It’s all too easy to succumb to Steam’s brilliant sales tactics. Forget the fact that you already have plenty of entertainment options available with a few mouse clicks — this stuff is so cheap, you’d be a fool not to partake. As a result, your backlog grows to frightening new heights over the months. What is your response? “Eh, there’s nothing I want to play. Team Fortress 2 it is!”
You were warned, and are likely to have warned others. But there’s no stopping this cycle.
I spend nearly every waking moment either reading, writing, or thinking about videogames; my work-life balance is practically non-existent. As such, my interest in returning to the games I purchased from Steam’s holiday 2011 sale doesn’t necessarily mean they’re bad or good — just that they’re captivating (or not), for any number of reasons. Join me as I assess the damage to my guilt-ridden conscience.
And Yet It Moves
Oh, I know this game! It’s that weird-looking platformer which doesn’t have a pixelated aesthetic. Indeed, the low-fi sound effects and art style are what make And Yet It Moves stand out among its peers.
The core mechanic, which involves rotating the world to progress past obstacles, is pretty neat. Having only played a handful of levels — enough to get an achievement for the Steam holiday festivities — I don’t entirely understand what this game is about. For instance, one level involved getting paper cut-outs of bats to harass a lizard. As fascinating as that is, I uh — what? I wouldn’t be shocked to find out that more questions are raised than answered as you press forward.
Time spent: 27 minutes. Likelihood I’ll finish it: 50 percent
Anomaly: Warzone Earth
Despite tower defense games being my jam for years, I’ve grown tired of the traditional execution. Waiting around while virtual genocide plays out on your screen sounds interesting, if absolutely nothing else, but in practice it is frequently mindless. There is a reason, after all, why developers started incorporating fast-forward buttons.
Games like Immortal Defense (one of my favorites) and Anomaly: Warzone Earth tackle the issue of player engagement head on. Here, you are the ballsy attackers, so there’s no sitting idly around for action to take place. While something of a slow burn at first, I can tell Warzone Earth has my demands in mind. As soon as I manage to cross the border out of tutorial land, I’ll be hooked.
Time spent: 38 minutes. Likelihood I’ll finish it: 90 percent
Bastion wasn’t my favorite downloadable game of 2011, but I wouldn’t fault anyone for giving it top honors; it was up there pretty high on my list too. As you might expect, I enjoyed the narration more than Jim did.
When I think back to the games of my youth, it’s often their familiar tunes that fuel my nostalgia. Music helped our imaginations turn a screen full of crude blocks into a memorable adventure. Given advances in technology, Bastion needs no such aid. Its wonderful art direction and best-in-class soundtrack will cement the Kid’s journey in my mind for years to come.
It hasn’t been long at all since I completed the Xbox Live Arcade version, which is why I have barely touched this double-dip purchase. That said, going for the alternate ending is a matter of “when,” not “if.”
Time spent: 21 minutes. Likelihood I’ll finish it: 100 percent
Okay, I’ll admit it — I bought this primarily for a shot at winning another 50% off Steam coupon for a game I already own. But I had also heard decent things on Twitter, and indeed, Beat Hazard is cool if you’re into hearing custom soundtracks during gaming. Unfortunately, the achievement in question required playing to the beat of Christmas songs. Never again.
The impact of your music isn’t as neat as, say, Audiosurf, but Beat Hazard gets the job done well enough. Devoting my attention toward listening to a new album and doing literally nothing else is something I’m no longer capable of, so thank goodness for these games.
Time spent: 19 minutes. Likelihood I’ll finish it: 5 percent
Bunch of Heroes
Another twin-stick shooter? Yeah, we could use more of those, and let’s expand the military shooter genre while we’re at it. To be fair, Bunch of Heroes provides for some solid cooperative murderfests.
The campaign itself didn’t seem particularly compelling from what little I played, but going online with the wave-based survival arenas was a total blast. Except for the part where, every time you die, your respawn timer increases. The concept of waiting a matter of minutes before you can rejoin the fight is laughable.
