Ten demos we tried at PAX Online 2021

PAX East 2020 was the last convention I got to attend before the world locked down due to the Covid-19 pandemic. As 2020 turned to 2021 it felt like progress was being made to return the world to normal. Vaccines were readily available and ReedPop had hoped to run PAX East 2021 later in the year in June rather than it?s usual late March/early April spot. Personally, a PAX that didn?t require a winter jacket was a dream come true, and like most dreams it was dashed due to circumstances beyond my control…however as a consolation the show was converted to an Online iteration, much like PAX West had done in late 2020.

While it would?ve been nice to grab a lobster roll from James Hook & Co. or a Jimmy Johns BLT on D Street in short sleeves, I?ll have to settle for trying out an assortment of games due in a year or two. It should be noted that this list is in no specific order, although if I expound on a title more…it?s probably because I enjoyed it a lot. With that said, here are 10 demos I got to check out from the comfort of my own home, thanks to Steam and devs who sent over builds!

Aeon Drive

Developer: 2Awesome Studio
Store Link: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1252240/Aeon_Drive/

Your ship?s drive cores have been scattered throughout Neo Barcelona and if you don?t get reinstall them asap they?ll explode, destroying the city. The best course of action would be to alert the authorities and form a search party, right? Nah…do it yourself with the help of a time loop and your freerunning skills. Aeon Drive is a speed running platformer set in a cyberpunk landscape where you?re Jack(elyne) tasked with an impossible mission…well it?s only impossible if you follow the rules of time and space.

You will have 30 seconds to get from point A to point B, each level has several ways to get to the goal, it’s up to you to find the best pathway. You can extend your run by collecting time capsules which after collecting five will give you a chance to add 5 seconds to the clock. You?re also armed with a dagger when stuck to a surface, will allow Jack to teleport that spot (Naruto fans see parallels to this mechanic with the Fourth Hokage?s Flying Thunder God Technique). You can absolutely just rush to the goal, but skilled players will be able to collect some treasure along the way. The game purports to support up to 4 players so it would be fascinating to see how that type of session will play out with skilled players.

Blaster Master Zero 3

Store Link: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1588380/Blaster_Master_Zero_3/

Inti Creates has been a great steward for the series which they help revive with 2017?s Master Blaster Zero, having put out two very well received titles. Well this storyline dubbed the ?Jason Saga? ends with the third title in the series. Jason Frudnick, the protagonist of the title, has been seeking a cure for the infection that is slowly mutating Eve (looking at screenshots of the progression of the infection, you can kind of surmise where most of the ?corruption? is situated), his co-pilot. Deducing the cure would likely be found on her home planet of Sophia, they embarked on a journey to this alien planet. Blaster Master Zero 3 depicts their arrival and unfortunately they did not get the welcome they were expecting. Captured and imprisoned, the Sophia Forces stripped him and the G-Sophia-SV of their gear (gotta get to base equipment somehow right?).

The series? side scrolling and top down remains intact in this 3rd outing. Travel the overworld in the G-Sophia-SV and occasionally on foot as Jason and enter top down dungeons as Jason where he can utilize his blaster which has 5 modes, each with their pros and cons. New to this title is the ability to enter dimensional ruptures, which will allow Jason to access areas which otherwise would be inaccessible. Players will not have to wait long to witness the final chapter of the Jason Saga as Blaster Master Zero 3 will be available on pretty much every modern platform on July 29th 2021.

Cris Tales

Developer: Dreams Uncorporated, SYCK
Publisher: Modus Games
Store Link: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1079830/Cris_Tales/

As someone who has covered these shows for several years now, finding out about this title for the first time at PAX Online 2021 is perhaps the most embarrassing oversight I?ve ever had. After loading the title I immediately checked my inbox to find that the fine folks at Tinsley PR have been sounding the alarm for this beautiful title since 2019. All this minor self-flagellation aside, let me talk about what might be my most anticipated title of 2021.

Cris Tales is a JRPG that plays a lot like the Paper Mario/Mario & Luigi games, RPGs where you can bolster your attack/defense with a proper time button press. You control Crisbell, a young orphan who finds out she is actually a Time Mage with the ability to view ?possibilities?. Once she uncovers this ability, the game?s viewable area is split between the past, the present and the future. Crisbell can also have Matias, a talking yellow frog with a dapper top hat hop between the time periods where he can manipulate objects to reveal them in the present or bring objects back (the demo has him bring back fruit that bore from a seed Crisbell planted in present.). Time manipulation also works in combat, you can enfeeble enemies by aging them, weaken foes by reverting them to a more inexperienced state, and even cause equipment to decay if you use your head and the right spells. Inversely the time powers can also put you into a disadvantage as I had aged an inexperienced enemy into a more seasoned form, having to quickly return them back to the present. In addition to the fun combat, the jaw dropping art has me chomping at the bit to see what other visual treats are in store for those who will be playing through this game. I know I?m completely late to secure a review code for the title and I sure missed the boat in regards to acquiring the collector?s edition of this title (comes with an artbook and plush of Matias, the yellow talking frog with the dapper top hat!), my only saving grace is I won?t have to wait too long to dive into the world of Cris Tales as it releases this week on July 20th 2021.


