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A Jaded Look At Recent Steam Releases, June 7th, 2014 Edition

Following my revolting cognitive dissonance rant, the powers that be struck back, and give me a lovely family emergency so I would be able to take into context that there are more important things than picking a particular flavor of procrastination in massively multiplayer online roleplaying game.

As a consequence of that, and a few other minor factors, I decided to take the day off today.  Saturday, a perfect day for...

A Jaded Look At Recent Steam Releases, June 7th, 2014 Edition

And what a week it's been... so very underwhelming that Steam is currently advertising the pre-release of a game that is not due out until early 2015 in big bold graphics, leaving everything else in the lurch.  Don't get me wrong, it's entirely possible that The Witcher: Wild Hunt will be quite a bit better than Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and that's pretty big news... but really guys?  It's 8 months until February 2015.

Right, lets sort the usual suspects into our now-well-established categories:

Interesting Tier

Games that are a cut above the rest, I might actually be interested in buying them some day!
Ghostcontrol Inc. - Now this looks pretty interesting.  Like the XCOM Series, you are starting an organization to fight off other-earthly threats.  Except, this time, the threat in question is ghosts, presented in a sort of Ghost Busters style.  That's right, it's Ghost Busters: the squad-based combat game with business overlay.  Sign me the heck up.  Currently it's only $7.50, half-off, but that sale will only last until the 13th of June: quite the hard sell there, guys.
Ludwig - Not only is this a physics-based 3D action adventure platformer with pretty snazzy visuals, but Ludwig is also a bit of a serious science game, "Find out how energy is created from fire, water, wind and sun and use them to cleverly protect the Robotronics on Unitron against the impeding energy collapse!"  I wish I had games like this when I was in school.

Semi-Interesting Tier

Games that are pretty good efforts, in my humble opinion, but I can't see how I'll have time to play them with better games out.

Close Combat - Gateway To Caen - This is the most recent addition to the Close Combat series.  Despite being a relatively rudimentary looking top-down real time strategy game that takes place in World War II, it would seem to have a strong fan following and decent gameplay.   Certainly worth a look if you like World War II games or Real Time Strategy games.
Flashout 2 - A great-looking Sci-Fi racing combat game, also out on portable devices, it's obviously no coincidence that Flashout highly resembles the title of the WipeOut series: they basically remade it on platforms it has yet to be released on yet.

Ionball 2: Ionstorm - Now, if you're going to make another Breakout clone, this is how you do it.  3D, gorgeous, reasonably-priced, and plays smooth as silk.  Of course, it does have one major weakness: it's yet another Breakout clone, and who still plays those, especially on the PC?

Racer 8 - It's a casual puzzler, but I'll kick it up out of Shovelware Tier if only because the premise seems fairly interesting.  Here, you are placing tracks in such a way as to get your Rally racer to their goal.
Haunt The House: Terrortown - Originally a simple flash game, you move your little ghost around the side-view of various locations in a neighborhood, trying to interact with various props in order to scare the inhabitants.  It's really more of an artsy little animation collage than a game, but it's still not too shabby for $5.

Dyson the Shapeshifter - "It can't be that hard for our indy game studio to make a third person perspective fantasy adventure game, even though we don't have anywhere near the budget or talent of many other companies that did that.  Right, guys?  Guys?"  Anyway, the unique premise here is that you can magically steal the DNA from all sorts of enemies and other critters in order to, for example, turn into a chicken and enter yourself into a chicken race...  judging by the trailer, that actually happens.

Super Toy Cars - A decent enough looking racing game with a setting of driving toy cars throughout the household.  Includes trade editors, multiplayer, and local co-op.

Electric Super Joy Groove City - Another 2D Side Scrolling Super Hard Platformer, probably not quite as deliberately abusive as I Want To Be The Guy, we get so many of these that it's tempting to just kick it down into Shovelware Tier out of principal, but I'd say by eyeballing it that this one's in the top 20%.
Lifeless Planet -  I was watching Sips play Lifeless Planet, and it's basically a "Walking Simulator" about exploring a distant planet that was supposed to be teeming with life but, when you get there, you discover it's not only a barren waste, but Cold War Soviets have managed to beat you there... and something happened to them.

Bit.Trip Flux - Another game in the Bit.Trip series, which combine retro graphics with rhythm games in that specific way that makes it seem like the developers may actually be trying to make a good game.

Murdered: Soul Suspect - It takes more than being a AAA Square-Enix title to get on my Interesting Tier list... but it's a good start.  Like a certain indy game series I know, Murdered: Soul Suspect puts you in the ghostly shoes of a murdered detective.  You're up against a killer who rather busily killed you and, no surprise, it turns out supernatural forces are involved.  Unfortuanetly, it's getting rather lackluster reviews, mostly because it's way too simple in execution.  Seems like it will make a great title when it drops down to $20 a few months.

