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De Mambo: An interview with the Premier Inndie

“De Mambo is what happens when you make a game for the price of a coffee a day.”



De Mambo: Hard at work in the Inn

“De Mambo is what happens when you make a game for the price of a coffee a day.”

At first glance, The Dangerous Kitchen’s Kickstarter campaign for De Mambo sounds like a television charity appeal. The claims of making a game for ‘the price of a coffee a day’ sounds like a repetition of the classic ‘just £3 a month’ or ‘for less than the price of a cup of coffee’ refrain we hear from charities all the time.

It’s a proven tactic, to put the small amount of money you’re asking for into a relatable daily cost – and ultimately, unnecessary luxury – to guilt people into sponsoring <insert name of needy recipient here>.

With The Dangerous Kitchen, it’s a little different.

They are literally making their game for the price of a coffee because, bereft of a permanent working space, they are building their game out of the lobby of a well-known chain of hotels. That cup of coffee is the agreed upon occupancy fee that they pay to the hotel every day – by way of purchase from their cafe – so that they’re allowed to continue working from their establishment. 

We caught up with Shaun Roopra, writer and designer of The Dangerous Kitchen, to hear more about their bizarre working situation and De Mambo, the frankly unusual game it has produced…

Thumbsticks: First up, let’s get the really important stuff out the way: Is The Dangerous Kitchen named after the Zappa song, or did you just think it was an interesting name?

Shaun: We were aware of the song, as Zappa hugely inspires me, but it wasn’t a direct inspiration. The name has a lot—and I truly mean a lot—of reasoning to it, with the song being a real small part of it.

A lot of the stuff we do, especially with naming things, is so spontaneous; it’s really difficult for us to explain! Things just literally happen!

De Mambo: The Dangerous Kitchen logoSo how did The Dangerous Kitchen come into being, then? Tell us about the team and how they got together – everybody loves a good origin story!

Well, Amit and myself met at college, in art class no less. We became friends and then eventually partners in crime… Talking about games was something we partook in a lot, from what we like, to what we’d make to me brainwashing him in the Nintendo way etc. so it’s really fun to look back to that time considering that those two lowly art students are actually making a game right now.

We went to Birmingham City University to study animation, met with Lucy and two other good friends and were a really tight-knit group—we probably played Smash Bros more than study!

Someone randomly said, “Hey, we should make our own games company!” to which everyone agreed obviously, as it sounded like a fun dream to have. I’m pretty sure no one truly believed, deep down, that we would actually do it. It was thanks to Lucy that we actually became a business, as she has that active, go-getter mentality that constantly pushes us forward.

After University, we all split up to look for jobs, whilst trying to make The Dangerous Kitchen work. Eventually it got to that point where nothing was happening and everyone felt dejected. Video chatting just wasn’t working for us, so it became apparent that we needed to work together, which was pretty impossible since three of us are in London and the other two are separated up north.

Sadly, everyone realised that only Amit, Lucy and myself were to go forward and dedicate ourselves to making this happen. The other two, Jen and Mark, are still good friends of ours who we hang out with whenever we have the chance, so there’s no bad blood whatsoever.

So with just the three of us, we had to work out where to work. All of our homes have odd complications that prevented us from working there. Our friend mentioned that his sister works at Premier Inn and that we could try the meeting space in the lobby; which we tested out and the rest is history.

We spent a couple of months concepting and creating assets for a game, Yooksin, then realised we need someone to actually code the darn thing. We looked for a coder, but alas, with no money, it was difficult to entice anyone to join us.

Lucy had to go to her old work for a spot of freelance, which was the time in which Amit decided he would learn how to code. This is when things really began to change, and where De Mambo was born.

Working out of a hotel lobby is fairly inexplicable – it’s a little bit rock and roll, but in an incredibly middle-class way – how has that environment worked for the team and its dynamic?

It’s literally perfect for us, I mean, there are a hell of a lot of problems—food issues, trying to obtain a booth, pyramid schemes, loudness when in the restaurant—but it reminds me of the old saying that a lotus flower can grow out of mud.

We had to leave the Inn for a while earlier in the year—we won a place in Playhubs which has helped us immensely, especially with pushing us to meet people and the business side of things which was where we had the least experience; and have only recently returned. It’s so true what they say, that you only miss something once it’s gone!

The Inn just has a certain level of openness whereby anything can happen; it’s not a closed environment. Being near Heathrow Airport, there’s always an influx of different people who pass by, which is great for inspiration. If you’re like me and heavily spontaneous in how you work, the Inn is a creative goldmine.

This is mainly how it’s affected our dynamic, by allowing us to think openly and degrading any values of entitlement as instead of wasting time thinking about what could be, you just have to stay in the present and create.

Personally speaking, doing the obvious and ‘right’ thing has never led me to succeed, so working in a hotel lobby is no big deal!

De Mambo: Where the magic happens

Where the magic happens.

Are you worried they’ll eventually get sick of your antics and kick you out? What happens then if they do?

Well, we’ve prepared a contingency plan if that were ever to occur which involves hostages and ransoms etc., but it’s probably safer to not talk about this on these public channels…

In all seriousness, we have no clue. We’ve made friends with the staff at Costa, who are seriously awesome. They give us a lot of support so if something were to go down, we’re sure they’ll have our back.

