Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Nothing to see here!

Editing and uploading stuff on here is a pain, so come see my new beautiful blog here:

Monday, 24 February 2014

Weird Soundalikes in Dragon Age Origins

Last week I started my third replay of Dragon Age: Origins. I started my second too soon after my first and didn't make it through, but this time I've not only forgotten a lot of major plot points, I've also messed up in the exact same ways as last time. History repeating. With the exception of Sten, as I rescued him promptly this time, rather than (unintentionally) leaving him to rot in Lothering. But while I'd forgotten about Alistair being related to the Arl of Redcliffe, and panicked because I thought I'd messed up and left the dog behind, there were some things I remembered and that was the soundalikes. It's quite unsettling, particularly in a fantasy game, to come up against people who sound like other people. I'll try and explain why:

1) King Cailan (Simon Bird)

One of your first major missions (outside of the ones dictated by your chosen species and background) involves heading to Ostergar to become a Grey Warden, one of the brave soldiers tasked with defeating the Dark Spawn threat. It's here you're introduced to King Cailan, leader of Ferelden, the people's great hope for salvation. Only he sounds like Simon Bird. You know, Briefcase out of the Inbetweeners. It's very difficult to accept him as a noble but reckless leader hankering for the glory of battle when you keep expecting him to beg Jay to stop saying clunge.

2) Niall (David Bowie, sort of)

I really hate any kind of dream sequence in anything. I know that artistically-speaking the Scarecrow sequence in Batman was a stunning piece of design, but it just pissed me off. If I wanted to play Scarecrow's Weird Power Fantasies then I would, but I don't want to play that, I want to play Arkham Asylum and enjoy punching thugs as Batman. Same goes for DA:O and the mother-fucking Fade. I have no interest in walking around really slowly as a ghost mouse. While I'm sure Ghost Mouse could be totally awesome, I don't want to be forced into playing it when I'm in the middle of fighting abominations in the Circle Tower. But what the Fade has in it's favour is Niall, an unfortunate Blood Mage who has the voice of not only David Bowie, but Jemaine Clement being Bowie in Flight of the Conchords. You have to hear it to truly appreciate its wonder.

3) Bodahn Feddic (Eric Idle)

Bodahn is a particularly weird one, because he's actually voiced by Murdoch from A-Team, Dwight Schultz, which would probably be more disconcerting than who he actually sounds like, which is Eric Idle. Boring as Bodahn is, I like listening to him talk because it takes me back to the Discworld video games (Idle voiced Rincewind) and a time when story-based point and click adventures were games, no arguments and you didn't get hordes of miserable internet commenters denying their validity as part of the medium because they don't contain gunbros.

4) Zevran (Mandy Patinkin/Antonio Banderas)


I saved Zevran till last because, due to the countless hours of recording his poor voice actor had to endure, his voice fluctuates between two (admittedly fairly similar) famous voices. When you first encounter Zevran and he's intent on doing you in, he has an air of Íñigo Montoya about him. Later, once he's joined your cause and softened to the idea of being your manslave (He's my manslave. if he's not yours, you're just failing to capitalise on what's there.) his voice takes on a more sultry, Banderas edge. Either way, whenever I play as Zevran, I imagine him saying "My name is Zevran Arainai, you killed my girlfriend, prepare to die." as he kills his foes.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Aww Shucks Volition, You Shouldn't Have! (Or: How I know Saints Row 4 was made especially for me)

Never get tired of looking at that
There are a few times in my life when I've watched a film or TV show or read a book that felt like it was made especially for me. Labyrinth is a key example of this: A film that contains David Bowie, a female protagonist, and the "if you ever need us, we're always here" ending I wanted in all fantasy films but had never been given up until that point. Spaced is a TV show that may as well have been a documentary of my early twenties, only with more laughs and less nights drinking triple vodkas in unsavoury bars. Bookwise, things like Invisible Monsters and The Knife of Never Letting Go, not so much because of their content (although crazed road trips and talking animals will always pique my interest) but because of the style in which they were written. It felt like Patrick Ness and Chuck Palahniuk were saying to me; "It doesn't have to all be beginning, middle, end, 3rd person narration. You can do some crazy shit if you want to and IT CAN WORK."

