Humble Bundle with Android 5 Review
Reviewed by: Guest_Jim_*
Reviewed on: March 10, 2013
What costs what you want and comes with four games for your PC and phone? The Humble Bundle with Android 5, that's what! Last time I reviewed a Humble Bundle sale it was the Humble Indie Bundle 7 that contained, at launch, 5+1 games, with the +1 being the beat-the-average reward, Dungeon Defenders. That reward is back in this bundle along with Super Hexagon. The basic bundle, what you get without beating the average, is Beat Hazard Ultra, Dynamite Jack, NightSky HD, and Solar 2. All of these games are available for Windows, Mac, Linux and, possibly in modified form, Android. With the partial exception of Dynamite Jack, their soundtracks are also included in the bundle. (The exception is explained in that game's section.)
For those unfamiliar with it, Humble Bundle is a company that puts together bundles of media and sells the bundles using a pay-what-you-want model. If you beat the average of what everyone is paying though, you will receive additional content, in this case two games and their soundtracks. Usually the content of the bundles are indie games, free of DRM, and come formatted for multiple platforms, but we have seen music, movies, and books bundled this way as well.
When you purchase one of these bundles, you get to choose where the money goes: the developers; Humble Bundle itself; and/or charities. The charities will sometimes change, but for this bundle they are the two regulars, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Child's Play.
Before getting to the reviews of the games in the bundle, there are some points I have to explain. One is that I am friends with the developers of Dungeon Defenders. For that reason, I can only give you a description of the game and not a review. As the game has not changed since the previous bundle review, you can read what I wrote there about the PC version. The Android version is quite different though, so I have additional comments to reflect that addition in this review.
As I have access to the soundtracks outside of their games, I will also comment on them. After all, they are part of the gameplay experience, and you may wish to listen to them outside of the game.
I have a Samsung Galaxy Nexus Android phone, so I have downloaded and played each of these games on it as well as my desktop. You can learn more about the phone from the TalkAndroid review: Verizon Galaxy Nexus review – Does it live up to the hype?.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I have not played these games to completion, but only until the point that I feel comfortable commenting on and critiquing the games. Since the sale is available for a limited time only, I want to do my best to get this review out before it ends. To that end, this review has also been written before any additional games are added, which often happens half-way through the sale.
With that taken care of, we can dive into the games and see what buying the bundle gets you, and if it is worth it!
Beat Hazard Ultra Review:
First things first: I have owned and played Beat Hazard Ultra from before the Ultra content was added. I have enjoyed it since I got it so, unlike many of the other games in the bundle, what I write here does not represent a first impression but a long term experience. However, that experience has been with the PC version and not the mobile version. With that disclosed, let's get to it!
Beat Hazard Ultra is an arcade, twin-stick shooter that constructs its levels from your own music library. You are able to change the difficulty of the levels though by setting the difficulty and changing the visual intensity, which I will speak about more when I cover the graphics. As you play, you grow your point total which increases your rank. As you unlock ranks, you also gain the ability to unlock perks, such as additional lives, special weapons, and power-ups. To unlock a perk or upgrade it though, you must spend in-game cash, which is separate from points and collected by picking it up in levels.
The power-ups of the game increase your weapon power and volume. Weapon power is self-explanatory, but the volume is a little complicated. The game does more than just construct levels from your music because the music affects the gameplay, with more intense music translating to an increased fire-rate for your ship. The tempo also affects projectile-speed of your shots and your enemies. More volume in a level means the music affects you more, so a higher volume means you fire more and faster shots. It also does increase the volume of the music as it plays. This effect can be changed in the PC version through a config file, but unfortunately that procedure cannot be replicated on Android.
Only one of the special weapons within the game is not unlocked by perks, and that is the bomb. This weapon very simply explodes a ring of projectiles from your ship to destroy whatever is on the screen. It is worth noting that the projectiles do not pass through enemies, so how the enemies are aligned relative to you affect the bomb's effectiveness. Throughout a level, additional bombs are dropped in from the top of the map. The other two special weapons are micromissiles, which will hunt down enemies for you, a powerful beam that can be very useful when the there is a lull in the music and you have enemies to kill, and a shield which makes you invincible and reflects projectiles away from you.
