Another PAX Aus has now been and gone, so in an attempt to fight off the post-convention blues, I’ve written a little about the games that caught my attention this year. Obviously the PAX show floor is a wonderful magical land filled with more games than one person could possibly play in just one weekend (just like my Steam library of shame – haha, ha, hahaha…), so this is just a taste of what was on offer.

detroitbecomehuman

Detroit: Become Human

Developer: Quantic Dream
Platform: PS4

As a fan of Quantic Dream’s previous games, I was practically breaking down the doors to get to play this first thing Friday morning – and wow, what a start to PAX that was. In a world where humans and androids are now existing side-by-side (though not on equal footing), this demo threw you into the role of Connor, an android trained in hostage negotiation. As you can probably guess, Connor had been called to a crime scene to deal with a hostage situation involving a young girl and, to complicate matters, an android that is wrestling with some confusing emotions. Fighting against the clock, Connor has to investigate the crime scene to gather information that he can use to talk down the distressed android and save the child, all while dealing with prejudiced officers who offer begrudging help. From the moment the scene started and the words ‘EVERY SECOND COUNTS’ popped up dramatically at the top of the screen, everything was stressful and clearly high-stakes, but it was an emotional rollercoaster that I was definitely ready to be on. In the few days since PAX a new trailer has been released that features strong themes of domestic violence and child abuse, really driving home the fact that this game isn’t going to pull punches. It’s going to be an intense experience – perhaps too intense, but we can’t know until we finally get our hands on the whole thing. And damn, maybe I’m a sucker for pain, but I can’t wait.

sneaker

Sneaker

Developer: ThreeBeak
Platform: PC

Sneaker asked me whether or not I had ever wanted to throw a shoe at someone, and I answered with an enthusiastic yes. I was drawn to the fun cartoon style, but worried about the stealth aspect – stealth games have never been my thing. I’m terrible at them. I’m also terrible at first person games that require any kind of jumping, which Sneaker quickly threw into the mix. Luckily, it also boasts a useful mechanic for people like me who struggle with skill – the rewind button. According to the developers, this was a way of building on “save scumming”, or saving and then reloading, by letting you undo your mistakes in-game. Given how easy it is to accidentally be detected without knowing you were visible to enemies in games like this, it’s cool that ThreeBeak have included a way to test out the environment without worrying about messing up any progress! Also, you get to use shoes as weapons. What’s not to like?

winterswake

Winter’s Wake

Developer: Cheese
Platform: PC/Mac/Linux

Surely the award for ‘most eye-catching sign at PAX Aus’ would have to go to this game. Its clever use of the language of classic text adventures set it apart from the rest and instantly had me wanting to know more – and there was so much more to know. Not only is A Winter’s Wake an exercise in nostalgia, it’s also breaking new ground by being a ‘first-person text adventure’, blending the mechanics of first person exploration games and text-based storytelling to create a truly unique experience. You move through the environment by orienting yourself with a compass, with text indicating where you might need to turn to locate certain landmarks and investigate them further. Behind the text is a background that changes colour to match whatever you are ‘looking at’ in the scene, which adds a layer of visual depth to the experience. If you look up, you see a light blue sky, and looking down lets you see the ground and occasionally pick up items that can be useful for interacting with other scenes. This is one that I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on, and that truly has to be experienced to be understood. Though there’s only a short demo available now, this is already a fantasy story that’s more than piqued my interest.

patchword

PatchWord

Developer: Savage Yeti Games
Platform: Android/iOS

I didn’t expect to come away from PAX Aus with an addiction to a new word game, and yet here we are. PatchWord presents the player with a 5×5 grid of letters of two different colours, and gives them the challenge of changing all the letters to the same colour. It sounds simple, but only letters of the same colour can be used to make any given word, and there’s a whole lot of switching back and forth of letter-colours that goes on. As well as testing vocabulary it absolutely tests your ability to strategise, and when you are a perfectionist at these kinds of things (like I am) you can find yourself staring for minutes at the same letters in an attempt to create the perfect word (that absolutely doesn’t exist). There are modes that let you challenge your friends, modes that let you do things at your own pace, and other modes to come. I do acknowledge that word games aren’t for everyone, but if you’re a giant word nerd like me then you might find the same amount of joy in this as I did. Well, do. I immediately downloaded this game and haven’t been able to stop playing. Send help.

rainbowreef

Rainbow Reef

Developer: Chaos Theory Games/AFK Agency
Platform: Android/iOS

Games have such potential to tackle real world issues – we all know that. But every year a game shows up that reminds me of just how cool the ways in which we communicate these issues can be. This year it was Rainbow Reef, a reef simulation game that subtly teaches you about the symbiotic relationships between the different organisms in a coral reef – and looks gorgeous doing it! Your coral will collect sun that you can then use to build your reef and attract exciting new underwater friends. It’s kind of like Viva Pinata in mobile form, only your residents won’t eat each other. The developers have said that there are a few different directions they could take as they develop the title, some of which involve partnering with environmentally-focused charities or not-for-profits. If this is you and you want to support something that could educate people on one of the most urgent issues on the planet at the moment, there’s even more reason for you to check this gem out and get in touch!

About The Author

Jess is a psychology researcher by day and is determined to find a way to merge her gaming and professional lives. She loves point-and-click adventures, games with strong narratives, and her love of puzzles in all forms has actually caused her to use the phrase “that reminds me of a puzzle” whilst in a furniture store. She can generally be found on Twitter @zammitjess talking about games, feelings, and her life as an anxious mess.