TechnoBuffalo hit PAX East with two writers this year. I normally take on the show all by myself, but there were enough games there for the 2015 showing that I figured we'd need some outside assistance.
So, contributor Mike White and I took on the town in tandem, and we played a whole lot of games.
The crazy part? I still don't think we managed to see everything on the show floor. That's how much there was to play. We were there for all three days, practically walked the show floor from opening to close, and there were still games left unplayed.
Still, we loved a lot of what we wound up playing. On our way home, I sat down with Mike, and we selected a few of the coolest games that we tried out at the show. I've grabbed a few bits form our hands-on previews, some visuals and links to the full coverage. You can find all that below in what we're dubbing, officially, the coolest games we played at PAX East 2015.
Affordable Space Adventures – Wii U
This text comes from our preview of Affordable Space Adventures. You can read it in full here.
I was on the GamePad for this demo. As the engineer, my responsibilities centered around controlling the ship's mechanical functions. In Affordable Space Adventures, you're meant to explore space without disturbing the environment too much. There's a specific reason for that in the context of the game, but for the purpose of the demo, we were shown that we need to scan certain traps in order to avoid tripping alarms.
Traps react to how much noise, heat and electricity your ship generates. If you're using the combustion fuel driven engine, you're likely producing a lot of heat and sound. The electricity engine produces, well, electricity. Traps can sense this, and the engineer needs to adjust outputs and engine types constantly in order to give the pilot a way to navigate through these trap-driven puzzles.
All of that happens on the GamePad. You essentially have an interface that smartly tells you which side effects lead to which mechanism. Even further, adjusting mechanisms will allow you to float more easily, speed through sections or, in the case of some puzzling moments, drop like a rock down a hole.
The Behemoth's Game 4 – PC, Xbox One
This text comes from our preview of The Behemoth's Game 4. You can read it in full here.
Guess what… It's awesome. In fact, after just 30 minutes with Game 4, I can easily see myself sinking more time into this Behemoth affair than any other in their run, and that says a lot…
…The combat is the turn-based hex form. Move your troops in tactical strategy fashion, go for the opponents they'll be strong against… Helmet wearing foes? Send the combatant with the mace instead of the sword. Beat your opponents, collect your loot and head back to town.
You'll find all sorts of stuff in town, but that's the special place where you'll find your house. In your house, you can customize your combatants. You'll be able to recruit team members through the game, though some are story driven while others are just for the sake of building your army. Once you recruit them, you can customize them with new hats, armor, weapons and so forth. There's a sense of balance in the game in that making yourself too armored will slow you down and give you less movement on the hex board. At the same time, being too lightweight will give you terrible defense and possibly bad attack.
Check-In Knock-Out – PC, TBA Consoles
This text comes from our preview of Check-In Knock-Out. You can read it in full here.
We stopped by this one on a complete lark. We were passing through, on our way to get lunch, the speed and mayhem caught our eye, a seat opened up and I sat down to play.
Check-In Knock-Out is a local multiplayer arena brawler. You don't hit and kick your opponents with limbs. Instead, you use luggage and the floors around you.
Stand on top of or next to a piece of luggage, pick it up and chuck it at an opponent. Hit them hard enough with it, and they blast off of the screen. Repeat until you're the last player standing, and you win the round. The level resets and players start once more.
Now, the throwing doesn't stop at luggage. As the luggage disappears, you'll slowly tear away chunks of the level below you. That means that stages actually get smaller as time and combat wear on, and that makes it harder to grab a weapon and defeat a friend (or enemy, I suppose).
Downwell – iOS, Android, PC
This text comes from our preview of Downwell. You can read it in full here.
As far as great mobile games go, I personally like the variety that are tough, addictive and seemingly endless. That's Downwell. Made by a single developer, Ojiro Fumoto, and picked up by publisher Devolver Digital, Downwell is an interesting little game bound for PC, iOS and Android.
I played it today at PAX East on a mobile device, and I dug it a whole heck of a lot.
You drop down a well at the start of the game. You can move right and left during your descent. You can also jump. When you encounter enemies, you kill them by jumping and then jumping again to fire shots from your gunboots.
You'll drop down the well, battle enemies, collect loot and move from stage to stage. You'll also find small rooms on the right and left sides of the well that contain various weapon changes or health refills. Even better, there's a shop every so often for you to cash in all those gems you scored along the way.
