EGX 2015 – Indie Games Part 3: VA-11 HALL-A, Knee Deep & Megaton Rainfall

Adam and Kii once again head to EGX to check out some upcoming video games!

On our second indie focused day at EGX 2015 Kii and I split up to cover as many games as possible. It became pretty pretty obvious that we weren’t going to get to everything, but we tried our best! This is my third indie round up article (find the first two here and here), and I’ll be talking about VA-11 HALL-A, Knee Drop and Megaton Rainfall.

 

VA -11 HALL-A (PC, Mac, Linux, iPad, PS Vita)

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This game caught my eye as I was wandering around yesterday, mainly because my love of Ghost in the Shell leads me to gravitate towards anything using the word ‘cyberpunk’. VA -11 HALL-A from Sukeban Games is a ‘cyberpunk bartender action’ game, in which you play as Jill the bartender, as she has to talk to weird customers and mix and blend a variety of different drinks suited to the person’s tastes or mood.

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After a quick tutorial on how to mix drinks, the demo threw me into dealing with Streaming-chan, a pastiche of a YouTube vlogger who has turned her life into a 24 hour livestream. The interactions are funny and lewd, and the drinks mixing sim mechanics are simple (I did still manage to misread a recipe and mess it up). After a bit of research (see the trailer above) it seems that this all takes place in a dark, oppressive dystopia seemingly revealed through the conversations with those who live in it, rather than through stark plot exposition. That should be a very interesting story telling choice that I think should work really well. You can check out the prologue over here and support the development of the main game too.

 

Knee Deep (PC, Mac)

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Over in the Indie Mega Booth I spent a little while watching some people play the Knee Deep demo. One of the developers from Prologue Games kindly filled me in on the details of their game, a demo build of ‘Act 2 – The Festival’, the second of a three episode adventure game series. Knee Deep is a ‘swamp noir’ story set in the small Florida town of Cypress Knee, following the events of the apparent suicide of a washed up Hollywood actor. The story unfolds through the eyes a few characters, with the player picking their responses to different conversations and situations.

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The small section of episode two that was shown off was brief, just enough to intrigue without giving much away. Knee Deep’s story is presented in the form of a stage play, with an air of overly dramatic conspiracy and noir dialogue that manages to come off as compelling rather than cheesy. Besides an interesting story, the unique element of the game that sold it to me was the way the theatrical elements are incorporated into the structure of the game as if it were an actual play, with set pieces and props moving away as characters transitioned between scenes, and spotlights focused on the lead.

Knee Deep is an intriguing and different game that is well worth checking out. Act 1 is already available on Steam for PC and Mac, with Act 2 coming in November and Act 3 due next year.

 

Megaton Rainfall

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Finally we have Megaton Rainfall from Pentadimensional Games, a work in progress game that I played over in the Leftfield Collection. This is a superhero simulator, where the player controls an indestructible god-like superbeing attempting to defend the world from alien invaders. Featuring full sized cities, you can fly around at full speed to combat monolithic ships and weapons before they vaporise whole buildings.

For a game quite early in development this was very cool. The actual flying controls feel very natural, fast and “realistic” (I know people can’t actually fly…), giving the player the feeling that they are controlling Superman or Dr Manhattan. The enemies and combat are a little simplistic, but the atmosphere of the game was terrific, and presumably  even better when using virtual reality (there was a demo set up with an Oculus but it was taken when I wanted to play).  Keep an eye out for this one.

 

I’ll be back tomorrow with my final indie games round up article from this year’s EGX.

 

EGX 2015 – Indie Games Part 2: The Escapists: The Walking Dead, Tango Fiesta & Move or Die

Adam and Kii once again head to EGX to check out some upcoming video games!

One of the aspects of this year’s EGX that has really impressed us is the scale of the indie games section (though the AAA games section is admittedly much bigger, check out what I thought of a couple of those here). We really wanted to focus on the indie turnout, and ended up having so many games to choose from that we were never going to get them all! This is my second article from EGX2015 focussing on indies (first one is here!), this time looking at The Escapists: The Walking Dead, Tango Fiesta and Move or Die.

 

The Escapists: The Walking Dead (PC, Xbox One)

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The Escapists, an 8-bit prison escape simulator, was an award winning indie hit earlier this year. Now Team 17 are combining it with the immensely popular The Walking Dead, coming out at the end of the month on Steam and Xbox One. Utilising the mechanics of the original game, The Escapists: TWD blends the time management and routine aspects with good old fashioned zombie survival, taking familiar faces from the comic book and TV series and challenging the player to escape the zombie hordes. Team 17 were showing off the tutorial and one of the five levels of the game in the EGX Rezzed area, and as a big fan of The Walking Dead I couldn’t exactly pass up a chance to give it a try!

