We went to Wapping to gawp at great games.
By Thomas Quillfeldt
Every year, EGX Rezzed comes to London—the smaller, indie-focused sister event to the giant UK games convention, EGX. Held at Tobacco Dock in the district of Wapping (yes, it’s a real place, pronounced ‘whopping’), it’s a gathering of keen souls who are there to geek out either by showing off their own games and/or fervently checking out upcoming titles.
Rezzed is a relatively intimate affair spread out across a labyrinthine network of rooms not unlike a Dark Souls dungeon (replete with sneaky shortcuts and hidden areas). Unlike many larger events, you can always get a game of something and, because there is such a diversity of developers in attendance, chances are that it will be something weird.
On the Friday afternoon, the atmosphere was relaxed but still full of enthusiasm both for the games themselves and the culture surrounding them—the cosplay, roving YouTubers/podcasters, board games meet-ups and plenty of attention-grabbing local multiplayer games designed to draw a crowd.
I donned a HTC Vive headset and let the developers of Polyphonia VR take my brains to another dimension. Polyphonia is “a VR music experience set in a surreal universe” and felt a bit like dropping acid in a disco after watching The Lawnmower Man (not that I’d know). Using both hands to manipulate some pulsating, garishly multi-coloured shapes was a blast, tossing them about the place before smacking several virtual drum trigger-bowl-thingies.
One of my favourite games on show—one I’ve seen regularly appear at events like this for years now—is the transportive A Light In Chorus. For some time, the developers have been working on its striking light-based aesthetic, recently adding a high-concept framework for the game itself: what if you were an alien that had discovered the Voyager Golden Record (featured in one of our weird vinyl round-ups) and it was your only means of interpreting human civilisation on Earth? Rock Paper Shotgun interviewed the team about this idea last year. As with Polyphonia, there is a slightly trippy music/sound-based game mechanic which turns the game into your own ethereal midi instrument, of sorts.
Tunnel Vision Games’ See You On The Other Side had me create and jump through shadows (a bit like the Portal mechanic), set in a world that felt monochromatic, cold and industrial, much like Playdead’s Limbo or Inside. The interesting thing here was that, for once, a designer had found a way to make me deliberately want to explore the darkest corners of a game world rather than avoid them.
An especially arresting game was the stunning race-to-the-horizon 3D endless runner thingy, EXO ONE. A bit difficult to describe, but great on the eyeballs:
A parade of right stunners
Of the games I did choose to dip into, the thing that struck me is just how beautiful video games can be today—even ones made by only a handful of people. Fantastical alternate history point’n’click game Herald, developed in The Netherlands, featured rather dishy, expressive characters to help bring the dialogue to life. Its story and setting draws from multiple cultures rarely seen in games, which was refreshing.
Danish game Figment, an action-adventure in the style of Bastion, is startling pretty with a hand-painted style giving it the same airy, otherworldly beauty as games like Broken Age.
What’s old is new (and oodles of fun)
And, in perfect keeping with the overall vibe of colour and retro-reinterpretation (taking what’s good about old stuff and adding smart, modern touches), we had a go at two highly-anticipated character platformers: Sonic Mania, with its eye fixed firmly on fans of Sonic the Hedgehog 2...
...and Yooka-Laylee, where the Playtonic team were showing off the Glitterglaze Glacier level. Jumping around the glistening icy world brought back memories of mucking up jumps and getting gloriously lost in games like Mario 64 and Banjo-Kazooie—albeit with a much improved feeling of control thanks to modern controllers and design techniques. The sense of anticipation around the game is palpable—fans of classic Rare-developed 3D platformers on the N64 are desperate to get their hands on it and to rekindle their love of a (no longer) bygone genre.
Yooka-Laylee is out next Tuesday (11th April), but not before Laced Records releases the soundtrack on vinyl, CD and digital download this Friday 7th April (find out more at Lacedrecords.com/collections/yooka-laylee). The soundtrack's three composers are all Rare alumni: Grant Kirkhope (Goldeneye 007, Banjo-Kazooie, Perfect Dark, Viva Piñata), David Wise (Battletoads, Donkey Kong Country) and Steve Burke (Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts ‘n Bolts, Kameo: Elements of Power, Viva Piñata).
If you revel in discovery and enjoy celebrating the culture around games, I can recommend Rezzed as a day out. You'll just about see everything if not actually play all of it, but you'll definitely get to try some off-the-wall stuff if you keep an open mind—games that may even change your perception about what the medium can do and be.
Find out more about Laced releases at LacedRecords.com and be sure to follow us around the interwebs: on Facebook, Twitter (@Laced_Records) and Instagram (@Lacedrecords).