Happy, uh, late holidays!
Two weeks ago was PAX East, and as I check my calendar right now I’m seeing that February 2020 was actually four years ago?! Anyways, news has been rough lately so here’s a big long list of fun games that you should look out for! It’s okay if you didn’t go to PAX East, because I went all the way to Beantown for you! There were hundreds of games presented this year at PAX East, but don’t worry! Solon is here to tell you all about the best in the show. I was overwhelmed by how many games were actually at this convention, and many days were spent like the minotaur trawling the labyrinth weaving in and out of hand-sanitizer infused piles of plastic and cardboard! Despite fears around COVID-19, which was the top concern of all con-goers, the resolve of all PAX-goers was emboldened to make the best of the time that we had together while all the news was breaking around us. So here is a list of the BEST of PAX EAST 2020!~
Fuser was just announced a week before PAX East by Harmonix and suddenly it is already on the show floor! Keep an eye on this because it still feels early in development so things should change! It has the Guitar Hero/Rock Band presentation style and it is strictly just the Dropmix mechanics: Pick records from a list, put them on the four turntables, and play either their Rhythm, Melody, Singing, or Bass/Counter-melody sections of any songs. Layer all these pop songs together to make your own beautiful Frankenstinian pop song chimera. Currently, they are driving the freeform play by introducing ‘requests’ from ‘fans’ who tell you to do things like play Old Town Road or mix two different melodies at once. I’m hoping they can find other forms of play though because for now it feels Fuser is a fantastically fun toy like Dropmix was, but not much more than that as a music game. Still perfect for any party though!
Alien Hominid Invasion & HD (Behemoth)
One of my favorite Gamecube games is back!! Newgrounds’ creator Tom Fulp is back with more Alien Hominid as well as an HD remaster of the original sidescroller. The newer game, Alien Hominid Invasion, now gives you a health bar to play with instead of always dying in one hit which signals to me that they will be diving deeper into the cartoony, conspiracy theory-driven world of AH that only got a little bit of play in the original. I just can’t believe it is back!
Granblue Fantasy Versus (Arc System Works)
Maybe I just picked the right character, or maybe I am starting to understand fighting games better. But Granblue Fantasy Versus is the fastest I ever picked up a fighting game and even managed to take a round off of another person. I usually shy away from Arc System Works games because I find them to be more obtuse than games like UNICLR that are effortless to pick up, but GBFV is bright and colorful in a way that I’m really responding to! Ferry is strong and is my tall magical leather whip friend, and that’s all there is to it!
Calico (CatBean Games)
Cats. Have you heard of these things? They are everywhere. In Calico, you run a cat cafe for cats and with cats! You can ride a cat, walk with cats, and stand on enormously fat cats and roll them like a Katamari. It’s a very playful and cute adventure-sim, and even more than that the presentation of the game is gorgeous with a simple, uncluttered UI that hearkens back to Gamecube-era presentation and some shaders that make the forest around the cafe feel endlessly magical. You can wear a cat on your head while riding a cat. Calico is a must-own for feline fans out there!
Emily Is Away <3 (Kyle Seeley)
It’s 2008 and AIM is dead as a doornail, which means your only option for hanging out with friend Emily online is the wild west of this little site called “Facenook.” Kyle Seeley has now killed it for the third time in a row emulating the exact feeling of first loading up the original Facebook with a nostalgia-inducing emulation of the original user interface. It is uncanny how Emily Is Away <3 brings you back to those halcyon days while making you add Borat and 3OH!3 to your likes and interests. But are you going to go to the same college as Emily after Senior year? Don’t worry, Keyboard Cat is here to stave away the Senioritis.
Genshin Impact (miHoYo)
The nice booth man told me it was like Breath of the Wild crossed with Tales Of Symphonia but actually for mobile devices and I said they were crazy. Which is exactly what they said to the booth manager that morning. Which I assume is what the booth manager said to the publisher and the publisher said to the developer. Well, miHoYo? I’m crazy too then, cuz this is a full-on multi-party member, anime-ass, open-world, craftin’ & brawlin’ game for mobile (and for PS4). If you are really into the game loop for Zelda:BotW then this game is mostly more of that but with a cast of colorful characters that each have a wide kit full of magical and physical offensive options. It feels like a 1-player MMO in a lot of ways, and I didn’t think I’d get into it but eventually ended up demo’ing it for almost 30 minutes before looking next to me and realizing the person next to me was also still playing the exact same game but on a phone instead of a PS4. It was a powerful wakeup call for what modern gaming looks like.
Evolutis (Poke Life Studios & PM Studios)
Who needs Cyberpunk 2077 when this small team from Portugal is putting out some of the most gorgeous cyberpunk media this side of Akira? Evolutis is a side-scrolling adventure game with a lot of densely-packed, neon-filled animation that makes my jaw hit the floor when I look at it. Investigation feels really substantial as it takes cues from Night In The Woods’ style of lightly contextual but non-committal minigame interactions. The thing that is missing so far is from all of the trailers, demos, and videos they’ve released, I have yet to see any non-white characters which is a red flag considering how politically diverse the cyberpunk genre inherently is. I challenge Poke Life to take your writing and character design to that next level that your art is at, while also recommending to keep your eyes out for this!
