8 Indie Games From PAX East You Need to Know About

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While PAX East had no shortage of great AAA titles this year, there were almost too many wonderful indie games to keep track of. Here are some of our favorites, straight from the event's Indie Megabooth.

Gods Will Be Watching

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Games inherently require decision making, but unlike most, Gods Will Be Watching forces you to make difficult choices during dire situations. Imagine that you're the leader of a small team that's stranded in the middle of a toxic landscape. You could potentially survive on your own accord, but you’re ultimately responsible for the well-being of the entire group. You’ll have to figure out ways to provide necessities including warmth, protection, and food, but you also have to maintain morale to ensure that your crew can assist you with said tasks. If you fail to feed them often enough, they may die. If you allow your medic to suffer from anxiety, he may run into the woods to never be seen again, thus ruining your ability to create an antidote for the virus that permeates the atmosphere, ultimately jeopardizing the entire crew. When there’s only time for five actions per day, it’s difficult to recognize what should and shouldn’t be a priority, making it seemingly impossible to keep everyone sane and alive. In situations like this, it’s troubling when your best intentions come up short and people suffer as a result. But, that’s sort of the point to Gods Will Be Watching; morality may seem black and white, but in most situations, the path to righteousness is rarely clear. -- Peter Brown

Below

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Over the past few years, there's been a renaissance of sorts in the gaming world. Hard games are back. And not just hard, but difficult, punishing, tough-as-nails games that revel in killing you over and over again. But games like Dark Souls and Spelunky aren't just tough for the sake of being tough; they employ death as a tool for teaching you new things, letting you learn from your mistakes and become a better player for it. Below is very much a part of this wave of games. It's a roguelike with randomly generated environments that you explore as you descend deeper and deeper into its vast underground world. No words appear on the screen, no explanations are given--it's up to you to figure out how to make it past increasingly deadly enemies. But what makes Below really stand out is its gorgeous aesthetic. Each environment is dark and atmospheric, but somehow serene and beautiful. The ambient soundtrack builds on that art design with its sparse, moving accompaniment. In that regard, the presentation is a lot like developer Capy's previous work on Sword & Sworcery, but applied to a far larger and more ambitious concept. -- Shaun McInnis

Hyper Light Drifter

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There are many good reasons why Hyper Light Drifter was one of the most popular indie games at PAX East. Sure, its neon color palette and stylish sprites may be the first thing that a lot of people notice, but there’s more to Hyper Light Drifter than just an attractive presentation. Once you get into the game, you’re treated to a world that inspires wonder, which is heightened by a haunting soundtrack and the lack of any text or dialogue. As you explore this world, you face dozens of unusually dangerous enemies. Fortunately, they’re easily killed, but unfortunately, so are you. By default, you’re stuck with a short sword as your primary means of defense. Secondary skills allow you to keep your distance, but they pull from a unified resource meter that drains quickly, so, you’re better off honing your skills in close-quarters combat as soon as possible. Hyper Light Drifter isn’t a walk in the park, but that makes it all the more satisfying when you can overcome its challenges and delve deeper into its captivating world. -- Peter Brown

Mushroom 11

Mushroom 11 is a game built around one simple game mechanic: the ability to reshape yourself. In this case, the you happens to be an amorphous blob of green goo with hypercharged cells that reform almost instantly. Click or tap on yourself (the game will be coming to both PC and tablets) and that part of your blob will disappear, quickly followed by the appearance of new cells elsewhere on your blob. It's the type of input that feels odd for a few brief moments, but soon becomes second nature. That's good, because Mushroom 11 employs all manner of puzzles and platforming obstacles (and even the occasional boss fight) as you explore the ruins of a city after some cataclysmic event. You might lop off your right half so that the new bulk on your left half shifts your balance just enough to topple you across a gap in the ground. You might navigate a narrow tunnel by erasing a bit of yourself on the bottom end so that the top end squeezes through like a tube of toothpaste. Hell, you might even need to just split yourself in half entirely so that part of you can trigger the switch to open a door while the other half actually passes through it. There are any number of applications for this clever mechanic, and it looks like Mushroom 11 is taking full advantage of it. -- Shaun McInnis

