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Everything Action at Pax East 2023

Last March, PAX East returned to Boston for a big celebration of all things gaming and geeky. The Everything Action crew of Zach and Chris spent four days at the expo in all of PAX’s high-fidelity experiences. We wandered around the show floor, sat in on (and hosted!) panels, and snapped pictures all the way. Check out our recap of our adventures at the event with a collection of mini-reviews and thoughts about the games we tried, the people we met, and the many things we enjoyed!

Banners

Before we dive into this giant-size convention review, we wanted to point out the hilarious and random banners that brighten up our days at PAX. We originally had similar banners at PAX Unplugged that warned people about birds and talked about horses and livestock. Sadly they did not return for PAX Unplugged 2022. But they had triumphantly returned to this show, coming in with one part helpful health tips and one part confusing stock photos. Take a moment to enjoy these banners we found:

Expo Hall

With over 250 exhibitors filling out this giant space, the expo hall is a bustling hub of PAX East. In this area, there were many different companies showcasing their latest games, hardware, and accessories for the crowds to see. Many publishers and developers had big displays of the latest games where attendees got to demo upcoming titles in various stages. From video game companies demoing everything from stable beta versions to nearly production-ready builds. Tabletop companies prepared in-depth playthroughs while sitting around a table. And nerdy merchants were selling fan-favorite items. Attendees can and did spend hours in these aisles alone every day.

There was a great sense of community and energy in the expo hall that keeps you wanting to see and do everything, even if your feet complain a bit. Luckily, if you were one of the clever readers that have checked our previous Pax articles, you came prepared! The expo hall is a great place to meet other gamers and learn about the latest trends in the industry. We had scheduled multiple appointments to get in some screen time and chat with the creative teams as much as possible, with plenty of wiggle room to check out games that grabbed our attention or can highly recommended by others.

The Behemoth – Alien Hominid: Invasion

The Behemoth hasn’t been at PAX East since the before times pre-pandemic but the fan-favorite developer of Castle Crashers and Alien Hominid returned with the latest build of Alien Hominid InvasionThe co-op run and gun shooter is the latest game in the Alien Hominid franchise and finds the dangerously cute aliens returning to Earth and taking on shadowy government agents and their various weapons and robots.  Taking a bit of a page from the roguelike genre, you are presented with a map and you can choose your path on the way to a boss.  Each stage has varying difficulty and the potential for new loot and weapons.  Once in a level, there are various objectives to complete, like targeting certain enemies or collecting items like intel.  This changes things up from the Contra-style side-scrolling of the original Alien Hominid and keeps things interesting.  There are tons of enemies, explosions, and effects happening and it was pretty chaotic with one player, so we can’t imagine playing with a full squad in co-op. The hand-drawn animations are fantastic, as is the case with most releases from The Behemoth. Alien Hominid: Invasion will be out sometime later this year on console and PC.

Sean Herron – Primal Omen

From its Jurassic theme booth and 3rd-person action gameplay, we were drawn in to check out Primal Omen. Inspired by the survival titles made by Capcom, particularly Dino Crisis, Primal Omen follows an elite soldier sent to a tropical island that has been overrun by dinosaurs. But supplies are limited and there is no backup coming anytime soon, so you have to make the best of what you have and what you can find to fend off the hungry pre-historic predators.

This build we played is a shiny but rough technical demo that shows the title’s minimal HUD, lush environments, and gun mechanics. There is a sliding mechanic that lets you evade enemies but it was fun to push the game’s physics limits by sliding up and down areas whenever possible. The short demo had us walk through a linear path toward a laboratory, with a few encounters scattered around. In keeping with the tradition of survival horror, the game has some resource management but for demo purposes, the game was tweaked a bit so fights could be more forgiving. The game has the basic structure for a decent 3rd person action title, with a few of the models and environments having a nice glossy look that makes it want to be the next Dino Crisis. So it is something worth looking out for more development news from this group.

Serenity Forge

We stopped by Serenity Forge’s booth to check out the latest Doki Doki Literature Club t-shirts and play on a few of their demo stations.
Arcadian Atlas – Developed by Twin Otter Studios, Arcadian Atlas is a 2D tactical role-playing game. This title follows a pair of lovers caught in the chaos of a civil war in a kingdom. They are joined by a squad of armored troopers, elemental mages, swift rangers, and ingenious scientists. Together they will fight and take part in the war of Arcadia.

This game follows the steps of classic JRPGS like Arc the Lad and FF Tactics. You have a squad of characters with different classes and strengths, that let you change up how you tackle each fight. The game has great sprite work that feels very retro but the big surprising feature of the same is the smooth jazzy soundtrack. Battles are not fought in big orchestra scores but have a rhythmic jazz beat. But it’s not a big distraction from the solid RPG mechanics. The game is a turn-based combat system, that takes place in an isometric grid. The grid points give you an idea of the range and power from the player’s attacks and some from the opponents. The first time trying out the game, I made some sloppy mistakes. Accidents like blocking your own characters from traveling in combat or summoning a too-powerful attack that damages all characters in a radius. This made it feel authentically like a 90s-era PS1 game which brought a smile to play but a small frown at tough moments.

