In case you missed it, I had the amazing opportunity to experience one of the largest game conventions in the world last month, Gamescom. Studios, publishers and indie developers from around the globe gathered in Cologne, Germany to show off their projects to the world. I got the chance to play many of these games as I prowled the show’s many floors and halls with Blot Interactive designer Emily Van Lingen, who was gracious enough to take many of the photos in this article. We played a lot of games, talked to a lot of developers and saw so much cool stuff from cosplays to statues to elaborate booths.
I tend to gravitate towards indie games as that’s often where I find the most interesting and innovative games. The bigger studio or publisher the more they shy away from new, interesting and potentially risky games. That was evident from their booths. FIFA 18, Far Cry 5, Final Fantasy XV and countless other sequels to longstanding franchises were the focus of the bigger booths. And lots of games that were already out, surprisingly. Why anyone would stand in line for hours to play For Honor or Diablo III was beyond me, but they did anyway.
I went to the indies, the indies at the big booths, though few and far between, and the indies who congregated at the show’s mecca of indie games: the Indie Arena. Games I had been following online for a long while I was finally able to play which was incredibly exciting. And games I’d never heard of before but once I picked up immediately piqued my interest. Here are my favourite games from Gamescom 2017, I hope you enjoy!
Cuphead – Studio MDHR, September 22nd (Xbox One, Windows Store)
Cuphead has been talked about to death at this point. It’s gorgeous classic Disney cartoon style paired with hard as hell side-scrolling action has earned it a spot as a much-anticipated game by countless players. Playing coop mode with Emily we died, almost instantly. But after retrying a couple times I began to figure out the two modes my Cuphead plane could take, one moving faster but whose bullets reached shorter range and the other moving slower but hitting farther and harder. I’m much more convinced after playing that Cuphead is a game many will play but few will finish, and that’s okay. I’m definitely going to be one of the people who play it in just a couple days now.
Moonlighter – Digital Sun, TBD 2017 ( Xbox One, PS4, PC, Mac & Linux)
I first heard about Moonlighter on Twitter where most of the chatter around new and exciting indie titles originate. It’s a roguelike dungeon crawler with combat that reminded me of Link to the Past. I was very interested in seeing what else it had to offer. The hub world is the same as many roguelikes I’ve played, with various shops to get better before the next dive into the dungeon. The combat did feel reminiscent of classic Zelda games I grew up playing in all the best ways. And despite a buggy demo I believe Moonlighter can etch out a name in the roguelike, pixel art space that will connect with players.
Solo – Team Gotham, TBD (PC)
I was attracted to this game because of its vibrant art style, but what struck me about it was how personal an experience it became in such a short amount of time. The demo opens by asking the players how they identify, who they’re attracted to and then a series of questions about the player’s relationships and what they want from future ones. I was completely unprepared for this and it really got to me. After these questions the game opens, your selected avatar drops onto an island in the midst of a vast ocean and you can walk around. The core mechanic is solving box-moving puzzles and talking to NPCs. But one of the developers Hugo explained to me that these were cursory to the larger goal of the game, to be an introspective, personal experience.
I moved around the island, lifting boxes and connecting beams of light. But then I got to a character who asked me whether I wanted to be in my current relationship forever and if that’s something I wanted. I was really taken aback, I put down the controller and took the headset off. I asked Hugo why the game was so personal. He told me that the game will get to know you and shape the experience to you. If Solo truly can be an introspective adventure into who I am as a partner, as a boyfriend and teach me something about myself then I think it could be one of the most memorable games I’ve ever played. That’s a big “if” but I’m excited, and a little nervous, to give it the chance.
Dandara – Tall Hat Games, TBD (Gamepad and touch devices)
On display at the inside of the Unity business booth, Dandara caught my interest as the only Switch game around and being published by Raw Fury, who’ve gotten behind some really interesting titles. I picked up the pro controller and started my demo. I quickly picked up the movement mechanism of Dandara in which the character can only move by jumping from flat surface to flat surface. It reminded of the precision platforming of Gravity Guy but with more directions and the ability to fight back. I zipped around world blasting enemies away and landing quick blows before darting away. It felt great and looked even better.
sU – Guillaume Bouckaert, Early 2018 (PC, Mac & Consoles)
I first played sU at Montreal Comic-Con last summer, where the French solo developer had a monitor and an Xbox 360 controller with a couple business cards. Now at Gamescom, he had a banner, pamphlets, a new publisher in Playdius Entertainment and a lot more to his game. Starring a tiny, scarfed character like the traveller from Journey, sU is a quick-paced platformer taking place on a stationary screen. Players collect spawning yellow diamonds as the platforms quickly disappear below you. It’s tricky but once I got into the rhythm of flying around the stage snagging my goals it became quite satisfying. With over 40 levels coming and an incredibly reasonable price point of $9.99, I’m absolutely going to pick up sU early next year.
Russian Subway Dogs – Spooky Squid Games, TBD 2017 (PC)
This delightful action arcade game grabbed me right away. The premise is simple, you are the dogs living in the Russian subways stealing food from the passengers to keep your tummy full. You move side to side on the platform barking behind the subway goers to get them to drop the food they’re carrying so you can eat it. There are loads of adorable doggos to choose from including KC Green’s “This Is Fine” pupper. I’m hyped to bork and bark my way through the Russian subways!
Children of Morta – Dead Mage, TBD 2018 (PS4, Vita, Wii U, PC)
There’s a lot of polish already in Children of Morta I picked up on just from the short demo I got to play. I’m a sucker for beautiful pixel art and Children of Morta has some of the finest I’ve seen in a while. The world shimmers and pulses with life. Every area of the mansion where the Bergson family gather to prepare for their descent into the monstrous caverns beneath them is filled with intricate details. It’s a rogue-like top-down action game that reminded me of the quick-paced combat of Enter the Gungeon mixed with the complex character abilities of Diablo III. It’s definitely one to keep on your radar.
Frost Punk – 11bit Studios, TBD 2018 (PC)
This game kicked my ass. I’ve never lost a demo before like actually gotten to a screen that told me “You Failed. All Hope is Lost.” But that’s what happened, which I feel fits the harrowing, incredibly difficult premise of Frost Punk. Set in a post-apocalyptic world where a new ice age has descended over the earth it’s up to the last remaining humans to band together and create a source of heat before everyone freezes to death. Using the leftover steampunk technology from the surrounding area the player manages people in a real-time to gather, build and upgrade their encampment all the while ensuring the people are staying healthy. It’s tough as hell but gorgeous to look at and interesting to play.
Lonely Mountains: Downhill – Megagon Industries, TBD 2018 (PC)
Lonely Mountain was one of the few games I played where it came down to pure, satisfying gameplay that got me hooked. Sure the low-poly art is nice but what’s really enjoyable about this downhill biking game is the tight gameplay. Weaving back and forth down the mountain pulling quick turns sending gravel tumbling down the mountain felt sick, and jumping off the side to land just on the other side of a cavern and pedal away looked sick. The demo at Gamescom was one of the many levels that will be in the final game and all the players who tried got to see how they stacked up on a scoreboard of everyone who played at Gamescom. This leaderboard feature would make the final game an awesome experience to share with friends. The studio will be putting the game up on Kickstarter next month and I will absolutely be backing it, I’d encourage anyone else interested to check it out too!
Those are my favourite games from Gamescom 2017. Lots of exciting, very different experiences making their way into my life in the coming years and I can’t wait to check them out. What did you think? Anything else stand out to you? Anything from Gamescom you thought was awesome I missed? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!