Rezzed 2016: The 13 games you have to play

The EGX Rezzed 2016 expo ran from 7-9 April in London’s Tobacco Dock, bursting at the seams with games, players, talks, sweat, fear, arousal and merchandise.

We spent a long day jumping from one game to another, trying to filter the thoughtful from the facile in a bid to find the most interesting titles and prototypes scattered across the festival. Here’s our pick of the 13 best. Have you seen something great we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments.

Tokyo 42

Developer: Smac

A tilt-shift, melting pot of Grand Theft Auto, Hitman GO, Hotline Miami, Syndicate and Mirror’s Edge, Tokyo 42 is a beautiful looking game with a smorgasbord of influences. Set in a future vision of the Japanese capital, you’re tasked with negotiating a Duplo-block urban landscape and assassinating given targets.

The game is only at its pre-alpha stage, but is already a heap of fun to play and surprisingly irreverent (at one stage we were tasked with killing the head of a local mini-golf club called Seamus). It’s telling that one of the game’s lead developers is an architect – the design really is gorgeous – but it’ll be interesting to see how the narrative runs beneath the pretty buildings in the full game.

Burly Men at Sea

Developer: Brain&Brain

Following the tale of three large, bearded fishermen who find a secret map in a bottle, Burly Men at Sea is a folktale told beautifully through point-and-click style gameplay. Developed by the Husband and wife team Brain&Brain, Burly Men at Sea features a branching storyline where each playthrough delivers a different adventure shaped by your interaction with the environment and the people you meet.

From a design perspective, Burly Men at Sea is also incredibly beautiful – so much so it drew me in from across the room in the Leftfield Collection. While gameplay feels slightly more suited to tablet play, its visuals are so clean, crisp and pleasingly minimalist, you can’t help but want it on a big screen.

Reigns

Developer: Nerial

Best upcoming games 2016 - Reigns

As elevator pitches go, “Tinder meets Game of Thrones” is definitely up there. Reigns doesn’t actually task you with swiping medieval hotties, but it does steal its main mechanic from the omnipresent dating app. You play the ruler of a kingdom, and like any good ruler you are faced with a series of choices to make. Swipe left to make one decision, right to make the other.

What makes Reigns so good is the pacing and humour. Much like a prolonged Tinder-spree, decisions are made impulsively, and this helps to add a layer to absurdity to proceedings. Being faced with a constant list of binary decisions makes the whole idea of governance seem brilliantly silly.  

Fugl

Developer: Johan Gjstland

At first look, Fugl looks like another Minecraft wannabe. But don’t be deceived by its colourful voxel blocks and procedural landscape, Fugl is all about the art of flying – and it’s absolutely fantastic if you can play it in Oculus Rift.

The Oculus Rift build is played using a controller, flapping your wings to gain speed and lift, and then the right stick to soar through forests, jungles and caves as a majestic bird. Any worries around nausea are completely removed as you take a fixed position behind the bird you’re controlling, watching it dance across the screen while you have complete freedom to look down at the ground below.

It’s inevitable that you’ll die over and over again in Fugl. But don’t worry if you can’t quite grasp it initially, once everything clicks into place you’ll discover a VR experience unlike any other.

The World Is Flat

Developer: Aubrey Hesselgren

rezzed-the_world_is_flat-leftfield-off_screen_2

A geography exam played with a yoga ball is probably the best way to describe The World is Flat. You swivel a large inflatable orb, and a flattened map on a screen contorts on some obscure axis. The aim is to find countries and cities, testing both geographical knowledge and your ability to make sense of a squished cartography.

Games that straddle physical and digital worlds are having something of a moment right now. Animal-based balancing game Fabulous Beasts has been getting a lot of attention for mixing tower building with iPad strategy, while festivals like Now Play This curate console games beside physical installations. The World Is Flat is a great addition to this expanding area.

Pool Panic

Developer: Rekim

Best upcoming games 2016 - Pool Panic

Tipped as “the world’s least realistic pool simulator”, Pool Panic brings the hectic gameplay of Rocket League to the world of pool. No, there aren’t rocket-powered cue balls rolling around here, but in multiplayer the chase to sink as many balls as you can before potting the black and then yourself certainly echoes the chaos Psyonix’s game can brings out in players, and that’s before you get into a lengthy single-player campaign.

While Mike Robinson’s creation plays wonderfully, with a twin-stick control scheme anyone can just pick up and play, it’s Angus Dick’s animations that really bring Pool Panic to life. Despite taking place on a 3D plane, Dick’s illustrations are entirely 2D and bring hand-made charm to what could have just been a fun pool simulation.

