SnakeyBus (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £7.19
Where To Get It: Steam

Sometimes, the old ones are the best. Pong has somehow survived to the modern day, although in oft unrecognisable forms. As have Tetrominoes and Puyos. And there is even room, in the modern day, for twists on Snake. Some are clever puzzlers with a snakey theme, some are repetitive minigames to represent grind or hacking (No, really), and sometimes… Well, sometimes, it tries 3D. I’d say that Snakeybus is one of the more successful ones on that front, and it’s largely due to having interesting maps.

Rest well, valiant… If foolish SnakeyBus.

So, one thing to get out of the way right now: Snakeybus is not the most polished of games. The UI is a utilitarian, boxy affair, the models and physics relatively simple, and the maps and garage are both relatively small. When passengers are dropped off, and the bus elongates, it does so by literally popping in the bus segments, rather than anything fancy, and, apart from the motion of the bus (and ragdolling of passengers on death), animation’s somewhat crude.

Okay, fine, but, and this is the important but: It does exactly what you would expect with a portmanteau of Snake and Bus: You move (slowing or accelerating depending on your W/S keys, steering at a fixed rate with your A/D, a little harder with shift), picking up passengers, and, preferably when the bus is full, you drop them off at a specific, fixed point (one of several is chosen), grow some, and you attempt to do this until you explode. Now do it again, but better. And this would, very quickly, become an exercise in frustration if it weren’t for… Your other key: The spacebar, aka “JUMP.”

Gonna eatchu, little passe- wait, no, body, don’t block me, bro!

Yup, this bus not only grows depending on how many passengers it’s dropped off, it can fly too. And, if you manage to hit ramps at the right angle (IE – without knocking them over), and a fair clip, you can get over obstacles (including yourself) that way too. It’s… An understatedly fun experience, honestly. Even if Endless (the 7th main map) is kind of a bad joke.

The “joke” is that there’s no passengers, just an endless, uncrashable bus ride, constantly lengthening until either the game crashes, your computer does, or you realise what it’s doing from the achievement and grumpily hit the ESCape to leave.

Desert Bus: Party Bus Edition.

Despite that, and the lack of polish, though, Snakeybus is definitely a relaxing way to spend a lunch break. Seeing what silly tricks you can pull, hearing the screams of the passengers sucked into the Bus of Inevitable Doom while light driving jazz plays, trying to ride your bus along the top of your bus… It’s a short, silly game, played in short, silly sessions, and that’s a niche I can respect.

The Mad Welshman likes it when folks keep it simple. Om nom nom.

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Zombotron (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price:
£11.39
Where To Get It: Steam

Ah, the level based shooter… Hand crafted areas, known enemy placements… Randomish items? Ah, okay. Two out of three ain’t bad. And Zombotron… Definitely isn’t bad.

Ah yes, I remember this scene from that noted bro-comedy, “Dude, Where’s My Ship?”

Originally a flash game, Zombotron is now in a different format, with improved art, and, overall… It’s a reasonable game. You, the chunky manhunk known as Daze, have landed on an alien world to answer an ancient distress call, and found… Well, multiple ships, multiple cultures and aliens (Not all of whom are hostile), and… Your ship’s energy cells stolen while you were exploring. So, in order, you have to:

  1. Wreck face with a variety of weapons, sometimes using the environment in clever ways.
  2. Get your power cells back so you can maybe leave.
  3. Maaaaybe do some rescuing/planet saving? It’s unclear in the early game.

So… There is, essentially, a lot of shooting, a lot of explosions, and occasionally, environmental puzzles of the type I grew up on (Shoot part of a platform so it drops to form a bridge, or a different part of a platform to drop it on some poor alien’s head, killing them instantly, and saving me ammo.) How does it feel?

Alas, poor Y’r’ck. I knew him… Not at all really, he was just another one of those aliens trying to claw my face off…

Well, it feels… Alright! There have been times where I’ve been a little irritable with its physics system (Yes, I would like to jump past this ene-oh, I’m dead. Sod.), and sometimes, checkpoints are spaced far enough apart that I have to restart the whole damn level, but, overall, it works. Guns come in several flavours, but the random nature means equipping at least one melee weapon, and using those grenades and health-kits that, if you’re like me, you normally hoard for some kind of Humongous Mutant Android Cephalopod encounter that never happens. It’s a game that wants you to explore it, and try things, albeit in the somewhat limited fashion of “Platforming shoot-em-up that has puzzle elements.”

Aesthetically, it’s okay. You know what everything is, and there’s this chunky aesthetic to it throughout, with paper doll animation that looks a little dated, but only a little (Look, really good paperdoll animation is hard.) The important part is that, apart from some items like money being a little hard to spot, is that it’s clear, and even secrets can be spotted once you work out what it is you’re looking for. The music is, sadly, mostly forgettable, although it does fit the mood, and the sound is alright, so…

Just as you can be clever with the environment, sometimes you need to be clever rather than wasting ammo. Case in point: It’s almost time for me to restart from checkpoint!

…Overall, Zombotron, is alright, with some fun and clever elements. It isn’t going to blow minds, but, as has previously been noted on the site several times, “Does What It Says On The Tin” is a good thing, and I’ve had a fun time with it.

