What caught my eye at EGX REZZED 2019? – Part One

Two weeks ago I travelled to London to the unique brickwork building, the Tobacco Dock, for the premier games event EGX REZZED 2019. The event showcased new and exciting indie games over the course of three days. Unfortunately, I was only able to attend one day so I tried to cram in as many games as possible. In the first of a two-part article please read on to find out more on the games I played at the event that are either out now or scheduled for release later this year.
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First up, I was excited to get my hands on the much-loved run and gun action game inspired by 1930’s cartoons, Cuphead from Studio MDHR. Cuphead has you play in either single-player mode or co-op as Cuphead or Mugman where you traverse strange worlds, collecting all manner of weapons and super moves to help you defeat the games many bosses. The game originally came out on the Xbox One back in September 2017 as a console exclusive, so it came as a pretty huge surprise when it was announced it was coming to the Nintendo Switch only a few weeks ago.

Not having an Xbox One, I have only played Cuphead back at EGX 2017 and was instantly drawn to the unique and quirky hand-drawn animations and the jazzy soundtrack. It was ridiculously hard but also very addictive – I was pretty awful at it. I’m happy to report that a year or so later that I still suck hard at the game! However, the game runs just as smoothly on the Nintendo Switch as it did on the Xbox One. I was playing it in docked mode so I can’t really comment on how the game performs in handheld mode, but it’s not a graphical powerhouse of a game so I’m sure it will be just fine.

There’s not long to wait for Switch owners to get their hands on Cuphead with it releasing TODAY for the very reasonable price of £16.99. If you want to play a challenging game with a visual art style like no other then definitely get your hands on Cuphead!
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I was eager to catch up on Dreams, the PS4 exclusive from Media Molecule, which was my game of EGX 2018 when I attended the show last September. Dreams feels like a major evolution of the studio’s previous series, Little Big Planet, where you were able to create and play games created by the community as well as the developers. With the power of the PS4 and the tools that Media Molecule has created, you can now create games of a quality that is up there with the very best indie games on the market. Honestly, if you love indie games then this might well be the only game you’ll ever need to purchase as there will be an endless amount of games being created which range from classic 2-D shooters to 3D platformers. There’s even an opportunity just to showcase pieces of art you have created in the game such as sculptures and environments.

Last year I played a few games that had already been created within the game. There will be a story mode featuring a cool little robot but this year I only got my hands on the creation mode, which was made available to those that were fortunate enough to get in the early access beta that was made available back at the start of the year.

Within this mode, I learnt the very basics of how to move my ‘imp’ character tool, which takes some getting used to as you use the motion control to move him around the screen. I then got to placing objects within the world and learning the menus and what’s on offer. This was all explained through a very detailed video tutorial which is broken down into handy segments, which you can replay or skip if you just want to crack on and “do it yourself”. As a first-time game creator, I found these videos incredibly useful and well presented.

For anyone new, like me, I guarantee that a lot of your early hours with the game will just be watching videos and learning exactly how to create things. There’s so much on offer that it does feel a little overwhelming, to begin with, but also very exciting that this game gives people an opportunity to create whatever they desire and is a great starting point for anyone interested in game design and wishing to get into the industry. I can just see myself playing other people’s creations rather than my own, but even that makes the game attractive to me as I’m going to have the opportunity to play a vast number of quality and quirky games of any genre that very talented people have created.

The Dreams Early Access is available now for the price of £24.99, only on the PlayStation Store. The Early Access launch is intended for creators to be able to participate and contribute to the game and will automatically receive the full version of Dreams upon its release. There’s no actual release date for the full version of the game yet, but if you have any interest in game design, or like the look of what you’ve seen of the game so far, I would jump in on the Early Access straight away.
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The Collage Atlus
What I love about attending an event like EGX REZZED 2019 is just coming across a game by accident that you’ve never heard of, yet it instantly draws your attention. The Collage Atlus by developer John Evelyn is that type of game, with a beautifully hand-drawn ink illustrated visual style with objects in the world having a papery flat plane within a largely monochrome 3D environment. There are also some aspects of colour within the game such as bubbles which really stand out and give fresh life to the landscape.

The Collage Atlus is essentially a puzzle game where you have to move around to line up words and letters into phrases to progress onwards. It was a little tricky to navigate and I got lost a couple of times as there are no markers pointing you in the right direction. The game is still very much a work in progress and is planned to come to the PC at some point in the near future, I would very much recommend visiting the developers Instagram at johnwilliamevelyn for more insight into the game’s intriguing visual world.
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Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
For the first time, gamers got the opportunity to play Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, the long-awaited Kickstarter funded game led by the renowned former Castlevania series producer, Koji Igarashi, and is being developed by ArtPlay, DICO and WayForward Technologies. I know many fans of the Castlevania series that are very eager to play the game as it’s considered a spiritual successor to the series, it’s felt like an age for them to get their hands on the game after it was first announced back in 2015. The wait is nearly over as it’s scheduled for release this summer for PC, PS4, Xbox One and the Nintendo Switch.

In Ritual of the Night, you play as Miriam who has awoken from a coma after being subjected to experiments that allow her to absorb crystallised powers from enemies. She’s tasked with preventing an outbreak of demons and confronting an alchemist called Gebel who resides in the Demon Castle. The demo I played is a vertical slice of what to expect with a variety of rooms to explore and enemies to battle. I can confirm that the game does indeed play and look almost exactly like the classic Castlevania games being presented in a 2.5D style with Miriam having a bunch of different weapons, moves and powers at her disposal.

