Everything Action was back in Boston to cover PAX East 2020. PAX East brings together fans and game creators like no other convention. The Boston Convention Center hosted a huge gathering of game designers, vendors and the mass of geeky attendees. While there was a cloud of concerns over the Coronavirus outbreak, all four days of the event went smoothly and safely. There was a definite awareness in the air for everything to practice good hygiene and watch what they were touching. Despite the extra measures for cleanliness, there were still a ton of games to play, parties to attend and people to meet. Our coverage has a good taste of what we saw on the show floor, special events and more.
Playcrafting Pregamer Party
We kicked things off with a celebration before PAX East starts with the Playcrafting Pregamer party. Held in Laugh Boston in the Westin Hotel, Playcrafting hosts an event that lets you meet indie game designers and check out some of their in-development and upcoming games. We were not sure if it was because of the virus concerns or because it was a Wednesday but the party did seem much smaller than recent years with only a handful of indie devs showing off their games.
We stopped at the StarCrossed, which is a co-op spin on Pong that features Sailor Moonesque visuals. It was developed by Contigo Games and published by Whitethorn Digital. In StarCrossed, You and a partner have to work together to bounce a ball back and forth and take out enemies. The pace quickly gets pretty crazy as enemies change up their attack patterns and some enemies can only get killed by hitting them in the back. Team coordinate and quick reflexes are needed to survive multiple waves.
Corundum Games presented a mash-up of puzzle blocks and rail shooting in Chromavaders. This indie title has mechanics from Columns and Space Invaders that has enemies shooting projectiles, blocks to be collected and matched, and a shrinking playfield. We tried a versus mode while at the party, where we not only had to watch our screen for enemies but control how much of the garbage blocks we received from the opponent player.
We also played Feral Frontier, which is an extremely polished old-school style platformer from Dirty Beast Games. The story is about a captive fox named Reynard who escapes and flees to wild to rediscover his feral side. The game has an awesome art style that blends the retro 2D 16-bit designs with modern sharp edges. The gameplay follows a Metroidvania design and plays fantastically well. While this game looks complete and could be released now and get a ton of acclaim, the release date hasn’t been determined yet.
The last thing we checked out at the Pregamer party was From Rust, a digital card game from Razbury Games. It is set in a Mad Maxesque apocalyptic future and you have a group of characters, each with their own deck of card and unique skills. You have to decide how to break the characters up, whether in teams or solo, and then set out into the wasteland to gather supplies and fight other survivors and other, stranger, enemies. The game is extremely easy to pick up and its gameplay loop seems like it could get pretty addicting as you go for “just one more turn”.
PAX East Expo Floor
Pax East’s show floor is the main hub for all the great gaming to see. Displays, big and small, fill the aisles and there were endless games to check out. Some companies went all out with crazy displays and free booth merch to collect.
Nintendo recreated the new island from Animal Crossing with photo ops and character meets with Tom Nook and Isabelle.
Apple TV+ had a giant raven from Mythic Quest to ride, and PC hardware companies showcasing the latest PC rigs.
Final Fantasy 7 Remake
We kicked things off by checking out the Final Fantasy 7 Remake demo, which was shown at E3 last year. This was the same demo that was made available in late February. The classic turn-based mechanics of the original have been replaced with real-time action and strategy, in the same footsteps of Kingdom Hearts and FF 15. Its some more action-oriented than the original. It’s a visual and gameplay upgrade that seems on par with what Capcom did with Resident Evil 2, and it seems poised to not only draw in everyone nostalgic for the classic game but probably a whole bunch of new players who never played Final Fantasy 7 before.
At the media hour, we got to check out the demo for Fuser, the latest project from Harmonix. If you loved Dropmix, Fuser is going to be right up your alley. It has the same gameplay mechanics from Dropmix, where you choose from various popular songs and form the beat, rhythm, vocals and other aspects in a DJ mash-up. Fuser adds some new features, like a running beat counter that encourages you to change the songs on n exact beat and a crowd request feature, where you’ll get random requests from people. The fan request could change the vocal track or switch the beats to something from the 80s. There was a decent collection of music to sample in the demo. We picked songs from Lil Nas X, Billie Eilish, The Clash, Blue Oyster Cult, The Chainsmokers, and LMFAO to make a track. Just like Dropmix, Harmonix has performed some sort of insane alchemy where literally everything sounds awesome with everything else and it’s a ton of fun just seeing how vastly different songs mesh together. They seem to have done a great job with the controls as well, as they’ve mapped each of the four areas of the mix to a face button, so you can quickly scroll through the songs and add something new to the mix.
