The Games Guru travels to the 2012 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles, Calif., to report on the latest and greatest that’s happening in the gaming world.
MOST PROMISING GAMES OF E3
They really stand out. Of the hundreds and hundreds of games displayed at E3 in Los Angeles this year, a few are head and shoulders above the rest. While these games aren’t yet finished, they are really off to an auspicious start. So without further ado, here are the most promising games of E3 2012.
Best Wii U Game: LEGO City Undercover
They didn’t show me much of LEGO City Undercover. But what I did see was so cool, it was the Wii U game that got me most excited. Imagine if there were a Grand Theft Auto for kids and the main character, Chase McCain, did good things. You could save people of the city. You could fly around on a helicopter and could drive around the city in a cool car to your next mission. Genius.
Best PlayStation 3 Game: PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale (Sony)
Imagine a humorous fighting game starring all of the PlayStation’s heroes, everyone from Sly Cooper to Parappa to Fat Princess. This is like Smash Bros. Brawl done the Sony way, and you can play with up to four players. Get ready to hoot and howl in front of the TV as you button mash.
Best Xbox 360 Game: Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two (Disney)
Here are the things that may make Epic Mickey 2 a great game. It’s easy to control. The story is well-written. They supposedly fixed the camera issues which plagued the first version. And they’ve added some great songs to go with the gameplay. You’ll probably be singing these ditties in spite of yourself.
Best Nintendo Game: Pikmin 3 (Wii U)
It’s sad, but true. One of the most under-appreciated Nintendo games of all time is Pikmin. But the graphics are so fine in Pikmin 3, many more kids will be flocking to the strategy game Mr. Miyamoto created after observing a busy ant colony in his garden. But these aren’t ants. They’re skinny Pikmin, and they’re a ton of fun to boss around. You’ll also meet the strong Rock Pikmin, which can break through stone.
Best Game Based on a Movie or TV Show: Star Trek (Namco Bandai for Xbox 360 and PS3)
Producer J.J. Abrams’ next Star Trek movie hits theaters in March 2013. This game will be published around that time, too. Star Trek features Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock as they buddy up to deal with monsters like the dragon-like Gorn in space, the final frontier. Supposedly, the game makers worked closely with the filmmakers to create an excellent game. It sure looks like a big adventure is in store for you with Star Trek.
Craziest Game (In A Good Way): The Cave (Sega for Xbox 360 and PS3)
Ron Gilbert has made point-and-click adventure games since your father was a kid. (Ask your Dad about Maniac Mansion.) With The Cave, you’ll go deep down under the earth with three characters you choose from about nine available. With a barefoot hillbilly or a strong knight at your command, you’ll solve wild puzzles over and over again. And you’ll laugh a lot. It’s always good to laugh a lot.
Most Creative Game: Scribblenauts Unlimited (Wii U)
If you’ve ever wondered about the origin of Maxwell, the main character in Scribblenauts, you’ll find out all about him in Unlimited. Sure, it’s great that you can play coop and that there’s finally a girl character in the game. But what will really make the game great is … you. Want to make a plaid rooster-mobile with alien faces for headlights to solve a puzzle? Well, you can. And it’s going to be fun.
Best Indie Game: Unfinished Swan (Sony)
This story-filled game looks like it will be completely delightful. When they set out to make Unfinished Swan, the game makers were inspired by fairy tales like those from the Brothers Grimm and Alice in Wonderland. The level I saw was engaging and never too sweet. As you start, everything is white, like you’re in a blizzard. I used the Move controller to add splashes of black paint, which showed me more and more of the world. That’s how I got a glimpse of what I thought were the swan’s footprints. I’m told there’s a crazy king you have to deal with, too.
Most Promising Games of E3 (Tie)
DAY 3: THE REST OF THE SHOW
Judging from what was on the convention floor in Los Angeles, this wasn’t the greatest year in E3 history. But it was a good year. While I still don’t understand how to play the Wii U, a lot of the system’s games look quite good.
Ubisoft had a very strong press conference with lots of cool kid-friendly games. Their Wii U games especially shined.
There will be a new Rabbids game for Wii U. Rabbids Land is full of crazy characters full of attitude in a Mario Party-like game that just might get you laughing as you play.
Rayman: Legends is going to rock your world just like Rayman did last year. The animation is top notch and the gameplay, with lots of weird, humorous characters, is wonderfully tough.
Warner Bros. and Disney stuff
At the Warner Bros. booth, they showed off a Harry Potter Kinect game that seemed like just collection of mini games. Time will tell if it’s more than that.
But their LEGO series seems really strong. In a week or so, you’ll see LEGO Batman 2. They even had an almost-life-size LEGO Batman and Robin at their E3 booth.
Just as interesting is LEGO: Lord of the Rings. It will follow Peter Jackson’s movie trilogy. There were big monsters, catapults and, of course, lots of LEGO humor.
Even better was LEGO: Crime for the Wii U. The game introduces a new detective character that fights crime throughout a city. It looked so cool, I wanted to stop looking at all the other games and play the whole game — right there and then.
Scribblenauts Unlimited for the Wii U is one really creative game. You get to make any kind of contraption you can think of to get through a level. Want a cat racer with skulls wheels? You can do that in this game.
Disney’s Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two was shown off by Warren Spector, one of the world’s leading game makers. I don’t want to tell you too much since we have a feature planned for the print magazine. But I will tell you one thing: It looks like they got the camera right this time.
EA and Activision offerings
Electronic Arts games were a little disappointing. It’s not that games like Madden and FIFA aren’t good. It’s just that there wasn’t anything really new. Where’s the chance taking? Where’s the innovation?
