The Long Journey Home [Steam store page]
The RPG elements of this game are really well done - exploring the galaxy, meeting and interacting with other races, finding random items and trading them, or showing them to alien races in an attempt to discover what they do.

But the lander mini-game to harvest resources to repair and refuel your ship is more of a nuisance than a pleasure. It's fairly challenging to get right at first, but once you get used to it there are still planets where you come in way too hot and get unavoidably damaged due to the gravity or terrain. And even once you're good at it, it isn't enjoyable, just a chore.

So while a segment of the game is good, there's far too much of the rote lander upkeep missions to make the entire experience appealing to me.

While the story, art, and combat are all solid, this one isn't nearly as good as Transistor in my opinion. The art is on par with visual novels and choose your own adventure games, and the story didn't feel as gripping as their past two games, even though the world itself seems interesting.

But the part that was the weirdest to me was the combat - which by itself was fine in a sort of sports-game way, but it was an odd dichotomy between the fast-paced action and the relatively long story and shopping pauses between battles.

It wasn't bad, just a strange mix. Other games like Hand of Fate have also mixed story and action sequences, but they usually keep the interactions between matches very brief, and I think that works better.

Space Run Galaxy [Steam store page]
It's a solid game, and aside from the turrets sometimes switching targets before killing the first enemy, I can't really complain about how it plays. It does what it was intended to do.

But the way the game is designed bothers me a little bit, because like a tower defense game - where each level is a blank slate - you lose all the guns on your ship after each short "run" between planets.

The only permanent upgrade for your ship are the new tiles you build onto it, which are a platform for guns and other modules during your next run. So yes, while it's an upgrade that expands your capabilities, it doesn't feel like a meaningful upgrade or progression.

It doesn't make me want to keep playing and growing my ship into an optimized badass, because every level I have to start all over, hurrying to place turrets as threats arrive.

The challenge is that these turrets often have a limited ability to turn, so you're rushing around stacking clusters of firepower on different sides to stave off incoming attacks, rather than growing one cohesive arsenal. And while there's nothing wrong with that concept, it doesn't speak to me the way a normal tower defense game does.

Infectonator : Survivors [Steam store page]
The game concept/design is solid - scavenge supplies, rebuild your base, try to rebuild the car to get out of town - but there are a couple fatal flaws that really hurt the gameplay.

The main one is the AI - it's dumb as a box of rocks, and will walk through toxic slime (which kills the character in a few seconds) without hesitation, even when there's an easy path around it. Most of my damage and deaths in this game were due to the AI making stupid decisions.

And when a character "dies", they can be revived for around 15 seconds - which is fine except that it takes like 7 seconds to actually revive them. The timer doesn't stop as you're reviving, which means that if you get to the character with 3 seconds left on their timer, there's no chance you can save them.

It makes it frustrating if you're in the middle of fighting zombies and can't start healing immediately. I'm sure there are upgrades to make heals faster, but it's still a flawed design.

A solid little ninja-platformer where you click on enemies to teleport to them rather than jumping. The boss fights are particularly fun!

My only gripe is that in the normal levels I sometimes have to click twice to get my character to teleport to an enemy (I think it's because he isn't finished with his slice-and-dice of the current enemy). That's the only thing holding me back from saying this is really good.

Warlock's Tower [Steam store page]
I quite enjoyed this, although about 45 minutes in I'm already 100% done with 2 out of 5 worlds and well on my way to finishing the third, and the game still doesn't seem as "punishing" as the store description would lead you to believe.

There's no downside to losing or restarting a level, and the "brutal rule" of one move, one life lost, is the core puzzle mechanic of the game - you count your steps to nearby life pickups, and figure out the order you need to survive.

This gets more challenging when enemies move at certain intervals as well, but I only found one level so far where that really complicated matters. Overall it was a relaxing and enjoyable puzzle experience so far.

Interesting concept, but the implementation is really rough and basic - to even restart you have to exit the game, and when you die any stuff you're carrying is irrecoverably lost.

I'm on the fence about whether to give this an "Okay" or a "Bad" rating, because it's relatively cheap and I like it a lot better than most horror games that use this graphical style, but it's sorely in need of a tutorial and a lot of polishing.

Your character seems to know what needs to be done to fix the apocalypse, and it would be nice if the game told you too, although that minor mystery probably makes it more interesting than the repetition would be otherwise.

While I like the general idea, the interface for "hacking" feels clunky, and the graphical style isn't stylized enough to quickly convey what items are interactable (and what they do) both in the world itself and in the top-down hacking view.

This is kind of a big deal when the "par" time limits are so tight that it's very hard to beat them even if you know what you're doing, much less when you have to hover over a bunch of stuff using controls that seem more tailored to a game controller.

You don't have to beat the levels under par to progress, but it's kind of pointless for them to even exist if you can't hit the times even when you do well. Though it's a bit strange to even have timed runs in a stealth/strategy puzzle game.

More like Oregon Trail than FTL: Faster Than Light, you have to balance your shields, power, and faction alliances. It seems like many encounters have a preferred way of dealing with them, so a decent amount of this game is just trial and error, seeing what happens if you use Offense/Passive/Contact on a specific encounter.

As you go through these encounters your ship levels up based on how your crew is assigned. Still not sure what these levels actually do, but I've only played for a short time so far.

Please note: as of Jan 2, 2018 the fullscreen mode is still broken on Windows 10, you get a black screen. This can be fixed by setting the game exe to Windows 7 compatibility mode, but it's a shame you have to do that.

This feels much more satisfying and well-tuned than the original Sanctum - and the addition of co-op takes it to a whole new difficulty level.

The combination of tower defense and hack-n-slash works fairly well together, though the classes are completely unbalanced. Melee is by far the easiest.

Orcs Must Die! [Steam store page]
While not co-op like the sequel, this game has an excellent sense of humor and decently balanced maps. Too bad the humor didn't carry over to Orcs Must Die! 2

Orcs Must Die! 2 [Steam store page]
They added co-op, but lost some of the humor that made Orcs Must Die! so fun. Similar gameplay, with more expansive levels to challenge two players.

Essentially a rage platformer in first-person. You die, restart, try to find the button you missed or avoid the trap you stepped into, performing the exact same sequence of actions over and over, getting a little further each time.

Most traps are visible if you know what you're looking for, although you can't always avoid them. Sometimes the hitboxes are inexplicably large and maul you when you try to dodge. Not a huge issue, just means you missed a switch, but trying to figure out a puzzle in that sort of deadly environment can sometimes be frustrating and time consuming.

Another interesting concept from the creator of Hexcells, but keep in mind it is pretty short - probably around 2-3 hours if you're familiar with the concept of the other games.

This one adds a little extra complication by introducing multiplication, as well as multi-directional numbers. So the row multiplied forwards and backwards has to match the numbers on either end.

This was a nice twist, although I sort of wish it showed a subtotal by each required number so that you wouldn't have to repeatedly figure out tough rows in your head. It's a bit much having to add and multiply a series of numbers 5-10 times forward and backward to work out the combination that fits.

Overall though, another unique and interesting creation that will please puzzle fans for a couple hours.

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