I didn’t have as much patience for the big queues as Adam or Verity did, so I spent most of my time at EGX in the Rezzed and Leftfield collections, playing lots of indie games. I look forward to playing lots more at EGX Rezzed, the dedicated event for indie games next year. I spoke about a few of my favourites last time, so here are the rest.
A game with a layered but also very accurate title, Political Animals features animals trying to play the politics game by getting elected as president in their country. A turn-based strategy game, you choose a candidate, build their staff and then think carefully about where to deploy them and what to do. At a basic level, you are trying to win votes in the different districts of a county, and trying to win over as many districts to your side as possible. You do this through a combination of actions each turn, spending money and spending ‘logistics’ points to do things like rally, campaign, gift to donors, collect money or even bribe officials in the district to bump up your ratings.
Each candidate has advantages and disadvantages, and at the beginning of the game you choose two platforms to campaign on. If you choose to campaign on education and employment for example, you might find it hard to campaign in a district that values healthcare and trade. Each staff member also has different special skills and you can rotate them in and out of your team as the game progresses and your tactics change. Use one staff member to rally a district so that when you campaign, it will be more effective and win you more votes. If your opponent has been bad and used bribery in a district, deploy a reporter to uncover the scandal and bomb their reputation. Or if you’ve been bad, deploy a lawyer to get rid of any scandals you have brewing in a district.
While you start off with a lot of funds, you’ll quickly find these depleting because politics is expensive and you need to spend a lot to have a lot of impact.
While you start off with a lot of funds, you’ll quickly find these depleting because politics is expensive and you need to spend a lot to have a lot of impact. To replace the coffers, you need to cosy up to donors, who might be more effective at boosting your popularity or boosting your money. But time spent wooing donors is less time spent wooing voters – what do you do? Meanwhile, your opponent is running their own competing campaign and the clock ticks ever closer to voting day.
It’s a clever game with a lot of things to think about and a lot of different strategies to be played. Its cute and colourful exterior covers something which is quite deep and complicated – if this didn’t feature fun little animals saying silly little things as they campaign I doubt that it would be so appealing. The demo campaign was only 10 turns (days) long, but full campaigns run for 30 turns, so there is plenty of time for things to change along the way. I managed to win and run a clean campaign, as in there were no scandals and I didn’t take advantage of the other side’s numerous scandals, but I get the feeling that in the world of Political Animals, it won’t always be easy to do so.
Laura was inspired by her travels around Cambodia, where fortune teller stalls were on the streets right next to fruit, vegetable and clothes stalls. In Night Bizarre, you play a fortune teller who is approached by a range of people seeking answers to questions. It’s up to you to choose a deck of tarot cards, match cards to the spread and finally choose cards which will produce a fortune that will resonate with your customer. As you choose cards and match them to elements of the spread (for example past, present, future) that particularly speak to the person, they become more engaged (and more likely to give you a hefty tip).
It was a very interesting concept and quite fun to play to match interpretations of the cards to various places in the spread for maximum impact, but it felt quite strange to do so, to take advantage of these people’s fears and worries and to carefully select an interpretation that would net the most money. Still, it was a very original concept, and very absorbing to play.
I didn’t have the gift apparently, though. My customer was a young man whose parents were fighting a lot recently – what would happen to them, he asked? Also, he wanted to be a private detective in the future so would he succeed at that? After drawing and placing a few cards that blew his mind, I flubbed it at the end by choosing cards that resulted in a fortune that simply told him that getting distracted by little details would stop him from achieving his dream. He walked off disappointed. Well don’t ask me two different questions then! Stupid tourist.
Rhythm games are right up my street so I was drawn to the pulsing beats and bright colours of Klang. The game was a rhythm action platformer in which you control a little warrior fighting through a digital neon world. Enemies fly towards you and you fend them off by tilting the C-stick in the right direction at the right time, to the rhythm of course. Thumping techno music coupled with the look of the game gave it a bright, colourful, futuristic feel, and the platform elements came into play when navigating through simple courses to encounter more enemies, or jumping to avoid attacks which came from the platforms you were standing on while simultaneously trying to fight off the bad guys.
I enjoyed Klang a lot, and feel that in the later stages the madness on the screen will be a sight to behold, and getting through it all successfully even more so.
Klang is developed by Tom-Ivar Arntzen aka @tinimations and is out now on Steam.
The Fall Part 2: Unbound
I thoroughly enjoyed The Fall so to see something playable on the show floor was very exciting. I would perhaps go as far to call this my favourite indie showcase of EGX. However, because The Fall’s story is so important to the gameplay experience, the demo was a standalone scenario to avoid spoiling the main game, which picks up directly from where the first left off.
The Fall centred around ARID, an AI in a combat suit. Through a combination of action and point-and-click mechanics, you had to help ARID navigate a strange environment populated with other AIs. In this demo, ARID was sharing bodies with other AIs, and had to break them out of their routines so that they could release her to the next body on her quest to the network, so that she could return to her own body. This seemed quite straightforward, but in order for ARID to be freed, she had to make the AIs feel ‘uncomfortable’. In the first case, for an AI in a combat suit that refused to release ARID because to do so would leave it vulnerable for a too-prolonged period of time, it meant that ARID had to bring down swarms of enemies and force the AI to fight. This ‘discomfort’ actually seemed to take the form of some kind of breakdown or overload which was in itself very uncomfortable to watch when paired with ARID’s single-mindedness in achieving the goal of freedom. Similar questions from the previous game bubbled up around AI and sentience, as well as questions around control, freedom and morality.
If that was bad, the second scenario was even worse, involving a robot butler who was stuck in a loop, performing duties such as bringing tea and applying makeup for a dead master and mistress. To make this particular AI uncomfortable, ARID had to break the delusion and convince the butler that the master and mistress of the house were in fact long dead, and that they had failed in their duties to serve. Another very unsettling scenario but it gave ARID the freedom to travel to the network, only for there to be another disturbing prospect laid bare regarding ARID’s own body.
The demo was utterly absorbing, the puzzles interesting and the mechanics returning from the previous game. I really look forward to playing this, and continuing the story.
The Fall Part 2: Unbound is developed by Over the Moon Games and is scheduled for release in 2017. Follow @overthemoongms for updates.