The PAX East 2017 Roundup

Since its first year in 2010, PAX East has become one of Boston’s fastest growing events. With more than 70,000 attendees each year, PAX East is the second largest gaming convention in the country–second only to PAX Prime in Washington. This year, we at The Lifecast traversed the enormous show floor, long lines, and overpriced food to share with you some of our best (and worst) finds in upcoming games. I, in particular, played 18 of the countless games to be found at PAX East. Allow me to share with you on the titles I played, with hopes that you’ll find something interesting if the this week’s episode of the podcast didn’t satiate your appetite for PAX feedback.

 

StarCrossed

via contigo-games.itch.io

The first game I played at PAX East, Contigo Games’s StarCrossed is a cute, co-op shoot-em-up. You and a partner play as your choice from a set of (very well drawn) magical girls in space, and you bounce a star between yourselves to eliminate enemies. It’s a pretty simple game meant for casual fun. It’s pong in space, but with magical girls.

 

The American Dream

Samurai Punk’s The American Dream is everything I’ve ever wanted in a satirical, Australian-made game about America. Nay, The American Dream is everything I’ve ever wanted in a shooter game in general. It’s a VR shooter that takes you on a 1950’s-style educational amusement park ride that’s all about the American lifestyle–meaning it’s all about guns. Everything from baby’s first shots, working in a bagel factory, etc.

The demo begins with you as a baby, learning how to use guns, and being asked questions by your mom and (of course) shooting the right answers. You’re then forwarded to adult life, where you work in a bagel factory. As you’d expect, you shoot the holes in the bagels (and sometimes, shooting rats off of the conveyor belt). The demo ends shortly after that.

The visuals, responsiveness, and general 1950’s aesthetic were all fine in this game, but what stood out to me the most about this was its incredible sense of humor that’s even visible in the promotional image for this game that you can see above in the thumbnail for the trailer. It’s a game that knows its own brand of humor better than most, and can therefore use it better than most (and, needless to say, it does exactly that). Taking the humor from this game, you’re left with a pretty standard VR shooter without any special qualities–therefore, if you’re looking for a thrilling VR shooter then this definitely isn’t what you’re looking for. Additionally, although certainly not the only thing that makes this game funny but a part of it, is that Second Amendment rights are quite a hot topic in America lately–therefore, I don’t see this game aging very well. But for now, if you’re in the mood for some delicious satire to be found in a game, then this is absolutely perfect.

 

Final Fantatsy XV Episode Gladiolus

I’d like to preface this by saying that I have a lot of mixed feelings about Final Fantasy XV, but this article isn’t meant to be a review on it, but the demo for Episode Gladiolus–a DLC campaign where you play as Gladiolus, finding out what his “important business” was in Ch. 7 of the main game. The controls are essentially the same from the main game, but there are some slight changes since we are playing as a different character with a different fighting style from Noctis. I’m not a fan of the gameplay in the main game, and Episode Gladiolus is no different in this respect, if not a bit slower, but if you don’t mind the main game’s gameplay then you won’t mind it in Episode Gladiolus either. That can be said about most of the demo, to be perfectly honest–if you don’t like the way X was done in the main game, you won’t like it in Episode Gladiolus either. It’s meant to be an extra chapter to expand on the game, and as such, is meant to fit in with the main game–which it does. Above all, what this short demo did was get me excited about when the Prompto episode will come out, as it felt too short and overall lacking. Although not awful, it didn’t get me excited or interested in playing the full episode once it’s out.

 

Victor Vran

I’m not normally a fan of top-down action games–Victor Vran is no exception. Normally I wouldn’t have even given this game a second thought, but they were promoting their Motorhead-themed DLC, and being a big fan of Motorhead, I thought I’d give it a shot.

The Motorhead-themes were definitely present–you could use a guitar as a weapon, attacks and yells were referencing Motorhead songs, but that’s the limitation of where my interest was. Gameplay felt uninspired and plain. The map felt cluttered and disorganized. And, as I mentioned before, I’m just not a fan of top-down action games like this. Had I not seen the Motorhead logo on their booth, I wouldn’tve tried this game at all. And, sure to my pattern of not liking games like this, I didn’t care for the very forgettable Victor Vran.

