Humble Bundle: PC and Android 9 Review
Reviewed by: Guest_Jim_*
Reviewed on: April 14, 2014
It is somewhat amazing to consider just how powerful everyday technology has become. Not only are we able to play video games on our desktops and laptops, running operating systems such as Windows, Mac, and Linux, but our Android powered smartphones are also able to power our games wherever we travel. If you are looking to build your libraries on those platforms, the folks at Humble Bundle have something for you: the Humble Bundle: PC and Android 9.
For those of you who are not familiar with it, Humble Bundle is a company that puts together and sells bundles of digital media, typically video games. These games are usually independently developed, multi-platform, and included in the bundle as DRM-free versions. This specific bundle contains 4+2 games. The reason I refer to it as '4+2' is because of the pay-what-you-want pricing model Humble Bundle uses for its sales. No matter how little or how much you pay for the bundle, you will receive the four base games, Bridge Constructor, Broken Sword 2 - the Smoking Mirror, Ravensword Shadowlands, and Type:Rider for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android. To encourage you to pay more, two additional games are locked behind the average price. Beat the average and you will also receive Kingdom Rush and Knights of Pen and Paper.
Another aspect of this pay-what-you-want model is that you get to decide how much of what you pay goes where. You can send the money to the games' developers, to Humble Bundle itself, or to two charities: the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Child's Play. Pick a price and how much you want to support these groups, and the games are yours.
With so many titles in the bundle though, the question becomes if any make the bundle worth purchasing on their own. That is what reviews are for, so that is what we are going to try to answer here. As Android and PC versions of the games are included in the bundle, I will play the games on both platforms. My Android smartphone is the Motorola Moto X, which you can read about at our sister-site, TalkAndroid: Moto X review: finally a smartphone with features that matter.
With all of that covered, it is about time we get to the reviews.
Bridge Constructor Review:
There are many things I am, but one thing I am not is a bridge engineer. Despite that fact, with Bridge Constructor I can design and test bridges made of wood, steel, concrete, and steel cable. Of course if the cars and trucks that drive over it do not go crashing into water below, you win and demonstrate that building bridges is not that tough… in a virtual world where lives do not really exist.
When you start a level you are presented with a play-field that contains so many anchor points and a grid to assist in placing the resources you have. This grid is initially made of major boxes made of 16 minor boxes (4x4), but you can toggle on still smaller boxes, if you want or need finer placement control.
Placing your resources is typically easy, setting one point and then dragging to the other, but on a touchscreen your fingers can get in the way. Occasionally the points seemed to track above my finger, which was nice as then I could see the point, but this was not always the case. Zooming in does help with this though. Of course you have a budget limiting how elaborate any bridge can be.
Once you have built a bridge you have to test it by running cars or trucks over it. If cars are able to safely cross it, then you just win and get to move on, but trucks crossing award you a bonus. I feel I should point out that the goal is just for the vehicles to cross. I actually managed to build a bridge that collapsed just late enough that the final truck was able to make it "safely" across. Not exactly what one's goal should be, but hey, if it works.
The graphics are not particularly fancy, though the parallax effect is very nice and gives a sense of depth. Everything looks right, but not particularly complex, which makes sense as this is a mobile game. The sound can be annoying, though, because while the music can be turned off, the clicking sound for when you place something cannot be.
I find Bridge Constructor to be fun and appropriately challenging. Its design and gameplay does give it a nice pick-up-and-play feel, making it a good Android game for someone on a commute. On the PC I doubt many gamers will be playing it, but perhaps their children will. This makes it a game worth checking out if you get the bundle; if you are someone who wants a good pick-up-and-play game for yourself or a child, you may want to buy the bundle just for it.
Broken Sword 2 - the Smoking Mirror Remastered Review:
Broken Sword 2 is a point-and-click adventure that has you investigating your girlfriend's abduction, drug smuggling, and an ancient Mayan mystery. You know, the normal things.
Like any point-and-click you have to explore the environment to find the clues and tools you need to move forward. Also like many point-and-clicks, some of the items and puzzles can be a little contrived, such as drugging someone's wine so they will fall, smash a case, and distract someone.
On the PC the pointing and clicking works fine with the mouse, but on my smartphone the experience was more frustrating. The accuracy was often poor enough to force me to try again and again to complete what should have been simple (and was on the PC). Also frustrating was that while the icon to open the inventory is in a corner of the screen, tapping at the corner may cause you to walk there, instead of opening the inventory. This can be annoying if it takes you away from where you want to be and because it delays you actually opening and using something in the inventory.
Without playing through the story, it is hard to say just how well it may grab me or anyone else. It definitely does feel like you are investigating some strange and grand mystery so far. On the phone though, having to put up with the lack of precision could break immersion into the story even more than the contrived puzzles I mentioned earlier.
The art style of Broken Sword 2 gives the game a cartoon look at times; primarily when looking at characters and especially their faces when they speak. This definitely works well for the story-nature of the game, as it will feel like you are watching events unfold, just like when you watch an animated movie or television show.
