Oh boy, here we go again, back to a huge blast of new games. Maybe you’ll see something that strikes your fancy, but this week just isn’t doing it for me. I mean, maybe I can force myself to get excited for something, free myself from the logic that none of it looks good, make myself believe it, even if it is not true…oh…oh…oh…oh.
Cris Tales (PC/PS4/PS5/Stadia/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Jul. 20th
After debuting at E3 in 2019, the RPG Cris Tales has received some fairly considerable hype, particularly from outlets that tend to praise niche titles more often. Is it any surprise, then, that I am featuring it as the top game of the week? Personally, I think this game looks like terrible, but I’m aware that most people will go apeshit over the art style, its game play “inspired by” titles like Chrono Trigger and Persona, and just the fact that its an indie developer. The publisher, Modus Games, clearly has high hopes for the title, releasing it on every platform imaginable. Would I have made the the top choice any other week, fuck no, but this is where we’re at. Maybe it’s good?
Death’s Door (PC/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Jul. 20th
*ALERT* *ALERT* Xbox Console Exclusive *ALERT* *ALERT*
Hey, bro. You like Dark Souls? Tight. You like indie games? Tight. You like games published by Devolver Digital? Hella tight. Check out Death’s Door.
Warhammer 40,000: Battlesector (PC) – Releases Jul. 22nd
In this latest Warhammer 40k game, players will be able to play a digital version of the long running tabletop game. It will cost you far less, money wise, but you’ll miss out on something even more valuable…the friendships you’ll make along the way to spending a quarter of a million dollars on figures. You can still eat Cheetos, though. Just tell your mom to buy you some.
Orcs Must Die 3 (PC/PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Jul. 23rd
After spending a year in Stadia prison, the tower defense, trap laying game Orcs Must Die 3 will finally be played by people.
Ports and Re-releases:
Akiba’s Trip: Hellbound & Debriefed (PC/PS4/Switch) – Releases Jul. 20th
Since this is the game’s North American debut, I probably could have/should have, put it in the top releases, but I’ve already started typing this and I’m too lazy to change it. Originally released for the PSP in 2011, this Japan only action title tasked players with hunting down vampires in the nerd haven of Akihabara. To celebrate its 10 year anniversary the developer has put out a fancy, HD version of the game, complete with a bunch of cool extras, and even better for us in the West, the game is finally being localized and published by XSEED! If you like beating up, and stripping down, vampires, then give this title a look.
Cotton Reboot! (PS4/Switch) – Releases Jul. 20th
Billed as the original “cute ’em up”, Cotton Reboot is a remake of the 1991 arcade title, Cotton: Fantastic Night Dreams. The game was ported to the TurboGrafx-16 in 1993 and received mixed reviews, but the arcade version, which only came out in Japan, is considered an all time classic and was a pioneer in the genre of SHMUPS featuring cute girls instead of spaceships. Will I be getting this? Is there water in the Ocean?
The Sims 4: Cottage Living (PC/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Jul. 22nd
The Sims 4: Cottage Living is, approximately, the 83rd expansion for the game since its release in 2014. This time you get to let your Sims live out their wildest 90’s mom fantasies, with all of the pastel colors and embroidered flower designs that one could desire.
Fallen Knight (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Jul. 20th
Pokémon Unite (Android/iOS/Switch) – Releases Jul. 21st
The Witcher: Monster Slayer (Android/iOS) – Releases Jul. 21st
Aery – Calm Mind (Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Jul. 22nd
Last Stop (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Jul. 22nd
Where the Snow Settles (PC/Xbox One) – Releases Jul. 22nd
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 years ago:
Get ready to read about three games that all feature protagonists who look like they couldn’t give any less of a shit if they tried.
Bastion (Xbox 360) – Released Jul. 20th, 2011: Wiki Link
Today, many of us know Supergiant Games as one of the premier indie studios in the video game industry. Their latest title, Hades, was lauded by critics as one of the best titles of 2020, garnering numerous awards and nominations. Yet all great companies eventually start somewhere, and that’s where this week’s ten year old notable titles comes in, the hit debut title Bastion. Founded in 2009 by two form EA employees, Amir Rao and Gavin Simon, Supergiant games was a way for them to free themselves from the shackles of working for a corporate entity and do something that fed their creative and artistic instincts. With a team of seven, Rao co-directed with Greg Kasavin, Simon worked on gameplay with Andrew Wang, music was handled by Darren Korb, Jen Zee did the art, and the game’s stoic narrator was portrayed by Logan Cunningham. Choosing an isometric POV, the team decided to create an action RPG that had players rebuilding their world after a great calamity. This post-apocalyptic world allowed the team to play around with minimalist design (i.e., cheaper, empty spaces), and also, from a technical point of view, cut down on things like world maps, as the level would fill out gradually as players walked around it, similar to how levels grew in the Genesis game ToeJam & Earl. An early build of the game was shown at the Game Developers Conference in early 2010, but it failed to gain much attention. A few months later, Supergiant showed the game off at the Penny Arcade Expo where it received high praise and acclaim, leading to a publishing deal with Warner Bros. Interactive. Supergiant stated that they entered the deal in order to bypass many of the hoops required to get an Xbox Live certification. When Bastion finally hit the Xbox 360 in July, 2011 it was an instant success, and by the end of the year it would sell over 500k copies, with 200k of those coming from digital downloads. Critics were blown away, with GamePro calling saying it raised the bar for downloadable titles, which, in hindsight, seems pretty funny, considering all games are now “downloadable titles”. Still, the concept of indie titles was still relatively new in 2011, after Braid thrust the concept into the mainstream, and Bastion seemed like the next evolution. Particular praise was given to the game’s story, and critics loved Cunningham’s narration, with his gravely voice lending a bit of gravitas to the game’s already stellar presentation. Bastion, like 2020’s Hades, was nominated, and won, several awards in 2011 and 2012, particularly for Darren Korb’s stellar soundtrack which, I believe, kickstarted a whole new appreciation of music in video games. Soon after this you’d see places like Humble Bundle start to give out game soundtracks when you’d purchase a game; I know that I have almost as many soundtracks in my iTunes library as I do games on Steam. Bastion is brilliantly fun and a true highlight of the indie game boom we saw in the early part of of 2010’s. You can pick it up on any modern platform, and it plays just as well today as it did back in 2011.
