Multiplayer gets weirdly mesmerising with Push Me Pull You
Four-player Push Me Pull You is one of the strangest -- and most mesmerising -- gaming experiences we've ever clapped eyes on.
We've seen some pretty unusual party games in our time, but we have to give it up: not even Bishi Bashi Special can match upcoming multiplayer game Push Me Pull You.
The first game from Melbourne, Australia-based four-man studio House House (programmer Nico Disseldorp, artists Michael McMaster and Stuart Gillespie-Cook, and filmmaker Jake Strasser), the game is for four players in teams of two that each control an on-screen beastie: a double-headed worm-human, named for the pushmi-pullyu of Doctor Dolittle fame (or, for a more recent reference, bearing a strong resemblance to CatDog).
"None of us have any formal training or education in game development, and we come from a pretty diverse range of disciplines, so from the outset we weren't working under any established roles. Except for Nico, who is our only programmer, none of us could really claim ownership over any single aspect of production. This meant that everything in the game is the product of a very long discussion (or argument) between the four of us," McMaster explained.
"This can be tricky -- it can sometimes be a little stifling, and certainly isn't the most efficient mode of production -- but the flipside of this intense collaboration is that every component of our game exists for a justifiable reason. When you need four people to agree on something before moving forward, you'll either end up with a cohesive and well-rounded game, or a total mess. We're lucky enough to have such a unified vision for what we want out of a game that Push Me Pull You feels more like a beautiful amalgamation than any kind of a compromise."
Each player controls one end of a very wiggly two-headed human creature, and the aim is to snag the ball and hold it on your side of the screen until your half of the court fills with colour in order to score a point. This means each team has to work cooperatively -- because they're connected, each move one player makes will affect what the other is trying to do.
"PMPY was born out of a plan for a different sports game with randomised rules -- we had this idea where every time you played a match, the rules would be randomly selected and combined (a round could have zero gravity, multiball, superspeed, or all three at the same time etc) -- we made a list with a little over 100 different rules, and one of them happened to be: 'each player is tied to their teammate'," Strasser told CNET.
"We kept coming back to that idea, it was such a good way to enforce cooperation, so eventually we just decided to make that the whole game. We started brainstorming different situations where players could be tied together; ships dragging nets, divers sharing oxygen pipes, robots sharing a cable, even two heads sharing a tongue, but then Stuart drew this:
"Our shared sense of humour has been our primary compass throughout development -- the picture made us all laugh more than any other idea we'd had, so we just went from there."
The game is designed for four players, ideally -- two versus two -- although two players can play competitively, each attempting to control both ends of a single beast. And it's designed for a single screen, with no single-player and no online mode.
"It's very much a game for four friends (or friends-to-be) to play sitting in the same room. The game wouldn't really work online, both technically (there are just way too many fast moving physics points for networking to work properly) and because you wouldn't get to yell at your partner. Ideally, the game is played with a gamepad for each player, but we actually love it when people only have two controllers, because it means teammates have to squish together and share," Disseldorp said.
"Currently we only have a competitive mode, but we occasionally joke about a two player co-op mode where we throw a sports-monster into a maze or something, so who knows. I think PMPY wouldn't really work as a single player game (unless half your body was asleep), but perhaps one day we'll make a single player game about our spaghetti people."
Push Me Pull You will be available for PC, Mac and Linux, with House House investigating a console version, and is due out later in 2014. You can follow the game's progress on its official website.