Electron Dance
7Oct/10Off

Expo Man III of VI: Arcade Town Ghost

There's a big fat lie running through this series like a vein of fool's gold. The Eurogamer Expo is not the first computer show I've been to.

In 1986, I went with family to the Atari User Show held at the Novotel hotel in Hammersmith. We were an Atari 8-bit family and remained so even through the subsequent reign of the 16-bit Atari ST. We bought up the Invisiclues booklet for Infocom's The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy because I couldn't work out how to get past the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal even with a towel wrapped around my head. I watched Jeff Minter demonstrate Colourspace before a live audience with a crazed look in his eyes and fell in love with a game called Time Bandit for the Atari ST that I would never play.

It was all very genteel. This formative childhood experience 25 years ago conferred no skills appropriate for gaming expo combat.

Okay so the Indie Games Arcade wasn't quiet all day so I needed ninja skills to access all of the games and unlock the full achievement. Here's the proof.

Fractal

From Cipher Prime, the people who brought you Auditorium, comes Fractal. It's a new puzzle game. I... can't describe it exactly, it's harder to express than Tidalis. You push cells, trying to make blooms, clusters of cells. It's also got what every puzzle game seems to need - crazy combos and bonuses. But there's also this marvellous interplay between the music and game progress. The more cells you clear, the more active the music becomes... but as you approach your final push, and thus potential GAME OVER, the music slows down, as if you are drawing your final breath. You can play it right now on the Fractal page, because there's a Flash demo staring you right in the eyes over there.

I liked it. Don't know how well it would keep my attention (Tidalis continues to evolve, but does Fractal?) but there's a certain beautiful perfection about it. And it got hard quickly.

B.U.T.T.O.N.

The Copenhagen Game Collective make games in the wider Jane McGonigal sense, where play is about fun and interaction, not about being stuck in front of a screen. One of their games is Dark Room Sex Game but I'm not here to talk about that. B.U.T.T.O.N. is a competition. It asks 2-8 players to stand away from the controllers, throws in some physical constraint (I saw the game once ask the players to link arms) and then make them race to the controller buttons FOR THE WIN. Okay, I'm not explaining this well. Video, please.

This would no doubt be a console game for in front of the TV, I would be major surprised if it was released on the PC as that wouldn't make much sense. I didn't play but I saw people have quite a bit of fun with this one. I can see how this would be a lot of fun at parties, if anyone ever invited me any more. The guy with two kids, looks past it. I don't think so.

Skulls of the Shogun

I keep thinking this is called Skulls of the Shotgun, but it's not. Haunted Temple Games are currently working on Skulls of the Shogun, a turn-based strategy game that I learnt very little about.

I made the mistake of trying to ask interview-type questions of one of the developers ("how long has your team being working on this?") while playing the game. So confusion reigned while I attempted to play and forgot the answers to every question I asked except I discovered it was Japan-themed because the Haunted Temple's founder, Jake Kazdal, loved Japan. Alright I learnt a little more too. They're currently looking for a publisher and it will be released to both PC and Xbox.

My memory of the game is rather messed up. There were these Japanese ghost warrior units with which I could haunt buildings and rice fields. When I haunted rice fields, I got rice. And with rice I could make units. And I could wake my general up. Or something like that. Rock Paper Shotgun actually played the game properly and have the skinny.

Hohokum

The only game of Honeyslug's I've previously experienced is Poto & Cabenga, a one-button Flash game that causes significantly more tension and stress than Canabalt.

Any how, they've been working in secret on a new project called Hohokum. At the expo, they revealed an early Flash prototype although it's by no mean certain at this early stage whether it will be released on PC or not. I asked. They hoped.

With the controller, you control this long, flying snake creature that looked like a line with an Egyptian eye hieroglyph as its head. Long snake creature can carry people to safety. Every time the little cartoon people on my back were blown up by falling bombs instead of reaching safety, I felt terrible. Apparently this was a common reaction and the developers present had to keep telling players "it's okay, they spawn again" but that's not how it felt to me. Little Jimmy isn't going to spawn again. Little Jimmy is gone.

Interesting, although not sure it was my kind of thing. But then again it was very early days for the project and the devs told me they had plenty of ideas to try out - it wasn't just going to be flying around and saving people on your back for hours. And - hey jesus christ they took a picture of me behind my back! Well, it's okay. They got my best side.

Swimming Under Clouds

Swimming Under Clouds is Piece of Pie's debut title. It's the platformer tale of a goldfish trying to get back to a little girl. I overheard someone say it played a bit like Gish, which I've never played, so I'll take their word for it.

I found it frustrating, the jumping was gloopy and the character - a little goldfish in a water bubble - often carried more momentum than I anticipated which lead to falling off the bottom of the screen many, many times as I misjudged jumps. My skill improved as I went along, but it didn't quite grab me. Very pretty, though, and still under development.

Revenge of the Titans

Puppygames' quirky RTS/tower defence hybrid Revenge of the Titans was on show. I didn't play at the Expo as I've played the beta at home a couple of times. I would've written up my thoughts already but Cas of Puppygames has told me to play the latest version before I do that. I'll write up some proper grown-up thoughts about the game once I've played the latest beta.

RoTT seemed popular; the game never seemed to be left alone.

Others

I totally forgot to give Black Pants' Tiny & Big a whirl. I hear it's fun. Perhaps I should download the demo. Also Mode 7's Frozen Synapse.

All of which continues to prove my rubbishness at this expo thing.

Next: The Floor

Fractal

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