Unsurprisingly, the Nintendo Switch was everywhere at this weekend’s PAX West, from massive demo stations to people chilling on PAX bean bags with their own Switches. On the show floor, Nintendo took the opportunity to showcase one more time, which drew hours-long lines through the four-day expo. Fortunately, we’d already put that demo through its paces.
Thus, we focused our PAX time on the rest of Nintendo’s strong first- and third-party showing, including upcoming ports and indie debuts that will soon call the Switch home. (Yes, games for PCs and other consoles were plentiful at PAX West, and we’ll have our full best-of list for those by week’s end.)
Blizzard brought a few kiosks to Nintendo’s PAX West booth, and these were dedicated to the game’s single-player docked experience on Switch. While the game’s apparent docked resolution was lower than 1080p, this mode included a blistering, nearly locked 60 frames-per-second refresh and looked clear enough.
We confirmed via behind-closed-doors gameplay that fans can expect the same high-speed action in portable mode—and Blizzard wasn’t messing around to prove it. In our local multiplayer co-op session, our level 70 Wizard character was paired with a level 70 Barbarian (controlled by a Blizzard representative). We picked the Wizard precisely because its level 70 attacks fill the screen with falling, fiery meteors, lightning-accented warps, and generally every fantasy-styled magic effect you can think of.
The good news is that the Switch never faltered in delivering a locked 60-fps experience. The bad news is that resolution tanked as a result. Without precise measuring equipment, we can only guess the resolution (540p-ish?) at our session’s most frantic moments. Enemy clarity is no small thing to lose during high-level combat, when a single bad dodge could be the difference between victory and loot-annihilating defeat. The high frame rate is arguably more crucial to a satisfying session, but we wonder whether the game’s Switch version would be better served by a high-contrast, “highlighted” monster option so that blurry enemies can glow in the dark in a pinch.
We sadly didn’t get to test the Switch version’s arguably most intriguing option: full, thought-out Joy-Con control. Splitting a pair of Joy-Cons can turn any to-go session into a multiplayer party, but how does a button-heavy series like Diablo make this limited-button option work? Two tweaks, they say: an attack newly assigned to “clicking” the joystick, and the dodge maneuver assigned to a Joy-Con . Now, I hate Wii waggle as much as the next guy, but I have to say: if this is quick and responsive enough, I’m happy to reassign a dodge to the real-life, “oh crap!” motion I’m likely going to make, anyway.
Blizzard didn’t have other news (including that all-important release date) to report. Catch up with everything else we know so far right here, including confirmation that this version’s $60 cost will include every previous patch and expansion.
Yes, is this quirky game’s final title. And that’s probably for the best, as my suggestion, , might run of copyright issues. (Ahem.)
After appearing in a limited prototype state at various festivals, this stealth-prank game (from Australian dev House House, makers of the incredible ) received its most formal public unveiling yet at PAX West. (The developers made an event out of it by stealth-pranking PAX West attendees using goose-design socks on their hands.) casts players as a goose and gives them appropriately goose-y controls: movement, grabbing, dragging, dropping, raising/lowering their head, and honking.
Every game should have a honk button, and has a delightful range of honks, should you wish to do nothing more than run around the game’s opening zone—a bustling, food-filled garden—and drive its custodian farmer nuts. Hhhhhnk, HONK, honk, hhhhoooonk, etc. It’s fun. But if you switch gears and work to complete tasks on your to-do list (all written in pretty cursive on school-grade, lined paper), you’ll need that honk button to goad the farmer in question.
These tasks include “steal the gardener’s keys,” “get the gardener wet,” “take the rake,” and “have a picnic”—which requires stealing a huge variety of items and hauling them to a blanket outside the garden’s fence. They range from one-step tasks, like sneaking behind the gardener, to multi-step tasks where you must chain together multiple steps—like dragging one of the farmer’s tools near a water spout, then turning the water on right when he fetches his lost tool.
shines for a few reasons even beyond its clear, hand-drawn art style and giddy sense of humor. The best part, arguably, is how it takes a low-stress approach to stealth gameplay. Whenever you mess up, you don’t die or suffer a “go to jail” pause in the action. You might get chased off from one part of the garden, but the rest of the zone is open to frolic in, and the task you were working on simply resets to be tried again. Factor that into tasks that have multiple silly paths to completion, and you have what might be the freshest, friendliest take on stealth gaming in years.
