PAX South 2017 showcased its share of highly-anticipated titles. But for every Rime or Dreadnought, there were promising, less prolific titles that made a big impression. I tried out as many games as I could get my hand on and compiled a list of lesser-known games worth keeping any eye on.
Light Fall (Platforms: PC, Mac - Release Date: TBA)
Bishop Games’ unique platformer challenges players to not only traverse obstacles but to conjure and manipulate their own platforms. Your character can spawn a single box used to catch your fall or help bridge large gaps. This forms a fun and challenging rhythm of jumping and box-summoning during intense platforming segments. Beyond platforms, boxes can also be hurled through barriers and fit into gears to activate mechanisms. One tricky segment on a boat tasked players with using the box as a rudder to propel the vessel while, as the hero, simultaneously dodging leaping swordfish and other hazards. Light Fall still needs some polish, but I had fun leaping and box-spawning and look forward to seeing how the finished version performs.
Minit (Platforms: PC - Release Date: 2017)
Imagine if The Legend of Zelda if it only lasted 60 seconds. That sums up Minit in a nutshell. Cursed to die every one minute, Minit tasks players to explore and solve puzzles under the strictest of deadlines. Locating and collecting key items (such as a sword to cut obstructing grass) is vital as once it’s yours, it’s yours for good. Subsequent runs are quicker and easier with each item gained, creating a nice sense of reward. Minit reminded me of managing time in the first Pikmin, in that it’s strangely satisfying figuring out how to best maximize each run. An instant suicide button allows players to restart anew if they feel their minute is going badly. A deliberately slow attack forces players to consider each battle. One hilarious and intentional roadblock I encountered was a slow-talking, long-winded old man who forces players to read slow-moving text in order to learn valuable information – but doing so basically costs an entire life.
Embers of Mirrim (Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC - Release Date: Spring 2017)
Side-scrolling platformer Embers of Mirrim features dual protagonists: two beasts, known as Embers, who each channel the powers of Light and Darkness. In the demo I played, I took turns using each Ember separately to romp around fairly standard side-scrolling sections. The Embers’ ability to transform into light energy spiced things up, as I used it to phase through designated obstacles, typically in mid leap.
Embers of Mirrim’s gameplay picked up dramatically once the opposing beasts met and merged into a single entity. At that point, I could split myself into both light and dark energy, which controlled similar to a twin-stick shooter. More complex challenges surfaced as a result; I often had to simultaneously steer both energies through tricky areas. The light powers used in conjunction with platforming formed an entertaining test of reflexes and dexterity that I hope the full game expands on come release.
Sundered (Platforms: PlayStation 4, PC, Mac, Linux - Release Date: July 2017)
Like developer Thunder Lotus’ previous title, the Viking adventure Jotun, Sundered is a beautifully hand-drawn adventure inspired by the animation of the 1980’s. Described as a “horrifying fight for survival and sanity”, players take the role of the wanderer Eshe, who must battle his way through a hellish world teeming with horrors. Sundered’s level design borrows straight from the Metroidvania playbook, boasting labyrinthine, “ever-changing” areas. Once the wow factor of Sundered’s presentation passed, its stylish combat and brutal challenge grabbed me next. At one point, I was swamped by a seemingly unending sea of monstrosities. Though I was overwhelmed at first, cutting the horde down to size proved to be an entertaining trial of my combat prowess. Sundered’s development is currently being crowdfunded through an already successful Kickstarter campaign and is targeting a summer release.
Kona (Platform: PC - Release Date: Spring 2017)
This intriguing first-person adventure game puts players in the shoes of a detective exploring a surreal mystery in the wilds of 1970’s Canada. Sent to investigate a case, things go awry when a car accident leaves him unconscious. Upon awakening, Kona’s survival elements immediately come into play. I had to start a fire to prevent myself from freezing to death while also seeking out items to repair my vehicle.
From there, I drove to various outposts (reminiscent of Alan Wake’s driving sequences) to piece together clues. One pivotal moment came when I followed a trail of wolf tracks that led to a horrifically frozen man. At this point, Kona’s otherworldly element revealed itself in a dream-like sequence where I watched a spectral reenactment of the wolf attack, thus revealing the cause of the man’s death. There are clearly bigger, more sinister forces at play. Kona’s style shines through a charismatic narrator who not only guides the adventure, but regularly interjects his own personal thoughts on the situation at hand, sometimes to humorous effect. If you fancy yourself an adventure game aficionado, you can take Kona for a spin now in Steam Early Access.