Do you like remasters of classic games? If so, then you’re going to love the May 2022 Humble Choice collection. Which has Command & Conquer Remastered, a throwback to the golden era of RTS.
In addition to this gem, you also get SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom. No, it’s not the original which came out in 2003. But a remake with updated graphics and extra content.
There is no big-budget modern AAA game for this month. This means that the retail price for 8 games comes out to a total of US$198, $17 less than last month. However, May’s Humble Choice covers an extremely wide range of genres and should contain something for just about everyone reading this article.
It reintroduces old-school classics to a new generation of gamers. While also bringing obscure indie visual novels such as “If Found…” into the spotlight. I rate the May 2022 Humble Choice a solid 4 out of 5 for including AA/ indie games that excel in terms of storytelling and art design.
Whether you want a relaxing city builder or hardcore RTS, this month’s Humble Choice has it all. Some games in the collection can be finished within hours, while others such as Planet Zoo will take months to fully explore. Give some of the indie titles a try, they’re sure to broaden your outlook on gaming as a whole.
|Genre||Sandbox, Zoo Simulator, Strategy|
|My Personal Rating||4.5|
Before I start explaining why you should be excited to play Planet Zoo, let’s try to unwrap the concept of this game. It’s a genuinely complex and intricately detailed zoo-management simulator. Each animal type has its own preference when it comes to enclosure design, food, care, handling, etc.
Some animals can peacefully coexist within a shared space, while others will rip perceived intruders to shreds. The game basically lets you run your own zoo in the style of a theme park. You can have attractions, decorative foliage, interactive electronic displays, exotic animals, etc.
Depending on how you run your park, it can turn a hefty profit or turn into an irrecoverable financial catastrophe. Staff needs to be hired on an individual basis and equipment must be sourced for keeping your animals comfy in their homes. Pumps, heaters, feeding machines, walls, cameras, toys- every animal has its basic needs.
You will also see that every unique animal species has a separate AI of its own. Chimpanzees swing around the monkey bars while elephants play with balls and spray water out of their snouts. You can install put random stuff inside the enclosure of an animal to see how it reacts.
Some animals are social and live with a group, others are solitary. You can name your animals and observe them like it’s the National Geographic channel. And each one of these zoo creatures has its own mood/ personality.
If you don’t take care of an animal, its health and mood will deteriorate. It might act lethargic or turn into a hostile menace that terrorizes everyone from the people to its own mates. If your zoo has a reputation for handling animals properly, you can even purchase endangered species.
The game gives you various options on how to create and maintain your zoo. You can build it from scratch, hand-shaping the terrain and painfully selecting every single material. Or you can download a template from the Steam workshop and add new modules as your project makes money.
In some ways, Planet Zoo feels like a purpose-designed game engine that exposes its functions to the player. You can select literally every aspect of your dream project. Right down to the size, shape, and type of stones that go into each walkway or water fountain.
For most people, it will take at least a few days to get familiar with the game mechanics. And the developers have created a pretty streamlined UI so you should be able to locate all the necessary tools quite easily. If there’s one gripe I had to mention, it would be the half-baked online mode.
Where you can’t actually tour other people’s zoos unless you download and view them in single-player mode. That’s a pretty weird shortcoming in an otherwise excellent game. Maybe the developers will patch in true online functionality at some point in the future?
SpongeBob SquarePants: Battle for Bikini Bottom- Rehydrated
|Genre||Action-Adventure, 3D Platformer|
|My Personal Rating||4|
Well, you’d never think that a remake of a SpongeBob SquarePants game can sell over 2 million copies, but here we are. It performed well despite some nitpicks from game critics regarding lack of innovation and antiquated features. In a way, it’s basically the old 2003 Battle for Bikini Bottom game with a new coat of paint.
And by paint, I mean significantly upgraded graphics. But when the base game is so good and chock-full of content, even a simple graphics + UI remake can work wonders. If you watched the Nickelodeon TV show as a kid, you’re sure to love this game.
It’s like an interactive cartoon on your computer screen. With some fan favorites such as Mr. Krabs, Squidward, Patrick Star, Plankton, etc. As the player, you can control one of three different characters- SpongeBob, Sandy, and Patrick.
SpongeBob is equipped by default in every stage, and Sandy or Patrick aren’t shown to drive the story forward. But you can walk up to a bus stop and call in your replacement. The goal is to collect 3 different kinds of items- shiny objects, socks, and golden spatulas.
You can trade in Shiny Objects with Mr. Krabs for golden spatulas. And to fight the final boss, you need 75 spatulas. Socks are a little harder to come by since they are hidden in nooks and crannies.
Your main enemies throughout the game will be robotic invaders who are causing all sorts of mayhem inside Bikini Bottom. The remake also includes cut content from the 2003 game, like a fight between SpongeBob and Robo-Squidward (as well as a Patrick dream segment).
