100 Ft Robot Golf (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £14.99
Where To Get It: Steam, Humble Store

100 Ft Robot Golf is not so much a golf game with giant stompy robots, as a giant stompy robot game with golf. It’s a relaxing experience, even if it’s not quite the one you might expect.

But is it a good game? It’s an okay game. More importantly, it’s a fairly relaxing game, and I’m 100% down for that. So let’s talk about some things.

Like I said… it’s *relaxing*

Let’s start with how the mechanics interact in ways that seem counter to conventional wisdom. Yes, you have special weapons. But odds are high you’re not going to be affecting the other players with them. No, your weapons are best for blowing up buildings that are in your way, and thus clearing up a shot that otherwise would have slowed you down. There is no turn taking, and it’s effectively a race to the finish line, but if you’re even halfway good at golf games, quickly lining up swings should be no problem, even with the fact that each type of mech has a different system that effectively amounts to “How accurate was this shot?” And dickery such as the Kuvo maneuver, where you block the ball with your giant metal body, is perfectly acceptable so long as you have the skill to pull it off.

So the game isn’t complicated, and it isn’t as bloodthirsty as you’d think. Similarly, the story is a lighthearted riffing on the silliest parts of 90s anime: Max and Vahnija, one of whom is a failed golfing host (Because Robot Golf blew up the moon), and one of whom now owns Robot Golfing (despite not being that good a Robot Golfer) organise a new tournament, bringing talent both old and new, while they have… A NEFARIOUS PLAN, AHAHAHAAAA (Ehehehehee!)! Meanwhile, the NGDL , led by Panzato and Dando, are finally ready to enact… Project C. Project C are good dogs, yes they are, they’re such good dogs, gooood dogs. It’s dumb, it’s deliberately hammy, and it somehow still makes a sort of sense despite being deliberately written how 90s anime is often perceived (A mess of threads that somehow clash together for a BIG FINISH.)

See? They’re good dogs. And one of them is *Welsh* ! <3

The thing is, I could go on for a very long time about things like the visual design (Slightly janky, but charming), the sound design and voicework that went into this game (Deliberately, as before, aimed at that 90s Anime aesthetic, while also being aimed at parodying how golf commentary struggles to be exciting), and how little touches like how even the quickplay versus mode has little anime style “LAST EPISODE” blurbs add that touch more charm, but in the end, you’re either going to love it or hate it. The campaign takes something like 3 or 4 hours to complete (true ending and all), and, after that, it’s unlocking skins, playing with friends, and maybe replaying for the plot, and you know what?

I am A-okay with that. You might not be, and I respect that. But 100 Ft Robot Golf, to me, is a relaxing, relatively nonviolent time despite, y’know, explosions and buildings being destroyed, and it has a charm that I can’t help but like.

Even the customisation has some small charm to it. Remember, Support Esports!

Also, y’know, they’re good dogs, Dante. They’re good dogs, Danforth.

DESYNC (Review)

Source: Birthday Present
Price: £10.99
Where To Get It: Steam

At first, I was very much ready to get on with Desync. Bulletstorm mixed with glitchy Tron-type aesthetics? Hell yes, this is my… Oh wait, I died. For the sixth or seventh time. In the second room of the second level. And I died to… WHAT BULLSHITTERY IS THIS?!?

The most common variety of “The Last Thing You’ll Ever See”

For context, the game involves fast paced combat in rooms with deathtraps and waves of enemies, and it’s up to you to murder the hell out of every wave in a room in a score attack frenzy of shots and electronic murder. Except it also expects you, seemingly, to either grind the first level a lot, or GIT GUD, SCRUB. For context of the bullshittery? First wave, a polearm guy with a block-reflect ability, a wave that seems to ever so slightly home in (In, I’m assuming, a method of getting you to use the dodge dash, get the timing down), and, of course, boodles of damage and hitpoints. Then several of the “weak” enemies, who by this time have gotten the ability to spray short bursts. Then several hammer guys (two shotgun shots to kill, are fast, and also deadly.) Then… Two of the polearm guys. Maybe that’s the end of the waves for that room. Maybe not.

