by Anna Roberts
The second part of our review of Humble Indie Bundle V covers Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Super Meat Boy, Braid and Bastion. Missed part 1? Read it here.
One of the three games added to the bundle at a later date; to obtain Braid you need to pay above the average price.
Braid is a puzzle-platformer with a unique selling point: you can manipulate time. Your character, Tim, is trying to rescue a princess from a “monster.” The plot is only briefly expanded upon throughout the game, but the gameplay is where Braid really shines.
The addition of time manipulation to the standard 2D platformer adds a multitude of level design possibilities. Here, by turning back time, it’s easy to learn from and correct your mistakes; in effect, you control where your checkpoint is. This simple addition removes much of the frustration that often drags puzzle-platformers down. Your character has no other abilities, save for a modest jump. By jumping on enemy creatures, you can gain a little more height, enough to reach some of the puzzle pieces that are required to complete the worlds.
Braid challenges players to think outside the box. One of the very first puzzles requires you to use a table within a jigsaw puzzle that you previously pieced together to jump across a large gap. This kind of trick was so completely unexpected, and so unlike any other platform gameplay that I’d experienced before that I couldn’t help but grin stupidly at Braid’s ingenuity.
Another of Braid’s strengths lies in its beauty. The painted backdrops for each of the levels are gorgeous and the violin-driven soundtrack is similarly pretty.
It’s difficult to pinpoint Braid’s specific weaknesses, but sometimes the difficulty is a little too high. There are rarely any pointers while tackling the puzzles, nor are there hints for when the going gets tough. Braid requires you to spend time thinking and experimenting, and is definitely not a game to try to rush through the first time around. Then again, the visual feast, music, and the innovative level of design should ensure you savour every moment of Braid regardless.
Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Reviewed by Andrew Glenister.
I’ve played my fair share of horror titles, and while many of them have been solid games in their own right, none of them have ever inspired any kind of terror. I played through Dead Space 1 and Dead Space 2 without so much as flinching. F.E.A.R’s scare moments were little more than distractions, and it’s hard to feel frightened when you carry a machine gun everywhere. Amnesia: The Dark Descent makes both of these games look like Disney Princess Adventures by comparison.
You play as Daniel, a man who has recently erased his own memory. Following a trail of a mysterious liquid through the empty halls of Castle Brennenburg, he finds a note from his former self with a single objective: find Baron Alexander and kill him. Along the way, you must maintain your Sanity; Daniel panics in the dark, or when faced with something frightening. The only ways to restore his Sanity are making progress and solving puzzles.
I started playing Amnesia at midnight, in the dark, by myself, headphones turned all the way up. At first it was fine; I wandered the unlit castle corridors, exploring every room, and thought to myself, “Is this it?” But after less than an hour of play, the gloves came off. My exploration of the castle left me rooted to my seat in fear, and yet I couldn’t stop playing for hours on end.
Almost every room adds more and more depth, with pages of lore, puzzles to solve, and whole areas intended to unnerve and scare you – and it is in this aspect that Amnesia will succeed spectacularly. Anyone who has played the game will remember “the watery part” as one of the most uniquely terrifying sections of any game, and that’s less than 90 minutes into Amnesia. Many give up at this point; braver players will find there’s much more fun – and fright – lurking in the dungeons.
Amnesia is not perfect, however. The environments themselves are detailed and make for entertaining exploration, though there were a few times I was simply wandering around aimlessly looking for something I had missed. The game can also be slowed to an absolute crawl if you take too much damage, or your Sanity meter empties. Sometimes I felt like I would prefer to simply die and restart an area rather than continue at such a snail’s pace. In spite of this, Amnesia is an absolute must for any fans of the horror-game genre, with spine-chilling scares, a strong backstory, and an atmosphere unlike any game I have played before or since. Just the pages are being turned and more of your path falls into place. Bastion is set in a beautiful watercoloured world with hand-drawn environments and a brilliant soundtrack. The story is solid, the combat fun and rarely frustrating, and there are some moments where the game packs an emotional punch. Without wanting to spoil the moment, at one point the narrator says “And then, the Kid heard something he hadn’t heard in a long while” – a song. I couldn’t help but shed a tear. I urge you try out Bastion, if only to witness this beautiful, unexpected moment for yourself.
Interested in the Humble Bundle? You have a day left to download it and benefit indie developers and charities with whatever size donation you choose.
Have you purchased this bundle? Which game is your favourite?