We took some time out of our busy schedules to visit Melbourne recently for PAX Australia, which proved to be an absolute blast. Packed to the gills with indie offerings, PAX Aus is always a good time if you're after something a little different. Sure, we're all practically vibrating in anticipation for Cyberpunk 2077 but it's nice to have some downtempo offerings to tide us along in the quiet months. Here's our list of the top 5 most relaxing games at PAX Aus that we saw.
Top 5 Most Relaxing Games at PAX Aus - Unpacking
The brainchild of Witch Beam and featuring tunes by BAFTA award-winning Jeff van Dyck, Unpacking was a delightful take on an activity that usually stymies a lot of us: tidying up. Granted, there was some healthy trepidation from us before we got a hands-on with the title, mainly because we're utterly useless at the actual art of unpacking. However, Unpacking (the game) turned out to be pleasantly calming; there's just something meditative about stacking plates, books, and clothes in their proper place.
There's not really a wrong way to unpack things in the various levels of the title, each of which will correspond with a different part of the protagonist's life. It's one thing to have items in a character's room tell you their story, it's another to be personally involved in arranging the different bits and bobs. It's a nice interpretation of environmental storytelling, and we're stoked for it to come out on PC, Mac and Linux when it's ready. You can currently wishlist Unpacking on the Steam store.
Top 5 Most Relaxing Games at PAX Aus - Ailuri
Sure, platformers are a dime a dozen but Ailuri is both an adorable homage to Yoshi's Island and also a game that prides itself on raising awareness for wildlife conservation. Vivink Studio's latest takes cues from the likes of Rayman with fluid controls and dynamic level interactions - you can climb, slingshot, and leap your way to dizzying heights - with the added bonus of you taking on the mantle of a cute red panda.
This isn't the first time that Ailuri has been shown at PAX Aus but the message that the game is seeking to impart seems particularly pertinent now, in the height of a global resurgence around the Extinction Rebellion movement and the knowledge that, well, the Amazon is literally on fire. The side characters that you can encounter in the title are all based on currently endangered species, and it anticipates having local co-op when it's launched too. We hope that means that we'll be able to take turns as the various adorable critters that we've seen so far!
Top 5 Most Relaxing Games at PAX Aus - Feather
Feather has already done the rounds with press after having been out on Steam since April this year, but it was previously an itch.io game. It might sound familiar to you: in Feather, you play as a bird where all you do is, well, fly around. You don't have any objectives to trouble yourself with in this immersive traversal sim from the team at Samurai Punk; in fact, the removal of typical gamification elements like collectibles and quests was a deliberate choice during development.
Player feedback in the title's early stages indicated that what people wanted was more seamless exploration instead of things to check off a list, and we have to admit, the thought of not having to manage a quest inventory in itself is relaxing. You can now purchase Feather on the Steam store, and we have a one-on-one with Nicholas McDonnell from Samurai Punk out later this week too.
Top 5 Most Relaxing Games at PAX Aus - EXO ONE
EXO ONE is a little out of this world compared to the other entries. Quite literally. You take on the role of an interplanetary exploring craft, and your goal is to zoom and zip around increasingly alien landscapes. Self-described as a "gravity-defying, exoplanetary journey", you spent your time in EXO ONE trying to come to grips with its approach to momentum and movement physics and away you go!
The galaxy is your oyster, you adorable little oval-shaped vessel, and you can absolutely scale every natural moment that you see in the distance as long as you believe in yourself. This title from Exbleative can be wishlisted on Steam now, and we're pretty excited to tumble and dive our way through this new frontier when it's finally out.
Top 5 Most Relaxing Games at PAX Aus - Wayward Strand
Wayward Strand took pride of place at the PAX Aus 2019 Indie Showcase and from our time speaking to the team at Ghost Pattern, we could see why. The game tells the story of a young journalist as she wanders through an airborne hospital and gets to know its various patients. The focus here is on realism, though not in the sense of high-fidelity graphics. Wayward Strand is concerned with making sure that there's a feeling of connection, and to the team behind it, realism is about the human element of telling stories.
While it's set in the 70s, there's a concurrent narrative in the undercurrent of the main story that encompasses your actions within the game. It's not necessarily historical accuracy that Ghost Pattern is aiming for, but a general reflection of the feel and time of the Australia of yore. The airship is a living, breathing beast: NPCs will have their own stories and activities to play out even when you're not around, so they're not just waiting around at your beck and call. You won't be able to explore every narrative option on your first playthrough, but it's a relaxing experience about listening to the stories of others complete with whimsical art. You can also wishlist Wayward Strand on Steam.