Nine months ago, there were over 6,000 games on Steam. Crowdfunding, indie development, and Steam Greenlight have led the charge for every one-man game studio to find their way to the computer of every Steam user. Many of these smaller titles are in the lower price range (excluding the free-to-play titles), setting players back $5, $3, or sometimes a mere $.99. It’s enough to make an early 90’s kid collapse in a fit of jealousy as they hold their three Gameboy cartridges tightly against their chest.
But is this really a good thing? With so many games, how is a gamer supposed to find those little diamonds in the rough? How does a truly talented developer get their game out there for more than a handful of players to find? Is it really too much?
All these questions and more I will neglect to answer here. See, I just worked back-to-back 14 hour days, and I currently sitting in the exit row of my flight from Denver to Salt Like. In lieu of in-depth analysis of those questions, I’m picking a $.99 cent game almost at random, installing it over my phone’s internet, and I’ll be playing it on the way up and writing about it on the way down. Consider this a bargain bin review – all at one-fifth the cost of a TSA-approved airport bottle of water.
The game I chose is called Dungeon of Zolthan, kind of a techno minimalist side-scroller, that I admit, I chose because I’m really tired and the name Zolthan reminds me of the followers of cult of Zoltan from Dude, Where’s My Car?, and that made me laugh.
There’s no plot here to worry about, at least none that I’ve been able to discern on my journey to 35,000 feet. Your little square character can walk and shoot 3 bullets at a time, a carry-over from the early gaming days where machines only had the processing power to follow a small amount of objects at a time. I was mildly impressed at the modest bits of growth I was able to achieve as I played. I grabbed a power-up that lets me jump higher, an extra heart of life, a special dash move expanded the little world.
I came across a boss fight that I had some difficulty with until I really figured out the right way to fight him, much like old school Nintendo-hard games, although the character design could have used a bit more imagination. If you’ve ever gotten frustrated at trying to find the week spot of a boss or enemy, you’ll love this guy. The whole thing is a red target. It reminds me of an old Far Side cartoon: two deer talking, one with a target on his stomach, and the other saying “Bummer of a birthmark.”
After I beat the guy, feeling satisfied in my growing Dungeon of Zolthan abilities, I came across a puzzle I currently have no idea how to solve, and with no internet, I either have to figure it out myself, or wait until later. We’ve started our descent, so I have no choice but to opt for the latter. Maybe I’ve gotten spoiled in the days of instant answers, not having to wait for the latest issue of Nintendo Power magazine to try and get some hints or talk to the kid on the playground who swears he was able to jump over the flag pole in Mario.
So, was it worth the $.99? This flight has gone really quickly, so I’m hard pressed to say no. Still, as I played my vector scroller, I kept looking with a degree of jealousy at the guy seated next to me playing Angry Birds. Shoot, I forgot all about mobile games. I should have bought one of those instead. I played the crap out of Angry Birds: Star Wars I and II. I probably paid a nickel an hour for those.
The Steam library is deep and in some places quite obscure. I feel like I’m better off for having gone on this tired-out-of-sanity adventure, but I can’t say I highly recommend Dungeon of Zolthan. I give it a 5/10 for getting me home from Denver, but will probably not pick it up again to finish it.