We saw a lot in our time at PAX this year. And there were a lot more titles on the show floor that I’m sure we missed. Still, there were a few standouts for me, and I’ve provided a brief overview for each below.
Party Golf, by Giant Margarita
To be honest, going in to PAX, I had little interest in Party Golf. I took a look at some screenshots online and decided it looked interesting, but I didn’t plan to spend too much time with it. That was my mistake, as Party Golf turned out to be one of the most enjoyable titles I played at PAX – but this was likely due to the fact I played it with a 3 friends as opposed to strangers. Still – it was a blast.
Playing like a cross between Desert Golfing and Worms, up to 4 players are plonked onto a procedurally-generated environment, on which a flag is also located – this is, of course, the “hole”. Players then tee off at the same time (left stick to control strength and direction, and a single button to tee off), and chaos commences. The beauty of Party Golf doesn’t so much lie in its simplicity, though – more so in its complexity. Prior to starting a match, players can select one of many variations to the gameplay, from landscape design, to fog of war (which clears a section of the screen only when a player has ventured there), to ball shape (we used “fruit salad”, which made us all a piece of fruit) and many more besides – to list them all would take an inordinate amount of time and space. Keep in mind that this is a physics game, after all, so all of the changes can affect gameplay in many weird and wonderful ways, leading to screams and arguments (one of the developers mentioned that one of their personal KPIs is “TTS” – time to screaming, which made me chuckle).
There is currently a Kickstarter running – do yourself a favour and check it out, it will be a blast at parties. Coming to PC and PS4 in 2016.
Cuphead, by Studio MDHR
Cuphead has been on my radar for some time – when I first saw it briefly on Microsoft’s E3 2014 sizzle reel (like many others, I assume), I had to know what it was. Looking like a cartoon from the 1930s, and playing like a side-scrolling shoot-’em-up, it has personality in droves, and it was playable this year at PAX.
To be honest, it wasn’t immediately what I expected – I hadn’t paid enough attention to the game, it seems, as it turns out that it is a collection of boss battles accessible via a world map, as opposed to a pure side scrolling shooter. This isn’t a bad thing, though, just surprising. The bosses themselves are varied, and often took place over multiple locations in an environment, so it felt like a side scroller in some ways, even though it wasn’t. And let’s face it – most of the fun in side scrollers is in the boss encounters anyway (Gunstar Heroes being a prime example).
Most importantly, though, Cuphead is tough as nails. In fact, I found myself dying far more often than my pride would accept, and I felt the eyes of other PAX-goers burning at my screen for the first few attempts. Soon enough, I grasped the concept of the fairly basic move set (shoot, jump, jump-slap, and special) and took those bosses OUT. Well… a couple of them. I’ll leave the rest until release, which is set for sometime in 2016.
Star Wars: Battlefront, by DICE/EA
I’m sure many of you have either seen videos or played the Beta, so there’s not much I need to say here, apart from OMGHOLYCRAPBBQJESUS. Battlefront is immensely enjoyable – it’s not a huge achievement in terms of first-person shooters (and in reality, if it wasn’t attached to this particular franchise, I would be interested to see the kind of response it would receive), but given it so immaculately represents the Star Wars universe, it has leapt straight to the top of my must-haves for November (it’s in a tussle with Fallout 4, to be honest, but that will sort itself out soon enough). It looks gorgeous, it plays smoothly, it provides access to everything a Star Wars fan would want access to, the weapons feel and sound great – it’s the perfect platform for a bad-ass Star Wars game.
At PAX, though, I played it co-op with friends. And that was a blast – I’m looking forward to some split-screen couch co-op in the very near future. And if you don’t already know, it’s due out November 19.
Just Cause 3, by Avalanche Studios/Square Enix
I wasn’t a fan of Just Cause 1 or 2 – I don’t quite know why, I just didn’t enjoy either, for some reason. Perhaps I wasn’t quite grabbed by the story, or perhaps I felt that the controls didn’t meet my lofty expectations – I’m not really sure, because I didn’t play either for long enough to determine exactly what it was that repelled me.
Still, I decided to give Just Cause 3 a try at PAX this year. The demo was substantial – there was an area in which players could try virtually everything that the game has on offer – a bunch of weapons, a couple of vehicles, the all-important grapple, and of course, the parachute. It all played quite well, and it looked great, but the real telling point was the fact that I could navigate the environment and take out enemies with the ease of someone that was well-versed with the mechanics. It felt so good – and so fun – that I’m now watching this one with a keen eye. I’m excited to get my action hero on when it’s released on December 1… If I have the cash.
Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water, by Koei Tecmo/Nintendo
I’m not sure what to say about this one – PAX wasn’t exactly the best environment for a slow-paced, Japanese horror RPG. Much of the demo environment involved searching through rooms or running from scary ghosts that resembled those from The Grudge – a Japanese horror movie I thoroughly enjoyed. The loud noises coming from the rest of PAX did not allow for any kind of ambience, and I wasn’t able to concentrate or enjoy the demo in any way. Regardless, it LOOKED like something I would enjoy, and I will certainly look into this soon enough… as it has already been released!
Blockpocalypse, by Dime Studios
My notes that I quickly jotted down after playing this particular title were limited, but they give a quick rundown as to my feelings on the title: “tops and ace multiplayer fun”. Blockpocalypse was another of what seemed to be a constant theme at this year’s PAX – multiplayer party games (and games with hard-to-pronounce titles).
Here, players choose a quirky character and work together to escape “the apocalypse”. They do so by using debris in the environment to build their way up as high as possible – to escape the rising lava, of course. If they reach the top, they are saved by a helicopter and taken… somewhere else, where the apocalypse is yet to hit, I would imagine. The beauty of Blockpocalypse is in the various game modes, though – the base game mode was fun, but there were others to look into. The only other one I saw was a take on iDARB – players pick up a basketball and try to score on the other team, while the other team throws TNT at them.
It was very simple (there were only two controls – pick up/throw object, and jump), and I only had a limited time with it, but I can see Blockpocalypse being a part of future game parties.
The Bloody Inn, by Pearl Games
During some downtime (yes, there was some downtime), a couple of us decided to go and borrow one of the tabletop games available in the tabletop area. While we ummed and ahhhed over the choices, one of the Enforcers approached us and suggested we try The Bloody Inn, which was a new game only just received and tested the day before. Clearly, we decided to give it a crack, and – just our luck – we were then approached by one of PAX’s friendly teachers, who offered to run us through the basics.
The Bloody Inn is essentially a board game, but it leans heavily toward being a card game, as the board itself is so small and plays only a minor part in the game. It essentially represents the rooms of the inn, and includes a counter for player coins, and that’s all. Considering players aren’t moving about the board, it almost seems superfluous, but that’s besides the point.
The point is – the game is fun. Players represent part-owner’s of the inn, and each “owns” one room to start the game. The eight rooms are populated by guest cards, and the point is to essentially bribe certain guests to help you with certain tasks, or kill them to steal their money. How to win? After a set number of rounds, the player with the most money is declared the winner. It’s really very simple, but it does require some forethought in terms of your actions. While we didn’t quite play it enough to merit a full review, I can say that we all enjoyed this one (and I won, so that was also a bonus). Look for this at your favourite purveyor of tabletop games.
Inflatality, by Hojo Studio
At first glance, Inflatality looks ridiculous – two wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube men battling it out to see who’s the toughest. And it’s MEANT to be ridiculous. Born from the musings of a four-year-old, Inflatality puts you in the “shoes of one of these inflatable dudes, and limits control to body and arms only (i.e., you can’t move left and right, only bob and weave, in a fashion). The physics of movement is affected by the air that is passing through your body (of course), and learning how to move and how to attack is all part of the fun.
Initially, I couldn’t get it. Moving the arms felt understandably floaty, and I didn’t understand the physics of the movement. As a result, I lost both rounds of my first three games. By the end of the third game, though, I learnt how to manipulate the body, how to independently control the arms, and how to use the special attack – all of which were vitally important to winning. Needless to say, I won both rounds of the fourth match, and that was clearly the deciding match (although Tim may disagree).
It was a blast, but in this early version (this build was only 6 months old), it was a little limited. The developers plan to add other modes and more special moves (among other things, I’m sure), and I expect this will bolster the already highly enjoyable competitive gameplay, but I’m unsure how this would work in single player. No release date planned, and Tim is working on a slightly more detailed article.
Objects in Space, by FlatEarth Games
When I saw Objects in Space, I knew I had to try it – it reminded me very much of old space titles that I used to play as a young’un (but not fully understand) on my PC in the late ’80s/early ’90s. In fact, it played much that way as well – click on the map to plot a course, turn up the throttle, click an on screen button to put the ship in automatic, and so on. More than that, though, there were multiple screens that showed a bunch of different information – weapons, engineering, scanning and so on, screens that would have been shuffled between using function keys in the past, but now are accessible by clicking on them from the main GUI, which approximates what a captain might want to see laid out on the bridge of a ship.
What makes this more interesting is that the game is a space trading game, so in the course of your travels, you get to pick and choose the components that make up your ship – but choose wisely, because that cheap component might fail at a crucial moment in battle… Not only is Objects in Space customisable in game, but it also supports custom controls, allowing players to build their own control panel on their desk, so they can prime their weapons and fire torpedoes using a more realistic and tactile control system, and all built themselves… Whether or not this is something that would appeal to many out there remains to be seen, but it is a pretty novel idea. Current launch date for PC and Mac is sometime in 2016.