It’s a rainy day so it’s a good time to wrap up some of these indie games I’ve got lying around. Thomas Was Alone was recently ported to PSN and featured in Humble Bundle 8, which prompted me to give it a go. I’ve had it for a while, but I’ve got a whole mess of indie games thanks to Humble Bundles and Indie Royales and Indie Galas. Just ludicrous amounts of indie games, and not enough time to sort through the winners.
Thomas Was Alone is a winner. It’s a simple puzzle platformer, using colored rectangles to represent AIs in a computer system. The story follows Thomas as he meets other AIs and they generally cause catastrophe for this computer system. The outside perspective comes from quotes that appear at the beginning of each chapter, but what makes Thomas Was Alone more than just a simplistic platformer is the narration in game. Each of the AIs has its own personality and motivations and abilities. Thomas can jump, but Claire can flow in deadly water. Using these abilities, the task is to get each AI to a particular spot in the level.
Without the excellent narration and music, this game would be fairly unremarkable. I wouldn’t have kept playing without it, but I don’t think the game was designed to be a fantastic platformer. It’s a competent platformer that stands out because of the story elements that accompany it.
4 out of 5 jumping quadrilaterals
“The Swapper” is kind of a dumb name, but this game is excellent. It is parts the movie Moon, parts Metroid, and parts Braid. It takes place in space, you’re (almost) alone, and it relies on clever use of simple mechanics to solve a bunch of puzzles. It just over three hours long, and the puzzles involve cloning yourself a lot and transferring your consciousness to your clones. That’s probably about as much as I should say about it. If you liked Braid, get it. It scratches that Braid itch very well.
5 out of 5 talking rocks
This is one I started a long time ago, and just got around to finishing. It’s a puzzle-platformer, in that you do a lot of running around and jumping on things, and you use a cutting laser, grapple, and rockets to chop up the terrain to get to where you need to go. It’s fun and physics-y and it’s got a great cartoon style. It’s not very long, but it’s a little frustrating in parts because sometimes the physics don’t behave like you want them to. I plummeted to my death a lot. And every boss fight is the same. You use your laser to chop up things being thrown at you. All in all, it’s a pretty enjoyable diversion but could have used a little more polish.
3 out of 5 underpants gnomes
This took me way longer than it should have. I blame work, and the drive-in theater, and being an adult for interfering.
Here’s what I like about Far Cry 3:
- Exploring jungle ruins
- Hunting animals
- Light stealth gameplay
Here’s what I didn’t like about Far Cry 3:
- Wanted: Dead missions
- Heavy bad guys make my guns feel ineffective
- Crap ending
Content-wise, there is way more of what I liked than what I didn’t like. The worst part about the ending is that it feels like they were close to something magnificent, and blew it. I think that might be worse than just being bad from beginning to end. Overall, I really enjoyed it because I picked the parts that I enjoyed and played those, and I skipped the rest. I did a couple of the Wanted: Dead missions and decided that they sucked so I skipped them. I loved all of the Path of the Hunter missions. Hunting rabid dogs with a flamethrower is hilarious.
Four out of five burning dogs, running through the jungle.
Blood Dragon is amazing. It’s just what I needed right now. I’ve been a little busy with the house and finishing up this semester. It’s been rather hard for me to sit down and concentrate on a single game because I feel like I’ve got so much else better to do. Blood Dragon was developed in six months on top of the Far Cry 3 assets. It doesn’t look like Far Cry 3, but it plays in a pretty similar manner. It’s just over five hours long, which was perfect. I’ve read a few reviews that say it tries too hard, and I didn’t see it. It felt like a great homage to low budget 80’s sci-fi. It’s parts Terminator, Predator, Robot Jox, GI Joe, Robocop, Hardware, and plenty of other references I’ve forgotten or missed. I loved it.
Infamous came with my PS3, as well as Infamous 2, Uncharted, and Uncharted 2. It was the first game I played on it, and the first of those four that I finished. It does comic book style really well. The story is largely told through comic book framed cutscenes. There’s a morality system where you can choose play either a hero or a villain. Your power is electricity, and you can either use that to revive civilians and restrain bad guys, or suck the life out of them. Often the “good” choice is to sacrifice yourself to save others. Actually, that’s pretty much the only choice. It’s pretty much always damage yourself, or let someone die. It doesn’t get much deeper than that, but it doesn’t have to; it’s a comic book. The ending is a pretty good surprise, except it leaves a bunch of loose ends. It even goes so far to acknowledge those loose ends, so I guess the devs were pretty confident in the probability of a sequel. For being not a huge fan of open world games, I’ve been completing an awful lot of them lately.
4 out of 5 lightning bolts
The less I say about Bioshock Infinite, the better it is for you who has yet to play it. It looks great, plays great, has an engaging story, and builds a world more immersive than most games I’ve played. I’m mad that I’m going to have to wait a million years to get another game like this. You don’t need to play Bioshock or Bioshock 2 to get into it, even though they’re also fantastic. Just get it.
5 out of 5 mechanical George Washingtons
Proteus is so short, it shouldn’t count. Less than 45 minutes for a full playthrough. It’s a lot like Dear Esther, except there’s no narrative, and the graphics are 8 bit at best. It gives the game a real unique aesthetic. There are different seasons. There are unique landmarks, and the island you’re exploring is generated each time you play. It’s a less linear experience than Dear Esther, but I feel like there is less to see in Proteus. It’s a pretty game, in its own way, and the music reacts to where you are.
But having heard a lot about the immersiveness of this game, I can’t help but feel I missed something.
2 out of 5 musical frogs
Okay, this one is kind of cheating because you can’t really finish Civilization 5, but I did finish one game of Civ 5 and it took me over 8 hours to do so. I hit the “play now” button and I got the Iroquois on a small world, continental map with five opponents on “prince” difficulty. I ended up on my own isolated continent (except for two city-states) while almost everyone else ended up on a much larger continent. The exception was another civilization that was just to my south, whom I quickly annexed. My people were mostly unhappy as I had too many cities, too many people, and not enough happiness to go around. Because of my isolation, I had a hard time fighting other countries on the big continent, but they also had a hard time getting to me. I lost a lot of land units in transit, and I ended up bombarding a lot from my ships off the coast. Not effective at taking cities, but plenty damaging to units on land. I spent the early game a little behind in technology, but when it mattered, I was ahead. I finished off with a space victory about 30 turns before the end.
The city-states make an interesting addition, and the “one unit per tile” rule means my attacks were made in waves rather than one pile of units hopping around. Cities seemed rather more difficult to take than Civ 4, and I clearly did not pay enough attention to happiness. I went with a space victory because I was strong on research late in the game, and couldn’t muster the culture for a policy victory, no one liked me enough for a UN victory, and conquering everyone would have been a serious slog.
4 out of 5 mohawk warriors
I picked up Sleeping Dogs shortly after finishing Saints Row the Third. I’d heard that Sleeping Dogs was really good, and I was in the mood to give another open world game a shot. I can’t say I was disappointed; Sleeping Dogs is fantastic. The driving is arcade-y and fun, the fist fights are Batman: Arkham style, and the shooting is competent enough. It feels like a good cop action movie, which is what it aims to be. There’s plenty of side content and they make decent distractions. Most are centered around punching guys in the face or chasing them, but there are also races and betting on cockfights. The story is rather good as you play an undercover cop in a Chinese triad.
4 jade statues out of 5