The second-ever Play NYC had six “Graffiti Games” on display in the opera boxes of the Manhattan Center. Each of these games was created by immigrant developers and specially commissioned as an attraction for the convention. One of my very first stops was 127 BPM, a game created by Yuxin Gao and John Bruneau that makes use of repurposed Super Mario Bros. sprites and utilizes Dance Dance Revolution pads for the controls. Here is how the game was described prior to Play NYC 2018:

Use a DDR pad to keep your walking speed at the perfect 127 Beats Per Minute (BPM) in order to avoid upsetting the New York pedestrians! (Yuxin Gao)

I went into the first-floor opera box to check out 127 BPM, confident in my ability to maintain a steady rhythm. Developer Yuxin Gao was manning the booth and still setting things up as we were still in the midst of the media-exclusive time. She was debating whether or not she should use the custom felt covers she had made for the DDR pads or leave them off—a question that was ultimately decided in favor of leaving the felt covers on.

The concept of 127 BPM is that New York City’s pedestrians have little tolerance for people who impede the flow of foot traffic. The player must alternate their steps to keep moving. The DDR pad was split into white & black halves, each representing either the low ground or high ground. Switching between these two to get around slower walkers was the key to blasting ahead of your opponent.

Unfortunately for me, the game wasn’t entirely about maintaining a consistent beat of 127 beats per minute—it was about keeping it at or above that rate. It was a race between two people! The core of the gameplay was all about being able to get your feet moving as fast as possible and taking care to switch between the lanes to bypass NPC pedestrians. How would a clumsy, out-of-shape games journalist hold up against a healthy, young game developer who probably spent dozens of hours playtesting this game?

In short, it was a massacre.

127 bpm yuxin gao playing

Yuxin Gao: game developer, Dance Dance Revolution fanatic, and destroyer of out-of-shape games journalists.

In my defense, I had a rather hurried commute and only slept two hours the night before. Even so, I’m certain that I still would have been badly beaten even if I were in excellent condition. Ms. Gao was more than gracious about her win and cheerfully informed me that she is one of those people who has to hold onto the safety bar when playing Dance Dance Revolution because she moves so quickly. Following my defeat, I asked her a bit about the future of her and Mr. Bruneau’s game.

“I want to keep it in a space where I can see people playing it until it’s more fleshed out or until I can put it online,” she said. The game was originally tested with keyboard controls before support for the Dance Dance Revolution pads was created. A public release would likely necessitate the creation of custom sprites so as to avoid suffering the ire of Nintendo, a company that doesn’t always look too kindly on fan-made games that make use of their assets.

For the moment, 127 BPM will continue to be tested here and there until it’s a good bit more fleshed out. We might see it available online one day, and players likely won’t need a DDR pad to play it. After all, Stepmania is a popular rhythm game that can be played with the keyboard or a controller and there’s no reason one couldn’t do the same for this title. I had a good bit of fun with 127 BPM, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it develops and what Yuxin Gao & her future development partners can come up with.

The screenshots & logo in this article were provided by the developer upon my request.

What do you think of 127 BPM? Does the idea of a racing game where you have to move your feet appeal to you or would you prefer to relax and play it with a controller? Check out what else we saw at Play NYC by going to our Play NYC 2018 Coverage Hub.


Robert N. Adams

Senior Writer

I've had a controller in my hand since I was 4 and I haven't stopped gaming since. CCGs, Tabletop Games, Pen & Paper RPGs - I've tried a whole bunch of stuff over the years and I'm always looking to try more!