The games on show were actually quite diverse, both in style and in subject matter. And, not a worm in sight.
A farm boy named Willy (no relation) has left home and gone in search of adventure with a travelling circus. Unfortunately for our hero, his role within the circus is not one he was hoping for. The deranged ringmaster has decided Willy's job is to entertain the crowd with his death in this sadistic circus extravaganza. Penarium plays out like a single-screen Super Mario Bros that has Willy avoiding all the deadly traps set to the evil circus leader. The game starts off easy, but soon becomes fiendishly hard in a Super Meat Boy kind of style as the ringmaster adds new ways in which he can meet his demise for the pleasure of the crowd. The music perfectly complements the circus setting in the distinctly early 90's pixelated platformer that kept me wanting to both throw my controller at the screen and try again to pass the level.
Overruled is a 1-4 player brawler combined with a tabletop card game. Players run around the platform level trying to score points by defeating opponents and completing the game quests. Game quests range from collecting coins placed around the maze, chasing a checkpoint flag, play 'fire tag' in which gamers with the fire need to tag those without, king of the hill, and even a deathmatch type scenario. In each battle, the game modes will change depending on which cards are played by the combatants. It is the cards that separates Overruled from other brawlers - after collecting cards located around the levels, gamers are free to change the rules to suit them simply by selecting the cards that they wish to use. Some cards increase or reduce the point count, others limit the combat to melee or ranged only - no matter what you choose, it affects the dynamic between the players. Characters have a wonderful Pop! bubblehead look and the game has a fun colourful vibe.
The Escapists: The Walking Dead
We only got to view the first, maddeningly short mission, but this title comes with a dash of nostalgia for both fans of The Walking Dead and old school 64bit adventure games such as Gauntlet or Zelda. The Escapists: Walking Dead has you taking on the role of Rick Grimes, first as he escapes the zombie infested hospital he wakes up in, before heading off to find other survivors. Along the way, Rick can pick up useful items and then combine them to make all sorts of weird contraptions. The game follows the storyline from The Walking Dead comics as Rick and the survivors come to terms with their plight.
Like The Escapists: The Walking Dead, Sheltered takes place in an alternate reality, but unlike in The Walking Dead where a zombie disease has broken out, Sheltered is a world that has been affected by a nuclear holocaust. You take on the role of a family unit as they attempt to survive for as long as they can with what little supplies they have and can scavenge. Two adults and two children must ration resources such as food, water and fuel, as well as find enough medicine for the two sick children. The game has the look and feel of early LucasArts games such as Maniac Mansion, and for that reason alone, I want to get the chance to play more.
Beyond Eyes was probably my favourite of the preview titles on display. It has a wonderful artistic and music style and is full of atmosphere. Probably just as well, as the game centres around a blind girl named Rae. She wasn't always blind, but the blindness was caused by an accident. She has since not left the safety of her house. As Rae, you venture out into the unknown as you re-familiarise yourself with the outside world. Though, since she is blind, everything is all about perception of Rae's available senses, particularly her hearing. As she moves around in search of her cat, the fog of blindness is gradually removed, filling her world with colour or sending shades of black and grey depending on how Rae feels about the location. From my short time with the game I was very impressed with the presentation and hope to get a chance to explore in more detail in future.
After spending some time with these games in their preview states, I cannot wait to see more of them as they move towards full release. It is great to see some diversity in the Team 17 range, but I was a bit disappointed that Worms couldn't even get a look in. I do love squishing those little buggers.