Last week, I spent Friday and Saturday at EGX. It’s the biggest games event of the year in the UK with blockbuster publishers such as Ubisoft, Square Enix, SEGA, and more set up alongside the varied and exciting indie contenders. Live national eSports tournaments are broadcast and talented cosplayers enjoy the spotlight all crammed into Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre (NEC). I came, I saw, and I played some really excellent games from odd gems to triple-A giants. Here are six of my favorite upcoming releases from the festival. I hope you find something that catches your eye, too!
What’s it like? A mind and gravity bending puzzle platformer that offers challenging and rewarding gameplay, supplemented by a meditative soundtrack.
Etherborn is not only gorgeous to play, but watching it over someone’s shoulder is similarly captivating as the glowing figure traverses low-poly ethereal environments. At the beginning, there is a bit of trial and error to understand where gravity lies, but as the puzzles become increasingly intricate, it’s a quietly gratifying experience. It’s never punishing – in fact, I really appreciated the beam of light underneath the character, as it shows where you’ll land and enables you to quickly rectify a mistake. Spinning the cubic levels around really showcases every angle of Altered Matter’s achievements, and it’s like the player enjoys an integrated photo mode as a tourist to these dreamy worlds.
Fans of Monument Valley, Proteus, and Portal will feel absolutely at home in Etherborn.
When’s it out? 2018.
What’s it like? Simple, cute, and compelling. There are just as many obstacles as power-ups catapulting you to your next high score in this mobile game.
Designed for both iOS and Android, Ava Airborne is a sweet game that’s all about propelling a young girl in her paraglider/rocket/airplane/assorted flying machines to new heights and new distances. And that’s it. It’s delightfully simple. I played it on an Apple TV, so the mechanic to keep Ava aboveground consisted of tapping the remote to rise higher — except you’ll run out of steam if you tap too often.
The sky is cluttered with items that will offer a boost or score more points, but there are floating lasers and mines to disrupt an easy rhythm of taps, which keeps it exciting. It’s so so so fun, and Laser Dog Games have done a stellar job of creating variable and challenging gameplay without dissuading younger players. Ava is braver than I am, for sure.
When’s it out? TBD.
What’s it like? Riffing off the chartered waters of classic business sims and given a lick of pastel paint, it boasts updated, more engaging mechanics.
Megaquarium is an economic simulation game about running your own public aquarium, ensuring visitor satisfaction while training new staff and building the perfect tank for everything from dawdling butterflyfish to looming sharks. Its bright yet soft color scheme combined with a 3D isometric perspective is appealing and accessible to all ages, and through enthusiastic research on its included fish species, Megaquarium reproduces pretty accurate care requirements for players to adhere to.
Balancing the books, tank health, staff management, and visitor engagement earns Science, Ecology, and Prestige points all respectively unlocking new items and marine denizens to upgrade your attractions. (Side note: I may have mentioned about five times how I loved the way light reflected across the tanks. Shimmery triangles!) It’s shaping up to be exactly the type of game you cherish after arduous days at school, for empty afternoons or, you never know, it could just be your new favorite.
When’s it out? 2018.
Monster Hunter: World
What’s it like? The other Monster Hunter games, but BIGGER. MUCH BIGGER. EVERYTHING IS VERY BIG!
I’ve not played the previous installments, so like an absolute fool, I gallivanted onwards to hit what looked like a reasonably sized monster with a ginormous sword. After meeting my maker encountering that lizard-like leviathan, I recommend exploring the coastline that’s teeming with marine fiends or ambling in-between watering holes to rest a bruised ego. I suspect the demo just about scratched the surface of all the game has to offer (specifically: its multiplayer features), but gameplay feels great and the visuals are brilliant.
The scale of the new world, the hardware capabilities of the PS4, and the game’s camera perspectives really convey how tiny the player is in comparison, so clobbering a tricky monster will be extra satisfying.
When’s it out? January 26, 2018.
What’s it like? Immersive first-person stealth narrative game, unfurling its complicated and politically pertinent themes over four hours of real-time.
All progress depends on the unreasonable man. In The Occupation, Harvey Miller is a milquetoast journalist tasked with investigating the Union Act, an edict in response to a shocking attack that would restrict the people’s civil liberties. As a big fan of the Dishonored series (an influence the game draws upon), gameplay felt comfortably familiar yet twisted my expectations with a setting in 1980s Manchester.
Technology offers limited abilities, which adds to the mounting tension as players must trust in their keen eyes and sharp hearing to evade detection. If Miller is unsuccessful one too many times, he will be arrested and the Act passes unimpeded. The Occupation earnestly commits to player freedom at every turn, eschewing objective checklists and map markers for autonomous exploration, and places the fate of the UK squarely in your hands.
When’s it out? TBD.
Super Mario Odyssey
What’s it like? There is definitely no short answer to this question. With Super Mario Odyssey, I guess you could try to expect the unexpected, but even then I’d guarantee it will take you aback with its enthusiastic eccentricity.
The concept of possession (known as ‘Captured’) doesn’t become less strange, yet in the spirit of the franchise, you’ll be lobbing your companion Cappy at anything and everything in the hope of a weird and wonderful surprise. Each creature or item unlocks a chaotic array of movement and combat abilities, and it’s glorious for those of us who are easily amused. As it takes one step forward thematically by showcasing an open sandbox playground for Mario to wreak havoc, it keeps it real by anchoring the player to Mario’s standard skillset. There’s even 2D pixel platforming within the 3D environment, which I totally loved — a perfect inclusion of the plumber’s legacy in this 2017 title.
It’s sort of obvious to say, but the Switch and the game itself complement each other so well. Super Mario Odyssey is an experience you could delve into briefly for a Moon quest, or sit tight while traveling across colorful levels and wonderfully absurd secrets they stash away.
When’s it out? October 27, 2017.