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June 9, 2017

Steam Pack 4

I’m back with another of those, yes! Why, you ask? Well, because I had time to play some other games in my collection since the last one. Yes, I know, it’s only been… er… six weeks? So what, I have so many Steam games – so many that I got almost for free, others that were pretty cheap… if I want to get through this humongous collection, at some point I’m gonna have to speed up a little. And if making more Steam Packs is what it takes… then, why not? Here, have my thoughts and comments on four more titles in my Steam Library. I’m hopefully gonna get out of the Bs and Cs of my collection soon enough!

Beat Hazard

I wish spaceships in real life could shoot bullets
that threw out so much color into the depth of space.
Audiosurf let you ride your music. Made by Cold Beam Games, Beat Hazard sets a complete shoot’em-up to your music. In some ways, it’s better. In others, it’s worse. Ever since I reviewed Audiosurf last year for Steam Pack 2, I found myself less and less interested by it as I soon realized that the game was too easy even on Normal difficulty (I got so used to moving around catching colored blocks that the game didn’t seem all that tough now, except on the hardest difficulty). It got monotonous after a bit. Meanwhile, Beat Hazard manages to be even more creative… and even more difficult, which is always welcome.

Oh, and fear the bosses, because those can be a pain
to fight. Especially in the special Boss Mode.
Here, you are a little spaceship floating in deep space, and enemies come at you from all around the screen, in rhythm with the music currently playing. A level usually starts with a few floating asteroids, after which actual enemies show up. Then the enemies get stronger – we get some that actually shoot at our ship, then we get some that are equipped with magnets attracting our ship to them, or pushing it away. Then we get others that release a dozen ship-seeking missiles when destroyed. Others fly around the screen, releasing little destructive spheres. What about these that look like worms, with indestructible heads, forcing the player to destroy only the body segments? Oh, and let’s not mention the few different types of bosses that can appear mid-track for you to battle!

Thankfully, like any good shoot’em-up, you’ve got a wide selection of spaceships to use in this quest. Some are slower but pack a bigger punch, some are fast and can easily avoid projectiles, and some others shoot instantly as soon as there’s an enemy on the screen… And so you can see them all explode into bits, leaving colored lights in the blackness of space in the background. Blow up a whole ton of enemies and see the world around like a mural of explosions of color! So much light, so much brightness! Thank God I’m not epileptic, or I’d be having a seizure! Hell, even without epilepsy, this thing hurts the eyes!

"Complete 3 tracks on Insane"? Sounds alright.
I'll just pick 30-second tracks. Oh, what? I have to
pick a song longer than 210 seconds? I'm doomed!
If you’ve got the Shadow Operations Unit DLC, a whole new world opens for you; all the available ships in the hangar come with three missions to complete (whether it’s collecting a few million points in total, beating bosses, that sort of thing – most of which require you to avoid dying). In-game, you can collect 10$ powerups that get added to your “wallet”, with which you can buy upgrades for your ship, whether it’s extra bombs and lives when you start a level, bigger score bonuses, and extra powerups like enemy-seeking missiles, repellent shields, or death rays. However, you can only equip a number of those upgrades, so choose wisely! You can even use that money to unlock two harder-than-hard game modes, labeled Insane and Suicidal… just in case the game wasn’t already hard enough as is. Oh, there's also a multiplayer mode, if you have a friend to share the fun with.

...This is so bright! And what an impressive boss!
...But where the **** is my ship?
For, you see, this game is pretty hard. It’s a very awesome idea to have the music radically change the incoming enemy waves from a track to the other. Things can be pretty hectic, though, especially if the density of enemies on the screen makes it difficult to see incoming weapon blasts and other attacks. Worse even, remember when I said that enemies exploded into colored lights? Well, that too can make it hard to spot the deadly blasts. The intensity of these flashing lights can be bothersome too – and while you can set that intensity anywhere from 50% to 200%, even setting it at the lowest doesn’t help much. Your eyes might tire after a while playing this game. Thankfully, if you’ve got a big collection of music, and a desire to buy and complete the Shadow Missions, you’ll have hours upon hours of fun. All in all, despite these small issues, I find Beat Hazard to be pretty damn awesome – as long as you’re not epileptic…

If you’re interested, you can buy the base game for 9.99$ USD, or buy the bundle that also includes all DLC for 16.99$ USD. Enjoy!


