I played 33 different games at PAX West this year, a 25% increase in the number of titles I played last year. Over the course of the past year, I only put significant time into five of them that released. In what is becoming a problem with any/every platform, there is a wealth of good games to play and not nearly enough time to enjoy them all. Some of this comes down to playing other games instead, but in most cases it just simply comes down to not having enough hours in the day anymore.
As someone who has aged out of the popular 18-34 demographic constantly being catered to, I still enjoy playing games on the regular, but I’m just not having the “epic” sessions with a game I was more accustomed to in my 20’s and early 30s. This just means that in many cases a really great game just doesn’t get played because I’m too busy playing one more round of PUBG or completing another hunt in Monster Hunter World (playing on PC because reasons).
So while I saw a lot of games this year, I’m not sure if/when they will be released and how much of my time they will take up so I’m going to be cautiously optimistic that I’ll play any of these when they come out. So join me on an info dump about what I played at PAX this year that might be worth my/your time in the coming future and hand out some fake awards.
Eminent Garbage Fire Award - The Quiet Man
Holy Shit, this game was something “special” alright, and not it a good way. After hearing from reliable sources at both Giant Bomb and Waypoint that this game had to be experienced, I sauntered my way to the Square Enix Booth to see for myself. After watching 3 different people in the same cutscene, 15 minutes later it was my turn. With both Dan & Chris at my side providing commentary (mostly Dan) I embarked on quite possibly the worst game demo I’ve played in recent memory at a PAX. From the inconsistent presentation of the FMV cutscenes (of which there are MANY) to the terrible in-game engine models and finishing with the sub-par gameplay this title apparently has all the makings for an absolute shitshow when it releases. Avoid this one at all costs, unless you want to watch a silent/not silent movie with almost zero character.
Plaid Shirt with Striped Pants Award - Black Future ‘88
From the screenshots of this game, I was very excited to get my hands on this 2D side scrolling rogue-like shooter. Unfortunately once I saw the game in motion I became much less enthusiastic about the game. While cool in stills, the game becomes pretty much unmanageable while in motion due to FAR too many particle and lighting effects which pretty much make you constantly lose track of your character in the fast-paced shooter combat. It’s disappointing too since I was looking forward to a co-op shooter I could play with friends.
I’ll Play it on Mobile Award - Roundguard
I played this the last day of PAX, and was the last game in the PAX 10 that I was interested in. A simple premise (Peggle Rogue-Like with Character Classes) that should work really well on a phone/tablet. The art style was charming and the characters/models were bright and colorful. Not something I’d play on a console or PC but definitely something fun to play for a few minutes at a time while in the bathroom (don’t judge me) or while at lunch.
Mario Party Friendship Test Award - Light Fingers
While I have fond memories of weekend nights renting and playing Mario Party in college, I know the games have problems. They generally result in at least one if not all other players being pissed-off with the eventual winner of each game. This game seems to actually incorporate a bit more skill-based actions in order to succeed rather than relying on simple luck/RNG to determine a winner. The clockwork style game board and ease of play means this one can be pulled out at a family gathering pretty easily and still be enjoyed. And the fact that it’s coming to Switch doesn’t hurt matters either.
Gundam Mecha Super Awesome Award - Star Renegades
Now this was a pixel art game that was actually fun to try out. With party based JRPG combat and a slick art style, the game seems easy to start playing, but difficult to actually master. With the limited time I had with the game, I felt as if I needed some kind of onboarding tutorial or a less intense starting mission as I got completely dominated during what felt like the 3rd battle I fought against the “monsters” on the map. I’m hoping there is a bit more tutorialization of the combat in the final product as this looks like something I’ll enjoy playing when it comes out.
Style over Substance Award - Wattam/What the Golf?
Sometimes, you just want a cute game you can turn your mind off for and just enjoy as it washes over you. Both of thes games have an immense amount of charm. WTG is a “golf” game that has you trying to get a ball (or house, golfer, etc.) into the hold. And while it counts your shots, it doesn’t seem to be keeping any kind of score. I was sold on this one when I saw the person in front of me load into a Super Hot inspired level complete with slow motion movement and bullet time shooting.
Wattam has become (over the past few years since I originally played it) an actual game of some kind. And while the actual “goals” in the game seem to be fairly mundane, the sheer joy I have while interacting with the world is enough to sell me on the title as soon as it launches (which is still scheduled for this year according to their trailers). I can’t wait to see everything that Keita Takahashi’s weird mind has come up with.
I Want it Now Award - Knights and Bikes
As someone who loves everything Double Fine touches, I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t back this game on Kickstarter. And after getting a chance to finally play the game this year, that regret was even more pronounced. With a premise touching on some all time favorite things (Goonies, Secret of Mana) it’s clear that this game is shaping up to be something special. With co-op gameplay and an art style that perfectly reflects the sensibilities of former Media Molecule developers, I enjoyed every minute of this demo and can’t wait to play the full game whenever it releases.
And that’s a wrap on my highlights from PAX 2018. It was another great show as usual and has me excited about games that are coming soon and those off in the far reaches of 2019. For the TL:DR crowd, here’s a quick list of my excitement levels of the games I played while wandering the Expo Halls.