Smile for Me Developed by LimboLane, Smile for Me is a point-and-click adventure game with a unique gimmick for communicating.  Your character can only shake or nod their head, there are no dialogue choices when you interact with the game’s various characters and you literally use a mouse or analog stick to move your head and do the appropriate action.  We played on a Switch and it seemed a little tricky to get the game to acknowledge our nods and shakes at times, even if you really exaggerated it with big nods or big shakes.  This seems like something that would shine in VR, where you could literally nod or shake your head.  The game has a very unique art style and a world that feels a bit like Psychonauts or PaRappa the Rapper with the occasional odd FMV or puppetry breaking in and your goal is to talk to various characters around “The Habitat” and help them complete various tasks to increase their joy and make life in “The Habitat” slightly more bearable. Smile For Me is actually out now on PC and will be coming to consoles at the end of this month.

PM Studios – Goodbye World

Walking past the PM Studios booth, we checked out YO FUJII and Isolation Studio’s Goodbye World, which came out last year on console and PC.  The game is a meta-narrative about indie game developers creating a game and you actually play levels of the Game Boyesque game within the game, Blocks, in between story segments.  The story follows programmer Kanii and graphics artist Kumade, who meet and become friends in college.  After graduating, they try to make a living selling indie games, but nothing is selling and a rift starts to grow between them.  It seems like a charming game with an interesting story and the Blocks game in the game is actually pretty interesting, with some unique puzzle elements that evolve as you play different “builds” of the game throughout the story. However, this game is a divisive experience, as the game’s slow-burn narrative and gameplay can be frustrating if you don’t have the patience. Its meta arthouse experience makes it hard to pick up easily and is more of a commentary of game development than straight entertainment.

Apogee

We were invited to a special meeting with Apogee to try out their upcoming lineup of titles. We got to chat with the game developers of Rise of the Triad: Ludicrous Edition and Turbo Overkill and learn some of the behind-the-scenes stories. Rise of the Triad: Ludicrous Edition is a fateful remastering of the original title, with all of the chapters, weaponry, and secrets in tack (You don’t need to send a money order to a P.O Box for new content). We got to check out the weaponry and play the first level, which keeps the same feel as the original but with a much faster frame rate and smoothness. We were guided thru the various weapons and tricks to get awesome explosive stunts. Later, we checked out episode three of Turbo Overkill, the newest chapter for the overtop shooter that manages to push itself with every entry. The first episode had cyberpunk themes, the second was about demons and hell. Episode three goes into greater highest by heading off into out space. We got to mess around with new weapons and enemy encounters. But the new exciting feature is the double chainsaw enhancements, giving you a limited berserker rage to cut thru your enemies.
You can check out our demo time of Tubro Overkill here.


It was nice to hang out for a bit with the Apogee team and talk about the games we all tried so far at PAX and things we are looking forward to seeing. We even got to see the special jackets the team custom order to wear to really show the love of their games and fashionable wear.

Playtonic Games – Elsie

Elsie is a fast-paced rogue-like action platformer that has the backing of Jirard “The Completionist” Khalil, who we got to meet at the Playtonic Games booth and talk about what drew him to the game and put his backing on it.  Elsie features fast run-n-gun action and some more advanced techniques like parrying and dashing.  The advanced techniques are essential to learning as you take on the bullet-hell style challenges of the world and it feels pretty great once you start to get the hang of it, as you can zip around, parry enemy attacks, and counterattack. The world is extremely colorful, which is actually fairly unique in the world of rogue-likes, with neon-soaked, mechanical worlds to explore and battle through.  There’s a demo for Elsie you can check out now on Steam and the game is coming soon to Steam and Nintendo Switch.

Riot Games – The Mageseeker: A League of Legends Story

Developed by Digital Sun, who previously developed Moonlighter, The Mageseeker: A League of Legends Story is the latest chapter in the ever-expanding world of League of Legends. You play as Sylas, a mage who is freed from his prison and joins the fight against the Mageseekers, who are looking to suppress those with magical abilities in the kingdom of Demacia.  Along with the chains that he was imprisoned with that he can use Kratos-style to melee attack enemies, Sylas can also use the chains to steal the abilities of his enemies, a la Kirby, and use them against them.  If an enemy has fire powers, you can steal them and then use them for yourself.  It works particularly well if you figure out an enemy’s weakness, like fire against ice.  Things can get pretty intense combat-wise, we played a boss encounter that felt like a bullet-hell shooter at times but the game controls great and you have a ton of options at your disposal for both attack and evasion.

The game looks great as well, with a great comic-book style that has silky smooth animations. It seems like even if you aren’t fully versed in League, you can still jump into The Mageseeker and enjoy the combat and storyline as a standalone experience but there will be references and appearances from characters from the world of League for hardcore fans. The Mageseeker is actually out next week on April 18th for all consoles and PC.

Badger Hub – Me, My Mech and I

We were walking by this Badger Hub’s booth and the title of their game catch our attention. Me, My Mech and I is a futuristic farming sim, with a mech bot twist. You play as a farmer, trying to build up a post-apocalyptic settlement. Your main gardening tool is a giant mech that acts will supercharge the usual farming chores and more. Clearing land is simply stomping down on a patch. Watering is using turrets to blast a spot. And hauling materials don’t require trucks or trackers when you are all of that already.

