Saturday, December 21, 2019

Recommendations for Steam's 2019 Winter Sale

It's time for one of my favorite events of the year, Steam's Winter Sale. I like being able to buy goodies that I don't have to find physical space to store. FYI, my game tastes run heavily towards visual novels, casual games with little or no combat, and puzzle games, so those are the sorts of recommendations you can expect to find here.

Surprisingly, it doesn't seem like I've written too many game recommendation posts. There's this one for the 2017 Steam Summer Sale. All those recommendations still stand, especially Stardew Valley, which recently got an update that added a few things and improved what was already an amazing game. There's also my 2018 game recommendations post - those recommendations also still stand.

My top recommendations from those two posts, if you'd rather not click through:
  • Stardew Valley (on sale for $8.99) - This is a farming game that's largely pretty chill. You plant crops, catch fish, get to know villagers, explore the mines and fight monsters, etc. If there's a particular activity you don't like, it's usually pretty easy to work around it. The newest update adds some quality of life upgrades (when you build items like tree tappers, they stack now instead of taking up individual spaces in your inventory), a few fun things like new breeds of cats or dogs you can have around the farm, new fish, and probably other things I haven't come across yet.
  • Plants vs. Zombies (on sale for $1.99) - I haven't actually played this in years, but of all the games on my Steam account, this is maybe the third in terms of number of hours I've put into it. It's a fun little "tower defense" game in which you position plants to protect you against zombies. I'm terrible at stressful games, and even I found this enjoyable.
  • Hatoful Boyfriend (on sale for $2.49) - This dating sim/visual novel looks ridiculous - you're a human at a school for sentient birds, and you have the ability to befriend and date those birds. You're permitted to see them as their human equivalents at the very beginning of the game, and then that's it, you're romancing birds for the rest of the game. It turns out that this is actually a post-apocalyptic mystery/thriller, and it's surprisingly good. I ♥ sweet, sad Nageki.
  • The Rusty Lake games (complete bundle on sale for $5.07) - The best of the bunch are Rusty Lake: Roots and Rusty Lake Paradise. Weird little puzzle games set in an unsettling and strange universe. If you're not sure about taking the plunge, try out the various Cube Escape games, also set in the same universe. They're available for free on Android or iPhone.
  • 428 Shibuya Scramble (on sale for $14.99) - I highly recommend picking this up if you like visual novels. The price is fabulous right now. This is a mystery/thriller/comedy told from multiple POVs. The game requires you to switch between the different POVs in order to progress in the story - sometimes you can move forward in one POV unless a character in another POV has gone to the right location already, for example. The story structure alone makes this one worth checking out.
  • Hidden Folks (on sale for $2.47) - A Where's Waldo style hidden object game. The art and little scenarios are cute.
  • The Blackwell series (on sale for $7.84) - Do you miss old school adventure games? Then you're in luck, because this series will probably be perfect for you. You play as someone with the ability to see ghosts who has teamed up with a ghost. The games get better as the series progresses, although I would generally recommend playing them in order for story continuity purposes.
 What else do I recommend?
  • Donut County (on sale for $6.49) - It's a puzzle game that's probably going to be too easy for some folks to enjoy, but I personally think the humor makes up for it. You play as a racoon controlling a hole in the ground that gets bigger and bigger as it swallows things up.
  • Unavowed (on sale for $10.49) - I haven't actually finished this yet, but I still think it's great. Honestly, anything by Wadjet Eye Games (see the Blackwell series above) is generally going to be good. Compare this to the Blackwell games, and you can see how far the developer has come in terms of creating engaging stories and puzzles and working replayability into games.
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy (on sale for $19.79) - Uhh, another game I have yet to finish. That said, I've played several episodes of it, and I've found it to be lots of fun. The humor is great, as are the characters. It's stupid, but I always get a little zing of pleasure when I catch one of the characters trying to slip a particularly tricky lie through.
  • Animal Lover (on sale for $2.49) - I reviewed this a couple years ago. It's one of my top favorite visual novels. It takes a while to really get going, but I got really attached to several of the characters once I got past all the introductions and story setup.
  • Kind Words (lo fi chill beats to write to) (on sale for $4.24) - This isn't really a game. It's more a place where you can anonymously write about your problems and fears and get sympathy, advice, and encouragement back from other players. It does have some issues - sometimes the constant stream of problems is difficult to handle, especially if you're the sort that really wants to help people, and there's no way to make a more lasting connection with anyone, since you're limited to one response and the most the person can do in return is send you an in-game sticker as thanks. Still, the very limited setup seems to have left this game with little-to-no trolls, and the community is incredibly kind and thoughtful. 
  • Hashihime of the Old Book Town (on sale for $27.99) - No link to this one, because it's an adults-only game. The truly adult content takes a while to show up but is pretty graphic, FYI. Also, be warned, the first route in particular includes a LOT of suicide. That said, this is a beautiful, weird, and fascinating visual novel. It takes ages to really get going, but keep pushing and you'll be rewarded. This is another one I haven't quite finished yet - I've made it through two of the routes. It's very linear and features almost no choices, which I honestly find relaxing after some visual novels. 
  • Obduction (on sale for $10.49) - Another one I haven't finished yet - this is a pattern with me I know - but I highly recommend it if you're a fan of old school adventure games like the original Myst series. Like those games, the world of Obduction feels strangely dead and empty and, at first at least, it comes across as weirdly tiny. As you play, the areas you can travel to gradually increase until the world becomes dauntingly large. I love this game but, as with the Myst games, I don't seem to be smart enough for all of the puzzles. I got stuck on a few and ended up never coming back to the game. That said, I still highly recommend it, especially at this price.
  • Fran Bow (on sale for $7.49) - A puzzle game in which you're a little girl whose parents were killed and who is now being kept at an asylum. This game is occasionally extremely disturbing, so approach it with caution. Still, the story and puzzles are very well-done. It includes some mini-games, but if those aren't your thing, then no worries, because they aren't required in order to complete the game.

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