It’s the final day of PAX East so we checked out a few more games before rushing out to catch our plane back home. I had a lot of fun at not only my first PAX, but also the first time being in Boston, and while it’s a little bittersweet having to leave the show I do miss having a proper night’s sleep. And a proper meal. And not having to worry about rushing to meet appointments.
Outer Wilds is an interesting game. It’s the kind that I don’t think benefits from a show like PAX because you have such little time to dive into a game, and this is one that really requires more for you to see its full potential. You play as an alien who recently became an astronaut and it’s the day of your first launch. Before you can fly however, you need to explore the town to get your launch codes which is basically the game’s way of sneaking a tutorial into the narrative. Something’s amiss however as the sun is about to go supernova and when it does your day is reset back to where you began. This is Outer Wild’s main shtick: you can fly around your solar system and explore the various planets and moons that are nearby, but every twenty minutes the sun explodes causing a total reset. You don’t have to totally redo everything however, so after you learn the launch codes the first time after the game resets you never need to go hunt for those ever again. I will admit, flying your ship is a bit tricky. If you’ve ever played Lunar Lander then you know exactly how it controls, but now you’re working in 3D space. I got a bit of a handle on it by the end of my demo, since you get to practice a bit with a prop ship in the town, but there’s definitely a learning curve to it. Maintaining the ship is also an element to the game as you’ll have to periodically exit the ship while in space to conduct repairs.
I wish I had more I could say about the game, but I spent most of my demo exploring the town, taking in every bit of the world the game had to give me, and my demo ended right as I got into space. Hell, I nearly didn’t even get to see the time-loop mechanic take effect as it was happening as I was stepping away from the booth. Still, what was there was very promising and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing more.
A Robot Named Fight!
A Robot Named Fight is something that caught my eye because c’mon, who wouldn’t stop to play a game with that sort of title? What the game is, is a very unabashed aping of Metroid but with rogue-like elements tossed in. It’s honestly a little hard to not make many Metroid comparisons because everything from the character sprite to the movement animations feels like it was lifted straight from Metroid to the point where I feel like Nintendo lawyers are soon to swoop in. What makes the game unique however is that, while having the trademark map exploration of a metroidvania, the game adds in the randomization of rogue-likes where the items and their locations appear randomly each run. I didn’t get to play too much (mind you I felt like I got the gist pretty quick) but the game played well and it’s already out. As much as PAX is about playing games that aren’t out yet, it’s a bit refreshing to be told the game you just played is immediately available.
Lethal Lawns is probably one of the stupidest games I played at the show and I mean that in a good way. Billed as a competitive lawn mowing bloodsport, Lethal Lawns knows what it’s about and is here for a good time. The main mode of the game tasks each player with earning coins by cutting grass; sections cut by a specific player are marked by their assigned color and killing other players allows you to steal the cash they earned. The fun comes when you try to slam your lawnmower against another player’s and you two basically get into a game of seeing who can manuever behind the other first to eviscerate them with their lawnmower in a glorious spray of blood. It’s very silly and is a great candidate for your game nights with friends.
If you had any doubts whether or not this was made by the Katamari creator, they’d all go away once you sit with the game for a minute. In Wattam you play as The Mayor who’s lonely until he discovers a sentient rock who becomes his first friend. From that point The Mayor becomes obsessed with acquiring more friends and you’ll go through various silly puzzles to find them. To find one friend you might need to feed someone to a tree to turn them into a fruit friend, which then needs to be fed to the mouth friend who will turn them into a poop friend. Make a few more poop friends and you can use the Mayor’s special exploding hat to turn those poop friends into something else entirely. None of the puzzles make much sense, logically, but they’ll never fail to put a smile on your face.
Adding to the whimsical nature of the game, you can hold hands with your friends that plays into some puzzles as you’ll sometimes need to make a circle of friends to start a dance circle. It’s all super wholesome and I loved every second of it. One thing that I particularly enjoyed was how after finishing large puzzle sections, a tear in reality will open up and a new piece of environment will float through to connect to your island, bringing new friends to play with. These environments are things like a giant bowling alley that’s introduced in big font with “WELCOME BACK BOWLING”.
Unfortunately it seems like they still can’t figure out how to make the camera control properly. Many times I’d have to fight to zoom or pan the camera around to see something and it felt like the camera had a mind of its own. Add in a second player who can also control the camera and things can get pretty annoying quick. The game has an ocean of charm however, and my curiosity to see what new friend I’d unlock next overrode whatever frustrations I had.
Sayonara Wild Hearts
Sayonara Wild Hearts is something I’ve had my eye on since its reveal and I’m glad I got the chance to play it because it immediately jumped to my top list of favorite things I saw at PAX. Sleek and futuristic, Sayonara bills itself as a “euphoric music video dream” and I’m inclined to agree. Sayonara starts off simply enough, as a three lane “runner” where you collect gems to increase your high-score, but quickly reveals itself as something more. The gameplay still stays fairly simple (at least in the demo chunk we played) but the importance of the visuals and the music soon become apparent as it feels less you’re playing a game and more you’re watching a music video play out. The music and visuals work together to create a swell of emotions that’ll take you from somber to joyful in a matter of seconds as it takes you from a motorcycle battle through a futuristic city to flying through lava filled chasms. The game is a visual and auditory feast and I can’t wait to dig into it more.
Samurai Gunn 2
I actually saw this on day 1 but forgot to write about it so I’m doing it now. If you want to be a bit dismissive, you could argue this is less of a “Samurai Gunn 2” and more a “Samurai Gunn 1.5” since the formula remains largely the same but when your game’s combat is as tight as can be, what really is there to change? New to the game is a campaign (that can be played in co-op) which I unfortunately didn’t get the opportunity to try out, but it’s a welcomed diversion to what’s ostensibly a multiplayer focused game. The versus mode itself is just as fun and satisfying as it was in the previous game with you and other players slicing or shooting each other in these hectic, blood soaked battles. Nailing someone with one of your three bullets or pulling off a deflect still feels as satisfying as it did before. The game boasts new levels, characters, and apparently improved controls or whatever that means considering Samurai Gunn was one of the best feeling games I’d played in a long while. When Samurai Gunn 2 drops later this year it’s definitely going to be on your weekly game-night roundup.