Me, My Mech and I was a fun demo that showcased just a glimpse of the game’s mechanics and story. There were characters to meet and do side quests, which unlocks new equipment and rewards to power up the mech. And there was a daily chorus to grow crops in the fields. This game is definitely aimed at those Harvest Moon fans that are looking for some sci-fi elements to their experience.

Fireblade Software – Sentry

When aliens invade a spaceship, you must become a sentry to fight back the invaders. This indie FPS title is a shooter tower defense, with some visual cues from Halo. The models and assets have this rough polygonal look, but the action runs very smoothly. You pick off enemies trying to rush toward a power core, using your weapons, equipment, and environmental objects to help you. Dying in the game doesn’t run instantly. Once one sentry is defeated, another will be awoken from cryostasis and sent to pick up the fight. The game is fun and gets challenged with each wave of attacks. There is a single and co-op campaign, which looks exciting to wage an epic firefight with friends. Sentry is still in early development, with no release date announced yet.

THQ Nordic

Alone in the DarkWe checked out THQ Nordic’s booth early during our Press Hour on Thursday to make sure we got to see some of their big games on display.  One of them is the new Alone in the Dark, which follows in the footsteps of Dead Space and Resident Evil with a full-on remake, or “reimagining” of the original game, taking you back to Derceto Manor to play as either Edward Carnby or Emily Hartwood to investigate what happened to Emily’s uncle.  The demo we played was brief but showed off the game’s impressive graphics, jump scares, and puzzle-solving. The game has a third-person, over-the-shoulder perspective similar to Resident Evil and we’re definitely intrigued to play more when it comes out later this year for PS5, Xbox Series X, and PC.

Tempest RisingFans of Command & Conquer should be very excited about Tempest Rising, which is THQ Nordic’s new RTS that feels like the spiritual successor to that classic franchise.  Taking command of either the Global Defense Forces or the Tempest Dynasty, you battle for control of a new energy source, Tempest, in a post-World War 3 world where all the former global superpowers are long gone.  The game plays like classic RTS games, you can build up a base, gather resources and build troops and then explore the map, clearing out the fog of war as you progress, and complete objectives.  Everything about the game feels like a throwback in the best possible way to Command & Conquer and other classic RTS games, including the difficulty, where you can easily get wiped out by the AI or a human opponent if you don’t build up your defenses for your base properly.  Tempest Rising is coming soon to PC.

Retroware – Toxic Crusaders

Following on the heels of TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge, Retroware is bringing back another 90s favorite with Toxic Crusaders. Based on the short-lived but cult favorite 90s cartoon, which was in turn based on Troma’s over-the-top Toxic Avenger movies, Toxic Crusaders lets you play as Toxie, Major Disaster, Yvonne, Nozone, and Junkyard for up to four player co-op in some classic beat em up action.  You take on the forces of the evil Dr. Killemoff and his Radiation Rangers along with various other baddies from the show.  The game looks great, with a similar look to Shredder’s Revenge but it doesn’t seem to have the level of depth that Shredder’s Revenge has in terms of defense and offensive moves.  It feels more like a classic 90s beat’em up with a few attacks and jumps but it still seems like it will be a lot of fun and really captures the style and humor of the show.  You could even meet and get your picture with Toxie and Yvonne at the booth and Youtubers like James Rolfe, Wood Hawker, and Wulff Den were there for meet and greets as well.

Ocean Drive Studio – Blackout Protocol

If you’re a fan of stuff like The X-Files and have some friends willing to battle some aliens, Blackout Protocol seems like it will give you an intense co-op experience.  You play employees of the S2P Corporation, who were working on researching para-normal entities to try and unlock new abilities in humanity.  Things go bad and the research facility Section 13 is put into lockdown, forcing you and up to 2 friends to delve into the base, battle the creatures overrunning the facility and find out what happened.  The game uses a twin-stick control method that we are always big fans of and it’s also surprisingly tactical, with friendly fire on.  You need to really coordinate with your team and consider things like fields of fire and positioning so you can effectively take down the various creatures but not each other.  The game also has rogue-like elements, where the layout of the facility changes if you die and start a new run and there are also various abilities and upgrades you can find and equip as you move through the game.  We didn’t fare that well in our first run but once we understood how the game played and the coordination needed, we were able to communicate and strategize much better on our second run.

We also got a chance to speak to Blackout Protocol‘s game director Hyojin Lee and the head of global operations Jungsoo Lee. We asked what movies and games helped influence the gameplay. Lee replied that classic 80s and 90s movies from America and Korea were used to bring the governmental sci-fi elements along with things like The X-Files. There was a big focus on the co-op experience, and managing not only your own characters but the overall squad. He was impressed that we were able to work together for the first time, and naturally communicate while going into tough fights. Blackout Protocol was a tense and exciting experience, and we can’t wait to see what’s next when it will be out later this year.

Angry Mob Games – Trinity Fusion

Trinity Fusion is actually out this week in Early Access on Steam and we checked it out on the show floor.  The game is a rogue-lite action game that features three protagonists, who are all multiversal variants of the same character, Maya.  The multiverse is dying and the different versions of Maya become connected and have to work in their universe to help the others and try to save the multiverse.  Each variant has a different skill, like a melee-based one, a ranged one, and one that uses tech, like drones.  Each run is procedurally generated and you can pick any of the three variants to start a new run.  You can unlock permanent upgrades that will help you on your quest and as you progress, things begin to merge and come together in interesting ways.  The game has a great look with some excellent animations and a huge variety of enemies to battle and each variant of Maya really feels unique thanks to their weapons of choice and special abilities.

