PAX Aus 2018 Indie Roundup

So PAX Aus came and went, and sure enough, it was a magnificent event. GameHEART spent a large amount of time trying to play a a bunch of the PAX Rising games. This is a roundup of some of the games that were on display, and GameHEART’s first ever feature post. Here they are in no particular order, we hope you enjoy!

Spin Rhythm

The demo at PAX used some nice hardware, giving the player a physical disk to spin and tap, and a second pad to thump on the green beats. The demonstrator actually recommended using some force on the equipment as I was being a bit gentle, and when playing on this, despite the fact that I was struggling with the new playstyle, the game felt incredibly good to play. At this stage the developers are planning a release for mobile phones which I’ve also played. This build also feels great, with one touch controlling the spinner and tapping of notes, and then a left-sided tap hitting the green beat bars. Although the phone version doesn’t have that great physical feel that the equipment had, the Spin Rhythm is still immensely fun to play, and nailing the sections provides great feedback, not to mention sporting an incredible sound track with songs from Nitro Fun, Hyper Potions, Pegboard Nerds and many more. You can follow Spin Rhythm on the developer’s webpage here

https://www.spinrhythmgame.com/

Teleblast

Death match and capture the flag. Teleblast is a local multiplayer party combat game for up to 4 players. Each player controls one shape with the ability to shoot out a single bullet. When the shoot button is pressed again, the bullet detonates and the player teleports to the middle of their explosion. If the explosion catches another player, they will be destroyed. The longer the bullet has been on screen before detonating, the larger the explosion is, giving some tactical play to holding off from exploding the shot right away. With the simple controls and visuals, Teleblast focuses on this solid teleport detonation mechanic, and how players can use this and the dash to thwart their opponents. The combat is fast and fluid and manic and was great fun to play for the few minutes that I had available in the demo.
Teleblast is out now in Early Access on Steam

https://store.steampowered.com/app/915420/TeleBlast/

Guile and Glory Firstborn

Guile and Glory Firstborn Screenshot
A topdown strategy game that pits the player in charge of one or more characters who can’t damage enemies by traditional means, and instead need to push or pull them into map hazards in order to defeat them. When asking the developer if there were any games that inspired this one, expecting an answer along the lines of another turn based strategy, but I was surprised when the answer was SNES classic Golden Sun. The developer I spoke with remarked how brutally difficult enemies could be manipulated into moving near environmental hazards and then knocked into them, and thought that there’d be a strategy game in there somewhere. Turns out they were right, as Guile and Glory Firstborn plays very nicely, and the gameplay of getting the enemies into position to defeat them is really engaging.
Throughout the PAX demo, the player controls up to 3 characters in order to defeat enemies and solve the challenges that are set out in front of them, before defeating a large serpent boss at the end of the game. The characters each get to move and act in a turn, which gives a lot of control over how to beat the various scenarios, and, thanks to the way damage works, the player can use actions on allies to move them around, allowing for a bit of extra strategy.
Guile and Glory: Firstborn is due to Steam in Early Access in February 2019, but you can follow the game and download a demo here

https://www.elstonstudios.net/firstborn

Soundfall

Ryhthm action RPG, up to 4 player locally. As a team, the players must travel through a level and defeat enemies, and ensure that the are able to get through the level before the song ends. Responsive, nice visuals. Planned more characters to come. Each character is planned to have their own weapon and play style, adding variety to the game and allowing a group of friends to play off of each other. The character that I played had a grenade launcher and a sword, allowing for long ranged and close ranged attacks, although the game felt a lot more exciting when getting up close and personal with the sword.
Myself and a co-op partner played the third level in the demo without having played before, and this level had the highest BPM of any of the levels, so the action was frantic, but not unmanageable, even for beginners.
Soundfall can be followed on the developer’s website here

