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Huh? Harvesting the planet? None of my business *turns on hose*
It has been said (by me) that a lot of games journalists are generalists in terms of what we play, especially if we're talking about people who are staffers at an outlet, or have ever worked in guides. Though we all have stuff we prefer, or series that we serve as the go-to expert on for in-house needs (I think vid bud Liam might actually walk around wearing an ASK ME ABOUT RESIDENT EVIL badge in his day-to-day life), we - unlike the blue-haired neo-Gods of streaming - often can't focus on one game all of the time. You have to know enough about enough to be able to write about enough.
There are, however, a bunch of big important games that I haven't played. Sometimes it's because a bunch of other people have, so that gap in the site's knowledge is already plugged (and I do always make sure to be aware of their impact and basic facts). Other times, they might be games that I'm not really interested in playing, either because they're not my genre or they seem too overwrought. Or, in some cases, it's because everyone says they're really good and I have to try them, though I've been burned before on this method (you people said the same about Ready Player One). But you know what would make me take in info about these games, even if it's just by osmosis? If they all got PowerWash Sim DLCs.
Imagine for a moment, if you will, that Persona 5 let you suplex your opponents. Even better, imagine if those moves were pulled off through timing based minigames that resembled the battles found in Nintendo's excellent (and underrated) Mario & Luigi RPG series. Sounds good, right? Well guess what, that game exists! It's called Wrestle Story and it's definitely a project to keep an eye on.
After spending twenty glorious minutes with its colourful demo at PAX East, I was keen to chat to creative director Steve Jimenez about the team's inspirations, the challenges of translating wrestling into a turn-based RPG and the exciting locations that players will attempt to liberate from a group of devious heels.
Friend or foe?
Earlier in the week, Liam and I had the opportunity to chat with Animal Well's solo developer and publisher Bigmode about creating their eerie subterranean world. We then had a chance to go hands on with the PAX East demo, and wow, we were both incredibly impressed. Watch the video below for our enthusiastic impressions:
If we could give an RPS 'Bestest Best in show' award to a game, is would be Animal Well. Liam and I loved the game's dense atmosphere, spider-web of interconnected caverns, and creepy creatures that lurk in the dark. We also loves the effects the game has, which reminded Liam of Octopath Traveler's visual flairs. If I had to compare it to one game, it would be Hollow Knight, which is very exciting.
We have plenty more PAX East indies for you to check out so make sure you have a peruse through our RPS@PAX tag. A couple of our favourites have been chaotic rouguelite Pizza Possum, Resident Evil-like Alone In The Dark, and island exploration game Mythwrecked.
Time to eat
Show me a game about a feral, furry creature with a never ending hunger for junk food and I'm immediately interested. I played Pizza Possum on the first day of PAX and knew it would make a great indie highlight for our time here at PAX East. Liam and I have now both played the demo and you can listen to our impressions in the video below:
What really appealed to us about Pizza Possum is how chaotic it is. It's like Untitled Goose Game but at double the speed. Playing the eponymous possum, you need you scamper around a sunny Mediterranean town scoffing as much food as you can get your grubby mitts on.
There's an element of hide-and-seek too, as there are patrol dogs who will try and stop your food eating rampage, but you can quickly jump into a berry bush to thorw them off your scent. It's goofy fun, and we're completeley smitten with it.
3, 2, 1, FIGHT!
Liam and I had a fun time chatting with the folks over at Mega Cat Studios about their upcoming wrestling RPG WrestleQuest last year at PAX West, and this time at PAX East we finally cornered them in the ring for a proper interview.
Watch below to learn about how the developers created their zero to hero story, how they're addressing myths and persaonl issues in the world of pro wresting, as well as sharing a story about how one of the team got their nose broken in a wrestling accident during development.
My main take away from the interview is how much of the RPG incorporates all aspects of Wrestling, not just the ring fights we see on TV. Another interesting thing is that Mega Cat reached out to a handful of real-life wrestlers to ask their permission to use their likeness in the game - not an easy feat to secure, I'm sure.
