Useless Blogging

August 24, 2009

Indie Game Review

Filed under: Games,Reviews — steegness @ 12:10 am

Thanks to the magic that is Steam, a couple of weeks ago I downloaded ten “indie” games for a song. I’ve since played at least a little of all ten, and feel the need to share my thoughts.

  • Audio Surf: A very fun game not unlike Guitar Hero meets Tetris in that music plays and you collect gems (Guitar Hero) and collecting them into groups makes them disappear (Tetris). The magic is that it takes YOUR music and does this; using MP3 files on your computer, it generates a path for the game to take, and it’s smart enough to know what’s fast, what’s slow, when the cool parts of songs are, etc. Well executed and fun to watch. I don’t mind getting a couple of songs in before bed with this one.
  • Blueberry Garden: The first of a couple “exploration” games on the list. For the record, I’ve come to determine that I hate games like this. Games that encourage exploration are fun. Games where that’s all you have to go on are not. Games are meant to have goals (which Blueberry Garden DOES have, I’m told), and more importantly, feedback to assist in achieving those goals. Wandering trying to figure out what to do next loses its appeal quickly. The game looks nice, at least.
  • Braid: Possibly worth the price of the whole set. This is a 2D platformer that’s familiar enough to be accessible but rewrites SO many of the notions central to the genre that it’s totally mindbending. Messing with time is a blast, and there are no wasted levels. If you can follow the narrative, it’s a total mindscrew as well, with a brilliant ending. Visually stunning, haunting score (which is made more haunting with its reversal when time is messed with), and great gameplay make this top of the indie heap.
  • Crayon Physics Deluxe: The first of two physics-based games on the list. Very well done graphically, and its puzzles offer numerous solutions. So many ways to complete the tasks leave it open for a lot of creativity, but it also means that you can likely blow through the levels (there are over 70) in a shorter order than you’d think. It DOES have replay value, but if you’re the type of person who likes getting to the end and stopping there, it stands to be a little short, as there’s not a WHOLE lot of incentive to go back and do things new ways.
  • Darwinia: Somewhere in the real-time strategy realm lives Darwinia, but I don’t know its exact address. I’ll say that it seems fun save for the control scheme (both units and camera) being too dodgy for my liking.
  • Everyday Shooter: An Asteroids-style game with a few minor tweaks, the most major of which is the soundtrack. Fun enough for a while.
  • Gish: A 2D platformer, except you’re a ball of tar. That’s a bit of an undersell, because the game’s really fun. It turns out that making your hero a ball of tar leads to some new game mechanics that can add a smidge of real world physics into an otherwise fantasy world.
  • Mr. Robot: An isometric 3D … strategy? RPG? … game that casts you as a robot taking care of things while the humans are in cryosleep. Thus far I’ve had good times playing it, but a less than stellar control scheme is getting in my way too much; the game at times requires fast and precise actions, and I’ve yet to feel like I can pull that off consistently. Don’t let that stop you from trying it out.
  • The Path: Really, this whole post is an excuse for me to write about The Path. This game is atrocious. Remember all that stuff I said about Blueberry Garden, and how exploration games weren’t my thing? For starters, The Path is an exploration game. There’s no map, no real dialogue, no point in anything you’re doing (at least, no point that’s revealed to you while you’re still interested in what you just did). Just looking around, doing unrelated things, until one of two things happens: you decide to turn the game off, or you decide to finally go to the house that you were told to go to at the start of the game. (If you go to this house, without veering from the path, as the onscreen instructions indicate you ought to do, you get to the end and fail. FAIL.) The website is full of people going “you just don’t get it”; I get it, all to well. I don’t think the designers do. This isn’t a game; it does not occupy the same mental space as anything rightfully called a “game”. It’s more akin to what it pretends to be portraying: a walk in the woods, only in the real woods there’s more to explore and the narrative has more clarity.
  • World of Goo: The other physics-based game, this one is based around construction using goo balls that can form lattice-type work to create wobbly masterpieces. The story is actually a good one, if you’re up to following it, and the puzzles range from easy to “Wow, people think this stuff up and still expect to get into Heaven?” Visually, it’s pretty awesome, second only to Braid on this list, I think. Fun factor is very high.

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