The East Coast version of the Penny Arcade Expo — aka PAX East — takes place annually at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. This year, despite the light snow and brutal 10-degree weather, fans of video games, board games and other digital forms of content creation flocked to BCEC to check out everything the expo had to offer. While exclusive merchandise and free swag are always a big part of PAX, the main draw is of course, the games.

With that in mind, Best of NJ has put together a list of the best video games on display at PAX East 2017. It should be noted that this list intentionally avoids covering the more widely known AAA games (so you won’t find The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on this list) in an effort to spotlight the truly unique games that might otherwise be overshadowed by the recognizable series and brands out there. Also, be sure to check back tomorrow for our Best in Show PAX East cosplay gallery!

The Best Games of PAX East 2017


Snake Pass

Developer: Sumo Digital
Rating: E for Everyone
Release Date: March 29 (Nintendo Switch, Steam, PS4, Xbox One)

PAX East 2017 was full of platforming games. In fact, the platforming genre is one of the pillars of video gaming. But what if a platforming game took away the most traditional gameplay element we’ve come to expect from a platformer: Jumping. Snake Pass does just that, forcing the player to navigate the world by solving physics-based environmental puzzles without the ability to jump. Players control a snake trying to make his way up a mountain, with no fantastical or supernatural abilities to aid him; this means they must coil and slither their way through each objective by obtaining collectibles that open the path to the next stage. Snake Pass is coming to the Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4 and Xbox One. Follow the game on Twitter for future updates.

Town of Light

Developer: Lka.it
Rating: M for Mature
Release Date: Feb. 26, 2016 (PC), Q2 2017 (PS4, Xbox One)

There’s no smooth way to transition from a colorful, family-friendly platformer about an adorable snake to a psychological thriller about an asylum patient tortured by her own mind, but that’s exactly what The Town of Light is all about. The game is set in Italy, 1938, and recounts the true story of a 16-year-old girl named Renée who is sent to an asylum after being considered “a danger to herself and others and a cause of public scandal” by the police. The developers painfully and meticulously recreated the real-world asylum where Renée was kept, right down to the floor plans, after visiting the now-decrepit facility in person. The game is already available on PC, but the console version will feature updated graphics and additional story elements to smooth out the overall experience.

For the King

Developer: IronOak Games
Rating: Not Yet Rated by ESRB (most likely T for Teen)
Release Date: Early Access – Feb. 28, 2017 (PC), Full Release TBD

The turn-based role-playing game (RPG) is another pillar of gaming, albeit one that comes in many shapes and forms these days. For the King is a procedurally-generated, Roguelike RPG. The “procedurally-generated” part means that the map, enemies and items change with each playthrough, while the “Roguelike” term means that players must restart the game from the beginning upon death (as opposed to starting from a checkpoint or having multiple “lives”). The brutal difficulty level means that players will need to strategize before each enemy encounter if they plan to survive. The game can be played either solo or with up to three friends via local or online co-op (characters move and choose battle actions independently of one another, so each player is responsible for their own character).

Cosmic Star Heroine

Developer: Zeboyd Games
Rating: T for Teen
Release Date: April 11, 2017 (PC, PS4), TBD (PS Vita)

Remember how I said turn-based RPGs come in many shapes and forms? (It was literally 140 words ago. Go ahead. Count ’em.) Cosmic Star Heroine is another variation on the formula. For this single-player, turn-based game, players have access to a catalog of reusable items (that recharge after each battle encounter) on top of traditional attacks and abilities. (In most games, once an item is used, it is discarded.) This, combined with combo techniques, Hyper mode and a unique battle mechanic that requires abilities to be manually recharged after use by resting, creates a strategic form of turn-based combat that is unlike most other RPGs. The Sci-fi aesthetic and spy-themed narrative pair wonderfully with the eclectic cast of party members that players will adventure alongside.

Human: Fall Flat

Developer: No Brakes Games
Rating: E for Everyone
Release Date: July 22, 2016 (PC), Q2 2017 (PS4, Xbox One)

Human: Fall Flat is a physics-based, open-ended puzzle game in which players control Bob, a character who has continuous nightmares about falling. The player’s job is to navigate Bob’s obstacle-filled dreamscape by pushing, pulling and otherwise grabbing onto objects to manipulate them in ways that allow Bob to escape to the next layer of his dream (by free falling from one stage to the next). The humorous tutorials and on-screen text commenting about the nature of humanity juxtaposed against Bob’s innermost hopes, fears and memories that shape his dreamscape create an entertaining experience. Look for it on PS4 and Xbox One in the coming months.

Hob

Developer: Runic Games
Rating: Not Yet Rated (most likely E for Everyone)
Release Date: TBD (PC, PS4)

Hob was one of the most popular games at PAX East, if the never-ending line to play it was any indication. The game is described as a suspenseful adventure “set in a brutal world of disarray.” Perhaps what is most interesting about Hob is that the entire narrative is conveyed without words; there is no text or dialogue throughout the experience. As the player solves puzzles in an attempt to restore life to the world, the landscape shifts as the planet becomes vibrant again, unlocking new areas to explore. The open world encourages players to venture out on their own path, uncovering the mysteries of the planet with the aid of their mechanical glove-arm, a tool which is used in both combat and traversal. Follow Runic Games on Twitter for updates about the game’s impending release.

Buck

Developer: Wave Interactive
Rating: Not Yet Rated (most likely T for Teen)
Release Date: Early Access – March 17, 2017 (PC), TBD (PS4, Xbox One)

Everybody loves an underdog. In the case of Buck, players are placed into the boots of a literal underdog named Buck. After learning that his stepfather lied to him about where he comes from, Buck sets off to find his place in the world while simultaneously uncovering the mystery behind a girl’s disappearance. Players must craft their own weapons and venture across a wasteland set in the fictional land of Venganza. A 2D Metroidbrawler at heart — meaning the game encourages players to revisit previously-completed locations with newfound abilities to discover additional secrets — Buck mixes gun-play and beat ’em up style combat to keeps players on their toes against an assortment of enemy types. Follow Buck on Twitter for updates about the game and official release date.

Children of Zodiarcs

Developer: Cardboard Utopia
Rating: Not Yet Rated (most likely T for Teen)
Release Date: Q2 2017 (PC, PS4)

If ever board games and video games were to meld into a single entity, the result would likely look a lot like Children of Zodiarcs. This single-player, tactical RPG combines strategic depth with collectible cards for deck-building and craftable dice for… rolling. The team at Cardboard Utopia was heavily inspired by video games such as Final Fantasy Tactics and collectible trading card games such as Magic: the Gathering. Players take a team of three party members across each grid-based map, drawing cards and rolling dice to determine modifiers for any cards played. Each turn has a Player and Enemy phase, allowing both sides to attack, guard or draw new cards. While luck is certainly a factor, the crafting system allows players to tip the scales (or in this case, dice rolls) in their favor.

For more PAX East 2017 coverage and features, be sure to check back later this week!

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  • Hero (Top) Feature Image: © Vinny Parisi / Best of NJ
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