Well EGX 2017 has been and gone, and during the 2 days I was there I managed to see and play some games, meet some people, see the sights, and even went to the Friday night after party! I really enjoyed EGX this year, and overall I would say it was better than last year. This is partly due to the layout of the halls and stands, but I think also because I was there with a goal in mind of talking to developers and repping for LGR. Even then I appear to have missed seeing (nevermind playing) SO many games, but with 200+ games on show this was inevitable. Even with a pass for all 4 days I doubt I would have seen everything!
My list of games played is as below:
Augmented Empire – Coatsink
Augmented Empire is a story-driven tactical RPG on the Oculus/Gear VR platform. The game itself has actually been out for a while and I had seen it in the Oculus store, but was holding off on buying it as I wasn’t sure how this would work as a VR game (also the £7.99 price tag was just that bit too high for an impulse purchase). I shouldn’t have worried at all as Coatsink already have a good track record with their games, and I have already enjoyed playing A Night Sky by them on Gear VR. Augmented Empire uses an elevated view of the city areas each level is set in and you move around and interact with objects by looking at them to highlight and then using the touch panel on the VR headset or a button on a gamepad to start the action. I really enjoyed this and plan to pick it up soon.
Ava Airborne – Laser Dog
The best way of describing Ava Airborne is as an enhanced paper plane game. You know the ones, where you click to make the plane rise a little to avoid an obstacle or catch an updraft. I say “enhanced”, but really that is a disservice to the work Laser Dog have put into the title. Not only have they added a multitude of different obstacles (eg. lasers, skull & crossbones balloons, and wind vanes to name a few), they have imbued everything with a wonderful sense of quirkiness. Ava Airborne was also surprising in that it was one of a couple of games that were being demonstrated on Apple TV (it is coming to other platforms as well). This is well worth checking out and, no matter what platform you buy it on, will definitely be on your “one more go” list of games.
Dimension Drive – 2Awesome Studio
I am old enough to remember the heyday of classic vertical shoot-em-ups on the Spectrum, and even more recent ones like the classic bullet hell shooter Ikaruga. Dimension Drive draws on the heritage of these classic games, but adds its own twist by presenting you with two screens side by side that you can dimension jump between. There are elements of bullet hell in here as well as tricky to navigate tight corridors in later levels. I was playing this on the Switch (it is also coming to other platforms) and was using the pro controller and the console was docked to a large TV. I queried how the game played in portable mode and the developer pulled out his personal Switch for me to try it on. I am happy to say that it plays really nicely in portable mode. The screen is obviously smaller and due to this later levels may prove to be a bit more difficult with so much happening on screen, but overall a very good experience.
Dissidia Final Fantasy NT – Square Enix
Anybody that listens to the show may have heard me saying that I don’t have a lot of experience with the Final Fantasy series of games. I remember playing a bit of Final Fantasy VII back in the day, and I own 2 of the earlier game collections on PSOne, but that’s about it (I know! I should hand in my “gamer” card). I am at least aware of the FF universe though. As for Dissidia Final Fantasy NT it is a 3 vs 3 arena battle with a goal to either wiping out the other team or activating a node/glyph that appears on the battlefield (I’m assuming this is what I was supposed to be doing). As the stand was quiet when we got to it I was paired with 2 others in the queue and we played against Ali, Stuart Cullen and Keeley?. My team got absolutely thrashed in the 2 matches we played! The game is slick and I’m sure has plenty of Final Fantasy fan service for those that know the series. For “n00bs” like me in both arena battlers and FF the experience was a little bewildering. Ali, Stuart and Keeley? Advanced to the final match which was shown on the big screen on the stand and was commentated on which was a cool thing to see, but they were just pipped in the third match and had to walk away without a winner’s medal.
Falling Sky – Jonathan Nielssen
If you have already read any EGX coverage you will, I’m sure, have seen Falling Sky mentioned as one of the highlights of the show. Amazingly it is a student project that was located on the NFTS (National Film & Television School) stand along with the other, also excellent, student projects. If you have already seen footage of the game you could easily be forgiven for thinking that is was a new Alan Wake game, or even the new David Cage game (thankfully with less “Jason!” though). It also seems to occupy a world that is similar in feeling to David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. The game follows Daniel as he returns home after a long period away to find his mother gone and his younger brother Tommy living in the house alone with a strict set of rules to follow to keep him safe. Really impressive and I hope this makes it to a full release.
