Archive for the ‘Game Reviews’ Category:

Blood Card (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £11.39
Where To Get It: Steam

Goodness me, we’re getting a lot of these card fighters. Unfortunately, they can’t all be good. Take, for example, Blood Card, which, while it has an interesting aesthetic to it, doesn’t really work well despite its interesting idea.

Weeeeeeelp.

And it is an interesting idea, make no mistake. Well, a couple. You see, you are a being trying to escape Death. Y’know, the bony feller with the robes and scythe version, tends not to let people go. And your deck? Is also your health. Much like other card battlers, there’s a limited energy pool from which to play cards, there’s a limited time in each combat before Death appears, and… Honestly, this is where the problem begins. While your hand replenishes (apart from cards which destroy themselves) after each fight, enemies very quickly start ensuring that Death will appear, doing increasing damage for each turn he’s there. Sure, he ends up killing the enemies too, but that race against the clock is definitely not in your favour, especially with elites and the bosses. The objective? To either kill death, or leave the dungeon.

“You could be cool like me!” Yes, er… I see a flaw in this argument…

Aesthetically, the game is odd. Some good pixel art, with some interesting enemy designs, meshes somewhat poorly with the workmanlike, and admittedly more accessible clean sans-serif font, and while the mood is meant to be Dark Fantasy (You know, blood and death and guts and gore and ohgodwhy, that sort of thing), it breaks this mood surprisingly often. Like the barrel guy, or the vampire, whose first thought in “Convincing the hero(ine) they want to be a vampire” is simply “Wouldn’t it be cool?”

Well, yes, but it would also suck, if you’ll pardon the pun. I’ll pass. The brevity of the character lines doesn’t exactly help, as it feels stilted. The music, well, it’s fitting (choirs, bassy brass, that sort of thing), but you’re going to get tired of it relatively quickly, alas.

Well, I mean… The attacks do 4 damage to one enemy, so… Ooh, I’m gonna be here a while…

Now, there is a third idea that normally, I would applaud: Letting you choose what to deal with. You get X rooms before the boss, and Y,Z, and so on of normal enemy groups, Elite enemy groups, shops, and events. But this, also, doesn’t really mesh that well, because the bosses are pretty damn mean, and when even normal enemy groups can delay and debuff you enough to ensure that Death sticks around for at least a couple of rounds (and yes, Death will turn up during the boss fights, making them increasingly more difficult the longer they go on)

Overall, Blood Card feels like it’s tough for the sake of being tough. 3 energy a turn quickly runs out, meaning you don’t often get to play, for example, Finishing cards (Which require you to have 1 card in your hand when played to get the effect), and your base attacks are relatively weak. While the art is quite nice for grimdark pixels, it can’t, unfortunately, mask the fact that the game doesn’t really want me to get very far, or see much of what it has to offer.

The Mad Welshman does appreciate the cape value of being a vampire, but would honestly prefer werewolfdom. Saves time on “Hair of the dog that bit you?”

Gato Roboto (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £5.79
Where To Get It: Steam

Cats are glorious creatures. Ask any cat owner. Said cat owners will also confirm that they are clowns, doofuses, malevolent little gits… Cats have quite the range. And it’s gratifying to see a cat in a mech suit as the protagonist of Gato Roboto, a game which… Well, it’s very, very similar to early Metroid games, with a 1-bit art style (Pixels in black or white), and…

Kiki is cattily smug when they manage to screw attack someone.

…It’s got a speedrun timer. This is… A mixed sign, I’ve found. And lo and behold, this is borne out. A game you can complete quickly, it nonetheless has some challenges that are both mandatory… And going to annoy the hell out of the player who doesn’t know the tricks. You good at screw attack chaining, m’folk? No? Well… There’s an entire section with that. And a boss fight that seriously outstays its god-damn welcome. Which, funnily enough, is a good segue into some other problems.

Boss cutscenes skippable? No sirree. You screw up that boss, you get to hit Z through the whole damn thing all over again. And it is always Z, because keys are not rebindable. And that boss has a lotta hitpoints for a god-damn mouse in a robot suit.

Without the rapid shots powerup, this one’s as hard on the index finger (or thumb, on controller) as it is on your tolerance.

It’s a shame really, because the designs and aesthetic are a charm, and a fair amount of the actual areas are fairly well designed. The sound is good, even if the music didn’t really grab me. The animations are lovely. But the third encounter with a certain asshole who also has robot suits (plural), in particular, annoys me. Not because it has a bundle of hitpoints, although that helps. Not because it’s easy to assume it’s a screw-attack exam, rather than a dodge exam. No. Because that bundle of hitpoints is best whittled down (at first) with… An item you get, not via the usual method, but technically a “bonus” item from collecting all secret 1-bit palette changes from the first two areas, and knowing where a tight collision hitbox ends. Argh.

Including a Metroid Fusion style “You come here as a cat, no Mech Suit or actual health bar for you, Sonny Jim!

Still, once that hurdle’s over, it’s an okay Metroidvania, taking cheeky nods from the original Metroid and Metroid Fusion, keeping the progression area-linear (Essentially, you go through each area once to complete it, then again to get everything you possibly can find now the area blockages are removed.) The story isn’t bad, but yes, the game has enough annoyances that it took me a frustratingly long time to get to enjoy it.

The Mad Welshman is eternally salty that house rules and budget disallow a cat of his own. He loves them so.

