Unfinished Swan, Deadlight, Retro City Rampage and more.
Last week we listed our pick of the big games at this year's E3. However, we made a point of avoiding the downloadable titles we saw. Frankly, there were so many excellent digital titles on show that we felt that a separate article was in order.
As per usual, these smaller titles collectively offered some of the smartest, original and worryingly addictive concepts of the whole show. Read on to find out what the road ahead has in store...
The Unfinished Swan - PS3
The first game from new Santa Monica studio Giant Sparrow, The Unfinished Swan boasts an elegantly simple concept: find your way through an artistic labyrinth, in pursuit of the eponymous bird.
The catch is that the world is initially composed of a single colour, meaning that it's impossible to see anything. However, at the tap of a button you'll hurl out blob of paint that will splatter against anything it touches. Liberally douse your surroundings with ink and scenery will suddenly emerge from the void, revealing fresh playgrounds to explore.
For years Sony has been trying to convince us that Move can work wonders with first-person games, but it's only here, in a (presumably) combat-free scenario, that the potential becomes clear. Despite the slow pace, there's something quietly thrilling about picking your way through The Unfinished Swan's stark white dreamscape, with ornate staircases and portcullises bursting into sight as you perform your Jackson Pollock routine. Few games have wielded black-and-white colour schemes so effectively, and that's just the first chapter: later levels will supposedly offer different art styles.
In short, The Unfinished Swan looks set to pick up the baton from the likes of Flower and Journey. That won't mean much if you're strictly a headshot connoisseur, but if you're into art games, this will chuff you to bits.
When do we get it? The release date is still tbc, but fingers crossed for this year.
When Vikings Attack! - PS3, Vita
When Vikings Attack! may be the most straightforward game on this list, but that doesn't make it an underdog. Flick through our E3 notebooks to the relevant page and you'll see the word "GENIUS" scrawled in hasty biro. And yes, the capital letters are absolutely necessary.
We've only played the multiplayer side of When Vikings Attack!, but that mode was so potently addictive that it's hard to imagine that any alternative exists. Up to four players compete here, with each taking charge of a small mob of civilians in coloured T-shirts. One button allows you to pick up and throw everyday objects at your opponents, while another lets you perform a quick dash; use the latter to intercept a hurled object, and you'll catch it. Last man standing - or rather, last group of men standing - takes the victory.
That's all there is to it, really - but it's worryingly moreish. There are shades of Bomberman here, partly due to the pleasure derived from trouncing your opponents, and partly because outright disaster is never more than half a second away. You can grow your mob by gathering neutral pedestrians or by lobbing paint bombs at the enemy, and as the size of your herd increases you're able to pick up heavier objects; get enough folk together and you'll be lobbing cars at the other side - or bouncing them off lampposts for flashy ricochet shots.
Cross-play is supported too, so Vita owners can square off against PS3 users, if the situation demands. Whatever the arrangement, if you're a Sony gamer, you need this in your life. It's brilliant.
When do we get it? Later this year.
Retro City Rampage - PC, PS3 Xbox 360, Vita, Wii
Within its opening five minutes, Retro City Rampage references the bank robbery from The Dark Knight; the video for Sabotage by The Beastie Boys; Super Mario Bros; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; Duck Hunt; Frogger; Mortal Kombat; the Metal Gear series; and Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. And to be honest, I'm fairly sure there were at least half-a-dozen other nods that we missed due to everything else that was going on.
As is fairly well known by now, Retro City Rampage began life when one man, Brian Provinciano, attempted to remake Grand Theft Auto III for the NES. While the GTA influence is still very clear, project has subsequently mutated into an arcade love letter to gaming and, to 80s culture in general. But while the game's nostalgic pick-up-and-play sensibilities are worn upon its sleeve, there's a bewildering level of detail here: the main antihero may be a tiny 2D sprite with a quiff, but he can use a cover system just as well as Marcus Fenix and co.
It's extremely appealing stuff, squeezing a lot of fun even into the briefest of demos, and it looks like it'll have a metric tonne of secrets and extras - including a mini-game designed by Team Meat. That says it all, really.
When do we get it? It was originally supposed to be out by now, so hopefully very soon - though nothing concrete has been announced.
Joe Danger: The Movie - Xbox 360, PS3
Joe Danger: The Movie isn't out yet, which is a bit of a problem because we really want Joe Danger: The Movie to be out.
Proper play of the eponymous pint-sized stuntman makes your fingers and the controller dance together with an elegant but tricky rhythm, but as the game starts to take shape we're getting the impression that the biggest difference between this and its predecessor is just the sheer scale of variety on display: every time we see it there's a new location, environment or character zipping around the game's moreish levels and crafty set-pieces.
Few games even attempt to capture the kind of blue-tinged buoyancy of the 90s anymore, and fewer still manage to pull it off with as much style of SEGA in its heyday.
When do we get it? Later this year
Deadlight - Xbox 360
A 2D platform-adventure hybrid with a horror theme and an ostentatious art style? Deadlight has to be this year's Limbo, right? Well, perhaps. There are notable similarities between the two, but where Limbo plumps for arty existentialism, Tequila Works' Deadlight leans towards pulp-y comic-book horror.
That's not to say it's cartoonish, however: the game resembles a zombie-infested reimagining of Cormac McCarthy's The Road, infused with the spirit of Flashback and Another World. And happily, it might just end up being as good as that cocktail suggests: the art style heavily favours silhouettes, which in turn places extra emphasis on the silky animation on display.
When you're burying your axe in the skulls of the walking dead, it's the little touches that matter - though don't go expecting an all-out action fest: Deadlight looks to offer a solid line in environmental puzzling, too.
When do we get it? This summer. Hey, that's soon, right?
Tokyo Jungle - PS3
Picture a cross between Dead Rising and Metroid, set in post-apocalyptic Japan and starring a gazelle. Now switch out the gazelle for a fluffy chick, or a Pomeranian in a posh hat. Welcome to Tokyo Jungle - one of the strangest games at E3 2012, and one of the most oddly compelling, too.
Tokyo Jungle unfolds in accelerated real-time, with years passing by over the course of a few minutes. Depending on your choice of animal (and there are dozens to unlock) your immediate goal is to find something to eat, either a suitable plant or another creature, depending on your gastronomic tendencies. Each beastie has different pros and cons: the crocodile can kill almost anything with ease, but gets hungry quickly, while the chick is extremely weak, but gets a whopping XP bonus - he's like a waddling expert mode with feathers.
In the long term your goal is to survive as long as possible, exploring the city and slowly discovering what happened to all humans - their story is told via Resident Evil style diaries and notes. On a minute-to-minute basis, however, you'll have to look out for your animals' needs - keeping them healthy and well-fed. Completing ambient challenges allows you to level up, which in turn lets you attract a mate; once you've escorted your lover back to a nest, you'll be treated to a brief animal love-making scene, and then you'll respawn as one of your own offspring. At this point your brothers and sisters will accompany you, attack foes and serve as extra lives if you come a cropper.
Tokyo Jungle is raving fruitbat mental, and utterly original. Rejoice!
When do we get it? It's out now in Japan, but we've only just had confirmation that it'll come to Europe and North America. Still, at least we'll get to play it eventually.