I ended up enjoying PAX East quite a lot, mostly because I was in great company. As usual, the Q&A with Mike and Jerry, the warped geniuses behind Penny Arcade, was entertaining and I loved the “Make a Strip” session, where the audience watched–and participated–while Jerry wrote the script and Mike drew a brilliant and bloody comic. With a superfluous pony as an added bonus! I could watch Mike draw all day, really.
I only went to one other panel, the Antique Video Game Roadshow, where people brought old games and accessories to get appraised, in the hopes that they had a treasure on their hands. By far the most impressive item was a prototype NES cart for an unreleased game, Drac’s Night Out, which would be worth a lot if the owner hadn’t kindly released the ROM into the wild so people could play the game. The other cool thing was an old Nintendo Power Glove, complete with a rare vinyl case that no one on the panel had ever seen before. It reminded me that I always wanted to own a Power Glove, even if it’s probably a pain to play games with, which just proves that The Wizard was the best Nintendo commercial of all time.
One of my favorite things at PAX East was the classic arcade room, featuring a ton of machines from the American Classic Arcade Museum. I played a few games I’d never even heard of before, like Jr. Pac-man; my favorite of these was Sinistar, which hits that sweet spot where the game is really difficult but it seems like you have a chance of progressing if you try it just one more time. I must get a copy of it! I also enjoyed a simple but frustrating trackball game called Quantum, which I played because, well, it’s called Quantum.
I tried a Microsoft Kinect, which was diverting for a little while. I mostly spent time with Kinect Adventures! which reminded me of the Video Zone competitions on that old game show Nick Arcade. In one of the Adventures, you play a kid with the worst job ever–standing around in a glass box underwater while fish ram you. Each time they hit the glass it cracks, and you have to place your hand, feet, or head over the leak to seal it. Because that makes sense. There were some other games, where you hit a ball to break some blocks, or float around in space bursting bubbles in a room for some reason. I tried what I think was Kinectimals, but couldn’t figure out what the point was, even if the tiger cub was cute. And I didn’t try the dancing game, even though people seemed to enjoy it, only because I would be terrible at it and it’s impossible not to look ridiculous while playing it. I don’t see myself getting a Kinect ever because it just seems unnecessary. And yes, I own a Wii, but I can play actual games on it that I enjoy, especially platformers and on-rails shooters. The motion controllers were never a selling point for me.
The PC room was a bust since it wasn’t really set up for multiplayer, though I narrowly averted sampling Minecraft and disappearing into a haze of unproductivity for the rest of my life. Out of desperation, we tried League of Legends, which was one of the most disappointing and confusing gaming experiences of my life, next to Darkman on the NES. We had better luck in the tabletop room. I don’t play many board games, but maybe I haven’t been playing the right ones because I really liked The Downfall of Pompeii and Betrayal at House on the Hill, the latter which is incredibly clever and replayable.
I enjoyed the Saturday night concerts pretty well, more than my friends anyway. At least we didn’t have to sit on line for five hours this year to get in. (By the way, my Droid phone, the PAX app, and the Twitter feeds updating everyone on the number of available seats for each event were indispensable!) My favorite piece of the night was the Video Game Orchestra’s medley from The Legend of Zelda, which I recorded to share with you:
Most of the other songs from Paul & Storm and Jonathan Coulton are also available on YouTube, but I want to single out Paul’s brief performance of the song from the controversial Dead Island trailer, with lyrics. They premiered some new songs too, which I liked well enough though I’d have to hear them a few more times before I pass full judgment.
That’s about it. I did come back wanting to play more video games, but I haven’t had time. Work is still making me exhausted in the evenings–no thanks to Daylight Savings Time either. My priorities are to finish Okami and Mega Man 9 (so I can justify getting Epic Mickey, when I have so many other unfinished and unplayed games already), and make some more progress in the increasingly challenging and befuddling Scribblenauts on the DS.
Oh, speaking of the DS, I tried the 3DS out in the exhibition hall. After playing Street Fighter IV, Resident Evil Revelations, Kid Icarus, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and an ARchery game, I can say that the 3D looks pretty good. Impressive, even. I didn’t get a headache from my limited playtime, but I did find it difficult to keep it in 3D since my hands moved the system, and consequently the screen, out of that one spot that works, especially when I was playing games with a lot of action. I also found the control scheme for Kid Icarus a bit awkward, since you have to control his motion with the analog stick, fire with the top left button, and aim with the stylus. Not very stable. The bottom line is there’s no way I’m dropping $250 for this thing, and I may not ever get one until a “must have” game comes out, like a new Mario or Zelda game. I’m just not interested in a 3D remake of a game I already own. In fact, 3D should just go away and die, please. Sadly, I couldn’t make it into any of the other demos because about 60,000 other people were ahead of me, but I really wanted to check out L.A. Noire and Duke Nukem Forever.
Also, as we switched buses in New York to get home, we passed by a burning trash can, which the Fire Department came and put out. You don’t see that every day.