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Steamlog: Indie Hits

MinecraVarium.

The Steamlog hasn’t had any new entries in the last couple of weeks, since I’ve been dedicating my time to actually making some games for my University coursework. The games I’ve made aren’t going to be indie hits without a lot of development, so I won’t talk about them for much longer.

Instead, I’ll talk about three popular indie titles that I’ve never put some time into before: Minecraft, Machinarium and VVVVVV. One is a bit boring, one is a brilliantly deep game that I’ve only just discovered the potential of and another is a retro-styled flip-em-up (I may or may not have just made that genre up). Can you guess which is which? Good, but there’s really no point since you can just scroll down to discover for yourself.

There’s been a lot of buzz around Minecraft recently, with its release on Xbox 360 this week. It’s safe to say that Minecraft is a very popular game, though it was never one that I ever saw the appeal of. After some time exploring the created worlds, attempting to dig holes with nothing but my fist and punching cows until they turned into beef, I still didn’t get it.


Minecraft allows you to build anything that you can with the blocks provided. Including the logo. Meta.
Then I played it with a friend and we went mining; I found that discovering these massive caverns under the ground was actually really enjoyable, if without a real purpose. It’s quite incredible that all of these caverns filled with precious minerals, large ravines filled with water and lava and massive overworlds are all randomly generated.

I’ve seen what people can do with Minecraft, but I’m still learning. I’m very much still a beginner after the few hours that I’ve spent in the worlds. I need to get my head around crafting before I build anything noteworthy myself, but I can see this game taking up a lot of my time once I fully understand it.

I know Minecraft isn’t available on Steam, but it’s a PC game that I’ve put off playing properly until now, and it’s an indie hit so it’s fair to say that it fits in my Steamlog; my Minelog.

Machinarium is, supposedly, a great point and click adventure. And whilst the puzzles are solid, the gameplay is good and the art style is fantastic, I find it hard to recommend – I didn’t get along with the game very well.

Machinarium is very much a traditional point and click adventure game, where you control a robot named Josef. The catch is that you’re only able to click and use objects within Josef’s reach, meaning that you’ll have to move the little robot around a lot.


Machinarium certainly looks good, but I couldn't get along with it.
Thankfully, you’re able to extend his reach by extending him up or down, like a spring. Josef also is able to swallow objects into an inventory of sorts, which you can then combine, for later use.

I found the game itself somewhat boring, though; perhaps it’s not my kind of game, but I the reach mechanics were more tedious than fun and what I had played so far didn’t compare to other point and click games such as the wonderful Windosill. The art style, however, is great and coupled with the sound – the game features no dialogue whatsoever – it makes for a believable robotic wasteland.

The hints system is done excellently, though – you’re able to show one hint per level, if needed, which will show a singular image in a thought bubble above Josef. If that doesn’t help, a full picture walkthrough is available, though you must first complete a mini-game to unlock the page, in the form of a sidescrolling shooter, where you control the key and have to navigate past obstacles and shoot spiders.

There’s only really one way to find out if you like Machinarium, though: try it out for yourself. There’s a demo available on Steam, and the game is also available for iPad. It’s said to be coming to PSN, too, though there hasn’t been any news on that since last summer.

VVVVVV, or The Letter V Six Times is an aesthetically and audibly retro platformer game, and it’s excellent. Set on a spaceship after a catastrophe, the player character – Captain Viridian (one of the six Vs) – must rescue his crew (the other five Vs) who are at various areas of the ship.

VVVVVV is unlike any traditional platformer, in that you’re effectively unable to jump and the map itself is fully explorable in whichever direction you choose – it’s not just a case of going right. Instead of jumping, you’re able to reverse the gravity with a push of the up or down button, in order for Captain Viridian to fly up to the ceiling or fall down to the floor respectively. This can make it very difficult to navigate past certain obstacles and certainly adds a challenging element to the game.

The teleporters dotted around the (rather big) map will help you find your way to the next crew member to be rescued, though you’ll have to explore and find these first. Between the teleporters are increasingly difficult platforming sections, including fast paced areas which have you racing up the screen; these are an absolute blast, but can get frustrating like many other parts of the game.

Sections of the game can be maze-like, so it can be very hard to find your way around. Thankfully, the map will guide you to places you haven’t explored and you’re never too far from a checkpoint for when it gets too hard, with new mechanics including sections where you must help your crew member across obstacles or walls that bounce you in the opposite direction.

The 8-bit, colourful style is simple yet very effective; when coupled with the backgrounds, it looks wonderful, yet the sprites all stand out, whilst the chiptune soundtrack reflects the visual style and feels as futuristic as it does retro.

With both time trials – which are ranked and timed, as well as very challenging – and a level editor along with the main game itself, VVVVVV makes for a brilliantly fun platformer. It’s out on PC now and you’re able to try the demo; for those of you with Nintendo’s latest handheld, it just released on the 3DS eShop.

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6 Comments
  1. teflon
    Community Team
    Since: May 2009

    The guys behind Machinarium have moved on, I think. They released Botanicula the other week, and have a Samorost 3 in the works too.

    Comment posted on 12/05/2012 at 15:06.
  2. An-dz
    Member
    Since: Oct 2010

    Id never even heard of two of these untill this artical, so now i can give them some attention. No prizes for guessing which one i knew about all ready.

    Comment posted on 12/05/2012 at 15:30.
  3. gazzagb
    Master of speling mitakse
    Since: Feb 2009

    Machinarium is really great, love the art style and would recommend it to all.
    Minecraft is simply awesome though, probably the game I play most these days. As you said though, you need to spend some time before you get into it, and it’s a million times better playing online as you can build together or just show off your creations to others easily. People that think it’s just building with blocks are totally wrong imo, there’s so much more depth to exploring and creating, and it actually requires a fair bit of skill to play. Mastering redstone is a feat in itself.

    Comment posted on 12/05/2012 at 15:53.
  4. TSBonyman
    Member
    Since: Dec 2009

    I would love to see Machinarium on psn – and the Samorost games too. I’ve only played demos of each but loved the art style and puzzles.
    I’ve played the free Mac version of Minecraft and i can see how i could lose a lot of time in the game but i prefer the console/tv set-up for extended periods of gaming and sadly it’s unlikely PS3 will get Minecraft anytime soon due to the xbox deal.

    Comment posted on 12/05/2012 at 16:37.
  5. RudeAwakening
    Member
    Since: Jan 2011

    Yea i stumbled upon Machinarium a while back and downloaded it, the only game that would actually play on my awfully slow and crap laptop, and loved it, the art style was excellent and the puzzles i found where brilliant.

    Was stuck on that x and o puzzle for hours!

    Comment posted on 12/05/2012 at 19:51.
  6. Kaminari
    Member
    Since: Jan 2010

    You don’t need Steam to try it.

    http://machinarium.net/

    Comment posted on 12/05/2012 at 22:38.