The staff of RPS were rambling around Rezzed last week, like a troop of rowdy baboons. We were inspecting the games of our yearly show and rubbing our chins, going “hmmm” with the pensiveness of an art critic on the toilet. I’m saying we were being judgey monkeys. There were a lot of games to play, from comedy physics platformers with wobbly-armed buffoons, to oh I don’t know some game someone else likes. But there was plenty to write about. Here is a list of our absolute favourites.
Brendan: The silly physics genre still has life in it, if Heave Ho is any indication. This is a co-op climbathon about being a legless lump with two floppy arms and up to three clumsy pals. The left and right trigger buttons will grip your left or right hand, grasping onto platforms or other players. With this, you use momentum to swing and lunge from one end of a level to another, often using your mates as a living bridge or a big, lumpy rope. Katharine and I came to the rescue of two kids who needed help building a wobbly chain out of their own colourful arms and heads, and when we all finally swung to safety, overcoming a fatal drop, I left with a broad smile. Top stuff.
Matt: Playing Heave Ho is a bit like listening to someone tell the same two-part joke every 30 seconds, but that joke is delivered so well that your ears are always eager for more. First: the fall. A swing goes awry, a lump falls, laughs are had. Then there’s a pause. That’s the masterstroke. That beat, just before a gooey pink splatter coats the face of any lump still clinging to survival. Mitch Hedberg, eat your heart out.
Alice L: Don’t play Heave Ho with Matt or Ollie. Thank me later. You can play it on your own if you’re good enough (like I was).
Alice L: I wasn’t expecting to like Beyond Blue. I’m absolutely terrified of what lies beneath, as it’s so completely unknown. However, I’m all about Blue Planet: The Game, and that’s exactly what this is. And it’s actually made in association with the BBC, so you know it’s all legit. No matter how far you go down and how dark it gets, there will be nothing out to get you. It’s chill, it’s educational, and it highlights a lot of problems we have with global warming, plastic pollution, and over-fishing, and I’ll leave that sentence there before I get told off by Matthew. I’ll never be able to actually explore the ocean myself, so I am really looking forward to playing more of Beyond Blue and learning about all the cute fishies and misunderstood sharks who really just need better PR. They’re not all bad.
SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech
Katharine: I love Image & Form’s SteamWorld games with a passion. Heist and its combination of turn-based strategy and real-time shooting of robots and their tin foil hats is the truest embodiment of a chefkiss dot gif, if you ask me, and SteamWorld Dig 2‘s metroidvania pick-axing was pretty darn special as well. SteamWorld Quest, however, is quite a different proposition. Instead of space ships and the wild west trappings of previous SteamWorld games, this is a medieval-flavoured adventure is set in a lush, vibrant world of robot knights and, errr, sentient mushrooms. And cards. Lots and lots of cards. Yes, Quest is another card RPG, but as someone who’s yet to be slayed (ahem) by other big card games of the moment, this is very exciting for me. I’ve always been impressed by how Image & Form have been able to effortlessly turn their hand to any genre and make it brilliant, and judging by their beautifully executed Switch demo (not to mention excellent pun deployment), Quest looks like it’s shaping up to be yet another Heist-sized chefkiss dot gif.
Brendan: As a fellow liker of SteamWorld Dig 2 and a helpless slave to Slay The Spire’s unbeatable card-game-for-life, I was very happy with this. It’s like Spire’s card-flinging except you control up to three characters, and they all have a deck of just 8 cards each. Imagine if The Silent and The Defect could fight side by side, but you could tinker with their decks more finely. A sweet mix ‘n’ match deck-building RPG from some practiced genre-hoppers.
Drink More Glurp
Matt: DRINK MORE GLURP.
Brendan: I saw the sugar-hyped aftermath of Matt playing this funny physics sports ‘em up, and the effects of the real life can of alien fizzy pop he was given, and I think everyone should drink significantly less Glurp.
Alice L: Matt skipped the tutorial, watched everyone else play and fail, then WON and got A MEDAL.
Ollie: I’d just like to quietly add that long after we’d stepped away from this game, he wouldn’t stop drinking his can of Glurp despite telling me in no uncertain terms that it tasted horrible.
Nate: I have to admit, when I played with Matt and Dave, things got pretty robust. There was a horrible moment when we were all hooting and roaring, and I became excruciatingly aware that we were The Lads. When I won a round, I chugged my whole can of glurp and loosed a dreadful, ululating bellow like a wookie having its balls shut in a van door. Even just writing these words now, I long for the taste of Glurp.
Nate: I went into Rezzed mostly interested in finding how many titles on show had eels in them. Ecosystem had eels, sure enough – but it had so much more. The game is an evolution simulator, in which you control the parameters of a patch of seabed, in order to coax twitching aqua-lumps into vague, gurning fish that proceed to either eat or fuck each other. Simple enough, perhaps, but the systems under the bonnet are astonishing, from seriously complex simulated DNA, to virtual neural layouts (encoded in said DNA and thus also subject to evolution), processing sensory information into individual muscle movement. Many, many games have promised to simulate evolution, but have usually delivered something heavily abstracted or symbolised. Ecosystem, however, is the real deal – this beast has blood that runs black with maths. It’s less than a year old at present, but if developer Tom Johnson can land the premise, I think this could be a genuine landmark.
