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08 May 2014

Play Blackpool: The Games

Along with stalwart colleagues, Clockwork Cuckoo, we braved the bank-holiday traffic to drag our sweet behinds up to Play Blackpool to show the latest Friendship Club build.


Rather than give you a blow-by-blow account of our whole weekend (not that exciting), I'll instead talk about some of the games I got to play whilst I was there (more exciting). I'll also tell you about a little game we invented for the motorway that kept us engaged for about eight hours worth of driving (overwhelmingly exciting).


Obligatory picture of our stand.


Games games games games!

There was a bunch of indies at the show, curated by James Monkman of RGCD fame. Sadly I didn't get a chance to play all of them, but below is a quick preview of those I did.


Bertram Fiddle

A stylish graphic adventure from our literally-just-down-the-road-buddies Rumpus Animations. The game currently consists of a short demo in which you play the titular Bertram Fiddle, a Victorian adventurer embarking on his latest adventure. Whilst the game did have a few usability issues (which are getting ironed out as I type this), it more than made up with it with bundles of charm, fantastic voice acting and a monumental clock gag (probably even better than Toast Time's Clock and Balls level).



I was pleasantly surprised by this ambitious 2D space game from Adam Nasralla. You are offered control of four pilots aboard a large mothership, from which you can design and pilot ships, collect gems (for improving your fleet) and generally wreck interstellar havoc. The game has some really clever aspects to it, such as the ability to use all four pilots at once, with three of them being turned over to AI control. It's still early days, but if Clonespace manages to fulfil its potential then it could be something rather special.


(This game doesn't seem to have any internet presence at the moment).


Gang Beasts

Not much needs saying about this. It's inspired. The developers have struck gold here, and not only that, but they have the humour and inventiveness to see it through. Just go and get it, it's free...



I spent a surprising amount of time skyving away from the Friendship Club stand to play this one. It is essentially snake... in 3D. Nicely executed, damn addictive and who can fight RGB shift and scanlines?


The Breakout

This is looking like it could be a real gem of an adventure game. Set behind enemy lines in WW2, the demo that I played through showed fantastic art direction and wonderfully restrained puzzle design and there are glimpses of game design genius. I 'really' want to see this game get finished, however it's currently looking like it's going to fall short on its Kickstarter campaign. This would be a crime...



Ben Bradley's sumptous looking musical shooter SubStream was right next to our stand and got quite a lot of my attention. In its best moments the game becomes a tense, beautiful marriage of surreal graphics and music. Ben also showed me some of the audio / level design tools he's built for the game - too cool.


Super House of Dead Ninjas

A really slick platformer which turns even the most humble of gamers into a maelstrom of death. The gameplay was nicely forgiving, whilst also hinting that this was a game that could be perfected in time. Very nice indeed.


Things I Didn't Play Because I'm An Idiot (Or Something)

Unfortunately I didn't play everything that was in the indie showcase. Other games included the N64-esque karting game Bears Can't Drift, beautiful Tron lightbike maze game Positron and match three mobile game What Rhymes With Martians.


Arcade Machines

Unfortunately I didn't get as much time as I'd have liked on the arcade machines, which is a shame because there was an awesome collection on show. However, what I did get to play represented some of the best summer holidays and dodgy village fairs of my childhood: Point Blank, Hypersports, Punch Out, Defender, Missile Command, Power Drift, OutRun, Star Wars, Hard Drivin', the list goes on. What I did find significant, especially in this age of emulators and ROMs, was the amazing range of controls. Obviously you've got the trackball for Missile Command, but I'd forgotten that the joystick in Defender is only used for vertical movement, with the thrusters and direction change on buttons, or the massive knockout punch button on PunchOut. Given how easy it is to make custom controller these days it's got me thinking...


Llamasoft Bar

One of the gods of music visualisations, light synths and arcade shooters has been experimenting with VR. I am more excited to see what these guys do with the technology than anyone else on the planet. You can keep your scary corridors, fear of heights and assorted cheap tricks, I wanna lie back and trip balls.


Motorway Game

This is a little game I invented a few months back, but only played to any great extent on this trip. To call it a 'game' is a bit generous, rather it's a means to generate crude words in hilarious sequences. The rules are thus:

  • take the last three letters of the number plate of another vehicle
  • say them out loud
  • use each letter (in order) as the first letter for a made up medical condition or bodily description
  • say it out loud
  • laugh, grimace, feel ashamed, find another number plate, do it again... for hours.

Variation: - as above, but players take it turns to say a word each (or just shout them out impulsively as and when)


- Nick

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