Sunday, June 25, 2017

Steam Summer Sale game recommendations

In case you hadn’t noticed, there’s a Summer Sale going on at Steam until July 5th. I figured I’d write a game recommendation post in honor of that.

First, some background info. I’m a Windows user, so the games that play on my computer might not be available for Mac users. The types of games I generally gravitate towards are adventure and puzzle-solving games, RPGs, and visual novels (not strictly games, but more like “choose your own adventure” stories, sometimes with additional elements). I strongly prefer games that are low-stress, with a few exceptions. I won’t be listing any free games, since the goal is to make the best use of the Summer Sale period.

Okay, here we go! I’ve arranged these by genre, although some technically fit into more than one category. Every one of these games is something I've played, although maybe not recently. You'll also notice that I haven't finished a lot of these - I get distracted pretty easily and don't have good game stamina, so not finishing isn't unusual for me and doesn't mean I disliked the game.

I've included 13 game recommendations: 2 adventure games, 3 puzzle games, 3 RPGs, 2 strategy games, and 3 visual novels.

Adventure Games

The Longest Journey - You play as April Ryan, a woman who becomes involved in an adventure that spans two universes, one with a heavy emphasis on technology and one filled with magic.

I originally played this when it came out on CD-ROM. I own it on Steam but haven’t yet played it on Steam.

This is a linear adventure game with puzzles that are well-integrated into the environments and story. I recall it being a little dialogue-heavy, but otherwise wonderful. The visuals are a little dated now, but still, in my opinion, not too bad.

If you like story-rich adventure games with puzzles that make sense and zero chance of dying (no stress!), then I’d recommend giving this a shot.

Machinarium - You play as a robot trying to rescue his girlfriend. In order to do this you have to travel through various environments and solve puzzles.

I got stuck on a puzzle fairly late in the game and never got around to finishing it, but I recall loving this. The artwork was wonderful, and the puzzles usually made sense. According to Steam, I’ve put 7.7 hours into this.

Puzzle Games

Human Resource Machine - From the same company that created Little Inferno (also included on this list), with the same quirky look. A word of warning: it does require a lot more effort and thought than Little Inferno. The story: you’re a new employee at a company that specializes in taking things from an inbox and putting them into an outbox. You, the player, must program the employee to do their tasks.

Don’t worry if you’ve never done programming before - the game gives you a set of commands you can give your employee and explains how each one works. You choose the commands you think will get the job done, hit play, and watch the little employee go. If you did something wrong, the game lets you know and you can walk the employee back through the steps to see what happened and hopefully realize how to fix it.

I’ve currently in year 22 of the game, and having some difficulty with the Fibonacci series problem. I’m so close to solving it! Anyway, this game reminds me a little of some of the stuff I occasionally have to do for work...which is why it doesn’t surprise me that I almost never manage to get extra points in the game for using the smallest number of steps or commands. I can generally get the job done, just not elegantly and efficiently. Oh well.

According to Steam, I’ve put 3.6 hours into this so far.

Little Inferno - Throw toys into a fire and watch them burn. Burning toys earns you money for more toys...which you then burn.

This game doesn’t sound like much, but it’s strangely soothing. Watching the way various toys and other objects react to the fire, especially when burned with other objects, was a lot more fun than I expected. The game seems like it could go on forever, but after a while you realize that there is an actual story.

I finished Little Inferno a while back and haven’t played it since then. Steam says I put about 9.2 hours into it.

Portal - You wake up in an empty laboratory. In order to proceed, you must complete various tasks and be judged based on your solutions. Your only ally is your trusty Companion Cube, which you can use, along with portal technology, to solve various puzzles. Be careful - the lab is filled with dangers like pits filled with acid (?) and robots that will try to kill you on sight.

This is one of the few games on my list that I’d consider stressful, but it’s so good that I don’t really mind. I haven’t completed it, but only because I got distracted by other things. I really need to get back to it someday, so I can move on to the sequel.

According to Steam, I’ve put 5 hours into this.
 
RPGs

One Way Heroics - Darkness is consuming the world from the left to the right. You, the adventurer, must keep moving right, collect items, monitor your energy and health, defeat enemies, and eventually face the Demon Lord.

Game battles can sometimes be too stressful for me, but the nice thing about One Way Heroics is that it’s turn-based. No one attacks or moves until you’ve made a move, so you have some time to think if you need it. There are different classes of heroes you can play, including a few you can unlock later on, each world is unique, and you can save items from previous playthroughs to use in later ones. According to Steam, I’ve put 15.4 hours into this.

Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale - You play as a girl who finds herself in charge of an RPG item shop. She has a mountain of debt to pay off and will end up homeless if she doesn’t pay it off. She needs to learn how to successfully bargain with customers, and she needs to employ adventurers to bring her more stuff to sell.

I hated this game, at first. The odds are stacked against you, and you will probably end up homeless your first time through. Fortunately, any items you had leftover when you became homeless will magically be available to your character when you do your next playthrough. If you plan things right, your character might be able to start the game off with some very valuable items.

