Midwest Gaming Classic featured impressive new titles

The Midwest Gaming Classic in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is an obvious love letter to classic gaming. You can view a large number of the retro offerings at the event in my Midwest Gaming Classic photo gallery and video walkthrough of the Midwest Gaming Classic arcade hall. However, during the 2019 event, there were a large number of new offerings fans of retro gaming should keep an eye out for.

WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY

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Jersey Jack Pinball waited until the April show to unveil its newest pinball offering, making groups of tables available to show attendees. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory made its debut during a special preview party the Friday of the show and then was situated in the Jersey Jack section of the massive pinball section of the arcade hall all weekend.

This new pinball table features four flippers and seven magnets, with a number of design choices that implement themes such as Gobstoppers and Oompa Loompas as they were presented in the classic movie starring Gene Wilder. The table has RGB LED lighting with a 27-inch backbox high-definition LCD.

Standard cabinets were suggested at $7,500; a limited edition cabinet is planned with a sparkle blue armor (instead of black), exclusive artwork and backglass, an LE plaque, a super ball lock, external sound control and shaker motor for $9,500; and a $12,500 collector’s edition limited to 500 will feature candy red armor, different exclusive artworks, a Gobstopper shooter knob, a brass CE plaque, laser-cut rule card, signed apron plate and more.

The tables were very crowded and received a ton of play at the Midwest Gaming Classic. I had the chance to get one game on the table, and I very much enjoyed my short time with the game. The table uses the license well, and there are a lot of targets to shoot for.

I’m not a very experienced pinball player, so I appreciated the cues the game would give me – when the ball entered a temporary lock, an icon would quickly flash indicating the ball was going to pop from the location shortly. It seemed like this will be a great table for a player such as myself, and I suppose an easier play field makes sense given the crowd the theme of the pinball table will likely attract.

Hopefully I’m able to run into Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory once again, as I’m hoping my positive opinion of the table holds up with extended play.

BLACK KNIGHT: SWORD OF RAGE
Black Knight: Sword of Rage has already released as Stern’s newest offering, so this was more of an appearance than a preview. In a 180 from the Willy Wonka table, I found this one difficult to get into.

Again, I’m not an expert pinball player, so I found the playfield of Black Knight to be very aggressive and difficult to play. The Black Knight actively blocks a ramp with his flail, but it was quite satisfying to break through his defense and eventually spin through the ramp. The table also has multiple targets to hit, with some conditions unlocking a timed fight against opponents.

I feel like this is one I would have to sink a ton of time into to get used to the layout, but it does have a very cool theme and the rocking music is awesome.

Stern overall had a huge showing at the Midwest Gaming Classic, having a massive section that also included tables it has released since 2016. The Munsters, Stern’s release just before Black Knight, also had a positive showing that was bolstered by an appearance by Butch Patrick who played Eddie Munster in the TV series. I had a very brief play of The Munsters at the event, and this also seems like a table I could enjoy – the mini playfield featuring Grandpa’s basement was great!

TRASHBOTS

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Jeff Lee and Tom Malinowski, formerly of Gottlieb and now working under the label of Ratslym Productions, had a booth in the arcade hall, and with it, a slightly updated version of their Trashbots concept. Jeff Lee told me last year that Trashbots is a game concept that got turned down in the arcade heydays, but both gentlemen have been slowly working on the concept in their free time.

Trashbots is a space battle game pitting two players against each other. Instead of directly firing upon each other, the title is very gravity-/orbit-based. The center of the playfield features a rotational orbit filled with asteroids and debris, and the player can use a traction beam to pull items toward them and a repulsion beam to fling the items toward the opponent.

The game is still in an early stage, but the concept is there as intended. At the 2019 MGC, Trashbots was played on a monitor and arcade stick layout as Jeff and Tom showed attendees how they envision the game will play out. Since this is a side project for both, it’s still unclear when we might see Trashbots in a more fully-featured form.

Most interestingly enough, Jeff has teased another new project titled “Snots & Boogers.” At the event, Jeff told me the project is less involved than Trashbots, intended to be a more straight-forward shooting game featuring some familiar designs. He confirmed it is being developed for arcades and mentioned there are plans for some sort of customization element. Hopefully we’ll see both of these projects come into fruition at some point in the near future.

DARK PRESENCE

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Dark Presence by Galloping Ghost Productions made another public event appearance, and, to the naked eye, not much changed in this version over the one I meticulously detailed in December. Still, this marked the first time outside of the development office or arcade that every character was playable and the single-player mode was available.

Specifically for Midwest Gaming Classic, Tommy Wafflez of Galloping Ghost Productions said a lot of touch-ups were done to the single-player AI to prepare for the show. While the CPU came at you full force in the December build, he said the AI was adjusted so the first fight was very easy, the second fight was a touch more difficult, and then by stage three the computer no longer held back. This allowed new players to ease into the game much better, but the difficulty still kept non-developer players from nabbing a 1CC.

