PlayStation Experience - The Games I Played

As I did last year, I'm dedicating a blog post to the Games I played at this year's PlayStation Experience. One of things that certainly hovered over this year's show that I didn't touch on in my earlier posts was the fact that this year's event was much bigger than last year's. Not that last year's event was small per se but this year there were more booths, more games, and a LOT more people, which meant more lines. So some of the big things I might have been interested in tackling (Far Cry Primal for example) were passed over in because I didn't want to wait in the line. Firewatch was another example. At 3pm on Sunday, I was told I might get to the demo before they kicked everyone out at 6pm so I decided to leave and go exploring elsewhere instead; too few setups (two to be exact) and apparently way too long of a demo because there were probably only about 20 people in the line at the time.

But enough about the games I didn't play. Let's run through what I did sit down with.

Severed – When I got out to the show floor Severed was the first game I sought out. I love the art-style and design of Drink Box Studios Guacamelee and when I played a demo of Severed at last year’s PlayStation Experience, it was one of the games I walked away most looking forward too. And while it has indeed been a year, I was a little surprised to find this year’s demo so similar. For those who don’t know, Severed is a PlayStation Vita game that mixes gameplay elements from old labyrinthine dungeon crawlers with combat akin to Fruit Ninja. You’re tasked with slashing enemies using the Vita’s touch pad and will often be surrounded by enemies in a room meaning you’ll have to turn and manage the battle to avoid getting hacked at from behind or the sides while your focus is on the enemy in front of you.

Drink Box Studios presented largely the same early game vertical slice tutorial as last year. The only aspects I didn’t remember were some beautifully animated scenes providing a bit of story context and the game’s progression system. When you attack enemies you are occasionally able to slash off limbs, eyes, etc. that actually serve as components for powering up your character. Want to extend the critical mode timer: that might cost a few eyes and arms. Now it’s entirely possible both of these elements were in the demo I played last time and I have just forgotten them over the course of the year but either way, I’m still very excited for this game and what Drink Box Studios has in store.

Tricky TowersTricky Towers was a game that caught my eye as I was walking the floor early on just using my badge to check-in to various stations around the show floor for the conferences meta game and PSN rewards. From what I saw and played, it is essentially reverse Tetris. Instead of using those classic 4-tile shapes to keep the structure low and clean, you’re in a race against your opponents to build the tallest tower as fast as you can. But if you just try and build it lopsided and it becomes too unbalanced, parts of the tower can come tumbling down, setting back your progress. I absolutely had a blast with this twist on the classic. You can also activate different types of magic spells with utilities like a vine that locks the piece in place with any piece connected to it to a spell that will change the size or shape of your opponents pieces, which can drastically tweak how it affects their tower. I think this is definitely a couch co-op game I’ll enjoy with friends.

Classroom Aquatic VR – I was fortunate enough to get into one of the limited PlayStation VR demos. I’ll go into more depth on my impressions on VR in the next day or so but I wanted to cover the “game” aspect of this one as part of this write-up. Classroom Aquatic puts you in the fins of a dolphin in a pop quiz where all of the questions are ridiculously difficult and obscure. Fortunately, every other dolphin in your class knows the answers so you can cheat off of them for the 5-minute duration of the quiz. But you have to be sneaky about it or the teacher will catch you and…well I don’t know what happens then but it’s probably bad. You also have a few erasers at your desk that you can throw at the other dolphins or around the room if you need to cause a distraction.

This was where my demo ran into trouble, I threw my first eraser at a dolphin to my 2 o’clock in order to draw the teachers attention so I could look to my left or behind me. This seemed to have the negative effect (as I would later discuss with the gentleman manning the demo) of both stopping the teacher from pacing around the room and allowing me to throw the remaining two erasers. Confused that the teacher was just stuck looking in my general direction, I felt very limited in actually leaning over in any direction for fear of getting caught. Overall, that bug aside, I found the premise cute and thought it served as a decent tech demo for the hardware but I don’t know how interested I would be in playing much more of the game.

Alienation – On Day 2 of the PlayStation Experience, I was finally able to locate the other game on the show floor that I was probably most anticipating: Alienation by Housemarque (Resogun, Dead Nation). The game is a twin-stick shooter very much a spiritual successor to Dead Nation. You are fighting off hordes of aliens (alone or with a squad of other players). It very much felt like this year’s Helldivers as well but without the brutality of being able to kill your own squad (at least not in the demo I played). There’s also a bit of a Destiny/Diablo-style loot drop mechanic where you might be regularly encountering better weapons (or worse ones that you can just scrap) as you level up and face tougher and tougher waves of enemies. I’m sold on this one and it’ll serve as yet another game that I can play with friends on the couch.

Star Wars Battlefront – As I mentioned in my Games of PSX preview piece, I have identified that as a strictly multiplayer experience, Star Wars Battlefront is just probably not for me but I figured I’d give it a shot at PlayStation Experience. This tweet pretty much sums up my experience.

Disney Infinity 3.0 – Not gonna lie, I mostly played this one because it was one of the few games on the floor that you could play sitting down and (as I touched on yesterday) I occasionally needed to get off my feet. That said, I played a cart-racing game build in the Disney Infinity 3.0 sandbox of Star Wars. So I was driving around Tatooine in a Mario Kart-type game with boosts and weapons…as Hulkbuster Iron Man. I enjoy the art style of the Disney Infinity games but I fully recognize I’m not the target demographic but it certainly seems like something that could be very fun to play with my kids, if and when that day comes.

