Last weekend, my wife was out of town visiting family, so I had the unexpected chance to pretty much do nothing but play games all day. I played a good bit of Diablo 3 and realized two things: first, the changes made in ver2.0 fix the vast majority of what’s wrong with the game; second, the fact that it’s still permanently online for single-player (and laggy/flaky, when I was playing) makes me still not want to play it. Eventually, I decided to attempt to trim down my Steam indie game backlog as much as possible by trialing as many games as I could. Here’s what I thought, in no particular order:
Sequence Okay, I cheated on the first one; I just replayed Sequence because I played it pre-Steam cards. Still an amazing game (it’s a DDR-like rhythm game with RPG progression) and you can pick it up for a buck during the current Humble Bundle sale. Highly recommended.
Brothers – A Tale of Two Sons This game reminds me quite a bit of the movie Lost in Translation–critics and auteurs call it a masterpiece, but I just call it a nice nap. Seriously, this game has a very distinct narrative tone and focus, but after finishing it (it’s short, took me about 3 hours), I didn’t feel touched, I felt “well, that’s over.” I admire the dedication to the setting to have the characters speak a gibberish language, but it sure didn’t help my immersion any. I’d rather go back and play Ico instead.
Gone Home Now, THIS is how you tell a story. The genre can best be described as “first-person story;” the story starts and ends with you exploring a house and learning about the lives of the occupants. The story itself is a bit trite, but the attention to detail is amazing; just about every object in the house can be picked up and examined, and has setting-appropriate art. There’s no action whatsoever, but if you love storytelling and/or metafiction, this game’s got it.
Bionic Commando Rearmed I never played the original, but after hearing it frequently referenced and seeing good reviews of the remake, I figured I’d try it. Not bad, but I have to feel comfortable with a platformer’s controls to have any enjoyment, and I was still struggling with the grappling hook after more than an hour. Uninstalled.
Thomas Was Alone This game doesn’t look like much, but it’s surprisingly well-polished. Sure, all you’re doing is moving around shapes to fit them into various holes, but they’re all voiced by charming English accents, and the play itself is solid. Definitely worth a look.
Guacamelee! Remember what I said above about solid platformer controls? Guacamelee nails it. One of the best Metroidvania-style games I’ve played in a long time. Fairly difficult, though. Definitely a game I’m coming back to.
Starseed Pilgrim This game falls into the newish genre of “the game is figuring out how to play the game.” I figured out how to play it, and didn’t like it much. Worth a look if you’re into procedurally-generated stuff, otherwise, stay away.
A Valley Without Wind I think every game designer has this dream where they have unlimited time and money to add as many features into their games as they want, and never have to cut anything. This platformer feels like the result of that dream. It’s kinda like Terraria, except there’s no building, and there’s no fun. Sure, there’s 27 million things to do, but if your game doesn’t pass the basic “is it fun?” test, there’s not much point.
A Virus Named TOM I got a good chuckle out of this game’s art. It’s a puzzle game, though, with a mechanic we’ve all seen before (spin the tiles to connect the pipe…err, “circuits”). Not my thing.
Antichamber This is a Portal-ish first-person puzzler, and yet another game where you have to discover the rules (and then figure out which rules can currently be broken). It’s good, but at the time I played it, it just made my brain hurt.
Rock of Ages I totally dig the style of the game. The concept is simple; you and an opponent roll boulders down a steep hill, attempting to smash down their gate. While “reloading,” you have the opportunity to set up defenses to slow/shrink the enemy boulder. Sounds great; unfortunately, the decision to do everything in real-time makes it hard to get feedback on how well everything is going. When you’re rolling your boulder, you get a picture-in-picture view of your opponent’s boulder so you can sort of see how your defenses worked out, but you’re likely too busy dodging your opponent’s defenses to notice. I played a few matches, won/lost and had no idea why I won/lost, and then stopped.
Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardians I like games with music/rhythm elements (Pata-Pata-Pata-PON!). This game – not so much. It seems like they started out trying to make a music-based puzzle platformer, struck out, and ended up with a music-themed puzzle platformer. It’s not terrible, but ir’s kinda generic, and I quit after one level. Definitely worth a look if you’re into electronic music.
Hack, Slash, Loot Install, Try, Uninstall. A very bad roguelike. I see no reason to play this when there are other strictly better roguelikes out there.
Paranautical Activity I’m not really into FPS’s, though I play a few from time to time. This is a roguelike FPS; pretty much first-person Binding of Isaac (which I greatly enjoyed, btw). For what it’s worth, it seemed pretty well designed, but after dying on the (randomly generated) first level repeatedly, decided that this was not the game for me.
Master Reboot Of all the games on the list, this is the one that I have no idea how to categorize. It’s a first-person…exploration? Puzzle? Horror? Mystery? All of these. The sound design is GREAT. Unfortunately, the graphics frequently cross the line from “darkly symbolic” to “looks like shitty first-generation 3D” and it seemed pretty buggy. Good concept and story but could have used some more polish.
Retrovirus Hi, Descent! I’ve long wondered why nobody tried to make a modern Descent, which I had a lot of fun with as a kid (only the shareware version, though). Well, this is here, and this is pretty good, but the pacing/level design isn’t as tight as Descent and the sound is meh. As I write this review, I realize I have no idea what happened story-wise; something about a virus that I’m chasing through a computer when I started, then lots of shooting glowy pink bits. Okay, not great.
Space Pirates and Zombies My current jam. I’m massively conflicted about it, really; there’s lots of design nitpicks I could throw at it, but it’s in one of my favorite genres (top-down space shooter/adventure, aka Elite) so I let it get away with a lot.
Yay! So…20ish games down with one or two I’ll come back to, which leaves me with still more than 100. Whee.