The Pathless (Giant Squid & Annapurna Interactive)
Horizon Zero Dawn meets Journey. Do I need to say more? Yes, I will. As the name implies, The Pathless is an impressionist open-world like Breath Of The Wild or Shadow of the Colossus. It’s by the creators of Abzu, so it is obviously animal-friendly. Journey’s composer, Austin Wintory is on the soundtrack. And when this thing is in your hands, it feels buttery smooth especially when you transition between traveling and combat. The lock-on system keeps you trained on your targets even as they are running alongside you at high speeds. Annapurna really is out here batting way above the average and it rules so much.
Fall Guys (Mediatonic & Devolver Digital)
Please, not another Battle Royale. I can’t take anymore of this meaningless warfare! Wait, what is that? Off in the distance? Takeshi’s Castle* has been made into a video game and it is called Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout?? Watching this game is like watching those marble race YouTube videos but with actual people controlling the marbles. It’s just silly platformer-based fun and I’m glad someone is making a game that finally gives rebuttal to my dad’s common line: “Well, if I were on the ABC Family Hit Summer game show Wipeout, I would just choose to not fall off the big balls.” Yeah, you would, dad. You definitely would.
(*Or MXC, if you are in my hometown sushi restaurant that keeps that DVD on loop)
Gunvolt Striker Pack for PS4 (Inti Creates)
So Gunvolt is a game series that has been out for a while, but I haven’t been able to recommend it wholly until now. The new updated PS4 version of Gunvolt Striker Pack fixes all of the problems I’ve had with the series, and basically becomes the best version of Megaman Zero that I’ve ever gotten to play! It has also recently spun off into another series called Gunvolt Chronicles which has similarly fixed the structural problems of its predecessors and smoothed out the edges, turning Gunvolt into a fresh and fast-paced sidescroller for the modern era. Now is a really good time to jump into this franchise while they are presumably about to make many more.
Retromania Wrestling (Retrosoft Studios)
“Do you wanna fight the Worlds Heavyweight Champion Nick Aldis for the ten pounds of gold? Well, you can!… in Retromania Wrestling!” We are in desperate need of more wrestling games because the entire creative artform of wrestledom is only being held up by three or four different types of games and most of them are simulators. Retromania Wrestling not only fills a well-needed niche of arcade-style wrestling games but it also is teeming with love for the wrestling industry, with a great selection of modern wrestlers and good tunes (supplied by Rhythm Bastard and Mega Ran). Other games might have robust simulation systems, but here even non-wrestling fans can easily throw down with a friend on the couch and have a great time. There’s still more development to go, but with a really fun cast of characters and NWA’s sponsorship, it makes for a really fun game!
Skate Story (Sam Eng)
Pop shuvit -> hardflip pic.twitter.com/9cgwJzSkkT
— Skate Story (@skatestorygame) February 19, 2020
Chrome person skateboards into hell! SKATEBOARD INTO HELL!
This game is gorgeous and uses a controller in novel ways to simulate the finer techniques involved in trying to manipulate a wooden rolling platform only using your feet. Instead of pressing a button to do a trick, you are using the control-stick to position your body-weight on top of your board to accomplish different ollie and trick types. It’s really impressive but it’s also very difficult to start if you are used to Tony Hawk’s single-button inputs. Skate Story is a game I’ve seen on Twitter a lot but getting to actually play it in person was a real treat.
Trick Shot (Meddling Kids)
SKATEBOARD INTO HELL, BUT HELL IS OTHER GAMERS!
So anyways, back to Tony Hawk. I don’t know what the laws of game design are, but this breaks them. Those devs at Meddling Kids shoddily slapped Quake onto Tony Hawk Pro Skater and just shipped it. The monsters. The bastards. The freaks of ludic nature. And you know what? It works. And it has roller blades if that’s your speed. Trick Shot is about doing tricks and getting head shots all while your combo meter is running, it really doesn’t matter if you get the kill if you aren’t looking swag while you do it. Which… for a game that blasphemes as loud as this does, swag is the gamer’s honest truth.
I’m realizing I can’t find a video of this game or any proof that it exists. You might think I’m making this up? But I swear to god, I’m not. There really are people making Jet Set Radio and THPS crossed with Black Ops. I’m not lying, please believe me!
EDIT: I found a teaser trailer and I was not at all ready for it… Here it is
Spin Rhythm XD (Super Spin Digital)
THIS WAS MY FAVORITE GAME AT PAX. It’s just a regular normal rhythm game… Look at the notes coming down the lanes, ahh so nice… but with Hyper Potions, and 2 Mello, and you can plug in your own midi-controlled turntable and play with that, and great note tracking, and LOOK! It’s so good. I brought my friend to the booth and he whipped his phone out to buy it on the spot. I don’t want any more gimmicky environmental rhythm games (even if they are cool and were shown at East.) I just want that good classic stuff with fresh beats to jam to. Spin Rhythm is a real guilty pleasure music game right here and I love it so much.
Chicory: A Colorful Tale (Finji)
I hope you’ve seen Chicory already, but if you haven’t, this super cute coloring-book platformer is from the developer of 2018’s hit game Wandersong and has officially been announced as being officially published by Finji which is a great sign that we’ll get to see a lot more Chicory over the next few years. I wasn’t sure initially if Chicory was going to be a short-developed game to bridge a gap between Wandersong and some sort of future Greg Lobanov project, but now that I’m seeing it demoed at shows and that it is being published by Finji I can see that it is much larger scope for a game than I had initially expected.