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After a funny little 8 bit reenactment of the stand off that puts Rick Grimes in a coma, the tutorial section of the game is the start of ‘Days Gone Bye’, where Rick wakes up alone in a deserted hospital. The game guides you through picking up items and crafting tools to progress through the level, before you get chased out by a large group of walkers. The top down view means it’s unlikely you’re going to get surprised by anything, but it was still pretty amusing knowing that the only way to go was straight into a room full of the undead. After escaping the hospital I tried my hand at the Herschel’s farm level, meeting up for head count with various TWD characters and trying to do chores and quests before arming everyone up to investigate the mysterious barn.

Unfortunately I ended up dying horribly, as I rescued a downed Tyresse and tried to fight off several zombies with a sicle. And Tyresse ran off after I helped him up! Regardless, this looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun, and fans of The Escapists and The Walking Dead should definitely check this out when it’s out on September 30th.

 

Tango Fiesta (PC, Mac)

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Another game we had a go at in the Rezzed section was Tango Fiesta from Spilt Milk Studios. This was a top down co-op shooter for up to 4 players, essentially a bullet ridden love letter to cheesy 80s action films where the players mow down wave after wave of enemy soldiers through randomly generated levels before blowing up objectives or killing a boss. As we were walking past the art style really caught our eye, and we ended up glued in front of it for quite some time!

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I’m going to be honest, it took us a couple of practice runs for us to stop being utterly terrible at the game. Kii was controlling John Strong (basically John McClane) and I played as Conchita, as we gunned our way through several levels of militia before fighting a boss with some sort of history with Strong. The dialogue is hilariously macho, and the gameplay is simplistic but a lot of fun. There is a decent range of guns to pick from, with a few different call backs to various films (I didn’t try the ghost trap but can’t imagine what that would do to some junta thugs). The action is so chaotic that it can be difficult to keep an eye on your health, with bullets flying all over the place. Fortunately your team mates can pick you up when you’re downed, which is pretty much the only reason why we managed to take down a boss.

We ended up playing for about half an hour before dragging ourselves away to check out some more games. Tango Fiesta just came out on Steam this week, so give it a go on PC and Mac.

 

Move or Die (PC, Mac & Linux)

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The last game we ended up playing on our second day was Move or Die from Those Awesome Guys in the Indie Mega Booth area. This is an insanely fast-paced competitive multiplayer game, with up to 4 players (local or online) battling it out in a series of intense mini games all with a different end game, the only constant being that if you stay still, you die.

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You pick your favourite skin and then the game randomly generates a list of minigames. There are loads of different game modes to enjoy, like stomping on each other, covering as many tiles as possible in your colour Splatoon-style, and pass the bomb. We ended up playing through several times. The first time Kii and I went up against one of the developers and a bot. The dev utterly destroyed us while we tried to get the hang of it, and we didn’t win a single round (it was still very fun though, and very quick). Luckily he didn’t gloat too much and he stepped back when two other guys turned up to try it out. Then it was a bit more of an even playing field. Move or Die is ridiculously fast-paced but very easy to pick up, and is a really great time. Check it out Steam Early Access.

 

Come back tomorrow for more of our impressions on the huge number of indie games at EGX 2015

EGX 2015 – Indie Games Part 1: Shadow Puppeteer, RPG Tycoon & Star Command Galaxies

Adam and Kii once again head to EGX to check out some upcoming video games!

For our second day at EGX 2015 we decided to focus mostly on the indie games sections, hugely represented over three areas: Rezzed, the Indie Mega Booth and the Leftfield Collection, along with some inclusion in the main console areas like Nintendo’s Nindies. Kii and I will be covering the games we got the chance to check out over the next few days, starting with Shadow Puppeteer, RPG Tycoon and Star Command Galaxies.

Shadow Puppeteer (Nintendo Wii U)

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One of the first games we had a look at was Shadow Puppeteer from Sarepta Studio, in the Nintendo section as it is coming out soon on Wii U (though it’s already been out for a while on Steam). It’s a single player or local co-op game, where you control a young boy and his shadow, playing through a series of puzzles that involve manipulating light and shadows to find a path through various levels. I can’t speak for how the relationship works in the single player game, but with Kii controlling the boy and me playing as his shadow we found it to be an incredibly rewarding experience. Initially it seemed like it was largely the boy helping the shadow through the world, but after a bit I got the chance to solve a few puzzles myself.

