The UK’s biggest video game event, EGX, took place this weekend, attracting around 75,000 people to the Birmingham NEC. As ever, the show floor saw both blockbuster mega-hits and offbeat independent titles jostling for space and attention, providing a varied and enjoyable browsing experience.
Dandara (Long Hat House)
EGX attendees kept comparing this Metroidvania-syle platformer to cult classic VVVVVV, thanks to its gravity-free movement mechanic, but there are significant differences. It’s more graphically detailed, with a recognisably human lead character (the eponymous Dandara), and her gravity-defying leaps from surface to surface are aimed, so can be diagonal. Plus, she has a gun. It’s another interesting release for Switch, and after Dishonored: Death of the Outsider, another game with a female protagonist of colour.
Details: Switch, PC; release TBC
The Mystery Box (Milo Keeble)
One of the wonders of EGX’s Leftfield Collection is discovering installation games that you’ll only ever be able to play at events. This one is essentially a wooden box with a Post-it instructing people to open it. Inside, there’s a tablet offering a selection of mini-games controlled with various buttons and switches attached to the container. Some are silly WarioWare escapades, others are more frantic tasks with timers and rotated visual representations of the box’s controls that lead to a frantic scrabbling for buttons. The best is a train-driving sim, with a lever for speed and a button that blows the whistle as you power through the rolling countryside.
Falling Sky (Jonathan Nielssen and team)
The projects brought to EGX by students at the National Film and Television School are always fascinating, but this year one stood out as particularly impressive. Jonathan Nielssen has been working on his open-world Twin Peaks-inspired narrative game Falling Sky with a small team (including a composer and voice actors) for just eight months, but the demo tells a promising fragment of story with motion-captured animations and even a Google Maps-style feature to help you navigate the town. You play a young man who returns to his family home to discover his mother missing and his baby brother left alone to fend for himself. What has happened and who is leaving weird messages on the answerphone? Watch the trailer here.
Details: formats and release dates TBC
Jalopy’s developer Greg Pryjmachuk has previously worked on Formula 1 games, but Jalopy is a totally different kind of driving experience. It begins with your uncle’s gift of a broken-down Laika 601 Deluxe, a fictional car based on the Trabant 601 from East Germany. You have to find the parts to fix it up, and then keep it going, monitoring the state of individual parts and upgrading your vehicle to deal with different environments on a road trip across the country. Scavenge, smuggle contraband and listen to your uncle’s tales of the former Eastern bloc.
Details: PC; available now on Steam early access
RotoRing (Gregory Kogos and We Throw Switches)
Like Line Wobbler, RotoRing is a game built with an Arduino micro-controller and some lights. In this case, your goal is to move your glowing avatar to a goal, rotating it around the rings and switching between them while avoiding red glows. It’s incredibly simple, but still manages to combine puzzle-solving and reaction-based play, and with its bright lights and sounds is incredibly satisfying to play, especially in the arcade cabinet form at EGX.
Black the Fall (Sand Sailor Studio)
Dystopian 2D platformers will probably start to feel overdone soon, but not quite yet. While Black the Fall is not about a child in peril, it feels very similar to games like Inside and Little Nightmares. You play as a man on the run, who will likely die over and over again as you learn how to lead him to a safe escape, with help from an abandoned robot he befriends along the way.
Details: PC, PS4, Xbox One; out now
Smash Tanks! (Dumpling Design)
Created by the team behind excellent mobile driving game Dashy Crashy, this augmented-reality game has only been in development for weeks, but it’s already great fun, especially – when the tech on the show floor allowed it – in multiplayer. Through a tablet with its camera pointed at an empty table, you control an army of cartoonish tanks in a variety of environments that might require you to walk around the table to alter your view of the battlefield. Pull back on the tanks like a snooker cue to aim and then unleash them at your opponents or other obstacles, aiming for weak spots and charging up different special weapons.
Detail: early December on iOS ARKit (possibly soon after on Google ARCore)
Ava Airborne (Laser Dog)
Ava Airborne was one of two games at EGX being shown on an Apple TV, played with just one button on the remote. Like the old Flash title Helicopter Game, Ava Airborne has you hold the button down to fly up and release to come back down. But rather than enforce greater skill by closing the world around you, the game gives Ava limited momentum that must be maintained by guiding her through rings and collecting balloons. Hit an obstacle and Ava careens towards the ground as you frantically try to revive her by mashing the solitary button.
Details: iOS; release TBC
Jettomero: Hero of the Universe (Ghost Time Games)
Jettomero is a well-meaning giant red robot who flies from procedurally generated planet to planet and stomps around on their surfaces with physics-based animations like those in Grow Home and Grow Up. Unfortunately, their quest to protect the tiny humans and defeat monsters inevitably leads to collateral damage, which is carefully tracked in the statistics of buildings demolished, boats sunk, trees uprooted, and so on. Along the way, Jettomero collects body parts to change their look, and messages that must be decoded in order to reveal their story. With its comic book-style looks, this game is incredibly inviting.
Details: PC, Xbox One, out now
Phogs (Bit Loom Games)
What the industry needs right now is more co-op games about two-headed dogs, so its fortunate Dundee-based developer Bit Loom Games is here with Phogs, in which a strange bi-cranial canine with a face at either end of its body is controlled by two-players around a cartoon world. Like the great Push Me Pull You it’s all about cooperation and manipulation, as well as enjoying at the weirdness of the world and tasks.
Details: coming to consoles and PC in 2018
Megaton Rainfall (Pentadimensional Games)
Described as a super hero simulator, MegaTone Rainfall lets you soar through the skies of a realistically modelled world, seeking out threats from invading enemy craft. Epic battles take place in destructible cities, where your goal isn’t just victory but the avoidance of too much collateral damage. It’s an ambitious concept providing some breathtaking moments, and the PlayStation VR version promises the most immersive superhero experience since Batman: Arkham VR.
Details: PlayStation 4; 26 September. Trailer here.
Elevate: Combat League (Atomicon)
Pitched as a cross between Rocket League, Overwatch and Minecraft, Elevate is a first-person multiplayer future sports sim in which teams have to fire a ball into the opponent’s circular score zone, while also shooting at each other and building their own defences. The action is brutally fast and competitive, the slick visuals coming via the Unreal engine, and there are various specialist skills to master. Plenty of EGX attendees were giving this a try out of curiosity and then playing for hours.
Details: coming to PC, PS4 and Xbox One, release date TBC
We also enjoyed …
Some other titles we liked were: the exploration platformer Etherborn; cute puzzle platform game, Semblance; characterful 2D side-scroller, Inops; innovative diary-based narrative adventure, Lost Words; and splatterhouse co-op blaster, Guns, Gore and Cannoli 2.