The Penny Arcade Expo, or PAX for short, is a massive gaming convention started by the same folks who do the successful Penny Arcade web comic and Child’s Play charities. PAX is nearly as big as the E3 trade show, but PAX is open to the public, and features electronic video games as well as PC and tabletop games for people to try out, play, and compete. I had the opportunity to visit the original PAX in Seattle again this past weekend, so hang on for the first of a three part article series about my experiences at PAX 2012!
Now keep in mind since I’m just ONE person, I couldn’t do and see EVERYTHING there is to do at PAX. So I just limited to covering things that I was most interested in, or pertained to this site. I took my brother Jeff to PAX with me this year as well, and he saw a bunch of things that I didn’t see. I wish I could get him to do a PAX article also, but he just started another semester at college and I want him to focus on that instead. But if you do have any questions on things that I may not have covered here, please ask in the comments section and I’ll see what I can do.
E3 vs. PAX
There are some things about PAX that I like better than E3, and vice versa. There are advantages and disadvantages to each show. One of the things that I don’t like about PAX is that since it is open to the public, the companies that show games at PAX tend to cater to the hardcore gamer crowd more. Plus, most of the demos they show at PAX are the same ones they showed at E3 a few months prior. So there are a lot of things that I have seen and played before, and tend to skip over them at PAX. If there was something that I’ve already covered at E3 that was also at PAX, I recommend going back and reading my E3 articles here.
A good example of this disadvantage was at Nintendo’s PAX booth. They had a lot of the same Wii U demos that they had at E3, and since it was also very crowded at PAX, I didn’t look at them much here either. But I do think it’s cool that the public was able to play Wii U games. Nintendo also sponsored the handheld lounge again this year, but we’ll get to that in Part 2 of my PAX articles.
Other booths only showed what they felt were most important for the hardcore gamer. Konami mostly only showed Metal Gear Solid stuff. Square-Enix only featured Tomb Raider, Hitman, and Sleeping Dogs. 2K Games had two main sections for Borderlands 2 and X-COM and that’s it. UbiSoft had a lot of games, but it was hard to navigate around their booth. Same goes with Wizards of the Coast, makers of the popular Magic card game.
Some companies did have some neat stuff that I would’ve loved to have more time to see. Capcom’s main focus was on Resident Evil 6, but around the sides of their booth were more interesting things to me like Okami HD, Marvel vs. Capcom Origins, and the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney HD collection for iPad.
SEGA also showed a lot of stuff that they had at E3, like Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing Transformed. They had some new online modes for their upcoming Aliens game, but the lines were always very long for that. They did have some neat HD remakes of classics like Nights, Jet Grind Radio, and Sonic Adventure 2. One thing they didn’t show at E3 that I wish I had more time to see at PAX was The Cave. This is a 2-D platformer that plays like a point and click adventure! Ron Gilbert helped make it, and he worked on such point and click adventure classics like Monkey Island!
There are some things about PAX that I like better than E3, though. One is the more laid back atmosphere of the show. Another is that PAX is more inviting to indie game developers and smaller companies. At least that’s how it felt to me anyway. One of the smaller games that caught my eye on the first day was Containment: The Zombie Puzzler. It’s a puzzle game where you have to trap zombies around groups of people of the same type to contain them so they can’t spread their zombie-ness around. I played this game on iPad at the show, and you use your finger to slide around the different colored people. Each color represents a different occupation that can help you out against the zombies. Green people are military and pink are medics, for instance. This game was also featured as one of the PAX 10, a group of games selected by the convention to be featured at a special booth. These PAX 10 games are usually pretty good and interesting, and in years past, one of my favorite Xbox LIVE games started out on the PAX 10 (it was The Maw). Hopefully I’ll be able to review this zombie puzzle game later on!
Another smaller indie game that caught my eye was Toki Tori 2. I loved the original game when I played it on the Game Boy Color. Later it was available for WiiWare and PC. In the sequel, you still play as a cute little yellow chick and must use your limited power to solve puzzles. In the demo I played, Toki Tori could only peep and stomp, which would draw the attention of various other critters. The puzzles get pretty tricky early on, just like in the old game! Toki Tori 2 will be available later for Steam and Wii U. It might even be my first Wii U download! There were a bunch of other indie games and titles from smaller companies that I didn’t have time to check out. I wish I could’ve played them all, or at least learned more about them!
