Among the busy and crowded PAX Australia show floor, the vibrant and diverse PAX Rising area always catches our eye. The showcase for local and international indie developers to exhibit their unique upcoming games, and there was plenty to be excited about this year.
From supernatural narrative driven games, to modern takes on old-school RPG genres and plenty of hilarious and promising party games. It was hard to cut down our list, but we’ve highlighted several of our top picks from this year’s show, all of which you can find and follow right here on IndieDB. So let’s dive in!
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux - Release window: Late 2020
If scavenging derelict ships and fighting horrific monsters in the depths of space is your thing, you owe it to yourself to check out This Starry Void. A science-fiction single player RPG developed in the vein of old-school dungeon crawlers, but with the aim of modernizing that classic style with faster and more dynamic combat action.
Piloting a remotely-controlled robot, you’ll be exploring abandoned spaceships, solving environmental puzzles and fighting off alien creatures while following a mystery across the depths of space. The combat is tight and highly strategic, requiring fast reactions to decide how to tackle each situation while exploring the comic book style levels.
Despite how stressful each fight is, it was immensely satisfying clearing each area of enemies while slowly unraveling the story of the short demo, which left me wanting to explore more and try out different builds for your robot entity. Still early in development, there’s plenty of promise already in the addictive combat and mysterious adventure of This Starry Void, quickly becoming one of my most anticipated games.
Platforms: PC & Mac - Release window: Soon
I’ve never thrown a boomerang myself, but I can’t imagine it feels as good as it does in the colorful and fast-paced party game Boomerang Fu. Playing as one of several odd and funny characters, including an eggplant, an ice cream and coffee mug, you battle it out in lively environments throwing fast and brutal boomerangs at each other across numerous rounds.
It's a frantic affair, as you attempt to dodge multiple boomerangs flying across the stage at once, while attempting to line up a shot yourself. When you do manage to land a hit, or sneak up on another player for a close range melee kill, amusing to see them get sliced in half in a cute animation as you raise your overall score for the match.
The controls and gameplay are relatively simple, making it easy to jump in and start tossing your boomerang around getting kills, whether through skill or by luck. But the many stackable power ups and diverse stages keep each round fresh and allow for clever strategy and tricks, bouncing a boomerang off multiple surfaces or through teleporters to land a kill. It all comes together to make for a hugely fun party game that gets the most out of a surprisingly simple but great mechanic.
Platforms: Windows - Release window: 2020
A far slower and tranquil game among the loud and busy show floor of PAX Aus, Wayward Strand is an intimate interactive story. You follow the curious teenage journalist Casey Beaumaris as she spends three days on an airborne hospital in an alternate 1970s, meeting and learning about the lives of its distinct inhabitants.
In the short time you have to explore the intricate ship, you’ll decide who to spend your time with as each day continues to unfold. Each conversation with the ship’s varied characters feel incredibly authentic, as their personality shine through in each word and action. They move about their days, interacting with one another in a small, but down to earth yet surreal setting.
Its beautiful visual style and animations bring out the character throughout the airship in stunning fashion, making it a pleasure to look at, as its gentle colors wash over you. As you learn about each resident and their relationships, you’ll take notes and form a wider picture of the community housed in the airborne hospital, and dive into a pure and highly unique experience.
Platforms: Nintendo Switch - Release Window: 2020
From the creator of the highly regarded Hacknet, comes a new over the top and addictive party game in the aptly named Wrestledunk Sports. Comprising of four fantastic modes, ranging from fast-paced volleyball, to tactical fencing and the stand out, minimalist but precise wrestling, it’s an over the top and hilarious romp.
Each mode is a tactical and tight affair, as the momentum sways between each team during the short intense matches. The roar of the cartoon crowd and terrific flashy but easy to follow visuals create an immersive stadium experience. It’s the type of game where you become emotionally involved within seconds of starting, as it grabs your competitive side through its fun but highly fast and furious matches.
Taking inspiration from other popular party games, Wrestledunk Sports aims to capture the most intensive and rewarding moments of competition, and make it accessible through straight forward mechanics. After playing just a few rounds against strangers at the booth, I know I’m going to be losing many hours in intense tournaments against friends once it releases.
Platforms: Windows - Release window: Currently in early access - Full release early 2020
It’s always refreshing to discover developers approaching combat in games from a new direction, allowing you to solve fight sequences and puzzles in non-traditional ways. Guile & Glory: Firstborn aims to do just that, while bringing modern gameplay aesthetics to old-school arcade design.
A part puzzle, part turned based strategy game, Firstborn throws you into a savage and dangerous fantasy setting in which you’ll control a party of characters that need to rely on each other to survive. The key twist on the formula here being that you don’t have traditional weapons and need to utilize the natural hazards on the battlefield instead to defeat foes.Each character has their own unique skills which can be combined in smart and satisfying ways to defeat enemies. Such as using one stronger character to push another with a shield into an enemy, throwing them into deadly waters or spikes.
