You know the drill. Go to Indie Royale in the next three days, buy cheap rad games, support poor struggling game developers. Then keep going back for more because their service is great. Here’s my look at the most recent bundle of six games from five genres:
Cognition Episode 1: The Hangman
Well-written adventure game “thriller” with a cool visual style, written by a King’s Quest devotee. This was the game from the Debut Bundle that got the most attention and space. You play as a detective with an understated psychic intuition as she hunts for the depraved serial killer who murdered her brother three years ago. The main character is a three-dimensional one with more than just typical personality quirks. Erica Reed is a hot-headed but vulnerable human being who wants to conduct peace and bring justice to the wronged, but circumstances are often forced out of her control, leaving her in a frustrated limbo where she is powerless to find the closure she seeks. That’s a great setup for a detective and for an adventure game’s plot.
Unfortunately, the rest of the cast is comprised of bland stock characters that fail to live up to the high standards set by Erica, though I did enjoy the “gettin’ too old for this shit” senior cop partner. There are also some bits that stretch credulity and (as always with adventure games) some baffling puzzles that draw me out of the experience. But the final product is a good though not excellent story, and one to be commended. This series has a lot of potential; I might even pick up the sequel.
It always warms my heart when I play a game sight unseen and it turns out to be tower defense. I’m not even a particularly big fan of the genre, but they have this plodding insectile feel that appeals to the primitive parts of our brains, yet still require skill to progress (unlike many other games that mash the same cognitive buttons). They’re addictive yet fulfilling, and probably easy to create.
This tower defense game is harder than most and faster-paced than any I have ever played. You can’t just grind your way to victory and wait things out; you have to run around collecting strawberries (money), building turrets, directly controlling coordinated attacks, and scouring the scenery for new technology. This is a more complex and involved tower defense game, and I appreciate that quite a bit.
McDroid has some mildly confusing aspects to its interface—I didn’t realize until a fortunate accident that I could carry a weapon with me and use it wherever my little robot went—but the thick dripping meat of the game is frantic and challenging fare, especially compared to the laid-back nature of most other tower defense games; there’s no sense of inevitability here. It’s more like real-time strategy and your skill is much more relevant than the numbers on the screen. However, I don’t have the expertise to succeed at this game, yet I highly recommended it to those better at strategy than me.
Master of Alchemy – Rise of the Mechanologists
This is an interesting puzzle game akin to The Incredible Machine where elements (liquid, solid, gas) pour out of one opening (or several openings; it gets hard very quickly) and you have to place devices along their path to transport them to their destination in the correct states. Converting liquids, solids, and gases while still conveying them to necessary goals can be as complicated a process as managing multiple armies in Starcraft.
There’s no time limit, but there is an online scoreboard for those competitively-minded players. You can spend hours on a single puzzle, and that’s a much-needed respite from the typical puzzle games that simply copy from Bust-a-Move or Bejeweled. I need to sharpen the mental skills I used to conquer the Adventures of Lolo series and take on Master of Alchemy with the level of thought that it deserves. So should you.
Pretty good (and pretty frickin hard) shmup by Rockin’ Android (whose games I’ve enjoyed in the past). Pick either Laser Mech or Sword Mech and rip through hordes of enemy ships… but you better get them all, because any baddies that manage to fly off screen will damage your mothership, bringing you closer to death. Not only that, but you’re required to use your (unlimited) speed boost to blaze past the scraps of the defeated in order to get to the level bosses in time. Fail at these tasks and you die. You only have one life.
So CloudPhobia is a stressful game, to say the least. From what I can tell there are no powerups and only tiny health restorations between levels to aid you along your way. If you don’t have the ability to handle multiple tasks at once and at laser-fast speed, this game will destroy you. And shmup fans wouldn’t have it any other way.
Wimp: Who Stole My Pants?
This would be a basic and forgettable platformer if not for one key difference: the controls are deliberately stifling, stiff, and mushier than a 1990s Street Fighter II ripoff. Are you used to platformers where you can make your avatar soar through the air and perform incredible acrobatics to get the MacGuffin? Well, in this game you are instead constrained by a lump of jelly that prohibits even walking uphill. Jumping is an excruciating exercise with more flailing around than the Hundred Years’ War and more drops into acid than Woodstock. You can attempt to acquire momentum in order to increase your distance, but you all too frequently end up stuck to the side of a cliff you were attempting to scale and falling into neon pits.
However, the stages are not as difficult as the harsh controls might make them seem. They are simple endeavors that require only a bit of forethought and there are frequent checkpoints scattered within the short levels. Perhaps it was inspired by the likes of Bionic Commando, another game that restrains the player in order to force them to act within pre-determined restricted movements. Unfortunately, I found Wimp: Who Stole My Pants? to be competent but as unfulfilling as its own childish attempts at humor. The controls made the game frustrating rather than getting me to think outside of my usual platforming parameters. Not a bad game, but a mediocre game with an unnecessary gimmick that fails to stand out from the pack.
6180 the moon
A minimalist platformer in which you control an orb that jumps over spikes while soothing piano music lulls your eardrums to sleep. That might sound like every flash game you’ve played in the past decade, but 6180 the moon has something a little bit (and only a little bit) different: your orb shifts around the top and bottom of the screen like an addled tourist through Planescape‘s city of Sigil.
Wrapping my puny grey matter around the wrapping-around element of 6180 the moon made this game more challenging for me than it probably is for most other players. The levels are basic and straightforward and a bit too easy, but I played the game to its conclusion in one sitting without remembering that I was reviewing the game for the internet. It’s not just engrossing to play; this game is so aesthetically pleasing that it didn’t even occur to me that it was in monochrome until I posted the screenshot above.
The game has a story that you should ignore, but the gameplay is above par. There’s no reason why this couldn’t have been on Kongregate or Newgrounds or something and won all sorts of pretentious indie game awards. I enjoyed it, though. It’s a lot better than Wimp.
This was a good bundle. Not a single stinker in the bunch. You should get off Minecraft for a while and play this collection of real games for cool dudes.