And even though I've probably now immersed myself in an almost comparable number of games to films, I had still yet to find that feeling with a game. True there were things that were generally aimed at the type of gamer I am - Mass Effect and Dragon Age appealing to the narrative-loving side of me, LBP and AC covering the unbridled, mindless fun. But so far there was nothing that felt like it was made for me. With the exception of Dragon Age 2, the female characters in all these games somewhat feel like an afterthought, even when they're the player character. Lady Shepherd is dubbed 'FemShep' for goodness sake, indicating that she's really a supporting character, while the male Shephard is the 'true' Shep.

Often in a game where the player character's gender is initially undetermined, it's obvious that there's an expectation you'll play as male. If the character's face is hidden, they'll probably look pretty masculine in their body shape and mannerisms. If other characters react to them, it's likely to be in ways that subtly indicate maleness. But the opening tutorial of SR4 does a great job of keeping the player character's gender totally ambiguous. By the time it came to customise my character, I didn't feel as I often do that I was gender swapping them (Skate 2 even specifically references this if you opt to play as female), I just felt I was giving form to the character I'd already been playing.

Homage within Homage ad infinitum
One of the key aspects of Spaced that succeeds in drawing in its audience is the use of pop culture references. The assumption of a shared background and interest base that its viewers will all appreciate. And this is where Saints Row 4 truly comes into its own. It at once celebrates and gently mocks an enormous number of games, movies, songs and books all of which are dear to my heart in one way or another. This has all basically been a massive preamble to get to those, so, in the style of Spaced's Homage-O-Meter, I'll attempt to cover as many as possible:

1) Mass Effect

"Wanna f- Oh, you do."
SR4 borrows a lot from Mass Effect, largely the mechanics surrounding building your team and performing loyalty missions with and for them in order to unlock their full potential. However, it also points out some of the more ridiculous aspects. Here, attempting to 'romance' your shipmates results in your character cheerfully asking some variation of "Wanna fuck?" and then getting down to business, because isn't that REALLY the end goal of Mass Effect relationships?! In an even more obvious dig at the space epic, you're presented with an option midway through the game where you're told sacrificing yourself will save mankind. Go through with it, however, and the game points out you're a fucking idiot for believing that shit.

2) Infamous (and to a lesser extent The Force Unleashed)

You have lightning hands, Cole, crack a smile
One of the things that irritated me most about Infamous (stupid shitty ending aside) was how absolutely po faced Cole is throughout the acquisition of his powers. True you can play AS IF he takes great glee in blowing shit up and zooming around, but there's nothing in his voice acting to suggest that's the case. SR4's President expresses such obvious joy in experimenting with her powers, and her eagerness to try out new ones matches your own.

3) Metal Gear Solid


I've never played a MGS game, because stealth irritates the shit out of me, and Pres's annoyance at having to shoot out light bulbs, crawl through vents and wear cardboard boxes again mapped so well onto my own experiences, I had a huge smile on my face throughout the entire mission

4) The Matrix

You escape the simulation in a Matrix-esque spaceship to the tune of What Is Love by Haddaway. I don't feel the need to explain why this is awesome.

5) Futurama
I've always maintained that beards are evil
As I said, I've never played MGS, so this may be a reference to that, but I like to think it's about the Futurama episode where all the evil alternate characters have beards. Because you run into an evil alternate you who has... yes, a beard. (Another point where they could have made this something different for a female player, but they didn't and the game was stronger and funnier for it)

6) Streets of Rage

The tinny sound, ridiculous dialogue and difficulty of not falling down random holes in the street is perfectly captured in the rescue mission to obtain Jonny Gat.

7) They Live


Holy crap, this was so cool, I almost cried. They Live is one of my all time favourite films. There are lots of small references to the film throughout the game, such as the posters telling you to give up and the fact that Keith David is your vice president. But when Keith loses the plot and Roddy fucking Piper turns up to recreate their epic fight before heading into a TV station and helping you take out the transmission? Genius. Sheer genius.

8) Iron Man

Late but perfectly placed in the game you get to go all Tony Stark with a pumping eighties metal track backing you up.

9) Ghostbusters
It's Paul! Hiiiiiiiii Paul!!!
You have to command a huge statue to fight a gigantic drinks can called Paul. If I have to tell you why that's all kinds of amazing, we can't be friends any more.

10) Mortal Kombat

Well, yes. He would.
I'm not a massive fan of fighting games in general, or Mortal Kombat in particular, but Sub Zero's finishing move was a formative part of my adolescence for reasons I don't fully understand. So ending the big fight by tearing Zinyak's spine through his asshole seemed like a fitting conclusion.

11) Opposites Attract 
That cat was hot. Not Brave Starr horse hot, but still hot.

