PAX West Quick-Look: A Couple of 2D Side-Scrollers

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The top expo floor has quickly become my favorite place to hang out at PAX West this year. Unlike the other two floor filled with giant, flashy displays from a number of large publishers, the top floor is a bit more subdued with a focus on smaller devs and indie titles.

While exploring the floor, I had a chance to quickly demo a couple of 2D side-scrollers, both pixel-sprite based, but both playing quite differently from each other.

The first was at the booth for localizer and publisher Playism. They had a number of games set up to demo (including Suda51’s The Silver Case), but the one that caught my eye was entitled Momodora – Reverie Under the Moonlight.

The PR rep at the booth described Momodora to me as playing similarly to another 2D side-scroller, Salt & Sanctuary. He also made reference to said game’s difficulty comparison to Dark Souls, which I kind of laughed off until I sat down at the demo station and died within a few minutes.

While Momodora was released a few months ago for PC via Steam, the version running at the booth was a pre-release build for the PS4. The game is done in a Metroidvania style, and yes, it is surprisingly difficult. I wouldn’t agree fully with the PR rep’s Dark Souls/Salt & Sanctuary comparison, as the game did lighten up a bit once I got used to the controls.

The thing that impressed me the most about Momodora was the smoothness of the animation and the tight controls. Manipulating the main character, Kaho, is impressively fluid as you dodge around attacks and enemies, landing combos of your own, and firing off arrows at distant enemies, switching between all styles with grace. I will admit, once I got home from the expo yesterday, I proceeded to immediately download the Steam version of the title.

Later in the day, I walked by a booth where con-goers were playing another side-scroller on 3DS systems…except these were hooked up so the top screen of the system streamed to a television. Intrigued by this, I took a turn at the title, which turned out to be Azure Striker Gunvolt 2.

Set for release at the end of September, Gunvolt 2 is the follow-up to the Mega Man-esque original title by Inti-Creates. I had never played the original title, so the company rep at the booth walked me through the controls and some gameplay tips.

After a few seconds of figuring out what-does-what, I was launched into a fast-paced and well-designed trek through a lengthy creative stage. The gimmick of playing as the main character, Gunvolt, is the ability to summon a lightning attack that can target enemies you “tag” with your gun, as well as activate environmental assets.

Unlike Momodora, I did not find the demo for this game to be too difficult. The demo had a 10-minute timer, but during that time, I was able to clear the stage with relative ease and make it to a boss fight. I was killed here, but ended up being revived for full health to continue the battle…until the demo timer ran out.

Gunvolt 2 was another great game experience on my first day at PAX, and I became a big fan of the character designs. However, between the two titles, I was much more impressed with Momodora, which has become one of my favorite titles I have played at the expo so far. Thanks to these experiences, I’m quite looking forward to returning to the top floor today and seeing what else these smaller devs have to offer!