The Enthusiast Gaming Live Expo is Canada’s largest video game event. Similar to PAX, EGLX celebrates video games of all kinds; featuring dozens of retro consoles, modern gaming systems, and VR booths. Unlike PAX, you won’t spend half the day waiting in lines to play them. There are more than enough PCs, consoles, and arcade cabinets filling the hangar-sized International Centre in Toronto, Ontario.
What most attracted me to the event was the dozens of mostly Canadian independent game developers showing off their hard work. Many of the Indie games are built by a mid-sized team of developers and artists, others are created by just a few friends who built a game while in college and decided to sell it on Steam. Some of the more innovative offerings were developed by active students showing off their term project.
Below you’ll find 11 games in no particular order that are worth playing. Some are multiplayer brawlers, some are co-op, some are single-player games that put a twist on classic genres. Since they’re Indie games they’re all under $20, and some are free. Having tried all of them, I can tell you they’re definitely worth checking out.
King of the Hat by Hyroglyphik Games
I was lucky enough to play an early version of this game at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival last year. The game mechanics and colorful graphics are simple enough that my then-4-year-old son was able to play.
A twist on the standard multiplayer brawler, the game is set in Hatlandia where everyone wears a hat. Hats can be thrown to knock of other hats, but if your hat gets stomped then you die. This one-hit-point system makes for lightning fast rounds. It also makes it easy to pretend-lose so your child can win a few matches. The updated version we played featured a wider variety of environments and more characters. My son still loves playing it and a week later still talks about “the hat game”.
Supporting up to four players, King of the Hat is launching a closed beta in June and planning full release in February 2019 on Steam. If you know someone who bought into the successful Kickstarter, then get them to invite you over and start crushing hats.
Riverbond by Cococucumber
This blockalicious RPG world features a highly destructible environment. Nearly everything can be destroyed. In fact, many missions involve smashing the enemy castle until nothing remains. Even your avatars are simple blocks, but different weapons give each player unique strengths and powers.
It’s a fun game for just one player but becomes beautiful chaos with up to four players in local co-op. Gamers can drop in and out at any time during play. The voxel view and simple character designs sometimes make it difficult to spot which is your avatar and move it where it needs to go, but with unlimited lives it’s an easy game to pick up just for the joy of hacking and slashing.
Riverbond is planned for release on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Steam in Summer 2018
Sky Rogue by Fractal Phase
At first glance, I thought this was just a cel-shaded Afterburner clone. However, there’s 360 degree gameplay, a large variety of enemies and missions, and an infinite number of procedurally generated islands. Sky Rogue nicely straddles the gap between complex flight simulators and high-speed, arcade-style gaming.
Head Rush by Jellyware Games
One of a number of student-made games. Head Rush is a claustrophobic flight simulator that challenges you to dodge obstacles in a literally cluttered mind to reach your target on the other end. Using speed boosts, shortcuts and collectibles you can improve your time the more you play.
The game will launch on Itch.io early April. Follow @JellywareGames on Twitter and download it when it’s ready.
Fossil Hunters by Reptoid Games
Recently launched on Steam, Fossil Hunters is a beautifully polished game with complete orchestral score. It feels like something you’d see from a mid-sized or major publisher. The cel-shaded design and easy learning curve will attract the budding archaeologist in your household.
The first few levels involve simply digging up fossils and piecing them together to collect coins and access deeper levels. The variety of creatures you assemble are only limited by the pieces on the level and your imagination. However, the deeper you go, the more perils and monsters there are. Local co-op mode for up to four players lets others help you assemble fossils before they get destroyed.
The Blobs Fight by SkyPyre Studios
With support for up to 8 players (isn’t USB wonderful?) the controls are simple enough that my five year old picked this as his favorite game of EGLX 2018. Each blob has the same basic design (sphere of goo with eyes), but the player can choose colors, hats, beards, and more to personalize their combatant.
