PAX West 2016: Roaming Around at Redmond

The ID@Xbox Pre-Pax Open House just wrapped up for 2016, bringing a wide selection of recently released and upcoming games to gamers in town for PAX  or generally in the area (event pass was not required). Combining a mix of Xbox One indie titles, selected major franchise installments and additional pieces like survey group enrollment (and a Rockstar energy drink partnership) shone the spotlight on some interesting works in progress.

 

Moonshot was the most polished and ready to release indie game that I came across, described by a fellow combatant as a mix of Scorched Earth (or Worms if that reference doesn’t work) and Super Mario Galaxy. Each player spawns on a small floating asteroid that each person can fire shots, boost off of and putter around the circumference of the sphere while avoiding incoming attacks and the flaming hot star in the middle of the makeshift galaxy.

The game is smooth and colourful, mixing cute graphics with a bright palette and responsive controls with a meaningful shift between the quick rotations around an asteroid and lethargic hops between rocks as either the standard tank or stranded astronaut when it gets blown up. There are occasional hiccups when deformed geometry traps tanks until blasting the ground away to roll out, but overall Moonshot is ready to take its place as a drop in, drop out party game.

 

Everspace has a visual style that reminds me of No Man’s Sky with less cell shading, which may work in its favour when it releases through the ID@Xbox program. The demo build toggled between environments like an icy asteroid belt and a fire lit horizon, but none of the atmospheric particulars seemed to impact the gameplay.

I couldn’t adjust to the inverted Y-axis with a high degree of sensitivity that the build was set up, turning off joystick controls and slowing the cursor down did wonders for engaging in dogfights. I found it odd that system damage was inconsistent, absorbing enemy ship fire resulted in significant damage indicators but activating thrusters directly into floating asteroids was met with indifference. It has promise and looked great on the larger screen as an ID@Xbox graphical showcase.

 

I didn’t get hands-on time with The Sexy Brutale before the open house concluded, but peering over the shoulder of someone else was nonetheless interesting to experience. It feels like a mix of Transistor’s player movement with a mystery element that reveals itself as items are searched and clues are logged, presented with a gorgeous isometric view and art deco style. This game probably needs a promotional hand to be discovered and I hope it happens; there’s definitely room on the Xbox One for more adventure and exploration style games.

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