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CB Games Bundle Reviews HUMBLE INDIE BUNDLE 8

A game review article by: Nick Boisson, Sarah Conde, Jon Dantzler, Sean Gonzalez, Dorian Scarlett

Every few months, the awesome guys over at Humble Bundle set up the Humble Indie Bundle, a collection of independent games from some of the best developers out there where you pay whatever you want and the proceeds go between the developers and charity. Their most recent bundle  Humble Indie Bundle 8 – was released and a few of us here at CB Games decided to take a look at the games we haven't played and bundle up our reviews.

Ladies and gentlemen, here is the Humble Indie Bundle 8...

 


 

Awesomenauts

3.5 stars

Available Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux, Steam, Xbox LIVE Arcade, PlayStation Network
Reviewed Platform: Steam
Developer: Romino Games  /  Publisher: dtp Entertainment

Team Fortress 2 and League of Legends had a baby, and surprise, it’s a multiplayer online battle arena! Awesomenauts gets its structure from stern papa, League of Legends, and its witty sense of humor and freedom from Team Fortress 2 and her extended Valve family.

You already know the steps to this dance. Lore dictates that two opposing sides settle their differences through proxy wars, fought by opposing teams of eclectic fighters. And if you’ve ever wondered what Neopets would look like if they had been dragged through an aggressive post-millennial re-branding, than Awesomenauts’ roster of combatants should clear up any of your lingering suspicions. The gameplay is also business as usual for a MOBA. There are turret flavored distractions keeping you and your team from an unprotected energy source that you’ll have to destroy to win a round. Your character – one of many mercenaries this time around – is a smaller piece to a larger team dynamic depending on what they specialize in. Assassins get in for effective takedowns, tanks soak up damage, and brawlers are your bland working class everyman. Pick a class, get comfortable, and don’t get discouraged by how many times you have managed to die trying to take out one turret.

The title has dropped its top down, fog of war heritage in favor of a more classic 2D side scrolling battlefield. That freedom ultimately speeds up rounds and overall gameplay. This change in perspective doesn’t completely eliminate the tactical angle present in the more traditional entries in this genre, but it does lighten the serious tone garnered by a play style that usually emphasizes strategy over chaos. It’s the difference between a pastry crafted with aged professional hands and a Dunkin’ Donuts breakfast croissant. Similar ideas, radically different execution.

Breaking away from that mold works in Awesomenauts favor. It’s charitable to new users who might just want to jump in the pool and splash adults in the face. One of the biggest compliments I can give Ronimo Games is that after a few rounds, I didn’t feel the need to abandon the disjointed voices surrounding me and play against bots. Of course, the human element will vary from player to player, but for the majority of my time with Awesomenauts, my fellow teammates were actually amiable.

Is it a watered down MOBA? Well, sort of. But its lightness positively affects other aspects of the game as well and transforms tired lane trudging into a colorful bounce house. If the prospect of gangster frogs with thick gold chains, fighting space Texans doesn’t get you jazzed, then I feel sorry for your inescapable ennui.

by Dorian Scarlett

 

 

Capsized

4 stars

Available Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux, Steam
Reviewed Platform: PC
Developer: Alientrap

Capsized plays like a slightly more grown-up version of many other modern side-scrolling shooters. You control a little guy with big guns who kills a lot of stuff while jumping around his environment. However, Capsized ups the ante – and difficulty – by a degree significant enough to make it a superior game.

For starters, the setting is pretty crazy. Shipwrecked on an alien planet, you venture onto the swampy, poisonous surface alone and unwelcome. Enemies are fast and the action faster, with hordes of them swarming on you at once. The challenge is considerable and keeps the gameplay invigorating. Visuals and art direction are spot on, except for jilted animations and the feeling of being alone on a foreign planet is palpable. Levels feature well-designed combat venues and are short, mission-based affairs as opposed to a Metroid-style open planet.

Capsized also shakes things up on the platforming side. Your character has a sweet grappling hook as well as a “gravity ram” to push and pull objects. Obviously, the grappling hook can also pull your character, so you get some fun and complex platforming segments interspersed with all the combat. You can use the grappler in the middle of combat, a move that would be cool were it not for the slippery controls, and the mouse just never seems to quite aim your gun where you want. Combine that with pretty high enemy HP (I played on normal) and the game can be a bit frustrating.