You control a blob of goo that can jump, stomp, attack and defend. And that’s it. The variety comes through the perilous arena environments, match customizing, and character designs. Nearly all arenas have some dangerous element; trap doors, raging fires or hot lava add pitfalls to each match. I was doing well battling one of the developers until my blob fell into a fast running river and was washed off-screen.
Smashing other blobs knocks loose “bits” of blob, and collecting those bits can make you larger. There are different match types including a variation on King of the Hill.
Still in development, The Blobs Fight should launch on Steam in May 2018
Spectrum Break by Jason Hein
This 2D physics platformer is beautiful, highly addictive, and features a powerful electronic soundtrack.
You are a small stick figure on a surfboard, jumping from one 2D outlined shape to another and ‘activating’ them on contact. As they move around, they bump into other shapes and ‘activate’ those. Once all shapes have been touched, the level is complete. The first few levels are just difficult enough to provide a gentle learning curve. They are also are quick enough that “oh, just one more try” means you won’t put down the controller until you finish all 12 levels in the demo.
The soundtrack is hypnotic, bass-heavy, and matches the laser show visuals. I’m worried that I’ll be lost for days when all 55 levels of Spectrum Break launches on Steam at the end of March 2018.
Polyball by Studio Monolith
The idea is simple. Roll a ball through different 3D platform environments and reach the goal at the end. Your avatar is just a ball, but it’s highly customizable with different colors, shapes, and effects that can be unlocked as you play. Levels get tough very quickly, but the simple game mechanics and fast respawns make it highly addictive.
There’s a lot of gameplay here since there are 60 levels to get through. There’s also a fan community adding new content all the time (although there are only a couple dozen user-made levels currently available). The game features single-player, local and online multiplayer modes.
4 the Money by Lost Marble
Most 2D platformers go for the retro 16-bit look we get from the Super Nintendo (SNES) or Sega Genesis. 4 the Money sports a far more basic 8-bit style to suit the unique gameplay mechanics.
The four anti-heroes are toned red, yellow, blue, and grey to join forces and pull off a heist. Each has unique skills, but the colors also decide who can get past certain gates, activate buttons, or attack enemies. For example, the red and yellow players can damage orange robots (yellow + red = orange), but blue’s shots cause no effect. There are multiplayer and single-player levels, and a comprehensive difficulty screen so you can tweak the game to your skill level.
Lost Marble launched the game earlier this year on Kickstarter but failed to reach their goal. However, the team is still planning to continue development and recently updated their free demo on Steam with more single-player levels.
Arrow Heads by Oddbird
This brawler finally makes good use of both joysticks on your controller. One controls your avatar running around the arena while the other joystick aims placement of their arrow. This award-winning game supports 2-4 players locally or online in arena mode, and 1-4 players in a co-operative survival mode against waves of enemies. Environment maps feature their own perils, and in-game boosts help even weaker players
On Steam and Xbox One, Arrow Heads is coming to PS4 in Summer/Fall 2018. They’re also teamed up with arcade designers to build a massive 4-player system. The team is also working on Super Random Heroes, which was a winning title in the EGLX Indie Pitch competition (see below).
Floor Kids by MERJ Media
Originally a series of short films released online more than a decade ago, Floor Kids was reinvented as a rhythm game. Your avatar dances to exclusive music by Canadian DJ Kid Koala.
Floor Kids was featured at the Nintendo booth alongside triple-A titles. While the illustrations and animation are simple, it perfectly represents the creative culture of underground breakdancing. As you progress you unlock more characters and locations.
More exciting Indie games are on the horizon by Canadian developers. EGLX also held a Pitch Competition which gave away $95k in sponsorships.
The Big Con by MightyYell Studios: $50,000 – Their first game, featuring innovative dialogue mechanics.
Super Random Heroes by OddBird Studios: $30,000 – New game from the team that developed Arrow Heads
The Vale by FallingSquirrel Inc.: $10,000 – An interactive audio game for visually impaired and sighted gamers alike.
@maplethistles (formerly known as @stephh3_3) Games Marketing Agency: $5000 – Scalable marketing for game developers