EGX 2015 – Indie Games Part 4: Punch Club, Void & Meddler, Odonata

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 final indie round up article (find the first three here here and here), and I’ll be talking about Punch Club, Void & Meddler, and Odanata.

 

Punch Club (PC, Mac, Linux & Mobile)

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Over in the Rezzed section I found Punch Club, developed by Lazy Bear Games and published by tinyBuild. This is a tycoon style fighting simulator, where you learn new fighting skills, work to keep yourself fed, train and try to find out who killed your father. In the short demo I played I did some benchpressing, got a job delivering pizza and brawled with some random street thugs, before eating a burger from a bin, tripping out and meeting someone who looked oddly like a Teenage Mutant Ninja… Alligator?

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The game is packed with 80s/90s references and has a really nice twist on the standard tycoon formula, and as a tycoon/RPG hybrid has the potential to be incredibly addictive. Lazy Bear Games are aiming for release later this year on Steam and mobile platforms.

 

Odonata

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Next up in the Leftfield Collection I had a go on Odonata, a top down 3d sandbox game in which you have to construct defences around your base to prevent enemy attackers, in this case weird looking metallic spiders, from destroying your data core. You can outfit your base with conveyor belts and automatic robot arms that can convert the scrap from the spiders your guns take out into supplies. The art style and automation of your base is really interesting, and the demo I played was fast paced and tricky (I failed 3 times). This was the first time the developers Rob Laro and Anneka Tran have showed off the game, and it looks like it’s going to be well worth keeping an eye on.

 

Void & Meddler (PC & Mac)

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Whilst still in the Rezzed section I sat down for about 40 minutes in front of Void & Meddler from NO cvt, a 6 act point and click adventure story set over 3 episodes, the first of which is out on Steam in October. Inspired by synthwave and 80s noise rock, this cyberpunk story takes Fyn, a tired and disconnected hipster who basically hates everything, through a search across the city for her memories.

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Like all good point and click adventures, I basically had to comb over every single inch of each scene to find out what to do next, and even then one of the developers had to point out the fairly esoteric use of a guitar pedal that I had picked up. Fyn is aggressively pretentious and the dialogue reads like a cyberpunk noir, over the top and grungily bratty, so while it does make it difficult to root for Fyn it is very entertaining. Almost like playing Ghost World, mixed with Blade Runner. NO cvt are aiming to release the first episode on Steam in October.

 

And that is it for my coverage of EGX this year. We tried to cover as many games as possible, and over the next few days we’ll be getting Kii’s thoughts on some of the games she played, along with a podcast special at the end of the week where we’ll talk about EGX 2015 in general. Make sure you check out all of these awesome

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.

 

Comic Review – Tokyo Ghost #1 (Image Comics)

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he reviews of one of them, with potential minor spoilers.

This week saw the start of a series I’ve been looking forward to since its announcement at Image Expo last year: sci-fi series Tokyo Ghost #1 created by Rick Remender and Sean Murphy on writing and art duties respectively, with colours provided by Matt Hollingsworth and letters from Rus Wooton.

Tokyo Ghost takes place in a 2089 in a world obsessed and addicted to technology, a natural extension of the world we live in now. Debbie Decay, the last tech free human in LA and her partner Led Dent, partners and constables for the Flak corporation, are hunting down a suspect responsible for a series of horrible murders, a nostalgic video game nerd named Davey Trauma who can seemingly hack into any human being with the slightest nano tech to do his bidding. And his bidding is to kill Debbie Decay as she closes in on him, her husband and partner Dent so addicted to video streams and porn that he can’t even make himself get off his bike. This is Debbie and Led’s last job for Flak, before they head off to the only tech free city in the world, Tokyo, to get Led clean off of tech and to start a new life. But Led has to tell Flak that he wants it first…

TokyoGhostThere is a lot to take in for this first issue. Remender packs in an incredible amount of nuanced world-building, without making it centre stage, and while framing it around an incredibly action packed case for the two constables. As for the two main characters, Debbie really shines here, with her actually following up on the case while her tech-addicted partner stays glued to the screens in front of his face. We actually learn more about Dent contextually and through Debbie’s devotion to him, as his obsession renders him as essentially a blank slate here. As a partnership, this makes them fascinating as eventually they do work well together, despite the shortcomings of half of the team. The story is slick and upsettingly prescient, without being too grim or overbearing.

