PSN Roundup & Junk Food Review: SteamWorld Dig & The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth

It’s a new month, and with that new month comes two free games via PlayStation Plus. Since no video game is complete without some tasty snackfoods, here is all you need to know about November’s free games for PS4 along with a tasting menu of seasonal junk food.

SteamWorld

Watch out for them Shiners, Rusty.

 

SteamWorld Dig
Image&Form

Once the initial charm of SteamWorld Dig arrests your attention with it’s cleverly-animated robots and the dusty town of Tumbleton, it’s easy to be sucked in by hours of solid gameplay. Combining a dash of Metroid-vania level progression and a whole mess of valuables to dig up, this game hits all the right bases for a platformer. In addition to being disarmingly addictive, the game comes backed with a surprisingly eerie storyline that may or may not involve the human race’s inevitable self-destruction.

The game does a great job of adapting to the upgrades that you purchase. For example, when you get to the point that you’ve outfitted Rusty with hydraulic drills and jumping boots, the conservation of water becomes a new factor in how you play. In addition to the fact that you have to dig strategically in order to make the most of each tunnel run, the game presents some challenging moments as it progresses.

Though the trips back to town can be a bit frustrating as you tunnel your way into the deeper levels, there’s something satisfying about seeing your dollars add up, which can then be spent on nifty upgrades like a bigger backpack and teleportation devices.  Many games have offered this cyclical approach–you play the game to earn money, money upgrades your character so you can keep playing the game–but few of them have made it such an enjoyable adventure.

2014-11-04 21.12.45

Not a bad way to appreciate the finer things.

Junk Food Tasting Menu: Pumpkin Joe-Joe’s & Pumpkin Spice Milanos

As SteamWorld Dig is an impressive work of balance among several excellent gameplay elements, having a bag or box of the two best types of pumpkin sandwich cookies nearby is the best way to appreciate what the game represents.

The Trader Joe’s equivalent of Oreo’s, Joe-Joe’s are superior in nearly every way. Their filling is creamier, their cookie is more flavorful, and they’re slightly less-processed. Having tried both the Pumpkin Spice Oreo’s and Pumpkin Joe-Joe’s, I can safely assure you that these lovely little sandwich cookies are perfect companions to take with you while you figure out the mystery below Tumbleton. 

For those that need to remember the finer things in life while exploring what very well could be the last remnants of humanity, the Pepperidge Farm Pumpkin Milano is a more high-end sandwich cookie. They have everything a traditional Milano has–milk chocolate and an airy, crunchy cookie–but these come with an added layer of pumpkin icing, which is a great complement to the chocolate.  Munch on a few of these as you ruminate on what those emaciated creatures beneath Tumbleton sacrificed in their misguided quest for power.

Isaac

Why yes, that IS everything you were ever scared of.

The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
Nicalis, Inc.

The original Binding of Isaac was my first foray into the now-trendy rogue-like genre–games that allow only one playthrough per life–and it’s the standard by which I measure all subsequent games in that genre. Stylistically, Isaac is a throwback to the original Legend of Zelda game on NES. The player navigates through different rooms filled with monsters, while finding treasure and powerups along the way. What makes Isaac fresh and inventive is it’s completely nutballs story. The titular character is a small boy who has escaped his religiously fanatical mother (who believes she has been commanded by God to kill her son) by hiding in the basement. Little does Isaac know that the basement is filled with horrifying mannikins and disfigured bosses with names like The Blighted Ovum and The Duke of Flies. Everything about this game is designed to prey upon our earliest childhood fears as we guide Isaac (did I mention that his primary weapon is his own tears?) through his nightmares and to an inevitable confrontation with his mother.

One of the things that sets Isaac apart from other rogue-likes is that your character does get tougher as you play, giving you a serious shot at beating it in a single playthrough. The powerups end up stacking to add up to a character that can tangle with the increased difficulty as the game progresses.

The Rebirth edition offers some new bells and whistles like a new soundtrack, a wider variety of powerups, more unlockable characters, and gigantic rooms that take twice as long to clear. Graphically, I was hoping for a smoother transition from the original PC version to the PS4, but something about the deliberately pixelated animation does manage to capture a part of my video game nostalgia–and pervert it with the game’s ineherent weirdness.

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Abba-Zaba, you’re my only friend.

Junk Food Tasting Menu: Snack-Sized Abba-Zaba & Candy Corn Gummies

The Binding of Isaac is an unholy union of childhood gaming and childhood night-terrors. As such, it only makes sense to snack on this pair of candies that I found as part of a post-Halloween sale at the grocery store (only a buck fifty for both bags!).  Abba-Zaba takes peanut butter and swirls it with the mysteriously textured white taffy that one might find in a Big Hunk.  Despite sounding gross on paper, the result is actually pretty damn tasty.  Going snack-sized is preferable to the full-sized Abba-Zaba, since the amount of chewing it takes to finish one of those puppies off usually keeps one busy for a good six hours.

Candy corn is one of the most polarizing Halloween treats around.  I’ve only talked to people who love it whole-heartedly or completely despise it.  Don’t even talk to them about candy pumpkins–I nearly lost an eye last time I made that mistake.  It’s also one of those candies that can’t be remade into something else.  Whatever the hell candy corn is, it will always be candy corn.

Or so I thought.

While Candy Corn Gummies–created by the ominously-named Foreign Candy Company–look like swollen versions of the traditional waxy candy, their flavor isn’t quite that of the original.  There’s a weird fruitiness present, and I can tell that they were trying to capture the candy corn flavor, but it just didn’t work out.  Regardless, this is something you eat because it’s weird as hell–which is the same reason you play a game like The Binding of Isaac.

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