Tokyo 42

PC

EDGE - - GAMES - De­vel­oper SMAC Games Pub­lisher Mode 7 For­mat PC Ori­gin South Africa Re­lease 2017

At the end of a long day at Lon­don’s In­ter­face event, Sean Wright and Ma­ciek Strychal­ski, co-founders of SMAC Games, brought a pro­to­type to show to pub­lish­ers, hav­ing just learned about the art of the pitch and how to se­cure fi­nan­cial sup­port. By happy ac­ci­dent, the two found them­selves stand­ing next to de­vel­oper Mode 7, and took the op­por­tu­nity to of­fer en­thu­si­as­tic praise for the stu­dio’s fu­tur­is­tic strat­egy ti­tle Frozen Sy­napse. “Sorry, who are you?” asked Paul Kil­duff-Tay­lor. The pair ex­plained, and were in­vited to demon­strate their cur­rent build. Mode 7, which had never pub­lished an­other stu­dio’s game be­fore, im­me­di­ately of­fered to do just that.

It’s tempt­ing to sug­gest that this proves that Wright and Strychal­ski were lis­ten­ing at­ten­tively dur­ing the day’s key­notes, but it was the qual­ity of the game it­self that wowed the de­vel­oper-turned-pub­lisher. Tokyo 42 may be more than half a year away, but al­ready it feels ro­bust and sat­is­fy­ing. The demo we play gives us only a small hand­ful of mis­sions. By the time we’ve reached the end – al­beit with the op­por­tu­nity to re­turn and ex­plore the world a lit­tle fur­ther – we’re hun­gry for more.

The game’s cen­tral con­cept was thrashed out while Strychal­ski and Wright were liv­ing to­gether. It be­gan life as a com­pet­i­tive twoplayer game, a re­sponse to the com­mer­cial strug­gles of in­de­pen­dent mul­ti­player ti­tles de­signed pri­mar­ily for four or more play­ers. The two were sim­i­larly keen to do some­thing with crowds, quickly con­ceiv­ing a dis­guise me­chanic whereby play­ers could, as Strychal­ski puts it, “screw around” with their op­po­nent by hid­ing in plain sight. A short while later, they re­alised they had some­thing akin to a hy­brid of Spy Party and As­sas­sin’s

Creed, two in­spi­ra­tions that may seem ob­vi­ous now but were en­tirely un­con­scious as the code was be­ing as­sem­bled.

It was an early mul­ti­player pro­to­type that con­vinced Mode 7 to sign the game up. The likes of De­volver and Curve Dig­i­tal had ex­pressed some in­ter­est, though Wright felt this part­ner­ship was “a bet­ter fit” for Tokyo 42 – partly thanks to the shared ex­pe­ri­ence of hav­ing been founded as a duo, but also be­cause it meant the game could get the pub­lisher’s full at­ten­tion. Else­where, Wright ex­plains, “we would have been just one of seven, eight or nine games” on a re­lease slate. Early dis­cus­sions be­tween the two par­ties have been fruit­ful. Mode 7 has fo­cused SMAC’s am­bi­tions, and though a re­lease date of 2017 seems vague, Strychal­ski ex­presses a de­sire to have fin­ished de­vel­op­ment by De­cem­ber, ahead of a po­ten­tial launch in the early months of next year.

Both par­ties seem pleased with how things are pro­gress­ing, and with good rea­son. This iso­met­ric vi­sion of a future Tokyo is crisp, bright and dis­tinc­tive, blend­ing con­tem­po­rary ar­chi­tec­ture with tra­di­tional Ja­panese iconog­ra­phy. Strychal­ski’s in­spi­ra­tions in­clude the work of pixel-art group eBoy, iOS favourite Mon­u­ment Val­ley, and the Where’s Wally? books, the lat­ter nat­u­rally fac­tor­ing into the way you play, as you at­tempt to blend in with crowds to hide from ag­gres­sors. As a fugi­tive turned as­sas­sin, you’re asked by your furtive han­dler to kill a mini-golf mag­nate on a neigh­bour­ing rooftop; shortly af­ter­wards, you’ll face amus­ingly vi­o­lent ret­ri­bu­tion from his cus­tomers. Col­lect­ing a sniper ri­fle for your next hit, mean­while, re­quires some care­ful plat­form­ing, as it’s been left on top of the tallest build­ing around. It’s a ver­tig­i­nous climb that sees you nervily leap be­tween bal­conies and stair­wells. Hap­pily, there are plenty of respawn points should you mis­judge a jump. A later set-piece plays out like a Match­box

Hit­man, as you sneak past sev­eral suited guards to reach a con­tact on the top floor of a tow­er­ing pagoda. With a sin­gle bul­let enough to kill you, stealth is the rec­om­mended op­tion, though with grenades, a katana and a ma­chine gun equipped, you might pre­fer a more ex­plo­sive en­trance. It’s un­likely Wright and Strychal­ski will face a sim­i­lar choice when Tokyo 42 launches. The buzz around their game is al­ready pretty noisy; by the time it launches, it could well be deaf­en­ing.

As a fugi­tive turned as­sas­sin, you’re asked by your han­dler to kill a mini-golf mag­nate

FROM TOP Sean Wright and Ma­ciek Strychal­ski, co-cre­ators of Tokyo42

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