On the Friday night of Tokyo Game Show, the fourth Sense Of Wonder Night event showcased ten innovative independent games from across both Japanese and Western boundaries. The titles, picked from over 70 submissions, were presented by their creators to an enthusiastic audience of hundreds of Japanese game fans.
The event, which was originally modeled on GDC's Experimental Gameplay Workshop, was supported by Nintendo this year, and was judged by indie-friendly executives from companies such as Hudson (publisher of former IGF finalist Rooms), Microsoft, Gree, and the UBM TechWeb Game Network (GDC and Gamasutra owners - represented by the author of this article).
Each of the featured games had 10 minutes to present their titles to the audience, with noisemakers provided to the audience to 'quack' their approval when a particularly clever game feature is showcased. The concept of the night is "to discover new game ideas that will catch people by surprise".
First off was on of the most well-received presentations, the extremely odd KuraKuraMaze. From a Japanese team presenting in lab coats, it involves using an iPhone's gyroscope to rotate around and pressing the screen to move forward, and trying to reach a 'running water' goal. The 'water' gets louder, the closer you come to the goal. A unique presentation style endeared the team to the audience.
Another portable standout was Reflow, from a German team, which used the iPad camera to direct onscreen 'liquids', setting up flow of the liquids into particular buckets.
You could use one's body or a piece of paper to manipulate by setting black/white shapes - or even one of the team's T-shirts, which was specially designed to complete the final puzzle, a smart end to the presentation.
Also a particularly appreciated title was I'm Gonna Be God Of The Forest, a Japanese PC strategy title with cartoony simulation of creatures eating plants - and each other. A slightly absurd isometric-ish point of view and odd cartoony graphics made this a truly unique, Darwin-inspired proposition, and one that will hopefully see a Western release in the future.
The Indie Fund-funded Q.U.B.E., or 'Quick Understanding of Block Extrusion,' from a UK student team, is an Unreal Engine-powered abstract puzzle title with Portal-esque stark visuals, and clever mechanics around block-pushing. Already an awaited PC game title, it looks to provide a cunning new take on the first-person puzzler.
Other highlights included Sega's Takayuki Yanagihara, showing a prototype of a project called Taplib that has an interesting diagonal tap-based puzzle title, using line-connections to wipe out blocks on a board sequentially. A DigiPen team showcased Solstice, a Kinect-powered title with abstract, almost ThatGameCompany-esque beauty, adding gorgeous abstract musical ambience to pastoral flying.
Konami also presented the just-debuted Kinect XBLA title Leedmees for Xbox Live Arcade, an unconventional Lemmings-like puzzle title which has the player affecting lots of in-game miniature characters by conducting them up and down your arms and legs.
With some really clever tricks like onscreen limb switching between two players, and a video demo that featured distinctive producer, Castlevania's Koji 'IGA' Igarishi, it truly impressed the crowd.
In the absence of creator Jason Rohrer, who could not attend, his Japanese indie publishers at Playism showcased the localized Inside A Star-Filled Sky, a fractal zoom-ish tactical shooter "with the idea of infinity built into its mechanics", and a title that's difficult to explain, let alone demonstrate.
Also shown was Eufloria (formerly known as Dyson), the IGF-winning abstract strategy game by a trio of UK developers, which will debut on PlayStation Network in the near future, presenting a poignant life expansion and simulation challenge.
But the event was rounded out by Colin Northway (Fantastic Contraption), who gave us a world premiere of Incredipede. Northway has lived in over 10 countries with his wife after traveling following his success with Flash-based physics puzzle title Fantastic Contraption, and has been prototyping for the entire time. But the vast majority of the ideas just didn't work out - until he visited Honduras.
Having seen all the wildlife out there, and being inspired by it, he created Incredipede, a crazy creature maker that feels closest to a simplified Spore's Creature Creator, with Fantastic Contraption-like puzzle solving in the process of being attached.
Making arbitrary limbs and muscles and creating creatures to solve puzzles makes for an interesting follow-up to his previous construction hit. In addition to the official trailer, Northway's 10 minute SoWN presentation is now available on YouTube, with the other Ustream-ed sessions becoming available more officially in the near future.
The end of the Sense Of Wonder Night saw each of the individual judges pick their favorite games, and an Audience Award given out for the title that saw the most crowd support - with Reflow picking up the majority of the judge picks and Incredipede receiving both a judge pick and the overall Audience Award.