Tucked away in a second floor conference room at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas was an experimental section of PAX South 2020. The Latinx Lounge was a new area of the gaming convention hosted by the Latinx in Gaming community, and dedicated to providing games, panels and events featuring latinx creators, developers, and personalities.
The Latinx Lounge was a fantastic idea, and the organizers did a great job stuffing as many events as possible over the three-day convention, including panels with notable developers and streamers (some entirely in Spanish), a one-shot D&D live show in a world inspired by Latin America, and even Friday night Salsa dancing lessons.
The lounge also held a number of indie game from latinx developers, including Nevegante, Stonebot Studio, and HyperBeard Games. When the conference room wasn’t holding a full-scale event, the room was open for anyone to wander in and check out the games that awkwardly encircled the perimeter.
Unfortunately for those developers, PAX South goers have little reason to explore beyond the first floor of the convention center, which hosts the bright lights and loud noises of the PAX Arena tournament, the always busy hustle of the developers and vendors in the Expo Hall, and the more subdued but popular tabletop freeplay and tournament area.
In fact one of PAX South’s most unique features, the escape room-esque True Dungeon experience, was moved to the first floor next to the Expo Hall. And with the unique way the convention center is laid out, attendees can quickly jump back and forth between the handheld lounge on the 2nd floor above the entrance lobby, or even reach the third floor to access the PC and console freeplay areas, without ever walking past the Latinx Lounge.
At PAX South 2020, the only reason to explore the back end of the second floor (beyond the expo hall) was to attend a panel in one of the smaller theaters. Given the amount of panels and events hosted in the Latinx Lounge, it made sense to utilize a more private conference room. But it also meant the developers who wanted to showcase their games to passersby got the short end of the stick.
D&D live play at the Latinx Lounge. Image source: Reedpop
I dropped by the Latinx Lounge early Sunday afternoon, having spent two full days in the expo hall demoing games and chatting with developers and publishers. The room was so empty that at first I wasn’t sure I was in the right place. Lining the walls were several friendly developers with demo stations of their upcoming games. I didn’t have to make any appointments to jump on and play several of them in a row – a feat that’s largely impossible on the busy show floor.
I’m glad I made the time to go check it out, as I demoed some of my favorite games of the entire convention, including Stonebot’s 2D tower-defense brawler, The Last Friend, and Nevegante’s party-based platformer, Greak. All the developers were friendly and eager to chat, and some brought along game-branded merchandise to sell or hand out. But these games would have been much better served with a dedicated presence on the expo hall. Judging from this year’s map, the expo hall had plenty of room to spare.
A great example of ceding more prominent space to a new initiative was PAX Together. Like the indie-focused PAX Rising and Tabletop Indie Showcase, PAX Together had a dedicated space on the show floor that highlighted LGBTQ and other marginalized developers. It was hosted by Houston Gaymers and Gay Gaming Professionals and sponsored by Red Bull.
Garden Story demo in PAX Together booth. Image source: Eric Watson
The games included in the PAX Together booth, like dating sim-meets-dungeon crawler Boyfriend Dungeon and the whimsical Zelda-like Garden Story, were not simply shoved into the Diversity Lounge, a dedicated space for underrepresented communities in gaming that has been an evolving feature of PAX conventions for the last several years. Thanks to Red Bull and the PAX Together organizers, they were given a prominent location in the expo hall with cheerful hosts and colorful banners to draw people in to check out the games.
PAX Together was a great source of relatively unknown (and completely unknown) indie games. Yet it was always a popular area thanks to its welcoming crew, open design, vibrant displays, and central location. I wish the games of the Latinx Lounge had been given the same treatment.
Both PAX Together and the Latinx Lounge brought many more developers – and more diverse developers, to PAX South 2020 than would otherwise have been able to attend. I saw a wider variety of games and met folks from varying backgrounds who enriched my PAX experience. Hopefully Latinx in Gaming can be given a proper booth in the expo hall in addition to hosting fun and insightful panels and events. I hope to see both initiatives become regular staples in all future PAX conventions.
PAX South is often the first major gaming convention of the year, awkwardly injected right after the busy holiday season. This year was even more awkward, with the much bigger PAX East 2020 pushed up into late February, resulting in many bigger publishers skipping Texas in favor of Boston.