We’re into our second year here, and considering they allow the creepy-crawly antics of a certain, nondescript pyramid scheme to fester, I’m pretty sure we’ll be ok.

Back to the game, then: Where did the idea for De Mambo come from?

As mentioned before, Lucy was at her freelance job, Amit was learning to code and we were all super-mega-ultra hyped for Super Smash Bros 3DS. Amit and I decided that we should celebrate by making a small Smash-inspired game.

I consulted my game-development bible, Iwata Asks, to which I found a section where Masahiro Sakurai described his game making process. He likes to take a genre, take away all of the fluff, leaving the fun core; rebuilding the game from that fun core outwards. So, we decided to take his work ethos and apply it to Sakurai’s own game, which is how De Mambo was born.

Being Amit’s first real coding experience, our technical limitations aligned perfectly with Sakurai’s ethos.

After the prototype was built, we left the Smash influence behind and just kept on adding what was necessary to make De Mambo the best game it could be.

With the Kitchen’s obvious love for Smash Bros. and the Nintendo design ethic, it seems unusual that De Mambo will be initially released for PS4/PS Vita/PC and not Nintendo platforms. Why is that?

That’s simply because of business. Nintendo is our one true love when it comes to playing games, but that’s not wise to take into the business side of things.

Sony’s reputation with Indies is far more valuable than fanboyism. When we were at Playhubs, we got to meet Shahid Ahmad and he tried out De Mambo and gave us some advice, which pretty much shows you Sony’s passion for indie games, considering a Sony bigwig would give three nobodies some of his time.

We’ve exchanged a few emails with Microsoft and Nintendo, so we’ll see how that goes in the future. It’s not like we aren’t interested in them, just that Sony is easier to approach and be approached by. As a small team it’s also difficult to plan for all the consoles at once.

The Wii U does seem like the ideal platform for a party-battle game though; do you have any plans to bring De Mambo to other platforms in future? Perhaps even a mobile version?

If we are successful in our Kickstarter, then of course we will attempt to put De Mambo on all consoles—except the Ouya—even if we are not, we will still try our best to. A kid at the Manchester Day Games Room begged us for a 360 version, so we have to at least try!

A Wii U version would be amazing and would be the perfect dumping ground for a lot our pre-Smash Bros. Wii U discussions, in which we speculated lots of crazy ideas of how to use the Gamepad. Yeah, Nintendo is inevitable for us, so I suppose that’s why we’re not forcing it yet—there’s no point in fulfilling your dreams so early, you have to work for it.

Mobile? Maybe? I mean a mobile De Mambo that is its own thing would be cool, but we’re not the type of people to just try and force it to happen.

What’s been your biggest challenges with creating De Mambo? It’s the team’s first game ever, not just collectively, so it must have been a steep learning curve.

So many challenges, but I think the biggest challenge was before we got to the Inn, the trying-to-make-it-work phase. That was undeniably the hardest part, as we spent years trying to get The Dangerous Kitchen to move, but once it did, thankfully it hasn’t stopped.

Everything after was indeed challenging, yet looking back, so much just fell right into place. Our way of working somehow allows for challenges to dissipate at a moments notice, all it takes is a spark of inspiration, or most likely a shining pearl that hides in the midst of stupid joke.

Yeah, this is our first game, but therein lies the fun as we’ve had so much to learn, it’s honestly the best part. It’s like Orson Welles describing the confidence of ignorance: we’re on the edge of a cliff and too ignorant to know it!

The game looks great in motion but the art style could perhaps be viewed as a little simplistic – particularly for art/animation graduates – was that a conscious decision, or a limitation of the team’s experience?

We are wholeheartedly a gameplay-first company. We are all artists, so if we tried, we could easily make something pretty, but that’s not The Dangerous Kitchen. There are so many people who can create amazing visuals and who aspire to, but not as much who want to innovate in the gameplay department.

We don’t want our art backgrounds to define us; gameplay to us is an art. I mean look at a speed run for any game you like, it’s not the visuals that make it breathtaking, it’s the gameplay.

Gameplay is what drives us, and what excites us. When we started making De Mambo, we were thinking about gameplay and only after it was made, on how it should look. Undoubtedly it’s not the most beautiful game in the world, but it was never meant to be.

Sometimes, I feel graphics can interfere with gameplay. New Super Mario Bros U has an appallingly mediocre art style, but it never interferes with me playing the game. Rayman Origins/Legends on the other hand does, as I’m not looking at what gameplay opportunities I can play around with – I’m looking at how pretty a tree in the background is. Everything in De Mambo was designed for the gameplay.

A good-looking game is a great, but if there’s no gameplay to back it up, then I’m really not interested. In fact I’m actually really disinterested in the visuals of games as of late and feel that music is far more important. Box Boy! is the best game I’ve played this year which kind of says it all really.

If you were starting the project over, is there anything you’d do differently?

Forcing Amit to learn to code earlier! But in all seriousness, I wouldn’t change anything. We’ve been steered faithfully so far by our unwavering ability to just let things happen naturally, that I can’t ever imagine us doing anything different. We’ve had a lot of fun.

