First Hour Review

Aquaria CoverIt's rare that we get to combine our love for games with charitable donations, and unheard of that we can feel like a smart shopper while doing both. Such a concoction of impossibility was made real when the Humble Indie Bundle experiment went live on May 4, 2010. For a limited time, five acclaimed indie games (Aquaria, Gish, Lugaru HD, Penumbra Overture, and World of Goo) were offered as a bundle to gamers...at whatever price they were willing to give. For any price you name, you could have access to five games you may or may not love. A sixth game, Samorost 2, was even added to the bunch as extra incentive. You could even split your price between the developers and two partner charities, Electronic Frontier Foundation and Child's Play Charity, at whatever fractions you wanted. I gave $7.50 to the developers and $7.50 to the charities myself, contributing to the $1,270,000 in total donations contributed as of May 15. It's a great cause that also happens to be a great deal.

Having only previously played (or even heard of) the fantastic World of Goo, I decided to go alphabetically and spend an hour with Aquaria first. Aquaria was created by Bit Blot, an independent game company comprised of Alec Holowka and Derek Yu, in 2007. An indie games festival winner known for its atmosphere, Aquaria is an underwater 2D sidescroller with a focus on exploration and puzzle-solving, in the same vein as Metroid.

As I dive into Aquaria for the first time, I wonder if it's true what they say: is it really better down where it's wetter, under the sea?

Five great indie games at your own price

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There's an absolutely stunning deal running right now that can net you five great indie games for whatever price you want to pay.  Similar to the pay what you want World of Goo deal that was running last year, the Humble Indie Bundle can be grabbed for as much as you feel like handing over.  They even allow you to split your contribution up between the developers, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Child's Play charity. All great programs that do good work and need money.

World of Goo is honestly worth the $20 I originally paid for it (plus the $3 I tossed to them last year during their promotion), so go get that game. GO! The other games are Aquaria, Gish, Lugara, and Penumbra Overture.  While I know next to nothing about these titles, supporting the independent developer is always a great cause.  The best part: all the games are available for Windows, Mac, and Linux and are DRM free. No excuses now!

Buy the Humble Indie Bundle, it's running for six more days!

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

First Hour Review
Lord Of The Rings Return Of The King Cover

The second game in my marathon is The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. To simplify, I will assume you have already read my Two Towers review, so if you haven't you may want to do that first.

Return of the King (RotK) is the follow-up to The Two Towers. This game was released in conjunction with the movie, so it follows it much more closely. The levels are taken only from the final movie (which doesn't always correspond to the final book).

In order to one-up the previous game, RotK raises the number of playable characters from three to five right off the bat, with several unlockable characters as well. It also adds interaction within the environment, two-player co-op, and a bunch of tweaks such as graphical enhancements.

Will these changes be enough to help Return of the King surpass The Two Towers? Will its First Hour be as well paced as its predecessor? Or will neither of these things happen?


First Hour Review
Nethack Cover

NetHack is a classic, Roguelike computer game infamous for its permanent death and complex gameplay. The free and open source game was released over 20 years ago in 1987 and the game is still in development. There's a huge community still playing NetHack, producing patches, and even forking the source to make new and wildly different games. The game has been ported to just about every platform known to man, and can be played online on any machine that has telnet. I could go on and on about the depth of its gameplay, challenging puzzles and enemies, or its ASCII graphics, but there are so many other resources which can do it better.

NetHack is not the first Roguelike I've played at the First Hour, that would be Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer. Mystery Dungeon is a popular series in Japan that finally made it stateside last year. While death is not quite permanent, it's still a much bigger setback than in most games. Speaking of Roguelikes, if you've ever played Pokemon Mystery Dungeon or even ToeJam & Earl for the Sega Genesis, you've played a game in the genre. Being Roguelike can mean a lot more than ASCII graphics with vi-like controls.

The Sims 3

First Hour Review
Sims 3 Cover

The Sims 3 is the third game in the ultra-popular Sims series that has swept the globe over the last 10 years selling over 100 million copies and becoming the best-selling PC franchise of all time. The series has broken down all preconceived ideas of what a gamer is, appealing to all ages and genders. Some may call it a casual game because of this, but I would argue that there's nothing casual about balancing the lives of two adults and six babies in one household, heck, just ask my wife.

