Operation: Backlog is still proceeding, I just don’t have tons of time to do any of it, from the playing to the documenting. Still, it’s good for the very fractured gaming schedule I have. As usual:
I’m going through my Steam list alphabetically, picking up games I own but haven’t played to see what’s there. 15 minutes each is all I’m budgeting, but I reserve the right to get sucked into a cool game. Some I’ve played already, though, so I’ll mention them in passing here and there, giving them a rating like the other games.
I’ll be giving each of these Backlog games a rating of sorts, as follows: Regret (uninstall and forget), Remember (uninstall but wish for more time), Revisit (leave installed for later) and Recommend (wish for more time to play this right now). This is a squishy continuum of sorts, and deliberately imprecise. This isn’t an in depth survey-and-review, it’s Spring Cleaning of my video game backlog.
First up is one of the drive-by games: Batman: Arkham Asylum
This is an excellent game. I played it to completion and then some on the XBox 360, not on PC, but it’s one I highly Recommend. It’s not perfect, but it’s great fun, and really nails the feeling of Batman, at least, as I have come to expect it as a fan of the character since the mid-90s. It has fantastic combat, excellent worldbuilding, really, really good graphics, fun mobility, Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, and, well, it’s tons of fun to play.
Second, we have the sequel, Batman: Arkham City. I’ve only played this one for about 45 minutes, so I don’t know how well the open world nature of the game actually works in the long run. Catwoman is a bit too skanky and the political setup seems contrived, but it still seems like the core of what made Arkham Asylum works is still present. It’s a game that I’m leaving installed, and Recommend, though with the usual caveat that I haven’t played all that much of it.
Third, I did try to play Birth of America, but it flat out refused to work. So, dump that in the Regret pile. I don’t have time to wrangle dysfunctional games.
Fourth, the Blackwell Deception almost ran into the same fate, with some weird tech issues popping up thanks to my dual monitor setup, but the second time I fired it up it behaved. This one’s a bit tricky, as it’s an adventure game in the vein of the LucasArts classics.
I did love that era of gaming, for all its quirks, and this game would have fit well in those days. I consider that to be praise, though it does mean that I just don’t have time to give it a proper playthrough. I’d like to someday, along with the rest of the Blackwell Bundle that I picked up at GoG.com, but for now, I’m lumping them all together with a Remember rating, noting that I do like adventure games, I just don’t have a lot of time.
I love that Wadjet Eye Games is making games that feel like classic adventure games. The voiceover work is adequate, if not stellar, the art and animation is solid, and the writing that I saw was pretty good. The game plops you into an investigation with little fanfare, effectively dropping you into the deep end, but it’s designed well enough that there’s not much trouble getting up and running. It’s a well designed first 15 minutes, I think, and it does leave me wanting to play more someday.
Fifth, Blood Bowl: Legendary Edition. I picked this one up on deep discount due to my passing interest in the WarHammer tabletop wargame. I have some of the sourcebooks, but no models and nobody to play with. I just study the books and dissect the game design. Blood Bowl isn’t really the same thing, but I’ve heard enough good about the board game incarnation of the title that I figured I’d check out the digital version. (I still wish there was a digital version of the WarHammer tabletop game so I could play with someone online. Not a RTS, not a card game, not a shooter, just a literal translation of the tabletop game. This is one reason why I backed WarMachine Tactics for its Kickstarter campaign, but we’ll dig into that later.)
Without a history with the board game, I hit the learning curve hard in Blood Bowl. It seems to be well designed and the visual design is solid, if a bit too skanky and “grimdark” for me. (I have very little interest in any WarHammer 40K titles for the same reason.) I puttered around a bit with setting up a team, fired up a match and promptly lost horribly. There are a LOT of options and rules to the game that I’m just not up to speed on.
That’s not a bad thing, really, so long as the game can be mastered with some honest effort, but I just don’t have the time to make that effort. This is a failing in my schedule, not the game, though it would be nice to have a bit more guidance for those early learning moments. Being tossed in the deep end is OK so long as there’s a good learning feedback cycle. That seems to be a bit obscured in this title, though it is clear that it builds on the board game. I should see if I can find the rulebook somewhere in a used bookstore, perhaps.
