Little Dungeon Stories (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £6.49
Where To Get It: Steam

Swiping left and right… Now there’s something with connotations. Do you swipe right, and lose a little Energy on a conversation that may or may not go somewhere, or do you swipe left, and lose some Humanity as you buy into a reductive system and make someone’s life a little worse? It’s a tough decision. Thankfully, Little Dungeon Stories not only adds the options of swiping up and down (occasionally), but it’s a much more simple affair. Keep your four meters higher than 0, go as long as you ca- Waaaiiit a minute…

Jazzek fumbled with his copy of PC Tools. “Gribbley gribbley gribbley.”

Okay, this is basically a roguelike, along the lines of Reigns, where you have four meters (Health, Energy, Humanity, and Money), and all you have to do is get to the heart of the dungeon. Simple, right? I mean, you have a minimum of two choices with every card you draw, and each one raises or lowers stats, or makes you equip a thing or sell it, or drinking a potion as opposed to keeping it…

Well, about that. You see, one meter will go down with every choice you make: Your Humanity. And sometimes, the choice isn’t whether you gain a thing or stat, or lose a thing or stat… It’s about how much you lose… From where. For example, when a spike trap happens, you could use 15 Energy, and maybe it would go alright. More often, though, it’ll then cost you 30 Health. Or you could spend 30 Energy you… Might not have.

This beggar, for example, was a lose lose for me in this specific context. Normally, I’d happily give some alms. But not having the income to help actually killed me this run.

It isn’t always difficult, but it definitely can be. Adding another random element, the fact your adventurers are always different, adds some replay value… At the cost of some runs being more difficult than others just due to the nature of the person. And you quickly learn that some paths… Are going to be difficult no matter what you do. Like the Library. If you have high intelligence, you can do a lot of things… At the cost of Energy. A fair bit of energy. Or you can craft a potion recipe, to make lots of potions next time you meet an Alchemist, or buy things from a Wizard… For energy. You’re going to be losing a fair bit of Energy in the Library. I hope you had a potion ready!

But, for all this, there’s a few reasons I actually quite like this one. First of all, it’s short. In less than an hour, I’d gotten the gist of the game, and had four runs, three of which ended disastrously (mostly with me lying on the floor of the dungeon, too apathetic to move forward or back… Just like a particularly bad day, honestly, except with more wandering monsters), and the final one somehow beating the bosses, completely not understanding what pillars or anvils did, and reaching the Dungeon Heart. Go me, and my largely oblivious himbo!

Awwwwh yeah…

Secondly, it’s pretty accessible. Text is clear, what an item is is clear… The only thing that’s not so clear is that the card text fades into the thing you want to do, so actually choosing a thing can be a little hard to read. It’s turn based, it’s simple movements, the music’s nice, the pixel art on the cards is nice… It’s a pretty solid game, and a good lunchbreak prospect. And, of course, it Does What It Says On The Tin.

So yes, this is pretty much a recommendation.

The Mad Welshman swipes left on this game.

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DemonCrawl (Review)

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

Minesweeper. A logic game as old as Windows… Well, older than Windows, actually, but it was popularised (sort of) by its inclusion in Windows 3.1, right up until the present day. And the formula hasn’t changed. Like, at all. Click a square. Is it a bomb? No. Is it an empty space with empty spaces around it? Those empty spaces will auto clear, until, at the edges, there are The Numbers. The numbers that tell you how many Mines are adjacent. And from those, you have to deduce… Where the bombs are. Hit a bomb, welp, you die.

[Screams In Minesweeper]

Why am I explaining this, a thing known to many a person who just… Has a PC? Well, Demoncrawl is Minesweeper… But it’s also a roguelite, a game with progression once you lose, shops, items… And Hit Points. That’s right, you can fuck up more than once. Well, in Quest Mode. So long as the monsters (your new Mines) aren’t strong, and roll high on their damage, one shotting you. Or you’re sucking wind on hitpoints, in which case, welcome to Classic Mode in Quest Mode, sucker! But it’s okay, you can get magic items, and buy them, and there are strangers, people who’ll help you, and…

Look, it adds stuff to the Minesweeper formula, and it makes it still tough, and indeed some items (Omens) and status effects in dungeons make it tougher, but it also makes things more interesting. In a good run, I was collecting more gold than I knew what to do with, and when I had trouble, well, I had a magic bow, an explosive boomerang, a summoner of minions who would at least expose monsters, even if they didn’t kill them to make my life that much easier.

