When demonstrated it’s hard to fault Quick Draw. Hand a group of people PlayStation Move controllers and tell them they’re in a gun fight and instinctively everyone knows what to do. Controllers are immediately slung at people’s hips, fingers start twitching, and everyone eyes their rivals waiting for the first one to twitch. Bam! Bam! Bam! And in an instant only one person is left standing.
Quick Draw is a game without the need for a screen, and its clever smoke and mirrors allow living rooms to turn into the Wild West. All the software is looking for is a handful of stats about fastest trigger, elevation and angle of the shot but to the user it’s all about the very physical experience. It’s a motion game that achieves so much by only using a fraction of the technology on offer.
Along with the Wild West style shoot-out there was also the English equivalent where duellers would take several paces and wait for the bell to toll before turning and firing. Also on show was a game of tag which saw players popping the Move controllers in their back pocket, initially obscuring the orb on its end. One would then light up – usually without the controller’s owner knowing – and they would have to survive for as long as possible without being tagged, which usually involved heading into the crowd of onlookers for protection
It was superb fun and the booth was a constant success as show goers wanted to try something a little different. Though the concept seems a little limited it’s already received the green light for release on PS3, PS4 and PC and so a wide audience awaits it.
That Dragon, Cancer
If there was a surprise in the Leftfield Collection, a cramped corridor showcasing some of the up and coming indie talent, it was found in the shape of That Dragon, Cancer. A much understated experience, it unfolds as an interactive story rather than a game, offering an insight into one of the developer’s lives and how cancer has affected it.
The scene opens with them siting in an uncomfortable hospital chair, musing on the décor of the sterile room around them and the reasoning behind it. The topics point to someone looking for a distraction from their situation, willing the mundane to take them away from the realities they’re suffering from. Significant words form in the environment pulling your eye around as the reality of the situation unfolds. There are no great monologues ramming home the point, instead the power comes from the subtlety in the lead’s dialogue.
As we faded to black I found a lump in my throat. Despite the hustle and bustle about me That Dragon, Cancer had managed to cocoon me in its world and I was wrapped in the drama. It may be an emotive topic but the delicacy with which it was portrayed and the knowledge that it was a very personal account shows how powerful interactive storytelling can be.
Ethan Meteor Hunter
From the very friendly Seaven Studios, Ethan is a rat that has developed several unique talents, including telekinesis and the ability to pause time. How? Well that’s left to the vagaries of the science behind being hit by a meteor, and now he’s navigating the rat runs and sewers around his home collecting pieces of said rock.
At its heart it’s a 2D platformer but Ethan’s powers mean the challenge comes from more than pixel perfect jumping. At certain points he can pause time and move objects about him. These can include crates, planks or even small flame throwers, and all need to be rejigged either to clear blockages or create bridges before continuing onwards. Everything is physics driven too so they’ll all clatter and fall about as you move the level, leading to some interesting segments where items need to be rearranged mid-jump to take advantage of them before gravity sucks them back to earth.
There’s also the more traditional fare of spinning blades and mouse traps that can catapult the lead across gorges. It took me a while to get the feel of the weight and movement of Ethan but it soon settled into an enjoyable experience that mixed sections of swift moving platforming chained with block laden puzzles. Nothing was overly tough but it does require a patience as most dangers cause instant death and a trip back to the last checkpoint.
There are touches of Ratchet & Clank and Max & the Magic Marker about Meteor Hunter, both in terms of look and feel. At the moment it’s looking for backers on Steam’s Greenlight and is definitely worth investigating if you’re looking for a platformer with a twist.
If there was one game I wished I had had more time with it was Redshirt. Barely scraping the surface I had still managed to throw a party for my work colleagues, start stalking a Second Lieutenant, and complained bitterly about my days working long hours as a teleportation clean-up assistant. And if that sounds curious, you should see what some of the other social media users of Spacebook say in their status updates.
Redshirt is a social climbing game where you must increase your standing aboard a galaxy-trekking starship, from that of the lowest rank to something far more Tweetable. These aims need to start small by buddying up with your workmates, slowly growing your circle through friends of friends, and then gradually drawing in more and more influential people that you’d like to schmooze with. Move too fast and you’ll just get ignored, so it’s all about throwing the right sort of parties and posting the most careful and manipulative status updates possible.
All this is balanced through a limited number of daily actions and having to split your character’s time between their social climbing and actual work. With this limitation in place, prioritising your actions is crucial, and it’s easy to get to the point where you’ve a plan in mind but you’re a handful of actions short of pulling it off.
Not only does it produce a satirical take on today’s social media culture but it embraces the past too. From Star Trek to Red Dwarf the best of sci-fi’s flagships have been referenced and homaged creating a very interesting blend of cultures. Fifteen minutes couldn’t do Redshirt justice and so I’ll be awaiting its forthcoming release to spend more time climbing the ranks and joining my very first away team.
Morphopolis displays a world from a point of view usually only seen by David Attenborough. In amongst the blades of grass and flower stems we witness caterpillars preparing to enter their cocoons and bees going about their nectar gathering business. It is a beautifully depicted world full of bright colours, layers of details, and gently moving creatures.
Whilst some of these creatures are fine without your attention, others need a helping hand. A drag of the mouse will move them along their path, edging them towards their eventual goal, but each time they will reach an inevitable impasse. In one instance this was a much larger insect blocking your path or in another it was the caterpillar’s hunger for food before beginning his transformation. For both situations, there was only one solution.
Each blocker can be resolved by finding a number of a specific objects in the background, be it eight drops of nectar or a dozen insect legs, and so Morphopolis turns into a “find it” game. This is easier said than done, too, for although the backgrounds are not littered with objects to cause you distraction, the detailed nature of the world causes these items to be lost in plain sight.
This style of game is not traditionally one I give much time to but the lush art work caused me to linger, though quite whether there’s any more to this insight into the world of insects is unclear. It may have caught my eye but sadly not my imagination.