Towerfall Ascension: PS4’s indie - Games Weekly

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Towerfall Ascension: PS4’s indie

You know what our favourite thing about volleyball is? No, it’s not those graceful rallies or penetrative, forceful spikes. It’s the great big space rifles, innit? “We tend to describe it in a trade show setting as cyberpunk volleyball with guns,” admits Necrosoft Games director Brandon Sheffield. Yeah, Gunsport sounds a smidge different to the game we remember Coach Herbert forcing us to play in Year Seven P.E…

Though this upcoming PS4 indie adds firearms to a sport normally associated with beaches and banana hammocks, its vision of the future is actually quite peaceful. With war very much a past concept, countries now settle their problems on the Gunsport court.

In practice, this leads to hectic local multiplayer games of frenzied rallies, desperate blocks and copious couch shenanigans. Anyone else having flashbacks to wee pixel archers? “There’s a group of people that miss that connection of being able to punch your friend in the arm after they, say, make a goal,” Sheffield tells us.
It’s a tad different to the game coach made us play In year 7 P.E.
Following on from the recent couchplay renaissance in the  likes of Towerfall Ascension and Sportsfriends, Gunsport wants you to physically interact with other human beings. Perish the thought.

Like Sportsfriends, Sheffield’s title boasts a unique control scheme. “It’s actually all triggers and buttons pretty much,” says Sheffield. So long, faithful sticks. “The triggers aim your gun up and down, - Square -  fires, and then if you’re the Striker, you can move with the analogue and jump with - X - ” The reasoning behind this setup? To steer Gunsport away from frenzied twitch-based waters. “We do this because we want people to predict where the ball is going to be, not react to where it is right now.”

A Class Apart
Supporting up to two-vs-two volleying battles, the game’s classes differ wildly. As a Striker, players can move freely, coming to the net to snipe the ball back into opposition territory. Stuck between the sticks? Then you’ll find the Keeper grounded to the spot… although this is sweetened by the fact the character in nets carries an extra clip in their gun. “I don’t think that’s related to volleyball,” quips Sheffield.

Indeed, the presence of goals at all brings a flavour of street football to Gunsport’s athletic antics. While rallies build up your points haul, banging the futuristic orb in the onion bag nets you a bonus. “It gets more intense the longer [the ball] is in the air,” Sheffield adds.

Pixel The Cat
Although the game’s strategic shooting and explosive, deeply competitive rallies channel our beloved Towerfall, its art style hasn’t been quite so warmly received online. In fact, reaction in some quarters of Sony’s official channels has been downright hostile. “I feel like there are people that feel like they bought this $300-$400 machine and it should be pushing the craziest, most amazing new graphics… and that’s all it should do,” says Sheffield. “The point I object to with these folks is when they’re calling it ‘retro’ and ‘8-bit’. There’s no way an 8-bit system could do what we’re doing.” If it’s any consolation, Brandon, at least we like Gunsport’s pixel art.

Though those sprite spikers are proving polarising, the game’s penchant for competition could make it a natural fit for Sony’s new eSports League. Currently only available in Spain, Brandon admits the league could provide a great fit for his game. “I haven’t talked to them about that yet, but I would love to do that,” reveals Sheffield. “I was even thinking about ways that I can get Gunsport into local eSports competitions.”

With PS4’s indie scene currently flourishing, Gunsport hopes its tight co-op play can make a splash in a crowded market. Unlike Towerfall, it helps Sheffield’s title isn’t bound to the couch it has online multiplayer to fall back on. “If we do our job right, it’s going to be very seamless.” Not that we really need to be sold. He had us at, “volleyball with guns.”

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