PAX South is known for a high ratio of indie and tabletop games. Between PAX Rising (tiny indie companies), PAX Together (highlighting LGBTQ creators), and the new Latinx Lounge (highlighting Latinx creators and panels), we checked out many excellent indie games to look for in 2020.
Dungeon Defenders: Awakened
Developer: Chromatic Games Platforms: PC (Steam), PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One Release: Q1 2020
I was a big fan of co-op tower defense action-RPG Dungeon Defenders a decade ago. I’m pleased to report that Dungeon Defenders: Awakened is a satisfying modern sequel. Waves of enemies march down lanes toward my crystal core while I build and repair towers, and defend with weapons and abilities. New changes include freely swapping between the four heroes to access their wide variety of towers, traps, and auras, as well as finding multiple types of weapons for each character. Four player co-op multiplayer also returns, including local, online, and up to four player splitscreen.
Developer: Rockfish Games Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One Release: 2021 (Early Access September 2020)
Everspace 2 is a hyperspeed leap forward for the space sim series, replacing the roguelike structure of the first game with a bigger open-world (open-universe?) RPG. Rockfish Games knows how to make a spaceship sim look and play great. Within seconds of starting the PAX demo I was swinging around asteroids, pew pewing my lasers, and dog-fighting with marauders. After a successful Kickstarter campaign last year, Rockfish is settling in for a lengthy but transparent development cycle, with Early Access hitting later this Fall.
Developer: Big Blue Bubble Platforms: “PC and Consoles” Release: Early Access Feb. 27 (Epic Games Store)
Foregone’s delicious combination of metroidvania with action-RPG made it one of my personal favorite games of PAX South 2020. The 2D combat was fast and fluid as I instantly switched between melee and ranged attacks. Enemies explode into health globes and energy I can use to fuel multiple abilities, like shields and slide-attacks. Foregone sets itself apart from many similar-looking games in the 2D action genre by adding Diablo-style randomized loot. In my brief PAX demo I found rare bows and swords that gave multiple stat bonuses. The demo ended right after teasing a big boss fight. I desperately need to play more of this game.
Developer: Razbury Games Platforms: PC (Steam) Release: TBA
Digital card games are all the rage, but From Rust is trying to do something different. It’s a cooperative dungeon-crawling card game with a punky Mad Max-like theme. There’s a lot of depth under the deck, including crafting, leveling, boss battles, party management, and a full campaign story with fun comic characters. From Rust is currently in limited Alpha Testing, and you can hop onto the Razbury Games Discord server to request a Steam key.
Developer: Picogram Platforms: PC, Mac Release: Spring 2020
A mixture of Stardew Valley’s wholesome farm town with Zelda-like dungeon-delving is a recipe for indie success. Garden Story stars Concord, an adorable plum with the will to help their community of Autumn Town. The art, music, and dialogue gave me all the warm feelings from Stardew Valley. My demo only scratched the surface of this lovely throwback to 16-bit RPGs, and I could definitely see myself falling in love with Garden Story later this year.
Developer: One More Level Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One Release: 2020
Ghost Runner is a cyberpunk first-person slasher. Taking place entirely within a futuristic mega-tower, I play as a cybernetically enhanced ghost runner, running, swinging, and slashing my way through the dystopian tower. The ghost runner is fast but very mortal; a single shot from a guard ends my life. Thankfully the game includes generous checkpoints and instant reloading, making each combat situation a hyper fast-paced puzzle of enjoyable trial and error as I slide, dodge, wall-run, and slow time to swiftly dispatch my enemies.
Greak: Memories of Azur
Developer: Navegante Platforms: TBA Release: Early 2020
Tucked away in the PAX South Latinx Lounge was a gorgeous 2D action-platformer starring three siblings who are trying to escape their homeland after an invasion. In the demo for Greak: Memories of Azur, the smallest brother, Greak, a nimble swordfighter, finds his spell-slinging sister Adara. I could seamlessly swap between both siblings to step on pressure plates, activate levers, and use their different skills to defeat enemies. I’ve longed for a modern spiritual sequel to The Lost Vikings series, and Greak looks ready to deliver.
