EGX Rezzed has proved once again that games conferences don’t have to just be sweat boxes full of over-excited fans, overpriced coffee and out-of-the-door queues. They can be all that and more! Rezzed is a personal favourite of GAMR’s and not just for its diverse collection of games. It’s a welcoming, low-key environment for game fans of all ages, skills and backgrounds. Everyone’s there to have fun and try out some amazing, upcoming games.
Before digging into the games I was able to spend some significant time with and chat with their respective developers, there are some games that deserve a quick shout-out.
Playable at Nintendo’s spherical display, Bad North is an intuitive, real-time strategy game that sees you positioning your Viking troops around a multi-tiered island as enemy troops storm your shores from all angles.
Phogs is what happens when you grew up watching Nickelodeon’s ‘CatDog’ and playing Noby Noby Boy. Like Keita Takahashi’s weird sandbox game, you (with a friend) control one half of a connected, sausage dog as you elongate, bark and hurl yourself across levels to solve puzzles.
Lost Ember is an exploration-adventure game that feels a lot like last year’s Rime to play although this game sees you as a wolf that has the ability to astrally-project your soul into any animal you encounter to solve puzzles, traverse landscapes and chase wombats about.
Revisiting Foamsword’s Knights and Bikes was an expected delight. Speaking again to developer Moo Yu, the two of us played the newest demo together which felt more robust than 2017’s. In addition to tighter mechanics, the world now beckons you to explore it further with heaps more interactive systems (like petting your goose sidekick, Captain Honkers) that function primarily to turn Knights and Bikes’ areas into sandboxes. Kids love those.
Showcasing in the Leftfield Collection – and with good reason – Regular Human Basketball is going to be the next cult party game. Ina team of two, you operate a giant, bipedal mech through a series of on-off buttons. You clamber around the inside of your mech, boosting, charging and using your rotating magnet to dunk on your opponents.
Overcrowd (Squareplay Games)
Overcrowd embodies a return to form for the builder genre. Inspired by the likes of Theme Hospital, Overcrowd puts you in charge of a tube station – one that will be a model of efficiency or a commutable hell-scape depending on your management skills. Developed by team-of-two and real-life couple Alastair McQueen (programming) and Sarah (design), Overcrowd has been in the making for the better part of five years.
McQueen told GAMR that it was originally “conceived as a mobile game so you could play it on the tube and it would be meta”. However there has been a renewed interest in builder games – we saw it in 2016 with the wildly popular Planet Coaster. Theorising why the genre took a dip in popularity, McQueen said: “3D graphics were invented and everyone forgot about them.”
Overcrowd is fun, intuitive and deep in its mechanics. Everything from controlling the direction of the footfall to making sure your staff are qualified for multiple roles come into play quite early on in the game. For anyone who never got into the builder genre, or seasoned pros, Overcrowd has a low-entry for beginners and a high ceiling – much like a good tube station.
Windlands 2 (Psytec)
“There are proper titans”, Windlands 2 developer Jon Hibbins told me. I’d finished my hookshot-led adventure through the valley of this mind-bending VR game. As one in a team of four, my hands became hookshots that I could attach to tree branches with ease. Pulling your hand down while attached speeds you up using intuitive in-game physics and being able to shoot targets that are a significant distance away becomes a cinch after a few minutes practice. However, where this VR experience really become special is in its simple but dextrous bow-and-arrow gameplay. At the press of a button, one hand becomes a bow while the other is used to notch an arrow, pull back and let it fly. This mechanic becomes even cooler when you use it while careening over a 20ft-tall robot spider.
Hibbins told me of the development process that you have to work harder to get these incredibly exciting moments: “There’s less of a ‘wow’ in VR because people get it”. The game itself, he notes, has to provide that ‘wow’. And Windlands 2 does so in droves. Prior to traversing the valley leading to the spider’s lair, my team and I stood on a sand-drifting galleon while this gargantuan worm spiralled into the ground and into the air on the starboard side. All we had were our bows and arrows but the ability to move in all directions coupled with the versatility of the weapon meant that that’s all we needed. We didn’t succeed with either bosses but that’s besides the point. Windlands 2 isn’t just a demo for hookshot mechanics. It’ll launch with a full story full of intrigue, characters and, like Hibbins teased, some proper big bosses.
Shift Quantum (Fishing Cactus)
Shift Quantum is the perfect game for Switch. A 2D puzzle game that gives you the power of switching the puzzle-boxes you find yourself in between the light and dark dimensions. Like many puzzle games, you scale ledges, push boxes and avoid spikes, but you do so in Shift Quantum with two-dimensions in mind. Every switch changes the entire puzzle layout – it’s the video game equivalent of sudoku, hence why it’s perfect for Switch.
Sophie Schiaratura, who takes care of communications for team Shift, told me about how different people’s perspectives have manifested in their ability to beat the game. “They tested the game on me and another programmer and when it takes me five minutes to solve a level”, Sophie said “it takes him twenty minutes because we don’t think the same way”. I’d sampled the game previously at a game event this year and even a few months apart, my brain had internalised the language of Shift to an extent that I was breezing through the earliest stages,
And beyond the 113 levels or so, Shift Quantum will have a level editor in it meaning you can find new ways to torture the game’s community with your own twisted take on multi-dimensional puzzling.
Dunk Dunk (BadgerHammer)
Nick (Holder) and Nick (Gripton) are party game legends, so they tell me. During their university tenure, they were the reigning champions in the Dreamcast party game collection collection Planet Ring. I’d never heard of it either, but I was impressed. Not just for with the duo’s niche accolades but with their effortlessly fun and frantic basketball game, Dunk Dunk.
Dunk Dunk controls similarly to IDARB or TowerFall which in practice sees you controlling your momentum with a directional boost. The right-stick of the controller acts as your arm as you swing it to toss and dunk the ball over your opponents. As a defender you have the ability to boost through the enemy team to snag the ball, or alternatively transform yourself into a platform to block their shots and give your teammates a platform to dunk from. Dunk Dunk moves at a frenetic pace but with a little coordination and style, you can use the multi-tiered levels to pull ‘Space Jam’ levels of dunk.
Nick (Holder) explained that “one of the driving forces behind the controls is to get the player to feel like when they score they’ve done the hard bit to get it in. A bit like Rocket League, which I find one of the better simulations of football, because you’re actually trying to work out the angles”. This touches on one of the primary tenets of great party-games: they have to function as fun sports games in themselves. Judging by how inept I was at the game relative to how fair I thought it was and, more importantly, how much fun I had with it, I would argue that Dunk Dunk has all the makings of a party-game that will be a staple in university houses for years to come.
— Dunk Dunk @ #Rezzed2018 (@DunkDunkGame) March 9, 2018