Some indie gaming bundles like Indie Royale or Humble Bundle seem to release their compilations in a timeframe which leaves its customers no room to get through all their games before digging into another offer. Bundle In A Box on the other hand takes a while to collect content for their bundles while also slowly unlocking additional bonus material after a certain target of sales is hit. Enter the newest Capsule Computers Indie Bundle.
With an entry point of 1,99 Dollars, this already comprises 8 games: arcade multiplayer platformer Super Tower Rush, 8-bit arcade strategy RPG with a chivalric attitude Pixelry, hacker simulation Hacker Evolution Untold and the point-and-click mystery detective adventures The Blackwell Legacy, Blackwell Unbound, Blackwell Convergence and Blackwell Deception plus the exclusive early alpha version of contemplative arthouse adventure Lune.
Paying more than the average of less than 4 Dollars gives access to four more games: the first Hacker Evolution, the third Hacker Evolution Duality, comic point-and-click adventure parody Hamlet, or The Last Game Without MMORPG Features, shaders and Product Placement and the unicorn animal farm RPG simulation Secret of the Magic Crystals.
Also unlocked for all were at the time of writing the soundtracks of Super Tower Rush and Secret of the Magic Crystals plus the artwork for Hamlet while the wallpapers of Pixelry and Super Tower Rush and the soundtrack of Pixelry are only available for those who pay more than the average.
Again some exlusive Droidscape Basilica content (a game the Bundle In A Box team have been working on for quite a while now) should be available as well when the game is released.
So many games to cover obviously means some short reviews to follow…
The simple idea of two characters competing against each other to reach the bottom of a tower or having ten screens in between them turns into a frantic, fun but often also quite frustrating experience. This is mainly because of the random nature of powers to collect and the architecture of the levels which becomes extremely difficult in the later parts of the building where see-saws will test even the most skilled platformer fan.
There’s a nice risk and reward mechanic which involves collecting coins which can either be used to upgrade a special power one picks up or downgrading the enemy’s current ability. As the speed of the game is pretty fast, it’s usually more of a luck and trial thing, especially when one has to decide which route to take, if digging through certain parts of the level can give one’s character an advantage over the antagonist.
It’s too bad that the story mode isn’t implemented yet. Only a multiplayer option (which I haven’t tried yet) is available, making it a perfect party game which could benefit even more with more than 2 players at the same time. Xbox Live anyone?
All in all, it’s a hardcore title which demands fast reflexes and a lot of luck as well to get through it. The cute visuals and fun music only hide a rather devious little game which, like most arcade games as Donkey Kong, is more about practice than anything else.
(Japan/Spain 2012, developer/publisher: Evelend Games, platform: PC)
An interesting mixture of strategy and RPG in which the goal is to win the daughter of a king. This can only be done by participating in knight competitions like fencing on a horse against an opponent or avoiding obstacles in a parcour to win both money and fame. The former is needed to boost the character’s stats or buy items, the latter for making oneself heard in order to take part in the real castle fights.
Money can also be earned in minigames which typically involve pressing the right key at the right screen prompt or separating good from bad potions with the use of a key for yes and one for no. This might all sound a bit repetitive and simple, but like most level grinding systems in RPGs, it becomes quite addictive and remains fun in short bursts.
The visuals are 8-bit pixellated backgrounds and while characters look simple, the animations are still quite fun to watch, as the art style offers a pleasing cartoony look. The soundtrack with its bombastic fanfares also evokes some childhood memories when playing knights or watching all those chivalric movies was so magical and captivating.
Secret of the Magic Crystals
(Hungary 2010, developer/publisher: Artery Studios, platform: PC)
Another mix of strategy and RPG, this time with a more casual and cute touch: By managing a farm with unicorns, one doesn’t only level them up with some training exercises (which like Pixelry are all about pressing a correct key at the right moment), but also giving them a brush stroke or two is necessary to make the animals feel loved and happy.
Together with a wonderfully relaxing, but also quite sappy soundtrack and the same amount of kitsch for the animals and surroundings, it’s certainly not a game for the dark-fantasy crowd. For me, it was also quite boring, as level progression is slow and as the quests one can send the unicorns to (at the beginning only one animal) are only presented in text form without any actual cutscenes, there’s not much to watch anyway.
So it plays more like one of those German business simulation games. It also doesn’t help much that there doesn’t seem to be much of a story progression or interesting characters. For people who like to watch unicorns prancing around and who prefer their strategy/RPG games less hectic and more cutesy, this might do the trick.
(France 2013, developer/publisher: Team Lune, platform: PC)
Being currently only an alpha version, it’s difficult to rate this in terms of gameplay, as there seems to be very little at the moment other than letting a female character walk around a surreal world in a very, very slow way. Playing a bit like the old Time Commando (whoever remembers that one?), but only without the fighting and more point-and-click-heavy, the background moves with the character (in the description of the game it even says one controls the moon), giving the strange world an even more dynamic feel.
The dream-like atmosphere is also enhanced by the moody soundtrack, so together with the art design, it’s reminiscent of Kentucky Route Zero, only less text-heavy. It remains to be seen how puzzles and story play out in the final product, but there’s sure to be some potential in it, while hopefully the rather slow movement and clunky point-and-click mechanics will be fixed.
After already having covered this game in the Indie Royale Winter Bundle feature, I’ll only give a brief summary of what it’s about: a point-and-click adventure with a comic version of Shakespeare’s drama, it doesn’t really take full advantage of ridiculing its source material, but nevertheless provides some inventive fun with boss fights like Rosencrantz & Guildenstern which have to be beaten in a puzzle-heavy way. A colorful version of the click-on-everything-on-the-screen-in-the-right-order formula so well-known from games like Samorost or Machinarium.
