PAX East is one of the best times of the year to check out some of the new games that will soon be coming out. While many attendees crowd around the booths of larger publishers and developers, those who wander into the Indie Megabooth and other, smaller scale tables can find many hidden gems lying in wait.
Having crossed the show floor more times than I can count, the following are the best indie games I saw at this year’s PAX East.
Monster Prom – April 27th, 2018 (PC)
Confession: I never thought that visual novels or dating sims should be competitive, multiplayer experiences. But after playing Beautiful Glitch’s Monster Prom, I’m completely sold on the concept. Monster Prom places you in the shoes of one of four monster boys and girls along with up to three friends, as you try to secure a date to the prom. You’ll each individually pick locations to visit or people to see, with the goal of increasing your stats and trying to improve your relationship with the monster you want to date via different events.
Like other visual novels, Monster Prom lives and dies by the quality of its writing. Fortunately, the writing is exceptional from what I have seen so far. In one event, I was transported to another dimension to take part in a Bachelor-like show, which I escaped by opening my mouth impossibly wide and summoning a horde of bees, though I was upstaged by the ghost Polly Geist who summoned a horde of locusts. Another player had to choose who to sit with at lunch, only to have another character shout, “THIS IS ESPORTS!” Delightfully over-the-top and filled with heart, Monster Prom is a dating sim I can’t wait to play with friends.
Murderous Pursuits – April 26th, 2018 (PC)
The Ship: Remasted was a fun remake of 2006’s The Ship: Murder Party that was too slow paced for its own good. Developer Blazing Griffin is taking another stab at the multiplayer hunting genre with Murderous Pursuits, which shifts the action from a 1920’s ocean liner to an alternate history 19th century airship. You’ll be assigned a target to take down, who you must kill as stealthily as possible so you don’t alert the player who is hunting you. You’ll have a small number of abilities at your disposal, with points being awarded to those who not only kill quietly, but do so with a variety of weapons.
Murderous Pursuits fixes a lot of the problems I had with The Ship, namely the too large levels and slow pace of the murders. Blazing Griffin have greatly simplified things here, creating levels that are much tighter while still having plenty of room to move about, and focusing the gameplay on the simple hunter and hunted mechanic that made many people play The Ship in the first place. For example, If you get caught by a guard, you will stand in place for several seconds and have your location marked on the map for everyone to see, rather than being sent to jail and having to wait several minutes to escape. Matches were short and intense, and it looks like it could be a multiplayer hit when it lands on Steam.
Super Meat Boy Forever – 2018 (PC, Xbox One, PS4, Switch)
The originalSuper Meat Boy was a precision platformer that thrived on the quickly repeatable nature of its levels. Its sequel, Super Meat Boy Forever, is an endless runner that demands precision and thrives on quickly repeatable deaths. The distinction is important, because while you had some control over Meat Boy in the original, you only have to worry about the two buttons that comprise the entirety of Super Meat Boy Forever’s control scheme. Rather than being easier or less fun, the opposite is true: Super Meat Boy Forever is a blast to play.
This time around, Meat Boy is chasing after his son Nugget, who has been kidnapped by Dr. Fetus. Levels are randomly generated based off of pre-developed ‘chunks’ that can be inserted into a level depending on the player’s skill level. While most of these chunks are standard fare for those who played the first game, the developers have added a number of dastardly sections that made me smile in their cruelty. There’s a wide range of difficulty options to choose from, and I fear for those players who will inevitably try to complete the game on the hardest difficulty. For people like me, Super Meat Boy Forever is a fun and challenging platformer that I can’t wait to play later this year.
Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark – 2019 (PC)
As a huge fan of Final Fantasy Tactics, I was pleasantly surprised to not only play a tactical-RPG at PAX East, but to discover it was actually quite good as well. Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark by 6 Eyes Studio is set in a fantasy world mixed with some steampunk elements, and follows an agent tasked with keeping order and peace throughout a land ravaged by bandits, monsters, and the corrupt. From the get-go, it’s readily apparent that the developers put a great deal of effort into the world design and animations. From the way the characters move to how the battlefields are shaped, the game hits all my marks for what I’m looking for in a tactical-RPG.
More than that, Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark features plenty of customization and interactions between classes. Much like Final Fantasy Tactics, you’ll start with two basic classes that slowly open the doors to more and more advanced jobs with their own unique abilities. Skill trees allow you to determine what each character will specialize in, and judging from the small selection of abilities that I saw, there will be plenty for players to experiment with. We’re still a long ways from 2019, but based on what I played, Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark is shaping up to be a game tactical-RPG fans should pay attention to.
Projection: First Light – Q1 2019 (PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch)
Projection: First Light looks suspiciously like Limbo at first glance, but quickly reveals itself to be an original and challenging platformer that stands on its own. You play as Greta, a young girl living in a shadow puppet world that goes on a journey through different myths and legends in cultures ranging from Indonesia and China to England and Turkey. In Projection, shadows can be used as platforms to navigate the world, and I controlled Greta with one stick while I manipulated a ball of light that cast shadow with another. It admittedly took some getting used to the controls, and while I can’t say I was a master by the end, they grew on me quickly.
In solving the puzzles in Projection, you’ll have to get used to manipulating light to create platforms, elevators and other shapes that you can use to get around. It’s a lot more challenging than it sounds, but it’s worth sticking with because of how innovative some of the later puzzles can be and for how beautiful the game is. Shadows and light play off of each other well to create a distinct look, and it truly does look like an actual shadow play in motion. My portion of the demo covered part of the Ramayana, and if the rest of Projection looks and plays as good as the demo, Shadowplay Studios have something great on their hands.
SCUM – Q2 2018 Early Access (PC)
SCUM is without a doubt the first game I have seen that has a teeth meter. As in, a meter that counts how many teeth you currently have in your mouth. It also has meters that measure such things as blood pressure, sodium levels, what I believe to be every vitamin necessary for human existence—and many more. Say what you will about it, SCUM takes your health and survival seriously.
Set on a prison island in a life-or-death survival game, SCUM tasks you with battling it out in a 64 player survival game where you are all attempting to escape. You’ll be able to take part in action events that task you with completely standard multiplayer objectives like capturing an item or holding a point, or you can try to survive as best as you can on the island by yourself. I wasn’t able to try any of the survival elements out, but I was impressed by the deadliness and solid handling of the guns in the multiplayer event that I tried, as players dropped quickly after a handful of bullets hit their target. Besides, the game has a teeth meter, how could I not be interested in it?