Welcome back to my monthly series where I play through each of the lesser known games of the Humble Bundle Monthly. This month, they had three feature games, with six unlocked last week. I’ll be playing through the six unknown unlocked games; Lara Croft GO, Aer: Memories of Old, Subterrain, Laser League, Outlast II and Lyric Sonata. Here we go…
Controls Used: Mouse
Lara Croft GO is a unique take on the tomb raiding of old that you may be used to. Here, Lara has fixed tiles that she is able to walk to and is limited to four directions. It may seem limiting and awkward at first, but the more you get into the game, the more that unfolds.
You start off fairly slow with a few maps being straightforward with various switches and breakable walls for you to navigate. You’re also introduced to collectibles, found via vases on each map. Some are very obvious and out in the open while others require you to navigate to around the foreground images to reveal them. The first levels serve as a good introduction to the basic game mechanics that you will use moving forward.
Lara Croft GO really kicks into action when you enter the snake area a little while into the game. You now have snakes as enemies, who are stationary and facing one direction. If you jump to the tile right in front of a snake, you die. If you sneak behind a snake or to either side, you kill the snake. Paired with things like switches and breakable walls from the previous levels, things start to ramp up.
You eventually gain the ability to pick up spears to throw at enemies on the map, making you think for a few more seconds before committing to an action. Lizards that chase you to tiles you are stepping on follow them, and spiders that move along a guided path follow even later.
One of the moments where Lara Croft GO jumps up a gear. You have to navigate around snakes without being directly in front of one.
The game does a great job in giving you little bits at a time. As soon as you’ve mastered one mechanic and become cocky, they throw in another variable to trip you up and bring you back to zero.
To close out Lara Croft GO, I want to talk about that sweet spot for puzzle games. To me, the best puzzle games have a few things. First, there needs to be an ascending progression of difficulty. Second, gameplay rules need to be established so the player knows the options in front of them while playing. Lastly, the game can’t feel cheap.
To the last point, I think players at times can confuse frustration with cheapness. Dark Souls is a great example of this. Players (including myself) can be easily frustrated by the unforgiving nature of the combat. You make one mistake early on, you’re done. I ended up putting Dark Souls down for a few months after playing it that first day. I felt it was cheap.
After hearing about it everywhere, I went back. This time, I restarted the game and read the tutorial notes carefully in the Asylum. It clicked for me that this wasn’t God of War where you run into a horde of enemies and come out unscathed. I took my time, and that cheapness dissipated, being replaced with the feeling of fairness. Everything was laid out for me, but I didn’t heed the advice the developers were giving me.
Lara Croft Go, in that way, never feels cheap. Every time I fail, I see why and I understand that it was my own doing. Rules are established properly as the game progresses, leaving the player to think through increasingly complex situations. It was surprisingly addicting for me.
Controls Used: Xbox One Controller
If I had to describe Subterrain, I would say it’s a narrative driven, top-down, action rogue-like game that feels similar to Doom 3. Strange right? But it works.
The story kicks off with your character being stuck in a prison on the first Mars colony called MPO. While in your cell, you make a prison escape, you find dead bodies and off you go.
In my short time with Subterrain, you can sense the depth that the game holds. There is a large inventory and item system, not unlike a Fallout of Elder Scrolls game, as well as the ability to assemble weapons and customize them with additions such as laser sights or silencers.
One of my favorite aspects of gameplay is the lightning. It called me back to the RTS days with fog of war intact. You have a flashlight that spreads outward in a cone in front of you. You can see everything in that cone, but if you turn around, enemies can creep up behind you because your light isn’t exposing them. Along with the setting and tone, this reminded me of Doom 3 quite a bit. While not the greatest game, the lighting in Doom 3 was fantastic and created a more horror-like atmosphere with the use of flashlights.
At the end of the day, an hour isn’t long enough to fully experience what Subterrain has to offer. I would imagine there is much more to discover underneath the surface.
Controls Used: Mouse and Keyboard
I’ll be the first to say I wasn’t thrilled to see Outlast II in this month’s Humble Bundle. I would absolutely call myself a wuss when it comes to things like this.
Horror movies and games just aren’t my thing. If my fiancé wants to watch a horror movie, I find myself bargaining like I’m in the middle of the stages of grief. You go from ‘I won’t watch this’ to ‘Fine I’ll watch it, but only at 9:00am” all the way to “Okay you win, we watch it at night but I reserve the right to have a pillow in front of my face.”
It does bum me out sometimes, because I do like the atmosphere and settings of most horror genre games or movies. Although I wouldn’t call Bloodborne horror, the Lovecraftian themes are addicting and easy for me to get sucked into. I also love all of the Doom games, including the aforementioned Doom 3 in this review. Last generation, I played a substantiate amount of Alan Wake.
Definite vibes of the Fishing Hamlet from Bloodborne.
I think for me, horror itself turns me away with jump scares, and sure enough, you get one quickly into the game as you arrive at the first town. I had a hard enough time with the pixel abomination that is Nemesis bursting through windows at me in Resident Evil 3, now I have a 4k gaming rig with realistic murderers trying to kill me. Yikes.
