Well folks, it’s that time of year. PAX East is officially over and now we all sit and wait for E3 to shower us in gaming news and releases. Even so, with this years PAX East coming to a close, I decided to continue my yearly tradition of capturing the essence of indie gaming that is ever present at every PAX. The best in show for me is something I think real hard about because I know that every gaming company, every developer, every sound engineer and all the people in between, work their tails off for years to create a piece of work that people actually like. In a day and age where so many focus on the negative, I try to look for the good. With that said, I choose 3 projects that really jumped off the page and impressed me with their gameplay. I chatted with each developer of these games and they were excited to show me their hard work. Here are my PAX East 2018 Indie Best in Show winners:
Shape of the World
First let me say that this game stuck with me all weekend. It was one of the most beautiful games I have ever played and I personally am not a world explorer gamer. Shape of the World is a first person exploration game in a similar nature as No Man’s Sky but with much less complications. You travel through various ecosystems, interacting with your surrounding to get to the next point in the world. There is no leveling up, no inventory, no HP, it’s just you and the world interacting. Now as that might seem pretty simple, it is. But damn does it work. The visuals and audio of this game take the driver’s seat and immerse you into the world that lead developer Stu Maxwell and audio designer Brent Silk want you to get lost into. The vivid colors, the distinct sounds/music and insane world keep you locked in and searching for new ways to interact with the world around you. I swam in oceans, planted trees, rode on whales in the sky, and hit rocks to make them grow to the size of skyscrapers. Everything about this game was detailed and impressive in the 10 minute demo I had the chance to play through. Set to be released on Switch, PS4, Xbox One and Steam this summer, for $15 this game is a must grab even if you only play through it once.
While I was walking through the indie section of PAX, I saw a game that a bunch of people were huddled around, all waiting for their chance to play. I headed over and chatted with Chainsawesome Games support manager Jack Quan, who explained the idea behind Aftercharge. The idea is that there are two sides, the guards and the robots, and each are trying complete their duty. The robots are trying to destroy the energy pods that are powering their enemy, the guards or “enforcers”. The biggest catch is that each side has their own powers and abilities. The robots are invisible and the enforcers are invincible, all mixed with their own personal abilities. To fully grasp the game, I had to sit down and try a round. The first round I played, I sucked at it. I was constantly getting killed as the robot and couldn’t guard anything to save my life. But after a few rounds, I figured out some of the tricks and really liked the game. It is reminiscent of Overwatch’s Capture the Flag, with a couple of different twists. The graphics and style were really sharp and the environment was fun to interact with. The neon colors and the industrial feel helped draw me into the game and the gameplay itself is what impressed me most. One of the biggest draw is that this will be 3v3 online with cross platform for whatever you decide to pick this game up for. Set to come out later this year, I would for sure be on the lookout for this on Steam and Xbox One sometime this summer!
Just Shapes and Beats
Berzerk Studio out of Canada put together one of the coolest and most fun games at PAX this year. Just Shapes and Beats is just that, you are shapes who are trying to avoid being hit by the beats. And the beats are these amazing techno/EDM songs that bump their way into your brain for days, all while displaying some incredible imagery and trying to destroy the shapes. Your objective is to avoid the beats and where they end up lighting up the screen. When I sat down and played the game, it was fun, fluid and the beats were dope. I could tell the people over at Berzerk have been working on this a long time and I can see why. I wasn’t expected to be so affected by the music but having the headphones plugged in, sitting super close to the TV, I was super into everything Shapes and Beats was throwing down. This game is really fun and can be picked up and played easily by just about anyone. As any game, it takes a little practice to get the hang of it but after a couple of rounds, I was good to go. At the end of the demo, there was a Beat Boss you had to try to defeat by not getting knocked out. It was really challenging but we made it through, all while having a great time. Needless to say, I will be picking this game up, day 1. Set to come out May 31st, 2018 for the Switch, I would recommend picking this game of day of launch. It will have online multiplayer or offline mode that allows up to 4 players to sit on a couch and play together.