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Hands-on game previews: PAX East / EGX Rezzed 2019 – Part 2

Chris O’Regan takes us through some more of the games that he’s had hands on with at shows and events so far this year (in alphabetical order).

Cosmo’s Quickstop

Format(s): Windows PC

Developer: Big Sir Games

Website: http://www.cosmosquickstop.com/

Summer jobs, the things that teenagers get just before and during their time at university. Most people would rightly assume that this is a solve preserve of human beings, but those people are wrong! That is according to Big Sir Games at any rate as they have made an entire game about one of the most soul destroying jobs in the galaxy, the attendant of Cosmo’s Quickstop. A service station somewhere in an unremarkable corner of the universe that has a lot of demanding customers, all of whom must be made happy at pretty much the cost of the sanity of the character the player takes control of.

Cosmo’s Quickstop is essentially a ‘push your luck’ puzzle game that has the player controlling a bipedal alien who has to attend to the needs of the service station customers as they dock into Cosmo’s Quickstop. Everything from refilling vending machines, giving directions to lost space faring families and cleaning the toilets of ‘glorp’, whatever that is, must be attended to and quickly.

What Big Sir Games have created with Cosmo’s Quickstop is essentially Whack-a-Mole, only potentially way more fun and rewarding than that arcade classic. Customers fly in and dock with the service station at which point an alert on the left hand side of the screen appears. Iconography explains which service is being requested and the player must go to a specific station and carry out a simple repetitive set of button combinations to attend to the need of the customer. The faster this is done, the more satisfied the customer is and the more money the service station makes. Sounds simple right? What could possibly go wrong? How about everything?

The demo of Cosmo’s Quickstop I played at PAX East 2019 had a wonderful tutorial that explained how each station in Cosmo’s Quickstop worked. This was at a sedate pace so as to ensure I understood what to do, but as the game kicked in for real I was overwhelmed to the point where I quickly identified what had the least set of negative consequences should it fail as I simply could not attend to everything. The rush of playing through a level in Cosmo’s Quickstop is really something and Big Foot Games have done an outstanding job of replicating that feeling of intense panic followed by despondency as you realise Cosmo’s Quickstop has set things up for failure and you can only do your best not to annoy too many people due to situations outside of the player’s control.

Cosmo’s Quickstop joins the cavalcade of games that are built from the ground up by trying to make the player laugh, even when they fail. The opening scene with the hapless alien teenager having to work for his insufferable uncle over the summer sets the tone of Cosmo’s Quickstop and it is a welcome one.

Cosmo’s Quickstop is due for release some time in 2019.

Freedom Finger

Format(s): Windows PC, Mac OS

Developer: Wider Right Games

Website: https://widerightgames.com/

Ever wondered what kind of game Beavis and Butthead would have made if they were not total morons and had a modicum of competence and talent? It might well be Freedom Finger, a shoot’em up from Wider Right Games, a game that celebrates the greatness that is ‘Merica in a unique way.

A moonbase that the US has built is under attack by Chinese terrorists, and it is up to Gamma Ray, a rookie pilot to take on the entire horde of Chinese spaceships with a large fist-shaped craft that is not only equipped with a laser gun but also fires from its middle finger that is constantly extended. The ship can also punch and grab things, which is a key component of the game as well as being somewhat symbolic of contemporary US foreign policy; probably.

Satire aside, Freedom Finger is a side scrolling shmup which requires the player to think outside of the normal rules of this genre as there is a tactile interaction with the enemies Freedom Finger throws at the player. They can not only be shot at but also punched and even grabbed and thrown at other enemies. It’s even possible to take the weapons of larger enemies and have the ship fire them back at the foe from which they just liberated them.

The scenery in each level is interactive – switches need to be punched in order for doors to open and provide passage to the fist-ship as it blasts, punches and grabs it way from right to left. All of imagery is hand drawn, giving Freedom Finger an animated, cartoon-like quality that is not too dissimilar to Mike Judge’s styling. Then there’s the soundtrack. It’s not the usual chiptune affair and instead features some heavy rock tracks. The humour is quite ‘adult’ with respect to language, so perhaps don’t play Freedom Finger within earshot of young children.

After playing Freedom Finger for a period of time at PAX East 2019 I came away more than just chuckling. My cheeks were aching from the smiling and laughter that emitted from me as I found myself controlling a giant finger shaped space craft across the screen, knowing full well of the satirical slant it takes while also being a thoroughly entertaining game.

Freedom Finger is due out later this year.

