As we are now several weeks removed from Super MAGFest 2018 and our various bouts of norovirus and other con-plagues have passed, it’s time to sit down and do the yearly reflection on MAGFest’s chiptune and videogame offerings.
This year not only were there mainstage chiptune acts curated by our own Brandon Hood and 8static’s Emily Feder, not only were there a series of showcases at Chipspace organized by the de facto head of Boston8Bit and radio personality on geekbeatradio Rob Carballo, but we ALSO had the hotel bar and nightclub open for use which meant EVEN MORE madness than ever before. On the gaming front, the MAGFest Indie Videogame Arcade had a few old favorites cycling in but so, so many more new and exciting projects getting shown off this time around as well as some expanded installations from a certain band of bar-hopping arcade gamers from New York. To find out more, read on – and as in previous years, to make this article a little easier to jump around in I’ll be labeling each section as #MUSIC and #GAMES so feel free to CTRL+F for great justice if you’re just here for one or the other.
By my count, this year we had somewhere in the ballpark of 30 different chiptune sets playing between all the different venues. That alone would be ridiculous, but given the fact that we pulled in some of the finest folks in the USA in addition to getting acts down from America’s Hat (Canada) and from across the ocean (Japan, Russia) should tell you that MAGFest has become a force to be reckoned with when it comes to concentrating global chiptune talent in one place for one long weekend of music and gentle debauchery. Not all of the acts got recorded, sadly, and some of the recordings got bungled – because hey, live performances, am I right? That said, anything that happened Mainstage was handled by MAGFest’s wonderful Mediatron department who worked their tucheses off to get those videos uploaded to YouTube basically immediately after airing; anything that happened in Chipspace got streamed to Twitch and was broadcast by geekbeatradio; and several showcases that happened in the POSE Nightclub were recorded by W.T. Snacks as well as doing a full MAGFest spotlight on his weekly radio show, Midnight Snacks.
As I mentioned earlier, our blog president is one of the two main people who book shows for MAGFest, so I don’t want what I’m about to say to be misconstrued as masturbatory, but I’m really happy with how the music at MAGFest has been getting better over the last few years. And I’m gonna let you in on a huge secret – I say that in spite of not even liking most of the acts that play MAGFest! This year, if it wasn’t chiptune, you wouldn’t catch me at the show – and all the chiptune acts were great! But this isn’t the Adam Seats Music Alcohol Gaming Festival – and it’s a good thing because if that was the case you’d all be really really bored! Or like… Probably at least 23% drunker, which is probably fatal for most people. No, this year really had an amazing spread of acts across all parts of the geeky spectrum and every one of them was a smash hit! Fire codes were reached, nightclubs were packed, the hotel bar was standing room only – it was chaos in the best possible way.
Now, if you’re still reading here, you’re probably wondering to yourself “Dang, I heard about those people what done played the MAGFest, but how does I gets me some of their musics?” Fear not, bumpkin friend, because I have procured for you a veritable TREASURE TROVE of links to all the folks who are even VAGUELY associated with the genre of chiptunes. These folks are sorted by the day they first performed (because some of these fools got to double dippin’ with the various DJ showcases and jammable spaces), in hopes that if you remembered seeing someone one day but couldn’t find their music that you might have an easier time finding them here.
Delorean Overdrive | DJ Roborob | HYPER POTIONS | SBThree | bryface | Business Pastel | Hypnogram | DEFENSE MECHANISM | Fraxiom | Ricco Harver | Raziki Slice |
an0va | Nanode | Epikuro | DJ Tenshin | W.T. Snacks | Rabbit Crime | low poly prince | The Lothario | The Clown Prince | The Borrowers | Padlock | Smith Comma John
MAGFest’s Indie Videogame Showcase was amazing, as always. I was excited this year to see a number of new folks around – not to say that MIVS is just a bunch of the same folks around all the time, but I’ve seen a few repeat customers so it’s good to know that more people are taking advantage of this space to SHOW US WHAT YOU GOT and lay down some really stellar games. I couldn’t get to everything, and I skipped the few games I’d seen in years past that had come back, but I did find a few good games to sit and yell at you about. Almost all of these have demos at itch.io or are already available for purchase, or both, so you can check these out at your leisure!
