Over the Labor Day weekend, PAX West returned to the Seattle Convention Center. One of the largest video game conventions in North America, PAX is a four-day celebration of upcoming and recently released titles.
After a decade of not attending the show, I made my trek up the west coast to play some games and see some old friends in the industry. The following list gives a glimpse of some of the best games I was able to play while on the show floor.
Rift of the NecroDancer
Developer: Brace Yourself Games | Release date: TBD
Not quite sequel, not quite spiritual successor, Rift of the NecroDancer is the follow-up to 2015's rhythm-based dungeon crawler Crypt of the NecroDancer. Although main character Cadence is back and the game is still rhythm-based, don't expect to be crawling through dungeons this time around. Rift takes more of a Dance Dance Revolution approach (with some fun Rhythm Heaven sections added in). Players will battle enemies that traverse a note highway not dissimilar to what you'd see in Guitar Hero. Fans of the previous game will have an advantage, as enemies scrolling toward you will move and dodge in ways similar to their dungeon-based counterparts.
From the art style to the games it draws inspiration from, Rift immediately stood out to me. Fans of the genre can also look forward to a brand-new soundtrack, which includes industry legend Danny Baranowsky.
No Place for Bravery
Developer: Glitch Factory | Release date: Sept. 22, 2022
This top-down action RPG (role-playing game) combines the methodical Souls-like (as in, difficult action RPG) combat with a gorgeous pixel art aesthetic similar to Hyper Light Drifter. In No Place for Bravery you uncover giant decaying relics and lore-heavy weapons throughout its world. Players control Thorn, an ex-soldier in search of his long-lost daughter.
No Place for Bravery looks stunning when presenting huge vistas showcasing the gorgeous 2D pixel art. It looks like there's a great deal of depth to the combat, including multiple weapons to choose from. Even better, it'll be available very soon.
Developer: LCD Game Studio | Release date: Fall 2022
The second game in the Pixel Pulps series of visual novels is coming later this year. Following its debut game, Mothmen 1966, LCD Game Studio continues to produce bite-size horror pulps, with this new installment about vampires. The choices players make as children will impact how the present day plays out. Fans of the original can look forward to some returning characters while embarking on this new adventure that takes place over two time periods.
As a fan of Mothmen, I'm eagerly awaiting the follow-up. At two hours or so, these make an ideal replacement for a late night movie with the lights turned off.
Developer: Black Mermaid | Release date: Sept. 27, 2022
Of the games I played on the show floor, Moonscars was easily the most intriguing of the Metroidvania titles (a genre that focuses on repeatable, ability-based exploration). Developed by Black Mermaid and published by Humble Games, this action-adventure follows Grey Irma, a fierce warrior ready to take on the grueling undead. The 2D combat is so slick and comfortable I couldn't help but think of genre standouts such as Dead Cells. As you traverse the dungeons -- with a fantastic pixel art aesthetic -- you'll appreciate the skill tree and the RPG system. And you'll be able to play it before the end of September as part of .
Mina the Hollower
Developer: Yacht Club Games | Release date: TBD
After years of crafting the excellent Shovel Knight platformer, Yacht Club Games has a fresh protagonist in Mina the Hollower. If the developer's previous work was a love letter to Mario, this new game is pitched as a successor to Zelda. Mina traverses challenging dungeons, fighting monsters with a trusty whip. However, it's the unique burrowing mechanic that really makes Mina stand out. Being able to dig under obstacles and enemies changes up how you'll take on various obstacles.
Mina the Hollower feels as tightly crafted as Shovel Knight did. Keep in mind, it's difficult. I failed the final boss over and over, so now I'll have to wait for the official release to get revenge.
Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly
Developer: Toge Productions | Release date: 2023
It's raining in Seattle (obviously) but the coffee shop you work at is full of lively conversation. If it's wholesome entertainment you want, look no further than this sequel to one of the most cozy games of 2020. Enjoy friendly banter with a cast of characters like humans, monsters and banshees. By serving specific drink requests, you drive the story direction.
In addition to several returning characters, this installment also features a new gift-giving mechanic for added branching narratives.
Shovel Knight Dig
Developer: Yacht Club Games | Release date: Sept. 23, 2022
Shovel Knight returns in a new Rogue-like game that has you digging deeper and deeper underground. During your descent, you'll encounter familiar foes and treasure. The procedurally generated floors make each run feel fresh, and branching paths allow for a small amount of customization. Don't get too comfortable though, Shovel Knight's difficulty remains high, especially when taking on the various boss sections.
This was an immediate standout for me, based on how fast and fluid the controls were. Mashing the dig button to delve down faster and faster is extremely enjoyable. Though I never was able to beat the first boss, I'm looking forward to another shot in the coming weeks.
Developer: Free Lives | Release date: 2023
This foot-based combat game is equal parts bizarre and brutal. Kicking doors into enemies, killing them in the process, feels fantastic -- and you do it frequently. Anger Foot is a very weird concept, and that weirdness is outpaced only by how fast the gameplay is. Fans of games like Hotline Miami will enjoy this first person shooter (or kicker?).