Beyond playing new games, seeing your industry heroes and getting tons of swag, one of the most rewarding aspects of going to a convention such as PAX is being able to share your passion for video games with like-minded individuals. Sometimes, when you're really lucky, those individuals that you get to sit down and talk with are the 13AM Games team, the creative minds behind Wii U indie darling Runbow. During our time at PAX, we had the opportunity to check out their latest two releases and find out a little more the company's 13AM's new direction.
As previously mentioned, 13AM is, by far, mostly commonly known to Wii U owners as the development team behind Runbow. Following the success of the original release, 13AM has decided to bring the rainbow coloured action to portable players in Runbow Pocket for the New Nintendo 3DS. If you were lucky enough to upgrade to Nintendo's latest iteration of its handheld, this is definitely a release that should be on your radar.
Right off the bat we have to admit that, at this point, there's not a whole lot that can be said about Runbow Pocket that hasn't already been said about the home console release. What we have here is a very faithful port of the original, scaled down to fit the 3DS's screens. We've already been told that the focus with this outing is more concentrated on the single player experience, so it's only fitting that we spent most of our time working our way through stages in the Story Mode.
One thing that stands out in Runbow is how tight and precise the controls are, something that is so very necessary in this type of fast-paced platformer. Runbow Pocket is no exception to this, implementing the same simple control scheme that consists of running, jumping and punching your way through each stage. It's all very intuitive and works well as a portable experience, much to our surprise. While the true joy of playing on the Wii U comes form sharing the experience with a room full of frustrated friends, Runbow Pocket capitalises on its well-crafted platforming mechanics.
Despite being an impressive recreation, we were initially disappointed by the visuals. Making the jump from HD on the Wii U to the 3DS's less than desirable screen resolution made the game look a bit grainy, and the colours definitely didn't have quite as much of a pop. The small screen felt a bit underwhelming, but it's something that can easily be overlooked when digging into the gameplay.
Runbow may be the pantone jewel in 13AM's crown, but it's not the most interesting thing that they shared with us at PAX. Instead, that title would have to go to 13AM Shipping Solutions, the developer's subsidiary name for its brand new publishing arm. As much as we'd like to see something new from the minds behind Runbow, we're just as excited to know that they're branching out into publishing, essentially letting themselves pick and choose games they find worthy of sharing and curating a collection.
The first title to be released by Shipping Solutions is Pirate Pop Plus - developed by Dadako - on both the 3DS and Wii U. It's a deceptively simple looking game, but demoing the 3DS version was easily one of the most enjoyable experiences we had on the show floor.
The gameplay in Pirate Pop Plus was immediately familiar because it's essentially mimicking Pang or Buster Bros, or whatever the original arcade game was called in your region. You play as a pirate tasked with shooting anchors at bouncing bubbles, picking up coins and collectables, and amassing the highest score possible. As far as we could discern, there isn't much in the way of plot, but that's exactly the point. Much like MiniVisions' Whoa Dave!, Pirate Pop Plus was created to replicate the arcade experience, focusing on quick pickup-and-play action. The goal is to earn points and kill time.
We've reported on this previously, but it's also worth talking about the Game Boy style aesthetic, recreating the look of the handheld's screen and even including a border around the gameplay to simulate the console itself. There are plenty of customisation options as well, allowing you to use coins that you've collected to change the look of your virtual handheld. Have you always been a fan of that clear case Game Boy but you could never get your hands on one? Don't worry; Pirate Pop Plus has you covered.
While this may not have been the most unique game that we saw at PAX, it was easily one of the most exciting. It's a simple title that isn't designed for players to invest their lives into, but it carries the spirit of the arcade experience, and it's a whole lot of fun. Suffice to say we are eagerly anticipating the full release, which has been confirmed as a cross-buy title for 3DS and Wii U.
13AM Games may be a relatively new team, but they hit the ground running, and we're beyond excited what else they have in store.