 

We Know the Devil

A visual novel by Date Nighto, We Know the Devil is the story of a group of kids at a Christian summer camp and what they find there. Although the best of the 3 visual novels I played at PAX, this game did seem decent, but not remarkable. The demo did little to set up the story and failed to provide any kind of narrative hook for the player to latch onto in its short 10 minutes. Which is a shame, because listening to the developer talk about it, the concept did seem pretty interesting to me. The best feedback I could give would be to choose a better section of the game to make the demo–tease the plot more, the environment and circumstances less. The audience can be told those things when playing the demo–but they shouldn’t have to be told why they should be interested in this game, as anybody who played it at PAX was.

 

West of Loathing

One of my favorite online games in my early years of high school was a free-to-play game called Kingdom of Loathing. I stopped playing it (not because it was a bad game, but just because I had found other games to play and I just started playing it less and less) around my Junior year or so, and ever since it’s just fallen off of my radar–so you can imagine my pleasant surprise seeing that its developers, Asymmetric Publications, were making another Loathing game! Moreover, that it’s being made in the same vain of the original–with simple, black and white stick figure graphics, RPG parody, and delicious sarcasm.

West of Loathing is another RPG parody game, except this time you’re in the Wild West. If you’ve played Kingdom of Loathing, I can satiate your curiosity about this game now by saying that it’s basically Kingdom of Loathing, except with animated graphics and in the Wild West. If you haven’t played Kingdom of Loathing, by the end of this review on West of Loathing you’ll probably have a pretty solid understanding of what Kingdom of Loathing is, as well, as they are very similar to each other.

You choose from 3 “typical” RPG classes: Cow puncher, beanslinger, or snake oiler. From there, you leave your home farm and set off on your adventure, which (as far as the demo presented) consists mostly of doing quests for townspeople and turn based combat, all of which is laced with a consistent sense of dry, sarcastic humor which is present in every part of the game–including the aforementioned stick figure graphics, which are the centerpiece in this gem of a humor game.

It’s very hard for a game to instill a sense of humor into every facet of itself without feeling overwhelming, but West of Loathing manages to do exactly that. From its visuals, to its lore, to its gameplay, West of Loathing is everything a parody game should be: Funny, but not trite. If you’re in the mood for a good parody game, West of Loathing is sure to satisfy.

 

Hello Neighbor

I suspect that Tiny Build’s newest upcoming release, Hello Neighbor, will be one of the year’s biggest indie releases. Hello Neighbor is a game where you’re trying to break into your neighbor’s basement, as you suspect that something bad is going on next door. Your neighbor will, of course, try to stop you from breaking into his home, so you need to find some creative ways of going about your work. Where the real interest of this game lies, however, is the fact that the neighbor has an AI that is supposed to learn your patterns after a while, and adapt.

Although fun, I wouldn’t have guessed how advanced the AI is unless I had been told about it in advance (which I had been). Perhaps it was because the demo was meant to be easier, or perhaps it’s because this game is only in alpha, but regardless of the reason, I didn’t notice its presence. I’d often try to sneak into the house through the front door, and very rarely was the neighbor there to greet me. I’d also hide in the kitchen a lot, and lo and behold, the neighbor rarely took notice. That, alongside many visual bugs (both I and the neighbor clipped and panned into several things I’m sure we weren’t meant to) leave me a tad worried about this game, but not necessarily with a negative outlook on it. The game itself was still challenging enough–I just wish that this allegedly advanced AI were more present. Besides, as I mentioned earlier, the game is only in alpha and has plenty of time to get fixed before its release. In any case, it did leave me wanting to play a more tightened version of it. Despite its bugginess, it was still fun. Just not as fun as I’d hoped it would be.

 

Perception

I’ve spoken at length many times about this game and why I’m so excited for it. In summary, it’s an incredibly immersive cat and mouse game made by former Dead Space and Bioshock devs. You play as a blind girl, Cassie, navigating a haunted house while there’s something–a presence–haunting you. Using echolocation to navigate the house, you unfold its narrative whist hiding yourself from the presence.

