From single players to party games, co-op adventures to sweet puzzle chill-out, PAX Aus had plenty of indie game magic with a touch of Aussie (and NZ and Singapore) madness. Check it out!
PAX Aus returned in 2022, with all the pizazz expected from a two-year involuntary hiatus. (#thanksnothankscovid) Man, I was so excited to join the fray and see who would survive that much energy. I also dragged my family along—partly for them to enjoy the same buzz and partly because it is nigh impossible for one person to cover everything in three days. Believe me, I’ve tried. In part, there are many game studios that have used the COVID lockdowns to knuckle down to produce some amazing, unique, and entertaining games. Many of them are still in production, with release dates rolling out over the next 12 months, but what we have seen so far is worth waiting for.
PAX Aus is the birthplace of some of your favorite video games. If you loved Untitled Goose Game. If you were soothed by Unpacking. If you’re looking for some new indie games and are curious about the shenanigans Down Under (and next-door New Zealand), check out our fave from the PAX Aus 2022 Video Games.
Our Favorite PAX Aus 2022 Video Games
Tempopo by WitchBeam
To be honest, there was a lot of hype around the Tempopo booth because they happened to be using a Steam Deck—which is ridiculously difficult to find in Australia since it hasn’t officially been released here yet. (Why wasn’t THAT showcased at PAX Aus 2022?!) In all honesty, I wasn’t blown away by the Steam Deck. The only benefit I see is easy access to my Steam Library, which would be very nice. However, I DID fall in love with Tempopo and could easily lose a few hours to this game.
Tempopo is a sweet 3D-world puzzle game presented in levels. It reminded me of Mallow Drops, which I reviewed from PAX Aus 2016. However, Tempopo feels to have progressed a little further by including logic sequencing as part of its puzzle play, making it a great support game for kids interested in programming. I also love the quirky art design, especially when incorporating musical elements into the game. Eg: the Flower Trumpets are a favorite for both me and developer Sanatana Mishra. It was lovely to watch people collaborate to solve the puzzles, including the youngest of fans.
Tempopo is looking at a release date in 2024. PAX Aus 2022 was its first-ever showcase outside the office, so it is still early days. Join the mailing list for updates.
TopplePOP: Bungee Blockbusters by ArkimA Games
My 9-year-old daughter brought me back to this booth 3-times to play! This physics puzzle party game is like Tetris on highly caffeinated drinks. Choose an avatar from a range of animal-like characters, each connected to a bungee cord as you desperately try to eliminate the clutter (and parents around the world join in a collective sigh of empathy). Match similar colored pieces in groups of four or more to clear the blocks. But be warned, your competitors are doing the same thing. As they reduce their pile of blocks, they also dump a fresh load on yours! With a bit of practice and finesse—read: I had none and observed this in others—you can fling your blocks to land perfectly in the perfect place at the perfect angle. Let me know when you achieve this amazing unicorn move, with details as to HOW YOU DID IT.
If you like Tetris, Puyo Puyo, and Overcooked, you are going to love TopplePOP: Bungee Blockbusters. Test out the demo on Steam, and practice those flinging moves before release in 2023. This game can be played in solo mode for puzzle solving, co-op, party, or 2v2.
The Godfeather: A Mafia Pigeon Saga from Hojo Studio
Australia has a thing for birds: Untitled Goose Game, the infamous Pin Chickens of PAX (ibis pins), and our ever-friendly magpies. And then there is The Godfeather. This top-down stealth-roguelike game invites you into the flock as an associate in the pigeon underworld. Your task is to bring back the old neighborhood, reclaiming your crib from your enemies. Essentially, it’s a swoop-and-poop. Yes, you heard me. Each level is a new area with a set of targets who need to be sent a message. Harder than you think yet totally accessible for kids to play, and the idea of flying around to poop on people is simply irresistible. This is one of those games that is well-suited for smartphones and the Switch. The demo is available on Steam now, with a release due in late 2023. Learn more about it here.
Noodle Samurai by Planet Pumpkin
This was the first on my playlist for PAX Aus 2022 Video Games, and it set a high benchmark for the event. It’s a top-down action game following a samurai monkey who doubles as a chef. Your objective is to collect ingredients and make the required meal to satisfy the hungry Demon Toads. It’s a fast game; each attempt is timed, spurring you to beat your PB over and over again. I loved the mechanic of the game, relying on your trusty grappling hook to swing, fight, and slingshot your way through each level. The animation is delicious with its touch of calligraphy strokes and Japanese garden aesthetics. While fast-paced hack-and-slash isn’t exactly my forté, the challenge of this game keeps me going. Now, if it came with a ramen cookbook… Head over to the official website for more
Under the Tavern by Mune Studio
If you’re a fan of D&D, with its plentiful supply of taverns and adventures, you are going to love this game. This co-op dungeon crawler was inspired by one of the developers’ dads and is a brilliant family game. You can play solo or with up to 4-players, traversing a series of levels in a deep underground brewery. Some of the steampunk elements are so beautiful, you almost don’t mind the death blow that follows. The goal is to find a mystical gem called the Brew Stone, said to produce a neverending supply of ale. A range of bosses will challenge you, including a beer-bellied knight with a swift wrist for beer-pong. Under the Tavern is still in development, so stay tuned through their website for updates.
