Matt: After four days of hosting panels, interviewing developers, streaming games on camera and poking at as many as we could on the show floor, Team RPS has returned from the hallowed halls of EGX. Now that we’ve nestled back into our treehouse nooks, it’s time to talk about the best things wot we saw.
So, Katharine, Dave and Alice 3.0. Which game won the show?
Dave: Well it has to be Untitled Goose Game, doesn’t it?
Katharine: I did enjoy honking at the gardener and stealing his radio to lay water-hose based traps, but the queue behind me was already so long by the time I got there I was only allowed five minutes of unbridled goose mayhem. I liked what little I played, but didn't get a greater sense of where it might go beyond what we've already seen in the trailers.
Matt: There were about a dozen people lining up for it whenever I popped over, so I only watched a few minutes of someone else playing. I did find it reassuring that the goose’s antics remained funny outside of a choreographed trailer though!
Katharine: Yes, the goose hype is real.
Matt: But did you find a goose-topper, Katharine?
Katharine: I did, and its name is Hypnospace Outlaw. It's like Her Story meets Papers, Please set in a 1990s GeoCities-esque internet. You play an enforcer of a fictional internet, cracking down on things like copyright infringement, harassment and illegal activity and the like by rummaging through a database of GIF-laden web pages created by HypnOS users.
Most are pretty harmless and won't need to be censored during the course of your various investigations, but each one is a real visual treat and just brilliantly well observed. They're absolutely of their time, and you can interact with a lot of them too. I downloaded a virtual hamster with wings at one point who then proceeded to live on my desktop like a PF Magic Dogz from back in the day, as well as the free corporate theme tune of a pizza company that I could play on my desktop music player. Young Katharine would have loved this place. The only thing it's missing is copious amounts of bad anime fanfiction.
Matt: I had a brief go on that. My sole service to the internet was to delete some children's drawings of their beloved cartoon character.
Alice L: I really enjoyed what I played of it too. I loved Her Story, so this was right up my street. I didn’t delete the kids drawings though, you monsters.
Katharine: The big red cross of justice.
Alice: Absolutely savage.
Dave: That game had a novel idea, but to be honest it was a hot mess. I lost patience with the part where you had to moderate some words and other content posted by a particular user, since all I could find were comments by other people that were harassment towards him, and the gifs that slice off his head.
Katharine: But that's the beauty of it. Some pages aren't listed on the main database, so you've got to go searching for them by using keywords in the built-in search bar, or follow the breadcrumb trail of links within the pages themselves. It took me a while to get where I needed to go, but it rekindled that same kind of investigatory vibe I felt when I played Her Story, which is only a good thing in my books. And besides, marking up any kind of infringement still nets you important Hypno Coin to spend on daft things like virtual hamsters, even if it's not relevant to the mission at hand.
Dave: Yes, that’s where I found the gifs in the end, and I did moderate one user for too many violations, but it apparently still wasn’t enough. I don’t remember the internet being that badly designed. Perhaps EGX wasn’t the best place for me to try and work out exactly what was going on, but I did feel that I was missing out on something because I didn’t do an arbitrary thing.
Matt: I found it interesting, though a bit too fiddly to really grab me. Like you say Dave, it’s the sort of thing that works better at home where you’re free to peruse the web in peace.
Katharine: I agree, playing it on a noisy show floor probably isn't the best environment to start probing its dark, GIF-y underbelly. But there's a free beta available on Steam at the moment if you fancy giving it another go.
Matt: Sticky Cats, meanwhile, was purrfectly suited to the show floor. I think the most fun I had at EGX was stealing fish from Alice.
Alice: Can we not. I did my best.
Dave: Matt, you monster!
Matt: Sorry Alice, it’s a cat eat cat world.
There’s hardly anything to Sticky Cats. I think we only saw three one-screen levels, each with a goldfish bowl at the far right. The goal is just to grab that fish and reach the window while evading the clutches of your feline rivals.
Alice: You say “just” like it was easy, Matt.
