PAX South 2016 Day Three Impressions

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The final day of PAX South has come to an end for me. After leaving early yesterday and getting solid rest last night, I felt prepared to tackle a whole slew of games. Here are the highlights!

Epistory

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Divergent methods of game input are always something that pique my interest. Typing words as a means of attack is always something that I find quaint and intriguing. Add an absolutely stunning papercraft art style to the typing mechanic and you get Epistory. Fishing Cactus has managed to create a vibrant and beautiful world that unfolds (literally) as the main character moves around on a fox. Pressing spacebar will show off certain objects that can be typed out to make them disappear and grant XP. The upgrade menu (hell the whole menu) can be typed on to select the various options, which is a really nice touch. Each upgrade provides an increase in either the speed of the fox or how long a word appears to be typed out, or some variation in between. Controls are handled with a typical WASD approach–although the game recommends using IJEF, which allows for better finger placement on the keyboard for faster typing, but is a little bit of an adjustment to get used to. A gem like Epistory is the exact reason why I’m glad I came back on the third day to finally give the game some proper demo time. I really can’t wait to play the full game now that I’ve had a taste. What’s even better, the game is out now and can already be purchased on Steam Early Access.



Marble Mountain

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Another gem of a game I was happy to get some time with was Lightning Rock’s Marble Mountain, a bit of an homage to the classic Atari game Marble Madness. Marble Mountain isn’t just about racing the clock to get to the end of the level however. Throughout each level there are items to collect which also provide a grade upon completion. Hidden items, including new types of marble skins, may also be found during level progression. Talking with Sam in the booth today, she revealed that the game has 25 levels and that some levels have rather challenging puzzles in addition to the gold coins to collect. One other cool aspect to Marble Mountain was the chance to play the game while using an HTC Vive headset. The game isn’t first person, but the camera view allowed for a responsive rotating view whereever I moved my head. Honestly this was my first VR experience and after playing, I can see why so many gamers are excited to push the new technology. Marble Mountain will be coming to PC soon with plans for consoles at a later date. Fans of the classic Marble Madness will not want to miss this.



Screencheat

Screencheat

This year at PAX South, the theme of many new games seemed to really suggest that couch co-op and split-screen multiplayer is making a comeback. Samurai Punk’s Screencheat is a prime example of this. The demo featured a 4-player split-screen battle, and each player could cycle through various weapons (upon being killed), the catch to the game being that all players are invisible. The only way to know where to shoot (or at least in the relative direction) is to look at where the other players are on their section of the screen (hence the game’s title). This type of play is a little chaotic, but the weapon variation helps to promote pitch perfect reaction time and spot on aiming. I managed to win my demo run by simply using a Teddy Bear Bomb and triggering the explosion whenever I thought I could see an enemy walk by where the bomb was located. This is a great competitive couch multiplayer game that is out now for PC and coming soon to PS4 and Xbox One. While I don’t have four controllers back at home, I can see this game being a reason to end up picking up a few more.



Karaski

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It is always nice to play a game in first-person mode that doesn’t stoop to the lowest common method of interaction: shooting people. Unbound Creation’s Karaski sets players on the world’s first airship with the intention of discovering who sabotaged the zeppelin by sneaking around, finding clues, and interrogating people on board. There are multiple endings depending on the tools you choose to carry with you, which provide different ways into rooms that may contain clues. Some of the tools include a pry bar, a gear crank, a lock pick, or a vent shaft opener. Because the inventory is limited not all tools can be carried at once. Picking locks or being seen crawling through air ducts is viewed as suspicious activity, and crew members may report your activities to the captain of the vessel. The art style reminds me of Double Fine’s Stacking, and I like the idea of stealthily solving a mystery while in first person and not feel obligated to using a gun.



Flat Kingdom

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Fat Panda’s side-scrolling platformer has a beautiful art style to go along with a unique twist on gameplay. Players control a character than can change shape, which then impacts how movement is handled throughout the environment. As a square shape, the character is heavy and can press down certain trigger points. Triangle allows the character to run fast, while circle allows the character to double jump. My demo time was short, but provided plenty of fun and gave a good indication of how much forward progress was able to happen only while using a swift combination of all three basic shapes. Throughout the levels are gold coins which can be used to purchase items sold by vendors. Flat Kingdom has a great feel and quick response and is one platformer I can’t wait to play when it comes out for PC and PS4 this year.



Kona

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Parabola Games’ Kona is an interactive mystery set in a snow covered 1970s Canada. Players must try to solve why the town is empty and some people are frozen into solid blue ice. The game is visually amazing. Snow storms blow when wandering outside, and the weather effects are absolutely spot on. Individual tree branches sway and move with the wind and swirls of snow blur the view. Upon investigating one house, I found a frozen body which triggered a flashback to events prior to the house being abandoned. Following clues and silhouettes of characters, I was able to learn some facts of what was going on. Kona is an intriguing mystery that I’m looking forward to digging deeper into. Kona: Day One, the first of four acts, will be out soon for PC. A special pre-order offer is available on the official website, providing a 30% discount along with beta access beginning on February 8th.



Trove

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As many attendees of PAX know, video games are only half of the fun to be had. What makes PAX South unique is the Indie Showcase, where new (or upcoming) tabletop games can be played. Leder Games’ competitive dungeon crawler, Trove, is a bit steep on the initial learning curve, but boy howdy is it a fun game once you begin to grasp the rules. Each player controls a different aspect of the dungeon. One player controls the Knight, another player, The Cave, or The Dragon, or Goblins. In my play session, I played a one-versus-one match where I was the Knight and my opponent was the Dragon. Turns include moving and exploring the cave and potentially dealing with encounters or finding treasure. Ultimately the goal is to kill the dragon, but as the Knight the only way to do that is to earn enough Grit, which allows points to be put into movement or strength for attack or using treasure (in my case it was a sword). Because the game is a random tile-based expansion through exploration, the game feels new and unique each time. Trove was successfully Kickstarted and is available for pre-order for anyone who missed out on the original Kickstarter. It will be shipping late February and is perfect for two to four players. I have to say that learning how to play the game straight from its creator was a pretty awesome thing. Seeing Patrick Leder’s mind at work mapping out all of the possible options on the board at any given time was definitely a highlight to my PAX visit this year.

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Finally, here are some more pics of cosplayers and booth mascots!

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Armored fox from Flat Kingdom!

Armored fox from Flat Kingdom!

About the Author

Tim has been playing video games for more than 20 years. He manages to find time to game in between raising three kids and working as a network administrator. Follow Tim on Twitter @freemantim.