Well these last couple of weeks sure have been light, eh? That’s good for me, at least, I’m able to use that money towards getting my new Steam Deck, whoop whoop! Now, don’t fret folks, there are certainly great games coming. For now, though, let’s celebrate some of the indies coming out this week. The time is right for a guiding light, try to turn to reasons in your bitter life.
Escape Academy (PC/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Jul. 13th
Developed by: Coin Crew Games
Published by: Skybound Games/Iam8bit
Hey, do you like escape rooms? Do you also like video games? Well guess what, now there’s an escape room video game. Do you need me to explain more? I’ll let Steam do that for you:
“Train to become the ultimate Escapist. Solve Puzzles. Hack Servers. Meet the Faculty. Brew the perfect cup of tea. Escape Rooms in single player or co-op with a friend – local or online!“
Monument Valley 1 and 2: Panoramic Edition (PC) – Releases Jul. 12th
Developed by: ustwo games
Published by: ustwo games
Already a huge hit on mobile devices, the indie sensation Monument Valley, parts 1 and 2, are coming to PC in full, widescreen panoramic, so stop complaining already, Christopher Nolan.
Octopath Traveler: Champions Of The Continent (Android/iOS) – Releases Jul. 17th
Developed by: Square Enix/Acquire
Published by: Square Enix
The one time Switch exclusive Octopath Traveler is getting a new entry on, dun, dun, dun, MOBILE DEVICES. Set before the events of the original game, Champions of the Continent focuses on three main characters, Hermina the “Witch of Greed”, Tytos the “Hero”, and Auguste the “Playwright”. Joining them are a large cast of side characters, including, maybe, a few from the original game (though they may just be NPCs). In terms of gameplay, Champions is basically the same, however your party size has now doubled from four to eight. The game is already a massive commercial success in Japan, will this F2P mobile game strike your fancy as well?
Time on Frog Island (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Jul. 12th
Developed by: Half Past Yellow
Published by: Merge Games
Enjoy yourself while you play the leisurely paced Time on Frog Island. Do chores for your animal friends as you collect materials to fix your broken sea vessel. What’s a sea vessel? It’s a boat, you dunce.
Mothmen 1966 (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Jul. 14th
Shouts out to the Mega Strange podcast for turning me onto the legend of the Mothman. Looks like his notoriety is also enough to get a video game based on him. Looks to be some kind of visual novel/adventure game with a 1980’s PC aesthetic. Might be worth a look.
Super UFO Fighter (PC/Switch) – Releases Jul. 14th
Developed by: VV-LABO
Published by: Phoenixx Inc.
UFO machines are the Japanese equivalent of those crane games we have here in North America. If you’ve played any Yakuza game then you are probably familiar with these machines that are found in all of the arcades in Kamurocho. In Super UFO Fighter, the premise is simple enough. Compete against your opponent to grab specific items and drop them in your chute. What’s a chute? It’s that little opening inside the machine where you drop your prize. What has gotten into you today?
Loud (PC/Switch) – Releases Jul. 15th
Developed by: Hyperstrange
Published by: QubicGames
Loud isn’t the biggest game out these week, but I just can’t pass up talking about a new rhythm game. Like 2020’s Teenage Blob, which is one of my favorite games of all-time, Loud looks to capture the spirit and innocence of teenage/young adult life through the power of music. I can’t wait to get my hands on this.
Ports and Re-releases:
Rune Factory 5 (PC) – Releases Jul. 13th
RPG fans who don’t own a console, you’re now in luck because the game Rune Factory 5 is making its way to PC! You don’t own a PC either? What are you doing reading this? You just needed to come in from the cold? That doesn’t make any sense, this is a digital article on the internet, it’s not a place. What do you mean “that’s not correct”? What is going on here? Who am I?
Hot Wheels Unleashed: Looney Tunes (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Jul. 14th
It’s the crossover we didn’t expect (or need), between Hot Wheels and Looney Tunes. Just last week we were talking about how the Looney Tunes were kind of all over 90’s pop culture, I guess they’re having a comeback (or maybe they never left). Anyway, in this latest expansion you will receive five new cars as well as custom items for the track builder, the basement, and your player profile. I guess people are really into this game, there is a ton of DLC for it.
