8 standout games from PAX West 2022

Over Labor Day weekend, PAX West returned to the Seattle Convention Center. One of North America’s largest video game conventions, PAX is a four-day celebration of upcoming and recently released titles.

After a decade of not attending the show, I traveled the West Coast to play games and see old industry friends. The following list provides an overview of some of the best games I got to play during the show.

NecroDancer Rift

Developer: Get ready for games | Release date: to be determined

Not quite a sequel, not quite a spiritual successor, Rift of the NecroDancer is the sequel to 2015’s rhythm-based dungeon crawler Crypt of the NecroDancer. Although main character Cadence is back and the game is still rhythm-based, don’t expect to dungeon crawl this time around. Rift takes more of a Dance Dance Revolution approach (with some fun Rhythm Heaven sections added). Players will face enemies that cross a note highway not unlike what you would see in Guitar Hero. Fans of the previous game will have an advantage, as enemies scrolling towards you will move and dodge similarly to their dungeon-based counterparts.

From the art style to the games it draws inspiration from, Rift immediately stood out for me. Fans of the genre can also look forward to an all-new soundtrack, which features industry legend Danny Baranowsky.

No room for bravery

Developer: Glitch Factory | Release date: September 22, 2022

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Glitch Factory

This top-down action RPG (role-playing game) combines methodical Souls-like combat (like in a tough action RPG) with a stunning pixel art aesthetic similar to Hyper Light Drifter. In No Place for Bravery, you discover giant decaying relics and heavy weapons of lore across its world. Players control Thorn, a former soldier in search of his long-lost daughter.

No Place for Bravery looks stunning when it features huge panoramas showcasing beautiful 2D pixel art. There seems to be a lot of depth to the combat, including multiple weapons to choose from. Even better, it will be available very soon.

Varney Lake

Developer: LCD Game Studio | Release date: Fall 2022

The second game in the Pixel Pulps visual novel series will arrive later this year. After its first game, Mothmen 1966, LCD Game Studio continues to crank out bite-sized horror pasta, with this new installment about vampires. The choices players make as children will impact how the present unfolds. Fans of the original can expect certain characters to return while embarking on this new adventure that spans two time periods.

As a Mothmen fan, I’m looking forward to the sequel. At around two o’clock, they are an ideal replacement for a late night movie with the lights off.

Lunar scars

Developer: Dark Siren | Release date: September 27, 2022

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black mermaid

Of the games I played in the showroom, Moonscars was by far the most intriguing of the Metroidvania titles (a genre that focuses on repeatable, ability-based exploration). Developed by Black Mermaid and published by Humble Games, this action-adventure game follows Gray Irma, a fierce warrior ready to face the grueling undead. The 2D combat is so smooth and comfortable that I couldn’t help but think of genre standouts like Dead Cells. As you go through the dungeons – with a fantastic pixel art aesthetic – you’ll enjoy the skill tree and RPG system. And you can play it before the end of September as part of Xbox Game Pass.

Mina the digger

Developer: Yacht Club Games | Release date: to be determined

After years of creating the excellent platformer Shovel Knight, Yacht Club Games has a new protagonist in Mina the Hollower. If the developer’s previous work was a love letter to Mario, this new game is billed as a successor to Zelda. Mina traverses difficult dungeons, battling monsters with a trusty whip. However, it’s the unique burrowing mechanism that really makes Mina stand out. Being able to dig under obstacles and enemies changes the way you will face various obstacles.

Mina the Hollower feels as well designed as Shovel Knight. Keep in mind, it’s tough. I missed the final boss over and over again, so now I’ll have to wait for the official release to get revenge.

Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus and Butterfly

Developer: Toge Productions | Release date: 2023

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Toge Productions

It’s raining in Seattle (obviously) but the cafe where you work is full of lively conversations. If it’s wholesome entertainment you want, look no further than this sequel to one of 2020’s most comfortable games. Enjoy friendly banter with a cast of characters like humans, monsters, and banshees. By serving specific drink requests, you direct the story.

In addition to several returning characters, this installment also features a new gift mechanic for additional branching stories.

shovel knight digging

Developer: Yacht Club Games | Release date: September 23, 2022

Shovel Knight returns in a new Rogue-like game that has you digging deeper and deeper underground. As you descend, you’ll encounter familiar enemies and treasures. Procedurally generated floors make every run feel fresh, and branching paths allow for a small amount of customization. Don’t get too comfortable though, Shovel Knight’s difficulty remains high, especially when taking on the various boss sections.

It was an immediate release for me, based on the speed and smoothness of the controls. Mashing the dig button to dive faster and faster is extremely enjoyable. Although I never managed to beat the first boss, I look forward to another hit in the coming weeks.

anger foot

Developer: Free Lives | Release date: 2023

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free lives

This foot combat game is both bizarre and brutal. Opening doors for enemies, killing them in the process, is fantastic – and you do it frequently. Anger Foot is a very weird concept, and that weirdness is only surpassed by the speed of the gameplay. Fans of games like Hotline Miami will enjoy this first-person shooter (or kicker?).

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