PAX Rising AUS 2019 Indie Roundup

As always, PAX 2019 has brought a huge assortment of awesome Indie games to the table. I’ve got links to the game’s Steam pages if they have them. If you like a game, go wishlist it on Steam, you’ll be updated when the game comes out, and it really helps the developers! These games are in no particular order, I just played them in a semi-linear order and that’s the order that I wrote them in. Without further ado, here’s a list of most of the games that were at the show.

Wrestledunk Sports

Created by the developer of Hacknet. Aiming for something completely different, Wrestledunk Sports is a party game for up to 8 players.

There are 4 modes to play, but the controls are mostly the same regardless of which mode you play (with the exception of Smashball), you’ll always be able to move, jump, and bodyslam. This makes picking up and playing the game really easy regardless of the mode being played, and learning one makes jumping into any of the others even easier. Unlike other games that have a range of free for all options, Wrestledunk Sports seems to be exclusively a team game, and numbers can be padded with AI. The available modes are:

  • Wrestling – Body Slam the enemies. There is a unique block button in this mode that prevents you from being slammed and bounces enemies away.
  • Fencing – You have a fencing sword and need to impale your foes. There is a dedicated button for stabbing with the sword, and another for throwing it. You are also able to change your sword stance with the up and down directional input. The body slam in this mode becomes a lunging stab, giving you plenty of options to thwart your foes.
  • Volleyball – Try to make the ball land in your opponents’ half of the field. In addition to the normal buttons, pressing a dedicated button on the ground will allow you to ‘dig’ the ball, hitting it across to your opponents side, and pressing the same button in the air will spike it down at the ground hard. The rules are a little relaxed when compared with real life volleyball, you can spike the ball into your opponents to knock them out, or even just jump over to their side of the field and block them from playing their shots.
  • Smash ball – Plays a little like air hockey. I didn’t play this one during my time with the game, so I’m not sure of the specifics, but this one has you trying to shoot the ball into the opponents goal at the other end of the screen. Smashball has no gravity, and so players are free to float around the arena. A heavy slam can send the opponent’s flying too, and may be required to get it through their defenses.

I had an absolute blast playing this game, and I can confidently say that there were a constant stream of yells, screams and laughs coming from this booth all PAX long.
https://twitter.com/wrestledunkgame


Unpacking

A zen-puzzler where the player unpacks boxes into houses.

It’s a single player narrative-driven experience where the player learns about the character by unpacking their belongings into each new house they move into throughout their life. The pixel art is beautiful, and you can tell that the attention to detail from the developers is second-to-none. Whilst waiting for a turn to play, one of the developers was telling me that each individual object that you can pick up in the game has multiple sound effects for every single surface that it can be placed on. I also noticed that every single object can be rotated between left-facing and right-facing, and they haven’t taken the easy way out of mirroring objects here. The pixel artist has taken the time to draw each object from two angles to really bring life into the world.
Little details like this may not even be noticeable if you don’t think about it, but it certainly adds a level of depth and believability to the world that looks, sounds and feels great to play. The demo had two levels available, but I can’t wait to play out the rest of the character’s journey and see where life takes them in this Zen-puzzle game. Unpacking is due out in Quarter 4 of 2020, as there is still a lot of work to be done.
https://store.steampowered.com/app/1135690/Unpacking/


Exo One

Exo One takes the player on an interstellar journey in an alien spacecraft.

This craft can alter its form and manipulate gravity allowing it to traverse any environment, no matter where it travels. This alien spacecraft has lots of unique means to make travel a joy. First of these is a gravity drive, which makes your ship heavier, allowing it to rocket into the ground and gain a huge burst of speed whilst traveling down hills, you can then launch yourself back up hills, jump off the ground, and morph into a flat disc that can glide large distances, maintaining the momentum gained on the ground.
Every level in the game takes place on a different planet, giving the player something new and interesting to experience as they progress through the game. The developer has advised that later builds of the game are going to have water planets, in addition to gas giants, which are due to mix up the gameplay, but I’m not exactly sure how just yet. In the build that I played, there are no dangers or time limits, allowing the player to freely explore and travel at their own pace, but I can imagine that speed runners will get a kick out of beating this as quickly as possible. There is a story in the game, but it’s a bit cryptic, and with all the distractions at PAX I wasn’t really following it. There’s no solid release date yet.
https://store.steampowered.com/app/773370/Exo_One/


Ring of Pain

Ring of Pain is a unique rogue lite card game, but in this case, the cards represent the interactions that you are able to make on a given floor of a dungeon.

The cards are aligned in a ring, and this ring can be traversed left and right. The cards start face-down, so you won’t know what on the floor until you travel to the card, at which point it is turned face-up. At any given time, the player is facing two different cards, but only interacts with one per turn. If a specific card is resolved, that card is removed from the ring, placing the next card on that side in it’s place. This means that you are able to shift the position of cards by completing other cards, giving a fair bit of tactical freedom. On the surface, this doesn’t seem too important, but in the demo build that I played, some monsters explode at the end of their turn, and others explode on death. These explosions not only damage the player, but also the cards next to them, so setting strong monsters next to exploding ones can turn the tide of battle. Additionally, you could keep a potion ready in one slot whilst you fight a difficult monster so that you can heal in the middle of battle. I’m curious to see how other cards will be able to interact when the game is released, but there’s already a lot of potential there.

Everything in Ring of Pain is cyptic and creepy, from the appearance of the objects and items, to the way that the other characters in the world speak with you. In the demo, everything rhymed, and many of the lines seemed like riddles. This does a great job of getting the player into the mindset that they shouldn’t expect to know everything on the first try, and it even prepared me for failure, which, in true roguelike fashion, wasn’t far away. The player has many stats, which affect various actions that they perform, and you can collect equipment or get permanent character buffs in the dungeons to increase these stats as you play. Killing enemies earns souls to spend on treasures, as some items can be sold by merchant characters, or can be locked away in treasure chests. Still a little ways off, due to release on Steam in early access Q2 2020.
https://store.steampowered.com/app/998740/Ring_of_Pain/


Wayward Strand

Heartfelt narrative game about Casey Beaumaris, 14 year old journalist as she visits a flying hospital.

The art style is 3D, but has a distinctly 2D cartoon appearance that is quite eye catching, and very different from what’s being shown by most games at the moment. The developers describe the game as an interactive story, which I feel is accurate. Most of the gameplay is spent moving around the airship and talking to the people on the ship, but at times you will be able to eavesdrop, or even sneak into people’s rooms to snoop around. Some of the people aboard the ship are workers, some are residents, but all have an interesting story to tell. I think if I needed to describe Wayward Strand in one word, that word would be Wholesome.
https://store.steampowered.com/app/1080450/Wayward_Strand/


Death Hall

A fast paced platforming adventure game for mobile devices.

The player needs to traverse various dangerous environments, and shortly after starting a level, a giant beast will jump up from below and devour the stage. The only way to survive is to keep moving quickly, and not delay for very long before making your next move. Throughout the levels, there are enemies that can be jumped on, allowing you to collect souls that act as a currency between each stage. The souls can be spent to heal damage, buy an item that allows you to survive a monster bite, and more.
I enjoyed what I played at PAX so much that I purchased this after it was over. The game can be beaten in as little as 15 minutes, but you’d really need to know what you were doing and have a lot of practice to beat it that quickly.
This one is out now on iOS, with no chance of a port to other platforms, unfortunately. Thankfully, there are no in-app purchases, no ads, or anything else to buy. Once you’ve purchased the game, you have the entire thing to enjoy at your own pace. Even though it’s on mobile devices, I found the controls to be really responsive, and it didn’t inhibit my ability to play at all.
http://www.deathhall.com/


Damsel

Damsel is a 2D action platformer with Vampires, guns, and a lot of style.

