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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

CasualIndiePuzzleStrategyLink
As of 12/29/17 this still feels very much like an early access concept that needs tweaking and ease of use upgrades before I'd recommend it. The micromanagement required for gathering resources is pretty high, having to select each type of resource independently and the area you want them to gather within.

I'd much prefer a classic RTS type gathering where the AI is a bit smarter than a dumb drone. And as much as I like being able to research and add a trailer to carry buildings with the caravan, I don't know why this isn't default. Seems odd to have to build new buildings every 10 minutes when you switch maps.

Additionally the level-end timer doesn't give you any obvious indicator that your time is about to run out - if you're not paying attention you can lose the game very abruptly.

Coffee Pot Terrarium [Steam store page]
A gorgeous little mobile port that doesn't give you any explanation of how to play it. And it also has poor click tracking, often not using your actions unless you click the tiles very precisely.

It has 21 levels total, and three simple actions for your character to perform. Although the random heights of the tiles created by the Raise Tile action seems antithetical to the puzzles. Since you can only walk to tiles that are the same or one different from your current height, this height randomness can ruin a perfectly good strategy.

There are probably some advanced features or uses for the abilities that I haven't yet figured out in the first 6 levels, but I feel like that's the game's fault for not clearly explaining the rules so the player can focus on strategy and winning, not trial and error.

Train Valley [Steam store page]
Starts out simple, but to be really good at this game you have to be able to multi-task incredibly accurately and quickly. That just isn't me, but the game is well designed and will be fun for people who love the challenge of optimizing their strategy and reaction times to climb the leaderboard.

Rise: Battle Lines [Steam store page]
Bare-bones little game using the strategy elements you see in many hex turn-based games as almost a single-player puzzle. This part is short though, a couple hours, and probably just meant as training for the multiplayer component.

It's lacking any story, art, or variation that usually elevates this sort of single-player experience beyond rock-paper-scissors combat, and unfortunately the multiplayer doesn't have a useful number of players, so you'll have to bring your own friends if you want to try it.

HunieCam Studio [Steam store page]
It seems like a lot of people like this game, but it's average at best, with the quality declining the more time you spend playing it. Basically it's a shallow clicker game, which surprised me since the store page seems to imply a bit more strategy and management.

Instead it just tries to keep you occupied clicking a handful of different buildings instead of adding any real depth. I'm sure you can optimize it slightly to get a higher score, but there aren't even semi-deep strategy or mechanics here.

As a side note, this game is tagged 'Nudity', but does not contain any as far as I can tell - unlike other games like HuniePop from the same creator.

A great combination of music, nice visuals, and a unique style of light strategy. Easy enough for casual players, with Bastion type difficulty settings.

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