Marshall Lemon's picks
I Expect You To Die
Virtual reality headsets may be relatively new, but they're already allowing for fantastically imaginative games. I Expect You To Die is a great example – a first-person puzzle game based on classic 1960s spy stories. You play as a secret agent working impossible missions, constantly surrounded by explosives, laser beams, and downright silly booby traps that will destroy you in an instant. Your goal is to use the Oculus Rift's motion controls to pick up nearby objects, disarm traps, and survive long enough to complete your mission objectives.
Of course, in the process, you really should expect to die. A lot. While you're getting comfortably immersed in the VR setting, it's easy to forget how much danger you're in with every move. The PAX floor demo mission seemed fairly straightforward: Steal a supervillain's car from the cargo hold of a flying aircraft. Then Dave decided to have a closer look at a pistol from the back seat, fired it through a window, and filled the car with toxic gas. I fared a little better during my turn, dodging a laser trap hidden in the sun visor. But that only triggered a ticking time bomb hidden in a secret compartment near my feet. I quickly grabbed a knife from the glove box and cut a wire at random. I chose poorly, and it exploded in my face.
And that's just a few options in the span of a few minutes. Throw in four full levels, achievements for completing the game in unique ways, and time trial potential? This Oculus Rift game could pull in secret agents for hours. I Expect You To Die launches for PC in the later half of 2016, but the demo level is available now through Oculus Share.
Mekazoo is a platformer with an intriguing premise: Instead of playing as one adorable protagonist, why not five at once? Players can switch forms between a robotic armadillo, frog, wallaby, pelican, and panda, each with specific abilities and attacks. The armadillo is your Sonic-like speedster, the frog can swing across obstacles Bionic Commando style, and the wallaby pulls off jumps that put Mario to shame.
But Mekazoo’s mechanical meat comes from switching characters at just the right time. For example, you could use the armadillo to speed along the wall, then quickly transform into a frog and swing to a distant ledge. Combined with the full range of animal abilities and increasingly deadly enemies, Mekazoo’s platforming potential is already impressive.
What’s more, Mekazoo features a co-op mode where two players control one character. Instead of having two protagonists side-by-side, a second player “taps in”, taking control of the newly transformed hero. While it certainly took some getting used to in the PAX demo, it’s wonderfully satisfying to develop a synergy with your partner, figuring out the timing for each transformation. And if you happen to see one player is about to make a huge mistake - like running directly into an explosive - you can quickly transform to prevent it. And that’s to say nothing of the potential for speedrunners looking for an additional challenge.
Mekazoo is expected to launch for PC, PS4, and Xbox One sometime in 2016.
Imagine a distant, vaguely post-apocalyptic future where organic life has been replaced with hostile robotic life. What could make such a world charming? How about a retro sci-fi aesthetic? Or the ability to solve puzzles with laser guns? Or the fact that you play as a human head trapped in an astronaut helmet with a rocket pack?
Headlander locks you into the helmet of the last human being, waking from a cryogenic sleep to find their fleshy body has been removed. Meanwhile, robotic life forms are prowling your surroundings hoping to wipe you out. The good news is you’re equipped with a universal docking unit, which lets you plug into just about any mechanical devices. You can attach yourself to terminals that grant computer access, shoot off enemy heads and steal their bodies, and even take control of a spaceship to travel between levels. What’s more, you switch devices by literally disconnecting your head and rocketing directly into something else - perhaps the most appealing mode of transportation I’ve seen in a video game in years. Eat your heart out, vehicle sections.
With all these laser weapons, Headlander is certainly an action-packed Double Fine game, but it’s not without metroidvania-styled puzzles. Some bodies also include security clearances for unlocking inaccessible doors, or more powerful lasers which ricochet into out-of-reach areas. And that’s just what I saw in the demo alone, with an even larger array of devices promised in the finished game. I’ll certainly be looking forward to Headlander when it launches later this year.