Backlog Burndown #13 – Ghost in the (Steam) Machine

Gearcrack Arena

Greetings Backloggers! Welcome to the thirteenth iteration of this column. Thirteen is often considered an unlucky number, and perhaps this week’s game is unlucky as well. At the least, it’s a ghost, a dead game pulled from Steam and existing solely in people’s accounts, and lurking in the forgotten depths of Steam traders’ inventories.

Sometimes, games get delisted from Steam. For single-player games, this usually happens because of an IP rights or licensing issue. Sometimes it’s a multiplayer game that shuts down, and in at least one case it’s been a developer who seemingly went out of their way to spite fans, GabeN, and Valve in general, and got themselves delisted for their trouble. Then there’s Gearcrack Arena, where the developer simply asked Valve for the delisting.

Gearcrack Arena

Class selection screen

Gearcrack Arena was, as near as I can tell, the inaugural game from indie Brazilian developer Walter Machado. Machado has gone on to release the Ubermosh series of top-down action shooters, and Gearcrack Arena seems to have been something of a working prototype for the later releases. According to Machado’s own postings in the Gearcrack Steam discussion groups, the game was intended as a one year experiment. After the year was over, he delisted the game and invalidated all remaining keys.

That last step is particularly uncommon. Generally, legitimate unused keys for games, even delisted games, can still be redeemed on Steam. In the case of Gearcrack Arena, however, forum posts indicate that all remaining keys were invalidated. Copies purchased as gifts and residing in people’s Steam inventories are unaffected.Gearcrack Arena

The thing is, Gearcrack is not a particularly uncommon game. Before its delisting, it ended up in bundles from practically every game bundle company. For a time, it was also the cheapest game on Steam, selling for the princely sum of $0.09 USD. Since it came with Steam Trading Cards, there was a window where buyers could actually make money by purchasing the game and selling the card drops. All that to say that if you’ve had a Steam account for more than a couple of years, most likely you have a copy of Gearcrack Arena sitting, alone and unloved, in some dark corner of your inventory.

So how does it play? Essentially, Gearcrack is a simple, top-down arena shooter that pits you against increasing waves of enemy robots with every level. There are four classes to choose from, each differing in movement speed, ammo, armor, and hacking quantities. The class variations effectively determine the difficulty of each run.Gearcrack Arena

Actual combat plays out in very simple manner: each round starts, you use your first hack, hope it doesn’t break, then run around meleeing everything. As you make it through levels, your character’s armor will increase, making it easier to avoid death. Wash, rinse, repeat, and the game is done within a half-hour.

One particular standout is the soundtrack. It’s a solid set of hard-rock guitar riffs that definitely enhances the on-screen action. Beyond that, the game is simply a barebones shooter. The most interesting thing about it is the curious case of its removal from Steam.

Backlog Verdict: Worth playing as it’s quick and easy win. Bonus if you have the version with the soundtrack, as that’s well worth downloading and saving.

Previous Backlog Count: 1,140

Current Backlog Count: 1,142 – (+3 from a gift, a game to review, and Xbox Live Games with Gold. -1 from completing Gearcrack).

Next Time: Streets of… Chaos?!? What even is this thing, and how did it end up in my backlog? 

Backlog Burndown is a semi-regular feature on Marooner’s Rock. Read previous columns in the archives, and suggest future games to play in the comments!

Aaron is proof that while you can take a developer out of the game industry, it's much harder to take the game industry out of a developer. When not at his day job, Aaron enjoys teaching Axis & Allies to his kids, writing sci-fi stories, playing classic space sims on Twitch, and riding around the American Midwest on his Harley.

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