It’s Christmas time, and of course Indie Royale wouldn’t be Indie Royale without another indie games bundle for this season. Find out if the Xmas Bundle 2.0 awakens the Spirit of Christmas and deserves your attention and money.
6 games of different genres and styles are included in this compilation: a physics-based jump’n’think game, a puzzle platformer which will please Nintendo fans (or enrage them if they are too single-minded about plagiarism at first glance), two Serious Sam games which are no FPS titles but a run’n’gun and RPG (!) mix, an adventure-puzzle-hybrid with small robots who have different abilities, and a cute-looking but deep hexagon-tile-strategy simulation about conquering islands.
As always: time is of the essence, so here’s just a quick rundown of what to expect from each individual game:
(USA 2012, developer/publisher: Puppy Punch Productions, platform: PC)
Jump and puzzle your way with a lunar-lander-meets-tetris vehicle through physics-based environments.
Minimalistic graphics, a slow chiptune soundtrack and a simple premise make a great little puzzle game. Controls can get a bit frustrating, but that’s mainly because of the physics-based gameplay. Like the best examples of the genre, new mechanics and obstacles are introduced and the player is slowly led into more complex tasks he has to perform. Precise jumping and hitting switches in the correct order are necessary to progress, and planning in advance is key to finish the levels. Many restarts not included.
(USA 2012, developer/publisher: Kyle Pulver, platform: PC)
Save your furry little friends by collecting and throwing them through puzzle-heavy jump’n’run worlds.
It looks like Kirby, it sounds like Kirby, but it isn’t a Kirby game. Even if graphics and soundtrack are as cheerful, catchy and downright exploiting as in Nintendo’s long-running series, there’s quite a different game under the cute presentation.
Making sure every little no-Kirby reaches the exit is no small feat when the level structure gets more complex. Take into account that the main no-Kirby protagonist can’t jump high enough when he/she/it carries the small ones and they can only be thrown in one direction (or dropped), even small obstacles can become a puzzle in themselves.
The first few levels are more like a tutorial, and the accomplishment even beginners feel, adds to the overall fun experience. Only keyboard controls can be a bit annoying, so this game cries for gamepad support and some HD visuals.
Serious Sam Double D
(USA 2011, developer/publisher: Mommy’s Best Games, platform: PC)
Play the man with big guns and no brain in a 2D jump’n’gun game.
It’s funny that unlike the good old Duke, the 2D platformer counterpart is released after the 3D version. It’s all there what makes the Sam series so appealing: Mindless shooting, out-of-the-blue spawning enemies, lots of them exploding in showers of blood, and a hero who’s as masochistic as he’s stupid.
Despite the familiarity, the game also introduces an interesting build-your-own-weapon mechanic. It might not be the most innovative, but it’s fun to stack different weapons on top of each other and see what carnage they do, and there’s going to be quite a lot of frantic action on the screen, to be sure.
But the game is not without its problems: Jumping and puzzle sections feel a bit out of place due to the controls (luckily a quicksave function is available to avoid most throwing-down-the-controller moments). Character models, even if true to the original, don’t look that impressive in 2D as well. Their portraits in cutscenes look more like a fanadventure attempt, but maybe that’s exactly what the game tries to achieve: a hobby programmer’s love letter to the Sam games, nothing more and certainly nothing less.
Play the man with the same guns and brain activity in an epic (or not) RPG game, with random encounters and action galore.
The great thing about indie games is that some developers just throw precaution to the wind when a mix of genres is involved. And it really works. Who’d have thought that a simple shooting game like Serious Sam would become an RPG? It’s all there: random battles (see the title), items to use, weapons to choose from, boss fights, chests to open, world exploration.
Of course it comes with some frustrations: the same battles with the same enemies happening quite often, but this is made less annoying as the levels are rather small. I haven’t had the time to see if there’s any levelling system, but thinking about the right strategy when lots of enemies go against the player (or players, as at least one more joins Sam’s quest) is a lot of fun. Add some well-written dialogue which makes fun of the series, and you have yourself one of the most suprising genre-mixes outside the box.
Help a group of robots to find their way around in a not-so-friendly outside-the-experiment-box world.
I played through this some time ago, and it’s one of those few adventure games which use the change-between-different-characters method to great effect. Unlike so many examples of the genre (even Maniac Mansion didn’t use all its potential), each individual character has a unique ability, and only by cooperation can the robots reach the end of the level. Yes, it actually feels more like a puzzle game than an adventure.
The story is okay, but the human characters can be a bit flat. So the emphasis really lies on the bots, and what they have to say can make it a joy to play. It doesn’t have a long playtime, but as there are quite some tricky puzzles and the robots develop their own personalities, it’s an adventure game not to be missed, and one of the more unique titles in Wadjet Eye Games’ back catalogue.
(France 2011, developer: Andreil Game, platform: PC)
Build and expand your kingdom in this strategy-sim on hexagon-filled islands.
Catchy and fun soundtrack plus cute visuals hide a rather complex strategy game, or maybe it’s not that complex as the main gameplay is introduced rather nicely in a tutorial. Building towers to enhance one’s influence on other parts of the country, finding the right number of resource-gathering tools to expand even more.
Only it’s not turn-based, but in real-time. As the other players are quite fast and the tutorial doesn’t explain much after the first few steps, the learning and difficulty curve are quite steep.
As with most strategy games, it needs more work to learn all the intricacies and get the most out of it. There’s certainly something engaging about the way each player (even in single-player) struggles to gather enough resources to get all the land in the end.
Nothing Christmas-y, but still great value for money
Even if the games on offer don’t have anything to do with the festive season (which would have been really great), they are without a doubt of a high quality. Some might not be the most innovative (Little Kingdom) and polished (Serious Sam Double D), but just the RPG-action-mix of Serious Sam: Random Encounter and the quirky Puzzle Bots are worth the price of admission alone.
There’s also some bonus content: the Puzzle Bots soundtrack, bonus music tracks of Colour Bind and the fun little tower-defense (with levelling up and assimilating the enemies’ abilities gameplay) action-strategy title Namiko from Offspring Fling! developer Kyle Pulver.
So do yourself (or your loved one(s)) a favor and get this bundle for less than 5 dollars to get the games or just a bit more (6-8 dollars) and grab the chiptunes album Rhythm’n’Bits by Yoann Turpin before the offer expires (in about a day, so be quick!) and have yourself a merry little indie gaming christmas!