Play NYC 2018 has passed, and four of us checked it out. We got to see a ton of upcoming games, most of which were indie, and came away with various impressions that will still be going up on the site for a while yet. However, we got together and each picked one game from the show we thought stood a bit above the rest. So without further ado, here’s four games that we think are well worth your time.

Kaedama: A Ramen Story

By Robert N. Adams

I always struggle to pick out the “best” of anything. Play NYC just had so many excellent developers showing great video and tabletop games! It took me several hours of thought before I narrowed down the game I thought would be the most fun to play with my friends: Kaedama: A Ramen Story.

Kaedama: A Ramen Story is a two-player cooperative tabletop game created by Tony Go of Tau Leader Games. Two players work together to run a ramen shop; one player takes on the role of a cook and the other plays as a host/waiter.

The game features a two-layered dice drafting system. Both players have five dice of their own with distinct actions on them. You roll the dice, keep the ones you want, and hope that you don’t get any hourglasses which advance a “time” meter and can result in bad things like people getting mad about waiting or new customers arriving to an already-crowded restaurant. After you’ve drafted your first set of dice, you must then roll four dice with the numbers 1-3 (and some blank spots) on them; these number dice are then assigned to your saved action dice to indicate how many times you’ll be able to do the respective actions on your turn.

A small standee partially obscures the vision of the other half of the board—just enough so you can proverbially poke your head out of the kitchen (and vice versa). Players must communicate to one another and figure out the best use of the resources that luck has dealt them: do you cook a bunch of ramen and hope that it doesn’t spoil next turn, or should you try to seat a few customers and worry about cooking their food later?

kaedama a ramen story placing drink card
Most Playcrafting events are over far too quickly and I have to run about at an absurdly hectic pace. Play NYC was 21+ hours long for the press. I was fortunate to have a wonderful team backing me up and working to cover as much as we could, so I didn’t feel as strong of a time pressure this time around. Even so, my professional instincts usually let me grasp when I understood a game and I could safely move on to check out the next thing.

That didn’t happen with Kaedama: A Ramen Story. I figured out how the game worked after about ten minutes, but I ended up sticking around a good bit longer. I found it to be an interesting mix of several different tabletop mechanics with an intriguing theme. I played it for longer than I needed to, and I’m thoroughly looking forward to getting my hands on a copy when it’s released to the world – whether it’s for work or for my own personal gratification.

Mr. Go told me that Kaedama: A Ramen Story will be heading to Kickstarter in September of this year. I’ll certainly be writing more about it, and I can’t wait to play it without having to worry about the time.

AVARIAvs

by Robert Grosso

Easily one of the most popular games at the show, AVARIAvs is more than just another multiplayer game. Developers Juncture Media have taken cues from squad-based RPGs like Final Fantasy and decided to put them into a competitive environment where your team of three is pitted against opponents’ teams for dominance.

A lot of the ideas are tricks done in other games, such as League of Legends for example. The sixteen hero characters in AVARIAvs level up by doing actions for their team, be it direct damage, buffing or debuffing, even healing or defending teammates. Every time a hero levels, you can upgrade one of their powers to become more potent. So, a debuff lasts for three turns instead of one, for example.

This allows for a lot of strategy in how you will manage your team. Do you focus on self-preservation and whittle down your enemy? Or just all out attack until an opposing character goes down? The game is complex enough to where these decisions matter, and since it is a three-person squad, it encourages players to experiment with the builds of their characters to find synergy for your team. Each of the sixteen characters has two different builds attached to them, creating a ton of combinations for team composition.

averiavs gameplay

This competitive side of the game is what Juncture Media is hoping to capitalize on. Players choose their actions simultaneously, using an easy to navigate radial menu to select options for your characters. The menu is designed for speed and precision; once your choices are locked in, the battle begins automatically in a turn-based style. The action is incredibly fast, to the point where a match could take an average of ten minutes at a time. This speed is critical to the game’s success; fast play means fast turnaround for matches, giving AVARIAvs a perfect niche as a “pick up and play” competitive game.