The story is told through very stylish comic book cutscenes, but the basics seem to be “in a world where vampires live on earth, a vampire clan have been doing some illegal stuff, and it’s up to the player to stop them”. Having only played a very small section of the game, and with all the distractions of PAX, I’m not sure if there’s more to it, but the comic book style will tell it to you with conviction even if there isn’t. Damsel will infiltrate the vampire’s facilities, take down vampires, destroy their coffins, save hostages, and more. The game is very fast-paced, placing the player into small levels that have a straight-forward goal, allowing the player to get to it. If you fail, retrying is just a button press away.
The action is fast-paced, allowing for the player to run, jump, and shoot their way to victory. You can also shoot downward in mid air, which gives you a boost upward so you can hover around raining destruction from above. You are able to collect floating skulls in the level to increase your score multiplier, but it does degrade over time, rewarding players who can keep moving in a fast clean line. Every level has a timed and score leaderboard, which will provide a fair amount of replayability for those that care about score chasing and competing with their friends, or with the global leaderboards.
https://store.steampowered.com/app/452410/Damsel/


Powerhoof

Powerhoof brought multiple games to PAX this year, but I was only able to check out Acid Knife. There was also a bizarre little Kaiju dating simulator game for multiple players, but I didn’t even get a chance to see this one for more than a few seconds.

Acid Knife

A dark 2D platformer / dungeon crawler. With beautiful art, a hopeless setting, and very smooth gameplay.

Acid Knife is quite early in development yet, so everything that I saw is subject to change, but I can say that what is in the game so far is very very good. The art style and animations are beautiful, even though they’re actually quite minimalist. The enemies and environments have a good amount of creepy to them, despite the 2D pixel art aesthetic, but what really sets Acid Knife apart is the gameplay. Acid Knife is a 2D action-platformer. Instead of being fast paced, the gameplay here is slow and calculated. The player character doesn’t even have a weapon by default, you’ll need to pick up equipment to use it, and once weapons are picked up, it is possible to break or drop them. Enemies are armoured, and have specific weak-points which pulse and glow red. If the weak point is not hit, the weapon will lose durability, and the player may even drop it due to the feedback. Enemies also come in all shapes and sizes, and in order to successfully target that weak point, you may need to get above or below them and attack in the direction of the weakpoint. Thanks to this combat system, spamming attack won’t get you far, and the focus is on aiming your attacks and making them count. Thankfully, if you do accidentally hit armour accidentally a few times, you are able to repair weapons by dropping them on the ground and hitting them with a whetstone. As this needs to be done in game, you’ll need to make sure that your weapons are in good shape before a battle, as there’s no inventory management and repairing while paused. The PAX demo had very little inventory space, and although they gave a large amount of weapons, whetstones and potions, you couldn’t carry it all, and it felt difficult to prioritise what to take forward without knowing what was coming next.
Again, Acid Knife is still a long way from release, and as such, the levels that I played through were built just to show off at PAX, but they are completely functional, and the depth of platforming and combat lent itself well to the designs that were in game already. I can’t wait to see more about Acid Knife in the months ahead.
https://www.powerhoof.com


Spiralagon

Made by just one developer, Spiralagon asks players just how fast they can go. A speed running platformer with a lot of depth.

The overall goal is to descend spiral levels whilst hitting checkpoints and collecting as many pickups as possible, and once hitting the bottom checkpoint, they will reappear and you need to climb back up the same spiral, hitting checkpoints on the way up. Hitting all the checkpoints and reaching the top will open the exit and there’s a small final sprint to cross the line. Spiralagon has multiple characters to play as, and each has different stats, so you can find a character that matches your playstyle and stick with them, or, if you’re having trouble with particular hazards, or want a better jump or higher top speed for a particular stage, swapping characters provides a way to meet a specific stage’s challenges. Every character can also make use of speed boosts and jump boosts, which temporarily boost your character’s respective stats at the cost of energy, and there is also a teleport mark and recall, in case you need to make a difficult jump but don’t want to have to climb all the way back up if you fall.
In the demo level that I played, there were a lot of options to take when it came to pathing, and I can imagine that a dedicated player who’s goal is to hit the top of the leaderboards will be able to find clever strategies to optimise their adventures on these spiral levels. In the demo I played in first person, but you are also able to play in third person, or swap to a side scrolling camera. For the style of game and speed of the platforming, I feel as though first person would work best, but at least the option is there if you feel like you’d be more comfortable in a different view.
Spiralagon is out now on Steam.
https://store.steampowered.com/app/1124170/Spiralagon/


Mini Motorways

Following the great game design of mini metro, mini motorways tasks the player with designing cities and their roadways.

I only had a short time with Mini Motorways, so I’m not sure exactly how much it will expand as you play, but I have seen screenshots with overpasses and a whole bunch of extra building options that can be unlocked down the track. At the start of a build, you only have access to a limited number basic roads, and as you progress, you will unlock extra road tiles, and other more advanced parts, such as bridges and traffic lights. It makes designing an efficient city difficult, and part of the fun will be taking what you’ve learnt in a given attempt and improving on your designs.
Regarding placing roads, there is no penalty for erasing a road and rebuilding it, as tiles are refunded as you erase, and are immediately available to spend again. This means that when unlocking new parts, and when new buildings appear that may alter your route, instead of just making small adjustments, bigger redesigns may be necessary in order to keep everything flowing smoothly.
Mini Motorways is already available as part of Apple Arcade on iOS, but Dinosaur Polo Club are working on porting it to Steam, although that release is still at least a few months away according to the developer that I spoke to while playing.
https://store.steampowered.com/app/1127500/Mini_Motorways/


Massive Monster

Massive Monster were demonstrating a few games at PAX: The Adventure Pals, Never Give Up, Boomerang Fu, and Sacrificial Lamb. The latter of those two are still very early in development, and everything right down to the names of the games are subject to change, so keep that in mind as you read on.

Sacrificial Lamb

Sacrificial Lamb is a cute Action-RPG where you play as a possessed lamb, recruiting animal followers to your newly formed cult. The art is adorable and the theme is dark, it’s such a strange juxtaposition but that work’s to the game’s advantage. You’re out in dungeons murdering demons, and your little possessed lamb has a smile on it’s face the whole time, and is so happy to rescue another follow that it will be sacrificing to appease it’s deity a few short weeks later. I feel that if the game had a darker or more realistic art style, the feel of the game would be really dark and unpleasant, but the joyous art style and personality of your lamb and followers would never fail to bring a smile to my face. In the build that I played, the lamb could shoot energy, as well as swing a sword and perform a dodge roll. What sets it apart from other similar ARPGs is that your newly saved followers will join you in dungeon crawling, allowing you to overpower enemy forces with your own group of followers. The only thing that I didn’t like about this is that I wanted to keep them all alive because they were all so adorable! During your time in dungeons, you are also able to collect crafting resources to send back to your home base so that you can build new buildings. I didn’t get far enough in the demo to find out if these buildings provide upgrades to characters in combat, or if there are other benefits or not. Again, Sacrificial Lamb is super early in development, and everything is subject to change.
https://massivemonster.co/

Never Give Up

Never Give Up is a hardcore platformer that focuses on teaching the player, and then challenging them to beat increasingly hard versions of the same level.

