Steamroll: Splice Shuggy
Welcome to this week’s edition of the Steamroll! Only 2 games for $10 or less were released this week, but both of them look like top-notch contenders. Which one will be the Best Steam Indie Game of the Week? Read on to find out.
The Adventures of Shuggy
Imagine if the platforming twist for each level was drawn from a hat. What will you get next? Rotating rooms? Reverse gravity? Time loops? Multiple controllable characters? Rope swinging? Shmu herding? Variety is the name of the game here: each level uses a different mechanic than the last one. If you don’t like what you got, just try another level; each one you complete unlocks 2-3 more, ensuring you don’t get stuck on That One Level.
It’s a good thing it has that variety, because the core platforming is merely adequate. Shuggy moves a tad slow and has a habit of skidding off ledges. Most of the levels are small and confined, requiring precise movement; this led to several deaths as Shuggy slid off a ledge or fouled up a mid-air curve. What made it more frustrating was that it usually happened in long, basic platforming levels without any interesting mechanics tossed in. I spent about 5 minutes trying to finish some of them, redoing the same stretch over and over. It doesn’t have the controls or the fast respawns (ala Super Meat Boy) to make this enjoyable.
What it does have is interesting takes on boss fights that use the weird mechanics. For example, the Furnace boss has you cooling it down by holding down buttons to release steam, while it tries to fry you by spitting out fire. Pressing down just one button isn’t enough; you need to hold down 3 to shut down the furnace. Your past selves can help out thanks to the Time Loop mechanic, but if you touch one of them, you die. Thus the boss turns into this strange dance where you stand on a button as long as possible while avoiding fires and each other. It was a strange take on a boss fight that brought a smile to my face.
The game also features a Co-op mode with a few dozen unique levels to complete, in case you have someone else that wants to play. I didn’t have anyone with me to test them out, but knowing they existed added to the feel of variety this game exudes. It’s an intriguing mixture, and I want to keep playing just to see how else they mix it up.
Keep Playing? Yes.
Splice, like the team’s previous game Auditorium, takes an abstract theme and turns it into a mind-melting puzzle game. The minimalist graphics and music are par for the course in the indie scene, but how’s the gameplay?
“Puzzles in symmetry” could be a tagline of it. In this case, you form specific shapes from organic globules by splicing strands onto different positions and triggering mutations. The tricky parts are:
Having said that, it’s actually easier than Auditorium because you have a finite set of possible moves, rather than an infinite number of “place anything anywhere at any size” choices. Solving most puzzles took 2-3 failed attempts to get a sense of how the puzzle would react to certain mutations before everything clicked into place. Only 2 puzzles so far have stumped me for more than 5 minutes.
It’s a satisfying pace, but seeing that I’m apparently two-thirds through a $10 puzzle game after only an hour, I wonder if it’s too fast. It’s good, but it’s not good enough to be worth $10 if I can complete it in under 2 hours.
Keep Playing? For another hour, to see if I can finish it.
Which would I keep playing? It’s a toss-up. I had more fun with the Adventures of Shuggy, but I might get bored if I try to finish the rest of that game, while I suspect I could finish Splice in another hour or two. In the end… I think I’ll go with Splice, just to see if I can finish it.
That’s all for this week. Come back next week for the next entry in the Steamroll!