EGX Rezzed, the little brother to September's EGX, is all about the latest upcoming indie talent and took place this last weekend. The event was hosted at London’s sprawling Tobacco Dock, which became a veritable Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory of gaming delights: the Indie Room, Switch, PlayStation and Xbox areas, and especially the weird and wonderful world of the Leftfield Collection. Creativity was hidden around every corner, and I was set the task of finding games that you probably haven't heard of — but should know are coming.
Deru – The Art of Cooperation
The colour-matching fun of Ikaruga meets couch co-op in this fascinating puzzler. The premise is simple: you control a white circle, and your friend controls a black circle. The aim is to move your circle into the corresponding black or white hole while avoiding long lines composed of your opposite colour. Lines of the same colour can be blocked, meaning you’ll be obstructing rivers of black so that your white partner can scuttle to safety, then vice versa.
As the game progress, new mechanics are introduced, such as the ability to transfer mass to make your partner bigger, or the ability to drop blocks to obstruct lines remotely.
Deru didn’t seem to get too much attention due to being nestled in a corner of the Indie Basement, but it was my favourite co-op game of the show.
Billed as a spiritual successor to the Rollcage games of the late 1990s, Grip combines the futuristic racing and weapons of Extreme G with the gravity-defying mechanics of Mario Kart 8.
The cars in Grip are fitted with wheels on the top and bottom, meaning they can not only drive upside down, but also grip (aha!) the ceiling and walls, allowing you to find new ways to traverse courses. This is taken advantage of in a host of different ways, from jumps that crash you onto the ceiling to F-Zero-style circular tunnels that give you complete freedom of movement.
I was absolutely useless at the game, but the weapons added an enjoyable elements of chaos to things (a range of rockets, boosts, shields, etc.), and it seem like a whole lot of fun.
There were a handful of Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts-style vehicle builders on the show floor this year. But despite being a 2D competitive space shooter, Blockships was the best of the lot.
Described to me as “Space Invaders meets Tetris”, players are spawned in space, and quickly have to go about constructing ships from the block debris floating around. Gun blocks are of course critical but, as they can only fire in one direction and quickly deplete your energy, you need to consider where on your ship you should build them, and if you can gather enough battery blocks to power yourself.
There’s also the added twist of a larger ship being slower / easier to hit, giving you the option to be nimble and underpowered, or a lumbering giant that’s armed through the teeth. I’d like to see more wrinkles to give Blockships a bit more staying power, because it seems almost too straightforward. But what it does, it does extremely well.
Imagine Firewatch set in a terrifying Scandinavian forest, and you're somewhere in the region of Lake Ridden. The setup is you’re a 13-year old girl looking for your sister in a dark forest. As you do so, you come across an old, forgotten estate with a myriad of mysteries and puzzles that need solving.
Billed as a story-rich narrative adventure, Lake Ridden creates an immersive atmosphere even on a busy show floor. The puzzles are of the standard find-and-place item variety, but the interesting dialogue and overriding sense of isolation left a creepy first impression. I’m keen to experience this one with no distractions and headphones on.
Overcrowd: A Commute ‘Em Up
I swore this Underground management sim was a response to the Theme Hospital sequel that was also on show. Talking to the dev however, it seems he has been building the game for years, and the coinciding development is a coincidence.
For all intent and purposes, Overcrowd is a classic 'Theme' game set at an Underground station. The short demo only gave a snapshot of what you’d be doing in the completed version but, even so, constructing the station, setting the direction of the ticket barriers, employing an engineer, and finally opening up to punters was hugely satisfying.
Unfortunately, I allowed my bins to overflow. Not just a little, either, but to the extent that my station was shut down by the authorities as a public safety hazard. Nevertheless Overcrowd seems likes a great spin on the Theme template, and I can’t wait to try it again with my new knowledge of bin safety.
Probably my game of the show, Shift Quantum is a mind-bending puzzle platformer, with the goal to simply navigate to the exit of each of its insular puzzle rooms.
In order to do this, the player needs to ‘shift’ the world between black-on-white and white-on-black. This effectively inverts negative spaces into platforms (and vice-versa), creating some incredibly outside-the-box scenarios you’ll rack your brain to solve.
Most impressive of all is how the game puts a new spin on formulaic puzzle platformer mechanics. Block puzzles are a staple of the genre, but in Shift Quantum the blocks can be ‘shifted’ into negative space, allowing you to move them into place to create pathways in the negative world.
The initial few minutes are as bewildering as it sounds, but once the game clicks there is a lot of fun to be had.
OK, OK, you got me — Kotaku UK has covered this one before. But I loved it so I'm allowed one you might have heard of, right? It's really good! [You're fired - ed]
Look behind Octahedron’s psychedelic visuals and odd name, and you’ll find an old-school vertical precision platformer. Octahedron’s main gimmick is the ability to temporally create a scrolling platform beneath you in mid air, allowing you to traverse horizontal space, or jump off to reach new heights. It’s a simple idea, but the execution is impressive, and before long I was double jumping up to new ledges, scrolling beneath rows of spikes, and crashing into enemies.
It was all hugely satisfying stuff, and combined with the pumping soundtrack, unique visuals, and drip of new mechanics, this is definitely worth checking out.
West of Loathing
“Try this, it’s funny,” the Nintendo Switch booth operator for West of Loathing told me. I was sceptical, but then my sentimental uncle gave me my recently-deceased grandma’s cherished pair of knuckle dusters, and since then a smile rarely left my face since.
A spiritual successor to the browser game Kingdom of Loathing, West of Loathing is a cowboy-themed text-based role playing game. Like the original, the star of the show is the writing, which is bursting with warm, self-referential humour which lovingly mocks the conceits of the RPG genre.
The graphics, consisting of purposely goofy stickmen and stickwomen, are smooth with nicely detailed backgrounds, resulting in one of the most indie-looking games on show. The game is already out on PC, but this simple, self-contained adventure looks like it will be more than at home on the Switch.