I genuinely felt like that group of hammer guys could have worked just fine as the last wave, but… No. It doesn’t really help that the game promises all sorts of fun and shenanigans, with weapons, and special powers, and… Oh, I have to beat this second level to earn another weapon?

Oh, yeah, smaller enemies level up. That rat-monkey thing next to Polearm Guy, for example, can shoot short bursts.

This, in essence, is the biggest problem with DESYNC. Aesthetically, it’s walking the walk, with tron style CRT graphics, a pumping soundtrack, and some good sound design. But when it comes to talking the talk of gameplay, it’s exactly the combination of unfair and grindy that makes me sigh and go for something else. It also fights with itself. Hey, here’s a score attack mechanic! With combos! But using special powers, even if they add to the combo, reduces points, and you have to use abilities and powerups (That don’t last all that long) to discover some of the combos and levelup the sidearms. It’s fast paced! The enemies are technically predictable! But unless you can work out where their head is (Not always possible at a fast pace, especially with some enemy designs being a little unclear in the heat of the moment), they’re bullet spongey, move at at least the same speed as you for the most part (Or, in the case of the larger, polearm wielding enemies, have some level of prediction or homing to their ranged attacks. It’s a little unclear which.), and hit like trucks.

I mentioned those hammer guys in one room of the second level, and there’s a lot that makes that particular encounter quite painful. They’re as fast, or perhaps slightly faster than you, so once they’re on you, it’s a case of several dodge dashes to… Oh, wait, no, they also have a leaping attack. Each individual hammer guy takes two shotgun blasts to down, sometimes three. At least one of them will do more damage, or be quicker, or be tougher than its compatriots. And all of this is in a room which feels highly cramped once all of them spawn in. Later waves in that room aren’t so much tough in and of themselves, as they’re tough because this particular wave is most likely to reduce you to minimal health.

If the game had gone through some major balancing not built around either being perfect, or replaying the same room (Not wave, but room, each room having at least three waves) multiple times and then being told how shit you were for not being perfect at the end, I’d possibly be more okay with Desync. But its gameplay problems appear to be core elements, all fighting with each other for prominence, and so I really can’t recommend this game.

Funny, you also, DESYNC, get a C. Probably a C- . 82% accuracy, but apparently I wasn’t offensive enough. Fuck you, score screen (+500)

And that makes me sad.

The Mad Welshman doesn’t fight with himself. He is united in his desire to consume chocolate sponge cake, twirl his moustache, and kick ass.

MX Nitro (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £14.99
Where To Get It: Steam, Humble Store

When I first noticed MX Nitro, I couldn’t help but be a little baffled. Saber Interactive and Miniclip SA are not really known for MX games, be they the more traditional kind, or what MX Nitro is, which is a Trials style “Balance the bike and do tricks while trying to win the race/get a score/just look freaking cool/not crashing” type dealybobber.

Bird of Prey… Bird of Prey… Flying high! Flying high!

And while I wouldn’t say this was a standout example of the genre… It does okay. Aesthetically, it’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect from an extreme sports game in general. Sorry, extreme sports games, but you definitely have an audiovisual style that, on the one hand, is immediately identifiable, but, on the other, makes many of you blur together in my mind. Sandy arenas, muddy tracks, and gritty, be-puddled (Yes, that’s a word now, shut up) streets near the docks meld with moderately distorted guitar dominated tunes that you can almost hear crying anachronistic “HELLA RIDE, BROOOOO!”s , themselves melding with clashing, saturated colour gear and bikes.

What I’m saying is that if you’ve played the likes of Nail’d, MX Vs ATV, or even a DiRT game, you’d probably feel right at home, although there’s nothing standout about any of it. It’s good, it’s tunes to mash your head to despite the inadvisability of doing so in-game, and that’s perfectly fine.

Crash, and you lose both time and position. Also, y’know, that combo you were building. Sucks to be you. However, *winning* while crashing is a very amusing thing.

