When it comes to 3D platformers, it’s easy to think the genre is on its last legs. Rare have given up on Banjo-Kazooie. Nintendo has slowly gotten rid of any real exploration in their 3D Mario platformers. And heck, even the likes of Crash Bandicoot and Spyro are now wasting away in the Skylanders franchise instead of headlining their own games. So who’s even left now?
Well, quite a few games really! Because thanks to all those kids growing up playing the N64 and PS1, a whole host of indie developers have now taken on the role of trying to resurrect the 3D platformer. From Banjo-Kazooie successors like Yooka-Laylee and A Hat in Time to linear Crash Bandicoot successors like Tiny Knight, it seems the 3D platformer is just about to make a long awaited comeback!
So let’s look at them. Let’s look at the many indie 3D platformers that have been in development over the last three years or so. And the list begins with…
Systems: Microsoft Windows, OSX
Developer: Gears for Breakfast
With a game pretty much everyone knows about by now. A Hat in Time is an upcoming 3D platformer by a company called Gears for Breakfast, which plays like a mixture of Mario 64, Banjo-Kazooie and the 3D Legend of Zelda titles.
The game stars an interstellar traveller called Hat Girl, whose spaceship is apparently broken into by the Mafia (from the first world of the game). This results in all her spaceship’s fuel (called Time Pieces) being scattered across the world and a trip across the world to get them all in order to stop her enemy Mustache Girl from taking them and time being broken as a result.
Either way, it’s a game we’ve covered a lot here before, so we won’t go into too much detail here. Instead, look at its features in our comparison article, and the marvel at how professional this game really looks.
And people knew that. Why? Because the game did really well on Kickstarter, raising a whopping $296,000 in total. That’s impressive for an indie game by a team with no chosen track record, don’t you think?
But hey, enough about that one. Now onto something a few less people have heard about…
Systems: Wii U eShop
Developer: Fuzzy Wuzzy Games
Namely, Armillo for the Nintendo eShop. This 3D platformer has a strange style of gameplay reminiscent of cross between Mario 64 and Super Monkey Ball, with our hero rolling around various worlds in a ball and jumping across platforms and solving puzzles in the process.
It’s not quite as a big a title as A Hat in Time or Yooka-Laylee, but it’s a decent enough title anyway (with a 72% average at Metacritic), and possibly one worth checking out if you want a 3D platformer for the Wii U without waiting for 2017 (when the other such games are being released).
Systems: Windows, Linux, Wii U, OSX
Developer: Rob Wass
However, while the other games mentioned so far were loosely inspired by Banjo-Kazooie, there are actually some other indie platformers which are a bit more… blatant. Like Clive n’ Wrench, a Banjo-Kazooie style collectathon starring a humanoid rabbit and a monkey who act much like their bear and bird brethren. In this title, they have to journey across various time periods to save the world from the evil Dr Daucus and his world dominating scheme. While doing this, they have to collect the Watches and Ancient Stones to open up new eras and stop Daucus from collecting the fabled Bunny Medals and becoming immortal in the process. And well, dodging the doctor’s minions in the process.
In other words? It’s basically Banjo-Kazooie with Clive standing in for Banjo, Wrench for Kazooie, Dr Daucus for Gruntilda and the collectables for the Jiggies and Notes.
Unfortunately for the team behind it, the project didn’t do too hot on Kickstarter. This is partly because Yooka-Laylee was basically the same concept with better aesthetics and more ‘star power’ behind it, and partly because well, the trailer was absolutely terrible:
Yeah, it’s not exactly something that inspires you to back the game, is it? The narrator alone was pretty obnoxious, and that’s all without getting into the actual game footage and how it was presented. As a result, it made about $2000 of a $25,000 goal on Kickstarter and ended its campaign in failure.
Still, there is some positive news to come from this. Namely, the Kickstarter failure didn’t actually lead to the end of the project, with the game’s team continuing development regardless of the Kickstarter’s outcome. So development is currently continuing, and the game will be available to play one day.
But for now? Let’s look at a different type of game. One that seems to have been released, albeit while dropping off the radar immediately afterwards.
Systems: Windows, OSX, Linux, Ouya, Wii U
Developer: Kitatus Studios
And by dropped of the radar, I mean absolutely no information seems to be present online about this game or what actually happened to it. It’s got a GameFAQs page with a release date of February 24th 2014, but there’s no actual information there about any of the game’s content.
There’s a few links on IndieDB implying it was on Steam Greenlight at one point, but it seems to have been taken down in the last few years or so. A Mac games store used to have it, but currently says its out of stock and has no idea when more copies will be available to buy. And with IndieDB saying it’s not in development any more, it’s a bit of a mystery what exactly happened to this title.
Was the one released an alpha? Cause that’s the only version that any reviews exist for. Was it really so unpopular that no one made a single video or forum topic about it before the game went down?
