Police-state parodies, robotic sporting leagues, corporate espionage capers and top-down procedurally generated horror – Greenlight promises to catapult all kinds of exciting, experimental genres onto Steam. Only if they get enough votes, though. We’ve done our bit to address the signal-to-noise ratio, bundling together the games we think are most deserving of a Steam release into the PC Gamer Greenlight Collection . Why not do your bit by throwing a few votes their way? Let us know in the comments if you’ve spotted other lamentably unchampioned titles.
I’ve been playing the free beta for this all morning rather than doing any real work. I can excuse this fact to myself because a) it’s fantastic and b) it feels a little bit like work, but even better because I get to strip search people, destroy families, and send people to detention centres for misprints. You play as an officious border control agent, examining the documentation of immigrants, foreign workers and citizens as they attempt to enter the fictional soviet-style state of Arstotzka circa 1983. Hapless migrants come up to your booth, present their papers, and you sift through the material, cross-referencing their data, finding discrepancies and – when necessary – alerting armed guards to the presence of a terrorist or smuggler. This recreation of stone-hearted soviet bureaucracy doesn’t feel tedious, however. It’s intelligent detective work, and grimly funny narratives weave through the daily grind as familiar faces present their identification. It’s all set against the clock, too; the more people you process, the more you get paid, and the better you can afford food, medicine and heating for your extended family. Keeping your head above the rising tide of red tape isn’t easy, though – and don’t expect any sympathy from the state for your loyal service.
Tactical robot football. That description should really be enough to earn your vote. But there’s more! It comes from the makers of fantastic turnbased tactics game Frozen Synapse , and borrows many of the brilliant asynchronous mechanisms which made Frozen Synapse PCG’s strategy game of the year in 2011. Both teams plot their movements using an intuitive but extremely deep waypointing system, then hit play, watching as the two competing strategems collide, entangle and unravel. In Frozen Synapse this facilitated a sort of top-down abstracted Counter-Strike; Endzone reapplies the metaphor to something resembling American Football, with hulking metal beasts dodging, tackling and passing at your command.
Videogames have always tended to be a visual experience – hence, you know, video games. How then to represent a world described through sound alone? In Pulse you play as someone blind, but able to visualise their surroundings based on the way sound reverberates through it, much like a sonar ping. In aid of this process, you have a small army of throwable, squeaking creatures, whose chirruping noises help you to draw a picture of your environment. The prototype footage suggests it’s some way from shipping, but the experimental premise certainly deserves exploration.
I can’t say they’ve struck marketing gold with Generic War Title: Mythological Namecheck, but everything else about this turnbased strategy promises to be rather exciting – exciting enough that it hit its Kickstarter target, at any rate. The game seeks to capture the turnbased charm of Battle Isle or Advance Wars and give it a lustrous graphical overhaul. But it’s not all about surface; they’re clearly not skimping on content either, with two singleplayer campaigns, challenge maps and multiplayer in a variety of flavours: online, asynchronous and hot-seat.
In Verbis Virtus
Your voice is your weapon in this firstperson fantasy puzzler – which uses a system not unlike Skyrim’s shouts to cast spells. Except here the spells literally have to be vocalised into a microphone: “Let there be light!” for an illumination spell, or “Mind over matter!” for telekinesis. It’d be a cute gimmick by itself, but the elaborate environmental design and intricate architecture promises a world of well-considered construction.
Remember the recent Syndicate reboot? Yeah, best you don’t really. Black Annex is perhaps the game of corporate espionage and/or horrendous business-motivated violence that we should have got instead. You build a team of shadowy agents and use their talents to infiltrate and sabotage competitors’ organisations, all the while tending to business needs of Black Annex itself.
Taking you to the abyssal depths of the ocean, this 2D platform-less platform game uses the inky-black darkness as part of its puzzle mechanic as your glowing aquatic buddies illuminate the world around you. It’s simple, but charming and relaxing – it’s worth shining a light on it for that alone.
This top-down strategic action game looks simple, but the it’s as tough as a bullet-proof jacket. Precise tactics are required to scour the embassies, hotels, and homes, freeing the world of terrorist threats one thoughtfully placed bullet at a time. It’s slow and methodical, but no less tense for that – and a genre we see too little of, besides.
The sword-fighting sim championed by sci-fi author Neal Stephenson achieved its Kickstarter funding last year. Stabbing aficionados who backed the project have already been given the alpha build depicted in the video above, but anyone should be able to purchase access to it soon – and why not via Steam? The early footage doesn’t suggest that controlling the game will be an especially kinetic experience but maybe that’s for the best given our preference for the sedentary. Besides which, a game that calmly teaches you the right stance is maybe more valuable as a sim than a game which tries to recreate the wild speed and power of combat one-to-one.
The dark, shady world of corporate sabotage means more than stealing paperclips and leaving photocopies of your bum all over the video-conference room. No, it’s about stealing secrets, hobbling competitors and bringing total ruination upon anyone who dares to take a single cent of your business. Netgain’s a strategy game that puts you right at the heart of such an intrigue. As a CEO, you dispatch operatives to enact your Machiavellian plot, forging incriminating documents or luring opponents into elaborate honey traps.
I was able to strap on an Oculus Rift for the first time about twenty minutes ago, and now the wooziness has subsided, I can assuredly say that VR is very, very cool indeed. I’m not sure my brain can cope with the convolutions of a twitchy firstperson shooter, however – not without sending my stomach into freefall – but I am definitely excited to explore fantastic digital worlds using a face-mounted 3D goggle-box. The Gallery offers exactly that: a Myst-like puzzler-explorathon, set amid cave complexes, floating castles and other visual marvels – and all designed with both PC and Oculus in mind. Yes, please.
