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Wednesday 22/02/2016: Clockwork Tales: Of Glass and Ink

December 16, 2016

Steam Pack 2

Yes, that's my wallet. Yes, it's almost empty. Friggin' Holiday Season, man.

Christmas is coming, so let’s talk about Steam a little more. It really is a fantastic platform to discover games of all kinds. We had the Black Friday, which means there were major sales on Steam. I felt like my previous Steam Pack worked pretty well, so I decided to make another one. Once again, here’s a few games from my Steam collection, some free, some not… Either way, I hope these quick articles give you an opinion on each, and direct you on your decision to either download or not download any of them!

Audiosurf


If you’ve been anywhere near Steam or YouTube in the past eight years, chances are you’ve seen videos of this game. Audiosurf is a brilliant game that will create a level out of any single song in your entire library. It will take into account the tempo – both increases and decreases in speed – as well as the instrumentation and percussions (creating a more bumpy track if, say, the percussions are more present, as an example).

The most pleasant acid trip of all.
For a music lover like me who has accumulated over 130 hours of music to listen to on their computer, this game is like Heaven. You can surf your way through Weird Al’s Bite Me (for all of its seven seconds) or the small tracks on the Collector CD of Kirby’s Dream Collection (ranging from 30 seconds to a minute). You could bust out any normal-length track from 1 to 5 minutes or go into longer territory (Dragonforce’s Through the Fire and Flames is a community favorite). Want a marathon? Use the longest stuff you have (Yes’s 15+-minute epics? Pink Floyd’s Dogs, Atom Heart Mother, Echoes or Shine On You Crazy Diamond? Any Harmonium, if you’re into long French songs? Maybe even Dream Theater, with their collection of songs over 19 minutes in length – up to and including the 42-minute Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence)! Have fun. Video game tracks? Soundtrack compositions? Silly cartoon themes? Anything from the shortest folk ditty to catchy EDM to the most complex and difficult progressive tracks? The options are infinite.

And just in case it wasn’t already addictive enough, the game comes with three difficulty settings and various modes. Some modes aren’t on some difficulties, so you often have no choice but to play a song on a much higher difficulty. All modes have the same basic concept: You collect the color blocks, and must form chains of 3 on your three rows of 21, trying not to overload them (as it causes you to lose your progress and start over collecting blocks). The rows only disappear when chains of blocks of the same color are made. These are the various modes:
-Mono, where you can only collect the color blocks and avoid all the grays;
-Pointman, where you can catch blocks to use later and form better chains;
-Double Vision, where you control two cars (or you play with a friend);
-Vegas, which shuffles the board;
-Eraser, in which the goal is to delete a certain color;
-And Pusher, which can push blocks left and right to help form more chains.

This song is extremely long - and as a result, the path in
Audiosurf goes up, and down, and that's what you're
seeing in the background. It's so beautiful.
This is, probably, one of the best games on Steam. It’s also one of the earliest, released all the way back in 2008. In fact, what I’ve been discussing so far is almost common knowledge. The game has been around for that long. An Audiosurf 2 was released and I’ve yet to try it, though I’ve heard good things about it. To be honest though, I don’t feel the need to have it just yet, while the original Audiosurf keeps me busy.

I would say Audiosurf is a definitive must-have. You should enjoy it. If it had only its own collection of tracks to use (which, granted, it does come with a number of tracks from Valve games like Portal), it would be pretty weak. But you have the world of your own song collection at your fingertips. On six modes split over three difficulties. It's an awesome, awesome, awesome game.

Wow, I’m such a prog geek when it comes to music…

Price: 10.99$

Battle Ranch: Pigs VS Plants


Well, that looks simple enough...
Geez, talk about a change for the worse. How to describe Battle Ranch... Hm... Think Plant VS Zombies, with two major differences: It’s more like Plants VS Piggies, and also it sucks. Also, there isn’t much else similar. I have no idea where I was going with this analogy.

