My first E3 has come and gone and I am ready to die. Before I do, though, I thought I’d let you know about some of the games I saw that may have flown under your radar.
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Bee Simulator (PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox — 2019)
Don’t be fooled by the title — while “simulator” has come to denote jokey, physics-based games over the past decade, Bee Simulator is a narrative-driven, educational, nonviolent, arcade flying experience that’s playable by kids as young as five. Yeah.
The flying controls and sense of scale are perfect. There’s bee dancing. The game’s stylized cutscene art was created by an all-female team, and the music was composed by Mikołaj Stroiński, who previously worked on The Witcher 3. There’s split-screen play, both co-operative and competitive. It’s even getting a physical release on the Switch. Don’t sleep on this.
Harvest Moon: Mad Dash (PS4, Switch — Fall 2019)
Mad Dash took me by total surprise. I went in to my appointment with Natsume expecting maybe an endless runner or roguelike based on the title, but was instead treated to a co-op action puzzle game. One or two players run around a plot of land, picking up configurations of seeds and matching them to create bigger crops they can then harvest. It seems simple, but you’re constantly trying to fulfill new orders, and later levels add animals, hazards, and more crops. It feels like a simpler, gentler Overcooked, with the challenge not being completing each stage but getting the best rank possible. Oh, and there is apparently a narrative here — unclear whether you’ll be able to get married by matching eligible singles together to create perfect wives or husbands.
Code Vein (PC, PS4, Xbox — September 27, 2019)
Elden Ring was of course the big announcement from Bandai Namco this year, but they quietly also showed off another new Dark Souls-y original property. In Code Vein, you play an anime vampire who wears a coat with the sleeves just hanging down off your shoulders and the coat turns into two dragons to eat monsters sometimes. It’s also very difficult and seems like there’s a ton of customization — both mechanically and aesthetically. I died a lot, even though the game provides you with a companion to help you out in battle. I’ve bounced off the Soulsborne games in the past, but I’m going to keep an eye on Code Vein. To paraphrase the game’s trailer, everyone is thirsty… for anime vampires.
Fall Guys (PC, PS4 — 2020)
Fall Guys is like if Takeshi’s Castle (which you may know by its Americanized title, MXC) was a battle royale. One hundred customizable bean-like Fall Guys enter, and by the end of five rounds of random minigames, one is crowned victorious. I only got to play three of these minigames, but I won two of our three rounds so the game clearly rewards a skilled and intelligent player.
It might look like a Gangbeasts or Human Fall Flat, but the fun and humour here comes less from the basic physics of movement and more from the interactions with other players and the environment. It’s kind of like Mario Party but without the horrible drudgery. Also, the devs told me that the Fall Guys do not feel pain, so there’s that.
Paranoia: Happiness is Mandatory (PC — 2019)
Based on the classic pen and paper RPG, Paranoia: Happiness is Mandatory is a top-down RPG in which you attempt to complete missions assigned by Friend Computer while also avoiding committing treason. There are a lot of ways to commit treason, and you’re probably going to die, but when you do you simply get transferred to a clone body.
The original Paranoia satirized fears of communism, and the developers are working to update the setting while remaining true to the source material. Familiarity with the game isn’t required, though. Paranoia looks like it’ll be not only a compelling Baldur’s Gate-esque game, but also a deeply funny one.
Carrion (Probably all platforms — 2020)
Described by its creators as a “reverse horror game,” Carrion sees you take on the undulating, amorphous form of a creature bent on escaping a research facility and propagating itself indefinitely. Is it just The Thing? It kind of is, but since The Thing is one of my favorite movies, that’s totally fine by me. And while stealth is sometimes necessary, you’re more often squelching around the room, tearing apart the scenery and eating ineffectual humans. Sliding and roiling around is a joy and really gives you the feeling of being something utterly alien.
Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 (Switch)
Okay yeah, it’s a first-party Mario title, but with all the attention on Link’s Awakening, Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield, and Luigi’s Mansion, I think this might have slipped through the cracks for a lot of people.
Can you believe they’ve been making these for over ten years and this is the first one I’ve played? Previous entries have varied in quality, but this one looks like fun and is probably the closest we’re going to get to a Wii Sports Resort sequel.
Also, when Fanbyte social media specialist Niki and I played this I dropkicked Amy Rose in the head with Eggman. She’s dead now and won’t be in the final release. Sorry.