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Video game preview: Spring brings sequels and new releases for players

(Isabella Lee/Daily Bruin)

By Matthew Chu and Emma Hardymon

April 7, 2021 4:49 p.m.

Spring has finally arrived – and a multitude of new video games are coming along too. As flowers bloom, developers are preparing for the releases of highly anticipated sequels and brand new games alike.

Keep reading for the Daily Bruin’s video game picks to look out for this spring.

New Pokémon Snap (BANDAI NAMCO Studios)

From dense jungles to white sandy shores, a tropical summer getaway arrives early this year in New Pokémon Snap.

The sequel to a 1999 Nintendo 64 title is set to release for Nintendo Switch on April 30 to the delight of many nostalgic fans. In a franchise famed for spectacular role-playing game battles, the original Pokémon Snap proved to be a surprisingly addictive photography simulator, making for a distinctly laid-back experience worthy of modern-day resurrection.

In the latest game, players control a professional Pokémon photographer assigned to an ecological survey of the Lental region – a lush archipelago where Pokémon can be observed in their natural habitats. Photos of Pokémon are rated out of four stars based on factors like their pose, size and the scenic backdrop. After receiving a grade, photos can then be edited with filters and effects, providing robust fine-tuning – and inevitable meme potential.

However, the game isn’t just a passive on-rails experience, as players can elicit rare behaviors from the Pokémon like playing a musical melody to encourage the owl-like Hoothoot to sing along. With more than 200 total Pokémon to discover, the game is shaping up to be high on replay value for completionists on a quest to “snap ’em all.” For a more immersive photography experience, the game also supports gyroscopic motion controls, letting players hold the Switch like an actual camera to aim and snap pictures.

The Pokémon franchise famously drove gamers into the outdoors in 2016, but players get the best of both worlds in New Pokémon Snap.

–Matthew Chu

[Related: Video game preview: Winter releases provide players with escape to virtual worlds]

Knockout City (Velan Studios)

Its release is still a few weeks out, but Velan Studios’ upcoming video game already promises to be a knockout among fans of battle royale-style games.

With a bright aesthetic and gameplay mechanics similar to Fortnite, Knockout City is a thrilling twist on the classic playground game of dodgeball. Set to release May 21 as cross-playable for the PC, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch and Xbox, its premise for each “dodgebrawl” ” round is straightforward – the team that throws the most knockouts at the end of a game wins.

Popular streamers like H2ODelirious, SMii7Y and Wilbur Soot have given the game valuable exposure and heightened anticipation, with Soot’s video reaching the top 40 on YouTube’s general trending list. The multiplayer game offers a brand-new experience to every round with its expansive maps and range of weaponized dodgeballs for players to choose from, including explosive or zero-gravity balls.

The game’s mechanics required the creation of a brand-new shooting engine that optimizes throwing and catching at a fast, constant pace. While playing, users can fake out their opponents with trick throws or even resort to using their teammates as human balls when low on dodgeballs. The game also opened a raffle for public beta rounds last weekend, giving players a chance to get a first look at the game.

Between its upbeat gameplay style and positive early reviews, Knockout City has promise to become one of Velan Studios’ biggest games yet.

–Emma Hardymon

“Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart” (Insomniac Games)

Loading screens are becoming a thing of the past in Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart.

The franchise’s latest entry follows on the heels of its 2013 release, Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus, as titular heroes Ratchet – a feline creature called a Lombax – and his robotic sidekick Clank jump, shoot and battle their way across the galaxy to stop an evil emperor. The same third-person shooter formula is back and the duo is armed with a plethora of new over-the-top sci-fi gadgets – from the devastating Shatterbomb to a sprinkler that turns enemy robots into topiaries.

Releasing as a PlayStation 5 exclusive on June 11, the game utilizes the lightning-fast speeds of the new gaming system’s solid state drive to power its key gameplay innovation – zipping between different locations via interdimensional portals. Players can use the portals to instantaneously warp across vast cityscapes or even to entirely new planets, opening the door to creative combat potentials and complex puzzles.

Further adding to the anticipation, the game’s trailer teases the heroes encountering a mysterious female Lombax ally who has been confirmed as a playable character. On the graphical end, ray tracing and HDR – two veritable buzzwords of next-generation gaming – also promise to enrich the experience with hyperrealistic lighting effects in 4K resolution.

For gamers feeling stuck at home, dimension-hopping with Ratchet and Clank might just be the ideal escape.

–Matthew Chu

[Related: Video game review: Rereleased ‘Scott Pilgrim’ game struggles to combine nostalgia and originality]

Subnautica: Below Zero (Unknown Worlds Entertainment)

The 7-year-old Subnautica is finally getting a sequel.

Subnautica has been a household name in the gaming community because of its unconventional development style – the game was constantly in an early-access phase that saw live updates and bug fixes being pushed to players on a constant basis. This spring, Subnautica’s developers will be taking the lessons learned from their first open-world nautical survival game to release Subnautica: Below Zero on May 14 for the PC, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch and Xbox.

Set canonically after Subnautica, the sequel expands on the game’s open-world map to include frozen tundras, new hi-tech vehicles and more formidable alien sea creatures. Below Zero has been in open development on Steam since January 2019, but its official release will see it expand across other consoles. Despite its work-in-progress glitches ranging from visual errors to missing story components, the game has been well-received by streamers and fans alike.

The game’s developers also embrace its errors. Unknown Worlds posted updates in their newsletter claiming that even though the current version of Below Zero runs poorly and includes only a small amount of planned features, they are still excited about the direction that development is moving in.

Hopefully, more than two years of open development will pay off for this new arctic adventure.

–Emma Hardymon

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