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Essays 27 March 2024, 07:00

Our Favorite Games from PAX East 2024

2024 is bound to bring us a plethora of hot new titles, and what better place to get a preview of all the upcoming fun than at PAX East 2024. Here are the most interesting games according to us.

This yearly convention is known for showcasing lots of upcoming games from big names like Capcom, Nintendo, and Square Enix, but it is also the first time some smaller studios get the chance to show off their games to the world.

There is no shortage of great games on the horizon so our list shows off some of our favorites from the show and games you should be on the look-out for yourself. Some are releasing in the coming months, others are still in Early Access, and some you may have never heard of before but you should!

Heading Out

Heading Out

Getting behind the wheel and just driving through the United States seems like a dream for some, but for your character in Heading Out, it’s a necessity. Playing like a racer but feeling more like a robust roguelite, the game has you planning your trip to your final destination all while evading an invisible danger that gets closer and closer if you slow down.

Every city you visit offers you respite such as the option to tune up your car so it doesn’t break down on you or to check into an innto catch up on sleep so you don’t pass out at the wheel. And as you drive around, you’ll run into people wanting to race you for money—which you are going to need if you want to afford anything—but you may also run into cops that may pull you over for speeding. Deciding to outrun them may save you some time and money, but they may track you to other states and make things worse for you then so choosing when and how to interact with some of these events is totally up to you and could cost you time, money, or even your life.

Your story is shaped by your choices, and even your backstory, which you choose when you start each game, can come back to haunt you or bring you a bit of happiness on your journey. Reminding me a bit of Route 96 but with darker themes and color palettes and a catchy original soundtrack, Heading Out was one of my favorite games from PAX East and I cannot wait to play more when it comes out on May 7.

Lucid

Lucid

Combining the fast inputs of Celeste and the classic design of Castlevania, Lucid is what developer Eric Manahan likes to call a “Celesvania.” A love letter to all the games he played growing up, you can really feel the love as soon as you pick up the controller and realize how fun, beautiful, and immersive the game feels.

The demo I played let me take the protagonist Oenn out for a spin as he picked up his first power-up which allowed him to slash left or right. Instantly, I realized I would also need precise timing to make certain jumps either by dashing up ledges or comboing with my slash ability to give my character an extra bit of momentum. Enemies can also be combed into letting you get an extra jump to make it to ledges that seem far away. As you play, your character will gain more abilities relating to the other cardinal directions so you’ll have to come back to areas you already explored to discover new secrets and paths.

There was also a hub town where you can purchase gear to customize your abilities and much more so you have control over how you attack and move around the immersive maps. Its pink and blue color palette is a sight for the eyes and really brings the game’s crystal-punk setting together. Plus, did I mention the game features melodic music from the notable David Wise? 2025 can’t come soon enough.

Fretless

Fretless

Fretless is a music RPG that mixes elements of traditional turn-based RPGs with the charm of Super Nintendo games to give you a game that looks nostalgic but has its own unique twists. You play as Rob, a character inspired by musician Rob Scallion, who sets out on a journey to restore harmony to a world where music is being corrupted.

During battles, you can select up to three attacks or riffs that you want to dish out to musical monsters from a list of possible options. These are randomly rolled based on what you equip so you can choose how you want to engage in battle. During my demo, I could equip an acoustic guitar that comes with riffs that do damage but also provide your character with shields. Other possible attacks also do damage based on the number of shields you currently have on. The other instrument, an electric guitar, shocks you and lets you take damage from its frequency attacks but enemies take damage if they attack you while you’re in this state. You also have a rhythm-based special attack where you have to input the correct keys in the beat of the music adding to the fun.

Combat is about making smart moves, and the game will have more instruments to choose from as well as giving you the option to equip accessories that give you additional passive and active abilities. Expected to release sometime this year, Fretless looks very promising.

Killer Klowns from Outer Space: The Game

Killer Klowns from Outer Space: The Game

The cult classic film from the 80s returns in the form of this asymmetrical multiplayer game that is full of hilarity, scares, and plenty of old-school gags. While it may not be the movie sequel fans were waiting for, the game hopes to revive the franchise and bring it to new audiences to experience what’s it like to run away from killer clowns wanting to turn you into a cotton candy cocoon.

I played as a clown during my 15-minute demo so my objective was to kill as many humans as possible before the humans made a run for it. To kill them, you need to chase after them with your cocoon ray gun and shoot them down until they get turned into pink cotton candy cocoons. If you watched the films, you know it’s a mix of wackiness and horror so the game definitely amps up the latter a lot here considering you’re running away from clowns that want to kill you. After you turn them into cocoons, you need to take them to this machine that slowly kills them unless fellow humans free them from their demise.

Human players, on the other hand, need to complete tasks before the time runs out to make their escape. Hitting a clown and popping its red signature nose will incapacitate them, but you still need to be fast and work together to make it out alive. Add in some unlockable abilities for both parties and you get another asymmetrical horror that is shaping up to be a blast. Look for Killer Klowns from Outer Space: The Gameon June 4.