This was the first single I ever bought. The idea of a cartoon cat singing with Paula Abdul just completely blew my tiny mind. So when the sing-a-long with Pierce happened I was singing along IRL AND in the game. I don't think I've ever had such a completely immersive, enjoyable experience in a game.

12) Every 'feelgood' 80s film
Boy can move.
Post completion, Zinyak returns (with head and spine in tact) to have a dance off with all the game's major characters. And he does the caterpillar. Bravo, Volition, bravo.

During the credits, there are shades of Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure and Assassin's Creed. I really hope this gives some small indication as to where the series is going...

Picture Credits

Sunday, 29 December 2013

XCOM: Enemy Within (or All Your Favourite XCOM Action with Added Gut-Churning Horror!)

Wow, I think I tired myself out with all the Game City reporting. Had to take a month off blogging. Anyway, as expected I've played a lot of games over the last couple of months, but the one I've deigned to tell you about is XCOM: Enemy Within. When this was first released, I was enraged at the prospect of having to rebuy a whole game in order to obtain what was essentially gratuitous amounts of DLC. But being the ginormous XCOM nut I am, I moaned for about two days and then bought it anyway. And within moments of playing, the only thing I could find to complain about was how goddamn orange all the UI was. And as someone who loves a good moan, that says quite a lot. So, I give you:

5 Way Gross but Way Awesome New Additions in XCOM: Enemy Within


1. Chryssalids in Sharks

Something's fishy...
I bloody hate sharks. They're like the Michael Myers of the sea, pursuing their prey at a leisurely pace, confident in their own ability as homicidal bad asses. I also hate chryssalids, zombies and gaming against the clock, so it's like XCOM's designers assembled all my fears into one perfectly constructed nightmare fodder Recon Mission.
This level really is a triumph of minimalist horror storytelling, giving you just enough to make you shit yourself. And just when you think you've endured all the spewing zombies, and racing to beat an impending air strike you can take, a chryssalid bursts out of a shark THAT WAS DISGUISED AS SCENERY. Thanks for that designers. Thanks a lot.

2. Seekers

Sentinel or Seeker?
Okay, so they're easy to kill and quite blatantly ripped off the sentinel squid things in the Matrix, but that first encounter with these new aliens is sure to send a shiver down your spine. Cloaking and biding their time until you've forgotten they're out there, these tentacled beasties will then pop up and try to make your Rookies' eyes bulge. And not in a good way.

3. Exalt

Whaddya got under there, mister?
Now, I'm aware that a lot of the 'horror' I've described above is actually the product of my own fevered imagination rather than any genuine in-game scares. I accept that. And I also accept that what I'm about to say about creepy alien worshippers Exalt doesn't really help my case, but here goes. Exalt are inherently creepy because they're fanatics who shiv themselves in the neck rather than be taken alive, and pump themselves so full of alien parts they no longer know what size shirt they need, but that's not why they freak me out. They freak me out because of the imagined awfulness lurking beneath the perpetual bandana. These guys are identical, so they can't be wearing the bandanas for anonymity's sake. So what's so terrible about their mouths? (I might've thought about this too much.)

4. Augments

"I had regular feet before I joined the XCOM program."
So, on the one hand XCOM:EW asks you to look at the horror wrought by fiddling about with alien DNA via the cookie cutter Aryan extremists of Exalt, but on the other hand, encourages you to give it a go on your own soldiers to gain a military advantage. Your soldiers' eyes, skin, brains, bones and innards are now just extra ways to upgrade. Give them an extra heart, chameleon skin, and super springy leg muscles, but don't think about what happens when the war is over and your uniformed abomination has to go home to its family.

5. Cybernetics

"I'll never wear peeptoe sandals again..."
Perhaps the most horrifying addition is the Cybernetics Lab. When I saw previews of the Mechs, I thought "Cool, my soldiers get to be like Sigourney Weaver, fighting aliens in a mechanised suit." When the reality is: "Oh no, as a reward for her exemplary service I've amputated all my soldier's limbs and condemned her to never again knowing the touch of another human being." I feel better about Patrick Sutherland the Chameleon Kangaroo Freak going home to his kids now. At least he won't accidentally shoot their legs off with his mini-gun arm while telling them in a monotone they are down to 50% functionality.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013


I know, I know, Game City is now a distant memory, but I'm going to record every little ounce of gamey goodness, godammit! So, onward!