De Mambo has been going down well with the general public at gaming expos like EGX Rezzed and Develop: Brighton, and now the team is jetting off to Tokyo for the TGS before returning to the UK for EGX 2015; how have you found the trade show experience?

Simply amazing. EGX Rezzed was deathly tiring in being our first exhibition, but even though we reached a near-death state, we loved every moment. Where else can you meet the nicest of guys who barely utters a word, only to pummel you at your own game?

We’ve had a few bad experiences, with the first person to play De Mambo absolutely hating it—but he was another developer and I’m pretty sure it was because he was too decrepit to grasp the reasoning as to why we’ve done certain things differently.


On the contrary, pretty much every European developer we’ve met at these events has been absolutely amazing and some of the nicest people we’ve met. Radius Vienna actually managed to rid some of the prevailing cynicism I had with people, as the Viennese developers were fantastic.

Has the feedback you’ve been receiving shaped the way De Mambo has progressed?

In all honesty, the feedback we’ve received has been pretty darn positive. Once people learn the rhythm of De mambo, they love it. The only criticism we’ve had has been from people who can’t understand why we’ve done things differently and want us to make the game normal, like say with health bars and having the three attacks on separate buttons. Oh and also some people hate that up is jump, but are usually fine when they actually play it and realize why we chose up for jump—you’re constantly charging with your right hand so having a jump button would interfere with your attacking ability.

Also, there were loads of children—especially at Manchester day—that got the controls instantly, so we kind of trust the kids more than the critics so far!

So, the big question – Kickstarter – how much are you asking for and why should the public back De Mambo?

So we are asking for £15,000 in hopes that we can make De Mambo faster, with more content and of a much better quality.

We have the ambition to make De Mambo rival a classic SNES game, which is a level of quality we may not be able to reach, but regardless we want it to be as timeless as physically possible. There’s no point in making a throwaway game that you play once and then move on to the next throwaway game—there are plenty of people already doing so.

We’re doing this because we love games and so I think people should back us because this is authentic, but mainly because this is probably the stupidest games creation process ever made.

The story of De Mambo and how it was made is pretty fascinating and I think it makes a nice change from Indie Game: The Movie where everyone was depressed or ever so pretentious. We’re having the time of our life and want others to join in, so back us if you want to join in on this stupid, crazy, hilariously fun journey.

When is De Mambo expected to release? Will it be staggered for the various platforms? Will there be any playable demos or early-access, particularly for backers?

Well that all depends on Kickstarter. If we succeed in raising money, then we will work our butts off to get it done for late 2016. If not, we’ll still try and get it done as soon as possible, but it will take longer.

Regarding platforms, there are only three of us and our newly acquired intern, so it would be a difficult task to release on more than one console at a time. If it’s possible to do so, then yep of course we’ll do it, but I also think it depends on the console. If we do a Wii U—or maybe NX by that time—then we would want to have Wii U specific features and thus it will take longer to implement such features. Also, there’s the business side of things to consider too, like when it makes sense to release.

There will be a demo released with our Kickstarter and some new modes being released through our campaign. We’re also running Steam Greenlight at the same time as our Kickstarter.

De Mambo screenshot

What happens if De Mambo doesn’t meet its funding target? It’s a sad but potentially very real consequence of Kickstarter.

We will carry on as usual and still make De Mambo—it will just take longer and may not be as fleshed out. We’ve come this far, so there’s no sense of us quitting any time soon.

And finally: What’s next for The Dangerous Kitchen? Do you have any ideas, any more projects lined up?

Well we have the start of Kickstarter to take care of, TGS in Japan, EGX in Birmingham and then the end of Kickstarter, which will keep us super busy.

The game I mentioned we worked on before De Mambo, Yooksin, has a large chunk of its asset base complete, so we have to go back and finish it. We’ll probably have to rework how the game plays since it was designed before we actually made a game, but I think it will be really good and very different to De Mambo.

Other than that, we have a lot of ideas. I have thousands of notes in my phone with game ideas ranging from really silly ideas, to things, which could potentially blossom into something cool.

Hopefully things continue to fall into place and we can become a sustainable company, able to make games for as long as we can, which is the only thing we want really!

The Dangerous Kitchen’s Kicksarter for De Mambo launches today. Why not follow (and back) De Mambo on Kickstarter?

Support Thumbsticks

We hate to ask, but global advertising revenues are the lowest they've ever been. It's killing the online publishing world. If you like what we do and want to support free, quality games writing, then please consider supporting us via Patreon, buying us a coffee, or subscribing to our newsletter.

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Tom is an itinerant freelance technology writer who found a home as an Editor with Thumbsticks. Powered by coffee, RPGs, and local co-op.


Dan Marshall: It was ‘astonishingly easy’ to add accessibility options

Dan Marshall, of Size Five Games, says adding accessibility features to Lair of the Clockwork God was “all pretty straightforward, easy work.”



Lair of the Clockwork God
Size Five Games

Dan Marshall, of Size Five Games, says adding accessibility features to Lair of the Clockwork God was “all pretty straightforward, easy work.”

