Humble Bundle: PC and Android 8 Review
Reviewed by: Guest_Jim_*
Reviewed on: December 23, 2013
Still looking for a gift to give to that last person on your list? Something they can enjoy for a long time after receiving it? If that person is anything like me, video games would work, and right now you can purchase the 4+2 Humble Bundle: PC and Android 8 pack of games from Humble Bundle.
Humble Bundle is a company that puts together bundles of video games, usually independently developed and DRM-free, and sells them using a pay-what-you-want model with a customizable portion going to charity. The charities this time around are Child's Play and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. To encourage buyers to spend more than the minimum, some of the content is locked behind the average price others are paying.
In this bundle the four base games that you get at any price are AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! for the Awesome, Gemini Rue, Jack Lumber, and Little Inferno, and the beat-the-average games are Anomaly 2 and Hero Academy (hence the 4+2 description I used earlier). All of these games are available for Windows, Mac, and Linux PCs; on Steam; and for Android, so you can enjoy them on almost any device you may have on or near your desk.
Now the question is if any of these games make the bundle worth buying on their own, if only together are they worth your money, or if this is something to miss? To that end, I have played all of the games and written about my experiences. As the bundle is only available for a limited time, I have not played them to completion, but I have played enough that I feel comfortable reviewing them. Also I have played them on my Android smartphone, a Verizon Galaxy Nexus, which you can read a review of at TalkAndroid, a sister site to Overclockers Club: Verizon Galaxy Nexus review – Does it live up to the hype?
About time we got to the games, what do you think?
AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! for the Awesome Review:
I hope you are not afraid of heights, because you cannot escape them in this game. It is something like an arcade skydiving simulation, where you leap off of buildings or mountains, and try to control your path as you fall, hugging buildings and collecting points on the way.
Once you get into the game, you are presented with an array of possibilities. Some of these are tutorials, which you do not interact with; missions to challenge you; and tips for how to improve your scores. Obviously the missions are the most interesting and there is a variety of them, as some feature certain mechanics over others. For example, the missions that have you leap from a mountain encourage you to hug its surface for high scores, whereas the more urban missions can require you to make gestures at spectators. Of course many missions feature all of the scoring mechanics and many paths. If you find you cannot get that perfect score going one way, try another.
The graphics are about as simple as the game is, which is not a bad thing. Ideally you will be flying past everything, so they do not need the highest resolution models and textures. What is more important is that you can recognize everything, and there the stylized graphics help.
On the PC you control yourself with keyboard and mouse, as the WASD keys pan you in the different directions and the mouse controls the camera. This twin-stick approach works quite well actually and gives you plenty of control. On my smartphone however, things are a little different. Your movement is controlled by the accelerometer, so I hope you have steady hands. The camera can be controlled with the touchscreen, but I disabled that on my phone because it would have complicated things. You see, at times I had to touch the screen to keep it from turning off, and I would not want the camera to move every time I do that.
I would classify this game as a good, quick time-sink. Missions can be completed in a minute or less, so for those times when you have a short break and want to entertain yourself, this game can satisfy you. I cannot say I have a preference for the PC or Android version, though. While I can see the PC feels like a more full experience because the controls are easier to work with, the accelerometer of my phone gave me very good control.
Is it worth getting the bundle for this? Probably not on its own. It supplies more of a quick rush than a longer experience, and we can each find those rushes from many sources. If you get the bundle, it is worth checking out though. It is fun and well designed; it just does not stand out much to me.
Gemini Rue Review:
Gemini Rue is a point-and-click mystery, adventure game where you control two persons; Azriel Odin and Delta Six. Azriel is a police officer with a less-than-upstanding past and Delta Six has had his memory wiped as part of some program.
When you first open the game (at least on Steam) you are presented with the option to configure the game's graphics. You will definitely want to do so because the game will normally run in a 320x200 window. Through the Graphics Filter option you can increase the window size using either a nearest-neighbor filter or anti-aliasing filter. Use the nearest-neighbor filter will blur everything and make the game look very bad. You can see the difference between the Android and PC screenshots. Also on the PC version I noticed multiple instances of sprites being on the wrong plane, so people behind my character would appear in front of me, and vice versa.
I have not yet played enough to speak about the story, but I can say that the controls leave something to be desired. On the PC I found the click-zones were not well placed and/or designed. Sometimes when I would mouse over something, its label would appear and I would click to interact. Instead of interacting with that object though, my character would interact with another object. The two objects were near each other, but you would think the object with the label being shown would be the object you interact with.
On my smartphone the controls were actually more accurate, but also more cumbersome. There are multiple actions you can perform, such as looking at something, touching it, kicking it, speaking with it, or using a tool on it. On the PC you can repeat the last action by double-clicking, so you would not have to re-open the menu. That is not the case for the Android version, so expect to see that menu a lot. At least the menu is well-sized, so it is easy to see what everything is and select what you want.
