The Humble Indie Bundle Reviewed - Part 1



Updated: February 26, 2011

The Humble Indie Bundle was a project that allowed users to purchase collections of multi-platform DRM-free games developed by independent (indie) studios in a pay-what-you-want manner. Whether you thought the games deserved 10 dollars or 10 cents, you got the whole bundle, without any restrictions. The revenue from the project was distributed among the developers, some of whom decided to release their work as open-source, others using the funds to create new games and sequels, as well as donating some to charity.

All in all, you may think greedy people would have botched the whole deal. But no. The project was a tremendous publicity as well as a marketing success. In just one short week, each of the two Bundles offered to date earned more than one million dollar in sales, proving that you do not need huge corporations to distribute games to users. More importantly, people appreciated the effort and did not abuse the system - much.

During the short offering of the second Bundle, users who paid more than the average purchase value got the first Bundle as a gift. A total of eleven games, for the price of whatever you think ought to be paid. Well, I did it. Now, in addition to paying for the games, I decided to write a review of both Bundles, in order to promote the awareness to this noble project, as well as give you a hands-on look on the quality of offered content.

We'll have two articles, this first one reviewing the original six games offered in the first Bundle.

World of Goo

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I have reviewed this lovely game in the past. Moreover, I declared it as one of the top five payware games for Linux in 2010. The demo is available in most repositories. For a while, it was also bundled with Sabayon Linux.

So here's what World of Goo is all about: After playing all day long killing and mutilating people, World of Goo is an excellent respite from violence. It's an innocent yet challenging, all-family game of intellect, with a very surprising, addictive twist. Who would have thought that blobs of goo and some physics could be such a hit? Indeed, it's the simplicity of the game matched with a scientific twist that makes it so popular with just about anyone. Be they kids, adults, geeks, everyone can enjoy World of Goo. But what's it all about?

Goo 1

World of Goo is a beautiful, compelling puzzle game with a strong focus on physics. Using the word physics can frighten people, so you should know there are no nerdy equations waiting for you. The puzzles all focus on little blobs of goo, which you need to lead to an exit pipe by constructing structures like bridges and towers, fighting gravity and terrain. The physics is all about having fun in a world constrained by physical forces, just like our own. Solving the puzzles requires some ingenuity, as well as basic 3D spatial intuition. The puzzles become increasingly difficult as you progress through the game chapters, with the Z axis and vectors added.

The game is very simple in its premise, which is what makes it so great. You do not have to invest hours digesting the game interface or learning to rules. You start having fun instantly, and tons of fun at that. Add some light music and quirky cut scenes, and you're in for a big treat.

Goo 2

Truth to be told, I was skeptical about the game the first time I tried it. But after only a few moments, I was having tons of fun. It's weird, but it works. You get addicted. For a very strange reason, the World of Goo graphical settings creates a soft, pleasant backflashes that remind me of Leisure Suit Larry, sans the Woody Allen elements, and the original Worms, sans the bazooka moments. You know you're playing an entirely different genre, but you get a cozy feeling of long familiarity that should not have been there. It's a true testimony to game's success.

The game price tag is USD20 - and it's definitely worth it. So if you've donated as little as 20 dollars, you have justified your purchase. But this is just the first game we're talking about.

Time spent playing the game
4 hours
Overall impression
Excellent
Quality of graphics
8

Aquaria

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Aquaria is an underwater exploration game. You play Naija, a mermaid-like creature. The game reality occurs in a 2D sidescrolling world, which consists of cave-like maps, where Naija learns about her past, as well as acquires skills and items that can help her interact with other creatures.

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I must admit I was baffled by the game concept. Naija cannot interact directly with her surroundings. She must do that by singing. This is a unique mechanism, which I've not seen in any other game. It's a bit frustrating for a long-time diehard FPS fan like myself, but after a while, you get to relax, enjoying the soft, soporific music notes. In a way, you're like them blue Avatar people, who can link into Mother Nature's fiber optics channels and communicate with plants and animals. Similarly, Naija uses her song to change shape, defend herself and move object. The combination of swimming, singing and some combat is what makes Aquaria a unique, yoga-inducing game. The music and atmosphere are soft and soothing.

Song

Swimming

As a musical retard, I had a hard time learning and repeating notes. With its rather non-violent nature, this game is definitely not for everyone. It takes patience and out-of-the-box thinking to get things done. But it could be a good candidate for children. Overall, Aquaria is a unique, beautiful project. You should take it for a spin.

Time spent playing the game
1.5 hours
Overall impression
Good
Quality of graphics
7

Gish

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Gish is an interesting physics game, which somewhat looks like the original Blobby volleyball, except that it combines 2D art with some cool physical properties of viscoelastic polymers, or, in other words, tar. Gish is the namesake hero of the game, a blob of tar, who needs to rescue his kidnapped girlfriend by fighting a series of other, evil blobs of tar. Apart from the cheesy plot, the game is about making the best use of the tricky, gooey properties of your character to defeat gravity and recoil forces as you wrestle your enemies.

Gish 1

Gish 2

Gish can solidify, stick to walls, jump, roll, expand, and a few other tricks. All of these are your weapons against cunning foes. Now, you can play by randomly hitting the keyboard and hope for the best, or you can try to master the arcane properties of non-Newtonian physics to your best advantage. Educative and yet rather fun. The game is simple, predictive and addictive. If you're not in a mood for too much thinking, the slow undulating motion of a tarball [sic] will do. Gish is a nice, simple action title. Rather recommended. Oh, you can also play against other people, so it's a whole family fan.