Man, there are so many games coming out this week, mostly small, indie affairs, but you do have The Quest for Excalibur – Puy du Fou which is, I guess, based on a historical theme park in France; fun. Then we also have DC League of Super Pets: The Adventures of Kyrpto and Ace which is a tie in game for the upcoming film. The last game I want to highlight is Loopmancer which looks like it has some fantastic graphics, but how good is the gameplay? Someone buy it and tell me.
- Krut: The Mythic Wings (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Jul. 12th
- The Quest for Excalibur – Puy du Fou (PS4/Switch) – Releases Jul. 12th
- XEL (PC/Switch) – Releases Jul. 12th
- Loopmancer (PC) – Releases Jul. 13th
- Necrosmith (PC) – Releases Jul. 13th
- The Tale of Bistun (PC/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Jul. 13th
- Eyes in the Dark (PC) – Releases Jul. 14th
- Worth Life (Switch) – Releases Jul. 14th
- DC League of Super Pets: The Adventures of Krypto and Ace (PC/PS4/Stadia/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Jul. 15th
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 (and sometimes 40) years ago:
La-Mulana (PC) – Released Jul. 13th, 2012: Wiki Link
While a lot of us around the world grew up to be adults who were nostalgic for the NES/Famicom, over in Japan, another group of adults in the mid 2000’s were nostalgic for a different 8-bit system, the MSX. A PC “console”, the MSX was a joint venture between ASCII Corporation and Microsoft, the latter of whom were trying to break into the Eastern market. Released in 1983, the console actually pre-dated the Famicom and was many Japanese players first introduction to video games. There were a number of successful franchises and games for the system, with many coming from Konami, including Metal Gear, as they were one of the first companies to focus on the console.
Having just finished, and finding moderate success, with his title GR3 (an homage to the MSX version of Gradius), the game’s developer Takumi Naramura decided to start his own company, calling it GR3 Project and, after assembling a small team, they decided to make their first game another homage. This time, the Konami MSX title they would pull inspiration from would be The Maze of Galious: Knightmare II, a side scrolling platformer that incorporated exploration in a semi-open world (this game would directly inspire Castelvania II: Simon’s Quest, another Konami game). This was all happening around 2001/2002, and after about six months of development, GR3 Project had a playable demo of the game’s first level. Over the next four years, GR3 Project would release periodic updates on the game’s progress, with the title finally releasing in 2006, called La-Mulana.
Released on PC, La-Mulana was very well received by the Japanese gaming public and critics. An English fan translation of the game was created and the title spread across the West as well, gaining new fans while also getting coverage in Western gaming publications. In 2007, a remake of La-Mulana would release on the Wii as a downloadable title, this time, though, instead of being an 8 bit MSX homage, they made the game 16-bit. It was around this time that a North American release was discussed, however, publisher Nicalis got cold feet and decided to shelve the title. It would take another five years for La-Mulana to finally come out in the West when the Japanese based publisher PLAYISM released the game on their digital distribution platform, later releasing on GOG, Desura, Steam and, of course, Wii.
Reception to the re-make and subsequent North American release was very well received by critics who called La-Mulana a fantastic Metroidvania platformer. The game continued to increase its cult following, so much so that a 2015 Vita port was a big seller for the little system, moving over 600,000 units. Following a 2014 Kickstarter, a sequel, La-Mulana 2, was released in 2018. Then, in 2020, both La-Mulana 1+2 were released as a packaged title for PS4, Switch, and Xbox One. Normally I try and play these notable titles before writing about them but, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get to La-Mulana, so I have no impressions for you. Still, I’ve heard this is a great series, so if you’re a fan of retro-inspired Metroidvania games, maybe give it a look.
Gundam: Battle Assault 2 (PlayStation) – Released Jul. 17th, 2002: Wiki Link
Notable Film Release: Road to Perdition – Starring Tom Hanks, Tyler Hoechlin, Paul Newman, Daniel Craig, and Jude Law
Notable Album Release: The Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
The popular Mobile Suit Gundam series has spawned countless video games over the years, in multiple genres. 2002’s Gundam: Battle Assault 2, the second game in the series, though third in the franchise (starting on the Super NES), is a fighting game based on the series Mobile Fighter G Gundam. Made specifically for a North American audience as a tie-in to the upcoming airing of the series on Cartoon Network’s Toonami block, it was well received by both critics and players.
