Monday, March 13, 2017

My Favorite PAX East 2017 Games

PAX East has come and gone in what was yet another great year at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in Massachusetts. My friends and I were lucky enough to score Friday and Saturday passes for the popular gaming convention and to witness it in all its glory. This was my third time attending, while my three friends had never been to one before. The last time I went to a PAX East was in 2013 and while the main idea of what makes PAX East so special remains intact, I've noticed a few differences in how the experience was in 2017.

For one it was a lot more crowded with huge lines for the games everyone was dying to play. Most of these lines were even capped which meant you couldn't wait to play even if you wanted to. Because of this I couldn't try out games I wanted to such as Splatoon 2, Arms and Yooka-Laylee. While it bummed me out a bit, I did get to play some other games I was also looking forward to and some I didn't even know existed. Below you'll find the list of my favorite games that I got to try at PAX East 2017.

Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom

Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom was a huge surprise for me. While walking around PAX I saw a colorful game in the distance and decided to give it a try since there was a free station available. This 2D Action Adventure Platformer held my attention as I experienced its tight gameplay mechanics and cute, yet expressive enemies.

The crab enemies go from looking clueless and happy to angry and annoyed

Little did I know it was based on an old game series on the Sega Genesis called Wonder Boy in Monster World and even has its original creator collaborating with the Cursed Kingdom team. The demo had me controlling a short character with blue hair who is equipped with a sword and eventually learns a fire spell to burn through grassy areas. You can even do a downward charge almost like Scrooge McDuck in the NES Ducktales and bounce off of enemies. There are also various items you need to progress like boots that increase your weight and allow you to walk on the ocean floor. The game felt super polished and the boss fight with the giant squid was awesome. I can't wait to get my hands on this when it launches later this year for Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One and PC. 


Little Nightmares

When I first saw the trailer for Little Nighmares I was intrigued. Being the big horror fan that I am this looked right up my alley for a new game to experience. I loved Playdead's INSIDE and this looks to be almost in the same vein as that. In the demo I played I took control of a little girl in a yellow raincoat simply named Six. As I crept under tables and cabinets I had to hide in the shadows so I wouldn't alert the giant grotesque chef that was busy minding his kitchen. The art style of Little Nightmares looks like something out of Tim Burton film.

Six must do her best to explore and survive her dollhouse world filled with both imaginative and horrific sights. The game is very dark and I had to use Six's lighter to navigate through vents and meat fridges as I solved puzzles and tried to stay as far away from the dollhouse's inhabitants that I came across. I even got a free Little Nightmares t-shirt from playing the demo.

I spoke with one of the level designers and he told me the game would last around 8-12 hours depending on how each player tackles the puzzles and plays the game. Little Nightmares is set to release on April 28, 2017 and will be available for Xbox One, PS4 and PC and I know I'll be getting this next month.

Toejam & Earl: Back in the Groove!

This was one of the big games for me that I NEEDED to try at PAX East. I've been a TJ & Earl fan since the early 90s when the game was first conceived for the Sega Genesis. Although I didn't own the original game until a few months ago I dumped countless hours into its sequel Panic on Funkotron. Back in the Groove supports up to 4-player co-op simultaneously and is most similar to the original Toejam & Earl. It's your job as one of the funky aliens to traverse the Earth and find the missing pieces to your Rapmaster Rocket ship.

Along the way you'll encounter re-imagined versions of the annoying earthlings you found in the original Toejam & Earl. They also included the beat-boxing repeat after me sections and Hyperfunk Zone from the second game Panic on Funkotron in Back in the Groove. Playing this demo really brought me back to when I was a kid sitting in front of my TV and jamming out to toe-tapping funk music all while avoiding the human species that was just trying to get in my way. I even got to meet Greg Johnson, the co-creator the the series and the original mastermind behind everything that is Toejam & Earl and spoke with him a bit about the new game as well as what drove him to come up with the idea for the original game that came out in 1991.

Toejam & Earl: Back in the Groove will have 9 playable characters which include Earl's mom, Peabo, Toejam's nerdy cousin and a few other fan favorites. I for one can't wait to jump back into the TJ & Earl universe when the game comes out later this year on PC and Nintendo Switch.

Sonic Mania


What a beautiful sight

This was another must-play for me at PAX East. I'm a huge Sonic the Hedgehog fan and the trailers I've seen of Sonic Mania have gotten me so excited for this new classic Sonic game. The hardest thing was finding where they actually had the demo available to play at PAX East. Sega wasn't in attendance at the convention but the game was still available to play in a small corner of the showroom floor on two laptops that were set up. Luckily one of the PAX enforcers found out where the demo station was and led me in the right direction. Once I found the demo station the magic began.

I tried both of the available stages: Green Hill Zone and Studiopolis Zone. As I played Studiopolis I couldn't help but feel I was playing a brand new level that I never got to experience in Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles. The controls felt identical to Sonic's Sega Genesis counterparts. Sonic was fast and could bounce on the bumpers throughout the stage. The enemies I encountered felt fresh, but definitely on par with ones you would find in the classic Sonic games. The levels also felt robust and not too short, but also didn't take too long to complete either. A huge smile formed on my face as I played through Studiopolis and its bright casino light appearance.

The small Sonic Mania demo station (only 2 laptops!)

Next was the re-imagined Green Hill Zone from Sonic 1. While it felt pretty similar to its counterpart, this time around there were Water Bubble and Lightning Bubble item boxes to be found. It almost blew my mind to be able to use these power-ups in a level where they normally don't exist. The boss of the zone was also just like past bosses from the Genesis titles.

Sonic Mania was hands down my favorite game to play at PAX East 2017. I felt like I went back to a simpler time where all that mattered was defeating Dr. Robotnik (Dr. Eggman for all you youngins!) and saving cute fuzzy animals from their egg-shaped prison holding cells. Sonic Mania will be a Day 1 purchase for me when it hits Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PS4 and PC later this year. 

So there you have it! That's my list of the best games I got to experience at PAX East 2017. Did you get to attend PAX East this year? If so what games did you enjoy the most? Let me know in the comments below.

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