Hoe Down, y’all. Play that funky music.
Went to BitSummit Volume 6 in Kyoto over the weekend. Played some great indie games, reconnected with old friends, and made some new ones. A good time was had by all.
Here are some thoughts on what I saw:
- The Switch: The Switch is the trend. Period. A lot of the showcased games were 2015-2017 releases sporting shiny new Switch ports. I think that the overall quality of the games on display can be traced to a large number of them not being new, but rather having recently released optimized versions to the hot new console. One developer I talked to put it like this: “It’s great for indie games because so many of them are perfect for playing in short portable bursts. Not every game shines when you have to sit in front of a PC to play it on Steam.” This is true, and I applaud Nintendo for making it easier for indie games to be released.
- The Haves and Have-Nots: However, there was a feeling of disparity at BitSummit this year. The developers with the Switch ports were making bank. More than one time I heard variations of “finally we’re making money on this.” And that’s great, but there were a ton of devs that were a bit disappointed that they haven’t been able to manage Nintendo’s licensing system. Games just as worthy as any other are being pushed aside because it’s hard to deal with shifting requirements and paperwork in a language you don’t know well. I feel a great deal of sympathy for the devs struggling with this. I hope that indie games are enough of a boon to Nintendo that they can find a way to be more inclusive.
- The Middlemen: The solution seems to be in part to find a publisher with an “in” in Japan. Pikii, Dangen, and Devolver among others had large booths of fresh Switch ports. I have no idea about the business end of things, like how much of a cut a publisher takes, and I’m sympathetic to devs that want to retain more control over their product, but middleman production companies look like the future. I could be totally full of it on this, feel free to hit me up on Twitter if I kneed some knowledge.
- Other than That:
– We are still banging on with the 2D pixel platformers. Homages to the 16-bit era are still the bread-and-butter of indie gaming. I await the PS1 nostalgia wave so we can get our hand painted background and janky 3D tank controls on.
– Very international crowd this time. Felt like more European and South American devs made the trek this year than last. The indie scene is all over the world.
– Much less VR this year. Is VR dying? Sources say “yes, it is a nonsense gimmick.” Sources are “my butt”, but I truly wonder about the viability of that platform in the future. Kits aren’t really becoming any less of a luxury item, and the Switch might take over as the future thing for the next couple years at least.
I didn’t have a chance to play everything, but here’s what I got hands-on with along with some thoughts:
Above – You explore a world of water and islands in your seaplane looking for materials and battling sea monsters. Still in beta, but it’s already fairly polished. Could be *really* good upon final release. I’ll keep an eye out.
Agartha – Neat little 2D platform shooter with destructible environments. Fire gun turns water to steam. Bullets and explosions can destroy earth. Go grab it from that link. It’s fun.
Black Bird – Slick 2D shooter with a cool “evil bird beast destroys medieval town” aesthetic. This was fun to play. Just the kind of shooter where you can’t help but cackle maniacally as your destroy all the things. Won a bunch of BitSummit awards, and deservedly so.
Boss Golf – A golf course sim. Build a golf course and play it. I asked the dev if they had a “Donald Trump” option and he was all like “He’s already in the game.” Zoomed in on one of the players and sure enough there was little pixel Tonald Dumph playing golf. Priorities.
Boyfriend Dungeon – You are a person who only dates weapons. The weapons are also hot people. Part dating sim. Part Diablo. All Awesome.
Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon – Me: So, this is just Castlevania III with modern updates? Dev: *shuffles feet nervously* Me: Dude, don’t act embarrassed. I’ve wanted this game for 20 years.
ClusterPuck99 – Elegant, simply executed hockey game for multiplayer. It’s on Switch now! Really fun party game to look for if you have a Switch (or any system with multiple controllers).
Eatvolve – Still early in development, but this promises to be a fun platformer with the mechanic that when you eat another creature you can some of its abilities. Frogs = jump. Bats = wings. Looking forward to a full version.
Kero Blaster – The best game about a Frog who does business and that business is shooting things. You literally have to shoot your work because there is an evil work creating machine. Now on Switch!
Knuckle Sandwich – This. This game. I don’t know what was going on here, but I love. RPG style in the vein of Earthbound. Weird ass WarioWare mini games. I want more of this. I could’ve played this for a long time if my friends weren’t so eager to get in on the Fight Crab game.
Necrosphere – Two button (left/right) Metroidvania. Very cool and intuitive. I want to spend some more time with this.
Parade! – Cute and funky rhythm game for Android and iOS. Dance with a bunch of cute animals until you get abducted by aliens. I dig it.
Phogs! – Still in development, but this was a fun, cute, and good looking game where you solve puzzles as a two headed dog. Looking forward to getting my hands on a full version of this.
Pixel Game Maker MV – A 2D platformer creator from the RPG Maker folks. Potentially a really big deal if it takes off like RPG Maker did. Keep an eye out for a community that forms around this game once it drops in the Summer. I predict there will be some gems made for this if one is willing to dig.
PixelJunk Eden Obscura – Not officially at BitSummit, but Q-Games hosted a launch party, so I’ll include it. It’s an odd little experimental game for Android. I’m not really sure what to make of it. It involves elephant DJs who require pollen from trippy plants for like, magic or something. Cool music and visuals from Baiyon.
Psyvariar Delta – Bullet hell shooter. Ain’t my jam, but if you like the bullets and the hells, check it out.
Rising Hell – 2D vertical beat em up where you get a magic punch glove and proceed to punch your way out of hell. This was one of my favorites at BitSummit. Like Black Bird it required some skill, but once I got going I felt like a blood soaked bad-ass.
Runner 3 – The third in the Bit.Trip Runner games. Stylish one button run jump platformer. Coming to Switch!
Save Me Mr. Tako – Game Boy platformer homage from Nicalis that is finally coming out. I’ve seen this a few times before. It’s cute and also Game Boy so I’m on board.
She Remembered Caterpillars – Cute / creepy puzzle games. Didn’t spend much time with this but the folks at the booth were really nice.
Slime-san – Super Meat Boy style wall jump platformer. Super difficult, but one of my favorite games from a year ago. Now on Switch!
Super Aban Hawkins and the 1001 Spikes EX – Port of the multiplayer ultra difficult platformer by Nicalis. Really hard, but fun with a friend. Now on Switch!
Super Slime Arena – Smash Bros. style 2D battler where you are all slimes. Gimmicks are 1) can be used with any controller (I used a Dreamcast Fishing Rod), and 2) can be played with as many players as you have open USB slots (up to 30 or so, I think). Good times.
Super Sportmatchen – It’s like those terrible old NES Track and Field games, but actually good! Another style of game I’ve been wanting to see get a modern update for a while. Super fun party game. Now on Switch!
Tarotica Voo Doo – Originally planned for the MSX. Homeboy programmed this in BASIC and Machine Code cause he is OLD SCHOOL. Was showing off how changes in the Machine Code affected the game. I love when these old indie projects show up. Indie ain’t new.
Three Stars of the Match
Note: I’m disqualifying the games that were previously released and are now just getting a coat of polish. No offense to those, but I wanted to showcase some new stuff.
- Knuckle Sandwich – I want more of this.
- Boyfriend Dungeon – obviously gets a star. For obvious sexy reasons.
- That Game Where You Controlled a Cardboard Box to Move a Naked Guy Who Had to Get Home Without Being Spotted Metal Gear Style – I have no idea what it was called, but it gets a star.