Home Events Insomnia Gaming Festival – i70: Indie Games, Voice Actor Panels, & Lots More!

Insomnia Gaming Festival – i70: Indie Games, Voice Actor Panels, & Lots More!

We review the best things from i70, the Insomnia Gaming Festival In Birmingham.

by Dave Elliott

Insomnia Gaming Festival – i70: Indie Games, Voice Actor Panels, & Lots More!

Whilst many people were focused on a galaxy far, far away in London this weekend, another big event was happening up in Birmingham, as Insomnia Gaming Festival returned for ‘Insomnia 70’, a four-day event featuring lots of fun, stage guests, and video games.

For those who haven’t been to an ‘Insomnia’ event before, the festival takes place at the NEC and is packed with new mainstream, indie, and VR video games, along with retro games, lots of wallet-draining merchandise, and stages with fun and talks. ‘Insomnia’ is split into two main parts – The main floor, which has all the things mentioned above, and BYOC (Bring Your Own Computer), the UK’s biggest LAN Party, where gamers from around the country bring their set-up from home to compete in esports tournaments, fight off in multiplayer battles and more. Additionally, they offer a unique indoor camping option for those looking for a cheap way to stay over all four days of the event.

The Games

‘Insomnia’ is, of course, a gaming festival, and there were plenty of games to choose from! Whether it was from a major publisher or a solo indie developer, on a console, PC, or VR, there was a solid variety of options to get your thumbs twitching. Here are some of the best games I stumbled across at the show.

Park Beyond – Limbic Entertainment/Bandai Namco

One of the games I spent some time with was Park Beyond, a new theme park builder game from Bandai Namco, which launches on 16th June 2023. I would describe it as a little bit Planet Coaster mixed with the humour and style of Two Point Hospital/Campus. You play as a newly-hired visionary architect for a struggling company and create mind-twisting theme parks, without needing to worry too much about little things like gravity… or safety… There is a story-driven campaign mode, along with a sandbox mode, where you can try out all sorts of wacky coaster creations. The controls were easy to grasp, and (as someone who has spent many, many, hours in the Planet and Two Point games…) the gameplay felt familiar enough, but also new and different. If you like theme park builders, with a rather quirky sense of humour, this is definitely one which should go on your gaming wishlist.

Screaming Loaf – AshumArcade

What I love about the indie games section of ‘Insomnia’ is the wonderful weirdness you come across… Such as Screaming Loaf. You play as a “Loaf”, a loaf of bread, and use his scream attack to defeat evil jams and cheeses in this wacky puzzle platformer. “Loaf” can split into sliced bread to be in several places at once, figure out where best to drop slices to solve puzzles and beat enemies more efficiently. You just have to avoid letting those evil fillings make “Loaf” into… sandwiches (oh the horror!)

It’s such a beautifully silly idea, with some really fun, and well-thought-through, game mechanics behind it. You can find Screaming Loaf on Steam here.

Bellyflop Golem – Bellyflop Team

Bellyflop Golem is another quirky platformer. Here, you play as Belly, a very lazy Tree Golem, who has an ongoing dispute with the evil dwarves who are cutting down trees. As you move around the level, you can “bellyflop” to smash holes at various points in the environment, along with jumping, Mario-style, on the heads of the dwarven invaders to squish them.

It’s a student-made game, still in development, but has some solid gameplay, lovely artwork, and lots of potential. If you want to see more you can find them on YouTube, and on Instagram.

Mobbers – Septagram Games

Another game still in development, but a really interesting take on its genre, is Mobbers, a roguelike dungeon shooter, which takes the idea of the old video game ‘Gauntlet’, and flips it.

You play as a “monster” in a dungeon, but rather than waiting around to die at the hands of a so-called “hero”, what if you raid the dungeon and take the treasure for yourself instead? You can play solo or co-op as a Goblin, Skeleton, Slime or Kobold, and turn against the other mobs in the dungeon, loot the goodies, and escape the level-boss heroes trying to loot your home. It’s a really nice twist to the dungeon crawler idea. You can find more about the game and its development on their website.

Duck Race – Ibzy Studios

We’ve spoken about the wonderful people at Ibzy Studios before, but if you are unaware of their product, Duck Race is a Twitch-integrated racing game. Players can join the race using the Twitch chat command “!quack” and customise their rubber duck with a variety of hats and accessories. The ducks race around one of several river maps, and the first over the waterfall wins!

