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The 7 Forgotten Games of PAX 07
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on September 10, 2007   |   Episode 72 (Show Archive)  

   


Rock Band's drums were a huge draw, but contrary to what the major websites would have you think, it wasn't the only draw at PAX 2007!
I'm going to go out on a limb and say the least controversial thing you will hear all week: This year's PAX was filled with amazing games. Between Gears of War (PC), Mass Effect, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, Midnight Club: Los Angeles, Rock Band, Castle Crashers and Metroid Prime 3, there was almost too many great games to play. But not every game received its moment in the sun, there were a lot of games that looked like a lot of fun but were being completely ignored. While I expect this kind of thing from the snooty gamers who paid their $50 to attend the Penny Arcade Expo, I expected more from the mainstream video game press. The GameSpots, IGNs and 1ups of the world should be ashamed of themselves for only covering the biggest games of the show; there should be enough room to cover some of the smaller games that need their attention.

Defunct Games is not about to just sit by and watch all of these major websites ignore these smaller titles. As a courtesy to all of our readers who didn't have a chance to attend this year's Penny Arcade Expo (or those who did but only hung out in the big booths) we've decided to take a look at seven of the best games you probably missed. These games are getting almost no post-PAX coverage and we think that you should be outraged. Over the next two pages I invite you to see all of the games you missed and why we think nobody is reporting on them. One of these games could be the next big thing ... but you would never know it if you only read IGN. These are the Seven Forgotten Games of PAX!

Word Jong (Nintendo DS)
What Is It? Tucked away between Taito Legends 2 and John Deere Harvest in the Heartland was a surprising new puzzle game, a title that managed to combine all of the excitement of a spelling bee with Mahjong. The game is Word Jong and this little Nintendo DS gem may just be original enough to take your mind off of all those other educational games coming out. The game is simple; a puzzle is made up of a bunch of layered tiles, each with their own letter. It's your job to spell out words, which ultimately takes away those tiles and makes the next layer available. It works like Mahjong, a game I've never actually learned how to play. But even a Mahjong idiot like me was able to figure out Word Jong in a matter of seconds and have a lot of fun with it. The strategy comes when you challenge yourself to make longer words for extra points, effectively pushing you to learn more and more words. On top of playing through the various levels, there are also a number of interesting modes that take this from being just a fun novelty and turn it into a fully fledged game. Packed into this one $20 Nintendo DS game is a battle mode, some daily puzzles, multiplayer modes, and the temple challenge. That should be more than enough to keep even the best spellers interested in the game long after the game ships this November.

Why Was It Forgotten? They always say that the first rule of business is location, location, location. The problem with Word Jong's location has less to do with the booth it was in and is more about the games it was wedged between. While I'm sure Harvest in the Heartland is a fun game (the version we played at PAX crashed on us right as we were getting to the good stuff), Word Jong should have been in a location all its own. It's true; sometimes your neighbors can really bring down your property values. It's also worth noting that some gamers and journalists (and gamer journalists) have seen Word Jong before, it is a popular flash-based computer game. Whether that played into the complete lack of media attention is not something I can say for certain, but I'm sure it didn't help matters much. The good news is that there was a lot of buzz surrounding the game thanks to word of mouth, unfortunately that buzz didn't seem to translate to previews on the major websites.

What Could Go Wrong? The problem with a game like this is that its audience could be sick and tired of these "edutainment" puzzle games by the time it ships. Everybody seems to be eating up the Brain Training-like games, but how many educational games does one Nintendo DS owner actually want? The $20 price tag could help convince gamers to give it a chance; I guess we'll find out in a couple months.

