The lights are on
As Kill Screen's Two5Six conference wound down this Saturday, I was stretching my legs and mingling with some of the other attendees. As I moved across the room, two young men appeared before me. I've been pitched by email thousands of times, but this was different; Matt Guido and JP Yunque (together, The Automatic Gentlemen LLC) asked if I would play their game then and there.
They were clearly nervous, but they didn't need to be. Their game, Lunch War, is an addictive and enjoyable homage to the titles of my youth, including Centipede and Space Invaders. As the lunch lady at the bottom of the screen, it's the player's job to protect the ice cream pops from the approaching high school stereotypes. In the level I played, the enemies were different types of mathletes, with the upgraded variety able to shoot calculators out of their eyes. The flood of nerds winds through the cafeteria, moving around tables on their way toward the unhealthy snacks.
The lunch lady is equipped with an unending supply of apples, and there are power-ups to improve range and speed. She also has access to a slushee machine, which causes "brain freeze," temporarily stopping the advance. The friendly custodian can also be summoned to mop up an entire row of enemies. The boss fight I played was challenging, and the science teacher came with enough tricks to make the encounter tense.
Lunch War started as a final project for The Automatic Gentlemen's Game Theory and Culture class at Mercer Community College. The two were the only pair working together and felt they needed to go the extra mile. They contacted a Swedish chip tunes artist by the name of FantomenK to inquire about using some of his music. To their delight, the musician was more than willing, going so far as to offer his contribution at no cost. It's an important piece of the experience, and completes the aesthetic that Guido and Yunque are striving for.
The pair have shown Lunch War at IndieCade East and PAX East, and they will have their own booth at Too Many Games, an upcoming showcase. After finishing at Mercer, Guido and Yunque plan to transfer to four-year schools to complete their degrees and get out into the developing world full-time.
Lunch War isn't done yet, as the pair is refining and polishing. When it is, I look forward to seeing what other kinds of nightmares from my high school years the two have included. The Automatic Gentlemen would no doubt be glad if you visited them on their official website.
Be sure to see our other coverage from Two5Six on Far Cry 3 and League of Legends, as well as some hopeful words from Double Fine's Tim Schafer.
Email the author Mike Futter, or follow on Google+, Twitter, and Game Informer.