Walking through the expo hall at PAX is an unbelievable cacophony of sights and sounds, as game companies construct impressive exhibits to showcase their latest games for the thousands of attendees at PAX. Three days is really not enough time to get more than a taste of what these companies have to offer, so the wise gamer will pick and choose the games that they try out. As a casual video gamer, I tend to steer away from the shooter games and other strategy based games. I focused instead on the music games, the dancing games, and a roller derby game that were available for play at PAX.
For the music games, of course Rock Band (from Harmonix, with new instrument manufacturer Mad Catz) was represented, with several stages where you could try out the new instruments, game settings, and songs. The game adds a keyboard, vocal harmonies, and Pro Mode for the instruments, including a 102-button guitar/bass controller. Unsurprisingly, the lines for Rock Band were long throughout PAX, even at the stages where there was no swag to be had. Power Gig: The Rise of the Six Strings (from Seven45 Studios) was another music game with a comparable format to the Rock Band and Guitar Hero series, but the setting of this game is a modern fantasy world in which music is banned. The “story mode” follows pre-made characters through their quest to bring music back to the world with the power of rock. Power Gig also features sensor-based drums (for more of an “air drumming” feel) and more realistic guitars than most music video games have. I also took a quick peek at a Facebook music game called Instant Jam (from Instant Action), which allows you to play songs from the game’s music library if you have the MP3 of that song on your computer. You can play the music with either a USB guitar or your keyboard.
I’m not really a dancing game person, having never been swept up in the Dance Dance Revolution craze. But one of my friends that I attended PAX with enjoys those games, so we played two-Just Dance 2 (from Ubisoft) and Dance Central (from Harmonix). Although Just Dance 2 uses the Wii system, the game had no great motivation to do much more than move one hand. Much more impressive was the full body motion capture of the Kinect system, which is an integral part of Dance Central. I’d need to rearrange my living room and convince my cats to stay out of the way, but I could see using Dance Central as a fun workout, while I could just sit on the couch for Just Dance 2.
Jam City Rollergirls (from Frozen Codebase) caught my attention as the first video game based on women’s roller derby. I’m involved with one of our local roller derby leagues as an official, so I had heard a bit of advance buzz about Jam City Rollergirls. Though the game play was a bit more complex than I was ready for, it seems like people who enjoy games like Mario Kart and are also derby fans could have a lot of fun with this game. As for me, my left hand still hurts from using the Wii controller.
These six games were the only ones that I stopped long enough to play and talk to the developers about. I’m fairly sure that I didn’t even see the names of half of the games that were being shown in the expo hall at PAX. But even for a casual gamer like me, it looks like there are plenty of great new titles that will be out in time for the winter holidays this year.