Hello WALL-E! Oh, it’s not WALL-E? Well, it sure fooled me!

Ready to explore the universe... or overtake it.
Big Fat Alien’s indie game BEEP is a story set in the future, where armies of robots were sent to explore the galaxy. These robots have jet engines to float, a cannon to shoot at hazards, and an antigravity beam to move around giant rocks and other pieces of the surroundings. Since the spaceships can build an endless reserve of BEEPs, there’s no worrying if you lose a few… or many. Someday, a BEEP ship finds a solar system that can be visited…
And thus BEEP begins. Your task is simple: Collect bits of antimatter. There are four in every level, with three that can be found by exploring, and one that is created by gathering all the smaller pieces in that level. You need them to unlock new areas. And thus, BEEP visits various worlds, collecting antimatter, needing 60 to unlock the final world.

For such a small robot, BEEP certainly has a lot of room
inside for these many large bullets.
The game turns quickly into a puzzle platformer, a term you’ve most likely heard already as it’s a popular indie genre. It soon becomes necessary to drag around items with BEEP’s antigravity beam, in order to reach higher ledges and get more antimatter. Not to mention every time where you need to move a bunch of things around. Later levels include even more elements of puzzles and precision games. And indeed, per video game rule, things get pretty difficult as BEEP gets more antimatter and unlocks planets closer and closer to that solar system’s sun. From the early. grassy lands, to the fiery pits of Hell of a planetside that always faces the Sun… have fun exploring these 24 levels and collecting all 96 antimatter parts!

The game ends as your umpteenth BEEP finds an alien tower on a moon near the final planet. That place contains the control command for all the enemy robots met during your robot’s journey. Upon learning that they eradicated all biological life in this solar system, BEEP decides that they must be dealt with… and thus heads out to these robots’ home world. The adventure continues!

Well that sure looks like a planet on which life forms
had a chance to survive...
It’s a concept we’ve seen many times before, a puzzle platformer protagonist who’s able to move around elements of the scenery in order to access the next areas. On this, BEEP does fairly well, presenting some puzzles that really make you think about what you have to do. The 24 levels, spread over six very different worlds, are pretty fun to visit, and BEEP’s abilities make for interesting gameplay. However, the difficulty is increased in part by the fact that BEEP has only six hit points, and by many enemies having also their fair share of HP, especially the wheeler robots that will shoot at BEEP whenever they see him, and take at least four bullets to go down. These are, without a doubt, the biggest obstacle after the many endless pits. Also, while the camera can be moved left and right to view upcoming sections, you also move around stuff through the anti-gravity ray with the mouse, making it impractical when the camera controls decide to play along. And of course, BEEP often has to move while the anti-gravity ray is working, making it often difficult to move an item properly… All in all, not a bad experience, there are definitely some good elements in this, but it’s rather middle-of-the-road. You can check it out on Steam here, if you’re interested. Right now, it’s free… If you buy a large bundle comprising many other games, which I’ll all be reviewing someday for the blog…

Biodrone Battle

We had a robot on a mission… so here, have another robot on a mission. Sort of. In Biodrone Battle, from indie developer voodoosoft, you control a machine in an abandoned lab (Or arena?). Your robot is grossly under-armed for the task, possessing only a basic cannon and a weapon that takes control of other robots… wait, what? That’s actually pretty cool! You can possess other enemies and use them on your quest! Okay, it's cool... on paper, at least.

