H/T to Joe at Indie Arcade Wave for this news.
UPDATED ON FEB. 3RD, 2023
One issue with IAAPA is that there is so much going on that one can easily miss something as important as a new arcade game launch. That is particularly true if the game isn’t at IAAPA itself – but it was in Florida at around the same time. Unfortunately I was unable to stick around for the reveal event for Throwback! Jai-Alai Heroes, which made it’s debut at Free Play Florida. Still, my apologies to Brian and Caris for missing it up until now – let’s boost the signal and discuss!
The game is available for arcades to grab now but what is it? Let’s start with a flyer and go from there:
It’s an indie game! Unfortunately the pandemic really slammed the brakes on a lot of indie arcade developments but this and Nidhogg II have been showing a comeback in that regard. Jai-Alai itself is a sport (pronounced “High-Lie”)that originated in Spain and as the flyer sums it up above, it’s “hot potato wall ball.” I don’t know if there are any other video games based on it (a search of Steam shows zero results but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any others somewhere out there) so Throwback! is definitely offering something unique here. We also don’t have a ton of sports video games out there for the modern market(aside from golf & bowling), so this helps fill in that space while giving us something fresh. What I also find interesting about it is that this is apparently similar to the one game in the movie TRON, which I always thought was kind of Pong but now I realize it was more Jai-Alai. Here’s a video of how the game plays – you’ll notice the graphics are very bright and have a 1991 aesthetic energy to them:
This game was first announced five years ago, so it’s been a long time coming; It also is available in 2p and 4p configurations. The cabinet art definitely stands out from your typical upright arcade cabinet, inspired by the original Missile Command cabinet that “meets 1970s meets 1980s meets 1990s” for it’s look. This is probably a great way to stand out without covering the cabinet in LEDs:
Joe at Indie Arcade Wave has interviewed the team a couple of times but here is the most recent one discussing the launch of the game and some changes that have been made to it since its inception, as well as what it took to finish it and bring it to market:
If you are interested in grabbing one for your location, you can contact Astro Crow Games directly or Joe at Indie Arcade Wave. I’m not sure what the price is but it certainly won’t cost anywhere near your major manufacturer games.
Thanks to Caris at Astro Crow, here’s a press release detailing the game’s release. I am a little bit behind on this so the date’s from a couple of weeks ago but the game is still available!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Astro Crow to Launch Throwback! Jai-Alai Heroes, a New Arcade Machine Based on an Obscure, Legendary Sport
ORLANDO, FL – (Jan 17, 2023) – Indie game studio Astro Crow has just launched their new arcade game, Throwback! Jai-Alai Heroes. It is a competitive game based on the relatively obscure sport of Jai-Alai (pronounced “high lie”). Jai-Alai is a sport where the rules are similar to racquetball, but the players (referred to as “pelotaris”) have a basket tied to their hand that they must use to catch and throw the ball. The sport originated in Basque Country, a region of Europe, but in America, it gained popularity in Florida, where it is still played today. Members of Astro Crow grew up in Florida attending Jai-Alai events, and even have friends and family members who have been involved with various Jai-Alai “frontons”(the name given to the sites where Jai-Alai is played).
Throwback! Jai-Alai Heroes is a fun, all-ages, competitive game with an arcade feel similar to classic games like NBA Jam and NFL Blitz. The game is targeted towards players of “casual competitive” games like Rocket League, Super Smash Bros, and Windjammers. The game blends simple 3D environments with hand-drawn 2D pixel animations for a colorful, retro vibe. The arcade machine will be available in a two-player “Standard” model, or a four-player “Deluxe” model, for 1v1 or 2v2 matches. With Throwback! Jai-Alai Heroes, Astro Crow is aiming to create a fun, competitive game while introducing gamers to a new, unique sport.
The arcade cabinet made its public debut at Free Play Florida, an event held last November in Orlando, Florida centered around arcade and pinball games of the past and present. While most arcade machines are made by large companies that have been in the business for years, there is a small, but passionate community of smaller, independent developers making their own arcade games, which Astro Crow has decided to take a leap into. The first cabinet has been placed at Glitch Bar in Ft. Lauderdale, and now Astro Crow are accepting pre-orders from bars, arcades, and private collectors for the next run of cabinets.
The game was created over the course of six years during the team’s free time, as they all work busy day jobs. Development of the game was started by Astro Crow co-owner/lead programmer Brian Stabile, who works as a Game Design Course Director at Full Sail University during the day, as well as plays drums in rock band, Trash Cinema. Co-workers introduced him to Caris Baker, Full Sail Hall of Famer and Senior Technical Artist at Unity Technologies, and it was her art that brought Brian’s idea to life. They called upon their friend Aaron Randall, a Tokyo-based musician and podcaster to provide music and sound effects. As they showed the game off at national and local events, they won numerous awards, encouraging them to work further on the game. Plans were made to release the game in 2020, but they were forced to shelve them after arcades would be shut down due to the global pandemic. Now that businesses are making a return to normalcy, Astro Crow is preparing to release the arcade cabinet at long last.
About Astro Crow: Astro Crow is an indie game studio based in Orlando, Florida. Over 10 years working together, they have released 18 apps on Android, and 9 on iOS, including their biggest hit, The Last Ace of Space. Throwback! Jai-Alai Heroes will be their first foray outside of mobile gaming.
Contact: Brian Stabile (firstname.lastname@example.org)