2021 Summer Games Fest and E3 roundup: Adventure and Simulation games

‘Tis the season to stoke up gaming gluttony and premature hype – yes, E3 and the Summer Games Fest have come and gone! I don’t think I need to introduce E3 but in case you’re like me and were wondering what the Summer Games Fest was, it’s a relatively new digital showcase event created during pandemic times by Prime Gaming after E3 was cancelled in 2020. Both featured oodles of game trailers and announcements from big and small name publishers across the week of June 10-15. Steam Next Fest, a revamp of the Steam Games Festival, followed immediately after on June 16-22 to celebrate upcoming Steam games with hundreds of demos. 

Anyway, I’ve had a gander at the announcements and found some goodies that have sneakily made me click that ‘Follow’ button. I picked the following titles completely due to personal taste, so expect a lot of anime-inspired and/or weird niche stuff, and hopefully you’ll find something interesting too!

There were too many intriguing games for one post so I split them up. This one covers Adventure and Simulation games. Links to the others below:

Action Adventures and Platformers
Nintendo Direct
RPGs

Alfred Hitchcock – Vertigo 
Developer: Pendulo Studios      Publisher: Microids 
Genre: Adventure
Platforms: PC, Switch, PS4/5, Xbox X/S/One 
Release date: TBA

Loosely inspired by Hitchcock’s Vertigo, this game tackles adjacent themes of identity, obsession, and madness all while blurring reality and imagination. The plot has a great hook, following a man traumatised following a car crash that led to the disappearance of his wife and daughter. It’s likely that you can’t entirely trust your narrator, however, and the developer tantalisingly hints at the use of dramatic irony to keep the player a step ahead of the protagonist. Games are great at manipulating the player with psychological tricks so I’m eager to see how Vertigo conceives ambiguity and suspense. Suitably cinematic, the trailer doesn’t let slip on how the game plays very much but Pendulo studios seems experienced in that genre. 

Beasts of Maravilla Island
Developer: Banana Bird Studios Publisher: Whitethorn Digital 
Genre: Adventure
Platforms: PC, Switch, PS4, Xbox
Release date: 12 June 2021 (PC/Switch) and coming soon to PS4/Xbox

I’m not sure whether it’s because of all these photo-modes popping up everywhere but I’ve noticed a surge of photography games. Beasts of Maravilla Island is another wholesome one inviting you to bask in nature’s glory, albeit Maravilla’s bioluminescent mushrooms and sparkly flora look a touch more fantastical than my back garden. As a wildlife photographer, you’ll explore three distinct regions, taking photos and coaxing out different behaviours from the fabulous fauna. In addition, there are some puzzling portions where you’ll have to interact with certain critters to open up new pathways around the island. If you like this sort of thing, Maraville looks to be a short and sweet vacation away from humdrum cityscapes. 

Despelote 
Developer: Julián Cordero and Sebastian Valbuena 
Genre: Simulation
Platforms: PC 
Release date: TBA

This is probably the weirdest indie on this list. More in the ballpark of ‘experience’ rather than your typical game. A semi-autobiographical game based on Cordero’s childhood in Ecuador at the height of 2002 World Cup fever, Despelote fits into that tiny crossover of mundane-bizarre with awkwardly animated characters set against grayscale photographic backgrounds. It’s about kicking a ball (and sometimes bottles) with friends, annoying crotchety old men, and overhearing the everyday chatter floating about Quito’s central park. Despelote looks to offer a vignette into a very specific time and place while tapping into something that we can all relate as people – that is, the fun in simply kicking balls around. 

Great Ace Attorney Chronicles
Developer: Capcom Publisher: Capcom
Genre: Adventure
Platforms: PC, Switch, PS4
Release date: 27 July 2021

I go on about Ace Attorney so much, I feel like I’ll be put on trial for noise pollution soon. Anyway, I’ll try to not repeat myself too much since I wrote an individual post gushing over the announcement here. Recent trailers have gone into more detail about gameplay mechanics. In essence, your rookie attorney, Ryunosuke, will team up with Herlock Sholmes to deduce the crime at large during investigation portions. While in court, Ryunosuke must present evidence, cross-examine and contradict the jury in order to reach the unexpected truth at the heart of each case. All in all, Chronicles looks great and I’m so happy Capcom actually decided to localise it – and for PC no less! 

