The Fantastic Arcade 2017 bundle packs a handful of awesome indie games together. You’ll play as an existential Mario fed up with the American healthcare system and a floppy clown dog just trying to eat some eggs. It’s imaginative, lush, and this week’s indie pick.
The Fantastic Arcade 2017 bundle is published by Austin, Texas’ Juegos Rancheros collective. Every one of its six games is a bright mixture of exciting experimentation. We’ll start with my favorite.
Created by Kyle Reimergarten, Banana Chalice is an arcade shooter in the vein of Space Harrier. It puts you in the role of a flying space cat shooting bananas against enemies in a wide array of colorful zones. It starts small and eventually builds into a dense landscape of meowing, potassium, monsters, and shifting worlds. The sound design layers so many bleepy, bloopy arcade noises over each other that the entire game feels like one massive explosion of creative fun. Banana Chalice lets you cut loose and get lost in bright halls of absurdist joy.
Created by Jenny Jiao Hsia, Pipsqueek is a crash course in how altering control schemes can make a simple concept something much more. The goal is simple: walk around, avoid baddies, and collect eggs. It has a two button control system in which one button controls the character’s right leg and the other moves the left leg. Pipsqueek is like a more approachable version of QWOP, and the early 3-D aesthetics create a game that feels just like a lost gem you’d find at a garage sale.
(Note: Hsia is dating Kotaku video producer Tim Rogers.)
Created by Connor Mccann, Rotor also plays with movement. You control a small dot trying to reach the end of maze-like levels. If you touch anything red, you have to start over. What makes Rotor tricky is the fact that you’re always moving in a small circle, spinning around like a helicopter and never completely having control over what you do.
There’s only one button in the entire game, used to move forward. Holding down the button does no good and only spins you around move. The trick is to find a rhythmic pulse of tapping that moves you through each level. Tap, tap, tap. One, two, three. It’s meditative and difficult; I’ve yet to get too far but know that I want to test myself and face whatever new challenges it has to offer.
Panic Variants by Loren Schmidt is actually three miniature games crammed into a neat package. Some of these are collaborative works, and they succeed more as audio visual experiments than anything else.
- Panic Variants itself is about exploring arcade space through its branching levels. I found myself getting lost most in its background tile editing tool, which I used to paint the world with wild colors and odd textures.
- Pluinola is an experimental game about adjusting sound and background space to make haunting melodies. Figuring out which button does what felt like learning a new instrument. While the experience didn’t hold my attention too long, it enjoyed that feeling of exploration.
- Fossil Plant Slideshow functions like an art installation where you can explore monochrome spaces. I’m a sucker for relaxing games that offer comfortable spaces. Fossil Plant Slideshow helps round out the Panic Variants’ package by offering something a bit more familiar and welcoming than the other games.
I genuinely don’t know what to make of this game, but I love it. Creator Fernando Ramallo dances the line between satire and confessional in a bizarre game about American healthcare and Mario, shuffling through perspectives and modes at a moment’s notice. The less I say, the better. Play it and experience the bewilderment for yourself.
Created by Brandon Williamson, ForgetMeNotR plays like a mash up of Pac-Man and Centipede. It creates a limitless number of arcade mazes full of coins, keys, and monsters. Like Banana Chalice, the sound really sells everything. It stuffs an entire arcade’s worth of light and noise into a single game that offers new challenges every time you play.
The Fantastic Arcade 2017 is $15 for a ton of creative games. Every single one of them is a joy to play and helps show exactly what makes small games great.