For a PlayStation 1 game, the graphics were surprisingly good, I was very impressed with my play through over the weekend. Gameplay wise, eh, it’s okay I guess. The game is pretty easy at the start and then, BOOM, it’s a brick wall of annoying opponents and their cheesy moves. There’s not a lot to say about this game, it was made, it came out, that’s about it. I didn’t hate Gundam: Battle Assault 2, I didn’t love it, it’s just there. If I had some buddies over in 2002 on a Friday night for some games, well, I could certainly see us adding this to the rotation for a few quick matches, but I would never suggest going out an picking up a copy of this game, especially since complete in box copies are stupidly expensive. Find a PSX emulator, download the ROM, and give it a try, then move on with your life.
Ultima: Runes of Virtue (Game Boy) – Released Jul. 1992: Moby Games Link
Notable Film Release: Cool World – Starring Brad Pitt, Kim Basinger, and Gabriel Byrne
Notable Album Release: Ministry – Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs
It’s not really a franchise you hear a lot about anymore, but the Ultima series was one of the premier RPG series of the 1980’s and 1990’s. It must have been a real thrill to see that the popular series was making its way to the Game Boy, letting players embark on epic quests on the school bus, the subway, or on your family’s Summer vacation to Indianapolis. It’s a shame, though, that Ultima: Runes of Virtue kind of sucks. Granted, because of the limited power of the Game Boy there wasn’t a gigantic world to explore, but even a truncated version of Ultima sounds great, but it gets lost where it really counts; game play. Rune of Virtue really lets down in the game play department, with sluggish controls, unforgiving hit boxes, and pathetic respawns after you die.
The two era specific reviews on Mobygames are from GamePro and Nintendo Power and, while both publications gave Runes of Virtue the same score, their written reviews were pretty different. GamePro was initially excited with the game, finding it a decent challenge, but over time they became jaded with the game and found it repetitive, boring, and cliched. Nintendo Power, which never seems to say anything negative about a game, called Runes of Virtue a rival for The Legend of Zelda, with thrilling hand to hand combat and a vast world to explore. Yeah, sure, okay. Then why did you give it such a low score! See, real players knew that you had to read the score, not the written review, to really know if a game was good or not. Anyway, Ultima: Runes of Virtue is not available on any modern devices, making emulation or finding a physical copy your only choices. However, the game is far too expensive for how bad it is, with copies of just the cartridge going for $50+, if you HAVE TO play this game, just emulate it.
Joust (Arcade) – Released Jul. 16th, 1982: Wiki Link
There are some aesthetics in pop culture art that are synonymous with the 1980’s. Stuff like the artwork from Duran Duran’s Rio album cover, the US Stars & Stripes motif, and, to me, fantasy/sci-fi artwork with tons of dragons and griffins and demons and shit. I’m not sure who the first ones to do this were, but I do know that the magazine Heavy Metal was full of this kind of stuff. You could find these types of images on metal band album covers, dungeons & dragons manuals, movie posters, and, of course, video games. This brings me to our notable title from 40 years ago, the simple yet highly addicting Joust.
Played on a single screen, Joust has players taking on the role of the Yellow Knight as he rides on his flying ostrich, or the blue knight who rides on a giant stork, searching for eggs. Enemies will appear, teleporting in from various portals placed around the level, flying giant buzzards. As the name implies, Joust is all about using your jousting lance to defeat your opponents. To beat the enemy, you must run into them with your lance higher than theirs, making attacks either from above, or behind, your best option. Once enemies are defeated they drop eggs that you must collect, otherwise they will hatch and create a new enemy you have to fight.
This might sound familiar to some of you Nintendo fans as Joust had a direct influence on them when creating both Mario Bros. and, of course, Balloon Fight. Not just the inspiration for other games, Williams even created a Joust pinball machine and would release a sequel in 1986 called Joust 2: Survival of the Fittest. Reception to the game was great, with arcade owners calling it tremendously popular. This was a bit of a surprise to Williams and Atari, mostly because they expected the game’s unique control scheme to be off putting to seasoned players. You see, in Joust, instead of having an eight-way joystick, you had a two-way joystick for moving left and right, with a single button used to “flap”, making your ostrich/stork fly upwards. Joust has had several ports and re-releases over the years, coming out for the Atari 2600, NES, and Game Boy to name a few, while being featured in just about every Williams arcade compilation across countless consoles and PC. I don’t think Joust is a masterpiece in gaming, but it is incredibly fun and very influential, with some fucking badass art work. For that, I commend it, and I highly recommend you check it out.