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Rezzed 2013 Roll Call: The Future Is Bright

June 29, 2013, Author: Olly Jones

Nestled in a dark corner of the apocalypse ready mega-plex that is the Birmingham NEC, a whole bunch of sub-cultural gaming goodness was going down.

This year’s Rezzed brought together aspiring hopefuls and returning champions of the indie scene and sat them on a bench next to the potential PC landmarks of the next year. Here’s a rundown of everything I got my hands on.

From demos and early builds to retail ready releases, it’s worth keeping an open-mind to my views as some of theses games have a long way to go. Keeping this short and sweet, let’s take a peek at the games I actually managed to get around to playing, or at least got close enough to have a good old stare at in the queues.

 

Beat Buddy

This rhythm based platformer was easy to get into. Guiding a green gliding alien beany baby thing (?) through bubble walls of beats, wall bouncing coral springs and spiked walls relies on timing actions with the hypnotic trance tracks.

The tempo and music evolves as the stage plays out and navigating a space-ship shifting along to the music adds a different element of rhythm action. The floating platforming is reminiscent of games like Lost Winds or Donkey Kong:Jungle Beat, which is no bad thing.

 

Democracy 3

Ever imagine you’re David Cameron? Scanning that Cabinet room from left to right. George Osbourne’s dead fish eyes blankly peering back into your tumultuous soul. Theresa May’s cold flying spittle hitting you in the face everytime she speaks. Nick Clegg tugging at your trouser leg for something to do. Well imagine no more because Democracy 3 puts you right into the fantastical pleasure world or managing budgets and massaging fickle public opinion polls.

The first thing that hits you about Democracy 3 is the game’s central control board, which is pretty heavy on the app symbols and windows excel graphs. The UI is far from user friendly in signalling what it is you’re actually supposed to be doing. That said, once a few rounds go by, picking things up becomes easier and seeing your ‘big society’ take shape is addicting. Democracy 3 is rewarding and would be right at home on mobile devices in my mind.

pollingscreennew

It’s not as complicated as it looks. It’s more complicated…

After giving the cops guns, privatising the NHS, legalising guns and taxing the shit out of everyone while leaving corporations alone in a bid to mess things up, I soon realised all I’d really done was create America.

Democracy 3 feels like one of those games that could take over the world should it find itself featured in some primo front page banner space on the app store. It would deserve to be there. Well worth a look.

 

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number

Last year’s best in show at Rezzed returns. More of the same action which saw the original Hotline become a break-out smash.

Rampaging into hideouts and fucking up waves of henchmen to slick beach-sick 80′s synth still brings out the quick reactions and panicked strategising. The compulsive need to restart after every botched attempt makes Hotline what it is and fans of the first one will welcome back this latest entry.

 

Montague’s Mount

I have to be honest, I still don’t have a clue what was going on in this game. Pacing around feels painfully slow and other than moving about with no hints as to how to operate the game, a quick finger stamp on every keyboard command turned up diddly-nothing. There’s probably a few more elements to this demo build that make it hard to fairly judge how this game is supposed to play, I’ll focus instead on how it feels.

No idea.

No idea. A bit like Myst?

The eerie misty landscape of Montague’s Mount feels well crafted and the sense of exploration would no doubt be better served through oculus rift’s space scuba goggles. I couldn’t help feel reminded of Myst as the easter egg hunting vagueness draws a firm parallel. I look forward to seeing how things turn out with Monatgue’s Mount.

 

Planetside 2

Planetsize is more like it, because the demo map was the size of mars. Too bad there was only about 7 space soldiers on the thing at the time.

When not trekking about the super vast virtual nothingness, commanding helicopters tanks and other vehicles into battle feels great. Just too bad the on-foot battle feels barren without the much needed numbers needed to really make the most of things.

 

Prison Architect

Prison Architect’s Sim/Theme Jail premise delivers on its title. Building and furnishing the clink takes care of things above ground while under the surface budgeting, plumbing and electrics will hold your attention.

 

The game is in an alpha build at the moment so where the more unique elements of a prison set-up come in, were yet to be seen in the demo.

 

Project Zomboid  

This isometric clicker involves commanding your character through zombie infested suburbs. Zombies are so hot right now, but Pro Zom does offer something different to the current tide.

While wandering, zombies will appear close by in unexplored areas of the screen. Using headphones is the best way to play as unseen zoms are heard first and seen later. It certainly adds a deeper level of immersion.

Icons tell you when you’re tired, thirsty and hungry so simply avoiding the undead isn’t enough. Surviving as long as you can is the aim of the game. For anyone wondering what they’d actually do in case of a zombie out break, (and realising that blasting corpses with unlimited ammo probably isn’t likely) this one’s for you.

 

Revenge of the Sun Fish 2 

Revenge of the Sun Fish 2 is balls out crazy. There’s no other way to sum it up. Dropping into one MS-Dos painted acid trip mini game after another does give you that WarioWare feeling. I like it.

rots

Who needs more help? The person playing this game or the person who made it?

Each mini-game demands a set task to be performed before moving on. The tie-dye screen burning imagery is probably best left alone during even the slightest of hangovers.

