What I Played--GDC '18 Tues
Updated: Feb 19, 2019
By Fen Smyth
The following are my impressions of a few games that caught my attention at GDC 2018. Some were finished, some still in development, but all of them were unique and interesting. The games are listed in reverse chronological order (most recently-played first) I was able to play each title for roughly ten minutes apiece.
A strange, interesting game of “tag” played between tremors. You control what appears to be seismic wave using a joystick and haptic feedback to catch up to other tremors. Each time you catch one, the landscape shifts and morphs into new forms. Armed with a droning ambient soundtrack, Softfriends is a strangely meditative experience.
A Case of Distrust:
An old school point and click adventure with a cool minimalist art style reminiscent of classic posters.
You play as a lady detective solving cases in 1920s San Francisco. The game features a healthy dose of noir mixed with some humor, social commentary, and a cool soundtrack. The game features multiple dialogue branches and seems to afford plenty of replay value.
Did I mention the art style is really, really cool?
A thoroughly surreal game played on a midi fighter controller where you undertake a variety of culinary challenges from popping popcorn to making delicious ramen. The game has a warioware-esque vibe and an absurdist charm that’s decidedly eye catching.
Psychedelic is too pedestrian a word.
Endlight is a surreal Rez-esque game that channels the tension of every final escape scene ever and mixes it with the screen filling danger of a bullet hell shooter. You play as a cube speeding through abstract environments in an attempt to collect golden rings. As you collect them, your speed increases, and you are treated to some phenomenal lights and space warping effects. The soundtrack is largely ambient synths used to spectacular effect as each sting coincides with the on screen action in a way that really makes you feel like you’re hurtling through a wormhole.
http://www.bigpants.ca/endlight/ (Note: The above website seems to feature an older build of the game. The “current” version shown at GDC ‘18 is far, far more polished)
Aer: Memories of Old
A beautiful Zelda esque adventure spanning multiple floating islands.
Aer has a whimsical quality and one of the most delightful flying mechanics I’ve experienced since Super Mario 64’s wing cap.
I am extremely excited to play more of this game!!
Hero of the universe: Jettomero
This one was super cool!
You play as the eponymous giant robot Jettomero on his quest to save the universe. The game starts in little prince fashion on the tiny planet on which our hero resides alone and sees him blast off into the galaxy in search of new stars and new friends. Along the way, the player is able to fight off gargantuan enemies and decipher scrambled message logs in order to learn more about the world and what happened before Jettomero awakes on his tiny home.
The animations in this game are particularly fun and one can gain considerable enjoyment solely from the quirky way that Jettomero walks and flies around!
A minimalist game that seems ostensibly about the cruelty of children’s in/our groups. Played via a tablet's touch controls, Kids is an eerie black and white art piece that is as intriguing as it is unsettling. There’s still a lot I don’t understand but I am interested.
Termed “A handmade adventure game” Harold Halibut is a beautifully animated game set in a seeming underwater laboratory. The breakout feature of this game is that all of the characters and sets were first built by hand before being 3D scanned into the graphics engine. The result is a spectacular looking romp whose visual style can be likened to stop motion films.
What the Golf:
Mini Golf meets katamari damacy-esque absurdity. This game...play it. Laugh. Have fun. If you’ve ever wondered what hardboiled-rooftop-bullet-time-shootout-mini-golf might look like, this is your game.
A game seemingly about finding beauty in an increasingly bleak and impersonal world. You play as an unnamed salaryman going through his daily routine in the decidedly dystopian city in which he lives. On the way to work, the player is able to choose between following the prescribed path or deviating from it and trying to discover some sense of warmth and wonder — helping a stranded cat get back to its home for example. The demo I played featured no dialogue which allowed the imagery plenty of space to breathe and I was impressed by the ability of the game to convey emotion with the simplest control schemes.
Knights and Bikes:
A two player coop game in which you play one of two kids off on an adventure to find treasure. The game does a great job of capturing the feel of a childhood in which your first bike was the ultimate symbol of youthful empowerment and your imagination was your greatest weapon. The game shines in its highlighting of the way everyday objects can look completely different when scene through a creative eye—the kids see a giant crane in a junkyard as a wizard’s tower and large crabs as scary sentries, for example. A really cute and fun adventure game for two!
I stumbled upon this game at a showcase at a GDC after party and was thoroughly delighted to find it a cool experience that that played with the border between reality and dreams. The basis of the game (so far as I’ve seen) has you guiding a young girl named Nyah on her way home from school. As the game progresses however, the environment around you becomes increasingly bizzare and unsettling and you are often confronted with a nagging question of “what’s real?” The game mixes Limbo-esque platforming with a core mechanic centered around the use of a kind of psychic tethering device to swing Nyah over chasms and obstacles. The game is undeniably fun and a treat for the eyes but it’s story seems no less intriguing. So far it seems to touch on themes of escaping from the bleakness of the “real world” into the limitlessness of the imagination but I’m really eager to dive further in and play more of this game. I had the pleasure of meeting the developer (a real cool guy) and learned that part of his hope was to tell a story that feature a young black girl as a protagonist. To really do the character justice, he sought out black women as story writers and consultants which is really awesome to hear! Little Bug is currently available as a demo and I can’t wait for the full game to come out! https://belamessex.itch.io/littlebug
Fen Smyth is a Writer, Game Designer, and Musician from the Bay Area. When not doing any of the aforementioned, he can often be found embarking on zany adventures or playing whimsical instrumental music deep in the forest. His musical work can be found at: www.fenyang.me
Tell Us What You Think
Leave a comment or tag us in a social media share.
Join our mailing list and be one of the first to Planet Rise.