There's no better place to check out the next raft of weird and wonderful games than the Indie Showcase at PAX. Now in its fifth year in Melbourne, Australia (as part of Melbourne International Games Week), PAX AUS certainly delivered on the indie front.
One of the highlights was Rumu, a sweet and sad puzzle game where you play as a smart robot vacuum with feelings. Launched at PAX AUS this year, Rumu comes from Sydney indie studio Robot House and sees you moving around a smart home, trying to find out what happened to the home's inhabitants. It's Gone Home meets "2001: A Space Odyssey" (is the smart home sentient?) and is set to launch on Steam by the end of 2017. Definitely worth keeping an eye out for this one.
Get a job in a diner! Have a knife fight with a stranger in an alley! This retro-style game is odd, funny and a great example of indie weirdness. Everything in Knuckle Sandwich (bar the music) is the work of just one person, Andrew Brophy, who wanted to recreate his journey moving to the big city and trying to find a job. Considering the game left me curled up in a ball after trying to shank a guy in the alley outside my diner, we reckon the move from hospitality to games was a good move for Brophy.
Dead Static Drive is a little noir, a little retro throwback and a lot of Americana crammed into an indie game. Developer Mike Blackney describes the game as "a survival game in a nightmare horror world" -- you drive through classic road trip landscapes, stopping off at diners and road-side gas stations and facing weird monsters along the way. The game is still in development, but with Blackney calling it "Grand Theft cthulhu," we're keen to see more.
We've been waiting some time for Heist to come out, but my goodness it looks awesome. Part noir, part heist film, this game has you moving between light and shadow trying to outrun the police. The game is in closed beta and there is talk of a 2018 launch on Steam. If they can get it out soon, this one will be the cat's pyjamas.
Putty Pals looked so simple that we missed it on the first pass around the show floor, but it's such wonderful fun. While you can play in single-player mode, bouncing your ball of putty across the side-scrolling game, two-player mode has you cooperating with your fellow player to lift and trampoline each other past lava and through walls. It's just hit Nintendo Switch, and certainly makes sense for the platform -- pure, colourful fun.
If you want to see the best of Australia, this is the Aussie indie game for you. A beautiful, exploratory game that sees you walking around the bush as a wombat, Paperbark draws inspiration from Australian children's storybooks, with beautiful watercolour-like scenes that unfold before you onscreen. According to one of the game's animators, Joe Toole, the idea was to "recreate the feeling of walking through the bush as a kid," and they certainly succeed. Paperbark is set to launch in April 2018 on iOS.
"Little Bobby's dead, the BBQ's on fire, Jen's eating poisonous berries and the birthday cake still needs icing" -- the description of Think of the Children! certainly sums up the nightmare of having kids. In this co-operative parenting simulator (released just last week for PC), you manage tasks like setting up a picnic or doing the shopping while trying to stop your kids from dying, all in a cute, Crossy Road-esque pixelated game world.
A visual novel inspired by the laneways of a "fantasy Melbourne" in Australia, Necrobarista is a slow burn, but incredibly beautiful. Artist Ngoc Vu drew inspiration from anime and TV series like Cowboy Bebop, and lead designer Kevin Chen sums up the game with one great question: "What would happen if the dead came back for one last night and one last cup of coffee?" Sold.
This colourful and cute VR title asks the perennial question, "What happens when a town made out of paper catches on fire?" In Paperville Panic, you're the only fire fighter in town and you have to save the day with your axe and your water pistol. You can check out our write-up here; the game is set to launch this month on Steam.
Created by Wrecked Angle (we see what they did there), Chromalocity is pure neon '80s throwback. The concept is simple enough -- you're speed running through space and shooting primary colours onto platforms to allow you to speed up, jump or wall climb. Wrecked Angle was formed by a team of former Swinburne University students out of Melbourne, Australia, and studio lead Christian Wigg says the game is designed as a gateway to speed running and first person shooters.
A robot brawler set in space, Collateral Damage wins points on the party game front. Each robot has a unique set of combat skills: dropping mines, teleporting, swinging blades. I won't lie, the strategic elements were lost on me in my attempts to stay alive in an all-in arena of combative robots. But there's time to practise -- studio Artisans Games has opened beta sign-ups in time for PAX.
The perfect indie title for the paranoid gamer, the original Orwell game launched last year, letting you play in Big Brother's shoes as a government surveillance recruit. With the follow up, Orwell: Ignorance is Strength, German outfit Osmotic Studios has updated the game for the fake news era, letting you get deeper into the tools of the state. This one is set to launch in 2018.