My backlog extends beyond Steam... devonrv’s profile

In other words, you’ll occasionally see me post about…maybe not obscure, but perhaps unexpected games. I’ve already brought up such titles as Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean as well as Fluidity, and you can expect more in the future.

As for my BLAEO wheel: whenever I buy a game on Steam, I always play it a little bit right then so that nobody can say that I bought a bunch of Steam games I’ve never played. That said, I’m going to keep a game labeled as “never played” until I reach it in my backlog and plan on playing it actively.

Also, since there are some games I never plan on 100%ing, I’ll probably just use “beaten” for all the games that I’ve beaten, even if I’ve technically “completed” them as well. I’ll use “unfinished” for when I plan on going back to play all of a game’s content, even if I’ve technically beaten it already.

Lastly, here’s my review of my favorite game, as well as an explanation of differences between all of puzzle’s sub-genres (something not many people seem to know): Now edited to include a link to my review of its GB version and its postgame!

I gave Gumstein: The Awakening a chance, but on top of having slow, delayed controls ( which make precision platforming next to impossible), levels often require multiple retraversals of the exact same part of the level, often in order to put boxes on switches. I gave up when the game introduced the cannon form, but even though I could enter the form just fine, pushing the button the game told me to push afterward didn’t do anything, neither on controller nor keyboard (I also tried pushing a bunch of other buttons, but to no avail), so I couldn’t progress.

Anyway, I decided to make one post for both of these games since they’re pretty similar in what they set out to do:

Both are SHMUPs, though Black Widow is a Twinstick and Centipede only lets you shoot straight up (without a powerup). Both are predominantly high-score-based games, which is a game-type I’ve never been a fan of since you play them for a minute or two and you’ve literally already seen everything the game has to offer. Thankfully, they both also have a set of a bunch of “challenges,” each with a unique goal, and they can have unique level design and even unique enemy-wave orders/frequency. That said, the challenges are all listed on a single row despite how many there are (you can’t even push left to loop around to the end until you’ve unlocked all of them), with only the next three unlocked despite the fact that they’re not in order of difficulty.

I played Black Widow first, and it’s okay. Enemies can move erratically, but they’re slow enough and your shots are rapid enough that it isn’t that big an issue; even when there’s a huge crowd of enemies on screen, it still feels somewhat doable. Your default shot has range (maybe 1/3rd the screen’s width), but while most powerups let you shoot further, they also reduce the frequency of your shots. Something that really bothered me was when some “kill a certain amount of a specific enemy” challenges just wouldn’t spawn the enemy in question for 20+ second intervals, so I’d just have to sit there and wait (maybe the real challenge is overcoming impatience?). The other challenges are fine, though; you can even turn off “twinstick mode” to make the “do X without killing this type of enemy” challenges easier since now the right stick only aims, and you push R to shoot.

Then I played Centipede, and it’s obvious this was made earlier because it’s worse in every way (EDIT: even the enemy variety is less varied). You can only have ONE shot on screen at a time without a powerup, but each centipede-segment you kill leaves behind a mushroom, and those take FOUR shots to destroy! Worse, mushrooms are the basically the only level design option, with the other being rocks that block your shots completely and can’t be destroyed. As a result, gameplay is a lot slower and more tedious. In contrast, Black Widow would have walls in various challenges, but you could always shoot through them; they only blocked your movement. Back to Centipede: some challenges involve killing enemies with bombs, but the bomb powerup spawns the bomb group in a random location, so you just have to hope it’s near where the randomly-spawning enemies will move to; it’s more luck-based than skill-based. The game also has challenges that involve not-killing certain enemy types, but the flea will leave behind mushrooms if you don’t kill it, and in the “don’t kill fleas” challenge, they spawn very frequently, to the point where you can get trapped in a small area and be unable to dodge the other enemies effectively. Plus, the only powerup that spawns during the “don’t kill fleas” challenges is the orbiting projectiles, which you’d also need to make sure don’t hit the constantly-spawning fleas. Once again, it’s more luck-based than skill-based. EDIT: I can’t believe I almost forgot the worst part: enemy-death explosions are layered in front of everything, and also last an overly-long time with the latter frames being the same color as the background! This means you’ll shoot a bunch of centipedes and you’ll think it’s safe, only to crash into a straggler that survived because your last shots hit one of the mushrooms that spawned behind that same explosion.