Above all, Perception is a well-made game. An incredibly creative concept, a well-told narrative, beautiful graphics, some of the best sound design I’ve ever experienced, and unique gameplay all combined into one wonderfully well crafted game. The demo alone is one of the most immersive experiences I’ve ever had in a game, leaving me starving for the full game which I’m counting down the seconds for (or at least, I would if it had a specific release date).

 

 

YIIK

I’ve already spoken at length about this game a few times before, as I played it at PAX last year and in fact called it my favorite demo that I played there. Although tied with Perception, it still retains its position with a new demo featuring the first few minutes of the actual game.

What this new demo showed off the most was the story and set-up of the game: The year is 1999 and our protagonist, Alex, has just returned home after college. Following a cat to a mysterious forest, he finds a girl named Sammy Pak who is abducted by mysterious beings–perhaps aliens–before his very eyes. As the game’s site reveals, the footage is uploaded online and so begins Alex’s hunt for her.

YIIK is an Earthbound-inspired turn-based RPG. Like Earthbound, it also utilizes everyday objects as weapons that you can get more damage out of with timed button presses that reminds me of another turn-based JRPG called Shadow Hearts. When you’re not fighting enemies, you’re exploring areas, doing quests, and looking for answers.

This game, as you would expect, has a prominent sense of humor present throughout all the available demos–and therefore, also likely the entire game–thanks to our lovely, sarcastic protagonist, Alex and his quirky group of friends. Perhaps the only thing more prominent are the stylish, colorful graphics that dive you right back into the 90’s.

If I had to use a single word to describe YIIK, it’s “personality.” From its graphics to its story, characters, music, gameplay, and even its concept, everything about YIIK felt very fresh and very its own. If the full game lives up to the incredible uniqueness of the 3 demos I’ve played now, then this could easily be one of the best games to come out in 2017.

 

Splatoon 2

As someone who didn’t have many opportunities to play the first Splatoon game as much as I had wanted to (I’m not a Wii U owner, so I’ve played less than 5 hours of it, I’m sure) the differences between Splatoon 2 and Splatoon weren’t immediately obvious to me. The base gameplay is the same, the graphics (without a side-by-side comparison) looked the same, music and sound effects were the same, the map I played was in the first Splatoon, and the only differences I could notice were the dodge roll–a very helpful addition–and new pieces of wardrobe.

That said, being similar to the first Splatoon isn’t necessarily a bad thing–Splatoon 2, like the original Splatoon, is packed with colorful, inky fun for everyone. What puzzles me is why Nintendo has chosen to make this a sequel game–which it certainly doesn’t feel like right now, as there’s not enough setting it apart from the original Splatoon–as opposed to simply adding a Switch port much like they are for Mario Kart 8 and just patching in the dodge roll and new wardrobe. Especially in light of the fact that Splatoon has been around for nearly 2 years as opposed to Mario Kart 8’s 3 and the fact that Mario Kart is a regularly-releasing franchise makes it especially confusing why Nintendo has chosen to do this. Questionable decisions aside, the demo of Splatoon 2 paints the game as an only slightly upgraded version of Splatoon: Still very fun, but not enough differences from the original Splatoon to make it feel like a new or different game in any way. In its current state, it feels more like a slight patch to the original Splatoon.

 

Arms

Nintendo’s latest way of blatantly ignoring the Punch Out series, while fun, still feels like it has ways to go from a technical standpoint. It’s hard to say much about ARMS as I wasn’t given much time with it (a brief tutorial and 3 rounds–each lasted hardly longer than a minute) but what I can say with confidence is this: The game looks fantastic. The visuals are all incredibly animated, stylish, and fit the personality of the game very well. What worries me is its responsiveness.

Motion controls almost never seem to work to 100% efficacy, and ARMS is no different in this regard. Dodging and punching rely on moving the controller–rather than a button push–and those are without a doubt the most important mechanics of the game, seeing as how it’s a boxing game. (Read: Should’ve been a Punch Out game.) As one would expect, especially in a demo, dodges and punches didn’t go through 100% on the time–dodging in particular only seemed to work about half of the time. I had few problems with punching and no problems with button reliant mechanics. In addition to that, there were issues syncing the joy-cons to the game despite them being less than 2 feet away from the console. If Nintendo makes a way for one to play ARMS without motion controls, I could see this being a really fun game. When it works, it’s a very fun, very whimsical take on a boxing game that I could have a lot of fun with provided the motion controls weren’t involved.

