The appearance of Hollow Knight: Silksong during the Xbox and Bethesda Games showcase at E3 2022 was a bittersweet moment for me. Like so many fans of the original Hollow Knight, Team Cherry’s critically-acclaimed side-scrolling Metroidvania of 2017, I couldn’t wait to see more of its elusive and much-anticipated sequel, Silksong. After skipping Geoff Keighly’s Summer Game Fest last week – despite some friendly red herring banter between the presenter and Team Cherry’s PR team a few days prior – the stage was set for Microsoft’s showcase, and, for the most part, it didn’t disappoint. In a blistering 70-odd seconds of footage, we saw new protagonist Hornet sprinting, slashing, and scaling the crumbling walls of a haunted world, battling huge monster bosses, and executing a number of neat-looking special abilities at lightning speed. And then, just as the title ident flashed up at the Silksong gameplay trailer’s very end… nothing.
Absolutely nada on the release date front. Zilch, zip, zero. Not a sniff. Not even a vague “2023” label slapped on there for good measure. On stage, Xbox’s head of creator experience Sarah Bond did say that the games shown during the event would be playable in some form over the next 12 months – something the official Xbox Twitter account reiterated afterwards – but I’d have loved something a little more concrete. Listen, games are ready when they’re ready, I get that. But I’m looking forward to Silksong so much that I’d have taken a release date over any footage whatsoever – and if social media is anything to go by, I’m far from alone.
And then I clapped eyes on The Last Case of Benedict Fox, due in Spring 2023, and all was right with the world again.
My desire for a new 2D Metroidvania platformer is clearly insatiable. I long for a combative side-scroller set within a dark and twisted fantasy world, with Lovecraftian monsters and magic, traversal mechanics and more supernatural abilities than you can shake a Coiled Nail at. But, hang on, what’s this? A new 2D Metroidvania with “challenging Soulslike combat”, set within a dark fantasy world, and starring an intrepid self-proclaimed detective wrestling with a demon who’s seemingly figuratively and literally trapped inside his body? The Last Case of Benedict Fox sounds, and looks, incredible.
Some of that was outlined during its Xbox and Bethesda Games showcase reveal – check out the trailer above – which showed the titular protagonist zipping around fantastical worlds, harnessing double jumps and power stomps, calling upon the beast within to snatch and whip enemies from one end of the screen to the next, before shooting them dead with a well-placed blast from his revolver. After eventually happening upon his father, who’s either dead or incapacitated, Benedict’s inner demon helps him explore his old man’s memories – landscapes which appear even more haunting than the distorted ones the hero has found themselves roaming in the present day.
Speaking to The Last Case of Benedict Fox’s narrative trappings, here’s what developer Plot Twist said in a coinciding press release: “In 1925 Boston, self-proclaimed detective Benedict Fox must uncover the fate of a family while traversing a dark, eerie world of emotions made manifest while battling the demon trapped inside his own body. Face an occult order and filthy demons in tactical and rewarding combat, explore the realm of the arcane, and unravel the disturbing secrets of a tragic family. The Last Case of Benedict Fox will immerse players in a rich story with engaging Metroidvania style combat and exploration, all in a breathtaking high fidelity art style.”
All of which sounds right up my street. Having rolled from GTA Online’s The Contract update at the turn of the year into a stint in Fortnite, then Elden Ring, and latterly Sniper Elite 5, I’m feeling a wee bit burnt out on sprawling, all-encompassing open world sandboxes that offer so much to do and see at the moment. The thought of getting to grips with a tight and punchy platformer, one that tells an intriguing tale, lets me switch off while exploring, but equally demands my full attention with my fists raised in its epic showdowns sounds absolutely perfect. Granted, The Last Case of Benedict Fox is a ways away from its tentative Spring 2023 release, but it’s entered my radar with a bang – both as one to watch, and as an alternative to Hollow Knight: Silksong whenever it may poke its head above the parapet proper.
Which is also one of my favourite things about E3. Games like Starfield, Redfall, The Callisto Protocol, Diablo 4, and The Last of Us: Part 1 will always steal the spotlight – and rightly so. The stature, the pizzazz, the fanfare – these games have all of this in spades, and they’re the reason we have annual events in the first place. But that doesn’t mean the surprises aren’t worth shouting about, those games that unwittingly stop us in our tracks for all the right reasons. For me, The Last Case of Benedict Fox is one of those, and, with the super-cool-looking adventure strategy game Highwater also on its books, publisher Rogue Games should be proud of its E3 2022 season showing.
E3 in its current fragmented guise, of course, continues to roll on (you’ve checked out our E3 2022 schedule, right?), and while it was first thought Nintendo were skipping proceedings entirely, it turns out the next Nintendo Direct could be happening later this month. With Hollow Knight: Silksong en route to Nintendo Switch whenever it lands, might we see a release date there? I can only hope so.
Fancy this? Keep your eyes on the best new indie games out now.