Brokeass Gamers looks at gaming on the twilight side of your bank account. That means cheap indies, timely deals, and forgotten treasures that won’t ransack your disposable income.
It’s past Black Friday, but we’re still clicking around online in our ugly comfortable housepants: that’s basically how price-hunting works now. While the unholy trinity of Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo prepped their big-name Friday offerings, weirdo indies slid their way through the door as well. The focus today is gonna be on the PC, but there are some niche titles popping up on consoles as well.
Why not take a trip back down memory lane for the holidays? Chrono Trigger—regarded by many as one of the greatest console JRPGs of all time—first appeared on PC as a port in 2018 with a heinous reception. Luckily, Square Enix didn’t rest on their laurels while one of their crown jewels’ dignity was imperiled, and updated the game to a solid and stable state. This means that if you were on the fence do to some insecure reviews, today’s version of the game is much improved.
Chrono Trigger is a time-traveling adventure with superb characters and narrative, full of magical moments and unexpected gameplay twists. It features turn-based battles which are spiced up with special attack combos (this was low-key thrilling back in the day). Director Takashi Tokita was also responsible for Final Fantasy IV (released as II in the US), which many would argue is the game that set the tone for the rest of the series. If anybody hasn’t played it yet or didn’t grow up with an SNES, there’s no better time than right now on the PC, and $7.49 is about as low as the game gets.
Check out Chrono Trigger on Steam
Bright Memory (Early Access)
This is one of those I-can’t-believe-it’s-just-one-dude-making-it type games. Bright Memory is essentially a wild combination of FPS shooter, Soulsborne games, and the Devil May Cry series topped off by arcade game excess. In practice it’s pretty much batsh*t crazy, where one minute you’re blasting super-soldiers, then swinging onto a ledge by grapple before fighting mutated rat warriors.
The story is frankly terrible at this point (a rewrite is supposedly forthcoming), but the fact that one Chinese developer is delivering on all these fronts is impressive. There’s something akin here to the House of the Dead franchise, where every two seconds is another surprise encounter or danger. Still, your main character Shelia (that’s not a misspelling) has an awesome kit, including a katana, an automatic rifle, time-bending powers and teleportation. Developer FYQD expects the finished game to only take about three hours (the version here can be beaten in less than one), but it’s built to be replayed on harder difficulties. It’s an absolute steal for seven bucks, and I’m interested to see what the finished version will look like.
You can find Bright Memory on Steam at this link
Monster Sanctuary (Early Access)
Speaking of Early Access, let’s look at Monster Sanctuary, a game which couldn’t have possibly arrived at a better time. A nice mash-up of Pokémon-styled monster taming and metroidvania, it’s enjoying a very positive response with its current pre-1.0 version. They’re currently gunning for 100 monsters to train, each of which have elaborate skill trees and even equipabble items.
While the look of the game is somewhat basic and low-rez, the 3v3 combat is purely entertaining and smooth. Additionally, each of the monsters in your party can be swapped in as an active partner and can clear out obstacles in the game world itself. If Game Freak is smart, they’ll be paying attention to this small indie team and pilfering ideas for future Pokémon titles. At full price the game is a bargain, with dozens of hours of monster-tinkering and more to come on the horizon.
Pick up Monster Sanctuary on Steam at this link
Platform: Steam/Windows/Mac/Xbox One
Price: $19.99 (also on Xbox One, included with Game Pass)
When Gone Home came out six (!) years ago it seemingly changed the culture. By exploring a family home, it communicated a story of family schisms and adolescence, all without action or violence. Nina Freeman and Fullbright Studios followed it with Tacoma five years later, a story-rich sojourn into an orbital station in 2088.
Some balked at Tacoma‘s original $20 price for such a short experience, which is understandable. Still, it’s a rich and elaborate tale unpacking AI, memory, and social resistance. Black Friday posted the game for $5, an insane price point for any fence-sitters. Be aware that any Game Pass holders on Xbox One can also get the game with their subscription cost. So long as you can accept its price-point for a carefully-told three-hour game, Tacoma is definitely worth a visit.
Earlier this year I actually interviewed developer Justin Stander for his then-upcoming psychedelic 2D slasher Katana Zero. I immediately knew that this game was something special, combining Hotline Miami’s guttural neon-styled violence with a cyberpunk aesthetic. Unlike Hotline, Katana Zero has a greater focus on finely realized pixel art and animation. It’s just a joy to pick up, watch, listen to, and play.
Players take on the role of a traumatized veteran hitman working for a shadowy organization in a hazy alternate future. Each level represents a recorded VHS tape of a completed job, but you have unlimited continues to get things right. If you’re down for some pixelated ultraviolence and pumping tunes, do not miss the opportunity to grab this. Hey, while you’re at it, demo the soundtrack on Bandcamp as well. If this game doesn’t pop up on a few GOTY lists, I’ll eat my hat.
Throwback Pick of the Week:
Every now and then I get angry that Anachronox didn’t make a big enough splash. It released in 2001 after significant delays, and would even closely pre-empt the closure of the developers’ studio. Since then it’s been largely forgotten…except by anyone who’s actually played it.
What those players found was an exuberant and hilarious story with terrific characters, all couched in a very well-realized sci-fi universe. There are even some comparisons possible between Anachronox and Firefly. Both actually came out at around the same time, and both experienced early audience troubles and critical acclaim. Either way, the sheer imagination and weirdness on display delivered a sci-fi detective noir classic with a diverse cast of characters.
You play as Sly Boots, a deadbeat dick with skeletons in his closet and a negative value in his bank account. He tags along with Dr. Rho Bowman to try to save the universe (which she may have helped destroy). Other characters include Paco “El Puño” Estrella, a former superhero whose comic got canceled, and a miniature planet of democratic aliens (really).
The game was built in the Quake engine and functions as a mix of point-and-click adventure and JRPG. Battles are turn-based, but are outshined by the storytelling itself. For one low price you can unearth one of PC gaming’s lost treasures, a lengthy game that works pretty well on modern PCs. Just…have a little patience with the graphics.
You can buy Anachronox on Steam