Skylanders: Giants from Activision is a bit bigger and a bit better than last year’s version. You can play to Level 15 (last year had you playing only to Level 10). And the Giant figurines actually light up in certain places. Check out this special silver E3 edition of Spyro they gave me!
DAY 2: NINTENDO’S BIG DAY
Everyone was excited. It was Nintendo’s turn to try to impress the press at E3. The lights went down. A giant screen showed Shigeru Miyamoto backstage. The creator of Mario and Zelda was followed to the stage by 100 marching Pikmin, the little ant-like creatures in his wondrous strategy game.
Along with the new Wii U hardware, Pikmin 3 is Nintendo’s big game this fall. The graphics of this game are as great as graphics on the Xbox 360 (thanks to the Wii U hardware). But it’s a little disappointing that Nintendo would open its show with a strategy game and not a Mario, Luigi or Zelda game.
But at least Nintendo featured a ton of kid-friendly games for both the Wii U and 3DS. Without good old Nintendo, E3 wouldn’t have very many interesting kids’ games at all.
Also for the Wii U, Nintendo premiered a collection of mini games called NintendoLand. It’s a virtual amusement park in which the many characters from the company’s archives are featured in small, challenging games. And it may come packed inside Wii U.
NintendoLand is supposed to be the Wii U’s killer app, like Wii Sports was for the Wii. When you play NintendoLand, you’re supposed to get what Wii U is all about. And when you get what Wii U is all about, you’re supposed to love it as much as you loved the Wii when you first got it.
NintendoLand is cool enough with a Zelda shooting game and a roller coaster–like game based on Donkey Kong.
But it’s no Wii Sports. Part of this is due to the fact that many of us have played amusement park mini games before. Part of it is due to the fact that Wii U is more complicated that the Wii.
Wii U and More
So how about Wii U? Now that the product is finished and playable, I feel better about it than I did last year. It’s kind of like an iPad meets a supercharged Wii. The tablet feels right in your hands, although it’s a little heavy. It has controller buttons and a touchscreen.
One mysterious thing I noticed was a little square on the left. I was told it’s a small platform to put electronic toys on. This got me excited. Could Nintendo be making something like Skylanders featuring Nintendo figurines? Now that would be Nintendo’s killer app!
You can use the tablet controller along with traditional Wiimotes. But the person who holds the tablet has an advantage in games. For instance, in one of the NintendoLand games, there’s a maze in Luigi’s Mansion and ghosts who hunt you. The person holding the tablet can see where the ghosts are coming from. But the people with the Wiimotes only see darkness and no ghosts on their TV screen.
Nintendo will also release New Super Mario Bros. U, but not much was said about it. (Also, we’ll see New Super Mario Bros. 2 for the 3DS in mid-August, one that seems to have millions of gold coins to collect. You start this mode when you turn Mario gold.)
It’s not clear when New Super Mario Bros. U will be released. But it would make sense for Nintendo to release it when the Wii U launches, probably around Thanksgiving. Nintendo didn’t give us the Wii U launch date, but that’s my educated guess. Wii U probably won’t cost more than $300, either.
The tagline for Nintendo this year is “Together Better.” I’m not sure what that means, exactly. But one thing I am sure of is that Nintendo needs to have it together for their big launch this holiday season.
They need to show us that Wii U is easy to use, and they need to show us that it’s really amazing to play games on.
DAY 1: MICROSOFT AND SONY DUKE IT OUT
E3 is here! Microsoft and Sony were expected to unveil their new consoles in Monday’s press conferences. But they didn’t. We’ll have to wait til next year for that to happen.
Kinect was big among Microsoft’s announced plans for the fall. The new Madden will use Kinect to let you call plays without a headset microphone. Just yell a play at Kinect, and your receiver will go long. You can even call him by name. Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana came on stage to demonstrate.
Kinect will work with the newest FIFA as well. You’ll be able to make substitutions and change tactics as coach without having to use a controller and dropdown menu.
Microsoft’s one big kid-friendly game is Forza Horizon. You’ll be able to use it with Kinect (like last year’s Forza). You travel 250 roads in Colorado in the Horizon festival, starting at 250 in the rankings and trying to move up to No. 1. Microsoft actually had real racecars vrooming up and down Broadway here in Los Angeles.
As far as XBLA games go, Wreckateer looks like a lot of fun. It’s kind of a mix of Kinect with Boom Blox. You try to knock down medieval castles with cannonballs that have special powers. Sometimes they even split into four for extra hitting power!
Then, Usher took the stage to sing a song with his dancers. He was there to promote Dance Central 3, and his performance stirred many in the audience to dance in their seats.
The most amazing aspect of Microsoft’s press conference was something called SmartGlass. This is software that will let you use your smart phone or tablet as a game controller and remote for your TV. Soon, you won’t have to have a smart TV or expensive remote. And SmartGlass also will give you additional content for games. It’s all very exciting.
Still, Microsoft should have had more kid-friendly games to show off.
Sony and JK Rowling Team Up
The big news at the Sony press conference was Wonderbook. Using Augmented Reality and the PS3, Sony is hiring some of the best writers today to bring you interactive books with gaming elements.
The first writer they hired is JK Rowling, the creator of the Harry Potter series. Miranda Goshawk’s Book of Spells lets you learn all about casting wizardly magic in a way that’s deeper than the Electronic Arts games were.
And you’ll unlock six new JK Rowling poems as you go along. Everything from butterflies to dragons will fly out of the book. If you thought JK Rowling’s Harry Potter days were over, think again!
Sony also showed off a fun game called PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. Up to four players will battle against each other with famous Sony characters like Parappa the Rapper and Sly Cooper. It reminded me a little of Nintendo’s Smash Brothers Brawl, but the artwork was better.
Sony, too, should have shown off more kids’ games. But Wonderbook made up for it – almost.