When you get down to it, though, it is pretty hard to screw up a game about killing aliens. I found myself pretty drawn into Capsized – despite my complaints – and would definitely consider a highlight among its ilk.

by Jon Dantzler

 

 

Dear Esther

3 stars

Available Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux, Steam
Reviewed Platform: PC
Developer: thechineseroom

Dear Esther is an interactive Rorschach test. It’s visually interesting, but you’re really going to need to put something personal into it to get anything meaningful out of it. You’ll walk for a while, you’ll enjoy the sights and your narrator’s soothing accent, and then it ends. But in the moments of solitude, where you’re walking and sightseeing, you get to be alone with your thoughts. After about 90 minutes of play time, the most entertaining mechanic Dear Esther had to offer was time alone to think about things.

In regards to gameplay, Dear Esther is on the lower tier of “Indie-Walkers’’, those minimalist titles that when stripped down to their code are basically games where you walk from a start point to an end point while moody music plays. It doesn’t have the emotional weight of a game like Passage or the meaningful multiplayer mechanic of a title like Journey. It’s not doing anything truly spectacular in terms of play.

Plot is Dear Esther’s ace in the hole. It comes saddled with an ambiguous tale recounted by a nameless narrator. He talks to the titular Esther about what drew him and a few others to the games seemingly barren island. You’ll get these bits of the story in random order and it’s possible to miss whole sections on an initial playthrough. Despite being an indie title, Dear Esther manages to slide into the same pit its AAA kin seem to be familiar with, wherein the game’s environment will tend to hold more interesting information than the given narrative. The main story is fine and welcoming after long sections of white noise, but I found myself only half listening at certain points because a broken down shack would break the horizon, and I would briskly walk to see what strange marking waited within its weathered interior. In the glowing caves are remains of hurriedly erected camps and more cryptic messages and the narrator just said something, but I was distracted by what might be blood.

Is Dear Esther a game? I think so. It won’t take you long to finish and its soundtrack is beautiful. This title is not life affirming or complex, but it is something different that lasts as long as it should.

by Dorian Scarlett

 

 

English Country Tune

3.5 stars

Available Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux, Steam, iOS
Reviewed Platform: PC
Developer: Increpare Games

English Country Tune is a 3D puzzle game with a fairly simple premise. Upon entering a new level, you are faced with a random number of puzzles, and the theme changes as you progress through each unique world. In “Larva”, for example, you are tasked with moving a ball into a slot while keeping gravity in mind, while “Garden” asks the player to plant tiny hedges onto blank tiles. Some worlds even combine multiple puzzle-solving mechanics or ramp up the difficulty in advanced versions of previously completed worlds.

Initially, the game reminded me of Unblock Me, a game I usually play on my phone when I’m just messing around. Comparing English Country Tune to this title, however, would be doing the game a great injustice because English seems to take puzzle solving to an entirely new level. The player is given an intriguing navigation system and ambient music that almost makes the game feel otherworldly. The design is simple, but quite beautiful. The game sucks you in after completing the first few puzzles and makes you eager to move forward. That is, until I found myself face-to-face with a brick wall. I will give you a fair warning, folks: this game is hard and it can make you feel dumb.

I ran into the most trouble just trying to understand and perfect the set of rules governing each world. Players will undoubtedly find they enjoy or dread different levels. Many of them play to different strengths and weaknesses, hence why I hated any levels involving gravity. I’m not really a physics kind of a player. The real shame is feeling as if I had to resort to a guessing game and couldn’t fully appreciate the methodical strategy within each puzzle.

My determination and excitement for the game stuck with me for about two solid hours; then I just felt exhausted. Even though the puzzles became more complicated, the general environment and music remained the same. There was nothing tangible to draw my attention into the game further and help me over the hurdles of frustration. Puzzle-lovers will eat this game up, but it doesn’t seem to have that extra special something to attract and hold on to the attention of larger audiences.

English Country Tune could very well be worth your time and money, but it depends on your level of patience on whether you will stick with it. I wish you better luck!

by Sarah Conde

 

 

Hotline Miami

5 stars

Available Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux, Steam
Reviewed Platform: PC
Developer: Dennaton Games  /  Publisher: Devolver Digital

I don't know what it is that grabbed me when I first started playing Hotline Miami, but I can safely say that the game still has me in its grasp in the seemingly brief moments when I am not in the neon-colored world of 1989 Miami.

In Hotline Miami, you play the nameless anti-hero who receives his very poorly disguised killing orders on his answering machine. You do not really know his drive for such actions beyond the ominous phone requests at first, but you learn a little about the character as you progress. After the phone calls, you get in your car and drive to the location addressed and cause some ruckus. The story is told out of sequence and you can never be sure that the experiences you are playing actually happened to your letterman jacket-wearing anti-hero. You will wonder just what is going on with our unreliable narrator throughout the game and you may be quite surprised just how much you care to discover more.

