Humble Indie Bundle 9 Review
Reviewed by: Guest_Jim_*
Reviewed on: September 17, 2013
Looking for some more games to play, but do not feel like spending a bunch of money? Then you should probably check out Humble Bundle's latest offering; the 4+2 Humble Indie Bundle 9.
Humble Bundle is a company that puts together media bundles to sell using a pay-what-you-want model, with a customizable part of the sales going to charity. Typically these bundles include indie games and soundtracks, though recently we have been seeing non-indie games and non-game media in bundles. All of it is sold using a pay-what-you-want model, with a customizable portion going to the developers, to Humble Bundle itself, and to charities. The bundles for this charity are Child's Play, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Watsi.
With a pay-what-you-want model, there is the risk that people will only pay the minimum to get the content. To encourage customers to pay more, certain games are locked behind the average price, so only be beating the average can you get them, and any other media associated with them. Currently the bundle includes Brütal Legend, Mark of the Ninja, Trine 2: Complete Story, and the beta for Eets Munchies, at any price. Beating the average, which is approximately $4.60 when I am writing this, unlocks FTL: Faster Than Light and FEZ. All of the games are available for Windows, Mac, and Linux, and DRM-free versions can be downloaded from Humble Bundle
As the bundle is only available for a limited amount of time, instead of playing each game to completion, with one exception, I will play the game until I am confident I can properly review the gameplay experience it offers. That one exception is FEZ, which I have owned for some time now, and have already written a review for: FEZ Review. I will still cover the game in this review, but for a more detailed look at it, you should read its full-length review.
With a bundle like this, there is the question of what games make it worth buying, and if one game stands out to make the bundle a necessary purchase. Time to find the answer!
Brütal Legend Review:
I have a story to tell you. I first got Brütal Legend some months ago in the Humble Double Fine Bundle. Naturally I installed it and started it up, but to my dismay, it had multiple issues, primarily graphical in nature. Some of the issues prevented me from running the game, until I discovered through forum posts and such that turning of certain graphical options, in the game and in the drivers, would allow the game to run. Now I was able to actually start it up and enter the game world… mostly. Literally I mean I was able to enter most of the game world, but not all of it. Multiple meshes would simply not load, causing characters to run and climb on empty air. I even had to drive over a crumbling bridge, with holes forming ahead of me to avoid, without actually seeing the bridge! (Fortunately there were other visual cues for the holes that were rendering.)
Since then I have built a new computer and the game is behaving much better on it, though not perfect, but that is something for a later paragraph.
In Brütal Legend you play as Eddie Riggs, a devoted fan of heavy metal music and a roadie with the ability to build and repair anything. After an accident you are transported to a world very different from Earth where the gods of rock are real and music can be wielded as a weapon. Now it is your mission to support those trying to free humanity.
The game has a somewhat irreverent sense of humor, as Eddie seems to be aware of how things work in situations like his, where more things are threats than you may first suspect. It is like he sees himself as just going along with the ride at times, and provides color commentary. Also the developers provided the player with the ability to control the game's level of censorship. You can have profanity bleeped and gore removed through an in-game prompt or the options menu.
To kill enemies you have two primary weapons; two axes, one bladed, one stringed. The bladed axe is just for slicing and dicing enemies (limbs can and will be removed by it) while the guitar can summon lightning, fire, and more. To access special abilities you play guitar solos that will melt enemy faces, summon a car, or call on allies. Playing a solo is as easy as pressing the buttons at the right time, and it waits for you to start playing before the timer starts.
Those allies I mentioned bring in an interesting mechanic, as you are able to control them with the fairly simple commands of Follow, Hold Position, and Attack. You can also join with them for more powerful attacks, like a mosh pit. While this mechanic could actually be really useful, I am finding its implementation to be somewhat limited. At one point I apparently lost all of my allies, but I do not know if they were all killed or if they just fell behind. At times you can also summon more allies, but again you have no information telling you how many are actually deployed, or where they are. At least then when they disappear, you can summon more.