This is the first Sims game not developed by Maxis, which was absorbed into the EA conglomerate some time ago. Supposedly, Maxis was working on Spore so they didn't have time for The Sims. Unfortunately, that game didn't have any of the Maxis Magic I've come to know and love over the last 20 years, so I think they've just been destroyed from within by Electronic Arts, too bad. Anyways, The Sims is back and hyped better than ever. Now you can walk around town without loading screens. That is either too good to be true or just a reminder of a feature that should have been part of Sims 2. Well, let's get into the first hour of The Sims 3 and see if it still has that Maxis Magic minus Maxis.

Unfortunately I don't have any screenshots of my character as I was playing on my sister's laptop (which has coincidentally since died), enjoy the fancy images though.

World of Goo

Full Review

World of Goo CoverWorld of Goo is a physics based puzzle game available for Windows, Linux, OS X, and WiiWare. I reviewed the first hour of the game a few months ago and just kept on playing it until it was unfortunately over. World of Goo was one of the highlights during February's indie game month at the First Hour, and as Magic Toy Chest developers, Graduate Games, told me, "it's tough following World of Goo." That it is. The game has a ton of charm, wit, and atmosphere to carry it over about 50 levels. Each one is unique and will leave you wanting more, and while I feel the story is a bit overdone, this is a brilliant game. Let's get into it.

World of Goo

First Hour Review

World of Goo CoverWorld of Goo is a 2D puzzle game for the PC, Mac, Linux, and WiiWare released last year. It was independently made by 2D-Boy and has been a huge hit across the board. The goal of the game is to get the required number of goo balls into each level's pipe. You use the goos to build bridges, towers, and anything else you can imagine and construct. The game's impressive physics are really its highlight, but it doesn't slack in any other areas either.

World of Goo is available in a box, as a direct download, and even over Steam. As you'll see, this game's first hour is so good you'll want to go right out and buy a copy, so don't complain when you can't find it anywhere!

Kudos 2

First Hour Review

Kudos 2 CoverKudos 2 is a computer game made by indie developer Positech Games. Easiest way to describe it is as a turn-based Sims. You create a character, and balance their stats and needs as you live their life. That's really where the similarities end though as we'll see. In some ways, Kudos 2 seems to have even more potential than the Sims series.

The game is available for both Windows and Mac (just released the other day!), and features absolutely no DRM. One guy, Cliff Harris, makes his living off making video games. I think that's pretty awesome, honestly. Full disclosure, he gave me a review copy to play. This is the first time anyone has ever done that, indie or not, and I feel a bit honored. At the same time, I'm suddenly thrust this new and worrisome responsibility: will the free review copy somehow affect my score of the game? Will it adversely affect the score because I'll be trying too hard not to give it a good score? I will try to be as honest as I possibly can. Now let's get to the first hour of Kudos 2.


Full Review

Spore CoverSpore was released a few months ago to much hype and anticipation. It was the game to end all simulators, featuring gameplay from the individual cell level to the entire universe. Will Wright and crew demoed the game more than two and a half years ago in what seemed to be a ready to release state. But the game would be delayed, and delayed, and delayed again, leading us to a September 2008 release. Spore was my must play game of the year, and play it I did. Was it everything it was supposed to be cracked up to be? Definitely not. Was it a disappointment in my eyes? Definitely yes. Please Greg, tell us why.

Diablo II

First Hour Review

Diablo II CoverDiablo II is the super popular hack and slash released on the PC in 2000. It has probably broken more computer mouses than any other game because of the excessive clicking involved in its hacking and slashing. I'm personally a Diablo II virgin and have barely played the original, so this was admittedly, quite the experience! At least I can say I've played it with Diablo III announced and looking amazing.

A few notes, I also have Lord of Destruction installed so I can capture higher resolution screenshots (800x600 vs. 640x480), but I'll try to treat it as I'm just playing the regular game. And if you're interested, as I guess it really matters, I'll be playing version 1.07. Oh yeah, if you're a big fan of Blizzard, check out my Lost Vikings review after you read about Diablo II's first hour.

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