Tales of the Neon Sea: Chapters 1-3 (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price:
£13.49
Where To Get It: Steam

Ah, how adventure games have grown. Sometimes forward, sometimes sideways… Sometimes, they take lessons from earlier eras. I mostly like Tales of the Neon Sea, because it’s using old puzzles, and one of the oldest forms of adventure game stylings (The side-on, almost platformerish adventure), and making an interesting noirish story with it.

Remembering that robots are now sentient… Trafficking is entirely the right word. Eugh.

It helps that there is at least one section that is entirely from the viewpoint of a cybernetic cat. That, I feel, is a big draw in and of itself.

It is the noir future (Eh? Ehhhh?!?), and you are Rex, a down on his luck, psychic robot, in a world where robots and humans… Sort of co-exist. Suffice to say, bigotry is alive and well. A murder of a little old lady leads… Well, interesting places. To a robotic serial killer. To a cat mafia. To meddling in a very important election. And, on a more day to day level, disassembling your household appliances because you can’t afford to fix your helper robot properly.

We will have need of that courage and respect, if the Families are to prosper, my friend…

Aesthetically, the game works quite well. Its pixel art is clear, and its text clearer, with context sensitive options, and, if you’re hitting E to examine and/or use like a wally, some fun hidden descriptions. Its grime contrasted with the bright lights fits the mood well, its character design is solid, and its music… Ah, atmospheric and fitting. A few of its puzzles (Mainly light/cable switching) could do with some colour-blindness support, but, overall, it’s visually pretty accessible, with a simple control scheme, and, while some segments have timing based elements, it’s mostly good for not being twitchy too.

In fact… It is, it must be said, a little slow paced. It’s a deliberate slow pace, a design choice, and I respect that, but when puzzles, especially later on, become these large, sprawling affairs, and even the run is a light jog, I can understand that would be a turn-off for some folks. However, the puzzles mostly fit in their world (Nothing really felt like a Resident Evil Lock, just… Security and some shoddy in-world workmanship), and the writing… The writing is enjoyable. Mostly light hearted, sometimes absurd, it nonetheless puts on the frighteners and those tense moments when it needs to.

“Why don’t you try adjusting the phase? That’s the… Rightmost dial…”

Overall, I’d say that Tales of the Neon Sea is a solid adventure, an interesting hybrid of traditional inventory hustling, platform puzzling, and just straight up puzzles. It should be noted that Tales of the Neon Sea is an episodic game, and, as such, the story is not quite complete (the later chapters are apparently releasing in the fall, so I shall take a look then), but there’s definitely a fair amount of play here, an interesting world, and I look forward to seeing more.

The Mad Welshman loves a good puzzle. He loves good robots. And he loves cats. So you might have to take this review with a grain of saline crystal or two.

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Nowhere Prophet (Early Access Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: To Be Released soon. (Was $19.99)
Where To Wishlist It: Itch.IO , Steam

Nowhere Prophet continues to impress. And frustrate. Its world is intriguing, its difficulty mostly solid at this point, even if those rare exceptions… Frustrate the hell out of me. Still, that’s something to get to, so let’s backtrack a second and remind ourselves about Nowhere Prophet overall.

Each area of the route is predominantly of a single faction, although events are common to all areas.

Nowhere Prophet is an Indian themed post-apocalypse (Untouchables stand side by side with cybernetic horrors, and Rajs with mutated beasts), in which you, a Prophet, hear the last, garbled words of a fallen “star” (Satellite), and set out for the Crypt, the Promised Land which may or may not have the power to heal this ruined world. You set out with disciples, facing the world, and trying to balance your own health, and the efficacy, health, and morale of your followers. It’s a battle of attrition, as only perfection will allow you to escape the fights and trials unscathed… And these are many, while you and your followers are… Not so many.

Since I last took a look at Nowhere Prophet, it’s actually mostly done, with a closed beta until release. Areas are in, the intro and map have been spruced up, and there is, generally speaking, the more I had been curious about last time. It still hasn’t got an amazing amount of variety music wise, but the music that’s there is good, the visuals are both clear and striking, and the events mostly interesting and adding a little to the world, with extra possibilities unlocked by certain types of followers, number of followers or batteries (the currency of the world), or your level in the three philosophies (Believers, Scholars, or Altruists.)

This is bad. This is very bad. Yup.

Combat, meanwhile, is a Hearthstone like affair where, each turn, you have a limited pool of energy from which to summon followers and effects, which grows each turn (or with certain abilities), a limited battlefield in which (mainly) only frontliners can attack, and interesting obstacles and items on the field, such as Soft Cover, which gives health to those summoned nearby, or Acid Plants, which, if destroyed, also damage the entire column they’re on. Killling the enemy leader wins you the battle, while if your Prophet is killed… Well, game over. And, over time, you grow more familiar with what lies where, and what factions have which sorts of decks.

