At last night's Itty Bitty Bash, an event to get Chicagoans in the same room to play games, I encountered something very strange. I've fought off an alien invasion millions of times, but I've never fired my lasers by entering numbers onto a rotary phone dial. This, friends, is Afterglow.
Afterglow comes from developer Jerry Belich. You might not know his name, but you might have heard of The Choosatron. Belich and project manager Megan Dowd launched a Kickstarter for The Choosatron in August 2013. The finalised version hasn't shipped yet to backers, but I've encountered The Choosatron at various events in the past few years. It's a very clever idea.
You've played a choose your own adventure game, right? With The Choosatron, the story prints out through a tiny printer reminiscent of ticker tape found in old cabs. A few buttons allow you to navigate through the story, and whenever your tale comes to an end (in my case, when I died), you can rip off the printed paper and take your adventure with you to show other people.
The Choosatron's physical presence makes it so much fun to play with, and the idea of interacting with real-world objects appears to be at the centre of what's driving Belich. While Afterglow is something very different, it's definitely in the same wheelhouse as The Choosatron.
Afterglow fits inside a briefcase. Literally. You can carry this game around in a briefcase. When it's opened, you're presented with a bunch of things that don't make a whole lot of sense at first.
There's the coloured tube.
There's a big red button.
And there's a rotary phone.
It's a little overwhelming and intimidating at first, but the concept's actually pretty simple. Inside the tube, there's a little panel with scrolling text. It warns that aliens are coming, and it's your job to shoot them down. How? By dialling one, your radar checks to see who's in the area.
Once you've identified where an alien is hiding, it's time to take a shot. Do you think they're hiding at three? Pull back on the rotary phone, and start crossing your fingers it will be a hit.
If the aliens are closing in, the red button on the left is your last-ditch manoeuvre — it's a bomb.
I recorded a short video of me playing it. While it's little dark, you should get the general idea.
I ended up walking back to the Afterglow machine several times throughout the night, and whenever someone asked me what they should spent some time with, I pointed at the briefcase.
Belich was busy making sure the game was running, so I wasn't able to chat with him about how anyone else might get a chance to play Afterglow, but following his Twitter account might help.