Oh, Deer! Alpha is out now. Open the PlayStation Store using PlayStation Vita, find the PlayStation Mobile tab, and press it. Scroll through the newest releases until you find Oh, Deer! Costs a paltry 49 cents.
Poor old PlayStation Mobile, Sony's App Store that flopped. Not quite three years later it will close, on 15th July 2015. Who cares? I find someone who cares a lot in Poland. He's releasing what will probably be the last new PlayStation Mobile game ever*. It's a love-letter to Sony, to Vita, to PlayStation Mobile. Oh, Deer! That's what it's called.
"Sony had told us, 'It's fine if you don't do it,' but I don't know... It's like your old granddad who you see once a year; you don't really know him that well but you always remember the time he gave you money for a 12-speed bike. Making sure you're at that old granddad's side as he slowly drifts off..."
"We're going down with the ship."
The man talking is Brandon Sheffield and we've met before, three years earlier in Poland, even though he's American and I'm British. Back then he was senior editor of Gamasutra but was trying to launch his new development studio Necrosoft. Were it not for Sony, it would never have happened.
"They gave us money for our first ever game," Sheffield says. That was a game called Gunhouse (Sony paid for Oh, Deer! back then too, but it never materialised, hence the opening quote). "If not for that, we wouldn't have had any money and we might have folded in the very first year. They took a chance on us."
Oh, Deer! looks like OutRun 1, plays like OutRun 2006, apparently. It simply plays like OutRun to me. The idea of the game is to drift your station wagon into lines of deer, or completely avoid them, racking up points as you clear timed checkpoints. It's weird but familiar, and it's snappy and fun.
What makes it more special is the music from Motohiro Kawashima. Who?! That's sort of the point. Not many people know he did the music for retro beat-'em-up Streets of Rage 3 - Brandon Sheffield, who adores the music and game, made the same mistake. He wrongly congratu-tweeted composer Yuzo Koshiro, who's copyright is on the game. Koshiro deferred the compliment to Kawashima, so Sheffield redirected his praise - and got a little more than he bargained for in return.
"Dude the music is great for Streets of Rage 3! You should do more music,'" Sheffield tweets him.
"I would if I had the chance," Kawashima replies.
"Cool we should work together some day," Sheffield returns.
"Let's do it right now."
The reason Kawashima hasn't popped up in lead composer roles since Streets of Rage 3 is because no one has asked him. He ended up taking the work Koshiro didn't want, Sheffield says. Oh, that and he wrote music for Japanese pop idols, but none of them ever got anywhere, so Kawashima didn't get paid - that's how it works out there. Mind you, South African rap group Die Antwoord used "Expander" from Streets of Rage 2 in new song "Happy Go Sucky F***y", which is some title.
It took Sheffield until a Tokyo Game Show to meet Kawashima face to face, at a suitably unexpected vegan cafe in the Harajuku district nearby. "We had a little parfait cake and some tea," Sheffield grins.
"Basically I told him what this game was, and man... Japanese game devs are super-creative but when it comes to talking about business they're very straight-faced. Having to describe to this man, whose music I listened to as a child, why this game about hitting deer with your station wagon was something he should be a part of was..." And he trails off, intimating it was... awkward.
Kawashima, bemused, asks a question. "Why does someone want to play this game?" he scratches his head. "What is the point?"
Stumbling, Sheffield tries to come up with an answer. "I dunno it's kinda weird..." Eventually he wins him over with talk of "super-tight" driving game design.
Kawashima then wants to know why Sheffield likes his music, so Sheffield embarks on a lengthy and careful reply.
"And there was this one part of our conversation that actually made me get a little misty[-eyed]," he goes on. "We were talking about money and I was like, 'Listen, we're an independent developer, we don't have a lot of money, we aren't going to be able to pay you that much.' And he's like, 'Don't worry about it - I'm just happy that someone's asking me to make music again.'
"And I'm like..." he motions being taken aback. "It was... I dunno - it got an emotional response from me because he was happy that someone had requested him. He had put a lot of music in games but it had always been a hand-me-down kind of situation. This was the first time ever that someone had specifically been like, 'No, I want you to do the music for me.'"
The famed Japanese developer anecdotes don't stop there. The other one involves Yu Suzuki, retro Sega legend, and creator of OutRun. One Game Developers Conference party Sheffield plants Oh, Deer! in Suzuki's hands to see what he thinks. He holds his breath.
"I showed it to him - he was playing it, messing around with it. And he was looking at it very seriously," he says. "And he looks at me and he's like," and he puts on a deadpan voice, "'It's not too bad.'"
"That's," Sheffield says, "going on the box."
Oh, Deer! is in certification with Sony at the moment. Correction: was in certification - it failed. But only on a couple of things.
"One of them is, I'm infringing on their copyright because I put a nice little Sony billboard in there to advertise them," Sheffield says with a laugh. "So gotta take that out.
"The other thing is that deer exploding is, like, 'sadistic'," he grins. "It's clearly very cartoonish. I can't have the deer not explode, so that's where I was saying it's [Sony America] talking to [Sony Japan] about 'man just push it through' kind of thing."
With any luck it should be a couple of weeks away, at which time I encourage you to buy it, all 49 cents of it. Further down the line, if enough people like it, the game may expand and come to other platforms such as Vita (natively) or PS4 or PC.
Until then, however, Sheffield hopes you enjoy this "stupid, weird little thing that I like to play" as much as him.
*I tried for a week to get confirmation from Sony that Oh, Deer! was the last PlayStation Mobile game, but a definitive answer never came back. E3 isn't helping. In all likelihood Oh, Deer! is. Here's what Sheffield says: "I do not know definitively, but I know that nobody's working on it any more. I'm 99 per cent sure - who else would be stupid enough? If we called it 'the last PlayStation Mobile game' I don't think it would be disputed by anyone."