Humble Indie Bundle 11 Review
Reviewed by: Guest_Jim_*
Reviewed on: February 24, 2014
Feeling like your game library could use some growing? We have some good news for you then, as Humble Bundle has recently launched the Humble Indie Bundle 11 with 4+2 games. Like the bundles before it, it follows a pay-what-you-want strategy, allowing the customer to spend as much as they think the games are worth. You also have the ability to send specific portions of what you pay to the developers, to Humble Bundle, or to the two featured charities: Child's Play and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
No matter what you pay, you will receive Dust: An Elysian Tail, Ginana Sisters: Twisted Dreams, Guacamelee! Gold Edition, and The Swapper. To encourage people to pay more than the minimum, two additional games are locked behind the average price. In this bundle those games are Antichamber and Monaco: What's Yours Is Mine.
All of the games come with at least one soundtrack, are available as DRM-free downloads, can be redeemed on Steam, and, with one exception, can be enjoyed on Windows, Mac, and Linux machines. That one exception is Giana Sisters, which will have Mac and Linux versions released later this year.
As the bundle is only available for a limited time, I am not going to take the time to play each game to completion, but instead play until I am confident I can write a review of the gameplay experience. How long that may take depends on the game.
By the way, for some of these games I did pull out my Logitech F310 controller. If I speak of using a controller, that is what I am referring to.
With so many games in the bundle, the question can be if any one title makes the bundle worth purchasing on its own? Let us find out.
Dust: An Elysian Tail:
Waking up with no memory must be hard, but when a sword flies over to you and starts talking, you know things are only going to get weirder. This is how Dust: An Elysian Tail begins and while it does remain serious for a bit, if a little ironic, soon a companion will scream to just mash the buttons during the first encounter with any monsters.
Dust: An Elysian Tail is an action-adventure title and, at least in the beginning, is very approachable. I almost finished out the prologue without taking any damage. Of course I was actively trying to avoid being hit, but I want to say that I liked that. It is nice to be in a side-scrolling action-adventure title and not have to rely on my health bar to survive. Instead you can apply your skills and abilities to keep yourself safe whilst destroying your enemies.
Eventually the enemies will pose a greater challenge and become a threat, but the difficulty curve never seems extreme to me. Only bosses, poison, and some environmental traps make you really need to eat something to heal yourself. Of course you will also be leveling up and equipping useful gear, so the increased difficulty of any enemy can be managed. Just explore the world, kill enemies for experience, pick up materials for crafting, and complete quests for rewards.
The story of Dust: An Elysian Tail is still developing as I play, so it is hard for me to say much about it. Thus far though, I like it and it is showing itself to be a deep and serious title, though it does not always take itself seriously.
The graphics are excellent. The hand-painted world gives it a definite life and story-book feel. It is as though the fairy tale of a hero has been brought to life, and adds to the fantasy. One thing about the graphics, though, is that the facial animations during conversations look out of step to me, with mouths moving faster than they should for what is being said. It is a minor thing, but something I cannot help but see.
The soundtrack is definitely enjoyable and matches the storybook feel and action pretty well, depending on the track. Personally I do like it, but because of how it goes from one temperament to another I am not sure if I will just let it run through in the background. That is just a personal note and not a criticism. It also makes me really want to jump back into the game.
Is Dust: An Elysian Tail a title to get the bundle for? I believe so. For anyone getting this bundle I certainly recommend playing it, based on my experience thus far. I am glad it is among the base games though, because it is not impressing me enough to warrant being behind the average price, but it is still fun and worth getting. I am planning on completing it as soon as I get the chance.
Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams Review:
Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams is a platformer in which you play as two sisters, trapped in similar yet different worlds. One world is bright and vibrant with life, while the other is dead and haunted. Your goal is to reach the end of the level, but because of the obstacles in your way, you will have to switch between the sisters and warp between worlds. Sometimes this will remove the obstacle, as it does not exist in both worlds, or perhaps this sister has the ability to defeat the obstacle. One sister can jump and swirl in the air, allowing descent, while the other has an offensive dash, capable of killing enemies and breaking blocks.
Thus far I have found the platforming to be quite fun. The warping definitely impacts how you approach the game, but it never felt like it dominated the experience. You warp when necessary, but it otherwise does not intrude on the platforming, and I believe that is for the best.
The controls, game design and warping mechanic gives Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams an arcade feel to me. The soundtrack further reinforces that with its use of techno sounds, like what I would expect to emanate from a quarter-eating-cabinet. The controls, sadly in my opinion, reveal how much this game was designed for consoles. It was definitely more comfortable to pull out my controller than to use the keyboard. While I do not doubt one could play successfully on a keyboard, using a controller is likely just going to be more comfortable.
