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September 2023 games you might have missed: Cocoon, Party Animals

September 2023 games you might have missed: Cocoon, Party Animals


A lot of video games come out every month, and it’s only picking up as we approach October, which is particularly packed. If you gave the September game release calendar a thwap with the ol’ broom, a few huge AAA-tier games would likely drop to the ground like anvils this month. Games like Starfield, the new DLC for Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, Mortal Kombat 1, Payday 3, and Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty kick up a cloud that overshadows the arrival of smaller games — potentially great ones, even, from developers you might’ve heard of and new indie creators alike. Like, some that may actually end up on your GOTY list.



We don’t want to let these games slip by (and you’d probably like to know about them, right?), so each month we’ll be rounding up a handful of notable game launches that you should know about. Stay tuned near the end of every month for our next batch of video game deep cuts.

Gunbrella

There’s a new side-scrolling platformer out this month that has everything I want in a game: gorgeous cinematics, floating down from big jumps like Princess Peach, dashing like Hollow Knight, and a badass shotgun with frenzied, gore-fest action akin to Broforce. It’s called Gunbrella, and it’s been on my radar since I first saw it in action. This game comes from Doinksoft, the studio that developed the 8-bit-inspired Gato Roboto, another game I recommend checking out if you like side-scrolling shooters.

You play as a fellow who has maybe the most coveted spy-movie weapon of all: an umbrella with a gun inside. Not since Penguin from the Batman series have I seen such a cool umbrella in action.

Gunbrella is now available on Nintendo Switch and Windows PC via Steam.

Gloomhaven

While technically not a new launch, Gloomhaven, the video game adaptation of the tabletop game, is now on consoles. The game graduated from early access on PC in 2021, and now more people get to play this excellent game, since it’s out on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, and Xbox.

Our 2021 review calls the game a “marvelous turn-based dungeon crawler,” and this new version, called Gloomhaven Mercenaries Edition, features even more content, plus collectible cards if you choose to buy the physical version over a digital copy. However you choose to buy the game, Mercenaries Edition includes the Solo Scenarios: Mercenary Challenges DLC, which adds 17 scenarios, building on the 95 missions available in the base game.

Gloomhaven is now available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X, in addition to Mac and Windows PC via Steam.

Chants of Sennaar

At its core, Chants of Sennaar is about decoding language through puzzles, and each language will help you understand the game’s characters and world. It requires patience to work through some of the tasks (including a few tense stealth sections), but it seems worth it to be able to comprehend the game’s languages and broader story.

I’d normally continue with more details, but Polygon already reviewed this game, so I suggest you read our Chants of Sennaar review if you need that final push before you buy it.

Chants of Sennaar is now available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows PC via Steam, and Xbox One.

Cocoon

The latest game from the lead gameplay designer of Limbo and Inside isn’t what you might have expected. Judging from the trailer, Cocoon seems to possess the slow-drip exposition and moody environments that made Jeppe Carlsen’s previous games so interesting, but with an all-new gameplay mechanic: world-leaping. You’ll activate portals, of sorts, to warp to new locations, showing off both how impressive the visual effects are and how fast the loading is as you go from world to world.

Cocoon will be available Sept. 29 on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC via Steam, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X (also on Game Pass).

Border Bots VR

I’ve always thought a VR version of Papers, Please would be a hit. Alas, it doesn’t exist, but Border Bots VR scratches a similar itch, at least on a mechanical level. Similarly, you play as border agent whose job it is to control who passes through security checkpoints. You’ll be checking the identification, credentials, and possessions of robots — not people. You even get to do the big ol’ stamp.

Notably, Border Bots VR takes on a much cheerier tone than Papers, Please, which is deliberately dour and, at times, pretty upsetting. In this futuristic game, the slapstick meter is set to high, though it’s still trying its hand at something fairly serious: You’re either allowing or denying the free travel of robots, which involves being instructed to discriminate. Regardless, I’m intrigued enough to try, and you might want to give this one a chance, too, if you have a PlayStation VR 2 headset, or any headset that supports SteamVR (that includes the Meta Quest 2, if you use Air Link to wirelessly connect to your gaming PC).

Border Bots VR is launching Sept. 28 for PlayStation VR 2 and SteamVR.

Party Animals

For being such an adorable game, I can already tell that Party Animals is going to elicit a surprising amount of cursing from your friends and family. This multiplayer game reminds me of Gang Beasts, but taken to the next level with goofier animations and physics-based carnage (plus cute, bipedal animals instead of faceless humanoids).

You’ll be tasked with competing against your pals in a number of challenges (a lot of them look inspired by zany Mario Party minigames), and in the end there can only be one winner. You’ll be mad if you lose, but you’ll be laughing anyway.

Party Animals will be available Sept. 20 on Windows PC via Steam, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X (also on Game Pass).

El Paso, Elsewhere

Fans of Max Payne who long for new games that utilize its bullet time slow-motion shooting mechanic and its familiar corridors full of enemies to mow down might want to check out a new game called El Paso, Elsewhere. I’m intrigued by its dark, monster-filled world and its gritty protagonist who has an ax to grind against pharaohs of ancient Egypt, like Djedefre, and other frightful creatures.

It’s tough to get a sense of the full scope of the game from the trailer above, but I can totally get down with a stylish shooter with a side of shit-talking the pharaohs. And since the game takes place in a reality-shifting motel, who knows where your elevator will take you next?

El Paso, Elsewhere will be available Sept. 26 on Windows PC via Steam, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.

Paleo Pines

It’s tough out there for those of us who want dinosaurs in our chill exploration games, but Paleo Pines is here to satisfy that extremely niche desire. It’s part farming sim, featuring crops you can grow and harvest with dino pals that you tame and befriend, and part village simulator.

It’s all about taking things at your own pace in Paleo Pines, whether you want to venture out to meet other dinosaurs, forage for materials and ingredients, craft recipes, or focus on building your dream estate with help from dinos.

Paleo Pines will be available Sept. 26 on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC via Steam, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.

Thunder Ray

Thunder Ray features gorgeous visuals, with characters that crash through the ceiling with style — all of whom you can bloody up in a fight. Just like in Punch-Out, it’s about pattern recognition, and each opponent appears to have drastically different move sets to keep you on your toes.

Thunder Ray is now available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows PC via Steam, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.

FROM OUR SPONSOR: Under the Waves

Under the Waves is a narrative-driven adventure game about the engulfing power of grief. Set in the depths of the North Sea in a techno-futuristic 1970s, professional diver Stan is struggling to overcome a life-changing loss and embrace a new future.

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