Monday
Sep022013

PAX PRIME 2013: The Best of Indie Mega Booth

ith every passing PAX is another excellent opportunity to sample some of the finest upcoming Indie titles with the Indie Megabooth. We here at Press Pause Radio are always humbled by the amazing ideas that get showcased here, and like before, we pick our favorites, and award our Golden Zonkey to the best game at the show. Check it out and enjoy.

 

Solitude can do a lot of things to a person; it can drive them to succeed or cause them to collapse. The only consistence in everyone who experiences it is the discovery of getting to know something about themselves they didn’t know before. Lifeless Planet explores these themes and more with an adventure platformer that strives to express the sense of scale that adventure games can possess. Players assume the role of a heedless astronaut who takes on a potential suicide mission to an unexplored planet with an ulterior motive driving him, and gradually coming to the realization that you aren’t the first to have charted giant space rock -- you may not even be alone.

The assortment of platforming is built with a solid foundation in its dynamics (which is a relief considering the frequency of jumping sections that I encountered). The composition of stages also manages to maintain a healthy balance of intrigue and challenge, where curiosity fuels the heavy exploration that the indie game demands, and the experience is genuine in its portrayal. Lifeless Planet has a tentative release sometime this winter, and I strongly suggest you look out for it.

Dragon Fantasy Book 1 was a fun and clever homage to 8-bit RPGs of yesteryear such as Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy. Now Muteki is preparing to release the next entry in their series, Dragon Fantasy Book 2. In proper RPG fashion, the sequel will continue directly after the events of Book 1, but now upgraded with a 16-bit art style. The style evokes games such as Chrono Trigger and Secret of Mana, along with a soundtrack by Dale North and hilarious writing. New to this game will be Platinum trophies for the hardcore on PSN, as well as drop-in drop-out cooperative play by the end of the year. Also in similar fashion to its predecessor, the game will support cross buy, cross save, and later, cross play. Dragon Fantasy Book 2 releases on September 10.

When a video game elicits an emotion, it accomplishes something very special that most games can’t do, regardless of whether it was a good or bad emotion at that. The one feeling that’s always been tricky to simulate when it comes to games is fear. A player’s sense of agency always has various results in how they respond to whatever frightening peril they may perceive; Neverending Nightmare challenges this, and it’s winning. Infinitap Games is currently trying to secure Kickstarter funding toward developing their horror adventure, and what’s developed showcased an experience that was naturally eerie and engrossing.

The visuals and presentation are mesmerizing as you walk through a collection of dark cross-hatch inked graphics with shifting shadows and lighting that immaculately displayed in every frame of animation. As you wake up in a fit of terror, you’ll control a young man who’s trying to make sense of the phenomena that you encounter, with fail states jetting you back to where the main character is in bed, waking up over again. The use of color against a stark black and white arrangement works as an effective sense of direction as you navigate the corridors of Neverending Nightmare, still remaining consistent with the scary subtext, especially when the color red is used. A majority of the interaction is optical, with subtle effects like lighting and heavy cross-stitched ink for darkness that wavers in and out between the ominous splotches of blood to the scenery itself. Most of my experience was merely walking, but the effect it had was impactful, which is where Neverending Nightmare derides its authentic sense of horror.

The title is on Kickstarter right now and has a little less than a month to go. The indie title stands among its peers with an immaculate aesthetic that serves the subject matter of the game that delivers some real creeps.

This title made its debut at the Indie Mega Booth during PAX Prime 2013 and was recommended by a friend of the show, @driftglass. Always Sometimes Monsters is a non-combat open world RPG where the main character goes cross country to the wedding of their ex-lover, who is marring someone else. The character will make decisions that will have consequences that are known as well as unknown to the player. It is up to the player to get information that will be important to the situation and can choose to aid or ignore other people during their travels. The developer said that unlike other open world games, morality will not play a factor. During our play through, I purposely made choices that I normally would not in other titles with player choice specifically because it was not required to "game" the outcome. So after making a severe choice against my assailant, the game abruptly ended. The amount of branching narrative and potential outcomes will be many, we were promised by the developer at Vagabond. Always Sometimes Monsters will be available next year and is being published by Devolver. 

The era of games focusing on their heroes with a cartoon characterization of a mascot has long since been abandoned since the 32-bit generation. However, indie studios have tried to hearken back to those times. Sometimes it doesn’t turn out so well, when the game peters out into a glorified love letter to the past and nothing more, but then there’s a game like Major Magnet Arcade, a modern game without all the throwbacks, but rather one that channels the charm and whimsical sensibilities of the mascot era, and tosses them into brand new concept that’s sharp, and engaging.

You control the adorable Major Magnet by tapping on magnetic nodes that are placed throughout the stage, pulling the obese hero into a circular polarity where you levitate until you launch the dude into the next node, as long as you can avoid all of the obstacles around you that is. Between swings and clutches against gravity, you can also swipe the touch screen to jet boost the Major to reach his destination when the situation calls for it, leading to some really hairy stages. The visuals are really sharp with an intentionally reverence towards retro games that doesn’t pander, but expands upon the concept of it instead.

