Humble Indie Bundle X Review
Reviewed by: Guest_Jim_*
Reviewed on: January 13, 2014
Almost four years ago, the first Humble Indie Bundle was launched, and now the Humble Indie Bundle X is live, offering 4+2 DRM-free, multiplatform titles with a pay-what-you-want model. As part of that model, you can customize where your money goes; to the individual developers, to Humble Bundle, and/or to the two charities: Child's Play and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
No matter how much you pay though, you will receive BIT.TRIP Presents... Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien, Joe Danger 2: The Movie, Papo & Yo, and To the Moon. If you beat the average sale price however, you will also receive Reus and Surgeon Simulator 2013, and every game also comes with their soundtracks.
With such a collection of games, it is natural to wonder which stand out the most and if any make the bundle worth purchasing on their own. Thus is the purpose of this review. It is important to note though that because of the time limit to the bundle, I have not played the games to completion, but instead just until I am confident I can write a competent review of the experiences they offer.
With that said, I think we can get to the reviews!
BIT.TRIP Runner2 Review:
I hope you have quick reflexes, because BIT.TRIP Presents... Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien is going to put them to the test as you command CaptainVideo to jump, kick, and dance through levels. Avoid obstacles to reach the end and pick up collectibles to beat your friend's high scores.
The gameplay is pretty straightforward, but that does not mean it is not tricky. You have to be mindful of when to jump, slide, kick, etc., but also of your character's status when you do so. You cannot jump while in the air, which is understandable, but this restriction can be frustrating when you press the button just before your character lands on the ground, thus preventing that jump. Really though, the primary source of frustration for this game is me. I am just not that great at games like this, and even though I know that, I cannot help but try to perfect scores. At least the game is somewhat forgiving with that.
As you would expect, levels have checkpoints you are pulled back to if you mess up. From what I can tell, there is no penalty to using a checkpoint. The only punishment for failure is having to replay at least part of the level, as well as seeing yourself die.
One thing that would have been appreciated, by me at least, is a suicide button; some manual way to pull yourself back to the checkpoint or level start, instead of restarting the level. Restarting the level takes longer than just killing yourself and being pulled back to the beginning anyway, so such a button would save some time.
Speaking of buttons, the game recommends using a controller. I started using my keyboard, but as I have a Logitech F310, I decided to plug it in and compare the two input methods. Simply put, neither is perfect, but for me, I am sticking to the keyboard.
At first my keyboard was not that great because my space bar has a little bit of wobble to it, preventing a clean press. (Like other keyboards I have seen, the button portion is in the center and a metal bar is used to align the key along its length. If I do not strike directly above the actual button, the key will first tip before depressing. That is what I mean by 'preventing a clean press.') Using the controller I do get clean presses, but I noticed a lag between pressing the button and the action. Input lag is not something you want here, so I went back to using the keyboard, but avoided the space bar. I do not know why the controller suffered input lag, but it could be caused by many things and many related to my computer specifically, so do not be afraid to use a controller on your machine.
Using other buttons on the keyboard definitely worked well as they do give me clean presses and I did not notice any input lag.
The graphics are cartoony and work well with the game, soundtrack, and most definitely the introductory narration. Really, you will just want to hear that on your own. Unfortunately there is no anti-aliasing option, and it could use one.
The soundtrack is suitably driving for the game and builds as you play the levels. This is a nice reward for your progression, and as a punishment for when you die.
Altogether, is Runner2 a stand-out title to make the bundle worth getting? If you enjoy games like this or are willing to give them a chance, then yes. I cannot call myself an aficionado of this genre, but Runner2 does appear to me to be a well-designed example of it that is approachable for any gamer. It does have some issues, but really, unless you are a perfectionist, those will not bother you. If you are a perfectionist, you have been warned.
Joe Danger 2: The Movie Review:
Lights. Camera. Action! Expect to hear that a fair amount as you play Joe Danger 2: The Movie, where you run through movie sets filled with Screen Actors Guild violations. Earn points with stunts and by finding collectibles that have been strewn about the various environments.
Joe Danger is something like a hybrid action-racing game, as you jump, duke, and speed through numerous obstacles, and occasionally run into nuclear missiles to disarm them, like you do. Each course does have a par completion time, but I cannot imagine it matters much except for perfectionists. After all, your time is not shown to you until after you complete a level, but then you are also ranked against how quickly other players completed the same level.