Kendan and the Gem of Eru by Stompy Paws Studios
There is still a market for Game Boy games! Those sturdy handheld devices can last forever, so why not? This is probably the most nostalgic of all PAX Aus 2022 Video Games. Earlier this year, Stompy Paws Studios launched its Kickstarter for this RPG adventure game and was fully funded (and then some). The game has a strong mix of Zelda and Pokemon vibes, while the story itself is unique. You play as Kendan, a young adventurer who awakens to find a horrible disease has infected the world. The adventure plays across three separate regions, with various characters and challenges featuring a turn-based mechanic. You can have a taste of a side-quest on their itch.io page here. Pre-orders are still open, with shipping in Q1 2023. You can find more information on their website here.
Rooftop Renegade by Melonheads Games
Such a beautiful game to watch in action. It has all the grace and fluidity I don’t have in real life. Neon lights in a futuristic setting contrast with the speed-run platforms and rooftops as you race and jump to evade the gunners. Don’t worry about the story—there is one, but I forget it—this is all about the rush. It’s a race-against-time side-scrolling platformer, bringing out the parkour in all of us, figuratively speaking. Each level requires faster reflexes and a bit more forward planning. But not too far! You need to adjust to falling platforms and other sneaky attacks. It’s a forgiving game, allowing you to grow with practice, but encouraging you to do it again—this time, better. Rooftop Renegade can also be played with friends, taking the role of gunners striving to undermine your performance. I can see this game being a lot of fun on family night but with a high risk of sabotage! The planned release is scheduled for Q1 2023, or subscribe on their website for updates.
A Halloween Valentine by Things for Humans
Last year, Things for Humans released their debut game, Video World, blending music and gameplay in a nostalgic 1990s video store. It was one of my fave Halloween games (read my review here)! Their new game, A Halloween Valentine, continues to nurture the music/gameplay relationship, as you collect lyrics to build a better understanding of love. Plus, it’s set in a haunted amusement park, with all the best vibes and aesthetics! Fans of Video World will be happy to see Pumpkin Jill again, and yes, there are still plenty of puns! It’s a short game filled with puzzles and characters to leave you feeling good. Expected release in late 2023, you can get a taste of the music via Spotify with “Call on You” from Monster Mansion.
Before We Leave and a Sequel With Space Whales by Balancing Monkey Games
In 2021, Balancing Monkey Games released Before We Leave, a city-building game set in futuristic space travel with an environmental theme. It’s time to rebuild and rediscover your civilization, settling on a new planet and avoiding the hungry Space Whales. It starts out simple with all of the early steps in colonization and then leads you through the inevitable consequences of your actions. What makes this game stand out against other strategy games is the absence of violence. There are no battles nor conquering, which in turn highlights the impact of humans on the natural world. Definitely a game for all ages, but especially if you are looking at geography or Earth and environmental science in the gameschooling arena. This is not a “sit down and smash it out game,” but more of a long-term project with a great reward if you make peace with the game and its message. Before You Leave is available on Steam and Epic, and has recently launched on Nintendo Switch.
At PAX Aus, Balancing Monkey Games was also showing their upcoming sequel (yet to be named), featuring the same city-building elements, except you are not living on the Space Whales and traveling through space to discover new lands. No word on release dates as yet, but I can’t wait to see how they nurture these developments. You can learn more on their website here.
Knight Crawlers by Good Morning Games
I love games that appear to be chaos but, in fact, teach me a lot about strategy. Knight Crawlers is a rogue-like adventure game with a deck-building mechanic. Initially designed as a single-player, the developers chose to exhibit a PvP demo at PAX Aus for people to experience the game with their PAX mates. Smart choice because it was a hit. It starts with both players in the same room but divided by a barrier. Each wave of enemies rewards you with three (3) random skill cards with bonus moves or benefits. Eventually, the only enemies you have are each other, and those skill cards are MIGHTY helpful. This is just one way in which the game strives to offer player autonomy. From personalizing your character to the skill cards and even the enemies YOU choose to fight, every choice can lead you down a completely different path, ensuring hours of replay value.
There is a Knight Crawlers demo on Steam here with no known release date yet.
Where Were the Big Names for PAX Aus 2022 Video Games?
Many PAX Aus attendees noted the absence of some big names prior to PAX Aus opening—primarily Nintendo, PlayStation, Xbox, Ubisoft, and Bethesda. It was a surprising absence when you consider some of the big games coming out over the next 6-12 months. (I’m looking at you, Legend of Zelda.) The Nintendo booth has been one of my faves in previous years, with its family-friendly and fun layout.
However, by the time the doors opened, only a small number actually cared. The focus was definitely on the indie games. We still had a few big names on show, such as Street Fighter 6 and Final Fantasy whatever-number-we-are-up-to-now (it’s 14). SEGA was there with the latest Sonic adventure too… but I was so caught up in the plethora of indie games, I didn’t have time to check it out. And this was the same for many attendees. And dare I say it? It actually felt better with more space to move around, a little less noise/light pollution blasting away, and more even disbursement of people around the exhibition hall.
I would LOVE to get my hands on Legends of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom for review, however, I also really love seeing new games have a moment to steal the limelight and show off their skills. If the big names come back next year, please do so at a minimum. Smaller booths will still be appreciated while allowing the great community vibe to thrive once again.
Another popular section was the Aussie Broadband Arcade, filled with nostalgic favorites. There were plenty of parents and carers attempting to show off skills to their spawnlings, and subsequently crawling away in defeat. Give us more of those, and the traditional Family Sunday will be sold out as quickly as Saturday. PAX Aus 2022 Video Games for the win!
Coming up next: PAX Aus 2022: Our Favorite TableTop Games and PAX Aus 2022: Come Out and Cosplay. Plus, I have all the notes, slides, and commentary from my panel Gameschooling: It’s More Than Lockdown Learning.