The year is 2020. Technology has never been more advanced. And yet, we live in a bizarre, regressive world where anti-vaxxers are on the rise, the UK is leaving the EU of its own volition, and the President of the United States yells at an autistic teenage girl for daring to suggest that his generation perhaps doesn’t ruin the planet for future generations.

In the world of video games, one obvious symptom of this intellectual vacuum is the anti-accessibility crowd. From gatekeepers who want to preserve the rarity of their “achievements” to those who are simply incapable of human empathy, there are still people who don’t believe video games need accessibility features. In 2020.

They’re dead wrong, by the way. (And if you disagree with that, maybe don’t read our website? We’re big advocates of accessibility in games and we’re frankly better off without you, thanks.)

Dan Marshall, of Size Five Games, spent a few hours this weekend adding accessibility features to upcoming game Lair of the Clockwork God. A sequel to Time Gentlemen, Please! and Ben There, Dan That!, Clockwork God is a mash-up of indie platformer and the series’ classic point-and-click adventure mechanics. It’s obviously a text-heavy game.

We spoke to Marshall via email, to ask about the process of making Lair of the Clockwork God more accessible, and why it’s important.

“I have been useless at all this stuff,” Dan concedes, “but the reality is it’s always good to make sure the game can be enjoyed by as many people as possible. Getting a game out the door is hard, and I do think it’s understandable when this kind of stuff hasn’t been implemented, because that pre-launch to-do list is so incredibly long, and especially for smaller indies who have such astonishingly low resources.”

“So for me, this kind of thing has always sadly fallen off the back burner,” he continues. “This time around I’m in the fortunate position to have the cash and resources behind me to spend a little time thinking about and implementing a few minor changes, that make the game so much more enjoyable for so many people.”

“Oddly enough, Lair of the Clockwork God’s themes kind of deal with all this,” Marshall explains. “By the nature of the beast, that it’s written by and starring two straight white guys… I mean, there’s obviously nothing we can do about that, so we’ve tried to be mindful every step of the way making sure the game is as inclusive elsewhere as possible.”

“The script itself deals head-on with topics like the ‘wokeness’ of the indie scene, or getting older and feeling out of place with new trends and other peoples’ needs… y’know in the game Ben’s this kind of relic from the LucasArts era, and Dan’s desperately keen to be part of this new vibrant indie movement he’s heard so much about, so taking the steps to make the whole game as accessible as possible kind of goes hand-in-hand with all that.”

So how easy has the process been, to add accessibility options to Lair of the Clockwork God?

“Astonishingly easy, to be honest. I spent about 4-5 hours total adding 9 core changes (including some that people had recommended over Twitter), and honestly,” Marshall says, “it was all pretty straightforward, easy work, which is exactly what I need right now. In the scheme of things, that’s probably less time than I spent choosing the colour of the options menu, so it’s worth doing.”

Lair of the Clockwork God accessibility options

“And yeah, some of it was just unbelievably quick. Two lines of code and a new toggle added to the menu and it’s in. So why not do it? There’s obviously some bigger stuff that’s likely to let’s say, break everything, and I’ll do my best to get them in before launch. Lesson learned for the next project is: it’s just sensible to keep this stuff in mind the whole way through!”

For little more than an afternoon’s work, Lair of the Clockwork God is now a far more accessible experience.

Clockwork God now includes options for a dyslexic-friendly font, and adjusting the size, colour, speed, and labelling of text to make it easier for everyone to follow. This might not seem like a big deal if you don’t need it, but it will literally be the difference between someone being able to play the game or bouncing off it.

The year is 2020. Fictional Ben may be insistent that Lair of the Clockwork God’s mechanics stay rooted in 1991, but just like his in-game counterpart, real-life Dan is making sure it’s a modern video game, too.

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The 20 most anticipated video games of 2020

We put together one of those lists again. This one’s the 20 video games we’re most looking forward to in 2020.



20 most anticipated games 2020
Square Enix / Naughty Dog / Xbox / CD Projekt Red / Thumbsticks

We put together one of those lists again. This one’s the 20 video games we’re most looking forward to in 2020.

There’s a lot to look forward to in 2020. Well, in video games, at least. The rest of the world is a nightmarish hellscape of fire and fascists, but in the final run-in to the next generation of video game consoles, there are a lot of brilliant games just waiting to release.

Maybe it’s because we’re coming to the end of the current generation. Lots of developers who have targeted the current generation have a very limited window to get their games out – games that have been in development for a very long time, like Cyberpunk 2077 and the Final Fantasy VII Remake – before there’s a risk of them being eclipsed by titles on the more powerful PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.

Whatever the reason, 2020 is shaping up to be a vintage year for video games. Here are the 20 games we’re most looking forward to – 20 games, 2020, see what we did there? – laid out in alphabetical order. Just so the screeching loons can’t bicker and argue about how we’ve “ranked” them. (It’s not our first day. We know how the internet works.)

Update: This post has been amended to include updated release dates for games that have been delayed since it was first published.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Yes, the most recent trailer for Animal Crossing: New Horizons felt like a Tom Nook timeshare presentation, but anybody who says they’re not excited for this slice of loveliness is lying to you. We’re wondering if KK Slider will swap his guitar for a ukulele, for the full island vibe? We’ll find out March 20, 2020.