I wasn’t always very good at bargaining, and the dungeon crawling seemed clunkier and more difficult than it needed to be, but I enjoyed this game’s sense of humor. I never did get around to finishing it, but I had fun. According to Steam I’ve put 5.9 hours into this.

Stardew Valley - You play as someone who has just moved to your grandfather’s old farm. You need to clear the land, after which you can buy seeds, grow fruits and vegetables, take care of farm animals, and more. Play however you like - if one particular task is too boring or difficult for you, you can skip it and work on something else. Get to know the townspeople, and maybe make friends and/or find romance.

I bought this game at full price and consider it worth every penny. There are some stressful aspects to it, but you can, if you wish, just opt not to do any aspect of the game that doesn’t work for you. The absolute bare minimum you need to do is monitor your character’s energy levels, which require food to increase. For the longest time, I couldn’t get the hang of the fishing mechanics and just skipped that aspect. I hated passing up on all the character requests that required fishing, but I wasn’t penalized for not doing them.

A wonderful, gentle game (well, except for the dungeon crawling parts). It’s very addictive, so I’m careful to only play it during long weekends or vacations. One of these days I’ll start over from the beginning so that I can try out new features that have been added since I first bought the game, but for now I’m still invested in my character, her farm, her spouse, and the family they’re trying to start. Which reminds me, I should mention that this game allows same-sex relationships.

As far as I can tell, although there are various goals you can try to reach, Stardew Valley doesn’t really have an ending. According to Steam, I’ve put 80.8 hours, and I’m still playing the very first character I created.

Strategy

Long Live the Queen - You play as a princess who has just inherited the throne after the untimely death of your mother. You have to make various choices and improve various stats in order to (hopefully) survive.

Steam has this marked as a visual novel, although it is way more game-like than most things I’d call visual novels. I’d call it more of a strategy game with visual novel aspects.

This is a wonderfully quirky game, although it will quickly become frustrating if you goal is to win/survive. It’s darkly humorous - part of the fun is seeing the many ways the princess can end up dying. There are multiple ways to deal with the crises that pop up in the game - I can’t be sure, but I don’t think there’s one true way to do things.

I haven’t yet encountered a non-death ending, although I’ve heard there are various endings in which the princess survives. The two things I disliked about the game were the new crises I’d never encountered before and wasn’t prepared to face, and the frequency with which I had to start over and build up the princess’s stats from the ground up. That said, I definitely think this game is worth it at its current sale price.

Steam says I’ve put 3.8 hours into this.

Plants vs. Zombies Game of the Year Edition - This was my Steam gateway game. I was visiting my parents and my dad convinced me to try it. I had never played anything through Steam before and became absolutely hooked on this.

The story: zombies are trying to invade your home, and the only thing you can use to stop them is plants. Different plants have different capabilities. The same goes for the zombies. And, although you might like certain plants, you only have so much money and some plants cost more than others.

I haven’t play this in ages, but I remember it being highly addictive. According to Steam, I’ve put 51.1 hours into it.

Visual Novels

Analogue: A Hate Story - In this sci-fi mystery visual novel, you’re charged with investigating what happened at a failed colony ship. The only sources of information left are crew logs and two AIs with very different sets of values and viewpoints.

I’ll be honest: I haven’t finished this one yet. The thing about Christine Love’s visual novels is that they are very emotionally intense, to the point that they become incredibly stressful for me. I found myself caring about the world and characters in this visual novel a bit too much, and I’d actually feel slimy if I told a character something that made her happy primarily to get more information out of her. Although this game technically has “romance” options, I wouldn’t really call this a romance game.

According to Steam, I put 1.9 hours into this before it became too intense for me. If you want a visual novel that will really emotionally engage you, I’d definitely recommend this. For such a simple setup (only you, some crew logs, and a couple characters), this visual novel has an amazing amount of depth.

Fault - Milestone One - A princess and her female bodyguard are accidentally transported to a land with no magic while trying to escape a massacre in their homeland. While trying to figure out where they are and how to get home, they make a friend who turns out to be in trouble. In an effort to free her from possible slavery, they learn more about the sad and terrible history of one of the town’s most prominent families.

If visual novels and their multiple story options sound annoying to you, this may be a good first visual novel to try - there’s only one choice in the entire thing, and your decision only affects a few minor lines of text. The story could be a bit stronger and takes way too long to really get going (I wasn’t hooked until maybe chapter 3, almost halfway through), but the beautiful visuals and music help make up for that. Warning: it does end with a cliffhanger, so you might want to bite the bullet and pick up the “fault complete edition” during Steam’s sale if this title intrigues you.

According to Steam, I’ve put 7 hours into this game. The actual game only took about 4 hours. The other three hours were me listening to the game’s music tracks.

Hatoful Boyfriend - In this dystopian romance game, you are the only human attending a prestigious school for birds. You are allowed to see what your various romantic options would look like if they were human, but only the first time you meet them. After that, it’s all birds.

Considering that this visual novel started off as a joke, it’s surprisingly good. It seems like a bunch of simple cliched romances at first, but as you play through different routes you realize that there’s a larger story.

Steam says I’ve put 2.5 hours into this. Although I never completely finished this game, I did play through two or three routes and loved them. I recall Nageki the mourning dove being my favorite.

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