N+ (Xbox 360)
What Is It? N+ is the Xbox Live Arcade port of the popular Metanet Software PC game, N. Developed by Slick Entertainment Inc., N+ is a quirky puzzle game where you play a stick figure man trying to collect enough items and find his way to the exit. Although it shares the same name, this version is slightly different from the upcoming PSP and Nintendo DS game that is coming from Atari (developed by SilverBirch Studios). Because of the game's basic look and gameplay, N+ is easy to pick up and get used to, no matter how long you've been playing games. Even though it looks like a traditional 2D platformer, what sets N+ apart from all of the other games on the show floor is its liberal use of physics, it's fun to watch how the characters and objects move when you hit them around the screen. If the price is right then N+ may just be the next big Xbox Live Arcade hit ... even if nobody was paying attention to it on the PAX show floor.

Does It Still Hold Up? N+ was barely seen by anybody, it was located in a far off corner of the PAX exhibition hall far away from all of the excitement of Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft. Another problem was that the booth never had anybody around, so even if you did see the game in action it never looked like anybody cared. The game itself isn't the most attractive title coming to the Xbox Live Arcade, so that certainly didn't help bring the media over. The good news is that you could jump in and play the game without worrying about a line, not that this small upside helped it get into the pages of any major magazine or website. Still, it seems like the majority of the N+ buzz still surrounds the PSP and DS version, which is odd considering the early state of those versions (and the near final state of this XBLA game).

Is It Worth The Money? The game's simple nature and stick figure graphics could keep people away N+. And let's not forget that you can go online and play this game for free, so why would anybody want to pay $5 - $10 for a more limited version of the game on the Xbox Live Arcade. If the Xbox Live Arcade game does not feature a create-a-level function I can see people losing interest in this version. One also has to wonder if there's a reason so many more people are drawn to the PSP and Nintendo DS ports at the Atari booth, could this ultimately spell disaster for the Xbox Live Arcade port?

Culdcept SAGA (Xbox 360)
What Is It? The original Culdcept was a cult classic for the PlayStation 2; it combined the card-based action of Magic: The Gathering with ... Monopoly? That's right, it's a card-based board game for a video game sequel, and it's about to get a sequel. While the game looks daunting at first, Culdcept is actually an easy game to pick up and play. You travel along a game board collecting cash and establishing properties. When an enemy lands on your properties you have to fight it out. It's actually a very simple concept, but the game play is deep enough to keep you going and there's a fun multiplayer mode that should have you and your buddies playing long into the night. Culdcept SAGA is an extension of the PlayStation 2 game, this time with better graphics and online play. The gameplay will stay largely the same, but expect some brand new options and a few tweaks here and there. The version we had a chance to check out looked and played great, something that only made the wait even harder to tolerate. Even though the game looked just about finished, Bandai Namco (who is publishing this Xbox 360 game) is hinting that the game won't be available until the beginning of next year. From a business standpoint this makes a lot of sense (who wants to complete with Halo 3?), but for those of us excited about the game it's just a couple more months we have to wait. Either way, judging from this demonstration at the Penny Arcade Expo, Culdcept SAGA looks like it will be worth the wait.

Does It Still Hold Up? The problem with a game like this is that it's not the kind of thing you can preview at a loud game convention. Culdcept SAGA is one of those games that is best experienced in the comfort of your own home, sitting in front of your TV learning the rules, experimenting with the different cards and playing it with friends. This is not one of those games that appeals to the short attention span mentality, and unfortunately that's the kind of mood you're in at an event like PAX. There was just too much going on all around, there's no way one can sit there and take in the intricacies of Culdcept when there are hundreds of TVs, loud music and people constantly filing past you. It's also worth mentioning that most of the major publications already covered this game at E3 in July.

Is It Worth The Money? Even if Culdcept SAGA is nothing more than an online enabled version of the original PlayStation 2 game most people will be happy, but will this game ever find the larger audience it deserves? While the game looks better than its PlayStation 2 counterpart, there's no denying that it isn't at the same level as most of the major Xbox 360 releases. While graphics shouldn't matter, it's hard to deny that most of the best selling Xbox 360 games have been the ones with the best graphics. The price point is also up in the air, if they can keep the price to $40 or less then I suspect we'll see a major hit on our hands, but at the full $60 asking price this game will be the Xbox 360's next Shadowrun.

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