Why you won’t find Minecraft on Steam…

Minecraft?  What’s that?

Some of you may have heard about a little indie game that’s been played, bought, modded, and spread around the internet faster than a swarm of starving locusts.  Of course, that game is Minecraft.  I myself purchased Minecraft (rather smartly I suppose) back when it was still in it’s “Alpha” stage of development.  The game still isn’t quite finished yet, but now that the game is progressing through it’s Beta stages, Minecraft has had a surge of increased interest from the general public and has grown even more in popularity.

Not bad for an indie game.  One that has over 12 million registered users (that’s six zeros after the 12!), of which over 3.2 million have actually purchased the game (more than 3,200,000!).  On an average day, Minecraft sells close to 10 thousand copies (10,000!!).  As I write this information down I wouldn’t be surprised if another 50 people bought the game!  There goes another one…  oh see, and another one!

Just check out this awesome fan made trailer for Minecraft if you don’t have a clue of what I’m talking about!

The creator of Minecraft, Markus Persson (also known as “Notch”), has been working on Minecraft full-time, and even with his success, it doesn’t look as if he’ll be slowing down any time soon.  Yes, now everybody and their mother (in the gaming industry) want a piece of “Notch” and his Minecraft intellectual property.  However, as tempting as any offer might be, Notch has always kept his integrity and hasn’t forgotten where he comes from and how he got here.  I think it’s fair to say that Markus is a pretty rad guy.

One of the big questions that people keep asking though, is why won’t he put Minecraft up on Steam?  It’s obviously the most popular gaming site for digital downloads, with an enormous library and featuring more games than there is time to play them in a single lifespan.  Notch himself loves the digital distribution service, so why not add his game to Steam?  Here’s a little excerpt from his answer on the subject:

At PAX, I got asked why we’re not on Steam with Minecraft, and I had to answer the question straight out for the first time. So I’ll repeat what I said on here, because openess is awesome.

Steam is the best digital distribution platform I’ve ever seen. I’ve spent incredible amounts of money on it, and I own a crazy amount of games on it.

But..

Being on Steam limits a lot of what we’re allowed to do with the game, and how we’re allowed to talk to our users.

Personally, I agree that Steam is the best digital distribution platform (IMHO).  However, I have no problem buying games from an indie developer or their website either, as long as they accept PayPal as a form of payment.  Having access to a digital distribution site (where they keep your billing info so you don’t have to enter it numerous times), makes buying games online a convenient and efficient way to purchase, keep track of, and play your games.  With that said, there are some limitations.  Some of these limitations are pointed out in an honest response at Notch’s Blog.  Be sure to read the full Blog post regarding why Minecraft isn’t up on Steam over here, where Notch posts his Blogs, aptly named “The Word of Notch“.   🙂

Bastion – Game Review

Bastion

developed by Supergiant Games

Games I’ve enjoyed over the years evoke a part of my childhood that I remember most fondly.  Perhaps, it’s because I was fortunate enough to grow up during a time where imagination and “free fun” weren’t quite obsolete.  As I was growing up and started playing more involving story driven games, I was able to immerse myself into them by using my imagination while I was playing.  To me, this is where gaming has always been at its best.  The ability to lose oneself to the story while taking part in the adventure is probably the pinnacle of gaming experiences.  It doesn’t really matter what type of game it is, as long as you feel like you’re becoming completely engrossed in the game.  This connection is how I felt while playing Bastion, a game that reminds me of my youth and everything I love about the adventures in gaming.

The World of Caelondia has been destroyed, splintered and fragmented, leaving remnants of it’s former lands floating listlessly through the sky.  An apocalyptic event known only as The Calamity is the cause of this devestation.  Yet, through all of the destruction, there is still hope.  And, it is with the end that the story begins.  You play the part of the hero known only as The Kid.  The Kid wakes up on one of the floating platforms, confused but sets out with conviction to find out what has happened.  Seemingly alone, The Kid begins his journey for the Bastion, a place where the people of Caelondia would have fled during such a catastrophe.

Bastion is a hack-and-slash Action / RPG at it’s core, but it is also a world rich with character and imagination.  The story alone will draw you in, and on top of being an amazing game there are some elements to Bastion that you simply won’t find in other games.  There’s the narrator for example.  A wise old man who narrates your adventures as they are happening.  Then there’s the way the world of Bastion is shaped as you travel through it.  The ground literally raises up to form new trails and pathways as you set off to explore and restore the Bastion.  Explaining how these elements work in Bastion simply isn’t enough though.  You have to see it in action to truly appreciate how special these mechanics are.