Matt: It helped that I was twice your size in most of the matches we played! Cat size is randomised, so one of you can wind up being a tiny kitten and the other an oversized bully. I’m pretty sure I’d have found it brilliant even if I hadn’t ran away with every game, though I guess we’ll have to wait another year until we’re in the same room and can have a rematch.
Katharine: Speaking of sticky things and oversized animals, did any of you play What the Golf?
Dave: Oh god, yes! That game had me in stitches!
Katharine: I particularly liked the two final levels of the demo that were a homage to slow-mo shooter Super Hot, as they rewarded you with a brilliant "SUPER. PUTT. SUPER. PUTT." at the end. Elsewhere, though, it's essentially crazy golf at speed, and there's something immensely satisfying about pulling back on the mouse to change the golf ball's (or cat, or golfer, or even football goal posts) trajectory mid-flight to keep it within the course's wiggly boundaries.
Dave: It did get a bit manic when the car was introduced, but thankfully it was incredibly forgiving and showed a lot of imagination with its vastly different levels. Even the one where the golfer was the ball made me giggle.
Katharine: The spider ball and its sticky rope was my favourite.
Matt: Agreed, if the full game can keep bouncing ideas off the wall at the same pace then we’re in for a treat. What was your game of the show, Alice?
Alice: What the Golf always had an absolutely massive crowd around it every time I tried to get near. I played a lot of incredible games, and loads I can’t wait to get my hands on, but the game that stood out to me the most has to be Flotsam. It’s a city builder on water, where your tips guide is a poor seagull with plastic six-pack rings round his throat called Steven Seagull. It stood out to me as I’d played a lot of puzzle games at EGX but not many city builders. I liked that it made a point about our polluted oceans as a game mechanic, where your city dwellers salvage bits of plastic, wood, and metal from the ocean to build their home. Did anyone else have a go on it?
Dave: Sadly not.
Katharine: Alas, I did not - there was always a queue! I like the idea of having a garroted seagull as your tips bird, though. Why does he have a six-pack ring on him? Are you having to restart civilization on water because the land has become a burning trash fire?
Alice: Because of pesky humans and their littering! The world as we know it has become submerged. It’s a post-apocalyptic city builder but it is incredibly cheerful to look at. Flotsam does mean rubbish that has ended up in the water by accident, like shipwrecks, whereas jetsam means rubbish that was thrown overboard on purpose, like six-pack rings. Recycling is the future, clearly.
Matt: I believe the future is more about coating cats in marmalade, but each to their own.
Dave: Going back to Papers Please inspired games, the best thing I played at EGX this year was Obviously Inappropriate Content. It puts you in the role of a game tester who needs to find bugs, screenshot them, and highlight them. Then the government decrees that they need to be censored too, so you play through the level again, but this time highlight swear words. There’s a meta story hinted at too, as the demo ended with hostile pop-ups appearing in your Windows-like interface, so I’m excited to see where it goes. You can play the same build of it I played here.
I also had massive fun punching Matt’s giant mech with another giant mech in Override: Mech City Brawl, mostly because the dinosaur looks like Grimlock, so that’s probably my runner up.
Katharine: Hypnospace Outlaw still gets my Papers, Please-alike vote. Tick Tock: A Tale for Two was another stand out for me, but you do need a friend to play it with as its nifty asymmetric co-op puzzles can't be solved alone.
Alice: I am also super excited to dive into The Bradwell Conspiracy’s clean water initiative, a puzzle game with similar vibes to Firewatch, Portal, and The Stanley Parable. I’m just surprised no one has said Amazing Frog? is their game of the show. What more could you want than a Grand Theft Auto x Goat Simulator game set in Swindon?
Dave: Giant dinosaur robots fighting in Tokyo.
Alice: Frogs driving cars.
Matt: STICKY CATS.
Disclosure: Xalavier Nelson Jr. was narrative designer on Hypnospace Outlaw, and he's written for RPS a few times.