And this, funnily enough, is where the frustration sometimes happens. You see, some Elite and Boss decks are nasty, and, regardless of how far I’ve come, meeting these particular ones can be a slow, demoralising death. The Barrier Swarm (Rusters, the Cyborg/Robot faction.) The ArmourBoi (Union of the Five Fingers.) The Endless Taunt (Feral Wanderers, the bandit/beast faction.) These three decks in particular are annoying, because… Well, there’s seemingly not that much that consistently counters them, and their entire focus is “No, you can’t, in fact, hit me, you got more to worry about.” And, since they’re on Bosses and Elites, well… You’d have to do a lot of damage to take them out before they get going.

YOU’RE NOT WRONG, TOOTHY ONE!

But this, essentially, is more of a gripe than anything else, and I can relatively consistently get to at least the third map, with still more to explore, such as Daily Challenges, and, of course, working out how to unlock various tribes and leaders, for more deck exploration. Nowhere Prophet remains pretty interesting, and I’m happy to report that.

Normally, I would wait until release. But I noticed that I hadn’t reviewed in a while, and it has changed… Quite a bit!

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Ritual of the Moon

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £13.49
Where To Get It: Steam

Being ostracised, for whatever reason, is… Painful. If you have any kind of mental health condition, it becomes that much worse, as you’re cut off from support networks, and what’s left is your own mind… Which might not be the friendliest to begin with. And, funnily enough, this can sometimes impact on your day to day remembering of doing things. Little things or big, it can… Just get forgotten.

There is also, interestingly, a third option. But that’s a seeeecret.

The Ritual of the Moon is a game played in five minute chunks, once per day, for 28 days, and then… You begin again. It remembers when you last played, and if you happen to miss a day? Well… We’ll get back to that.

You see, you’re a witch. Banished from Earth, to the Moon, you have the power to save the Earth from the daily bombardments from space of comets, and it doesn’t even take you that long. You look at the Earth, musing about your exile. You enter your module, preparing the ritual (By clicking objects and mouse dragging a line over stars to make shapes), the comet starts arriving, and you drag it away. Or into the Earth a little harder, that’s your choice.


Sometimes, those we trust turn on us. And that hurts.

But you are alone. Your imprisonment was unfair. Close partners and friends betrayed you to whatever hateful regime did this… And you are alone, uncertain if you’ll even have the oxygen to last out the month. And, since the game relies on your participation… Well, sometimes, you will forget. And each time you forget, people die. Forget enough, and the Earth dies. This burden is also unfair.

So… How do you react? The dialogue makes it clear that the Witch, nameless, alone, is bitter, and angry… But she also doubts, and clearly is unhappy. Every time you forget, she reminds you “Not doing anything is as good as doing it myself.”

It’s short, and simple… But that’s its charm. It’s also very direct about its subject matter. Ostracism for who you are, depression, and isolation, while still having a burden to the society that pushed you out. The unfairness of that, and the choices you make. I chose to try and save the Earth. I wasn’t perfect. I forgot. And so the Earth was saved, but cratered, its seas dried. It was a bittersweet victory, as my reward was… To go back and do it all again. Forever.


MOOD.

I can’t say Ritual of the Moon is one of those “Fun” games. It’s a game which reflects you, to a certain extent. But it’s a game where I appreciate its tight, minimalist design, its mood, and its aesthetic.

The Mad Welshman is always available for hugs, for Witches and Warlocks in need of comfort.

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Talisman: Origins (Review)

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

Talisman is one of those games that, honestly, shouldn’t really have been made as much as it has. It’s not at Blood Bowl levels of “Oh, that’s just milking it now”, but… When the main thing I can say about Talisman: Origins is that it’s “Talisman: Digital Edition, but single player, and with story”, or “It’s Talisman: Prologue, but more expensive and with story/quests” , I kind of have to throw my hands up a bit.

This is now something like the third time I have seen this exact board. And, on reflection… I ask myself Why?

So, for those who don’t know Talisman, it’s an old Games Workshop board game, with elements reminiscent of Warhammer Fantasy (Eagle Lords, grim cities, dark magical artefacts), but its own, High fantasy world. You travel around the board, looking to reach the Crown of Power, the tile in the middle of the board, strengthening yourself, weakening others, occasionally running into trouble, and, because it’s not a game that really does progression (normally), every so often running into a string of unwinnable situations, swearing, and mentally flipping a table. It had a number of expansions, each one alone with interesting twists and scenarios, but, all together? A recipe for minutiae, and backstabbing, and many, many dice rolls.

I tried Talisman: Digital once with all the expansions. That was… An experience. See, the digital editions of the game have, with even one AI player, a certain amount of waiting for them to decide what to do. Even without, there’s dice rolling, waiting for animations, noise cues… It wants to be as clear as possible, but no, you do not get any option to skip said animations and cues and things that slow it down. It is, generally speaking, a game you play with friends, understanding friends who won’t get angry at you when its old school, adversarial play gets the better of them, and where conversation definitely helps it go smoother.

“An Epic tale, as told by dice rolls that can just as easily harm the narrative as help it!”

