Hitting the Digital Table – Video Game Quick Reviews
To say I’ve been distracted is putting things lightly. I’ve been doing my best to enjoy the time when I’m not busy, but it’s been hard getting any board games to the table. However, I got a Steam Deck in August, so let’s talk about what I’ve been playing there.
If you remember playing Peggle, but wanted a little more strategy and planning, Peglin is definitely a game you should check out. It describes itself as a “Pachinko Roguelike” and that does a pretty good job of covering how it works. There are a bunch of different orbs that have different effects and abilities when you hit pegs with them. The basic Stone orbs are reliable damage dealers, while the Daggorb (yes, really) is low damage unless you hit a “critical hit” peg in the shot. The game offers a lot of replay value as there are different bosses, relics, and strategies to use based on what you pick up over the course of a run. There’s also the Cruciball which adds on extra challenges and makes the game considerably harder. There are more characters coming for the game as well. I’ve already put over 100 hours into playing and I see that increasing with each major update to the game.
I really enjoy deckbuilding games, and Luck be a Landlord takes that and makes it more interesting with a slot machine theme. Instead of cards, you’ll add symbols to the five columns of a slot machine. Some symbols are easy to understand; a Coin gives you one money. But if you have a King Midas symbol adjacent to it, it gives three money. The theme is a bit weird — you’re trying to earn enough money to cover your next rent payment — but the gameplay is really quick and when you get a big payout, it’s very rewarding. The pixelated art style is also fun. The game is just out of beta, and is another great pick up and play game that’ll suck you in. It’s another game I’ve spent over 100 hours playing.
I’ve only recently started playing this card-based “golf” game. I use quotes because it’s not a traditional golf game but rather a card-based puzzle with a light golf theme. You’re given an isometric board and a handful of cards to get the ball to the hole. It starts off easy, but quickly gets puzzly with the addition of ramps, sand traps, water features, and other silly stuff. The art style is very cool and the game play has been fun so far, even if some of the levels have really been struggles for me.
One of the first big deck-building video games, Slay the Spire offers a ton of ways to play. Four different characters, a bunch of different cards to add to your deck, relics to change your strategies, and ascension levels that make the game harder and harder. If you haven’t played Slay the Spire but you enjoy deck-building games, it’s very worth checking out. I also really love the art style and the community around the game. I’ve had several friends stream games they play on Twitch and seeing how someone else goes about playing shows that there are many viable strategies.
Another game in development, Mahokenshi combines deck-building with a hex-based grid and missions. You are put on a hex grid with various terrains and locations and play cards to move, attack, and try to accomplish the goals for a given level. You may have to defeat a target number of enemies or prevent a large baddie from reaching their goal. As you play, more characters are unlocked and a tech tree becomes available to give you even more decisions to plan. While I’ve had a few hiccups while playing, the games I’ve played have been entertaining and engaging. The game is still being worked on, so things like cards not being 100% clear are expected. Trying to plan ahead to accomplish the missions while also trying to build up your deck or upgrade your cards can be difficult. The added tactics of moving around the board does make the game more complex, but I’m looking forward to playing this one more. The art and sound are well done too with a samurai theme that feels like a natural fit for this kind of game.
An inventory management game that feels like a combination of deck-building games and Tetris, Backpack Hero has given a fun twist on these basic ideas. You have access to your entire backpack each turn, but the location and adjacency of items in it can make each item better or worse. Several characters play vastly different and offer different challenges. The cute pixelated art style throws me back to the SNES days. While this game is still in development, it feels very polished. The developers have done monthly updates, and each one has added something new and the changes have taken the play from good to great. The interface sometimes feels a little odd, but with an active Discord, issues can be quickly flagged. There’s even a free demo version so you can give the game a shot.
This game should not be this much fun. You start off struggling to survive just a few minutes, but you’ll earn a little gold. Spend that gold to boost your stats or unlock a new character and do another run. Find the synergies, learn how to utilize the strengths of your character, and try to survive thirty minutes. It sounds silly and simple, but with 80 hours played for a $5 game, this game has been more fun per dollar than a lot of other games that I’ve really enjoyed. Of course, now there’s DLC as well, which adds more fun of the same kind. Vampire Survivors is also available on Game Pass.
Part resource gathering, part tower defense, part two-dimensional mining, this combines the aspects of all of those kinds of games very well. The rush of panic that sets in when you forget about the next enemy wave is great. The push to balance the mining and tech tree of upgrading your keeper while also upgrading your dome is very well done. The different dome designs and keepers offer a lot of replayability as well. Being able to set the size of the cavern means setting the length of gameplay up front, which is also handy for quick play sessions.
As someone who obviously enjoys board games, this is certainly a different take. You play as a lone chess king against an entire army of other pieces. Your job is to take out the other king with your trusty shotgun. Each level you beat gives you the choice of two changes to the game. Each choice has a benefit for you and a bonus for the opposition. The strategy in both playing the game and picking the right changes after each level lends itself to many different strategies and play styles. The story is really weird, sure, but the gameplay is fun and great for quick bursts.
I received a review code for Jack Move and as someone who enjoys the cyberpunk setting and turn-based RPGs, I was excited to give it a shot. I knew it was going to be a shorter play through but I spent about 12 hours going through the story and getting every achievement. The combat is simple with a rock-paper-scissors style system where each enemy is of a particular type and is weak to another. While I ran into a few bugs and things that weren’t explained well within the game, Hypetrain Digital (the publisher) was able to answer these concerns quickly on their Discord. The difficulty ramp isn’t as consistent as I’d like to see, and with my mistake of trying to go to one area that was later noted as a bug, I was over-leveled for about 2/3rds of the game. The art style is fun, the accessibility options are fun, and the combat is effective. It’s not the best game ever, but it’s got a fun story and one that I was excited to see through.