I'm not much of a competitive gamer. I was really good at Super Smash Bros. back in the day and stomped all my friends at Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2, but once online play became the norm I mostly dropped off. Still, I got a chance to check out a few competitive games at PAX West 2022, and I might end up dipping back into that scene.
The first competitive game I want to look at is one that I didn't actually play competitively, Munchkin Digital! This is a digital adaptation announced during PAX of the Steve Jackson card game that made all my friends hate playing games with me back in college.
Munchkin is a very silly card game where you and a group of other players delve into a dungeon to find treasure, battle monsters, and race to get to level 10 first. Your turn is all about you facing down one specific threat, but the chaos comes from other players being able to play cards to help or, more often, hinder you.
The digital adaptation, from what I saw, looks like a super faithful version of the game. It works with the exact same rules, the same absurd and immature sense of humor, and the same art. It doesn't look like it really adds anything to the mix by being digital… even the battles are mostly just two cards slightly shaking like first-generation Pokémon.
This may open up a new avenue of play for fans of Munchkin, but it really looks like about the same experience you'd have playing the game in Tabletop Simulator. The game is also coming to mobile devices, though, where it might be a better fit.
I remember seeing Rawmen pop up in some showcase a while back, and I dismissed it as a Splatoon pretender. It had big goofy characters slopping colorful soup all over arenas from a third-person perspective, and I just wasn't interested at all. But, at PAX, the Rawmen booth had a claw machine set up and I've just recently started playing the Yakuza games… so honestly, I only sat down for this demo so I could have a go on the claw machine.
The game was set up as a free-for-all match between eight players. Everyone played as a big, goofy character with a pot of soup that they slopped at enemies in an arena to try to knock them out. I was actually a bit surprised that the soup on the ground didn't factor into mobility like in Splatoon. You can do a slide to get around, but it's the same on soup and off. Around the arena, you can pick up different abilities and powerups and… Yeah, you just go around flinging soup at folks.
Honestly, I had a blast with the one round of Rawmen I played. What I first dismissed as a Splatoon knockoff ended up being really fun because, well, there are not enough Splatoon knockoffs out there! This game manages to take the familiar feel of a third-person arena shooter and turning into something much less violent and family-friendly in the same way that Splatoon does.
Oh, and also, I won the match I played, which meant I got infinite tries on the claw machine, but then I snagged a prize on my first try anyway. Win.
I actually wasn’t too interested in Deceive Inc. when I looked at the PAX lineup, but since it was in the same booth as Espire 2 which I really wanted to check out, I gave it a shot. Before I hopped into the game I watched a match in progress while chatting with one of the team leads on the project. She explained how each player is a spy, and everyone is working towards the same objective: Steal a specific item and escape alive. Each of the game's levels has its own objective to get to, but in all cases, there are a series of checkpoints that have to be hit to unlock the path to it. For instance, one checkpoint might be for two security systems to be deactivated, so players need to check all the places that the security system might spawn in order to find those two systems and advance to the next step in the mission.
To navigate the environments, players can walk up to absolutely any NPC in the world and disguise themselves in that NPCs skin. You straight up copy their model onto your character. Like in Hitman, the outfit you are wearing determines how NPCs will react as you move into more restricted areas.
The fun of this game is that you aren’t just disgusting yourself from NPCs, but from the other players as well. This is a free-for-all game, and only one spy can win the day. For that reason, a big part of the game is waiting for other spies to reveal themselves so that you can eliminate them, making it easier for you to emerge victorious.
Each character has their own special abilities to help them in finding their way through the levels or tracking down the other players, and from the matches I saw, the levels have unique feels too. When I played, I opted for a sniper character but didn’t find much opportunity to engage at range in the relatively enclosed level we played in.
Still, I had a fun time with this. It definitely felt like it was trying to pull the Hitman ethos into a First-Person Shooter. I’m not 100% sure that it’s a format that I will find more fun than frustrating in the long run, but it is definitely cool to see such a unique gameplay blend. The team also seems great, and it sounds like they’ve had a lot of fun with weekly play tests where they all jump in and play the game together.
Next week will be my last check-in from PAX (at least until next year). I want to highlight a few games that really stood out to me at the show, including Exophobia, Demonschool, and even The Big Con. See you then!