This is the paragraph to discuss how it is still not running perfectly. At four years old, the graphics are definitely dated, but they also run poorly. I am constantly seeing stuttering and sometimes it is very apparent, such as an NPC literally vibrating back and forth. This stuttering looks very much like it is caused by a poorly optimized engine, due to it being a console port, as opposed to an engine just struggling to keep up.
The controls are also an issue as they are not very responsive. There is a noticeable lag between pressing a button and the action occurring, if the action occurs that is. Sometimes it simply does not happen.
As you hopefully expect, the soundtrack uses a lot of guitar and is metal in style.
Altogether Brütal Legend is a complex game to say much about. I can recognize the potential it has as an enjoyable and entertaining experience, but at the same time it suffers so many issues that actually having that experience is challenging. If you can look past the issues, there is a good chance you will enjoy the game, but some of you will not want to put up with the problems. For that reason, I am not comfortable recommending the bundle just for this game.
Eets Munchies Beta Review:
Before delving into the gameplay experience of Eets Munchies, I want to make a comment or two on what a beta is. Generally speaking they are a completed piece of software that lacks polish, so bugs, memory leaks, and such may be present. All major features should be present at this point in development though, unless special circumstances prevent some from being implemented. Basically what that means is you cannot expect a beta to run perfectly, but it should be very representative of the finished product.
Have you ever played Lemmings? That is not what Eets Munchies is, but it is a good starting point. Eets is a character that wants to eat cake, and any other food he finds along the way. Sometimes he cannot reach the cake, or other food, directly, so you have to help him by triggering already placed objects, or placing them yourself. These objects can be planks, whales that can pull in and launch out Eets and other entities, as well as bombs and special foods, to change Eets' temperament.
As you can probably guess, Eets Munchies would be considered a 2D puzzle game. The gameplay is somewhat engaging, as you have to pay attention to what is happening, and sometimes trigger an event at the right time. Helping your timing is the ability to change the game speed, slowing it down or speeding it up. If you mess up, a quick press of the Stop button or the spacebar will restore everything to how you just had it.
If you are stuck on a puzzle, there is also a hint key to show you where to place an object. There is also the tip that comes up while a level is loading: Don't be afraid to press 'GO' just to see what happens! One issue with that tip, in my opinion, is that you have to have placed all of the items available to you before you can press go. Sometimes I would like to see how Eets is going to behave without anything placed, so I can decide where items are needed, but the only way I can do that is to place somewhere he will not reach.
A very nice feature to see is a puzzle maker, where you can build your own puzzles to challenge your friends with. Sadly it appears the sharing functionality for user-designed puzzles has not been implemented yet, though you may be able to manually share the custom-level files. Such a limitation is not unexpected for a beta as it may require implementing external resources to enable. The puzzle maker does seem to be fully functional otherwise though.
The graphics are cartoonish, as is the music, but it all fits with the gameplay. After all, it is a character named Eets going after cake. Something else that is likely a causality of beta development is the lack of graphics settings. There are no options at all, even to change the window size.
Personally I hope we see this game come to touchscreen devices in the future. It does work well on a desktop, but the interface design and gameplay seem perfect for a smartphone game to play while commuting to work.
If this were a finished and complete game, my recommendation would not be to purchase the bundle just for this game. It is enjoyable, so if you get the bundle you should try it out, but I do not feel it necessarily has the depth needed for such a recommendation. (If a mobile version were also included in the bundle though, that would be a different story.) As it is a beta though, you may wish to get it, just to have the experience of being a beta tester and reporting bugs or making other suggestions. Also you may want to support the developers' ongoing efforts with a purchase. Those decisions, only you can make.
Mark of the Ninja Review:
Mark of the Ninja is a stealth game, which should not really surprise you since the word 'ninja' is in the title. It is also two dimensional, so maybe that can surprise you. One thing is sure though, your enemies will be surprised when you drive a blade through their chests.
