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Penny Arcade Expo 2008

Posted on Friday, September 5 @ 15:55:31 Eastern by Greg_Damiano

Part One: “PAX 10” Indie Showcase Highlights the Favorites  

The Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle received nearly 60,000 attendees this weekend from every corner of the gaming community, from hardcore tournament competitors to tabletop role-players and industry wannabes.

For this year’s show, Penny Arcade founders Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins stole a page from the 2008 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, spreading a bit of the independent love around Seattle.

The PAX 10 hand-picks ten indie games, as scored by the PA crew, that are selected to display with the big-boy studios on the exhibition hall floor. Some of these games are released, some are corporate, and some represent student or individual efforts, but all of them received the praise and support of the PAX judges. Krahulik felt he could not do justice to the importance of the showcase, calling it an essential part of future Penny Arcade Expos.

So here's the lowdown on each game, in alphabetical order:

The Amazing Brain Train (PC)
Puzzle/Strategy by Grubby Games

The Amazing Brain Train collects 15 puzzle games into a mash-up of Brain Age-style exercises and the cutesy casual style of Peggle. It’s not the epic game of your dreams but there’s a lot to like, including the consistent, colorful 3D artwork, a graded examination mode, collectible achievements and a nonlinear quest mode. Amazing Brain Train is an impressive effort, looking great for children with potential for older or more hardcore gamers.

Play the Amazing Brain Train Demo! (free download)

Audiosurf (PC)
Rhythm/Racer by Dylan Fitterer, Elizabeth Fitterer, Paladin 3D, Pedro Camacho, Albert Park & Flynn Joffray

Audiosurf is an “adaptive puzzle racer” that turns the Britney Spears songs you’re hiding on your computer into awesome little roller coaster rides. (Don’t worry, we won’t tell anyone.) You collect and match power-ups at speeds upwards of 128 beats per minute as the course rises and falls to the tempo of the music. A dozen playable characters and global leaderboards may inspire you to dust off the more eccentric songs in your collection.

Play Audiosurf! ($10, free Steam ID and service download).

Chronotron (PC)
Action/Puzzle by Scarybug Games

Representing the web games crowd, Chronotron is invading your computers at home and at work, and it’s sending you back in time! Forty brain-busting puzzles challenge you to record actions and then go back in time to team up with your past-selves. It’s harder to explain than a flying DeLorean, plus it has some pretty sweet music so be sure to check it out for yourself.

Play Chronotron! (Or click here to play it with achievements, free log-in.)

Impulse (PC)
Puzzle by Team Xplosion, Rochester Institute of Technology

A New York-based team of students won tickets to PAX with their inspired puzzler, where players steer a disc around space using the indirect influences of magnets and explosives. Black holes and other obstacles line the particle-heavy road to victory. Impulse was programmed in XNA as part of a 2D Game Development course.

See the Impulse Gameplay Trailer!

The Maw (XBLA)
Action/Adventure by Twisted Pixel Games

Mixing a bit of Katamari Damacy and Nintendo’s Kirby games, The Maw is coming to devour everything you know and love. The developers of NBA Ballers: The Chosen One and Blitz: The League II are going above and beyond with this lush platformer, where you’ll guide the toothy blob-creature through a buffet of extraterrestrial monsters. The Maw and friends have some awesome animations, and every time the bright colors and rounded shapes start to feel too kiddie, your pet Maw flashes its jagged teeth and gobbles down another smiling item on the food chain. With luck, The Maw will arrive before the end of 2008.

Watch the “Maw” Trailer!

Polarity (PC)
Action/Puzzle by Howard Braham, Daniel Bryner, Przemyuslaw Iwanowski, Stanely Rosenbaum, Gaurav Shrivistava, Samuel Spiro and Allison Theus, Carnegie Mellon Univesity

Looking a little like Jetpack or Lode Runner, Polarity is a puzzle-solving platformer game featuring a two-way magnetic suit. Your red outfit attracts blue objects and repels red ones, and can be switched to a blue outfit that attracts red objects and repels blue ones. Soon enough you’re flying around rooms and fighting bosses by twisting these simple, inventive rules. Mike and Jerry of Penny Arcade fame specifically called Polarity a favorite of the show.

Play the Polarity Demo! (free download required)

Project Aftermath (PC)
Action/Tactics by Games Faction

Three-dimensional RTS games are a huge undertaking, but the three individuals behind Project Aftermath made a great splash at PAX 2008. The futuristic space war avoids the usual resource-gathering micromanagement, instead focusing on a handful of commander heroes and their squads. Aftermath has some rocking 2D and 3D art and is currently due for a 2008 release.

See the Project Aftermath Trailer!

Schizoid (XBLA)
Action by Torpex Games

“The most co-op game ever” was launched on July 9. Schizoid plays a little like Pac-Man and Asteroids on a devil’s bargain. Each player controls either a blue or a red ship, and each ship can destroy enemies of the opposite color. It’s up to the players to remove each other’s enemies as they clear the maze. Schizoid packs extra features like an AI-assist single-player mode and a one-player-two-ships “Uberschizoid” mode. However, it received mixed reviews from the critics.

Visit the Schizoid Web Site!

Strange Attractors 2 (PC)
Puzzle by Ominous Development, LLC

The third physics-based game to fly the PAX 10 flag is a simple mouse-based puzzler that almost looks like a pinball game. To collect power-ups and clear goals in Strange Attractors 2, players either activate a gravity field that launches their disc toward the nearest platform, or they can activate an anti-gravity field that repels them from every major object.

Play the Strange Attractors 2 Demo! (free download)

Sushi Bar Samurai (PC)
Puzzle by Molly Rocket

“When a baking incident disturbs the traditionally balanced diet of the spirit world…” No, really. Sushi Bar Samurai is a 3D culinary adventure game that’s set on nourishing the soul. Samurai is all about meeting various spirits in limbo, then serving them sushi that sets their souls to rest. If you’re into either Japanese food or ghost-busting then this one has your number, and it’s all due to three or four years of hard work by designer-artist-engineer-creator Casey Muratori. Sushi Bar Samurai is scheduled for Spring 2009.

Visit the Sushi Bar Samurai Web Site!

There’ll be more PAX reactions to come, readers, so thanks for looking and see you soon!

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