Sin Castle (Experimental Review)

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

You’ll notice the “Experimental” in the title here, and this is for a very simple reason: Sin Castle has not yet been translated into English, and I was curious to see if it was as accessible as it seemed from the video. Could it, in short, be played without knowledge of the language?

In short? Yes… And no. Now let’s get into the long, unpacking where it does well, and where it fails (Sometimes regardless of language.)

There was this Serpent, see? And he convinced the first two folks to… And then THINGS HAPPENED.

To give a brief summary of the game and what I understand of its story, it’s a puzzle game with roleplaying game elements where you click on things to interact with them, and use items to get ahead in what will be your main interaction, clicking on monsters to kill them (While they do their level best to kill you too.) The eight levels are themed on the Tree of Knowledge (Which started this whole Sin mess, if you believe some interpretations of the Christian Bible) and the Seven Deadly Sins of Christianity (Sloth, Greed, Envy, Wrath, Lust, Gluttony, and Pride. Not in that order.)

After only four hours of what can best be described as “Bumblefucking my way through”, I have reached what is either Greed or Envy. The level graphic could, to be fair, mean either, but I’m tending toward envy, as equipping good items seems to raise enemy stats. Each level, as you might have guessed from this, has a somewhat thematic set of gimmicks. And sadly, it’s these gimmicks that make the game harder if you don’t speak the lingo, and at times bring the game down regardless.

Let’s take the first chapter, the Tree of Knowledge, and its two main gimmicks to start with. One gates progress, while the other simply makes things more difficult at the end. Let’s start with the one that makes it more difficult to beat the level: Some of the enemies (Demons of some variety, I’m guessing) have a two-faced symbol on them. There are two items you get fairly early on: A stocks (of the “Put someone in the stocks!” variety) and a Rod of Asclepius (Symbol of healing and medicine.) Kill the monsters with the two-face symbol without using the right one of these two on them (And it is not always the Rod, unsurprisingly), and they buff the Tree’s draconian guardians, with a worst case scenario of making the final three guardians tedious, and the last one nigh impossible to defeat. Use the right symbol, and a blue winged shield will appear, presumably saying it’s fine to kill them. Wrong one, and you might as well not kill that enemy.

Each level of the castle is its own thing, with progress not being carried over. And, after the prologue, maps can get big.

This is an interesting gimmick, but the language barrier makes this one a bit trial and error, as does, for example, the gimmicks of three of the four boss monsters in the second level, Gluttony. The other gimmick of the first level, however, is…

…Look, you can’t kill certain monsters (As you don’t have the right weapons) until you beat the Serpent of the Garden in Rock-Paper-Scissors. Except it’s Sword (Quicker than axe, breaks on shield), Shield (Blocks sword, axe breaks shield), and Axe. And, unless you went fully Hitpoints on your stats, you have, at worst, 2 incorrect answers before you die and start again, compared to the Serpent’s 5. To say I am not enchanted with this is an understatement along the lines of “The Atlantic is a bit damp.” I am also less than amused with how certain monsters are a matter of slooooooowly out damaging them, waiting for your regeneration to hit safe levels before hitting them for just more than they can regenerate in the same time, and… It takes a few blows to see, on average, if you’re actually doing anything with said creatures.

Hrm… 50HP deducted for each wrong answer… I feel the deck is *slightly* stacked against me, Mister Snake!

You can, for a certain (rising) fee, respec your character, or attain silver and gold keys you might be running low on or out of, and you do slowly get money on a timer, but these both feel, not so much balancing out, but padding. Especially as both price and timer on the keys go up as you attain more. Each Sin’s level is self contained, starting you at Level 1, no stats, no keys, and some levels, yes, have less keys than others. It can be frustrating at times.

Overall, though, this is an interesting concept, it does some interesting things, and it has a cool and good aesthetic to it with what appears to be good colourblind awareness, nice music, and okay sounds. It’s just the execution could use a little polish.

The Mad Welshman knows a fair bit about Sin. Kind of comes with the territory of being a moustache twirling villain, really…

History 2048 (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £1.59
Where To Get It: Steam

Sometimes, it’s nice to take a break and look at a puzzle game. A nice, simple… Ah.

Oh, it *starts* so very simply indeed. So clear. And the concept is quickly grasped…

History2048 is, in a sense, nice and simple. It’s a sliding block puzzle, in which you move all the blocks in a 4×4 grid (appearing randomly on empty squares) in one of four directions, and if two tiles match, they form “better” tiles (Furthest row first.) It’s called History 2048 because the puzzle it’s based on, the 2048 puzzle, is based on 2’s complement counting. So the tiles are, technically, 1,2,4,8,16,32,64,128… So on up till the extremely difficult to reach 2048. And beyond.

