When imagining how a company like Humble Bundle is run, it might seem likely that it was a small operation that mainly consisted of brokering deals with developers/publishers and then launching the bundles. In reality, however, a recent visit to Humble Bundle’s offices in the heart of downtown San Francisco painted a much different picture.
This is a company with dozens of employees each dedicated to a different task and by talking with a few it quickly became clear just how much goes into these bundles and what it takes to support them. Although the bundles will always be the central business for Humble Bundle, the company is clearly positioning itself to do more (like the ever-growing storefront) and their latest initiative is publishing games. Last month, the company announced that it would begin publishing games beginning with a introductory slate of seven. Mostly indie titles, we were able to check out four of the most promising titles and see if they’re worthy of a publishing deal.
Those in the mood for a platforming game will want to take a look at HackyZack. Don’t let its cartoony art style fool you; this is a platforming game that requires precision and timing to be successful. You play as Zack, a young kid with the ability to kick balls hard and an obsession for stickers. You’ll guide him through more than fifty levels as he kicks balls into goals and collect stickers.
Controls are simple. Players use the left control stick to move and aim, A to jump and X to kick. Simple, but it takes careful timing and precision to be successful. Different balls come with different properties. There’s the default ball, but then there are unique balls like the slow ball that drastically change how you approach a level. Furthermore, different colored services vastly change how players interact with different levels. For example, a dashed-white line surface means that the ball will stick to it, but Zack will still fall through the world.
Zack’s quest to collect stickers will give players a healthy dose of content. There are fifty unique stickers to collect, optional challenges to beat and hidden worlds to be beaten. It’s a fun platformer and one that Humble was smart to pick-up. HackyZack is out sometime later this month on PC, Mac and Linux. An Xbox One version is planned for some time in the future.
Next in Humble’s collection of games is Ikenfell, an RPG with a mix of turn-based battle mechanics. The game stars Maritte who travels to the magical school of Ikenfell to find her sister, Safina, who has mysteriously vanished. You’ll meet a diverse cast of characters, mysteries, hidden areas and secret passages to discover.
Like more traditional RPGs, players will explore an overworld where they’ll engage with NPCs, parts of the worlds and enemies. In battle, position matters. Players can maneuver their characters around the battlefield, picking and choosing the best position for their attacks. Spells have a set area of effect, and if you don’t position your characters probably, you’re not going to get a hit. Ikenfell also incorporates time-based mechanics like those found in South Park: The Stick of Truth. Timing your hits and blocks can increase spellpower and block incoming attacks.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see much of Ikenfell as it’s still heavily in development. Creator Chevy Ray Johnston, who is the designer, programmer, artist and writer, won’t have the game ready to go until summer 2018 on PC and Mac. Right now, console ports are up in the air.
Out of all the games available to us to demo, Staxel was the hardest to get a read on due to its complexity. Looking at the game, the Minecraft influences are readily apparent (so much so that YouTube even identified the game as Minecraft on its launch trailer). Instead of focusing on mining (or whatever it is the kids do these days in the game), however, Staxel is a farming game. Players can work on a farm, pursue new hobbies or work on improving their village. Starting off in an overgrown farmhouse, players can cultivate their crops and continually improve their standing in their village and of their farm itself.
As this is the type of experience that requires tens of hours to properly experience and we had less than half an hour to experience it, it’s hard to share thoughts on it yet, but walking about and poking about was fun and revealed a well-designed experience.
Keyboard Sports is one of those concepts that immediately upon playing you can’t believe hasn’t been attempted before (at least to our knowledge). The game is an abstract experience where every key on the keyboard is used. Just how this is done is changed up throughout the experience, with keys sometimes being used to dodge objects and other times being the answer to riddles.
The title features both a beautiful minimalist art style and soundtrack that support the unique gameplay mechanic central to the experience. Considering this non-traditional control scheme, there is a learning curve, but mastering the levels on display so far brought forth a great sense of accomplishment. The demo we played had a few bugs and the game overall still seems fairly early in development, but it’s a promising title that we can’t wait to play more of. Suffice it to say, this one is a PC exclusive.
Humble Bundle has proven itself a capable company in handling the release of games (at a discount) and so far looks like they’ll have what it takes to do so on launch day at full price. The games we checked out ranged from fairly early to nearly done, so it’ll be interesting to see how their launches are handled and if Humble will provide them with a coat of polish or various other resources prior to launching.