The first ever Play NYC video game convention has wrapped up this weekend here in New York and the turnout for year one was damn impressive. As I walked the three floors jam packed with video games, I couldn’t help but take in the breadth of diversity in ages, races, and games. After all the bullshit that’s been going on in America, it was a beautiful thing to see. For those of you who don’t know, Play NYC is the first real major gaming convention in New York City which is odd when you think about it. New York is known for so many things and yet, even with major respectable studios like Rockstar and Avalanche Studios, the game development scene is relatively small.
Or so you may think.
Play NYC was host to over 100 playable booths from independent developers all throughout the New York area with games spanning mobile, VR, couch co-op, and even interactive art instillations. If you want to know more about Playcrafting (also based in Boston, San Francisco, and Los Angeles), you can check out my interview with their CEO, Dan Butchko, embedded at the bottom of this post. Now without further adieu, let me dive into some of the games I’m most excited for from Play NYC.
Steam | Nintendo Switch
Okay, so this first one may be considered cheating because this game is already available on Steam and Switch with versions for Xbox One and PS4 in the works. Slime-san is also a shining example of how Playcrafting’s classes and ecosystem can help independent developer teams of all sizes create standout titles. As for gameplay, think Super Meat Boy (because everyone does) except less slightly punishing and without the need for precise twitch reflexes all the time. You play as a little green slime who can phase through green obstacles like platforms, walls, orbs, etc. Phasing also slows down time briefly, making nailing that tricky jump a little bit easier. While you’re quickly navigating each level, there are also apples scattered throughout to collect to spend at shops for various upgrades. Oh, and did I mention that after a set amount of time red acid will wash across the whole screen, killing you instantly? No. Well you gotta go fast!
Nintendo 3DS | Wii U
This game is a remake of the original Antipole which launched on DSiWare, XBLA, and PC. It sports upgraded visuals and sound, new levels, improved boss battles, online leaderboards, and Miiverse. The best way to describe Antipole DX is a melding of the antigravity mechanics from something like VVVVVV with light to moderate gunplay and environmental bomb puzzles. All while playing as an old dude who looks a lot like Carmen Sandiago. It starts out simple, sure, but the difficulty ramps up from what I can tell in the trailer. I asked the developer, Edward Di Geronimo, if the title was making it’s way to Switch and unfortunately Nintendo won’t return his calls or emails because they’re being fucking Nintendo about things (my words, not his). Antipole DX is a fun little game I can’t wait to play on 3DS—oh—and you’ll want to crank your 3D slider to the max because it offers a nice depth of field similar to another indie favorite of mine, Shovel Knight.
Next Up Hero
PS4 | Xbox One | Steam | Nintendo Switch
Next Up Hero is a title I’m even more hyped for after playing it….like four times. The game is an action RPG with a neat twist in that you’re going to die over and over and over. “Yeah, but I do that in a lot of games”, you may be thinking. Indeed, maybe you do die a lot, BUT, in Next Up Hero that’s the point! Let me pull this straight from the site’s description:
”When you die, you’ll leave behind an Echo of your hero on the battlefield. The next hero in line will be able to resurrect your Echo as an AI battle companion. Take turns continuing each other’s games, fighting and dying with friends until you have an entire army of Echoes by your side. Everyone dies. Heroes continue.”
To help you fend off the various enemies are schmorgisboard of weapons and abilities to suit your playstyle, from swords and rocket launchers to AI laser turrets, bongo drums, and boomerangs. You can even steal monster’s attacks and use them as your own! As you play you’ll collect all coins to spend on upgraded weapons and more. I’m personally grabbing this on Switch (no surprise there) but am going to grab the it on Steam Early Access soon just because I want to play it that bad.
