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Games I played at PAX Australia (that I had never seen before) 2015!

Hey there! I'm sitting here waiting for a pot of stew to finish cooking, so I thought I'll just take some time to do a write-up on some games I played at PAX Australia last week, just like I did last year. I only went for one day instead of three days this year. It felt just a little too short, but I did manage to play most of the indie game on the show floor! I'm probably not gonna list every single one here, but I'll try to remember as much as I can.

Without further ado, here are the games:

Armed with Wings: Rearmed is an early-access 2D character action game with a stylised grayscale aesthetics, and I do like character action games! To be honest, I forgot what this game was called and had to look it up, so we're off to a good start! It is one among few of the games I played that had Zelda inspirations: this one has the 3D Zelda platforming mechanic where you jump as you run off an edge, which I guess is to limit your jump in combat. The combat is mostly up/down/neutral directions + 2 normal/special attack buttons, and a guard/dodge button. The character will jump a little when chaining a couple dodges in a row, and there is also a counterattack mechanic with the guard timing. It feels solid and well-animated. There is also a falcon you can summon and use to solve puzzles, I guess? I'm not sure what other purpose it has. It's a fairly fun game, but I thought it was missing some good enemy tells for the dodge/guard mechanic, especially when compared to other modern character action games like anything Platinum has made.

Look at that smoke!
Look at that smoke!

Mystery is a strange combination of a procedurally-generated Cluedo-like murder mystery and a 2D Zelda-like dungeon crawler. You walk from room to room in a mansion to find clues in a murder mystery, while killing monsters with your pool cue or whatever weapon and finding keys to open doors. The enemies explode into a puff of smoke like in Wind Waker! The graphics is the key selling point for me, because it looks like an old Japanese PS1 game! It's a bold aesthetic for sure.

Honestly, I'm not sure what Postbug is? I think I was a bug delivering mails to other bugs? It looks like a PC puzzle game from the 90's. You can play it yourself on their website. Watch out for spiders!

Western Press is basically a Mario Party minigame. It's a 2-player competitive game where you're shown a string of button presses and have to press them faster than your opponent. The tagline is "lower your expectations", which I guess is accurate? It is exactly what it sounds like.

Tear Through is a top-down tactical shooter that seems inspired by SWAT 4 and Rainbow Six, not unlike Door Kickers. What makes this unique is that it's a 2-player co-operative game! Friendly fire always on! This was super fun to play even with a stranger. It's a pretty simple pick-up-and-play sort of game, although some specific controls could have been made a little simpler... I couldn't remember how to do door stuff while playing.

Objects in Space is a space simulator. It looks very space simulation-y, but also submarine-y? I saw numbers and physics and stuff on the screen. They had an elaborate custom-made controller/LED display setup that made the booth look like a submarine/spaceship bridge! They said that the game will release with Arduino support to hook your own homemade controls and display, which is pretty cool.

Defect also has a space seagull!
Defect also has a space seagull!

Defect: Spaceship Destruction Kit is a much simpler 2D spaceship game where you build a spaceship for every level in the game. The running joke is that the ship keeps getting stolen by your crew at the end of the level, so you have to keep making new ones. The old ships will eventually appear in later levels as enemies too! I made a dumb-looking spaceship that's basically a brick with a bunch of jets attached. It turned out that spaceships need wings to turn (I'm not a physicist but I don't think space works that way? anyway,) so my flying brick just jetted straight past the objectives and into space... The person manning the booth was super helpful in fixing my spaceship design, and it was very fun! There apparently will also be online support where you can see other people's spaceship designs, and even have your friends' appear in your game as enemies... The only bummer so far is that you cannot name your own spaceship. You can only use randomly generated names. They're pretty good though. My flying brick was called "The Home Made Express".

One More Line is a one-button linear competitive racing game where you try to orbit around dots and not hit the dots or the walls. It's a nice concept, and it visually looks good, but I don't know. I didn't think it was very interesting. It is what it is.

Thumb Drift is a game where a car drifts as you move your thumb on the screen. It's one of those score games that is very difficult to control. It looks really nice! But I didn't feel like it was very fun to play. Oh well.

Blockpocalypse is a 4-player co-op game where you are being chased by, er, an apocalypse? And you have to run away and climb up to get to a helicopter. To close gaps and climb along the way, everyone has to grab what are like tetris blocks and stack 'em up. It's a fun, frantic puzzle-solving game, but it was fairly short and easy to beat. And the character selection was a bit too meme-y, which turns me off a little. I hope there's more to the game than that!

DESYNC looks fucking amazing. Holy crap. It's like Bulletstorm but in the Tron world. It's, it's... Just go watch the trailer.

