PAX Australia 2015 (Part 2): Indie Video Games Steal the Show

PAX – where Gamers go to Loot.

Walk the exhibition hall and the first thing thrown at you is every big name in the video game industry, and more. The hype is about new and upcoming games; the atmosphere is about promoting the most unreal gaming experience.

In between all the glitz and glory are the indie developers, stealing all the tweets. Part 2 of my PAX review is aimed squarely at the video games: the games planning to conquer the world… and the ones I predict will succeed.

The one group PAX truly loves is Indie Developers. They had their own area under the PAX Rising banner. I’m going to start with this group because the majority of the chatter was about them. Sure, we all want to see the latest consoles and VR units; maybe check out new releases hitting the stores in time for Ninjamas. But sometimes, the smaller developers slip under the radar and then BAM!! They’ve taken over the gaming world.

Lupin Ball

Developed by Craftven, this game is “werewolf dodgeball in a top-down arena.” A multiplayer game which looks sweet and fun.

It’s really a feeding ground for the type of competitive bonding you find in wild packs of minions.

Screen shot of game / LupinBall by Craftven
Screen shot of game / LupinBall by Craftven

This one was all over Twitter during PAX Aus. Watching the frenetic nature of the game, my fingers were just itching to throw a power ball at someone. The thing is, those power balls never stop until they hit a target; most of the time, that’s you. If you like the battle games of Mario Kart, you’ll love this game even more.

The Incredible Journey of You and I

Another game raved about all weekend. This is a two-player and is purely co-op. Where Lupinball brings out your inner werewolf through competition, ‘The Incredible Journey of You and I‘ forces you to work together with your partner. You both control opposite halves of a ship, swapping now and then as the task requires. If you don’t work together, you’re squished; the animation and sound effects will drive the guilt home.

This game really pushes you to communicate with your partner. You either grow as a team or die at each other’s throats. Definitely fun to play with the spawnlings.

Screen shot of game / Incredible Journey of You and I by Shy Kids Club
Screen shot of game / Incredible Journey of You and I by Shy Kids Club

Forts

And, finally, my favorite of the Indie games. A hint of nostalgia with a modern steampunk twist. Maybe because I spent way too much time in my college days playing WormsKamikaze!! Add some Angry Bird-inspired features and you have Forts.  The description given to me is very Mad Max like – “a real-time physics-based game of construction and destruction while you fight over the Earth’s last resources.”

So I get to blow up my competitor while stealing their stuff? Sweet. And it has a little science thrown in too? Perfect for the spawnlings.

I think I enjoyed playing this more than I should admit to… Wait, I’m Evil Genius Mum. THIS GAME WAS AWESOME!!

Photo by Evil Genius Mum
Photo by Evil Genius Mum

And Now For A Word From The Big Names

I could have spent a whole day stalking the Indie developers and playing their games but don’t fret. I was happy to chat to some of the bigger names as well.

Nintendo was probably the first exhibit I noticed. The whole set-up (as discussed in Part 1) really appealed to my gaming EG Mum. Seeing the crowds, it clearly worked for many other geek parents too. All the consoles were busy, but there were three games with the biggest wait – and surprisingly, not the MA15+ game. Nintendo’s top 3 were Mario Maker, Mario Tennis, and their next big thing Yo-Kai Watch.

Already a hit in Japan, Yo-Kai Watch is a bit like Pokémon – instead of ‘pocket monsters’ you have a special watch allowing you to see various spirits. Make friends with happy Yo-Kai, battle the grumpy Yo-Kai, fix the problems created by mischievous Yo-Kai. Yep – it’s Pokémon. But I heard at PAX this game is outstripping Pokémon in Japan.

Yes – read that again, gaming minions. Yo-Kai Watch is more popular than Pokémon in Japan. The game is available on Nintendo 3DS and infiltrates the U.S. on Nov 6, and Australia on Dec 5 (GeekDad has JUST done a review). You have been warned.

Photo from public domain
Photo from public domain – Japanese version of Yokai Watch

Over at PlayStation, the big focus was on Unchartered 4: A Thief’s End. It’s due for release next year. However, I was more impressed with the number of indie games they had available – Screencheat being my favorite.

Screencheat is a split-screen multiplayer FPS where everyone is invisible. Remember the time you were told off for glancing at your friend’s screen and ‘cheating’. In Screencheat, you HAVE to cheat! It just sings to my Evil Genius heart.

PlayStation gives a lot of support to indie developers, from expos to incubator programs. Stay tuned for my upcoming interview with Dr Maria Stukoff, head of PlayStation First – a PS program aimed directly at supporting and nurturing new game developers.

Image by Screencheat / Samurai Punk
Image by Screencheat / Samurai Punk

While at the PS booth, I also played a little Disney Infinity – and then noticed Disney had its own stand, with its HUGE Start Wars banner. They’re a bit excited about the new movie coming out.

While it’s not just for kids, Disney Infinity takes great pride in keeping the same family friendly vibe all the way through. I’ll admit I wasn’t sold on Disney Infinity when it first came out. Now I’m just watching it grow and grow, with so much potential for spawnlings to take it beyond the typical ‘game’ surface. Some big news coming with each of the Star Wars movies over the next … how many years?!? Aw man, I’m going to have to rent out some minions to afford ALL the shiny.

Disney Infinity Star Wars
Photo by Evil Genius Mum

Last but not least, Xbox offered me some time playing Cuphead. Yes, they had plenty of games on offer and which one had all the chatter? Cuphead. I kid you not.

At first I thought it was because of the quirky 1930s style animation. It’s gorgeous, with a real evil genius feel to it. As Cuphead, you lose a bet to the devil and spend the rest of the game trying to repay it. Either one or two-player, it is a standard ‘run and gun’ format, with the real appeal being the fun with the animation. I could play this all day with the spawnlings, or by myself.

Photo by Evil Genius Mum
Photo by Evil Genius Mum

So there you have it, minions. My Top 5 picks from PAX Aus 2015:

  1. Forts
  2. Yokai Watch
  3. Screencheat
  4. Disney Infinity (anything Star Wars related)
  5. Cuphead

And just in time for Ninjamas shopping as well.

Third and final instalment of my PAX Aus review is all about the Tabletop. One of them I even BOUGHT. When an Evil Genius is willing to part with hard-earned ransom payments, you know it’s a good thing. All revealed in Part 3 – Tabletop!

<Part 1 – General Review and Cosplay can be found here>

 

* Once again, all reviews and opinions are solely belonging to Evil Genius Mum. Despite all the chocolate, and coffee, and roses, and miniature minions, and fancy shoes being thrown at her, EG Mum resisted their pleas and committed herself to a truly objective piece for you to read. Because let’s face it – she can’t handle the responsibility of monitoring her opinionated voice anyway. I don’t think anyone deserves that level of workload.

Get the GeekDad Books for the Holidays!

   

Evil Genius Mum is taking over the world from the comfort of her EG Lair Down Under (Australia). She plans to reset the world in her own geeky image - because geeks do it better. From old school superheroes to technological gadgets, EG Mum is all about sharing the geeky world with her spawnlings - Sinister, Nefarious, and Zaltu. If they don't overthrow her first.