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Strikers Edge (PC, PS4, http://strikersedgegame.com/)
Striker’s Edge is a fast-paced and hectic party game where players square off against one another in what I will affectionately deem “Death Dodgeball” (super catchy, I know). The objective is to pummel the opposing team into submission using a combination of standard ranged attacks and unique skills. Each character has a unique look and weapon, and the map I played on had colors which popped nicely.
The controls were intuitive and fluid, and although with two teams of two squaring off the action on-screen can get a bit overwhelming for the uninitiated, it was extremely easy to pick up. Fast and frenetic action was established from the beginning to the very end. A small arrow indicating the direction your shot would fly in made it extremely easy to feel competitive for this total n00b, although I could see more skilled players using a combination of evasive maneuvers and character-specific skills to make the bouts much more intriguing.
Strikers Edge struck me (see what I did there?) as a classic PvP arena dueling title gamers of all skills levels can pick up and immediately understand what’s going on-a quintessential characteristic of this type of title. The potential for fights to grow increasingly complex is obviously weaved into the game’s foundation, and that is always a welcome addition for those looking to throw down online. Definitely a title to add to your watch list if you’re a fan of quick, brutal action.
In The Shadows (PC, PS4, Xbox One, http://www.intheshadowsgame.com/)
In The Shadows was the title I was most enamored with during my time at PAX South 2017. In this puzzle platformer, the objective is to collect all the stars in a level and reach the exit. Any player who’s fired up Battleblock Theater will be instantly familiar with the gameplay mechanics. However, unlike the aforementioned title, In The Shadows uses the concept of light in a very interesting and unique way.
Light is used as both a safety net (as enemies will actively avoid it) and as a means to solve puzzles. For example: flipping on a light switch at an opportune moment will convert certain enemies to trampolines, allowing you to access previously unreachable locations. The puzzles grow increasingly complex and the combination of movable blocks, light switches (and light fixture placement) and the path enemies walk make for a title with deceptively simple-looking, yet wholly intriguing level design.
The pixelated art style has an undeniably dark aesthetic, as any game about shadows and light is bound to. That being said, the colors bounce off the screen naturally and never once did I feel the dark color palette was dreary-on the contrary, I found it charming and airy. The controls are precise-a necessity for the platforming genre-and the usage of light in the title is an interesting mechanic which feels natural and never gimmicky. In the Shadows caught my eye and I cannot wait for it a drop. You can bet this Bro will be streaming it on release day!
Semispheres (PC, PS4, Xbox One, http://semispher.es/)
Semispheres is a puzzle game which truth be told, is a wee-bit difficult to describe. In this title, each joystick on the player’s controller controls a sphere, which has a full range of motion. The objective of the game is to have each sphere reach its respective exit. While it’s a natural inclination to control each sphere separately-as I found it unexpectedly challenging to attempt to maneuver each sphere independently in the beginning-I quickly grew comfortable moving the two spheres simultaneously, a requirement the game demands quickly.
The addition of obstacles, such as a light which reverts your sphere back to where it began, and “power ups” such as those which allow your spheres to teleport allows the complexity of the puzzles to grow organically. The visuals of the title are simplistic but striking, and I’m unsure what this next statement can be attributed to, but I viewed this as one of the most relaxing and calming games I’ve ever played. Perhaps it’s due to no imminent danger or flashing lights, but when I viewed the tagline of Semispheres as a “meditative parallel puzzle game” I didn’t think much of it; however it is a truly apt description.
The title is complex but tranquil, thought-provoking but never frustrating, at least in my limited time with the title on the show floor. The two words “Patience” and “Gaming” never go together for me, unless you’re describing how I’ve none of the former when it comes to the latter. Because of this, I seldom pick up puzzle games. However, due to an extremely calming aesthetic, gameplay which is not intuitive but very engaging and easy to comprehend and the fact I was dying to play more, I cannot wait to delve into everything the full Semisphere game has to offer. You can bet I hope to be playing it on stream soon!
If you haven’t scoped part 1 of my “Indie Games of PAX South 2017” series, feel free to do so. I promise-come PAX East, I will attempt to concoct a more creative name for the inevitable sequels to these entries. Part 3 will drop soon, and I’ll be sure to update this post as soon as it’s live!