Crossing the Steams 1.19.13: Steam Sale Thoughts Part Three
Posted by Marc Morrison on 01.19.2013
In the continuing saga of the Steam Sale exploits, 411mania's Marc Morrison discusses Snapshot, Don't Starve, Unmechanical, and Mark of the Ninja inside.
Welcome to another installment of Crossing the Steams. My sojurn into talking about the random games I bought during the Steam sale is coming to an end with this week's column. Next week I'll go back to the usual style of looking at just one game per week. Don't get me wrong, I could easily extend this bit out for another 3 or 4 weeks. All told, I acquired 29 things during the Steam sale, 9 DLC bits, and 20 actual games. I haven't spent a large amount of time with some of the games below, but I do have a few thoughts on them, regardless of that. But next week shall hopefully return to normal. Let's begin:
Mark of the Ninja
I'm a bit of two different minds on this game. I recognize that it's good, gorgeous visuals, nice audio, some varied and interesting gameplay, and the like. I think the scoring and goals system are at odds with the game though. The goals seem to make you want to avoid conflict as much as possible, and not even get spotted. That's fine, but the problem is that it's fun to kill all the enemies around you. You have all these tools to trick guys and mess with them but you're somewhat penalized (in the optional objective sense) if you want to just kill everyone. It's not a bad conflict to have but it was something I did notice. Aside from that though, the game is stellar all the way around. It is methodically paced, but once you get into the grove, you'll be swinging around the environment in no time. Klei Entertainment did a major step up from their prior games, Shank and Shank 2.
Unmechanical is a neat little adventure/puzzle game where you guide a little UFO around. If you remember the movie "Batteries Not Included", that's a bit like what the UFO looks like. The game itself is a physics-based puzzle game where you have to get through various levels. The only power you have is a little grappling beam that extends from the bottom of your ship, so you can hold rocks or various bits that are lying around the level. Puzzles include you having to press down switches to let a ball pass, playing a rudimentary game of "Simon Says", or having to bounce a laser beam off various mirrors, puzzles like that. It's not the deepest game in the world, but it works well enough, and you can get some satisfaction out of it. The audio is fairly bland but the graphics look really good. There is a great sense of scale in the game, especially when you make it to the areas where the camera pulls back. Once this occurs you can actually see the scope that the game is playing with and how small your ship is. It's a very cool moment when you really see witness what is going on. The biggest downside of the game though is that some of the physics get a little wonky. Your ship can get in the way of puzzle solutions which will break the game. One notable thing I did was grind a gear up (which you were supposed to do), then have the gear roll into a door to crush it. I got ahead of the gear, so when it rolled into the door, it rolled into me. One of the door fragments dropped on me, and between it and the gear I couldn't escape from the spot. The only other thing I'll mention is, if it would have been nice if there had been a gradual hint system. Maybe not a full one, but some direction hints alone would go a long way.
Snapshot is a unique platformer with a slightly puzzle twist. You guide the character, picking up stars, finding hidden bits in the level, to the end goal. Your sole power in the game though is your camera (which you use with the right stick). You can take three pictures of items with your camera and bring them out in the world. So if you need to get up on a ledge, but the only box is on the other side of the wall, you can take a picture of it and restore it to where you need it for the ledge-jump. Momentum is carried into your pictures, so if you take a picture of a ball that rolls, the momentum of the ball will be released when you restore the picture. There aren't any enemies in the game, at least not in the levels that I played. It is all about just guiding your character from the start to the end goal. Each level has different goals, a star counter, a hidden object to find, and a time goal. The stars and hidden objects are fairly easy to do but the time goals are insanely hard. Like with Mark of the Ninja, this particular element of the game is a bit at odds with the other neat parts of the game. It doesn't break any particular molds but it's a charming enough platformer with a neat hook.
One Note When you boot Snapshot up, it produces a DOS window displaying game info. I'm not sure why it does this, but it seems harmless enough. Just wanted to give you a heads up for when it happens to you:
Don't Starve is essentially Minecraft or Terraria but it actually has a point. Minecraft and Terraria are all about building a world but there is missing any actual reason to do so. The basic crux is that you pick a character at the start and are dumped into a world. You have two meters to keep track of, your health meter, and your hunger meter. Your health meter goes down only when you're attacked, but the hunger meter goes down gradually all the time. So you have to keep food in your inventory to keep yourself fed. The beginning parts are a big "gathering" simulator, with you trying to pick up all the supplies you can, be it flowers, carrots (food), twigs, grass, flints of rock, and more.
There is a day/night cycle in the game as well. You have to have enough supplies on hand, to build a fire during the night, or else a monster will come to eat you (thus you lose the game). To build a fire you need grass, and logs. But to get logs you need to chop down trees. To chop down trees, you need to build an ax, etc. There is a give and pull to the way the logic works in this game, but there *is* logic, and it can be researched and studied upon. The goal of the game is to try and see how long you can survive, if you try and build a self-sustaining farm, or if you try and kill all the creatures out to get you (bad move, if you try). Research also plays a huge role in the game, with the more research you have, the more things you can unlock, which can lead to more upgrades which help with your survivability. The game is only in beta right now, but is a nice purchase on Steam because you get two copies when you buy it. The game is being updated on a fairly regular process, but the initial few rounds a new player tries will be challenging, just because you don't know what is going on. It's worth sticking out though, and is pretty drastically different than anything Klei Entertainment has made before.
Other Steam News
Games! They're actually coming out next week! There are three games listed for release next week. Dungeonland is due on January 22nd, and kind of looks like a cutesy Diablo clone. Or more specifically, a Gauntlet clone. On January 23rd there is The Cave, the new Ron Gilbert/Double Fine adventure game. This has a large pedigree behind it, and a neat premise, so this is something I hope to check out soon. Finally, on the 25th is the PC port of DmC: Devil May Cry. From some accounts, this actually sounds like a really solid port of the game with actual controller support (as opposed to DMC 3), and an actual good game behind it (as opposed to DMC 4). Next week I'm going to look at Tiny and Big: Grandpa's Leftovers.