Indie Games: Humble Indie Bundle 3 Review

Updated 8/7/11 – You still have over TWO AND A HALF days to purchase the bundle, and to sweeten the deal Humble Bundle, Inc has added Steel Storm and Atom Zombie Smasher, as well as access to Humble Bundle #2 if you pay over the average price. Reviews of the two new games below.

Sorry world, I was trying to put this out last night, but I got caught up looking at pictures on reddit. Happens every time…

Available on: PC/Mac/Linux, Price: Pay what you want!, Available until: 8/9/2011 at 6pm CST

The recent rise in indie games has been a welcome advance in the gaming world. With a growing community of online supporters, many developers have decided to break free from the shackles of rushed development cycles and the boring cookie-cutter concepts of major publishers and strike out on their own, either by themselves or with small teams. These small teams don’t generally have the answer to anyone, and the result is awesome, innovative indie games for the rest of us! Indie publishers have been especially active lately, producing excellent, critically acclaimed games like Braid, Super Meat Boy (not for the easily cowed gamer), World of Goo, and Minecraft.

And every once in a while, Humble Bundle, Inc wraps a few of them up into a juicy, delicious Humble Indie Bundle – a pay-what-you-want pack of indie games! When purchasing, you pick your price and then decide how you want to split it up between the developers, Humble Bundle, Inc, and two charities – the EFF, which seeks to protect our online freedoms, and Child’s Play, a Penny Arcade-sponsored group that donates toys and games to children in hospitals. Seriously, even if you have no interest in the games, this is worth it just to give a little money to these great charities. But you should be interested in the games! I’m going to give a brief review of each to tell you a little about it, and I’ll link to a longer review by a 3rd party at the end if you want more info.

Coloring outside the lines.

Crayon Physics Deluxe: This is a fun little puzzle game in which you try to guide a ball to a star by drawing the path that it must take to reach it. You can’t interact with the ball beyond giving it a little push, so you have to rely on the structures you create to get it to the goal. As you gain stars, you unlock new islands filled with new challenges. The things you can create become more complex, and the levels become trickier to solve. It’s an incredibly cute game with a wonderful art style, and I found myself smiling as I completed levels. The music is fun, and it fits the overall atmosphere perfectly. Another cool feature – if you have a tablet, you can use that, which means all the time I spent doodling on my notes back in college was really just training for this game. With 70 levels and a level editor, this is definitely a game worth checking out. Read more at this IGN review.

You should see the rest of this puzzle.

Cogs: Cogs is another puzzle game. At it’s core lies a combination of slider puzzles and that game where you have to connect tubes to get something from point a to point b (like the hacking in Bioshock or the old-school Pipe Mania). Generally the puzzles have you connecting pipes to move gas or cogs to turn gears, but sometimes you have to combine gasses or synchronize gears to get them to play a song, which can get tricky. Sometimes you have multiple objectives on a small board, requiring precise use of your pieces. The really cool action happens when the game switches to 3D and you have to start choreographing your actions on 6 sides of a puzzle. You can get up to 10 stars based on how quickly and efficiently you beat the puzzles, which in turn unlocks more challenging levels. The nice visuals and passable sound render this game completely worthwhile without being anything groundbreaking. If you like slider puzzles, you will definitely enjoy this game’s 50 levels and 3 gameplay modes. IGN seems to agree with me.

Every last one of those spikes is on a mission to destroy you.

VVVVVV: This 2D puzzle-platformer is wicked cool, and can be quite challenging. With an ultra-retro visual style and soundtrack, this game definitely stands out as something special from the rest of the Bundle’s offerings. As Captain Viridian, your quest is to track down the remaining five members of your spaceship after it crash lands due to “dimensional interference.” Unlike many platformers, instead of jumping you only have the ability to reverse the direction of gravity, but it makes for some pretty cool puzzles. Most of the obstacles involve avoiding death by spikes for long enough to get to the next checkpoint. You will die a lot, but the numerous checkpoints make the game’s difficulty much less intense. The game isn’t terribly long, but there are some challenging collectibles to gather and the overall look and feel of the game make it definitely worth a try. Here’s another viewpoint worth reading: Eurogamer.