Tell me, is there anything of interest here?
There are 21 floors in the first mode, named Man or Machine, with a few rooms being unlocked when you’ve collected enough keys. You usually have to defeat all the enemies on a floor in order to complete it. That’s how you get keys, I suppose. A task that isn’t helped by the large amount of hit points the enemies have – and the simply insane speed at which they can shoot bullets before you’ve had time to deplete their life bars! All robots have their own playstyle, and it becomes possible to switch between those collected thus far at will. Not like you’ll actually see much of that… Most of the rooms are in complete darkness, with the lights coming from the robot you control as well as a few shining points here and there.

It could be an interesting concept. But the execution is so damn dull. There is simply nothing of interest here. There is little music to get you pumped and willing to go forward, and the environments are grey and boring. The worst part about this one, though, is the difficulty. You can barely make it past the tutorial, with how brutal the opponents can be. The first few enemies encountered can kill you in mere seconds, while you need a number of hits to kill them! You “could” try a stealth approach, but it’s tricky since, as I mentioned, your robot emits freaking light! In this completely dark environment! Most of the time, you’ll get killed brutally either by an enemy that you didn’t see in the dark, or cornered with no way to fight back efficiently. It’s not even worth playing past a few floors…

Oh. I died. I got bored by this one in record time anyway.
On to something better.
…oh sure, you could try, if the game didn’t decide to stop you in your tracks. I’ve been lucky not to run into any glitches, but apparently those are common in the game. I did have issues connecting to the single-player mode, seeking a server to play in... for a game that’s not nearly popular enough to need a multiplayer mode and servers, much less 9 of them! It’s incomprehensible!

This… this is just bad. Seriously, don’t buy it. But if you must, well, it’s over there on Steam, where you can waste spend a dollar on it.

Choice Chamber

Let’s end this on a game for all you streamers out there. Choice Chamber, made by Studio Bean, allows full interaction with a streamer’s audience in order to personalize the single-player adventure. Every once in a while, a question pops up on the screen, offering a choice. The viewers respond to it, and after a certain length of time has passed, the most popular option comes in to impact radically the game.

Nondesript alright. Not like the character needs much of a
personality for this game, anyway.
In Choice Chamber, you follow Nondescript Unnamed Colorful Protagonist #274, as they go from room to room. Enemies pop up at random, kill them all, move to the next room. Collect special hearts, refill your health, learn to use your weapon. Every playthrough should be different! Just be sure to amass an audience that will make the game worth it. Would be a shame if you connected the game to your Twitch account and ended up voting by yourself on all the changes, by posting in your own chatroom…

Destroy the enemies! Your fans want you to!
How far can you go? How many rooms can you cross? How long can you last until you lose all of your hit points? Aim for a high “score”! (If you equate “score” to “number of rooms”…) New option: Do you want more normal enemies, more flying enemies, more large enemies? Do you want more hit points, more speed, more strength? Best case scenario, your viewers fight for the control of modules that will follow the character around and protect them from the monsters!

There’s even a multiplayer mode where you can race against another player to the top of a tower to climb, with the viewers’ choices still affecting the gameplay. All of a sudden, sticky platforms! Or maybe icy ones? No, wait! Bouncy ones! And this can lead to a fairly long race, too, with the length decided before the game starts.

Literally powerd by your fans. Or dictated by what your
viewers decide. Either way, no fans/viewers...
not much of a way to play.
All in all, it’s a pretty great concept; the game looks polished, pretty – I quite enjoy the art style – and has decent music. Unfortunately, it’s one of those games that is best played when you’ve got an audience. And not every Twitch streamer can brag about getting a large enough audience to make this game worth buying and playing. Oh, certainly, it’s fun if things work and you have anywhere from 5 to 80 people watching you and commenting – and the game will keep track of every response – but if you can barely get an audience of two or three people… well, good luck getting any enjoyment out of this game… Without interactions from viewers, the game is bland at best. If you are not a streamer – obviously, don’t buy it. If you are a streamer but you can’t get an audience worth it – again, don’t buy it. Only buy it if you can have at least some people contributing to the choices in the game. After all, this costs 10.99$, and it would be a shame if you bought it and ended up never using it…

Well, this covers all four games for this week. Be sure to tune in next Friday for a Top 12 list!