The Five Best Indie Games At PAX EAST

Feature Robert Bernstein 3/25/2013 at 5:34PM

The Five Best Indie Games At PAX East

Anyone who was lucky enough to attend PAX EAST noticed, before anything else, the size of the League of Legends booth. But they then noticed the insane number of indie game companies showcasing their latest titles. What’s great about indie titles is that, generally speaking, the basic idea is something we’ve never seen before and the art design usually looks wildly creative. But, that’s not the case for all of them and because of the time spent standing in line, it’s hard to get more than a glimpse of all of the playable titles to sort the good from the bad. So, let me do that for you. Here are the five best indie titles we saw at PAX East 2013 in Boston.

 

5. Ray’s The Dead

Platform: Steam

Developer: RagTag Studio

Think Plants vs Zombies meets Zombie Survival meets Puzzler? While it is hard to explain, it is a cool game. You play as Ray, a zombie who doesn’t know how he came to be or why he has a mind control device on his head which allows him to do all sorts of cool stuff. We don’t have much more in the way of a storyline for Ray (we will when the game is released later this year), but he can raise the dead, control the dead and order them to do stuff for him. For example; need a gate broken down? You’ll have to round up a group of zombies large enough to smash the gate to the ground. The lightheartedness and sillified (yes, that is now a word) zombie title had me laughing more than once at its comical dialogue and I can’t wait to get my hands on the full version of the game.

 

4. Contrast

Platform: PC (Steam)

Developer: Compulsion Games

Contrast is an incredibly creative title from Compulsion Games that plays on shadows as foundations for movement and gameplay, creating challenging puzzles. The game is a mystery centered around cabaret, live jazz, acrobatics and fairgrounds. You play as Dawn, a mysterious lady tasked with helping a young girl named Didi. The reaction from other gamers playing the title is what drew me to the booth. I heard, “Wow, that’s cool!” and “Looks great!” as I walked by numerous times. Finally, I made my way through the crowd that had gathered in front of the booth to see what the fuss was all about. I wasn’t disappointed. Contrast was the most unique title I saw at Pax and I can’t wait to get my hands on it, or to see more from Compulsion Games.

 

3. Max: The Curse of the Brotherhood

Platform: Xbox Live

Developer: Press Play

You might remember Press Play’s first game, Max & The Magic Marker which made its debut nearly 3 years ago. Mikkel Thorsted (Studio Director), Mikkel Martin Pedersen (Lead Designer) and Robert Friis (Concept Artist) have all banded together to create an even more fine-tuned experience. This time, Max’s brother, Felix, has been kidnapped by an evil beast and taken to a new world. Max chases after the monster in order to rescue his brother, but it’s not as simple as that. The game developers have placed a mechanic in the game that is similar to what was in Max & The Magic Marker; in which you use magic markers to solve puzzles in order to advance to the next area. The game isn’t as easy as you would think and there were definitely some puzzles during my gameplay session that stumped me. But, once you spend a few minutes trying to figure out that puzzle and solve it, it is a truly rewarding experience. The game not only plays great and looks great, the sound design is also of notable quality. Max: The Curse of the Brotherhood is a definite pick-up.

 

2. Outlast

Platform: PC

Developer: Red Barrel Games

I actually walked by the Outlast booth two or three times before even noticing it (it was pretty much a dull, black and white booth). But then I heard a scream. I saw that the team behind Outlast was actually bringing players into a booth behind an all black curtain. I was intrigued, so came a bit closer to find out more about the game. What sort of game has players avoid attacking enemies that await them? A scary as hell one! I heard more than one scream coming from the gameplay booth and it was no wonder after seeing footage of the game. It’s truly an eerie experience you’re discovering through a video camera. It’s frantic and gets your heart pumping and is an undeniably creative take on the horror/survival genre. Outlast is a title I will definitely be picking up to play at night with all of the lights turned off and the headphones on.

 

1. State of Decay

Platform: XBLA and PC

Developer: Undead Labs

So, luckily I was able to get a play session in at State of Decay on Sunday by scheduling an appointment and flashing the media badge, because I didn’t want to have to wait in their more than hour queue line to play the game. What was all the fuss about? Zombies! But, this is not just another run-and-gun to survive zombie apocalypse title; there’s a lot of depth with this one. You’ll play with a group (albeit offline) of survivors who are working to create a community haven of sorts during the zombie apocalypse. Scavenging for food, building materials, guns and other weapons is the name of the game, with a strong emphasis on kicking some serious zombie ass. There were some great animations that let us know, without a doubt, that this would be an M title.In fact, there was a moment in the game when a zombie ripped my character in half...brutally (but really, is there any OTHER way to rip someone in HALF?)! And, it was awesome. Even more exciting than the animations was the fact that one of the developers told me there are 99 different guns in the game. Of course, I asked why there were only 99 guns and not 100 and he said he had no idea how many he had created when he handed them in and Undead Labs decided to stick with the 99 instead of adding one more. There seems to be a plethora of gameplay options to choose from. I definitely see myself losing days of productivity playing State of Decay (shhhhh, don’t tell my wife . . . ).

[Related Article: The Indie Games Surge]

 Honorable Mentions: Apotheon from Alien Trap Games, and The Swapper from FacePalm Games.

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