Day three of PAX Aus 2016 brings us to the final stretch and one last chance to play around with some of the titles that may have otherwise been overlooked. We were on our last legs, but it was time for one last push of gaming enthusiasm. Here are the highlights of our third and final day at PAX Aus:
BrambleLash is a colourful indie game from an Australian developer called ByteSprite. It incorporates an Adventure mode for its main use of co-operative play, where two players are connected by a sparkling tether and must eliminate enemies in order to progress. BrambleLash also has an all-out player against player Versus mode for up to four people. You can use your tether, which is connected to a faint ghost-like creature, to your advantage or tether yourself to other players against their will. In Versus, it’s all about scoring points instead of the level progression seen in the Adventure mode, and things can become heated quite quickly.
There’s the AI enemies to consider, too. Where Adventure mode will have players battling against the goons of the Slime King, Versus throws in these enemies with little warning as various coloured projectiles scoot across the screen. During my time with the game, coloured flowers also spawned on screen, signifying different abilities, like quicker overall movement or teleporting your sprite more swiftly.
My only criticism of the game is that Versus mode doesn’t have a countdown timer, creating long rounds where a player must reach the point limit to end the match. A clock would add that little bit more urgency by awarding wins regardless of whether the desired points total was reached or not. ByteSprite is aiming for a February, 2017 release date for BrambleLash on PC and Xbox One – PS4 isn’t out of the question, either.
Raw Data is a VR game, currently in early access on Steam, from Los Angeles-based team, Survios. It was also the longest time I’d waited to play a game for entirety of PAX Aus 2016.
I had no idea what the game was about beforehand, but the gameplay shown from nearby television screens had me intrigued. An electric katana-wielding sci-fi ninja slicing through futuristic robots seemed like a fairly outlandish concept, but one I was keen to experience in the realm of virtual reality. When thrown into Raw Data for the first time, though, I experienced something quite different and unexpected. It was a “wave-based mode” where myself and a fellow combatant on another headset had to shoot up as many robotic foot soldiers and overhead sentries as possible.
Compatible with the HTC Vive, Raw Data was all about tactical positioning using Survios’ unique head-tracking technology. With a good use of space and an impressive camera setup, Raw Data tracks your head movements to simulate a realistic positioning in-game. For instance, lowering my head behind an in-game desk that pops up or standing side-on behind an in-game pillar are great options for avoiding incoming enemy fire.
While the left Vive controller was mainly used for quick teleporting around the area, the right controller was for abilities, which were problematic and never activated for me. Holding down the weapon trigger buttons released a charged shot, but bringing the two controllers together with the same motion activated a super charged-shot similar to a fireball.
Unfortunately, I left Raw Data scratching my head. I was anticipating being thrown into a story mission or single player stealth section but instead was presented with some unfulfilling waves of robotic adversaries.
Fruit Ninja VR
Fruit Ninja VR was, quite simply, fun. I was presented with a setting similar to Japan or China and was soon thrown right into the kind of fruit-cutting chaos you would expect.
As per Fruits Ninja’s style, everything starts off relatively slowly. A maximum of three fruits appear at once just to test you out and, without warning, groups of four and five hastily launch from each side of the screen. You can cut each fruit individually but executing a ‘group cut’ will reward you with more points and a bonus time extension on your round. The added dual-wielding aspect to the gameplay makes everything pretty hectic, too.
I was told more customisation is on the way for Fruit Ninja VR. With more dual-wielding weapons and locations in the works, the addition in-game avatars may also be a possibility – that is, the ability of look around at your arms and legs, for instance, and see a Samurai outfit.
Fruit Ninja VR is also coming soon to the Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR programmes.
I approached this final booth on a whim, due to the sheer number of people swarming its singular screen. I’m glad I did, because Hyper Jam turned to be pretty damn fun.
From Australian indie team Bit Dragon, Hyper Jam is a local multiplayer brawler that uses stackable round-by-round power ups as its main gameplay mechanic. The ultimate aim is to reach a certain score through kills and consistent survival and be the sole survivor of that ‘match point round’ to claim victory.
After every round players pick from a selection of perks and the player who finished last in the previous round chooses first. The same power-up can appear every round and it’s really important to make a mental note of which players have what perk in order to limit its potency on their character; it’s an entertaining game, that’s for sure. Each individual perk becomes increasingly more powerful approaching the latter stages, such as a 30 percent chance for attacks to light other players on fire or a 20 percent increase in movement speed. Add this to a couple of rounds of selecting the same perk and your incendiary damage chance could be as high as 80 percent.
An impressive spread of melee and ranged weapons drop randomly around the battlefield and it’s up to players to navigate their character with the left stick, while aiming weapons with the right stick, causing disorientation at times. Dead players can still decide the outcome of a round by dropping mortar strikes on unaware survivors. There was a really great atmosphere around this booth, particularly during a one-on-one “Sudden Death” face-off where a red and black “Insta-death Field” engulfed the level with mortars coming in at alarmingly frequent rates; it’s tense and addictive and commendable game design.
Once again, PAX Aus has been a pleasure to cover. But there were undoubtedly a few things missing that made 2016’s show a little less memorable than last year’s.
While it’s great to see so many discussion panels filled to the brim, the only mainstream developer panel of any note was that of Dishonored 2. Last year PAX Aus had Just Cause 3, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and Uncharted 4, to name a few.
There was also high-value real estate taken up by games that had already been released, like Gears of War 4 and Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2. I would have loved to play a demo of Yooka-Laylee or even seen Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare have a presence at this year’s show – it would have been something new that I hadn’t previously seen.
Still, while the triple-A’s were a bit of a letdown, the independent teams at the PAX Pavilion pulled through with flying colours. They’re a big part of the industry and it’s marvellous to see so many creative minds out there making so many different kinds of games.
You’ve been great PAX Aus, and we hope to be there again next year!