Well, that was fast. It seemed like we might make it through a few weeks without being overwhelmed with releases — and yet here we are, another stacked month to kick off quarter 2 of 2021. Here we have plenty of new releases on the way if you aren’t still very busy with Loop Hero, Valheim, or any of the other surprise hits of quarter 1. For April, we are taking a look at the single player games Oddworld: Soulstorm, New Pokémon Snap, and Returnal.
Release Date: April 6, 2021
Platform: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PC
Fans of Inside, Little Nightmares, or genre-busting immersive stealth games like Dishonored and Mark of the Ninja should check out Oddworld: Soulstorm as soon as possible. It is a grander reimagining of 1998’s Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus, with new areas, expanded systems, and basically being what the PlayStation original “should have been.”
Oddworld creator Lorne Lanning once compared his series of fantastical, allegorical, and darkly humorous adventures to the work of Pink Floyd, and that is not too hard to parse out. The Oddworld games mostly deal in the kind of stylized reality and heavy satire that Pink Floyd’s The Wall became so famous for. Anti-fascist, anti-consumerist, and anti-authority, Oddworld tells multiple different stories of characters disadvantaged by the creeping horror of industrial society.
The series has often suffered from a kind of depressed popularity when compared to its contemporaries such as Final Fantasy VII, with which it shares its prerendered eco-apocalypse aesthetic and anti-corporation message. In spite of its more niche profile, Oddworld: Soulstorm is promising interesting things and hopes to deliver an evolved remake similar to the way Final Fantasy VII Remake did. Production values on Soulstorm are high; the team intends to pitch the Oddworld universe wider than just video games, and they have developed Soulstorm‘s design assets at the even-higher fidelity required for television and film.
Of course, aside from the excellent artistic direction, the game itself continues the clever level design and creative use of environmental and ability-based tactical play that all of the Oddworld games have had to this point. Oddworld has always been about immersive mechanics and relatively intuitive systems, and Soulstorm will mark an opportunity for the series to reestablish itself on the cinematic-platformer stage.
New Pokémon Snap
Release Date: April 30, 2021
Platform: Nintendo Switch
From one blast from the past to another: It’s the return of the premier console safari game.
Pokémon Snap offered the first real glimpse at Pokémon characters in their natural environment and in real-time 3D. Now, though the novelty of 3D Pokémon is over and the photography simulator/safari genre is in a lull, photography in games as a broader trend has never been bigger with the rise of social media and sophisticated photo-taking modes in games.
As such, now might be the perfect time for New Pokémon Snap. Although Pokemon Snap may be on the shorter side of Nintendo’s oeuvre, it retains the mix of cuteness and the thrill of discovery that it had 20 years ago. However, it’s a shame that we made it through the 3DS years (a 3D system with gyro for aiming a camera!) and the Wii U (a system that seemed *built* for a photography game) era before the franchise returned.
Hopefully — based on previews that have showcased both day and night versions of levels, along with branching paths and extra interaction mechanics — New Pokémon Snap will feel like the last 20 years have been a worthwhile wait.
Release Date: April 30, 2021
Platform: PlayStation 5
Coming to us from Housemarque, the veteran developers of Resogun, Super Stardust, Alienation, and Nex Machina, Returnal is only most of a departure from its arcade fare, still featuring whip-fast shooting and some intense bullet-hell elements. However, this time Returnal is played from a third-person action perspective, with impressive AAA graphics to herald the developer’s arrival on PlayStation 5.
The story follows space pilot Selene after she crashlands on an alien world and becomes trapped in an Edge of Tomorrow-like time loop. The game features a procedurally generated series of spooky, monster-filled environments, and its overall vibe has already been warmly received as looking more than a little like Metroid Prime. Beyond the basics of “scary aliens” and “shoot, die, repeat” though is the promise of more narrative depth than ever before in a Housemarque title.
Stranger things are happening on the alien planet than just bullet-spewing tentacular beasts. First-person sections of Returnal involve exploring Selene’s old home, presumably far away, and yet somehow showing up on the alien planet just the way she left it. This Alex Garland / Andrei Tarkovsky-esque mind-screw suggests richer character work than just survival, and it folds into the roguelite formula nicely — meaning even through dying and repeating, there will be deeper story discoveries to be made.
As a massive fan of science fiction in general, I look forward to Returnal‘s mix of space horror and hardcore shooter. Fingers crossed this single player game can justify its steep $125 Australian price tag.
Notable Dates for Single Player-Friendly Games
April 6 — Star Wars: Republic Commando (PS4, NS), The Wild Case (PC)
April 8 — 8Doors: Arum’s Afterlife Adventure (PC), Before Your Eyes (PC), Cozy Grove (PC, PS4, XBO, NS), In My Shadow (PC), Realpolitiks II (PC, leaving Early Access), Traffic Jams (PCVR, Oculus Quest)
April 14 — Forgotten Fields (PC)
April 16 — Poison Control (PS4, NS)
April 28 — Clan O’Conall and the Crown of the Stag (PC)
April 29 — Insurmountable (PC), Total War: Rome Remastered (PC)
As a result of release date shifts and the general state of the world, there are also plenty of games set to release soon that lack firm release dates. Enjoy playing single player games this month!