Getting into Outlast II, the opening screen basically tells you not to try and fight, but to run, hide or die instead. Great, basically how I cope with having to watch horror movies or play horror games anyway.
The pilot, a woman and you are in a helicopter heading towards a place where a crime had been committed involving a young girl. You get into a crash; have a vivid dream of a high school, young girls, wave of blood, then wake up to see the wreckage.
The opening areas of the game introduce you to lots of different mechanics. You get a camera that allows you to record certain scenes and re-watch them to get a little more information on the narrative. Your camera requires batteries which you can find throughout the game.
It also features night vision, because if there’s any more reason to not want to play this game, it’s the unending fear of knowing you have to turn night vision on to see what’s ahead…but I don’t actually want to see what’s ahead.
Jokes aside, I wish I could play games like this. Outlast II looks amazing and the story looks compelling. Give it a shot if you’re into this sort of thing.
As a final note, it didn’t help that as I was in a tense situation, something loud fell on my deck and caused me to jump up.
Controls Used: Mouse and Keyboard
First thing you should notice is the unique art style. It’s one of a few things that reminded me of Zelda games like Breath of the Wild and Wind Waker. Pairing this art style with the ambient soundtrack and relaxing atmosphere, it’s truly an enjoyable experience.
Aer: Memories of Old is more of an atmospheric game along the vein of Rime or Journey if you’ve had the chance to check those out. There’s a story revolving around Gods and the unique landscape of floating islands which is given out mostly through scrolls or monoliths with carvings on them. You’ll also run into the occasional spirit animal to piece together other parts of the overall narrative.
The colors, atmosphere, music and setting are all wonderful.
You receive a lantern, which allows you to interact with certain things on the map and in temples, as well as see old spirits lingering in the world. There’s a high emphasis on adventure, which you get into as you leave the starting area. You’ll get into the usual fare; go to three temples, collect three fragments, prevent the world from being engulfed in darkness, but that really seems like a side bar to the rest of the game.
You also gain the ability to fly, which is helpful considering the overworld is a large series of flying islands, not dissimilar to Skyward Sword. Flying controls are rough at best and took me quite a little while to get used to. The physics behind it feel like they make sense; if you fly upward, you lose speed, fly downward, you gain speed and so on. I found that more often than not, I wouldn’t be able to land on smaller islands because you would have to dive and transform back into a human mid-air. Most of the time, my forward momentum would just throw me off the island causing me to have to make another attempt.
Aer doesn’t include combat, but does have tons of puzzles and platforming sections. I’ve experienced similar games in the past where the formula can get stale, that’s not the case here. You will be doing things you’ve done before as you go through the temples and check out the landscape, but it just feels super satisfying and right as you’re doing it.
Controls Used: Mouse/Keyboard and Xbox One Controller
I might get some flak for this one, but I absolutely hated this game to the point to where I couldn’t even get past twenty minutes. I’m not saying this is a bad game, but it’s a bad game for me.
Laser League puts you up against other players or AI’s in TRON-like stadium battlefields. You can choose one of a few different types of characters with their own special abilities while you face a team of equal variety. In these matches, you want to eliminate each player of the opposing side by throwing them into sort of electric walls that you have to activate as your ‘team’ wall during the match.
There are different game modes and different layouts for how the battlefield will look and I believe that having a team of people working together with a single strategy would make this sort of thing a bit more fun, but that’s not what I experienced. It felt like most of the time, I would be dead and into a wall within the first few seconds, making me feel useless to the team and decreasing the fun that could be had playing.
Controls Used: Mouse
Lyric Sonata is an art-style music game, and I say that in the loosest terms.
At first glance, I was looking forward to this one. I’ve always been a fan of music-featured games, from Eternal Sonata, to Guitar Hero and to Audiosurf. When I started getting into it, I knew this wasn’t something I had been looking for.
There isn’t much gameplay here. You control your mouse cursor and sort of play ‘on rails’ to images passing by on your screen. It starts off innocent enough, showing you traditional music notes and bars, but it slowly changes into a college art exhibit.
Just a regular screenshot from a video game.
I don’t believe that automatically makes a game bad, but there’s barely any game to be found. I can get behind the weird Windows screensaver landscapes or CGI caves that look like they came out of Goldeneye, but it needs to at least be somewhat compelling and feature some sort of appealing music.
The music is where the concept falls flat for me. I had a hard time sitting down for an extended period of time mostly due to the music, which is a bummer when it’s a major premise of your game.
That concludes this month’s Humble Monthly Roundup. I think the first and last games I tackled were my favorites this time; Lara Croft GO and Outlast II. I know it may surprise everyone after ranting about how I can’t play horror games, but the first hour with Outlast II showed me a polished game. I may not like certain aspects about horror games, but there is a quality game in Outlast II.
You can check out my previous month’s roundup here.
You can also check out my website for more articles here.
Thanks, see you next time!