Cara & Keith's Power Lunch


I'd never attended a Power Lunch before and was a little apprehensive. The only Power Lunch I could envision was important men in starched shirts shouting at each other over a boardroom table. I arrived to find no such horrors. Cara "Flowers to Womans" Ellison (see above) and Keith "Keef" Stuart were actually presenting a friendly, chat-show style live stream and we were the studio audience!

First guests were Ed Stern (who's now kindly provided a link list for all the stuff he talked about here and in the workshop) and Tali Goldstein from indie developer Minority. However, as I attended another talk by Tali which I'll mention at length later, for now I'll skip to the remaining guests: pixel artist Paul Veer and RGCD's James Monkman. As the pair discussed the fact that retro is finally a valid stylistic choice rather than just an era of gaming, I drifted off a little thinking about the uniqueness of Game City and the strangeness it brings to my home city. Paul and James are both respected in their fields and yet spent their Game City week demonstrating their skills to members of the public who had no idea who they were. Paul spent the week in Market Square drawing pixel puppies for every child that asked. James spent his Game City in the Open Arcade, demoing games to kids more used to hyper realistic immersive worlds than simple 8-bit levels. And yet, neither they, nor many of the other talented individuals giving their time and effort to Game City ever seemed like they felt it was beneath them, or that they'd rather be speaking to fellow developers than kids who called them 'Mister Arcade Man.' I think that's pretty great and I hope it's an attitude Game City always retains.

Stupid and Contagious: Games at the Turn of an Age

I attended a lot of Leigh Alexander's stuff, partly because she's great and her work interests me, and partly because I feel a duty to attend anything by a female speaker as they are still, unfortunately, something of a rarity in the industry. As Leigh discussed the film, music and culture surrounding early games development and the way that culture had affected games then and now, I was struck by the similarities of our childhoods, despite growing up on different continents. Leigh's exactly one week older than me, so maybe that closeness in age (plus a shared love of Nirvana and the Dark Crystal) is part of the reason I found her talk so intriguing. However, I was delighted to see the young man alongside me feverishly noting down the Riot Grrl bands Leigh mentioned. Obviously it struck a chord with him too.

Silent Enemy: Global Reveal

Speaking of striking a chord brings me nicely to Tali's second talk. I knew a little of Papo and Yo prior to attending. It's on my 'To Play' list, as when it was released, it was lauded as a triumph of storytelling, challenging the player to think about alcoholism and its effects on those touched by it. Watching the trailer in which a young boy escapes the reality of his world to move buildings and soar with a robot in the favelas of Brazil renewed my desire to play.

But seeing Minority's next game, hearing Tali speak about it, and seeing the audience's reaction to it did more than that. I didn't just want to play the game, I wanted to support Minority in their endeavours, because what they're doing is wonderful and important. Silent Enemy is, on face value, a simple puzzle game in which an Inuit boy must utilise his animal friends to cross the bleak and snowy landscape. But when the crows arrive and attack the boy, it's clear there's more to it than that. They beat him, take his stuff, taunt him and his friends, a rabbit and a bear, are powerless to stop them. The player can effectively choose how badly the crows treat him, but they cannot prevent the incident altogether.

After the brief video playthrough, I realised I was close to tears and not entirely sure why. I glanced around and saw several others sniffing, or dabbing their eyes. Tali went on to explain that the vast majority of the Minority team had suffered bullying and they wanted to make a game about that experience. How it felt and how they overcame it.

See the resemblance? Shut up.
About the only positive thing I can say about my bully is that he was creative. He called me Tosh
Lines (the implication being that he thought I had a bushy moustache. If he thought it was bad then, he should see it now. It's verging on lustrous.) and mocked me for the colour of my socks, the style of my shirt and the brand of crisps I ate. Utterly ridiculous trivial shit looking back, but at the time it mattered. It mattered so much I hated myself, hated every day I had to spend anywhere near him (But still stubbornly refused to change my socks, shirt or moustache. Because I may have been a kid, but I was still ME.)

Silent Enemy made me sad because it reminded me what it is to be helpless in the face of someone else's cruelty. But from hearing Tali speak, it seems Silent Enemy also seeks to remind players that the bullying is not all there is. There's friendship and loyalty and learning to be strong. How many other games can say they teach kids that?

