Until Joss Whedon sets up a crowdfunding campaign to bring back Firefly, nothing will rival a Steam sale’s power to empty nerds’ wallets. These events are legendary for providing thousands of games at a fraction of their usual price, and though places like GamersGate have deals that are at least as amazing, Steam sales are the ones that make headlines. If you’ve decided to blow your hard-earned pennies on frivolous entertainment but can’t decide which particular zombie survival simulator to buy, here’s some recommendations for great games you might not have heard of and are currently dirt-cheap.
***ALL DEALS END ON JANUARY 2ND***
Call of Juarez: Gunslinger - £7.19 (-40%)
Mechanically, Gunslinger sticks pretty close to the Call of Duty FPS format. Don’t let that put you off, though, because it doesn’t take long to realise this is quite a different beast. Gunplay is fast, lethal and features a few surprises that are both fun to play with and perfectly in-keeping with the wacky cowboy adventure vibe, like ability to try and dodge one last bullet if your health gets low. The game’s flashback format not only provides ample excuse to visit a wide variety of Wild West environs, but also manages to be pleasantly self-aware, such as when the protagonist gets up in the middle of telling the story to take a leak. I think Gunslinger is a rare triumph for a medium-budget shooter and highly recommended to anyone in the mood for old-fashioned fun with fancy new paint.
SpaceChem - £0.69 (-90%)
SpaceChem is a puzzle game. Wait, come back! While it’s true that talking about puzzlers tends to conjure up images of Candy Crush these days, SpaceChem is a truly ingenious bit of software that will make you love and hate yourself in equal measure. Its biggest flaw is appearing more complicated than it really is, because the game is paced to teach you the basics and get you acquainted with each mechanic as it’s introduced. Make no mistake, though: only a dedicated few will see the end of SpaceChem and I don’t expect to be among them.
Papers, Please – £3.49 (-50%)
This is another of those games that makes people question what a “game” even is (see my review of Elegy Of a Dead World), but whereas stuff like Gone Home has minimalistic mechanics, Papers, Please is impressive in that it manages to turn sorting through paperwork into a compelling gameplay experience. More than that, your actions within the game world tie seamlessly into the narrative, with very little of the abstraction most games rely on. The story itself is nothing spectacular, but the way you feel plausibly involved in the proceedings makes it much more compelling. Throw in some morality dilemmas that put any BioWare RPG to shame and you’ve got a must-try for anyone who wants to see interactive storytelling done right.
Mark of the Ninja – £6.59 (-40%)
Are you a stealth game master? Or have you never played one in your life and would like to give the genre a try? Either way, Mark of the Ninja is worth a peek. I always think the best stealth games make the player feel powerful when hidden and fragile when exposed, and Klei Entertainment nailed this by giving you a range of options for getting through a level but ensuring that death is swift if you’re spotted. The levels are also open enough to permit different playstyles, from the “scare your enemies senseless” approach to the daunting challenge of getting through the game without anyone so much as glimpsing your shadow. It’s the best stealth game I’ve seen in years, and is freaking beautiful to boot.