April continues to be a slow month for game releases, with the racing game MotoGP 22 taking the top spot by the two greatest words in the English language, default. The upside is that we all get more time to finish the big games from the last couple of months, the downside is that I am so very, very bored writing these. I need some excitement, I need something to keep me going. Jesus, are you listening up there to anyone at all? Quiet, I’m sleeping.
MotoGP 22 (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Apr. 21st
Developed by: Milestone
Published by: Milestone
It’s a racing game with some fucking motorcycles. What do you want from me?.
Winter Ember (PC/PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Apr. 19th
Developed by: Sky Machine Studios
Published by: Blowfish Studios/Gamera Game
This is an interesting looking indie title that I’m kinda-sorta interested in, which probably means I’ll find out later that the developers have donated to Ted Cruz’s campaign and are actively pushing to legalize ghost guns or some shit.
orbit.industries (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Apr. 21st
Developed by: LAB 132
Published by: Klabater
Wow, what an action packed trailer.
Samurai Bringer (PC/PS4/Switch) – Releases Apr. 21st
Developed by: Alphawing Inc.
Published by: Playism
Well alright, this looks promising. A rouge-lite adventure game where you must slay several samurai generals and collect their armor in order to defeat an eight headed dragon. Sounds like a blast.
Ganryu 2 (PC/PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Apr. 22nd
Developed by: Storybird Studio
Published by: Just For Games/PixelHeart
Two samurai games in one week? Well I guess April isn’t all that bad, alright alright. The first Ganryu game was released in 1999 on the Neo Geo in arcades before getting a bizarre Dreamcast port in 2017, so good luck finding a way to play that. Let’s just have fun with this sequel instead, it’s not like the story is going to be that hard to follow.
Ports and Re-releases:
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (Switch) – Releases Apr. 20th
Confirmed, you can force push Stormtroopers out of the screen on your Switch. This image is 100% accurate.
Hot Wheels Unleashed: Monster Trucks (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Apr. 21st
Re-live your childhood with the more-fun-than-it-has-any-right-to-be Hot Wheels Unleashed, now with monster trucks.
- Godlike Burger (PC) – Releases Apr. 21st
- Lila’s Sky Ark (PC/Switch) – Releases Apr. 21st
- Trolley Problem, Inc. (PC) – Releases Apr. 21st
- Vampire: The Masquerade – Heartless Lullaby (PC) – Releases Apr. 21st
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 years ago:
The Walking Dead (PC/PS3/Xbox 360) – Released Apr. 24th, 2012: Wiki Link
Notable Film Release: Think Like a Man – Starring Michael Ealy, Jerry Ferrara, Meagan Good, Regina Hall, Kevin Hart, Taraji P. Henson, Terrence J, Romany Malco, and Gabrielle Union
Notable Album Release: The Flaming Lips – The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends
By the year 2011, developer Tell Tale Games had established themselves as the modern adventure game powerhouse. They started out with successful iterations of classics like Sam & Max and Monkey Island, then followed those up with two successful Universal Studios IP’s, Back to the Future and Jurassic Park, and it was with Jurassic Park that Tell Tale started to pull away from the traditional point & click adventure, incorporating multiple QTE’s and adding in a bit of action. However, Tell Tale was still looking for that major breakthrough hit that would touch all demographics, so they went out to one of the biggest zombie horror franchises of the day; Left 4 Dead.
Yes, before the deal feel through, Tell Tale wanted to make a story driven adventure game based on the Left 4 Dead franchise, going as far as building a text based version of game, but Valve had no interest in the project. Not giving up on it, the team at Tell Tale kept iterating on the game and, according to veteran developer Dave Grossman, the team wanted to find a way to help alleviate some of the tedium and pacing issues that adventure games had always kind of notoriously had to deal with. Typically, an adventure game’s world and the characters in it will only react to the player if they are presented with the correct object, making everything very passive. To change this up, Tell Tale incorporated a timer in the game during certain events and sequences, forcing players to make quick decisions while keeping the pace of the game moving forward. With this germ of a idea the team geared up for another pitch.
Having made games based on two classic point & click IP’s, then making two games based on classic film IP’s, Tell Tale was able to secure the rights to two comic book IP’s; Bill Willingham’s Fables and Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead. According to Kirkman, he had been approached to make video games based on The Walking Dead before, but all of them were about gathering ammunition and jumping over things, so getting the call of Tell Tale was exciting to him. Having played another Tell Tale adventure game, Strong Bad’s Cool Game For Attractive People, Kirkman was aware of how well Tell Tale could craft a story and keeping players engaged in the narrative, but what really impressed him was how Tell Tale wanted to force players to make tough decisions and live with the consequences. With the contracts signed it was time to start writing.