But just numbers has been done before! It’s visually unappealing! So… History. From the discovery of fire (1), hunting of mammoth (2), up to things like the ride of Attila’s Mongol Horde (512) and the commonly attributed era to which Le Morte D’elle Arthur (King Arthur’s legends, 1024, and where my best-tile score sits), the game uses low poly 3d graphics fairly well to make a simple board that nonetheless is pleasing to the eyeballs. No music, but simple blips, blops, and splooshes, along with the occasional twinkle, mark the road onward.

…But, in the end, complexity wins over the old grey matter. Almost inevitably. *Almost*

So, you slide, and you slide, and the splooshy blops make it look like you’re winning, but… That campfire. Right in the corner. Behind the roman coliseum. To get it, you’re going to have to change the direction of your play, and that… Oh, damn, now there’s a mammoth blocking it!

In summary, History2048 is nice on the eyes, okay on the ears, less than 2 quid, and the only niggle I can think of is that you have to quit via the window button. Which is obviously an appaling pro- h, no it isn’t. So the game’s just fine. Give it a go if you like simple to play, hard to master puzzles.

…Even if, sometimes, I question why certain things have been chosen as historical landmarks.

The Mad Welshman now has a top score of 13440. Feel free to tweet at him if you top that or, even better, beat the game.

The Sexy Brutale (Review)

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

It’s no exaggeration to say that The Sexy Brutale, by Cavalier Games and Tequila Works, has been the high point of my month. Not least because it’s so pleasurable to see a game so delicately planned that the keyboard and mouse control scheme, while a little clunkier than controller, has a neat little touch that made me chuckle.

Hokay, Blood lady!

Reversing time is bound, on keyboard, to F1. I’d like you to think about that for a second, and chuckle with me. It’s nice and subtle, and a good segue into the rest of the game.

The Sexy Brutale can best be described as a stealth puzzle adventure with almost Metroidvania elements, in that solving the puzzle (Which, funnily enough, involves using your time travel and stealth powers, gifted to you by a lady made of blood) gives you extra abilities that will unlock new areas, new people to save from a devilish casino and its employees that, all of a sudden, has stopped fulfilling dreams, and is now murdering folks in blackly fitting ways. Ways that range from the mundane (Poison drinks, a stabbing… It was the 8 of Diamonds, officer, in the Church with the Rifle!) to the bizarre (This is a good time to mention that the game has something that arachnophobes may want to steel themselves for: A giant spider. Just the one, as far as I know, but… Be warned)

The game has Content Warning: Arachnophobia. Thematically appropriate, considering the mask, but yeah, you have been content warned.

But I’m not saying any more about the plot, as this is a moderately linear game, and instead, I’m going to try and persuade you by telling you just how accessible it is, and charming to boot.

First up, aesthetically, the game is beautiful. While the models are not hand-painted, they are stylised in such a way that you could almost believe they were, and the exaggeration helps make this game keep a somewhat light hearted tone despite the fact that, y’know, it’s a supernatural murder party. Similarly, the swinging music helps the mood immensely, from when it’s jazzy and breezy, to the tense tunes when time… Is running out. Everyone is a character, even the Playing Cards, the murderous henchmen, and it says a lot that I was perfectly fine with both watching the demise of the characters for their speech, and spending a lot of time making sure I knew everyone’s route, rewinding the clock to get collectibles, story, and the like. It’s a game where, thanks to the time mechanic, and the usefulness of a map that tracks characters you’ve seen during the day (As long as you’ve seen them, that is), I don’t feel bad about taking my time.

Clear. Concise. USEFUL.

The game encourages me to explore as a result, and that’s a good thing. Similarly, the differing control schemes of the game are both understandable, from the mouse and keyboard’s Dungeon Siege like “Hold right mouse to move, left click to do things, and then keys” to the controller’s “Right stick to move, face buttons and trigger to do things.” So it’s an accessible game too. Things are highlighted, the consistency of the UI is a delight…

…It’s very rare I can say that I don’t have anything negative to say, but I’m quite happy when it happens. The Sexy Brutale is one such game, as it’s accessible, charming, and the clues to its puzzles are uncovered organically. Recommended, and gladly.

The Mad Welshman wears a wolf mask. Well, he would, if the damn thing wasn’t using american shipping. He really wants a nice wolf mask. A red one.

Under Leaves (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £3.99
Where To Get It: Steam, iTunes App Store

A long while ago, I stated that games for younger children don’t get a fair rap, critically speaking. They’re considered lesser by virtue of… Being kid’s games. Edutainment, especially, is viewed under this lens. So you can imagine my pleasure when I was approached to take a look at Under Leaves, a hidden object game aimed at young children, and the parents thereof.

