Very short game reviews

I write these down so I don’t bother my friends with them.

High art

Bastion

Beautiful graphics, fun combat, well-executed story. Really feels like you are inhabiting the character.

Good if you like: pretty action RPGs that aren’t too challenging.

Finished: 3x (26 hours)

Plan to replay: no, the studio has a new one coming

Braid

Excellent puzzles with an excellent story.

Good if you like: Mario and literature.

Finished: yes

Plan to replay: no

FTL

Rich, entertaining. Many play styles possible.

Good if you like: micro-tactics in space, and death.

Finished: yes, but noooooo

Plan to replay: 117 hours and counting

FEZ

Phil Fish is an artist. FEZ is perfect. I was shameless about using the internet to get un-stuck, but did plenty on my own.

Much better with a controller.

Finished: yes, and yes. And yes. (12 hours)

Plan to replay: maybe in five years

Dungeon of the Endless

Some of the most original, yet familiar gameplay I’ve ever seen. Despite it being “smaller,” I’ve played this game more than Endless Legend, the 4X game from the same studio.

Finished: see FTL

Plan to replay: 55 hours and counting

Rogue Legacy

Few games have sucked me in so fast for so long. Rogue Legacy is immaculately balanced, plentiful in variety, nice to look at, and joyfully humorous.

Good if you like: action roguelikes, dying a lot, waving your sword around

Finished: in progress (22 hours)

Plan to replay: yes

The Secret of Monkey Island

The old version, without voice acting. One of the best adventure games ever made.

Finished: 2x

Plan to replay: no

Very good

(For some subset of people.)

Aquaria

Excellent design, storytelling, and visuals. I got worn out about a third of the way through it and stopped, but that was about 8 hours of play. I do recommend it even though I didn’t finish.

Finished: no

Plan to replay: I actually tried but couldn’t get into it again

Avadon: The Black Fortress

Spiderweb Software (i.e. Jeff Vogel) has been making isometric turn-based RPGs since 1994. Avadon has all of Spiderweb’s characteristic features of a one-man RPG:

  • The story is told through walls of text
  • The same tile set is used in most games with tweaks and additions
  • There are lots of well-balanced items
  • The UI is well-refined

I’ve never finished a Spiderweb RPG; even at the easier difficulties, I tend to get stuck because I can never quite figure out how to spend my XP efficiently. However, I own three of them and have dumped probably a hundred or two hours into all three collectively.

Anything from Spiderweb is worth your time if you like old-school RPGs.

Finished: no, but who cares

Plan to replay: yes

The entirety of this review also applies to Avernum 4 and 5.

The Binding of Isaac

I haven’t been able to get into this yet, but I know people who love it. Rogue Legacy tickles my action-roguelike fancies better.

Finished: no

Plan to replay: maybe

BIT.TRIP RUNNER

Stylistically excellent. I’ve only done the first world because the last level is too hard, but I enjoyed it.

Finished: no

Plan to replay: yes

Cogs

Well-designed and fun to play. Decision tree puzzles were not sufficient to keep me engaged.

Finished: no

Plan to replay: no

Creeper World 3

A real-time strategy game about graphs. It is intensely nerdy, explores its whole gameplay idea space, and is pretty damn fun.

Finished: no

Plan to replay: yes

Darwinia

Very pretty. I wish it were longer. The little green guys have some frustrating behavior bugs that often break immersion.

Finished: yes

Plan to replay: yes

Dungeon Defenders

This game helped keep my LDR alive. Fun and beginner-friendly up to a point, then it’s suddenly punishingly difficult. We stopped at that point.

You need a friend to play this game.

Finished: basic campaign

Plan to replay: if the occasion arises

Frozen Synapse

Fascinating concept. A-minus execution.

Good if you like: turn-based tactics.

Finished: all but last level (no particular reason)

Plan to replay: no

Gone Home

A touching story. That’s the game.

Finished: yes

Plan to replay: no, but once was definitely enough

Home

Creepy adventure game. Good for the experience, but quite unsatisfying on several levels. I think the lack of satisfaction is also part of the experience…but I don’t find that explanation satisfying.

Finished: yes

Plan to replay: no

Hotline Miami

Violent. Mysterious. Awesome.

Good if you like: getting in fights

Finished: no (lost my momentum)

Plan to replay: yes

Jamestown

Fun shooter. I didn’t play much, but it’s well done.

Kentucky Route Zero

Dreamlike adventure game. Only 2 out of 5 episodes are out. I’ve finished both.

