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EGX Highlights: Hermit And Pig is a breath of fresh air for turn-based RPG lovers

Fighting combos, restorative mushrooms and excellent comedy putdowns

An old man and a pig in a woolly hat are chased by birds through a cartoon forest in Hermit And Pig
Image credit: Heavy Lunch Studio

I love it when game names do what they say on the tin, but I love it even more when they contain hidden depths behind that initial simplicity. Hermit And Pig is indeed a game about a reclusive old hermit and his truffle-hunting pig, but this charming adventure RPG also has one of the most involving turn-based battle systems I've come across in a while.

Taking place in first person a la Dragon Quest, Hermit must deal with all sorts of mad and angry wildlife as he hunts for his favourite forest mushrooms, and their scowling (and endearingly daft) expressions are just the tip of this excellent iceberg. For you're not just choosing from a list of moves and watching them play out onscreen. Oh no. Each attack also comes with its own three-button fighting combo, and you'll need to input the right one (often at the right time) to deal the most damage. It's a brilliant system, making Hermit And Pig easily one of this year's highlights from EGX's Leftfield Collection.

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The demo starts with Hermit and Pig waking up for the day and looking for some breakfast, which I get the sense is probably the same every single day: mushrooms, mushrooms and more mushrooms. Mushrooms are a big theme in Hermit And Pig, as you'll a) find them all around Hermit's forest home, and b) use them as your main health restoratives when you take too much damage from the surrounding wildlife. The local fauna are an angry old bunch, and will randomly rush out of trees, bushes and rocks in a cartoon cloud of dust and bad energy, until finally they collide with you and a battle kicks off.

As mentioned, these battles take place in first person, with Hermit down the bottom of the screen facing your quarry in the centre. Even before you begin pummelling them, though, each animal just made me chuckle straight off the bat. The expressions on some of these beasts are absolutely priceless, and props to Heavy Lunch Studio's artists for creating some of the most adorably intimidating forest creatures known to man. Spiders have dumb, evil smiles; owls have giant yellow eyes and angry eyebrows, and cockroaches have googly faces that stretch and contort when you attack them. It's all wonderfully animated, even if said animation only consists of a handful of actual frames.

But it's the meat of Hermit And Pig's battle system that really made it for me, as Hermit must pick from a series of commands in his Handbook, and then input the three-button combo for that command into the attack menu - all under the vague pressure of its decreasing timer bar. Not all attacks work on every animal, though, and there's a neat kind of science in working out which ones will be 'super effective', so to speak, and deal the most damage.

An old man and his pig approach a mushroom near an abandoned car in a forest in Hermit And Pig
An old man and his pig collect mushrooms in a forest garden in Hermit And Pig
Image credit: Heavy Lunch Studio LLC

Cockroaches, for example, are highly susceptible to Stomp - because of course they are. That's what you'd do to a cockroach in real life, and I found that other solutions were similarly semi-intuitive like this. Other creatures such as wasps and bats, for example, are better Slapped, while an angry turtle I encountered could only take damage from Punching when his head was out of his shell (I may be misremembering the exact commands, but you get the idea). Indeed, these kinds of hand and feet attacks were often much more successful than trying to use my cane or slingshot, but I love that they exist in Hermit's repertoire all the same, and how they feel in keeping with what an old man like Hermit would actually use to fend off irate forest animals.

I also love that there's a chicken symbol below the run button, as if the developers are just goading you into each and every fight out of spite.

The fun doesn't end there either, as upon emerging victorious from your fisticuffs, you'll be treated to a victory message in the vein of, "This rat agreed to disagree", or "This tadpole was just about to go home anyway", or "This possum let you win out of sympathy" sort of thing, which also raised more than a few smiles as a nice little middle finger to poor old Hermit. I love how hostile these beasts (and secretly the developers) are to this bloke, and it made me want to take on every fight just to see what silly message I got at the end of it. I should note: Hermit didn't get any experience points or rewards for fighting these creatures in my demo, so you really are doing it just because you kinda have to - unless you run like a cowardly chicken, of course.

Two men confront each other in Hermit And Pig
An old man fights a bird with a cane in Hermit And Pig
Image credit: Heavy Lunch Studio LLC

I didn't quite finish the demo, unfortunately - a rather difficult boss creature absolutely walloped me in a cave after I rescued a slightly unhinged man with a special red truffle that Pig had dug up earlier, but the good news is that the devs are running a closed beta for it very soon, from Friday November 17th until Monday November 20th. You can sign up on their website if you'd like to take part, and I'd strongly recommend it if you happen to be free. Hermit And Pig is one to watch for turn-based RPG fans, and I'll be keeping my nose to the ground in search of a truffle-filled release date.

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