I love a hot-take as much as the next gaming enthusiast, but I value considered opinions much more. EGX 2017 has come, gone, and the dust has well and truly settled. In the two weeks since, I have had time to stew over my top picks (that I played) and here they are:
Yoku’s Island Express
This was the third game I played at EGX 2017, and it stuck in my mind all day. At first, it seemed like a wonderful cartoonish platformer. That was until I actually sat down to play and realised that Yoku’s Island Express was in fact a pinball platformer.
You play an adorable dung beetle who is tasked with delivering the mail around an island filled with other wonderful characters. You solve puzzles along the way by bumping Yoku like a pinball. You realise just how much time has passed when you eventually look at the clock.
I only intended to quickly demo Yoku’s Island Express, but found myself being torn away to another appointment. I can’t wait to return to this on my own Nintendo Switch.
Children of Zodiarcs
Children of Zodiarcs is a turn-based, grid-based RPG from the Square Enix Collective. It has a graphical style similar to Skies of Arcadia on Dreamcast and, from the EGX 2017 demo I played, an eclectic mix of characters.
What intrigued me the most were the battle system and the world lore. Firstly, the battle system uses character specific ability cards and virtual on-screen dice rolls to determine the results of attacks. It adds a risk-reward mechanic which can turn the tide of a fight but, with a guaranteed minimum value for each action, won’t leave you cursing.
Secondly, there is a real mystery around the world in which the game is set. The EGX demo briefly laid out the concept of a world filled with secrets about a past culture, with advanced technology, and of a social revolution. I look forward to uncovering that story.
Purrfect Date could get on this list simply for being the most preposterous concept at EGX 2017. You play a scientist, hired to assist research into an island populated by cats. Through a short series of events, you are turned into a dating were-cat and embroiled in a who-can-you-trust mystery.
This is an unapologetic visual novel, but one which builds on the trend for off-kilter concepts. You are given the chance to date a number of kitties, each with their own personalities and date styles. I dated a cat who liked to called themselves Major. We dissected and ate a bird together. My friend got tricked into drinking hidden cat liquor. Swings and roundabouts I suppose.
While this won’t appeal to anybody already against visual novels, anybody interested in or circling around the genre should definitely check it out.
The Lost Bear
EGX 2017 had it’s fair share of VR titles on show. I was most impressed by The Lost Bear from Odd Bug Studio. The Lost Bear is a side-scrolling platformer in a hand-drawn art style world. You play a girl whose favourite teddy has been stolen from her by the nefariously named Toy Snatcher.
While the gameplay itself may not be revolutionary, the design alone is worth playing this game for. What really set The Lost Bear apart from any other VR title though is that it uses VR differently. The gameplay appears to be occurring on a theatre stage, with you the lone member of an audience. As the world your character explores changes, the area surrounding you shifts with it. So if you are in a forest, expect grass and trees to spring up around you.
Impressively, interactions in the gameplay will cause events to happen around you as well. A barking dog might startle crows in the 2D platformer which then emerge towards you, and fly past. Bugs will circle around you before returning to the ‘stage’. Lighting will shift the action.
I’m always excited to see innovations in VR, and The Lost Bear certainly felt like one at EGX 2017.
Game of the Show – Super Mario Odyssey
Well, come on. It was going to be wasn’t it? I was able to play through a timed demo of Super Mario Odyssey where I took in the sand and ice themed world seen in the trailers. From that EGX 2017 demo, I was entranced.
The core gameplay is Mario done brilliantly. Running, jumping, exploring, and collecting all feel great. The new cap throwing/possession mechanics worked incredibly well, and were used imaginatively in places.
The world was vibrant and varied, and the size of the play area was astounding. In many ways, the world felt like an opened out version of Super Mario Galaxy‘s planets.
The characters which inhabited the land were equally detailed and bought the Mario magic even more to life.
The controls were fantastic, including some legitimately well thought out use of the Nintendo Switch motion controls.
All in all, Super Mario Odyssey was the Game of the Show for EGX 2017 by far. It achieves a level of polish only Nintendo can manage, packages it into a digital play area, and made me smile from moment one.