Jupiter Hell (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £19.49
Where to Get It: Steam

Doom: The Roguelike was an interesting experience. Not just because I personally find it pleasant to see ASCII renditions of various video game enemies, and enjoy roguelikes, but because it emulated the feel of Doom (swearing as you unload, wondering when the next health pickup will be found, and moving, always moving), while being its own thing.

Every time you die, it helpfully reminds you what killed you a few seconds ago, but also assesses how risky you played, and how many you killed (This is important for certain achievements!)

And Jupiter Hell? Well, those of us who know, know that it is basically Doom: The Roguelike… Remastered. And how does it shape up? Pretty well so far. Let’s get into that.

The basic idea is that, as with most roguelikes, when you act, the enemies act also, and each action takes a certain amount of time (Moving, for example, is the 1.0 to calibrate everything by, while shooting can be slow or fast, depending on the weapon, and some abilities), and the game limits your motion to the four cardinal directions. I mean, you can move diagonally, but that isn’t a single move, but two. The maps use seeds for generation, and they always follow the same set of patterns and general enemy difficulty, although sometimes you get a doozy like coming out of the first area to find seven corrupted soldiers looking at you. And then shooting you to death (In a recent patch, this has been toned down, at least for the first level.)

Ehehe. Ohhh, you poor, undead and demonic bastards…

But, thankfully, I only encountered that once, and I’ve always understood where I’d screwed up overall. Another hallmark of a good roguelike. Your objective? To find out what the hell’s goi- It’s to murder everything, because nothing on any of these godforsaken bases can be saved, and a good chunk of it wants to turn you into good chunks. There is cover, and taking advantage of it, as well as baiting enemies into leaving theirs, is part of the tactics. And there are skills you earn at each level, which increase your power somewhat. And there are level branches, each with their own situations to make you feel either really powerful… Or that this was a bad idea.

So, your goal is pretty clear. Your controls are pretty clear, and rebindable to boot. There are CRT effects (including glitching and tearing of the UI at low health), but they can be turned off in the options. While the game is often somewhat dark, your currently targeted enemy is highlighted clearly, as is the next, automatically, when you kill the first, and you can still, most of the time, see the enemies well enough to shoot them. The menus can be a little odd to get used to at first (Mainly, remember that you can hit left and right to see other information, such as what your boomsticks, generally speaking, do. Beyond a practical test for further clarification, obviously.) And musically?

The wise thing to do would be to run back round that corner. Suffice to say, I was feeling ballsy, not wise.

Well, I did say it’s Doom: The Roguelike Remastered, and the music is reminiscent of, but definitely not a copy of, various iconic doom themes. Little riffs, here and there, and the overall tone clue you in, but they’re hard, they’re driving guitar, and sometimes… Sometimes they’re just downright ominous.

And so far, the only thing that I could really say was a turn-off is exactly the same turn-off for many a roguelike: Until you get the situations you see in later levels, it can be frustrating, as can not finding health kits and armour when you feel you really, really need them right about now. But it doesn’t shame you for picking Easy difficulty (In fact, I’m almost certain the entire Bronze achievements of the game can be completed on any difficulty), it’s aesthetically good, it’s mechanically sound while not feeling incomplete (Just a few minor balance issues), and I would say it’s a contender for being a good “First Roguelike I’ve Played.”

Doom was great, and Id are mostly great. And they were actually cool with this keeping the name. Just a friendly reminder for certain assholes from your local, mostly friendly Mad Welshman.

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Nowhere Prophet (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £19.49 (£27.79 for all gubbins, £11.39 for soundtrack, artbook, and other gubbins)
Where To Get It: Steam, Itch.IO

Nowhere Prophet has, over the course of its Early Access, been a promising, but sometimes frustrating ride. And with release? Well, there’s some improvement, including rejigging what the difficulty settings tell you, introducing and then toning down bosses for each checkpoint along the way to The Crypt, supposedly the salvation of this post-apocalyptic, Indian themed landscape, and rejigging items to create a more manageable version of the Leader decks, along with special abilities that can be used once a battle.

Aaaaaa, I got here, I got here! (and then never since. Oh Boo.)

In short, Nowhere Prophet has changed quite a bit from when I last reviewed it, and, on reflection, these changes are good, especially after some of the bosses have been toned down.