The game begins with your clan being attacked by numerous armed enemies. Luckily you were not discovered at the beginning of the raid, so you have the time to get a weapon and some equipment. From that point on, your enemies start to become less numerous, if you choose to take the lethal route. You can also avoid any encounters and be awarded points accordingly.
As a ninja, you have many powers of stealth at your disposal, including climbing walls, some ceilings, entering vents, and you can also see sound waves emanating from their source. This includes the sounds you make while running and grappling to new areas, so be careful how you move, so as not to attract an enemy's attention. If you are ever detected though, you have three options. You can run and find a spot to hide until the enemies give up searching. You can fight with kicks and punches, as you may only draw your sword for fatal attacks. You can also hit escape and restart from a checkpoint.
As stated above, you are only allowed to draw your sword when you can deal a lethal blow, which requires attacking an enemy after knocking him to the ground, or sneaking up on him. Obviously the latter option is preferred, but it is not as easy as that. When you press the mouse button to initiate the attack, you must then click and drag in the correct direction to make a silent kill. Moving the mouse in the wrong direction, or not moving it at all will result in an imperfect kill that awards fewer points and other enemies can hear.
Though the game does have a narrative, your scores on levels are obviously also a focus of the game. You are encouraged to replay levels in different ways to get better scores, such as killing every enemy or avoiding them as much as possible. Also levels can have small optional objectives, such as not being detected, which further add to your point total.
Part of the narrative is an explanation for the title, Mark of the Ninja. As it is revealed so early in the game, I have little issue with sharing it here, but if you would rather not see it, just skip to the next paragraph. The Mark of the Ninja is a tattoo made of a special ink, which the clan has kept for its champions for many generations. The reason it is reserved for its champions is that the ink contains a toxin that gives you special powers, but ultimately drives you insane. For that reason, the last act of a champion is to kill themselves to protect the clan. At least at first the special power you have is to pause time, and plan out how to use your equipment.
The graphics are simple, as a point of style. There are clear contrasts between different objects, and some, such as enemies and yourself, will change to indicate whether the object is being illuminated. In your case, your robes turn black, but your tattoo still shines red, so you can see where you are in the dark. The animations appear to be quite well designed, so bodies do not misbehave as you stab your sword through them from different positions.
Thus far the game appears to be simple, but with a decent amount of depth. Anyone should be able to pick it up and learn to play competently very quickly, even if they skip the well-designed tutorial. For those interested in bettering their score though, the level design allows you to take different routes to success, and by employing your equipment in different ways you can control the situation. For anyone looking for a nicely polished stealth game, you should definitely get the bundle for this. For everyone else, before passing on the bundle, check that the shadows behind you are not moving, or, you know, just get the bundle anyway and enjoy Mark of the Ninja.
Trine 2 Review:
If you stop and think about your friends, you may start to wonder how some of them came to be your friends. In Trine 2, the reason Amadeus, Pontius, and Zoya are friends is because in the original game, they were bound to the mystical artifact named the Trine. That bound still exists and has called the three back to action!
The game features a combination of action, puzzle, platforming, and side-scrolling gameplay that is only possible to survive by leveraging the different skills of the characters. Amadeus the Wizard has the ability to move objects and summon blocks and planks. Pontius the Knight is always eager and ready to fight with his sword, shield, and hammer. Zoya the Thief has a grappling hook to swing over traps as well as a trusty bow for dispatching enemies at range. Switching between them is as easy as pressing a key.
Though there are times to fight and even bosses, much of the gameplay is centered around the puzzle and platforming aspect of the game. That is if you want to find everything. Experienced is earned by picking up blue orbs or vials, which can drop from enemies, but are also found scattered throughout the world. A keen eye will spot them, but sometimes only a keen mind will be able to reach them. Fortunately you can go back and replay any level after beating it once and search out the experience and other secrets. Collecting enough experience unlocks a skill point, which you can deposit into a character's skill tree, or save for more expensive abilities. These abilities include improved weapons and allowing Amadeus to summon more objects. Trine 2 also supports online and local co-op multiplayer, for when you want to enjoy it with friends.