Oh… Dear.

On a particularly bad run… Well, let me explain the screenshot above. 3 curses in my inventory. One means there are ten more monsters on the board than normal, and there always will be until I get rid of it. One is “Chance of loot (at all) halved” … And this just after I’d gotten something that tripled my chances of a legendary item. And finally, “Levels always have at least one status, which is random.” And that random status? I lost an item on my first turn, and could have lost more. I was in deep trouble.

Somehow, I managed to solve it, and said “Fuck it!”, took a teleporter to a random level… And promptly died. At least I got a few tokens for buying new legendaries to drop, customisation stuff (mostly minor), and better chances at more tokens so I could buy them quicker. Oh, and a mummy avatar. I now have Resting Mummy Face. In EGA, no less. And all this is without mentioning other fun things in each level, like merchants, a very Audrey like plant that will give you things (in exchange for a lot of items), the Chaos Forge that… Well, adds chaos…

He later killed all of my kind. Just because I’d stepped on him.

To sum up, it’s an interesting take on Minesweeper that makes the game more enjoyable, has a fair amount of replay value and things to find, and I would recommend it for folks looking for a logic puzzly, rogueliteish time. Or one of the two and exploring the other. I’ve definitely enjoyed myself.

I am… Very bad at Minesweeper. It is embarassing.

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Meteorfall: Krumit’s Tale (Early Access Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £5.79 (£7.09 for game and soundtrack, £2.09 for soundtrack)
Where To Get It: Steam

Adventurers are not the smartest of folks. They run heedlessly into dungeons, and then scratch their heads as they’re faced with… A grid? A small economy system? A… Puzzle? BRUNO SMASH. Bruno dead. Whoops, Bruno should have listened to the tutorial of Krumit’s Tale, a fun little puzzle and deckbuilding roguelite in which you try to efficiently clear out a dungeon, with the only major criteria being survival. Of course, if you survive and leave a lot of item tiles on the board, you get more opportunities to beef up your deck. And that’s so very tempting.

All these tiles will be lost… Like tears in the rain. Time to die…

The actual rules of Krumit’s Tale are pretty simple. With an enemy, you attack first, unless they’re ambushing or blitzing you (the lightning symbol.) Killing an enemy nets you 1 gold, and gold is used to buy abilities. I mention this before things like parrying, where if you have more armour the the enemy’s attack? They’re stunned for a turn, which, effectively, counts for either two turns of damage, or the enemy’s death, depending on how much they have left in the (heart) tank, because you don’t start with weapons or armour.

You have to buy them, if you have the option. Once all enemies are dead, you’ve won, and the equipment and ability tiles you have left on the board are counted toward your bonus points. You get a free tile, you pick a special ability out of four, and then you buy tiles and rubbish cards you don’t want anymore until your deck size is the current maximum. Then you do it again. Die? You’ve earned XP, which will, over runs, unlock you new abilities for the character you’ve played.

A dangerous foe indeed!

The devil’s in the details, of course, with each new enemy having something that complicates matters, but the base ideas are tight, simple, and easily understandable. It doesn’t take long to get the hang of. Which is good, I like me some tight design! But what about… Everything else?

Well, it just so happens that I like the aesthetic too. Visually, it’s a cartoonish style, with some interestingly grim elements, and lovely little touches like the M of Krumit’s fluttering above the candle flame of the L, and the animations of each character. Speaking of characters, both of the currently available characters have their own… I won’t quite say “charm” , but character works. Bruno is definitely a barbarian of a man, with a constant, low key gargling of suppressed rage, and similarly, Greybeard the wizard is toothily muttering his incantations. Their designs, and that of the monsters, are pretty cool, and the music? Suitably creepy. Nice!

Yes, this would be an ideal spot. I love sneks!