The graphics definitely pop with their detail and color-palettes. The warping mechanic fluidly transforms the frame from one world to the other in a rather pleasing way. That is not to say you would want to sit there, warping back and forth, but that it is enjoyable to see happen.
Does Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams make purchasing the bundle worth it? That is hard to say. It just does not stand out much to me. That is not to say it is a bad game. It is a good and enjoyable game, but just has not impressed me much. If you are looking for an arcade-y platformer though, then this could very possibly be the game for you.
Guacamelee! Gold Edition:
You must hate it when your childhood friend is abducted by an evil skeleton and on your first attempt to free her you are killed instantly. Fortunately if you are Juan in Guacamelee!, death is not very permanent, as soon a luchador mask reveals itself to you, in the world of the dead, and putting it on resurrects you. Now you have to use your strength and the skills you learn to rescue your friend.
On first blush, Guacamelee! would just seem to be a platforming brawler, but the action is deeper than that, with the various combos available to you. Also a dimension switching mechanic adds to it as some enemies may only be assailable in one dimension, though they can hurt you in either. The switching mechanic also helps make the puzzles more interesting. However at times it can make the platforming challenges feel very contrived.
The combat is not always very fun, sadly. A primary reason why is how limited health is, as the only way you can regain health in combat is by killing enemies. When a number of them are invulnerable because they are in a different dimension though, you are in trouble. Also you do not appear to get much health for the kills. At least it never felt like much to me in fights I was having trouble with. Of course the giant enemies that can one or two-shot you are not much fun either, especially as they are not without friends. It is possible to dodge attacks, but when facing a group of enemies, dodging one means you cannot attack any, and once you are out of the dodge, you can be attacked by another. Really it felt like button-mashing attacks and only dodging when contextually necessary was the best strategy.
Guacamelee! also features some adventuring to it as side quests can pull you away from your primary task, and exploration can prove rewarding as you find hidden chests. In some areas you will find references to other games, and not subtle ones either. This gives the already somewhat-ridiculous game some more tongue-in-cheek humor.
The graphics are very stylized with straight lines and hard edges, but this helps the different visual elements pop. The soundtrack is a mix of techno and Mexican music, which is fitting of the fantasy story.
Guacamelee! is best played on a controller, and by 'best played' I mean I feel a little sorry for someone trying to play it with only a keyboard. It has definitely been designed with the button layout of a controller and not the key layout of a keyboard. I suspect some controllers are going to be better for this game than others, though. For example, to get to high places you have to jump and use a special attack, activated by pressing up and another button. If you also have to move horizontally though, then you have to press to move in that direction and quickly shift to pressing up for the combo. Doable, but it makes timing tricky. It would likely be easier for a controller with four discrete directional buttons, instead of mine that has a directional pad, or one with a joystick. Failing to align the pad or joystick will cause the special attack to fail as well.
Is Guacamelee! Gold Edition something to buy the bundle for? If you enjoy games like this, then definitely. It has a good humor and I can definitely see people enjoying it immensely. Personally I am not fan of this game type, so I doubt I will be in it again, but that is more a comment on myself than the game.
It can be interesting to see what mechanic a developer creates to build a puzzle game around. In The Swapper it is a device that allows you to create clones of yourself and swap control of your (current) body with one of the clones. The clones will also mirror every action you make, making them more than just boxes.
This mechanic is definitely well designed and implemented, and so are most of the puzzles around it. Some of the puzzles do seem to have less tolerance built into them than I would prefer, but not many. Also the game does not do the best job of leading you through the applications of the mechanic, but you can still figure them out. For example, you may not think immediately that you can create a clone in the air and swap to it in order to ascend a room. You eventually realize you can do this when you have to swap with a falling clone to complete a puzzle, and then ascend in order to escape a pit.
Having not completed the game, I can only speculate on the story, but it appears to focus on what intelligence is. Large rocks can be found throughout the space station the game is set on, and passing in front of them reveals a message, apparently from them. Some of the crew logs also reveal that the rocks appear to have a kind of intelligence, but they do not understand it since rocks are not often associated with intelligence. Also there is the fact that you are generating bodies, swapping your intelligence between them, and eventually destroying the bodies other than the one you inhabit. What is intelligence and life then if you can so easily shift it from one body to another?
The graphics are somewhat eerie, I find. That is partly because of the darkness used to prime for claustrophobia, but also because some elements are very detailed and realistic looking. Your character does not look as real though, as it moves like a Claymation puppet.
The soundtrack is completely atmospheric, which only adds to the eeriness I just mentioned. It works very well for the game, but I doubt I will listen to it separately.
Should you purchase the bundle for The Swapper? Only if you enjoy puzzle games. For those of you who do, I do believe you will enjoy this game. The mechanic is interesting, the puzzles are largely well constructed, and the story that accompanies it is at least intriguing. For everyone else, I could see the cloning and swapping mechanic being a bit overwhelming as you have to consider how each clone behaves. If that is not something you are interested in, you may have a hard time enjoying the game.
