I personally got to attend PAX East for the first time this year and was pleasantly surprised to see how many new titles were available for demo in addition to previously announced games that had more to show. I quickly found myself overwhelmed by the multitude of booths that made up the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center’s Expo Hall and was anxious to share some of the best games that I experienced.
Ever since RAD was first shown in the last Nindies showcase, I’ve been excited to learn more about its 80s-inspired post-apocalyptic world. So you can imagine how stoked I was when I saw the game was available to play at a number of booths, including Double Fine’s.
The third-person action rogue-like has you exploring a twice irradiated wasteland filled with a variety of hostile creatures. The further you explore, the more likely you are to experience mutations that range from growing a pair of wings that allow your character to fly or a detachable boomerang arm that can be used as a projectile weapon.
Radical Rabbit Stew
Radical Rabbit Stew was a game that sort of came out of left field for me as I hadn’t heard anything about it prior to PAX, but after spending some hands-on time with it, I will definitely be keeping it on my radar. The 16-bit pixel art game has you playing as a space chef whose world has been invaded by rabbits.
At first, I was worried the action-puzzle title would be a bit too simplistic for my taste as you spend most of your time just whacking rabbits with spoons. However, I’m happy to report the game begins to layer new mechanics and concepts on top of its Bomberman-esque gameplay fairly quickly, adding a level of strategy and challenge that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Little Friends Dogs and Cats
Little Friends is an upcoming pet simulator that instantly made my heart melt because really, who doesn’t love cute virtual pets? During my brief time with the game I got to take care of a cuddly kitten I named Fiona, brushing, petting, and dressing her up in sweet little outfits.
The final version of the game includes multiple breeds of both dogs and cats and hundreds of different accessories and pieces of clothing for your pet to show off while going for walks or competing in pet competitions. Little Friends seems like it’ll be perfect for anyone who has nostalgia for the Nintendogs games or wants a furry pal without any of the real world mess.
We haven’t heard much about the upcoming Xbox-exclusive since it was announced at E3 2018 so I was excited to see the game available for demo at publisher Finji’s booth. The game has you controlling an adorable but deadly anthropomorphic fox that uses a sword and shield to defend itself from monsters.
Tunic may be a little heavy-handed in showing its Legend of Zelda influence but that doesn’t detract from how great the game looks and feels. While movement can feel a bit too slow at times, enemy attacks are telegraphed perfectly, making it easier to know when you should dodge and counterattack.
As a longtime fan of the simulation genre, Cosmos Quickstop instantly spoke to me. The game has you overseeing an interstellar gas station which constantly needs some sort of maintenance, whether it’s cleaning up alien goop, restocking vending machines, or making repairs, you’re always on the move.
Although I did feel a bit overwhelmed by the number of tasks I had to keep track of, Cosmos Quickstop does feature local split-screen co-op, which should reduce some of the stress of keeping up with demand. The art style and writing reminded me of the Rick & Morty TV series and a lot of the janitorial duties felt reminiscent of Viscera Clean-up Detail, another great sim game.
Of course I couldn’t fail to mention one of the most highly anticipated games going into PAX East. It’s been almost five years since the last installment so fans seemed almost rabid as they formed a massive line to check out Gearbox’s show in the Main Theater.
And they definitely weren’t let down as a new Borderlands 3 trailer revealed a diverse cast of new and returning characters, new planets and billions of new weapons for players to encounter. Aside from the over the top, ridiculous humor the series is known for, the game will have players taking on the Calypso twins and their army of psychos, monsters, mutants, and mechs.
THQ Nordic’s upcoming action-RPG Biomutant was also on display, so I decided to get some hands-on time and see how the game had been coming along. I thought the customization options for designing your raccoon-like avatar were fairly in-depth, with optional textures and a color wheel available for you to make some truly nightmarish designs.
Combat felt extremely satisfying, with my character being able to quickly dart around wide, open areas, and take down enemies with a variety of weapons including a sword and a mechanical fist that can be charged up for a devastating blow. There were also some interesting platforming sections I didn’t expect, like one that has your character entrapped in a giant bubble and hopping over large pools of toxic waste.
While browsing the expo floor, an indie game called Terrorarium caught my eye. After learning more about the game from one of the devs, I was able to try out a few stages that were made using the game’s in-game level creator.