Fun with Ragdolls Plus

Fun with Ragdolls Plus

The original Fun with Ragdolls provided kids and adults an open canvas to create their own environments and levels filled with obstacles or platforming challenges to share with friends. Its sequel uses what made the original fun and relaxing, but amps it up a notch with a story mode that sees the ragdolls fighting for their lives.

My time with the game took me through three different levels that got more complicated as I played and really tested my platforming skills and understanding of some massive environments. Each level had me venturing through a gate, but in order to open the next one, I had to locateswitches hidden in odd places throughout each level. The last one, for example, had me climbing a giant structure all while getting shot at by other computer-controlled ragdolls from below. You can shoot or punch them, but they keep coming so you have to come up with some strategies to lose them while you focus on finding each switch. Timing your jumps is tricky enough on its own, but the added stress makes for some challenging but rewarding moments.

A big upgrade from its first installment is the game’s presentation. Buttery-smooth cutscenes accompanied with a powerful soundtrack and impressive voice cast give the game a layer of pizazz the original didn’t have. Add to it its overarching story, which is sure to be full of surprises, and you have a game that looks to be fun and intriguing for all ages when it releases later this year.

Pioneers of Pagonia

Pioneers of Pagonia

When you play a civilization-building game, multi-tasking is key if you want to ensure you get the most out of your experience but also so your villages and followers don’t end up starving to death or getting pillaged. Taking some of that stress away is Pioneers of Pagonia, a game that looks beautiful and features some impressive AI.

The game’s art director walked me through the game, which is currently in Early Access, and introduced the concept of “wuselfaktor.” This German word describing the “bustle” of your villagers is essentially how the game shapes your experience. Plop a home to be built anywhere, and you will instantly see villagers making their way from your storage to the build site to get in constructed. Run out of wood? Don’t worry as your villagers will start chopping wood from the nearby forest and then also start planting more trees based on how many they just lost. The game’s advanced AI allows you to make smart decisions such as expanding your borders, seeking out new tribes to befriend, or even fighting off enemies in the distance, but it lets you relax and enjoy the big picture without sweating the small stuff.

You can now also play co-op with other players and make decisions as a group to impact the people who inhabit your island, adding a nice spin to the usual civilization game where you normally play alone or against someone else. In addition to what’s already available through Early Access, the teams plans to release much more content including character backstories, German-influenced beer manufacturing, mining, and much more.

Lunar Lander Beyond

Lunar Lander Beyond

The original Lunar Lander didn’t offer much to look at as it was an arcade title that came out back in 1979. It was a game that tested your flying skills and featured precise controls that, as its name implies, required you to land your spacecraft across various levels of varying surfaces.

Lunar Lander Beyond is a complete expansion of the original and features colorful worlds, added controls and flight requirements, while still retaining its old-school charm. The demo levels I played had me selecting one of several crafts with differing speeds and controls. One was a more traditional spacecraft that required me to adjust my acceleration and use my ship’s stabilizers to position myself as I flew around sharp corners, collected resources, dodged enemy attacks, and then finally made myself to the level’s goal and simply landed. The game rewards you for flying well, but if you make too many mistakes and crash onto things, your stress bar will fill up and soon you will start seeing flying pink elephants and other bizarre things that make your flight a bit more dangerous.

On top of mastering the game’s controls and dealing with hallucinations, each level also introduces a randomly generated selection of pilots who come with their own abilities and perks. Once you clear a level, you can always challenge yourself to go back to it and do a better job using new resources and ships you gain as you play. It was great seeing characters, cutscenes, and even some backstory in a game that started off as just a few lines on an arcade screen. The game releases on April 23.

Memory’s Reach

Memory’s Reach

Think the eerie tranquility and puzzles of Talos Principle and mix in the format of a Metroidvania and you get Memory’s Reach, a puzzler that gets more complex the more you play it. Inspired by the aesthetic of Metroid Prime, the game has you exploring an alien world and figuring out the cause for its downfall all the while solving puzzles that slowly unfurl its mysteries.

The demo I got to play introduced me to a handful of the game’s initial puzzles, which involved rotating panels to continue a path for energy to flow through to power up various towers. The final puzzle was the area I was in but figuring out how to get back to where I started had me scratching my head a bit until developer Ben Drost pointed me in the right direction. Puzzles will gradually get more complex and there will be various different kinds as you play, and like any Metroidvania, you’ll need to return to certain areas once you unlock new abilities.

Despite the short demo, the game definitely has that Metroid Prime feel to it without crazy aliens attacking you. You can also scan various creatures or ruins you find to discover more about your surroundings further adding to the lore and future backstory that the game will dive into. Memory’s Reach is still in development, but the game’s colorful alien world and the potential for more complex puzzles makes me look forward to more of what it can bring to the table

Phantom Fury

Phantom Fury

Inspired by FPS games and road films from the 90s, Phantom Fury looks like an old-school title but features some modern controls and immersive storytelling all in one badass package. The games follows protagonistShelly “Bombshell” Harrison after she wakes up from a coma and has to journey across the country to track down a deadly artifact.