This, the difficulty curve, the clever little things you can do (If your inventory isn’t used up, it counts toward that tile bonus, friends!), and its sarcastic, sometimes grim humour works well for me. As far as deckbuilder roguelites go, it comes recommended, even in this early stage, showing promise and polish.

The Mad Welshman loves the description of W’aggu. Alas, he didn’t screenshot it. Go play the game.

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Tower Hunter: Erza’s Trial (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £13.99 (Soundtrack £1.69)
Where To Get It: Steam
Other Reviews: Early Access

Tower Hunter, the somewhat procgen action platformer, has hit release. And how do I feel about this game, after Early Access?

Wow, I can actually… See this guy this time.

Well… Okay. Some improvement was made. Let’s recap, before we get into that. Tower Hunter is a procgen action platformer, in which you, the titular Erza, must clear a magical tower, defeating its inhabitants, for… Nope, still haven’t remembered. In any case, there are five main weapon types, with you randomly getting a possibly different weapon before each run (and being able to find other, better versions of weapons, if not the one you started with sometimes, in the dungeon), and, should you die, you start over again, losing some of your powerup “chips” and money (gems) in the process. Which… Usually isn’t that bad, to be honest, because you’re usually spending gems on upgrades for much of the game, and the chips are in plentiful supply, so it’s only if you’ve lost some seriously good ones that it’s a setback, and it’s very much a temporary one.

Last time I looked at this, the mechanical aspects were somewhat interesting, such as a large bevy of upgrades, multiple unlockable special attacks, the powerup chips being replaceable in play if you find others, recycling of items you don’t want or need into gems, and an improvement of your abilities should you beat the increasingly difficult requirements (Bronze, Silver, Gold for each of the five or six stages, themselves broken into two levels, and, another relatively recent upgrade, an actual boss of a stage. We’ll get to that shortly.)

And while the mandatory spike segment of the first area annoys me, this? This never gets old.

But the visual flair was somewhat lacking, the seams of the level blocks very clear, and the animations… Well, so so, for the enemies. Oh, and the poor translation into English, which, while I could deal with it in general (It’s not the most plot heavy of deals), is, admittedly, a turn off. Sound alright, music alright…

Well, the animations have gotten a little better. And the bosses do have some visual flair to them, more attention having been lavished on them than, perhaps, the bread and butter of the basic enemies (Who, nonetheless, feel a little more organic in their movement. Not consistently, alas.)

So, mechanically, it remains interesting, rewarding speed and exploration. And it has, to be fair, improved visually somewhat (The levels themselves remain… Well, a bit blah. You have to work harder to make procgen 3D areas fit nicely, and harder still to make them look… Well, not like it’s a collection of single assets.) And now… Actual bosses. I haven’t faced many so far (two of the five or six), but so far, they have been both unique, somewhat of an improvement over the basic enemies (Admittedly, uniqueness is a part of that, I feel), and… Somewhat frustrating.

This guy. This… Frickin’ … Guy…

The game, as is, has a battle of attrition in the levels before a boss. Most enemies can be stunlocked to oblivion, or murdered quite quickly, but ranged enemies are introduced early, and some enemies are frustrating to hit because their preferred attack vector is… Well, out of reach unless you hop. Add in traps, status effects like blinding (thankfully, only a restriction of your vision, rather than total blindness), and the occasional time your character just doesn’t seem to respond properly (uncommon, but it does happen), and… Those health potions you have to help cope go relatively quickly, even with resting areas between each of the two levels and before a boss. And then you get to the boss…

…The first is not so bad: The Cockroach King is clear, you can dodge all of his attacks just fine, and, apart from the boss thing of breaking stunlock (and being immune to it after 50% health, with desperation moves being added), he’s a decent fight. Also one I was glad to beat, because he was a braggart asshole, and possibly skeevy to boot. The Centaur Knight, on the other hand… Is mean. Jump the dash, don’t try to dash dodge it, because it plain doesn’t work. Shields often, doesn’t always telegraph too well, and while your attacks don’t seem to do anything to an offscreen enemy, his definitely can affect from offscreen. He is, to put it bluntly, a big ol’ pile of dicks. I’ll beat him, eventually, I’m sure. But he is definitely quite the spike, compared to the first boss.

An apt metaphor, I feel.

