A journey through Pixel-delphia

Share Button

A screenshot from the game.

Like it or not, Philly has become hipster central. You’ve probably identified the token hipster on your block – that bespectacled mustachioed guy always ambling about on his custom fixed gear bike. Or maybe you live in West Philly and everyone on your block is hipster. Or maybe you are a hipster.

A trio of Penn Engineering grads have come out with an addictive iPhone game that all Philadelphians – be they hipster or mainstream – can enjoy.

Michael Highland EAS’08, Kevin Jenkins EAS’04 GEng’06 and Keith McKnight EAS’08 have collaborated to create “Hipster City Cycle” – a pixel-art bike race across Philadelphia.

[youtube height=”HEIGHT” width=”WIDTH”]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fw2M6fNH4bI[/youtube]

The game’s main character is the lovable hipster Binky Mckee. The object of the game is to help Binky spend off his hefty trust fund and achieve his dream of living like a penniless bike god. In order to shed all traces of his former middle-class bourgeois existence, Binky must race his fixie across Philly, throw ragin’ parties and continually purchase new, expensive bike parts.

Each level is a new, hipper district of Philly – West Philly being the top level – and players can advance as Binky blows off more and more of his money.

According to Jenkins, he and Highland kept in touch after school and decided to build an iPhone game as a learning experiment.

McKnight, whose specialty is pixel art, joined in later. Highland and McKnight are products of Penn’s Digital Media Design program – which the Gazette featured way back in 2003.

The three settled on a biking game, and they chose Philly as the backdrop, because, their website explains, the city is “underappreciated yet iconic, sprawling yet familiar, ugly yet beautiful.”

And since Philly is a hipster mecca, “it also lent itself to the [bike] concept.”

Though Philly’s hipster eruption is a recent phenomenon, the game’s graphics are a throwback to the gaming classics – Binky lives and rides in a completely 2D, pixilated Philadelphia.

“Mobile devices… lend themselves well to old-school, retro games,” Jenkins explains. And “we grew up with that stuff.”

McKnight’s painstaking hand-pixelating of Philly and its residents is what really sets the game apart.

“It’s more of an artistic experience than a video game,” says Jenkins.

McKnight’s pixel-replica of Philly is incredibly accurate – Binky whizzes by city icons including the famed Geno’s Cheesteaks, and dodges past campus favorite Bui’s Lunch Truck.

Most of the characters in the game are real Philadelphians. Some are prominent Philadelphians such as Mayor Michael Nutter W’79, some are friends of the creators, or winners of their “pixilation contest” – in which the public competed for cameos in the game. And then there’s Michael Jackson – both the human version and the Thriller zombie version.

And I’m absolutely convinced that Binky is that one massively mustachioed guy who’s always riding his fixie around my West Philly neighborhood.

“Hipster City Cycle” is available for purchase on iTunes for $1.99.

Share Button

    1 Response

    1. Pingback : Geekadelphia | Maanvi Singh

    Leave a Reply