My demo let me play through a few levels in the game that truly showed off the game’s action-packed setting as I had to make my way from a bar shootout to a mine maze and then to an enemy base where dozens of mutated monsters and giants chased after me. You can quickly feel the inspiration from older games like Doom and Hexen in how the game looks, but moving around the map felt much smoother and more vertical as areas have multiple ways you can explore them.

There are lots of weapons you can utilize as well to add to the rush of battles, but my favorite was the revolver that lets you select up to three targets and release the trigger to instantly kill them all at once. You’re in store for dozens of more weapons and lots more intense shootouts when the game comes out on April 23.

Dustborn

Dustborn

Dustborn originally drew me in thanks to its colorful art direction and stellar visuals that make it look like you’re in a comic book. Its characters come alive once you start playing the game and you’ll realize you’ll be spending a lot of time with them as you travel cross-country in an America that seems to be under siege by an oppressive police system.

From simply talking to characters to engaging in real-time battles, the game is a mix of a few genres, but its primary focus is going to be the story it tells and the interactions you have with those you are on a journey with. While your choices won’t affect the action of the game, they do affect the emotional response of your companions, I was told, so you can sense their disappointment or affection towards you. I got to see some of this during my demo, but I also realized the game has some wacky moments during battle where you can utilize the unique powers of your allies to do combo attacks. If an enemy sniper ever tries to shoot you from their helicopter, just pull out your bat and knock their chopper off course.

You play as an undercover band so there are also rhythm game elements so sound is a huge component of the game’s foundation. Even the cast with its diverse and interesting backstories sound real, authentic, and worth getting to know. Look out for more when Dustborn comes out on August 20.

Rugrats: Adventures in Gameland

Rugrats: Adventures in Gameland

While the Rugratscartoon hasn’t been relevant in a while, that doesn’t mean we can’t have a new Rugrats video game, right? Those who grew up with the babies from the 90s will get a nostalgic rush when playing with Tommy, Chuckie, and their friends as they go on adventures just like in the cartoon show.

Gameplay is a lot like a classic side-scroller and lets one or two players journey through familiar locations from the show. Each baby plays a little differently so Chuckie can jump the highest while Lil can float a bit after a jump. In my demo I escaped from the crib and explored an Egyptian tomb where I had to jump on bad toys to knock them out, ground-pound sand blocks to descend even further, and eventually face off against a boss at the end. These bosses and the worlds you’ll explore all based on the nightmare episodes from the show so expect a lot of familiar faces like Big Boy to make an appearance.

The game was built from the ground up with the Rugrats IP in mind so it’s faithful to the show down to the very color of Tommy’s shirt. What’s even cooler is that you can play the game with 8-bit graphics or with modern HD ones for a totally different visual experience. The game is expected to release later this year.

Planetiles

Planetiles

There is something relaxing about setting down tiles and making them fit in a specific space. It’s even more relaxing when you see what you put down instantly transform in deserts, forests, and farmlands on an entire planet.

That’s the joy behind Planetiles, a cozy but engaging puzzler that challenges you to populate earth as best as you can and make smart choices while completing objectives that increase your overall score. Even the tiles you lay down can evolve and turn from groves to jungles depending on how you place them on your map so you need to think carefully about where and when to place down a set number of tiles or “reroll” to get ones that will benefit you more. At times you will also be racing against the clock of natural disasters so you’ll also need to survive before you can thrive.

The overall game essentially focuses on building up your high score, but there will be a sandbox mode where you can simply enjoy what kinds of planets you populate by plopping things down on them. Its welcoming colors and relaxing yet thought-provoking gameplay are sure to impress many when the game comes out April 3.

Giancarlo Saldana

Giancarlo Saldana

Giancarlo grew up playing video games and finally started writing about them on a blog after college. He soon began to write for small gaming websites as a hobby and then as a freelance writer for sites like 1UP, GamesRadar, MacLife, and TechRadar. Giancarlo also was an editor for Blast Magazine, an online gaming magazine based in Boston where he covered various video game topics from the city's indie scene to E3 and PAX. Now he writes reviews and occasional previews for Gamepressure covering a broad range of genres from puzzle games to JRPGs to open-world adventures. His favorite series include Pokémon, Assassin's Creed, and The Legend of Zelda, but he also has a soft spot for fighting and music games like Super Smash Bros and Rock Band. When not playing Overwatch after a long day at work, he enjoys spending time working out, meal prepping, and discovering new international films and TV shows.

more

Pioneers of Pagonia

Pioneers of Pagonia

Phantom Fury

Phantom Fury

Heading Out

Heading Out

Lunar Lander Beyond

Lunar Lander Beyond

Lucid

Lucid

Dustborn

Dustborn

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