The game is really fun. It’s simple, and it is a lovely way for Twitch streamers to play with their audience. You can find it right now on Steam if you’re a Twitch streamer and want to give it a go!

The Merch

There were, of course, lots of merchandise stores at the show where you could pick up everything from a brand-new computer or gaming chair to a t-shirt or a mug coaster. I wanted to give a particular shout-out to Demonhunter Bricks though, who make custom LEGO kits & mini-figures, all made using genuine LEGO parts… We love LEGO (I mean, who doesn’t love LEGO!) and their stuff was just brilliant. They had a display featuring some brilliant LEGO lightsabers, and sonic screwdrivers, along with Star Wars blasters, and a host of other amazingly detailed props… all made from LEGO. Here is a link to their website (and I’d just like to pre-apologise to your wallet!)

The Guests

As always when I attend ‘Insomnia’ I was focused on the main show, and this time things really felt like they’d stepped up a notch. Along with lots of games, there was a notable difference with the guests. They had really stepped things up, getting some great video game voice/motion capture actors to come along, and bringing in the lovely “WeeClaire” to host a number of panels with them. There was also many content creators, including our very own TristaBytes, and the irrepressible Robbotron (aka John Robertson) presenting things on the various stages.

Voice Actor Panel From Insomnia Gaming Festival

The Voice Actor Panel was hosted by “WeeClaire” (aka Claire Lim) and featured a number of actors from the ‘Resident Evil’ games. In attendance (and slightly hungover…) were Neil Newbon (Resident Evil, Deliver Us Mars), Nick Apostolides (Resident Evil, Life Is Strange), Stephanie Panisello (Resident Evil, Genshin Impact), Nicole Tompkins (Deliver Us Mars, Resident Evil) & Maggie Robertson (Resident Evil Village, BACK 4 BLOOD). It was a brilliantly entertaining panel as they shared stories about working in the industry, and about the various characters from their games.

On a side note, I do apologise for the quality of the sound on the video, which isn’t great… This was mainly due to the slightly odd decision ‘Insomnia’ had made to place this stage right next to a, very loud, immersive zombie shooting range… It looked like a lot of fun for people killing the undead, but also probably not the best idea by the organisers to have those two things in such close proximity!

In addition to this panel, Claire also hosted the “Additional Voices” game show on the main stage on Friday (which, for legal reasons, was totally nothing like the tv show ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’…) That featured all the above, plus the voice of Geralt, Doug Cockle (‘The Witcher’), and ‘The Dark Room’s John Robertson, and was hilarious… Mainly due to John and his incredible improv skills.

The Dark Room With John Robertson (and The Witcher’s Doug Cockle!)

WARNING – The video above has naughty language in it, just so you’re aware before you hit play!

Another big event was The Dark Room With John Robertson, who hosted a charity version of the show on Saturday evening on the Main Stage. For those of you unaware of this work of utter genius, it is described as a “live-action videogame” that mixes retro gaming and impro comedy into a rock and roll gameshow.

Audience members are brought on stage and told that “You awake to find yourself in a dark room”. They are then presented with four text adventure-like options, such as “find the light switch”, or the traditional “go north”, and John will tell them what happens next, to hilarious effect… And often ending in death, as the audience screams “Ya Die!” at them.

This event was raising money for the wonderful SpecialEffect, which makes gaming controllers for people with physical disabilities. As you can see from the clip above, he roped in ‘The Witcher’ voice actor, Doug Cockle, for part of the show, which ended up raising over £10,000 for the charity.

I would describe the show as viciously funny. John is an improve master, and some of the things he comes up with air as dark as his Dark Room, so be warned about the humour. He does technically do a “kid’s version” of the show on occasion, however, you should appreciate John’s take on what is appropriate for kids might not entirely match your own… You have been warned. Having said that, the whole show is utterly hilarious and wonderfully weird and strongly I urge you to go and see it.

You can find more of John and The Dark Room on Twitch here, and his upcoming live dates here.

Insomnia Gaming Festival returns to the NEC in Birmingham from 8th-10th  September 2023. You can find out more on their website.

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