Wild Rumpus #4: On an Effing Boat

Last night it was my great pleasure to attend my first Wild Rumpus, and I found that Rev 3 Games’ quote is spot-on: “arcades are dead. We need more rumpuses.” What follows is a simple account of my experiences.

MS Stubnitz at Canary Wharf

MS Stubnitz at Canary Wharf

Wild Rumpus is many things: a chance to play top-notch indie games; an opportunity to drink, network and catch up with friends; and a nerd-friendly night out the likes of which I have not felt since getting membership to Islington’s goth club, Slimelight. To be honest, most of my reason for going was just to catch up with friends I’ve previously only seen at conferences and game jams. Twitter doesn’t afford us quite the same experience of cider-fueled entertainment!

For the social aspect alone, I recommend Wild Rumpus to anyone who might have been ‘umming and ahhing’ about attending last night’s event. That said, the games on show here were superb and while I didn’t get around to playing many, I loved what we did play.

Messhof's "NIDHOGG" is a superb take on the duelling chase, and a game which is as fun to watch as it is to play.

Messhof’s “NIDHOGG” is a superb take on the duelling chase, and a game which is as fun to watch as it is to play.

First on my list was NIDHOGG – a game which I was hitherto unaware of, and which has a delightfully simple premise. Like a pixellated interpretation of a sword-wielding chase in films, both players must battle it out to reach their goal across a multi-room level. There’s lunging, parrying, fisticuffs and – if you can work the controls out in time – throwing your sword in a desperate attempt to slaughter your opponent and try to make a run for your goal. Trouble is, your opponent will respawn ahead of you, and what ensues is both hilarious and frustrating. I’m grateful to Sam for a brilliantly intense match (and one in which he wiped the floor with me!), ending in a draw overall.

"Towerfall" features frantic, 4-player combat armed simply with bows and a limited quantity of arrows

“Towerfall” features frantic, 4-player combat armed simply with bows and a limited quantity of arrows.

Next on our ‘play-list’  was Matt Thorson’s TowerFall, which instantly re-awoke my love of pixel art. It’s a very well-executed, 4-player combat game which I see is due for release on Ouya. What’s impressive is that the game seems to be designed so thoroughly that no one player is given a clear lead; when I took the crown, it was only ever by one or two kills, and it led to some very intense closing matches. I reckon Holly, Yuji and I may have to have a re-match some day…

You really do have to be wary of sneak attacks in this game

You really do have to be wary of sneak attacks in this game!

Finally, the game I most hoped to try out (having heard so much about it): Die Gute Fabrik’s Johann Sebastian Joust. This really is as fun as people make you believe it is. It’s hard to do justice to the thrill of it – a Fight Club-style arena with people whooping and cheering, and being tagged in to each new round of a game which involves swatting, pushing and generally attempting to jostle the other players in order to knock them out. Everything about that game seems to have been tuned to mass-participation fun, right down to the announcements. “GET READY TO JOUST” indeed.

To my surprise I managed to win one round, so I’m glad to have achieved that much! My hat is tipped to the theatrics of my informal team-mate Holly, but also the fellow who decided to take his Playstation Move controller and wander off into the crowd. One player even threw a shoe to try and snatch victory! Now that’s fun, emergent gameplay.