Quick Look – The Invisible Hand (#JustOnePercent 33/100)

Developer: Power Struggle Games
Release Date: May 7, 2021
MSRP: $12.99

Usually, I am drawn to simulation style games because they can be the ultimate kind of chill experiences, and I prefer a relaxing game to a stressful one almost all of the time. However, over the past several years, we’ve started seeing more dystopian job simulators showing up in the indie games space, and although I haven’t played too many of them, the only one that came close to the level of pressure I felt playing The Invisible Hand was when I briefly checked out Papers, Please.

Of course, I don’t think too many people think about professional stock trading as a relaxing job to have. The Invisible Hand has, at least for me, the most anxiety-inducing introductory cut scene of anything I’ve ever played. You’ve got the trade screen in front of you, text boxes are popping up all over your screen, all the stocks are falling fast, and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.

I was actually relieved when my onboarding session for a new job at Ferios Capital consisted of one of those multiple choice quizzes morality quizzes. The right answers were even pre-selected for you (and I still managed to botch it before I realized that). All the while, your new boss is telling you how much the job is not really about following any of these rules; rather, expect to do whatever you can get away with that makes you the most money. I particularly appreciated the difficulty option that lets the game choose your difficulty and not tell you. As soon as I clicked confirm on that, I realized I was all in for Daytrader Anxiety Simulator.

In reality, the game does a pretty decent job of introducing you to various stock market concepts one at a time. I’ve never been in a financial position to play around in the stock market, and in truth, I was never really all that interested in it. I cannot imagine doing this as a career. I absolutely understood the entire time that I was only playing a game, but man, watching things I spent virtual money on not go the way I was hoping and trying to decide if I should wait it out or cut my losses actually had my heartbeat going a little fast.

As you progress through your career, the game repeatedly pits you against other employees, with a profit target you must meet before your competition or be fired. And someone gets fired most days. Cutthroat isn’t a strong enough word for FERIOUS Capital. Still, in case you haven’t realized that this is NOT a happy place to work, you’re reprimanded by your boss for keeping a personal photo on your desk. It’s all about the money, honey, and everything else is just a distraction.

I’ve probably said it a hundred times on this blog, but I don’t particularly enjoy hard games. I managed to work my way through two promotions, but I can’t say at any point I was having fun. I couldn’t even let myself root for the playable character (who you know almost nothing about) because everything about the job and the company and even your friend who got your foot in the door felt profoundly icky. Which I think was the point, so good on you Power Struggle Games. I may not have liked anything I was feeling while playing, but The Invisible Hand definitely made me feel things. I’m not sure what draws people into dystopian job sims when so many people are living dystopian job realities, but any time that playing a game really affects you, that game has succeeded.

SteamDB estimates that The Invisible Hand has sold somewhere between 5,700 and a 15,700 copies on Steam. Reviews are Very Positive overall, and it is ranked 2451 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.

Game Over – Eternia: Pet Whisperer (#JustOnePercent 32/100)

Developer: Shirakumo Games
Release Date: May 5, 2021
MSRP: $2.99

Generally speaking, I’m not a huge fan of visual novels, but every now and again, one is a bit off the beaten path and catches my eye. As someone who’s also a pretty big fan of animals, Eternia: Pet Whisperer seemed like it would be right up my alley, and when it was included as part of the Itch.io Bundle for Ukraine, I decided I’d give a playthrough for #JustOnePercent.

There’s not much in the way of world building – you start right away by visiting adoptable pets in a shelter. You can always choose to check out your apartment, but there’s nothing to do there, so normally, you’ll be choosing a potential pet to visit with. The first day of the game doesn’t give you any options – you’ll be meeting Connie the Cockatoo. You can save the game from this screen anytime you like, and if there are no available pets you want to talk to, you can always skip the day.

There are six different animals (well, seven but the rats only come as a matched set!) you can choose to spend time with. Completely on script, the first storyline I finished was Brinda, the Border Collie. What can I say, I’m a sucker for a dog. There are no branching storylines in Eternia: Pet Whisperer, you’re participating in the story, but only in the most scripted of ways. Complete a pet’s storyline, and they agree to be adopted by you. Once you’ve adopted a pet, there’s a game over option, but it’s also when the whole thing gets pretty darned weird.

