Humble Monthly Roundup: May 2018

Welcome back to my monthly series where I play through each of the lesser known games of the Humble Bundle Monthly. Like the previous month, Humble Bundle gives us nine games. I’ll be playing through the six lesser known games which includes Ruiner, Crazy Machines 3, Running With Rifles, NBA Playgrounds, Moon Hunters and Knight Club. Here we go…
ruiner-banner-image

Controls Used: Mouse and Keyboard

Ruiner is a game that kept on giving in an unexpected way.

With Ruiner we have a top down, isometric action game that essentially throws enemies at you in various arena type environments. You begin the game in what I felt like was a weird mix between a MAKO generator and Portal with messages flashing across the screen from ‘Your Master’ telling you to ‘KILLBOSS’ if you want to continue to live.

When given control, you use the WASD keys to move your character while using the mouse to control the camera and where you want to land your melee hits or gunshots.

One of the things I dislike about some games is having them throwing too much at the player at once. It doesn’t allow you to get your bearings within the gameplay mechanics or master any one thing before moving on. The entire first level of Ruiner at first glance, does this and in turn, worried me.

After going through melee controls, you’re subsequently giving dash mechanics, gun mechanics, shield mechanics, ability menus and more without having much time to settle into any of it.

The good thing with Ruiner, is that after this first level where they throw everything at you, they pull back. This is the first time I was surprised. With these types of games, you sort of expect to finish a level, then get thrown right back into the fray. Ruiner is a lot deeper than that.

ruiner-skills-abilities

Ruiner’s skill system that unlocks after the first mission is completed.

Once you get to your objective in the first mission, you get some interference by another character named ‘Her’ that lets you know that you were hacked against your will to Kill the Boss and that she will help you. You’re pulled back into the city Rengkok which serves as a new overworld in between missions.

In this overworld, you walk around, talk to characters, pick up bounties and missions and complete other objectives. It’s a nice breather between the constant action that gets thrown at you in the actual levels.

The second thing that happens unexpectedly is that you skills are pulled back and you start from scratch. That mass of information that was thrown at you from the first level gets reset and you start anew. You gain skills and levels in a similar way to other games; ‘karma’ being the currency in Ruiner. There’s a large table of choices at your feet and you can build your character however you choose.

The world in Ruiner has a really cool style. The aforementioned city of Rengkok has Akira and Blade Runner vibes all over the place and each of the characters you speak to have unique features and personalities. There are different gangs in the city which all look and feel unique, which sort of reminded me of GTA2 on PC.

ruiner-world-map

Ruiner’s Rengkok, the city overworld that you get to traverse after the first mission.

Ironically, my favorite aspect of the game that I picked up on in my hour, was a mechanic they don’t introduce in the first mission. When you weaken enemies, you have the option of pressing the middle mouse button to do a sort of ultra kill or fatality which nets you ammo, health and energy. Think the recent Doom release.

The benefit of a mechanic like this is that it speeds up the game and makes you less concerned about health and energy because if you’re constantly moving and killing, you’re fine. It lets you focus on the fun areas of the game rather than playing it safe and slowing the pace to a crawl.

Like I said earlier, Ruiner surprised me. I felt like I was getting a typical top down action game but that was subverted in really cool ways. Once the first mission is over, you get pulled back into an overworld with unique characters and settings, all with a lot of personality injected into it. You can tell a lot of work and care went into those things as well as the gameplay.

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Controls Used: Mouse

I always appreciate puzzles in video games that require you to sit down and think. For some, it can be frustrating to get stuck on a puzzle, but I always had a process of elimination working in my head to try and figure something out. If I couldn’t, I would walk away and subconsciously be thinking about it throughout whatever else I was doing. Coming back to a puzzle later usually meant figuring it out.

Crazy Machines 3 can invoke a lot of that behavior. Right when booting up the game, you can see a lot of different campaign options and workshops. To get started, I jumped into the default campaign.

You’re taught the specifics of the game throughout these first eight puzzles. You have the puzzle in front of you, a set of items for you to place on an item bar to your left, and a play button below.

One of the more fun aspects of Crazy Machines 3 is figuring out the physics of each new item you receive. You start off in a fairly simple way with chairs, dominoes and basketballs, but you quickly run into different paddles, pipes, punching gloves, baskets and more.

crazy-machines-3-gameplay-02

Garage was the first stage where everything clicked for me and I began really enjoying the puzzles found in Crazy Machines 3.

You learn pretty quickly to look for patterns. If you have a gap in a row of dominoes, and you have one ready to use on your item bar, chances are that you put that domino in that gap. It’s a good way to lessen the overwhelming feeling of having five items to complete a puzzle, bringing it down to four.

