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The Hidden Gems of the PC Gaming Show at E3 2018

The PC Gaming Show leading into E3 showed off a lot of independent titles. While most of the reveals were for mature related content, we found some family-friendly games that we think you would be interested in. Take a look below and see what we mean. 


Satisfactory

Satisfactory is a first-person building game much in the same vein as Minecraft, but with a focus on production and simulating science and engineering. Build giant machines to make things to make bigger machines. That plastic container? You are going to need to build pipes and pumps to draw oil from beneath the ground. I wonder what this games equivalent to “punching trees” will look like?



Neo Cab

Neo Cab is a suspense story set in a cyberpunk Uber. Narrative constraints can often lead to interesting possibilities in storytelling, and this seems to be an entire story set in the cab driving through ruined neon streets. I look forward to seeing more from this as the trailer was family friendly, and I am hoping the rest of the game is too.


Star Control Origins

Star Control Origins is a science fiction open world exploration game with a splash of humor. Star Control Origins is billed as a 100% explorable game where the entire universe is simulated at all times, While small in scale it is trying to do what No Man’s Sky failed to deliver, in giving a fun endless exploration of the universe as well as solid multiplayer content.

Puyo-Puyo Tetris

Puyo-Puyo Tetris is a mashup of the Nintendo classic as well as a franchise that is very popular in Japan and has seen moderate success in the States. It is a game that combines both puzzle styles into a single experience. Puyo-Puyo itself feels, to myself, like a cross between Dr. Mario (placing rotating two color pieces), and the chain combo systems of candy crush and its progeny (where clearing matching colors can cause other sets of pieces to fall into place, scoring and clearing more pieces). You can’t go wrong with the classics.


Morning Star

I want to know more. I would call this a farming sim, but there is a lot more than meets the eye. Farming seems to be a metaphor for something else in this game. Just watch the trailer and halfway through you will realize why I am at lost for how to describe it.


Jurassic World Evolution

Yo, this is “Roller Coaster Tycoon” with dinosaurs.  You create your park, breed and genetically modify your dinosaurs while trying to balance profit, safety and pleasing the different factions in your leadership team. This is as close to that dream as I can imagine were are going to get without an actual Jeff Goldblum and/or Chris Pratt. (Correction from the readers: Jeff Goldblum is technically in the game. He does voice acting as his Ian Malcolm character.)


Stormland

Oculus Rift. First Person. Open World Exploration Game. Robots in a distant future exploring a broken land. Did I mention this was in VR?  Exploding Robots worked to keep Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles family friendly, it can work for Stormland.


Sable

Single player, open world, desert exploration, a love child of Hiyo Miyazaki and Journey. This game is just plain gorgeous and looks action-packed.  I hope to see more from this two-man development team in the future.



Noita

“An action roguelite where every pixel is simulated”

This game is going to be fun, and to tell you why I have to explain that opening sentence from the developer. “Action roguelite” is a style of game where a person, in this case, a wizard, explores endless dungeons in a quest further within, with each death forcing them to start over from the beginning (with some resources carrying over to the next adventure). “Every pixel is simulated”: imagine a cartoon where the entire animation and drawing, including every background feature, was redrawn for every frame of animation. What you get is a setting that is designed to be constantly reactive and destructible, paired with wizards who have all of their spells turned to 11.


Ooblets


Double Fine makes a Pokemon Game. I have said previously that you can tell where people have drawn their inspiration, but the sheer beauty and whimsy of what I saw in this trailer had me bobbing to the pace of my wacky young protagonists. Why have monsters fight when they can have… a dance battle? The blocky pixelated art is just detailed enough to show all of the adorable expressions on every creature and townsfolk. This one is also coming out for Xbox One as well, which is an added bonus.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

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PAX East 2018 – 20XX

What if someone told you that you could have more Mega Man whenever you wanted? What if that same person told you that you could have more Mega Man and play with a friend? If either of those questions earned a happy response then boy have I got a treat for you. 20XX by Batterystaple Games is, literally, the answer. It also happens to super fun to play and available right now.

