QuickRecs: Steam Winter Sale Edition

It was once again that glorious time of year where you could get 47 games for $3.50, and some of the ones I got were even very good!

Inside: Mimpi Dreams, Slime Rancher, ABZU, Botanicula, Reigns, Nihilumbra

Mimpi Dreams
Platformer

“Mimpi Dreams” is the super-adorable sequel to the super-adorable Mimpi, which follows the titular pup through their daily fantasies of saving the world as only a good little pooch can. This game felt much more polished than the original, but I also found it to be much easier — I didn’t have to use the hint-bulbs once, and they were thicker on the ground this time. As a result the games progresses more smoothly, but it’s also a little less engaging. I also missed the drawings explaining how Mimpi translated the human world into dog understanding — I wish there’d been more of that. But there was definitely a playability boost given to things, and the damn game is just so adorable.

Slime Rancher
Sim

OMGGGGGGG. I know I have a lot of fellow Harvest Moon-fen here, and holy shit you should play this game. It’s so adorable! And for being in Early Access it’s incredibly polished with a lot of nice content. You play as Beatrix, who has travelled to a distant world to make a career for herself slime ranching. You capture, raise, and care for adorable little slimes, each of which has their own quirks, dietary needs, and habitat. In return for your love, slimes produce valuable Plorts you can sell to make money.

My only complaint is that I thought it was a bit too easy, but I await with baited breath the next big map expansion. Why are farm sims so goddamn fun.

ABZU
Sim

ABZU is a fascinating, beautiful game that is basically a scuba-diving sim, and if you google around you can find people complaining that it doesn’t have enough of a story, because I guess there are people out there who aren’t awestruck by getting to swim next to whale sharks in mind-bogglingly beautiful environments to relaxing orchestra tracks. It’s really hard to underestimate how gorgeous this game is; I’m actually pretty surprised it didn’t go the VR route, because it would make a stunning VR game.

The caveat here is probably that I am a frustrated marine biologist forever trapped in the life of a production editor, so a scuba simulator where you can watch to-scale blue whales swim circles around you is like a dream come true, but the game is so remarkably gorgeous that even if the undersea aspect doesn’t appeal I’d try to catch it on sale just for the experience. And it does have a loose story to kind of tie it together and make it linear, so if you need concrete purpose there’s that, though I wouldn’t expect much from it.

Botanicula
Point-and-Click

Speaking of idiots reviewing: you can check out the negative Steam reviews for this game to find lots of people baffled by all the pointing and clicking you have to do in this game.

I actually don’t usually like p-a-cs; I tend to get bored and find them frustrating. That’s how I ended up never finishing Machinarium, the game that put this studio, Amanita Design, on the map. But I ended up really loving Botanicula, found it to be very solvable, and it was short enough that when I was started to get a bit bored, it ended. The game is incredibly cute, with endearing collage-ish art and cute little sound effects that serve for the communication between the characters. Botanicula is noteworthy, like all of Amanita’s games (or so I’ve been told) for having no words, spoken or written, and still telling a compelling, coherent story. You play as a troupe of anthropomorphized floraforms who are trying to save the inhabitants of their tree from evil spider-creatures.

Reigns
VN-ish?

Reigns is an interesting thing that falls somewhere between a visual novel, a sim, and a card game. You guide the monarch of a kingdom through their rule by choosing one of two options given a randomized set of story cards. It’s hard to explain, but as someone who enjoys top-down sims as well as VNs, I thought it was a good time. Each time your king dies, you progress forward in time to the next king, and you have 2,000 years of rule to try to complete the overarching story that loosely follows all your rulers. The game has a good sense of humor, oddly likable pixel graphics, and a unique setup. It was so simple, but one of those game where you look up and you’ve somehow been doing it for two hours.

Nihilumbra
Platformer

I was on something of a platformer kick this time, and I really enjoyed Nihilumbra. The writing was heavy-handed and a little overwrought at times, but the gameplay was absolutely excellent and the music was phenomenal. I really loved the puzzles, the atmosphere, and the clever ways it used its own mechanics. I also appreciated the more punishing New Game + mode, and really loved that it managed to make the NG+ levels part of the story but not totally necessary, which is really tough to do. This game is like the antidote to Limbo.

I also thought it was a solid-to-good story about depression and battling inner demons. Like I said, it could be a little dramatic, but there were some parts that also really resonated with me, and I think it’s a good representation of the whole process.

I would recommend playing it with the narrator’s voice turned off — the voice acting isn’t that good (it takes ham and makes it hammier), it gets in the way of the music, and the words are more effective on the screen, I thought.

2 Comments

  1. illhousen says:

    Oh, hey, I actually played the latter two games.

    Agree on Reigns. It’s a very conceptually simple game but it is fun.

    Nihilumbra… yeah, the writing can be hammy. I mean, just look at the name. “Oblivishadow” is something I would expect only Abyssals from Exalted to say unironically.

    It was mostly just OK. The gameplay was fine, though very divided between very simple puzzles in the main game (except brown color ones because I had trouble leaping from vertical surfaces) and “now you die” ones from the New Game+. It’s pretty uneven, I’d say, and I’d prefer a more gradual difficulty curve.

    Another thing I didn’t like was the last level in an area mechanic where the screen is centered on the void rather than your avatar, which means you can easily run into an invisible monster or fall down not because you fucked up but ecause you were too successful and managed to stay way ahead of the void.

    The plot was simple but fine. I’m not sure I agree on it being about depression and fighting inner demons, though. Seemed to me more about growing up, learning about the world and all it contains and accepting responsibility for your actions.

    I guess in either case the theme is about starting empty and becoming whole through transformative experiences, though.

    1. Act says:

      I really loved the puzzles in Nihilumbra (I used a controller to play and didn’t have any issues, FWIW), and I actually liked the sharp difficulty division — it made the story itself beatable, but then also was able to do more challening things postgame, which I think is a nice balance. The difficult curve during the maingame could have been a bit steeper, and I was kind of surprised at how tough things got postgame, but overall I think I’d actually call it a plus; it’s a nice way to cater to both casual and mroe hardcore gamers.

      The moving-screen levels didn’t bother me — years of oldschool Nintendo platformers has actually kind of endeared me to them. It was very much a throwback mechanic, though I could see it being irritating divorced from that context.

      And yes, “simple but fine” is a perfect descriptor of the plotting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to toolbar