Unknown Pleasures: our five fave new Steam games

best-new-games-team

Welcome back to Unknown Pleasures, our weekly sift for lost gold amidst the fast-flowing waters of new Steam releases.

This week: typography shmups, comically exaggerated inventories, abstract jigsaws and CGA grindhouse shooters.

Text Wormhole

($0.99/£0.79)

A visually striking, typography-based bullet hell shmup. The stark minimalism of a swarm of letters against a pure white or black background gives it an ambience usually lacking from the noise of your average shmup, the downside being that the shifting clouds of characters are so mesmerising that you’ll get yourself killed watching ’em.

However, this is not simply a shmup with letters instead of bullets: you can’t fire, but instead have to deliberately ram yourself into whatever letter currently matches your own character. I.e. you start as an A so have to find an A, at which point you transform into a B and need to find a B… Far, far easier said than done: even spotting the right letter amidst the swarm is a feat of observation, while actually reaching it without colliding with anything else and thus losing all your alpha-progress can be a true battle.

It’s pretty great, actually. Beautiful and dangerous, like a Burmese cat with its paw stuck in the door.

Wanderlust

(£5.79/$7.99)

This could have been majestic if it didn’t suffer from quite such a chronic case of invisible wall syndrome. As it is, this walking simulator with the most walking simulator name ever is merely Exceedingly Pleasant. A parade of short vignettes in amazing places, each with their own broadly great soundtrack to set the mood. You walk onwards and, outside of a few fairly straightforward foresty sections, soon encounter some magnificent and surprising sight, then it’s on to the next stage. That’s it: that is all it needs. It is very pretty and sounds very lovely, and I feel better about everything when I play it. Until I hit another invisible wall and have to grind my way along its indiscernible barrier until I find the right path, anyway.

Midnight Ultra

(£2.99/$3.33)

This is, if you’ll pardon my Esperanto, so fucking cool. A gorgeous FPS that blurs a Hotline Miami palette with a grindhouse art style, a Quake-in-CGA aesthetic and a general vibe of lucid divebar nightmare, this was one that made me sit up and pay attention from the very first frame. Looks great, sounds great and, after feeling initially disappointed by the gunfeel, it also cruises into a slippy-slidy, double-jumpy form of combat that feels simultaneously surreal and brutal. The enemies are nasty in all the right ways, the weapons are straight out of some forgotten b-movie and the music sounds like that nightmare sex room out the back of the Roadhouse bar in Twin Peaks.

Cod-retro aesthetics are in severe danger of overuse right now, but jeez, this totally owns it, mutates it, then throws it out at you with an infinitely cocksure sneer. Yeah, the combat might be a bit sloppy, but I sure as shit don’t give a shit about that. Genuinely, this feels both like a lost early 90s treasure and a real 2017 original. MIDNIGHT ULTRA.

AuroraBound Deluxe

(£4.99/$4.99)

It’s the end of the week, which means it’s the part of the week in which we run our weekly Unknown Pleasures weekly feature, in which every week we choose our Minimalist Puzzle Game Of The Week, and this week is no exception to all those other weeks. This week, our weekly Minimalist Puzzle Game Of The Week in this week, the 44th week of 2017 (during which there are 52 weeks in total – only eight weeks remain!) is this coloruful but ambient jigsaw affair – or, at least, that’s what I’ve picked this week.

What perhaps sounds overly simple on paper – place and rotate puzzle pieces to complete a pretty, abstract picture – is both appropriately mesmeric and more brain-intensive than it appears in practice. I guess you’ll understand from the video above whether it’s for you or not, but I can attest to the fact that it’s both engaging and calming. I particularly like the gentle gimmick that, whenever you complete a set of levels, you then have to rotate and combine the images that resulted from each into one larger image before you can progress to the next tier.

And yes, it has plinky-plonky music. Pretty much mandatory for MPOTW. It is, however, far too expensive (in terms of what the competition are doing, rather than ‘value’ per say), and I hope the devs see sense and slash it to under two bucks very soon.

I Am Overburdened

(£3.99/$4.99)

Perfectly pleasant roguelike; I’m aware I’m damning with faint praise somewhat there, but sometimes a low-maintenance game like this is all you really want. Mostly mindless dungeoneering but with just enough requirement to actually pay attention that you don’t feel like you’re simply burning time, this is a tongue-in-cheek take on loot acquisition-based permadeath RPGs. Your character boasts a frankly silly number of inventory slots, plus a raft of attributes that verge on the meaningless, and as such the fun is collecting new gear as you roam around fighting things, and marvelling/puzzling over the wide array of buffs and debuffs each applies to you.

The only skill element really revolves around learning enemy types and devising a safer route to the exit if you’re running low on health. You can almost but not quite play it on autopilot – and again, sometimes that’s exactly what I want. It does it charmingly and slickly enough that this itch is perfectly well-scratched.

Pick of the week this week is… well, lest it weren’t entirely obvious, I’m pretty damned starry-eyed about neon nightmare shooter Midnight Ultra. It’s discounted to under two quid until Nov 7: that’ll barely buy you half a pint of large these days, so you have NO EXCUSE.

12 Comments

  1. Shazbut says:

    I can’t imagine playing Midnight Ultra and coming away feeling anything other than shit. My favourite games these days are the ones that impact my senses the least, whereas with Alec it seems the opposite is the case (Thumper, Hotline Miami, VR etc.) Interesting how tastes differ

  2. DasBilligeAlien says:

    I think I would like if Itch.io links or something would be provided too. Chances are more money reaches devs that way.

    Though i only found:
    link to elknightstudio.itch.io
    link to forwardinstinct.itch.io
    link to spidi.itch.io

  3. Premium User Badge

    particlese says:

    Cool! I’ll give Midnight Ultra and possibly AuroraBound a try, I reckon. The rest seem not-my-bag at the moment for various reasons…mostly the trailer musics, if I’m honest, but other stuff, too.

    Thanks for continuing to create these articles.

  4. Zallgrin says:

    Thank you for Midnight Ultra and Wanderlust! Those are very intriguing games

  5. April March says:

    *watches Midnight Ultra trailer*
    *calls shadowy government lab*
    “Yes… you were right. It finally happened. Someone made something that manages to be extremely eighties and extremely nineties, at the same time.”

  6. cpt_freakout says:

    Midnight Ultra sounds like the witch house of videogames. SIGN ME UP

  7. bon_got_ron says:

    Small, but ‘important’ correction:
    The nightmare sex room from Twin Peaks was actually in Canada, not at the back of the Roadhouse. In all fairness though, the part where they got there was cut out of Fire Walk With Me and only in The Missing Pieces.

    • malkav11 says:

      That was one of my favorite things about that movie. Just title card “Canada” and bwaaah, hellish sex room nightmare. Just Canada for you, right?

  8. and its man says:

    One hour and a half in Midnight Ultra. Just got through the windmills.
    Yep, everything feels a little stiff but it didn’t bother me that much. Feels raw but it’s consistent, so it can easily be seen as just a mechanic to deal with. I got used to it and I’m enjoying the game.

    I wish I could take a look at the video interludes without the superimposed texts. The audiovisual coating of the game is really nice. With its psychedelia and apocalyptic-italo-western soundtrack, it’s kind of a friend for Mason Lindroth’s Hylics.

Comment on this story

XHTML: Allowed code: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>