PAX Aus indie showcase: Smokin' hot titles from down under

The indie pavilion was the place to be at PAX Australia. Here are some of the most exciting and interesting titles we saw on the show floor.

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 18 Blunt Instrument Games

Super Mega Mega

Super Mega Mega adds a new dimension to tried-and true platformer gameplay -- literally. Designed for the Oculus Rift, it takes place in three dimensions: as you climb the tower, dodging hazards and shooting foes, you not only have to move from side to side -- you also have to move forwards and backwards, and even in front of and behind the walls in some cases. It's such a simple shift, yet what a difference it makes.

A release date for Super Mega Mega is yet to be confirmed.


2 of 18 Disparity Games

Ninja Pizza Girl

Originally funded on Kickstarter, Ninja Pizza Girl (PC, Mac, Linux, Wii U and Xbox One) is a sort of side-scrolling parkour runner, starring teenage Gemma, who delivers pizza in a high-rise dystopian city. It employs an interesting mechanic, though: the game also wanted to address bullying, which it does by pitting Gemma against her fellow teens, whose jeers impact her self-esteem and see her slow down in sadness.

Ninja Pizza Girl is due out in March 2015. You can watch our interview with developer Nicole Starke here.


3 of 18 Eyemobi


New Zealand-based developer Eyemobi's Phantasmal -- currently up for voting on Steam Greenlight for PC -- offers a Lovecraftian horror experience where repetition won't teach you how to avoid the monsters.

The first-person experience sees you exploring a procedurally generated abandoned university full of shivering, gibbering horrors. The gameplay is partially inspired by survival horror titles such as Silent Hill and Eternal Darkness, with a sanity meter that fills as you fight the monsters -- encouraging a stealthier approach. You'll keep XP for subsequent playthroughs, but dying resets the map. So no learning where those jump scares are.


4 of 18 SMG Studio

One More Line

SMG Studio -- the team behind OTTTD -- had two offerings at PAX this year. Multiplayer twin-stick bullet-hell brawler Hyper Death Robot Party was great (check out a video here), but the one that was extremely difficult to put down was One More Line. The tagline: your death will be beautiful. It's all based on momentum: your line will travel up the screen, and you have to latch onto swing points, trying not to crash into the walls. It's simple, elegant and -- yes -- beautiful.


5 of 18 Chris Johnson and Chris Larkin


Expand -- by two-man team Chris Johnson and Chris Larkin -- was something of a delightful surprise, in a tiny booth all the way at the back of the indie pavilion. The game takes place in a circular labyrinth, with you controlling a small red square. As you move around the labyrinth, it opens up pathways before you and closes them behind you; as you progress, parts of the labyrinth start to move, which can lead you along looping paths, force you to react at speed or slow you down to figure out the patterns. It's a wonderfully peaceful, meditative experience, set to an absolutely exquisite soundtrack.

It's expected to arrive next year for PC, Mac and Linux.


6 of 18 Frogshark


For pure, unalloyed fun, Swordy from New Zealand studio Frogshark takes the biscuit. The top-down, multiplayer melee brawler controls a little bit differently from what you might be used to, employing physics rather than button mashing. Each player runs for a weapon; to control that weapon, you have to use the right thumbstick to gain momentum, swinging it as you teeter around the arena, swayed off balance by the weapon's weight. It's utterly spectacular mayhem.

Release date and platforms TBC.


7 of 18 The Voxel Agents

Time Project

The Voxel Agents -- who was showing off Train Conductor 3 -- gave us a quiet look at another project that it's working on. It's called Time Project, and it's currently largely under wraps, so we can't give too much away. We can, however, say that it's utterly stunning, with puzzles based around narrative and time; and that it belongs in that rarefied zone where you'll find such titles as Year Walk, Monument Valley and The Room.

It's coming in 2015 for iOS, and you can sign up on the website to get more updates as they become available.

8 of 18 Powerhoof


Powerhoof's Crawl -- released for PC, Mac and Linux on Steam Early Access in August -- isn't your standard retro isometric dungeon crawler. Sure, you're exploring the dungeon, killing monsters, collecting loots -- but in this local multiplayer version, those monsters are being controlled by up to three of your friends in a sort of dungeon-based duck-duck-goose: the monster that slays the hero then gets to become the hero, with each game designed to take no longer than around half an hour.


9 of 18 Man Fight Dragon

Black Annex

Syndicate-inspired isometric action title Black Annex takes its cues from PC titles of the 90s. You control various agents running espionage missions for the Black Annex, each agent in your portfolio with its own special skillset for the task at hand. You build your team; the clients assign missions; and you choose the best agents for the job, whether it be taking hostages -- which you can then add to your team -- accessing computer networks, or simply slaughtering everyone you see. It looks to be a superb mix of action and admin, with something to satisfy everyone.

