We’ve been having a lovely old time here at EGX. Andy Serkis turned up, Doug Cockle came and did the Geralt voice for Bertie (whether he liked it or not), Chris Bratt had some very Chris Bratt conversations with X-COM and XCOM maestros Julian Gollop and Jake Solomon, and then as well as all that other stuff going on, there are the games.
It’s been a genuinely strong year, with some fascinating games in the Rezzed indies area, the Leftfield Collection, and the Transfuser area of astonishingly well put together student projects plus, of course, the big hitters of the major publishers. While by all means not a definitive list, here’s a personal selection of games to look out for on your final day at the show – some we’ve played before, but most that we haven’t – which really stood out to us.
No Truce With The Furies
There is an extended moment, when you start playing No Truce With The Furies, in which you can’t help but wonder if the game is too smart for its own good.
But it isn’t; it’s just very smart. A curious mix of genres, elevator-pitched as Baldur’s Gate meets True Detective, No Truce With The Furies is an isometric, investigative, existential police drama whodunnit – so actually the pitch is pretty spot on.
You start by choosing a personality type – logical, sensitive, maniacal or just a blandly normal detective – and are first greeted with a scrolling block of dialogue with… yourself? Your subconscious maybe? It’s an intentionally opaque system, involving a variety of multiple-choice conversations and surprise, tabletop RPG-style stat checks that grant various insights into the world. I find it hard to describe, but imagine an interactive, sporadic, stream-of-consciousness Twitch chat of only your most troubled inner ramblings, and you’ll be getting somewhere close.
Your role in the game is that of an extremely, destructively drunk detective. The world is a sickening parallel universe to the ’50s. There’s a murder that needs solving, a brilliant undercurrent of both sour wit and absurdist comedy, and then there’s the wonderfully disgusting art style: decaying browns and greens and greys, like the rejected smearings of Francisco Goya’s mixing palette. It’s lovely, and even if I can’t quite figure it out, I can’t wait to have another try. CT
Super Meat Boy Forever
Having a game like Super Meat Boy Forever at an expo – where you want just one more go to best the stage that keeps besting you – makes relinquishing the controller to the next player very difficult. But this is a good sign it’ll be just as compulsive as its predecessor.
Not that you need a controller to play it. Though it was featured in Nintendo Switch indies area, this’ll also come to mobile devices with a control scheme that, as we recently explained, does more with two inputs than entire games do with an entire 14.
At its heart, it’s a very familiar game, with pin-sharp platforming allowing you to leap past whirling blades and bounce up walls with deft precision, and colourful cartoony stages that becomes increasingly soaked in blood with every subsequent mistake.
But with Meat Boy (or Bandage Girl) always moving forward, and able to dive down or punch forward mid-jump to avoid oncoming dangers in a near instant, the pace is at times even more relentless than before.
It’s a similar but undeniably fresh challenge, and no matter what platform you play it on, Super Meat Boy Deluxe looks to scratch that same itch in wanting to survive every challenge it throws at you – no matter how many tries it takes. MR
Donlan’s already written about how, in its opening minutes, Forgotton Anne introduces you to its oddball anime world by getting you to fight a sock. The game is populated by these moments, where heroine Anne encounters animate, everyday objects – all condemned to the game’s world of abandoned items – and lets you slowly work out for yourself what is going on.
It’s the bigger picture of the game which really appealed to me – suggested by the watercolour backdrops of a city skyline in flames, whispers of rebel attacks and the mysterious fiction developer Throughline has constructed. Most importantly, Throughline has the conviction to slowly tease details of its world as you work your way through its opening sections.
Forgotton Anne’s visuals are pure Saturday morning anime, the frames of Anne’s animation visible but stylish as she leaps between ladders or smooths off her clothes after landing a jump. The demo here at EGX showcases light puzzling and platforming, and hints at a branching dialogue system which will affect your story. Most of all, even after 15 minutes, the demo ended way too soon. The full game is currently scheduled to launch later this year. TP
If you grew up on violent 90’s side-scrolling action platformers like RoboCop versus The Terminator, Huntdown should definitely be on your watch list. The game pays tribute to the 16-colour pixel art style of Mega Drive games from that era and it has this gorgeous 80s aesthetic throughout, with enemies ranging from mohawk-sporting street-punks to hockey players on rollerblades.
There’s a huge arsenal of weaponry to use and a simple cover mechanic that allows you slide behind cover and blast enemies in the face, like a true 80s action hero.
It’s pretty tough – I played the Nintendo Switch version in co-op with Digital Foundry’s John Linneman and, as you’ll see in our gameplay video above, the level bosses in particular were very punishing – but a run-and-gun combo of one player providing some suppression fire and another getting up close and personal is still satisfying as hell to get right. IH
Monster Hunter World
As huge queues were forming on other side of the world to sample Monster Hunter World at Tokyo Game Show, it was also playable in an unassuming corner of the PlayStation booth at EGX. But wherever and however long you waited to play, Capcom’s tease of what’s to come in January was a meaty one.
Though the two-quest sampler featured a similar routine in each – leaving a camp, tracking down footprints to find the beast so you can begin your hunt proper – the outcomes were very different.
The first – a fat-bellied lizard lazing by a beach – went down so easily I went arrogantly after the next, comically-oversize sword swinging first and without a proper stat-boosting meal in my belly. Big mistake – the purple T-Rex-like creature quickly batted me off the edge of a cliff and promptly leapt on me as I swam to shore, sending me back to camp, tail between my legs.
