On 13th April we attended EGX Rezzed, a video game exhibition of up and coming new releases. We had the pleasure of meeting some fantastic people of the industry including developers, publishers and more. We also had the opportunity to meet the guys who drive ID@Xbox in Europe, getting a sense of their passion for the industry and discussing how the ID@Xbox brand has gone from strength to strength over the last 3 or more years. We also got to play some great up and coming games and while we would like to mention all of them, here are a few stand out titles that we had the pleasure of going Hands On with at the event.
My Time At Portia
The first thing that was evident upon first sitting down to play My Time At Portia was the gorgeous vibrant visuals that were popping out of the screen. The colour palette is superb and the visual style on this game is absolutely gorgeous and its look almost reminds me of a more detailed, vibrant Zelda Breath of the Wild. It is a third person sandbox game that focuses on being almost a cross between a simulation game and an RPG with an essence of life simulation. Building and crafting look to play a huge part in the whole experience, that is certainly evident from the very beginning.
Animation looks wonderful and smooth, with some charming scenery to explore. The gameplay seems pretty responsive and controls seem fairly simple to get to grips with but it’s in its depth where I feel this game looks to shine. Collecting materials, replenishing and building a new workshop was the task I was set in the slice of the game I tried and I am certainly intrigued to find out much more about what this game looks like it could offer upon its release. If you’re a fan of games like Harvest Moon and Stardew Valley then this could be the game for you.
Harold Halibut: A Handmade Adventure Game
On our trip to EGX Rezzed in London there were many different games on show, particularly in the ID@Xbox area. While there were quite a few that stood out for many different reasons, none of them stood out quite as much as Harold Halibut did. What made this unique game stand out was it’s gorgeous visual style, looking especially charming with its original looking art direction and interesting concept. It’s a game that utilises handmade models, Wallace & Gromit style, and incorporates them in to the game, with animations and movement done by using the traditional stop motion animation technique. It really lives up to its sub title of ‘A Handmade Adventure Game’.
Its visual style immediately gives this game so much character and personality, making it look superb, with its lighting, environments and character models looking very detailed and as if you were actually watching a stop motion TV programme or movie. Gameplay feels very familiar to anyone who has played any of the Telltale games and it faithfully pays homage to the old style point & click adventure games. I didn’t really get much information about the story but I got the sense of mystery surrounding it’s narrative. The characters that I interacted with were interesting but the build I was playing didn’t give much away for obvious reasons which is understandable.
I walked away from this game knowing that I am eager to see and play more of it. It got my attention from the moment I saw it and it’s unlike any adventure game that has been before. As mentioned earlier, it was a very early build that I played but it was evident that this portion of the game that I played is very early on in the story. Keep an eye out for this game as I believe it could be one of those games that will no doubt interest players immediately, even if you are not normally in to this genre, I am confident that it will catch your attention just like it did mine. On a side note, there were the actual models used in the game contained in a glass case next to the TV I was playing it on and they looked impressive and reeled me in even more knowing that the characters I could see on the screen were actually right next to me.
Shaq-Fu: A Legend Reborn
So everyone remembers or has at least heard of the original Shaq Fu on the Sega Megadrive, yes? Touted as being one of the worst games ever made, Shaq Fu wasn’t very well received back on its original release in 1994, getting low review scores and the original developer going out of business. Well Shaq is back and I had the opportunity to get some play time in with this reboot. The first thing that was evident with Shaq Fu, was the hilarious albeit slightly risqué dialogue. One thing is for sure here and that is that this game doesn’t take itself seriously at all, which is a good thing. Moving away from the original games 1v1 gameplay, the developers of this Shaq Fu reboot have instead opted for the 2.5D side scrolling beat ‘em up style.
It has fairly simple controls and felt responsive but it was the very beginning of the game so I can only assume that there are more moves and special abilities that can be unlocked later on, but immediately after the first boss fight, the demo ended. Visually it has a cartoon style look to it and the image looked sharp and crisp with good effects. Back drops looked detailed and character models were smooth in their animation, but as mentioned earlier it’s in its dialogue where it really caught my attention. The humour is tongue in cheek, quite crude in places and had us laughing from the very get go. I’m looking forward to seeing what more Shaq Fu offers upon its release later this spring and while the first game wasn’t received very well, I get the impression from the tiny part that I have played so far, that this game may be a little more appealing this time around.