The gameplay is not always that much fun on the PC, in part because of the miss-clicking I mentioned above, but also because there is no mechanism to help you identify what objects can be interacted with. Of course you can wildly move the mouse around and watch for labels to appear, but that should hardly be a requirement. On the Android version you can actually press and hold to have all of the objects you can interact with appear. That is very useful and would have saved me some time if I had played that version before the PC version.
To top off the issues with the PC version, my original save apparently got wiped and trying to open the autosave returns an error of the file not existing. To check something I created another save, and that one survived longer than a few minutes, but when I opened it up, half of the screen was graphically messed up.
The PC screenshot is using the anti-aliasing filter.
The soundtrack is appropriately atmospheric and contains some processing to reinforce the science-fiction nature of the game. It works well for the game, but I cannot say I will listen to it outside of that.
Simply put, Gemini Rue has left me very unimpressed. In its defense though, many of the issues I have suffered may not happen to you. If you try the game, I hope they do not. As it stands though, I cannot recommend this game. Perhaps you will play it if you get the bundle anyway, but after I uninstall it, I will likely leave it uninstalled.
Jack Lumber Review:
Do not mess with a lumberjack's grandmother, especially if you are a tree.
After his grandmother was murdered by a tree, Jack Lumber has gone on a quest to avenge her by chopping every log he can find. On the way he saves some animals as well, who then move into his cabin with him.
It is obvious when you start playing Jack Lumber that it was designed for a touchscreen. Once logs are thrown onto the screen, you are to trace out the path Jack should take so he can cut through all of them. On Android all you have to do is touch the screen to slow time and start tracing, but on PC you have to press Shift or the left mouse button to slow time and draw the path. It actually works pretty well on PC, too. The only issue is that if you slow time when your cursor is inside a log, it will count as a bad cut and prevent you from cutting it. Mildly annoying, especially with how fast some logs move across the screen.
The graphics look fine on my smartphone's smaller screen, but on my desktop's monitor the images are blurred, likely because it is being scaled up. I have not found an option to play it windowed. Playing on my laptop however, the graphics were not blurred, but it has a much higher pixel density than my desktop monitor. The reason I played Jack Lumber on my laptop is because it has a 13.3-inch touchscreen, which is considerably larger than that of my smartphone. Suffice it to say, the larger screen helped the experience.
Is Jack Lumber worth getting the bundle for alone? It depends on your situation. I can easily see people playing it on their touchscreen devices while on the bus or otherwise trying to pass the time. It still plays well on a desktop, but I know my preferred device for this game will be my laptop. Give it a shot if you get the bundle, but unless you have touchscreen devices to play this on, you can be forgiven for skipping it.
Little Inferno Review:
If you are a fan of indie games and have purchased some of the previous Humble Bundles, there is a good chance Little Inferno will look familiar to you. That is because it is from the designers of World of Goo, a rather popular indie title. The two titles may look similar, but they are quite different.
In Little Inferno you character is set in a freezing world that uses Little Inferno fireplaces to keep warm and as a source of entertainment. At one point you even see an advertisement telling kids how fun it is to play with toys, but that it is even more fun to start them on fire. Not entirely sure if I completely disagree with that assertion, but the game does have multiple 'Don't Play With Fire' warnings, including those children in the advertisement exploding while their house burns down around them.
The gameplay is somewhat simplistic as all you do is buy stuff, place it in the fireplace, start a fire, and watch as everything turns to ash. As the conflagration continues, coins and stamps will appear to purchase new items and speed their delivery to your mail box. These purchases are made from catalogs of items, which are unlocked as you burn their contents and burn combinations of items. The combos award you with more stamps and are also just fun as items burn or explode together. Eventually you will be asked to burn a certain combination of items to advance the story, if that is what you want to do.
The options for Little Inferno are somewhat lacking on the PC, as all you can really control is which of three save slots to use and if you want to play in windowed or fullscreen mode (which you toggle between with the F key or Alt-Enter combination). Fortunately I never noticed the graphics blurring when switching to fullscreen.
On my smartphone however, the game was stuttering and showed many artifacts. There is good news, though! My smartphone has an old chipset that has not been supported for some time now, meaning that these issues are quite possibly the result of my device's bad drivers. If you have a different device, there is a good chance performance will be better for you.
The soundtrack tends to keep an ambient background throughout, with a more driving foreground. While a driving soundtrack is good for most games, it is hard to say it works well with this one, for a few reasons. One is that what drives it is very story related, which means for me that every time I listen to it I will remember and replay the game in my head. I do not know how representative of other minds mine is, but it is not a soundtrack I would use for background noise specifically for that reason. Another reason this driving soundtrack does not necessarily work well with this game is that you do not experience it often. The majority of the game does not have any music; it only plays during special events.
Overall Little Inferno is enjoyable, but it almost perfectly matches the definition of a casual game. You could easily spend hours burning different things and watching the rather good-looking flames consume all manner of items, but it does feel like something best enjoyed while riding in a car or bus, just trying to pass the time. On a desktop, I would not be surprised if most people install it, maybe put an hour into it, and then forget about it.