Developer: Action Squad Studios Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux Release: 2020
There’s no shame in quick-saving before a major combat encounter in an RPG (okay, maybe a little shame). In Iron Danger there’s no need. Early on the main character acquires a time-traveling device, allowing her and a partner to travel several crucial seconds back in time. Time-travel manifests in-game as video editing that I can quickly scrub through, watching the action play out – and reverse, in slow-motion. By playing with time I can dodge attacks, set up traps, and bait enemies. It’s an intriguing mechanic on top of a cool fantasy world of spells and mechs, built from Finnish folklore.
Developer: Circean Studios Platforms: Mobile (Android, iOS) Release: 2020 (Early Access currently available on Android)
A fighting game on your phone? My skepticism was quickly replaced by admiration when I got my hands on Konsui Fighter. “Konsui” translates to coma, and the mind of Professor Tsuburaya has become a battlefield between different aspects of his personality, including sorrow, rage, and pleasure. Controls are easily handled with on-screen buttons and finger-swipes, keeping each character’s move-list simple but robust. The hand-drawn artwork, beautiful animations, and original soundtrack create an impressive game in a tiny package. Konsui Fighter is currently available in Early Access on Android, and launching later this year on iOS.
Developer: Turtleblaze Platforms: PC (Steam), Switch Release: Early 2020
A kunai is a diamond-shaped throwing knife often found in RPGs. Kunai is also a 2D metroidvania starring a cloak-wearing robot with a tablet for a face. Early in Tabby’s adventures in the robot-controlled wasteland, I acquire a pair of kunai attached to ropes. By using the left and right bumpers I can fire the kunai at smart-targeted angles to my left and right. I had a blast grappling onto walls and swinging from ceilings to slash at enemies, all to the delightful facial animations of Tabby. With tight controls and a retro aesthetic, Kunai could prove to be this year’s Shovel Knight.
Kung Fu Kickball
Developer: WhaleFood Games Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One Release: Early 2020
Kung Fu Kickball looks like an old-school fighting game or beat ’em up, with one very important distinction: it’s a sporting match! One on one or 2v2 teams face off on a large 2D battlefield with a ball in the middle. I only need three buttons for victory: jump, punch, and dash. The action is immediately frantic and hilarious as players are encouraged to knock each other around while trying to slam the ball into their opponents’ bell. Different stages change up the action by putting up walls, ramps, platforms, and environmental hazards like a sandstorm, and players can choose between three different classes.
The Last Friend
Developer: Stonebot Games Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One Release: 2020
Let’s set aside the fact that The Last Friend is an excellent mashup of side-scrolling tower defense and beat ’em up and focus on what really matters: the doggos. In the post-apocalyptic wastes, one man sets out with his beloved chihuahua to rescue dogs in their RV. That’s a great premise for a TV show, but for now we’ll settle for a charming tower defense game. Place turrets and walls between the rampaging enemies and your van of good bois. But even the best-placed defenses won’t get it done alone, and I need to run down the lanes to take tackle molotov-throwing marauders myself. You already had me with rescuing and defending dogs, but it helps that The Last Friend is a great game, too.
Neko Ghost, Jump!
Developer: Burgos Games Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One Release: TBA
Rotating between 2D and 3D platforming levels isn’t an entirely new concept; older games like Super Paper Mario used it to great effect. Yet it’s rare enough to still feel novel and interesting, as with Neko Ghost, Jump. Even the earliest level designs in my demo required constant flipping between both views to access new blocks and passages. To defeat enemies, the titular cat summons its ghost form, which is armed with a sword. However, Neko still leaves behind a body that must be protected, creating a challenging and puzzle-y landscape to work through.
Developer: Alter Games Platforms: PC Release: TBA
Daedalic Entertainment is publishing this fine-looking stealth-tactics game from Moscow-based developer Alter Games. It tells a fictionalized story based on the historical events of the Soviets versus the Nazis in World War 2. Partisans 1941 isn’t a shooter but a tactics game, where stealth, patience, awareness, and synergy between your squad will ensure survival. In the demo I crept up to a Nazi encampment with my trio of soldiers, carefully putting two of them in cover while a third quietly knifed a guard and dragged the body into a basement. When a thrown knife didn’t quite make the kill on my next target, I ran back to my comrades, who opened up in a hail of gunfire. Partisans definitely hits all the right notes for a satisfying tactical experience.
