Humble Jumble
5 September, 2013

A tricky thing about reviewing indie games is that they are usually so short that there isn't a lot to say about them. This is by no means a bad thing; I mention it only because it is the reason I am reviewing so many in one go. These are all the games released in the Humble Bundles about which I have little to say, but for which I feel my opinion is worth sharing. So, for example, I have not reviewed any of the tower defence games, because that's not my kind of thing to begin with, so why would anyone want my opinion on particular games in this genre? Longer reviews of other games from the Humble Bundles are still to come.

Samorost 2

A very short adventure game. Pretty visuals, and puzzles aren't too bad for an adventure game, rather kind, actually, and for that, I would recommend it to anyone who likes point-and-click adventure games. Just a pity it's written in Flash, which has a tendency to bug out.

Machinarium

By the same developer as Samorost 2, and even more visually pleasing, but the puzzles are all COMPLETELY INSANE. Then again, considering adventure-game fans like very sadistic puzzles, this is probably just what you want if this is your genre of choice. Otherwise, stay away, because you'll end up gnawing keys off your keyboard.

Osmos

In this game, you control a blob and have to absorb other blobs; you move by ejecting some of your mass and when two blobs collide, the larger absorbs the smaller. It's pretty fun, and surprisingly challenging. The only problem is that there isn't much gameplay variation; there are only three types of levels, and then a few increasingly difficult variations on each, so the challenge is ramped up in a rather repetitive manner. I'm not sure this is a bad thing, though, because it means you can just zone out to the game without it getting boring, and there's an option to reset the current level with the blobs randomised (but still at the same difficulty), so you can replay any level without it being the exact same level.

And Yet It Moves

A puzzle platformer made of paper cutouts and, presumably, glue. There's some jumping involved, but you will be rotating the world at 90-degree angles much more than you will be jumping. With absolutely no pretence of plot, you have to get from start to finish in a series of hazardous but beautiful areas (which are presumably giant canvases). Somehow, it manages to maintain a gentle learning-curve while still upping the challenge at a satisfying rate, rather than the more common bumpy learning-curve. This is probably my favourite puzzle platformer to date.

VVVVVV

Nice bizarro platformer that revolves around flipping gravity, but without any jumping, unlike most puzzle platformers that mess with gravity. You also can't flip gravity while in the air, so the gameplay is really centred around flipping gravity. I found most of the game fun, but it has a lot of places that require absurdly precise timing. One of these is an escort mission in which the esortee will blindly follow you and fall into a pit of spikes if a platform moved out of the way, so you have to time your jumps–er, gravity flips to allow the lemming enough time to follow, and if the idiot dies, you both die. Overall, though, I enjoyed VVVVVV, especially the open world to explore in any manner I pleased.

TRAUMA

WHY THE SHOUTY CAPS? IT'S NOT AN ACRONYM. I'm hesitant to call this an adventure game, even though it resembles one, because the gameplay amounts to little more than an artsy fartsy slide show with lots of pixel hunting and guessing which shape to draw on the screen, and because there's barely any story. The interface resembles that of first-person adventure games like Myst, only less straightforward. Then again, the creator is Polish, so maybe there's a cultural aspect that is just flying over my head.

Voxatron

It's like The Binding of Isaac but in 3D with voxels, and much less substance. You can play the “adventure” campaign, the infinite “arcade” challenge, which takes place in only one arena, or player-made “BBS levels.” The adventure campaign was alright the first time; the arcade mode is challenging, but also really repetitive, and the most of the player-made levels are broken or just plain bad. Voxatron is cute, but it gets boring really fast.

NightSky

A puzzle platformer in which you play as a ball. Nice idea, but the game turns out to be more about timing than puzzles, which gets really tedious really quickly.

Rochard

I tried to come up with a full review for this game, I really tried, but there isn't much to say about it. Ignoring the story, which is just bollocks, you have to get through a series of physics puzzles involving blocks, lasers, and selective force-fields using a gravity gun that looks like a later model of the one from Half-Life 2. The puzzles are actually quite good, and the controls are comfortable. Just ignore the story when playing; the writers didn't even bother to finish the story. It ends like Monty Python and The Holy Grail, if the police showed up right after they stormed the castle.

Dustforce

It's like Super MeatBoy with janitors instead of meat, and you have to clean the levels, and it's much more forgiving. It doesn't flow as well as Super MeatBoy, which flows very smoothly, but unlike Super MeatBoy, it doesn't require near-perfection to complete a level. Although, in Dustforce, if you keep dying, you'll get a really low score, whereas Super MeatBoy resets the level upon death, so your deaths didn't accumulate and count against your final score. Being the perfectionist neat freak that I am, I find it really hard to move on until I've cleaned every surface in the level and finished with a perfect combo, so Dustforce drives me just a bit batty, but when I could finally tear myself away from a level and promise myself that I'll come back to it later because there are other levels that need cleaning, I rather enjoyed the challenge.

Closure

A puzzle platformer whose central mechanic is light: the platforms only exist when illuminated, so you have to move glowing orbs and rotate lamps to light the way, and hide obstacles. The graphics are entirely white-on-black line-art, which fits the light/darkness mechanic perfectly. The game is divided up into four sets of levels with a different theme (and player character), and I swear there's a hint of a story there, but I think it may just be level decoration. The game is quite fun and challenging, despite the difficulty curve being a little bumpy.

Snapshot

Well, this was disappointing. I was expecting a puzzle platformer that places you in impossible levels and gives you only a magic camera that lets you cut and paste certain parts of the level to make it passable. That's kind of what you get, but the cut-and-pastable objects are obvious, and no two of the same type look different, lest we get confused, and the levels are rather simple. That said, the game is still fun, and it makes use of the camera mechanic reasonably well.

Thomas Was Alone

A puzzle platformer with a very gentle learning curve, and a lovely story, in which you play as blocks with various abilities. It's impressive how much character the coloured blocks develop with just a few lines at set points in the game (mostly at the start of levels). I found the puzzles to be too easy, with only a few challenging bits, and this is coming from someone who doesn't usually play puzzle-centric games, but that didn't interfere with my enjoyment of it; it was just too charming to ever get tired of or annoyed at, and it has some rather clever humour. The ending is a bit abrupt: upon completing the last level, a somewhat vague cut-scene is shown that left me unsure of what exactly happened to any of my characters. There are some collectable floating pixelly things in some of the levels, so maybe you get a better ending if you find them all, but anyone who pulls that kind of stunt deserves to have the ending to their favourite novel stripped from their memory.