Nothing To Fear
Nothing To Fear was somewhat of a surprise for me at EGX. At first glance it didn’t seem to be a game I’d be interested in, but while waiting for another game, Descenders, to become free, I jumped on to the Pod that was running Nothing To Fear and I was immediately hooked. It is a side scrolling platform puzzler that has an essence of stealth added in to the mix. It’s quirky, fun and very addictive. The main character is a ghoulish type creature and I had to guide him through rooms without alerting members of staff and finding a way of scaring them along the way. There is a line of sight that you have to stay away from, then trying to figure out a route past them and then conjuring a way to scare them out of the room was challenging and fun.
The main character has skills that can be used while going through levels but the only access I had to these was a morphing skill. This allows the ghoul to scan something and be able to transform in to that object further along. For example, I scanned a gold wrapped chocolate bunny rabbit, run over to a shelf full of them and morphed in to it. The staff member walked straight past me allowing for a clear path to the next room. It sounds simple but timing is key. It’s visual direction is a cartoon heavy style and the gameplay is simple but addictive. I’m looking forward to checking this one out when it’s fully released.
Steel Rats was the first game that we checked out at EGX and I had the pleasure of spending time with one of the games producers who talked me through some of the main features of the game and was also on hand to answer any questions. The only way I can describe this game is by saying it’s probably the game that Trials of the Blood Dragon could of and should of been. While it was early code, it still showed the potential that this cyberpunk side scrolling action arcade game could be something pretty damn good. Set permanently on a bike, I took control of the guy on the bike and rode through shooting, ramming and even sawing through countless amounts of enemies on screen. There are four characters to switch between and each one has their own special abilities to utilise getting through the level. These also act as the players’ lives too, so if one of these characters die, they’re completely gone.
Steel Rats operates within a 2.5D environment and offers lots of enemies to maul and alternative routes to take throughout the levels. It played okay but I found the control scheme to be a little fiddly, but it was a very early build of the game and the producer I spoke to assured me that there will be some fine tuning to the gameplay as well as the mechanics and the ability to customise controls too. There is certainly a massive amount of potential here and I’m really looking forward to seeing the final build in its full glory. Visually dark but very appealing this game has lots of little influences fused together to make a familiar but original concept. Think Final Fight meets Trials meets Gears Of War and mixing all of those together will give you an idea of what to expect from Steel Rats. I’m looking forward to checking this one out and if you’re a fan of Trials or Trials of the Blood Dragon then you will definitely want to keep a close eye on this one.
Codemasters have been known to be the king of driving games so it comes as no surprise that when I walked in to the area where Onrush was being shown off I was expecting something pretty damn good. We got invited around in to the play area to play 2 rounds of multiplayer, 6 players on one side of the booths and 6 on the other side, all battling for victory. Onrush is the same great Codemasters driving game experience but add in some weapon pick ups, turbo boosts, multiple routes, massive jumps and smashing your opponents into cliff sides or knocking them straight off of a mountain and you’ve got a hectic but incredibly enjoyable battle race game. It certainly got the adrenaline pumping, especially as our team won both games, but it was that heart pounding feeling that resembles experiences on the old Burnout games. It has a pumping soundtrack, meaty customisable vehicles including bikes,it plays great and could fill the void left by Burnout nearly 10 years ago.
Gameplay was responsive and to the standard that you would expect from a Codemasters driving game but what was really surprising was how those finely tuned mechanics fitted in so well with all the hectic action going on, on screen. There was no frame rate dips and the games visuals, while not mind blowing were still to a high standard. I am really looking forward to this one and I think that this could be the game to fill the void left by the Burnout franchise. While what we played was only 2 rounds of a particular game mode, I get the impression that there is so much more to this fun, incredibly hectic, adrenaline filled vehicular combat game than the very small slice we experienced. Im looking forward to playing this again when it’s released on June 5th and if you’re a fan of Codemasters driving games but love a bit of action in your racers then this could be one to check out. I really hope that they deliver on the content and game mode variation that’s included in the final build but knowing Codemasters and the fact they have form for producing quality driving games, I’m sure there will be plenty of content and variation on offer when the game releases.