Faultline – Laurien Ash
Faultline really is a curious game. It is a slot machine puzzle game set in a 3D environment with a backstory of an earthquake having caused the chaos you have to solve. As you solve the slot machine puzzles (in which you have to create a palindrome of symbols above 5 objects) you open up further areas with more puzzles and more of the story. I really do hope that the game gets a release in the future as it certainly piqued my interest. The game was also part of the NFTS stand at EGX and was another impressive example of the level of work that the students there are producing
Flat Heroes – Parallel Circles
What if Super Meat Boy was a bit more graphically minimalist, set in a single screen level, and included a multiplayer survivor element that allows you to push your opponents into harm’s way? Obviously this is a question you will have thought of continually since Super Meat Boy was released, but thankfully I can satiate your inquisitive mind by informing you that Flat Heroes is exactly the game you were thinking of (probably). It plays exactly as you would expect it to and, with it being released on the Switch will allow for impromptu local multiplayer mayhem to ensue wherever you are. Really good fun!
Forgotton Anne – Through Line Games
I wrote about Forgotton Anne in my EGX Rezzed article from earlier in the year (link) and in the intervening months the game has been completed and is just awaiting a release date to be set. The game is as wonderful to look and play as it was back in March, and since then Through Line Games have made some tweaks to the gameplay and expanded the demo available for people to play. I’m really looking forward to playing the full game, and that release date cannot come soon enough!
I Am Here – Lavalamp Games
I Am Here is one of those games that certain groups of gamers will dismiss out of hand, but the emotionally charged narrative will make it memorable for many others. Players take control of an elderly woman living with dementia. Set primarily between the 1960s and the present, she will navigate her house and her memories to find her partner. While it is obviously influenced by the critically acclaimed Gone Home, I Am Here has a different story to tell.
Jennifer Wilde – Outsider Games
Jennifer Wilde is a video game adaptation of the Jennifer Wilde comics and is being developed by Outsider Games in Northern Ireland. It is not listed on the EGX Show Floor list as it was a late addition and, just earlier in the week, had launched its Kickstarter to raise funding to complete the project in 2018. Outsider Games has previously released Wailing Heights, a comic styled adventure game set in a B-movie horror pop music universe, and Jennifer Wilde continues the comic styled visuals. A good game from the short demo I played and, not that I’m biased or anything, I do hope their Kickstarter campaign is successful.
The Lego Ninjago Movie Video Game – Warner Bros.
Cev and myself were over at the Playstation stand as Cev wanted to see and have a go on Lego Marvel Superheroes 2. As we were there anyway, and because a unit was free, we were able to play the Lego Ninjago – The Movie. I don’t have a lot of knowledge of the Lego Ninjago universe outside of snippets of the show and a beginners reading book from the library. Overall though the game played well, seemed to have variety in stage types in the game (the demo had one traditional Lego game level and one on-rails shooter section), and Tale of Tales have done a good job with the licence. Definitely one for fans of both Ninjago and Lego games in general to pick up, and I’m sure it will make a good companion piece to the Movie. (One small point of note here is that on a lot of the Playstation stands there were no headphones available so audio was mostly inaudible over the general background noise. Not such a big deal, but it meant that we were unable to enjoy the cut scenes in the demo)
Lost Words – Sketchbook Games
Lost Words has already won a lot of plaudits and awards over the last 2 years, and with a story written by Rhianna Pratchett this platformer, set in the pages of a diary, looks like it will delight many. The word and book theme runs throughout the game with the visuals mimicking the pages of a book and being able to use words on screen to solve puzzles to progress. One example of this was using the word “water” to put out fires blocking progress. The phrase “words have power” has never been truer.
May – Daniel James Stankowski
“The flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long” – Lao Tzu. For a creature that lives one glorious day on Earth never has a quote applied so eloquently and May, a 2.5D side-scrolling puzzle game, hopes to recreate the life, love, perils and obstacles that a mayfly faces in its short existence. It reminds me a lot of The Plan (free game on Steam) in concept. Daniel is still resolving some bugs, but the run that I had on the demo was perfectly playable. One other point is that the score is fantastic and evokes images of country fields, the change in season as spring makes way for summer and the hope that a new bright day brings.
My Last Son – Sam Rowett
My Last Son is another game being produced by a student from the NFTS. It tells the story of a young mother and her child escaping the clutches of an ever present monster that wants to destroy them, but all is not necessarily what it seems. It is a tale of loss, grief and acceptance told across a side-scrolling puzzle platform game and visually is influenced by African art and Tingtinga paintings. I enjoyed it, but it didn’t instantly grab me as much as some of the other platformer games I played.
