Monday, October 29, 2012

Random Steam Demos

Periodically I remember to browse the demos section on Steam and see what's available.  Here's a post listing a few games I've tried, my thoughts on them, and perhaps the most important question answered: do I feel it's worth the purchase price?

Castle Crashers
The ultra-popular XBLA game made its debut on Steam recently, and since The Behemoth was kind enough to provide a demo, I gave it a try.

Just on the off-chance that you've been living under a rock and haven't heard of Castle Crashers, it's a medieval-themed 2D sidescrolling beat-em-up for up to four players where you beat the bad guys to rescue the princesses, and then in multiplayer you fight each other for their affection.  It sports a lot of available weapons and four stat tracks to spend those precious level-up points in.  The only down-side to the demo is that it ends halfway through the boss fight at the end of the second stage.  It doesn't even have the decency to let you finish it and then say "that's it for the demo!"...

This is a case of a game that I've already played a bunch of over at friends' places and thus already know it's good.  From what I've seen in the demo, the PC version seems to be a pretty solid port, with nothing notably different in the available content.  It also has the Pink Knight and Blacksmith DLCs available for $0.99 each.  Worth the $14.99 on Steam?  Ehhhh...  I'll wait for a sale.

Fairy Bloom Freesia
Essentially a 3D sidescrolling beat-em-up, it stars a fairy named Freesia who is trying to defend her forest from monsters and humans that want to obtain the spirit stones that provide life energy to the forest.  The demo is a quick five stages, really just enough to get your feet wet.  You learn the basics, have the opportunity to play with buying moves and stat upgrades, learn the mechanics, etc., and it ends with a boss battle.  After the boss battle, the demo ends.  It sports a mechanic that anyone who's played Contra will be used to, namely down+jump to drop down from a platform.  It also borrows a fair number of mechanics from 2D fighters, like double jumping, air dashing, recoveries, and just defense.

Overall, the music is decent, the graphics are great, and the gameplay is solid.  The demo crashed on me a bit as I was trying to set it up (configuring resolution options), but once everything was set I had no stability issues.  Worth the $7.99 on Steam?  Sure.

Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit
This is a crazy 2D action platformer starring Ash, a devil rabbit who is also the prince of Hell.  Apparently someone posted "secret intimate photos" of him on the Hell-ternet, and now he's pissed.  All the premise anyone really needs for a platformer where you go around killing everything.  Along the way you build up an arsenal of weapons.  Unfortunately, the demo ends abruptly just before the boss fight in the first area.

The music works quite well, the graphics are great, and the controls are solid.  The game does crash if you try to force it to run a display resolution it doesn't present to you in the graphics settings, though.  I was trying to get it to run at 1440x900, which it doesn't provide an option for.  Set it via the config file, and it re-sets itself to 1280x800 on startup.  So I exited, changed it back, and then made the file read-only, only to have it crash.  Oh well.  The game has two DLCs on Steam, a skin pack for $2.99 and a pack of extra missions for $5.49.  The game itself is $14.99 on Steam.  Worth it?  Just like with Castle Crashers, I'll wait for a sale.

Bang Bang Racing
This is a 3D top-down racing game.  From the looks of things there's a decent variety of cars and tracks to choose from.  The demo limits you to Free Play mode, which is fine, but then it gives you the whole "buy the full version!" marketing spiel after every race.  I'd be fine if it just did it on exit, but after every race?  Anyway.

Aside from the sounds being a bit loud by default, and the all-too-apparent presence of rubberbanding, there isn't much to gripe about.  The game's description mentions "technical driving skills" as one of its focuses, but with the rubberbanding in place, it doesn't matter how bad you screw up, all the AI cars will be waiting for you a little bit down the road.

As far as gameplay goes, it's on the full arcade side of things.  Akin to F-Zero, you simply need to make a quick pass through the pit lane to repair your car and refill your nitro.  You can drift a bit by pressing the brakes while turning with the accelerator pressed, but I found that the tighter corners were a lot easier to handle if I did the regular "slow down, take the corner, acclerate out" thing.  Again, due to the rubberbanding, I was never able to open a commanding lead and have a buffer for the occasional messed up corner, the AI is always right there as soon as you screw up.

Aside from rubberbanding complaints, the game supports up to 4 human players and you can turn off the AI cars, so there's hope in that form.  However, you really shouldn't have to do that just to get around the rubberbanding.  There should be a toggle for the rubberbanding.  The game itself is pretty fun, there are hazards to avoid like oil barrels, water buckets, and more.  It could use an option to turn the hazards off, as a good number of them are placed directly on the racing line.

Overall, it's fun, and the graphics are good, but it's plagued with issues that make me not really want the full game.  Definitely not worth the $9.99 on Steam.

Seriously though, is it really that hard to make a good non-sim racing game?

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