Some people may want to say that to play Antichamber, one should think outside of the box. My suggestion would be to forget there is a box, because in this game, just looking in a different direction will change the environment.
As you can suspect from those comments, Antichamber is a puzzle game, and not like many other puzzlers. Almost nothing can truly be trusted in the game as walls and floors will be removed or added, depending on where you are, where you are looking, and where you are moving. This can make the game hard to get into, but its non-linear structure may help with that. Instead of having a clear sequence of rooms and puzzles to complete, you can just continue on in any direction until you cannot continue any further. If you get lost or want to return to where you were, you can just hit Escape. This returns you to a room with options on one wall, posters on another, and a map of the game. Clicking on any of the rooms will take you to them. This is invaluable actually, as it can be very easy to get lost if you are just walking room to room.
The puzzles largely fall into two categories: traditional and non-traditional. The traditional puzzles are those we may find in other puzzle games, such as placing a block to hold a door open or jump over a ledge. Non-traditional would be moving backwards to keep a door from closing or looking through a window to shift what room you are in. Personally I like the non-traditional ones better as they feel very approachable to me. I mean I can just walk up and start trying things, not completely knowing what I have to do, while with a traditional puzzle I know I have to accomplish something specific, and then figure out how exactly to do that.
The graphics of Antichamber are minimalistic, with simple lines and colors indicating objects and walls. It works though, as it helps bring out the non-traditional nature of the game. The soundtrack is subtle and very ambient, which is appropriate as you do not want it distracting from the puzzles.
Is Antichamber worth beating the average for? If you like non-traditional puzzles, then yes it is. This game can really make you think and experiment. Of course you may still need to find some hints online to solve some puzzles, but a lot you can figure out by just playing around with things. If you are not much of a puzzle person though, then you may want to avoid this game and its non-linear mechanics.
Monaco: What's Yours Is Mine (BTA) Review:
Monaco is a stealth action game in which you control a member of a group of thieves. Each member has their own specialty, such as the Locksmith being able to pick locks faster and the Cleaner being able to knockout unsuspecting people. The goal is pretty simple: steal loot and escape.
The gameplay is about as simple as the concept, which is excellent as it makes every heist that much more approachable. Once you pick your character, just jump into the game and have fun, but be careful not to be seen having that fun. Guards will attack you once they see you are a threat. This may mean punching you or shooting you. Either way, unless you have a weapon, you have to run.
By the way, you cannot permanently deal with a guard. Those knocked out by the Cleaner will eventually wake up and even those you kill can be revived by other guards (a process accompanied by a less-than-pleasant sound). Unless you can kill every guard on a level, it is best to just avoid them, which is not altogether difficult. Guards take a moment to recognize you as a threat, so just turn and sneak away before they are alerted.
The story has some humor to it, brought out by the conversations the thieves have before each mission. They each have a personality and voice, well, except for the Cleaner. Let us just say he is the silent partner in the endeavor. Silent and deadly.
Honestly it is hard to say much about the gameplay other than it is as I would hope it would be. Truly I have no criticisms of it. It is simple, well-designed, and well-implemented, and I look forward to playing more. I can mention that the game does have a built-in level editor, so you can build your own jobs to share with the world. Monaco also features Steam Workshop integration, for easily finding and downloading player-made jobs. Also the developers have added to the game since its original release with an 'Enhanced' version, which is meant to rebalance the gameplay based on community comments, and 'Zombico.' You can probably guess what the latter is.
The graphics are fairly simple, like they are just an updated version of an old arcade game. The soundtrack has different styles to it, but mostly sounds like the music from old silent films, such as the Great Train Robbery, which I am certain was the intent of the developers.
Is Monaco a reason to beat the average? For the amount of fun I have had so far and expect to have as I play more, I believe it is. It is an enjoyable experience that can be played either when you just have some spare time, or hours you can invest in something. Definitely recommended.
With the individual reviews done, the question is if the Humble Indie Bundle 11 is worth getting? In my opinion, it certainly is. Dust: An Elysian Tale and The Swapper I would personally recommend. Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams is also fun, but does not pique my interest much. That does not mean it will fail with you though, and it is definitely worth giving a shot. Guacamelee! Gold Edition is also a good game, but I am just not the gamer it is targeted at. If you are, then definitely get it. Really all of the base games are quite good and enjoyable. The only question is which appeal to you the most?
The beat-the-average games, Antichamber and Monaco: What's Yours Is Mine, are definitely worth beating the average for. Antichamber may not be right for every gamer, but Monaco I believe most people will greatly enjoy. Playing it with friends will just make the experience even more fun.
Altogether, there is not one game in this bundle that fails to be enjoyable, in one way or another. That makes this an excellent bundle and definitely one worth picking up.