With the E3 show floor looking more barren these days due to some of the bigger publishers pulling out of the show or just moving their wares off-site, it’s nice to see other places like Modus Game pick up the slack. Modus packed a lot into their modest space, providing a nice variety of games and some welcome surprises. Here’s what we saw:
If something involves time travel, particularly in videogames, I’m probably already sold on it given the myriad ways in can manifest in-game. Cris Tales, a role-playing game inspired by JRPG classics like Chrono Trigger, definitely looks like one of those games that has some cool ideas for time travel.
Cris Tales‘ main conceit is being able to see past, present, and future at all times. The screen is divided into three sections: on the left, the past; in the middle, the present; and on the right, the future. As you move through the world, you’re always seeing what was and what will be, informing you of what you could theoretically change. Once such example involved a couple of houses — one belonging to a small family, the local apothecary occupying the other — that were going to fall apart in the future due to an infestation of rot. By taking the time to gather the ingredients to brew a potion to cure the carpenter’s ails (which itself requires a bit of time travel), one of those buildings could be saved.
The time travel mechanics were demonstrated best during the combat. In combat, you don’t see the usual split between past, present, and future. Only the present is represented — at first, anyway. One of the things you can do is move your opponents forward or backward in time, thus altering their attributes, skills, and weaknesses. The boss battle they ended on demonstrated this well. At the start of the fight their opponent, The Volcanic Sisters, had a large shield that blocked all incoming damage. To get rid of it, they cast water on them and them moved them forward in time to cause the shield to rust, thereby rendering it useless. Because the boss was moved into the future, however, they also become stronger.
It was also mentioned that you can also use the time manipulation abilities on party members as well, such as for removing status effects or restoring magic points, albeit at the potential cost of reverting them to when they had lower hit-points or had a different status effect on them depending on what their status was previously.
Cris Tales‘ combat plays sort of like that of Nintendo’s Mario and Luigi or Paper Mario series in that it’s turn-based but with a few active elements. Press a button during your attack, and you might get an extra strike or two. Do the same for defense and you might almost mitigate damage entirely. The exact benefit depends on how perfect your timing is. Do it well, and you’ll get much bigger boosts. Otherwise you’ll still get some extra attacks in and take less damage, but not as much as if you had hit the timing just right.
There’s a lot going on in the combat — I could already see a ton of potential for strategy even with what little they showed — but it all looked pretty simple in motion. Cris Tales will be out sometime next year for PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Switch. There’s a demo out now on Steam (that will be available on console eventually) as well if you want to give it a spin.
I’m a sucker for colorful games, and when it comes to those, the Trine series has always been a feast for the eyes. Trine 4 was at E3 last week, and developer Frozenbyte has once again struck a chord with me, thanks to just how beautiful their new game looked, and for how it played.
Trine 4 carries forward the unique gameplay that’s been a hallmark of the franchise since the beginning, allowing you to freely switch between the three protagonists (the knight Pontius, Zoya the thief, and Amadeus the Wizard) in order to conquer all challenges, or have some friends play along and help you out in real-time. My demo took place with one dev playing while the other did commentary, and after halfway through, they both played together, so it gave me a good idea of how Trine 4 played, which is to say quite well.
The demo took place in a magical forest inspired by Finnish folk tales that’s been taken over by the creations that come from the prince’s dark dreams, that thanks to his immense power, have become real enough to put the entire world in danger. Along the way, the trio-in-one ran into a bear who’s got his paw stuck, as well as a hedgehog who needed help gathering seeds for his garden, who the devs helped along by solving a few physics-based puzzles using the three heroes’ powers in conjunction.
Trine’s gist has always been putting their abilities to use in creative ways, and Trine 4 amps things up quite nicely. One recurring puzzle has Pontius reflect water back to a budding flower in order to make it grow and lift a platform, something that repeated throughout the demo in more complex ways, and had the dev switch between the protagonists repeatedly, such as having Amadeus create a box in order to weigh down a platform on top of which Zaya could them fire off an arrow that would bounce on the knight’s shield and break a rock, revealing a stream of water.
I’m always down for playing a smart game like this, so Trine 4 is definitely up my alley. The inclusion of new skill trees this time will really make things more complex, but I’m sure it’ll be worth digging into in the final game. I’m also very much looking forward to seeing how the revamped combat is shaping up, which according to the devs should make the weaker characters of the two more viable fighters, an issue that’s popped up from time to time throughout the series.
Trine 4 is scheduled to come out in the Fall for Switch, PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
Lost Words: Beyond the Page
Lost Words sees you exploring the pages of a young girl’s diary. Like, literally — you run across the words on each page, occasionally moving them around to help you navigate (like using “rise” to create a gust of wind). It’s a great premise that Lost Words seems to be using well. The way sentences are spread across each page, sometimes accompanied by sketches, feel natural while still being fun to traverse. The words aren’t always going from left to right in perfect lines, but rather jumping about the pages haphazardly — a technique seen in plenty of interactive fiction and the like — which helps convey the headspace of the writer.
A little ways in, the diary’s owner talks about wanting to write a story, which prompts some choices regarding the name and look of the protagonist. The choices made about the character in the story seemed like a simple formality at first — something akin to the choices in something like Kentucky Route Zero, where you’re filling in blanks that don’t have any material impact — and they are, to some degree. But I was still a little surprised to see the character had taken on the exact features described when the perspective swapped from the journey to the story its owner was writing. It’s a cool touch.
As the perspective shifted from the journal to the story, the diary gave way to a lush forest. Lost Words takes on a very painterly look here, the game feeling like a more traditional platformer as well. Traipsing about the forest was just as much a cinch as navigating the journal pages, occasionally drawing on my stock of verbs to manipulate the environment. It feels like a very easy-going sort of game, which definitely felt nice to play amid the noise and stress of E3.
Before the demo wrapped up, it moved back to the diary. The tone of the writer was more somber this time, as her grandmother had contracted a deadly illness and here chances of survival were low. Knew going in that the story was going to take a sad turn, but even so, it still got me. I expect the final game will make me cry at least few times when it launches in December on PS4, Switch, Xbox One, and PC.
Ary and the Secret of the Seasons
Ary and the Secret of the Seasons was pitched to me as a sort of Zelda-like adventure game. It follows Ary, a young girl who can harness the power of the seasons, on a quest to restore order to the world after a mysterious force throws the seasons into disarray.
The demo ran me through a boss fight set in an icy region. The boss was a large bird covered in ice. Before it could be fought, however, it had to be chased down. To do so, Ary threw out a winter bubble toward what’s called a monolith, thus creating a series of platforms to climb as the monolith slowly rose upward, allowing her to close the distance with the boss. These seasonal bubbles alter the environment in various ways depending on the location and the season used. Using winter bubble on water will turn it to ice, allowing you to walk on it, for example. They’re largely used for puzzle solving, it seems, but they’re uses sound like they’ll be varied.
For the sake of the boss fight, both summer and spring bubbles were used to help make the boss vulnerable. Summer was especially effective given it’s the opposite of winter. Once it’s vulnerable, it was just a matter of attacking its various weak points until they vanish. The fight itself took place in a large open field, which provided plenty of space to move around. Combat appears pretty simple, but utility each season can provide in battle seems like it’ll provide enough variety to keep things interesting.
On the whole, Ary looks like it’ll be a fun, lighter sort of adventure game, which is always welcome reprieve from the usual crop of dark and gritty games that make up a large portion of the big-budget space. Ary and the Secret of Seasons will be out sometime next year for PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC.