Friday , April 19 2024

PAX East 2024: Day One

The road to PAX East is always a long and exciting one. You buy the tickets, hotel stays, and flights months in advance. You chat on Discord/Facebook about what’s going to be there, how excited we all are, perusing schedules on the official site, wondering what parties there will be. Then March arrives and PAX East begins.

That planning, anticipation and excitement would seem destined to lead to disappointment, but PAX East is a special event. There is so much to see and do, so many varied people to meet and so many games, panels and events that everyone just comes away happy and already excited for next year’s event.

This year at PAX East I was excited to check out a ton of games, catch up with old friends and meet some new ones. But the priority on day one is scoping out the expo hall floor, securing merch, and lining up what I want to explore for the next four days.

I checked out a ton of games and experiences while I was on the show floor. Let’s go over a few of the highlights.

Memory’s Reach

Memory’s Reach is a first-person metroidvania-inspired puzzle adventure by a one-man studio, set in a futuristic uninhabited planet. I got a chance to play an impressive demo at PAX. The goal of the demo was to solve some puzzles to open a path further into the planet.

Using learned skills that allowed some mobility and short teleports, I was able to navigate the beautiful world to unlock a path forward. The game was a tad confusing as there are no navigation markers to the next step, but this just encouraged taking a moment to explore and think about the layout.

Once I got to the end of the run I was rewarded with a radiation shield which would allow me to proceed further in the game. This is where the metroidvania game style comes in. Navigation evolves as new skills are developed.

The game is made primarily by one person, Ben Droste of 100 Stones, with some contractors supporting. It was a very impressive demo. What I saw had me interested for more as the game continues to evolve. No release date has been set, but there is a demo available on Steam to check out.

RunOut

RunOut was a very cute-looking game I was excited to check out as a party experience, but I found it struggled with a lot of bugs and wonky controls.

The concept is essentially to choose a cute animal character and then run to the end of a level trying to outrace up to seven other players. Of course there are traps, pitfalls, platforming and Mario Kart-style weapons and items to help along the way.

I did like that the characters have a ton of customization options, but once the game started I just did not have a ton of fun. Add to this that the match disconnected a number of times, or other players failed to join, and the run I tried was a bit of a disaster.

Hopefully they can turn this around a wee bit, tighten the controls and net code, and find a way to get eyeballs on the game. If it is fast and smooth and can catch some attention this could be a great party game once it releases later on across all major platforms.

Big Boy Boxing

Big Boy Boxing caught my eye early as I am a huge fan of Punch Out! which has a very similar vibe. This is a single-player boss rush style game, meaning you battle against a crew of strange and tough boxers trying to win the championship.

No real story was shown in this demo, just a number of combatants I was presented with to battle. Choosing one I was immediately thrust into a fight with no controls, tactics or skills explained. Let’s just say I lost in seconds.

Figuring out the basic controls and learning patterns of the giant creature I was boxing, I eventually won. Then I tried a bunch of the other fighters. They all had some different tactics and styles, but I was able to get through most of them by ducking, weaving and timing hits carefully.

I did like the experience but found it quite shallow from a tactics perspective. In the demo I only had a couple of punch options (high/low), some dodges, and no block I could figure out. The full game seems to have some additional skills added to mix up the experience a bit.

I liked the art style and the crazy cast of characters a lot as well, but the lack of cohesive narrative in the demo made the experience a little jarring. There is potential here; hopefully developer Soupmasters can add some spark and special sauce to the game before making it available. No release date has been set, but there is a demo available on Steam.

Nintendo, Mountain Dew, Dunkin Donuts and Pokemon

PAX East is packed with booths. Most of them are terrific, have some games, some merch; others you just have to wonder why they are there at all. In the case of PAX East 2024 there were some odd, large booths that caught a lot of attention.

Dunkin’ Donuts, the pride of Boston, had a massive booth on the show floor, but instead of giving out donuts or coffee they had some random games, trivia and giveaways. At least these made people happy, and by the end of the conference so many people had those bucket hats, so I guess the booth was a success.

Mountain Dew, the drink of a generation of gamers, had zero licensed games and nothing to buy, but instead some simple games and a wheel to spin for prizes. The prize 99 times out of 100 was a cold bottle of Dew, but there were some major console and prize giveaways as well.

There was a bit of annoyance at Mountain Dew’s being there as their presence blocked longtime PAX drink partner Wild Bill’s Soda from attending. So Mountain Dew sold nothing, while Wild Bill’s couldn’t go at all, which led to a lot of sugar-deprived gamers.

Pokemon and Nintendo, two huge names, are linked together by massive licenses. Well, Pokemon had a huge booth with a play lab to explore and enjoy, while Nintendo also had a last-minute booth and, umm, demoed some Pokemon games.

It was so odd. I actually rushed to the booth, as the new Princess Peach game is launching soon, and was gobsmacked to see all they had was Pokemon Arceus, Scarlet, Violet and a Detective Pikachu game.

Both did have some interesting handouts and simple swag, but it was so odd to see Nintendo there in its own booth and just doing more Pokemon.

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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