Cheap Thrills: The Games Edition
AAA game releases in 2023 have reached new heights of incompetence. There is $0.99 shovelware out there that is truthfully more technically adept than Red Fall or Gollum.
While Red Fall was at least hilariously incompetent (and therefore had some entertainment value), Gollum was depressingly so. Was either worth the price?
I will grant that Hogwarts Legacy did indeed achieve the minimum acceptable level of performance, certainly better than the 11 frames per second that Red Fall achieved… On the minimum freaking settings.
And I’ve heard good things about the new Zelda game but I do not play with my kid’s Switch because I’m not a filthy console peasant.
But in any case. If you give into the marketing demons and go the AAA route you are gambling $60 on a game that may well have the publishers issuing an apology a week after it launched.
Why not try something a lot cheaper?
For $5 a pop or less, you can have hours if not days of fun with these great little Indie titles.
I’ll admit it. This listicle started as a solo review of Iron Lung and I quickly discovered there wasn’t enough material for a full Harddrive-By.
This game was trending on Twitter yesterday because of the missing Titanic submarine so it’s already on quite a few people’s minds at the moment. The dev is a little freaked out by the sudden sales spike.
Iron Lung is a tone-piece horror game. It takes place in a far future that is already steeped in cosmic terror. In 2349 AD the Quiet Rapture happens, all planets and stars vanish leaving only space stations and barren moons behind. No one knows how it happened or where everyone went or why the space stations are the only survivors.
21 years later with resources dwindling, the C.O.I. began trying to exploit their moons for resources. However, on two of them, they have found oceans of literal blood. They did not exist before the Quiet Rapture. It has been proven to be human blood, but no one knows how it got there or how it stays liquid.
This is a terrible world where everyone must justify every calorie expended on them. As part of the C.O.I.’s Conviction Realization program, convicts are offered a chance to redeem themselves and gain a pardon by performing dangerous tasks. In truth, it’s just another form of execution.
You, the player, as part of your Conviction Realization, have been welded into a one-man submarine with orders to explore the blood ocean of Moon AT-5. Your submarine is equipped with photic sonar, and you go to various points of interest in the blood ocean to take “pictures” of the anomalies. You need to complete this mission before your oxygen runs out.
You will not complete your mission.
It’s a great little horror game full of some fairly decent jump scares. The setting is claustrophobic and the atmosphere is completely bleak.
The YouTuber, Markiplier was so fascinated by it he has gotten an indie film based on the game greenlit.
Two words: Dumb. Fun.
That pretty much describes this comedy FPS game. The premise, for what it’s worth, is that you have accidentally set the Chop Goblins loose and you have to wipe them out.
Now this is about as bare-bones a shooter as you can get. Think Wolfenstein 3D instead of Doom. There is no jump mechanic and no Save function, there are no physics beyond basic rag-dolling and fairly simple explosions. This game isn’t trying to accomplish a lot but it knows what it wants to accomplish and it succeeds at it.
Neat and a lot of easy fun!
The Convenience Store
Another tone-piece horror game. This time from the Land of the Rising Sun. You play a girl working the night shift at a creepy-as-hell C-store.
This very simple concept works because of Japan’s fondness for the old Soviet Union-style film school grammar that it inculcated into its horror genre. For those not in the know, the Soviet Union school would have a scene where a detective is asked a question about a murder, then the detective lights up a cigarette and just fucking smokes it for a full minute before he starts talking about his mother for seven minutes. Yes, it’s incredibly boring but it absolutely lulls you into a false sense of security so when the jump scare finally arrives it has so much impact, you have to pause the game and change your underwear.
Aside from a stalker who is obsessed with you (your main plot), you also have to deal with the insane denizens of Tokyo at 3:00 am.
Simple and effective but make sure you have time on your hands when you play it.
Not an Indie but it is indie-priced. This one was under my radar for decades because I figured it was just an N64 version of regular old Doom for consoles. Yeah, the monsters looked better but I didn’t see the point in playing a game I’d played to death years ago.
Wrong call. When I finally felt an itch to play Doom for the first time since the 1990s, I picked this version and was startled to discover that this was in fact the Doom III we had always wanted but never got.
Bonus! The ending works as a lead-in for Doom (2016).
If you knew this already, good for you. If you didn’t, The Dark Herald Recommends.
This one is minimalist RTS, kind of a throwback to the very first Sim City. Except you don’t have to grind for resources. You just build on your colorful island. The more you build, the more unlocks you get. That’s it and that is all it needs to be. Very relaxing.
It’s Prop Hunt mode in GMod. If you know what those words mean and you like Prop Hunt, you’ll love Peekaboo.
It’s very undemanding fun. It’s team-based. There are props and hunters, if you’re a prop, you pick a good hiding spot and turn yourself into a prop. If you are a hunter you shoot all the props before the time limit runs out. It’s video game hide and seek.
These games are absolutely not free, but the demos are free and worth a quick play-through if you have just a little time on your hands and are intent on killing that time.
Fashion Police Squad
This game has no right to be as much fun as it is. Technically it’s a non-violent shooter. You are… Yeah, I don’t know what the hell you are, but you hunt down fashion criminals and shoot their wardrobes into something much finer. You have various “weapons” to do that with. To include a powerup that lets you slap fashion felons into righteous citizens of Haute Couture City.
I may buy the full version of this.
This one is a rhythm shooter. You have to fire on the beat if you’re going to do any kind of damage at all. This game has actual metal musicians providing the music and vocals. This is the most polished of the games on this list but that said, if you do buy the full version it’s the most expensive at $30 bucks and this list is called Cheap Thrills.
IF you are bothered by demonic imagery, skip it. I’m not as quick to dismiss these worries as I used to be myself.
Okay, I’m done here.