I went to EGX Rezzed, the indie games conference, yesterday. By the looks of it, so did some of you. You may have heard that the video game BAFTAs took place after the show closed last night. While this has been widely covered, no one has yet mentioned that I had been conducting my own highly important awards ceremony earlier in the day - the OXM Rezzed Awards, or "the OXM Rezzies sponsored by generic brand aspirin" for short. I've had to take announcing these awards into my own hands, so come with me as we we celebrate the best Rezzed had to offer for an Xbox fan.
The Joe Skrebels Memorial Award for Being Really Shit At A Game - The Swindle
The Swindle is incredible, a fizzing bundle of ideas drawn from Spelunky, Mark of the Ninja, classic platformers and Alan Moore comics. It's a procedurally generated 2D heist game - get into a building, hack computers, steal cash, avoid robot policemen and get out.
I am awful at it. I burst through windows and onto one-hit-kill enemy truncheons, I blew myself up while I tried to bomb a wall, and at one point I fell on some spikes because I was too busy being scared of things. The best thing about all of this is that, like Spelunky, I'm desperate to get better - there's a wealth of systems underneath all of this waiting to be exploited. I'll get to them soon.
Coolest Moon - Soul Axiom
Soul Axiom is a kind of cyber-psychedelic first-person puzzler. After accidentally receiving a see-through hand, your character gains the ability to phase objects in and out of existence, allowing for everything from mechanical Rube Goldberg-ery to physics conundrums, all while the world you're in gets weirder and weirder.
One section's set in some sort of organic Tron world, rocky outcrops and crystals brushing up alongside neon blue sky highways, where the moon occasionally shimmers with pixels, like some stubbornly buffering Netflix original. Why is this happening? Not a clue, but it's cool as all heck.
Most Palpable Sense of Nihilism - The Flame In The Flood
Like Kanye West, or a cute mouse with a gun, you can get away with a lot if you look good. The Flame in the Flood is absolutely lovely to behold, its low-poly, high-charm characters and world look like living concept art rather than an honest-to-god video game.
And that masks the cruel heart at its core. Set along the length of a viciously engorged, procedurally generated river, this survival roguelike makes everything your enemy, from starving wolf packs to the weather. And when one thing goes wrong, everything goes wrong - suffering a simple cut will lead to a staph infection. If you can't craft some DIY penicillin, you'll collapse. Collapsing leaves you dehydrated. You turn to the only water you have, stagnant, suspicious stuff. And then you die.
And then you'll restart, because this game looks fascinating.
Most Not-Played-By-Joe-But-Looks-Brilliant - Bedlam
You know a game's caught the public imagination when it is unavailable to play for an entire day. Bedlam, based on a novel of the same name, is a bewildering thing, a first-person shooter narrated by cynical Scots that buzzes between genres and graphical styles at a rate of knots.
I've seen 3D 8-bit levels, an Unreal rip-off, some typical Medal of Honor bravado, even side-on shmup sections. I have no idea how they fit together - again, I absolutely haven't played it yet - but by god if I'm not going to bug someone to let me have a go as soon as I'm done writing this.
Most British - Beyond Flesh And Blood
There was actually a surprising amount of Britishness on show at Rezzed this year - from Kaiju Panic's Liverpool setting to Bedlam's mix of accents - but this brutally violent mech romp steps it up a notch.
Not only is the whole thing set across a ruined Manchester, with recognisable architecture strewn everywhere, it also appears to be a queue rage simulator. In the Horde-like mode we played enemies stream down tiny streets, trying to reach defensive points as quickly as possible. This is, of course, a breach of etiquette - they are never in single file - at which point you can literally kick them in half. Top marks.
Best Other Game With "Beyond" In The Title - Beyond Eyes
It takes all sorts - this magical little thing has nothing to do with the previous gory robot punching game. It's a 3D exploration game set around a blind girl wearing some excellent purple boots. Through a mixture of sound, touch and smell, the empty white void she walks in fills with colour and detail.
What appears to begin as a pure art game is actually a story-driven piece, as you guide the girl through levels and to goals she can never truly see.
The Book-and-Cover Award for Poor Judgement - Inside My Radio
It looks dull, I know. You play a series of grinning cubes with headphones and facial hair, and it's a 2D platformer. This is an issue. But sit down to give Inside My Radio a go, and you'll find its innovation is a little deeper.
This is a platformer in which you can only make jump, dash, slam or interact with things to the beat of the background music - a nice enough idea, before you realise how good that music is. We played electro, funk and dub levels in the demo, with every action adding guitar licks, record scratches and more, while completing puzzles adds new layers to the song.
The best moment of all was stumbling across a totally optional section where you found cuboid versions of Elvis, Daft Punk and David Bowie, choosing which one's musical style you'd like to add to the rest of the track/level. This is so much better than the looks would suggest.
Best. - Swordy
I can't tell you how much I laughed in my 10 minutes with Swordy. I mean, I didn't really stop. It's a multiplayer physics brawler that'll be a little familiar to anyone who's played Gang Beasts before. You begin in a circle, surrounded by scattered weapons. All that's left to do is run, grab them, and make your opponents bleed delightful, painterly blood.
The genius lies in how those weapons work - everything's physics-based, meaning you need to figure out how much a weapon weighs, or how it moves, to master it. Grab a mace on a chain, and you'll need to spin constantly to land a hit. A short sword doesn't offer anything like that range, but it's light enough to hold and stab with when you get in close. A gigantic mallet can only be held aloft, but run and stop short and it'll crash onto someone's head.
It's simple enough that anyone can play, immediately. It's deep enough that people can form actual tactics, choose favourite weapons and get irritatingly good. And, crucially, it's silly enough that you won't be able to concentrate on any of this clever stuff until well after you've recovered from laughter pains. Brilliant.