20XX is a rogue-like platformer that bears more than a passing resemblance to the Mega Man X series. I’ve had a chance to play it a few times now, most recently at PAX East 2018, and it has improved significantly with each iteration. It has been available on Steam for a while now, but I got a chance to play the game while it was running on PS4.

The biggest highlight of 20XX is the cooperative play. Mega Man has always been a lonely game. You were one lone robot battling against an army of robot masters. When the developers added a second player they changed the entire dynamic of the game. It went from a solitary experience to a shared one. I never knew how much I wanted that until we finished our first boss in the demo. It definitely made the victory sweeter. I can’t wait to play it with my boys.

My demo also included a new third character named Hawk. The first two characters, Nina and Ace, were direct analogs to X and Zero from the Mega Man X series, but this character is very different. She plays more like Simon Belmont from the legendary Castlevania franchise. Her primary weapon is a whip that not only deals melee damage, but drains weapon energy from the enemies she hits. This lets her use the special weapons she earns from bosses more frequently. She doesn’t need to worry about energy pickups like the other characters do. Instead, you really need to use the specials more frequently so you don’t waste the energy you drain from enemies as you naturally traverse the levels. This was neat mechanic. It really forced me out of my comfort zone. I play Mega Man games in a very specific way and have since I was a child. I am very conservative with my special weapons and only use them when I think it is “the right time.” I fell into tat same pattern before my demo partner (who happened to be a developer) reminded me about the energy drain.

20XX is currently available on Steam and is coming to PS4 soon. I asked them about other consoles (like the Switch), but they didn’t have anything to confirm yet.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts!

Make sure to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for all of the latest news and reviews you need to Get Your Family Game On!

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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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The finalists for the Independent Games Festival Awards have been announced. The winners will be announced during a ceremony taking place on Wednesday, March 16 at San Francisco’s Moscone Convention Center. Nathan Vella, the co-founder and president of Capybara Games, will be this year’s host.

Winners will receive more than $50,000 of prizes. This will include the $30,000 Seumas McNally Grand Prize. That isn’t all though. The idea here is that the awards will shine a bright light on these games so they might see a bump in sales from curious gamers.

The Game Developer’s Choice Awards will take place right after these awards conclude and both events will be available for viewing on Twitch.

The full list of nominees, including honorable mentions, is listed below

Excellence in Visual Art

Mini Metro (Dinosaur Polo Club)
Panoramical (Fernando Ramallo & David Kanaga)
Gnog (KO_OP)
Armello (League of Geeks)
Oxenfree (Night School Studio)
Darkest Dungeon (Red Hook Studios Inc.)

Honorable Mentions:

Forkride Grilltime Sloth (Black Pants Game Studio [Sebastian Stamm]); Epistory – Typing Chronicles (Fishing Cactus); Kingdom (noio & Licorice); Alto’s Adventure (Snowman); Future Unfolding (Spaces of Play); Astroneer (System Era Softworks)

Excellence in Narrative

The Beginner’s Guide (Everything Unlimited Ltd.)
Black Closet (Hanako Games)
That Dragon, Cancer (Numinous Games)
Her Story (Sam Barlow)
Undertale (Toby Fox)
The Magic Circle (Question)

Honorable Mentions:

Oxenfree (Night School Studio); Orion Trail (Schell Games); Cibele (Star Maid Games); Contradiction (Tim Follin / Baggy Cat Ltd); The Writer Will Do Something (Tom Bissell and Matthew S. Burns)

Excellence in Design

Mini Metro (Dinosaur Polo Club)
Kingdom (noio & Licorice)
Her Story (Sam Barlow)
Keep Talking & Nobody Explodes (Steel Crate Games)
Superhot (SUPERHOT)
Infinifactory (Zachtronics)

Honorable Mentions:

Gang Beasts (Boneloaf); Imbroglio (Michael Brough); Duskers (Misfits Attic); Chaos Reborn (Snapshot Games); TIS-100 (Zachtronics); Soft Body (Zeke Virant)

