Slim pickings this week: Dear Esther ($10) was the only Steam release for $10 or less, and whether it's a game is arguable. My review of it is here. In short? Treat it more like a movie than a game, pick it up when it goes on sale, and save it for a melancholy evening you have 2 hours uninterrupted.
I've spent my spare time finally finishing S.P.A.Z. Total Time to Complete: 42 hours. Not bad for a $10 game, and it kept me hooked for most of it. There's a lot of repitition throughout the game, clearing systems, gathering tech, etc, but the game's good at tossing you a new monkey wrench every chapter. (There's a new faction halfway through the game, and it even adds some wargame-like mechanics to liberate/upgrade star systems in the last third.) I have a few complaints about it: sometimes ships got stuck circling an objective, there was a lot of slowdown in the last third due to the amount of things on-screen, and the default settings still have way too many systems (I would suggest setting it to 150). Overall, though, it was easily worth 3x its price to me. Highly recommended if you enjoy 2D space combat games. I should update my review of it soon; looking back, I barely covered 1/3rd of the game on it.
Hopefully next week will have a larger crop of games to review!
Judging from the comments, looks like it's a pretty divisive "game". People either love it or hate it. I suspect it has as much to do with when you play it as any merits of the game proper. This is a slow, melancholic game. Play it during an evening you're in a melancholic mood with 2 hours to spare. Playing it any other time is like watching a horror movie in broad daylight.
It's a pity some of the game's detractors quit after ~20-30 minutes; the Caves level of the game (~40 minutes in) has some of the best stalactic/stalagmite graphics I've ever seen. Combined with the lighting effects, it makes for some hauntingly beautiful sights.
After the plethora of indie games last weekend, only 3 below $10 came out this week, with a much more mangeable total playtime of ~12 hours between them. Well, you'd think it was more manageable, but I'd rather have spent twice as many hours playing last week's games. So, which games were a joy to play, and which felt like rolling a boulder uphill? Read the summaries below, and click on the links for my full reviews of them:
Crazy Machines Elements: ($10) Supposed to be The Incredible Machine for the Xbox generation. Just made me wish I was playing The Incredible Machine again. Oh wait, look what's on sale at GOG for the same price!
Scoregasm: ($10) A good dual-stick bullet hell shooter whose difficulty curve is thrown out of whack by its own mechanics.
Shank 2: ($10) A surprisingly responsive side-scrolling brawler, once you customize the controls.
Which of those 3 games would I keep playing?
Eh, none of them, really. Shank 2, perhaps, if only to try the coop online. I'd play Scoregasm again if I was interested in high scores (and if I could get past the brick wall that is the Insane final boss). Crazy Machines Elements is getting deleted off my hard drive immediately. I wouldn't shed any tears if all of them were deleted, honestly. Shank 2 & Scoregasm are good, but they're no Pineapple Smash Crew or S.P.A.Z.
In other news, Unstoppable Gorg was recently patched with an update that adjusted the moderate difficulty level. Since my review of it cited the obscene difficulty of the Moderate campaign's later levels as my big issue with the game, this patch could've rendered most of my complaints moot. I might have to revisit it if I ever have the inkling or the time. (The problem with quickly reviewing new games is that a few patches could completely change the score you'd give it.)
It's interesting how soon I played it after Fortune Summoners, another 2D platform brawler. The contrasts are interesting. In Fortune Summoners, it felt like the controls were complex and the enemies acted faster than you, but your party often outnumbered the enemy 3-to-2. In Shank 2, you have simple controls and act faster than the enemies, but you're 1 man against 4-5 at a time. Shank 2 was a bit easier than Fortune Summoners, but I enjoyed its challenge more because it didn't feel like I was fighting the controls. I wonder how you'd balance Shank 2's swifter controls in a Fortune Summoners-style party-vs-party brawler.
Heck, I'd be happy just to have that quick dodge. Arche's roll felt too slow to use.
...And as soon as I put that up, I see Scoregasm's been released on Steam. Looks like a Geometry Wars-esque shooter, another casual favorite of mine. Quick download, too. Let's see if it's worth its price!