Ocmo – Team Ocmo
Rabbit eating monsters are much maligned as characters in games. In fact I can’t think of one at all. Team Ocmo hope to redeem the reputation of these monsters with their game Ocmo. You play as the titular gelatinous blob that can scuttle jump and swing its way to the end of the level and its reward of a scrummy rabbit. Played on mobile devices the controls take a little getting used to, but once you get into the swing of it (pun intended) it is good fun. Having watched Watership own many years ago I’ve never been convinced rabbits are as cute and innocent as they seem.
Purrfect Date – Bae Team
After playing Purrfect Date I tweeted from the @lapsedgamer account to say that of all the games I played over the weekend Purrfect Date put the biggest smile on my face. That still holds true when I think about it, and I didn’t even play the long version of the demo! The premise of the game is to date cats and uncover the dark secrets of the mysterious Cat Island. The short demo I played had me discussing crystals with a cat, and how each of the crystals embodies one of the other cats on the island. Obviously a ridiculous situation, but surprisingly heart-warming. The game draws inspiration from Undertale, Hatoful Boyfriend and Pony Island. Oh, and there’s cats in it. So many wonderfully cute cats!
Rogue Trooper Redux – Rebellion
If you’ve been playing games for more than a decade you are probably asking yourself why Rogue Trooper was at EGX. Good question. The answer is because Rebellion are re-releasing the classic game with HD graphics, remodelled assets, new gameplay features and a lot more polish. The game looks good with all the work carried out on it, but overall I found it to be a little formulaic and linear. Just a blue, muscly skin on a 3rd person shooter. Worth a look if you are a 2000AD fan.
Ruya – Miracle Tea Studios
Ruya is a puzzle game that is designed to be relaxing and tranquil. It takes place in Ruya’s world of dreams and at its heart is a minimalist, but beautiful matching game. As you progress through the levels you unlock more of Ruya’s memories that unfold into a heartwarming narrative. Amongst the noise and chaos of EGX this was a great game to play to restore calm and offer some respite.
Shu – Coatsink
Shu is a visually wonderful platformer that has a frantic sense of urgency about it as you try to reach the top of an ancient mountain all while being chased by a world eating monster. Shu is a solid platformer that can be played at your own pace (relatively given the monster chasing you), but is also a speedrunner’s dream, and to prove that the playable level at EGX had a leaderboard with the top position being hotly contested (the eventual winner won by only a few tenths of a second!). While Shu has been out for over a year now the team from Coatsink were there to highlight that it is also coming to the Switch, and apart from knowing that I was holding a Switch pro controller I couldn’t have told you which platform I was playing.
Silent Streets – Fun Bakers Studio
Silent Streets released on mobile earlier this year and is an interactive visual novel with AR (augmented reality) elements. It also uses your phone to track your steps as the mode of travel between locations in the game. Set in the Victorian period you play the role of a private detective and use your phone camera to inspect crime scenes. You also talk to a cast of characters and even interrogate murder suspects with a goal of bringing justice to this grim, hardcore world. At EGX they were showing off the new AR features that iOS 11 has allowed them to implement. With around 2 hours play time per case plus other side quests to chase up this is certainly an interesting proposition for anybody looking for something different on mobile platforms.
Six-Sided Slime – Slime Time Studios
This was, sadly, the only game I got to play in the Transfuzer section of EGX this year as the stand was so busy, which is always a good thing to see. The Transfuzer programme promotes some of the best up and coming creative talent from graduate programmes within the UK and awards funding based on a sales pitch and the quality of the game?? Six Sided Slime see the world invaded by alien cubes of slime that need to be eradicated. To do this you shoot slime cubes and collect the puddles of goo left behind with which you power your eradication machine. While you are doing this the slime cubes are attacking your machine and if they destroy it the game is over. It was a fun tower defence style game that, while still in early stages, has definite potential.
Sprinkle Palooza – Evy Benita
Sprinkle Palooza is still in its early stages of development at NFTS by designer Evy Benita and the rest of the team behind it. It is an unashamedly custey 2.5D platform game that sees you playing as Zap, a balloon dog as he tries to rescue mutant cakes from captivity. With a very bright neon colour scheme against a dark background the game is certainly eye-catching and definitely charming.
Super Grumz – Picnic Game Labs
Super Grumz is super. It really is. Possibly more super than its non-super, older sibling Grumz. Grumz is good in its own way, but its not super. Picnic Game Labs have done a really good job of adding new mechanics to this new iteration on their original game Grumz. Both games are best described as infinite stoppers with the goal of keeping your shape moving along a central and reaching the top and bottom of the line to score points, all the while avoiding the Grumz that are coming in from either side of the screen. A thoroughly compelling games that are perfectly suited to mobile gaming. Go get Grumz now while you wait for the release of Super Grumz.