Excellence in Audio

Mini Metro (Dinosaur Polo Club)
Panoramical (Fernando Ramallo & David Kanaga)
That Dragon, Cancer (Numinous Games)
Darkest Dungeon (Red Hook Studios Inc.)
Lumini (Speelbaars)
Undertale (Toby Fox)

Honorable Mentions:

Heart Forth, Alicia (Alonso Martin); The Beginner’s Guide (Everything Unlimited Ltd.); Gnog (KO_OP); Oxenfree (Night School Studio); Kingdom (noio & Licorice); Inside My Radio (Seaven Studio)

Nuovo Award

The Beginner’s Guide (Everything Unlimited Ltd.)
Panoramical (Fernando Ramallo & David Kanaga)
Fantastic Contraption (Northway Games & Radial Games)
Orchids To Dusk (Pol Clarissou)
Her Story (Sam Barlow)
Cibele (Star Maid Games)
Keep Talking & Nobody Explodes (Steel Crate Games)
Progress (Tim Garbos, Martin Kvale and Joel Nyström)

Honorable Mentions:

Enough (cabbibo); Sentree (Glitchnap); Affordable Space Adventures (KnapNok Games and Nifflas’ Games); Vignettes (Pol Clarissou, Armel Gibson); Future Unfolding (Spaces of Play); Sage Solitaire (Zach Gage); TIS-100 (Zachtronics)

Best Student Game

Pitfall Planet (Bonfire Games)
Ape Out (Gabe Cuzzillo)
Beglitched (Jenny Jiao Hsia & Alec Thomson)
Circa Infinity (Kenny Sun)
Orchids To Dusk (Pol Clarissou)
Chambara (team ok)

Honorable Mentions:

Anarcute (Anarteam); Gathering Sky (A Stranger Gravity); Not Everything is Flammable (DAM: David Shiyang Liu, Alex Hu and Mac Lotze); FAR (Mr. Whale’s Game Service); Sumer (Studio Wumpus); Bad Blood (Winnie Song)

Seumas McNally Grand Prize

Mini Metro (Dinosaur Polo Club)
Darkest Dungeon (Red Hook Studios Inc.)
Her Story (Sam Barlow)
Keep Talking & Nobody Explodes (Steel Crate Games)
Superhot (SUPERHOT)
Undertale (Toby Fox)

Honorable Mentions:

The Beginner’s Guide (Everything Unlimited Ltd.); Panoramical (Fernando Ramallo & David Kanaga); Affordable Space Adventures (KnapNok Games and Nifflas’ Games); Twelve Minutes (Luis Antonio); Oxenfree (Night School Studio); That Dragon, Cancer (Numinous Games); Cibele (Star Maid Games); Soft Body (Zeke Virant)

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Developer 13AM Games

ESRB Rating: E for Everyone

Reviewed for Wii U (review code provided)

The indie game space is in an amazing place right now. There are literally thousands upon thousands of brilliant minds hammering away at keyboards coding new and interesting gaming experiences the likes of which we have never seen. This means it is a GREAT time to be a gamer and while the violent and gory games tend to get the press the family gaming space is just as vibrant.

Runbow is the result of some of that brilliance and I could not be happier to have had a chance to play it.

The genius behind Runbow is that is uses the Wii U technology to create a 9 player competitive multiplayer experience. Nine. To paraphrase Evan Erwin of The Magic Show Fame:

“9. Dudes. Srsly.”

They do this by using the Wii U gamepad and four Wiimote and nunchuck pairs. The Wiimotes and Nunchucks are each used to create separate controller inputs so two people can essentially divide the controller in half. It’s genius!

The game itself doesn’t exactly take away from that genius either. There are numerous game modes, but the core mechanic is consistent throughout. You control a character that uses jumps, double jumps, and a move very similar to the air moves in Super Smash Bros for Wii U to navigate various platforming levels. That by itself is not all that new or innovative. What IS new is that these stages are filled with various colored platforms and the background regularly changes colors. If the background changes to the color of the platform is, essentially, vanishes. If you happen to have been jumping their? You will likely be falling to your doom quickly thereafter.