https://www.soundfallgame.com/

Dead Static Drive

Dead Static drive is quite early development at the moment. This isn’t to say that it’s unpolished, because the art, and controls are really quite nice. The player can get out of car and interact with people and other objects, and there is a great sense of freedom.
The car controls very fun, and at high speeds becomes quite difficult to control leading to some fun and silly gameplay, at least in this version of the game.
With my time with the PAX demo, it seems as though the player can do to do whatever they want without any sort of repercussions, as, in the demo I went to a fuel station and filled the car, and didn’t pay for it, at least, not that I was aware of. I was also able to command any NPC on the map to come with me, if I so desired. After a while, strange giant worms came out of the ground and were trying to kill me, and destroy my precious car despite the rest of the game being set in a standard American-looking setting, with no other indication of sci-fi elements in the demo. It will be interesting to see how this game develops as time goes on. You can follow development of Dead Static Drive here

Dead Static Drive Twitter

Scouts Honor

4 player local co-op game where you play as scouts lost in the wilderness and need to work together to survive.
The level that I played involved setting up camp and getting the scouts fed. The game provides simple objectives for the level, and the players must work together to achieve these goals. Each scout needed a tent, we needed to build a fire, catch and cook 2 fish each. The level is quite small, so as more tents got built there was less room to move, and it became difficult to navigate the area without running into another scout, creating a manic feel, encouraging a little preplanning to try and achieve goals as quickly as possible.
Scouts Honor is coming to Steam in 2019

https://store.steampowered.com/app/840880/Scouts_Honor/

Henry Mosse and the Wormhole Conspiracy

Planned release Q4. 5 hours gameplay-ish. Point and click adventure. Demo level involved helping an old turtle remove a thorn. The art style is very nice, with a strange textured yet painted feel, it was very inviting.
As the giant turtle was afraid of any one approaching it in the injured state, the player had to wait for a sandstorm to blow over so the turtle would close its eyes, giving Henry the chance to get up close and loosen the thorn. After loosening it, the turtle makes a crack in the ground forcing Henry to complete a series of actions to cover the crack and continue removing the thorn. Point and click puzzles play out exactly the way that you would expect, but speaking to developers, I was told that something that sets this title apart will be the ability for the player to solve puzzles in multiple ways.
Henry Mosse has a demo available on the website here

https://www.mosseadventure.com/

and you can back the game on Kickstarter until November 8 here

Henry Mosse Kickstarter

 

22nd Century Racing Series

This one is a racing game with ‘Cars’ that drive fast enough to create downforce that allows you to stick to the walls and roof, allowing you to ride the walls in order to optimise your racing line.
The game has a great feel, like Wipeout, F-Zero, or Redout but the unique element here is the gravity-defying physics, which allows the player to make use of the curve of the tunnel to continue driving along the ground, so that you don’t need to slow down to take a sharp turn.
I only skimmed through the menus, but there appeared to be a lot of tracks available, as well as multiple types of vehicles to race with. It looked as though each vehicle had a load out of special abilities, such as attacks to disable other racers, or boosts to speed through sections. There definitely appears to be a lot to love about this title, as the sense of speed is definitely there, and the ability to play VR is there which seems to be a standard for this type of game.
22CRS also has multiple views to drive in, including the standard 3rd person views and an on the bonnet view. I am told there is also an in-car view, which I didn’t notice in my short time with the game.
Looking on the developers website, it looks as though there is a lot more to 22nd Century Racing Series than a small demo can show, with the term Real-Time Strategy racing used, and a team vs team sector battle system, which I did notice was happening whilst I was playing, I just wasn’t sure what it meant. Apparently racing through sectors quickly can capture them for your team to control resources allowing you to use abilities. This sounds quite complicated to read, but in practice the game plays beautifully, and will be a joy to play.
Due for release in Q3 2019, you can read more and request access to the closed beta here. Note though, that at the moment they’re only accepting university teams for closed beta access

