“You play the game. Little Nando plays you!” This bold proclamation belongs to Nando Sarmiento’s “Tough Coded,” a gaming experience born from years of revving up crowds as a video jockey and a long-held love for video games. Tough Coded pits players against one another for high scores and chances at in-game prizes. Participants would do well to remember the second part of that tagline, though. Nando (“Little Nando”) Sarmiento is the adversary they really need to worry about. His mission is to put them to the test, and he has plenty of tools at his disposal to help him do it. He builds every level in real-time. He spawns mobs of enemies, throws up obstacles, speeds things up, slows ‘em down again and will even summon a giant robot George Clooney if he feels like it. Whether they’re playing on stage or online, those who take on a Tough Coded show are certain to enjoy a gaming experience unlike any they’ve had before.
It’s best to think of Tough Coded as something more akin to an interactive show than a conventional video game. Indeed, “conventional” is one word that should never be used to describe a Tough Coded experience. Its foundation is a four-player shoot-‘em-up that tasks its players to work with and against each other as they vie to survive and achieve the highest score. Opposing them all is Little Nando, video game jockey and self-proclaimed final boss. His job is to create each stage as it’s played, do his best to troll his players as they try to blast their way through the mayhem he creates and put on a dazzling show while doing it. Those that manage to do well despite Little Nando’s best efforts walk away with a valuable prize: an advantage going into the next Tough Coded session. It may not sound like much, but gaining an early lead is vital if one wants to have a chance at the season prize. All this talk of seasons, sessions, and prizes might be a bit confusing, but it all makes sense if one remembers to think of Tough Coded as an online event rather than just a normal multiplayer game.
Tough Coded requires both players and a video game jockey in order to function. Little Nando is the only video game jockey out there at the moment, so the game is only available when he’s around to operate it. Little Nando streams Tough Coded events on Twitch every Friday at 5pm PST. All one needs to do in order to play is visit the Tough Coded website, download the correct version for their OS and then create an account in the game client. The game is currently in between seasons, so those interested in signing up for the next one, dubbed “Master of Trolls”, still have some time. Those that sign up will get to participate in the official season streams and have their scores added to their running total between games. The player with the highest score at the end of the season get the currently unknown prize.
The online streams are a relatively recent development for the project. Tough Coded has actually been making the rounds as a live show at events like Tokyo Game Show, IndieCade and SXSW since 2015. Check out some of the footage from SXSW 2017 below:
Tough Coded is a new kind of game offering an unusual challenge. It might just be a perfect fit for those looking for a gaming experience that is, if nothing else, very different from just about everything they’ve played before.