26 Games for 26 Years – Part 1

For my birthday I decided to give a little insight into me as a gamer, and talk about some of my favourite games.

Today is my birthday. Since I’m turning twenty-six, I decided to list twenty-six of my favourite games and tell you why I love them. It wasn’t an easy task: I had almost fifty games on my shortlist when all was said and done, and paring it down didn’t prove to be a simple matter of elimination. It took a couple of days to arrive at twenty-six, though so many didn’t make the cut: Fallout 4, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Pokémon Sapphire. I suppose you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs though, right?

So off we go! For convenience I have split the list into two, stay tuned for part 2 (and thanks to the random number generator I used to generate the order!).

  1. Detroit: Become Human

I genuinely don’t believe I’ve ever been quite as emotionally destroyed by any form of media as I was by Detroit. I’ve always been one to become invested in an intense narrative, but this was something else. The story this game tells is a heavy-handed one, but not in a poorly-executed way. It’s a story that’s meant to rip out your heart and make you despair, spurred on by the outstanding performances of its stellar cast. The scariest part is that this is a glimpse into a future which isn’t wholly unrealistic, as we as a society move towards greater automation of the menial workforce. It may not break any ground in terms of gameplay mechanics but for me it doesn’t have to. As strange as it sounds, this game’s ability to have me weeping indiscriminately is more than enough for me to love it unconditionally.

Currently the digital deluxe edition of Detroit: Become Human is free on PS Plus, so definitely download it if you haven’t already! This edition also includes the digital soundtrack and artbook, themes and avatars and also the PS4 remaster of Heavy Rain.

  1. The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth +

As a kid who started her schooling in a Roman Catholic primary I’ve known the biblical story upon which this game is based from an early age. What the story doesn’t tell you is that Isaac was forced to traverse through procedurally-generated dungeons in his basement, fighting all manner of grotesque horrors with nothing but his tears, before finally facing his mother at the end of it all (if you even survive that long). It’s a game that’s punishingly difficult but still unrelentingly fun, due to its easy-to-grasp control scheme and simple, but gross, visuals. It is a lottery as to whether the dungeon layout and the items spawned will be beneficial but when they are, and you’re bulldozing your disgusting foes with ease, there’s no sense of achievement quite like it.

  1. Batman: Arkham Asylum

Whilst I won’t deny that Arkham City is the superior game in terms of gameplay – especially in the fluidity of the combat – it’s the first title of Rocksteady’s trilogy that has the superior storyline, atmosphere and setting. Arkham Island itself is eerie and foreboding, absolutely the last place you’d want to be sent for psychiatric care, and not just because The Joker set the straitjacketed lunatics from the Penitentiary loose from their cells. Danger lurks around every corner, usually in the form of Joker’s goons ready to try and beat you to a pulp – it never ends well for them. Asylum does an impeccable job at making you feel like the Batman, whether you’re gliding silently through the air to kick a thug in the head or using gadgets to find your way out of a jam. It scratches the itch that lives within us all: the opportunity to be a totally badass superhero for just one night, and it does that perfectly.

  1. Stardew Valley

When life gets me down, when adult responsibilities are overwhelming and when everything is just a little bit crud, I will fire up my Switch and launch Stardew Valley. It’s such a welcome change of pace, inhabiting a world where the most pressing concern is ensuring I milk my cows and get to the store in good time to restock my supply of kale seeds. There’s something so incredibly satisfying about cultivating your virtual farm, catching plenty of fish from the pier and maybe finding that special someone to marry. If only it really was that easy to breeze through life without a care, worrying about nothing but which town inhabitant I want to partner me at the annual Flower Dance. The way I see it is this: does it really matter that my own life might be falling apart when Dragon Roost Farm is thriving?