Despite its bigger screen presence and various quality of life improvements over its handheld counterparts – such as individual area becoming a seamless whole, so tense chases are no longer impeded by load times – this is distinctly Monster Hunter, with considered encounters of judging each monster’s tells and regular respites to top up your health before wading back into the fray.
My initial carelessness meant I ran out of time to defeat the second beast, but that’s fine – I’m now all the more eager to try again and finish the job at home, sword sharpened and belly full, and without a queue behind me watching my bumbling efforts. MR
Hackers are dangerous. Or at least that is, according to one half of Off Grid’s dev team Rich Metson, what the people in power want you to think. Metson is fiercely political, and will talk with passion (and at length) about the importance and merits of the craft. Hacking is actually a skill designed to protect, not to attack, he says, and while his game is far from a sermon, it is certainly a lesson: that gaps in security are everywhere, that anyone with a little nous (and a lot of practice) can exploit them, and that it’s you, the blissfully unaware, that the ‘real’ hackers are out to save.
Whatever you may think of the claims, it’s a message that’s skilfully delivered – in fact it’s the intelligence of the delivery that makes Off Grid stand out. In the almost low-fi moment-to-moment, you’re playing classic Metal Gear, one eye on your light meter as you dart from shadow to shadow. But what if you need to divert a guard along the way? Well, how about just reading his encryption-free texts about sports and turning a nearby radio to some live commentary? Later, you might need to find a laptop, but even if it’s locked away in a safe that doesn’t mean the password isn’t nearby, perhaps stored in some leftover files on a network-enabled printer.
Through every little interaction, you quickly realise, Off Grid is teaching you. The scenarios are often based on contemporary, real-world events – an investigative journalist held by spooks without cause, for example – and so behind what seems to be a charming, campy game about a comically inept dad on a mission, Off Grid is dripping with political venom. Hacking is of course the aim, but it’s the principles of it that you’ll be picking up along the way, not the mechanics – and the principles are terrifying in their simplicity. CT
Talk about nostalgia! Raging Justice swept me off my feet back to my childhood, standing in a swimming pool cafe stinking of chip vinegar playing Two Crude Dudes the arcade game. Streets of Rage, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Golden Axe – side-scrolling brawlers were all the rage back then, and I loved them. Why oh why did they have to go away?
Then, Raging Justice! A love letter to those very games. Oversized and over-muscled ripped-denim street punks knocking seven bells out of each other on dirty streets, picking up knives, swinging bats, lobbing bins. Everything exactly as I remembered it, reverently recreated right down to clunky moves and choppy animations. The tone, the look, the feel – oh I could kiss it. No grand ambitions here, just trashy fun.
Raging Justice is made, surprisingly, by a handful of ex-Rare developers at MakinGames, and is finished and being polished for release on PC, Mac and Xbox One, with Switch and PlayStation 4 versions part of the plan. A tray of chips right now would be perfect. RP
Johnathan Nielssen’s Falling Sky is Twin Peaks meets Heavy Rain. The cinematic narrative game is set in the American suburb and sees young Daniel return to his family home only to discover his mother has disappeared and his brother Tommy has been left home alone.
The title is engaging and odd, with a lot of promise. The small section I had the opportunity to play hinted at a potentially beautiful and mysterious full-size game, with a large investigative element, relying on player choices. Motion capture has been used to add a realism to the characters while the detail which went into Daniel’s childhood home reminded me of my grandmother’s house, the typical suburban home which hasn’t changed since the ’50s.
Without a doubt, Falling Sky still needs some work and a good deal of polish. I only played a small section of the game, which had not previously been publicly played and ideally would have been longer, and though there are some difficulties with glitching, graphics and mechanics, looking at the bigger picture, this could be something truly intriguing and beautiful with a charm David Cage games can occasionally lack. VH
Yoku’s Island Express
There’s something about massive, bustling conventions that makes the more passive games on the floor feel like a welcome respite. Yoku’s Island Express is just that; a charming if slightly twee pinball platformer – a genre I can’t say I’ve played before, but am more than happy to have discovered.
You play as a little dung beetle, and you’re attached to a ball of some kind, for some reason that doesn’t really matter other than that it allows you to be satisfyingly catapulted around the game world with pinball paddles and launch pads.
It does have some very minor puzzles to solve, like a giant worm-thing that needs feeding with a certain item you collect, or semi-hidden targets to hit from a certain angle, but really this is a game about exploring in a manner that’s as calming and frictionless as possible.
The Switch has been crying out for the kind of tranquillising experience you get from an Animal Crossing or the impending Stardew Valley. Yoku’s Island Express is obviously a different kind of game to those – and it’s not just coming to the Switch – but it has just the same effect. It’s bang on-trend: a beautiful, wholesome game that leaves you infinitely more relaxed after playing than when you first picked it up. CT
Tucked away in the huddle of indie games at the show is graduate project Phogs!, an adventure where two players share control of a two-headed canine shuffling its way through a series of cute and colourful stages.
Each player must co-ordinate their movements to complete a series of puzzles – hitting switches with one end while the other prises food from a cage; slowly swinging across overhead monkey bars and – our favourite – snapping onto a tap so water gushes out of the other end like a giant hosepipe, allowing you to grow plants that can be climbed over to reach new areas.
With some great ideas and buckets of charm – each stage ended with comically tumbling into the mouth and down the neck of a strange beast – there’s plenty to like with this early look, and is well worth a play especially if you have a friend in tow. MR
Written by Chris Tapsell, Matthew Reynolds, Ian Higton, Vic Hood, Tom Phillips, and Robert Purchese.