Hot takes for PAX East 2019

Another year, another Penny Arcade Expo in the books. I attended all four days–primarily by myself–and tried to dive into as many things as I had the time and energy for. It’s fair to say I played far more games at PAX than I’ve been able to in years past. It was nice.

  • I don’t think I’m going to play any more Magic tournaments. I spent way more of my Thursday afternoon than I expected or wanted playing a four round event. Every player was handed six packs and tasked with building their own competitive deck. I met some cool people but holy crap it took forever. The building part wasn’t even that bad, it was the actual playing. I could’ve cranked out three times as many games in Arena as I played in four hours at that crappy table. And yes, I got my ass kicked.
  • All the cool kids are developing for the Switch. Which is great, because I just got one. Meanwhile, Sony and Microsoft are crapping out more uninspired zombie shooters and lumbering, super serious heroes with big swords. Just what we need more of.
  • That said, Nintendo’s devs are on some serious drugs. I stopped to check out Yoshi’s Constructed World and was treated to the titular dinosaur transforming into a giant paper version of himself, on wheels, wielding boxing gloves, punching paper houses. I immediately downloaded the demo.
  • Biomutant should do more to showcase its fun side. I wasn’t super enthralled with the idea of playing some sort of stoically bad ass mutant rodent in a post-apocalyptic world, but the short line convinced me I should give it a go anyway. It turned out to be a lot of fun. The game slows when you jump and fire, activating a bullet time feature that’s both stylish and easy to trigger. There’s a rocket fist that launches you at enemies after a short charge. And the character can encase himself in a giant soap bubble that both helps him bounce across big gaps and roll up enemies in a Katamari-esque clump; popping that bubble with a gun shot sends your collection of baddies flying. It was all a lot more fun and interesting than I expected.
  • My favorite moment of the entire convention was when I figured out how to make El Toro Loco do a backflip. Initially I wasn’t thrilled with the new Monster Jam game. Truck movement is almost too realistic to be fun, and they sort of feel like they’re stuck in molasses. Then I hit a ramp and held the break, and my beastly machine began to spin ass over tea kettle. I cackled with glee, landed the move, and immediately did it three more times.
  • Sayonara Wild Hearts is my Best of Show. It’s a super stylish rhythm-based thing with a woman chasing three dancing devils on a motorcycle and sometimes flying. You have to see it in motion to really appreciate it. The thing’s hypnotic.