It’s been a while since Bundle In A Box released their Eclection Delights, but they’re finally back with a new collection of indie games, titled the Cerebral Bundle, with a clear emphasis on games for the brain.
With a minimum price of 1,99 Dollars, there are 6 games to be enjoyed (or rather 10 if you count the individual ones in the Amidos Puzzle Collection): mindbending puzzlers Vampires!, Dédale De Luxe, experimental not-game Dinner Date, classic but no less humoristic top-down RPG Phantasmaburbia, text adventure (with some music to listen to and pictures to look at) with that certain trash factor Necrotic Drift Deluxe and the aforementioned collection with number-puzzlerConnect, move-until-it-fits Robotic Arm, snooker-with-explosions Balls, pave-the-eating-way-for-the-snake Snazzle and Sokobanesque Evil Goat.
Paying more than the average price (at the time of writing less than 6 Dollars) unlocks adventure-strategy-puzzler J.U.L.I.A., experimental not-game I Get This Call Every Day and both episodic adventure games Cognition Episode 1: The Hangman and Reversion – The Meeting.
Quite a lot of games to cover with so little time at hand, so let’s get straight to the short round-up writing business for each individual title… except for Vampires! which was already covered here and Cognition Episode 1 which had been rated there with their respective 8/10 and 9/10 scores.
(UK 2011, developer/publisher: Stout Games, platform: PC)
More an experimental short story with control mechanics similar to Heavy Rain‘s button presses to perform certain motions, there’s little gameplay to be found. It revolves around the main protagonist waiting for his date, sitting at his home’s table and sharing his thoughts with the player.
This of course poses some problems. Even if the script is honest and thought-provoking, one can get easily bored by only looking at a clock, moving fingers, staring at a wine bottle etc. while listening to the seemingly neverending monologue of one guy. It doesn’t help either that the icons for the possible actions are too small to decipher, making it a simple press-the-button-just-because-there-isn’t-much-else-to-do affair.
The graphics engine isn’t anything to get excited about, and so does the amateurish voice acting at times grate on the ears. Technically not really impressive then, and the lack of gameplay makes this a rather lacklustre experiment for art’s sake. Which reminds me that I saw that game and spoke to the developer in 2011 at the Not Games event in Cologne before going to the Games Com. Organized by the Tale of Tales people, there were a bunch of those not games which experimented with gamer’s expectations (in this case letting go of the main character’s control to a certain degree) but ultimately being an antithesis to games with actual gameplay breaking new ground and moving the audience without relying too much on experimentation.
(USA 2012, developer/publisher: Dumb and Fat Games, platform: PC)
A turn-based RPG which looks a bit like a graphically downsized version of Scott Pilgrim, but nevertheless provides some very atmospheric and even creepy tunes while offering a funny script at the same time.
The gameplay might not be the most innovative, as it relies on the same old template so many other games in the genre have used for years, but what I’ve played so far avoids the pitfalls of needless grinding (because levelling up is pretty fast), head-scratching distribution of attribute points (it’s done automatically) and wasting time on countless deaths (due to fair save points).
There are also some puzzles in it, but due to the lack of time, I haven’t had the chance to get there. Still with the little playtime I had, it’s definitely worth checking out for those people who want to get an easy entry point for RPGs.
Necrotic Drift Deluxe
(USA 2004 (original), developer/publisher: Jolt Country, platform: PC)
A text adventure with some real-life photos and music, this is at least a bit more accessible than the typical interactive fictions of old with countless pages of text. I admit I haven’t really been into that genre at all, only starting with graphic point-and-click adventures. But spending a little bit of time with this game, it’s quite an interesting experience how following the story, dialogues and actively participating in the fictive world is almost as engaging as controlling a character by mouse prompts.
The script has a bit of Kevin Smith humor, which also means it loses itself at times in wise-cracking jokes and not-so-funny lines. I’ve not played much more than the first two chapters, so I can’t really say how the game develops after that, even if I know it turns into a survival horror scenario. People who want to try out an interactive story with a slacker-tone might want to give this a try.
Dédale De Luxe
(Ukraine 2012, developer/publisher: Sergey Mohov, platforms: PC, iOS)
Sometimes the simplest ideas and game mechanics in puzzle games can create a very addictive and challenging experience. In this case the task is simply to fill in white tiles by moving over them with the mouse cursor. It sounds like a straightforward affair, but as the patterns become more complicated and passing over one white tile makes it useless for the next time, planning ahead becomes instrumental to completing each level. With later stages introducing tiles which can be passed over multiple times, even more steps have to be taken into account.