Black Widow is worth maybe a dollar, but skip Centipede.

P.S. Previous Epic freebies let me ignore the internet pop-up asking me to share data, but when I tried that with these games, they got hung-up on the loading screen. It wasn’t until I clicked “Allow” that they’d actually go in-game.

  • Picross Touch

    22 hours playtime

    10 of 18 achievements

It’s just basic Picross/Nonograms. If you’ve played literally any Picross/Nonograms game before, you’ll know exactly what to expect here. Left click fills/unfills tiles, right click adds/removes Xs from tiles, and the numbers indicate how many filled blocks go in each row/column. There’s no building on the mechanics, like the Mega Numbers from Twilight Princess Picross (ngl, pretty disappointed to learn those were exclusive to that game and likely won’t show up again), but on the other hand, there’s no arbitrary time limit or dumb penalty for filling in the wrong tiles, like in Twilight Princess Picross; the game just lets you sit there and stew in your wrongness as you try to figure out which tile you filled incorrectly–you know, like you’re solving a puzzle or something (you can always reset a puzzle if it gets too bad). The game has a lot of boards, but because there are only three sizes (5x5, 10x10, and 15x15) and no mechanic expansion, it overstays its welcome by quite a bit, especially if you already know about the overlap strategy (this game never tells you about it, but guess which picross game does?). Maybe I’m just not as big a picross fan as I thought?

It’s okay for a free game. Maybe just play a few boards between meatier games.

P.S. Also, the difficulty curve is kinda wonky at times.

I tried out Daemon X Machina, but although the initial experience was okay, I completely ran out of ammo against the first proper boss fight, and after flying around the arena for a minute, it finally dawned on me that the ONLY way to get more ammo mid-mission is to kill the cannon-fodder enemies…which I couldn’t do because I was out of ammo. I also didn’t have a melee weapon, and when I checked the shop after reloading my save, I saw that they didn’t have a melee weapon, either! With no recourse for a problem the devs almost certainly know about and consciously chose to leave in, I uninstalled the game and moved on:

  • Snake Force

    26 minutes playtime

    13 of 25 achievements

Twinstick shooter, no controller support. WASD moves, mouse aims, and holding left-click rapid-fires.

The core concept of having a row of units following you and needing to reach the goal with a set number of them still alive sounds interesting…right up until you realize the game has friendly-fire on by default, which severely hamstrings potential level design options since the dev has to make sure the player can kill enemies without rear allies killing front allies. Because of this, it won’t surprise you to learn that the game’s only enemy type is “chase and shoot directly at you when in range,” with the only other obstacle types being 1) barrels that explode after a second when shot, and 2) blue circles that bounce you up so you can get on/over walls.

Despite the bland levels and lack of enemy variety, the friendly-fire still manages to be frustrating on its own since enemies can shoot at you while you’re still trying to position yourself in a way so you won’t shoot yourself. This means the only way to have any chance of avoiding damage is to go through the level alone, then go back for the hostages once all the enemies are cleared out. In other words, the best way to play the game is to ignore its central mechanic, which really puts into focus how no consideration was put into building the game around the gimmick and how little else the game has to offer.

By the way, even if you only have the initial soldier, the generic enemies can still get cheap shots in. If you’re moving south, enemies will notice and shoot you before they appear on-screen, and if you’re walking up a slope, enemies can shoot you before your own gun makes it over the wall to allow you to counterattack.

P.S. When you beat the game, you unlock “badass” mode, but it’s literally just the same levels as the campaign again, except the hostages are replaced by more of those generic enemies.

Not recommended.

