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E3 Hands on Preview: Riverbond

Developer:  Cococumber

System:  Xbone, PC

Release Date:  TBA

We first saw Riverbond during the Microsoft press conference and honestly did not give it much of a thought as it appeared at first glance to be just another attempt at an overly simple voxel game.  Our impression did not change much either when we randomly stumbled onto the single demo screen that it took up in the entire Microsoft exhibition area.  That all changed though as soon as we picked up the controllers and started playing.  I am not sure what exactly changed but within just minute or two of play the three of us were laughing and yelling enough to make the developer with us concerned for our sanity.  

This is four player drop in/drop out cooperative game that is a cross between Gauntlet and Minecraft with very simple controls that consisted of attack, ranged attack, special attack, pick up/throw, block and jump.  The game appears to be light-hearted adventure through various maps with both indoor dungeons and outdoor environments. You and you friends slash your way through more than 100 levels, interacting and destroying everything in your path.  In our case this included, trees, grass, stone pillars, chickens, ghost spiders, bookcases and the occasional giant flaming pillar.  Weapon upgrades are obtained throughout the game and we were told that eventually there will be up to 50 weapons.

The combat was easy to pick up and learn while at the same time being complex enough that I think that veteran gamers will be able to stay engaged and happy for quite a long time. I think it was the simplicity of the combat as a whole that is what made this game so great.  There was no need to get used to the controls, we just picked up and played and were able to focus on the game without getting lost in the mechanics of this. This is why I chose this game as my “Game Of The Show” for E3 2017.  It hit all the marks for me.  Family friendly, easily accessible and endlessly playable in any environment.

One additional note on this, the developer indicated when asked what platform this would be available indicated that this would only be on Xbox and when pressed on the possibility of other consoles in the future he replied no comment. Myself and the EFG staff look forward to seeing more of this game as it becomes available to the public.

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New Kirby Game Announced for the Nintendo Switch

Kirby is an adorable cooperative action game for the Nintendo Switch. Kirby has been a reliable member of the Nintendo family since the original Nintendo Entertainment System. This game will takes full advantage of the local multiplayer features of the Switch and integrates them into the game’s core play.

In addition to Kirby being able to suck in enemies to absorb their powers, Kirby can now recruit enemies with the power of friendship and turn them into allies. These allies not only allow Kirby to create combination abilities, but they can be controlled by up to three other players. They can also left as computer controlled cohorts. Game play features high amounts of whimsy to go with the action, with power ups that include a “Cleaning” Kirby who sweeps away foes with a straw broom, and a “Stone” Kirby who turns into a Curling Stone sliding down hills. Kirby is going to make a solid family friendly title to the 2018 Nintendo Lineup.

Why is this awesome?

Kirby has always been a game that is easy enough to pick up for younger audiences, but contains enough hidden prizes and secret paths throughout the level to challenge more experienced players. Its use of local multiplayer for the Switch means that the parent or older child can play Kirby while less experienced gamers can flop about as his recruited cohorts. This accessibility is integrated into the core game play of the game, and the differences in play experience between different ages is compensated for by the design of the game itself. Its level of whimsy and adorably animated cast will make Kirby a strong purchase for family gamers with younger kids who want to play. We look forward to more details from this game in 2018.

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E3 Hands on: Everybody’s Golf

Release Date: 8/29/17

Price: $39.99

Everybody’s Golf is a lighthearted arcade style golf game that is the latest in update to the widely popular Hot Shots Golf. Just like its predecessors, this game is not intended for those individuals looking for a “pure” golf experience. Instead,  it is intended to be a zany experience allowing for a single player or multiplayer online experience. The difficulty can be adjusted to be a better fit for beginning players or the very experienced so it is accessible to a majority of age groups.

I had the opportunity to play a few holes of the the 18 hole E3 demo using a character modeled after the president of Sony Worldwide Studios Shuhei Yoshida and was very pleased.  Graphically the game is what you expect from games in the series, which is made more interesting by the level of customization in your character avatar.  The game play itself was simple, and the course structure is very basic. 

One thing I noticed immediately during my time with the game was the multitude of other avatars running willy-nilly across the course, teeing off next to you and driving golf carts everywhere.  One of the selling points to this game is that your avatar is not locked to the tee box at the beginning of each hole, instead  you can at any time choose to run or drive around the course and interact with the players and even go fishing. This makes the experience feel more interesting than 

Unfortunately, the demo was somewhat limited so that I did not get to see exactly how you level your characters and clubs which is large part of the game itself.  I also was not able to get an answer on what if any parental controls are available to limit player interaction in the online multiplayer mode.  Ultimately though I believe this will be great fit for those that like the originals with updates to keep it fresh and fun.

