With blockbusters-to-be such as Destiny, Forza Horizon 2 and Super Smash Bros. still more than a month away, smaller downloadable games dominate the new releases these days. Even though there are no pop culture-dominating titles coming out, there is tons of variety for curious gamers to explore. There’s a remake of a near-forgotten cult classic in Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty; an exciting and good-looking action RPG in Sacred 3 and a mysterious cave-crawler in The Swapper.
Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty
(PS4, $30, Teen)
While $30 seems steep for a downloadable remake of a 17-year-old PSOne game, New ‘n’ Tasty justifies the cost by reimiagining the game to modern standards while keeping its retro appeal. A redux of Oddworld: Abe’s Odysee, the new version maintains the story, the enemy variety and humor in the writing but uses the original as a base to blow out unexplored concepts. You’re still Abe, a freaklike hero who is out to rescue hundreds of slaves from captivity.
Since you lack a way to directly attack enemies, you need to manipulate friendly creatures to take out enemies for you, either by possessing them or tricking them to do your bidding by solving puzzles. The side-scrolling platforming is tight and exhilarating, and the puzzles, though challenging, never slow the momentum. As a fan of the original who just wanted a chance to play an updated version, I would have been pleased with a simple rehash. This one, however, clears that bar, establishing itself as something not only tasty, but convincingly new.
(PS4, $13, Everyone)
Pool games pretty much plateued in the 1990s PC scene, making it nearly impossible to do anything fresh or exciting with the simple table game. Just nail the physics and keep your clumsy animations out of the way and you’re good. Pure Pool fits that bill, content to be a no-frills replica of the game you’ll find on beer-stained felt tables in smokey dive bars. A pitch-perfect billiards sim, you never feel cheated by a scratch or pandered to by an overly lucky trick shot.
The problem with a game that just strives to hit the basics is that it spoils its value when it misses out on one of them. Pure Pool seems to have muffed online multiplayer, despite an admirable framework that boasts a screen crawler that notifies you of every single person in the world who’s playing the game online at the time. Multiple attempts at playing a game with a friend fell flat, and glitches ruined attempts to connect to strangers for pick-up games. If online competition is your thing, hold off until a patch irons out the multiplayer problems.
(PS3, $50, Mature)
An action RPG in the Diablo mold, Sacred 3 gives PS3 owners a reason to gloat to snooty PS4 owners. Even though new-generation consols are rounding the bases on their first year on shelves, far more games come out on older systems. As cool as its high-fantasy trappings seem on the surface, though, Sacred 3 stumbles in the execution. Combat is mostly tedious button-mashing, most loot items have so little practical value that there’s not much reason to chase them, and the RPG character-building elements seem like busywork.
At least the game is a looker, and tells a compelling story, narrated with gusto. The fun of o-op action smooths over many of the faults, making it a fun time to be had with a friend over a beer. Sacred 3 is a solid, if unspectacular, all-around effort, but is only worthe the $50 buy-in for those who are sick of its superior doppelganger, Diablo III.
(PS4, PS3, Vita, $15, Everyone)
Taking a Metroidvania-style planet exploration concept and adding a claymation feel to it, The Swapper is a side-scroller that plunges you into creepy hidden depths, daring you to wiggle your way through its unnerving caverns, with your wits and timing as your main weapons. The twist here is the ability to clone different versions of yourself, which you can set up to solve puzzles via chain reactions. Gloomy and dark, the game can be a bit of a downer, but overcoming its stiff challenges replaces the despair with elation.
The mechanics are solid and the game flows well, but grows tedious and is best in short bursts. One of my favorite aspects of The Swapper is its generous and sensible sales model. One $15 purchase and you not only have the game on the PS4, PS3 and Vita, but you can freely swap save files among the systems. That’s something the publishers of Child of Light and Guacamelee, which require separate purchases on the systems, should have taken a note of.