With the layout of the expos now sussed out, Day Two of PAX Aus gave me a chance to experience a lot more games than yesterday, with a schedule devoted more to free play than anything else. There were indie games, triple-A titles, and my first batch of virtual reality experiences.
Created by indie team Frogshark, this couch multiplayer brawler offers a unique take on melee combat. Swordy is a physics-based game where players must pick up a weapon inside an arena and, using the right analog stick, continuously swing the weapon to create the momentum required for massive damage. The blocky level design works well, as a well-timed strike results in cubic streams of blood pouring from enemy players. Keeping your weapon stationary will block an incoming assault but also has the potential to leave you defenceless depending on the force behind a strike. But there’s also an environmental part to the game, as your warriors can interact with pits of fire for additional damage to their swords or hammers – it is quite amusing watching all players avoiding the one with the giant flame-lit blade.
This fun little game was a real surprise for me. In the floor demo that was available, this multiplayer game pitted one player against three friends. You can play as clowns, ring masters, witches, as well as a bunch of other zany characters. The three brave souls must dodge incoming projectiles, such as beach balls and dodge balls, sent down by the ‘gunner’ at the top of a long, steep flight of stairs. There is a hilarious soundtrack that is used throughout these encounters and at no point did a defeatist mentality enter my train of thought; the whole experience was really fun.
Playing climbing up the stairs allowed you to quickly dodge incoming balls, as well as trip any player within a close enough vicinity. The game will also introduce a ‘Three-Legged Race’-type mode where three allies must co-ordinate themselves and move in the same direction to avoid similar obstacles from the gunner; it’s a definite friendship killer.
Just Cause 3 Showcase
In all honesty, it was just refreshing to see people who worked so closely with a game having such a good time – during a live demo, no less. Anything can happen and with mass amounts of audience participation, our thirst for gameplay was well and truly quenched with the Just Cause 3 panel. Roland Lesterland and Omar Shakir, both from Avalanche Studios, took us on an epic ride of tethers, explosions and plenty of ways to traverse the vast landscape in the game.
Rico, the game’s playable character, has heaps of gadgets at his disposal. These served more than one purpose, and Omar exercised these with effective comedic value. Strapping the heads of NPCs to their feet, firing the head of a monument between two church spires and even attaching a motorbike to a jet whilst trying to sit on the bike were all very entertaining. Gamers were also treated to a sneak peek of a story mission from the game, whilst showing off an armoured military vehicle known as an APC.
I was relatively unfamiliar with the Just Cause franchise but the mild hilarity and mass sandbox style of the game wasn’t enough to win me over – even if the explosions were top-notch.
Of the spare time I had, Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash and Tri-Force Heroes were of particular interest. Despite my enthusiasm, I was unimpressed by both offerings from Nintendo.
With Mario Tennis, a large mushroom power up would float on a player’s half of the court. After using that item, the player grew to an exponential size and took up an overwhelming amount of space on their side. They would rush to the net and obscure the opponent’s view of incoming shots and additional shot bonuses in the form of hovering circles; executing a passing shot was near impossible. In the grand scheme of things it doesn’t seem like a whole lot, but it was enough to make me stop playing the game and realise that Mario Tennis has actually gone backwards since the days of the Nintendo 64.
Tri-Force Heroes, on the other hand, was something quite different. The game sells itself as a single player/co-op game when, in reality, the latter only really applies. The three-player system works very well, as four people definitely would’ve overcrowded the levels in the game. Three players simply have to be in the same room, unless one player is experienced enough to guide two newcomers through online play, as the communication through simple e-mote stickers is too limited and vague. It’s currently available now, so there are already reviews out there. You be the judge if it’s right for you, but it didn’t do enough to keep my interest.
This one was a bit tricky. On the one hand, you’ve got got this charming game about guiding a customisable marble through a series of wondrous elemental lands; it’s quite pretty. Then, on the other, you’ve got VR support that comes out of left-field.
After using the Oculus Rift during a couple of rounds, it was about five or so minutes later I began to feel the effects of the device’s integration. Contrary to most titles at the show incorporating VR, Marble Mountain automatically controls camera angles – resulting in a few queazy moments. One instance was where the marble would roll down a steep hill and, instead of being able to control the speed of the ball, the camera was ghosting the ball every time. This is a nice, relaxing game but integrating it with virtual reality is unnecessary and makes for an ultimately unpleasant experience.
Stay tuned for more PAX Aus interviews and impressions as Power Up Gaming wraps the expo with Day 3 coverage very soon.