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Forza Motorsport 7 Announced

Forza Motorsport 7 was officially announced during the Microsoft press briefing. The Motorsports series alternates with the Forza Horizon games so this wasn’t much of a surprise. It was great to see the game looking fantastic running in 4K resolution thanks to the newly announced Xbox One X.

Forza Motorsport 7 is the most recent iteration in a long time of realistic driving and racing simulators for the Xbox franchise. Forza 7 draws the actual tracks and race cars from around the world and renders them with near photorealistic realism. While this series is often held as an example of the Xbox’s high graphic power throughout the ages, the series is considered one of the best realistic racing games ever, and holds that title with sequel after successful sequel.

Why is this Awesome?

This is the just about the closest a family gamer is going to get to a realistic racing experience outside of setting foot inside a race car. If that is an experience that you or your younger family gamers enjoy, then this will let you sink deep into the experience. Previous Forza titles have let you do deep under the hood and allow for extensive customization, and I expect Forza 7 to be no different.

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Cuphead Finally Has a Release Date!

Cuphead was announced at a Microsoft press conference a few years ago to great fanfare. Unfortunately it has been plagued by delays and still hasn’t been released. Fortunately, the developer has finally revealed the release date on Xbox One and PC to be September 29th.

Cuphead is an action game with animation mimicking the art style of animated movies from the early 1930’s, except rendered in real time using modern technology. This two player cooperative game features the titular Cuphead and best pal Mugman fighting through thirty excruciatingly hard boss battles with shooter controls similar to classic Nintendo games. Every piece of artwork in this game feels like it has been peeled from the movie theater, with intentional blurryness and color issues as if the game was being played by a movie projector that keeps drifting in and out of focus.

Why is this awesome?

Cuphead is a game that is meant to be a spectacle, an ultra hard shoot ’em up that can be watched by others. With the violence muted to very low levels by the animation, this game is a clear example of a game where parents can play and kids can watch. It also serves the market of young gamers who have grown up around simpler action titles and want more difficulty, but without explicit gore.


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Super Lucky's Tale

Super Lucky’s Tale, a former Oculus exclusive is coming to Xbox One and Windows 10 November 7, 2017.  The trailer for E3 kicks off with a super cute fox bounding around the screen with butterflies and also digging tunnels to travel.  Then a giant flower enters and chomps it jaws.  Before it can do much else the fox swipes it off screen with his tail.  A giant book emerges next and the fox invites you to enter the world through the book.The major news point presented for this game is that it is Xbox One enhanced and can be played in 4K Ultra HD.  Additionally, it is coming to store on Windows 10 and Xbox One, and it is an Xbox Play Anywhere title.  This means buying it on one system permits accessed on the other.

This platformer is aesthetically reminiscent of Skylanders with the whimsical setting and and the cartoon style bad guys.  The world appeared to include a series of floating island that containing bridges and multiple level to jump up to and explore.  Additionally, there were interior areas show with a range of different visual. Some of these included gears and a more mechanical look,  a setting that included what looks like cut watermelon halves, as well as night time scenes.

This looks like a very friendly game visually for younger gamers. In the gameplay shown there were a wide range of NPC characters which included; a tear shaped flame monster, and garlic creature exhausting odor, a giant stone creature with mechanical elements, ghost looking creatures, jack o’lantern pumpkin heads with skeleton bodies, and stone creatures with their pieces bouncing independently as they moved.  None of the creatures appeared overly scary or intimidating.

The trailer concludes with the fox back outside the large book from the opening with a variety of characters show in the game play of the trailer.  The ground then shakes and the camera shoots up into the cloud where the most ominous looking creature see so far is presented.  Presumable this is the major antagonist of the game.  The trailer ends with the fox swiping his tail in the direction of this new character and covering the screen with his tail.

This adorable game looks perfect for families, and has the potential to be a great addition to a family’s game collection when released November 7th.

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Madden 2018 to Include a Story Mode

Electronic Arts held their EA Play event as part of the E3 2017 festivities on June 10, 2017. They made a lot of great announcements over the course of the event. But, none of them got me as excited as the addition of a story mode to Madden 2018.

Last year, EA Sports added a single player Story mode to FIFA 2017 called The Journey where players took on the role of Alex Hunter as he progresses through his career. This was fascinating and I enjoyed it, but I don’t really have much of a connection with soccer.

Longshot appears to be the answer to my Madden prayers. That is the title of the single player story mode of Madden 2018. The details are slim (we only have a short trailer to go by), but it looks like players will take on the role of a Texas high school football player as he progresses through his career in college and into the NFL. This is a story that we have seen play out in its various parts in various movies and television shows in the last few decades, but it is rare to see a story take a player from their humble beginnings all the way to the pros.

