Posts Tagged ‘2013’

Shufflepuck Cantina Deluxe Review

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Shufflepuck Cantina Deluxe Boxart

Developer: Agharta Studio
Publisher: Agharta Studio
Platform: Mobile – Android, iOS PC – Steam

If you were a PC gamer back in 1989, then perhaps Shufflepuck Cantina Deluxe will look familiar to you. That’s because it is Agharta Studio’s homage to Shufflepuck Cafe. It turned the relatively tame world of air hockey into a pretty cool video game where you faced off against odd (often unhuman) enemies. Shufflepuck Cantina Deluxe definitely follows this formula and with a lot of modern flourishes.

This time around, the game takes place in a cantina not unlike something you might see in a Star Wars movie. At the start, you can only enter the first floor and play air hockey against three opponents as you learn the ropes. Characters each provide missions for you about who to beat or how many times to beat them. Completing these missions is integral to progressing your character up the ranks from a total newbie to a skilled player.

Beating missions is also useful if you ever hope to obtain a lot of Credz for your character. Obtaining enough currency lets you head into the shop and buy new pucks and paddles. Some confer advantages such as a super wide paddle which will make the game easier. There’s also a way to buy the backstories of characters to obtain their special skills or even get to swap your character for theirs.

Shufflepuck Cantina Deluxe Featured

Of course, all of this is just the dressing for a fun, simple way to play digital air hockey. The first enemies might seem simple, but venturing to other levels of the cantina shows just how ruthless it can get. Enemies each have their own specials, some of which are hard to block. Then there are powerups on the board that can help you, help your opponent, or cast an unfortunate effect on you (such as making the paddle tiny). Pair that with some tough challenges and Shufflepuck Cantina Deluxe becomes quite difficult after a while!

Still, this is a pretty entertaining experience. It’s funny to see these fantasy and sci-fi characters playing air hockey. The base game is enjoyable and it’s always possible to “grind” for more Credz if you can’t yet beat certain enemies. Having not played it on mobile devices, I’m not sure which is the better way to play, but it was easy to control on PC. If you do opt for the PC version and own an Oculus Rift, there’s even a beta available to let you get your virtual reality on. Shufflepuck Cantina Deluxe is a must-buy for Shufflepuck Cafe fans and a nice choice for those hankering for air hockey.


Score: 3.5

3 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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Goscurry Review

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Developer: Holoville Games
Publisher: Holoville Games
Platform: PC – Direct

Some video games make you tense, while others make help players unwind. The question is, is it possible to relax right in the middle of a fast, challenging experience? If you think so, then Goscurry is definitely for you. The game is certainly a bit odd, but also an incredibly cool experience. Just make sure you can relax before giving it a shot.

Goscurry is a sort of rhythmic racing game. Players take control of a small craft and fly above polygonal cities and landscapes via incredibly narrow pathways. These air streets build only a few meters in front of you, so you’re never sure if they will keep extending forward or have tons of turns. Turns aren’t as bad as you might think though, as they only go left or right at 90 degree angles. Of course, cruising down the futuristic one-lane highway reveals other tricks…

Simply making precise turns isn’t all there is! Once out of the tutorial mode, you’ll quickly encounter obstacles in the form of walls and gaps. Short walls and gaps can both be jumped over, while walls in the center of a road need to be dodged. It can be hard to get the timing for these down, at least it was for me. Harder modes even change the orientation of the camera, making the once “easy” task of driving around winding paths incredibly difficult again. This is one hard game.

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Unfortunately, there’s not too much to encounter while playing at the moment. There are a handful of difficulties, vehicles, and cities to fly over but it doesn’t feel like Goscurry is quite there yet. All the same, I have had a heck of a time playing it. It’s definitely one of those games that gets you in “the zone”. Once there, it’s possible to rack up higher scores than ever before and beat out (most) everyone on the leaderboard. Secondly, the music is phenomenal and you can purchase the soundtrack for a few dollars more.

