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Second Shot: A Case for Wet

Is the largely forgotten Wet worth a second look? Miguel Penabella considers the game in relation to grindhouse films and the phenomenon of the “B-game”.




Is the largely forgotten Wet worth a second look? Miguel Penabella considers the game in relation to grindhouse films and the phenomenon of the “B-game”. 

Wet contains multitudes: a midair shootout while plummeting thousands of feet above the Earth, grimy Chinatown and Hong Kong alleyways straight out of kung fu B-movies, an aircraft boneyard renovated as a rusted obstacle course, a funk-soundtracked sequence infiltrating a mansion perched on shoreline bluffs, tequila-drenched criminal bastions flavored by the aesthetics of Cowboy Bebop or exploitation films like that of Jack Hill and Russ Meyer—all filtered through a nostalgic layer of film grain, mimicking the grindhouse movies the game invokes.

Developer Artificial Mind and Movement’s 2009 video game pilfers the aesthetics of grindhouse and crafts with it furious spectacle with an assured sense of style. By calling attention to its B-movie influences, Wet emphasizes how much of a B-game it is itself, and this lowbrow sincerity allows the game to dive head-on into enjoyable experimentation and wild display.

Wet is far from a great game, but it’s useful in thinking about how games culture engages with lowbrow genres and the ongoing faultiness of games criticism, taste, and similar “trashy” works themselves. It’s pretty telling that one of the last lines in the game is “Fuck you”—Wet does its thing and fucks off, and like the unapologetic mercenary protagonist Rubi Malone, the game shrugs off player desires in favor of sustained disregard for taste and convention. This is a game that has no desire to be liked, and in this irreverent nonchalance comes a sense of intoxicating freedom when you meet it at its own level and accept its roughness, silliness, and juvenility. A final exchange tells us, “We are not enemies, but we are not friends,” a thought that sums up Wet’s relationship with games culture and the player engaging with it. It asks the player neither to like it nor dislike it, an attitude that cements Wet’s lack of lasting impact on video games. But that flippancy is exactly why I’m drawn to the game, because Wet touts a reckless confidence in lowbrow genre formulae that I rarely see in the toothless, stylistically bland landscape of video games.

In contrast to overblown big-budget AAA works like The Division or Just Cause 3, there are spaces in smaller games like Wet to challenge customs and exhibit stranger ideas and imagery because of decreased expectations that come with leaner audience numbers. These games belong in the nebulous AA space (which this article expands upon), including mid-market commercial games like D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die or Remember Me and existing between big studio control and perilous indie constraints. Like the rarefied midrange dramas in cinema, there’s a correlation in economics too. As the middle class of AA games shrinks with time, then the opposite poles of too-big-to-fail AAA games and miniscule indie/freeware games continues to balloon every passing year, leaving this middle space in a tightening chokehold. Lower budget games may be occasionally clunky, but they make up for their shortcomings often with stronger art styles (MadWorld) or matchless gameplay (Vanquish).


B-games like Wet are frequently uninhibited by the lofty expectations of the AAA space and are thus granted room for stylistic ingenuity and playful generic experimentation. Video games are typically genre affairs like horror, action, sci-fi, and fantasy, but rarely do they capitalize on this stylistic and thematic agency bestowed on lowbrow genres’ positioning outside mainstream tastes. While more handsomely financed and produced works can find firmer footing among critics and audiences, lower budget genre works often confront established tastes usually to subvert or provoke (artfully or not). Take for instance the visual poetry of filmmaker Sam Peckinpah’s Westerns like The Wild Bunch or Ride the High Country, movies that deconstruct notions of masculinity and violence that have been lionized in earlier, cleaner iterations of the genre. Artists like Sam Peckinpah work within genre to question the mythologization of its own archetypes and to transgress the tidiness of Western heroism and morality in favor of moral greyness. Watch again as these ideas are revised decades later with films like Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man, critiquing the genre’s uncritical attitude towards the encroachment of indigenous tribes’ lands and fundamentally declawing the aestheticization of violence in Peckinpah and Sergio Leone’s films.

Most video games are unwilling or unable to convey anything meaningful about the genres they operate within because the medium is predominantly insular and isolationist. Games and gamers are allergic to the idea that video games are a political culture and that healthy discourses are conversant with intersectional topics like feminism, critical race theory, and queer studies. Indeed, most video games aren’t even subversive or transgressive, instead failing to question its very problematic designs. Games infrequently position themselves against their ideological and formal structures, and rarely do games upset and reassess the political undercurrents associated with their evocative, violent, and problematic images. Only a few effective genre games come to mind, particularly Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days as a revisionist shooter that implicates our own spectatorship with the ugly violence enacted onscreen, and also Moon: Remix RPG Adventure, a JRPG whose game-within-a-game structure parodies the convoluted genre it invokes. Nevertheless, most games unquestioningly adopt genre conventions but rarely do they have anything meaningful to say or critique about them. Part of this problem lies with video game culture’s lack of consciousness (and critical interest) in the formal mechanisms that comprise theories of genre, because without a unified language to equip criticism, how can games subvert the set of meanings that accompany a genre’s grammatical specificities?


