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Humble Double Fine Bundle Mega-Review

Still unsure whether Double Fine’s Humble Bundle is worth the money and bandwidth?

With only six days left to claim your copies, we go hands-on with every game to help you decide…

To recap, there are currently three games available at any price:

  • Psychonauts
  • Costume Quest
  • Stacking

Eight prototype games from Double Fine were also added yesterday, but are only available for Windows.

Beating the average also nets you Brütal Legend and paying at or above $35 also gets you backer access to Broken Age. If you’re dying to throw money at your screen, paying at or above $70 will also get you a t-shirt with worldwide shipping.

Psychonauts

Something fishy is going on at the lake

Something fishy is going on at the lake

A veteran of the highest grossing bundle yet, Humble Indie Bundle V, Psychonauts has been well-received – despite lacklustre sales – since its debut on the Xbox, Playstation 2, and PC in 2005. The protagonist, Raz, is training to be a Psychonaut and jumps his way out of danger and into the fray of summer camp politics and secret plots.

As a platformer, Psychonauts’ gameplay is rather straightforward. No need to awkwardly grip a ladder or trapeze – Raz will latch onto whatever he can when you’re close enough.

Though this works well enough when you’re hopping around the camp and spacious areas, the finicky camera angles in claustrophobic settings left me replaying multiple stages as I overshot tightropes and trapezes repeatedly or Raz overeagerly grabbed onto another object in the environment. Regardless, the gameplay is downright fun even if it can frustrating at times.

The dialogue is humorous – though certainly not as smart as some of the titles below – and the sound design holds up well for an eight year old title. The graphics tend to show their age when you crank up the resolution to 1920×1080, but this doesn’t detract from the gameplay nor should it.

Psychonauts has lived on with a strong following despite its initial stumble in sales and some niggling gameplay issues and rightly so. It’s fun. It’s humorous. It’s deserving of its second Humble Bundle showing.

Stacking

Ever wondered what a world of matroyoshka dolls would be like? Look no further! Stacking is an adventure game that introduces a unique stacking mechanic into the standard fare of puzzle-solving challenges.

Charlie Blackmore

You play as little Charlie Blackmore searching for his brothers and sisters across the fantastical world of stacking dolls. With his suspenders and flat cap, Charlie can sneak up behind other dolls, stack with them, and use their unique abilities to build up in-game achievements and solve puzzles in a multitude of ways.

Character sounds are down to the bear necessities

Character sounds are down to the bear necessities

The sepia-toned cutscenes and sustained humour throughout the game complement the fluid stacking mechanic and the developers’ vision of this charming world.

The music is particularly well-suited to the game’s atmosphere. The soundtrack available from the Humble Bundle only includes two tracks from the game’s classical repertoire, but the full list can be found here. Though the cutscenes are only silent films with title cards, the action and music blend perfectly to set the tone for the endearing adventures Charlie encounters.

Ironic when set against hilarious situations and adorable when Charlie finds another one of his siblings, the music makes up for dolls that don’t always say or do much outside their special abilities. Aside from growling, the bear doesn’t move any differently than the pirate or the mime. Though the game’s sounds can leave the atmosphere feeling rather sparse at times, the music is perfectly curated and little Charlie Blackmore always leave you feeling warm and fuzzy inside.

Costume Quest

The premise is as cute as the name and artwork makes Costume Quest out to be: you and your brother or sister (depending on whom you choose to play as) go trick or treating and a goblin takes your other sibling.

Combat is more a test of reflexes than "fun"

Combat is more a test of reflexes than “fun”

Whilst the concept is charming, the actual gameplay leaves a lot to be desired. Candy acts as currency in the game, allowing you to buy “battle stamps” that can increase stats during battle. You can find candy from going door-to-door, bashing pumpkins, and – alarmingly – rummaging through rubbish bins.

Combat itself is rather lackluster. The quick time events that scream at you to “Press <key> now!” in all caps take away from what could otherwise be a rather adorable vision of a child in shining cardboard armour transformed into a goblin-fighting knight.

Seemingly interminable dialogue

Seemingly interminable dialogue

Stacking’s well-suited classical soundtrack fits perfectly with the silent film aesthetic of the cutscenes and the lack of dialogue wasn’t an issue. Unfortunately, Costume Quest’s dialogue feels interminable against a lukewarm soundtrack, lack of voiceovers, and sparse aural experience when the music dies down.

Though this cel-shaded adventure RPG will please some, others – including me – will have a much better experience with Stacking.

Brütal Legend

If you’ve finished your trick-or-treating, reassembled the matroyoshka doll, jumped your way out of psychic trouble, and paid above the average, you can hit the road as a heavy metal roadie in Brütal Legend.

Not your grandmother's heavy metal action-adventure real-time strategy

Not your grandmother’s heavy metal action-adventure real-time strategy

Transported into an alternate, oddly heavy metal-laden world by mysterious circumstances, Eddie Riggs – the Jack Black-voiced protagonist – quickly joins to free the human race from their enslavement.

The massive open world is filled with odd creatures and post-apocalyptic ruins that are immediately open to exploration on foot or in your hot rod.

The vast landscape and its architecture

The vast landscape and its architecture

But don’t let the open world deceive you. This is a real-time strategy game more than an RPG, so you won’t be spending time creating potions and hoarding wooden bowls in your inventory. Aside from the main storyline, you’ll only find secondary missions scattered across the map.

The combat mechanics are a mix of simple hack-and-slash fun and seemingly tacked-on RTS elements. It’s difficult to focus on attacking enemies in front of you whilst needing to manoeuvre a horde of troops across the battle ground. These frustrating moments are unfortunate, but the rest of the action-adventure elements of the gameplay are fun and accompanied by satisfying sound design.

Though many of us may not be metal fans, the soundtrack and aural experience in general mesh extremely well with the rest of the game. Jack Black’s performance isn’t as grating as I imagined it to be from past encounters with his work and the game’s atmosphere hasn’t worn thin on me yet.

The often tongue-in-cheek, sometimes irreverent, but always good-natured dialogue and storyline make up for some of the oddities in the hybrid combat system. If you’re a metal fan too, this is definitely a title you shouldn’t miss.

Broken Age Backer Access

Though Broken Age née Double Fine Adventure has yet to be released, a purchase at or above the fixed tier at $35 nets you backer access to the project and beta whilst the game is still in development and the final game when it’s released. If you missed out on the original Kickstarter, this may be a fantastic opportunity to jump on board. Though Double Fine offers the same backer access for $30, you won’t get the four other titles with it.

Get the Humble Double Fine Bundle

All four currently available titles can be downloaded from the Humble Bundle site. The Bundle comes with Steam keys and copies in the Ubuntu Software Center, though Brütal Legend is currently unavailable in USC.

If you decide to purchase Broken Age, you will also receive a key that will let you register on the Broken Age site for exclusive backer-only updates, private forums, and the beta when available.

Humble Double Fine Bundle

Rating
Psychonauts
Stacking
Costume Quest
Brütal Legend
Summary: Though you might not enjoy every title, the bundle has something for just about everyone.
3.9
Excellent