Simmiland (Review)

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

If there’s one thing that God games have taught me, it’s that being a God is hard. So much to manage, so little time, so many plates, just spinning in line… But, more recently, God games like Crest, Reus,and now Simmiland, have brought me to the conclusion that while being a God is hard, it’s not helped by humans. Demanding, contrarian, and often hard to teach humans.

(Citation Needed)

It also doesn’t help when the Manual for Good Godding gets mislaid.

Simmiland is, in essence, a real-time, puzzle God-game. You have cards, most of which have different effects on different biomes of the randomly generated world, and placing cards (Starting with your humans) takes Belief. From there, it’s working out what, placed where, gets the results you want. For example, minerals on grass gives you bog standard rock, useful for setting up. But placing rock in the ocean gets you coral, which, after you’ve researched medicine, needs to be Inspected for better medicine.

I’m not quite sure yet what Plague teaches my little Simmians, but it sure is cathartic when I get frustrated.

Sometimes, nuking something from orbit is the only way to be sure. And yes, there is a reason for this. A confusing reason… But a reason.

Nonetheless, the clock is ticking, and the clock is the size of your deck. So, at first, The End is guaranteed, you harvest belief based on what you managed to achieve, buy more God Cards at the God Shop, look at your compendium…

…And start all over. Aesthetically, the game is simple, but this doesn’t necessarily translate into being accessible. Cards in certain spots in your hand, for example, become a little difficult to select, be that for playing them, or selling them for belief in the tighter moments. The Compendium is the main source of remembering what a card does, and… You can’t see that from in-game. Two windows (Camp, and Wishes) are recommended to be open a fair bit of the time (Wishes all of the time, in fact, as they give you belief), but they clutter up the view. So part of the difficulty comes from struggling to remember what does what on your eventual, ideal path. Achievements at the end do help somewhat with this, giving you goals to shoot towards, but part of the “fun” is in finding out how the heck to get to these rewards.

Thing is, I can’t deny it isn’t interesting, for the same reason I found Reus interesting. Bashing things together to see what does what, building up a picture of the path I want, then aiming for it. But I also can’t deny it can’t be a frustrating experience. Human demands are sometimes very specific, and sometimes include things you just don’t know how to do yet. Heck, sometimes, it includes things that are a little irritating to do, like tropical biomes (Three suns, followed by a rain, presumably in a grass biome),or avoiding locking yourself into some dead ends. Individual games are short (Around 10 to fifteen minutes at most), but getting those achievements, those endings, that progress… That takes time.

Why… Why would you even wish for that? WHY?!?

A cool experiment in doing God Games a little differently, with elements that frustrate, and others that somewhat confuse (Why, precisely, does having a church limit your Simmians IQ to 120?)…Worth checking out, considering its price, but some unintuitive elements do bring it down somewhat.

The Mad Welshman reminds all those who haven’t discovered the secret of fire to Bang The Rocks Together, Folks!

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Book of Demons (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £19.99
Where To Get It: Steam

It’s not often I mention a game’s trailer in a review… But Book of Demons is notable in that yes, it lets you know, ahead of time, that you’re going to get “jokes”, and a game that is, essentially, Diablo with the numbers filed off, with a strained meter to boot.

The Rogue. Still one of the more viable characters of the game.

Thanks, Paperverse, for making it clear in a review trailer some of the reasons I don’t recommend you before I’ve even written the release review.

Anyway, Book of Demons, as noted, is, at its base level, Diablo with the numbers filed off. The Bishop is now the Pope. The Butcher is now The Cook (And, if anything, is an even more annoying fight.) The Deckard Cain expy does exactly what you’d expect, except with references. But a lot of what’s different about Book of Demons… Isn’t exactly great. Like the try-hard, shitty humour. Hahaha, what a hated person this Gypsy Fortune Teller is! Hey Barmaid, do you remember the time when, or remember the time when, or remem- You get the picture.

Multi-stage boss who summons enough high HP adds that fighting them is mandatory damage (and poison)? Not the best design choice, is it?

Rather than a relatively open field, this only applies to monsters, whereas you are restricted to going along paths. Mandatory damage is rife, at least partly because of this, and partly because of enemies that require shields destroyed, or spawn enemies on being hit, or become faster and more damaging precisely because you were efficient at killing them. Ranged enemies can target you from off-screen, and if, funnily enough, they are in two of the four cardinal directions you can potentially move in… Saaaay… The same two cardinal directions you are allowed to move in down a corridor… Congratulations, eat more mandatory damage.

