The last few days have seen the NEC at Birmingham host a few events and of course, we were excited to see what new-fangled bicycles were on display this year. Wait, no. That's not right. We made the short trip from The Steel City and after briefly getting lost and told to turn around, we stumbled upon a car park full of vans. Vans advertising themselves as cycling companies. Undeterred, we headed on and made sure not to walk into the wrong exhibition. Our overfed bellies would have immediately given us away. Ubisoft must have arrived late too, however, because they parked in the same out-of-the-way car park, thankfully confirming that we were indeed in the right place.
We stuffed our fat little faces with teacakes (chocolate and marshallow, the breakfast of kings!), fought off a million people trying to peddle their wares and finally got inside to meet our hero, Sonic. I guess we should probably talk about the games. Whilst we'd love to talk about Monster Hunter: World, or Detriot: Become Human, or Far Cry 5, or Assassin's Creed, or Ni No Kuni II, we're going to cover the interesting games that you may not have heard of.
A student project from promising game maker Jonathan Nielssen which was heavily inspired by Heavy Rain. You can tell too - the narrative-driven game shares a similar feel to its inspiration but it's Twin Peaks (and dare I say Silent Hill?) vibe should also make this a story worth being told. Nielssen is relying heavily on MoCap technology and has enlisted the help of some industry bighitters in Stephane Cornicard (Horizon Zero Dawn, Dark Souls Series, Dragon Age: Inquisition) and Christy Meyer (Horizon Zero Dawn, Mass Effect: Andromeda).
The game is set in unknown American suburbia and it follows Daniel and Tommy who are on a quest to solve the mystery of their mother's disappearance. As it's a student project, it - understandably - lacks the polish of a David Cage production but in its current unfinished state, still providing untold potential. Potential that we're really excited about.
Walking around EGX, especially the indie sections led me to notice somewhat of a trend, more so than ever, it seems that we're being treated to more and more narrative experiences. This list will be guilty of carrying that on so it's time to cover The Occupation. It's a game we've known about for a while but it was nice to actually see it in the flesh. The game is "deeply British BioShock Infinite", set in 1980s North West England but features no combat. The Occupation takes place around the time of a terrorist attack which results in a new act being introduced which threatens the civil liberties of the British population. Developer, White Paper Games say they aren't pushing an agenda. It's about the "gray and moral lines", can you empathize with someone who did a terrible act?
Whilst not quite Triple-A, the game looks fantastic and put me more in the mind of Dishonored, than Bioshock, thanks to its attention to detail in its environments. The trailer shows off some terrific voice-acting too. We're actually really, really excited about this one.
It's hard to know what will become of currently early-access title Phantom Halls. Initially dragged in by its paper-craft art style and atmospheric lighting, we ended up sold. The game features a group of teens who enter a mansion and, well, things get gory. The game is simply a lot of fun, and as if that wasn't enough - they also finagled a license to use Ash from Evil Dead as one of its protagonists. It's a great use of that license too, there's something about the game that just clicks with the Evil Dead franchise. Over-the-top, silly gore, horror tropes, and comedy make this a game worth keeping an eye on. The devs told us that they're exploring the possibility of more franchise tie-ins as well as adding multiplayer components.
Fast, fun, arcade racer. What's not to like? At around 30 years of age, Racing Apex quite naturally charmed us. It's an arcade racer that looks like the racing games we played when we were kids. Throw in multiplayer in game modes like 'Capture the Flag', 'Bomb Tag', and 'Eliminator' and you've got a racer that should appeal to anyone, not just old farts like us. There also looks to be a wealth of customisation options allowing you to really make your car your own. So go ahead and buy Forza, then consider buying a fun racing game to accompany it.
Side-scrolling, puzzle platformer Forgotten Anne takes place in The Forgotten Lands, a place where everything that is lost and forgotten goes. Socks, letters, toys. You play as Anne in a beautiful, hand-drawn world (think of a halfway house between Anime and a kids cartoon) in which you must squash a rebellion if you ever hope to get back to the human world.
It's 1988, you're a 13-year-old girl and you're taking the last chance of the year to go camping with your sister. This, of course, video game world. As such, that isn't the end of the story. When an argument takes place, your sister runs off, vanishing from sight and leaving you to, presumably, rescue her. As is often the case, we look to other games to describe what to expect. Lake Ridden gives off vibes of Firewatch, you're on your own in a forest trying to uncover a mystery. There are horror elements in the supernatural setting, however, in a forest filled with puzzles. We'd love this one to match up to Firewatch-levels of narrative and polish. From what we've seen, we're optimistic about that too.