Streets of Rage 4
Developer: Lizardcube, Guard Crush Games Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One Release: 2020
Streets of Rage is often considered one of the best classic co-op beat ’em ups from the early 90s, and certainly one of my childhood favorites. I didn’t expect much from Streets of Rage 4 but within seconds of playing, I was thrown right back into the past in all the right ways. Axel, Blaze, and Adam return (along with new character Cherry) to the cartoony mean streets to dispense violent justice with flaming punches, guitar slams, and a variety of weapon power-ups. With a killer soundtrack, beautiful animations, and immediately satisfying gameplay, Streets of Rage 4 is the perfect example of a long-awaited sequel done right.
Developer: Worldwalker Games Platforms: PC Release: 2020 (Available now via Steam Early Access)
Of all the games on this list, Wildermyth may be the hardest to define, and I mean that as a compliment. A randomly generated group of heroes rises up to defend their fantasy world, with grid-based, XCOM-like tactical combat and a striking papercraft art style. Story-beats play out in comic panels, where players make choices that affect their heroes’ stats, abilities, and loot. My ranger was drawn into an ominous flame, where I chose to let him be absorbed. Instead of perishing, he gained a special new fiery attack. Wildermyth is designed to be multi-generational, managing my squad through hero deaths and retirements as I build my legacy – or call on them in future playthroughs. All of these systems working together made Wildermyth one of the more intriguing indie games at the expo hall.
While once prolific in the 90s, real time strategy games have ebbed in recent years. Controlling multiple units while managing resources, maintaining map awareness, and researching new weapons of war is a daunting task when armed with a mouse and keyboard, and nigh impossible anywhere else.
Yet I was blown away by how well Phaser Lock Interactive’s VR real time strategy game, Final Assault, captured all the fun of a real time strategy game while streamlining all the messy bits, creating an immersive virtual tabletop wargame.
At PAX South 2019 I was able to get some hands-on time (and heads-in for VR) with the 1v1 PvP mode for Final Assault, on the Hill-512 map.
I was immediately pleased with the aesthetic and size of the battlefield. Final Assault smartly keeps the World War 2 battlefield small and intimate so you don’t have to spend any time jogging around your living room or slowly pulling yourself across the contested war zone.
The cardboard and plastic art style is very reminiscent of the classic Army Men toy soldiers, or popular miniature wargames like Memoir ’44, giving the entire game an enjoyable tabletop vibe. Several times during the demo I was so distracted by the detail of the units, animations, and buildings that I fell behind in troop deployment.
“We used train sets as references. It’s amazing how detailed those train sets can get,” says Michael Daubert, CEO, Phaser Lock Interactive. “We wanted to make it a compelling and beautiful environment. It helps as well with performance and being able to build big environments and run at 90 frames per second.”
“One of the things I like about our maps is that if you look off into the distance, it doesn’t look like you’re in a fake world. I feel like I could go look and see what’s on the other side of those hills,” says Todd Bailey, Creative Director.
There are no resources to mange nor fog of war to worry about. A single currency level gradually ticks up, creating quick decisions on which units to buy, or to wait and unlock more advance units. Supply boxes will periodically air drop onto the map, granting a quick boost of money to whoever gets there first.
“Originally we created an entire RTS game, and it was crazy. There was way too many buttons, but when we took that out, you were waiting too long for stuff to build up. When you’re in VR you want to get into the action as quick as possible,” says Daubert. “What we did is focus more on the combat itself. We took away base building and tech trees. I wanted to focus on the faster gameplay of what an RTS can be. We’ve created a happy medium between RTS and MOBA that gets the player in as quickly as possible without the mental fatigue of trying to manage everything.”
A console-based strategy game is going to live and die by its control scheme. Final Assault’s drop-and-drag system worked perfectly to quickly get units out on the battlefield and into the fight.
The clipboard UI looks and feels great. I hold my tech tree catalog in one hand and simply grab the unit I want, like a biplane or tank, and plop it onto the map. Final Assault uses the lane-based combat of MOBAs to provide an easy way of handling multiple units. If a unit is dropped into one of the main lanes on a map, they’ll automatically follow it, engaging enemy forces along the way.