Another string of busts this time. First, I tried Smooth Mover, but not only does vertical movement have starting and stopping momentum (it’s not even jumping, it’s “floating”), but the game blatantly has hitboxes that are larger than the sprites, as evidenced by the very-visible gaps between you and the spikes each time you die. The game also makes you go through multiple screens without a checkpoint, despite said screens being filled with spikes and you dying in one hit. Next, I tried Pulse Jumper, but when that game wasn’t being bland, it was being cheap, like falling into a pit of enemies before you can see them. I gave up when the game made me climb a room in the ice area so large that trial-and-error is the only way work out which path leaves you with enough ammo to reach the next room. Then, I gave The Lilliputian Runner a chance, but not only does it have the worst checkpoint/save system I’ve seen AND asynchronous on/off lasers in otherwise empty vertical shafts, but 1-4 has a bouncy-ball hazard that moves erratically and significantly faster than you, and the level ends with a gap you can’t double jump across. I suspect the game wanted me to use the wind-gusts to push a block over there through the tunnel that’s one-pixel-too-small for the player to fit through, but the tutorial never said this could be done, and since I’d already activated the level’s last checkpoint, I’d have to do it all over just to see if it was possible. Plus, if the tutorial didn’t tell me that, who knows what else it was hiding–what else I’d have to figure out through trial and error–so I just quit instead.

Finally, I played Rabbit of Destiny. I actually beat this one, so I can say with certainty that it was made by those who don’t understand why people prefer platformers over other genres. Not only do enemies do next-to-nothing until they notice you, but enemy projectiles move realistically fast, like the ones in cover-based shooters, except this game has no cover; you just have to take the hits. Because of this, enemies don’t work off of the level design, and every level plays out basically the same, resulting in the game being boring as well as unfair. The closest things get to being different is when you fall down a shaft and get cheap-shot by enemies before the camera can catch up to you. The boss fights are salvageable, but they also have bad design, like the enemies falling on top of you during the first boss, or the last two bosses tossing projectiles in random trajectories so you can never learn the pattern and counterattack safely.

None recommended.

I gave Mages of Mystralia a chance, but it ended up being a hack ‘n’ slash with next-to-no variety in the first three hours. The trailer made me think it’d be more of a shooter, but you don’t get a ranged weapon until after the first miniboss; even then, said attack still prevents you from doing anything until its animation finishes, just like regular hack ‘n’ slash attack do, and you have to unequip it if you want anything resembling a dodge maneuver (but said maneuver kinda sucks–being slow and unable to interrupt attack animations–and the game is built around having the ranged attack instead anyway, at least as far as I’ve seen). I finally stopped playing when I realized the second boss was also a wait-to-attack boss that regularly spawns the generic skeleton enemies to harass you, just like the first boss was, but with the added issue of the camera being panned so low, you can’t reliably avoid the boss’s spread shot unless the boss is at the back-center of the arena.

The next game in my backlog pleasantly surprised me, though:

Physics-based arcade-style game. You have to grab (hold RT) designated objects and bring them all to the truck to beat the level, and you have a timer counting up, with your clear-time determining if you get gold/silver/bronze. You’ll usually get silver on your first try (with there always being more than enough time to get bronze), and since dying/destroying items just respawns you/them with a bit of a delay, you can’t really lose, so the main challenge is replaying levels to get gold or platinum time. There are also optional objectives, and while I’m not too keen on them being unknown before you beat a level, nor did I like how a few of them are still kinda vague when you do unlock them (and even more annoyed when they blatantly conflict with each other, forcing another replay if you want them all), I appreciate how you’ll still be awarded them if you unknowingly do them on your first try anyway. Not every game with unknown optional objectives does that.

It’s not a puzzle game because the only thing you’ll need to figure out is how doing the same thing results in a different outcome, like when the bed you’re dragging suddenly gets stuck in a doorway despite seemingly being lined up properly. Tall heavy objects can also cause you to spin around while dragging them for seemingly no reason. Movement is relatively normal when you’re only carrying light objects, but it’s still possible for them to catch and slow you if they hit a corner.

Levels don’t have a whole lot of variety between them, so it can get kinda boring if you play more than 2 or 3 levels in one session, even near the end. Mid-game levels sometimes have one or two ghosts that patrol an area and can kill you if you don’t stun them with the X button, and late-game levels have moving obstacles, but it has the same problem as Overcooked 1&2 where said obstacles stay in the way for too long. For real, it only takes a split-second to push me into the water, so why does the wall stay up for five seconds??–and in a game where the timer is the main challenge, no less!

