At last weekend’s PAX East, Kotaku’s Patricia Hernandez and I had the chance to check out a ton of games in various stages of development. Several showed promise and we’re excited to follow them as they move closer to release.
Overall, pink and purple platformers and action RPGs dominated the floor, reminiscent of indie success Hyper Light Drifter. Pastel hack-and-slash games were so popular that, at times, it was difficult to differentiate between them. Still, there was a lot to like on the show floor, and especially games that broke the mold.
Here are some of our top PAX East picks:
Action platformer Sundered leads with its art direction. Its hand-drawn backgrounds are out of a stylized, post-apocalyptic anime. Its animation is a little Samurai Jack, which works well against its settings, which have the sort of dark details I find in cult sci-fi comics. In the preview I played, dead monsters disintegrated into squirmy worm puddles.
I’m always looking for games that deconstruct the Super Smash Bros. formula. Free-to-play fighting game Brawlhalla, which is already immensely popular in its open beta state, plays like a stripped-down Smash Bros. with more creative characters and fewer available combos. It’s satisfying to play and feels fluid.
Our good friend Slugcat is still adorable. Rain World’s premise, designer James Therrien told me, is “What if you were an animal intelligence?” Slugcat was abandoned by his family and needs to find them, a simple enough plot that Therrien describes as “natural.” Excitingly, Slugcat can befriend creatures it meets in the game’s 1,600 rooms, or antagonize and fight them.
Everyone I saw who walked by this game stopped to gawk. From its short demo, I could already tell that The Artful Escape of Francis Vendetti is one of those games that will melt hearts. When you hit the “jump” button a bunch of times, its protagonist, who is searching for stage persona inspiration, pulls out his guitar and glides through the air on a ‘80s guitar riff. There’s a fuzzy, pink spider. It’s glam as hell. I wrote my initial impressions of it here.
We’ve introduced Kotaku to this action RPG before, but I (Patricia) actually got a chance to try it for about 15 minutes last weekend. In Moonlighter, you play as Will, a shopkeeper who must spelunk dungeons to get the materials for his shop. I died quickly, but it didn’t matter: I still had stuff to sell. Collecting dungeon junk and dictating prices is more fun than it has any right to be, honestly. More importantly, I was utterly charmed by the gorgeous pixel art.
Here’s a weird one: Away is a first-person action game that looks like anime, but plays like a old school shooter. Somehow, the combination works. Everything is cartoonish and over-the-top, and it helps that the game has a good sense of humor as well. Away takes some getting used to, both in terms of perspective and in terms of the game’s speed, but I dug what I tried.
Inspired by Castlevania, Dead Cells is a roguelike game where you explore a labyrinth of a castle. As you dive deeper, you find a variety of different pathways, not all of which you can take—that is, until you have the right upgrades. In my time with it, what stuck out the most was the combat (it felt good to tear down the zombies!) and the art style.