  1. Saints Row IV: Reelected

What’s not to love about a game wherein the opening mission involves the player disarming a nuclear missile in midair before crashing through the roof of the Oval Office and landing in the chair behind the POTUS’ desk, all to the tune of the timeless classic I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing? This game is utterly over-the-top and ridiculous, and that’s what makes it such a joy to play. Honestly, this made the list because it’s just a game that’s complete, unadulterated fun, a game in which the primary objective is to be a massive troll and mess with as many people, or aliens, as possible. With the iconic Dubstep Gun having your NPCs dancing in the street (quite literally) and the alien police turning up to shoot you if you get too rowdy, there’s nothing about this game that isn’t stupid and dumb, and that’s exactly why it’s earned a permanent place in my heart.

  1. South Park: The Stick of Truth

This is a game I didn’t expect to like. I like my fair share of gross, un-PC and offensive humour but I often find South Park a little too crude for my tastes. ‘Charming’ isn’t a term I’d usually associate with the show, but The Stick of Truth is just that, unerringly charming and packed full of sweet nostalgia. At its heart it’s a game about little kids playing make-believe in their gardens, and it’s impossible not to sit and remember the times that we did the very same as children. Of course, there is also a sequence that takes place exclusively up Mr Slave’s butt because it is still South Park after all. But the simple joy of winning a fight against kids dressed as elves using an axe made from a stop sign tied to a pool cue, healing yourself with crisps and being home in time for bed is innocently joyous, and reminds us all of a much simpler time of life.

  1. RiME
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The mysterious tower, ever-present in the distance

RiME holds the honour of being the very first game I ever reviewed. At the time, I thought it was a stunning and moving experience with a wonderfully emotive soundtrack, and whilst it definitely tugged at my heartstrings, it didn’t completely resonate with me. All of that praise is still true of course, but it’s also a deeply personal experience that can be altered by life experience, a story of loss and grief with a fair few gut punches for good measure. It’s always been a game I’ve loved based on the music and the visuals, and its relative simplicity: there is no dialogue, no walls of text giving you tips on what to do or how to play. Instead, you learn by exploration and a degree of trial and error. But playing it again after a recent death in the family is when I truly understood the story’s meaning, and what affirmed my love for it even more. It’s deeply bittersweet, but also a tool for healing, a way of ensuring we understand that grief is a process we all need to face, but as with all things it has an end if we can bring ourselves to let go.

  1. Thimbleweed Park

There were many point-and-clicks that could’ve made the list, such as the equally as zany and hilarious Day of the Tentacle. Ultimately, what won Thimbleweed a place on this list was how self-aware it is. It’s packed to the rafters with every trope and genre in-joke imaginable; my personal favourite is the specks of dust one can collect, and how characters will wonder why on earth they’re picking them up. It’s also wonderfully mysterious: the town of Thimbleweed Park is an unsettling place to be, but definitely not because the coroner, the sheriff and the hotel manager are absolutely not the same person (a-who). Thimbleweed is both a love-letter and a gentle spoof of an era-defining genre, a real nostalgia trip for those of us who grew up playing point-and-click adventure games but also a joy for newer players as well.

  1. Bioshock

Possibly one of the best games ever made, Bioshock ticks all the right boxes. Is it in a creepy, abandoned or isolated setting? Well, the city of Rapture is all of those things combined. Is it dark and twisted? Definitely! Does it involve awesome supernatural powers that I wish I possessed? Absolutely, because I have a list of people I would gladly set ablaze with the Incinerate plasmid. The final reveal was spoiled for me long before I got to actually play it – the hazard of being late into gaming – but that didn’t make it any less enjoyable to play the first time or the fiftieth. This game is dark and oppressive, filled with tension at every turn. Rapture is a beautiful and broken city, littered with the shadows of scientific achievement and the stench of death. It offers a delightfully visceral experience of the ruins of a lawless society, all with the ability to electrocute an enemy with a flick of the fingers, or summon a swarm of bees to attack them for you. Honestly, what’s not to love about that?

  1. Overcooked

From the horrific to the harebrained, we jump into the utterly ridiculous kitchens of Overcooked. Much like Bioshock this game includes fire, although this time it’s absolutely not intentional. This is because normally, frying a burger patty does not present much of a culinary challenge. Then again, most people aren’t trying to do it in a kitchen that consists of two lorry trailers that periodically separate, leaving the frying pans on one side and the chef on the other. It’s a game best enjoyed with friends, so you can cry with laughter together as you throw tomatoes around the place and yell, “But it was your job to get the fire extinguisher!”