http://www.22series.com/

Ailuri

Ailuri Screenshot
Ailuri is a super adorable 2D platformer with combat. The demo level had the red panda character in an arena. The developer advised that if I could beat all enemies within the arena at least once, a boss would spawn. The red panda has attacks, a jump, a dash move, and the ability to climb up walls. The dash move on the ground seemed to act more like a traditional sprint, and I had trouble finding a way to avoid damage from the enemies and as such couldn’t get to the boss. The red panda has little stones that float over it’s back which also allows the red panda to latch onto and swing from floating rocks littered throughout the map.
One thing we can’t stress enough about Ailuri is how cute it is. We know we’ve already said it, but we need to say it again. The red panda is so tiny and adorable. We’re very keen to see how this game develops over the year between now and release, and we’re hoping to see some more options for avoiding damage to give the combat a more tactical feel.
Planned release Q4 2019 Steam and Switch, and you can follow the game on the developer’s page here

https://www.vivinkstudios.com/

Harvest Hands

Harvest Hands Screenshot
Planned release March 2019 on Early Access on Steam.
Adorable little farming game. The player walks around in first person and can harvest stone and wood from rocks and trees in order to build objects. I didn’t find anything to build during my time with the demo, but did run over to a shop near town, and then returned to my farm to place and grow some crops. The player can use their multitool on the ground in order to build plots of land wherever they like on the on their farm, and then grow a multitude of crops. As far as I’m aware there are no dangers in the game, and no combat, so the game is designed to be a nice relaxing escapism game that would be relaxing to play after a hard day. There is no multiplayer yet as is student project, but it is a feature that the developers are keen to get in the game if they are able to do so in the future. The game starts after a great storm went through the area destroying the player’s farm and the local township, and the player’s goal is to rebuild the farm and help rebuild the town. You can follow this one on the developer’s webpage here

https://www.goblinhammergames.com/

Nom Nom Apocalypse

Nom Nom Apocalypse is a top-down shoot-em-up (schmup). It looks like it would be a bullet hell, however, the developer wanted to avoid this path, instead going with a more run and gun feel whilst the enemies come at you and attempt to take you down with a range of lunges and other attacks. In saying this, Nom Nom Apocalypse does have some enemies that shoot, but it will be rare for the entire screen to be filled with bullets as occurs in many of these types of games. The combat feels great, with some weapons that the player picking up having knockback, and some just dealing good damage. In the demo build, the game is two player co-op, with each player being able to choose from 4 available characters. Each character has their own special skill which can be activated once the special bar fills, and their own passive ability, which is always active. It looks as though the full version is due to have even more characters, which is going to add even more variation for the players. Thematically, the game sticks with a food theme, and the developer told me the game is essentially Cloudy With a chance of meatballs cross with Enter the Gungeon.
I managed to play through the 3 levels that were on offer in the PAX demo, and can see where the Developer draws this comparison, as, in Nom Nom Apocalypse, all of the enemies are mutated fatty or greasy foods, and the guns are all weaponised condiments, spices, or foods themselves. The result is a very silly food themed schmup that when released looks like it could be a great game to play through with friends.
With release on Steam due in 2019, you can add Nom Nom Apocalypse to your wishlist here

https://store.steampowered.com/app/882760/Nom_Nom_Apocalypse/

Tech Hunter

Use and swap between vehicles to solve puzzles. In the demo, the main vehicle is a sort of futuristic hover jet. In the demo, the player uses this jet to fly around a map and search for old ruins scanning the terrain. Once a place of interest is found, the jet is able to lower to the ground and deploy a drone which allows the player to search from the ground. Using the drone, you enter a dungeon and complete a puzzle, which reminded me of the style of classic Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time dungeon puzzles. By moving a box and placing it on a button you could unlock another box, and then use both boxes to unlock a door. Tech Hunter is quite early in development, and the developer was really looking to get feedback on how the game plays and what players enjoyed.
You can follow the development on Tech Hunter on the developer’s website here

