Quick review of Expand

The design of this game is really well polished - I was given a review copy and accidentally started on the final level, using a beta-testing savegame, and had no problem picking it up right away - it's very intuitive. They do try to give you a gradual introduction when you start from the beginning of the game as well though.

I would highly recommend a gamepad though - it's exponentially more difficult without one since you're rarely moving in a straight line. The whole concept seems like it would be a difficult and/or frustrating game that requires a lot of replaying levels to get them right - but the checkpoints are so frequent that it's actually a very relaxing experience with nice instrumental music in the background.

The whole thing is only about 1hr45min long, and is split into 4 different sections, each with their own flavor of obstacles. This keeps it relatively fresh throughout, although you will recognize certain patterns repeated here and there. Often the gameplay really boils down to going with your gut, because things frequently appear or move based on your character. Because of the frequent checkpoints this didn't feel cheap though, it was an engaging experience that had a feeling of exploration even though it was relatively linear.

So if you're looking for a challenging obstacle course this probably isn't the game for you - but if you just want to relax and chill out for a couple hours it's a pleasant experience.

Synopsis:"A short (<2hrs) and relaxing obstacle-dodging experience with a nice soundtrack and neat design. Use a game controller though, much harder without one."

Ephemerid: A Musical Adventure [Steam store page]
Quick review of Ephemerid: A Musical Adventure

This one is a 4:3 resolution - which is weird for a game that came out in 2015 - but it does have an interesting papercraft art style, so that might be why. Although it is a rhythm game, the gameplay actually felt a bit like Windosill (that's a good thing!) - it's very eclectic.

Throughout the entire game you're helping a butterfly type creature in different situations, to the beat of music. Three types of music actually, you can pick which speed you like in the options menu. These give it a drastically different flavor, and although "normal" speed is actually pretty fast - it doesn't matter if you click everything perfectly.

Actually your clicks don't matter at all - although it is very satisfying to match the beat of the music properly. As long as you click to start a sequence, you can basically fail the rest and get the same result - though I wouldn't recommend it since the gameplay is often part of the storytelling.

It is relatively short - about 45 minutes for a full playthrough - although the three different styles of music give it a little bit of replayability. It's $6 full price on Steam which is reasonably cheap - though you can always watch for a holiday sale discount for an even better deal.

Synopsis:"This one is a 4:3 resolution, but is a fun 45 minute rhythm story with a nice papercraft art style."

Quick review of Strata

This puzzle game reminds me of KAMI, but instead of folding different colors of paper, you're dragging colored ribbons across a checkerboard of various colors. The ribbons might not match some squares as you lay them down, but then you can place other ones perpendicular to re-color some of the squares. This creates a patchwork grid of ribbons laying on top of each other - and the top ribbon above each square must match the color of that square.

It has four different board sizes, and because your goal is to align colors properly the larger boards are more difficult. Matching 9 squares properly is obviously much quicker than 36. It's a very logical game though - much moreso than KAMI, which I felt required quite a bit of educated guessing.

In Strata you can actually calculate the proper solution if your guessing isn't getting you the proper solution - and I appreciate that. A puzzle game shouldn't require indefinite trial-and-error. I also appreciate that the seven sets of puzzles are unlocked from the start - so you aren't forced to each puzzle in a specific order (although within each set they do unlock sequentially).

There are plenty of puzzles here to keep you busy - I think 469 total - so definitely check this one out if you enjoy the genre. It's relaxing and very well done.

Synopsis:"If you enjoy games like KAMI then this will be a great addition to your library with over 450 puzzles to keep you engaged."

Hexcells Infinite [Steam store page]
Quick review of Hexcells Infinite

Synopsis:"While the random-map generation isn't quite as challenging as it should be, I still really enjoy the Hexcells series - they're a modernized Minesweeper."

J.U.L.I.A.: Among the Stars [Steam store page]
Quick review of J.U.L.I.A.: Among the Stars

Synopsis:"A point-and-click with a neat environment and enough animation and video that you're immersed in each scene, rather than just hunting hidden objects."

Infinifactory [Steam store page]
Quick review of Infinifactory

Synopsis:"If 3D SpaceChem is what you want this is pretty good, although it could use more control over some of the building blocks. Also has a bit of a story."

Hand Of Fate [Steam store page]
Quick review of Hand Of Fate

Synopsis:"The way they tied collectible card mechanics into a fighting game works really well except for the final campaign boss fight - which is FAR too hard."

Costume Quest 2 [Steam store page]
Quick review of Costume Quest 2

Synopsis:"Better environments than CQ1, with the same great characters. The first level is the only bad part, so suffering through that small grind is worth it."

Legend of Grimrock 2 [Steam store page]
Quick review of Legend of Grimrock 2

Synopsis:"This expansive world is a huge improvement over the dark and narrow corridors of the original game, and a bunch of new enemies switch up combat a bit."