Some won’t feel that this isn’t a very feature-filled game and they’d be right. If you need your games packed with content then go elsewhere for now. However, if you’ve ever had a taste for arcade games, experimental rhythm titles, or simply love zoning out with a game then Goscurry is perfect for your needs! Every time I want to put Goscurry down I can’t help thinking “just one more try” and getting sucked in again.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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Ballpoint Universe – Infinite Review

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Ballpoint Universe Infinite Boxart

Developer: Arachnid Games
Publisher: Arachnid Games
Platform: Mobile – iOS PC – Desura, Direct, Steam

 Do you remember the days when you would be too bored in class to pay attention? Instead, you’d doodle away on a sheet of paper. Maybe you still do! Ballpoint Universe – Infinite is a game that transports those kinds of doodles into their own world. But instead of just being within the margins, the entire game is comprised of ballpoint drawings! They’re much better than anything I ever drew in class, too.

It’s mightily impressive. But what is the actual game like? Even that is a bit hard to pin down at first. As a cute, but measly little doodle, you wander around a hub world talking to other doodles. They will offer up tasks and it’s your goal to complete them. However, each mission boils down to basically the same thing – a shoot ’em up level. Sidescrolling shooter segments are what the game is all about.

Once in shooter land, the ship can be customized via ink. Ink is gathered by destroying enemies as well as bestowed upon you by fulfilled mission-givers. In any case, it’s possible to level up weapons and shields or buy entirely new ones to level. There are a great deal of items to choose from and some work better in specific circumstances. It’s always possible to change them out before a mission to give your ship the greatest advantage. Beyond the missions, there is also an infinite mode which works sort of like a boss rush mode.

Ballpoint Universe Infinite Featured

Shooters are often great fun, and Ballpoint Universe – Infinite certainly has its heart in the right place. With creatively designed creatures, excellent music, and a ton of ship customization it seems that there’s no way the game could fail. Unfortunately, the shooting itself isn’t that engaging. Instead of feeling exciting, it somehow turns into a chore. At the very least, the ship control via mouse is very responsive. Currently there’s no controller support.

It’s a shame that the main focus of the game isn’t more engaging! By all accounts it should be but for some reason I just wasn’t feeling it. With every other aspect of the game being so stand out though it’s hard to discount this one. Considering the super cheap price, feel free to take a chance on Ballpoint Universe – Infinite. If you’re still unsure, check out the demo!


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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Furmins Review

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Developer: Housemarque
Publisher: Beatshapers
Platform: Mobile – iOS PSN – Vita

What the heck are furmins? Apparently, they’re weirdly adorable orb-shaped creatures that require your aid to get back to their nests. In the game, aptly titled Furmins, you do this by solving physics-based puzzles. It starts out easy, but gets tough pretty quick!

Every stage of the game requires the player to do at least one thing to help the furmins reach their goal. Levels are small (each fits squarely on the Vita screen) and may have interactive elements. For example, you might be required to activate a bumper when a furmin lands on it to shoot them into the air, arcing toward the goal. Other times, you’re required to use bounce plates and such to get them going in the right direction.

The concepts behind Furmins are very easy to understand so anyone should be able to start playing. However, their continued enjoyment may very well waver depending on their puzzle aptitude. Despite being a well-rounded player, I found some of the puzzles quite challenging. If this is the case for me, then what of those who enjoy easier physics games such as Angry Birds? That game has seen success by being immediately playable in short bursts. Here, you might be stuck messing with a plank to try and get the right bounce arc for a while. It lacks the “ease of play” spark.

Furmins Featured

Why is this an issue? Simply because those who don’t consider themselves fan of casual games will likely skip over Furmins. Of course, if they played they would find out that it offers a true challenge… but how many players really test out a game before discounting it entirely? In this age, the practice is slim.

At times, it feels that the game is too skewed toward difficulty. Each level grants up to three stars depending on whether you save all the furmins, get all the candy collectibles, and beat the par time. The first two are not too tough, but times are completely unforgiving. It really seems you would have to arrange the stage in the exact way they did to attain most of them. Why worry about stars? They’re needed to unlock later stage sets, as well as all bonus sets.

