At PAX East 2012, the only game I played with a female character was Borderlands 2. I did play a couple of games with a first-person POV with no emphasis on gender, but I encountered a serious lack of female characters last year. This year, I found six games with female leads, and three games with the option of playing female characters.
They Bleed Pixels: This 2D platformer by Spooky Squid Games for PC was released in 2012. The game is about a young girl with claws who fights monsters after she arrives at the Lafcadio Academy for Troubled Young Ladies. I own this game, but I haven’t finished it because it is the most challenging platformer I have ever played. They Bleed Pixels is best played in short bursts so you don’t end up pulling your hair out.
Transistor: I knew to get in line first thing Day 1 of PAX to play this game. Supergiant Games’ follow up to Bastion stars a singer who has been targeted for assassination. With the help of an extraordinary weapon, she has to survive and figure out who is after her. Set in a futuristic city, Transistor had lines three-hours long by Day 2 with good reason. The game is stunning and has a blend of fast action and strategic play. The game is planned for a 2014 release on unannounced platforms.
Revolution 60: This iOS game by Giant Spacekat stars Holiday, an assassin who is part of a team with three other ladies. As you play, your choices shape the narrative. During the demo I played, I beat a couple of enemies by tracing prompts, and my choices upset one of the team members, so I got a good feel for how the combat works and how the narrative is influenced by player choice. The game has good animation and is fully voice acted. Revolution 60 is planned for a Q4 2013 release.
Journal: Richard Perrin is following up last year’s Kairo with an intimate story about a girl who journals almost daily. When the game begins, all of her pages in her journal are blank, and she wants to solve how and why her journal is blank. The narrative game has art and writing by Melissa Royall, and player choice is supposed to shape how the story unfolds. The 2D adventure game has the style of watching a series of drawings, and I found the choice of having characters lack faces intriguing. According to Perrin, this is so players can interpret the story themselves instead of the developers dictating how players should feel. Journal is planned for a 2013 release on PC, Mac, and mobile platforms.
Contrast: This game from Compulsion Games is about a young girl and her imaginary friend. Set in the 1920’s world of cabaret and jazz, the young girl, Didi, has some family troubles, and she needs her imaginary friend, Dawn, to help her navigate this world. Dawn has the unique ability to move from the real world to the shadows, becoming a 2D shadow that can jump from shadow to shadow. Contrast is coming to Steam sometime soon.
Remember Me: This action sci-fi game from Dontnod Entertainment and Capcom is about Nilin, a former memory hunter. I didn’t get to play the demo, but I watched the demo over someone’s shoulder. The demo didn’t feature any memory mechanics; instead it was Nilin scaling walls and jumping from ledge to ledge in the manner of Nathan Drake. I got to see Nilin fight, and she does have good, kick-ass moves. Remember Me is going to be released on June 4, 2013, for Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.
Lords of New York: Set during the 1920s when prohibition allowed the mafia to have booming business, Lords of New York is a 2D adventure RPG that follows the story of one of three characters. Poker features as a prominent means of advancing the story. You can play as Vincent, a captain in the mafia, Veronica, an ambitious reporter, or Tony, a government agent. The demo featured Vincent, so I don’t know how Veronica is portrayed. Lunchtime Studios currently has a Kickstarter going until April 16 for the game.
Charlie Murder: The 2D side-scrolling 4-player brawler is about a punk rock band that has to fight all sorts of monsters. The game from Ska Studios has five playable characters, one of which is Kelly Skitten, aka Skelekitten, the band’s manager and backup vocals. I’ve played this game, and it’s an all-out action game with constant battles and RPG elements. I haven’t experienced the story, so I only about the fighting, and Skelekitten fights as well as the other characters. Charlie Murder is going to be released on XBLA “when it’s done!”
Divekick: The new game from Iron Galaxy Studios was the talk of PAX East. Divekick is a fighting game with only two moves: dive and kick. One hit kills your opponent, and the first to win five fights is the winner. There are currently seven characters, but I’ve heard that more are planned. I saw two female characters, Kung Pao and Dr. Shoals. Divekick is silly, ludicrous and just plain fun. The game is planned for a release on PC and PSN this summer.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to play every game at PAX, so I don’t know if there are more games featuring leading ladies. I also saw the promotional video for Saints Row 4, and I heard that the game will have the same character creation tools Saints Row the Third had. And I did play bits of other games, but these are the ones that stuck out. I’m pleased to see more game with female protagonists, but I noticed that out of the six with a central female protagonist, only one is a triple-A game while the rest are indies. This is an improvement, but as most of us know, there’s always room for more games with female protagonists.