EGX Rezzed 2018 Review

I just attended the Rezzed games event in London for the first time. This is a spin-off from the main EGX (originally, the Eurogamer Expo) with a primary focus on indie games. It also seeks to attract young budding games-makers and journalists to the industry. The weekend had a very relaxed theme and people were immensely friendly. The location in London’s Tobacco Dock was also well-ventilated (very important when there are lots of gamers), there wasn’t much queuing required (often none), and it made for a thoroughly pleasant experience for a Spring weekend.

There were a number of games that I enjoyed both playing, and looking at. Here are some of my highlights:

Onrush

Codemasters.com

There were, of course, smatterings of “triple A” titles, and the one which I enjoyed the most was a racing game developed by Codemasters called Onrush. This was a fast-based arcade-style racing game with various types of vehicles on a hilly terrain and it was setup as a 6vs6 competition in the expo. It reminded me of the Excitetruck remake on Nintendo Wii and MotorStorm on Playstation. The gameplay was very crisp, and it was obvious that the makers have put a lot of time testing the game to make sure it plays beautifully. The soundtrack was outstanding too. The release date is 5th June 2018.

Homo Machina

http://www.homomachina-game.com/

This gorgeous 2D exploration game from Darjeeling Productions is inspired by the medical illustrations of Dr Fritz Kahn. Think of the concept of the Pixar film “Inside Out” with tiny little humanoids controlling your actions. I just wanted to watch the game, can’t wait for it to come out on mobile and tablet formats.

Bad North

https://www.badnorth.com/

This game caught my eye in the Nintendo Switch section (though it will be released on all formats) – a compact little real-time strategy game on rotatable islands inhabited by humble island dwellers who are under attack from Vikings. It may look simplistic but the minimalist charm and movements (e.g. the way the arrows and rain drop) were zen bliss.

Phogs

Image: Bitloomgames.com

This was such a wacky offering from Bitloom Games – you and a friend control a double-ended dog as you solve puzzles on various floating islands, with the aim being to feed a giant worm with either an acorn or a globe-shaped light bulb (!) The cooperative mechanic (both players sharing one controller) was amongst the finest I have every played, and the lovely pastel colours were joyful to look at. Loved it!

Me sitting on some Phogs-theme upholstery

Strange Brigade

Image: Strangebrigade.com

This cooperative third-person shooter by Rebellion Developments had an exuberant 1930s theme to it, I played a level as one of four diverse heroes fighting hordes of mythic beings in some kind of Egyptian setting. The visuals were stunning and the gameplay mechanics felt great, but the main attraction of the game was the over-the-top British pulp style narration.

Knights and Bikes

http://foamswordgames.com/

This hand-painted game set on a British island seemed to have an ET/Stranger Things/Super8 style theme to it, with an 80s feel and coming-of-age theme. In the small part that I watched, there was a clear emotional underpinning to the game which suggests a lot of heart has been put into the writing and design.

The Leftfield Collection

There were some awesome little indie games in the Leftfield Room – the ones which stood out for me were Wobble Garden:  a spring and light based installation which provided a sensory experience unlike any other game I’d played before. Haiku Adventure had a beautiful Japanese ukiyo-e inspired landscape scene in a puzzle game which seemed to involve using Haiku to chill out a flock of assorted wildfowl.

Other Comments

The show also had some very nice retro games, and also had a few multiplayer units for games which had already been released. I particularly enjoyed re-awakening my old puzzling skills in Sega’s Puyo Puyo Tetris. My younger brother Sina The Doc, who first suggesting we attend this expo, also enjoyed meeting some of his podcasting heroes and had a go on a game which appears inspired by the classic Theme Hospital, Two Point Hospital:

My younger Brother on the left, Sina The Doc

A nice weekend, maybe I’ll come again next year!