Horizon’s End-Gjallarhorn

Mixing classic JRPGs and the D20 Ruleset, Gjallarhorn is the latest project by Horizon’s End. Set in a vivid landscape of man, mystics, and mystery, Gjallarhorn takes place in an empire that is struggling to find its new ruler. Factions and tribes fight for power, with many lives caught in the confrontation. You select one of the multiple characters to follow, with unique and customizable experiences. This game is similar to SaGa Frontier, where every playable character exists in a shared story, but unfolds differently based on certain choices. The combat is a traditional turn-based system, there are special abilities based on the weaponry and skills of the characters that can be swapped around. There is an in-game timer that has NPCs follow a routine and schedule, so the game pushes you to explore. This game is something for tabletop gamers to be interested in, as world-building is the major factor, and the freedom to customize the experience is up to the player’s creativity. This title is out now for Steam.

Dear Villagers

Nocturnal- Nocturnal is a side-scrolling action game with the unique gameplay element of utilizing fire for not just combat, but to light your way through the levels and reveal and activate elements.  You play as Ardeshir, a warrior of the Eternal Flame.  He travels to the island of Nahran, which has become enveloped in an evil force known as The Mist.  Deadly creatures exist in The Mist and are invulnerable in its darkness.  You need to wield your sword and ignite it with various sources of flame, which you can then use to light items like torches and battle enemies once it is ignited.  You only have a limited time when your sword is ignited, so you need to try and get light sources lit or get somewhere safe before your sword goes out, because if you are trapped in the darkness of The Mist, you are almost definitely dead.  Along the way you can gain ashes from defeated enemies and us them to get powerful new abilities.  The need to light the way and stay out of the dark definitely adds an interesting twist to the genre and Nocturnal will be out later this year.

Fort Solis-Mars’s surface is cold and cruel place, that will kill most living things when it has the chance. But the horrors of the planet don’t just dwell outside. Even reinforced and mechanized safe havens have their own terrors. We got to try a playable build of Fallen Leaf and Black Drakkar Games Fort Solis, an upcoming survival horror title. You play the role of Jack Leary, an engineer responding to a service call at Fort Solis. But the routine maintenance checks and strange messages left behind send Jack down a spiral of increasingly alarming dangers.

While testing out the demo, we got to chat with the director of Fallen Leaf, James Tinsdale, and actor Roger Clark. Tinsdale’s vision for the title is going for an eerie sci-fi horror that doesn’t try for cheap scare tactics. The game is about building up the suspense and tension, through the isolated location and cryptic clues left by the residents of the fort. Roger Clark plays the lead as Jack Leary, an everyday person that is dealing with the stress of keeping the fort stable and trying to survive the night from the unknown. We captured a bit of Clark speaking to us about the advancements of storytelling and performing in games.

Along with Clark, Troy Baker and Julia Brown star in supporting character roles. Julia Brown plays Jessica Appleton, a crew member advising Jack, and being the eyes and ears. Troy Baker plays Wyatt Taylor, a resident of the fort that has left behind logs of the occurrences at the fort. This title feels to have all the perfect ingredients for a thrilling game time and is something to keep on the radar for when this title gets released later this year.

Tic Toc Games – Wrestle Story

Wrestling RPGs are seemingly on their way to becoming their own genre, with Wrestlequest coming soon and also Wrestle Story, which was revealed for the first time at this year’s PAX East.  Taking inspiration from classics like Paper Mario, Wrestle Story is set in a world where wrestling controls everything but a group of powerful heels have taken over the various territories.  You and your squad arrive and are determined to take down the champs of each territory to become the new champions and free the world from the heels’ tyranny.  You explore the world in 3D, solving puzzles that may require you to do things like figure out where you can go to powerbomb your way through a barrier or talk to various NPCs.  When you get into a battle, you enter the ring and use classic turn-based RPG-style attacks that also use Super Mario RPG or Paper Mario quick-time events to enhance attacks or boost defenses.  For the really spectacular moves, the game shows an over-the-top cutscene in the style of a Final Fantasy summons.  You level up your entire crew and gain gear and new moves to use as you progress and you’ll eventually find 6 allies to join your squad, with up to three going into battle at a time.  The game has a great sense of humor, with commentators providing play-by-play of everything that is going on and a great and fun art style that reminded us of the game Rawmen from Tinybuild.  Wrestling fans will definitely want to check it out but it seems accessible and fun enough for anyone to jump in and suplex some jambronis. >Wrestle Story will be out sometime in the future.

Dread XP

We visited the always spooky booth of DreadXP to see what new terrors they would be unleashing on gamers in the near future.
Amanda the Adventurer We checked out two upcoming games, the first of which was Amanda the Adventurer, developed by jpgamedesign, Arcadim, and MANGLEDmaw Games. Playing on the idea of found footage, you discover a number of VHS tapes in your attic that are recordings of an old kid’s show called Amanda the Adventurer, a sort of Dora the Explorer show featuring Amanda and her friend Wooly the Sheep doing things like cooking. Right away, there’s definitely something off about Amanda, whether it’s her ignoring Wooly’s concerns or showing an overeager appreciation for knives.  After viewing a segment of the show, you’ll find yourself having to solve some sort of puzzle that coordinates with the segment, like finding an oven similar to the show and setting the temperature to the same time and temp.  Completing the puzzles rewards you with another VHS to watch, which lets you explore more of the story and see how twisted things get.  We talked to developer James Pratt, who told us what influenced the game and how the idea got started.  We also learned that he voices Wooly in the game.  A demo for Amanda the Adventure came out on Steam and the full game is out this April 25th.