 

Snipperclips

Snipperclips, to me, is the embodiment of the importance of allowing your player to be physically comfortable while they play your game. I played this cute, co-op puzzle game with Dan. We thought the idea of this game was clever enough, and we’d heard nothing but positive feedback on it. Unfortunately, we left with a very different outlook on it.

Snipperclips, as I mentioned earlier, is a co-op puzzle game. You and your partner play as 2 shapes who can cut each other up into other shapes and reform, and you’re given a goal to complete together. Unfortunately, these goals are very vague, and rarely pointed out to you. Sometimes the goal is something like, “Form this shape together” and other times–2 of the 3 puzzles in the demo, no less–don’t tell you what the goal is. They give you some tools and the game seems to assume you know what to do. For instance, one of them gave you 3 balloons. We thought we were supposed to corral them together, but as a Nintendo employee had to tell us after several frustrating minutes of nothing happening is that we were supposed to pop them. The other, you’re given a basketball and a hoop. Whereas the goal was pretty obvious, the means by which you are supposed to achieve it are, of course, vague. We made one of the characters a cup to hold the ball and had them jump in the hoop, but unfortunately, even though we achieved the goal, that’s not good enough for Snipperclips. As another Nintendo employee had to tell us, you can’t have a character jump in with the ball. Although more forgivable than the lack of direction on the balloon challenge, it still left us with a sour taste in our mouths for this game.

After a few minutes with the balloon challenge, our frustration with this game was becoming pretty evident. Here’s where the importance of physical comfort comes in: Nintendo had you standing for all of their demos–after standing in their absurdly long line. That day, me and Dan were surprisingly close to the front of the line to get into the showfloor and we made a bee line for Nintendo. Even then, we were still in line for close to an hour and a half. Nintendo wouldn’t allow people to sit in the line because it took up more space. Needless to say, or legs and feet were starting to hurt by the time we got to play the games. We noticed all the more how sore we were getting after standing angrily around playing what should’ve been a fun, relaxing game. This, of course, made the already frustrating game less fun for us, as we became increasingly aware of how sore we were getting. Although we still would’ve been frustrated at the game regardless, we would’ve been much less so if Nintendo simply let you sit down and relax to play their games (except for ARMS, of course, which should be played standing up because it’s a motion control game, but that’s aside from the point).

A frustrated player who’s sore is much more frustrated than a frustrated player who’s seated and comfortable. From their line to their demos, Nintendo didn’t seem to understand that this year–a real shame since there were people waiting in their line for upwards of 4 hours. And this brought down my already frustrating experience with Snipperclips. In the right environment and with the right partner I’m sure this game could be fun–after all, it has a very creative premise and when it’s not being vague, it’s quite fun–but the fact of the matter is, it’s still vague. All the players need to be told of is the goal and whether or not there’s any rules for obtaining the goal, and that’s it. Although there is some fun to be found in Snipperclips, it still has plenty of room for improvement.

 

What Remains of Edith Finch

What a mixed bag Giant Sparrow’s newest playable narrative game What Remains of Edith Finch was. This is a game that tells you the story of the Finch family by telling you about all of the family members in different ways: Therefore, there were 2 versions of the demo: One about Calvin Finch, one about Molly Finch. They chose an interesting 2 to demo here at PAX, seeing as how they left me with 2 wildly different impressions.

The first one I played was the longer of the 2, the one about Molly Finch. Immediately what stands out in this game is its jaw-droppingly gorgeous graphics, which were probably the only consistency between the 2 versions of the demo. This demo felt more representative of what I’m assuming the game will be like. By that I mean, you start out playing as Edith Finch (our protagonist, who lived in a now-abandoned mansion until she was 11. Now she’s returning to find out more about her family) who gives us some exposition on her situation. From there, you go to the mansion, and you’re more or less led into Molly’s room after some time spent in exploration. After learning some more about her, you start playing as her in a kind of dream sequence where you become various animals. After getting over the initial awkwardness of the situation, it does reveal a lot about Molly and right as I was getting interested in her story, the demo crashed on me completely. To the point where one of the devs had to tell me what happened in the rest of the demo, and let me skip the line to play the Calvin one.