What we have instead are video games typically content with simply employing its generic formulae for simpleminded pleasure rather than for meaningful engagement with real-world politics and themes. Games are not subversive in the way 1950s melodramas like Douglas Sirk’s Imitation of Life sardonically scrutinized the United States’ troubling relationship with racial identity nor do many games straightforwardly address feminist themes like that in recent genre offerings in television and film like Orphan Black and Mad Max: Fury Road. Video games, for the most part, lack these themes. Wet is certainly no high watermark for video games but it mercifully also lacks the pretense of anything but nonsense. In its narrative framing via a throwback 1970s aesthetic, Wet emphasizes indebtedness to B-movie and exploitation cinema, raising pressing questions on video games’ own cultural niche-ness.

Wet involves a mostly forgettable story about mercenaries and globetrotting violence centered on the aforementioned bounty hunter Rubi Malone. More interesting is the way this story is framed: plentiful interludes recycled from advertisements, announcements, and trailers from 1970s drive-in movie theaters disrupt the game’s narrative as though Wet is itself an obscure grindhouse flick being screened at a drive-in. The game maintains a flickering film grain effect with scratches on the “film stock,” and the screen occasionally breaks apart or dissolves as though the projector has broken or the reel has run loose off its track. Thus, Artificial Mind and Movement locates the game in a strange limbo between the remembered nostalgia of the 1970s and the modern world of video games. If video games are so entrenched in genre subcultures, then kinship with forgotten, lowbrow B-movies of the 1970s makes sense. Images of grindhouse sleaze and pop violence cohabit retro intertitles asking us to “Enjoy the show!” or animations with catchy jingles to head over to the movie theater’s snack bar. In between bursts of gameplay, we’re greeted with real-world previews for obscure coming attractions like Dr. Sin’s House of the Living Dead or PSAs about criminal charges for damaging or stealing the drive-in speakers. Aligning games with grindhouse aesthetics have been done before in similar-minded works like House of the Dead: Overkill, Shadows of the Damned, and Red Dead Revolver, bridging together iconographic subcultures.


What Wet wants to do is to try and become a cult classic in the vein of movies like Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! or Barbarella, but the nature of video game taste and reception renders such objectives impractical. The cult status of venerated grindhouse films, B-movies, and midnight movies relies on the establishment of good taste. In cinema, such marginalized “trashy” movies achieve cult status as countercultural alternatives to serious-minded high art, offering subversions of the mainstream status quo. Movies like Pink Flamingoes, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Eraserhead weren’t initially reputable enough to garner regular matinée releases, and their infamous status as cult classics came about only through reexaminations of camp style and mainstream tastes. With video games, everything is marginalized and trashy, and any distinctions between high and low art are essentially non-existent.[1] What we consider the best storylines in games are usually mired in trashy genre formulae: the zombie film-esque machinations of The Last of Us or the cyborg-mech soap opera of the Metal Gear Solid series. Rarely do games offer straightforward, serious-minded human drama without first filtering its story, themes, and style through typically male-oriented genres, and consequently, the status quo of games is itself lowbrow. Video games aren’t transgressive because there’s nothing to transgress; everything is trash.

I single out Wet because it gleefully embraces video games’ trash status, and because of this, its spirit is markedly less cynical and self-important than many recent games like the overly dour Watch Dogs or the insipidly violent Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. Wet may not move the medium forward, but it does its best given its limitations and understands video games on its own terms. It’s a game that’s willing to emphasize its video game-ness much like the playful maximalism of No More Heroes (and Rubi Malone could very well join the rouges gallery in that game). Much of Wet is structured around arena fights where Rubi must disable a “spawn door” where enemies emerge infinitely, thus calling attention to things typically kept invisible for the sake of “immersion” like enemy spawn points. The game relishes moments of reflexivity, poking fun at the illogicality of game design: Rubi expresses disgust while waiting in an elevator thinly disguised as a tiresome loading screen but later uses the moment to break into an unprompted, joyous harmonica solo to offset player frustration with spontaneity and jubilation. Indeed, Wet’s willingness to turn trash and faultiness into momentary exultation lies at the heart of B-game values. Wet’s slow motion action takes heavily from the Max Payne series and its platforming from Prince of Persia or Assassin’s Creed, but its lack of overall finesse means it must exaggerate its derivative style as something more flashy and wild than its precursors, gesturing at something even more glorious.