Samurai Gunn 2
Brendan: They added a dash. That was the only difference I noticed when I played this sword-swishing sequel. Like the first Samurai Gunn, you get three bullets and a sword and you must kill your opponents ten times to win. But you can now also spend a bullet to dash safely through the path of a slicing sword in a puff of dust. There are smaller additions of course (plus a single player story and co-op mode). When my opponent landed in some waist-high water I chased him into the wetness. He fired, but no bullet came. I fired, but oh no, my ammo was likewise shy. The water had jammed our weapons, causing them to release a tiny spit of blue liquid instead of deadly metal. The resulting panic reminded me why Samurai Gunn is one of the best party games out there. Two full seconds of chaos and blood. It hasn’t changed much, but when fights are this fine-tuned and ferocious, it probably doesn’t have to.
Ollie: I’d like to quickly talk about one of the greatest injustices of Rezzed 2019. Matt, Dave, and I were having a whale of a time crowded around Samurai Gunn 2. Each of us had taken nine lives, so the next kill won – or so I believed. My arcing sword cut my opponent in two, but the game had different ideas. Matt and I were forced into a showdown duel to the death while balancing atop bamboo. After some tiptoeing around each other, I once again dealt the killing blow, defeating my colleague (and mortal enemy) Matt. And then we both tumbled into oblivion, whereupon, out of nowhere, Dave won. Yeah, I don’t even know how that happened. But let it be known that I was robbed. Robbed!
Dave: You say robbed. I call it justice for not being included.
Xenosis: Alien Infection
Katharine: I wasn’t expecting a top-down 2D Dead Space-alike to be one of my favourite games of this year’s Rezzed, but here we are. Brimming with atmosphere and some stunning pixel art, Xenosis reminded me a lot of Frozenbyte’s early Shadowgrounds games – it’s dark, your flashlight is in constant need of extra batteries, and nasties aplenty are waiting to snatch you from the shadows. Only this time those nasties are dripping, zombie-esque half-torsos dragging themselves across the floor instead of boring old spiders, making for tenser combat and a spookier, Dead Space-y vibe overall. It’s an impressive package for a one man dev team, and I can’t wait to spend more time inching through its dark, cavernous loading bays and pokey little air vents when it launches in January 2020.
Dave: You’ve put a cat in space. Okay, I’m with you so far. Wait a second, this planet is awfully familiar. No enemies, head left before dropping down a massive shaft? Am I walking through the opening segment of Super Metroid as a cat? Next I’ll find a… oh there it is. Now the cat has a space suit!
I was immediately sold on Gato Roboto, though if they really wanted to make this the best game ever, it would be “Doggo Roboto” (Fight me).
Matt: I kind of don’t want to tell you about Kids. I want you to jump into it completely blind, like I did, and not contaminate your impressions with my own. But I also do want to tell you about Kids, because it’s weird and makes you think about stuff. It’s… a series of vignettes that often involve prodding people into pits? I’ve said too much. The whole ‘game’ only takes about 20 minutes, so just play it when it comes out later this year. We’ll talk about it then, OK?
Ollie: Matt sat me down in front of the Kids demo at one point and refused to tell me anything about what I was meant to be doing. I poked and prodded various things for about ten minutes, like a geriatric cat that’s caught a spider and now hasn’t the faintest clue what to do with it. All the while I could feel Matt grinning behind me. When I finally got up at the end of the demo, I was at a loss when it came to even finding the words to talk about the game. If that intrigues you, then Kids is probably for you.
Alice L: My first experience of Kids was live on the above stream. And let me tell you I really needed to go and sit down and just think for a while after I played it. Greg from Double Fine would not stop giggling at my reactions either. It was A Lot.
Dave: Few games have ever made me feel small, insignificant, and fragile. By getting you to scuttle around a printing press in first-person as a weird fly/cockroach hybrid, Metamorphosis gives you a microscopic perspective that feels overwhelming. Giant books, cogs, and machinery needs to be navigated. Getting crushed is a realistic and terrifying possibility, and yet all anyone would ever know of your demise is a small blood smear on the front page of the newspaper the next morning. I’m excited to see where this goes.
Alice Bee: It’s called Metamorphosis and it’s by a studio called Ovid Works. I see what you did there, developers who like the classics. The jump in the demo was very floaty, not helped by the camera being first-person and very close to the ground – and yet both these things are necessary to make you feel so teeny tiny. My favourite bit was using a pencil as a walkway, like wot a Borrower does. It was very novel for a five-minute demo. And yet, can pencils being way bigger than normal be exciting for longer than that? Time will tell.
Also, someone make a Borrower game where I can make armour out of a thimble or whatever. Thank you.
Dave: Night Call put me in the driving seat of a cab, but also tasks you with investigating a serial murderer. I got to work taking fares. The first was a woman who was blatantly about to enter a forced marriage, yet because of her background, she found it difficult to open up about it. In the end, I couldn’t get her to express how she felt completely. This hurt and stuck with me the entire time – a woman begging for help but not feeling comfortable enough to express her true feelings. A second fare was a sleazy man who would go to airports, rate women on a scale of 1-10, then call anyone over certain scores based on certain criteria. I never wanted to punch anyone more in my life. This is a well-written procedural venture into the seedy world of Paris, with more than just an element of Papers Please about it.
Alice Bee: The best bit of terrible 90s eco-animation film FernGully (aside from Tim Curry voicing a pollution fairy and Robin Williams singing about being a bat) was that powerful fairies are followed by a trail of lovely flowers that grow instantly wherever they walk. Rad is like that, except instead of being set in a rainforest, it is an irradiated hellscape, and instead of a fairy you are a post-apocalyptic teenager who can randomly mutate e.g. a big cobra head. And instead of being nice to animals you are walloping monster slugs with a baseball bat. Also the music is cool. I liked Rad a lot.
Jeepers, there were so many games. But those were our faves. If you want to see more of what we played, you can watch the all Rezzed Live sessions on our Youtube, starting with Friday’s stream. The videos have timestamps in the description, so just clicky click to see what you want.