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Humble Indie Bundle 2
The Humble Indie Bundle is, without a doubt, the best deal going in the world of gaming. Five stand-out indie games free of DRM at whatever price you want, with the proceeds going to charities or directly to the developers, split in whatever fashion you choose. The original sold over a hundred thousand copies and made over a million dollars, and this year's edition, the second in what will likely become a continuous series, has already bested it, raking in one and a half million dollars and a couple hundred thousand purchases to date. I purchased the last one, just like I purchased this one, but the difference is that this time I've actually played every game in the bundle. Though they're not all my thing, the sum total is entirely worth it for almost everyone. There's enough variety and quality present to satisfy everyone, and the cause and recipients are awesome, so why not?

More detailed thoughts on the individual games:


Braid
Braid is the lone game of the bundle that I've actually played before, so I didn't bother to install it on my PC. It's an excellent game, though, a 2D side-scrolling platform and puzzle game that has some incredibly devious and difficult puzzles toward the end. The graphics are nice, the music is awesome, and the ending is extremely clever, open to interpretation, and not something that I got the first time I saw it. Great game.


Cortex Command
If there's a single game that sold me on the bundle, it's Cortex Command. Much like Minecraft, it's in a state of perpetual development, which, for some illogical reason, intrigues me. The nature of the game, though, is even more intriguing. It's some sort of odd cross between very modern and very retro. It's 2D, and the graphics look like they're straight out of a 1995 PC game. The physics, however, look as real and as modern as any I've seen. I mean, just watch one of the animated gifs on the website, or view one of the videos. My brain has a hard time reconciling those physics with those graphics. The game seems to contain physics on a pixel by pixel level, rather than on a sort of object by object level, as most games do. Terrain, vehicles, and bodies will blow apart into pieces that are as small as a pixel, and yet each behaves as it should. Animations are shockingly smooth while still adapting to whatever odd situations, and nothing vanishes from the battlefield; all the gore and destruction pile up (quite literally sometimes).

Unfortunately, however, and despite all it has going for it, I found Cortex Command something of a let down. Part of that is due to the under-development status - there's remarkably little in the game to do (or that I could find / figure out, anyway). But part of it is the nature of the beast. While the graphics are throw back and the physics are modern, the controls are some horrible combination of both that takes the worst from each world. The premise of the game is that humans have voluntarily reduced themselves to brains with mechanical extensions in order to travel space. As this effects gameplay, you have one important brain that cannot be killed, and beyond that you can buy bodies and weapons and equipment that are shipped in from orbit, and then switch between them and control one specifically while the others are controlled by AI.

I think the premise actually informs the controls quite a bit, and so what I dislike is not unintentional or poor programming, but rather how it's supposed to be. Not that that really matters much in the end. The guys you control are rag dolls, and they handle like it. It can be extremely tough to get them to do what you want them to, and the often end up flopping around the board. The difficulty is high enough that an unintentional flop and fall will often get you killed, which means that you have to order another body, wait for it to arrive, and then flop your way back to where you were before. On the one large and difficult level I found to play, I could have beaten it in minutes had I been able to make my characters move like I wanted them to. Shooting is no problem, and is kind of fun, but movement is atrocious. Additionally, the game explains only the most basic of concepts. On said level, I was, after twenty minutes of flopping about and slowly achieving goals, instructed to load what I had acquired into a shuttle. I had no fucking clue how to do that. I fiddled around with best guesses for ten minutes, had no luck and plenty of frustration, quit the game, and have not played it since.


Machinarium
Machinarium is a much lauded Flash click adventure with a wordless steampunk aesthetic and a somewhat bleak mood. When the game first booted up, I think I might have said "wow" out loud at the game's graphics, which look like hand-drawn pencil illustrations. Then I started playing the game, and within five minutes at most, I quit the game for good, never having made it past the first screen, happy to never look back. It's a beautiful reminder why the point-and-click adventure genre died a quiet, lonely death: they're stupid, arbitrary, boring games.


Osmos
Osmos is, in a sense, the perfect blueprint for an indie game. The game is based around a simple gameplay concept that is not incredibly difficult to code - in this case, absorb things smaller than you, avoid things bigger than you, and accelerating makes you smaller - and that is then explored in depth. The graphics are pretty while also being extremely simple, and the music is quality and fitting. This could compete in virtually every regard with a multi-million dollar budget title; I could see it being a downloadable PS3 title from a major studio doing some niche work. It's polished to a gleam, and is just really well put together all around.

Unfortunately, I don't care for it. I played it for about fifteen minutes and got tired of it. I just don't like the gameplay; it's not my kind of thing. It is a well made game, though.


Revenge of the Titans
Revenge of the Titans has been the happy surprise of the bundle. It's a tower defense game with amusingly retro sound and graphics. It's actually much more modern-retro than retro-retro, as all the graphics are crisp and clean and stylized, and all the music is nice and new and high quality - they just both harken back to an older era. The game is a tower defense title, which I imagine we're all pretty familiar with by now. There are a few features that make the game unique, aside from the presentation, however. There's a campaign mode, in addition to a few others, and while playing campaign, you actually have to spend money that you gain from the individual missions to research new technology. You can place buildings that will harvest crystal for funds, and a number of buildings will improve all towers nearby. The maps are all pretty much open, too, which means that the monsters don't follow a specific path (though they do come from a specific direction), and there usually aren't really any choke points. There are also special abilities that drop every now and then and that have a single use, like freeze, or berserk, or smart bomb.

The game can be hard, but not frustratingly so, and there are a good number of missions, with new enemies and terrains and strategies. I haven't beaten it yet, and it's not like I end up losing hours upon hours to it, but it's a lot of fun for fifteen minutes or a half hour every here and there.


The Second Humble Indie bundle is impossible to go wrong with. How can you, when you can buy it for as little as a penny? I opted for thirty dollars, and feel like it was entirely worth it. You get five games - and now an additional six from the original bundle if you spend more than $10 - from a variety of genres, all unique and interesting and well put together. Unless you play exclusively FPSes, you'll find something to like here.


 
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