After an eventful first day of PAX East 2019 which saw the reveal of Borderlands 3, it is clear that even though the venue seems to have fewer of AAA games than in previous years, there is still a surplus of innovative and engaging games of all shapes and sizes. Here is a wrapup of some of the games that jumped out to me the most after the first day of the show.
After more than seven years of development, Media Molecule’s Dreams finally received a definitive release date. It will be launching on April 16th for Early Access, a format that seems particularly appropriate for this game-building game that will evolve with its audience. After getting some hands-on time with it, I can confirm that there is at least the potential for creating levels and mini-games with a great deal of variety. I played a 2D platformer with an art style reminiscent of Mega Man and a 3D exploration game which tasked me with getting a robot to his destination. I played a shoot em’ up and an atmospheric action platformer. I even played a little melancholic vignette called “Please Hug Me”, in which I attempted to aid my cute box-boy in getting a hug, a mission doomed to fail.
While my biggest worry is that there may be limitations on how tight the controls will be for these individual games, the majority of what I played was created by members of the community in only one to six weeks. And to be honest, even if this just becomes a vehicle for a plethora of weird, experimental micro-games, I think it is worth actively following the Dreams community as the game enters Early Access in a few weeks.
At first blush, it’s hard to not think about Hotline Miami when witnessing the striking twitch based combat of Katana Zero. They share in common an iridescent color scheme, instant death, and crispy responsive controls. But that comparison isn’t a reductive criticism in this case, as Katana Zero is similarly able to instill a state of flow amidst its punishing gauntlets due to how tightly it plays.
In terms of differences, the Zero is set on a 2D plane and makes use of time manipulation. It stars The Dragon, a katana-wielding hitman who is able to slow down his perception of the world to best his enemies. You can roll to avoid enemy attacks, and slash your blade in various directions to lunge and strike. Your foes dramatically outnumber you and come armed with their fists, blades, and guns. However it still always feels as though you ultimately have the upper hand due how quickly you can act. Sword strikes can be parried with your own blade, bullets can be sliced, and unarmed opponents don’t stand a chance. It will be out on April 18th for PC, Mac, and the Switch.
Terry Cavanaugh, the developer behind VVVVVV and Super Hexagon, has teamed up with artist Marlowe Dobbe and musician Chipzel to craft a new roguelike. Playing as a dice-based card-building RPG, players can choose from six different classes as they attempt to navigate a map full of malicious creatures. The six different classes all have different decks, decks which can be fully unlocked through leveling and finding loot. Each turn you begin with certain dice and must combine the dice with certain cards to perform actions. Like any good card or deck building game, each turn felt like a puzzle to be solved, and decisions were given extra weight due to the consequences of failure. Its charming and distinctive aesthetic combine with its catchy chiptune soundtrack give it a unique flavor that lightens the mood of its challenging gameplay. Its alpha is currently available for purchase at a reduced price on Itch.io, with the promise of a Steam code for the full release.
Killer Queen Black