MultiPAX: Multiplayer mayhem at PAX Australia (pictures)

While mainstream developers shift away from local multiplayer, the sheer scope and variety of independent multiplayer games at PAX Australia 2015 shows that it ain't dead yet.

Michelle Starr
Michelle Starr is CNET's science editor, and she hopes to get you as enthralled with the wonders of the universe as she is. When she's not daydreaming about flying through space, she's daydreaming about bats.
Michelle Starr
1 of 15 Hojo Studio


I think Inflatality had to be the most magnificently daft thing on the PAX indie show floor. It's a fighting game in the vein of Street Fighter, only you both control "Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm-Flailing Tubemen", AKA airdancers, and the result is just as silly and fumbly as you might expect. You use the left thumbstick to control the character, and the right one to control its arm, and you just sort of flail about madly at each other hoping something will hit. There is some skill involved, but overall it's bedlam. It's due out for PC, Mac and consoles in early 2016.

2 of 15 My64K


Kew McParlane started making Rivalry when he was 12 years old. Two years later, a wireframe version of the game attracted a rather large crowd at PAX Australia. Players take turns whacking each other, moving their character's limbs and weapons until one wins. Turns are marked by a circle, and each player has until the circle runs out to stop moving. As the players get more injured, they become more difficult to control, and the characters just sort of flop around bleeding, which is more funny than it has any right to be. The game is currently seeking votes on Steam Greenlight, and you can play a version online here.

3 of 15 Iron Helmet Games

Blight of the Immortals

Blight of the Immortals is real-time strategy in a very real sense of the term. Actions play out over the course of hours, rather than moments. It's a game for people who may not be able to play something really time-consuming, without sacrificing any of the depth of a multiplayer RTS experience. It plays like a board game, with cards that you can collect for your troops. The idea is that you log in (it's browser-based) when you can, set a few actions in motion, then come back later. It's a cooperative game, so other players are your allies, and you have to work together to use your respective strengths against the invading undead hordes. It's currently in open beta, and you can try it out here.

4 of 15 ByteSprite Games


Originally conceived during a 48-hour global game jam, BrambleLash combines both cooperative and competitive multiplayer for up two four people. In order to play, two players must link together, creating a stretchy, thorny vine that you drag around the screen to destroy both other players and mutual enemies. There are game modes where all players must work together to eradicate foes (but can still hurt each other), and game modes where two players fight against two players. However, when you respawn, you can link up again with any other player, so teams will change several times over the course of a single match. It's due out by April 2016 for PC, Mac and Linux.

5 of 15 Digital Confectioners


If you're prone to thalassophobia, you might want to avoid Depth. It's a multiplayer game for up to six players: a team of four divers against a team of two sharks. It started life in 2009 as a mod for Unreal Tournament 3, which should give you some idea of the terrifying first-person gameplay. Divers, who can collect treasure from the seafloor for upgrades, are equipped with weapons such as harpoons and guns, and sharks have their stealth and teeth. It's currently available for PC from Humble and Steam.

6 of 15 Craftven


Top-down two- or four-person multiplayer game Lupinball combines dodgeball with werewolves, because why the heck not? The werewolves enter the arena, scrambling to collect the glowing white orbs. When you have enough, you can fire off a ball, which bounces around until it connects with another player. That's it! You have to collect orbs, fire balls and dodge the other wolves' balls to be the last wolf standing. Add in trick stages, such as a moving music box floor or a slippery ice floor and it turns into a riot. Lupinball is currently collecting votes on Steam Greenlight for PC.

7 of 15 Three Flip Studios

Armed and Gelatinous

Armed and Gelatinous is a four-player take on bullet hell-style gameplay. Each player is a colourful jelly blob, zipping around the screen collecting weapons to take out the other dudes. The catch, and there's always a catch, is that whenever you die, you drop all your collected weapons, and anyone can just swoop in and grab them. The more weapons you grab, the bigger you grow, and the easier you are to hit, so there is a sacrifice. The result is a highly competitive explosion of lights and colours. It's coming out soon for consoles and PC.