The graphics come with a warning that they could cause photosensitive seizures, and you should believe that warning! The effects in this game can completely blot out anything on the screen, and had my phone's screen flashing at what I would guess is its refresh rate. You are able to change the intensity of these effects though, but because the chaos they cause is part of the gameplay, reducing the intensity will decrease your score. Basically, because you are more likely to see yourself and enemies at lower intensities, you do not get as many points as those who have to guess and hope they are right.
Though I describe the game as a twin-stick shooter, technically on the Android version you can play it with a single stick if you want. Twin-stick shooters are those where one stick controls your movement and the other controls your aiming. With the single-stick control option though, the game automatically aims and fires for you, with the single virtual joystick being for moving the ship. The default setting for the single-stick is also that it can be dragged across the screen, and I personally like this setting. I found myself moving my thumb well beyond the edge of the joystick, so the edge followed after it, allowing me to keep control at my thumb-tip. Honestly I wish more of these Android games with virtual joysticks allowed for a similar control scheme.
The graphics of the Android version are definitely less detailed than the PC version, but that is not very surprising. It also does not really matter. Playing on my phone, I would have believed you if you said the graphics were identical (with some exceptions I will get to) simply because of the fast pace of the game preventing me from catching the details in the PC version. You can see how the graphical detail has been decreased on the screenshots though. You can also see another example of how the graphics differ from the PC version, beyond the on-screen controls. The edge of the map is actually drawn as horizontal and vertical bars, which change color with the background. This is a completely natural and needed deviation from the PC version because the map you play on is smaller than what you have in the PC version. Some boss AI has also been changed for your benefit on the smaller map, as you will see if you play both versions.
As the game has the soundtrack you give it, I cannot really comment on the music itself, though it does come with some music to play. The Beat Hazard Album consists of 23 tracks, though only 17 are included in the soundtrack that comes with the bundle. (Four of the tracks belong to an artist the game developer was not able to contact in time to add to the soundtrack and the other two just appear to be missing.) In the Android version though, only four tracks are included. Additional tracks will have to be added, and incidentally it currently cannot use Google Music tracks, even if they have been downloaded to the device. If you do not mind playing somewhat random music though, there is a 'radio' feature which will stream music to your device from one of many channels. As you are listening to the radio, instead of playing until a track completes you play for a certain amount of time. Basically, you do not have to worry about having no music to play with.
Does Beat Hazard Ultra make this bundle a classic you just have to get? As I said earlier, I may be biased, but I definitely believe this game alone makes the bundle worth getting. It is a great game with an open-ended experience you control with your music library. The Android version is very well created with easy to use controls not only in-game but in the menu as well. I have no reservations about recommending this humble if only to get a copy of this game, alone. If you have a decent music collection and enjoy arcade shooters, you will find this game to be well worth it, both on the PC and on Android.
Dynamite Jack Review:
The best way I can think to describe this game without much detail is to call it simple in the right ways. The story of Dynamite Jack is not too special or even original, but it is enough to explain what is happening in the game. You are a captured Space Marine who has been imprisoned in a mine. The time has come for you to escape and to help you do that you have a flashlight and an unlimited supply of bombs.
The gameplay is a combination of Bomberman and the flashlight-stealth games where you have to keep out of an enemy's cone of light as they patrol the level. Learn the movements of your enemies and you can plant bombs along their paths and remove them as a threat.
The execution of the gameplay, at least for the Android version, is where the 'simple in the right ways' comment is most true, and I wish the PC version were a little more like it. To move around on the Android version you can use a virtual joystick or you can trace out the path you want to walk with your finger. Both of these movement options can be enabled at the same time, so you can use whichever, whenever you want. You can also disable one or the other if you wish. In the Windows version though, you are limited to directional pad movement with the arrow keys. I wish I could use the mouse to trace out paths, similar to the Android version, but alas, the mouse buttons actually activate the flashlight and drop/explode the bombs.
The graphics in both versions are not exactly great, but definitely good for what the game is; an arcade game. Moving characters remind me of those in Diablo and Diablo 2, and looking at the files installed for the Windows version, we can see why, like in those older games, characters are not as much rendered as have specific images displayed in sequence. This style does give the characters an arcade-y look to them, which makes sense because this would be considered an arcade game. The environment is constructed of repeating images, which you would expect from an arcade game. Interestingly the game supports both a landscape and portrait window on my Android phone. Given the design of the game, either mode works, though your fingers may feel cramped in portrait.
