Hooooolyyyy smokes. It’s been more than a week since PAX West 2023, and I’m still feeling exhausted from the weekend. Kenny and I checked out tons of games in the few days we were there, and we will be rolling out articles about some of our highlights over the next few weeks.
To start with, I wanted to talk about a few games that throwback to a simpler time in gaming, but with some modern twists (for better or worse).
Prison City made for one of the best demos at PAX West, just by the nature of the game. It’s a throwback retro run and gun in the vein of Contra or maybe Megaman. The demo stations were set up with a few stages available, but I focused on the first level. You run, jump, climb, and grab your way along a train swarming with bad guys until you meet a contact who gives you a key to move on.
I was surprised to see a mini-map in the corner of the screen. I thought maybe it was suggesting an open, Metroid-like structure, but the team assured me this is a very level-based game. The map is there to help players with the slightly non-linear nature of needing to find an NPC and a door, rather than just go from left to right.
The map is also super helpful in the second play-through of the Prison City. Instead of New Game Plus or time- or score-attack modes, the second play-through changes the goal of each stage. I played the first level in this mode, too, which has you planting eight bombs in specific spots in each stage before you move on. This didn’t make any kind of groundbreaking change to the game, but being asked to more thoroughly explore each level is a cool way to add a twist to a second play-through.
Prison City is out now on Steam, and should be landing on consoles soon. It will be fantastic on the Switch!
A Corgi’s Cozy Hike
Kenny and I both love dogs, so A Corgi’s Cozy Hike immediately caught our eyes thanks to its cuddly protagonist and the developer's commitment to donating part of their proceeds to support shelter and rescue dogs.
The game is a bit of a throwback to N64-era platformers, with the developer specifically mentioning Banjo-Kazooie as an inspiration. You play as the titular corgi on a mission to ascend a mountain after his little legs were insulted by cats. You explore a large, open world looking for upgrades to help you ascend. You can run, jump, glide (with an adorable cape), and climb. Climbing ability is determined by your “corgi butt power”, which you’ll get more of as you explore.
A Corgi’s Cozy Hike reminds me a lot of both A Short Hike and Lil Gator Game, and I cannot wait to get a chance to play through the whole thing. The game is fundraising on Kickstarter right now and is aiming to be released early next year.
Alien Hominid Invasion
Alien Hominid was always too tough for me back in its flash release, but I played a fair bit of its rereleased version on Xbox 360 after falling in love with the developer's follow-up, Castle Crashers. The team is now going back to their original IP but with an expanded scope in Alien Hominid Invasion.
The Behemoth was demoing Alien Hominid Invasion at PAX West 2023 on custom arcade booths with big TVs above them mirroring the action for the crowd. While we were waiting in line I watched other people play and thought it looked like a pretty but very busy run-and-gun shooter. When we finally got our hands on it, I found the busy side of that equation to overpower everything else.
A big push of Invasion is that it moves from 2- to 4-player co-op, but even with just Kenny and I playing there was such a visual cacophony of explosions and bullets and enemies that I quickly lost all sense of what was going on. We were jumping into the game without any kind of tutorial and only a basic understanding of the mechanics, but there was so much happening that I couldn’t parse that I felt like someone who grew up on Ms. Pacman trying to follow a match of Overwatch.
Alien Hominid Invasion has an excellent pedigree and I’m sure it’ll be great when it comes out, but the PAX Demo didn’t come anywhere near selling me on it.
… and more!
Keep an eye on this space for more thoughts about PAX West, including fun multiplayer games, some check-ins on games we knew we’d like before we got there, interesting games we didn’t try because they don’t seem suited to demos, games that are pretty clearly picking up where some storied franchise left off, and some of our non-gaming highlights from the show.