Archive for the ‘Game Reviews’ Category:

Wargroove (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £15.99 (£17.98 for game+Soundtrack, £3.99 Soundtrack)
Where To Get It: Steam

Sometimes, getting what I want to see feels like a monkey’s paw just curled. Thankfully, Wargroove is not one of those times. But oh boy, it could have been. After all, for all that the Advance Wars games were solid, they were definitely not without flaw, and irritation.

Not this bit, though. This bit has always been cool.

So let’s talk about that, and how Wargroove definitely seems to understand, and try new things. The general idea is turn-based strategy, in which two or more commanders send their soldiers (Who can move and attack within certain ranges) to either conquer the battlefield by capturing the HQ, or defeating the opposing commander. The more construction buildings they own, the more units they can build from each, and the more villages they own, the more money they have spare to actually construct those buildings. In addition, commanders have special powers charged by combat, which can turn the tide of battle. So far, so AW, even down to many of the fights in story mode being down to misunderstandings (except with the EEEEVIL Undead faction.)

Obligatory “Good Boy About to Inspire His Troops To Smack Bandits Down” image.

Where it changes, however, gets interesting. Yes, buildings get captured, but once they are, the side in question gives them HP before they can be recaptured, which replenishes slowly, but can also be used to heal surrounding units (A cool tactical consideration.) Units’ critical abilities encourage you to play in certain ways (Such as archers being stationed to guard choke points, pikemen grouping up to tag-team enemies, or knights charging across the battlefield), and the commanders being on the field also changes things up, as they’re basically super-units, balanced out by the risk of them dying if they overstretch, and the fact that commander powers are used by the commanders limits their utility somewhat. That still leaves a first turn advantage in multiplayer, from what I hear, but, overall, it’s an interesting move, and expands the tactical options somewhat.

I like Ragna. She seems to have been made for the sole purpose of being an Advance Wars style character. Both in and out of game. 😛

Now add in that the difficulty can be eased in several ways, allowing you to experience the game at the cost of completionist factor (Lower difficulties, which is also customisable, reduce the amount of stars you can potentially earn in a game), and a checkpoint system mid-mission, and the game is, mechanically, both pretty tight, and accessible. The UI is solid, the pixel art is good, the writing pays homage to its inspiration, and the sound and music is solid.

What I’m basically getting at here, is that Wargroove definitely gets the coveted “What It Says On The Tin” award, along with accessibility and aesthetic points, making it a good turn-based strategy, not outstaying its welcome, and what few flaws I felt I came across, are either relatively minor, or fixed with some sort of feature in recent weeks. Worth a look!

Vampire batladies, accessible strategy, good dogs, and cackling villainy. Yes, these are the good things in life.

Lovecraft’s Untold Stories (Review)

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

Even grudgingly admitting that Lovecraft’s Untold Stories has improved in some aspects, this is one that remains poorly paced, difficulty spikey, and… Well, not drawing me into its world, because its world isn’t all that interesting in the first place.

Game number 1: From this screenshot, try to guess where, offscreen, the necromancer who keeps summoning these zombies has run to.

Okay, let’s back up a bit. A Lovecraftian twin-stick shooter with RPG elements (keys, inventory, special items, events, and, at least once a level, puzzles), Lovecraft’s Untold Stories starts you as a private dick who has been called upon by Raymond Legrasse (The inspector who formed a cameo in The Call of Cthulhu, the “iconic” Lovecraft tale.) From there, things rapidly get weird, from Lovecraft and the King In Yellow as shopkeepers, to a Yithian sanctum as your home base…

…Honestly, I can’t really carry on with that sentence without getting into why it feels wrong to say all that. Lovecraft’s Untold Stories is Lovecraftian in the same way that Ready Player One is Cyberpunk, or an Olde English Bar in America is, in fact, Olde English. Oh, it’s got surface elements, to be sure. Star Spawn and Mi-Go and what I’d finally worked out were meant to maybe be Colours from Space. But they fill much the same space as zombies and cultists with machine-guns: As things you shoot to leave the room. Similarly, books are not gateways to knowledge that man was not meant to wot, but one of the two forms of currency in the game (The other being money, most often obtained by collecting treasure.) Elements of horror fiction, distilled into enemies and powerups. Ye Olde English Yawn.

This… Is about as interesting as that gets.

“But come now, that’s not terribly fair. What about that old chestnut about going mad from said knowledge?” Ah, yes. The thing with little to no seeming effect on play beyond being a second, less readable health bar that partly obscures the actual health bar. If lots of purple gunk over the top left, maybe eat a bar of chocolate or three, and avoid pretty much any interactable event you don’t know the “safe” interaction with (At the cost of not finding secrets and earning less Information currency.) Bam, the unknowable has become the known.

“Okay, okay, so it’s not very Lovecraftian. What about the twin-stick elements?” Well, those have slightly improved, in that now you have mouse-aim. The first area has also become less of a pain in the ass, with seemingly none of those murderous (and inexplicable) cultist gun turrets to be seen, only cultists and gribbleys. This, of course, is assuming you’re playing as the Investigator, as there are other unlockable characters, unlocked by reaching the right area, and solving a certain puzzle.