What really stands out here is the one-hit kill system. While appearing to be an early-Grand Theft Auto clone on the surface, if an enemies fires at you or swings a bat/knife/crowbar at your body, you are dead. There is no health system, no regenerative shield, no time to run away before the bullet hits you. They attack, you're dead. While that may seem like a simple mechanic, it makes the game remarkably difficult for those of us who have grown up on modern beat-'em-ups and shmups. Mainly because that is not what this game is. It isn't Grand Theft Auto 1 set in Vice City; it is a real-time strategy game dropped into a real world setting which was then swallowed into a Super NES game. You have to plan out how to take all these enemies out and, if you don't plan it right, you will not live to tell the tale.

Then, you have the music. The game takes place in late-1980s Miami, so Dennaton and Devolver Digital have gathered up quite a soundtrack – with artists like Sun Araw, M.O.O.N., Perturbator, CoConuts and Scattle – which gives you the feeling like you're in a dark scene from a William Friedkin flick. Each track helps you feel like you're playing in a 1980s version of Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive, before the girl and her kid came in a ruined the movie.

Hotline Miami is a fun, damn near torturous interactive experience and you owe it to yourself to play through every second of it!

by Nick Boisson

 

 

Intrusion 2

3.5 stars

Available Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux, Steam
Reviewed Platform: PC
Developer: VAP Games

Intrusion 2 plays like the bastard child of SNK’s Metal Slug and the games I used to play on Bored.com in middle school. I loved Metal Slug and Bored.com got me through homeroom, so this is not necessarily a bad thing.

Intrusion 2 does rise above its humble components with its cool ragdoll physics system tacked onto the side-scrolling gunplay action. It makes the break-apart robot enemies – also a nod to Metal Slug – look sweet as hell when you blow them to pieces. Banners wave in the wind, tree limbs break and boulders can flatten your enemies. The clever level design takes full advantage of this with boxes to shoot around, bridges to break and lots of explodey bits. It’s also silly fun to trap enemies under objects you knock over. Occasional slowdown – even on my quad-core machine – does hamper the hectic feel, but the animation is gorgeous so it is somewhat acceptable. The game is coded in Flash, so that may be another reason for the slowdown.

The game keeps itself pretty basic, which is both a good and bad thing: good for the retro feel, bad because there is just not much to it aside from blasting bad dudes. As a result, Intrusion 2 ends up feeling a little more like a Bored.com game rather than a spiritual successor to SNK’s shoot-em-up standard. However, it will certainly keep you satisfied, especially if you chucked as many quarters as I did into the Metal Slug machine.

by Jon Dantzler

 

 

Little Inferno

4 stars

Available Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux, Steam, Wii U, iOS
Reviewed Platform: PC
Developer: Tomorrow Corporation

Little Inferno makes me call into question what many games have been doing lately: Is this a video game?

Little Inferno opens by telling you there is no score and nothing to gain. All you have to do is burn stuff in your Little Inferno fireplace. While that may seem like a dull time and almost a pointless venture, the game is far from that. You get to buy a number of items – toys, batteries, a television, even someone else's credit card and family photograph – and set them ablaze in your fireplace. Trying out a number of different items can sometimes lead to a combo. But, again, you do not gain anything and there is no score.

The game plays like a satirical sandbox to the usual quests one receives in games that have no merits beyond their completion. You even receive letters from another fellow owner of a Little Inferno fireplace that suggests you try things and sometimes even sends you things to burn.

While many might enjoy this game, I fear Little Inferno will stand as a divisive game that players will either “get” or not. That said, I dropped a quite a bit of time into Little Inferno and I would recommend it to a number of people to at least try for themselves. While it may not fit the definition of a “game”, it is a terribly fun virtual toy that would just be ruined by things like scores and a plot.

by Nick Boisson

 

 

Oil Rush

2.5 stars

Available Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux, Steam
Reviewed Platform: PC
Developer: Unigine Corp.

Oil Rush is a naval strategy game in which you must fight over control of a post-apocalyptic world’s remaining oil supplies. In campaign mode, you play as Kevin, a new graduate who is given orders from a man known as The Commander. The overall goal is to protect and secure oil in order to protect and secure your survival. I didn’t find this to be the most sophisticated storyline, but I was willing to overlook it. That is, until I actually played the game.

