While you're all stuffing your faces with (Cass's Note: Boo! Hiss! Envy!) turkey, Pete and Cassandra have been trawling the Steam sale on your behalf.
Everyone knows that Skyrim and Left 4 Dead are worth buying, though; what about the games you might not have heard of, and that the sale might drop low enough to justify a "take a chance" purchase? That's what this feature's all about. Both Pete and Cassandra have picked 10 games each -- here's what happened when they pitched them to each other.
Oh, and don't forget good Steam Sale practice -- if you're interested in any of these games, keep an eye out for them in the Daily Deals for the most significant discounts.
Pete: Rogue Legacy describes itself as a "roguelite," but it's actually a really interesting randomly generated Metroidvania with a solid progression system, some endearing humor and some hilarious, peculiar game mechanics that largely center around your character's genetic traits. Some of these have a noticeable effect on the gameplay; others are used for visual jokes; others still are there to make a point -- controlling a gay character has absolutely no impact on anything, for example. I'm a fan of Rogue Legacy because of its tight, snappy play loop -- a single run takes no more than a few minutes, even if you're doing well -- and because it's genuinely amusing without being mean-spirited. What do you think?
Cassandra: "Roguelite"? I miss the usage of roguelike-like. Mostly because I helped coin that term. Damn Internet. But, yeah. Rogue Legacy's a bit like the bad boy you can't shake. It's slick and endearing, witty and intoxicating but just a jerk to you. Rogue Legacy's savagery is a distinct nod to proper roguelikes. A single mistake is more than enough to send you rocketing to the next generation. While I've never succeeded at finishing the game, I can happily say that this is indeed a "Yay" by any definition of the word. Must buy.
Cassandra: I love Don't Starve with a passion. Even though I squeak like a traumatized chipmunk each time night rolls in. Maybe it's the survival mechanics. Maybe it's the weird, pop-up book aesthetics. Maybe it's the fact that everyone verbalizes in musical notes. Or it could just be the steampunk vibe it wears like a mink coat. Who knows? What I do know is that you should be playing it because it's an amazingly clever and stupendously attractive survival sim and also one of the few games that pivots around its own title. What do you think?
Pete: This is a game I haven't played myself, but I have watched a friend play. It looked enormously enjoyable with an absolute ton to do, and its distinctive audio-visual presentation was charming and memorable -- I particularly loved, as you mentioned, the Charlie Brown-esque musical instrument vocalizations. A "yay" from me for sure.
Long Live the Queen
Pete: Long Live the Queen is a brutally difficult strategy game masquerading as a cutesy Princess Maker life sim. Taking on the role of young queen Elodie, you'll be presented with a variety of challenges someone twice your age would struggle with, and you'll have to carefully manage your time, juggle your skill development and keep a careful eye on your somewhat fragile emotional state in order to live a long and happy life. Failure is inevitable, however, so it's fortunate that the variety of horrible ways in which Elodie can expire is made up of a series of highly entertaining, enjoyable and dramatic narrative paths. It's a simply presented game, but one with bags full of charm. Are you familiar?
Cassandra: Long Live the Queen is a recent favorite. I'm not big on playing a protagonist with cotton candy hair but I very much enjoyed the fact I could raise her any way I chose. By the end of those initial "practice" playthroughs, I'd gotten the art of building a cold-hearted wench down to a science. My Elodie was a monster, cool-eyed and vicious enough to survive any opposition. (I also made it a point to keep her contained in the most garishly girly outfits I could find. Just to make the contrast more severe.) Totally a Yay.
Cassandra: The Cave. Hmm. The Cave -- is it cheating if I recommend a game I've yet to play but desperately want to find time to dally with? The Cave hits all the right notes with me. It has adventure. It has Double Fine. It has seven different characters, each armed with a mini-story of their own. It has style. In spades. Possibly because it's underground. Who knows? Double Fine's games aren't always the most mechanically perfect but they're certainly imaginative enough to warrant enduring the little issues.