Honestly, I don’t think we’ll ever really know. It’s a shame given the intriguing ideas included in the game’s storyline (like how in your escape from an alien prison, you find portals to new worlds and save them from the alien overlords as well), or the original art style (it seems to be cel shaded), but hey, problems happen, and companies go bankrupt.
It’s just a shame that this game ended up mostly lost to history because of it.
Systems: PC, OSX, Linux
Developer: Called Shot LLC
Which unfortunately, seems to be the roughly the same thing that occurred with the ‘Electric Adventures of Watt’ game too. Set on a dark planet involved in a war between the forces of light and dark, this game had you take one of two sides and destroy your enemies with powers related to the side you chose. In other words, it was a ‘head to head’ platformer inspired by Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Psychonauts and Limbo.
Which on the face of it, sounds like a pretty good idea. However, the Electric Adventures of Watt did not do well in getting funding. Even with an (extremely low) goal of $14,000, the game barely reached $1,335, a paltry amount barely made acceptable by the ‘flexible funding’ on the Indiegogo site.
And that was obviously nowhere near enough for the team, since all development on the project stopped dead in late 2013. So what went wrong here?
Well, in a nutshell, they showed no game footage. They had a campaign sure, but it was entirely concept art based with a lot of story and character details instead of any actual proof the game had started development. That’s not a good thing when raising funds. Remember, people don’t want mock-ups and visions of a product, they want proof there’s an actual product being worked on right now and that the creators are the people who can realise it.
The Electric Adventures of Watt had none of that. So like many other crowd funded games, it’s interesting ideas were wasted as the project sank without a trace.
Developer: Studio Besus
But that’s not a fate that Firewing 64 will likely share! Why? Because unlike the Electric Adventures of Watt, Firewing 64 actually has a real trailer showing the game in action! Here it is:
As you can see, it’s a 3D platformer very much inspired by the Spyro series from the original PlayStation. You play as a dragon (presumably called Firewing), run around collecting items and stomping on bad guys and get various extra abilities like the power to fly through the air in the process.
Heck, there’s even apparently a kart racing section!
Also interestingly here, the game doesn’t seem to be on any crowdfunding sites. Instead, each of the versions/demos can be downloaded from the official site or IndieDB as the game gets updated. So yeah, it seems like the folks at ‘Studio Besus’ are just outright making their dream game there and then rather than expecting people to pay them thousands of dollars to do so. Talk about a smart move in today’s day and age!
Oh, and talking of games you can get already…
Systems: PC, Wii U
Developer: Rainy Night Creations
There’s FreezeMe, a Mario 64 successor for the Wii U. Originally launched on Kickstarter in early 2015, the game had a lot of trouble getting funded and fell short of its goal by more than $10,000.
But developers Rainy Night Creations fortunately didn’t let that stop them! Oh no, they kept developing the game, kept improving it for a few months and then managed to release the whole thing on the Wii U eShop by February 2016! That’s extremely impressive, especially given how ambitious the title was and the sheer scale of the worlds you explore in this game.
So what’s the game actually about? Well apparently, it’s about a photographer called R who can freeze time by taking pictures with her camera. She’s on the trailer of her best friend ‘M’, who’s been kidnapped by the main villain ‘Fat the Cat’ as part of his plan to create a ‘Dog-Free-World’. It’s not exactly a complex storyline, but it’s a decent enough excuse plot regardless.
And as far as quality? Apparently it’s pretty good according to the reviews I’ve read. Nothing on the level of Mario 64 or Banjo (or the upcoming Yooka-Laylee), but a decent enough experience that might keep a die hard 3D platformer fan satisfied while waiting for the bigger budget titles to come out in 2017 or so.
Developer: Vamped Games
Moving onto another title now, with the oddly titled ‘Funk Unplugged’ game. Starring a living amplifier called ‘Ampy’, this game has him ‘repairing a broken world with the power of good vibes’. Or in other words, saving his world with music.
In other words, it’s a fairly typical 3D platformer in the style of those from the N64 era. But it seems to be a decent enough take on the genre none the less, to the point the title managed to both reach its funding goal on Kickstarter and get greenlit over on Steam, It’s in active development too, with a new demo released just months ago and the latest trailer being uploaded last week.
Definitely a title that could be worth checking out when it’s completed!
Systems: Windows, OSX, Linux, Oculus Rift
Developer: Prismic Studios
Just like this one, which is now available to buy in full right now! Gnomes vs Fairies: Greckel’s Quest is another one of those unique genre blending indie titles that likely comes across as ten times more complex in the description. A ‘Hack n slash-action RPG platformer’ set in a magical land, the title has your gnome protagonist trying to take back the land of Ventocia from the evil fairies, who’ve taken over your home, captured your friends and who are now ruling the world with an iron fist. So it’s your job to fight back, with everything from weapons to magical spells! A pretty neat concept, especially given how much depth this stuff might add to the platformer gameplay.