Aesthetically, it looks alright. But while the original stated goal was to add accessibility to games like Diablo, its changes are not,functionally speaking, all that different. Indeed, clicking multiple times on an opponent is technically worse than “Hold Left Mouse over enemy to attack it”, being restricted to certain areas of movement while enemies are not is technically worse than “Can move anywhere anything else can move”, and writing wise… Well, it’s a tired, uninspired clone with added “humour” that, most of the time, just isn’t funny.

TOTALLY NOT THE BUTCHER. NOPE. DEFINITELY NOT.

I started mildly curious, and somewhat sceptical about Book of Demons. And now, on release… Its papery aesthetic is a good metaphor for how thin it feels. For everything it’s reduced, it’s added tedium and frustration.

Paperverse is an apt name. Alas, perhaps not for the reasons the developers intended.

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Endhall (Review)

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

Robots just seem to get the short end of the stick sometimes. Here,in the Endhall, we’re faced with a robot that is tempted, oh so tempted, by all the sights it’s been shown, but noooo, to see those sights, they have to fight their way through a crumbling hall of murder robots, mines, and turrets, with limited resources. Killing regains battery power, which double as health and turn-timer, and, after each successful area, you get to pick an ability to add to your deck, while never improving in base statistics.

Looking relatively grim, as if any but the top guy get to me, I’m almost dead. Luckily, I have FIRE.

And that, essentially, is everything mechanical about the game except for spoilers, that there’s ten levels in each run, and your starting moves, which are always the same. So… It’s minimalist turn-based strategy. Cool!

Aesthetically it looks alright, the music’s fine, what writing there is clearly lays out its short narrative… No move feels completely useless (Although some, such as Small Move, are more situational than most), and I never felt, when beginning a level, that it was impossible to complete, usually spotting where I’d screwed up a couple of turns before my demise.

Landmines… Free, take 1 damage to deal 2 damage before something can reach you. If you’ve judged their pathing right.

Beyond that, it’s small, it’s tight, it does what it says on the tin, and what’s left are gripes. Namely that the tooltips for the enemy health aren’t always that readable (dark red… Argh), and that time-bombs counting as enemies is frustrating in layouts where they aren’t useful as environmental damage. Worth a look if you like minimalist pixel strategy titles.

Due to the fact individual runs are short, The Mad Welshman is amused to note that a third of his screenshots taken are, technically, SPOILERS.

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Katamari Damacy: Re-Rolled (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £15.99
Where To Get It: Steam.

It says a lot about how well Katamari Damacy has aged that, years after its original release, I still sing along to Katamari on the Rocks with the same enthusiasm as when I first heard it, and I just nodded when the keyboard controls were WASD for left stick, IJKL for right stick.

Ugh, SERIOUSLY, DAD? DO YOU KNOW HOW DENTED MY KATAMARI IS CLEANING UP AFTER YOU?!?

And, of course, when it came time to play again, I swore in much the same places.

For those who never saw Katamari Damacy before now, it’s a fun arcade game in which you, one of the Princes of All Cosmos, are cleaning up your dad’s mess (He broke all the stars in the sky), by rolling a sticky ball around the Earth, gathering up as many items as possible in a time limit to create new stars. Anything the same size as your Katamari can’t be picked up, anything bigger than you actively knocks items off your Katamari when they hit you (or vice versa), slightly smaller things may take two rolls, one to knock them over, another to pick them up.

Why yes, a lot of the things you roll up are people. I’m sure they’re fine with being turned into a star!

Although part of this is that “Collect Specific Object” levels can be devious. That’s not a Swan at all!

In any case, this is essentially a remake, fixing some of the problems of the earlier, and, at the time, somewhat ambitious game, while retaining everything else. A light hearted soundtrack,varying from triumphant a-capella, to smooth and jazzy. A solid, low-poly aesthetic, even carried into its animated cutscenes, where the strangely cuboid family witness the events from a slightly different perspective. Even the interesting writing, which varies from light-hearted, to light-hearted covering a darker side (The King of All Cosmos is, overall, a terrible dad at this early point in the series. And, you know, turning Earth into a variety of stars, piece by piece, in order to fix the mistakes of the parent.)

