Your next favorite indie game might be hiding in the PAX 10
Every year, the Penny Arcade Expo highlights ten outstanding independent titles to get prominent booth placement. The PAX 10 list is among the most prestigious in indie gaming. Here are some impressions on this year’s field.
Tumblestone (Coming to “all current PC, mobile, and handheld platforms”)
At first glance, Tumblestone looks like any other competitive puzzle game (your Puzzle Fighters, your Puyo Puyos, what have you). But there’s a distinct difference once you understand the flow of play. At the start of each round, four players are each presented with the same layout of colored stones. The goal is to grab three of the same color in a row, eventually clearing the board. Pick the wrong stone, and you’ll have to restart. Alone, the puzzles aren’t much to sneeze at, but trying to solve them before your mates results in some brutal tension. You’ve got to be clever, quick and accurate if you want to win.
Zarvot (Coming to WiiU, XBox ONE, PC, and Mac next year)
Finally, somebody has given the Atari classic Tank the minimalist reinvention it clearly deserved. But unlike that 2600 relic, Zarvot controls with modern fluidity and speed. Up to four players control colored cubes, as they battle around a simple destructible environment. With a variety of lasers, guns, and visual tricks at your disposable, it’s a retro classic with modern indie thrills.
The Adventures of Pip (Available now on PC, iOS, WiiU, PS4, and XBox ONE)
In this love letter to the history of gaming, you play as Pip – a single pixel who lives at the bottom rung of a 16-bit medieval society. When the princess is kidnapped by the evil enchantress, Queen DeRezzia, it’s up to him to save the day. This simple action platformer is dense with charm, using the hero’s ability to shift between “resolutions” to traverse the environment.
Ninja Tag (Currently on Steam Greenlight)
Another top-down, four-player party game, Ninja Tag throws players into a fast-paced game of candy-colored assassination. You’re given a variety of weapons and skills to play with, which can all be used in a split second. It’s a fast-paced brawler ripe with strategy and speed.
Battle Chef Brigade (Currently on Steam Early Access)
Easy the most conceptually unique game of PAX, Battle Chef Brigade is a hybrid of anime character action, match-three puzzle solving, and competitive culinary strategy. Inspired by shows like Chopped and Iron Chef, Battle Chef Brigade casts you as a young chef out to make a name for herself in the ultimate fantasy cooking tournament. You’ll hunt ingredients on foot, before returning to the kitchen to prepare them in a puzzle minigame. Form the right recipe, and you’ll wow the judges, be they human, orc, or wood nymph.
Assault Android Cactus (Coming to PC, PS4, PS Vita, and WiiU)
This twin-stick shooter has been around PAX for a few years, but the final version is shaping up to be a stellar couch co-op experience. Up to four players can grab their blasters to take down swarms of robotic beasts in a sea of neon. Keeping up your combo is essential, but requires a steady hand to weave through a torrent of neon bullets. It’s exceptionally sharp, and charming as all hell.
Darkest Dungeon (Currently on Steam Early Access)
If you find that most turn-based RPGs are just too cheery for your demeanor, may I introduce you to Darkest Dungeon? This rogue-like RPG tasks you with an unexpecting team of adventurers, exploring a dungeon ripe with monsters and madness. All manner of Lovecraft-ian horrors will slowly drive your party mad, as they deal with the incredible stress of being a Gothic hero. The game’s hand-drawn visuals are unsettling, yet undeniably beautiful.
Dark Echo (Coming to PC, iOS)
Stealth is a well-worn genre within the world of video games, yet Dark Echo manages to find a distinct twist on the established. Rather than seeing through the eyes of a character, you rather see a representation of sound. Footprints mark your movement, while every step sends out a wave of light to show the way. Every step you take is a gamble that provides you with required information, but alerts enemies to your location.
From Light (Coming to PC)
Playing with the concept of photography, this visually distinctive 2-D puzzle platformer asks you to return a fallen star to the skies. Each level has points of light, which become platforms when the frame is shifted across the screen. Puzzles appear simple at first, but quickly force the player to think from multiple perspectives at once.
Grapple (Available now on Steam)
Sometimes, all a game needs to be great is one core mechanic, something so primally satisfying that the rest of the experience immediately falls into place. Grapple gives you a ball, a couple of glowing platforms and a blank void. Your ball will stretch out and latch onto platforms, allowing you to swing gracefully through the air as you make your way to the finish. The resulting platforming is irresistibly fun, a balance between feeling totally in control of your ball, but aware that it could all slip right out of your fingers.
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