I’ve always been a fan of Adult Swim, the experimental late night version of Cartoon Network. It brought me so many hours of entertainment, either in its series or sometimes in side elements like the bumpers. The channel just had this engaging quality to it, like anything could happen, and they were always willing to take risks. Adult Swim Games, the video game side project of the Cartoon Network side project, has been around for a while, but I never quite gave it the attention it seemingly deserved. Sure, there were some hits here and there, but until PAX West 2016 early this month, I hadn’t realized just how big they’d gotten. Luckily they have also become fantastic curators, with a slate of indie games that had me intrigued throughout.
I’ve already covered a couple of the games I played at the show, such as Rick and Morty VR and Desync, both of which were fantastic games. There was still more there that impressed me though. Katana Zero was an awesome looking retro-styled action game. Playing as a drug-addled ninja, players would pre-plan their path through the level in their head, making for a narrative excuse to being able to die so often. The game was blissfully challenging, and full of “hell yeah!” moments, like busting in a door, knocking a guard down, then slicing his companion’s throat before moving on to your next kill.
The game is so intrinsically tied to the 80’s, with a VHS styled level selector, and tracking issues overlayed across the screen. But that doesn’t mean it’s not modern. Katana Zero even features a branching story path, reliant on your interactions with other characters, usually over the phone. Add this to the challenging and action-packed gameplay and you’ve got a real winner coming next year.
Then there was Ray’s the Dead, a delightfully inventive and original game from Ragtag Studio. Taking inspiration from 80’s movies and mixing it with a very Pikmin-like gameplay set, Ray’s the Dead was a delight to play. You are Ray, a recently arisen zombie who, for unknown reasons, has the ability to create and control your own zombie horde. Using them to fight and solve puzzles, you’ll piece together your previous life’s history, leading up to what turned you into a zombie in the first place.
Both of these games were great fun to play, and there were still more, such as the new ToeJam & Earl. For me, it was mostly just nice to see how passionate the developers and their publishing partners were about what they were showing off. I got to chat with a lot of them and there was true appreciation for the reception they were getting, and an understanding that they need to deliver on the promises that indie gaming holds so dear. So far they seem to be doing it, with a fantastic suite of titles heading to consoles and PC later this year, or some time in 2017.
Adult Swim Games is doing in the gaming space what the original has done on TV. It is bringing gamers fresh and unique content to try out. Some of it will almost surely not work well, but those that do will be great additions to any collection.