There’s a festival for everything in Chicago, and August boasts some of summer’s biggest. This past weekend alone you could have attended Chicago Hot Dog Fest, the Ginza Festival, Retro on Roscoe or the Bud Billiken Parade. All are entertaining options, but if you’re a gamer who ‘s keen to know what’s up and coming in gaming and experience indie games from all over the world, you took our tip and headed out to Bit Bash. Now in its fourth year, Bit Bash hosted a hell of a gaming summer camp out of Revel Fulton Market this year. The weather was gorgeous, which made the outside space even more appealing, and Revel’s ample rooms were packed with games for everyone. Of course, the central focus was games. There were plenty to check out, and we got down to it right away. Here are some standouts :
Tunic by Andrew Shouldice features a small fox exploring a beautiful but dangerous world. Luckily, this fox is armed with a sword and a sense of adventure. Slated for a 2018 release date, Bit Bash gave us a chance to look at this compelling isometric adventure game with a minimalist art style.
In a similar low-polygon minimalist style was the post-apocalyptic turn-based survival game Overland by Finji. In a mash-up between X-Com and Oregon Trail you control a group of survivors as they try to make their way across the country following a cataclysmic incident. In Overland, you scrounge for fuel and weapons, make hard decisions and pick up friends along the way. We’re excited for its full release later in 2017 – there is a very early access version that is current available on their website with Steam support coming in the future.
Another visually striking game we came across was Ape Out by Gabe Cuzzillo. A game about an ape escaping captivity and killing its captors, it is both extremely fast paced and brutal in a way that reminded us of Hotline Miami. Tight controls and a unique premise make Ape Out something to look out for. There’s a demo available on Steam and it’s slated for a summer 2017 release date, so we can only assume it should release any time now.
Already available on Steam, and also on display at Bit Bash, was Four Last Things by Joe Richardson. Made possible by crowdfunding, Four Last Things looks like an adventure game if it were made in collaboration between Monty Python and Lucasarts during their point-and-click heyday. Full of absurd humor and puzzles, Four Last Things is unique and hilarious.
Risky Phone by Japanese developer Pomb was a game that caught our attention early on. The premise is simple: control a person who is preoccupied with their phone. Score points by responding to prompts on your phone while trying not to get hit by cars. It’s very rough, but it’s an amusing concept – sort of like an updated Frogger. You can download Risky Phone here.
Pacapong by kingPenquin takes classics Pong and Pac-Man and mashes them together in a fun 1v1 game that is sprinkled with other retro cameos like Space Invaders and Donkey Kong. Pacapong consistently drew a crowd with its hectic simultaneous Pac-Man and paddle manipulation. Have Pac-Man eat more dots for you and you win – control Pac-Man to avoid ghosts and eat dots while making sure your paddle doesn’t get hit by Space Invaders. It sounds crazy because it is. Check it out here.
Another game that always drew people in is the exciting puzzle and endless running game Joggernauts by Minneapolis-based developer Space Mace. Joggernauts is an endless running party game for 2- 4 players that requires communication and cooperation with a deceptively simple mechanics. Match colors, make jumps, and try not to die so you and your team can be successful. We thought this game was insanely fun and we’ll be looking for its release in spring of 2018.
Couch co-op party games seemed to be popular at Bit Bash, and another stand-out, fun, and easy to pick up game was Shut Up and Slam Jam Karate Basketball by Sea Dads, a video game collaboration between developers, artists and musicians from Powerhoof and SuperHigames. It’s full-contact 2v2 basketball. Beat up other players and score more points than your opponents. You can download Sea Dads’ games here.
The Cat in the Hijab by Andrew C. Wang is a surprisingly sober look at discrimination that is decidedly non-whimsical, despite its initially cute nature. It’s a short playthrough, but we feel like it’s an incredibly well-done, topical look at what it’s like to be at the receiving end of bigotry. Check it out here.
One of the more amusingly bizarre games that we would have missed if not for Bit Bash was Team Lazerbeam’s Wrestling with Emotions. Find the perfect wrestling partner in a short, but humor-filled speed-dating experience that will have you matched up with several burly men in an art style reminiscent of 90’s MTV interstitials. Absurd, hilarious and oddly touching – check it out here.
One of the best things about this fest was the atmosphere. The space at Revel Fulton Market was ample to handle the crowds, with friendly staff making sure the myriad of consoles and computers ran smoothly. Staff was even on hand to nudge engrossed players along so others could try the game. Tickets to the event afforded attendees 2 drink tickets, which could be used for coffee from Tall Tale or for Pipeworks brews later in the evening, and great food was parked right outside the doors, with the Jerk Truck and Mac Dynamite on hand throughout. Bit Bash had an ample lineup of DJs spinning deep grooves, chiptunes and more, even employing VR headsets and interactive musical systems. Some of the performers had even composed music for games. The scene was incredibly inclusive, too. Though “gamers” are sometimes thought of as one thing, this fest was LGBTQ friendly, sex positive and still kid friendly, boasting an early afternoon family hour. Tents were erected inside for quiet spaces,too including one that housed an interactive music/projection experience called Fluc that we particularly enjoyed.
Bit Bash aims to showcase games of every sort and provide a space where everyone can play. Bit Bash provided a great environment to game in, a diverse selection of games, and even some sneak peeks you couldn’t see anywhere else (like Tunic, Far From Noise and even the not-yet-released Jackbox Party Pack 4). Indie City Collective, meanwhile, aims to welcome developers to Chicago and make our city a better place to display art and creativity through gaming. This, coupled with great planning and organization, made Bit Bash 2017 a success. It was a great party and something we’ll look forward to attending next year, too.
Article by Antal Bokor and Marielle Shaw.