The best Aussie indies from PAX AUS 2016
Indie devs from all over Australia flocked to PAX AUS 2016 to strut their stuff and boy was it impressive.
Sadly, Melbourne's 2016 Penny Arcade expo (PAX AUS) has come to an end. Here at finder, we're sitting (absolutely shattered) from a fantastic and frantic weekend of tabletop, talks, VR and Aussie indie games and the one thing we keep reminiscing about is the sheer quantity of quality indies at this year's expo. There's nearly too many exciting experiences to recall.
Every one of these Aussie indies managed to wow us in some way, like the one-man dev Amelus Digital who just had his free game, Flingship, featured on the App Store. Or the unbelievably adorable wife and husband from Shy Kids Club who are working on the beautifully illustrated The Incredible Journey of You and I. However, there were a select few Aussie indies that really impressed.
Dead Static Drive
Dead Static Drive (which developer Mike Blackney refers to as Grand Theft Cthulhu) is an isometric roadtrip game ripped straight from an episode of Supernatural.
The game's low poly art, atmospheric lighting and tight driving controls are looking solid already and that's a year's work from one man.
Speaking with Blackney, he named X-Files as a prime influence of Dead Static Drive. Rather than an epic quest to save the world, the main character is just trying to road trip to see some family and friends, and just happens upon various terrors. Blackney's plan is to have each town exhibit its own unique brand of supernatural. Your first visit may pit you against Occultists, where the next will lead you to a town full of zombies.
We're incredibly excited to see where Blackney will be at when PAX rolls around next year.
To keep tabs on Dead Static Drive's progress, follow Mike Blackney on Twitter.
Objects in Space
Sydney's Flat Earth Games showed up to PAX AUS this year, not only to show off their wonderful stealth space-trading game Objects in Space, but also to show the public their fully-functional bridge console.
Yep, you can play Objects in Space with a keyboard and mouse, or you can go all in and create your very own console (which Flat Earth has uploaded a guide for on their website). Sure, it's a lot of work, but it's without a doubt the most immersive way to take down nefarious space pirates.
Visit the Objects in Space website for regular blog posts and podcast updates.
Paradigm is a point-and-click adventure from Perth's Jacob Janerka. Set in the fictional land of Krusz, Paradigm tells the story of the titular electronic music maker on a quest to make the phattest beats in the land. The malformed protagonist helps a slew of hilarious characters, like John the bogan computer and Beets the beatboxing beetroot to find love, drugs and more.
Our short play-through had us find a romantic tune for John the bogan robot's date. Among the selection are such classics as "Get rich or die of natural causes", "Babe, I love you. But, I'm a T-Rex", and "If only I was still a planet" by Pluto.
We spent our time with Paradigm with a huge smile on our face, and while the demo was short-lived, we're pretty keen to see where Paradigm's adventure takes him and exactly what's up with the super villainous sloth that vomits candy bars.
You can pledge some dollarydoos and download the game's alpha demo for PC and MAC at the Paradigm website.
This local four-player brawler has been the fun-loving PAX darling for some time now. Though it had some stiff competition this year with other arena brawlers like Hyper Jam and Arena Gods, Swordy still managed to entertain punters with its dizzying gameplay and hilarious physics.
For those unversed in Swordy, it's a rip-roaring local multiplayer game with a unique momentum game play mechanic. Players have to swing one of many weapons around by rotating the left stick while closing in on their opponents with the right stick. The aim is, you guessed it, to gain enough momentum to decimate your fellow combatants with a well-timed swing.
This wasn't our first rodeo with Swordy, but it's many improvements and promise of single-player and co-op missions have pulled us right back in.
You can purchase Swordy through Steam's early access program now, but if console's more your jam, Swordy will eventually make its way to Xbox One too.
The American Dream
The American Dream was hands-down one of the most weird and wonderful experiences we encountered at PAX AUS 2016. Samurai Punk (of Screencheat fame) have crafted a tongue-in-cheek virtual reality game that proudly satirises American gun culture.
