PAX East 2023 – Day 4

The final day of PAX is a bit slower. After three full days of running around and playing games more or less non-stop for 14 hours straight, I am a bit tired. So I’m more than happy for a day with less crowds, and a more leisurely tone.

I started by wandering over to the Top Hat Studios booth. I tried a game called Ellementallis. From what I saw it was sort of a simple dungeon crawler in the vein of the Zelda games. I ended up putting it down fairly quickly.

Then I moved to another game at the booth, Athenian Rhapsody. Specifically, Athenian Rhapsody: Thunder Goober’s Personality Dungeon. It’s not a demo of the full game, instead it’s a sort of standalone mini-section of what the full game will be.

Athenian Rhapsody might be my sleeper hit of the show. It’s unabashedly following in the vein of Earthbound and Undertale. It’s weird, with a distinctive style and unusual tone. It also uses a amped up version of Undertale’s bullet hell/real time movement dodge mechanics within an RPG.

I am cautious. Undertale is an incredibly strong game on every axis. Music, writing, and perhaps most importantly, gameplay. But it’s a strong game because all of how well all of those three work together. I have no idea if Athenian Rhapsody will be as good. But I’d like to believe that it will be. It certainly has the potential.

Anyway, moving along I found Treachery in Beatdown City. It’s part side scrolling beat-em-up, and part JRPG. Characters are moved around with the control sticks, but there’s a energy and FP menu for actually using some attacks on enemies. The game didn’t click for me, but it’s a very cool combination I’ve never seen done before.

Another cool project that I haven’t tried out yet was Project Dark, a video game with no video. Instead, it’s a audio based game where you swipe left or right to make decisions. I grabbed a code for one of the modules and I’m hoping to try it at some point this week.

Then a lunch break!

Post-Lunch

In entirely unrelated and weird experience, I ran into the booth for Artix Entertainment. There’s a longer story here. Short version is that I met someone who was basically a personal hero from my childhood, and made a bunch of the games I played in highschool and middle school. So that was cool. They’re working on a port of Adventure Quest Worlds to Unity, with the name Adventure Quest Worlds Infinity. So if I can ever figure out how to get my old character back, I might play that again.

Then it was back to wandering, and I wandered over to Righteous Mojo. I didn’t like Righteous Mojo very much. The game felt and played like a combo of Friday Night Funkin and a 2006 flash game. It also looks like 2006 flash game. Graphics aren’t everything, and gameplay isn’t everything, but you gotta have at least one of them.

Anyway, I wandered a bit more and found myself at the Raw Fury booth. I’ve written about one of their published games, Dome Keeper before. Raw Fury has a bunch of games I’m curious about, including Cassette Beasts and Superfuse. But I sat down and played Friends VS Friends, the deckbuildy-cardshooty 1v1 and 2v2 shooter. It had a bunch of cards I hadn’t seen before in some of the other public demos they’ve run, and was quite fun.

Strolling around, I stopped into play ODR Hockey Heros. Sports games aren’t really my thing, but it was pretty fun. It’s apparently inspired by the SNES era of couch co-op and versus hockey games. I’ve never played any of those, so I’m not sure if it succeeds.

Then I played something a bit more in my wheelhouse: Robobeat. It’s a rougelike arena-shooter, where you get rewarded for shooting to the beat. It was pretty fun! Side note: This is a genre that demos well at game conventions, but I’ve burned by before as well. So I’m always a little hesitant when see these sorts of games.

Crossing to the other side of the hall, I found Toy Tactics, a neat little RTS with primary gimmick being the ability to draw your own battle formations. It reminded a bit of Battalion Wars 2. Yes, I am comparing this to a Wii game from 2007. No, I won’t elaborate.

Because PAX East closes at 6:00 on Sundays, I didn’t get as many board games. I did however get to demo Potion Slingers, a very cool semi-deckbuilder. It’s difference from a traditional deckbuilder is that cards are placed face up onto your deck as you buy them, and many are single use. So instead of being a hard engine builder, it’s more about spotting combos and combining various factors. It was quite interesting, and ended being the only board game I played at the show today.

However, it wasn’t my last game of the day. That honor goes to the somewhat unfortunately named Pandemic Train. It’s a roguelike about managing survivors in a train, and getting out to loot the places you stop at, all while trying to cure a deadly disease. The game was interesting, but felt a bit rough around the edges. Right now it has a release date of next quarter, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that gets pushed back a bit.

And finally, as the hall closed, I waved goodbye and- no wait, I didn’t do that. Instead, I helped some friends break down their booth, lug everything out to the car, and then made my way home, where I’m now typing this.

From an attendee standpoint, this was a pretty good PAX. Attendance did feel a bit lighter then usual, but I don’t know how that worked out for folks at booths. I saw a bunch of cool stuff, learned about some interesting looking upcoming games, and chatted with cool folks.

PAX East 2023 – Day 3

Read day 1 here. Read day 2 here.