[I] doesn’t exist We also played [I] doesn’t exist from LUAL Games KIG, which starts out like a classic text adventure a la Zork but quickly transforms itself multiple times in bizarre and interesting ways.  It reminded us a bit of Frog Fractions where you are never sure what will happen next or how radically different the gameplay will be from scene to scene.  It also delves into ideas of control, isolation, and mental health, so it’s not all wacky diversions.  DreadXP EIC and Head of Production Ted Hentschke introduce the game and concept and give some background about the developer and how the idea came about. [I] doesn’t exist is coming soon and you can check out a demo on Steam.

Flarb/WIZNWAR – XenoTilt

We tried Xenotilt, a game that requires the skills of a pinball game and the intense bullet-hell action of a shooter. Created by the same team that made the excellent Demon’s Tilt, Xenotilt is the newest entry in the action-pinball series. Set in a technological sci-fi setting, you control a pinball that has to bash and destroy various environments and enemies to score big points. There is a new turret system that lets you score some easy points from a distance and stunning graphics for a visual overload of flashy colors. The game features three table boards to play, each featuring different bosses and challenges to take on. We spoke to two of the creative heads of the game, who told us the game was built with the community feedback in mind to maximize the fan-favorite aspects. So fans of the series can look forward to an expanded pinball experience when this game launches this year.

Mega Cat Studios

With high-flying stunts, silly antics, and some great crowd work, Mega Cat Studios held a few wrestling matches to promote their title WrestleQuest. Local wrestlers put on great-hourly shows to a cheering crowd. The location was a tight squeeze, but enforcers tried their best to get people to organize the number of people gathering around. With many hours staring at screens, it was nice to watch physical activity in motion, plus join in the random chanting.

Skybound Games

While walking past the Skybound Games booth, Vice NDRCVR caught our eye with its neon-drenched 80s aesthetic.  Developed by Ancient Machine Studios, Vice NDRCVR puts you in the role of an 80s undercover cop, who has to infiltrate and investigate a network of computer operatives working for the cartels, gather evidence, and take them down.  The game plays from the desktop of a fake OS, complete with a throwback media player and nostalgic visuals.  You break into cartel databases and you are given tasks from your partner about who and what you need to track down.  You comb through and search the database using either photos of the cartel members or searching for a last name or last known address.  You may need to find the real name of someone your task force only knows by a nickname or gather more information about specific members.  The game does a great job of making you feel like an investigator and you really get invested in digging through the database and finding the evidence you need.  It’s nowhere near as wacky but if you enjoyed games like Hypnospace Outlaw, you’d probably dig Vice NDRCVR. It’s coming soon on PC.

Red Moon Workshop – Shot One

We love Windjammers and whenever someone is making something in the vein of that high-octane classic, we take notice. Shot One: Universal League is definitely a Windjammers successor, nailing the fast-paced disc action but adding some modern elements to make it stand out.  Clearly inspired by Capcom fighting games, you choose from a roster of disc players who take inspiration from games like Captain Commando, Street Fighter, and Darkstalkers, each with a unique ability and difficulty level. In a match, you can build up a “hype” meter that will let you unleash a super powerful move once it’s filled and it has a lot of the classic Windjammers strategies like blocking the disc and letting it fly up so you can power up under it, dashing and using various speeds of throws.  Along with the fantastic versus play, Shot One also has a full story mode where you can take the characters through a campaign, which definitely sets it apart from similar games.  Shot One is coming soon.

Brace Yourself Games

Rift of the Nercodancer We warmed up our hands before we had to do some dance battles in Tic Toc Games and Brace Yourself Games’ Rift of the Nercodancer, a spin-off title from the stellar Crypt of the Necrodancer. Rift takes the main character Cadence to the modern era, where she must battle to save her allies and close the dimensional rifts that threaten the world. However, instead of the medieval-themed, dungeon crawling gameplay, this time around the game focuses on a more linear rhythm system like DDR or Guitar Hero. There are three buttons prompt to enter on a guitar neck, which then attacks enemies traveling towards Cadence. Enemies are defeated by single or multiple on-taps to be successfully eliminated, but a few of these are tricky. Enemies all have a movement pattern, some that hop around erratically that can visually throw you off the beat. It happens to us a few things. We tried a boss battle that switches up the gameplay to be something like Punch-Out. You have to dodge attacks and counter and go for combos. There are interesting mini-games that use rhythm mechanics. We had Cadence do yoga poses that needed timing and it felt like something out of WarioWare.

The visuals are solid, with a very sharp cartoony feel that is self-aware. The few songs we heard are great, it’s safe to assume that the soundtrack will be pumping. Danny Baranowsky provides a new score, with other collaborators so the rifts will keep on coming. There will be mod support and online leaderboards, and a few surprises are yet to be announced.

