A Bundle of Indies: The Greenlight Bundle Impressions (Part 1)

Beware Planet Earth

Braving the shark-infested waters of Steam’s Greenlight pool is a dangerous endeavour that many an indie fell prey to already. The nice chaps from Stolen Couch Games extended a friendly oar and invited a couple of developers on their little raft, now selling as a bundle of 9 games for just $5. This rather generous offer is made even better by the fact that you’ll eventually get Steam keys for all the games that made it safely onto the big Steamboat. Enough with the silly nautical yarn now! Are these games worth your time?

Beware Planet Earth! (Lightmare Studio)
Oh look, another alien invasion. What are they after this time? Making crop circles and stealing cows, of course! But this won’t do, nobody steals our cows, this… is… rural Americaaa! In Beware Planet Earth (BPE) your task is to defend a farm and its bovine inhabitants from those pesky aliens using the usual tools of the tower defense trade. The first thing you’ll notice is that this game looks great and has a lot of goofy charm, and this alone will probably keep you playing for a while. As far as casual games and their often less than lavish production values go, this is up there with recent Popcap titles. It’s that good. The game underneath all of the polish is a solid entry into the genre that unfortunately plays it a little too safe at times.
But let’s talk about the good stuff first: BPE is long and tough. About halfway through, you’ll have to really think hard about your strategy and build order if you don’t want to stare at the (admittedly quite lovely) “game over” screen too often. The game is running in the harder “veteran mode” by default, so you can tone down the challenge if you so desire. But I like veteran mode, since it makes the game feel a lot less casual than it actually is. There’s also no downtime: equipped with an alien blaster pistol, you can zap some aliens, remove hay bales to make room for towers, or supercharge your towers to make them more effective (with the downside of them not working for a while afterwards).
Ah yes, I mentioned stuff I didn’t like. Well, for starters you cannot upgrade your towers. Having this option in a tower defense game is always good, since it adds another strategic layer to the gameplay – quality vs. quantity, if you will. Not having it feels to me like something is missing. Of course I realize that adding an upgrade system would completely upend the game balance, which is perfectly fine the way it is now. Still, there’s this phantom pain… The rest of my criticism is based on the fact that BPE is “just” a very good tower defense game that doesn’t really bring anything new to the table. If you’re a tower defense enthusiast, you need to play this. If you “just” like the genre, this is a very good game, but not a brilliant must-play. In any case: greenlight this!

Aeon Command (Bat Country Games)
I already wrote a couple of first impressions about Aeon Command when I covered Gamersgate’s Indiefort bundle late last year and I quite liked this space-based tug-of-war strategy game. Ever since then, I’ve found myself returning to continue the campaign, having mostly played the skirmish mode for my previous write-up. Now I’ve played through all missions and thoroughly enjoyed them – even if they have you doing the same thing with minor variations (i.e. destroy the enemy mothership) over and over again.

Aeon Command

There are separate storylines for each of the factions, which feel a little underdeveloped and couldn’t really hold my interest. But at least they helped to string the missions together somewhat coherently, and this genre isn’t exactly known for having memorable stories anyway. Each of the three factions has different ship types and thus different ways to play the game. The challenge is finding a combination that works for you and then basically sticking with it for the rest of the campaign. There’s online multiplayer, too! Unfortunately, it is pretty much dead. But that is “the curse of the unknown indie game”, I guess. Still, it’s nice that the option is there; Aeon Command might be a lot of fun to play online. This all sounds less than stellar, but as I said, I really enjoyed the game. If you have a hardcore strategy itch to scratch, this won’t be for you. If it’s a quick fix of light strategy and spamming spaceships you’re after, Aeon Command comes highly recommended. Greenlight this!

That’s two games done, seven to go. Stay tuned for more Greenlight Bundle coverage in the next few days! Why not head over there right now and take a look at all the shiny, shiny games? (Here’s a spoiler: buy the bundle.)