Oh, the mighty controller. How it looks like a pair of wings with which we might use to fly away to worlds beyond our own. Worlds constructed in metal and electricity, worlds pulled from the dreamscapes of a shattered man, worlds anchored in the realities of being a small creature on a large angry planet, worlds that sometimes are just a drive away down the Italian coastline. These are some of the worlds on display at this year’s Fantastic Arcade in Austin, Texas, and from September 28th to October 1st, you can saunter down to weird old Austin and take a look at some weird new games.
Cities seem to be the source of so many of our video game destinations. Bioshock, Papo and Yo, even Fallout all send you to wander amidst digital echoes of cities styled after real life. But State of Play’s Lumino City takes a different beat—you are a young child named Lumi exploring Lumino City, which isn’t just a digital recreation, but a construct based on a ten foot tall tower built by its developer. Every model in the game is based on real-life pieces of paper, cardboard, metal, and electricity strung together into real environments recreated as puzzles for you to play.
Just look at the comparison between this handcrafted room and its digital counterpart in the trailer above. If you play Lumino City at home or at Fantastic Arcade, you’re sure to wander through a city only the likes that could exist as if it was carved by hand.
Did you hear about the first Shelter from developer Might and Delight? It was one of the few indie games from the last few years that directly tackled themes of motherhood by casting you as a mother badger whose sole goal was to protect her young children. And rest assured, if you failed, the consequences were pretty dire. Shelter 2 sends you off on a journey as another animal mother, this time a Lynx. Though taking the role of a more predatory beast (with adorable kittens following you around) may provide some advantages, you’ll still need to work just as hard to nurture your young as you take them on a journey across a wilderness with the aesthetic of folded paper. Like Lumino City, you can take this journey at Fantastic Arcade, or play it at home.
Anamorphine from Artifact 5 is a journey of the mind. No seriously, you’re wandering around a young man’s subconscious and dealing with the trauma loaded up inside there. It is not pretty. We actually saw a little of this game at the Boston Festival of Indie Games, and it’s absolutely for fans of Bioshock, Wolfenstein: The New Order, or Gone Home.The short demo we played (and will no doubt be at Fantastic Arcade) showed off a house loaded with narrative clues about the story of the main character’s past, which shifted without warning into eerie psychedelic landscapes just at the turn of a head.
The game’s manipulation of player camera angles and positioning to show different information builds on the incredible ways we already explore 3D spaces in first person views, and sitting down with this game at Fantastic Arcade will surprise you with how your own thoughts can so easily slip from trauma to wonder at the drop of a hat.
Bonus Entry: Wheels of Aurelia
While the other games listed here have sent players to far-flung imaginary worlds, Wheels of Aurelia from Santa Ragione promises to bring it all back to 1970’s Italy. Though all they’ve shown of the game is an image of its heroine, Lella, and the car she’ll be taking down the coast, the gameplay premise alone is enough for us to urge you to keep an eye on this game as its development progresses.
It’s half racing game, half interactive fiction. Meaning you’ll be racing down the coast one second, and navigating through old-fashioned dialogue trees the next. We still need to see some proof of gameplay on this, but if you’re in Austin, maybe take a spin over to Italy for us and report back?
Featured Image: Art from Shelter 2 from Might and Delight