Basingstoke (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £23.79
Where To Get It: Steam

Welcome to Basingstoke, a town filled with sausage rolls, quaint pubs, AND THE LIVING DEAD. We hope you enjoy your stay in the picturesque recycling bins, sewer pipes, and assorted possibly-safe buildings. There is no escape.

My character’s name sounds a bit like Gordon right now. There is no reason I find this fitting at all.

Basingstoke, the latest offering from Puppygames (and not the small English town, although it is set there) is an interesting game. It’s definitely an action game, but avoidance and stealth, rather than killing, is the main focus (Although weapons do exist, only a few are guaranteed a quick kill, and most of them are loud.) It’s procedurally generated, and has older game concepts just kind of strewn about, like save items, level-based gameplay, and the like. It is, in short, a mix of old and new ideas, starting with perhaps one of the older ones: Science going wrong, because a big company delved into things Man Was Not Meant To Know (Never goes wrong in a videogame, amirite?), and so Basingstoke is now a hellhole filled with zombies, mutants, aliens, and death-robots. A hellhole that you, the latest interviewee for Omnicorp, have to escape.

And it works. It works really well. Part of that is that Puppygames is no stranger to adding their own touches to arcade based play, and have a solid grasp of the low-poly aesthetic, with good sound design and occasional music. And part of this is that, most of the time, it feels fair, with the difficulty escalating sensibly, except when you screw up and trigger a loud noise, in which case the sudden horde of zombies is, definitively, your fault.

My last thought was “DO NOT RUN IN THE HALLWAYS”, oddly.

There’s also good variety in play. Myself, I mostly like non-confrontational play, creeping around, distracting enemies with sausage rolls or sandwiches, occasionally setting groups of zombies on fire with a molotov or flamethrower, if I can get hold of the salvage needed to build them. And the game supports this quite well. Get some Instant Coffee (freely available from drink dispensers, relatively common), and you can mix it with a sandwich, kebab, or the like to turn the zombie that eats it on its fellows. Or, y’know, just have a nice cup of coffee. Still, running hell for leather everywhere is, definitely on the early levels, still a valid and workable strategy if you’re clever about it.

And each has their downsides. My stealthy play, for example, is mostly slow, and I don’t get to explore everywhere. As such, my item use suffers somewhat. Running, meanwhile, attracts Tentacles, and even the twitchiest of players will occasionally get caught out by one that spawns either on top of them, or in such a way that it’s going to grab you. And in Basingstoke, one hit is a kill for your player character.

With revolutionary new RECYCLEBIN-O-VISION, you can see exactly how boned you, in fact, are.

There’s a fair amount to like about Basingstoke. For example, I can start from later levels if I really want to, and the Insurance Policy, if I can afford it, means I get to save mid-level (once.) There’s infinite retries on a level. It can turn down the flashing and gore, and it’s largely pretty clear how to play, tutorialising well. It also feels tense, without being aggravating. Yes, I can die at any second. But I know the progress from the previous level won’t be undone, and I can still try again. I know my progress overall won’t be undone. And I find myself, overall, looking forward to whatever evil thing the game is going to throw my way, be that for me, like when I made a proximity mine, or against me, like the large alien carnivores of the Underground. Well worth a look if you like stealth action titles.

The Mad Welshman sprinkled coffee, breadcrumbs, and bean juice over his egg and bacon sandwich, and smiled nastily. Somewhere, some zombie was going to have a very, very Full English day.

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City of Brass (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £15.49 (£19.48 w/soundtrack, Soundtrack £3.99)
Where To Get It: Steam

City of Brass, it’s safe to say, had charmed me pretty much from the first. It had some issues, which have mostly been resolved by the developers, and now, just a couple of short months from the last time I looked at it, it’s jumped from 0.5 to 1.0, full release.

And I’m happy to say that honestly, it doesn’t feel premature. In fact, it feels pretty good.

About as good, in fact, as the feeling of shoving this zombie into that spike trap.

City of Brass is a first-person, procedurally generated game in which our un-named protagonist has found the mythical City of Brass, a city cursed with immortal life by, as you might have guessed by the Middle Eastern aesthetic of the world, a group of asshole Djinni. With a talisman that grants you three wishes, a whip, and a sword, it’s up to you to enter the city, loot as much as possible, and hopefully beat the final boss and escape. It’s a game that uses smallish variations in its simplicity to add flavour and depth, and it feels good.

Let’s take the whip as an example. The whip, by itself, is a versatile tool. It lets you swing from certain places, grab loot and throwables from a distance, trigger most kinds of trap, you can pull enemies toward you with it, whip their projectiles back at them, or, depending on where you hit them, stun them, disarm them, or trip them.

And then, with a bit of money, and luck of the draw, you can give it a heck of a long reach. Or it can freeze enemies. Or it really stuns them. Clever stuff, and, if you want other examples, you can read the earlier reviews. But what’s new in the release version?

Enemies with shields remain something to be wary of. Which is still perfectly fine, gotta keep you on your toes!

