PAX EAST 2014 – FIVE INDIE MEGABOOTH GAMES THAT CHARMED ME
by Marla Desat
The Indie MEGABOOTH is my favourite place at PAX East. The MEGABOOTH is a collection of independent game developers packed into a unified presence on the show floor. Sixteen developers pooled their resources to create the first MEGABOOTH at PAX East 2012, and it has been growing steadily since. Now with over 90 indie studio members, the MEGABOOTH is a dazzling display of indie talent. Here's five games that really caught my eye this year!
EXTRASOLAR BY LAZY 8 STUDIO
Extrasolar puts you in control of a rover on a mysterious alien planet. The free, browser-based game lets you take photographs of the alien landscape, rooted in scientific plausibility and brought to life in the beautiful still images your rover captures. By analyzing the photographs, you begin to uncover more about the planet, and about the secretive corporation funding the mission. Extrasolar combines email and its browser-based gameplay to unfold its story slowly over many play sessions.
ACTUAL SUNLIGHT BY WILL O'NEILL
Most booths have something bright and flashy to draw you in – a bright banner, a poster showing off the stoic main character, a gigantic plushie hamster – but the Actual Sunlight booth had only text. It was fitting advertisement for a linear, interactive story that tackles mature themes, including suicide. Thought provoking and exhausting, Actual Sunlight isn't fun, but it is a powerful experience. Actual Sunlight is currently available for PC for $5.00.
DUET BY KUMOBIUS
This ethereal and hypnotic puzzle game filled me with that joyful frustration that all great puzzle games supply. In Duet, you avoid falling obstacles by spinning a pair of small spheres locked in a circular orbit, carried forward by the music of Tim Shiel, composer and instrumentalist in Gotye's live band. Duet is currently available for iPhone and iPad for $2.99.
GODS WILL BE WATCHING BY DECONSTUCTEAM
Despair and desperation is the core of Gods Will Be Watching, a point-and-click thriller. The game expands on an entry for the Ludum Dare 26 game jam, a bleak survival story developed in less than 72 hours. The original game had you lead Sgt. Burden and his crew as struggle to survive until rescue arrives on unforgiving planet. The full game, which follows Sgt. Burden through six harrowing chapters, is planned for June 2014. You can pre-order the full game for PC for $8.99, or play the original browser-based game jam entry fee for free.
DARKEST DUNGEON BY RED HOOK STUDIOS
Darkest Dungeon is a side scrolling RPG that combines my love for games like XCOM and Final Fantasy Tactics with an affliction system that requires you to manage both hit points and mental stress, lest your heroes be driven mad. The tactical depth of managing my heroes' stress, health, marching order, equipment and class abilities had me grinning all the way through the demo. The full release is planned for January 2015, and you can pre-order the game for PC, Mac, or Linux for $15.00.
Marla Desat is a recent University of Waterloo grad living and working in Ottawa. When she isn't playing the latest video games, she's geeking out over comic books, board games, tabletop roleplaying games and science. Marla also writes for The Escapist as a freelance news writer. You can follow her on Twitter @mrdesat.