PAX West 2018: Gods, Co-Op, and Pizza Mechs in the PAX 10
All of the big games you can’t wait for came to PAX West 2018 to show off demos. Spider-Man PS4, The Division 2, and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey blew me away, as I knew they would. But I’ve also found a ton of hidden gems around the Seattle expo and expect to find more over the next three days. The PAX 10 felt like a great place to start, and all ten games earned their place in the showcase for a wide range of reasons. Interestingly, the ten developers stem from six different countries, showing the strength of the international indie dev scene. Here’s my breakdown of these ten incredible indie games at PAX West 2018.
With Friends Like These
Some people believe couch co-op, apart from Switch games, is dying. Husband and wife developers Nicole Lawson and Craig Brown of Shy Kids Club respectfully disagree. The Australian devs crafted a game which forces players to alternate between piloting and shooting. No more arguing over who gets to (or has to) drive! As your ship cruises through the world, you pass through water and air (blue and pink zones, respectively), which switches who fires and who steers. Blue and pink enemies can only be destroyed by the matching shooter, so players will need to work together to get to the proper areas and survive. It’s incredibly cohesive and encourages actual teamwork rather than freewheeling it side-by-side.
There’s also a single player mode, but this game needs (and deserves) to be played together to experience the beauty of its crafting.
With Friends Like These is aiming for a 2019 launch.
Tick Tock: A Tale for Two
Speaking of co-op, Swedish dev Other Tales Interactive showed off a unique adventure game inspired by room escapes. As somewhat of a room escape aficionado, I was immediately sold on the concept. Originally a thesis project, Tick Tock has transformed into a critical darling and received numerous award nominations. It’s easy to see why as soon as you start playing. Two players are trapped in a world filled with clocks and gears constructed by clockmaker Amalie Ravn, which she crafted as a game. You and your friend need to communicate as you uncover different clues throughout the world. Yes, you could just look at your teammate’s screen to gain information, but that takes away from the suspense of it all. Also, that won’t necessarily be a simple solution as the puzzles can get fairly tricky.
Along with an intriguing backstory, these puzzles left me craving the next two chapters in the title. And in true room escape fashion, the game shows you your time at the end so you can compete with your friends. If you dig old school adventure and room escapes, Tick Tock is for you.
Tick Tock is expected to release on Steam in Q1 2019.
Occasionally, developers can hurt their own brand by straying too far from their previous titles. This is absolutely, 100% not one of those cases. Fishing Cactus’s first game, Epistory—Typing Chronicles, was a major success. With a slick paper craft art style and some unique game mechanics, Epistory garnered multiple awards and earned international adoration. The Belgian developer’s second game, Shift Quantum, strays far from that path but is no less incredible. In this black-and-white puzzle-platformer, players must solve complex maps by inverting their world. This cyber-noir game employs a variety of blocks with special abilities to help you escape the villainous Axon Vertigo. With over 70 levels and some seriously frustrating puzzles, Shift Quantum should keep you flipping the world over and over again.
Shift Quantum is now available on PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Steam.
Local dev Wonderbelly Games pitched this to me as “Peggle mixed with a roguelite and D&D.” After giving it a go, I found it difficult to sum the game up any better. Players choose their character and special abilities as they battle their way through procedurally generated dungeons. You need to defeat the enemies on the map to proceed, but they hit back on contact. It’s a surprisingly complicated system that doesn’t sacrifice any of its sense of humor in the process. The physics feel tight, and I managed to hold the high score on the demo for much of the day. Even if I don’t lose my crown, I will likely go back for another deep dungeon dive tomorrow.
Roundguard will release on Steam sometime later this year.
