Archives — November-December 2016:
December 25-31 2016:
Tattletail is a first-person horror game set in 1998 about a cutesy child's toy that comes to life and is looking for blood. It's a very similar concept to Five Nights and Freddy's—innocent childish thing turns murderous—but Tattletail seems to be pretty different in how it actually plays. The trailer above shows the player wandering around their house, terrifying toy in hand staring at you the whole time, which is about as unsettling a sight as you can get.
Fearful Symmetry is a puzzle game where you guide two characters opposite of each other at the same time. One is moving up the screen while the other moves down, and the obstacles in front of each one are different so you'll have to think about where each is in relation to the other's screen. It's a type of puzzle I've seen before, but wrapped in some nice pixel art and at a low price.
Felis is a platformer about saving cats, a cause we can all get behind. The art is what first jumped out to me, which is beautifully stylized and plays nicely with the bloom lighting and ragdoll-ish jump physics. And with the trailer above showing off griffin riding and a cool inventory pop-up, Felis looks like a very interesting platformer.
The Bits That Saved The Universe is an "Atari-style" action platformer with up to four-player local co-op. The art is very simple (I suppose that's what atari-style means), but what ultimately made me put the game on this week's list was the variety shown in its trailer. They may just be small mini-games, but there are a variety of challenges that break-up the "run right and shoot" gameplay.
Kalaban is a top-down action game with a horror theme set in an "alternate history Finland," and apparently that history is pretty grim. It's a story-driven game with choices that directly affect how that story evolves. I really like Kalaban's environmental art, and the limited inventory system and tense environment gives me flashbacks to games like Resident Evil 4.
December 18-24 2016:
Downward is a first person parkour game set in a fantasy world that just launched onto Early Access. After a nice (if slightly disappointing) sequel to Mirror's Edge earlier this year, it's cool to see more games emerge in the parkour genre, and Downward's different setting and use of the Unreal Engine make it a lovely game to look at. Developer Caracal Games expects it to be in Early Access for at least half a year, so there's lots more to come to Downward through 2017.
Grave Danger is an action-puzzle platformer where you switch between controlling three different characters. It reminds me a lot of The Lost Vikings in both the way it plays and the genre-mixing, lighthearted attitude it takes. Similarly, it can also be played local co-op so you don't have to switch characters constantly. I also like Grave Danger's cartoony look, and "a cowboy, a wizard, and the grim reaper walk into a bar" sounds like the beginning of a very nerdy joke.
Desolate Wastes: Vendor Chronicles is a twist on the post-apocalyptic survival game, because instead of hunting and killing to survive, you decide to settle down and open up a store. It's essentially a shop-sim, set in some very grim times. You have to grow and upgrade your shop as you make money, and defend it from people who just can't be bothered to pay. Desolate Wastes just launched into Early Access, but only expects to be there for a few months, and the $1 price tag isn't asking much.
The Grey Man is a sidescrolling adventure game where you play an inter-dimensional alien visiting the campsite of a national park. You can wander around the open world and interact with the people there, but it's not entirely clear what the actual progression of the game is. I imagine finding that out is part of the experience, but the few Steam reviews it's received so far speak highly of the casual experience of discovering The Grey Man's pixely world.
Grab the Bottle is a story-driven puzzle game about stretching a very long arm through a series of levels. I'm not a huge fan of the comic booky art style, but the snake-inspired movement and puzzles actually look pretty silly and fun. The game just hit Early Access with two of the planned six chapters included, and the final four are going to be added over the next few months. There's even going to be a local multiplayer mode eventually, but who knows how that will work.
December 11-17 2016:
Bios is a time-trial FPS that just left Early Access. It calls itself an "asynchronous competitive game" which basically just means you try to reach the end of a level as fast as you possibly can, either playing alone or co-op, and compare your times to others. There are currently a few dozen challenges, and the release update mentions the developer sees this as going from alpha to beta, so more updates and new content are on the way.
