PAX East 2019: Friday Roundup

Here’s the first part of my PAX East Round-Up! Everything I did on Friday, all summed up in one nice little post! Here we go!


The Messenger: Picnic Panic

The first thing I did once I was on the Expo Floor was to make a beeline for The Messenger’s booth. They had a demo for their upcoming free DLC Picnic Panic, and the line was relatively short so it didn’t take long for me to wade in and try it.

And let me tell you, it was difficult. The Messenger was challenging but not backbreaking. This particular DLC demo was a gameplay style callback to Battletoads’ Turbo Tunnel/Clinger Winger and other old difficult “vehicle” levels. The level itself is pretty standard once you know it (just like Turbo Tunnel) but the boss is ridiculously punishing if you make any mistakes. I was unable to beat it (and voluntarily gave up after 10-15 minutes of trying to allow somebody else a chance) but it gives me high hopes for the DLC being a meaty, fun expansion. There’s a chance the boss difficulty will be tweaked before final release as well.

I definitely came away from it eagerly anticipating more Messenger content! Picnic Panic is supposed to release sometime later in 2019 and I’ll be waiting for it with bells on.

7 Wonders Tournament

All four days during PAX they have a constant stream of different board games available to be played tourney style. The signups are first come, first serve. I participated in the 7 Wonders tournament – if you haven’t heard of it, 7 Wonders is a game where each player is assigned a Wonder and through picking cards and swapping hands they try to build their Wonder and collect the most victory points through resources, military, and more.

It’s a fun card-drafting game that supports up to seven people (which is always good when you have big groups of people who like playing games) and was one of the few games at PAX I felt confident enough to enter a tournament for.

I got last in my game.

But it was fun! Part of the experience at PAX East was not just video games, but board games as well. While this was the only one I participated in this time due to only having two days on the floor (instead of four) I would gladly have spent more time playing in tournaments if I’d had the full four days.



I didn’t get any actual hands-on time with Sparklite but I did get to talk for a few minutes with one of the developers. It’s a roguelite with amazing pixel art that is aiming to be a little more forgiving to its players. Instead of losing everything when you die and starting over from square one on each run, you slowly build up your hub area as you collect the titular sparklite allowing you to have a tangible sense of progress.

It also allows for more customizable runs, as with a growing hub you can change your character’s equipment before heading out. If you’re just going out to collect sparklite, you’ll be able to equip different things than if you were going to try and tackle a boss. It sounds like a very interesting tweak to the roguelite formula.

I’m looking forward to this release since I’ve slowly become more of a fan of the roguelite genre thanks to games like Enter the Gungeon and Dead Cells. Sparklite looks to be another solid indie entry in the genre.

Man of Medan

Until Dawn was a great horror experience that I played with my friends – an all-night event that kept most of us gripped to our seats. Hidden Agenda tried to expand on the group activity aspect but ended up disappointing overall. Man of Medan is the studio’s next effort, the first in it’s Dark Mythology series of games, and thankfully it looks to be more like Until Dawn.

The demo was slightly disappointing though. While the tense atmosphere was there, the screen’s brightness was too low so I could only see half of what was going on. The character I controlled also moved like molasses with no option for sprinting or moving faster. And since the demo dropped you into the middle of the story to fast track you to the horror, I was missing the character building needed to make me care about what was happening.

Still, a lot of my problems came from the root cause that it was a demo. I’m still excited for the game overall, but it was unfortunately one of the more disappointing demos I played over the weekend.

Music Theory Panel: Mode Select

One of the two panels I went to at PAX East involved four prominent YouTube/video game musicians talking about seven different modes (or scales of music) and how they applied to different video game themes.

While the panel itself seemed to be geared more towards people who had a stronger working knowledge of composing and/or music theory, I did pick up a few neat pieces of information that helped broaden my music knowledge. For example, most boss themes are in the Phrygian mode due to it having one of the more “evil” sounding minor scales. The Magus theme from Chrono Trigger is one of the examples they used and is one of my favorite tracks from a video game ever.




Zombiotik was a neat little multiplayer game that I got to play for a few matches in. It supports up to 8 people and is a quick game with simple controls. Most everyone is a human, except for one person who starts out as a zombie. The zombie tries to bite and convert humans as fast as they can, while the humans score more points the longer they stay alive.

It’s fast, fun, and chaotic. There isn’t a lot of strategy to the game, especially since as humans all you can do is run and build. You build very slowly and if the zombie knows what they’re doing they can chase you down pretty easy. In addition, since all the characters are so small and the movement is so fluid and quick, it’s very easy to lose yourself and know who is and isn’t a zombie as everyone is frantically running around the map.

It seems like a party game worth some attention and would be good for any Let’s Play YouTubers to get some chuckles out of.

Free PC Play: Cuphead, Ruiner

Towards the end of Friday night I was able to sneak in some PC Freeplay and got to try out two games I’ve been meaning to purchase/play.

The first was Ruiner, which is a frenetic twin-stick shooter game that has a cyberpunk Hotline Miami vibe. While I really like the design of the main character and the overall aesthetic of the game, I didn’t really like the actual gameplay. There was a lot to keep track of between melee & ranged attacks, ammo, dodging, slowing down time, special abilities, all while enemies are attacking fast and furious.

The second was Cuphead, which I own but somehow have not played yet. With 20 minutes left on my freeplay timer and not feeling Ruiner, I took a stab at it finally. And wow, its difficulty is not understated. I wasn’t able to beat either of the first two bosses in the time I had, although I had a blast playing it. I think it may end up being one of those games I appreciate existing and like watching on YouTube, but not one I complete myself. And it’s not simply because of the difficulty: the side-scrolling constant-fire Contra-like gameplay has never really been a favorite of mine, and the endless repetition of that gameplay plus trying the same bosses over and over does not appeal to me.


PAX East had this thing called PAX XP going on during the convention. There were stations scattered around the convention center, and if you found and tapped your badge against all of them you got a prize. It was a fun little scavenger hunt to do along with all the other convention stuff, and I got a free mug out of it so hey.

The PAX XP tied into an overall competition between Team Gabe and Team Tycho, with the members of the winning team getting a chance at free passes to the next PAX. My team did NOT win, but overall it was a neat addition to the PAX experience to have something extra and game-y to do while you were ooh-ing and aah-ing at everything else.

Speedrun Panel

The last thing I did on Friday at PAX was go to a speed running panel and watch someone beat Super Mario Bros 2, Super Mario Bros 3, and Duck Tales in under an hour total. People walked into the panel a half hour late and missed both SMB games. It was wild. It’s always exciting to me to watch people who dedicate themselves to being able to beat older games like this so quickly.

The streamer/speedrunner in question is the husband of a husband/wife duo HaWPlay on Twitter and did pretty awesome, so give them a look!

So that’s it for my PAX Friday experience! My PAX Sunday experience will be coming shortly – and it has a LOT more video games!

*All screenshots taken from Google Image search.