Thursday, August 22, 2013

2013: The Return of the Year of the Platformer?

We don't follow the Chinese New Year at all, so we're not certain of what year it is for that country. Year of the Snake? Year of the Dragon? Year of the Dolphin? Who knows. What we do know is that for the gaming industry, we're seeing a large number of platforming titles, both 2D and 3D, that make us extremely happy. Platformers are what we grew up on as 8-bit and then 16-bit era kids. It's our fondest genre to play. Perhaps we could call 2013 the Year of the Platformer instead of whatever animal China has. Here are nine of the biggest retail platformers that are coming out from now until the end of the year!

Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)


We are of the mind that Super Mario 3D World is the type of game that players won't know they wanted until they get to experience the final version. No doubt many have already made up their minds about the game because it's not Super Mario Galaxy 3, or a reasonable substitute. Instead, the game is akin to one of the greatest Nintendo 3DS games, Super Mario 3D Land. That excites us already, as that game was a perfect mix of 2D and 3D Mario gameplay. The addition of true multiplayer, a first for the 3D line of Mario games, is something we know will make us play through Super Mario 3D World a plethora of times. Knowing that each of the four playable characters control differently is exciting as well. We were hesitant at first to hype Super Mario 3D World, but then we remembered that one of the greatest and most heralded studios in Nintendo EAD is working on the game. Based on their output, we can feel at ease in giving them the benefit of the doubt.

New Super Luigi U (Wii U)


Speaking of years, it's the Year of Luigi, as well. This game has already been available via downloadable content to New Super Mario Bros. U. However, a separate (and $10 more expensive) retail release is coming to North America this Sunday. New Super Luigi U consists of drastically shorter and much more challenging levels than what players experienced in New Super Mario Bros. U. Even the first world consists of difficulty that wasn't present in Mario's adventure until much later in the game. The ability to play as the untouchable Nabbit will allow even beginning players to enjoy Luigi's platforming journey. We wanted more challenge from New Super Mario Bros. U, and now with New Super Luigi U, we've got it!

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Wii U)


When Retro Studios was asked which project they wanted to do next, they jumped on the chance to create a new entry in the Donkey Kong Country series. After seeing how well Donkey Kong Country Returns turned out, we're feverishly anticipating Tropical Freeze, set to release some time in November. Levels are much more dynamic this time around, with barrels that blast players around giant trees with a camera that follows. Dixie Kong has returned from her long hiatus from the series, and speaking of hiatuses, Dave Wise, the original composer of the SNES trilogy is on board to create the music for this Wii U exclusive. Did we mention that swimming has returned as well? Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is shaping up to eclipse Retro's initial DKC offering, and that will be one amazing achievement.

Sonic Lost World (Wii U, 3DS)


People often bring up the "Sonic Cycle" for new Sonic the Hedgehog games, but if Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations are anything to go by, that so-called cycle has been broken for a while now. Sonic Lost World hopes to continue that streak, and thus far the circular worlds of the game and parkour-like platforming make us cautiously optimistic. Controlling Sonic is much easier, utilizing the shoulder buttons to set Sonic's speed. This is contrary to past games, where you didn't have as much control over how fast Sonic ran. Without a shoulder button held, Sonic simply saunters. It's only when a shoulder button is pressed down does he speed through levels. Sonic Lost World came as a surprise, and we hope that it succeeds in giving Nintendo another excellent platformer and game on their system.

Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus (PS3)


The past two Ratchet & Clank games were respectable in the regard that they tried something new with the series. That said, they were lesser experiences compared to past installments. All 4 One tried four player co-op both online and off, and Full Frontal Assault attempted an action-based tower defense game. Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus is a budget title ($29.99 MSRP) that returns the lovable lombax and robot pair to the origins of the series: action platforming with a focus on leveling up weapons through repeated use and using gadgets to explore the colorful worlds of the game. Ratchet & Clank is one of our favorite PlayStation franchises, and we cannot express how happy we are to see the series return to what made it so popular in the first place.

Puppeteer (PS3)


Sony's Japan Studio has not been very pronounced this past generation. They seem to be coming back with a vengeance, however, with the upcoming early September release, Puppeteer. The game is a 2D side-scroller which has players controlling Kutaro, a boy who has been transformed into a puppet and has had his head stolen. Using a magical pair of scissors, Kutaro goes on a platforming journey to retrieve his pilfered head and return to his own world. Sony has no doubt impressed us with the amazing amount of new franchises they have created in the PlayStation 3 era. Not only are they new franchises, but they're new experiences. So many times new IPs are made that simply feel like games we've already played. Puppeteer is thankfully not one of those, and that's why we're so hyped for it, regardless of how well (or bad) it will do commercially.

Rayman Legends (Wii U, PS3, 360, PC, Vita)


Let's get this out of the way. We've tried the PlayStation 3 demo of Rayman Legends, and the Murray parts just don't work as well as the Wii U version. That shouldn't be any surprise, as the Wii U was the system Rayman Legends was built for. Nonetheless, we're bound to have a good time regardless of the platform we get the game on. Ubisoft's delay of Rayman Legends has given the game a multitude of new levels, boss battles, and even Rayman Origins levels made using Legends's sophisticated graphics engine. We cannot wait to finally be able to insert the Rayman Legends disc into our hungry Wii Us. Multiplayer is going to be an absolute blast, if Rayman Origins is anything to go by. We'll most likely be the first ones at our local game store to pick up Legends when it releases early next month. Lucky European gamers can grab the game next week.

Skylanders: Swap Force (PS4, XONE, Wii U, PS3, 360, Wii, 3DS)


Disney Infinity released this past week and has given this next game series some stiff competition. The third game in the Skylanders series is set to release in North America first (unlike past games that Australia received first) this November. It's called Skylanders: Swap Force, and the swapping in the title refers to how each figure has a top half and a bottom half. These can be swapped with other figures to create entirely different creatures. While past console installments have been brawlers with some exploration, Swap Force allows each character to jump, expanding the level design possibilities greatly. Seeing as Skylanders: Swap Force is releasing on practically every platform under the sun, it will be hard to miss when it releases in a few months.

Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures (Wii U, PS3, 360, 3DS)


Okay, we might be stretching it with this one, as Pac-Man as of late hasn't had the greatest success game-wise. Furthermore, a game based off a television show isn't the most promising proposition either. Regardless, we're listing Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures here anyway. If Namco Bandai can fix some of the issues of the Pac-Man World games, such as the camera, for one, Ghostly Adventures will be a much better game for it. While the console versions are 3D platformers, the 3DS version has us most interested, as it is entirely 2 1/2-D. We'll see if our skepticism of Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures is justified when the game releases towards the end of November.

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