Kraken Academy!!
Developer: Happy Broccoli Games        Publisher: Fellow Traveller
Genre: Adventure
Platforms: PC 
Release date: 2021

Loads of games portray schools like hell. Shallow cliques, sadistic teachers, angst and infighting galore. It’s kind of funny because I’ve been on both sides as a student, which was okay, and teacher (not so much). Kraken Academy makes school a literal hellscape where eternal detention awaits in three days and your protagonist must team up with an eldritch beast to jump back in time and save the world. Sounds zany? Hell yes, and your tolerance for that sort of writing will make the difference between quirky and cringe.The marketing doesn’t shy away from nonsense and wacky humour as you’ll meet a talking broccoli, ghosts and a geezer dual-wielding a flamethrower and pineapple around the campus. Join clubs, make friends, and don’t forget your creepy tentacle amulet in this time loop adventure.

Letters – a written adventure
Developer: 5am Games  Publisher: 5am Games, PID Games
Genre: Puzzle Adventure
Platforms: PC
Release date: Late 2021 

If you can’t tell, I like wordplay so Letters, a game where you solve riddles by literally playing around with words, was a cheque in their box. The story is one of transition as you look through and influence the letters and chat messages of a shy girl named Sarah growing up during the social media boom of the 90s. Words can be picked up, broken apart and used to interact with illustrations but they are also a form of expression that affects how Sarah develops into an adult. It’s an imaginative way to visualise the difficulty in finding the right words to say. I particularly like how Sarah drags the words across the page of one pen pal letter before lobbing it at a childish doodle. 

Minds Beneath Us
Developer: BearBoneStudio     Publisher: BearBoneStudio
Genre: Adventure
Platforms: PC
Release date: TBA

There have been several excellent psychological Taiwanese games in recent years and Minds Beneath Us might join them. A game asking a perennial question: ‘What happens when you play territorial mind games with a human and data ghost?’ Clearly, the dangerous line between man and AI is ever tenuous and tantalising. Cyberpunk may be a saturated scene nowadays but the glitzy neon scapes and Asian aesthetic of Minds Beneath Us are still exciting. In particular, the contrast of 2D characters on 3D backgrounds lends a unique comic flair to the hand drawn animation. Adventure games have the opportunity to play with narrative and narrative distance a fair bit so I’m intrigued how Minds Beneath Us capitalises on that, especially after watching that trippy sequence in the trailer.

Mohism: Battle of Words
Developer: 玄镜工作室 Publisher: Yooreka Studio
Genre: Adventure
Platforms: PC
Release date: 2022

Mohism refers to a Chinese philosophical movement about debating your way to universal love, social harmony and enlightenment. That’s quite a loaded reference for Mohism the game, which mixes deduction and martial arts. Notwithstanding its namesake, I found myself interested in Mohism as it cites ‘Gyakuten Saiban’ (aka. Ace Attorney) and ‘Danganronpa’ as two of its major inspirations. While I’m happy more Asian indies are releasing on PC, their translations sometimes swing and miss. There aren’t any awful misdemeanours in the Steam description but the writing does sound clunky so I hope the developers haven’t defaulted to machine translation. One to (cautiously) watch, an English demo for one of the cases is out, so maybe try that first. 

My Lovely Wife 
Developer: GameChanger Studio, Toge Productions Publisher: Neon Doctrine
Genre: Simulation
Platforms: PC
Release date: TBA

Hands up, I like disturbing games and My Lovely Wife seems keen to tread that uneasy line between discomfort and desensitisation. If you’ve played My Lovely Daughter, you’ll find a similar premise here, as a grieving man commits the ultimate transgression to resurrect his deceased wife. This time, the player uses alchemy to summon and manage various succubi before sacrificing them as fuel for your wife’s vessel. The gothic trappings and muted palette are appropriately creepy but I’m most interested in whether the writing will make me squirm in complicity. Not a game for everyone, but one to take a look at nevertheless if you like offbeat simulators. 