For every bit the Molly narrative was interesting, the Calvin one was not. Although not necessarily bad, it left much to be desired compared to its interesting counterpart. The Calvin story was short, plain, uninteresting, and didn’t provide any of the narrative hooks that the Molly one had to get me more interested or involved in the story. But at least it didn’t crash on me or have any other technical issues.

The polarizing feelings I had about the 2 demos left me unsure how to feel about this game overall. If nothing else, it at least got me curious about it. Assuming the technical problems are fixed, if the Molly narrative is more representative of what the full game will be like (which I’m thinking is the more probable case because it was longer and provided more context to the situation Edith was in) then this game will be wonderful. If the Calvin story, on the other hand, is more representative of what it’ll be like, then it won’t be anything particularly memorable. At the very least, though, I can compliment this game on some of the best graphics I saw at PAX East this year. Although What Remains of Edith Finch has certainly got my attention, whether or not that’s for the better is yet to be clear.

 

Pyre

I played the 2-player version of Pyre with The Lifecast’s own Dan, who also played the single player version afterward. I’ve been told by him that the single player version of Pyre is substantially better than the 2-player, but alas, all I played was the 2-player version and will be talking exclusively about that version of it for this review.

Super Giant’s latest strategy game, Pyre, was a fun game plagued by an interminable demo. Without taking much time to explain the gameplay (but in its defense, there wasn’t much to explain anyways, so this was actually a good decision) or the context of the game whatsoever, the demo throws you into a match with your opponent in which you use 3 units–a small, medium, and a large–to essentially play football, but with fire and magic. Using your units, you throw a ball of energy into the enemy’s goal mark while they try to do the same for you. You use your units to go on either an offensive or defensive, catching or passing the ball, and so on. What made this demo so tiresome, however, was that it didn’t end until one side earned a certain number of points. Especially with players who are only just learning how to play the game, this can go on for far too long. Had the demo only required scoring less points–perhaps half, considering that the game wanted you to score about 100 points if I’m not mistaken, with each goal only getting you about 10–it wouldn’t have felt so long and sluggish. Although not bad, the gameplay wasn’t enticing enough to hold me or Dan’s attention for more than a few minutes. It got to the point where he let me score on purpose so we could be done sooner.

Make no mistake, the gameplay was tight, the graphics were gorgeous, and there was a good degree of fun to be had. But considering we were just learning the game and how no context for why we were doing this (and based on the visuals, the game does appear to have some kind of story) the demo felt much longer than it needed to be–to the point where we started feeling exhausted from it because we had to play it for so long, by no choice of our own. The demo should’ve been half its length. I don’t normally complain about the length of a demo, but for a game meant for casual fun–much like the multi-player demo for Pyre–you have to realize that your game is exactly that: Casual fun. Usually not meant for extensive periods of gameplay, much like this demo was. If I’m not mistaken, we were there for nearly half an hour by the time we decided to leave–far too long for a demo like this.

 

Date or Die

via dateordiegame.com

Despite being a visual novel touting an all-queer cast, that’s all that can be said about the uniqueness to be found in the Date or Die demo. Date or Die reminds me of a quirky, edgy 14-year-old’s attempt at making a dating sim. When making a dating sim, writing interesting characters is absolutely paramount. After all, since you’re relying on the story of your game–rather than gameplay (seeing as how there essentially isn’t any)–you need your characters to help hook the player in. The idea of a dating sim is to get to know the characters better–therefore, if the player isn’t interested in the characters, they have no incentive to want to get to know them better. At least as far as the glimpse into this game that the demo provided, Date or Die fails on this front.