You see, the pets at this particular rescue were all part of a “failed” experiment. Which is why you can communicate with them – it’s a talent they have, not one you have. That’s not all. Apparently, these animals have also mastered the fine art of time travel, apparently solely so you can subvert the shelter’s “one adoption per household” rule, and bring all the animals back to your tiny city apartment.

Now, I definitely read faster than average, and adopting all 6 pets and getting to the end credits took me less than 40 minutes. It was a charming little game, but lack of meaningful choices seriously limits replay value. I would definitely recommend giving it a play through if you grabbed that bundle, however, as the art, music, and dialogue is all well done & interesting throughout, even if it is a little off the wall. All the animals have unique personalities, and if you do decide to adopt them all, there’s one fun choice you get to make about the post-game (which sadly, we don’t to see or play).

I ran into a couple of glitches with the game, but I am not sure if that’s because I added it to Steam so I could use the overlay for screenshot purposes. I played in full screen, and alt-tabbing out would cause the text and overlay art to disappear. You could keep clicking through, but there was nothing to see. I also had some trouble with attempting to change the font (although you are given the option of a few different ones), but there’s no text overlap or issues with the default choice. Thankfully, the game includes a skip button, which I made use of when I needed to replay the first 10 minutes or so, up to my first adoption scene.

Overall, I really liked the vibe of Eternia: Pet Whisperer, and would definitely like to see what this team comes up with when they’re not working on a Game Jam schedule.

SteamDB estimates that Eternia: Pet Whisperer has sold somewhere between 200 and a 700 copies on Steam. It looks to be a freshman effort from this team as far as Steam is concerned, although they have a handful of other titles on Itch.io, and a new game coming in November of 2022. Every review on Steam has recommended this title, and it is ranked 2427 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.

Quick Look – Legend of Keepers (#JustOnePercent 31/100)

Developer: Goblinz Studio
Release Date: April 29, 2021
MSRP: $19.99

Full disclosure: I messed around with Legend of Keepers for a little bit last month when I noticed it was available on Utomik, and much to my disappointment, I didn’t immediately love it. I almost decided not to revisit it for this project, but there have been many games that I didn’t much care for the first time I tried them and then, upon giving them a second look, really clicked with them.

I think the initial disconnect for me was between the game’s store description and the actual experience I had while playing it. I usually associate dungeon management gameplay with building things; that building component is pretty much completely absent from Legend of Keepers. Instead, the layout of each dungeon is pre-determined, usually containing two trap rooms, two monster rooms, a spell room, and a boss room. The tutorial level contains only one of each.

Each battle week starts with a preparation phase. During this time, you can inspect the heroes who will be showing up to plunder your dungeon. You choose which traps to place in trap rooms, and which monsters to place in monster rooms. Spell rooms and boss rooms are unaffected by preparation; you can choose which spell to use when heroes arrive, and the boss is always the “playable character” of the scenario, which in the first level is Maug.

However, most of your in game “weeks” will be spent doing other things. Usually, you have a choice between two or more options, most of which are potentially beneficial, provided you have the resources to take advantage of them. Resources are primarily gained when you defeat a party of adventurers – you get blood for killing them, tears for scaring them off, and gold regardless of how you deal with them. I admit that I might be Doing It Wrong, but I feel like you cannot possibly gain enough resources to take advantage of all of the opportunities presented to you.

That was just one of my frustrations, however. Your creatures and traps only level up through opportunities, not through use, which felt a little weird to me. Pouring resources into training can be frustrating, because monsters take morale hits when they die (and they will die). If you don’t take them out of rotation before their morale hits zero, they’ll suffer burnout and be unusable for 10 weeks, which means you can just keep throwing your highest level monsters out there without consequence, and you won’t be able to level up too many monsters with the amount of gold you’re bringing in unless you’re particularly lucky.