A ROBOT NAMED FIGHT
You like Super Metroid, right? Sure you do, you’ve got good taste. But what if you could play a randomized Super Metroid which also supported limited multiplayer (steadily becoming less limited, if secret rumblings from the dev are to be belived – if you ask nicely, he might tell you how to get your Golden Eye on), and what if there was also a frankly Lovecraftian level of horrible meat monsters? If that sounds like a thing you want then shucks howdy have I got a robot for you – A Robot Named Fight! Seriously, you’ve got couch co-op with someone playing the eponymous robot and the other playing a flying drone, you’ve got seeded randomized runs with a buttload of different weapons and levels. Between this and 20XX and the Link to the Past Randomizer, you can play infinitely randomized versions of every SNES game that matters. Why are you still reading this? Go shoot some meaty monsters!
Kingdom Bash puts together a few tried and true tropes – it’s an isometric-view twin-stick class based action game for 1-4 players cooperatively or 2-4 competitively. This looks like it’ll be a pretty mandatory party game around my house as soon as it’s finished – the difficulty starts to ramp up at a pretty healthy clip in cooperative mode, and while I didn’t get a chance to play versus mode in the arcade I did wander by a few times and the folks who were playing were having an absolute blast.
It would be unfair to call Neon Wasteland a “runner” game, but in essence this is like many other games before it like Audiosurf or that one level from Battletoads – you’re constantly moving forward, there are constantly obstacles to avoid. What really sets Neon Wasteland apart is its extreme dedication to the 80’s neon ＃ａｅｓｔｈｅｔｉｃ – while the website has a disclaimer stating “Worry not, Neon Wasteland comes with a 100% ‘anti nostalgia cash in’ guarantee,” it does basically take all the best parts of Tron and mix them with all the best parts of the artwork of Moebius and put it to a sick synthwave soundtrack. At the very least, you owe it to yourself to go check out the art, because it deserves to make its way into your eyeholes.
WHERE SHADOWS SLUMBER
Where Shadows Slumber is a really neat puzzle game with an interesting mechanic – as your character moves around the level, the light you cast from your lantern will cast shadows, and as those shadows move the level will change as well opening new paths to solve each level map. The demo, which you can get on your various and sundry mobile devices, is short but interesting and leaves me wanting more – after showing off the main mechanics, there are a few actual levels which require some thought and just the barest hint of a story. If you like unique puzzle games, you’ll want to keep an eye on this one.
Fierce real-time combat isometric view action RPG? Check. Love-it-or-hate-it art style which helps emphasize the plot and tone the story is going for? Double check. Scalable difficulty both in terms of enemy toughness but also player health handicapping? Checkerooni. Download the demo, plug in your 360 controller, go to town. I’m really excited for this release – while any demo might have some jankiness on hitboxes and other minor unpolished errors, I imagine the finished product here is going to be quite the adventure.
So let’s say you wanted to play DOOM, but you’ve been mainlining JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and you also really love roguelikes and first person combat JRPGs. Aside from being really worried about what your spare time looks like, the only thing I can do for you is point you at this game, because it’s exactly what you need. If that didn’t sell you on it, I don’t know what else you want from me.
So the basic version of this game is already out on Steam and has been doing great – it’s your standard high-intensity shmup not unlike the classics offered by Cave. The new version of this game which was demo’d at MAGFest, however, is an updated version boasting more characters and some more polish around the edges. It feels cheap to say “if you’re a fan of this kind of game, buy it, and if you’re not, don’t” but that’s really what I’ve got for you – if you like action packed shmups, this is a must have game for your collection, period stop. At the very least, it’s cheaper than trying to track down a copy of Mushihimesama for the 360.
DEATH BY AUDIO ARCADE/BABYCASTLES
If you stumbled around the indie games area and found a very large exhibition of curious games in handmade arcade cabinets and/or camping tents and some tired New Yorkers running on nothing but Soylent then congratulations! You found the Death By Audio Arcade and Babycastles installation! Both groups come from art and music venues in New York City and have been working together to help show off the talent of some really cool folks as well as provide installations that help challenge what you think about when you talk about videogames. If I had to guess, I’d say the most widely popular game to be exhibited here is Particle Mace – but there were so, so many games they had open for free play that it boggles the mind when you realize that most of this stuff just lives in a basement when it can’t be brought out and about. A lot of folks involved with these two groups are also involved with chiptune and other DIY electronic events in NY – if you’ve been to LWLVL or one of the various monthly shows throughout the state, you’ve probably seen these guys. DBAA has USB drives with a bunch of their games up for sale on their website – definitely take the time to go through and see what they’ve got for you, you won’t be disappointed.
Onwards and upwards people – each new MAGFest brings new possibilities, and people keep bringing their best. This year’s offerings were great – BUT WHAT WILL WE SEE NEXT YEAR? WHO CAN SAY?!