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Unknown Pleasures: this week's best new Steam releases

5 hidden gems

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Welcome back to Unknown Pleasures, our weekly round-up of five ace new Steam games you almost certainly missed.

This week: space-noir fisticuffs with a dog, wingsuit wonderama, deadly dungeons and one-stab-and-dead fighting games.

One Strike

$4.99/$3.99

Balletic feudal Japanese fighting game, whose name derives from the fact that the first character to get hit by the other’s sword, chain, polearm or whatever dies instantly. With each match lasting just a handful of seconds, it’s equal parts guessing game – i.e. when is the other character going to lunge – and one of strict timing mastery. The death moves, a silent collapse from standing, put me in mind of the Lucy Liu battle in Kill Bill, though I suspect that was lifted from some Kurosawa film.

It’s tight, it’s tense, it’s highly exhilarating to score a victory with a minimum of moves made and, that perennial favourite of mine, it’s a single idea realised with great aplomb. The pixel art is characterful and distinctive rather than slavishly retro, too.

Superflight

$2.99/£2.99

There are weeks when this feature is five perfectly good videogames. Then there are weeks when this feature has something like Superflight in it, and I run around the room feeling delighted.

This is a wingsuit flight simulator by way of Minecraft, but the latter only in as much as it has cuboid, procedurally-generated worlds, here arranged into towering towers and breathtakingly tight passageways, and it’s pretty darn gorgeous. But the look is nothing compared to the flight: wonderful, swooping, analogue motion, by turns hurtling landwards, soaring skywards and threading yourself perilously through the eye of rocky needles.

Points are accrued for successfully pulling off dangerous stunts, but, lest this sound complicated, not a bit of it: all you do is move, using a combination of accuracy, reflex and judicious use of the wind to avoid collisions and stay aloft. All of this simply flows from playing, rather than requireing anything fiddly, and the constant reward is dramatic movements and the sound of the wind in your ears. What a magnificent little thing this is.

The Scrungeon Depths

$7.99/£5.79

Roguelite/ARPG hybrid that’s simultaneously grim’n’ moody and tongue-in-cheek. Nothing especially revelatory here, but it’s got a touch of the Nuclear Thrones to it, albeit one that is strictly stabby, and dragged back slightly to older roguelike values. There’s a little more emphasis on improving gear, even if the comedy item names might suggest otherwise, but mostly it’s about managing hordes of enemies and seeing how far down you can make it, while a pleasantly dour soundtrack plays.

Levels are procgen, enemy numbers quickly get silly and it goes on forever, so file in the “half an hour of not-quite-mindless violence whenever I need it” bracket.

Bars and Balance

$1.99/£1.59

This week, our Minimalist Puzzle Game of the week in this, the 48th week of 2017 is this Jengalike affair. I’ll say up-front that there’s a little bit of achievement skeeziness going on – i.e. you get one for each of the very short levels – but I think the game underneath is reasonably heartfelt. In each level, you have to remove just a handful of bars that you think will not prevent the overall, abstract structure from collapsing once you hit ‘launch.’ It’s half about trying to second-guess the physics of all these asymmetrical towers and half trial-and-error guesswork, but it is immensely satisfying to see something you’ve removed apparently load-bearing beams from hold its shape as the remainders slam into place. The pastel-hued architect’s model aesthetic is most pleasant too. Minimalist Puzzle Game of the week will return next week.

Punch Planet

$19.99/£15.49 (Early Access)

Combo-heavy, modern Street Fighter-style fighting game – n.b. it’s early access for now, which means it currently only has four of its eight planned characters and no singleplayer mode bar a training room, though a story campaign is due. It’s fairly technical so it won’t be for everyone, but the SF crowd seem quite taken with it. For me, the big draw is that it looks and sounds bloody gorgeous, opting for an exaggerated space noir vibe with a splash of 80swave colour to it. Very striking, with some great animations too. It’s great to see something this accomplished arrive from somewhere other than the usual fighting game farms.

However, I will say that I wasn’t quite sure what to make of its two women characters; on the one hand they’re both supercool badasses who play against the usual bikini waif/schoolgirl/stilettos’n’stockings fighting game type, but on the other both are braless, so there’s a whole lot of peanut-smuggling and exaggerated jiggling going on. Neither the male fighter nor the dog fighter who round out the current roster have visible nips, that’s all I’m saying. I demand to see dog nipples.

That aside, bit of a breath of fresh air as fighting games go, this one. The price is, alas, suicidal, at least in its current half-state.

Pick of the week this week is… C’mon, this one’s easy. Superflight is an absolute treat for the senses. That makes two in a row, after last week’s Midnight Ultra, that I feel real good about.

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Alec Meer

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Co-founder of RPS. Dungeon Keeper & X-COM 4 Life.

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