The sets for the levels definitely vary as you can be in caves for one sequence, a snow covered mountain the next, and even back in time with dinosaurs. The cartoony aesthetic never changes though, and neither does the camera equipment you will find every now and then.
You may notice in some of the screenshots that the game is showing controller buttons. While I was indeed using a controller, the reason is because those buttons are always shown. It appears Joe Danger 2 is one of those ports, but at least it is possible to view and edit the controls. If I studied the keyboard layout, I could probably play the game with my keyboard, but it is just easier to give in and grab my F310.
Actually the game is pretty nice about options. You can change a variety of graphical options, including post processing, shadows, and anti-aliasing. So for ports it could be worse, but the controller buttons being shown is still annoying.
Now, ignoring that one annoyance, Joe Danger is definitely a fun and enjoyable game. Its casual nature helps with that too, as there is really no punishment from a less-than-perfect playthrough. You can just start it up and play. Is the bundle worth getting just for this? Yes, I think so.
Papo & Yo Review:
A child's imagination can be a wondrous thing, as it allows them to go to impossible places or do impossible things where they are. Papo & Yo follows Quico, a young boy as he explores his imagination with his best friend named Monster. Normally Quico is not afraid of Monster, and has no reason to be, but Monster loves to eat frogs, including poisonous frogs. This poison causes Monster to lose control and live up to his name.
The game is a puzzle-adventure title saturated with a sad story. Cannot say much without getting into spoilers, though. What I can say is that while the story is done well, the game is lacking when it comes to a narrative. If you are able to recognize the story for any reason, you will understand why you should be moving forward in the game, and where you are going. Without that understanding though, you are not going to know what is happening and why it is happening, and the game does not help you much with that. At least not until you have already invested about an hour, but by then some people can be lost and give up playing.
The game does have a fair number of graphics settings you can tinker with. Naturally I set everything to the maximum setting. At times I did notice some severe stutter, which appeared to be specific to certain areas within the game or when the game is loading. That likely means it is not as well optimized as one would hope, but it is not all that bad. Just do not be surprised if it starts crawling along in some places. It will get better.
I cannot quite put a finger on what to call the sound of the soundtrack. I can say that it fits the plot-of-imagination perfectly with soft, distant sounds like you are hearing them through a dream.
Is Papo & Yo a title to make the bundle worth buying? On the whole, I am going to have to say no because of the weak narrative. The game is focused on its story, but without similar focus on the storytelling, it is hard to recommend it. Not impossible to recommend, just harder to.
To the Moon Review:
You have the chance to change your memories before you die, so you can accomplish that one thing you always wanted. What would you want changed? For Johnny in To the Moon, he wants to go to the Moon. He does not know why he wants to go, but you still have to do what you can to make it happen.
To the Moon is an adventure title with some RPG elements in it, and all set in a 16-bit world. The game's story is everywhere and complicated. Pay attention as you play to find the symbols, or just play the game again to recognize what the different details mean. The game does help you spot the important clues though, as you need them to travel through Johnny's memories; the reason they are important may not be apparent at first.
Being 16-bit, there is not much to say about the graphics. All I can say is that it would have been nice if there were an option to play in a window, instead of a stretched fullscreen.
The soundtrack, however, is a bit easier to comment on. I find it to be quite beautiful and complements the story excellently.
Unfortunately I have not been able to take any screenshots of the game. I do not know why this is, which makes it somewhat difficult to overcome. Sorry.
Does To the Moon justify purchasing the bundle? Yes, I believe so, but I may be a little bias. Story is very important to me and the story of To the Moon is amazing. Unlike the other games in this bundle, I completed this one because I wanted to see the conclusion. It took me about three hours to complete, and was worth it. I can definitely recommend the bundle just for this game, if you are interested in good, story-focused games.
Reus (BTA) Review:
If you have ever wanted to shape a world to your whim so that a people may grow and thrive on it, then Reus is a game for you. Everything takes place on a single planet that has awakened to find itself barren. In response it summons four giants to terraform the lifeless rock into something suitable for people. Of course humans require more than just a place to live, so you will need to exploit the giants' powers to place resources around the planet where villages can access them.
It is an interesting twist on the strategy genre as you place the resources instead of exploiting them, but that does not mean you can neglect them. Resources can have symbiotic connections to those around it, so you want to be careful where you place the different patches in order to take advantage of those bonuses. Also each village only has borders so large, so you will have to be mindful of the size limitation.