The Mad Welshman does not, generally speaking, support nuking from orbit. Launching into the Sun is far more impressive, and good praxis to boot.

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Yuppie Psycho (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £16.66
Where To Get It: Steam

One element of good horror is to take the normal… And bend it. Make it unwelcoming, emphasises what’s frightening about it, and emphasise its isolation. And there is little that isn’t already terrifying to the initiated than… A corporate office, or other appendage of a large company.

“3) We get 5000 resumes…” is how this segment begins. The Company gives no shits about YOU.

After all, a company often already has a friendly face, but behind that face, the lies are revealed for what they are. Ohhh, yes, we get diversity, but there’s no need to make emotional decisions. We understand that people get sick, often in arbitrary ways… But you have taken quite a few sick days working for us, and I’m afraid that we can’t employ someone who’s sick more than once every few months. That overtime? Oh, no, it’s not mandatory, you can… Ahaha, you want to work normal hours? That’s going to look bad on your performance review compared to the rest of us!

And that’s without me trying to think of examples. Oh yes, the Company can be a terrible place. The addition of some nameless “Witch”, corrupting the company from within for decades, causing insanity and mutation… Well, that just makes the horror all the more clear. Cue our protagonist, Brian.

You have to take the book… But of course, Archives is very zealous about withdrawals…

Brian, despite being a low grade member of society (and judged, right from the beginning, to be scum because of this) is, somehow, hired by Sintracorp, the most prestigious company on the planet. Although one has to wonder how this has happened, considering that, in a blackly fitting symbolic twist, the company is a meatgrinder of psychosis, supernatural mutation, murder, and paranoia. And, honestly, a part of why this works so well with the way it plays is because, on some level, it echoes the worst excesses of a corporation gone wrong.

Here, the milling, endless crowd of Induction, forever stuck in the limbo between internship and actually getting paid. There, the Archives, a system so archaic it has taken on the aspect of a Resident Evil puzzle lock, and the Library is overseen by horrors long forgotten in the dark by its parent organisation. It wouldn’t surprise me to discover, later in the game, that the office cougar met early on is a literal man-eater, as opposed to a figurative one. And the employees are, relatively speaking, okay with this, because eh, it’s a living… Horrifying.

And, in the middle of this all, Brian, who has been hired as a Witch Hunter, despite having no qualifications for this, to fix a problem that, in all likelihood, Sintracorp created in the first place. This is one of the reasons it works so damn well. It helps that it’s a pretty accessible game, with its horror well paced against its lighter moments. Aaand then right back, as some of the light hearted things show their grue-filled core.

Oops. Somebody’s soul needs a little more toner…

Besides a few hitches in early cutscenes, funnily enough, it works pretty well. The exaggerated art style of the characters works well to express both the light and dark sides of things, and adds that needed clarity for puzzle elements. To be both expressive and clear is a good look, especially when darkness is also a core element of the game. Puzzle wise, I’ve come across nothing cruel in the puzzles, with there always being something to help ameliorate it.

A good example: Early on, you’re left in the dark by a Mysterious Asshole Coworker, in the vicinity of some quite nasty, and ever exploding “Mines.” Thankfully, the mines light up when you’re near them, only arming when you’re closer, and exploding when you’re close, so the puzzle is, interestingly enough, made a little easier by the very things that will kill you if you screw up. You still feel cool for having survived, and you knew that the little helping hand was by no means a guarantee of safety.

Yuppie Psycho is, overall, a clever and interesting horror game, using its environment well both metaphorically and literally. Like other survival horror titles, it does have a single, limited save system (Requiring a photocopier, ink in that photocopier, and some Witch Paper to photocopy your souuuuuul… Oooowooooo!), but these seem reasonably placed, and I’d definitely say that this is one of the good horror titles of the year.

The Mad Welshman wants to stay the heck away from the Hell Offices. You can help do that via the support links. This has been your company memo.

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One Finger Death Punch 2 (Review)

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

One Finger Death Punch 2 is, on the one hand, more of the same with more pizzazz, or, depending on your viewpoint, more distractions that may screw you up at high speeds. On another level, it’s the survival of memes from a long way back (Bad martial arts movie dubs and stickman fights, cats love to get up in your business while you’re doing important things.)

The Ringed Golden Sword remains an awesome way of telling you that you sucked.

On another, more basic level, it’s a game where, as in OFDP1, you fight using ooonly the left and right mouse buttons, waiting for your opportunity to gorily beat the shit out of a horde of stickmen of various levels of health who want to hurt you, without clicking too early (Miss, slow down, get hit) or late (Get hit, damn, that hurt.) And, inevitably, get caught out by some subtlety or other to that system, whether that’s not getting the semi-expected “Nobody close, nearest punching bag selected for a brutal out-of-range walloping”, or taking out multiple opponents at once (A boon at times, a curse in others.)

For example, there isn’t actually a lot to unpack here. But it sure does look like there is, doesn’t it?

