Chatting with Headup Games at PAX East 2018

Truberbrook Alpha Screenshot

As I watched Gregor Ebert fiddle with the very loose left blue Joy-Con of his company’s Switch dev kit, I didn’t realize just how many games they brought with them to PAX East. Ebert, the PR manager for Headup Games, told me before the event that they had a lot. I didn’t know a lot meant 12 titles, 9 of which are for the Switch.

Of course, one of the main fixtures in their booth was the recently-delayed Runbow, already running on Switch with four controllers connected. At the corner, right beside the Runbow station, is a laptop running the recently-Kickstarted Trüberbrook. The other half of the area was dedicated to GameFairy, Headup’s physical game and merchandise store.

But we’re not really here to talk about how their booth was arranged. We’re here to talk about what we played.

Trüberbrook

Truberbrook Alpha Screenshot 2

Not even the constantly-flying camera crane from the neighboring booth took my attention away from this gem. Under development from German interdisciplinary studio btf, Trüberbrook is a point-and-click game that’s as laidback as the titular quaint town. It follows the story of American scientist Hans Tannhauser, who mysteriously won a trip to the Trüberbrook Inn before inadvertently saving the world.

One of their main selling points on Kickstarter is about their handmade models to create the environment, which are then implemented into the game via photogrammetry. The result is a beautifully-detailed background with gorgeous lighting to accompany the creation. It’s textured enough to be a digital eye candy yet it’s still realistic enough to take your breath away.

And even though character models and animation reminded me of Wes Anderson’s movies, it’s unfortunate that Hans only has one walking speed: slow. Perhaps the developers wanted players to slow down and admire the roses, but the slow walking speed is excruciating enough just when crossing one end of the screen to the other. And since Trüberbrook as a town doesn’t have much anyway, the speed, or lack thereof, is even more apparent.

Trüberbrook - Kickstarter Trailer

Choosing what to say when Hans interacts with other characters is also currently a tad awkward. The choices are presented in a nondescript circle, perhaps meant to be tapped using a mouse. But if you’re a controller user (as was the demo setup), there’s no indication that it uses the directional buttons and are not button-bound. Hopefully this gets addressed as development progresses and console versions are groomed.

Thankfully the voice acting is excellent, and it’s accompanied by such smooth animation you’d think you’re watching a movie. Another charming touch is the way Hans turns to the camera to tell you his inner thoughts and side remarks directly. Just one small action changes your role from a passive player pulling the strings to one who’s directly involved.

I may not have spent a long time with the Trüberbrook demo (it ends on its own anyway), but what I saw so far convinced me that the game is progressing nicely. It’s no wonder that its Kickstarter campaign was successful. I can’t wait to see more of it in the future.

Windscape

Windscape Steam Screenshot

Ebert described Windscape as a “first person Zelda”, what with its explorations and dungeon-based trials. It’s currently available as an Early Access title on Steam.

The game starts in a gated yard, and from there you complete a quest from your mother to cook a soup. Once you take care of breakfast, the gate opens to allow you to proceed to the next area. This sets up a chain of completing quests in order to gain access to new places.

What sets this title apart from recent Zelda-inspired titles is its heavy reliance on the crafting and cooking system. Evidenced by the first quest where you had to gather crops and cook them according to a recipe, creating seems to be a big part of the game. The second accessible area has furnaces where you can smelt metals, which tells me that part of your survivability will depend on what you can make.

The environment looks great as expected – it’s bright and colorful with a slight hint of low poly textures. The battle works as expected with the typical strafing strategy still reigning supreme. Even at its early stages, Windscape looks promising with its potentially deep crafting system and its first person adventuring premise.

Other things

Super Battle Blackjack Screenshot

Even though I only had time to really play two games, Ebert gave me synopses on the other games they brought. The most memorable one for me was Super Blackjack Battle II Turbo Edition, especially after seeing its Switch icon. Paying homage to Street Fighter II‘s sequel titles, the game’s silliness shines through with all of its descriptors stacked on top of each other. The characters made by the Headup crew, with Ebert himself appearing as a South African warlord, are just icing on this seemingly crazy cake.

Release dates are still up in the air for their titles, but Ebert kindly gave me a list of tentative release windows. These estimates are the latest at the time of writing:

Multiplatforms:
Earth Atlantis (digitally PS4/Xbox One): June 1, 2018
Runbow (digitally PS4/Switch): Q2 2018
Runbow (retail PS4/Switch): Q2 2018
Slime-San (PS4/XB1): Q2 2018
Hero Defense (PS4/XOne/PC): Q3 2018
Trüberbrook (all): Dec 2018 / early 2019
Everreach (PS4/XOne/PC): 2019

Switch Only
In Between: Q2 2018
Super Treasure Arena: Q2 2018
Toby: The Secret Mine: Q3 2018
Windscape: Q3 2018
Super Blackjack Battle 2: Q3 2018
The Inner World: Q3 2018
The Inner World – The Last Wind Monk: Q3 2018

Personal advice though? I’d keep an eye on Trüberbrook. If you want my professional advice: keep your options open and look forward to all of them.

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