Pixelpop 2015

by Huey Chewwy in

After its successful launch last year, PixelPop returned for another go for indie developers and gamers alike.  Spreading the festival to two days instead of one, there was plenty of time to sit down and play games and meet the developers behind them.  In our two days at PixlePop, here are just some of the fascinating games that we seen.

StacksOnStacks(OnStacks) is actually quirkier than the name implies.  With a Katamari Damacy approach to the music, color palate and art direction, the game starts simple and adds funny moments throughout.  Using blocks that fall from the top of the screen, the goal is to build with these structures to specific heights.  It is easy to mistake this for a Tetris clone, but SoSoS is a lot more.  StacksOnStacks(OnStacks) is a physics based puzzler where you attempt to stack blocks as high as possible while staying within the playing field.  It sounds simple, but with a random assortment of different shapes and sizes it is much easier said than done.  Similar Tetris, the type of block that drops is completely random.  Fortunately, the playing zone has a little extra room to put those blocks that are not quite what you need.  Be careful though, if your stack gives way and a piece falls off the board it is game over.  StacksOnStacks(OnStacks) has a fixed camera that can be rotated to one of only four positions.  This makes using the shadow of a falling shape necessary to line up your pieces.  Trying different combinations of blocks to achieve a certain height is fun and engaging, and the random nature of pieces forces you to come up with and change strategies quickly.  As an added bonus you get to take a wrecking ball to the stack you just so carefully built and demo the playing field.  It is super satisfying to knock down your creation after diligently assembling your tower of geometry.

There is also an Arcade mode which tasks you with stacking blocks to meet a specific height.  Want to share the zaniness with a friend?  Arcade mode also offers a two player co-op option where players take turns stacking towards their height goal.  From what we played, implementing another player to the mix added a whole mess of fun and chaos.  Teamwork is definitely needed to hit the targeted height, and ends in exclamations when the stack topples over. 

Pixel Press was back with another create-it-yourself game called Bloxels.  While Adventure Time Game Wizard's hook was the ability to draw your levels on paper, that concept has been taken to the next level in Bloxels.  By using a game board you can place different colored cubes that represent various properties of a game, like ground and platforms, water, enemies, NPCs and more.  Once you have a game designed just snap a picture with a smartphone or tablet to capture your creation for use in the game.  Whether it is a section of a level or just pixel art, the limit is really your imagination.  The game board presents a physical aspect of building that has not really been tapped yet for video games.  While you will be able to design art and levels in the free app for Bloxels, the ability to create on a game board could be fun for get-togethers or a classroom environment.  Players will then be able to share their creations with others to download and use for themselves.  Those who are into pixel art or designing levels should really keep an eye out for Bloxels.

Iggy's Egg Adventure was at PixelPop again, fresh from its retail release a few weeks ago.  With Donkey Kong inspirations, IEA is a challenging platformer that merges a cute aesthetic with tons of ways to die.  If you have played platformers from the late 80's through the 90's you will love the modern touches Iggy's Egg Adventure has applied to the genre.  The final product turned out very well, and attendees were able to play through the entire game as well as try out every character.  If you want to know more about Iggy's, check out our article for more about the game!

If strategy card games are more your thing, Cards and Castles has you covered.  With simple to understand mechanics, deep meta and a large variety of cards to collect, CaC nails it with this collectible card game.  Plot out your plan of attack on the game board, and take down the enemies castle before they can destroy yours.  Cards and Castles is looking good as it heads towards its Early Access release on Steam this Friday, September 18th.  As with Iggy's, we have our impressions of Cards and Castles up that highlights a lot of the features that were brought in the 2.0 update.  You can check out the article for more info!

We also happened upon a 3D pixel game called Barony, which is a roguelike dungeon RPG with co-op.  With an aesthetic very similar to Minecraft, the game takes inspirations from Ultima Underworld and System Shock.  Be careful, as hastily running in will get you into trouble and killed faster than you can say help.  You can choose to go solo or join up with three others in private hosted matches.  Although the demo at PixelPop only allowed for two players, that did not stop Barony from showing how fatal things can get if you forgo cooperating with your team.  We died very easily while going out on our own, which demonstrates that relying on your partner is very crucial.  Barony recently released in the latter part of June on Steam, where you can find more screenshots and videos of the game!

"Flipping" over to the tabletop genre is a fun little card game titled Flip Hue.  Flip Hue has an interesting mechanic where you are not only playing your hand, but the back of your friends hands as well.  The goal is to match all five cards in your hand to your faction card sitting on the table.  The first twist is while players can see only one color that you must match, the other side of the card has a different color that other players cannot see.  Furthermore, all of the cards are double-sided, with faction colors on each side.  So not only are you playing the cards that only you can see in your hand, but the faction cards of other players that they cannot see. 

One of the more simple but charming games at this years PixelPop was Sleepy Kraken.  For once, you are not trying to hunt the monster, but rather help it.  With noisy pirates sailing over the ocean, it is kind of hard for the Kraken to get some sleep.  By tapping on the screen, you can direct where the Kraken's tentacle goes which will destroy any pirate ship it comes in contact with.  As you keep destroying pirate ships, the speed and amount of ships increases.  You will need to stop them as early as possible, the more pirates that travel the ocean the closer the Kraken is to waking up.  Once all the "Z's" near the Kraken are reduced, the beast is awoken and it is game over.  The graphics are charming and trying to get the high score can be quite addicting.  Sleepy Kraken is a great pick-up game, which releases later this fall.

A glimpse of Excelsior was also at the convention, which showcased just a sample of what can be expected.  While Excelsior is set to be more of an open world game with inspirations from The Legend of Zelda, a single screen survival mode was on display at PixelPop.  Very reminiscent of Zelda in both art and perspective,  the demo consisted of taking on a number of ever increasing ants.  With a sword slash and ranged shot, taking on these hordes of ants was fun with four players.  While it did not showcase the true potential of the game, the four-player aspect was engaging enough to keep Excelsior in mind as its development continues.  

When someone is making a retro game, they usually make a game inspired by retro consoles.  26 gy takes a different approach and channels a ton of story into its Commodore 64 influenced graphics.  While some games are overtly flashy and colorful, 26 gy aims to amuse your mind.  The intro lays out both the story and mechanics; you've been exposed to an extremely lethal dose of radiation which leaves you with only 72 hours left to live.  In a twist of fate, you get the opportunity to do something that will change your life, as long as your failing health will allow.  26 gy opts for a de-leveling system, where you combat your stats downgrading as the radiation poisoning slowly takes over.  The mechanics and plot in 26 gy are quite different from a lot of other games we seen at PixelPop.

Variety was of no shortage at PixelPop 2015.  With games just released or in development, there was plenty to play now or get excited for the future.