The base appeal of Wet belongs in its berserk gameplay: diving across gaps while shooting, sliding between enemies while dual-wielding pistols, slashing through the air with balletic acrobatics, zip-lining and tumbling through frenzied spaces—Wet is very much concerned with over-the-top action. The game encourages perpetual movement because actions like wall-running and sliding triggers a slow-motion ability that actually allows you to shoot even faster. Wet opens up physical spaces in ways Max Payne doesn’t. Rubi can run up a wall or an enemy’s torso and backflip off its surface, entering slow motion to acrobatically twist and turn in midair while spraying bullets at enemies. Instead of climbing down a ladder, Rubi can straddle it, therefore freeing her torso to bend backwards and allowing her to shoot enemies while sliding down. The pistol holds infinite ammo and Rubi never stops to reload, thus granting absurdly constant assaults in the style of John Woo action films. I find most shooter games dull due to lack of bodily movement and energy; Wet’s constant flow of action set to irreverent punk rock and groovy funk music lends the game an energetic and propulsive quality in contrast to similar games largely composed of silence and inertia. Wet joyously urges players faster and faster, pushing action game set pieces to ostentatious, baroque heights.

Nowhere is this better exemplified than in the underrated, ridiculous action sequence highlighting some of the most impossible acts of athleticism as Rubi leapfrogs from moving vehicle to vehicle while shooting and slicing roving enemies on a freeway. She will wall-run across semi trucks and narrowly evade cars flipping through the air, preceding the breakneck maneuvers of a similar (albeit tamer) sequence in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. She barely touches any surface, instead walking on air as she vaults across vehicular carnage like a wrathful Valkyrie thundering through a battlefield. Rubi’s feverish exploits intensify with a Rage Mode triggered repeatedly throughout the game, transforming the screen into an impressionistic canvas of devilish reds smattered with inky pools of black and white. Violence is rendered abstract as though swimming in blood, and enemies appear as nothing more than silhouettes that vanish in puffs of smoke when destroyed. Punk-infused surf rock blares loudly on the soundtrack, offering a face-melting trip of sound and fury.


I’ve argued that most video games’ preoccupation with sound and fury signifies nothing and that Wet’s forthright honesty in this nonsense is refreshing given a landscape of cynical, hyper-serious junk, but perhaps we can identify something potentially forward-looking amidst the debris. What transcends the trash of the lowbrow is Rubi Malone herself, a leading woman protagonist with a distinct, confrontational voice both angry and unapologetic. If games disenfranchise the voices of women, then Wet’s blasé protagonist embodies a figure that has been silenced for so long and is now yearning for agency and articulation. The game thus becomes an allegorical space for violent mediation from the marginalized. Rubi is a vengeful female warrior enacting decidedly gendered violence in a similar vein to works like Bayonetta or the recent Tomb Raider reboot. The traditionally underpowered woman is now granted a space for the obliteration of male aggressors, granting a welcome feminist power fantasy where she can chastise them for calling her a “bitch.” Wet is not a particularly deep commentary on gender and representation, but it’s nice to see a game pushing back against male centrality with a woman not too easily good-natured. Rubi Malone is what G. Christopher Williams notes all the way back in 2009 (probably the only piece of writing that meaningfully engages with this game) as a sex-positive woman with the signifiers of feminine sexiness like a bare midriff but also confrontational clothing like a leather jacket, combat boots, and military fatigues. Rubi is reminiscent of punk figures like Patti Smith or the riot grrrl aesthetics of Sleater-Kinney, of women weaponizing their sexuality and foul mouths to castigate male aggressors.

Regardless, Wet doesn’t have the kind of obvious influence and appeal as genre hits like Bayonetta or Max Payne, but its low budget roughness and adversarial quality against taste captivates my attention. Its most thematically striking sequence occurs in a room lavishly decorated with real-life Renaissance and Caravaggisti artworks from painters like Leonardo da Vinci and Jusepe de Ribera, but all Wet can do is stage a violent shootout amidst this room of art history. If we read Wet as investigating the divide between “low” and “high” art and its relation to camp trashiness, then this shootout communicates to us that all games can do in the presence of meaningful art throughout history is to enact senseless violence. The player can wall-run on a Renaissance painting and splatter blood all over mournful Neapolitan art, and stray bullets from the gunfight will inevitably pierce through these priceless canvasses. What all this amounts to is the literal destruction of art by the player, and in so doing, Wet reveals the inherent illogicality and self-destructive tendencies of the medium. Tearing down our preconceived notions of art is surely a fool’s errand, but this sequence remains to me one of the most honest forms of expression video games have accomplished.

[1] For further reading, check out “The Death of Beauty” by Justin Keever for Unwinnable

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Miguel Penabella is a freelancer and comparative literature academic who worships at the temple of cinema but occasionally bears libations to videogames.


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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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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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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