All in all, it seems Furmins is in an odd place. It presents itself as what many consider a casual game but offers real challenge to players. Touch screen and rear touch pad implementation is fair, although it is probably best to turn off the latter due to unintended triggering. If you’re looking for a quick play game on Vita that offers more challenge then most, Furmins might be right up your alley.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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Zigfrak Review

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Developer: Entheogen Studios LLC
Publisher: Entheogen Studios LLC
Platform: PC – Desura, Fire Flower Games, GamersGate, Indie City, IndieGameStand, Shiny Loot, Steam

Outer space has been the backdrop for many, many games over the years. The 4x genre thrives there and many other games attempt to utilize the immense landscape to their benefit. Most of these titles end up feeling quite dry, though. Zigfrak has a very different tone and ends up being just the kind of space-based action RPG I was looking for.

Zigfrak begins with you being a new pilot on the side of the humans. As you play through missions, your rank increases and your ship gets decked out with increasingly cool wares. There is a story progressing about aliens and whatnot, but it doesn’t feel tremendously important. This is because the gameplay completely overshadows anything else with how entertaining it is.

Commanding your spaceship in Zigfrak is pretty easy. By using either the keyboard and mouse, or just mouse, you can zip around with little issue. Collecting space junk, cloaking, and other features are also simple to pull off. Many missions result in unexpected dogfights which is where the game really shines. With enemies on you from all angles, it quickly becomes a frantic test to see if you can stand against all of them. The music becomes fast-paced in response and it’s extremely cool to see enemy ships explode in ridiculous fashion.

Zigfrak Featured

Even though I wasn’t enamored with the story, the writing is very well done. Instead of trying to be serious, there is a lot of humor involved. I couldn’t help but laugh at a few missions due to their phrasing. When it seems that a lot of space games lately focus on dull specifics, Zigfrak stands out as simpler to pick up and play. The only issues I had were sometimes being confused by how to complete a mission task. Although the game is very good at writing out the steps, some of them came across as unclear to me.

Overall, I don’t know the last time I had so much fun with an action RPG set in the vast expanses of space. I love that Zigfrak doesn’t take itself too seriously and loads players up with exciting firefights, loot, and amusing mission prompts. If you’d like to test pilot the game first, you can download the demo off the official website.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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Violett Review

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Developer: Forever Entertainment S.A.
Publisher: Forever Entertainment S.A.
Platform: Mobile – Android, iOS PC – Steam

Violett is just your average teenager. Her parents have forced her to leave her friends behind as they move to an old house in the country. She’s angry and expects her life to be dull from here on out – until she spies a strange charm. Upon picking it up, she gets transported to another world. This Alice in Wonderland-esque adventure definitely wasn’t what she bargained for!

With the game named Violett after the lead character, it’s obvious that we will spend our time playing as her. Gameplay is of the point and click variety, with a few small tweaks. Along her journey, she discovers new powers. The first grants her telekinesis which is indispensable at times.  Continuing along reveals more, as well as a need to collect orbs to power some skills. Orbs decorate landscapes like a hidden object game and you’ll never have to worry about running out.

Violett Screenshot

As would be expected with a point and click adventure game, there are many puzzles to solve. Some are simple while others require a bit more thought. However, they’re often quite fun and unique. There were a few times I got stuck, and unfortunately, the in game “hint” system rarely offers any tangible hints. Those who can’t figure something out will likely find the Steam Community a great resource.

Interestingly, the story is told without much use of real language. Violett and her family speak gibberish as do the insects and other creatures living in the strange world. Still, you can grasp what characters need to solve their problems via illustrations. Adventure fans who love witty writing won’t get that here, but don’t skip it up just yet!

What Violett does so amazingly is create an environment that stands out against the droves of competition. This game doesn’t just suggest Violett is inhabiting a wonderland – it shows you. The inhabitants are unusual and the backdrops are simply stunning. It’s impossible to convey how awesome they are until wandering into new areas yourself. Seriously, it’s been a while since an adventure game required me to fight the urge to continuously save screenshots.