Infantry will constantly spawn and push the lane, creating a constant tug-of-war. It’s up to me to purchase and deploy the right units, and set them up in strategic places. Bombers can soften up tanks, while anti-air guns will help prevent an aerial ambush, and artillery can bombard fortifications from afar.
The demo ended as I deployed my Axis forces’ ultimate weapon – a V-2 rocket. I watched in gleeful satisfaction as it physically launched from my base and soared toward my opponent’s to the warning sounds of klaxons.
I came away really impressed with how quickly I was able to grasp the controls and flow of the lane-based warfare, despite having very little VR experience. Final Assault already looks and plays great, and is shaping up to be a worthy competitive experience for any VR general.
Final Assault is coming to Steam Early Access on February 12, with a full launch later this April on Oculus and Vive. It will launch later this Summer on PlayStation VR and support cross-platform play. The final game will feature a single player campaign as well as online multiplayer PvP with 14 maps at launch, and more factions to arrive as post-launch DLC. It’s rated E10+.
The fifth annual PAX South convention took place this month in San Antonio, Texas. The convention is smaller than other PAX shows, with an emphasis on indie games and tabletop games. A few big publishers were in attendance showing upcoming games, such as Capcom with Resident Evil 2 and Sony with Days Gone. But often these shows are a great opportunity to see smaller games and meet passionate developers.
Here is our alphabetical list of the 20 most exciting indie games we saw at PAX South 2019.
A Fold Apart
Developer: Lightning Rod Games Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One Release: Spring 2019 (PC and Switch, other consoles to follow)
A Fold Apart looks at first glance like a platformer, but there’s no jumping. Instead you’ll need to fold the pages of the world to bring the partners together, who are struggling with a long distance relationship. It’s based on a true story from lead designer Mark Laframboise. You play as both characters, choosing each of their genders. Something that seems sweet from one character may be viewed differently by the other as you see both sides of the complex relationship.
Developer: VARSAV Game Studios Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One Release: Spring 2019
In a shocking twist, Bee Simulator is all about playing as a bee. Set within Central Park in New York City, the life of a bee is fraught with both beauty and peril as you collect honey from flowers, defend your turf from wasps and spiders, and be wary of the most dangerous animal of all – humans. Varsav Game Studios are all too aware of the endangerment that bees face in our world and have produced the game with a socially conscious heart. But more importantly, it’s fun to fly around as a bee and pop balloons.
Developer: Sudden Event Studios Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One Release: Jan. 31
Mario Party-style multiplayer mini-games were definitely in vogue at PAX South 2019, but Bombfest stood out thanks to its adorable wooden block art style and easy pick up and play format. Up to four players choose an adorably dressed wooden block figure and compete in small household arenas like toy boxes and play mats. Players try to knock each other out of the ring, not unlike Super Smash Bros., through a variety of bouncing, freezing, and good ol’ fashioned exploding bombs. The family-friendly style and simple controls make Bombfest particularly well suited to the Switch.
Developer: Hibernian Workshop Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Switch Release: Early 2019
Dead Cells meets Dark Souls probably sounds like gibberish to a number of gamers, but for the rest of you, it’s an intriguing mixture. Dark Devotion is a side-scrolling RPG with the challenging but rewarding rhythmic combat of a Souls game with a Dead Cells 2D pixel style. The dungeon designs bear the dark inspiration of eldritch and Gothic horror. I died several times during the short demo at PAX, and still I wanted to come back for more.
Developer: Terry Cavanagh Platforms: PC Release: Spring 2019
In Dicey Dungeons a typical adventuring party has been transformed into anthropomorphic dice. The six-sided heroes navigate a series of roguelike dungeon crawls acquiring new loot cards, leveling up, and rolling dice during combat to activate abilities and attack enemies. All of the character classes play very differently from each other. The Witch gets spells instead of the usual loot and uses dice to cast them, while the Robot has a neat push your luck element when it comes to rolling dice each round. The turn-based combat could easily stand alone as an intriguing solo board game, and I particularly enjoyed the whimsical characters and art style.
