Games

Rez plz! – EGX REZZED 2019 Recap

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My weekend at EGX Rezzed 4-6 April, Tobacco Dock London

I’m no stranger to the Con scene, I can now arrange to meet friends by the Chewbacca surrounded by Deadpools without batting an eyelid, and I’ve now placed a self-restraining order on buying mystery boxes and hoodies because:

a. I’m drowning in Funko Pops, and
b. I steal all my SO’s hoodies anyway!

The highlight of my Con calendar has to be the EGX conventions, I’ve been to a few now and consider myself to be a bit of veteran, but more in a chilled out Sergeant Oddball way then the seasoned pros who are straining at the velvet rope to claim a seat as soon as the marshals open the event.

Despite both conventions having EGX as part of their title, EGX and Rezzed are two very different beasts. EGX Rezzed is more like Skegness amusements next to the glossy assault to the senses that is the main EGX convention. Now that’s not to say that Rezzed is the poor relation, far from it!  In many ways, like Skegness, Rezzed is one of my favourite destinations!

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It’s more chilled out and while there’s still a high chance of having to queue to play a game, you’re not stuck in a winding queue for hours and you’ll have a decent crack at the game before feeling too pressured to move on.

The lure for me has always been the meet and greets and live streams, purely because I seem to have more patience queuing for a sit-down and a chat. That’s middle age for you!  But I’ve recently got into forming a crowd around some poor soul who now desperately wants to look more like an eSports superstar than a slightly baffled person who still hasn’t fully figured out the game controls yet.

In many ways game conventions are an interesting test of reflexes and adaptability. You’ve got to be faster than Sonic to snaffle an empty spot at a console and you have mere moments to figure out which button does what. I have to admit Nintendo always throws me a curve ball with their controller layout and the button they insist is “A”.

EGX Rezzed has been held at a couple of venues since its inception in 2012 including the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham where the main EGX convention has been held for a number of years. But Tobacco Dock has been its home since 2015 and I hope it remains there a while longer.

It’s a stunning venue which adds to the chilled out vibe. It’s not what you would call a traditional convention centre or arena as its mostly open to the elements, but tucked away like little treasures are walkways and rooms stuffed with games and goodies. It’s like Diagon Alley but for gamers!

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My game plan for the weekend was admittedly over-ambitious given that I also planned to nerd out over two live D&D sessions from Outside Xbox and Outside Xtra, and catch a Eurogamer live stream. This meant less time for actual gaming and sadly the one game I rabidly wanted to get my hands on, Afterparty from Night School Studio, I never got the chance to, but here are a few of my personal EGX Rezzed highlights.

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Borderlands GoTY Edition Remaster

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Many people thought that Gearbox had dropped a massive Wub-Wub when they announced the Game of Year Edition remaster at PAX East when the real star of the show should have been Borderlands 3. However, being a massive fan of the Borderlands franchise including the Telltale Games “Tales from the Borderlands” series, I was up to giving this sexed-up version a go. But after playing it for a good 45 minutes I honestly couldn’t see that much difference.

The graphics and textures were maybe a bit sharper, but nothing amazing. One glaring difference I did notice was a change to way Angel looks. In the original game Angel was modelled on and played by Britanni Johnson, and as a player you saw slightly grainy video capture of the actress whenever Angel contacted you. I quite liked this mix of cell-shaded environments and characters juxtaposed with real-live performance. For me it added to that sort of ethereal, alien nature of Angel.

For the remaster however they’ve decided to give Angel what I can only describe as the Cortana treatment. I didn’t play enough of the game to get a complete look at this, but from what I’ve seen on other side-by-side comparison videos, the real-life video seems to be have been fully re-rendered into a weird blue hologram which for me didn’t work at all.

There have been a few other tweaks to design and gameplay including custom characterisation where you can change your character’s head as well as colour tones, you can toggle the corner map on and off for a HUD-free experience and you can also indulge in 4 player split screen couch co-op, but only on consoles.

All in all, there’s nothing to really tempt me into buying this. It would be potentially nice to have all the collection on my PS4 instead of split across two consoles, but for that level of convenience I’ll probably wait till the cost hits under £20.

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Castle Crashers Remastered

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Another remaster I got my hands on was Castle Crashers Remastered which will be available to play on Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 this summer.

I love this game, along with Behemoth’s other creation Battleblock Theatre, and it brought a massive grin to my face to see that the divine Hatty Hattington from Battleblock Theatre is a playable character in the remaster. Of course a range of exciting new characters is not all, the remaster also has five times the texture resolution as the original and 60 fps gameplay and you can tell!

