Gato Roboto (Review)

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

Cats are glorious creatures. Ask any cat owner. Said cat owners will also confirm that they are clowns, doofuses, malevolent little gits… Cats have quite the range. And it’s gratifying to see a cat in a mech suit as the protagonist of Gato Roboto, a game which… Well, it’s very, very similar to early Metroid games, with a 1-bit art style (Pixels in black or white), and…

Kiki is cattily smug when they manage to screw attack someone.

…It’s got a speedrun timer. This is… A mixed sign, I’ve found. And lo and behold, this is borne out. A game you can complete quickly, it nonetheless has some challenges that are both mandatory… And going to annoy the hell out of the player who doesn’t know the tricks. You good at screw attack chaining, m’folk? No? Well… There’s an entire section with that. And a boss fight that seriously outstays its god-damn welcome. Which, funnily enough, is a good segue into some other problems.

Boss cutscenes skippable? No sirree. You screw up that boss, you get to hit Z through the whole damn thing all over again. And it is always Z, because keys are not rebindable. And that boss has a lotta hitpoints for a god-damn mouse in a robot suit.

Without the rapid shots powerup, this one’s as hard on the index finger (or thumb, on controller) as it is on your tolerance.

It’s a shame really, because the designs and aesthetic are a charm, and a fair amount of the actual areas are fairly well designed. The sound is good, even if the music didn’t really grab me. The animations are lovely. But the third encounter with a certain asshole who also has robot suits (plural), in particular, annoys me. Not because it has a bundle of hitpoints, although that helps. Not because it’s easy to assume it’s a screw-attack exam, rather than a dodge exam. No. Because that bundle of hitpoints is best whittled down (at first) with… An item you get, not via the usual method, but technically a “bonus” item from collecting all secret 1-bit palette changes from the first two areas, and knowing where a tight collision hitbox ends. Argh.

Including a Metroid Fusion style “You come here as a cat, no Mech Suit or actual health bar for you, Sonny Jim!

Still, once that hurdle’s over, it’s an okay Metroidvania, taking cheeky nods from the original Metroid and Metroid Fusion, keeping the progression area-linear (Essentially, you go through each area once to complete it, then again to get everything you possibly can find now the area blockages are removed.) The story isn’t bad, but yes, the game has enough annoyances that it took me a frustratingly long time to get to enjoy it.

The Mad Welshman is eternally salty that house rules and budget disallow a cat of his own. He loves them so.

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Tower Hunter: Erza’s Trial (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £12.39 (79p for OST)
Where To Get It: Steam

Early Access can be a funny thing. Hell, gamedev can be a funny thing. Sometimes, you have beautiful games that, mechanically, fight with themselves. Sometimes, you get something like Tower Hunter, which is mechanically reasonably sound… But, aesthetically, lacks that pop, that flair, that makes it interesting. And so, it remains merely… Somewhat solid.

There is a lot to be said, however, for this particular segment of the first level. That’s a good feel, crushing several Spectators beneath your icy heels.

Tower Hunter is, essentially, a procgen Metroidvania: Clear levels, defeat bosses, get better kit, rinse, repeat. You are the titular Erza, looking to clear the Magic Tower for… Actually, I forget why. Look, there’s a tower, it’s filled with monsters, beat the shit out of them and the lords of each biome within the Magic Tower, which has biomes because fuckin’ magic.There’s four main weapon types in the early game (I don’t, at this point, know about the later game), and when you die, you lose portions of your money and stored powerups. Cool. Okay, now let’s talk about the things that make it interesting… And why you might not really notice them.

So, let’s start with the interesting: Quite quickly, you build up a small arsenal of powers, some depending on your weapon, like lightning for dual swords, some your basic magic skills, like icy dive kicks that do hilarious damage. And, scattered through the dungeon are several kinds of power-ups, all of which can be levelled up with your own skills, and are replacable. Nice!

You can basically only spot the boss when he’s in front. He wasn’t for the majority of this fight, so this is a post death screenshot…

Buut… While the character animations are mostly alright, the music is pretty good, and the sound is also alright, the visual flair of everything else? Is somewhat lacking. That’s… Sort of excusable for creatures like the Clockwork Mannequin, but there are bugs, and bone throwing skeletons, and bees, and… Not many of them are memorable. Heck, the first boss… Is barely distinguishable among the small horde of red bugs, green bugs, some purple bugs, some mannequins…And the landscapes feel somewhat bare, even when they try and get interesting.

And this is a shame, because it also rewards those who take on an extra challenge. Beat that first area quicker? Get a better trophy, which ups abilities. Somewhat quick, but got every single magic power-levelling stone in the 2 levels of the area? Get the bestest trophy, and more rewards!

