Archives — September-October 2016:
These are the archived entries from past weeks. For this week's new releases, go to the first page of this article.
October 23-29 2016:
Though it's called an "Insult Simulator," this game is essentially a linguistic fighting game. You battle your opponent—which can be an AI character or another player—by piecing together insults from different sentence fragments, trying to make it as long as possible while still making grammatical sense. I played the game at PAX West this year and it's very well made and silly, if a bit one-note. But at $2/£1.59, one-note isn't too much of an issue.
The Shape of Heart is a story-based puzzle game that revolves around liquid physics and old arcade games. It's hard to say exactly how that plays out from the trailer above, but it looks incredibly intriguing and already has many extremely positive reviews. The Shape of Heart just hit Early Access, but its Steam page says it will eventually be episodic, and the current version simply contains the first two episodes entirely complete.
Ginger: Beyond the Crystal is a 3D platformer that plays on the nostalgia on games like Banjo-Kazooie. It's also pretty much the type of game this list was made for, because it looks like an incredible amount of detail and polish went into making Ginger and it's currently sitting at four reviews on Steam. It's seriously lovely, and some of the levels in the trailer look very challenging, making Ginger: Beyond the Crystal a game I look forward to playing.
Chalo Chalo is a party racing game for 3-8 players, but it pitches itself as "really slow racing." Honestly, I think it's one of the best games to load up with a large group of people I've played in a long time. It's easy to understand and has simple controls, plus the slow pace means you have lots of time to strategize without it actually feeling slow. The fact that it can't be played with just two people is a bit of a bummer, but Chalo Chalo also has an app that lets you use smartphones as controllers, making it easier to hit that eight player max. Even in Early Access, it's already a very enjoyable game.
Redirection is a puzzle game about guiding automated robots to certain spots on a level by changing the level itself. You have to block paths and redirect (get it?) each robot to get them where they need to go. It's a nice looking game with 45 levels in it, but Redirection also has a built-in level creator and Steam Workshop support to download other people's creations easily.
October 16-22 2016:
Karma. Incarnation 1 is a trippy looking adventure game with a wonderful hand-drawn art style. Like most classic adventure games, you have to find your way through the game's world by solving puzzles and making choices, in Karma's case mostly choices about good and evil. It's been wonderful to see so many new point-n-click adventure games lately, and Karma fits in right at home among the rest.
Sky Break is a single-player action RPG set in an open world filled with wild robot animals. It just came out of Early Access this week after nearly a year, and already the positive reviews are rolling in on Steam. When I first saw Sky Break, I thought it was another survival game, but while it does seem to use a few similar mechanics, it's single-player only.
Lost Socks: Naughty Brothers is a run-n-gun platformer where you can't stop moving forward—which makes sense given the game's initial release on iOS. I know some people shun the idea of mobile games coming to PC, but Lost Socks has a fantastic, clearly Earthworm Jim/Rayman Legends-inspired aesthetic and looks like a fun game regardless of platform. Who doesn't want more good games on PC?
Crazy Machines 3 is a contraption building game about correctly assembling large Rube Goldberg machines. The sequel to Crazy Machines 2 from 2008, it's very similar to the old The Incredible Machine series but 3D and with a lot more customization options—including Steam Workshop support. The contraptions look cool, but the strength of the level editor is really what excites me about Crazy Machines 3.
Magnetized describes itself as a "minimal action game," and it plays much like a puzzle-platformer without any actual jumping. You have to guide a cube that floats through each level by magnetizing it towards certain points to navigate around obstacles. Magnetized isn't trying to be more than what it is, and the low price of $3/£2 definitely makes that angle more appealing.
October 9-15 2016:
Gonner is a stylish roguelike action platformer that prefers to let you figure stuff out on your own rather than explicitly teach you what's going on. You find new guns, heads, and items as you play that make you stronger, but learning what each one does the first time is part of the challenge. The game is fast paced and challenging, with a healthy dose of wonderfully strange mixed in. If you are a roguelike fan, Gonner is an absolute must, and I look forward to playing more of it this week.
Feel the Snow is an action adventure game with elements from Minecraft, Terraria, and even a bit of Stardew Valley, but brought together in its own unique way. You build houses and craft items, but the game also has a story line that leads you towards large boss fights. It just hit Early Access and is being developed by a two person team, but Feel The Snow already looks like an interesting one to check out, if a bit of a riskier choice right now.
Farabel is a turn-based strategy RPG with a slight twist on its progression. The game starts at the end of the story, and you progress backwards to the beginning. That means that as you "level-up" you are actually choosing stats to decrease as your characters become less experienced. I haven't played Farabel, so I can't say if that actually ends up being fun in practice, but it's certainly a unique concept and the game otherwise looks charming and well-made.
Another Early Access title worth highlighting this week, Miniature - The Story Puzzle is (as you may have guessed) a story-driven puzzle game. I quickly fell in love with the art style and tilt-shift perspective of Miniature, and like the idea of a point-n-click puzzler looking down on a series of tiny worlds. It allows developer purpleElephant to make bite-sized pieces of scenery that can still be dense with detail.
