Here are a few of my favorite things: Nintendo, Penny Arcade, The Legend of Zelda, Mario, Pokemon, Harvest Moon, Fallout, Dungeons and Dragons, books, dice, Professor Layton, Shadow of the Colossus, Minecraft, and so much more. I'm going to talk a lot about video games, I sincerely hope you don't mind.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

PAX 2012 Was Amaz-O-Matic! Part 1: Games

It's not enough to simply say that PAX was wonderful, or awesome, or that I met a lot of incredible people, saw cool things, hugged the tenth Doctor, and played unreleased games that I've been excited about for close to two years. These separate moments add up to something much greater than their sum. Any PAX attendee will understand, and those who have been unable to go, well, it's not an easy task attempting to explain the unexplainable. I'm going to give it an honest try though! Today will be all about the games I played, complete with tiny previews/reviews, and Friday will bring the rest of my experiences.

PAX Prime 2012 street banners along Pike in Seattle, WA.

This PAX was my first year joining the Enforcers, and my eighth year attending (I'll never get over missing PAX Prime 2010 because of my Ireland trip). This added a whole new depth to the already overflowing show experience. My afternoon shifts in the handheld lounge allowed me plenty of time to explore the expo hall and play some upcoming Nintendo titles. If you were following me on twitter then you received a lot of exclamatory tweets regarding Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask, Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion, Paper Mario: Sticker Star, and New Super Mario Bros. Wii U.

Giant, exciting banners at the Nintendo booth at PAX Prime 2012.

It's a relief to finally have played the Wii U. Mario looks just wonderful in full HD, and the built-in screen for the game pad is sharp sharp sharp. I was concerned about the games looking squished or crowded, but there's not a chance of that happening. The game pad is also extremely comfortable to hold. The size of it facilitates comfort for long gaming sessions, and guys especially will be glad that their hands won't cramp up like on slimmer DS systems. The buttons and joysticks were easy to access and not too close together. One of the best aspects of the game pad is that it's incredibly light and does not feel cheap. Nintendo really covered all of my concerns! I found it to be more comfortable than the regular Wii remote (when held sideways).

New Super Mario Bros. Wii U was a real treat to play. My short experience showed me that it's pretty much exactly like NSMB Wii, but I guess that's not a bad thing. There are some new power ups to play around with, and obviously new levels. I don't have much to say except I'm disappointed that designers decided to keep in the "freeze" mechanic when another player dies in multiplayer mode. That split-second freeze really messes with the players that are still alive. Why is it there?! I suppose I'll make a house rule: Dying In Mario Is Not Allowed.

Nintendo split their booth between the expo hall and the 2nd/3rd floor. Source

All of the 3DS demo systems were the new XL versions, and they were just gorgeous. I already own five DS systems so I initially imagined that I wouldn't be purchasing an XL. After playing one, however, it has become apparent that the hardware upgrades are totally worth it. I feel that the 3D was sharper, better, more enjoyable to look at. I generally play my 3D titles with the 3D slider set to off, so that's a good indicator of how impressed I was. Perhaps it's that the upper screen is so much larger. The stylus has been moved back to the right hand side (more sensible) and the 3D slider can be clicked into a fully off position, eliminating the ability to accidentally turn it on.

Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon translated beautifully to the 3DS XL. The controls were a little overwhelming at first, but after a few minutes of play everything fell into place. The game starts off with a sly demo section, allowing the player to become familiar with Luigi and his vacuum without the stress of a lot of ghosts. Players walk around a dark and creepy mansion, pointing a flashlight around to inspect rooms, and holding down the B button if they want to run instead of slowly walk. Once the ghost vacuum has been acquired, the game becomes a delicate mix of strategic flashlight pointing, followed by rapid suction action to capture ghosts. Progression to new rooms is facilitated via hidden keys, and I have to say that the developers hid each key quite cleverly, making Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon for the 3DS a sleuthing, challenging adventure.

Vigilant fans could collect these special Paper Mario: Sticker Star stickers at PAX 2012!

Paper Mario: Sticker Star was falsely advertised by Nintendo as being playable at PAX. I made a beeline for the 3DS stations on Friday morning so that I could play first thing, and was a little devastated to see that there was only a live demo being played for viewers. Admittedly it was the first time the demo was ever being played and gameplay footage couldn't be found anywhere else, but still! Disappointing! I wanted to experience it in all of its glory for myself. While the name 'Sticker Star' still rubs me the wrong way, the stickers look to be a fun mechanic in the game. I'm relieved that the developers returned to the turn based battle system, and I was surprised to see that travel from town to town now takes place on an over world map like the traditional Mario titles. I hope that this doesn't make the world feel small, because I genuinely liked traveling through each location and enjoying the paper-y graphics.

Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask, the first 3D iteration of the series, came at me with the same cast of characters from The Last Spectre, similar beautiful music, and a familiar suitcase interface. The story is very elaborate, causing the beginning of the game to move at kind of a slow pace. Visuals change back and forth from the traditional old world 2D drawing style to a newer, three dimensional cel-shaded character design. I'm not too fond of the cel-shaded versions, I feel that they're lacking the charm normally found in the Layton designs. Miracle Mask looks to be a longer gameplay experience than previous versions, and I base this off of the new exploration mechanics. Environments are much larger, with more areas to search. There's also a zoom option to see specific locations in greater detail. If players hope to find all Hint Coins and puzzles, they're going to have to search very carefully! Miracle Mask will also offer daily new puzzle downloads.

Power of Illusion was playable at PAX 2012, much to my delight.

Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion is a title that I was very anxious to play. I haven't seen a lot about it online, and I was hungry for gameplay videos. I'm pleased to report that it plays like a dream, looks super sharp, and is a truly wonderful spiritual sequel to Castle of Illusion for the original Sega. The graphics are a total throwback to the 16-bit era, and the developers even included iconic sound effects from the older title. Power of Illusion is a perfect fit for the 3DS, and players will also get to play in well known Disney locales, very similar to the formula for Kingdom Hearts. The paint/paint thinner mechanic from Epic Mickey for the Wii carries over well, especially with the touch screen and stylus. The upper screen hosts all of the action, while the lower screen serves as a map with hints to puzzles. During my play through there wasn't a shortage of paint and thinner to collect, so players won't have to worry about running out. Any fans of Castle/World of Illusion for the Sega are really going to love Power of Illusion.

Games I wanted to play but didn't get to: Adventure Time for 3DS, Pikmin 3 for Wii U, and Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two for Wii. I can't even count how many other games I was unable to play. The expo hall was just enormous! For any people that attended PAX, which games did you get to play? Did you have any favorites?

Check back Friday for the second part of my post PAX 2012 summary: enforcing, tabletop games, The Doctor, and merchandise!


*all photos are property miranda eubanks/abitofgeek unless otherwise noted


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