The Fall (₹369)
From the world of grand budgets and massive scale to a superb example of what can be achieved with very few resources. The Fall is a platformer in which you play a hyper-intelligent space combat suit. No, not the person inside the suit, the AI of the suit itself, which is named ‘ARID’.
After a disaster in space, both ARID and her occupant crash land below the surface of a strange planet, but her charge is in dire need of medical care. In order to bring her human cargo to safety, ARID must battle her way past a nest of psychotic robots with little more than a hand pistol and a torch.
The whole escapade is short, but handled with deft care. The Fall oozes atmosphere from every electronic pore by using simple audio and visual tricks to keep you in constant fear of its murderous automatons. Much of its 2D environments are shrouded in darkness that must be illuminated with the torch, which also doubles up as your primary mode of interacting with objects.
The storytelling here is genuinely superb, and a cut above many of the ideas you’ll find in games ten times the price. We’re not of a fan of spoilers, but we will say that ARID’s journey takes a turn toward existential horror that is utterly delightful and will leave you slack-jawed.
When you’re looking at shelling out ₹369 for this kind of quality the question ‘should I buy?’ really is a no-brainer.
Five Nights at Freddy’s 4 (₹349)
Who would have believed that an indie game about homicidal toys in a '50s diner would become an overnight success? Five Nights at Freddy’s has become the go-to indie horror experience as players attempt to make it through the night by keeping tabs on their animatronic assailants.
Never heard of it? The premise is simple - you have to, well, survive for five nights. Malevolent toys attempt to creep to your location undetected in order to bang cymbals in your face nerve-janglingly loudly, and it’s your job to stop them.
The player’s only defense against the mechanised threat is a network of security cameras and a couple of doors that can be held shut to prevent the animatronic nightmares from entering the room. Cue the pattern ‘check camera, look down hallway, check camera again, whimper’ and repeat until nerves are shattered beyond repair.
Number four in the series moves the action into the bedroom and ditches security cameras in favour of peeking around corners and nervous glances under the bed. It’s all as horrendously nerve-wracking as previous instalments, and still just as enjoyable. Your newfound proximity to your foes is deeply disturbing and no ‘chill factor’ has been lost in the transition to a domestic environment. In fact, it might have made it that much worse.
Parents everywhere should keep this one under lock and key lest it confirm to their children that monsters are real, they’re evil, and they will kill you in your sleep.
Imagine facing an army of your worst fears, totally alone, and your only options are to run, hide, or close the door and hope you don’t get chomped.
This is what SOMA, the latest first person incontinence simulator from the creators of Amnesia: The Dark Descent, is all about. You play Simon, an ordinary guy who goes for a brain scan in the present day and awakes within a submarine nightmare decades in the future. As if that doesn't constitute a bad day in itself, the underwater facility’s entire crew is dead, the bodies appear to be missing most of their limbs, and Simon is being chased to his doom by all manner of unspeakable nasties.
Most other games designers would hand players a shotgun, flamethrower, and RPG with which to defend themselves, but not Frictional Games. This studio’s particular brand of horror features no weapons of any kind, instead forcing players to enter into deadly games of hide and seek with no specialist tools to assist them. This is undoubtedly one of the quickest routes to heart attack via digital download we’ve ever experienced.
Yet it’s talent for terror isn’t what makes SOMA truly special. Splendid storytelling, and lots of it, is what make this first-person frightener a great steal. Clever writing and wonderfully sinister set pieces are sure to make you scream, sob, or simply ponder your own existence.
Whille other Steam games undoubtedly offer a more attractive cost to time ratio, SOMA offers a sub-ten-hour experience that is quality from start to finish.
The infinite universe of No Man’s Sky might’ve grabbed all the headlines but it turns out the most affecting gaming experience of last year took place in just one tiny part of a dark and dangerous world.
Inside’s side-scrolling story of a young boy desperately evading capture as he explores a creepy factory complex populated by a production line of brain-dead flesh vessels will stick with you long after you’ve reached its end.
It’s beautifully bleak, with puzzles that balance perfectly on the tipping point between perplexing and unexpectedly satisfying, often revealing simple but clever solutions that’ll immediately make you smile at your stupidity for not spotting them sooner.
SUNLESS SEA (₹563)
Another game with stellar writing, Sunless Sea conjures a gloriously gloomy Gothic alt-world out of a few hand-drawn 2D graphics, some evocative audio and reams and reams of text – as with 80 Days, if you don’t like reading, you probably won’t get on very well with this.
And that would be a shame, because Sunless Sea is a game packed with wonder and terror. A heady mix of exploration, risk, insanity, cannibalism, combat and C’thulu-esque horror from the deep, it gives you a vast underground ocean and asks you and your tiny crew to navigate it, transporting goods and people in order to build wealth (and eventually upgrade your vessel) and, eventually, complete the specific story objective you’ve set for yourself at the beginning.