LIMBO

Looks and feels great. I got worn out by constantly walking to the right and never getting to the end. Lasted about 4 hours before I dropped it for more interesting things.

Finished: no

Plan to replay: maybe

Lugaru [HD]

I think I enjoyed this so much because I was young. Now I’d need more of a story or environment to stick with it. The mechanics are great.

Good if you like: getting in fights

Finished: no, but I sure played a lot

Plan to replay: no, I’ll buy Overgrowth instead (same developer)

Lunar Flight

Fly the Lunar Module on the moon. Heck yes! (I hope carrying cargo from A to B is your idea of a good time. It certainly is for me.)

Finished: no, but 7 hours in

Plan to finish: maybe not, but a few more hours for sure

Machinarium

Fun adventure game. I had to look up hints online a few times but generally enjoyed myself.

Finished: yes

Plan to replay: no

Mark of the Ninja

Nice stealth game. Great controller support. Performance issues on OS X.

I only played 90 minutes, but I’ll probably get back to it later.

Minecraft before they added food

Yeah, I’m a hipster. The current version is just bewildering to me. I just want to explore caves!

Monaco

Conduct elaborate heists with friends.

This game is so good, but you need friends to play it! The online community is too inconsistent.

Finished: no (after 12 hours)

Plan to finish: yes, if I can set up enough play dates

Penumbra (Overture, Black Plague, Requiem)

Survival horror adventure. Evil Myst. These games were scary enough that I haven’t yet conjured the nerve to play this studio’s next series, Amnesia.

Good if you like: soiled undergarments

Finished: yes

Plan to replay: no, once was plenty

Psychonauts

Fantastic story and world. Platforming sometimes finicky. Twice as long as you expect, which is very good.

Good if you like: Tim Schafer dialogue, weird things happening

Finished: yes

Plan to replay: maybe in five years

Shovel Knight

Among the glut of polished indie platformers, this one stands out. I think of it as Rogue Legacy with handmade levels. If I had the time for twitchy games, I’d play more of this.

Finished: no

Plan to replay: maybe

Solar 2

For once, a physics-based game I actually like! Utterly charming. The final boss was hard enough that I never beat it, but it was a fun 6 hours.

Finished: almost

Plan to replay: yes

SpaceChem

For once, a puzzle game I actually like! Does a lot with a little. Exercises your space-time reasoning very well.

Finished: no, but 20 hours is pretty good

Plan to replay: no

Super Hexagon

Punishingly difficult, but you will improve, because Super Hexagon will change your brain.

Finished: doesn’t matter

Plan to replay: yes

The Swapper

Mechanically simple puzzle platformer with stunning atmosphere, plot, and visuals. The developers made very good choices about where to spend their time.

Finished: yes, 3 hours

Plan to replay: no, once was enough

Sword & Sworcery EP

Dreamlike adventure game. The soundtrack makes it.

Plan to replay: no, once was enough

Thomas Was Alone

This is a platformer, but it’s also art.

Finished: yes, 61m

Plan to replay: no

Trace Vector

I’m a sucker for well-made retro arcade games. Trace Vector is simple, original, and pretty.

Finished: no, but I will.

The Walking Dead

Entertaining casual adventure game.

Finished: yes, 21 hours for 5 episodes and DLC

Plan to replay: no

World of Goo

It’s been a couple of years since I played through World of Goo, but I remember it being utterly entertaining.

Plan to replay: maybe

If you need something to do

(Get it in a bundle.)

BIT.TRIP BEAT

Simplistic, entertaining. My mouse hand tends to drift because the X axis is ignored.

Blocks That Matter

Puzzle platformers with weak stories and ho-hum mechanics are not my thing.

Cave Story

It’s been too long since I played this. I stopped after 4-5 hours, don’t remember why. It’s like a really good Gameboy game.

EDGE

Cute action-puzzle. I stopped playing it because I don’t like games that are primarily skill challenges against a clock, particularly when they require twitch reflexes. I’ll probably try again with a controller.

Fractal: Make Blooms Not War

Good for a twenty-minute mind-clearing. Simple and relaxing.

Gish

Atmospheric and interesting platformer with okay mechanics. I probably put 3 hours into it.

Gratuitous Space Battles

Fun (I played about 5 hours) but shallow. I would enjoy this more if I was 12 (which is not an insult).

Finished: no

Plan to replay: no

Little Inferno

Pretty and pointless. That’s the point.

I internetted my way through it really quickly because I just wanted to see the end without the boring game part.

Finished: ha.

Plan to replay: no.