Command & Conquer Remastered Collection
|My Personal Rating||4.5|
When you think of the game genre “real-time strategy”, what comes to mind? Of course, there are legendary titles such as Warcraft III and StarCraft II. However, the genre was defined and shaped by even older games from the 90s such as Command & Conquer, Age of Empires 2, etc.
A lot of the mechanics and design choices we take for granted today in RTS games were invented by these early games. Hence, every serious RTS fan should try the original Command & Conquer at least once in their lifetime. Just to see how the genre has evolved over time, and what it used to be like.
Plus, the game is actually a ton of fun. Even if you didn’t play it as a child, you’ll enjoy the variety in unit types and tactical options offered within each mission. EA has done a very good job remastering this game for current-gen hardware.
And they didn’t just update graphics, the UI has received a complete overhaul to make it more accessible. Exclusive missions from the Nintendo 64 and PlayStation have been added for PC players to enjoy. And there is a handy little mission list that you can use to switch between operations whenever you feel like it.
I am glad to say that EA has retained the original Command & Conquer art style while updating the textures and models for a 4K resolution. But if you really want that OG graphics, you can simply press a toggle key and return to how the game looked back in 1995. Don’t worry- compatibility is guaranteed with modern hardware and input devices.
Within the collection, you get 2 base games- Tiberian Dawn and Red Alert. In addition to these mainline releases, you also get 3 expansions- The Covert Operations, Red Alert: Counterstrike, and Red Alert: Aftermath. Every single FMV cutscene from all of these games has been beautifully upscaled for a modern computer screen.
EA even brought back the original soundtrack composer to remaster the game’s music. One feature modern gamers are sure to appreciate is the scroll function to zoom in and out. You can pull the camera back or push it all the way in to observe those pixelated, yet sharply rendered character models.
Some of the soundtracks were re-recorded for this updated collection. And the developers even put in some extra content. Like bonus music files that were left out of the original release.
As if that wasn’t enough, you even get an in-game jukebox to mix soundtracks and create your own audio playlists. As you progress through the game’s story, you unlock behind-the-scenes content. Developer stories, artwork, trivia, music, etc. that the original players never saw are now easily accessible to a new audience.
Finally, an ELO-based online matchmaker has been added. And don’t think that nobody uses this feature, because I can see concurrent player counts on Steam alone hovering around 1000 as I write this article. So, you’ll probably still find a match if you queue up today.
|Genre||Fantasy, Wizard-Simulation, Management|
|My Personal Rating||4|
Spellcaster University is a hodge-podge of various game genres, all of it enveloped by a thick layer of RNG. Are you fine with a game that delivers just 5 to 6 hours of unique gameplay and isn’t entirely driven by player skill? If so, Spellcaster University might be worth it.
The best thing about this game is the potential within its very concept. Combining a Harry Potter-inspired fantasy universe with cards and tower building isn’t something that I’ve seen before. And while the execution isn’t perfect, there is certainly hope for new content via patches in the future.
Or perhaps even a part 2, which can fix several issues like the lack of dungeons. You will still have a lot of fun designing the interiors of your very own wizard school. There are plenty of things to keep yourself occupied with.
Students will approach your school from far-away lands, and it’s your job to make sure that they have a good time. Learning and practicing new magical skills requires a lot of resources. Laboratories, domiciles, halls, cafeterias, etc. have to be installed.
Then, you need to hire some competent teachers, each with their own quirks and expertise. Students come from a variety of cultures and economical backgrounds, so integrating them into a cohesive group won’t be easy. And while you’re doing all of this, the Dark Lord is preparing to be awakened.
Occasionally, the Dark Lord will drop by for an unannounced visit and wreck as much of your university as he can. You can’t fight back unless your students have been sufficiently trained in various types of magic. You can also ally with nearby factions and use their help in defeating the evil one.
As you progress through the game, you’ll unlock newer and better cards for your deck. And each school is basically a stack of 2D rooms obtained by drawing a card. Map types will decide which buildings/ rooms are viable (plus, there are unique factions located within each map).
Surviving the Aftermath
|Genre||Post-Apocalyptic Survival, City Builder|
|My Personal Rating||3.5|
Imagine if you will, a world-ending catastrophe appeared out of nowhere and destroyed 90% of the Earth’s human population within a very short span of time. As a civilization, we have been contending with this possibility ever since the dawn of mankind. Previous generations thought it would be the plague or a meteor strike, now we have the threat of a global nuclear conflict.
In Surviving the Aftermath, you are presented with a post-apocalyptic environment within which life is struggling to re-establish itself. Your duty is to guide the remaining human survivors and construct a new civilization. How you got here doesn’t matter, all that you care about is moving forward.
But the world is a tough place now. There is no infrastructure for communications and transportation, so you’ll have to build those yourself from the remains of our previous civilization. Plus, there’s the matter of sustenance- food and water must be sourced through unconventional means.
Eventually, you build a small team of survivors with similar goals in mind. Then you create a base of operations, a colony that is self-sustaining. Defenses will be needed for this colony since wild animals and scavengers/ bandits are a constant threat.