Once the convention kicked off on Thursday morning, we checked out 30XX, the sequel to 20XX from Batterystaple Games. The game continues the great roguelike Mega Man action that 20XX delivered but now you can play the entire game in co-op with a friend. One person can play as the Mega Manesque Nina while the other player can take control of the more Zeroesque Ace, who uses a sword instead of a blaster. In true roguelike fashion, there are several boosts and items you can collect and you earn currency to buy things as well. There are also extra challenge rooms to attempt at each level which will give out especially powerful rewards if you manage to survive. The visual style has gotten a slight change from 20xx’s more Mega Man X look and seems more inspired by the ZX series but it still looks and sounds fantastic.
Inspired by the likes of Wipeout and MXC, Fall Guys is a slack stick party game Media Tonic and Devolver Digital. The game has you playing against 100 other players through a series of ridiculous mini-games, like smashing through a series of doors or battling to gather the most eggs. It all leads to a final rush up a mountain full of obstacles and the first person to grab a floating crown is an ultimate winner. Fall Guys was an incredibly fun experience and has a charming art style that is bursting with color. The gameplay is wacky and amusing and will definitely draw in fans of the Mario Party series. The game drew tons of fan reaction, from people waiting in line to play or passersby. There were cheers and jeers as things happened in the game and easily became a crowd-pleaser at Pax East with its giant display and shiny colors.
We check out two titles that were a blast from the past at the Dotemu booth with Windjammers 2 and Streets of Rage 4. Windjammers 2 is the long-awaited follow-up to the cult NeoGeo game where two players face off in an extreme game of frisbee. The goal is to get the disc past your opponent into the goals to score points and ultimately win the round. It’s easy to pick up the basic catch and shoot controls but there are layers and layers of hidden depth that separate the casual and expert Windjammers and Windjammers 2 seems to be adding even more depth to the game. There is now ways to hit the disc and do quick volleys back and forth and a jump move that lets you slam the disc into the ground. There are also new characters, two of which are at the most extreme ends of speed and power. We didn’t really get all the nuance of the new controls and moves but this seems like a game where you get it and then really dig in to master all of its subtleties.
Streets of Rage 4
Axel, Blaze, and Adam are back along with new characters Cherry and Floyd and it takes place 10 years after Streets of Rage 3. Streets of Rage 4 keeps it’s traditional roots and is a straightforward awesome beat em up. Each character has standard attacks and the special move that drains a bit of your health, plus a meter can build up to a massive screen-clearing attack. The legendary musicians Yuzo Koshiro and Motohiro Kawashima, who created the iconic soundtracks from the previous titles are also back to compose new music. The game has a fantastic looking new art style that evokes the classic games but also feels modern and the fighting feels better than ever, especially an increased emphasis on juggling enemies. There will be nitty features like online and couch coop that will have 4-player mode so it will be fun for a whole squad to clean up the streets. The game is expected to be released later in 2020.
Panzer Paladin is a throwback to the NES with much more going on than what a lot of the classic were doing. Developed by Tribute Games, Panzer Paladin re-introduces old-school mechanics for a new generation. You play as a Squire, who pilots power armor known as a Paladin. A demonic invasion is threatening the planet and you set out to stop them. The big gameplay design is that you collect various handheld weapons, like swords and axes to more ridiculous ones like hockey sticks. You can hold a certain number and store any weapons afterward and you can swap between them, throw them and use them to activate checkpoints. You can also eject from the Paladin and control the squire, who can enter spaces the Paladin cannot and can swing and attack using an energy whip. It feels like it’s pulling from Blaster Master, Metal Warriors, Castlevania, and Bionic Commando but it all coalesces into a great looking and feeling action game.