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Film Review – Black Panther

No significant spoilers in this review

I just saw the latest offering in the Marvel stable in IMAX 3D – Black Panther. Alongside Moon Knight and Hank Pym (who both suffer from inner demons), I’ve found the challenges of Black Panther one of the most interesting in the Marvel comics universe. Chiefly, his turmoil as he struggles with the duties of a king and his own personal values as a person and responsibilities to the world as a whole.

Black Panther from Captain America: Civil War. Source: Marvel.com

This is explored deftly in the new film, which gives us a socio-political quandary right at the beginning – can the isolated secret technology-rich African nation of Wakanda accept responsibility to the rest of the world (and its own continent) and open up, using its resources to help other peoples? It’s a real-life problem that many countries face, and is rendered more stark by the fact that the fictional nation of Wakanda is surrounded by poor neighbours.

Map and Location of Wakanda. Source: Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe #12 (December 1983).

This is a great popcorn film, full of well-choreographed action sequences, stunning costumes and beautiful cinematography and computer-generated imagery. In particular, the combination of these during the fights in water at a cliff-edge were pure eye candy. It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed looking at a film so much, and the key feature here is the balance: there is never too much to see on the screen, but just enough for one to appreciate. I would highly recommend watching this film on an IMAX rather than standard screen, although the 3D elements of the film weren’t particularly crucial to the experience.

Cliff Edge water fight scene. Source: Nerdist.com, Marvel.com

The performances in the film were decent, though not perfect. Chadwick Boseman was very good as T’Challa, as were Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira as his warrior queen and general respectively. I didn’t quite find Letitia Wright’s Shuri as convincing, but that may be personal taste as she is a good actress in other films I’ve seen. Daniel Kaluuya as W’Kabi was outstanding, and this actor is quickly showing the range in his performances – from an excellent Black Mirror episode, to Sicario, to Get Out and now this performance laiden with subtleties. He’s come a looooong way since playing a pretty stereotyped London Nigerian parking attendant in Harry and Paul. I’ve loved Martin Freeman since his role in the UK’s Office but I found his Everett Ross performance a bit ham-fisted. Andy Serkis was outstandingly over the top as Ulysses Klaue and you can’t help to think he is wasted in his many motion capture roles, I want to see him on-screen! He reminded me of Sharlto Copley in District 9 except even more unhinged. Michael B Jordan as the thuggist Killmonger didn’t do it for me as a principal antagonist – I never felt invested in the character and why he turned out as he did, and was left thinking “What if Daniel Kaluuya had played this role…”. But this is a minor gripe given the variety of great performances throughout the cast.

Cast of Black Panther. Source: www.facebook.com/MarvelCinematicUniverse

My only other criticism of the film was that the humour wasn’t as up-there as I thought it would be – there was a particularly weak joke about “sneakers” which I’m sure was intended to be funny but the cinema was silent. This could be because I had been spoilt by Taika Waititi’s outstanding Thor:Ragnarok which had me in stitches from the beginning to the end. But the themes in this film are, perhaps, such that comedy isn’t really an important element to the story, whereas the third Thor outing had invested itself in being a comedy showpiece, which is executed expertly. In any case, I can’t complain as both films, and indeed so many of the recent Marvel Cinematic offerings, were pure entertainment. Indeed, this studio is struggling to put a foot wrong, with the exception of the absolutely awful Inhumans series.

I would thoroughly recommend this film as a piece of entertainment with some interesting questions throughout.

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I just wanted a mattress…

The health benefits of looking at videos of humours cats on facebook remain under-reported.  After a stressful day at work,  I was feasting on funny felines and generally enjoying life.

This put me in a relaxed mood, and a facebook advert of a mattress made me think “I really need a mattress for my flat”, as sleeping on the hard surface of a bed frame is uncomfortable.

The advert was for LEESA, a mattress which has three layers of foam! Support foam, memory foam and avena foam!  And it rolls in and and out a box!  Plus, I can try it for 100 nights and if I don’t want it they’ll just come round and pick it up again.

I thought “I’m getting this mattress and nothing and nobody is going to stop me”. I clicked on the link and was about to order the mattress when another advert came up on my facebook , from a young lady with inhumanly white teeth and shiny eyes:

This is the SIMBA, and has springs!

