(Thanks to Aaron Auzins for the tip!)
I have lamented previously that news about new games has been really slow this year but as we get closer to 2014, that is changing. There is one game that went under my radar until today however, where there has been some news about it on Facebook and Youtube. That game is called NEON FM and it is being developed by a startup called Unit-E.
The game has been in development for some time now, according to a youtube video description of an earlier build, it was “an original dance game built for arcade release in 2005, but for various reasons never came out.” Whatever the obstacles were, they seem to have been overcome now as Unit-E preps to release the game to arcades this Winter. You can visit the Unit-E website here, where they have another exergaming project in the works called Cardiac Fitness Racer. That does not have a release date it appears but they do mention that it will come to arcades at some point so we will have to keep an eye on it.
Back to NEON FM, there is a Facebook page that shows the progress being made on the arcade cabinet, which uses a vertically oriented monitor and five huge backlit color buttons for the interface. But instead of telling you, let’s show this image posted on October 3rd:
And even better a video from 9-17-13 that shows the game in action along with describing the features:
Also for some hardcore play:
The game can be linked for multiplay beyond just two machines but I have not seen what the maximum limit is. It’s interesting how loosing a life will automatically adjust the difficulty (great for casual players) but that could cause an issue I will touch on in a moment. The player can also adjust the speed of the game on the fly as well as the position of the notes. The color-changing buttons is also neat to see, since generally colors are set in stone. The user pays per song instead of per set and operators can have a separate song price which enables premium songs. It will have an online update and account login feature, which is even extended to smartphone support. As you can see from the cabinet above, it also doesn’t take up a ton of space (something that dance/rhythm machines are generally notorious for). The question still remains about the pricing but I am sure that will become known before too long.
I do have to point out a few things I notice though, as constructive criticism. Perhaps this is being handled by their legal department already but “loosing a life” just lowers the difficulty, it does not end the game. While a good concept for casual players, I hope they really get this figured out in the legal space first because it was that sort of play that killed Guitar Hero Arcade when ASCAP started demanding fees from operators, saying that the games were jukeboxes as the songs could be played without “dying” so-to-speak. I imagine if there was a life limit of say 3 (so start at hard, get knocked down to Med. then down to easy and you still fail), perhaps that would be a workaround. That aside the only other issue I see is the placement of the buttons does not match which is shown on the screen. I have to imagine hardcore players may appreciate that but casuals could have some trouble. I watch casual players get stuck on the simplest things all day long at my arcade (this morning I had to teach two adults how shoot-off-the-screen reloading worked on a light-gun game, something that you would think should be beyond established in arcade gaming. Hurray motion controller gaming for mucking that up) so this comes to mind. Of course that example may show that no matter how noob-proof you try to make a game, some people will still have issues. But I still find that placement a little strange given it is not the same as what is on screen. This is a prototype however so nothing is set in stone until the release happens.
The game will be getting some location tests where I am sure they will receive some good feedback and perhaps it will make an appearance at the IAAPA trade show next month. If so, I’ll offer up some hands-on impressions from there. In the meantime I’ve added this to our 2013 releases page and we look forward to seeing more!