Humble Indie Bundle 3 Review
Reviewed on PC
The latest Humble Bundle is out now and available for the generous price of whatever you fancy paying for it! While we at The Digital Fix would suggest that you reach into your dusty wallets and make sure the associated charities receive some well deserved moolah, have a read of the reviews below and then make your own mind up.
And hey, whatever you decide to give them....you can afford an extra quid right? If you've already purchased, head back to your redemption page and drop some more pence on them - they deserve it way more than you, you unwashed gamer you.
Crayon Physics Deluxe
Have you ever wanted to play a sandbox puzzle game? One where there was some overarching goal that you know you really should be working towards but instead you just fancy kicking back and – gosh – having fun? Well, if you have, then Crayon Physics Deluxe is the game for you.
In Crayon Physics your screen is transformed into a piece of crumpled paper and your mouse plays the part of the eponymous crayon. With this crayon you can draw anything you like – anything – onto the screen in order to attempt to move a small ball through one or more stars. Once you’ve gotten over your juvenile predilections for attempting to complete levels using only representations of various body parts then Crayon Physics proves itself to be a fun and sometimes frustrating puzzler.
Once you do start to play however you very quickly notice the repetitiveness of the game. Once you are past the first set of levels there are only really a few moments of freshness throughout the rest of the puzzles – the realisation that you can draw your own hinges on any already present static objects stands out in particular. While you are asked to complete each puzzle in the most ‘awesomest’ way possible too often you will be tempted to build and use the same golf club technique or a humorous giant hinge. That the rudimentary scoring system actually encourages you to complete the levels as simply as possible is a missed opportunity; anything that would have increased player innovation in solving the puzzles would have kept Crayon Physics Deluxe interesting for longer.
The morale of Crayon Physics? Make sure you kick back and chillax rather than treating the puzzles as simply something to beat. Once you have taken the self-competitiveness out of your gameplay equation you will find a whole lot more worth in playing this indie icon.
In breaking Cogs down to its most simple constituents one would describe the game as a tile-sliding puzzler, perhaps mentioning the steampunk feel of the graphics. Cogs is much more than this though, its mind-bending puzzles becoming ever more complex when multiple surfaces begin to be joined together in various 3D guises. As you progress through the stock levels additional features drop into place - you may well have succeeded in lining up all of your cogs correctly, but have you managed to line up your steam pipes to drive them at the same time? A personal favourite is any level which involves a double sided surface – keeping track of the blind side can be devilishly tricky on the more complex creations.
Progression through the main Inventor levels is based on the number of stars you accrue during play. These are awarded for finishing levels and for doing so under certain times and within a set number of moves. You can also earn stars in the two challenge modes – once you complete a level within the Inventor mode you can access it for replay within either a limited 10 moves only mode or a timed 30 second mode. This adds to the addictiveness of the action, forcing you to continually better yourself until you truly master each level.
The enduring appeal of Cogs is seen in its inclusion in events such as the Humble Game collection, or the recent Valve ARG surrounding the release of Portal 2. It’s one of those games you will see yourself returning to, either to squeeze out more stars to unlock more Inventor levels, or to see if you can finally beat that time challenge. It’s well made, it looks great and the only factor you can blame when things go wrong is yourself and not many games these days can say that.
I first played VVVVVV back in February 2010 when it appeared on Kongregate. As a flash game it was head and shoulders above most of the competition, but drew criticism for a $15 price point. The translation to a Steam download and a more reasonable price ($5/£4) took this Indie into the mass market and deservedly so.
VVVVVV is a 2D platformer with amazing 8-bit style graphics which warm the cockles of any gamer that’s been around long enough to remember when they would have been considered state of the art. Like many retro classics the gameplay is deliciously simple, with inputs limited to left, right and ‘flip’. Flip essentially changes the centre of gravity from north to south, thus replacing ‘jump’ with functionality with much more potential. VVVVVV delivers on this promise by constantly evolving its platforming challenges thus taxing even the most twitch-aware of gamers. Oh, and did I mention that it gets hard? As in double digit deaths per room hard?
