Thursday, September 20, 2012

Back From Vacation: Blog News, Future Topics,and Some Nifty Kickstarter/Greenlight games to Keep your Eyes On

Internet! I'm back from my vacation! It was great, I went to all these exciting places and met new people and had a life! The Dardenelles, mountains of Peru, all that shit! It was...haaaah, no. I mostly just spent the last week going to class, playing games and reading. Mostly reading. My combined workload has me reading the equivalent of about 3/4 of a paperback novel per week which really isn't too bad all things considered but I absolutely have to stay on top of that, especially with paper season right on my doorstep. Remember that big pile of books I showed you that one time? Turns out it was a few books (late additions plus downloaded readings) short. 

A degree in Graphic Design probably would have had less reading and been slightly more lucrative but I kinda like the way I do things now. It has a certain charm to it.
Curiously, for me, This does not count as a negative. It's kind of a "More Cake!" moment, if you will. Plus I get to read Beowulf now! This accidentally fits right in to my Old English obsession. Providence!

So let's talk about the blog itself for a moment, Internet because the other thing I did over the week was consider my position on where this particular piece of raw internet ore is smelting. That metaphor did not work. MOVING ON!

On a trial basis, I've decided to nix the whole voting thing every week. Part of the whole reason this blog is called "Under Review" is I promised myself I'd stay relevant by evaluating and reevaluating what does and doesn't work and I just don't have enough interested readers to make this a reader-directed blog. I may one day bring it back when that changes or it may come back in a muted or altered fashion but for now, no polls. That being said, I AM still entirely open to topic suggestions (as this week exemplifies) because hey; the readers will read what they want to read and that's a pretty clear indication of what people want to read. 

If, for whatever reason, you actually missed the polls, there's one last poll up there where you can tell me about it. Alternatively, you can send me an peeved email. I will say, however, that unless a dozen or so people start weeping and gnashing their teeth, I don't see it coming back any time soon. Considering my weekly page views, I think this decision isn't in too much danger of being overturned.

So what does this change mean for the blog, exactly, besides simply no polls? Well it means I'll be able to prepare posts in advance for one and, if my schedule permits it, I may even be able to post interesting things more often because of it, likely in a shorter format because even I'll admit that reading one of my super posts multiple times a week will probably get preeeeetty tiring. 

It also means I'll be able to specialize more, both in and out of my personal expertise. More foreknowlege means more time to research, prepare, and organize. I can start doing honest-to-goodness series' of posts covering more content over several installations, which will also lend to the "Shorter Post" idea. 

Another change coming to Under Review, something you may have noticed if you checked out the header, is we're now updating on Thursdays instead of Wednesdays. Originally, I had chosen Wednesday somewhat arbitrarily as it was the middle of the week when everyone's in the thick of whatever's bugging them from Monday through Friday. As it is though, some of my heaviest reading has to happen on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday (when I write these things) so it just wasn't working out. Thursday is a much better day anyways. It starts with a T which is, all around a superior letter. And besides, if Thursday doesn't work out I will gladly write you tomorrow for a post that was due today.

It feels good to be making obscure references on the internet again, you know? Like coming home.
Okay, I think that's all the news for today. TOPIC TIME!

Kicking Greenlights: Some Crowdsourced Games to Keep your Eye On

I probably could have put more work into that title.

So you know what I wasn't doing when I was preoccupied sleeping, schooling, reading, or working? Playin' Games. Due to the recent CLIO Near-Death-Experience I had to wipe one of my hard drives, the one with all the games on it, so I've been having somewhat of an adventure of rediscovery in my own Steam library. I came up with a new build for Dungeons of Dredmor, finally figured out a way pas the first monster in Lone Survivor, and discovered a way to play Dust Force without raging myself into oblivion. All-in-all, a productive week, I think.

Another thing I did was check out Greenlight on Steam and Kickstarter, two things I've been avoiding simply because I can't afford to do things like "buy more games" at this junction. Still, I did, and I even managed to avoid buying anything (no small victory) except for that one thing I bought but we won't talk about that. It never happened.

Definitely don't look at the new games in my Steam library. DON'T LOOK.
So at anonymous reader behest and also because I found some pretty nifty stuff, here's some Greenlight/Kickstarter games worth checking out, backing/thumb-upping, and keeping your eye on.

Dusty Revenge-Greenlight(GL)

Do you like beat'emups? Do you like sidescrolling, jumping, shooting, puzzle-solving, revenge-taking action? Most importantly; do you like bunny rabbits? If so, then check out Dusty Revenge, the game I can't help but mentally add an 's to. Specifically you play as Dusty (seriously, was a possessive tense too much to ask for?) the long-long-eared rabbit who's wife/girlfriend/spouse has been murdered by a collection of bad guys who you will systematically track down and murder in ascending order of importance until you finally get to their boss because doing things the other way 'round just never made much sense to grieving action heros. 

