Monster Prom (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £9.29
Where To Get It: Steam

Monster Prom is one of those games where, when the lines land, they really land, for good or for ill. Case in point, I couldn’t stop laughing at the ridiculousness inherent in my Slayer-assisting class being a Gun-Haver (Superpower: Have all the guns) , but, earlier that game, there’d been a joke about sedating someone for drinks, and pretty much everyone playing both grimaced, and said something to the effect of “Not cool, game, not cool.”

Porn: Setting unrealistic standards for sex since 7200 BCE!

The Monsters in Monster Prom are monsters in more ways than one, you see. But to backtrack a little bit, Monster Prom is a dating sim visual novel, set in a place called Monster High (no, not that one), with local and online multiplayer for up to four players. In a very real sense, it’s a party game. Can you get your stats high enough, in the right places, over the 12 turns of a game, to find love at the Monster Prom with your proposed date? Or is something odder going to happen?

It’s a game that looks and sounds good, I’ll definitely give it that. The cartoonish style works well, it’s got a clear UI, it has a good mood to it, and the art supports the base situations pretty well. It feels fun to play with others (Especially if one or more of you is skilled in Dramatic Reading), and it’s simple to pick up and play.

The turn order can be decided in a party game fashion, or hitting the random button. Many can probably guess why we hit random here.

Which means that really, the only major reason folks might not like this game is how its humour can sometimes go places that would be uncomfortable for folks, or, at times, just plain isn’t funny. Sex mentions might put off some, drug mentions will definitely put some folks off (Aside from the aforementioned sedative “joke”, there’s also cocaine and heroin mentioned), and bullying or abusive behaviours are also sometimes mentioned (Such as the old “Stuffed in a locker” thing leading, potentially, to the “stalked through radio tag” thing… EESH.) Some are kinky and genuinely amusing (such as Miranda’s confusion about what a Leather Daddy is, or how everybody at the school reads an erotic dragon fanfic), and some are good lampshading (Oh isn’t it convenient that everyone at Monster High is over the age of consent, huh? Haha, these wacky monsters all conveniently over 18, eh?!)

Overall, it hits more than it misses with its humour, but when it whiffs, it whiffs harder than Charlie Brown playing baseball. I’d still recommend it, because it’s a good concept, mostly well executed, and you’re certainly not going to run out of events early (It speaks volumes that even the developers seem to think chasing every single event down might be a bit much, with the “get everything” event called “Honey… This isn’t healthy…”), but I would also say: Be aware that this game might, with its humour, touch on subjects you’re uncomfortable with.

You can, in fact, choose fanfic over prom-dates. Nuff said.

The Mad Welshman, a noted monster himself, is somewhat fond of this game despite its missteps.

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Going Back – Death Coming

Source: Supporter Gift
Price: £4.99
Where To Get It: Steam

So here we are, looking at a game where the main character, after having died, is employed by death to… Use various items around the levels to crush, burn, boil, freeze, and, generally speaking, make a lot of pixel people very, very dead. Death Coming is a good dictionary definition of “Guilty Pleasure”, considering its subject matter.

Yup. Pushing tourists into toxic goop by means of plant is one of those “Guilty Pleasure” things.

But y’know what? It’s fun, and I’m somehow shocked I missed this one back in November of last year. Ah well, let’s take a look now.

As noted, the basic gameplay idea is very simple: You have a town, and a certain number of items around town are imbued with the power of death. What this amounts to is that, when clicked for the first time, they (mostly) show you roughly what they’re going to kill, and, the second time around, they activate (With some later additions like guards who stop things going awry, and more complex, multipart death traps.) Aided with this knowledge, two goals are in sight: Kill a certain number of people (Who Death informs you have lived past their time), and kill three specific people in each level, because they, apparently, are both past their time and linked, in some fashion, to your own death.

Aesthetically, the game’s isometric, pixel artwork and ominous tunes give a good backdrop to this strategy game of mass murder, with a whole host of animations that only gets bigger as the varieties of death get stranger and stranger. Here, the manhole cover is opened, and there’s just a frame of suspension, before the fall into darkness, a meaty crunch, and an FPS style announcer deeply intoning “MEGAKILL.” This is not a game trying to step around its subject matter.

Some folks, apparently, need to die more than others. At least some of these can be related to the level’s narrative.

I like how it progresses, and I also like how there’s a very real sense, as the game goes on, that Death is maybe not playing ball, and that maaaaybe we’ve been duped. THE POLICE ARE HERE, as angels descend from the heavens to try and stop your murderous shenanigans. Wait, if the people really are past their time to live, then why… Ohhhhh…

The game does a fairly good job of adding to its replayability, with each area having a new wrinkle, unique feature, or extra step in difficulty (such as the introduction of changes due to different weather conditions. Dagnabbit, I missed my 3 minute window to use a manhole!) , and this leads me to the two niggles I have with this game: That it’s somewhat short (Delightful, but short), and that it has a single save system.