However, the balance is such that you will never resent these deaths; checkpoints are numerous, lives are infinite and respawning is instant. Each room is short, with solutions quickly apparent once you set your mind on the task. The game encourages a ‘just one more room!’ mentality, and even once you have played through it’s relatively short storyline (~5 hours) the game will be fresh enough for you to want to pick it up again. Allowing user-made levels to be easily accessible was an inspired decision, and one that will keep you coming back long after other cheap Indie games have begun to rot at the bottom of your Steam list.
I looked forward to playing Hammerfight for a long time; I have a certain penchant for games from Eastern European devs and the pre-release artwork coming out of Russia had me reminiscing continually about Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura. I’m just a sucker for anything steampunk I guess. Nearly two years later I finally got the chance to play it and most of me wishes I’d left it in the ‘To Be Played’ pile.
The concept is unique – take a 2D world with a powerful physics engine, add in some simple controls and gameplay mechanics, so far so standard. Hammerfight stands apart however in that it uses these foundations to deliver its crushing blow, a truly unique control system. In Hammerfight you take control of a young tribal warrior piloting a steam powered helicopter armed with a variety of melee weapons and a limited choice of ranged weapons. Yes, I said a steam-powered helicopter with melee weapons. All movement and combat is controlled by the mouse, with the intention being to use sweeping circles to swing your weapons in pendulum style. Heavy maces have a solid feel and the ability to send your opponents flying into scenery for extra damage, while the bladed weapons are defter and require some precision swings to ensure you dispatch your foes.
With such a unique premise it is critical that the control system supports its delivery and enables accessibility into the game world. A session of Hammerfight quickly falls to fruitless frustration not just because of the morale-crushing difficulty but because too often you will fail purely due to luck. The combining circumstances of the physics engine and vicious swarms of enemies will often outdo you, sometimes allowing you to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Crazy circling with the mouse for your tenth attempt at a particular level loses its gloss when the encroaching UI hides an enemy and allows them a killing blow.
Hammerfight is a fantastic concept, and the game world is expansive. Those among us who can master the art of the mouse movement will find new game modes unlock as they progress and a whole array of rig customisation so they can fight the forces of gravity and physics however they wish. I doubt that the rest of us have the patience, especially when there are so many other more accessible experiences at our finger tips.
And Yet It Moves
And so we come to And Yet It Moves, or AYIM to its friends. Lauded upon its initial release as a WiiWare title AYIM allowed players to use the Wii’s motion controls to exploit the central hook of the game, the ability to rotate the game world around the player character in increments of 90°. While the concept seems sound, the question of whether or not the gameplay translates from nunchuck to keyboard is one that needs to be addressed.
The graphical presentation of AYIM is delightfully quirky, displaying proudly the Indie-led resurgence of exquisite 2D-esque visuals. The game takes place within a paper world with layers of scenery, obstacles and other living creatures represented by pieces of torn paper stacked upon a paper background. Initially the game presents only yourself and the scenery as the challenge, but quickly you are introduced to concepts such as herding bats, the gravity-based equivalent of fetch and carry and some truly evil hinged platforms which insist on swinging exactly the wrong way when you thought you had your plunge planned perfectly.
However, this is where AYIM begins to fall down. The game is relentlessly unforgiving, sometimes expecting you to follow a precise course exactly. The rotation mechanic is made less fun by how easily you can kill yourself with it - each time you rotate your paper representation retains its previous momentum relative to its new orientation meaning you can rapidly accelerate to a truly terminal velocity. Instead of gliding through levels weaving through obstacles you find yourself desperately sticking to surfaces, which seems like a real waste of an opportunity.
AYIM is worth checking out, and as it’s short it may even be worth spending a little time on to work through and see it in its entirety. However, AYIM is not quite the darling that some have made it out to be.