modes. For those not familiar, this is that game where you can shoot Nazis in the nutsack and watch it explode using the slow-mo x-ray camera. It’s very satisfying.
Akane (Switch) – Releases May 17th
Released last September for PC, this title is yet another in a long line of hyper violent, one hit death games with pixel graphics. The trend isn’t showing much sign of slowing down (in fact we just got a new one not long ago with Katana Zero), and despite what may seem like an oversaturated market, particularly on the Switch, these titles can regularly provide a nice diversion to the more time-consuming, multi-hour campaign games that we all regularly play. Give it a look.
Surviving Mars: Green Planet (PC) – Releases May 16th
Having recently rediscovered my love of city builders and simulation games through titles like Frostpunk, Civilization VI, and this year’s Anno 1800, I was pleasantly surprised to find out about Surviving Mars, a city building simulation game set on the red planet. In this expansion you find yourself doing more than just building domes on top of the dry terrain, instead you are working towards actually terraforming the planet in an effort to make it as lush and green as Earth is. How much of this is based in science fact is probably up for debate, but regardless of whether this is even possible, it’s still an interesting concept for a game, so much so that there’s even a board game about this very subject called Terraforming Mars, which I’m sure in no way influenced the designers of Surviving Mars…
Dark Future: Blood Red States (PC) – Releases May 16th
Hey, what if the death races in Rage 2 was just its own game; eh, eh…??
Koral (Switch) – Releases May 16th (PC version is “coming soon”)
I was just as surprised as you to find out this was not a meme-based game about how Rick Grimes says the name of his son. On another note, I’m happy to see the Switch get so many exclusive games, but next time can it be something cool like a new From Software title, or a sequel to Punch-Out!!? Speaking of…
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 years ago:
Some stone-cold classics came out this week/month in the past, let’s talk about three of them!
Punch-Out!! (Wii) – Released May 18th, 2009: Wiki Link
After skipping two console generations, Nintendo finally released a sequel to Super Punch-Out with 2009’s re-boot, Punch-Out!! Once again taking on the role of Little Mac, players would face off against a litany of familiar faces, as well as a few new ones, and one surprise cameo in the form of Donkey Kong. The game was well received upon release, being one of the few Wii games to have actual functioning motion controls, and it even made good use of the Wii Balance Board, allowing you to duck and dodge your opponents hits, making for a rather robust workout for this writer back in his one bedroom apartment in the cool, trendy neighborhood he made his home before settling down. Since the release of Punch-Out!!, Nintendo has kind of put the series on ice, only releasing a mini-game tie-in title called Doc Louis’s Punch Out!! (given out to Club Nintendo members), and putting Little Mac in the Smash Bros. series. With the return of motion controls on the Switch it seemed like Punch Out would be a no brainer, but Nintendo again defied expectations by creating an entire new boxing IP, the eSports friendly title Arms. With the original arcade and NES games making appearances on the Switch, Nintendo has clearly not forgotten about the series, but they don’t seem all that interested in continuing it.
Star Wars Episode I: Racer (Nintendo 64) – Released May 18th, 1999: Wiki Link
It might be hard to imagine, but people used to be excited about Star Wars Episode I. I remember this being my very first midnight release movie, with a friend telling me he’d bought tickets and wanted to know if I’d go with him. I had no idea that you could even watch a movie at midnight, so I said “fuck it” and we were on our way to the UA 6 in Chula Vista (now a gym). As history will tell you, The Phantom Menace was kind of a let-down, but there’s one part that we all admit was cool, the pod racing scene. George Lucas’ love of hot rods was put on full display in this, slightly masturbatory, scene that was a cheerful romp in an otherwise dour and boring film. It’s no surprise then that the video game was just as fun to play as it was to watch, being perhaps the best thing to come out of that film. Not content to just let you play as Anakin, the game also featured all of the pilots from the movie, giving more background on such illuminating figures as Ratts Tyerell, Jinn Reeso, Ben Quadinaros, and Bowen Marsh (only one of those is a Game of Thrones character, you figure out which one). The game would eventually be ported to the Game Boy Color, Mac and Dreamcast, while an unrelated game would release to arcades in 2000, featuring one of the coolest arcade cabinets to hit the market.
Golden Axe (Arcade) – Released May 1989: Wiki Link
In the late 80’s, Sega was on a roll when it came to arcade games. Titles like Outrun, Hang-On, Space Harrier, Shinobi and Altered Beast were fixtures in local coin-ops, and with summer rapidly approaching, Sega put out one of their first brawlers, Golden Axe. Inspired by rival Technos’ title Double Dragon, Sega wanted to release their own beat ’em up, but with a twist. Instead of setting it in the modern world with a gritty backdrop, they would put it in the fantasy realm, taking cues from Dungeons & Dragons, Conan The Barbarian, and of all things, Dragon Quest. Players would choose from one of three characters, Gilius the dwarf, barbarian Ax Battler (who, despite his name, used a sword), and Tyris Flare, an Amazonian warrior who fought in a bikini (as one is wont to do). Moving from level to level, players would fight the various underlings and followers of the evil Death Adder, as they marched closer to his lair in order to free the land from his tyranny. This game, along with the previous year’s Altered Beast, was a pretty good 1-2 punch for designer Makoto Uchida, who still works for Sega to this day. Golden Axe has received numerous ports over the years, coming out both by itself and as part of various Sega compilations/collections. It would go on to spawn four sequels and three spin-off’s, each with their own varying degree of success. Mimicking Nintendo’s Punch-Out!!, Sega has seemingly put this series on ice, having not released a new title since 2008’s Beast Rider. However, like Nintendo, they continue to give us re-releases of the original game, keeping the IP solidly alive in our minds, even if it’s just to help us all remember what 1989 was like.