I’ve only played the PC version of Bastion but I can tell you that controlling The Kid is painless and relatively simple.  You have the choice of using a mouse, keyboard, or gamepad.  Each can be customized to your liking.  I found all of the controls to be responsive and intuitive, but as usual my personal preference with this sort of game is the gamepad. Walking, attacking, blocking, dodging, and using special moves or items are very easy to accomplish.  This is important because you’ll be using all of these tricks and tools frequently.  Bastion is your more thoughtful hack-and-slash type game.  Blocking and evading enemy attacks, as well as deciding whether to attack up close or from a distance are key to your success.  Not only will you have to pay attention to your enemies, but also your surroundings.  Falling off the edge of the world will cost you a bit of health.  Thankfully, you aren’t punished very badly when this happens though.

On your quest to rebuild the Bastion you’ll also pick up new weapons, items, and materials which can be used to upgrade your equipment.  Along the way you’ll discover the equivalent of item shops and armories which allow you to exchange your current equipment, upgrade a particular weapon, or simply buy new items.  There’s a level of depth and imagination to each of these gameplay elements making Bastion a very distinct game in the Action / RPG genre.

The graphics in Bastion are extremely good.  A fun game doesn’t have to have great graphics to be fun, but having such slick visual design can only improve the experience in a game this entertaining.  Bastion looks like it was made by a Triple-A multimillion dollar game studio.  The game is played from an isometric point of view, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that there is a tremendous amount of detail in the characters, enemies, and numerous backgrounds throughout the game.  It’s all very sharply drawn, animated, and vibrant.  Even the areas of the game that feel dark or abandoned are colorful and filled with rich detail and atmosphere.

The sound quality is equally amazing.  The music and sound fx do a great job immersing the player into Bastion.  However, the biggest and most brilliant feature in Bastion‘s sound design comes from the Narrator.  His voice alone is unforgettable, and having him tell the story as it’s being played out is no small feat.  It sounds like a simple idea, but it’s never been done before, not with real voiceovers, and not in a way that has the Narrator actually reacting to the players actions.

Conclusion:
Bastion is a journey for all gamers with a healthy imagination and a sense of adventure.  Whether you miss those imaginative games from your youth or you simply want an Action / RPG with a memorable story and gameplay to match, you should definitely pick up Bastion.  The gameplay is accessible but challenging enough to feel rewarding.  It’s an experience that consists of equal parts style and substance, and it should be in every avid gamers library whether they’re young or old.  It would have been impossible to make a game like Bastion all those years ago, during the golden age of gaming. But, everything that made those old games entertaining, significant, and fun, can be found flowing through every facet of Bastion.

Bastion is now available on PC and can be purchased through Steam.  Console owners can pick it up on their Xbox 360 through Xbox Live Arcade.
Buy it for the system of your choice, but be sure not to pass up this gem!

Wonderputt – Browser Based Game Review

Wonderputt

developed by Damp Gnat

Play Wonderputt for free on Kongregate

I remember way back in the day, 1985 to be exact, a mini-putt golf game titled “Mini Golf” was out in arcades.  It was a pretty simple little game by today’s standards but the idea was a fun one.  Play 18 holes of mini-putt golf using only a trackball to gauge the direction and strength of each putt.  Each hole was accompanied by a series of obstacles that increased in difficulty as you progressed.  Mini Golf required lots of practice with the trackball in order to move the golf ball with any precision.  Unfortunately, this would mean spending a lot of money in quarters (twenty-five cents at a time) in order to play individual holes multiple times.

Fast forward to the year 2011, where you can now play probably one of the most fun and  unique Mini-Putt video games I’ve ever seen…  for free and in your web-browser!  Introducing Wonderputt, the single-screen, 18 hole, mini-putt golf game.

Wonderputt is everything a great mini-putt golf game should be.  It’s inventive, easy to play, and most importantly, fun.  Just looking at the entire golf course in the game trailer below.  It’s interesting just to look at, and just when you thought you’d seen all of it, the course evolves and changes right before your very eyes, at each and every hole.

The controls are simple.  Point and click your way through each of the 18 holes.  That doesn’t mean this is a cakewalk.  You’ll have to adjust the strength and direction of your shots in order to compensate for obstacles and changes in terrain surfaces.   The user interface and controls are very intuitive though, allowing you to fine tune your shots with the greatest of ease.

