I’ve committed to having one post every day this year and I don’t want to write another hex encounter today, so instead let’s pull some random games from the “Indie” category in my Steam library and give a brief review of them. I’m not going to promise in advance that all of the games in this category were correctly labeled. Quite a lot of them were sorted into here while sifting through a Humble Bundle trying to clean up my library.
The original indie game internet sensation. This thing went nuts as freeware originally, back in the ages when indie games didn’t really have a market at all. Either you were putting your game on store shelves, you gave it away for free, or people had to fucking mail you dollar bills to pay for it. I still remember AdventureQuest warning people that they couldn’t guarantee that the money for a paid account wouldn’t necessarily reach them if mailed, but online purchasing infrastructure was pretty primitive at the time, so people did it anyway.
Cave Story, though. Fun game, but the nostalgia buttons it’s hitting aren’t from my childhood, so it doesn’t hit me as hard as others. It’s a sidescrolling shooter with good weapon and enemy variety and so far as I can tell they’ve got the late 80s/early 90s Japanese game tone nailed. Even if that reproduction was imperfect (I don’t really know enough of the source material to say for sure), I liked what they ended up with. It’s cute and endearing and makes me want to continue shooting slime monsters to save the weird rabbit-dog people.
Corporate Lifestyle Simulator
Another zombie survival game, except this one is disguised as something original and interesting. If it were a zombie survival game with a plot that poked fun of office politics, that would be kind of cool, and maybe it even gets there at some point, but early levels are just snarky office workers saying “zombies, amirite?” and that didn’t hold my interest long enough to see if it got better.
Dr Langeskov, the Tiger, and the Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist
It’s basically impossible to write about this game without spoiling it, so here’s everything you need to know: It’s free, it’s about an hour long, the gameplay is forgettable but not at all frustrating and doesn’t get in the way of the game’s sense of humor, which is its biggest selling point. This game is constantly funny and short enough that it can be great on the strength of that alone.
It lives up to the hype.
FTL: Faster Than Light
This game bugs me because it’s almost perfect. Moment-to-moment roguelike gameplay in the ship is fantastic. FTL was a big deal, so you probably know how this goes, but just in case, you’ve got a ship that you can upgrade with scrap and which you need to manage the crew of in real time, sending crew members to man engineering, navigation, and weapons, repair hull breaches, restore damaged systems, put out fires, repel boarders, and so on. The way it handles oxygen is particularly noteworthy, with rooms exposed to vacuum quickly losing oxygen (no one ever gets sucked out, though), people in a room slowly consuming oxygen until there’s none left unless life support is online to produce more (or recycle it or however life support goes about making oxygen levels go up in rooms), fires consuming oxygen even faster, and possibly more factors I’m forgetting.
The problem is that the game is about outrunning a giant enemy fleet, when it seems like it would be a lot better if it were about exploring. Make resources a bit more scarce, and make the main struggle be about trying to stay ahead of your fuel and scrap costs while exploring ever more dangerous sectors of space, rather than the current setup, where resources are generally pretty plentiful but you have to gather them up quick because a giant red blob of death is slowly covering up the sector map. There’s just nothing about FTL’s gameplay that makes me feel like I’m in a desperate pursuit, and everything in the gameplay that makes me feel like I’m trying to keep my ship and crew all in one piece while in the middle of inhospitable space. When FTL’s mechanics do make passing reference to the urgent mission you’re supposed to be on, it usually just makes the rest of the game feel weaker.
This is a great sim/construction style game that supports running a Hellish dystopia, a friendly rehabilitation center, or anything in between. Just don’t pay any attention to the Kickstarter backer bios, which are not in any way anchored to the sentences the prisoners are generated with. Some poor schmuck paid good money to have a bio of a character imprisoned for being an insane serial killer, and the actual sentence is joyriding and two counts of drug possession.