The Humble Bundle is a game package-deal that crops up now and again. The idea is that customers pay as much or as little as they want for a pre-set pack of games that have proven themselves as popular in the recent market.
Not only is the price chosen by the purchaser, but the distribution of the funds as well. How the money is split between the developer, charity and the Humble Bundle organizers is decided by the payer. As an added bonus, customers who pay above the current average payment are gifted with an extra game (sometimes multiple), adding more incentive for customers to pay slightly more and more as time goes on without actually enforcing anything.
We love this idea and think it’s a great example of how the online market is changing the way that customers interact with purchases, as well as mixing up traditional business models as a whole.
We grabbed all six games of the most recent Humble Bundle #4 on Android and decided to see how they would go on a mobile device, rather than a PC.
NOTE: The Humble Bundle is not available from or endorsed by the Google Play store. Users will have to disable some security settings in order to download it. The steps are super easy but make sure there is enough room on your mobile device beforehand. Some of these games are upwards of 300MB. Grab more information from the Humble Bundle website.
Make sure you are connected to a WiFi network before downloading any of these or else you will seriously risk going well over a standard wireless broadband cap.
Crayon Physics Deluxe
Crayon Physics Deluxe as a game very reminiscent of Scribblenauts for the Nintendo DS. Players are required to draw objects in to existence that will assist in moving a ball from a starting location to a prescribed destination.
Just like Scribblenauts it’s fun, relaxing and is difficult enough to avoid being too easy, but not so difficult that it becomes frustrating.
The sound effects and music will probably draw differing opinions. The tone is obviously meant to be a relaxing one, but the music can become repetitive or even seem cheesy at times. There was also a strange tendency for the music to simply switch off by itself.
Ultimately it’s a fun game that, while lacking in originality, is a good option for Android users who are after that Scribblenauts experience.
One thing we really liked is that Crayon Physics Deluxe didn’t seem to be too much of a battery hog; something that is becoming more rare as smartphone processing power increases.
One problem that mobile games tend to have is that they often feel the same. Side-scrollers and platformers have to walk a line between graphics, physics and on-screen action in order to provide an experience that best utilizes the limited resources of a smartphone’s hardware.
Waking Mars manages to provide a familiar feel without being too ‘samey’. The controls are easy to use and the artwork, while not too original, is quite pretty.
In Waking Mars the player controls a small character in a 2D environment. The idea is to explore the deep caverns of Mars to find a lost rover and uncover the reason for its cessation of signal uplink. On the way you will also discover the new and re-awakening life forms that dwell below the surface of Mars.
It’s a pretty interesting game with an emphasis on exploration and ambience, rather than action. That being said the exploration party can get old pretty fast, as there seems to be little variation in the art design of each area. The focus on ambience also means that sound is a pretty important part of the game, as without it the feeling of loneliness conveyed by the music and effects is completely lost.
Overall Waking Mars is an entertaining game, but not an overly impressive one. It’s certainly worth playing as part of the Humble Bundle package, but as a stand-alone purchase we wouldn’t pay more than a couple of dollars for it.
As far as battery life goes we found Waking Mars to be pretty demanding. We wouldn’t recommend that anyone on a long trip, or with low battery, play this game for any extended period of time. Such an act would likely leave the player searching for a charging outlet in short order.
Splice is definitely an interesting concept for a puzzle game. Complete with a simple, yet beautiful art design, Splice is immediately engaging due to nothing more than its look and feel.
Game-play wise Splice is… well, it’s weird. It’s also fairly unintuitive and relies on the user actively searching for menu tips, rather than supplying knowledge via a tutorial or intuitive controls.
The basic gist is that the player is given a string or pattern of microbes that must be moved until they are in another, pre-specified formation.
The music and sounds are relaxing but the game itself is just so odd that it’s difficult to make a statement based around how fun it is. Some puzzles are really easy, while others feel difficult not because they are clever, but because this kind of puzzle is so different to anything the player has previously seen that the answer feels totally unintuitive.
One problem stems from Splice’s original target audience being PC users. Issues can arise when much-needed information is highlighted under the piece of the puzzle that the player is currently gripping. This would be fine on a PC, as a mouse cursor takes up little room. Unfortunately for us, our fat fingers often totally eclipsed the images underneath, leading to us missing information and occasionally becoming frustrated.
Splice is definitely an interesting game and we think that a lot of people may end up enjoying it. But it’s difficult to be sure with something this out-there.
Battery-wise Splice was not very demanding. Play at your own leisure.
Machinarium (Pay over average)
We were super-excited to play Machinarium. Go to any recent Android games review site and Machinarium will be right up there with some of the most interesting, beautiful and fun games on the list.
The player essentially controls a little robot that has been discarded in a giant junk-yard wasteland. Each area is solved by collecting and interacting with various objects until obstacles can be surpassed. It looks like great fun while still being relaxing and engaging.
Unfortunately we were unable to get past the first screen.
This is not because we’re particularly stupid, or even due to any failing on our behalf. The problem is that this APK version of Machinarium, the one that’s part of the Humble Bundle, was not properly suited to work on our screen (we used a Samsung Galaxy SII for these reviews).
The first object in the inventory was barely accessible, as it was above the limits of the display, and could only be grabbed if it was over a certain size. The next biggest problem we faced was that, at the end of the first area the little robot swings to the far right side of the screen.