Either way, it’s out, it’s available on Steam and it might be a decent time killer while waiting for the likes of Yooka-Laylee and Lobodestroyo to get finished.
Go and check it out if you’re a bit bored.
Developer: Breaker Box Studios
But back to Kickstarter campaigns now, with Griff the Winged Lion. Inspired by Spyro and Crash Bandicoot, the game has a winged lion called Griff save various realms from the forces of evil by beating up mythological creatures and turning things into gold with your magical powers. It’s fairly typical 3D platforming stuff for the most part, and you can see its influences right there and crystal clear.
Like say, with a Crash Bandicoot style chase section, various boxes that give you money when shattered and the obvious ability to glide large distances with your wings.
But hey, at least it’s more inspired by PS1 games than N64 games this time around, and it does look nice enough to be worth playing in the future. Well, if it reaches its funding goal anyway, since it’s only at $906 of $15,000 with two days left to go.
Another potentially decent choice here.
Systems: PC, OSX, Linux
Developer: Occultimate Games
Continuing the 3D platformer line up, we now have perhaps the most awkwardly named N64 throwback you can possibly think of. Aka, ‘Spooky Poo’s Happy Hell’, a name which simultaneously manages to put off both kids and parents at the exact same time!
Still, the game itself seems like it’s better than the name lets on. I mean, how many other collectathons have your protagonist make a deal with the devil before the game begins, and then manages to have the whole game set in hell as a result? Pretty few, I’ll say that much!
And with new abilities gained by literally selling your soul and the areas based on hell in Dante’s Inferno, this game is certainly a little darker in terms of story themes!
So it seems like a cult classic in the making if you ask me. It reached its funding goal, but not by very much. It looks okay, but nowhere near as ‘good’ as a lot of its competitors in the space. And with a story and name like that one, it’s one of those titles a mainstream audience likely won’t buy barring a miracle.
It’ll probably be something you’ll see written about on Hardcore Gaming 101 at some point (assuming it’s released). But hey, it could be worth a shot, if you want something a little more unusual from your 3D platformer!
Kind of like the next game really…
Which has one of the most heart-warming concepts in a video game to date. Why? Because this game is being developed to support various charities helping kids suffering from cancer, that’s why. Set in an island world, the game follows the adventure of a girl named Hope who’s life is ‘turned upside down’ by a mysterious monster called Cancer that falls from the sky and lands on her island home. So like you do in these games, she has to travel to the neighbouring islands to collect items that make her more powerful in order to prepare for the ultimate fight to defeat the monster and save her world.
It’s one of those games that actually makes you proud to be a gamer, especially when you realise that the team behind it created the title so kids in hospitals could feel stronger and more courageous about their real life fight with cancer after defeating the similar monster in the game.
And unlike a lot of educational or emotional games (like those awful, awful SNES games about diabetes or dental hygiene), this one seems like it’ll be a solid game in its own right, with the message communicated via a trek through interesting worlds that everyone can appreciate on a game design level as well as an emotional one.
Sadly though, it seems this wasn’t enough for the Indiegogo campaign to hit its target, with the campaign only raising $1,707 out of its $20,000 goal. And while that didn’t lead its cancellation like with so many other projects on crowdfunding sites, it still meant the title’s potential is likely not going to be realised as well as it could have been.
It’s a creative looking platformer which could have sent a positive message as well. Which is sadly a bit of a far cry from the next title on the list.
Systems: Windows, OSX, Linux
Aka, the Yooka-Laylee clone that originally advertised Grant Kirkhope as the composer, then had the bad luck of him leaving the team immediately afterwards.
There are some awkward character designs, like a female protagonist that seems like she’s straight out a Sonic fan game. There are some questionable levels (like the haunted house one with all those narrow corridors and precision jumps). And before a recent change, it even directly copied Yooka-Laylee’s Kickstarter page design.
It’s got some interesting stuff (like swappable partners), but for the most part, it seems like Yooka-Laylee 1.5 with a less experienced team.
Systems: PC, Max, Linux, Wii U, Ouya, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Developer: Lefthanded Studios
Which is fortunately not something you can say about this title. Covered heavily on Gaming Reinvented already, Lobodestroyo (or The Legend of el Lobodestroyo Vs. la Liga de los Villanos in full) has luchador wolf Mutt trying to rescue his captured friends and defeat the evil villains who’ve taken over parts of the world.
Here’s the Kickstarter video, in case you’ve forgotten about it:
Either way, we’ve covered it a fair amount in the past already, so read up on the game in our interview, or in our comparison between this, A Hat in Time and Yooka-Laylee. For now though, we’ll just move onto the next title in line…