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Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair Free Demo Out Now

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If you’ve been on the fence about the Yooka-Laylee sequel, Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair, now’s your chance. Team17 and Playtonic Games have released a free demo of the game on the digital stores for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PC (Steam), and Xbox One.

The demo includes the first five levels of the full game, as well as the titular lair and a Pageie Challenge. There’s no time limit on the demo. Any progress you make will carry over to the full game should you decide to purchase it.

Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair features 40 levels of 2D platforming, along with a 3D interactive overworld map. Players can find game-modifying tonics that alter the gameplay through new graphic filters, difficulty modifiers, or just different character skins.

The story takes place after the events of the original 2017 game, Yooka-Laylee. The chameleon and bat journey to Queen Pheobee’s kingdom to free the captured Beettalion, while gearing up to take on Capital B’s ultimate challenge, the Impossible Lair.

The original game was designed as a throwback 3D platformer and spiritual successor to the Banjo-Kazooie series. It was met with mixed reviews. The 2019 sequel changed direction, creating a 2D platformer in the vein of the Donkey Kong Country series, and was much better received.

Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PC (Steam), and Xbox One. It’s rated E for Everyone.

The 16 Most Exciting Indie Games from PAX South 2020

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PAX South is often the first major gaming convention of the year, awkwardly injected right after the busy holiday season. This year was even more awkward, with the much bigger PAX East 2020 pushed up into late February, resulting in many bigger publishers skipping Texas in favor of Boston.

PAX South is known for a high ratio of indie and tabletop games. Between PAX Rising (tiny indie companies), PAX Together (highlighting LGBTQ creators), and the new Latinx Lounge (highlighting Latinx creators and panels), we checked out many excellent indie games to look for in 2020.

 

Dungeon Defenders: Awakened

Developer: Chromatic Games
Platforms: PC (Steam), PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One
Release: Q1 2020

I was a big fan of co-op tower defense action-RPG Dungeon Defenders a decade ago. I’m pleased to report that Dungeon Defenders: Awakened is a satisfying modern sequel. Waves of enemies march down lanes toward my crystal core while I build and repair towers, and defend with weapons and abilities. New changes include freely swapping between the four heroes to access their wide variety of towers, traps, and auras, as well as finding multiple types of weapons for each character.  Four player co-op multiplayer also returns, including local, online, and up to four player splitscreen.

Everspace 2

Developer: Rockfish Games
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release: 2021 (Early Access September 2020)

Everspace 2 is a hyperspeed leap forward for the space sim series, replacing the roguelike structure of the first game with a bigger open-world (open-universe?) RPG. Rockfish Games knows how to make a spaceship sim look and play great. Within seconds of starting the PAX demo I was swinging around asteroids, pew pewing my lasers, and dog-fighting with marauders. After a successful Kickstarter campaign last year, Rockfish is settling in for a lengthy but transparent development cycle, with Early Access hitting later this Fall.

Foregone

Developer: Big Blue Bubble
Platforms: “PC and Consoles”
Release: Early Access Feb. 27 (Epic Games Store)

Foregone’s delicious combination of metroidvania with action-RPG made it one of my personal favorite games of PAX South 2020. The 2D combat was fast and fluid as I instantly switched between melee and ranged attacks. Enemies explode into health globes and energy I can use to fuel multiple abilities, like shields and slide-attacks. Foregone sets itself apart from many similar-looking games in the 2D action genre by adding Diablo-style randomized loot. In my brief PAX demo I found rare bows and swords that gave multiple stat bonuses. The demo ended right after teasing a big boss fight. I desperately need to play more of this game.

From Rust

Developer: Razbury Games
Platforms: PC (Steam)
Release: TBA

Digital card games are all the rage, but From Rust is trying to do something different. It’s a cooperative dungeon-crawling card game with a punky Mad Max-like theme. There’s a lot of depth under the deck, including crafting, leveling, boss battles, party management, and a full campaign story with fun comic characters. From Rust is currently in limited Alpha Testing, and you can hop onto the Razbury Games Discord server to request a Steam key.

Garden Story

Developer: Picogram
Platforms: PC, Mac
Release: Spring 2020

A mixture of Stardew Valley’s wholesome farm town with Zelda-like dungeon-delving is a recipe for indie success. Garden Story stars Concord, an adorable plum with the will to help their community of Autumn Town. The art, music, and dialogue gave me all the warm feelings from Stardew Valley. My demo only scratched the surface of this lovely throwback to 16-bit RPGs, and I could definitely see myself falling in love with Garden Story later this year.

Ghost Runner

Developer: One More Level
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release: 2020

Ghost Runner is a cyberpunk first-person slasher. Taking place entirely within a futuristic mega-tower, I play as a cybernetically enhanced ghost runner, running, swinging, and slashing my way through the dystopian tower. The ghost runner is fast but very mortal; a single shot from a guard ends my life. Thankfully the game includes generous checkpoints and instant reloading, making each combat situation a hyper fast-paced puzzle of enjoyable trial and error as I slide, dodge, wall-run, and slow time to swiftly dispatch my enemies.

Greak: Memories of Azur

Developer: Navegante
Platforms: TBA
Release: Early 2020

Tucked away in the PAX South Latinx Lounge was a gorgeous 2D action-platformer starring three siblings who are trying to escape their homeland after an invasion. In the demo for Greak: Memories of Azur, the smallest brother, Greak, a nimble swordfighter, finds his spell-slinging sister Adara. I could seamlessly swap between both siblings to step on pressure plates, activate levers, and use their different skills to defeat enemies. I’ve longed for a modern spiritual sequel to The Lost Vikings series, and Greak looks ready to deliver.

