The Big Fat PAX East Anticipation List

Last year was my first PAX and it tried to beat me to death with the sheer volume of Amazing on display.  I thought I’d done good research before attending, but PAX East laughed at my feeble attempts before dumping what seemed like every game in the entire world on my head.  There are worse problems to have than getting overwhelmed with incredible things to look at everywhere you turn, but this year I’ve expanded my research to be a bit more ready for the inevitable time-crush as everything says “Look at me now!”, all at once.  These are the things I’m looking forward to seeing that I know about in advance, with handy links where applicable to things we’ve said about the games in the past-

  • Affordable Space Adventures –  I loved the look and feel of this asymmetrical co-op side-scrolling exploration game at E3 last year and can’t wait to see what the last several months of development have done to it.  Up to three players control a space ship so low-bugdet it doesn’t even have automated systems, so one player moves, another controls engineering in charge of the ships subsystems, and another runs the headlight and scanner.  If everyone works together then you get an exciting adventure, but that’s a pretty big “if”.
  • Catlateral Damage –  You’re a cat knocking all the things onto the floor.  Sometimes it’s fun to be a jerk kitty.

  • Curve Digital’s Booth –  They’ve got a couple of games that are high on my interest list, including the larcenous stealth/platformer The Swindle, plus an “unnanounced game” that I’m really hoping turns out to be Basingstoke.  It’s not an unreasonable hope, seeing as Curve will also be showing off Puppygames’ Ultratron.
  • Enter the Gungeon –  A rogue-like dungeon crawler where you have a billion different guns to tear through hundreds of ridiculous enemies while avoiding brutal traps, return fire bullet-swarms, and inevitable encroaching doom?  Yes please!  Check out the video, it’s even got a bullet-pope.  There is no way this can be anything but awesome with a bullet pope.  (Note- probably a bullet cardinal, but bullet pope sounds better.)

  • Gathering Sky –  You are a bird, flying alone above a free-scrolling landscape.  Gather other birds to create a flock and ride the airstreams home.  Everything I’ve seen on this is looks utterly lovely.
  • Harmonix’s Booth – Harmonix has three games on display at PAX East, and all of them are worth a look.  Amplitude survived its Kickstarter and has been in steady development ever since.  A City Sleeps was a surprise release last year, and while it’s been out since October I’ve never gotten any time with it.  Music Visualizer VR gets its first public showing, and while maybe it’s just what it sounds like from the title (a music visualizer you strap to your face), maybe it’s more than that too.  The Harmonix blog post also mentions other possible surprises, which doesn’t sound much like the rumored Rock Band update but should still be interesting to see.
  • Homesick – A lovely, desolate first-person adventure game set in a sun-saturated ruined building.  You need to do the usual puzzle solving to recover your memories as to why you’re here, living in this peaceful but abandoned building, while also surviving the terrible dark threats of the night.  Homesick is a beautiful combat-free puzzler in a wonderfully atmospheric setting, and I’ve been looking forward to solving its mysteries for a while.

  • Jotun – A hand-drawn and animated adventure combat game starring a Norse warrior who has to prove herself worthy of Valhalla after dying poorly.  Thora explores the arctic afterlife to find runes to summon the giant elemental Jotun, and then engages in epic boss battles to take them out.  The design of Thora and the one Jotun that’s been shown so far are fantastic and their movements filled with power.  While the Jotun fight looks like a properly epic encounter, the exploration part has yet to be shown off, so it will be great to finally see how the two elements fit together.
  • Just Shapes and Beats –  Bullet dodging techno-music filled swarms of arcade gaming color and sound.  Oh yes, that sounds lovely, thanks!
  • Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes –  One person is in the Oculus Rift and they see a bomb.  The other players are outside the Rift and they have the instructions.  If people can communicate then it’s all going to be ok.  Obviously, everything is going to end in tears and charred limbs.
  • The Magic Circle –  You’re the protagonist of an unfinished first person game where the developers can’t agree on much of anything.  Your job, then, is to figure out the best way to finish the game up from the inside, reprogramming enemy AI to work in new and helpful ways.  The more enemies you capture the more behaviors you can program into them, which can not only give you some badass minions but also get you past the incomplete levels.