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Shadow Puppeteer has a really rich atmosphere. It’s doesn’t seem to be a particularly difficult but the puzzles are very inventive, with some really interested manipulation of light to stretch out the shadows for the boy’s shadow to walk on. In particular, unless the storyline gets incredibly dark later on, this would be a perfect game for a parent and child to play together.

 

RPG Tycoon (PC/Mac)

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We eventually split up and headed to different games to cover as much ground as possible. In the Rezzed section I went straight for RPG Tycoon from Skatanic Studios. This was a classic tycoon style game, starting off with a new RPG kingdom that you build from the ground up, recruiting heroes and expanding your area to take on quests in nearby settlements, attract adventurers and fight villains. I started small and played for about half an hour, so I didn’t real make a huge amount of progress. I did have to drag myself away to make sure I could play other games, because RPG Tycoon has the potential to be incredibly addictive, and is exactly the sort of game I can see myself playing until 3am before realising I actually have work in the morning.

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Anyone that has every enjoyed a tycoon style game (so anyone that ever played one in their youth) should check this game out. It just came out on Steam Early Access, with the developer aiming for early 2016 for the final build.

 

Star Command Galaxies (PC/Mac)

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In the Indie Mega Booth I had a go at Star Command Galaxies from Warballoon, a star ship simulator in which you, as captain of a ship, pick a crew and explore a randomly generated universe, fighting alien ships and upgrading as you go. In the demo I played, every time I jumped into hyperspace it drew the attention of another enemy ship, and I had a long and drawn out side by side battle as I tried to balance my power usage against my machine guns and missiles, shuffling my crew around frantically for the best configuration.

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In the end something similar to the above happened, only it was my captain that took a hit and effectively exploded, ending my game. The developer watching said that he’d been impressed at my efforts, but I suspect he was just being nice. This was a tricky game but very cool, and I’d really like to check it out from the start to get the chance to build up my ship before it gets blown apart by alien space ships. Star Command Galaxies is out now on Steam Early Access.

 

We’ll be having more content over the next few days about all the other indie titles we played over the EGX weekend!

KiiGX 2015 – Part 1: Animal Crossing Happy Home Designer & The Legend of Zelda: Triforce Heroes

Adam and Kii once again head to EGX to check out some upcoming video games!

Wonderfully, EGX for some reason let myself and Adam back in this year! The show has moved to the NEC in Birmingham which I feel is a much better venue. There’s a lot more space, it’s easily accessible by train and the layout without an upper level means you won’t forget to go to an area.

So, after getting off the train and going on a merry adventure to find the hall we gave the show a good walk around to figure out where everything is. I obviously gravitated towards Nintendo and got my hands on a couple of Wii-U and 3DS games.

 

Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer
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So here it is. My perfect Animal Crossing game. I spent so long simply building rooms to get points in Animal Crossing: A New Leaf that it was almost obsessive. Now they’ve built a game that’s exactly that. You work for the Happy Homes Association and build homes for your clients which you also then decorate to their specific needs. Having looked at Adam’s screen whilst we were demoing this, apparently the perfect home has a dessert cart, a luchadore mask thrown on the floor and a photo of the client’s daughter. He clearly has a future in interior design.

As I’ve come to expect from the series, the game is adorable and charming with increasing levels of obsessive collecting. It even has Amiibo cards which is another thing you can collect even when not playing the game! Finally, Nintendo are adding even more things for me to fill my real house with to benefit my virtual one!

 

The Legend of Zelda: Triforce Heroes
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Triforce Heroes is a three-player co-op game for 3DS, similar in design to Wind Waker/Phantom Hourglass. Minus the fact that this game relies on you having TWO friends, I had a really good time playing it! At the beginning of the levels there are three items, one per ‘Link’, in our play through these were two gust jars and a bomb sack. As you probably noticed not all the Links will have the same item so you need to work together to use the right items at the correct point in the puzzle. This can create some ‘Portal 2’ style friendship enders as one of us immediately blew another off a platform and to our doom.

wpid-20150924_135901.jpgAn interesting mechanic that Triforce Heroes has is stacking where the Links can jump on each other’s shoulders to essentially be three times the height. This, again, becomes part of the puzzles where different levels of switch need to be hit and then you can also throw the other Links off the platform to their doom.

