Review Roundup

XBox

Spelunky

http://marketplace.xbox.com/en-US/Product/Spelunky/66acd000-77fe-1000-9115-d802584109be

Gameplay is the same as the free PC version, but graphics and effects have been greatly improved.  Also added a fun little multi-player deathmatch game.  The game is still frustrating as hell, and without any tangible progression, my playtime has greatly diminished since release.

Compromised

http://marketplace.xbox.com/en-US/Product/Compromised/66acd000-77fe-1000-9115-d80258550b2d

Twin Stick Shooter with rpg-style powerups and a HR-Gigerish atmosphere – hell yes.  Epically huge boss fights.  One of the best XBLIG games in the last few months.

Sushi Castle

http://marketplace.xbox.com/en-US/Product/Sushi-Castle/66acd000-77fe-1000-9115-d80258550b72

If this wasn’t simply a reskin of Binding of Isaac I’d have higher praise.  Strangely, the game is far easier since you can shoot diagonally with joystick.  Also, sometimes nice to have a break from all the toilet humor of BoI.

iPhone

Triple Town

http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/triple-town/id490532168?mt=8

Heard a bunch about this game, since it was developed by the same team that did Realm of the Mad God.  Match-3 gameplay is fun enough, and the art is cutesy.  But the zynga-style monetization ruins it.  4 bucks for “unlimited turns” in a game about as deep as Minesweeper?  No thanks.

Subway Surfers

http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/subway-surfers/id512939461?mt=8&ign-mpt=uo%3D2

Been playing the hell out of this last few weeks.  Take the gameplay of Jetpack Joyride and turn it 3D, with a dose of Temple Run, and you have Subway Surfers.  The feel of swiping to jump and dodge is perfect, graphics are clean, levels are random but with enough pattern you can improve.  There’s monetization but its done honestly (unlock characters, powerups) instead of hampering the pure gameplay.  This is a must download.

PC

Platformines

http://www.platformines.com/

Still in beta, made by an XBLIG studio.  Shoot+explore gameplay is fun enough, but the art style and customizable player character are big pluses.  Difficulty may need some tuning, but keep an eye on this one.

Pixelunk Eden

http://store.steampowered.com/app/105800/

Steam Sale purchase.  An “ART” game in the purest sense.  Navigate a colorful world of sprouting plant-like structures with a click of the mouse.  The player avatar is a bit “floaty”, which removes a feeling of control in the gameplay, but that’s probably the point.  Video games as Buddhist meditation?

Avernum: Escape from the Pit

http://store.steampowered.com/app/208400/

Brings back memories of downloading Spiderweb Software’s Exile series years ago, and also the isometric RPGs like Baldur’s Gate and Gold Box series.  The story isn’t as epic and cinematic as Skyrim or Dragon Age, but the strategic tile-based fights are where its at.  Some of the UI could use improvement (inventory management, etc) but pretty solid for 5 bucks.

Cave Story+

http://store.steampowered.com/app/200900/

Always heard about this one but never played…until Steam Sale.  Very solid Jump+Shoot gameplay, with a nice little powerup system tacked on top.   The world design and narrative flow are well done, and the overall quality makes this feel like a long lost SNES title.

Superbrothers Sword & Sworcery

http://store.steampowered.com/app/204060/

The epitome of the hipster-art video game.  Takes all the tropes of fantasy RPGs and twist them around.  At the core, the gameplay is reminiscent of point-and-click adventure games, with a few button-mashing fights.  But the presentation is wholly new, with its ultra-pixelated style, and doling out the narrative in comically poetic twitter-length text snippets, which you then can post to twitter!  The music is excellent too.

Limbo

http://store.steampowered.com/app/48000/

The quintessential stylish puzzle-platformer.  The game is monochrome, every object crafted out of shadows and light.  The puzzles are perfectly calibrated, giving the player just enough of a special hints to solve each screen and keep moving.  And the dark tone (a child playing in the wood, only to be dismembered by spiders, bear traps, and giant machinery) is brilliant.  This is an instant classic and a must play for everyone.

Drakensang Online

http://www.drakensang.com/

Was feeling like a cheap-ass for not buying Diablo 3, but wanted some action RPG gameplay, so I gave one of the free clones a try.  Drakensang is web-based and streams the entire game via a Java plugin.  The graphics are pretty impressive given the technology, the characters well animated, with bone crunching specials and pyrotechnic abilities.  The UI is almost directly ripped from Blizzard games (WOW, Diablo), with a talent tree system and yellow ? hovering over quest NPCs.  But the gameplay is severely hindered by the monetization baked into its DNA.  The grind becomes unbearable, and most dungeons and gear (and health potions!) can only be unlocked through the special meta-game currency (Andermant), which can only be acquired with real dollars.  This is unholy child of Zynga and Blizzard.

Psychonauts

http://store.steampowered.com/app/3830/

Double-Fine are darlings of the scene, and I do have fond memories of Secret of Monkey Island.  For some reason I just couldn’t get into Psychonauts.  Perhaps it was the over-long cutscenes and the character design of a Saturday morning Nickelodeon show.  I never got too deep into the gameplay, but the initial levels felt half-baked and somewhat boring.  May give this one another try sometime.

Bastion

http://store.steampowered.com/app/107100/

Who would have thought a jive-talking baritone narrator could spruce up a straight-forward Action RPG to this degree?  Sure, the art design is pretty slick, but once you get over the “world-assembling” gimmick, what’s left is relatively simple.   Nothing wrong with that, but some of the later levels and boss fights can drag on.  Still, it’s always fun to smash stuff with that big hammer.

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