Violett Featured

Music is another high point for the game. Although there are not a ton of songs, each song is great. They all come back to the game’s theme but each do so in unique ways. Also, even though there aren’t a ton of songs, they’re the kind you are excited to hear one more time. Buying a copy through Steam nets you the official soundtrack at no extra cost, which is definitely handy.

There’s a lot to say about Violett. Although it is not a perfect adventure experience, it offers a wonderful time. From the unique and creative puzzles to the gorgeous backdrop and accompanying soundtrack, it’s hard to ignore the game. Start up Violett and you’ll be in for quite the journey!


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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Blockland Review

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Developer: Eric Hartman, Ben Garney
Publisher: Blockland LLC
Platform: PC – Amazon, Direct, Steam

Blockland is a game with a long history. Yet, many never even knew it existed until the recent Steam launch! The game first got up and running in 2004 when it was freeware. Around 2006, the developers received a call from Lego, but nothing ever came of it. In 2013, the finished game has finally graced Steam and to many it is being treated as a completely new title. No, it’s not a Minecraft or any other craft clone. For one, it came out long before it, and is quite a different experience regardless.

So what can you do in Blockland? A whole lot of stuff, as it turns out. The game is a tremendous sandbox that grants you a huge amount of blocks that can be used to build things. The blocks look a ton like Lego parts, which means if you’ve ever played with Legos you can grasp how building works here. Well, sort of. The controls for building are fairly difficult to wrap your head around at the start. Eventually, you learn about features such as Super Shift and other ways to expedite building, but until then it is a fairly painful experience. The included tutorial doesn’t explore advanced concepts at all, unfortunately.

Blockland Featured

I learned a fair amount by simply joining a newbie-specific server. The place was full of new players and had someone around to answer all sorts of questions. They also were willing to demonstrate, which was incredibly helpful. Building is just one aspect of the experience, though the wide variety of blocks leaves room for impressive structures.

Players can completely ignore building and instead play a variety of minigames. There are a handful to start with, such as racing, death match, and platforming. There is no offline mode though. You head to a specific server (such as kart racing) and join up with other players there. Unlike a lot of Steam indie multiplayer releases, Blockland has a lot of players online at once (200+), so you rarely have to fear being stuck alone. Many more gametypes are available, but require external add-ons.

Blockland Screenshot

The biggest hurdle with getting new players into this game will likely verge on add-ons. As there is no Steam Workshop support right now, it requires players to go to the official forums and download new stuff (minigames, maps, etc). They can utilize other outside programs such as Return to Blockland to streamline the process but many Steam users don’t wish to do extra work with any of their games.

There is no game in my mind that currently allows for the level of craftsmanship in building as Blockland does right now, thanks to its many block types. However, it isn’t acclimated toward beginner use. The community itself can be very helpful (as in the newbie server) or crass. Since you’ll spend most of your time with them, this is important. Thankfully you can turn off chat. Blockland is one unique multiplayer-focused experience that deserves more credit than Steam users are giving it.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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Teslagrad Review

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Teslagrad Boxart

Developer: Rain Games
Publisher: Rain Games
Platform: PC – Desura, GOG*, Steam

What is it about the puzzle platformer that continues to draw independent developers to the genre? In many respects, it doesn’t seem the easiest type of game to make. Instead, it seems one that (despite rampant saturation) is a genre full of new and exciting possibilities. Teslagrad is the latest puzzle platformer out that shows the greatest promise. Whether it lives up to expectations, however, is debatable.

Teslagrad is most certainly trying very hard. By simply starting up the game for the first time you’re greeted to a rainy night against gorgeous hand-drawn backdrops. Without any words, the story begins, as a young boy is forced to run far away from home in the stormy night. He comes upon the Tesla Tower and enters, wherein he will face a great many puzzling challenges.

