Games You Absolutely Need to Buy During the Steam Summer Sale, Part 2

We’re now down to the last two days of the Steam Summer Sale. I’ve got more recommendations here to consider if you’re still on the lookout for games worth snagging while they’re on discount. Of course, all of these choices are absolute buys when they’re not on sale, so if you don’t have any cash to spare now I say put these games high atop your wishlist to grab later. Also be sure to visit the link below for even more 2017 summer sale favorites.

Games You Absolutely Need to Buy During the Steam Summer Sale, Part 1

Salt and Sanctuary — Summer Sale Price: $10.79 (40% off):

If you ask me, Salt and Sanctuary is the best Souls-like game yet. I’ll even go one step further by saying that I honestly prefer it to any of the actual Souls games, it’s that expertly crafted. What I love is how well it blends the best elements of Dark Souls with the best aspects of 2D Metroidvania ability and world progression, for a best of both worlds experience that sinks its hooks deeper and deeper into your soul the more times you die and come back for more. Ska Studios pairs the acrobatic, blood-soaked combat system from its other game The Dishwasher with the tactical methodology of stamina-based combos, shield blocks, and dodge rolls. Boss battles are crucial to a game like this, and fortunately they are abundant, challenging, diverse, memorable, and often terrifying. A few of the boss baddies are a touch unbalanced in a way that’s slanted towards being perhaps too difficult, but certainly not in a way that is unfair or impossible to overcome as long as you’re careful to tweak your gear loadout to the strengths/weaknesses of the enemy, or put extra time into leveling up a few times before trying again. Another bright spot is the extensive skill tree, which allows for greater freedom to better tailor an attribute and armor/weapon proficiency build to your preferred play style.

Salt and Sanctuary‘s true showpiece is its intricately mapped out and interconnected world design. Every time I felt like I must be getting near the end, I’d reach a whole new area of the map and get sucked in for another few hours of obsessive exploration. Every time I felt completely lost in no man’s land, a shortcut would neatly wrap me around to a familiar area and immediately I was right back to knowing where I was, how I got there, and where my next destination was. (“Oh, so that’s where that door/path went!”) A cast of peculiar NPCs, each with unique side quests or sub-plots to discover through repeated conversation engagement, helps add another layer of richness to the game’s foreboding, oppressive atmosphere. And in Metroidvania fashion, world navigation is constantly evolving via the acquisition of special abilities which brand your adventurer with advanced techniques such as wall jumping, aerial dashing, and even flipping gravity upside down. Revisiting previously inaccessible areas is always rewarded with secret treasures or shortcuts or routes to entirely new locations.

Frankly, the only criticism I have for the Steam version of the game is the fact that it doesn’t have Steam Cloud integration. I was right at the end of my New Game+ run when my PC died earlier in the year, but since the game doesn’t sync the save data to the cloud and I didn’t have a manual backup, I lost all of that progress. At least I was able to finish my 100% achievement goal before the save file loss.

Epistory — Summer Sale Price: $9.74 (35% off):

Epistory is essentially a combination of Okami, Legend of Zelda, and Microsoft Word. I don’t know what else to say that could possibly sell you on the game any more than that. As a young girl riding around atop a fox, you type prompted words to restore the environment, cast spells, fight enemies, and solve puzzles in an effort to gain inspiration and gradually rebuild a gorgeous paper craft world that literally unfolds right before your eyes like a blossoming origami pop-up book. Exploration bits are complemented by intense combat arena scenarios in which insectoid enemies bombard the screen from all corners while you quickly have to type out the letters or words overlaying each enemy to zap them dead before a single one is able to breach your central position. What’s really nice about the typing format is the adaptive difficulty which constantly scales the complexity of the words to your accuracy and words per minute output, so you can still enjoy the game even if you aren’t a keyboard plucking prodigy. At the same time, skilled typists will notice a steady increase in the level of challenge. The only tricky part is, while exploring, getting used to switching between movement mode and combat mode, which isn’t quite as fluid or intuitive as it could be. On top of a 6-8 hour main campaign, endless survival arenas with online leaderboards add some addictive replay value to keep you typing away after the story has run its course.