Altogether Broken Sword 2 is a game that does show some potential to me, but it also does not grab me. That is almost certainly because of the irritation of having to repeatedly try to do simple actions because of the inaccuracy of the point-and-click controls. On PC where you can use the mouse, it should be substantially better and more enjoyable, so if you want to play it, play it there. Would I recommend the bundle just for Broken Sword 2? Not based on my experience, which has largely been with the Android version (I start playing on that platform and then go to PC). If you are looking for a story-based game though, please give this one a try if you pick up the bundle.
Ravensword Shadowlands Review:
When a war ends in a great cataclysm, leaving you as the only soldier alive, you can expect you are playing an action RPG. In this case the game is Ravensword Shadowlands and the future of the Kingdom of Tyreas rests in your hands. Can you save the realm?
Some of you may be wondering how an action RPG would play on an Android device, using only touchscreen input. The answer is that it actually plays pretty well, but not great. A virtual joystick for controlling movement will appear in the lower left corner when you press your finger down, so you set the neutral position instead of the game. This works alright, except that the deadzone can be against the edge of the screen, so if you place your finger there, you may lose the ability to move left.
The right side of the screen has the controls, and this is where the controls stop being terribly friendly, as the camera is also controlled by your right thumb. You can aim or you can act, with little ability to do both. It is possible to move the camera while holding down an action button, but it is limited.
Naturally the PC controls with mouse and keyboard are much more comfortable to use. Playing on both PC and my smartphone though, it did feel like the game was easier in the Android version. It seemed as though fewer enemies were spawning, but whether this is to compensate for the controls, or the result of the difficulty slider in the Android version, I do not know for certain.
Playing the game reminded me of classic action RPGs, and other games meant to harken back to such titles. This could in part be because of the graphics, but the game's temperament also came off as that for me. Some of the characters, skills, talents, and UI all felt like what I would find in an older game than this. Do not take that as a negative in any way. Ravensword Shadowlands does not lack any functionality in those areas and I found it personally enjoyable.
As I mentioned above, the graphics look dated as a result of having been designed for mobile hardware. They do not look bad, and the PC version is a nice and noticeable step up from the Android version, but you can see the flat models, seams in textures, and how much detail the textures are bringing.
Does Ravensword Shadowlands make the bundle worth buying? I would recommend it, yes. So far I have found it to be enjoyable and interesting, scratching that action-RPG itch. If you have a similar itch or are just looking for a new action-RPG experience, I definitely feel this is worth giving a try. The Android version may take a little adapting, but other platform offers that fun experience.
On the surface Type:Rider may not sound like much of a game, as it has you exploring the history of typography. Actually opening it up reveals a rather fun platformer with some mild puzzles.
You play as two dots that scramble through the game world of black shapes with meaningful pictures in the background. These images can be of ancient cave paintings and carvings to a Gutenberg Bible. The black shapes are also significant as they can be characters connected to the time period you are exploring, or other touchstones from the era.
Each era you play in is separated into its own book, and within the levels are asterisk collectibles that unlock a chapter. You can pause to read these chapters to provide some of the interesting history of how humanity developed written language to what it is now. Other collectibles include the letters of an alphabet in a particular font. That font is also the name of the book and relates to the era described in the chapters.
The platforming and puzzle elements are as straightforward as one would hope, allowing you to quickly find and traverse the path. Collectibles will pull you from that path of course, so be sure to keep your eyes open.
The Android version features three control settings, and I found the default 'Intuitive' setting to be my preference. This setting has you press on whichever side of the screen you want to move towards, and pressing the opposite side triggers a jump. The other settings place buttons on the screen or uses the device's accelerometer to control movement. On PC the arrow keys and spacebar are used.
As a platformer, Type:Rider is definitely fun and enjoyable. The typographical history it also presents to you I personally find interesting, and I hope many of you will find it interesting as well. I would recommend getting the bundle just for this, but it definitely belongs amongst the base games. As enjoyable and interesting as it is, if it were behind the average, I would likely not make the same recommendation.
Kingdom Rush (Beat-The-Average) Review:
Kingdom Rush is a tower defense game set in a fantastical kingdom, threatened by goblins, orcs, ogres, and even more dangerous creatures. Just as the maps get harder and harder, your own abilities improve with heroes to command and general upgrades to unlock. Can you manage the map well enough to succeed?
Using a top-down perspective, the maps of Kingdom Rush are easy to see and design for, and building on them only takes a click or press, or two. On Android the game wants to make sure you have not accidentally bumped the screen, so it will provide a check box to confirm your build tower or upgrade command.
When you first start a game in Kingdom Rush it may seem to be somewhat simple, as you can only build one of four towers at specific plots. The melee tower will put melee units on the field to block the advance of enemies. The ranger and magic towers are similar in that they attack single enemies at distance, but their differing damage types make them more or less effective against different enemies. Artillery towers are also ranged, but have the ability to do splash damage.
