A Review of the Bundle Stars ‘Bundle #6 – Catnip’
For a change of pace I’m reviewing an indie games bundle that has more than a mayfly’s lifespan left before closing. Check out Bundle Stars for lots of cheap games; some highly enjoyable, some merely decent, some not worth your time. I sort the wheat from the chaff so you can know if your money will be well spent.
A delightful puzzle game that takes 1984’s BoulderDash and improves on it in every way. The levels are well-crafted and get challenging pretty quick; I was forced to the limits of my meager abilities after only an hour of play but still felt I should keep coming back. The best game in this bundle by a long shot.
1993’s Cyber Sled except with a capture the flag theme and worse controls, mitigated by the presence of online play. Just play Team Fortress 2 instead.
Tower defense with irritating tank/car controls. Looks dull and plays dully as well. Wouldn’t let me take screenshots, so here’s a pic from their official website.
Puzzle game involving the momentum of chains, balls, and urns. Unlike many puzzle games, time is a factor here. Not with some arbitrary time limit per level but with the timing required to properly cut the chains and drive the balls to the right places. Like all good puzzle games, it’s basic at first in order to teach the game’s mechanics but swiftly grows more complex and difficult. Almost as good as Pushcat.
Nikopol: Secrets of the Immortals
Adventure game with gameplay reminiscent of Myst (or, to be more accurate, RealMyst with its ability to look around 3D models rather than viewing static images). The setting is basic bleak dystopia, watch what you do or get reported to the secret police kind of stuff, but it quickly gets weird with more unconventional Egyptian mythology stuff. However, the game itself is more about pixel hunting in the seas of washed-out gray rooms than any clever use of items, something I was hoping to leave behind in the adventure games of the 90s.
Basic puzzle game about lining up falling blocks orbs. It’s not half as good as Obulis or Pushcat.
This bundle already has a dreary adventure game about a French painter, sorry.
Avencast: Rise of the Mage
Now this is a neat idea for gameplay. Pressing the WASD keys combined with mouse buttons activates spells for use in combat. I haven’t seen anything like this in years except for DOTA’s Invoker, though there’s probably some game I don’t know of that did it a thousand times better. Upon killing enemies and leveling up you are granted points that can be spent on stat increases, new spells, or both. It’s like a more advanced version of Diablo II and III’s level up systems; it grants more flexibility to suit the player’s needs. I was a bit disappointed that you can map your spells to the F1-12 keys rather than having to press W, D, A, right mouse click, but the option to do fight the cool way is always available.
There is quest at the beginning of Avencast that has someone ask you to clear out a cellar full of rats and spiders, a common fantasy game cliché. Turns out it’s actually full of murderous imps. Granted, imps are very weak early-game monsters, but I enjoyed the change of pace from the typical RPG setup. Unfortunately, the plot of the rest of the game is very bland and there are too many fetch quests, but the substance of the game is still strong.
Avencast also offers very quick loading times in addition to its adequately entertaining combat.
Scratches: Director’s Cut
Boring 3D adventure game that lacks the atmosphere and sense of dread that horror games rely on so heavily. It takes more than a ticking grandfather clock and some low-key piano ditties to make me unsettled. The puzzles are dumb and the protagonist is a dunce. It’s like the first Resident Evil without the action. Much like BioShock Infinite, I recommend watching a playthough on Youtube as opposed to trudging through the game itself. Sorry, Nucleosys, I wasn’t impressed.
This is a first-person shooter in which you control a soldier with multi-functional power armor including sprinting, extra defense, camouflage, and bullet time. And it predates Crysis by two years. What’s more is that they have limited use, requiring batteries to function. No regenerating energy for you. And your movement feels deliberately stiff, as if you’re actually moving around in a heavy suit of armor. I can dig it.
The downside is an inferior presentation; the game looks like a free Half-Life mod and there are no visual or audio indicators (other than a tiny bit of text) showing which ability you have active. This may sound like a minor quibble but the lack of feedback in response to your actions can get confusing, like in games where enemies show no reaction to your attacks until they suddenly fall over.
Four pretty fun games, six forgettable ones. I’d say this is worth your five bucks for Pushcat and Obulis alone.