In the demo that I played, there were 6 versions of the same level that ramped up in difficulty at a pretty consistent pace. Hidden throughout the entire level, are hidden collectibles too, just to add some extra challenge to an already tough game. As far as I could tell, the collectibles were simply for completionists, so you don’t need to worry about them if things are getting too difficult for you. The controls are responsive and snappy, which feels great for a game like this. The level designs that I played seems great, and I fully expect that Massive Monster will be able to keep the game engaging right through to the end, even if the last few levels would be notoriously hard.
If you are looking for a difficult platformer but are worried about the difficulty, I think Never Give Up would be a great game to get into, as you always have the option to give up if things get to difficult, allowing you to skip to the next level. Maybe with a bit more experience you’ll be able to go back and complete a level that once gave you trouble.
https://store.steampowered.com/app/609420/Never_Give_Up/


Unfamiliar

In Unfamiliar, you play as a cat, exploring the land to collect items, allowing you to craft new cosmetic upgrades for your cat and cat tower.

The upgrades vary from changing the appearance of your cat, to being able to create different hats, collars and backpacks to mix and match too. In the demo that I played, people had already been playing and everything was already unlocked, but the basic gameplay loop seemed rewarding if you’re into relaxing games. I believe there is more to the story, than that, as you may actually be a witch using a cat as your familiar, but I’m not 100% on the details here. In Unfamiliar, there are no time limits, and no dangers, you’re free to explore at your own pace, relax to the chilled music, and enjoy the cute art style. In the demo that I played, the Cat is ‘on-rails’, in that they remain on the path, which does branch out to various places. I felt that being restricted to the paths was strange, but it certainly helps prevent the player from getting lost while out and about. I’m not sure if the full version of the game will have the same movement system, but I am inclined to believe that it will. Unfamiliar comes out in December 2019 on Steam.
https://store.steampowered.com/app/1163150/Unfamiliar/


HEIST

HEIST is a top-down noir stealth game focusing on avoidance.

The player is a cat burglar, and needs to navigate through maps, avoiding guards in order to steal a key item, and then get out again. There are no lethal or permanent take down methods, so you need to make sure that you’re careful to stay out of line of sight, and not to make sound while in earshot. If you do need to do something risky, it’s important to plan your escape in order to get away, or at least be a quick thinker. In Heist, there are 3 levels of how well lit you and the environment are: Dark, Shadows, and Well-Lit. You are almost impossible to see in the dark, difficult to see In Shadow, and easy to see, even from a distance when well-lit. These light levels are clearly communicated in the environment, and your character, so it is very easy to tell exactly how lit up you are, even if you’re on the edge of two different levels of brightness. Enemies seem to have predictable patrol patterns to bypass, and developer said entire game can be beaten without using any gadgets. There were 3 gadgets in the PAX demo that I played:

  • A coin you can flick to create a distraction
  • Cherry bombs which are remote noise makers, but you need to be adjacent to the surface you place them on, and
  • A trip wire which trips enemies, knocking them out for about 5 seconds.

The full version of the game has many more gadgets on offer, but the PAX demo had these removed so that players who are picking up the game are able to quickly understand a limited set without too much learning.
In the demo, there were no alarms, and if individual guards see you, but end up losing track of you, they will return to their patrol, but stay suspicious, making them more perceptive to you in future. Thankfully, they won’t set the entire location on alert, nor will they alert their fellow guards to your presence, which is nice for the style of game, allowing small mistakes to be forgiven without feeling the need to load an earlier save or restart entirely. The developers advise that there is likely to be about 5 – 8 hours of gameplay for the average player. HEIST is out now on steam
https://store.steampowered.com/app/420330/HEIST/


The Rewinder

The Rewinder is a Side-scrolling puzzle game based on Chinese lore.

I would describe the gameplay as being similar to a point and click title, but with manual movement. The overall theme and tone of the game is set very well with excellent use of colour and a pixel art style which conveys a serious tone. The PAX demo also lacked music, which helped lend to the desolate and lonely feel. In the PAX demo, the puzzles were logical, which I felt was nice, as you could tell when there was something to solve, but the solutions weren’t given away. I feel as though the solutions to the puzzles made sense to me, so I never needed to resort to just trying things in the hopes of brute-forcing them in order to progress.
In the story, it seems as though solving specific puzzles will send you back in time to alter the world to allow progression in both timelines. The Rewinder is currently due for release sometime in 2020, but the exact date has not been set yet.
https://store.steampowered.com/app/1161170/The_Rewinder/

A quick note about the Steam store page. The screenshots all appear to be in Chinese, and the game description does have some bad English translation, but all of the text in game during the PAX demo was written very well, and nothing felt out of place, so it seems like the developer has had someone localise the text in game, and I expect that this will be the same for the full release of the game.


Best Friend Forever

A cute romance simulator for people who love dogs, and people who love people who love dogs.

Best Friend Forever plays as a Visual Novel, but with the added interaction of needing to keep your dog companion well behaved, and tending to it’s behaviour in a timely manner while interacting with the non-player characters in game. Best Friend Forever is set in Rainbow Bay, which has been voted the world’s most dog-friendly town, and as such, your 4-legged friends are welcome everywhere, and so you’ll never meet people without theirs, and you’ll never be without yours.
Best Friend forever seems to be extremely inclusive, with the player being able to choose their pronoun, and date whomever they wish. In the PAX demo that I played, you were forced to take the Shiba Inu as your dog companion, but I understand that the full version of the game is going to allow you to choose one of 4 dogs. The PAX demo ends just as you learn to train your dog, so I’m not sure how this system will work, but it looks as though the dogs have a lot of stats that need to be managed, and should provide a lot of opportunities to make your best friend the best-behaved, healthiest dog in town.
What makes a dating sim great often comes down to good writing, and I can say that the humour in the demo was top-notch. Some of the jokes were very clever, or even cheeky at times, hinting at breaking the 4th wall. I got a lot of enjoyment out of what I’ve read so far, both from the humour and from my brief introduction to the characters that were in the demo.
Best Friend Forever is due to be released on Steam on Valentines day (Feb 14th) 2020!
https://store.steampowered.com/app/1034850/Best_Friend_Forever/


Samurai Punk

Samurai Punk had a few games on display at this year’s PAX, but I only had the chance to play Feather. I believe their other titles, Screencheat and Roombo were there to play, in addition to awesome Tshirt and other merch designs.

Feather

Feather is a relaxing game that gives the player the chance to discover what it might be like to be a bird.

In feather, you’ll have complete freedom to fly around a beautiful low-poly island, relaxing to an almost entirely ambient soundtrack.
For players who might enjoy the game but are looking for a bit of excitement too, Feather’s island features caves, hollowed-out trees, bridges over streams, and lots of trees. Flying gracefully through these restricted spaces is really fun, and you can even challenge yourself to really speed through them to get a stronger rush. With that in mind, Feather is designed to be a more relaxing experience, an escape from the stresses of every day life. The island that you fly around has all sorts of secrets to discover too, there are rings that change the song that you are listening to, portals that place you into the sky, and I understand even more meaningful secrets are hidden in hard-to-find places too.
Feather is out now on Steam:
https://store.steampowered.com/app/545040/Feather/


Primordials Fireborn

Primordials Fireborn is a third-person action adventure game set in an alternate world.

