Crowds gather around a group of four, clutching their controllers, as cartoonish explosions, light-hearted chip tune, and the clinking of beer bottles fills the air. The audience lets out bellowing laughter as one after the other, players die off in an attempt at Spelunky supremacy. It's a fast paced intro to a genius night-to-come at Ground Kontrol: Indie Game Night.
The chance to play local multiplayer titles like Gravity Gods, Spelunky, Nidhogg, and Samurai Gunn in an IRL bar is an opportunity one should not miss. The trance that the players were in while playing was something out of gaming history's arcade days. Having not played the current Spelunky, I was really impressed by the speed of the individual rounds associated with winning. Competitive Spelunky is a great pick up game, given the absolute chaos that dominates the battle, but after a few rounds players develop a winning style not dependant on constantly chucking bombs into the playing field. Overall, I felt like I was waiting for the Spelunky time slot to be over, especially given the next three games and the excitement I knew was coming...
Gravity Gods is in Beta phase, but creator Arman Bohn didn't let that stop him from performing a public debut. The game itself is a modern adaptation to the older Atari war game, "Warlords", which pits 4 players against one another in a pongesque, barrier-breaking contest to the death. In Gravity Gods, rules are seemingly remixed and the projectiles used for battle are numerous. Randomized rule changes like an inverted screen or complete blackout create loud moments of pandemonium as players attempt to guard their own wall and destroy their neighbors like a twisted, bizarro "Breakout" match.
Gravity Gods became a quick favorite at GK, and who could blame us? The game itself is as classic as it gets. Aside from a few minor bugs, this game has the potential to be a really solid achievement for Bohn, who was there playing out the kinks with his fans.
Nidhogg. Wow. This game fucking BLEEDS AWESOME and I do mean bleeds in a literal sense. The object of Los Angeles based developer, Messhoff's, newest game is to stab the shit out of your enemy and run like hell to the next stage as fast as you can. Okay, that's a bit reductive. Nidhogg pits players against one another in a skill-heavy fencing match, where competitors move further along a selected stage toward his/her exit at the end. Once the exit is reached, a giant snake/worm/dragon scoops the player up and they win. Yeah, seriously. Given the psychedelic nature of Nidhogg's past games, this was no surprise.
Competitors regenerate after death further along in the stage and attempt to kill their adversary again and again. It's an intense tit-for-tat that results in a lot of screaming, cheering, and drinking bets when played in a barcade. New players' matches are quick and harsh, seasoned fencers seem to create intricate strategies with what works for their thumbs. Tactics like tackle/grapple, barrel roll, and the friendly neck snap are perfected over time as pros ascend quickly above the blood of their enemies. Nidhogg is one of those games I immediately went home and purchased without question given it's high replay value. Matches went on and on until ultimately, time was the only factor in moving on to the next game...
---And once we had moved on, no one had any complaints.
Samurai Gunn has got to be the best indie game released in 2013. As I stated in my earlier critique of this game, Samurai Gunn blends perfectly the elements of classic arcade fandom and super sleek modern mechanics to produce what many are calling an infinitely expandable local multi player. Ground Kontrol repeatedly erupted in applause as players got their bearings, developed a standard, and rose to compete with other winners. The rounds started in four-player mode matches but it seemed that for new players, the disorientation of fighting three other samurai was paralyzing. After a few spirited rounds, one-on-one play became the coliseum event of the evening. As new people poured into the gaming arena, players handed off controllers after every "first-to-ten". Showdowns determined victories for some, for others, a demon seemed to live in their katana. Through passionate slashing, nimble movement, and the perfect combination of aim and gunpowder, many Samurai bit the dust. One player, named Andrew, rose to the top ranks and was soon destroying veterans of SG on his first night playing the game. The final round included him and one of the top 3 players of the evening and this n00b took it the fuck right home. Unbelievable playing.
Samurai Gun got hoots and hollers best applied at a metal show. The involvement of each player in the making of his/her "character" through skin choice and play style made the audience really feel for each match. I couldn't help but make up ridiculous stories behind each 8-bit character's fight with one another, narrating the battle like an episode of Dragon Ball Z. This game really connects with it's players/viewers and we can only home for more from Teknopants.
As the night concluded and we all shook hands, the magic of local gaming felt alive again. Not since Smash Brothers in my cousin's basement had I experienced such a (dare I say) giddy environment of gaming challengers. I took a moment to watch everyone as GK's promoter packed up his gear and what I saw were phones being whipped out, information being exchanged, and alliances being formed between brackets. Indie Game Night was a total success.
So check out each game, and it's developer. Support GK and indie games! News on the next event will be up on our facebook, haven't you added us yet?