Forager (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £14.99
Where to Get It: Steam

Forager is one of those games which blurs the line a little bit. Specifically, between a survival RPG… And an idle game. I’ve actually had some arguments, over the past month, as to whether this label really applies. “But Jamie, you do things. You walk around.”

I’m pretty much getting the obvious screenshot out of the way here. And it’s not hard to see why it’s an obvious choice.

Yes. And a lot of that walking around is so you can find the thing that popped up. To hit the thing. To get more of a thing. So you can make more of the other thing to get more things overall. Everything in Forager is in service to opening up more Forager. And a lot of that time is either clicking on things (To mine them, to kill them, or to solve the odd puzzle), or waiting for things.

Like I said, it blurs the line, because while other survival games and RPGs have precisely this… Even the skill tree is basically “Unlock more things to do.” Ah, now you can mine this metal. Now you can make better mining things. Now you can get more gold when you make gold.

NEED MORE GOLD. AND WHEAT. AND COAL. (But not really food. I’m good there, that’s just to kill time.)

Does that make Forager unenjoyable? Not precisely, it definitely does interesting things. But it really does seem to be enjoyed more if you approach it from an idle-game viewpoint than an RPG viewpoint. Exploration? Well, occasionally you get that, but more often, it’s bam, one puzzle or NPC fetch quest chain, and what’s left is farming, mining, and harvesting. Story? Again, somewhat, but it’s relatively minimal, and in service to… Opening up more mining, farming, and harvesting. It has a hunger meter, it’s true, and a health meter, but rarely are either threatened. The real threat, honestly, is that you hit a progression lull.

See, there’s never a lack of things to do, or things to watch. In fact, quite the opposite, as, quickly, you have inventory management, and meters to watch, and things to make, and things to harvest, and now, because you want to make this special thing, you have more things to harvest, and make, and… It can get overwhelming, with the feeling that you’re running in place while not doing very much (Much like a lull in… An idle game.)

This, by the way, is about the point I gave up on my completionist dreams. NOPE. NOPE NOPE NOPE.

Still, the rate of progression, to an extent, depends on how you want it to progress. I’ve seen folks try single island challenges, and others (like me) try desperately to see everything there is in the game, buying islands as soon as they can, levelling as best they can (Levelling is done by just doing things, but, as you might expect, it gets slower the further you go), and that self goal setting is a nice way to approach this.

Anyway, as noted, Forager seems to be most enjoyable when played from an idle, as opposed to RPG perspective, and that’s just fine. I am a little annoyed that the option to quit is hidden in options, but other reviewers have noted this, and it hasn’t changed, so I guess it stays.

This review took one reviewer, two word processors, five computers, and a sharp stick to make. Only the sharp stick was a base component.

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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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Void Bastards (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £24.99
Where To Get It: Steam

I do so love me a very British future in videogames. Because it is, almost always, an absolute hellscape, but with black humour that somehow keeps it going. And so it is with Void Bastards, a game about being left behind, dealing with a system that hates you, and surviving for as long as you can.

It’s… Somewhat worrying that these are quite prevalent. A penal society? EEEEESH.

Wow, that doesn’t induce feels in pretty much anyone who’s had to deal with the state unemployment system here in the UK. Not at all. And the starships in the Sargasso Void certainly aren’t filled with mutated chavs, janitors, and British Tourists, so it certainly isn’t the dumping ground for the unwanted and the awkward. Nope, nothing going on here. But it certainly makes for an interesting presentation of a roguelike shooter.

So… Essentially, it goes like this: After a short tutorial you are not expected to survive (but potentially can), either you will be asked to restart the ship’s FTL dri- whoops, “Clients” have their citizen cards shredded, so you can’t do that, need you to go through derelict ships to find the right items to make a new one. To get this, all you need to do is obtain permit A38. Orrr get two items, neither of which are close to your own ship, the Void Ark, and then get back. Or you will die, be rehydrated (Turns out you’re not only forgotten about, but also dehydrated for easy storage. Damn, this government is… Well, I can’t actually believe they would actually be that efficient, but still, it’s a game, whatever), and then told that you need to get these items to get your civil ID card back and restart the FTL drive.

Anyone wanting to know how many lines it takes to create a look of worry and bed wetting terror with just eyes, look no further than this.