Passpartout 2: The Lost Artist 
Developer: Flamebait Games  
Genre: Simulation
Platforms: PC 
Release date: TBA

Following on from Passpartout: The Starving Artist is a sequel that looks a little less wacky, a tad more sentimental and just as creative. The title tells it as it is – it’s about an artist finding himself after the paint’s dried and the gallery is empty. If it’s anything like the first game, you’ll be dipping into your own creative juices to make a ‘masterpiece’ that will see Passpartout make a triumphant or trifling return. The first Passpartout handed the brush over to players to physically ‘paint’ in a simple in-game application so I’m curious how they’ll develop that – at any rate, the puppets and baguettes look better than ever. 

Please Be Happy
Developer: Studio Élan Publisher: Sekai Project
Genre: Visual Novel
Platforms: PC, Switch 
Release date: 2021

A cosy slice-of-life yuri visual novel about Miho, a fox girl, and the people she meets when she begins life anew in New Zealand. Please Be Happy is about everyday kindness and the human connections that make life sweet, as Miho befriends Aspen, an aspirational novelist, and Juliet, the owner of a small library. The art style in this one has a delicate floaty quality and is supported with voice acting and an original soundtrack. Studio Élan were also behind Heart of the Woods, another short and sweet yuri story that will bring the fuzzy feels.  

Potion Craft: Alchemist Simulator 
Developer: niceplay games      Publisher: tinyBuild
Genre: Simulation
Platforms: PC 
Release date: 2021

I love any kind of crafting and alchemy in games but it’s rare that you actually get to make stuff as opposed to throwing in the prescribed ingredients and clicking a few buttons. Potion Craft aims to rectify that by making you pick up the pestle and mortar for once. You’re in control of the whole experimental process, so what ingredients to use and how to procure and prepare them is down to you. Of course, the ultimate goal is to sell the final product for a tidy sum so you also must think carefully when interacting with customers. Not just your shop might be at stake… 

Venba 
Developer: Visai Games Publisher: Visai Games
Genre: Simulation
Platforms: PC
Release date: TBA

While games are often an outlet to do things you wouldn’t usually do, cooking simulators make me want to dig out the frying pan and cook something that never ends up looking as appealing as its inspiration. Several indie cooking games are coming out (see Soup Pot and Hot Pot for One as well) but Venba offers food for thought by drawing explicit connections between food and cultural heritage. The game centres around an Indian family who have immigrated to Canada in the 80s. It’s about the challenges they face and the food that (re)connects them. There’s also a structure and significance to cooking, where the aim is to restore the mother’s lost recipes by choosing ingredients and cooking methods correctly. A delicious looking exploration into life and all its bounty, Venba offers a meaningful framework not often seen for this kind of game. 

Wytchwood 
Developer: Alientrap Publisher: Whitethorn Digital 
Genre: Adventure
Platforms: PC, Switch, PS4, Xbox 
Release date: 2021

Which would you prefer to explore? A comfy farmstead, a bright island or a fantastical gothic forest? If you’ve picked the latter, Wytchwood might be for you. Unlike other crafting-focused exploration games, Wytchwood shies away from ‘cute and cheery’ into rather uncannier tones, just like those good ole non-sanitised fairy-tales. Stepping into the birdy shoes of the witch of the woods, you’ll be collecting bits of newt and concocting potions as you traverse a world lifted right out of a Scandinavian storybook. Fairy-tales, beneath the indulgently macabre parts, are usually moralistic so I’m especially intrigued by Wytchwood’s promise that you can bestow frog-morphic judgement upon the characters you meet as a wicked or wise witch. 

I almost regret writing these posts for how long it’s taken me but there you go 😂… I personally enjoyed the majority of announcements and thought there was a lot of entertaining stuff that deserves a little shout out but what did you think? Did any particular games catch your eye? Thanks for reading and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Published by nonplayergirl

Long-time lurker turned blogging newb. Lover of all things otaku but especially JRPGs, anime and manga. Always adding something to the backlog. Probably descending into K-Pop hell right now.

3 thoughts on “2021 Summer Games Fest and E3 roundup: Adventure and Simulation games

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