The evil pigs have set foot on the land, and the vegetable population wants to stop them. Or rather, the farm animals are counting on you to harvest the resources and place them on the field in order to fend off the hordes of biker pirate knight porks. Yup, I just had to put these four words together. These guys just can’t pick a theme and keep it.

Well, that looks somewhat more coimplex...
This combines a garden management/harvest sim with some form of tower defense. You plant seeds and harvest them to make money, then place vegetables in the pigs’ way to attack them. There’s the star fruit that shoots in one direction, the hawthorn that serves as a blockade, the pepper bomb, the tomato that shoots a cannon that can paralyze enemies for a few seconds… There is plenty of choice. Just place a veggie in a row where a pig has just showed up, and start the slaughter. Huh, I guess vegetarians really do win the food fight after all. You get a star on the level if you harvest all the required vegetables before the end of the timer, though you get a gold star only if said timer isn’t in its silver section (in which case you get a silver star instead).

Well that looks like it's too much.
Guess I just don't care any longer.
The main menu includes a great variety of modes – that would be pretty great if we didn’t have only one mode unlocked at first. I don’t even know what we need to do to unlock the others – probably play through the 40+ levels of the current mode to unlock the next. Just for 10 of these levels, that's almost a complete hour of gamepla! After a while, you unlock more things, like cages to trap boars that get too close, a farmer to harvest vegetables for you, and a shop where you can switch around your set of attacking veggies to better face the upcoming waves. Oh, also, the pigs start going underground, through your defenses…

An interesting concept with alright graphics, but a gameplay that ends up being rather meh. A very limited soundtrack that becomes annoying after a while. There were some good ideas here, but this game unfortunately falls into the category of games that are weaker clones of better titles. The game does offer some pretty tough levels as it goes, though, so if that’s something you might be interested in, do know that it only costs 1.00$ at the moment.

Brawlhalla


As I played more and more Steam games I have actually paid for, I started to put away free-to-pay titles. I haven’t touched AdVenture Capitalist in about two months. However, just because I’m not going into free games anywhere as often, doesn't mean I've completely stopped. I still plan to review whichever ones I’ve kept. While Brawlhalla contains a TON of content that you must pay for, the game still contains enough in its base form to give you a fun time.

So much that you could have to pay for!
This could count as a Super Smash Bros. copycat to some extent, although much simpler. The battlefields are floating platforms and you get points by knocking the opponents off-screen - sounds Smash enough, doesn't it? A ton of characters with backstories, special moves, weapons – none of them with the star power of Nintendo mascots, but then again it’s better that way. Many modes, many of which can be played online against other Brawlhalla players in your timezone. The fights can be a 1VS1 or a 4-player battle royale, with the winner always being the one to score the most points. Items can appear, summoning a blast across the stage, or giving your character one of two weapons that belong to that character only.

Ah, I like the smell of freshly-begun battle in the morning!
All the modes are available from the start: Online and Custom online, for casual matchmaking; Ranked, play for glory; Single Player, self-explanatory; Couch Party, to play against friends locally; Legends, to learn about every single hero; and Store, to buy new characters, taunts, skins, avatars, etc.

That’s the thing, though; if you are not willing to pay for anything, you still have all of this… but only six characters to choose from. There are 22 additional characters that can be unlocked by paying for them. You can play a bit every day, and earn coins by completing daily missions, and you can unlock the characters over time. That’s all fine and good, but those characters are quite expensive, going from 2300 coins to 7200. There are also various customization options that can be unlocked, though for most of those you actually need to buy Mammoth Coins. Get your own, starting with 140 for 6.59! You could buy Mammoth coins to unlock customization options. You could also buy all the heroes for 16.49$, if you want. Chances are, though, that you’ll probably enjoy this game without ever buying anything from it – if you don’t want customization and if you can actually wait and collect the coins over time through daily missions, you can probably enjoy it just fine.