Yes, Teslagrad is so named for Nikola Tesla. Why? Because the primary feature of most puzzles deals with electricity (and magnetism). You begin with nothing, but gain new items which allow you to interact with electrically charged platforms, charge items yourself, and the like. For some reason it was hard for me to get a firm grasp on electricity puzzles, though. It’s not as if I hate the genre. On the contrary, most of my free time is spent playing various puzzlers. So why these puzzles continued to feel more like guesswork than skill was an incredibly odd experience. It shouldn’t have to be said, but your own playthrough may very well feel different.

Teslagrad Screenshot

Metroidvania fans will be happy to know that Teslagrad also fits into that style. Tesla’s Tower is not a completely linear thing and you can charge into a variety of rooms whenever you want. If one puzzle seems too hard at the moment, go elsewhere. Maybe you’ll find a new item! Or, maybe you’ll stumble across one of the game’s five bosses. Considering how expansive the game feels, it was a bit of a letdown to see there were not more boss encounters. They are pretty neat battles, even if they rely very heavily on simple pattern recognition.

So we’ve got a game that is entirely ambitious, looks great, and has a huge non-linear castle to explore. Yet, something about it only ends up feeling slightly above average. Puzzles that required very precise jumps were incredibly annoying, especially when there were not checkpoints in the middle of them. Making a game mechanically tough can be done well, but it doesn’t feel like Teslagrad pulls that off. After all, it varies back and forth between easy and hard. Usually, if a game is hard it stays that way throughout, or slowly ramps up in difficulty.

There are definitely players out there that will love the intriguing experience that Teslagrad provides. If you think that’s you then go ahead and buy it! For me, I just couldn’t get over the feeling that the designers crammed all their expertise into creating something gorgeous and expansive but forgot the most important ingredient – heart.


Score: 3

3 out of 5 alpacas


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Velocity Ultra Review

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Velocity Ultra Logo

Developer: FuturLab, Curve Studios
Publisher: Curve Studios
Platform: PSN – PS3, Vita PC – Steam

Velocity was a lovely little shooter that launched on PS3 and Vita in 2012 to favorable reviews but it seemed that many gamers simply missed out on it. Velocity Ultra is basically the same game, but given a nice HD coat of paint. Now that I’ve finally played it, I’m amazed to how the original game ever managed to slip under the radar of so many.

Velocity Ultra is a scrolling sci-fi shooter but does many things to make it a far more engaging experience than most. Your ship comes with a host of features that are introduced one by one. First, you have the ability to speed boost at will which comes in handy when you need to blast through a stage. There is also an unlimited supply of bombs to help you shoot down or to the side (as with most traditional ships which can’t shoot in any direction but up). Another neat feature is the ability to teleport around. Not only can this get you out of a tight spot between bullets, but it is also necessary when obstacles get in the way.

These might not sound like groundbreaking changes but they come together in such a way that the game is tremendously fun. Although there are no difficulty selections, it really feels like Velocity Ultra caters to a wide audience. Shooter newbies as well as regular players could likely both enjoy it. But what about people who don’t necessarily dig the genre? Even then, the game offers up ways to change the standard formula.

Velocity Ultra Screenshot 1

Gameplay modes vary from stage to stage but sometimes the game suddenly becomes a puzzler. This is done via numbered gates that need to be hit in order to “unlock” an area. However, branching paths make it so you can rarely unlock a zone in one go. Instead, you have to put down a warp (or series of them) in order to return to forks and travel down different paths. Sometimes, paths are nearly hidden by being way off to the side of the screen. Not only do you have to contend with enemies but you must discover all gates!

Despite being only an average shooter fan, I was able to blast through the first forty stages with little issue. After that, you’ve got to return to previous levels to rack up more points to have enough for the last few. The fifty stages are excellent and offer a great deal of replay value. You can compete with yourself to try and get a gold medal time, save all survivors, or destroy all enemy waves for bonuses. Of course, you can also try climbing the ranks of the online leaderboard.

