Unknown Pleasures: a fully phlegmatic rifle
More of the best indie games on Steam
It is the season for what the hell is going on out there? Do I plant my garden now? Are we going back to normal late-winter murderfrost or what? Lord, we're all doomed. If I didn't have a cold I'd have no tether to normality at all.
Unknown Pleasures is, you may be aware, our round up of the best indie games on Steam that, more often than not, hardly anyone is talking about. It's a bit good, you know. There are loads of solid indie games these days languishing in obscurity. Support your local bedroom dev and try out this week's siftings.
Harbingering the end times but trying not to think about it this week: questing meeces, quad-jumping ball bouncers, and jazzy shootouts.
Definitely Sneaky But Not Sneaky
£7.19 / €8.19 / $10
Definitely Sneaky But Not Sneaky took a little bit of getting used to, but was hard to stop playing once I'd got a feel for it. About 200 small levels are filled with little green and pink dudes who want to shoot or chib your bits in, so you'd best get them first.
I had trouble playing with the keyboard and a twin stick controller felt both necessary and a bit unreliable. Precise aiming is necessary with such small characters, but the speed of the game and sensitivity of the controls made it very tricky to be very precise. This may be deliberate though, as it makes a mad dash of spraying and slashing more viable than mechanically picking people off at range.
It's simple enough -- stab with your left, shoot with your right, clear out each level and open the exit. A few extra weapons unlock after you've got far enough in, but even just replaying the same levels over and over is a good laugh. Some more would not go amiss, but there's enough here for a good time already.
It passes the "instant restarts" test that far too many Hotline Miami-ish games ruin themselves by failing, and the jazzy soundtrack is a better fit than I'd have guessed.
Free / Das ist Frëe / Free, y'all
Supraball's brief (but sufficient) tutorial ends with a bit where in order to continue, you have to votekick someone who's being a jackass. It was always going to win my heart.
Last seen on Shotgonia by Overlord Graham in mid-2014, Supraball is no less fresh, entertaining, or tightly designed now that it's finished. 6 or 10 delightfully bouncy stickpeople team up and compete to score An Goal by blasting a ball in a net, in a manner players of Rocket League, or indeed people who understand the concept of a ball, will recognise immediately. You carry the ball by hoovering it up in your little gun, then fire it out with a charged shot, or semi-guided instant pass.
Without the ball, firing instead blasts other players away, or tackles the ball carrier. It's wonderfully simple, with just a few controls and any clever tricks coming naturally as you start to work out or witness how they can be combined to bounce the ball about or manoeuvre round other players. The glimpses I've seen of highly experienced players are frankly alarming, but the low stakes, short games, cartoony graphics and general slapstick air make those encounters uncommon.
Surprising myself, I want more communication with other players. It could do with more downtime to chat and compliment each other after matches in particular, but this really is a nitpick. Supraball is immediately tremendous fun, and has only gotten more so the more I've played it. There's even bot backup, which is outclassed by good players but handy for filling in at lower levels, particularly if you don't feel confident enough to go in goal.
Also you can quadruple jump. I should probably have opened with that.
£7.19 / €8.19 / $10
I'm good at everything of course, so Euclidean Skies is merely bad at being played by me. As a port from mobiles/tablets/extortio-screen-3000s it suffers on PC from being a bit fiddly to control, as it's obviously better suited to being lovingly stroked than poked about with a mouse. But it's a neat puzzle game nonetheless, and one that I suspect certain types of thinker will really appreciate.
You guide a sworder around strange 3D levels in which everything is a sort of fractured Rubik's Cube. Click an adjacent square on the same plane (ie: you can't go directly from the top of a platform to the side) and you'll zip there and shatter any resident foes on that spot. Stepping on the wrong bit (clearly marked - usually. One caught me out occasionally) will get you killed, so you'll be using your magical world rotating powers to spin the different sections about. The solution is usually a case of seeing how you can manipulate an enemy into the right position, in what I can only really call rubikian. It's a lot simpler to grasp than it is to describe.