Each one has their own starting area, and their defensive abilities take different forms. The investigator has a dodge roll and explosives. Whoop. The scientist has a high-explosive shot that is as likely to impact something you weren’t sure was an obstacle (or a rushing enemy) and kill you as not, and a defensive shield. I haven’t unlocked the rest because… Well, when a game feels more like a battle of attrition than a tense conflict in which worlds are at stake, and madness lurks around every corner, you know something’s gone wrong.

Game number 2: Spot the arbitrary spikes. Before you run into them, and inflict a long bleed status and damage.

Is it the darkness hiding increasingly arbitrary damage/status traps? Is it Chapter 3’s obsession with “Hunt the guy running away, otherwise you’ll never clear the room”? Is it that the puzzles either feel like arbitrary key/item hunts or things that don’t make sense even in the context? Yes, yes, yes, it’s all of these things, plus the endless… Interminable “spooky” rendition of “Three Blind Mice.” No, really, it’s main motif is the three keys of a children’s song.

It isn’t the only music in the game, and the intro narration is very nice, as is the pixel art. But the pixel-art is often obscured by darkness, and stylistic goodness is more than counterbalanced by what a tedious slog this feels.

The Mad Welshman has seen many things. Perhaps too many. Over many games, the monicker has become more and more accurate. IA! IA! D’Signu B’et’a!

BEACON (Early Access Review 2)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £14.99
Where To Get It: Steam, Itch.IO
Version Reviewed: 2.01

With Beacon on the Steam store, and just a few versions left until release, it may well be a good idea to see what’s cookin’ with Freja Akiyama, Security Runner for the Shoraiteku Corporation.

Look at her, Captain… Isn’t she beautiful?

Ah. Yes, I remember now, what’s cooking, or, more accurately, long since cooked, is Freja Akiyama Mark 1. At the time of writing this sentence, poor Freja is at Mk 49, and very attractive she looks too with her insectile maw, robot legs, and bony spatulate tail. Welcome to Corporate Futurist Dystopia, folks, where not even death is necessarily going to end your contract. Download your mind to the core system (if it still survives, which, thankfully, it did), fire up the clone bank, and bam, you’re ready to either do or die for the cause of getting off the planet and getting back to work!

Mostly die, though, it must be said. But, as with some games of this genre, it’s the journey that counts, seeing what odd secrets you can uncover, weapons you can play with, and the new ways the game mercilessly attempts to beat you down. That sounds unappealing at first, but, oddly, it’s the journey, not the destination, that fascinates me with Beacon. A journey that begins with a disaster, and heads very quickly into an evocative alien world of three factions: The robots-with-DNA of the PRISM corporation (There is, I’m informed, a wee note to be discovered that lampshades the oddity behind this), the native Solus (assorted bugs, slimes, and beasties), and the Flauros (They of the flames, and the pointy stars, and goat-skulls.) It is perhaps unfortunated that they all hate you, albeit for differing reasons (Corporate Security, Territorial Instinct, and ???), but, thankfully, they also hate each other, and, in some areas, you can take advantage of this.

The antibodies of a Solus Stomach are… Well, I’m sure they’re to scale…

So, so far, so twinsticky, roguesortakindalike, and incremental. So what makes this one interesting for me? Well, it’s a combination of aesthetics, secrets, and how it plays the incremental game. Everything, you see, is lost once you die (Except archives, which you can look at in the main menu, although I’d still say collect everything you can see during a run), from guns, to knowledge, to, most importantly, the DNA you collect to affect your stats. And that’s important because, while you can get so far on normal stats, getting further does require a little extra oomph, and the oomph from your DNA changes (good and bad) and the mutations only take you so far. If you didn’t mutate, the genes don’t seem to hang around, and if you do, well, those mutations only last a run or two without boosting, and once they’re done, both the mutation and the stat changes are gone. It sounds like it shouldn’t work, but it not only works, it provides interest to each run.

Similarly, as mentioned, the world is this evocative, low poly landscape, that feels alive. It also feels intruded upon, with crates, mining lasers, and all sorts of gubbins left by the PRISM corporation, but even when it isn’t, bones litter the landscape, there are biomes. It never really lets you forget that it’s a level, and the optimal path is to explore as much as humanly possible (for chances at DNA, as new DNA leads to chances at bigger, meatier guns), but the secrets tie into the logic of the world, and I love that. In the PRISM held areas, it might be a set of energy repeaters you have to blow up to open a door or turn on a jump pad. In the more natural Solus landscape, it might be taking advantage of natural features like forcefully popping swamp bubbles to propel yourself the right way, and not all of them give you multiple chances at it. Case in point, some require destroying rot plants, and being propelled upwards from the explosion of poisonous gases. Screw that up, and… Well, the plants are gone. The cloud has probably dissipated by the time you land, but you lost your chance at a secret.

That is, for context, a really big worm.

Beacon, in short, is relatively close to being finished (with a roadmap clearly laid out for the final versions), has been looking interesting from early on, and, barring unlikely mishaps, I could probably leave it here well enough on release.