While Robert Kirkman would advise Tell Tale on the game’s story, it was mostly notes about what felt accurate to the world of The Walking Dead. Kirkman was okay with the team using most of the comic’s characters, if they wanted to, with the only exception being main protagonist Rick Grimes. For Tell Tale this wasn’t a problem, as they didn’t really have any intention of using any of the characters from the comics as the main characters, instead creating a whole cast of new characters and their own protagonist, Lee Everett. In the game’s opening scene we see Lee as he is being transported to prison for committing murder, though we don’t quite know the circumstances. Suddenly, the police cruiser he is riding in hits a zombie and crashes. Lee escapes and is suddenly thrust into this nightmare. Along the way he comes across a little girl named Clementine as she hides in her tree house from a group of zombies in her home. Lee dispatches the monsters, then meets with Clementine where he learns that her parents are gone, having taken a trip to Savannah, GA. With Clementine’s babysitter dead, it is up to Lee to take care of the girl, leading them on an emotional and heart wrenching journey.
With the character of Clementine, a eight-year girl, Tell Tale knew that she would focus as the game’s moral compass. When Lee would have to make a tough decision, Clementine’s thoughts and reactions would be a clue as to how the player probably should react, but ultimately the decision was up to each individual player. One of the main points that Tell Tale wanted to hit was that Clementine would not be annoying or spend her time whining (that was Duck’s job). The writers knew the ending of the game early in development, and used that knowledge to paint many of the morally questionable things that Lee and his survivor group would have to do to stay alive. With The Walking Dead being released in an episodic format, Tell Tale would make story decisions based on player’s decisions in the previous episodes. Tell Tale had wanted to make scenarios where players would generally be neutral, hoping for a 50/50 split. However, two choices were overwhelmingly lopsided, with the first being in Episode 1 where players would have to choose to either save a hot female reporter or a fat dorky guy from being eaten by zombies, with 75% of players saving the hot woman. The next instance would arise in Episode 2 where players would have to decide to cut off someone’s leg or leave them to be eaten. From that point, Tell Tale modified the game’s dialogue during these moments to leave out any kind of clue that could indicate that one choice was “right” and one was “wrong”.
Initially planned for a late 2011 release, the game was delayed to April 24th, 2012, to coincide with the second season finale of The Walking Dead television series, which was fast becoming one the most popular shows on cable, in order to ride the wave of excitement from the program. When the reviews started coming in there was no doubt about it, critics were blown away by The Walking Dead. Early in development, Robert Kirkman had been shown an unfinished build of the game and he was very unimpressed, but a few weeks later with the first episode complete, Kirkman saw the game again and told the team at Tell Tale that they had fucking nailed it. This was also the sentiment among most critics, calling The Walking Dead the best games of 2012 so far. Due to Tell Tale’s choice to release the game digitally in small chunks, the first episode of The Walking Dead was a financial smash where it was the number one downloaded game on the Xbox Live Marketplace for two weeks in a row, going on to sell 1 million copies in just 20 days across all platforms.
The success of The Walking Dead not only kickstarted a public re-evaluation of the adventure game genre, but it put Tell Tale on the map, putting pressure on the Fables adaptation, as well as bringing more film, comics, and television studios knocking on the their door, leading to games based on Batman, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Game of Thrones, to name a few. All five episodes of The Walking Dead would be released by the end of 2012, culminating in a physical release for retailers that contained the entire game. When it was time for awards and accolades, The Walking Dead cleaned up, earning Game of the Year honors from USA Today, Wired, Destructoid, Yahoo! Games, as well as from the Spike Video Game Awards, with the awards show also awarding Clementine’s voice actress, Melissa Hutchison, with their equivalent of Best Actress. At the D.I.C.E. Awards, The Walking Dead would be nominated for eight awards, winning four (Adventure Game of the Year, Downloadable Game of the Year, Outstanding Achievement in Story, and Outstanding Character Performance – Lee Everett).
Tell Tale would follow-up The Walking Dead with a DLC episode titled 400 Days that would serve as a bridge between first and second seasons of The Walking Dead. After season two, a third seasons titled A New Frontier would arrive in 2016, followed by The Final Season in 2018. The Walking Dead is, without any question, a masterpiece. It is one of the finest narratives ever written for a video game and, despite your choices only serving as minor inconsequential moments, makes you really feel like you are living in a real world with real consequences. The Walking Dead is easily available on all modern systems, sometimes with the option to download the first episode for free. I strongly encourage everyone reading this to give the game a try.
