LA Cops is hardboiled fun
Donuts. Mustaches. Aviator sunglasses. From the onset, LA Cops evokes a time and place pulp action movies know so well: Los Angeles in the 1970s. It's a brash, top-down shooter that's every bit as violent as its source material, but maintains a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor that keeps the mood light. There's even a detective named 'Kowalski' for crying out loud.
It's hard not to play LA Cops and be reminded of Hotline Miami, but this game has an identity all its own. Outside of its sunnier attitude, LA Cops also has a slight role-playing mechanic where you can level up the stats of your individual officers. And instead of controlling a single character, this game puts you in charge of two, letting you set up ambushes and other tricks you couldn't pull off with only one person.
Mighty No. 9 is just as Mega Man as you'd expect
Kenji Inafune, the mind behind the Mega Man series, will soon be launching a new series that is the spiritual successor to the Blue Bomber. In Mighty No. 9, you play as a new robot hero Beck, but instead of simply blasting enemies with charge shots and special weapons, Beck adds a few new twists to this classic formula.
Shooting enemies with Beck's bullets stuns them temporarily, but they aren't quite defeated until you dash into them and absorb their power. Doing this can give you additional boosts to speed, enable penetrating bullets, or replenish your health. As far as the action goes, Mighty No. 9 feels like a mix of the classic Mega Man games with the more fast-paced X series. And the difficulty of the level layouts and boss bots are really no joke.
The Behemoth's 'Game 4' evokes Paper Mario
With each new game, indie developer The Behemoth tackles a new genre. Game 4 - which is by no means the final name for this game - is their take on turn-based strategy, a genre very near and dear to my heart. If the phrase "turn-based strategy" puts you on edge, fear not. Game 4 isn't all complicated menus and leveling grinding. It captures what's fun about the genre, while putting it's own unique spin on it; sort of like the Paper Mario series, but with a penchant for gallows humor.
To wit: you start out as a blueberry farmer named Horatio who leaves in a world plagued by devastating rain storms caused by a giant bear that crashed into the planet. Oh, and the rain is actually the bear's blood... which is green. To return to the Paper Mario comparison, Game 4 simplifies the genre where it can, while focusing in on what makes it fun: positioning, tactics, and customization. It's a charming game, delightfully twisted and deceitfully absorbing.
Cuphead is Contra with 1930s style
When you first look at Cuphead's fantastic, 1930s animation, you don't quite expect it to play like some of the toughest 2D shooters in gaming history. Alongside such charming animations as Cuphead pulling his pants up before a fight, you also get intense boss battles, near-death bullet dodging, and chargeable super moves.
You definitely get the Contra/Gunstar Heroes feeling from playing Cuphead. And it just so happens, those old 2D shooters were the game's inspiration. But rather than run through a level full of platforming and lesser enemies, most levels are straight up boss fights. From a pirate that looks like Popeye's Bluto, to a massive, three-eyed carrot, the bosses look to be varied in both looks and abilities. Cuphead's art got our attention, and now with hands-on time, we're even more excited to see more.
Shadow Blade: Reload combines ninja action with speedy, 2D platforming
Originally an iOS only title, Shadow Blade: Reload gives you a chance to test out your ninja skills on the Xbox One. In it you play as a ninja who must use his wall jumping and ninja dashing abilities to overcome traps and obstacles as he attempts to reach the end of each level. Playing feels like a mix between Super Meat Boy and Mark of the Ninja.
While most of the gameplay seems to focus on getting around environmental challenges, there are enemies spread around as direct threats. The average minion can be taken down with a quick eviscerating slice. Then there are the bosses, who seem to be much more menacing. One boss shown was a man in a walking battle tank, who chased the ninja through a quick succession of obstacles before escaping. If you like fast-paced ninja action, keep an eye out for Shadow Blade: Reload.
Beyond Eyes sees the world through a child's imagination
Beyond Eyes tells the story of Rae, a 10-year-old girl stricken with blindness at a young age. Rae is leaving the safety and comfort of her home to search for her only friend, a fat cat named Nani. Since Rae cannot see in the traditional sense, we experience the world as she imagines it. Through her mind's eye, Rae sees the world as a swirling, pastel landscape of soft watercolors; one fueled by her active imagination. Trees, bushes, and small animals spring to life as she approaches, similar in style to Supergiant Games' Bastion.
Bravery is a major theme in this story, as not everything in Rae's world is how she envisions. She may hear a noise - such as fabric rustling in the wind - and envision a clothesline, but upon further inspection discover it's an old scarecrow. These realizations can leave her feeling isolated or afraid, but its up to you to keep her moving forward. While not so much a game in the traditional sense, Beyond Eyes nonetheless feels engrossing as you explore a familiar world through a new perspective.
Living the dream
All these games and more were part of Microsoft's ID@Xbox showcase, itself part of GDC 2015. Of course, this is just a small part of our GDC coverage. For more, be sure to look up Wolfenstein: The Old Blood standalone prequel returns to WW2 and Developer Telltale doesn't care if its products are called 'games' or not and keep checking back for ongoing updates as the show continues.