Hot Lava (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £15.49
Where To Get It: Steam
Other Reviews: Early Access

When I first looked at Hot Lava, I very much enjoyed its first person platforming. I even expressed that it was one hell of a shock that I was, because, generally speaking, first person platforming puzzles are bollocks, and most people remember them unfondly. But no, I stand by that. The first person platforming is fun. I also stand by the GATS theme being bad. Sorry, Klei.

You will perhaps grow to hate this sister. But it’s not, strictly speaking, her fault.

So… Several areas now exist, each with 6 levels to complete, and, in each of them, you are, essentially, trying to get to the end by jumping on things that aren’t lava. Jumping on, or into lava is obviously bad. Falling too far is obviously bad. Being fast is good. And, to be fair, there’s a fair few ways you can go faster, each with their pros and cons.

For example, you can use Hot Lava’s variation on the bunny hop, where you leap, then both turn and strafe in a direction to pick up speed . The downsides of this are that it takes skill to pull off consistently, and it changes your route precisely because you’re going faster. Then there’s the usual thing of a tighter line (can I skip this tiny jump for this slightly bigger one that gets me where I need to go), and the final one that, so long as you know where the final checkpoint is, you can go straight there, skipping checkpoints along the way (The problem being, of course, that it’s longer between checkpoints, or maybe no checkpoints at all, so I hope you got it right!)

The fake loot boxes have, as far as I’m aware, been removed, replaced with “You get customisations for getting stars in missions”, although the collectibles are still there: Cards, both in lava world, and the normal one, and hidden GATS comics and golden pins in the levels themselves. You can even, once you’ve found the mini science-project style mountain, enter the lava world to just explore and get those cards, with no time pressure.

The Gym is, honestly, not a bad place. Especially since the pole collisions have somewhat improved. Ignore the time, I was just here for a collectible.

Still… The mention of the two in-level collectibles reminds me of one gripe about the game: a biggie. Chase the thing levels. Always last in the level order, and always painful, even in Early Access, they’re actually somewhat worse now. Before, if you got too far away, you’d lose, but you could still take routes that would catch whatever you were chasing, or even get in front of them. Now… Well, they have a pretty good route, although they all seem to be your sister, constrained by the same things you are, and catching them because you actually got in front of them? No longer counts. It’s a fail state. Not gonna lie, if I was clever enough to get to a route that actually beat said sister? I want that reward.

Without that objective, it’s basically an endurance match: No checkpoints, do it all well in one try, try and do elements of the characters route well enough that you catch them from behind. And the last one in particular, “Chase the Meaning” , can fuck right off. When I’m shaking from trying to do the same first segment twelve times, and know there’s no checkpointing, I’m not having a good time with your obstacle course.

Global Action Team: Bad Idols To Look Up To.

So… Aesthetics and narrative time… Oh, that’s right, there’s a narrative, of sorts. See, the prologue has you going to bed via… Well, playing the game of “Floor is Lava” with your sister. Except… There’s something horrible. And that something horrible scares you on the very last part of your journey… Which happens to be the balcony over the living room. The Global Action Team comics show them to be failures, misinterpreting situations, being gulled easily… Even stealing. And then… Well, suffice to say, I won’t spoil it, but you can possibly guess.

Aesthetically, apart from the aforementioned theme song, the game works well. Everything is clear, including those bits you wish weren’t, the environments are plausible and well crafted, the character models are fun, and the music shifts pretty well from the playful tones… To darker ones… To hard driving ones… To, in some cases, almost silence. And all of them thematically work with the level in question (Oh, and the music is quieter when you’re not running all willy-nilly, a sign you should maybe get moving, squirt!)

Overall, Hot Lava is good, and I would recommend it. I would, however, repeat that the “Chase the” segments can go to hell, and I don’t say such things lightly.

The Mad Welshman will, one day, get all the stars. That day, however, is a long way off. But he has a fair few.

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Aery (Review)

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

Aery interested me the moment I noticed this, and I will freely admit that a big part of it was being an Old. “Hey, wow, this looks like a Psygnosis game, if Psygnosis was still around!” It certainly had a visual flair that reminded me of their earlier, odder titles, and the synthwave music wasn’t a detraction either.

I, too, would like to relearn the art of unpowered flight.

However… I then found my detractions. And they’re biggies. One of them is plausibly a bug (Level 4’s “Got the feather” bell is loud no matter what volume you’ve set), but the two others… Annoy the hell out of me.

