The Penny Arcade Expo, or PAX for short, is one of the largest video game conventions open to the public in the US. It started out in Seattle, then expanded to another show out East in Boston, and for the past three years, they’ve also had a show in San Antonio with PAX South. Since that’s only a few hours’ drive from where I live, I decided to go again this year along with my dad and several of my younger brothers. Last year’s PAX South was a little underwhelming for me, but this year was much better, thanks to more interesting indie games, a brand new lobby area just built at the convention center, and my first chance to play the new Nintendo Switch console!
So I guess I’ll start with what everyone wants to hear about first: the Nintendo Switch. Normally when I go to PAX, I arrive the day of the show. But this time I arrived the day (or night) earlier. So the next day of the actual show, I was able to enter an hour early as a member of the press. I made a beeline for the Nintendo Switch booth before it got too crowded. I’m glad I did because the booth was pretty much an untouchable sea of people the rest of the time. Here is a shot of their booth from afar:
1 2 Switch
I already have my Nintendo Switch and Zelda pre-ordered, but I wanted to try to play some of the other Switch games at the show so I can see if they would be worth getting or not. The one I was most curious about was 1 2 Switch, a collection of two-player mini-games that use the capabilities of the new console. I played a few of the mini-games on it with my brother Ben. The first was the quickdraw game that everyone has seen in the previews. It plays like what you think it would. Too bad there wasn’t any classic NES Wild Gunman references. Here is shot of people playing that one.
After that we tried two other mini-games. The helpers gave us little stools to sit on, and we had to pretend to milk cows. We held each of the separate controllers vertically and pressed the buttons and moved them down like we were squeezing cow udders. At the end of the time limit, they counted how many glasses of milk you filled, and whoever had the most, wins. I beat my brother Ben at most of the other games, but he milked more cows than I did!
You know how in the Switch videos they bragged about the advanced rumble features, and they used three ice cubes in a glass as an example. Well the last mini-game was a good example of that. We held the controller in one hand horizontally like we were holding a small narrow box. You could feel rumbles on the inside like marbles rolling around, and we had to guess how many marbles were in the pretend box by gently moving it around. I barely tilted the controller and felt the marbles roll, and when I felt three ‘clacks’ I guessed three marbles and won! So if 1 2 Switch has a variety of mini-games like that, I may end up picking it up, since it feels like a game everyone can play. But I still think that Nintendo should’ve had that be a pack-in game with the Switch.
The next game we played was Arms. It’s a boxing game where the characters have long stretchy arms, and you can move the controller to aim where your punches land from far away. It plays like a better-controlling Wii Sports boxing, and it is very colorful, but I still don’t know if it’ll be worth the full price of a game. But then, this was a demo. The final game may have more. I still wish that Namco or Capcom would’ve made this game instead of Nintendo (one of the characters even looks like Tron Bonne in a mech), as those two companies are very good at bringing the arcade experience to home consoles.
The last Switch game Ben and I played together was SnipperClips. It’s a co-operative puzzle game where you control two pieces of paper. If you overlap each other, you can press a button to cut off paper from the other player to make a new shape. In some stages, you must do this and work together to fill in a shape on the screen. In other stages, you must do more physics-based puzzles like play basketball. Changing your shape in those stages helps out, too. I believe this will be an eShop title that will be out shortly after the Switch launch.
After that, Ben and I split up and he went to the line to play Zelda. I’ll be playing Zelda in a month so I was good. So I snuck back in the booth and played some Splatoon 2. It looks and plays just like the Wii U original. In fact, if you didn’t tell me it was Splatoon 2 on the Switch, I wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference as I was playing with the Pro Controller. But in a way, that’s also a good thing because even though I hadn’t played the first game in over a year, I was able to jump right into this one and even win my first match!
And that’s my experiences with the Switch at Nintendo’s booth. I think the only problem I had with the Switch was that the control stick and buttons on each of the detachable controllers felt too close to each other. But other than that it was all right. I think the only games I didn’t play at Nintendo’s booth were the Street Fighter 2 game and Super Bomberman R (sorry Bob). They had some neat stations at the Nintendo area where you could play the Switch to show off that it can be played anywhere. One area looked like a cutout of an airplane.
Another looked like a cutout of the inside of a van, or maybe a camper?
But I think my favorite was the area that looked like a diner. I wouldn’t mind going to a Mario-themed diner, but the chalkboard menu here had some questionable items, like Fire Flower Fries and Spiny Shell Burger.
I played other Switch games at different booths, and Has-Been Heroes was one of them. But I wouldn’t have known it unless they told me because I was playing it with the Switch Pro Controller. Has-Been Heroes is a roguelike RPG, and the battle screen looks like a typical RPG. But the battles are anything but typical. Each of your heroes is assigned a row, and you press buttons that correspond to each row to attack. You can switch out heroes if they need to charge up for the next attack, but the enemies are ever approaching, so you have to think fast. Luckily you can pause the action to collect your thoughts, and you can get spells from a stagecoach that looks like a lottery wheel! I felt the learning curve was a bit high on this one, but then, my brain can be pretty slow at times. If you like fast-action RPG dungeon crawlers, you may want to check it out in late March. And it’ll be for all the new consoles, not just the Switch.
