This past weekend I was lucky enough to get the chance to wander around EGX at the NEC in Birmingham and spend the day playing some awesome games and chatting to some interesting people! Although I didn’t get to see everything, here’s a round-up of what I did…
Beasts of Balance
I kicked off the day by attempting to balance as many plastic animals on top of each other as possible. Beasts of Balance is a really interesting project, teaming a physical product with a mobile-based app and using NFC technology to connect the two together. The aim is the stack as many animals as you can onto the plinth and then keep them alive and thriving for as long as you can before the tower falls. As you add pieces to the plinth they affect the world displayed on the app. You can even cross-breed already stacked species to create entirely new ones.I can see myself spending hours trying to uncover all the secrets of this game, and the physical aspect lends itself well to expansion through new pieces. At £69 it’s doesn’t come cheap, but I’d say it’s worth the investment as the quality of the physical product is excellent.
Little Nightmares was the game I was most looking forward to having a go at, and I wasn’t disappointed. Tarsier Studios have created a well-polished demo of a fantastically creepy but endearing platformer requiring you to navigate yellow raincoat wearing Six through The Maw to find the light. Upon chatting to the booth staff I was told that the certificate would be raised between the demo and the finished game, going from a 12 to a 16 to allow them to add more graphic animations to some of the more frightening sections of the game. I think this is a wise move, as I would like to see the full effect of this sort of horror game, without feeling like it’s been toned down to cater to a younger audience. A quick chat with CEO Ola Holmdahl informed me that the game will be digital only (at least to begin with) and that putting together a demo which reflects the finished product without giving too much away was both a challenging process, but he’s proud of what they have achieved so far.
Final Fantasy XV
I managed to jump in the queue for this early, meaning I only waited an hour to play, which wasn’t too bad considering the demo was of a decent length. Unfortunately I wasn’t as impressed by this as I’d hoped I would be – the gameplay was relatively tedious, involving large bouts of running between waypoints, and the battle system seems to have been toned down from what I’m used to from Final Fantasy games, taking the control away from the player, and resulting in a lot of ‘press B to win’ style fighting. I’m hoping that this will change before release, and that we will see something at least akin to the paradigm system of the FF13 trilogy. It does, however, bring you some classic Final Fantasy game play, with a large expanse of open world to discover. I’m really hoping that the problems above were merely issues with the demo, and that this won’t extend to the full game, and I will still be picking it up on release.
China-made Lost Castle is already released in full in Asia, and now Hunter Studios have been working on bringing it over to the UK. I spent some time chatting to their PR guy and they’ve done a lot of work on making sure the localisation is tip-top, with local multiplayer already in place, they are now looking at trying to introduce online multiplayer. The game itself is a roguelike dungeon crawler with a distinctly The Behemoth feel. The artwork is all 100% hand-drawn frame-by-frame, and looks gorgeous. There is a massive amount of content crammed in too – enemies are randomly generated but associated with particular areas, to allow players to prepare for battles (a feature that was added after players complained that they could not do so with purely random fights). Each enemy killed drops souls, souls stay with you between play-throughs, allowing you to level up your character (who is also randomly generated at the beginning of each go) and gives you a feeling of progression despite the rougelike gameplay. This is a really tight game, loads of fun to play and is available now on Steam.
Ex-Rare developers Playtonic have managed to bring Banjo Kazooie to 2016 with instantly lovable characters and bright, open-world platforming this is most definitely Banjo Threeie.
Laser Disco Defenders
Navigate your way through randomly generated levels to defeat the evil Lord Monotone and his appalling taste in music and restore disco to your land – each time you shoot you make the level more difficult for yourself as your shot ricochets around the room, meaning you need to dodge friendly fire as well as enemy, creating a bullet hell which you can only add to. Laser Disco Defenders was a surprise hit for me, and is not a game I would normally pick up, but I found myself really enjoying the challenge of navigating through levels avoiding enemies but also attempting to use my attacks sparingly to avoid hurting myself. I spent a bit of time chatting to artist Daisy Spiers who explained the story to me, and informed me that as you progress you unlock extra characters, each with their perks and drawbacks. You can also unlock outfits for your characters which give them boosts – my favourite being the sunglasses (you get extra points because you look cool). With an excellent disco-inferno soundtrack, smooth gameplay and great-looking artwork and available now on PSVita, this is one I’d recommend having a go at, I had a hard time putting it down.
A frantic top-down cook-em-up from Team17 encouraging you to work together with your teammates to fulfil customers’ orders whilst making sure you have enough clean plates, trying not to set the place on fire and coping with the little perks the level has thrown at you (shifting furniture, no lights, etc). This is really good fun to play with friends, although I can see it maybe getting a little tedious after a while. A great party game though!