Well, part of it is balancing. As an example, before, city guards were perhaps my earliest killers, because they weren’t stunned very long by attacks. Now, they stun longer when you whack them with a sword, so they’re less of a threat, and the early game is friendlier as a result. There’s also a new blessing that, on the one hand, removes your leaderboard score for the games you use it on, like all blessings (Meant to give you an easier time), but it totally removes the timer, letting you explore levels at your leisure. Nice!

But another part of it is Twitch Integration, allowing those of you who stream the game to add some interactivity and spice. While a niche feature, I can confirm from experience that this gets chaotic as hell, and, since planning around chaos is a core part of the game, I loved the heck out of it. To stroll through the first levels, only to be greeted by enemy cries in an empty room, for example, unnerved the heck out of me, which put my guard down a little later on, when my chat decided… To hit me with an entire group of enemies. Ouch. Also, nice work.

YOU DON’T FOOL ME, AND I HAVE AN EXPLOSIVE URN! WE’LL GO TOGETHER IF YOU VWIP AWAY, I SWEAR!

The Gatekeepers remain a fairly variable bunch, although they do seem somewhat more manageable overall, but, essentially, what I’ve said previously with City of Brass still stands: It comes highly recommended, a clever use of a limited toolset that makes me feel good when a plan comes together, with an interesting world, solid aesthetics, and clear, intuitive play.

Look away from the sceeeeene, I can take you anywhere! Spend a vision with me, a chaaaase with the wiiiiiind! (Rainbow’s “Gates of Babylon” remains an awesome accompaniment to this game.)

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Bombslinger (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £8.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Well, last time I looked at Bombslinger, I would be embarassed to die to the bosses, and often died to the enemies. By the time of release, however, things have gone back to a more natural order of bosses being more challenging than enemies. And what a set of bosses it is…

Ahhh, the sweet smell of nitro in the morning…

Bombslinger, as noted in my Early Access review, is a spaghetti western inspired procgen Bomberman style game. The basic idea is very simple: You have bombs, which hurt both you and the enemies, and clear terrain. Blow up enemies, collect powerups so you get more bombs, health, speed, and bomb power, ensuring you don’t die. Get to the end of the level, blow up the pattern based boss, go to the next level with more difficult enemies and bosses, until you win or die. Easy.

But Bombslinger adds a little extra, a little variety with its roguelike elements. On top of Bomberman style staples available like Big, Extra Splodey Bombs and remote detonation bombs, there are powerups that let you dodge roll, let you leap obstacles, and even ensure that those pesky obstacles are no impediment to your explosive revenge on the folks that killed your wife (Yes, like a Spaghetti Western, it’s got a story that goes some of the same places a Spaghetti Western would have, for good and for ill.) Some of these powerups are available at the beginning of a run, based on previous achievements (thus adding some incremental improvement in there too.)

For some odd reason, I’m thinking of Wolfenstein right now…

While some things (such as the earliest enemies being more tedious than tense or tactical) haven’t changed, the bosses have definitely improved. While the Firestarter boss is still heavily pattern based, he’s more threatening, getting more dangerous the closer he is to death, for example. The UI remains pretty clear (although the keybinding is a little odd, the clarity helps remind me what’s a special, what’s a consumable, and what’s an ability), the aesthetic is interesting (Essentially, it’s 2D sprites in a 3D space, as shown when you enter the shop, done smoothly enough that it’s only really noticeable in the shop), the music is quite nice, and, overall?

Bombslinger does nice things with its mechanical inspirations, and is well worth a poke for Bomberman fans.

The broom, while technically useless, does save a little time.

The Mad Welshman is a big fan of the old cannonball bomb design. It has history.

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City of Brass (Early Access Review 2)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £18.99
Where To Get It: Steam
Version Reviewed: 0.5

City of Brass, last time I looked at it, showed promise. A game of quickly executing your plans in order to progress further into a city cursed with greed and everlasting life (of a sort) , it was already drawing me in, luring me with its traps, its enemies making for interesting, emergent challenges, and its middle eastern setting.

Mmm, the sweet smell of incense on the – oh, that’s burning undead? Huh, learn a new thing every day!

With blessings to match the burdens, further customising difficulty, I’m somewhat happy to say that the game has, overall, improved on its original promise. Even if some things remain roughly the same. Specifically, the Gatekeepers, bosses of each of the game’s five areas.

Before we get into that, though, let’s recap what remains good. Aesthetically, the game is on point, from its lush setting that subtly changes as you get further into the city, its musical and sound cues, and the clarity of everything. This is a treasure, I can tell by the noise, and the sight. This is a windtrap, clearly identifiable from even a fair way away, which is important if I want to know what not to randomly back into for instant death funtimes. That noise signifies I’ve been spotted by a sorceress. Not an archer, a sorceress. Maybe I can use that. I can, with the knowledge I’ve built up over three areas of the game so far, use a lot of this, if I play my cards right. And this is definitely a strength of the game.