  1. The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker

If I was to cite any game as making me into a gamer, it would be this one. It’s the first game I ever really got absorbed into and to date my favourite entry in the Zelda franchise (remember the name of my Stardew farm?). There is so much to love about this game, from the cel-shaded graphics to the grandiose music as you sail the King of Red Lions across the sea in pursuit of your kidnapped sister. I was captivated from the first moment I played it; Outset Island was a tranquil haven I was sad to leave as I embarked on my great adventure but, much like Link, I soon found my stride as the mighty hero foretold in all the legends, even if that means we can’t also forget that bloody Tingle exists.

  1. Marvel’s Spider-Man

By now I genuinely believe that Spider-Man surpasses Arkham Asylum for the title of ‘best superhero game ever made’. It’s not unreasonable to call this game a complete masterpiece. Everything about it is superb; the story is superbly written and performed, swinging around Manhattan feels incredible and the combat is wonderfully slick and satisfying. This is one of the best incarnations of both Peter Parker and Spidey, right down to his flippant quips and trademark wit. There is truly nothing better than swooping in on a break-in in progress, sticking a brute of a thug upside down to the nearest wall and shooting him the finger guns as you swagger away, sirens in the distance.

  1. Portal 2

This one should’ve been obvious, given the name of this website. I love Portal as a universe for many reasons, though it’s difficult to single out any particular one. Is it because the portal gun is the coolest piece of tech ever? Or is it because the Aperture Science facility is run by the most passive-aggressive operating system on the planet? Perhaps it’s down to the fact that Aperture saw fit to name something as simple as a pressure pad the ‘Heavy-Duty Super Colliding Super Button’. Regardless of what the specific reason is, Portal 2 is a game I can come back to time and time again and never feel bored playing. I never tire of the test chambers; I never tire of GLaDOS’ wit. I never tire of Stephen Merchant’s wonderful portrayal of idiotic Wheatley. And most of all, I never tire of listening to Cave Johnson explain that for one particular test, subjects need to remember which skin is theirs so they can be stitched back into it at the end.

We’ve reached the end of part one! As I said, watch this space for part two as I continue to gush about my favourite games for no other reason than because I CAN!

 

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E3 2019 – Bethesda Presser Highlights

What did Bethesda have to offer in this year’s E3 press brief?

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So here we are again, E3 2019. Of course, I am not writing this from the LA Convention Centre but rather from my sofa in drizzly England, where I’m watching the livestreams on YouTube. Honestly, I’m sorta glad I’m not in California, because the debacle that is me simultaneously trying to type these articles, take notes, watch the briefings and drink copious amounts of caffeine is not something I need to submit anyone else to.

With the Xbox briefing out of the way earlier this evening, it’s time for Bethesda’s offering. The disaster that was Fallout 76 is a dark cloud that continues to hang over their heads; Tim offered up that an apology should be one of the items of their briefing this year (it wasn’t).

In all seriousness, Bethesda had an awful lot to make up for this year and a spurned fanbase to win back. To his credit Todd Howard is a good sport about it all, but the dissatisfaction felt by fans is still ever-present. The studio’s gratitude to the community is apparent, but that doesn’t remove the bitter aftertaste of the game’s disastrous launch.

So, what pricked my ears during this year’s briefing, as someone who’s not really an Elder Scrolls fan? Trying to condense a packed briefing into anything resembling succinctness is difficult, but I’ve picked through my near-illegible notes to bring you a brief summary.

Fallout 76 – Year 2

Ah, Fallout 76. The multiplayer entry in the Fallout series absolutely nobody wanted, that released as a buggy, broken and unfinished mess. To be honest I think anything the studio does to salvage the situation is like putting a kiddie’s dinosaur plaster on a broken bone, but at least the content announced is free!

