Fantastic Arcade is back, having now grown large enough to separate from its sister festival Fantastic Fest and stake out its own date and turf. Curated by Austin's indie games collective Juegos Rancheros, it's an indie games festival low on corporate hype and big on weird games, wild events, and wonderful community. The festival will host nightly tournaments; panel discussions; developer talks; a game jam; and dozens of games, the first salvo of which arrived this week.
In recent years, Fantastic Arcade has played host not just to specific games, but to resident game creators, commissioning new work to be shown off in custom arcade cabinets and made available in an itch.io bundle. This year's premiere titles, the subject of which have yet to be announced, will be developed by:
Jenny Jiao Hsia
Fresh off the back of her 2016 Fantastic Arcade appearance showcasing her Consume Me collection of body-image minigames, NYC’s Jenny Jiao Hsia — who also is known for her work on games like Beglitched & Stellar Smooch — will be creating a brand new work for Fantastic Arcade.
The creator of games including Strawberry Cubes, Realistic Kissing Simulator, and Star Guard (which was nominated for an Independent Games Festival design award), Schmidt frequently explores procedural generation and the abstract, with a delightful sense of uncanniness even in more traditional platforming and arcade style games.
First coming to the attention of the Juegos Rancheros collective when he submitted the incredibly strong short-story game Black Gold to the group’s Mystic Western Game Jam, fellow Texan Mccann captures fantastic surreality, even in short, simple geometric loops. We expect his first arcade game will be a true wonder.
Ramallo made his Fantastic Arcade debut in 2013 with the interactive landscape/musical tool Panoramical, a game he’d brought along with him as a festival attendee the year prior. Currently working with Google on its Tilt Brush VR art package and now a true Arcade mainstay, Ramallo will be creating brand new work for his arcade cabinet some five years later.
Reimergartin’s game Fjords — as well as his idiosyncratic live musical performances at multiple iterations of Fantastic Arcade — quickly made him a festival favorite. Reimergartin is currently at work on finishing what is destined to be his new arcade classic, Banana Chalice, which itself earned the Most Fantastic Award at Fantastic Arcade 2014.
Brandon ‘Nyarlu’ Williamson is best known for Forget-Me-Not, a 2011 PC and mobile game that feels every bit like a lost arcade game from the golden years of the early 1980s. This will mark his first appearance at Fantastic Arcade, after going under-represented for far too long.
And those are just the commissions. The festival will also play host to the following ten games, selected from hundreds of submissions, which fairly well sum up the Arcade's values:
Disco Bear (Brian Handy & Katie Pustolski)
Disco Bear is the heartfelt story of a bear being asked to dance once more.
Untitled Goose Game (House House)
Untitled Goose Game is a stealth & slapstick simulator from House House, creators of Push Me Pull You. It’s a bit like a nice day out in the park, except you’re a goose, and you’re here to ruin everyone’s nice day out in the park.
Into The Breach (Subset Games)
The remnants of human civilization are threatened by gigantic creatures breeding beneath the earth. You must control powerful mechs from the future to hold off this alien threat. Each attempt to save the world presents a new randomly generated challenge in this turn-based strategy game from the developers of FTL.
Minit (Kitty Calis, Jan Willem Nijman, Jukio Kallio, Dominik Johann)
Minit is a peculiar little adventure played sixty seconds at a time. Journey outside the comfort of your home to help unusual folk, uncover countless secrets, and overcome dangerous foes, all in hopes of lifting a rather unfortunate curse that ends each day after just one minute.
Nidhogg 2 (Messhof)
The wurm has returned and it must feed! Shed your garments and paint the walls with the flesh of your enemies, for only one can be worthy of sacrifice. The rules are simple. Reach the other side and kill anyone that stands in your way. Deftly parry and rend their throats, riddle their bowels with arrows, or squish their brains between your toes. The wurm cares not for chivalry.
Getting Over It (Bennett Foddy)
Why did I make this? This horrible hike up an impossible mountain. I could have made something you would have liked. A game that was empowering, that would save your progress and inch you steadily forward. Since success is delicious, that would have been wise. Instead, I must confess: This isn’t nice. It tastes of bitterness. It’s capricious, it sets setbacks for the ambitious. It lacks lenience; It’s bracing, and inhumane, but not everyone’s the same. I created this game for a certain kind of person. To hurt them.
Heat Signature (Tom Francis)
Fly your tiny defenceless pod up to larger ships, dock with their airlock, and sneak inside. Once you’re in, you creep through their corridors, ambushing guards, hiding bodies, stealing new weapons, blowing them up from the inside, or hijacking their turrets and even the whole ship.
Celeste (Matt Thorson, Noel Berry, Amora Bettany, Pedro Medeiros, Lena Raine, Power-Up Audio)
Celeste is a platformer about climbing a mountain, from the creators of TowerFall. Uncover the mystery of the mountain’s power and outrun your reflection on your journey to reach the top.
10 Beautiful Postcards (thecatamites)
A “dream computer tripadvisor”, from the creator of Fantastic Arcade favorite, Murder Dog IV: Trial of the Murder Dog.
Bernband (Tom van den Boogaart)
Tom van den Boogaart’s beloved first-person exploration game from 2014 returns in 2017 in a brand new, remastered form.
Fantastic Arcade 2017 will take place at the Alamo Drafthouse Mueller and its Barrel O Fun bar in Austin from November 17-19th, and will operate under the Arcade's Safe Spaces policy. Three-day passes are available now at the Fantastic Arcade website; more announcements will come in due course. Hooray!