From the PAX AUS 18 Showroom Floor – Soundfall & Totem Teller
As I passed this booth I could hear a pulsing beat paired with cool electronica vibes. It called to me and so I turned to find a few people bopping in time as they played some sort of top-down shoot’em up. Looking upward the beautiful banner informed me the game was called Soundfall but I didn’t really understand what I was in for yet.
I dragged my partner into the line with me after noticing a two player set up and soon we had headphones on and controllers in our hands. The demo itself is limited to a few weapons, levels, and only one character so we chose quickly and were soon placed in a bright and colourful isometric level.
The beat thumped and both of us having musical backgrounds almost immediately found ourselves bopping along like the people we’d watched before. A subtle bar appeared in the lower middle of the screen grading us on the timing of our neon attacks and we quickly realised that moving to the beat was exactly what this game was about.
Eagerly we played all three levels on offer and while it’s a small slice of game everything was exceptionally polished – especially for only being in development for two years with a relatively small team of only two main contributors at Drastic Games plus contractors.
While I always enjoy looking at the indie games on offer it’s not too often I am disappointed that I’ve exhausted the demo. This is going to be a great game at home with friends on your best speaker system or to get lost in alone on a long commute. Definitely look forward to this one when it launches on all platforms(I have contacted them to check this) in 2019.
A different game which drew my attention from the slew of indies was Grinning Pickle’s Totem Teller. On the show floor a friend explained to me it was an interesting experience and had a hard time giving me any more insight than that, so naturally I sought it out.
As I took a seat it was explained to me to hit a to get past the first text to start the demo. I felt like this was an explanation this man had probably given many times that day and was a little bit confused. After all, those seemed like normal instructions to me, so I settled in to find out what trip this game would take me on.
There’s something purposefully obscure about everything Totem Teller does. None of it feels accidental or like a mistake, it simply makes you work and think to do even the most basic of tasks.
The visual style is dithered and reminded me of the back of an intricate sewn pattern or the shell card back from the old windows Solitaire game. It’s smooth but interrupted with many changing colours and the existential text forms on it slowly in incorrect orders making you squint as you read it.
When it came time to control the game I started off thinking I was a completely different character and as nothing happened I started systematically trying more and more button combinations. Eventually, I discovered that movement was achieved by pointing the cursor and holding down one of the triggers.
This didn’t mean I knew where to go and eventually I couldn’t move any further. At this point, my trial and error taught me that repeatedly mashing ‘X’ teleported me to the next area… I don’t know if I could do this at any point or discovered it at the right time. All I know is Totem Teller made me feel smart for learning to walk and that’s a big achievement.
Once I’d come to the end of the demo I am still not too sure what the full experience of this game will be. Whether it’s just a journey in a beautifully different landscape or it it turns more to obscure puzzles wasn’t clear. But I am curious and it certainly left an impression on me that stuck out in my mind after the convention.
A repressed gamer in her youth, Hope has taken to charging her adulthood with making up for lost time by playing and talking about video games as much as possible. While still a little salty no one gave her a Pokedex when she turned ten, you can find her on twitter @hope_corrigan probably talking about how Jet Set Radio Future is still the best video game ever made.