PAX Prime 2014: Seattle Indies Expo Highlights

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

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This year at PAX Prime, I got an opportunity to try something completely new! I was personally invited to attend a little something called the SIX or Seattle Indies Expo! It was a meeting of minds, with 20-25 indie developers huddled together in the scenic Melrose Market Studios, just a few blocks from the Convention Center. It took place on the last day of PAX, so it offered a welcome respite from the hectic, cramped convention scene. It was much like Seattle — hip, chill and mellow, and that is how I like my games.

But enough of my banter! You’re probably wondering about the games, clamoring “Just shut up and get to the good part!” Well, luckily that was my next step. I’m not going to cover every game there, since then this would go from an article to a series of articles, but I will do the next best thing — cover the highlights, the 6 games at the SIX that most captivated me. To be unbiased, I will go in alphabetical order. Without further ado, our first title is…

Captain Forever Remix

Seattle Indies Expo | oprainfall

I admit, I hadn’t ever heard of Captain Forever, the game which Remix is based upon, with consent from the original creator. But that doesn’t really matter, since Remix is a hell of a lot of fun. The game is a 2D spacefaring roguelike, which instantly caught my attention. Sure, I’ve played roguelikes, but none in space. You compose your ships out of modular units, and can update your ship on the fly.

Seattle Indies Expo | oprainfall

The amount of control you have over the design of your spaceship really appealed to me, as did the minimalist yet colorful designs. Combat was also intuitive and fast paced, with great controls. This official update of the Captain Forever series is slated to release sometime later this year for Steam. If you want to take a closer look, check out Pixelsaurus Games.

Skyling Garden Defense

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I admit I’m a bit obsessed with retro, probably because it makes my nostalgia nerve quiver pleasantly. Thus, it was hard to turn away when I came across a darling little mini-arcade machine playing the cutest game I have seen in quite a while. That darling game is Skyling Garden Defense. No, it isn’t a tower defense game, though it does a nice job of playing with your expectations. No, Garden Defense is kind of like what would happen if Q*Bert made sweet, sweet love to Hello Kitty.

Seattle Indies Expo | oprainfall

I know that sounds crass, but honestly, can you blame me for the image? It is adorable yet utterly, infuriatingly challenging. It doesn’t look it, much like Q*Bert, but this game ramps up in difficulty fast. The premise is you have to greenify the tiles by walking across the entire stage without getting hit by an enemy. You can’t directly fight them, either, but you can block them by hurling slumbering cats in their path (not joking) or defeat them by hurling slime monsters at other creatures, causing them to explode. It’s a very strange game, but also refreshing. If it looks good to you, the nice news is that you can play a version of it right now on a variety of devices. For more information, check out their equally cute website.

Sportsball

Seattle Indies Expo | oprainfall

When is the last time you thought about Joust? I mean, that classic came out in 1982, and I haven’t given it much thought in the last 10 – 15 years. But obviously the folks behind Sportsball have thought about it. A lot. And not only have they thought about it, they’ve innovated the hell out of the basic concept, and turned it into an upcoming party game exclusive to the Wii U.

Seattle Indies Expo | oprainfall

No, you’re not stroking out. You heard correctly, Sportsball is headed straight to the Wii U. And while that might surprise many of you, as it did me, I think that’s a great thing. You pick a friend, take a seat and have at it, astride a giant bird mount. Your only goal is to get the ball into the net, and you can make more balls appear by charging your foes. Each bird has different stats, such as durability and flight speed, and a different lance. There are pros and cons to every mount, so combat should never get stale. Better yet, the finished game is promised to implement gamepad controls, so maybe it will be playable as more than local co op. Either way, I can’t wait for Sportsball to come out later in 2014.

Tumblestone

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Since I’ve covered such a diverse set of games up to this point, why not cover a fun new puzzle game? That game is Tumblestone, headed to Steam for sure, and possibly consoles at a later point. It might look like Tetris or Tetris Attack, but Tumblestone is much more cerebral than those games. You can only place one block at a time, and if you don’t clear a set of 3 similarly colored blocks in a row, the ceiling will fall closer.

Seattle Indies Expo | oprainfall

It sounds basic, and it is, but it’s also very clever and intuitive. Words fail to convey that complexity, honestly. Just understand, I love puzzle games I can sink hour after hour into, and Tumblestone looks to be one of those games. I cannot wait til it releases, myself. In the meantime, check out the official website and the trailer below to see what I’m excited about!

Viking Squad

Seattle Indies Expo | oprainfall

If, like me, you are a child of the 80s and 90s, then you grew up playing great titles such as TMNT: Turtles in Time, Double Dragon and Final Fight. Even if you aren’t, the beauty and appeal of those games still holds true today. The joy of beating the living tar out of hordes foes with friends is still a lot of fun, and is made even better when you add a dash of Viking.

Seattle Indies Expo | oprainfall

Viking Squad reinvigorates that beat ’em up genre, and gives it a lovely splash of paint while doing so. Much like in those games of yore, you pick a character and head into battle. Viking Squad does it one better, and allows many diverse skill sets per Viking, which makes combat quite dynamic. It also looks beautiful, and sounds great. Frankly, I don’t know why somebody hasn’t thought of this concept before now, but I applaud the crew at Slick Entertainment for doing so! Though the game is still in progress, it is already a lot of fun, and slated to release for PC and Mac. If that sounds like your cup of grog, check out the official website of the game!

We Are Doomed

Seattle Indies Expo | oprainfall

It wouldn’t be a true highlights article from me without a SHMUP game. That game is We Are Doomed. The basic premise is you fight off wave after wave of colorful invaders with only one weapon — a gigantic laser beam you can rotate 360 degrees around your ship. This might sound simple, but it makes it very different from other SHUMP games. You can’t play a distance game and fire off round after round at foes. No, you have to take the fight to them, up close and personal.

Seattle Indies Expo | oprainfall

Oh and if the giant laser wasn’t enough for you, you can also acquire a SUPERBEAM for a limited period of time by whacking enough foes. The game is utterly beautiful, in a madcap, drug induced haze sort of way, and features perfect tunes to accompany the experience. Best of all, this one is actually out right now! It is available on the Humble Store, the Mac App Store, and itch.io and looks to make it onto Steam via the Greenlight Community. So be sure to check it out.


So that’s it for my Seattle Indies Expo coverage! I implore you to check these games out, cause they are made by talented people who only want to bring their game to your devices. They’re not in it for the big bucks, but to make something fun they can share. Check out their sites and the trailers in the article, and get gaming!

NOTE: I included the most recent trailers on the websites wherever possible. Please check back with the official game websites for updated trailers and more information.

About Josh Speer

Josh Speer is addicted to two things in equal measure : Books and Videogames. He has a degree from the University of Washington in English with an emphasis on writing. He joined Operation Rainfall last year while following it on Facebook. His two giant life goals are to write his own series of fantasy / science fiction novels and to get into the creative side of the video game industry. He is beyond pleased to now have his proverbial foot in the door thanks to the opportunity provided by Oprainfall!