Developer: Ape Tribe Games Platforms: PC Release: 2019
Disjunction is a cyberpunk stealth action game wrapped in a top-down pixelated art style. It’s Deux Ex indie style, and it’s damn good. You take on the roll of three characters, each with their own stories and playstyles as you dive into the classic cyberpunk themes of corporate espionage. Enemies have clear vision cones that must be avoided – although you can certainly treat every level like a guns-blazing bloodbath if you wanted, which has repercussions for the story. I opted to use my various gadgets, including smoke grenades and a paralyzing dart, to quietly take out foes and hide the bodies. It’s been three long years since Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and Disjunction is looking to fill that void quite nicely.
Evolution: The Video Game
Developer: North Star Digital Platforms: PC, iOS, Android Release: Feb. 12
Evolution: The Video Game has the quirky honor of being on our most anticipated PAX South list for the third year in a row. The digital adaption of the award-winning board game has been in development for a long time, but it’s looking better than ever, with gorgeous art and animations, cross-platform play, online multiplayer, and a full single player campaign that unlocks new AI for skirmishes. I’ve been playing the beta throughout the last year and have been consistently impressed with the updates and additions with each new patch, and very much looking forward to one of the best digital board game adaptations around.
Developer: Sirlin Games Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Switch Release: 2019 (Currently available via Steam Early Access)
If you’ve been disappointed by the recent trend of fighting games, either from complexity, input lag, or style, Fantasy Strike hopes to bring you back into the fold. It’s billed as an accessible 2D fighting game with intuitive one-button controls and easy to grasp mechanics, developed by a master fighting game craftsman, David Sirlin. Fantasy Strike looks and plays nice but a fighting game lives and dies by its community. Time will tell if it can pull fans away from Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat.
I had yet to play a VR game I truly enjoyed until Final Assault. Slotting a traditional management-heavy real time strategy game would have spelled disaster, but Phaser Lock Interactive smartly took cues from the MOBA genre to create a much more streamlined and fun experience. Final Assault plays more like a real time miniatures wargame as you and your opponent survey the tabletop-size battlefield, dropping troops, unlocking advanced forces, and watching the destruction unfold all around you.
Developer: 3D Realms Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One Release: 2019
3D Realms is back and they brought an impressive Duke Nukem 3D clone to PAX South. Ion Maiden is a classic first person shooter done entirely within the original Build engine, which featured a pseudo-3D world with pixelated graphics and 2D models. It’s a massive nostalgia trip for anyone who lived through 90’s PC shooters, but it’s also a solidly enjoyable fast-paced action game with labyrinthine level designs full of secrets and plenty of fun weapons and enemies.
JackQuest: The Tale of the Sword
Developer: NX Games Platforms: PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One Release: January 24
The 2D action-platformer is probably the most common genre for indie games to explore. But that shouldn’t discredit the good ones, like JackQuest: The Tale of the Sword. JackQuest features a boy and a really big sword as they adventure through a cavernous dungeon. Like Shovel Knight, JackQuest nails the pixelated aesthetic and old school level design while featuring tight controls and satisfying movement and combat.
Developer: Eleventh Hour Games Platforms: PC Release: 2020 (Steam Early Access in 2019)
The traditional Diablo-style action-RPG has ebbed and flowed over the last several years, mostly relying on indie games like Grim Dawn to provide that classic loot-obsessed gameplay. Last Epoch takes the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mantra of design, adhering closely to past and recent juggernauts such as Diablo, Path of Exile, and Titan Quest. Last Epoch will feature multiple classes with specialties and augmented skills, an endless supply of loot drops, multiple end game systems, and a Chrono Trigger-inspired story featuring time-travel.
Developer: Bowlcut Studios Platforms: PC, Switch, Xbox One Release: 2019
MageQuit is one of the best kind of games to show at conventions: a 10-player multiplayer brawl that ends in shouts of joy and cries of defeat. Every round players draft spells for their wizards, with each round gaining a new spell to add to their repertoire. Spells are elemental-based, such as fireballs, rock walls, and air-dashes, and the too-small arenas are designed to get wizards blasting each other quickly and hilariously. MageQuit is available now via Steam Early Access, and best played with a large group of friends.