The game is currently on Android but it’s currently aiming to come out on Vita and Wii U as well given their focal point on the touch screen. Make sure to keep the Major on your radar.

Sinister Design showcased their upcoming title Telepath Tactics on the show floor, and we were able to speak with the developer about the different modes available. Craig Stern first mentioned that the title was influenced by other tactics games such as Fire Emblem and Final Fantasy Tactics. The difference with their title is that the battleground also allows for environmental manipulation, giving the player an advantage during their attack. There is also push and pull mechanics in play that will allow for the opposing units to be pushed into hazardous parts of the map, like lava or water. The AI, however, will not be easily overcome, and can use these same mechanics against the player. The most impressive aspect of this title was that it will be completely moddable. The community will be able to create their own campaigns complete with their own created characters, classes, and story lines. The community will then be able to share their content to be freely played within the game. Telepath Tactics will be bringing their sandbox tactics experience sometime next year.

Brawlers have this weird kind of dichotomy to them, they’re famous for delivering that instant gratification towards kicking the shit out everything that moves until it’s time for the screen to shift to the right again, and then they looked down on from the boredom that comes deluding that same gratification after it’s been repeated 47 times in a row. Mediatonic’s Foul Play aims to change all of that, with ideas that work well to lend to the Beat’em up formula while sagely expanding on where it works, making a for a conducive brawling venture.

The strapping British gentleman Baron Dashworth fights on a stage, recreating his greatest adventure as a Broadway musical, so instead of worrying about health, you worry about the entertainment of your audience, this is determined by how well you’re smashing on the chumps, which works well considering if you do fall behind and you’re audience is starting to get bored, you can work towards getting your meter back up there, without suffering from any long term damage from the ordeal. There are shifting dynamics towards small meta-goals that vary from beating on a targeted enemy or doing in a specific manner that will reward you differently like boosts or additional cheer for your audience. Couple this all with an impeccable combat structure inspired from Team Ninja’s Ninja Gaiden, Foul play is shaping up to be a brawler that stands above and beyond its conventions and roots when it gets released later this year.

This gorgeous twin space shooter is being developed by 17-Bit, the team behind the recent hit Skulls of the Shogun. The game is an anime inspired version of Asteroids, with a randomized space to explore as well as stunning cel shaded graphics. Seeing a cluster of enemy ships exploding under the massive firepower of the main character's missiles is stunning. The game also have aspects of games such as Shadow Complex or Super Metroid, where areas or enemies may not be possible to overcome unless using a new power or ability unlocked within the progression of the character. Navigation is as difficult as taking down opposing fleets, utilizing dash and juke maneuvers to avoid being made into scrap parts. The game will be releasing in 2014 on the PS4 and on Steam.

Admittedly, there have been few games that have moved me to tears, and that’s after I have invested a significant amount of time in them, much less seeing them to the very end-sitting down with That Dragon, Cancer though, I couldn’t even finish my preview of it without breaking down. The story of Father and his struggle to care for his son as he battles cancer is certainly an austere state of affairs, especially considering the true nature of it as That Dragon, Cancer stands as an interactive biographical recounting of the experience with the Father reprising his role within the game, the direction and portrayal takes it to an entirely different level.

Walking around the room, with monologues of the father taking over, the cinematography excellently enhances the melancholy that’s being carried around the environment, gradually portraying the hopelessness of feeding your son as he suffers to keep the food down. Given the nature of the game, it’s only slated to be released on Ouya, considering it’s one of the few formats that would allow the some-what controversial title into its library, the experiment is sincere with it’s true to life presentation, and a expressing hardship in ways that spare you the real pain, yet still hurting you the more you invest in it, this game should not be ignored.

On my last day at PAX, I went through the procession of games represented at the Indie Mega Booth to make sure I did not miss anything. One booth in particular had a sizable group of players, screaming and jumping with excitement over what was taking place on screen. The crowd covered the actual signs for the title, so it was easy to miss if I were just passing by. I am so happy that George and I made a point to get hands on with Samurai Gunn, because it is a title I cannot stop thinking about. Frantic four player combat in the style of Super Smash Bros. as well as the recently released Towerfall, with what George referred to as Bushido Blade on crack. We had an amazing time performing wall jumps and executing pinpoint projectile attacks with our retro style avatars from Feudal Japan. The action was quick and satisfying, and was as enjoyable to spectate as it was to play.

The best moment was when a tie between myself and another combatant lead to an epic Kung Fu style showdown, complete with a setting sun and flowing fields in the background. Our blades unleashed, the split second hesitation of my enemy sealed his fate. The only downside to the entire experience was that we could not find a presenter at the booth or any type of information on release or platform. Samurai Gunn truly was a hidden gem on the Indie Mega Booth floor that I recommend everyone check out.

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