The graphics of Trine 2 are impressive. At the highest settings at least, everything has a high amount of detail; environment and characters. The lighting is also amazing as rays fill the screen or torches light a single area. Water, which is used in some puzzles, is a physics objects, so it rolls and flows realistically, while also bending what light passes through it. Trine 2 has a graphically rich game-world, to say the least.
The soundtrack is also impressive, with full driving tones, though never to the point of losing the fantasy nature of the game.
From what I have experienced thus far, Trine 2 is definitely an enjoyable game and I look forward to jumping back into it. Is it worth getting the bundle just for this game? Almost certainly. Have some friends to join you, and that will make it even more worth getting.
FEZ Review (BTA):
When FEZ was first released for the PC, I wrote a full length review of it. If you would like to read all of its multi-page glory, you can follow this link: FEZ Review. If instead you are just interested in a shorter, summary review like the others in this article, read on!
You are Gomez, a two-dimensional creature living in a two dimensional world, or at least you think you are. One day a village elder decides to pass down to you a three-dimensional fez, which gives you the ability to rotate to other 2D planes. Before you get to explore the hidden faces of your home, you accidentally cause a large cube to fracture and explode into pieces. Naturally you must now seek out the pieces to rebuild the cube, or the universe will end.
The gameplay is largely enjoyable, with some issues here and there. The game itself is a puzzle platformer, so expect a lot of jumping and climbing to advance. Combined with the rotation mechanic, the gameplay takes on a new life from what you may find in other games of the genre, as sometimes you have to spin the world to find or open the remainder of the path. Many of the puzzles are fairly straightforward to figure out, but some are decidedly not, which is one of the larger issues I have with this title.
Finishing and completing FEZ are different things. To finish the game requires finding only 32 cubes in the game, whereas completing it requires finding 32 cubes and 32 anti-cubes. Anti-cubes are harder to find than regular cubes, and are only found in complete cubes, whereas regular cubes can also be assembled from eight cube pieces. Finishing the game can be accomplished by the average puzzle-platformer gamer without having to look up any hints. It took me about five hours to do so. If you can complete the game though, without any hints, you are definitely above average. Some of the puzzles are among the least intuitive I have seen in any game, and are never actually presented to you as a puzzle, instead of an interaction with the game-world or an NPC. Speaking of not having something presented to you, when you finish the game and start up New Game+, you will gain the ability to fly by pressing the jump button four times. This is never revealed to you in the game; you either have to find it on your own in-game or read about it somewhere, out-game. Completing the game took me a little over nine hours, and I did use hints for some puzzles.
In the full review I described the story as 'Save the Princess,' meaning that you have a goal, but there is nothing else to it. Playing the game to reassemble the cube reveals neither more of the story nor the character of the world itself. It is just a vehicle to explain why your powers are special and why you have to find the fragments.
I stand by the conclusion I gave in the full-length review. FEZ does have some good gameplay but a lot of poor design that muddles the experience. If you enjoy puzzle platformer games, there is a good chance you will enjoy at least finishing this game, if not completing it. For you, it will be worth beating the average for this game. For everyone else, unless you have a special interest in experiencing FEZ, you can probably leave it alone.
FTL: Faster Than Light Review (BTA):
Ever wondered what it would be like to pilot a spaceship? Not sure how to help you with that one, but if you want to captain a spaceship, FTL is a game for you! Your mission is to successfully cross the randomized galaxy, staying ahead of rebel forces, with important data. On your way you will encounter hostile pirates, rebel scout ships, and more entities looking to destroy you. Fortunately there are also peaceful and even helpful aliens out there that will lend a hand, or at least not try to kill you.
