Sunday, March 31

PAX East 2019 Day 2 Impressions


Day 2 was chock full of surprises and excitement, as I finally got to check out games I’d had an eye on for some time as well as some that I’d never heard of that blew me away. As always a thank you to the developers and PR folks who took the time out of their hectic days to talk to me and give the lowdown on these upcoming titles.

Skellboy - With a cool voxel graphics style you’ll start out as a skeleton and then piece by piece replace your head, body, legs, and weapon as you go and slay your enemies. While some upgrades will be necessary to progress, others will boil down to a matter of taste so you can choose which suit your style. Overall this has a pretty classic feel but features a great look and some fun comedic sensibilities as well.


Darksburg - With a somewhat ambitious goal of trying to blend team and enemy dynamics from Left 4 Dead with elements of a MOBAs and Diablo, Darksburg is still relatively early but looks great and feels pretty good. With a plan to support around 7 different characters when it finally gets to full launch the 4-player action should have plenty of room for variety depending on which characters people choose. It will be interesting to see how it all turns out but the unique feel and blend of ideas very much shows potential.


Overland - A turn-based strategic, roguelike, survival game, Overland is all about making choices and living with them. Your resources are limited, there are alien creatures about putting on the pressure, and you’ll need to be smart if you want to survive. Enlisting allies may be helpful but you’ll then need to take greater care to maintain your resources, keeping it a challenging game full of second guessing. The controls were a bit tricky to get used to at first but made sense once over the hump.


Freedom Finger - Among the most bonkers games I’ve played in some time this shooter is absolutely a show-stopper. You’ll control a giant hand with a certain finger extended shooting up, punching, and even grabbing enemies to use their weaponry for yourself. The soundtrack is going for a Tony Hawk-esque vibe, featuring tracks from a load of contemporary artists, and best of all each level’s art, flow, and even rhythm are a reflection of their respective tunes. This is absolutely a game to keep an eye on.


The Messenger DLC - The Messenger is on his way back with new stages in a free DLC pack that features him in an island paradise, changing things up so even the beloved Shopkeeper has it lei on to get in the spirit. To get to the island you’ll first need to surf your way there, with a stage that reminded me a lot of the classic Battletoads hoverbike level (though not nearly as brutal), which is a great new diversion before getting down to that vintage gameplay that made The Messenger one of my favorite games last year, complete with new time-switching goodness. It makes an excellent case for returning to this top-tier title.


Creature in the Well - You know if a game features pinball mechanics I’m already on board, but this unique title really feels like it’s firing on all cylinders even in a moderate-length demo. You’ll be slashing your sword to deflect or collect and then fire energy at targets, and those shots can then ricochet which gives it the pinball feel. The unique mix of action and the Mike Mignola-esque art style absolutely make this a stand-out title coming to the Switch later this year.


Bloodroots - Wow… just wow. Oh, the creative violence this game inspires. You can pretty well grab anything at all and turn it into a lethal weapon as you slash, barrel roll, carrot bash, fish slap, and more through levels full of enemies. With the abundance of ways you can dispatch people the initial focus would be survival but levels are well worth returning on to see if you can master them, keeping your chain of carnage going to improve your score. A bloody good time and I can’t wait to play more of it.


Hamsterdam - Abundantly cute and yet kicking some serious ass, Hamsterdam is a unique mix of brawling mechanics and almost Quicktime-event sequences as you cut your way through a variety of street thugs who think they’re tough. Highly accessible to everyone, you can use touch, motion controls, or a traditional controller to fight. While it may not be a hardcore challenge this should be a great game that anyone in the family could enjoy.


What the Golf? - Oh, the puns and game reference-based jokes in this game. The mechanics are generally pretty simple as you’ll pick a direction, build energy, and then depending on the level move take a context-appropriate action. With references to games as diverse as Flappy Bird, Superhot, and a certain jumping and block-breaking hero the levels are clever, funny, and full of surprises. While it currently isn’t slotted to go to Switch it seems like it would be a natural match and a great playthrough for anyone who wants a good laugh and some fun and varied play.


Duck Game - While I’ll admit that I’ve become pretty jaded when it comes to local multiplayer games, since it has generally gotten tough to differentiate many of them, Duck Game absolutely stands out from the rest of the flock. The absolutely ridiculous number of weapons and means to cook each other’s gooses, mixed with an abundance of stages, pretty well guarantees you’ll be unable to settle in and get into a predictable rut. Things like grenades that, once the pin is pulled, represent as much of an unpredictable threat to you as everyone else make it fun, especially when in small levels where perhaps those are the only option. Variety and an almost disturbing attention to nuance and details make the game as simple as you could want but deep for people looking to master every weapon and technique in the game. Supporting online multiplayer, a level editor, and of course a dedicated quack button, this the breakout multiplayer experience you’ve been waiting for.


