News: Friday Indie Game Review Roundup: A Steamtastic Bonanza

Friday Indie Game Review Roundup: A Steamtastic Bonanza

Steam has been a game-changer in the PC indie game market over the last eight years, making smaller games available to millions of users at lower prices than ever before. And few times in those eight years have there been as much indie awesomeness on sale for as little money as this weekend.

There are not one, but two five-game indie bundles available for $10 each until Sunday at midnight. One is a variety pack, the other an action collection. And as if that weren't enough, a small USC-funded team has released a free psychadelic documentary puzzle game about a historically relevant Iranian cat.

Here are my favorites from this 11-game $20 indie cavalcade:

A.R.E.S: Extinction Agenda

This game by Extend Interactive in Bangkok and Capsized, both included in the Indie Variety Pack, are somewhat simliar. They are both stylish side-scrolling action platformers, and feature almost identical controls. I vastly prefer A.R.E.S., however. Those same controls feel much smoother and more intuitive than they do in Capsized. The graphics are cartoony, simple, and charming, made with an engine called FlatRedBall, which should really be used more often. The story matches the cartoony setting, and even the dialog is pretty good. Players control a robotic super-soldier charged with rescuing a human research team on an evil robot controlled spacestation, which they accomplish by shooting hordes of other robots with a nice variety of weapons, which expands Metroidvania-like as the game progresses. It reminds me a lot of Shadow Complex.

Atom Zombie Smasher

Brendan Chung and his LA-based Blendo Games have produced cool and stylish indie games since 2009, the latest and for-a-limited-time-cheapest being Atom Zombie Smasher. It takes place in a hypothetical 1961 zombie invasion of a Latin American country, which you must fend off in waves by rescuing civilians, killing zombies, and developing new weapons. It's sort of like tower defense, but with tons of tiny bases to protect that constantly move around. It's hectic, and there are some balance issues towards the beginning of the game that will frustrate many players, but the presentation is top-notch and the gameplay fun enough that many others will probably love it as I do.

Swords and Soldiers HD

German developer Ronimo Games released Swords and Soldiers last year, but it is cheaper than ever this weekend so it warrants some more attention. Like Atom Zombie Smasher, it is a funny strategy game, this time following the adventures of three tribes: Vikings, Chinese, and Mayan, as they battle each other for chili peppers and pride, among other things. Side-scrolling strategy games are not common, but this game executes it well, integrating tower defense and Lemmings-like elements. Even if the gameplay wasn't as good as it is, the dialog alone would be enough to make me finish the game.

The Cat And The Coup

Not part of either bundle, The Cat and the Coup is unlike anything I've ever seen before. Made mostly by two designers with funding from USC, the 15-minute puzzle game places players in the role of a cat belonging to Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh. He was the first democratically elected leader of Iran in 1951, nationalized the nation's oil industry, and was eventually deposed in favor of the Shah by a CIA-funded coup. As the cat, the player solves simple physics puzzles that lead the player through a Dali-meets-Monty-Python world depicting scenes from Mossadegh's life. This game is fun, educational, short, free, and phenomenally beautiful. There is no good reason not to play it.

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