Currently playing: My Steam Backlog

Happy New Year! I hope you all had a good Christmas break.

Due to a combination of factors (for my own part, a miscalculation when choosing which games to cover) we weren’t able to bring you any new content over the past couple of weeks.

While work on that continues, I’ve also made use of the significant downtime to get some other gaming done, and start working on the considerable backlog of unplayed games in my Steam list. (Of course, the appeal of Valve’s seasonal reductions, allied to the Steam mobile app, as well as the odd drop of Christmas booze, has rendered overall progress negligible.)

Here’s what I’ve been spending my time with:


The Binding of Isaac

I’m really not up to date on indie games; I largely follow the hype via gaming websites and Twitter chat, and occasionally make the odd impulse purchase. I’d heard lots of good things about this, although even after some moderate internet research, I wasn’t really any clearer on what kind of game it was, or what on earth was going on.

In other words: it looked weird, and, having bought and played it, I can confirm that it is. Escaping into the basement, away from the murderous advances of his Christian fundamentalist mother, baby Isaac is plunged into a world of zombies, monsters, flies, poo and blood, and armed – initially at least – only with the water from his tears as a weapon.

Levels are procedurally generated, and there are no saves, which means you have to complete the game in one sitting. When you enter a room that contains monsters, you have to defeat all of them before you can continue. Each level also contains items that bestow extra powers or weapons upon Isaac, whose avatar is often disfigured in a slightly unsettling way as a result. Before you can exit each level, you have to defeat a boss character, which is always a genuinely hideous beast of some kind.

The rather twisted nature of the content, as well as the win-or-die structure, make for a tense and rather frenetic arcade challenge. At the moment, I haven’t really invested enough time to know for sure, but I rather suspect that completing it might be beyond me. Still, it’s the kind of thing you can find yourself sitting down to have a quick go of, and then find that you want another. In fact, I might go and have another go now.


Back to the Future: The Game

I don’t tend to buy a lot of new games, but I was sufficiently excited by the pre-release propaganda to shell out for this a couple of years ago. For some reason, I stopped playing after completing the first episode, with a feeling of vague and generalised disappointment, although I can’t recall any specific criticisms.

I’m either misremembering, or was wrong, or Episode 2 (Get Tannen!) represents a significant improvement. While I have a few quibbles about graphical, camera and interface issues, Get Tannen! is a thoroughly enjoyable BTTF romp, which features pretty much all the elements you would want from a spin-off adventure.

The first episode ends with Doc and Marty thinking they’ve managed to fix the problems from their past, only to find that they’ve caused different ones by tinkering with the timeline. A frantic rush to save a relative from a Tannen (this time, it’s your Grandpa, Artie McFly, and Biff’s father, Irving “Kid” Tannen, in 1930s Hill Valley) seems to have done the trick, but then you return to a nightmarish 80s which indicates that – yep – some more complications have been caused by your meddling. So, back again you go (I have a feeling this could be a recurring theme).

The voice acting is of a variable standard – Christopher Lloyd as Doc sounds 30 years older than in the films (which, of course, he is) – but the guy they’ve drafted in to be Marty does a pretty decent impression of a young Michael J. Fox.

I suppose you might say the difficulty level is pitched pretty low, but I’ve come to realise that I’m pretty bad at adventure games so I actually don’t mind not wandering around for hours without a clue what to do next. I’d say there’s an enjoyable, low-level challenge here.

The setup for the third episode looks intriguing so I’m not going to repeat the mistakes of my own past and get straight on with it.


RACE: The Official WTCC Game

Speaking of mistakes, a recurring one of mine on this site is to throw out a quick mention to a game I haven’t played, in order to demonstrate I’m not horribly out of touch with everything (which, obviously, I am). Back when they were the cool new thing for racing sim fans, and I was finally – belatedly – getting around to looking at the second TOCA game, I casually mentioned, with implied authority, SimBin’s GTR and RACE as the genre leaders.

In truth, this was based entirely upon some favourable reviews in PC Zone, and not at all upon my own experience. I probably should have made that clearer at the time. But, even though I’m never going to be an expert on the kind of racing sim that needs a steering wheel and analogue throttle, I figured I should probably get around to trying them for myself (especially after there was a Steam deal on a SimBin megapack a little while ago).

With the difficulty turned down and the driving aids up, RACE feels a little like TOCA used to be before it became GRID. There’s something about a combination of the in-car view and the unforgiving and precarious nature of the handling which makes getting round a lap without any mishaps all the more satisfying. Plus overtaking under such conditions is is actually rather exhilarating.

(Getting slightly carried away, I took a look at steering wheels on Amazon, but stopped myself before I did anything rash. It might be worth a few more hours on the joypad to see if my interest extends beyond vague curiosity first).


And finally, no marks for Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, the PC version of which (I found out after purchasing) apparently has some unresolvable glitches with some graphics cards – including mine. Even if they don’t exactly make the game unplayable, they do make it damn ugly to look at.