It Was Hard to Choose—6 Great Games From E3 2014

Posted by | June 18, 2014 | News | One Comment
E3 convention center(Source)

E3 is gaming’s big event of the year. Held in Los Angeles, California, it’s a trade show where many companies make their big announcements and debut the games that will be released over the coming years.

Now, I didn’t get a chance to play everything at E3. Not nearly. But in my hours on the show floor I saw so many excellent games that my head was spinning. In an effort to keep your heads from spinning when all those games come out, here is a hands-on look at what you should keep an eye out for.

Even better—all the games I’m going to talk about here will most likely end up rated E or T, but they have just as much value for adults as for kids.

1) Valiant Hearts: The Great War – Ubisoft Montpellier

I was looking forward to Valiant Hearts most of all, and it didn’t disappoint. This side-scrolling historical puzzle game tells the stories of several people caught up in World War I. I first played as a French prisoner of war, and then as an American soldier. Valiant Hearts aims to bring attention to the human stories of WWI, a war that changed the lives of millions of people and the course of the 20th century.

What You Need to Know:

  • Valiant Hearts doesn’t have any combat in it. In one section of the game I threw grenades to clear obstacles, but Community Marketing Specialist Kevin Erwin told me that the player doesn’t fight in the story. Rather, the horrors of war are represented through the omnipresence of fighting and violence that surrounds the characters and changes their lives.
  • The gameplay I saw consisted of moving objects to solve puzzles and getting through obstacles. As the French character I boiled sausages for a German officer. An intense section of the American soldier’s storyline had me sneaking past German lines to blow up a bridge—I needed to distract guards and dodge gunfire to reach the dynamite to set the bridge off.
  • The game is full of historical content. As your story unfolds, the game includes facts about the real battles and locations that take place in the game. It also reveals details about the everyday lives of soldiers—from the equipment they carried to the letters that they wrote home. It’s these letters that are at the heart of the game.
  • If you and your family end up playing this game, look for opportunities to talk about the story—or connect it to your family history. If your parents or grandparents have war letters hiding in the attic, maybe it’s time to bring them out.

Valiant Hearts comes out on June 25th for PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, and PlayStation 4

2) Hohokum – Honeyslug

“It’s hard to explain. It’s art,” the Sony staff member told me when I asked what Hohokum was.

He was right, Hohokum is nearly impossible to explain. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t play it.

Hohokum transports the player into a musical, colorful world of strange animals and surreal actions. I’ll be honest, I had no idea what I was doing at first. As a flying eye with a long, string-like body (it’s called the Long Mover), I flew through the jungle with monkeys swinging from my body.  But as I ripped the petals off flowers with an ever-satisfying “pop” I began to figure out what the game wanted me to do.

What You Need to Know:

  • There are no instructions, just satisfying actions and exploration. Hohokum lets the player interact organically with the environment to discover what the goal of each level is.
  • It can be difficult to discover what the objectives are, but that doesn’t really matter. It’s fun to explore, and the game doesn’t pressure you to do the right thing. Rather, it creates rewarding interactions that will lead you towards the solution.
  • All the levels are unlocked from the beginning of the game. So if you get stuck, don’t worry about it. It’s meant to be a relaxing, exploratory experience and in this it succeeds.
  • I had a great time teaching people at E3 how to beat one of the levels of Hohokum. Don’t be afraid to ask for help with this one. Your kids can have fun teaching you their tricks and vice versa.

The game is coming to PS3, PS4, and PS Vita and will be released in August 2014.

3) LittleBigPlanet 3 – Sumo Digital

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of the LittleBigPlanet franchise. The third game is tossing things up by introducing three new characters and a new storyline—but it’s keeping the much-beloved crafty and whimsical aesthetic of previous LBP games. To me, the aesthetic comes second to the sense of teamwork that the games encourage, and the demo that I played succeeded in all counts.

Both times I played the demo I laughed out loud. My companions and I spent the whole playthrough exploring different ways to playfully harass each other (as the flying character, I enjoyed picking up and dropping my teammates). But when it came to getting past obstacles, these three strangers and I pulled together and helped each other out at every turn.

That’s the real magic of LittleBigPlanet for me. It’s fantastic at forging connections between players and making everyone feel important.

What You Need to Know:

  • LittleBigPlanet has four character choices, which makes co-op insanely fun. Sackboy, LBP’s mascot, will be joined by a dog named Oddsock that can jump from wall to wall, a rotund fellow called Toggle that can change size, and a bird named Swoop that can fly. This gives players lots of options for overcoming obstacles, and I’m curious to see how these abilities play out over the course of the full game.
  • Part of LBP’s longevity comes from its user-created levels. All user-created levels from the first and second games will be available in LittleBigPlanet 3. What I’m saying is, LBP 3 is going to be infinite.
  • Playing co-op LittleBigPlanet is the digital equivalent of spending the day in a theme park. Do your family a favor and do play this one together when it comes out. If it’s anything like the previous games, you won’t regret it.

