May. 20th, 2017

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Grey Cubes - This is a Breakout/Arkanoid-style "break the blocks by bouncing a ball" game, but a very clever one. There are 60 set stages, an assortment of power-ups, and while you have limited lives, you can sacrifice some accumulated points to regain them. While there was an occasional issue with a 3D setpiece blocking my view of the board, in general I thought this was well-designed and fun.

Close Order - A relatively slow-moving space shooter in which you control a small fleet that always flies in formation; searching for the remnants of a lost humanity but mostly just trying not to get blown up by waves of enemies. Meh.

AXYOS - An early access FPS online-arena game. The character customization is nonexistent (apparently the game isn't even really in beta yet) so it's mostly just "run around and shoot some dudes". It's playable, but that's all I can really say about it.

Stigmat - A "masocore" platformer, where not only are you likely to die a lot, that's pretty much the gimmick of the game, and it's clear in the very first level that they'll resort to nasty tricks to kill you early and often. The thing is, the graphics are dark and not very clear, and the controls are a bit janky, which means that many of my deaths just felt unfair due to the poor system, not because I was incompetent or because I was tricked.

Slipstream 5000 - A DOS-based flight sim/racing game where you apparently can shoot down foes--I say "apparently" because I could barely tell where I was going, much less find anything to shoot.

Broken Dreams - More like "Broken Fourth Walls," am I right? A puzzle platformer featuring a couple who try to get together with help from temporal shadows and similar trickery. It’s super-short, with only 25 levels and 5 bonus levels, most of which can be taken down in a minute or so. Not bad, but nothing I haven’t seen done better elsewhere.

PING 1.5+ - Get the bouncing ball (cube) to the exit in each level with a limited number of shots/bounces. There are vastly superior approaches to the concept; Luna’s Wandering Stars is the most prominent in my mind.

Vapour - A horror exploration / FPS game that has lovely graphics that are too dark to see, wonky controls, and apparently no HUD—which meant I couldn’t figure out how much health I had or, even with the “hints” activated, what the hell I was doing. It’s also full of jumpscares and inexplicable combat, did I mention? (Apparently, you’re playing a demon/human hybrid created by a cult but who escaped to terrorize them. Who likes to curse a lot.)

Doodle God - Combine the four base elements to make everything else in the world in a puzzle/casual game. Most of the combinations aren't terribly intuitive (at least to me), but randomly trying combinations is moderately fun. I think the biggest problem is that it's a guessing game more than anything else, and there are a LOT of combinations that do nothing but you'd think would do something. Why on earth does Sand + Egg make Turtles, for instance? Shouldn't that be Lizard + Stone or Lizard + House?

A Wolf in Autumn - A horror exploration game in the vein of The Moon Sliver. Warns you in advance that it has no save system and takes about an hour to complete, which is helpful to know. The strange story of a girl in a shed with an abusive mother who speaks via transmitter boxes, as the girl solves various puzzles to break out. I think I’ve found other games in this genre most intriguing, but it’s moderately interesting and technically decently designed.

Overall: Grey Cubes won me and Doodle God was entertaining. The rest of the lot I’d generally recommend other examples of their genres over them.
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Millie - This is cute: It's a melding of Pac-Man with the classic "snakes" game. As you guide a centipede (Millie) through a maze and eat power pellets, she grows longer--and you have to avoid running into yourself. Collect enough power pellets and the exit opens; your score is determined both by time and how many other collectables you pick up. Later stages add one-way streets, tunnels and other complications. Virtually wordless but with some cute animations (particularly the help images).

16bit Trader - An underwhelming game of luck--guessing what prices will be in each city before you haul goods there, hoping to hit on something that actually makes you money. Did you like the "trading post" sidequest in Suikoden games? This is that as the entire game.

Merchants of Kaidan - Not quite sure what to make of this--it's a pseudo-rpg trading game, where you travel about doing fetch quests and looking for treasure, but mostly trying to arbitrage goods between cities. It’s better than 16bit Trader in that there’s more to it and there’s a bit less luck involved, but I’m still not wild about it.

Sparkle 2 Evo - Play as a hard-to-control micro-organism and eat various things you find to evolve into stronger, faster forms. You can shift up and down “levels” and the game is competitive, as each stage has opponent(s) that are trying to eat the various nutrients and possibly you as well. The graphics and music are going for “pretty and soothing”, but I didn’t feel that about the gameplay. I found the controls clunky and wasn’t enthused overall. This bundle also included Sparkle 3 Genesis, but I opted not to bother with it.

Violett Remastered - When her parents take her to a boring house in the country, Violett is sure it will be a terrible time. Of course, then she finds a magical amulet in the wall that shrinks her into a land of bug-people and fairies where she gains magic psychic powers. A King's Quest-style puzzle adventure game with the obtuse puzzles typical to the genre with an Alice in Wonderland sort of aesthetic. I suppose it’s worth trying if you’re really into the genre.

Frederic: Evil Strikes Back and Frederic: Resurrection of Music are apparently rhythm games (that play better via touch than mouse, according to reviews) but both of them hung at the initial loading screen on my computer.

Teddy Floppy Ear - The Race - As one of the “racing games” that ARR favors, this saw a decent amount of play. Honestly, though, I didn’t think it deserved it. It’s a mascot kart game without a significant difference between the different cars or racers; the power-ups are generally indistinguishable and three-quarters of the tracks are locked. The bundle also included two other games in the series, Teddy Floppy Ear – Kayaking and Teddy Floppy Ear - Mountain Adventure.

Iesabel - This is a Diablo-style top-down action RPG; decent system but not really my thing for the long haul. It’s obviously full of subquests; it’s got a full skill tree and a crafting system; and there’s a massive map for each of three acts. But the plot and game style don’t grab me (especially for a game likely to take dozens of hours to beat) and mouse-and-keyboard controls have never been my preferred style.

Overall: I was underwhelmed by this bundle, as many of the games seemed like they had potential and then just didn’t do it for me, for one reason or another. I mean, I definitely got my money’s worth, but I think I had hoped for better.

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