Okay, so story-wise it's not exactly breaking new ground but I'm actually legitimately excited for this one; it seems to be one of the better-polished games currently on Greenlight and it also appears to draw heavy visual and mechanical inspiration from Shank which, I mean, if you're going to draw from other games, that is not a bad choice at all. The support-character mechanic, wherin you can call on allies via powerups to snipe, mortar, or otherwise kill enemies seems like a pretty interesting system and story retread aside, Dusty Revenge does seem to be doing enough to bring it into its own.


Homestuck is an interesting beast to be sure. It's a semi-animated web comic which parody's video games, most commonly adventure games but that alone doesn't do it justice. The big draw is that the story is hugely user-directed, the readers submitting commands for the various protagonists with every new page. Essentially, it's a story the Internet, collectively, co-wrote and it's actually pretty good. If that, in and of itself, doesn't amaze you, then nothing does and your life is without the joy of the fantastic. It's probably a safe bet that you can die now without missing anything too important.

That's not what the kickstarter's about though; the comic's already three years in and well-established. What we're looking at here is a game designed by the writer, artist, and general storyscribe, MS Paint Adventures within the Homestuck universe, possibly parallel to the main stories told in the comic. It's looking to be an adventure game, so basically what MSPA's been doing for the last three years in long-form and it's also going to start production in 2013, after the storyline for Homestuck ends, meaning the actual product won't be coming out 'till sometime in 2014 so it's a bit of a long-term investment but hey; it's nothing if not novel and if the quality of the comic thus far is any indication, I really don't think this would be money ill-spent if you have any love of adventure games.


If you feel like the fear of dank, Prussian castles and spooky woods brought on by Amnesia and Slender respectively just isn't cutting it for you, then why not try bringing the horror and latent paranoia a bit closer to home with Intruder? Now, I will openly admit that when it comes to horror games, I am a total weenie; I still haven't, and will likely never, finished Amnesia and Silent Hill 2 is still calling to me from my living room, largely unplayed. To be entirely honest, I probably won't play this game either, even if I do end up buying it, if only because it looks like it's going to do its job so damn well.

The core mechanic is one I actually have never seen in a horror game or even a game at all. You are in your home, in your neighborhood, and something is coming for you. Something dark and mean and none too happy that you still exist, as a person. You have the tools to fight it off but due to unforeseen circumstances, perhaps an over-excited housekeeper, you do not know where any of these tools are within or without your house. Where the items are hidden changes randomly between playthroughs and there's even talk of mod support so you can model, texture, and install your own home and neighborhood into the game in case you don't feel constantly threatened enough in your bedroom. At night. Alone. With all the lights turned out.

This is unrelated to the quality of the game, but I'd just like to point out how much personal willpower it took to refrain from a "in tru de window" joke. You're welcome.


If there's one thing that stuck out to you about this game during that video, it was that this was an educational ga--WAIT NO, DON'T LEAVE!

Give this one a chance; the fault of most (okay, nearly all) edutainment games is that they just sort of ham-fist some education into what casually passes as a "Game" and call it done. I've seen this done numerous times, I was exposed to it numerous times as a kid with...spotty results. Something about EverSpire looks different though; it seems to be a real game which also wants to teach people. I hear phrases like "Dig deep into the lore of EverSpire" and "Four distinct classes with advanced skill trees" and I think game. This game may not be the next world-wide sensation, but it's clear to me that they're trying very hard, and in several of the right ways, to make education through games more viable, reliable, and overall just more fun. Even if it's not wholly successful, I'd love to see this game happen just so all the other educational games out there have a higher bar to shoot for than, say, Jump Start 8th grade. As someone who might have kids one day, I'd love there to be a good, solid bridge like this between simple kids games and the kind of high-concept stuff I mostly deal with now; something that is both engaging to play and teaches at the same time. 

I realize that at this point I'm championing a cause more than the actual game itself but at this point, even a moderately successful game like this would be nothing short of groundbreaking.

Tom's Pick of the List

The Stanley Parable, in its original form, is one of my absolute favorite things in the history of ever. I mean it; we're talking Iron Giant levels of love, here. It's relatively tiny; playable in one run in the space of about five to ten minutes but you don't want to play it once. That's missing the point. The Stanley Parable is an exploration into player choice and that's really all I want to say about it for fear of spoiling something that so desperately needs to be discovered individually. It started out as a Source Mod which you can download (for free) right here and install and play if you have Steam (also free). This game does amazing things with your mind. It's free, it's short, the narrator sounds vaguely like Stephen Fry, and you should play it. I'm not even going to qualify that with "If you like games" or "If you have any interest in storytelling" just go play it. If you already have steam downloaded then you have even less of an excuse and you already didn't have one to begin with.