Anomaly 2 (BTA) Review:
Humanity has been all but destroyed by an alien army that has claimed Earth as its own. If you want the world back, you are going to have to fight for it.
Anomaly 2 remains loyal to its predecessor, being a reverse tower defense where you control the units trying to destroy the towers on the map, but does have some noteworthy changes. Possibly the most apparent is the ability to morph your units to match the situation. For example, the first unit you will be introduced to can be a tank with decent range and damage, or a walker with two independently-firing flamethrowers. While the tank form can hit at range more easily, the walker form can attack multiple nearby targets at once, which is necessary when the enemy has hidden itself in small alcoves.
The gameplay uses the same setup as the previous title, with you determining your units' route around the alien towers; sometimes clearing out the enemy and other times taking the path of least resistance. You also have the ability to lay down certain items, such as repair fields and decoys. Here the PC and Android versions start to deviate, as on the PC you move a character around the map to place the items, but on Android you simply place them on the screen. While that may make it sound like the Android version is simpler, the PC still has the advantage of keyboard shortcuts to drop-in-place the items.
The graphics of Anomaly 2 are really spectacular on both PC and Android. Terrain, units, and special effects are all detailed and very satisfying. Only now when I am looking at the screenshots can I see anything that is not high quality. At least that is the case for the PC version, because on Android I was noticing a fair amount of aliasing on the VR tutorial missions. You can also spot it on the PC, but it is much less noticeable.
The soundtrack is driving, like what you would expect from a modern, science-fiction action movie. Really, I could believe it being used for such a film, though perhaps with some re-orchestration for added power.
Is this game worth getting the bundle for? In my opinion, yes. It is definitely a solid and quality game with good graphics and design, on both PC and Android. For Android it will probably be best experienced on a tablet with a large screen, but it worked well on my smartphone.
Hero Academy (BTA) Review:
Looking for a new turn-based strategy game with cartoonish graphics? Well if you are then Hero Academy may interest you. Using your team of archetypal units, such as knights, wraiths, and even the Team Fortress 2 Heavy, depending on the team you chose to play as, you must either vanquish your enemies or destroy their crystal(s). Of course your opponent will be trying to do the same thing to you, and as every unit has its own special abilities, you will need to pay attention to everything on the board.
On the PC a simple right click will provide you with information about units, powers, and special floor tiles. In the Android version you get the information by double-tapping. Unfortunately if a unit is standing on a tile, you cannot get any information on the tile. Also at some points it appeared mechanics were in play that I had not seen explained before, which can be quite frustrating.
There are only two modes of gameplay for Hero Academy. One is online multiplayer and the other is completing single-player challenges. As I have no friends, I have stuck to the challenges. Ideally these challenges would be teaching you about the mechanics of the game. Sadly though, many of them come off as contrived with obvious solutions being incorrect and correct solutions being unobvious, which really hampers one's ability to learn from the game. Why would I think that placing an item on top of a fallen enemy would count as stomping them?
The potential complexity of gameplay made possible by the various abilities of the units and teams I suspect can be a blessing and a curse for the players of this game. For some it will offer deep gameplay as they discover new strategies utilizing multiple units. For others it will be a steep learning curve until they can remember what everything does, while potentially more experienced players trounce them. Of course that is just speculation on my part, but it is not without reason. It is also not a possibility unique to this game.
Is this a game worth purchasing the bundle for? Depends on if you can enjoy the multiplayer. If you have friends you can or will be able to play with, or do not mind playing with strangers, I could see this game being quite fun. If you would be playing this game alone though, then you may want to pass on it. The challenges are not interesting enough and there is no local multiplayer for potentially more interesting, human vs. human matches. Truly local multiplayer could help this game, especially on mobile devices that are easily passed between people. At least the online multiplayer is cross-platform, so there are no restrictions on who you can play against.
With the individual titles reviewed, it is time to see what stands out from the pack and makes the bundle worth buying. Of the base games, I enjoyed playing them all, with the exception of Gemini Rue, but none of them leapt out to me as a singular reason to purchase the entire bundle. AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! for the Awesome, Jack Lumber, and Little Inferno each felt like they would satisfy only certain niches and alone could be passed over. Together though, they do offer a compelling package and make the bundle worth getting.
Of the beat-the-average games, I find Anomaly 2 to be worth the price alone. It is a strong title and a solid experience, and I have not even played it all the way through! Hero Academy could also be worth it, but only if you can take advantage of the multiplayer. Without friends or a willingness to play with strangers, the single-player is just not compelling enough to warrant a purchase.
There you have it. The Humble Bundle: PC and Android 8 only seems to have one truly stand-out title; three of the others do stand-up, while one is more dependent on your situation. Altogether it is a good bundle that can satisfy a variety of niches.