Work sucks, let’s face it. Then again, so do adult responsibilities. In a world where it seems like we’re always being torn between one or the other, it can be difficult to squeeze out a little time to get your game on, especially if you’re married or have kids (or, let’s be honest, enough cats that, when combined, they weigh as much as a small child.) Steam’s recently launched Big Picture Mode, which makes couch-based PC gaming that much easier, is a great opportunity to exploit every single free moment you have….whether it’s a quick puzzle during commercials or an entire level while your spouse is otherwise occupied (read: pooping.)
In celebration of this, Steam has put a range of their best controller based games on sale, ranging from the horrifying (Alan Wake) to the hilarious (Secret of Monkey Island) and everything in between (Limbo and Braid.)
I’ve put together a list of five of the better games to break in your Big Picture Mode with. These are the kind of games that you can pick up and put down in the time it takes your spouse to run down to the corner store to pick up some eggs.
Underneath this game’s rainbow exterior beats the rock solid heart of a champion. Many of the same principles behind the childhood destroying second level of Battletoads drive this quasi-platformer from Gaijin Games, but the addition of a dynamic soundtrack helps to blunt the blow. You’ll find yourself getting accustomed to levels based more on the sound effects each action trigger than anything else. Jumping, kicking, and sliding become little more than beats and snares as you pound through yet another psychedelic world.
Be prepared though, because this game is fiendishly difficult, especially if you strive for perfection in grabbing all of the various collectables scattered around. Much like other games in the recent ‘retro revival’ you’ll find yourself repeating levels over and over again, making slight progress with each try, perfecting your muscle memory and self-control. Best when played in short stints, Bit.Trip.Runner is easily the most approachable and refined title in the CommanderVideo trilogy.
This game has been around forever, and there’s a good chance you actually already own it thanks to some random Steam bundle from sales past, but it’s still worth mentioning. A unique spin on the music game genre, Audiosurf takes songs from your computer and builds levels around them, tasking you with maneuvering a tiny craft back and forth along an undulating track. Along the way you run over colored tiles for points while avoiding walls, which increase in frequency based on the tempo of the song.
There’s something to be said for losing a few hours trying to discover the most enjoyable songs in your collection to leisurely surf through. In some ways Audiosurf is actually at its best at the double digit end of the BPM spectrum, transforming from a frantic dance to a mellow jaunt through an aural wonderland. Lean back, have a drink, and enjoy this interactive Winamp visualization.
For extra points, try loading up a podcast or comedy album, it keeps the experience…interesting.
Remember Arkanoid? So did the developers at Tribute Games when they made Wizorb, a hybrid of Breakout and Dragon Quest. You play as a wizard whose special ability is to turn into a platform and bounce magical balls into enemies and crates alike. Yep. I’m sure this guy gets loads of tail at the annual wizardry conference.
There are a bunch of different themed worlds, ranging from forests to caves and castles, each filled with wandering foes and colored boxes to break. As you go, you accumulate money which can be used to rebuild a nearby village, earning favors from the local townsfolk (who secretly are laughing behind your back. Balls. BALLS.) You’ve also got a bunch of interesting magical abilities at your disposal, such as flinging fireballs or using the power of wind to move your ball slightly left or right.
Wizorb, while not amazingly deep or especially strategic, is a perfect time-waster, as it’s amazingly easy to pop in, throw some balls around, and pop out. At less than the cost of an artisanal soda, there’s no reason not to add this game to your library.
Orcs Must Die 2 ($3.74)
There’s something about watching an onrushing horde of orcs explode into giblets that brings a smile to the face of even the most stoic person. Why, killing orcs is about as American as gun ownership and diabetes! If you don’t find the process of meticulously building a series of deathtraps created solely for the purpose of wiping out greenskins to be relaxing…why you must be some sort of COMMUNIST.
Taking cues from the now-waning tower defense genre, Orcs Must Die 2 is all about carefully orchestrating a gauntlet of spinning blades, arrow traps, and boiling oil that will prevent the seemingly endless horde of gibbering beasts from reaching your “rift.” Like many of the newer games in the field, Orcs 2 gives you full control over your character, allowing you to get your hands dirty while your traps do their thing.
Quick paced and joyously visceral, Orcs Must Die 2 improves on the original in every way possible. More traps, more orcs, more players (You can play as the evil sorceress from the first game now!), and even coop multiplayer! Just don’t scream out the names of your coworkers as you play, it can lead to questions…which can lead to more corpses. What? Nothing…DON’T GO IN THERE.
A Virus Named Tom ($2.49)
Many moons ago, there was a game called Pipe Dream, which involved spinning pipes to get water from one place to another. The water, clogged with terrible chemicals, would slowly crawl down, always pushing you forward. It was a metaphor for the inevitability of death, the water in those pipes as cold as the hand of the Reaper himself…and the dream? The final whispered thoughts of a dying man.
Well, in A Virus Named Tom you’re concerned with nothing less than the death of all things robotic, hell bent on infecting anything from a robot dog to a skyscraper in your crusade against MegaTech. Controlling little Tom, the Virus that Could, you roam around a board spinning circuits (not unlike pipes) trying to complete your devil’s machine. Instead of sludge, you’re fighting against your constantly draining batteries. Then there are the defensive programs, the hidden circuits, and your greatest foe: self-doubt.
A thumping techno soundtrack and levels that can be completed in under a few minutes make this a great game for those precious few moments when your spouse is occupied and you can squeeze in a few levels before they notice you’re missing. When they do notice, there’s a superb 4 player coop mode as well, so if you’re one of those lucky bastards who has married into a gaming dynasty, you can have them plop down next to you and destroy the future from the inside with you.