Whether you're a mouse-and-keyboard diehard or a controller connoisseur, you generally know how you're going to input commands as soon as you pick up a game. Alt.Ctrl.GDC challenges our expectations of how input devices work, experimenting with bizarre, often impractical peripherals — or no peripherals at all.
These novel proof-of-concept games may not see a store shelf anytime soon, but they let us slap, pump and shout our way through GDC 2018, and demonstrated that while traditional controls might be familiar, inventive games can — and maybe should — offer so much more.
Frankly, golf is hard enough when you have to use your hands and a set of clubs; can you imagine how harrowing it'd be if you had to use your mouth instead? In Wind Golf, you grab hold of a box with a screen and a long tube on either side. By rotating the screen and blowing into the two tubes, you can control the direction of the wind as you try to gently coax a ball into a hole. This is easier said than done, since your breath can be a breeze or a tempest. Please, no "hole in one" jokes.
Disco Is Dead
On second thought, "Disco Is Undead" might have been a better title. In this cooperative rhythm game, you'll do battle with gangsters and zombies by beating them up in time with a groovin' disco track. Here's the catch: Instead of hitting buttons on a controller, you'll be slapping a zombie mask around. Depending on the prompts, you can hit enemies from the left, right, or top of the head, and some require multiple hits. You can even grab a disco ball peripheral and give your partner a high five to access a turbo mode and plow through foes. Now that's hot stuff.
Too Many Captains and Not Enough Wire
Did you ever feel bad for poor Scotty on Star Trek, stuck putting out fire after fire in Engineering while Kirk got the Enterprise into trouble on the bridge? Too Many Captains and Not Enough Wire simulates the poor Scotsman's frustration. One participant is an engineer, equipped with a panel to monitor weapons, helm, repairs and shields, but only three colored wires to distribute between them. Other players — the captains — can see enemies and environmental hazards on the screen, and shout orders at this poor player, who must save the ship without ever seeing the dangers it faces firsthand.
Pump the Frog
Have you ever been pumping up your bicycle's tires and wondered, "How come no one's ever made this into a game?" Well, if so, you're (surprisingly) not the only one. Pump the Frog isn't just the game's title; it's also the full set of instructions. Using a pump, you can inflate a tiny frog into a huge, buoyant balloon, and ride air currents all around a lushly animated forest, collecting flies as you go. Twisting the pump handle can unlock various roadblocks along the way, but otherwise, it's all about deciding whether to be small and terrestrial, or large and airborne. Much like life.
Rhythm game multiplayer has always required a lot of extra gear, whether it's a second guitar in Guitar Hero or a extra dance pad in Dance Dance Revolution. Hi-5 Heroes has a much simpler proposition: Just use your hands. To play Hi-5 Heroes, all you need to do is high-five, low-five and fist-bump in time with the rhythm. (There's also an occasional "too slow" fakeout, because the game is also apparently your uncle at Thanksgiving.) The prompts start out simply enough — one high-five every ten seconds or so — but before you know it, you'll be doing complex sequences in syncopated time.