Indie Jeff: Voxatron, The Binding of Isaac, and Blocks that Matter

This week, I dive headfirst into the latest Humble Indie Bundle to gather some impressions of featured titles Voxatron, The Binding of Isaac, and Blocks that Matter.


With all of the high-profile, must-play, AAA releases coming out this time of year, it's pretty easy to miss out on some extraordinarily cool indie games. We've talked about the most recent Humble Indie Bundle this past week, but I figure a more in-depth look is in order this week. Past Humble Bundles have been pretty stellar, across the board, but I found the most recent clutch of games served up in "pay-what-you-want" format to be extra compelling, due to their old-school bents.

As usual, those purchasing the latest bundle of games, called The Humble Voxatron Debut, can decide how much to pay, and how the money gets split between the developers and charity. It currently features three games, including the voxel-based shooter Voxatron (by Lexaloffle), The Binding of Isaac (by Edmund McMillen and Florian Himsl), and Blocks that Matter (by Guillaume Martin).

As evident in the bundle's title, it marks the first public release of Voxatron, which plays like an old-school arena-based shooter. It's got 20+ levels to conquer, plus a level editor for building and sharing new arenas. The beauty of the game (and much of its hook) is that everything in it is created using Voxels, the tiny cubes that are also the building blocks for the smash-hit Minecraft. Every enemy, structure, and wall can be blasted into smithereens, which is quite a visual treat. Clearing out each area is fast-paced and fun (and can be fairly challenging, at times), but it's not exactly a deep experience. Aside from its compelling visual style, Voxatron is another example of how a game doesn't really need to be very deep in order to be fun.

I've discussed Blocks that Matter a bit before, but just want to reiterate that it's a very good puzzle-platformer that stars fictional representations of the developers of Tetris and Minecraft and robot named Tetrobot that has the ability to consume blocks of various materials to create tetragrams. The version being offered here is for PC (normally $4.99), but there's also a console version available on Xbox Live Indie Games as well.

Though Voxatron is the titular star of the latest Humble Bundle, my personal favorite game of the trio is Edmund McMillen's The Binding of Isaac. Picture The Legend of Zelda's dungeon structure, infuse it with a roguelike, and slather on a thick coat of McMillen's trademark disgustingly-cute art, and you'll have a very good idea about why I keep going back to it. As in all true roguelikes, you've got one life to live, dying means restarting from scratch, and the dungeon layouts are randomized. If that sounds brutal, it's because it is. Thankfully, a ton of different enemy types, power-ups, and unlockables make it easy to get sucked in for just one more try. McMillen is continuing to add new characters, bosses, and the like to the game--much like he did with Super Meat Boy--which is always welcome.

Normally, buying all three games individually would run you about $25, total, but the average price folks have been paying for the Humble Voxatron Bundle is around $5. Whether you can afford a few bucks, or are a giant philanthropic success like MineCraft developer Marcus Persson (who paid $2,000 for his bundle), these games are all great choices when you need a break from saving Arkham City, or from treasure hunting with Nathan Drake.

From The Chatty