The PAXpocalypse List: The Best of PAX East 2014

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PAX East 2014 was a different type of show than in years past. Some big publishers, such as Nintendo, skipped the show completely, while others, like Microsoft, only brought a handful of unreleased games. This shift in the show floor allowed the indies to take center stage, and the majority of our PAX East 2014 PAXpocalypse List reflects this year’s status quo. But that’s not to say the big publishers skipped PAX East 2014 altogether. Towering displays from 2K, Bethesda, and Ubisoft dominated the exhibition hall map, and we definitely had some fun with a few games that will demand your time during this Summer and Fall.

So if we were cut off from the outside and trapped within the walls of PAX East 2014, which games would we return to over and over again? Well…

Broforce
Take one part Contra, mix it with every cheesy action movie ever, sprinkle in four-player “Bro-op,” add a dash of retro graphics and fist-bumping tunes, and you’ve got Broforce. Player characters include lightly-parodied action heroes from the 80s and 90s such as Bro Dredd, Brade, and Rambro. But my personal favorite, Ash Brolliams, has a chainsaw arm and loves killing terrorists. I had played the game at home on my PC, but playing it on a big screen with three other people – one of whom was Ashly Burch – was an amazing experience. She screamed with glee when she got the chance to play as Brade, swinging her sword everywhere. I was a little starstruck by her, but not so much that I didn’t get my picture taken with her, and also not so much that I didn’t enjoy hearing the questions she asked the developer, like when were they going to get a female character? He said they were making a Ripley-like character from the Aliens franchise, which sounds off the hook. I can’t wait to see her tear through the destructible environment, hopefully carrying Newt. – Nicole Kline

Catlateral Damage
Anthony Amato grabbed me by the hand and said, “I have a game I want you to play.” As he lead me to Fire Hose Games, I wasn’t sure what we were going to see, but as soon as I saw the sign for Catlateral Damage, I let out a scream so loud I actually startled the guy in the booth next to us. I was incoherent for a full minute, just making noises of sheer joy, and then threw myself into the bean bag chair, grabbed the controller, and did as much damage as one cat can do in a video game designed for just that. The Right and Left Bumpers let you swipe your right and left paws, respectively, and your goal is to get as much stuff on the floor as possible. It’s like Katamari, except the other way around. Instead of rolling things up in a neat little ball, you are knocking over everything you can and laughing maniacally while you do it. Well, maybe that was just me. I can’t tell you how satisfying it was to jump up on a desk and knock over a PC. I mean, does this cat lift, or what? If you like those whacky Katamari games, you’ll love Catlateral Damage. – Nicole Kline

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Evolve
Full Preview: Testing Turtle Rock’s Co-Op Monster Mash
Turtle Rock revolutionized the co-op shooter in 2008 with Left 4 Dead, and they may just do it again in 2014 with Evolve. Instead of mindless zombies, the four Hunters of Evolve will have to contend with a player-controlled “Monster” that evokes the grueling boss battles of old. Each Hunter has their own particular set of skills, and the Monster is quick and ferocious, making the two sides in this 4v1 game fairly equally matched. Throw in jetpacks, a seriously inventive set of weapons, and dangerous alien wildlife, and you’ve got yourself a game. Evolve sits on the “Best of PAX East 2014” list for now, but I imagine that come December it may sit atop the “Best of 2014” list as well. – John Scalzo

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Hyper Light Drifter
Full Preview: Like Playing A Dream
I can’t say enough good things about Hyper Light Drifter. It’s beautiful, haunting, fluid, addictive, moody, thoughtful, atmospheric… all words that bring to mind some amazing things, and yet still fall short of actually describing the experience. You play as the Drifter, who is wandering across a glitch-filled world. Your weapons – a sword, a laser gun, and a bomb – keep the monsters at bay. Well, those and your amazing dash that makes you almost faster than light. This Kickstarted beauty is coming out on just about everything, and will look and feel amazing on any machine you put it on, I’m sure. – Nicole Kline

Max Gentlemen
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. It’s 1880 and you’re sitting in a bar enjoying a quiet drink. The pretty girl delivering drinks admires your exquisitely-curled mustache and your jaunty top hat (which sits beside you, because you are indoors and you are a gentleman). But before you can woo her with a witty retort, some scoundrel has started a bar brawl. Beer mugs and boomerangs go flying as the brawlers hurl period-appropriate insults in your general direction. Being a gentleman, you decide to help the barman keep his prized brew from falling off the bar in the middle of this melee. And every time you drink a beer, you also catch one of the many top hats that became dislodged during the brouhaha. You do this because you are a Max Gentleman.