Time spent playing the game
1.5 hours
Overall impression
Good
Quality of graphics
5

Lugaru HD

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If I told you there's a game where you play a murderous bunny named Turner, who tries to avenge his rabbit family and friends, you'd laugh and tell me to lay off my medicine. But like Toribash and Yo Frankie!, Lugaru is a complete understatement of wicked violence, wrapped in a fluffy coat of innocence. Yes, you may be a cute veggie wabbit with big tufted ears, but you're also the murderous little thing from Monty Python's King Arthur. Oh yes. Chuck Norris meets the Freedom Burger.

Fight 1

The game does not have any fancy graphics. In fact, it looks rather uninviting. But the moment you start playing, you're hooked. Slashing attacks, roundhouse kicks, John Woo bullet time effects and Carmageddon blood spattered banners of encouragement. That's what Lugaru is all about. You're a merciless killing machine, whipping your knife and sword and battlestaff against all kinds of forest creatures. Definitely, not something for children, as they might get the wrong notion. But for adults, this is great fun. Simple, senseless, as good as any first person shooter. Quite the opposite of what you may expect.

Lugaru 2

Lugaru 3

The combat is also quite sophisticated. You can disarm your opponents, jump Matrix-style, disengage, wrestle, perform all kinds of double and triple combo chop attacks and kicks. You'll never think of squirrels, rabbits and other innocent animals in the same way. Lugaru is great fun, just make sure you give the game to people who can understand its violent nature. Overall, it's a surprising title, with an underestimated quality of play and challenge.

Time spent playing the game
3 hours
Overall impression
Very good
Quality of graphics
5

Penumbra Overture

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Overture is the first of three games in the Penumbra Trilogy. This is a very realistic horror quest, so please make sure to keep children away. The first episode tells the tale a thirty-year-old physicist (that used to be me!) Philip, who comes to Greenland after receiving a letter from his supposedly dead father. On Greenland, Philip discovers an underground mine and he stumbles in, beginning a quest of terror and panic in a cold, dark, suffocating, and not-so-earthly world hiding beneath the layers of ancient Greenland ice.

Penumbra 1

The game focus is on elaborate 3D puzzles, played in the first person view. To advance through the game, you have to figure out ways to operate machinery, devices and doors and overcome obstacles. On top of that, there are some typical First Person Shooter fighting elements, as well as task completion.

Penumbra 2

The gameplay is wrapped in a disturbing mantle of morbid, truly frightening scenes. Even if you do not play the game in full darkness, it still leaves an unsettling feeling in the pit of your stomach. Of course, this is the whole idea, and the game builds the atmosphere all too well. For horror connoisseurs, this in an ideal setting. I have to admit I don't have the guts to see the game through to the end. If you were old enough to play the 7th Guest, the 11th Hour and original Alone in the Dark puzzle-oriented, horror games in the heyday of DOS, then you will surely remember the chilling, blood-curdling sensations, the revulsion and genuine fear. Penumbra Overture offers a similar experience.

Fear side, Penumbra feels like a very expensive game. It's deep and engaging, carefully tailored and well designed, with decent graphics and attention to details. Quite recommended for the fans of the horror quest genre. The suspense and the atmosphere are rather disturbing, a testimony to the success of the execution. But like Lugaru, this game is not for young minds. Oh, I reviewed the trilogy not so long ago, so take a look please.

Time spent playing the game
2.5 hours
Overall impression
Very good
Quality of graphics
9

Samorost 2

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Samorost 2 is an adventure/puzzle game played entirely in Flash inside the browser. In fact, the full game is a collection of .swf files and a web page to load the game maps. In the game, you try to rescue your dog, after it has been kidnapped by aliens. To complete the game, you need to solve several puzzles. Simple yet challenging.

Samorost 1

I was skeptical about the game, but then I read it was developed by the same people behind Machinarium. BTW, Machinarium is featured in the second Bundle, so we will talk about it separately. Anyhow, you get the same quirky yet beautiful art, retro-futuristic and yet somewhat 70s Czech in nature, an overall pleasant and warm combination.

Samorost 2

Samorost 3

The puzzles are not easy to solve. I fumbled for more than an hour with the kettle, trying to figure out what I needed to do. I did manage to get the monkey to shake some herbs into the pot, operate the gas valves and the tap, but I have yet to figure out how to get the water streaming through the pipe on the left. There's some armadillo-like thingie blocking the pipe, but nothing yet. Rather curious and unique.

Samorost 2 is not your typical game, but it looks like a lot of fun. It's also suitable for all audiences. If you're not into racing or shooting people, solving puzzles could be your thing.

Time spent playing the game
2 hours
Overall impression
Good
Quality of graphics
8.5

More reading ...

If you're interested, I wrote about the Humble Bundle in my News article a few months ago; I guess it's no longer a news article, but the information might be useful. There's also quite a bit more on Wikipedia.

Conclusion

World of Goo, Lugaru and Overture alone each justify the Bundle purchase. As it is, you get these, as well as several other games. Now, Aquaria, Gish and Samorost2 are less fully featured, but still very decent titles. Personally, my taste leans away from them, but you will still find them quite lovely. Moreover, the games all ran well on Linux, with very simple and quick installations, no errors, no problems.

Overall, the first Humble Bundle is a package of good fun and action. It's definitely worth its money, whatever you may have decided to invest. In fact, if you've paid any less than the total sum of their standard prices, you've made yourself one hell of a bargain. Next week, we'll review the second half, with five more games. For the time being, have fun.

Cheers.

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