http://splitsymmetry.com/

Puzzle Puppers

An adorable puzzle game where you need to eat meats and get puppies to their respective food bowls. The various puzzles are grid based with puppies able to move one grid at a time, but the catch is that their bums stay where they started, and the dogs stretch out as far as you want them to move. The puppers can’t cross over each other, so you need to be able to figure out which pup needs to move where in order to get each to the same-colored food bowl. In addition to just solving the level there are also legs of meat that the player can grab to get bonus score and 3 star each stage. Puzzle Puppers is out now, and you can get it for phones or on Steam

https://store.steampowered.com/app/578430/Puzzle_Puppers/

Witch Thief

Witch Thief is a 3rd person bullet hell, sort of reminiscent of Near Automata, but without the melee combat. Witch Thief features good controls, as the character is easy to control, shoot is on the trigger, and dodge is on the A button. The dodge last for a few seconds, which is very handy during play as the bullet patterns do get very hectic, but the downside is you need to make the dodge a good one as it can’t be spammed. If the player is hit at all, you are killed and need to restart from a checkpoint. During my time at PAX, I found this to be a good balance of challenge and fun, but ultimately the distraction got the best of me and I lost all of my lives. I am looking forward to playing this more in a quieter environment so that I can get further than the first boss. Witch Thief is out now on steam.

https://store.steampowered.com/app/675480/Witch_Thief/

Quantum Suicide

Visual Novel where the player can choose to play as either a male or female on a multi-generational spaceship. Most of the characters that the player will meet on the ship were born on the ship, and even if everything were going normal, would die on the ship, as it’s making a long distance journey through space. There are 6 characters to court throughout the game, and unlike other Visual Novels, a character might not be interested in your chosen gender, but you won’t find that out until later in the game, instead of upon meeting them. There is an AI aboard the ship which tends to run things, but at some stage throughout the journey, the AI suffers some corruption and starts “the deletion game”. She proceeds to kill off people on the ship one by one, placing trials and challenges for the player and fellow survivors to overcome if they want to keep their lives. There are about 30 endings to find, with a full play through taking around 4 hours. Quantum Suicide is fully voiced, both in English and Japanese, and the player is able to choose which they would prefer.
Early access release late this year / early Jan, but there is a demo available now on itch.io

https://cottoncandycyanide.itch.io/quantum-suicide

Nova Flow

Speed runner first person platformer where you use a gun to change platform colours. The platform colours are changed in order to make the most of the level and traverse it as fast as possible. There are 3 possible colours that you are able to make the platforms:
Blue – The platform allows you to run faster.
Red – Platform forces the player to bounce higher than a regular jump.
Yellow – Walls allow the player to cling to them, enabling movement across them.
The movement is very smooth, and the jump has just the right amount of height and hangtime to really get a good flow of movement going. The developer assured me that although there is an obvious choice for platform colours, for example, always make walls yellow, it is possible to jump off them, and if you had launched yourself off of a platform with blue, you might have the momentum to skip moving slower across the wall in this method. Additionally, you could run all the way across a blue platform, and instead of jumping, change the colour to red at the last moment to launch yourself higher and further than normal. It sounds like there’s a lot of potential to really optimise potential speed runs. The demo that I played was using a controller, which whilst functional, aiming in a rush would definitely be easier on a keyboard and mouse and allow for better times. Although I am heavily mentioning that this is a speed-running game, it is possible to play this one slowly, and take your time if that’s what you prefer, and thanks to how good the movement feels, I think that this too, would be enjoyable for most players. The PAX demo was on a timer to ensure that people didn’t play for too long, but I was advised that there are no such limitations in the full version of the game. Nova Flow is out now on Steam

https://store.steampowered.com/app/718250/Nova_Flow/

Knuckle Sandwich

This is a turn-based RPG with a really strange narrative. The demo only gives a few chances in battle, but the player can use attacks and skills, and these actions require interaction in order for you to be successful. The regular attack has the player pressing interact at the right time in order to hit, and a skill has the player wiggling the thumbstick to increase the damage done. You may also press interact at the right time to dodge an enemy attack when it is their turn. From the demo, it’s difficult to tell exactly how Knuckle Sandwich is going to play out throughout the course of the full game, but one thing is for certain, it’s going to be strange.
Something that I really need to mention about this game is how bizarre the soundtrack is, and yet it fits perfectly in the game, it goes perfectly with the narrative and pacing of the game. Additionally, despite the low-res pixel art of the game, the animations are really nice, it looks like a lot of effort has gone into making sure every inch of Knuckle Sandwich has memorable charm.
Due for release on steam and itch 2019, but there is a demo available now on Itch.io