As such, I’m giving it a Remember rating, and maybe I’ll pick it up later. I don’t dislike the game, I just have to move on and it didn’t really grab me. There does seem to be a lot of meat to chew on and a fun, snarky sense of humor, though, and that’s promising.
Sixth, Braid. I’ve written about this before, I think, having played it years ago, but in a nutshell, it’s a decent little platformer with great art design and solid game design. The story is pretentious, dreary, and takes itself way too seriously, but the game is fun. I give it a Recommend rating, if only to see the visuals and design in action, just with the caveat that it’s not really the revolutionary masterpiece that it often gets credit for. It’s fun, it’s solid, it’s full of itself. I’m done with it, but I do think it’s worth playing if you haven’t.
Seventh, Cargo Commander. I got this one in a bundle, one of those games that just sort of tags along with other games I actually cared about. (I don’t remember what it was bundled with at the moment, though. Oops.) It’s not that Cargo Commander looked bad, just that it seemed a bit too twitchy for me.
It’s a platformer with variable gravity and a ticking clock. The design is actually pretty solid, I’m just not all that interested in this sort of game any more. Maybe as a teenager I’d have loved it, but I prefer more thoughtful, careful, tactical games these days. That’s not a failing of the game, since it does what it sets out to do well.
You play as a corporate lackey, stuck on a space station in some far off garbage zone, tasked with dragging cargo containers in to crash into your habitat, and then go invade them and grab any valuable salvage before the timer runs out and everything falls apart but your base. You have to scramble into these other containers, platform through them fighting baddies and the structure, and grab what you can. It’s fast, frantic and not very forgiving.
The controls are tight, platforming with the keyboard and aiming with the mouse, a bit like A.R.E.S., but much more fluid and fun. There’s an upgrade system and a “completion” rating, with the ability to replay levels to try to do better. The visuals are adequate, nothing amazing, but not bad.
All in all, I give this a Remember rating for myself, but it’s really something that might be worth picking up if you’re into variable gravity direction, crazy quick-on-your-feet action. It’s a slightly silly premise, but it winds up being pretty fun to play, so long as you’re up for fast paced gaming.
Eighth, Chains. This is a light puzzler, very clicky like AVSEQ was, but not quite as fast and much more interesting given its physics and variable levels. It’s a decent little game, one I give a Remember rating since I remember it in a positive light. It’s not even close to my favorite puzzle game, but for all its apparent simplicity (the visual style really isn’t all that great), there’s a bit more going on under the hood than screenshots might suggest.
Ninth, Chime. This is one I’ve mentioned in passing before. I really like Chime. I do wish that I could flip pieces like I can in Puzzle Pirates’ Carpentry puzzle, as that would make it a more complete puzzle game, but for what it is, Chime works well. It could use more music options, too, but what it has is good in my book. I give it a Revisit rating, since it’s not as great as others I’d put in the same mental “music/puzzle” game niche, but it really is a good game.
Tenth, Cogs. I’m a fan of steampunk design. Hence the Tinker products I’ve been working with for almost two years now. (Go visit the shop, please, and spread the word!) I love old, beat up, lived in machinery, and I love puzzle games. Cogs scratches all the right places for me. It has smart puzzle design, great visuals, simple play rules (at heart, it’s just a bunch of sliding tile puzzles with some nice 3D aspects), and it really embraces its own steampunk design ethos. It’s not arrogant, it’s not silly or trying to be ironic, it’s just a well-themed tinkerer’s box full of puzzles.
Some are easy, some are really tough, and most are somewhere in the middle. They always feel fair, though, and there are some great uses of the 3D aspects that introduce nice quirks with sliding tile puzzles. Sadly, when my computer crashed last year, I lost my screenshot collection, but there are some puzzles that I played again and again, just for how fun it was to see the mechanism come together as I solved the puzzle. I wish I had some of them as real, physical devices. (These puzzles are later in the list, and I didn’t have time to get to them for this project.)
Cogs earns a hearty Recommend rating from me, as it’s one of my favorite light puzzle games. It’s available for Android devices, too, which is nice.
That’s all for this post. There are plenty more where these came from, the most notable for next time being Dear Esther, Defense Grid and The Dig, one of LucasArts’ finest adventure games. Until next time, then!