EGX Rezzed is over for another year and as ever, we had an absolute blast getting hands-on with some hugely exciting indie titles due for release either this year or the next. The sheer variety on show was exciting, with something for everyone from the trickiest of pixel puzzlers to some truly out there open world adventures. It’s a wonderful time for indies and we came away from the event hyped beyond all recognition for a handful of games that we got our hands on. Rossko has thrown together his Top six games he played at Rezzed 2019 (with a few honourable mentions). In his own words, it ‘wasn’t easy to narrow them down’.
We went into a bit of a deep dive on the games below and a bunch more on our podcast, and you can listen to the EGX section from 01:08:12. Right click that link to download the episode.
Fact of the matter is this – video games are cool. In no particular order, here are six you should be keeping your eye on.
Developer: Muse Games
I can officially announce right that I was the first member of the civilised European Union (as it currently stands) to place their hands upon Muse Games’ rather lovely Embr, a fire-fighting simulator tasking you with saving all the humans as their entire life burns around them, yet somehow making it the one game that put a giddy, giggling smile on my face throughout my time at Rezzed this year. Its frantic gameplay, being against the clock whilst sat down in a public events room made everything that much more heightened, and in some ways reminded me of Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, where the pressure ramps up the more time you waste navigating the house and looking for people to save. The demo I played had me in a house trying to save those trapped inside as it burned, and I was tasked with ensuring I used the correct tools in order to navigate the building. With falling debris in my way and fire rising, jumping from an axe to a hose was seamless.
The humour came from where you find the unfortunate people caught up in the flames. I found someone in a basement surrounding by exploding barrels(!) and another in the bathroom currently in the middle of a rather important bodily excretion. As the smile on my face widened I would ‘fireman lift’ these people out of the house, only to find more debris has fallen in front of me so what do I do? Well obviously I javelin these mothers to the other side of the room whilst I make a route to the exit. I realised how terrible a fireman I’d be in real life, despite saving everyone I imagine they have severe bruises from my negligence.http://web.archive.org/web/20200603070321if_/https://www.youtube.com/embed/6FtsIuJoqQE?feature=oembed
I live on as an honourary Embr Respondr, and I can’t wait to play this with the FG team once it releases. Someday.
Developer: Dear Villagers
Recommended to us by Sean (who sadly couldn’t make the event), we headed to the Tentacle Room – you can’t miss it at EGX events, it’s full of cool interesting games and it’s got bigass tentacles rising from the ground – to check out the rather interesting Recompile coming from Dear Villagers.
Recompile is a heady mix of Metroidvania and action/adventure, with the player placed in the shoes of a computer virus based within a digital landscape that wouldn’t look out of place in a new Tron movie. The first thing you notice about the game is just how damn gorgeous it is, with some tremendous neon lighting that aids your navigation. It’s primarily puzzle based, following lines to gain extra abilities in order to navigate the entire area I was placed in. The developers thankfully were on hand to guide myself and Greg through the initial moments, but it soon began to click and we each had a riot tearing it around and finding new areas.
The best way to really explain the game is to show you some footage so here, have a reveal trailer;http://web.archive.org/web/20200603070321if_/https://www.youtube.com/embed/nmzCIGulNW4?feature=oembed
Safe to say we had a great time playing through Recompile. It’s a visual delight and there’s an awful lot to get excited about with some clever mechanics and brilliant power-ups. The game is due next year so we’ve got a little while to wait to jump back into it, but we’re awaiting release rather impatiently.
No Straight Roads
The last game I played at Rezzed was hands down one of my favourites. No Straight Road quite honestly, blew my mind into a million pieces almost immediately. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going in to play and by the time the demo ended, I was floored by its visual prowess and its stunning audio design. My first question going in was – first and foremost – what the bloodyhell is this game all about?
Well, it’s directed by Final Fantasy XV lead game designer Wan Hazmer and Street Fighter V concept artist Daim Dziauddin which should give you an idea of the talent behind such a title and tells the story of taking down an EDM empire as an indie rock band, which is frankly one of the best game premises I’ve ever heard. The plan from the beginning was to ‘elevate the role of audio’ in game design, and it straight up delivers almost instantly. The initial tutorial has you running up the screen allowing you to pick up the controls rather easily, taking it one step a time by telling you what to press at certain moments and then giving you a chance to try it out.