Supremely Excellent Goblins – Gracie Drake
Another student developed game over at the NFTS stand that would not have looked out of place anywhere else in the Rezzed section. You play as the goblin in the title primarily, but have to work with the small boy you are with, as you traverse the basement world of the boy’s house. While the goblin may be cute the world is filled nightmare fuelled baddies including goo rabbits, bats, disembodied hands and end of level bosses. A really excellent demo that gives a real sense of how the rest of the game will be. Even Lorne Lanning, and Tommy Refenes from Team Meat enjoyed playing it, and that is a good enough recommendation for me.
The Escapists 2 – Mouldy Toof Studios
The Escapist games are perfectly placed to give little nods to every famous prison film ever made, and from what I played of The Escapists 2 they positively revel in it. The basic premise is to team up with friends, either locally or online, and escape from the prison using whatever equipment or means you can find. The Escapists 2 now offers drop-in/drop-out play as well as co-op and versus modes. There is also a new tutorial for anybody who hasn’t played the first game, and other new gameplay additions such as a crafting system and new combat system. My escape maybe wasn’t a full on Andy Dufresne moment, but boy that freedom tasted so sweet.
The Grand Mission – Billy Blake
Part FTL, part steampunk Victorian era tea merchant it is hard to fault The Grand for trying to establish a unique storytelling premise. As you traverse space by managing your crew to steer the ship you encounter space battles, planets and other traders with which to engage. Billy Blake and his team have an ambitious game on their hands for a student project, and it is getting closer to being sea worthy. Also an A+ for the marketing idea of giving out The Grand Mission branded teabags (posh ones no less, with strings).
The House Mouse VR – Adam Amlak Comrie
The House Mouse VR certainly gives you a different perspective on games because from a view point of a centimetre above the floor there are not many games that have you take the role of a mouse trying to find food to feed its offspring. This game from students at NFTS has you scurrying under floorboards and between pipes before getting into the house and trying to find food while avoiding the people and, more importantly, the cat! Find the food and then try and retrace your steps, or is there another way back? A really good use of VR, even down to the limited colour palette that a mouse would see, and it has plenty of potential for bigger levels with more obstacles or pathways. This was also my first experience of using the HTC Vive VR headset and I was pleasantly surprised by the comfort and relative lightness of the unit. The hand controls were also very comfortable to use.
The Lost Bear – Oddbug Studio
If you are still unconvinced by VR (and to an extent I include myself in this category) I would recommend you try The Lost Bear on PSVR if you can. It is the perfect example of a traditional game that uses the VR experience to enhance the environment that you play in. You play as Walnut who, while out on a walk, loses her bear and has to find it. The game is set in a theatre environment with the action played out on the stage, but the environment around you changes to. A magical experience that is designed to finished in one sitting.
The Poser: In Pieces – Level Boss Games
Level Boss Games describe The Poser: In Pieces as a game of many modes in which you control an artist’s poser doll as it falls indefinitely in a themed environment. The aim is to focus on a local/online multiplayer party game style with lots of quick varied rounds. The mode that I played was skydivers playing a weird sort of air hockey game where the puck took on different ways of moving. The controls felt a little woolly, but when playing against somebody struggling as well it was an OK game. It’ll be interesting to see how this progresses as it is developed further.
Yoku’s Island Express – Villa Gorilla
A 2D platformer with pinball elements is the game you didn’t know you needed in your life. It is best described as an open world/metroidvania-style pinball adventure. You play as Yoku and your goal is to rebuild the island post-office, but you’ll have to see all of the island before you can achieve that. Yoku’s Island Express is a beautiful and colourful game that really does feel unique in it’s premise. Great fun and one to look forward to next year
2000 to 1: A Space Felony – National Insecurities
What would have happened if HAL had won? While Stanley Kubrick’s classic 2001: A Space Odyssey doesn’t answer this question, 2000 to 1: A Space Felony sets it as the investigative case that you take the detective lead on to find out what happened. You search the space station and take pictures of potential clues to unravel the mystery and, after finding a clue you watch a very short cut scene of you being debriefed after you investigation. A very quirky game with a dry sense of humour that feels very The Stanley Parable/Dr. Langeskov…-esque. Due out later this year, but currently available through the Humble Monthly Trove games.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe / Mario & Rabbids: Kingdom Battle / Monster Hunter Stories
I’m being slightly cheeky by including Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Mario & Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, and Monster Hunter Stories in this list of games I played at EGX as, while they were available to play on the show floor, I actually played the full games on Cev’s Switch, Ali’s Switch and my 2DS XL respectively. This highlights an interesting thing about EGX in that it is an expo that allows companies and developers to draw attention to games that are still on the release schedule, as well as allowing people to play games that are already available with a view to selling them in the run up to the busy Christmas season.