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

GAMECITY SPECIAL 2: A Leigh Alexander Sandwich

A full and exhausting day yesterday. Here's what went down:

Broadway Breakfast

I realised while eating my fry-up that the grilled tomato was the first piece of fruit/veg I'd had in about four days. This made me depressed, but I wasn't able to stay down for long, as the effervescent Leigh Alexander arrived and showed us the video that had introduced her to the Ways of the English:
Leigh went on to take us on a nostalgia tour of games that had shaped her as a gamer, writer and person over the years. Beginning with Nei's permadeath in Phantasy Star 2, long before Aeris popped her clogs; moving via Greendog the Beached Surfer Dude's bizarre and uninspiring story; taking in the strange tile-stacking God-sim Klax (a personal favourite that I had never seen in that way before, but it's a surprisingly sensible description!) and ending on weird caveman platformer Legendary Axe. I could listen to anyone talk about games they love, and Leigh was particularly entertaining company.

Games Writing Workshop

I remember getting very excited by Brink's beautiful art and immersive world, and then dismissing it when I found it was a FPS. I don't mind watching other people play FPS's, but they aren't for me. I know my reasoning is a little weird, but rather than finding myself immersed in the game story, I find not having a visible character to roleplay makes it difficult for me to relate to the world and NPCs. I know it's strange, but I tried the recent Deus Ex and found that I just didn't care about any of the characters and I don't think it was the writing's fault - I think if I'd been able to 'be' Adam throughout, I would have felt far more engaged. Anyway, the point I'm clumsily attempting to make, is that unlike, say, GTAV, my reason for ultimately not buying Brink had nothing to do with the story.
Therefore, I was extremely excited to see the late edition of a writing workshop with Splash Damage's Ed Stern on Game City's schedule. If there's one thing I love even more than talking about games or talking about writing, it's talking about games writing.

I won't paraphrase his entire talk, but Ed was stunningly knowledgeable about a huge range of books, films and plays which he referenced in interesting, unique ways. Of the many things I learned from him, his catchphrases "The Fleets Meet" and "Exploit the Clunk" were probably the most memorable. With "The Fleets Meet" Ed pointed out that while in movies seeing this on a script would be a production team's worst nightmare, in games, it's not really a big deal. Crowd physics, particularly of things like spaceships or vehicles, aren't particularly complex, and generating tons of the things isn't either. Therefore, in games it's important to be aware of what the equivalent is. In this case, something that would be incredibly easy in film - a close up of an actor's face portraying an emotion. Because unless you're at a massive studio like Naughty Dog or Quantic Dream, it's unlikely you'll have the technology to do this effectively, and even if you ARE at one of those studios, they're going to try and cut as many of those moments as possible to try and keep costs down.

"Exploit the Clunk" almost builds on this point. It hinges on knowing what the weakest point of your game is, and making that endearing, relevant, or necessary through the story. For example, if you know animations are going to be a problem, ensure your protagonists are robots, so their jerky movements add to the characterisation rather than detracting from it. If you have a limited colour pallet, make it a relevant aspect of the game world, and not just because your artist's off on one.

I learned lots of other things that I'll be using in future projects, but I'm not telling you, because I don't want you to be better than me. So there.

Blue Monday

In the evening it was over to tiny but lovely bar, Suede, for sexy talk with real-life couple Leigh Alexander and Quintin Smith. As I've mentioned before, games have a hard time representing sexy times and that was the basis for this talk. Examining various games and platforms, from mermaid sex oddities to seedy sex-based virtual worlds, to modern attempts at injecting sensuality and responsibility into love and relationships, the pair examined why games get it so wrong and how they can begin to get it right. The ultimate consensus was that games are trying to run before they can walk, and attempting to convey complex relationships when even the basics of friendships are only nominally touched on in the vast majority of games. Until we've had more Animal Crossings, we can't have more... well, it was agreed there pretty much aren't any games with good sex scenes, so maybe that should be we can't have our FIRST sexy game.

*mumble* *mumble* Something about calibrations and flexibility *mumble* *mumble* *drool*

I've come over all unnecessary. I'm going for a lie down.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

GAMECITY SPECIAL 1: Turtle, Turtle, Turtle... PIG!

As Nottingham's wonderfully huge and varied video game festival is back for another year of fun and frolics, I thought I'd veer off message for a few posts and instead recount the fun to be had at GameCity.

Throughout it's 8 year history, I've had only minimal involvement with GameCity, mainly taking advantage of talks and social events held at Antenna, my personal highlight being Rebecca Mayes' talk and performance.
But now, through the power of freelance, I'm able to organise my schedule in such a way as to soak in all the gaming goodness I can take. This began on Friday night visiting the opening event with a bunch of my former colleagues.

