As Comic-Con 2009 kicks off down here in San Diego, developers from all over the world are set to show off some of their biggest comics-inspired titles. One studio that doesn’t have to travel very far is The Behemoth, an indie developer located just a stone’s throw from the convention center. It's known for a pair of critically acclaimed games--Alien Hominid and Castle Crashers--which feature a charming hand-drawn art style that feels very much in the spirit of Comic-Con. Before this year’s show officially got under way, we paid a visit to The Behemoth’s offices to get a look at its next game, a competitive action-platformer going by the extremely working-title moniker of The Behemoth Presents: Game 3.
There’s no quick and easy way to describe the gameplay in Game 3, but it definitely falls beneath the umbrella of the platformer genre. Basically, the game allows a number of players to take part in competitive scenarios that control like a typical 2D platformer, but with all the eccentricity and charm The Behemoth is known for. Players begin by quickly creating a character from a palette of options that includes head shape, face, and weapon type (the first two of which are purely cosmetic). Then they jump into a lobby where each different map and game mode is behind a certain door, which is a sort of voting system where players jump to that door and enter it in order to profess which game mode they want to play.
The demo we took part in had three gameplay modes. One of them has you collecting points by picking up bits of gold from a magical, floating golden whale and depositing them in a similarly magical, floating safe; another has you running around the level tagging each block you touch with your team color; and the third tasks you with jumping on your enemy's head in order to pop its soul out of its body, and then holding onto the soul as long as you can in order to rack up the points.
No matter the match, the screen can get very chaotic. The biggest part of that is the fact that every player has a suite of attacks. Remember how we said you get to choose your weapon prior to a match? These include things like grenades, ice balls that freeze players for a second, fire balls that scorch them, boomerangs that stun them, and fans that blow them backward. You can also perform slide tackles, pose like a statue to harm enemies that run into you, or simply jump on another player’s head to knock him out for a moment. Lives are infinite, and besides the second it takes to respawn, the consequences for death include losing out on magical whale gold in your possession or the enemy soul you might have tucked away.
There are a certain number of environmental hazards that come into play as well. Liquid of any kind means instant death, whether it’s an inviting pool of water or a bright-green toxic abyss. Certain blocks you run and jump on will explode the second you step on them, sending you shooting across the level, and others simply disappear instantly. With all this going on, matches can definitely get a little chaotic. However, it’s a manageable sort of chaos considering that the only thing you or anyone else is able to do is jump and attack. There’s also an undeniable level of charm seeing a cartoon character freeze another in a block of ice while chasing a floating whale, so it’s not as though the chaos is especially stressful either. In short: Game 3 is frantic but fun.
Speaking of cartoon characters, it takes only a second to tell who’s responsible for Game 3. The game maintains the same distinct 2D art style as Alien Hominid . The developers are not trying to make any triumphant leaps into the third dimension this time around; the team members seem to know what works best for them and aren’t eager to lose their visual signature by going too over-the-top with the look. That said, Game 3 does maintain that same level of absurdness as previous titles, including a sort of mascot character who breakdances while crying...for no apparent reason.
The Behemoth tells us there’s also a single-player component to Game 3, complete with a storyline, but that wasn’t on display. We should have more as we get closer to the release in 2010. No platforms have been officially announced as of this time.