World's worst boss
I've played a bunch of indie game demos at PAX East, but none left my head reeling as much as 43 Studios' fiendishly frantic action platfotmer Hell Of An Office. It's a super fast parkour adventure in the vein of Neon White, and after ten minutes with the demo my heart race was through the roof. If I owned a fitbit it would have been screaming at me to have a nice sit down with a cuppa. Check out my full impressions in the video below:
Hell Of An Office puts your platforming reflexes to the test as you're tasked with sprinting ad jumping your way straight outta hell. With only a stapler as your means of survival, you need to navigate through each level before it slowly sinks into the burning lava. React quickly, or fall victim to Hell's scorching pools.
If you love the blood-pumping, sweaty palm inducing action-platforming of Neon White, make sure to keep an eye on Hell Of An Office as it makes it's way through Early Access.
A sun-drenched vacation
I really enjoyed dark fantasy adventure Roki when it first released back in 2020, and keen to see what developers Polygon Treehouse have gotten up to since, I jumped at the opportunity to play the PAX East demo for Mythwrecked: Ambrosia Island. You can watch my impressions of the demo in the video below:
In Mythwrecked you play as Alex, a backpacker who has washed up on the sun-drenched shores of Ambrosia Island. As she begins exploring, she soon realises that this island seems to be a hot spot for the gods from ancient Greek myths. Your task is to befriend each god, help them restore their memories, and find a way back to civilisation.
From playing the demo, you can see much of what made Roki fun reflected in Mythwrecked. The environments are interesting to poke around in, puzzles are breezy brain ticklers, and it has Polygon Treehouse's sense of humour. Each Greek god has a humerous twist on their lore, and during the demo I had a fun time chatting with Hermes, who is dressed in nothing more than a pair of skimpy white speedos and a matching white sweat band - a bold choice of attire.
Cute but deadly
Out of all the game demos Liam and I have played at PAX East, we both agree that Animal Well is something special. It's a 2D metriodvania where you play as a little blob trying to navigate a subtterranean labyrinth filled with creatures - some cute, some not so cute.
To find out more about this strange puzzle platformer's beginnings and development, we spoke to solo develeoper Billy Basso and Bigmode's Leah Gastrow which you can view in the two videos below.
You can watch me interview Billy here:
Liam played the prequel story demo of Pieces Interactive's psychological horror
Join us for another PAX East game highlight straight from the show floor, and this time we decided to revisit a cult horror classic: Alone In The Dark. This psychological horror is being developed by Pieces Interactive with publishing backing from THQ Nordic and is a love letter to the original game released back in the 90s.
As someone who had played the original, and RPS' Resident Evil uber fan, Liam decided to check out the demo and you can hear his impressions in the video below:
According to the devs at the THQ booth, this demo is a stand-alone prequel story that will not be in the final game, but shares the same eerie atmosphere and action that'll be in the main game. This reimagining is set in the Gothic American south and in the main game you'll be playing as Edward Carnby or Emily Hartwood as they navigate the monster infested Derceto Manor, the same mansion featured in the demo.
Sad teens making sad music
We've had our eyes on Goodbye Volcano High since it appeared in Sony's State Of Play back in February and the demo at PAX East is one of the first times that the devs have placed a game preview in the hands of eager players. I had the chance to sit down with the demo and play KO_OP's teen dino adventure first hand. Check out the video below if you're interested to know what I thought:
Goodbye Volcano High follows a group of teen dinos as they begin their senior year of highschool. It's part coming-of-age visual novel part rhythm game as the group try to grapple with school while also trying to make it big as up-and-coming musicians.
I had a great time with the demo, and it looks like we won't have to wait long for the full release at Goodbye Volcano High is launching on Steam and PlayStation on June 15th.
