By Josh Speer / June 21st, 2019
One of my highlights from E3 2018 was attending the MIX, or Media Indie Exchange. It was my first time at that event, and it defied all my expectations. There was so much culture and creativity on display that I was frankly starstruck. Or that could have been heatstroke from my first time in LA. Either way, I had a blast, and got to play a handful of wonderful games. Since then I have attended MIX during PAX West, and though it was fun, there was just something more magical about the LA MIX. So I was excited to attend again during E3 2019. I had a whole list of games I wanted to demo, but it was so crowded that I only managed to play a small handful. Thankfully, they were all spectacular, so here are all 4 MIX games I played, in the order I played them.
MIX game #1 – Creature in the Well
Developer – Flight School Studio
Creature in the Well had my attention well before I attended the MIX. It caught my attention during a Nintendo Direct, and I was spellbound by the art and wholly unique concept. Sure, I’ve played lots of top down games, but not any that hybridize elements of games like Zelda with pinball. I mean, hell, I haven’t played a pinball game in probably a decade or more, other than Senran Kagura Peach Ball. But there was just something about the style of the game that called to me.
I mean, who doesn’t want to save people from destruction at the hands of a massive, sinister creature? The fact you get to play as a robot with a melee weapon is just icing on the cake. But what I couldn’t have gathered from the Direct is just how amazingly well Creature in the Well works. I was admittedly worried about things like angles and deflecting attacks properly, but I needn’t have been concerned. Gameplay flows very organically, and in moments I was deflecting energy balls and charging machines like a pro. Especially fun was how you could rapidly swing your weapon and gather any loose energy balls around you, and then unleash them like some sort of Jedi Master. All the while, you avoid being zapped by lasers, shot by turrets and try your best to withstand the monstrous Creature. When you factor in the full game will have 8 dungeons all full of this sort of mayhem, and all of it wonderfully illustrated, you can count me very excited. I’ll definitely be picking up Creature in the Well when it launches this Summer on Steam, XBOX 1 and Nintendo Switch.
MIX game #2 – Spiritfarer
Developer – Thunder Lotus Games
The next game I played at the MIX was a giant surprise. Not only was it unveiled just before E3, but it was developed by one of my favorite teams, Thunder Lotus Games. I know the team for making stylish, lush artwork and featuring over the top violent mayhem. What’s surprising about Spiritfarer, then, was the fact that it only has one of those trademark features. The artwork is utterly beautiful, with notes of Studio Ghibli, but Spiritfarer is not a game about destruction. Instead, it focuses on a different side of death, which is letting go.
In the game itself you play ferrymaster Stella, the titular Spiritfarer who guides souls to the afterlife. But it’s not quite so straight laced as it sounds. You have to find them first, and then you need to befriend them and help them out. Once you’ve put them at peace, you can help them reach across the veil and find final contentment. As I played the demo, I used my massive houseboat to travel around and fulfill the wishes of one soul. Normally I’m not a fan of management games, but this one does a great job of it. In some ways, it almost reminded me of Battle Chef Brigade, just less frenetic. Stella used her magic in all sorts of way, forming tools, scouting locations and more. It’s all amazingly fluid and delightful to watch. Oh and if you don’t love the sound of farming, fishing, harvesting, cooking and crafting, you also can spend some quality time with you cat Daffodil.
I admit I normally don’t like games like Spiritfarer, but I’m impressed with what I experienced thus far. If you can take a genre I typically don’t play and make me enjoy it, you might just have a winner on your hands. I’m eager to see how this latest project by Thunder Lotus progresses, and look forward to its eventual release in 2020 for Steam, XBOX 1 and PS4.
MIX game #3 – Cat Lady
Developer – Rose City Games
The next game I played is somewhat of a mystery. See, while I did get some glorious hands on time with Cat Lady at MIX, there’s very little info available to fill in the details. So as such, I’m going to do my best to fill in the blanks with my crazed ramblings. First of all, when I think of cat ladies, the image that immediately comes to mind is the hilarious Crazy Cat Lady from the Simpsons. The one that literally throws cats at people. But that image turns out not to be right for a couple of reasons. For one, the main character you control doesn’t exactly throw cats (at least in the demo). For another, she’s more of a Cat Girl than a Cat Lady. But those nitpicks aside, I really enjoyed my time with the demo.
What surprised me about the game most was that it is a twin-stick shooter. You play a young woman who is looking for her grandma, who happens to have been kidnapped by haunted objects. The entire demo took place in a haunted house, and all sorts of oddities tried to drag me to hell. My favorite were haunted stuffed animals and a closet that opened up to shoot projectiles at me, but there was a ton of crazy on display. Visually Cat Lady reminds me of a mix of Earthbound and Downwell, though the way it plays hearkens back to The Binding of Isaac. And any time I can make that last comparison, it means I really enjoyed myself.
Though details are still scarce for Cat Lady, I thoroughly enjoyed the demo. It was tough but not overpowering, and had comedy to spare. I loved holding up my cats like guns and firing bullets from them. I also loved how I could change up my “gun” settings, and cater the experience to my preferences. Also great was the subweapons in the form of objects you hurl at foes, like a tiny robot. Cat Lady has the potential to be a blockbuster indie when it releases, and I’m not just saying that cause I’m one of the few who beat the demo at the MIX. I really love games like this, and eagerly await more information in the coming weeks from Viz Media and Rose City Games.
MIX game #4 – Bite the Bullet
Developer – Mega Cat Studios
The last game I played at the MIX was none other than Bite the Bullet. It was developed by the fine folks at Mega Cat Studios, behind such games as Coffee Crisis, and is slated to be published by Graffiti Games, which I know from Joggernauts. Quite frankly, in a MIX full of crazy and creative games, this might have been the craziest I played. First I’ll set the stage. Imagine you’re playing Metal Slug. Running about, shooting foes, and causing mayhem. Now imagine you’ve defeated your foe. What would the next logical step be? According to Bite the Bullet, that next logical step is consuming your foe.
Yes, you heard me right. The very unique gimmick in Bite the Bullet is you can devour your foes. Doing so rewards you with various fats and proteins which serve a couple of purposes. One is the creation of new weapons. The other aspect I would simply call “you are what you eat”. If you eat a ton of robots, you might mutate into some Terminator nightmare. Eat a lot of fatty things, and you’ll become a bloated hulk. Use skill trees to determine your stats. Oh and if that wasn’t enough, you can also transform into a Zombro and temporarily wipe the floor with your foes.
Perhaps best of all, Bite the Bullet is also a Metroidvania, which is one of my favorite genres. And when you consider that you have multiple ways to progress through the randomly generated stages, this title could shape up to be amazing. While the demo itself had some very minor rough edges, I’m confident they can be easily overcome. If that sounds good to you, you’ll be happy to hear Bite the Bullet is coming to PC and consoles Q1 of 2020.
While I don’t now if MIX 2019 could beat that first MIX, it was a hell of a lot of fun. As a fan of indies, I’m very happy to attend events like this. I want to thank everybody I met with at the show, as well as the Media Indie Exchange itself for choosing such a great venue. Be sure to stay tuned to oprainfall in the coming months for more coverage of all these tremendous games.
2019Bite the BulletCat LadyCreature in the Wellmedia indie exchangeMIXoprainfallSpiritfarer