For the second year in a row, PAX Australia moved to the digital space. And while I am ever grateful for the virtual networking with my fellow gamers, I truly miss the “vibe” of PAX Aust in real life. I miss hearing the enthusiasm of people playing video games in the Indie Showcase. I miss watching the tabletop developers tenderly show off their games, complete with cute little meeples. I miss the laughter from the panels with presenters who are part of the same community as their audience. With the news of “no more Lockdowns in Melbourne,” I can look forward to PAX Aust 2022 being in person and (hopefully) the opportunity to return to this great gaming convention. In the meantime, I did find some goodies at PAX Aust 2021 and here are my faves to share with you.
Melbourne International Game Week
PAX Aust is part of Melbourne’s International Game Week. It’s an opportunity to showcase the amazing support given to the gaming community in Victoria (and Australia). MIGW was also moved online in 2021, with panel discussions and workshops offered free to the public. There was a great discussion about music in games, including ownership and licensing. I was blown away by the innovation in “Reimagine the World,” with various developers incorporating games and playing with Melbourne’s “parklets.” The biggest celebration of the week was given to the Australian Game Developer Awards, including the winner of Game of the Year: Unpacking. You can read my review of Unpacking here. The full game is available on Steam, Humble, Xbox One, GOG, and Nintendo Switch from November 2. A full list of winners can be found on the AGDA website here.
Best Tabletop Game
It’s hard to show tabletop games during an online convention. The closest you can be is with Tabletop Simulator on Steam. It can give you a great indicator as to the gameplay and interaction with people but it is not quite the same as the physical game itself. This is one of the key differences between tabletop and video games. But in these tumultuous times, we make the best of what we have.
I was super-excited to have some game-time with Land v. Sea from Good Games Publishing. I had already heard a bit about this tile-placement game but I didn’t see it in play until PAX Aust 2021. It is a tile-placement game, with one side attempting to build land area while the other side is trying to build sea area. The 2P and 4P rules are pretty straightforward but I was more impressed by the intricate gameplay with 3-players. One player wants to build more land, one player wants more sea, and the third player is manipulating them both! Land v. Sea is super quick to learn and easy to adapt for kids of all ages. Fortunately, I just received a review copy of the game and will share more details very soon! For purchase details, check out the Good Games online store here, or ask at your local tabletop game store.
Best Video Game
This is a tough one because there were two beauties: Webbed and Dap. Both games have also featured in my recent series of Halloween Games (see the review for Webbed here and Dap here). Webbed is a cute little platformer following the adventure of an Australian Peacock Spider, one of our more harmless creatures. The graphics and the action in the gameplay are adorable and fun to play. I have spent many hours looking for secret passages and bonus areas to explore.
Dap is this terrifying horror-action/adventure which just creeps me out all over. But is also enchanting and mesmerizing. You are a cute little Dap who has crash-landed in a mysterious forest-like environment. You now have to search for your fellow Daps and rescue them from the darkness which consumes and kills. The artwork is gorgeous, the sound effects haunting, and it is way too easy to develop an attachment to these little creatures. Evil evil game and I love it.
Best Upcoming Game at PAX Aust 2021
Often at PAX, I find new games which haven’t been fully released yet. The Developers love to showcase their games and gain feedback before launching on Kickstarter or similar. My absolute fave in this category is Floating Floors, soon to be published by Guf Studio. It is a tabletop game almost ready to launch via Kickstarter and I highly recommend it!
Floating Floors is a tactical game using balance and Chess-like strategy. Players compete to move their ninjas around the six tiles. Each of the tiles is printed with a pattern of black and white, indicating how the black ninja or the white ninja may move across. However, the tricky part is maintaining the balance on the tile: they are raised up on strategically placed “stumps” creating a sense of balance that may benefit one player while toppling another. I think this game is perfect for gameschooling, based on an understanding of area, balance, strategy, and maybe some physics. I am eager to test out a prototype in the coming weeks and share the review with you. In the meantime, you can register your early bird interest on Kickstarter here.
GeekMom and GeekDad are regular supporters and participants of all PAX events. Stay tuned for news and updates as it comes to hand.