A robot dinosaur, a giant treehouse, and more
It's almost become an RPS tradition to search the show floor at PAX events and find the coolest stuff and highlight it in a video, so that's exactly what we've done at PAX East. There's a lot of cool booths, fun props, and generally weird stuff to see, so we've chosen our absolute favourites and have listed them in video form for your viewing pleasure.
Everything at PAX East is situated in one massive hall (instead of PAX West's multiple floors, rooms, and buildings) so it's nice and easy to see everything in one or two loops. It doesn't feel cramped at all, even with Friday's busy crowds, and the booths are as spectacular as ever.
Some of our favourites included Devolver Digital's movie theatre-inspired booth, which has the new addition of a candle-lit shrine for Cult Of The Lamb's upcoming free expansion Relics Of The Old Faith. We also loved Ysbryd Games' Demonschool booth which had a school desk layout and cool retro TV. Another favourite was the animated robot dinosaur (complete with rideable saddle) that we found at the Roots Of Pacha demo builds.
I can't remember if I've already banged on about what a terrible, unhelpful term "metroidvania" is, so let's skip past to say that Angel's Gear reminds me of the one Castlevania game I've ever played.
It's partly the tone: a compelling blend of gothic and biomechanical horror, with a 90s game boy goriness that's cartoony enough to feel colourful rather than repulsive. "Camp" isn't the right word, but a hint of melodrama gives the story severity without self-seriousness. I mean, within the first minute of the game, your soldier goes from a terrified Normandy-style amphibious assault on a fortified metal church to seeing their war made irrelevant when the moon explodes. The whole thing is kind of metal, to be honest.
Our first indie highlight from the show floor
It's day one of PAX East and what better way to kick off our show coverage than highlighting a great indie game! We first came across Demonschool back at PAX West last year and have loved it ever since. It's a slick, tactical Persona-like where you play as a band of university students navigating school life by day and beating up ghosties and ghoulies by night.
I had a chat with Demonschool's Jenna Stoeber who talked me through what Demonschool is about, the game's many horror inspirations, and what spooky shinanigans players can expect. If the giant skeleton lad in the game's trailer and demo is anything to go by, we're in for a treat. You can watch the full interview by watching the video below:
If you've haven't yet, set your peepers on Demonschool's slick trailer to see what demon hunter Faye and her gang of misfits are up against. There's no concrete release date, but like Jenna said, Demonschool should be out sometime in 2023 with a playable demo available in May.
We've got plenty more interviews, demos, and highlights lined up for the rest of the week and you can find all our PAX East coverage by checking out our RPS@PAX tag.
It's better than it sounds
Exciting times! Liam and I have wrapped Inventory Space episode two, in which we documented several weeks of us returning to Bungie’s live service behemoth Destiny 2. We found it to be an FPS delight, but one that’s wrapped in a taxing MMO.
One thing I can’t stop thinking about are the game’s piss-coloured walls. They appear right at the beginning of the game’s latest expansion Lightfall and I genuinely believe they summarise Destiny perfectly.
Home on the range
I rarely enjoy adventure games, and in fact resent them for pinning that term for a genre that almost never feels adventurous. And yet I don't quite want to say that 24 Killers is an exception, because confining it to any genre feels reductive, let alone one that will probably put you off if you're anything like me.
Breaking ships is hard to do
I know you all like Hardspace: Shipbreaker, and I get that on paper it is very much my type of game. It is a manual job (slicing up spaceships for salvage) with an extra layer (unionism) to elevate it far beyond what it could have gotten away with. In this way it seems a lot like my beloved PowerWash Simulator (washing things; time travel).
The main thrust of the game I can really get behind - peeling apart big metal ships like clanky onions - but the more literal thrust, i.e. the moving around in zero gravity using a jetpack, is awful. I need you to give me a frame of reference for if you all felt this way at the start, because, genuinely, I am so bad at Hardspace: Shipbreaker that it makes me want to cry.
All these squares make a circle
One of the best things games can do is bring you an appreciation of something you've never thought about before. You'll probably start out Zellige thinking "oh, it's making some shapes and they turn into a pattern, whatever". But within ten minutes you'll be actively saying things like "does the empty space over here feel like purity or desolation" and "what does the contrasting colour of these triangles say about their relationship with the central star?".