Pixel Pyros


Pixel Pyros, a Brighton-based company, brought their huge, interactive digital firework display to a massive screen mounted in front of the Council House. As a hater of fireworks (there was a terrible mishap with a Roman Candle and a canoe that I'd rather not talk about) the idea of pretty coloured lights that couldn't fall off their makeshift launching platform and shoot flaming missiles of death directly into your non-fireproof body sounded really great.

And it was, although the laser element should probably have come with an epilepsy warning. Even more fun than the fireworks themselves was watching the members of the crowd playing at launching them. Feverishly waving their arms in front of the glowing trigger orbs, some turning it into a dance, some not even looking at the effect they were having, just hammering away like cavemen bashing on rocks, lost in primal noise-making. Just as our most curmudgeonly colleague was complaining that it was boring and the graphics weren't even very good despite just being coloured dots, Pixel Pyros switched it up by throwing in a massive game of space invaders. At this point, ol' moany piped up; "Ooh, shall we play?" and skipped off to join a sizeable queue of prospective button pushers.

I stayed where I was, preferring to watch and hurl abuse at those not pulling their weight than actually partaking myself. After my colleagues had laid waste to the alien onslaught, the game changed again to a frenetic multiplayer version of Asteroids. After a tense moment where a tiny asteroid circled the screen for what felt like a full minute with no-one able to shoot it, the level was cleared, and the game cycled back to fireworks to give those still waiting in line their chance to flap around dementedly. We took this as our cue to head off for alcoholic beverages.


Day Two of Game City, I didn't have a whole lot of time, as I was enroute to a birthday shindig in Sheffield, but I managed to squeeze in a nosey at the big dance-mat controlled game of Frogger happening in Market Square and a trip to the Open Arcade (which I'll get to, calm down). While watching a small girl send the suicidal amphibian leaping between articulated lorries, I was horrified to hear a man in his forties remark to his son; "Look, you gotta get the green fing frew the traffic or summat. Y'wanna go?" I fought down the urge to grab him by the lapels of his jacket and scream; "HOW CAN YOU NOT KNOW WHAT FROGGER IS?!" and instead proceeded to the arcade.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Filled with my natural enemy, the small child, Open Arcade was heaving with noise and movement. But for once, rather than being driven to an incandescent rage at all those sticky hands clinging to controllers, it made me smile to see a small boy tugging at his mother's arm as she was thoroughly engrossed in a game of Wonderboy, before heading off to play Micro Machines with a Game City rep while waiting for her to finish her run.

Apparently the enemies aren't bat-cockroach rats.They're these.
The only game that was unoccupied was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and I quickly found out why. I originally owned this game on the Atari ST, but this was the NES edition, and so I will blame my complete lack of ability on that. After getting Raphael squashed under a tank in a matter of seconds, I rapidly offed Donatello by taking too long to master the crouch/hit combo and being devoured by the bat/cockroach/rat things swooping about in the sewers. Michaelangelo fared a little better, but after approximately 500 attempts to clear a large gap requiring a double jump and successful attack, I was forced to throw down my controller in a temper quietly retire to the Coffee House.

Space Farmers

Today, nursing hangovers and with the Corporation's awesome setlist still pounding in our ears, my husband and I returned to the Arcade to experience it together. Today, all the consoles were in use, but the developer stalls were less saturated, so we sidled over to the wonderfully named Bumpkin Brothers to try out their co-op adventure puzzle game Space Farmers.

The cute boxy art style (the characters are literally, in the proper sense of the word, boxes) won me over straight away, and after an initial embarrassing inability to co-ordinate my brain and hands between mouse and keyboard, I soon got into the quirky game play. Naturally the first thing my beloved attempted to do was shoot me, then on finding he couldn't do that, harassed me in various other ways before eventually playing as intended so we could solve the puzzle ahead. This involved shooting aggressive robots and blocking laser beams with a cubic pig, which I was very reluctant to leave behind, despite the developers insisting I really didn't need to take him into the end of level teleporter with me. Any game involving farm animals, lasers and a character with a beard and a monocle gets a big tick from me.

It shames me to say that my 'exhaustion' then overtook me with such force, I was unable to catch the name of the next game we played and after one round of fast moving, Wipeout-like racing, we were both left feeling rather overheated and queasy and had to beat a hasty retreat from the poor dev. Hopefully he'll be there tomorrow so I can have another go when feeling less fragile.