To put it simply, Oil Rush is boring. Each mission involves basic tasks such as securing bases, extracting oil and fending off the enemy, known as Raiders. For a strategy game, you aren’t given all that much power. In fact, hardcore strategy fans will probably be turned off by the loss of control. Once you delegate your commands within the game, most of your actions are automated. You just get to watch. While it is nice to feel an instant sense of gratification upon completing each mission, you spend way too much time just sitting around. Even if you go solely based on the Commander’s sense of urgency for each mission, the game doesn’t feel very action packed. The multiplayer offers a bit more freedom within the gameplay itself, but you will most likely have trouble finding anyone to play with.

Now, don’t get me wrong, watching the game can be quite nice. The UNIGINE Engine allows for immersive graphics with beautiful seascapes. The amount of detail is impressive, including oil workers that you can actually see going about their duties on the different rigs and platforms. While this provided a temporary burst of entertainment, I found that the gameplay itself did not offer enough to keep me engaged. I mean, video games are supposed to be interactive, after all.

I also found myself gradually losing interest based on the premise of the game. I wouldn’t consider myself an environmentalist in any sense, but it felt wrong to celebrate sucking the oceans dry. This will likely only bother a handful of people, but in light of current events, it is something to think about. When the game was released in 2010, the industry was thinking about it too.

If you’re a strategy lover, feel free to give Oil Rush a try. Just make sure you’re ready to be disappointed. As for anyone else, you probably shouldn’t bother.

by Sarah Conde

 

 

Proteus

4 stars

Available Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux, Steam
Reviewed Platform: PC
Developers: Ed Key and David Kanaga  /  Publisher: Twisted Tree Games

I’d be hard-pressed to label Proteus as a video game. Sure it’s similar to many games – with its first-person camera, pixel graphics and WASD control scheme – but it is just dissimilar enough to warrant a definition of its own. What else could you call an experience where the player is as much a musician in the orchestra as they are an audience member in the stands?

Being dropped into the middle of an ocean, with nothing by a randomly generated island in view, the player is left with only one option: take a walk through a digital playground where every sight is accompanied by a lovely sound. Due to Proteus’ lack of goals, enemies or checkpoints, the player is motivated to explore by their curiosity and wonderment. For every tree you pass and every frog you notice hopping by, another piece of the soundtrack is added, drawing you into a lovely musical montage.

The soundtrack eschews its seemingly easy definition of “ambient” because it’s more than just a tool used to set the mood or occupy a void. It’s inherently mixed into the experience of the island. Often times, I found myself chasing an image I saw across a field, not only to get a closer look, but to hear what sound could be added to Proteus’ performance.

At first, I was worried that someone raised by boss battles and goal points would lack appreciation for something like Proteus, but it manages to capture attention despite (or perhaps because of) its lack of these components. It could probably best be compared to the difference between those who go hiking in order to get to a specific location and those who go hiking just to experience the trail.

If you fall in the latter category, Proteus may very well be just the “game” for you. 

by Sean Gonzalez

[Nick: Also be sure to check out our full review of Proteus as well as our interview with Ed Key!]

 

 

Thomas Was Alone

4.5 stars

Available Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux, Steam, PlayStation Network
Reviewed Platform: PC
Developer: Mike Bithell

A pretty important word in game design and critique is “immersion”. The word relates to how strongly the player can suspend their disbelief and actually see the pixels on their screen as part of the real world. Without immersion, gamers wouldn’t get lost in their favorite games; exploring new worlds and experiencing fantastic adventures. Clearly, the concept of immersion is inherently tied to a game’s enjoyment, so it’s understandable that big budget game studios attempt to stimulate the gamers with top-notch graphics, elaborate stories and intense action.

Thomas Was Alone, which was designed by Mike Bithell all on his lonesome, seems to follow a completely different route to the same destination.

Simple, subtle and even a bit quaint, Thomas Was Alone immediately sucks the player in with its unique story narration that is neatly tied together with classic platforming. You play as a teeny rectangle, with a penchant for hopping, named Thomas. Of course, Bithell is trying to take advantage of the human ability to relate and create an emotional connection to anything, from volley balls to small rectangles that hop around asking existential questions and he does a good job of hooking the player. Thomas and his spunky little quadrilateral friends are specifically what convinced me to purchase the game after playing the demo.

