This weekend, I put on my best gaming merchandise, stuffed a backpack with snacks, and headed down to the NEC in Birmingham for my second year at EGX, one of the biggest days in the gaming calendar.
One of my first stops on Saturday was the Rezzed area, where I headed straight for some of the hilarious multiplayer games that were on show.
One of the first games I played over the weekend was Overcooked, an insanely chaotic co-operative cooking game, which is currently available on Steam, PS4 and Xbox One. Players must work as a team to prepare, cook, and serve food, all whilst navigating unusual, and sometimes shifting kitchen layouts, and putting out the occasional fire when it all goes wrong. Cooking games aren’t something I usually think about buying, but I really loved playing Overcooked, and the weird and changing environments of the game added an extra layer of craziness to the chaos of cooking.
Another multiplayer highlight for me was Conga Master. Conga master is a great example of a ridiculous concept that somehow just works. Players compete to finish the game with the longest conga line, collecting new members, and even cutting others’ lines to sabotage them using a giant pair of scissors. The game was great fun, and I’m proud to say that some last minute conga-line sabotage led me to steal the conga master crown. This game can now be found on Steam.
The final multiplayer indie game that I’d like to mention is Jump Stars. This is at once co-operative and competitive, as each member of the team tries to gain “team score”, all whilst trying to become leader of the team. Players jump around a 2D setting to collect points and take on additional objectives, including eating burgers and evading obstacles. Jump Stars has been greenlit by the Steam community, so hopefully should be available to play soon.
The Big Names
Of course, it wouldn’t be EGX without the big names and triple-As.
There was one game which stole the show for me, and if you know me well, you can probably guess which one. The game was Horizon Zero Dawn, which I have been drooling over since its announcement at E3 last year. Waiting in line to play the game, I’ll admit that I was worried. What if it didn’t live up to its trailers and gameplay demos? What if the game just didn’t work, or it was too hard, or the robotic dinosaurs didn’t look as cool up close? I needn’t have worried.
Up close, the graphics were beautiful, the robotic dinosaurs were awesome, and most importantly, the game mechanics seemed pretty sound. During the demo, I got to hack and mount a Broadhead (a type of robot which the main protagonist, Aloy, is able to use for transport), and kill hostile robots called Watchers using various methods including electric wires, flaming arrows, and ice bombs. The only flaw was that I didn’t quite understand Aloy’s ability to analyse potential foes to uncover their weaknesses, as the “scan” of the creatures only revealed a set of symbols I didn’t recognise. I assume this will be explained at the start of the final game, so it’s not something I’m going to lose sleep over. During the fifteen minute demo, there were options to be stealthy, to be clever, or to just throw everything you’ve got at your enemies, which meant I got to try a little bit of everything and get a good feel for the gameplay. I cannot wait for this game to be released, and if the storyline matches up to the gameplay and trailers I’ve seen so far, it will be hard for the game to go wrong.
Another game I was excited to have the chance to play was Dishonored 2. Coming out of the demo, my feelings on this were mixed. This wasn’t so much because of the quality of the demo, but because of how difficult I find Dishonored in general. I played as Emily Kaldwin, and enjoyed trying out her new abilities, including “shadow walk”, a stealth ability which we’ve seen in previous trailers, and “domino”, an ability which links enemies together, so that what happens to one will happen to another. I had mixed success with these abilities, boasting one reasonably impressive takedown using domino, and a couple of far less smooth ones thanks to my clumsiness and poor aim with a crossbow.
My biggest disappointment with the game was that it was just too easy to become completely lost during the mission. Because of this, I found myself stuck in an area with no idea how to progress to the end of the mission, and so was unable to complete the objective. Despite this disappointment, the game was still one of my highlights, as I’m really excited about the new powers in the game, and I’m looking forward to spending a little more time getting used to sneaking around, taking down enemies, and trying not to get lost.
Of course, there were plenty more triple-A games to be played. Rise of the Tomb Raider made an appearance with the new co-operative multiplayer survival mode, Tekken 7 was great fun, and Little Nightmares was an incredibly atmospheric and sinister game from Bandai Namco, which I really enjoyed playing. Picture Unravel, but scary as well as cute, and check out the gameplay below if that sounds like your kind of thing.
Single-Player Puzzle Games
Finally, there were a couple of puzzle games from the Rezzed area that definitely deserve a mention.
Firstly, Curvish, a 2D physics-based puzzle platformer. The objective in Curvish is to maneuver a small cube around the screen to collect coloured tokens in order, with the added ability to rotate the scenery, manipulating gravity and momentum to traverse the challenging levels of the game. As a fan of physics-based puzzle games, I fell quickly in love with Curvish, and after racing through nine levels on Saturday, returned on the Sunday in an attempt to finish the demo (sadly, I didn’t quite have time to make it). Curvish is currently on Steam Greenlight, and I would seriously urge you to vote for it, if only so that I can finish the 21 levels of the demo, and then the hundred-or-so other levels which should be featured in the full game.
And finally, another puzzle game, this one a first-person puzzler set on Jupiter’s moon, Europa. The Turing Test is all about problem solving, presenting players with a series of tests which must be completed to progress through the game. With a first-person perspective and difficult puzzles, it’s bound to draw comparisons to to Portal, not least because of the test-chamber-esque setting. In place of a Portal Gun, The Turing Test relies on an Energy Manipulation Tool, used to transfer power from one object to another, enabling players to take control of machines, open new areas, and manipulate structures and progress through the game. For me, the demo was just enough of a challenge, and I found myself intrigued by the story. If you’ve been looking for a game to fill the Portal-shaped void in your life, this one might be worth a try. It’s currently available on Steam and Xbox One.
Whilst these were a few of my highlights, there were so many more great games to play at EGX 2016, from mobile games like Inops in the Rezzed area, to 2D cinematic adventure games like Forgotton Anne, to familiar faces like Overwatch, Street Fighter, and Lego Dimensions.
I’ll leave you with something a little different. This is the trailer for The Collage Atlas, a dreamy, hand-drawn exploratory game which was exhibited in The Leftfield Collection. There was something strangely profound about this game and its haunting soundtrack, which left me feeling calmed after all of the chaos that was EGX 2016.