We’d be the first to admit that there is a lack of mahoosive, save-up-the-pennies Xbox games in this month’s Up Next, but – regardless – it has something of an alternative appeal. For one, it’s the first month after Summer Games Fest 2022, which means we’re getting the first drop of games following their announcements. If As Dusk Falls, Immortality and others caught your eye, then congratulations! You are getting them in your hands for July.
Equally, outside of F1 2022, there are a fair few pleasant surprises among July’s wares. We hadn’t heard much about games like Arcadegeddon, Severed Steel or – the mightiest of them all – PowerWash Simulator, yet here we are, touting them to you all. Frankly, firing jets of water at dirty vans is enough to excite us in our dotage.
Whisper it, but F1 is exciting again. With names like George Russell and Carlos Sainz Jr on the podium, there’s something of a shake up going on. That might make it an ideal time to jump back into Codemasters and EA’s long-running series, and see if you have a shot at the Championship.
Taking a quick pit stop to see what’s new, there’s a revised handling system which puts a touch more control into your racing gloves; the Miami International Autodrome has been added to the roster of courses; F1 Life allows you to showcase your cars, trophies and achievements in a personal space; and F1 Sprint has been added, giving you that short, sharp shock of F1 racing over a more compact 100km. There are supercars to play around in too.
Not a bad set of additions. Oh, and we handed it a 4/5 in our recent review.
Illfonic, makers of Predator: Hunting Grounds and the upcoming Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed are applying their multiplayer skills to their own IP this month in the form of Arcadegeddon.
It’s set against a backdrop of a local arcade which is looking to avoid a corporate takeover by networking all of its games together and creating a kind of metaverse. But the evil Fun Fun Co. has uploaded a virus, and it’s your task to jump from game to game, zapping the malignant code out of existence.
Think cooperative PvP and PvE battles in a multitude of different games and game modes, all with an orientation towards frantic third-person shooting. Gangs in the arcade will offer you tasks and rivalries to complete, while global leaderboards allow you and your mates to stand out from the crowd.
It’s certainly colourful and neon, and we will always salute a game that’s not a sequel or attached to a successful IP. It might be worth saving up a few pound coins for a trip to the arcade.
KLONOA Phantasy Reverie Series
There’s a lot of love for KLONOA, a second-division platformer that began life on the PlayStation, before moving on to the PlayStation 2, Nintendo Wii and DS. You can tell there’s a lot of love, because finding a copy of these games on Ebay sets you back a fair few bob. So, while it might not have the mainstream appeal of a Ratchet and Clank or Crash Bandicoot, it’s a platformer with more than enough appeal to warrant a compendium of two of its finest games.
In KLONOA Phantasy Reverie Series, you’re getting remastered versions of Klonoa: Door to Phantomile (specifically its 2008 Wii remake) and Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil. The remasters focus on the visuals and audio, bringing them up to date with next gen crispness. But there are a few nips and tucks too, with selectable difficulty levels, a two-player cooperative mode, and a ‘stopwatch’ mode for the speed-runners among you.
Skipping over to our resident powerwasher, Richard Dobson for this one…
We’ve all seen those videos on social media where ‘X is the most satisfying thing you’ll see all day’. And, for the most part, they’re right. Usually it involves slow, therapeutic visuals, and calming music in the background. PowerWash Simulator is that same idea, but in videogame form.
As the sole owner of a power washer in the aptly named town of Muckingham, you have rightly seen a gap in the market. Rather than allow people in the street to use your washer whenever they need it, you rightly charge them for your services whilst keeping the fun to yourself. And it won’t just be walls and driveways you are blasting clean; the residents of Muckingham must be pretty affluent as you also need to clean Mars Rovers, steam trains, minigolf courses and the slightly unnerving prospect of a gnome fountain.
I personally wouldn’t mind if the power washer broke a couple of those dead eyed garden ornaments.
As Dusk Falls
One of our highlights from Summer Game Fest was this narrative nugget, a visually arresting cinematic experience that also happens to be a day-one Game Pass launch. You’ve probably seen it staring at you from the Xbox Store dashboard as a potential pre-install.