The Wastelanders expansion brings with it a new questline and stories to explore, but also brings human NPCs to West Virginia (finally!). Both this and Nuclear Winter, a 52-person battle royale mode wherein players vie for the role of Vault 51’s Overseer, are completely free. Also free is a week-long trial of the game, starting today. Bethesda clearly hope that these offerings will draw in droves of players, but honestly I’m not sure by how much the player-base will be expanding. Time will tell I guess.

GhostWire: Tokyo

When Shinji Mikami walks onstage you know you’re in for awesomeness, and boy howdy does GhostWire: Tokyo look ace. Instead of being Mikami’s lifeblood, survival horror, this is instead an action adventure game wherein we face paranormal evils in order to save the city of Tokyo. Presumably this is the same supernatural force that’s abducting Tokyo’s citizens, leaving only their clothes behind – or, sadly, a lone doggo. Why are they being taken? Where do they go? Who’s responsible? Most importantly, can you pet the pup? I have so many questions!

There’s precious little by way of information about this game thus far, but knowing its source we can be pretty sure we’re in for a terrific experience.

Wolfenstein: Youngblood

Sometimes all you want to do is pick up a gun and shoot some evil Nazis dead. Cyberpilot will let players fulfil their Nazi-killing fantasies in glorious VR. Youngblood lets us do it with a friend. Seeing as VR is more or less totally inaccessible to me, and as appealing as pretending to be a computer hacker in the French Resistance sounds like fun, I’ll keep my attention focused on the latter title.

Set in the 1980s, two decades after The New Colossus, Youngblood sees BJ Blazkowicz’s daughters, twins Jessica and Sophia, travel to Paris in search of their father whilst also aiding the Resistance in liberating the country from forty years of Nazi occupation. Taking control of either twin, players can either fly solo with an AI companion or be joined by a friend in co-op play.  Releasing on 26th July, we don’t have much longer to wait to kill some freaking Nazis.

Deathloop

I expected greatness from Arkane, being the colossal Dishonored fan that I am. In the glaring absence of any sort of addition to that particular franchise – excuse me whilst I cry – I can instead wait eagerly for Deathloop, which looks to be one hell of an experience.

Apparently combining a ‘mind-bending story’ with intricately designed levels and the ‘play your way’ style of gameplay we’ve come to expect from an Arkane game, Deathloop is set on the ‘lawless’ island of Blackreef and tells the tale of Colt and Juliana, two rival assassins stuck in an unrelenting cycle of death and apparent resurrection. I have absolutely no idea what’s going on, or why, or how, but you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be there at launch to find out.

There you have it, BE3 over for another year. I’m somewhat undecided as to whether Bethesda have finished climbing out of the deep, Fallout 76-shaped hole they’ve been in since last year, but I’m choosing to remain optimistic. I just seriously hope that my optimism won’t turn out to be misplaced.

EGX Rezzed 2019 – Highlights

Trying to pick just a few of the amazing games we played at this year’s Rezzed show was difficult, but we managed to narrow it down in the end!

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Very few things in life can be approached with sky-high expectations and have them be met, every time. Rezzed is one of the few exceptions, with wonderful content always bursting from every corner. The show floor this year was stunning, and overflowing with choice. Narrowing our experience down into a list of eight was always going to be tricky, and we wish we could just put ‘ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING, OMG’ as the main body of this post, but we’re all about Proper Journalism here. So, keeping in mind that we couldn’t give the fudge stand its own entry as it wasn’t a game, here are our top picks from Rezzed 2019.

  1. Close to the Sun

Set in an alternate-history timeline, one in which Nikola Tesla pioneered electricity and its technology, Close to the Sun takes place aboard the Helios. The jewel in Tesla’s crown, a shining monument to scientific progress, this colossal ship is home to the world’s best and brightest scientific minds immersing themselves in their ungoverned research.

Arriving aboard the giant vessel in search of your sister, you are quick to discover that something has gone horribly wrong. Darkened and deserted, the rooms and corridors of the ship are blood-splattered. You quickly discover that it’s going to take all of your wits, and your ability to sprint, to escape the ship with your life. It’s tight and tense, with impeccable sound design and a gobsmacking sense of scale. This game is a must for horror fans.