Cobalt Core It’s spaceship combat with cards in Rocket Rat Games’ Cobalt Core, an upcoming sci-fi roguelike deckbuilder title. You lead an anamorphic crew as they battle enemies and escape a time loop. Before each fight, you are given cards that set up the ability to dodge, attack, or raise defenses. Playing a card like Scoot Right moves the ship right a certain amount of space. A card-like block shot can avoid taking damage when you don’t have any more movement cards. The roguelike elements come in when being defeated, repeating the encounters again, hopefully being a little more clever than the last time. It’s an interesting title that offers flexibility to play and a tactical challenge when it comes to taking on stronger enemies. This title is set to be released later this year.

Team Machiavelli – Castle Alchemists

Created by a small group of developers in Turkey, Castle Alchemists is Team Machiavelli’s debut title. This twin-stick tower defense title follows the alchemically enhanced warrior Bellator. He must protect the castle keep from an invading horde of medieval knights, mystical creatures, and other horrors that are trying to steal the castle’s secrets. Bellator has to set traps, build up the defense and assemble powerful weaponry to save his home. We tried our hands on the current demo build that showcased a lot of the great pixel artwork and fun game mechanics. Before each level begins, we are given a budget and time limit to place objects around the map, then bunker down for a fight. The objective is to make sure a certain number of enemies don’t manage to race around Bellator to reach the next gate. We used a heavy sword to clear out basic enemies, spike traps to snag a few that got pasted us, and a wooden barrier to slow them down by the gate as a last line of defense. In later levels, we were able to upgrade traps to be flamethrowers and a slightly stronger shotgun to crowd clear enemies. We do like this is not a set traps-to-forget-it kind of game loop. There is a frantic pace to keep an eye on every corner and make sure you have room to back up and regroup. Dying sends you back to the top of the level, meaning you can create early choke points at the enemy’s pathways to give yourself a good chance to recover lost time. The artwork reminds of a blend of Shovel Knight combine with Doom that is playful and thrilling, especially when Bellator has to go all out to clear some space. Castle Alchemists is definitely action-packed with addictive gameplay and stylish pixel visuals. A early access version will be released this May 12th.

Daedalic Entertainment – The Lord of the Rings: Gollum

We’ve been hearing about The Lord of the Rings: Gollum for years but this is the first time we actually get hands one.  It’s definitely a unique take on Gollum and the Tolkien lore, as you play as Gollum sometime between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings as he sneaks his way around Mordor, trying to avoid the forces of Sauron.  There is a ton of platforming, with Gollum seemingly on the level of Lara Croft or Nathan Drake, as most of the demo consisted of climbing and shimmying around the mountains of Mordor.  There is stealth-based combat where you cannot attack Orcs directly, but you can sneak behind them and strangle them but we had some difficulty figuring out the timing and method of doing this, resulting in a lot of game-over failures.  The most interesting element of the game to us was the decision-making where you choose to either side with Gollum or Smeagol and then try to convince the other personality to go along with your choice.  If you win, you get to do whatever your chosen personality’s choice was but if you fail to convince the other personality, they will do what they want to do.  We’ll have to see how the final game plays out in May when it’s out for PS4/5, Xbox Series S/X, Switch, and PC.

Daylight Basement Studios – Rightfully, Beary Arms

Rightfully, Beary Arms is a bullet hell rogue-like that plays like Enter the Gungeon and similar games.  You play as Beary, a stuffed teddy that has been around one too many action movies. He is on an adventure to battle way through various dungeons against unique and sometimes bizarre enemies. Both Beary and his enemies wield a variety of weapons, some jarringly realistic against the more cartoony visuals of the enemies and Beary but that adds to the goofy charm of the game as you have a cartoonish bear wielding an M1 Garand rifle or a realistic pistol but there’s also a lot of fantastical, over the top weapons to find as well.  As you progress, you can unlock upgrades and abilities, which will change with every run, but you also need to choose how the enemies upgrade as well. Making these decisions changes affects how you fight and how the enemies will retaliate. You could add a new type of enemy, give them new abilities, or something else to make it more accidentally or purposely challenging! The game leaves it up to you to strategize and decide what you think you can handle. Rightfully, Beary Arms seems like a solid rogue-like shooter and it will be out later this year.

Devolver

Devolver Digital always goes big at PAX East but they truly outdid themselves this year with a stunning, movie theater-style booth that featured rooms on either side featuring their various games and a massive Cult of the Lamb alter setup around the back.  The lighting and design easily made it the best booth on the show floor.

Anger FootOne of the newest games from Devolver Digital, Anger Foot plays out sort of like a first-person Hotline Miami as you head into levels and bust into different rooms, but one hit will kill you.  The main gimmick for Anger Foot is that your main attack is a kick, which is also your main way of interacting with the level.  You kick open doors and, if you can aim it properly, you can take out enemies hiding behind it.  You also get a variety of guns and you can alternate between both your foot and your guns to make it through each level.  Along with the fast-paced action, there’s a fantastic, thumping soundtrack that will drive you to keep going and the game has instant respawns, so you can immediately try again if you get taken out and you gradually learn the layouts of the level and enemies, so you know what to expect and plan ahead. Anger Foot definitely feels on-brand for Devolver and it will be out later this year.