Nether - Another open-world PvP post-apocalyptic zombie adventure game, Nether would like you to stop playing the ludicrously successful DayZ and start playing it instead.  I would say the production values here are quite a bit higher than most of the competition, but egads, I am not a fan of these masochistic games about ganking or being ganked.  Ditch the PvP moniker and we'll talk.

Galactic Arms Race - "Top-down 2.5D action that combines elements of space shooters like Star Control, action-RPGs like Diablo, and space adventure games like Freelancer with an infinite weapons system that evolves unique guns to player preferences."  SOUNDS GREAKING FATE.  "Single-player and up to 32-player online coop and PvP with dedicated servers" Oh nevermind that has nothing to do with what you just described.  Looks like this game lost its way at some point, and player reviews would seem to agree.

Richard & Alice - A fairly well-known indy adventure game with "A moving, poignant well-told tale."  I'm still not overlooking the fact that they figured they didn't have to report the correct release date for this 2013 game.  A product of Adventure Game Studio, so technically its chops are in the same technical league as RPGMaker and GameMaker.
Epoch - PC port of a mobile action game title where you play a robot who flips from cover to cover while gunning down wave after wave of enemy robots.  The style looks very well done, and the gameplay tight, but bear in mind that this being a port of a mobile game device is going to lead to a certain disconnect of gameplay mechanic because mobile game interfaces are much different than PC.

Noir Syndrome - If you ever played the Brother's Chaps' Where's An Egg game, and wanted a more elaborate version of it, Noir Syndrome has you covered.  "A procedurally generated Detective Murder-Mystery with a new story every time!  Featuring slick pixel art animations and a jazzy soundtrack."  Yep, that about says it all, it basically plays out as side-scrolling a point and click adventure.

1001 Spikes - It's another 2D pixel-based difficult platforming game, made by the same people behind Cave Story+ and NightSky.  It's probably not bad, it has an excellent pedigree, but I'm not expecting much here that Spelunky did not already do better.

Shovelware Tier

It seems to me that these games were developed in a mindset more interested in selling than entertaining someone of my overwhelming standards.

Dead Bits - This 2013 game is basically a rudimentary first person shooter with retro graphics and reasonably fast paced gameplay.  Great... sell me something I haven't already seen done better.

Crimzon Clover WORLD IGNITION - Subtitles like that are bound to evoke suspicion in this paranoid gamer, and as it turns out this is a port of a year 2004 bullet hell shoot em up.  If you've a passion for these games, you probably already have this on an emulator.

Woodle Tree Adventures - D'aaw, look at the cute woodle tree in its platforming adventures over 6 worlds.  It's so cute I could almost overlook it's a 2013 game that is incorrectly dated in Steam, and that it does absolutely nothing to forward its genre.

Truffle Saga - Casual game alert: a cutesy little "physics puzzle game," that basically is a Kindergarten version of Peggle.

Chernobyl Commander - Anyone order a Polish-made Call Of Duty clone?  Well, here one is.

Beast Of Lycan Isle - Collector's Edition - A 2014 re-release of a 2012 hidden object game.  Well enough made for what it is, but wow, a re-release of a hidden object game?  Really?!  Talk about scraping the bottom of the barrel.  They're charging $14 for it, too.

Extreme Roads USA - Euro Truck Simulator 2 was surprisingly enjoyable, but it took place in Europe.  If the idea of playing a game that takes place outside of America's heartland gives you the creeps, then Extreme Roads USA gives closed-minded bigots like you exactly what you deserve: a horribly buggy mess mascaraing as a truck simulator.

Enemy Mind - This looks like a pretty decent Super Nintendo side-scrolling space shoot em up.  What do you mean, "It was released in 2014?"  What do you mean, "It was released on the PC?"  Geez, nostalgia leads to some mighty odd labors of love sometimes.

Concursion - Much of what I had to say about Enemy Mind would apply here as well, the only difference being that I'd say this is really more Commander Keen-related nostalgia, with 32-bit graphics.

Floating Point - "A peaceful, free game about using a grappling hook to swing yourself gracefully through randomly generated spaces."  A side-perspective game with rudimentary 3D games.  I got two words for you guys: MORE SUBSTANCE.

That said, the game appears to be free (?) so I guess it's hard to complain... wait a minute, Floating Point is self-published by a company called, "Suspicious Developments?!"

Chicken Invaders 4 - Somebody took those chicken arcade games from the Space Quest series a bit too seriously, and now you have the opportunity to see what they would look like if somebody actually seriously made those games as stand-alone top-down shooter arcade games.

Pixel Puzzles: Undead Z - "Pixel Puzzles: UndeadZ is a traditional style jigsaw puzzle game with top down shooter gameplay throw in to ruin your and peaceful puzzling experience."  Honestly, they lost me at jigsaw puzzles.

300 Dwarves - A simple cute tower defense game, the theme this time is that your side is made up of dwarves defending their kingdom.

