Thursday, March 31, 2016

OverAnalyzed: Devolver Digital, Purveyors of Pixelated Pleasure

This isn't so much an analyzing of specific games Devolver has published. Rather, this is an analysis of why there are so many of them in my Steam library or on my radar to play. Let's count them down. 

  • Hotline Miami
  • Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number
  • Eitr
  • Enter the Gungeon
  • Downwell
  • Gods Will Be Watching
  • Heavy Bullets
  • Titan Souls
  • Luftrausers
  • OlliOlli
  • OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood
  • Not a Hero
  • Broforce

That's about half of their catalog, off the top of my head. And I've enjoyed every one of those games. Those are pretty good numbers. For comparison, I've enjoyed about 3% of the Sega Master System's catalog. Why is that the case though? Why do I like games that Devolver publishes so much? Simple. I'll break it down to a few bullet points. 
  • Short, easy-to-digest yet demanding missions
  • Mission-specific challenges
  • Excellent chiptuney technoish music
  • Well-executed pixel graphics 
  • Finely-honed controls 
  • A good sense of humor

Basically, Devolver are creating and publishing games that someone without a ton of free time can sit down and play for a flexible amount of time. Take Not a Hero, since that's the most recent Devolver game I've played. Each mission takes about five minutes to complete. If, that is, you aren't interested in the challenges. Each mission has three, and knocking out all three challenges in the same run isn't easy. It requires a combination of luck, skill, practice, and knowledge of the game's mechanics. 

Which means that Not a Hero is perfect for a quick twenty-minute session between arrival home from work and dinner AND spending three hours on a Saturday afternoon trying to 100% the game. It's the perfect sort of game if your life is hectic. Five minutes with Luftrausers is just as enjoyable as five hours with Luftrausers. That's special. 

I love games like Fallout: New Vegas and Dark Souls. But those games take a significant investment of time into a single gaming session to feel like you've accomplished something. You can't finish a Fallout: New Vegas quest in five minutes. The game will barely be done loading! 

What I'm saying, I guess, is that as I've gotten older, and my time has grown more precious, short bursts of gameplay are becoming as rewarding--more rewarding!--than long gaming sessions. And Devolver is proof and beneficiary of that. Anyway, I'm going to go play Saint's Row IV now.

(P.S.: Roll7 are a major force behind many of the games Devolver publishes. Also, shoutouts to Vlambeer, who created Luftrausers and Nuclear Throne, which is not a Devolver-pubbed game but is still great. Also also Salt and Sanctuary on PC soon I hope!)