indie bundle cruft death match seven: the reckoning
it’s time again.
PREVIOUSLY, ON “BUNDLE CRUFT DEATH MATCH!”
So, well… there you have it! That’s 30 games. Of those 30 games, we’re getting rid of 19. That’s 63%. Lower than our average of 78%, but there was some really, really good stuff here, especially Rebel Galaxy, which I will definitely be playing to completion. Out of 130 games, we’re getting rid of 97, which means we’re at a 74% rejection rate now.
Get ready for the Seventh Edition, coming very soon to a blog near you.
PRESENT DAY, PRESENT TIME, HAHAHAHAHA:
Right, so I said “very soon” on April 27, 2019. Fun fact, this is the oldest draft in my Medium, so I clearly meant it at some point. Just, y’know, forgot. So now we’re unforgetting.
What happened? Well, I got caught up in making this video game called “Adios,” which you can get at www.mischief.games, on just about every major PC gaming store, the Xbox (where it’s cross-buy with the PC version), and the Nintendo Switch! Then life got in the way, and while I’ve moooostly been good about keeping up my article quota, I’ve been struggling a bit lately as I prepare to get my next game funded.
So, how does a “bundle cruft death match” work?
Like so: I play a bunch of games I got in bundles, as gifts, in various ‘free backlog expansion’ type services. Then I tell you what I think in a rapid-fire series of (mostly) single-paragraph impressions. Do the games stay on the backlog or do they go? It all depends on whether or not they keep my interest. Rarely does a rejection mean the game sucked, it just means “
It’s time for the seventh indie bundle cruft death match…
Basement begins by saying “this is a unique ass-ripping strategy. This Game [sic] will try to fuck you.” Then I started having fun. It’s trying a bit too hard in its attitude, and it owes a lot to Breaking Bad, and the game could use a better English edit patch, but I had a good time with it to the point that I might try and play it more? Basically, it’s a little base-building game; build rooms, send people out on missions, make a profit. I like these kinds of games, though I tend to play them in spurts and then stop for a while, and that may happen here. We’re keeping it. THIS IS NOT METH.
Boomerang Fu’s keybindings look like this. At a glance, you might be like “okay so what? I mean, they’re kinda weird, but…” well, as you might notice, it has a keyboard 1 and a keyboard 2. Not only are the bindings kinda weird — I couldn’t figure out how to select a character — but it’s also, y’know, a top-down fighting game. That means it’s not for me. THROW IT AWAY.
I have a suspicion that The Ambassador: Fractured Timelines is not for me.
I’m going to click “new game” now.
Okay, yeah, it’s not for me. It’s a top-down kinda-not-exactly twin-stick game. If you like this kind of game, maybe you’ll like it. As for me, this won’t be a timeline I stick around in. AMBASS THIS!
Aeronautica Imperialis: Flight Command is a turn-based air combat game; if you know me, you know I love my flying games, but this one isn’t quite working for me, thanks to the fiddly controls and odd post-turn presentation. It’s not a high-budget game — you can see that with the ugly brown “made in unity” startup option that denotes the game’s low budget — but hey, low budget games can still be great! This one just clearly requires a lot more commitment than I think I have the capacity to give right now. THE EMPEROR DOES NOT PROTECT THE HERETIC.
Here’s a question I have about 112 Operator: if it’s set in the EU, why did the game detect I was from Olathe (I’m not, but that’s probably the closest node to where I live to get my gigabit internet) and ask if I wanted to start my game there? On one hand, this is a pretty neat feature. On the other hand… isn’t 112 the emergency code for the EU?
Anyways, this game actually looks pretty cool! The voice acting is very American/neutral in tone. 999 is the British code — I wonder how many butt dials that one gets — but because Britain was in the EU,
Playing as dispatch is pretty fun, and it’s a game I can see myself playing a lot of. But… I don’t really feel like I have to play it, if you know what I mean? WE’RE LEAVING THIS CALL… UNANSWERED.
Aquanox’s protagonist pronounces “Succubus” as “zoo-koo-bus” for some reason. Theoretically, even with the very dated UI, the idea of a first person underwater shooter should appeal to me, but the controls are so bad!!! Turns out that’s partially because the mouse just doesn’t work. Luckily, there’s a fix, and PC Gaming Wiki has some pointers on how to use a controller instead.