After nearly a straight week of playing, the reviews for all 4 $10-or-less Steam games released last week are now up, just in time for people to grab them during their initial sales ($1-2 off listed price):
I'm still experimenting with the format & details of the review, so feedback would be appreciated.
I also see that the Daily Special today is Shatter, a game I bought & played a while back. Is it worth the price?
Yes. This is my favorite Arkanoid clone of all time. The push/pull mechanic lets you influence the ball even when it isn't the paddle and really adds a lot to the gameplay. Combine that with tight controls and a killer soundtrack ($3.40 for the game? I paid $10 just for the OST!) and you have, IMO, an unsung classic. I'd write up a more thorough review, but I've just finished 5 in the past 24 hours, played over 30 hours of games for review in the past week, and would rather not think reviewing games for a day or two.
So... which of the games I've reviewed do I want to play during my downtime? Well, I want to make some more progress on Space Pirates and Zombies, although Pineapple Smash Crew is also tempting. (If only Pineapple Smash had difficulty levels or high scores or something!) I also thought about finishing up the post-ending area of Fortune Summoners to see if there's a Hidden Boss and a True Ending, but from the forum chatter it's apparently just new monsters to kill and new items to loot. I'll pass on that; I don't understand why people would want better items when they've already beaten everything else.
It was very tempting to quit playing Fortune Summoners early and put up a review of what I'd seen. I'm glad I didn't; the longer I played, the more the game improved. It's a pity its bad start lasts for 10 hours, or a good half of the game. That's way too long for it to get rolling. I'm glad it's finished, but now I have to put in a few more hours next week to finish the games from this week; if any more get released, I'll fall behind. If that happens, I'll have to debate just how deep into a game I'll go before I'm comfortable judging it...
I haven't even finished both Pineapple Smash Crew and PixelJunk Eden when Steam releases 2 more games: Snuggle Truck and Titan Attacks. I'll be putting reviews of those up soon as well, but that now makes 5 games in the review queue. I never thought I could overdose on playing games, but it's getting there.
I just noticed Pineapple Smash Crew and Pixeljunk Eden were released today. Hmm, I didn't see them coming... Pineapple Smash Crew doesn't even have a GiantBomb wiki page yet! I might have to cut my Fortune Summoners playthrough short and get started on them instead...
I am now 11 hours into Fortune Summoners. I finally have all 3 party members, the music changed for the better, and I no longer have to worry about getting combo-beaten by 3 monsters against my lonesome. I don't know whether to be relieved the game's getting fun now, or irritated it took this long. A few more thoughts:
1. The feeling that all the monsters are quicker than you is more annoying than I could've realized.
2. A combat system made for a party of 3 should not wait until the 40% mark to give you 3 party members.
The game's currently sitting at 2 stars for me; it might get bumped up to 3 if the second half of the game is more enjoyable than the first. It would have to pull off something amazing to reach 4 at this point.
It looks like the Humble Indie Bundle is going mobile. I don't know yet if I'm gonna buy it; although I've heard good things about Osmos & EDGE, I've already played World of Goo & Anomaly: Warzone Earth on other platforms (Wii and Steam respectively). Here's my thoughts on those two, in case anyone is wondering if they're any good:
World of Goo: 5 stars, worth $20
I won't go too much into depth here; plenty of people have already beaten me to the punch. I'll just say it was the most satisfying puzzle games I've played in the past 5 years, complete with great music and an absurdly dark/touching story. Heck, I'd rank it up there with Lemmings.
Currently you get World of Goo if you pay more than $5.85 for the Bundle. That's still an insane bargain for this game if you've never played it before.
Anomaly: Warzone Earth: 4 stars, played for 9 hours, worth $15
This game ranks up there with Defense Grid as the 2 tower defense games I wouldn't mind playing again. Well, technically this is a tower assault game, where you're trying to get a convoy from Point A to Point B in one piece. It's a unique twist, and they pull it off with enough tactics & polish that you're not sick of it once you beat the game.