Surviving the Earth presents you with an ever-evolving world with new challenges at every corner. There are 6 unique biomes, each with its own resources and enemy types. And the world is procedurally generated, so a strategy that worked last time might not be successful this time.
Occasionally, you might meet rival settlements. In such confrontations, the winner is usually one with more resources and better technology. Don’t think that humans or animals are your only enemies.
Nature itself can throw a flood or volcano your way and destroy all hopes for resurrecting a fallen civilization. Surviving the Aftermath does have an underlying narrative, although it isn’t overly cinematic like most AAA games these days. As you progress and do more quests, you’ll come across clues and artifacts that give you some background on what actually happened to the world.
|My Personal Rating||3.5|
A journey through two interconnected lives, one person living in a fantasy and the other in reality. One side of the story lets you look inside the deteriorating mind of a scientist- Cassiopeia as she tries to stop a black hole from engulfing the Earth. On the other side, you have a woman- Kasio, who has just finished her master’s degree in Dublin.
Kasio is returning home to meet with family members who aren’t too happy about seeing her again. She is transgender and has an argument with her mother about wearing feminine clothes and behaving like the “incorrect” sex. The people of the tiny island she lives on don’t respect her choices, and act in a hostile manner.
Eventually, Kasio flees from her home and shacks in with a squatter friend of hers. Here, you watch as Kasio begins to like her new band of friends. Understanding their bonds with each other, and sharing a connection based on the difficulties they face in society.
While all this is happening, the scientist Cassiopeia is still trying to save Earth with the assistance of an anonymous person called “Control”. Later revealed to be someone called McHugh, and he has isolated the cause behind the creation of this black hole. Apparently, it came into being because an image from the future was beaming itself back in time.
The source of this image happens to be Dublin, which is where Kasio lives (the 2nd main character). You watch from the point of view of Doctor Cassiopeia as she tries to rectify the situation, using an image drawn by Kasio when she was a child. The plot of If Found… is layered and emotional, with two intertwined stories unfolding parallel to each other.
You don’t exactly “play” the game. This isn’t even a walking simulator where you move around and pick up objects or talk to people. Instead, you use an eraser to gradually wipe away images from the character’s memory which then progresses the story.
|Genre||Artistic Noir, Point & Click|
|My Personal Rating||4|
We’ve seen Noire games in all forms by now. Some like L.A. Noire are detective stories with gameplay similar to that of GTA. Others, like Chicken Police, throw a unique spin on the genre by using anthropomorphic animals instead of people.
Still, Noire is defined by certain characteristics that remain constant throughout all adaptations. Be it on the movie screen or within a video game. Usually, it takes the form of crime fiction with a cynical world-weary protagonist who’s chasing an enigmatic adversary.
There is a certain aesthetic and tone to Noire, it doesn’t always have to be black and white. Genesis Noir has all of the Noire elements but it doesn’t look or play like any other noir game. For starters, this is a visual novel featuring primitive cosmic beings who can freely manipulate space and time.
Your main character is caught up in a love triangle, and when the other guy finds out he shoots a gun resulting in the Big Bang. I know, it does sound really weird but you have to play the game in order to fully understand its premise. The game takes a crime story and mixes it with theories about the creation of our universe.
|Genre||Co-Op Firefighting Sandbox|
|My Personal Rating||4.5|
What if firefighting was a lucrative profession run by hyper-capitalists within a completely unregulated free market? Successfully rescuing people from burning buildings lets you purchase the latest gear and recruit more people into your team. Firefighting is fun and frantic in Embr, rather than tense and methodical.
You start out as a ragged band of amateurs who are likely to cause more harm than help a situation they find themselves in. Eventually, through experience and improved gear, you turn into a formidable firefighting force that makes millions in profits. And the best part about this game is its robust co-op feature that lets you communicate effortlessly with friends through voice.
Plus, it supports crossplay so Xbox and PC players can fight fires as part of the same Embr squad. Each firefighting scenario is like a mini-sandbox of its own. You have destructible environments, loads of tools, NPCs to rescue, and randomized hazards (explosives barrels, exposed electrical lines, etc.).
Sometimes, you’ll be called upon to extinguish fires within a small house. Other tasks require a lot more manpower and advanced tools since you’ll be fighting giant flames in hospitals and apartment complexes. Fire types can also vary depending on their source- electrical, gas, etc.
In summary, the May 2022 Humble Choice collection contains a wide variety of games spanning several genres. Casual city building, in-depth RTS, co-op sandbox- you’ll find everything here. And while it’s true that the value proposition isn’t all the awesome compared to the last two months, you’re still getting a pretty solid deal.
A couple of these games are quite obscure, and wouldn’t even show up on your radar unless you were looking specifically for them. Hence I appreciate Humble including these underrated gems for everyone to enjoy. Seriously, you need to check out If Found… and Genesis Noir if you value intellectually stimulating narratives and artistic expression within games.
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