As a community event Rezzed was a big hit, meeting up with some of the people I game with regularly, some new and some old, to take part in three of the past-times for which Midlifegamer is known; Gaming,Drinking and Socialising, and on all three counts I was not disappointed. But while you may want to hear about the debauchery that came along with the several nights of hard drinking that was mandated by our MLG Creed, it’s the gaming I will be focusing on.
This being my first year at Rezzed I only had an inkling of what to expect. Unlike Eurogamer each year, the AAA titles were few and far between, with the focus primarily on the Indie scene. Though Murdered Soul Suspect, Titanfall, Infamous, Wasteland 2 and of course Alien Isolation among others, made appearances and received healthy play time from the gamers attending, my focus was on what was happening elsewhere in the arena.
So, I am going to spotlight on several games that truly piqued my interest and stood out to me as the ones to watch.
This game is both wonderful and terrifyingly grotesque at the same time. Murasaki baby is a forthcoming Vita exclusive title, which I believe was unveiled at E3 last year, but the short video of it in LA last year does not do it justice. The art style is unique, sort of a cross of character design by Edward Gorey (The Gashlycrumb Tinies) and background art by David Firth (Salad Fingers). Everything about this game screams out that it should not exist, but it does, and it is fascinatingly dark. Your goal is to guide baby back to her mother. With sole use of the front and rear touch screens you must hold baby’s hand and pull her through the macabre world she inhabits. If baby is surprised or scared, she will let go of her balloon and you have to grab it and return it to her. Swiping of the back panel changes the background, which brings different effects into play. One background, tapping the rear pad will let out a scream which will frighten away monsters but also scare baby. Another will cause the weather to change and the wind to blow. Utilising the change of scenery and the touch sensitive interactions is essential to navigating the surreal world baby inhabits. Like Tearaway, I can see this being the title that Vita users show others to emphasise how unique Sony’s portable can be.
Staying on the Sony platforms for the moment, my next pick is a game that we have already reviewed back in September when it was released on the Xbox 360 and PC, (http://www.midlifegamer.net/reviews/2013/11/foul-play-review.html), With the next gen furore in full swing, it would be no surprise if it slipped off anyone’s radar. Showing on the PS4, I had the pleasure of trying the game first hand in co-op with Discobeaver, and both of us were happily laughing out loud at some of the superb narrative contained within. Our review covers most of the key points as to what makes this such a polished and distinctive side scrolling beater, but with confirmation that cross buy will be available between PS4 and Vita, this is a title the Sony crowd should put on their wish list.
A man should take pride in his work, and should also be confident in it. Phi Dinh cannot be said to be unsure of what Tiny Keep brings to the fore when he issued the challenge to all and sundry that he would buy drinks all weekend for the first to survive his demo running at Rezzed. This, it turns out was not a fool hardy claim. How best to describe Tiny Keep? In my mind, Animal Crossing if it was infused with Dark Souls. You play as a prisoner in a procedurally generated dungeon, and the aim of the demo was to survive the myriad of monsters and traps contained within. This is no mean feat. Although the graphics have a cute feel to them, this 3D isometric dungeon crawler is devilishly hard. This is mainly due to the quite impressive AI of the enemies. Rather than run headlong at you, they will retreat if the threat is too great and work in groups to try to take you down.Graphically, this game is stunning. I think the gif Phi created of his spike traps in action adequately shows off the dynamic lighting, real time shadows and graphic styling as a treat in itself. If you are looking for a really challenging indie title, TinyKeep is aimed to hit the virtual shelves in September.
The appropriately named “Leftfield” section harboured a few titles worthy of attention.
First up, is Narcissus
I had the pleasure of playing this indie title on the last day of the conference, when the numbers had dwindled, and the show floor much easier to navigate. Chris (7OClockShadow) and I sat down to play what he described as a thinking man’s flappy bird. This game is clever, simple yet unbelievably difficult. A basic platformer with devilish mechanics. You must navigate your small characters from one screen to the next, traversing 50 increasing complex and eye watering environments. This can be done as a solo experience, or co-op which in my mind is the way it should be played.
Each player controls 1 character; 1 white, 1 black, simultaneously on the same screen, but each character is affected by gravity inversely. So while Chris took on the “real” world viewpoint, I struggled to keep my mind straight that my character must jump down rather than up. Should either of you miss a jump, you are transported instantly back to the beginning of the level. This game is all kinds of frustrating, addictive and enjoyable simultaneously and the retro soundtrack is phenomenal. Although simple to navigate once you have got the pattern down, you are also relying on your counterpart to do the same on his end, and this erupted in woops of jubilation and screams of dismay in equal measure. Friendships will be tested with this game.
We played on the PC version, and although this is also available on IPad, being either side of the tablet gives you the ability to see things the right way up, the sense of achievement upon succeeding while you are inverting your natural response seems far more rewarding and challenging. I suppose it doesn’t help that I decided for us both to try it on the hardest setting. Seeing us make it to Level 12, the developer Alex Johansson took over and I have to admit he made me ashamed of our feeble pawings as he proceeded to run through the next couple of levels at eye blistering speed controlling both characters. This is an impressive, simple and thoroughly enjoyable game, and if you fancy giving it a go, there is currently a Flash version you can try out the solo version on. (http://www.stencyl.com/game/play/9768)
And Finally, to check out his better half’s handiwork, we took it upon ourselves to follow up on the tweet issued by Xero (Peter) to swing by Leftfield and take in Opposable Games offering, Salvaged.
Chatting with the team, the version on show is a very early Alpha, and with a huge resource devoted to the lighting as it was all running dynamically, the game wasn’t running as well as they hoped, but what I played showed off the key spark of a genius that could make the title a success.
Split between the main screen and IPad, you are tasked during the demo with leading your squad of four salvagers through an abandoned ship to recover any available resources and find the black box, to hopefully establish what happened. The main screen shows the viewpoints of your squad members, and those older members of the community will understand when I say it had a definite Hired guns/Space Hulk vibe to its appearance.
The interesting part though was the controls. On the connected IPad is your top down map of the wreck. (the blurb does say smartphones/tablets so Im hoping this is Android also), Much like a minimap, it displays the layout of the rooms, your characters position and facing, loot locations and finally enemies. Touching and dragging your character icon moves them to a new location, and the crux of the game is to move your team through with minimal casualties. From the outset, it seems like this will be a very challenging thing to accomplish. The controls are markedly similar in function to real time strategy games such as C&C, or even to some extent X-Com, but with a first person output for primary feedback on your squad. Moving my characters in two’s made short work of the skittering enemies that bottle-necked in the corridor my team was facing, but within moments two of my men were lost to a much larger beast. Some moments later I was left with my sniper alone facing the vast darkness ahead of me. While the minimap will give a blip showing an enemy, this could be a small easy foe, or a large overpowering one, and so focusing on both the screen to issue commands, and the main viewer to watch them played out is a must. Covering angles have to be used and abused to a great extent when facing larger mobs but the varied scale of the rooms you must investigate makes bottlenecking the enemies a choice. Do you lead with one member to act as bait to draw the enemy in? or do you move by the numbers to cover the ground in front of you. With procedurally generated levels, no two ships will truly give the same encounter.
As I said earlier, this is early Alpha and a lot of the feedback they were hoping for was regarding how much people use each viewing device. At this early stage, there is a very strong concept and some impressive environment, lighting and character design on show, so what they could do with this during the rest of development is something I will be keeping a very close eye on.