No, seriously. Name your price. A small group of independent game developers, fronted by Wolfire, have banded together to offer five games for whatever you feel they are worth. They call this the Humble Indie Bundle, and they guarantee that whatever money you pay will go straight to the developers, and to two charities: The Electronic Frontier Foundation, those super-nerds who fight for our Internet freedom, and Child’s Play, a charity that donates toys, games, books, and funds for sick kids all over North America and the world. So, not only are you buying games for yourself, you are also helping small game developers, entertaining sick children, and fighting for freedom! That’s quite an accomplishment with just a few mouse clicks.
So, what do you get? Well, I purchased the bundle myself so that I could tell you just that. As you can see from the picture above, you get five games: World of Goo by 2D Boy, Aquaria by Bit-Blot, Gish by Cryptic Sea, Lugaru by Wolfire, and the first chapter of a three-part game called Penumbra by Frictional Games. I’ll try to give you my first impressions of these games to give you a better idea of what you will be getting for your money. Oh, and did I forget to mention? All the games are cross-platform (Mac, Windows, and Linux), and DRM-free, which means you can download them as many times as you wish and install them on all your various computers.
World of Goo
This game has you creating structures in a Tinker Toy like fashion using the Goo Balls as points that are connected by strands of…goo, I guess. You grab a Goo Ball, stretch it out, release, and your structure grows accordingly. World of Goo uses a physics engine to determine the balance of the structure, and your goal is to use just enough Goo Balls to build the needed structure – usually something to enable the remaining balls to navigate past an obstacle and make it to a pipe. With amusing sound effects and graphics, and I’m sure some more gameplay elements to come, this looks like a promising puzzle game.
2D Boy says, “World of Goo is a physics based puzzle / construction game. The millions of Goo Balls who live in the beautiful World of Goo don’t know that they are in a game, or that they are extremely delicious.”
I haven’t tasted any of them, but I’m sure that last cryptic phrase will become clear in time.
There is much to explore in this game. In my initial brief swim in the waters of Aquaria I played with jellyfish, opened various plants to find food and recipes for making helpful treats, sang a song of shielding to protect me from the more aggressive wildlife. The story so far is very mellow, and more based on exploration and navigating the underwater tunnels. There have been the occasional dream-sequences that have hinted at possibly darker aspects to this tale, but I don’t want to give too much away.
Here is what Bit_Blot says about their game: “A massive ocean world, teeming with life and filled with ancient secrets. Join Naija, a lone underwater dweller in search of her family, as she explores the depths of Aquaria. She’ll travel from hidden caves, shrouded in darkness, to beautiful, sunlit oases, all lovingly handcrafted by its two creators.”
My daughter enjoyed testing this game with me. We both liked how Naija’s singing blended so well with the ambient background music.
It’s a Mario-esque storyline, with the stolen girlfriend and all (why does a ball of tar have a girlfriend?). But the physics of this sidescroller are the fun part. As a ball of tar, you can squish down through pipes, stick to surfaces, even bounce up and down, building up the power for a jump. The controls take a little getting used to, and there are quick transitions where you have to go from jumping to sticking to sliding and so on. But the squishy dynamics are a fresh take on an old genre.
Cryptic Sea says, “Gish is a one of a kind 2d sidescroller with a twist you play as a totally physics based ball of tar. Find out why the media has been calling Gish the independent game of the year!”
I tested this on my Mac, and I had to install Rosetta which was a little annoying. However, it was a small download and was located automatically, so it wasn’t all that bad. I was up and playing in mere minutes.
This game started up nicely, and was very similar to WOW in controls for movement – WASD for movement, mouse for view, space bar for jump. It got a bit trickier with the combat, but that could be because I’m mentally-challenged. Going through the tutorial had me befuddled fairly quickly, trying to remember when to hit the space bar to jump. when to hit Shift to crouch, and when to click the mouse to attack. Various combinations of these controls, plus movement, all create different styles of attack. When weapons were introduced I could tell that I needed much more practice.
Here’s what Wolfire had to say: “Lugaru (pronounced Loo-GAH-roo) is the predecessor to Overgrowth. It is a DRM-free, third-person action game available for Mac, Windows, and Linux. The main character, Turner, is an anthropomorphic rebel bunny rabbit with impressive combat skills. In his quest to find those responsible for slaughtering his village, he uncovers a far-reaching conspiracy involving the corrupt leaders of the rabbit republic and the starving wolves from a nearby den. Turner takes it upon himself to fight against their plot and save his fellow rabbits from slavery.”
Hopping right into the campaign, I could tell that this was much more than I could burrow into at a single sitting. I have a hutch I’ll be nibbling on this for days to come. (Rabbit puns FTW!)
After getting through the initial story introduction, I found myself on a ship. With a little experimentation and some hints from the game I was able to figure out the controls to pick up objects, add them to my inventory, and so on. I picked up a few things – a flashlight, some extra batteries, and a notebook, and left the ship. I found myself in a snowy ravine. In-game hints prompted me to pick up a rock and throw it, so I did this for a while. Then, on a wild hunch that this information was not given to me at random, I carried a rock along with me. Sure enough, I came to a port door set into the ground, and the wheel to open it had been frozen shut. I threw my rock, the ice shattered, and I was able to open the door and climb through. Unfortunately I promptly fell to the bottom of a shaft. Not sure if that was due to some mistake of my own, or if that was an intended part of the plot. But whatever the case, there was no way back up. I found myself in a small system of caves, with mine-like supports and doors. One door was stuck shut and would be the puzzle that I would eventually give up on for lack of time. This was a promising beginning for what appears to be a much longer game.
Frictional Games says, “Penumbra is a first person horror adventure focussing on story, immersion and puzzle solving. Violence and combat is hardly an option – the player has to use wits to guide Philip through his final test, and this makes the series unique in offering a truly dangerous and terrifying experience.”
I like that this isn’t just another first-person shooter. I’m looking forward to spending some time playing this, though I have to figure out how to open that door first!
So that’s it for my quick glimpse of the games in this bundle. If you want to get them at this fantastic price (whatever you want to pay) you need to act quickly. As of the day I’m writing this, May 5th 2010, there are only about 6 more days left on this offer, after which you would need to buy them at their original prices.