Sunday, December 6

Badgers, art and body horror at Summertime Party

Last night I had the chance to meet up with a Destiny raid bro at Summertime Party, an event which showcased live music, video games and interpretive dance.

The non-nerdy aspects of the evening were pretty cool. Emma Donovan and the Putbacks played a quality set, as did the Sugar Fed Leopards. The DJs, Mz Rizk and Sovereign Trax, also managed to keep a small group of people dancing despite the crowd majority's preference to remain sedentary. I saw two of the dance acts: the first evoked memories of Tom Green's confrontational shame comedy (although I'm sure this was unintentional), while the second was a playfully-violent burlesque dance set to Ginuwine's Pony.

While my fireteam set the dance floor on fire, it was a shame that most of the attendees were keen to mean mug the night away. Still, the tunes were good, and the entertainment was vastly different to my usual Saturday night offerings (read: Destiny).

The video games on display were presented by Freeplay, Australia's longest-running independent games festival.

Push Me Pull You (PMPY) was the clear highlight. Projected high on a wall opposite a staircase where two sets of controls were set up, it was the gladiatorial centre of the night's proceedings. Imagine the listless wonder and mild body horror of the experimental Noby Noby Boy crossed with the excitement of team ball sports (sportsball, if you will). Teams of two must extend, shrink and wrap their way around a ball and drag it back to their side of the court to score. Stretching your collective body can allow you to hold the ball, but a smaller opponent push you to their side for a cheeky score.

The core mechanics are easy to pick up, and mish mash teams formed throughout the evening to try their hands at glory. I'd love to see this game more widely available, and I can even imagine how it would translate from two arcade sticks and four buttons to the ubiquitous console controller. (One player could control both sides of the team with bumpers and triggers used to expand and shrink.)

Would some of the magic be lost going from pair play to mano e mano? Absolutely, but local multiplayer is becoming less and less of a thing. If Halo can no longer support a couch full of players, then incoming indies must also embrace the realities of comparatively-soulless online multiplayer (particularly given PMPY could translate well).

Next up was Artners, a game controlled with a tangle of brushes, paint pots, and pads. Essentially, you have sixty seconds to fulfil a named commission. There's no winning or losing, just creating pictures that will, more often than not, resemble a a train map. I loved the urgency of producing art while the "art time remaining" chipped away. The peripherals were complex, and it's unlikely you'll see this outside of an exhibition setting, but it's well worth picking up a brush for.

Finally, there was Panoramical, reason for the best peripheral since Guitar Hero first graced the PlayStation 2 back in 2005. Using the open-shirted badger controller, you rub the animal's tummy and flick its switches(?) to produce changes in sound and vision. I found the majority of my time with the game disorienting, but a small sojourn to what can only be described as a laser rave planet was pretty cool.

While it was hard to get anything out of it myself, I had a laugh trying to explain how to play to the next group of enthusiastic players. I also feel that Nintendo needs to introduce nipple play to Amiibos or risk losing the whole Toys to Life market.

While the Freeplay offerings may only serve as distraction from my massive multiplayer online face shooting duties, Push Me Pull You is most definitely on my radar. Freeplay's Games in the Square events run through December (6-8pm, on 8, 15 and 22 December) at Melbourne's Federation Square, with PMPY available to play on 15 December. Make sure you check it out if you're in town.

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