PAX East 2023 is over and as I spend more time as a member of the media, I find myself only spending time on the show floor during the day and in my hotel room during the night. Panel programming, tournaments and freeplay are just things I?m too tired to do after a day of sensory overload on the expansive expo floor.
(Ed’s Note: Check out the gallery at the end of this article)
Despite the less than exciting nightly activities in Beantown, I?m invigorated to know what exciting games and products will be coming through in the upcoming year. Here?s some of the games that we (Yes?this year I?m not rolling solo, I have Brendan with me to check out things I didn?t quite have time for) saw on the show floor. -Stan
In the early 90s, cult film studio Troma Entertainment saw the success of a certain cartoon featuring four testudines brothers and adapted their cult character The Toxic Avenger into a short lived cartoon. Flash forward 30 years later (Good lord, I?m old!), Troma has been coaxed into adapting their cult character The Toxic Avenger into a beat?em up game after the success of a beat?em up based on characters created by Laird and Eastman.
Retroware, the company that managed to get the license from Uncle Lloyd himself hopes to mirror what Tribute Games and Dotemu did for the Ninja Turtles (There I finally mentioned them by name and this is the last time I?m going to reference them). The game will act as a ?second season? of the cartoon that only got one 13 episode season. Toxie, his mom, his best girl Yvonne and four other crusaders will be playable. Comic book-style cutscenes will be interspersed between stages and will be fully voiced by TeamFourStar, the troupe responsible for the ?Abridged” series of videos. Ryan Schott, Producer on the title promises gameplay inspired by beat em ups and even fighting games! The title will be chock full of cameos and references (during the demo I managed to spot a pair of Sonic?s shoes and the eye of the Technodrome in the junkyard stage in the demo?let?s hope we?ll see everyone?s favorite face painted NYPD police officer!). Toxic Crusaders is set for a late 2023 release. -Stan
As an unintentional and recent aspirant to Games Workshop?s GrimDark IP, once my eyes were opened I started seeing its influences everywhere. So when I saw those words ?Warhammer 40k? in a PAX East appointment solicitation email, I would not anger the Emperor of Mankind by ignoring it?s call.
Warhammer 40K: Boltgun asks what if the eponymous wargaming franchise had a 1st person shooter during the genre?s infancy. Play as an Ultramarine as you take on the forces of Chaos and turn all who stand against you into a bloody pulp with your chainsword, bolter, flamer and more! Armor is for losers, a space marine?s faith in the emperor will repel damage (it?s pretty much an armor alternative, hahaha)!
The game nails its retro aesthetic, but yet it?s got touches of modernity. You can probably fool someone into thinking this is a game from the Dark Age of Technology (aka the 90?s). Warhammer 40K: Boltgun has a 2023 release window and it will be coming to all current platforms. You can wishlist it now on Steam?FOR THE EMPEROR! -Stan
With its logo seemingly oddly similar to Rival Schools United by Fate, character designs that feel like a pastiche of other IPs and its gameplay being more or less Windjammers, it?s easy to dismiss this title. But picking it up and playing this title, I found myself absorbed by it?s frenetic action and each character?s special moves.
Given that the windjammers sequels and homages have come and passed, Shot One?s chances of getting a look by those looking for that type of action might actually be pretty high. Let?s hope the team at Red Moon Workshop will be able to include features that will give the game its own distinct personality. I?ll definitely keep my eye on any progress being made. -Stan
I?m generally not one for realistic sports titles, but sometimes I?ll exit my comfort zone and check out titles I normally wouldn?t bat an eye at. In this instance, it might?ve paid off. Undisputed is a boxing sim title already in Early Access and unlike most Early Access titles it?s surprisingly robust. The team at Steel City Interactive really went to town creating a very sim-like, but oddly enjoyable title in a sea of arcade style boxing titles. Over 60 boxers are already available, with fighters whose names are recognizable to fight fans and laymen alike.
