Cats, Songbirds, Princess Managment, Hell and Japan – Gamescom 2018 Preview
After my indie highlights of Gamescom, it´s finally time to talk about some games of the UK based publisher PQube, who´s both great at localising Japanese titles as well as surprisingly fun indie ones. Once again I had the opportunity to meet up with them and check out five of their upcoming titles and found myself having fun with all of them while being baffled by the sheer diversity of their line-up.
Starting out with the sequel to one of my favourite indie RPGs of last year: Cat Quest 2. I mean, who doesn´t love cats?! I do a whole lot. However, it was far more than just a cute game, it actually had some pretty amazing game design going for it. Focusing on a very simple, axed down RPG in every way, it was a short but immensely addicting experience, that rewarded you for every minute you played, while staying true to its cat charm.
After playing the 15-minute demo of Cat Quest 2, I can say, that the next one will most definitely not disappoint. In a lot of ways, it´s the base formula with far more stuff added to it. The biggest new feature is obviously the coop mode, where one plays the cat and the other … a dog! Luckily, this is far more than a simple skin too, as they both have different skills, one is the healer and the other the damage dealer for example. As a result, it looks like the combat can finally gain some depth besides timed dodges and attacks, in form of a tactical cooperation, which at least in the demo was essential to survive due to the quite high difficulty. (Naturally, the AI can control the dog as well). Otherwise, I didn´t see many changes, except the overhauled and even more amazing visuals and in all honesty, that´s exactly what I expect from this game: More of the same. Since the first game was way too short to exhaust its mechanics.
Cat Quest 2 will release 2019 on PC, PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch
Next up is another totally adorable indie title called Songbird Symphony. A musical jump´n run, full of cute pixel art, birds, animals and much more. Though the gameplay is the most interesting aspect of the game. At first glance it looks like your typical jump´n run indie game, yet, there´s actually one important thing lacking when you start a level: Music. Instead of a rich soundtrack, there are only a few sounds or notes played and it´s your job to create the rest. Since we´re playing a music-loving bird, he´s able to imitate the sounds of other animals and so he can help various inhabitants on his way. For example, by leading a bunch of bees to their king/queen by imitating their natural “sound”. As a reward, you get new sounds added to the background music and slowly start to create your own soundtrack, depending on which animals you help.
It´s a great way of implementing a meaningful reward for those quests and creating a “hearable” progression. Especially for music games fans like me, it sounds like a hell of a good time. Surprisingly though, there´s more! Throughout the levels, the Songbird also meets various animals, like his parent Peacock, who will teach him various songs or rhythms in form of a classic rhythm game. While I couldn´t play the more advanced ones, the tutorial song worked surprisingly well on its own, with a great feel of timing and a lovely presentation.
Combine these two elements with a simple but very direct, satisfying feeling platformer gameplay and you have a Songbird Symphony. Even though I couldn´t play much, I already had a blast with the visuals, the story about songbird trying to find out why his father is seemingly a Peacock but he isn´t and the music theme woven into every single aspect of the game. For a music/rhythm game fan like me, this is definitely an indie title I´ll keep an eye on.
Songbird Symphony will release 2019 on PC, PS4 and Nintendo Switch
Next up was a totally different title, a management/JRPG mix called Valthirian Arc. In this game, we play as the director of a magical school and have to manage pretty much everything, from the layout, rooms and even students. On the one hand, it´s a pretty normal looking school management simulator, with the dozens of rooms and free space you would expect, ready to be turned into a giant school.
Unfortunately, I couldn´t see a glimpse of the possibilities of this system, so let´s briefly talk about the other one: Training your students. Naturally, all your students you chose to enrol need tons of experience to actually become successful heroes and it´s our responsibility. In isometric JRPG fashion, we take over control of a group of four students (though only one is controllable at the same time) and fight hordes of monsters. They get equipment, experience and maybe even find new people to recruit. Depending on your school and facilities, there are also tons of classes to chose from and special buffs for those journeys, which sounds pretty rad.
Valthirian Arc will release 2018 on Steam, PS4 and Nintendo Switch
Bear with me, we´re nearly done! Before the funniest title of my whole visit, I had the opportunity to check out Hell Warders, a mix of tower defence and third-person action. While it doesn´t reinvent the genre in any way, the game caught my attention with its style and sheer fun it induces in coop play. At the start of each match, up to four players can select one of the three classes: The typical Knight, Ranged Shooter and Ranger. After that, it´s time to defend the core with yourself and units, pretty standard stuff.
It´s possible to upgrade your units but most importantly, place them anywhere you would like! From cool formations to actually strategic ones, I was honestly surprised how cool it was. Besides, the biggest appeal of Hell Warders is the coop action, where the four players can bathe once again in the stress of trying to defend themselves against dozens of waves and bosses. Especially combined with the classes, it´s another one of those titles that aren´t revolutionary but can provide quite a good coop fun.
Hell Warders will release Fall 2018 on PC, PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch
Last but not least, Nippon Marathon, one hell of a funny game. Developed as an amateurish homage to Japan, it features pretty much every cliché you can think of when trying to imagine this eastern country without any knowledge. At the same time, it tries to be a marathon game (I guess), where you run against your friends or other players in various stages trying to be the first.
Those stages are naturally set in cliché interpretations of famous locations, infused with an even weirder humour. From a countdown announcer that often questions what those crazy signs mean to watermelon bombs. Also, you can Naruto-run under things … Topped off with a ton of minigames randomly interrupting the rounds, it´s a weird, dumb and very unique couch-coop game, that was a simple blast to play and shouldn´t be missed by anyone searching for exactly such a title.
Nippon Marathon will release Fall 2018 on PC, PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch
With two more previews to go, my Gamescom coverage slowly comes to an end, still, what a stressful week it has been. Hope you´re looking forward to the last indie games I want to tell you about and consider leaving a comment or so!