In a fighting game, it's like nobody can get along.
No wonder the Subspace Emissary had everybody at
each other's throats all the timeé
All in all, this is a pretty great game for free, although your enjoyment will depend on whether or not you’re willing to pay. Having only six characters to choose from is pretty small – I would give the game more points if it had a few additional characters available from the start. Reading said characters’ biographies is enjoyable, and the game keeps track of all your successes. Though, hey- all the modes are available from the start, and the fighting in this game is pretty fun (it’s always better to play against humans, right?). They could have charged you for modes. They only charge you real money for customization, with paying for the unlockable heroes being only an option, not an obligation. It’s free, so try it out.

Card Hunter


Hey guys! This is, like, a super new concept! It’s a tabletop RPG… where everything is done with playing cards! …Yay? This is another free-to-play game with bonuses you can pay real, dear money for, though I likely won’t ever spend a cent on it. Thus is the reality of free-to-play games, including Card Hunter.

Try to keep track of everything on this
screen alone; then, imagine for the
whole game.
You start off in a very high-level team, in high-level quests, in a sort of tutorial. You have your group of adventurers, each with their deck (that is improved by the equipment worn by them – better equipment, better cards to pick from). This tutorial shows how the game works. Need to move? Use a card. Attack? Use a card. Heal an ally? Use a card. Being attacked? Said cards also include protection and armor, so you can instantly be protected from certain attacks, as the game uses those automatically. Many things require a die roll though, so if you're unluky, well, you're not gonna be helped much.

That's a lot of cards for various purposes.
Seems like a nice introduction to the
complexity of actual tabletop RPGs...
However, my main issue with the game is that it doesn’t use the normal turn-by-turn tabletop RPG gameplay. You play, the DM plays, then you play. As in, despite controlling three characters, you can only play one card from one character each turn. The DM's characters often share the same hands, so when he picks a movement card, all of his characters sharing that hand can move. You’re soon told by the actual owner of these characters that you must start playing from Level 1, and not with his characters from a well far ahead campaign. Alright, alright… we'll start from the beginning. But we'll still kick ass, just come back in.......... 12 months!

It’s a fun game, though I personally am not a fan of the system used for it. I mean, cards and only one turn, really? Oh well. This being a free-to-play game, a point will come where you’ll probably be told to spend to unlock extra features. Obviously, don’t, unless you are absolutely sure you want these features… I must admit though that it’s pretty enjoyable, between the long-winded explanations of why the protagonists are in these battles, and how every single adventure has its explicative sheet… all this, mixed in with jokes about the social ineptitude of nerds playing tabletop RPGs. The tongue-in-cheek tone of the interactions, with a battle system that you eventually get used to, lead to a game that can be quite enjoyable, with very few things that you’d actually need to pay for. You mostly need to pay for a few extra quests. There's also a multiplayer mode.

So many campaigns to play through!
So many curses to be tossed!
Both by the wizards and the players!


Carpe Diem


This free, very quick graphic novel has fairly limited options. You can beat it in 5 minutes. It’s available in many languages, so chances are you can pick your native tongue in the game’s parameters.

That's the only decision you'll ever have to take in this one.
For the sequel that's apparently being worked on, however...
Carpe Diem is about a guy, Jung, and his girlfriend, Ai, going out on a date. He hasn’t had a lot of free time to do so in recent weeks, so he’s happy he gets to see her again. And it’s a good thing, as Ai doesn’t have much time left… When the date starts, you pick one of three options: The mall, the park, or the arcade. The story will then go there, and you’re not given other choices afterwards when the characters go to other places, whether it’s a restaurant or the park at nighttime.

The music could change more, as it’s the same quick clip repeated as long as the story is going on. The very limited interactivity may turn you off, though as I said, it’s only 5 minutes and in the end, it’s more about telling a quick story. Stay until the end. You could even spoil the end for you by pressing Crtl and rapidly skipping through the whole thing – though stay, as it’s a rather surprising ending that says a lot. The developer is apparently working on a more complex version of the game…

Alright, that’s it for today! I hope you enjoyed reading about these suggestions!