Saturday, April 7

PAX East 2018: Day 2 Nindie Summary

Day 2 somehow managed to be even more jam-packed with games I checked out than Day 1, not that I’m complaining. Met a lot of great people (including the crew from NWR… finally) and got to check out a lot of games well worth keeping on your radar, taking a variety of tastes into account of course.

Dead Cells from Motion Twin - Man, does it feel good to finally have this coming to Switch and the conversion showed no signs of having an issue. That’s a good thing since the action is quick and intense at times, so you really need that fluidity to help you survive. Very much a roguelike, you’ll never know quite what gear you’ll have to work with between runs and you’ll need to note that what may work well for the majority of the level may not hold up against bosses, who are quite formidable. Thankfully as you play you’ll begin to unlock added abilities and gear to be added to your potential pool and you can refine and add to your skills. A must-have for anyone who loves roguelikes and worth giving a try if you love action-focused Metroidvania games.

Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes from Grasshopper Manufacture - While I never have had the opportunity to check out No More Heroes (sorry, a serious demerit on my Nintendo cred, I know) I know the game has a lot of fans. Understanding that this isn’t a full-blown No More Heroes game, and more of an amalgam of segments using different game styles the demo made quite a lot of sense and even had dialogue catered to the event, which was amusing. This segment, playing out like a slashing brawler, had a really unusual but cool art style and went the extra mile to feature unusual attack mechanics that you could use to great effect. This is culminated in a boss fight that wasn’t too taxingly hard but was certainly satisfying, though I only dealt with the first two phases and I’m sure the final one will step it up a bit more.

Lumines Remastered from Resonair - Considering this is the game I bought both a Sony PSP and a Vita for (I kid you not) I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to see it coming to the Switch! The demo only included the original game’s opening level, a fine choice, but everything about the game felt, looked, and sounded great… all requirements for this game to be its best. I look forward to seeing what content makes it into the game and whether they soup some things up but if you enjoy puzzle games and music this is possibly the best there is.

Garage from tinyBuild - The statement two people playing the game with me around the same time said it all, in terms of visuals this looks to be channeling the essence of Hotline: Miami while adding in zombies at its base. That said, mechanically and in terms of level design it is a whole different thing, mixing elements of survival and action that plays out very different. In particular the fog of war you get from your line of sight changes up the normal game significantly, taking away your god-like omniscience and allowing you to be more easily ambushed. Looking forward to checking out the final full product.

Semblance from Nyamakop - One look at the trailers that have been shown for the game gave you the idea that this could be something special and a walkthrough of about 4 of the game’s various areas proved to be no disappointment. The ability to distort the world in order to solve puzzles is far from a gimmick, it is an inspired seed of an idea that has been cultivated with care and ingenuity to produce something pretty remarkable. You’ll need to use experimentation, smarts, and ingenuity to learn new applications of your base skills and then apply them. In particular this may be an interesting game to watch for speed runners since, with skill, you can see where there are potentials for more ambitious shortcuts in some places,

Joggernauts from Space Mace - Taking a normally competitive running-type game akin to Runbow or SpeedRunners and turning it into a cooperative game is an interesting twist. You’ll work with 2 - 4 total players to make your way through levels, each of you capable of changing your group order, moving yourself to the front. You’ll want and need to do this since barriers are color-coded and only the person of the right color can get through them. This needs to be carefully coordinated since you switch with the player whose color you’re replacing so once things like jumps get introduced into the mix if you switch at a bad time, or don’t communicate well, you can both be in trouble. The challenge is being very mindful of what’s coming up so you can anticipate your next move without losing your focus on the immediate. A very different kind of cooperative challenge and while I don’t believe currently slotted for Switch it would seem right at home.

The King’s Bird from Serenity Forge - While I didn’t get a ton of time with the demo, and it currently isn’t on course for Switch, what I played was very cool and felt great. You control a girl who has a cloak that helps imbue her with the power to dash up walls (you can also then wall jump) and to glide for a relatively short distance before the cloak depletes itself. If you touch any surface it will be renewed, which can make for an interesting dynamic where you can essentially glide the ceiling if you need to. The challenge is to get from Point A to Point B and doing so will require careful and efficient application of each of her skills. An interesting skill-based sort of enhanced platformer that looks fantastic, though in terms of scaling it may not be practical to be played handheld if it came to Switch, though maybe your character wouldn’t end up as small as I’m imagining.