 

Shadow Warrior

Slashing apart demon hordes as a ninja may have been done to death in Ninja Gaiden, but Shadow Warrior (with the original dating back to 1997) let’s you do that in first person. Gunplay and hand thrown magic are options also, but it’s the sword fighting that feels more satisfying.

FPS fans who may feel the sword and samurai set-up takes them too far out of their element, may be relieved to know that Lo Wang will still autonomously blurt out brainless blab like “Oh Shit!” and “Fuck!”. He is a sword-wielding asian take on Duke Nukem after all.

 

Surgeon Simulator

Surgeon Simulator presents itself as a ‘meticulously satellite mapped and authentic hour spanning’ flight sim of an operation game, when in fact it is more like a game of ‘operation’. A cut open unconscious body lies on the operating table in front of you, draining blood and time. It’s your job to not kill it more.

Imagine your arms are floppy empty marigold gloves, waving pathetically to and fro. It’s fun flailing these droopy meat baguettes around and knocking everything from cotton buds to scalpels into the spread-open chest cavity.

"Just give it a go. What's the worst that can happen?"  *cracks open Dr Pepper*

“Just give it a go. What’s the worst that can happen?” *cracks open Dr Pepper*

Smashing the ribs into crumble and accidentally chucking a lung out of speeding ambulance’s doors is probably not the right way to play this game, but it’s what most people ended up doing.

That’s what playing Surgeon Simulator is like – and it is hilarious. I really hope they are not training actual surgeons with this thing.

 

Tenya Wanya Teens

Keita Takahashi might be better known as the Katamari and Noby Noby Boy guy, but Tenya Wanya Teens deserves to be up there too. The 2 player arcade game sees each player guide a teen through an assault course of action commands.

The game uses a custom arcade board of 16 buttons and a stick. Each button belongs to a set of different colours. Press the correct button for the correct command. For instance, kicking a ball at an elephant, punching the head off an alien, lopping a salmon out of a stream while dressed as a bear – y’know, normal everyday stuff.

Getting naked at school means you probably pressed the wrong button. Or you need to change school.

Getting naked at school means you probably pressed the wrong button. Or you need to change school.

The competitive point scoring gives the game a classic arcade quality. I hope the team behind Keita (Venus Patrol/Wild Rumpus) are savvy and open enough to bring this to a wider market, because it’s too good to keep down.

 

The Leftfield Collection

 

Gun Monkeys [Size Give Games]

Running and gunning primates in a Mario bros arcade meets Bomberman style.

Starting on each side you’ll need to blast or bomb your rival to win. Simple two player fun.

 

Hacker, the movie hacker simulation game [Liam Fogerty]

Everyone’s seen a film where a hacker is blindly button bashing in a code ‘to gain access to the mainframe’.

Well Hacker let’s you live in that movie. Hitting the required number of buttons in a time limit means making your hand  sausages attack the keyboard like two crazy tarantulas.

Of course, there are hurdles. Hitting danger buttons sends your rising bar drop so be careful on your way to chronic RSI.

 

Morphopolis [Micro Macro Games]

This caterpillar’s eye view game features such a truly staggering amount of detailed hand drawn artwork, that it was pretty much commented on by everyone I saw play it. The demo involved swiping a caterpillar through a path and collecting hidden leaves and objects embedded in the scenery.

Not enough polygons.

Not enough polygons.

A gameplay shift to a Rubik cube style puzzle screen shows that already there’s more beneath the leafy surface in Morphopolis.

 

Trash TV [Lawrie Russell]

A side scroller where you play as a TV. Each shifting screen brings a new puzzle to overcome.

They’re not just to busy up the platform space either, there’s some real melon twisters on display.

The quick movement certainly helps when panels start falling towards you and eager enemies rush out of nowhere. Once a gun comes into the frame, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Cave Story in this pixel platforming puzzler.

 

So, What did we learn?

This was the second ever Rezzed, and although it might not be as huge as other events, that’s probably a good thing right now.

If it aims to encourage outside talent from grass roots developers, then the easier it is for people to play your games and take notice, the better. The slower pace and larger space (Rezzed was held in the far smaller Brighton centre last year) is perfect for games to actually be seen and played. Believe me, some of these games need that time to actually be played and properly perceived, which would be a pain in the arse in the hell scape human bee hive of say, MCM or Eurogamer Expo.

Arguably the most important part of the exhibition was compromised by a typically terrible set design staple of modern expo events. Rezzed’s rising stars games gallery, The Leftfield Collection, was tunnelled into a ridiculously small tube and inevitably the place was rammed constantly.

I have no idea why stage designers always think sandwiching everyone into a compactor is a good idea. This staging was unlike any other area of the huge hall, so I’m baffled as to why they thought filling everyone into such a small walkway was necessary.

It would have been great to have seen the games being played while waiting. It would have been cool to identify developers for a chat. Instead it was like standing on the tube in rush hour, being pummelled between pits in the mosh.

Negativity aside, Rezzed delivered and I can’t wait to see most of these games in later builds and in the charts. Hopefully Rezzed will keep growing the best elements of PC and indie gaming and continue learning how to deliver it.

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