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Posted on Mar 25th 2013 at 07:17:47 AM by (CoinCollector)
Posted under Steam, Indie, Sales, Excellence

Looking to get into digital PC gaming?  You are?  Well well well then, let me tell you: Steam's a great place to start.  Valve's digital distribution giant has an easy-to-use client that houses all your games, a huge selection of titles to buy, and the famous Steam sales where you can pick up new games for criminally low prices of as little as one or two bucks.  A lot of my favorite games on there are indie titles, made by individuals or really small teams.  Indie devs typically have no tyrannical management to worry about, and they also tend to have a true passion for what they make.  As a result, it's very common for fresh ideas and unbridled creativity to shine through their work!

Whether you're unfamiliar with this side of gaming or you just want something new to play, Steam happens to be running a huge sale at the moment: The Indie Spring Sale, going through March 29th.  Countless indie games on Steam (if not all of them) are discounted, many at 75%+ off.  It is absolute madness - thankfully, a wonderful kind.  And hey, maybe you need a little guidance?  A recommendation or two?  Well, here are a few of my personal favorites that you can pick up on the cheap.

Note: Steam features a decent offline mode that works if you've signed in on your current computer before.  But if you want to know which games are DRM-free, so that you can back them up wherever you want and play without an Internet connection, check out this handy list.


Gravitron 2
You pilot a space lander with thrust controls, similar to Gravitar or Oids.  Gorgeous neon vector (!) graphics, combined with great flight & shooting controls make it an instant arcade-style classic.  Every time you finish your mission exploring the underground depths of an alien planet, a countdown begins and intense music plays as you must escape to the atmosphere before the planet itself blows up.  Exhilarating.


Thomas Was Alone
Excellent puzzle platformer: Graphics are slick but minimalist, and the story is told through an awesome narration.  Gets pretty emotional.  Even though you play as squares and rectangles!


Swarm Arena
VERY fresh, unique fast-paced action game with hints of strategy.  As a glowing ball, you move around the arena to pick up little blips of light called drones that will swarm around you.  Taking out your opponent - human or AI, offline or online - requires building up your army and swinging them using momentum to break through the other army, to strike the other colored ball.  Tons of fun and something that's never quite been done before, to the best of my knowledge.  You can get a better idea of the gameplay by watching a trailer.


Super Hexagon
An action game in the purest sense, Super Hexagon is an example of a simple design executed to perfection.  You are a tiny triangle rotating around the middle of the screen to dodge incoming walls.  That's it.  And it's really difficult.  But with practice you get a better feel for movement and you learn the patterns of the incoming walls, and it's really satisfying once you can survive for longer than five seconds.  Also: The chiptune music is absolutely jammin, and the whole game pulses to the beat.  Man, it's great.


Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP
Take a stroll through the most beautiful pixel-forest ever imagined, use the ancient magical powers of sworcery, battle horrible beasts, gaze at the moon.  A modern adventure game, and it also has a bizarre-but-excellent sense of humor.


Ben There, Dan That! / Time Gentlemen, Please!
Two hilarious point & click adventures, bundled together.  Almost any item combination you can think of will yield funny dialogue!  And a lot of the humor actually comes from poking fun at quirks of the genre, so if you're a fan of these kinds of games, the Dan & Ben collection is a must.


The Polynomial
Explore the space of the music.  Pop in your own tunes or listen to what's already there, and fly around incredible visual feasts as the lights pulse to the beat.  There are enemies to shoot if you really want something to do, but you can turn them off.  There are a LOT of settings you can play with - it's a gigantic visual music sandbox.


Super Laser Racer
A top-down racer with neon vector graphics, not quite as slick as Gravitron 2.  But the racing can be a lot of fun, and the soundtrack is killer.


Data Jammers: FastForward
An action game that has you zooming down digital highways, racking up as many points as possible.  All the different ways to squeeze points out of the level really make it interesting - there are collectibles, but then there are enemies.  You can slam into enemies for more points, but that takes away some of your life, which regenerates over time.  So it becomes a game of balancing your life bar while weaving in and out of the different lanes, exploiting every little opportunity for a higher score.


