I’ve indulged in the Steam for Linux Celebration Sale that’s going on at the moment, as have many of us I’m sure – but there are so many games, which ones to buy? I decided on Bastion, Trine 2, and World of Goo. I thought I’d post about my experiences with these games before the sale ends, because they are worth buying if you haven’t already!
Bastion was the most interesting title for me. The graphical style is pretty awesome, though I would have liked the characters to be drawn as well – having them in 3D feels like a copout. This game is definitely an Action RPG, very much in the Japanese style. It reminds me most of when I played Ys: Ark of Napishtim years ago.
Bastion could be accused of being more action than RPG, as most of your time is spent hitting things. The story is minimalised into bite-size pieces of spoken dialogue, most of which is delivered to you via narration as you play, others by collecting “mementos” which can be handed in to NPCs for 2-3 spoken sentences of story/world history. However, this works surprisingly well, as the sentences are rich, and give strong hints as to what the destroyed society in the game was before it collapsed. These titbits also allude to mysterious aspects of the “cataclysm” and keep you wanting to know more. That’s the effect that it’s had on me so far anyway!
The gameplay is harder than I thought it would be! But I got to grips with it pretty fast, at least early on. There’s a lot of room for theorycrafting in this game if you are so inclined! The game uses a combination of passive bonuses from booze (yes booze), weapon choices (two weapons at any one time), “Secret Skills” (special moves), and simple weapon upgrade choices to create quite a sophisticated system allowing for all sorts of playstyles (and potential cheesing!).
In the long-term, I think the variety of combat and the compelling world will keep me playing. And if you do complete the game, there’s a New Game+ mode (yes!!). You almost never see that these days, so that’s a nice touch.
This one is a physics platform puzzler. Trine 2 is undeniably beautiful. It’s visually stimulating to say the least! Lovingly crafted environments with full backdrops and gorgeously saturated colours await you around every corner. I was surprised by how intuitive the early gameplay was as I was expecting things to get very hard very fast, although I did get stuck on a puzzle within the first hour. Some of the physics stuff is very cool, including redirecting water courses to grow ways over obstacles, and even to grow a giant lettuce to feed a giant snail that blocks the path!
The puzzles that you face are cleverly put together, I suspect with many different ways to complete each one. However, the difficulty of these puzzles is quite inconsistent. I found some puzzles almost brainlessly easy, while others have required some consideration, and at times, luck. I’ve accidentally completed a couple of them just by jumping/stumbling at the right moment. This is partly because the physics can be a bit hit and miss, both helping and hindering your progress. Combat can also add an element of uncertainty to proceedings.
Yes, there is combat in this game. It doesn’t feel entirely necessary to me – I’m not sure if it was meant to break up the pacing of the game or something but quite often I found it an unwelcome distraction from the puzzling and platforming. It’s quite hard on default difficulty as well, with only a few direct hits required to kill you. It is nonetheless quite fun once you get used to how it works! Splatting goblins with your warhammer is always enjoyable. I just wish it didn’t interrupt my train of thought!
The story is so-so. The Trine finds you, whisks you away, and the characters assume it’s for the good of mankind. The voice acting is nothing special. The lack of story motivation could be a downer for me in the long-term.
Overall I think this is a pretty solid game, but it does have faults. For the price though it’s a good deal, especially as you can pick up the DLC on the cheap as well. I wouldn’t pay more than £3-4 for it though!
World of Goo
World of Goo is a story about… well, you guessed it, goo. Specifically, the world has a power problem, and these friendly little gooey fellows are the solution. Wind power wasn’t enough, you see. You discover this a couple of hours into the game (so not a massive spoiler) and more of the gooey story unfolds as you play.
You help the goo achieve freedom (or that’s how it appears in the early levels) by building structures with them to bridge gaps and even climb into the sky (though that often doesn’t work out so well). It reminds me of Abe’s Odyssey in a way – there’s definitely a sinister atmosphere that someone wants to mush these guys up and use their remains for nefarious purposes.
This is definitely a MOUSE ONLY game. I haven’t even tried playing with a controller – there’s no point, as it requires pinpoint accuracy to play, particularly when tangoing with the game’s physics.
Now, physics is what World of Goo is all about. You’re forever fighting against gravity and the elements to bring your goos to safety (safety being a suction tube at the end of every level). The physics work well, and are (sometimes annoyingly) realistic. Speaking as someone who isn’t normally into puzzlers, most of the solutions were quite intuitive, but carrying them out could be tricky, mainly due to the physics. Sometimes you end up getting kicked right back to where you began after one silly mistake makes your whole structure wobble to the ground. You may like this, or it may make you want to scream.
Overall I’d say that my experiences with this game thus far have varied between enjoyment and frustration in almost equal amounts. As you progress, more types of goo are unlocked, and the game’s solutions become more abstract, exploring the physics engine’s capabilities more and more. This does make the game more complicated, but when you do eventually crack a level, it feels great… or sometimes, it’s just a relief.
It’s a very engrossing title when you get into it, and easily worth the measly £2 they’re asking for it right now.
I think it’s definitely worth buying these games from the Steam for Linux Celebration Sale, particularly for the prices they’re asking. Even if you don’t enjoy them, provided you get a few hours gameplay out of them you’ve pretty much got your money’s worth. For me, these games wouldn’t be worth their usual prices (barring perhaps Bastion but then I am biased towards RPGs!), so I’m glad that I picked them up now.
Written by Paul Robinson
Edited by Sean Katamay – yes I now have an editor, how fancy is that! Many thanks for your help Sean.