(Romania 2007, developer/publisher: exosyphen studios, platform: PC)
Since watching the movie Hackers which was a lot of fun, interest in the subject has waned over the years, mainly due to my limited knowledge of the infrastructure of computers and probably because of my aversity towards lots of numbers, codes and listings of words (although during DOS times there was no way around it, thank God these times are over). So it’s refreshing to see that Hacker Evolution doesn’t simply put the player in front of a login prompt in the hope he reads through a big manual while typing in strings of commands with only the sound of his own keyboard.
Rather the game gives an accessible tutorial, clear mission objectives while also boasting a highscore system and an actual story. Not to forget that a tense music score turns it into an almost cinematic experience. Of course typing in has to be done by hand, and doing it quickly is even more imporant than remembering all the different command lines. Still as far as the adaptation of an enjoyable hacker story into a fun gaming experience goes, there’s nothing quite like it.
Hacker Evolution Untold
(Romania 2008, developer/publisher: exosyphen studios, platform: PC)
As the gameplay and presentation is almost identical, there’s not much to say about this other than it feels a bit like an add-on with a less engaging story and more mission-based content. But that’s only what the first few minutes showed. There might be some more depth or glitches fixed, though.
Hacker Evolution Duality
(Romania 2011, developer/publisher: exosyphen studios, platform: PC)
Now even if the gameplay remains the same and the presentation again succeeds in making the player feel the tension when being traced and going from one server to the next, what makes this sequel much more accessible is that all actions can be performed by mouse clicks. It’s still possible to type in the commands, but as it’s much more comfortable with the other control method, why bother?
I haven’t played much of this one either after finding out its gameplay isn’t any different from the original, but what struck me was that the tutorial doesn’t really give novices the chance to learn, as the timer of being traced is always on and there’s no pause button. It might be a more accessible and intuitive game with the refined controls, but this doesn’t make it any less hardcore for those who need some more time to adjust to the unique hacker experience.
The Blackwell Legacy
(USA 2006, developer/publisher: Wadjet Eye Games, platform: PC)
It’s quite amazing that I haven’t covered this in one way or another, especially with so many indie bundles around. Yes, there were a few games published by Wadjet Eye Games which I reviewed, but the ones which are best-known have remained outside this blog. Until now…
With the first game, Dave Gilbert pretty much nailed down the retro look, script writing, but also puzzle design of the later games his indie label would bring to the internet crowd. The characters and backgrounds all look as if it was still the 90ies with Sierra’s Gabriel Knight or LucasArt’s Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. Only with some film noir music and fewer inventory puzzles, Blackwell Legacy plays much more like a cinematic detective story with dry humor.
Puzzles are usually not that hard to solve, as few items have to be combined, while the emphasis lies more on dialogues. Besides the strong female main protagonist Rosa Blackwell and her ghost partner Joey Mallone, the other ones are just as well-written and believable so that going through all the text never seems to grow old. The story of the young reporter coping with her gift or curse to see ghosts is as captivating and moving as the individual victims’ former life stories. This makes it a mature storytelling experience which despite some at times amateurish voice acting offers an alternative to all those mainstream adventure games which always seem to rely too much on obscure puzzle design and characters which won’t want to shut up.
(USA 2007, developer/publisher: Wadjet Eye Games, platform: PC)
Being similar to the first game in which it’s also mandatory to switch between Rosa and Joey, the gameplay again revolves around giving ghosts their eternal rest by making them aware of their departure from life and also finding out the identity of a mysterious killer.
It might not have the same impact as the originality of the former title had on its players, but there’s nevertheless enough suspense in the story and interest in the character development to make it another accessible, but in no way less intriguing experience. Puzzles with both item combinations or dialogues can get a bit obscure at times, but this doesn’t detract from the fact that this is a well-made story which takes its characters serious and puts the relationshop between the two main protagonists to the forefront.
(USA 2009, developer/publisher: Wadjet Eye Games, platform: PC)
Despite getting a bit stale with its main ghost idea, the story progression remains as engaging as ever, especially since one has different time lines to take into account, different cases to choose from and therefore a much more complicated plot to follow. It’s true that it can get rather confusing and convoluted near the end with all the different narrative strands from the earlier games, but for the most part it remains an interesting story with characters which are superior to the typical murder mystery stuff one finds these days on the small TV or big cinema screen.
(USA 2011, developer/publisher: Wadjet Eye Games, platform: PC)
Again like the second episode, a bit of déjà vu sets in by giving adventure players more of the same detective and guiding ghosts template. It’s still a good game with twists, turns and interesting characters, but like most series, a bit of change for both storytelling and gameplay would be nice. But maybe that’s exactly why the games are so entertaining: after getting to know both main protagonists, no matter what cases they solve, the player becomes a part of their world unlike so many TV mystery shows or movies which usually fail with their characters’ development and interaction.
Much gaming in a cheap box
Compared to other recently released indie bundles I’ve covered, Bundle In A Box‘ newest collection didn’t seem to have the same impact as before. But maybe that’s because I’ve already played the best games in the pack which are more than worthy of your time and money, mainly the Blackwell series and to a certain degree Hamlet. Considering how much these are individually priced, there’s simply no way around this bundle.
The Hacker Evolution games were also a nice surprise and made for a unique gaming experience, while the other arcade games were all in all a nice nostalgic trip back to the 8bit era. The less is said about the unicorn game, the better, even though I’m still not sure if I gave it enough playtime…
So all in all, despite the long time in between this one and Bundle In A Box‘ former collection, there’s plenty to like here to justify the small minimum price. As always, by paying what you want, you also support charity, this time the Australian Red Cross and the Indie Dev Grant, both institutions which deserve your attention and recognition. So don’t wait until the offer expires in about 3 days.
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