The Best of EGX Rezzed 2016
Last weekend EGX Rezzed, the smaller brother to EGX’s larger show, returned to Tobacco Dock in London. This is the 5th Rezzed and its growth has continued apace since the first Rezzed way back in Brighton in 2012. It continues to bring in the best of the indie developers scene, with talks, Q&A sessions, careers workshops and a mass of brilliant indie gems to play. Here I cover some of my favourites from the show floor.
A clever minimalist puzzle platformer where you have to guide two balls through a platforming obstacle course filled with the usual turrets, spikes and other traps. The catch is, you control both balls at the same time. Sounds simple enough in theory, and the first levels serve as a gentle warmup, but the game quickly adds complexity as you progress and before long you’re struggling to keep track of everything as the environments get tougher and the traps fill the screen. Luckily, progress is non-linear, and you can choose your way through much of the game through a lovely in game map. The whole thing is backed up by a soundtrack and in game messages that react to how well (or badly) you’re doing.
Platforms : Windows/Mac. Website : http://playbinaries.com/
Another ‘Platformer with a twist’ but this time you control pairs of Mekanimals (mechanical animals) through a variety of gorgeous environments. Each mekanimal has its own abilities, the trick to passing through each section is to work out how to combine them to progress. There’s also secrets abound for those willing to explore. With its multiple characters and the option to play in co-op mode the time I spent with Mekazoo evoked a very Trine feel of a world that makes you want to explore, which is a massive complement to the style and ambience that oozes from every little detail.
Platforms : PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Wii U. Website : http://www.goodmoodcreators.com/mekazoo.html
Antioch: Scarlet Bay
Antioch describes itself as an online cooperative interactive fiction game, which probably describes it better than I ever could. It’s basically a visual novel of sorts in which two players take on the roles of two detectives working together to solve crime in the streets of Antioch. You can either partner up with a friend or a total stranger to Sherlock your way through the game. A mobile release is the target for the developers, with the idea being that you play through in sessions throughout the day at your leisure, and getting a notification when the story progresses. Even in the short demo segment, the writing shone through, with plenty of signs that this could be one of the most unique games coming out this year.
Platforms : Android and Apple smartphones. Website : http://antiochgame.com/
The Breakfast Club
Physics based breakfast making mayhem for 4 players. Players must collaboratively make the breakfast meal required by doing a range of things such as toasting bread, buttering toast, frying eggs and bacon, and then serving it up (or alternatively just hurling it off the plate entirely) before the time runs out. Think surgeon simulator, but with toast instead of body parts… and three other people.
Platforms : PC, currently greenlit on Steam. Website : http://playwe.st/the-breakfast-club/
Another 4 player co-operative meal making simulator, but this time with a more standard top-down view, as players each take control of a chef and must combine their skills to create meals to order by combining the ingredients their kitchen has. The game starts off simply enough : To make mushroom soup, chop up 3 mushrooms, put them in the pot, heat them up, put it on a plate and serve. Before long however, the game ratchets up the difficulty and before you know it the meat is on fire, the burgers have been put together wrong, there’s no plates because you need to wash them all up, and the restaurant appears to have been built on an iceberg/a ship/in space/a hotspot for seismic activity. Ludicrous co-op screaming-at-your-friends fun.
Platforms : PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4. Website : http://www.ghosttowngames.com/overcooked/
In this game, you control Samuel. Samuel has had an impromptu meeting with death, and now must survive 24 hours doing everything manually. To start off with this includes breathing, blinking, walking and not allowing your spine to collapse in on itself. This list of tasks gives you plenty to keep doing to start off with, but then in addition you have to guide Sam through his day without having him fall down the stairs, drink his toothpaste or choke on his food. Brilliant fun brought to life by the hilarious vocals and art design.
Platforms : Xbox One and PC. Website : https://www.facebook.com/manualsamuelgame/
Wrong Wire and Scanner Sombre
A pair of experiments brought to life by Introversion Software, makers of Prison Architect. Wrong Wire is a bomb defusal puzzle game in which you have to, well, defuse a bomb. You do this through interacting with the environment and using the skills you pick up over the levels at your disposal, along with your trusty instruction manual. Oh and of course, you have to make sure you cut the right wire! Nerve-wracking stuff. Scanner Sombre is another matter entirely, taking place in an underground labyrinth where you navigate through the caverns by scanning them, leaving markings over the walls. Its not without danger though, as you must take care not to fall through holes in the floors, and it appears you aren’t alone in the environment too. Both experiments are short pieces of brilliance, and while its not yet known if Introversion will expand either (or both) of these ideas, I truly hope they do.
VR Corner :
Esper was a VR puzzle game released for the Gear VR and the Rift, and Esper 2 follows in its footsteps. It is a VR puzzle game, where you use telekinetic abilities to progress. The game starts out feeling like a VR take on Portal, as you start in a lab following instructions to progress through rooms, with an unseen voice berating you and giving you hints on events outside of the testing environment. While the original game mostly confined you to the labs, here before long you’ll find yourself outside the lab environment in a brilliantly detailed world. You’ll be needing your wits and a good eye as you’ll be examining every part of the game world for clues. This game has also drafted in some excellent voice talent, with names like Nick Frost adding vocal weight to the proceedings.
Platforms : PC via Oculus Rift and Gear VR. Website : http://coatsink.com/games/esper-2/
Carpe Lucem : Seize the Light
Carpe Lucem is also a VR puzzle game, in that it has you looking about your environment to solve puzzles, but in this case, you must guide beams across a landscape that stretches all around you. It takes a moment to get used to, considering you have complete 3 dimensional control of the objects, and often have to use mirrors to angle beams in various directions, but it was unlike anything else on the show floor. The closest comparison I could get to was ‘The Talos Principle’ in VR, especially when the developer had to tell me to turn around to see where to place individual beams. Pure brilliance.
Platforms : PC via Steam VR and Oculus Rift. Website : http://carpelucemvr.com/index.html
Gang Beasts VR
Its Gang Beasts, the hilarious physics based 4 player brawler, but with VR support! If that hasn’t immediately sold you, I don’t know what will.
Platforms : VR on PC only, but Gang Beasts due to release on PS4 later this year. Website : http://gangbeasts.com/
You are a giant cop. You protect the city by catching criminals in the act, physically picking them up and then flinging them into jail. But sometimes the boundary between a criminal and an innocent is not so clear cut. Some criminals will slip through the net, and some innocents will be thrown into jail. Or alternatively you can just pick up and hurl about whatever takes your fancy. This game isn’t just a one trick pony though, apparently there’s a decently long story mode too!
Platforms : PC via Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Website :http://giantcop.com/
A word on Tobacco Dock
For my money, Tobacco Dock still remains the best venue in gaming. Its separate rooms act as defined spaces, and allow for less confusion than the massive warehouses of Earls Court and Birmingham’s NEC. It’s also both welcoming and cosy in equal measure in a way that encourages developers and gamers alike to mingle and discuss the gems on show. There are still areas to improve though, the food, while of a better quality then most of the rubbish available at these shows, is expectedly overpriced and this year the main restaurant and bar area was closed off, replaced with a small bar on the top floor that had rather poor seating. With that said though, the venue and the content it holds add up to a combination that works, and works excellently. Rezzed is still an excellent showcase for games talent and Tobacco Dock feels like where it should stay for the foreseeable future.