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The Devolver Digital Showcase Got Me More Excited For Games Than 2 Hours Of Summer Game Fest

My reaction to today’s Summer Game Fest presentation is fairly mixed. I enjoyed seeing new trailers and gameplay for some of my most anticipated games, like The Callisto Protocol, Darktide, Marvel’s Midnight Suns, and Nightingale, and while I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of sci-fi horror shooters in the mix, I was still impressed by what we saw from Fort Solis, Routine, and Aliens: Dark Descent. Overall the show was…fine. Nothing really blew my socks off, but I’m looking forward to a good handful of the games featured.

I know the sentiment towards the showcase online can broadly be summarized as “What, is that it?” but I honestly don’t know what people expected. Keighley himself told us to temper our expectations in a Twitter Spaces earlier this week (“This is not The Game Awards”). The entire industry is still reckoning with the impact of the pandemic, as evidenced by the cavalcade of non-stop delays getting announced every week this year. It was unwise to expect more than what we got from Summer Games Fest. I came away from it intrigued, but not necessarily impressed.

And yet, I had the exact opposite reaction to the Devolver Digital Showcase, which streamed just a couple of hours after the Summer Game Fest show ended. Every single game shown during this short presentation is now at the top of my most anticipated list. Devolver has developed a strong reputation for publishing interesting and inventive games over the past several years, and its upcoming batch is by far the most exciting thing I’ve seen all year. If you were uninspired by Summer Game Fest, you need to see the games Devolver showed off today.

Compared to Summer Games Fest’s 35+ trailers, Devolver only showed off five games, one of which is already available. Card Shark is a game about a pair of traveling con-artists in 18th-century France that practice a variety of sleight-of-hand tricks to steal from the rich – which is my kind of praxis. Pulling off these scams takes dexterity, memory, and perfect timing, and each trick is more complex than the one before. Khee Hoon Chan did a great write up for Card Shark based on the Steam demo (which you can download right now) if you’d like to learn more about it.

We also saw the launch trailer for Cult of the Lamb, a rouguelike action game crossed with a Stardew Valley-style town builder that I first played PAX East earlier this year. With its Cute Cthulhu aesthetic and twitch topdown combat that evokes both Hades and The Binding of Isaac, Cult of the Lamb has all the makings of a cult classic. This one comes out August 11 and also has a demo available on Steam right now.

The three titles Devolver revealed today are the most inspired games I’ve seen all year, and I can’t wait to get my hands on all of them. The one everyone is talking about right now is called The Plucky Squire. It’s a 3D action platformer with a storybook aesthetic that you just have to see for yourself. It starts on the literal pages of a children’s book like a modern Yoshi’s Story, but eventually the Squire lifts himself off of the pages, becoming 3D. Its art style and gameplay evokes It Takes Two, Little Big Planet, Toy Story, and, surprisingly, Dav Pilkey of Captain Underpants fame. The Plucky Squire is coming in 2023 and I can’t wait to see more of it.

We also saw a trailer for Anger Foot, a new shooter from the creators of Bro Force. As a first-person take on the publisher’s first major success, Hotline Miami, Anger Foot is perhaps the most Devolver game ever. You play as some kind of assassin/vigilante that can kick anthropomorphized animal gangsters with your supernaturally powerful foot in a place called Shit City. I’d be suspicious that it was a fake game if not for the Steam demo. This trailer kicked the shit out of anything we saw during the Summer Game Fest show.

Finally, Devolver showed off Skate Story, a surreal skateboarding game about saving tortured souls in the underworld. The game’s soundtrack was created by indie pop band Blood Cultures and stars “a demon made of glass and pain,” which is a hell of a sales pitch. I never knew I wanted a skate game where you shatter on the ground like glass when you wipe out, but it turns out I really, really do. There’s no demo yet, but you can wishlist Skate Story on Steam before it comes out sometime next year.

I’d be remiss not to mention the Devolver presentation itself, which is more like a short film with trailers cut into it than a standard presentation. When the Devolver Digital showcase started a few years ago it was a sharp satire of the heavily corporatized E3 press conference, but it’s grown into a broader critique of the hyper-capitalist nightmare the entire industry has grown into. This year’s show, marketing countdown to marketing, featured a mecha Suda51 that caused the gaming singularity – a total collapse of industry and IP that condensed all of gaming into one thing (and that one thing is everything) in a reality shattering event that ended with a parody of The NeverEnding Story. I’m never going to do it justice here, but I highly recommend you see it for yourself. It’s campy, absurd, and cynical, but damn if it isn’t entertaining.

We need Summer Game Fest – or at least something similar – to keep the wheels turning. But by the same token, I’m so glad we have the Devolver Digital Showcase to stand as a counterpoint. It’s hard to find the feeling that E3 used to give me when I was a kid, but this is the closest thing to it.

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