Double Cross from 13AM Games - From the maker of Runbow comes this interesting mix of action platforming and classic LucasArts adventure and humor. You’re a member of an interdimensional police force of sorts, out to solve mysteries while punching, shooting, and using a cool energy grapple along the way. Find and collect Upgradium along the way and you’ll be able to customize yourself in a variety of ways to be more formidable and catered to your own play style. The art is very bright and colorful, the characters are appropriately weird, and it looks like it will be a fun time, helping to blend together a few different game styles into one experience that is then more engaging as a whole.

Aftercharge from Chainsawesome Games - As a fan of team/squad-based shooters like Team Fortress 2 and Counter-Strike Aftercharge spoke to me pretty immediately. With a squad of 3 robots who are mostly invisible and set on destroying energy cells against a squad of 3 soldiers who are determined to take them all down it sets a stage where teamwork will likely trump running and gunning most of the time. Since the robots can’t really harm the soldiers the focus is on playing a bit of hide and seek, avoiding where they’re at, and trying to destroy all of the power cells as quickly as possible. By contrast the soldiers will want to split up, try to strategically sweep and guard areas, and then try to take each robot down. Since robots are able to revive each other and they’re only visible under certain circumstances this can be tougher than it sounds. A faceoff at the final energy cell where the soldiers camped it out pretty effectively (though my team eventually still prevailed) did a great job of illustrating how this could work well. Sporting multi-platform cross-play it is slated to be on Switch though whether it launches in parallel or staggered will remain to be seen.

PHOGS from Coatsink - What an adorably-cute and creative game this was. You, and preferably a friend, each control one head of a Catdog sort of creature with an independent head on each end. You can stretch yourselves longer and bite onto things and the rest is really a matter of creatively using those skills to make it through the levels. This is all put to hilarious effect when you do things like chomp onto a water source, turning the other head into a sort of hose and some other creative applications. The end result plays out like a creative co-op mix of Snake Pass and a puzzle game and it perfect for playing even with a younger or more casual gamer. While not currently slated for the Switch it would be absolutely perfect for the console and I can’t imagine it not coming over.

Guacamelee 2 from DrinkBox Studios - Wow! While the original Guacamelee was both gorgeous and fun the demo for its sequel really underlined how DrinkBox is looking to up the insanity. While it can be played through as a single-player experience having played it with 4 players cooperatively I can absolutely say that failing to share it with some friends or family would be missing out on a lot of crazy fun. Weird, action-packed, and constantly changing up between creative platforming and outright brawling (and in various awesome forms) it easily drew crowds of people cheering the people playing on. While it isn’t currently on track to be on Switch on both sides of that equation I would see it not getting to the console as a tremendous missed opportunity. It’s easily one of the most colorful and entertaining multiplayer games I’ve played and since everyone gets pulled along when 1 person makes it through tough sections it is also extremely family friendly.

Runner 3 from Choice Provisions - There’s no mistaking from the very beginning that this is a Runner game with its great music, tricky platforming (at least if you’re like me and want to do the hard stuff right out of the gate), and quirky style. Looking and sounding great it is also chock full of hidden surprises, unlockables, and bonus goodies including an entirely different retro platforming game, complete with its own animated art style, hidden inside the game. There’s a lot to be excited about if you’re a fan of the series or looking for a fun and pretty substantial challenge as you progress through and unlock everything there is to find within it.

Dungeon Stars from Riposte Games - Taking into consideration that the Switch is a great intersection of games for the more hardcore crowd and, due to its mobile nature, casual players as well Dungeon Stars seems perfect for the console. Matching up a very funny animated art style with a light-weight but engaging action hook this seems perfectly suited to playing while sitting on the couch and vegging out. That’s not to say there’s not room for strategy though, dungeon levels may be pretty quick to complete (perfect for gaming on the go as well) but you’ll need to block, use your shield break, and manage your cooldown skills if you want to really clean up. Randomized loot drops, unlocks, gear enhancements, pets, and all sorts of variation are here so this feels like a game that could attract a more traditional mobile crowd very easily but still be satisfying for more hardcore gamers who’re looking to grind out some fun while relaxing their gaming muscles.

Yonder from Merge Games - While a 3D Zelda-esque title without combat may sound a bit odd, it being full of exploration, discovery, crafting, and world building should likely tantalize certain classes of gamers as well. Looking pretty fabulous with varied environments, day and night cycles, plenty of items to help customize your character, and a load of things to make it’s a very different kind of experience that I’ve not really seen on the Switch to this point. It should absolutely appeal to more casual gamers or those looking to relax and explore a gorgeous world, making it better as you move along.

