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A few months back, the Steam Spring Sale took place. Being that a bunch of the games were cheap, it afforded me the opportunity to catch up on a couple of indie games I had missed out on, most of which I'd assumed you guys would have already played (hence the title of the subsequent blog). I gave my impressions on the excellent titles Bastion, To The Moon, The Binding of Isaac, and Super Meat Boy, the so-so Audiosurf, and the relatively disappointing Limbo. I very much enjoyed writing it. So, being that the Summer Sale took place not that long ago, and I just happened to have twenty dollars to burn, I bought a couple more games. These are my thoughts on them.
Antichamber- Most cel-shaded games tend to grab my attention. I've always liked the style, and even if the game is completely absurd, you can bet the game will probably be on my radar of games to watch out for. It's why I was drawn to Borderlands, Killer 7, El Shaddai, Okami, and numerous other games that utilize the art style. So, you can imagine my shock then when I saw Game Informer's review of Antichamber, a first person puzzle game, a few months back. A cel-shaded game getting by me? As you can tell, I wasn't about to have that, and thus it officially made it on my shortlist of must play games. Fast forward to mid to late July, when the Steam Summer Sale arrives, and Antichamber was one of the games on sale. After some quick arguing with myself, I decided to add it to my cart. Although I haven't gotten around to completing it, I can definitely say it was worth my money.As I said before, Antichamber is a first person puzzle game. While from a gameplay perspective it doesn't do much more than that, how it does it is pretty cool. Initially, you're on your own, going wherever the game leads you and doing whatever brain teasers it throws your way. Eventually, through your exploration you'll get a gun that can hold blocks that you'll need for a good chunk (at least to the point I got) of the puzzles. You'll start out with blue, but eventually you'll need to find the other colors, as each will upgrade what your gun can do. It's not horribly revolutionary (as I'd imagine there's a plethora of other games that I've missed that use the exact same mechanic), but it did it's job of keeping me entertained and curious to go back to levels I tried to do without the upgrades (I'm an idiot when it comes to puzzle games). I'd have to say my only knock is against the jump in the game. I don't think I can pinpoint anything bad about it per se, but honest to goodness, sometimes it just felt cheap and weird. I also wish the game had a crouch function, but that's just me. You can already probably guess that I was a sucker for the graphics, but some of the art direction did manage to throw me off a bit. First day I played, I almost thought I was going to get motion sickness, but I toughed it out and have been just fine during my time with it since. Praise of the art style is all I can really give on the presentation side of things, as the "music" is really only ambiance that gets livelier the further along you get. All that can really be said is that it fits the mood. Altogether, Antichamber is a good experience, and if you appreciate a good puzzle game with an interesting look, I recommend giving it a shot.
Cave Story+- Cave Story is one of those games that I'd heard good things about for awhile, but just never checked out. I've listened to songs from the game, watched gameplay videos, read about it, anything you might do when you're interested in a game. But again, for as much as I may have been intrigued by the game, I never committed to actually playing it. Even when I saw Cave Story+ on sale, I still wasn't sure if it was what I wanted, considering other games like Rock of Ages, Triple Town (which is actually pretty addicting...I have the Kindle Fire version), Hotline Miami, and FTL were also on sale. However, I decided to put my money down on Cave Story+, just to finally see what all the love the game gets is about. I haven't finished it yet, but it's definitely been a fun little game to the point I'm at.The game starts out with a man named Kazuma, obviously in some distress, trying to contact his sister Sue. Soon after we meet the character we play as, Quote, who wakes up in a cave with no memory of how he got there. After some exploration, he comes across a village of Mimigas, a race of humanoid rabbits, that have been at the mercy of the evil Doctor and his two lackeys Misery and Balrog. They've been kidnapping the Mimigas, and are looking for the aforementioned Sue (who's been turned into a Mimiga). Sue is actually missing and they mistakenly kidnap another Mimiga in her place, which essentially sets the rest of the game in motion. So far, I actually find the story pretty interesting. Games have had more, yes, but I wouldn't mind if some of the lore here was expanded upon. Actually just about every part of the game is pretty solid, as well. Gameplay, while a little odd to control at first, is good, with the arrow keys used for movement, Z and X used for weapons and jumping, A and S used for weapons swapping, and Q used for inventory. Like I said, it takes some getting used to, but once you get comfortable with the control scheme, it's easy to handle. Since this is an enhanced version of the game, you have the option of changing the graphics and music of the game. You can go with the original music and graphics or go with the updated versions of both. I chose a combination of the two, going with the updated look and the original soundtrack. I like how the game looks, and the soundtrack has been pretty damn good. The game's title theme, "Plantation", is unbelievably catchy, and much of the soundtrack, from boss themes to certain area themes delivers the goods. Overall, if you consider yourself a 2D platformer fan, you should check out Cave Story. As a matter of fact, most of you probably have already, considering it's been around for a couple of years now. Boy, I was late to the party on this one, huh?