Moving the mouse pointer close to the ball brings up a small arrow on the screen.  This arrow can be adjusted by moving the pointer around the ball, showing which direction the player is putting.  Once you’ve got the direction set, you can move the arrow away from or towards the ball to determine the strength of the putt.  It’s really that simple to control.

Once you’ve played a couple of holes you start getting a feel for how hard you should or shouldn’t putt and become more comfortable banking the ball off of scenery in order to get the ball a little bit closer to the hole.  It still requires some practice but there is absolutely no pressure involved.

Wonderputt is Aesthetically pleasing.  The graphics are very clean, and very sharp.  It’s simply amazing how the developer has contained 18 holes into this wondrous little world.  Because the playing field is somewhat small, it might be difficult at first to clearly see the proper path for reaching some of the holes.  There is a tremendous amount of detail at each hole though, and the animations involved with each section of the course will put a smile on your face, even after you’ve seen each of them half a dozen times.

The sound effects are very well done and the music is very soft, almost soothing to the ears.  Since the course is so animated it’s only reasonable that they sound animated.  Everything from rolling, whirring, kerplunking, moo-ing, and splashing, sounds authentic and real.  The audio compliments the gameplay in all the right ways.

Conclusion:
Wonderputt is a charming little game.  It has tight controls, excellent graphics and great sound.  It’s also lots of fun and extremely addictive.  Finishing the 18 hole course unlocks a slightly new mode and coming back and playing the same 18 holes for a second and third time might even be more fun than the very first time.  If all of this wasn’t enough, Wonderputt is absolutely free to play!  Head over to Kongregate and give it a try as soon as you’re done reading this!

Tidalis On Sale through Steam – 85% off – One Day Only!

Casual gamers and match 3 addicts alike have an opportunity to purchase the block based puzzle game Tidalis, by Arcen Games (developers of AI War Fleet Command and the upcoming A Valley Without Wind) for the low, low, low price of approximately $1.50 US!  That’s 85% off the normal price which is normally $9.99 only on Steam.   For that price I think I’ll pick up a few copies and gift a couple of them to friends.

Tidalis is available for both PC and Mac. Some of the features are:

  • Puzzle game with casual appeal, hardcore depth, and an addictive new mechanic.
  • Two-player co-op and competitive play (both local and networked).
  • A wide selection of both action-oriented or brainteaser-like levels.
  • Casual-friendly adventure mode, hardcore-focused custom games and vs modes.
  • 20+ game styles, and dozens of items and special blocks.
  • Rich, painterly art style and beautiful music.
  • Players can create and share whole new themes, levels, and adventures.
  • Options for colorblind players, players averse to lots of light and motion, and older computers.

Head over to the Tidalis page on Steam for more details.  The sale only lasts for one day so be sure to hurry up!  Just follow this link here.

TRAUMA – Game Review

TRAUMA

developed by Krystian Majewski

TRAUMA Website

“Unique” is a word that I, and numerous other people, use far too often when describing something that might only be slightly different.  While I do believe that anything which doesn’t fall into the category of “Average” or “Common” could fall under the description of being unique, I also believe that every once in a while a unique game is created that seems familiar yet gives a different kind of feeling or experience than any other games it shares similarities with. TRAUMA is very much one of those types of games that sits comfortably next to the word “unique”.  It has gameplay that is somewhat familiar, but definitely feels original and distinct.

The narrative is told through the story of a young woman who has survived a car crash.  It is through her dreams, while being hospitalized, that the player follows a somewhat surreal journey of the character’s exploration of her subconscious.  I could give more of the story away, but I would prefer to encourage gamers to explore the plot, environments, and gameplay for themselves.  It would spoil the experience by giving away too much.  With that said, you may have played games like Myst or other first person point-and-click adventure games like it, but I’m almost certain that you haven’t played one quite like TRAUMA.

Where those other games tend to more heavily rely on elements of puzzle and problem solving, TRAUMA focuses more on giving the player a visual and audio experience.  Although it plays similarly, though less conventionally, than those other First Person point-and-click adventure games, it does feel more extraordinary and special in it’s own unique way.  The game might not be an experience that every type of gamer can appreciate, but it is a compelling experience with innovative ideas and gameplay.  The game mechanics, for example, definitely resemble that of other adventure games but there are also aspects that make the game feel like a Hidden Object Game.

