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The absolute best part of going to Cons such as PAX is getting hands-on time with soon-to-be released titles and getting to discuss the development process with those who make them. Two games which caught my eye and piqued my interest are previewed at length below for your reading pleasure!
Crossing Souls (PC, http://crossingsoulsthegame.com/)
The inaugural TruBros award for best booth at a Con goes to Crossing Souls for PAX East 2017. Your prize? Why, more booth photos than I’ve ever shared of a single booth before, obviously!
Needless to say, as soon as I laid eyes on this beauty I had to spend some hands-on time with the title. The title is a single-player RPG and I for one was immediately reminded of a personal favorite title Earthbound when I first booted up the game. The Crossing Souls booth was chock-full of 1980’s regalia and the game is heavily influenced by landmark cinema from the era, such as The Goonies or E.T. The title is heavily focused on story with lots of dialogue which can be read via text, or skipped if that’s your inclination. The story is interesting from the very beginning, and reads like a coming-of-age movie you’d expect to have been made in the 80’s. Like the aforementioned classic game (which if you haven’t played you absolutely should ASAP), the player controls a group of friends with unique personalities and abilities. Unlike Earthbound, the player controls one party member at a time and can switch between each of them on the fly, so while you’ve only one character on screen at a time you can flip between them at your leisure.
Each character has their own attack, stamina, and HP bar, meaning you’re essentially controlling an entire party at once in each real-time encounter, as opposed to the turn-based combat which was a hallmark of the SNES era. The real-time combat is a breeze to pick up, and at least in my limited time with the game each playable character had a primary attack. Each character’s distinct personality shone through with their interactions with one another, and each played to a traditional RPG trope: there was the ranged character (the smart nerd), the short-range heavy striker (the quiet, strong friend), the ranged-melee character, (the tough girl) and the fast melee striker (the cool guy who appears to be the protagonist). During my limited playthrough I was able to engage each NPC I saw on screen and have a conversation and each interaction was unique depending upon the character I was controlling at the time. If you’re the kind of player who likes to leave no stone unturned when playing an RPG (like me), this title seems like the perfect game for you!
As their gorgeous PAX East booth would lead you to believe, Crossing Souls is a game heavily influenced by 1980’s culture. The pixelated art-style and throwback story is period appropriate, and even if you’re not familiar with this particular time period in NerdLife culture a few episodes of Stranger Things or a viewing of E.T. will immediately help you feel at home in the world of Crossing Souls. This is personally the title I was most enthralled with during my time at PAX East 2017, and I’ll be eagerly waiting for it to release!
Pato Box (PC, PS Vita, http://www.patoboxgame.com/)
Pato Box is a one-player RPG where the player controls a boxing duck. While the premise may sound a bit preposterous at first glance, I can assure you this title is one to be taken seriously. The gameplay is reminiscent of the classic boxing title Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!, where players can dodge in multiple directions and throw punches toward either the head or body. As a big fan of boxing games in general, I was quite excited for find a developer which went back to the old-school control scheme for a title so obviously focused on story. Players control the titular Pato Box, the duck who was obviously a boxing star but falls on hard times at the beginning of the game.
The game began in a boxing ring, however it quickly transitioned to a corporate building setting. Using the same in-ring control scheme, the player can navigate the building and engage with multiple NPC’s. As the title is a linear, narrative-driven adventure (at least in the initial stages I played on the show floor), interacting with NPCs is imperative to progressing the story. I was tasked with destroying a set number of items within a specified timeframe in order to prove I was truly the legendary Pato Box, closing a door, speaking with multiple people, and picking up a few random items. Regardless if a gamer is familiar with the legendary Punch-Out!! title, the controls are extremely easy to pick up and work exceptionally well regardless if the player is throwing down in a ring or navigating the corridors and engaging with NPCs.
The art-style is a sleek, simple black and white scheme and mirrors what a gamer would expect to find in a comic such as Sin City or The Walking Dead. I believe it can be attributed to the distinctly dark art style, but I for one viewed this title as having a unique, film-noir-type aesthetic. Additionally, after only a handful of minutes with the title I had the sneaking suspicion it will play out as an old-school cinematic mystery, because even characters who appear to be on Pato Box’s side struck me as suspicious and potentially untrustworthy. Although the vintage gameplay will undoubtedly be a big part of what hooks gamers on this title, the art-style is decidedly simple yet undeniably adds to the atmosphere of the game. As a bonus, the music was appropriate to the title and really helped sell the dark aesthetic. Toss in an intriguing story I instantly wanted to know more about, and you’ve got a recipe for success in my eyes.
Pato Box is a retro-style boxing title with a striking visual style and one of the most uniquely appropriate narratives I’ve encountered in quite some time. I for one love narrative focused titles and am a sucker for old-school gameplay, so you can bet this game is on my watchlist. I suggest you add it to yours as well. Until next time, Bros!