One of my more frivolous New Year’s Resolutions was to at least attempt getting through the Sisyphean nightmare that is my Steam backlog – my weakness in the face of the Summer and Winter Sales have left me with 101 games. Some of them are worth mentioning, so I’ll do so now.
12 Labours of Hercules
12 Labours started out as a puzzle game smartphone app, but it’s now available from Steam (I got it for 9p. Yes, really). As a result, it’s basically just clicking things in the right order e.g. pick up the food that will allow the servant to fix the broken path, which will lead to the supply of gold that will motivate Hercules to get off his lazy arse and shift that damn boulder, so I can cut down the trees so we can upgrade the house and get an extra servant.
It seems simple enough, but later levels do require you to think outside the box a little, and the achievements are mostly quite reasonable. All in all, a decent game to play while listening to a podcast – I recommend Flip the Table (board game nerds play cash-grab flummery like Murder She Wrote: The Board Game and Gone Birding) and Seriously…(offbeat radio documentaries about anything and nothing).
Jules Verne is one of the greatest writers of the past 200 years. That is simply an inescapable fact that impresses itself on you after reading any of his books. Around The World in Eighty Days is perhaps Verne’s most accessible work, and one of his most well-adapted (to my everlasting shame, I have only watched a few episodes of the much-vaunted BRB cartoon, and the risible 2004 Steve Coogan/Jackie Chan vehicle. Come to think of it, it’s the only Jackie Chan movie I’ve seen all the way through…) and 80 Days is the latest of these.
That is not to say that Inkle’s game follows the book exactly; the setting is far more steampunk, but takes care to introduce a punk element – you won’t find any gentlemen with cogs in their top hats in this game. Indeed, the beauty of 80 Days is that you are free to make whatever decision takes your fancy. As Jean Passepartout, Fogg’s valet, not only can you choose whatever route you deem best for your master, you can be awe-struck, dashing, courteous, manipulative, bucolic, even… no, I can’t spoil everything for you.
Two things I should tell you: Firstly, you probably won’t manage to get round the world in 80 days on your first playthrough… but each game opens up new routes, and you’ll want to see if the decision you made last time was really the right one so it doesn’t matter – you truly can choose your own adventure. Secondly, 80 Days was the first game that brought me over my £25 limit on the Steam sales – entirely due to a glowing review in PC Gamer UK – and I’m glad I did.
I used to quite enjoy a good rougelike – I was quite fond of running Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup, just to see how well I could please Trog or Xom – but for some reason I stopped playing them. However, when I saw Sproggiwood in the 2015 Steam Winter Sale, I was intrigued by the premise of delving dungeons in order to improve the little town of Sproggiwood. I’m a sucker for games where you improve the lives of your NPCs, and it was going cheap, so I gave it a go.
Just to get this out of the way, the “make Sproggiwood better” is a bit of a misnomer. What you do is place buildings and trees around the place, which unlocks more characters for you to explore dungeons with. That’s it. To be fair, I’m not entirely sure what you could do to make the town-building aspect more integral to the experience – there are already quests to unlock certain buildings – but it almost seems a bit tacked on.
On the other hand, the writing does a good job of providing motivation to go through each dungeon – Sproggi, the self-appointed guardian and instigator of the plot, is a well-meaning yet woefully short-sighted companion, cajoling and wheedling you into indulging his great social experiment to see if civilisation will make that much difference to your life. Factor in an ingenious way to add items (you can find them in a dungeon, but if you want to equip them at the start then you have to go back to town and buy them) and you have a game that is definitely worth picking up… in the sale.