Paris: city of love, pick-pockets, and rubbish photos of the Eiffel Tower. Fortunately I didn't experience the first two, but I did get to play a host of Ubisoft's up-and coming digital line-up, although not before I'd listened to a presentation wherein Ubisoft brass essentially said digital was the future, or at least a large part of it.
I didn't hear most of said speech, as there was a man-sized Rabbid knocking around that gave me the fear, but I composed myself and got on with it. Here's what I found.
Child of Light
The queue for this one was massive, and if I didn't know any better I would assume that said line was a carefully stage-managed ruse to make it look like the game of the show. Which, given that this was solely a Ubisoft gig, is like rigging your own birthday party so you win every game, but whatever. Well, it worked. It took me nearly two hours to get in to play it. I know it's Paris guys, but Disneyland is that way.
Anyhoo, co-op hands-on revealed it to be a beautifully directed (in terms of art, that is) adventure. Side-scrolling with JRPG combat stylings, the demo showed off both exploration (a small town and a well inhabited with enemies) and the battle system.
The former is a case - on this build, at least - of guiding Aurora around the world and indulging in some simple interaction: opening chests, for example. At her side is Igniculus, a player-controlled ball of light that isn't bound by conventional obstacles: he's free to glide around the screen at will, hunting for secrets Aurora can't reach.
He can also be used to blind enemies so Aurora doesn't have to fight them. But we're not pacifists here, so guiding our heroine into them saw us enter the battle screen.
Which was fairly standard turn-based combat, with a little twist to keep things interesting. A small bar at the bottom of the screen charts which enemy will attack first. Using Igniculus, players can blind enemies to slow them down, or heal party members thats are close to death. The amount of times you can do this is governed by a meter however, which needs to recharge (or be topped up by interacting with elements of the environment). It's an intriguing system that, so far, works really well.
Was it worth the wait? Well, it played well and there were hotdogs being handed out in the queue by fellow survivors, but no, not really. Still it was impressive.
If you've ever played Trials, you know it's the sort of game that makes you want to chuck pads in frustration like footballers raising their hands in protestation. So this upcoming mobile version gives me the fear, although maybe not as much as the new coin-collecting and hub world will do for others.
Yes, thanks to its free-to-play nature, Trials now has a hub world/quest wrapping, where doing deeds for the cheery post-apocalyptic townsfolk will see open more of the map and get you coins to upgrade your bike. Of course, you could simply buy more in-game currency, but RedLynx's Jason Bates was keen to stress that doing so will only give those who pay a short-term advantage, wanting the game to remain 'pure'.
We'll have to see about that, but on the course this was your typical Trials affair, with a tight control scheme (gas controlled by two buttons under your right thumb, lean with two under the left) and fun track design.
Rayman Fiesta Run
Played Jungle Run? Yes? It's like that. Shocking, I know. All the same, in terms of pure enjoyment it was the best game I played there. As before, Rayman runs on his own, and it's up to you to jump, punch, swing and swim your way through ever-more devious stages. It looks great, controls well, and has the sort of one-more-go quality that would put crack to shame. Lovely.
Valiant Hearts: The Great War
If your first thoughts of the Great War usually run to images of grim-faced men walking around trenches waiting to die, or of that Blackadder episode which curiously got something in your eye that time, then the cute visuals of Valiant Hearts may initially seem out of place. Nah. They make it worse. As I watched a Ubi official side-scroll his way through various battlefields, I could already feel the juxtaposition the company is going for. Remember: horrible shit somehow looks even more horrible when it looks like a cartoon. Our brains simply aren't wired for it.
Anyway, there wasn't much of the game on offer, and the combat and puzzle-solving looked rather basic. Still, early days, and the promise of seeing the conflict from both sides appeals.
Sadly, thanks to standing in line for six days to play Child of Light, I didn't get to go hands on with everything. But it's clear from what I played and saw that Ubisoft seems to be one of the few major publishers with a clear direction for companion and digital gaming, and almost everything shown pointed to that. And the sea-train was nice.