Although Velocity Ultra is entertaining enough just from a gameplay standpoint, the rest of the package blends together wonderfully. For one, the visuals look crisp and stylish. The music is in a whole other league together, with each track being extremely cool and fun to listen to. Personally, I’m fighting the urge to buy the soundtrack! The only downside to the music is that it doesn’t loop, meaning there are moments where no music plays at all before restarting again.

Velocity Ultra Screenshot 2

For all this glowing adoration, there were a few issues lurking on the sidelines. At times, I would warp into a wall (though you’re not supposed to). It’s easy enough to warp back out, but it would always freak me out and cost precious time. Also, it feels like the screen isn’t offering enough vertical space to see what’s coming next. For a vertically scrolling shooter to not have a standard vertically oriented screen is fairly alien to me, although it was probably done to benefit the lateral searching on some stages. Finally, the game is designed with controllers in mind so watch out if you want to play with keyboard.

Velocity Ultra is such a fun game it’s hard to knock it too much. The developers managed to create a shooter that isn’t just fun for genre fans but for new players as well. Anyone looking for a different sort of shooter will find what they’re looking for in Velocity Ultra.


Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas


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SteamWorld Dig Review

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Developer: Image & Form
Publisher: Image & Form
Platform: 3DS – eShop, PC – Steam

I’m going to let you in on a secret. Game reviewers play a tremendous amount of games throughout the year. To stay afloat, you learn to simply leave games alone once they are completed and reviewed. Nobody tells you this but most train themselves with the mindset all the same. The fact that I can’t simply toss aside SteamWorld Dig after completing it is a sign – this is something special.

Initially it launched on the 3DS eShop and met with a lot of positive press. Gamers, too, were loving every minute with it. Now that it’s out on Steam I decided it was finally time to see what the fuss was all about. From the outside, SteamWorld Dig doesn’t necessarily seem impressive. There is a cast of robots and the lead robot mines deep into the Earth, gaining new powers discovered in caves.

SteamWorld Dig Screenshot 1

Mining is quickly becoming an overplayed element in games. Thankfully, SteamWorld Dig isn’t yet another attempt to tweak Minecraft. Yes, you mine, but to create paths for yourself. The eventual goal is to reach the bottom, but there’s a lot to find along the way. Not only are there caves which offer special new equipment and abilities, but there are also lots of rare minerals to take back to the surface. A satchel full of goodies can be turned in at the store for loads of money.

One by one the town shops reopen. With them come copious new upgrades to your pick, armor, fists, and drill. Some upgrades cost coins while others require coins and orbs. Orbs are a rarer substance which is found from time to time while digging. It was annoying to need this second payment method because of its scarcity. As such, I had to skip out on multiple upgrades for a long time simply because I didn’t have enough orbs (but had more than enough money).

In any case, once you’re loaded up with upgrades SteamWorld Dig becomes much more fun. You can explore longer before your lamp burns out and even fall from greater distances without pain. Of course, you still have to look out for underground dwelling enemies! Mining straight down will advance you through the game faster, but it’s much better to explore side to side as well. Collecting more money and orbs is recommended before descending to the final areas.

SteamWorld Dig Screenshot 2

Each aspect of the world has lovely visuals. The colorful artwork was even upgraded from the 3DS release to PC and it shows. Simply looking at each robot reveals a bevy of details including one who has tiny spinning gears in his eyes!  Different layers of the world are themed differently as well. If the dull dirt and rocks are boring you, soon enough the landscape will change. Of course, along with that comes more dangerous territory. Acid spewing rocks, explosive barrels, and lasers will all get in your way alongside creatures.

Although I had some gripes with the lack of orbs and increased difficulty near the end, I would be remiss to discount the game. There were far more moments of being completely absorbed by the simple task of mining and collecting treasure. This is one of those games that scratches that “gameplay” itch in an incredibly simple but fun way. SteamWorld Dig is highly recommended. With randomized worlds it is quite a treat to explore. Play it, complete it, and go back for another round!


Score: 4.5

4 1/2 out of 5 alpacas


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