And so it begins. Tromping around dark, often dangerous ships, with a cel shaded comic book style exploration,traps, limited opportunities to heal, and a variety of enemies, most of whom are British. The Juves, the Janitors, the Screws, the bureacratic Scribes, the Tourists who explode if you get near them (but want you to be near them, because they have questions. Bloody tourists…) It’s legitimately nice that, once options have been unlocked, you get them for the characters after, but it should be noted that ammo is also scarce. Besides, fighting… Isn’t always the best way. As noted, healing’s kind of limited too. Basically, running a way a lot is a good idea. Or being sneaky and cunning.

Oh, and if you thought the ID card was the end of it, you’ve clearly never dealt with the joys of bureaucracy. Or a looted bureacratic starship whose step-by-step bureaucratic AI can’t even act properly to save itself.

…I’d probably give most people a pass on the latter, if we’re being perfectly fair.

Colour Blind Mode, aka Five Shades of Gray.

Anyway, while the comic book style is good, the UI is clear (except in Colour Blind mode, which hates you and everything you stand for), and it’s visually quite pleasing, where the game shines is in its voice acting, and its writing. If you want an idea of what British Hell sounds like, this comes pretty damn close. The bored teenagers have laser guns, but still oh-so-imaginatively think calling you a “Knobhead” is the height of wit, the shipboard computer is telling you that the worst thing about the Void Pirates is that they aren’t paying VAT on what they steal, and…

…Nobody’s actually a villain here. Nobody in the Nebula, at least. Just a lot of people, forced by terrible circumstances (and probably bureacratic AI) to deal with being abandoned to terrible circumstances.

What is it with this month’s reviews and the need for a “Content Warning: Too Damn Real”? Anyway, well worth a look, good example of British Humour, and a solid roguelike FPS to boot.

The Mad Welshman forgot to file Permit A-39, as noted by the circular B-65, so he can’t actually add the “Too Real” Content Warning until the process has been completed. We expect this to take around 20 years.

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Nowhere Prophet (Early Access Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: To Be Released soon. (Was $19.99)
Where To Wishlist It: Itch.IO , Steam

Nowhere Prophet continues to impress. And frustrate. Its world is intriguing, its difficulty mostly solid at this point, even if those rare exceptions… Frustrate the hell out of me. Still, that’s something to get to, so let’s backtrack a second and remind ourselves about Nowhere Prophet overall.

Each area of the route is predominantly of a single faction, although events are common to all areas.

Nowhere Prophet is an Indian themed post-apocalypse (Untouchables stand side by side with cybernetic horrors, and Rajs with mutated beasts), in which you, a Prophet, hear the last, garbled words of a fallen “star” (Satellite), and set out for the Crypt, the Promised Land which may or may not have the power to heal this ruined world. You set out with disciples, facing the world, and trying to balance your own health, and the efficacy, health, and morale of your followers. It’s a battle of attrition, as only perfection will allow you to escape the fights and trials unscathed… And these are many, while you and your followers are… Not so many.

Since I last took a look at Nowhere Prophet, it’s actually mostly done, with a closed beta until release. Areas are in, the intro and map have been spruced up, and there is, generally speaking, the more I had been curious about last time. It still hasn’t got an amazing amount of variety music wise, but the music that’s there is good, the visuals are both clear and striking, and the events mostly interesting and adding a little to the world, with extra possibilities unlocked by certain types of followers, number of followers or batteries (the currency of the world), or your level in the three philosophies (Believers, Scholars, or Altruists.)

This is bad. This is very bad. Yup.

Combat, meanwhile, is a Hearthstone like affair where, each turn, you have a limited pool of energy from which to summon followers and effects, which grows each turn (or with certain abilities), a limited battlefield in which (mainly) only frontliners can attack, and interesting obstacles and items on the field, such as Soft Cover, which gives health to those summoned nearby, or Acid Plants, which, if destroyed, also damage the entire column they’re on. Killling the enemy leader wins you the battle, while if your Prophet is killed… Well, game over. And, over time, you grow more familiar with what lies where, and what factions have which sorts of decks.

And this, funnily enough, is where the frustration sometimes happens. You see, some Elite and Boss decks are nasty, and, regardless of how far I’ve come, meeting these particular ones can be a slow, demoralising death. The Barrier Swarm (Rusters, the Cyborg/Robot faction.) The ArmourBoi (Union of the Five Fingers.) The Endless Taunt (Feral Wanderers, the bandit/beast faction.) These three decks in particular are annoying, because… Well, there’s seemingly not that much that consistently counters them, and their entire focus is “No, you can’t, in fact, hit me, you got more to worry about.” And, since they’re on Bosses and Elites, well… You’d have to do a lot of damage to take them out before they get going.