Cult of Lamb: Dark RelicsWe took part in the ritual to see The One Who Waits in Massive Monster’s Relics of the Old Faith, a new expansion pack to their Cult of the Lamb. The new content includes some quality-of-life updates, such as tracking stats, controller mapping, and atomically performing microtasks. Old Faith also introduces new challenges, enemies, and more to keep players building their followers. The game has a roadmap of future updates, so there will be more stuff to enjoy.

Focus Entertainment – Aliens: Dark Descent

We tested our leadership under pressure in Tindalos Interactive’s Aliens: Dark Descent, a tactical Squad-based game. We commanded a square of five Colonial Marines as they explore a facility that has been overrun by the Xenomorphs. The marines had been set to retrieve data for the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, but other forces and creatures will stand in their way. The brief demo showed the basic game mechanics of ordering the marines to move, perform simple actions, and prepare for firefights. Every marine has their own equipment and ammunition, while they share a small resource of health packs and simulates to calm themselves from panicking. These hardened marines are tough, but dealing with the out worldly dangers can throw off their mental states. As seen in the Aliens movie, panic marines don’t do too well against the Xenomorphs. When panic levels fill a gauge of 100 percent, a debuff is given that will mess with the marine’s stats. The controls and commands are simple, but the game throws a big challenge. Every fight is a juggle to handling resources, traversing the deadly walkways, and dealing with enemies. Every fight is a chance to throw your resources off balance and there will be some hard lessons to learn when to search or preserve items. We look forward to seeing the final product when this gets released this June.

MoonEye – Shumi Come Home

To mix up our time of intense gameplay, we shifted gears to relax with an indie titled called Shumi Come Home. Developed by SomeHumbleOnion, Shumi is a causal 3D adventure title, that focuses on simple platforming and exploration. The game follows Shumi, a tiny mushroom creature that is gotten lost in the forest. Using their wits and kindness, they seek help from friendly inhabitants to explore and find a way back home. Shumi Come Home is a wholesome game, that has gentle visuals and easy pick-up and play mechanics. The art direction is similar to that of Katamari Damacy. Ordinary objects and landscapes look grand in Shumi’s size, it’s fun to climb around the environments. Shumi Come Home is slated for Q2 2023, so expect it to be released a few months from now.

Chorus Worldwide – Varney Lake

We played and really enjoyed Mothman 1966 and the upcoming Varney Lake looks to be an excellent next chapter in the Pixel Pulps anthology.  You play through two different time periods, in the 1980s as paranormal investigator Lou Hill and in the 1950s as a trio of best friends who encounter a vampire during the summer.  The game has the same visual style as Mothman 1966, with classic CGA/VGA style graphics and it plays out like a Choose Your Own Adventure book where you read through the story and then make choices to progress. We chatted with Jez Harris, head game designer of the title. His previous experience working on free form adventure titles played a big role in crafting a experience that plays differently for each player.  It seems like another fun, pulpy adventure to play through and it will be out at the end of this month on console and PC but you can play a demo right now on Steam.

Plaion

One of the biggest publishers at the convention, Plaion brought heavy hitters like Dead Island 2 and System Shock to the show floor

Dead Island 2 The long-awaited Dead Island 2 is finally coming out this month and we got hands-on with an impressive-looking demo that really showcased the game’s combat and variety of weaponry.  Take place at a beachfront amusement park, the game starts out on the pitch black beach which is lit only by your flashlight.  The lighting and visuals on display were incredible and it was actually pretty horrifying to have zombies emerge out of the darkness.  Once we got to the amusement park, the lighting and visuals got even more impressive as you fight among the various neon lights of the midway.  The zombies look truly grotesque and the game really leans into the damage you can do with your various weapons.  Along with standard stuff like guns and melee weapons like baseball bats and pipes, there are some outrageous weapons like a fire axe flamethrower or electrically charged Wolverine-style claws that feel like something out of Dead Rising.  The melee combat is especially satisfying, with really meaty hits and some gory damage to the zombies as you beat them down.  It’s been over a decade since the original Dead Island but this seems like it might be worth the wait and we’ll find out for sure on April 21st.

System ShockA true classic in the world of PC games, System Shock is back with a remake of the original classic.  You play as a hacker who is caught trying to break into the systems of Citadel Station, a space station owned by the powerful TriOptimum Corporation.  In a deal that will drop the charges against you, the CEO of TriOptimum wants you to hack into Citadel’s AI system, SHODAN. After the hack, you get a military-grade neural implant and spend six months on Citadel Station in a healing coma but, upon waking up, you find out that SHODAN has gone crazy, transforming the crew into either horrific mutants or cyborgs and plans to use the station to destroy the major cities of Earth.  You have to make your way through the station, battle the mutated crew, enter cyberspace, and figure out some way to stop SHODAN.  The game has a unique modern/retro look as it has modern 3D graphics but there’s a layer over everything that makes it feel retro and like an homage to the original game.  You can collect a huge amount of items in the world and an arsenal of ranged and melee weapons along with acquiring tech you can use in cyberspace, which you need to enter to hack and access new parts of the station.  There’s a demo you can check out right now on Steam and System Shock will be out on May 30th this year.