It's been a while since I played a game about creating art that felt effortless even as I put in a lot of effort. Zellige: The Tilemaker Of Granada is humble but delightful. It's about designing tiles. And why something that straightforward is also rich and complicated.
Aces & Adventures has taught me what a flush is
As I have complained about mightily in the past, I grew up somwhere that didn't have much in the way of entertainment, so me and my friends had to engage in the time honoured tradition of making our own fun. Once we reached about age 17 this included playing poker with a shared second-hand chip set, and trying to do beer centurions (the progress in the latter affecting our interest in the former). I was never any good at it because, though poker was a fixture for several years, I was never really able to learn the rules. What hand is good? Why has your hand beaten his hand? But the little pictures are the best, I don't understand! It's disappointing because understanding poker is a cool adult thing, plus not understanding it makes certain pivotal scenes in James Bond films quite hard to parse.
Last week we got an email (shout out Aidan) singing the praises of Aces And Adventures, and I do try to check out recommendations from readers, even if I don't have time to reply or to write about the games. In this case I've made a special because Aces And Adventures is a great game that is teaching me winning poker hands through the medium of a dwarven warrior smashing things.
I've recommended a pretty wide variety of genres over the years, but I didn't expect a brick breaking game to surprise me like Destructure Colon Among Debris. It's not that I dislike them. They've just never really made much impression (possibly because I don't see all that many)
Destructure blends in a hint of shooting, resource management, and leans into the sheer fun of destruction, replacing bricks with "structures" that aren't meant to be anything specific, but give the whole feeling an impression of combat, an assault you're carrying out rather than a reacting, abstract geometry game.
Also it feels and sounds great to hit stuff. That's probably the bigger reason.
The Gears-liker has logged on
I'm going to Japan in a couple of weeks, and I am beyond excited. It's been 15 years since I last visited family in Yokohama, and my last memory is one where I'm miserable and I'm staring out of a cab window going back to the airport. I didn't want to leave. It sounds corny as heck, but I can't wait to sucker punch that memory with a swing that's been building for 5478 days, then jab it full of happy ones. Really, I imagine what will happen is I'll get weirdly emotional as the plane touches down and my mate Simon, who I'm going with, will be like, "Get a hold of yourself you buffoon".
I got LINE recently - a Whatsapp equivalent that's big in Japan - to arrange some meetups with friends and family. Those arrangements have happened, which brings me great joy. But in a surprise plot twist, it meant I got back in touch with a guy called Sam. Now Sam, he's a good bud and we go a long way back. All the way back to the original Gears Of War days. And I think we've arranged, as is custom, to play Gears 6 whenever it arrives. Such is the bizarre way of things.
Grow, my pretties! Grow!
I have, genuinely, been trying to get plants for my office area (desk in the corner of the living room) for like nine months now. If my need for plants were a child, it would have been born. I had a decent pot plant called James Plant back in the UK, but when I moved I bequeathed James Plant to Graham - and, now that I think about it, Graham hasn't told me how James Plant is doing, so I should probably check in on that.
I know that digital plants do not replace real plants in a physical sense - i.e. I am getting no oxygenating benefit from them - but the little plants in Garden In! make me happy. And I've just realised the name is a pun, too.
No swords, just boots
Most RPGs set you off on some kind of grand quest, a hero's journey filled with danger and peril as you track down some legendary sword to defeat a world-ending evil. Boots Quest DX, however, has much humbler aspirations. You are a mere boot enthusiast on an adventure to find the very bestest best boots known to man (or blobs, I genuinely can't tell what provenance these rotund creatures hail from), and nothing else will deter you from achieving your lifelong goal. Find a honking great sword on the beach? Trash. A pirate's cutlass? Get in the sea, literally. If it's not a pair of boots, you're not interested - and it all makes for a brisk, anti-RPG adventure that's incredibly refreshing.