McPixel

Have a few drinks and sit down with a friend. Play for twenty minutes. Giggle a lot. Forget about it forever.

Finished: no

Plan to replay: no

Organ Trail: Director’s Cut

It’s pretty much what you’d think. Stylistically spot-on. Balanced enough to keep me in it for 3 hours, but you really only need 1.

Finished: yes

Plan to replay: no

Osmos

Lovely way to pass the time on an iPad.

Finished: mostly

Plan to replay: no

Papers, Please

I’ll finish this eventually. Glory to Arstotzka!

Proteus

Fun to walk around in for an hour (which is exactly what I did). Don’t be afraid to look up a secret or two online.

Finished: more or less

Plan to replay: maybe

Revenge of the Titans

Conventional tower defense. Not really my scene.

Voxatron

Looked cool, but that didn’t translate to good gameplay. Jump and shoot, jump and shoot.

Wizorb

Arkanoid: The RPG. Another in the “really good Gameboy game” category.

Zen Bound 2

Very physical-feeling puzzle game. Also very zen.

Insufficiently entertaining

(I can see how other people would enjoy these games.)

And Yet It Moves

Bouncing ball is not compelling character. Physics engine is not compelling world.

Anodyne

Seems like the story might be good, but combat is boring and the environments are monotonous.

Bad Hotel

I wanted to make a game like this once. Now I’m glad I didn’t.

You make a tower of blocks which are guns or powerups. Stuff flies at you and tries to knock it down.

Maybe it’s more fun on a phone. I played it on a Mac.

BIT.TRIP CORE

Controller setup is bad and not configurable. (I hate D-pads.) Keyboard control is awkward. As a fan of Super Hexagon, I can see myself getting into this a lot for a week or two, but without good controls I can’t.

The Bridge

The art style is interesting, but it’s slow and lacks variety in gameplay or graphics.

Broken Sword 1: Shadow of the Templars

Bad voice acting. Inconsistent art. Mediocre puzzle design.

Brütal Legend

I want to like it, but it just runs so badly on OS X. Pretty bewildering UI/control-wise for the first hour as well.

Dungeons of Dredmor

I don’t remember it being bad, but I was not sufficiently entertained. There are better roguelikes.

Dustforce

So-so platformer with the thinnest veil of a story.

Dynamite Jack

I was bored after 15 minutes.

Electronic Super Joy

Fast action platformer. The “Aaaah!”s got old so fast that I stopped playing after 15 minutes. I’ll probably try again to see if it gets interesting, but it’s generally a sensory overload.

English Country Tune

Spatial decision tree puzzles. Graphics are very basic. Bored after 15 minutes.

Escape Velocity (original, Override, Nova)

I played these games collectively for probably 200 hours, so what are they doing in here? They don’t stand the test of time. They are boring and unbalanced by today’s space combat standards.

But making mods was amazing and fun, and why I learned so much about resource forks in Mac OS ≤ 9.

Despite my complaints about its dated combat, I haven’t yet found a game that has the same kind of slow-paced space fight and enormous story. There’s room for a game like that today, but it would probably need to have better AI and be in 3D.

Hack, Slash, Loot

Combat, story, and graphics all too simplistic. Baby’s First Roguelike. I am not a baby.

Hammerfight

I have made games like this before. None of them were good. They start with a programmer saying “let’s take the physics engine hand have the player swing stuff around.” It’s only fun if you programmed it.

Incredipede

Another frustrating physics game without much in the way of story. Looks pretty though.

Legend of Dungeon

Mediocre “early access” toy. Bad controls and bad UI. Try again in two years.

Legend of Grimrock

Monotonous. There are better roguelikes.

After reading reviews of Grimrock, I’m convinced I should give it another shot.

Rochard

Fun for a while, but the mechanics are pretty shallow.

Space Pirates And Zombies

Bad tutorial, ugly graphics.

Splice

The most basic decision tree puzzles imaginable.

Stacking

It’s fun to watch old movies. It’s less fun to do a thousand fetch quests.

I got really into this for a couple of weeks in high school, but when I picked it up again last year it was boring and tedious.

VVVVV

Good platformer, but I want more than just good platforming.

Avoid

BIT.TRIP FATE

Confusing, bizarre, unsatisfying. Nothing to do with rhythm.

Shank

Good fighting mechanics ruined by misogynist drivel.

Super Meat Boy on OS X

I realize you might kill me for this. But the truth is, the Mac port is awful. No fullscreen, no controller configuration, crashes, etc.

Worms Reloaded on OS X

Bad port is bad.