Archive for the ‘Game Reviews’ Category:

Hellsign (Early Access Review)

Source: Supporter Gift
Price: £11.39
Where To Get It: Steam

Hellsign is an interesting concept, and one that hasn’t been done in quite this way very often: A paranormal investigator, using kit a paranormal investigator would, in a world where the supernatural threats are real, are dangerous, and are rising.

It is, then, perhaps a shame that the most common sentiment I hear when I’m having trouble in the game, right from the word go, is “Dip your toes into missions you can’t do yet, to get money to get better equipment.”

There is a phrase for that. Well, there’s a couple. Sometimes, it’s called Power-Levelling. When it’s throughout a game, however, it’s generally known as “Balance Problems.”

In the glare of a UV lamp, evidence is found. It's bullet holes... In a book.
The investigation aspect is interesting, using real world tools in a mostly sensible manner. Even if a book is not perhaps the best place to put this specific clue. 😛

Hellsign is, at the present time, a game where only a few of the builds on offer are truly viable without skilled play, even from the beginning. Pistols are openly a last resort, submachine guns require good handling to be useful, and the shotguns… Well, they’re videogame shotguns, alright. High damage, effective range of…A few feet. And currently, the best combat option I’ve seen in the game.

Dark Souls style Dodge Roll? Check. Shit Flashlight, upgraded to Marginally Less Shit Flashlight? Check. Fast, erratic ground based enemies that require specifically targeting the ground to fight as your earliest encounter? Check check checkedy check.

And this is a bit of a shame, as the investigation aspect is nice. Some tools are proximity based (EM Detector and EVP Recorder), some are more for seeing things that would normally be less obvious (UV Lamp, Thermal Imager), and all work in a predictable, solid manner that’s occasionally interfered with (Brief false positives or briefly not working, for example) that adds a tiny bit of challenge while adding to the mood, and fitting the narrative. There are even signs in some cases that the clue is there (Frosted breath for thermal, or quickly turning on the UV lamp to see if the blood spatter has a trail, for example.) It should be noted that some clues are outside the haunted houses you visit, so a perimeter check is advised. Very inconsiderate of those supernatural beasties bound to a location, counting the grounds!

Two large spiders rush an investigator. He has a pistol, and the aiming reticule is smaller than they are.
These little assholes will take away half my health by the time I’ve fixed my tiny reticule on them enough times to kill them.

From the word go, however, combat, and, more specifically, ambushes,are a common feature… And this is where it starts to fall apart a bit. As noted, the earliest enemies are fast, ground based, erratic, and… Oh, before I forget, arachnophobes can nope out right now,because yes, the most common early game enemy are cat-sized spiders in small groups, along with gigantic centipedes. Said beasties have an easily recognisable pattern (Attack, retreat, attack), but their speed, ability to glide under doors (despite their size), and the small combat reticule that, for ground based enemies, requires aiming mode, makes these encounters pretty deadly until you can afford some better armour and guns. It doesn’t help that these ambushes are generally from entering a room, and can spawn in even tiny rooms.

Enemy weaknesses exist, and entries on these can be purchased, but,in essence, most encounters follow this “Ambush, attack, retreat, repeat” pattern, taking advantage of poor light to up the encounter difficulty. Add in that larger creatures become bullet spongey, and that some are essentially immune to normal damage, and a lot of the difficulty comes down to “We don’t know what a thing does when we first meet it, and we have a crap light.” Narratively fitting, in a sense, but only the first few encounters are tense, after which…Well, it’s monster closets. Add in that dodging resets reloading (And anything with serious power behind it is slow to reload), and…Combat is a common aspect of the game, but also the weakest and most frustrating.

"Mate, I'm not gonna pull your dick for money" is not exactly a great dialogue option. In fact, it's kind of shit.
Content Warning: Dickheads.

Finally, we have… EDGY CHARACTER WRITING. Dialogue choices that make the main character seem like a homophobic prude. The main tutorial teacher liberally throwing the C-word around, bragging about having sex with twins, and generally being a loud shitheel. And, even in the intro, it turns out Hell wants to make you its bitch.

Hellsign is an interesting concept. But it has a long way to go before it becomes a workable interesting concept.

The Mad Welshman idly wonders why horror gets so obsessed with EDGE.

Tiny Bird Garden Deluxe (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £4.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Some games, you play for hours and hours, wondering why there’s that strange light outside that keeps coming and going. Some, you play in brief stints. Others… Well, others are like Tiny Bird Garden, in that you’re periodically checking in on your home for cute borbs, playing the odd game, filling out your garden, setting out seed, checking in on a wee chick…

…Oddly enough, that makes it a little hard to review, because it’s a game that you play in short segments (About three or four times a day, if you’re trying to raise a chick), but completion will take months. And some of those times are nice and relaxing (Getting nice letters from the sentient, oh-so-cute borbfolk, complimenting you and your garden), and some… Some feel a bit frustrating. At first, anyway.

