One of the great joys of Fantastic Fest - beyond seeing amazing movies, consuming tasty food and beverages, and singing karaoke with terrific people - is the Fantastic Arcade, a sister festival that takes place concurrently and holds up games in their rightful place alongside motion pictures.
Fantastic Arcade takes place over half of the festival’s runtime, seeing the Alamo South Lamar corridors and the Highball bar packed to the gills with custom arcade cabinets bearing new, exciting, and idiosyncratic indie games. Previous years’ hits have included Nidhogg, Gang Beasts, Ridiculous Fishing, and Hotline Miami. But more than “just” an arcade, it’s a festival in its own right, as a host of indie developers descend on the theatre for developer talks, panel discussions, live tournaments, happy hours, dance parties, and - most importantly - collusion.
This year is a little different to previous years: it takes place in the second half of the festival, rather than the first, but more importantly, it will be world-premiering six entirely new games in its Spotlight cabinets, alongside a range of other titles that will probably be new to you anyway. There are new games from the makers of Nuclear Throne and Desert Golfing, as well as renegade devs Arcane Kids and IFC's Food Party creator Thu Tran. As before, the Arcade is free and open to the public - no Fantastic Fest badge required.
The 2015 lineup of premieres, selected by Austin games collective Juegos Rancheros and presented with the assistance of Humble Bundle, includes the following games (which I’ll have to use press release copy for, as they’re entirely new and unseen):
Wheels of Aurelia (Santa Ragione)
Wheels of Aurelia is a narrative road trip game set in the roaring Italian 70's from the creators of Fotonica & MirrorMoon EP. Half racing game and half interactive fiction, it tells the story of Lella, a restless woman driving on the roads of the western coast of Italy, the famous Via Aurelia.
Hellmouth (Thu Tran and Ivan Safrin)
Hellmouth is a competitive cooking game where players collect ingredients from a hellish death course and cook it to perfection to feed Satan. Hellmouth is co-created by developer Ivan Safrinand Thu Tran, the mind behind the Independent Film Channel television show Food Party, and host of the 'Barfcade' at Fantastic Arcade 2014.
Hoky (Jan Willem Nijman and Kitty Calis)
Hoky is arcade action on ice for up to four players, from the developers who separately helped bring you Nuclear Throne and Action Henk, and who together created Adventure Minute, the winner of Fantastic Arcade's Adventure Time Gamemaking Frenzy in 2012.
CRAP! No One Loves Me (Arcane Kids)
"My morning ritual is pretty simple: I check my phone and scream. Then I crawl into my coffin, it's all warmed up... let's go for a ride."
CNOLM is a daily affirmation & multiplayer coffin bobsledding journey into the afterlife from Arcane Kids, the creators of Zineth, Perfect Stride, Bubsy 3D: Bubsy Visits the James Turrell Retrospective & the Sonic Dreams Collection.
Risky Bison (Justin Smith)
Risky Bison is a game about managing the financial affairs of a herd of buffalo, created by "the game developer's game developer" Justin Smith, best known as the designer behind Enviro Bear 2000 and Desert Golfing.
Alea (Paloma Dawkins, Cale Bradbury, Caila Thompson-Hannant)
Co-created by Cale Bradbury, Caila Thompson-Hannant, and Paloma Dawkins, the latter best known as the artist behind KO-OP Mode's Gardenarium, Alea is a hiking simulator & experience of infinity, and a reminder of the endless light and dark currently occurring in all directions, at all times. Just don't die and you should be okay.
These games sound utterly bizarre and adorable, and I kind of love them already based solely on their concept pitches. In addition, the following ten games will also be featured in cabinets alongside the premieres:
Secret Legend (Andrew Shouldice)
An homage to classic games with undeniable polish and style, an accompanying illustrated instruction booklet describes it as " ...an adventuresome TRIANGLE-SEEK set in that place just beyond the farthest you've ever been. To avoid damaging your saved game, remember to hold the RESET button when turning the power off."
Beglitched (Alec Thomson, Jenny Jiao Hsia)
Beglitched is a game about insecurity, in our computers and ourselves. In a pastel world of networks where nobody truly knows what they're doing, hacking is a magical art and the notorious Glitch Witch is the most premium archmagi of the net. By random circumstance, YOU are her new apprentice.
GNOG (KO-OP Mode)
GNOG is about exploring giant monsters and their inner worlds. Each head is part of an interconnected world filled with tantalizing secrets. Created by Montreal's experimental game collective, KO-OP Mode.
Strawberry Cubes (Loren Schmidt)
Strawberry Cubes is an experiential open-world game which uses a cryptic set of glitches and magical transformations to abstractly evoke the feeling of losing a family member to alzheimer's disease.
A Good Snowman is Hard to Build (Alan Hazelden)
A Good Snowman Is Hard To Build is an adorable puzzle game about being a monster and making snowmen.
Hot Date (George Batchelor)
A romantic evening of speed dating. With pugs.
Versnoof (Kyle Reimergartin)
Fantastic Arcade award-winning developer Kyle Reimergartin and The Floor is Jelly creator Ian Snyder return with a game Reimergartin describes as "PARASITIC SYMBIOSIS AND PROPAGATION THROUGH PREEXISTING AMBULATORY MECHANISM". We describe it as an experiment that will create shimmering mnemonic architecture in your mind, as you navigate a labyrinth using only your sonar-like extra senses.
Froggy (Nathalie Lawhead)
In this 'no holes barred froggame' you frog as FROGGY, a seasoned frog veteran with a strong inner-voice but no moral conviction, surviving one day at a time on Armageddon Highway.
Shelter 2 (Bastian Leonhardt Strube)
In Shelter 2, you play the life of a mother lynx, pregnant at first, giving birth and continuing in to a journey of parenthood where nurturing her four cubs is paramount for their survival.
The TAMPERDROME COLLECTION (G.P. Lackey)
The TAMPERDROME COLLECTION is a suite of procedural generation experiments which allows you to create random dogs, islands, ghosts, cats, and other strange things.
Full disclosure: I will be working for Fantastic Arcade in some respect this year, and I’m super fucking excited about it. Come play some games and say hi!