Avast! The Steam Trawler sets sail again! Do steam ships set sail? Anyway, we will continue on our mission to sort the hidden pearls of Steam’s new releases from the Lovecraftian horrors by simply picking the ten latest releases and blindly playing through them. Just to be clear though, there are no Lovecraftian horror games on this list… although it’s probably only a matter of time.
For the purposes of this exercise, I am excluding Far Cry: New Dawn (you may have heard of that already) and PuppetShow: Lightning Strikes Collector’s Edition on account of the latter being a re-release. But this week’s list DOES include some intriguing adventure games. And some boring adventure games. And some games that adventurously rip off other, better games. Also, scantily clad anime girls. Always anime girls.
The Floor Is Really Cheap Lava
Kain Swartzberg – free
The Floor Is Really Cheap Lava is a danger-dodging endless runner. You control a metal ball and have to avoid orange-coloured tiles (the titular cheap lava) as they approach at increasing speeds.
There isn’t much else to say about The Floor Is Really Cheap Lava. It’s not an ambitious game but it’s executed well enough. The music is quite fun and the price is right, too (i.e., free). Fine if you’ve got a few minutes to kill.
Seldom Ludious – free
R.I.C.A. is a top-down mystery-adventure game. Your cat has escaped into a spoooooky abandoned castle, and you give chase. Perhaps inevitably, you become locked in this castle and have to find a way out. You do this by exploring the castle, finding secrets and solving puzzles. At least that’s what I assume you need to do. I became hopelessly stuck about 20 minutes in and I can’t tell if that’s my fault or the game’s.
I pressed a couple of hidden buttons, but none of them seemed to do anything. I must’ve interacted with every available object. I’m pretty sure there was meant to be background music playing (the store page specifically referred to it), but there was none. As such, I can’t tell if it’s broken, or if I’m just missing something. But it’s completely free, so maybe give it a try yourself – if you do, then please tell me if you work out how to get off the ground floor.
Vlad Dunaev – £0.55 (30% off)
I would like you to picture a game about a gelatinous cube. One day, the cube’s girlfriend is kidnapped by an evil villain. The cube sets out on a dangerous mission to rescue her. The cube has to navigate many dangerous traps and obstacles by jumping over them. He dies many times. If you’re thinking: “Wait, isn’t this a description of Super Meat Boy?”, then you would be correct. However, it is also a description of Slime Adventure.
Yes, Slime Adventure is ‘heavily inspired by’ Super Meat Boy. It’s just less good, obviously. Its biggest problem is that it’s much slower than its inspiration. Your slime cube lacks the ability to jump off walls and is generally more sluggish. This necessitates a more ponderous approach and by extension means that death is very aggravating. It also lacks both the humour and the excellent design of the earlier title. Slime Adventure is not a badly made game per se; however, it seriously suffers in comparison to Team Meat’s epic. You could argue this game serves as a cheaper alternative to Super Meat Boy, but the latter was free on the Epic Store around a month ago, so… yeah.
Just play Super Meat Boy.
The Queen of Blackwood High
RhinoGearz – £3.19 (20% off)
The Queen of Blackwood High is pitched as a visual novel containing meaningful, story-changing choices. You play as Brooke, a new arrival at the eponymous Blackwood High School. You almost immediately cross paths with Kendra, the alpha-female bully/queen of Blackwood. For reasons that are not readily obvious, Brooke becomes rather infatuated with Kendra and is intent on learning more about her. She seems convinced that something lies beneath her open hostility, and maybe she’s right?
To be honest, I found The Queen of Blackwood High to be dreadfully dull. Imagine Life Is Strange, but with all the intrigue, characterisation and emotional heft taken out. My biggest issue though is with why Brooke, who has moved schools because of bullying, decides Kendra is simply misunderstood in spite of all evidence and testimony to the contrary. The whole plot centres on them becoming friends (or more). Maybe she’s just a better person than me?
Also, choices were few and far between; in my time with the game they were half as frequent as variations of the phrase “eyebrows pinched into a frown”. I know that seems like an odd criticism, but that term comes up so often it becomes genuinely distracting. Frown-inducing, even.
Drunken Apes – £3.19 (20% off)
Phwoar! Anime babes! PHWOAR!!
