Believe it or not, there was more to see at the Penny Arcade Expo than the less than thrilling Jurassic Park game. Here are a few of the video game highlights that caught my eye at this year’s PAX.

Super Mario 3D Land

PAX 2011 - Awesome Video Game Highlights

Having just picked up the Nintendo 3DS at the recently reduced price, I have become quite anxious to see what games I can play. The launch titles didn’t excite me, but the next few months hold a lot of promise.

Like Super Mario 3D Land, for example. Don’t call it Super Mario Land 3D, because this is not a 3D retelling of the Game Boy classic. Instead, it’s a brand new game that seems to borrow some inspiration from Super Paper Mario, Super Mario Bros. 3, and Super Mario 64. Yes, it takes full advantage of that glasses-free 3D display, getting you to navigate through the goomba and koopa troopa-infested fields of the Mushroom Kingdom once more.

I found the depth perception to be a bit on the challenging side, but any fan of the usual Mario platformer will want to pick this up. The tanuki (or “tanooki”) suit is back and, what’s more, there are goombas with tanuki tails too! Look for this in October.

Mario Kart 7 for 3DS

PAX 2011 - Awesome Video Game Highlights

Speaking of the Nintendo 3DS and October, the other huge title coming down the green pipe is Mario Kart 7. I know. We’ve already played Mario Kart 64, so why would we go back to 7? (Terrible joke and I’m sorry.)

Essentially, you get an updated version of Mario Kart DS, except with several additional features. It’s still the same kart gameplay you’ve come to know and love, but now there are flying elements (with a hang glider thing that automatically pops out from your kart), as well as underwater elements (with a propeller that automatically appears behind your kart). I’m not sure how Yoshi, Bowser, and the rest of the crew breathe underwater, but there you have it.

I thought the customizable karts — you choose the body, the wheels, and so on — was a nice touch, but I also encountered coins on the courses too. I asked the Nintendo rep about that and she said that she wasn’t at liberty to disclose their purpose. Maybe they’re for unlocking secret items?

Shoot Many Robots

PAX 2011 - Awesome Video Game Highlights

Call me a a sucker for retro-inspired games, but this would very quickly caught my eye. It’s not very often you get a game title quite as immediately descriptive as Shoot Many Robots. In this game, you shoot many robots.

You could say the graphic inspiration is like Borderlands or Team Fortress with the cartoony violence, but the gameplay is perhaps closer to a Contra or Metal Slug. It’s 2D and we played a “horde mode” like dynamic with successive waves of deadly robots. You jump and shoot with up to four players total (online too), reviving your teammates when possible and necessary.

There are RPG elements, like equipping your soldier with items to gain certain attributes and special abilities. There are experience points for leveling up and the terribly frantic nature of the game is easily its biggest selling point. This’d be great for playing on the road with the GAEMS case, for instance.

Developed by Demiurge Studios and published by Ubisoft, Shoot Many Robots is slated for a 2012 release (they wouldn’t get any more specific with me) via Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network.

King of Fighters XIII

PAX 2011 - Awesome Video Game Highlights

I’m still much more of a Super Street Fighter kind of guy, so changing gears to SNK Playmore side for King of Fighters XIII took more than a few moments.

The graphics are a little more traditional, especially when compared to the KOF XII, but the gameplay will be familiar to KOF fans. Many of the major characters are back too, including Kyo, Beinmaru, Athena, Joe, Raiden, Robert, and Clark, as well as Mature and Elisabeth. Iori is there too, but he still feels nerfed to me.

Look for this on Xbox 360 and PS3 in late October.

Snapshot

PAX 2011 - Awesome Video Game Highlights

We can’t forget about the independents, right? A smaller studio called Retro Affect was showing off its prized creation: Snapshot. Despite the look of that elephant, this is not Scribblenauts. Despite the photo-centric interface, it’s not Pokemon Snap either… though I’m sure they borrowed some inspiration from both.

At its heart, Snapshot is a puzzle game. You have a character who navigates through an environment. With one button, you can take a picture of anything in the stage. This literally captures an item. Placing that photo in the stage will then release that item. You may need to shoot a picture of a block, for instance, and then place it somewhere so you can get across to the other side. It’s still in development and will be released on the Windows platform.

Closure

PAX 2011 - Awesome Video Game Highlights

Next door to Snapshot was Closure, an incredibly creepy game that is also puzzle-based. The grim black and white art and moody music reminded me of Limbo, the remarkable XBLA game from last year.

The concept here is, if you don’t see it, it doesn’t exist. Your protagonist can pick up lamps to light up certain areas of the stage, but if the area is in the dark, it’s not there. Walls disappear, allowing you to walk through them, for example. Check out the free Flash version to see what I mean. Pretty amazing.

Can’t get enough PAX coverage? We have at least one more video coming down the pipe and don’t forget to read Dylan’s piece on the three best surprises from PAX too. So much gaming, so little time…


Oh, and just because you couldn’t make it to Seattle for PAX means that you have to do without the awesome video game swag. Stay tuned to MEGATechNews, because we’ll have something special for our readers!

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