PAX East 2014: Inside The Indie Megabooth

The indie scene has been rising every year at the Penny Arcade Expo thanks in large part to the Indie Megabooth, a section of the show floor highlighting smaller independent developers and their games. It gets larger and larger every year and PAX East this past weekend was no exception. While I didn’t get to try all 80+ games on display there, I did go hands on with a number of upcoming titles so here are some quick thoughts on each.

Hyper Light Drifter
By: Heart Machine
Combining elements from old school 2d action/RPG titles like The Legend of Zelda, Hyper Light Drifter is a game that just oozes style. After hearing about it during it’s successful Kickstarter run, I’ve been casually following this game since. Featuring a gorgeous visual style and a great soundtrack from Disasterpeace, Hyper Light was a very popular booth at PAX this year. As such, I didn’t actually get my hands on the title but I was completely drawn in so I spent a healthy amount of time watching other people play. Interestingly enough, a multiplayer mode was shown off for the first time featuring two players working together to survive waves of enemies. Seems like a nice diversion and something for leaderboard hunters but for many of us, the single player is where the meat of this game is. Currently there’s no release date as Heart Machine wants to take their time to ensure the final product is great.

Aztez
By: Team Colorblind
I had heard a few pre-show things about this one and when I walked by the booth, I stopped in. Aztez is a very stylized brawler set during the height of the Aztec Empire in Mexico. The demo I played had you going up against waves of increasingly challenging enemies. The combat was fast and satisfying and the black and white color scheme mixed with only red for blood was a very cool look. In addition to heavy and quick attacks, players could also block, jump, dodge, and absorb blood on the ground to restore a bit of health. Still, the demo was limited to seeing how long you could survive in combat so I didn’t have a good idea of what the main game really was.

Apparently from what I read on their site, there’s quite a bit more to the game.

Dyscourse
By: Owlchemy Labs
Successfully reaching their Kickstarter goal late last year, the guys behind Jack Lumber and Snuggle Truck are setting out to deliver an interesting take on adventure survival narrative. As a survivor of a plane crash on a desert island, you meet up with fellow survivors and hope to survive long enough to get rescued. The story and how things play out such as who lives or dies is placed directly in your hands by what you choose to do or not do through text based interaction. The demo let me play through three days (essentially three events in game) and right off the bat, the game quickly shifted based on things like who i spoke to or decisions that I had to make for the group. I honestly never felt good about my decisions, assuming that Owlchemy had something devious always planned around the corner. I can say for sure that whatever decision I picked, I was constantly surprised at the result. If the game stays this dynamic through the whole length of the campaign, the amount of story branching and vastly different outcomes is a pretty intriguing concept. It’s a very unique title, but I had a lot of fun trying to keep my group of survivors together.

As a side note, I did manage to run into a bug which halted all progress for my character. Pretty funny when you think that the bug occurred only through selecting a specific course of choices which I had done. Thankfully, the Owlchemy guys helped me out by getting me back to a usable state. Glad to have helped product test guys!

Secret Ponchos
By: Switchblade Monkeys
I was meaning to check out this multiplayer arena shooter last year at PAX but for various reasons it never happened. This year? I firmly rooted myself to this booth. This shooter set firmly in the a fictional western universe has all the right flavors of fun, fast gameplay mixed with unique experiences. In the mode I played (multiple times), 8 players (from rigged up PlayStation 4 consoles) squared off in a Free-For-All mode where a player got 1 point for a kill and minus 1 point for a death. The characters so far are varied in terms of appearance and abilities making for some interesting strategic combat. I’ll tell you right now, I can see this being one great party game in a similar vein to Smash Bros. No release date on this one, but it’s planned for PS4 and PC with Early Access kicking off this summer.

I’ll have more for you on this one later in the week. Stay tuned!

Shovel Knight
By: Yacht Club Games
I’ve been following this game since it hit Kickstarter as it has that sweet spot of classic Mega Man mixed with Castlevania look to it. Not only that, it features some of the catchiest chip tunes (By Jake Kaufman of course) that’ll get stuck in your head long after you stop playing.

I didn’t actually get any hands on time with this one as there was a HUGE crowd and limited controllers to go around, but I did stay and watch for a while. While that game may look straight off of a NES, it can obviously do some more things that the old systems couldn’t. The level on display was from Specter Knight’s level, a sort of creepy graveyard and haunted castle which honestly could have been ripped straight out of Castlevania. The animations were beautiful and there was one room which was completely dark save for lightning flashes which illuminated the area. Believe me, it was a cool effect. Shovel Knight is due out fairly soon as the team has finished work on the game, just bug squashing. I for one, can’t wait.

Delver’s Drop
By: Pixelscopic
Another Kickstarter project that I’ve been following for a while, I had a chance to speak with Coby Utter, co-founder, game director, and chief engineer on Delver’s Drop, about the game. For those who don’t know, Delver’s Drop is a 2D action RPG that has that classic top down look of the old Legend of Zelda games. The dungeons you’ll be exploring are randomly generated every time you play making each playthrough extremely unique. Coupled with different classes and unique physics system, Delver’s Drop is looking to refresh the classic “roguelike” formula. What surprised me the most is that the Pixelscopic team is planning on having a weapon generator that’ll be able to randomize drops that far exceeds what Borderlands 2 was promoting prior to their launch. I didn’t see that coming. What happens if you die but want to continue using the weapon you had? In an interesting twist, an undead version of your character will be waiting for you. Defeat this character to get your stuff back. With that many items in the game though, something better is always around the bend.

For a look at Capybara’s Below and Super T.I.M.E. Force, have a look at my post here.

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One Response to PAX East 2014: Inside The Indie Megabooth

  1. Pingback: Know Your Developer: Switchblade Monkeys | Gamer Crash

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