Pete: I know absolutely nothing about this game, I must confess, save for the pedigree of its developers. People whose opinion I trust say that it's a worthwhile, interesting experience, though -- and a fascinating study in characterization. Sounds like my kind of thing.
Pete: Magical Diary is another game from Hanako Games, who made Long Live the Queen. It's a similar sort of idea -- you build up stats and work your way through a story -- but this time, instead of ruling a country, you're attending a Harry Potter-esque school for young magicians. This is a fascinating game in that it really captures the struggles of your average teenager in a super-compelling way, and makes heavy use of allegory to explore some weighty issues without coming off as flippant. It's also got some great puzzles with multiple solutions that require creative use of the spells you've learned to proceed -- but in true visual novel/life sim fashion, it can be just as enjoyable and interesting to fail as it can be to succeed perfectly.
Cassandra: To be honest, I didn't really expect to enjoy Magical Diary. Harry Potter never really jived with me and it didn't help that all my friends were bloodly infatuated with the precocious trio. Happily, Magical Diary succeeded in surprising me. Under the cutesy visuals and the seemingly paper-thin premise, Magical Diary had heft and it dealt with uncomfortable issues with surprising grace. Totally worth yoinking.
Cassandra: A pixelated paen to the golden days, Cave Story practically bristles with nostalgia. If you're from the same age demographic as Pete and I, you may owe it to yourself to snag this one just so you can pretend you're twelve again. It's a little bit of Metroid, a little bit of Blaster Master and a whole lot of subterranean exploration, fun boss battles, excellent storytelling and weird bunny people. Consider this purchase condoned.
Pete: I love Cave Story! Well, up until the end bit, that is. There are some boss fights towards the end that caused me to put it down and never go back, I must confess, but up until that point it was a pretty magical experience, beautifully presented with faux-retro visuals and an oddly sinister atmosphere. Definitely worth playing, and if you're more skilled at platformers than me you might even finish it.
RPG Maker VX Ace
Pete: This isn't a game per se, but it's one of the easiest, most flexible game-making toolkits I've ever had the pleasure to use. For those who, like me, know very little about programming and don't really have the right sort of brain for it, this is a simple means of getting a top-down RPG up and running quickly -- or if you're willing to delve a little deeper, it's also great for making narrative-centric visual novels and other types of game. And yes, I am working on something with it; whether or not it'll ever get finished is another matter, however!
Cassandra: Sorry, Pete. This one's all you. I'm still confident I could whip up a game engine of my own given sufficent time and devotion. The notion of relying on a third-party product does havoc to my ego. Still, for anyone looking to get into game development real quick, RPG Maker's an absolute steal. (I am looking forward to reviewing Pete's work. Mwa. Ha. Ha. Ha.)
The Walking Dead: Season 2
Cassandra: Get it. Get it. Get it. Get iiiiit. Can I be more empathic about this? The first season of the Walking Dead was heady, uncomfortable and an absolute blast to inch through. Season Two looks like it might be even better. Clementine's now the focus of the next installation and, well, this should be interesting. While most franchises tend to pull the punches when it comes to little children, the Walking Dead is a series infamous for its unerring sense of brutality. Whatever happens next, it's likely going to be wild.
Pete: This is a safe bet. Telltale mastered their craft with the first season of The Walking Dead, and I'm confident that the second season will continue in the same vein. I'm particularly grateful to The Walking Dead for proving that story-centric gaming -- almost visual novel-style in its execution -- absolutely does have a place in mainstream gaming.
Pete: I absolutely adore Carpe Fulgur's localized doujin RPGs, but I figure you all own Recettear by now, right? (If not, go buy it right now.) Fortune Summoners is a lesser-known highlight from their slim lineup, but it's just as enjoyable. It's essentially a side-on platform RPG in which you take on the role of three little girls who head off on an adventure. It's written with a huge degree of charm and a wonderful understanding of what it's like to be a child, when everything you do, regardless of how mundane, feels like a grand adventure. It's also an absolute bastard to complete, so don't let the cutesy graphics put you off if you're looking for a significant challenge.
