2011 is over. Have a good 2012.
The last day of the year was also the last day of the Steam sale, 12 days of hemorrhaging wallets and, new this year, holiday-themed achievements. Every day brought new ones for various games and completing them won you coupons and contest entries.
Achievements are usually pretty worthless and sometimes they make you want to break things with your face, but other times games do it right and they can be fun. I really didn’t give a flying fart about trying to achieve them for the sake of achieving them; to me this was the perfect opportunity to finally try the many games sitting untouched in my Steam library, many of which got there via the Humble Bundle or Indie Royale. So I sought out the achievements for the games I already owned, and it led me to try a lot of games throughout the last week.
Here are the ones, all from 2011, that I cannot stop playing and wholeheartedly recommend.
Atom Zombie Smasher
I think I summed it up pretty well in my ravings on Twitter about it. It’s the lovechild of Quintin Tarantino and an Atari, a fine example of how a game’s art can elevate it from a great game to something special. Its 1960s zombie apocalypse frames numerous quick and bizarre comics about a small cast of characters, thrown at you in random order and leaving you baffled and amused. The music is nonstop go-go surfer something-or-other and drives you between each part of the game, making it hard to stop between each mission’s phases.
The graphics are, yes, tiny squares on a city map. The zombies are purple dots and the humans are yellow; the yellow dots flash red and turn purple when they touch a purple dot. There’s something amazing watching them though. When you see that the city’s remaining population is 1, but can’t find the yellow dot. Then you see it, one person zooming down a street, frantic and erratic, not stopping when they turn the corner into a cluster of purple. Or two yellow dots, moving together toward the helicopter’s landing zone, purple coming from both ends, and making it just in time. Two evacuees are hardly significant as far as your score goes, but dammit you’re cheering for them.
I can’t stop playing this game. (By the way it has a demo.)
Steam link: http://store.steampowered.com/app/55040/
I haven’t heard this much cursing of conquistadors since, well, whenever conquistadors come up. But this time they’re on mars and there’s lots of shooting things to do.
Actually there’s not much to say about this game. Pretty obvious what it is and why it’s so much fun.
Steam link: http://store.steampowered.com/app/94200/
Fate of the World
There’s a silly thread on the Steam forums titled “Republicans need not apply,” complaining that this game takes for granted the liberal propaganda about global warming and all that. You know, ways in which the world might actually end. It’s ironic, considering that every other game in which the world is going end has fictional scenarios. Perhaps a series like Sid Meier’s Civilization—in which diplomacy and alliances are virtually useless, war is rewarded greatest, and environment and welfare are an afterthought—might better suit the isolationist, exceptionalist, xenophobic worldviews most republicans express.
Still, that has nothing to do with this game, because you’re not going to play it because it tickles your leftist fancies. You’re going to play it because it is an unrelenting and unforgiving game that fills you with excitement and dread every time you hit that End Turn button. You feel like you’re doing things right, but you know things are going to go wrong every chance they get. You can only do so much per turn; you can fix short-term problems, but how much can you sacrifice from your long-terms, game-winning goals?
I tried this again for the first time. I started a while ago, liked it, but wasn’t hooked. It wasn’t till after I got the holiday achievement (which is basically beating level 2-4) and moved on to the next level that I felt the glory of devising and correcting and finally finding a solution. It’s a beautiful thing when you get it to work. The fact that you can watch your system work at any speed just lets you fully indulge in the awe and pride. Holy hell this game makes you think.
The video below is the game’s how-to intro. Watch it for a feel of how it works, then go play the demo!
Steam link: http://store.steampowered.com/app/92800/