Manual Samuel is a "classic adventure game" about a man named Samuel who must control every part of his body manually, which to the player means lots of silly flopping around. As our own Editor-in-chief Evan Lahti put it, it basically looks like "QWOP with a plot," which doesn't sound bad if the gags are fun and the story is worth following. Regardless, it's lovely looking game, if clearly over the top.
October 2-8 2016:
Viking Squad is a co-op brawler similar to games like Castle Crashers, but with the slight twist of being lane-based. The trailer shows off some of the cool AoE moves that change allows, and I imagine it helps with the general readability problems some sidescrollers have—we've all had those moments where we're swinging at an enemy and hitting nothing but air. It can be played with up to three players, and has local and online play, which is always great to see.
Laser Disco Defenders is a twin-stick bullet hell shooter with a very funk aesthetic. I'm not going to lie, the music alone pretty much sold me on this one, and it's actually available to purchase separately. Laser Disco Defenders doesn't look like it's trying to reinvent the twin-stick shooter, but it is giving it a fresh coat of paint and some disco-themed unlockables.
Shu is a 2.5D platformer with gorgeous hand-drawn characters. There's always a game each week that reminds me just how talented some artists are, and Shu is that game this time around. While I'm not crazy about the 3D portions of the levels in the trailer, the 2D character designs are just wonderful. Gameplay wise, Shu looks like a relatively straight forward platformer, but I like that you are often controlling multiple characters at once.
A different kind of twin-stick shooter than Laser Disco Defenders, Thoth drops you into a rectangle arena and asks you to dodge and shoot the geometric enemies within. It's a very minimalistic game, but also looks hard as hell, which I imagine is part of the reason it requires a controller to play. Thoth also has local co-op, which sounds fun, but I'm sure only adds to the chaos. But I suppose chaos is what local co-op is all about!
Beglitched is strange in the best possible way. It's a puzzler that looks a lot like a cutesy match-3 game in its trailer, but is actually a game about defeating hackers. It's also more than just a Bejewelled clone, as Steam reviewer Jake Sully describes it as a "match-3 plus grid-based tactic, plus a little JRPG," complete with boss fights and everything. The graphics are pretty adorable for a hacking game, but Beglitched looks like it's got more going on than just moving colored squares.
September 25-October 1 2016:
The Metronomicon is essentially a Dance Dance Revolution RPG, where hitting the correct directions on beat will attack your opponent. It's got some great, intentionally over the top art, and it's cool to see another rhythm-based RPG after the fantastic Crypt of the Necrodancer. But the two games are doing very different things, and The Metronomicon's music has significantly more 'bits'. Whether that last part is a good thing or not is up to personal taste.
Serial Cleaner is a twist on a top-down stealth action game, where instead of killing guards you're cleaning up bodies. It reminds me a lot of Monaco but with a 70's cop aesthetic, having to sneak into a target area and then making an escape. It's a funny concept, and there are currently seven stages to play in Serial Cleaner's Early Access launch. You can expect the full game to land sometime early next year and have more stages and enemy variety.
Earthlock: Festival of Magic is basically a western-made jRPG, taking inspiration from things like the Tales series or Skies of Arcadia. While it looks like it doesn't have quite the same level of polish, Earthlock boasts "30+ hours of gameplay," meaning it's striving for a similar scale. I like the art direction a lot, and appreciate what Earthlock is doing—plus, it's been getting very positive reviews so far.
Wuppo is an adventuring platformer, and although I was initially put off by its art style, it's actually a lot of fun. It has demo available to try, and I highly recommend you give it a spin. It's a very interesting game with clever writing, and was giving me strong Paper Mario vibes as I played it—which I wouldn't have expected from just watching the trailer. So a game I was skeptical of ended up being one of my favorites this week, and isn't that exactly what this list is all about?
Despite having one of the most generic names ever, Rogue Wizards is a pretty cool and unique RPG dungeon crawler. You explore grid-based, procedurally generated dungeons in what is essentially a roguelike, but then bring your loot back to build up your town and make yourself stronger. Rogue Wizards has a ton of different weapons, spells, and enemies, and the developer has already patched the game twice since it came out to address some of the initial criticism from reviews.
September 18-24 2016:
I got a chance to play Klang back at E3 and can safely say it’s incredibly fun. It’s an interesting twist on your classic rhythm game, having to hit notes coming towards you from different directions to a beat, but in the form of a platforming combat game. The rhythm based boss fights are very cool, and thankfully the music that accompanies it is good as well.
I love highlighting multiplayer party games on this list, and it’s always exciting to see one with online play included. Guns N’ Boxes is a pixel art top-down shooter that sort of looks like each fight takes place on a Bomberman stage. According to the Steam page, the majority of the game’s core mechanics are already in the game, and the four person development team estimates it’ll be in Early Access for the next “8+ months” adding characters, weapons, game modes, and more.