Otherwise, Death Coming is an interesting take on hidden object puzzle gameplay, with a solid focus around its theme, some black comedy, and good replayability. Worth a look.

Every level adding something new, some new wrinkle. Today’s wrinkle? Weather, part the second!

The Mad Welshman doesn’t have a lot more to say. The game kind of speaks for itself.

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Mount Your Friends 3D (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £5.19
Where To Get It: Steam

Mount Your Friends 3D, also titled “A Hard Man Is Good To Climb” , is many things. A party game. A work of sculpture, different with every play, but following roughly the same design ideals. Homoerotic testament to extremely buff men with tight posing pouches…

The goal, so simply and plainly expressed. Beautiful.

…Okay, so that last one’s stretching things a bit, about as much as the posing pouches on the mounting friends of Mount Your Friends 3D, perhaps… But the party game bit is definitely true, for lo, Mount Your Friends 3D is a competition in which you and some friends both form a mountain made of buff men, all trying to strain higher from the base that is… A goat on a hill, on a pole.

No, don’t ask me, I don’t know either. In fact, beyond the facts that firstly, the game is indeed fun to play with friends, and challenging too, the basic rules of play, and that it has a lot of grunting and groaning as your buff, sometimes sweaty, sometimes sparkly avatars attempt, in a set time, to reach the pinnacle of Man Mountain, setting a new bar for the next one, and the next, and the next… Hold the pose, and the height, for three seconds, and a new record is set, and the next player’s turn is taken.

I call this performance piece “Mounting Equality.”

…It’s a very silly game. But tight controls, a similarly tight control scheme (Hold left or right mouse to release your grip and control said limb, release to hopefully grab onto whatever you were wanting to grab onto), make the title so very true… A hard man is good to climb. It helps that there’s added variety, both from unlocks by playing the game (Customisation options and chat stickers, the means of communication between players), and in its game modes, at least some of which are deceptively simple looking.

Take, for example, Spiral mode. At set heights, the men are replaced by a long 3d block, at an angle to the one before it (hence, Spiral.) At first, the blocks make things easier, but, as it gets higher, the spirals get harder to climb, with less room for error, until… Oh no, you fell down, and spent all your reserve time on the way back up. Oh well, keep watching, friend, this is how… Oh no, I fell down, and spent all my reserve time on the way back up… Good game, folks, good game!

And this collaborative piece, entitlted “We will hit the Minions memes with large blocks and buff men.”

There are others, of course. Standard, classic, low gravity, ones with and without blocks, but through it all, there are three constants. Firstly, that it’s fun with friends. Secondly, that buff men and a goat are always involved. And thirdly, that it costs less than £6 , for something with a fair amount of replay value, a lot of silliness, and pretty accessible play.

The Mad Welshman is, you may have noticed, pro buff men in tight posing pouches.

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Deep Sixed (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £10.29
Where To Get It: Steam

I was only talking about cheery dystopias a few weeks back, and yet, here we are with Deep Sixed, a game that has all the fun hallmarks. Remember, if your reactor is critically leaking, you may wish to repair it. If you cannot repair it, you may wish to send an emergency beacon. If the emergency beacon is not working, you may wish to send an emergency beacon.

Okay, I got *part* of it right.

Okay, so that’s not exactly what’s said, but the general sentiment, among others, is there, carefully and cheerily enunciated by the voice actress for URSA, the AI companion on your indefinite corrective period of exploration and adventure.

Which, translated, means: You’re indentured to explore a nebula on behalf of a corporation, because you fucked up, and your ship is a hunk of junk that will probably kill you if the local life forms don’t. This works both for and against the game. Let’s start with that good ol’ “For” column.

Deep Sixed does one thing quite well, and that’s setting its mood. You’re isolated, so your only contact with… Well, anyone is either email, mission descriptions, or your handy dandy (until it breaks) AI companion, URSA. You’re clearly not valued as anything more than an expendable resource, because your ship’s a hunk of junk, and only by doing jobs for the company can you make it anything but, or repair massive damage… And it will still break down with distressing regularity. Oh, and you’re not a trained worker, why would you be? So you get a manual of iffy usefulness, to help you with the repairs you’re inevitably going to be doing… Alone.

Ugh. Of *course* nobody told me the job would involve getting slimed. Of *course* they didn’t…

And, on a quiet mission, with only a few problems, this is fine. It adds atmosphere, and the fact that some of the missions are themselves an exercise in tedium is, itself, part of the allure. But when things go drastically wrong, as they inevitably will?

ARGH. One early example was after I’d discovered the existence (through a plot mission) of Zephyrlings. Zephyrlings run in packs. Zephyrlings can quickly short the power of your modules, forcing you to waste valuable time flipping to the power room to repower the viewing stations, and combat with multiple opponents is best described as “An exercise in slow, painful, and frustrating death.” There are thing to make it somewhat easier, like shields, a deceleration field that can slow some enemies, and a hotkey for switching laser types… But combat is definitely one of the weaker parts of the game, and, interestingly enough, creates the more difficult to solve problems (recalibrating lasers, repairing hull damage mid fight, combatting fires mid fight.) There is an “Easy” mode, but, beyond actually telling you what problems exist, allowing pre-mission saves, and disabling achievements, it’s not… All that much easier.