  1. Eastward

Both of us were pinning a lot of hope on this game, and we’re happy to report that it more than lived up to our expectations. A truly beautiful pixel-art RPG, with gameplay deeply reminiscent of old-school Zelda, Eastward left us wowed with its utterly gorgeous visuals and music. The devil is in the fine and characterful details, from the cat snoozing on one of the roofs in town, to protanonist John’s habits of stuffing his hands into his pockets.

However secretive developer Pixpil may have been about this project, it’s clear that this is a creation with a lot of love behind it. The world is deeply colourful and beautifully crafted, populated by strange monsters and strange people alike. We’re definitely going to be hanging on for every reveal and announcement in eager anticipation for its release.

  1. Heaven’s Vault

This entry will be brief, because we’ve been lucky enough to secure a couple of review copies ahead of the game’s release on April 16th.

I will say that I have had the pleasure of watching this game grow from the demo first debuted at Rezzed 2018, to the finished title I have currently downloaded to my PS4. It’s like watching a bud grow into a dazzling blossom, and we’re excited to share our review of this title in due course. Suffice it to say that’s it’s as beautiful as it is unique, with its blend of 2D and 3D visuals, carefully measured pace and intriguing plot.

  1. The Breakfast Club!

We always knew this game was going to be insane, but it definitely exceeded our expectations of just how insane.

I described The Breakfast Club as the ‘Dark Souls of breakfast simulators’ and I was 100% on the money. The goals are simple: make buttered toast or grill some burgers and hot dogs. Achieving those goals, however, are not, although this game has the advantage of allowing you to blame everyone else for your failures, so there’s that. I don’t think either of us had ever really considered the complexities of sausage physics before now, but I think we mastered it considering we won the level and won a tiny frying pan. Packed full of puns and pure silliness, this game is an absolute delight for fans of zany couch co-op fun.

  1. Terrorbane: 100% Bug Free

We do love a bit of satire and meta-humour, and Terrorbane delivers that in spades in this delightfully tongue-in-cheek love letter to games development, and the medium in general. Packed full of references and shout-outs, this game is equal parts bonkers, charming and hilarious.

As a playtester tackling a game built by the world’s ‘best’ developer, you have to navigate through his broken mess of an RPG in order to pick out the errors that are absolutely Not His Fault. These include anything from cows making a noise closer to electrical interference than a moo, to a crate of pears joining your party (although it did prove itself in battle, so you go pear crate!). Some bugs are just funny, others can be exploited to complete puzzles. If the short demo has us cracking up as much as it did then we cannot wait for what the rest of the game has in store for us!

  1. The Meridian Line

You know your game is freaking awesome when you require people to press an actual ‘doors open/close’ button from the London Underground to start your demo, after providing them with a ‘ticket’ to ride (well, we thought it was cool so SHUT UP). 

The Meridian Line is the urbex thriller on the Not Tube that we didn’t know we needed. Set well after operational hours on an underground automated transport network, you’ve broken in to search for your missing brother. The atmosphere is oppressive, an expertly-crafted combination of comforting familiarity and growing unease. The focus here is on tension, and the impeccable sound design delivers this in spades, helping you understand that you are certainly not alone down there. Prepare to be plunged into darkness, to pick locks and hack computers, and contend with the network itself as you unravel the secrets the silent tunnels are hiding.

  1. RAD

Tim’s description of DoubleFine’s RAD was something along the lines of ‘Diablo meets Fallout, but neon’, which is an apt summary. Choosing one of a roster of characters wielding various weapons, players traverse the irradiated wastes of the procedurally generated Fallow, encountering and slaughtering hosts of strange monsters in a bid to revive the land. Grass and flowers spring up beneath the player-character’s feet as they breathe new life into the barren wasteland – this also acted as a useful breadcrumb trail when navigating a dungeon, as it turned out.