My bout had me controlling pro-wrestling adjacent (I told you I wasn?t a boxing fan) Tyson Fury going against the greatest of all time, Muhammad Ali. Despite the slight size difference, the match never felt lopsided. Sure Ali had more strong hits that caused the screen to flash, but there were never any knockdowns and we both kept our stamina relatively high. Perhaps winning by decision might?ve tainted my view, but seeing those super realistic models and learning part of the rosters includes female fighters has me intrigued to see what kind of shape the title will be in when it leaves Early Access. It?s already a solid title, I can only imagine what can be improved. -Stan
Loop8?s concept isn?t original as time loop titles aren?t exactly new, however Loop8 adds a spin where your combat difficulty is determined by your and your party?s relationship to your enemy. You?re Nini, a young man who has some sort of physical impediment which prevents him from running around in the gorgeously nostalgic looking town of Ashihara. The town is filled with potential party members who have their own schedules and whims. Recruit up to two of them to take on a denizen possessed by the malicious Kegai. As stated earlier the party members you take and the attacks used will either make the battle a breeze or a long slog.
While we only had a small slice to content to try (it certainly didn?t help that XSEED booth had instituted an idle reset system which meant I had to constantly mash face buttons less the demo would automatically reset after a brief idle), I?d definitely want to give the full title a look when Loop8: Summer of Gods lets you relive summer until you get it right on June 6th 2023 on PC, Switch, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One X|S (go with the PC version, maybe someone will put out a Nini running mod?for the love of god kiddo, HUSTLE!). -Stan
I missed out on WrestleQuest last year and got the opportunity to step into the squared circle. The moment the demo started, it activated some core childhood memories of playing with my wrestling figures and running my fig fed. This wrestling theme RPG from developers Mega Cat Studios and publisher Skybound Games is a love letter to all styles of wrestling. WrestleQuest is blanked with wrestling references and homages. Some heroes of the past make an appearance such as the LOD, Macho Man and Andre The Giant (who work like summons), with many more surprises like any good wrestling program would have.
As the demo began, I played as Muchacho Man, a green white meat babyface trying to make his way in the crazy world of wrestling. He wants to make the spirit of the Macho Man Randy Savage proud. Macho Man has been immortalized in WrestleQuest with a makeshift statue and walk down memory lane with the many different looks of Macho Man. The battle system I played in the tutorial is very reminiscent of the battle system in Paper Mario. You will acquire different wrestlers to add to your stable and approach each battle differently.
As battle begins, players transition to the ring where they face down their opponents. The face buttons are used for your taunts, attacks and special moves to weaken your jabroni opponents. Any fan of wrestling knows the moves aren’t the only part of the program, you need that crowd work Bay-Bay. There is a hype meter that you will need to control to get that audience on your side. Depending on whether the crowd is in your or your opponents favor, it will determine buffs or nerfs you may receive Once your opponents health gets low it will activate a pinning mini game which is pretty fun. You will level up and have the ability to learn new moves and make existing moves more powerful. You can choose your gimmick such as a brawler or luchador and decide if you want to become a heel or a face. I was told the game will feature many gimmick matches such as ladder matches, cage matches and will have unique ways to win each type.
The game will feature over 400 NPC?s and 12 playable characters. The main story and side quest should take about 45-50 hours (or the length of all the wrestling on this weekend) . Each wrestling legend you meet will have their own unique quest. I am eager to meet more of this colorful roster of figure heroes. I cannot wait to recreate the memories of figures feds of the past this May. It will be available to play on Nintendo Switch, Playstation 5, Playstation 4, Xbox One Series X and Series S and Steam -Brendan
I have waited almost 12 years for the follow up to Dead Island, Deep Silvers Borderlands like Zombie game. It?s been 9 years since we got the announcement of Dead Island 2 and I did not know what to expect. To my surprise, I got more of the first Dead Island. The Dead Island 2 Demo I played on the showfloor started me off on a very dimly lit beach just armed with your fist and a wrench.
There are a variety of weapons in Dead Island 2, but very much like in Dead Island, bullets are scarce and you have to rely on your melee weapons to get you through. As I progressed through the demo I was equipped with some pretty wicked melee weapons such as a flaming ax, sledge hammer and electric claws. I had some guns, but as mentioned earlier the lack of ammo made me lean more towards the melee weapons. This also helps with the usage of elemental effects in the game. There would be moments where I would shock a puddle or cause a CDC Zombie?s flame canister to explode, helping me with zombie hordes.
