PAX Australia 2018
Editorial Preview

Exploration and Narrative — Indie Games at PAX Australia 2018

Back in October, PAX Australia came and went again this year: three long days of excitement, busyness, energy, and neurological storm; games, culture, friends, late nights, and probably too much alcohol. However, is the annual congregation of the great unwashed known as PAX Australia, now in its sixth year, a victim of a cultural shift and esoteric corporate mergers, or does it retain its magic?

Held, according to tradition, during the last weekend of October in Melbourne, PAX Australia has undergone few changes over the years. Finding its feet and refining itself into the show it is today was a quick but imperceptible change for PAX, and this year was, quite possibly, going to be the largest shift yet. Announced earlier in the year was the merger between Australia’s two largest conventions – PAX Australia and the retailer-run EB Expo. What this merge essentially promised was the size and venue attendance of PAX combined with the publisher clout of the country’s largest brick and mortar game retailer.

Not to get too deep into how the sausage is made, the merge essentially meant PAX was absorbing EB Expo. But would the corporate consumer culture of EBX white ant the more friendly and affable atmosphere of PAX? How would this change PAX?

In short—the merge changed nothing. This year was a good old familiar PAX experience, right down to the banner in front of the Melbourne Convention Centre welcoming everyone home.

In a big move this year, the PAX Rising indie game section was moved from the established spot next to the side entry doors, instead taking pride of place right in front of the main entry hall. The shifting of the indie section away from the side doors to the front entrance gave the booths a prominent position in the con-goers’ minds, but maybe not the ease of traffic afforded by the more widely used side entrances; it was more of a statement of intent, with PAX firmly affixing its brand to support of indie devs. Whether or not foot traffic to indies increased or decreased with this move would be a fascinating statistic.

OnlySP’s picks of the show would probably be Quantum Suicide, Necrobarista, Speaking Simulator, Totem Teller, Dead Static Drive, and Where The Snow Settles. However, to pick just a handful seems to sell the rest short—plenty of other great games were on show and this list is in no way definitive.

Quantum Suicide is an Australian developed visual novel that tells the story of a crew stuck on a space ship. The game’s writing is strong and it presents an interesting mystery in a novel way. The art is also great.

Necrobarista is a narrative driven visual novel, but with a cinematic vignette twist. Set in Melbourne Australia, the game is a quirky neon anime-stylised exploration of coffee and necromancy, and the people—and former people—the café’s staff meet along the way.

Speaking Simulator is QWOP for mouths. The concept is simple—players control a robot who has to talk to people by moving your facially-situated flesh-flaps, and do so via a complicated series of manipulations. The game is as hilarious as QWOP but about words so it is bound for success.

Totem Teller was a strange experience: top-down exploration with a glitch-filtered aesthetic, telling an impressionistic story about creativity and momentum. Still not sure exactly what was going on, but the game has style in spades.

Dead Static Drive has been at PAX before, and the year or so extra development has done it the world of good. A post-apocalyptic road trip survival game, Dead Static Drive‘s desolation and solitude really add to its strangely relaxed atmosphere.

Where The Snow Settles is a top-down exploration game. In the depths of winter, the player’s sister goes missing, so their task is to set out into the snowy wilds and bring her back. The game has a certain charm to it, and some great looking snow.

Check out some of the larger titles that we saw at PAX. For more on single-player gaming, be sure to follow OnlySP on FacebookTwitter, and YouTube.

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