Steam Winter Sale Breakdown

I nabbed a ridiculous number of new games during this winter’s Steam sale. The perfect storm of insanely low prices, credits from selling virtual trading cards, Steambux in the Christmas stocking and (this is the part that really blows my mind) gifts from YouTube and Twitch viewers, I walked away with more games than I could play in a reasonable amount of time. However, I have finally finished making the rounds and thought I would share a few half-formed thoughts I had about them.

Bioshock Infinite

I’m only about halfway through this one, but so far I like it for all the same reasons I liked the original Bioshock, and then some. The story, setting and characters are intriguing. Combat is fairly painless, even for poor players like me who suck at FPSes. (If you’re a game developer, by the way, and you want to accomplish that: include viable melee options and special abilities that don’t require aiming.) What I really need is a day where I have six or eight consecutive hours to sit down and complete the rest of it.

Borderlands 2

I decided to take a chance on this after watching a buddy play Poker Night at the Inventory and falling in love with Claptrap. The game so far is charming and funny, and it really pokes that part of my brain that painstakingly loots every barrel and crate in Elder Scrolls games. The guns are easy to aim and fun to use (unlike Fallout 3, which really should have filled my quota for “Skyrim with guns”, except I found it impossible to play). Where I left off the other day was a string of demolition derby quests which were just good, clean, stupid fun.

My main complaint so far is that the game is really, really hard. I haven’t completed a story mission yet where I didn’t die five or six times. Enemies soak up unbelievable amounts of damage and spend most of their time running towards you, unloading their weapons. I’m playing a sniper class, which I figured meant I could pick bad guys off from a distance, but they don’t actually seem to spawn until I’m inside their range of vision. At which point, of course, they spot me immediately and shoot me with perfect accuracy.

That said, respawning is instant and cheap, and I’m solving a lot of problems by just throwing my sack of meat and bones at them repeatedly. I’ll probably play this one in short spurts over a long period.

Costume Quest

A charming little RPG about kids in Halloween costumes. Unfortunately it’s also boring to play. One afternoon was about all I needed out of this one. Combat isn’t varied enough, is the problem. When it takes two minutes to resolve a battle, and there’s always an obvious move to make on every combat round, the formula has a kink in it. I feel bad for not finishing it, because I want to spend some more time with the characters and learn how the story plays out, but I’m too old to boot up games that don’t respect my time.

FEZ

Overrated. Attractive to look at, but not fun or interesting to play. Perspective gimmicks are a tricky wicket. Yes, they’re clever and visually impressive — but they’re also trivial to solve. You spin the thing until you see the thing and then you get the thing. I played this for about two hours, and that time didn’t involve anything deeper than “jump to platform” or “spin world”, so maybe that’s all there is.

The game was also pretty chatty at the outset, though it didn’t have anything interesting to say. It seems to think fezzes are inherently funny. I don’t know if it’s going for a “lol monkey cheese random bacon” internet meme style of humor, or what, but it didn’t work for me. At first I wanted it to shut up and let me play it, and then it wasn’t that much fun to play. Oh well.

Guacamelee!

I can’t recommend this game highly enough. It has a freeform world structure like Shantae, and intense air-dash/double-jump/world-switch platforming challenges like Giana Sisters, and crazy melee combat like… well, like nothing else, really. (Maybe They Bleed Pixels?) You pummel, grab, throw, and slam enemies together in a gloriously violent ballet. That kind of gameplay is thrilling, but doesn’t usually have any staying power with me. Using Metroidvania elements to glue the fighting sequences together is just what the doctor ordered.

I could write an entire article about how much I liked the structure of Guacamelee!‘s post-game.

I’m interested to see how well this game holds up on replays, but I gotta say, the fact that I’m considering replaying it all so soon after completing it already speaks volumes.

Hotline Miami

About as fun as any high-end browser game that sells itself on retro graphics and gratuitous violence. That said, I had more fun with this than I usually have with games this shallow. It’s carnage for a few hours, and then it’s done, and then you can forget about it. At first glance it almost looks like you can examine a game level and execute an effective strategy. That is doomed to failure. Embrace the chaos and restart a lot, and you’ll be more successful. I do wish it had been that game of plan-and-attack, though; I don’t feel the random weapons or split-second instakills did it any favors. Many of the game’s fans have embraced it for exactly the reasons I shrugged it off, though, so what do I know.

Just Cause 2

I, ah… crap. I thought I had played all these! I’ll get to it later, I guess. I bought it because it has a grappling hook, and I fully expect to spend one night trying to grapple everything in sight, then never touching the game again. Does that sound about right?