You’re probably about to get hit once and die.

Hammerfight: This is kind of a weird game, and a little hard to describe. Let’s see… it’s a Russian-developed Steampunk arena battle game set in what appears to be the Middle East. It’s actually got a story, although I’m going to be honest – I didn’t play enough of the game to get what was going on. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it, but with so many other great games in this pack I spent my time elsewhere. You pilot a little ship with a ball-and-chain attached to it by moving your mouse around and then swinging it in circles to get the physics engine working on your ball. Once you have enough momentum going you crash your ball into enemies or the destructible levels and wreak some havoc. There is definitely a bit of a learning curve and even when you figure out what is going on you will die a lot, since the player has very little health. It gets annoying. I could imagine having a lot of fun crushing my friends in multiplayer, but unfortunately this game doesn’t have any. However, Hammerfight has neat visuals and interesting enough music to complement its unique gameplay mechanics, so I would recommend trying it to see if it’s your cup of tea. This rando on the net agrees with me.

Dying is the hardest part. Or at least the most annoying.

And Yet It Moves: Another puzzle platformer, this one with a bit of a twist. Literally. The controls are: move left, move right, jump, and spin the world 90 or 180 degrees. You’ll use this to get through small passages feet-first, avoid death by black hole, and to move objects around. The platforming can be a bit frustrating (I kept spinning the world the wrong way, gaining too much momentum, and crushing my poor little paper body) but it is also pretty interesting. The game is designed to look like it is made up of images cut out and pasted together into levels, and it makes for a very pretty and unique world. You never really learn any new moves or game mechanics, and there’s no real story, but the levels manage to stay pretty interesting throughout. This game is worth trying, although I think some of the other ones in this bundle are better. The worst part of the game is the terrible sound effect when you die. Seriously, why? Check out Gamespot for a longer review.

Steel Storm: Steel Storm is a top-down shooter using WSAD to move and strafe and the mouse to turn and shoot. The graphics are nice and the controls are tight, but I found the game somewhat lacking. There were no overt problems, but there wasn’t a whole lot that felt new. I was left with the sensation that Steel Storm was a game I had played many times before. It is a perfectly solid game though, and it’s worth playing to see if it’s something you would enjoy. I didn’t get a chance to try out the multiplayer, but that could add a lot more to the experience. There aren’t many reviews out there, but here’s one from Ubuntu Vibes.

Atom Zombie Smasher: Atom Zombie Smasher is part RTS, part tower defense, part Pandemic, and a whole lot of luck. You spend half of your time in the overworld map deciding which territory needs saving in order to prevent a larger outbreak and half of your time in the territories themselves trying to evacuate enough humans to consider your mission a success. The battles have you positioning mercenaries around the territories in order to stave of the zombies for long enough to evacuate a goal number of humans. If you manage to kill all of the zombies before nightfall, you automatically win. Unfortunately, the mercenaries you get are randomly chosen from all of the ones you’ve unlocked, so you might end up trying to kill a bunch of zombies using nothing more than a couple of walls and a trip mine. I’m sure that this was included to prevent people from using the same four mercenary groups over and over, but it can cause some pretty terrible battles. Despite this, the game is quite fun and the battles are addictive. Here’s what IGN has to say.

To Sum It Up: This is definitely worth your money, especially if you like puzzle games, platformers, or games with interesting new ideas. Even if you don’t like these things, it’s worth the purchase to support struggling developers, new ideas, and some great charities. Also, these games work on Linux, so if you use Linux you really have no excuse. What else are you going to play?

I thought the two best games were VVVVVV and Crayon Physics Deluxe, but And Yet It Moves and Cogs were pretty great too. Hammerfight is at least worth trying for its cool game mechanic, although the difficulty might make some steer clear.

Update 8/7/11: Everything above is true, but now you have two additional great games and an entire extra bundle if you pay more than $5.65 (as of 12:20am CST). Braid alone is worth at least twice that, and you’re getting 12 games in total, so this should be an obvious buy.

Even after the Humble Bundle has ended, these games are all still worth a look. If you’d like any more information about any of them, let me know and I’ll try to give you some answers.

The Verdict: buy it!

I used a lot of dashes in this article. Gross.