Resident Evil (GameCube) – Released Apr. 30th, 2002: Wiki Link
On September 11th, 2001, a monumental event happened; Capcom announced that the Resident Evil series was going to be a GameCube exclusive, oh, and that thing in New York happened too. Actually, I’m not sure it actually happened on 9/11, that’s when IGN posted the article about it, but its still a bit eerie. Announced by Resident Evil mastermind Shinji Mikami, along with famed Nintendo developer Shigeru Miyamoto, Capcom had committed to releasing all three mainline Resident Evil games, as well as Code Veronica, plus the fourth game in the series, and a prequel game called Zero, all for the GameCube. Not only that, but the first Resident Evil would be a modern remake of the 1996 classic, with Mikami hoping to incorporate elements he didn’t get to include the first time around, as well as helping make sure that its English localization would be much better this time around.
Development on the game started in early 2001, a few months before the launch of the system, making things a bit challenging for Mikami and his team. It took them some time to get familiar with the hardware and its limitations, quickly finding out that 3D backgrounds, like in Code Veronica, would not be doable, leading to the team to use pre-rendered backgrounds with 3D models, similar to how the original game had been made. This led to what appeared to be far better graphics than anyone had anticipated the GameCube could do, a neat little trick. There were a few gameplay changes made, including increasing the size of the player’s inventory and adding in defensive weapons, which were items that could be used by players to quickly incapacitate an enemy. These defensive weapons were also seen as a way to help make the game easier, particularly for new players, though their limited quantity did also add a new level of strategic gameplay for veteran players. The mansions layout was slightly altered, and puzzles were changed in order to make the game feel fresh for people who had already played it.
Despite all the changes, one element of the original Resident Evil remained, the god awful tank controls. Mikami and his team did, at least, add in a second control scheme that involved players moving their characters kind of like a car, with the R button acting as the “gas”, with players able to move their character around using the analog stick. An entirely new group of voice actors were brought in to record the games dialogue and, in a sad move for fans of the original game’s campiness, the live action cutscenes were replaced with CGI ones. Development lasted for 14 months, with development entering crunch mode, with the team having to work everyday with no time off during the last two months. Releasing first in Japan in March of 2002, then in North America in April 2002, the Resident Evil remake was a critical smash, but a colossal financial flop.
Despite the critical consensus that Resident Evil was the most ambitious, engaging, and beautiful games in the entire series, Capcom and Mikami were stunned that the public had seemingly ignored the game. With development already well underway for Resident Evil Zero, it was too late to change course on that title, so the decision was made to move the series into a more action focused direction for Resident Evil 4, a decision with long last ramifications for the series. By 2004, only 445,000 copies of Resident Evil would be sold on the GameCube, a paltry amount when compared to the PlayStation version which had sold almost 4 million copies across its two releases (original & director’s cut). This would be the first hit in the exclusive deal with Nintendo, as a planned five games were slated to be developed and released for the GameCube, all of which would either fail to meet financial expectations, or be cancelled. As for Resident Evil, the game would eventually be ported to the Wii and feature a new control scheme, before finally leaving Nintendo consoles and receiving and HD remaster for the PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One in 2015, then coming to Switch in 2019. Resident Evil is a fantastic remake, surpassing the original in every way, it is well worth your time.
Top Gear (SNES) – Released Apr. 1992: Wiki Link
I have to say, I’m not really feeling a whole lot of excitement about this one, gang, but here we go. The Top Gear series was active from 1992 all the way to 2006, with the final game in the franchise coming out for the Nintendo DS, so good for you Top Gear. Being the spiritual successor to Magnetic Fields/Gremlin Graphics Lotus series on the Amiga, Top Gear featured nearly identical game play as well as the same musical score. For me, though, the game bears a striking resemblance to Rad Racer on the NES, or even Sega’s Outrun, though both of those titles leave Top Gear in the dust. Despite my misgivings, Top Gear was a hit with critics and players, leading to the aforementioned 14 years on the market. The game was particularly popular in the country of Brazil, with an indie studio in that country releasing their homage to the game, Horizon Chase – World Tour, which also featured music by Top Gear’s composer, Barry Leitch. Here’s where I usually tell you that this old SNES game is no longer available, but that’s not the case here. Retro publisher Piko Interactive have recently re-released the game for the Evercade handheld system, where it was renamed Top Racing. Aside from that, though, your best bet is emulation or, honestly, just pick up Horizon Chase – World Tour.