Gaming Roundup – Gotta Redesign Fast

Hello! Welcome to yet another Geeky Brummie Gaming Roundup!

Today, Sonic, Stadia, surprises and studios, plus all the latest releases!

SONIC MOVIE REDESIGN

Remember the Sonic design that caused nightmares a few months ago? If not, then you’re fortunate as it’s been the exact form of my night terrors since the trailer’s release. Paramount delayed the film with the intention of fixing the Sonic, and the good news is, the Sonic has been fixed.

A new Sonic the Hedgehog trailer got released this week and the Sonic they went with this time looks much more like the games. They even gave him a white patch of fur between his eyes to reference the ludicrous Sonic Monoeye. The trailer as a whole shows a movie that looks…okay. If you’re about five years old. There are some nods to Sonic history, like the town of Green Hill and Sonic doing a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it edge balancing animation, but ultimately, this is a generic kids movie knocked out by studio execs. The story still sounds awful, and Jim Carrey’s Robotnik is awfully similar to literally every Jim Carrey performance from 1994.

Still, the design is nice, and it seems that there’s a reason for that. Tyson Hesse was involved in designing this new Sonic. If you’re not up on your Sonic knowledge (which is understandable, no one needs to know who Big the Cat is), Tyson Hesse is an artist who worked on the Archie Comics run of Sonic comics, and also led the animation for Sonic Mania’s intro and Sega’s recent promotional cartoons for Team Sonic Racing. His work is excellent, and it kind of shows the value of getting people who care about the property on board. Probably should have done the same with the script too, but I guess you can’t have everything.

But it wasn’t the only video game movie news this week. The Uncharted movie that seems destined to never leave development hell made a decision that’s likely to keep it there a little longer. Mark Wahlberg is back! He was terribly miscast as Drake years ago, and now he’s been terribly miscast again as Sully, despite J.K. Simmons being right there. Stop trying to make Marky Mark happen, guys. If you’re insistent on it, cast him as a villain or shut the whole thing down. In fact, just do the latter.

GOOGLE STADIA HAS A LAUNCH LINEUP

Good news! Google Stadia has a launch lineup! Bad news! It’s about as good as every other Stadia announcement so far!

With the exception of Gylt, from Rime developers Tequila Works, Stadia is shaping up to be a place where you can buy all the games you’ve already played and play them again, only now with greater latency and the fear that you could lose your progress if the Internet cuts out. What a deal!

The launch lineup consists of the trilogy of recent Tomb Raider titles, Mortal Kombat 11, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Destiny 2, Samurai Shodown (2019) and Red Dead Redemption 2 (which, of course, just launched elsewhere on PC). They also have Just Dance 2020, because rhythm games are a great idea on a system that’s likely to be riddled by lag.

But that’s not all! The service, set to launch next week, will be missing a bunch of promised features. Family sharing and achievements will be absent on launch but will be added “soon after launch”. Stadia’s team have stated that updates will be handled like other Google services like YouTube, so I look forward to Stadia arbitrarily changing its layout every few months, hiding your library from you until you click a sodding bell, and threatening to close your account if you don’t buy enough because you’re “not commercially viable” anymore.

Look, I know I like to snark on Stadia every couple of weeks on here, but it’s things like this that make it so easy. I still have no idea who this is for, and it feels like Google don’t even know either.

XBOX, SURPRISE ME

Xbox players in the Insider testing programme have discovered an interesting new feature on its way to the Xbox dashboard – a random button.

If you have a large library of games, and with Game Pass that’s probably quite easy, knowing what to play next can be a daunting prospect. I have an elaborate system involving dice rolls and extensive lists, but a shuffle button seems like a more elegant way to solve the problem. Hit the button and the system will suggest a game for you to play, and you can decide to accept the suggestion. It’s a pretty cool idea and I wouldn’t mind seeing it come to systems I actually own.

Of course, there’s the very real chance that this shuffle button will be used in the same manner as shuffle on Spotify – you click it several times in a row and dismiss everything that comes up until you just end up playing the same thing you always play.

HUMAN HEAD CLOSES

Developers of the original Prey, Human Head Studios, have closed down. It’s a surprise decision, not least because their most recent game, Rune 2, also launched this week on the Epic Games Store, with a future Steam release planned. It’s news to the publisher, Ragnarok, as well, who found out when everyone else did. The publisher has promised support for Rune 2 going forward, but naturally it may take a while to get it moving.

However, it’s not all bad news for Human Head, as no one has lost their job. Instead, every single developer was offered a role at Roundhouse Studios, a new studio set up at Bethesda. It’s not known what Bethesda intend to have Roundhouse produce, but more Prey wouldn’t be a bad guess.

NEW RELEASES

Let’s start with some smaller releases this week. Sparklite (PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch) is a Zelda-like adventure with a rural Steampunk aesthetic. Some Distant Memory (PC, Switch) is an adventure game set in an apocalyptic world as you gather memories of the past. And The Legend of Bum-bo (PC) is a deck-building rougelike prequel to The Binding of Isaac.

Usually I don’t pay much attention to VR games, but this week has two interesting titles. Doctor Who: The Edge of Time sees you searching for the Doctor (in her current incarnation played by Jodie Whittaker) across time and space and facing off against Daleks and Weeping Angels. Meanwhile, Last Labyrinth is an escape room game where you guide a small girl to solve puzzles, and it’s got a lot of Sony talent behind it, with staff from Ico, Gran Turismo and Japan-only mascot series Doko Demo Issyo all coming together for the project. Both these games are available on PC and PS4 for compatible VR devices.

One of the big games this week is, of course, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, featuring the face of Gotham’s Cameron Monaghan as Cal Kestis, one of the last surviving Jedi following the events of Episode III. It’s a bit Uncharted, it’s a bit Metroid Prime, but mostly it’s a single player Star Wars game which hopefully makes up for the mistakes of Battlefront 2. We’ll see how EA handles this one.

GAME OF THE WEEK

Game of the Week this week is Pokémon Sword and Shield. This may be a controversial choice, as people are irrationally mad about this Pokémon game, but it still seems to be good, albeit with a few flaws resulting from tight deadlines and limited staff. Set in the UK-inspired region of Galar, it features new Pokémon like Polteageist, Corviknight and Scorbunny, new variants of Weezing, Linoone and Ponyta, and a Gigantamax mechanic that sees Pokémon get very large variants, including Longcat Meowth.

While it may be missing a bunch of Pokémon and the reasons are being endlessly debated online, Sword/Shield is still shaping up to be a nice Pokémon journey which hopefully has more Cockney accents than usual.

And that’s all! I’ll see you again next week with more news and releases from the world of gaming!