The 11 best games at EGX you totally missed
EGX 2017 is a great place to go hands-on with some of the biggest blockbuster games coming later this year and early 2018. Call of Duty: WWII, Assassin’s Creed: Origins and Star Wars Battlefront 2 are obviously some of the show’s highlights, but the real highlights of the UK’s largest games expo can be found away from the triple-A spaces and bright signs.
Having hit the EGX 2017 show floor over the weekend, here’s our pick of the best games at the show you’ve probably overlooked. If you’re waiting for some more indie hits, 2018 shouldn’t disappoint.
1. EGX 2017: Etherborn
If you’ve ever played Monument Valley, Etherborn takes the Escher-inspired puzzler to new heights by unshackling you from the linear constraints of ustwo’s title. Developed by the Barcelona-based four-person team Altered Matter, Etherborn has a wonderfully simple premise that’s just executed brilliantly. Its art style really sings, especially at this stage of development, and the use of a tilt-shift focus turns levels into miniature dioramas that just beg for exploration.
The demo on show at EGX is reasonably lengthy and eases you into Etherborn’s mind-bending play on perspective. It’s worth sticking around to finish the demo as the last area available to play shows Etherborn at its finest. Instead of a sprawling array of landscapes to explore, it takes place in a single space showcasing Altered Matter’s great level design. Here, it’s not just the landscape that’s the puzzle, you really need to grapple with the concept of “up”, otherwise you’ll continually fall to your doom.
Etherborn launches in 2018 on PC.
2. EGX 2017: Yoku’s Island Express
As a quick pitches go, an open-world pinball adventure game with a dung beetle in the starring role is a tough sell. However, it was enough of a premise to get Team 17 on board and thank goodness they did because Yoku’s Island Express is glorious.
Yoku plays like a 2D platformer with items to collect, abilities to unlock and puzzles to solve. There’s a whole stack of characters to meet and a suitable strange story that casts you as the new post-animal of a new tropical island. However, instead of navigating its warren of tunnels and platforms by jumping and climbing, you have to make use of pinball-like flippers placed around your environment. Handily, Yoku is always glued to his dung ball (which, thankfully, doesn’t look like a ball of poo) so bouncing off these flippers and bumpers plays out almost exactly like you’d expect of a pinball game.
It’s a strange, yet brilliant, blend of gameplay styles with a huge open-ended map that’s fully explorable and encourages you to go back to earlier areas with new abilities. Retreading old ground shouldn’t be tiresome either as Yoku’s Island Express is absolutely beautiful. Every piece of art is hand-drawn, and it gives Villa Gorilla’s game a wonderful sense of charm sorely lacking from games with the same level of ambition.
Yoku’s Island Express launches in 2018 on Switch, PS4, Xbox One and PC.
3. EGX 2017: RotoRing
Every year at EGX there’s a game that doesn’t adhere to the standard template of what you’d consider as a video game. This year, RotoRing is one of the show highlights. Its premise is simple: You have two concentric rings of LED lights with one light shining brighter than all the others to represent you. It’s your job to move your light into the only non-lit space on the board by jumping between or travelling around each ring. Instead of using a regular controller, RotoRing creator Gregory Kogos has built his own interface consisting of a speaker, a single button and a rotating wheel.
With each new level RotoRing ups the difficulty by introducing new threats in the form of instant-kill red lights. At first these lights simply provide an obstacle, but later on, they’ll move with you and other times they’ll race around RotoRing’s circles as deadly enemies to overcome. From afar it may look like an obtuse game to delve into, but once you’ve grasped how it works – and grappled with staring at a bank of bright LEDs in EGX’s poorly lit halls – you won’t want to stop.
4. EGX 2017: Astrologaster
Astrologaster is the new game from the creators of Tengami. Building on their thoughtful and beautiful pop-up-storybook Zen puzzler, Astrologaster places storytelling and player choice right at its heart.
Astrologaster casts you in the shoes of real-life historical figure Simon Forman, a 16th-century doctor who looked to the stars to solve his patients’ ailments. Gameplay takes the form of listening to consultations and gazing upwards to decide the best course of action to resolve their ill, with your choice having a direct impact on how your patients perceive you. Make too many unpopular predictions – that then don’t come to fruition – you’ll lose business, and thus opportunities to gain custom. Get things right, or just make more popular decisions, and you’ll find yourself swimming with new cases to assess.
What makes Astrologaster even more interesting is that all of these cases are actually based on Forman’s diary entries. These are real people, with real cases – although Nyamyam extrapolates them into a wonderful and witty fiction through its sharp writing. It may be a slower pace for EGX than you might have been looking for, but I can assure you that you’ll enjoy it.
Astrologaster launches in 2018 on iOS and PC
5. EGX 2017: Octahedron
It’s hard to do Octahedron justice by simply explaining its premise. At its base level, Octahedron is a vertical precision platformer where you create your own platforms to traverse a level. As you progress, new enemies, obstacles and mechanics are drip-fed to you.
What makes Octahedron so great is its brilliant mixture of neon-soaked pixel-perfect gameplay and its excellent electronic soundtrack. Levels aren’t static experiences either, some platforms only appear when your character is walking a certain way while enemies move to the beat of the music. The best thing about it all, though, is how Octahedron doesn’t have a single tutorial. It’s so straightforward to play, its mechanics easy to grasp but hard to master. It’s an absolute pleasure to play and is a Square Enix Collective title I look forward to more.
