Demon’s Tilt (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £11.39 (£18.58 for Deluxe edition, £7.19 for Deluxe Content DLC)
Where To Get It: Steam

It’s been a while since I last looked at Demon’s Tilt, but it’s now out, and… Yup, it’s still a multi-segment pinball table where the three main features (bosses) change as you defeat them, is still a pretty tough pinball table that nonetheless is cool and interesting, and is still partly a bullet hell game where you can avoid the bullets, but sometimes using them is a better option. Oh, and nudge is encouraged, although the default keyboard binds (WSAD for nudge, the usual Left and Right shift for paddles, Space for the plunger) are a little uncomfortable (It has controller support, and I’ve had an okay time with that)

Yup, I feel like a badass priest alright, getting in the headgear of a succubus, smacking a chimera in its dumb helmeted head as she smacks me into it, and about to ride down a snake’s gullet for SUPER HOLY POINTS. Hell yes.

The amusing thing being, that I’ve already sung its praises in a previous review (Because yes, even for the price, this is a good and highly involved table, once you get to see things), there’s going to be a little repetition here. Actually, a lot of repetition.

The table is inspired by a few older pinball titles, namely Alien Crush and Devil Crush, and Crue Ball, and has three segments, a few hidden sub-tables, and, in EX mode, more hidden sub-tables. And each segment has at least one boss monster, from the Iron Chimera and Priestess Lilith, to the various gribbleys that populate the lowest segment.

Enemies only stop your ball from below, with the exception a few larger ones, and bullets kill the momentum of your ball regardless, so you can either use that to your advantage, swear and quickly nudge to avoid the dread drain (the pinball term for the ball falling below the lowest paddles, the point of no return), or… Well, not noticing and losing a ball. As well as all this, there are teleportals, spikes, the aforementioned sub tables… And aesthetically, it hits the nail on the head too.

This one’s an older screenshot, but hot damn, that was a good run. Also one of my few pics of this scary bossdude.

Gothic imagery, synthwaveish tunes and neon splashes (and, indeed, neon splash text), good impact and UX layout… There’s a lot to like about it. Although, fair warning, it’s a stimulation heavy game, lots of things flashing and sparking and bouncing and flashing, and it’s very easy to get overloaded. But hot damn, it looks so good while it’s doing it! It even gives you a hint as to what to do to get your next letter on the three LOADSAPOINTS objectives, and highlights jackpots and super jackpots as they appear.

Of course, no game is perfect, and perhaps my worst criticism is that the flippers are a little slow, requiring you to account for this with your timing. More than once, I’ve said to myself “I’ll set up an end of flipper shot”, and watched in irritation as I hit the flipper half a second too late, and watched it slide a table segment down.

These assholes, for example, shoot bullets a fair bit, and explode a lot, and this isn’t even counting when there’s lots of bullets. It’s a lot to take in!

But, overall? For pinball fans, this one is basically a must. It’s an exciting table, it’s got a great aesthetic, there’s replayability, the obligatory leaderboards (My PB is 302M, I’m sure there’s folks out there that can beat that), and there’s a lot to explore.

Become a Patron!

The 13th Doll: A 7th Guest Fangame (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £23.79
Where To Get It: Steam

Well, I came into The 13th Doll expecting cheese, evil puzzles, and Stauf being sarcastic, and, beyond some odd design choices, that’s… Exactly what I got. Good job, everybody, let’s pack it up and…

Ah, the puns. I actually missed these.

…Oh, wait, I need to talk about it, don’t I? Well, The 13th Doll, like the 7th Guest, is a first person puzzle adventure with 3d areas and, occasionally, live action on top. It looks relatively natural for such a thing, which is a somewhat difficult thing to pull off. Now, though, they’re using Unity, and so they’re not limited to awkward, individually raytraced movement frames between locations. You just… Move around, your cursor changes when you can change rooms (A skeletal finger beckons), when you can’t just yet (it wags), when you can do a puzzle (A skull with a pulsating brain), and when you can pick up or otherwise interact with something (Chattering teeth or a comedy mask, depending on what it is.)

The other thing here is that there are, in fact, two protagonists: Tad, the boy from the original game, who escaped the mansion after being stuck there as a time looping ghost. And, since this game is set in the 20s or 30s, starts the game placed in a “hospital for the mentally insane” (If anyone knows what physical insanity is, let me know too, I’m curious.) The other is the new psychiatric doctor, Dr. Richmond, who, as exposure therapy, takes Tad back… To the mansion! Legitimately a nice way to have 26 puzzles (13 apiece) in the game, and their stories both intersect at points… And diverge the rest of the time.

Tad has grown, and… Well, I suppose he’s got good reason to be so sulky as an adult.

