It’s been a rough week. Even though every fiber of my being wants to just rest and resume business as usual on Monday, I think it’s important to keep things going here at GHG. Taking a break can make it that much harder to get back into it, and I know me: I’ve tried and quit a lot of things, so I can’t let that happen again.
Anyway, March was a good month. With only 5 purchases and a decent completion tally of 7 games, I pushed my total upwards a bit. The format, like January and February, is Game Title (Platform, Purchase Price, Play Time).
- Pokemon X (3DS, $20.00)
Tough to resist a good 50% off sale, and so even though I have never really played or finished a single Pokemon title, starting with the latest one is probably an OK place to begin. My friends told me to get X instead of Y, so get X I did.
- The Humble Mobile Bundle 4 (Android, $3.00)
Although I’m getting to the point where I have most of the games offered by current Humble Bundles, I’ll still pick them up. This bundle included BADLAND Premium, Breach & Clear, Catan, Color Sheep, Gunslugs, OLO, Riptide GP2, Vector, and Zombie Gunship.
- The Humble Weekly Sale: PopCap (PC, $6.00)
I bought the vast majority of these in a PopCap bundle for my wife years ago, but decided to add some of them to my library as well. Pretty good selection: Peggle Deluxe, Bejeweled 3, Bookworm Deluxe, Escape Rosecliff Island, Feeding Frenzy 2 Deluxe, Plants vs. Zombies GOTY Edition, Peggle Nights, and Zuma’s Revenge.
- PlayStation Plus (12-month, PS3/Vita/PS4, $35.00)
It took me a long time to finally sign up, but a 30% off sale made me pull the trigger. This is only my second month with the service, but the free games alone across all three of Sony’s platforms makes this one of the best deals in gaming. It’s no wonder Microsoft had to bring out Games With Gold, to which Sony has already countered by increasing the number of PS4 games per month to 2 instead of 1 starting in June. How long this kind of great value can be sustained in anyone’s guess, so you’ll never see me complain about it.
- Thomas Was Alone: Benjamin’s Flight DLC (Vita, $3.50)
As part of PlayStation Plus, I finished Thomas Was Alone (see below), and immediately had to purchase its follow-up DLC.
Games finished (+7, $44.50 value):
- SpellTower (Android, $1.00, 2 hrs.)
This one’s a nice cross between Tetris and Bookworm. It’s a fun diversion that I still find myself playing while out and about, waiting for a table at a restaurant, or any instance where I need to kill a few minutes. While word games aren’t my favorite, it’s still very well-made with a number of different modes, multiplayer, intuitive touch control, style, and challenge. Overall: B
- Grand Theft Auto V (PS3, Free, 40 hrs.)
This is the first Grand Theft Auto game I’ve ever finished, and it’s easily one of the best games I’ve ever played. I was at first overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff you can do, but Rockstar has designed it in such a way that you almost always feel naturally led to the next activity. A wealth of variety, entertainment, and quality is in no short supply here, and each subsequent mission continued to blow me away. I have a feeling I’m going to be completely ruined on most other open-world titles from this point forward. Great characters, expertly designed missions, hilarious lowbrow gags, and the underlying technology driving everything in this game is impressive. It’s crazy to think that this is running on hardware that’s nearly 8 years old. Overall: A+
- Batman: Arkham Asylum (PC, $7.50, 30 hrs.)
I had previously tried to play this two times, but for different reasons that weren’t related to the game itself, I stopped playing. After enjoying the open world of GTA5 so much, I wanted to go back and play this one before tackling the bigger Arkham City. I loved everything about it, especially the hand-to-hand combat, which is just so fluid and intuitive. I’m no Batman expert, but outside of the comics, this series is the best treatment of the license I’ve ever experienced. The in-game dialogue scenes are comically amateurish, which is too bad since the rest of the game is so good, but they don’t detract from what is an otherwise perfectly crafted action game with tons of collectibles and things to do. Rocksteady’s treatment of The Joker and Scarecrow are particularly memorable, too. Overall: A+
- Broken Age: Act 1 (PC, $25.00, 5 hrs.)
I hopped aboard the Broken Age train really late because for some reason, my Kickstarter backing didn’t take initially. No matter, though — this is a charming adventure game that leaves the player with one heck of a cliffhanger ending. It’s almost unfair. I remember reading about how backers thought it was too short and easy, but since I’m not the biggest adventure game purist and I can’t stand obscure puzzles, I found it to be just right. Most of the puzzles are pretty simple, but they’re also intuitive, and they’re not all easy: there were a couple that almost pushed me to look at a FAQ. Yes, it’s a short game, but not if you take your time and enjoy everything the designers put into it. It’s at its best when you’re left to just experiment with item combos and usage to see what the characters will say. They all have great dialogue that must have been a lot of fun to write. The soundtrack is terrific, the art and animation are well-crafted, and it’s just a cool throwback to the type PC adventure games so many of us played in the ’90s. Overall: A-
- Batman: Arkham City (PC, $7.50, 60 hrs.)
I loved Arkham Asylum, and Arkham City delivered on the promise of a bigger world to explore, more gadgets, and lots of things to do. It had a nice Legend of Zelda vibe to its world structure and game flow. Its depiction of the Penguin, Ra’s al Ghul, and Mr. Freeze were fantastic, and although the story takes a Batman-like nosedive into predictable cliches at the end, I enjoyed the game itself just as much as its predecessor. Side missions were fun, and some of the Riddler trophies were downright diabolical. I loved that they were turned into puzzles themselves, taking some good timing and ingenuity to collect. Traversal in Gotham City was painless, and I really liked all the refinements made since Asylum, particularly to the combat. Keeping Riddler informants alive adds a nice layer of strategy to the mob fights, and it’s addicting grabbing all the subsequent collectibles. Although the size and length of the game inherently makes the story feel less refined and focused as Asylum‘s, I still thought this was as good a game as the first. Overall: A+
- Thomas Was Alone (Vita, Free, 6 hrs.)
What a surprise. Included for free as part of March’s PlayStation Plus offerings, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I thought it was just going to be your typical minimalist platformer with some indie quirkiness thrown in for good measure, but what I got was one of the most charming and memorable games I’ve played in a long time. While it’s not the most challenging platformer — this isn’t Super Meat Boy — it’s still fun and provides a lot of rewarding gameplay. I found myself compelled to complete it primarily for its wonderful story and characters. It’s pretty short, even after going through it twice to listen to the Developer Commentary, but it’s worth every minute. I think that anyone who has even a passing interest in game design should play this twice. Overall: A
- Thomas Was Alone: Benjamin’s Flight DLC (Vita, $3.50, 1 hr.)
The follow-up DLC for Thomas Was Alone adds some new characters, play control, and good narrative, but it is extremely short, and unfortunately (for now), doesn’t include Developer Commentary, which was one of my favorite features of the original game. It gave such valuable insight into Mike Bithell’s approach to both game and character design that it almost feels like the DLC is missing a limb. Still worth the cost of entry, despite its lack of length and features. Overall: B
So that was March in a nutshell. It was thankfully a very light month in terms of how much I spent, and I was rewarded with some of the best games I’ve ever played. It will certainly be a tough month to beat!