Recently, we attended a PlayStation event designed to show off Sony’s roster of indie developers. The publisher demonstrated that it’s celebrating gaming’s past while also taking a predictive look ahead. Several of the upcoming PlayStation games we tried featured nostalgia-inducing retro graphics while others had an advanced vision of the future. The best suggested a fusion of the two.
We spoke with Adam Boyes, the VP of publisher and developer relations at PlayStation, who guided us through the games on display and explained their unique place in gaming’s history.
Celebrating the past
A pixelated fencing game currently available on Steam and heading to PlayStation 4 this summer, Nidhogg looks like a surprisingly fluid relic from the Atari 2600 catalog. Two fighters face off on opposite sides of the screen with their swords raised. You can set the height of the sword to low, medium, or high, or you can throw your sword in an act of desperation.
When you stab your opponent, it explodes in a burst of low-resolution gore, and you can try to run to the end of the screen before they return to life. When you make it through several screens, you’re eaten by a giant, one-horned flying worm. It’s an absurd end to the battle.
“With a lot of these games that have that minimalistic look, it’s the really quick, low-latency interaction,” Boyes told GamesBeat. “The thing that I think works about [Nidhogg] is that it feels like a dance every time you come up against somebody.
“You go high, low, make a move, taunt them, and then know that if I do lose my sword, it’s not over, that I could do something that potentially gets my sword back. I think a lot of it has to do with the mechanics and the intensity around that interaction.”
Nuclear Throne is the latest game from Vlambeer, the makers of Ridiculous Fishing. It’s available now on Steam, but the upcoming PS4 and Vita versions work very well due to the controllers’ twin sticks, with one stick for moving and one for shooting.
In addition to being a shooter, Nuclear Throne draws on the central premise of roguelike games: You have to fight enemies across randomly generated wastelands, and if you die, you can’t continue.
Nuclear Throne’s visual style appears more evolved than Nidhogg’s, but only by a gaming generation or two. The 16-bit characters include a giant chicken and a mutant covered with eyeballs, and each have a special ability to go with a unique look.
I asked Boyes how PlayStation supports indie developers who have a unique vision for their games, even if that vision looks old school instead of cutting-edge. “Our job is to make sure that we help provide a platform for [developers] to be able to bring their creation to the forefront, and no matter what visual style they choose, as long as those mechanics resonate with the gamers and the PlayStation fans,” Boyes said. “I think that’s the most important part for us. [These games] come in all shapes and sizes.”