EGX 2016 took place from 22nd to 25th September, and as I enjoyed my previous visits to EGX I was keen to get a ticket for the Saturday. This time around, I wasn’t desperate to see one big game – 2014 saw me spending nearly the entire day queueing for Bloodborne – but I had a few titles I would have liked to try and see, and if I didn’t have time to wait then I had other options. Once the doors opened and I had checked the map included in the brochure, the first game I looked at was…
EGX 2016 – Sonic Mania
After so many failed reboots and weird spin-offs, I shouldn’t be so excited to play a new Sonic game, but the videos I had seen appeared to faithfully rekindle nostalgia for the Mega Drive classics. Happily, playing the game was a delight; Sonic moves as you expect, the moments of speed are tempered with slower moments of platform negotiation, and it feels more like Sonic 1 rather than the more “on-rails” moments of spectacle seen in Sonic 2 and beyond. However, that’s not to say that Sonic Mania lacks enjoyable gimmicks. The demo featured two zones and I played “Studiopolis Zone”, which featured springy balls that move slightly unpredictably before springing Sonic upwards, and satellite dishes that “beam” Sonic around the level. I also caught a glimpse of classic Sonic power-up callbacks – the electric shield from Sonic 3 makes a comeback, drawing rings towards Sonic and offering extended jumps. If the rest of the game is handled as confidently as the section I played in the demo, it could be one to watch.
EGX 2016 – Snake Pass
Another game I actually wanted to try and make time to see was Snake Pass; a new game from Outrun 2 developers Sumo Digital that’s hard to pigeonhole into a genre but quickly makes sense when you’ve had some time to play (having a staffer talk me through the controls and objectives also helped, admittedly.) In Snake Pass you move the analogue stick back and forth to wiggle your snake and help him build speed as you move. Then, with a push of a button the snake can rise and scale vertical stage furniture, slithering up poles to reach collectibles and other areas. Maintaining speed and momentum is important if you want to get to the map’s hard-to-reach areas, so you quickly learn the best places on the map to accelerate effectively. The controls seem weirdly involved from a stark description like that, but it’s really intuitive and a joy to control. I also found it quite comical when I failed to wriggle upwards effectively and my snake would fall back down to earth. I think the straightforward concept and easily-understood controls could go down well with younger players, and the presentation is excellent, with all the colour and character you’d expect from the studio that brought us Sonic and Sega All-Stars Transformed.
EGX 2016 – miscellany
There were, of course, some things I didn’t have time to play. As regular visitors will know, I completed Final Fantasy XII on the PS2 for the first time this year, and I had heard that the remake – FFXII: The Zodiac Age – was playable on the show floor. Unfortunately, I had to skip it because of other priorities; besides, if I sat down to play something like FFXII I imagine I’d lose a lot of time that could be spent playing shorter and more immediate games. At least as an observer I could see that the HD treatment looks impressive.
Outside of newer games, I also went to the retro games area – “Replay Ages” – and played some Tempest 2000 with an old Atari Jaguar controller and on a chunky CRT television. I had previously played emulations and remakes of the game, and whilst the original shows how well those remakes and emulations hold up as alternative options, the setup in Replay Ages was worth experiencing. Not only did the television provide a great demonstration of the cracking explosion sounds and incidental effects, but I also had to get to grips with one of the most unwieldy controllers ever. As you know, the Jaguar controller was a beast, with a standard six-button layout at the top and a bizarre keypad underneath. The size of the thing suddenly makes the western Xbox 1 controller seem reasonable, and it took me a while to figure out how I could even hold such a thing. On a more positive note, Tempest 2000 didn’t use that many buttons, but I’d still recommend playing Tempest with a more manageable controller.
EGX 2016 – wrap-up
Other than that, I took a quick tour of the rest of the floor – stopping to watch some rolling demos, take some photos and check out a bit of competitive Street Fighter – and then picked up some merchandise in the form of the most adorable Protoman plush you could ever want. Using my time to check out a few smaller games was my plan for last year, but that plan needed a rethink after I spent more time than usual waiting for Mighty No. 9. (Yes, I know.) For anyone who’s enjoyed reading this and wants to visit EGX themselves, I recommend visiting the website beforehand and having a look at the games that will be on the show floor. This done, you can make a mental list of the titles you’re keen to see so that you have backup plans if certain games have big queues. Oh, and enjoy yourself!