As such, you can maybe imagine my confusion. And this is as someone who likes hotseat 4X games and board game adaptations where yes, you can play by yourself. Talisman’s lore is… Not particularly deep (It is, essentially, a “chase’n’race” board-game with fantasy trappings and a lot of randomness), and adding lore doesn’t really make any of its shenanigans make more sense. And this, essentially, is where I find myself: Trying to work out where the audience lies here.

Does it really appeal to the folks who already have Talisman: Digital Edition? There’s nothing new animation wise, I’m pretty sure there’s not much new card-wise, and, as I’ve alluded to, Talisman’s expansions are… A lot. Does it, then, appeal to somebody new to Talisman? I’d argue no, because the lore is mostly unreferenced outside of this game (Apart, obviously, from the Crown of Power), and its first tutorial alone took me about half an hour (And not, it must be said, a terribly exciting half an hour.) It does, somewhat, prepare players for the PvP core of the game with AI characters, but… The same experience could be had hotseat. What it adds are lore, quests, and challenges, and… Honestly, that’s not the biggest of niches.

As it turns out, this Great Wizard has Weakness to Ghost types.

So, overall, Talisman: Origins just… Leaves me confused. With other games, I can clearly point and go “Ah, here’s this interesting core” or “Ah, I can see where this is appealing to X”, and, with this… If there were no DLC for the thing planned, I’d say “This is a cheaper alternative to the main Talisman, as the DLC for that comes to around ninety quid”, but I’m not certain about that, considering how even Talisman: The Horus Heresy (It’s 40K themed, less visually readable cousin) has about 9 DLC. The biggest draw of Talisman has always been the social aspect to it, and so… All the “for” arguments I can think of are rather weak.

The Mad Welshman doesn’t enjoy being confused. It is his least favourite status effect outside of “Hangry-Thirsty.”

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Invisible Fist (Review)

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

The Invisible Fist of Capitalism. It stands ready, waiting to grind you down under its knuckles, to pummel you with sudden charges and unexpected disasters. It feels nothing, being an idea, and yet, it’s an idea that hates you, yes, you, personally. You cannot bring enough to its gaping, central maw to satisfy it, so it will destroy you, singly or in groups. Welcome to Late Stage Capitalism.

That’s… a $15 film ticket. The film could at least not be shit for that price.

So yes, this is another one of those games that has the content warning “Too Fuckin’ Real”, even with deliberate parody. Joy of joys. I needed that in my life right now. And this, funnily enough, is Invisible Fist’s biggest obstacle to success: It does what it sets out to do a little too well.

Okay, let’s unpack that: Invisible Fist is a turn-based, resource management game where your opponent is the Invisible Fist of Capitalism. As one of three characters (In fact, for a while, it will only be one of three characters, more on that in a moment), you attempt to survive, as long as you can, and maybe, just maybe, fight the fucking thing off you.

Suffice to say, what with that “Too fuckin’ real” comment, the odds are not in your favour. Even as your starting character, a douchebag startup techbro who is trying to create and market MONA, Mother of the New Age, an AI claimed to be for “Millennials who need new mommies” (Yes, he’s a sickening shitlord, ignorant of the fact that yes, he’s a Millennial too), while meeting the demands of both capitalism… And his own, clinging mother (Do you, perhaps, see where he might be projecting a bit?)

Funnily enough, the Announcer works best when the excesses are, in and of themselves, ridiculous.

So… Starting as a rich kid exploiting his workforce, blind to the ills of capitalism could easily be described as “Oooh, aren’t they bold?”, but… No matter who they would have started as, the tone of the game itself would have made this one emotionally draining. Considering the other two are “Self made college student selling weed to get by” and “Indian Factory Worker far from their family and lover”? Yeah, this wasn’t going to be easy. And it could all too easily emotionally backfire, considering… The Announcer.

The Announcer is the fucknugget who enjoys watching the world burn. He’s the shitheel gatekeeper, the Trololol asshole… And his insufferable, hateful spin on things very often veers into “Okay, the writers need to take a fuckin’ step back and seriously consider this guy.” Put it like this… Techbro’s techy startup is emblematic of the worst excesses, just like seemingly everything in this game, and so… Oh look, let’s add a content warning here for a random chance of “Mentions of Non-consensual Sex”, shall we?

There’s a lotta layers to this asshole, and they’re all made of dog turd.

Of course, unlocking a new character means new challenges. For example, Rena, the student, has limited funds, and her work options… Well, they don’t always make the bucks that are worth your time. And relaxing costs money. It nearly always costs money. Or health in terms of her pet cat sometimes deciding that no, it wants to roughhouse (nastily) instead of be scratched behind the ears delightfully.

Individual games of Invisible Fist go by quickly, but only by doing well, by meeting its (sometimes deliberately bullshit) challenges, and by defeating the Fist with good work-play balance, can you earn… Two, more difficult challenges. Interesting ones, and with the same level of social commentary (Spun by the Announcer in as shitty a way as possible, sometimes even if you nail it), but… Yeah, this game gets too damn real sometimes, in uncomfortable ways. So… Well designed, in that sense.

The Mad Welshman isn’t sure what to add. The shittiness of Capitalism kinda speaks for itself.

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