You play as the Gardener, a feisty older woman that has an army of plant-like creatures called the Moogu at her disposal. The game has some similarities to Pikmin in that you can swap between unique species of Moogu and use them to complete different objectives, like destroying a rock or jumping over a gap. What I enjoyed most was the game’s morbid tone, which dives headfirst into plant murder.
Young Souls is an upcoming beat-em-up RPG that has you controlling two red-headed twins on a quest to save the world. What immediately stood out about the game were its color palette and impressive animations both in battles and during cutscenes.
The game has a co-op mode that allows a second player to join you on your adventure. Alternatively you can play the game solo and switch between both characters at any time. This seems like a promising indie title that will be able to deliver on all fronts: combat, story, and RPG mechanics.
I don’t typically play extreme sports games so I didn’t expect Descenders to sink its hooks into me as much as it did. At one point I had to physically force myself to put down the controller and leave the booth otherwise I would have spent the entire day trying out the game’s procedurally-generated levels.
The game is extremely fast-paced, and while it was very easy to jump into, I could tell there were a lot of nuances to its controls and physics that could only be mastered by spending extensive time playing. But even with my relatively brief playtime I found the controls to be superb, with turns feeling tight and responsive and mid-air tricks that made me feel like a bike-riding god whenever I managed to land one.
Project Dunk is a spunky little indie basketball sports game. It takes a less serious approach to street basketball, featuring a cast of characters not commonly seen in sports games, like a man with a panda head.
Each character also has a pool of unique skills they can use during games to help give your team an edge in battle. For instance, the panda man can hit people with chairs, which lacks context but is still very hilarious.
I said it before and I’ll say it again: I love quirky sim games. So it’s not surprise that Moving Out’s cartoony look and ridiculous co-op based gameplay won over my heart from the second I grabbed the controller and started my training to become a certified Furniture Arrangement & Relocation Technician. (F.A.R.T.)
The game combines parts of action, puzzle, and sim games in some interesting ways and reminded me of Overcooked in both aesthetic and some of its teamwork gameplay mechanics. I’d probably find a game about moving furniture fun regardless, but I like how much humor SMG Studio has instilled into Moving Out’s story and gameplay.
As a huge fan of the Katamari Damacy games, I’m glad that designer Keita Takahashi is still around making weird Japanese games like Wattam. While it’s hard to explain exactly what Wattam is, think of it being most like a puzzle game.
Your job is to help the Mayor of Wattam, a world that has been spread across the galaxy following a huge explosion, restore his community by befriending other inhabitants like trees, flowers, rocks, toilets, and poop, that’s right, poop. You achieve this by completing a number of different tasks like holding hands, discovering secrets, playing mini-games, and solving puzzles.
Although there are plenty of great party games out there for groups of strangers to play at PAX, not many incite the same amounts of rage among people who just met each other as Bombfest. The game can be played with up to four players and has you each competing to be the last toy standing.
Your primary weapon? You guessed it, BOMBS. The game features a nice variety of different types like ice bombs that freeze your enemies and bouncy bombs that hop around the stage before exploding. What I found most appealing was the game’s simple controls, which only require you to alternate between two button inputs.
There were a lot of online arena shooters on display at PAX East, but none hooked me quite like Splitgate, an upcoming FPS built in Unreal Engine 4. The game has players competing against each other in PVP arenas with standard assault and sniper rifles and oh yeah, portals.
Each player has the ability to place portals on specific platforms that, when walked through, transport them to a new area. What am I talking about, you know how portals work. It was really interesting to see how players utilized this mechanic to escape gunfights only to reappear behind their opponent, or cause an enemy to drop into a portal and be transported to a different area only to be gunned down.
The Burnout games are one of my personal favorite racing game series of all time. So to see former co-founders of Burnout studio Criterion Games working on Dangerous Driving, a spiritual successor that captures the essence of those games, it almost brought a tear to my eye.
Except I was too busy watching cars get absolutely destroyed by high-speed takedowns. The upcoming game includes a handful of different racing and elimination modes and vehicle classes that are sure to spice things up. I’m hoping Three Fields Entertainment is able to deliver a fresh and thrilling experience that fully satisfies the Burnout nostalgia I, and many fans have.
Whether its PC or console, AAA or Indie, New-York born and raised Justin has a natural curiosity to seek out hidden gems and share them with other gamers. He also maintains his own YouTube channel in addition to writing and managing the social media profiles for GamingScan.