PAX East 2015 Awards

Yet another PAX has come and gone, and like all before it, this one was a whirlwind of awesome gaming and geek culture. In the past, we here at BrainLazy […]

Yet another PAX has come and gone, and like all before it, this one was a whirlwind of awesome gaming and geek culture. In the past, we here at BrainLazy have been a three (and in one notable instance, four) person team, sweeping the floor and schmoozing the hell out of everyone we could find to get the very best coverage for you good readers.

This year things were a little different. Thanks to behind the scenes shifts that may or may not eventually see the light of day, we trimmed down to a solo-coverage unit (aka me) and thus we don’t have the same level of audio visual goodness for you from the show floor. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t have some great new stuff to share with you!

In fact, let’s take this change and wrap it up in a whole new format. For this first PAX East 2015 article, I’m going give out the first annual BL PAX East Awards!

The BrainLazy PAX East awards are a brand new but already noble tradition that I totally didn’t just make up while I was typing this. In it we hand out honors in important, absolutely not arbitrary award categories. Let’s get this show on the road!

Most Enthusiastic Pitch: Starr Mazer

A convention takes a lot out of you, and that’s even if you’re just walking the floor trying to take it all in. Now imagine that for 8 hours straight you have to give the same summary of your game to a brand new group of people every 45 seconds. One can be excused for getting a bit weary after a few days. Not so for the crew pushing Starr Mazer. I didn’t get to talk to these folks until day 2, and I was nonetheless treated to a blazing inferno of raw enthusiasm. Seriously. At one point a spectator of this rampant excitement was asked to remove his hat so that when his mind was blown by the following statement his brains would have more even coverage as they sprayed out of his head.

All of this excitement was infectious, and not without reason! Starr Mazer is a pretty unique concept, a point-and-click adventer/shmup hybrid. As disparate as those two genres seem, the devs insist it isn’t two games glued together, but a single game that seamlessly and intelligently combines both concepts. There are loads of reasons to be interested in this Kickstarter funded game. It has great retro graphics, loads and loads of spoken dialogue, and rockin’ tunes, all produced people with an impressive pedigree in the games and acting biz. Combine that with open-middle gameplay and a dynamic story module and you end up with a rare thing for point and click; some genuinely varied replay value! Looking forward to this one.

Friendliest Dev: Gamesbymo

Despite this being the first time we’ve handed out this award, I’m going to go ahead and say that Mo, the developer behind the eagerly anticipated A.N.N.E. earns this one for the second year in a row. If you’re not familiar with A.N.N.E., we’ll just say that it’s the frontrunner to be the next Cave Story. Developed chiefly by a single person, adorable retro graphics, metroidvania gameplay (with loads of other stuff besides), and maintaining all of the fun and depth of the best old school games? Yeah, it sounds like it’s going to be a good one.

And Mo is a great guy. I wandered over just to see how the progress with the game was going (moving to a new engine and working out the kinks, then hoping to build up some content), but the conversation soon wandered to the annoying trend of people to kickstart games that were clearly pieced together from stolen ideas without mixing in some innovation and creativity, then about the upcoming Toejam and Earl sequel (hopefully), and our experiences from the previous year, and the difficulties of fulfilling Kickstarter rewards like an SNES cartridge of the game complete with box. Mo seriously seems like one of the most laidback and genuine devs we’ve had the good fortune to chat with. Considering the overall attitude of positivity and excitement among the devs in general at PAX East, that’s quite an achievement.

Best Game We Barely Looked At: Overwatch

I was at the convention with a few friends who only occasionally dip their toes into gaming, and they kept asking me what the biggest game of the show was. At that point I would scratch my head and say, “I don’t know, Overwatch?” Blizzard is a major big shot in the gaming biz, as we all know, so I think it is fair to say any major new IP from them is going to be a monster. And the Team Fortress-y vibe of Overwatch with its MOBA-esque elements really seemed like it was a recipe for success. Yet as I waded through wave after wave of really intriguing indies, I found myself perpetually putting off the deeper coverage. And then the convention was over.

Don’t get me wrong, it looked fun and as slick as it was gorgeous. A large cast of unique characters teeming with personality and equipped with their own special abilities? Yes, I like that. Co-op gameplay and multi-step objectives? Sounds good to me. Everything about this game seems like a winner… but it was RIGHT next to the Indie Mega Booth, and that game over there looks like it has magnets in it…

Best Game with Magnets in It: Magnetic: Cage Closed

Stiff competition for this coveted award, but I’m comfortable handing it to Magnetic: Cage Closed. A single glance at this game will put one in mind of one of its primary inspirations: Portal. You run around a scientific facility wielding a physics-bending gun, solving puzzles. Sounds familiar. But the first thing that sold me was the aesthetic. The game is set in the Cold War era and looks the part, with the gun you hold having all of the design appeal of something you might have lashed together in your garage out of old computer parts. Puzzles are solved by attracting or repelling objects until they (for instance) hold down buttons to pen doors.

The other inspiration for this game is the movie Cube, and as such it includes a deeper plot than many puzzle games. You are an inmate who has been sold to a weapons development firm. In exchange for testing their magnet weapon, you are promised rewards and perhaps even your freedom. Along the way you’ll enter “Choice Cubes” that will present you with moral dilemmas. Based on how you answer the questions presented, you’ll gain access to different puzzles. That means playing through the game with different moral attitudes will earn you a new experience, and thus it has more replay than the average puzzler too!

Coolest Doodad: Dice Rings

DiceRing

I’m not much of a tabletop gamer. My friends know and lament this. But I do like dice. While heading over toward the tabletop area to see what my friends were up to and endure another attempt to be drawn into a game with rules no one at the table fully understands, I passed what seemed to be a large The Price is Right-style prize wheel that had the telltale marks of having been 3D printed.

It turns out they were CritSuccess and it was a scale model of the d20 ring they sell. It’s one of a huge assortment of stainless steel rings with bearings that allow an outer ring to spin, randomly indicating a certain value. They have equivalents for all major dice types, and assure me that they are certified random and are even endorsed and authorized for use in some major tabletop circles. Naturally I had to get my hands on one, and so began what has become a fun little nervous tick of constantly spinning it.

Most Efficient Pitch: 20XX

20XX is a Co-op Roguelike Megaman X. If you need to know more than that, then you don’t know what any of those words mean.

Most Effective Monopolization of Awesomeness: Adult Swim Games

Okay, seriously. They had eight games on display, and chances are very good you’ll be seeing me yammer about each of them as they approach completion, so I won’t bore you with it here. Let’s just say Adult Swim Games has taken an interesting route. Rather than spending their earnings from web and mobile games on the development of games centering on their own properties, they decided to spend it on financing the development of games that met their personal level of excellence. And they have a good eye. Check out their lineup and weep for the fact so much of it is still only upcoming.

Oblitus, Death’s Gambit, Traverser, Westerado: Double Barreled, Rise and Shine, Rain World, Duck Game

It’s cheating, I tell you…

 

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About Decoychunk

Editor, Writer, and general Knower-Of-Words, if there is text to be read on BrainLazy, Joseph Lallo probably has his fingerprints on it. As the final third of the ownership and foundation of BrainLazy, Joseph “Jo” Lallo made a name for himself when he lost the “e” from his nickname in an arm wrestling match with a witch doctor. Residing in the arid lowlands of the American Southwest, Joseph Lallo is a small, herbivorous, rabbit-like creature with the horns of an antelope. He sleeps belly up, and his milk can be used for medicinal purposes. Joseph Lallo is also author of several books, including The Book of Deacon Series, book 1 of which is available for free here.