Unknown Pleasures: five of the best new Steam games this week

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Welcome back to Unknown Pleasures, a weekly column wherein I recommended five new Steam games released during the past seven days, and which you probably haven’t heard of already.

This week: what-if GTA, mental health Metroidvanias and Neverending Story dragonflight simulators.

External Visions

$3.99/£3.49

Another entry in Unknown Pleasure’s bulging “terrible writing, good game” filing cabinet. External Visions is a mostly slick, SNES-styled Metroidvania whose conceit is that it’s some guy’s stress/misery-induced breakdown, with levels and bosses manifesting as a monster’n’spike-filled take on his unhappy workplace and, er, The Evil Woman who wants him to be someone else. It could do with a lighter touch on all that stuff, and a proper translation. However, it’s a complex and inventive take on the whole explore’o’jump-em’up formula, with chatty NPCs, shops, weapons that build new platforms or rain hellfire across the whole screen, and all sorts.

Nicely put together, with some neat, Delphine-esque art, making it a shame that the iffy storytelling harms the atmosphere.

Uurnog Uurnlimited

$14.99/£10.99

The latest from Kyntt creator Nifflas – I say that, but actually it’s an expanded version of a game the Niffster put out earlier this year, now with co-op, more bosses and other moremoremore. If you missed it first time around (entirely possible, as it was a Humble exclusive), definitely treat yourself now. The hook here is that you can pick up and carry almost anything that isn’t nailed down – and everything that isn’t nailed down is a blocky-creature with a special power of its own. Kidnap the creature, use the ability to reach other parts of the game and otherwise solve various puzzles.

In practice, this is a delightful rethink of everything we expect from a jumpy game of this sort: you use the creatures rather than avoid or kill the creatures, and it really does open up a new way of thinking. The random-o-music is a blippy-boppy treat too, plus there’s the multiplayer option, in which the second player controls a dog leashed to the first player. Just full of invention, this one.

Deep Sky Derelicts

$15.99/£12.39; early access

Junkerpunk sci-fi roguelike/CCG mash-up, mixing in bits of Darkest Dungeon’s resource-chewing tile crawl with a more randomised take on turn-based combat. Card Hunter-style, whichever weapons you have equipped affect the attack/defence cards that might come up during a battle, which means each turn is not rinse’n’repeat shoot/heal but instead desperately hoping that a strong card will show up soon. It’s all comicbook-styled, in a vaguely 2000ADish manner, with large, characterful sprites and nice XIII-style panel-in-panel animations so show e.g. killing moves.

The major downside is that, during missions, moving from tile to tile is a drag, performed via a PDA map, with you just waiting for a tile in which something actually happens. But it’s early access, so hopefully they’ll figure out how to pep things up there. That aside, looks great, and does a fine job of mingling turn-based squad combat with survival elements.

Oure

$17.99/£14.99

Pulling inspiration from twin schools of wistfulness, the exploratory noodling of Journey and the magical dog-dragon rides of the Neverending Story, Oure also folds in a wee bit of Snake Pass-style reptile coil-o-puzzling. Basically: you’re a kid who can transform into a dragon, and are to some extent free to fly the pastel-coloured, cloud-filled skies. Until Bad Things happen, anyway. It’s all a lovely sight, but it does have bit of Superman 64 syndrome – giving you all this power then making you use it to fly through hoops. It would also be far more effective from a storytelling point of view if it were wordless, which it is most certainly is not.

Truthfully, I’m more hesitant than I usually am in Unknown Pleasures about including this one, but it is very nice to be a flying snake-dragon, so I’ll let it pass.

PAKO 2

$7.99/£7.19

Very cool car-based action-roguelite (yes I made that up: this is games in 2017) that is a little like how I’d imagine if GTA had stayed closer to the madcap Micro Machines presentation of GTA 1, but was also given an explicitly heist-based setup. You careen around a very attractive 70s-styled environment in a car which gleefully skids constantly, grabbing fleeing criminals from stick-up jobs and then trying to get them to a drop-off point before the cops can shoot you to bits.

While being pursued by cops, it turns into a twin-stick shooter of sorts, but you can also ram the buggers off the road if you’re careful/lucky. Frenetic and stylish and altogether like a violent, immoral Crazy Taxi, it’s a lot of fun with a lot of flair and some excellent fonts.

Pick of the week this week is… I’m gonna break ALL the rules and pick two, those being PAKO 2 and Uurnog Uurnlimited. The former is hyper and thrilling, the latter thoughtful and sweet-natured: an upper and a downer, if you will.

8 Comments

  1. SenorRoboto says:

    2nding PAKO 2, its stylization is really fun and I’ve missed the isometric driving games of yore like Super Off Road, Gene Rally, RC Pro Am, or Gaelco’s Arcade World Rally Championship (sorta remade for PC as “PC Rally”).

    Only thing so far is that the unlocks take some time unless you’re very good.

  2. falcon2001 says:

    Man all of these look solid! Especially the first three.

  3. and its man says:

    Adding a few names for the enthusiasts:

    Far From Noise just had its official release on itch.io and Steam. It’s a single-setting, little piece of narrative about the ruminations of a young woman trapped in a car which is teetering on the edge of a cliff.
    Philippa covered its demo back in September 2016.

    HYAKKI CASTLE has been released a few days ago too. A dungeon crawler set in a castle populated by (strange-looking, in a westerner’s eyes) “ancient Japanese monsters”. It was spotted by Dominic last month.

    – I’m not feeling at ease with some of the gimmicks seen (and the “Mad World” cover heard) in its trailer, but something about Hollow is piquing my curiosity.
    link to store.steampowered.com

  4. Scrap Princess says:

    I wanna add that the music in Uurnog is dynamic ,
    (so random in the sense of being “distinctive and unusual” but not random in the sense of actually random)
    like it has bits added to it by what’s on screen. There’s a video about it here link to youtube.com

  5. malkav11 says:

    If you acquired Uurnog through the Humble Monthly it was a part of, you actually now also own Uurnog Unlimited and can find a Steam key for it in your Humble library.

  6. SuddenSight says:

    Hello! I also like Uurnog, but more importantly I am your resident grumbluphocous here to grumble about the comparisons with Darkest Dungeon. Honestly, I am looking for other opinions here.

    I can certainly see the artistic link between DD and DSD, I’m not sure I buy all of the gameplay connections. Sure, it appears to have grid-based dungeons and a hub world between missions for recruiting heroes.

    However, the core of DD was (in my opinion) the stress and attributes system for heroes. That certainly is the system the devs of DD were the most proud of, and the one that was the main selling point – at least, in my opinion. I haven’t played it, but DSD appears to have none of that.

    Looking through the reviews they seem to focus on the DD comparisons, which again seems a little odd to me as it lacks DD’s signature mechanic.

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