The Happy Hereafter - There's a style of games popularized by mobile devices and Facebook where you basically are rebuilding a fantasy environment in exchange for emptying your pockets of real life money to do it quicker.  The Happy Hereafter is definitely one of those games, but Atwar often releases these style of games without forcing you to open your wallet mid-game.

Enigmatis: The Mists Of Ravenwood - 2013 hidden object game with a horror theme.  Looks technically above average, but still: a hidden object game, ew.

Meltdown - A simple isometric action shooter, they crammed the trailer full of wubbs and camera angles mostly to obscure that the gameplay itself is quite rudimentary.  Perfect for a 6th grader, but for the distinguished gamer?  Not so much.

Splatter: Blood Red Edition - Top-down action shooter in the style of Crimsonland.  From the looks of, Splatter is probably a little better than that.  Incidentally, Crimsonland is releasing next week, and it's exactly as good as itself.

Fritz Chess 14 - 14th game in a series about playing chess.  You can play your chess in virtually every way imaginable... well, no, the pieces won't fight or have sex with each other... but, aside from that, Fritz Chess 14 has you covered.  It has every feature you could imagine in a traditional chess game, with all sorts of fancy art assets from drawing rooms to modeled opponents to elaborate chess sets.  All for the low, low price of... $40?!  Wow, I'd have to be a real chess fanatic to be interested in that.

Metal Planet - A simple arena shooter with decent-enough graphics and an appearance that makes me think it plays a bit like playing Total Annihilation from the perspective of one of the units.  Now that would have been an interesting game, but unfortunately it's just an arena shooter and I'm sure there's been better.  For example, go play Tribes Ascend, right now, for free.

Dark Raid - "a retro FPS Action game [...] a new concept of mixing old school FPS game styles and new generation graphics" and so on.  Sadly, this spiel only cements Dark Raid's place in shovelware tier.  First, because whatever Yahtzee might have told you to the contrary, old school FPS game style is done to death.  Second, because I know what new generation graphics look like, and this is not it.

Legends Of Persia - These guys are a little late to the Diablo clone market, everybody else finished their game on time, then Torchlight and Path Of Exile showed them how to do it properly and everybody else went home.  Player reviews are suggesting Legends Of Persia has soured its appeal with technical issues.

8-Bit Commando - For the love of God, have these people never heard of emulators?  Anyway, it's a Contra remake for the PC, go knock yourself out.

Fossil Tier

These games are over three years old, but at least have the decency to admit it.  Remember, just because a game is old doesn't mean it's bad, but you may have technical issues getting these to run on modern computers, and a widescreen aspect ratio is quite the unlikely feature to find here.

Freddi Fish 5, Pajama Sam's Lost & Found, Pajama Sam's Sock Works, Spy Fox In: Hold The Muster, and Putt-Putt: Pep's Birthday Surprised - More re-releases of turn-of-the-century adventure/activity games from the vault of Humongous Entertainment.  Honestly, they look quite good... but they're targeted for early grade schoolers.

World War 2: Time Of Wrath - A 2009, World War 2, hexagonal turn-based strategy game, it would look to be quite straightforward in its aims.  My advice?  Get yourself a copy of Advance Wars, instead.

Heileen 1: Sail Away - A 2008 product of Winter Wolves, maker of some of the finest garage-made Japanese-inspired visual novel style casual games there are... my, those are a lot of qualifying words.

The Egyptian Prophecy - 2004, "A point-and-click adventure game using 360 degree views, similar to Jules Vernes Return to Mysterious Island and Dracula: The Path Of The Dragon.  You play the role of a young magician and help her investigate the mysteries of agent Egypt.  Can you solve the fate of Ramses?"  I would imagine Ramses can take care of himself.  This game merely alright to me, and the reviewers agree, but I imagine it has not aged well.

The Lost Crown - A 2008 ghost Huntington adventure game, where you play a ghost hunter out to uncover a lost crown using ghost tracking equipment to get the answers you need from lingering spirits.  Spooooky.  It reviewed about how I expected, a game whose unique premise redeems a technically adequately delivered experience.

Trucks & Trailers - A 2011 title, it looks like Euro Trucker 2 because it's made by the same company, but this time it is focused on performing a variety of challenging semi truck tasks such a backing into cramped parking lots and running gauntlets. 

Bus Driver - On first blush, I would say that this is a 2007 casual vehicular simulator intended to risk away the wallets of the gullible by promising an interesting experience while delivering a lousy barebones one instead.  However, it's developed by SCS Software, the only company I knew that made one of those good, so perhaps not.

Automatic Boycott Tier

These games are over three years ago, but are listed with present-day release date on their Steam pages!  Is it an accident, or are they trying to pull a fast one?  Either way, seems pretty overtly dishonest to me!

Freespace 2 - Screw you, Interplay Corp.  The Descent:Freespace series is probably the best damn space combat game series ever made, which makes it hurt all the more to put you on this list for claiming a 2004 re-release is a 2014 title.

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