Midday last Friday, I made my way over to the Hotel California (update: there is an actual checkout time, and you can leave as you like) to check out Gamecock's mini-conference, EIEIO, which ran consecutively with E3.
Gamecock's quickly building a reputation as the most lighthearted publishing house in existence, and EIEIO was their brand come alive. Everyone from the Gamecock publishing house was wandering around the premises wearing rooster outfits, inviting people to various bungalows, in which individual companies under the banner were showing off their games. The whole experience felt more like a barbecue at a buddy's house than a stuffy, over important convention, and on the third of five very long days, it was a welcome atmosphere.
While I was there, I managed to check out three different games: Hail to the Chimp, Dementium and Legendary: The Box.
Hail to the Chimp
Of all the games I was hoping to see at E3, Hail to the Chimp was near the top of the list. Developed by Wideload, the guys behind Stubbs the Zombie, Hail to the Chimp is as far away as it can be from their first game, except in critical tone.
The game's premise is as delightfully surreal as Stubbs'. The lion, King of the animals, has died, and several candidates are running for the office, including a monkey, octopus and hippo. Players take on the role of one of these animals and progress through a series of party-style mini-games, many of which center around collecting "clams," the voting constituency; winners of the games amass votes, and whoever ends up with the most votes wins the overarching campaign.
Narrating the action is a sentient chipmunk, who resembles Tom Brokaw and chatters off fake, animal news-related headlines and provides commentary on the games as they happen. Lead Writer Matt Soell's fingerprints are all over the chipmunk, and it's marvelous. He functions as the game's title and menu screen, chattering away into his headset while a news ticker below parodies CNN's Headline News: "Moose says hikers were 'asking for it'"; "Santo [the armadillo candidate] declares war on roadkill." The team also plans on releasing updates to the chipmunk as time goes on, via Xbox Live and the PS3 network.
Chris Cobb, Wideload's Lead Environment Artist, told me the team was shooting to be "the Smash Bros. of the next-gen consoles" (it's debuting on the PS3 and 360), and the similarities between the two franchises are pretty evident. The combat is arcade-y, the strategy is more dependent on the player than the game and it's a hell of a lot of fun with four people in the room.
When I walked into developer Renegade Kid's bungalow, Owner and Creative Director Jools Watsham asked me to sit down and immediately put me in front of a Nintendo DS. "We have a spiel," he said, "but the game does all the talking for us." And he wasn't joking.
Dementium is the last game I'd expect to see on a DS. You play a patient waking up in a mental institution, its walls covered in blood - no real intro to speak of, just a blank slate to investigate. I stumbled out of my cell into a dimly-lit hallway, following a trail of blood, and before long I ran into my first zombie. He was gargantuan and pulling a screaming doctor behind him, and then I realized the blood trail was hers.