Sony had a large presence at this year’s EGX Rezzed Expo in Birmingham, but aside from showing off recent release Infamous: Second Son, their focus was very much on their latest batch of indie games. There was plenty on display. Sony was keen to highlight the arrival of favourites such as Fez to PS4, in addition to giving a spotlight to those coming in the near future.
One such title was Velocity 2X by developers FuturLab, a sequel to the cult hits Velocity and Velocity Ultra. But where those games focused on being top-down shooters, this time the action switches between your spaceship and 2D side scrolling sections which combine fast paced shooting with teleportation-based puzzles. Fans of old school shooters will delight as you use your spaceship to blast your way through a level, and the side scrolling sections have more than a whiff of 2D Metroid about them as you shoot at multiple angles and leap from platform to platform.
It is, however, faster paced then Samus’ adventures, with momentum a key ally and a timer continually ticking away. There is also less emphasis on exploration, the focus instead on figuring out exactly how to get from point A to B. It is a fantastically good looking game, with an eye catching art style which is as smooth as butter even in full flow. It looks to be a must have title for older gamers hankering for some old fashioned shooting action.
Also drawing some attention was Foul Play, already released on Steam and Xbox Live but coming to PlayStation for the first time. While Velocity 2X harks back to side scrolling shooters, Foul Play harks back to side scrolling beat ‘em ups. You play as Victorian-Gent Baron Dashforth as he recounts his adventures for a live audience. What makes this game particularly interesting is that your enemies are not enemies per se, but are actually actors dressed up as the enemies he claims to have beaten before. The audience you are performing for respond to your attacks and combo chains with great enthusiasm, and gaining their appreciation is key to unlocking your true power. It’s a nice twist on an old idea, which simultaneously adds more depth to the gameplay.
The action itself is frenetic and fast, with the screen sometimes filled to bursting with costumed goons to be clobbered. The sections on display were not exactly difficult however, despite most enemies needing to take a lot of damage to be defeated. This can mean more often than not that you resort to tired button mashing. Still, there seems to be a lot of depth to the combat system for those willing to explore it further, and it promises to be a fairly sizeable adventure.
But the star of the show, by far, was TowerFall Ascension. Having just recently been released on PS4 in March, the archery based arena battler doesn’t look like much at first. Its graphical style is deliberately sprite based, with the intention of imitating the 16-bit graphics of a generation long past. In doing so it replicates the simple joy and organised chaos of arena based games like Bomberman and the original Mario Bros. In the battle sections we played, four players were crammed into one tiny arena armed with a simple bow and arrow. You bounce from platform to platform, desperately expending your limited supply of arrows knowing it only takes one hit to see off an opponent, at the same time knowing it only takes one hit for you to be defeated.
Battles are over in seconds, not minutes, and when the carnage has died down the points are added up and you’re flung straight into another round. It’s non-stop action which requires you to watch every part of the screen to avoid death. Rounds can either be tense stand-offs or descend into utter chaos. And as a result it is an absolute hoot, and a joy when you are playing with three people sitting at your side. It promises to be a fantastic party game, with simple controls and a premise that is easily understood by anyone; shoot the other battler before they shoot you. It proves that, even with the Titanfall booth directly across from the TowerFall booth, that multiplayer experiences don’t have to have mega budgets and complex gameplay to be utterly, purely enjoyable.