Ysbryd Games – Demonschool

Equal parts Persona and Dario Argento, Necrosoft Games’ Demonschool is a tactical RPG where you play as a group of high school students and demon hunters who battle the demonic hordes after school.  The combat is extremely strategic and feels like something like Into the Breach, where you are able to see exactly what the enemies are going to do and you can see what your attacks are going to do.  You can plan and figure out the optimal turn to do damage and avoid taking hits and, once you have everything set up, you see all the action play out in real-time and then you make your next turn.  Each character on your team has a unique ability and you need to figure out the best way to synergize and utilize them. We talked about the Persona like artwork and tone with the marketing coordinator Jenna Stober, who walked us thru the game and the ideas behind it. The Dario Argento/giallo element comes from the music and the ridiculous amount of blood that bursts from enemies and your team members when they die.  It seems like it might take a bit to get a handle on all the intricacies of Demonschool but it also seems like it will be immensely satisfying when you do. It’s coming out later this year on PlayStation 5|4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC, and Steam Deck.

Crit-Rate

As we were walking around, we caught the announcement about rating games for prizes at the Crit-Rate booth. As a crowd began to form, we listened to how Crit-Rate is a new platform that builds a profile of gamers to recommend titles to check out. By rating a group of initial games, Crit-Rate’s algorithm matches your preference into one of five houses/categories. At PAX, there was a list of games that you can play, then rate to show which games are popular and enjoyed. This was a great way to encourage people to check out multiple titles and give daily feedback to developers on their title’s performance with the crowd. For those willing to rate a bunch of games, Citrate was offering prizes based on the number of games each gamer played and reviewed.

This added a new side quest to do at the event. We already were planning to check out as many games as possible, but now it came with a small reward of free swag and public opinion. Since this system relied on the internet, there were times when the network was clogged up. Especially if you are in the busiest alleyways. Thankfully as we took breaks for the Expo Hall in other parts of the convention center, it was easier to upload our ratings and slowly level up. This was an exciting service that adds some fun to regular convention attendance and should be tried out if the event has it.

Pax Arena

When you want to stop and rest and want to see competitive players do what they do best, the Pax Arena was a nice spot to see all the action. There were some different games to spectate such as Pac-man 99 and Smash Bros. Top players were awarded medals, while the crowned game champ for a trophy and other prizes.

Tabletop Gaming

Tabletop Gaming is a huge part of any PAX and this year’s PAX East was no exception.  It seemed like there were quite a bit more tabletop vendors in the main show floor area, not just in the designated tabletop area. There were a ton of games that you could check out in the free play area and if you got the box, join-in in the Magic The Gathering selection. The tabletop area is a great place to take a break with some friends and try out some games, either old favorites or new discoveries.

Console Room

Published games of the past and present were in the console room for people to pick up and play. A simple arrangement of TVs and consoles, humming with sounds of clicking controllers and accompanied by the flashing lights of bright colors. There was a selection of games to request at the disc table, where you can rent out games to play with friends or go venturing off in a single-player game. This room was where people challenged others, meet up between panels, or chilled to give their bodies a break from walking. It was fun to see where some games that started in the same convention as demos on the expo hall have now returned as console games for others to revisit once again.

Panel


One of the unexpected surprises of our PAX East adventure was getting to co-host an actual panel. We got to help Chris Denmead, a host from Spectacular Sal Buscema Era Podcast on the Spidey-Dude Radio Network and Radio Horror. Not fullying knowing what Chris’ Spider-man games he was picking for best and worst, we were flying on the seat of our pants. We played most of the major Spider-Man games, at least the one’s that were popular for good or bad reasons. So we were able to chime in with our thoughts throughout Chris’ presentation. There was actually a pretty great turnout for the audience that did know who we are, but we hope they were glad they stopped by. It was a great time talking about these games that people loved or hated. This was something we had never done in front of a large audience of people. (But we have done with friends). Who knows, maybe we’ll try to host an Everything Action panel sometime in the near future!

Afterhours


Once the Expo Hall closes or you just need to take a long break, a meal, and some friends is just what ales the body and mind. We didn’t go heavy on the after-parties or Boston bar hopping this year but we had fun where we went around this city. We ate and hung out with some interesting individuals, and got to explore further into South Boston for a bit.

On the first night, we chilled at the Westin’s lounge, where people gathered to catch up and play some board games. We got invited to play a round of Red Dragon Inn. We never played before, but the friendly host taught us every step of the game until everyone got really into the action. It’s a fun game and captured the exact kind of mood of people chatting, and telling stories with a few adult drinks.

Want a fast way to encourage your body to go to sleep after an exciting day? Grab a loaded BBQ tray as we did for dinner one night. We stopped by The Smoke Shop BBQ in the Seaport District to refuel after a long day and it hit the stop and then some. This might have contributed to not partying too much right after, but we did get some good sleep that night.

Last thoughts


This was an amazing trip out to PAX East for us. We hit the milestone of being at PAX events for over 10 years and got to cohost a panel. We met great people, discussed games, Boston traffic, and other topics to laugh about over drinks. PAX has always brought in fun crowds and interesting sights to see that make you want to come back for more each year. With lots to do, it is hard to capture every moment perfectly or even snag a photo. When you are caught in the moments, it’s hard to pause and take a pic, but we managed to do so here and there for wonderful memories. A handful of titles are coming out this April, so some of these titles might be coming our way to try once again and we are looking forward to the games to keep us busy until next year.

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