Tad, quite literally haunted by the spectres of his past, seeks to destroy Stauf once and for all by… Well, he’s told the 13th doll is the key, but, considering it tried to grab his ankles in the intro, I’m not entirely sure this is true. Meanwhile, Dr Richmond’s story… Ohh, it burns my ass to see Stauf engaging in historical revisionism. He’s a brilliant man! A genius! His wife was the serial killer, and she was the one who caused the children to die in the first game through a virus she had! BLECH.

In any case, aesthetically, it works alright, overall… The music is pretty good, sometimes covers of the first game’s soundtrack, others new tracks, and they’re all pretty fitting. The acting, on the other hand… That’s more variable. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting shakespearean ham from anyone but Robert Hirschboeck (who both reprises his role as Henry Stauf, and brings his style, panache, and ham to the role once more) but the protagonists are sometimes a little flat in their speech. Visually, well… It’s not a bad looking rendition of the Stauf Mansion, and I like the new touches on some of the old spookings. It also has a relatively clear UX, although there is the oddity that, to save, you have to go to the main menu. Don’t quite know why that decision was made, but I’ve let you know now.

ARGH. AAAAAARGH.

Still, a game like this wouldn’t be complete without the puzzles, and… Ohhh boy. There is colourblind assistance, but it’s a text overlay, which, in the case of some puzzles early on, makes it a sod to see the puzzle itself. And the puzzles are, for the most part, bastard hard. Case in point, on Doctor Richmond’s path, there is… The clock puzzle. Can you split a clock into four parts, so that each endpoint of your segments adds up to the same number? I’ve been racking my brain over this one for a while, suffice to say. Some are new takes on old puzzles, such as the artery puzzle (Now a sliding block puzzle with a twist: The blocks can fall off the edges, never to be regained.) Oh, and the return of the fucking first person maze. Oh yes, that was indeed a memorable moment in 7th Guest. That was the part most of us said “Nope, fuck this!” and missed out on the endings. Get your graph paper out for that one, friends!

Overall, though, it’s by no means a bad game. The story is ham and cheese, but I went in expecting that, and if you do too, you’ll be alright. The puzzles, the mansion… These are the meat of the game, and, while not all the accessibility options work well (if you have problems, let them know.), it’s worth hitting options before you begin to check them. In any case, the puzzles, while fiendish, are mostly well explained (Although the hints mostly seem to be restatements of the puzzle mechanics, sadly), the callbacks are mostly fun, and, overall… Yep, definitely recommended for 7th Guest fans, moderately recommended for puzzle adventure fans who like hard puzzles. Good Stauf!

Robert Hirschboeck. Playing the Man in the Moon at a theater near you.

The Mad Welshman finds himself… Chilling with this game. That was a graaave mistake… (Ohohoho)

Become a Patron!

Corpse Party 2: Dead Patient Chapter 1 (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £8.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Content Warning: There’s a fair bit of gore here, and one of the zombies is a small child (pictured in review.) No jumpscares that I noticed in this particular episode, although that may change in the future.

(more…)

Become a Patron!

Sea Salt (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £13.99 (£18.78 Digital Deluxe, £4.79 Digital Deluxe upgrade)
Where To Get It: Steam

“Argh, why did the Eldritch Horror bite my face off?!” asked the primary worshipper of the “Eldritch Horrors Biting People’s Faces Off” cult. That’s a good way to sum up the general story of Sea Salt, in which a town’s archbishop, of the Church of Dagon, the fish god, refuses to go quietly when he is ordered not only to sacrifice others (which he’s alright with), but himself.

Guess who voted for the aforementioned Eldritch Horrors Cult? Well, what goes around comes around.

You are Dagon, who summons your horde from afar, controls them from afar, and slaughters the chosen townsfolk and anyone who gets in the way. And, while the game is alright, and aesthetically works quite well, I do have some problems with it. So let’s talk gribbleys.

The basic idea is just fine: You start a level with some kind of creature, you surround townsfolk and murder them by leading them with your cursor to an enemy, then holding SPACE once you’re reasonably sure they’re surrounded. Nearly every enemy in the early game will panic once you’re close enough, so, even with ranged enemies becoming a thing very early on, this, and the idea that not holding space allows your gribbleys to navigate hazards like fire are the basics (but not bullets, or the impending fire of a molotov cocktail: Those, you just have to deal with, one way or another.) When you find a summoning circle, or simply collect enough gold from townsfolk, you can summon more, of any type that you’ve unlocked in the playthrough so far (yes, this includes restarting entirely.)

Case in point, this sailor (and his friends strewn around off screen behind us) are even more screwed than they were on my first run, because now I have Cultists.