Nother is a top-down action game that proudly calls itself a "souls-like," meaning similar to the Dark Souls series. While the overhead camera angle and and pixel art is very different from the Souls game, Nother has a similar combat style with a stamina meter and timing swings and dodges against each enemy. Additionally, it's set in an open world with a dark, moody theme, though .
Botolo is a local 1v1 multiplayer game with a unique art style and some surprisingly deep mechanics for how simple it is to play. Each player tries to pick up a ball and then stand in designated zones to claim them. The opposing player can steal the ball, but steals can be blocked as well, and a successful block while in a zone makes it claim quicker. What results is a delicate dance of blocks and steals between the two players. It's unlike any local competitive game I've played before, and has quickly become a new favorite.
Astroneer is an exploration survival game set in space with a cartoony art style that just released into Early Access. It's probably the most well-known game I've ever included on this list, but with roughly 1,500 reviews (about 90% of which are positive), it's definitely still worth highlighting. I love the vibrant look of the game, and it's one of the first Early Access games I've seen in a while that I want to start playing right away. But it plans on staying in Early Access for "a year or two," so there's a lot of room for Astroneer to grow.
Access Denied is a puzzle game about accessing special locked boxes by figuring out the puzzles on the outside of them. It's a very cool format for a puzzle game, and a concept that lets each level be varied and interesting compared to those that came before it. That also means that it looks like later puzzles could start getting really difficult, as you're always learning new rules.
December 4-10 2016:
Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun is a stealth tactics game set in the Edo period of Japan. Definitely the best known game on this week's list, Shadow Tactics has still slipped under the radar for many people, despite having a 98% positive rating at roughly 500 Steam reviews. We wrote a piece late last week , including its quick-save mechanic, which encourages you to save almost constantly and experiment with how to get through each encounter.
Earth's Dawn is a side-scrolling hack and slash with RPG-style skills trees and a crafting mechanic to use inbetween levels. The art is a bit strange, but I like it—a hand drawn look with quick animations and bright visual effects layered on top. Earth's Dawn looks to push customization a lot, which is also appealing in games about endlessly slicing through enemies. It actually came out for console back in November to generally positive reviews, if not glowing ones.
OneShot is a top-down puzzle adventure game with over 100 nearly universally positive reviews, the vast majority of which declare "don't read reviews, avoid spoilers at all costs!" I'm not entirely sure what's going on in OneShot, but there is clearly more than meets the eye in the trailer above, and one of the features listed on the Steam page is "Gameplay mechanics that go beyond the game window." Whatever its deal is, people are liking it.
Her Majesty's SPIFFING is a comedic adventure game in the style of old Lucas Arts games and other point and click adventures. The key difference (probably obviously) is that it's entirely 3D, and frankly looks pretty great, with very detailed environments and some wonderful character designs. The story follows Captain Frank Lee English as he goes in search of planets to claim for a new British Empire, and clearly takes itself very seriously.
Pocket Kingdom is a pixelated puzzle platformer that describes itself as "an authentic throwback to Amiga era." I love the pixel art (I'm sucker for good pixels) and the puzzles themselves look interesting and varied. It's also a game rich with dialogue and a story about air pirates and floating islands. It only has a handful of Steam reviews so far, but they are all positive right now.
November 27-December 3 2016:
Blade & Bones is an action adventure game that describes itself as a "combat driven metroidvania experience." What that really means is it's a damn pretty third-person action game that looks sort of similar in style to Dark Souls, though not so similar visually. You go hunting to collect seven swords hidden throughout the vibrantly colored world. Blade & Bones' combat system has three different versions of heavy and light attacks, which actually sounds closer to most arcade fighting games than anything else.
Junk Jack is a sidescrolling action game similar to Terraria, but with biomes being on different procedurally-generated planets that you can travel between. Blocks are much bigger than in Terraria, and and Junk Jack has brought some aspects of Minecraft over to the 2D style—specifically, crafting items by arranging specific patterns of materials and more complex electrical systems closer to Minecraft's redstone than Terraria's wires. It just left Early Access, which is why it has a head start on its review count.