Carrion, the “reverse horror game” from Phobia Game Studio and Devolver Digital, is for anybody who ever wondered what The Thing would be like if the protagonist were the thing, and not Kurt Russell’s MacReady. Messy is the answer to that query. Very, very messy.

Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077 Keanu 500px

This is a game that’s been in the works for so long, there always felt like a chance it might slip to the next generation of consoles. There’s little doubt that Cyberpunk 2077 will look amazing on the PS5 and Xbox Series X, but we’ll all get to experience the breathtaking Mr Reeves on April 16, 2020.

Update: Cyberpunk 2077 has been delayed to September 17, 2020.


Dreams has been out in a limited form of early access for a little while now, and what people are making in it seems remarkable for a hobbyist, console tool. But Dreams launches proper on February 14, 2020 – happy Valentine’s Day! – which is when the fun will really begin.

Dying Light 2

Dying Light 2, which is expected to launch in Q2 2020, has been rumbling around the events circuit for a few years now. Every year, we see more and more impressive demos of the worldbuilding and the game’s Chris Avellone-powered branching narrative chops, but we’re yet to actually get our hands on it.

Update: Delayed until… we don’t actually know. Just delayed.

Fall Guys

Expected to launch sometime in 2020, Fall Guys was one of the unexpected stars of E3 2019. Developed by Mediatonic and published by Devolver Digital, it’s a cross between the 100-person battle royale spectacle, silly physics games (like Gang Beasts and Human Fall Flat) and physical comedy game show Takeshi’s Castle. What’s not to love?

Final Fantasy VII Remake

Final Fantasy VII Remake 500px

The Final Fantasy VII Remake has been in development for an age, and when the game does release on March 3, 2020? We’re still only going to get to play about a third (at most) of the original game’s story. (Our bet is that the first “episode” will run until the assault on Shinra headquarters, and the subsequent escape from Midgar.) But it looks so flipping good, and our hands-on preview was one of the highlights of E3 2019.

Update: Delayed until April 10, 2020.

Ghost of Tsushima

Sony showed off four games at its last foray to E3 in 2018, in a confusing, venue-changing press conference. Two of those games, Insomniac’s Spider-Man and Death Stranding, have since released, while The Last of Us Part II is slated for May 29, 2020. That leaves Sucker Punch’s Ghost of Tsushima as the last remnant of PlayStation at E3. We still know precious little about the stealth game, but it’s still expected to launch in 2020 before the PlayStation 5 hits in time for Christmas.

Half-Life: Alyx

One of the biggest shocks of 2019 was that Valve – the game developer who stopped making games to develop a big storefront, instead – is developing a third game in the Half-Life series, Half-Life: Alyx. It’s not strictly Half-Life 3, nor is it entirely a Valve creation, as recently-acquired Firewatch developer Campo Santo has shelved In the Valley of the Gods to work on Alyx. And it’s also a VR-exclusive, which has ruffled some feathers, but Valve is hoping that Half-Life: Alyx will be the killer app that has hitherto been missing, and brings a payday for its investment in VR technology.

Halo: Infinite

Halo Infinite 500px

It seems wild that Halo: Infinite is the only next-generation title on this list of the most anticipated games of 2020, but that’s simply a result of how few launch titles have been confirmed for the PlayStation 5 or the Xbox Series X. If we’re being completely honest, we’re not that excited for a new Halo, but it felt wrong not to include something from the next-gen.

Lair of the Clockwork God

Lair of the Clockwork God, from Size Five Games, is the third game in the Dan and Ben Adventure series, following on from the brilliant Time Gentlemen, Please and Ben There, Dan That. Ben is sticking with series’ staple point-and-click gameplay, while Dan has decided the “real money” is in indie platformers. Lair of the Clockwork God mashes the two together in a brilliant character-swapping adventure.


Maneater is a goofy, B-movie of a video game, where you play as a man-eating shark. It features open-world (ish) gameplay and RPG mechanics as you level up to become the biggest predator in the water. It won’t be safe to go back in the water on May 22, 2020.

Microsoft Flight Simulator

Microsoft Flight Simulator was always one of the most deeply boring aspects of PC gaming. Why would you want to execute boring, realistic manoeuvres in the real world when you could be whizzing around space in an X-Wing, for instance? But the modern version, that combines cloud computing with high-resolution satellite imagery, really looks like something else.

The Last of Us Part II

The Last of Us Part II 500px

The Last of Us Part II – along with Cyberpunk 2077 and the Final Fantasy VII Remake – is one of the big-ticket items of 2020. We don’t need to sell this one to you. At all. Not even a little bit. We’re equal parts excited and terrified to pick up Ellie’s adventure on May 29, 2020.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps

Ori and the Will of the Wisps is the follow-up to 2015’s indie darling, Ori and the Blind Forest, from developer Moon Studios and published by Xbox Game Studios. Simple, stylish, beautiful; expect more of the same on February 11, 2020.