I was able to up my personal best to a 2CC, but the AI for Trenton and Mind Master was still fairly brutal in this build. Trenton still goes for his really crazy slide special at any given chance, and the Mind Master is hard because … well, he’s the final boss. Vamphriyal had a dramatically different AI routine in which he is far more defensive, waiting for the player to come to him and capitalizing on mistakes. There were other small touches I noticed, but, by large, this was very similar to the game presented to players in December. Still, the game is believably on track to be finished in 2019, and I’m looking forward to the continued progress on the game.

Galloping Ghost Productions also had one of its The Spectre Files: Deathstalker cabinets on the floor, and, while the game has been finished for some time, it has actually now been on sale to arcades, with machines popping up in locations in Utah and Ohio. The game saw a lot of play over the course of the show, and it actually won a trophy for best single-player arcade game in the arcade hall.

COSMOTRONS

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Cosmotrons is another arcade game that isn’t brand new, but, it’s certainly a new-ish arcade game deserving of people’s attention. I haven’t had a chance to play the game a ton, but, it’s a very fun spaceship-based arcade game utilizing vector graphics. On first look the game resembles something like Asteroids, but it’s a very frantic multiplayer title that is continually building competitive steam.

The cabinet is reaching new locations such as the Garcade and The Game Grid, and the 2019 Midwest Gaming Classic saw the culmination of a tournament event overseen by Walter Day. Hopefully I have more of a chance to be hands-on with Cosmotrons in the future, but, if you happen to see the game out in the wild, make sure you give it a shot!

RISK SYSTEM

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Newt Industries is on the verge of releasing Risk System on PC in just a couple of weeks and remain on track to make a very impressive debut. The title was showcased at the 2018 Midwest Gaming Classic and was a standout title in the impressive indie game development room.

The title has been slightly tweaked over last year’s build, but the developer said this allowed the team better UI capabilities, especially with controller mapping to possibly get the game playable on consoles as well. Risk System’s development was said to be complete during April’s event, and the developer said events such as the Midwest Gaming Classic allowed them to do “public beta testing” of the product to allow for necessary fixes before its release.

Risk System is a horizontal shoot ’em up game that rewards players for placing themselves into near-miss situations with the enemy fire. The player’s ship fires a steady stream of bullets, but when a near miss is triggered, the ship’s firepower increases and causes enemies to drop items that can eventually refill one of the ship’s shields.
Near misses also fills the ship’s barrier breaker meter, which is similar to activating a bomb in other shmups. Unlike other shmups with a near miss mechanic, it becomes necessary to survive at points in Risk System’s gameplay. This is most evident during boss fights where some of the enemy’s bullet patterns are unavoidable, and players must use them to build their B-meter in time to active the barrier breaker for temporary invincibility.

Risk System has a very bright and vibrant presentation that splashes color all over the screen, and, from top to bottom, this is a title I’ve been looking forward to since playing it a year ago. During the Midwest Gaming Classic, I was told Risk System will release “before May 16,” but the game is currently billed for a May 14 release according to its page on the Steam store. If you’re looking for a high-quality shmup with a few unique mechanics, make sure you give the game a look later this month.

HAUNTED HALLOWEEN ’86: THE CURSE OF POSSOM HOLLOW

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Haunted Halloween ’86 has already been released by Retrotainment Games, but it’s a very NES-themed action title I highly recommend for those looking for smooth fighting/platforming hybrids. The title is available digitally on Xbox One and Steam, but it is also famously available as an NES or Famicom cartridge.

Haunted Halloween features two characters the player can tag between, and, while the characters are essentially the same, it allows the player to balance how much damage each character takes. The characters move fast and fluidly, with double jumps, uppercuts and punches. While many people got River City Ransom vibes with the main character design, I would compare the game flow a little more with Splatterhouse Wanpaku Graffiti on the Famicom.

The demo at the event took me through a couple of stages before dropping me off in the game’s challenge mode with endless enemies, and I’m very impressed with how the combat flows. You can run and punch out basic enemies, use the uppercut to behead zombies and pick up and throw items. What makes this so great is how all of the actions flow into each other, creating an aggressive fighting/action game with a pace that is constantly moving forward.

The digital game is a recommended $10 buy if you’re looking for a fast and challenging action game, but NES collectors may be interested in knowing the title has a flashy, orange cartridge available starting at $50.

FULL QUIET

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Also by Retrotainment Games, Full Quiet is the developer’s in-progress title made possible by a Kickstarter campaign, but the project can still be supported on Backerkit. Full Quiet presents a zombie-like/post apocalyptic world where the main character’s son has been abducted and taken deep into a forest. Players start at the top of a radio tower and the demo at the event tasked players with traveling to another radio tower to restore its power.