I won’t, because there’s at least one more act of the game to come. But yes, Beacon is already hecka interesting.

The Mad Welshman Mk 53 stepped out of his pod, and checked his emai-

…The Mad Welshman Mk 54 stepped out of his pod, and-

Baba Is You (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £11.39 (£2.09 soundtrack)
Where To Get It: Steam

Baba is Love. Baba is Win. Baba is also frustrating at times, but thankfully, it sets out its mindbending premise succinctly, and Baba has Charm.

The world is pretty big, although completing all puzzles is by no means mandatory. Thankfully.

Effectively, Baba is You is one of those tile-based, turn-based puzzle games where your conundrums lie in the forms of combinations of game rules. Something has to be YOU, and if it isn’t… Well, crap (Although one potential workaround is to have a thing that has you in it, or to have multiple YOU to work with.) Something, equally, is WIN, although it’s not always defined at the beginning. And, to make matters more interesting, words in these simple rule phrases can be pushed around like objects. So long as YOU reach the WIN, it’s fair game, and, while not all puzzles have multiple solutions, some definitely do.

Things start relatively simple, but believe me, it doesn’t stay that way.

Which quite neatly leads me to how pretty much all of the problems I have with it are purely subjective, and temporary, leaving me with not much except to slap “Does What It Says On The Tin.” Some of the puzzles too difficult? Nah, I’m pretty sure that’s me not getting it. These aren’t your simple logic problems I’m comfortable with, these are “What rules, in what order, expressed in this specific way, get me to my goal”, and a fair amount of that is lateral thinking. The wobble of the screen can be turned off, and a grid can be added to help you think it out more easily. Everything is clear, and, as to the seizure warnings I had, I’m again pretty sure I can chalk that up to my secondary trigger of “Word/Math puzzles”, as opposed to any flashing or patterns (Yes, I had similar problems with Alphabear. Epilepsy with both primary and secondary triggers being things I enjoy, by the way, does indeed suck, thanks for asking.)

That’s… A lotta rules. o.O

And what that leaves me with, is, essentially, a clear game, that clearly sets out what it basically wants you to do, gives you the tools to do it, and steps aside to let you enjoy its low-fi aesthetic, its cute things that you don’t want to blow up (but sometimes have to), and its puzzles, which, hard or no, are pretty well designed in that nothing is really wasted. I can tell you it’s relatively cheap, and all the things, I’ve said, but all that’s really left is that this comes recommended. Baba is Win.

The Mad Welshman scratches his head. WELSHMAN is WRITE, and WELSHMAN is DRAW. But WELSHMAN is not Y- [pop]

Touhou – Luna Nights (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £13.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Oh, Remilia Scarlet, you’re such a card! Creating an entire alternate universe to play violent games with your maid, importing people from the actual world of Gensokyo for… Reasons. Most of us would make a game, or tell a story. You put your murder-maid in a metroidvania situation for funsies.

Metroidvanias generally are and aren’t, Sakuya. Don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it.

Hello, yes, welcome to Gensokyo, which has had perhaps more misunderstanding based fights, bullheadedness based battles, and apocalyptic events caused by selfishness than Marvel Comics. Or, more accurately, welcome to an alternate Gensokyo, seemingly crafted for the sole purpose of being a Touhouvania for the entertainment of the protagonist’s bored, listless vampire employer(s).

Honestly, of the Touhou games, this has one of the more interesting stories, as the Scarlet Devils appear to have learned to become a tadge more responsible in their shenanigans, and there is, under the silliness, a story worth playing through for, if you’re into this sort of game. What would probably turn people off, however, is the one thing that isn’t really a fault of the game: That it is, indeed, bullet hell.

The first boss eases you in, but by the end, safe-spots are… Small.

Less bullet hell than many Touhou games, it’s true, but the patterns of the bosses definitely require memorisation and tactical thought more than your average Castlevania type game, and I was stuck, for the longest while, on Marisa, the second boss whose side-gimmick of “Stop your timestop” clouds was annoying to deal with. Not impossible, none of it is impossible, and the nature of bullet-hell means that it’s not all that twitchy either (Relying more on, as noted, knowing safe spots for each enemy pattern more than hectic dodgery), but it can be a turnoff for folks, and I respect that.

Otherwise, though, this is a solid game. Movement is tight, with interesting options, the core gimmick (Sakuya’s time stop ability) makes for some cool puzzles (Including the fact that water can be both a help and a hindrance when time is still, and not everything being affected), it tutorialises moderately well, and, as with many a Touhou game, fan-group created or otherwise, the music is excellent and the sound work is moderately good. Aesthetically, animations are good, and the telegraphing works very well, so… Apart from the potential genre turnoff, there’s very little fault to be found, and a fair amount of enjoyment.

Graze… Magic Bonus… Graze… Magic Bonus…

I’ve had a fun time with Luna Nights, and, despite being bad at Touhou games, this is definitely one I want to finish. If I were to pull some crit, the map screen isn’t as useful as it potentially could be, but when that’s the only criticism I can really find? Well, that’s always nice to be able to say!

Okay, so I got a bit annoyed with the graze/bonus loop, but that’s a niggle.