TECH

Fantastic Arcade celebrates weird gaming—dancing bears, haunted NESes, and all

  • The trailer for Disco Bear tells you all you need to know: the roller rink is being threatened with a shutdown, so the bears need a successful dance-a-thon. It's as ridiculous as it is enjoyable. Sam Machkovech
  • This trippy scene comes from Banana Chalice, a game made by Fantastic mainstay (and Washington-dev) Kyle Reimergartin. It's a delightful throwback to those Sonic levels where you're perpetually moving forward in a semi-first-person perspective, only here you're collecting banana trophies while avoiding ghosts and lava as opposed to doing silly hedgehog things. Nathan Mattise
  • Developer Jenny Jiao Hsia has made a game that speaks to everyone's life ambitions with Pipsqueak. Your dog-ish character has only one purpose in life: to eat all the eggs he can find. Vanquish any and all who get in your way! Sam Machkovech
  • Wait, what is this totally normal NES doing at this indie game dev? Nathan Mattise
  • Uh, so this is haunted? Nathan Mattise
  • From the minds of devs Andy Reitano and Zachary Johnson, the NESpectre is an interactive gaming experience where you can "haunt" a pedestrian NES by using your smartphone to "connect" with the spirits. Nathan Mattise
  • If you don't believe the NESpectre is haunted, you can watch the dev talk about how it functions… Nathan Mattise
  • …otherwise, know that is mindf'n to play Super Mario Bros. and, say, have the underwater music playing while in a normal Mushroom Kingdom level solely because you're poking a ghost via smartphone. (Here's some in-action footage.) Nathan Mattise
  • Fantastic Arcade veteran Multibowl, from devs Alec Thomson and Bennett Foddy, is a two-player tour de force that combines hundreds of competitive games of yore into a fast-placed 1v1 challenge. Nathan Mattise
  • I have strong, strong memories of playing this Atari version of Boxing against my dad in the early 1990s. Nathan Mattise
  • Dev Fernando Ramallo's The Stakes Are Too High can also be referred to as Super Morio goes to America. It combines a bunch of unfinished Mario-esque prototypes as a way of speaking to how hard it is to develop games today given the healthcare system's treatment of independent workers. Nathan Mattise
  • Chuchel is the latest from the beautiful aesthetic at developer Amanita Design. If you haven't already, go play Machinarium or Botanicula right now. Sam Machkovech
  • And the award for best named game in 2017 goes too… Untitled Goose Game, from the developers at House House. (This was a pre-alpha build, but this lulz simulator was already a hit with our young game testers.) Sam Machkovech
  • What in the Gary Busey… Nathan Mattise
  • Behold the rules to Drunk Driver from "Notari." Who doesn't want to play a driving-sim where you can hit a beer button? Nathan Mattise
  • Perhaps it goes without saying, but there is noooooo chance of keeping this car on the road with how swivel-y steering gets at a .13 BAC. So instead, our intrepid reporter (/hipster Waldo impersonator) took a screen selfie. Nathan Mattise
  • Those LED scrolling signs have been wasting themselves for so long; load Laser Pong instead, dudes. Nathan Mattise
  • We knew Atlus is a Japanese game developer, but we'd never come across this cabinet before. Nathan Mattise
  • At any rate, this cabinet did not come with English subtitles but did provide a fair bit of fun (you play as a ninja with destructive powers smashing all comers Missile Command-style).

AUSTIN, Texas—Genre-celebrating Fantastic Fest may reach wider and weirder than any other film festival when it comes to screenings (see recent zombie-high school-Christmas musicals or 90s-Japanese TV-crossover mockumentaries, for instance). And back in 2010, the event added a gaming arm.

Needless to say, it gets weird, too.

Put on by local independent gaming group Juegos Rancheros, Fantastic Arcade has evolved from a showcase for 10-20 games in its early days to now boasting closer to 50 showcase titles from several hundred submissions. In 2017, Fantastic Arcade grew so much—and attracted such an audience—that it needed to become its own standalone event. More than a month after the latest film portion wrapped, indie game enthusiasts crammed into a local Alamo Drafthouse last weekend to see some of the most unique titles coming from developers in Texas and beyond.

While there were several recognizable names on the slate (see Nidhogg II), the event is all about discovery for the casual gamer. Above, you can see a handful of the titles that caught our eye from an afternoon of button mashing and instruction reading. And if anything in particular speaks to you, know that we may have a few follow-up items in the works based on what we got to experience.

Here's A Fantastic Arcade panel about Into The Breach, a really cool strategy game from the makers of the hit indie game FTL. Click below for more videos taken from the Fantastic Arcade panel series.

For now, those interested in more info can find many of the developer's commentary sessions uploaded to YouTube. Plus, the now available 2017 Fantastic Arcade Indie Bundle includes Pipsqueak, The Stakes Are Too High, and Banana Chalice from the titles above if you want to test 'em first-hand.

Listing image by Sam Machkovech

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