This year’s Rezzed festival was a spectacle of the yet-to-be finished, a pantheon of potential greatness, like a buffet composed entirely of tantalizing but insubstantial hors d’oeuvres. Included are the highlights of my visit to the NEC last weekend longer previews of each game will be up on the blog this week.
This year, like last, the convention covered the full strata of the games industry, from the most indie and incomplete pre-alpha to well established independent hits like Fez, finally making its way up to big studio behemoths like Titanfall and inFAMOUS: Second Son.
Also playable was The Creative Assembly’s Alien Isolation, which commanded a substantial queue for the entire day. It was announced at the show that the game will be released on October 7th for Xbox one, PlayStation 4, PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The single-player portion of the game available to attendees was genuinely terrifying in all of the right ways, tapping into the real heart of what made the original films scary – an atmosphere of fear, tension and pregnant horror. The title will follow Amanda – Ellen Ripley’s Daughter – as she attempts to outlive a single Xenomorph that will stalk her for the entirety of the game. We here at Zavvi are certainly excited to play more.
The first of the indie games that I got my hands on was Tiny Keep, developed by Phigames. The team describe the game as:
An upcoming action RPG with a heavy focus on smart monster AI. You play as a hopeless prisoner held deep in a forgotten dungeon who one day wakes up to find themselves mysteriously released. Your saviour is nowhere to be seen, but the cell door is broken and ajar, tempting you with the sweet scent of freedom. With nothing but a flickering lantern and a strange letter left behind by your in-mate, you must venture into the darkness and make your escape!
From my first impressions of the game at Rezzed, I have to say that despite it being in pre-alpha the core gameplay is terrifically engaging, hard-as-hell, and thoroughly enjoyable. Running round in circles with a swarm of rabid skeletons on my back was a joy. Take a look at a video below:
Up next was Flockers by Team17, the people who have brought us the ever-enjoyable Worms series. Flockers is a Lemmings-like game with sheep and a steampunk aesthetic. The build at Rezzed came across well polished, with lovely art assets and sounds, but nothing I saw or played of it differentiated it enough from the Lemmings game’s.
What I will say however, is that it did bring back a huge wave of late 90’s PC nostalgia for me, to a simpler, younger time. The game is about rescuing the sheep from Worms before they’re turned into weapons and blown to smithereens. The game will be released through Steam early access.
I also had my first opportunity to play Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number at Rezzed this year. The original was one of my gaming highlights of 2012, a visceral, challenging and hugely rewarding game that really changed my mind on arcade-feel indie games and made me appreciate those games that demand twitch gameplay. Not only that, but it was stylistically perfect, with the music, graphics and obtuse storytelling making the game even more of beautiful bacchanalia of violence. In a good way. I think.
Hotline Miami 2, seems to carry on where the previous games left off, at least stylistically with the terrific music and visual style returning. It will be difficult for the sequel to carry the same shock-factor of the previous game, but even just a continuation of the same will be a gift those of us who poured hours into the original, trying to speedrun our way the glorious gory resolution.
Moving onto the console games at Rezzed, there was a strong presence from PlayStation this year, the PS4 and Vita predictably taking center stage. Of the games on show OlliOlli, Foul Play, Towerfall Ascension and Hohokum were the real highlights.
OlliOlli was available at rezzed on both the Vita and Ps4, and while more naturally suited to the portable device, there was a definite satisfaction in blowing the pixel-art graphics up on a full-HD TV – and then failing miserably at trying to pick up the mechanics. Just like real skateboarding , though, after much effort and many a grazed knee, you begin to pick the game up and, as the Tony Hawks games capitalised on in the early 2000s, nothing can quite compare to landing a nosebluntside combo.
The game I had most fun playing at Rezzed, however, was Towerfall Ascension on the PS4. Goaded into playing with 3 total strangers, we had an absolute blast. The simplicity and balance of the game is perfect, and lends itself to the frantic fun we all know and love from games like Super Smash Bros.
The lack of online multiplayer, despite other journalists defending it, is still a bit of a bummer, if only for those of us who dont live with 3 other gamers. One problem we encountered at rezzed was some fairly significant lag between the controller input and what we were seeing in the game. Whether this is indicative of the game or that specific machine was hard to say – but regardless, any kind of lag in a game so frenetic is a nightmare.
Though I had a real blast playing Towerfall, the one game that hit me out of nowehere was Hohokum. It is a dazzling, colourfull, soothing and intriguing experience, full of partially abtract characters, ideas and emotions. It’s not a game that stands up well to a narrative description, and instead I feel just picking it up, sitting down, and figuring it out does it the most justice.
Or you can just check out this video below:
Rezzed, overall, was a terrific experience this year. The developers were friendly and engaging about their games, which themselves were universally interesting and budding with potential. Picking up a controller and playing with a complete stranger seemed easy – there was a general air of pleased wonder about everyone.
Every year independent games explode into the mainstream and manage to hold their own against the big-budget studios. Every year new mechanics are devloped, new visual styles unfolded, new francises born. Every year gaming broadens its horizons and opens up whole new generations to the power of expressive engaging technology (and ultra-violent gore fests – both are fun, after all). And, with technology constantly improving, things are only going to get better.