Online game store Because We May has just launched a massive, week long indie sale, with over 400 games going on sale for far more than 50% off. Here we have PC, iOS, Steam, Android and Mac games all on sale together in a happy little utopia full of cheap games.
You play as a team of dwarfs. You compete against other teams of dwarfs. Your aim is to mine gold, gems, mithril and relics before returning them to your base to gift to your dwarfish king. You do this by directing your miner, warrior and scout dwarfs and carving your mines out of the mountainside. Along the way, you face “THE EVVIL” as it rises from the depths of your mines as well as your adversaries.
Delve Deeper appears, at first, extremely daunting. The tutorial doesn’t properly explain the intricacies of each turn and the strategic depth of the game, which left me staring at the screen clicking on things to see what would happen. Once I got the hang of it, however, I was excavating like a boss, mining gold and grabbing relics. At the start of each turn, you get to chose a shaft to put down on the hex grid, allowing your dwarfs to push further down through the mountain. You then direct your dwarfs through these mines, ending your turn when you’re happy with their placement. At the end of your turn, depending on where they’re located, your dwarfs will mine for minerals. Your goal is then to take these minerals back up to your base camp to receive points. As you would expect, the deeper down the mountain you go, the greater the rewards get – however, the “EVVIL” thickens and the difficulty to excavate your spoils increases.
Each game of Delve Deeper pits you against 1-3 dwarfish opponents. This is obviously a game designed to be played with some friends – there is no campaign mode, and competing with the AI, while fun, has a stale feel to it. With friends, Delve Deeper becomes much more enjoyable – the dry, slightly stupid AI replaced by thinking people. While I can’t guarantee you’ll play it for hours, a game (~20 minutes) every now and again is always welcome.
I don’t want to insinuate that Delve Deeper is free of problems. It’s definitely daunting to new players, the UI is a little confusing, the forced (as far as I could work out) widescreen annoyed me a little and – my personal peeve – you have to watch each opponent’s move, every turn. If you’re playing with friends then that’s all well and good, but someone like me, who has no friends, gets a little bit impatient. I found myself playing matches with just 1 other AI player rather than 3, as I didn’t want to sit through four turns (the AI and the EVVIL) between my turns. I’m not suggesting that they should force us to skip the turns, I know that some people would want to watch it, but still, how hard would it be to add a skip button?
The game is styled perfectly. The graphics are reminiscent of 16-bit games of the past, albeit with a much higher resolution than those we’re used to. The humour is cheeky and abundant – Delve Deeper never takes itself too seriously (the blue dwarfish team is called “French Connection”, with one of their dwarfs called “Stinky Pierre”). Sure, it’s immature and over-the-top, but what’s wrong with that?
At its core, Delve Deeper is a small yet complex TBS. If I were you, and I didn’t want to fork out the $5 from Steam, I think it’s at least worth a demo – if you decide you like it, it costs so little that it really isn’t much of a risk. I doubly recommend a demo if you’re into indie TBS games.
Within the last twenty years, Mark Oliver Everett (a.k.a. E) has recorded some of the most heartbreaking, shattering music ever. Take, for example, the semi-autobiographical Electro-Shock Blues (1998), frequently quoted as one of the most depressing, and greatest, records of all time. As Stylus magazine claimed in 2004, “There’s two kinds of people in the world: Those that understand that Electro-Shock Blues is the greatest album ever put together, and idiots.” But, after a few records that weren’t as critically admired as that one (although they were still well-received), can Mr. E return to his magnificent form?
Eels are known for their devastating, emotionally-heavy lyrics, often about suicide, cancer, drugs, and heart attacks. With End Times, however, Mr. E has gone down a different path altogether, singing about relationships, the failing of relationships and aging. Don’t be fooled by this change in style. E’s vocals are just as pained, growled and lovely as they have ever been, and even while there are more songs about girls than ever before on an Eels record, E still conveys all the right emotions through his perfect voice. Musically, the songs still have that same childish quality they’ve always had, with that eerie, brooding feel to them that E cleverly weaves underneath, that no other artist can replicate. No matter how cheery and innocent the songs may feel, you get a feeling of despair and hopelessness.
E’s vocals really stand out, as always. They sound horribly pained and truthful, as though he is truly baring his soul for everyone to see. As always, his songs have wonderful, pretty melodies and heartbreaking lyrics. End Times is a typical Eels record, and while it doesn’t break new ground in music like Electro-Shock Blues did twelve years earlier, it still stands out amongst the crowd as one of the better records released so far this year, and definitely is a good sign for the future of Eels.
Choice tracks: The Beginning; A Line In The Dirt; Nowadays; I Need A Mother; Little Bird
If you like: John Lennon; Death Cab For Cutie; Sparklehorse; Grandaddy; The Flaming Lips
Well, this is definitely different. For those of you who don’t know, Broken Bells is a collaboration between James Mercer (of the Shins) and Brian Burton (better known as Danger Mouse). On the surface, Broken Bells is just another indie/alternative rock album, but when you get deeper, it really stands out.
