Kew McParlane is doing a lot to improve the reputation of 14 year old gamers. He’s the creator of Rivalry, one of the surprise hits of PAX Australia 2015; a turned-based, crazy physics combat game that Kew describes as “sword chess”.
Rivalry takes influence from QWOP and the Bennett Foddy realm of ridiculous physics, as well as physics brawler/sandbox Toribash, seeing two ragdolls arm themselves with a variety of weapons and face off in turn based combat. Each turn you have of a limited pool of movement which you can use to manipulate joints and body parts, slowly positioning yourself for a killing blow on your opponent. What starts as a measured tactical battle of feints and self defense eventually breaks open into insane jumping and sliding attacks with fountains of blood pouring from every wound like pin-pricked balloons.
It is hilarious and absurd, particularly when limbs (and eventually heads) go flying off or a well planned Rapier thrust pierces your opponent right in the groin. Not that Rivalry is merely a novelty, after an hour on the itch.io version of the game back at our hotel duels became tense battles of will, waiting for somebody to overextend or leave themselves open. The best moments come when your back is against the wall and force you to go for glory, getting airborne and hoping to come down with your sword or hammer square into the other players head.
Kew funded the trip to PAX through Kickstarter, scraping in for his $2,000 goal that covered booth costs, travel and signage. Even after that success it took some luck for Rivalry to make it to the show, as Kew’s father James explained it took three booth cancellations before they could even find a spot in the PAX Rising indie pavilion. Their luck continued from that point, with Rivalry drawing prime real estate on the show floor right next to both the PAX Indie Showcase and the main thoroughfare resulting in huge crowds around the Rivalry booth for all three days, requiring an improvised third demo stand by the Saturday.
The father and son team work together under the company name My64k, but James was quick to credit Kew for all the work on Rivalry. Kew got started in game development with LittleBigPlanet back in 2010, designing more levels than he played (Kew even prototyped Rivalry in LittleBigPlanet), before moving on to Minecraft then learning C#. James, himself a developer, has nurtured his son’s interest by ensuring he spent as much time in front of a computer being creative as he did watching and playing games.
Rivalry is currently on Steam Greenlight, with Kew hoping that success there will allow him to fund servers for online play and an artist to replace the current black silhouettes with something a bit more lifelike. Getting onto Steam would be nice, but to Kew there was only one ultimate measure of success: “when PewDiePie reviews it.” With the laughter and buzz of the crowd over three days at PAX, it feels like that day will not be far away.