At this year's E3, D3 Publisher had several offerings to show off, ranging from kiddie show spin offs and more Naruto games to M-rated boobs and gore, as well as the 'spiritual successor' of Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords. While I passed by the Naruto games due to time constraints and lack of interest, I did look at five other games: Puzzle Quest: Galactrix, Onechanbara, Ben 10: Alien Force, Bangai-O Spirits, and Shaun the Sheep. Hit the jump for some art assets from the games and impressions.
A 'Spiritual Successor': Puzzle Quest: Galactrix:
The most obvious changes in this semi-followup to Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords are the space theme and the new circular game space, which allows for some interesting mechanics that are a slight-but-satisfying shift from the typical match three rules of play. As is obvious from screenshots, Galactrix has a galactic setting, with spaceships, stars, and planets. In this incarnation, players can have up to three ships with various capabilities and stats, so they can swap up play styles easily throughout the game.
I found the new layout of the play area, now in a circle shape, interesting — instead of falling down in a straight line, game pieces can slide in from all sides. The direction from which they slide depends on how you play your line of three (or however many) — while casual players probably won't notice this feature, it does add an extra bit of strategy. The game is due out in the first quarter of '09, for PC, XBLA, and DS.
Aliens for the Kiddies: Ben 10: Alien Force
Ben 10: Alien Force is a Cartoon Network property that features a kid (the titular Ben) who, while on summer vacation, comes to possess a watch known as the Omnitrix. The Omnitrix allows Ben to transform into a variety of alien forms in order to battle evil and save the world. A game based on the series (Ben 10: Protector of Earth) was released last year, and Ben 10: Alien Force is seeking to follow up on the apparent success of that game.
The game is an 3D action-brawler; it features 5 playable characters. While only Ben can transform into aliens, these aliens are selectable and each have unique qualities. The Wii and PS2 versions will feature a multiplayer coop mode; the DS version more strongly resembles a side scroller, but does feature three exclusive aliens. The game also features puzzles, though it was mentioned that it is not a puzzle heavy game — the focus is supposed to be on accessible, fun gameplay, estimated at 6 to 11 hours if one is breezing through and not focusing on collecting all the unlockables.
The game will see an October 28th release, launching simultaneously on the DS, PSP, Wii, and PS2. Yuri Lowenthal, the voice actor for Ben in both the cartoon and the game, wandered over to offer some thoughts on the challenges of recording for games — namely, most sessions are done alone, sometimes with very little context for what is going on beyond the actual lines.
My, That's Some Rack You Have: Onechanbara
Despite the enthusiasm of the person demonstrating this Wii game from Sandlot, which was compared to Earth Defense Force, I came away pretty unimpressed regarding this hack and slash — and I do love me some ridiculous hack and slash games every once and a while. 'It's like playing a cult-following B horror movie!' cried the demonstrator as he hacked and slashed his way through hordes of zombies with the Wiimote. It certainly had enough ridiculous costuming, jiggling cleavage, and blood to qualify.
The game features two sisters, Aya and Saki; players can choose to play as either and also engage in coop modes. Perhaps the most 'interesting' feature is the 'blood coating everything including your character' aspect of the game — if your sword gets covered it blood, it becomes dull and starts getting stuck in your zombie enemies. You must clean the sword off to return your weapon to its slashing glory. Furthermore, your character can become completely coated and go into a special rage mode, doing tons of damage ('The developers really like this because she looks naked!').
The game only has a Wii release planned in first quarter of 2009; it will be a 'budget title' and clock in for less than $59.99, actual price not yet decided.
Classical Shmup: Bangai-O Spirits
A follow up to Bangai-O, a side scrolling shmup released for the Dreamcast and N64, Bangai-O Spirits is a pretty retro looking game that features some playful technology. Featuring over 160 levels with an old school arcade feel, most of the presentation focused on the level editing and sharing capabilities.
Every level can be customized as you play to tailor your play experience, and for those among us who like creating things, levels can be created and shared. The interesting part is the delivery method, known as 'sound load.' It was a little hard to hear in the D3 room, but as a level was saved, it was possible to hear a sort of melody. This melody — the level save — can be uploaded or saved to computer as a .wav file. To transfer a saved level to the DS, one plays back the .wav while using the DS microphone. I didn't get an exact explanation of precisely how all this works, and it does seem ripe for mistranslation somewhere, but it's a cool idea nonetheless.
The North American release features some exclusive content, including eight all new levels and can support one to four player local wifi play. It will be released August 12th, and will be going for $29.99.
Baa, Baa Black Sheep: Shaun the Sheep
OK, I love sheep. I think real sheep are pretty cute, if kind of stupid, and really like the variety that don't barge through fences (i.e., trapped in a video game). Shaun the Sheep is an animated series from the Wallace and Grommet people, Aardman Studios — shown on Disney in the US, it's now getting a darling DS title to go with its adorable show. These are really, really cute sheep, and I had to stop myself from squeeing when the DS was fired up to demonstrate the game.
Shaun is a preternaturally intelligent sheep who is tasked with finding fifteen of his less cerebrally endowed herdmates in the game; the puzzle/adventure title is, unsurprisingly, being marketed as family friendly and fun for kids. Shaun features lots of mini and micro games and lots of cute sheep. The nature of gameplay is designed for kids, but also won't bore the pants off adults, especially those who are fans of Aardman productions.
The game will be released for DS on September 23rd and will retail for $29.99 — and feature lots and lots of cute and fuzzy sheep. Lots of sheep.