As such, despite its charm, the woman of colour protagonist, some pretty good voice acting and writing, and some interesting ideas, overall, Deep Sixed turns me off. It’s not that these difficulties are insurmountable. It’s not that you can’t learn how to be a good captain of a shitty ship. It’s not that the game isn’t working well… Quite the opposite, in fact. It’s simply that this kind of experience, while interesting in small bursts, isn’t great for me overall. If you like a game that is tough, but with the toughness coming more from stimulus overload than lack of clarity, then perhaps Deep Sixed is for you.

As it turns out, reading the manual for fixing oxygen leaks while oxygen leaks are happening is… A bad idea.

The Mad Welshman would like to note the devs appear receptive to constructive criticism, as noted by the addition of continuing from saves to Easy Mode just prior to this review being written.

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Slasher’s Keep (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £10.99
Where To Get It: Steam

One thing that has always interested me is the use of older game design techniques, but with the quality of life improvements and changes that come from modern game design. So when I quite quickly noticed that Slasher’s Keep mixes hand drawn, eight angle “sprites” , mixed with cartoonishly textured 3D models, I immediately thought “IN.”

Why thank you for the kind offer of your loot, Mister Moleman. Nothing to do with this hammer I wield, I hope!

I’m happy to say that it’s been charming me more, the further I get. At least partly because, in its quiet way, it is ensuring I get further. And it feels good. Surviving to the second level means I can start finding chutes, through which I can drop equipment from higher levels to the beginning. It also means a shop, somewhat useful when I have vendor trash. Get to the third, and those bits of crafting materials I’ve found can be made into new, spankier weapons… Which it may sometimes be a good idea to just drop in the chute already, knowing that even the swanky kit won’t guarantee my continued breathing abilities.

Each time I die, yes, I lose money, stats, and all the kit I didn’t bung down the shoot… But stat gaining potions, the fact that potion drops scale with you, and the fact that a quarter of your XP can easily be regained (and a bit on top) in a good run, means that slowly, but surely, I’m making my way up, and, importantly, seeing more of the comedy of errors that is Slasher’s Keep.

And there’s no doubt, from the mumbling stone idol that occasionally crops up, goblinoid pin-ups (Including one I was cruelly… Okay, I wasn’t forced to destroy a really good goblinoid pin up, but it was in the way of a treasure chest), and even the introduction show that yes, this is a light hearted game. I mean, if you’d been locked in a cell all the time, with a hole in the wall showing keys just out of reach, would you just… Try pushing the cell door, to realise it didn’t have any hinges?

I like to think I craft metaphors as well as deadly, flaming-icy weaponry.

Well, okay, maybe you would, in reality. But this is a dungeon hack in a comic fantasy world, we’ll have none of this “Common sense” malarkey!

With all this gushing, you’d think, perhaps, that Old Grumpy Reviewer Durbin wouldn’t be unmasked as the monster this time, that there’d be nothing to criticise, and that the Mystery Gang wouldn’t have to pull his latest monster mask off his head to muttery grumblings. But alas, as I often say, no game is perfect, and Slasher’s Keep does do some things that get on my (perky) norks.

That map generation needs a bit more work is understandable. Procgen maps are surprisingly hard, and I can’t really begrudge that. But it must be said that yes, there are dead ends to no good purpose, sometimes at the end of a rather long corridor. Less forgivable, perhaps, are some of the ranged enemies. Specifically, the bugs and skulls. See, it’s Slasher’s Keep, not Waiter’s Keep, and I get rather annoyed when, due to an unforeseen mana shortage, I have to either laboriously trick my insectoid opponent to maybe not retreat over the chasm for the twelfth time, or my bony friends to maybe, just maybe, get on with that screaming plunge attack that inevitably leads to their demise, rather than the floating and shooting me from afar thing they seem so fond of? Mana shortages, in this context, are usually unforeseen because only one wand is effectively hitscan, and so shooting at bugs and skulls rapidly loses me all my mana. As such, skulls and bugs are rapidly achieving the not-really-coveted status of “Well, they’re FUCKING BATS to me, mate!”

Especially as, occasionally, challenge rooms (Where the challenge is “You walked into the room, and now you’re locked in until everything but you (or you) is (are) dead”) will entirely consist of… Bugs or skulls.

I mean, okay, I lost stuff, got stripped, and thrown back in, but not only am I stronger… I’m still hot. So my jailors can suck it.

Otherwise, it’s very enjoyable as a first person procgen comedy murderbrawl, and comes highly recommended otherwise.

The Mad Welshman kindly asks for confirmation whether the stone idol’s accent is indeed Brummy. He still has the scars from confusing Liverpool and Hove, and would like to avoid further accent related injuries…

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