Resident Evil 3 Remake

If you’d asked us a couple of years ago if we’d be excited for a remake of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, we’d probably have shrugged. Said something noncommittal. Tried not to hurt Capcom’s feelings with our lack of interest. But after the stellar Resident Evil 2 Remake in early 2019, we’re expecting the Resident Evil 3 Remake to be similarly superb when it releases on April 3, 2020.


Spiritfarer 500px

Spiritfarer, Thunderlotus’ beautiful, poignant game about helping others into the afterlife was one of the stars of E3 2019. We played it and it is every bit as lovely as it looks. Rumours that we spent our entire time with the demo just hugging the cat are completely unfounded.

Streets of Rage 4

It’s been almost 26 years since the last Streets of Rage game, Streets of Rage 3, released for the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis. At one point, we would’ve been happy with it being left in the past. But seeing the stellar work done by Dotemu and Lizard Cube on the remake of Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap, and the amazing glimpses of the art and style of Streets of Rage 4, this is a blast from the past we can’t wait to play.

Wasteland 3

Speaking of blasts from the past, Wasteland 3 is scheduled for release on May 11, 2020. It’s part of a wider revival of classic C-RPG series, including Torment, Pillars of Eternity and Baldur’s Gate, but Wasteland’s place in history – as the grandaddy of Fallout, among other things – can’t be overlooked.

Watch Dogs Legion

Watch Dogs Legion 500px

Watch Dogs has been on a journey, hasn’t it? From the po-faced Aiden Pierce to the neon giddiness of Marcus Holloway’s San Francisco, it’s facing another yo-yo in tone for Watch Dogs Legion, where Brexit has happened and the outcome for the UK is about as awful as we all expect. The real highlight, though? The ability to recruit any NPC in the game, with the right motivation. Yes, even Helen, the Antifa nana who stole our hearts at E3 2019.

Honourable Mentions

Here are a bunch of other games we’re also looking forward to in 2020, but we had to be ruthless and keep it down to 20. (Otherwise, we could just list games for days.)

  • 12 Minutes
  • Bleeding Edge
  • Boyfriend Dungeon
  • The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope
  • Doom Eternal
  • Empire of Sin
  • Godfall
  • Gods and Monsters
  • Hollow Knight – Silksong
  • Kerbal Space Program 2
  • Little Nightmares 2
  • Marvel’s Avengers
  • Murder by Numbers
  • Nioh 2
  • Oddworld: Soulstorm
  • One-Punch Man: A Hero Nobody Knows
  • Psychonauts 2
  • Sports Story
  • Super Meat Boy Forever
  • Twin Mirror
  • Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2
  • Way to the Woods
  • Windjammers 2
  • Yakuza: Like a Dragon

Did we miss anything you’re looking forward to? Then why not let us know – politely and calmly – on Twitter.

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Is Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot worth playing?

Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, a new open-world RPG from CyberConnect2 and Bandai Namco Entertainment, is out now, but is it worth playing?



Dragon Ball Z Kakarot
Bandai Namco

Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, a new open-world RPG from CyberConnect2 and Bandai Namco Entertainment, is out now, but is it worth playing? We take a look at the game’s critical reception.

Despite a lack of pre-release reviews, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot topped the UK video games chart in its debut week. It’s an impressive performance for an ambitious game that blends RPG mechanics, brawling, and open-world exploration.

Reviews for the game are still hard to come by, but publications covering the game have found it to be an enjoyable enough adventure with engaging combat. The consensus, however, is that the open-world lacks substance. The game, ultimately, appears to be one for committed fans of long-running anime franchise.. Here is our pick of the game’s reviews.

Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot review round-up

PC Gamer

Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is by no means perfect, but it’s a solid RPG that very efficiently covers the entire Dragon Ball Z saga. The game sometimes crumbles under the weight of its own systems, but Kakarot is still a fun title for anyone looking to revisit (or even experience for the first time) the Dragon Ball Z saga.”

76/100 – Review by Liz Henges


“As a video game, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is competent. Flying around the world takes some getting used to. But with practice, you can soar just like Goku and friends in the anime, even if it’s just to see how the massive Dragon Ball Z world fits together and to collect upgrade orbs. The combat is also more complex than it originally seems. There’s only one button for punching, but the combination of dodges, punches, Ki blasts, and special moves manages to keep fights fresh and, occasionally, challenging. The real meat of the game is still the combat, and the combat is still competitive with some of the better brawlers out there.”

Not scored – Impressions by Ryan Gilliam


“I don’t know how folks who aren’t familiar with DBZ will respond to this game, but I can’t imagine it has a lot of appeal for them above and beyond what other action-focused RPGs offer. Kakarot is a nostalgia play, through and though, and it excels at that. It’s absolutely gorgeous, arguably more dynamic and powerful in its epic moments than even *gasp* the anime itself. Sure, the pacing is quite a bit faster than the anime, so there’s not as much time in the build-up to those powerful and sometimes heart-breaking turns, but man do they pack a punch.”

Grade B – Review by Dave Trumbore


“It’s not the anime game to end all anime games. It’s not going to convert any non-believers or onboard them into this decades-old classic universe. Even as someone who still re-watches DBZ, it can be grating at times ⁠— but the juice is mostly worth the squeeze.”

