May 3, 2018

EGX Rezzed 2018 – The retro titles making a comeback

Last month I headed to EGX Rezzed; London’s biggest games event, smaller sibling of EGX that takes place in Birmingham in September, to check out the latest trends and methods video game developers are using to bring happiness to the masses.

With the sun shining down upon us at the unique venue of Tobacco Dock, EGX Rezzed is an annual opportunity for mainly smaller indie games developers to showcase their upcoming and existing work, giving players the opportunity to get hands-on with their games and the developers themselves. For those who are aspiring games developers, there was even an opportunity to speak to industry professionals about bagging themselves a career in this much sought-after sector.

Walking around the show floor, this year’s overarching theme was very clear; retro classics and nostalgia. There was even an entire area dedicated to retro games, coined, naturally, the ‘Retro Zone’.

With creating human happiness at the core of everything we do here at Unity, it was great to see so many attendees naturally drawn to this zone, where some familiar names had come out to play, putting smiles on faces both young and old. Think the likes of SEGA’s Sonic the Hedgehog with his latest adventure Sonic Mania, featuring a much-wanted return to classic 2D art style, as demanded by fans following a slew of unpopular and disappointing 3D attempts to bring the game into the modern age.

There was even PuyoPuyo Tetris, featuring some of our favourite Sonic characters in place of the traditional coloured blocks we’re used to. A perfect example of bringing retro classics to the modern audience.

Another must-see for the nostalgia lovers among us was Two Point Hospital, an unofficial successor to the beloved Theme Hospital released back in 1997. Fans of the latter will no doubt have fond memories of the dulcet and sarcastic tones of their chosen hospital receptionist calling out ‘Doctor to the inflator room, please’ among other more weird and wonderful happenings as you made your way through this wacky God-style sim. Rather than opting for a modern and almost realistic art style, which so many games do nowadays, Two Point Hospital retains the cartoon-y art style of its predecessor, with updated gameplay for the modern player. I simply can’t wait to play it.

While the likes of Theme Hospital are perhaps considered cult classics, and therefore quite well-known, this event was more about giving love to the lesser-known games and their developers. Some additional highlights of the day, in keeping with the retro theme, included Shift Quantum, a black and white puzzle-platformer, Epyka, a virtual reality island adventure with a loveable canine companion, and Double Fine’s extremely cute Ooblets.

And I couldn’t write this blog without including one of the most visually exciting aspects of the day, which was the creative set up for Steel Rats; a unique amalgamation of death-defying motorbike stunts and combat, set in what looks to be a dark and dystopian world. Playable on what was essentially a large robot made up of TVs, it most certainly stood out from the crowd.

Moving away from games developers, gamer’s charity Special Effect was also in attendance, showing off just a handful of their modified gaming controllers and other unique technologies that allow gamers with disabilities to continue playing their favourite games. Imagine large-scale gaming pads and joysticks, allowing for much easier play in comparison to the surprisingly complex current generation controllers, and technology that’s allow you to play with your eyes alone. It’s pretty amazing stuff, and I can’t wait to see what else they do in the future.

Some other well-deserving charities were also in attendance, such as Australian-based CheckPoint and the Royal College of Psyhciatrist’s Gaming the Mind, who came together to create a ‘chill-out space’ for attendees at the event, allowing people space to escape the inevitable chaos and unwind. Both charities tackle mental health issues through the power of video games, and it was great to see recognition of this oft-neglected issue at an event where the uninitiated might simply expect to see people playing games, rather than talking about their feelings.

Finally, and in keeping with the nostalgic tone of the event, the retailers in attendance had many exciting wares on display, including a large collection of PlayStation 2 and 1 games, as well as N64 / Gameboy cartridges and many other blasts from the past. This included a £30 copy of PS1 Japanese role-playing-game classic Jade Cocoon, which I’m proud to say I still have somewhere in my parent’s house.

All in all, EGX Rezzed proved that retro gaming and nostalgia are and will continue to be hot topics, particularly among the indie developers that so many gamers love and support. Whether that be through nostalgic art styles, or revivals of gaming classics, retro lives on in the gaming community, and it will be interesting to see what the event’s big brother, EGX, brings in September.