LittleBigPlanet 3 will come out in November 2014 for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4.

4) Yoshi’s Woolly World – Good-Feel

I fell in love with this game from the get-go. Yoshi’s Woolly World takes a leaf from the design book of Kirby’s Epic Yarn, another game that uses the yarn aesthetic to make itself freakin’ adorable. It’s made by the same developers, so this isn’t exactly a surprise—but it sure is appealing.

I played it in two-person co-op mode with the assistance of a Nintendo staff member who seemed just as enthralled with the game as I did.

What You Need to Know:

  • Up to two players can play Yoshi’s Woolly World. You have to work with your partner to get through obstacles without getting in their way—or accidentally pushing them off a ledge, like I did. It can make for a great teamwork experience—or a great “getting in your partner’s way and laughing at them” experience. Either way, it’s fun.
  • Usually Yoshi has his famous eggs, but in this game Yoshi can collect up to six yarn balls that bounce along after him. You can throw the yarn balls at enemies to knock them out, and you can also use them to build paths. In a pinch you can eat your co-player and turn them into a yarn ball to launch at enemies. It’s hilarious and awesome.
  • There are lots of secret passages to discover, so if you have a completionist’s soul this game is a joy.

Yoshi’s Woolly World will be released on the Wii U in early 2015. Too long to wait, in my opinion.

5) Road Not Taken – Spry Fox

Road Not Taken is a puzzle game with roleplaying elements and an evocative-yet-cartoony aesthetic. It comes from one of my favorite developers, Spry Fox (makers of Triple Town on iOS and Android, if you’re looking for a great casual game).

The main character of Road Not Taken is a robed wizard who has just arrived in a small village that seems perpetually covered in snow. I immediately set about rescuing children that had gotten lost in the forest during a blizzard—the mortality rate in this village is incredibly high. It’s a dark concept that is nicely offset by the lightness of the graphics and the touches of humor that pervade the game’s writing.

I could see hints of the game’s depth in the short demo I played; in that time I began building relationships with the other villagers and got hints of a mysterious backstory involving a ghost I saw in the forest.

What You Need to Know:

  • Road Not Taken is a roguelike, which means every time your character goes into the forest, the game will have different puzzles for you to solve.
  • Your wizard can float objects in the air and throw them. This is how you solve puzzles, but also how you rescue kids—by floating them in the air and then tossing them at their mothers. This created a lot of hilarious moments when I would accidentally pick up kids, trees, and rocks and accidentally fling them across the map. It turned player error into a moment of improvisational hilarity. (No children were actually harmed in the playing of Road Not Taken)
  • The puzzles are likely a bit too difficult for younger players, but this game would be great to play side-by-side. Finding the most energy-efficient way to get through a level is a fun brain-teaser.

Road Not Taken is coming out in summer 2014 for Playstation 4, PS Vita, PC, and Mac.

6) Night in the Woods – Infinite Fall

Night in the Woods got my attention a few months ago, because it has a female protagonist that isn’t overly feminized. Mae is a cat. Just a cat, with a wry, wicked sense of humor and a fatalistic outlook on life after dropping out of college and returning to her small hometown.

I had to wait a long time to play this one, but it was worth it. The dialogue had me laughing out loud, and the story is immediately compelling. Mae, like a lot of twenty-somethings, isn’t sure where she’s going next. Her best friend is leaving town, and she’s just sort of stuck. She deals with this by rebelling in childish ways—climbing on roofs and power lines, breaking light bulbs and garden gnomes, etc. The game is really funny while also being really raw. Mae’s feelings of being unsure of her future resonated a lot with me, as a twenty-something myself.

What You Need to Know:

  • The dialogue is awesome. I’ve never seen dialogue that so closely resembles the way millenials speak without falling into being hokey or clichéd.
  • The issues examined in the game might go over the heads of younger kids, but I’m sure this one is going to resonate strongly with teenagers. It deals with a lot of the emotional issues that teens face without being patronizing—and it makes them funny without trivializing them. It’s pretty clear that the developers understand the emotional roller coaster that goes hand-in-hand with growing up.
  • Night in the Woods is mostly an adventure game, but there’s also platforming and other interactions—talking with other characters, going through posters and fliers, and eating donuts all featured prominently in the demo. And those donuts looked really good.

Night in the Woods is coming out in 2015 for PC, Mac, and PlayStation 4.

Simone de Rochefort

About Simone de Rochefort

Simone de Rochefort is a game journalist, writer, podcast host, and video producer who does a prolific amount of Stuff. You can find her on Twitter @doomquasar, and hear her weekly on tech podcast Rocket, as well as Pixelkin's Gaming With the Moms podcast. With Pixelkin she produces video content and devotes herself to Skylanders with terrifying abandon.