You want some extra power? You have to pay attention to the music to ensure you’re hitting the beat at the correct time, if you hit the button at the correct rhythm, you’ll gain some extra power. It’s a little tricky to incorporate naturally, at least it was whilst playing it at an event where it’s far too loud to really pay close attention to a rhythm-based action game, but by the time I got to the final boss I found it became a rather natural part of my arsenal. The effects were devastating.http://web.archive.org/web/20200603070321if_/https://www.youtube.com/embed/fLVA89AJYIE?feature=oembed
As you would expect, the music plays a hugely important role in No Straight Roads. Being able to transform certain props into weapons through the power of your drums/guitar can elevate your arsenal considerably, with rock and EDM fighting off against each other to create a symphony of colliding soundscreens that work with you as a way to eliminate your enemies. It’s just gorgeous stuff from top to bottom.
No Straight Roads is the kind of experience you could only have in video games, and that’s what makes it so appealing I think. It’s the pure definition of the what the industry is hoping to accomplish. Blurring the lines between different entertainment mediums to create something wholly original.
I can’t wait to play it again.
Greg and I were both in agreement that Devolver Digital room was by far the most exciting room in the entire place. With a room full of its upcoming games along with recently released titles such as GRIS, Ape Out and more. Among the upcoming games though was Katana Zero from Askiisoft, which is due for release in a couple weeks on Steam, GOG and Nintendo Switch. And holy crap on a cracker, it’s a bloody delight.
I say bloody delight, and I’ll ask you to read that in both senses of the word. From the utterly gorgeous visual style – the best 2D lighting in game history? – to the insane levels of unimaginable violence, Katana Zero is going to impress a lot of people on release. It’s difficult to really compare it to anything else as the gameplay is so fast and fluid, though The Swindle and Celeste come to mind, if you can imagine the latter with an enormous frickin’ sword.
It’s a one hit kill experience so if you’re downed you need to try it all again from the beginning of the level. You also have the skills to take down your enemies with one hit kills though so it’s finely balanced, with the game wanting you to tear through each level without a single hit so it can show you just how awesome you were with a full replay of the level upon completion. It’s a welcome option, as the game is so delightful to play and look upon, to rewatch all that you’ve just achieved is a rewarding addition. I particularly enjoyed reviewing the moment I had to pesky bad ones following me and I simply destroyed them by switching on a laser with a switch I found.http://web.archive.org/web/20200603070321if_/https://www.youtube.com/embed/tTLHZh9IzAE?feature=oembed
We got a quick glimpse at the story and it looks to be deeper than you might have expected. Our protagonist has flashbacks, nightmares and more which fuel him to power through the levels, including sections where you go back home with him in a Hotline Miami kind of way, getting to know his neighbours in the process, all seemingly unaware of how he likes to spend his time. You see him with his therapist and engage in phone calls with his boss to offers up new contracts for you to take on. There’s a strong narrative at play which will hopefully turn out to be as engaging as the gameplay.
I’m just gonna take a couple of weeks off to play this when it launches on April 18th.
Yes. That should work.
Developer: Altered Matter
If you’ve listened to the podcast above you’ll know how much I was gushing about Etherborn, Altered Matter’s b-e-a-utiful puzzle platformer found in the brilliant ID@Xbox room. You would have also heard that I had a very difficult time playing puzzle games in a public sector. I have no real need to rush my puzzle gaming, particularly because I’m rubbish at them. In the middle of an Etherborn is pretty clear that I was taking far too long to solve a certain area and without looking around I got the feeling that people were watching me fail to such a degree that I had to put the controller down and go on my way. I had the feeling it was glaringly obvious what I had to do – as these kinds of games often are – and yet I was really struggling to find my way, probably because of the situation I found myself in playing the game, where floors of exhibitions are not the optimum conditions to play a game like Etherborn.
And yet, I really wanted to, because it was glorious. Etherborn is built on exploring – despite me thinking I was already taking far too long in a public space – and its gravity defying level design allows you to explore areas you may not have been able to otherwise. You play as a being with no voice who gets called to visit an ethereal voice through a series of rather gorgeous levels which allow you the patience to explore them in order to find the correct orbs in order to open new areas that will further your progress.http://web.archive.org/web/20200603070321if_/https://www.youtube.com/embed/U3QcJr_PIFk?feature=oembed
That’s the strange thing about Etherborn, I got the feeling I was taking far too long with my workings out on how to get through these puzzles and yet this is exactly what the game wants you to do. Take your time. Explore and understand how you can use the shifts in gravity to your advantage. Each structure is designed in such a way that there’s an answer possibly tucked away somewhere. You can see areas that you can’t currently reach, so the resolution must be nearby. There’s no rush, just live in the world and find each segment at your own pace.
It’s a peaceful, zen-like experience that I couldn’t fully experience given the situation I was playing the game in. Despite this, I could absolutely see the potential, reminding me of Back 2 Bed with its patience and gorgeous world.
