With nary a booth tour or appointment on the calendar, Wednesday at E3 became all about getting on the floor and getting my hands on some games.
I started off with Ducktales Remastered, which updates the classic NES sidescoller with beautifully hand-drawn images and an orchestrated soundtrack. The game handles pretty much exactly as the Nintendo game did, and the remastered sound and images are pitch perfect. A lot of care's been taken to be faithful to both the game and the cartoon series that inspired it, and the effort shows. It'd be a guaranteed purchase for me, if it weren't for the legendary difficulty.
Similarly, Castle of Illusion: Starring Mickey Mouse is a 3D successor to the 16-bit platformer from the Genesis' library. The booth representative noted that this is a bit more than a straight remake, so there are a few surprises in store for longtime fans. The demo I played was an early Alpha build, so there's still a bit of work to be done to get it ready. From what I could tell, the old game mechanics made it through just fine, with an art style that is bright and rounded.
Speaking of alpha builds, the theater presentation of Thief was showing an early build of the game. Running on PS4 hardware, I could hardly tell there was anything missing. True to the series, Garrett's got a variety of arrows at his disposal to deal with guards and obstacles. In the brief sections the staff demonstrated, Garrett sneaked through a castle, ran through sewers and avoided a blazing fire. His eye has been modified to use a focus meter that can track guards, look into lock tumblers, quick-steal loot and perform a number of other tricks.
I also viewed a presentation for Murdered: Soul Survivor, which puts players into the role of Ronan O'Connor, a deceased detective tasked with solving his own murder so that he can cross over. Stuck in a limbo state — which the devs term "The Dusk" — Ronan can't physically interact with much of the world, but he can use his ghostly influence to possess persons of interest and view fragments of memories from the past. Because you're dead, you can also walk through most of the walls in the game, which puts an interesting twist on exploration. The game seems to play like an otherworldly L.A. Noire, requiring players to put together events and clues to progress the story.
As waiting times for presentations swelled, I snuck off into the WB Games booth. While I wasn't able to see Batman: Arkham Origins, I was able to get some playtime with Infinite Crisis, which just had a stress-test beta last night. Crisis is a League of Legends-style MOBA, operating under the free-to-play model, for the PC. Heroes and villains from the DC universe are brought together with their multi-dimensional counterparts to ... beat each other up and cap resource points, basically. I played a 10 minute match in a 5v5 setting and found the game every bit as involving as Guardians of Middle-Earth. It should be a familiar sight for anyone acquainted with MOBAs, but I'd caution newbies to stay away from large matches for a while — for the record, my team got trounced pretty decisively.
Reeling from defeat, I lingered around Lego Avengers for a bit. I'm a little fatigued with the Lego game franchises, so it's not really on my radar. There's a decent amount of super heroes included, as well as some set-pieces from last summer's mega blockbuster to keep fans and kids hooked through the campaign. Lego IronMan kind of looks like a midget, though.
Scribblenauts Unmasked, the DC-themed Scribblenauts adventure, was also on display. Unmasked takes advancements from recent Scribble-titles to allow you to customize heroes as you see fit: typing Batman, for example, brings up a multiversal sampler of possible Bat-Men, and then you're allowed to add comic-flair to the hero you've summoned. Superman with Wonder Woman's star-spangled briefs? Sure! There's enough characters to keep comic geeks interested (I spied the Anti-Monitor and Nightwing as people played), so if you burned out on vanilla Scribblenauts, this might be a good option to keep in your travel kit.
Sony set up a mobile lounge to showcase some of their more niche titles away from the sardine-cannery that is their main show floor. Octodad: Dadliest Catch is a charmingly awkward little game, with a control scheme that is equal parts goofy and challenging. Players take control of Octodad's various limbs to walk through the world, interact with objects, and meet everyday challenges like putting on bow-ties. It's kind of like trying to get through your everyday life while being incredibly hungover or sleep-deprived.
In the mobile space, there's Passing Time, an 8bit-like mobile soccer game. It plays a bit like NES Hockey, with teammates moving independently. It's more about strategic ball movement than player control. There's also a cute minigame where a circle of soccer players kicks a ball between themselves in a deceptively-tough game of keepaway. There's really not much more to it than that. You can activate an on-fire power-up to crisp your opponents, but otherwise you're just trying to pass the ball around while waiting for that 9 o'clock meeting or taxi.
Haunt the House turns you into a cute little clown-ghost (or ghost-clown) that can jump into inanimate objects and manipulate them to scare houseguests. It's a bit like the Genesis game Haunting. As you build the scare-meter, you're able to perform more complicated possessions (rattling cabinets, manifesting arms and scary monster-shadows, breaking things) in an effort to clear the home you're spookifying.
The highlight of the day was the Videogame History Museum's floor space, which not only displayed collectibles (a genuine NES World Championship cart, alongside a copy of StarFox2), showcased old consoles up to the 64-bit era, and had playable systems, but also went to the trouble of setting up an arcade collection. I watched grown men transform into nervous teens as they went head-to-head in Mortal Kombat II and Street Fighter II: Turbo. I played Lethal Enforcers II until my shoulder ached. It was a glorious, touching little oasis of nostalgia tucked away in a sea full of people looking toward tomorrow. And they had a couch.
Tomorrow is the last day of E3. Let's see if there are any surprises yet in store