Con Report: Best of PAX South 2015

Wow, what a weekend! EBongo and I spent 3 days checking out the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX South) in San Antonio, and we saw so many good games! We spent most of the ride back to Austin discussing our favorites. In this article, we'll pick our top games from the expo floor!

Best Platformer

Winner: The King's Bird

Runner Up: Light Fall

agent86 The King's Bird got the edge in this category due to its magnificent art and excellent controls. Light Fall was a top contender here, though. The art style is interesting, and the Trine-esque controllable block mechanic was intriguing.

EBongo After the conference, there were certain games I couldn't stop thinking about - and one of those was The King's Bird. As the crowds swelled on Saturday I started to think we'd seen all the great games PAX had to offer when Z from Serenity Forge humbly invited us to check out this amazing game. I get happy every time I think about it. It will be mine. It must be.

Best First Person Shooter

Winner: Wrack

Runner Up: Black Ice

agent86 This is a tough one for me. Wrack just narrowly edges out Black Ice, although it was really close. Wrack has style in spades, while Black Ice brings the nifty game mechanics to the table.

EBongo We definitely debated this one, and surely there are parallel realities where Black Ice pulled out the win. Wrack brings the thrill of fast paced FPS action with that Borderlands-esque cell shaded art style. If your FPS sessions are a little less Mountain Dew fueled, the pace of Black Ice and it's loot system may be more right for you. Also - neon Tron spiders that can be tricked into attacking each other.

Best Tower Defense

Winner: Dungeon Defenders 2

Runner Up: Fortified

agent86 Based on what I played at the show, Dungeon Defenders 2 is going to be highly polished and highly addictive. Still, it was a close race with newcomer Fortified just barely missing the top slot for me. I think as Fortified progresses it will be one to keep an eye on.

EBongo Dungeon Defenders 2 will be a fun and familiar romp, and will certainly not disappoint fans of the first game. In just a few minutes it was hard to fully feel it out, since tower defense games have so much strategy and depth, but when I didn't know what else to do - the renewed focus on melee in the overall game balance meant that just smacking things was a perfectly good strategy. Fortified was a little harder for me to get into, but I chalk most of that up to my button mashing, and some sore feelings that agent86ix had a jetpack and I did not. The 50's sci-fi enemies were interesting, and at times unexpected (in a good way) - and there was definitely enough to keep an eye on as the game matures.

Best Co-Op

Winner: Hive Jump

agent86 Hive Jump is basically Super Metroid with co-op and RPG elements. That right there is enough to sell me on it, but the "backpack" mechanic for respawning is a really smart addition.

EBongo Since playing Hive Jump I've tried many vendors, but no one else will accept my yellow nutrient goo. As such I'll have no choice take my business to the Hive weapon shop, where it's value is appreciated.

Best Roguelike

Winner: Enter the Gungeon

agent86 Enter the Gungeon is the real deal, guys. The art style is absolutely killer, the gunplay is fast, fun, and varied. Enter the Gungeon is going to be a staple game in my library for quite some time, I can tell already.

EBongo Losing my voice during PAX had it's downsides, but a big perk was that agent86ix got to do the talking while I got first cracks at Enter the Gungeon. Tables you can throw over for cover, pixel art, dodge rolls... so much to love. Then one of the devs from Dodge Roll Games started typing console commands to unlock late game guns and my jaw dropped. Another PAX-goer saw the insanity unfolding and said "is that a Ghostbusters gun" - to which the dev said "no" .... and with a few more console commands showed us that there was a separate Ghostbusters gun already in the game!!!!111!!! My wallet refuses to close until I own this game.

Best Puzzle Game

Winner: Magnetic: Cage Closed

Runner Up: Ronin

agent86 I actually really liked Ronin - which kind of rolled Gunpoint up with Mark of the Ninja and made something that I think is a really interesting puzzle experience.

EBongo I usurped agent86ix on this one and named my favorite Magnetic: Cage Closed to the top spot. It's got a real Portal feel for sure, but the magnetic attract and repulse mechanics are fun to play with, and are sure to make for a ton of interesting 3D puzzles.

Best Party Game

Winner: Knight Squad

Runner Up: Super Slam Dunk Touchdown

agent86 I have to give it up for Knight Squad. Every round of this game I saw was chaotic and fun. It seems like something simple enough for new people to pick up, but deep enough to keep people coming back. Close second place goes to Super Slam Dunk Touchdown - the level of insanity in that game is unbelievable. It's the kind of thing I could see being a big hit when everyone's had a few.

EBongo Knight Squad conjures days of my youth, when I was crowded by other adolescent males playing Bomberman or Mario Kart, shouting in victory, or cursing in defeat but always having a blast doing it - and always wanting to play just one more game. Super Slam Dunk Touchdown has much the same party flavor, but I think it reminds me more of the great exaggerated sports titles like NBA Jam, Basewars and Mutant League Football. I was never very good at real sports - so games like Super Slam Dunk Touchdown are much closer to my heart.

Best Virtual Reality

Winner: Elite: Dangerous

agent86 Hands down, it's Elite: Dangerous. With the Oculus and the joystick/throttle setup, there's nothing like it. The immersion factor is out of this world. This game really nails exploration, as well.

EBongo If space is the final frontier, than it's possible Elite: Dangerous has conquered it and gaming itself. It models the entire Milky Way and adds new stars and planets as they are discovered. I imagine myself finding my own secluded corner of the galaxy to hang out in. No jerks allowed - seriously.

Best Mobile Game

Winner: Dungeon Quest

Runner Up: Steam Bandits Outpost

agent86 After playing it at PAX, I went home and installed Dungeon Quest. There's a lot to love here, it's a solid action RPG in handheld format. Close runner up is Steam Bandits Outpost which is also a RPG, albeit a turn-based one. (They've got flying sharks with lasers. I mean, really...)

EBongo Steam Bandits Outpost had some great writing and obviously a pretty good sense of humor as agent86ix points out. Definitely worth a look.

The "One to Watch" Award

Winner: Beyond Sol

Runner Up: Faded

agent86 I have to give this award to Beyond Sol. It's still pretty early, having just hit Steam Greenlight, but I thought it showed a ton of promise. I'm looking forward to building my space-base and flying my spaceships and destroying stuff.

EBongo Faded gets a very close second for beautiful art, a great back story concept, and a cool "color adding/spell" mechanic that has a great deal of promise. With a very early demo to show that already plays great, I can't wait to see what this becomes.

The "Shut Up and Take My Money" Award for Best in Show

Winner: Rebel Galaxy

Runner Up: The King's Bird

agent86 No contest - it has to be Rebel Galaxy. I am actually really sad that I can't play this game right now. It's so smart, and so polished already that I salivate to think what is still to come for this game.

EBongo I gushed about The King's Bird above, but I also give this one to Rebel Galaxy by a less wide margin than agent86ix. I'll happily throw my money at both of them. Certainly I echo agent's excitement about what Rebel Galaxy will eventually become - because I'm already stoked to just play "warp chicken" with every destination in the galaxy and see my ship scream to a halt just before I crash at light speed.