Gamer Headlines at PAX East 2015 – Day One Recap
PAX East officially kicked off on March 6, 2015 and, since I am covering the event on behalf of Gamer Headlines, I will be bringing you my impressions of each game I was able to play on the show floor during the three-day event. Here’s what I thought of the games I checked out during Day One.
Chances are you have probably never heard of the indie Puzzle game called Induction. Developed by Bryan Gale, the only man behind the development of the title, Induction is a really unique experience that is both simplistic in its design, yet overly complicated. It has this sort of Monument Valley vibe to it, except you are really only guiding a cube through the end of a level.
The interesting thing about it is that it adds in this initially confusing alternate dimension element that is required to progress through the levels, and the cube in that alternate dimension mimics the movement of your previous cube in the real dimension. Sound confusing? Well, it is and add in time-manipulating abilities into it as well. That being said, figuring out how to complete a level makes you feel like a literal genius, as I was left staring at the screen, scratching my head as to what I had to do more often than not. It really is a game of trial and error, and one that will definitely mentally drain you once you spend hours into it. Induction is scheduled for a 2016 release for PC, Mac and Linux.
Halo 5: Guardians
The Halo fan in me could simply not resist checking out 343’s upcoming Shooter at PAX East, despite having played a ton of it only two months ago when it was in Beta. I wasn’t expecting anything huge out of it, as I already got the gist of it when I first tried it out, but I was still curious to see if 343 tweaked some elements into the Multiplayer. Thankfully (or sadly, depending on how you feel about the game), the game is identical to its Beta build in every way possible. The only real difference that I noticed during my Truth Team Slayer match was that the Battle Riffle & Assault Riffle seems to be the default loadout for your Spartan (which is a good thing) and that grenades seem to do less damage than they initially did. I could be wrong, but I found that I wasn’t losing as much shields as I normally would of. All in all, Halo 5 is still Halo 5, and I had a blast crushing other PAX attendees during my match.
Severed, the upcoming game from the Guacamelee! creators at DrinkBox Studios, is a title every PlayStation Vita owner should look out for. Borrowing elements from Legend of Grimrock, Infinity Blade and Fruit Ninja, Severed is a touch-based First-Person Dungeon Crawler that has you playing as a one-armed Hispanic-looking woman (DrinkBox is clearly going for that Day of the Dead vibe once again), as she slices and dices monsters terrorizing menacing-looking caverns and rooms.
Just like in Infinity Blade, combat in Severed relies heavily on timing you swipes of the touch screen with precision; countering, attacking and counterattacking your foes at the right opportunity, and it works surprisingly well. Despite not registering some swipes on some occasions, I quickly understood the flow of combat, and was making decent progress throughout the initial dungeon that the game featured in the demo I played. Because it also part Dungeon Crawler, the game focuses a lot on exploration, with various paths to take within the location: some lead to traps, while others lead to victory. Probably the best part about Severed is that it doesn’t only toss you in these 1v1 battles against enemies, but can have you fight five creatures at the same time. With attack meters displayed on the bottom of the screen, you must prioritize enemies and switch from them back in forth, while constantly timing your slices the right way. It takes some time to get used to (switching back and forth from the Vita’s D-Pad and touch screen is kind of obtuse), but once you get a hold of it, it makes for some incredibly satisfying combat scenarios.
Light Fall isn’t shy about openly demonstrating where it came from. Described by the Quebec-based development team as Limbo meets Super Meat Boy and Bastion, Light Fall is Platformer that combines all of the great elements from these games and tosses them into one exciting experience. One could argue that simply borrowing elements from critically acclaimed games is unoriginal, but Light Fall tosses in an interesting element with its Shadow Core, which can be used as a platforming and puzzle asset. For instance, if you see that you are about to fall to your death because you can’t jump far enough, pressing the jump button again in mid-air will make a black box appear to save you from certain death. Another instance where the Shadow Core can be useful is to activate switches that will allow you to progress through the level and, although they somewhat ruin your momentum, it adds a neat little puzzling element to it.
Despite essentially rehashing the base mechanics of Meat Boy, I didn’t find Light Fall to be as hard as the former, which I still don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing. Super Meat Boy was a frustrating challenge because of its inherent difficulty, but the level design in Light Fall did not fully put my platforming skills to the test, but I was still having a blast jumping from wall to wall and avoiding the pink crystal-looking hazards in the dark gloomy world. Hopefully, more challenge will come with its Speedrun mode. Although not much about the story was depicted during my demo, the narrator of Light Fall’s is directly inspired from Bastion, cracking jokes and making fun at you, all while having a deep, enthralling voice. From what I’ve experienced and from what Bishop Games has explained to me, Light Fall is not a copycat game, but more of a love letter to its inspirations.
I was really looking forward to trying out Pollen, an indie-developed title made with VR in mind. This was the first time I played a game with Oculus Rift on my head and, despite the demo being only a restrained area showcasing some of the basic object-interacting mechanics of the game (which is currently in Pre-Alpha), I walked out of the demo underwhelmed. Though the lead developer of Mindfield Games reassured me that there is going to be a whole lot more to the full game than just a small, confined area of a space station (such as planets to explore) my demo of Pollen felt more like a tech demo for Oculus, showcasing its hardware capabilities and not actual gameplay. Don’t get me wrong, it is still quite impressive technology to experience, but I wasn’t wowed by any stretch of the imagination.
Additionally, contrary to popular Oculus belief, I did not feel nauseous while playing or after walking away from the demo, but I found my vision to be blurry for the most part, which is a shame because Pollen has some interesting elements that require you to zoom in and out with Oculus to read some text pieces. This may be due to the fact that the VR headset provided for this demo wasn’t the latest model of the product, but I’m not that inspired in trying it again knowing that the resolution could be a little wonky. Pollen can also be played without the Oculus on, but I feel that it would be a lifeless First-Person exploration game without the power of virtual reality.
Developed by a single man, Axiom Verge is a blast of the past being this 16-bit Metroidvania experience put out for modern games to enjoy. From the level design, aesthetic, and even premise, Axiom Verge is quite literally a reimagining Super Metroid that somehow manages to be incredibly fun, even if it rehashes video game conventions that are now 20+ years old. It has that old school challenge to it that was unparalleled during the NES/SNES era, and backtracking to places after acquiring new abilities and weapons has you analyze every little nook and cranny of the environment, even if it has been overused so much during the last console generation. The platforming is tight, the shooting is solid and the exploration is everything you would want out of Metroidvania experience. Axiom Verge releases on the PlayStation 4 on March 31, 2015, with a Vita and PC version following shortly after.