PAX East 2023 – Day 2

Day 2 of PAX East 2023 is over, and I am completely fried. Before I stumble into bed though, I’ll be doing another quick recap! Mostly just focusing on what I saw and played.

Let’s start with the big highlight: Mina the Hollower.

It’s from Yacht Club Games, the folks who made Shovel Knight, which I also love.

From what I played, it feels like a combination of the best mechanics of 2D Zelda and a sprinkling of Soulslike, specifically Bloodborne in some ways. So far it is hands down the best thing I’ve seen at PAX East this year. The movement and combat is fantastic and fun, and while I can’t comment too much on on story/art/music, they all seemed great from what I saw.

I did get to chat with one of the devs as I was playing, and he mentioned that the game likely won’t be out this here, but hopefully will be out next year. So I have a bit to wait before we get to play the whole thing.

Anyway, just in case I wasn’t clear enough, let me say it one more time. Mina the Hollower is currently the best thing I’ve seen at PAX East 2023, and it might turn out to be the best game there.

Rest of the Day

Anyway, after that I rolled over to the Unpub tables, and played some stuff there. First game was Magician’s Challenge by James Eastband, who doesn’t have a Twitter or website I can link to. Players try to draw props to complete various sets to perform magic tricks, while messing with their opponents via sneak cards. It’s effectively Yahtzee with cards, and it was pretty fun.

This was followed by Wormwood. It’s a 2-4 player (prebuilt?) deck game, in the spirit of something like Netrunner or Magic’s Commander format. Where it differs is that it’s designed to be played with 4 players, and there’s no elimination. Instead, you win by collecting 10 of a certain type of card, meaning that even if you fall behind, you stay in the game. I only played a two player game, but it was pretty neat, even if I did feel a little overwhelmed at the start.

Finally, I played The Armory a second time after seeing it at Granite State Games festival. There have been been a few tweaks, reducing the lulls quite a bit, and it’s neat to see how it’s shaping up.

Then it was back to roaming the show floor for a bit. I tried out Blackout Protocol, a top down team based shooter in the spirit of something like Alien Swarm. Me and the other two folks I was playing with got absolutely bodied by the zombies.

The big thing I saw this afternoon, though, was Cobalt Core, a deckbuilding game about piloting a spaceship, in the vein of something like Slay the Spire. I quite liked what I saw, but it was a 12 minute demo. It’s a bit hard to draw long term conclusions. Still, there was enough there, and enough differences to make it feel distinct from Slay the Spire, especially with the positioning and row mechanics.

Finally, with the day rounding down, I went and got a healthy dinner.

Just kidding. I went, ate half of a friend’s sandwich, and sat down for some more games. I played Gudnak, and just dipped after a little bit. It’s a positional card game, but it didn’t really grab me.

This was followed up by Dice Miner. It’s a set collection and engine builder game that was quite fun. Players take turns drafting dice off the top of a mountain, score points, and than accumulate a increasing horde of dice to use to get more points in the next round. I liked it.

The last game I played was Hero: Tales of the Tomes. I demoed this game at PAX Unplugged about four months ago. Overall, I can’t say I love it. It feels like it’s trying to give a Commander-in-a-box experience. The problem is that there’s a lot randomness in card draw. There’s also first player advantage, and not much incentive to be the aggressive player. When one player dropped to leave, we all decided to just sort of abandon the game, and call it a night.

Everything Else – AKA Rapid Fire Round

Broombot Battlegrounds: Play as a “Legally Distinct Non-Roomba robots,” and compete in a small battle arenas sucking up dust. Played a little bit, but controls were inconsistent and didn’t quite grab me.
Star Salvager: Match falling blocks into your ship to power your weapons and fight off aliens Space Invaders style. Controls felt a bit wonky, but it does have a demo, so if that sounds neat, check it out.
No Longer Human: Side scrolling spectacle fighter. Currently looks like it’s an very early alpha, and I broke the demo build while playing it.

Overall thoughts

Solid second day. Mina the Hollower could be my game of the year for 2024, so at least I have that to look forward to. I’m planning to take it easy tomorrow. As always, thanks for reading, and I’ll be back to regularly scheduled writeups until April. Until then, I have two days of PAX left, and I need to sleep.