Easily one of the best games we checked out this year at PAX East was Ghostrunner from developer One More Level and publisher All In Games. This title is a hardcore action-platformer with cyberpunk themes. The player takes control of the Ghostrunner, a cybernetically enhanced bodyguard who seeks revenge for his former client. The game is played in the first person and features extremely precise controls to quickly move around the environment and battle enemies with the Ghostrunner’s sword. The action is pretty intense, it feels like it’s one where you are really going to have to master the controls. The controls felt incredibly smooth and buttery, making all the actions of the Ghostrunner your own. There is double jumping, wall jumps, sliding and a grappling hook for navigation. The basic attacks are a sword slash with a limited range. There is also a slow-mo trigger that lets the Ghostrunner focus on select targets and go in for an instant kill. In the short playtime we had, we died a huge bunch but learned more about the game with each mistake we made. Every moment in combat has consequences and running in with blind luck will result in death very often. Combat should be approached with combinations of movement and attacks is tricky. Some areas can be completed by rushed to surprise the enemies, while others had to be slow to pick apart a group. Death comes fairly quickly if you find yourself in the wrong position or if you miss a swing at an enemy. However, there are plenty of checkpoints and instant respawn, so the pause between deaths isn’t long. The gameplay is paired with an awesome gritty atmosphere to explore and has a killer synth-wave soundtrack listen to as you hop around like a badass ninja. Ghostrunner is in early development and we enjoyed what we liked so far, a title worth checking out for action fans.
Bite the Bullet
Mega Cat Studios presents a throwback to the classic run-and-gun genre like Metal Slug and Contra with Bite the Bullet. Players take the role of a mercenary, working for an evil corporation that needs genetic material to experiment. The mercs travel to the devasted remnants of Earth and take on the mutated hordes that are still there. You can kill everything in sight but the real key to the game is selectively researching enemies and food items to eat. There is an in-depth eating mechanic built that stops the game from being a mindless shooter. Different enemies have different caloric and fat content and what you eat determines how your character plays. If you eat too many fatty enemies, your character will become a slow-moving, but powerful, blimp while a more lean diet will give you a faster, but weaker, athletic build. There is also a skill tree that revolves around certain diets as well and focusing on say, a carnivorous diet, can give you more bonuses if you eat more meat. The art style and animations are worthy of being on a NEO GEO and showcase a lot of the humor from Mega Cat Studios team. Bite the Bullet absolutely nails what it is to be a fast-paced run-and-gun title with the added depth to make a hungry customized merc.
Since we were already on the roll for food theme gaming, we stopped by Streamline Games to check out Bake’n Switch. This adorable co-op party game has a focus on teamwork like Overcooked and some combat mechanics from Mario Party. Players take control of bakers that trying to gather up dough creatures to sacrifice to the Guardians of Dough, giant temperamental ovens that will explode if they don’t get enough creatures fed to them. The creatures spawn from designated areas and you can pick them up and throw them into each other to increase their size. You can keep combining them but you have to quickly decide when to throw them into the Guardian because either the Guardian will change and want a new type of creature or the enemies wandering the maps will attack and destroy the creatures you’ve combined and grown. It’s an extremely fun, hectic time that has a lot of yelling to each other about what to do and lots of running around trying to do four or five things at the same time. Along with co-op, there are several other competitive modes as well where you are all competing to see who can collect the most dough creatures or dividing into teams to compete and get the most dough creatures to your side. Bake’n Switch is looking to be done baking and ready for all gamers in the summer of 2020.
TinyBuild came to delight and entertain with a carnival-themed booth to showcase their latest projects. Each tent had a demo set up for people and coins to collect. It really encouraged people to try out all the demos and trade their coins for prizes. At the carnival, we tried Hellpoint by Cradle games and Mayhem in Single Valley by Fluxscopic Ltd. Hellpoint is 3rd person adventure title that plays like a sci-fi dark souls and Mayhem in Single Valley is an isometric adventure puzzler with a great visual style. Our demo of both games explored the adventure genres in unique ways, Mayhem in Single Valley being more of a logic focus to avoid combat while Hellpoint was all about smacking enemies and taking their loot.
After a few rounds of demoing and collecting coins, we couldn’t help but stare at the giant signs for the curiously named Rawmen.
Rawmen is a multiplayer game in the vein of Splatoon, except with semi-nude, mustachioed men who rely on soup instead of ink. There are going to be a variety of game modes but the one on display at PAX was a king of the hill mode where the players are vying to be the one to stay in the designated zones on the map the longest. Each player is armed with a pot of soup which they can use to slide around Splatoon style, throw at enemies for attacking and you can also cover yourself with your pot for protection. There’s also wacky special weapons to pick up as well, like a giant meatball or a goose powered turret. Tinybuild also wins for best theming of a booth as they really dug into the carnival vibe and had High Striker hammer games going and all the demo units were under circus-style tents and you could win tokens to trade in for swag like hats, shirts and Hello Neighbor masks.
