April 13, 2012

Installation 04 @ PAX EAST 2012

So I was at PAX East last weekend and I played some great games. Not as many games as I wanted to play, but I played some cool stuff nonetheless. What did this year's show have to offer? Impressions lie within, including a spcial preview of Party of Sin.

Party of Sin
I'll start out with the game that has received zero coverage, Party of Sin. Of course, I wasn't aware of the game either until I saw it on the show floor. The booth had chairs, which is always a plus at PAX, so my friend and I sat down to play it. Unless you frequent the indiest of websites or you happened to come across the Kickstarter page, chances are you've never even heard of this game. Party of Sin is a 2D platforming puzzle game starring the seven deadly sins. One day, the get busted by angels and condemned to hell so the world will be free of sin. Of course, the sins bust out and seek revenge. The game has (at the very least) local co-op but can be played by yourself because you can freely switch between the sins to solve puzzles. We started out with Greed and Gluttony. Each sin has his or her own special ability. For example, Greed has a grappling hook which can grab and pull objects while Gluttony can eat anything in sight including enemies, which give him a health boost. The game was pretty fun, and I must say I enjoyed the diversity of abilities and puzzles available. The game's metal soundtrack and rough comic book cutscenes grabbed me right away. I'm totally into the character designs, too. About halfway through the demo, we were given access to a variety of firearms wich added a whole other element to the hack 'n slash combat. We played the game with Xbox controllers, but that's no indication that the game will actually come out on Xbox since every PC game at PAX uses these. For now, I think it's a PC exclusive. While nothing I played revolutionized anything, Party of Sin was a fun little co-op game that deserves more recognition.

Dust: An Elysian Tail
This was the first public showing of this 2009 Dream. Build. Play. contest winner. It's been in development for while, but the polish is immediately apparent. Another 2D sidescroller (like so many indie games are), this one is much more action oriented. The hand-drawn art looked absolutely fantastic and the controls were very tight. It's very obvious that a lot of care has gone into crafting this game, thus the extended development time. I'm trying to think of a game to compare this to, but it's a bit tough. I don't want to call it a "Metroidvania" game because that's not quite it. As you progress, you do unlock new abilities, but the game is a bit more linear and action oriented than those games. Perhaps something along the lines of The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai. Anyway, the combat system here is refreshingly complex and not just simple button mashing. You can parry, dodge, combo attack, and all that other good stuff. The music seemed good, but it was hard to hear in the crowded show floor. And the game was legitimately funny! I chuckled more than once at how self-aware the game was, as it constantly referenced itself as a demo. After playing Dust, I definitely plan to pick it up. It'll be out on XBLA later this year.

Charlie Murder
Speaking of The Dishwasher, Ska Studio's newest game, Charlie Murder, was on display. It's a classic beat 'em up like Battletoads or Castle Crashers but with Ska's trademark dark style. You can choose from a number of punk rockers with different special abilities and then go murder some dudes. Like Party of Sin, I found it to be a fun little co-op game but not particularly special beside the, you know, twisted style that Ska is known for. After bashing our way through some club, my friend and the two random dudes were were playing with took to the streets in our vehicles and hurled random exploding crap at our enemies. That was kind of cool. Oh, and characters have cellphones that can be used to level up, manage inventory, and scan in game QR codes to unlock new goodies. I must admit, I liked the idea of that. It'll be out later this year on XBLA.

BIT.TRIP Presents: Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien
This game was so awesome you don't even know. You don't even know! If you played the previous Runner, you'll fall in love with this game. It has the same basic idea, but plenty of new twists. Most obvious is the new visual style. It looked weird at first, but it's become a lot more polished since the initial unveiling and the build at the show looked totally amazing in motion. What's new? Commander Video has some new moves this time around. He can breakdance while running (it's hilarious) which gives you bonus points but makes you unable to avoid obstacles for a few seconds. He's got a paddle shield from Bit.Trip Beat that can deflect projectiles. You can jump different heights now by holding down the A button. He can run through loop-de-loops and (not kidding) square-de-squares, which require button presses to get through. There's unlockable characters, multiple paths, and several difficulty levels. I hear there's even slide kicks and rail grinding. If you collect all the gold in a level you're rewarded with a minigame where you can shoot Commander Video out of a cannon. There's giant set pieces and balloons! The soundtrack is the amazing Bit.Trip music you love taken to the next level. Commander video wears red shoes and a rainbow cape. There are skippable (if you want) checkpoints guarded by Unkle Dill, a drunk pickle. Yeah, it's pretty much the best thing ever. Buy it for XBLA, SEN, and (maybe) Wii U this fall!

Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit
So, you want something completely insane to play? Have I got the game for you. Hell Yeah! is the newest game from Arkedo Studio, developer of some of the best indie games on the XBLI service. In it, you play as an undead rabbit, the prince of Hell, who is out to kill every demon and beast who caught a glimpse of some embarrassing photos of him. You ride around in a fucking jetpack chainsaw wheel and kill everything in sight. Larger monsters are murdered by performing one of 35 insane microgames in the vein of WarioWare. The game itself plays like a Metroidvania, where you'll get new abilities and gain access to new areas. You can customize the prince in ridiculous ways. I bought a trucker hat and a giant inflatable duck to replace my weapon. Another downloadable game, it'll be out on XBLA, SEN, and Steam this summer.

Black Knight Sword
The latest team up from Grasshopper Manufacture and Digital Reality is appropriately weird, and completely different than their last game, Sine Mora. Black Knight Sword is a sidescroller with a unique kamishibai art style. For those of you who don't know what that is and are too lazy to click that link and read about it, that basically means it looks like a stageplay. It's a nice look, but unfortunately the gameplay couldn't live up to it. The Black Knight attacks with his awesome looking sword, but it unfortunately only has one stabbing animation. It comes off feeling weak. The sword obviously has some weight to it (he drags it around) but I don't really want to play as a guy who can't wield his epic sword epically. Now, I may be unfair in saying that because it's possible you get more attacks later. After the first stage, I got a lightning attack that obliterated everything on screen, but the gameplay seemed clunky for the most part. It's unfortunate because the game really does look intriguing, and it was actually quirky enough to keep me playing. The combat wasn't broken, per se, it was just kind of dull. I'll keep my eye on it, though, because it's always possible things will get ironed out... or the game could be good despite the bland combat. It'll also be out this year on XBLA and SEN.

Mario Tennis Open
Nintendo's booth was truly pathetic and the only unreleased game they had on display was the new Mario Tennis title for 3DS. Theres' not much to say here. It's... Mario Tennis, which is to say it's great. The game plays more or less like console installments except this time, you're given a number of different shots on the touch screen. Often, the ball will volley in your direction and a glowing ring will appear on the court. Step in it and hit the corresponding color shot on the touch screen and you'll do a special power shot. The 3D looked great and adds some depth to the court. You can also use the gyroscope and move the system around to get a behind-the-shoulder shaky cam view, though I fail to see why anyone would want to do that. The game will be out on May 20, and will feature a full suite of online modes.

Sleeping Dogs
Ah yes, Sleeping Dogs... the game originally known as True Crime: Hong Kong, then cancelled by Activision, then picked up by Square-Enix and renamed. The best way I can describe it is "Asian Batman". Seriously, it plays a lot like the Arkham games. The demo had me chase a dude named Ming through the streets of Hong Kong, vaulting and climbing over obstacles before I had to fight some of his goons in an alleyway. The combat was context sensitive and I could parry just like in Batman. Your character here, though isn't afraid to kill and you can use the environment in some pretty gruesome ways. I stuffed some guy's face in a vent fan and watched it get sliced into chili. I shoved another dude in a circuit box and electrocuted him. Yet another guy got stuffed in a dumpster. And I saw someone else press a guy's face to a stove. The possibilities are endless here. It's like Bulletstorm minus the points. After I finished off Ming, there was a street race that played... well, like a racing game. That was a refreshing change of pace when action game car driving usually sucks. Apparently, the developer wanted to make each aspect play like a full fledged game. So it's got action sequences that play like Batman, shooting that plays like Max Payne, racing like Need for Speed, and free running like Assassin's Creed. Sleeping Dogs will be out on Xbox, PS3, and PC in August. The following trailer is all the stuff you can do in vehicles alone!

