Whether Steam Greenlight will be going away, and what will replace it is still in the shadowy future. Dave Oshry has essentially said he’d like to make Steam an open distribution platform, but for now it’s a curated, community driven springboard that brings games that have excited the audience to the platform. Some are near the end of development, some are finished and some have months and months left, but they’ve all proven themselves worthy of attention. Here are nine that really caught my eye and mind.
Gods Will Be Watching - Deconstructeam
This is really the game that got me going on this article. I’ve been watching it for a few months after playing this devilish little in-browser demo. My first time out I died the first day because I failed to light a fire and my entire team died in the night. The sound design and smooth, simple, low-resolution graphics are both expressive and engrossing. Watching the psychiatrist rocking back and forth in the fetal position on the way to madness really makes you want to reach out to her, but food stores are low and that radio needs to get fixed. It’s an emotionally draining resource management experience. Having to learn to read each character’s body language in order to get in their heads really draws you in, and makes it all the more difficult when you're contemplating killing someone to save the rest of the group. It was just released today, and I suggest those of you with $10 to burn give it a look.
39 Days To Mars - Surrealix
Steampunk may be reaching, or past, saturation point, but there’s still something eminently charming about some not so bright Victorian astronauts going to Mars in a steam powered tub. It’s designed to be played in short sessions of about 20 minutes, and you can even play with a friend. There are elements of resource management, adventure and puzzle solving, which makes it much more intriguing a time killer than aligning colorful candies. What really intrigues me is the possibilities of co-op play though. Working through puzzles with a friend, and dealing with their snoring, sounds like a playful and satisfying experience. This one is still in the beginning stages of development, but I’m looking forward to it.
Bravada - Interbellum
Fight hypnotized chickens, slime and dragons in order to regain your epic beard! Or something. The trailer isn’t super clear on the story, but it looks to be pretty goofy and fun. The gameplay conceit of building a group and advancing them relentlessly through a set of obstacles, altering the configuration as the challenges ahead warrant it seems like an easy and effective way to keep momentum going. It’s been available for purchase since May 14th, so if a tactical RPG where you use a colander as a helmet and wail on dragons appeals to you you can go check it out.
Bulb Boy - Bulb Boy
If Jhonen Vasquez has taught us anything it’s that horrible things happening to cute things is just great. This game looks a bit like if Squee’s head were a removable lightbulb in a universe animated by the Adventure Time folks. The decision to hide from or confront each challenge should be interesting, and the option to stuff a child’s glowing head into a severed pig’s head, and have that be the correct course of action, seems like a chance that shouldn’t be passed up. The art style is polished and self-assured, and the premise is something I want to see for real, so maybe go check out their kickstarter and help them out.
Crater Maker - Playing With Matches
Updating some classic physics mechanics for the world of 3-d is just brilliant. Navigating your ship through multiple gravity wells while watching fuel and dodging obstacles sounds like a blast. There’s something to be said for simple games that are difficult to master, and Crater Maker is certainly putting itself in that tradition. With a wide range of modes planned you should be able to test your skills in an unending variety of environments, and there’s no sign that a bunch of useless junk like power ups and weapons are going to be added. I’m a little shaky on the mention of aliens, but they could be an interesting addition to the system. I’d be more than willing to find out.
Parcel - Polar Bunny Ltd.
I’m a sucker for multi-character puzzle games. Moving blocks around, blocking lasers, I can do it all day. A teleporter adds an exciting element to the mix. A level editor could mean a community of diabolical minds out there looking to crush my mastery of movement. I even like the idea that you’re delivering some mysterious package. This is the kind of game that makes me lose sleep and forget to write articles, and it's been awhile since I played a good puzzler. Oh to hark back to the halcyon days of Chip's Challenge.
Prophour23 - thotep
Okay, I’m not gonna lie, this one looks like it’s got the potential to be something of a mess, but building your own organism from varying connections between possibly unrelated organs in order to fend off hordes of insects is a nifty idea. The look is very much reminiscent of vintage medical texts. I can almost imagine a bored monk doodling out the game pieces and random connections between illuminating pages for a strict Abbot who's always looking over his shoulder.
KEL Reaper of Entropy - Tavern Games
This game is already available, with an enhanced version apparently on the way in the fall. It’s an adventure stacked with humor and a protagonist bent on making mischief and doing evil. The idea of a player character who has to be cajoled into doing good and has the ability to rebel when his essential nature is denied sounds interesting. It also has the potential to be mighty frustrating if you can't play the character you want to play. For $2.99 though it’s worth a look. Any game where cursing is one of your powers can’t be all bad.
Rodina - Elliptic Games
An entire seamless solar system to explore! You can go from deep space, through the atmosphere, land, get up out of the pilot’s seat and walk right out the door. No loading or warping. It looks like you even have to handle reentry on your own. That’s an intriguing and stimulating idea. You even get to build your own ship. What this game needs is some more resources. The graphics are a little simple, and it looks like the story is told through text snippets discovered in logs and other communications throughout the game. The battles with space aliens look dynamic enough though. With some work, and a really engaging story, this could be a kind of experience we haven’t really seen, with no zones or warps breaking up our conception of the universe.
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