Admittedly, it is hard to make a player fall in love with a given character within 10 minutes. So I’m more or less forgiving Date or Die on that front, as that may have just been due to its constrains of time. No, what really turned me away from wanting to learn more about this game was its premise and how it’s treated: You’re on a reality TV show where if you don’t date one of the contestants, you die–the host is, like the rest of the game, straight from a quirky 14-year-old’s tumblr blog. Your standard “XDDDD so quirky and mysterious BUT WITH A SMILE lolol” kind of anime character, usually found in series meant for pre-teen girls (see similar: Xerxes from Pandora Hearts, Grell and Undertaker from Kuroshitsuji, Dazai from Bungo Stray Dogs, etc). Between the obnoxiousness of using such an overdone trope, the premise which feels entirely too goofy for the rest of this visual novel (after all, the first few moments of the demo, our protagonist is locked in a cell–if you’re going to make your visual novel this goofy, go all in and leave no traces of seriousness behind), and the uninteresting cast, this game left me not yearning for more. If this demo is at all representative of what the full game will be like, then although it might appeal to a younger crowd (younger than 16) with little to no experience in dating sims, to someone older and more aware of (and sick of) cliches in dating sims, this game doesn’t look like anything new or special.

 

Spirit Parade

If ever there were a single most generic game at PAX this year, it’s Spirit Parade. An otome visual novel, Spirit Parade–at least as far as one could see in the demo–has no originality, and feels as much like a token Alice in Wonderland-themed dating sim as can be. It’s very hard to bring originality into the heavily over-saturated realm of Alice in Wonderland themed visual novels (and media in general–especially anime inspired, as Spirit Parade quite obviously is) and Spirit Parade is no exception. The only factors that even somewhat set it apart are its lovely art (which is, without a doubt, the best and only redeeming quality it has) and Eastern attire–which isn’t enough to warrant calling it “unique” in any facet.

The demo introduces us to our main cast: The Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat, Queen of Hearts, Alice, etc. All of them act how you’d expect them to–Alice is the naive Mary Sue, Queen of Hearts is the regal (and best designed of the group) leader, and the Hatter and Cheshire Cat act like a 14-year-old on tumblr’s quirky OC. And of course, being an otome, they’re all men except for yourself (Alice) and the Queen of Hearts.

As far as the demo could present, Spirit Parade is another of the dozens of hundreds of Alice in Wonderland themed stories. As is typical for these kinds of stories, it presents no unique qualities, and its lovely art is its only redeeming quality. Spirit Parade, alongside Victor Vran (which I at least give the crutch of myself not liking top-down action games) and Date or Die, is without a doubt the worst and most generic game I played at PAX.

Some of you may be reading this part and thinking that between my feedback for Spirit Parade, We Know the Devil, and Date or Die it’s likely that I just don’t enjoy visual novels or dating sims and are therefore being unfair toward them, but that’s simply not the case. I very much enjoy visual novels–in fact, they’re my go-to genre for a relaxing game. Many visual novels are dating sims, so that subgenre is no different for me. I quite enjoy them both. It’s just unfortunate coincidence that the only visual novels to be found at PAX this year were so lacking.

 

Blasters of the Universe

Blasters of the Universe is a pretty standard-feeling VR bullet hell. Hearing it being called a “VR bullet hell” got me immediately interested in the game when I first heard of it, but playing it felt very underwhelming. Perhaps it was just the level that they used for the demo, but it felt too easy. There weren’t that many bullets to dodge, and even then, they were very easily dodged. It felt less like a bullet hell as it did a shoot em up, seeing as how most of the bullets that could be seen were my own–which shouldn’t be a surprise since there were a lot of enemies on screen (many of whom don’t shoot, at least not for a while) which again, made it feel less like a bullet hell and more of a shoot em up.

Blasters of the Universe feels like something you’d find in an arcade with VR setups–casual fun for a little while, but you’re likely not going to leave with a big impression of it. Other than its concept, it doesn’t have any remarkable qualities. Even then, it’s only the concept of it that sounds interesting–at least in the demo, the concept was hard to see at work seeing as how it hardly felt like a bullet hell at all. Although not necessarily a bad game, I wouldn’t call it good either. It was just really underwhelming.

 

I Expect You to Die

I have a lot of mixed feelings toward Schell Games’s I Expect You to Die. It’s a VR escape the room puzzle game where you play as a spy going on secret missions. I waited for about an hour in the demo line, only to play about 5 minutes of the game, so I don’t know if I’m exactly qualified to have a substantial opinion on it. Once you finish the tutorial, it sends you into a car that you’re supposed to escape with–it’s the enemy’s car, and one of the first things that happens is a retinal scan. Once it sees that you’re not the owner of the car, it fires a laser that you’re supposed to dodge–I dodged to my left, and died. I asked one of the devs what happened, and they said that you’re supposed to dodge to your right–despite nothing indicating that you’re supposed to do that. Needless to say, I left with a sour taste in my mouth that vaguely reminded me of a similar thing Compulsion Games did last year with We Happy Few.