Day 3 of PAX East 2023 has rolled around, AKA Saturday, aka the busiest day. But I was a bit tired, so I just laid in bed, and headed over to the convention center at about 12:00.

I started by heading over to the NIS America booth. They’re the publisher and developer for Disgaea, a series I absolutely adore. There was some promotional material for Disgaea 7, but no demo. So instead I played the five games that they had available. The two that stuck out to me as interesting were Grim Grimoire OnceMore and Trails to Azure. Grim Grimoire is a remake of a PS2 RTS style game. Trails to Azure is a JRPG.

After that, I wandered a bit and checked out Bish Bash Bots, a multiplayer tower defense game. The mechanic setting it apart is a light physics system. Players whack towers to upgrade them. They can also whack incoming enemies to push them back. What I saw was a bit simplistic, but fun.

I swung by Serenity Forge. The demos I was interested in had fairly long lines, so I kept going.

Then I found Galactic Getaway. Players play Mario Party style mini-games to earn currency. Then they can spend that currency to decorate and build up a Animal Crossing style island. One of the mini-games was a very clever tile placement thing I found quite fun. I didn’t really experiment with the other parts of the game, but there’s a lot of potential. I’m going to keep an eye on this one, even though it’s not really a genre in my personal wheelhouse. Side Note: I chatted with the devs a bit. They’re aiming for a multi-platform and cross platform release. It’s ambitious, but I hope it works out.

Then I went to actually demo Nostalgix. Nostalgix is an Indie TCG that feels like a combination of Hearthstone and the Pok√©mon TCG. It was actually quite fun! I’ve written a bit about other indie TCG’s (and my skepticism of MetaZoo). I may try to do a full writeup at some point on Nostalgix, but it played best of any of the indie TCG’s I’ve seen so far.

After that I wandered and found Infernax. I legit didn’t know anything about it, other than that it looked like gritty Shovel Knight Castlevania. After playing for a bit, I would say that it was fine. It felt a bit tonally weird, but the actual mechanics of the demo didn’t feel special enough to make me love it.

Then it was time for board games. I demo’ed Skytear: Horde. It’s a co-op PVE defense game. I’m not a huge PVE board game person, so it didn’t grab me. Might be worth checking out if you are into that sort of thing though. It did have nice art.

After the Expo Hall closed, I checked out the Board Game library.

The first game I ended up playing was Downforce. Downforce is a diceless tactical movemnt game where you’re racing racecars by playing movement cards. Each card can move multiple cards, and there’s also a bidding. It was quite neat, and I would play it again, but I did not win.

The second game from the library was Land Air & Sea. It’s a neat bluffing game. Players take turns placing cards, and try to win two of three battlefields. At the same time though, it’s possible to retreat early. Doing so lets you minimize losses, and keep playing.

The last game of the night was Macaryoshka. It was some sort of incredibly interesting Japanese homebrew, with what appeared to be home machined parts, and a set of English rules that weren’t translated 100% correctly. It placement game about Macaroons. It was pretty neat! We did have to google translate the Japanese rules to figure a few things out though. Fantastic components, interesting gameplay. I would be shocked if I ever see another copy of this thing again in my life.

Image of Makaryoshika board game
Here’s an online image I found. I can’t actually find a website or link for the developer.

And with that, PAX East 2023 Day 3 was over! But we still have one more day left. So for now I am going to get some sleep, and try to prepare mentally for Sunday.

PAX East 2023 – Day 1

PAX East 2023 Day 1 is over! Which means I still have three days left. This post is going up on what will technically be day 2 of PAX East, so it’s going to be a bit ramshackle. Still I want to get my thoughts down on paper.

I showed up a bit after 10:00 instead of waiting around too much this year, and just wandered the show floor for a bit.

First game I demo’ed was Worn Wanderers by Cleromancy Games. They’d launched their Kickstarter 20 or so minutes before I showed up, and it’s blazed past it’s funding goal now, which is awesome. I wouldn’t say that I loved the game from what I played, but I think making a game that you can play with wearable enamel pins is a really cool design space.

Next demo was Xenotilt. I’ve written about Demon’s Tilt, and this is another game from the same creator, who was more then happy to listen to me ask questions about various mechanics in the game, and give me some answers. Xeno Tilt does seem like it’s going to solve some of my complaints about Demons Tilt, so I’m excited to see how it ends up.

A bit more wandering, and I found Begone Beast by Tandemi. It’s pretty clearly in an early stage (there’s quite a few things that need some polish) but the core movement is fun, even if the combat isn’t quite there yet. In addition, the final boss is a giant blob made out of hands, and it’s terrifying and I love it. I’m gonna be keeping an eye on this one. I’m not sure if it’s something special yet, but it could be something very fun.

Then there was Bomb Sworders. I didn’t play a huge amount, and kind of just got instantly killed each round. No strong feelings either way on this one.

