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LK4O4 avatar 10:32 PM on 09.16.2010  (server time)
PAX 2010: The Long Lines of Epic Mickey, Epic Yarn, and Portal 2

Posted by: Ryan

Instead of doing one huge PAX Cblog, I'm gonna try to write one smaller post every day for maybe an entire week,
if I can. And I didn't take many pictures, so bear with me.

I'm finally here: the last of my PAX 2010 posts, and with TGS now soaking in the spotlight, it's just as well. I'm sure you'd all rather read about Shadows of the Damned than old news like PAX. But hey, I've saved some games that lots of you care about for last: the ones with the big crowds and the long lines.

Actually, the line for Kirby's Epic Yarn wasn't very physically long. Everyone played the demo in co-op, so people went up in pairs to play, and there were all of maybe eight people ahead of Dexter345 and me. But of course, the Kirby demo was about eight or so minutes long, which doesn't seem like a lot until you put it in context. For the four pairs of people in front of me, that translates to over 30 minutes of standing in line.

But there's something about this game when you play it: it hypnotizes you or something. I remember when my friends went to see the movie Avatar, I would ask them if the movie was good, and all I would get back was what the movie looked like. "Everything looks so organic," "the Navi look so cool," and such were responses that I got, but no one could tell me if the movie was actually any good.

That's how I feel about Kirby's Epic Yarn: it's really cute and charming, but I probably couldn't even tell you if it's a good game. I mean, in the co-op mode, Dexter345 picked Kirby, and my character was named "Prince Fluff." Prince Fluff! How cute is that? So you already know that everything's made of string, but the game has so many small things that hook into your brain. Dexter345 kept dashing, simply because Kirby's dash animation turns him into a string-car, and there's a great splitsecond wheel-spin pause before you take off. Even better, there's a bit of slide when you change direction as a car, and it feels good to just drive, press the other way, sliiiide, change direction, and just keep skidding your dashing Kirby-car back and forth.

Dexter345 and I played through an entire level, another level where Kirby changes into a tank halfway through, and we fought the dragon boss that you've seen in the trailer. It was the same stuff that all the video game reporters played at E3, as denoted by the text that read "E3 DEMO" on the title screen. And we made our way through at a relaxed sort of pace, we grabbed and threw each other, we unzipped the background, and we collected plenty of little trinkets, but I can't really tell you if it was a good game. I can tell you that when Kirby jumps into the water, he turns into a submarine, and one of his feet becomes a propellor, while his other foot becomes a periscope.

What a strange little game. It's charming as hell.

Unlike the Kirby line, the line for Portal 2 was definitely physically long, as it wrapped all the way around their booth, and then did this Disneyland-style back-and-forth line-weaving at the front before letting people into the booth to see the game.

And yes, that verb was see and not play. I swear, they let about fifteen or more people into the booth at once, and only one person out of the group got the play the game while everyone else had to sit, watch, and listen to the PR spiel about the new features of Portal 2. It was a fucking co-op demo, and only one PAX-goer got to play it with a developer. Would it have murdered them to let maybe two people play the co-op demo?

And even if you were the one lucky person who got to play it, you played the demo with a PR rep talking the whole time and telling you exactly what to do. You know how great it felt when there was a weird puzzle in the original Portal and you had to think in an interesting way to figure it out? There was no puzzle solving to be had in this demo. Look, I hate it when NPC's tell you the answer to a puzzle in a game, and note to Valve, it sucks in real life too.

I waited in line for 45 minutes to get the worst demo that I had for the entire time I was at PAX. I didn't even get to touch the game. That's pathetic. Yeah, yeah, Valve makes Half-Life, and the original Portal was an amazing game, so people love Valve. But c'mon, you can't just assume that you can give us a shitty demo and everyone's going to give you a free pass. Noelani's never played Portal, and I was thinking that we were going to go into the demo and she was going to find out how awesome Portal is. I wanted to share my excitement for the game with her. But when we walked away from the Portal 2 booth, Noelani wasn't excited to play it at all. Instead, she acted the same way that a lot of people did when the saw the first trailers for the original Portal: she thought it looked cool, but that it looked like something she wouldn't be good at.

So if you were wondering why absolutely no one came out of PAX talking about Portal 2, that's why. C'mon Valve, you're better than this.

So... Duke Nukem Forever. At any given time, the line to play this was two hours long. And this post is all about the games that had long lines, so of course, I have to write about the game that had the longest line, and that's also been the subject of the longest running joke in the video game world, right?

No way. I had better things to do than wait two hours to play a Duke Nukem game. Sorry, but you'll have to go to someone else for thoughts on this game. I didn't play it. Then again, it's not like I played Portal 2 either.

Now the line at Epic Mickey's booth was really interesting, because it had this area where a bunch of people clustered together to play a demo of the game, and then another area with a huge line that was obviously not for playing the demo. It seemed really strange that the longest line at the booth wasn't to play the actual game, so of course, we walked up and tried to figure out what the line was for.

As it turns out, the people in that line at the Epic Mickey booth were waiting for what was easily the coolest piece of swag that anyone was giving out on the show floor. Noelani's reward for waiting in that 45-minute line was that one of two Disney artists drew an original drawing of any classic Disney character that she wanted, and she could take that drawing home with her. People were walking away from that line with drawings of Mickey in a pirate hat, Donald Duck, and even the newly resurrected character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.

Noelani originally wanted a drawing of demented, brainless Mickey from the cartoon Runaway Brain, but the artist actually didn't remember how to draw it. (Also, Runaway Brain is a great short animation if you've never seen it.) So instead, Noelani asked the artist what his childhood was like, to which he replied that he had grown up on an Amish farm. As a result, she asked for a drawing of an Amish Mickey, which I immediately assumed was from Mickey and the Beanstalk when I first laid my eyes on it. Weirdly enough, Noelani's actually never seen that cartoon, even though I have it at home on VHS. We'll probably watch it together sometime.


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