I understand that a critical component of roguelite games is failing repeatedly to gain persistent advantages, but unless you’re really unlucky (or playing really poorly), a failed run will probably take upward of an hour. I just wasn’t enjoying the game play loop enough to dedicate that kind of time. I think I perhaps would have enjoyed this more if it weren’t a genre mashup – the tactical strategy component would have felt more satisfying if I felt like I were being set up to succeed rather than to fail.

Of course, I didn’t find the difficulty sliders & settings until I was almost through my entire run, so perhaps dialing some of that down would have positively impacted my enjoyment. For the most part, I don’t like my games too hard, so having these options is fantastic; I just wish they’d been a little more upfront with them as you cannot adjust any of these things mid-run.

I lasted 38 weeks, which means I lost on the final battle. Which is pretty much what I was expecting.

For players looking for a tactical roguelite experience with a side of management, I can see this game being a great pickup. There seems to be oodles of content, including two paid DLCs (with a third announced for this summer), and multiple free updates since release. However, if you’re overly put off by randomness that can either doom or save a run, you might want to give this a pass – it does you no good to understand what you need to do if you can’t acquire the tools to do it, and I can see that definitely being a problem more often than not due to the sheer variety of creatures and traps in the game.

I played this game through Utomik – the version available there includes the first DLC Return of the Goddess. If this one showed up in a Humble Choice (or another bundle), I would most likely add it to my library – after my second play session I felt like I was on the verge of getting it, and I’d love to play around more with the customization options. It felt like a really well constructed game, I’m just not entirely sure this genre mashup is what I’m looking for.

SteamDB estimates that Legend of Keepers has sold somewhere between 65,200 and a 179,400 copies on Steam. It’s currently on a half-price sale, which may account for it’s fairly high concurrent player count. Reviews are Very Positive overall, and it was easily in the top 5% of Top Sellers in 2021. Still, the negative reviews it has gotten hurt its overall rank, which is 1517 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.

Quick Look – Island Farmer (#JustOnePercent 30/100)

Developer: Mens Sana Interactive
Release Date: April 30, 2021
MSRP: $1.99

Island Farmer is the middle child in Mens Sana Interactive’s minimalist farmer series of games, and eschews the logic elements of the other two games. Instead, this game is part jigsaw puzzle, part memory game. The game shows you what your island farm should look like, then you hit play and the pieces get scrambled so that you can click and swap to put it back together properly.

It’s as simple as it sounds, but the graphical style is lovely. It’s a low-stakes Zen sort of experience; there are no timers and no move limits. When pieces are put back where they belong, they sparkle lightly. If you can’t remember exactly how the level should look, there’s a picture button at the top of the screen which will show you an overly of the properly arrangement. It would have been nice to have a distinct sound effect for when a tile snaps into the correct spot (rather than the generic one that you hear every time you complete a swap), and the sparkle effect could be a bit more noticeable, but if you like the concept, there’s really nothing here to dislike.

Steam achievements indicate that there are 28 levels, eight of which were added after the game’s release. I was in no rush, and completed about half that in a little more than an hour, so you can expect the entire game to take somewhere between 2-3 hours, depending on how quickly you work, and how good your visual memory is. That seems reasonable enough for the low price point. It’s not deep gameplay, but Island Farmer is a lovely experience, and a perfect coffee break sort of game.

SteamDB estimates that Island Farmer has sold somewhere between 4,100 and a 11,300 copies on Steam. It’s rated Very Positive, with the handful of negative reviews mainly complaining that the game isn’t something other than what the description indicates. It is ranked 735 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.

Quick Look – Cryofall (#JustOnePercent #29/100)

Developer: Atomic Torch Studio
Release Date: April 29, 2021
MSRP: $19.99

Cryofall was part of the February 2020 Humble Choice, while it was still in Early Access. At the time, the only play choices were either player versus player or more cooperative servers, but it was designed to be an entirely online multiplayer experience. I was fairly sure that was going to mean it was Not For Me, even though I usually enjoy colony sims. I gave it a few hours anyway, and the thing that confirmed for me that – at least in its state at the time – that I wasn’t going to keep playing was the fact that your claim would experience decay, and eventual destruction, between play sessions. I knew that I didn’t have the time (or the desire, truthfully) to commit to it, so I wandered off and forgot about it entirely.