And Yet It Moves
A unique papery visual style combined with a strange ambient soundtrack and the ability to rotate the entire world make this a very interesting platformer indeed.


The Path
A dark, creepy, stunningly beautiful adventure inspired by Little Red Riding Hood.  It blurs the line between videogame and notgame, and some traditional gamers are turned off because it's too "artsy".  But if you're okay with a change of pace, and you can enjoy something that breaks the mold, I wholeheartedly recommend The Path.  (just remember, it is seriously creepy)


You are a drop of water, and there's a whole house out there to explore.  Slick graphics, and some really cool 3D platforming.  Just watch out for paper, stove tops, etc.!

Criminy, and it just goes on and on.  There are many more I could mention.  I could continue heaping praise onto the games I love forever and ever, on and on until the end of time.  Or close to it.  And then there are the bunches of indie games I haven't played and look great.  But I'll cut it off here so this post isn't too too long.  In summary: There is an enumerable amount of quality titles out there, and if you feel like giving a few a go, now's a good time to do just that!

Posted on Mar 8th 2013 at 07:41:57 AM by (CoinCollector)
Posted under Flash, Platformer, Grappling Hook, Excellence

What do you think of when I say "flash games"?  A monkey spanking simulation, tower defense against balloons, or perhaps bloody stick figure kung fu might come to mind.  Sure, those games may have their place (kids need something to do on the school computers, right?), but sometimes Adobe's vector-based dev tools end up in exceptionally talented hands.  From the vast sea of poorly-animated, shallow gaming experiences available for free on the web, some rise far above the others.  In this blog post I pull one such title from the cream of the Flash crop and thrust it into the limelight: Liferaft: Zero.

It's a grappling hook platformer that has you playing as young girls, all clones who are test subjects in a stark white science facility.  The scientists watch from high up windows, sip on their coffee, and talk to you through purple computer screens.  For some reason they want you to ring that bell over there and go through the door to the next room.  Don't like the look of those spikes, but... doesn't seem like there's any other way out of here, so may as well get swinging!

So in standard platforming fashion you can run left & right, jump, but also wall jump and use your aforementioned grappling hook.  Rather than swinging from ceilings like in some other grappling-centric games, the hook is used on designated points sticking out from the wall, in open space - you can swing a full 360 around them.  By extending & retracting your rope and letting go at the right time, you can use your momentum to land where you need to be.  It's the central mechanic and boy oh boy is it a good one.

It's difficult starting out.  The spikes may be quite red before you reach the exit, especially if you want the delicious bonus candy.  But man, once you get the hang of it, once it clicks... that grappling hook is incredible.  It makes this game.  It adds so much depth that isn't found in a typical platformer, and mastery of the swing physics really takes some skill.  Getting some serious momentum going, swinging around that point, and hurling yourself straight up into the air really feels great - it's kept me coming back for dozens upon dozens of playthroughs.  Add in the overall tight controls & fancy wall jumping and you've got some pretty great locomotion going on.

The graphics and sound help to further tie the whole experience together.  Liferaft: Zero looks great - tiny, super detailed, colorful pixel art.  The player character is 9 pixels tall and everything's zoomed out pretty far!  Even so the animations are done well and convey a lot, with her hair blowing in the wind and dust kicking up as she slides down walls.  Then there's the sound... there's actually no music, but plenty of crisp sound effects and ambiance.  The quick little footsteps, the click of the grappling hook, the echo of the wall jump.  It's all another integral part of what makes controlling the character so satisfying.

Mikengreg are the two-man dev team behind this Flash masterpiece, and their slogan is "Handmade games crafted with love & high-fives."  It really shows.  Now, I tend to totally gush about the games I love, so I'll say a few quick things: It may not be for everyone, and it really does take a little while to get the swing physics down.  But if you like what you see and you stick with it, Liferaft: Zero is a gem.

Originally posted over at my Broccoli Blog.

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