Mowin’ and Throwin’
Developer: House Pixel Games Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One Release: 2019 (available now via Steam Early Access)
Silly name aside, Mowin’ & Throwin’ is a delightfully fun competitive mowing game. Players take on the role of mischievous lawn gnomes in 1v1 or 2v2 with the goal of mowing their side of the lawn before their opponent. Power-ups fall from the sky while gnomes can chuck rocks and plant more grass onto each other’s yards. The level designs take a page from Overcooked with numerous challenges and hazards, such as rotating platforms, fences, and water.
Developer: Spearhead Platforms: PC Release: 2020
The developers behind Stories: The Path of Destinies and Omensight have their sights on a very ambitious new game, tentatively called Project Witchstone. Witchstone aims to be a massive tactical RPG that grants player freedom and meaningful choices in a fantasy world. Witchstone is still very early in development, but Spearhead is planning on a completely open development process, beginning with a Kickstarter campaign later this year.
Projection: First Light
Developer: Shadowplay Studios Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One Release: 2019
Projection: First Light is a 2D puzzle-platformer starring a shadow puppet named Greta. Greta’s primary ability is to manipulate the shadows around her using a controllable ball of light with the right stick. The shadows create new platforms for Greta to traverse past obstacles. I found it incredibly challenging to think along an entirely different dimension with the way shadows were cast from the light’s positioning, but intrigued to try more.
Developer: Long Neck Games Platforms: PC, Xbox One Release: 2019
Rezplz is another 2D puzzle-platformer with an intriguing twist – your primary ability is to resurrect your partner. The young sibling wizards start only with the ability to ‘rez’ each other, making death a means to overcome the many enemies and hazards that lie in wait. To get over a bed of spikes, for example one of them can jump in and die, while the other can use their body as a platform, then resurrect them on the other side. The death animations are hilariously macabre, and the Lost Vikings-style level designs have a lot of potential for both single player and co-op.
Splitgate: Arena Warfare
Developer: 1047 Games Platforms: PC Release: 2019
While many competitive multiplayer games chase the Battle Royale bandwagon, Splitgate: Arena Warfare is firmly fixed on the past. That could be a winning strategy when you combine two of gaming’s most beloved franchises: Halo and Portal. The old school arena shooter looks and plays great with Halo-style guns and pacing. The obvious twist is the ability to create matching portals to zip around the battlefield, creating an entirely new dimension that further rewards map awareness and quick positioning.
Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones
Developer: Cultic Games Platforms: PC Release: 2019 (A demo is available on Steam)
Most Cthulhu stories revolve around the prevention of eldritch armageddon, but Stygian: Reign of the Old Ones places you firmly in the post-apocalypse when the old gods have already wrecked havoc. The old school cRPG checks all the right boxes with stat-based character creation, an open world full of consequences and choices, and turn-based tactical combat.
ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove
Developer: HumaNature Studios Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One Release: March 1
Seeing a new ToeJam & Earl game releasing in 2019 is eye-rolling, but I was pleasantly surprised with ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove. Taking its cues from the 1991 original, Back in the Groove features randomly generated levels as our stranded alien friends try to find the missing pieces to their spaceship. The isometric levels are literally stacked on top of one another as up to four players can explore on their own pace using dynamic split-screen, avoiding enemies, finding powerups, and listening to funky tunes and remixes.
Furiends is a mobile AR game designed to motivate players to get up and move around. Instead of hunting for Pokémon, however, you’re walking the dog.
“Furiends offers the one-of-a-kind experience of adopting a dog in augmented reality,” said Kyra Constam, Blue Goji. “These virtual dogs can go on any adventure, making for some unreal photos along the way. We encourage players to play, train, and take their best shot.”
The goal is to play and walk with your furry friends as much as possible. Stars are rewarded for playtime while Coins are rewarded for taking steps using your smart phone’s step tracker. Stars and Coins can be traded in to gift your pet with food, toys, clothes, and accessories for photos.
Furiends will be playable at PAX South this weekend, taking place in San Antonio, TX. The mobile game is currently free to download on iOS, and supported by in-app purchases to buy more toys, accessories, and other items for your virtual pet. Blue Goji is donating a portion of the proceeds to non-profit pet rescue organization Austin Pets Alive.
An Android version is set to arrive later this year. Furiends has a rating of 4+ on the App Store.