It's not the No More Heroes 3 we expected, but maybe it's the one we deserve? Video-game loving, beam-saber wielding otaku/assassin Travis Touchdown is back in what seems like a decidedly downsized sequel to the cult classic Wii hack-and-slash originals -- where he gets sucked into his video game console and has to hunt down "bugs" in 7 indie game titles.
I'm happy to report that game director Suda51's trademark nonsensical humor is definitely along for the ride -- in our brief demo at GDC, the game warned me about the dangers of restaurant food and using too much electricity, for example. I'm less sure about the simplistic combat, where I beat down repetitive waves of foes without breaking a sweat. But it's neat you can play co-op with a single Switch console, one person per Joy-Con.
When I sat down to try Pool Panic, the person giving the demo described it as "the world's least realistic pool simulator." Yes. That's completely accurate. It's also why the game is actually fun.
Billiards might be a fun game to play in-person, but in a video game it can feel like a geometrical slog. Pool Panic shakes things up by making every ball on the playing field alive. Want to hit a ball in the corner pocket? Be quick, it might get up and walk away. Each type of ball has personalities too -- some are like wild bears and will attack if your living qua-ball gets too close. Others need to be lured out of trees with food. Some will only let you hit them if they're in a good mood.
Sure, it's a pool simulator, but it's also part-adventure game and part-puzzle game. That's weird. But it works. Then again, it's Adult Swim games, so go figure.
This game looks like Ninja Gaiden on overdrive -- and it is -- but it's also a love letter to action games on multiple generations of classic Nintendo consoles. Sure, the core experience is leading an irresponsible Ninja through strange lands on a giant, world-saving adventure, but along the way you'll find upgrades and weapons that not only change the gameplay, but upgrade the game's visual style from 8 to 16-bit. How and why are big, fun spoilers, but we promise: It's awesome.
This game may look like a mess of crudely drawn stick figures -- and that's because it is -- but good graphics and competent gameplay isn't really the point of West of Loathing. Gloriously silly dialogue is. If you've ever laughed at the absurd wordplay in a Monty Python sketch, West of Loathing might be right up your alley.
Oh, and it's a turn-based RPG, too.
The classic puzzle game by Rez designer Tetsuya Mizuguchi and his company, Q Games, originally was the best thing the Sony PSP had to offer. The remastered version is everything I remember: Hypnotic music, simple but addictive Tetris-like block-matching gaming. Even crazier, the Switch version supports rumble effects, much like Rez's famous vibrator-enhanced trance mode. I stuck two Joy-Cons in my pockets and wore a belt with two more Joy-Cons... and ended up buzzing and rumbling as I played with two more Joy-Cons. Yes, that's six buzzing Joy-Cons spread all over my body. I have nothing more to add.
In the spirit of Nintendo's excellent Snipperclips, Pode is designed for two-player collaborative puzzle-solving. An adorable sun-thing that grows vegetation, and a glowing square-thing that makes crystals. Together, you work towards goals. I played by myself, and controlled both characters. Totally doable, but friend teamwork is a better way to go. It also seems like a perfect cooperative game for an older and younger kid, because the demo I tried was all about helping your fellow player.
For casual gamers, fighting games can be a little intimidating. High level play requires the memorization of combos, multiple characters' movesets and mastering a mind-game of anticipation and reaction. Fantasy Strike tries to mitigate this hurdle with accessible gameplay and by making the character's actions easier to read. And you know what? It kind of works.
Fantasy Strike looks like a traditional fighting game, but it almost plays more like Super Smash Bros. Instead of using complicated half-circle button combinations, you can execute every single character's moveset by simply tilting the joystick in a single direction and pairing it with a button. It's easy to learn -- but the game's competitive experience still relies on predicting and reacting to your opponent's moves.
Chickens that can lay bombs. It's a platformer. It's dead simple: Lay bombs, use them to reach places before you explode, or kick the bombs to find ways through levels. Is it chicken-based Bomberman? I'd say it feels like a brilliant game mechanic in a retro-style mobile game, but made for consoles. I had a lot of fun playing, and watching my extra-large chicken squeeze through levels was entertaining. Also, I had a lot of guilt about blowing up fellow chickens, which the game's morals are totally ambivalent about.
If you thought the fast-paced, top-down action of games like Hotline Miami needed more Zombies and a hefty helping of VHS tape distortion and 1980s B-movie cheese, Garage is definitely the game for you. Zombies might be pretty played out by 2018, but this is still a fun, self-aware goof on the cliches of horror cinema.
It's a strategy game that feels like a board game, or a tower defense game meets strategic action. Blocks of troop-types get manoeuvred around on a series of 3D randomly generated islands, while enemies come in waves from all directions of the ocean. The perspective can be spun around (it's an isometric view), and while troops are positioned (like archers, infantry, pikesmen), time slows down. It's a really good mix of styles.
Somewhere between the celebrated indie game Celeste and Sonic the Hedgehog is this speedy platformer, where your little character can generate a large block wherever it jumps. Jumping and creating platforms on the fly, and moving fast, are the key to the levels I tried. Speed runs reward quick moves, but a more traditional adventure mode might introduce deeper puzzle-solving. It's good. Do we need more games like this?
Described as musical bullet hell, this ultra-minimal abstract game is a four-player co-op musical survival game. You pilot your little glowing dot through waves of obstacles timed to chiptune beats. Players can help each other out and revive each other after dying, but the pace is relentless. Still, I calmed down and realized it's also about patience: Discovering musical patterns, finding safe zones, adopting defensive strategies. It has the look of Sony's PlayStation cult classic Sound Shapes, but it's super-challenging, too.