Still, do I want to go to all that trouble to play a game with some of the worst voice acting I’ve ever heard and a script that tries too hard to let you know it’s sci-fi by laying in words every other sentence? Like, imagine if we, here and now, described everything the way a sci-fi character did, talking about where concrete and rebar were sourced from for building materials and stuff. It’d sound really clumsy.
The drive just isn’t there. SAIL AWAY.
1954 Alcatraz made it very easy for me to remove it from the backlog by virtue of simply being a point and click adventure game, a genre that I have yet to figure out how to fully appreciate. This game, sadly, won’t get a chance for me to even figure out if it’s good or not — I just can’t get past the fact that the genre bores the shit out of me. Very sorry, adventure fans. IT’S NOT YOU, IT’S ME.
When a PC game doesn’t have mouse support in the menus, I find myself mildly concerned. 8Doors: Arum’s Afterlife Adventure does not have mouse support in the menus. It’s got a cool art style, neat music, a bit of a slow start, so hmm... maybe it’ll be go —
Oh. It’s a sidescroller. GO TO HELL.
(i have no antipathy for this game, but i do have it for the genre; no idea why, very few actually manage to interest me; i think it has to do with how my brain processes space or demands attention. the ‘go to hell’ here is because it’s an ‘afterlife adventure’ so we’re doing funny wordplay; this game might be for you, but it’s not for me!)
ANCIENT DOMAINS OF MYSTERY isn’t for me. It’s also not for 4k monitors. This sort of tile-based, very old-school RPG thing is something I really struggle to wrap my head around. IT WILL REMAIN A MYSTERY.
No, this screenshot looks weird for me too. Apparently “full screen” doesn’t mean much for Age of Gladiators, because all it does… is stretch black borders around the screen. Alt+F4 doesn’t work as an instant quit command either.
As for the game itself, “management sim” is absolutely my jam, but “extremely cluttered UX that won’t fill up the monitor and I couldn’t figure out how to do a tutorial” is a bit much to expect me to handle. I AM NOT ENTERTAINED.
Ostensibly, I like 4X games, but I don’t like Civ-style games. Never managed to wrap my head around them, and Age of Wonders: Planetfall is no different. The tutorial drops a ton of knowledge on you right away and it could just be where I’m at or who I am, but it’s overwhelmingly dense.
Generally, I think “popping up a text box the player needs to read” is a bad way to tutorialize things, especially when you’re doing 20+ in the first few minutes of the game. It’s just… it’s very overwhelming? Otherwise, the presentation is slick, music and art looks cool, I bet if I was into Civ-likes, the steep learning curve wouldn’t be a problem. But for me, it is, so THE CIVILIZATION FALLS.
Ageless is obviously not for me due to the sidescrolly bits, but I’m glad it had mouse support in the menus!
The Amazing American Circus looks kinda cool! I’m not really feeling really compelled to play it, but it’s a game I wouldn’t mind circling back around to at another point. Still, does it need to be on the backlog? It’s a cool deck building/circus management game, but I don’t think it’s a doc game. THE SHOW MUST GO ON.
So Arida sucks.
Normally, I don’t like to go this hard on a game, but there are three major UI sins here: the first is that you have to navigate every resolution from 640x480 all the way up to 4k, which takes forever, because they have steps for every individual refresh rate, which is bad on its own — this should be a drop down.
The second sin is that… see how aggressive that fuckin vignetting is? Yeah, so… it’s turned on that it obfuscates an active part of the menu! Normally, when you layer in a menu over a pre-existing menu, you fade out the background menu to say “this menu is not usable.” The awful vignetting here makes the “apply” button appear like it’s part of a background menu.
So, okay, two UI sins.
The third is this — once I figured out that the “apply” was selectable, even though it’s faded out, I tried to move my mouse down to it… which immediately reset my resolution back to full. As I’d tried to go through like 60 or 70 resolution options to get to 4k twice before, I decided I was fuckin done. I don’t care about the game anymore — if the UX is this bad when simply trying to change resolution, why would I want to put up with the rest of the experience?