Aragami — Summer Sale Price: $9.99 (50% off):

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What once began as a student project called Path of Shadows (the prototype is still available to download from Indie DB) has been fully realized as Aragami by indie studio Lince Works, a team founded by students from the original prototype. Aragami is a true testament to the passion and talent of its creators, easily outclassing much of the recent competition in the stealth genre, even those with AAA budgets. The pure stealth focus, wealth of abilities, and varied level design create a lot of freedom to experiment with different tactics and attack each environment with multiple approaches. The game totally makes you feel like a bad ass shadow ninja, and look like a bad ass shadow ninja thanks to the clean, HUD-less presentation, graceful animation, and stylized cel-shaded aesthetics. Although not without its weak spots (namely some fidgety targeting and fairly rudimentary AI awareness), if you’re a fan of stealth–the Tenchu series in particular–this game is without question a must play. Aragami is sneaky good, but don’t let it slip under your radar.

Old Time Hockey — Summer Sale Price: $8.39 (30% off):

A bloodstained, toothless love letter to golden age sports game classics like NHL 94 and Blades of Steel, Old Time Hockey, for better or worse, lives up to its title by offering a thoroughly old-fashioned game of videogame ice hockey. V7 Entertainment’s 5-on-5 arcade hockey game doesn’t take itself so seriously at all, putting front and center a bush league story mode in which you take control of the mighty Schuylkill Hinto Brews, a struggling team of misfits similar to those in sports movies like Major League and Bad News Bears. You pick up the Brews’ season in progress and attempt to rescue the team from a last place 1-15 record, all time low fan attendance, sponsorship losses, and a series of controversies, from players getting in trouble for DUI and punching a mall Santa Claus to fan protests over the team’s propensity for rugged back yard brawling violence. The story mode doesn’t always require you to win games to progress, as long as you complete certain key objectives. However, it sure is fun to dig out of such a deep hole, scrap your way to the playoffs, and pull off a longshot championship cup win. At the end you’re treated to a New Game+ option, to carry over stat progression while also getting the chance to play a season as another team, if you so desire.

On the ice, Old Time Hockey is far from graceful, but the controls are deceptively deep and the gameplay overall hits the mark for what’s expected from an aggressive style of arcade sports game. Checking feels crunchy and satisfying, the analog shooting mechanic provides solid control over putting the puck into the net, the momentum of skating across ice is on point, and passing, albeit not as crisp and sudden as it could be, is responsive enough to punch one-timers past the opposing goalie with effective teamwork. Bear in mind that there is a surprising learning curve to work through early on, so be prepared to play (and most likely lose) at least a handful of quick exhibition games right off the bat before getting into a groove and acclimating to how the game expects to be played. Dirty play is enthusiastically encouraged, so expect to find yourself in plenty of line fights, bench clearing brawls, and stick duels. The actual fighting mechanics are stiff and clunky, but it’s still fun to throw down every now and then. Plus, it’s hilarious that the game makes it possible to literally pummel an opposing team into submission by fighting so often and injuring enough players that they literally have to forfeit.

The game’s presentation is a mixed bag. On one hand the crowd atmosphere and color commentary are pretty bland and redundant. On the other hand the old school uniforms, gritty, muted color palette, bar jukebox soundtrack, weekly newspaper headline gags, and collectible in-game trading cards combine to faithfully capture the spirit of competing in a low budget bum wad hockey league. The tone kind of reminds me of the IFC series Brockmire, minus all of the sexual raunchiness. Old Time Hockey definitely embraces its aged design and revels in its rough edges. While the game’s more unwieldy aspects will leave players accustomed to modern sports advancements feeling as if they’ve been brutally body checked into the glass, the game should hit a nostalgic hat trick for folks of a certain age who grew up on a simpler brand of sports game.