You play as a Phoenix that has lost its memory, and it’s powers. As such, the phoenix sets out to remember it’s lost memories and gain it’s power back. The PAX demo was set almost half way into the game, so I’m not sure how the story unfolds, or how well it is paced. The gameplay itself is good, with the player being able to platform, throw fireballs, and engage in melee combat with the various enemies in the game. In the demo, there were humanoid lizard people known as the Dreg, and giant bees as enemies. The enemies seemed responsive to the player, but I was advised by a developer that they had just hired a new developer with a speciality in Artificial Intelligence to make the enemy encounters even more fun to verse in future builds.
As you play throughout the story, you will be unlocking more abilities, and it is likely that there will be even more options available to you when playing through the full game. I was advised that the game would take between is between 9 and 14 hours to beat, with faster players getting through the story in 9 hours, and completing everything and getting all achievements is due to take around 14 hours for the average player. Primordials Fireborn has no solid release date yet, and I wasn’t able to get an estimate from the team.
https://www.toyboxgamesstudios.com/fireborn/


64 Ways of Being

64 Ways of Being is an artistic Augmented Reality experience where the developers intend to transform Melbourne into a playable city through a blend of live art, game design, and public art.

At PAX, the 64 Ways of Being booth had a miniature street corner built into it, allowing players to take a phone with the app installed, put on some headphones and experience the idea with freedom. On this installation were unique symbols made of colourful triangles. Aiming the phone’s camera at one of the unique symbols on the wall made it come alive, change shape and talk to you. The shape beckoned me to touch it, and when I did, it would play music notes, bend, and generally come alive. I found the experience a little creepy, and sort of unsettling, thanks to some excellent voice acting, but I was also compelled to learn interact more and connect with this strange lifeform. During my playtime at PAX, I never felt in danger or unsafe, but playing it out in the world would be something else entirely.
Don’t let this come across as a criticism however, as the purpose of art is to make you feel and think about the work that is presented, and it definitely achieved this goal in a unique and captivating way. This full experience is set to be a Melbourne exclusive, with 64 locations across the city having these symbols added to them to allow residents and tourists a chance to explore the city in an entirely new way.64 Ways of Being will be a free experience, with an estimated release date of August 2020. If you cant wait that long, you can register for playtesting on the 64 Ways of Being website:
http://64waysofbeing.com/


TopplePOP: Bungee Blockbusters

TopplePOP is a party game for up to 4 players.

The PAX demo that I played put the players each in their own lane, with the goal of matching 4 blocks of the same color to destroy them. Some of the blocks have animals trapped inside, and when you break these, the animal is freed. The first player to save all of their animal friends wins, or if a player’s tower extends too high, that player is eliminated. The gameplay is sort of a mix of Tetris and Bejeweled, with physics thrown in for good measure. Players control little characters suspended by bungee cords, and will be given a block that they can drop. The character has a full range of movement, and can descend down to place blocks carefully, while swinging side to side. The bungee cord helps add some unpredictability to the mix, but it never makes character control unreliable. The full version of the game will also have single player and co-op modes, so if versing friends isn’t your thing, there still should be some fun to be had.
Release date is “Soonish” on steam, with other platforms due later.
https://store.steampowered.com/app/1175770/TopplePOP_Bungee_Blockbusters/


Blowfish Studios

Blowfish Studios had a lot of games on display at PAX. Working as both a publisher and developer, they are showcasing talent from all around the world. I didn’t have time to check all of the games, but I did play two:

Projection: First Light

A sidescrolling puzzle game, with a unique light and shadow mechanic.

Early on in the game, you learn the basics of platforming, and are soon after given control of a light source, which can be used to cast shadows that interact with the world. These shadows can be used to climb on, and push yourself or other objects in the world around. One of the Blowfish team members advised me that the developer did a lot of research into various cultures of the world and incorporated them into their own sections of the game.
I only spent time in the earlier sections of the game, and as a result, the puzzles were quite basic, and I didn’t encounter a boss, but there are bosses in the game that you need to defeat, and the puzzles do pick up in complexity as you work your way through later levels.
Projection: First Light is available now as part of the Apple Arcade, but is coming to Steam soon
https://store.steampowered.com/app/726490/Projection_First_Light/

KungFu Kickball

A party game designed to be played up to 4 players, KungFu Kickball is 2D soccer game where everyone is a KungFu master.

The game is a sidescroller, where each team has a bell in their goal area. You’ll need to Run, dash, and kick the ball to the opponent’s end and make it hit the bell in order to score a goal. This is a full-contact sport, and sometimes it might be better to hit an opponent to knock them out for a second instead of aiming for the ball. I really enjoyed my time with KungFu Kickball, the graphics are nice, the controls are responsive, and there seems to be a lot of advanced techniques that you can pull off, as you are able to kick in any direction, and the dash seemed to take your momentum, so it can be used in mid-air to jump even higher.
The game is releasing to all major platforms early 2020
https://store.steampowered.com/app/1004620/KungFu_Kickball/


Elden: Path of the Forgotten

Elden is a mysterious top down exploration/action game.

The player seems to have found their way into a mysterious alternate world where monsters and demons roam. The build that I played at PAX had a weak and strong attack, 2 spells, and a dodge-roll. In the demo build, the combat wasn’t too difficult unless you were getting swarmed by multiple enemies at the same time, but I am guessing that this was an early area in the game. The enemy variety was quite good, with each enemy having unique attacks, and some were more dangerous than others, making you need to prioritise targets in order to survive. Other than the main and pause menus, Elden: Path of the Forgotten’s world uses a different language, so understanding signs or reading books involves some guesswork and player interpretation, which adds to the overall feel of the world.
Thanks to the detailed pixel art, and colour choices, Elden feels dark and moody, which seems to match the narrative well.
I found the character’s walking speed to be a little slow, but you are able to dodge roll at all times, which speeds things up greatly. You just need to make sure that you’re not running out of stamina at the start of a fight if you’re rolling everywhere.
I don’t remember when the developer said that Elden was likely to be released, but it does list 2019 on the Steam store page.
https://store.steampowered.com/app/715020/Elden_Path_of_the_Forgotten/


Little Reaper

Little Reaper is a single player side scrolling platformer.

You play as a tiny reaper named Ollie, trying to collect souls that you accidentally set free, so that your boss, Death himself doesn’t find out. The entire game uses 3D art, which has a semi-cartoony feel to it, which works really well for the theme of the game. Your little reaper is about the size of a mouse, which adds to the non-serious tone, making Little Reaper feel like a platformer of old, which may have had somewhat mature themes, but kept everything feeling lighthearted.
Due to your diminutive size, Ollie needs to make the most of his environment, placing souls in furniture to make it float or removing souls to make it drop in order to create pathways through the well designed levels. The other main movement feature to make use of is that Ollie can throw his Scythe and then teleport to it, allowing bigger jumps and clever platforming tactics to be pulled off.
I didn’t get as much time as I would have liked with Little Reaper, but I did like what I played, and am keen to play more when it’s released.
Little Reaper is coming soon, and the likely release date is January 2020.
https://store.steampowered.com/app/428170/Little_Reaper/


Rooftop Renegade

Rooftop Renegade is a local multiplayer speed runner / shooter.

Each player takes turns speedrunning through a level, and the other players assume the roll of gunners, characters that ride on a vehicle alongside the player and aim to disrupt the runner’s line as much as possible. Gunners aren’t able to hit the player directly, instead they can shoot switches to activate traps, shoot grind rails to disable the speed boost, or even shoot parts of the track to make life difficult for the runner. Once each player has a turn of being the runner, the game ends and one player is declared the winner, based on who performed the best as the runner, and who did the most damage as the gunner. I think if the runner is too slow, they can be caught by law enforcement and this makes the run end early, but it looks as though that was disabled for the PAX demo, as I played horribly as the runner, and a police van came up beside me but nothing bad ever happened.
In the PAX demo, there were 3 gunners to choose from, and one runner, although the final version of the game is going to have multiple runners to choose from too.
I didn’t have the opportunity to talk to the developers too much, but I think there is a single player mode with leaderboards coming to the full game on release too.
https://melonheadgames.com.au/


Hamster Scramble

Hamster Scramble is similar to those bubble launcher games, but instead of controlling a stationary bubble launching turret, you’re given full control of a character running around a set of 2D platforms.