Still, before we do that, the game: There is a bird that wants to see the world. They fly. They can roll. And they collect feathers. Their journey is told in short prose before each level, and it’s a relatively short experience, which is nonetheless pleasant. The low-poly worlds are mostly quite interesting, the music is good slow journey music (not too driving, but with a good beat to it.) Said bird controls well, feels like a bird, glides and flaps like a bird, looks like a bird with a golden underside.

Spot the feather. Or, indeed, the bird.

While I am most of the way through it, the two big issues: Firstly, the second level is a nightmare, even for those folks who are not colourblind. The feathers are white. The sea… Is white. And the tops of the blocks wot have feathers on are, for the most part… White. I hope the developers see the problem inherent to this trio of sentences. I did very rapidly. Still, I got through that, and the third, and, on the fourth, I finally realised that a problem in the whole game was a problem. When you die, you are sent back to your starting point. The same starting point that’s a good minute of flight to anything of interest, let alone a feather. I am chill, and I like to chill. But that’s a bit much.

Thing is, it’s not, overall, a bad game. It does what it says on the tin, and, if that second level were fixed, I could pretty much recommend it as “Thing you play to relax, or in short bursts over your lunch break.” It definitely looks good.

Preeeeettteeee…

The Mad Welshman appreciates experiments. Also prog rock.

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Kawaii Deathu Desu (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £2.89
Where To Get It: Steam

Singers, and indeed musicians of all kinds, get groupies. People who fan over them so much that they want to be inappropriate with their adored musician. But in Kawaii Deathu Desu, the handsy fans have invaded perhaps the last stage they should have… The stage of various supernatural Idol Singers, starting with… Death herself.

Yes, Death is an Idol Singer now. And her fans appear to love being reaped.

I’m honestly impressed that I managed to capture a frame that shows both the cutesy Death, and the reapings. Look at those blushy-happy ghosts go!

More accurately, Kawaii Deathu Desu is an extremely twitchy version of One Finger Death Punch, in which you use the left and right mouse buttons or arrow keys to murderise fans, levelling up idols, unlocking idols and their costumes, using their special ability with either space or both arrow keys at once, a thing you can accidentally do if you’re having to really lash out (and you are. Often.) And, funnily enough, it’s that levelling up and unlocking that’s precisely the problem. But we’ll get back to that in a moment.

Aesthetically, it’s an interesting mix of cutesy pixels… And grim pixels, moving seamlessly between both. The Idols are cute, swaying, headbanging, playing to their hearts’ content… Until they strike, whereupon they become horrific weapons of destruction, their fans vanishing into ash, being sliced in two…

I mean, to be fair, a metalhead ashing her fans with the power of SLIME ZOMBIES is, itself, metal as fuck.

And then their ghosts pop up, and most of them have heart eyes, with hearts flashing down from their ruined bodies as they vanish. The music is good, reminiscent of various styles from kitschy J-Pop, to harder tracks, and everything is pretty clear, even down to showing the keyboard controls for the menu only when you’re using the keyboard. I enjoy that. Oh, and the developer splash screen UwU’s you. Shouldn’t forget that.

But gameplay wise, while the core, basic gameplay is mostly alright, the difficulty ramps up way more quickly than the souls you need to level up and buy things does. I have, through sheer bloody mindedness, managed to unlock the second level of China, and Emmy, the second character (A zombie rocker who summons a handsy graveyard of their own as their special), but it feels, right now, as if I have a longer road ahead of me than is enjoyable. While the earlier stages, themselves, still feel enjoyable.

Only… does finger math… Approximately 10400 souls to go before she can deal with the later levels. Damn.

So, overall, I’m conflicted about Kawaii Deathu Desu. I love its mix of cutesy and not-cute-at-all, and its core mechanic works just fine, but it gets twitchy as hell quickly for too little reward, generally speaking, with farming of the earlier levels a must to progress, and that… That annoys me. Maybe it’ll be changed. But right now, it hasn’t, so… Only get this if you’ve read all this, and still want to give it a go.

OwO, what’s this? The Mad Welshman appreciates cutesy death deities.

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Hero Express

Source: Review Copy
Price: £4.49
Where To Get It: Steam

Superhero(in)es are, as has often been proven, less powerful without folks who support them. Without Alfred, the Bat Family, and, of course, Ace, Bruce Wayne would have had a much harder time of things, possibly an impossible one (not to mention the many other folks who helped over the years.) And not all of them are in glorious roles. Mo Schreibnitz, for example, is… taxi driver to The Shadow.