Max Payne (PC) – Released Jul. 23rd, 2001: Wiki Link
In 1995, game developer Remedy Entertainment was founded by a group of various people from Finnish “Demoscene” groups. These small art collectives would build video game demos for PC’s, and one group in particular, Future Crew, had larger aspirations and wanted to follow in the footsteps of Finland’s first commercial video game developers Bloodhouse and Terramarque, who would eventually join up to become the studio Housemarque. Taking on the name Remedy Entertainment, their first title was a vehicular combat game called Death Rally, published by the American company Apogee. It did modestly well on PC, and had a decent following in the shareware community. Apogee founder Scott Miller wanted to know what Remedy was working on next, so inspired by the PlayStation title Loaded, the team put together an isometric shooter called Dark Justice. Miller was receptive, but he would only publish the game if Remedy made some changes. First, the game needed to be in 3D, similar to Tomb Raider, second was that it needed a central character to focus the game around, not unlike 3D Realms’ Duke Nukem 3D, and finally, the name was terrible, it needed to convey who the character was. Miller’s suggestions included “Max Heat” and my favorite “Dick Justice”, before settling on “Max Payne”. In Max Payne, players take on the role of the titular undercover cop as he copes with the death of his wife and child at the hands of a couple of junkies. Determined to find the person responsible for distributing the drug, Max finds himself embroiled in the criminal underworld, and getting on the wrong side of the mob. He’s framed for the murder of a police officer, and spends the entirety of the game dodging bullets from both gangsters and cops. The major gameplay feature of Max Payne is its bullet time mechanic. Created by the team at Remedy, they had the idea pre-The Matrix, however when that movie released in 1999 they knew people would draw comparisons, so they capitalized on it and paid several homages to The Matrix in their game including the famous lobby shootout, which they used in the level “Nothing To Lose”. Critics were highly impressed with the game, giving it glowing reviews for its atmosphere, gameplay, and tone. While critics enjoyed the story, they were quick to point out that it was highly derivative and cliched, carrying much of the tropes that infect most film noir homages. Still, that crudeness and rough around the edges feel gave Max Payne a gritty realism that gripped the player and dragged them kicking and screaming into Max’s depraved world. It’s likely this gritty realism that attracted the game’s eventual console publisher, Rockstar Games. Seeing potential in a franchise, Rockstar grabbed up the exclusive rights to the game and character, and with their new found wealth, success, and pedigree with the release of GTA III (more on that in October), it only made Max Payne even bigger when it released in the Fall of 2001 on the PS2. After release, Max Payne won numerous awards in multiple categories, and was named the best PC game at the BAFTA’s. Remedy would follow it up with a sequel, 2003’s The Fall of Max Payne, with a third entry developed in-house by Rockstar in 2012, although Remedy provided feedback and consulted on the game, ultimately calling it brilliant. After Max Payne, Remedy would go on to create Alan Wake, Quantum Break, and my favorite game from 2019, Control. Currently, you can play Max Payne on your PS4/PS5 by purchasing it through the PlayStation Store, or you can grab it on PC through Steam. While the gameplay leaves something to be desired by modern standards, it is still just as gripping and immersive today as it was in 2001. If you’ve gone the last twenty years without playing Max Payne you should really give it a try.
Leisure Suit Larry 1: In the Land of the Lounge Lizards (PC) – Released Jul. 1991: Wiki Link
Sierra’s 1987 adventure game Leisure Suit Larry In The Land of the Lounge Lizards was initially a flop. Retailers refused to carry the game, and PC magazines refused to run ads, basically acting as if the game didn’t exist. However, due to strong word of mouth (and an even stronger piracy operation) LSL 1 would eventually become a hit with players and force the retailers and magazines to finally carry the Larry games. After releasing two sequels, 1988’s Looking For Love (In Several Wrong Places) and 1989’s Passionate Patti in Pursuit of the Pulsating Pectorals, Sierra decided to re-release the first game to tide players over as they waited for the fourth, er, fifth entry. This time the game would feature state of the art, high quality, VGA graphics, contain full mouse support, and use the Sierra Creative Interpreter for its engine. Featuring practically the exact same story and puzzles, Sierra opted to let owners of the first game purchase the remake for $25 instead of the MSRP of $60. Critics were only really impressed with how much better the game looked, saying it was a nice treat for anyone who hadn’t already played the original version, but with no new puzzles it was pretty useless to anyone who had played it. While there are certainly things to get offended at in this game, I didn’t find it nearly as off putting as some of the other older titles I’ve played recently (remember Heart of China). Overall, however, this game isn’t nearly as horrifyingly sexual or gross as you might think, but that also means it isn’t nearly as outrageous or funny as you might think. It’s fairly pedestrian compared to what we have today, and I am shocked, SHOCKED, that anyone ever found this game to be gratuitously obscene or sexual. You can find copies of this on both Steam and GOG, typically bundled with every other game in the series. Is it worth it? Probably not, but Larry’s used to that.
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