A definite plus side, however, is the simplicity of the controls. Although at first you may scratch your head, the keyboard controls for MX Nitro are sensible and responsive: Up to accelerate (Always hold this down), left and right to tilt the bike backwards and forwards (For Wheelies and Stoppies, the go-to means of holding a combo), space to NITRO (Because of course there’s a nitro boost, why wouldn’t there be?) , and number keys for tricks. Unless you have very tiny hands, you won’t have too much trouble here, and there is controller support for those more comfortable with a controller.

So the controls are good, the music and visuals are what you’d expect and smooth, all of which are good… Where’s the downside, huh?

Well… Most of that is that, with that simplicity of controls, it then expects you to know them from the word go. Or, more accurately, it expects you to always be thinking about them, from the moment they’re introduced, or to fail, again and again at a stage, until you either luck out or realise what you’ve been doing wrong. While most early stages are do-able, boss stages and trick stages in particular both require you to ABW (Alway Be Wheelie-ing) when you’re not boosting (ABB. Always Be Boosting) or tricking (ABT. Guess.) Even if you do win a race stage, it feels a bit hollow to be given the star, the unlockables (Including tricks and new bikes), and the extra cash from objectives when you have a worse score, overall, than the other racers (Who, in true EXTREME SPORTS fashion, have names like Black Devil or Red WhiskyBreath… Okay, the last one’s not real, but the first one is, and you get the idea.)

I will get first in this race, despite having the lowest score. Because it’s drag, and so the points don’t matter. Only objectives.

…Still *feels* like they matter though, sadly.

And, in the end, that’s largely what can be said about MX Nitro: It’s moderately fun, especially if you like that sort of thing, and, once you get the hang of ABB, ABW, and ABT, the unlocks, occasional crashes (Of the bike kind, not the game kind, the game’s stable), then you start having fun. It’s not for everybody, even among EXTREME SPORTS fans, but since individual races are relatively short, the unlocks are pretty reasonable (Yes, even the fact that tricks unlock), and restarting a race is pretty simple too, it can be summed up as “Good arcade fun, even if it doesn’t really stand out from anything else.”

The Mad Welshman always stands on one leg when walking, just to make things interesting. He also kicks off walls and hops really fast. Is he not EXTREME?

On Games Journalism – The Grindy Bit(s)

As you may have gathered from previous articles in the “On Games Journalism” series, reviewing is, despite what it appears to be, hard and largely thankless work. Today, we’re going to be talking about one of the core aspects of the job, and one that, for many of us, has actively become more painful as the field has grown: Looking for things to review. It’s a many-headed beastie, but I’m going to be focusing on those “heads” in roughly the order they appear.

First, Catch Your Hare

It’s no exaggeration to say that there are more games, and games creators, than there ever have been before. It is also, unfortunately, a statement that rivals in usefulness with a reviewer’s tools for sorting through the results of that variety… Or, more accurately, seeming variety.

*Half* of one of four pages for the 10th March. On one platform. Skim, and you’ll miss things. Explore everything, and you’ll be very sad.

The picture above represents a relatively DLC free example of what we, on the reviewing and writing end, have to look through at least once a week. A week can, on Steam alone, be anything up to 10 or 15 pages. And this is one release platform. One of several. It is, for PC reviewers, often the most used, because it’s pretty common, but when Desura was alive, there were things released on that that never made it to Steam, but were quite good. There are things on Itch.IO that are good, but never get to Steam. And then there’s games from the creator’s page, and… That’s about it.

Looking through this list can be a painful experience, because, in one form or another, Sturgeon’s Law applies even to this relatively curated release list. These five are shmups/tower defense/Insert Extremely Common Genre Here that look and sound very similar, and also look and sound very similar to the last seventeen you looked at. This one may or may not be good, but their marketing blurb is offputting, self-indulgent, self-mocking to the point of seeming not to want sales… Or just plain trash. This one is an asset flip, and a painfully obvious one. This one has a painful UI. This one’s a HOPA, which, in my book, is a “Nope, right out” 90% of the time (That’s a very small number of HOPAs that get through my personal filters, you may have realised.) That one’s a AAA game that has been around long enough to pretty much ensure people will buy it based on the name alone (And has another issue we’ll get to.)