A cute green bird called Curly (for their curly pattern and single curly hair) sleeps comfortably, surrounded by birdpoo.
You are, on the one hand, my cute son. On the other, goshdarn, parenting, eh?

For example, raising chicks. While it’s a side endeavour, its Tamagotchi like nature (MUST EAT. MUST SLEEP. CLEAN MY BIRDYPOOS!) could lead the genre weary to feel this is an obstacle to completion. Thankfully, it is not, to my knowledge, possible to screw this up, because, let’s face it, you would probably feel as bad as I would if my cute tiny birb died on me.

The other side content is minigames (Two of which, Stacking Birds and Bird Jump) appear to only give cosmetic items, and a story mode, about… Well, the staff of the Tiny Bird Garden, and the possibility that they might end up selling it off. It was nice that the Borbjewelled game led, after a little while, to enough bird toys in the shape of bird shaped trophies to get me seriously started.

Jam and the Virtubirbs is, perhaps, my favourite SatAm Bird Content.

In the end, though, while I find some aspects more fun than others, I only have two complaints and a bug to report. The complaints are both to do with the visuals, specifically, wanting a somewhat better windowed mode, and that the hearts on the Birb status screen (Where you get to see how much they love you, what toys/treats/hats they love the most, etcetera) is hard to distinguish due to a lack of colour/value disparity. The bug, meanwhile, isn’t game breaking, but it is slightly annoying: My flower in Tiny Bird Jump is now on the right side of the playing field rather than the centre, and, while this doesn’t significantly impact it, it is obviously unintended.

One of the minigames, a catch and deliver game where, as you'd expect, Durians are BAD.
When Birbs Want To Help, A TBG Special

Beyond that, the birds are cute as heck (With some good descriptions), the game is tight, easy to understand, and you’re under much less pressure than at first appears to be the case. Enjoy the garden. Enjoy the light, kindly story. And take your time getting to know those Tiny Birds.

The Mad Welshman loves his borbular friends.

Simmiland (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £3.99
Where To Get It: Steam

If there’s one thing that God games have taught me, it’s that being a God is hard. So much to manage, so little time, so many plates, just spinning in line… But, more recently, God games like Crest, Reus,and now Simmiland, have brought me to the conclusion that while being a God is hard, it’s not helped by humans. Demanding, contrarian, and often hard to teach humans.

(Citation Needed)

It also doesn’t help when the Manual for Good Godding gets mislaid.

Simmiland is, in essence, a real-time, puzzle God-game. You have cards, most of which have different effects on different biomes of the randomly generated world, and placing cards (Starting with your humans) takes Belief. From there, it’s working out what, placed where, gets the results you want. For example, minerals on grass gives you bog standard rock, useful for setting up. But placing rock in the ocean gets you coral, which, after you’ve researched medicine, needs to be Inspected for better medicine.

I’m not quite sure yet what Plague teaches my little Simmians, but it sure is cathartic when I get frustrated.

Sometimes, nuking something from orbit is the only way to be sure. And yes, there is a reason for this. A confusing reason… But a reason.

Nonetheless, the clock is ticking, and the clock is the size of your deck. So, at first, The End is guaranteed, you harvest belief based on what you managed to achieve, buy more God Cards at the God Shop, look at your compendium…

…And start all over. Aesthetically, the game is simple, but this doesn’t necessarily translate into being accessible. Cards in certain spots in your hand, for example, become a little difficult to select, be that for playing them, or selling them for belief in the tighter moments. The Compendium is the main source of remembering what a card does, and… You can’t see that from in-game. Two windows (Camp, and Wishes) are recommended to be open a fair bit of the time (Wishes all of the time, in fact, as they give you belief), but they clutter up the view. So part of the difficulty comes from struggling to remember what does what on your eventual, ideal path. Achievements at the end do help somewhat with this, giving you goals to shoot towards, but part of the “fun” is in finding out how the heck to get to these rewards.

Thing is, I can’t deny it isn’t interesting, for the same reason I found Reus interesting. Bashing things together to see what does what, building up a picture of the path I want, then aiming for it. But I also can’t deny it can’t be a frustrating experience. Human demands are sometimes very specific, and sometimes include things you just don’t know how to do yet. Heck, sometimes, it includes things that are a little irritating to do, like tropical biomes (Three suns, followed by a rain, presumably in a grass biome),or avoiding locking yourself into some dead ends. Individual games are short (Around 10 to fifteen minutes at most), but getting those achievements, those endings, that progress… That takes time.

