clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The best and brightest indie games from Japan’s Bit Summit

Indie-focused fest had some strong highlights

Megacopter: Blades of the Goddess

While the Tokyo Game Show might get the most attention when it comes to major triple-A releases in the East, Bit Summit has been growing steadily as Japan's premier independent games exhibition/celebration, a place where not only the more typical video games are shown off to the public, but even the unconventional get their moment in the spotlight.

Bit Summit has always been the place where the nation’s independent developers get to show off the games that they’ve bled for, to an audience who share the same passion for games as they do. It's a moment of validation and vindication, an understanding that it hasn't been time wasted and that the work the developers have put in, is appreciated and valued.

It's not just for those reasons however, it's also a chance for aspiring developers to meet established veterans of the industry that inspired them to make games, and in some cases be those people that others might one day look up to.

Last year's Bit Summit hosted 6,435 visitors in 2016 along with almost 450,000 unique viewers tuning in via livestream, Bit Summit 2017 this year was host to 217+ games on show, covering almost all conceivable genres. With so many to chose from, it was hard to pick a favorite, so in no particular order, here's a choice selection of titles to watch out for in the future.

Pizza Bear Games

Megacopter: Blades of the Goddess (PC), Pizza Bear Games

Megacopter in a nutshell is what you get when you cross ancient Aztec history with the love child of 80s cult TV shows Knight Rider and Airwolf, with a dash of crisp, saturated colors of an acid trip. Oh, and a side of V’s lizard-people for good measure.

Playing somewhat similar to Desert Strike, you take to the skies in a blood-thirsty, sentient attack helicopter, as you rain death on a host of invading lizard-troopers. Using your machine guns, rockets and plasma cannons to obliterate the environment there's also a decent level of sandbox-y creativity with the claw function of the Megacopter, like placing explosive barrels in strategic positions for maximum mayhem. The action and power-up collection tie in nicely as you uncover the grisly mystery of the increasingly vicious Megacopter.

Pon Pon Pirates
Pon Pon Pirates

Pon Pon Pirates (PC), Dadako

Pon Pon Pirates is the second in a series of games designed with a classic Nintendo-era aesthetic from Dadako. It’s the sequel to Pirate Pop Plus, an arcade-y puzzle game with Game Boy screen coloring on both PC and Nintendo eShop for Wii U and New 3DS. Pon Pon Pirates is a shared-screen, two-player co-op title similar to Bubble Bobble where you play a host of pirate-themed characters trying to clean the ship of Pirate Pete. You’ll using a bubble gun to rid the vessel of all manner of swarthy foes, including some particularly shady seagulls wearing eyepatches. The finished game boasts an impressive 256 levels, with some bizarre concepts, bending time and space for some “bigger on the inside” notions about Pirate Pete’s ship. One thing in particular that stands out about this title is the authentic RGB pixelation that imitates playing on a fuzzy CRT screen, color bleed and all.

Paper Garden
Paper Garden
Vitei Backroom

Paper Garden (PC) Vitei Backroom

Vitei Backroom, the VR offshoot of Vitei, demoed its newest project this year: Paper Garden. It’s a relaxing glide-a-thon where your weapons of choice are controllable paper airplanes, which you gently heft across the landscape at magical medallions as you fight back an encroaching blight of the world. The paper airplane mechanic is used to great effect throughout the experience, as you use a special blue plane to move from one point to the other throughout the world. While this might be of benefit to guarantee hits on each target, going for the long-shot from one area to the next is particularly satisfying, especially when you refine the glide using a tilt motion of the opposite Oculus Touch controller. A team of three spent all of just five weeks from concept to working product, and it was an enjoyable experience to just pick up and play.

Eden Obscura (Android, iOS) Q-games/PixelJunk

Q-Games’ Eden Obscura, is a rather unique addition to The PixelJunk range of titles from the same company. Eden Obscura is an entirely new experience for iOS and Android. It’s also the next evolution of PixelJunk’s Eden, a psychedelic, organic adventure game available on Steam. The new smartphone game is creating some startlingly impressive visual effects, thanks to some smart programming involving both the front and back cameras of a device, allowing for some surreal visuals using realtime elements of the environment around the user, meaning that you're guaranteed no two experiences will ever look the same.

People Panic (installation only) coconoe inc

Perhaps one of the more standout titles from the floor at this year's Bit Summit was People Panic, a mixed-media experience suitable for all ages that delighted many of the event goers. Using paper-craft UFOs attached to toy fishing rods users wave the alien vessels over a top down view of a voxel city, where blocky civilians go about their daily lives. Each time one of these invading UFOs pass over people, trees, livestock and all manner of cars and buildings, those objects unceremoniously get vacuumed up. The game itself is a collaborative effort for one to six players, with everyone aiming to abduct the entire city within a short time limit.

While it may not have been the kind of game to to take home with you or pick up off the shelves, it succeeded in claiming the Innovative Outlaw Award, given to those titles that particularly stand out for its uniqueness of design and function.

Line Wobbler Robin Baumgarten

Line Wobbler (installation only) Robin Baumgarten

Line Wobbler, wherever it goes, makes a lasting impression with players. It's presence at this year's Bit Summit was no exception. Touted as a one-dimensional dungeon crawler, Line Wobbler is a hardware-only game using a bespoke spring controller that has you advance along a 5-meter LED strip at 200 frames per second, from one end to the other. Why? It's up to your imagination to decide. As your character — a little speck of green light — travels upwards, it must fend off the red lights with a wobble of the spring controller, blasting out a wave of energy. As the green light reaches the end of the level, the game advances, resetting your character at the base to advance once more. As with all game progression however, expect increasingly larger waves of enemies as well as obstacles such as lava pits. Line Wobbler has been wowing event attendees around the world, winning numerous awards along the way, particularly the “WTF!? Award” from AMAZE Berlin 2015, which seems fitting.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Patch Notes

A weekly roundup of the best things from Polygon