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4:00 PM on 04.18.2014

The Darkest Dungeon gods were kind to me

Hot off its huge Kickstarter success, Darkest Dungeon is already in a playable-enough state to have a demo at PAX East 2014. Although the demo was only a short snippet of what's to come, it was easy to get a sense of the them...

Patrick Hancock


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Aaru's Awakening is all about movement photo
Aaru's Awakening is all about movement
by Patrick Hancock

I’ve been interested in Aaru’s Awakening ever since its announcement captivated me with its hand-drawn art style. It’s pretty hard to pass up playing a game that looks the way Aaru’s Awakening does. From there, one can only hope that the mechanics draw players in enough to make it an enjoyable game. After all, we’re talking about videogames here, not paintings.

Aaru’s Awakening has a solid set of core mechanics that really make the player feel powerful, yet vulnerable at the same time. After playing through the demo at PAX East, I’m glad the game sucked me in with its art.

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Read the writing on the wall with Invisible, Inc. photo
Read the writing on the wall with Invisible, Inc.
by Darren Nakamura

Turn-based tactical espionage. Those words were all it took to sell me on the idea of Invisible, Inc. Going into the PAX demo, I knew I would have to be cunning, thoughtful, and sneaky if I wanted to successfully steal intelligence and make it out alive.

As it turns out, I overestimated how cunning, thoughtful, and sneaky I am. Invisible, Inc. requires proper espionage; players who run in and try to blow stuff up like James Bond will not make it far. Even those who play cautiously will often find themselves in sticky situations, outnumbered and outgunned with no hope for a clean exit.

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I died an embarrassing amount in Hotline Miami 2 photo
I died an embarrassing amount in Hotline Miami 2
by Brett Makedonski

Anyone that has even the slightest bit of familiarity with Hotline Miami knows what defines it. The neon-swathed visuals, the gratuitous violence, the quick and unforgiving gameplay, and the blaring soundtrack all made the game as loved as it was. With regard to a sequel, any deviation from this formula would result in something that just wasn’t Hotline Miami.

So, Dennaton Games isn’t going to.

Judging by the build of Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number that was at PAX East, the pieces are in place to give fans of the original more of what they want. The two stages on display showed off the exact style that many have come to know and love, but also expressed how Dennaton is ready to offer something a little new.

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Not a Hero's 2D cover-based shooting killed me about a dozen times photo
Not a Hero's 2D cover-based shooting killed me about a dozen times
by Darren Nakamura

Devolver Digital had a great showing at PAX East this year. Though Hotline Miami 2 might have had the most buzz going in, not long into the show people were shouting about Not a Hero. Developed by Roll7 (of OlliOlli fame), it could just be the next pixel shooter juggernaut.

Though its visuals are beautifully retro (complete with the neon pink and teal color palette that is in vogue right now -- though each of the game's five districts will have a different look), its gameplay takes cues from more modern shooters. Specifically, Not a Hero features a cover mechanic, and it punishes players who do not use it well.

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Struggling to survive in This War of Mine photo
Struggling to survive in This War of Mine
by Caitlin Cooke

In a sea full of bright, action-packed games at PAX it was a surprise to see such a serious greyscale game like This War of Mine, an 11 bit studios title about life during war. Rather than placing the focus on combat as most warfare games tend to do, this one centers on the strategy and struggles around day-to-day survival for victims.

This War of Mine forces the player to make tough decisions for the betterment of the group. Who gets the last of the antibiotics: is it the person who needs it most or the one who's defending home base? When food is tight, who gets to eat? I struggled with these choices during my time with the demo, and unfortunately nothing got easier as I progressed.

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Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime puts two people in a neon spaceship built for eight photo
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime puts two people in a neon spaceship built for eight
by Darren Nakamura

Navigating through the outer reaches of space is hard. There are multiple systems to account for, from piloting to shields to weapons control, each with its own specialized training necessary. Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime takes all of those essential tasks and leaves them up to a two-person crew on a mission to save space bunnies and fight constellations.

The result is a frantic dash to man the right stations at the right times, and although it looked dire at one point, it was never completely unmanageable. After it was all over, I got to breathe a sigh of relief, and felt closer to my impromptu space lover after having been through the ordeal together.

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11:00 PM on 04.14.2014

I hacked a bush in Double Fine's Hack N Slash

With a name like Hack N Slash, it’s easy to assume exactly what’s in the package and dismiss it. Then people hear it’s from Double Fine and expectations immediately change for the better, as they should. Hac...

Patrick Hancock



Gods Will Be Watching stressed me the hell out photo
Gods Will Be Watching stressed me the hell out
by Patrick Hancock

I have found myself both playing and looking forward to more and more “point-and-click” games in the past few years than ever before. I didn’t grow up with games like Day of the Tentacle or the Monkey Island series, so there’s no strong sense of nostalgia for games of the genre, but recent titles have offered up more than just obtuse puzzle solving and witty dialogue. Kentucky Route Zero for example has no puzzles, but the atmosphere and mystery of the universe have me highly anticipating the next episode.

