Every year a ravenous horde descends on Seattle, Washington, devouring everything in its path like a biblical plague, leaving behind nothing but scattered bones, plastic badges, and free lanyards. It calls itself PAX West. The horde’s hunger is an endless hunger for games of all sorts, but this year included a savory feast of indie titles. Here are our picks for the best indie games of PAX West 2017. Buckle up — it’s gonna get weird.
Best in holes — Donut County
You’re a hole in the ground. You swallow small objects to get bigger, to swallow bigger objects — sometimes snakes, sometimes fire. Also, there are talking animals, a post-apocalyptic hellscape, and a raccoon who broke his quad-copter. It’s a lot to take in. There’s nothing that can prepare you for Donut County besides playing Donut County, but there’s a unique charm to the store here that is wholly unexpected.
The most surprising part of the game is the narrative it uses to tell its story. This isn’t just Katamari Damacy with a different coat of paint. There’s a tale here, a mystery to be solved, a parable about the perils of donuts, and a trash panda who’s in way over his head.
Donut County will be coming out later this year on PC and iOS.
Best at being adorable — Moss
In Moss, a VR game, you can befriend an adorable mouse warrior named Quill, and go on adventures together. Need we say more?
We covered this one at E3, but it deserves another mention, because this game was an absolute sensation at PAX West. Players of all ages were hooked on this game, all because of the charming little protagonist, Quill.
You help Quill as she fights her way through equally adorable enemies, and puzzles her way through dungeons
Moss developer Polyarc hid a few of its Quill figurines throughout the show floor, encouraging Twitter followers to search them out like tiny idols to a forgotten mouse goddess. This meant some enterprising fans took to stalking Polyarc developers all around the Washington State Convention Center, in hopes of seeing where next they would hide one of the precious sword-wielding rodentia.
The game itself is unusual for a PSVR title, in that it’s not a shooter or a tourism app. In fact, it’s a third person adventure game where you help Quill as she fights her way through equally adorable enemies, and puzzles her way through dungeons. You are her shepherd, her guardian, and her best friend.
Moss will arrive on PSVR in Winter 2017.
Best in ‘What Did I Just Play?’ — Wattam
Wattam. Go ahead and Google it, we’ll wait.
Did you watch the video? Do you understand what the game is about? Okay. Let’s just start at the beginning. You’re a luminescent green cube. You sit in a field of grass. You have a hat. You come across a rock. The rock has arms now, and a face, and it wants to hold your hand.
The game only gets weirder from there. After you hang out with the rock for a while, another, larger rock wakes up, and you’re friends now. The same thing happens a few times before the pooping begins.
Yeah, there’s a big mouth, and when it eats things it, umm, excretes. Then the excrement grows arms, and it’s also your friend now.
There’s something refreshing about hopping into a game that tells you the bare minimum you need to accomplish a goal, and lets you figure it out on your own. That’s Wattam in a nutshell. It’s a therapeutic, relaxing game about befriending rocks, trees, and berries — then eating them.
Oh, and one other thing. It’s designed by Keita Takahashi, best known for the famously odd and awesome Katamari Damacy. Yes, that’s the second Katamari reference in this article, which should tell you just how weird PAX West was.
Wattam will likely come out in 2018, on PC and PS4.
Best in American Gothic Yarn-weaving — Where the Water Tastes like Wine
Stories inform every aspect of our lives, from entertainment like books, movies, and TV, to the stories we tell ourselves about where we live, and who we are. Stories are malleable. They change with each telling, exchanging literal truth for figurative truth. That’s one piece of the puzzle that is Where the Water Tastes Like Wine.
It’s the kind of game that stirs your curiosity, and rewards it at every turn.
The trailer will give you a feel for the game, its spirit and language, but there’s a lot more here than we can unpack in a couple blurbs. At its heart, Where the Water Tastes Like Wine is a game about stories, and it’s your job in the game to keep these stories alive, to tell them and hear them told, transformed as they travel across dustbowl-era middle America.
It’s a bizarre game, but deeply satisfying. Playing it feels like cracking open a dog-eared book with a couple fingers of bourbon close at hand. It’s the kind of game that stirs your curiosity, and rewards it at every turn.
Where the Water Tastes like Wine is slated for release in 2017 on PC and MacOS, with other platforms TBA.
Best Dancing Vegetables — Ooblets
In Ooblets you’ll spend a lot of your time gardening. You’ll plant some seeds, and watch ‘em grow into adorable, smiling little fruits and veggies. Then, when they’re ripe, you’ll pluck them from the earth and teach them how to fight.
Ooblets has been making the rounds at a few conventions, and each time it seems to pick up a few loyal followers who trail behind in its wake like a conga line of Shrumbos, Clickyclaws, and Glanters. Those are a few of my favorite Ooblets, and just like those of us eagerly anticipating the release of this game, they’ll trail around behind you as you walk around town introducing them to your neighbors.
Look around, and you’ll see the most common description of Ooblets is something to the effect of Pokemon meets Stardew Valley. That’s a good entry point, but there’s a bit more to it than that. Once you get your hands on this game, it becomes clear this is something new, original, and engaging on its own merits. Plus, neither of those games feature dancing nearly as prominently as Ooblets. Just check out these moves.
Ooblets doesn’t have a set release date just yet, but it will be coming out on PC and Xbox One.