The Average Gamer

E3’s little E, EToo London: Day 1

EToo-LogoDatesAs the rest of the The Average Gamer team prepare to drag their jet-lagged legs into the Los Angeles Conference Centre this morning to stare, mouths-agape, at the corporate circus of E3 2013, I cram myself into a Soho gaming bar to watch the UK’s hottest indie talents show off their considerable wares. It’s E3’s little E, EToo London!

The brainchild of veteran games journo Keith Stuart and Fable producer Georg Backer, EToo shuns the big corporate focus of its West Coast counterpart offering a cosy space for indie developers to demo their upcoming titles. Joined by industry experts and sponsor partners Sony and GameStick, the show is set to offer a quaint, and quintessentially British, companion event for those not lucky enough to cover half a world to watch as the next console war begins.

Today’s exhibitors (of the 30 spread across four days) really took to the spirit of the event, with Spilt Milk Studios’ Andy Smith bringing the love (and cakes) with hilarious, and inappropriately intimate metagame Hugatron. Self-dubbed “the friendliest game on earth” Spilt Milk’s creation offers you the chance to physically hug it out with another player, to a range of awkwardly romantic soundtracks (R Kelly’s “bump and grind” seems to come up far too often to be random). Smith and forename-sharing coding colleague Andrew Roper were also showing off Lazarus, their iOS/PC/Mac hypnoshooter. Probably the best way to describe it is side-scrolling Asteroids on acid, it’s a beautiful looking game and the waves of baddies die in lovely splashes of light with a satisfying arcade ping.

I said earlier that EToo shuns the corporate world and loves all things indie, which is only a small lie as event sponsors Sony, of course, are showcasing their final hurrah of the current generation The Last of Us, and as I’m sure you’ve noticed by now, it’s quite a loud hurrah. But Sony also had small studio SFB Games on hand to show off their side-scrolling spook ‘em up Haunt The House: Terrortown, a charming action-puzzle adventure where you must scare the living…people out of your town.

Following on from the success of their in-browser version, licensed by Adult Swim in 2010, SFB Games have fleshed out HTH into a delightful outing, using the Vita to its full potential and cobbling a jaunty, atmospheric soundtrack together to accompany the cartoonish narration and art. Co-sponsor, Game Stick, are also in attendance and keeping to the theme by displaying their teeny tiny console in a stick all week long.

Amateur Surgeons Mediatonic were also showing their latest work, Foul Play, which is every bit as charismatic as their previous titles. A twist on the side-scrolling brawler where you, the player, play a player in a play. The completely unconfusing concept has you rewarded for style, panache and audience-attention-grabbing heroics as you recount the absolutely true life story of Baron Dashforth on-stage. Extra delight is to be had when the set backdrop transforms (shoddily) on the fly to whisk you to new locations.

But the uncoveted Exhibitor of The Day award gets claimed by Alan Zucconi, whose befuddling time-travel puzzler Still Time will have me reeling through the temporal consequences of my actions for days to come. Zucconi’s level design is sufficiently brain-melting and his slant on time-travel unique enough to warrant this a ‘watch closely’ badge. But it’s the minimal art and CRT-thematic styling providing a subtle and distinctive polish that pushes this game out of the park. You can check out an alpha build here!

It seems it’s about time for big brother to take over now, but if you fancy catching up with all the big booming announcements from across the pond, injected with some razor British wit, then tune into the livestream from EToo every night this week. Commentary to be provided by Keith Stuart, Simon Parkin, Cara Ellison and a parade of other industry experts and developers as they discuss the goings-on from Tinseltown.