It’s a simple game but it’s really fun. The co-op is interesting though I’m unsure how well the mechanics translate to single player unless you switch between Links. Well worth a play, especially if you have two friends who are willing to put that relationship to the test with you.

~Kii x

EGX 2015 – Day One Round Up: Rise of the Tomb Raider & Star Fox Zero

Adam and Kii once again head to EGX to check out some upcoming video games!

This year EGX is being held at the NEC in Birmingham. While last year’s event at Earl’s Court was impressive and a lot of fun, the NEC’s extra space resulted in a huge improvement in the atmosphere and breathing room of the video games convention. We’ll see what the crowds are like when the people with proper jobs descend over the weekend, but the first day (Thursday) was a far more relaxed affair. Kii and I will be putting up a few articles about the various games we check out throughout the weekend, starting with two that I was excited to have a look at (and queue for about 40 minutes each), Rise of the Tomb Raider and Star Fox Zero.

Rise of the Tomb Raider (Microsoft Xbox One)

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We’ve not exactly made it a secret about how disappointed we were at TLL that the Tomb Raider sequel from Crystal Dynamics was announced to be Xbox exclusive. We were huge fans of the Tomb Raider reboot, and it felt like we were being shut out of the continued experience. However, it now seems that the exclusivity is limited to ‘Holiday 2015’, seeing release in early 2016 on PC and late next year on PS4. It may seem a while to wait for those of us who went with Sony when it came to next-gen, but it is nice to know that we’ll get to play eventually and clearly Microsoft are throwing a lot of support behind Rise of the Tomb Raider which ultimately can only be a good thing.

After around 30-40 minutes of waiting, we managed to get in to the walled off enclosure where they were demoing the game. It was the same as the footage shown off at Gamescom last month, starting with Lara on her way to a cave in Syria. Things go awry, explosions occur, but she manages to get in. Inside are a variety of water-level based puzzles to gain access to a tomb in the centre of the cave, racing against time as armed men set off charges to get to the tomb first.

 

With regards to gameplay, it probably won’t surprise anyone that Rise essentially just builds on the mechanics of its predecessor. Everything runs more smoothly (with fewer quick time events at this point, but I don’t know if that represents the whole game) but is effectively the same. What that means is if you liked the first game, this plays the same but better. This brief episode does seem to already lend credence to the promise of more tomb raiding in this installment, something under-represented in the reboot. Another element that builds on the original game, essentially an origin story that builds the resolve of the young Lara Croft, is how capable Lara has become throughout her adventures, which is particularly nice to see.

Graphically, the game is gorgeous. The first game pushed the last generation to it’s full potential, and the sequel looks to build on that with a truly stunning looking game. The water effects are realistic, and the cinematic scope of the surroundings are very impressive.

Rise of the Tomb Raider is shaping up to be a great follow up to Tomb Raider, with beautiful visuals and hopefully a greater focus on tombs, puzzles and exploration. It may be painful for us PS4 owners, but from what I played it will certainly be worth the wait. For those with an Xbox One or 360, Rise of the Tomb Raider will be out in November.

 

Star Fox Zero (Nintendo Wii U)

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Over in the Nintendo area, we checked out Star Fox Zero on Wii U. We had the chance to give the tutorial a quick spin before heading to the demo on Corneria and then finally giving a space battle a quick go in a dog fight. Full disclosure – I have spent no more time on a Wii U pad since last year when I struggled playing Splatoon. It took me a while to get to grips with it again, but I think by the end I had it down.

 

It’s been a long time since I actually played a Star Fox game, but Zero was a vibrant and high octane experience, feeling retro and fresh at the same time. I did experience a bit of a disconnect between the action on the main screen and the targeting screen on the Wii U gamepad, and it did have to be pointed out to me a few times that I was crashing in to and scraping along the ground while I was staring at the gamepad as I shot a gun emplacement, but once I got the hang of it I was taking down giant spider robots and ships with ease. The boss battle against the large mothership was fairly easy, but I really liked the variety of ways you could take it down, from blowing up the weapons to entering it like the Death Star and shooting the core.

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The space battle at the end was a nice change of pace, and having to try and manoeuvre around behind the enemy to get a shot in was a little trickier. Overall Star Fox Zero was a lot of fun, and it’s coming out on Wii U in Q1 2016.

 

Next up we’ll have some thoughts from Kii on a few more games we checked out on our first day at EGX 2015!