During the summer, we reported on an indie gaming event in Chicago called Bit Bash. It was really one of the most fun things I’ve ever experienced, and it introduced me to some awesome games. Last Thursday, Bit Bash hosted a smaller event called Itty Bitty Bash. The event leads into the Train Jam, a game jam that takes place during the excessively long train ride from Chicago to the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. Itty Bitty Bash was hosted at Bottom Lounge in west Chicago, with 9 games on display. I bought my ticket for this event right away, because even a tiny bit more Bit Bash would be amazing. Or at least, that’s what I thought. The following are the games that were present, and my initial thoughts after playing them. None of my pictures really came out, but fortunately our own Andrew Burrage was on hand with an actual camera.
I was drawn to Wormball because it was one of few games present that (a) didn’t have retro-style graphics and (b) I had never heard of before. The game basically goes like this: there are two teams of four worms on a black background. Your goal is to wrap your worm around a ball to score points, while holding back your opponents. The game features tank-like controls, with the left stick turning your worm’s head and the A button accelerating (this is a good time to note that most of the games were PC games played with an Xbox 360 controller). The game, perhaps intentionally, is very hard to control. Unfortunately, it lacks anything to make up for that; it’s an original concept, but not one with enough punch to justify its barrier to entry.
Either this game is really easy, or I’m just a natural: I came in a very close second place the first time I played it. This game involves up to 4 players on a 2D plane, and as far as I could tell, the goal is to hit the ball as hard as you can. If your opponents fail to hit it back, they are eliminated. It seemed like there were some nuances to the gameplay beyond that, but I didn’t have a chance to figure them out. The graphics are somewhat reminiscent of The World Ends With You or Persona 4 Arena, and the characters range from a simple baseball player to a robot to a strange being known as “Candyman.” Lethal League was a lot of fun, but it might have been too simple. Either way, it was one of the better games in the bunch. I look forward to giving it a more thorough try.
This game I had heard of before the event. It’s a first person shooter in which everyone is invisible. That’s why it’s called Screencheat: you have to commit the cardinal sin of split screen gaming, looking at your opponent’s side of the screen, to know where to shoot. Beyond that, the game features an interesting array of weapons: a hobby horse and wooden sword, a candelabra, and a car engine join some more traditional (or at least apparently traditional) weapons. The concept makes the game frustrating, but there are a few things to make it easier. For one, the stage was split into four colors, so it wasn’t as hard to figure out where opponents were. For another, there was no limit to ammo, so you could spray the general area. In the end I actually managed to get a few kills. Unfortunately, we were playing capture the flag (or piñata in this case). I will say that the environment hindered this game, as players couldn’t really talk to each other.
Slam City Oracles
This was one of the lesser played games at the event, which is a shame, because it was a lot of fun. Supporting two players, the goal was basically to bounce as high as possible, wreaking havoc along the way. This one was actually a lot of fun, but it was short lived. A session of the game lasts a few minutes, and at least based on what they had there, there’s very little reason to keep going. You can set a new record and try to see more of it, but it remains at very simple game.
The best thing about the full Bit Bash was that it featured games I couldn’t play, either as well or at all, at home. Some, like the highly praised Gang Beasts, are much more fun with more players. Others, like Oculus Rift games, require special equipment. There wasn’t as much of that at Itty Bitty Bash, but Afterglow fits firmly in the second category. The hardware sits inside a suitcase, and it consists of a bunch of LEDs, a visor, a big red button, and a rotary phone dialer. Players look through the visor at a ring of LEDs trying to destroy aliens. Dialing a 1 on the rotary uses the radar, which shows on the ring of LEDs approximately where the Aliens are. You need to dial the number at the matching position to hit them. If they close in, hit the big red button to use a bomb. At the end, a receipt printer will print out your score. I only got 2, but I also spent a lot of time not knowing what I was doing. Afterglow was quite fun, and I would like to have tried again, but there was always a line for it. There is more to this game than meets the eye, but I won’t spoil it. Oddly, the game wasn’t on the official list, which means it may have been there unofficially (not that I’m complaining).
There isn’t much to say about this one that hasn’t already been said. Speedrunners is a competitive side scrolling parkour-ish racing game. Players race laps around a stage until all but one are knocked out. While there isn’t anything too exciting about it, it is a lot of fun. The dynamic can change on a dime, with one missed jump costing you the race. There are times when you have to debate between taking the ideal path or getting a speed boost, much like in F-Zero. This is another game that works better when you can actually talk to the other players, something the loud music made impossible, but the game itself is great.
There were 3 games at the event that I didn’t have a chance to play: Extreme Exorcism, Tennnes, and A Fistful of Gun. Still, I think the bottom line is clear: this event was no Bit Bash. I knew going in what the games would be, but there’s more to it than that. Bit Bash had an excellent venue, which was interesting in and of itself, and which allowed for more social games to be played outside where it was quieter. The game selection was more interesting by far, with more games that were hard to play at home. I did know what I was getting into with this event, but I didn’t realize until I got there just how perfect Bit Bash was, and that there was no way a smaller event at a bar could have the same charm.