Developer: Goody Gameworks
Publisher: Headup
Store Link: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1543240/Gigapocalypse/

Curation is oftentimes the most important way for a title to be discovered. So when I spied this game?s thumbnail with it?s Kaiju-ish monster rampaging through a city I decided to take a chance in grabbing this 650mb demo. To my surprise Gigapocalypse is more or less a clicker with a tamagotchi menu system. Ro?Gath the Ragezilla is the only available Giga in the demo. Gameplay consists of the Giga rampaging in an area, you don?t control the Giga?s movement, only it?s attacks and skills. Skills cost rage, so if you frantically attack for no reason, you will run out of rage and put yourself in an extremely compromised situation. However destroying buildings will increase rage, so this system prevents players from spamming clicks/button presses. The demo only allows you to rampage in the suburbs and since Ro?Gath returned to the past, all his skills and powers returned to a base level, so you have to build him back up to revert him to his world threatening state. Eventually I got Ro?Gath to level 10 (the demo?s level cap) and he was finally strong enough to make it to the end of the suburbs, facing off with a robot that actually makes you solve math equations to defend against their attacks. From what I?ve played I would definitely be interested in seeing what other Gigas are available and how devastating their rampages can be. No one will survive the Gigapocalypse when it is unleashed on July 22nd 2021.

Blind Fate: Edo no Yami

Developer: Troglobytes Games
Publisher: 101XP
Store Link: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1294880/Blind_Fate_Edo_no_Yami/

On paper Blind Fate: Edo no Yami seems like a can?t miss. Blind Swordsman, Robots, and Violence, it should be a winning formula! However when playing this demo, I lament that the show was a purely digital affair as I wish I had access to a dev during my playthrough, so I could ask what they were thinking. One of the user defined tabs for this title is ?difficult?, and the users are on the spot. Since your character Yami is blind, all enemies are not visible on the field, you need to hit them to collect ?data? to reveal their presence on the field. The data percentage will drop if you stop hitting the enemy, which means you are doing no damage to the enemy until it is visible. I never felt powerful in combat, usually relying on hit and run tactics, I would best my combat experience like a fly buzzing a larger creature. Where my attacks feel weak and my opponent?s attacks feel like they can kill me almost instantly. To add insult to injury, you can roll, but you cannot roll past enemies.

Like most media involving blindness, your other senses are augmented due to the lack of sight and Yami has enhanced hearing, smell and sensitivity towards heat. The visualization of these enhanced senses feel like varying forms of Detective Vision from the Batman Arkham titles. This demo held the distinction of one I walked away from even though I believe I made it to the last encounter of the demo in the worst possible condition. Checkpointed at an enemy who cannot be detected with any of the available enhanced senses with less than 5% health, no healing items. Upon quitting the demo, a google form popped up soliciting feedback. I rarely like being negative, but something about this game just broke me and I definitely provided feedback…

Justice Sucks Recharged

Developer: Samurai Punk
Publisher: Samurai Punk
Store Link: https://store.steampowered.com/app/856890/JUSTICE_SUCKS_RECHARGED/

You would think the word ?recharged? would lead one to think the title is a remake or a sequel, but me being completely oblivious assumed that this title was a new IP. Justice Sucks Recharged is a sequel to Roombo: First Blood – Justice Sucks, a short comedy title in which a robotic vacuum cleaner defends his owner?s home from burglars during Christmas (Defending a house from burglars with booby traps during Christmas…sounds like a great movie concept!). This sequel takes the comedy to Adult Swim levels, the corporation which manufactured you, the Robopal 8891 ?Dusty McClean? has sent an assassin to kill you and kidnap your family. Sent to the TV dimension, Dusty must fight his way through the TV dimension, acquire skills and powers to return to the real world and rescue his family.

The demo has you defending a cruise ship from pink clad invaders. These miscreants are after the valuables that are on the ship, and Dusty needs to hack other devices to hurt and maim the intruders. After all the intruders have been eliminated, your work?s not done! You have to clean up the mess you made. Suck up all the blood and guts and make sure the humans come back to a place that doesn’t reveal the chaos that occurred previously. This demo has the distinction of being the one that I played multiple times, and I even tracked down the original. It sucks that we?ll have to wait til 2022 to clean up crime, but at least I now have the original to bide my time.

