The title says it all!
PAX West 2016 was loaded with great games, and these are some of the most interesting and fun that we encountered while we were there. We couldn't play every game that was there, but we played as many as we could -- and these are some of the biggest standouts from the show.
Invisigun Heroes is a multiplayer focused 2D arena shooter built around a unique hook -- your character is completely invisible until you shoot or use your special ability. This requires all players to remember where other players are when they briefly appear, and then watch how the environment reacts and listen for their footsteps whenever they aren't attacking and visible. There are also power-ups a handful of different game modes in order to add some spice to the gameplay, which will span 50 arenas on 5 different planets, all with different hazards.
This game has a STRONG focus on multiplayer. There is a single player mode with AI opponents, but the game also features 2-4 player local multiplayer, as well as online play, AND cross-platform play. With all this multiplayer content and the mind games involved in every single match; Invisigun Heroes should be a great game to break out at parties.
In a market where most rhythm games sell based on their unique soundtracks and visuals, Klang stands out by having a distinct soundtrack, visuals, AND gameplay. Klang strives to be more than a typical rhythm/music game by combining familiar directional-input-rhythm-matching gameplay with active platforming and combat simultaneously. This means that you will, at times, have to run and jump back and forth while also paying attention to the input innstructions.
The difficulty curves very naturally, the visuals are stark and expressive, and the musical motif carries well through the background and character design. With tightly designed, unique gameplay built around a head-banging soundtrack; Klang is a rhythm game you should keep an ear to the ground for.
Flinthook is a light rouguelike (a rougelite) based around shooting, looting, solving time manipulation and switch puzzles, and grappling everywhere you go while you do all of these things. It's a game with consistently engaging gameplay, as the combat and puzzles both encourage and necessitate balancing grappling-hook platforming with shooting and using your other abilities.
It's also a game that, while challenging at times, is much less difficult than most other quality roguelikes available, which makes it a great entry point into this sub-genre for both younger and inexperienced players. Its pixelated artwork is both very detailed and colorful, and creates a cartoon-y and expressive style that helps convey the game's adventurous and lighthearted tone as you plunder various procedurally generated pirate ships in space.
There have been many other oceanic or undersea exploration games before, but Diluvion still seems like a somewhat unique take on the concept. It combines real-time exploration in a 3D environment somewhat similar to Skies of Arcadia or No Man's Sky, with real-time ship and crew management in a 2D style similar to FTL, and then adds on a number of interesting additional mechanics on top this.
You can salvage parts from downed ships, recruit new crew members from scattered underwater colonies, and you must manage the oxygen and other resources of your submarine while exploring a tale taking place in the ruins of a now sunken civilization, all while making sure that your crew doesn't die.
In a market where most underwater exploration is bright and crystal blue, Diluvion opts for a slightly darker and foggier underwater landscape, which makes anticipating the unexpected a frequent feeling. This leaves you to resort on the sub's sonar ping system in order to get a idea as to if what you're looking at it just a wall, or a gigantic cyborg spider getting ready to laser scuttle you to death.
Diluvion isn't the most unique looking game in the world, but its mechanics seem very solid, and the exploration and art-style are both enjoyable. So keep an eye out for its release if you're looking to plunder undersea treasure later this year.
Shantae: Half-Genie Hero
Shantae: Half-Genie Hero looks and feels like a very, very solid 2D platformer. The PAX demo showcased the typical on-point humor, fluid animation, and tight controls that the Shantae series has always been known for, but it also showed off bits and pieces of what promises to be the biggest and most content rich game in the series thus far.
With a lengthy base campaign for Shantae herself coming, supposedly meant to be longer than any previous game in the series, as well as four additional campaigns with different characters all with their own stories and play-styles coming as DLC, this game promises to be packed to the gills with excellent platforming content. There will also be costumes meant to change Shantae's gameplay ever so slightly, and minigames and challenges thrown in here and there to add some variety to the jumping and whipping.
The demo also showcased a number of staples from previous Shantae titles returning, such as the animal transformations, as well as a handful of enemies and set-pieces, making it a treat for both newcomers as well as nostalgic fans. The magic system also returns from Shantae: Risky's Revenge, which includes both new and old defensive and offensive abilities, which adds a bit more to the potential strategy used in combat. The hand-drawn characters and enemies are very detailed, and they blend very well with the equally detailed 3D environements -- all of which is complemented by yet another impressive soundtrack from series veteran composer Jake Kaufman.
Shantae: Half-Genie Hero looks fantastic for platforming enthusiasts as well as other gamers; and won't be long until the people of the world can get their hands on it.
100ft Robot Golf
Sometimes a game doesn't need to be the prettiest belle of the ball or the most technically advanced to be good. Sometimes all a game needs to do is know what it wants to be, and then succeed at being that thing. 100ft Robot Golf knows exactly what it is. It is silly, it is stupid, and it loves it.
100ft Robot Golf is a multiplayer golf game that can support up to four players. But there aren't turns like in normal golf, but rather, a chaotic frenzy where all four players have their own ball that they need to get to hole. Each mech has different skills and abilities, which they must use in addition to flying around and destroying buildings, in order to essentially race their opponents to the hole. Everything about the game's premise, presentation, and writing is tongue-in-cheek and comedic in tone. From the corny anime trope characters to the dry humor narrations of the commentator brothers, it is all done for the sake of getting a laugh out of you.