It’s fun enough that I don’t even mind that one of those “more of” is “More business in the UI to distract you if you weren’t focusing entirely on fighting using only the left and right mouse buttons.” Skills are easily more distracting, twitch functionality means that emotes fly across the screen, and the map, while beautiful, is also a little less clear.

But… Here’s the thing. That distraction, which would gain a thumbs down or a disapproving tut elsewhere, works with One Finger Death Punch 2 because part of the challenge is that the game is trying to distract you. And it works narratively because it’s essentially that bit in a martial arts movie where tons of people swarm a lone individual. Of course distraction is an element, and as such, you feel like a badass when you win.

It helps that, even if you lose, a few of the nice things about One Finger Death Punch (and sequel) come into play. Losing slows the game’s speed down. Winning speeds it up. So, in essence, it self corrects its difficulty. For the masochistic among us, the difficulty can also be manually corrected now, so… Wow. And, of course, if you reach the highest tier of Survival, you once again meet Luca the cat, determined to distract you further as cats do when you’re doing something important on a computer. Ahh, joy.

BASS DROP, ASSHOLE!

I’m actually going to wrap up here, because firstly, what you see is pretty much what you get: Punching, splashy effects, maps, survival, etcetera… But also because, sure, I could describe One Finger Death Punch 2 in terms of adrenaline rush, in terms of that fightgame high… And that’s a turnoff for some. I could describe it in terms of its simplicity… But that isn’t the whole story, because, while skills automatically resolve, there’s still depth to that, and effects on the play (Killing a brawler or boss instantly, for example, plays a flashy animation, but I hope you remembered who you were going to punch next!)

I could describe it in lots of ways, but my main advice is to watch some footage of it, think if you could give it a go, and then, if you want to… Give it a go. The tutorials are clear (Although 16 individual tutorials felt a bit much), and , worst case scenario, you find 2 hours passed without you realising (A good sign anyways), and you’ve spent £6.

Thankfully, while the map is just as busy as the rest, it’s fairly easy to get your head round.

That may seem counterintuitive for a written review site, it’s true, but One Finger Death Punch 2, like its prequel, very much needs to be seen in motion. Personally, I love it.

The Mad Welshman fights using only the thumbs up and thumbs down. Alas, he does mash the review button.

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Risk of Rain 2 (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £14.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Risk of Rain, it seems, has made the transition to 3D. And you would think that this could be a very good thing. It could. Right now, though, it’s not really for me.

For some odd reason (CAN’T think why), the majority of my screenshots are me lying dead near a boss. Mysterious.

Okay, let’s back up a second. Risk of Rain, the original, had you, one of several unlockable protagonists, trying to make your way back to the prison ship you had been ejected from, through a land filled with teleporting enemies that got increasingly more hostile the longer the run went. It was clever, because it forced you to balance going fast with being prepared, and its bosses were quite interesting. And Risk of Rain 2, essentially, appears to be more of the same, but this time in 3D. So… Let’s discuss that aspect of things.

Some enemies, like the Wisps, have become somewhat easier (to kill, anyway), but, overall, there’s a lot of added obstacles that 3D has brought. For example, in the first Risk of Rain, you generally had attacks from three directions. In 3D, well, that number has quite drastically multiplied, so where, in the original, a horde was theoretically still Not Really A Big Thing (Except in terms of the time it takes to murder them), in Risk of Rain 2, certain hordes make things very awkward for the player. Wisps are a prime example, because, while individually easy to kill, they have sniper like accuracy, and you only have so much dodge to go around to avoid their shots… If you’re aware of them.

Sometimes, though, you just have to appreciate natural beauty while your drones murder things.

Add in that running is oddly bound (Ctrl, because Shift is dodge. You might want to rebind that), and has a nasty tendency to stop after… Well, anything that isn’t running, really (Especially jumps and dodges), and playing solo has multiple issues. Honestly, snipes and beams appear to be the biggest source of woes here, and it may be a good idea for those to get toned down. Finally, while the teleporter was somewhat visually distinctive in Risk of Rain 1, it becomes much less so in 2, and so time can often be wasted by not actually knowing where the teleporter is, when you’ve run past it several times.

So… Some work is needed. I will say, however, that the worlds of Risk of Rain are actually kind of elegant in 3D, allowing for more kinds of secrets and interesting things to find, that everything except the teleported has translated well visually, and that the sound and music remain as good as the first Risk of Rain. As with the original Risk of Rain, once a run gets going, it’s pretty damn glorious and chaotic, as powerups add things like slowing, burning, detonating on death, giving health orbs on death… A lot goes on, and I feel that sticking with much the same powerups and enemies does give a sense of familiarity that helps ease players of the original into it.

Whether single or multiplayer, one thing remains the same… Damn, fights can get chaotic, and this is glorious…

So that, essentially, is Risk of Rain 2 so far. 3D has added challenges, some enemies seem a little more accurate than is necessary, but the basics are down and clearly working. While I haven’t exactly enjoyed it so far, I did enjoy Risk of Rain 1, so I think it may well grow on me as it makes its way through early access.

Before anyone asks, no, The Mad Welshman refuses to “Git Gud.” Beyond hating the phrase, he’s already perfect…

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