Indie Reviews: The Sworcery Curse

Well, slim pickings this week. Two games, Sword & Sworcery and MacGuffin's Curse, and I can't even finish the first one because it takes a lunar cycle to complete. (No, really.) So this week, it's just one formal review and one informal discussion about a weird game. So, what actual reviews do I have? (Link leads to the review.)

MacGuffin's Curse: So many crate-pushing puzzles. Overloaded with crate-pushing puzzles, actually. If you like crate puzzles, you'll get your money's worth. If you're lukewarm on crate puzzles, the snarky writing and somewhat intriguing story might reel you in.

And now for my thoughts on Sword & Sworcery: while I'm still finishing the Steam version, I completed the iPad version when it was released a year ago. My rating for it matches what the other reviews on the site say: I'd give it 4 stars. However, like Dear Esther, it aims for a particular audience that isn't looking for a game so much as an experience.

Sword & Sworcery's combat is very basic (just timing-based blocking and attacking) and its puzzles involve figuring out what order to click/drag certain objects in. Those alone aren't the reason to play it. You play it for the ambience, the music, the writing, and most of all the slow pace.

The pacing is the most interesting part of the game. Compared to most games, it feels relaxed & leisurely. You slowly walk across the screen past sheep and rabbits, through old gates and across waterfalls, as lilting music plays in the background. The writing is a mix of ambling descriptions and modern slang that sounds like either a hippy J.R.R. Tolkien or a mellow Tycho. Even the boss battles feel slow-paced, with long pauses between the frantic sword-swinging and blocking/dodging. The only hectic sections I remember were the ones where the deathless spectre chases you. It's an adventure game that's... relaxing.

The episodic splits and dependence on the lunar cycle seems to emphasize you're supposed to pace this game out and savor it. Each section takes about 30-45 minutes each; at the end of each one, the Narrator suggests you quit the game for a while and return later, then the curtain closes. At the halfway point of the game, you learn the moon phases influence the dream world where the last 2 Trigon pieces are stored. Not the in-game moon phases, the real moon phases. There's an in-game way to change the moon phase, but that only appears during certain moon phases. You can also change your computer's date, but the game says that's cheating. (It even has an achievement to shame you for it.) It certainly feels opposed to the game's style: take your time, enjoy the sights, no rush (even if it takes a few weeks), because once you're done with the game, it's over.

I'd recommend it to anyone that's looking for a casual adventure to play whenever they want to relax and enjoy some good scenery & music.

Which game would I keep playing? Sword & Sworcery, of course. I haven't finished it yet, and I've had my fill of MacGuffin's crate puzzles.

That's it for this week. Perhaps next week will have a larger crop of games to review.

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Take Your Time: Reviewing & Enjoying Sword & Sworcery

Sword & Sworcery came out for Steam this week, and I'm at a tad of a loss exactly how to review this. I first played it on the iPad, where it took me about 2 weeks to finish it. Not because it was a long game, but because it was a leisurely game. It's comfortable with its slow pacing, encouraging you to play for a bit, enjoy a puzzle and some scenery, then put it down for a few days. The long meandering sentences, the moon phases, the drawn-out combat: where other games jog or dash, this game walks and points out the little rabbits in the bushes. I'd liken it to Dear Esther in how it uses slow pacing to bolster atmosphere and provide an experience, except where Dear Esther feels like a movie, this feel like an episodic TV series.

I can review it in just a few days, but I suspect it'll be missing some aspect of the experience.

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Indie Reviews: Lunar Scarygirl Escapes Avernum

Oof... why did they release 2 RPGs during tax week? Between Avernum and Grimrock, I barely had enough time left over to give Scarygirl or Lunar Flight some attention. Despite the efforts of Steam and the U.S. Government, I've still managed to play 3 games enough to offer my thoughts on them. (Grimrock will have to wait a few days; I want to try finishing it before I post a review.) As usual, following links lead to the full reviews:

Scarygirl: (2/5 stars, $10) A rushed Xbox port with good graphics but clumsy controls. Unfortunately, interesting art style alone does not make a good game.