Long Live the Queen

The trailer for this game made it sound a bit like if Princess Maker 2 were a black comedy. It is neither of those things, though. Outside of the adorably tragic death cards there is nothing funny in the game at all — it is played achingly straight, and slathers the drama on three inches thick. It also lacks the elements of randomness of Princess Maker, and all but one of the gameplay modes. All you do is pick your school schedule and then make choices during pre-written cutscenes. Instead of watching your princess’s growth and having her logically or intuitively react to things that pop up in the game world, you are rewarded for taking painstaking notes so you can make a more correct set of decisions next time you play. Or, I suppose, you could keep an incredibly large number of carefully labelled and categorized save games in conjunction with your notes. Either way, it’s paperwork.

The formula would have worked if the writing were spectacular, and if there were a user-friendly system built in to rewind the game to any previous state you’ve had it in. That game still wouldn’t be much fun to play, but it’d be a worthwhile read and wouldn’t actively punish you for not having Excel opened in another tab. I played quite a lot of Queen, carefully mapping out its plot graph, before I got irretrievably bored and looked up the solution to get the ending I wanted.

Mirror’s Edge

I played through the training mission and hated it. Why would anyone make a first person jumping-and-climbing-things game? The game would say things like “press LB to jump then LT in the air to coil yourself up and avoid the barbed wire ahead”. And I would push those buttons, and then die, because I jumped too early or coiled too late or who knows why. And then on the fourth or fifth try I would succeed and go on to the next bit, which told me to press some other combination of buttons, so I could fail four or five times on that. (And who’s idea was it to map jump to a bumper in the first place? And who decided we’d want two logically-opposed actions on one side of the controller, rather than on opposite sides — especially considering those two buttons would have to frequently be held together? Blah!) It was irritating as hell and I simply could not shake the feeling that the game would be so much smoother if I could just see my character’s position and orientation in the level. I hate feeling like I have to wrestle a game rather than control it, so that’s about all I was going to put up with.

Monaco

Pure liquid fun. The solo game is something like a thoughtful puzzle experience, tempered with just a touch of adrenaline. You carefully plan a route through each level, leveraging your crook’s special abilities while dodging guards and pocketing loot, and you have enough tools to salvage the mission should things to sour. In that sense it’s a bit like if Hotline Miami dialed back the insanity just a few notches.

The multiplayer is the same song, except things will almost immediately go to shit, and you and your teammate will be left frolicking through waves of hilarious, boisterous chaos. Clever cooperation is rewarded, but so is fast thinking, resource management and even stupid risk-taking. We’ve watched entire levels melt down, come through them anyway, and then were totally unable to discuss what happened because we were laughing too hard.

It’s intense and wonderful and beautiful. Highly recommended.

Risk of Rain

I was so excited about this game that I couldn’t even wait for this post to break down what I liked about it. Go read this big, gushing blog post about how challenging and rewarding this game is. I can’t wait for them to fix the multiplayer!

Super Hexagon

I got this for like $0.69 — which I earned by selling Steam cards in the first place — and immediately wanted my money back. Loud, flashy garbage.

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5 comments to Steam Winter Sale Breakdown

  • Merus

    Fez is exactly half okay platformer and half anthropology puzzle game. It is an odd mix, and does not initially reveal that it contains anything deeper unless you read the achievements list.

  • Just Cause 2 was the one new game I picked up to test my new PC, and thought it was super fun. I love Open World games though, but it’s the kind of game it’s just fun to mess around with, and the game actually rewards you for just blowing up everything in sight. Not to mention the grappling hook itself, if this was the one 3D Bionic Commando game we got, I would have been a lot happier.
    Didn’t even start on the story until a few weeks later, but even the story has some fun missions.

    That said, I should go play some Monaco. It seemed pretty fun.

  • witchfynder

    I’ve been eyeing Guacamelee! for a while, now, because I’ve wanted to play a good Metroidvania for a long time that I didn’t already know through prior experience or shameless use of YouTube videos, but I lack funds and I was never too sure about it. Next time I have some extra dollars rolling around, though, I am definitely going to pick it up now. So, if nothing else, this post spurred one purchase of an indie game and that’s kind of a success, don’t you think?

  • MetManMas

    Just Cause 2 has a bit of a rough start (When you get to the chase sequence, take my advice: Bolt the enemy vehicles to the road with your grappling hook), but once you get into the game proper it’s like one huge playground for fucking about. Go parasailing, chain steal automobiles, nail some poor bastard to the back of a car/plane/boat/another poor bastard, skydive from over 5,000 feet in the air to the earth below and break your fall by hookshotting into the ground, hijack a helicopter in midair by beating up the pilot (or just magnum blasting him through the window), that sorta thing.

    Speaking of the hookshot, the most awesome thing is that hooks into practically everything in the game. If there was a game I wanted friggin’ Link modded into, this would be it.

  • Jaggie

    Hello, Brickroad. How are you?

    I’m replaying Kinetic Cipher, and, since the game may never be finished, I thought I would ask some questions about its story, that weren’t already answered in the deactivated Kinetic Cipher forums. I would be most pleased if you could answer 😀

    1 – Who is the final boss of the game?
    2 – What was the final uber-dungeon going to be?
    3 – What is the background of Insandru?

    That’s it. Thanks! 😀

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