pax west 2017

The Best Indie Games Of PAX West 2017

by Brian Shea on Sep 02, 2017 at 11:59 PM

Through the years, the Penny Arcade Expo (or PAX) has become synonymous with fantastic games from some of the most talented independent developers in the industry. Seattle's PAX West is no different. Each year, from Nintendo's Nindies event, to Microsoft's ID@Xbox open house, to the Indie Megabooth on the showfloor, PAX West gives players an amazing opportunity to see the next big indie hits before everyone else. The Game Informer crew is on the ground at PAX West 2017 checking out as many indie titles as we can over the course of the show. These are the best indie titles we encountered while at the show. Check back over the course of the weekend, as we'll be updating this list with new entries each day.

Games are listed alphabetically.

Battle Chef Brigade
Developer: Trinket Studios
Release: Holiday
Platform: PS4, Switch, PC

Sidescrolling combat meets match-three puzzle-solving as Iron Chef meets anime in this appealing hand-drawn title from Trinket Studios and Adult Swim Games. As a chef-in-training, you must master the art not only of cooking the tastiest dish, but also hunting wildlife and collecting the ingredients you need. As you introduce new elements into your recipe, each ingredient features a unique group of up to four colored spheres. By tossing ingredients into the pot, you fill up the match-three grid. From there, you can "stir" the dish as it cooks, allowing you to reconfigure the order of the spheres to get as many matches as possible. As you match more groups of spheres, they disappear and increase your tastiness rating. If you run out of the ingredients you want, you can run into the backyard and hunt fantastical creatures using a melee weapon, a stomp, magic, and a powerful uppercut to harvest their edible parts. The story has you competing in cooking competitions of increasingly high profile, so if you want to be the best chef, you'd better brush up on your puzzle skills. -Brian Shea

God's Trigger
Developer: One More Level
Release: Early 2018
Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC

Perhaps the easiest way to describe God's Trigger would be "co-op Hotline Miami" – and you wouldn't be completely inaccurate. This top-down game tasks you with blasting through infuriatingly difficult stages chocked full of enemies that can kill you with a single shot. After clearing a room, you're on to the next area. However, an apocalyptic twist, more modern graphics, and some interesting puzzle solving segments help God's Trigger stand out as more than just two-player Hotline Miami. You assume the role as an angel and a demoness as the two characters collaborate to try and stop the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse from destroying the planet. The angel carries a katana by default, while the demoness can latch her arm out in a slower, but more ranged melee attack. The characters can also pick up any weapons enemies drop along the way. In addition, each character has special powers that charge up over time. One level also required my co-op partner and me to coordinate as we activated switches and dodged lasers to advance to the next room. At the end of the level, we cleared out a massive group of gunmen using a unique bullet-time sequence that activated just for that room. Though many elements from Hotline Miami are present in God's Trigger, the game adds enough fun twists that it should be worth a look for fans of that difficult top-down shooter when it launches in 2018. -Brian Shea

High Hell
Developer: Terri Vellmann and Adam Drucker
Release: Late 2017
Platform: PC

A satanic corporation that's in the business of selling cocaine and turning people into monkeys is in desperate need of being smashed, and you're the right person for the job. As you blast through room after room of red-faced devil dudes, you can whip out your lighter and set fire to all of the money you find laying around. Though you're kicking doors in left and right, your gun is your best friend in High Hell. Luckily, the gun never runs out of ammo and never needs to be reloaded. As if that isn't handy enough, each time you kill an enemy, your trusty firearm absorbs some of their soul, which heals you a little. You'll need that health boost, as it only takes a few hits to take you down. After you make it through a few regular stages, you tackle a boss character. Each boss has different patterns and strategies you must use to defeat them. The boss I went toe to toe with had towers that provided him with a shield. In order to beat him, first I needed to shoot him to activate one of his three nearby shield-generating towers, then while the tower was lit up, I shot it to destroy it. After all three towers were destroyed, a single shot from my gun disposed of him once and for all. High Hell does a great job of taking a simple concept and keeping it interesting over multiple levels. Hopefully the novelties that make the game so interesting on a showfloor hold up over a full playthrough when the game launches later this year. -Brian Shea

Developer: Lienzo
Release: Early 2018
Platform: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC

This 3D action game from Lienzo is based on the northern Mexican indigenous culture of the Tarahumara. You take control of a shaman as you fight back against corrupted beings that threaten humanity's existence. As you work your way through this game's eight worlds, you can transform into different forms. In the demo I played, I could transform into a bird, which let my character glide over distances as long as his magic didn't run out. In addition, I could activate a special type of vision that let me spot secrets, throw spears and bombs, and perform melee attacks to ward off creatures like giant frogs, mantis-like creatures, and shielded heavies. My favorite part of the demo involved a puzzle that required me to rotate stones to create three paths to allow water to flow into three snake statues. The puzzle was simple, but the team tells me these puzzles get much more difficult and complex as the game goes on. With satisfying combat, an imagination-capturing world, and fun puzzles, Mulaka has the potential to be a great experience when it launches next year. -Brian Shea

Nine Parchments
Developer: Frozenbyte
Release: Holiday
Platform: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC

The magic academy you've been attending has suddenly been destroyed, and the nine parchments that contain powerful spells have blown away and dispersed across a sprawling world. It's now up to you (and any friends who join you) to travel the world and recover these pages. That's the set up for Nine Parchments, a fantasy-based twin-stick shooter from the studio behind Trine and, more recently, Has-Been Heroes. Using your arsenal of spells, which includes elemental beams like ice, fire, death, and life, as well as projectiles like fireballs and ice shards, you must explore a large world and fend off difficult waves of enemies. If you're playing co-op, you can combine spells by blasting your beams into each other. If you're using the same elemental beam, the result is an extremely powerful version of that beam, while opposing elements create a new spell altogether (for example, an ice beam and a fire beam create a steam beam that damages both fire and ice enemies). With difficult encounters that scale to how many players are in your party, as well as massive boss battles, Nine Parchments is a game that fans of local multiplayer should keep an eye on. -Brian Shea

Sausage Sports Club
Developer: Chris Wade
Release: Early 2018
Platform: Switch, PC

It doesn't get much goofier than Sausage Sports Club. This local multiplayer action-sports game puts you in control of long-necked animals like bats, hedgehogs, and corgis, and throws you into a room with several other players in silly fun arcade sports games. From soccer, where you use your characters' long necks like baseball bats as you flail them around wildly in attempts to knock the ball in the goal, to sumo, where you try to bully your fellow competitors into the various traps set around the map in an effort to be the last creature standing, there is plenty of fun to be had. If Sausage Sports Club is as much fun in the long-term as it was in the short-term, it could prove to be an excellent party game when it launches in 2018. -Brian Shea

The Swords of Ditto
Developer: Onebitbeyond
Release: Early 2018
Platform: PS4, PC

Retro Zelda inspiration abounds in The Swords of Ditto, a short cooperative action RPG that's about fighting strange creatures, working through dungeons, and saving the world from an ancient evil. Despite the familiar premise, this isn't some sprawling 30-hour adventure. Instead, a single playthrough only takes a couple of hours. Each time you beat the game, the world gets a little brighter for your next playthrough, and you can see a statue erected in the middle of town depicting the heroic champion who vanquished the evil creature. However, if you die at any point along the journey, the world gets a bit darker and slides closer toward oblivion, which is reflected in the environments in your next playthrough. Each time you start, you control a random hero. Throughout your journey, you accumulate weapons that range from Zelda-inspired fare like bows and bombs, to over-the-top things like a giant robot foot that smashes down on top of the target. I love the concept victory or defeat affecting the world over the course of multiple playthrough, and now I'm just hoping that the sword slashing adventure can be kept fresh through its procedurally generated elements. -Brian Shea

Developer: Chucklefish
Release: Early 2018
Platform: Xbox One, Switch, PC

Wargroove is a turn-based strategy game that wears its Advance Wars and Fire Emblem inspiration on its retro sleeve. Up to four players guide their units through the map in an effort to secure a victory. Like with Advance War, if you capture the enemy stronghold, you win. However, in a new twist, you can also defeat a captain of an enemy team to claim victory, meaning that each team must not only protect its fortress, but also its captain (who just happens to be a strong combatant as well). Wargroove scratches the itch that fans of Advance Wars have had for many years, and I can't wait to play more when it launches next year. -Brian Shea