It's not to my taste, to be brutally honest, but it'd be unfair to hold that against it, as I can see it appealing to others. I'm a bit out of my element with it, so a look at the trailer will probably give you a clear idea if this is Your Sort Of Thing.
£7.19 / €8.19 / $10, Early Access
I waver every time I start a new game of Rodent Warriors, because it's so limited for the first few levels. Walk, press attack, repeat. Even once you've unlocked some skills and items and that, it doesn't get much more advanced, but there are attacks to cycle and upgrades to consider, and soon enough the doubts fall by the wayside.
At heart it's a hybrid of a very light action RPG with the less insidious kind of idle game (a term I frankly resent, as it's mostly used to describe games that are anything but idle. Where are the buildy games where you can trust the AI to run things in your absence? Whinge, moan). You're a mouse or a hamster or a ... another thing, strutting about simple mazes and whomping hostile animals so you can gather some artifacts and kill the bosses for whatever reason. It's cute enough, and the stats and gear you upgrade make enough of a difference to feel you're actually a necessary part of the equation. While some levels are functionally the same, there's a lot of variety in backgrounds and enemy types, and even a cosmetic diurnal cycle*.
It could do with a way to hurry up health regeneration. You can clear a stretch of a level of threats but still have to wait around for ages to heal, or plough on and inevitably die, wasting the whole run. Perhaps I'm misinterpreting and you're supposed to strategically select Vitality on levelling up as the main means of healing, but I grumble nonetheless.
It's nice to fight deer and angry donkeys for a change instead of just the usual boring RPG animals.
£7.19 / €9 / $10
Short and simple, Hazardous Space sets you on a drifting space station where something's gone wrong. Are there space stations where something has gone right? Leave derelicts alone, space lads. It's never good news in there.
In truth, this one doesn't do anything particularly new or outstanding, but things kicked off right away and I didn't feel frustrated or bored at any point. This might sound like faint praise but it's actually somewhat rare. You pace around the station in a 2D fashion, exploring room by room. Most have containers to empty with a click (compare most games, where you'd have to faff about with a loot window for no real reason), about half have zombie-ish hostiles, who are still intact enough to understand how to fight in turns. There's a story, but the dialogue plays up in the corner during fights, and I almost immediately stopped paying any attention to it. A bit wasted then, but far better than having it interrupt and annoy everyone.
Combat is quick and low-hassle. Two action points per turn, with weapons taking up either one or two, and three item slots to mix knives, guns, clubs or consumable bombs and health items as you like. Some weapons enable special moves, which consume energy. Energy is also consumed by changing rooms, and, perhaps most significantly, by upgrading your stats. This latter part is mentioned in the tutorial as optional, as you might prefer a larger energy pool. It's only replenished by scavenged items, so a bit of gambling is built in. I don't get the impression it's particularly harsh, nor does it have only one correct way to play and unfairly kill you until you work it out by trial and error.
I very nearly killed the big lad at the end, but alas, even my flaming fire axe (I literally just got that joke, man I'm ill), stunning baton, and hefty shotgun didn't quite do him in fast enough.
Hazardous Space won't blow you away, but it gained a safe place in the survivors' hall here at Unknown Pleasures after one playthrough, so it's obviously doing something right.
Pick of the week: Sorry, other games this week, but you're just not
It's one of those that I played for bloody hours when I should have been doing something else. I'm gonna need a new hard drive at this rate.
Every part on the pitch is rewarding and exciting, and roles need not be strictly defined. I'm a poor shot and bad in goal, but quite good at defence and passing, which pair well as I'm starting to get the hang of cheeky interceptions. It helps that the players I've seen so far were a nice enough lot. It definitely needs a 'balance teams' option now and then. Oh, and for god's sake, get rid of the outfit options that make it hard to tell which team a player is on. Lord.
*pretentious, yes, but it saves on word cou... oh