UI is important, friends. I’m really, really frustrated with that. I hope at the least, you can read this and go “alright yeah I won’t do that.”
As Far As The Eye is another hex-style game, except it’s also a roguelike. So it’s definitely the opposite of a “doc game.” Like Age of Wonders: Planetfall, it’s a bit overwhelming; lots of menus and text boxes telling you what to do and hoping you’ll remember. Clicking on units seemed a bit fiddly to me — I clicked on the player character and couldn’t quite select them? I think this could be a bit more fluid. Reviews from other players indicate that the loop kinda falls apart after a while. I CAN’T SEE WHERE THIS IS GOING.
Asterix and Obelisk XXL is a game that, if I had a lot fewer games on my backlog, I might sticking with it, but the fixed camera and presumption I know a lot about the admittedly-venerated Asterix comics means I’d at least wanna try and read some of the old comics first.
I’m not big into 3d environments with fixed cameras — movement doesn’t feel fluid with them in my opinion — so there’s more weighing against it than for it.
With a game like this, the question is “do I care about the IP enough to get through the little things that make it hard for me to enjoy a game normally?” I’m not familiar with Asterix enough yet to know if I care! ROME FALLS.
Using the alt key in a pc game is a sin. Still, Autonauts seems kinda interesting! It’s about building and automating a colony — reviews are great too. It is, as best as I can tell, a stylized Factorio-like, which is quite cool! So you may find it odd I’m taking it off the backlog, but you know the rules: it’s not for me. Check it out if you’re into this kind of game! As for me, I’M BUILDING A DIFFERENT FUTURE.
Attack of the Earthlings seems like an XCOM-like. I don’t really like stories where humans are fodder to be killed by non-human protagonists — because we’re humans; we make art to understand ourselves. Art is a means of processing what we care about, so to me, setting non-human protagonists as protagonists is just… not really meaningful. It’s a thought experiment and little more. But… just because Attack of the Earthlings doesn’t seem like it would satisfy me on an artistic level, XCOM-style games are usually a great time, and this seems pretty cool so far.
They also do the really cool tutorial thing (in direct contrast to some of the games above) where, to progress the tutorial, you have to do the actions required of you, rather than just reading and trying to remember it all. I learn by doing, and I really like when it’s like “yeah scroll the mouse up and down. Okay, you did it? Check. Next step…”
Really feeling good about this one. I’M ENDING MY TURN FOR NOW.
Avicii Invector is another game where it’s like “oh, this would be really fun if I was into this kind of game.” Plus it’s kinda weird that they’re using a person who committed suicide as a product. I don’t know who I feel about that. I mean, sure, I don’t think you should stop selling Robin Williams movies, but… I dunno. Weird gut feeling I’ve got and don’t need to deal with? Cool game, absolutely fantastic vibes (not just the music, but the presentation!), but it’s not quite as compelling to me as something like Thumper. THE BEAT GOES ON.
So, here’s the last game on our list: The Ball. A thousand years from now, the brief couple of years where indie games went from “a few games” to “a whole fucking lot of them” will probably not be remembered. But hey, I was there, and what I saw were a bunch of games that kind of… Had Prominence, whether it was due to marketing (like Braid) or just being one of the few games to actually get shipped prior to the great Cambrian Explosion of indie games that hit around 2010 or so.
The Ball was one of these, originally a mod that
It’s… well, dated. The resolution tops out at 1080p, the mouse acceleration is so aggressive it reminds me of the “bad pc port” days (gamers these days think “not running at 60 frames per second,” even when their shitty 8 gb graphics card couldn’t even handle 4k60, is a ‘bad port.’ No, that’s just your computer sucking), and I couldn’t figure out how to turn on anti-aliasing.
It’s a neat game, but it’s just… hey, I’m not feeling it. ROLL ALONG.
So, hey, that puts us at 150 games total. We just accepted 2 games and rejected 18. That’s 90% rejection this time! Wow! That brings our total to 115 games rejected out of a total 150, or 77%!
Was there any real theme this time? Not really. I just started installing games I wasn’t sure I wanted to check out this time — games I couldn’t even remember picking up. This is what I ended up with!
I promise the next one won’t take uh, like… three years to get to.
See you next time.