It's due out later this year for PC, Mac and Linux.


10 of 18 Defiant Development

Hand of Fate

Kickstarter-funded Hand of Fate -- currently available through Steam Early Access for PC, Mac and Linux -- is a dungeon crawler crossed with a CCG. The Dealer will deal you a hand based on the deck you have collected and built; the cards in that deck then form the basis of a dungeon: the monsters, the boss, the environment, your weapons, your stats, buffs and debuffs. Each deck you build then forms the level you need to defeat.


11 of 18 Three Phase Interactive

Defect: Space Destruction Kit

Speaking of beating yourself, welcome to Defect: Space Destruction Kit. As a space captain, your job is to build the ultimate spacecraft, flying it around the galaxy, entering combat with other spacecraft and completing missions -- but there's a catch. Eventually, inevitably, your crew will mutiny, leaving you shipless and having to build a new ship that can exploit the weaknesses of the old one. You can't, however, build them too weak, because you still have objectives to complete in the meantime.

A release date has yet to be announced, but Defect will be hitting PC, Mac, Android and iOS.


12 of 18 Uppercut Games


Canberra-based Uppercut -- known for its gorgeously designed Epoch series -- is veering away from combat with Submerged. It takes place sometime in an alternate future; you play a 14-year-old girl, arriving at a city half underwater, carrying her ailing brother. As you explore the city looking for supplies, the tale of her past unfolds. The game is still in development (coming to PC, mobile and possibly Xbox), but it already looks beautifully polished.


13 of 18 Loveshack Entertainment


Words can't possibly do Loveshack Entertainment's Framed justice: it really is one of the more unusual concepts we have seen in some time. The entire game takes place without words; it's laid out as a silent noir comic, with our protagonists sneaking around to avoid the law. Gameplay is not action-based, but context-based: you have to examine each page, shifting the panels around to make sure that events occur in the order that sees our hero escape clean. Although it may sound good, that's nothing compared to how magnificent it is to experience. And yes, a pair of headphones is an absolute must.

It's due out very, very soon on iOS and Steam.


14 of 18 Wildgrass Games


There's a little more to Bearzerkers than running around wildly trying to escape from rampaging bears. It has its origins in a little game jam title named Pandamonium, where the theme was "An enemy of my enemy is my friend"; in Bearzerkers (funded on Kickstarter, if you want more info) you and up to three friends must compete to be the last critter standing. The game, however, has no direct combat: instead, you have to set traps and manipulate the environment so that the bears are more likely to eat your friends than you.

Bearzerkers is due to arrive on PC, Mac and Linux this year.


15 of 18 Epiphany Games

Majestic Nights

Described to us as a "cross between Miami Vice and The X-Files", Majestic Nights is what happens when conspiracy theories meet a whole lotta neon. The episodic action-adventure point-and-click noir thriller is set in the 80s, where all conspiracy theories are actually true. It draws on real life, starting with a hoax moon landing (Chapter 0) and MKUltra (Chapter 1), with six chapters in Season One -- each tackling their own mystery.


16 of 18 League of Geeks


League of Geeks has spend quite some time working on Armello, and it absolutely shows. It combines RPG and board game elements, where you play one of four characters in the kingdom of Armello: the stealthy rat, the druidic bear, the diplomatic rabbit or the mighty wolf. As the king grows madder, you and the other three characters take to the board, using your special skills to gain as much territory as possible, killing monsters, settling disputes and fighting the other characters, with the end goal the kingdom itself. It looks extraordinarily deep, backed up by a lush world and soundtrack.

Armello will be arriving in February next year for PC, Mac and Linux, then later in the year for iOS.


17 of 18 Samurai Punk


Tired of boring old split-screen multiplayer first-person shooters? Well… in Screencheat, everyone is invisible. How are you supposed to play, you ask? Well, the clue is in the name: you have to figure out where your foes are by looking at their screens. It's only by gauging location-based cues that you can tell where the other players are, and shoot them before they do the same to you.

Screencheat is available now on Steam for PC, Mac and Linux.


18 of 18 3 Sprockets

Fight the Dragon

Fight the Dragon is perfect for both quick play sessions and longer marathons. It's a lot like isometric dungeon crawlers of old, with monster-slaying and loot-collecting, but with a few key differences. One of these is that the game has an open level construction kit that anyone can use to create and share levels, giving the game endless replayability. Another is the eponymous dragon: at the end of every level, players will fight a dragon that it seems you have a snowball's chance in hell of beating; but killing it will require many encounters, chipping away at its health as damage is carried over from session to session. With both local and online multiplayer as well as single-player mode, Fight the Dragon is a whole heckload lot of game to play.

Fight the Dragon is available now through Steam Early Access for PC, Mac and Linux.


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