Boyfriend Dungeon - The indie scene has been doing a terrific job of merging genres together, including ones that are unlikely, and Boyfriend Dungeon very much occupies that space. Part dungeon-exploring action RPG and part dating sim, it may sound unusual but in practice it weirdly seems to make perfect sense. As you work through dialogue and build a stronger relationship with various people they’ll then represent more powerful weapons you’ll make use of in the dungeons themselves as you fight through enemies and seek out loot and new “weapons”. Very different and fun, it’s well worth a look.


Graveyard Keeper - With the elevator pitch of Stardew Valley but with corpses and abundantly more morbid, Graveyard Keeper has a strange style all its own. Of course this was underlined by the demo at PAX East having you play it while laying in a coffin, but given the gallows humor in the game it makes perfect sense. The game will definitely test your personal sense of ethics and sickness but that's all part of the fun.


Ministry of Broadcast - Very much looking to bring back the classic play of titles like the original Prince of Persia, Ministry of Broadcast is all about execution as you try to work your way through a series of action puzzles. While much of this will involve careful platforming and jumping to solve puzzles it also has quite a morbid streak when you sometimes needing to sacrifice some fellow prisoners in order to get through tough situations.


Get to the Orange Door - With neon-lit environments, wall running, and an abundance of crazy weapons, Get to the Orange Door is the injection of adrenaline first-person shooters have been needing on Switch. While the demo was only for a single set area the room for creatively traversing and shooting your way through the area was clear. Get ready for some fast-paced fun with this one.


Rashlander - While gamers who aren’t quite as “vintage” as I am may not remember Lunar Lander and it’s physics-based style of challenge Rashlander is looking to change that, but with a roguelike twist. You’ll be working to move through space as quickly as possible, dodging debris and asteroids, carefully conserving your fuel, and then trying to land carefully on a platform without blowing yourself up. As you progress you’ll get 3 options to help you out as you venture further and the challenge continues to ramp up. A great example of retro arcade style meeting modern sensibilities.


Tonight We Riot - It’s time to take your protest to the streets, build your numbers, and stir up some anti-authority mayhem in this multiplayer variation on a beat-em-up. Your attacks are relatively basic but once you’re armed with bricks, molotov cocktails, and much nastier weapons as you progress you’ll be able to take on increasingly tough enemies and situations. Your goal is to be in control of the chaos and keep as much of your mob alive as possible as you continue to face increasingly tough and well-equipped resistance.


Dusk - Plain and simple this is old school FPS action done right. The level design flows well, there’s a fair amount of verticality, and the weapons are precisely what you’d expect with some fun new additions as well. I particularly like the dual melee sickles that can be quite satisfying to use. There’s been a recent rush of games looking to recapture that old FPS spirit, and Dusk absolutely looks to be the one at the front of the line.


Sparklite - With a great 16-bit style and a mix of elements that are reminiscent of titles including Zelda, Secret of Mana, and others, Sparklite looks and feels great… and throws in a roguelike element to change things up. While your mission won’t change, when you die the layout or the world will be altered to keep things interesting. On the more forgiving side you’ll always retain what you’ve collected so your currency, upgrades, and crafted materials will continue to stay with you, helping you continue to get stronger to better tackle the challenges in store for you.


Monster Sanctuary - The elevator pitch for this one immediately grabs your attention: Mix a Metroidvania side-scrolling style with Pokemon-esque monster collector elements. Starting out with one of 4 spirit animals who’ll be your primary companion you’ll engage in turn-based combat with enemies, sometimes then collecting eggs as part of your reward, which you’ll then be able to hatch to add new companions to your party. Unlike Pokemon, as your creatures level up you’ll be able to manage their skill tree to help create an effective team that suits your personal style in combat as well. The core concept is a smart one, taking established and proven core ideas but then changing things up to even look to improve on them.


Cyber Shadow - There’s no doubt that this side-scrolling ninja action title has a feel that jives well with the folks at Yacht Club’s own Shovel Knight. The stages I played didn’t quite get to the level of craziness shown in their trailer, so it’s hard to say just yet how the intensity and flow will feel, but what’s there worked well. That said, since I went back to the world of The Messenger only a few hours before there’s no question it has its work cut out for it in terms of the big picture, here’s to hoping its a viable competitor in a very similar space.


Quench - An interesting sort of “god game” where you’ll be attempting to help a herd of animals survive and thrive. You’ll need to use the elemental powers under your control to create rain, summon wind, cause earthquakes, and more to clear a path of convert arid land back into being fertile to assist your herd in survival. With a style and feel very different from the norm it offers a refreshing change of pace.


Will be trying to get the last day of games up as soon as I can as well