After looking up walkthoughs we discovered that all we had to do at this point was walk to the right. Unfortunately this was something we were incapable of, as the character was completely off-screen at this point.
After searching for a solution to this issue and coming up short, we unfortunately hav e to give this particular version of Machinarium a failing mark.
While the art was beautiful and the atmosphere compelling, the inability to pass the very first error due to a lack of resolution support is pretty inexcusible. While the GS2 might not have the most up-to-date display, its resolution of 480×800 is still extremely common in new Android devices.
Good news is that Machinarium is only available to customers who pay above the average. So it’s a nice excuse for users to pay less, assuming they need one.
Sword and Sworcery
Sword and Sworcery was, hands down, our favorite game in the bundle. It combines a funky artistic style with super-minimalistic 8-bit graphics in order to provide a great visual experience while alleviating a huge amount of taxation from the operating hardware. The 8-bit style actually plays in really well with the overall tone and gamplay, too, which is not something that you usually see. Especially in a mobile game.
The gameplay is very old-school and based as much around observation and exploration as it is around action. Double tapping on objects brings up information about them, information that is often useless but still interesting. However, missing something like talking to a character can end up meaning back-tracking further down the line. In some games this is frustrating, but in Sword and Sworcery the gameplay revolves so heavily around checking out everything in each area that missing something is more the fault of the player, than a result of the developers not making something obvious enough.
The music and sound effects are fantastic and provide a great contrast to the simplistic graphics. The overall tone is one of impending, or suggested action, rather than outright excitement. Of course, during fight scenes this changes, but they’re not as common as general exploration.
The fighting is really interesting. When a fight is about to begin, the player is required to turn the device from landscape in to portrait mode. This zooms the camera in and provides a sword and shield button underneath the battle itself. The player must then use each at the appropriate time in order to be successful.
It’s kind of reminiscent of the old Kings Quest games with the exploration and action being effectively separated. Fortunately no typing is required.
The Sworcery component of the game is pretty interesting. After finishing the first quest the player is given the ability to cast spells based on songs. It’s a funky addition to an otherwise very classic style of 8-bit adventure game. It definitely adds to the experience and helps set S&S aside from many similar styles of game.
The written dialogue and inner-monologue also contrasts to the overall tone of the game. While it’s very clearly set in medieval-esque times with a sombre mood, the language employed is quite modern and, at times, humorously colloquial. There are also random bits of spoken dialogue that made us chuckle more than once.
The cool overall vibe created by the art style, sound and off-beat dialogue coupled with the interesting action make for a surprisingly enjoyable game style. It’s difficult to explain just exactly why we loved Sword and Sworcery so much, but it was undeniably fun and relatively unique.
It is, however, a bit of a battery hog. It’s not as bad as Waking Mars or Eulfloria in the department, but it’s still something that players need to keep an eye on.
Eufloria might not be as weird as Splice, but it’s still a rather unusual game. The general idea is to manage a swarm of ‘seedlings’ in order to populate neighboring asteroids, while defending your already owned asteroids from other seedling swarms.
Asteroids are taken by seeding various kinds of trees on them. These trees are purchased with seedlings, that are then often replaced by the trees which are planted.
Each asteroid ends up with its own little swarm of seedlings that can be moved from one place to another and, usually, end up all being bunched together in to one mega swarm for conquest and tree-seeding.
It’s a pretty funky game, although the earlier tutorials do take an annoyingly long time to complete.
One problem we did end up having with it is that, while the game attempts to require a certain level of tactical foresight, a mindless, brute-force approach worked just as well and much more quickly.
The idea behind the tactical approach is that each asteroid has a different mix of resources. Some provide more energy, speed or strength while others provide a more balanced approach. Each of these resources changes the nature of the seedlings born on that asteroid, as well as providing buffs to defensive structures.
Despite this, we often just ended up filling every asteroid with as many seedling-creating trees as possible and just totally steamrolling any attacker or defender with greater numbers. The only problem with this approach was that the phone’s processor often became overloaded and the game became unplayably laggy. Of course one can always avoid this by taking the tactical approach, but it’s annoying to have one’s options limited by hardware, or by a lack of forethought by developers.
It’s possible that more powerful devices would handle things much better, but we’re not convinced it would be enough.
The art style is interesting, while simplistic. Sound and music are engaging but in no way required for satisfying gameplay.
We enjoyed Eulfloria and would be giving it a solid 7 if not for its lag issues. Instead we’re going to have to go with a 6.
As far as battery consumption goes Eulfloria is a serious user; at least as bad as Waking Mars if not worse.
The WhistleOut Opinion
The Humble Bundlke #4 on Android is definitely worth it, seeing as the customer pays pretty much whatever they want to it’s almost impossible for it not to be. With the exception of Machinarium, which didn’t work on our GS2, all the games we played were enjoyable, if a little battery hungry at times.
Even if you’re only going to get enjoyment out of two of these games it’s still well worth giving a go. The average price right now is still only $6.14, so paying above that isn’t going to be hard if you want to try your luck with Machinarium anyway.
Obviously Sword and Sworcery was our favorite of the bunch but all of them were interesting enough that we’d recommend giving each a go and seeing which ends up being your pick.