The result is a platforming game that is as strategic as it is fast. You really need to think on your feet because one small mistake can end in the end of your turn. The good news about all of this is that levels are fast each lasting no more than a minute at the absolute longest. The keeps people who make a mistake early from having to sit out too long.

There are a host of game modes available including several single player modes that are all excellent thanks to well designed levels and tight platforming mechanics, but the real strength lies in the competitive multiplayer mode. It is even available online if you want to pit yourself against the very best. This leaves success entirely dependent on your precision platforming and your ability to parse the chaos going on around you.

If your child struggles with games that throw a lot of moving parts on the screen and expecting them to be able to handle it then you may want to shy away from this one until they are a bit older

Conclusion

Runbow is a unique experience that comes at a low price point. Its strongest mode is the 9 player multiplayer so it is a must own if you regularly have that many people over to play games together. Make sure to download it on the Wii U eshop. 

 

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Nintendo held an event called Nindies@Night at the EMP Museum in Seattle ahead of PAX Prime. They made several high profile announcements regarding independent games being brought to the Wii U and 3DS consoles. None of the announcements made at the event were quite as big as the announcement of a Shovel Knight amiibo figure.

I’m sure you’re wondering why I called that a major announcement. It makes sense to question me here. Amiibo aren’t a huge part of the actual GAMES on the Wii U or 3DS. They are mostly a collectable side project with some interesting cosmetic effects in games. It is entirely possible to skip them entirely and not suffer for it at all.

BUT, even when we set that aside for a moment, this is still a pretty big deal because it shows Nintendo continuing their strong commitment to independently developed games.

The Shovel Knight amiibo is also a very interesting business arrangement. Yacht Club games is responsible for manufacturing and distribution, but Nintendo has stated that it will be displayed in stores alongside the first party amiibo. (That is all assuming you’ll ever be able to find one).

The figure will work with the Wii U and 3DS versions of Shovel Knight.  In the 3DS version the figure will unlock special challenge stages. Those same stages will be unlocked on the Wii U version as well, but will also unlock a Wii U version exclusive coop mode. Yacht club has also promised that the amiibo will have some effect in all of their future amiibo enabled games.

Pretty neat stuff if you ask me. Ask you going to be getting one? Let me know in the comments!

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The folks over at the Humble Bundle are at it again. They have released a new, and amazing, bundle of independently developed games that is available for an absurdly low price that can be almost entirely donated to charitable causes!

This time around the bundle includes the “All Stars” These are games that have appeared in bundles before and were HUGE draws. Many of them are award winning indie games that have been around for years.

The bundle includes:

Pay whatever you want and receive:

Word of Goo

Super Meat Boy

Dustforce DX

Pay more than the average donation (currently ~$5) and receive:

Dungeon Defenders Collection

Limbo

Braid

Pay more than the average donation +$1 and receive:

Risk of Rain

Antichamber

Why should parents care?

The fact that these games were available years ago might not be relevant to parents and families who aren’t buying games until recently. This is a greatest hits collection of independent games and among them the only games that are not really acceptable for kids are Limbo, Braid, and Super Meat Boy. With that saidthere are videos of those games available all over YouTube so parents can watch the games plays and see if they are problematic for their children.

The reality is that it is almost summer time and this stack of games will help to fill up whatever screen time you allow your kids to have for a very low price.

It is worth noting that several of these games are VERY difficult so they aren’t intended for early gamers, (Super Meat Boy is a very difficult game that was basically designed to challenge expert players. Be ready to look up some YouTube videos with your kids to get strategies.)

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King’s Quest is set for release later in 2015 and The Odd Gentlemen, the developer in charge of the reboot, has released a video showing off the amazing cast of voice actors that they have assembled.

I was excited before, but this news has me even more hyped than before.

The noteworthy members of the voice cast are as follows:

Christopher Lloyd – He has a very distinctive voice and style about him that fits in very well in a story that is intended to be dramatic while still containing comedic elements.

