September 5th, 2012 | By Alex Wilkinson
I have been a Team Meat fan since Super Meat Boy, which is where I assume most of you picked up on the talents in Team Meat as this was their first mainstream success, however both halves of Team Meat made games prior to Super Meat Boy. The Basement Collection looks back on the early works of Edmund McMillen (half of Team Meat) all of which where originally put online as flash games still available to this day on newgrounds. The Basement Collection holds a wealth of games which I managed to miss originally, needless to say I was greatly looking forward to going through this collection after being a huge Super Meat Boy and The Binding Of Isaac fan, I was not disappointed with the result.
The Basement Collection brings together nine award winning titles from Edmund McMillen’s past brought back to life with all manner of additional content. This collection is not merely a combination of games but more of an insight into the creative mind of Edmund McMillen and his various partners over the years, this collection helps highlight the thoughts and design ideas that went into these games. All the additional content allows you to to really connect to Edmund McMillen on a personal level and Without further ado it is time to get down to the meat of the collection, the games.
Aether was the first game I picked from the collection and the premise is simple, you start off on earth and leave to explore faraway worlds effectively looking for happiness. You traverse the aether of space looking for the other planets with each planet containing a unique puzzle that you must figure out in order to complete the world. Overall the puzzles felt very easy to complete but that said they were all different and fun making the tasks enjoyable.
The Basement Collection contains additional soundtracks for Aether, each of which creates a very different feel to the game with my personal favourite being the melodic creation from Laura Shingihara, who is most notable for her sound work on Plants Vs Zombies . She puts a very interesting personalized twist which factors in greatly to the overall feel of the game whilst changing the feel of Aether greatly.
The overall feel of Aether is a very relaxed one often times making you feel like you are indeed just floating in the aether. The graphics are very nicely put together with each individual planet containing its own unique theme and setting making the game feel very diverse yet connected.
The real eye opener for me about Aether was the real story behind it and how it connects to a lot of Edmund McMillen’s life as a child, giving me a much better understanding about the concepts presented in this game. The story of Aether is told in the video included with the collection and really adds a lot to the game in general and a must watch for anyone who plays or has played Aether in the past.
Time Fcuk is a puzzle platformer with dimension shifting elements containing an interesting sinister narrative being played over the top of the game. You play as Steven who has been trapped by his future self in a puzzle box with the only way to escape being to complete all the puzzles at hand. The gameplay is fun and unique with dimension shifting playing a key element in completing the level. Time Fcuk is a rather long game that gets continually more difficult as you progress with more thought needed to complete the subsequent puzzles.
The title Time Fcuk is Edmund McMillen’s subtle satire on political correctness in which people consider it perfectly find to display curse words as long as they are not in the original manner even though everyone knows what it actually means.
Meat Boy is the early showcase of what was later developed into Super Meat Boy the brutal multi award winning platformer. Containing a lot of the same characters and with very similar level design overall it is easy to see where the idea came from. Although in Meat Boy the graphics are much more basic and the controls are not as tight as they became in Super Meat Boy plus the lack of controller support was disappointing if not thoroughly to be expected, this said the fundamentals are still strong and apparent.
The gameplay is still hard as nails with many levels feeling seemingly impossible but as always feel greatly rewarding once completed. Edmund McMillen still manage to inject a great amount of humour in the messages between levels making that one of the main reasons to complete levels, however for anyone coming from Super Meat Boy to this it is definitely as step back. It is however interesting to see the original concept for what became one of the biggest indie hits from a design perspective and is a lot of fun nonetheless.
Coil is a very surreal take on conception and fetal growth, allowing the player to go through various stages playing different roles in each. From the start of Coil you are confused it is all a wonder, no one is there to explain to you what you should do, but you try and try and eventually get it. The idea to just throw the player in at the deep end was an inspired one by Edmund McMillen as it echos back on the overall idea of life in general a very interesting sentiment.
Coil has a very strong narrative which is focused around exploring the idea of birth and how no one really chooses to be born and in some cases feel that the life they where given is a more of a burden than a blessing. Coil as a whole is very surreal and interesting take on conception but a very enjoyable journey exploring some interesting ideas that are often ignored, along with nice visuals and abstract gameplay Coil makes for a fun game. It does only lasts for about 30 minutes although it still manages to convey some very deep and meaningful messages.
Spewer is another puzzle platformer however with a vastly different feel to Time Fcuk, you play as a worm whose main attribute is to spew his guts out in order to solve the puzzles at hand, hence the name Spewer. The dynamics and puzzles are fairly difficult to get a hold of completely but the gameplay is fun and solid throughout, stretching over four stages each containing 11 levels Spewer is another game that will keep you guessing for hours.
The graphics are very nice and the gameplay feels fluid throughout making for a interesting unconventional puzzle platformer with some very interesting concepts. Spewer is set in a testing lab being ran by a scientist that is continually seen in the background of the levels setting the scene very well giving a feel of a sadistic dexters lab.
Grey Matter is a bullet hell shooter set within the mind, you play as the last piece of sanity trying to fight off the ever growing insanity. It can be described as an anti-shooter as instead of flying around pummelling all the enemies with shots you instead have to run head long into the exposed brains on the enemies. It is an interesting take on the bullet hell genre and in many respects it makes it harder but definitely fun if not very stressful.
As you obtain points you have the option to purchase upgrades in the pause menu ranging from boost upgrades to shield and extra lives helping greatly as the waves of enemies continually to get harder as you progress. As this game is heavily focused around the mind it is very interesting that as you play through the game you go through four stages of human emotions: Stress, anxiety, depression, and acceptance when you finally run out of lives. This adds for interesting stages within the game very well mapped out to how you commonly feel within games like this providing a fun insight, along with echoing the loss of sanity a dynamic this game seems to hold.
Grey Matter is great fun (even if I am awful at bullet hell type games) allowing you to put in very little time into each game session to act as a minor distraction or excessive amounts as you try and achieve some of the seemingly impossible achievements.
Triachnid allows the player to play as a three legged creature who is on a quest to find its family member that was taken away by an evil monster along with obtaining all the eggs back to restore the family unit. The story is not very in depth as it is only told by a few pictures at the start of the game, however the gameplay mechanics allow you to feel instantly connected to Triachnid.
The gameplay is quite straightforward as you pick up each of the legs with a click and place them with another you are also able to rebalance Triachnid with WASD. In moving the legs if you place on any of the legs too far away from the body then it squeals in pain, making you feel instantly remorseful for it giving you a strong emotional connection to this seemingly unrelatable creature. The pacing feels rather slow and methodical with an emphasis on minor puzzles throughout and a very somber tone over the top for the whole thing.
Triachnid is a thought provoking game allowing you to create a connection to this virtual creature, is very moving at points and well worth a play even if it did feel very sad to me in general the gameplay was solid.
The Basement Collection has two Secret games which are hidden gems within the collection, I have currently only been able to unlock one and do not really want to spoil the surprise incase anyone wants to find out on their own. The game I did unlock however was a very interesting title and came with a great video about it that I feel added a lot to the game and should be watched after you play the title to get its full effect. The video was a complete eye opener for me to the game at hand and has since allowed me to ponder the messages sent to a great deal.
The Basement Collection is more than just a compendium of games, it is an insight into Edmund McMillan’s past and into his feelings which where then imparted into each of these titles. Essentially this collection is why we play indie games it contains the heart and soul of the developer, just portrayed in a fun and openly accessible manner to the masses. If you own and have enjoyed any other Edmund McMillen or Team Meat games this collection is definally worth while looking at. The Basement Collection is available from Steam here at the price of $4.