A top-down perspective isn’t an obvious choice for a survival-horror RPG, but Darkwood looks the business. It’s procedurally generated, and you can interact extensively with the environment – barricading windows, blocking doors and switching on lights to protect yourself from a demonic threat. Lovely animation and dynamic lighting, too. The horror hardcore will be pleased by the inclusion of permadeath. Well, ‘pleased’ might be the wrong word. Try ‘terrified’.
Depression Quest is billed as an ‘interactive (non)fiction’, and that’s for good reason. It’s by indie developer Zoe Quinn and is intended to provide an insight into the experience of living with serious depression. It challenges you to go about your daily business while suffering from the illness, with circumstances shifting in response to your choices. If you suffer from depression or know someone who does, you’ve got every reason to want to see this acclaimed awareness-raising game on Steam.
Riot’s low-fi pixel aesthetics mask a serious political message. It’s a simulation of modern civil unrest – the clashes between protesters and police that are becoming more common in the era of Occupy and austerity. The developers are careful to show the experience of a riot from both sides, to provide a sense of what it’s like when things get out of control. It’s a political game, then, but not necessarily a didactic one. Well worth your attention.
Ray’s The Dead
It’s a well-known fact that good puns never die. In Ray’s The Dead (I see what you did there, Ragtag Studio) you control a freshly resurrected corpse – Ray – on a mission to avenge his own death through the medium of zombie apocalypse. It looks a bit like renowned Nintendo strategy puzzler Pikmin, albeit with a neat hand-drawn art style that gives it definite personality of its own. It’s also set in the 1980s, but then again so is everything nowadays. Expect a Thriller homage.
Absinthe is a hell of a drink, and it’s the potent alcoholic potion that drives Spate’s platforming. You play a detective, hired to make sense of a string of disappearances on an island, all the while coming to terms with your daughter’s death. And the protagonist takes a particularly boozy approach to this process of reconciliation, glugging back absinthe to boost movement. But with each sup the world becomes stranger, darker, until your perception of the world is as great an obstacle as anything within it. Suggested title for the seque: “There’s no time Toulouse”.
Taking the lead from classic survival game Disaster Report , Infra puts you in the role of a structural engineer caught in a devastating city-wide catastrophe. You wander the labyrinthine tunnels and debris beneath a collapsing city, dodging dangers and solving engineering puzzles. The game reacts according to how you balance your own need for self-preservation against saving others.
If you don’t have the cash to splash on Shootmania, the free-to-play Warsow is worth an upvote. It follows the classic online shooter roadmap: speed, bullets, arenas. No killstreaks, no unlocks. Just the basics. It’s been in development for seven years, but rather than looking old the clean textures and cel-shading has kept it rather sharp. Pared back gameplay is its strength, as it was in Quake and Unreal Tournament, but it supplements that with the kind of twitchy movement trickery that makes high-level play extremely rewarding.
The fact that this has yet to be Greenlit demands some sort of intergalactic tribunal. It’s an intricate spaceship bridge simulator, in which multiple players take on the various vital crew roles, possibly while wearing prosthetic pointy ears, and coordinate their efforts to escape space peril. You can read about our experiences playing the game here or buy it from the Artemis website.
The actual merriness of Merry Old England may have been overstated: consider that quite a lot of people spent their short lives digging root vegetables from a frigid field before keeling over covered in swollen, leaking bubose. Lucky then that Death Inc is here to inject the plague with a lurid sense of fun. An RTS of sorts, you infect peasants and soldiers, commanding your puking, pus-filled minions to sweep through the pastoral landscape, gathering more souls to your sickly cause. Its ghoulishly amusing, and has an innovative sweeping control scheme. There’s currently an alpha build available to early purchasers.
Somewhere between RTS and tower defence lies this game about a robot trying to grow a crop of strawberries while fending off squishy, gooey monsters on an alien planet. There’s some simple but frantic resource management, but the real meat of the game lies in the many elaborate ways in which your actions can cause the creatures of the planet to evolve. You can buy it here .
Part FPS, part Rainbow-Six-style tactical venture, part stealth game – Signal Ops is an intriguing weave of genres, wrapped in a gloriously caricatured comedy spy caper. You field multiple agents, each of whose perspectives are visible simultaneously via a bank of monitors. You can then switch control between each, as you sneak, sabotage, distract enemies, taser them in the back, detonate walls, steal documents and assassinate targets – all the while being careful to keep your agents in range of your comms equipment. It’s playable in co-op, too. You can already buy it from GOG , so why not Steam?
A strategy game about the dark pleasures of smash-n-grab capitalism, Neocolonialism sees you pulling the string of politics and economics, amassing power and wealth while condemning the rest of the world to a dark age of penury and strife. Grab free-trade agreements, buy politicians, and manipulate the IMF in your bid to become the globe’s number one arsehole. You can play a free version of it here , or simply seek a job in the financial services sector.
FRACT OSC is a first-person puzzle game set in an abstract world of neon shapes which throb to music. It’s a clever experiment in synaesthesia, in which progress comes from toying with sound itself, discovering ways in which the environment’s music can be sequenced, triggering events which reconfigure the landscape. Even if the solutions and overall purpose are sometimes a bit opaque, it’s a beautiful exploratory experience.
Whereas Portal’s interspatial device poked open doorways between different parts of the world, Parallax’s openings lead you between entirely different, but overlapping worlds. To navigate Parallax’s obstacle course, you’ll need to flit back and forth between the two, making quick use of flip-switches to rotate parts of the level to give you clear passage, and propelling yourself through the air with jump pads.
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