Mini-Review Roundup #3

Welcome back for another culling of Steam’s indie stocks! Once again all of our lucky finalists this week found their way to me via Curator Connect, meaning the developers thought I would actually enjoy them. And two of them were right! Shame about the other three, though.

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Doodle Date

At last, you get to live every high schooler’s fantasy of lording over a world full of doodles. After being pulled into your notebook by a friendly doodle named Claire, you get the chance to whip up your own dream date. Anything you can sketch out with the mouse can be your beau, and from there the game progresses like a visual novel dating sim. You’ll go on dates, draw presents and movies and waiters, and grow your relationship until the limitations of your paper world start to press in on you both.

Aside from the obvious amusement factor of dating a poop emoji or a crudely drawn penis, Doodle Date manages to pull some entertaining encounters out of your predicament. There are essentially two storylines you can follow, one that is both hilarious and even a little insightful, and another that feels like Doki Doki Literature Club lite. Either way you can churn through the game in about 15 minutes, so don’t expect to get real deep into or attached to it. The doodle mechanic is used for a few gags but doesn’t really do enough work to carry more than a playthrough or two, either. Still, it’s a fun little diversion that had me chuckling more than once, and I got to draw a sex scene with a smiley face and it’s not every day you get to say that.

FINAL VERDICT: Yeah!

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Inaccessible World

This is a first-person survival game where you get one week to hunt the most dangerous game of all, man. Dumped out of your shiny airplane next to a decript factory in the middle of nowhere, you’re tasked with killing as many people and animals as possible over seven lengthy days. Humans come in two flavors, nuclear mutants and bandits, while animals include birds, chickens, and boars. You’ll need to craft and maintain your gear, as well as secure food and water for your stay, which necessitates building a shelter to serve as a home base. The interface for building is clean enough, allowing you to make large or small wooden constructions wherever you want.

The only problem with Inaccessible World is that none of these systems really work well or cooperate with each other. You don’t actually need to build a shelter, because there are huts and buildings dotting the landscape you’ll want to raid for loot anyway. And you don’t need to craft because you can find food, water, armor, and assault rifles on the people you kill with your hilariously effective starter revolver. So really you just run around and murder helpless enemies and stand around waiting for them to respawn in the same spots until you get bored and quit. Also I lied, that’s not the only problem because the game is a glitchy, ugly, hacked-together mess of purchased assets and flat terrain and buildings that kill you when you get near because radiation I guess? In the end this is a prime example of good concept, atrocious execution.

FINAL VERDICT: Aw

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hack_me

I like the idea of hacking simulators, and the charm of imitating a desktop on your desktop so you can pretend to be a world-class hacker. Of course, a big part of that is properly simulating an operating system and hack_me can’t even clear that meager bar. Despite shamelessly copying a basic Windows setup nothing actually functions like Windows; you can’t move windows, resize them, or even really click out of them. Adding to the frustration are plain white tutorial popups that tell you exactly what to do, except you can’t do it while it’s open so I hope you’re good at memorizing ip addresses.

That’s the really galling part about hack_me, starting out the game doesn’t even challenge you to handle the most basic tasks. It tells you what to type where, but doesn’t even have the functional capability to let you do that without closing the tutorial window. I stuck that out only to get stuck on a server browser that didn’t work the way the idiot tutorial said it would. Considering how easy it is to find actual good and immersive hacking sims like Hacker Evolution I don’t see why anyone would bother with this.

FINAL VERDICT: Feh

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Lonely Astronaut

Your poor little astronaut is no more, and all that’s left for you to do is jet around before an asteroid pulverizes you. This melancholy little arcade game sticks you in the gravity well of some rock or star or something so there’s no exploring to do, just dodging ‘roids for as long as possible. Your score ticks up over time and you can collect white crystals to boost it, or green things to give you screen-clearing blasts. If you last long enough you can move on to other levels, and you’ve got a number of skellymans you can play as to give you different abilities or effects on the game. I wouldn’t expect to get a ton of mileage out of this one but drifting around aimlessly to classical music is a fun enough use of your time.

FINAL VERDICT: Whee

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Abstractism

You ever play a game without a goal in mind, just zone out and go with the flow? Abstractism is supposedly the platformer version of that, a minimalist cavalcade of moving platforms and wall jumps designed to help you chill out. I’m not real sure who that’s meant to appeal to, though, because if I want to platform without purpose I at least want neat things to look at. Instead, you get awful, sticky controls that sometimes go the opposite direction you’re pressing or fail to stick to a wall. There’s no ending to reach and they claim it’s a game with no Game Over, but the opening level has some faux-meaningful blabber and an auto-scrolling section you absolutely can fail, so even for the uninteresting, unambitious goal the developers set for themselves they still didn’t really even hit the mark.

FINAL VERDICT: Yawn

 

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