Our favourite moments came when we found we could use the exposure to radiation to our advantage and mutate, which led to one character spawning eggs from their back that hatched into little decoys for instance. It was next to impossible for us to tear ourselves away from the demo, the addictive soundtrack and undeniably fun gameplay gluing us to our seats and leaving us wanting just one more go. I can absolutely see myself booting this up to play, only to realise that I’m still on my sofa in my PJs and several days have passed.

  1. Metamorphosis

Of all the things I never thought I would actively enjoy, playing an insect was definitely very high on that list. And yet, the pure joy I felt from playing Metamorphosis, a game inspired by the Franz Kafka novella of the same name, was so unbridled I fear it’ll mar my view of platformers for the rest of my days!

Players assume the role of Gregor Samsa, a travelling salesman who wakes one morning to discover he’s been transformed into a giant insect overnight and must adjust to his new existence. In-game, this means leaping through beautiful hand-painted environments that range from the straightforward to the more abstract. Being an insect makes the first-person platforming so much more enjoyable than in almost any other game; a bug can crawl up the side of an object, so no more pixel-precision is necessary! With its source material being so famous, and open to huge amounts of interpretation, we are so looking forward to delving into the full game and exploring everything Gregor’s new perspective has to offer.

Mieke’s Honourable Mention: The Collage Atlas

In a world of fast-paced action and blood-and-guts combat, it’s always a joy to come across something serene. It’s my best friend I have to thank for bringing my attention to this game, although it definitely would’ve piqued my interest regardless of her input.

Drawn entirely in pen and ink, The Collage Atlas is an utterly breathtaking trip through a world that looks like it has sprung from the pages of a sketchbook (which, essentially, it has). As the player travels forwards, the world before them gently blooms into existence in a way reminiscent of how memories fade in and out of consciousness. It’s entirely up to the player as to how they discover the narrative and its many branches and secret areas waiting to be unlocked. It’s a game that invokes mindfulness and self-reflection which, in such times of turmoil, can’t be a bad thing can it?

Tim’s Honourable Mention: Pacer

As a huge WipeOut fan, Tim was instantly drawn to this when he first laid eyes on the stand – it did help it was probably the loudest booth in the room. Previously known as Formula Fusion, this is a anti-gravity combat racer that ‘pays homage to the old’ with a contemporary twist.

Exactly what he wants from a current-gen iteration of WipeOut, Tim’s sweaty palms and racing heart at the end of a race is an indication of how good an experience Pacer is. Crafted by a team clearly holding their inspiration in deep reverence, this lightening-paced racer captures the ‘flow-state’ required to ace a track perfectly. Tim found every track he played to be a joy, with the option to customise his ship’s stats and appearance being something he’s personally craved from WipeOut as a franchise. It’s fast, it’s frenetic and despite finding the weapons feeling a little ineffective, Tim loved every second of it, evident by the colossal grin on his face at the end.

Phew! Done! This was an incredibly difficult list to write, not just because we hate excluding anyone, but also because we didn’t play anything unworthy of an entry here. We managed to get through the vast majority of the games we wanted to play, and we weren’t disappointed by a single one. It’s always an incredible experience to walk around the show floor and take in the variety of what’s on offer, which is why Rezzed is hands-down my favourite event. and that’s not just because it’s an excuse to spend all my money on delicious fudge.

EGX 2018 – Highights

A roundup of our favourites from a jam-packed EGX 2018.

This year’s EGX may not have boasted the AAA titles we were all hoping for, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t awesomeness to be found on the show floor. Honestly, the absence of games such as Anthem was probably a good thing. Instead of spending the entire event queueing, we instead got to play some gems, and we’ve highlighted our absolute favourites below.

  1. Soundfall

A beautiful fusion of two of the best things in life, Soundfall matches euphoric bass-heavy tunes to action-packed dungeon crawling in vivid, colourful top-down environments. If ever an entire videogame could be described as ‘catchy’, then this is it.

Created by veterans from Epic Games (the studio responsible for Fortnite), the game sees a young audiophile named Melody transported to the world of Symphonia, where a great darkness, Discord, threatens to destroy the realm. Not only is the aim to reach the exit of the dungeon before the song finishes, a task that’s surprisingly difficult, but players must also time movements precisely to the song’s beat. Doing so ensures attacks are at their strongest or traversal across certain spaces is possible. The challenge can be undertaken solo or with up to three co-op partners, and is highly addictive as the craving for perfection takes hold.