This is the Police

Developer: Weappy Studio

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I’m a sucker for pulpy noir, so crime caper come management sim This is the Police is right up my steam-soaked, cardboard box-ridden back alley. You play as a retiring police chief, ordered by the corrupt city Mayor to keep things ticking until you scuttle off. Do you rock the boat and bring down the crooks in city hall, or do you play things by the book and keep in pocket with the politicians?

There are echoes of Paper’s Please in the themes, as well as the day-to-day action – which plays out like a streamlined management sim. I didn’t play the game long enough to see how the story of crime and corruption plays out, but the comic book art style and suitably gruff voice acting is a lot of fun.

321

Developer: David J. Franco

321

Developed as a mystery adventure point-and-click style of game, 321 revels in shrouding itself in mystery. So much mystery that we needed help getting past the opening puzzle. Don’t let that put you off it though as 321 is not only visually stunning, it also shows a lot of potential wrapping its surreal tale of a young boy on formative experiences around the evolution of video games.

Interestingly, 321 is being developed as a non-profit game for the Winston’s Wish charity after lead developer David Franco (Scribblenauts, Drawn to Life) lost his brother to cancer. Franco, along with Maximilian Weber (Book of Unwritten Tales 2), Andrew Oakley (Alien: Isolation) and four other volunteers are working on the game and all proceeds will go to charity. You can donate here if you’d like to help spur Franco and co on during development.

Orchids to Dusk       

Developer: Pol Clarissou

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While the majority of games at Rezzed are pitched to give you give you a taste of a bigger experience, there are also short gems that can be experienced in full over a few minutes. Orchids to Dusk is one of these games.

You play an astronaut on a stranded planet, with a slowly depleting bar representing how much air you have left in your space suit. There’s no way to fill up the bar, so instead of running from oxygen source to oxygen source you simply wander the surface of the strange world until you die. Do you walk into the horizon right up the last moment, or do you sit in a patch of grass and take off your helmet willingly?

YIIK: A Postmodern RPG

Developer: Ackk

Following in the footsteps of great Japanese RPGs like Persona 4, YIIK: A Postmodern RPG takes the JRPG out of Japan and drops it into 90s Americana. It’s an odd prospect, playing your way through a music-filled game world set in some sleepy mid-west towns, but it really works.

While our time with YIIK at Rezzed was nowhere near long enough for a comprehensive review of its systems, characters and setting, it certainly gave us enough of a flavour to want more. If you’ve always been interested in JRPGs but just can’t bring yourself to spend hours playing as highschool teens, YIIK could be right up your alley.

Antioch: Scarlet Bay

Developer: Mi-Clos Studio

antioch_landscape_title

Three Minute Games’ 2015 title Lifeline shone a light on interactive fiction, telling the story of a stranded astronaut via a series of text messages. Antioch: Scarlet Bay similarly plays with the idea of messaging and branching narratives, except this time you’re taking turns to tell the story with another human.

The co-op story game sees you playing one of two detectives on an investigation in the titular city of Antioch. Whether you play with a friend or a stranger, you’ll take turns to make decisions and bat conversation back and forth. The game throws different information your way depending on your role, which cleverly encourages you to argue, goad and eventually share information with your partner.

Scanner Sombre

Developer: Introversion Software

scanner_sombre

Scanner Sombre is, technically, not a game per-se. Instead it’s one of two Introversion Software prototypes on display at this year’s Rezzed. While many people will opt for Introversion’s other prototype Wrong Wire, Scanner Sombre caught my attention because of both it’s beautiful visuals and potential as a fantastic puzzle game.

Using a 3D scanner, you navigate your way through a winding cave system, painting the walls with laser dots to build up a picture of what’s around you. As you move through the cave system, you can look behind you and see your winding path through the darkness. Puzzle elements come in to play as your scanning reveals routes through seemingly empty cavernous spaces. As a game it still has a long way to go, but as a proof of concept, I’m extremely interested in seeing what comes from Scanner Sombre if Introversion decide to go ahead with the project.

Knife to Meet You

Developers: Robin Baumgarten, Armel Gibson, Aran Koning and Jonathan van Hove

Death in games is transient. The loss of a finger, however, is something you don’t forget. Enter Knife to Meet You – a physical game for three players with a real life knife. The aim is to keep your button pressed, releasing only to avoid the knife as it moves erratically back and forth.

If you crave tangible, permanent damage when playing games, this is for you. Well, it would be if the knife wasn’t blunted.

Honourable mentions

  • Tokyo Dark

  • The Turing Test

  • What Remains of Edith Finch

  • Last Fight

  • Blind

  • Californium

  • Headlander

  • Rituals

  • Mekazoo

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