Day 1 of PAX was a blast with some fun games played and some highly enjoyable sessions to attend. I’ll eventually put up a list on Gaming Symmetry of some titles I’m looking forward to seeing released, but here are a few quick highlights:
Breaker’s Yard – A crude looking game with a minimal color palette; this twin stick shooter breeds a lot of chaos where you wander around a top-down junkyard filled with destructible obstacles and enemies in search of a rope so you can catapult to the next level. It’s a little bit Adventure, and a little bit Pocky & Rocky.
Rollers of the Realm – A Pinball RPG inspired by Pinball Quest on the NES, the player is able to switch between different colored balls to interact with the environments; a thief ball to steal gold from wandering characters; a swordsman to attack enemies; a healer to restore hit points, etc. Levels progress in stages as well to offer some variety even though it never moves too far away from its pinball roots. Take notice Nintendo; the world needs more wacky pinball hybrids… Odama 2 please!
Jotun – short for Jotunheim, land of the frost Giants, this game by Thunder Lotus Games of Montreal features entirely hand-drawn animations and some massive enemies for a comparatively small norse hero. I like how the character morphs into pencil sketches while charging up attacks.
Hexarden – A rather pleasant puzzle/strategy game set on a hex grid where you tend a garden to produce fruit with a variety of actions to complete between growth cycles. One clever idea is the game’s use of rocks; initially they’re a burden to unearth, but they eventually have not one, but two benefits to keeping around later on.
Albert & Otto – A stylish puzzle/platformer all the way from Cape Town South Africa (free demo is available on their kickstarter) that is a bit sneaky about its use of 3D; I fully thought it was 2D until I saw a wooden crate turning while held up with the character’s tractor beam… oh, there’s a tractor beam, by the way.
Heads Up – The Art of User Interface & Graphic Design in Video Games – This was a fun panel that first talked about the different types of game UI (per an article from Gamasutra, the types are Diagetic, Meta, Spatial, and Non-Diagetic), but eventually moved towards the role of the UI artist and relationship to their programmers, the pros and cons of building ideas out to see whether or not they work, and how best to decide when the UI is successful (answer: when players hardly notice the UI at all!).
Extra Credits – James was on hand with a crew of developers and artists from Telltale Games, as well as a pair of solo developers with their own products. The entire session was Q&A, but led to some great conversation about what video games can mean for people.
Game Review Over: Critiquing the Way We Critique Games – Review representatives from IGN, Gamespot, Games Radar, Giant Bomb, and Kinda Funny (that thing Greg Miller does now) discussed the pros and the many many cons of points-based rating systems, as well as how the review industry is evolving beyond the static “Graphics | Sound | Gameplay | etc” structure of older reviews to properly convey what the experience of playing a game is like (rather than a retelling of what it is), all the while maintaining a voice and a format that speaks to that outlet’s core audience. Oh; and some dogpiling on The Order.
Retrogame Roadshow: What Are Your Old Games Worth? – Chris Kohler of Wired once again led a panel of collecting experts (now including Pat the NES Punk) to once again “appraise” video game oddities of all sorts to continue what has consistently been the best panel at PAX East (sorry everyone else). Highlights this year included a Nintendo-made puzzle cube from 1969 (before they made video games), a seemingly mundane demo disk for the Gamecube that featured Paper Mario 2 (not the Thousand Year Door as it would later be called), and a pair of SNES cartridges developed only for use by the Military (the corresponding light gun was left at home since it couldn’t get past security).