Iron Danger

Developer: Action Squad Studios
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
Release: 2020

There’s no shame in quick-saving before a major combat encounter in an RPG (okay, maybe a little shame). In Iron Danger there’s no need. Early on the main character acquires a time-traveling device, allowing her and a partner to travel several crucial seconds back in time. Time-travel manifests in-game as video editing that I can quickly scrub through, watching the action play out – and reverse, in slow-motion. By playing with time I can dodge attacks, set up traps, and bait enemies. It’s an intriguing mechanic on top of a cool fantasy world of spells and mechs, built from Finnish folklore.

Konsui Fighter

Developer: Circean Studios
Platforms: Mobile (Android, iOS)
Release: 2020 (Early Access  currently available on Android)

A fighting game on your phone? My skepticism was quickly replaced by admiration when I got my hands on Konsui Fighter. “Konsui” translates to coma, and the mind of Professor Tsuburaya has become a battlefield between different aspects of his personality, including sorrow, rage, and pleasure. Controls are easily handled with on-screen buttons and finger-swipes, keeping each character’s move-list simple but robust. The hand-drawn artwork, beautiful animations, and original soundtrack create an impressive game in a tiny package. Konsui Fighter is currently available in Early Access on Android, and launching later this year on iOS.

Kunai

Developer: Turtleblaze
Platforms: PC (Steam), Switch
Release: Early 2020

A kunai is a diamond-shaped throwing knife often found in RPGs. Kunai is also a 2D metroidvania starring a cloak-wearing robot with a tablet for a face. Early in Tabby’s adventures in the robot-controlled wasteland, I acquire a pair of kunai attached to ropes. By using the left and right bumpers I can fire the kunai at smart-targeted angles to my left and right. I had a blast grappling onto walls and swinging from ceilings to slash at enemies, all to the delightful facial animations of Tabby. With tight controls and a retro aesthetic, Kunai could prove to be this year’s Shovel Knight.

Kung Fu Kickball

Developer: WhaleFood Games
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One
Release: Early 2020

Kung Fu Kickball looks like an old-school fighting game or beat ’em up, with one very important distinction: it’s a sporting match! One on one or 2v2 teams face off on a large 2D battlefield with a ball in the middle. I only need three buttons for victory: jump, punch, and dash. The action is immediately frantic and hilarious as players are encouraged to knock each other around while trying to slam the ball into their opponents’ bell. Different stages change up the action by putting up walls, ramps, platforms, and environmental hazards like a sandstorm, and players can choose between three different classes.

The Last Friend

Developer: Stonebot Games
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One
Release: 2020

Let’s set aside the fact that The Last Friend is an excellent mashup of side-scrolling tower defense and beat ’em up and focus on what really matters: the doggos. In the post-apocalyptic wastes, one man sets out with his beloved chihuahua to rescue dogs in their RV. That’s a great premise for a TV show, but for now we’ll settle for a charming tower defense game. Place turrets and walls between the rampaging enemies and your van of good bois. But even the best-placed defenses won’t get it done alone, and I need to run down the lanes to take tackle molotov-throwing marauders myself. You already had me with rescuing and defending dogs, but it helps that The Last Friend is a great game, too.

Neko Ghost, Jump!

Developer: Burgos Games
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release: TBA

Rotating between 2D and 3D platforming levels isn’t an entirely new concept; older games like Super Paper Mario used it to great effect. Yet it’s rare enough to still feel novel and interesting, as with Neko Ghost, Jump. Even the earliest level designs in my demo required constant flipping between both views to access new blocks and passages. To defeat enemies, the titular cat summons its ghost form, which is armed with a sword. However, Neko still leaves behind a body that must be protected, creating a challenging and puzzle-y landscape to work through.

Partisans 1941

Developer: Alter Games
Platforms: PC
Release: TBA

Daedalic Entertainment is publishing this fine-looking stealth-tactics game from Moscow-based developer Alter Games. It tells a fictionalized story based on the historical events of the Soviets versus the Nazis in World War 2. Partisans 1941 isn’t a shooter but a tactics game, where stealth, patience, awareness, and synergy between your squad will ensure survival. In the demo I crept up to a Nazi encampment with my trio of soldiers, carefully putting two of them in cover while a third quietly knifed a guard and dragged the body into a basement. When a thrown knife didn’t quite make the kill on my next target, I ran back to my comrades, who opened up in a hail of gunfire. Partisans definitely hits all the right notes for a satisfying tactical experience.

Streets of Rage 4

Developer: Lizardcube, Guard Crush Games
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One
Release: 2020

Streets of Rage is often considered one of the best classic co-op beat ’em ups from the early 90s, and certainly one of my childhood favorites. I didn’t expect much from Streets of Rage 4 but within seconds of playing, I was thrown right back into the past in all the right ways. Axel, Blaze, and Adam return (along with new character Cherry) to the cartoony mean streets to dispense violent justice with flaming punches, guitar slams, and a variety of weapon power-ups. With a killer soundtrack, beautiful animations, and immediately satisfying gameplay, Streets of Rage 4 is the perfect example of a long-awaited sequel done right.

Wildermyth

Developer: Worldwalker Games
Platforms: PC
Release: 2020 (Available now via Steam Early Access)

Of all the games on this list, Wildermyth may be the hardest to define, and I mean that as a compliment. A randomly generated group of heroes rises up to defend their fantasy world, with grid-based, XCOM-like tactical combat and a striking papercraft art style. Story-beats play out in comic panels, where players make choices that affect their heroes’ stats, abilities, and loot. My ranger was drawn into an ominous flame, where I chose to let him be absorbed. Instead of perishing, he gained a special new fiery attack. Wildermyth is designed to be multi-generational, managing my squad through hero deaths and retirements as I build my legacy – or call on them in future playthroughs. All of these systems working together made Wildermyth one of the more intriguing indie games at the expo hall.