Before you leave the first level, you will unlock two special abilities. One allows you to place reinforcements anywhere on the play field, while the other summons a meteor strike to devastate your enemies. After a few more levels you unlock the ability to have a hero on the field. These heroes can be positioned anywhere on the field, and as they kill enemies will level up. While I do not doubt that eventually the enemies will be strong enough to kill a hero, thus far I have not witnessed that.
As you complete a level you are awarded stars for your performance, as well as crystals. The stars can be spent on permanent upgrades, such as increased range or decreased cost. The crystals however can be spent on consumable bonuses, such as weapons or additional gold to build and upgrade towers with.
For a tower defense game, Kingdom Rush is really a nice title, in my opinion, offering initially simple gameplay that evolves into a deeper and more complex experience. I suspect I will be spending a fair amount of time playing it in the future, trying to reach the end to unlock all of the heroes and upgrades. That makes it easy (and obvious) for me to recommend it on both the PC and Android, and picking up the bundle just for it. It is a game worth beating the average for, based on my experience so far, and the potential I see that is holding my interest.
Knights of Pen and Paper +1 Edition (Beat-the-Average) Review:
It used to be that hardcore gaming invoked images of people sitting around a table with sheets of paper and pencils, exploring the world and completing the quests someone designed for them. Now the imagery is that of people sitting in front of computer screens and televisions, shooting aliens or zombies for hours on end. Some video games though, such as Knights of Pen and Paper, bring that pen and paper experience to the computer screen, with a healthy dose of self-deferential humor and stylization that keeps it from being too much like the games it is inspired by.
Knights of Pen and Paper is a turn-based RPG that features a game within a game. You control a number of characters sitting at a table, who themselves are playing the game designed by the game master across the table. Selecting the characters is a mildly amusing experience, as you can select from the Pizza Guy, Grandma, your Little Brother, and more, with each possessing some special ability. The Pizza Guy, for example, costs half as much gold to bring to the table, assuming you bring him in later in the game. You only get the first two characters free. Naturally you must also set the class the character is playing as, such as mage, warrior, druid, etc. It may sound overwhelming, but if you are familiar with other turn-based RPGs, you should be very comfortable here.
Once in the game you can pick fights, travel the world, and start quests. Along with the bonuses for completion, you are also given some bonus during the quest, which can be valuable to take advantage of. The Slay quests grant extra experience from fights and are only tied to defeating a specific enemy type. By having only one of that kind of enemy and multiple of another, possibly higher level enemy, you can gain experience very quickly.
Fights and quests not only give your characters experience, but also award you with gold. This gold can be used inside the game to purchase equipment, but also outside of the game (that your characters are playing; not outside of Knights of Pen and Paper). Outside of the game you can purchase food with a timed bonus, or items with permanent bonuses, including items to rest on the table, a different table, a new door, and even a different game master. The better the bonus the more expensive the item, but given their permanent nature, you should not forget to at least look through the list. You are able to switch between those you have purchased,to run with whichever bonus is most beneficial at the time.
The game has an obvious retro feel to it, coming from both its content and the pixel-art style. It looks great and plays perfectly on both my smartphone and my PC. Really I see no reason to prefer playing it on one platform or another, though I should point out it crashed twice on my phone. Perhaps I should also warn you that this is a game I could easily see someone forming an addiction to, as they strive for the next level or grind for gold, for that next upgrade.
So far I have had a good amount of fun playing, and my neck is a little sore from bending it to look at my smartphone as I played on it. I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a fun game with depth and a sense of humor. This is a game worth beating-the-average for, if you have any interest in it for either platform.
Oh, and before I forget, you can play it in either portrait or landscape on your smartphone. I played it in portrait, as you can see from the screenshots
Now that we have looked at the individual games of this 4+2 bundle, the question is whether any make the bundle worth getting? In my opinion, most definitely do. Of the base games, Ravensword: Shadowlands appears to be a strong title that can satisfy an action-RPG itch very nicely, though it is likely best played on PC. Type:Rider offers a very good platformer experience on Android, and covers an interesting subject matter. Bridge Constructor is likewise a fun Android experience, but I would say it best fills the role of a commuter-game, allowing you to pick up, play, and put it down easily. As a PC game though, it does not stand out much. Those three games all impressed me enough to recommend the bundle for, which Broken Sword 2: The Smoking Mirror failed to do. It still looks to be an enjoyable game, but it did not grab me, and I had some issues with it on the Android version. It is worth playing if you get the bundle and are interested in it, but not worth getting the bundle to play, at least in my opinion.
I found the two beat-the-average games, Kingdom Rush and Knights of Pen and Paper, to be very enjoyable. Kingdom Rush offers a deep and well-designed tower defense experience on both Android and PC. Knights of Pen and Paper is an even deeper game, but not too intimidating, especially if you are familiar with other turn-based RPGs. Either game, on its own, I would recommend beating the average for, so beating the average for both makes perfect sense.
Overall the Humble Bundle: PC and Android 9 is a very strong bundle that I can easily and comfortably recommend picking up to just about anyone. So go buy it, help charity and developers, and have some fun!