So I’ve had a few days to play around with the current Humble Bundle, Android #4– by way of introduction, this offers Android, PC, and Mac copies of five indie games (Splice, Eufloria, Waking Mars, Crayon Physics Deluxe, and Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP) on a pay-what-you-want basis. Paying more than the average (currently $6.61) will add another six games: Machinarium, Avadon: The Black Fortress, Canabalt, Cogs, Swords & Soldiers HD, and Zen Bound 2.
Of these, I’ve dipped very briefly into Eufloria, Superbrothers, and Machinarium, but I’ve preferred to spend my time with Waking Mars, Crayon Physics (which I’ve owned on Steam for a while), and Swords & Soldiers (both on Android and on Steam). Brief thoughts below…
Crayon Physics, in which the player transports a ball from A to B by drawing mechanisms in pseudo-crayon, occupies that little niche I like to call “casual engineering games”, while Swords & Soldiers is a “lite”, two-dimensional RTS that compacts all the familiar genre staples — a tech tree, resource-gathering, multiple units, asymmetric factions — into something playable in a few minutes. Both are fun, charming little games — Crayon Physics on the relaxing side, S&S being the exciting one — which makes them perfect as mobile time-killers. Neither sets out to be anything close to a full meal.
The most interesting is Waking Mars, a 2D sidescroller that challenges the player to solve puzzles by manipulating a Martian ecosystem. Plant A will secrete water that I can use on plant B, which will then produce seeds to feed Animal C, whose offspring will be eaten by carnivorous plant D, which will then reproduce and generate enough biomass for me to proceed to the next area of the game… As a science-fiction geek I love this concept, and Waking Mars has the subtle heft that lets me suspend my disbelief, elevating the game above “grab bag of puzzles” and imbuing it with a sense of wonder. It is a small but real joy to read through the game’s archives as I discover more about each Martian life-form, and I also really like the portrait art of the game’s hero, astronaut Liang. His weathered, thirty- or forty-plus face has real character to it — this is a believable spaceman, and while it’s a little touch, it’s a helpful one.
Note: currently, the Android version of Waking Mars lacks the enhanced features (voice acting, new character artwork) found in the PC and Mac versions, but David Kalina of developer Tiger Style informs me via email that they are “planned for the near future”. It might be worth buying the bundle now and waiting to play the Android version until the patch comes out– while (per David) the patch won’t break saved games, you might as well have the best experience from the beginning.
The bundle is available for two more days, so well worth a look to see if any of its contents interest you!