Zombies Ate My PC Gamer Weekender

tl;dr get Basingstoke! Here’s a link

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This past weekend I got the chance to visit the PC Gamer Weekender at London Olympia. Not a venue I’ve been to before, so it was nice to explore a bit. The door staff were helpful and pleasant; the lifts were huge, certainly enough room to not only get a couple of electric wheelchairs in, but to turn around easily too. On the event floor, there’s a cloak room café area, and toilets are well sign posted. A seating at one end for refreshments and a large tabletop gaming area near to stands selling collectable cards, general nerd merch  (including the legally required number of Funko Pop figures for such events), and a good selection or tabletop games (damn you Pandemic and your many tempting variants!). In addition there were two stages – quite close together – which hosted a number of panels for game reveals and tech talks that I largely missed. And Finally, the most important area, the bit most people came for: the glorious corridors of game stands *crowd makes excited oooooh sound*. Luckily, the event wasn’t too crowded, so it was easy ish to get to try things, and wasn’t too overwhelmingly peopley.

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Game I actually went to see – 2 Point Hospital.

I played a lot of Theme Hospital in my youth. Like, a loooooot of Theme Hospital. Its quirky humour, charming graphics, and involving gameplay kept me coming back for more, even though I wasn’t very good at it. It’s one I came back to again and again and had only recently been wishing that someone would update. So the recent announcement that some of the old Bullfrog team were getting 2 Point Studios [www.twopointstudios.com] together and would soon be releasing 2 Point Hospital, a spiritual successor to Theme Hospital. The panel introduced some members of the team and their mission statement.

Good news everybody, 2 Point Studios want to re-imagine sims and be the home of “little people games”. For those who loved Populous, Powermonger, Theme Park, and Theme Hospital, this is excellent news. Personally, I’ve felt the industry has been lacking good games in this genre for some time. From what the announcement trailer has shown, and the gameplay footage shown at the Weekender, the game is looking fantastic. The graphics are clean and colourful, looking great from a distant overview, right down to fully zoomed in; the interface is simple and clear; and for those familiar with TH, it’s looking like everything we would want from a successor.

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One of the main draws of TH for me was the wacky afflictions which patients could come in with. Bloaty head – a massively swollen head that needs to be popped and lightly re-inflated to normal size, slack tongue – a huge lolling tongue that personally I’d just learn to live with for… reasons, and invisibility to name a few. 2PH has new conditions all of its own. Including light headedness – waking up to find your head is now literally a lightbulb which will need to be unscrewed and replaced with a new head, and mummification – wandering, bandaged horrors that need to be popped into a casket, and have their coverings unwound. The devs announced that the final game will be filled more of these punny illnesses for you to cure with unusual and entertainingly animated equipment. Do try not to get embarrassed at people seeing your skeleton when passing through the x-ray machine.

I was excited before, seeing this at the Weekender and nothing I saw did anything to lessen that. It’s looking great and I’m very hype. Devs are not yet ready put an exact date for release, but my body is ready just as soon as they are ready to put it out.

2 Point Hospital will be available on Steam at some point in 2018.

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Pleasant surprise of the show – Guns of Icarus Alliance

I’ve not played GoI for some time. I got quite into it for a while, but I just didn’t have the time and too many other things that ran better on my PC (To be fair, the PC I was using at that time was junk and GoI just chugged on it).

This new game is very much more of the same first-person, steampunk/dieselpunk multiplayer, airship crew simulator. Take to the skies and battle rival crews in huge areas. Take the high road, or sink as low as you can and into clouds to avoid detection, then sneak up on your enemy. Take on specific roles as gunner, engineer or pilot – though anyone can do any job in a pinch even put out the occasional fire.  The original game featured 7 magnificent airships, with Alliance adding a further six to date. Each is differently manoeuvrable and having varying amounts of guns and armour.