A clean, simple UI allows for easy access to levels holding a variety of animals living in the world today.

Aesthetically, Under Leaves is colourful and good looking, with hand painted assets that are fairly accurate to their subject matter, which is a variety of animals, the environs they live in, and a single food of each animal’s preference. The music is pleasant, and not overwhelming, and the sound effects are very well chosen. So, aesthetically, the game does pretty well, although I have raised the point that the game falls to a common flaw with some hidden object games (Not taking into account colourblindness in some of the level designs, most notably for me, the oceanic levels.)

The game can, by an adult, be played relatively quickly. In less than an hour, I had discovered many things, and each time I’d found and clicked all of the chosen food item (From nuts to clams to earthworms), I was rewarded with an animation, and a Steam achievement named after the Genus or genera of each animal in question (Such as Chamaeleo for, funnily enough, an African Chameleon – Chamaleo Africanus.) It helped that the help system consists of solving a 3×3 sliding block puzzle with the game’s title card as the image, although another minor criticism is that, on the larger areas, the help circle moves a little quick to catch up to if, say, an object is the other side of the levels.

In later levels, this hint circle can move at quite a clip if something’s across the area.

So, honestly, I somewhat like this as an edutainment game. It shows animals, not just in isolation, but sharing an expanding ecosystem in areas, the achievements are a subtle nod to things parents and children can look up together, and it’s moderately entertaining for me, a jaded thirty something grumpus wearing a reviewer mask. It has replay value (In fact, one can reset the game’s progress quite easily)and isn’t too long to completely go through. Win all round.

Did I mention how gorgeous the illustrations were? I think I did, but it bears repeating.

The Mad Welshman loves animals. Such variety! So many interesting things they do to live! So many things that can be put in tanks for do-gooders to fall into!

Bomb Squad Academy (Review)

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

In a somewhat different state of affairs than is usual for reviewing, let’s get the bad out in the first paragraph of this review: Bomb Squad Academy doesn’t currently have good windowed mode support, or a volume slider.

Bam. Thank you, Systemic Games, for making that part of my job so pleasant.

Cue They Might Be Giants playing “Now I Know” in the background.

Bomb Squad Academy is, in essence, a game about basic electronics and electronic logic, under the guise of possibly the nicest fictional bomb defusal school I’ve ever come across. The final bomb for the second actual puzzle category (Including the dreaded OR gate) has little LED displays connected to the correct defusing options that read, on completion, “CONGRATS YOU ARE LEGEND.” The instructor encourages you to experiment, and is even occasionally seen to be trying positivity when you screw up, the screen goes white, and presumably you are small meaty chunks. “Well, you might not need that arm!”

Thanks, bomb instructor. Thanks a bunch for being understanding, and giving me a second chance in this educational setting. No, really! In any case, the game is very simple to control. Left click interacts with things. That’s it. Wires get cut. Buttons are pushed (and sometimes held down), switches get flicked or rotated… And through it all, I get to relearn the things I learned in Secondary School Electronics (that’s High School, to non-Europeans), such as the behaviour of logic gates (AND, OR, XOR, and the like), capacitors, switches and buzzers, in carefully planned puzzles that never feel overwhelming.

Each category is explained quite well, with good tutorialisation that means you never feel *overwhelmed* . Only tense.

Tense? Yes. The time limit is real, and sometimes it can be tight… But, much like real and good instruction, it’s at a pace you’re fairly certain you can handle. Concepts are introduced, then tested, and those tests slowly increase in complexity, bringing older elements in, and, since everything is visually clear, you’re never overwhelmed… Just occasionally pushed into not noticing things. Like how cutting that wire probably wasn’t the good idea you thought it was, or how you failed to account for that one AND gate.

But it’s okay. The instructor understands, and so, the fun is preserved, and you feel pretty smart when you look, trace around, mutter a bit, and, with less than thirty seconds on the clock, push a few buttons, cut a single wire, and flick a dial just so to defuse the bomb. Complete with a triumphant tune.

Simple. Elegant. And with a difficulty curve smooth as butter, rising just so for enjoyment with the occasional shock. Definitely recommended for puzzle fans, and folks looking for an entry level puzzle game.

Many bombs in the game *look* complex… Until you see what’s going on. Take a breath. You’ve still got a minute to cut some wires, it’s all good.

The Mad Welshman is looking forward to the possibility of a circuit editor in this game’s future (No promises.) After all, it appeals to his villainous side more than the defusal of bombs.