Gamercamp 2013 Arcade Picks

The first weekend of November marked the fifth edition of annual video game festival Gamercamp. This year marked a move into a very different kind of space from last year, which was held on the University of Toronto campus, into the Hotel Ocho. The change of venue was a smart move, for it meant not only that there was space for probably 3X as many games as last year, as well as a board game and cafe area, but also gave the atmosphere of the festival much less of a studious air. People were definitely much more relaxed (like literally, you could chill out on beds and everything) and ready to play games this year! This year’s arcade featured a huge amount of local indie talent, games from Gamercamp’s Ancient Arcade, held this summer at the Royal Ontario Museum,  as well as a whole floor of PS4 indie exclusives to try. Here are our personal favourites from the fest.

calligrapher

Calligrapher

Calligrapher is a tablet game made for the ROM Ancient Arcade where you write Chinese characters using the touchscreen. The art is really beautiful, and I saw the benefit of the game outside of just fun – it would be great for people learning Chinese. Learning to draw the characters and memorize them is a huge part of learning that language, and this game has the potential to be a wonderful tool for that. -Megan Patterson

a funny thing happened on the way to the afterlife

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Afterlife

Another ROM Ancient Arcade edition, this time about Ancient Egypt. Egypt seemed to be a pretty popular time period for a lot of the Ancient Arcaders, but I thought this one handled the material the best. Part dungeon crawler, part educational game, you play as a soul on the way to the Afterlife. You get to choose whether or not to be virtuous, whether or not you want to cheat and use the Book of the Dead, while Set tries to trick you with “riddles” about the Egyptian pantheon. It has a great balance of humour and history, and I loved it. -MP

Hohokum

Hohokum is sort of what happens if Gravity Ghost, Katamari Damacy, and Little Big Planet decided to get together and have a baby. The result is a gorgeous, non-linear game with no time limit, score, or tutorial. You play as a serpent called The Long Mover, and the whole point of the game is exploration and the experience. It looks absolutely stunning on the PS4 (though it will be available for PS3 and Vita as well), and features a beautiful soundtrack. Like Gravity Ghost, this game is meant to be relaxing, a trend in games I am fully down with. -MP

Sound Shapes

Sound Shapes is by no means a new game, but I hadn’t had the opportunity to play it yet. Such a fun game. Every level is unique to the song, which you unlock new beats to as you clear the level. I was by no means great at this game (admittedly I need alone time with a game’s systems to really figure out how to play; I am not a person who can just pick up a game and know how to play it). On PS4 the graphic visual style looks amazing, and the PS4’s controller’s light flashes with the beat to help you get into the rhythm. -MP

Contrast

I was really excited to play Contrast, one of the few female-lead games on offer at this year’s Gamercamp. The midcentury setting was also really appealing to me. You play as Dawn, a acrobat and invisible friend to a little girl named Didi, and you travel within a world of cabaret, jazz, and fairgrounds. The game is described as a “world of shadow, light, and intrigue,” and the main mechanic of the game involves using Dawn to solve map puzzles using her special power of jumping between the real world and the shadow one. The mechanic is really cool, though a bit difficult to get the hang of. My one complaint about the game  though is that with the midcentury setting comes some pretty gross midcentury sexism and objectification. -MP

Puzzle Axe

Puzzle Axe was a total surprise for me, and probably one of the best tablet games I’ve played so far. A charming mix of puzzles (like literal, jigsaw puzzles) with an integrated story, about a young prince and his quest to put his kingdom back together using the mythical puzzle axw. It’s a really fun and engrossing little game, whose room was pretty consistently full of players determined to put as much of the kingdom back together as possible. -MP

Jazzpunk

Jazzpunk is a weird, hilarious, crazy diamond of a game. So of course I love it. I’m not even really sure I can describe it, so watch the teaser and PREORDER IT NOW. -MP

Secrets of Raetikon

Secrets of Raetikon is a truly special little game. You play as a little bird, using wind physics to traverse a world populated by foxes, lynx, and the remains of the civilization of Raetikon. Some of these ruins are puzzles that need to be solved. Sometimes you just have to try getting through a level without getting killed by hawks. With artwork made up entirely of triangles, it’s also visually very arresting, and I found myself unable to look away. The open alpha of this game is already done, but the developers have had to take to Indiegogo in order to make the rest of the money to finish the game. Unfortunately, they’re currently only at about a 1/4 of their goal. I absolutely recommend heading over to the Indiegogo page and giving them some money, because I really want this game to get made! -MP

toto temple

Toto Temple

Proving that sometimes simple is best, Toto Temple is a multiplayer game where the goal is simply to steal the goat from your opponents by dashing at them and knocking it out of their hands. The longer you have the goat, the more points you get. Simple concept, currently only one level, but super, super fun. -MP

Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime

Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime by Toronto’s Asteroid Base sees you and one friend playing a 2-player co-op game that is nostalgic of those NES co-op days, while at the same time being fresh and new. You and a friend (who, lets face it, you might not like very much as you start playing) pilot a neon pink spaceship (the perfect colour, IMO), and work together manning turrets, lasers, shields, opening presents that let you power up said weapons, or taking the helm to drive your hot pink Death Star (Love Star?). Your mission? To head to planets that need saving, gathering their people’s love and blasting away alien ships and avoiding asteroids and “MOVE THE SHIELD!”. There was a lot of yelling in this frantic little gem of a game – and after collecting enough love, we were warped to an epic boss battle (nothing like fighting a giant space bear, amirite?). -Vanessa Di Gregorio

tiny brains

Tiny Brains

In Tiny Brains (PS4), players control one of four super-powered lab animals in a fantastically chaotic 4-player co-op game. The most interesting part? Each animal, or “tiny brain”, has their own power – and in order to solve the puzzles and fight off some not-so-friendly chickens, everyone needs to pull their own weight with their powers to get things done. So of course, during the demo, there was a lot of talking (and perhaps a little bit of yelling, “NO NOT THERE”,) while I sat on a couch with three others and completed each puzzle room. We talked strategy, laughed our heads off, and praised each other for solving the puzzle. Playing the green rabbit with the power to pull objects towards myself, I found myself sacrificing my life in order to pull those evil little chickens into a hole with me, natch. I mean, why not? And the result? A social game that is easy to pick up, that gives every player something unique, and will make for crazy gaming party nights. -VDG

 

 

Writer, editor, and founding member of Paper Droids. RPG-lover, baby game maker, owned by corgi. Spends way too much time on Twitter @mk_patter. To reach by email: sciandtech@paperdroids.com