Alt Frequncies (Review)

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

Time loops. A poorly understood phenomenon, with many potential dangers. Do folks remember their time looping? Is it really ethical to kick off a time loop? Why would you kick off a time loop? And, let’s be fair here… Why Monday?

Yes, now… What was it again? (Default is down arrow)

Such is the story behind Alt Frequencies, in which a dystopian government has ensured it’s always Monday. Why? That’s… Not terribly clear. Something about controlling the masses by always having the same things to deal with? Nonetheless, a small resistance has worked out that it is, in fact, always Monday, and are asking you to fight, with the power of recording and sending radio clips.

Alt-Frequencies is, on the accessibility front, mostly good. It’s audio based, but with closed captioning and screen reading, it’s visually very clear, and so, it’s relatively easy to play: So long as you remembered your keybinds. Because it doesn’t prompt you with them. So if you, say, started the game without looking at the keybinds, well… That mandatory tutorial is suddenly a little more frustrating.

You do. And yet you flub it. So damn hard.

But where it, alas, becomes more frustrating is that it is not always very clear what has progressed things, and that, when it progresses… Well, it goes so quickly, that its plot beats don’t really land. Or end up contradicting themselves. Oh look, the journalist on the mainstream news station suddenly thinks those not affected by the memory aspect of the time loop are terrorists. Were they gotten to, since they remember the loop? Not clear. And no, it’s not really explained why the government are doing this. So…

All this, is, honestly, a shame. It’s a good idea, mixed with some good accessibility features that are baked in, and yet… It doesn’t stick the landing, and there’s not a whole lot else I can say beyond that. The voice acting varies from solid to slightly hammy, and some characters are well written (The obnoxious Talk.FM, guy, for example, is exactly as obnoxious as intended), but when the core writing isn’t so solid? Well, that makes it less enjoyable.

Silently ticks the box marked “Asshole”, moves swiftly on…

Fans of experimental idea may like this one, but, unfortunately, it bounced off me, and I can’t really recommend it.

The Mad Welshman wasn’t sure what was more infuriating about reviewing this: Avoiding heavy spoilers, or trying to list the plot threads that just suddenly cut off in his head while doing so…

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Fission Superstar X (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £11.39 (£2.09 soundtrack)
Where to Get It: Steam

Ahhh, Space. There’s so much more room for plotting and cackling there. Also dogfights and heavy capital ship whaling, which… Is where Fission Superstar X comes in. With a distinct Death Road to Canada vibe, Fission Superstar X is the tale of Doctor Leopold Merkin, and his attempts to make a super-nuclear bomb… A superstar. Her name is Celine Fission, and you will enjoy her concert, fools…

Aaaaand IIIIIII-EEEEIIIII Will always bomb YOUUU-OOOOHHHHHH!

Describing how this roguelike shmup works can seem a little fusterclucky, but it’s really quite simple: You have four potential crew slots, up to two of which are filled at the beginning (For a while, it will just be your Clone Pilot and Clone Scientist, but options open up the more you play.) Each one mans a single turret quadrant (From Pilot, top, to Engineer, rear), and enemies will come at you from varying directions. Kill them before they kill you, and you’ll get a chance to train up your folks or heal in some fashion, then pick where to go next, including Recruitment (potentially better crew), Shipyards (potentially better ship stats, definitely some repairs), and special event locations of varying evil (From the relatively nice Medicaid Drones, to Comet Tails which blow you the heck about, to the Ion Storm or Minefield, which might as well be marked with “HERE BE ALMOST CERTAIN DEATH.”) You pick up money and ammo from destroyed ships where you can, and, once you beat a planet’s boss (From Pluto all the way to…???), you can choose to blow up the bomb early, earning you a new ship (and a shot of Doctor Merkin angrily wondering how it went wrong.)

This is what is known as “Hanging on through sheer bloody mindedness.” That’s me at the top, by the way.

And them’s the basics, although there’s a lot more to it than that. Armoured ships, whose only weak point is the cockpit. Minibosses, including the Doctor Leopold Police Task Force. Those terrifying saw-ships, whose only purpose is to ram into you and murder murder murder. And, of course, different weapon types. I could probably spend a long while just talking about the variety of things that can happen, and references, and joy at the pew-pew guns. So let’s just assume “It is packed full of things wot happen”, and move on.