With this freedom, you also have the control to choose the next bubble you will launch, as there are coloured hamsters running around the field. Once you’ve picked one up, you can then fling it up at the top of the stage to attempt to make a match and clear the puzzle. Now if all of this sounds pretty interesting as it is, throw in a few friends and you’ve got the idea behind Hamster Scramble. The game plays with up to 4 players, making two teams of two, in a side by side versus game. Making matches on your side of the field will push an extra row of bubbles down onto your opponents, and, if you prefer the direct approach, you can jump over to your opponent’s side to thow hamsters at their field directly, or steal valuable hamsters, or even attack them to knock hamsters out of their hands.
I was playing with 3 other people, and my opponents never crossed over to our side, making things a little bit less hectic, thankfully enough, as there is already enough happening on screen without extra things to worry about.
The art style is cartoony and cute, and you are able to choose different characters to represent yourself. Not only that, but there are multiple levels to choose from, which each have their own environmental hazards, giving a little extra variety to the game.
If you got a bunch of similarly skilled friends together in Hamster Scramble, I think you’d be in for a very good time.
Hamster Scramble is currently due for release in September 2020, but that date could be subject to change.
https://store.steampowered.com/app/1151100/Hamster_Scramble/


Snow Mercy

Snow Mercy is a 4 player 3rd person shooter with an interesting twist. Each player commands an army of snowmen.

You’ll only start with one, but collecting ice blocks and returning them to base acts as a currency in order to purchase more snowmen to add to your army. There are multiple different types of units, from cheap pistol or uzi wielding snow men, to expensive RPG or minigun wielding ones. I wasn’t able to play the game long enough to learn about their strengths and weaknesses, but you are able to individually command each snowman that you build, telling them to follow you, attack a target, defend a target, or collect ice blocks to further expand your army.
The building and commanding can be done from anywhere using dedicated buttons to open a radial wheel which works extremely well on controller, and is very functional for split-screen play. These small options make the game feel like a real time strategy mixed with a third person shooter, but there is no base building or unit upgrades to get, which keeps it relatively simple. When you have more than one unit on the field, you have the option to swap between them at any time, which is nice, as it allows you to essentially quick travel around the field to gather intel or respond to a threat.
As far as I’m aware, in the demo, the only way to win was to destroy the enemy’s bases, and then defeat their last unit, so it is a very combat-focused game. Note that neither your units nor base can be healed or repaired, so any damage is permanent, making every single encounter matter.
Snow Mercy is still a long way from release, apparently due to land some time in 2021, so many features are subject to change.
https://store.steampowered.com/app/1167610/Snow_Mercy/


Camped Out

Camped out is another game that I saw at PAX last year, but last year it was titled Scout’s Honor.

The new title more accurately describes the gameplay, and it’s probably a little easier to remember, and spell (us Aussies spell Honor with an ‘ou’ [honour]). Camped Out is a cooperative party game for up to 4 players, and each level challenges the players to prepare camp before nightfall. Each individual level in the game has goals that need to be completed, that often require multiple smaller things to be done, such as gather wood in order to start a fire. Players can certainly complete these objectives by themselves, but good teamwork will make the process faster, and that’s the magic of Camped Out. The PAX demo last year had a few levels in it which were fun to play, but the mechanics and controls needed to be explained to players as they picked up the game. Camped Out now features a nice tutorial that plays as an early level. This level teaches players the ropes without all the stress of more advanced features and strenuous performance requirements.
According to the developer, the demo this year features 11 levels to play, but I didn’t have time to see these at PAX this year.
If you’ve ever played party games, you know part of the fun comes from the frantic action, and Camped Out manages to deliver this as players are score based on how quickly they can get everything done. In addition to this, there are now wild animals that will come and steal idle resources, making timely use of resources important, or you’ll find yourself cutting down trees until the sun sets, but you’ll never have that fire roaring.
Camped Out is due for release mid 2020 on Steam, with other platforms coming shortly after.
https://store.steampowered.com/app/840880/Camped_Out/


Fork Knights

Fork Knights is a local multiplayer fencing game for up to 4 players.

Each player takes control of a food-themed knight, and is tasked with taking out the opponents by stabbing them with their fork-sword, or forcing them into environmental traps, such as grills, or pitfalls. Fork Knights has introduced items into the mix too, making things more wacky. You can collect bubblegum, and blow bubbles at your opponents to push them around, or you can throw a banana to try and trip them up, for example. In addition to regularly moving around the map and trying to stab your opponent, you can also launch yourself in any direction, sword first to try and take your opponents by surprise. Be warned though – missing one of these thrusts will leave you vulnerable, so make your shots count.
I played a few levels of Fork Knights, and each level has 3 rounds each, and although I was terrible at the game, I had a lot of fun. The food-themed levels and knights are hilarious, and the action itself just begs for players to be screaming and laughing.
Fork Knights is out now on Steam.
https://store.steampowered.com/app/1097330/Fork_Knights/


Tech Hunter

Tech Hunter is a single player puzzle exploration game. I saw this one at PAX last year, and just like last year, it’s looking absolutely stunning.

The player takes control of a range of different vehicles in order to traverse planets, and then explore bases or caves in order to discover the secrets within. I have been told be the developers that the demo level at PAX this year was a demo-specific level designed to show players a range of mechanics in a shorter time-frame, so the level that I played may not actually end up in the game. Last time, the demo ended just as the player was encountering some special alien tech, but this time around, we actually get to play with some, and are introduced to a new ability, which takes the form of a short-range teleport. I’m very keen to see what other abilities are added as development continues.
Tech Hunter is still quite early in development, and there isn’t a solid release date, but you can see that good progress has been a year on.
If you’re interested in this title, development can be followed here:
https://splitsymmetry.com/


Kaiju Stomp

Kaiju Stomp, formerly Dime Studios brought a great selection of games to play at PAX this year. Lethal Lawns, Spewjitsu, and an untitled space exploration game. With the limited time I had available, I only had a chance to play the latter two, but lethal lawns is already available on Steam.
https://store.steampowered.com/app/821570/Lethal_Lawns_Competitive_Mowing_Bloodsport/
Before I talk about the other two, I will note that they are both quite early in development, have working titles and are subject to change before release.

Spewjitsu

Spewjitsu is a top down brawler of sorts, where the goal of the game is to ram into the other players to defeat them. The trick here, is that you are only able to get to ramming speed by running on your own colored terrain, which you create by shooting a projectile out in front of you. In this manner, it sort of plays like Splatoon, in the sense that you need to cover the arena in your own colour in order to gain the advantage, but the projectiles in Spewjitsu need to be charged up before being fired, so you need to be more deliberate with your shots in order to get a line that you can use to ram your opponents. The current PAX demo had various sauce bottles as characters, which has a nice theme, especially as the sauce bottles can explain the messy projectiles leaving trails, but one of the developers advised me that they are thinking about adding lots of other styles of characters to the game to make it a little more colourful which I think will work very well. Some of the maps in the PAX demo had moving and spinning platforms that really added to the chaos of the whole experience, and I feel as though with a few more months, some even crazier designs will be added to the game making it feel absolutely hectic.
I didn’t play Spewjitsu long enough to see what happens when players ram into each other at the same speed, or how ties will be resolved, but what I did play, I enjoyed thoroughly. While I was checking out the next game, a group of friends jumped in behind me, and I could hear cheers of joy, bursts of laughter and those cries of despair as someone stole a win from the jaws of defeat.

