PAX East 2012 Round-up: Runner 2 and Black Knight Sword
After an exhausting exposition and a long drive back to New Jersey, I have risen to the task of writing about our adventure. PAX East seemed less grand this year, but without a doubt the biggest games of the show were by smaller, independent studios. I didn’t wait in line for 2+ hours to play Max Payne 3 or Borderlands 2 or Assassin’s Creed Whatever. No, I was busy rubbing elbows with the developers of fresh, new games that are going to shine this year on the PlayStation Network.
Black Knight Sword – Digital Reality and Grasshopper Manufacture
I played Black Knight Sword at PAX Prime last August. It made a good impression on me and I’m happy to report that the game is still as twisted and fun as ever. The demo showcased the first two levels of the game. The graphical style of Black Knight Sword is best described as a puppet show with paper players and backgrounds that topple into place as you progress through the game. What I failed to mention in my PAX Prime preview of BKS is the utterly bizarre, nightmarish world you’re playing in. The game begins with your character strung up on a noose, hanged apparently to death. You wiggle the left analogue stick to fall to the floor and grab your sword, and thus begins your journey into Hellborus. The creatures you fight are disfigured and spout blood when you jab them. They also drop hearts that act as your currency. In the middle of each stage I ran into a birdcage with legs. To access a shop where you can buy upgrades, etc, you must knock the birdcage over and grab what flies out of it. If you think that’s weird, wait until you’re greeted by the actual shop: a giant eye surrounded by grotesque mouths. When you purchase an upgrade, you toss hearts at a mouth and it eats them up. I’m guessing the crazy stuff is Grasshopper Manufacture’s share of the collaboration. Secret items are locked in microwaves that are hidden about, only to be found by expert platforming explorers (such as myself). The demo reminded me of Revenge of Shinobi. The platforming is precise and the storytelling seems to be at the forefront of the game. Still no word on an exact release date, but I’m looking forward to this game all the more.
Runner 2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien – Gaijin Games
Runner 2 is the newest game from Gaijin Games, the crew behind the Bit.Trip series. It’s a sequel to Bit.Trip Runner, which is available on WiiWare and Steam. I don’t have a Wii and I rarely use Steam, so I had never played a Bit.Trip game going into Runner 2. I heard somewhere, from someone, possibly multiple ones, that the series is beloved. I told Alex, one of the devs at Gaijin that, and he said that he certainly hopes it is.
Runner 2 is a running rhythm game. Think Canabalt with surreal environments, a rectangular alien named CommanderVideo, and a bumping soundtrack that you help create by jumping, sliding, kicking, and shielding bullets away. All of these moves and more are used to overcome each obstacle course of a stage. There were 19 playable stages on the show floor. I played about 6 or 7 before talking with a few devs about the game’s progress. Runner 2 is only about a quarter done, which means it has a vague, far-off release date of October/November. The good news is it’s definitely coming to PSN and it’s definitely a ton of fun. There was even mention of a Vita testkit in their clutches, so who knows, perhaps we’ll see CommanderVideo on a handheld platform. Leaderboard support and other network features are planned for the PSN and XBLA versions of the game. I played with headphones on to best experience the sweet, sweet music. The levels I played looked great. Hills puffed pipes in the background (creating clouds) and at one point I ran through an airplane. Runner 2 was a nice surprise for me, and I can’t wait to play more in the future. For now, I’ll have to settle with the Steam game, available here.