If you've ever bought from a Steam sale before you'll know the drill - much of the catalogue gets discounted for the duration of the sale, but every day certain titles are plucked out and given an even deeper discount. Which means the first (and pretty much only) rule for savvy shoppers is to not buy anything until the final day of the sale, where you can be sure your 33% saving isn't going to get turned into an 80% saving in a few hours.
Valve has cottoned on to this tactic for 2012, however, and introduced flash sales - eight hour discounts, so something is always ticking over at a faster rate than the show-piece daily deals. Will some of the games that turn up in the flash sales be featured in the daily deals at even more competitive prices? You'll never know until it happens, and in your panic you're more susceptible to retail fever. It happened to me last night, and I ended up with a copy of Warlock: Master of the Arcane for a fiver. Can't complain about that, really.
With all that said, however, I've walked straight past the front door rummaged around the bins and alleyways of the Steam catalogue to pick out some of the undiscovered bargains that are well worth picking up.
SpaceChem - £3.49
I love SpaceChem. I love it far more than almost all the other games. If I ever reviewed it I'd be likely to slap double digits on it. It's wonderful. It's a game so impossibly good it actually infuriates me to think that people might not have played it. Fresh, original and unique - SpaceChem is one of the most engaging and intelligent puzzle games ever made.
In summary: buy SpaceChem.
Legend of Grimrock - £4.79
You'll have to be quick to snag this one, as it's currently sitting in the first batch of daily deals and will expire in a few hours. We haven't covered Legend of Grimrock in detail on VideoGamer, but I've been playing it over the past couple of months and it's a delightfully retro dungeon crawler that manages to feel refreshingly new despite the fact its core design ideas are reassuringly old. It lasts for ages, too.
I rarely need an excuse to harp on about these two games, so I'll do it again: these are simply hilarious adventure titles and you should have played them. I'm talking about actually funny, too, as opposed to that sort of weak and strained 'zany' that seems to blight video games. The puzzles are crafty but not too hard, the script is sharp and the scenario is perfect. With the exception of The Walking Dead, which I haven't played, I can comfortably say these are better than all other adventure games released in the past three years.
Shatter - £1.75
I know what you're thinking, but don't worry: Shatter was forged in the post-Geometry Wars phase of indie game design, but it came out before mixing an electronic soundtrack with neon colours started seeming a bit overdone. It's a trendy take on Breakout, though it's a lot more fun than it sounds. It doesn't really encourage repeat playthroughs or high-score runs, mind, but your first run through its stages is a special one.
You might also consider WizOrb if you're looking for some more block-busting, though I think Shatter is a slightly better game.
Pixeljunk Eden - £1.40
The arty PixelJunk series is slowly crossing over to the PC from the PlayStation 3, with Eden working particularly well for the PC. You're out to grow your neon garden in this quirky and striking platformer, which excels in creating a calming and zen-like atmosphere. PixelJunk Eden is a game about vivid imagery and minimalistic sound, and while it develops into a game of tricky jumps it never stops being a blissful ride.
Jamestown - £2.80
I gave Jamestown my Honourable Mention of 2011 because it's great. You know it's something special the first time it plays its jaunty little victory tune at the end of each level - it's packed full of the kind of details that many games miss, which means playing through it is an absolute joy. Jamestown dresses down the complicated shmup genre and gives you a colourful playground while tickling your imagination.
A lot of people are fatigued by the JRPG genre right now, and I'll tell you why: because most modern JRPG's are crap. In a weird, roundabout way, the California-based Zeboyd Games is actually making some of the most interesting JRPG's on the market at the moment, with Cthulu Saves the World a particular gem. This 16-bit homage works so well because of its great concept, with insanity ultra-demon thing Cthulu needing to become a hero and save the world so he can get his powers back and destroy it.