Thursday, 4 July 2019

2019 Steam Summer Sale: 11 Excellent Games For Under £7.00

So, here we are with the non-point and click one. This is a short list for this year, mostly because - for a lot of readers - money is in short supply at the moment, and as is my time. As such, the games here are a broad mix of old and new titles which tend to have been overlooked forgotten or have just been lost to time. However, each is well worth being a bonus purchase while you hunt through the sales for something engaging, and they are among the few indie gems which can surprise you.

Tanglewood is one of those bizarre passion projects which emerges only from the truly dedicated fans. Created as a modern puzzle adventure game for the Sega Megadrive and Genesis, it's intentionally classic in every sense. With colourful 16-bit graphics, some genuinely creative puzzles and a wide variety of maps, it's a good throwback to older eras. If you've been starved of platformers up until now, you could do far, far worse than this one.

This was Resident Evil 4 a little while before its time, to the point where it was mistaken as a quick cash grab due to similar release dates. You're stuck on a cargo vessel overrun with nightmarish creatures, and tightly enclosed environments to navigate. The ship itself makes for a very engaging setting thanks to its corroding and dingy interior, as does its mix of apocalyptic log books detailing how it all went wrong.

With a good blend of various weapons, some surprising new mechanics which can keep you on edge and genuinely scary enemies, it hits all the right notes. It might be derivative of other ideas, but it nevertheless still manages to be a respectable horror game in its own right.

If you're tired of zombies and want a new spin on them, this might be just what you are after. NecroVisioN: Lost Company shifts the undead into the world of the Great War, with supernatural creatures now infesting parts of the world. Held at bay only by superior firepower and technology, it's your job to endure and survive against them.

This is what Wolfenstein would have likely become if The New Order had arrived a few years early and kept the supernatural bend. It manages to be remarkably entertaining due to the distinct quirks of this era, with a massive emphasis on high-speed run-and-gun gameplay and a broad selection of weapons. Combined with some remarkably good vehicle segments, and it makes for a fast, cheap but very fun shooter between more polished releases.

It's John Carpenter's The Thing in video game form. Ironically, it's genuinely better than the actual The Thing sequel made twenty years back. While it doesn't delve into the whole body horror angle, the game emphasizes a lack of trust among the few members of an Antartic outpost. Using strange hostile lifeforms which stalk their moves, limited resources, and possible betrayals to keep undermining the players' efforts, it creates a constant tension which makes it an effective horror game even in co-op.

Distrust also opts for an isometric RPG style of play which keeps you on edge, especially in the darker areas. This makes for a far better impression than a first-person view as it gets you in the right mindset to make the most out of the game. It's not Amnesia so much as Divinity: The Horror Edition. Combined with a strong story and multiple endings, it makes for a great possible purchase during this sale.

Only Devolver Digital would be insane enough to pull a stunt quite like this. Devolver Bootleg is an effort to create a collection of bootleg variations of games that they have genuinely published. With rip-offs ranging from Hotline Miami to Enter the Gungeon, it turns each one into a cheap variation with dated graphics, smaller segments and a ramped up difficulty. Yet there is actual talent behind this, as each is well crafted with a substantial amount of thought put into how each rip-off would "fail" to emulate its predecessor.

The interesting thing is that the smaller scale combat and downgraded qualities of many games serves to only streamline them. While it's certainly not a method which makes one superior to the other, they allow for rapid and engaging five-minute experiences. It's the sort of thing which remains fun while you're waiting between events, or just want a short time-killer. At the end of the day, that's what some games just need to be.

Yes, it wouldn't be one of these lists without at least one RPGMaker game on here. This time we have The Sea Between which, much like past entries that we have covered, has sadly been buried beneath other releases. It's a damn shame as well, given that the game actually lives up to the old promise made by so many fan-created RPGMaker releases: It genuinely manages to capture some of the old sense of adventure in SNES era RPGs.

The story behind The Sea Between is a simple one which remains simple but has some surprising nuances to it. It's about survival, about the harsh need for change in order to continue living, and of the grey area between good and evil. Saying more would sadly be spoiling the story but, well, sometimes the characters just need to live with the choices that they are forced to make.

No, not that Bloodstained. While Ritual of the Night is an excellent game, that's not the one we're going into here. Curse of the Moon is its predecessor, both in terms of style and chronology. Developed as an additional bonus while working on the bigger game, this is a callback to older era Castlevania releases. In terms of map layout, graphics and even basic mechanical elements. No, not the ones you are thinking of, even a few of the old glitches and quirks people freely abused crop up here.

While it's definitely a game which requires a certain type of nostalgia and tolerance for old flaws, Curse of the Moon is nevertheless an excellent addition to any 16-bit fanatic's library. Honestly, were it not for the fact that its bigger, badder and more impressively budgeted sequel were overshadowing it, this would be a modern classic.

Ouroboros is the second RPGMaker game on this list and, like a few of them, it's ironically a parody of bad RPGMaker releases. Or at least it looks this way to begin with. While the opening cutscene reveals some hints about this, what is initially a shallow mockery rapidly evolves into something more. From there, it rapidly develops into a game which experiments with themes of essential gaming mechanics like save scumming, time loops and a Groundhog Day event.

The main caveat behind this is that the game delves into some fairly risque themes. Points surrounding sexuality and some rather questionable moves are present in the script, including one which made me seriously question the morality of the characters. Yet even with that being said, it's one that I would still recommend on the strength of its storytelling. 

So, that's all we have time for this year. It's a brief list by comparison to some others, but I was emphasising more for those which tend to be forgotten, overlooked or just lack the player base they deserved this time. All of these are winners and, if you have any money at all left toward the end of the sale, I would strongly suggest picking up one or two of them.

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