Grizzland (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £3.99
Where To Get It: Steam

I like me some Metroidvanias. I do love me some lo-fi pixels. And so, Grizzland immediately caught my interest, because it is, essentially, a short Metroidvania, with lo-fi pixels, that still has encounters, boss fights, and challenge.

Not pictured: The actual fight, because they disappear and summon MANY TRIANGLES OF DOOM.

Maybe a little too much challenge at some times… But what the hey, checkpoints are mostly reasonable, so I’m not too irritable with that.

In any case, Grizzland’s premise starts out simple. It’s a fantastic world into which you’ve somehow teleported, except… Not all is as clear cut as it seems, from the very first journal you find. Wait, landed? Computer? Buddy, I’m swinging a sword and there are magicians with giant triangles comin’ at me, what is this gobbledegook?

Even basic enemies will dodge out of the way of your sword most of the time. Which isn’t as frustrating as it sounds, since they don’t jump very far.

Well, it quickly turns out that someone did land here, destroying the trees as they went toward the centre of the world, and, considering there’s only 5 of them, and they’re sentient? Well, that’s deep trouble indeed… Away we gooooo (to save the day)

Now, one thing that should be made clear is that enemy routines, combined with the fact that very little can be slain in one swing, make combat more difficult than you’d expect. Whether it’s the bats, who wake up, and mercilessly chase you, but retreat on the first blow far enough that you may have difficulty getting the three hits you need in before they hit you, or enemies which revenge fire when hit, it’s something to consider about the game’s difficulty.

“Not everything has to make sense.” Well, yes, but I do appreciate bears.

Happily, I can say I’ve enjoyed my time with Grizzland. The world is basic, but the journals, some of its stranger (1-bit) enemies help bring some oddity, as do the secrets, which are sometimes… Quite amusing. As the first you find states: Not everything has to make sense.

So yes, overall, there’s a solid attention to a consistent style, there’s some good chiptunes and sound effects, and, as a short Metroidvania, it can still pretty easily eat up an hour or four of your life (more if you’re looking for eeeeeverything. Which I am.) Reasonably priced to boot, I would definitely recommend Grizzland.

The Mad Welshman would probably also go on a quest of sword swinging if he found people uprooting trees. He’s very pro tree.

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Dungeon Munchies (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £10.99
Where To Get It: Steam

A while ago, I reviewed Battle Chef Brigade, and… Well, I liked it. It presented an aspect of fantasy worlds we don’t think about too much. And now, we have dungeon cooking… Well, not really explored, per se, but at least a mechanical element in Dungeon Munchies.


It’s… Alright? Okay, obviously I can’t leave it at that. What it is is that it has this interesting mechanic… That it doesn’t quite play with enough to be excellent, but does give enough to see the fun potential. Food as buff. We’ll come back to it, because first… What the heck’s going on?

Well, we are a zombie. A zombie raised by a necromancer chef who does her best to do the whole evil overlady schtick while also having a corporate overlady schtick. And it mostly works, to boot. She charges us, as seemingly the only “employee” who’s been able to do this so far, to get her magical cookbooks from various places, fighting bosses along the way. From there, things get… Interestingly complex, story wise.

Even main level enemies can wear you down. The bees shoot lasers. The crabs shoot water jets and slash hard.

Also along the way, we use the monsters as ingredients to form a limited set of buffs, some of which become permanent later on. One of the earliest, for example, is a double jump, made by giant skeeter wings, while others add things like elemental damage, extra damage, extra healing… And with 6 slots allowed, you can’t become some godlike undead shitwrecker through these, which is a nice touch. It has a cool animation (honestly, the animations in general are pretty good, even if weapons don’t really have that much impact, everything else works either smoothly or in a cool fashion), but, essentially, it’s like any other crafting: Got the ingredients? Bam, thing is made.

Structure wise, it’s more of a linear level dealio, although revisiting earlier areas is possible if, say, you need some earlier ingredients too. You wander through, hopefully not dying a lot (You thankfully don’t lose much by dying, but it is annoying to go through an area multiple times), with, of course, a boss at the end. And the bosses, happy to say, are alright to deal with. No super annoying ones, and, since your movement and combat are fairly easy to get the hang of, you can learn their tricks relatively safely, only taking maybe two or three tries until you get the general idea.

Ah, gotta love those fishing photos. Oh, wait, no I don’t, I hate fishing.

Right now, it definitely has charm, and the story seems like it’s going interesting places, with some equally good ideas within the crafting, and I wouldn’t feel guilty saying it’s worth a try right now.

Writing this review has made The Mad Welshman hungry. He could murder a good Beholder Sautee…

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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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Reventure (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £4.99 (£1.69 for soundtrack)
Where To Get It: Steam

What if you were not, in fact, the hero, but some random jackass chosen to wield a magical sword? Such is the question asked by Reventure, and the answer is: You die. A lot. Sometimes entertainingly, sometimes anticlimactically. And this, funnily enough, is the whole point: A collectathon of endings.

He’s Lump, He’s Lump, He’s in mah head…

To say that mileage will vary on this one is… Kind of an understatement. After all, we’ve seen obscure game endings, some of us have gotten those obscure game endings, and always, the question arises: Was that worth the effort to get it? By the time the obvious ones, involving the sword, Power of Love, and just dying to things had come and gone, I was apparently in the top thirtieth percentile of players. By where I am right now, where a lot of what I need to do involves either completing the game’s stated goal of saving the Princess in some fashion, finding obscure things, and the like, I am top 10% of people who bought it already.

Since this is kinda the core deal, it’s important to note, because, aesthetically, the game can shine as much as it wants, and it kind of does, with highly Zelda reminiscent tunage, some amusing writing (“Wait, ignore the heroic music, don’t go past the checkpoint without a weapon!”), and a solid tiled pixel aesthetic… But you’re going to be hearing that heroic music, the eerie temple and Dark Castle tunes, and seeing areas… A lot. And, later on, it’s going to be to the backdrop of “Shit, wait, shit, wait, where do I…?”

Get crushed, and… Well, you’ll be alive, at least? Poor Hero.

It’s basically about discovering things, and, funnily enough, one of the most amusing discoveries is that, for the majority of endings, our hero just… Won’t die. Crushed by a brick? With an “X time later” card, we come back to the house, to find… OH GOOD GOLLY… A boneless, flapping husk is now our player avatar. Eep. Zombies, pirates, even a Tingle… These form a component of its humour, and I definitely appreciate the variety. The other feature of the game, in which Twitch streamers can let a person play the role of the hero verbally, is… Well, the mileage on that can vary quite widely too. I didn’t use that one, even though I know my community’s pretty solid.

Still, this is definitely a game that does what it’s trying to do. It’s trying to give that feeling of hunting obscure endings, of the variety of possibilities that, normally, we just cover with some generic game over, or a brief animatic. It even tries to give them the same sort of weight. But that sort of even weighting isn’t entirely do-able, simply due to the nature of the beast. Its humour mostly works, and, overall, I would recommend this to the completionist in my life, even with that final stretch being a bit tiresome to achieve.

The Mad Welshman is a Grumpy Completionist. He likes completing things, but never has the time

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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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