Not scored – Review by Chris Carter


“… numbers and tutorials aside, the world of Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is actually quite good fun to explore. There are loads of places to discover from caves to ravines. It’s just a shame that there’s not much reason to do so. One of the biggest issues that Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot faces is meaning, at least when it comes to everything outside of the main story. There’s never enough reason to take part in the multitude of things you can do, not unless you’re simply trying to kill time, which renders many of the large open areas effectively worthless.

3/5 – Review by James Coles


“As a Dragon Ball love letter, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is nearly perfect, featuring an amazing world and attention to detail. But as an RPG and action-adventure game, it’s only good. Its combat can be fun and some of the more in-depth elements are a good change of pace, but a lot of it feels pointless or time-consuming.”

7/10 – Review by George Foster

Other publications

  • PlayStation LifeStyle – 80/10
  • Spazio Games – 7.5
  • The Sixth Axis – 7
  • Famitsu – 34/40

Title: Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot
Developer: Cyberconnect2
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Release date: January 17, 2020
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows

Visit our new releases section for more on this week’s new video games.

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Interview: Making AO Tennis 2 a Grand Slam winner

We speak to Big Ant Studios about the development of AO Tennis 2 and the pressure to improve on last year’s instalment.



AO Tennis 2 header
Big Ant Studios

AO Tennis 2 is the second officially licensed Australian Open video game from Big Ant Studios. We talk to CEO Ross Symons about its development and the pressure to improve on last year’s instalment.

AO Tennis 2 – which is developed in partnership with Tennis Australia – is billed as a significant upgrade on its predecessor and includes a plethora of new features and gameplay improvements.

The headline addition is a revamped and narrative-focused career mode, similar in structure to Codemasters’ impressive F1 campaigns and FIFA’s The Journey. The studio’s full-featured content editor also returns, giving players the tools to create everything from venues and players to car parks and uniforms. It also helps players fill the gaps that the game’s licence doesn’t cover to create a comprehensive simulation of the sport.

We spoke to Big Ant Studios CEO Ross Symons on the eve of the 2020 Australian Open to find out more about this year’s game.

Thumbsticks: AO Tennis 2 includes a new, narrative-driven career mode. Why did you decide to take this approach?

Ross Symons: One of the things that people love about tennis is the personalities that are involved; people have their favourite players, and watch their careers, with the highs and lows that it entails. When looking at AO Tennis 2, we wanted to find a way of reflecting that – tennis is as much about what happens off the court than on, so giving players a chance to engage with that side of the sport was important.

What is the most challenging aspect of adding narrative elements to the game?

We had to build a lot for the narrative career mode – we needed to build the manager’s rooms and the press conferences for the cut scenes, for example. We also needed to find a way of balancing what occurred through those scenes, and making sure they had some impact on the development of the player’s career.

To do that we needed to introduce new systems (such as the reputation system) and new mechanics to go with that. It was a lot of work. We think that the results have been more than worthwhile, though, and a lot of fans have come up to us to say they appreciate what we’ve done there.

AO Tennis 2 screenshot

The first AO Tennis game had a slightly rocky launch, but it was much improved by a series of patches and updates. Did you take anything from that experience and apply it to the development of AO Tennis 2?

We always take fan feedback on board at Big Ant Studios. It’s a core principle that drives our team and we use that feedback to help inform our development. AO Tennis’ improvements came thanks to the excellent feedback and support of a truly passionate community of fans, and AO Tennis 2 is the next stage in that ongoing evolution.

Speaking of that community, Big Ant’s content editor has a devoted user base. How important is the editor to AO Tennis 2, and do you see it as a key component of the studio’s future games?

Our content creation suite has been a point of pride in our games for a very long time now, and we continue to build on it as we can. Whether it’s Tennis, Cricket, Rugby League, or another property that we’ve worked on, we’ve always wanted to provide that sandbox experience that allows players to take the game, and make it their own in every way.

Being able to share content online also means that we’re able to give our players an endless well of new experiences to enjoy. You’re right that we’ve got an enormously devoted community – AO Tennis 2 has over 20,000 players available to download already! It adds great value to the game for everyone.

AO Tennis 2 screenshot

AO Tennis 2 stars some of the sport’s biggest players, including Rafael Nadal, Ash Barty, and Angélique Kerber. How do you approach bringing such distinctive athletes into the game and representing them accurately in-game?

With a lot of research. We make sure we take the highest quality photogrammetry of each player that we can – and we personally take control of the photography to ensure that it’s of a universally high standard. Then we sit down and watch hours of videos to understand how each player moves and behaves on the court.

We’re lucky that we’ve got a lot of passionate tennis fans at Big Ant, who have a great eye for the subtleties of the sport, and a great respect for how individual the game really is.

As a Melbourne-based studio, do you feel a sense of responsibility in developing the official game of the Australian Grand Slam? 

It’s not just that we’re Melbourne-based – we’re just a couple of minutes walk from the tennis precinct itself! Yes, we do feel a great deal of responsibility for making sure that our game reflects the energy and excitement of the biggest tennis event in the southern hemisphere.

Luckily we’ve been able to work very closely with Tennis Australia themselves, who are very much fans of video games and want to give tennis fans the complete experience – watch the games at the venue, and then come home and recreate your favourite moments on your gaming console.