What we're looking at here is a remade and likely expanded version of the original with better graphics and probably more ways to mess with your mind. One of the things I love about The Stanley Parable is that it so cleverly manipulates not only storytelling by itself but storytelling specifically within the medium of video games and quite frankly this is a game I would sell my body on the street to own. The original was that good. It barely had any of its own art assets and it was still that good.


Tabletop roleplaying games are a ton of fun. Get a group of friends together, write some numbers down on a piece of paper, and collectively use your imaginations to have the most awesome (or awesomely lame, depending on your DM) adventures of your lives. Fun as it is, it's got some significant drawbacks to it; most pointedly that they can take a long time to play. There's a local game shop near my house that, on D&D nights, 'closes' at 2 but doesn't turn the lights off until as late as 6AM. Even short-form versions of these games can be a major time sink and Conclave wants to fix that by offering asynchronous play so the entire party can have their adventure on their own time, a thing I'm actually kind of surprised no one's done sooner, all things considered.

It's worth noting that the devs have put significant personal effort and capital into the project already; they've created an entire fantasy world with built-in quests from the ground up with it's own unique meta story, races, and game systems--no mean feat for tabletops, even digital ones. 

Also worth noting is that the kickstarter closes in 60 hours! Yikes! If you go to the site,, it appears that the game will be releasing even if they don't meet their mark as they've already got an open beta up with a pretty-complete-if-slightly-rough game already posted so really, what this kickstarter's looking for is to make it better rather than make it at all.

Best Value of the List

Every once in a while there's a thing that happens that's just pure good all around where everyone wins, only good stuff happens, and no one feels like they got shafted. The Humble Bundle is one of those things. Fortuitously, one is happening this week. YAY!

So what is it? Well, if you didn't want the video like a lazy ass, then it's an occasional deal that happens wherin the Humble Bundle crew gets together five or six games to offer up at whatever price between one and one-finity dollars, as you see fit. If you pay above the average (less than six dollars as of the time of this writing) then you usually get a bonus game, Dustforce in this case. In addition to getting six games for about a tenth of their collective price(or five for much less than that), a customizable portion of your payment goes to either the devs (who you can in turn, divy the cash between), two game-related charities, and the Humble Tip which keeps the site and the Humble Crew going. 

Did I mention the goodies? It normally comes with goodies like extra (often very good) soundtracks. Really, they've been doing this long enough that the Humble Bundle is just about the best value game bundle in the history of ever, even better than the ridiculously well-valued Orange Box.  I've played all but one of the games so far and of those five, I can attest to their quality. Each one is different but in their own way, they're all pretty good at what they do, especially the bonus game, Dustforce which is the single smoothest keyboard-based platformer I have ever played.

 Rochard is a gravity-based puzzle-platformer made in the Unity engine and while the animation is a bit dodgy at times, the gameplay is all there and likes to keep things nice and fresh with regular introduciton of new mechanics.

 Torchlight is probably the highest-profile game on the list; a fully-featured Diablo-style dungeon crawler with a Tripple-A sequel coming down the pipes later this month. As dungeon-crawlers go it's not a terribly long game but it's certainly well-designed enough to sate your loot fix. 

Space Pirates and Zombies, aside from having one of the most nonsensical names I've ever seen, is a surprisingly deep 2D space sim in which you not only pilot your own ship but build, customize, and command a fleet of fighters, frigates, and miner ships to do your bidding. I haven't sunk my teeth too deep into it yet but nothing about it has disappointed me.

Vessel is the one game I haven't gotten to play yet but it certainly looks good and has had some positive response. It centers around a scientist who found a way to make sentient water golems for cheap labour and accidentally ended the world as a result. There seems to be a lot of interesting mechanics surrounding fluids and minions so I'm very interested to get a moment and play with some of the concepts. 

I should also bring up that Humble Bundle likes to add games after-the-fact, so an early purchase now could net you more games than you bargained for as a complete bonus!

Pay what you want
DRM Free
Helps Charity.

Thank you, Goodnight.

I am told that 100% of my readership loves Donatello above all Ninja Turtles. Under Review is now a 100% Donatello-appreciation zone. Aren't percentages fun?


  1. As for the poll, I hardly voted because I usually read on google reader for android. It doesn't support polls. (It also doesn't support the click to read the whole post feature, so I sometimes don't click through.) I'm also not sure if google reader told you I was reading, so make sure to count that in the stats.

  2. Yeah, whenever I check my the blog stats, I scroll all the way down and switch to the full version. I kinda wish the mobile version didn't suck so hard...Might look into changing that some day.