Take a squizz at the trailer or screenshots, and you will see why As Dusk Falls – at least in a visual sense – is looking so remarkable. Coming across like a Supermassive Games adventure remade as the most artful flipbook you could imagine, it looks nothing like anything else we have played.
The story takes an interesting approach to divergence, too. Spanning thirty years, you get to see the ramifications of your decisions play out across decades. The butterfly effect starts with a robbery in a gas station in small-town Arizona, with the ripples spreading to the lives of two families and multiple generations. There are two ‘books’ within As Dusk Falls, so we’ll be making ourselves a warm cocoa to sit down with this heartfelt story experience.
Capcom Arcade 2nd Stadium
Possibly the most prolific plumbers of their own back catalogue, Capcom know how to preserve the classics. You likely know what you’re getting here, as the offering is identical to the first Capcom Arcade Stadium: you have a choice of purchasing the entire stadium, with 30 games to play, or you can buy each game independently.
A compilation is only as good as the games within it, so here’s our pick of the bunch in Capcom Arcade 2nd Stadium. The top tier includes Street Fighter Alpha 2 and 3, Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo, Darkstalkers – The Night Warriors, and the one that started it all, Street Fighter. It’s ambrosia for fighting fans, then.
On the next tier down, there are still a few worth replaying: Last Duel, Tiger Road, 1943, Megaman: The Power Battle, Megaman 2: The Power Fighters, and Night Warriors: Darkstalkers’ Revenge are all on there. Plus there’s something called Savage Bees, which can only be a classic.
Now here’s an odd ‘unique-selling-point’ for you: Severed Steel is marketing itself as an FPS with a one-armed hero. Obviously, marks are given for the inclusivity of a disabled protagonist, but it’s not the first thing you would necessarily scream about from the rooftops: your hero fires from one gun at a time.
But Severed Steel is not your average FPS. Coming from Digerati, who have a knack for promoting quirky, unique indie games like Snakeybus, Tower of Time and Sunless Sea, it too has something of the unusual about it. It oozes bullet-time style, as you are dynamic enough to dodge bullets; there’s no reloading, which allows you to focus on the overblown action; and the emphasis shifts to shooting and kicking at speed, making it – on occasion – look like it might be twinning the flow of Mirror’s Edge with the finesse of SUPERHOT. Not a bad mix of games.
Now, full disclosure, we are Sam Barlow fanboys. His original game, Her Story, was a seminal detective game that used interrogation tapes and a Google-like search engine to construct the details of a murder. Then there was Telling Lies, which was more sprawling, but brought together multiple stories (and some fantastic actors) to tell, well, lies: it was often hard to discern whether characters were offering up their real selves, or just performing. Again, it was a fantastic and wholly original experience.
Next up is Immortality, and you sense that Sam Barlow is finding the confidence to create an even stronger bond between gaming and cinema. It follows the story of imagined actress Marissa Marcel, who appeared in three unreleased movies before disappearing completely.
But while Her Story and Telling Lies had you navigating search engines to construct its narrative, in Immortality the puzzle comes from image-matching. Like Google Image Search (or that scene from Blade Runner), you are pausing and highlighting elements of an image to find corresponding, similar images. By doing so, you uncover and find lost sections of film, and get close to solving the disappearance of poor Marissa Marcel. This one tickles our cinematic whiskers, capturing the periods that they dive into superbly.
There you have it: a concise menu of the finest of July’s Xbox meats. Hopefully there’s something that gets the saliva glands going.
In terms of August, well, it’s never been the most prolific of gaming months. Usually, the biggest publishers wait until September before they anticipate the holiday season and start releasing their biggest games. But there’s a few choice cuts. Expect Two Point Campus (the somewhat sequel to Two Point Hospital), Way of the Hunter from THQ Nordic, Madden NFL 23, Saints Row, F1 Manager 2022 and Destroy All Humans! 2: Reprobed.
Actually, we take it all back. August IS looking rather spiffing.