The graphics are simplistic, but they don’t need to be anything else. Music is created by the player’s movements, as each tile resonates a piano key, turning the game into something like a rhythm-puzzler. A fun little game then which is easy to understand in terms of gameplay and controls, but difficult to put down.
Amidos Puzzle Collection
(Egypt 2013, developer/publisher: Amidos Entertainment, platform: PC)
Including 5 games which merge accessibility with a few unique twists, this collection won’t win any rewards for the best and most polished presentation or gameplay, but for a quick play to while away the boring office hours, there’s certainly more originality and fun to be found here than in the typical round of Solitaire or Minesweeper.
(Czech Republic 2012, developer/publisher: CBE Software, platform: PC)
A mixture of different genre elements makes this game quite a unique experience. By finding resources on planets, harvesting them for repairing the ship or upgrading it, it feels a bit like those sections in Mass Effect, which also means it can be a bit tedious to find the right spots to dig them up.
Exploration is done by a first-person viewpoint, but more akin to the old text adventures, only without typing in the actions, instead clicking with the mouse on the appropriate options. There are also quite a few mini games and puzzles, like building a specific tool with the placement of the right parts or reconstructing the ship’s memory with tiles which have to form pictures, only this time done in a more creative way, i.e. working on multiple puzzles at the same time.
It all sounds a bit convoluted, but the game elements strangely work together, which is in no small part due to the suspenseful storytelling, (mostly) good voice performances and the atmospheric music and wonderful art design, displayed in both well-done cutscenes and beautiful artwork. Exploring space and its various planets is both captivating and fun in this adventure-strategy-puzzle-hybrid and this title already shows CBE’s creativity when it comes to crossing genre boundaries.
I Get This Call Every Day
(USA 2012, developer/publisher: David S. Galant, platform: PC)
Just like Dinner Date, this is more an experiment than a game which is dialogue-driven. It’s not very long with less than 10 minutes, the drawings are crude, but at least the voice acting is quite good while the script is funny and realistic at the same time, dealing with problems in a customer service call center.
It’s difficult to rate this title, as it’s more an expression of personal experience brought to the screen than any gaming pastime. The biggest problem with these not games is that after experiencing them, there’s not any incentive to try them again when the novelty has worn off.
Reversion: The Meeting
(Spain 2013, developer/publisher: 3f Interactive, platforms: PC, iOS)
A classic point-and-click comic adventure which boasts some well-drawn backgrounds, even if the character animations aren’t that great. It’s only too bad that this is the second episode which leaves the uninitiated baffled with no explanation whatsoever what to do. Of course the first one can be downloaded for free, but it would have been nice to have it included in the bundle as well, or at least indicated that it’s an episodic adventure game.
Nevertheless after the initial confusion, the tried and tested formula of picking up everything, combining items and applying them to the environment to proceed, becomes almost second nature like so many games in the genre. And maybe that’s the problem. Even if the puzzles remain logical (despite some backtracking), there isn’t much of originality to be found. The story and characters aren’t intriguing as well, and some mediocre voice acting doesn’t help proceedings.
It’s one of those adventure games which will do to fill the void between those bigger releases, being more like light entertainment than leaving any lasting impression, despite the impressive artwork which went into it.
A collection for the brain and heart
There’s certainly quite a lot of variety to be found in the latest Bundle In A Box release. The quality of the not games is questionable for sure, and seeing Cognition again in such a collection becomes a bit boring (even if it’s still one of the best adventure games for a long time), but considering that one could pay easily more than 6 Dollars for each individual title and pleasant surprises like Phantasmaburbia and overlooked gems like J.U.L.I.A. and Vampires! definitely deserve a bigger audience, it’s more than worth the entrance fee.
It should also be added that bonus content are also included: artworks, soundtracks of Phantasmaburbia, Dédale De Luxe, Reversion, Cognition (including the prequel comic) and the source code of Necrotic Drift.
Don’t forget that part of the money also goes to charity with The Hellenic Centre for Mental Health and Treatment of Child and Family and direct developers’ support with the Indie Dev Grant.
So don’t waste any more time (before the bundle expires in less than a day) and head over to Bundle In A Box and pay what you want.
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