I won the race at least.

Read Only Memories – This was another one that stemmed from the fact that I walked by and though, “sweet I can play this sitting on a bean bag chair. Awesome!” But the game itself grew on me. From what I could gleam from the opening 16-bit style cut scenes, the narrative behind the game is a very heady one set in the near future and focused on androids and what, if any rights they might have (a theme that seems to be in the zeitgeist at the moment with other examples being some story points in Fallout 4 and the apparent premise behind the next Quantic Dreams/David Cage game Detroit: Become Human. Gameplay-wise, it’s very much a point-and-click puzzle adventure game where you’re tasked with moving the story forward by asking the right questions of characters and using the right items in your inventory on the right prompts. Unfortunately, I experienced a hard crash before finishing the demo but I saw enough that I’m certainly intrigued to revisit it when it comes out (the developers mentioned the goal of 1st half of 2016).

Gravity Rush Remastered – I learned the hard way that this is a hard game to come into without the tutorial. I just picked up the controller during a side quest that somebody else had initiated where I was tasked to get a guy around the city to his son. Having only playing a little bit of the original game on my PlayStation Vita, I was having a hard time getting the controls right to perform the gravity shifts needed to complete the task. Ultimately I just ended up giving up and walking on to the next game but I will say that the Remastered graphics look beautiful. Much like the recent example of Fallout 4 compared to Fallout 3, the people who saw the Tokyo Games Show announcement trailer and said it just looks like the Vita version are speaking to what they remember the Vita version looking like, not what it actually looks like. Still a very innovative action-adventure game, I might pick Gravity Rush Remastered up when it comes out and enjoy it from the beginning, so I can actually learn it’s mechanics properly.

Rachet & Clank – Much to the dismay of some of my friends, there are some series I’ve never played any installments of and Ratchet & Clank is one of them. It was always a series I look at fondly from the outside in though. I’m sure I almost picked it up for rental a few times because I had heard about how crazy and eccentric some of the weapons were. But playing last year’s Sunset Overdrive was really my first introduction into Insomniac Games’ lunacy. And it was my favorite console exclusive game of last year so with the new Ratchet & Clank reboot coming out, I might finally jump into the series.

The demo I played very much gave me the platformer/3rd-person shooter experience I was expecting and felt very much akin to Sunset Overdrive. I got to try out the weapons shown off in the Keynote live demo the day before: The Groovinator and Pixelator (I think those were the names, but I could be a little off) and getting an attack robot to dance with a disco ball grenade only to shoot him into pixel graphics was certainly a fun experience. Might be a game I pick up for Catherine to play. It seemed like something she’d like (and then I’ll just borrow “her” copy to play myself).

Tumblestone Tumblestone was another independent game I knew nothing about going into it. I was just scanning a badge for a free PSN theme or avatar and the guy running the booth offered me a play so I went ahead and did it. Another good candidate for a casual co-op game, the goal of this puzzle game is to clear your screen of the different-colored stones by shooting them in matching sets of three (ex. Green-Green-Green = Good; Green-Green-Red = Bad and resets your tiles). The players raced against one another to clear their grid first. The first round or two I did was pretty simple but I definitely got a couple resets later as I didn’t plan ahead enough in looking at the order I had to eliminate the blocks. Certainly a fun experience if the price is right.

Uncharted 4 Multiplayer Beta – I have the Uncharted 4 Multiplayer Beta waiting for me at home because I pre-ordered The Nathan Drake Collection but the stage setup for this one was so extravagant and the line got to a point late in the date that I decided to go ahead and give it a try. Playing a round of 5-vs-5 Deathmatch (I think, forgive me I don’t play enough MP to be confident on the terminology: the mode where you’re just killing the other team and the first team to XX kills wins), I had a really good time running around as Sully and shooting my opponents. The controls felt very familiar compared to The Uncharted Collection. The new grappling hook was in there but apart from using it once to jump over a gap I stuck mostly to the guns and grenades. Midway through the match though I had enough money to buy a grenade launcher so I went ahead and did that and made short work of a few guys. I even, much to my surprise, ended up leading my team to victory, scoring the most points in the match.

I had a good time with it and it’s out in the wild now so if you have the opportunity, give it some time and let me know what you think about it.

Shadow of the Beast - This side-scrolling action game seems to be taking a page from the God of War playbook with brutal attack combos, excessively blood violence, and a similar "protagonist tricked into killing something they didn't want to kill" inciting incident. The game looks beautiful but I found it a little slow for my taste in this genre. And for the purposes of the demo I played, there wasn't really a clear tutorial explaining how to time and stack combos and point multipliers.

Driveclub Bikes - I just shouldn't play racing games. Looks beautiful. Just not for me.

Just Cause 3 - Despite multiple opportunities at the Just Cause 3 Kinda Funny meet and greet the night before, I didn't actually play the game until Sunday. It was actually the last one I played. Having not played any of the previous games and having no interest in actually picking this one up, I just played for the explosions. In my few minutes with the game, I flew a helicopter to a power plant of some sort, grapple to the top vents of the plant, and shot up a lot of fuel tanks. Mindless action. I really wasn't a fan of needing to grapple yourself to move quickly. I have a hard enough time aiming my guns, let alone my grapple trajectories. For short jaunts, I'd much rather control a character who can run.

So those are the games I played. If you were at the event, leave a comment and let me the favorite games you played.