Steam Treasures: SteamWorld Dig Review

It’s time to bring back our Steam Treasures series.

With hundreds and hundreds of titles now receiving the all-important right to be on Steam – through Valve’s Greenlight initiative (that Gabe Newell now wants to do away with) – the idea of a “jewel” of an indie game somehow “making” it through to the service (against all odds!!) no longer carries the same much any weight.

Where Valve’s standards may have changed (for better or worse), ours haven’t: In this series, we review budget-sized, budget-priced, big-small games that deserve to be added to your Steam library, period – even, when they’re not currently in a bundle for beans! Our first new entry to the series, then, is none other than the aptly-titled SteamWorld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt. SteamWorld Dig Logo

Curiously, the game’s developer, the Swedish Image & Form, actually did not target Steam first, as the game found its original home on the Nintendo eShop. Even on the Nintendo 3DS – a system I don’t currently own or have access to – the game immediately caught my attention due to its colourful look and feel, cute robot designs, and overall Steampunk shenanigans.

Ultimately, nomen est omen, and so forth, and we computer folks ended up receiving a full OS smorgasbord, from Windows to OSX to Linux, all via Steam. I was overjoyed to discover the game was to be ported so quickly over to PC – there still exist footage of me posting awful puns on Twitter. That’s how excited I was about getting to play the game.

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Being Saved in Actual Sunlight

Actual Sunlight 02One of last year’s remarkable critical success stories, Actual Sunlight, is being currently remade into 3D by developer Will O’Neill. The game is testing waters on Steam Greenlight, and a demonstrative beta build of the new 3D version can be downloaded on the developer’s website.

The game is a “short interactive story about love, depression and the corporation”:

The game puts you in the role of Evan Winter, a young professional in Toronto, as he moves through three distinct periods of his life. The story is linear, unavoidable and (hopefully) thought-provoking. You experience his perceptions, fall under the consequences of his decisions, and meet everyone who didn’t change him.

Inspired by the game’s resurgence in 3D, I would very much like to go back in time (it’s not like we get second chances very often!), to point out just one interesting feature in the original game – a feature that’s completely transparent, and ordinary, and yet crucially shaped my experience with the game.

The game engenders feelings, responses, and thoughts on so many different levels that there already exists a wealth of criticism (see, for instance, Chris Priestman’s and John Walker’s). So. I shall try to be to the point.

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Why APB Reloaded’s Blood Money Event Works

Over the past few years, APB Reloaded developers have intermittently run different types of events: Some have equipped players with new weapons, or customization options, while others have also netted players with concrete rewards in the GamersFirst game shop currency, or “G1C.”

APB Reloaded

The latest such event, “Blood Money,” run in anticipation of their new content patch, simply asks players to kill other players in exchange for rewards:

Alright boys and girls, listen up and listen good, there’s a BOUNTY on! Someone out in San Paro needs a whole lot of corpses and needs ‘em fast, and well, they figure you’d make a mighty fine supplier. You can bag yourself up to 100 kills per day at 1 G1C a pop for 7 days. We know most of you cold-hearted killers’d already be doing this anyway so this is basically just like free money, but hey, whoever it is needs this killing done doesn’t seem to mind.

Sounds right about normal, right? Wrong. The current event, running from the 20th to 26th, is markedly different from those that came before it, and is deserving of some commentary.

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The Shivah: Kosher Edition Review

The Shivah 01In many ways, Dave Gilbert’s adventure game The Shivah, now re-released and re-mastered under the “Kosher Edition” subtitle on Steam and on the iPad, is a game of firsts.

Released originally in 2006, it was Gilbert’s first commercial game, and, in fact, one of the first commercial Adventure Game Studio games on the whole. It’s also where his publishing studio, Wadjet Eye Games, got kickstarted (in a time before Kickstarter). Though the developer had already released other games, for free, like The Repossesser (2001), and Bestowers of Eternity (2003), the game that later became The Blackwell Legacy, it was this game that would become his calling card.

After all, The Shivah was the first AGS game to receive any real mainstream coverage, perhaps in large part due to its mundane, real-world setting, and Gilbert’s writing chops. Some readers may still recall, for instance, Boing Boing’s early snippet of an article on the game. Imagine: This miniature mention was – by far! – the most coverage that the AGS platform had received since its inception in 1999!

And as far as firsts go, it was – quite probably – the first game with a rabbi as its lead. (more…)

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Inescapable Review

Magnetic RealmsInescapable is a Metroidvania-style indie game of admirable constraint and deliberateness. Even for a one-man Amiga homage, it never overreaches in its pursuit of a specific type of gaming minimalism. In this day and age, this in turn creates a style, and atmosphere, that is much its own.

(It helps that Amiga-style platforming is seldom imitated these days. If you can still remember, Amiga games were often half-arsed ports from other platforms, with terrible palettes and clunky controls, bogged down by the constraints of the Atari ST.)

Inescapable 03The keys to understanding Inescapable’s aims are the arts of 1) imitation and 2) limitation. Here, what was once a sheer necessity (say, a hardware constraint), is now a choice, or a decision, that enhances the game’s retro aspirations. Japan-based developer-designer Matt Fielding characterizes the game as being “…inspired by a wide range of classics of the genre such as Exile, Gods, Switchblade, Flashback and even the Dizzy series.”

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