The Adventure Pals
Massive Monster have hit the nail on the head with this simple bright and fun platformer. Play on your own, or utilise co-op with a friend. You are on a quest to save your dad from being turned into a hotdog, and you have a giraffe called Sparkles, who lives in your backpack, and a pet rock for company. This is another The Behemoth inspired game (well, why not?) and started life as a Kickstarter, successfully raising over £22000 which has been put to good use and is coming soon to steam, PC and Mac.
Never Give Up
A second offering from Massive Monster, with polar opposite gameplay. In Never Give Up, you replay the same level 7 times but each time it’s made harder and longer and you are required to stick to a time limit. Pop-culture references a-plenty (Donnie Darko, Winnie the Pooh and even The Adventure Pals), attractive artwork and challenging gameplay work together to create a deliciously difficult bitesize platformer. The controls could have done with being a bit tighter to reflect the reactive nature of the obstacles you are required to face. Never Give Up will be available on Steam, PC and Mac.
Created in 7 weeks by ZRZStudio, Inops feels like a much larger operation. Guide your inops to safety through the obstacles in the levels, picking up more Inops that have fallen asleep to allow you to combine into one large entity, or split into many small ones depending on where you are. Touch and gyroscopic controls have been implemented impressively into this mobile-based platformer. Chatting to the developer I learned that based on feedback from the event they had been making nightly changes to improve gameplay and that they would consider porting it to non-mobile devices, but would need to adjust the controls accordingly with PlayStation being a strong contender due to the Vita and Sixaxis controller. With a Limbo meets Loco Roco style and a ‘just one more go’ feel Inops is great fun and is coming soon to iOS and Android devices.
A love-letter to Banjo Kazooie and Snake, Rattle n’ Roll, Sumo Digital have hit upon a unique snake-like gameplay mechanic. Combining vivid colours, tricky climbs and encouraging collectables you must wind your way to the top of a mountain, obtaining 3 gems per level to progress through the story. As well as unique movement, the snake possesses a strength of character you can’t help but love, portrayed by facial expressions from panting and eyes bulging when hanging by his neck, down to fear if he falls off a ledge. This brand new way of moving is easy to get the hang of, initially feeling a little slow you quickly learn that moving like a snake increases your speed. Adding a few more features such as enemies, power-ups and NPCs will really make this game perfect.
Maxim the Robot
Currently mobile-only, Maxim the Robot is a 2.5D graphical platformer which looks and feels like an old classic remade for current gen.The game has tight controls and an array of characters with different abilities to unlock and choose from which change the way you play – one can run faster, one has a jetpack, etc. The game has a James Pond meets Sonic feel to it, however, due to it being a mobile port, it is light on enemies and lacks the difficulty level of earlier, similar games. Developer Frozen Bots Studio is looking to bring the game to controller-based systems, so hopefully this will be adjusted if it reaches Steam or consoles in future. In the meantime, it will be available on iOS, Android and Windows Phone soon.
The Krucer Parallax
A fantastic dogfight game in space in which you control 5 ships at the same time, changing their formation on-the-fly. The beauty of this game comes from the totally user-defined and driven content. The developers are accepting anything from designs, to mission ideas, to just plain propaganda against the opposing teams. It’s a very plain game at the moment and that’s the point, RadiationBurn are looking to create something really special using exactly what the players want.
An EGX veteran game, Shu was beginning to feel like a cursed project, jumping from developer to developer being adjusted to fit, however, current developer CoatSink assures me that the game is finally releasing on PC on October 4th this year -and about time too! Shu is (now) a colourful platformer using three conjoined characters each with different skills to run and jump your way through RayMan-esque levels, finding collectables and avoiding enemies and obstacles. The second half of each level consists of being chased by a large toothy darkness in a speed run to safety.The artwork and controls are spot-on, completing a level unlocks time-trial mode which adds an extra dimension to the gameplay which was initially available immediately but caused issues with players being confused by what to tackle first.
At home in the Left-field section of the show, Foramina is a creepy point-and-click style game with Tim Burton-esque artwork and immersive sound effects to draw you in and make you feel slightly confused and a little weirded out. The demo puzzle’s purpose was unclear, however solving it was satisfying and it felt like it was progressing towards something which will presumably be revealed in a full game. Unfortunately the developers were not around to talk to when I discovered it, but I am looking forward to finding out more.
A Normal Lost Phone
Another Left-field offering, A Normal Lost Phone is a Her Story inspired discovery game. Without giving too much away, the game begins with you finding a lost phone; to try to discover who it belongs to you must investigate the various texts and photos, etc. on the phone to start to unravel just how this situation has come to be. The game is still being adjusted but is already available to play for free, however, developers did warn that it may be worth waiting a while (until January 2017) to really get the polished version they want to show you.