For the fourth year in a row, developers, journalists and gamers travelled across Australia to Melbourne for PAX Australia, the largest video game convention on our wonderful and large continent. We all gather to check out the latest offerings from the giants of the industry such as Nintendo and Ubisoft, to learn from the leaders in our fields in packed panels rooms and to celebrate our love for games. But most importantly, it’s a chance for gamers from around Australia to get a taste for our local indie games scene, and a chance for indie developers to show off their games to the public.
It’s such a big part of PAX Australia that there is a whole section of the main show floor dedicated to Aussie and New Zealand indie developers and their games, called ‘PAX Rising’. I’d be lying if I said my favourite part of PAX Aus wasn’t roaming PAX Rising, talking to developers about their games and having an opportunity to play incredibly unique and often fantastic indie games. Many of which are being shown for the first time! So, after trying out dozens of new indie ventures, here are five of my favourite indie games from PAX Aus 2016.
The Adventure Pals, “A story of love, giraffes and hot dogs”, is a platformer which will draw you in with its gorgeous, vibrant art style and silly, joyful animations, but will keep you around for its witty humour and addictive gameplay,
One of the games selected as part of the PAX Aus 2016 Indie Showcase, which highlights the best of the Australian and New Zealand Indie scene. The Adventure Pals is an indie which caught my eye instantly while wondering through PAX Rising, and a few minutes into the demo proved why it deserved to be a part of the showcase. The story, although light in content, is punny at every turn, but doesn’t take away the spotlight from the fast, fun and tight gameplay, which can be enjoyed with a friend through local co-op!
It has the charm and kid-like silliness of Adventure time, and the fun and addictive platforming of games I grew up playing. And the animations of the Giraffe! It seriously makes the game 50% funnier and better when your pet Giraffe is involved in the gameplay, which is thankfully, a majority of the time.
With the game recently Kickstarted and now featured as part of the Indie Showcase, it’s obvious there is a lot of faith already in The Adventure Pals. And if you’re a platformer/action/adventure fan, it’s a title worth keeping an eye out for in the lead up to its release early next year. But don’t just take my word for it, heck out the demo online right now.
Swordy, a local party brawler from New Zealand dev team Frogshark, was the only game which I played at both PAX Aus 2015, and 2016. And both times were an absolute bundle of fun. The booth was constantly filled with screams of triumph and frustration, as myself and strangers on the showroom floor whacked each other with swords, spears, shields, in what has to be, one of my favourite indie brawlers I’ve ever played.
Although the premise is simple, hitting each other with weapons until you kill each other and reach an assigned score, it’s executed incredibly well. With satisfying action and simple controls, which anyone can pick up and play, and have a good time on the spot. And the strong emphasis on its physics-based chaotic action makes for a silly, ridiculous, and fun time with friends.
Although the core gameplay itself doesn’t seem to have changed much since I saw it last year, the development team has been plenty busy, with Swordy being Greenlit and now in open access on Steam. And with the FrogShark team having already added a ton of content since it entered early access (large amount being single player content as well!), Swordy looks set to be the next local co-op indie hit. Regardless, I know I’m going to have plenty of long nights filled with swinging my sword around a ridiculous amount, and pushing my friends off cliffs.
Paradigm has a lot of similarities with The Adventure Pals. It was an indie showcase winner at this year’s PAX Aus, had a successful Kickstarter (back in 2014) and is damn funny. Actually, the similarities end there, as Paradigm was in fact the weirdest and strangest game I played at PAX Aus. And, one of the best.
You play as Paradigm, a horribly mutated chap who was dumped in a Neo-Soviet town as a child, and now as an adult, dreams of becoming the best electronic artist in the world. Created almost entirely by Jacob Janerka, a developer based in Perth, Paradigm is a point and click adventure game where every line is a pun and where every endeavour inevitably leads to odd encounters and silly discoveries.
Paradigm is special, very special. A game which is so deep inside itself, it doesn’t even know what is going on anymore, and it’s fantastic. I was laughing the whole way through, looking like a maniac who hadn’t slept the whole Melbourne International Games Week (somewhat true).
Inspired by Eastern Europe, the 70s and 80s, it’s a ridiculous tale, filled with strange characters and locations, and an even stranger premise, but one which had me immediately wanting more after finishing the demo. And the minigames! You a haven’t seen weird and wonderful combined so well until you… well, just play the game when it comes out in January and you’ll get it.
One of the many games at PAX Rising which I had never heard of before until I sat down to play it. Kieru stood out amongst the crowds and dubstep of the main hall, with its unique premise and fast paced gameplay.
With a simple art style of just black, white and red (blood), Kieru is a first person multiplayer stealth game, which uses a minimalist approach to game design and art, to create an intense, high paced game of death. You play as either a white or black ninja, and when I mean white or black, I mean literally your entire body, clothes skin, weapons, etc. And the world is entirely white or black, meaning %50 of the time, you’ll most likely be completely invisible to your opponents. It’s a simple premise, which was instantly a joy to pick up and play, as I sliced my opponents up in a deadly game of cat and mouse.
However, Kieru requires precision, skill, and a good amount of luck in order to outsmart your opponents and come out on top. Playing it for the first time, it was easy to pick up and have some fun messing around, as everyone often missed each other with their ninja stars or sword swipes. But I could instantly feel there was depth to the gameplay and the game overall. It’s obvious there is potential for plenty of tactics and teamwork.
Coming from one of the six Canberra developers showing off games at PAX Aus 2016, Pine Fire Studios have a gem on their hands, and I can see myself having a ton of fun just mucking around with friends online. And although it’s unlikely I would personally ever reach a high level of skill in Kieru, I can’t wait to see pro players and teams battle each other in this monochrome world of death.
Giant Margarita made headlines when it released Party Golf back in October, as it’s the first Tasmanian game to be released on the PlayStation 4. And is the party game you didn’t know you needed in your life.
Addictive, frustrating, nail biting and fun, Party Golf had me hooked the moment I started playing. A 2D local multiplayer golf game, which seems stupidly simple at first, quickly makes Borderlands’ number of gun variations seem cute. Every level is procedurally generated, meaning every time you play there is a new challenge. But this just the start of the craziness and randomness you’ll experience while playing this delightful Tasmania developed title.
There are over 300 customisable settings, including power ups, checkpoints, obstacles, gravity, weight and many, many more. Heck, you can play as bananas instead of actual golf balls. So you can go crazy with the ridiculous amount of variations each time you have friends over. And there is even a bleeding mobile companion app which can be used to mess with a game while in progress!
My time with Party Golf was short, and I only got a small taste of what this incredibly fun and crazy game has to offer, but you can be sure I’ll be back for more. It’s already out on PS4 and Steam, so if you are looking for a new local party game to play with up to eight friends (yes eight!), Party Golf deserves to be on your wishlist this Christmas.
Did you get a chance to go to PAX Aus 2016 and check out the PAX Rising area? If so what where some of your favourite indies you played? Let us know in the comments!