The music to the game is surprisingly dramatic and epic. Some of the tracks you could expect to be playing during a BioWare game cinematic, but instead they drive this arcade experience. Other tracks though are more atmospheric and are perfectly fitting the dark, prison mine setting. The Humble Bundle with Android 5 does not explicitly contain the soundtrack but it can be found among the installed files as OGG files.
I have not played enough to know how long the gameplay lasts, but given the multiple achievements tied to each map, it could take some time to perfect the game. These achievements include time finding every collectible on a map and completing it in so much time. Further lengthening the game time is the map editor, which allows any player to create their own maps, and share them with the community. To identify yourself as the creator of a map, you do need an account with the Galcon community. The editor is present in both the Android and Windows versions, with almost the same interface, so you can choose between mouse and touchscreen controls. Once a map is made on one device though, you cannot get it to the other without sharing it with the community. You do have the ability to hide maps though. Unfortunately, even though the maps are recognized as yours, because they are tied to your account, I have not found any way to create a map on one device and edit it further on the other. Perhaps a way does exist, but I have not found it within the application.
Should Dynamite Jack make the bundle explode with sales? I am a little torn on that, so I will say no, but I still recommend the game. Of what I've played I can easily say it is a very good game, especially on Android. If you are looking for a good Android game, I do not believe you will be disappointed by this one, and it just feels so good on my phone that it is worth a shot. I am just not comfortable saying that this game alone makes purchasing the bundle worth it. If you don't mind spending the money though, or if you purchase the bundle for another game, be sure to check this one out!
NightSky HD Review:
NightSky is best described as a physics puzzler with an artistic side. The story goes that you found an odd ball one day and decided to take it home, because that is what you do after all. After taking it home though, you start having, "the strangest dreams about surreal places and experiences."
From what I've played of it thus far, I am not sure I would call the game surreal, but the game-world can definitely be called strange. (Closure, from the Humble Indie Bundle 7 was surreal.) While the world may not be surreal though, the gameplay mechanics are. You play as the ball you found, trying to roll to the exit on the right side of the screen, and helping you are the ball's special powers; increase friction, decrease friction, gravity reversal, and perhaps more. Also as you play you will find things in the environment you can control, such as blocks that vanish on your command and pinball flippers. Depending on the level you are on, the ball's powers may be disabled, changed, or persistent. For example there is a level where increased friction is always on, and you do not have the decrease friction power.
The controls for the game immediately demonstrate that this game was designed for mobile devices. On my phone I had the options of swiping the screen to move the ball, tilting the phone, and 'digital' controls which put buttons on the screen. I have found the digital controls to be the best simply because they are much easier to control than swiping. After all, it is much easier to hold a button down than holding a swipe on a screen.
Controls for the PC though are set as the arrow keys for movement and the 'A' and 'S' keys for the powers. You cannot change them, and that is what I meant by demonstrating this game was designed for mobile devices. Other options are also limited such as the video options which are just 'Fullscreen' and 'Windowed.'
The graphics are minimalist with almost everything being black and the singular exception is the background which is typically a skyscape. The graphic of the ball also changes to indicate what you are doing with it. Increased friction fills it with an orange hue while decreased friction adds what almost looks like a bright blue and white galaxy spinning within, and inverting gravity introduces a purple coloring to the ball. I am not sure what caused it but I did notice some stuttering on my smartphone at one point.
The soundtrack is somewhat calming and unobtrusive. I listen to the soundtracks of the games as I write their sections in this review and I have found myself forgetting this soundtrack is playing. That is not necessarily a bad thing though! If anything that speaks to the calming nature of the music and you also would not want an exhilarating soundtrack while you try to carefully manipulate the ball. There are puzzles in the game you want to be able to focus to get things just right, and an epic soundtrack would be distracting at those times.
