There were a lot of games on show at PAX this year. A lot. So between time spent at panels and time spent playing the games I did get to, there were a whole lot of games that I missed out on simply because of time constraints. I would have loved to have played Unravel, a platformer in which you play as a character made entirely out of string that he then ‘unravels’ in order to navigate through the world, but just didn’t get there. This year in particular there were also a lot of titles designed for the Oculus Rift, many by indie developers which was exciting to see, but they were so popular that instead of waiting in line to try them out, I decided to endeavour to play as many of the other games on the exhibition floor as I possibly could. Here are a few of the highlights.
Uncharted 4 – Australians were lucky enough to be some of the first to experience a hands-on demo of the highly anticipated next chapter in the Nathan Drake adventure series, and I was privileged enough to be one of those Australians. As a huge fan of the series, it felt great to be back in that familiar world and enjoying what next-gen had to add to the visuals of an already beautiful franchise. Despite the console jump, everything felt familiar and I was instantly pulled back in, even in just the multiplayer setting that really pushes the idea of teamwork. The multiplayer maps of the new instalment will also feature five new ‘power-ups’, each drawn from mystical figures, including some familiar faces from previous Uncharted games. These power-ups which can be purchased from an in-game store have various effects, all of which give your character the ability to perform acts like heal teammates, or teleport within the map. Personally, I’m excited to see how the new addition will affect the dynamics of competition, and it was great to see even in such a small demo that the new games looks like it will keep that old Uncharted charm while bringing some new aspects to the table.
Rise of the Tomb Raider – I talked about loving this at the EB Expo, and was thrilled when at PAX I was able to play a new demo featuring new cutscenes and even more raiding of tombs. Obviously, since then, the game has been released as an Xbox exclusive (an interesting choice), but it was still one of the best games I played and deserves to be mentioned. If you liked the first one and you want more of that trademark Lara Croft action, I would highly recommend giving this one a try.
Ratchet and Clank – Apparently, the newest addition to another established series is designed to be a “reimagining” of the original game, which would explain why jumping into it made me feel like I was playing the PS2 classic all over again – but better. This 3D platformer about Ratchet (a “Lombax” and his robot friend Clank is also getting a tie-in movie to go along with it, which has influenced this “reimagining” of the game. Many of the weapons and locations are being carried over to the reboot, plus a few that didn’t appear until later games in the series, so it should on the whole be a more polished experience. There’s also a new weapon called a “pixelizer” that turns enemies into 8-bit versions of themselves that was a lot of fun to try out, so I’m remaining optimistic.
Evergreen – Designed to be a calming and relaxing experience, Evergreen has players growing their own tree from the roots up (and down). By growing it in certain ways and directions, you can make your tree interact with and influence the environment around it, sometimes in excited and unexpected ways. The game is in very early stages of development, so only the first basic level was playable at PAX, but apparently the full game will allow you to build trees at different points in history and even features story elements influenced by Norse mythology. For anyone looking to take a break from the more stressful games out there, I’d definitely suggest keeping an eye on this one.
Agent A – A colourful puzzle/point-and-click adventure game, Agent A immediately caught my attention. The aim is to infiltrate the base of (and capture, of course) a Carmen-Sandiego-esque spy known as Ruby La Rouge, by solving puzzles that allow you to break through her various security measures. Gameplay-wise this reminded me of the successful mobile game ‘The Room’ and other such ‘escape the room’ style games more than an adventure game, but either way it definitely makes you think. It’s pretty cheap on the app store, so if you like logic puzzles (and own an iOS device) then this might be one for you.
Mystery – Mystery is a seriously interesting combination of genres, described as a “procedurally generated action/adventure game” in which you have to fight enemies, solve murders and maybe smash a couple of pots along the way. It features retro 3D graphics and a mansion filled with rooms that will change every time you play, as well as randomly generated victims, suspects and perpetrators. Talking to the developers, it’s clear that the game is being created with a lot of love for the adventure game genre, so the puzzle-solving elements will hopefully be well-formed to go along with the minimal combat and exploration
Warden: Melody of the Undergrowth – Warden was the game I found it hardest to put down, and is easily one of the standouts of the convention. It was described to me as “Banjo-Kazooie meets Zelda meets Donkey Kong meets Dark Souls” and somehow that description felt really apt. The game is a throwback to the time of the Nintendo 64 and PS1 games like Spyro, or those just mentioned, and I for one really miss games of this kind. Epic action adventures that can be enjoyed by all ages don’t come around that often anymore, so I was really excited to see a title that had a great soundtrack, multiple playable characters a world that I easily became immersed in and actually found fun to play around in.
Thumbdrift – Thumbdrift comes from the makers of OTTTD and is based on such a simple premise – drift around corners without crashing the car. The game is described as “Temple Run crossed with Need for Speed”, and all you have to do is hold your finger on the back of the car and drag it from side to side to drift. I was easily sucked in, and I already know that as soon as this is released it’s going to eat up all my casual gaming time. Definitely one of those ‘just one more try’ games that keeps you going for far longer than it should.
Western Press – A super simple party game with a western twist, all you have to do to win this game is press the buttons indicated on the screen faster than your friends. Errors incur a time penalty, so there’s no button mashing (at least not if you want to win) and you can play with up to sixteen friends, so I can see things getting pretty intense. There are also heaps of characters to choose from, plus the option to customise so I’m hoping this will be one to get going at parties with huge groups of friends.
Sometimes Always Monsters – Firstly, if you haven’t checked out Always Sometimes Monsters, Vagabond Dog’s previous game, you absolutely should. Once that’s done (and you’ve dealt with all the emotions), keep your eye out for the sequel, the confusingly named Sometimes Always Monsters. While the first one was a game about overcoming the odds to make a name for yourself and win the love of your life, the sequel is about making sure you don’t lose it all. The developers assured me that it would have an upbeat feel to it, but the game will still have you making some seriously tough choices and organising your priorities in order to keep things together. There’s also been an upgrade in graphics since ASM even though they’ve kept the same retro feel, so I’m feeling optimistic. This is the one I really can’t wait to get my hands on. Amazing narrative, diverse characters and innovative game mechanics that combine adventure and RPG elements.