Crystal Crisis

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £15.49
Where To Get It: Steam

Right, gonna get this part out of the way right now: While I’ve suggested fixes to the developer, at the time of writing, the colourblind support for Crystal Crisis is spotty at best, and the best option is to go into Extras (not Options, Extras), select custom colour scheme, pick colours that seem to work for you, and test them in Practice mode. I have requested further comment from the developer after the steam thread I gave this critique (and advice) disappeared, but so far, Nicalis has not responded, and I shall update the review when they do, or if this changes.

The original colour schemes. Three use green and yellow, with similar values. The colourblind set has different light values, but this only actually helps one or two types of colourblindness.

So, now that that particular beef is out of the way, the rest of the game is… Alright. Essentially, a 1P vs CPU game of dropping rotatable pairs of blocks, making patterns, and then popping them with the corresponding coloured gems that sometimes drop, in order to both drop blocks that can’t be interacted with for 5 drops (generally speaking), and to build up meter for the special abilities of your chosen characters (For example, Curly can either destroy rows on her own board, or turn rows of her opponents‘ board into the aforementioned unusable blocks.)

There is a story mode, although it honestly didn’t grab me that much (Essentially, a series of fights in which you choose which character you’ll play, and then get an ending depending on your path), while the game’s replayability depends on how much you like this sort of game (I’m alright with the various tile dropping and tile matching type deals, so I expect I’ll be coming back every now and again.) Finally, there is an Arcade mode, a decent (if slow) tutorial, a practice mode where the AI doesn’t fight back, and an Online mode that… Well, while I don’t normally comment on online modes, I have been seeing a fair amount of “Online is a ghost town” type threads out in the world. So playing with a friend online is probably your best bet.

As noted previously, it’s probably best to use your own colour scheme if you’re colour blind.

Finally on the mechanical end, we’ve got a mostly solid, unlockable character roster, which includes both Nicalis characters, and, interestingly, some of the cast of Osamu Tezuka’s works, such as Black Jack and Astro Boy. I do love me some Tezuka characters, so it earns a few points with me for that.

Aesthetically… Well, the menus aren’t bad, with a little bit of character to them, the characters definitely aren’t bad, well modelled and animated, the stages, similarly, are nicely modelled, and the blocks are, apart from the aforementioned colour blindness issue, and the somewhat inconsistent nature of their lighting (Furthering the colourblindness issue at times)… Well, they’re blocks, and stars, and you know the difference between a block, and the various special things. The sound is good, the music’s good.

Story mode is alright, just as the rest is. But don’t expect a deep plot.

If it weren’t for the colourblindness problems, I would heartily recommend this. But, here’s the thing: Colourblindness is common. The ways to deal with colourblindness in video games are, equally, well known and commonly passed around in most gamedev circles these days. So to see problems like this, where three of the default colour schemes have green and yellow of similar light values (A big problem), and the colourblind one has pink and purple (Which even non colour blind people can have problems with), with the aforementioned inconsistent lighting further confusing things, I can, at best, merely not recommend it to colourblind folk. Because even when a game does what it says on the tin overall, this definitely is a blunder.

The Mad Welshman refers you to the previous review for education on some techniques folks use to be more colourblind friendly.

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ViviEon (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £4
Where To Get It: Steam

Sometimes, you want a nice relaxing time. Other times, you play a match puzzler. Okay, I joke, because many folks, including myself, find such games relaxing, but games like ViviEon, with its constantly rising set of coloured, decal covered blocks (for easy colourblindness recognition), and its limited moves, has a surprising amount of tension.

And, alas, sooner or later, things go south…

Here’s how it goes down… As the crosshairs show, you have horizontal shifts, and vertical shifts. A single move shifts the row or column by one, in the direction you want, and it wraps around, with the exception of blocks able to fall, which do. Matching three or more tiles of the same type, horizontally or vertically, will allow those blocks to be destroyed once you end your turn. Once you do, some of your moves replenish (to a maximum of 45 moves), four rows of blocks drop down, and you keep going until the blocks reach the top, at which point, game over.

And you know what? I love this. I love the limitations, which are just enough that if you experiment drastically, you’re not going to have the room to reset that experiment, but still give you that room to do what you need to do, maximise the block destruction. I love that, if you find yourself a bit stuck, want to get a better combo score, or are a masochist, you can add more blocks willingly. And I love that simplicity, allowing you to know exactly where you stand. So, is there anything to crit?

Oh, the sweet release of getting a whole load of blocks removed!

Well… Not that much, to be honest. A lack of rebindable keys is not great, but then, the game is turn based, so it isn’t terrible. The soundtrack is slim, but it’s also relaxing, and doesn’t get tiresome, and the sound effects and graphics are solid, with just enough visual interest to keep it going. Maybe the UI could be scaled up for better readability.

Beyond that, though, I’ve had a heckuva time with ViviEon, coming back to it for just one more try, just… Let’s see if we can get a really big combo. Let’s see if I can last longer. Let’s see if I can do it quicker. Self chosen goals, within a tight framework, is one of my many jams, and ViviEon, as mentioned, does exactly what it says on the tin.

It’s also nice how easily it highlights exactly what will make a match: Desaturating colours, and outlining the symbols. Simple. Effective.

The Mad Welshman appreciates the tight. Especially when it also taxes his brain.

