Last week saw two big events for Xbox, the Summer Game Fest and the Xbox Games Showcase. We’ll start with the Summer Game Fest. It’s the first time it’s been held, in partnership with Geoff Keighley and several indie game devs. It’s meant to be a replacement for in person demos at gaming conventions during the pandemic.

In the end there were about 70 demos of upcoming games available to download and play during the week and I played every single one! I’m going to talk briefly about my favorites so hopefully those interested will research the game more and consider purchasing when released. These will be presented in alphabetical order for ease. 

First up is Cris Tales, a turn based RPG where you see the world in three states at a time: in the past, present, and future. You use your ability to travel between these states to solve puzzles and create interesting combos in combat. You are also presented with mutually exclusive choices to shape the world as you play.

Darkestville Castle is a humorous point and click adventure game where you play the villain. It’s a great twist on an old genre that has lost popularity recently. You start by choosing what evil plan you will enact that night, only to be locked in your castle by a local wannabe hero. After solving how to leave your home, demon hunters kidnap your pet fish and you set out to save it!

Ephemeral Tale is a turn based RPG with an interesting XP mechanic. You gain power by defeating enemies and you choose how to spend it. It can be used to recruit new allies, open new areas, or converted into skill points. The choice always feels meaningful as you progress.

Freshly Frosted is a donut automation puzzle game. You build conveyer belts to properly frost, sprinkle, and top donuts and deliver the specified number. It reminds me of the old Incredible Machine games, so this could be another genre revival!

Haven is an action RPG about a couple stranded on an alien planet. Although it can be play solo, it seems perfect for coop. You collect food to make new recipes, cleanse the area of bad rust, and find a way to repair your ship.

Helheim Hassle has you play a viking that doesn’t want to go to Valhalla. Many years after your death, you are resurrected by a skeleton needing to get into Helheim. With your help of detachable limbs, you solve puzzles to break in with the hopes of staying forever. It’s humorous and has many unexpected twists on your journey.

Phogs is a puzzle game where you play as a two headed dog looking for dog treats. The levels are fantastical locations spanning from a dreams ape to an arcade. It can be played solo but I think it would be most fun in coop.

Road to Guangdong is an interesting survival RPG. You play a young girl that inherits her family’s restaurant and car. The RPG aspect has you collecting secret recipes from your extented family while the survival aspect is trying to keep your old car running. It is an engaging mix that works well together.

Space Otter Charlie is pretty much what you would expect. You play an otter astronaut exploring the galaxy. It would be a fine game without otters, but why not? You even get the added benefit of otter facts during load screens! I think it will be a fun little metroidvania.

Tesla Force is an top down shooter rogue like where you play as Tesla, Marie Curie, Mary Shelley, etc in a quest to stop an invasion from Cthulhu. It’s also 4 player coop! You can pilot mechs as well!

The Vale is the most innovative of the demos. You play a blind princess lost on the border of her kingdom. When I say you play a blind character, I mean it. The screen is blank, the whole game is audio only. That may sound boring or counterintuitive, but it really is an exciting game to play.

On to the Xbox Games Showcase. I know not everyone is a fan of the show or even Xbox in general but something should be said about what it accomplished in general. Nine of their 15 first party studios, 15 indie devs, and 22 third party studios showed off a game during a pandemic, while working from home.

Although Halo Infinite was the only one with game play, it’s a minor miracle that even happened! The biggest takeaway for me was that every game shown would launch into game pass! You can play all those games and much more for a small monthly fee! That’s insane that a games company would do that! I was also impressed by the breadth of games shown. They lead with a shooter but also showed racing, RPG, platformer, action, and adventure genres. Although Xbox may have once been known as the shooter console, they are offering a lot of different experiences with the next console. 

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