I find myself in a position Iím becoming rather familiar with (no, not reverse cowgirl)... owning all of the games in an upcoming pack. So now that Iím finally doing this crazy blog thing, I figured Iíd spread some of that knowledge for those of you on the fence about buying this absurdly awesome pack.
Without further ado...
1. Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet
ITSP is a game in the Metroidvania style, where you pilot a UFO and explore an alien world while collecting items, weapons and upgrades that allow you to backtrack and progress further. The best part of this game, hands down, is the art. Itís almost worth picking this up for that alone. The game is gorgeous, and runs like a dream. Itís stylized, acid-trip-like visuals make you feel like youíre in a lost episode of some crazy cartoon.
There are drawbacks. The game itself is fairly short, and at times crushingly difficult. Figuring out some of the puzzles can be very hit or miss and you can find yourself lost or way over your head fairly easily. The multiplayer, too, is another shortcoming. Donít be fooled by the 4 player co-op. Co-op involves running from a massive creature down an obstacle filled hall while carrying a light in the manipulator claw of your ship. Each player gets one, and if the enemy hits them, it destroys the light. Itís frustrating, confusing and you will find yourself often screwed by the physics of the game. Thereís also only one map with very little variety in the challenges you face. Gir, this is the last time Iím letting you pick our vacation spot.
In Deadlight, you play a survivor in a zombie-infested, apocalyptic Seattle whoís trying to find his wife and daughter who he assumes are in one of the areaís refugee camp. The gameplay itself is reminiscent of older adventure games Out of this World, Flashback and Blackthorne, and the controls are for the most part, solid and responsive.
Out of all the games in this pack, to me this is the weakest. I managed to play through this game in less than 6 hours, and while it is visually and atmospherically stunning, many of the puzzles can be unfairly cryptic and youíll find yourself getting killed many times in a way that feels a bit cheap at times (Iím looking at you, Rat).
The developers have packed an unbelievable amount of backstory, history, detail and emotion into this game, and while I feel it could have benefitted from a bit longer run time, Iím glad it doesnít overstay its welcome. His homeless-fu is strong.
3. Toy Soldiers
The only game in the pack that I havenít had a lot of time with. A sort of hybrid tower-defense, RTS... thing... Toy Soldiers sees you fighting off massive swarms of enemy soldiers with gun emplacements, artillery, tanks (which you can control directly), planes (which you can fly directly) and snipers (which you can take over and shoot with directly). Itís a lot of fun, but tends to drift towards the repetitive side after a few missions. Some missions also tend to be a bit longer than they should, and the lack of checkpoints to restart with means losing can be painful at times.
Iíve made it through about a quarter of the main campaign and have no major beef with the game. Some weapons could stand to feel a bit stronger, there might be more reward to personally controlling vehicles but those are mostly nitpicks.
If you enjoy tower defense and wished it could be a bit more hands on, this isnít a bad place to start. Though compared to the next entry, it starts to look a bit pale. If youíre captured... itís into the microwave for you!
4. Iron Brigade/Trenched
In this World War 1 aesthetic sci-fi masterpiece, you pilot a ĎTrenchí, a big, rickety mech bristling with guns, missiles and mines. Your enemy is the Tube, a cybernetic life form created by an evil science bent on... you know what? I donít know. Probably killing stuff.
Honestly, it doesnít matter. While the writing in this game is good, the gameplay is like having cocaine shot directly into your eyes. This is an arcade-style mech piloting tower defense game with some surprisingly robust customization options.
My advice? Get three friends to shell out for this, get plenty of the drink of your choice and crank through this baby. It was the most fun Iíve had with a video game in years. No surprise there, being a Double Fine production.
Seriously. This features a general who lives in an iron lung (which has an automated cigar cutter/lighter/manipulator built in for him) and lets you play as a posh British soldier in a tuxedo and tiki mask aboard a walking mech painted solid gold. Itís mad fun. Tied for the best title in the bunch with...
Yes, I AM compensating for something.
5. Mark of the Ninja
Talk about dynamic entry. Inked in the oh-so-iconic Penny Arcade style, this sidescrolling stealth title was one of the biggest Ďholy shití moments of last year.
You play a ninja (YES!) who has received a magical tattoo that allows him to stop time whenever he feels like it. The story concerns the old Ďrevenge for my destroyed claní thing that damn near every ninja has going on, but thatís not the reason to play this.
The absolutely eyegasming visuals, the fantastic sound direction, the solid gameplay and the absolutely knife-edge-perfect stealth mechanics are the reasons to play this.
This game stands in the perfect balance of not holding your hand, but never putting you in a situation that you wonít naturally be able to conquer on your own. Itís empowering, itís fast and itís thrilling as hell. Taking out a roomful of guards hasnít felt this amazing since Arkham Asylum, and youíll find yourself grinning ear to ear as you pull off amazing strategies and destroy your foes.
Fans of stealth games will love the system, and people who arenít major stealth fans might still like it for itís solid controls, beautiful presentation and organic mechanics.
Itís also very flexible on how it allows you to approach a mission. Want to avoid kills? By all means. Itís a hell of a challenge. Want to kill everybody? Go ahead, the gameíll support you all the way through. The only thing you canít do is get caught. Your ninja knows what his job is, and thatís cutting people like fruit while being invisible, and it cements this by not allowing you to kill people when theyíre aware of your presence.
Easily a contender for my top list of 2012, you canít go wrong with Mark. More like a non-ja.
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