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PAX East 2013: Indie Roundup

By
Posted on March 28, 2013 AT 12:13pm

In the midst of all the craziness that was PAX East 2013, one of the truly amazing things to see on the show floor is the abundance of playable demos of upcoming games from indie developers.  Here are a few of the indie games I was able to get some hands on time with over the weekend:

Secret Ponchos (Switchblade Monkeys)

Secret Ponchos is a new multiplayer Spaghetti Western shooter from Switchblade Monkeys. Players take control of their very own customizable outlaw as they battle in 1-on-1, free for all, or gang fights featuring up to eight players. The stylized, cartoony art added much appreciated character to an already solid and addicting shooter. Instead of showing a reticule onscreen, Switchblade Monkeys kept the interface clean by using a shadows to show the direction and range of a character’s equipped weapon. My chosen outlaw was Gordo, a bearded brute who wields a Gatling Gun and plods around the environment a bit quicker than you would expect for someone with a wooden leg. The simplicity of the control scheme was easy to pick up and each character featured their own set of weapons and abilities that felt very well balanced across the board.

Secret Ponchos is planned for release later this year on XBox Live and PSN. For more information be sure to visit www.secretponchos.com.

Charlie Murder (Ska Studios)

The creators of The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai are at it again with their newest title Charlie Murder. In Charlie Murder, up to four players take control of a metal band as they punch, kick, and eviscerate their way through hordes of the undead. Players can use their instruments to unleash powerful magic attacks or team up with their bandmates to combine forces in over-the-top cooperative attacks. As players progress through the game they will collect experience to level up their magic attacks and clothing to increase their stats and style. Players can even battle one another is competitive battle arenas to see who’s the most metal of all. My hands on time with the game was frustratingly short but extremely enjoyable as I experienced the addictive gameplay and wicked sense of humor that Ska Studios is known for. Charlie Murder is in a very early playable form and has no set release date.

For more information be sure to visit ska-studios.com.

Beat Buddy (Threaks)

One interesting game the deserves the attention of fans of the rhythm genre is Beat Buddy. In this undersea adventure game, players take control of the titular Beat Buddy as he navigates his was through mazes full of sea creatures and other aquatic dangers. Each level in Beat Buddy is set to a pulsing soundtrack that changes based on what a player is doing within the level.

The demo level I played started with a simple drum and bass track that added a few instruments as I began to venture further. At one point my path was blocked by the legs of a group of large hermit crabs. By hitting a nearby clam, the hermit crabs retracted their legs and opened up a clear path for me to get the Beat Buddy through. While the path was clear most of the soundtrack dropped out and slowly built up to a loud crescendo as the hermit crabs extended their legs just after I passed by. Other areas were filled moving groups of small, round sea creatures. Beat Buddy fit in small gap in the group and I had to move in time to the soundtrack to make sure he would not be harmed. My demo ended after venturing deep into the coral reef and using dynamite to open a path to another area. Gamers will appreciate the relaxed exploration and puzzle based game play almost as much as the colorful levels and pulsing soundtrack.

A free demo for Beat Buddy is available on Steam with no official date set for the full retail release. For more information be sure to visit beatbuddy.com.

GunCraft (Exato Games)

One of the more interesting games I was able to get some hands on time with at PAX was Exato Games’ Minecraft/FPS hybrid, GunCraft. Now in open beta form GunCraft allows players to jump into blocky, pixelated environments to battle others and destroy the environment. Fragging enemies and destroying the environment gives each player money which they can spend on materials to build structures in game. Building is quick and easy with materials ranging from balsa wood to steel. The balsa wood may be cheap but doesn’t last vey long when exposed to gunfire. Steel is extremely expensive, but a few well placed steel blocks are more than enough to block the entrance to a room from all but the most powerful explosives.

A class and perk system is also in place so players will be able to balance their weapon loadouts with skills like faster building or purchasing materials for a lower cost. Weapons and perks will be completely customizable and Minecraft players will even be able to import their own crated levels into GunCraft. The open beta is completely free so be sure to visit exatogames.com/guncraft to download the beta and pre-order the finished game. 