Personally, this looks like a great opportunity to attract players to the Madden franchise. They already have a diehard crew that will buy the game every year no matter what. But, most of those players are dedicated to the multiplayer game. This, if it is built similarly to The Journey, will turn Madden into an RPG that will have installments every year! That’s my kind of party!

Madden 18 will release for on August 25th for PS4 and Xbox One.

What do you think? Are you and your family any more likely to play a Madden game this year because it has a single player story mode? Sound off in the comments and let us know!

This is only the beginning of a whole week of E3 2017 coverage. Make sure to keep your eye on Engaged Family Gaming all week for all of the family gaming news and our discoveries on the E3 show floor!

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Need for Speed: Payback Gameplay Revealed

Need for Speed is a franchise that has had to made some significant changes. The racing game genre is crowded with giants like Gran Turismo, Project Cars, The Crew, and two different Forza titles. That means that EA couldn’t just release a new iteration of the game and have it limp out from the starting line and give it any real chance of success.

Need for Speed: Payback looks like it just might be the evolution that the franchise needs. The biggest change is a new focus on story.  The game’s story revolves around a group of street racers who are doing high speed heists to steal cars (and likely other things) from a criminal organization called “The House.”

If that sounds like  the plot for a Fast and Furious movie to you, then you aren’t alone. Payback is a game that is heavily influenced by that genre and it shows in everything from the presentation to the game play. One of the highlights that keeps the focus on the action is a slow motion crash cam that zooms in and slows down the video on the games biggest crashes. Its a cool touch that almost gives the game a car combat feel. The game is clearly designed to be more accessible to inexperienced racers than more simulation based games like Forza.

The One Thing Parents Need to Know

Need for Speed: Payback is not a typical racing game. This is an action game that happens to take place in cars. The newest trailer does show some foul language and the characters are committing violent crimes in their cars. We’ll find out more as the game gets closer to release and is rated by the ESRB, but I would have my concerns about having my kids play the game at this stage.

What do you think? Will you and your family be playing this one later this year? Sound off in the comments!

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FIFA Story Mode “The Journey” Gets a Sequel

One of the biggest surprises in gaming for me last year was how much I loved playing the single player story mode in FIFA 2017. The Journey was a story of Alex Hunter, a young man who is trying to  make his way through his career in professional soccer. I may not be the biggest soccer fan in the world, but Alex Hunter was my guy. I was fully invested in his story throughout the mode. I was actually pretty bummed when I was finished with it all.

Players like me from around the world are going to be able to spend more time with Mr. Hunter this fall when FIFA 18 comes out. It will include “The Journey: Hunter Returns.” The story picks up with Alex Hunter well established in his career in the English Premier league. The new story is built around Alex being forced to make the choice to either remain in England or to move to the US. This is an interesting story because, apparently, it is something that a lot of players in the UK struggle with.

The fact that The Journey is getting a sequel is incredibly telling. EA would not have continued to spend the cash to develop a well written and acted single player mode for a sports game if it wasn’t successful. We don’t have numbers regarding have many people bought the game and played through a bunch of the story, but I’m sure that EA does and that they were pleased with the results.

Sports games these days are all slowly turning into RPGs. Many people think of RPGs as hundred hour long fantasy epics, but if you strip out the genre and leave the various systems sports games aren’t too far off. This is a trend I hope continues.

What about you all? Will you and your family be picking up FIFA 18 this fall? Let us know in the comments!

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NBA Live 2018 is Back! Will it be “The One?”

One of the biggest surprises during the EA Play event at E3 2017 was the return of NBA Live 18. EA has had very poor luck with the franchise in the past so it was possible that they would hang up their sneakers and stop making the games. I don’t think anyone would blame them in the face of NBA 2k which has been dominant for the last several years.

In spite of all that, NBA Live 18 is on the way. EA made a brief game play demo that showed the high level of control they will have over their players. It was very impressive, even if it might make the game a bit more difficult for newcomers.

Another key feature of NBA Live 18 is called “The One.” This is a career mode that gives players the chance to complete challenges in “The League” or on “The Streets.” What this means is that players will be able to play traditional NBA games as well as five on five games of “street” basketball on famous courts like Venice Beach and Rucker Park. This is interesting because the actual game rules will be different in the two game formats.

NBA Live 18 will have a beta last this summer, so we’ll learn more about the game and how it plays then. Until that time we can only wonder whether or not EA will be able to compete with NBA 2k18.

What do you think? Are you and your family going to play this game? Let us know in the comments!

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