Feature – GameCityNights Season 3 Episode 4

Posted: April 29, 2012 in Feature

Location: Antenna, Nottingham. Time: 6pm. I take up my resident seat with a nice alcoholic beverage. It’s announced online that the festivities start at 6 but it’s just a myth to make sure backsides are on seats, everyone has a drink and that no one will miss anything…

To pass the time the organisers dine on the in-house cuisine and House Band Owain Davies does his thingy with those buttons and stuff. I don’t know what they are, what they do, but I know the result is some awesome music. His rendition of the Great Fairy Theme from the Zelda series is a firm favourite of mine, and I harass him to play it each time. This time he is using something called Synapse, which involves a Kinect hooked up to a TV to display something which looks like night vision camera, except more blurry and more fun to wave your arms around in front of. Several people throughout the course of the night couldn’t fight the temptation to stand in front of the Kinect and strike various poses.

Owain and myself have some turquoise arm waving fun.

The evening kicks off with an announcement that next week will feature a special GameCityNights to launch this year’s GameCity festival which is now in its seventh year. Clearly following Mario Kart it didn’t decide on a flashy title and is just calling itself GameCity 7. It was announced that video game and fantasy legend Ian Livingstone OBE will be speaking on this special night. Wednesday 2nd May, be there or be a rectangular thing.

Several games were available for playtesting, one being Flerbs from Des.Soc. Featured at previous GameCityNights events, it involves moving a colourful block around a seemingly impossible to traverse world. You’re clearly going to die here. But this is all part of the plan, as when you respawn your former corpse remains on the field for you to use as a platform to negotiate these treacherous landscapes. It is a clear case of “without sacrifice there can be no victory” (an original Derek Wheatley phrase, similarities with other phrases is purely coincidental, or they’ve copied me) the option for a crazy multiplayer game is available and it is pure manic fun as everyone tries to make everyone else kill themselves so they can advance on their lifeless comrades in a race for victory.

The night was a double feature: instead of one main developer talking about their game, we had two, giving true value for money. First off was Mike Bithell and his game Thomas Was Alone. This is a game about love, friendship and jumping blocks. Strengths must combine to overcome the weaknesses of other blocks, some can float, some jump higher than others and obviously there are various sized holes only a few blocks can go through. All must join forces – Lost Vikings style – to reach the end portal. Controlling only one block at a time you must time your actions in a fluid motion that will keep all blocks safe and allow them to advance. With music by David Housden and narration by Danny Wallace, who people may recognise his cynical tones as Shaun from the Assassin’s Creed series, this is shaping up to be a unique and immersive experience.

Watch the trailer here: http://www.thomaswasalone.com/


Next up was Andrew Smith from Spilt Milk Studios and their game Smash the Block. No prizes for guessing what this game involves, that’s right – smashing blocks! But it is more than a simple Breakout clone. Smash the Block takes it beyond a mere graphical update, with a ‘cast’ of blocks and the ability to save collected power-ups instead of them being activated straight away as in similar games creating more of a tactical element. Do you hoard all these power-ups until the opportune moment or unleash their fury a few bounces later? The choice is now yours. With loads of post-release content this is an interesting title to look out for.

GameCityNights is an event that happens on the last Thursday of every month at Antenna in Nottingham. For more information check out http://nights.gamecity.org/

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