Lunar Flight: (2/5 stars, $10) Twice the hassle and a quarter of the scenery of your typical flight simulator. Crash a dozen times! Go into debt from replacing lunar modules! Wonder what twisted mind decided that only experienced pilots could buy upgrades to make flying it easier!

Avernum: Escape from the Pit: (5/5 stars, $10) A remake of a classic shareware RPG that combines turn-based grid combat (ala early Ultima) with an open world full of nooks & crannies to explore (ala Skyrim). As enthralling now as it was back then; an insane value for any old-school western RPG fan.

Which one do I want to keep playing? Avernum. Gonna play some more right now. Bye.

But you need to finish Grimrock! Yeah, yeah, I know... *sigh*

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Indie Reviews: Robots Switched Loot

Slim pickings this week, but just as well: between Easter & Tax Day, I could use a breather. Here's what I played this week (links lead to reviews):

3SwitcheD: Was finally able to write a review for this. Summarized it last week, will summarize it again: don't buy this.

Hack, Slash, Loot: A Rogue-like that's too simple, its difficulty relies on Random Number Generator too much. A bad deal compared to Dungeons of Dredmor or Nethack.

Shoot Many Robots: A great co-op robot-killing loot-gaining game. Looks good, sounds good, has a plenty of humor and the item loadouts encourage thought & synergizing.

I also played Gotham City Imposters and Asura's Wrath; GiantBomb nailed my thoughts on them pretty well in their reviews, so I won't waste precious time repeating them. They're worth your money if you enjoy humorous multiplayer FPSes or crazy awesome anime respectively: 4/5 for both. (Yes, I know you can finish Asura's Wrath in a rental period; I still bought it. Why? Because this is the type of shit I want to encourage.)

So, which games would I keep playing? Well, I'd like to finish Shoot Many Robots when I have more time, and Gotham City Imposters is still entertaining. Unfortunately, taxes come first, especially with April 15th so close. Expect my reviews for the Steam indie games released this week to be late; other things take higher priority, like making sure I don't have to talk to IRS agents. If you don't want to wait for my reviews to go up to learn what I think about them, be sure to Follow me; I'll be posting my thoughts on them in my Activity Feed.

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Indie Reviews: Houdini's Oath Switches Ark Warfare

Got a couple $15 games in the mix this week; two of them caught my eye, and I was gonna play them anyway, so why not review them as well? Probably just as well; pickings this week were pretty slim, and few of them were appealing. As usual, quick summaries below, with links leading to the full reviews.

Space Ark: Yeah, I know it wasn't released this week, but they finally released a patch for the tutorial crash I was experiencing. I wasn't missing much; the dual-character control scheme is kind of interesting, but a weak combo system + saccharine cuteness + losing 15 minutes of progress by screwing up a level kills my interest in this Arkanoid variant.

Ys: Oath in Felghana: An old-school remake that improves on the original. It's standard stuff done well and it just hits that old-school action RPG sweet spot for me.

Gettysburg: Armored Warfare: Nifty idea, but I don't think its small online community will survive a buggy launch with clumsy gameplay.

Haunted Houdini: A decent adventure game with hidden objects, puzzles, and a hint system & guide to get you through any place you get stuck. I still liked Pickers better, though.

3SwitcheD: No full review yet because its game page is still being set up, but this describes it succinctly: WHY DID I PAY $10 FOR THIS CRAP?! It's a Bejeweled clone with an annoyingly gushy announcer and a 3D gimmick that is only used to change your viewing angle for a game that's played on a 2D PLANE! Is it a commercial tech demo? A way to con us into spending money to register our Email addresses with them? An early April Fools joke? Either way, I feel like I've been had.

So, which game out of these would I play again? Ys: Oath in Felghana, an easy choice. It might be nice to revisit Gettysburg once it works out the kinks, but I don't think its player base will survive that long.

