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Haunted Couches, Escape Rooms and Guitar Combat: The Weirdest Games of GDC

SAN FRANCISCO — Everyone knows that GDC is the place to go for big gaming announcements and in-depth indie demos. What you may not know is that it’s also a place to see one-of-a-kind titles with the most bizarre control schemes you’ve ever seen.

In past years, we’ve controlled games by licking ice pops, slapping zombie masks and playing a digital lyre. Each year, amateur developers create bizarre titles with nontraditional controllers for ALT.CTRL.GDC, and checking them out is routinely one of the most fun parts of the show. This year, we saw how a robot dreams, fought magical battles with guitars and even had to escape an Aztec temple while tied together, Indiana Jones-style.

Guitar Wizards

If you’re anything like me, you probably have a few old Guitar Hero controllers lying around. The team behind Guitar Wizards did, and decided to repurpose them to do sorcerous battle. Guitar Wizards is extremely simple, but surprisingly strategic. A green and a purple player pick up guitars (and don the corresponding wizard hats), then strum one of five notes in order to send projectiles careening down a giant LED fretboard. Your objective is to hit your opponent’s goal, air-hockey style, but they can summon their own projectiles to counter yours. Since you have limited ammo, knowing when to attack and when to defend is paramount.

Hellcouch

Haunted house games are fairly common, but only Hellcouch lets you stand up to a particularly evil piece of furniture. In this game, three players cooperate to exorcise a possessed couch. To do so, they have to stand up and sit down when prompted by a colored LED strip. Coordinating with your teammates is key, since you’ll often have to stand up or sit down in complicated patterns in order to counter the demon’s machinations. The game works thanks to simple pressure plates underneath each couch cushion, and the seat even vents a little smoke once you complete a match. However, the average couch probably couldn’t handle this kind of punishment daily!

Tied Escape: The Curse of Cortez

Credit: Tom's Guide

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Remember that scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade when Indy and Dr. Jones are tied together in two chairs and have to escape from a burning Nazi castle? Tied Escape: The Curse of Cortez is kind of like that, just without the fire. You and a partner play as two adventurers (complete with appropriate hats), who have wound up tied together in a deadly Aztec temple. To escape, you must hit a variety of buttons on three different pillars whenever prompted by a screen. Each button has an animal symbol and color associated with it, so you’ll have to do a little puzzle solving as you coordinate your chair-shuffling to complete each command before time runs out.

MORE: Best of GDC 2019: The 10 Coolest Games and Gadgets

Roambot

Philip K. Dick once wondered whether androids dream of electric sheep. Roambot may be a good way to find out. In this game, two players control a recliner-bound robot, who is peacefully dreaming of… something. That’s for the players to determine. One of them must tune the rabbit-ear receivers on top of the robot’s head to see what he’s dreaming about, and the other must raise and lower the recliner’s footrest to keep moving forward. The first player can also rotate the robot’s head to look at different objects, while the second player can grasp things with the robot’s two-fingered hand, leaving room for a little light puzzle-solving.

Neon Nemesis

A four-player cooperative arcade side-scroller where players race to the finish sounds fun. That same pitch with a nefarious fifth player controlling all the traps they’ll encounter along the way, on the other hand, sounds downright devious. Neon Nemesis is not just an asynchronous multiplayer game; it uses asynchronous controllers, too.

While regular players just need to run and jump, the titular Nemesis needs to move foot pedals, turn hand cranks, pull levers and hit giant buttons in order to shoot, mislead, bump and even bomb his or her four targets. The complicated layout means that a Nemesis can never get too comfortable — but then again, neither can the players.

Credit: Tom's Guide

Be sure to check out our GDC 2019 hub page for all of the latest gaming news and hands-on impressions straight out of San Francisco.