The satisfaction that accompanies achieving that 100% completion of a dungeon is insurmountable, even more so when shared with friends. There’s nothing quite like smashing your way to victory in perfect synchronicity.

  1. GRIP

Having played Rollcage back in the late nineties Tim was especially intrigued by GRIP. Much like Wipeout or F-Zero, its frantic, fast and frenetic races across bombastic circuits were arguably the greatest adrenaline rush available at EGX. We’re pretty sure that this game adversely affected our blood pressure as we each had a go, especially on the ‘wild’ engine power – this moves too fast for me to physically be able to process with only one functional eye, so I sat that out.

No race is unwinnable, with the chance of a monumental change in race position possible at every second. Players can start out in first place, crash and drop to tenth and crawl back to achieve a top three finish in the space of half a lap. This, in part, is one thing that sets GRIP apart from other racing games. Being good at this game isn’t an outright necessity, which gives those of us that love racers but suck terribly at them a chance. The handling is superb with tight and responsive controls, and the cars have definitive weight behind them, even when flipping spectacularly through the air (which happened a lot).

GRIP is due for release early November, and you can bet we’ll be picking up a copy.

  1. Dead End Job

If your dream job as a kid was to be a Ghostbuster then you’re in luck, because this is exactly what you’ll do when taking on this dead end job! (*tacky pun klaxon*).

With an art style heavily inspired by 90s cartoons such as Ren & Stimpy and Spongebob Squarepants, twin-stick shooter Dead End Job brings a good dose of British sarcasm to delightfully smashable environments as Hector Plasm, Ghostbuster extraordinaire, sucks up the spooks from a variety of locations. The trick is to always keep moving: it’s too easy to get hemmed into the corner and ganged up on by ghosts, projectiles and ectoplasm. Hector can earn gear or ability upgrades as he’s promoted through the ranks, such as shoes that allow him to walk through ectoplasm without being slowed or better aim accuracy. Occasionally, Hector will have to fight more powerful (and pun-tastic) spooks such as the ZX Spectre, who have their own movement patterns and attacks to dodge. Much like Ghostbusters, Hector also puts every item he destroys on the invoice, encouraging players to literally destroy everything – sometimes there’s even cash inside boxes or desks!

Undeniably the best part is that finally, after so many years, players finally get the chance to beat up something so aggravating we all tore our hair out: Clippy the Microsoft Office Assistant.

  1. Catastronauts

AKA Overcooked: Space Edition But Without the Food.

What could be worse than being attacked whilst minding your own business as you’re venturing through outer space? Well, try having the enemy’s laser blasts putting cracks into your floors, them teleporting bombs into various rooms and maintaining the shockingly poor battery-life of your guns (whilst everything is probably on fire, including you). Oh, by the way, sometimes you might have to take refuge from massive solar flares (again, probably whilst you’re all on fire).

That’s exactly what we experienced when playing Catastronauts. Clearly inspired by the hectic hilarity of Overcooked, up to four players work cooperatively to maintain the ship while under attack. Much like its inspiration, many levels restrict player movement meaning objects like batteries or fire-extinguishers must be teleported from one side to the other. Presumably not repairing cracks causes decompression, though as our ship was usually destroyed by fire or flares first, we didn’t experience this. This game elicited the biggest laughs of the show for us, and is out now on PC, PS4 and Xbox One, with a Switch release in the near future.

  1. Beyond Blue

Effectively meditation in gaming form, Beyond Blue takes the award for ‘most relaxing game at the show’. Swimming beneath the surface of several different oceanic biomes, marine biologist Mirai documents and observes sea life, namely a pod of sperm whales.