While playing through shrines in Zelda: Breath of the Wild, I had a real appreciation for the developers because you could complete some shrines in many different ways. I felt the same about a few of the puzzles here. Some of my solutions felt so shoddy and broken that I was left feeling like I just frankensteined something together that shouldn’t have been possible.

Overall, Crazy Machines 3 is a very relaxing, fun game that takes away stress and replaces it with some puzzle solving fun.

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Controls Used: Mouse and Keyboard

The best way I can describe Running With Rifles is that it’s a top down version of the old Battlefield PC games, which is probably why I had a hard time with it.

When starting up the game, you have three campaign options. The first is vanilla where you have a team of soldiers to help you against opposing forces, the second is Man vs. World which is yourself alone and lastly Co-Op Man Vs. World which is yourself and your friend as the lone rangers…Airheads reference? No? Okay moving on.

Before starting, there’s a lot of campaign customization including enemy accuracy, experience rewards and friendly capacity. Hard mode is also the default difficulty which explains my experience coming up.

You begin on a battlefield with your team mates and you have points/bases that you have to overrun and take over. The first base went down quickly enough, and then my next half hour was spent slamming my head against the keyboard trying to take the first trench.

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A more difficult trench to break through than in A New Hope.

Hard mode is no joke, 94% enemy accuracy which is the pre-set… is no joke. More often than not, I was getting sniped from off screen or I would be in cover behind a tree or rock and a single bullet would heads towards me and kill me. Because the game is like Battlefield, you do re-spawn, but the point is to amass your troops and push forward towards an enemy spawn point and overrun the location.

There are vehicles in the game that you can jump into, but again, single bullets would fly towards me and take me out before I was even able to drive anywhere.

Running With Rifles is brutal. It gave me flashbacks of the old Counterstrike/Battlefield days where I felt I needed to put in hours of work before even being a service to my team. It’s a challenge, and if you do enjoy those types of games or investments, Running With Rifles may be an option for you.

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Controls Used: Xbox One Controller

Growing up, I’ve always been a basketball fan in some form. I played little league as a kid, got into college basketball from there, and eventually got drawn more to NBA basketball in the past decade. I always had basketball video games growing up, from NBA Jam in the SNES days, to NBA 2K16 more recently.

Suffice to say, I was pretty excited to see NBA Playgrounds on the game list for this month’s bundle, and it doesn’t disappoint.

The aesthetic, setup and gameplay should all remind you of NBA Jam from back in the day. Your players have skinny bodies with large heads, you play 2v2 instead of the traditional 5v5 and you get various bonuses and power ups while going through each game.

You start the game by opening some packs of cards up which contain NBA players. Being a huge UCONN fan growing up, I was pretty ecstatic to get Ray Allen in my first pack. Paired with Alex English as my big down low, I have my player combo moving forward.

nba-playgrounds-ray-allen-01

You can’t ask for a better clutch three-pointer shooter than Ray Allen.

I played two modes during my time with NBA Playgrounds; Exhibition and Tournament. Exhibition mode is really just you playing the game and being given tutorials on how to play. I did awful during this game and lost handily to Jae Crowder and Isaiah Whiteside, but that’s okay, this was just a warm up.

After playing each game, you get level ups as a player which results in you opening more packs of cards to acquire more NBA players, then each of your two NBA players also level up each time you use them, making them more powerful the more time you invest.

When tournament unlocked, I jumped in and worked through the four matches you need to win to complete the tournament. Each match also has an extra goal such as ‘Block 1 Shot’ or ‘Steal Twice’ which adds some variety to the short three minute games.

nba-playgrounds-02

NBA Playgrounds has a cool style to it reminiscent of NBA Jam on the SNES. 

After playing a few games, you really start to see what the strategy ends up being. Each team has a charge bar on the top which maxes out with made shots, dunks, alley oops etc. Once maxed out, you basically get a free shot. Having Ray Allen, I would pop up a three every time it’s maxed giving me three free points. You end up in a cycle of ‘Dunk as many times as you can to max out bar’ then ‘shoot three with maxed out bar’.

I’m not sure what the replayability is like for NBA Playgrounds, or if the gameplay expands a bit past the formula I got into the first five games I played, but it’s definitely fun and a welcomed addition to this bundle for me.

