If you haven’t yet been exposed to Fez, a quick recap. Starting off as an otherwise innocently and nostalgically charming low-res 2D pixel platformer, Fez‘s central conceit revolves (no pun intended) around giving the player control of an otherwise hidden axis that fwoom‘s the world into the third dimension, re-aligning the position of 2D element and letting you venture deeper into its levels. It’s a difficult mechanic to put properly into words, but one that is genuinely jaw-dropping the first time it’s performed, and utilized to a more logical and involving extent than seen in the Wii’s similarly dimensionally screwy Super Paper Mario.
For this year’s GAMMA, then, the collective invited the indie developer community to get just as playful with the third dimension, only, in true retro-futurist Kokoromi style, limited developers to using only red/blue stereoscopy and explore, as they put it, “alternative depth and location cues” and the “ability to hide information in separate viewing channels.”
Kokoromi themselves — consisting of programmer Damien Di Fede, Fish, creative director and researcher Heather Kelley (who you might remember from her “magical pet adventure and stealthy primer on female sexual pleasure,” Lapis, and digital media theorist Cindy Poremba — together with Polytron programmer Renaud Bédard, set out to up their own 3D ante and have created, Offworld can exclusively reveal ahead of the event, super HYPERCUBE.
Kelley explains, “The gameplay of super HYPERCUBE is kind of like that “human Tetris” event on those Japanese game shows… but with cubes. You have a cluster of procedurally generated cubes right in front of you, and your goal is to quickly line it up to fit through the hole in the wall that’s moving toward you, by rotating the cluster with the controller.”
“To see the hole in the wall on the other side of the cluster (and thus figure out what direction to rotate the cube to line it up) you have to lean,” Kelley continues, “The better you play, the bigger the cluster gets, and so the further you need to lean in order to see the wall behind.” Simple enough, but — and here’s where their true innovation comes into play — to implement that leaning, Polytron’s Bédard took a cue from Carnegie Mellon researcher Johnny Lee’s famous Wii-mote head tracking concept, and hacked together a pair of stereoscope glasses that lets players literally lean to navigate their way around the space.
The short videos we’ve seen of the experience appear just the tiniest bit magical — the combination of anaglyph 3D with movement-based perspective, on top of the game’s slickly minimalist style reminiscent of nothing so much as early PlayStation puzzler Intelligent Qube perfectly fits that Kokoromi retro future vision. It’s not hard to imagine the 70’s early game pioneers predicting that this would be the shape of games to come.
The ‘super’ version of super HYPERCUBE will be playable one night only at tonight’s event, but, Kelley says, a version simply called HYPERCUBE which uses the Xbox 360 controller to lean will be released after the show, as will the games from its other selected developers, including Infinite Ammo’s Paper Moon, Lee Byron and Joannie Wu’s Fireflies, Tim Winsky and Johanna Arcand’s AltiToad, Jim McGinley’s The Depths To Which I Sink, and Antony Blackett, Corie Geerders, and James Everett’s BlottoBrace.