EGX Rezzed, the UK’s foremost festival of indie games, was due to take place at the end of March, but was postponed due to concerns about the spread of coronavirus. The conference is now due to take place in July, but before the new dates were announced, I got in touch with some of the developers who were attending the show to check out the games they were due to show off. It’s far from an exhaustive list - 50 titles from dozens of studios had spots booked, with plenty more making up the show’s curated Leftfield Collection. But from what I’ve played, these are the titles that caught the eye.
In Unspottable players are tasked with blending into a crowd of dozens of identical AI characters. The twist however is that within that crowd are 2-4 human players, all hunting for their non-mechanical foes. Spot someone acting out of line, and a swift punch will reveal them, but also give you away, making for tense stand-offs while players choose their moment to make a move.
I only had the chance to play Unspottable with one other person, for obvious reasons, but even that setup had plenty of breadth. Each of the half-a-dozen levels play out differently: in the Meadow, robots have the space to run free, but will quickly run out of power, whittling down the playing field and forcing players to act; in the Prison, a powerful spotlight will reveal which characters are hiding a metal skeleton, but players can opt to turn out the lights if they need to make a quick getaway. It’s just the kind of game that would thrive at Rezzed, easy to understand and immediately entertaining enough to draw a crowd, but it’s great fun at home on your own couch too.
Luna The Shadow Dust
Playing at my desk, I had as much time as I pleased to spend with each game, but drinking in each title as if there wasn’t an entire show floor to explore didn’t quite feel in the spirit of Rezzed. With most of the games, I found a place to put down the controller and move on to the next thing, but when it came to Luna The Shadow Dust I had to tear myself away.
Animated entirely by hand, the artwork in Luna is beautiful, almost Ghibli-esque in its level of charm and attention to detail. The puzzles are intricate but fair and, thanks to the animations, there’s a tactile feel in their solutions that makes even the most complex a joy to solve.
In Other Waters
In Other Waters casts you in the role of an Artificial Intelligence helping a stranded biologist explore the ocean of an alien planet. As you wander through a reef teeming with extra-terrestrial life, you might be forgiven for expecting something with the colour and vibrance of Subnautica’s opening hours, but In Other Waters’ story of exploration and discovery is told through the HUD instead, as you carry out instructions relayed to your AI exosuit.
Even from this limited perspective, In Other Waters immerses you in this world immediately. Controls are slow but deliberate, forcing you to develop a sense of an environment that’s little more than contour lines and unknown life-signs on your screen. The detailed UI makes everything from movement to life processes an intricate procedure and, while it took a little while to get to grips with some ideas, you're soon functioning like an efficient machine and fully submerged in its charming, slightly unsettling story.
The Longing takes 400 days to complete, ideal for self-quarantine, but arguably not so good for a show floor demo. Trapped underground as you wait for the King to awake from his 18-month slumber, you’ve little to do but explore the cave around you, something your character is prepared to do... at a snail’s pace. When they’re not ambling gently from place to place, they’re prepared to sit and wait - sometimes hours, sometimes days - for the physical world to change around them enough that they’re able to pass.
The Longing is so achingly slow that I'd struggle to say I enjoyed it, but the concept is fascinating enough that part of me wants to check back. Part point-and-click adventure, part walking sim, part idle clicker, it plays with the idea of what games can be, and how they can tell their stories.