As for what I think about the games:
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – Nintendo
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is as brilliant as it was on the Wii U with this version now allowing really easy local multiplayer due to the portability of the Switch. What could be better than a quick game after lunch in Wetherspoons?
Mario & Rabbids: Kingdom Battle – Ubisoft
Mario & Rabbids: Kingdom Battle was played in the pub, after dinner, with a pint. Also, thanks to those clever little joycons, in co-op mode! Mario & Rabbids is a surprisingly robust strategy game dressed up in the disarmingly familiar clothes of the Mario universe. Excellent fun in 2 player as well
Monster Hunter Stories – Capcom
As soon as I got my 2DS XL I preordered MHS straight away as I knew I would probably love it. I have not been disappointed as it really is the perfect mix of the Monster Hunter world and the turn based fighting system of a JRPG. I’ll be talking about this more on the podcast so I’ll spare you more reading here.
As for the rest of the games I managed to see being played I’ll do quick impressions:
Everybody’s Golf – Looks very good and ideal as a less technically minded (and po-faced) than more serious gold games.
Lego Marvel Superheroes 2 – Another great Lego game for the fans of both Lego and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I still think it’s weird having Guardians of the Galaxy in there though.
Monster Hunter World – OMG this looks amazing, and the fact that it is coming to PC has got me excited!
Sonic Forces – Not convinced by this, especially as it was sat alongside the more classic looking Sonic Mania. Custom characters is cool though.
Sonic Mania – A real retro blast in new clothes. It was good to see so many people wanting to play it too.
Total War: Warhammer II – RTS games live and die on the premise of the story, or the licence if they have one. This looks like it caters to RTS fans and Warhammer fans alike.
Attack of the Earthlings – A turn based strategy with you playing as the aliens trying to stop the humans from wiping you out. Some Blackadder-esque humour thrown in for good measure.
Blockships – A local multiplayer shooter that sees you trying to destroy your opponents by building your ship using block components on screen. Good fun when I played it last year, and plenty of cheers coming from the stand this year.
Dead Cells – It’s hard to talk about Dead Cells without bringing up other examples of pixel art 2D platform action games. Classic games such as Lone Wolf, Super Castlevania IV, and even newer games in the same style like Sword of Xolan and Slain: Back to Hell. These games all have the same things in common: They are all brilliant, and I suck at them. I can’t wait to suck at this!
Dead Pixels II: Straight to Video – A real throwback of a game that brings to mind 90s multiplayer arcade machines like TMNT and The Simpsons, but with a zombies as the enemies. It even goes so far as to have the graphical effects of a rounded display screen and occasional screen flicker. I’d have loved to have played it but once people got started playing it was tough to shift them off. A very good sign.
Figment – A wondrous and visually impressive game that I saw at EGX Rezzed earlier in the year. It still looks great and was being shown as a completed game as it also released over the weekend. I’m really looking forward to playing this as Bedtime Digital Games look to have a real gem on their hands.
InOps – InOps has had an odd path. It had started life as a mobile game when I first saw it at EGX last year, and then was playable on console as well at Rezzed in March. It is now going to be released on console, including the Switch, with a release on mobile at a later date. There are obvious graphical enhancements since I first saw it, and some control ones as well to fit the use of a controller over touchscreen. The character(s) still remind me of soot sprites from Studio Ghibli films, but that is far from a bad thing. (One small note on ZRZ Studio is that at EGX last year I got a sicker for InOps that adorns my phone case. By EGX Rezzed it had obviously faded, but they did not have any stickers with them for that event. At EGX they recognised me as the “sticker guy” and had actually dug through their old marketing materials and found some of the original stickers for me which was really cool of them!)
Racing Apex – EGX this year definitely had a few games that were deliberate throwbacks to the visual style of older games. Racing Apex is a modern racing game that is cosplaying as Virtua Racer and this makes me very happy. I didn’t get playing the game, but Ali said that the game played well and, while a little twitchy handling wise, was really enjoyable. From somebody who likes driving games this is good to hear.
Raging Justice – If you want to get people’s attention at EGX a playable version of your game housed in an arcade cabinet will do just that. Raging Justice is a side scrolling beat-em-up in the style of Final Fight and Streets of Rage and with visuals that look like the digitised graphics of something like Mortal Kombat 3. This looks like good quality arcade fare.
So that brings to an end my EGX 2017 adventure. I had great fun and really enjoyed talking to devs and catching up with LGR co-hosts Cev and Ali.
Until next year 🙂