What’s that? You’ve never heard of anything like Max Gentleman before? You’re not alone. The game mixes Victorian notions of gentlemanliness with a halfway decent hat-stacking puzzle game and it is glorious. Max Gentleman is the perfect game for those who love puzzlers, mustaches, old-timey slang, and everything else exlempified by this image. – John Scalzo

Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake
Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake is an adorable little puzzle game in which you play as a child whose birthday cake was – you guessed it! – eaten by monsters. You must find the pieces of your birthday cake scattered throughout the world. While you’re looking, you get help from little monsters you unlock, each of which has a special ability. Some can use sound to stun enemies, others charge and break through barriers, and still others dig under obstacles. These monsters are cute, the puzzles tease the brain, and the music – done by Disasterpeace (geez, what isn’t that guy doing these days?) – rounds out this perfect little game. I got to play it with touch controls and a controller, and both were fun in their own way. Look out for monsters coming after your birthday cake this Summer. – Nicole Kline

Slap .45
I love board and card games that involve doing something physical, so Slap .45 was an instant win for me. Each player controls a different gang – mine had ponchos! – and you’re fighting the other gangs. Every turn, a card from the deck is flipped, and you have to decide where to slap. If it’s a gun, you want to slap it and point an enemy, in the hopes you’ll shoot them before they can slap their own base and get to cover. If it’s a big gun – denoted by a red card – cover won’t matter! You’re getting hit. And if it’s a brown card, with a wagon or a horse on it, and you slap that, you’re getting run over. It’s a game full of slaps and laughter, and I can’t wait to play it in my living room. – Nicole Kline

SlashDash
One of my favorite games at IndieCade East was SlashDash, an adorable two-on-two capture-the-flag game played with ninjas in a Zen garden. You can do a cool little dash, shoot shuriken that stun the enemy, and slash your blade to kill an enemy. But when you capture the other team’s flag, you move much more slowly, and can neither shoot nor dash. The good news is that your partner can come up behind you and slash you with their sword, propelling you forward into victory. Much like at IndieCade, Anthony Amato and I teamed up with strangers at PAX East, and he got destroyed. In fact, another girl and I shut them out, and I cackled “take that, boys!” madly. One of the developers at Nevernaut even captured it perfectly. – Nicole Kline

Tetropolis
Tetropolis is a literal puzzle platformer in which you are an actual tetromino trying to platform your way through a factory. You were only three blocks, so you were rejected from the manufacturing line, and accidentally find yourself with a pile of mismatched blocks. You work your way through the factory, discovering powerups that allow you to change the shape of your tetromino and give you added powers. In the PAX East demo, you started out as the square, and then turned into the skinny line, whose power was the ability to turn into a spring and bounce into the air. I was worried about mastering the controls at first, because it really feels like you are maneuvering a square through a 2.5D world akin to Shadow Complex. Once you get the hang of it, it becomes strangely familiar, like learning how to ride a tetromino-wheeled bicycle. Tetropolis is definitely a game to watch in 2014. – Nicole Kline

Tumblestone
The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild wants to bring back the multiplayer puzzler and they plan to do it with this year’s Tumblestone. Tumblestone is unique in that it doesn’t look very unique at a first glance. Matching three blocks of the same color is a well-worn puzzle gaming trope, and using a cannon to launch your shot up at a collection of blocks should make everyone shout “Bust-A-Move!” But while Tumblestone will feel familiar to anyone who has played puzzle games like Bust-A-Move, Dr. Mario, or Puzzle Fighter, it is its own beast. The competitive multiplayer mode was great fun and the Quantum Astrophysicists plan to pack in several single-player modes as well. I’m not sure if the multiplayer puzzler will ever thrive the way it did in the late 80s/early 90s, but I can’t wait to see Tumblestone try. – John Scalzo

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Wolfenstein: The New Order
Nobody really makes shooters set in World War II anymore, but I have a feeling that Wolfenstein: The New Order will change all of that next month. The latest reboot of id Software’s seminal shooter was handled by MachineGames, a Swedish developer founded by a few former members of Starbreeze Studios who worked on the Riddick series. The New Order trades that game’s more methodical approach to first-person gameplay and replaces it with the kind of run-and-gun shooting that you don’t see much of anymore. It’s brutal, it’s fast, and if the rest of the game is as thrilling and challenging as the first two hours, then I’m all in. And I have a feeling the rest of the world will be, too. – John Scalzo

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