SXSW Sydney – Digital and Tabletop Games Showcase Part One
Thanks to the team at Aethermon: Collect, Player 2 was able to attend a few events at SXSW Sydney, primarily in the Games space which ran across the 20th and 21st of October and comprised both digital and tabletop games. Featuring many excellent titles, here are just a handful which grabbed this writer’s attention.
Illuminary is an upcoming rhythm title from developer Blue Volcan which eschews many of the fundamentals of the genre to create something fairly unique. With a visual style reminiscent of Rez, Illuminary uses a three-lane track system divided into the primary colours of red, green and blue, with each lane divided into a further three colours depending on the button pressed for a total of nine colours in all. The goal of Illuminary is to complete each song by successfully pushing buttons in time with the beat, with one important twist – players can only complete a level if they manage to accrue enough of each of the nine colours.
Players shift lanes using the left analog stick, or reset to the middle lane by letting the stick reset to its neutral position or manually pushing it back. To make things even more interesting, Illuminary doesn’t have its songs come down the lanes top to bottom or even right to left as many other rhythm titles do. Instead, they can come from a variety of directions, with the level I played having the notes scroll vertically upwards as I frantically tried to line the analog stick into the right lane while remembering to divide my button presses equally between each colour. The end of each stage shows a heatmap of the button presses and which colours dominated a players output which is incredibly useful for players to gain an insight into how they can improve their balance. Despite moving at a slightly slower pace than many other rhythm titles I’ve played, Illuminary was no less challenging thanks to its demand on players to utilise all buttons; while it’s possible to ‘complete’ a level using a single button, this approach won’t be racking up any high scores.
As a sucker for rhythm games, it’s always great to see titles that bring something new to the genre – Illuminary is definitely one to watch in this space and can be Wishlisted on Steam right now.
Having successfully crowdfunded in February of this year, Mika and the Witches Mountain is a whimsical title that very strongly ‘resembles but is legally distinct from’ the Studio Ghibli anime classic Kiki’s Delivery Service. From the same team that made Summer in Mara, Mika also gives off strong vibes of the work of Prideful Sloth, specifically Yonder which is a big plus in my book. The demo available at SXSW primarily showcased the flying and delivery mechanics which successfully capture the feel of that aspect of the film; as young, helpful witch Mika, players unsteadily fly around a seaside town delivering small parcels to the townsfolk while also getting to know more about them and their world. The bright colour palette, simple controls and low stakes tone make this slot nicely into the ‘cozycore’ genre, something ideal to curl up with on the Switch or lay back on the couch. Whether the game heads into the territory around the struggles faced by artistic individuals amid failure and burnout remains to be seen. Mika and the Witches Mountain is aiming to launch in Q1 of 2024 and is available for physical preorder on Nintendo Switch, and digitally on all other current platforms including Steam where it’s available to Wishlist, Xbox Series X/S and PlayStation 4/5.
Reminiscent of Bomb Rush Cyberfunk and the work of Null Signal games in resurrecting properties no longer a priority for their IP holders, Bits and Bops is an upcoming rhythm action game that wears its Rhythm Heaven influences on its sleeve proudly with shades of Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! and Warioware for good measure. A collection of rhythm minigames, players must hit the action button to repeat a ‘Simon Says’ type musical track within a series of increasingly outlandish and humorous scenarios such as capturing the perfect photo of a seal at play, or trying to construct flat-pack furniture using language independent instructions with a meddling cat sprawling across them for good measure. Unlike some recent rhythm titles such as the Taiko no Tatsujin series which struggle to provide a low latency experience, the developers of Bits and Bops have gone to extreme lengths ensure there is almost no perceptible latency when playing; it’s so good that you can honestly play with your eyes closed which also offers some interesting accessibility functions going forward. Bits and Bops successfully funded on KickStarter in ? and will hopefully release some time in 2024. For now, there is a demo available on Steam and those interested can also Wishlist the game.
Following on from their successful puzzle exploration title The Eyes of Ara, developer 100 Stones Interactive are pushing the formula of that game further into exciting new territory with Memory’s Reach, which combines aspects of Metroid Prime, The Dig and the Metroidvania game structure as players explore a strange alien planet, uncovering the mysteries surrounding the extermination of the many alien races who once inhabited it. Billed as a ‘Puzzlevania’ game by the developer, Memory’s Reach sports a striking visual style and puzzles that steadily ramp up and work to incorporate much larger areas of the environment alongside unlockable player abilities, the vertical slice demo left me wanting more. With a planned release in 2024, hopefully it won’t be too much longer until I can dive back into this fascinating sci-fi world, but in the meantime it’s possible to Wishlist Memory’s Reach right now.
Be sure to check out Part Two of our SXSW Digital and Tabletop Games coverage in the coming days here on Player 2!