And that, plus the narrative of a church leader deceiving his people into thinking this horde is a test of faith, rather than a punishment for the leader of the church refusing to be faithful, is pretty interesting. Hell, even the bosses are interesting, although they may frustrate the first time you meet them. But it’s okay, you’re not expected to win in one go. Play an arena. Try again with different folks. You’re still progressing toward unlocking new cult leaders with which to try something different.

Aesthetically, it looks pretty good. Good, gothic music, the UX is well presented, the sprites for the various townsfolk, monsters, etc, are evocative with a low pixel count, and the world is suitably grimy.

It is perhaps a shame then, that it’s been an utter bastard to screenshot due to problem number one: Yes, there is a windowed mode, via alt+enter. No, it isn’t in the options. Yes, it’s tiny, and you have to manually resize. And if that were all, I wouldn’t mind so much, and this wouldn’t be getting the thumb being waved back and fore uncertainly. But it isn’t. The game being somewhat slow, I understand. It gives you room to think, even if it doesn’t particularly feel great.

A good simulation of how my eyeballs felt in areas of the game where there were a lot of fires.

But the fires causing this godawful blur effect that makes my eyes hurt is bloody terrible, and it only gets worse the more fire there is. No, there isn’t an option to turn that off, although there is for “Ye Olde School Graine Filtre” Similarly, while the UX is alright, what isn’t alright is the lack of clarity in the menu organisation: When it says “Start” , it means “Continue”, and, when leaving an arena, it asks “Retry” when, in fact, it means “Back to menu.” And the difficulty starts spiking pretty early also.

If you like playing the monsters or villains, as I do, and want something a little different, this one’s a moderately good pick. But I know I’m going to be waiting until the eyestrain inducing post-effects can be turned off, because that’s the kind of Eldritch Horror I’m not into. Where I’m going, I will need eyes.

The Mad Welshman is more of a Labour voter than the Eldritch Horror Party, but he does support the “Great Cthulhu Eats The Rich” platform.

Become a Patron!

AI: The Somnium Files (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £49.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Content Warning: Although the article has no representations of this, be aware that this is a murder mystery game while the murders are ongoing, so there are bloody scenes of violent death, and several themes including parental abuse, obsessional behaviour and stalking, and the like are involved.

Spike Chunsoft make wild rides. Pseudoscience made real in the fiction, murder, heartbreaking moments, and time being… Fluid are all hallmarks, and AI: The Somnium Files is definitely no different. And oh, boy, it is indeed a wild ride. And one that may annoy, if you don’t take the old adventure game adage of “Save Early, Save Often.”

Considering the context, yeah, this is pretty accurate.

The general premise, then. You are Date, a Psyncer (someone who can enter someone’s dreams), working for a relatively secret agency called ABIS (Pronounced Abyss, or maybe… Apis? There’s a lot of egyptian deities mentioned, y’see), and a serial killer is on the loose… Perhaps a copycat killer from six years ago. And a lot of things aren’t right. With the case. With your boss. With Date himself. And with Aiba, your AI eyeball friend who’s also… Seems to have the hots for Dante, in the oddest way.

This is part of what… Aiba might think is a dance? Look, things are weird.

Oh, and hidden collectibles and branching paths in a flowchart. Mustn’t forget those. So, anyway: The game is mostly split into two parts: Investigating a scene and talking to people, and the Somnium, the dreamworld of either Date, or… Whoever you’re ordered to PSYNC with, for information relating to the case. And yes, it uses dream logic. The tutorial example has a light switch covered by thorns, and a Winter Iris that cannot be moved nearby, but can still be interacted with because… It’s lit. So you don’t move it. You… Inhale it. Dream logic. But, from this point on, there’s a big catch: You have 6 minutes. The upside is that it only goes down when you’re moving or interacting in the dream world (through your partner, Aiba.) The downside is that understanding the logic of that particular dream may well take a lot of tries, and often, there are multiple solutions that lead to different results.

I… I’m not sure I want to know the answer to that question. What the hell?

Aesthetically, apart from some awkward animations, and pink text for Aiba ([check for colourblind options]), the game has a solid visual style, great music, and some good voice acting. The writing is colourful, with a mix of silly references to a variety of things (including other Spike Chunsoft games, The Terminator, and The X-Files), and it drew me in, even when I knew what would come from previous experience with Spike Chunsoft titles, and some solid, foreboding foreshadowing. The humour does fall flat sometimes, and Date’s horniness is… It’s groan inducing a fair bit of the time.

There is a rather sudden shift later in the game, and some paths in the story (Yes, there are branching paths you want to explore to get the honest to goodness ending) are blocked by things you need to get further in the story than I perhaps would have liked, but, overall, I like Spike Chunsoft’s interesting takes on the formulae they work with, and this game is no exception.

The Mad Welshman A unlocked! [Picture of TMW drawn in crayon]

Become a Patron!