The only minor complaint I had was the dialogue. Not overall, as it is largely very strong without being too faux-futuristic, but specifically the dialogue of Davey Trauma, which comes across as a little painfully ‘gamer’. Maybe it’s a stab at gamergaters, much more likely it is supposed to be so over the top as the character himself is nostalgia-obsessed and so bound to actually fail to accurately represent anyone who has genuinely played a video game in the early 21st century, but as someone who falls between the Millenial and Atari age ranges all of the ‘pwned’ and ‘I ain’t no noob’ read to me a little like the try-hard 12 year olds I used to fight on Halo 2 oh so many years ago. But frankly I assume this was intentional, to read the guy as an idiot poser who barely understood the culture he was misrepresenting, and to make him that much easier to dislike.

As for the art, I find it a little difficult to be subjective here. Murphy and Hollingsworth are now my favourite art team. I suspected it on The Wake, and it was probably confirmed on Chrononauts but they just work so incredibly well together. Sean Murphy’s scratchy and shadowy style does wonders here to create a sort of tech based LA noir feel, and really most of the world building I spoke of comes from what he brings to the table, rendering a very lived-in setting amongst the familiar trappings of bleak dystopia. The car chases and death races look stunning, and the few moments of horrible bloodshed are somehow understated in their realisation. Matt Hollingsworth brings more of his usual washed out, almost pastel colour palette to round off the ‘lived in’ feeling of the world, making everything seem worn out and strained while remaining vivid and exciting. Tokyo Ghost is a stunning book.

This first issue of Tokyo Ghost has a lot going on, aggressively eschewing the usual trade off of character vs. plot for a first issue of a new series by just smashing together both. And it works. More could, and presumably will, be said about Led. To be honest, I worry that once Led starts to come off of his addiction he will start to overshadow Debbie Decay in the story, which I think would be a great shame because as it stands, she is far and away the most compelling character. The story is compelling, but the art is the main draw here for me. Remender, Murphy and Hollingsworth deliver a cyberpunk LA noir with death races, video games obsessives and explosions and it looks ridiculously pretty. This is a great first issue and I can’t wait to see where it goes. Pick it up at your LCS or digitally today.

Score: 9 Tech-free cities out of 10

 

Comic Review – Cyborg #1 (DC Comics)

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he reviews of one of them, with potential minor spoilers.

This week I picked up Cyborg #1 from DC Comics, part of their new ‘DCYou!’ initiative that has seen the launch of a few new titles in the wake of Convergence with a focus on underutilised or slightly more eclectic characters that haven’t had a great deal of focus since the line-wide relauch in 2011. Despite being a member of Justice League line up since then, Cyborg hasn’t had his own book like all the other leaguers until now. Cyborg was written by David F. Walker, pencilled by Ivan Reis, inked by Joe Prado, coloured by Adriano Lucas and lettered by Rob Leigh.

Cyborg opens on a battle in a distant galaxy between two tech-based alien races, the Tekbreakers and the Technosapiens, with one group retreating in the face of an insurmountable enemy that seems able to absorb their defeated prey. Throughout the issue we return to this fight, as a few survivors escape and their pursuers analyse the tech they left behind. This action allows the Earth based scenes room to breathe and to be far more character focused, something that Victor Stone has been lacking in the past few years. Here we see him arriving at STAR labs, against the backdrop of protesters outside, to discuss some of his recent upgrades with his father and his team, and to figure out why his tech seemingly evolved in the face of his impending (or actual) death. While Silas Stone fusses over the intricacies of his implants and what they mean, Victor feels more like a lab animal than a son as his father fails once again to truly pay attention to him, focusing on the science of his son rather than the human being that he still is.

By having all of the action and suspense in this issue take place on a different planet, Walker deftly weaves a narrative around the actual character of Cyborg that takes elements that have been touched on very briefly before and constructing a real emotional core for the book. Victor talks about how he would rather be seen as a monster than totally ignored, and struggles with the fact that his father does just that and hardly seems to notice. Talking to his friend Sarah, who treats him like the man he is, allows him to open up and relax, and we get to see how affected he is underneath his stoic JL member facade. Reis’s pencils are strong here as usual, and while the STAR labs scenes look great it is in the action scenes between the Alien/Thing-style Technosapiens and the soldiers that look particularly good. Prado and Lucas finish the art off really well to give a beautiful looking book.

Considering how every other founding member of the current iteration of the Justice League has had a solo book since the DC relaunch and are now all in the low #40 issues, this series has been a long time coming. It’s nice to see then that the first issue of Cyborg indicates that this is the book the character deserves, with a strong emotional resonance and great character work and art. Pick this up at your LCS or digitally now.

Score: 8.5 Operating Systems out of 10