Welcome back to Unknown Pleasures, our weekly digest of our favourite new games released on Steam over the past few days that we’ve not already covered in detail.
This week, John and Adam take the reigns and bring you destructive but lovable robots, golf gone wrong and a bloody good pub.
I’m so head over heels in love with this. If Grow Home’s little robot grew up, but became no less gorgeously naive, then stumbled about on little round planets just trying to help, you’d get to Jettomero. He’s an enormous red robot who’s no idea who he is, finding himself staggering about on teeny planets, desperately trying not to tread on buildings and fighting off evil robot enemies. It’s Exploding Dog The Video Game.
When you defeat enemy robots, which a bit unfortunately is a DDR pattern repeat minigame (I’ll never remember the order of the buttons on an Xbox controller when my Switch has them in a different arrangement), you get a much better code breaking minigame to unlock the game’s story. But the bulk of it is wobbling your ungainly bot around procedurally generated spheres, then blasting off into space and zooming to the next planet along, and it’s enormously gratifying to do so. Ludicrously beautiful, too, with an amazingly scrappy design that just explodes with life. (And it knows it’s pretty, with an in-built photo mode to pose and filter gorgeous shots.) -John
If you want to know where the nearest quests are, there’s only one person to ask: the local innkeeper. For as long as I can remember, rumours about the evils brewing at the periphery of any given settlement have always been found at the bottom of a tankard. Sprinkle a few coins around any fantasy tavern and some weathered warrior is going to start mumbling about that one goblin he saw doing a wee into the village well. What kind of hero would you be if you happened to overhear reports of that kind of naughtiness and didn’t immediately track down and kill every goblin in a four mile radius?
What if you never had to leave the bar, or your favourite table tucked in the corner where the rangers like to hang out? That’s the idea behind Epic Tavern. Sort of. It’s a management game in which you run a tavern in a traditional Dungeons and Dragons sort of land. It’s not quite the sequel to Majesty I’m holding out for, but it has some things in common with that kingdom management game and its passive questing. You select patrons, send them on quests, and then watch as dice rolls determine their fate. They bring loot back, share some of it with you, and you expand the tavern. Repeat forever. It’s in Early Access and a little barebones at the moment, but definitely one to keep an eye on if you like the idea of adventuring but would rather observe all of that spooky action from a distance. -Adam
More fantasy adventuring, but this time you’re going to have to get your hands dirty. Think ash, think soot, think dragonblood. The set up is daft – you lose a golf ball down a hole and climb down to retrieve it and find yourself in yer typical orcs and kobolds dungeon – but squint past that and the lack of visual flourishes, and you’ll find a lovely little roguelike. It’s not entirely new, but it is new to Steam.
What you have here is a realtime roguelike, which is a combination of words I normally find off-putting seeing as I prefer my dungeon-crawls to be turn-based, but like the wonderful Unexplored it manages to pack in lots of odd pleasures in the chaos of its combat. I’m not sure if I’ll go back to it often but it does have something of Spelunky’s enjoyable chain reactions of action and consequence, and that’s reason enough to give the demo a shot at the very least. -Adam
It’s a game about going for a lovely walk in the woods where nothing bad ever happens and you are definitely not being hunted. Where does the pain come into it all, you’re asking? Ever stubbed your toe while striding across an uneven field or turned your ankle while rambling in particularly thick gorse? The walking life can be painful, it’s true, even when it’s not the dead that are doing the walking. But The Land of Pain is a gentle place and in the hour I spent with the game I absolutely did not see anything that could be considered Lovecraftian or, more generally speaking, troubling or a bit off.
I’m lying, of course, but the scares here are more subtle than in 90% of the horror games I flick through on Steam. The Land of Pain is no Slender-like, with nothing but rustling leaves and jumpscares, and while I’m not convinced it’ll pack a punch right through to the ending, it’s a beautiful game that’s quite pleasant to spend time with. Until everything goes horrible and then it’s pleasant in an entirely different way; the pleasure of a cold shiver down the spine.
A witch has put a curse on you, such that if you don’t recover her mysterious stolen urn by 4am tomorrow morning, you’ll be engulfed into darkness. Sorry about that. By coincidence, that’s also the plot of The Witch’s Isle, an outrageously beautifully drawn pixel adventure game, formerly on telephones and now on PC. Set on a peculiar island, where no one can leave and all who arrive lose their memories, it seems all are living in fear of the witch. As you wander about the streets, knocking on doors, and chatting to people and animals, you hear stories and anecdotes from the many residents, and try to piece together the larger puzzle of the story.
You can leave your protagonist and follow other island residents going about their days, to further explore the mysteries, trying to work out exactly what’s taking place on this island, all the while trying to discover the urn so your curse isn’t realised in the wee hours tomorrow. And the result is spellbinding, as you hear snippets from people, the game proudly telling you about each person (but not their names, the witch has stolen everyone’s names), and piece together the narrative. The animations are breathtaking, such delicate pixel art, so superbly realised, and goodness gracious, the transitions as you change street on the island are mesmerising. What an extraordinary little game. -John