Multitap: Big Picture Mode and PC local multiplayer

September 19, 2012

Steam’s new Big Picture Mode has a lot to offer to many. A unified controller-supporting environment for launching and playing games makes for a comfortable TV experience, and replicates many things that were previously an advantage for consoles. The interface makes a lot more sense than what’s available on existing systems, and should hopefully advance ideas there that can proliferate across the industry. These are great! If you’re looking for a more substantive shift, though, it’s in the multiplayer arena. Emphasizing controller support and large screens makes the PC a much more appealing option for local play.

For those looking to take the plunge now, there are some cool options on Steam already. Though most are console ports, here are a few PC-exclusive gems:

Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony: Final Form Games was part of the early wave of retro-aesthetic revivals, recreating the ’90s scrolling shooter feel with an off-the-wall story and a difficulty curve that allowed more to enjoy the game for longer while still topping out at a high-skill pace. The best feature, though, was the four-player support, that allowed use of any pad (or keyboard) laying around with a super-streamlined button-mapping routine. Once you got in, you could experience the colonization-tale-set-on-Mars story, work together through stages designed for more than one and generally have a blast with each of the game’s different ship types.

Dustforce: Super-precise platforming is the order of the day in Dustforce. Comparing fast replays with others is one thing, but competing through the levels at a breakneck pace with friends can be even better.

Magicka: We’ve talked a lot about Magicka around here, as well as its crazy expansions. The humor’s ever-present, the world’s absurd and the whole package is just fun to keep playing through. While the online modes were largely broken at launch (though eventually fixed), and though the controller options don’t allow for super-quick spellcasting like the keyboard does, the four-player game is better-paced. The sometimes-even-pleasantly inaccurate spell controls make things more manic.

A Virus Named TOM: Shawn took a look at this one recently. In addition to the frantic single-player experience, up to four could jump in for a super-choreographed co-op experience or an ultra-frantic competitive party mode. It’s one of those games that can get more and more intense every time you play.

Really Big Sky: Many games recently have been described as “psychedelic,” but none are as crazy-looking and bizarre (in a great way) as Really Big Sky. The single-player modes are score-chasing and brutal, but cooperatively, you can make it through a lot more and focus on collecting credit for upgrades and taking the “best ball” approach to getting through challenges. If you liked PixelJunk SideScroller and don’t mind a super-trippy aesthetic, pick this one up.

The hope in Big Picture Mode is that of wider adoption. We’d like to see local multiplayer available in games like Orcs Must Die! 2 and Wanderlust: Rebirth, as those would certainly benefit. We’re already getting Worms Revolution in October and (Magicka followup) The Showdown Effect early next year. Even still, it can only be a positive development.