Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Yet Another Humble Bundle – Voxatron, Blocks That Matter and The Binding of Isaac

I've written before about the Humble Indie Bundles and their many advantages, pay whatever you want, support charity, DRM-free Indie games that deserve our support, and these are all still true. I've purchased every one of the bundles I've encountered since I became aware of them, and have been extremely happy with my decision. Though "bundles" that are initially released as just one game, but frequently get more content added gradually are happening more regularly, they've consistently been a great value and the Voxatron Debut bundle is no exception. In this case, unlike the Frozen Synapse Bundle, the "main" game is the weakest of the titles (for now) included, so paying more than the average to get the bonus games is a must.

Let's start with that main event, available for any price, as low as $0.01, the Alpha release build of the Robotron-inspired voxel-based shooter Voxatron. The 3D graphics combines with an old-school aesthetic not unlike Minecraft in a shooting game that is unlike most of what I've played on the market. You play a character with a basic gun, the ability to move in all directions and jump, and when you shoot, it locks your direction of aim and movement together into a strafe based on where you are pointing. It feels like the arcade classic it takes its name from with the way movement and shooting interact, but the controls end up feeling extremely clunky, and that takes a lot away form the game. I've also suffered a few crash bugs and framerate slowdowns, but I expect these will be corrected in future patches. The one thing that saves this game from mediocrity is the fact that players can use an editing program with building blocks to build and add their own content and custom levels, and turning a community's creativity loose on your project is a sure way to ensure a lot of content (quality, and otherwise.)

The Binding of Isaac is a twisted little game that combines features of shooters, the original Legend of Zelda dungeons, and roguelike RPGs. The story is that of a child whose mother hears God's voice telling her to murder her son to prove her faith, and the weeping, naked boy escapes into his basement, which is filled with awful things. There are disgusting and hellish elements from bosses based on blobs of flesh with cleft palates, enemies weeping blood or vomiting flies, and upgrades related to the occult and implied child abuse. The arenas are randomly generated every time the game starts, power-ups and bosses are different with each playthrough and there are tons of unlockables and achivements to earn. The game is tinged with a disgusting dark sense of humor but it is never funny, images which could (and perhaps should) be shocking are rendered with a cartoon style that robs them of their power and just makes them part of the game world. If the concept of playing as an abused child using his tears as a weapon against demonic creatures and confronting his own fears and personal demons doesn't offend, you may find that the overall solid game design makes this one a lot of fun to play.

My personal favorite game in the series is the platform/puzzler Blocks That Matter. The game combines elements of Tetris and Minecraft to form a unique experience that directly pays homage to its inspirations. Indie Developers Alexey and Markus have been kidnapped, and their secret project, the Tetrobot is the only way they can free themselves. The robot can destroy and collect many blocks such as sand, wood and dirt, and is able to replace them elsewhere in the level, but only in shapes of four consecutive blocks, like tetris pieces. Parts of the four block designs may again be destroyed and collected, leaving bits to stand and jump on to reach other parts of the level. As levels progress, there may be massive spots where there are blocks that cannot be drilled through, but, like Tetris, any line of eight (or more) blocks can be made to vanish. Figuring out how to make the various types of blocks interact and being efficient with them allows for progress through the games many stages.

This bundle will be available until Monday, November 14th, 2011 and the bonus games both have Steam and Desura activation codes. Like other bundles, bonus titles are available if the price chosen for the bundle is higher than the average for all bundles purchased thus far, so about $5.50USD (as of the moment) gets you all three titles, and any of these games is worth at least twice that.
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