There is also some Engrish in the game, but y’know what? That’s no big right now.

So yeah, mechanically, Tower Hunter works. It even adds some interesting ideas for rewarding speed and exploration, and a little customisation (Although, y’know, I’m not entirely on board with the bunny suit one, just sayin’.) But, right now, that’s balanced out by, essentially, being visually uninteresting, or, more accurately, a little homogeneous. It’s worth a look for some of its ideas, but I really hope that it gets a little more flair and pizzazz.

The Mad Welshman, alas, is a bit tired. He will nap now, on that comfy bed there.

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Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (Review)

Source: Supporter Gift
Price: £34.99 (Iga’s Back Pack £7.99, Soundtrack £7.99)
Where To Get It: Steam

Ohhh, Castlevania. The mere name evokes memories of violin and piano laden music, memorable monsters, and, of course, a castle with a monster in it who plans to destroy the world. But alas, Castlevania is no more.

Die, Barber! You Don’t Belong In This World!

Good thing ArtPlay have perhaps created a new name: Bloodstained. And, for a first outing, it’s… Pretty close, if not spot on, to what I wanted, at the very least. A castle to explore, with paths opening up the more I fight. Memorable monsters with a mythical bent (Props on the Welsh and Gaelic stuff, by the way. XD.) Equally memorable characters, even if some of them are, on the face of it, a little stereotypical (But still highly enjoyable.) And some bloody amazing music, paying homage to the tunes and world that the team had previously created.

Honestly, from the moment Castlevania big name Koji Igarashii threw down his wine glass, it was pretty clear that this was going to be polished to an eerie sheen. And, funnily enough, it mostly is, as I have very few complaints… Mostly things that could just be me (Zangetsu and Andrealphus were somewhat painful for me, but part of this could be I was going quite INT heavy), or things that have a solution (On keyboard and mouse, RMB hold + MMB click for directional spells is somewhat of a pain, but… That can be rebound in a way that’s more playable.)

Too cute to die… Too dangerous to live.

So, for those new to how a Castlevania game works, this is basically the deal: There is a big castle that has appeared out of nowhere, casting demons and other gribbleys across the land (Some of which looks too cute to destroy, but you sort of have to. Sorry, demon pupper!) You, Miriam, one of the two survivors of the first attempt to summon demons, have come to stop the other, Gebel, from conquering the world (but maybe not all is as it seems?), with the power of Shardbinding (Taking demon’s souls, and taking them into yourself to gain new abilities), whatever weapons you can find, get in quests, or craft (Often very lovely to boot, each with their own special moves), and the fact that nearly everything that looks vaguely like a torch contains money or mana when smashed, have to save the world.

Aaaaand inhale, after all that! I love the feel, the cries of the beasts as they vanish, or their characterful moves. I love the music, and, funnily enough, one of the best love letters to the departed Castlevania involves this (Sit at the piano. And just wait for a soulful goodbye to what was left behind.) I love the designs, especially those of the two Shardbinders, Gebel and Miriam. And I love all the little touches inspired by the Castlevania series. Shardbinding works like Circle of the Moon. The Crafting works like some of the later titles.

The game uses its 2.5D stylings well for dramatic effect, or just for prettiness, whenever it needs to.

Look… I could rhapsodise for a long while about the feeling of beating down demons, getting new stuff, finding new areas with the new stuff, and the laughter at, even to this day, finding Wall Chicken… But overall, Bloodstained is the developers showing their love to the series they couldn’t carry on, by bringing it a new name, and all the care and design they’d honed over the years. It’s good stuff.

The Mad Welshman kneels before the Dark Lord. Nuff said.

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Robot Wants It All (Review)

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

Sometimes, after capitalism has kicked you down, time and time again, it’s time to fight back. Such is the subtext of Robot Wants It All, where Robot, our protagonist, suffers many humiliating deaths (usually, anyway) in their quest of Wanting things that, as it turns out, are monkeys paws (Except Puppy. Puppy is a Good Boy), before eventually realising that what he wants… Is Justice.

Justice, in this case, being saving the workers from the embodied evil of capitalism.

Or it’s a series of early Metroidvania type games from the days of Newgrounds, packaged into a collection that doesn’t run on the now obsolete Flash, with a new installment. It’s that too. But it’s hard to avoid the subtext, any which way, and, funnily enough, I like that.

So… A collection of shortish Metroidvania type escapades, ranging from simple to punishingly unfair (And not necessarily in game order), Robot Wants It All is, right out of the gate, a release that has its turn offs. But, to its credit, it does both add to its subtext and somewhat help with the difficulty with its progression. Starting with the Easy (smaller map, less enemies) version of Robot Wants Kitty, the player earns (in-game) Moneys by killing enemies, getting achievements, and earns the other installments of the series, from Easy, to Classic, to Remix (Hard), along with different robot types for an added challenge. Player, if they want to experience the whole, Wants It All too.