It also comes in a handy little box, and also has a 100-night sleep guarantee! Weird huh? OK the shiny teeth have sold it to me. Click to order, but WAIT! Here’s another mattress-in-a-box and this one is yellow! It’s called EVE:

I want it, because there aren’t enough yellow mattresses in the world. It’s also comprised of foam, has a 100-night sleep guarantee, and comes foldable in a box. That’s it, I’m sold, this one’s….. WTF?

Another one?!? CASPER? Also foldable foam mattress in a box and with a 100-night trial?!? The lady is meditating with lots of white balloons, and it’s named after a fucking friendly ghost. How could I choose anything else? But what the hell there’s another ghost-themed foldable foam-filled bed around and it’s called GHOSTBED. Are you shitting me? This time it’s got a 101 night trial (like a mini Arabian-nights)

This couple and their dog seem really happy about their Ghostbed.  A bit too happy… if you ask me.  They’re just having too much fun on a bed. These two look more serene in the scandinavian DREAM ZEBRA:

But if I’m getting a Scandinavian mattress, I want the world to know about it. What’s the point of getting something if it has a name, however cool it is, which doesn’t say “I’ve got Ice-Cold Scandinavian style”. Enter,  HÜGGE:

You’ll be AMAZINGLY surprised that this mattress also is foldable, has layers of foam, and has a 100-night trial. But what about the similarly-featured OTTY? This young lady looks content, at least:

And she even has mini-mattresses for her dogs:

OK this is getting sillly now, maybe I should just stick with something simple, like BRUNO?

“Sir, is this another foam-filled foldable boxed mattress with a 100-night trial” you ask? Why yes. And the symbol is a bear. But do I really want to sleep on something called Bruno…? Not really. I prefer EMMA:

OK, I’m checking out. Life’s too short to spend so much time on foldable mattresses.  But there’s another one just as I’m about to check out FFS. And this is called THE MINISTRY OF SLEEP:

How can I ignore something called The Ministry of Sleep? It makes sleeping on a foldable foam-filled mattress delivered in a box with a 100 night guarantee sound more official.  OK i’ll… Oh COME ON….

I think I’ll sleep on the floor

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GORN – A ludicrously violent (but in a cartoonish way) Virtual Reality gladiator game which gets you sweating!

I’m going to put my hands (together with my sword and shield) up and say I really enjoyed this over-the-top outrageously violent arena based combat game. It just works.

The physics of your controller movement is crisp, the hits connect and have satisfying results, it has a nice moving mechanic using your arms which is better than teleportation and helps burn a few extra calories.

There are a number of other arena based games on the HTC Vive and I’m yet to find a dud personally, but this has to rank as one of the better ones.

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Armed Against the Undead: VR Zombie Thrills and Spills!

VR Zombie thrills and spills with guns and a chainsaw. Horror games in VR can sometimes be overly frightening – as in they create tachyarrhythmias. This has a nice balance between horror and humour which stops its from being too scary. I enjoyed it, although I did get stuck on a glitch.

Calories/hour: 231
Distance travelled: 684m
Average HR: 92 (range 77-119)

Find all the Virtual Reality reviews here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLkYBGegM5dQmeqL5SlZ19NOXFUlT9qBgM

Steam Curator site – essential HTC Vive games and applications:
http://store.steampowered.com/curator/27241299/

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Samurai Sword VR: A satisfying slice of samurai swording on the HTC Vive

Studying the way of the warrior courtesy of Samurai Sword on the HTC Vive. This is more of an expanded slice-em-up tech demo that a game per-se, but it is still very pleasurable to slice everything.

Calories/hour: 287
Distance: 1256m
Average calories: 101 (range 95-120)

Find all the Virtual Reality reviews here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLkYBGegM5dQmeqL5SlZ19NOXFUlT9qBgM

Steam Curator site – essential HTC Vive games and applications:
http://store.steampowered.com/curator/27241299/

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