Cryofall fully released in April of 2021, and in October, they did the one thing that would draw me back in – they released a single player, decay-free way to play. This quick look is going to focus exclusively on the single player options & experience introduced in the R31 update.

I’m going to lead with my conclusion: I didn’t not enjoy the game, but I’m not sure I have any interest in returning to it. I like the gameplay loop of Cryofall; gather resources, discover new things, use Learning Points from quests & discoveries on your tech tree to be able to craft and construct things. The survival mechanics weren’t really to my taste (especially considering how much effort goes into keeping yourself fed & hydrated early on), and I wish that your character would start with basic tools and weapons if you’re going to be in an unsafe place right off the bat.

I did as the game suggested, and played on Survival difficulty (making sure, of course, that decay was turned off), but I think – for me – the game might be more enjoyable on Paradise, or by tweaking the settings. The early game is a whole lot of picking things up and trying to avoid all the things that want to murder you. It doesn’t take terribly long until the game walks you through getting your basic tools and weapons, but I still managed to get myself eaten by a wolf fairly early on.

A lot of things just felt like they were a smidgen off. I don’t much care for the land claim mechanic in a single player game – I much prefer just being able to build where I want. I dropped my initial settlement in the closest safe spot once I received a quest to do so, and now I feel tied to a spot I’m not sure I much care for. A pretty significant amount of resources go into the most basic of buildings, and there are a lot of things to gather, so I could see inventory becoming a real issue before too long.

I’m not 100% sure that this particular game translates well to a single player experience, although I can see how it would be a pretty cool buy-to-play survival MMO. Playing on my own, I can see a lot of things becoming tedious really quickly. Although I do really appreciate the fact that Atomic Torch Studio put the effort they did into making Cryofall work as a single player game, in a lot of ways, it feels like they did little more than give you an option to turn the other players off. Maybe a lot of this could be massaged into something more to my taste through choosing a different difficulty, and customizing the way my personal server works, but I’m not sure I’m engaged enough to put in the effort.

Any sort of indie MMO is kind of a tough prospect, never mind one that punishes you for not playing, so it doesn’t surprise me that Cryofall wasn’t a huge breakout hit.  SteamDB estimates that Cryofall has sold between 94,100 and 258,700 copies on Steam, although Humble Choice subscribers and bundle buyers may have boosted that a bit over what it would have sold otherwise. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been able to maintain consistently high player counts. It is ranked 2072 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.

Quick Look – Robin Hood: Hail to the King (#JustOnePercent 28/100)

Developer: GameOn Production
Release Date: April 28, 2021
MSRP: $6.99

The past couple of weeks, there’s a thing that’s been going around Twitter that goes something like “Post your opinion about [fill in the blank] that will get you cancelled”. It’s just the latest version of hot takes (personally, I tend to prefer lukewarm takes, but that’s just me), but it definitely got me thinking about some of my opinions that run pretty much contrary to what seems to be whatever is currently being shouted the loudest.

I say this because I’m about to drop one of those opinions that will get me kicked out of the Serious Gamer Club*: I think that games that fall under the genre label of “casual” don’t get half the respect they deserve. As a result, the companies that put out these games – which are, by and large, free from bugs, by the way – aren’t considered “real” game developers.

* Just kidding, y’all. If there were a Serious Gamer Club, they certainly wouldn’t let me in.

When I spotted Robin Hood: Hail to the King available to play on Utomik (which is far & away the best value subscription service for us plebeians who like things like time management and hidden object games), and I had some gaps in my lineup this month (as Runeverse has already been taken offline, and Invisible Wings turned out to be a demo of an yet-unreleased game), I decided to embrace my inner casual and give it a whirl. On normal. Because I figure I’m pretty badass at time management games.

About ten levels in, and I’m sorry to report, I am getting my ass handed to me, but I’m also enjoying myself more than I have in most of the games I’ve played thus far this month.