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Team Sonic Racing (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £34.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Obligatory “Oh look, it has Denuvo” warning.

Ah, doesn’t Team Sonic Racing look pretty? Aren’t its tracks interesting, and its soundtrack gorgeous butt rock of the type we’ve come to love and expect? Solid voice acting, and a typically Sonic story with fourth wall breaking and silliness? Golly gee, this would normally make for a very positive review, wouldn’t it?

Exceeept… Team Sonic Racing, to me, feels like a case of “You had one job.” Because the racing… Is somewhat painful.

Oh dear. Knuckles got hit by something. Not my fault!

Not the team aspect. That was actually quite interesting and cool. After all, encouraging co-operation in a team racer is a good thing, and this, it does quite well, by giving benefits to those who slipstream each other, give each other little nudges forward, weapon boxes when they ask for them (The person heavily in first place rarely needs them, after all), and even for agreeing to use Team Ultimate at the same time. That is legitmately cool, so props where props are due.

No. It’s the rest of it. Let’s start with this whole drifting thing. If your drifting is painful, on both mouse and keyboard (and it was for me), then maybe, just maybe, it’s not a good idea to so heavily emphasise it. Or make it the star ability behind both the “collect things” challenge types that exist. Overall steering is, honestly, not terrible (not great, but not terrible), but, since the track design also has things for which a simple turn doesn’t suffice, er… That drifting is required. The same drifting that so badly gelled with me. Joy. It doesn’t help that the drift boost is… Disappointing, compared to the headliner team mechanics.

Attempted, a light drift: What I get… OH GOD WALL WHY.

And then… Customisation. Normally, I am a beast for customisation in racing games. I love me new parts. But when firstly, said customisation is based on gacha (That’s random drops, ala lootboxes), and there are a total of three parts of Speed, Technique, and Power type, along with gold versions of the exact same powerups… Well, that’s somewhat dull, especially as their boosts and maluses are… Middling, at best, not significantly changing play.

As noted, on an aesthetic level, it works just fine. Most things are clear (The only thing I didn’t find too clear was the quicksand v track segment of one track, but overall, it’s bright, with solid readability and good value shifts for clarity), the designs work well, and the music and VO are good, solid stuff. But this is, unfortunately, an at best passable racing game. At worst, its drift’n’collect stages are frustrating, and the online play… Well, it isn’t great. The ending animations become unskippable (and they are slow), reports come in of matchmaking problems…

AEAB. That’s all I have to say.

…Overall, TMW has definitely seen better kart racing. TMW has definitely seen better racing games overall. And this is a shame, because an otherwise glittering core element, and an otherwise shiny exterior sandwiches… Well, blandness and some irritation.

It is The Mad Welshman’s sad duty is to inform you that no, you do not, in fact, go that fast here.

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Octonaut (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £4.99
Where to Get It: Steam

Ahhh, shoot-em-ups have such an interesting family tree. From space invaders, to 1942, and Gradius, and Uridium, to… Well, a whole world of little to middling changes with big effects. And Gradius, or, more accurately, Parodius appears to be the inspiration for Octonaut, a fun little shmup about an octopus that’s going to save the world. And look cartoonishly cute and oblivious while doing so.

TFW When a mutant shark is thirsty for an Octopus starship,..

Mechanically, a shmup is a subtle thing, most of the time. Yes, okay, “gun go bang, thing go boom, get score, don’t get hit” is not subtle at all, but the reason a lot of patterns in shmups look familiar (The snake, the circling, the “I’m just going to sit here looking dangerous before shooting”) is because they clearly communicate expectations to the player. What Octonaut has, in addition that, and an interesting set of weapons, is dodging into the background, and a very timing based outlook rather than a twitchy one. For example, as with games like Twinbee and Parodius, the score items increase in colour and value the more you shoot them… To a point, after which they revert to the lowest point value, and you have to do it again… If you have the time. Movement is relatively slow, and enemies vary a fair bit in their tactics, so it’s more recognition. And I like that.

Aesthetically, the game works really well. The music is Sega Genesis/MegaDrive inspired, and it is indeed heavily reminiscent, with a variety of moods, all well crafted tracks, and the aesthetics, similarly, are that cartoonish, clean look seen in shooters of the period. It’s pretty, and this, also, I appreciate.

Some segments, as noted, outstay their welcome. This one in particular.

Okay, things I appreciate a little less. Screenshotting this was annoying, because the game’s window is not customisable, and is, in fact, quite small. Playing it in full screen is fine, but… Yes, the default window being tiny and unchangeable annoys. It’s more a reflection on me and my time-starved ways that completion appears to be required for Custom and Panic modes, instead requiring you to get through the game (Thankfully, Normal difficulty is both generous with lives, with good health, and is definitely do-able, I can report), so that one goes under niggles, but otherwise?

Otherwise, this is a solid shmup, with fine music, good aesthetics, solid wave design, and interesting bosses. Its levels have interesting gimmicks to them, none of which are frustrating (Although some, like laser jerk, go on a bit too long), and… Yeah, shmup fans, chalk another one to check out, this one’s pretty nice!

Wait, the Metroid Bees have skulls now? ABANDON OCTOPUS!

The Mad Welshman doesn’t know what’s been going on with shmups and windowed mode, but… Heck, this month has a lot going on overall…

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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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