Today is the last day players and gaming fans have to head on down to Digital Innovation Zone (DIZ) and check out A MAZE. The games on display at this year’s gathering down in Braamfontein aren’t exactly what you’d call ‘saleable’, but chances are, players have never experienced anything like them.
While it’s hard to pick a favourite, there are a couple we felt were worth mentioning for their sheer uniqueness.
Desperation stands as something of an oddity in the adventure game genre as while it contains staples you’d expect to find in shooters – a post apocalyptic setting, desperate survivors and, yes, guns – the object of the game is to talk your way out of a fight. The player leads a trio of survivors as they head into an altercation with three ne’er-do-wells intent on killing them and stealing their supplies. Inevitably the guns come out and players then have to use three speech tactics – friendly, firm or outright aggressive – to try and talk their way out of a gunfight. It might not appeal to the hardcore shooter crowd, but when was the last time a game involving fire arms and a post apocalyptic wasteland argued the case for pacifism and diplomacy?
This top down combative smash-up is gleefully fun to play. In it, players take control of one of two cars and then they tool about a dusty landscape looking for crates containing weapons. Once armed, the objective is the reduce their opponent to a smouldering wreck. Every fight feels like it’s balanced on a knife-edge; as players drift, turbo boost and fire machine guns, rockets and heavy ammunition at each other, the tension ratchets up to almost nail-shredding levels. When a match concludes you can hear sighs of heaven sent release through the loft at DIZ.
If Phase Edge was longer – if it had a huge selection of levels rather than the small number available to play at A MAZE – it could easily be a contender for your cash on Steam. It’s that good. Players take control of a ship and navigate their way through a stark, creepy environment filled with demons that hurl waves of missiles at them. The ship can switch between variants – offering heavy ammo, heat-seeking ammo, and ammo that bounces off nearby surfaces – and there are power-ups and weapon augments a-plenty, but the overall ferocity of the game’s antagonists evens the game out. Phase Edge is rock hard and if you’re a fan of side-scrolling shooters, this is one of the most challenging rides at A MAZE. The fact that it looks rather swoon-worthy almost feels like icing.
Raptor Polo comes on like the illegitimate offspring of Golden Axe and Ice Hockey. In it, four players charge onto a playing filed and then take control of one of three raptors. Once they have a mount, they can use an axe to unseat other raptor-mounted opponents and batter any poor sod still on foot. Players score points by squelching their opponents or punting them through the goal mouth of one of two goals on the field. The chaotic physics and zippy speed at which players move make Raptor Polo more challenging than it looks at first glance, but it really is excellent, anarchic fun.
Presented as a beautiful, retro-style tabletop game, boxer plonks players in the shorts of a couple of virtual fighters and allows them to hammer seven colours of excrement out of each other. Players control their fighter using the twin thumbsticks of a couple of PlayStation controllers and the aim of the game is to batter their opponent’s defences out of the way, and ultimately floor them with repeated attacks. We suggest you take someone down to A MAZE you’re having a bit of a tiff with and then settle your scores virtually. Trust us, beating up our Editor In Chief on Boxer was one of this week’s highlights.