This particular screenshot, this particular time, I found something that was definitely in my bailiwick, and definitely interesting. Most days, I am not nearly so lucky, and have to gamble, or go back to an Early Access game, to meet my self imposed quota.

But let us assume, for the sake of argument, you find things that firstly, you want to review, and secondly, people might want to read about (It’s a gamble whether they will regardless. A gamble you try and weight as best you can, but luck is a part of pretty much any enterprise involving visibility.)

The Wages Of Sin…

Now comes the hard part. The heartbreaking part. Because, if you’re like me, and want games to thrive, you also want to support the developers of games that interest you. Critique helps, sure. But cold, hard cash pays their bills. And that cold, hard cash is going from your pocket. This isn’t even going into the time budget that this is going to involve.

I’d like to pretend things are going well at TMW. But they’re not. I am, at the present time, making a loss. Some of that loss is gladly given. Some of it… Not so much, as a “bad” game, while good at honing criticism, is time you’re not going to get back, including the time spent ensuring that your mood is conducive to properly reviewing something, rather than taking out your frustrations with Shit Exploitathon or Shoddy Disappointment #253 on something that, if you’d taken that time, would have been “Okay”, rather than the “ARGH, IT’S AWFUL” you’re going to give it when reviewing in a bad mood.

Although messy, it gets across the point that… *sings* One of these things… Is not like the others!

Working with a larger publication sometimes helps offset that cost. Being offered a review code sometimes offsets that loss. Asking for a review code sometimes offsets that loss, and I add that sometimes because not everybody replies… And sometimes, if you’re waiting for them to reply, with nothing in your docket (Thankfully rare here at TMW), you’re falling behind.

But yes, games cost money, and, as we’ve established in previous On Games Journalism articles, games writers don’t get a whole lot of respect, often for reasons of “It’s not work” (The very reason I write “On Games Journalism” … Because it really, really is) or for the more petty reason of “You didn’t like this thing I like.” It doesn’t help that times are tough all over, and hey, why pay for things you read for free, huh?

Answer: So you get more of that thing, and the person doing the thing doesn’t have to worry about whether he can afford to do the thing.

So you’re going to miss things. Sometimes, it’s going to be a thing that, as it turns out, you’re glad you missed. Other times, it’s going to be whatever Next Big Thing segments of the gaming community are feverishly yelling about. But you are going to miss things, from the time constraints alone.

Now, I did mention we’d talk about AAA games here, and how they factor in. I cannot review more than one AAA game a month. And, most months, I’m faced with the choice of at least one Big Name… Or from a couple to several smaller, but potentially more creative, more nuanced, and, most of all, cheaper Smaller Names. To me, at least, this is a no-brainer, but it does provide a little bit of potential insight into the inertia of said Big Name games: Smaller outlets, for the most part, cannot afford to critique these, especially as AAA companies are, as a general rule of thumb, more picky about review copies, more likely to withhold review copies, and more likely to Greylist (The practice of blacklisting someone from review copies… But not telling them.)

There Are, Of Course, More Grindy Bits

This, unfortunately, goes without saying. If you’re freelancing, rather than trying to go fully independent as I have been, you’re going to be mailing sites which hopefully pay (A relatively small list) with review pitches, article pitches, all sorts of pitches which will, like Casey At The Bat, often be ignored. Reviewing, especially, is somewhere where you are more likely to succeed the more obscure a game is, and even then, you’re going to have to be aware of lots of factors, such as whether the site you want to write a review for (In the hope of getting paid for work, time, and the like) even accepts outside reviewers.

Regardless of whether you’re freelancing or independent, you often have a social media presence you have to keep up. There’s the book-keeping associated. Networking. Editing.

There’s a lot going on under the hood of reviewing. And at least some of it is, in many respects, just plain depressing.