Square Enix’s cult-fave action-RPG from 2007, released exclusively on the Nintendo DS, gets its first-ever port this October. That DS exclusivity revolved around the game’s reliance on a touchscreen, and the Switch version will be no different.
While some functions will be controllable with a joystick, including movement around the game’s hip Neo-Tokyo environs, the majority of the game—particularly its combat—will either require tapping and swiping the Switch’s touchscreen or using a Joy-Con as a “relative” pointing wand. The latter play style works the same as Switch’s port, so you won’t need a “sensor bar” next to your TV, but you will occasionally need to tap a “reposition” button to center your aim.
Our PAX West demo focused on a very early encounter from the original game, which means we didn’t get to see this port’s new chapter or any new enemies. This is still a late-’00s Square Enix experiment through-and-through, exhibiting the same real-time battling, wild character designs, and cheesy dialogue that you’d expect from key members of the team (though it’s not as incomprehensible, to be fair).
Square Enix must have found the 2007 version’s original assets in some storage vault, because this version presents the game’s stylish, Shibuya-hipster characters in crisp HD resolution. What’s more, the weird soundtrack, which fused J-Pop with hip-hop, rock, and jazz, has been re-recorded with higher-fidelity instruments and more vocal samples. (If cheesy new rap lyrics aren’t your cup of tea, the original soundtrack is one toggle away.) Otherwise, this is a nearly identical version that plays smoothly and drips with its own unique style.
Having already tested and at E3, we focused our PAX West attention on Nintendo’s other “big” holiday game this year.
Our test of this long-standing mini-game series revolved around a new co-op mode, “River Survival,” in which a team of four players rows down a river while racking up points along the way. Doing this unlocks in the larger game, though Nintendo was coy about exactly what. (New mini-games? More hats for Waluigi to pick from? Who’s to say?) The mini-games we tested were solid fare, revolving less around obnoxious joystick rotations, Joy-Con waggles, or button taps and more around teamwork and accessible run-and-jump mechanics. In one, we had to sort items into matching baskets; in another, we had to light candles in a pitch-black room, using occasional flashes of lightning to expose hidden enemies.
It’s still of course, so even a mode full of collaboration and teamwork can lead to broken friendships. (Our test, held at 10am sharp on the expo’s third morning, included at least one inadvertently grumpy grumble from the Nintendo staffers on our team.) But this looks to be the most polished game released in years; we just hope it includes more modes like this, which keep the between-games sequences snappy and interactive, and fewer “wait for dice rolls” delays that is notorious for.
Between Nintendo’s own booth and a press-only “Nindies” event the day before PAX, we went hands-on with a few more fun games with varying levels of Switch exclusivity.
(no release date): The Switch is getting its fair share of local-versus four-player games soon, including a “definitive” port and a sequel. Both of those are darned good, but our money’s on newcomer , which gives cube-shaped combatants three maneuvers: a dash-tackle, a longer-range laser, and a weird, chargeable “ring” attack, which projects a growing ring outside a character’s body that can be triggered to hurt anything along it. These each require precise timing and offer rock-paper-scissors pros and cons. It takes a lot for a new four-player battler to get our attention, but this one has some serious secret sauce. We hope its campaign mode is as good.
(no release date): Or go bigger with this four-on-four 2D battle game. It’s based on an unwieldy, five-on-five arcade game that has proven to be a serious quarter muncher at dozens of American “barcades,” and this version includes speed tweaks and redrawn arenas to make more sense in a home, online-friendly version. We’ll have more on this game, including a lengthy chat with its design team, in the near future.
(January 18): We went hands-on with this old-school brawler in March, but the game has already improved leaps and bounds in the polish and UI departments. While it’s packed full of indie-game references, the game feels more like a modern Platinum Games hack-and-slash adventure. That’s not a bad thing, particularly thanks to its impeccable handling of the lower-powered Switch (gorgeous and stylized while running at a blistering 60fps clip) and its smart juggling of co-op bombast.
(no release date): A small studio from St. Louis has put together the Switch’s first truly editable platformer—eat your heart out, . And this game’s canvas is way more explosive than its Nintendo inspiration. For starters, your character can equip explosive, special powers by putting on masks (more like Mega Man’s robot masters than Mario’s power-ups) while also getting default wall-jump and grappling-hook maneuvers (a la indie delight ). Also, beating levels requires ferrying a block item from start to finish, and you can use this block as a weapon in a pinch. Add multiplayer level-editor support and experimental gameplay options (including a “golf” mode), and you’ve got quite the ambitious platforming debut from the devs at Butterscotch Shenanigans.