The space game that’s in development was so early in development, I believe the developer told me that it was in the proof of concept phase. The idea was to make a space game with 6-degrees-of-freedom (6DoF) movement, but plays like a discovery-adventure game like Journey. First of all, 6DoF movement describes movement in space, where you can move in every direction, as well as rotate on every axis. The PAX demo starts the player in space, floating toward a wrecked space station. As you proceed toward the space station, you are struck in the head by floating space debris, and slowly lose consciousness. You have a flashback, which explains how you got into your current predicament. You recruit a helper robot to solve some puzzles, and shortly after, the flashback ends. You then awaken back to the current time, and your robot ally joins you, preparing you for the rest of the game. It’s a great opening sequence that simultaneously acts as a tutorial, and it had me begging for more. Unfortunately, that’s where the PAX demo ended, but it was a strong opening, and I am keen to see how it continues. That being said, this one is in very early development, and likely to change a lot before it’s ready for release.
http://www.kaijustomp.com/


Fall Guys

Fall Guys is a 3rd person platformer that had a baby with a Battle Royale.

In the demo, 8 players were given a range of mini games to play, where the last 10 players in each round are eliminated. There were about 60 fall guys in the demo with bots filling the 52ish slots that weren’t human-controlled. In the full version of the game, every single player should be a human, and that should make the earlier games far more heated. The art is cute, with the little fall guys resembling eggs with eyes. In every game mode, the player is able to run, jump, dive, and grab. In general matches, you can use the grab to grab other players and hold them back or push them around, but the grab can also grab items in specific game modes.
In the demo, every round had the same set of game modes in the same order. These are:

  • Door dash: You need to run down a corridor of doors, but some doors are locked, and you will need to change to a different door if you happen to run into one.
  • Block Party: You are in an arena, and walls of blocks race towards you to try and push you off the back of the stage.
  • Egg Grab: 3 teams compete to grab eggs from the centre of the map and take them to their own goal. But, the egg supply won’t last forever, and eggs can be stolen from other players goals too. Grabbing players who are carrying eggs in this mode forces them to drop the egg, giving you a way to counter thieves.
  • Tail Tag: Run around an arena, and try to keep your tail. If you don’t have one, chase someone who does and steal theirs. Hold a tail when the time runs out to advance.
  • Fall Mountain: Race the remaining players up a perilous mountain to grab the crown and secure victory.

Overall, I had a lot of fun playing the PAX demo. As I was climbing Fall Mountain heading toward that crown, I could see someone ahead of me, going to beat me there, but were they going to make the all important jump to reach the crown? My heart was pumping, that’s for sure. It will be interesting to see how this game plays out in the real world with online play. Will the lag be acceptable? Will players be able to join up in a group, and if so, what will stop them from from teaming up even in the all on all games.
Fall Guys is still around 8 months out from release, so there is plenty of time for those questions to be answered.
https://store.steampowered.com/app/1097150/Fall_Guys_Ultimate_Knockout/


Necrobarista

Necrobarista is a visual novel about Melbournian baristas. Yes, You read that right. So, sure enough, you play as a barista, but you don’t serve ordinary clients. The dead rise for one final day, and they will stop by your coffee shop for their final drink.

The game is absolutely gorgeous. The art is 3D, but is shaded in a style that makes it look very much like an anime.
Despite being called a visual novel, Necrobarista gives the player more freedom to move around the environment and interact with their guests, and everything about the PAX demo was ultra-stylish, I couldn’t take my eyes off it.
Necrobarista’s booth at PAX was packed for pretty much the entire time, so I didn’t have much time to play, nor talk to the devs, but I really liked what I saw, and can’t wait to play the full game.
https://store.steampowered.com/app/725270/Necrobarista/


Quantum Suicide

Quantum Suicide is a Visual Novel mixed with what the developer calls a punishment game.

These days it feels like there is another visual novel releasing onto Steam every day, so you might be wondering what makes Quantum Suicide so interesting. Quantum Suicide is set aboard an intergenerational spaceship. This means that the passengers were born on the ship, and will likely die on the ship as it makes it’s long distance space journey. Each of the crew members will be looking to forge life long relationships, and as such, this visual novel will involve dating other members of the crew, but, these NPCs each have their own sexual preferences, but they usually disclose this information up-front. As such, you might spend precious time trying to woo someone who is only interested in you as a friend. Relationship dramas ensue.
As I understand, all of the day-to-day routine stuff like keeping the ship on course for it’s destination, and monitoring of ship systems is handled by an advanced AI unit housed within the ship to make life easier.
Unfortunately for those on board, the AI has become corrupt, and starts up something known as “The deletion game”. At the end of each round of the deletion game, the participant that loses will be murdered. The player must participate in these games actively, and as such, it is possible to lose, and have your journey ended early. Not only is it possible to lose, any one of the crew members can lose, so you’ll need to not only look out for yourself, but for your potential mate, because you wouldn’t want to lose them either. There are 7 courtable NPCs, in the form of 3 men, 3 women, and the AI herself. Quantum Suicide is fully voiced by both English and Japanese Voice actors, depending on player preference.
Apparently there are around 30 endings to experience, so there’s a lot of replay value if you want to try to discover them all. Quantum Suicide is due for release by the end of the year (2019!).
https://store.steampowered.com/app/1020030/Quantum_Suicide/


Giant Margarita

Giant Margarita had 2 games on show this year. One single player game, and one multiplayer party game. Interestingly, the single player game was made by a team of university students, and as I understand, Giant Margarita offered advice and support.

Party Poppers

Party Poppers is the newest game in the ‘party’ series, following Party Golf, and Party Crashers. Party Poppers is a 4 player 2D platforming game where you take control of dragons to compete to pop the most balloons.

These dragons can jump, wall jump, and most importantly, grapple. The grapple movement is the absolute fastest way to get around, and thankfully, is very fun! The levels are designed with enough room to get around comfortably whilst using the grappling hook, but it’s not so spacious so as to make swinging around easy. Party Poppers is a game that’s easy to pick up, but oh so difficult to master, and I love it. As with the previous party games, there are lots of different modes, tonnes of modifiers, including level select, gravity strength, slow/fast mo, number of jumps, number of grapples, and more to come. During my time playing, the lead developer advised me that there are modes where players will be able to take damage, and other modes that make the game play completely differently. I’m curious to see what he has in mind. There were 3 modes available in the PAX demo:

  • Multi-balloon popping: The whole level is populated with around one hundred balloons. The match ends when all the balloons are popped or when the timer runs out. The player who popped the most balloons wins.
  • Single balloon popping: Only one balloon appears on screen at any given time. Once that balloon is popped, another one appears in a random location. Lots of on the fly thinking required for this mode, and sometimes showing restraint and not going for a balloon that you won’t beat someone to is required.
  • Checkpoint race: Race through the checkpoints in order. Once a single player has finished the course, a timer starts, and all the other players have a chance to finish too. If more than one player finishes the course, ties are broken by counting who popped the most balloons.

Also, you can make the little dragons dance. It’s adorable, one control stick wiggles the head, and the other wiggles the tail.
Party Poppers is already out in early access on Steam.
https://store.steampowered.com/app/948790/Party_Poppers/

Squidgies Takeover

This is the title made by the university students. Squidgies Takeover is a physics based puzzle game that plays similar to Lemmings.