Jotun – PC, Mac, Linux
This text comes from our preview of Jotun. You can read it in full here.
The phrase I heard kicked around a lot while I was standing in front of Jotun's booth waiting for a shot to play ran something like, "it's a hand drawn Shadow of the Colossuswith a viking spin."
For a lot of gamers, that's all it takes.
Jotun stars Thora, a female viking warrior who died, in their words, an inglorious death. Her one shot to get out of purgatory is to brave the elements and defeat five separate Jotun. The Jotun are massive giants, each with their own elemental association.
I took on the Winter Jotun during my time with the game. Things were going really, really well until I chipped his health down to the halfway points. That's when the snow on the mountain gave way to ice, and the angry giant had the advantage of battling Thora without traction.
I didn't win.
Masquerada: Songs and Shadows – PC, Mac, Linux
This text comes from our preview of Masquerada: Songs and Shadows. You can read it in full here.
For a game that's only been in development for five months, I was really impressed with what Masquerada had to show. There's a lot to look forward to in this 2.5D isometric RPG. Developer Witching Hour Studios wants to create a compelling game, drawing on influence from classic RPGs and story-telling heavyweights like Bioware.
Throughout the demo, the developers and I were frequently and comfortably able to draw comparisons to the Baldur's Gate and Dragon Age franchises. Those comments are welcome to Witching Hour. They are attempting to draw players in with a familiar structure and style so they can put forth a unique and engaging story.
What they brought to PAX was relatively short, but gave me a good indication of what the bulk of game would feel like once it's finished. We started somewhere in the middle of the story to give us access to a full party of three. There will be five characters to choose from once you've encountered each throughout the game.
The characters backstories and orientations are more diverse than I'm used to. This is where you'll find more layers to peel back on top of the main character and campaign.
Overwatch – PC
This text comes from our preview of Overwatch. You can read it in full here.
Perhaps this was just our mistake leading into the show, but we had no idea Blizzard would have Overwatch with them at PAX East. Sure! We should have checked the list a little more closely, but we didn't.
We visited the booth early on, and we made an appointment to play later in the show. Surprise, this shooter is playing pretty awesomely.
Blizzard has a penchant for developing highly polished titles, and they release games when they're good and ready. This is the first time either of us played Overwatch, and it felt pretty darn fantastic.
It's not even ready yet. That's the crazy part. Overwatch currently has no release date. It's been announced for the PC and Mac platforms so far.
Runbow – Wii U
This text comes from our preview of Runbow. You can read it in full here.
This game was a surprise. Up-to nine player local multiplayer, exclusive to the Wii U.Runbow is a twitch-reflex, fighting, racing platformer with fun modes, costumes and tons of colors.
How do you get nine players? That's sort of interesting. You take four Wii Remotes, four nunchucks (or classic controllers) and hook them altogether. That makes eight. You get the ninth with the Gamepad.
The gist of the main "Run" mode is this: each player starts on the left side of a level. They run and jump over and through obstacles on their way to a trophy. They can snap power-ups along the way, pummel other players or, generally, worry about their own survival. Fall into a pit or lag too far behind, and you're toast.
The crazy comes into play when platforms are colored. As a new background color wipes into the screen, all platforms of that color vanish. Standing on or jumping for a green right before the green background pulses in? You're dead.
Severed– PS Vita
This text comes from our preview of Severed. You can read it in full here.
I started out playing the game as the main character wakes up with only a few violent flashes of what's happened to her. Her left arm is missing from the elbow down. There's a portrait of what could be her family, but no one else is in the room. Then you get a first look at the character as you stand in front of a mirror. That's all you have to go on.
Out of the gate it's all about exploration in the style of a classic first person dungeon crawler. You navigate the game world with the Vita's analog sticks, using them to investigate each space before moving onto the next room. Interacting with objects is done by tapping or swiping the touchscreen.
The transition between wandering from room to room and your first foray into combat is surprisingly smooth. Enemy monsters take up the entire screen, but can also appear on either side of you. These situations force you swap between monsters while watching their swing timers to avoid attacks.
You swipe to swing your sword, swipe against an enemy attack to parry and avoid swiping when the enemy blocks. The simple controls make for surprisingly fun combat as each enemy attacks and becomes vulnerable in different patterns. Time your kills correctly, and you're rewarded with extra monster parts to craft upgrades.