YOU’RE NOT WRONG, TOOTHY ONE!

But this, essentially, is more of a gripe than anything else, and I can relatively consistently get to at least the third map, with still more to explore, such as Daily Challenges, and, of course, working out how to unlock various tribes and leaders, for more deck exploration. Nowhere Prophet remains pretty interesting, and I’m happy to report that.

Normally, I would wait until release. But I noticed that I hadn’t reviewed in a while, and it has changed… Quite a bit!

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Black Paradox (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £11.39 (£13.74 for game+soundtrack, £5.79 for soundtrack)
Where To Get It: Steam

Hey you! Do you remember the 80s? How about something more recent that remembers the 80s, Vaporwave? Okay, okay, let’s make this a little easier? How much do you know about shooting spaceships in procgenned patterns that then go boom, followed by a bigger boss spaceship, and doing that until you go boom, at which point you get points to buy better stats, then do it again?

Ah, okay, I feel we reached the maximum number of folks with that last one.

As soon as I saw this, I thought: “Yes, this is exactly the mood the game is going for: Blowing shit up with MURDERKEYTAR.”

So yes, Black Paradox is a shoot-em-up, of the horizontal variety, where you, a bounty hunter with duplication powers called Black Paradox, shoot space pirates, cowboys, and other ne’er do wells, beat bosses in a space DeLorean, and, when you die, you get the chance to use the money you earned to buy upgrades. Not new weapons, mind you, because weapons drop from Carriers in level, and it’s random what you can pick up, but stat upgrades, to things like health, attack, speed, and fire rate (With added percentage chance of something extra per shot, according to the chip you slot.)

So, what’s it like? Well, I feel like the main good points are its aesthetic, and the energy of its weapons. Aesthetic wise, Black Paradox is trying for a Vaporwave aesthetic, a style that pays an odd kind of homage to the 80s styles while also ambiguously satirising the consumer culture of the period. So, on the one hand, synth tunes with a distinct 80s feel, bike helmets, big triangles, and, on the other, parodies of popular 80s icons like Lobo, Tex Hex, and the Master Blaster duo. It’s mostly surface level, but it does work moodwise.

I don’t feel like fighting this guy, where’s a wisecracking horse, a bad comedy sidekick, and a sheriff with animal powers when you need them?

As to the weapons, well, there’s quite a few of them, and, beyond the bog standard gun with middling round bullets wot go pew pew pew, there are lasers, deadly boomerangs, railguns, flamethrowers… Each weapon acts pretty differently, and some, like the railgun, are definitely meant for use on bosses or big enemies only. What matters is that they are all, from the weakest to the strongest, chunky and exciting to use. I love being slowed down by the Dart Punk, my missile pods wrecking anything silly enough to stay in the way. I love filling the screen with boomerangs, wandering around the screen as entire asteroid fields (and the ambushes behind them) die before I really get to see them. And equally, I love a lot of the powerups you get from defeating one of the seven bosses. The blade drone (A roomba, but with knives.) The medic drone, occasionally topping me up because, boy, I also love running into bullets and exploding a lot.

Of course, that’s because, at any given time, there’s a fair amount of bullets on screen at any one time. It isn’t quite bullet hell, but it comes pretty close, and there are some attacks that make you panic. But runs are quick to restart, and I know, with each failed run, I’m a tiny bit closer to getting more powerful. I could do with becoming more powerful a little more quickly (As higher level chips cost a lot more, and so do the chip slots), but, honestly, it isn’t terrible. Know that, unless you’re good at these ol’ shmups, you may be a while to properly powerup, and, if you’re cool with that, then it’s all good.

And yes, occasionally, you run into a Black Paradox event. Which is mirror match BADTIMES (In the best way.)

So yeah, overall, I feel positive about Black Paradox. It’s a little slow to get going if you’re not great at shmups (HI), but its aesthetic is nice, its weapons feel good, especially once you get how they work, its music is good, and I can see myself coming back to this quite a bit.

The Mad Welshman unfortunately has neither the touch, nor the power to take on the final boss yet, but when he does, he will dare, dare to believe he will suriiiiiive.

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