E3 2012 Roundup 3: PENNY ARCADE, YOUNG JUSTICE, Much More

 

Penny Arcade Adventures 3

Fate has delivered a lot of games over the past year that were once thought to only exist in the hopes of fans and another one is on the precipice (if you will) of release, but not without being transformed in its long journey to release. Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness - Episode 3's most significant change is the radical alteration of it's visual style from the signature look of the Penny Arcade web comic to the 16-bit style of new developer Zeboyd Games (Breath of Death VII: The Beginning).

The new partnership is ultimately a plus, Zeboyd's loving parody style meshes well with the wit of the PA crew in an experience that both adds and subtracts from the established canon of the series. Gone is the custom player character that had joined Gabe and Tycho on their steam-punk fantasy adventure (though his or her fate will be incorporated in to the story) and in are playable PA characters like Anne and Jim's skull as well as other more obscure and new teammates that join and leave the maximum four character party throughout the game. Another new addition is a job system that will grant skills, buffs and magic powers to characters and instead of the standard job types like fighter or mage, the dozen or so skill sets better reflect the sensibility of the game and have such as like Tube Samurai, Hobo and the strangely compelling but practically useless 'job' of Slacker.

The turn based combat includes a meter to allow you to plan for the attack order, a system where MP builds up from scratch each round to keep the player from spamming powerful attacks at the start, foes that get steadily stronger (like in Breath of Death) and items the regenerate after each fight but all of these rules can be canceled by 'Special Battle Conditions' that the game can trigger before each fight. Battles in the game mostly will take place at fixed locations visible on screen, but it was shared that locations for grinding out levels will be made available. Just like Zeboyd's other titles, Penny Arcade Adventures 3 will feel instantly natural to any experienced 16-bit RPGer and fans of PA webcomic author Tycho's unique style and sense of humor will forget about any issue they have with the visuals very quickly. This reported 9-12 hour experience looks to be released on July 10th on the Xbox Indie Game network or on PC for about $5 and plans for free DLC were hinted at.

 

Young Justice: Legacy

Promising to bridge the five year narrative gap between the first and second seasons of the Young Justice animated series, is this one to three player action title that quickly brings to mind other superhero team up games like X-Men Legends and Marvel Ultimate Alliance. Out of a pool of over 12 characters (among the announced notables include are a still loyal Aqualad, a second season newbie Beast Boy and Dick Grayson in his Nightwing persona) each will command regular attacks and four superpower/tech based special attacks that can be upgraded with a light RPG system. A new wrinkle is combination attack meter that awards cooperative play, 'just as in the spirit of the series' it is described. The game itself is in a rough alpha, but will ultimately fit into the show's canon through the work of series writers and an effort to sign the show's vocal cast. Set for a February 2013 release, Young Justice: Legacy will also feature online co-op play.

DC Universe Online: Last Laugh

The fourth major update to Sony's and DC's superheroic MMO is set for release on June 19, 2012 and will feature the machinations of the Joker (who will be voiced by Mark Hamill in what may be his last released performance in the role). Joker, tired of the heroes and villains working together to counter the threat of Brainiac has stolen the access codes to all of the game's safehouses and headquarters (the Watchtower and The Hall of Doom) to get the two sides fighting each other again for his own amusement. With this game update, $9.99 to non-Legendary subscribers, these new 4v4 and 8v8 player vs player maps will now also include random appearances by DC characters on both sides and new 2-round scoring system. The roster of the Legends PvP matches, that allow you to play as the iconic characters will also expand to include heroic/villainous Kryptonians like Power Girl and Ursa as well as new Green and Yellow Lanterns like Kilowog, John Stewart and Amon Sur. Instead of a new power for this update, there is a new weapon: the shield, which is utilized in battle just like that famous shield bearing hero...The Guardian (Captain who?). After prompting, the only references that DCUO is making to the now year-old New 52 revamp are legal changes to character names, in particular Captain Marvel is now Shazam! and that New 52 versions of costumes can be found inside this game's version of Team Fortress 2 crates: Promethium lockboxes. 

Double Dragon: Neon

Fittingly set to be released in time for the franchise's 25th anniversary, Double Dragon: Neon is a loving homage to not only the seminal co-op brawler, but to the 1980s themselves. That 'totally radical' decade is celebrated in Neon's bright, big and colorful style, from the mullet sporting Lee brothers to a soundtrack of not only remixed classic Double Dragon music but original compositions that sound like they'd be right in place in the Billboard charts 25 years ago. While Neon has at its core that classic brawling gameplay, it is not a remake, but instead expands on the original games in fun and thematically appropriate ways including augmenting your base stats by creating a 'mix tape' of buffs and special attacks, saving your downed brother by 'rewinding' the cassette tape of their life and triggering a team attack, pooling and equally dividing your remaining life or boosting attack power temporally by initiating a “High Five” right in the middle of a fight. Neon will also support drop-in/out online co-op, a range of difficulty modes and is projected to be released late this summer as a downloadable title.

