Fantastic Arcade Day 1 wrap up
We got an impromptu concert, a journey to a great white north that never was, a trip through the development crucible that is the Retro Game Crunch, a demo of demos of demos, tiny cats with big pistols... and an edge-of-your-seat local-boy-makes-good story, played out in the deep caves of Derek Yu's platform-hell, Spelunky.
Fantastic Festers got a bunch of arcade all up in their faces on Thursday, with this year's spotlight cabinets front and center for all to see. We witnessed some heated Samurai Gunn matches in particular in the lobby, making the anticipation for that fateful tournament on Sunday all the more palpable.
First on the stage for the day, Rusty Moyher is an Austinite and he told us all about the staggering feat of development-under-constraint that is Retro Game Crunch. Six games in as many months, under the limitations of the beloved NES/Famicom console- limited colors, music played through orginal hardware.
But the games that the team created are anything but comfy old retreads. They are deep and adventurous new experiments in gameplay, the featured Fantastic Arcade title to spring from this competition- End of Line- is a game about an immortal robot on a quest to die.
Next up was another group with roots in Austin. Last year, Stoic Studio showed us the mutliplayer beta of their Vikings-on-a-quest adventure, The Banner Saga. This year we were treated to chapter one of the single player campaign mode. This game has already been all over the games press for its gorgeous, stylish art- but we got a good glimpse into the fine tuned mechanics behind the polished exterior, and got a hands on experience of a game that would be hugely impressive from a large studio, but can only be described as a staggering achievement from such a small indie house.
Zak Ayles is a young dude. And he's kind of quiet. And he's monstrously talented. We weren't sure what we were in for when he said he'd rather play some music than have a conventional panel to go along with his game Catering To Birds (one part of a two-game pairing in developent called Cutthroat: EP), but we knew it would be weird and awesome.
Davey Wreden is another naturalized Austinite, and the Stanley Parable was already a legendary experiment (on its players) before we learned about it's upcoming incarnation as a full blown stand-alone game. What we saw at Fantastic arcade was a trip through a demonstration of the creation of... demonstrations, which did not entirely prepare anyone for the actual game to come, but did put them on guard and make them laugh, at the same time. A hapless audience member worked his way through, and Wreden analyzed him like a good scientist afterwards, while we all took notes.
I was entirely unprepared for Pistol Cat, a game night creation by The Unfinished Swan's Ben Esposito. Four tiny faceted plastic cats, fresh off a bank heist gone wrong, blasted the shit out of each other with giant Dirty Harry handguns, chiseled from the same colorful substance. The last four players got a taste of sticky mode- in which the cats clumped together, spiraling around the room like a starfish made of apoplectic guns. Fun got had.
The most memorable scene of the night was when Fantastic Arcade volunteer Saam Pahlavan went head to head against Spelunky mega-champion Zach Gage- who made a fatal misstep on the road to hell, leaving the path clear for Pahlavan to make a hell run all the way to King Yama, with almost no bombs, and weilding a puny ice beam. We're still hoping for more video to surface of this fabulous match.
For more on Day 1: check out Austin Chronicle's Screens writer James Renovitch's Day 1 wrap-up.
Bring Fantastic Arcade home today! Three of the selections at Fantastic Arcade this year sprung from the font of creativity that is the brand new LA Game Space! You can get those games at home today!