It's a game that is fairly simple to understand and is it is immediately satisfying. We played this game with a group of complete strangers, and we were all having a blast; laughing and cracking jokes as we knocked down buildings and watched as our mechs danced at the end of each hole. It's dumb fun in the best way.
If you want absolute proof that the developers know what kind of ridiculous game they're making, then check out this tweet:
ClusterTruck is an intense, toe-curling, teeth-clenching, truly challenging, and stupidly fun first-person 3D platformer. The basic premise is that you are jumping across an endless onslaught of freight trucks, and doing your best to make it to the end of each level without touching the ground once, like an insane parkour version of "The Floor is Lava". The game has no story, or any context for what is going on, but it doesn't need any in order to be gripping and fun.
The behavior of the trucks is affected very slightly by how you land on them, as their momentum and trajectory is altered slightly, so memorizing patterns and forming a consistent winning strategy isn't a viable option. Add on top of this the fact that the trucks are always moving, often quickly, as well as in different directions, and you have a gaming experience that is based entirely on twitch instincts -- fast thinking, and quick reaction times. The levels are also usually on the short side, and the player can also restart the level immediately upon death, which keeps the game's flow consistently fast-paced.
The game is planned to have 9 different worlds with 10 levels each, all with different visual themes and gameplay mechanics, both related and unrelated to the surrounding environment. These hazards range from giant hammers, to rotating lasers, to the classic standby of huge walls. The player will also acquire new abilities over the course of the game that will naturally enhance the simple mechanics that the game establishes at its start. These include a helpful double-jump and the ability briefly slow down time in order to more accurately position a landing.
ClusterTruck is shaping up to be a rare example of first-person platformer that doesn't just succeed, but actually does well.
Night In The Woods
They could have called this game "Chilling with Your Friends Simulator" and it would have been just as accurate of a title. Night in the Woods is a game which intends to prioritize narrative and characters over gameplay, much like games such as Gone Home and The Stanley Parable. However, among other games that emphasize story over everything else, Night in the Woods still has more gameplay than most of its contemporaries.
What gameplay is there is pretty scattershot, and exists in a vast minority to walking around and talking to people. But it is all fun to do, and much more traditional in nature compared to the average walking simulator type game. In the hour of Night in the Woods that was shown off at PAX there was a Guitar Hero style band practice with your pals, breaking flying light fixtures with a baseball bat, and even a shoplifting stealth section, all with plot relevance and different, intuitive control schemes.
When you aren't being a college dropout, you're exploring your home town by platforming across mailboxes and power-lines in order to find secrets and talk to people in order to build up the world around you. It is possible that the target audience for this game is somewhat limited by the modern-ish teenage mindset of the principal cast of characters, but it if you do fit into that same age group, you're likely to see a lot of your friends and possibly yourself in the protagonist Mae and her group of friends.
The real plot of the game didn't show itself very much in the demo, but there will be an overarching plot involving strange paranormal happenings involving the disappearance of people in the slowly shrinking town of Possum Springs, and Mae and her friends getting caught up in it. While the premise is admittedly very old-hat sounding and definitely been done before, there is a great deal of strength of writing shown in the very humorous and human dialogue -- so perhaps Night in the Woods could still re-invent the wheel on this one.
Only time will tell how challenging or important the actual gameplay will be to the final product. But as it stands, Night in the Woods has a relateable cast, hilarious and well-written dialogue, gorgeous graphics, an intriguing if tiredly familiar setup, and simple, novel gameplay.
Battle Chef Brigade
Battle Chef Brigade was truly one of the most original games present at PAX. It is a bold combination of genres that was clearly made from a desire to create a game that the developers themselves wanted to play. Mainly because it just didn't exist already. It combines elements and mechanics from classic beat-em ups, hunting games, shape-matching puzzle games, RPGs, and of course, cooking games.
What truly sets Battle Chef Brigade apart from other cooking games, and most other games with any sort of crafting system, is the ability to go off recipe. Every cooking battle does have a theme ingredient, as well often a particular element that the judge wants highlighted, but other than that, the player is completely free to use whatever available ingredients they want. You can end up with many different-looking dishes by the time that you complete cooking battle, and there are dozens of different ways to get to those different results, and it's all up to what the player chooses to do. Surrounding this freedom of choice is solid core gameplay packed with a swath of different mechanics.
Battle Chef Brigade is set in a world of fantasy, where its cast of playable characters are all competing in an Iron Chef inspired cooking competition, and all the ingredients are collected from plants and monsters surrounding the kitchen arena that the player themselves must kill with beat-em-up style combat. In order too actually cook the ingredients, the player must then play match-three puzzle game in order to make more room in the pot and rack up a higher score on each dish to impress the judge(s). In between matches there are NPCs to talk to, cooking and combat upgrades to buy, and story to take in; so the game offers just a little bit of everything.
The game is expected to have a five hour campaign on average for each playable chef, and with four different chefs with different storylines and play-styles, the game is expected to have a robust playtime at around 20 total hours. Add on top of all of this storylines for each chef which occasionally overlap, a gorgeously animated anime artstyle, and a great soundtrack, Battle Chef Brigade could very well end up being one of the best games released next year.
What were some of the most interesting games you saw at PAX this year? Let me know in the comments below!