The Squidgies are launched out of pipes, and you need to choose an ability and then apply it to a Squidgy in order to modify the level in a way that will push the Squidgies to their goal. The version that I played was played with a Switch Joy-Con, by pointing the controller at the screen. This was very functional, but I was advised that the game was designed to play with the touch screen, so it should feel great when playing in handheld mode too. I think the developers mentioned that there were around 80 levels in the game, but once a level is completed, additional challenges are unlocked to provide extra difficulty, and optional objectives to give the game extra longevity.
The challenges in the level that I played involved completing the level in very specific ways, such as only having the first Squidgy survive, or launching all of the Squidgies out a particular part of the level, so it looks like these were made individually for each level, instead of all of them being generic “finish in under XX seconds” goals or similar. The art has a nice cartoony style to it, and the Squidgies are adorable. I think I’d feel a little bad if I let too many of them fall to their deaths.
Squidgies Takeover is coming to Nintendo Switch in November.
http://squidgiestakeover.com/


Espire1: VR Operative

Espire1: VR Operative is the VR game that I’ve been waiting for. Don’t get me wrong, there are already a bunch of great VR titles, but Espire1 absolutely nails the stealth gameplay.

Part of the brilliance of Espire1 is the fact that you actually play as an Espire agent, a human that is using VR technology to remote into robots known as drones that perform the actions for you. A lot of people who have tried VR know that moving around in VR whilst you are standing still can cause nausea, as it confuses your brain. In order to avoid that problem in Espire1, when performing movement, you see through the eyes of the operator, looking at a screen of the movement. The end result is that you can see the motion clearly, but your surroundings stay still, allowing you to see the movement in full, but you don’t get the nausea because your character is stationary in game. If you’re a seasoned VR player, or a lucky one that doesn’t get motion sickness in VR, you can disable this feature, staying in the eyes of the drone at all times, keeping you fully immersed in the infiltration.
With the clever solution to motion sickness out of the way, Espire1 does so many things right. A stealth game that plays how a Stealth fan would expect – You can lethally eliminate enemies, or take them out non-lethally if you prefer. You’re able to sneak through vents, climb to high ground, peek around corners and more to avoid detection. Depending on your preferred playstyle, you can sneak past enemies, or aim to take them all down – the choice is yours. Just make sure to drag the bodies somewhere inconspicuous so that there’s no risk of them being discovered.
There are plenty of gadgets and weaponry to make use of, and everything in game feels natural. Espire1 is in a great state, and is quite close to release, but the developers wanted a bit more time with it to ensure that it will deliver a great experience for everyone.
Espire1: VR Operative is likely to be released some time in 2019, but the exact release date is currently unconfirmed.
https://store.steampowered.com/app/669290/Espire_1_VR_Operative/


Brimstone Brawlers

Brimstone Brawlesr is a top-down brawler game. Compete in brutal matches where the goal of the game is to be the player who gets the most kills.

The demo I played at PAX had about 10 character to choose from, and each character had a unique playstyle. Each character had a basic attack and 3 abilities. Throughout matches, I noticed that a pie can drop in the map. This pie acts like the Smash ball in Super Smash Brothers, so when it appears on the map, all of the players will rush the pie to try to damage it and be the one to break it. The player that breaks the pie gets an ultimate ability that can be used to do devastating damage to enemies. In Brimstone Brawlers, enemies can be defeated by reducing their health to zero, or by knocking them off the stage.
The levels seem to be well crafted to allow for some risky battle zones, and some safer areas, and I imagine that with more experience, and knowledge of how the characters work, I would have noticed that some characters have an advantage if they can lure enemies into fighting in areas that they dominate in. I only had a chance to play two games at PAX.
I chose a Wraith character for my first game. When the Wraith hit characters with it’s abilities, it knocked the souls out of the opponents. These souls would sit still, allowing the Wraith to come up and hit them with it’s scythe, which would do more damage than hitting enemies directly with the scythe. This playstyle was completely different from my second character, the Countess, who was a builder-style character. The Countess would throw seeds into the ground which built up big spikey vines that would shoot at far enemies, and whip nearby ones. The vines heatlh constantly decayed, but hitting them with the countess’ attacks would regenerate their health, giving her a sort of support role to her own turrets. I found the countess really difficult to play, but that makes sense, seeing as she wasn’t a beginner character, and it was my only second game. I feel as though the Wraith was a more intermediate difficulty character, as some of the characters my opponents were playing as seemed to have simpler “hit the enemy” mechanics that didn’t require extra steps to do maximum damage. With that in mind, it’s good to know that there are characters to suit all player skill levels, and those that are dedicated to the game will be able to master their favorites, given time.
The most important thing for the developers to get right in Brimstone Brawlers will be the balancing of so many unique characters. As I was quite inexperienced, I have no idea what the balance is like at the moment, but you can currently sign up for the alpha by joining the developer’s discord here:
https://discord.gg/ZgKGuyD
Brimstone Brawlers is currently being developed for Steam, and will be released to Early Access when the developers are ready to release it to the wild.
https://store.steampowered.com/app/780270/Brimstone_Brawlers/


Metal Heads

Metal Heads is a party game that pits up to 8 players locally or online head to head in a range of minigames to see who is best.

Metal Heads plays somewhat like Mario Party, but all of the mini games that I played were more difficult than what I’m used to in a Mario Party game. Each minigame put the players in control of their own little character with a metal head (hence the name), and needed to complete some survival challenge. In the full version of the game, there will be many more mini games of different varieties, and some of these may have even been available in the PAX demo, but I didn’t have a chance to try every single game.
The PAX demo was only a minigame marathon, but the full release of the game is due to have board game modes too, in order to pace the action. During my playtime I was advised that one of the key ideas behind metal heads is that all the minigames are skill-based, with as little randomness or luck as possible. This applies not only to the minigames, but the board games too. Players are supposed to be able to platform their own way around the board, collecting bonus items, jumping over pitfalls, and taking risky shortcuts. Metal Heads is due for release on steam in 2020 with other platforms to follow.
https://store.steampowered.com/app/1132670/Metal_Heads/


Baron: Fur Is Gonna Fly

Baron: Fur is Gonna Fly is a local multiplayer dogfighting game where everyone is flying biplanes.

Each player chooses an animal pilot, a plane, a super weapon, and then the chaos begins. Baron plays from a side-on perspective, and all players play on a shared-screen. The few rounds I played at PAX were in basic free for all deathmatch mode, but there is also a teams option available. I’m not sure if there are other modes available, but I can confirm that deathmatch is very fun and easy to grasp – Get points for kills. The real genius with Baron is the gameplay balance. As you’re all flying biplanes, they don’t take particularly well to flying upward, slowing to a crawl the more directly vertical you travel. When diving toward the ground, you will pick up speed, allowing you to perform advanced maneuvers faster, and more easily. Every biplane comes with a machine gun, which takes between 10 hits to down a plane, so it is very normal for planes to be partially damaged after confrontations, but this damage is displayed by how much smoke is coming out of your plane. Experienced players may be able to read the health of other player’s planes more easily, but at least early on, there is enough going on, that it is difficult to inspect who has the most damage and target them, which works in favor of the game, and adds another level of mastery.
The 13 special weapons all have different strengths and weaknesses, but in order to fire them, you need to build up your special gauge first. The gauge fills when you damage an opponent, or get damaged yourself. I’m not 100% sure of the charge rates, or if certain weapons charge slower than others, but I imagine that this would be the case, as while I was playing, I was chatting with one of the developers, and they told me that balance is very important to them. They want every plane and super weapon to feel equally useful, and don’t want a situation where only one choice is the ‘right’ choice. Baron: Fur is Gonna Fly is due early 2020, with an estimated release date of February.
https://store.steampowered.com/app/1134370/Baron_Fur_Is_Gonna_Fly/


Operation Armstrong

Operation Armstrong is an asymmetrical co-op secret agent game. In this game, one player takes the role of the agent, putting on a VR headset, and is tasked with breaking into various guarded locations in order to hack computers or complete other objectives.