Because, hot damn, they were frustrating a day or so ago. To recap, Nowhere Prophet is a turn based game in which you balance food and hope versus progress and better gear, and the life of your followers versus your own life, because, in the fights, it’s a Hearthstone style of “Play units, play leader cards, get one more energy than the last turn, and your goal is to kill the leader.” There, a nice executive summary.

What complaints I have essentially still remain: Some decks are damn good, especially in the enemy’s hands, and the AI plays its deck well, grinding you down quite efficiently. Which is why the difficulty setting restatement is welcome: The AI does not play any better or worse on any difficulty, but does have less synergy in their own decks, and less powerful cards. On “Burdened” difficulty (Previously described as “Normal”), some of those decks can be, for want of a better word, bloody evil. But I’ve talked about things like Taunt and Armour boys before, so we’ll instead move on to bosses.

Oh no. Oh no. I am not ready for taunt/armourboi funtimes!

As mentioned, each checkpoint now has a boss fight, against one of 10 bosses (One for each of the factions), and the toning down has been good, because previously, some were intriguing, but many were downright frustrating, like the Union Bulwark essentially being the ultimate Taunt-Armour Boy, or the Blue Devil Tormented’s ability to level up all of his hand if you murder one of his folks. Now, those abilities are toned down, and, in some cases, limited to once a turn, for a limited number of turns, or both. Which means I can actually be excited about King Lizard’s clever trick without looking like a masochist.

King Lizard, on release, essentially straight up wounded/killed whoever attacked him when he didn’t have armour (Your Leader cards don’t count.) But now, it’s only the first unit a turn, and that is still tactical (Who do I sacrifice for the most gain?) without, for example, waiting to buff up some of your units so they really count toward that goal. Each has their own schtick, and it’s relatively easy to understand from the tooltips and what you’ve encountered of a faction.

Okay, so maybe I was. But I wasn’t in shape for what came next, and died.

I will say that, while there’s definitely a lot of replay value (even having beaten the game, there’s more I want to find), the final unlockable ability of convoys is brought about by beating… 25 bosses. And that, honestly, is expecting a bit much, considering there’s nine tribes to unlock this for, and four leaders, some of which you can only unlock through certain circumstances.

Still, overall, it’s visually impressive, its music is good, and even with that brief day one hiccup, it shows promise, with its daily challenges adding a little spice to the game. I would recommend this, because it does have some clever ideas, and playing it on the easier settings is not a guilt trip.

The Mad Welshman says Rusters are People too. This is in no way due to the nanocontrollers in his head.

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60 Seconds Reatomized (Review)

Source: Free because I had both games on release 😛
Price: £6.99 (or £17.98 for both this and 60 Parsecs)
Where To Get It: Steam

I had, in the past, quite enjoyed 60 Parsecs, the 50s themed science fiction sequel to this game, so, when I’d heard 60 Seconds was getting a remaster of sorts, I thought: Good golly, I can have a jolly old time with a quite literal nuclear family, radiation sickness, marauders, and all!

The cat, meanwhile, lives on. It goes where it damn well pleases in this new wasteland, as it always has.

And, as I expected, I’ve been having a mostly good time with the remaster or 60 Seconds. After all, I came in with the expectation I wouldn’t survive for a long time, just build up an interesting collection of events before the family’s inevitable demise. In retrospect, I maybe should have gotten more soup. More soup is important.

RIP the nuclear family, who never had enough rich, nutritios tomato soup that claims to last for 763 years (It probably wouldn’t. But it would at least survive long enough for us to eat it.)

Shit, shit, where’s the medkit, where’s the medki- BOOOOOOOOM.

In any case, 60 seconds is a game of two parts, both of which you can play separately for practice. In the first, you’re rushing around your home, with 60 seconds to get as much as you can for your shelter, including family members, and then… The days go by. You go on expeditions, try to deal with problems, and keep your family hale and hearty, because if everyone’s too sick to go out, or dead, or starved… Well, you didn’t survive. Your eventual goal is to be rescued by the military, but, partly because events are random, and you’ll never know quite what you need for your particular run, and partly because the military is slow as heck to get things going, it is, as you might guess, unsurprisingly difficult.

