WASD – A Great New Indie Showcase

Myself, Million Man Ian and MPV Graham recently attended WASD, a new indie-focused gaming event at the Tobacco Docks in London. We’ve frequented the venue many times visiting EGX Rezzed in the past, and WASD looks to fill the void that shows absence has left. There were dozens of games to play, devs to meet, and fun to be had, so I wanted to highlight some stand out experiences we had over the two days we attended.

As I said, there were a lot of games at WASD, with a large focus on indie titles. We didn’t get to them all, but the majority of the ones we did showed a lot of promise indeed. Please do head over to their website to see the full line up, and if you attended the show let us know down below or on twitter! I really hope that it returns for round two next year, with an even more expansive line-up of titles to play and things to see.

We Here Here Forever – Total Mayhem Games

I’m going to start off with my favourite of the show; Total Mayhem Games’ We Were Here Forever. I’m a big fan of the previous three entries in the series, with their unique blend of asymmetrical co-op puzzles really requiring team work and communication like almost no other game. They can get tricky at times and it’s tempting to cheat, but if you can resist the urge to hop on a video call or send screenshots then the reward for successfully solving a puzzle is like no other.

Our time-limited demo saw the two of us on opposite sides of a booth using headsets to communicate. We were placed within a couple of hexagonal rooms, each with various symbols on pillars that only the other player could see. Using voice communication only, we had to line up the images to allow one or another to walk through the associated doors and enter a new hexagonal room, at which time we began the process of solving that rooms puzzle. It was – as ever – both exhilarating and frustrating as we talked over each other (thereby cancelling out any incoming chat from the other player) or waited for the other player to figure things out on their end before we could proceed. Each successful move added more and more rooms until, on my second play with Ian, we managed to get out of the original area and into an even more confusing set-up.

Twenty minutes was all we got, but it was enough to absolutely get me excited for more later this year when it comes to Xbox. With a purported runtime of 12 hours, this will be a true test of friendship, skill, and teamwork – but I can’t wait!

Silt – Spiral Circus

There’s no way to avoid the obvious comparison – Limbo. The dark, monochromatic visuals, the fairly gruesome deaths, the brooding atmosphere; it’s all here and correct. Except this time, we’re playing as a diver, seemingly trapped in a hellish underwater scenario that was almost enough to make me skip it thanks to my…aversion…to water.

I’m glad I didn’t though, as it ended up being one of my favourite games of the show. The main hook here is that we can possess the aquatic wildlife around us to solve puzzles. In this short demo I took control of a piranha, hammerhead shark, and…well, I’ll save that last one for you to discover. Using the piranha, we’re able to bite through cables that are in the way, while the hammerhead lets us smash rocks or pillars down. It’s entirely possible to ‘mis-aim’ and kill our diver, and I can only imgine later in the full game this aspect will be put to the test.

I came away very intrigued indeed after this short demo. It appears that Spiral Circus have something quite special on their hands and if they can keep up the atmosphere and clever puzzle mechanics for the full release this could end up standing alongside its inspiration quite nicely.

Trek to Yomi – Flying Wild Hog

Revealed as part of a recent Playstation State of Play, Trek To Yomi instantly catches the eye with its stunning Kurosawa-inspired black and white presentation of its Samurai adventure. I’m happy to report that the gameplay does a great job of keeping our attention once we get used to the presentation.

Played in a side on 2D manner with brief bouts of more 3D open areas to explore, in this demo we got the check out the simple but effective combat as well as the clever way Flying Wild Hog hide secrets and power-ups in plain sight.

Combat is a slow, tense affair. Each enemy type has a certain attack pattern that we need to learn so as to be able to parry and counter attack effectively. In this demo there were about four types, each offering up just enough difference to make it a challenge to come out of a battle totally unscathed. We can block attacks at the cost of being stunned, but parrying is the way forward. Time it just right and we can counter attack quickly; one or two hits are enough to take out all but the biggest of enemies – and us. Go into battle sloppily and we end up on the wrong end of a sword very quickly indeed. Despite not being so great at it on my first try, I really ended up liking this more methodical pace to combat. Encounters might feature several enemies but we only have to worry about one attacking at a time, a new one entering the fray as we dispatch each fighter.

Outside of combat we’re free to roam around small areas seeing what we can find. One early example was in the first village; here, we could quite happily run along to the next area, but stopping to search each of the houses along the way yielded extra combat scenarios as well as health and stamina upgrades and even new moves. One – the double backslash attack – felt too overpowered in the demo (it was almost an instant win button) but on the whole these added to our arsenal quite nicely, rewarding those who take time to search.