Warbands: Bushido is a miniatures-style board game full of dice, cards, and samurai. It goes a long way to bill itself has a physical experience made digital, with both card and figurine booster packs and over 100 minis that you can paint to make your own. It just went into Early Access, so things are still being added to the game—most notably, the single-player campaign isn't in yet—but it already has versus multiplayer which seems to be the star of this particular show. I'm a sucker for tactics games, and Warbands: Bushido looks like it will be an exciting one to follow.
Quern - Undying Thoughts is a first-person puzzle adventure game clearly inspired by Myst and Riven. Apparently Cyan wasn't the only one that wanted to make more games like its old classics, because everything from the puzzle style to the in-game architecture is reminiscent of them. I wasn't blown away by Obduction, though I did enjoy it, but the large number of positive Steam reviews for Quern have me hoping that this will scratch a similar itch.
Radiation Island is a single-player survival game set on an open world island filled with resources to mine, horrific creatures to fight, and probably a few scenic locations to chill out and go fishing. Honestly, it's not the nicest game to look at. That's because it originally launched on iOS last year, but with its mobile graphics comes a mobile price. Radiation Island is only $3/£2, which is insanely cheap for a PC game like this. And as a few Steam reviewers have pointed out, it's a survival game that's not in Early Access, which feels about as rare as you can get.
November 20-26 2016:
Bullshot is a platformer-shooter similar to Contra or Metal Slug. It just hit its full launch after seven months in Early Access, now with multiplayer modes and a good amount of positive reviews in tow. In true old school fashion, Bullshot has a few novelty visual filters that can make it look like it's being played on a CRT monitor, as a VHS tape, and more—but the game also has nice animations and visuals underneath the toggleable nostalgia.
Rock God Tycoon is a sim-management game that puts you in charge of a rock band trying to make it big. Despite the simplistic art style, it actually looks surprisingly deep with all the different knobs and levers you can control—from customizing band members, to writing and rehearsing songs, to choosing your tour path, and lots more. Rock God Tycoon just hit Early Access, but its Steam page estimates it will only be there for "one to three months."
Disoriented is a first-person puzzle game set in a series of twisting levels with M.C. Escher-like physics. For those unfamiliar, that means lots of walking on walls and, as the name might indicate, disorienting level layouts. It looks like an elegant puzzler, one where the goal is simple to understand but the path to get there is less so. Though one Steam reviewer (who did recommend the game) said the later levels "feel like doing three-dimensional calculus homework," so the difficulty potentially ramps up.
Pixel Gladiator is a survival tower defense-ish game where you fight off waves of enemies and upgrade your defenses between rounds. It sort of reminds me of if someone made a sci-fi standalone version of Terraria's invasion events, but with lots of new building features. Pixel Gladiator just landed on Early Access to gather feedback from players, but the Steam page says it plans to fully launch at the end of Winter, so probably within a few months.
Ninja Smasher! is an 8-bit action platformer where you slash at enemies to stay in the air and string moves together. This game started out on mobile a few years back before a more expanded version launched on 3DS this July, and now that version has made its way to PC. Ninja Smasher!'s previous releases mean it already has a history of positive reviews, and the boss fights and combo-heavy combat system look like a lot of fun.
November 13-19 2016:
Ittle Dew 2 is an action adventure game that's very reminiscent of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. You're dropped into an open map with seven dungeons to defeat, and the game allows you to tackle them in any order you choose. I had a chance to play Ittle Dew 2 at PAX West and thought it was a lot of fun, if a bit easy. But there are lots of secrets and collectibles, and the game's got clever writing to carry the story along.
RYB is a puzzle game about filling in shapes with the correct colors. Like many puzzle games, it had previously released on mobile, but has now managed to make its way to PC, and RYB's Steam store says "it plays like a combination between sudoku and minesweeper." It's a charming looking puzzler, and I always enjoy puzzle games that put logic and difficulty on even footing with aesthetics.
Kopanito All-Stars Soccer is an arcade-y soccer game with single-player, online multiplayer, and offline splitscreen multiplayer. It just left Early Access this week after a year in open development, and already has a lot of praise to welcome it into a full launch. It bills itself as an entirely skill-based game, allowing you to control the arcs of your shots in slo-mo, but also has wacky powers that you can use to turn the tide. All-in-all, it's great to see more indie sports games on PC.