Fromto

Format(s): Windows PC, Switch

Developer: Studio Erikson

Website: http://www.studioerikson.com/fromto/

In a corner of PAX East 2019 a crowd of people either stood or sat near a large TV watching and laughing at some hand drawn images of tiny cars as they smashed into one another. These cars are under the control of four players, all of whom are trying to get to grips with what appear to be hard to control vehicles as they skitter about a colourless, 2D landscape – which itself is created by the players. Despite, or maybe because of, the basic visuals, Fromto is a blast to play as the bouncy physics of the cars lend themselves to some ridiculous and therefore hilariously impressive stunts.

Fromto has players controlling small 2D vehicles across a track that is essentially made by the players. There is a beginning and end point to the track and the winner of the game is the player who can get to the end point first. When Fromto starts the players are presented with a barebones track which they are given the opportunity to manipulate by adding in items like ramps, rollers, seesaws and other contraptions, all with the aim of getting to the end point before their competitors can. This has players creating fiendish tracks that they believe they can navigate but not the players against which they are competing.

The time I spent with Fromto consisted of me trying to make seemingly impossible leaps across vast openings that in most cases I failed to breach, resulting in my little car exploding into a ball of fire. I would then see another player attempt the same stunt only to pull it off, much to my chagrin. Despite this I did find myself cheering them on as they leapt from one platform to another, defying a dozen laws of physics as they did so.

Local multiplayer couch party games are becoming increasingly popular in recent years and Fromto will certainly find itself amongst the pantheon of titles that includes the likes of Broforce and TowerFall. Thankfully the developers have seen fit to include a single player mode in Fromto that includes speedrun challenges which will likely go down well with the streaming community.

I really enjoyed playing Fromto as from the first glimpse of it as I walked the halls of PAX East I could see it was something special. When I saw the smiles and heard the laughter of those who played it I knew I wasn’t wrong. I would add that the background images of Fromto were drawn by the developer’s young children, which I thought was a great touch.

Fromto is due out in 2019.

Ghoul Britannia: Land of Hope and Gorey

Format(s): Windows PC, Mac OS

Developer: Binary Space Games

Website: http://www.binaryspacegames.com/land-of-hope-and-gorey/

Many games that take place in fantastical realms stretch the capacity one has to be able to suspend disbelief. Ghoul Britannia: Land of Hope and Gorey is a game that is set in a world where Brexit has actually occurred. To say that’s a bit of a stretch is an understatement. We have played games where you play a petal, and to think that a sentient component of a plant is more believable than a conclusion to Brexit.

Anyway, Ghoul Britannia: Land of Hope and Gorey is a point and click adventure set in a near future, post apocalyptic Britain. The country is under the throes of a zombie outbreak that has occurred after the dead were raised to make up for the loss of the European workforce that left once the UK separated from the EU.

Yes that’s right, Ghoul Britannia: Land of Hope and Gorey could be argued as the epitome of ‘Project Fear’ for it posits that once Brexit happens it will set in motion a series of events that will ultimately lead to the dead walking the streets of Britain.

In Ghoul Britannia: Land of Hope and Gorey the player controls two characters, Hope Andrews, a woman who is trying to survive in a world of ravaging zombies and Dave Gorey who is similarly trying to not get killed only he already is a zombie. Unlike his undead compadres, however, he is inexplicably quite lucid, and wants to remain that way thank-you-very-much.

The world of Ghoul Britannia: Land of Hope and Gorey in presented in an isometric view that provides some depth of field that is often not present in adventure games in this genre. It affords the player the ability to see more of the environment, as well as reducing the issue of having to hunt down items of interest within them. I personally found it much easier to navigate areas and the quality of the imagery used is such that I quickly found myself drawn into the peculiar world Binary Space Games had created.

With a title like Ghoul Britannia: Land of Hope and Gorey it’s fairly obvious that it is a game filled with humour, a trend of this second lot of game previews we have released for PAX East 2019. The humour of Ghoul Britannia: Land of Hope and Gorey is extremely dry, which is not surprising as it is from the mind of a certain Jonathan L. Howard, a British writer who has little time for how Brexit is panning out.

The interactions between the characters in the game are a mixture of irritating jobsworths (a guard to a shop that Hope needs to enter to get some parts for a broken generator for example) to resigned aggravation, which is both Hope and Dave themselves.

As I played through the short demo that was being shown at PAX East I found myself chortling away at Howard’s sardonic dialogue. The tone is somewhat defeatist yet there is a glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, things will get back to normal and we can all have a nice cup of tea.

I didn’t find the puzzles too hard to fathom as they make sense, provided one reads all of the clue-laden dialogue carefully.

Ghoul Britannia: Land of Hope and Gorey is due out some time in 2019.

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