Spring Falls (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £5.19 (£7.87 for game + soundtrack, £2.89 for soundtrack)
Where To Get It: Steam

There’s little I love more than a relaxing puzzle game, with chill music, that makes itself clear from the get-go. And then adds things that you can’t help but experiment with. I also quite like beautiful flowers and grassy landscapes (And, indeed, I pay the price for that pretty much every summer. