Thursday , May 23 2024

PAX East 2024: Day Four

The final day of PAX East is a varied mix of urgency and calm as the realization hits that this is the last time for a year we will be on the conference floor with this group of like-minded gamers. I take the last day to not only check out some of the things I just did not have time for earlier, but also for some last-day appointments I have been looking forward to.

There is a lot going on during Day Four pf PAX East. The Omegathon wrapped up with winners crowned and awarded a free trip to any PAX of their choice. The Almost Pro Tekken 8 tournament also wrapped up with one talented player getting a $10,000 prize and the glory of winning the entire competition.

Vendors often do many giveaways and raffles on Sunday, drawing from the long list of attendees who dropped their names into the virtual boxes. Many booths selling items also drop prices on larger products; I saw gaming chairs going for half price and gaming headsets for 30-40% off retail.

It’s a fun day to finish PAX East on and was made even better as I got to check out some fun games and demo a really intriguing tabletop game.

Tape to Tape

At the surface Tape to Tape looks like a throwback-style hockey game, but it is actually a roguelite-style game set in a world obsessed with hockey. Playing through the campaign requires not only wins, but also losses to get a chance to train and improve skills and players.

Presented in a very colorful and charming style, the game actually has many systems that are not apparent until you’re off the ice. Training benchwarmers, visiting the Blademaster to improve skills, and even bribing refs with maple syrup is on the table to work towards an unbeatable team.

The on-ice action I tried in the demo was a tad vanilla, as many of the skills, special abilities, augments, and interactions were not unlocked yet, but it was a serviceable hockey simulation. It was easy to switch players, pass, check, and shoot.

While the game holds a lot of promise, I would need to see some of the deeper systems to really have it grab my interest. The framework is there, but more juice is needed on ice to make this a really engaging experience.

Tape to Tape is available right now on Steam via Early Access, and the developer Excellent Rectangle is working toward as a full launch later this year.

Dragon is Dead

Dragon is Dead is an intriguing take on the side-scrolling roguelike genre. While deaths will occur, often RPG mechanics are used for item farming and character growth. Items are retained when restarting a level, but skills reset.

This mechanic is really cool as players can retain the power of their equipment and runes when they respawn, allowing progression to be a lot more interesting. Legendary equipment can be crafted from those runes, so getting better gear is sustainable even after a character death.

The game played similarly to recent games like Dead Cells and Hollow Knight. The ability to jump and to use different attacks, special abilities, and parries made combat interesting and quick. Across the levels often the area would get gated until you defeat a certain number of enemies, triggering rewards.

Visually the game is a dark pixel art-style game that evokes a Castlevania feel which is never a bad thing. I really liked the look and feel of the characters and enemies – they have personality and scale which is nice to see in a game like this.

Dragon is Dead will release in Early Access on Steam on June 7 of this year. From what I saw there is potential in the game, but still a ways to go before it becomes a truly great experience. I’m looking forward to see the Early Access journey and how the game progresses.

Gudnak

Thanks to a really charming email from the creators of Gudnak I booked an appointment to check out this tactical tabletop game. Played on a 3×3 grid, Gudnak looks relatively simple to play, but underneath the surface there is a ton of strategy.

The game starts by picking from one of five factions, which the developer features in a comic book they were giving out at PAX East, and placing your deck on top of your stronghold while keeping five in your hand. The cards are units that get placed on the grid one turn at a time with the goal of getting to the other side and destroying the enemy stronghold.

Units can be placed in any square in front of your stronghold and can move or attack on a turn. One of the neat aspects of the cards is you can stack units; they don’t double in power but the bottom card cannot get damaged until the top one is destroyed.

Moving cards leads to attacking other units or getting in position in front of the enemy stronghold. If the stronghold is being besieged, the enemy player needs to lose cards from the pool every round until the attacker is killed by discarding cards equal to its power or by a unit.

It sounds like a lot, but it’s very quick to pick up and sessions generally last 15-20 minutes. This makes for a fun, fast-paced playthrough generally involving a lot of laughs and surprise moves.

What I liked best about Gudnak was the lack of resources; units or tactics just get deployed and are ready to move next turn. The cards themselves have tons of varieties and abilities which can add a lot of varied tactics each session.

The booth was packed each time I passed it during PAX East and for good reason. Gudnak is an excellent game with a ton of replayability and I had a blast checking it out. It is available for preorder via Kickstarter and you can get a print and play version from their site for free to try it out.

About Michael Prince

A longtime video game fan starting from simple games on the Atari 2600 to newer titles on a bleeding edge PC I play everything I can get my hands on.

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