This week I’ve had the pleasure of playing three very fun. All three of these titles were independently developed by small teams, featured 8-bit/16-bit “retro” graphics, and had a very meta, or self-conscious, take on their story-telling. For the video version of this article be sure to head on over to our YouTube channel.
McPixel is a title by “Sos” that found its way onto Reddit and The Pirate Bay not too long ago. The game was being passed around by internet Pirates, “yaaargh!”, and the developer immediately began endorsing the “theft” of his game. McPixel ended up becoming the first game to be officially endorsed by The Pirate Bay shortly after.
McPixel is a game reminiscent of “30 Second Hero” where the player must make quick decisions in twenty second intervals in order to prevent a bomb from exploding in different scenarios. It’s a bit tough the first time you begin playing, mainly due to wrapping your head around the odd logic in the game’s world, but once you get a feel for McPixel and the world he lives in the game becomes very quick and tense. The game also features a lot of pop culture references and some pretty low-brow humor.
McPixel, overal, is a fun little romp through indie territory. In my opinion the game doesn’t have very much staying power and once you’ve trucked through all of the trial and error puzzles I don’t see much of a reason to come back to McPixel, besides user generated content. The game is available on Steam for PC and Mac platforms for $4.99.
2. Retro City Rampage
Brian Provinciano’s Retro City Rampage has been in development for a very long time, starting as a personal project in 2002, but has it been worth the wait? Not exactly.
The game is essentially a pop culture infused, Grand Theft Auto “clone”, with an NES aesthetic. It’s a funny adventure and it starts out being a ton of fun, but the lack of any real story missions that aren’t fetch quests, and the feeling of redundancy and tired tropes keep this title from really excelling. I loved all of the little easter eggs, unlockables, arcade missions, campy dialogue, and original chiptune music, but the game didn’t stick with me for very long.
Retro City Rampage is available on the PC through Steam, as well as the Playstation Store on PS3 and Playstation Vita, for $14.99, with the Playstation version netting you both the PS3 and Vita releases when you buy either, as well as enabling cross saving for play between the two systems, which is definitely a nice plus.
3. Hotline Miami
Hotline Miami is one of the single greatest releases of the year, in my opinion. I picked the title up simply based on the words of a few friends and an early review of the title and I never looked back. Imagine the themes of the film Drive, the visual aesthetic of an 80’s overdose in pastel, loud and thumping electronic music mixed with chill wave interludes, and a level of violence unprecedented in video games to date. Stir all of these ingredients up with a big helping of gaming culture commentary, questions about violence and our culture as a whole, and a massive amount of self-awareness and you have a very intriguing plot presented very unconventionally and an ultra addicting gameplay system that revolves around slaughtering a massive amount of faceless hitmen, for the most part.
I simply cannot say enough great things about Hotline Miami. The plot is minimal, but delivered in such a way that it couldn’t be presented in any other medium besides a video game, the music is some of the greatest I’ve heard in a game since FTL: Faster Than Light, and the gameplay simultaneously makes you feel like a god and like a disgusting excuse for a human being.
You can, should, and eventually will pick-up Hotline Miami on Steam for $8.99 right now. The title is PC only, with a possible future release on OS X and Playstation Vita.