Now, the platforming is generally challenging, with some interesting effects being added as the game progresses, but it should pose no real challenge to those, let’s say, forged in the fires of games like Super Meat Boy and Dustforce. Due to this, the game comes off feeling a bit short. But as mentioned earlier, it’s the entire package presented exceptionally well that makes Thomas Was Alone a magical game that is well worth trying out.  

by Sean Gonzalez

 

 

Tiny & Big in Grandpa's Leftovers

3.5 stars

Available Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux, Steam
Reviewed Platform: PC
Developer: Black Pants Game Studio

Tiny & Big in Grandpa's Leftovers is a 3D puzzle-platformer from Black Pants Game Studio which centers on the two characters that the game is named after. Big is a baddy who has absconded with Tiny’s magic underpants, so Tiny sets out on a quest to get them back at all costs. In many ways this game seems to embody the perfect model of an indie game. One example relates to the soundtrack which is made up of a mix of original tracks from relatively unknown bands from around the world. Each track seems to be carefully selected to match the game’s setting despite not necessarily being each level’s theme. Instead, the player finds tapes throughout the map and can cycle between them at will. The art style also lends itself to an indie style one might find in urban art galleries or hip deviant art pages. Not only does the menu and promo art exude this style, but the entire game is permeated by this sketchy retro mood.

The real clincher, and most praisable part of the game, is its unique platforming mechanics. They’re specifically interesting because of a certain tool Tiny carries around at all times: his laser gun. At any moment in the game, Tiny can cut rocks, walls and general constructs in the area to provide any necessary path towards the goal. It’s a major improvement from the standard platforming fare of repetitiously hopping between floating blocks. Now, practically every part of the game is a unique puzzle, where the player has to determine where exactly a cut should be placed in order to get across the level. In addition to the laser, a grappling hook and rocket allow Tiny to manipulate cut pieces of rock in a myriad of ways.

The game consists of just a few levels, but they’re rather lengthy and provide a solid amount of space to explore for collectibles. To be fair, Tiny & Big: Grandpa’s Leftovers is just the first in an episodic series, so the lack of levels can be attributed to them saving more for later. [Also, the game’s beta, can be found as Episode 0 on Black Pants’ website for free.]

Having gone into Tiny & Big with little to no expectations, I was pleased to be surprised by its clever mechanics and story. For those rocking back and forth in their chairs, waiting patiently for the day when a Psychonauts 2 is released, I suggest they kill time with Tiny & Big.

by Sean Gonzalez

 

 


Be sure to pick up the Humble Indie Bundle 8 before Tuesday, June 11, 2013 and grab all these games (plus 10 soundtracks) along with their Steam codes! All games are playable on PC, Mac and Linux.


 

 

Pop culture geek, Nick Boisson, lives in front of his computer, where he is Section Editor of Comics Bulletin's video game appendage and shares his slushily obsessive love of video games, comics, television and film with the Internet masses. In the physical realm, he just moved to Austin, Texas and is trying to figure out just how many times it is possible to go to the Alamo Drafthouse theatres without seeming too weird.

He rants on about the things he loves (and hates) on Twitter as @nitroslick. You can also find him on Steam, Xbox LIVE, PlayStation Network, Nintendo Network and Raptr under the name “nitroslick”.


A product of the geekiest father imaginable, Sarah Conde has been a lover of games since she worked up the courage to play Resident Evil 3 on her own accord. After her paralyzing fear of Nemesis subsided, she found herself hooked. A future graduate student at Kennesaw State University, she has found countless ways to avoid the job market and ramble on about video games in an academic setting. She joins Comics Bulletin on a mission to communicate that games are good for society. If you want to get her talking for hours, just mention cats, cons or Final Fantasy. She's a pretty simple gal.

You can follow Sarah on Twitter @sarahcatconde or as her Girl Informer persona on Blogger and Tumblr.


Jon Dantzler lives in North Carolina. Gifted with a Game Boy while in utero, his childhood was full of games. He started writing when he was 11 and now devotes the majority of his time to either activity, usually accompanied by beer and food. You can read his tweets, mostly about said beer and food, at @TYBasedJon.


Sean Gonzalez is ALL ABOUT some things: Comic books, Garage Rock, Video Games and Star Trek. He's only recently discovered that he has opinions on things. You can find him in patches of tall grass or at his website. Feel free to follow his inane utterances on Twitter as @Cyclopsean.


Dorian Scarlett was born in a combination arcade/fun zone. He was then taken to Florida, educated, and now seeks refuge on the internet where he writes about games. If you were ever curious to see material comedians throw out, you can find those at his Facebook. Or if it strikes your fancy, go enjoy the horrible things he likes over at the Tumblrs.

 

 

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