Our 10 Favorite Indie Games at PAX West
Whole New Worlds
PAX has become the best show for up-and-coming indie titles. With tons of floor space to spare, the show has been giving more over to these smaller companies and solo developers, offering the wider public the opportunity to test these smaller games for themselves. This year at PAX West, the Indie Megabooth and PAX 10 room are brimming with interesting, varied experiences--from mellow creation games in VR to Zelda-like role-playing games to co-op spacefaring adventures.
We spent our first day on the show floor wandering among this embarrassment of riches. Here are the 10 indie games you can't miss if you're at PAX West this weekend.
We've seen a bit of Astroneer over the past few months, but every time we play we find new things to love. Players who were disappointed in No Man's Sky's resource collecting and crafting systems may find great satisfaction here. As you gradually terraform a planet as a tiny astronaut, you collect resources and unearth forgotten to debris that allows you to build the tools you need to, well, get more stuff. The resource collection is as simple as clicking on wide swathes of land, and once you have enough, you can build a small ship to shuttle you--or you and a friend--to the moon or even another planet.
From the creators of Towerfall comes Celeste, a platformer with an art style similar to that of its predecessor and an equally nail-biting difficulty curve. Celeste is a single-player adventure and tasks you with scaling a mountain--though it's not quite as simple as that. Also likes Towerfall, Celeste requires precision and quick thinking to execute the right moves--one misstep and you could be done.
So many VR games focus on having you build something, shoot something, or drive something. But Luna, from indie studio Funomena--a group including the minds behind Journey and Katamari Damacy--changes your perspective in a different way. Through the adventure of a tiny bird, players draw lines in space to connect dots among the stars and nurture dioramas of trees and rivers to life. Luna is a relaxing experience, but tickles your brain just enough to keep you asking what comes next. It's a delight to explore the game's world, which is built up in a vibrant papercraft aesthetic.
In this gorgeous little game reminiscent of the early Legend of Zelda titles, you play as a tiny, adorable fox on a mysterious quest across the land. Armed with only a sword and shield, you fight back equally adorable colored blobs and not-so-adorable dark creatures as you work your way through a 3D world of spiky grass fields and blocky stone ruins. The lighting is particularly striking--one traipse through Secret Legend's shadowed, mysterious forest was enough to get us hooked.
Do you like Persona games? Visual novels? Creepypasta? Then you're probably the kind of person who would like Y2K, a game about a disturbing urban legend come to life. Complete with its own in-game email system and Wikipedia-like web page of myths, Y2K tells the story of Alex, a young man who is suddenly confronted by the ghost of a friend who disappeared years prior. Alex and his friends journey through dungeons and partake in turn-based combat similar to that of the Persona games, and the art style wrapped around it all is faintly reminiscent of the Scott Pilgrim comics.
1979 Revolution: Black Friday
Few games have attempted to convey the intimate, personal devastation war inflicts on civilians, and fewer still have set their stories within the context of real historical events. 1979 Revolution: Black Friday--a dialogue and exploration-driven adventure game--does both, casting you as a young photojournalist caught up in the early days of the Iranian revolution. You can explore the city of Tehran, take photographs of the tense scenarios you encounter, and direct a branching narrative that’s based on first-hand accounts from witnesses who lived the events themselves. The game launched earlier this year, but it remains relevant and worth checking out.
Named for the malevolent lords of Indian mythology, Asura is a 3D, isometric hack-n-slasher with roguelike elements that allows you to avenge your own death. After being burned at the stake by some arguably misguided holy men, you’re reincarnated as one of the eponymous evil lords. On your quest for vengeance, you’ll explore a procedurally-generated fortress, avoiding traps and battling enemies (including boss characters) while accumulating upgrades, armor, and weapons. With permadeath and plenty of style, Asura is sure to please the hardcore crowd that simply can’t wait for the next Dark Souls III DLC to hit. The game was recently Greenlit on Steam, so you’ll be able to get your fix soon.
One clever mechanic and a little competition is all you really need to turn an evening of gaming into a full-blown addiction. Inversus delivers exactly those elements. The core mechanic is tricky to explain but easy to grasp in action: you control a black or white square on a 2D, grid-based map. You can only move through tiles of the opposite color--if you’re a white square, you move through black tiles, and vice versa. However, you can switch tiles to the opposite color by shooting, allowing you to chase and ultimately trap your opponents. It’s surprisingly strategic, incredibly fast-paced, and extremely difficult to put down. The game is out now, so grab a few friends or just play through the puzzle-like arcade mode by yourself.
If the internet has taught us anything, it’s that people love personality tests. And if video games have taught us anything else, it’s that people love retro-styled fantasy action-RPGs. Moon Hunters cleverly combines both, offering you a chance to select a class, equip some randomly-generated upgrades, party up with friends, battle your way through a brief but replayable story, and make dialogue choices as you converse with the various characters you encounter along the way. Once you finish, the game takes all your decisions and assigns you a constellation that matches your personality. You can buy the game now to find out what the stars hold for you.
Night in the Woods
Have you ever felt directionless? Or like you don’t really know your friends anymore? Have you ever heard the phrase “You can never go home again” and felt like your emotions got hit by a truck? Well, Night in the Woods might be the game for you. You play as an adorable anthropomorphic cat/underachieving college dropout Mae Borowski, who recently returned to her hometown hoping to find things the same. But of course, they’re not. You can explore the city, hang out with the locals, and maybe even solve an unsettling mystery once this long-in-development adventure game finally releases on Steam and PS4 later this year.