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Talent Scout

06 November 201511:37AMpaxtravel

So let's talk about some actual games. That's why we're all here, isn't it?

I hit PAX this year with a mission. A few months ago, I invested - and I use the term very loosely - in a set of knock-off Super Nintendo controllers and a USB hub. These, I proclaimed, would reinvigorate couch-based multiplayer in a way that Lochie's Ex Box One, so named for the number of controllers an ordinary human who is not made of literal gold can afford, could not.

While this has been remarkably successful, mostly through the medium of [Rockets], my mission at PAX this year was to find more things to do with them.

So without further ado, here are our candidates. I wish I had more photos of these setups, because I think it would be illustrative of how a lot of them play. Plus, a lot of the booths were really cool. Sadly, since my phone was in an induced coma for most of the weekend, you'll just have to be satisfied with my words. And this glorious array of calling cards.

gotta catch em all

Dungeon League

Dungeon League plays like an incredibly fast-paced competitive [roguelike]. It's clearly been constructed by someone who thought, "Yeah, I guess Smash Brothers is okay, but it needs more Nethack." It's one of those recipes where you know instantly if that's for you.

Well, not quite. I'm a real fencesitter for both genres. I get my butt handed to me in fighting games, and while I love the concept of those deep random RPGs, I never really found the time for them, you know? This one was incredibly popular, so I only got a few rounds - but I'd be willing to give it a shot. The grid system should play nicely with a d-pad too.

Swordy

Swordy is weird. It's kind of Surgeon Simulator with swords, and local multiplayer. Your movement is on one thumbstick, and your weapon action is on the other. If you've played Hammerfight, it's kind of like that. It's pretty decent fun though.

Unfortunately due to the two sticks requirement, it won't play nicely on my controllers. The poor things only have one D-pad. If I ever upgrade to cheapo analogue controllers though...

(Also, what's with the weird trend towards really lazy names? Flappy bird? Crossy road? Shooty sky? Swordy? C'mon guys. You're creative types. You can do better than that.)

Armed and Gelatinous

Ah, this is just about perfect. Amoebas with guns in space. The more guns you pick up, the bigger and angrier you get.

I'm not sure how people will react to this one. The fact that you end up with most of the previous leader's weapons when you kill them makes it a bit king-of-the-hill-y, and unless you luck on to a weapon at the right time and manage to hit them in their gap in their defences (I think the weapons are randomly distributed about your circumference to ensure you do have a weak spot - but I don't know) it can be really hard to claw back an even game from being dominated.

On the other hand, actually killing the leader and taking every gun is just so satisfying that it might make up for it.

Thanks to a very friendly and helpful developer and his deep knowledge of Unity plug-ins, I'm pretty sure that Armed and Gelatinous is the most certain to work on my controllers. And it only uses, like, one button. I expect we'll play this one pretty much first up. Whether it catches on or not is another matter entirely.

One More Line

This is part of a peculiar fad of single-button games. I ran into several of them at the show. This one was literally hooked up to giant buttons at the booth. Press them to start swinging around the blobs? And there's some kind of race mode?

I don't know how it will play out as multiplayer. I'll give it a try. What I can confirm is that on a phone - yes! A game was actually released for my phone! - it is weirdly addictive. Especially with some podcasts in the background. I've been playing it pretty much non-stop since I got back, and did I mention it's free? Come and join me in the technicolour addiction hole.

Inflatality

FIGHTING TUBE MEN. PUNNY NAME. WHAT IS NOT TO LOVE.

inflatality

Well, the fact that it's another case of movement on one stick, violent flailing on the other. So again, off the cards without a significant controller upgrade. It plays quite nicely though. Very visceral and punchy. Naturally, I sucked at it.

Party Golf

One more with great potential - although it needs at least one analogue stick. The big boast here is replayability. Which is something I can appreciate, since we're getting a little tired of the one available map in Rockets Rockets Rockets over and over again.

The gist of the game is a 2D golf thingy, with all the players aiming for the same hole at the same time. The gimmick comes from the fact that the developers have apparently exposed every single internal variable they can get their hands on through the UI, resulting in what they claim is 'trillions' of different variants. And somehow, I don't doubt it. During one round, we played with bananas as balls, with weird inverted gravity, up cliffs...

Spacedust Racers

This is my current favourite for a spot on the roster. The pitch is, essentially, Mario Kart crossed with Smash Brothers. Yeah - there was a lot of crossbreeding going on this year. It's a shooty racing game, but without any racing. While you do have to stay on the track, you don't actually have to win a race. You're just trying to brutally murder your other racers, either directly, or by forcing them off-screen.

It doesn't really describe well, but it was very, very compelling. They get everything right. The turnaround between bouts is very quick, so you're never left out. Little details, like figuring out which bizarre-looking character you are (you wiggle the thumbstick to light up your player tag!) are all thought through. And- get this - up to 16 players. Locally. On one machine.

And somewhat incredibly, they've built a webserver into the game with some kind of html-based controller you can load on to smartphones, for when you don't have that many physical controllers. They admit it's very much a 'better than nothing' solution to get as many people in on the mayhem as possible and the fact that they didn't (couldn't) demo it was unfortunate (I suspect it's not ready) but it's a very cool idea and I hope they pull it off.

Tomorrow: I get selfish.

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