For me, it’s Burton’s production that hits this record home. He’s just such a brilliant producer. Even those who aren’t music nerds would be able to appreciate that when they listen to this. He puts all the right instruments in all the right places, makes the noises sound just right and never, ever makes it too much. He also has his own style, and it really shines through, with many of the tracks having heavy beats and a hip-hoppy rhythm, as well as a very thick texture running through most of the record.
But it’s not just Burton who calls the shots here. This album really is a collaboration, it’s not just one artist telling the other what to do. Mercer’s style is just as prominent. His title as one of the princes of indie rock is just as well deserved for this album at it is for his stuff with the Shins. Musically, the tracks seem as though they were predominantly written by Mercer, with Burton then adding his own little frills over the top.
All in all, this is a solid, enjoyable alternative rock album, especially recommended to those looking for something a little different.
Choice tracks: The High Road, Vaporize, Sailing To Nowhere, October
Recommended if you like: The Shins, Death Cab For Cutie, Gnarls Barkley
I’ve always been a bit of a sucker for weird music. And not many people can do weird music better than Stephin Merritt. From one of the lines in the opening song, “I want you crawling back to me like an appendectomy sans-anesthesia”, set against thickly textured acoustic guitar and xylophone-y instruments; from discovering that the album’s ‘interlude’ was track 2; I was hoping for a weird, wild, and wacky ride – and Mr. Merritt seemed more than happy to oblige.
Realism shows the Magnetic Fields at their best. The instruments work so cleverly off each other – sometimes upwards of 6 or 7 instruments are playing and the resulting sound is so smooth and wonderful that you appreciate how much work has gone into the arrangement and production of this album. It’s not easy to have so many instruments playing different things and make it sound good.
Realism is full of Merritt’s trademark weirdness. His voice is as sublime as ever, and, in contrast to his last album Distortion, this record is just pop-folk songs. And it works. He so cleverly adds his weirdness to folk music and creates something that is as unique as all his other albums have been, but still completely different to his last. Hey, with album titles like “Everything Is One Big Christmas Tree”, what more would you expect?
If you like the Magnetic Fields, this is good. If you like weird pop music, this is good. If you like weird voices, this is good. Buy it. Now.
Choice tracks: You Must Be Out Of Your Mind; Everything Is One Big Christmas Tree; Seduced And Abandoned; The Dada Polka
I’ll start off by admitting that I am one of the very few that really didn’t like Vampire Weekend’s first album. It was bland, generic and boring. But their second effort, which gained major brownie points from me from the beginning by paying homage to the classic NES game with its title, sees Vampire Weekend step up and make something definitely worth listening to.
On the outside, it’s everything I expected from a Vampire Weekend album. Influence from all around the world, weird melodies, the whole works. But there’s no lame, seemingly-inside-jokes like “Blake’s Got A New Face” from the first album, and on this one every song doesn’t sound the same, which gave me a pleasant surprise. In the first album, they had all these ideas, but it seemed as though they were a jack of all trades but master of none. Now they’ve finally mastered something. I don’t know how they did it, but everything seems tighter and it’s at just the perfect level of kooky for them; the last album just didn’t have the same touch.
I don’t think they did it on purpose, and seeing as no one else picked up I think I made it up, but it seems to me as something changed between this album and their first. Not sure if they did it intentionally, but to me, something’s different. And that’s a very, very good thing.
Choice tracks: Horchata; Run; Cousins; Diplomat’s Son; I Think Ur A Contra
I heard about this group, um, about three days ago when a friend gave me this record amongst 50 gigabytes of other music while we were sharing (don’t sue). I added it to my 80 other records that I had to listen to to make a credible best-records-of-the-decade list, however I admit that I wasn’t really expecting much.
The first track really impressed me. My friend had tagged the record as ‘indie rock’, so I was expecting a Strokes-esque rocking record. I was completely wrong. Lost Souls is full of lush, string filled ornamentation and thick textures. The opener blew my brain from my skull, not because it was amazing, but because I was totally not expecting it.
The album continues in this vein. The songs seem to be more centered around the instruments than the vocals, but the vocals still play a major part in the work as a whole. The record is really one that has to be repeatedly listened to as a whole to be fully appreciated – it has that ‘epic’ album quality that records by other bands such as Radiohead and Eels possess.
The vocalist’s voice is perfect for this music. He sings powerfully and sounds slightly depressed, adding a melancholy element to the music. In addition, it’s very rare to find a record with no filler, but this one pulls it off near-perfect.
As a record by a British band that originated in the 90’s, critics were quick to lump Doves in with the Radiohead +imitators group – such as Travis, Coldplay, etc. Listening to Lost Souls, however, it is hard to see how they can be compared with such bands. Lacking is the angst and edginess contained in Radiohead’s first three records (the ‘rock’ era); instead, it is full of lush instrumental sections and clean, crisp sounds.
Original, underappreciated, lush to the point of nearly shoegaze-y, and well worth a listen.
Choice tracks: Firesuite, Sea Song, The Man Who Told Everything, A House