Now, one thing that remains slightly jarring about 60 Seconds Reatomized is the difference in styles. For the majority of the game, it’s 2D and cartoonish, wonderfully so. But for the actual gathering of supplies, it’s 3D, and, not gonna lie, I would have enjoyed the style being consistent, as it is in 60 Parsecs, more. But I respect that they stuck with that decision, at the very least. It is, overall, aesthetically pleasing, with everything except the collection being very clear (the 3D portion is, as part of that gripe, less so), the music sticking to that 50s style, and fitting sound effects that warn you what type of event is coming, or when someone comes back, about five to ten seconds before you see it for yourself, and the writing remains amusing for many of the events.

“Where did you get them rocks, then? Basalt isn’t native to the midwest!”

If I had any other gripes, it would be that the tutorial is very slow paced, but that, honestly, is a one time thing, so it is a minor gripe. Otherwise… Well, I expected exactly what I got, considering I’d reviewed the sequel beforehand: A fun, easy to learn, but difficult to master survival game, with adjustable difficulty (always nice), and solid writing and aesthetics. If you enjoyed 60 Parsecs, and hadn’t gotten 60 Seconds, the Reatomized is a good purchase… If you don’t already have it.

The Mad Welshman would, also, probably not survive a nuclear apocalypse. His mutated bones, however, would probably have a whale of a time.

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Blood Card (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £11.39
Where To Get It: Steam

Goodness me, we’re getting a lot of these card fighters. Unfortunately, they can’t all be good. Take, for example, Blood Card, which, while it has an interesting aesthetic to it, doesn’t really work well despite its interesting idea.

Weeeeeeelp.

And it is an interesting idea, make no mistake. Well, a couple. You see, you are a being trying to escape Death. Y’know, the bony feller with the robes and scythe version, tends not to let people go. And your deck? Is also your health. Much like other card battlers, there’s a limited energy pool from which to play cards, there’s a limited time in each combat before Death appears, and… Honestly, this is where the problem begins. While your hand replenishes (apart from cards which destroy themselves) after each fight, enemies very quickly start ensuring that Death will appear, doing increasing damage for each turn he’s there. Sure, he ends up killing the enemies too, but that race against the clock is definitely not in your favour, especially with elites and the bosses. The objective? To either kill death, or leave the dungeon.

“You could be cool like me!” Yes, er… I see a flaw in this argument…

Aesthetically, the game is odd. Some good pixel art, with some interesting enemy designs, meshes somewhat poorly with the workmanlike, and admittedly more accessible clean sans-serif font, and while the mood is meant to be Dark Fantasy (You know, blood and death and guts and gore and ohgodwhy, that sort of thing), it breaks this mood surprisingly often. Like the barrel guy, or the vampire, whose first thought in “Convincing the hero(ine) they want to be a vampire” is simply “Wouldn’t it be cool?”

Well, yes, but it would also suck, if you’ll pardon the pun. I’ll pass. The brevity of the character lines doesn’t exactly help, as it feels stilted. The music, well, it’s fitting (choirs, bassy brass, that sort of thing), but you’re going to get tired of it relatively quickly, alas.

Well, I mean… The attacks do 4 damage to one enemy, so… Ooh, I’m gonna be here a while…

Now, there is a third idea that normally, I would applaud: Letting you choose what to deal with. You get X rooms before the boss, and Y,Z, and so on of normal enemy groups, Elite enemy groups, shops, and events. But this, also, doesn’t really mesh that well, because the bosses are pretty damn mean, and when even normal enemy groups can delay and debuff you enough to ensure that Death sticks around for at least a couple of rounds (and yes, Death will turn up during the boss fights, making them increasingly more difficult the longer they go on)

Overall, Blood Card feels like it’s tough for the sake of being tough. 3 energy a turn quickly runs out, meaning you don’t often get to play, for example, Finishing cards (Which require you to have 1 card in your hand when played to get the effect), and your base attacks are relatively weak. While the art is quite nice for grimdark pixels, it can’t, unfortunately, mask the fact that the game doesn’t really want me to get very far, or see much of what it has to offer.

The Mad Welshman does appreciate the cape value of being a vampire, but would honestly prefer werewolfdom. Saves time on “Hair of the dog that bit you?”

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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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