Gods Will Be Watching is yet another point-and-click game that has my ears perked up more than ever. This is a game focused entirely on puzzles and micromanagement of characters. It’s stressful in all the right ways, and difficult without being obtuse. After playing (and failing) at PAX East, I’m itching to get another crack at it, and I only played one scenario!

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There Came an Echo does voice control right photo
There Came an Echo does voice control right
by Darren Nakamura

Set up in the Indie MEGABOOTH is one of the few zen locations at PAX East: There Came an Echo's sound dampening booth. In it, Iridium Studios head Jason Wishnov is showing off the tech behind the voice-controlled realtime strategy game.

To pre-empt those who would immediately go to the comments to lament voice control, There Came an Echo does feature more traditional control schemes, but it is hard to imagine players preferring it. The game has been designed from the ground up to work with voice control, and it works impressively well.

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Unlike with most fungi, I enjoyed Mushroom 11 growing on me photo
Unlike with most fungi, I enjoyed Mushroom 11 growing on me
by Darren Nakamura

Mushroom 11 caught our eyes about a month ago, with its unique puzzle gameplay hook: the globular green collection of fungal cells is not directly controlled by the player. Instead, players simply click or tap to "erase" cells, while the mushroom has the curious capability to regrow a new cell for every destroyed cell.

It is one of those ideas that seems so elegant that it is surprising nobody had ever thought of it before. With that core mechanic applied to physics and engineering puzzles, Mushroom 11 is shaping up to be one to watch closely.

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Astebreed is a bullet hell shooter where you fight aliens as a janitor photo
Astebreed is a bullet hell shooter where you fight aliens as a janitor
by Brett Makedonski

There's no shortage of weird and unique game concepts at PAX East's Indie Megabooth. That's par for the course, though; show after show it goes that exact same way. Whereas some titles rely solely on their strangeness to make a name for themselves, others pair it with solid gameplay to strengthen their hand. Edelweiss' Astebreed falls into this latter category.

First and foremost, Astebreed is a bullet hell shooter, and it doesn't skimp on this aspect. At all times, the screen is full of imminent threats while you reciprocate. The arsenal at your disposal consists of two sets of ranged attacks each with a focused subset such as a conical strike, as well as a melee ability. Enemies constantly keep coming as the scene presented kind of twists and winds along in a "2.5D" way.

The most important aspect that Astebreed gets right is that while everything on-screen is completely hectic, the reference point always stays fixed enough so that you're in control of the character. Often times games like this will move in unpredictable directions, causing a frustrating sensation like it's resisting you. That's not the case here, as it all controls well.

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Below is a hardcore game that you'll want to take your time with photo
Below is a hardcore game that you'll want to take your time with
by Brett Makedonski

Ever since Below was teased at Microsoft's E3 press briefing last year, it's been one of the titles that I've been most intrigued by. The art style and the fact that Capy Games was the developer were the two main reasons for my interest. Okay, those were the only reasons, because pretty much nothing else about Below has been revealed.

Capy's finally showing Below off at PAX East, and it is nothing like I expected it to be. That aside, my excitement remains completely intact.

When I see an artistic indie title, I subconsciously assume that it's an inviting game. It might not necessarily be easy, but something that anyone can eventually get the hang of. Below doesn't look to be like that, as it's a procedurally-generated rogue-like that's meant to appeal to the hardcore demographic.

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Hyper Light Drifter's co-op mode will have you dying over and over photo
Hyper Light Drifter's co-op mode will have you dying over and over
by Brett Makedonski

Hyper Light Drifter is on the top of a lot of people's lists of most anticipated games. For good reason, too. The quick-paced, action-RPG with a retro aesthetic looks like it's going to be an absolute pleasure to play. If you're not familiar with it, Alessandro wrote a preview of the build we saw at GDC.

Heart Machine has a new experience to show off for PAX East. Hyper Light Drifter has a cooperative mode that we hadn't gotten to try before. It's basically a horde mode with endlessly spawning enemies. However, unlike most co-op endeavors, your partner could very well be more trouble than he's worth.

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Impressions: Broforce photo
Impressions: Broforce
by Alasdair Duncan

Whether it's the smartass name or the numerous references to action stars, there's nothing subtle about Broforce. Then there's the seemingly never-ending barrage of explosions and showers of pixelated blood that make the stage look like a particularly frustrating Super Meat Boy level.

Broforce is now on Steam's Early Access service, and whilst there's plenty of features on offer in its current state, there's still some work needed to just nail that core gameplay. 

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Gauntlet is a lot like you remember, just upgraded photo
Gauntlet is a lot like you remember, just upgraded
by Brett Makedonski

Do you remember Gauntlet? It holds a special place in arcade gaming history, but at the same time, it's almost 30 years old. It seems like the perfect time for a remake, doesn't it? Magicka maker Arrowhead Games has the opportunity to give people that remember it a chance to play it again, while introducing the younger audience to an all-time classic.

For those unfamiliar, Gauntlet is a four-person cooperative, dungeon-crawling, beat-'em-up. The original characters -- Warrior, Elf, Valkyrie, and Wizard -- all return for this iteration, and only one of each can be played at a time. Each class has a playstyle that defines them and that will dictate your actions on-screen. A Warrior isn't of much use out of the fray, and the archer-like Elf isn't too effective trying to melee everyone.

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