There’s much more to uncover in Etherborn that I’ll do at my own pace in the comfort of my own home upon its release this Spring.
My Friend Pedro
Developer: DeadToast Entertainment
If you were at Rezzed there’s every chance that you were chased at one point my a dude dressed up as a giant banana. Perhaps unsurprisingly, said banana was from the Devolver Digital room used to promote My Friend Pedro, which is coming to Switch and PC this month.
My Friend Pedro was one of the earlier games I played at Rezzed, and I found myself comparing everything I played afterwards to its stonking mechanics. There was so much variety and original takes on genres across the entire floor, but there literally anything as frickin’ cool as My Friend Pedro, a 2D twin stick shooter where you play as a dude who is taking his obliterating orders from a sentient banana. Yeah, it’s a Devolver publish, after all.http://web.archive.org/web/20200603070321if_/https://www.youtube.com/embed/zaPBAKg3VT4?feature=oembed
The aim of the game is to more or less destroy absolutely everyone and everything in your path with full control of your movements and weaponry. If you need to dodge a shot you simply twist in the air, turning it into a Neo-style fly through the air as you unload seven rounds of death into your nearby opponents. You can set up ‘priority threats’ which you’ll shoot automatically whilst shooting down a nearby enemy at the same time or set up ricochets which will allow you to drop some enemies without them knowing you were ever there. There are even slow motion mechanics that will allow you to fly through the sky whilst shooting some badduns in the head, flip over and kill those behind you whilst pulling off a superhero landing. It’s all so seamless and effortlessly cool.
When Greg and I left Rezzed we both agreed that My Friend Pedro was our Game of the Show. It’s insanely cool, with gameplay that persistently makes you feel like an absolute badass, all whislt listening to the twisted whims of a banana that just wants to see you destroy. It’s masterful, and it’s going to be huge. Bring on the full release.
I finally got hands on Beyond Blue this Rezzed after missing the main EGX booth last year and I’m delighted that it lives up to everything I had heard about it. Sean threw the game into his Top Ten Indie Games from EGX last year and you can understand why. Built with content delivered directly from the BBC’s Blue Planet, it’s a beautiful experience, tearing it through the ocean and meeting a calvacade of underwater wonders. I look forward to switching off the brain and experiencing the underwater world E-Line have created when the game launches.
I probably would have put this into my Top 6 I played if I didn’t only get a few minutes with the game. We’ve had our eye on this one for a while and for some reason it escaped me that this would be at Rezzed, so when I stumbled upon it in the ID@Xbox room I was pleasantly surprised. It was great to finally get hands on with this beautiful world, where the majority of the environments were hand-built and then rendered into the game. To walk around, discovering new elements of the worlds and knowing that in the back of my mind these are all real physical sets really added to the enjoyment. As mentioned, I had to scoot off to an appointment so I didn’t get a huge amount of time with it, but what I did play was terrific and my excitement for the game has not dissipated.
So that was my favourite games I played at EGX Rezzed this year. There’s a load more that I enjoyed, and no bullshit, it’s such an exciting time to a fan of games. I suppose we say that every year when we leave these events but Rezzed felt special this year. It felt like as we’re on the precipice of a new generation, and how through Apple Arcade and Stadia these incredible developers will have a huge amount of platforms available to throw their games onto, you get the feeling the excitement of what could be possible is in the air for these developers who above anything else just want you to play their games and enjoy them.
Meeting developers who travel from all over the world to showcase the game in the relatively small venue of Tobacco Dock, who stand there for three straight days just for that purpose. To say ‘hey, come play my game’ and you saying ‘yeah, sure!’, and knowing that effectively, that’s exactly what they want and deserve after putting their blood, sweat and tears into something that they think you’ll enjoy. To be surrounded by that kind of energy and for developers, publishers, writers, creators and more to join together and just celebrate the creativity on display at Rezzed is such a delight to be a part of. Meeting developers who are so excited about their projects just never gets old.
On our end, they just want us to tell you about their game. We played so many and we will delve into more of them very soon. Rest assured, we can look forward to some inventive, original and exciting games in the future by developers who really give a shit about what they do. Forget the endless stigma surrounding AAA, forget being treated like cattle by giant publishers who only want one thing out of you. When you go to a place like Rezzed, where the community rules more than anything, none of that shit matters.
It’s easy to preach about this but supporting the industry starts at the bottom. Video games are excellent and we should embrace the passionate ones who are building these experiences in their bedroom, to spend hundreds (or thousands) on a booth at Rezzed just to ask the simplest of questions to the passing gamer;
‘Hey, do you fancy playing our game?’.
Do it. You might just find your new favourite.
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