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HolidayBuyer's Guide

Mini Metro

Objects in Space

Goblins of Elderstone

The Artful Escape of Francis Vendetti

The American Dream

Kept

Blind

Dead Static Drive

Killing Time at Lightspeed

Orwell

Return of the Obra Dinn

You know exactly what you're in for when you look at Mini Metro. It's based on that marvellous, almost universally recognisable mainstay of urban living, the metro map, and sure enough, it sees you building railway lines to transport passengers based on the tiny symbols they are represented by. It's out now for Anrdroid, iOS and Steam -- you can find links on the official website.

Caption by / Photo by Dinosaur Polo Club

We saw space-trading simulator Objects in Space last year, planned for an August 2016 release, but after the tremendous reception it received at PAX 2015, siblings Elissa and Leigh Harris of Flat Earth Games expanded the scope. The game, in which you're in charge of a real rust-bucket of a space freighter interacting with other, well, objects in space, is now a lot more in-depth. And the team has some amazing Arduino-based custom control boxes that really create a genuine cockpit ambience. Here's the official website.

Caption by / Photo by Flat Earth Games

Former Gameloft Creative Director Gustav Seymore and his team have been working on Goblins of Elderstone (currently funding on Kickstarter, although not for much longer!). Based on the hands-on, it's going to be a blast, pairing city building and resource management with mercurial goblins who may stop doing what you want them to do if you don't keep them happy -- and look at how cute they are!

Caption by / Photo by Lost Goblin

Sometimes you just want to crawl inside a video game, curl up and live there. This accurately describes The Artful Escape of Francis Vendetti, a side-scrolling game that uses the power of awesome guitar-playing to speed you on your journey to discover the music you want to create. Everything about it will make you grin. The gameplay is great, the music incredible and the world it's set in is just breathtaking. Developer Johnny Galvatron (of rock band The Galvatrons) told us he was inspired by old school side-scrollers, and the fascinating and magical landscapes in the background. Check out the trailer.

Caption by / Photo by Beethoven & Dinosaur

The CNET Australia team has not been able to stop talking about The American Dream, a magnificent VR experience by Samurai Punk, the genius team behind Screencheat. Developer Nicholas McDonnell told us that it's satire, highlighting how reliant video games are on guns to interact with the world around you. Extrapolating that to the extreme, The American Dream sees you using guns for everything from an eating utensil to feed a baby to working in a bagel factory (shooting holes in the bagels). Here's our hands-on.

Caption by / Photo by Samurai Punk

There were a few VR offerings on the indie show floor, one of which was the lovely, creepy Kept. In the demo, you're in a strange stone circle in a forest, and you have to capture a firefly in a jar and use it to activate sigil stones to open the passageway beneath your feet. It feels eerily real, and utterly immersive. And then the demo ended on a cliffhanger; of course we want to know what happens next! Here's the VR trailer.

Caption by / Photo by S1T2

Another VR standout was Blind, currently in development by Italian indie studio Tiny Bull. It's based on echolocation. You play a blind person navigating the world with a cane, using it to "see" the world. Sound reveals the shape of the world around you, allowing you to solve puzzles in the environment. As you can imagine, it's not exactly well suited to the noisy PAX surroundings, yet it still managed to get our attention. Stay tuned for a deeper hands-on.

Caption by / Photo by Tiny Bull Studios/Surprise Attack

The monsters in Dead Static Drive were the first thing that caught our eye, strange creatures of bone and shadow. It's a really unnerving experience. Developer Mike Blackney describes it as "Grand Theft Cthulhu"; you drive from town-to-town, switching vehicles as you need to, gathering up weapons and trying to stay one step ahead of the foes, which vary from town-to-town and in some cases are indistinguishable from NPCs, and prevent the end of the world. You can watch a video of Blackney talking about Dead Static Drive here.

Caption by / Photo by Mike Blackney

Killing Time at Lightspeed debuted on Steam earlier this year. The premise sees you on a spaceship, travelling at the speed of light; for you, just half an hour passes, while back home on Earth, it's 29 years. You watch your friends' social media feeds, interact with them and read news reports, getting a sense of life flashing by while you twiddle your thumbs on the way to your destination. Developer John Kane of Gritfish was also showing his newly launched Mallow Drops, if cute puzzlers with little birds are more your thing.


Caption by / Photo by Gritfish

In Orwell, Big Brother is watching, and you are Big Brother. With echoes of Papers, Please, you are a human agent, the first employed by Orwell tasked with sifting through surveillance materials and digital profiles to determine who represents a threat to the The Nation, and building profiles of materials to assist The Nation's security. It will really make you think about how much information you put on Facebook.

Orwell is currently being released episodically. You can grab it here and check out our thoughts on the game here.

Caption by / Photo by Osmotic Studios/Surprise Attack

Speaking of Papers, Please, developer Lucas Pope was showing his latest project at PAX Australia, and I'll be honest: It made my heart expand with wonder. In Return of the Obra Dinn, you are an insurance adjuster. Merchant Ship Obra Dinn, thought lost at sea, has returned to port, every person aboard dead. With a watch that allows you to rewind time, you need to identify the dead and log their manner of death into the ship's roll. It's all in black and white, and just stunning to play. You can download a playable demo here.

Caption by / Photo by Lucas Pope
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