Well, that's it for this week. Hopefully Steam will ease up on the game releases before April 15th, or I might need to skimp on my reviews to finish taxes...

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Indie Reviews: Bumbling Cubes Wave at Mutant Adam

Q: How does a reviewer finish a backlog of 8 games in 3 days?

A: Have 2 of them crash on you and halt all forward progress, then skip the one that already has 4 reviews written on it.

It's been a strange, hectic week. But I've finally got my review queue back to 0 (except for Ys: Oath in Felghana, but that's $15 and not on sale so no need to rush that) and a whole slew of new reviews. This time, we've got quite a few stinkers, a couple crashes (and thus unreviewed), and 2 surprises. Without further ado, let's get to those reviews! (As usual, they're summarized in this post, but the links lead to the full reviews. Unless the name's italicized, which means, "Hey, no full review for this one, take a look at its wiki page instead!")

Bumbledore: An Android puzzler port that emphasizes high scoring through precise spell use. I found it decent; kids would probably love it.

Cubemen: Interesting "tower" defense concept, barebones execution with a horrendous aiming AI that is too random for this type of game.

Space Ark: No review; every time I finished the Tutorial stages, it crashed. It involved controlling a trampoline and the animal bouncing off it at the same time, which I'd compare to trying to drive and walk simultaneously. Probably a 3/5 if I ever got used to the controls... and it quit crashing.

Waveform: A strange, polished, addictive take on... I dunno, platforming meets puzzler meets Guitar Hero? Go read the review, the pictures help. Whatever it is, I got drunk with high score glee on it. Highly recommended.

Fowl Space: Crashed during the 2nd level boss fight due to some camera zoom bug; it zoomed out past the edge of the level, caused me to simultaneously die & win, and promptly caught the auto-save in some Schrodinger loop where it's not sure if I'm alive or dead. I really don't want to play it for 45 minutes again just to see if it happens again or not. It's a pity; the gameplay was decent and I was really digging the art style (and the weird sense of humor). Probably would've been 3/5 or 4/5 if it hadn't ate my save.

Mutant Storm Reloaded: The only thing going for this mundane dual-stick shooter is its price. Go spend an extra $5 on a shooter you'll actually remember the next day, like Scoregasm or Really Big Sky.

WARP: Skipped due to time constraints and because there's already 4 reviews up of the Xbox version. I might quickly look at it later just to see how the port fared, but I figure I would have very little to add that hasn't already been said about it.

Ys: Oath in Felghana: Not reviewed yet because I'm only 3 hours into this action-RPG. My thoughts so far: They make a potentially awkward control setup work and have some decent upgrade options and plot to back up the gameplay. It'd fall at a 4/5 right now.

Adam's Venture, Episode 1: Oh look, a decent discount adventure puzzler ala Tomb Raider for only- wait, it's supposed to be a Christian educational game? Why do they think Christianity is just about rote Bible passages?! We produced Faust, why can't we-*hauled off in a straitjacket*

What would I play again? Waveform, definitely. (I still have 4 levels to finish.) I would also finish playing Fowl Space... if they could fix my save. *sigh*

Well, that's it for this week. I'll have another stack of reviews ready in a couple days for your perusal & entertainment.

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Space Ark Review Cancelled Due to Crashing

Well, that's one way to quickly knock a game off the review queue...

I won't be reviewing Space Ark because the game kept crashing after I finished the Tutorial. Sorry, but if I still can't play your game after the 3rd attempt, something's wrong. I'm tempted to give it 0 out of 5 stars, but my computer may just be wonky about that game. Ah well, on to the next game...

P.S. Only 3 days into the week and they've already released 4 games under $10. This is gonna be a long weekend... and I wanted to review the new Ys game, too.

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Indie Reviews: Quick Looks w/o Reviews? BLASPHEMY!