The story is absolutely forgettable, but I’m fairly sure most people aren’t playing time management games for the story. The first couple levels are painfully easy (and completely hand-hold-y), but it doesn’t take long for a three-star clear to require both speed and precision. If you choose a suboptimal path, or spend your resources inefficiently, you can kiss your third star (and maybe your second one as well) goodbye. I now understand why this game has an easy mode.

There are static resources, that block your paths and can only be picked up once. Then there are resources, like berry bushes and lumber mills, which keep producing. Demolishing barricades, doing repairs, setting traps, and rescuing allies all have set resource costs from the four basic types (food, wood, rope, and gold). Hovering something like a broken bridge will show you what you need to be able to proceed. The main level objectives are listed at the bottom of the screen, but those aren’t the only things that will require your resources.

You start off with just Robin Hood and Little John, but as you progress through the early levels, you unlock other characters that will help you along the way. Each character has a unique ability, and you will have to choose which characters you take to each level, as well as the order in which they appear. Between levels, you can upgrade their abilities with the gold you’ve obtained from heist levels.

This is an honest to goodness strategy game, friends, just wrapped in a casual game package.

There are 41 levels included in the game (this includes both standard and heist levels), and it took me a little over an hour to complete 9 of them. Even without star-chasing, you could easily get four or more hours out of this one, and it’s one of four games in the same series available on Steam.

Casual games on PC just aren’t hugely successful, even ones distributed by a publisher like Alawar. SteamDB estimates that Robin Hood: Hail to the King has sold between 200 and 600 copies on Steam, and as a result, hasn’t gotten much in the way of reviews (although it’s still rated Positive based on the handful it has received) It is ranked 5653 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.

Quick Look – Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion (#JustOnePercent 27/100)

Developer: Snoozy Kazoo
Release Date: April 22, 2021
MSRP: $14.99

I don’t play too many things outside my comfort zone anymore, but getting games I just might like to take out for a spin is still one of my favorite parts of buying bundles. I picked up the November 2021 Humble Choice almost exclusively for House Flipper, but Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion looked close enough to something I might get an hour or so of fun out of that I activated that one as well. As it turns out, this game is Not Really For Me, but in the time I spent with it, I can see why it was a hit for so many people.

I started off trying to play on keyboard, and it didn’t take me long to realize that this title is closer to “controller required” than “controller friendly” (although I probably could have rebound the keys to something less awkward, the default “controller to keyboard” setup is one I always struggle with). I was getting Dark Soulsed by trash mobs. Coming back in with a controller was better overall, and this game would probably be very well suited to a handheld console like the Steam Deck or Nintendo Switch, where it is also available.

That said, there’s a few deliberate design choices that most players will either love or hate. First is how self-referential and “meme-ified” the game is. Although (just barely) less than a year old, there’s already some things in Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion that already feel dated – internet culture just moves too damn fast to ever really feel safe in a video game. Secondly, I’d say easily half the games very short play time is going to be spent talking to absolutely everyone, and then backtracking. It’s not a game that really needs a quest log, but I absolutely would have made use of it if one was present. The size of the game world is small enough that you can just go talk to everyone if you can’t remember who wanted that thing you just found, but it’s kind of annoying to need to.

If you’re meticulous about talking to everyone, and you have a decent affinity for these types of puzzles, the entire game could probably be beaten in just slightly more time than it would take to watch your average movie. It’s meant to be short, and somehow, it still felt a bit bloated to me, probably due to being only a few areas requiring multiple trips back and forth. The average bad guy combat is perhaps too simple, and bosses aren’t much harder if you make use of the very obvious gimmick in the boss room. It’s a rare game that I like the combat part better than the quests and puzzles, but combat is quick and straightforward, while the rest of the game feels drawn out and a bit convoluted.

Achievement hunters may be delighted how fast and furious new nerd points seem to pop up, and there are hats and documents for the folks who are into collectibles. While I can acknowledge that there’s some good stuff here, it just wasn’t to my personal taste. For a light fun time, Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion might just hit the spot, or it could just leave you hungry for something more substantial.