Transistor

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There are some obvious similarities between Transistor and Bastion, the previous release from Supergiant Games. Both feature silent protagonists, action-oriented gameplay, and an isometric view of a colorfully illustrated world. In practice, however, the two games are far more different than they first appear. There’s no longer a narrator describing your every move. Instead, there’s a brooding spirit inhabiting your sword, Transistor, who acts as your guide. You're constantly under thread from The Process, a mysterious force that’s determined to eliminate the both of you. You can fight its robotic minions in real-time, but you can also stop time and issue a series of commands that play out in rapid succession. It’s an important strategic aid during combat, but it’s a useful puzzle solving tool as well. Like its battle mechanics, Transistor’s environments are rich and provide compelling depth. Neon hues line every inch of the its futuristic cityscapes, and in comparison to Bastion’s island-in-the-sky design, you get a sense that you’re a part of a greater world. Transistor is wonderful on its own terms, and it doesn’t need to be compared to Bastion, but if you’ve played the latter, you’ll recognize a worthy successor to one of the most beloved indie games of the last generation. -- Peter Brown

Roundabout

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Everything about Roundabout is completely and utterly ridiculous. This is a game where you drive around in a powder blue limousine that is constantly spinning in circles. Oh, and it also happens to possess the ability to leap straight up into the air. Your job as the driver is to contain that absurdity as you weave through traffic and avoid--or don't avoid--pedestrians every time you pick up a new client. But it's the way that Roundabout employs all of this ridiculousness while scratching the Crazy Taxi itch that makes it so appealing. Frantically racing from one location to another, seeing new characters introduced in the form of full-motion video cut scenes, trying like hell to take shortcuts through narrow alleyways when you're car just wont' stop spinning--at no point does this game ever take itself seriously. And that's precisely why it's so much fun. -- Shaun McInnis

Not a Hero

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So, you want to run for Mayor. For your first step towards office, do you appeal to the desires of your constituents, reach out to community leaders for support, or, hire mercenaries to sabotage your opponents’ campaign headquarters and murder their political aids? If you opt to commit brutal acts of violence, you’re probably the star of Not a Hero, the latest game from OlliOlli developer, Roll7. It’s a cover-based shooter that looks a lot like the classic arcade game Elevator Action, and it plays a little like it, too, but Not a Hero offers creative methods for dispatching your opponents, and a bit of dark humor to lighten the mood. Sure, you shoot pixelated political-types in the face and burst through windows, live grenade in hand, but that doesn’t mean you can’t chuckle now and then, right? With secondary items like the adorable cat bomb, which is quite literally an explosive cat that coyly woos your enemies into a fiery death, there’s no shortage of things in Not a Hero to laugh about. But, beware, because like OlliOlli, it’s also incredibly difficult to master. -- Peter Brown

Fenix Rage

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Fenix Rage is being compared to Super Meat Boy, and those comparisons are fairly apt. Like Super Meat Boy, Fenix Rage is a 2D-platformer where you’ll need precision, skill, timing, and a deep well of patience and inner resolve to successfully navigate its tricky levels. Title character Fenix can jump in mid-air an unlimited number of times, making him an extremely maneuverable little tyke. Add in a quick dash move and the occasional ability to take on the properties of surfaces he lands on (such as lava blocks, which turns Fenix into a fiery munchkin that can slam through blocks of ice), and you’ve got a great platformer hero. In the dozen of levels I played, Fenix controlled extremely well, and I can’t wait to see what the next couple of hundred levels have to offer when the game release later this year on PC. And also, the in-game collectibles are cookies. Collect enough and the game will give you a recipe you can use to make cookies in the real world. And who doesn’t love cookies? -- Randolph Ramsay

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