The action quickly becomes more challenging and the puzzles more intricate as you build your party up and can combo new characters’s abilities. The want to perfect each stage and the accompanying dark fantasy narrative makes it an enticing overall package to look forward to once it leaves early access.
Platforms: Windows - Release window: 2020
The long in development Americana Gothic style game stewing in atmosphere and dubbed “Grand Theft Cthulhu”, Dead Static Drive was on show again in all its glory at PAX Aus. Although the team behind the promising project has grown in recent times, meaning development is in full swing and was looking impressive as ever.
It’s Americana themes, love of cars and striking, yet melancholic visuals capture the eye and imagination quickly. It’s a game begging to be explored, with procedurally generated landscapes to ensure there are plenty of unique route 66 inspired locations to discover and stop by on your way through.But you won’t want to stick around anyway too long in this recently apocalyptic world, with monstrous Cthulhu-like creatures roaming the land.
Gathering supplies and recruiting other vagabonds to join you on your drive to find your family are your priorities first and foremost. But perhaps in the quieter moments, driving along in a sweet ride with the stars above you and new friends along for the ride, you’ll be able to enjoy the drive through a horror filled world too.
Platforms: Windows & PS4 - Release window: 2020
The battle royale formula has taken much of the industry by storm in recent years, with dozens of games attempting to recreate the concept for their own often shooter focused franchises. But if instead of throwing a hundred players into a giant map to fight it out, they had to survive a series of wacky physical challenges. Well, you’d have the delightful and chaotic Fall Guys.
Throwing a fun twist on the formula, Fall Guys aims for a far more lighthearted and silly battle royale experience. You’ll need to beat your opponents with your quick reactions and wits still, but in quirky obstacle courses, which slowly whittle down the amount of players each round. Each round is a mad rush as you stumble and jump over barriers and attempt to outsmart other players. The thrill of it all had me absorbed in the contest almost immediately, doing everything I could to stay on top and advance to the next round.
The physics based nature of the gameplay, vivid levels and adorable characters make each round a joyful, rowdy time. But don’t let its cute aesthetics fool you, one wrong move might lead to your downfall and you’ll need to be quick on your feet to make it past each course and have any hope of being crowned the champion. Whether it’ll have the lasting appeal as the games that popularized the battle royale genre will be interesting to see when it launches next year.
Platforms: Windows, Mac & Consoles - Release window: 2021
Another title aiming to modernize an old-school genre is Broken Roads, an isometric RPG set across a desolate and post-apocalyptic Australia. Blending traditional and contemporary role-playing mechanics, with a big focus on character customization through a unique morality system, it’s an ambitious title for the debut studio behind it.
Set far in the future, long after everything that could have gone wrong did, your focus is survival and helping to rebuild a society among the ruins. Based on real world locations in rural Australia, the hand-painted artwork brings the outback and rundown towns to life while keeping it grounded. The life we know is long gone and you’ll be doing your best just to get by.
While you’re sure to come across many obstacles in your journey, how you’ll be able to tackle them will be largely down to the personality you’ve crafted. Each decision you make impacts your moral philosophy in-game and the options you’ll have in the future. The hope is that each decision, good or evil, will have a significant impact on your character and how they’re able to interact with and are perceived by other characters. Again, ambitious, but an intriguing system we’re keen to see more of in action as development continues.
Platforms: Windows & Mac - Release window: Late 2019 (PS4 & Nintendo Switch 2020)
Ever wanted to spend a night in a supernatural cafe where the dead are granted one last night to mingle with the living? Well that’s what the soon to be released unique 3D visual novel Necrobarista is all about. I’ve been following and intrigued by it for a few years now, although largely due to its charming anime-like visual style and unique setting until recently. As seeing its near final gameplay in action at PAX Aus has me more excited than ever for its release.
Taking inspiration not only from anime, but also from film in its dynamic dialogue sequences which make for a far more absorbing story over your more typical 2D visual novel. The 3D nature of the game allows for a more immersive experience, with each scene oozing with style and little elements that help build the game into a coherent and believable whole.
The small glimpses of the charismatic characters and the magical setting shown so far have only furthered my curiosity about the world it takes place in. What’s in store for the dead on this fateful night, who are these characters and how they all fit in the story? Regardless of what the mystery behind this magical cafe is, I’m incredibly excited to experience it in the unique storytelling style they’ve opting for, that will hopefully expand how we think about visual novels going forward.
That wraps up our PAX Australia indie game spotlight for this year! If any of the fantastic games mentioned intrigued you, then be sure to check out their IndieDB profile for more information and make sure you follow them so you don't miss any of their updates on the site in the future.