The Swords of Ditto from Devolver Digital - Obviously paying homage, though with a heaping dose of humor, to the classic Zelda series this top-down action adventure is full of fun. Armed with an unusual arsenal of toys and some truly entertaining attacks (a giant foot stomping down on enemies was my favorite) this is also an adventure you can take on cooperatively to expand the fun. Swordplay felt good but it was making smart use of your alternative attacks to weaken or stun enemies and then set them up for some wailing away that worked best. While currently there’s no word on it coming over the Switch it seems like it would be a perfect fit and likely would find quite a lot of interest.

Black Future ‘88 from SUPERSCARYSNAKES - What would my life be like without some tough roguelike shooter action to juice up my day? Black Future is a cyberpunk roguelike shooter that features some crazy weapons and game systems that combine to make for a wide variety of paths to attempts at success. Perks and curses combined with a wide variety of fearsome weapons make for a pretty intense experience and a wide variety of ways to kill your enemies and yourself as well (of course). While I don’t believe it is currently on track to come to Switch roguelike fans should definitely keep an eye out for it, I had a great time dying and got painfully close to defeating the first boss… but it all felt good.

Trailblazers from Supergonk - Given the fact that we haven’t yet seen the likes of a new F-Zero game yet on the Switch (let alone Wave Race, c’mon Nintendo!) something like Trailblazers seems more than happy to help fill in the blanks in the line-up. A team-based racer it uses a similar color boost mechanic as Fast RMX but in this case you and your teammates are the ones laying down the colored paint, somewhat Splatoon style. The track layouts are all pretty crazy, with multiple paths everywhere, and you’ll want to try to stick to your own color, avoid collisions, and be smart about laying down your paint to make a path or cover up your opponents’ colors. Fast, creative, and fun this should find a wide audience on the Switch and plays very well.

With Friends Like These from Shy Kids Club- Created by a husband and wife team, this relatively simple cooperative shooter has a distinct art style and an interesting hook. One person controls movement and the other controls shooting, and due to the fact that enemies and obstacles can only be destroyed by the properly-colored projectiles you’ll need to switch roles pretty regularly. While this is probably still almost a year out it looks like it would be a great match for the Switch’s “hand off a joy-con” style of play.

Above from Mighty Moth Games - While on its surface it is an adventure game where you primarily fly over the oceans and can land on islands while trying not to crash or fall prey to sea monsters there’s a lot more going on. Talking to the developer the psychology of the main character’s journey, and the skepticism and general lack of support for her following her dreams, play a major role in things. This makes the journey and even the monsters she must face and slay manifestations of the obstacles in her own life. An ambitious target for full execution, luckily the mechanics of flight in the game felt good and the overall style of game isn’t quite like anything I’ve played before.

Graveyard Keeper from tinyBuild - Given the amazing popularity of Stardew Valley it’s no surprise that there are titles in development looking to tap into that market. What’s great is when you see an example of that happening where thematically the developers have taken a hard turn into very different territory while doing so. Graveyard Keeper takes the tasking out your day and building up resources in a far more morbid direction as you take on the role of an undertaker who is trying to eke out a living. While caring for gravesites and restoring a cemetary to its proper shape is a noble goal, cultivating the organs of the recently deceased can be far more lucrative… and fun. Looking forward to seeing more of this but I love the twisted sensibilities already on display in the short demo I was able to play.

Hello Neighbor from tinyBuild - Having now put some time into Hello Neighbor I can better understand the somewhat divisive opinions on it. Spying on your weird and creepy neighbor and trying to find a way into his basement to discover his secrets while trying to keep him from catching you is an interesting hook. The neighbor AI that is able to hear you banging around and pursue definitely adds to the fun. What will either make or break the experience for you will likely be the very trial and error nature of the experience and the fact that you’ll be caught quite a lot as you try to determine how to puzzle your way through his maze-like house full of switches and locks. Some will find it to be nothing but frustration but creative gamers will likely be attracted to the fact that there’s no single clear and set path to success either.

Double Kick Heroes from Headbang Club - While it isn’t currently slated to come to Switch when you’re walking by and see a heavy metal rocking rhythm game where your band is shooting zombies while jamming out on their car you simply need to stop. While rhythm veterans will likely blow through the early levels by the time you get to your first boss battle you’ll find you need to work far harder to stay alive. With an amazingly-good soundtrack, cool retro look, and smart patterns you’ll need to stay on top of I would be thrilled to see this come over to Switch and think it is very worthy of attention.

Once again a major thank you to all of the developers who took their time to share their games and passion with me. It was a long day but was also full of incredible titles well worth checking out!