Adding to the depth of the gameplay are mechanics such as greed and challenges. When a village becomes too greedy from the resources you have made available to it, the people will go to war in order to claim the resources of another village. This is not necessarily something you want to happen. The challenges are a bit more positive though, as they are special projects the villages will work on. These projects have certain resource requirements, so to complete them you may have to step in and replace some patches or apply aspects, which boost the resources of what you have previously placed. Completing a challenge grants an Ambassador, which can be placed on a giant to unlock abilities.
On the surface, Reus looks like a nice, fun game with a childish aesthetic. That impression can fade away once you are through the tutorials and in a real game, and you find how complicated it really is. It will probably take some time to master the game and learn the intricacies, and how to best exploit them.
The soundtrack is not doing much to impress me, but that is not a bad thing. You have enough to pay attention to on the screen, so an impressive soundtrack could split your attention. Well, at least that is the case for me; perhaps you can hear the music in a simulation/strategy game as you play, but not me.
Is Reus a game to beat the average for? If you enjoy simulation strategies, then it most definitely is. It is an innovative concept that is approachable, but still has the depth a seasoned gamer will want. Even if you are not too keen on such games, you should probably give this game a chance if you get it.
Surgeon Simulator 2013 (BTA) Review:
Let us hope that life does not imitate art when it comes to Surgeon Simulator 2013. Organ transplants are simply not best done with one arm that may potentially have a neurological disease, considering its lack of dexterity and fine motor control. Also, you would hope that organ disposal would be more involved than throwing biological material onto the floor.
To put it simply, Surgeon Simulator has less-than-good controls and the actual mechanics of moving can be frustrating, as slight bumps can drastically affect your hand's position and you cannot control precisely the elevation of your hand. Plus the fingers are binary, being either outstretched or curled in to grasp objects. Truly the controls of this game can be very infuriating, but that is also what gives the game its charm.
A definition I rather like for 'gaming' is "playing a game is the voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles" (from Bernard Suits' book, The Grasshopper: Games, Life and Utopia). In the case of Surgeon Simulator the unnecessary obstacle is not the surgery, but the controls. If you could realistically use one hand, or even two, the surgeries as implemented in the game would be easy. It is the challenging controls that make completing a surgery feel like some kind of accomplishment, and also what makes it so amusing to watch. We know what we can do with our hands, so seeing a video game-hand fail so miserably at seemingly simple tasks can be humorous. At least when you watch someone else play.
Playing Surgeon Simulator yourself could be decidedly frustrating when things stop behaving the way you want them to. Sometimes an organ will not cut when we want it to; we will get a bad grip on a tool, making it almost impossible to use the way we want to; or something will fall to the floor where it is lost forever. The only good news I can share with you about any of that is everyone who has played the game shares your pain and that restarting an operation is quick, easy, and painless (for you; not the patient).
Because of this, Surgeon Simulator seems to be the kind of game best played not over long periods. Take breaks every now and then to recharge; unless you are a perfectionist, then have at it!
Does Surgeon Simulator make beating the average worth it? That is hard for me to say. It is definitely a game you can have fun playing, despite its ability to frustrate you. On the other hand though, it does feel like another reason to play the game is to share in the cultural pain it has caused; so you understand why people practically cheer when they succeed in it. It is still a fun experience on its own, but not necessarily one everyone would want to approach. If you have the time and interest in it however, it is worth getting.
With the individual games reviewed, it is time to consider the entire Humble Indie Bundle X and if it is worth purchasing. In my opinion, it is definitely worth being purchased. To the Moon has left me so impressed that I would recommend the bundle just for it. BIT.TRIP Presents... Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien also stands out for its well-designed gameplay and fun experience, even if there are frustrating moments. Joe Danger 2: The Movie however is going to be approachable for just about any gamer, though it is probably a good idea to play with a controller, if you have one. Either one offers an experience worth getting the bundle for, so together it is almost impossible to not recommend making the purchase. Papo & Yo, however, left me wanting as its storytelling felt weak to me, but if you know what to expect, you can certainly enjoy it.
Just with the base games, we have good reasons to buy the bundle, so now we can look to see if it is worth beating the average. Reus is definitely a game I can recommend buying the bundle for, but be ready for a more complex game than the stylized graphics would suggest. Surgeon Simulator 2013 is fun to play, but part of that fun comes from how difficult it is to play, so be ready for that. If you are ready for it, then beat the average already and have some fun!
With so many games standing out in this bundle, it is hard to think of a reason why you should not purchase it, unless you already own all of the games. In that case, maybe you could buy a copy for a friend.