Tahira: Echoes of the Astral Empire is a turn-based tactical RPG that looks A LOT like The Banner Saga. Not really much to say about it other than that. The demo was pretty neat, but it didn't show any of the macro gameplay.

Dragon's Wake is a game where you play as a dragon hatchling as it grows up in this fantasy world. Since it's a fantasy video game, your parents get murdered immediately after starting, and you're out to get revenge. I technically didn't play this at PAX since the booth was full, but they were giving away beta codes for free. I think the beta is actually the whole game so far? I played through it most of the way through and it seemed fairly complete. The game looks pretty low-key, and it doesn't get very complex, but it's a surprisingly fun platformer with simple but effective storytelling. Also, dragons are cool. The final boss is total nonsense though. I simply couldn't beat it! Unlike my grown dragon, I was still a baby gamer...

Evergreen is a game where you play as a mythical tree growing through the eras of Earth. Yes, you read that right. You are a tree in this game. It looks like someone thought "what if SpeedTree is a video game?" and executed on it. It looked very promising!

I played WItch House last year, but this game has changed dramatically since then. Heck, I'd go as far as saying that it's a completely different game. It's not a Diablo clone survival horror game anymore, it's now a turn-based tactical board game with a selection of scenarios. The scenario I played was a murder mystery, where I had to move three characters (I picked the nun, the nurse, and the gangster) room-to-room in a mansion to find clues while killing demons along the way. (Sounds familiar?) I then accused the main suspect (the priest) after finding enough clues, and he summoned a huge demon that can only be damaged by items or environmental hazards. My nurse single-handedly defeated the demons while the others were busy fighting additional spawns. She did a cool action roll whenever she moves away from the demon! I was a little skeptical of this major change at first, but I think it's a better game now.

Warden: Melody of the Undergrowth was probably my favorite game, and my biggest guilty pleasure at PAX this year. This was apparently at last year's PAX, but I must have missed it. I enjoyed it for all the wrong reasons, which I'll get into in the next paragraph. It is another game inspired by Zelda, this time the 3D kind. It is a fairly ambitious 3D action-adventure game that looks A LOT like Wind Waker. It was a very long demo, and I played through the whole thing thinking, "This demo has to end in, like, 3 more minutes right?" I must have spent more than half an hour on it. The demo was a vertical slice of some of the dungeons in the game. The main protagonist is a young boy who can shapeshift into other people with unique powers, and the dungeons are designed around these powers. The combat is pretty simple hack-and-slash with weapon-specific combos, but the weapons eventually break and you have to pick new weapons on-the-go.

Playing Warden was a guilty pleasure because it was very, very janky and broken in many ways. I was really down on it in the first minute of playing, but I figured out that I could push an NPC to weird places by picking up a rock and running towards them, and I was instantly turned around. There is a button to slide/dodge, and the interpolated animation looks suuuper janky, so I was just constantly spamming it over and over. I figured out that I can just keep jumping up to climb vines faster, but it got me stuck in a looping out-of-place clambering animation in some specific cases, which slowly pushes me out of the world for some reason. On top of all this, the audio was beyond broken, though I think it was an issue with the headphones. Some audio cues were playing, some were not, and sometimes I'm not sure if some of the noise and music were even coming from my game. The constant breaking of the game was strangely compelling, and it made me feel like one of those game-breaking speedrunners. In the last dungeon, I straight up slid my way past every single enemy when possible, and won the final battle without getting hit. It felt so, so cool. Most importantly, none of these issues were necessarily game-breaking. The only major bug I bumped into is where the character started constantly sliding to the right at great speed without any animation, and I had to have the exhibitor fix it for me (though I wonder if I could have exploited it instead.) Being able to still finish the game even with all this jankiness felt really good! I also felt really awkward though, because I was afraid of what people think when they see me do all these terrible things to the game.

Am I a bad person for liking the game this way? Maybe I am. I guess it's not really good publicity to have me show how broken and janky this game could be. To be fair, this is a pre-release game, so I expect them to fix most of these things before release. The exhibitor (who was very nice despite how I played their game =P) said that the rather floaty combat will even have an overhaul. Even without all those video game weirdness, I reckon it'll be a very good game. It looks quite beautiful! More games should take inspiration from Wind Waker.

(Speaking of janky video games, I also watched someone play through the What Remains of Edith Finch demo at the Playstation booth and she made the tentacle at the last segment freak out on geometry. That was fun =P)

Aaand that's it, folks! In case you are wondering about the stew, it ended up getting burnt a little =( It's still pretty good though! Anyway, thanks for reading!