Thursday, April 24, 2014

PAX East 2014: Y2K (Ackk Studios)

Spring has arrived, and with that, another PAX East has sprung up, inviting gamers and game developers from all over the world to Boston, all to show upcoming games and revel in what the industry has in store.  We at Third Rate Minion were there, and we got to try out a sampling of what was there on the showfloor!


Interview with Brian and Andrew:

Full PAX East Demo Playthrough:

Ackk Studios was at PAX East once again, and this time, the team's secret Project Y2K has now emerged in its first playable form for the public, now titled just Y2K.  We got to catch up with the Allanson brothers about the game and learn about the world and then some.  We also took the time to play through the entire PAX East demo for your viewing pleasure.  Check after the jump for our impressions.


Y2K is an adventure that takes place during the year 1999, just before the start of a new millennium.  The game stars twenty-something Alex as he returns from college to find his life not progressing perhaps the way he wanted it to be.  However, when a girl is killed in an elevator accident, Alex begins to investigate and discover why nobody in town seems to care about her death.  With the help of his friend Michael and the mysterious goth Vella, he finds himself diving into an otherworldly experience that will change the fate of the world.

One game that is initially brought to mind when seeing Y2K is Earthbound, as Y2K is an RPG that takes place in a contemporary setting while also being filled with odd enemies which seem to come from a blend of real-world encounters and hellish beings.  However, after playing through the demo, I could also see the clear influence of the Persona series in the game, whether in the presence of a dark alternate world or the demonic beings and sharp shading graphic style.  The graphic style pours over the landscapes, which offer heavy gradient coloring akin to what you might see in Killer7.  This, combined with the characters' artstyle, seem to meld pretty well together.

The demo was fairly linear in scale, starting with our hero being introduced alongside his Panda bear friend, much akin to Hobbes for Alex's Calvin.  Shortly thereafter, Alex was called to see his friend Michael at his front door, and together they make their way to the street, where Vella is seen standing in traffic.  For reasons we are not told, she finds "another rift," which separates the trio from the real world and into an alternate world seemingly inhabited by a magical alpaca.  I am not making this up, nor do I understand what an alpaca has to do with this world's fate or the rest of the demo.  At this point, players control Alex as he and the party make their way through this other world toward an unknown destination.

The world is unexplained, for better or worse, which only makes the experience much more surreal.  At once point, the characters encounter a woman floating in the air in some observatory of sorts.  In that room, the trio can see the Earth being hit by a giant meteor, and Vella becomes increasingly panicked over where they are.  There is no real context to most of these scenes, but I imagine these will be very important in the final game.  If Ackk Studios' goal is to make this demo curious and mysterious, they did a solid job!

Y2K as an RPG is the standard affair.  The player character moves around the world aimed to reach a certain destination, and every so often, the game pulls the team away into random encounters.  These random encounters contained only about two or three enemies at a time, most of which were Globs and Traffic Monsters.  In a battle, the characters use contemporary weaponry such as LP Records, a Keytar, and a Camera to defeat enemies.  The Allanson brothers let me know that there are special elements to these weapons; for instance, the worse the LP Record's music, the more damage it can do.  Besides the unique weaponry, each character had a couple special abilities they could use, two of which were necessary for the trio to survive.  Vella, for instance, can Banish enemies which are too difficult to defeat, and Alex can summon his Panda friend to help protect the team until he literally gets the stuffing knocked out of him.  Of course, there will be plenty more abilities where that came from in the final game.

Overall, the demo left me with a decent expectation for the game.  I felt the demo itself made little sense, but that is not a bad thing.  If anything, it made me wonder what else the game would offer.  Gameplay-wise, the demo was very simplistic in its execution.  To my knowledge there was no pause menu, and the battles I encountered were very similar to one another.  The Banish technique was a nice touch, and I hope to see it and other abilities used like that later in the game.  The final battle was very interesting, mostly for the song's vocal track and rapidly-ticking clock of life.  I hope the battles against the boss characters are equally unique and intense when it is finally complete.  There was also a few bugs that popped up, including conversation duplicating and enemy attack animations that did not seem to do anything.  Still, I chalk that up to an early demo and not indicative of the final game.

The game is still fairly early in development, as the Allanson brothers told me.  The Pre-Alpha demo I played was actually built from only a month and some change of work.  Knowing that, while the demo was fairly basic and linear, it gave a solid promise as to what to expect going forward.  Y2K has no set date for release, but Andrew said that he feels that a good estimate is about two years in the future.  No platforms have been set, but from their polling of PAX-goers, PlayStation Vita was on top of the list.

For more information on Ackk Studios, click here.

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