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Best of EGX 2019 Part 1: The Leftfield Collection

Oh yeah, EGX was last week, wasn’t it?

 

Ahem, hello there! EGX 2019 has been and gone with the force of a Conservative through Bradford, and with it, goes tens and tens of good games– Too many good games in fact! The lines for some were absurd, like Marvel’s AvengersDOOM: EternalFinal Fantasy 7 Remaster, and the new Modern Warfare, weirdly. I mean, the game was coming out next week, at the time.

 

Anyway, that’s irrelevant, we’re here to talk about the best of the best, starting with what was available at the Leftfield Collection, sponsored by the good ol’ folks at Team 17. They collected 22 games from all different types of life, boasting several different qualities and quirks. Starting with…

 

SkateBIRD – Developer: Glass Bottom Games

 

An in-engine screenshot of SkateBIRD, showcasing a pink bird on a skateboard ollieing over highlighters.

 

The game that everyone and their dog collectively rushed to was the Kinda Funny-showcased SkateBIRD, a game I will unashamedly confess I cried at when it was shown. Following the adventures of our feathered friends riding griptape, the demo at EGX showcased one small level, filled with all sorts of opportunities.

 

It appeared to have just been the alpha demo that was given to backers of the successful Kickstarter behind SkateBIRD, and that’s not a problem, especially considering its angle. It’s small tricks being executed by a small bird with a big heart, and while it’s in a very early Alpha stage still, there’s raw ambition present in such a small build.

 

The combo system looks to be promising. It’s a meeting of the minds between how it worked in the Tony Hawk games and the Skate series. Instead of your combo ending right as you land like in the Tony Hawk games, you still have a bit of time to continue your line, which feels as organic as organic gets. We’re a long way away, yet SkateBIRD still has the power to shine from there.

 

The Things We Lost in The Flood – Dev: Awkward Silence Games

 

An in-game screenshot of The Things We Lost in The Flood, showcasing an undefined man sitting in a flood on a boat.

 

It’s not really The Leftfield Collection unless you have something really out there, and The Things We Lost in The Flood is exactly that. You play a well-endowed and anatomically correct male (No seriously, check the screenshot), who explores the lands after a tap in the Atlantic never got turned off.

 

It’s filled with all sorts of subtexts and possibilities for narrative reconstructions, but the gimmick revolves around messages in a bottle. At any point, you can press Tab and pop a small anecdote into the endless ocean for all to read, should they come across it. It’s the Dark Souls method of shared knowledge, and it helps considering there are still in-game puzzles to figure out. With that said, however, I don’t think EGX was the best place for this to be showcased.

 

For every helpful or suspenseful message found in your travels, there was another written by an unfunny bastard. “Subscribe to my YouTube lmao xD”, “ur mom gay”, the kind of things written by a 14-year old who just discovered Twitch for the first time. Nevertheless, this is the price you pay for a free-flowing and forming concept, and with a “Pay Whatever” price on itch.io, you have access to a small game absolutely covered in oozy atmosphere.

 

Ex-Zodiac – Dev: Ben Hickling

 

An in-game screenshot of Ex-Zodiac, showcasing the boss fight against a mechanical scorpion in the first level of the game.

 

Now, while I can attest to nostalgic days on a SNES while waiting for your mom to finish your McCain Smiles chip dinner, I never actually played StarFox as a kid. My brother had it, but he loved it and wouldn’t let me play it. He let me play StarFox Adventuresalthough I think I know why he let me play that. Stories aside, Ex-Zodiac is still a nostalgic trip worth experiencing.

 

Emulating the original StarFox to a mirror shine, both graphically and gameplay-wise from what I’ve heard, the Godot-created tribute to a seemingly forgotten franchise has something instilled deeper within. The vibrant fluorescent tones used throughout the demo flick a switch in your brain and send you back to the early 90s, parachute pants and all. You expect to turn to your right and see a poster for Mighty Max or some shit.

 

Beyond that, the formula for battling is just damn fun. The lock-on weaponry gives it an edge that only puts the player at fault if they’re not fast enough, as opposed to jarring perspectives or bad lines of sight. Even though there’s no release date in sight, this is still something you should have one eye plastered to at all times.

 

Closed Hands – Dev: Passengers Games

 

An in-game screenshot of Closed Hands, showcasing a chat log between a concerned father and his son's friends.

 

Moving towards the confrontational, we have Closed Hands, a mix between a narrative-adventure title and Deus Ex, of all things. You follow the stories of several people who all had small roles in the lead up– and aftermath– of a fictional terror attack. While they were small roles, they form something greater.

 

It’s a narrative angle you don’t see much in games. It’s not often you get what looks like Crash or Widows, but with a hacking sub-plot next to it. Dan Hett, one of the main minds behind this title, promises a much larger game than the demo that was available at EGX (and is now available on itch.io). If so, it’d probably be one of the more narratively denser games released in recent times.

 

Even though you only briefly explored the lives of four people in the demo, the narrative choice sections were thick with brilliant writing, choices that lead to detailed moments, frozen in time yet somehow briskly paced. It may be a sample, but it is generous, and does leave you wanting for more. With a release date of April 2020, you won’t have to wait long.

 

Bird of Passage – Dev: SpaceBackyard

 

 

Finally, we have Bird of Passage, a small game originally released in February of this year, and what feels like “Lo-fi games to relax/study to”. You play as a being hopping in the back of taxis as a passenger, while under attack from heavy rain in the Tokyo night. While being given respite from the weather, you also strike conversations with the various drivers, all the while the game is also metaphorically taking you for a ride.

 

You won’t notice it at first, but there is a puzzle behind the seemingly cryptic stories of the passenger. Talk of earthquakes and seeds don’t reveal much at first, but then you realize the taxi driver also speaks in riddles. It’s like a game of Six Degrees of Separation, written and made by a team who’ve watched all of Tarkovsky’s films, and Taste of Cherry.

 

Also, the atmosphere is just… *chef’s kiss*. Aside from the rain battering the yellow taxi like bullets, the soft tones from the soundtrack attempt to comfort you through the trip, protecting you from undeserved melancholy. It was like a nice dream, knowing that you wanted to wake up, while also excited for you to see the end of it. Wonderful stuff.

 

The End.

 

Well, that was all the stuff at the Leftfield Collection that caught my eye like a good reel. Stay tuned to hear about the rest of the games as great as these. EGX had it all! Game of Thrones tributes, Dark Souls tributes, memes, and dreams. Stay tuned.

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