The Penny Arcade Expo has a history of supporting great games from the indie community. Just look at some of the notable PAX 10 alumni to see the great games that have gained notoriety there. And that indie spirit keeps going strong at this year’s impressive PAX Indie Megabooth. The collection of promising smaller developers had dozens of games on show--so many, in fact, that it’s hard to catch that it’s hard to catch everything that’s interesting. After touring the area at the convention and trying the games, we’ve got eight favorites we’d like to bring to your attention.
We already know that Ska Studios, the developer behind XBLA hit The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai, can make great games that blend retro gameplay with a gothic, violent art style, but Charlie Murder is out to prove it again in a whole new genre. A brawler in the style of Final Fight or Streets of Rage--though with the RPG elements similar to Castle Crashers--you play as a punk rock band battling a zombie horde controlled by a rival music group. Combining over-the-top violence with a sly sense of humor and an interesting soundtrack, Charlie Murder should be able to separate itself from the rest of the brawlers on the service when it hits XBLA by the year’s end.
Octodad: Dadliest Catch
Sequel to the cult freeware game, the moment we heard the premise we were in love with developer Young Horses’ Octodad: Dadliest Catch. An octopus secretly posing as a human husband and father, Octodad is a puzzle game where the most mundane of chores and household errands become hazardous challenges when you have floppy, sticky arms and legs. Can you be the world’s greatest dad while keeping your eight legs a secret? Players will be tested next year when the game hits PC and Mac.
Super T.I.M.E. Force
Enjoy Contra and Metal Slug, but wish they had more dinosaurs and farts? That’s Super T.I.M.E. Force, a proudly pixelated XBLA game from Capybara, the developers of the excellent Critter Crunch and Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes. It’s a classically hardcore throwback where death comes from all sides, and up to four players work together to solve temporal disturbances by shooting their guns thousands of times. Steeped in hilarious 1990’s nostalgia, this radical team of time protectors even has a skateboarding dinosaur on their side, which will surely make them invincible.
PAX’s indie section was mostly filled with North American developers showing their wares, but publisher Nicalis brought some interesting titles from Japan, including the 2D fighter Yatagarasu. Created by Circle Edge, a small team that had worked on classic SNK games like King of Fighters, Yatagarasu has gorgeously rendered sprites and a fittingly deep combat system. Hardcore fighting fans should definitely keep an eye out for when the game comes to the 3DS eShop this year.
On top of Yatagarasu, Nicalis also had developer 8bits Fanatics’ incredibly challenging 2D throwback from Japan. 1001 Spikes is a tribute to Spelunker, the same difficult NES game that inspired XBLA hit Spelunky, and your little explorer starts with 1001 lives and quickly loses them while exploring a long series of rooms filled with unfairly placed spikes, arrows, and other death traps. Out to make players suffer and give the hardest of hardcore a worthy challenge, 1001 Spikes might be sadistic, but at least it tries to be fair too. Planned for the 3DS and the Wii U eShops, get ready to suffer by the end of the year.
There are a handful of Metroidvanias out there(2D sidescrollers with a dense map and tons of powers to collect) out there, but few star a group of professional wrestlers from Mexico. Playing solo or in co-op, the luchadores navigate a colorful world, while defeating skeletons and monsters alike with some particularly deep combat for its genre. Guacamelee! is coming to the PS3 and Vita, and at PAX developer Drink Box Studios introduced the ability to play the game on PS3 by using a Vita as your controller, giving it a Wii U-like experience on a Sony platform. How’s that for inventive?
Johann Sebastian Joust
Even before seeing it at PAX, the GamesRadar crew is familiar with developer Die Gute Fabrik’s Johann Sebastian Joust, the graphics-free game that takes advantage of the PlayStation Move in extremely clever ways. After syncing Move controllers with the game, classical music plays, switching continually between fast and slow tempos. Each player holds a Move and tries to knock the wand out of the other players’ hands while still defending their own wand. It quickly becomes an intense parlor game that can get way more intense than a game of musical chairs. Still without a proper release date, here’s hoping a publisher like Sony takes advantage of this amazing idea.
Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien
Many of the demos we enjoyed at the Indie Megabooth were throwbacks to the games of our youths, graphical style the Bit Trip series is ditching in its next entry. Developer Gaijin Games’ Runner 2 still plays like the speedy auto-scrolling original, and mascot Captain Video remains the star. Still, the graphics look much more modern, which makes it stand out from the rest of the NES-influenced crowd. As long as it plays as great as the first game, we don’t care what it looks like when it hits XBLA, PSN and Wii U by the end of the year.
So indie it hurts
So there's our list of favorites from PAX's indie collection. How did they look to you readers out there? And for those that attended PAX, were there any great indies we missed? Tell us all in the comments!
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