This game company with the orange booth has always been supportive of me over the years and they’re super nice, too. So I always try and check out their games during shows. They showed off tons of games. Hello Neighbor is a stealth game where you must sneak into your mysterious neighbor’s house to find out his secrets. Mr. Shifty is a top down viewed game I played at PAX West where you can warp through walls to sneak up on bad guys. Guts and Glory is a 3-D obstacle course game where you drive crazy vehicles like a bike with a kid’s seat on the back, or an army four-wheeler. Streets of Rogue is a top-down dungeon crawler with an arcade beat ‘em up theme. Most of them will be available for PC, but some are coming to consoles as well.
The best way I can describe this game is that It’s like a block pushing puzzler, except that you are the blocks. You control cube shaped robots and must get them to certain places on the map. You only use the directional pad, and the buttons just make your robots blink, so it’s easy to figure out how to play. There is a single player mode, but I tried a four player party mode where you must work together to solve puzzles. It’s coming out really soon, and I hope I get to review it!
They had a trio of games shown. Super BlackJack Battle 2 Turbo is a blackjack card game with Street Fighter style graphics. Slime-San is a single screen 2-D platformer where you play as a slime creature and must escape the insides of a worm that swallowed you. It kind of reminded me of super-hard platformers like Super Meat Boy. And finally was a hand drawn point and click adventure called The Inner World, which was popular on the PC and now will be on consoles!
Aside from playing Switch games and Monster Boy, RIME was one of my favorite games shown at PAX South. You play as a boy and must explore mysterious ancient abandoned ruins along with a fox to guide you on your way. You solve Zelda dungeon-like puzzles involving sound, light and shadows, and even size perspective! The game’s atmosphere also reminded me of ICO and a bit of Myst, too. It’s coming to all the new consoles (even the Switch), as well as PC. At the front of the booth, a young lady was dressed as the main character, and she was super nice to me as well as everyone else who passed by.
I think the only game at PAX South that I might’ve liked better than RIME was Monster Boy. At first I thought it was the remake of Wonder Boy 3: The Dragon’s Trap, but it’s not! It’s a brand new Wonder Boy game and the sequel to Monster World 4, which came out more than 20 years ago on the Genesis! It plays and looks great, so if you enjoy 2-D platform adventures (especially ones like Shantae), you should keep your eye on this one. I know I will be!
This is a really neat puzzle action game where you control two dots at the same time. Each has a maze on their side, and you must navigate them both to the exit with the twin sticks. Sometimes you can activate things in the environment to help the other dot bypass an obstacle, like getting the attention of a spotlight so the other dot can go by. I guess you could play this game with two-players, but I think that would be missing the point of the challenge: managing two things on screen at once. It’s coming to PC and PS4 very soon, so I hope I get to review it!
Another game I played was Blockshot Champions. It’s a four-player battle arena game where you control a dot and can jump around and shoot the other players’ dots. You can jump in the air three times in a row, shoot, and use a shield in all directions. Looked like a lot of simple fun, kind of a cross between Atari 2600 Combat and Robotron. It’ll come out on PC later this year and consoles the next year. Although I don’t know why it would take so long for a game about a bunch of dots to come out, but I guess that’s just a good example about how arduous it is to get games released.
Not only does PAX show off the latest video games, but they also have a big presence when it comes to tabletop board and card games. In fact, my brothers’ favorite thing they did at PAX South was paint D&D figures. I met with a company who made a movie based card game that was good for the whole family to play because you can kind of set up your own rules. It’s called Movie Buff and I think it’s been out for a while. The company who made it, Golden Bell, also publishes a newspaper magazine with comics in it called The Sunday Comics, and I thought that was really cool, too. If money wasn’t so tight right now, I’d subscribe to it!
I really don’t play online PC games at all, but if I did, I think I would gravitate towards Nexon’s titles. In the past they’ve been responsible for games like Maple Story and Dungeon Fighter Online, both of which really caught my interest. Their latest game seemed neat, too, so I decided to check it out. It’s an online MOBA game. I have no idea what MOBA means, and a guy at the booth did explain it to me, and I still am not sure what it is. But I liked the game because one, it’s a 2-D sidecrolling game with platforming and beat ‘em up elements, and two, the characters were pretty interesting. I played as a pirate squid, and another player was a pink haired girl who skipped along the map. And my team won the match we played as well! You had to destroy the enemy’s towers while defending your own, I think. But like I said, I thought the character designs were pretty neat.
They were showing off their new Resident Evil VR game like they did at PAX West. They even had the haunted house exterior and everything.
I had the opportunity to meet with Rooster Teeth, but I declined and my brothers got so mad at me for that. I guess they’re more popular than I thought. So I did check out their booth and they had a couple of games showing. One was based on their popular RWBY cartoon, and the other is a new game called Battlesloths 2025: The Great Pizza Wars. It’s a top down arcade styled twin stick online game where you play as sloths battling for pizza!
I learned how to play chess by playing Battle Chess when I was a kid so I could see all the animations of the characters. I also learned that I didn’t like playing chess that much. But I do like the idea behind Happy Chess. The pieces have emotional expressions to let you know if a move is good or bad, so it’s a great way to teach people how to play the game.
And that’s just about all I did at PAX South. It was definitely the best PAX South show yet, and also the biggest. Here are two shots of the main show floor from the second story:
And here’s the other side:
And that’s all for now! Check back tomorrow for more PAX South pictures and things I did! Later! –Cary