You never know what you’re going to get from Indiecade in a given year. Last year it was a lot of heavy-handed social justice stuff, mixed with millennial ennui. At E3 2016, it was loaded with interactive art exhibits as opposed to actual games. Some worked: the giant wall that created a ghostly image of you when you danced in front of it was pretty fun, and the meditation space that was intended to be a VR art installation would be ideal for being stuck next to a Chatty Cathy during a day spa trip.
One Indiecade selection that took a new approach to interactive toys was Octobo, a plush blue octopus with sock tentacles and a pylon on his head who has a pocket in his face that fits a seven inch tablet. An app on the tablet gives Octobo interactive expressions that respond to you shaking hands with him, hugging him, and feeding him his favourite sort of stuffed fish. Intended for preschool children 3-5, Octobo also teaches basic reading via the storybook that provides simple instructions for interaction.
There were also three actual games that caught my eye for being fun, unique, and free of glaring design errors. The first was Clapper, a novel two-person twist on a rhythm game played on an iPad laid flat on a table. Clapper gets its name from its basic mechanic: you work with your partner to pop bubbles through clapping motions similar to the stuff kids did on playgrounds before handheld video games were a thing. The tablet tracks the hand movements as shadows on the screen, and if the shadows trap a bubble between them, that scores points.
My favourite “board game” was Escape Room In A Box, a series of complex puzzles that allow you to mimic one of those escape room events in your living room. The special concept for E3 was that you were auditioning to be the assistant of a werewolf scientist. She’ll only take the best and brightest, however, so you have to prove yourself by solving puzzles to escape her challenge. There were three increasingly difficult puzzles that, when solved, provided you a clue to the scent of a liquid in a series of test tubes. Each of those tubes had a number on it, and figuring out those numbers allowed you to open a lock. The puzzles were challenging and each had multiple steps. It’s a great dinner party or large group activity.
My absolute favourite Indiecade game this year, however, was Floor Plan, a VR game for the Oculus Rift and Gear VR by a developer called Turbo Button. Floor Plan is a whimsical, incredibly fun puzzle game that takes place entirely in an elevator. You solve puzzles by collecting items from various themed floors and use them to interact with the environments, not unlike those old classic Sierra adventure games. The trial and error is a lot of fun, and some items serve multiple purposes. In classic adventure game fashion, not all of those purposes are immediately intuitive. It’s an ingenious, entertaining use of VR technology.
Clapper and Escape Room In A Box are available for purchase through their respective websites. Floor Plan can be purchased through the Oculus store.