With PAX over a week behind us and all of our coverage done, we’ve put together a summary of the experience in a few different categories of what we liked the most. We caught the majority of the indies there (though admitted to missing The Witness already) so feel like we have a good feel for everything at the show on our indie/independent radar.
Best Overall Experience – These are the games that stood out from the crowd for us.
Retro/Grade – Retro/Grade is one of those unique games that truly attempts to do something different. It’s not another platform, or another shmup, or another of any of the types of games we are used to playing at this point, it’s a game that genuinely has a unique premise. While the game seems to be largely based on the rhythm genre (hence the use of the guitar controller) the game’s presentation does more than enough to make me far more interested in playing Retro/Grade than playing the umpteenth version of Rock Band or Guitar Hero.
The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile – I had only played the first in the series briefly since, at the time of its release, I hadn’t actually owned an Xbox 360 yet. However, after playing the sequel at this year’s PAX I’m absolutely convinced that this is going to be one of the must-have beat em up games of 2011. There’s little in this game that fans of the genre won’t love as it’s got combos, button mashing, and gore resplendent throughout. Of course, all of that is nicely wrapped in a compelling long campaign, arena modes, and co-op gameplay.
Monaco – Few games seem to come with the simplistic yet incredibly addictive gameplay that Monaco has. I mean, who would have thought a four player co-op heist game would be so much fun? Even the concept itself isn’t one that’s really been explored before, which means that with Monaco, you’re, quite literally, getting a fresh game. Monaco won the 2010 IGF’s main prize because of the unique co-op gameplay that is, quite possibly, the best co-op to have ever been implemented into a game before.
Slam Bolt Scrappers – This is my third occasion of playing Slam Bolt Scrappers and everything that’s happened so far has come to a head with the current build. With epic stages involving balancing blocks and boss fights that work perfectly in the game’s world, the game is exceedingly fun at this juncture. I can see how new players may be a bit overwhelmed by everything going on, but with a little practice that game is truly fun and takes skill to master.
Tales from Space: About a Blob – I really like what DrinkBox Studios have done with this co-op game. After playing it, it’s exactly like I thought. It’s truly a mixture of Gish and Katamari Damacy. The scope of each level and how it changes with you is fascinating and its both an easy game to pick up and fun to play with a friend. I’m curious to see what the rest of the levels offer to gamers.
Future Prospects – The titles we’re most excited to learn more about going into the future.
Bastion – Bastion was one of those titles that is not only jaw-droppingly gorgeous, but also so incredibly ambitious that you’re actually left wondering if the game cane really be “indie.” But indie it is, as the developers are attempting to create a unique storyline with an even more unique world creation and narration system. Bastion not only has a lot going for it today, but the prospects it offers in the future easily make it one of the most anticipated games of 2011.
Slam Bolt Scrappers – Shown off to us exclusively at this year’s GDC (it was officially unveiled at PAX East) Slam Bolt Scrappers is handily one of the games I am looking forward to most after my not-so-short time with the game at PAX. The game seems to effortlessly combine an amazing puzzle/Tetris concept along with a more typical fighting premise to give what will arguably be one of the most addictive PSN titles ever. Best part is that there’s more that the developers have yet to show us, which means the game is likely to get even better before it actually gets released.
Spy Party – The crowds surrounding this game show off just what a quality product it is. I’m categorizing it as one for the future because I didn’t have enough time to go in-depth with it, but its premise is fascinating to me. Two people, one the sniper, one the spy and each has a goal to achieve. It’s a game of wits and clever play styles. We’ll be covering this more deeply in the coming months.
Mystery Projects from Ska Studios and Twisted Pixel – Two of the developers we talked to have unannounced projects that, considering their current and future projects, can only be something exciting. Twisted Pixel has a new game they’re already working on to follow-up Comic Jumper, and Ska Studios has a project coming up after The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile and Charlie Murder. Two top-notch studios with most likely two top-notch games.
Bastion – Like Geoff, I was blown away by this game’s visuals. The controls are already spot on, and the short preview of building your own Bastion amidst the chaos is a really intriguing idea. The game feels like a throwback to the SNES RPG days while still feeling unique and even more beautiful. I can’t wait to see what’s coming next from this group of recent EA dropouts.
Editor’s Choice – A vote and discussion between Geoff and Peter over their favorite indie title we played at the show.
Retro City Rampage
Without a doubt, my favorite game of the show floor was Retro City Rampage. Call me nostalgic, but I just could not get over how amazing the game’s 8bit graphics melded perfectly with the GTA styled open world.
Of course, what really sealed the deal for me was just how far along the game has come. At almost every point during our preview with the game, Brian (the developer) was constantly showing us new things that could be explored and done, often times ending with very humorous results.
I suppose the best part about Retro City Rampage was, however, the simple fact that the game was almost ready for prime time right there. It seemed like nothing was incomplete and, had Brian allowed it, I’d absolutely have pulled up a chair to the station and just played for the entirety of the show. That, in and of itself, speak volumes about the quality of game that is Retro City Rampage.
Retro City Rampage snuck onto the scene a few weeks ago after a video gave it some wide exposure and even the mainstream sites picked up on it. After announcing it would be at PAX, I was excited to get a chance to play it. From the screenshots and videos alone, it looked like it might not just look like the retro titles it was lampooning, but play like them with equal frustration. But this wasn’t the case at all. The game’s controls are spot on and it’s easy to take up the game on its title suggestion of rampaging through the city.
The missions are hilarious and every billboard, business and pixel are put to good use. It’s a lovingly designed game that is solid enough to please longtime and new gamers alike. The depth of such a simple game is insane as well, with over thirty haircuts for your 9 x 12 pixel character and dozens and dozens of weapons.
Brian programmed almost the entire game himself and with this kind of quality it’s going to be exciting to not only get the full game, but see what this indie creator has in store next.
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