That said, I do question the responsiveness of the game if dodging in a certain direction despite there being no indication that it’s a bad idea ends up killing you. If nothing else, I think this game should be better about indicating details like that so players won’t get as frustrated, as I was after leaving. The only other noteworthy detail I noticed was the visuals–which are, especially in the opening credits, incredibly stylish.

All in all, I don’t know how to feel about this game since I played it for less than 5 minutes. I think it’s stylish, has a very clever concept, and lots of potential but I heavily question its responsiveness and communication. It seems like a game that if the aforementioned issues were fixed could be excellent–especially as a VR game–but as of right now, it’s hard to say whether or not I think it will be good simply because I didn’t get enough time with it.

 

Kismet

An astoundingly visual fortune telling VR game by Psyop, Kismet flexes all the aesthetic muscles of VR. The game itself is simple: It’s a fortune telling game where a character–Kismet–will read your fortune either by a tarot card reading or a star reading. There’s also a “game of wit” option, but that wasn’t available in the demo. There’s not much one can say about this game because of it’s incredibly short length, but as a gimmick–a small thing to add to your PSVR library–I think this could work incredibly well, especially if you’re into the occult or fortune telling, or perhaps just need something to pass the time during small parties or social gatherings.

What made this game memorable to me was its visuals and environments. Each of the 3 parts of this game has its own unique environment, each befitting of what it is. The cards set you in what appears to be a kind of gypsy caravan, the stars in a boundless planetarium-esque looking “room”, and the game of wit in the middle of an Egyptian desert–all of them look incredibly picturesque. What Kismet lacks in substance, it makes up for in its astounding visuals and environments. If you like fortune telling, are looking for a visual experience, or something that’s more of a gimmick than a game, Kismet is right up your alley.

 

Battlesloths 2025: The Great Pizza Wars

Roosterteeth’s latest work, a fast-paced multi-player twin stick shooter about one of my personal favorite kinds of animals, was perhaps the best “casual fun” game I played at PAX. Playing as multi-colored sloths with varying silly hats, you’re given a prompt for a game with 3 others players (or computers) usually involving pizza. The default game–the one that I played–involved you simply getting enough slices to fill up an entire pizza. Slices would randomly drop, and using various weapons that are also dropped, you fight your fellow players over the pizza. Basically, a king of the hill game but with sloths and pizza.

The demo felt very done when I had played it–tight gameplay, lots of variety, good graphics, no overt issues to be seen–to the point where I had assumed the game was already out, which is more or less true. It has been available on the Humble Monthly Bundle, but is not available on Steam yet. Its vague release details aside (though its site and social media says “Early 2017”), my only regret about this game is that it’s local multi-player only and there doesn’t seem to be any indication that it’ll have online multi-player as well. That aside, Battlesloths is the most fun I’ve ever had being a dragon-headed, laser-wielding sloth looking for pizza.

 

 

Best Indie Game: Perception, YIIK

via indiemegabooth.com

Even though it wasn’t my first time seeing either of them, Perception and YIIK have yet again impressed me much more than anything else I saw at PAX. Perception has brilliant design, an incredibly immersive environment, and engrossing narrative that I can’t wait to sink my teeth into. YIIK is an incredibly stylish, personality-filled turn-based RPG that one will immediately fall in love with. Both games have me absolutely enamored and I’m counting down the seconds until the full games are out.

 

 

 

 

 

Best VR Game: The American Dream

via samuraipunk.com

The hilarious, Australian-made vision of America is a (literal) ride from start to finish. With its incredible sense of humor, solid (but not remarkable) gameplay, well developed 1950’s aesthetic, and relevance coming out during a tumultuous time for Second Amendment rights in America, The American Dream demo at PAX was an absolute delight. If it’s at all indicative of what the full game will be like, then we’re all in for a lead-flavored treat.

 

 

 

Best Triple-A Game: Splatoon 2

via nintendo-europe.com

You’re a kid now, you’re a squid now, there are dodge rolls now.

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