What We Liked From PAX Australia 2017

Image: @Nexi

There's always plenty of games to see at PAX Australia - too many, really. But over the course of three days, and with the full team in tow, the Kotaku got to see some real gems from the show floor. So with the help of Jackson, Amanda, Tegan and Rae, here's what we liked from PAX this year.

Grabity

Image: Steam

Alex: Let's be honest: couch co-op games are a dime a dozen at PAX. There's plenty of reasons why. Couch co-op games are simpler to develop than, say, an online multiplayer FPS on an indie budget. They also demo well. They draw a crowd in.

And there's plenty of them every year. So much so that I thought I'd started to wear out on them a little.

And then I walked onto the second largest stage of PAX. Picked up a controller. Grabbed a box. And blasted it into the face of an Aussie podcaster.

Grabity was so much better than I was expecting.

It's a little akin to Rocket Fist or a legion of couch co-op games from the last few years where you can fire one object at a time, and then need to retrieve that object (or another one like it) to fire again.

In this instance, you're dealing with a little more physics than usual. Holding a box will block other boxes. Boxes can rebound and smash opponents. You can stomp opponents if you're crafty enough. And levels have their own quirks.

Grabity isn't out until early next year.

Samsara

Jackson: I had a really interesting time with Samsara, which is by a studio out of Auckland called Marker. It’s a physics based puzzle game where you have to move the player character from point A to B.

However, the world is separated horizontally into two halves. On the top: the real world, underneath is a Stranger Things-inspired Upside Down. The world is literally upside down and everything is opposite, including gravity.

Made for some real clever solutions to puzzles and often stumped me but was never frustrating. Created a nice zen moment on the crazy show floor.

Rumu

Tegan: The first thing I did during the press hour on Friday was make a beeline for Rumu – a narrative driven adventure game where you help a robot vaccum cleaner achieve sentience.

I had been itching to play this since it was announced by Robot House a few weeks back, and it exceeded my already-high expectations.

The demo consisted of puzzles from various days as you guide Rumu throughout the house. Things quickly become sinister and I found myself caring deeply about what was going to happen to the little guy almost immediately.

It may have only been a 10 minute playthrough, but that was enough time to have my emotions kicked around and to start formulating theories about Rumu’s owners, the voice of the house and what was really going on.

Florence

Rae: Although the demo was short - Florence, with it's graphic-novel style animation, was a stunning example of storytelling and my stand-out game.

Theoretically, utilising the player to progress, rather than influence the narrative should have left me feeling less invested in the characters - but it did exactly the opposite.

Having a series of puzzles that were ultimately metaphors for the ease and difficulty of communication in a relationship at it's various stages was such a unique mechanic, which I genuinely loved. The music was a stand, out as well - it set the mood perfectly.

UFOTOFU

Jackson: PAX Rising was special, again. There is a real great energy in that part of the room and some absolutely amazing human stories. At one point, I was lining up for coffee just next to the Rising area and a dude pulled his phone out and asked me if I wanted to play his game.

It was a mobile game called UFOTOFU all about making palindromes out of symbols. Square-Circle-Triangle-Circle-Square, for instance.

In that 15 minute coffee line, it was the perfect antidote – I lost track of time and became engrossed in trying to make this huge 20 symbol-long palindromes. He didn’t have any business cards, but I went and downloaded the game (which is free, from the Play Store) and have been killing time with it all weekend.

Sea of Thieves

Image: @Nexi

Hayley: I’m going to be that guy who picks the AAA game, but I just couldn’t get enough of Sea of Thieves (and not just because you could play it on an actual ship). I played the demo once with a crew of strangers and once with a crew of friends, and both times it was an equally wild experience.

It's one of the first online multiplayer games I’ve been tempted by in a long time, and a big part of the appeal is just how straight up silly it is.

At one point my character was attempting to swim back to the ship while being chased by two sharks – blind drunk the whole time. Somehow while swimming I managed to drunk vomit in a bucket, and when I finally got back on board I threw the whole thing over the friend who had tried to sail the ship away from me.

It’s one of those games that gives you a whole bunch of weird and interesting mechanics and then leaves you to make your own wild stories with them. Also you can fire yourself out of a cannon. Amazing.


What games stood out to you at PAX Australia this year? Also, thanks to user @Nexi for some of the photos!


Comments

    I played some of The Gardens Between, and think it has great promise. It's a puzzle with a surreal aesthetic (one level has what I thought was a campervan but a change of perspective revealed it to be a green bin...), and a time-bending mechanic. Sumptuous art with a hand-drawn feel.

    One of my favourite stories from the weekend was at the Detroit: Become Human stand. There was a "display case" of androids "for sale" - several different models. At one point, a Harley Quinn walked up and stood right in front of one of the actors, and in a very Harley move, turned round, "accidentally" dropped her jacket, and bent right over (from very high heels!) to pick it up... *almost* got the android to break character! I found out later that the two of them are in a relationship and she was trying to make her boyfriend laugh while he was being paid to keep poker face... There's a video of this doing the rounds, it's very funny.

      That's one of the games we'd like to return to, actually.

    Sky Noon was amazing. The 10 minute match I had was really fun. The mechanics are nice and sharp and quick to pick up. Looking forward to grabbing it on Steam later.

    Hyperjam looks like another great fun party/couch 4-way battle arena game - haven't played many of them recently but the super strong 80s vibe - especially with the character portraits and the music - made it really stand out for me in a crowded field - and it was super easy to pick up and get the hang of, which is a big plus too.

    Loved the quirky and odd potential that Donut County showed me in it's short demo. SO silly!

    Sagrada was a brilliant dice placement / pattern matching game where the end result is a beautiful stained glass window made from translucent coloured dice.

    The indie (video gaming) section didn't wow me much this year.

    I know it's on the AAA side but I was thoroughly impressed by Monster Hunter worlds. Having sink an inordinate sum of hours into previous titles, something that was (past tense) a general theme was a huge wall in front of new players. This entry seems to have made a conscious effort to break it down. Sure the gameplay was Monster Hunter but I spent a decent amount of time in the menu setting how intuitive the process was. I let out an audible "holy shit" when I found a page dedicated to the combos you could perform with the different weapon types and overall the seemed to be minor changes in layout and readability that I could see newer players appreciating. It kind of feels like Assassin's Creed in the sense that each entry focuses on 1 element that needs improving. Graphically, the changes are a given but the real gem here will be the game's ability to draw in an entirely new playerbase.

    PAX Rising is always full of interesting stuff, but sometimes it's hard when the 6 year old decides he doesn't like a certain game and has to be extracted in tears.

    Edit - I've downloaded UFOTOFU after reading this article and it's so good! Very easy to play and so satisfying when you get a long palindrome!

    Our Top 5 indie games (in no particular order)

    Framed
    Brief Battles (because one looks like Captain Underpants)
    Putty Pals
    Paperbark
    Death Squared

    Last edited 06/11/17 11:30 pm

    My daughter fell in love with Rumu. Unfortunately I didn't actually get hands on but the game was much different to what I expected, and I don't know what I expected.
    Played ticket to earth and then bought the steam code for it, very good.
    The wife had a bit of a play with The Eyes of Ara and then got that one.

    Nothing much wowed me in the AAA space, I think I'll end up getting monster hunter but as my first ever play through I spent most of my time wrestling with controls. But there was enough there to see the game underneath the frustration

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