https://andrewbrophy.itch.io/knuckle-sandwich

Aura of Worlds

Developer Cognitive Forge have been busy at work creating a great roguelike platformer. The short amount of time I had with this one saw me traversing multiple floors of a specific biome that is chosen at the start of the game. At the end of a particular biome, the player then verses a boss, and if successful in defeating them, are able to proceed to the next biome. In addition to the individual dangers of enemies and traps throughout the level, sometimes the levels themselves have a passive danger, such as a descending poisonous fog, or rising lava.
The main gameplay of Aura of Worlds gives the player a primary weapon, which has melee weapons like swords and shields, to ranged weapons like bows and chakrams. The melee weapons seem to do more damage, with the obvious downside of needing to get closer to danger to do said damage. The player is also provided with secondary item at the start of the game, and they can proceed to unlock more, and swap out equipment on the fly with a radial wheel, depending on what the situation requires. The game has some Spelunky roots, which is a great thing, as you can pick up various objects that are littered throughout the level and use these as thrown projectiles to trigger traps or hit enemies. Aura of Worlds is definitely difficult, but the game is fun to play, and I imagine with some more practice, the game would be less repetitive as you’d be dying less often. Aura of Worlds is out now in Early Access on Steam

https://store.steampowered.com/app/841600/Aura_of_Worlds/

Introspect

A 3rd person boss rush game, Introspect provides fast paced combat. From what I played, the combat involved facing off against giant mechs in a futuristic setting.
The player has two attacks, primary fire being a machine gun, secondary fire being a shotgun. Both can be used at the same time as the shotgun attack is launched by a hovering mech friend that follows you, similar to Nier Automata.
The player is able to jump, double jump, slide, and super jump in order to evade attacks. In addition to that, you also have a grappling hook that can cling and pull you toward certain metallic objects, allowing you to traverse distance quickly, and avoid attacks effectively.
During combat, enemies seem to need to vent cores, which if shot will do large damage to the enemy. Some cores are green and destroying them will restore a small amount of health, which can be a lifesaver during battle. Introspect is due for release end of 2019, and you can follow the development here

https://www.clockworkgiants.com/

Dusk

Dusk is a first person shooter classic reminiscent of doom. I was able to play an “endless mode” which placed me in a large room which acted as an arena. Enemies would spawn in the multi-levelled arena, and would attempt to attack me with melee attacks or guns. As the waves got higher and higher, more enemies seemed to spawn, and harder enemies would spawn. Throughout the play interesting power ups would also spawn, one of which allowed me to climb any walls, for example. Dusk also has a campaign mode that I wasn’t able to play, but it does seem like it has a good amount of content for those retro first person shooter fans. Dusk is out now in early access on Steam

https://store.steampowered.com/app/519860/DUSK/

Ashen

Kudos to whomever can describe this game without mentioning Dark Souls. Ashen has a great feel to the combat. The controls are smooth and attacks and other maneuvers have the right amount of delay and impact. The world is also bathed in darkness. Everything about Ashen feels like it could have come from Dark Souls directly, even the name Ashen is straight out of Dark Souls. With this out of the way, Ashen doesn’t feel like a cheap Dark Souls clone. The art style has it’s own great look, and the gameplay does have enough uniqueness to stand on it’s own. Ashen is set to release for PC and Xbox One in 2018, and despite the fact that we don’t have a concrete date, there’s many weeks left in 2018, so we should have this in our hands very soon. You can see more about Ashen here

http://www.ashen-game.com/

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