Side note: completing enough optional objectives unlocks “arcade” levels, and the first one has a focus on platforming, but between the slippery controls and bad depth-perception, the level is hard for the wrong reasons. For example, jumping from the tall platform onto the smaller platform but landing half-off the edge causes you to slip off anyway, yet there’s no drop-shadow for you to know if you’ll land properly. The second arcade level just requires tossing packages across fans, and is significantly easier, so at least they’re not all like that.

Still, the game is okay for what it is. Get it on sale if you’re interested.

I keep telling myself I gotta be more careful about what giveaways I enter…but despite my efforts, I still end up entering giveaways for games like this:

  • Aircraft Sketch Shooter... more like *sketchy* shooter, am I right?

    2 hours playtime

    21 of 31 achievements

SHMUP. No mechanics besides moving, shooting, and bombs, but the bombs aren’t even screen-clearing; they only destroy enemies that are very close to you, closer than you’d expect given the explosion graphic. Powerups spawn (seemingly) randomly, though I did like how the game would always pop up a description of what the item does when it spawns so you aren’t blindsided by power-downs, especially the ones that aren’t red (or powerups that are red).

There is no level design or thought put into enemy placement and AI. Most enemies just shoot straight down, and of the few that do something else, most of them shoot directly at you. Also, because the game has nothing else going for it, difficulty is increased by having only one enemy type in the first level, introducing one more enemy type in each of the next few levels, then just spamming enemies more frequently once the game runs out of new enemies to introduce. Honestly, the only reasons this game is possible to beat is that it always spawns health pickups when you get hit, and if you die anyway, you can just continue right where you died with full health.

Compounding on this frustration is that ALL enemies move erratically from side to side, and since your own shots don’t move that fast, either, you have to get relatively close to hit them reliably and often (which you’ll want to do because of how many hits they take to die). This leads to a knock-on effect where you often aren’t able to react to the enemies’ colorless, tiny shots coming towards you, as they aren’t that much bigger than the stars in the background and are drawn behind your own, much larger shots. Plus, enemies can safely move into the rocks constantly on the left and right edges of the levels, but you can’t and take damage for trying.

Those aren’t the only problems, though. Although the game resembles an autoscroller, you can still scroll the screen around–even if you get the zoom-out powerup–which means enemies can be hiding and shooting you from offscreen. Stage bosses always appear at the halfway point of the level with half health, so you have to fight each boss twice since there’s no difference between their halfway-point pattern and their end-of-level pattern. The bosses’ patterns aren’t that different from the bland regular enemies, either; a few will fly across the whole arena for a bit, and one boss surrounds itself with little ships that respawn very quickly if you kill one, but that’s about it. The three “challenge” stages are just variations on endless mode: don’t get hit by the generic straight-shooters (that’s all this mode spawns); get as many powerups/downs as possible before you die while health pickups keep spawning; literally just a boss rush. That first one doesn’t even spawn any powerups, so the enemies are even more damage-spongy.

Not recommended.

This’ll be the last DigiPen game I play for a while, so you can look forward to my posts becoming less frequent again.

  • Project: Gemini

    48 minutes playtime

    no achievements

Platformer. Despite forcing you to play with 2 players simultaneously, the game only tells you controller inputs (which are mostly mapped to the shoulder buttons despite the right stick not doing anything). You have to do trial and error to figure out that player 2’s keyboard inputs are the arrow keys for movement/aiming and VBNM for actions. Worse, player 2 is the one with the ranged weapon, yet up is jump on keyboard, so if you want to shoot upward, you always have to jump first.

That’s not the only issue, though. Player 1’s melee attack has an unreliable hitbox, and enemies have no feedback when taking damage, so it’s hard to tell if you actually land a hit with your punches (especially when their health bars become so big, you can barely notice it being any smaller than before). What makes this extra frustrating is that player 1 is the only one with the temporary shield power, so when you have to take out a Gatling gun floating over a pit, you have to activate the shield, jump over and punch it once (maybe twice), then wait on moving platforms to bring you back up–all while player 2 can’t do anything–and this game’s moving platforms are by far the slowest ones out of every DigiPen game I’ve played.

Oh, and sometimes you’ll get hit and take damage anyway despite being shielded. Speaking of taking damage when you shouldn’t, although bullets are supposed to get blocked by platforms, they’ll sometimes clip through enough to hit you anyway if you’re standing on them and the bullets are coming from below.

