PAX West continues, and we played more games. We also saw one grumpy convention goer bristle up against a salty enforcer, and the most bizarre of bro-downs between a maybe scalper and the most stoic of all men. Without a doubt, we’re doing great.
Unavowed – Wadjet Eye Studios
We at the site have a longstanding fondness for point-and-click adventures, and I think we’re all glad to see the slow resurgence of the genre in the States as of recent. When I first found out about the new title by Dave Gilbert (Possibly best know for The Blackwell Legacy), which claims some inspiration from Dark City, I felt a giddy sense of excitement for the title. I’m pleased to say that my excitement was well-founded, and the game, while early on in the stage I saw it, looks to have the makings of a classic adventure game.
The demo I sampled was brief, only covering a small slice of the adventure, but right from the start the game looks great. The pixel art captures an era of pixel art games that feels immediately familiar but also attractive, but also a little macabre (While not entirely accurate, I was reminded of some of Sierra’s grimmer titles). The title begins with you choosing a background, which I’m told will determine a lot of how the game will play out, and details your six-month demonic possession, ending with your exorcism and induction into the mysterious league of demon fighters, the Unavowed. The subject matter is quite dark, and while I didn’t spend much time with the plot, it looks like we can expect some macabre and disturbing themes to be explored. It’s still early, but for the right type of player I suspect there’s going to be something to be excited about.
Outward – Ninedots Studio
Outward bills itself as an adventure life simulator, the idea behind it being that you won’t be the chosen hero, but the every day working hero who puts on his britches one leg at a time and wades out into the wild world to bring order, find treasure and keep the people safe. The game draws heavily from Dark Souls, but also seeks to offer a more complete world with people, factions and stories. The studio’s president was nice enough to sit down and play through the demo with me, showing off some the nuances of their title. The story aspect is still in the works, but I was told of an experience where I’m defeated while adventuring and saved by locals who demand rewards for their intervention, or multiple factions you can align with, each with their own views on how to keep the people safe.
In my playthrough we explored a fairly large dungeon, fighting ghosts skeletons, as well as a fairly challenging boss that required a good deal of coordination to defeat. Outward has some fairly strict expectations on how you will play the game, requiring you to carry a backpack to carry more than a few items, but limiting your movement while you carry it. In order to dodge or move lithely in combat, you’ll have to forsake the bag or set it down between encounters. This seemingly innocuous mechanic, which will likely annoy some, actually amuses me quite a bit. The nuts-and-bolts mechanics feel like they offer a lot of character to the game, especially when I’ve seen a lot of soulless Souls clones in the works from indie devs.
Possibly one of the biggest differences in this title is multiplayer. You can sit down with a friend and play the game in classing splitscreen mode, which worked surprisingly well. We traversed the dungeon and worked together as a team with surprisingly smooth ease. Without trying to reduce their title, I hope that they would be pleased with the description of 2-player Dark Souls. The game already feels quite polished, and is quite a bit of of fun to play in its current state. There are still some improvements that need to be made; they’ll either need to add some heft to combat to mimic Souls titles, or find other aspects to emphasize to give it the distinctive feel I think it needs to really distinguish itself, but I’m pretty excited about the game even in its current state.
Beat Cop is the type of game I come to PAX to see. A pixelated ticket-writing simulator that puts you in the role of Officer Kelly, a disgraced NYPD detective in 1986 who’s been busted down to a patrol rank for crime he didn’t commit. The game gives you a New York neighborhood to patrol, enforcing parking laws and maintaining order, during which you can try to solve the mystery behind who set you up, work to keep the streets safe from gangs and crime, or you can do nothing at all. It’s the unusual setting that I like, mixed with the blocky, almost intentionally garish pixel graphics and odd gameplay that really draws me in to a title.
The demo I played had me walk my first few days on the beat. You’ll patrol the neighborhood, meeting local business owners who will give you advice, tips and request favors of you. You’ll have to balance a reputation between the local factions, such as gangs, the mafia, the people and the police. You’ll also have a quota of tickets to write in any given day, patrolling the streets for parking violations: Cars with unpaid parking meters, bad tires, parked in front of a hydrant, etc. You’ll have to write a ticket, making sure to cite the correct violations, stamp and sign it and have the car towed off. It’s slightly reminiscent of Papers, Please in that you will have to maintain your tickets accurately or be penalized, but will likely appeal to a larger audience as there are other tasks to attend to. You will need to be on the look out for other crimes, and keep up your presence in the neighborhood, in addition to trying to solve your own case.
In the demo I played I only scratched the surface of some of my tasks, but the game oozes personality and charm in a way that few titles I see can. The goofy graphics contrast sharply with sometimes serious subject matter, even when the game moves from black humor to black tragedy. There will be some who are probably turned off by the depiction of inner city gang violence, a touch of racism, or drug abuse in a medium that feels inherently a little comical, but I think Pixel Crow has the makings of a real winner in this title, and I wish I could have sat down and played the whole thing.