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[preview] And you will know PAX by the trail of cute: Warp tour

Following the trail of cute was like a secret pass to the best games of PAX. From the tiny undead samurai of Skulls of the Shogun, to the chipmunk-headed weirdos of Slam Bolt Scrappers, we got a showcase of everything indie and quirky and new by avoiding the overblown ad budgets of the center floor. Our best stop, however, was to Warp, tucked away in a corner of the convention floor.

The little creature you play in Warp has an orange, peanut-shaped body body, a dark round face like a raccoon mask with beady white eyes and antennas, and like Hello Kitty, no mouth. I hear that was the secret to her cuteness; I'd believe it. The creature is adorable and you just want to help it escape from evil scientists.

This critter, whatever it is, needs to be cute, because that is the only way you can forgive it for teleporting inside of a scientist and bouncing around inside him like a ping-pong ball until he explodes in a cloud of blood.

I was so unprepared when this happened, I laughed out loud. Warp is like playing the Hello Kitty Chainsaw Massacre. Until that moment, this game had seemed to me like a little fun puzzler. It turned out to be my pick of the show. Maybe those big-budget games are right after all; explosions sell. But Warp is more than that: a simple premise with endless possibility.

Warp plays a bit like a cross between Portal and Metal Gear Solid. You're a fragile thing, dying from any bullet lucky enough to hit you, but the critter of Warp can teleport a short distance in front of itself, dodging through walls or even inside of objects like barrels -- or, of course, scientists.

Maybe you're like me; maybe you've had enough of gore and zombies and brains and bullets rendered in million-dollar computer graphics. But if you're sick of seeing the games industry remake DOOM year after year, imagine how the people who make them feel.

Trapdoor's Ken Schachter is one of those people, burned out on being a cog in the machine and making tiny slivers of video games, and because of that we have Warp. Thank you, game industry for chewing up and spitting out talent. His time is better spent here than tightening up the graphics on level three.

Andrew Vanden Bossche has become some sort of freelancer-like object in the Boston area. He built a Mammon Machine so he could draw godlike power from geeky pop culture. Read his blog here: mammonmachine.blogspot.com

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