Ascend: New Gods (Signal Studios)

The newest game from Signal Studios, creators of the Toy Soldiers series, is Ascend: New Gods. In Ascend players take control of a giant deity and pledge their allegiance to the forces of Light, Dark, or the Void. Players can outfit their chosen god with an abundant selection of weapons and armor and even level up their weapons by killing enemies and collecting souls. Each god does have access to a variety of magic attacks that differ depending on what faction they pledge their allegiance to.

After giving my god a mighty mohawk, chain mail armor, and equipping him with a humongous claymore, I pledged my allegiance to the lords of Light which gave me access to lightning based magic and healing spells. As I made my way past the short tutorial area I battled a pair of fast moving but weak demons. After smiting the demons I traveled to the next area where I found a small village of people. Being at least 10 times larger than any of the humans in the village, they cowered in fear as I trudged along. In the middle of the village was an altar where the villagers placed a human sacrifice. After accepting the villagers’ offer, they hailed me as their god. From here I could summon the villagers and bring them into battle with me….and when I say bring them into battle, I mean they literally crawled on my back and shoulders and rode me like one of the giants in Shadow of the Colossus.

In the next area I came to another village which had pledged their allegiance to a dark god. My minions jumped off and a battle between both factions ensued. In the midst of the chaos I was able to pick up humans from the other faction and eat them for health or throw them across the level. After the chaos dies down I moved to another area where I saw the ghost outlines of other players in the area. Here is where Ascend: New Gods became especially interesting. While Ascend is a multiplayer game, friends and foes do not enter your game directly. From within their game, other players can send curses and blessings to you which range from buffing your attacks to sending enemies from their game to ambush you. In one area a player sent me a rage blessing which enhanced the power of my melee attacks for a short time. Throughout the demo I gained XP and equipped new armor and weapons from chests littered about the level.

Once a player has had their fill of their chosen god they can have their god ascend and start a new character. All gods that a player sends to ascension become controlled by the game AI and randomly enter other players games to cause mayhem. Any kills earned by a players’ ascended god earns XP for their current god, so waiting until a god is extremely powerful is usually the best option.

Ascend: New Gods is currently hosting a closed beta on Xbox Live and PC. To sign up for the beta and to keep up on the latest information, please visit ascendgame.com.

SwimSanity (Decoy Games)

One of the most popular indie multiplayer experiences I found on the show floor was SwimSanity, the inaugural project for Decoy Games. In SwimSanity players take control of an undersea soldier as they battle mutated marine life or other players in the games’ cooperative and competitive modes.

After selecting from one of four powerful special attacks called Unleashes I was transported to an underwater arena where I competed against three other players in in SwimSanity’s version of capture the flag. Using the right stick I was able to aim my underwater blaster and fire off about five or six shots before I had to let the weapon recharge. The game was suitably quick and especially hectic when one player built up their special meter and activated their chosen Unleash. One unleash put a player in control of a powerful mechanized piranha while another rained harpoons down upon the arena to damage anyone unlucky enough to be hit by one.

After three flag captures we were shown one of SwimSanity’s cooperative modes. In this mode, fours players are pitted against waves of increasingly difficult enemies to see how long they can last. Each player starts with three lives and can collect powerups and different weapons to help in battle. My group lasted about 10 waves before one of our group members exhausted all of their lives. The rest of us lasted until wave 14. When I asked one of the developers how other groups have fared they informed me that one group had already reached wave 22 that day and another group had reached wave 25 the previous day.

While my time with SwimSanity was short I can already see how fun and addictive it will be when Decoy finally sets a release date. For more information please visit decoygames.com.

 

James is a complete gaming geek that moonlights as a guitar player for local Miami rock band phoenix/NEBULIN. When he's not rocking out onstage he can be found on PSN and Xbox Live as Anxiety83. You can also follow James on Twitter @anxiety83




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