I learned about Pavilion for a little site called , and immediately fell in love with its art. Pavilion calls itself a “fourth-person puzzling adventure,” which I think means you don’t actually control the character you see on screen, instead interacting with the world around them. I’m extremely excited to try this one out—and apparently there is more to come, as this is just chapter one, with chapter two coming as DLC next year.
It’s awesome how many cool narrative games are coming out lately, and maybe a little surprising how many of them are returning to FMV. The Bunker checks both boxes as an atmospheric adventure game made without any computer generated graphics used. It’s entirely live video, and many of its largely positive Steam reviews say it’s a prime example of FMV done right. It’s not very long, but it sounds like a helluva ride.
Seraph just left Early Access and it looks slick. It’s a platforming shooter with procedurally generated levels, but your weapons are auto-aim so the skill comes from dodging enemies and navigating the environments. I can’t speak on how high that skill ceiling is, but developer Dreadbit emphasizes that it’s “easy to learn, hard to master,” so replayability and progression are clearly on their mind.
September 11-17 2016:
Everspace is single-player space combat game with roguelike elements that just hit Early Access after a very successful Kickstarter at the end of last year. It’s damn pretty and looks like a lot of fun, and I appreciate that it’s just focusing on a single-player experience. Just the sound of "space dogfighting roguelike" is exciting, let alone one with such nice graphics. Everspace already looks like fairly complete, and developer Rockfish Games says it expects the game to leave Early Access early next year.
Another futuristic setting, Rive is a combination of a twin-stick shooter and a platformer. While not as flashy as Everspace above, Rive does have some swanky looking visuals and a good sense of humor in its trailer. Also explosions. Lots and lots of explosions. Simply put, Rive looks like a lot of fun and has been getting very positive user reviews, so I’m surprised it’s as overlooked as it is. Especially as it's from the creator of Toki Tori and Rush, so it has a proven team behind it.
Conga Master isn’t exactly a complex concept, but neither is Snake. And that’s pretty much what you should expect: super funky Snake set in a dance club. You lead a conga line around the dance floor, slowly convincing people to join as your chain gets longer and faster. Conga Master also has local multiplayer for up to four people, continuing to fill the already overflowing chalice of games I want to play at parties. This one preferably while actually doing the conga.
I got a chance to try Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor earlier this year at PAX South, and while it’s definitely an odd game, it was very fun. It’s sort of a story-based adventure game about (as you may have guessed) cleaning up the trash around a spaceport. The graphics are strange and cool mix of 2D and 3D pixel art with lots of bright oranges and pinks, giving it an incredibly distinct look. This one may not be for everybody, but it was apparent that a lot of time and care has gone into Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor when I had my hands on it.
A narrative-driven adventure game, Event puts you in a space station with a protective AI computer that you talk to by actually typing messages into computer terminals. The AI then actually responds to you. When Andy Kelly played a demo build last year, he called it It sounds like a system that couldn’t possibly work as well as it should, but apparently it might, as Event already has a large number of positive reviews both on and off of Steam.
September 4-10 2016:
If you are getting SimTower vibes from Project Highrise, that’s probably not an accident. While many reviewers and our own Chris Livingston point out that Project Highrise is much simpler and less challenging than SimTower, it still looks like a fun skyscraper building game. Additionally, the developer has gone out of its way to publish full modding tutorials and tools to make it easy for people to mod the heck out of Project Highrise, so there’s a chance the community itself will address the complaints they have with the game.
Ember is a self proclaimed homage to old school RPGs, and while it may not have the graphics and polish of similar games like Pillars of Eternity or Divinity: Original Sin, it looks damn close for $10. Ember already has very positive reviews on Steam, and looks like a good option for RPG junkies who need another fix. If nothing else, I just love seeing more modern CRPGs being made, and smaller studios being ambitious enough to tackle the genre.
The brightly colored platformers keep on coming as we add Flat Heroes to this week’s list. While the screenshots aren't very flashy, watching Flat Heroes in motion did it a lot more justice. The movement looks fluid and the graphics and particle effects support it nicely. Flat Heroes just launched on Early Access and developer Parallel Circles says it could be there for anywhere between 4-12 months, but it already has local co-op for up to four players, 90 levels, and enough to justify my own interest in it.
Probably the most well known game on this week’s list, Halcyon 6: Starbase Commander just left Early Access. It’s a strategy RPG set in pixelated space with base building, crew management, and combat against giant aliens. Tyler Wilde said he’s enjoying it so far, and I can’t stop admiring the character art. Additionally, Halcyon 6 was Kickstarted, so developer Massive Damage has two more acts and lots more stretch goals to update the game with now that it’s in full release.
While the beginning of the DOGOS trailer above is a bit misleading, the game itself still looks pretty interesting. It’s essentially an open world bullet hell game where instead of scrolling towards the end of a level, you have to fly around and explore to find your goal. The camera angle is set up like a bullet hell game, especially with the 3D environments and enemies being placed on the ground under your ship. I can’t say whether those environments are actually interesting to explore, but DOGOS has very positive reviews so far.