PAX Aus Highlights: The Great, The Gorgeous, and The Groovy (Part 1)


On the final Friday of October, Melbourne officially welcomed an event that celebrates a culture many of us both adore and cherishgaming. This event has a history so rich, that its attraction reaches the hearts of both locals and internationals alike, who even fly from across the globe for glimpses of unreleased games and new technologies, the chance to participate in academic discussions that analyse the frontiers of gaming, and for the promise of greatness.

pax australia entrancePAX, or the Penny Arcade Expo, has been going strong since its inception in 2004, and its ten year anniversary suggests that not only do we still love to play games, but also that they are a fundamental part of who we are. PAX Aus 2014 was a shining example of gaming greatness, and ran from Friday October 31st to Sunday November 2nd, with a diverse showcase of performances, multi-platform tournaments, merchandise, cosplay, and of course-the latest independent games from Australian and International game developers. Each day brought a new wave of fresh crowds and enthusiasm, the entertainment knowing no bound. Being able to participate in the magic was an opportunity like no other.

PAX also provided a launch pad for understanding digital games in new, and different forms: Games as literacy, games as equality, and games as a change for society to name just a few. Games are always growing and expanding as a medium, as some of the highlights below can attest.

Cannibal Fever

Fans of real-time strategy (RTS) games and zombies receive a double treat in Cannibal Fevera game by Forbidden Film Studios. The Kickstarter campaign went live on October 29, and has currently reached $3,330 of the intended goal. Cannibal Fever thrusts players into the midst of a zombie pandemic, and presents them with three different game modes: Predator vs Prey, Quarantine, and Outlast.

The Cannibal Fever development team

The Cannibal Fever development team

Predator vs Prey allows players to choose between playing from the perspective of the survivors or the zombies, and has no time restriction. Quarantine mode is time restricted and gives players three potential outcomes: Sterilization (humans are victorious), apocalypse (zombies are victorious), or quarantine (draw). Lastly, as the name suggests, Outlast mode challenges players to survive as long as possible, as hordes of zombies with unique individual animations mercilessly draw near, each wave stronger than the last. Intensifying the gameplay will be the intermittent picture news broadcasts, flashing across the screen not unlike Sky news, as well as the hard rock industrial soundtrack that draws its inspiration from games such as Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. For Cannibal Fever’s developer Michael Carroll, being able to work with a stellar voice cast-which includes the likes of John DiMaggio (Futurama), Jim Cummings (Darkwing Duck), and Jamieson Price (Castlevania)-was the most exciting aspect of the project, a high school dream turned reality. For more on Cannibal Fever make sure to visit the official Facebook page and follow the game on Twitter.

Airscape: The Fall of Gravity

airscape the fall of gravityOriginally submitted as part of a competition that required a screen rotation gameplay mechanic, Daniel West’s Airscape: The Fall of Gravity is a game about an adorable octopus on a quest to save its family. Described as being similar to Super Meat Boy albeit slightly more action based, Airscape challenges players with different puzzles and sustains their interest with its unlockable upgrades, which become available when octopus relatives are rescued. The gravity system sees the player imagining movement in entirely new ways and angles, but blobs of water provide more stability and focus. The game also features an orchestral, medieval themed soundtrack, and will have a final boss for players to face at the end of the game.  Airscape: The Fall of Gravity is expected for release on Windows, Mac, and Linux, and currently has a free demo available on Steam. For those keen on more cephalopod goodness, check out the game’s website and Facebook page.

Hand of Fate

Defiant Development’s virtual tabletop board game with RPG and rogue-like elements stars a crazy guy known only as “The Dealer”, who is partly responsible for whether you live or die. Every choice players make in Hand of Fate has an impact on their fate, and who their character will become. Gameplay focuses on building a strong deck of cards that determines which battles players will engage in, and boasts hundreds of different encounters, items, armor, weapons and artifacts to unlock. hand of fate Hand of Fate has been in development for 18 months, during which time Defiant Development had a successful Kickstarter campaign. They’ve also been working hard on refining the game since last year’s PAX, when the demo was first launched. Since then, the Defiant Development team have been named Studio of the Year at this year’s Australian Game Developer Awards, and Hand of Fate has been given an endless game mode, massive combat improvements, and new music. You can try your hand at the game on Steam Early Access for $24.99 USD-but be wary of your fate. The game is also available on Mac and Linux, and is making the jump to PS4 consoles. Be sure to follow Defiant Development on Twitter to hear all the latest updates on Hand of Fate first.

Light in the Dark

IGM first reported on light-bending puzzle game Light in the Dark last month, which has recently been updated with an Aztec expansion pack and brand new gameplay mechanics. While the three star system and fun, brain-teasing nature of the game remain, players will encounter new enemies in the form of sandmen, in addition to ghost parents and ghost light.

light in the dark team

Members of the Light in the Dark Development team

Light in the Dark has been in development since December of 2013; the Dreamgate Studios team was keen on creating a title that spoke to both children and adults. Many of the key game mechanics-such as the mirrors which bend light in different directions-were discovered during game testing, and a similar approach was used to decide on the newest addition to the game-ghost parents. Ghost parents produce a beam of light that can neutralize other color beams, something which adds a second dimension to the multicolored goodness fans are already familiar with. There are also ghost objects, which are for the most part, intangible and ethereal, unless they have ghost light shining upon them. In addition to the ghost features, enemies will be given a new twist in the form of sandmen. Unlike mummies, which can awaken and end the game if light shines on them for too long, sandmen will whip up a storm and quite literally chase parent totems, inflicting damage upon them. The Aztec expansion pack is expected for release during late November-early December, so keep your eyes peeled on the latest updates from Dreamgate Studios on Twitter. If you think puzzle games are groovy, you can find Light in the Dark on the App store, Google Play Store, and the Windows Phone Store.

A keen retrogamer who grew up playing classics like Prince of Persia, Aladdin, and Diddy Kong Racing, Katrina believes that digital games are not just fun, but a great way to learn. These days she enjoys studying Japanese language acquisition, and designing her own games.