Improved, meanwhile, is a bit of responsiveness, adding keyboard controls (Although this is one of those games which was definitely designed for twin-stick gamepads, and so, it’s preferable to play with one),and takes advantage of the extra performance it can squeeze out so that the larger, more filled levels no longer slow things down.Which, overall, means it’s a solid rebuild of a classic and interesting game with a unique aesthetic, and no more needs to be said, right?

NEWS: Strange King Hangs Over Earth. Also Some Stars Came Back.

Not quite, although what’s left are, essentially, annoyances. Video and sound settings are not accessible until the tutorial is completed, and the game essentially throws you right in. Beyond this,however, there’s enough quality of life improvements, and the game’s formula remains pretty fresh, that yes, even for £16, I would recommend Katamari Damacy fans give this rebuild a go, be that on PC,or on the other platforms it’s released on. Even the local multiplayer has been preserved.

The Mad Welshman appreciates a good aesthetic. Almost as much as he approves of the wanton, joyful chaos.

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Mad Crown (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £6.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Mad Crown is an interesting roguelike, coming with its own art style and quirks. It’s also a game where having a friend who’s playing the game too can really come in handy, as once you lose your items (due to Total Party Kill), your options are “Share a code and hope someone picks your stuff up” or “Share a code with a friend who’ll pick your stuff up.”

“BOW BEFORE YOUR NEW MASTER. Also give me all your stuff and run back to your camp yelling how great I am. Long live Lamda Omicron Lambda!”

There’s also the third one of “Ask Seggie to pick your stuff up”, but that rapidly goes into silly money territory. My Chapter 3 team, for example, lost their stuff, and that option now costs 3800 gold for them.

The story of Mad Crown is fairly traditional stuff in the modern day. Long ago, there was a crown, created by God, to grant wisdom. Now it’s vanished, and tentacley horrors with about as many eyes as they have teeth abound. Go get that Crown, it totally won’t have been cursed, and definitely won’t be the source of said horrors! But, honestly, it’s not the writing that really grabs me. It’s how it does its difficulty, and its aesthetics, that really work for me. Let’s start with the difficulty.

Essentially, as you progress through the dungeon, you accumulate Fel, a nasty, toxic goop that serves as a danger level. Let it get too high, and traps become more common, monsters get nastier, and you’ll, more often than not, be facing overlevelled opponents. It can be reduced, but you’re essentially balancing speeding through the dungeon (And not quite getting enough levelups or kit for the boss), and going carefully (More items, more levels, but you risk being underequipped.)

Some of the item descriptions, themselves, are quite good. Yes, throw that money, bask in that money, moneyyyyyeaah!

Now add in that, if monsters kill each other (A thing that can happen) … They level up. Significantly. It’s somewhat of a shock to suddenly see a level 7 creature triple its levels, and become your own personal nightmare. Sprinkle in some enemies immune to physical damage later on (The Gellyfish), monsters that steal your gold and run away, a lot of creatures having multiple attacks and status inflictions (Including Confusion), and you have something where thinking tactically is a baseline, and, by the halfway point of the storyline, becomes what is technically known as “Bastard hard.”

Is that a bad thing? It’s a tough call, because, as mentioned, your mileage on this will depend on if you have a friend or two who plays along, and can have your back, rescuing your stuff. If not, it becomes annoying as hell by the “halfway through the main plot” point (Let alone the later dungeons which add things that need to be identified.)

Still, its aesthetic adds just enough to keep it in the Recommended category, as it’s a somewhat unique one. Monsters look somewhat cartoonish, as do the characters, but it’s a style not seen elsewhere, and the music is calm when it needs to be, and hard, driven guitar when fights start. The cutscenes have a cool ink look to them, and, while there’s still a little jankiness in the translation, the Mandarin narration is interesting.

The Gellyfish. He’s an annoying little squib, especially if he’s on the front row. Smack him with guns and magic.

Overall, while Mad Crown’s mileage definitely depends on whether you’ve got a friend to play with you (or how much you like grinding through the midgame, ala Etrian Odyssey or other Nintendo-Hard RPGs), I quite like it. It does interesting things with its difficulty, it makes the threat of the monsters more than just their attack values, and this, combined with a cool aesthetic, make it a relatively solid game. Just… One that doesn’t pretend it isn’t hard.

The Mad Welshman appreciates a good experiment. Whether it fails or not, it adds a little to the phasespace of “What if?” developers can think about. I like that.

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