Keeping the core gameplay simple, and challenging, is also of note. While items may affect, for example, the strength of your throws, or lure treasure to you, or change something about your basic weaponry and armour, you still know, roughly, what to expect: Here is your whip, for pulling and shoving enemies and items, triggering traps, and swinging off things. Here’s your sword, for walloping things. Here is your armour, and, normally, it will sort of protect you. Sort of. Three levels per area, three wishes you may or may not wish to spend (Including using all three at the beginning of the game to shortcut to the third area), it’s all simple to understand, and explains itself well. Similarly, blessings make things easier, but deny you a place on the leaderboard, burdens make things harder, and give you extra gold or XP.

Wishes, if not used on skipping areas, can sometimes change the tactical landscape greatly. A good case in point are the trap genies, who now serve… ME.

The only wrinkle to this is that, once you get used to enemies and traps, you’re inevitably going to reach that third level, and find yourself facing off against something rare, that’s simultaneously harder to learn, and less likely to give you lots of chances to learn it: The Gatekeepers. Based on enemies previously encountered, the Gatekeepers are a leap in difficulty, and I’m thankful I have the option to skip three of the five with my wishes. Because oh boy, they’re hard. Take the first, the Sorceress analogue. Okay, so sorceresses are a pain. They don’t let you get close for long, take about as many hits as a guardsman (three) , and fire ranged attacks that, if they hit, hurt. They’re still something you can work with. The Sorceress, on the other hand, is, like her Gatekeeper Brethren, a gimmick enemy of a sort. No hitting her until her shield’s down, and how do you knock that shield down? Whipping homing projectiles back at her.

On the upside, you don’t have to hit them directly back at her. On the downside, you will, every few seconds, have to whip, block, or run the hell away from those projectiles, and you never have many hits with which to do it. It’s not insurmountable. It is a leap in difficulty, so these Gatekeepers are aptly named, skillgates of sorts, where, while they don’t take many more hits (not counting shields and the like), the difficulty is in getting those hits in.

These shutters, thankfully, block some of the projectiles, and give you a temporary chance. Make the most of it.

Despite this, I still feel City of Brass definitely comes out more positive than negative. The developers have been very thoughtful in providing means of skipping some of these once they’re beaten for the first time, and the addition of blessings, in order to provide an easier experience, are a godsend. The game is clear, lush, and, for the most part, teaches its world and rules very well, and I continue… To look forward to what’s coming next.

After writing this review, The Mad Welshman had a run where he got to level 10, using the Extra Health and Damage blessings. They make a Big difference!

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Puyo Puyo Tetris (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £14.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Puyo Puyo, a game about matching pairs of blobs into groups of four or more, preferably in chains to Mean Bean your opponent into submission with drops of blobs from above that can only be broken with a match (and often, block matches.)

Crap. I am, it seems, Tetrising awfuls today!

Tetris, a game about matching tetrominoes into neat, tidy lines, preferably of four, in order to slam your opponent from below with dead lines, each having a gap that may or may not be easy to clear.

It was sort of inevitable, really, that the two would clash. And so they have, in the aptly named Puyo Puyo Tetris, which, yes, has been out awhile on consoles and handhelds, but hit PC a short while ago, and you know what? It Does What It Says On The Tin. And then a bit.

That “bit” would be the extremely silly Adventure Mode, the story of two (Well, technically three, but mainly two) universes colliding, with both of those worlds seeing a ‘Mino or a Puyo battle as means to… Well, let’s see here… Calm someone down, rile someone up, think clearly, stop a spaceship from crashing, forge eternal bonds of friendship… And these are all examples from the first chapter and a bit. Let’s not forget a clear menu system (Loud… But clear), a lovely soundtrack, unlockables out the wazoo, puzzle modes, challenge modes, and a decent tutorial set if you’ve never popped Puyos or lined up a Tetris.

“I shall also be engaging in Tetris-Puyo battles to clean my dishes later on!”

But it should also be noted that the game seems to expect you to have checked those tutorials. Some of the timed levels I had trouble finishing before remembering the insta-drop of Tetris, and Fusion mode, which you will encounter sooner or later, is somewhat devilish because of the way Tetrominoes and Puyos mix… Which is to say, one sinks to the bottom, pushing the other to the top.

So the rules don’t really change. You’re still making Tetris lines, you’re still popping Puyos… But you’re effectively playing two, linked games in the same small playfield, with tetrominoes affecting your Puyo play, in the same space. I’m not ashamed to admit the first time I tried it, I was a confused, demoralised mess. The second time? Yeaaaah, I’d consider 12 wins Endurance a fair comeback.

With each character having small changes and specials that add extra variety to play, I’d say that yes, Puyo Puyo Tetris is worth a go if you’re either a Tetris or Puyo Puyo fan… With, of course, the best experience coming from getting to know your quirky friend.

Ahahahaaaa, AHAHAHAAAAAAA!!!
I enjoy winning.

The Mad Welshman doesn’t hand out the Does What It Says On The Tin award as often as you’d think.

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