The agent wont stand a chance alone though, and will need to be supported by other players. These players take the role of the hackers, who’s role is to support the agent. These players are able to watch a screen, which allows them to provide the agent feedback in realtime, advising where to go to proceed through the level, warn of dangers, and advise the agent of where patrols are, and how to best hid from them. I have played games with this asymmetrical co-op before, but Operation Armstrong is particularly genius because of the setting in which the game can be played. Everyone can be together supporting the agent in the same room, the more players, the more noise, and the harder it is for the agent to decide who to listen to when taking instruction. Not only are the hackers watching the map to assist the agent verbally, but they are also able to connect to a server with their smart phones, which allows them to hack doors, cameras, and even guards, if the agent happens to be spotted.
Again, the developers advise that Operation Armstrong has no player limit – multiple players are able to connect their smartphones and contribute to the hacking effort. This multiplayer is drop in and drop out, so it doesn’t matter if you’re there when the mission starts, or if you need to take a break before the mission ends. This makes the hackers active participants in the action, and provides them with distractions, making everything a little more exciting and intense. I didn’t get to play this one with friends, and I wasn’t able to complete a level, but I am very keen to get a group of friends together to give this a proper go when it comes out. There is currently no estimate on when Operation Armstrong is likely to be released.
https://store.steampowered.com/app/1145490/Operation_Armstrong/


Ailuri

Some of you may remember that I saw Ailuri at PAX last year. The platforming action adventure game starring an adorable red panda.

Last years PAX demo had me playing a combat challenge in an arena. Since the last time we saw Ailuri, the team has been hard at work on providing a better snapshot of the game in demo form. Ailuri now has story, including some cutscenes. The player is able to experience a level with enemies, and platforming challenges. Overall the experience is much better, and although I don’t remember exactly how Ailuri played, the controls feel tighter, and the gameplay feels more polished. Overall, Ailuri is coming along well, but it is still over a year from release. There is good news for people who are looking to play this as soon as possible though – Ailuri will have a demo in around a month!
Last year I mentioned how adorable the art is, and nothing has changed on this front. I suggested to the team that they should sell the shirts that they were wearing, and sure enough, this year they had completely sold out of merchandise by the time I got to their booth. The lead artist advised me that they are hoping to open an online store soon, so that’s something to look forward to.
Ailuri is likely due in 2020, and doesn’t have a store page on steam, but if you’re looking to check it out, head to the developer’s webpage.
https://www.vivinkstudios.com/


Hot Brass

Hot Brass is a top-down tactical shooter, where the goal is to get in, complete your objective, and get out again minimising casualties on both sides.

Hot Brass can be played cooperatively for up to 4 players, but you’ll need to make sure your teamwork is on point because Hot Brass doesn’t mess around. The developers advised me that one of the key influences of Hot Brass are the old Swat games, and another series that I don’t remember (sorry readers!). Even walking makes noise, so you’ll need to plan your infiltration of enemy strongholds carefully. If an enemy gets the drop on you, not only are you and your squad in danger, but the hostages are too. Hot Brass is not a run and gun, even walking makes noise, so you’ll need to be mindful of how you approach, taking the time to carefully cover corners, as you don’t know where enemies are until your player has line of sight. In order to succeed, you’ll need to make use of good teamwork, tactical thinking, and a healthy use of swat gadgets. As the players proceed through the campaign, they will be able to upgrade their equipment to get better guns, and more gadgets which will help as the levels get harder and harder.
Another thing worth mentioning about hot brass is that all of the characters in the game are represented by icons, instead of top down player art. These icons work very well for the game, as the icon itself will change depending on what the character is holding, what action they are performing, and what your enemies intentions are. For example, sprinting will make the gun that you have equipped sway from side to side, and it reads very clearly as sprinting. I don’t think I’ve ever seen top-down games handled like this, but it makes it easier to read the action at a glance, as well as providing a better feel for what the character is actually doing, as most games with top-down 2D art have quite simplistic character sprites.
Hot Brass has no estimated release date yet.
https://store.steampowered.com/app/892860/Hot_Brass/


Henry Mosse and the Wormhole Conspiracy

Henry Mosse and the Wormhole Conspiracy is a point and click adventure game with a great art style and some solid writing.

This is another title that I had the pleasure of viewing at PAX last year. Last year we had a level where the player was dropped in at an unknown point in the story. This year, the PAX demo focuses on the start of the game. We get to see Henry Mosse in his home, and get a great introduction to the story and the characters in the game. It certainly helped me connect with the characters, and I’m keen to learn about their journey and where Henry Mosse will go.
Last year I was told that the unique point about this point and click adventure is that puzzles will have multiple solutions, allowing players to solve them in a way that is natural to them, and that it would take around 5 hours to beat. As I understand, the planned length of the game hasn’t changed, but now there are branching story options that change how the rest of the game plays out, adding extra replay value. Release is planned for early next year.
https://store.steampowered.com/app/1131880/Henry_Mosse_and_the_Wormhole_Conspiracy/


Drill7

Drill7 is a two-button space sim for android and iOS. You control a shuttle that has a left and right thruster.

The Left button activates the left thruster and the right button activates the right thruster. A simple premise, but Drill7 is particularly difficult to master. At PAX, the developer had built a miniature arcade box with two buttons, connected to a tablet which is housed inside the box. The buttons had nice feedback that felt like an old arcade machine, and it definitely added something to the game, but I purchased Drill7 after leaving PAX, and playing it on my phone is still a great experience because the gameplay itself is solid, and navigating tricky sections invokes a great amount of satisfaction when done well.
Drill7 is made more difficult as levels start introducing more dangerous hazards, and trickier sections to navigate through. The levels are particularly well designed, with hazards forcing you to take risky flight paths. Getting hit by the hazard will damage your ship, which you need to avoid, but flying quickly through a section and hitting a wall is also going to take a big chunk out of your health, so accuracy is key. With all of this in mind, you also need to get through the levels with limited fuel, so as the levels start getting longer, the pressure is on. Although I’m making this sound stressful, Drill7 does progress at a sensible pace, and I never felt like I wasn’t ready for the challenge presented to me.
Drill7 is out now on Google Play and the iOS App Store.
https://jodogames.com/games/drill-7/


BULLSHIT

Based off the card game by the same name, Bullshit is a digital card game that gives players the opportunity to lie about what they are playing.

Bullshit can be played single player, or multiplayer over a local network. Players play cards one number either side of the last card played. For example, if the previous card was a 3, the next player can legally play up to four 2s or 4s. Due to the limitations of cards that can be played, players will often be forced to play cards that aren’t the legal cards. As all cards are played face-down, you’ll never know if a player is actually playing the cards that they claim to be playing. After a player has played between 1 and 4 cards, every other player has the chance to call ‘Bullshit’. At this point, the cards that were just played will be checked. If the player is lying, they must pick up every card that has been played to this point, but if they were truthful, the accusing player gets the penalty instead. This style of gameplay means that players who are trying to get away with a lie might only claim to play one card, but this behaviour will get picked up on quickly, and playing single cards will be viewed as suspicious, meaning that intentionally playing only one card truthfully might catch a player out, forcing them to pick up the pile before you need to.
In the PAX demo, I only played single player, but the experience was still quite enjoyable. Correctly accusing another player of cheating gives the player a special one time use powerup that can turn the tides in their favor.
Bullshit features a bull that will poop all over the cards that the player is playing, and whilst the game’s toilet humour turned me off, the developer advised that some people really liked it.
Bullshit will be available soon on the Google Play and Apple App Store.
http://playbullshit.com/

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