Party Games at PAX Australia 2016

In popular culture, gamers are loners. But video games have been social as long as they’ve been around – from Pong to Mario Kart to Call of Duty.

You don’t need to be in the same room in a person to play multiplayer games anymore. But there’s still something nice about playing games with your friends in the same room, something that has become less common since the rise of easy access to (fairly) fast internet.

The indie floor at PAX Australia 2016 brought the party games, and we’ve rounded up three of our favourites for you.

Inflatality

Have you ever looked at two of balloon men in front of car dealerships and wondered what a fight to the death between them would look like? The makers of Inflatality certainly have. The game pits two wacky arm-waving inflatable tube men against each other, with right thumbstick controling one of the arms (using the right trigger to switch arms) and the other controling which way you lean.

The aesthetics are simple, with nice colouring and dynamic background; there is also a decent roster of characters to choose from. Of course, when it comes down to it, you are playing a tube of air, so the differences come down to minor aesthetic differences and powerups. This isn’t a detriment to the game at all, as the designers have imbued characters with their own personalities with as little as a funny name and an eyepatch.

It seems like a standard fighting game at first, but the key difference between Inflatality and games like Tekken or Mortal Kombat is the lack of sideways movement. Leaning back and forth with the thumbstick to control the range between yourself and your opponent was key to coming out on top in the bouts I took part in. Hitting your opponent with with the selected arm took a bit of getting used to: the arm follows the position of the thumbstick, which means that if you spin the thumbstick in a clockwise circle, the arm cartwheels in a clockwise fasion. Dodging back and forth, winding up haymakers and connecting a decent blow felt satisfying.

The only issue I had was with the special moves: they chew through health and seem unbalanced, with some clearly stronger than the others.

At this stage in development, the game requires two players. There is no AI implemented for PC vs NPC play, which would go a long way into creating replayability. But as a party game for those who enjoy fun 1v1 fighting games, Inflatality is worth a play.

Blockpocalypse

I’ve always been unsure of pixel art in games. This could be because Triple A titles have stunned me with better and better in-game graphics in the past couple of years, and I’ve simply been spoiled. For a game to have this retro visual style and still impress me, the gameplay has to truly entrance. After trying out Blockpocalypse, I can assure you DIME Studios deliver.

The game has a shared screen for up to four players, and more than enough game types to keep you occupied. I played two game types: Survival and a Basketball-style game. The addition of competitive and cooperative game types is definitely a plus, catering to a wider range of casual gamers.

The core mechanic of the game is the ability to stack objects to create climbable towers, most ledges out of reach of the regular jump. When I played Blockpocalypse for the first time at PAX, the atmosphere was tense. The co-operative survival felt like a race, with everyone clamouring for a place at the front of the pack and stacking objects madly on top of each other. I’ll admit, this made the game far more immersive than i initially gave it credit for.

The basketball-style game is a little more social, each player fist-pumping and cheering with each goal scored for the team. Being able to pick up other players like objects was a fun way to mess with each other, though having to hit your enemy with one of the offensive thrown weapons around the map took some getting used to. A melee attack would have felt welcome here.

Blockpockalpyse is one of those games you sit down and play with your mates when you’ve got some down time. The ability to play alone or with three friends definitely lends to its legitimacy as a party game. The gameplay is smooth and I only encountered a couple of bugs, some of which seemed to fix themselves during gameplay.

The pixel art lends itself to the chaotic atmosphere, and the amount of playable characters is staggering. What’s more, despite the lack of a character creator, the potential for the team at DIME to drop in new characters seems to open the game up for fresh additions with each patch.

Goatpunks

Goatpunks only had one gametype on display at PAX, which should say a lot about how enjoyable it was. First time game developer Alberto Santiago has created something special here: Santiago started with the concept of a goat and went from there, creating a simple but gorgeous game.

I managed to get a few rounds in with other PAX-goers, and what I experienced was a fun, well-designed take on the classic King of the Hill format that has been missing from gaming in recent years.

The anime art style is a real treat during loading screens and lobbies, and although the mountains were all pretty similar from a gameplay aspect, the use of vibrant colours and tones created something that at least felt different in each level. The character design is simple, with each goatpunk given their own identity through a variation of aesthetic differences and themed projectiles.

The aim of Goatpunks is to race your way to the top of the mountain and hold it for 30 seconds. Various powerups on ledges give you an edge in your race to the top, things like extra shields and speed boosts gave you the option of offence or defence during the climb.

You achieve this by firing themed projectiles down the mountain, desperately scanning the ledges for fast moving opponents, hoping you led your shot just enough to catch them and send their goat tumbling back down to the bottom.

The addition of NPCs to fight against if you decide to go solo is a great idea, with the AI proving to be a genuine challenge in the fight for dominance. Having said that, nothing can beat the laughs brought on by friendly competition between friends. Goatpunks feels like fun, which is the most important aspect of any party game. This game was a real highlight amongst the indie games at PAX: highly recommended.

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