Thursday, November 18, 2010
Game On Follow Up
As promised I was able to make the Game-On event. It was worth attending, and not just for the booze and free sandwiches. Austin is home to a lot of talented game companies, and they took the opportunity to show off their latest releases.
The focus of the event was on console games, as one might expect. Gaming consoles lend themselves to “party style” play, being easier to set up, pick up and start playing, and arrange a multiplayer match on. I’m all but exclusively a PC gamer. The last console I owned was an old N64.
This is not out of any sort of misguided elitism or the weird factionalism that sometimes afflicts our hobby. Some time ago I came to the conclusion that I have a sadly finite pool of money, leisure time, and energy, and settled on the PC as my main gaming platform. My crippling WoW addiction may have also had something to do with it. Anyhow, it was cool to see some console games that wouldn’t normally cross my radar. These aren’t intended to be full reviews, just my thoughts on what I was able to see in the limited time I had with what was on display.
The star of the show was definitely The Force Unleashed 2. They had the Wii version, from Red Fly Studio, available for play. Being a Stormtrooper continues to be one of the most hazardous jobs in existence, with a disturbingly high chance of being choked, electrocuted, crushed by telekinetically thrown objects, or sliced to pieces. Red Fly has captured much of the charm of the old Jedi Outcast series: the pure joy of using the power of the force to do very bad things to people in identical white armor.
The level I was seeing demoed seemed to center around keeping one step ahead of Darth Vader, destroying bridges and elevator shafts and jamming doors to keep him from being able to pursue. This is a good use of the character rather than just tossing him into boss fight after boss fight. Vader is, after all, someone you run away from.
I was able to join in the multiplayer tournament, and even survived past the first bracket by courageously hiding in the corner till my opponents had worn one other down. The multiplayer mode is a 2D brawler that draws a lot of inspiration from the Smash Bros series. Many of the levels feature hazards like giant monsters and rising lava that are at least as dangerous as the enemy players, and power ups spawn at random that let you unleash special attacks. The characters have a good spread of abilities and play styles. For example: Bobba Fett lacks a real melee attack but can actually fly with his jetpack and not just do that Force double-jump all Jedi come equipped with.
My personal favorite was Comic Jumper, from Twisted Pixel. These are the same guys who brought us such quirky games as ‘Splosion Man. The game combines classic 2d brawling and shooting with a snarky and intensely self-aware sense of humor that I enjoyed. As the name would indicate Comic Jumper has you fighting through parodies of different comic book genres, each with a distinct art direction. Unfortunately it is for the 360 only. Here’s hoping they get around to making a PC port at some point.
The best twist on an old idea present was what I can only describe as “some sort of inverse dueling mode Tetris” called Opposites. It’s easier to see than describe, and visually striking. Blocks alternate falling from right and left towards the center of the screen, rebuilding your opponent’s side. Go take a look at it here to see what I mean: http://dannobot.com/index.html.
Finally there was a program called Gamesalad being demoed, which described itself as an “advanced game creation tool for non-programmers.” It used a drag-and-drop interface for putting together sets of conditions and commands. The program looked fascinating, but unfortunately for me it is a Mac exclusive. Steve Jobs! (Shakes Fist)
Now that I’ve undermined my previous comment on factionalism, I can say I had a good time. If the event comes around again, and you find yourself in Austin , make sure to show up. I’m looking forward to SXSW Interactive event this March, and the accompanying Screenburn Arcade. I will be covering both, so keep checking back.