Aesthetically, the game is pretty interesting. Cartoonish pixels, junk, gore every now and again, and a fair amount of male presenting nipples, the ships are both clear in their design, and also interesting in and of themselves. Heck, there’s visible representation of your own ship upgrades, always a nice touch, and the music is solid stuff, giving that space opera B-Movie vibe. The ships deliberately don’t control that hot until you upgrade the handling (seriously, in the case of the Big Yins), and it’s all, honestly, very fitting for what it’s aiming for (The feel of a gigantic space bomber lurching its way through space.) The difficulty progression is mostly fair (Although those sawship enemies fill me with terror the moment they’re on screen, regardless of my or my crew’s armour), and, in the case of nastier encounters, it does warn you.

“Where we’re going, we don’t need eyes. Geddit, guys? I’m Dr. Where!”

“Shut up and shoot this guy before he shoots you. Or we do…”

Feelwise, it’s meant to feel like a hectic chase across the Solar System, hounded by everyone and their dog, with you the villain, and… Yep, it nails that feel. The speed of even the slowest ships is shown in the starfield, and the feeling of trying to slide past a small battleship while it’s peppering you with missiles, wave beams, and whatever whatnots it’s throwing at you (probably while other things are also shooting at you) invokes just as much adrenaline based swearing as you’d imagine, and it’s a nice touch that you know how long the level’s going to last, as well as how much closer it gets you toward its goal.

So, overall, it does really well. What does it not do so well? Window customisation and the fact that individual runs are long. That last one’s more a taste thing than anything else (It isn’t a lunch break game, it’s something you play of an evening when you want to… Hrm, destress probably isn’t the right word… Play, I guess.) Still, overall, I like its feel, I like its guns, I like its heft… Fission Superstar X gets a vaudevillainous thumbs up, one Mad Scientist to another.

The Mad Welshman doesn’t have too much to add to this. He’s still working on writing his name on the moon. Best demonstration of ownership, writing your name on the moon with a giant laser…

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Divination (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: Minimum $1, but if you drop less than $5 on it I’ll be disappointed in you.
Where to get it: Itch.IO

Anyone remember Cyber City Oedo 808? To me, it was one of the more interesting cyberpunk anime out there, because it not only had your oppressive government and criminals trying to fight the system (Albeit, because they were captured by the system, in small ways), but vampires, ghosts in the machine, and psychics. It was short, but it captured the imagination.

Cop uses Divinatory Pair of Hands, aka “Letting you know it’s fantastical right out of the gate.”

Divination, also, is short. But boy, does it capture the imagination. Imagine, if you will, a city that had, until a while ago, been run by Mother, an AI that, for some reason, decided that life was pointless, and, since the people believed her… Well, suicides and horror skyrocketed.

Imagine, if you will, a disembodied pair of hands in a room. They choose runes picked by their claimant, who is invited to their home with accurate predictions of their near future to tempt them. The payment for this service, answering one of their questions, is to recount a dream they had. Imagine four such divinations, each difficult questions, sometimes painful questions. And, at the end of those divinations, the hands sit back, look at what they have done… And are, for some reason, unsatisfied.

OBJECTIVE NOT REACHED: RESTARTING DIVINATION OF DIVINATIONS.

Divination is short, but goodness me, it has atmosphere, a clever gimmick, and replayability. Helped by the fact that you do not, strictly speaking, know what the runes mean yourself. Your avatar, the Diviner, most certainly does, as their confident predictions based on what you choose show (I was only disappointed once, but it was an important one), but you don’t. And arranging those symbols well is the key to your choice.

Aesthetically, the game has M O O D. A darkened room. Slow synth. The sharp tap of your steel fingers to change channels, meet guests… The red words on your screen, endlessly repeated, to speak. And the writing… As mentioned, some of the divinations are painful. Will my daughter wake up? Is there meaning to my (robotic) life? (Robots have, since Mother’s suicide, been fitted with anti-suicide protocols, so this is… A very important question.) And the dreams. From the very start, they’re disturbing, symptoms of a city clearly in pain. The English isn’t perfect, but the mood still gets across, and the mood is, for want of a better word, portentous.

Ouch. Yeah, you’re kinda right, Robot Buddy. At least I have the hope of being able to watch Doom Patrol sometime this century

I won’t spoil what’s most disturbing about it all, but… I got there, and it’s an interesting twist. Divination is cyberpunk as hell, albeit from a twisted perspective, it’s definitely got its horrific side, and I heartily recommend it for fans of short, mood-heavy narrative pieces.

The Mad Welshman has cast the runes, and he confidently predicts he’ll have 20+ reviews this month. No, he didn’t already know that, shut up!

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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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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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