The last (?) batch of games I got to try out at the Boston Festival of Indie Games. One is a silly, experimental social game and one has the potential to be much more personal game of strategy. See after the jump for more.
Spooky Thumb Wrestling
Spooky Thumb Wrestling is named for a physics joke that went over my head despite Devin Wilson exceptionally patient explanation. It is an experimental piece in which players each take a Playstation Move controller and then “thumb wrestle” by holding down the trigger button on the back of the controller and frantically hitting the Move button with their thumbs. Periodically, the light on the controller will change, prompting the player to try to guess which of the signature Playstation buttons–triangle, square, circle, or x–is the “safe” button so they can return to mashing the move button in their spooky thumb war. Letting go of the trigger–which I found myself doing most often–results in the Move turning an angry red and disqualifying the player from the match. It was an interesting social experience somewhat similar to playing the Wii game WarioWare: Smooth Moves in that half the fun is everyone’s commitment to whatever absurd task the game lays out. In fact, Wilson explained to me that the safe buttons were a new edition, and he was thinking of new ways to expand the experience–even if it’s mostly to make players look silly. However, unlike a WarioWare mini-game, the method to Spooky Thumb Wrestling‘s madness is more transparent; its rules are easy to understand; everyone’s waged a thumb war before. Victory always feels achievable, and thus it spurs players on as much as the fun inherent of increasingly physically convoluted controls.
You can learn more about Spooky Thumb Wrestling and Devin Wilson’s other creations at his website.
Captain Astronaut’s Last Hurrah
The latest from Girls Like Robots‘ PopCannibal is only “.04 percent complete,” but it already has a distinctive art style and voice that will carry it a long way. When I arrived to play the demo, PopCannibal had a variety of controllers set up at the booth so that the developers could get a handle on how players approached their game, as well as keeping their publishing options open. I played the game using a Wiimote, which I found to be quite accurate in the demo’s primary task of shooting down blobs of corruption. This is presented in a way that’s more appealing and far more whimsical than it sounds. The action is framed by a purposely vague, dream-like introduction in which our hero faces his mortality, and it is conveyed with a warm color palette and beautiful backgrounds that look to be hand drawn. In terms of aesthetics, it reminded me of the kind of games we’ve seen come out of Ubisoft’s Ubi-art engine. Specifically, it has the look of something nurtured and crafted by human hands, which in turn gives it a sense of physicality absent in many games that strive for computer-generated realism.
It took me awhile to figure out what to do in the demo, something for which the developers repeatedly apologized. However, I don’t think the lack of direct, on-screen instruction, nor my confusion over it, is necessarily a bad thing. Standing in a crowded gymnasium with other potential players standing over my shoulders, I was not afforded–and could not afford the game–the kind of time something like Captain Astronaut’s Last Hurrah requires. Its dreamlike introduction and aesthetic begets a kind of quiet contemplation to which gymnasiums just aren’t suited. I wonder if there isn’t a kind of pleasure to be derived from slowly uncovering objectives myself if I were left to figure the game out in the privacy of my own home. The demo already did a good job introducing a second method for firing off my arsenal of different-colored blobs, showing the potential for an evolving strategy in later levels.
While Captain Astronaut’s Last Hurrah is still in the early stages of development, you can visit PopCannibal’s placeholder page for it.
This post was updated September 30th, 2013 to address incorrectly attributed artwork.