Is NightSky the gem of this bundle that will invade your dreams? It might for you, but not for me. While the gameplay is definitely fun, and I will very likely work through the entire game before too long, it has not done anything to impress me. The puzzles seem contrived with carefully crafted solutions, making the gameplay somewhat simplistic, because once you see the puzzle you will know what to do. At least that has been my experience thus far. It is still an enjoyable experience to play the NightSky, but it is not the kind of game you will want to set aside much time to play. Instead, play it on commutes or when you just have too much time on your hands.
Solar 2 Review:
A game where I get to start as an asteroid and gradually build myself up to a black hole… I'm in! That is only part of the game though. The other part is completing tasks and challenges for the "god" that also gives you the tutorial messages.
Solar 2 exists somewhere near a casual and simulation game, though it is a little hard to say it is either simply because of the action involved. However, you would not call this a flat out action game. If you do not pay attention, you risk being destroyed by random asteroids, planets, stars, marauding aliens, and maybe even a black hole.
Part of paying attention is finding the mass to grow. As an asteroid, you grow by striking other asteroids until you reach planet size. At this point, collisions actually cause you to lose mass, so instead you want to catch asteroids in your orbit, and engulf them. This mechanic itself is actually not that complicated, but is not easy on a smartphone screen. You need to be able to see where you are at all times and where the asteroid is, but with the small smartphone screen that your fingers have to partially cover to control your character, it can be very difficult. Basically, you will wish you could zoom in to better see yourself, but you do not have the ability to do so, and if you did you risk losing the ability to see an incoming threat.
(Android on the left. PC on the right.)
On the PC though the directional controls of the arrow keys or WASD keys work quite well and give you decent control. I can believe that a tablet would be a better medium for the Android version, but as I do not have a tablet to run Solar 2 on, I cannot positively comment. Before I forget though, there are two ways to control yourself in the Android version: virtual joystick and point/drag.
The PC version also has useful options such as the ability to display orbits and the velocity vectors of everything on the screen. If these are available in the Android version, I could not find how to turn them on. As it is, the controls for displaying them on the PC are not listed with the other controls.
From what I can tell, there is no way to save the complete game, but you are able to save yourself and the system you are in. If you are a large star with four planets and two have evolved life, you can save that state and return to it whenever you want. The open-universe you occupy will be different though.
The graphics are not stellar, but they serve their purpose. On an Android phone, you will not notice any issue because of how small everything is. On a computer screen it may look a little blurry, like the textures are for a slightly lower resolution.
The music is atmospheric and almost qualifies as relaxation music in my opinion. There are too many sudden beats and such to really call it relaxing to me. It does fit the game very well though, with a sense of vast emptiness in the score. Also its tempo occasionally picks up, which is perfect considering how the action of the game can pick up and require your attention.
Will you get entrapped by Solar 2 if you buy the bundle? Maybe. It really depends on the kind of games you like. If you like somewhat casual games like this, you will probably find yourself putting hours into it. For the other gamers out there, if you get the bundle, you can delay playing this game. It is interesting and fun, but does not really grab you. Also, unless you have a tablet or other large-screen Android device, I would recommend leaving it on your PC. Give it a shot on your phone, but that is not where it shines.
Dungeon Defenders (Beat-the-Average) Android Description:
As mentioned earlier in this review and in the Humble Indie Bundle 7 Review, I am friendly with this game's development team so I cannot guarantee my review of the game will be unbiased. However, because the Android version of the game is a very different experience from the PC version, I will comment on it. As the game has not substantially changed since the previous bundle review, you can follow this link to read my comments on it: Humble Indie Bundle 7 Review: Dungeon Defenders Description.
Dungeon Defenders: Second Wave is the Android version of the PC game Dungeon Defenders and they differ in more ways than platform and name. The control scheme for the PC uses both the keyboard and mouse for movement and aiming, but as that is not available on a smartphone, a virtual joystick is used instead to run around the maps. To move the camera you must drag your finger on the screen, but off of the joystick. Given the 3D environment, this is not an ideal control scheme for navigating the maps, and when the action of the game comes into play, the controls become even more cumbersome. To help you though, the game will automatically lock onto enemies.
Something worth noting is that the game download from Humble Bundle is just 10 MB, but that is not the full size of the game; that is a launcher. When you first open the game it will start downloading the remainder of the game's content for a total of 838 MB of storage space used. The time it takes to download will obviously depend on your connection.
