I love games shows — they’re an opportunity to get ahead of the curve and see alpha builds of titles before they take the world by storm. EGX Rezzed, held in London last weekend, was an awesome showcase for games big and small, indie and AAA, and I had the chance to take to the show floor and get my hands on some really exciting titles.
Looking over my notes, there are loads of games I’d love to speak about, with some years away from completion. But the following five really grabbed me, and they’re the ones I’m most excited to play when they make it to the market.
It’s practically criminal that the Advance Wars franchise has languished without a new entry for more than ten years. But one of the great things about games is that they’re iterative — some of the best releases have come when people have taken a great idea and made it their own. Chucklefish (the creators of Starbound) have done just that, with Wargroove, a gorgeous pixel art turn-based strategy game.
Wargroove takes a pinch of Advance Wars and brings it into the modern era, with local and network multiplayer, multiple campaigns and an in-game map editor. It plays as good as it looks, and I was really sad I wasn’t able to sit down and play it for longer. It’s coming to the three major consoles and PC, and I’m particularly eager to play the Switch version. There’s a big space on the Switch for a game like Wargroove, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.
Remember Catdog, that goofy Nickelodeon cartoon about the cat and dog who each share half a body? PHOGS is basically that, but a cutesy adventure game. You and a friend play as a duo of dogs connected by a gooey mid-section, working together to advance through a series of environmental puzzles.
If it sounds ridiculous, that’s because it is, but it works really god damn well. I played it with my girlfriend, who was repeatedly telling me to be quiet because I was laughing so much. The two of us dragging each other around while flopping through levels together is definitely one of my highlights of the show. There’s just something very funny about PHOGS, and it stands to be an excellent pick-up-and-play title for when you’ve got guests who want something they can goof off with.
Children of Morta
Pixel-art roguelikes — like adventure games — are hardly in short supply right now, with a frankly ridiculous number being pumped out by indie studios. But every now and again, one really grabs me, and Children of Morta did just that. Players control members of the Bergson family as they battle through Mount Morta, a once-peaceful place that is now infested with monsters.
The finished product promises a number of different characters to play, each with a different style, but the demo only offered a sword-and-shield bearing character. Still, hacking and slashing through waves of enemies was really good fun, and for an alpha build, what I played was really promising and had a lot of personality; I happened upon a camp that was in the process of being overrun by enemies, the last of its inhabitants being killed as I arrived.
It reminded me — just a little — of Wayward Souls, another pixel-art hack and slash, but with a Diablo-style perspective. I didn’t get much time with it, but it seemed like there were a lot of systems at play, and I’m really excited to get my hands on the finished product when it comes out later this year.
It’s been a long time since I’ve heard people say the way a game looks is groundbreaking. Yet Harold Halibut managed to buck the trend with its stop-motion graphics — I’ve never really seen anything like it. Everything you see on the screen is made out of craft supplies, according to the developers, which sets it apart from the glut of adventure games coming out right now. (You can see the player character’s model in the glass case in the photo above.)
Set on a wrecked spaceship on an aquatic planet, you play as the eponymous protagonist, Harold, a janitor, who helping one of the scientists on board as they try to launch the spacecraft off the planet. Its visuals are a phenomenal selling point, and if the finished product brings the writing to match (what little I saw of the script definitely needs sharpening up), Harold Halibut could be something truly special.
Strange Brigade is, well… Strange. It’s a 1930s black-and-white adventure movie-style third-person shooter that defies any rigid characterisation at first glance. But the gameplay is basic enough: You play as a member of the titular four-piece as you blast your way through swathes of enemies, big and small, navigating various environmental challenges and puzzles along the way.
I was stood to one side watching people play it, and saw one player rolling around Dark Souls-style while shooting a large enemy with a shotgun. ‘Oh,’ I said. ‘It’s like a Souls game with guns?’ When I played it, though, it felt much more arcadey, with a litany of influences that make this sort of weird patchwork that defies any easy comparison. But there’s a lot that sets it apart, too. The 1930s movie schtick is really different — it’s not like it’s come on the back of a trend or anything, so it feels genuine rather than gimmicky — and what I played of the co-op was really enjoyable. I suspect this will be the best way to enjoy the game, and, in a world that’s crying out for good co-op experiences, I think it’ll scratch that itch for a lot of people.
This Guest Post is by Michael O’Connell-Davidson, of MMORPG.com.