Mekazoo is a 2D platformer with 3D visuals where you seamlessly shapeshift into different animals with unique skills to navigate each level. I've had the opportunity to play Mekazoo at pretty much every PAX for the last year, and it always impressed me. While I'm not a huge fan of its neon graphics, it's a fast and fluid platformer that's a lot of fun.
Ultimate General: Civil War is a strategy war simulation game that puts you in the American Civil War and gives you detailed control over your army. It's currently in Early Access, but its Steam page says it will only remain that way for a couple months to get feedback from players so developer Game-Labs can "make the bigger, more important battles even better." So while only about half of the major battles are in the game right now, the rest should be arriving within the next couple months.
November 6-12 2016:
Badiya is an open-world survival exploration game set in a huge desert. I first learned about it when in the post-show of our PC Gaming Show at E3, and I was pretty impressed. It's a very nice looking game, and the Arabian setting is unique within the genre. Currently in Early Access, Badiya only has single-player right now, but multiplayer and a story mode is planned for the full release.
Candle is a platforming adventure game with a smattering of puzzles. What really set it apart for me was the art, which is all made with hand-painted watercolors according to the game's Steam page. Interestingly, the trailer shows that many of the puzzles are small mini-games or challenges separate from the platforming of the rest of Candle, which looks fun in itself.
Spingun is some good ol' fashioned arcade shooting with a challenging control scheme. The game only gives you two buttons—left to turn left, right to turn right, and both to shoot—and then locks you in a room with ever increasing waves of enemies. It's a score-attack game, so death is inevitable, but trying to see how far you can make it before death comes is the real appeal.
Small Radios Big Televisions is a trippy point-n-click puzzle game published by Adult Swim Games. You explore simple but beautiful environments looking for hidden cassette tapes that will take you to the next room. It's pretty straight forward, but Small Radios Big Televisions' power comes from its presentation, and its Steam reviews are "Mostly Positive" so far.
Resin is a pixelated metroidvania-style 2D platformer with a focus on combat. The fighting looks inspired by Dark Souls a bit, with timing and patience playing an important role. But a couple Steam reviewers have said the most impressive moments of Resin are the boss fights, which aren't usually just straight-forward fights—instead designed to be more interesting encounters.
October 30-November 5 2016:
Creepy Castle is a retro adventure RPG from the same publisher as The Binding of Isaac. I had a chance to play it at PAX West this year and thought it was just fantastic. Its graphics may be a turn off for some, but it's actually dense with complexity, both visually and in how you play it. The old-school look and mini-game style fights remind me a lot of Undertale, and Creepy Castle lives up to that comparison.
Yankai's Triangle is a puzzle game about "infinitely tapping on triangles for some reason," as the Steam page describes it. I watched James play some of it earlier this week, and its trippy visuals were very cool. It doesn't look like the most complex puzzle game ever made (or the hardest), but sometimes you just need a puzzle game where you can zone out and tap some dang triangles.
Owlboy is a side-scrolling adventure game nine years in the making. Okay, odds are you've already heard of Owlboy, as many critics have been speaking highly of it this week. But after nearly a decade in development, it's finally out! Not only that, it's seriously great. Beautiful pixel art and a wonderfully unique control and movement style make Owlboy stand out as potentially one of my favorite games all year.
Another cheap puzzle game, WayOut is a game about tapping raised squares to flatten them all out. It's one of those puzzles where tapping one square also reverses the position of all adjacent squares, but takes the concept further with weird level layouts and unique types of squares. There's a good chance WayOut would have made it onto had it come out a week earlier.
Political Animals is a board game-style election simulator in a colorful world populated by animals. It's got a very cute aesthetic, and I appreciate that it seems to keep the real world politics out of it in favor of having a strategic game anyone can enjoy. It's election season in the US making this game very relevant right now, but even without that Political Animals looks like a lot of fun.