The different weapons on offer really do help to change up the combat and I found the quicker weapons to be most useful as unfortunately, Miriam feels way too sluggish in her movements. It could be that I’m used to the more modern-day Castlevania clones like Hollow Knight that have implemented new features and has a much faster pace to it? Graphically, the presentation style was also a little bland and uninspiring but this could have just been because the demo was based on-board a ship in which many of the rooms repeating the same design and textures. From what else I’ve seen of the game I’m fairly confident it will have some much more interesting and visually striking environments and settings but I couldn’t help but feel a tad underwhelmed by it all.

I have no doubt that for fans of the Castlevania series, this will be a great game and be exactly what they are after to feed their Castlevania-urges. To me, it just feels a little too retro and dated, but I did enjoy my time with the game nonetheless.
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Here’s how to make a game stand out to me – have the lead character look pretty much identical to one of my favourite characters in a hit TV show! In Rainswept, from developer Frostwood Interactive, you play as Detective Michael Stone who has an uncanny likeness to Castiel from Supernatural played by actor Misha Collins. I think it’s the cream trench coat that does it.

Anyway, the game is a point and click murder mystery dealing with themes of the complications of love and the fragility of relationships, with Detective Stone having to investigate the suspected murder-suicide of a couple while battling his own past demons. It’s a very intriguing storyline that is complimented by a simple, yet jerky, art style that utilises bold and vibrant colours which does a great job in bringing the characters and world to life. Even more impactful is the game’s soundtrack that is equally eerie as it is emotional.

From what I played of the game, the mechanics are very simple with the occasional puzzle and elements of exploration. The town of Pineview is awash with interesting characters, each with their own flaws that emphasises the strong focus of the game’s story. It had me gripped and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the game is out now on PC, Mac and Linux.
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Cat Quest II: The Lupus Empire
MEEEEEOOOOOWWW! That’s me saying “I love Cat Quest”! Developed by The Gentlebros, Cat Quest II: The Lupus Empire is the sequel to the beloved 2017 action role-playing game, Cat Quest. In Cat Quest, players took on the role of an anthropomorphic cat that embarks on a quest to rescues his kidnapped sister in the delightful kingdom called Felingard. There was a whole host of witty cat-related puns, quests to undertake and dungeons to explore in what was a very charming and enjoyable game.

With Cat Quest II, you now not only get to play as a cat but a dog too! Your quest is to restore peace to both your kingdoms that are at war. The original was just a single-player game but this time around local co-op is included so you can grab a friend along for the journey and share in the laughter and good times that’s guaranteed.

With the demo, I just played it in single-player, with my feline partner following me around for the ride. You’re even able to switch between the two playable characters with a simple press of a button. Both characters play pretty much identically with a swipe of the sword, but what I did like is that each of them has a different element-based magic attack. So, depending on which enemy you confront will determine your preference for your character choice.

It feels very much more of the same but this is definitely not a bad thing, I was happy to come across characters from the first game too such as Kit Cat. I’m really eager for the game’s release and it’s coming to PC, PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch in 2019 but no specific date was given at this point in time. It’s also the first time the series has appeared on the Xbox platform.
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El Hijo
Literally, as I turned round from playing Cat Quest II, I spotted the game El Hijo which is developed by Honig Studios. I had never heard of the game before but the warm visual style, great use of lighting and simple non-violent stealth mechanics instantly appealed to me. El Hijo is about a 6-year old boy on the quest to find his mother set within a mythical place that very much resembles old American westerns. Therefore, there is plenty of dessert, shady saloons and bandits to be expected, however, the demo starts in a monastery where El Hijo has been left by his mother after the family’s farm was burnt to the ground by bandits. In the care of the monks, the boy decides this life isn’t for him so he goes about escaping to find his mother.

The isometric 3D environment of the monastery is lovely. Soft sepia tones of the building and dessert sands make for a very visually pleasant game that certainly draws the eye. Gameplay-wise you must sneak past the numerous monks that are attending to their chores by sneaking through the shadows, hiding in barrels and using toys to distract them. There are environmental puzzles to come across too but I didn’t get a chance to reach any in my very short time with the demo. I was impressed with what I played and compelled to see how this game continues to develop. El Hijo is planned for release on PC, PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch sometime in 2019.
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Beyond Blue
You might have read the interview I did last year at EGX with Steve Zimmerman from E-Line Media on Beyond Blue, the developer’s underwater exploration game which is co-created with BBC Studios and based on the hit BBC series Blue Planet II. If not, you can check it out HERE

Beyond Blue is a narrative-driven educational exploration game with the focus of replicating real-life research projects as Mirai, a lead researcher, charting the waters of the South China Sea. The demo I played was different to the one I played at EGX 2018 and I found myself exploring the more shallow waters of the ocean. Interacting with floating buoys, I searched for the noises from different species’ home to the waters in order to lock on to the position of them. From there I swam gracefully in the beautiful waters, rich with colourful marine fauna and flora to track down the species I had locked on to, to gather more information about them. It’s a very simplistic and engaging mechanic that really brings out the scientist in me. The real highlight was coming across a pack of magnificent sperm whales at the end of the demo.

Beyond Blue is so chilled and relaxing and I couldn’t think of a better game to play on my Nintendo Switch lying in bed just before going to sleep. It’s breath-taking to look at and an absolute must for nature lovers out there. Originally the game was planned to release in Spring 2019 but I was told to expect it around August/September time for PC, PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.

Tune in next week for part two of my EGX REZZED 2019 article where I’ll be covering the following games: Afterparty, Untitled Goose Game, We Were Here Together, Hamsterdam: Paws of Justice, Close To The Sun, Phogs! and Cake Bash.

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