Dragon's Dogma
I wanted to play this one at Prime last year, but I unfortunately didn't get to. Luckily, they had it on display again! I was surprised by how fun it was, actually. The demo footage I saw made the gameplay look clunky, but Capcom's take on the Western RPG is actually quite fluid. It's an action RPG, and you have full control of your character's actions. Pull down the right trigger and you get special attacks mapped to the face buttons, just the way I like it. The dude I played as in the demo was, I guess, a warrior with a sword and no ranged or magic attacks. At least, I couldn't figure out how to do them in my brief time with the game. I had quite a large party fighting with me. It started out with just one guy, but then I summoned about three more people out of some sort of portal. Always with you is your "pawn" who you create and who can travel to other people's game as a hired hand. He'll come back and divulge helpful information about the areas he visited. It's a really cool concept, but I obviously couldn't try it out here. The gameplay was very exciting, though. You can pin down smaller enemies, or stab enemies your allies have pinned. You can actually scale large enemies, Shadow of the Colossus style. I climbed on the back of this giant crazy lion creature and hacked off its snake tail. Visually and thematically, the game reminded me of Dark Souls. It's a dark fantasy game with mythological creatures (read: grey and brown) but looks nice enough. Overall, I had a lot of fun with it and I can't wait to play more. Dragon's Dogma will be out May 22 on Xbox and PS3.

Borderlands 2
Borderlands 2 was insanely popular. There was literally a line just to get into the line that they only opened every hour because so many people wanted to play this game. And for good reason! The co-op demo took me and my friend to the "caustic caverns"filled with pools of acid and scores of new monsters. I played as Maya, the siren, and my friend was Salvador, the gunzerker. Maya, though a siren, plays differently than Lilith from the last game. She has the ability to to trap enemies with her phaselock ability. Salvadore can duel wield any two guns in your inventory and, though he looks like Brick's size, is actually about four feet tall. As with the first game, these abilities can be upgraded to provide bonuses. The other two characters, Axton and Zero, were not playable. The stage had a variety of new enemies ranging from crazy tentacle worms to giant locusts to hulking stone creatures with breakable gemstone legs. Some of the immediate changes I noticed were the ability to pick up ammo and money automatically, the new menu optimized for split screen play, and a new type of gun damage that was purple and appeared to cause enemies to take more damage. If you thought the weapons couldn't get any crazier think again! I got this fire revolver that had a scope on top of the scope on the scope. Plus, every gun manufacturer actually feels different this time. For example, the cheap Tediore guns can be thrown like grenades when the clip is empty. Borderlands 2 will be out Septermber 18th for Xbox, PS3, and PC. But you already knew that, didn't you? The video below shows off the new trading system, which I didn't even know existed until a moment ago.

By far, DYAD was my game of the show. I've heard a lot about the game, but I didn't really understand it. Still, I was interested enough to check it out, and boy and I glad I did. Now that I've played it, I totally get it. And it's brilliant. DYAD is a game that's really difficult to explain. You play as this... uh... thing that travels along this tube. It has these tentacles that can latch on to enemies and highlight them. If you match two of the same color, you make a pair. Early on, your job is to create pairs of enemies to progress and you'll get a rating depending on how many you match. The further you get into the game, the more elements are added. Later, I got the ability to lance enemies once I had matched enough pairs. Then I gained the ability to create rings around enemies when I highlighted them and passing through the rings while grazing the enemies the surround got me big points. In the final stage of the demo, all these elements combined. I only had three lives and the more pairs I matched, the faster the game would go. Grazing enemies filled up my lance meter and lancing enemies gained me extra lives. I was very disappointed to realize that, after dying, I had matched 49 of the 50 necessary pairs. The game's designer, Shawn McGrath, seemed equal parts impressed and disappointed. The games audio (by 6955 and David Kanaga) and visuals change depending on how well you play. The better you are, the more out there they get. Eventually, I found myself mesmerized and really in the zone. I haven't played a game like that since Bit.Trip Runner. The game will be out eventually (probably this year) on SEN. When I expressed my love for the game and disappointment with not being able to buy it because I don't have a PS3, Shawn responded "Eh, it'll be out on Steam eventually." There's hope yet for us non-PS3 gamers!

No comments:

Post a Comment