Here are the games that impressed us most at the show.
The UK’s biggest gaming event has yet again descended on Birmingham’s NEC Arena with all the bright lights and eager faces we’ve come expect. As usual, there’s been a raft of new games announced, including free-to-play VR space game Vanguard and Excalibur Games’ new first-person adventure title, Willowbrooke Post, that was announced live on stage. With 265+ games on show, the choices were hard this year, but, somehow, we’ve managed to whittle that down to a short list of seven of the best indie games we saw at the show. Here goes.
7. Dead End Job
Ironically, in Dead End Job you play as a guy who has a rather exciting one. Taking on the role of Hector Plasm your day to day as a paranormal pest control operative generally involves blasting ghosts and sucking them up into your vacuum Ghostbusters style until the place is clear. Played out as fast-paced twin-shooter you’ll frantically battle ghouls of all shapes and sizes as you try to impress your mentor and save the citizens in desperate need of your services.
What really excited us about the 10-minute demo we played was the potential replayability offered by the procedurally generated levels, which reminded us of The Binding of Issac. Couple this with its colourful animation inspired by 90s cartoons like Ren & Stimpy and you’ll have an interesting package come its 2019 release.
6. Willowbrooke Post
Willowbrooke Post was announced at EGX, pitched as “Animal Crossing meets Papers, Please!” And that’s not all – there’s some very real DNA present from Stardew Valley, in the deep relationships you can form with characters, and Minecraft’s now legendary lo-fi voxel art style.
Willowbrooke Post starts with receiving an unexpected letter from your mum and dad. For mysterious reasons they’re taking a year off from running their post office, so it’s up to you to keep the place ticking along. What has us excited is the promise of not only post office management but a myriad of story and dialogue choices that will shape your reputation in the village and the quirky residents within it.
The demo we played provided only the smallest sliver of Willowbrooke Post but instantly charmed our socks off. We can’t wait to see more and will be able to do so when it launches into Early Access next spring.
5. Those Who Remain
I think we can all agree that darkness is scary, especially when you’re exploring eerie small towns. Well, in Those Who Remain things get a whole lot more terrifying as knife-wielding demons lurk in the shadows eager to snatch away those who stray from the light. In what is a genuinely frightening experience, you sprint from light source to light source at times almost face to face with the creatures the darkness is hiding.
As you’ve guessed, light is your only refuge and, of course, it’s few and far between in the perpetual darkness that surrounds you. It’s what you’d expect from a classic first-person horror game, but with some interesting twists, including the way in which you tackle the game’s puzzles. Coupled alongside the more straightforward puzzles you would expect are sections where slip into an alternate reality, similar to the Upside Down from Stranger Things, with changes you make in this broken dimension affecting the outside world you inhabit.
We couldn’t help but get that Twin Peaks, small-town vibe in the demo we played, as it fuses the look and feel of middle-America’s remote towns with the surreal quality of the paranormal. Those Who Remain is set to release on PC, PS4, Switch & Xbox One in 2019.
4. The Collage Atlas
The indie scene is a fantastic source of explorative, relaxing games, and The Collage Atlas is no exception. What’s so striking about this one is the art, all hand drawn with pen and ink on cartridge paper and scanned in to create an intricate black and white world.
In the 10 minute demo we played, we explored abstract fields and gardens to piece together drawings. As you move, the environment shifts around you – somewhat like Shape of the World – and reacts to your presence. The solo designer and developer, John Evelyn, explained that he wanted to move away from button interaction and instead have objects be manipulated simply by looking at or coming into contact with them. John expects The Collage Atlas to be released towards the end of 2019.
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