I first played this game about two years ago at IndieCade and was immediately drawn into the gameplay perspective VR gives it. Even now, with PSVR being out for over a half a year (admittedly not long) no other game is doing gameplay like this. Almost every game I’ve played in VR, even up until this point, usually takes place in first person. There’s nothing wrong with that, but this game proved to me that a 2.5D VR platformer can work and work well in virtual reality. After seeing it two years ago I haven’t heard or seen anything of it since and I thought the project was dead. You can imagine my surprise and excitement when I caught a glimpse for a banner of the game on the third floor—I immediately ran over and greeted the developer, Scott Tongue, and hopped into his Oculus headset to check out what changed. Since the first time I saw the game, it’s gained new levels, a new survival mode, and has support from a team of talented game designers. I’m very happy to see this game is alive and well and hope Sony follows through on getting it on PSVR!
FROG X BIRD
FROG X BIRD is something special. I’ve gone to my share of Playcrafting events and gaming conventions and it takes a game with that special hook to keep a crowd drawn to it. And not just a crowd spectating, but a crowd reacting, cheering, and one that’s eager to hop in for ‘just one more round’. I saw it a year ago with Blade Ballet and I’m seeing it again with FROG X BIRD. So, what the hell is FROG X BIRD? It’s a local multiplayer game which pits four friends against eachother with the simplest of controls: move, jump, and that’s it. Gameplay wise think Joust meets Smash Bros…..somewhat. The game has you hitting your enemy from behind in order to make them fly off the screen just like in Smash. The game also has an announcer and tends to ramp up competitive excitement somewhat like Smash as well. What I really love about this is that the game is a labor of love between two people, Bryan and Joe. A lot of indie games are made with a handful of people, but what’s cool is Bryan works at Avalanche Studios, a company that both allows and encourages their team members to create their own games without any repercussions. In fact, when I was chatting with Avalanache’s engineer he was the one who told me about Bryan and Joe’s game and highly suggested that I check it out. Long story short, this game is fun as hell with both friends and strangers alike and needs to release on Switch. (you hear me Nintendo?!)
A Duel Handed Disaster: TrackHer
Ask an Enemy Studios
PS4 | Xbox One | Steam
I’m going to be blunt—in the words of my friend Omar, “This game is a mind fuck”. He’s not wrong either. What looks like a vertical splitscreen multiplayer game at first glance is actually a single player arcade shooter/resource collecting experience. The title is also just a bit long, but the gameplay is solid. You control two ships simultaneously on each side with the left/right joysticks as well as the left/right triggers. Destroy enemies on the left in a Galaga-style shooter to earn points, while recovering resources on the right to multiply those points. Your ship on the left side doesn’t take damage while the one on the right does. Your main goal is to extract yourself with your score. If you play and die, you will wipe both your score and your leaderboard position as well. This game hurts my brain and I sucked at it, but when it comes out on Switch it’s all the more reason for me to keep playing and get better!
Membrane is a game in development for Nintendo Switch by NYU student Seth Scott. You take control of a little yellow character who looks like something out of Monument Valley and work your way through levels in underground caverns. You shoot red blocks to build walls, bridges, linings, and springs to help you explore and delve deeper into the unknown. Your can destroy said creations to load up on blocks in order to collect the two orbs in each level before exiting. Admittedly, I don’t know what role these orbs play in the game, but creating, failing, re-creating, and testing new methods of completing your objective are rewarding. Physics based puzzles can be unpredictable after all! They can also be hilarious in ways you may not have even imagined, as evidenced by my friend Omar during his play session.
The IOTA Project
Oculus Rift | HTC Vive
DreamSail Games caught me off guard with their second game title. After creating a fun and frantic local multiplayer game with Blade Ballet, the small indie dev team is back with a VR mech brawler—and it looks awesome! While I didn’t get to play it, I am definitely going to check it out once we secure an Oculus. I did watch other people play and here’s my takeaway. Players will be piloting a massive city crushing robot with weapons ranging from their bare mech fists, to rockets and swords to ensure maximum damage output. There are also three secondary weapons on hand, activated by pressing one of the three red buttons located in the cockpit. These will fire off a head-mounted laser beam, an artillery barrage, and a radial EMP type blast. Neat. I 100% can’t wait to see more!
Dan Butchko Interview
Well, that concludes our list. Are you excited for any of these games? Did you attend Play NYC and are you excited about something we didn’t mention? Leave a comment below or reach out to us on Twitter.