  • Mini Metro – A semi-minimalist puzzle game about running subway lines in a growing city.  Turning simple parts into complicated machinery is pure tasty brain-candy.
  • Ninja Pizza Girl –  While the games’ home page talks about the story themes Ninja Pizza Girl explores, what I liked about the demo was that it’s a speed-runner set in hand-crafted worlds filled with alternate paths and hidden pickups.  I’ve already survived my own personal trip through the shit-factory known as high school, so I don’t need to be told that people can be vicious dicks.  On the other hand, I do like the characters and the action, plus Ninja Pizza Girl is a killer job title.
  • Oculus Rift Booth –  I have no idea what they’ll be displaying in this booth, but I do know I can’t wait to see it.
  • Rise & Shine – I’d like to say that this came out of nowhere after being announced on Friday as one of the Adult Swim games on display, but researching it turned up a gameplay trailer from last June so obviously I must not have been paying attention.  It’s an intricately-detailed side-scrolling run & gun where you’re a kid named Rise wielding the gun Shine, defending the world of classic gaming against the invasion of the bald Space Grunts.  While this is a battle that has clearly already been won by the classic gaming side in the real world, Rise’s quest looks utterly amazing thanks to the near-obsessive detail put into the backgrounds and enemy designs.

  • Rive – Another side-scrolling shooter?  Oh ok, I guess I can be persuaded.  Rive is the newest from the rebooted developer Two Tribes, starring a little robot who can both shoot and hack into his robotic enemies.  Most of the information so far shows a whole lot of colorful, hyperactive, intensely kinetic shooting, which, to be perfectly honest, is more than enough to get my full attention, but you can also hack into enemies to get past sensors or even provide a helpful boost to new areas.
  • Sentris –  Sentris has come a very long way since its Kickstarter demo.  It’s a combination music/puzzle game, with each piece you drop adding to the background track.  You can play either as a puzzle game, or to make the best music possible, or find a balance in between.  Honestly, it’s a hard one to explain and I haven’t had any time with it since its Kickstarter days, but I’m hoping to remedy that on the show floor.
  • Steamworld Heist –  While technically a sequel to the excellent Steamworld Dig, Heist is a turn-based side-scrolling strategy game about breaking and entering and stealing… something.  Honestly, hard info is a bit difficult to come by.  The game’s FAQ uses the phrase “roguelike”, so maybe there’s random levels to go with the hand-built ones?  Permadeath for the recruits you hire to help with the heists?  It’s hard to say at the moment, but the Steamworld games have been very good so far and I have no worries this one will follow suit.  Plus maybe it could hint at what on earth happened to Steamworld to shatter it into thousands of pieces?

  • Thumper –  This is a game from a pair of former Harmonix developers, and as expected with that pedigree it’s a music game.  Specifically, it’s described as a “rhythm violence game”, which is a completely irresistible genre description.  You’re a chromed-out beetle racing down a neon-colored track towards a spiky metal death’s head because… um…  that’s what chromed-out beetles do?  I don’t try to make sense of these things, I just want to play it!
  • Titan Souls –  Originally a Ludum Dare entry in the You Only Get One game jam, Titan Souls has been expanded far beyond its initial scope.  You’ve got one arrow to take on a number of huge, unique bosses, but thankfully it’s both unbreakable and retrievable.  You can check out the original here right now, and it’s highly recommended if you haven’t already.
  • Vagante – I’ll admit I’ve got a weakness for the action roguelike.  Binding of Isaac, Catacomb Kids, Overture, Ziggurat, Tower of Guns, Don’t Starve, Diehard Dungeon, Eldritch, Delver, etc.  Vagante is a side-scrolling rogue-like that landed on Early Access back in December.  I’ll admit that the only experience I’ve had with Vagante so far was its Kickstarter demo, but that was more than enough to put Vagante on the watch list.

You’d think that would be enough but there’s actually still more to see.  Axiom Verge, Black Ice, Broforce, Castle Story, Cosmochoria, Freedom Planet, Nuclear Throne, Subaeria, and We Are Doomed are all getting a booth visit, and I’m pretty sure I’ve left out a few as well.  There are three eight hour days (plus I’m pretty sure press gets an extra hour in the morning of Day 1) but that’s still a lot of ground to cover, not even taking into account how incredibly fun it is to discover the unexpected.  You can go in ready for bear, armed with as much info as the internet could ever provide, but one of the best things of a show like PAX (or E3, or any other major gaming event) is discovery.  Half the fun is checking out all the games, events, and panels you know you’re looking forward to.  The other half, however, is learning about and finding what you didn’t know you wanted.