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Josh Keaton – Josh is doing the voice work for King Graham. He holds a VERY special place in my heart because he also did the voice acting for Hercules in Disney’s Hercules musical.

Zelda Williams – Zelda is the daughter of the late Robin Williams, but that isn’t her only claim to fame. She has made a name for herself as a voice actor and has been in a number of games and cartoons.

Wallace Shawn – It is inconceivable that you don’t know who this is. He is a talented voice actor who has been in all kinds of movies. His talents will certainly liven up the entire experience.

Tom Kenny – Who doesn’t want Spongebob Squarepants himself in their video games?

Loretta Devine – Doc Mcstuffins is one of the better shows for younger kids on Disney XD and Hattie the Hippo is one of the more entertaining characters. Loretta is a talented voice actor with a lot of range and the ability to deliver humor and heart in the same scene. She’ll be great.

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Runbow was one of our favorite games at PAX East 2015 because it allowed us to do something that we had never done before: play a nine-player competitive multiplayer game. You can read our preview here. 13am games is planning to release the game later this year, and while they are still tuning the core gameplay and adding new modes they did have a new announcement for people looking forward to the game.

They had hinted at their booth at PAX East that they might be adding new characters to the game as the release came closer. That day has arrived and the announcement has come along with a sweet new trailer that showed the new guest characters (as well as some sweet gameplay highlights)! All of the characters being added are the stars of their own amazing indie games. (Several of them have been favorites here at EFG like Shovel Knight and Guacamelee.)

The list of indie stars joining in on all the RunBow fun is as follows:

  • Juan and Tostada from Guacamelee!
  •  CommanderVideo and CommandGirlVideo from BIT.TRIP Presents… Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien
  • Swift Thornebrooke from Sportsball
  • Scram Kitty from Scram Kitty and His Buddy On Rails
  • Rusty from Steamworld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt
  • Shovel Knight from Shovel Knight

Runbow is looking better every day. We can’t wait to get our hands on it. Keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for a review once the game is released!

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Pax East 2015 Preview – VIKING SQUAD!!!

Brawlers are a great genre for families. They give more skilled parties (be they parents or children) the chance to help the less skilled players enjoy the game experience together. Castle Crashers has been a fan favorite for years, but Viking Squad looks like it has the chops to help carry the torch even longer.

Viking Squad, by Slick Entertainment,  is a three player cooperative brawler that is themed around viking warriors who are trying to wage war on supernatural horrors.

There are four different playable characters: a grey-haired character who fights with a sword and shield, a berserker who duel wields battle-axes, a warrior maiden who fights with a massive hammer, and a lithe male archer who looks to offer a change of pace to the other three bruisers.

Viking Squad characters

She’s awesome isn’t she?

The three non-archers are monstrous and intimidating figures. All of them, the maiden included, feature broad shoulders and a low stance that tells everyone around them that they mean business. This is especially important in that the female character is a rough and tumble brawler. The developers could have left her as the archer, but they took the chance to make her a melee character in favor of bucking the industry trend. (Huzzah to that!)

I am sure that a lot of parents hear about battle axes and viking warriors and are imaging a gritty game with a lot of blood. Fear not! I spoke to the developers and was told that the current build includes a toggle to turn blood off. They are even considering dropping the blood entirely in an attempt to draw in a wider audience. This is a great sign for dads (or moms!) who want to rough up some bad guys with vikings!

I spoke to the lead artist at PAX East and he let me know exactly what we can expect. He called Viking Squad “A big dumb name for a big dumb game.” This will sound bad to a lot of different folks, but I love it. Sometimes you just want to hit some buttons and make things happen. This looks like it will be a great experience.

We are a huge fans of the brawler genre so you can count on a lot of coverage for this game including some developer interviews, concept art, and other great stuff as this game comes closer to release on the PS4 and PC.

Keep your eyes here on Engaged Family Gaming for further coverage and a review once the game comes out!

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