You begin with a ship and three person crew, and with that you have to jump from point to point, aiming for the way out of the sector. With each jump there is a chance you will find an interesting planet or friendly ship, but there is also the chance you will find a pirate ship or other threat. When this happens you will enter into a real-time combat mode, but you can pause the game, and you will probably want to. You manage everything on the ship, including where your crew is positioned, what doors are open, and what modules receive power. Some ship designs do not have the power to drive everything, so you will have to shuffle the limited resource around to power your weapons. Once powered though, your weapons can attack any compartment in your opponent's ship, such as their weapons, shields, or engines. Of course your energy weapons will have some difficultly penetrating shields, but that is what missiles are for!
Your enemy also has the ability to target compartments and has missiles too, so when your ship's compartments are damaged, you will want to send at least one crew member there to repair the damage. This will not repair the damage to your hull, but will get a module in the room back up and running. If a fire breaks out though, you may want to open some doors and let the vacuum in a little. Just do not forget to close the doors when the fire is out, or you may kill a crewmate.
Upon defeating an enemy, you are able to salvage the resulting debris field for resources including fuel, missiles, and scrap (the game's currency). However sometimes the enemy does not want to be defeated, and will offer a trade to end the attack. Whether this trade benefits you or them depends on the situation.
While FTL may just sound like a space simulator/strategy game, it is definitely more difficult than many others. There are no saves, except so you can leave the game and return to where you were. When your ship explodes, you will have to restart. Complicating matters is the fact that you rarely can see where you are going. Until you visit an area, you do not know if there are pirates waiting for you or interstellar teddy-bears just looking for a hug. Once there you may find yourself presented with a choice of helping some people or ignoring their distress calls. You do not always want to be the hero! This game does not have much mercy for you, so your humanitarian missions can easily lead to at least one crew member dying.
That being said though, this is definitely a game you can lose yourself in. Look at a clock, tell yourself you are just going to play for a few more minutes, and when you look back to the clock you find an hour has passed. This happens in part because the game is fairly fast paced. There is very little waiting involved, so you can constantly feel like you are moving forward, and once you start moving you do not want to stop.
In case you cannot guess by now, I am definitely enjoying the game and I would definitely recommend it to others interested in a challenging strategy game. It is a well-designed and built experience that I am looking forward to playing more of. Go ahead and beat the average to see if you can cross the galaxy in one piece.
With each game covered separately, it is time to consider the bundle as a whole. Is the Humble Indie Bundle 9 worth purchasing? Yes it is. Trine 2: Complete Story is an enjoyable puzzler with beautiful graphics and a gameplay design that lets you play at your own pace; hunt down every secret or just reach the end and return later. Mark of the Ninja also lets you control your gameplay experience, as you choose to vanquish your foes or sneak past them. FTL: Faster Than Light offers a randomized experience each time you start a new game, which will probably happen a lot as it mercilessly tests your ability to captain a spaceship. These three, individually, make the bundle worth purchasing.
Eets Munchies also offers an enjoyable game experience, but lacks the gameplay experience for it to stand out from the bundle. Being a beta though, it may be worth playing just to experience a pre-release game and to go bug hunting. Brütal Legend, however, is still buggy despite having been released four years ago. If you can look past the flaws though, it definitely has the potential to be an enjoyable game, but ideally you should not have to look past anything.
FEZ is simply not an easy game for me to recommend. It is enjoyable, yes, but it is mired in odd design choices that plague the gamer with nonsensical puzzles and a confusing story that does little to explain the world. If you get the bundle, go ahead and play FEZ, but the bundle includes far better games that deserve your attention first.
Overall the 4+2 bundle is worth purchasing and beating the average for. Of the base games, only Brütal Legend really has any negatives to it, in my opinion. FTL: Faster Than Light offers an experience that makes beating the average worth the few dollars more you will have to pay.