Everything was sharper and smoother, and if anything it felt more frantic to play. Unlike the Borderlands GoTY where I played pretty much from the start of the game, the characters in Castle Crashers had been buffed to hell and were full on “developer-build”.  E.g. high level with everything unlocked.  Despite the fact that this meant you could tear through bosses with insane ease it didn’t detract away from the sheer mad joy this game brings.

I’d forgotten how much fun this game is and as a multiplayer game it led to some bonding / eating toast to smash each other up so we can snog a princess, with other like-minded gamers. You can of course play this game solo if you’re in the mood for “Cartoon Souls” but it is one of those games that is genuinely more fun with friends and will be well suited to the Nintendo Switch.

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Devolver Digital are now the love of my life!

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Look at how gosh darn adorable that Bullet Kin is!!!!!

Over the weekend the room I went to the most was the Devolver Digital room. To be fair they won me round fairly early on with their massive foam bullet mascot wandering around the venue. It was adorable, hilarious and well up for being hugged!

Then I educated myself and found out it was from Enter the Gungeon, which has now spawned a sequel “A Farwell to Arms”. Now this isn’t generally the sort of game I’d actively go for having convinced myself I don’t like roguelike dungeon crawlers, despite the many hours I’ve sunken into Spelunky. But after doing a bit of over the shoulder research, and finding out the first game was only £5.49 on the Switch, I’ve become a bit entranced with this game.

It reminded me of a higher quality Gauntlet (C64) and the humour is almost Borderlands-esque with its array of ridiculous weaponry. One of my favourite finds so far has been a gun shaped like a massive bullet which fires guns, which also fire bullets! Laughed, I nearly dropped my Switch into my Weetabix!!

As is the case with these procedurally generated games, difficulty is very much random and luck of the draw. You might have a pretty easy time going from room to room and taking out the odd “Bullet Kin”, or you might get absolutely trounced by a mob of them. Turns out I’m a sucker for punishment and I will keep replaying until I take down at least one boss!

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So despite not having the best skills when it comes to bullet-hell games (I have a tendency to just wander into oncoming fire) “A Farewell to Arms” is now definitely on my watchlist along with another Devolver Digital sequel The Swords of Ditto, Mormo’s Curse.

This was the first game I got to play at Rezzed and it fully stole my heart, in fact I spent most of the rest of the weekend trying to get back on it only to be confronted by massive crowds. I of course take full responsibility for this after giving it a glowing review on Twitter!

Similar to Gungeon I had zero knowledge of The Swords of Ditto and on first glance this looked to be another top-down, 2D adventure with cutesy characters and a pastel palette art style, however this adorableness masks what is essentially another dungeon crawler.

To call it an attempt at The Legend of Zelda’s back catalogue might be a bit unfair. I can see why comparisons would be drawn, but I see it more as a weaponised Animal Crossing, where a civilisation of charming humanoids and anthropomorphised animals give you, the hero, quests to travel through this multi-coloured land and BEAT THE SHIT OUT OF SOME ZOMBIES!!!

This is why I loved this game, despite its bright, colourful, cartoony appearance the contrast of then hunting down a load of the undead and smacking them to bits with a massive axe just filled me with delight.  It also had a really good couch co-op feature and was incredibly easy to get the hang of straight away.

Like Enter the Gungeon I went out and bought the first game to fully prepare myself for Mormo’s Curse which will be available later this spring.

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Honourable Mentions

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A couple of other games worth keeping an eye out for include:

SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech – a role-playing card game which will be familiar with anyone who has mastered the art of deck building in Hearthstone. If you enjoy the hand-drawn worlds, characters and humour of the other SteamWorld games mixed in with Hearthstone-like battle mechanics then you’ll love this.

SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech will be out on Nintendo Switch on April 25.

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Cake Bash is another multiplayer battle game, but instead of killing enemies, grabbing loot and rescuing fair maidens, your quest in this game is to be the tastiest cake of all time! Like a delicious Katamari, your task is to roll around in as many sprinkles, chocolate and delicious things before your opponent cakes do. You can fight each other through the time honoured means of fisticuffs, or you can get a giant lollipop and whomp your enemies to the ground!

Like Castle Crashers you can play this game solo against the game’s AI, but again this game is probably more fun with friends where you can proclaim yourself as Lord Tasty Cakes the master of sprinkles!… if you like…

Cake Bash will be available on Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One and Steam later this year

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EGX will also be coming to ExCeL, London on 17-20 October 2019

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