Tokyo’s Pico Pico Cafe is located across the street from Kichijouji station, several blocks from where the annual Fami-Mode Famicom festival takes place each January.
The coffee shop derives its name from the onomatopoeic Japanese term for the bright pixels and blippy chiptunes of vintage game machines. Run by independent developer Joseph White and his wife Natsuko, last night Pico Pico hosted its debut volume of the Picotachi show-and-tell gathering.
Beyond serving homemade banana cake and the Canadian maple tea gifted by N+ developers Mare Sheppard and Raigan Burns, Pico Pico aspires to become a sounding board for Tokyo’s indie creators to share new ideas. That the space doubles as the office of Lexaloffle, showcased in the Humble Voxatron Bundle, already lends it cred as a developer hotspot.
Two of the designers presenting at the introductory Picotachi meetup, Aliceffekt and m7kenji, happen also to be stars of the Tokyo chiptune scene. Last October at the Koenji High music venue, both performed on stage during the Blip Festival’s farewell chip music concert in Japan.
m7kenji shows his iOS app Ringo to attendees of Picotachi Vol.1
Aliceffekt (Devine Lu Linvega), a French Canadian multimedia artist, designs his live performances to impart a striking minimalist experience. Bursts of electronic sound emerge from a dark, silent stage, while overhead concentric circles of light pulse in synchronicity.
The artist chose the Picotachi event to unveil his stylized point-and-click iOS app Hiversaires, designed entirely in Japan. The labyrinthine iPhone game, whose development began two months ago, brings the exploratory freedom of a first-person adventure game like Myst to a cryptic environment of black-and-white corridors.
The designer explained that elements of Hiversaires‘ gameplay were inspired by System Shock and early trailers for The Witness. Having only symbols and no words to guide the player required beta testers to get creative in communicating where they were in the game. As a result Aliceffekt was treated to various subjective interpretations of his virtual space that further fueled his imagination.
Hiversaires launch trailer
Chiptune VJ m7kenji (Kenji Kishi) designs sprite art animation, displayed on overhead projectors during live chip music performances. So sought after are his visuals that last January he played shows organized by the METEOR game culture shop and the Cheapbeats chiptune collective at two separate venues on the same evening.
The sidescroller Bugtronica, the subject of Kenji’s Picotachi talk, unfolds in a world of bugs. You take the form of a tile of jumbled pixels resembling an old school gaming glitch and encounter winged buglike enemies. The background tracks are randomized, as are the humorous powerups, which include toasted bread projectiles. In our Ringo interview, the designer introduced us to his previous iPhone app, which invites you to gather apples, blissfully unencumbered by either enemies or obstacles.
Also presenting were Renaud Bedard on unreleased game jam prototype Synchroma, Lexaloffle on unreleased ecological action game Conflux, the team behind the Naovatar robot adventure game software, and pixel jewelry artist Videoboy. Below are images from the event, available to view on flickr. Picotachi Vol. 2 is tentatively scheduled for early next month at Pico Pico Cafe in Kichijouji, Tokyo.
m7kenji performing live visuals for chiptune band Usagi no Heitai
Aliceffekt presenting at Picotachi Vol.1
Renaud Bedard of Capybara games demos Synchroma
Event organizer Joseph White and Conflux. Picotachi image courtesy of Lexaloffle. Photos and live video by Jeriaska. Ringo is available for free download from the below iTunes Store page.