The upside of having a funny, meme-tastic game is that it just might go viral. SteamDB estimates that Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion has sold between 108,300 and 292,900 copies on Steam. Almost 95% of reviews are positive, and that’s out of a pretty significant number of reviews. It is ranked 136 out of 10,967 games released in 2021, a great showing for a short game about a vegetable tearing up every piece of paper he comes across.

Quick Look – Secret Government (#JustOnePercent 26/100)

Developer: Game Trek
Release Date: April 15, 2021
MSRP: $24.99

Disclaimer: I played significantly less than an hour of this title.

I usually do okay with most strategy games. Sure, I might set the difficulty options extra low to start out, but once I get the hang of it, I can usually ease my way up a tick or two until I’m playing at least close to the default difficultly. However, there’s something about the learning curve of grand strategy games that just kills any desire I might have to play them. I was hoping an indie grand strategy title might be a little easier to wrap my brain around, but unfortunately, I think I’m going to have to put Secret Government on the shelf next to the Crusader Kings games, where I’d really really like to, but I just cannot.

Honestly, I’m more than a little mad about this one. The concept is fantastic – you control a secret society who meddles in the affairs of the world to shape the future to their liking. Everything must be done without anyone knowing who is behind it. I was really into the whole introduction, especially the gorgeous art. I found myself looking forward to the tutorial!

First problem is there are only two scenarios in the game, and then a sandbox mode. I don’t know how long each scenario ideally takes to play, but I think most people would agree, if a game isn’t going to go full sandbox, two scenarios just isn’t sufficient. This was the first time I found myself concerned that the game might not have been quite ready yet, but was instead yanked from the oven prematurely.

The tutorial – and I feel like that’s a generous term – did nothing to assuage my fears. It basically reiterated the general concept, and then sent me out to sink or swim. I sank.

The amount of information at your fingertips in Secret Government is immense, the problem is finding it. I spent some time clicking around and hoping for the best, and some time trying to read everything on screen and make some sort of sense of it. I was pleasantly surprised when I received a message that I completed a step of one of my goals, and then realized I only very vaguely even knew what my goals were. I had no idea where to find that information, so I kept clicking randomly with the game clock paused until stumbling upon the correct button. Now I had my goals, but I still had no idea how to implement them.

Soon after that, I realized I was just staring blankly at the screen. It was like some secret society had infiltrated my head and removed my brain. I’m not sure if Secret Government is actually withholding critical intelligence from the player, or I’m just not adept enough at this genre to make a fair go of it with what little I knew. I suppose it’s not a surprising turn of events, given my lack of success with this genre in the past, but it was a bit of a disappointment nonetheless.

I hope mediocre reviews of their first major title don’t discourage Game Trek from giving it another go, because they’ve clearly got some good ideas. SteamDB estimates that Secret Government has sold between 4,600 and 12,700 copies on Steam, and it started appearing in bundles in the fourth quarter of 2021. Reviews have been mixed, with many detractors citing the user interface and tutorial as impediments to playing the game. It is ranked 7109 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.

Quick Look – Ashwalkers (#JustOnePercent 25/100)

Developer: Nameless XIII
Release Date: April 15, 2021
MSRP: $11.99

Generally speaking, I like story heavy games. I’m not put off by a “lack of game play” if the story is good, and presented in a way that makes sense. Now, that’s last part is important; gameplay choices need to support the story. Ashwalkers comes close to striking this balance, but at least for me, it was more miss than hit.

To start with, a minor gripe: there was really no tutorial, and there was also no way (that I could find) to even open a “how to play” menu. As far as I could tell, this is a mouse-only game, and I was frustrated early on by not being able to left click some things, with no indication of what I needed to do instead. It took me quite a while before I right clicked and discovered that’s how you change which character is walking in front of the party, and as such, will do the resource collection by default. Since every time you collect a resource, you take an energy hit, knowing how to switch between characters is pretty important right from the beginning.