Foto Babes is a game where you take photos of anime girls in bikinis. There’s a “hide and seek” mode where you take photos of hidden girls. These girls then burst into tears (creepy). There’s a “cat walk” [sic] mode where you have to take photos of girls before they run away (creepy+). Finally there’s a “battle babe survival” mode, where the girls put on clothes, grab katanas and try to murder you (fair).
I have no idea who this game is for. If it sounds fun to you, then you’re probably not old enough to play it. Besides, Google image search is still a thing.
The Ballad Singer
Curtel Games – £19.49
The Ballad Singer is essentially a choose your own adventure novel in video game form. You start out by selecting one of the four available heroes; each has their own narrative, but the stories cross paths with each other. The tales being told are pretty standard fare and will feel familiar to any D&D or Fighting Fantasy veterans. Each step of each story is fully narrated, with unique illustrations for all of them.
Death is common in The Ballad Singer; however, it’s actually more forgiving than the traditional books. While decisions often feel arbitrarily fatal, there’s a “fate” mechanic that lets you redo your choices. It’s sort of a formalised version of the “fingers in the pages” mechanic that I was once a master of. If your hero dies and you’ve run out of fate points, you switch to a different hero on a different path.
While not the most original concept, it’s well done. Having multiple heroes is a neat idea too. If the sight of a copy of Deathtrap Dungeon excites you, or if you enjoyed the 2013 video game version of Sorcery!, then this is definitely worth a look.
Orange Valley – £3.99
When I first saw a game called Creepy Vision in the new-release list, I was a bit apprehensive. Fortunately though, there’s not a crudely drawn teenage boob in sight. In fact, Creepy Vision is a delightfully bananas puzzle/exploration game. Set in what looks like a psychiatric unit in the Robot Kingdom, you’re tasked with escaping without going insane. This isn’t easy though, as first you need to find VHS tapes explaining your past and how you ended up there.
In truth, a lot of what Creepy Vision offers up is pretty basic. You wonder around, find a thing and then run through a fairly rudimentary mini-game of some sort. Throw in a few jump scares and you’re done. However, it’s put together with enough imagination and flair that it’s a fun and interesting experience. Different, in a good way.
Life Jumb DT/MyDreamForever – £0.47 (41% off)
The Expedition is a turn-based tactical game. In it, you control a pair of cowboys on a treasure-hunting trip to Atlantis for some reason. Every ten paces or so, you fight a small group of bad cowboys. Each group is slightly tougher than the last. Your characters level up as you go, with all of them having access to the same skill options.
Frankly, I found it really boring. While the enemy groups get incrementally tougher, there’s little variety in how the fights play out. Your party’s health fully restores after each fight, so there’s minimal jeopardy. Also, the characters all look like children playing dress-up, which is a bit disconcerting. More tedious than tactical.
Red Mount Media/Antarsoft – £4.31 (40% off)
Ellen is a pixel-art horror/adventure game. You play as James, an investigator looking into the murder of an entire family at their mansion year ago. Well not quite the entire family; the daughter, Ellen, was never found. Now though, strange shadows have been seen at the windows…
Ellen is a very creepy game. It quickly becomes apparent that something supernatural is at play and the house is full of monsters and mysteries. The art style is remarkably affecting and atmospheric. The music and sound design is excellent and helps instil a sense of foreboding. Some of the puzzles are a bit obtuse though; I’m not sure you can actually pick a lock with a feather, for example. But if you’re a fan of old-school point-and-click games, then I would recommend this.
Extreme Truck Simulator
A Nostru – £1.67 (1% off)
Extreme Truck Simulator is neither extreme, nor a simulator. In it you drive a truck, quite slowly, around different tracks. You have to make checkpoints in time, otherwise you run out of fuel. This strikes me as poor engineering on the truck maker’s part. There are no other vehicles on the track, but there are some ramps to spice things up a bit. You can unlock more trucks, upgrades and tracks over time.
Essentially, Extreme Truck Simulator feels like a school project. It’s not particularly well made and, although it’s clearly not meant to be ground-breaking, it’s also not very good. Even at this price, there are better games available for less.
Pick of the list this month would have to be Ellen. It’s a well-designed, engaging game which is well worth £7 of anyone’s money. The Ballad Singer and Creepy Vision are also worthy of attention, especially if you’re fans of their respective genres. Just to re-iterate though, if you give R.I.C.A. a go, then really do shout if you work it out!
As always, if you’ve come across any indie games you’ve enjoyed, then please mention them in the comments below!