The graphics of Second Wave are not nearly as good as the PC version, but then smartphones have limited processing power and it has to render a 3D world, so the disparity is understandable. You are able to change the graphics quality though, and for this review, I had it turned up to the max.
Speaking just about the Android version here, I cannot recommend playing it as you also have the PC version. Perhaps you can adapt to the touchscreen controls, but you are also going to be left with less of the game, compared to the PC version. Second Wave's content is likely only equivalent to that of the base Dungeon Defenders game, but you are getting the complete PC version through the bundle.
A description of the PC version can be found here: Humble Indie Bundle 7 Review: Dungeon Defenders Description.
Super Hexagon (Beat-the-Average) Review:
I am not sure if this is an actual genre, but I am going to call Super Hexagon a scoreboard-challenge game. What I mean by that is the purpose of the game is not to reach any kind of conclusion but to compete for a better position on a scoreboard. There is no purpose to the game past attaining a higher score.
The gameplay is mechanically simple as you move a triangle around a hexagon, trying to avoid lines that fall onto the hexagon beneath you by moving clockwise or counterclockwise. Hit a line and you lose, though how long you survived can be uploaded to a scoreboard somewhere for bragging rights. As I said, mechanically the gameplay is simple but the execution is designed to make the experience much more complicated. As the lines fall onto the hexagon, the entire screen is rotating and changing color, making it harder to follow the lines as they move.
The controls for the Android version are simple to match the mechanics. Touch on the left half of the screen and the triangle you control moves counterclockwise; touch on the right half and it moves clockwise. I actually found the controls to be better implemented in the Android version than the PC version, which uses the arrow keys in the same way. The reason I felt the PC version was inferior is that the responsiveness of the controls was lesser. It was easier for me to over- or under-shoot the revolution using the arrow keys compared to the touchscreen.
Another factor that may have made the controls on the PC worse was the graphics. The game window ran in full screen, with black bars instead of stretching it, but honestly I think it may have been stretched anyway. That is what it felt like on the PC at least, as though the same push on the arrow keys as on the touchscreen moved the triangle further or faster. Either way, it made it harder to advance in the game as I was constantly finding myself crashing into the edge of a falling line. Basically it looks like the developers just copied the mobile game and threw in keyboard controls to make the PC version.
The soundtrack is very techno and driving, which compliments the game very well. The hectic pace of the music fits the hectic movements needed to survive long and get your name on the scoreboard. It is, however, limited to just three tracks.
Does Super Hexagon make this a super bundle? Not in my opinion, but then I generally do not enjoy scoreboard-challenge games. Also, better scores require memorizing the pattern of falling lines, trained reaction times, and luck, which means that the only way to actually advance is to practice the game a lot. I do not purchase games to practice them but to play them. If this is the kind of game you like though, have fun with it. As a general remark though, I am not comfortable recommending this game.
Now that I have gone through the 4+2 games of this bundle, the time has come to review the Humble Bundle with Android 5 itself. Is this collection worth getting, and should you beat the average? The latter is easier to address so I will do so first.
If you previously purchased the Humble Indie Bundle 7, or otherwise have a copy of Dungeon Defenders, you do not need to beat the average based on the current content. Doing so would just get you Dungeon Defenders: Second Wave and Super Hexagon, neither of which I can personally recommend. If you do not have a copy of Dungeon Defenders and are interested in it, get the bundle and beat the average now, if only because of the great deal! The game easily offers hundreds of hours of co-op gameplay with your friends or with strangers.
Also, do not forget that additional beat-the-average games are typically added at the midpoint of the sale, so if you want to be sure you get those games without having to beat a later, possibly higher average, do so now.
What about the basic bundle; should you spend the money for it? If you read my Beat Hazard Ultra review you already know my answer to that question is 'yes!' That game alone makes the bundle worth getting at any price. If you already have a copy then maybe the bundle is not worth any price to you, but I can strongly recommend Dynamite Jack for its Android experience and Solar 2 for its PC experience. NightSky HD left me unimpressed for either platform, but is still a good game and is worth playing if you purchase the bundle, but do not feel bad if you play it last.
As it stands, the Humble Bundle with Android 5 is a strong package worthy of your consideration and likely your money. Exactly how much money is up to you, but hopefully this review will help you make that decision.