Why… Why would you even wish for that? WHY?!?

A cool experiment in doing God Games a little differently, with elements that frustrate, and others that somewhat confuse (Why, precisely, does having a church limit your Simmians IQ to 120?)…Worth checking out, considering its price, but some unintuitive elements do bring it down somewhat.

The Mad Welshman reminds all those who haven’t discovered the secret of fire to Bang The Rocks Together, Folks!

Book of Demons (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £19.99
Where To Get It: Steam

It’s not often I mention a game’s trailer in a review… But Book of Demons is notable in that yes, it lets you know, ahead of time, that you’re going to get “jokes”, and a game that is, essentially, Diablo with the numbers filed off, with a strained meter to boot.

The Rogue. Still one of the more viable characters of the game.

Thanks, Paperverse, for making it clear in a review trailer some of the reasons I don’t recommend you before I’ve even written the release review.

Anyway, Book of Demons, as noted, is, at its base level, Diablo with the numbers filed off. The Bishop is now the Pope. The Butcher is now The Cook (And, if anything, is an even more annoying fight.) The Deckard Cain expy does exactly what you’d expect, except with references. But a lot of what’s different about Book of Demons… Isn’t exactly great. Like the try-hard, shitty humour. Hahaha, what a hated person this Gypsy Fortune Teller is! Hey Barmaid, do you remember the time when, or remember the time when, or remem- You get the picture.

Multi-stage boss who summons enough high HP adds that fighting them is mandatory damage (and poison)? Not the best design choice, is it?

Rather than a relatively open field, this only applies to monsters, whereas you are restricted to going along paths. Mandatory damage is rife, at least partly because of this, and partly because of enemies that require shields destroyed, or spawn enemies on being hit, or become faster and more damaging precisely because you were efficient at killing them. Ranged enemies can target you from off-screen, and if, funnily enough, they are in two of the four cardinal directions you can potentially move in… Saaaay… The same two cardinal directions you are allowed to move in down a corridor… Congratulations, eat more mandatory damage.

Aesthetically, it looks alright. But while the original stated goal was to add accessibility to games like Diablo, its changes are not,functionally speaking, all that different. Indeed, clicking multiple times on an opponent is technically worse than “Hold Left Mouse over enemy to attack it”, being restricted to certain areas of movement while enemies are not is technically worse than “Can move anywhere anything else can move”, and writing wise… Well, it’s a tired, uninspired clone with added “humour” that, most of the time, just isn’t funny.

TOTALLY NOT THE BUTCHER. NOPE. DEFINITELY NOT.

I started mildly curious, and somewhat sceptical about Book of Demons. And now, on release… Its papery aesthetic is a good metaphor for how thin it feels. For everything it’s reduced, it’s added tedium and frustration.

Paperverse is an apt name. Alas, perhaps not for the reasons the developers intended.

Endhall (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £3.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Robots just seem to get the short end of the stick sometimes. Here,in the Endhall, we’re faced with a robot that is tempted, oh so tempted, by all the sights it’s been shown, but noooo, to see those sights, they have to fight their way through a crumbling hall of murder robots, mines, and turrets, with limited resources. Killing regains battery power, which double as health and turn-timer, and, after each successful area, you get to pick an ability to add to your deck, while never improving in base statistics.

Looking relatively grim, as if any but the top guy get to me, I’m almost dead. Luckily, I have FIRE.

And that, essentially, is everything mechanical about the game except for spoilers, that there’s ten levels in each run, and your starting moves, which are always the same. So… It’s minimalist turn-based strategy. Cool!

Aesthetically it looks alright, the music’s fine, what writing there is clearly lays out its short narrative… No move feels completely useless (Although some, such as Small Move, are more situational than most), and I never felt, when beginning a level, that it was impossible to complete, usually spotting where I’d screwed up a couple of turns before my demise.

Landmines… Free, take 1 damage to deal 2 damage before something can reach you. If you’ve judged their pathing right.

Beyond that, it’s small, it’s tight, it does what it says on the tin, and what’s left are gripes. Namely that the tooltips for the enemy health aren’t always that readable (dark red… Argh), and that time-bombs counting as enemies is frustrating in layouts where they aren’t useful as environmental damage. Worth a look if you like minimalist pixel strategy titles.

Due to the fact individual runs are short, The Mad Welshman is amused to note that a third of his screenshots taken are, technically, SPOILERS.