Most of the demo I was making my way around a Santa Monica type boardwalk, solving puzzles and defeating zombie hoards. I made it to a ferris wheel where I ran into my greatest challenge, a hoard of normal zombies, mixed in with ?special inflicted?. If you?re familiar with these types of games, it is your standard to hold the point until your obstacle gets out your way. I struggled. I died multiple times untill my time was over. Those worried that they would change the Dead Island formula like they did Saints Row have nothing to worry about. Dead Island 2 releases on April 21. 2023 for the PlayStation, Xbox and PC. -Brendan
Nocturnal was one of my favorite games of the show. This action platformer from developer Sunnyside Games and publisher Dear Villagers had a really fascinating gameplay mechanic involving torches and fire. After a long journey away from home our protagonist Ardeshir, a soldier of the Enduring Flame, comes back to his home island of Nahran. He comes to discover that a killer mist now resides on the island. The only way to move around the island unharmed is to wield fire that needs to be restarted.
The platform is filled with normal enemies as well as mist-covered enemies who can only be defeated with fire. Torches can be lit to discover hidden secrets and power ups. The games is beautifully design and the score and sound effects make me want more of this game. Nocturnal is set for release later this year for Playstation 5, Xbox Series, Playstation 4, Xbox one, Switch and PC. -Brendan
If you make the claim that you have the cutest game on the show floor, the contrarian in me will walk up to you and tell you to prove it. After a 10+ minute chat which involved the mascot of the game being the creator?s childhood toy, disaffected children, cursing in Fortnite and even Warhammer (how does this keep popping up in my life), I was convinced to check out the very adorable Felicity?s Door.
The concept is very Little Nemo-ish to me. Two kids go on wondrous adventures in the dreamscape, shepherded by their toy bear friend Mi-chan (The childhood toy friend of the creator of this title). Despite the cutesy and child-like demeanor, the rhythm action is surprisingly robust. The game supports touch and button controls and I dare say if I had to play the game in button mode, I don?t think I would?ve survived in even medium mode. The musical stages are bookended by extremely Ghibli-ish animations. Felicity?s Door definitely made a strong case for being the cutest game on the show floor and I better limber my fingers if I want to get to the end of the duo?s dreamscape adventures. The title is expected to come out on the Nintendo Switch, although I think I saw some demos on the Steam Deck?no release date has been revealed. -Stan
I?d classify this title as the AEW to Wrestle Quest?s WWE, but like most things on the internet someone will probably vehemently dispute this and they probably should. Nonetheless, there?s plenty of room in this world for another wrestling RPG (but a third might be too much?so if you?re out there working on another one?stop immediately!)!
With a story that?s very Avatar the Last Airbender-ish (The five wrestle nations were championed by the babyfaces and at peace?until the heels took over), Wrestle Story?s aesthetic is very colorful and saturday morning cartoon-ish. It?s up to the ?new signee? to topple each heel and free the five wrestle nations from their ?harsh? rule. The demo had us encroaching on the newly christened kingdom of the Party King and his Knights of the Beer Pong Table (I?m not trying to be contrarian, but I?d totally root for the Party King and crew). Combat in this RPG is quite active, timed button presses will enhance most of your attacks and decrease damage by foes. It wouldn?t be a wrestling RPG without a pinning mechanic and not to throw shade at Mega Cat Studios, but I currently prefer Wrestle Story?s approach (button mashing) than Wrestlequest?s style (timing based mini-game) if I have to do it for every battle in an RPG.
However, like the actual wrestling world, competition is great for the fans and frankly I?m chomping at the bit for both titles and thankfully there?s no overlap, so it?s not exactly gonna be the Monday Night Wars (quest comes out in may, story?s release window is tbd).
Wrestle Story is set for a PC debut, but anything can happen and a console announcement could come out of the crowd to shock us all! -Stan
I have never played a survival game in my life. I found myself drawn to Pacific Drive. Not sure if it was the atmosphere, reliving my high school shop class and maintaining a vehicle, an apocalyptic variety of enemies or hazards, or just the dread I felt racing away from a radioactive storm.
I was sweating as I tried to keep my car and myself alive. The very satisfying controls and fun gameplay has me eagerly anticipating Ironwood Studios? mysterious survival game. Pacific Drive is set to release later on this year for the PC & PlayStation 5. -Brendan
That?s just a sample of the titles and companies we saw at the show. As usual it?s sensory overload in the expo hall and while I wish we had the bandwidth to cover every title available or even every title we saw, I?m willing to conclude we?re in for an embarrassment of riches when it comes to games in the near future (Wreckreation, Cusineer, Wayfinder are some that are top of mind). Man, I love this hobby!
PAX East 2023 Photo Gallery: