What a week, what a past few weeks for video games.
Audiosurf 2. Sequel to the best “plug your music files in, play” game out there, Audiosurf 2 expands on the original in just about every way possible. While this game is still in early access, it’s well worth the time and money. The new Wakeboard modes let you perform incredible airborne stunts during dramatic parts of your music, some of the modes from the original Audiosurf are available for play (with more coming soon), and enormous support for Steam Workshop, including new skins and game modes, some of which essentially only use the fact that Audiosurf recognizes music to drive vaguely-related gameplay. The developer is very active on the official Audiosurf forums and has been putting out a skin or mod every week for some time, all of which are fun and well-put-together. Definitely worth a look.
Spelunky. The Steam edition of the original, Game Maker game (also released on XBL), Spelunky is a ruthless platformer with permadeath, where the only sense of game progression is the meager shortcuts you can unlock between worlds. You choose a skin and dive into the caves, armed with a few bombs and ropes to get you out of any tight spot. You only get more health by carrying distressed damsels (or pugs) to the exit, guarded by monsters and traps of all kinds. Each level is short, less than three minutes, but racking up consecutive rounds (particularly “oh, just one more try” moments) is too easy to do. The controls are airtight and every unfortunate death feels like your own fault, sometimes a challenge for randomly generated games. Oh, and did I mention co-op? I’m pretty sure I mentioned co-op, which is as hilarious as it is rewarding.
Don’t Starve. A take on a survival game, you take on the character of Wilson, a Gentleman Scientist stranded on an island, with only his wits and his handiness to keep him alive. Wilson’s only method of communication is the sound of a violin, subtitled for your convenience. To stay alive, Wilson must constantly be looking for food to keep his stomach full (and his hit points up), as well as flowers to keep his sanity in check. The progression of your items is very clearly defined, you always know what you might want to be crafting next, and Wilson can use just about anything he finds to help him, whether it be tall grass made into a bed roll or stone and tree logs for a pickaxe. The game has a wonderfully well-crafted hand-drawn style, and everything is explained just well enough to make you feel confident but never explained such that you don’t need to do any experimenting. The Steam Workshop is all over this title, too.
Desktop Dungeons. This game was originally a Game Maker game, too, long long ago, though it’s been purely a web-based game for quite some time. Just recently, with a large amount of content, UI, and other polish updates, the announcement was made about the move to Steam. This is a dungeon crawler with a sense of progression — each dungeon you clear nets you gold, which can unlock other quests as well as make limited advantages available for further dungeon runs. The dungeons are one screen each, and are designed to be played in ten minutes each, so you can drop in and drop out as necessary. With a huge amount of content in the form of classes, races, a ludicrously difficult puzzle mode, and the variety of the different monsters and traps, this game can last a man years.
Pinball Arcade. A free-to-play game recently released on Steam, this brings loads of classic pinball games into your computer for your enjoyment. The same company making this game made two different pinball collections for the PS2, which were both a lot of fun to play, and the PC version comes with even more polish and content. The free version only comes with one table, but you can try any other tables for free or buy them individually or in packs.
Age of Empires II: The Forgotten. A fanmade expansion for the original Age of Empires II, updated for the HD re-release on Steam and made official, introduces most significantly five new “forgotten” empires to the game: the Italians, Incas, Slavs, Indians, and Magyars (each with completely new units and technologies), as well as four new campaigns, new multiplayer modes, and various other tweaks to AI and gameplay. It also adds built-in support for spectating matches and streaming through twitch.tv, ever-helpful. This game is, in my not-very-well-versed opinion, one of the best and most fun RTS games of all time, and this update only makes it better.
Assault Android Cactus. I had almost not included this one, but I played the five-level demo just this morning and it is fantastic. It’s a twin-stick shooter, a genre I have very high expectations for, and it plays wonderfully. In the demo, you can choose from four different androids, each with a different primary and special weapon, and gameplay includes lots of enemies, alternate challenges in dark levels and boss battles, special powerups, and lots of fun. Single-player and local-co-op are included, always great for twin-sticks. This game, like Audiosurf 2, is in Early Access on Steam, so you can “beta-test” the game right now. I haven’t actually bought this one yet, but it’s on the top of my wish list.
Games cost money. But these games are worth it.