Be warned: it’s tough. Venture out into the deep unprepared and you’ll most likely end up as food for a sea monster, prey for a pirate ship or simply stranded in the dark with no fuel or food, left to drift helplessly as you starve. And with permadeath, if you do die there’s no reloading an old save to fix things. You’ve got to start again from the beginning…
Invisible, Inc. (₹565)
Already own XCOM? Then it’s time to sink your teeth into Invisible, Inc. a game that owes its very DNA to the XCOM franchise.
Invisible, Inc. is a turn-based strategy game that focuses on espionage and stealth rather than straight-up combat. Players control a spy on a top-down isometric grid who must use each turn to disable alarms, knock out guards, avoid capture, and eventually complete their objective. Here there are no squads of military soldiers, no aliens with fiery lasers of death, just a solo operative faced with perilously deadly security measures.
You’ll breeze through your first couple of missions, but the difficulty quickly ascends to stratospheric heights as the guards get smarter and the configuration of obstacles becomes steadily more sophisticated. Few indie games offer the kind of sterling design or cerebral challenge that Invisible, Inc. succeeds in marshalling with such effortless grace. It’s even a looker to boot, with a gorgeous cell-shaded aesthetic that’s exceedingly easy on the eyes.
As the player progresses it’s possible to unlock new spies with their own special abilities for use in different levels or in future playthroughs of the game. Much like XCOM, you’ll be coming back to this one to test your spy capabilities over and over again, making it a great-value purchase for only ₹565. Those who are helplessly smitten by Invisible, Inc.’s charms can also pick up its expansion pack, Contingency Plan, for under a fiver.
Rocket League (₹565)
If the slog and grind of adult life hasn't completely worn you down yet, you may recall playing with toy cars as a bright-eyed little tyke. The rules of the road and the laws of physics meant nothing to you back then. Cars flew through the air, rolled up walls and ceilings, and smashed into each other with frenzied abandon.
Rocket League takes all this imaginary mayhem and makes it real, turning the craziness up to well past 11 as it does so. Essentially football with cars, it’s easy to get into and difficult to master.
Controls and gameplay are easy. Drive around, smash into opposing players, and do whatever it takes to get a gigantic ball into the back of their goal. Collecting boosts around the pitch gives you a dash of extra speed, letting you smash into players and blow them up - the Rocket League equivalent of a two-footed tackle. You can also launch yourself through the air, providing an opportunity for a whole array of stunning saves and spectacular Messi-worthy goals.
The variety of cars, paint jobs and decorative items is impressive, and you can be as silly as you like with them. Want a pink and purple van with skull decals, a heart-shaped antenna topper and a Viking hat? Go for it, we're sure it'll look great.
Overall, Rocket League is a pure, innocent, simple, unadulterated explosive fun-fest, and a great pick-up-and-play title if you find yourself with five minutes to spare. Be warned though, one match will never be enough.
Audiosurf 2 (₹479)
Audiosurf is the demented three-way lovechild of Wipeout, Tetris, and one of those dodgy DJ programs that were popular in the nineties. But it works.
The game’s premise is simple: shake up the traditional arcade racer by tying it to your favourite music. In Audiosurf 2 the levels are procedurally generated to match the exact style and character of your favourite songs. The racing is intense when the music reaches a crescendo and more forgiving when it reaches a gentle segment.
You’ll find yourself curious to see what the program produces in response to Karma Police compared to Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger, and the results rarely disappoint. The algorithm that translates audio track to race track is surprisingly deft at adapting itself to changes in tone and you’ll rarely feel like the resultant course of giddy lights and swirling obstacles isn’t in keeping with the chosen song.
The suite of game modes sees the return of the traditional ‘Mono’ setting, in which players collect coloured blocks while dodging greys. A host of more challenging modes are also available, as well as hundreds of user created mods that can be enjoyed for free.
Of course, this relies on the use of one of those increasingly rare ‘MP3 libraries’ of yore - none of this Spotify malarky here. Anyone who has abandoned local media storage should think twice before purchase. Those still clinging to the odd 20th century discotheque collection on their hard drive are in for a treat.
While Undertale wears the clothes of an old school RPG, it’s anything but traditional. Here’s a game that you can complete without killing a single enemy – where the enemies in fact exhibit such character and uniqueness that you may prefer to befriend rather than behead them.
If soul, charm and narrative are more important to you than fancy visuals and animation, Undertale deserves a few hours of your time and a few quid out of your pocket; this simple 2D title, developed almost exclusively by a single person, offers more wit and innovation than five years of Call of Duty games put together.