The American Dream takes place in a huge theme-park of sorts created by a gun manufacturer to demonstrate all the real world applications owning a gun can afford you. Feeding babies and shooting the holes in bagels are just two of the ways owning a gun can improve your life, according to The American Dream.
It's like if someone took Homer's reckless behaviour from The Simpsons' "The Cartridge Family" episode and made an entire game off the back of the gag.
The American Dream is being developed for PSVR, Oculus Rift and HTC Vive and is working towards a 2017 release. Stay up to date with all The American Dream news via the game's official website.
Relative newcomers Pinefire Studios brought their stealth brawler Kieru back to PAX this year and boy have they come a long way. The seeds of this great idea have begun to sprout and grow into a fully-formed experience that we can't wait to get our hands-on.
For those unaware, Kieru's general gist is this: A first-person 2v2 where four ninjas duke it out across monochromatic maps. The catch is, both teams (black and white ninjas) can only be seen when they step out in the shade of the opposite team. So a black ninja is visible in white areas and vice versa with white ninja and black areas. It has the same feel of going in blind as Aussie indie Screencheat and features some furiously competitive gameplay.
You can follow Keiru's journey at the game's Steam Greenlight page.
Bloody Hyper Jam. We hovered around this booth for the first two days of PAX, but there was always a consistent crowd drawn in by the game's vivid neon visuals and fast-paced brawling. Luckily, on our third day we managed to snag a go (the crowd hadn't died at all, but we had to get some hands-on time, queue be damned).
We came for Bit Dragon's sleek 80s aesthetic, we stayed for the frenetic four-player battles. Hyper Jam's selling point is its stackable power-ups. Players can currently choose from 15 different power-ups at the end of each round. Each power-up sticks with the player until the end of the game, stacking as each one is added and boosting each perk's effects. That's all well and good, but our favourite part was picking between the four characters pulled straight from a retro action movie.
Rightfully so, Hyper Jam has been given the green light on Steam (no doubt thanks to it's impressive presence at PAX). You can follow Bit Dragon's stellar brawler at its Steam page or via its official website.
We were absolutely hooked on the first FRAMED when it launched on iPad after PAX 2014 and much to the dismay of those queuing behind us at PAX AUS 2016, FRAMED 2 grabbed us just as quickly.
While the exact details remain as mysterious as the plot and characters themselves, FRAMED 2 seems to be set before the events of the first FRAMED, in a different part of the world, with the protagonist now donning some killer shades (frames, framed? Get it? I chuckled).
Our brief but amazing bout with the iPad game's puzzles had us scratching our heads in the first few panels. While things started off with the panel-swapping, frame-rotating solutions we'd come to expect from the series, it ended with a fresh taste of a new kind of puzzle. Rather than arranging tiles for an entire scene, we were prompted to gather clues from a neon-lit scene to figure out the combination to a lock. It was a refreshing new puzzle that still leaned on the core principles of Framed's gameplay and we're excited to see more of it.
FRAMED 2 is coming early 2017, but you can keep tabs on its development via Loveshack's Twitter.
If you're yet to download FRAMED on iPad, do yourself a favour and check it out.
The Artful Escape of Francis Vendetti
PAX first-timers Beethoven + Dinosaur really stole the show with The Artful Escape of Francis Vendetti. Though its Kickstarter formed in March of 2016, this is the first time the public has had an opportunity to go hands-on with the multidimensional adventure.
At its core, The Artful Escape is about a famous folk musician's nephew escaping to another universe to find out "who he's not". To forge his own identity, rather than live in the shadow of his harmonica-touting uncle.
What we experienced at PAX was Francis well underway in his quest to escape. We jammed with otherworldly creatures in a memory-based guitar solo game, soared along neon-light bridges while shredding on an electric guitar and surfed snowy mountains while lumbering beasts passed in the background. And we did it all to the tune of a stellar synth soundtrack in an expertly designed world that is already looking like a top-shelf indie game.
The Artful Escape of Francis Vendetti unfortunately missed its Kickstarter mark recently, but you can show your support over at the game's official website.