A Normal Lost Phone — Summer Sale Price: $2.00 (33% off):

What would you do if you found some random person’s phone? Would you keep it? Would you look in the contacts and try phoning someone the person knew? Would you take it to the nearest lost and found? Would you snoop around the owner’s personal information? These questions form the basis for A Normal Lost Phone, a compelling narrative adventure played entirely through the interface of a fake smartphone belonging to someone else. By investigating the apps, photos, and text messages saved on the phone, you’re able to learn the identity of its owner and also crack some passwords to uncover details of a more deeply personal and private nature. A superb soundtrack of pop, rock, and folk type music, controlled manually via the phone’s music app, beautifully conveys the emotions and themes of the story like a persistent MP3 narrator. While the idea of nosing into someone’s personal life may make you feel uncomfortable–and for that there’s always the option to wipe the phone to end the story, though it’d be silly to buy the game only to not actually play it–the characterization is surprisingly well realized, and the message at the root of the story is meaningful and relevant to modern LGBTQ issues as it relates to the pressures of societal response and acceptance and family intolerance. Overall this is a wonderful work of interactive fiction, ideally suited for fans of experimental storytelling and visual novel-type experiences.

Animated Puzzles — Summer Sale Price: $6.99 (33% off):

Of those that I’ve played so far (and I’ve played a bunch), Animated Puzzles is the most full-featured and closest-to-the-real-thing jigsaw puzzle game on Steam. It starts with the interface, which feels very natural and intuitive. By default, pieces are provided in jumbled orientation and do not auto-lock onto the puzzle grid even when placed in the right spot, requiring full piece rotation by left click holding while simultaneously right clicking to rotate 90 degrees. Pieces are located, stationary, in a right sidebar tray area, which can also be pulled left or right to the desired scale. Manual zoom is integrated via the scroll wheel, which is a nice touch to closely examine a piece’s finer details and edges. Another great feature is being able to assemble pieces and move them as a group, something very few, if any, digital jigsaw games offer.

A wealth of options provide for wonderful flexibility and customization. For starters each puzzle is playable at three difficulty settings that scale the piece count and size accordingly. For even further variety, you can choose to play puzzles with one of six different cutout shapes. At the expense of achievement and leaderboards being disabled, custom settings like piece rotation and lock in place can be toggled to make for an easier experience. Progress is auto-saved for each puzzle, so if you get stumped you can always quit and start another without losing your place. You’re even given a choice between having puzzles unlock through progression, or toggling it so that all puzzles are playable right away, without having to complete them in order.

The puzzles themselves are all themed around scenes of nature, featuring images primarily of cats and birds and flowers and rivers and rocks and windmills. As indicated by the title, the game’s signature feature is animation. Though the effects are often subtle, having animations like blowing leaves, snowfall, spinning windmill blades, blinking cat eyes, and shifting clouds move across the individual pieces in real time looks very pretty and offers another form of visual reference to help rotate pieces to the proper orientation. The “out of the box” puzzle selection is rather thin (42 in total) and only goes up to 150 pieces on hard difficulty, but the puzzle generator with built-in Steam Workshop support means you never have to worry about running out of puzzles. You can create an endless supply of puzzles, up to 800 pieces, from your own photos and animated GIFs, or you can download those created by the community, of which well over 400 have already been uploaded. Want more? How about daily challenges and asynchronous, turn-based multiplayer battles? Yup, this game has those modes covered too. Trust me fellow jigsaw nerds, you need Animated Puzzles in your life.

Pixel Puzzles Junior — Summer Sale Price: $0.99 (90% off):

Catered largely to beginners and children, this Junior edition of Decaying Logic’s popular Pixel Puzzles series presents a super-simplified take on jigsaw puzzling. The 50 available puzzles can be assembled in a range of sizes, as small as 9 pieces and as large as 50 pieces, plus mid-range sizes of 20, 30, and 42 pieces. Puzzle pieces constantly float around in the sidebars, to be plucked up and dropped onto the puzzle board, but unlike the other Pixel Puzzles titles there are no special themed design elements or mini-games to fuss with. For pure accessibility and ease of use, pieces always appear in their correction orientation (there is no manual rotation) and automatically lock into position when dropped on the correct spot. Aids, including changing board color, image preview, and a board overlay showing guidelines for all the cutout shapes, can be toggled on or off at any time using as series of buttons along the bottom of the screen. The main highlight, I would say, is the adorable artwork consisting of cartoonish animals and other things whimsical in nature. All of the puzzle images look like high quality coloring book pages, which is sure to appeal to kiddie sensibilities. Even though kids ages 2-5 are the target audience, anyone who enjoys jigsaw puzzles can have some fun with this as a casual break from the genre’s more elaborate offerings. Sometimes I just want to put a jigsaw together without having to sort through the pieces, and this game hits that sweet spot.