Tower Hunter: Erza’s Trial (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £12.39 (79p for OST)
Where To Get It: Steam

Early Access can be a funny thing. Hell, gamedev can be a funny thing. Sometimes, you have beautiful games that, mechanically, fight with themselves. Sometimes, you get something like Tower Hunter, which is mechanically reasonably sound… But, aesthetically, lacks that pop, that flair, that makes it interesting. And so, it remains merely… Somewhat solid.

There is a lot to be said, however, for this particular segment of the first level. That’s a good feel, crushing several Spectators beneath your icy heels.

Tower Hunter is, essentially, a procgen Metroidvania: Clear levels, defeat bosses, get better kit, rinse, repeat. You are the titular Erza, looking to clear the Magic Tower for… Actually, I forget why. Look, there’s a tower, it’s filled with monsters, beat the shit out of them and the lords of each biome within the Magic Tower, which has biomes because fuckin’ magic.There’s four main weapon types in the early game (I don’t, at this point, know about the later game), and when you die, you lose portions of your money and stored powerups. Cool. Okay, now let’s talk about the things that make it interesting… And why you might not really notice them.

So, let’s start with the interesting: Quite quickly, you build up a small arsenal of powers, some depending on your weapon, like lightning for dual swords, some your basic magic skills, like icy dive kicks that do hilarious damage. And, scattered through the dungeon are several kinds of power-ups, all of which can be levelled up with your own skills, and are replacable. Nice!

You can basically only spot the boss when he’s in front. He wasn’t for the majority of this fight, so this is a post death screenshot…

Buut… While the character animations are mostly alright, the music is pretty good, and the sound is also alright, the visual flair of everything else? Is somewhat lacking. That’s… Sort of excusable for creatures like the Clockwork Mannequin, but there are bugs, and bone throwing skeletons, and bees, and… Not many of them are memorable. Heck, the first boss… Is barely distinguishable among the small horde of red bugs, green bugs, some purple bugs, some mannequins…And the landscapes feel somewhat bare, even when they try and get interesting.

And this is a shame, because it also rewards those who take on an extra challenge. Beat that first area quicker? Get a better trophy, which ups abilities. Somewhat quick, but got every single magic power-levelling stone in the 2 levels of the area? Get the bestest trophy, and more rewards!

There is also some Engrish in the game, but y’know what? That’s no big right now.

So yeah, mechanically, Tower Hunter works. It even adds some interesting ideas for rewarding speed and exploration, and a little customisation (Although, y’know, I’m not entirely on board with the bunny suit one, just sayin’.) But, right now, that’s balanced out by, essentially, being visually uninteresting, or, more accurately, a little homogeneous. It’s worth a look for some of its ideas, but I really hope that it gets a little more flair and pizzazz.

The Mad Welshman, alas, is a bit tired. He will nap now, on that comfy bed there.

Sanguine Rose (NSFW Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: Name your own price on Itch, would recommend donating.
Where To Get It: Itch.IO

Content Warning: The game contains D/S powerplay, some violence and gore, and an enslavement bad end.

Read more (Age Gated)

Sanator: Scarlet Scarf (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £7.19 (£9.58 w/soundtrack, soundtrack £2.89, assorted goodies £4.79)
Where To Get It: Steam

Content Warning: This game features a mention of nonconsensual sex, and murder.

Visual Novels come in many forms. That’s part of their charm. And seeing different approaches to visual novels, from different places, is, itself, quite a charm too. Which is, of course, a good segue into Sanator: Scarlet Scarf, the first translated work by Ignis Sanat, and winner of the Anivisual 2019, a yearly Russian Visual Novel contest.

A different approach than usual, somewhat reminiscent of a Light Novel. I kinda like it.

It is, let’s get this out of the way, short. But, as we’ve often seen on TMW, short doesn’t mean bad. It simply means short. The prose in Sanator is good stuff, solemn and heavy, as befits its setting, a town beleaguered by a plague that, as it quickly turns out, is of supernatural origin. The art is solid, anime styled, but with its own texture and flair that I quite enjoy. And, while its choices are relatively few, its characters are interesting, and its setting works without needing to look up too many of the Special Fantasy Words.

It should be noted, before I continue, that the demo is, itself, a prequel to the events of the game, a more linear experience, but still with its own charm, and adding nuance to some of the characters through short vignettes. A little extra to the world is always nice, and it does well not to give away key facts.

Too true, I’m often up at them, writing these… SIGH.

Anyway, both the demo and the game have some pretty good music. Heavy, portentous, a fair few chiming bells and choral parts… I enjoy this. And I enjoy the fact that it all works together in this short, tight narrative about a Sanator (Plague Doctors whose shadows can hurt, who fight both normal disease and spirits of plague), faced with the Scarlet Scarf, a malady that causes a deep, bleeding lesion from the neck to the waist, not unlike… A scarlet scarf. And, of course, it’s supernatural in origin.

If I had regrets about Sanator, it is, honestly, that it is tight. It shows the horror of the plague briefly, resolves quickly, and that horror doesn’t really get a chance to linger unless you’re deliberately savouring it. It doesn’t give the indirect antagonists a lot of room to breathe. I also think that the supernatural being’s origin is… A little squicky (Okay, imprisoned and sacrificed by a cult, fine, but, as writers have noted, rape is a very lazy way of establishing someone else as evil. Suggest “Couldn’t unsee the other, failed sacrifices wot were super horrific and stuff.”)

A Sanator’s Shadow is, as it turns out, its own entity. Cool, huh?

Still, overall, Sanator is a tight narrative, and I’ve enjoyed my time with it.

I do love me some good art. And my cup hath overflown this month.