Monthly Column – August 2020 Top Three Curiosities
Whether it’s fast-paced, highly technical action you’re after or something more soothing and cat-oriented, you’ll find it in our selection of August’s best underrated Steam games.
by Morne Venter
Enter Digiton? More like “enter difficult,” am I right? Seriously, though, this platformer/explorer embodies old school difficulty to the point that I’ve died more in the introductory hub that leads to the individual levels more times than I die in most entire games.
It’s great, though: hard but fair. And a checkpoint system means that deaths aren’t punishing for the sake of punishment; they’re just more chances to master the tiny segments of jumping, avoiding enemies and repelling projectiles with your shield that make up the game world itself.
And if the action doesn’t hold your hand, neither does the story: something about being an activated clone – or maybe an android – ridding a computerized cave system of…demons?
It’s all very cryptic, but it’s beautifully delivered, with mostly-monochromatic pixel art that lets the occasional burst of color really pop.
This one isn’t easy, and while I don’t usually go for platformers that emphasize “hardcore brutal difficulty,” developer Morne Venter has designed this one beautifully, letting you tackle things in any order you choose – Mega Man-style – so if you’re stuck in one section, you can back-track and try a different, hopefully less brutal area.
It all makes for an occasionally aggravating but consistently addictive experience.
by Radical Forge
Looking for something a bit more mellow after that? How about exploring the aftermath of a James Bond film from the perspective of the villain’s cat?
Drawing heavily from the thoughtful, turn-and-card-based navigation puzzles of mobile games like Lara Croft GO and Hitman GO, this is a beautifully mellow and charming take on the genre.
Each level presents a challenge to be navigated using a set hand from a deck of action cards, with each card representing a simple movement – three squares forward, perhaps, or two forward and then one to the right – for your fuzzy feline protagonist.
Complicating things – because this is some sort of super-villain’s lair, after all – are an array of traps, defenses, security robots, etc.
Despite the threat of accidentally laser-frying your curious kitten, Bright Paw is actually quite mellow, thanks to a rewind feature that lets you retrace your steps, and half the fun comes not from the puzzles but from exploring the environments and finding collectible objects that reveal more of the story.
It’s part navigation puzzle and part hidden object game, and between the diorama-like rooms, the British-accented narrator, and the fact that you’re…well…an adorable little animal, this is a surprisingly soothing game to spend time with, the video game equivalent of a nice cup of tea.
On the other hand, Clan N is pure old-school, top-down ninja beat-’em-up action.
Creamative modernizes things a bit, though, with a contemporary – and complex – control scheme. You’ve got your dodges, your rolls, your sprints, your jumps, two different attacks and a seemingly infinite set of combinations of the above.
You’ve also got throwing stars, because how could you possibly do a ninja game without them?
This gives Clan N a complexity that belies that simple, yet evocative pixel art, letting you choose from a variety of tactics to defeat a variety of enemies that range from sword-twirling ninjas to mounted Samurai warriors (not to mention the occasional giant spider).
Of course, you can also just run around as fast you can, whaling on enemies whenever they get close and occasionally blocking or flinging throwing starts every which way by mistake because you forgot the key-bindings again. Just saying.
Either way, Clan N is a blast, and if laying waste to hordes of enemy ninjas starts to get boring – as if such a thing were even possible – there are also loads of environmental hazards and mini-games to keep things fresh, plus multiple characters to play with and both local and online co-op.