Gaming events take on all shapes and sizes, and Now Play This is quickly becoming one of my favorite calendar entries of the year. For a single weekend, Somerset House in London has every nook and cranny filled with intriguing and artistic games.
Not everything here is designed for commercial release, but that’s part of the magic that sets it apart. I made the most of a rainy Sunday afternoon to browse the exhibition, and these were five of my favorite games.
Untitled Goose Game, by House House
I’ve been dying to play this game ever since the trailer blew up on Twitter late last year. Safe to say that, once I got hands on with it, I wasn’t disappointed. Playing as a “horrible goose”, your job is nothing more than to terrorize the local groundskeeper. It feels like you’re a compatriot of Peter Rabbit in a new Beatrix Potter novel.
The goals are clear: steal this, steal that, have a picnic – the usual goose things. It plays out like a puzzle game as you figure out how to achieve the objectives. It’s a pure cathartic joy to honk at a figure 3 times the size of you, like David sticking two fingers up at Goliath and telling him to jog on.
In the end, it was one of the most surreal gaming experiences I’ve ever had; stealing yet another item from the groundskeeper had the audience around me chanting “rake in lake, Rake in Lake, RAKE IN LAKE”.
PHOGS! by Bit Loom Games
An utterly bizarre game that takes the idea of a “sausage dog” a bit too literally. Each half of the controller takes command of a different end of the dog, either moving, stretching, or grabbing. It’s a very silly game but a lot of fun. The art style is almost obnoxiously colorful but all the better for it.
Complete each level either by playing fetch, rounding up like a sheep dog, or…using your body as a watering hose. The presentation at Now Play This was a little bare (the name of the game wasn’t even noted), but I’m glad I was able to find it online afterwards.
Dobotone by Videogamo
This is one that you likely won’t see getting a commercial release soon, and if you did just wouldn’t be quite the same. Dobotone is the definition of mad-cap multiplayer; 4 players use simple two-button controllers, while a fifth can adjust all of the settings of the game currently being played.
Imagine Warioware but one of you actually gets to play as Wario, Game Master. Zoom everything out, speed it all up, move the objectives. It’s a lot of fun, and there’s nothing to stop a player reaching over and adjusting the goals themselves to mess up an opponent. A lot of fun and definitely worth checking out if you see it at another event.
Tempres by TAK
Playable right now in the browser, Tempres was presented at Now Play This with a single button controller. Hidden away in a corner with no instructions, it caught my eye.
I don’t want to say too much about the game as a lot of the fun lies in figuring out what you have to achieve. All I will say is it’s a great feeling to come back and beat your high score.
Panoramical, by Fernando Ramallo and David Kanaga
Less of a game and more of an experience, Panoramical is a set of set of audio-visual worlds. You have full control over different aspects, all of which intertwine to create different landscapes.
It was presented at Now Play This in a small room with a projector that spanned the entire wall, creating a very immersive experience. I could have played for hours on the custom controller, but I was holding up the queue.