So… Do I recommend it? Its core ideas remain interesting. It has shown some improvement on the aesthetic front, although not as much as I’d like. And, apart from those odd glitches (Which I’m sure are being worked on), it’s a solid, if still not-so-visually appealing procgen action platformer. So… A tentative yes.

The Mad Welshman, alas, is a Vaudevillain, and so the very definition of a Pattern Based Enemy.

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Cat Lady (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £7.19
Where To Get It: Steam

Cats are magical creatures. But even I have to admit that a ghost cat with deadly psychokinetic hairballs is a new one on me. But this is one of the cats available to shoot with in Cat Lady, a roguelite twin-stick shooter that isn’t to be confused with The Cat Lady. Which isn’t even in the same genre.

Grandma, as it turns out, has a lot of stuffed rabbits, among other things.

The story is quite simple: You’re visiting Grandma’s house, but, oh dear, it’s been haunted by a poltergeist, who is commanding a legion of ghosts infesting household objects, and they’re out for Grandma for some reason! Luckily for you, now her small horde of cats can talk, and have gained magical abilities. Including the aforementioned ghost cat, one who throws deadly kisses, a wizard cat you start with… And this is without mentioning secondary cats and their abilities (Personal favourite is Box Cat, who paws at anything near where you told him to set up shop)

And, while the first few areas can be breezed through, not only does it definitely show promise, I appreciate being able to see everything the game has to offer. As far as the mechanical formula goes, it’s not a new deal (nor does it have to be.) You walk into a room, if it has enemies in it, it locks the doors until all the enemies are dead, you pick up one of two kinds of currency (the in-run Kibble, and the between-run Ghostly Spirits), you sometimes trade up your primary and secondary cats, exit levels via stairs, fight bosses (currently 3), and you get powerups.

Approximately 3 seconds before everything in this room dies.

Let’s take a brief digression into the powerups, because, while some are a little iffy, they do combine, so when you have a good combo, your shots break the game over their knees. For example, at first, I made my life more difficult by getting erratic shots. I couldn’t reliably aim at enemies, so… Whoops! But then… Bouncing projectiles (cool, less worries), burst fire (Wow, that’s a fair few bouncy projectiles!), giant projectiles (I… I’m having trouble seeing what’s going on, but I’m reasonably sure everything except me is dying), and finally… A poison effect.

To cut a long story short, by the time I’d gotten halfway through the third area, I was filling the screen with giant, deadly, knockbacktastic and poisonous catfarts. And my box cat? Well, I could set him down, and he would be batting murderously at a large portion of the room.

Suffice to say, I expect these powerups will get nerfed somewhat over the course of Early Access.

Your groans sustain me as much as they no doubt sustain the developers. Long live bad cat puns.

Aesthetically, I quite like it. It’s not quite 1-bit colouring (Black, and colour), but you, the room, and your cats have one colour (determined by area), and the enemies have another (determined by area), and the shadows are black. It’s clear, it’s highly readable, and I appreciate that. The telegraphing of enemy attacks is similarly good, and, indeed, the clear hurtboxes shown on the screen are sometimes used cleverly, as with the first boss’s bite attack, which has two forms in quick succession: A toothy mouth where the hurtboxes are the teeth, and, as soon as that one lands, it’s the inside of the mouth that’s the hurtbox. Nice touch, that.

So, problems? Well, right now, the hitboxes for interactions are finicky as hell, and buying something in the shop boots you away from the shop, so you have to… Interact again to buy more. I found myself shuffling back and fore, effectively pixel hunting for the area where I could do the thing I wanted to do. And, although the hurtboxes are clear, sometimes the attack lands before you think it would land (a problem with the muscle bunnies and the weird skeletal rabbit things that leap at you.) Some of the powerups seem outright detrimental, although maybe that’s just me not finding a good combo.

Silly Ally Marie, can’t you see your cat’s grumpy because you photobombed their sweet viral selfie?

Apart from that, though, while it’s currently moderately easy (Well, it becomes easy once you have a good powerup set), and there’s not a great amount to the game, it definitely shows promise, and I look forward to seeing where it goes. Nyaa.

More games with adorable murdercats, please.

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