Fez- I can't really remember where or when I first heard about Fez. I hadn't really been following the indie scene when it was first wowing the industry, but I had heard about it by the time it was getting it's glowing reception. So for all intents and purposes let's just say that the game became relevant to me at some point. Still, whenever it became relevant to me notwithstanding, I hadn't seen much of the game until I watched Indie Game: The Movie. Even after seeing more of it, I always found it hard to gauge just how interested I was in Fez, one part of me being curious about it, and the other not really giving a sh** whether I ever got the opportunity to play it or not. I suppose I can say the former sentiment won out, because once I saw it was on sale for five dollars, I was intent on making it a part of my purchase. I'm glad I did, because while I wouldn't say it's as earth shattering as certain outlets made it out to be, I will say that it's a unique and enjoyable experience.You play as Gomez, a two dimensionial...thing?...(I forget what he is) who lives in a two dimensional world. One day he encounters an artifact called the Hexahedron, that grants him a magical fez that allows Gomez to shift perspective. However, the Hexahedron explodes, and after the game "freezes" and "reboots", Gomez learns from a hypercube that he must collect parts of the Hexahedron before the world tears apart. The story pretty much has no relevance after that point, and being that the main goal of the game is to collect thirty-two cubes to restore the Hexahedron, it's very much just one giant puzzle collect-a-thon. Once you get to explore Fez's world though, it's easy to forget just how basic the core of the game is. Many times while I was playing Fez, I became lost in it's brilliant little world, loving the perspective flipping mechanic, going to and from different locations with little regard to how much I might've ignored in a level. Combined with the art style and music, exploring Fez's universe makes for one addicting and chill experience. Like most games though, Fez isn't without it's flaws. The two most glaring to me were the lifelessness of it's world and some of the puzzle aspects. The former I suppose could be attributed to the lore, but I really wish there could've been a little more life outside of Gomez's village, and a part of the world you come across later in the game. Truth be told, the puzzle aspects are interesting. Some will rely on deciphering code represented by tetris blocks, and are relatively easy to crack once you realize what it is. Others though, can be deciphered using the game's alphabetical and numerical systems, which, while interesting, I'm just too damn lazy to learn. It also doesn't help that the game has some performance issues from time to time. Nothing game breaking, but annoying nonetheless. Issues aside however, I really did have a good time with Fez, and would probably give it another go somewhere down the road.
Thomas Was Alone- Like Fez, Thomas Was Alone is a game that just sort of popped out of nowhere for me. One day I was blissfully unaware of it's existence, then the next I'm seeing articles about the game with screenshots of a lone red rectangle in a platforming level. Though I wondered what it was exactly, eventually it just went someplace in my mind, knowing it was a game, but otherwise not really caring about it, because I thought I was probably never going to buy it anyway. Then one day, I saw a comic about someone's emotional reaction to Thomas Was Alone, and suddenly it was, if barely, on my radar. So, as you know by now, the recent Steam sale rolls around and I took a look maybe one or two days in advance of my little shopping spree at the games available. Being that I had only twenty dollars to work with, I stuck to the under five dollars section. and as luck would have it, I saw Thomas Was Alone for two dollars and fifty cents. I checked out the trailer and decided to buy it. It may be one of the most simple games I've probably ever played, but out of all the games I bought, Thomas Was Alone easily has the most heart.The gameplay is as basic as you can get in Thomas Was Alone, as the goal is simply, like any decent platformer, to get to the end of each level. It starts out with one lone rectangle (Thomas) traversing through a given stage, and eventually you come across more (which I'll talk about soon). Sure, there is some brain work involved in each level, as the further along you get, the more you have to figure how to utilize each character. Altogether though, I never really had a hard time with the game, and I breezed through it in three hours or so. The most brilliant thing about Thomas Was Alone though, is how much it does right in that small amount of time. The game starts out with a quote from an article telling of an experiment at a company that resulted in AIs becoming self aware. Not that long after, we're introduced to Thomas, who being naturally curious, wonders about the world around him, his purpose in it, and being alone, is seeking companionship. He also posseses an average jump. Along the way, we meet several other quadrilaterals: the cynical Chris, who has a rather mediocre jump; the towering show-off John, who can jump pretty high; the square, and at first downtrodden, Claire, who upon discovering she can float, determines it as