Leaving Lyndow — Summer Sale Price: $1.99 (50% off):

A precursor to Eastshade, an open-world exploration game coming out next year from Eastshade Studios, Leaving Lyndow is a short but sweet and oh-my-God-it’s-so-freaking-beautiful narrative adventure capturing the bittersweet last day at home for Clara, a junior explorer set to depart on a dangerous research expedition as part of the Guild of Maritime Exploration. Playing in first-person, you leisurely roam an idyllic island village while visiting some of Clara’s favorite childhood spots. Along the way you can pick up and examine objects, read notes, and talk to friends and family as you prepare to sail off. A few simple mini-games pop up here and there too, including a chime where you have to solve the correct note sequence to play a song, a high score game that’s like a variation of tetherball, and a collectible hunt where you have to find some toy figures lost in a garden. Constructed for single-sitting enjoyment, this peaceful stroll down memory lane puts you in the mindset of Clara as she reflects on her youth and grows increasingly eager for the chance to live her dream of exploring the world, but also deals with the mixed emotions of having to say goodbye to her mother, her home. Much of this narrative is implied because at an hour long there simply isn’t enough room for robust characterization. However, for such a short stay in its gorgeous embrace, the world building Eastshade Studios managed to pull off is surprisingly rich and immersive. Major kudos also go to composer Phoenix Glendinning for an absolutely stunning soundtrack. All 8 tracks and 22 minutes of soothing ear porn come included as free DLC. It’s worth buying the game just to get the soundtrack.

Enter the Gungeon — Summer Sale Price: $7.49 (50% off):

Enter the Gungeon, to me, is a roguelike even for gamers who don’t typically enjoy roguelikes. Yes it can be viciously difficult; I’ve logged over 30 hours and have yet to finish a true complete run. And yes it does have permadeath rules. But it’s so chock full of charm and insane bullet hell action and crazy guns galore (how does a gun shaped like a shotgun shell that fires a spread shot of shotguns as its bullets sound?) that you’re too busy having a blast to care about dying for the umpteen millionth time. Each run is so varied in layout, enemy/boss spawns, and random NPC appearances. Multiple playable characters and an unlockable gun arsenal that would make even Borderlands blush equate to virtually endless loadout possibilities that change for every attempt. Even as you’re dying, it always feels like you’re making progress in some form or fashion. As long as you’re killing at least one boss, you’re gaining valuable currency to spend on unlocking additional equipment for future runs. Every time I die I immediately want to restart and apply what I may have learned to the next dungeon crawl.

I love all of the little details about the game too, like flipping over tables to create strategic cover; quick warp points so you can instantaneously teleport around the floors and lessen the amount of backtracking; achievements that actually require dedication and skill to complete; secret areas and side missions that are well thought out and integrated with the game mechanics; gear based around classic gaming and pop culture references (for example a light gun that shoots a Duck Hunt duck with the last bullet of every clip); and since the Supply Drop update, the all-important option to save and quit between floors. The OCD completionist in me also loves having the Ammonomicon, an in-game journal that provides information on all of the guns, items, enemies, and bosses that have been unlocked. Above and beyond anything else, though, the game just plays like a dream. Aiming, shooting, dodge rolling–the twin-stick controls are super responsive and precise across the board. Dying is almost always your fault alone, not the fault of poor mechanics or unbalanced level design. Sure there are plenty of times where RNG plays a huge role in gaining more advantageous loot drops and map layouts, but in the end success still boils down to your mastery of what the game gives you, which is the mark of a great roguelike.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!