On top of all this, the level design isn’t that interesting, and when combined with most enemies being kinda damage-spongy while also being mandatory to defeat to progress, most of the game is quite tedious. It doesn’t even really require having someone else to play with you for most of the game since you can just set one player down in a safe area and take out the enemies as the other character.

There’s one exception to this, though: the first (final?) boss. It starts off just shooting a few bullets at the closest player every now and then, along with a 3-bullet spread on its left and right side. It’s also too high to hit reliably with the melee character, so you’ll likely be standing below it as the ranged character, shooting upward, but that’s a mistake because as soon as it goes into phase 2, it instantly fires a sustained laser beam up and down, then moves around the arena while repeating its initial bullet pattern. Still, I was able to make it past all of that by myself, but then the third phase happened: it’s basically the same, except now the boss and its lasers constantly rotate–slow enough that you can react to it with one player, but since the boss is constantly moving around, no one area is perpetually safe (at least none that I noticed). Also, if you die on the boss, you have to start over from its first phase, and since the boss was already pretty tedious, I decided to call it quits there.

Still, even if you do have another person to play with, the boss is the only noteworthy part. Not recommended.

  • I Am Gooey

    23 minutes playtime

    no achievements

Puzzle game. You’re not explained the mechanics unless you go to the “how to play” section that’s only in the pause menu (not the title screen); you’re just told that WASD moves you. Basically, there are lanterns around the room, and you have to step on all of them to light them without crossing your path, stepping off in the direction the light appears, and stepping back on the first one once they’re all lit. It does have potential, but most of the time you mess up, it will be because the game’s lighting meant you couldn’t see the wall there until you ran into it. Also, when I made it to what I’m pretty sure is the end, only vertical movement worked; trying to move horizontally got my character stuck in a loop of moving left/right constantly, so I couldn’t progress (this kept happening even after I pushed R to reload the level).

Not recommended.

  • Lirica

    51 minutes playtime

    no achievements

Adventure game. There’s a little bit of platforming, but less than 5 minutes total, and very easy to do despite having next-to-no control over your jump arc after you push the jump button. Instead, most of the game will be you walking up to the next quest objective and playing scales on your flute, represented by the D-pad and face-buttons when you’re in flute-playing mode. I played on “advanced” difficulty, and it’s still just basic scales; the only difference between one “puzzle” and the next is which note you have to start with (represented by your fairy’s color) and where you have to stop (represented by the color of a nearby object, like a mushroom or something), but even that can be an issue since one note’s color can look very similar to another note’s color. Even if you don’t see the “where to stop” object, you can just wait a second after pushing the button to see if the success chime plays and gets you out of flute-playing mode, then if it doesn’t, just hit the next button and repeat. Also, if you find an interactable object before talking to the NPC who gives you the relevant quest, the game won’t let you interact with it. Music’s not bad, but it can’t be extracted with Umodel, and the game is too obscure to find it anywhere else.

No puzzles, negligible platforming, not for me.

  • Codename: TIARAS

    13 minutes playtime

    no achievements

Platformer, no controller support. A and D move, spacebar jumps, shift dashes forward. Despite walking having momentum for starting and stopping, dashing and jumping don’t: as soon as you let go of spacebar, you start falling back down, and the moment you reach the end of your dash, your forward momentum dies completely and starts over.

The first level is pretty flat and bland, with the closest-to-noteworthy thing it has are electric rods you have to jump over. It also has signposts that look like background objects, but are actually platforms you need to jump on. The second and only other level in the game picks things up a bit, introducing some verticality, but it also has moving platforms that turn on a dime and don’t have rails to indicate their paths…and also, you have to wait on moving platforms (and wait for electric barriers to turn off). Both levels have green cubes you can collect, though all of level 1’s are in your way due to how linear it is; meanwhile, some of level 2’s cubes are in small branching paths, usually in-view of the camera during regular play (I can’t say for certain that all of them are since I did miss one). Both levels also have broken platforms that’ll fall when you step on them, but although you can just run forward past them most of the time, sometimes you’ll get caught on them and have to jump a bit to get back on the path.

I don’t know about this one.