Button City is a brand new game from Subliminal Gaming. It’s their first console/PC release after their 2015 mobile game Sky Pets. Button City features a cute, low poly cast of animals (mostly named after different herbs and spices). In this narrative adventure game you play as Fennel, a fox who’s new in town and trying to find his way.
As Fennel you must complete quests, play arcade games, collect costumes and items, solve puzzles and make new friends as you become part of this town and ultimately try to save it.
Shandiin Yazzie Woodward
Art Director, Co-Founder Subliminal Games
Last month, during PAX Online I got to have a chat with Art Director and Co-Founder of Subliminal Games, Shandiin Yazzie Woodward about Button City (before playing the demo). We talked about many things including her art style. Shandiin is a big fan of Studio Ghibli films, Animal Crossing games, bright colors and 2000’s toys — all inspirations which can be seen in the art of Button City.
Shandiin started as a graphic designer and artist before creating Subliminal Games with her husband, Ryan Woodward. They wanted to grow the game development scene in their area of New Mexico. She also volunteers at her local game development center, helping with design and events. Outside of gaming, but closely related she also enjoys building her own mechanical keyboards.
The story behind the game Button City came from the couple’s love of hanging out at their local arcade with friends. The local arcade (named Nickel City) may also be the inspiration for the name of the game.
After talking to Shandiin, I started my journey by playing the Button City demo. The demo gave me a feel for the game, and I’m happy it was a standalone adventure, and not just the opening of the game. I was later granted a review code for the full game on PlayStation 5 and have been playing through that for about a week or two. Most nights I spent about an hour or so exploring the world of Button City before bed. It wasn’t until this weekend that I really dove in. I feel I’m about halfway done with the story, and the game can be made longer by exploring the town and talking to everyone — there are lots of side quests to find.
I really dig the charming story of Button City, being the new kid in town and trying to find your own way. You do get to meet some cool new friends along the way and even join their Gobabots team (which I’ll talk about more in the next section). There are also some not so cool non-friends you meet, including some shady characters, a conspiracy theorist and of course your rivals the Tuff Fluffs!
Button City Arcade Games
Button City is the name of the arcade in town, run by Mr. Button. It’s sort of the central hub for Fennel, his friends and all of the kids in town. At least it was the central hub, until we find out that the arcade may be on the chopping block. Before we get to that let’s talk about the main playable arcade games in Button City: Gobabots (MOBA), Prisma Beats (Rhythm Dance Game) and rEVolution Racer (Racing game):
Gobabots may be the biggest game within Button City. Gobabots is a 4v4 MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) where each team attempts to collect the most fruit. In the real world Fennel can buy or find new Gobabots to use on his team. You may challenge almost anyone in town to a game of Gobabots (1v1 with bots on your team), or wait for the Big Show and play as part of the Fluff Squad with your friends. Throughout the game there is a big Gobabots tournament going on — mainly between the Fluff Squad and the Tuff Fluffs.
I’ve always tried to get into different MOBAs (mainly League of Legends and Dota 2) because that’s what many of my friends spend their time playing. MOBAs have never really been my kind of game though. Gobabots is a simpler version of the MOBA and I think because I had been playing some Gobabots in Button City lately, it got me excited to give Pokemon Unite (Nintendo Switch) a try. A game I would have otherwise ignored.
rEVolution Racer is another arcade game within Button City. Of course, it’s a fast-paced, drifting racing game. In this game you race one-on-one versus an opponent. The game does take some getting used to, but once you know how to drift, boost and handle your car you can easily win each race.
I’ve played many racing games in the past and I’ve put many, many hours into Gran Turismo Sport in recent years. While rEVolution Racer isn’t a revolutionary racing game, it gives me vibes of playing Cruisin’ USA as a kid while waiting for my mom to get her hair cut. It has that classic arcade/retro racing feel.
Of the three arcade games in Button City, this is the one game that I just couldn’t handle. I’ve tried and tried but have never completed an entire song. Prisma Beats is a rhythm dance game modeled after DDR (Dance Dance Revolution). It also reminds me of all the time my roommates and I spent in Guitar Hero back in college.
There was one point where I sort of knew what I was doing at the start of the song, but once the tempo picked up I just couldn’t get the buttons right. I would start to panic and forget which button is which symbol. Next came the combos where I’d have to press two buttons at once. I will figure this out one day and become a Prisma Beat dance champion, but for now I will stick with giving my all to Gobabots and my team, the Fluff Squad.
It’s a good thing you can collect different boosts and fluff buffs around town for each of these arcade games (mainly for Prisma Beats). The game has also gamified some other tasks, like making lemonade — which was a fun activity. Lavender has home-brewed her own Gobabot-themed narrative adventure game, Goba Academy — which you can play on her computer.
I really enjoyed that in Button City if you pay attention to your chats with different characters you can pretty much figure out everything you need to do, but for any time you weren’t really paying attention or if you get lost you can always go to check your quests in the menu. You can also check out your items and current lineup of Gobabots.
The diorama layout of the town also makes it all so simple to explore. You don’t have to aimlessly wander around hoping you remember where each building was and what it looks like. Instead, you just press “O” (on PlayStation 5) and can scroll through these different spots.
It’s very cool to have all of these fun arcade games within the main game. There’s also tons of humor in the writing and dialogue in Button City. Although it seems like a game for kids based on the art style, this game does tackle some heavier/mature subjects at times.
I’ve really enjoyed Button City and although I may not finish the entire story I do plan to jump back in and finish picking up all of the trash. There is so much trash on the streets and in the houses and buildings of this town. I want to clean up this town and get that trash trophy.
Button City is definitely a fun, colorful, relaxing sort of game. The music also helps with the relaxation. Even Sorrel’s Metal Yoga music is still sort of calming. We’re getting many smaller narrative story games today, but what makes Button City stand out is that it adds three different arcade-style games within the game (MOBA, Racing and Rhythm Dance).
I have always thought that the Low Poly art style wouldn’t age very well, and that game artists would have to either use more modern styles or go way back to pixel art. Button City’s look has totally proved my theory wrong.
Button City comes out tomorrow August 10th on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch & PC (via Steam).
*I was provided a review code for Button City by the publisher.