EVERSPACE (Early Access Review)

Source: Birthday Prezzie
Price: £22.99
Where To Get It: Steam, Official Page
Version Reviewed: 0.3 (March 7th, 2017)

Good spaceflight games are, even in these days where they’re coming back, few and far between. But Everspace, god help me, has definitely grabbed my attention in a big way, because even though it’s only at 0.3 (0.4 coming soon), it’s already quite polished, and had me whooping like a schoolchild at how enjoyable it was to die, again and again and again.

The game has missions, every now and again. I can tell the mission giver is not a hoopy frood, because he doesn’t know where his towel is.

Yes, you heard me right. It was, and is enjoyable, even in losing. But let’s get into it. Everspace is the 3D equivalent of something like FTL, a procedurally generated universe made of sectors, themselves made of small, junk filled arenas where a series of pilots (played by you), attempt to get to their destination while being chased by the Okkar empire, a reptilian people, being hounded by outlaws, trying to find the resources (Especially fuel, which is needed for Jumps between subsectors) you need to survive, while also being nagged by perhaps the most British AI I have yet to encounter.

Interestingly, all of these pilots are named differently, but sound the same… And I honestly don’t mind. It… Works, somehow. I wish I could tell you how. In any case, the game is very polished for a 0.3 release, with some great soundwork, music that gets the blood pumping, a solid UI, and some nice, chunky ship designs, from the tri-foil Outlaw fighters, to the Okkar Corvette that I encountered in Sector 3 (So far, the furthest I’ve gotten in something like 30 runs.) Every time you die, the money earned goes towards levelling up abilities, chance of good drops, better equipment, and… Different ships.

It’s somewhat difficult, for obvious reasons, to grab footage of a fight as it’s happening. Thankfully, the game’s Action Pause Camera allows me to wow you anyway.

I’m not going to say better ships, because I’ve been learning that lesson the hard way with the Gunship. Oh, it’s meaty, alright. The Medium Explorer has a shield, a pulse laser, and a gatling gun (With the option to increase damage for a period of time), but, while the Gunship has armour (Reducing damage taken overall), a Gatling Turret, Combat Drones out of the box, and the highly satisfying Flak Cannon (Mangle an Okkar Fighter in just a couple of shots once its shields are down! Mine an asteroid or crystal node with one shot!), it also has… No shields, and its shield damaging weapon is the highly erratic and energy intensive Fusion Cannon (Which I try to replace with my dependable buddy the Pulse Laser as soon as humanly possible.) It’s also slower, and harder to turn. So, while, with the Explorer, it’s entirely possible to get through an encounter undamaged, the Gunship is very much in the “Damage race” end of things, especially as most of its weaponry is close range (Sub 1Km)

Considering I have to get 10 thousand credits in a single run to buy the Scout, I can’t really tell you what the Light option is like right now (Although I most definitely will before release), but I can tell you that each ship has its own upgrade tree, with a player tree for things like better maps (GOOD), Better retrieval of the wreck of your last run (Providing, of course, you can find it), extra equipment choices, and, of course, more cash, better repairs, more fuel… And while yes, there’s a limited amount of things you can encounter, the later sectors have bigger and badder things (Such as the Link Drone Ship, invincible until you destroy the swarming little beggars it produces… Periodically.) and, of course, the game isn’t finished, so more things are being promised.

Even as is, though, the game is high octane in its combat, darkly relaxing in between, with a lot of its potential already shining through.

Pictured: The first time I took the Gunship out for a spin. I underestimated my opponents, and I paid the price for not understanding how my ship worked. LET’S DO IT AGAIN!

Oh, and it has an action-pause cam from the menu, allowing you to hit escape at the right moment, go to the cam, and capture your ship either wrecking… Or getting wrecked. I’d like to be able to take pics from more than just the players’ perspective (I mean, if it’s my Gunship getting owned, maybe I’d like to take it from the perspective of my killer, or some random drone that still has a good angle?), but right now? That’s my only niggle with this game. It’s built around multiple runs, and so far, it’s doing a very good job of sucking me into one more run.

The Mad Welshman grinned as he heard the DING of target lock. What was causing all these ships of the same model to come by? Oh, no matter, they always had good loot!