being a super power, and she starts thinking of herself as a hero; and finally, Laura, a flat, mistrusting (due to circumstances revealed in the game) rectangle, that the others can bounce off of. After a story event, we eventually meet James, an AI similar in shape to Thomas, who falls upward, and Sarah, a determined double jumping AI who at first looks down upon Thomas and crew. Through the game's brilliant writing and narration (provided by British comedian Danny Wallace), these characters come to life, and combined with the music, gameplay (which is pretty good, considering you're playing as shapes), and art style, manage to create a unexpectedly satisfying experience that exceeded any expectation I had going into the game. It didn't make me cry or make me think deeply on it's plot (which I feel sort of got weak towards the end), but what it did do was manage to take what it had, from it's presentation and gameplay features, to it's early message that it sucks to be alone, and endeared itself to me like few games ever have. Truthfully, I find it an overall more complete package than most of the AAA games I've played in the last few years, and I have no problem considering the game one of the best I've played in the same amount of time. I sincerely believe that if you haven't yet given Thomas Was Alone a shot, then you owe it to yourself to play the game. It's not long, and for all I know it may have left others who've played it wanting more, but I'll be damned if I didn't make clear that Thomas Was Alone is worth the risk and the ride.
Psychonauts- My history with Psychonauts is largely like my history with a lot of games of the PS2/Xbox/Gamecube era: I was always interested in it, but never took a chance in buying it. All over the place I heard good things about it: here on Game Informer, on other sites like IGN and whatnot, and G4, when it was still about games somewhat and not a month away from becoming the Esquire network. But for some reason or other, I just never got it. I decided to change that during the sale, and bought Psychonauts finally. While I don't know if by the time I finish it I'll consider Psychonauts one of my favorite games, I can say thus far in my time with it, without pause, that it is amongst the best platformers I've played and is worth every praise I've ever heard spoken about it.You play as Razputin, a young psychic who has left his life at his father's circus, and sneaks into the Whispering Rock summer camp, a place where young psychics, like himself, can train and learn how to use their powers. He also wishes to become a "Psychonaut", psychic secret agents that use their powers to subvert the forces of evil. After impressing the camp counselor, Marceau Oleander, and the psychonauts Sasha Nein and Milla Vodello, they agree to let him stay until his father comes to retrieve. After meeting fellow campers, and learning different psychic powers, it becomes clear that something is not quite right at Whispering Rock, and it's up to Raz to save the day. The story may sound rather cliche, and I'd be inclined to agree that at its base it is, but hell, it works. And truthfully, the real stars on the narrative side of things is the game's humor. The characters I've met and the levels I've played in so far have succeeded in getting me crack a smile or laugh. Speaking of levels, as you would expect most of them take place in some of the characters' minds, and of course they reflect the characters personalities. One in particular called The Neighborhood, based on it's wackiness alone, is possibly one of the best levels of a platformer I've played, and at the same time is arguably one of the most insanely quotable levels in any game I've ever played. Seriously, developers today could stand to take a look back at what Double Fine accomplished with Psychonauts' writing, because in my opinion, it's one of the few games I've played that has knocked it out of the park in terms of humor. Of course, being that the game revolves around the psyche, there are some dark moments, primarily in some of the characters origins. These are shown in pictures you can collect, and like the comedy, it's handled well. One of my primary concerns prior to buying the game, that actually almost stopped me from buying it, was how it would control on PC. I'm happy to say the game controls beautifully, and even though I do wish I could have played this on a PS2 controller, I have no problem with the controls. The game, despite looking a little aged, holds up well in the graphics department and hasn't suffered any significant performance issues. Voice acting and music are also pretty good. All in all, I've had a great time with Psychonauts to this point, and if you somehow, like me, missed out on this gem, you really should give it a spin.
Until the next Steam sale, where I'll undoubtedly do everything within reason to make sure I get as many games as I can, I suppose that does it for now. I did want to include The Basement Collection, a selection of Edmund McMillen's (of Team Meat fame) games, but being that I've been so focused on these other games, I just haven't gotten enough time with them to give a proper analysis. Either way, if you played any of these what did you think of them? If you haven't played them, are you interested in them? Don't hesitate to let me know!
Take care and thanks for reading!