September 25, 2007


by Michael Mateas · , 8:38 pm

So my day at the Tokyo Game Show was predictably exciting, overwhelming, and just plain loud. There is plenty o’ detailed online commentary on the TGS out there, so here I’ll just briefly mention the games that caught my eye.

Echochrome is a puzzle game that plays with Escher-like optical illusions. The player’s job is to allow a small walking figure to traverse a platform construction by rotating the construction, and thus changing the camera’s perspective. The figure’s ability to navigate the platforms depends on the subjective truth of the current visual perspective, rather than the objective truth of the 3D model. You can play with the game engine online.

Patapon is a rhythm game in which you control your army of cute little 2D procedural critters by tapping out rhythms composed of different button combinations. The lines to play were too long, so I didn’t get the chance, though I definitely love the visual style. Gamespot has a nice description of actually playing the game.

In Loco Roco Cocoreccho! you indirectly maneuver a collection of cute little 2D procedural critters around levels composed of plants and whimsical devices. Unlike Loco Roco, much of the indirect guidance is accomplished by moving a small butterfly around (apparently the Cocoreccho of the title), spreading a glowing pixy dust that the creatures are attracted to. Gamespot has a preview and video.

Eye of Judgment is an augmented strategy card game that uses the Eye Toy to sense which cards have been played, and animates the battles between played cards (think the holographic chess from Star Wars, but with cards – IGN’s description here). Here’s the official, completely over-the-top trailer video. First reaction: wow, cool. Second reaction, a moment later: wait a minute, is it really the case that all the game mechanics reside in the standard issue collectable card game, and the PS3 is doing nothing more than providing some pretty pictures to illustrate the game? That’s what it looked like to me, and nothing I’ve read online seems to indicate any differently. Talk about not using computational affordances…

Space Invaders Extreme was surprisingly fun! Shacknews like it too. Takes Space Invaders, adds shmup powerups, the visual pyrotechnics and techno soundtrack you’d normally associate with a manic shooter, Rez-like player-actuated additions to the sound track (didn’t play enough to hear if the player is free-forming on top of the track, or if the game is actually doing quantized sound), and a lot of wave and boss variations. Very nice.

Hey, there’s a new Rachet and Clank (Gamespot, trailer). I mention this only because I like Ratchet and Clank.

Then there’s まいにちいっしょ, a game whose framing story seems to involve two argumentative cats hosting a makeshift news show in their house. I stared at it for a long time. I never figured it out. Maybe it’s an experience that wraps accessing the online store? Color me intrigued.

I really liked the look of the trailer for 忌火起草 in the Sega booth. Highly atmospheric, presumably survival horror. Unfortunately the playable demo seemed to only go as far as the semi-interactive opening exposition, which consists of cinematics, plus thumbing through a lot of Japanese text (I believe choices were being made, but I’m not sure). I asked the ever redoubtable William Huber to make use of his fledgling Japanese skills to provide a translation of the title; after 10 or 15 minutes of fiddling around stroking kanji in his handy DS Japanese dictionary, with the kind help of a booth attendant, the conclusion was: “It doesn’t mean anything.” “What do you mean it doesn’t mean anything”, say I. Apparently the title consists of bits of old kanji that isn’t used in Japanese (like throwing in bits of Latin) wrapped in neologisms. I dub the game Cybermortis.