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Controls Used: Xbox One Controller
It was apparent from the start that Moon Hunters had a style that I could get behind. Visually, the pixilated graphics look great and have smooth animations. You’re asked to choose between Ritualist, Druid, Spellblade and Witch to begin your first journey. I chose Spellblade for no real reason.
After choosing your character, you’re given some of the lore of the game. You’re told of a story that in five fateful days, Mardokh’s Sun Cult rises up against you. Each telling of the story includes different heroes and different changes to the world. I sort of view this as mythological stories being told over and over again through the years. Details change, characters change, but you’re being led to the same ‘end’ of the story regardless.
moon-hunters-gameplay-01.jpgKing Mardokh, seemingly the antagonist of the story, or is he?
The core mechanic of the game relates to the above. You have five days to traverse the world, solve the mystery of what’s going on, combat the Sun Cult and bring back the Moon.
When you jump into the game, you have a top down view of the world and you control your character similar to any other action game. You have a few abilities unique to your character as well as an attack button. As a Spellblade, I had a dash attack to quickly move around the map and a sort of seismic burst to push enemies away from me if I got smothered.
The gameplay overall felt very smooth. I was able to quickly attack, dash away and continue attacking at will and it became relatively easy to survive against any enemies thrown my way.
RPG elements are very prevalent in Moon Hunters as well. There are a variety of abilities you can gain favor in throughout the choice-making that can happen throughout each game. Making decisions based on your pride for example, can make you character more prideful, which in turn can lead to better interactions with NPC’s in certain situations. This could also mean an unfavorable interaction with a different NPC who doesn’t like prideful beings.
moon-hunters-gameplay-02.jpgAt one point I walked into a clearing only to be trapped by stone walls. Only after many waves of enemies were you let go.
Moon Hunters is playable as single player, but I can see the advantage to having a full four player team. Each of your team members can master certain traits or stats in order to make your journey easier and not miss anything. It’s something I would definitely want to try out at some point.
There are lots of details and mechanics that I feel I can’t do justice here. Each time you make camp for the night, you have ways to increase certain statistics. Some of those actions include keeping watch of your camp, cooking, hunting and so on. This ends up improving over time because you find different ingredients throughout your adventures that you can continue to use on subsequent playthroughs. To keep things even more interesting, each map is randomly generated each game as well.
Even in defeating Mardokh and dissolving his cult at the end of my first playthrough, the moon didn’t return, winds became colder, harvests grew weak, knowledge faded and the Queen of Heaven no longer guided laws and judgment.
moon-hunters-gameplay-03.jpgCompleting a game lets you carry on different items or other things you’ve discovered. Some of these appear as constellations in the ‘overworld’ menu screen.
‘Beating’ the game doesn’t mean winning, there’s a lot more to Moon Hunters. Approach it as every game is another chapter in the story, leading you to the eventual ending. It’s an enjoyable experience right out of the gate, giving me memories reminiscent of Rogue Legacy and Darkest Dungeon at times.

  

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Controls Used: Keyboard/Mouse and Xbox One Controller
Knight Club is a fun little arena/style fighting game in the vein of Super Smash Bros. which includes pixilated graphics, ridiculous characters and fun music.
Jumping right in and playing locally with the fiancé, you get to choose between a handful of different characters which includes Gil the Frog, or to me, Hippity Hoppity, Mikol the generic knight character, and Crow….the Crow (Flippity Flappity). There are four weapons to choose from as well with the axe, sword, spear and dagger.
knight-club-gameplay-02.jpgHippity Hoppity taking down his opponent in King of the Hill with a smug look on his face.
Each of the weapons has basic attacks as well as something that makes them stand out from the rest of the crowd. For example, pressing Up and Attack with the sword makes you leap forward with a sword attack which doing the same with the dagger causes you to do a devastating multi-hit attack on your opponent if it lands.
Each have their own style and it’s up to you to find something that suits your play style.
There are a few different game modes including your basic death match, king of the hill and royalty, where you had to hold the crown for as long as possible. There are nine stages total to pick from and each have unique features about them. For example, one level has gears that turn, making you speed up in certain directions and others have pitfalls filled with vines or lava that do increased damage to you.
That’s really the game. You can manipulate things like timers and how many stocks each player has per round you play, but that’s about it. It’s a fun little game that kept us both entertained for the hour, but after that, it felt like we’ve seen it all. I can see it being more fun with three and four people and possible longer lasting overall.
That’s it for this batch of Humble Bundle games. I have to say, this has been my favorite batch of games so far. I can see a lot of potential in Ruiner, Moon Hunters and Crazy Machines 3. NBA Playgrounds and Knight Club were also both enjoyable, yet I didn’t see too much replayability with either. Running With Rifles, unfortunately, is just not my thing and I have to pass there.
Special shoutout to my fiance for powering through Knight Club with me for the hour.
If you enjoyed this Humble Monthly Roundup, you can check out my previous articles below.
Thanks, see you next month!

2 thoughts on “Humble Monthly Roundup: May 2018

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