The game is billed as quite the departure from what the developer is used to, but the demo build is an impressive showing for the game. The demo features a swamp-like environment, and players use a gun to fend off a variety of creatures that attack the main character. The character worked his way around a winding path, and this showed off the incredible scrolling and detail being worked into the game. As the path circled around, you can see the radio tower and the paths already traveled being layered into the distance. Scaling and scrolling are said to be a huge focus in regard to the tech of the game, and the demo is an impressive start toward this goal.

The player is required to restore power to a few items along the way to the end of the demo, and one of these controls a bridge needed to reach the end of the game. A fuse is needed to get the controls working again, and a Pipe Dream/Pipe Mania-inspired mini-game is played to restore its power. As long as the developer can keep some variety going throughout the game, these item quests and puzzles will serve as a great change of pace amid the action.

Reaching the radio tower, the game switched to a vertical scrolling mode, where the main character could grapple onto the bottom of platforms to climb the massive structure. This gave the game a temporary “Bionic Commando” feel, as, while the character doesn’t have an extending arm, players needed to carefully plot out their jumps and find paths that would take them to the top.

While the demo was straightforward, one of the developers at the Midwest Gaming Classic said the goal was to craft more of an open world for players to explore. Full Quiet is slated for NES cartridge and Steam release in the future, and it’s one I highly encourage players to keep an eye out for.

BITE THE CHILI PRODUCTIONS GAMES

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Bite the Chili Productions is the development name of retro video game creator Nathan Tolbert, and he showcased his titles in the incredible NintendoAge room that was packed with quality homebrew titles.

Making my rounds through the event for the first time in the weekend, I made it just in time for the start of a tournament in an NES-developed title called Super Homebrew War. This title pits characters from other homebrew games into four-player battles on a variety of stages. Players always have a basic attack option of jumping on top of their opponents Mario-style, but the stages also have item blocks that grant players other attacks to use.

The game was incredibly fun and the tournament was full of good spirits among the competitors who were largely playing Super Homebrew War for the very first time. I was able to hang on and win the tournament, which earned me a physical NES cartridge of the game. The developer said the game is currently not offered on its own in cartridge form, but it may be included in a future homebrew multi-cart.

I bring Bite the Chili up, though, because the ROMs for the studio’s games are made available for free on its web site. Super Homebrew War can be downloaded and fired up inside an NES emulator so you and your friends can play it, and I do very much recommend the four-player versus matches.

The site also offers Anguna, a Zelda-style action-adventure you can play via Game Boy Advance or Nintendo DS emulation, the difficult platformer Robo-Ninja Climb for NES or Atari 2600, a multiplayer racing game Spacey McRacey for NES and more. The web site also lists upcoming titles for the NES and Atari 2600.

OTHER TITLES
Being an exhibitor at the event, I only had so much free time to explore the Midwest Gaming Classic. I saw a large number of great-looking game titles, but there were a good number I didn’t get personally play. If you are looking to explore and find new retro-inspired video games, give these titles a look:

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TacticsV – @FNGStudios on Twitter
A great-looking grid-based tactics RPG.

FX-Unit Yuki: The Henshin Engine – http://www.fxunityuki.com
A platforming game developed with the TurboGrafx/PC Engine in mind, but it has also made its way to formats such as the SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive.

Candelabra: Estoscerro – https://slydogstudios.org/#
Billed as the first homebrew dungeon crawler for the NES, this is looking like an impressive first-person adventure. A successful Kickstarter campaign will give players the game in cartridge form, but the developer’s web page has multiple NES homebrew games.

Bomb Sworders – https://store.steampowered.com/app/1046970/Bomb_Sworders/
A local multiplayer battle game for 2-4 players, where striking a bomb with your sword turns it into your color and makes it dangerous for opponents.

Geno: The Fallen King – https://zeta-bit.itch.io/geno-the-fallen-king
A fast-paced action platforming game.

The 13th Doll – http://www.the13thdoll.com/
A fan game of The 7th Guest that is currently scheduled to release in July.

Cats Fly Helicopters – https://store.steampowered.com/app/736910/Cats_Fly_Helicopters/
An open-world game that tasks players with completing jobs using crafted helicopters. As you may have guessed, it takes place in a city full of cats.

In all, it was an impressive showing of “new-old games” at the 2019 Midwest Gaming Classic. Hopefully this list will give you at least one new game to look forward to this year!

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Categories: GemuBaka Feature

Author:indiesnack

Indie Snack is a video gaming Web site focusing on independent developers and game releases. Indie Snack will also soon have services made available to independent developers to include tools aiding them in public relations and game marketing.

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