No-one can hear you dream
Jank. I am saying "jank" several times upfront, not because Spacebourne 2 is particularly janky, but because it is a bit, and I want to temper your expectations so you're not unfair on its flaws if you try it after I bang on for the rest of this article about how impressive it is.
There's a dream space game we all imagined, where you pilot a ship freely around the galaxy, landing on planets and space stations and running around them doing stuff, finding things, maybe having a fight, then get back into your ship to launch into space, where you can stop at any time and do a little space walk. Maybe walk around on an asteroid, just because.
Spacebourne 2 isn't the dream. But for a game made, as far as I can tell, by one person, it is an astonishing effort to capture that spirit.
Team Lazerbeam stonecold stuns us with their answers
For Magic Week, I wrote about Team Lazerbeam's upcoming dating sim Wrestling With Emotions: New Kid On The Block (WWE) and how you're able to romance a beefcake composed entirely of green ooze. There is, of course, far more to it than that. I asked Team Lazerbeam's Ben Rausch about how it tackles themes of queer identity and diversity in a kickass way, which I highlighted in my post, but wanted to highlight even more here. Their answers were too good not to share.
I have no one to blame but myself
You ever see that Mastodon post where a guy explains why he now understands Elon Musk is an idiot, because he's started talking about software? I imagine you've experienced a similar thing with video games, whenever a columnist for a broadsheet writes about them and you can instantly tell that they have never played one in their whole dahlia-manuring, boot room-having, fox hunt-following life.
Tomorrow, And Tomorrow, And Tomorrow is a book about the decades-long relationship between two people who are game developers. And like the above, it would be impossible to explain to someone who doesn't work in the games industry why a small exchange between the two of them made me absolutely roar with laughter.
Quickplay strategy games have always been a thing, but they appear to be gaining in popularity lately. I will probably regret not keeping Ozymandias aside for the traditional "summer strategy game for when your brain is a gas" bit, but the scene is looking healthy enough to chance it.
You know that cliché feeling of "just one more turn"? Ozymandias is a bronze age 4X that builds momentum enough to turn that into "just one more game". It is incredibly easy to learn, and despite looking a little dry and number heavy, becomes more effortless, more pleasant the longer you play. It also becomes more clear how much depth there is hidden away in such a light design. It's about proving yourself the most prestigious civilisation, not through total conquest, but by exploiting the lay of the land, and leaning into your strengths.
Lack of squad goals
But biffs it in the second
For three hours, Re:Call was high on my list of surprise recent indie hits. It has a great premise, for starters - change history by meddling with your memories and playing out different versions of events to arrive at the 'correct' solution - and executes it brilliantly. Its GBA-style visuals and larger-than-life character portraits give it a real sense of charm and personality, and its mystery story of murder and corporate conspiracy had hooked me in real good.
Then it abandoned its cool premise halfway through and became a different game entirely for its remaining run-time. I was heartbroken.
Maybe it's because I've been bouncing between a lot of weighty games lately, but I've found a great diversion in The True Slime King, a simple three button platformer that recently left early access.
Speaking pedantically, this isn't "as simple as it gets", but you'll get what I mean if I describe it that way anyway. You move and jump, dodging spikes and lasers and ISO 13370 compliant death pits, and ideally collecting all the hard to reach thingies along the way. These are far from my favourite genre, but I've played enough to realise I'm partial to a good one, and this is a great one.
And multi-tasking skills, of which I have none
As part of Steam Next Fest, I gave pixel-art, sidescrolling fantasy RPG Greedventory a go. It takes your mouse and turns it into a sword, or a shield, or an arm that's capable of swatting away an explosive potion. It may be like something you, dear reader, have played in the past, but me? Nah, never played anything quite like it! Well, that's a lie. If anything, it's the first fantasy RPG that's made use of my latent - and highly dubious - CS:GO skills and brought to mind a rhythm game called Osu! I am very impressed indeed.