PAX is over now, and once again the dudes and ladies behind this event have done themselves proud. We want to make sure to call out the amazing, all-volunteer crew of Enforcers, some 600 strong, who help keep the show fun and make it run smoother than melted butter. They're mind-blowingly smart and friendly, even in the face of some pretty high-pressure situations. They're the best, and PAX is lucky to have them.
And with that, we turn to the last batch of games that we found notable this time around:
- The Bridge is another PAX 10 winner that looks almost too beautiful (see below). It's a puzzler set in an M.C. Escher-style world with a slightly dizzying mechanic, but some pretty sweet play moments. No word on release date or platform, but get on their list and give it a whirl when you can.
- Here's our Kickstarter suggestion: SolForge has about 7 more days to raise about $60,000 to hit their goal. It’s an all-digital deck-building game by Magic progenitor Richard Garfield and the dudes behind the popular card/iPad game Ascension and it looks terrific. Since it's all-digital, they can get away with tons of tricks that are hard to pull off with a physical game (like persistent damage and card evolution). It's going to be for iOS and Android for sure, and they aim to port it out to as many other platforms as possible. The opening pledge of $5 gets you into the beta in January.
- Card Hunter is a sweet online collectible card game that has a great sense of humor about itself. The graphics are cartoony, with heroes and monsters that look like cut-out minis, and the mechanics of deck-building, leveling up, and card play to move (and kill) minis are smart and easy to grasp. It's not quite out yet, but it is coming to Flash-supporting browsers soon and is well worth a look when it does.
- We are ashamed to admit that we could not make out a single word that the super-cute, soft-spoken Swedish developer was saying, but The Swapper still captivated us. The art was created using clay models and other neato objects, and it's incredibly pretty to watch. Gameplay involves creating clones and swapping consciousness between them, so someone owes the estate of Philip K. Dick a few kronor, maybe. Check out the lovely trailer:
- We're trying make good on the last of our reverse blegs today, and JensR wanted us to check out indie RPGs—specifically whether they got love from PAX in the shadow of video games and even just bigger pencil-and-paper RPGs. The answer to that seems to be a big ol' yes. We spent a good long while in the indie tabletop section where people were playing everything from Fiasco and Microsope to 13th Age and Dungeon World. We had a great chat with Elizabeth Shoemaker-Sampat (designer of They Became Flesh, Blowback, and It's Complicated), fresh from being a Guest of Honor at GenCon, and she says that PAX (and cons in general) are vital for her—that while the Internet makes funding and distributing and marketing indie RPGs possible, it's at the cons where she gets the best feedback. Clearly, a lot of RPG innovation starts at the indie level (and often ends up later in bigger games; yay, capitalism?), and the tabletop rooms were packed with people who craved something different—from 13th Age's new take on quasi-cosmology to Blowback's system for handling stress and relationships.
- Best AAA game promotion? The first 50 people to get a Vaas-style mohawk every day got a free copy of Far Cry 3:
- Another reverse-bleg: Pridge Wessea wanted us to check out the new Sim City (i.e., "Is it faithful to its previous incarnations or is it a disappointing cesspool of Spore proportions?") Sadly, it was tucked into a tiny spot in the Nvidia booth, and still in its pre-alpha form at that, and there was always a long wait. We liked what we saw, and we're also digging that it's going to be Mac and PC (with multiplayer between platforms)—and word on the street is that it's looking good. The EA folks are encouraging people to sign up for the beta, and the current release ETA is February 2013.
- Hey, here's a reason to use IE: you can play a bunch of games ad-free on Atari Arcade, all recombobulated (not emulated) in HTML 5. The Arcade just launched a few days ago, and free touchscreen Missile Command was pretty satisfying. (You can play in other browsers, too—but in Safari, there were enough ads to choke our poor old MacBook.)
- Ghost Seed was the happy confluence of 1) location-based mobile game, 2) lab-coat-wearing local developers, and 3) SCIENCE. Well, science-sounding words at least, as you battle it out to control a Quantum Realm that overlays our mundane world—with SEEDs (Selective Entropy Emitting Dualities). It's got a tower-defense feel, and your influence extends about 25m from your GPS position. It's only on Android so far, but definitely worth checking out.
- PAX always ends too soon, and one of the last games we didn't get to go back and play again was Cannon Brawl—which the developer accurately described as "Worms meets RTS." It's still in alpha, probably about five months from completion, but watch for it on Steam and then probably the PS3:
The Stranger Testing Department is Rob Lightner and Paul Hughes.