Cassandra: I don't remember why Fortune Summoners fell on the wayside but it's another one of those games that I started but never succeeded in completing. I liked how it looked but I'm only mildly fond of sidescrolling RPGs. If the storytelling is as charming as Pete said, I might give it a second go.
The Wolf Among Us
Cassandra: Fables is easily one of my favorite comic book/graphic novel series of all times. It's perched somewhere between The Sandman and Lucifer which are both, just you know, jaw-droppingly awesome reads. (Read more books, damn it.) The only problem with being so absolutely in love with a series, though, is that you inevitably grow suspicious of new properties. I remember being exceedingly dubious about Telltale's abilities to properly capture Bigby Wolf. After playing it? Well. Let's just say I was worried for nothing. (So good. So, so good.)
Pete: I haven't played this at all, but I love the concept and after The Walking Dead, I have absolute confidence in Telltale to deliver another strong, episodic story.
Fairy Bloom Freesia
Pete: This is a game about a young forest sprite smacking seven shades of snot out of hordes of monsters. She's utterly adorable and completely badass. That's really all you need to know about this game -- aside from the fact that it's surprisingly good-looking considering its budget price, and runs at a blistering 60 frames per second. Simple, satisfying fun, particularly for fans of brawlers.
Cassandra:Fairies and forest critters? This is almost a little too twee to stomach. I'm going to trust Pete's judgment on this but this is slightly too saccharine to go into my personal wishlist.
Cassandra: I like Papers, Please the way I like those grim, thought-provoking movies that leave you absolutely miserable for days. Think Requiem for a Dream. Except with immigrants. Kind of. There's certainly that same sense of depressing artistry in Papers, Please. Probably the worst Christmas game you could play, but great for those intellectual rainy afternoons.
Pete: I respect what this game is doing and I love the concept, but personally I haven't felt a burning desire to pick it up. Perhaps if it's one of the Daily Deals I'll investigate it further.
Cognition: An Erica Reed Thriller
Pete: I'll recommend this with the caveat that it has a few bugs here and there, but developer Phoenix Online Studios is very good about quickly helping out players who have had problems. Cognition is a four-part series of point-and-click adventures starring Boston-based FBI agent Erica Reed, who is investigating a series of murders that may have something to do with her brother's death. The twist is that Erica is gifted with the paranormal ability to touch objects and people, then subsequently view, manipulate and even live through memories, which makes for some really intriguing, well-designed puzzles. For those who would enjoy a truly grown-up crime thriller, this is a worthwhile purchase. You into it?
Cassandra: I - hmm. Cognition weirds me out. I liked Phoenix Online Studios' previous games but I didn't love them. I can't really put a finger on why but they never clicked. Cognition, naturally, ended up being viewed with suspicion for similar reasons. I'm piqued by the notion of intelligent puzzles and may pick it up just for that alone.
Cassandra: Rock, Paper Shotgun compared the first Sanctum to male genitalia. The harder it became, the better it got. Or. Well. Something. Either way, Sanctum 2's a pretty nifty mash-up between first-person shooters and tower-defense game. It's best when you have at least three friends interesting in the same.
Pete: Ooh, good call! I love Sanctum 2. I loved the first Sanctum, in fact, and I was pleased that Sanctum 2 was a bit different. It annoyed a few veterans of the first game when it came out, but the changes and tweaks to the basic rules make for a very clever, highly strategic game that is an absolute blast in cooperative multiplayer with friends. Emphasis on the friends -- this is a game in which you need to communicate to survive.