Are they any aspects of the Australian Open that give the tournament a specific flavour that you try to capture?

Melbourne Park is such an iconic venue. It’s not just a court where people play tennis. It’s a space that, after many years now, has a heritage and history that deserves respect. We’ve gone to great lengths (and worked closely with Tennis Australia) to make sure that we’ve got the small details of this venue down right for the game.

Generally speaking, the Australian Open is well-regarded as “the happy slam,” so we also wanted to make sure that AO Tennis 2 reflects that positive celebration of the sport that the crowds that come to the event have come to love.

AO Tennis 2 screenshot

Big Ant Studios produce games across a range of platforms, from iOS and Android to Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. How do you work to scale your games across platforms of such varying capabilities?

We develop our own engines and technology at Big Ant, and having that extra level of control over the engine allows us to be more flexible and creative with it. As a result, we’re able to work rapidly to bring our games to new platforms.

AO Tennis 2 feels like a significant step up from the first game. Do you plan to continue your partnership with the Australian Open, and what else can we look forward to from Big Ant in 2020?

While we can’t discuss future development plans in any detail, we can say that we remain committed to our existing properties, and we’re always on the lookout for new opportunities. It’s going to be an exciting couple of years for sports fans, so stay tuned!

AO Tennis 2 is available worldwide on PC. The Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One versions are out now in Europe and Australia, and will come to North America on February 11, 2020.

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Is Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore worth playing?

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore is the latest Wii U game to be ported to the Nintendo Switch. Is the game worth a curtain call?



Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore review

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore is the latest Wii U game to be ported to the Nintendo Switch. Is the game worth a curtain call?

Slightly overlooked on its original 2015 release, Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore takes to the stage once again as the latest Wii U game to make a Nintendo Switch comeback. It’s a heady blend of the Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem franchises that taps into Japanese idol culture to create a distinctive RPG based around dungeons and dancing.

The game is broadly untouched on Switch, but it does include all post-release DLC, a new zone and some new costumes. Some of the features that used the Wii U Gamepad have also been adapted.

The critical response is broadly positive, with many reviewers having the chance to experience the game for the first time. Here is our pick of the best Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore reviews.

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore review round-up

The Verge

“It’s becoming cliche to say that a game is perfect for the Switch, but RPGs in particular benefit from the platform. Tokyo Mirage Sessions is a great example of this. So much of the experience is slowly trawling through maze-like dungeons, with plenty of strategic battles along the way. These moments are perfect for playing on the go, while the story sequences — particularly the gorgeous cut scenes — benefit from a bigger screen. Either way, the game looks great, and the copious text and menus are still legible on a small display.”

Not scored – Review by Andrew Webster


“Generally, the Fire Emblem influence remains incredibly easy to ignore, certainly due to the Fire Emblem developer Intelligent Systems hardly having had a hand in either design or development. That makes Tokyo Mirage Sessions approachable for people who are unfamiliar with either series, but it seems odd to market something as a big crossover of two beloved properties and then skimp on the crossover elements.”

Not scored – Review by Malindy Hetfeld

Nintendo Life

“Tokyo Mirage Sessions is a constant barrage of colour, J-pop music and general unrepentant joy. Even during its less enthralling story moments or its more repetitive sections, it still does its very best to put a smile on your face with its constant positivity.”

8/10 – Review by Chris Scullion


“When #FE failed to make an impression on RPG fans in 2015, it wasn’t the game’s fault. Now that it’s a well-advertised game on a popular platform, it should make more of a splash. It deserves to. I missed out on #FE Encore during its first tour, and I’m happy I was able to indulge in its strange hybrid charms the second time around.”

4/5 – Review by Nadia Oxford


“It’s an unapologetically silly game. But for as unconventional as it is, Tokyo Mirage Sessions frequently manages to pay clear homage to both Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem in interesting ways. For instance, the rock-paper-scissors-styled combat of Fire Emblem is still in play here. While the battle system itself feels like a particularly flashy spin on the type of combat found within Shin Megami Tensei or Persona, having a level of familiarity with Fire Emblem’s mechanics is going to help a lot in pinpointing an enemy’s weakness.”

Not scored – Review by Dennis Carden


“Your enjoyment of this game will depend on how much you love and embrace the carefree lightheartedness of the story. Tokyo Mirage Sessions is very much a bubbly and upbeat RPG that never dives too deeply into the sinister side of idol culture, and instead focuses on fun and colorful musical numbers, and the general sense of having a good time.”

4/5 – Review by Zhiqing Wan

Other publications

  • God is a Geek – 8.5/10
  • The Sixth Axis – 9/10
  • Metro – 7/10
  • DualShockers – 9/10

Title: Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore
Developer: Atlus
Publisher: Nintendo
Release date: January 17, 2020
Platform: Nintendo Switch

Visit our new releases page for more on this week’s new video games. You can also follow Thumbsticks on FacebookGoogle News, Twitter, and Flipboard.

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We hate to ask, but global advertising revenues are the lowest they've ever been. It's killing the online publishing world. If you like what we do and want to support free, quality games writing, then please consider supporting us via Patreon, buying us a coffee, or subscribing to our newsletter.

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