The game is basically broken down into 4 chapters, or dream sequences, and these are usually accompanied by a prologue or an epilogue.  The controls are relatively simple.  Movement and exploration throughout these scenes are handled by pointing and clicking on highlighted areas and directions.  Sometimes objectives can seem obvious at first, but often a dream sequence will require a bit of exploration and discovery.  Early on, players will learn how to use some of the unique mechanics needed to manipulate their surroundings in order to progress.  It’s not a very difficult game, but what might often seem obvious ends up requiring closer observation.

The game uses photographic visuals that are extremely detailed.  Between dream sequences, the prologues and epilogues mentioned earlier, use short FMV cutscenes to bookend each chapter, exploring the story and situation more deeply.  The visuals are excellent, while the the graphics are crisp, rich and of a high quality. The environments within each dream are, I believe, intentionally haunting and lonely.  These elements are impressive and they combine to make an atmospheric and engrossing setting.

Similar to the graphics, the audio is also rich, but somewhat haunting.  The effect isn’t meant to scare gamers away, but rather to give the sense of being lost and alone.  It’s all very effective and it enhances the way the story plays out and the game feels.

Conclusion:
TRAUMA is a game for mature, thoughtful gamers.  It’s not an M-Rated game, nor is it meant to be played only by adults.  It’s a mature game because the gameplay is thought provoking and engaging.  The provocative story leads to questions about life, death, love, and loss.  It’s not a fast-paced game, but it’s not meant to be.  The plot, settings, and environments are something that are meant to be explored, taken in, and experienced.  I mentioned it earlier, but this is one of those games that truly is unique in it’s own special way.  It will definitely have it’s appeal among adventure game fans but it may even appeal to gamers who enjoy change and trying something new.  There are hidden endings among each of the 4 dream sequences, and a few hidden bonuses which gives players reason to return and explore.

TRAUMA is available for PC, Mac, and Linux and it can also be played online in your web browser via the games website for free!  I would recommend however, that if you appreciate the narrative experience that you buy the full high quality downloadable version.  Even if this doesn’t sound like your type of game I would recommend taking the time to try an indie game that explores human emotion in a unique and subtle way.  You can support the developer by purchasing the full downloadable version of TRAUMA through the homepage located hereTRAUMA is also available for the low price of $6.99 on Steam.

 

Celestial Mechanica – Review

Celestial Mechanica

developed by Roger Hicks and Paul Veer

Celestial Mechanica website

Fans of oldschool games such as Metroid, or the retro indie game Cave Story, have a new game to make them happy.  Celestial Mechanica is one of the latest Action / Puzzle / Platformers by indie developers Roger Hicks and Paul Veer.  It’s a classicly styled game that plays like a Metroidvania and is reminiscent of the action games I adored, way back during the mid 80’s to early 90’s on my NES, SNES, and Sega Genesis.

The gameplay is simple and straight forward.  Unfortunately, some people have the bad habit of mistaking simple with “easy”.  Celestial Mechanica is simple, but it is not easy.  The levels are strewn with environmental hazards and enemies.  Each area of the game is a labyrinth of obstacles and puzzles.  Thankfully, there are various power-ups scattered throughout the levels granting our silent protagonist new abilities necessary for overcoming these obstacles.

Though the game is difficult, the difficulty is balanced by complimenting the gameplay with tight controls and giving the player an unlimited amount of lives.  When you die, you never respawn very far from where you entered the area that you are in.  It’s because of this balance that Celestial Mechanica is never too frustrating.  Exploration and discovery, coupled with the tight controls, make the gameplay satisfying, rewarding, and fun.

Celestial Mechanica looks and sounds great.  It’s definitely got a retro vibe about it.  The character sprites are detailed and well animated while the levels and backgrounds are varied and colourful.  It looks like the type of game you would find among the best of the NES and SNES library.  The audio is fantastic as well.  The soundtrack is very fitting and definitely worth listening to by itself.  In fact, if you’re a fan of the music you can buy the full soundtrack from the Celestial Mechanica website.  If that wasn’t enough, you can sample the individual audio tracks and purchase each one separately.

Conclusion:
Celestial Mechanica is an extremely enjoyable experience.  The journey isn’t a very long one, but the adventure is lot of fun while it lasts. You don’t have to be a fan of classic style NES, SNES, or Sega Genesis games to appreciate this title.  If you’re an action / puzzle fan that likes platforming adventures then you should definitely pick this charming little title up.  You can purchase the full game for the low price of $5.00.  It’s well worth the investment and you’d be doing yourself a favor by picking it up rather than spending that amount on a couple cups of coffee or junk food.

You can buy the game for the PC or Mac from the Celestial Mechanica website.  Be sure to check out the soundtrack while you’re at it!