Postal 4: No Regerts
After battling for domination as Rawmen, we stopped by Running With Scissors to check out Postal 4: No Regerts. In this open-world FPS shooter, players are once again in the shoes of Postal Dude, who finds himself on the outskirts of a strange desert town with only his bathrobe and his loyal canine companion Champ. We only got to play a bit of the demo but it seems like you can really get into some crazy scenarios, like pissing on cops, using cats as a silencer for your gun, making a super soaker into a flamethrower, killing people with pigeons and more. The game is nonlinear and lets people go crazy while racking up the body count. While it is not the most modern designs in the FPS, it has a certain nostalgic charm of early 2000s gaming. While it does not aim to be a deep gaming experience, it’s the kind of fart and dick joke comedy needed to making a gamer well rounded. If you want to cause all sorts of ridiculous mayhem, you should definitely check out Postal 4: No Regerts.
Relic Hunters Zero: Remix
Relic Hunters Zero: Remix is the console remake of Rogue Snail games’ 2015 free to play PC title and is published by Akupara Games. In this twin-stick shooter, you and a friend take up the role of galactic hunters who battle evil space ducks with a huge variety of weapons. There are a handful of characters to choose from, each of them has varying stats and weapons and you can pick up an arsenal of other weapons. It’s extremely fast-paced and frantic and feels like an old school arcade game with a slew of modern ideas on top of it, like a more in-depth Robotron or Smash TV. Relic Hunters Zero: Remix combines the mechanics of a looter shooter feel with incredibly cool art designs to make a shooter for all ages to try.
Relic Hunters Legend
Relic Hunters Legend is an upcoming online version of the Relic Hunter series that has a completely updated graphics style. This time around, players take up the role of brand new characters and lets you create your own Relic Hunter and play online co-op with friends. Legend will be completely free to play and you can team up with up to four friends to explore new planets and battle all kinds of weird and wacky enemies while interacting with the characters from the original Relic Hunters Zero.
Cyber Shadow is a retro-style action platformer by Aarne “MekaSkull” Hunziker and Yacht Club Games. Cyber Shadow draws inspiration from a large number of classic games, most notably Ninja Gaiden, but also stuff like Sunsoft’s Batman and more obscure games like Shatterhand and Power Blade. You play as a ninja named Shadow, he battles an invasion of mechanical monsters while unlocking the ninjitsu secrets of his clan. Like Shovel Knight, Cyber Shadow feels exactly like a lost classic on the NES. The classic aesthetics are definitely hiding much more complicated gameplay and has a power graphical fidelity than an actual NES game could hope to achieve. The game starts fairly simple as Shadow starts with a basic sword attack but as his skills level up, the game gets much more challenging as you have to master and chain together those powers to take down enemies. Mixed with tricky obstacles and traps and a demanding difficulty curve, Cyber Shadow is bound to be on people’s radars soon.
Obey Me is a top-down action game that has a very cool comic book aesthetic. Developed by Error 404 Games Studios and published by Blowfish Studios. The story follows Vanessa Held, a lesser demonic human who gets drawn into the neverending war between Heaven and Hell. She is joined by her wisecracking Hellhound Monty to take on hordes of the underworld. Obey Me is an action-adventure title with button-mashing brawling mechanics. Vanessa uses a mix of light and heavy attacks, and a few special attacks for crowd control. The game can be played in co-op mode with a second player controlling Monty. The demo we tried didn’t have co-op set up, but the single-player version gave us a good insight to where Monty would come in handy for combat. The game is set to release this April 21, 2020.
Infinite: Beyond the Mind
Infinite: Beyond the Mind is a throwback side-scrolling beat em up from Emilie COYO and Blowfish Studios. The game follows Tanya and Olga, battle-hardened soldiers fighting the evil Beljantaur Kingdom. The girls are both highly mobile and use melee attacks to take down the variety of enemy troops you’ll encounter. The gameplay is very solid and simple, there isn’t much of a curve the difficulty. Compared to some of the other retro style games we saw at the con, Beyond the Mind falls into a casual experience for old school gaming.
