Thursday

It began in the early hours of Thursday, 7th of April. I was sitting down at the train station, a black coffee in one hand and a sausage roll in the other. Softly thumping against my eardrums where the trumpety uplifting tones of Reel Big Fish, and my eyelids were still struggling to pull themselves apart, but I was excited. Not long now, before I’d be at EGX Rezzed 2016.

George at EGX Rezzed 1What followed was a winding commute, filled with breakfast bagels, even more coffee, standing up, sitting down, standing up again, a bit of walking, sitting down once more, and so on and so forth, all the way to the Shadwell overground station, where I hopped off the train and painstakingly carried my chubby self up the circling set of stairs that took me to the surface. A trek down a series of roads and paths, and I found myself standing in front of the Tobacco Docks, where we lay our scene. Shortly thereafter I’d find myself standing in this exact same place, after receiving incorrect directions from a member of security staff as to where I’d need to collect my press wristband.

Fast forward. I’m sitting in the press lounge, idly tapping away on my laptop and occasionally scratching my nose. I feel like an impostor. This is my first time at an event as press. But I don’t feel like press. I feel like a fly dressed in scales in a room full of lizards. Sure, the lizards are all tired, caffeine-addicted wordsmiths like me, that probably have their own tasks and trifles to deal with, but I’d not feel surprised if at any moment, one would extrude their tongue, grasping at my legs and dragging me into the abyss. I look at my wrist; the strip of green upon it reminds me, this is where I’m meant to be. I’m not a fly in disguise, I’m the genuine article. I’m a lizard. A lizard on the prowl for other lizards, lizards that make video games. And I must talk to these lizards about their video games.

ShadowhandCosplay520

My first appointment! Jake and Helen, Grey Alien Games. I take a seat and man the helm. Helen, donned in the garb of a highwaywoman, hands me a tricorn in order to aid my immersion. I happily place it upon my head, and direct my attention to the screen, upon which is a number titled, ShadowHand. A successor to Regency Solitaire, wherein you assume the role of Lady Darkmoor; budding aristocrat by day, notorious highwaywoman, ShadowHand, by night. The gameplay is intriguing, and to those not familiar with Grey Alien Games’ previous title, rather unique. The gameplay revolves around removing cards from a board in a fashion best described as a fusion of Solitaire and Mahjong, in order to charge the weapons that you utilise in combat. It’s more engrossing than I’d expected, with bonus RPG elements that make it overall quite an enjoyable experience. They also gave me chocolate coins and badges, likely fully aware of the fact that sweets and shiny things are the perfect goodies to bribe me with. Clever.

I then began my trek to the next game on my list; Creature Battle Lab. I shook hands with Philip Page and Tobias Johnson, two lovely guys from Dojo Arcade, the development studio for the game. The gameplay itself controlled in an awfully similar fashion to a MOBA: tap an area of the screen (it’s worth mentioning that Creature Battle Lab is both a Mobile Tablet and a Touchscreen PC game) and you’ll move there, select one of the four abilities at the bottom of the screen to use them, which usually involves touching or dragging across an area of the screen depending on the ability, and try your best to defeat your opponent. What makes Creature Battle Lab special is it’s incredibly quantitative customization options. The creature creator is reminiscent of titles like Spore and allows for seemingly limitless variation. I produced a colourful monstrosity bearing some resemblance to myself, and named it Chungus (as a nod to the prolific Jim Sterling). I equipped my lumpy bumpy miniature me with abilities that I picked from an extensive list of powers and attacks categorized by type, and hopped right in. My death was relatively swift, but I had a whale of a time, and look forward to the game’s release so that I might redeem myself and kick righteous arse. I was in fact informed that the beta would be live soon, and as such I shall be jumping into it post-haste.

I wandered through to see what else was occurring at the Xbox area, where I’d just been to see Creature Battle Lab. Lo and behold, I stroll past the one and only Rami Ismail of Vlambeer, developers of greats like Nuclear Throne and Luftrausers. A ‘senpai notice me’ tweet later, and I meet up with the aforementioned man and have a rather pleasant conversation that consisted of Ismail being charming and comical, and me laughing and awkwardly mumbling in response. I then watched the panel he was scheduled to speak at, a rather informative discussion about the importance of marketing in the development plan of an indie game, wherein Rami was the most informative and comical panelist.va-11 hall-a demo

After the panel concluded, I decided it best to move on with proceedings and take a look as other games that excited my senses. One of which was a title that I’d been eyeing up in the preceding moments of the show; VA-11 Hall-A, an interactive storytelling game wherein you progress the narrative by making drinks for clients in a dystopian cyberpunk bar. And after playing the available demo in it’s entirety, I can indeed confirm that VA-11 Hall-A is as amazing as it sounds. Emotionally charged narrative, comically charming characters, with a beautiful art direction and surprisingly complex and intuitive mechanics to boot, make for an absolutely splendid experience, even with only a 15-minute glimpse into this gem. After my time with the title, I spoke for a while with the lovely Cassandra Khaw about future plans for the game, and the disparity of cold rooms and the turmoils of lacking coffee (of which I very happily rectified for her later during the weekend). Overall, this was one of my favourite titles at the event.

Before the first day wrapped up, I popped into the Leftfield Collection, a SEGA-sponsored area of the venue dedicated to hosting the strange, the quirky, and the experimental titles of the show. There was a game where you rotated a globe using a giant exercise ball, an arcade-style flight simulator where you navigated psychedelic landscapes, and last year there was even a game that involved climbing into a coffin. An actual, real coffin. What I’d actually intended on playing when I got there, however, was a charming little interactive-story, folklore-esque game, Burly Men at Sea. You aid three large, bearded, Scandinavian fishermen who go on an adventure. The art style is minimalist and beautiful, the music serene, and the narrative simple yet intriguing, all lovingly hand-crafted by Brain&Brain, a husband-and-wife team of developers. It was a nice, mellow, and warming end to my Thursday.

My adventure doesn’t end there, however. Stay tuned for part two.