This past weekend, Toronto hosted the Enthusiast Gaming Live Expo. Over the past few years, the people at Enthusiast Gaming have grown the show into Canada’s largest videogame event. They seriously know how to throw a party.
Greg Miller and Nick Scarpino from Kinda Funny brought their A game, along with their friend Shirtless Spider-Man. World Gaming presented the WESG Canadian Qualifiers for CS:GO, PES2019, DOTA 2, and Vainglory. Nintendo was showing off Super Smash Bros. Ultimate— fans waited in long lines to get some hands-on time ahead of its December release. There were talks and panels presented by industry insiders and prominent YouTubers like DreamcastGuy and Toronto’s own Shane Luis. A separate Developers’ Conference offered workshops and mentoring, away from the bustle of the main show floor. The show floor itself was packed with multiple stages, artists and developers, retro-arcade cabinets, cosplayers, Fortnite, VR, speedrunners, fighting-game tournaments, and thousands and thousands of fans.
The energy and passion and fandom was infectious. I had a smile on my face the entire weekend. I spent time with dozens of great games and some amazing developers. In no particular order, here are a few of my favourites.
I saw an early build of Zephyr earlier this year at LevelUpTO, and the team at Toronto-based Four Shore has added quite a bit of polish in the past six months. It’s an ingenious little puzzle-platformer that allows you to swap seasons on the fly. Pumpkins will spawn if you switch to summer, but they’re small and firm. However, you can carry them to the base of a wall, switch to autumn, and the pumpkins become big and squishy, allowing you to bounce over the obstacle. And that’s just one example of how the environment changes with the passing of the seasons.
Hellbound: The Awakening
Mike Manojlovic is the one-man-army behind North Wolf Studio. He released Blades On Mars for iOS, just to see if he could do it. Now he’s working on something a little more ambitious. Hellbound: The Awakening is rooted in metal: heavy metal music, heavy metal blades, and heavy metal armor. A simple side-scrolling hack-n-slash at its core, Hellbound manages to work in a tarot card perk system, Castlevania-like secondary weapons, and a fantastic dodge mechanic. The Norwegian Black Metal soundtrack was blasting loud enough to be heard over the noisy show floor at EGLX. I can’t wait to see more.
Light Fingers is the latest project from Toronto-based Numizmatic. It released for Nintendo Switch in September and their first update, the Pumpkin Patch, is now live. The four-player digital board game mixes turn-based dice and card mechanics with real-time action as players work their way around the board trying to steal loot and stab each other in the back. All while avoiding the town guards. With plenty of opportunity for cutthroat antics, it’s a great couch game. Each turn, the highest roll of the dice goes last, so what seems like a huge advantage can be whittled away while the players going earlier use their cards to steal your dice… and your loot! Watch the trailer here.
Coming soon for Nintendo Switch and PC, 13AM Games‘ Double Cross is an action-puzzle platformer putting you in control of Zahra, an inter-dimensional defense agent. Several levels were available at their booth, showcasing a variety of colourful environments. With her Proton Slinger, Zahra whips around the screen, latching on to nodes, scuttling up ledges, and beating up enemies. There’s a fair amount of hidden areas and power-ups to discover. The physics involved made everything feel intuitive, and they’ve included the perfect amount of slow-down between each swing to make the game challenging, but not frustrating. Getting from one side of a room to the other generally required me to, first, figure out the best route, and then refine my timing. A perfect balance of puzzling and dexterity, it was clear that the team at 13AM have put a lot of work into the little things. Watch the trailer for it here.
0ºN 0ºW, or ZeroNorthZeroWest, was the most unique and most memorable experience of my weekend. Developed by Colorfiction, it released for PC, MacOS, and Linux earlier this year. Click the link and check out all of the praise its received. 0N0W is a completely passive, tranquil experience with an incredible soundtrack (soundtrack available for free on Steam). The most minimalist walking-simulator I’ve ever seen, it was described to me as ‘a series of dreams to explore.’ At the booth, they provided noise-cancelling headphones, and I was immediately transported. No longer on the noisy, chaotic show floor, I found myself bouncing along neon cityscapes and anarchic color-fields, all set to peaceful, trance-like melodies. Since EGLX, I’ve actually spent quite a bit of time with it at home. I’m finding it hard to put into words what makes it so compelling. It’s not quite a ‘game,’ but it is a trip worth taking. See a little bit of it in action here.
The Lost Gardens
Rabbit Hole Studios was showing off two games. Click the link to check out Day-O Mateo, a two-player, side-scrolling beat ’em up with a ton of personality. Equally charming, was The Lost Gardens, an adventure game with light RPG elements starring an aging robot with amnesia. Previously charged with being The Caretaker of the eponymous gardens, you guide him through a somber, decaying landscape, as he attempts to piece together what happened here and what his role was to begin with. The writing on display at the booth was a nice blend of humour and melancholy. It’s in Early Access on Steam for both PC and Mac. Watch the trailer here.
Jamhammer Games‘ Shwip wears its Geometry Wars inspiration proudly on its sleeve. But it takes that source material, and all the frantic action, risk vs. reward, and tight-as-a-tourniquet controls that comes with it, and manages to add so much more. Shwip introduces an arsenal of strategic weapons— missles, mines, magnets, and, of course, a whip— and a boost mechanic that allows you to temporarily escape the mayhem by exiting the field of play. Couple that with four-player couch co-op and competitive play, a classic arcade timed mode, and a style mode that rewards you for close calls and allows you to level up your ship. The soundtrack rocks, too. Check it out on Steam Early Access for PC.