Beyond Blue is developed in partnership with the award-winning BBC documentary Blue Planet II, so the game feels a lot like a playable documentary. Even though there are more heart-pounding moments and encounters, players don’t have to worry about running out of oxygen and therefore suffocating in an underwater cave which takes much of the tension out of the experience. Sea creatures can be scanned to obtain information about them, from size and weight to their behaviour patterns. When it’s impractical for Mirai to reach locations herself, she retreats to her submarine and operates a stealthy drone instead, disguised as a sea creature.

This is a game that’s not a game, it’s a learning experience. It’s a chance to explore the oceans and celebrate the life within it whilst also raising a degree of awareness about how precious this life is. An educational tool that’s useable in schools is potentially in the pipeline, containing more unseen content from Blue Planet. We really hope this will become standard in school, seeing as gaming is such an interactive and immersive media.

  1. The Endless Mission

Without a doubt the most ambitious game at the show, The Endless Mission truly lives up to its name – this unfortunately makes the game unbelievably difficult to quickly summarise.

There is a story mode, where players explore the Terminal, a hub containing portals to different game genres. The demo contained real-time strategy (RTS) where players had to survive invasion by a zombie horde, a futuristic-looking kart racer and a platformer similar in aesthetic to Spyro. However, it’s the creation mode where the game’s ambition truly lies, and boy is it immense.

A barebones version of this creation mode was available in the demo, showing off the potential of the software but also sensibly restricting what was possible. Players could mash together aspects of the three levels available: to give an example, Tim played the kart racer but in the platforming level’s map, driving through the colourful volcanic island instead of the track. The parameters of each level is entirely customisable, so players can also do what Tim did in his RTS mashup and up the health and strength of his own side so as to bulldoze the opposition (it’s not cheating if the game mechanics literally allow it!) The final release will have the opportunity to modify everything. That’s no exaggeration.

Destined to snap at the heels of the Minecraft market, The Endless Mission celebrates total open creativity, with community-created levels to be shared and displayed in the Terminal’s ‘Hall of Celebration’. The Endless Mission truly left us reeling with its staggering potential for community driven creations, and the fostering of an interest in game development to boot.

  1. Kingdom Hearts III

After thirteen years of waiting, it’s finally here.

Beautiful beyond measure, Kingdom Hearts III is a graphical masterpiece, matching and often surpassing the visuals of Pixar movies past. This comes as no surprise, given that both companies have a reputation for exceptional visuals and top quality vocal performances (Final Fantasy X aside). Being able to play in the settings of our favourite Disney movies is inspiring, and running around Andy’s bedroom floor alongside Woody, Buzz, Rex and Hamm delighted our inner kid.

With a plot likely to be so convoluted it would make Hideo Kojima blush, Kingdom Hearts returns triumphantly to PS4 and Xbox One next year to confound and utterly delight us.

  1. Disco Elysium

Nihilistic, darkly hilarious and utterly compelling, Disco Elysium presents an alternative world that is difficult to describe, yet fantastically captivating.

Not-quite cyberpunk, not-quite noir, this RPG thriller has its policeman protagonist waking up from a drunken coma, with no memory at all of who he is, creating the perfect blank slate for the player – blank slate is somewhat literal, as the player can genuinely play through the story without any clothes on (Tim’s detective wore only one shoe, whereas when I played at Rezzed earlier this year, mine had no shirt). However, with a decomposing body hanging from a tree, the detective must team up with an officer from another precinct to solve the case and unravel the mysterious world he’s found himself in. To compound matters, the detective has his own mind and body to contend with as they provide a running commentary of what’s going on inside him.

A point-and-click RPG, Disco Elysium is beautifully presented on luscious pre-rendered backgrounds. Interaction with people and full exploration of environments is simple but incredibly in-depth, with important objects painfully easy to miss. Certain inquiries can also be failed if the relative trait is not high enough, such as empathy. These traits can be upgraded, but players can also choose an archetype to start with dependent on the type of personality they wish to foster.

Suffice it to say that this game is absorbing. After what felt like ten or fifteen minutes I looked at my phone to discover we missed our next appointment by half an hour, because that ‘fifteen minutes’ was actually one-and-a-half hours! The world, its characters and environments are so immersive that we totally lost track of time, and if that’s not the sign of an absolute winner then I don’t know what is.