It was an interesting week. I'm still working on the backlog because I was also paying Cargo! Quest for Gravity and Defenders of Ardania at the same time. (Yeah, I know they're a tad more expensive than the usual games I review, but these were personal buys.) I hope to have reviews of Bumbledore, Cubemen, and Space Ark up shortly; I don't want to fall behind now that I've reached the 25-review mark. In other interesting news, 3 of the 4 games I'm reviewing this week previously had GiantBomb Quick Looks, but only 1 of them actually had a review posted. That's a shame, isn't it?

Anyway, without further ado, here's this (er, last?) week's reviews! (Note that the links go to the reviews themselves, not the game page.)

Cargo! Quest for Gravity: Mediocre become memorable through sheer weirdness quotent.

All Zombies Must Die: Too generic, doesn't pack enough punch to stand out amidst the zombie crowd.

Defenders of Ardania: So broken... I nearly wept. I really wanted a good tower defense game here.

Wizorb: Like playing an old NES classic. Cheap too.

Which ones would I continue playing? None, really. I'm a bit tempted to go into Sandbox mode on Cargo!, but I have too much else to do right now, including review the other games from last week before my backlog builds up too high.

And since I've reached the 25-Steam Reviews milestone, I plan to do a breakdown of the games I've reviewed so far later. Should be interesting to see just how the genres/game styles break down.

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Indie Reviews: Zombie Painkiller Evolved in Pacific Auditorium

So many games last week! So many bad games last week! Test my resolve, they did! I did not escape unscarred; I have turned to Majesty 2 to soothe the pain. (Hmm, this indirect control setup sucks and there's not much strategy... so why am I still playing?) In the meantime, the games are vanquished, the reviews have been planted as their tombstones, and you are hereby invited to browse them! (Full reviews through the links.)

Auditorium: Abstract color/sound conversion makes for relaxing fun, when you aren't pulling your hair out over some of the devilish puzzles here.

Painkiller: Recurring Evil: Get locked into a cramped arena, kill multiple waves of enemies. Rinse & repeat... for the entire game.

iBomber Defense Pacific: A competent but utterly forgettable tower defense game.

Luxor Evolved: Puzzlers and shooters should not combine this well!

Containment: The Zombie Puzzler: A puzzle game without any brains. Or a pulse, for that matter.

Which game would I continue playing? Well, I'm still chipping away at Auditorium bit-by-bit (solve 2 puzzles, hit a stumper, turn it off and let it percolate until the next time I have a few minutes to spare), but I'm sorely tempted to play through Luxor Evolved on Hard mode again to satisfy my puzzle & shooter itches at the same time. Recurring Evil was so disappointing I'm currently downloading the original Painkiller just to assure myself it's much better. All of this, of course, is inbetween finishing up Majesty 2 for... some reason I can't quite explain. Boredom, perhaps?

Hmm, finishing up last week took longer than I thought. Hopefully the game queue for this week is much smaller.

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Steam Indie Reviews: Pick the Really Big Sky for 1000 Amps

A new week, a new crop of indie games. These reviews are up a bit later than usual; for some reason, all the cheap indie games this week were released on Wednesday or later. That really makes it hard to play through everything before Saturday night. Anyway, here's links to my reviews, along with a short summary:

1000 Amps: A fun Metroidvania puzzler, but a horrible map and some unnecessary backtracking really drags down the last half of it.

Pickers: An open world picture hunt with shopkeeper mechanics. More fun than I expected, but overstays its welcome.

Really Big Sky: Psychadelic, procedurally-generated dual-stick shooter with a touch of absurdity and snark. Valuable to shooter fans who want to squeeze as much out of a title as possible, but a bit lacking in mechanics and variety for everyone else.

Which of these 3 games would I play more of? Really Big Sky. The other 2 had lousy endgames that went on too long, while I am morbidly curious what mixture of death & destruction Really Big Sky would toss at me next if I continued playing.

With that, I am off for now. I'll continue testing Realm of the Mad God and elaborating on my theory of value/time reviews for games when I hit the next lull in indie titles, but for now I have other things to work on.

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