The Month in Games: January 2013

by: Alex N. (@alexnz)

We’re only one month into the new year and I’m still buried in games I have yet to play. Unfortunately for me, the game makers don’t stop churning out the good stuff, but at least I can forward these good releases your way. I’m going to be putting together a list every month, highlighting the best and most notable games of the past 4 weeks (and if needed, warn you guys of anything to stay away from.)

Don’t be shy either, let us know in the comments what you’re playing or excited for.

Kentucky Route Zero

Kentucky Route ZeroWe start off 2013 with one of the earlier Kickstarter successes. Funded almost 2 years ago, we finally get the first episode of this BEAUTIFUL point-and-click adventure. The game sports an almost art deco style evoking the simple graphic presentation of Another World. If the graphics alone don’t do it for you, the developers are smartly focusing on the story presentation of the game, instead of the sometimes obtuse puzzles that the genre is infamous for. The story seems to lean towards the weird and mysterious. They describe it as a “magical realist” adventure, which seems apt; it takes place in the mundane setting of Kentucky (sorry, Kentucky) but you then have these strange, inexplicable events happening that I guess would best be described as magic.

It’s also one of the finalists for this year’s IGF awards , so it’s definitely one to keep an eye on. There’s currently no set schedule for the release of the remaining episodes other than “over the next year or so” on their site (which is frankly the coolest damn site I’ve seen.) You can get all acts for $25, which includes the soundtrack, or you can buy the acts individually for $7 a pop.

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux

DmC Devil May Cry

DmC Devil May CryI’ve personally been waiting for this one. I never really got into the Devil May Cry franchise outside of the first game, but was excited to hear Ninja Theory (Heavenly Sword, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West) taking over this reboot. There was a lot of fan outcry when screens first came out, but the reviews are positive and I enjoyed the small taste from the demo. Although this game is easier than past Devil May Cry games, there are multiple unlockable difficulties that will up the challenge bar if you need it.
Ninja Theory’s strength has always been in the performance capture of the actors in their games. That doesn’t change here, but the story in DmC isn’t as self-serious as their previous games. In fact, it’s pretty ridiculous in a way I can get behind. Just in the demo, Dante responds to a huge, towering boss character that is roaring at him by screaming “Fuck you!” right back at it!

Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC

Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

Ni No KuniAny JRPG fans out there should be excited for this one. The latest from Level 5 (Professor Layton, Dark Cloud) is a collaboration with animation house Studio Ghibli (My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away.) Yes, that Studio Ghibli. You can tell just by looking at this game that the house Miyazaki built definitely had a hand in crafting this game. Beyond the visuals, this game is a fairly deep RPG with combat that has some real-time elements to it, as opposed to the typically turn-based nature of the genre. You’re still selecting commands from a menu, but you can move your character around in real-time as enemies are attacking. There are AI companions as well that will assist you in combat, but most of the fighting is done with familiars that you bring into battle with you. These familiars are essentially Pokémon-like creatures that do most of the fighting for you. Being that you’re a young boy (who turns out to be a wizard), it doesn’t hurt to bring some muscle with you. You can feed your familiars different food items to buff their stats and they can eventually evolve into more powerful forms.

Aside from those two aspects, this seems a lot like your typical JRPG. There is the journey that takes you from town to town, there’s a huge world map to explore with lots of baddies to fight, and a lengthy story that can easily take 40 hours to see all the way through.

Platforms: PlayStation 3

The Cave

The CaveThe latest from Double Fine (Brütal Legend, Psychonauts) brings classic LucasArts game designer, Ron Gilbert (Maniac Mansion, The Secret of Monkey Island), back to the genre he helped put on the map. Here we have an adventure game where right in the beginning, you pick three out of seven playable characters. Each character has their own special ability that can prove useful while navigating and solving the puzzles of the titular cave. Normally you would switch between the three characters when needed, but you can also play couch co-op with up to two friends and have them control the other characters. Unfortunately, it seems there is no online play supported.

I love to see new games coming from Double Fine. Over the past couple of years they’ve shifted their focus to smaller, downloadable titles which seems to suit them perfectly. I’ve still yet to get tired of their trademark humor and whimsical nature of their games (did I mention that the cave talks!?)

Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii U, PC, Mac, Linux

Skulls of the Shogun

Skulls of the ShogunI almost thought this day would never come, but it’s finally out. This is the first release for indie developer, 17-BIT, and it’s been at least 3 years in the making. Skulls is a turn-based strategy game, much like Advance Wars or XCOM. The difference here is that the guys at 17-BIT wanted to make a faster paced and easier to pick up game. Instead of the typical grid layout, you can move your units exactly where you want within their movement radius. Where most strategy games utilize a rock, scissors, paper approach to determine what unit is stronger than another, Skulls strays from conformity and offers more well rounded units that don’t necessarily overpower one another. This emphasizes how the units are used and can give more flexibility in certain situations.

They also took a lot of care into the multiplayer. There are tons of options to customize individual matches. This is also one of very few games that offers cross-play across all it’s different platforms. This let’s Xbox players match up with players on Windows 8 computers/tablets and even with Windows Phone. Granted, all these platforms are owned by Microsoft, but it’s still very novel.

Platforms: Xbox 360, Windows 8/RT, Windows Phone 8/7.5

Antichamber

AntichamberThe last notable release for January turns out to be a mind-bending indie game. I don’t know much about this game other than it’s a first-person puzzle game that’s determined to break your brain. Antichamber takes what Portal did in teaching you to think with portals, and expand the lesson to all aspects of spatial reasoning. Just watching the trailer made me very confused.

Platforms: PC

And in case you were wondering, here’s a peek of what to expect in February:

Dead Space 3
Fire Emblem: Awakening
Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time
Aliens: Colonial Marines
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
Crysis 3

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