Infliction: Extended Cut
Infliction DX (or Infliction Extended Cut) is a first-person horror game that definitely feels like any PT fan should check out. Developed by Caustic Reality and published by Blowfish Studios, Infliction drops the player into a scary house filled with many hidden secrets. The player begins to explore the home of a tragic family, whose murders have left behind many mysteries, and soon discovers a twisted supernature element. The psychological horror tricks the player with light and shadows, messing with the senses with plenty of creepy noises and jump scares. This game encourages lots of exploration, picking up clues to piece together the narrative and avoid killing freaked out by what lures in the dark. It seems like a solid experience that begs to be played at home with the lights off.
Developed by Walkabout and Wolf Games, Liberated is presented as a hybrid graphic novel and action/platformer set in a dystopian totalitarianism society. A corrupt government puts the world under surveillance and other malicious tech, keeping a oppressive heel to the people. Taking back control for the people is a resistance group that is using any means necessary to send a message. Players experience the story as characters from both sides of the struggle and the story unfold in comic book panels. The cutscenes follow traditional comic book storytelling, with jump cuts flowing between panels but at times the gameplay will take place within one specific scene. Most of the action sequences we experienced you had to get through the level by shooting enemies but there were also some puzzles to solve, like figuring out how to turn off a fan or playing a Mastermind style guessing game to unlock a door. The closest comparison to another game is probably Comix Zone but Liberated is definitely going for something much more ambitious (no offense to Sketch Turner). The overall presentation of Liberated is very unique and keeps the player’s attention to see what’s next.
Eating Contest with The Hungry Couple
At the Mega Cat Studios booth, Miki Sudo and Nick Wehry, the competitive eating duo known as “The Hungry Couple”, came to devour a feast. Like the hungry mercenaries in Bite the Bullet, the Hungry Couple are champion eaters and know how to make food disappear fast. Miki and Nick were presented with 50 fried dumplings, 2 stacked cheeseburgers, and 2 Whoopie pies. It was a meal worth good enough for 4 people with a big appetite, but we watched just 2 people eat through this whole meal in less than 30 minutes.
It’s pretty cool to see the control and ability to watch competitive eating in action. This was just a friendly exhibition between the two, they were taking their time with the food and making good progress. Miki started slow and steady, munching and talking to the crowd a bit. Nick did a good dent in the beginning, but we think the heavy dough from the dumplings started to add up. It was Miki that finished first, proving that slow and steady wins the race in the end.
Special Events and After Parties
After a busy day of playing games and chatting it up, we ventured around the city to see some sights and grab a well-deserved drinks. Many companies and bars throw fun events and promotions for attendees, a few with great giveaways and specials.
Acer Predator Party
The biggest party at PAX East is the Acer Predator Party, which was completely booked up again this year. Predator Gaming takes over the Royale nightclub and has a slew of the most high-end gaming desktops and laptops on display for attendees to check out along with e-sports exhibitions from professional team Team Envy and this year featured a performance later in the night by Grammy-winning DJ Audien.
One of the craziest gaming setups on display at the party was the Thronos, which a gaming rig that fully surrounds you with three curved displays and a motorized chair.
The version of Thronos at the party was slightly stripped down, it didn’t have the crazy hydraulics going on, but it was still impressive, if completely impractical for most gamers. The Predator party was an absolute blast as usual, with plenty of drinks to help blow off some of the pressure of the expo hall and lots of chances to meet and network with fellow media members as well as people in the gaming industry.
Made in MA
We also checked out the Made in MA party on Thursday night at the District Hall. This party brings together different developers and game studios from across Massachusetts for a giant networking opportunity. We played few games, including the charmingly titled Super No Crying in Baseball, which is a baseball game where you have to manage your emotions and not disappoint your angry dad who is watching from the sidelines.
Red Bull Arcade
There was also a classic arcade sponsored by Red Bull across the street from the convention center. There were a bunch of classic games like Missile Command, Centipede, Robotron and more and you got a bunch of wooden tokens as you entered the arcade. You could challenge other games by wagering tokens and then trade the tokens you won in to get a bunch of Red Bull branded prizes, like hats and t-shirts and desk toys. It was a fun break from the packed crowds and somewhere to get a quick energy boost.
Despite the pall of potential sickness in the air, PAX East 2020 was still a great time full of great games to check out and fun events to attend. If you live on the East Coast and have never attended, you have to try and get out to Boston at least once to attend, as it truly is a major gaming mecca for anyone who loves video games, tabletop games and everything in between.