I had a few meetings the first day with some game companies, and the first one was with Mobage. I just got an iPad a couple of months ago, so I’ve been trying to learn more about the games you can play on it. In the fall, Mobage will release two card games you can play on iPad, based on two popular licenses: Marvel and Transformers. Since I loved the Transformers toys and cartoon as a kid, this card game looks interesting as the cards and characters are based on that line. Both are free to play, too! Mobage also showed off an iPad game called Hellfire, where you use your finger to flick fireballs at various monsters. The strength of your flicks and direction will determine how far your projectiles go. The game had a medieval fantasy theme and reminded me of what a 3-D version of Angry Birds would be like.
I also got some one-on-one time with this upcoming downloadable title that’ll be out next year for Xbox LIVE, PSN, and maybe other devices. In the game you play as an unseen guardian angel. You attend a guardian angel school and must compete in a special race. In this race, each angel picks a human runner and must protect him or her as they dash for the finish line. Unfortunately, your angel picks Harold, the worst racer ever. He’s a skinny, nerdy dude who stupidly runs headlong into danger. Your angel will have his work cut out for him! In the game, you must invisibly move platforms and make bridges so Harold can run safely past. You can also move objects to sabotage the other racers, too! There are lots of hidden shortcuts to find that can give you an edge in the race. Even so, with everything you have to keep track of, it’s super hard to place first! The thing that most impressed me about Harold was the animation. The game has a cartoony Chuck Jones/Don Bluth look about it, and the game successfully mixes 3-D and 2-D animation seamlessly. I could see the animation techniques used in this game being bigger than the game itself.
Reverb was showing off tons of games they are helping promote from various developers. I got to check out three of them. One was Dollar Dash, a top down, 2-D multiplayer game where characters try and grab the most cash and bring them to the bank to get the highest score. You can pick up weapons and power-ups to try and stop the other players. It kind of reminded me of an old game I used to play on my Apple ][+ called Spare Change.
Another was Alien Spidy. In this game you are a little alien spider trying to save your girlfriend and get home. Although you look just like a regular spider and have regular spider powers. You can jump and shoot out a string of web to latch onto things and swing, and that’s it. You must use these skills to travel through obstacle filled caves and jungles. The platforming is very difficult and precise, similar to other titles like Super Meat Boy.
Last at Reverb I played Pid again. I originally tried it at E3. It’s a puzzle platformer where you can throw a beam of light against a wall to travel in the opposite direction of where you threw it. The puzzles remind me of some of the things you do in Portal. At PAX I was able to try the two player co-op mode, where both players have to reach the goal safely! I’m really looking forward to playing the final game, and all three titles I played at Reverb’s booth should be available this fall on 360 and PSN.
Misc. Cool Stuff
In between meetings I saw some cool stuff the first day, so we’ll conclude with a rundown of that. In one of the rooms at PAX, they had it full of classic arcade and pinball games all in the dark, like an old arcade from the 80’s. They had Jr. Pac-Man and Mr. Do and all three of the Dragon’s Lair/Space Ace titles. Also Final Fight and Smash TV and Donkey Kong and many others. I was glad my younger brother Jeff got to see it, because now he knows why I miss old arcades so much. I had to force myself to leave this room because I would’ve spent all three days there if I didn’t have so many other meetings!
And speaking of retro, Atari had an area set up where you can try several of their classic games now playable on Internet Explorer. You can play classic or updated modes, and they’ll even work on touch screen tablet devices like the iPad! I just liked the centipede that greeted you as you rode up the escalator.
OK one more cool retro thing. I played a PSN game that came out last week called Retro/Grade. It looks like a 2-D shooter, except you are stuck in a space time continuum and everything is going backwards. So you must guide your ship to catch your shots as they come back to you, and also avoid enemy fire as they retract into their spacecrafts, too. The game plays like a music/rhythm game, and you can even use a guitar controller to play it! I’m hoping that I can review it soon, so be on the lookout for that.
Another cool music rhythm game that just came out that I played at PAX was Rock Band Blitz at Harmonix’s booth. It reminded me of a cross between Rock Band and Audiosurf, and you only need the controller to play it. I hope to review that one soon as well.
TellTale was showing off their successful point and click adventures based off the popular Walking Dead series. Their booth at PAX was even better than it was at E3!
Perfect World publishes a lot of online PC games and some of them actually seem interesting to me. At their booth I took a picture of this neat dragon.
And speaking of statues, this one greeted us every day as we entered into PAX.
At the end of the first day at PAX, Jeff and I ate dinner at our favorite Seattle food stand: Dog Japon. It’s a really good hot dog cart where they make gourmet hot dogs with Japanese food ingredients as toppings. We eat there every year. On the second day of PAX we ate at our other favorite place, a Japanese food store near the entrance of the Seattle market.
And that’s all for the first day! On day 2 we’ll see more games and even more pictures!