Although brief, this demo has only increased my anticipation for Trek to Yomi, which just so happens to release on Game Pass in about a months time!

Souls-likes ahoy – multiple

I’m not a Souls fan at all, although I can see why they have such appeal. For me, the grim dark and obtuse nature of the games doesn’t equate to fun times. I do enjoy a good challenge though, and luckily there were a few titles at WASD that took that aspect of the Souls games and imbued them with stylistic choices more up my street.

We had The Last Oricru from Koch Media. Trading out the medieval settings for a more Knights of the Round Table approach, The Last Oricru was a pretty enjoyable, albeit very tough, title. Combat is slow and heavy, and even the basic grunts could really do some damage, but for me it was easier to read and react here than in FROMsoft’s output. We played in co-op and found it to be a good laugh, with a lot to see and do even in this short demo. Out later this year, we will be keeping an eye on this one for sure.

Next up was Thymesia from Team17. Far more in line with the Souls aesthetic, this title has heavy plague doctor and medieval fantasy vibes. Once again, combat is a bitch to play with enemies able to really put up a fight at every turn. Whittling down their life bar turns a portion of the damage green. Go for a few seconds without attacking and they regain the green portion of the health bar. To stop this, we need to use a secondary attack to knock this part of the life bar down. All while dodging and weaving trying not to get hit. I didn’t get very far here, but despite that I came away interested to see more at a later date.

The final one was The Last Hero of Nostalgia from Curve Digital. This one was my favourite by far; its mix of hard combat, a unique art style meshing 1-bit graphics with fancy modern visuals, and some Stanley Parable-esque commentary made it one of the stand out games of the show. Again, the demo was short, but I went through it several times and found it just as engaging each time. It’s hard to really grasp the story at events like these but there were several moments that gave me a good chuckle,  and of the three mentioned here is the only one I will 100% commit to checking out when it releases ‘sometime in 2022’.

There were a tonne more games that we got to play over the two days we attended that I don’t have time to mention fully here; John Wick Hex from Bithell Games surprised me with how clever and fun it was; WW1 Izonzo looks to expand on the excellent WW1 Tannenberg to bring large scale warfare to the mountains of Italy; WWE 2K22 was reviewed highly by our man Varno and we can see why now. We had a great time playing it here; Bullion: Curse of the Cut-Throat Cattle shows potential as a fun little party game; Cursed to Golf mixes golf mechanics and puzzle-based levels with humour to make an interesting combination.

Looking at the list of titles that were at WASD there were plenty more we would have liked to check out! Though I must make one more honourable mention:

Golf Gang is sadly destined for a PC-only release (for now), but it was an absolute blast to play. Think mini-golf but with all players playing simultaneously and the ability to knock each other off the level as well as add in modifiers such as low gravity or explosive collisions… Lazy Monday Games had one of the most popular booths there thanks to hosting regular 8-player tournaments that saw all sorts of hilarity ensue. As with the best party games, at times it was unfair, while at others luck would be on our side and allow us to skip ahead to victory. But it was never anything less than great fun to play. As I say, sadly not Xbox related but if you fancy checking it out for yourself there will be an open beta on Steam soon. If you’ve a passable PC then you should absolutely check it out with a few friends.

All in all, WASD was a welcome return to in-person gaming events. After being let down by EGX last year, and the news there would be no EGX Rezzed this year, I’m very happy to have been able to attend the inaugural WASD. It was packed with fun games, very friendly people, and the use of the Tobacco Docks is always a win in my books. My only real nit-pick is that there was a far slimmer line-up here than at previous Rezzed events, in particular relating to the more odd-ball experiences and 4-player battle games. While there was the Curios section, there was nothing along the lines of the home-made Pub Games machine, the game that used a coloured strip of LED’s to provide a taxing platformer, or the ever-popular Gang Beasts for us to check out. I do hope the event returns next year and, having been proven a success this year, is able to attract even more weird and wonderful games for players to check out.

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Written by
I've been gaming since Spy vs Spy on the Master System, growing up as a Sega kid before realising the joy of multi-platform gaming. These days I can mostly be found on smaller indie titles, the occasional big RPG and doing poorly at Rainbow Six: Siege. Gamertag: Enaksan

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for this article, Jamie. A few new RPGs coming out that I hadn’t heard about and I’m now looking forward to them with great anticipation. Trek to Yomi looks to be a lot of fun as well.

    Reply

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