Hello! Welcome to the latest Geeky Brummie Gaming Roundup!
This week, Gamescom brings the hype, while more of gaming’s seedy underbelly is exposed.
This week sees the return of Gamescom to Cologne in Germany, bringing with it Geoff Keighley’s Opening Night presentation, which was full of announcements.
While it wasn’t the big blockbuster blowout people were expecting, some notable announcements showed up. For instance, both Sony and Microsoft announced release dates for their next big-ticket titles. Halo Infinite is arriving in December for Xbox while Horizon Forbidden West is now confirmed to be pushed back to February next year.
Other big news included the reveal of the Saints Row game, which is a series reboot. Reigning the series in after 4 took it completely off the rails, Volition aim to bring back the feel of the third game and keep it all a little more grounded. And then there was the reveal Marvel Midnight Suns, a superhero tactics RPG from Civilization and XCOM developer Firaxis. I’m sure the comics fans (hi Keith) know the significance of that title, but I definitely do not.
Elsewhere, an open-world Pokémon-inspired thing was announced from Black Desert Online developers Pearl Abyss. Confusingly not an MMO despite a bunch of promo material saying as much, it clearly takes its cues from Pokémon and, weirdly, Splatoon.
Original Tomb Raider creator Toby Gard has a new title in the works too, entitled Dream Cycle. In a departure for him, it’s an action adventure set in and around mystical ancient sites starring a strong and capable female protagonist. Jokes aside, where this differs from Tomb Raider is in its use of stealth and spells, as the game is going for more swords and sorcery crossed with Lovecraft in its vibe. However, talk of a procedurally generated world and it being possibly a live service have me concerned.
Throwback brawler TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge was confirmed to be releasing next Spring, with April O’Neil as a playable character alongside the Ninja Turtles themselves. Speaking of character confirmations, Sega continue to trap all their IPs in gacha containers as Morgana from Persona 5 will in Super Monkey Ball Banana Mania. He joins the likes of Sonic, the Jet Set Radio cast and Kazuma Kiryu from the Yakuza series in one of the most bizarre crossover events I’ve ever seen.
A bunch of other games got confirmed release dates, including goth battle royale Vampire: Bloodhunt (out in September), mysterious space adventure Jett: The Far Shore (October) and Oldboy corridor fight simulator Sifu (February).
A fairly muted show all round, but still plenty to enjoy.
Activision Lawsuit Ramps Up
The lawsuit against Activision Blizzard continues to escalate. The state of California has amended the lawsuit to add further allegations on top of the sexual abuse, harassment and discrimination.
The new allegations refer to the investigation itself, and Activision’s response to it. This includes forcing employees to sign NDAs that prevent them from talking to agencies such as the DFEH, and allegedly shredding documents that could have been used as evidence in the case.
The DFEH have also amended mention of “employees” to “workers”. It might seem like a minor change, but in reality this closes a major loophole. It brings contractors into the lawsuit too, providing these workers with greater protection, rather than leaving them out of the benefits afforded to full-time employees.
Activision have denied the allegations of shredding evidence (of course they have), but it seems unlikely the DFEH would have included this if they didn’t believe they had a case.
This story remains ongoing.
High Retro Game Prices Allegedly Manipulated
Excited reports of record prices for retro video games have been all over the press lately, including a $1.56 million copy of Super Mario 64 and a $2m copy of Super Mario Bros. It’s led to a fervour of activity in the retro gaming market lately, with prices increasing in response. And much more stock is entering the market as people dig through their attics in hopes of finding a treasure trove.
But I’ve always had issues with these stories. As someone on the periphery of the retro market, since I will occasionally pick up older titles from conventions, these prices always seemed massively over-inflated. The mainline Mario titles are incredibly common titles, and therefore tend to not sell for huge prices on the retro market, but these multi-million price tags go out of their way to suggest they’re more valuable than they really are.
Turns out these prices are massively overinflated. YouTuber Karl Jobst did an investigation into these prices and found a web of connections between auction house Heritage Auctions, video game grading company Wata Games and investors with involvement in the coin collection bubble of the 1980s. There’s a lot and it’s worth giving the video a watch for the full story. There is also further information here.
In short though, higher ups at Heritage and Wata, along with a few other actors, all appear to be buying these games from each other at inflated prices, specifically to create a buzz around just how much video games are these days. The goal, of course, is to sucker in buyers willing to pay them millions for a game that’s easy to get at any retro market for less than £30. Meanwhile, real collectors are looking on confused as the prices reach unnatural highs every other week.
Bear all this in mind next time you see a breathless article talking about a record price of a Zelda cartridge, because it’s almost certainly tied to the collusion and manipulation alleged in this report. And buy your games from trusted retro markets instead.
In new releases this week, Sumo Digital’s new publishing arm Secret Mode are bringing back an Amiga classic. Zool Redimensioned (PC) is a remake of the 90s platformer, but here’s the thing – it was made entirely by trainees as part of Sumo’s internal programme to bring in new entrants to the industry. Which is pretty neat.
In small releases, Hoa (PC, PlayStation, Switch, Xbox) is a cute little puzzle platformer with strong Ghibli vibes where you play as a little gnome creature. Behind the Frame (PC) is a visual novel with painting elements about an artist finishing up a galley submission. Baldo: The Guardian Owls (Switch) is a Zelda style adventure set in a gorgeous cartoony world. And finally, for a change of pace, Tormented Souls (PC, PlayStation, Switch, Xbox) is a throwback survival horror about a woman investigating a spooky mansion trying to find some missing twins.
Aliens Fireteam Elite (PC, PlayStation, Xbox) is a new Aliens game that can be summed up as Left 4 Dead with xenomorphs. Set after the events of the first three movies, you play as marines responding to a distress call, and you have to team up with friends to take down the alien menace.
King’s Bounty II (PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One) is the very long-awaited direct sequel to 1990’s King’s Bounty, which saw you playing as knights tracking down targets for the king. The sequel brings the game into the modern age with a bigger world and tougher decisions.
No More Heroes 3 (Switch) is the sequel to Goichi Suda’s bonkers action title about a nerd rising through the global assassination ranks. Only this time, protagonist Travis Touchdown must face off against an alien invasion by taking down the galactic overlord’s lieutenants. It looks ridiculous, as expected.
Game of the Week
Game of the Week this week is arguably my most-anticipated game of the year, Psychonauts 2 (PC, PS4, Xbox).
Double Fine’s 3D platformer about psychic agents who enter the increasingly bizarre mindscapes of those around them finally gets a sequel, 16 years on. And it is excellent, at least from what I’ve played so far.
Retaining the great writing and humour of its predecessor, the sequel has also added a bunch of gameplay refinements that make it feel smoother overall. Which is exactly the game I was hoping for, and now I’m excited to play the rest of it. Just encountered Jack Black’s character, so that’s fun. I’ll likely write up a full review once I’ve played through the game.
And that’s it for this week! I’ll see you again very soon!