You’re given a pre-constructed four person party, and dropped into the middle of their journey. The game starts on Day 13, and is divided into expeditions based on story progression. If there’s any actual stats based combat, I never saw any – everything I accomplished (or failed to accomplish) during my play session was predicated on text choices. I felt like there was a lot of potential for the story to have been something truly captivating, but the structure of the game as a whole just doesn’t lead itself to a tight narrative.

The entire game exists in shades of grey, with the exception of an occasional bit of red to draw your eye to something you probably should have been paying attention to sooner. The music is fittingly melancholy, after all, you’re managing a pilgrimage through a post-apocalyptic wasteland. The majority of the game play consists of resource gathering, managing your party after making camp, and walking oh-so-slowly through terrain that manages to be both achingly beautiful and incredibly boring to navigate.

That’s where it all sort of fell apart for me. Too much time is spent on the least interesting part of the game. There are no visual indications of story beats, and your characters will stutter-step through them if you’ve clicked ahead of the trigger spot, which is, quite frankly, very distracting. There’s no map (that I could find), and the fixed camera was annoying at best, and downright confusing at times. It sounds weird to say in a game that is very clear that the play is not the most important thing, but it didn’t take long for me to feel like the whole thing was far too tedious.

More than once, I found myself thinking about ICY, a game with a similar concept I played quite a few years ago. What it lacked in graphics, it more than made up for in making me want to keep playing. Ashwalkers didn’t do that – in fact, I ended up bailing in the middle of the third expedition when I found myself in a building that I couldn’t figure out how to navigate. I really wanted to like this one, but as it turns out, it just wasn’t for me, but someone with more patience and a better sense of direction might have fared better.

SteamDB estimates that Ashwalkers has sold between 2,900 and 8,000 copies on Steam, but it was also given away back in February of 2022. Reviews have been mostly positive, so it seems to have found its audience. It is ranked 3176 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.

Quick Look – Rain On Your Parade (#JustOnePercent 24/100)

Developer: Unbound Creations
Release Date: April 15, 2021
MSRP: $14.99

There’s something strangely compelling about a game that demands you create chaos, and that is pretty much the entire point of Rain On Your Parade. Technically, it’s a puzzle game, but most levels aren’t all that tricky to complete. In fact, you can probably finish the entire game in a single evening. Sure, there are a few optional objectives that will make you feel clever for a moment when you figure them out, and there are a few somewhat-out-of-place stealth levels, but for the most part, you’re here to ruin someone’s … or rather everyone’s … day.

After all, what loftier goal for rain cloud than to do what you exist to do – rain on things. At first, that’s exactly what you do. Some levels only give you a limited amount of water to soak everything you need to soak. Some levels let you refill your water meter over and over. Just as you’re getting comfortable with the idea of just being a force of chaos via water, the game steps it up a bit.

Yep, on some levels you can pick up other liquids and rain with those. Find a flame, put down a trail of oil, and you’re now setting the world on fire instead of getting it wet. If there’s a conceivable way that you can ruin someone’s day with liquid from the sky, you’re probably going to be tasked with it eventually.

There are also abilities that unlock as you proceed through the game. First, you can put down some thunder, which startles people and creates small sparks of lightning. Then you get the ability to snow, which leads to some really deviously delightful interactions. I played about half of the game, and I’m guessing there’s another ability or two I have yet to unlock.

On most levels, if you meet all optional objectives, you’re rewarded with a cosmetic for your cloud. You can also change your color and redraw your face in the Cloud Home. If you’re really into collectibles, it’s worth looking around outside of the levels for things you might be able to effect – there are random cosmetic unlockables for a cloud who likes to explore.

Make no mistake, Rain On Your Parade isn’t a particularly difficult game. Most progression objectives have fairly obvious solutions, and even the optional ones are, by and large, not that challenging. If I had any criticism, it would be that there are some levels that take you out of your power fantasy of dropping rain and snow on … well, pretty much everything. Mostly, it’s just pure, silly, mischievous fun that doesn’t take itself too seriously, or even seriously at all.

SteamDB estimates somewhere between 10,600 and 29,200 people own Rain On Your Parade on Steam. While that’s not amazing sales numbers, reviews have been almost uniformly positive, leading to a rank of 124 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.