For one game, at least, Kitty and Robot are actually friends. Look at this teamwork!

Aesthetically, it looks somewhat like old shareware titles of the 90s, with pixel art for the main play, and bold illustrations for the endings, with simple (but mostly alright) chiptunes. No, where the interest comes in with Robot Wants It All is that each episode has different mechanics and progressions (Something that’s lampshaded in Robot Wants Justice’s intro.) While powerup collecting remains a core, what powerups vary from game to game. Robot, for example, uses Kitty as their main weapon in Robot Wants Puppy, a risky damage over time effect that ends with the death of either robot or the now quickly running (but not firing) enemy. In Robot Wants Y, they have a very slow to use bouncing laser that requires aiming, while in Robot Wants Fishy, they have both arcing bombs and, later on, harpoons. In Robot Wants Fishy, there is the amusing powerup of… Nothing. Because the explosion you caused to get there is reward enough, is it not?

Well, I chuckled. In any case, it was interesting to see the variations in the basic Metroidvania formula in each installment, even if, as noted, some are more difficult than others, if mainly because of the awkwardness of certain controls… Specifically, swimming. Swimming is a pain in the ass when you can do it (And you have to), and the segments involved often involve death. Some flying enemies have the nasty habit of floating outside of where they originally patrolled, although none have, so far, made things impossible to escape without death… Just awkward.

This, the easiest of the hard bosses, is a gent who, by the end of his life, it’s very tough to shoot without dying at least once. Doable… But tough.

Overall, I honestly like the experimentation within Robot Wants It All. The difficulty variations are somewhat annoying (A straighter progression would perhaps have been nice, but these were, and technically still are, separate games, so… I GUESS…), but I appreciate sticking to the original aesthetic while packaging the games in a more playable format, and adding nice things too. It’s worth a look if you like Metroidvanias.

The Mad Welshman does not, in fact, Want It All. All he wants is to make enough to do this full time. That’s what the support links are for.

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Touhou – Luna Nights (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £13.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Oh, Remilia Scarlet, you’re such a card! Creating an entire alternate universe to play violent games with your maid, importing people from the actual world of Gensokyo for… Reasons. Most of us would make a game, or tell a story. You put your murder-maid in a metroidvania situation for funsies.

Metroidvanias generally are and aren’t, Sakuya. Don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it.

Hello, yes, welcome to Gensokyo, which has had perhaps more misunderstanding based fights, bullheadedness based battles, and apocalyptic events caused by selfishness than Marvel Comics. Or, more accurately, welcome to an alternate Gensokyo, seemingly crafted for the sole purpose of being a Touhouvania for the entertainment of the protagonist’s bored, listless vampire employer(s).

Honestly, of the Touhou games, this has one of the more interesting stories, as the Scarlet Devils appear to have learned to become a tadge more responsible in their shenanigans, and there is, under the silliness, a story worth playing through for, if you’re into this sort of game. What would probably turn people off, however, is the one thing that isn’t really a fault of the game: That it is, indeed, bullet hell.

The first boss eases you in, but by the end, safe-spots are… Small.

Less bullet hell than many Touhou games, it’s true, but the patterns of the bosses definitely require memorisation and tactical thought more than your average Castlevania type game, and I was stuck, for the longest while, on Marisa, the second boss whose side-gimmick of “Stop your timestop” clouds was annoying to deal with. Not impossible, none of it is impossible, and the nature of bullet-hell means that it’s not all that twitchy either (Relying more on, as noted, knowing safe spots for each enemy pattern more than hectic dodgery), but it can be a turnoff for folks, and I respect that.

Otherwise, though, this is a solid game. Movement is tight, with interesting options, the core gimmick (Sakuya’s time stop ability) makes for some cool puzzles (Including the fact that water can be both a help and a hindrance when time is still, and not everything being affected), it tutorialises moderately well, and, as with many a Touhou game, fan-group created or otherwise, the music is excellent and the sound work is moderately good. Aesthetically, animations are good, and the telegraphing works very well, so… Apart from the potential genre turnoff, there’s very little fault to be found, and a fair amount of enjoyment.

Graze… Magic Bonus… Graze… Magic Bonus…

I’ve had a fun time with Luna Nights, and, despite being bad at Touhou games, this is definitely one I want to finish. If I were to pull some crit, the map screen isn’t as useful as it potentially could be, but when that’s the only criticism I can really find? Well, that’s always nice to be able to say!

Okay, so I got a bit annoyed with the graze/bonus loop, but that’s a niggle.

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