Visually, the game is impressive with the use of excellent 3D character models. Arenas are simple in design, fitting the sci-fi theme well that the game gives off, but the stars are the characters who are well-detailed and animated. The alien Eoni extend their elongated arms and claws out in a protective stance, while the Servo robots jitter as their thrusters use energy to keep the round robots hovering over the terrain. Development of the title took three years, along with a Kickstarter, for Juncture Media to get the game to this high graphical state, and the hard work certainly shows in the results.

AVARIAvs is more than just a competitive game, although that is the primary focus by Juncture Media. While the multiplayer is planned to be released first, the development team has also been working on a single-player story, seeped in the world lore they created. The single player is planned for release after the competitive portion of the game is out. Meanwhile their competitive game has plans for a closed beta test coming to Kickstarter backers and members of their discord chat, hoping to fine-tune any balance issues the game may have before officially launching it.

Just One Boss

by Samuel Guglielmo

In the game Just One Boss there is just one boss. I know, shocking right? This one woman project, made by brid.gs, has you do little other than run around on a grid, avoiding attacks from the boss while hitting highlighted spots to damage him. That’s really all there is to it. However, this charming game managed to do so much with such a simple concept.

The boss moves in phases, with you having to adjust for each phase. The first simply gets you use to movement and hitting the glowing spots for damage, but later you’ll have to control two characters at once or dodge the boss doubling up his attacks. Each phase of the boss introduces some new element for the game to mess with you. Just when you think you have it solved and beat the boss, there’s a second difficulty that adds even more to the game.

just one boss gameplay

So much of this charm and fun comes from the absolutely lovely technical and artistic work. The boss is a floating mirror with two hands and a goofy little magic cap. Between rounds he does adorable magic tricks. If he wasn’t so difficult to fight then I would probably feel Shadow of the Colossus levels of regrets killing him. However in combat he attacks with some interestingly visualized moves. Shooting lasers from the mirror, tossing cards at you, and even blocking off parts of the grid with giant quarters. Every attack was a new magic trick , and it’s animated with some absurd detail.

I just can’t stop thinking about it. While I was checking out other games, the back of my mind was thinking about how to move to avoid those cards. While my team was kicking my ass in Wicked Apples I came to the realization that you can smash the path-blocking quarters by running into them over and over. While I ate at the Chipotle across the street I was consumed by thoughts of the mirror’s erratic movements and how they could give me hints as to how to fight. I can easily see Just One Boss adding in more bosses and being sold for a premium without changing mechanics at all.

Oh, the best part? Just One Boss is totally free and you can play it here. Go ahead and give it a shot, maybe you’ll understand why I think it’s as incredibly addictive as I wrote.

Jupiter & Mars

by Courtney Ehrenhofler

I’ll admit, I was excited for Tigertron’s Jupiter & Mars way before I got to try it out at Play NYC. Anything with dolphins, underwater swimming, and a pro-environmental message? Sign me up! Particularly for the part with the dolphins.

Despite my normal reluctance to play VR games (poor sense of balance, among other issues) I willingly waited for a spot playing Jupiter & Mars to open up and kept myself amused by watching other people play the game on the monitor. By the time I was finally able to play, I’d had a pretty good sense of what the game was like.

Under the headset, the controls were simple to understand and worked fairly smoothly. I played as one of the dolphins and explored the basics of the world, saving some small sea creatures from trash and other debris, and using a duo-dolphin torpedo tunneling move to break down rock barriers and let me get to other parts of the underwater world.

jupiter and mars gameplay

The visuals were gorgeous, with more detail than the also impressive Abzu, but without the intimacy of something like Endless Ocean. The world was bright,  colorful, and expansive. There was detail in the surroundings, and it wasn’t just a flat, endless, shallow water paradise. Paradise, yes—I would gladly have packed up my bags and gone to live with these dolphins after ten minutes of playing the game, but alas.

My only regret was that I didn’t get to see more of the plot of the story—it was only a short demo after all—but what I saw was amazing. The gorgeous design of the world, both the sound design and the visuals, were enormously attractive to me. The controls were easy to grasp and not overly complicated, and the protagonists were two cute dolphins who use their heads to barrel through rock walls. What’s not to love?


Samuel Guglielmo

Associate Review Editor

I'm Sam. Been playing video games since PlayStation. Favorite games include Ace Combat 5, Perfect Dark, Final Fantasy IX, Metro 2033, and MonsterBag. Also loves books and can be found face first in one all the time.