The Legend of Tianding

Developer: Creative Games Computer Graphics Corporation
Publisher: Neon Doctrine
Store Link: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1406850/The_Legend_of_Tianding/

Liao Tian Ding is best described as the Robin Hood of Taiwan when the country was under colonial rule of Japan. His life inspired numerous TV shows, movies and even a flash game in 2004. Interestingly enough The Legend of Tianding is actually a remake of the 2004 flash game, although the gameplay is reminiscent of Drinkbox Studio?s Guacamelee series. This fictional Tian Ding defends the downtrodden and is determined to recover and return the ill gotten gains of a japanese collaborator. One of the unique features of this title is the player can stun, disarm and turn enemy weapons against them. During this vertical slice you will also learn special attacks that require stamina  and can double as traversal techniques, doesn?t that sound familiar?

The presentation of the game was also very appealing as the story is presented via comic book/manga panels and the introduction of the first dungeon has a radio play feel to it. Collectibles found in the world not only boost the player?s capabilities, but those who are studious enough to scroll the the collectible list will find an impromptu history lesson regarding Taiwan during the early 1900s.

The game played like a dream and frankly the only misgiving I had was the dodge button was tied to the LB button, whereas my mind was not able to disassociate the game with Guacamelee where the dodge can also be triggered with the right analog stick. Otherwise I look forward to taking this lesson in Taiwanese history when the title is released.


Developer: LEAP Game Studios
Publisher: HypeTrain Digital
Store Link: https://store.steampowered.com/app/887450/Tunche/

Tunche as described in it?s presskit is ?is a charming, hand-drawn beat’em up brawler game with roguelike elements, co-op and a pinch of shaman witchcraft.? The demo definitely showcases the brawler and roguelike aspects of the game, but is otherwise a rather ho-hum experience. You fight through 3 randomly generated arenas, a challenge room where you could earn a super attack for the character you chose and a boss fight against the Mapinguari, a sloth-like creature of brazillian folklore. The most perplexing part of the demo was the removal of the ?brawler? character and his replacement with Hat Kid from A Hat in Time, so is he gone from the final game? Why promote a guest character like they are a main character in the game?s steam banner…that was oddly the biggest takeaway from this demo.


Developer: Appnormals Team
Publisher: Milk Bottle Studio (China), TBA (Western Territories)
Store Link: https://store.steampowered.com/app/748020/TERRACOTTA/

As a Chinese person I?m aware of the Terracotta Army, much like Americans are aware of the Constitution. Ask me about the details regarding the Terracotta army and my only response would be a thousand mile stare. So seeing a game about the clay army of the first emperor of China was intriguing as chinese developers have been making headway in the PC games market, but the twist here is the dev of Terracotta, Appnormals Team, is a group based out of Barcelona, Spain. So the first thought in my head is what prompted a Spanish team to develop a game about something that wouldn?t really be in western history books.

The demo doesn?t really get into the plot of a game, but is more a showcase of the mechanics of the game. You control a being that is half human and half stone. In this state you find you can shift dimensions to an afterlife where the stone statues you see before you are alive and ready to defend the tomb of the first emperor. You also have the ability to create constructs with Qi (Chi…for us more western minded folks) that manifest and manipulate objects in the ?afterlife? dimension.  The combination of dimension switching and Qi construct make for some inventive puzzles. The title also purports that the 8000 terra soldiers that you will encounter during your journey will all be unique sprites. Terracotta doesn?t have a release date at the moment as the team is still looking for a publisher for Western properties.

My Lovely Wife

Developer: GameChanger Studio, Toge Productions
Publisher: Neon Doctrine
Store Link: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1251930/My_Lovely_Wife/

Marriage is supposed to be a contract til one party dies, but no one told the protagonist of My Lovely Wife. Jake met and fell in love with Luna, and eventually the two wed. A horrid accident causes Luna?s death. Stricken by grief, but spurred on by an oddly prophetic letter from his beloved, Jake is introduced to Phillip who proposes a chance to revive his beloved. Jake now needs to collect carnal essence which will further Phillip?s research into resurrection. How would Jake gather this mysterious substance? Simple, by summoning succubi and utilizing their skills to generate this resource.

My Lovely Wife is a sequel My Lovely Daughter, a management sim where you can command up to five succubi to gather carnal essence with the end goal of resurrecting and reuniting with your wife. During the course of the day you?ll have to partition your time to either increase your succubi?s stats or have them working to collect carnal essence. You will also have to work toward a goal that has some kind of time restraint, in the demo?s case you have to provide Phillip with 1500 carnal essence. Improving your succubi will also improve your ability to gather carnal essence, but if you spend too much time improving you won?t spend time gathering, so players will have to strike a healthy balance. The demo also hints that there are other grades of carnal essence that can only be gathered by sacrificing succubi and Jake himself can be improved using the resource as well. The title currently doesn?t not have a release date, but insists it will

Be at your side soon?