Saturday , May 18 2024

PAX East 2024: Day Three – ‘Fretless,’ ‘Wizordum,’ and More

The one consistent fact about PAX East is that Saturday always sells out. This is the only full day (10am to midnight) that falls on a weekend so people flock to the BCEC to check out the show.

This means that the show floor is packed, panels are busier than normal, and good luck trying to eat at the food trucks without lining up for a while. Frankly I love it, as this is the day we see the most cosplays, the most families and the most excitement at PAX.

Saturdays also tend to be my busiest day as I am in the swing of things and ready to line up a whole bunch of appointments and wander some newer sections I may have missed. I also took some time to explore the tabletop area, as it’s at its busiest on Saturdays.

I had the chance to check out a bunch of games. The ones that stood out were Fretless, The Con, Wizordum, and the Turbo Overkill console preview. Once again, all vastly different experiences, but all very interesting in their own ways.

Fretless

Fretless pushed all my buttons. It’s a turn-based RPG set in a mythical musical world where the weapons are different type of guitars. This was made by musician Rob Scallon and has an amazing pixel art style, so the hype grew quickly.

Rob, a young up-and-coming musician, wants to join the battle of the bands. But evil Super Metal Records wants to prevent anyone else from controlling the music. This leads to Rob going out and challenging the members of Super Metal Records.

The demo showcased the turn-based combat, with special attacks that need button timing in a rhythm game, and different types of guitars. The acoustic and bass guitars were featured in the demo and can be upgraded with add-ons to change or improve skills.

The story was silly but entertaining and the music was well implemented. Although the demo was relatively short it gave me a good feel for the game’s options and expandability. The passion of the team behind it shone through and the lines of people checking it out were a nice thing to see.

Fretless was a very refreshing take on an established genre and one I am looking forward to seeing more of. It has no firm release date aside from 2024, but a demo is available on Steam and I strongly recommend checking it out.

The Big Con

A coming-of-age story set in the 1990s, The Big Con is a tale of a runaway con artist trying to find her way. This colorful and morally ambiguous game is bright and flashy and has more depth to it than first seems apparent.

The demo had me take lead character Ali around a typical ’90s mall as she scrambles to gather some money to leave town. This involves some careful pickpocketing, sneaking around to learn secrets, disguises, and of course conning people.

The hook is listening in on conversations or observing people to see what their needs and motivations are. Once a mark is understood, Ali can search around for what she needs to get as much money as possible out of them.

One of the more interesting little cons was listening in on a dad who needs to find a stuffed animal; he crumbles when his daughter cries. Through another series of cons Ali got the stuffed animal and sold it to the dad, but cried at the right moment to get more money out of him.

The game was fun to try out, and even after the requirements were met there was still tons to explore in the mall and additional small takes to try and get. The Big Con was fun and thanks to the art style and setting it felt more lighthearted than the subject matter would lead you to believe.

The Big Con is actually out right now on PC via Steam and Epic Games Store as well as PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo systems. Well worth checking out for a fun adventure in ’90s America.

Wizordum: Episode 2

Channeling ’90s classic Hexen but with a whimsical twist, Wizordum has been a big hit for Apogee, and Episode 2 is right around the corner. I had a chance to check it out and was pleasantly surprised with the new systems and fast-paced gameplay.

Set in a mystical world, Wizordum is a boomer shooter-style game that features spells over guns and plenty of secrets to discover. Playing through a few stages in Episode 2 you can see right away where the new systems pop up. Unfortunately the developer is keeping some of these new features secret for now, but will announce them soon.

One of the more striking features of the game, which is surprising given its retro nature, is the music. Fully orchestrated and adaptable to the situation (mellow as you’re exploring, more frantic during battles) the music was a highlight of the demo experience.

Bright, colorful, fast-paced and with a lot of variety of attacks and spells, Wizordum continues to be a great experience. Episode 1 is available via early access right now on Steam and Episode 2 is releasing “soon” according to the developer.

Turbo Overkill console version

Turbo Overkill released on PC some time ago and is an amazingly fun game that blends classic shooters with modern visuals and features. I had a chance to check out the game running on consoles (PS5 to be specific) and I was incredibly impressed with the work the team has done.

The game was already impressive, fast-paced, gritty and full of crazy weapons and action, but on console it just goes harder. Locked into a 60fps framerate (on Xbox and PS5, Switch will be 30fps) Turbo Overkill just looks and feels better on console.

Because of how the game was programmed the team had to re-write a vast majority of the code, which allowed them to improve lighting, resource allocation, frame rates, and overall speed of the reactions. This came across vividly as I checked out the game in a controlled space at PAX East.

The game itself is unchanged, but the feel of the action is undeniably better in this version. That’s great because Turbo Overkill is a game that moves at a breakneck pace. Enemies swarm the character, bullets and projectiles are flying everywhere, and traversal is as important as taking out the bad guys.

Coined as Blade Runner meets Doom the game features protagonist Johnny Turbo (groan) returning to his hometown, where the entire populace is possessed by Syn, a rogue AI, and its army of augmented minions.

Your tasks are to shut down the AI and battle other bounty hunters. Turbo Overkill is a blast to play with a ton of interesting weapons, all with alt-fire modes, and frantic traversal methods. The game itself is cool to look at, with cyberpunk-inspired visuals, and although the story is packed with clichés the gameplay itself makes the game well worth playing.

Turbo Overkill is available right now for PC via Steam, GoG and Epic Games Store, and will be available later this year for PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo formats.

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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