8 of 15 Giant Margarita

Party Golf

Remember Desert Golfing? Party Golf is what you'd get if you took Desert Golfing and added weird ball shapes and local four-person multiplayer. Each level is procedurally generated, so you never get the same one twice, and different shapes, such as football, banana and square, can be chosen for the balls, which changes up the physics of how they land and bounce. There are also offensive moves the players can use against each other so you're not entirely reliant on trajectory. It makes for a really silly, but fun, party game. Party golf is currently funding on Kickstarter for PS4 and PC.

9 of 15 RnD Labs

Death Stair

Death Stair is a really interesting, asymmetrical idea. One to three players (Runners) run up a long set of stairs while another player (the Gunner) throws stuff down to keep them from reaching the top. What really makes it hilarious is the ragdoll physics. Every time you get knocked off your feet, you go tumbling in an incredibly floppy fashion. The winner is whoever reaches the top of the stairs first. If no one makes it up before the time runs out, the Gunner wins. The game is currently funding on Kickstarter for Steam. You can download a playable alpha demo on the Kickstarter page.

10 of 15 SMG Studio

Death Squared

Death Squared is a diabolical cooperative game for one, two or four players. The aim is to get the coloured boxes on to the circles of the same colour to complete the level, but there's a catch (of course there's a catch). Every time one box moves, it can have an effect on the board. Spikes might emerge, lasers might fire, a phantom block might push your friend over the edge. The aim is to figure out the patterns of these events, then communicate with each other to solve the problem. Death Squared is due out some time next year for consoles and PC.

11 of 15 Studio Canvas


GoatPunks is a madcap "king of the hill"-style party game for up to four players, racing to the top of the mountain to rain fire and bombs on their foes and claim the title of mountainiest goat (probably). You have to dash up the mountain, or scaffold, or volcano, reach the top, and stay there for 30 seconds without being knocked off. You can use weapons, but climbing goats have the ability to shield so maintaining top position isn't as easy as it sounds. You can vote for GoatPunks on Steam Greenlight now.

12 of 15 Space Dust Studios

Space Dust Racers

Space Dust Racers is a game from a team of veteran EA developers, and boy does their expertise show. It's a Mario Kart-style racing game, and it'll look pretty familiar. You race around a track, collecting weapons and power ups to use against your fellows. The difference is that it can support up to 16 players, and it's local multiplayer on a single screen. If you fall too far behind, you're out of the race. Luckily, this doesn't take too long at all, so the game takes place in short, sharp, furious bursts of high-octane fun. It's due for release in early 2016 for PC, Xbox One and PS4.

13 of 15 achebit

Dungeon League

If you cross Gauntlet with a MOBA-style upgrade system and pit the players against each other, what you end up with looks a lot like Dungeon League. Each round lasts just a couple of minutes, and there are various types, such as capture the flag or claim the witch's eye, and players can play four-person cooperative, every person for themselves, or two-versus-two. In between rounds, you can level up and use your loot to buy character upgrades. It's available now for PC, Mac and Linux on Humble and Steam.

14 of 15 Fluffy Kitten Studios

Ascent: The Space Game

Ascent: The Space Game is quite possibly the most ambitious game I saw at PAX 2015. It's a player-vs-environment MMORPG set in space, with 270 billion star systems based on NASA maps. The idea of the game, artist George Karandais told me, is to move away from EVE Online-style PvP combat, where you can go away overnight and come back to find everything destroyed. Instead, the focus is on cooperation, exploration, trading, farming, manufacturing, research, mining and building. Players will work together to expand the human reach into the universe, forming governments and building jump gates as community mega-projects. And for the combat-lovers, occasionally fighting battles against NPC foes. It's currently available for PC via Steam Early Access.

15 of 15 Bandit-1

Western Press

Fastest thumbs in the... er... living room! That's what it takes to win Western Press, a duelling game based on the tropes of the film Western. Each player chooses from one of 16 characters. The duel then takes place, with whoever is fastest at pressing the sequence of buttons down their side of the screen winning. Which buttons are used can be configured, so the difficulty can be set lighter for, say, PC gamers who aren't used to handling a controller, to hardcore all of the buttons. It's due out soon for PC and Mac.

Want more PAX? Check out Games on parade: Amazing indie games at PAX Australia.

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