Welcome back to Steam A to Z. Easy as 1, 2, 3. Easy as playing PC games and writing short snippets about each of them. Seriously, the most difficult thing about writing this was trying to make that first bit scan with the Jackson 5 hit ABC, and that didn’t work. Regardless, let’s crack on!
A game that was left untouched for far too long in my library, Aquaria is an astonishingly beautiful, deep-sea adventure. You play as Naija, a sort-of-mermaid who wakes up having lost her memories, and embarks on a quest to figure out what exactly has gone on.
Gameplay-wise: it’s solid. Swimming is (if you’ll excuse the pun) fluid, giving you enough control to navigate some of the more claustrophobic and perilous sections of the ocean. There’s a Metroidvania style of progression – as you explore, you’ll find upgrades which allow you to progress further elsewhere – but it’s done in a way which doesn’t feel formulaic, in no small part because of the presentation.
There’s a lot here that’s exceptional. The atmosphere swoops from calm, to epic, to foreboding, and back again at the drop of a hat. There’s a great female protagonist which, lord knows, is always something to praise. Also, the scenery is every bit as gorgeous and mysterious as I assume the real ocean is (I’ve obviously never actually been). I mean, have you seen Angler fish? You know, the thing that shines a light on your face during ghost stories to make it look creepy? Those bastards have a built-in mechanism for that shit. Nuh-uh. Nope. Not for me.
Rating: No, really, screw Angler fish / 10
Assassin’s Creed Revelations
I mean, you know what to expect from Assassin’s Creed, right? You play as Ezio “I’m getting too old for this shit” Auditore. You run around an authentically crafted 16th century Constantinople (now Istanbul). There are many collectibles, for some loosely contrived reason, but at least they’re now data fragments and not fucking feathers like in the second game.
I am a master Assassin. I am on an epic quest of vengeance/self-discovery/enlightenment. I am climbing this clock tower because I think there might be a fucking feather up there.
But anyway, Revelations has everything you’d want from an Assassin’s Creed game. Honestly, I still prefer the second, but either will give you your running/jumping/killing/feather collecting-based thrills.
Rating: At least let me tickle enemies with my feather collection / 10
Atom Zombie Smasher
I’d last played Atom Zombie Smasher upwards of three years ago. For whatever reason, what I had in my memory was an intriguing but ultimately uninspiring sort-of inverse Pandemic where your objective is to kill zombies and rescue survivors on a 2D map.
While my recollection was correct on the basic objective, it was completely off the mark regarding the depth of the game and how remarkably enjoyable it is.
It easily could have been a low-effort rushed job, but there are so many intricacies here, so many examples of detail that you wouldn’t have expected.
The aim is to rescue as many people as possible, but there’s also an over-arching metagame of ‘victory points.’ Each person rescued is a victory point for the player, each zombified is a victory point for the zombies. If you kill all of the zombies in a level, you have ‘captured’ that area, and it will continually provide victory points each turn for the rest of the game. It’s exactly that kind of metagame which encapsulates the kind of replayability that I love.
I mean, Christ, even the lore is surprisingly rich (in a 2D zombie rescue game!). If you delve deep enough, there are scholarly references from historical journals and textbooks; proper Harvard referencing. Name me one other game that has references.
Rating: “Blaaaaaaargh, blegh… Buuuuurrrrlll!” OMBIE, Z. (2015) Brains: How to Acquire Intellect by Eating It, Entirely Desperate Publishing Company Inc. / 10
If I recall correctly, I spent 99p on Audiosurf. Since then, I’ve sunk 7 hours into it. That’s near-unrivalled levels of value.
Audiosurf is a rhythm-based action game where your aim is to guide your vehicle along multiple tracks, dodging the bad thingies, and collecting the good doo-dads.
The main draw, however, is the ability to use your own music. The game creates a track that fits the music, so the heaviest dubstep will create something akin to a mountain range whereas “4.33” by John Cage will be a flat road. If you’re wondering how many people have played along to “4.33” by John Cage, which is a song of total silence for four minutes and thirty-three seconds, the answer is far too many.
Audiosurf 2 has recently come out, but if you want an introduction to the mechanics, or just don’t want to break the bank, then you can’t go wrong with Audiosurf.
Rating: Good for the people who are so 2012 that they own MP3s /10