NintendoLand

What might be initially scoffed at as just a minigame collection, NintendoLand, which got a prominent spot in Nintendo's pre-E3 media event (but not their pre-pre-E3 media event) had five of their promised 12 games ready for demo on the Wii U, and it might just be the same kind of crossover hit Wii Sports was for the original Wii. Takamaru's Ninja Castle is a single player game where you use the Wii U controller’s touch screen to 'throw' paper shuriken at origami ninjas. Basically a new take on Duck Hunt the wireless aiming is sharp and the flinging of ninja stars is a lot of fun. Donkey Kong's Crash Course was the other single player game where you carefully navigate an obstacle course with a fragile wheeled cart that you control by tilting the Wii U controller, but you need to continually watch your speed: too fast and you'll smash yourself against the walls, too slow and you risk tipping over when you drop off low ledges. You are scored on time and distance and it gets real tense when you have to use the small hand-held touch screen to see were you are going in the short term and the wide view from the television to try and plan for where you need to go. Luigi's Ghost Mansion and Animal Crossing: Sweet Day are up to five player games of tag. In the former you are an invisible ghost trying to stalk and knock out four human players trying to capture you with their flashlights, in the latter game the Wii U controller player controls two hunters at the same time as they try to corner candy stealing animals who have to collect 50 pieces of candy collectively, a task made harder since carrying candy slows you down. Finally The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest is a hack-slash action game on a rail, where three players share a single life bar, two Wiimote wielding swordsmen with Skyward Sword style directional cutting ability while the Wii U controller holding player is an archer who can cover the fighters using the touch screen monitor to scan the gameplay area for distant foes to shoot.

NBA Baller Beats

The hybrid game to end all hybrid games is only one way to describe NBA Baller Beats, a title that combines the Kinect motion controller, music/rhythm games, exercise titles and licensed sports simulators in a way that developers will be trying to top for years. Simply put, the object of the game is to dribble/manipulate a basketball to the beat of licensed popular music. At its most basic level the Kinect ably tracks the ball's movement up and down, sensing when it stops and changes course (hopefully) back up and if it is on the correct side of your body and scores you accordingly, the game breaks up the dribbling by requiring you to perform ball handling skill moves like a cross-over dribble or a pump fake at key moments during a song. It's not a stretch to say that everyone who tries this game, from the most avid gamer who is a novice athlete to the compete inverse of that person will think the exact same three things in the same order during their first game: 1) This will be easy. 2) This is harder then it looks. 3) This is actually kinda fun. If you are tired of plastic guitar music games, and you are allowed by your mom/significant other/landlord to play ball in the house, NBA Baller Beats has to be attempted at least once. Bonus: you can use your own ball! (Unless it is black, reportedly the Kinect won't read it.)

The Cave

The Double Fine game that is not the one being Kickstarted is Ron Gilbert's The Cave, a cartoony Metroidvania-style downloadable game that adds a dash of the legendary LucasArts title Maniac Mansion (which Gilbert worked on in 1987). Like that title you are charged at the beginning with choosing three heroes out of seven (the Monk, the Adventurer, the Hillbilly, the Scientist, the Creepy Twins (they count as one), the Knight or the Time Traveler) to complete a co-op adventure/environmental puzzle solving mission inside the titular Cave, a sentient, underground labyrinth that can talk and is rumored to hold to answer to the problem that all seven characters (maybe only think) they have. Each character has a special ability to help aid in the exploration, for example the Knight can make himself invincible, albeit immobile, and the Hillbilly can hold his breath indefinitely, and each has a special area of the cave to explore that reveals more of their individual motivations. When prompted the developers revealed that unlike Maniac Mansion, the game can be played through to conclusion with any set of 3 player characters.

SiNG (working title)

A standout application of the Wii U technology is the karaoke party game SiNG. Designed to counter the perception that party/dance/rhythm games are played against the TV and not with your friends based on what direction you are facing when they are operating, SiNG places the lyric readout on the Wii U controller's touch screen, turning the lead player into not only the singer, but the director of the rest of his or her fiends in the room, prompting them when to sing along, when to clap and when to dance. While the primary party mode is just for fun, there will be an option for scoring where the game will not only rate your for pitch and rhythm but 'track your effort' and award points that way as well. With the Wii U controller in hand, more functionality is revealed including duet mode and the ability to drop out certain parts of a single track. For example, you can remove the recorded voice track entirely or go a capella and turn off the melody instead. Finally you can also play DJ with the controller, setting a 20 song playlist in advance to avoid having to go through a menu after each song.

Quantum Conundrum

This highly anticipated title from one of the core designers of the original Portal shares a lot with that ground breaking title and that is paying it a huge complement. Instead of portals, the puzzle solving technology employed in this game is a dimension shifting device that allows you to change the world around you to change the properties of the world around you in a flash. In the demoed tutorial stage you are introduced to three of the four alternate universes, the 'Fluffy' dimension where everything is 10 times lighter then in the 'real' world, the 'Heavy'  dimension where everything is 10 times as dense and the “Slow Motion” dimension where objects move slowly. The 'Reverse Gravity'  dimension was not seen in the demo. The tutorial does a great job in allowing you to quickly absorb how it all works, and an experienced gamer will get the hang of changing the universe around them right away, doing such things as lightning a safe so you can carry/throw it, then making it heavy while it is in midair to break a pane of glass. Quantum Conundrum also borrows Portal's use of humor to move the game forward, but instead of an malevolent AI, it's a batty professor voiced by John “Q” de Lancie.

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