Time spent: 103 minutes. Likelihood I’ll finish it: 1 percent
Cities XL 2011
Has it been so long since you’ve last touched a SimCity that you forgot how to play and are unwilling to meander through the damned tutorials again? Let’s be Cities XL 2011 buddies.
For the best results, I’d recommend blaring jazz in the background while you play. There’s a noticeable lack of charm here, but until Maxis delivers a modern-day city builder, I’m plenty satisfied with this.
Time spent: 2 hours. Likelihood I’ll finish it: N/A (One does not simply “beat” Cities XL 2011)
E.Y.E.: Divine Cybermancy
Otherwise known as “The game where you can hack doors and they can hack you back,” E.Y.E. is too out there for my tastes, even having gone in expecting the unexpected.
I wanted to be tickled by its liberal use of sincere WTFery, but too much intuitiveness was sacrificed to make this ambitious game possible. Considering the commitment being asked of players, it’s incredibly unlikely I’ll ever manage to stick around long enough for E.Y.E. to connect with me.
Time spent: 58 minutes. Likelihood I’ll finish it: 5 percent
One of the best-looking independent games of recent memory, Hard Reset goes old-school in its approach to first-person shooting. There’s always room in my heart for the no-frills design of games like Doom, Serious Sam, and Painkiller.
Sometimes, you desire nothing more than to shut your brain off for an evening and rid yourself of stress by blasting away otherworldly beings. And I’m so happy there are pockets of designers out there to provide us with this type of experience.
For me, it always comes down to how satisfying the weapons feel and how effective the enemies are at inducing bloodlust. Hard Reset performs admirably on both fronts, and it’s fast. Fast is good. Next time I get hammered and Animal Planet decides to play some cryptozoology bullshit instead of the show about baby sloths, I’ll fire up this game up.
Time spent: 33 minutes. Likelihood I’ll finish it: 80 percent
This is a fine example of why I love indie games. In Solar 2, you start off as an asteroid. By colliding with space debris of equal size, you eventually become a planet, then a star, and even a black hole. Think Osmos, but with more of an emphasis placed on getting objects to orbit you. Objects that just so happen to be, presumably, sentient.
The discussion that led to the creation of this game reminds me of what (I imagine) meetings at Atari were like in the late ’70s. You’re free to float through the universe in Solar 2 as you please or impress a narrating deity by way of completing objectives. I’ve yet to seriously tackle the latter, but I’m curious.
Time spent: 78 minutes. Likelihood I’ll finish it: 60 percent
Space Pirates and Zombies
Did anyone avoid this game after seeing the name? Zombie fatigue be damned! If you did, reconsider — it’s quite good.
SPAZ is a real-time, top-down space combat game in which you harvest resources, improve and expand your fleet, fire off some pew-pew-pews, and do a bunch of other tasks that I haven’t grasped. Seriously, I feel like I’ve played for five minutes. The scope is baffling, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Time spent: 62 minutes. Likelihood I’ll finish it: 0.1 percent
Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine
In a list of games that were on sale for a few bucks each, Space Marine stands out. I’m a fan of Relic’s Dawn of War series, but I inadvertently let this badass simulator slip by me and figured waiting for a discount couldn’t hurt.
It’s funny how differently Space Marine plays from the modern games which were inspired by its source material. Cover is out, and clobbering the shit out of Orks is in. Oh how unbelievably satisfying the combat is; Relic nailed that aspect, no question.
The campaign isn’t long at all, but considering how few distinct goals you ultimately accomplish within, it’s for the best. Space Marine works as the first of a potential new game series. However, a sequel — as much as I long for one — would need to step up nearly every aspect.
Time spent: 5 hours. Likelihood I’ll finish it: N/A (I finished single-player)
What’s the damage?
Eh, there’s nothing I want to play. Team Fortress 2 The Binding of Isaac it is!