There’s a augmented reality game called Sigil. It’s kind of hard to demo an augmented reality game, but I like that genre. I’m always up for more stuff like Pokemon Go, and I’m curious to see how Sigil compares to something like Orna.

There’s a few other things that happened, but don’t have enough to fulfill a whole paragraph, so lets cover those!

I got crushed at Pocket Paragons by the folks at the Solis Game Studio booth. I played Brew, and lost by 8 points. There was a cool multiplayer vampire survivors styled game called Extremely Powerful Capybara’s, and that was pretty neat.

I’ve also managed to sign up for a press session for Mina the Hollower (Yacht Club Games, the folks who made Shovel Knight, yay!) and then somehow misplaced the one business card I needed to hold onto (I’m an idiot.) Fingers crossed that all works out. Bought some stuff, but no new games so nothing to say on that.

All in all, a solid day one of PAX East 2023. And now I am going to sleep.

PAX East – Dome Keeper

I was going to title this post the “Good Stuff” post. It was going to be a nice big list of everything from the show that I liked, but hadn’t listed out yet.

Then I ran into a slight problem. See, that list was a grand total of one item long. I already covered most of the games from the show that I liked in the “Games From PAX With Demos you can play at home” post.

So instead, you get a super short post about Dome Keeper, the single remaining entry on that list. So I say to Dome Keeper: congrats! And please don’t disappoint me when you actually release.

Published by Raw Fury! Who also published Atomicrops, which I loved.

So what is Dome Keeper? Well, two things, sorta. It plays like a combo of Motherload, and Space Invaders. You are a small space person, living in your tiny little dome. You can leave the dome to dig down, and gather various minerals and ores, which you then drag back to your base and deposit. Different ores are used for different types of upgrades, which range from increasing the speed at which you move, your carrying capacity, and how quickly you dig. They can also be used to upgrade your dome. And you’re going to want to do that, because there’s a timer, and when it ticks down, your dome gets a attacked by a wave of monsters.

Of course, even if you clear that wave, the next wave will be stronger. So back into the mines you go to search for more minerals. Rinse, repeat.

The demo itself was a ton of fun, and the game is supposed to release later this year. The Steam page has it listed as a roguelike, so I’m curious to see how that gets implemented, and what other features the game has.

But like I said, the demo was fun. And really, that’s the most important thing. So cross your fingers with me, and let’s hope it’s good.

PAX East Party Game Post

This week: The party games we saw at PAX East!

I mentioned in another post-PAX writeup how I’m hesitant to recommend boomer shooters based off demos. This is because boomer shooters almost always demo well, even if the final product is subpar.

Well, this week, we’re talking about another genre that almost always demos/plays well at a convention: The party game!

Combine the excitement of being at a con with anything competitive, and a large number of people to play with, and just about everything can be fun for a bit. So here are the party games I saw at PAX East.

Starting with…

This image does not do a good job of capturing gameplay mechanics.

From what I played, Orbitals felt like a Smash Bros style 2d party brawler. The game had two mechanical twists though. The first is that the whole thing takes place in a gravity free area. You have to move from area to area Super Mario Galaxy style. The second is that after each round, you get points to spend to upgrade your character.

When I played, I found the gameplay a bit floaty. I couldn’t tell if that was just because it was my first time playing. The gameplay seems interesting, and Orbitals is on my watch list because of that. If you want to find out more about the game, click here.

Next up:

I guess this one does slightly more?

Match Point by Jolly Crouton is effectively multiplayer super Pong. It supports up to 4 players. Unlike Pong, you have a few other abilities then just bumping into the ball. By pressing certain triggers, you can magnetize yourself to pull the ball in, or do harder shots. Also, the goal requires you to hit it twice in semi-quick succession to score.

After reading my notes, I have written down that I thought it was “Fine” and “Not really my thing”. Also “Good Party Game???”. I think those notes are pretty accurate. It’s well made, but it’s still mostly Pong. I think it might be fun with the right crowd. But if it seems like your thing, you can learn more about it here.

Which brings us to our last entrant…

Finally, someone made a header image where the image is from the game!

Squish is fairly straight forward. It’s a survival versus game for up to 4 players. You play as a small blob skeleton, and try to be the last one standing while blocks constantly fall down onto the field. You can push this around, but if you get crushed by one, you die. Get killed, and you’re given one last chance to control a falling block. Take out another player with that block and you’re back into the game.

Squish feels like a extended release of a Mario Party minigame if I’m being honest. I don’t dislike it, but it wasn’t amazing. The full game does promise more modes, which might change things up a bit. If you want to find out more, you can click here. It actually has a scheduled release date of May 31st, so pretty soon!

And those were all the party games I played at PAX East. Like I mentioned before, it’s a genre that does well at conventions, and always makes me pause for a bit. My personal favorite was Orbitals, for both having the most potential and being the most interesting.

In either case, join us next week as I attempt to keep writing these summaries because I played a ton of stuff! Not sure what the theme will be then, but I’ll figure it out.