You seriously mean to tell me you forgot? Ohhh boy…

In this particular case, you are a delivery driver, getting items to a superhero who… Regularly forgets them. No, really, the conceit is that he’s forgotten something vital to beating a villain, somehow, and you are meant to deliver it to him. In a very real way, you’re keeping this hero afloat in the business. By driving in a horizontal, 2D environment made of lakes, hills, valleys and assorted other obstacles and physicsy things, trying to get to the end by accelerating, slowing down, reversing, and tilting your vehicle to make sure it doesn’t explode.

You must be this grippy to ride the rollercoaster, kid.

And I think my main problem with this game is that, from the beginning, it’s a tough job. Trials eased you in. Heck, most games of this genre ease you in. But nope, from the outset, the level you start in is loooong. While there are vehicle upgrades, on that old “Each level is more expensive than the last” deal… This isn’t as helpful as, say… Designing the levels around a vehicle? Because, of course, the faster your engine is, the more airtime you get, the more traction you have on surfaces… This adds to what already happens in such games, where a slightly different landing or jump snowballs into changes down the line. Also, a more powerful engine might let you clear a jump more easily… Or it might mean that reversing to get a better run up is too effective, and you fall down a ramp that was going to make you too slow to make that jump in the first place.

It makes less sense that some of the other tracks seem shorter, so… Should be first, right? Well… No, they all have problems. Not least because they’re all different vehicles. Normally, I would say “Oh, great, different challenges, cool!” … But they have little dirty tricks. For example, in the Mamba stage, there are big hills. Big hills, and your allegedly off-road beast… Can’t handle them without upgrades. There are power ups that help… Well, a jump that is sometimes useful, and a cleaning spray that’s only good for if you’ve been hit with rubbish… But mostly, this appears to be a case of “Awww, sorry buddy, only folks with Traction this high can enter!”

Ah yes, the old “replace the chicken in the ritual with a rubber one” trick. The one that’s worked, er… No, I’m sure there’s a pulp story where that actually happened. SIGH.

It is, aesthetically, pretty nice. The music’s good, the tracks clearly signpost what’s bad and what isn’t, what things do make sense, and the hero is rightly portrayed as a berk (Although that he’s a dumpy man is… I don’t know how to feel about that, honestly, and that yes, there’s a stereotypical “Voodoo Queen” villain is… Ehhhhh….) But in terms of play, while I’m sure fans of the harder games of this genre may enjoy it, it’s definitely not a great introduction to such games (Which, to be fair, are often frustrating whether they tutorialise or not. But still…)

As The Mad Welshman is a villain, well… You can guess who he’s rooting for, even if his pride won’t let him lose this damn thing again.

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Pyromind

Source: Review Copy
Price: £2.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Pyromind, in its own words, is a turn based, but also real time action puzzler, in which you are a “Mind” , in a minefield (A… Mindfield? Your groans sustain me), trying to defuse bombs before they go off, reaching a higher and higher score, with more difficult elements, every time you do so. There are two kinds of mines, but there only needs to be two kinds of mines, because a Pobomb (1 square radius) or a chain of them can kill you just as easily as a Limonka (Cross effect across the entire field) or its chain can. Your only saving grace? You can cross from one side of the field to the other.

WHOOPS!

So… That, and the fact you can earn minds (slowly, oh so slowly at first) with their own special abilities (you start with none, obviously) is pretty much the core of things. There’s a time attack mode, a multiplayer battle mode (alas, I can’t say much about that… Not much of a multiplayer guy), and a campaign in the battle arena mode, essentially a CPU vs Player version of the multiplayer mode.

Alas, while single player modes earn gems for new characters, the Battle Arena does not, although the idea is fun: Essentially, the more points a player has over their opponent, the quicker a screen splitting laser moves toward the opponent, and horizontal screen movement isn’t allowed, only vertical.

So, simple to describe, and indeed learn, and not difficult to master, just requires keeping a sharp eye on where bombs are. Still ramps up the difficulty quickly, and I do wish difficulty was selectable once you’d cleared more than one difficulty, but this isn’t really a big flaw. A middling flaw, really.

It’s a variation on the sudden death of other puzzle action games, but I like its touches.

Finally, we have the aesthetic. Everthing except the menu is relatively clear, there’s a fair amount of good music, both tense and charming, and its clean, vector style appeals. As mentioned, the menu could do with more clarity, rather than going fully stylistic as it has (Options and credits are currently the arrow in the top right, tooltip for what the hell something is in the top left.) But, apart from the flaws described, this is a solid title, with an interesting core mechanic, and I’m having fun with it.

The Mad Welshman hates Limonkas. They may have become his newest worst enemy.

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