Another EGX Rezzed, and another load of indie games to play! Here are a few of my highlights.
Phogs is a co-op adventure. You and another player control opposite heads of a two-headed dog… Well, it’s a dog that’s essentially just two heads connected by a stretchy body. You work together to navigate the level, solving puzzles by using your stretching powers and ability to bite and grab on to things.
You can play this game with each person handling one half of a controller for that extra two-headed dog experience. Luckily, for this demo, we had one controller each!
As with most games of this type, it’s best to be in constant communication with your partner. Some of the traversing puzzles involve one of you holding onto something, while the other moves to latch on to something else, and so on along the gap. Other puzzles involve one partner tripping a switch while the other collects something behind a previously inaccessible door.
What we saw in the demo level was quite simple, but incredibly adorable. To get to the next level, you drop into the mouth of a two-headed snake, popping out into a new area on the other side. To water a plant that will transform into a usable platform, one of you latches on to a stream of water, and the other moves so that the water can travel through the dog and out of the mouth of the other one’s head. One level involved carrying a glowing orb. One head latched on to it, the other head moved along with the light beam shining out of its mouth like a torch.
It might sound a bit creepy written down like this, but honestly, it’s too cute for you to even care or wonder about the logistics. It’s incredibly bright and colourful, absolutely adorable, and very family friendly with people of all ages playing it with massive smiles on their faces.
We’ve been following Sure Footing for a while – one of the first times we saw it was two years ago at the Norwich Gaming Festival. We saw it again at last year’s Rezzed, so it felt nice to see it finally finished at this year’s event.
Sure Footing is an infinite runner, featuring a colourful cast of pixel characters trying to outrun Deletion Dave. As you run, you can collect MIPs, avoid the various obstacles and react quickly if the game is cruel enough to suddenly reverse the level. Always a crowd favourite, it was nice to see lots of people trying to break records and to have a quick catchup with Tommy and Matt from Table Flip Games.
A big screen, a blank table and two iPads. Looks like an AR game!
Three guesses as to what the goal is in Smash Tanks! A lovely little game we played on the iPad, it made use of AR to look down on an arena with two teams of three tanks, and a set of buildings in-between them. While we were provided with a handy table because it made it easier to see, you could play this on any surface. The idea was to destroy the opposing team’s tanks. You could move your tanks by tapping and dragging to adjust the power and direction of your movement, then releasing. Your tank would then slingshot across the play area, hopefully straight into your opponent’s tank.
If you aimed right, you could hit particular highlighted weak spots on enemy tanks to do the most damage. For those feeling especially fancy, you could even pull off trick shots by ricocheting your tanks off the walls. Every now and then, collectable power-ups would drop down. If you were lucky enough to grab one of these, you could be gifted with cool weapons like big lasers, or a devastating barrage of missiles. Just make sure that you’re mindful of the buildings – if you were unlucky enough, you could damage a building so much that it fell down on top of your tank for a near-instant KO.
It was simple but very fun! Never underestimate the joy of destruction.
— dumpling 😴 (@dumplingdesign) December 21, 2017
Harold Halibut was a curious game. One part point-and-click adventure, one part stop-motion animation, the game’s main feature was its handmade aesthetic. There were models of Harold and one other character sitting in a case next to the computer, which were very cool to look at with a lot of impressive detail. The environments were also handcrafted, the detail extending as far as the eye could see, most striking when Harold was walking around a shopping street. Tiled paths, signs, glowing lights, intricate window displays, a painted staircase and an impressive statue of a Poseidon-type figure gave you lots of things to look at and examine. It was lovely to see.
Harold lives on a spaceship which has crashed on an unknown water-based planet. Harold himself is a janitor, roped in to help one of the lead scientists try to work out how to escape. The game had a strange feeling of being in limbo – Harold was a bit hapless and constantly roped into doing tasks. No task was that simple, however – while navigating to one place, you encountered someone else who had a problem that needed solving, and so on and so forth.
This is fine, but what made it frustrating was that the game seemed to move very slowly, only adding to that odd sense of purgatory. Harold ambled along, and even in the short amount that I played there was a lot of backtracking (find a man, go find his wife, go back to the man to tell him about his wife) and a lot of environmental aspects that, while aesthetically pleasing, made the gameplay experience somewhat frustrating. An automatic revolving door that I needed to go through several times moved at very slow speed. Some doors hesitated to open when Harold approached them. Harold sometimes got stuck on elements of the environment – tables, chairs, door frames. But these are all simple things that I think can be resolved, and I’m curious enough about the game to want to see more of how it is pieced together.
Find out more at haroldhalibut.com.
There are a lot of dark rooms at Rezzed – it’s the easiest way to see a screen after all. But the Leftfield Collection always feels particularly dark and close, because it’s usually one of the smaller rooms and it’s so full of curiosities that lots of people are drawn in and you find yourself delicately picking your way through the crowd, trying to crane a look at the odd things around you. In a room full of odd things, Wobble Garden was a particularly colourful highlight. On the table was a block covered with wobbly springs, and when you poked them, they lit up in beautiful, colourful patterns. I must admit, I spent some time just poking things and giggling.
The springs are all connected with sensors and LED lights. While there was a game to it – involving wobbling the springs and being aware of what colours mean what things, it was more about experimenting with tactile hardware. The game also had glasses to use to view the garden, which was a somewhat trippy experience and very novel. Creator Robin Baumgarten seems to be very interested in scalability – the modular nature means that the grid isn’t restricted to one particular shape or size, really. The only limits are materials and your own imagination.
We saw Wargroove at last year’s EGX Rezzed, and although it was still in fairly early stages, it caught our eye. The cute sprites are what we’ve come to expect from a Chucklefish game, and the turn-based strategy gameplay brought back great memories of Advance Wars and Fire Emblem.
You take control of an army and commander to wage war and conquer your enemies. All of the best turn-based strategy games have those wonderful moments where a plan comes together or those devastating moments when you realise that you’ve made a terrible mistake. But the cute and colourful graphics certainly soften the blow, and the game is very accessible – easy to pick up and play.
However, it is difficult to master, and there were plenty of hints of deeper strategies and tactics. Different units have different strengths and weaknesses, and it’s a case of balancing all of these in battle, trying to think about recruiting more if possible, where you’re going to move them, how you’re going to attack and then trying to think about this all in the context of what your opponent is doing. I can easily see later missions becoming very difficult and complicated, in the best kind of way.