Alliance adds more than just new ships and enhanced graphics to the original 2012 release. Developers, Muse Games are very excited that they have successfully integrated cross-platform play with Windows, Mac, Linux, and PS4. While your account can’t be moved from platform to platform, you can play with your friends, without problems, regardless of which system they’re using. Additionally, faction war gameplay lets crews to earn war effort for their faction, which in turn allows them to take over or defend pieces of land on the map. There’s time in lobby to strategize and plan for the war effort, but if that’s not your thing, you can always set up a private game and have it out with your friends.

Alliance also sees the game ported to a newer version of Unity, which has allowed them to improve enemy AI. Staff at the booth told me a great story about one of the devs loudly complaining, as they believed someone in the office was picking on them. It later turned out to be an AI player that they’d upset.

So gather your crew, inflate your balloon, and set sail to the skies to fight your enemy. For the good of [insert preferred faction] because you’re the best and most right, obviously.

Guns of Icarus Alliance is available on Steam and Humble Store

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Game of the Show – Basingstoke

I’ve played a few of Puppy Games creations. They’ve mostly been fun and engaging updates on classic games with a unique art style that is instantly recognisable if you’ve played any of their stuff. Even their most fearsome enemies have a certain adorable look about them. Like a hangry loved one on a rampage. Speaking of hangry, what monster encapsulates that idea better than zombies (phew, think I landed that segue with no problems). This brings us to Basingstoke. Well, it’s Basingstoke, but not as you know it. Unless you know it to be on fire and the residents to be rather bitey. In this case, I’m referring to, the terminally British isometric roguelike zombie survival game that makes me crave a strawberry Cornetto.

“But Jane, everyone’s tired of zombie games. They’re so dead.” Well friend, unless you sever the head or destroy the brain, only the crappy, asset flippy, BS zombie games are going to fall to something like market saturation (also, your pun is bad). On the other hand we have this, which is beautiful, charming, and wonderfully fun.

The graphics are typical for the studio, simple, stylish and cute, with excellent lighting effects.  It’s not often I get to see road signs, traffic cones, keep left bollards, and ridiculous helmeted police officers that match those I see every day, in the videogames I play. That’s because so many games are set in the US. However, it’s these simple pleasures that first drew my eye to this game.

Sneak around post-apocalyptic Basingstoke to gather all the materials you can, avoiding the cute and dopey looking enemies. Items can be crafted from the materials you find to either directly attack the shambling horde – like a pool cue or pepper spray. Other items, such as a kebab can be thrown to try and draw the attention these ghoulish creatures from your delicious bod (I’ve been out drinking in Croydon on a Friday night and can attest that this does in fact work).

Apart from the shambling undead, I got to see some of the fast and vicious monsters. And by “see” I mean, I ran away as fast as possible, flailing and hurling sausage rolls to try and distract them. They may be adorable but those teeth aren’t to be trifled with… unless there’s a trifle to be found or crafted somewhere and used to temporarily blind them. Then I would maybe consider that as a last resort.

Once you’ve looted everything that takes your fancy and found the key item, you can make your way to (temporary) safety at the exit to the area. The end of the first section allows you to escape to The Red Lion pub, and part of me hopes there will be an option to stay there and wait for it all to blow over, shoot some pool and listen to Queen on the jukebox like a super quick, waiting for the phone call to end, Far Cry 4 alternate ending.

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For the event, they had all the current classes unlocked, with each character having varying starting equipment. I had a quick look at the office worker, police officer, and tourist – who gets a distracting polaroid camera and a GPS that guides you to the level exit. Each is beautifully designed, and I can’t wait to spend more time with them, waking up in strange toilets, in the middle of the zombie apocalypse.

Basingstoke’s areas are a mix of prefab and procedurally generated areas, to make for more variety and replayablity. I’ve only been to Basingstoke once, but if this game is accurate, I’ll have to go again, and be surprised it seems.

Not going to lie, of all the things that I’ve fallen in love with, the loading screen was the most surprising. It’s a set of temporary traffic lights and one of those “When red light shows wait here” signs, with an adorable zombie in a hard hat and hi-vis jacket. As the level loads, the lights change. I have no idea why this charms me so much, but there it is.

You can play it right now by supporting the Puppy Games Patreon for as little as $5.  Or wait until March 30th for the Steam release How’s that for a slice of fried gold? 

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