The Best Indie Games We Played At PAX West 2018

PAX West has been going strong for 15 years and the show has become a pillar for the independent developer community as a place to show off the latest and greatest indie games. Titles are spread out across the show floor nestled inside booths for platform holders, given front-and-center placement with independent publishers, creating long lines at the Indie Megabooth, and some of the most interesting games are just a laptop connected to a TV on lone tables on the side.

While Game Informer was at PAX West, we got a chance to look at some of the best and brightest independent games brought to the show.

Games are listed alphabetically.

Gato Roboto

Platform: PC, Switch
Publisher: Devolver
Release: Early 2019

Gato Roboto (which roughly translates to Cat Robot, I believe) is the story of a cat who wants to help its space-exploring owner after crashing into an alien planet. The game’s publisher, Devolver, describes the game as a ‘CatMechtroidvania’ and as dumb as the portmanteau is, I can’t help but agree with the made-up word, especially after playing the game. It is heavily inspired by Metroid in its world design, mechanics, and soundtrack, which is surprisingly creepy considering the cute premise of a cat in a mech suit. In my short playtime I unlocked new abilities to open up new areas, fought a boss, and solved something closer to a puzzle by leaving the mech suit to explore small openings as the cat. The cat is much more versatile when it comes to platforming, being able to climb walls with ease, but it is also far more vulnerable and can be killed in a single hit. – Kyle Hilliard

Indivisible

Platform: PC, Switch
Developer: Lab Zero Games
Release: 2019

Indivisible has been in development and in playable demo form for years, but we still get excited whenever we get a chance to play it. Developed by Lab Zero Games, known predominantly for the fighting game Skullgirls, Indivisible in an RPG, but also features solid platforming and a combat pace that almost makes it feel like an action game. The demo at PAX West featured a huge cast of party members gathered in rapid succession. It’s likely the final game will place much more space between acquiring new party members, but by the end of the demo I had met seven characters to potentially use in my four-party team. As you place the party members in your party, they are assigned a face button, and then, instead of selecting an attack from a menu, you press the corresponding face button to attack. Holding different directions on the control stick while you press the face buttons will produce different attacks. You’re still waiting your turn to attack, but it makes combat move quickly.

The most standout element of the game is its animation. Every character moves with a fluidity and individual personality that makes them fun to watch. One of my favorite animations involved protagonist Ajna climbing walls by using a battle axe in the same way Lara Croft uses her pry axe. – Kyle Hilliard

Samurai Gunn 2

Platform: PC, Switch
Developer: Teknopants
Release: Early 2019

Samurai Gunn 2 is the sequel to the PC-only samurai party fighting game of the same name and recently saw its world debut during Nintendo’s Indie Direct. The original game pit 2-4 pixel art samurai in a fairly large arena armed with swords and pistols, with death coming from one hit of either weapon. Samurai Gunn 2 works largely the same way, which is to say remarkably tense and frantic, but adds new functions to vastly change the way the game is played.

Players are given three bullets per life, like the previous game, and then have to rely completely on their swords. In the original Samurai Gunn, bullets could be swatted away, meaning there was no good reason to use pistols up close. To rectify this, developer Teknopants introduced the concept of dashing, which uses one of the three bullets. Dashing goes through sword strikes, can employ its own sword strike, and can backdash away from the opponent, effectively turning clashes into games of rock-paper-scissors. Samurai Gunn 2’s multiplayer seems to hew fairly close to its predecessor, but the changes only improve the game’s best qualities. – Imran Khan

Young Souls

Platform: PC, Switch
Developer: The Arcade Crew
Release: Early 2019

Young Souls follows a pair of siblings fighting a secret underworld threat with classic arcade-style beat-em-up mechanics and a fantastic style of animation. The game can be played alone, with one player switching between the two characters, but it also offers cooperative, two-player, drop-in, drop-out multiplayer. My session involved gearing up before heading into a series of battles. I chose between one-handed swords with shields or powerful, but slow two-handed swords and myriad different armors, helmets, and shoes. Each item has a weight associated with it which has the potential to slow you down in combat. I went with a lighter build as the sister and went room to room with my brother (A.K.A. one of the game’s developers) and beat up underground goblins with our weapons.

The Arcade Crew focused on the combat for my demo, but says the game is very narrative-focused. The game is being written by one of the narrative leads who is working on the upcoming Twin Mirror from Dontnod, the studio behind the original Life is Strange. – Kyle Hilliard

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