Octahedron is set for release in 2018 for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.
6. EGX 2017: The Occupation
Developed by the creators of Ether One, The Occupation is a politically driven first-person adventure game set in 1980s North Western England. After a terrorist attack leaves 23 dead, the government uses the tragedy to further its agenda and brings in The Union Act, a controversial act that threatens the civil liberties of the British people.
The Occupation casts you in the shoes of a reporter digging into the underbelly of The Union Act. Its origins are dirty and questionable, and its backers have ulterior motives – and the British public need to know.
The Occupation launches on PC in 2018.
7. EGX 2017: Genesis Alpha One
Developed by the German-based indie studio Radiation Blue, Genesis Alpha One casts you in the role of a captain aboard a Genesis-class starship as you go out in search of a new home for humanity. It requires you to build up your starship and manage your crew so they can run the ship or go out on expeditions to gather resources and aid in your quest for a new home.
During my playthrough, my starship was totally ruined by an invasion of alien bugs that managed to stowaway on a cargo ship – highlighting Genesis Alpha One’s other gameplay section: being a roguelike first-person shooter. Each time you die, you come back as a clone, but in killing aliens, you can splice your future you’s genes to become more powerful or a different breed of human.
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Genesis Alpha One is, in the nicest sense of the phrase, in need of a lot of work. The build on the EGX show floor isn’t even version 1 of the alpha – this is how early we’re talking. However, with a bit of imagination on your side, you can see why Team17 decided to pick up this incredibly ambitious space-station builder/shooter/resource management sim.
Genesis Alpha One releases in 2018 on PC, PS4 and Xbox One.
8. EGX 2017: Lorsbruck 1978
I can tell you with near certainty that I never thought I’d find a skiing game landing on my list of top games from any event whatsoever. But Odd Chamber’s Lorsbruck 1978 isn’t just any skiing game.
Set in a fictional skiing town, during a fictitious Winter Olympics, it’s your job to build up and manage a successful skiing team and take them through to be winners. During management periods you’ll be responsible for selecting and training your team members, along with ensuring you’re satisfying their needs – all while keeping the tight schedule of the Winter Olympics.
But this isn’t just a management game, it’s also a physics-based skiing game. Skiing is brilliantly clunky, with arcade-style controls responsible for physics-based racing. It sounds like an awful mix, but combined with the wonderful 70’s-style lounge music and minimalist 3D visuals, it all just works.
Lorsbruck 1978 releases on PC and Mac (with possible iOS and Android releases later).
9. EGX 2017: The Crystal Curse
Do you love The Crystal Maze? Had childhood aspirations to be on Games Master or Knightmare? The Crystal Curse is the game for you.
Playing in a similar way to Keep Talking, Nobody Explodes, The Crystal Curse places one person in a VR room, with others guiding them through obstacles and puzzles via the action displayed on the TV. It’s still in its early stages, but The Crystal Curse creators Sigtrap Games have ideas to create a Jumanji-like board game where VR puzzles occur in each space.
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Like other social VR games, such as Fantastic Contraption, play requires shouting out symbols or directions to aid whoever’s in the headset. For a title that started as a project from a game jam, it’s wonderfully well put together. Unfortunately, as this is still work-in-progress, it may not come to market at all. I just hope it gets the attention it deserves.
10. EGX 2017: Huntdown
If you’re a fan of 16-bit 2D side-scrolling shooters that pay homage to 80’s gritty action films, Huntdown is for you. Pitched as a “hard-boiled co-op arcade shooter”, and set in a grimy neon-soaked ‘80s vision of the future, Huntdown puts you in the shoes of two bounty hunters clearing out gangs from the mean streets of Mayhem.
Huntdown isn’t for the faint of heart, it’s incredibly brutal with its difficulty, pulling no punches just because you’re not used to how these side-scrollers work. Your pistol may have unlimited ammo, but it does barely any damage, so you’ll always be picking up the dropped weapons of your enemies and – seeing as you can only hold one weapon at a time – that means some on-the-fly weapon management.
For those looking for a hit of nostalgia, Huntdown should tick that box – especially as it’s 16-bit graphics have been drawn pixel-by-pixel to recreate an authentic retro look.
Huntdown launches in 2018 on Switch, PS4, Xbox One and PC.
11. EGX 2017: Shooty Fruity
Having worked in retail, I know how incredibly dull it can be – it’s even worse when your day is simply swiping things off a conveyor and into a bagging area. Shooty Fruity feels your pain and asks “what if my checkout desk job was more exciting?” Specifically, what if the supermarket I worked in was besieged by sentient mutant fruit hell-bent on killing you – but you’ve still got to do your job, obviously.
As the latest game from the VR-savvy developer nDreams, Shooty Fruity is an absolute riot of fun. It has vibes of Job Simulator due to the menial scanning tasks you have to do, but then switches it up with Fruit Ninja-levels of food carnage. It’s brilliant, hectic and wonderfully, playfully brutal.
Shooty Fruity launches later this year on HTC Vive, PlayStation VR and Oculus Rift.