Assault Android Cactus
Pete: I'm normally hesitant to recommend Early Access titles, but Assault Android Cactus is already in such a playable, polished state that I'm more than happy to include it on this list. Essentially it's a shmup that combines the distinctly Western twin-stick style with the typically Eastern bullet hell phenomenon. A selection of playable characters all handle markedly differently, dynamic stages shift and change before your eyes as you play, and a focus on building combos for score attack purposes proves enormously addictive. Throw in four-player co-op (local only, sadly) and you have a hugely fun, beautifully presented arcade shooter.
Cassandra: Oh, bullet hell games. Those were days. Back in college, I used to be obsessed with them. The interest has waned since then. Nonetheless, I'm still excited to see what Assault Android Cactus will grow up to be. The twin-stick shmup features organic levels, a large playable cast and multiplayer functionalities. Winning combinations, in my opinion.
Cassandra: I love Monaco. It's Pac-Man meets Metal Gear Solid, a stealth game smushed together with arcade-y insanity. Monaco is completely bonkers in the best possible way. Sharp, slick and barren of even a single superficial detail, it's all neon and excellent gameplay and a perfect opportunity to get your friends together for an afternoon's gaming session.
Pete: Monaco's a highly enjoyable, very silly game that is difficult to pigeonhole. It works great as a co-op game, but I will say it's arguably a superior experience in local co-op as opposed to online multiplayer. It just feels like the sort of game you should all be in the same room for, shouting at each other.
Pete: I'll preface this by saying that Magicka is something intended to be enjoyed with friends. It's fun enough in single-player, sure, but the real appeal comes from its "cooperative" multiplayer -- and I put "cooperative" in scare quotes because you'll almost definitely spend more time obliterating your comrades as revenge for that time they shot you up the arse with a lightning bolt than actually working your way through the game. One to play with a group of people who don't take life -- or indeed gaming -- too seriously.
Cassandra: I absolutely can't imagine why anyone would want to play Magicka alone. As a single-player experience, it's competent enough. The combat system's certainly very clever. Nonetheless, Magicka's positively made for boisterous companionship and good-natured homicide. The game shines brightest when you're too preoccupied trying to kill your friends to proceed to the next checkpoint. Best with beer.
Cassandra: Just so you know, I'm absolutely rubbish at platformers, so much so that I tend to avoid them whenever possible. In spite of that, however, I finished Guacamelee. I even beat the DLC. I have all the costumes unlocked. It took me hours but Guacamelee is certainly worth all the breathless cursing it elicited. The writing is marvelous, the array of tributes and homages dizzyingly perfect in execution, the platforming smooth and the characters varied. No matter how you cut it, Guacamelee is a great game and you should play it. (Play it, Pete.)
Pete: Another game that passed me by when it first came out, but again, people I know and trust say it's great. I can't say I'm in a great hurry to pick it up myself, but if it hits a low enough price on the Daily Deals, I'll give it a shot for sure.
Space Rangers HD
Pete: This is probably the most "out there" title on my list, but it's a game well worth a look, purely for how weird it is. It combines space exploration, turn-based combat, trading, role-playing, text adventures and real-time strategy in a randomly generated universe. It's a fascinating game that initially appears completely obtuse, but once you get your head around its diverse systems -- and accept the fact that it's okay to make horrible mistakes that you can't recover from -- this is something you'll be playing for a good long while.
Cassandra: Space Rangers is, sadly, not one of those games I find appealing. Nonetheless, I've heard good things being said about it so here are some tentative thumbs ups.
FTL: Faster Than Light
Cassandra:You should get FTL if for no other reason than the fact that Chris Avellone will be contributing words to the next expansion. A space "sim" equipped with a savagery that would make Conan the Barbarian look like a kitten in comparison, FTL is smooth, elegant and committed to killing you dead.
Pete: FTL is superb! For those who are familiar with board games, it's likely the closest you'll get to a video game adaptation of the rather wonderful Space Alert, with all the chaotic running around in the wrong direction that entails. It's a brilliantly original, beautifully executed take on old-school space sims, and it's only going to continue to improve in the future with the upcoming expansion. If you don't already own this, buy buy buy!