More PAX West awesome co-op! This four-player title from Swiss dev Team Maniax describes itself as “a combination of Super Smash Bros. and The Matrix.” High standards to live up to, but Retimed brings some intense competition and loads of fun. You and your fellow players dart around the colorful maps and take shots at each other until a bullet approaches. Suddenly, a time bubble surrounds your player and provides you precious seconds to escape the incoming fire. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll Neo yourself out of harm’s way. I died fairly regularly despite the Max Payne slo-mo mechanic. As with all great party games, Retimed can descend into chaotic competitive bliss fairly quickly. It feels like a must-own for the Nintendo Switch.
Retimed launches for the Switch next month and will release on Steam at a later date.
Praey for the Gods
This was the only title of the PAX 10 I’d known about prior to my arrival. I’ve actually been following this game’s development for the past three years, and seeing it at PAX West made me slightly giddy. No Matter Studios has created a gorgeous game reminiscent of Shadow of the Colossus with stunning giants and environments. Players take on the role of a solo hero charged with uncovering the reasoning behind an endless winter. As the trailer shows, you’ll come face-to-face with northern titans and have to defeat them to carry on your quest. I didn’t get to see the emotional depth of Shadow in the alpha demo, but it’s extremely likely that the fleshed-out plot will do its best to measure up. Even if it doesn’t, the boss fights alone make this game worth whatever No Matter charges.
Praey for the Gods is aiming for a 2018 release date on Steam.
Pizza Titan Ultra
If you ever played Starwhal, you should know how much fun Team Breakfall instills into their games. You play as a giant mech with a pizzeria in your chest. I don’t think I need to keep explaining, but I will anyway. A variety of game modes dictate how you’ll play each mission. I had to deliver pizzas in a certain timeframe and opted to destroy only about half of the buildings I encountered. As you progress through the game, a nefarious plot from an evil Chuck-E-Cheese esque robot threatens your peaceful pizza delivery business model. Customize your mech, sling the best pie, and save the world. It’s more or less every child’s dream scenario.
Older gamers (like me) will probably remember Descent. I was stunned by the similarities I saw in Overload, until I learned that the creators of Descent helped create this new title. Overload is a spiritual successor, not a true sequel, though its now hard for me to think of one without the other. In Overload, you must destroy robots and save what few survivors remain on the ship before it detonates. You’ll have a full arsenal of weaponry at your disposal to take out the corrupted sentry bots, including missiles and laser cannons. The ship’s winding design and narrow passages lead to some intense close quarters combat and tricky escapes. I’m not quite as capable a pilot here as I am in Battlefront II, but I intend on getting to that point. This game has enough content to keep players sated for dozens of hours.
Overload is now available on Steam.
I won’t lie to you: I had no idea how to play Ian Lilley’s puzzle game at first. (I blame it on an early start to PAX West). Despite its simple button combo—look, move, and a single on/off button—I became lost in the game’s gorgeous visuals. That gets harder as you go along, as do the game’s missions. Players must manipulate gravity to make a reflective ball reach the proper location. Doing so means turning a cube of walls off and on, forcing the orb towards the activated walls. As you progress, the maps intensify and a single room appears infinite. Eventually, I sort of lost myself in the psychedelic world and stared at the alluring shapes and vivid colors. The 25 levels represent a remarkable puzzle game for any team, let alone for a single developer.
Mirror Drop is now available on Steam.
Last but not least, Gunhead gives you the basic premise in its title: your character has a gun for a head. It’s as awesome as it sounds. A direct sequel to Alientrap’s Cryptark, Gunhead puts you in a mech suit and on the hunt for alien enemies. You can use your jetpack to enter alien spacecrafts, then your grapple shot, machine guns, and missiles to take down evil E.T.s. This roguelike is full of FPS goodness, with excellent physics and a plethora of enemies to take down. Just like all of the games on this list, if you like the genre, this game is absolutely for you.
Gunhead is aiming for a 2018 Steam release date.
Drew Weissman230 Posts
Drew is a freelance writer for DFTG. He's the former Managing Editor of Haogamers and has been published in the Chicago Tribune and The Paragon Journal. He also edited the novel Three Brightnesses and Artist Journey: Rachta Lin (2016 and 2017 editions).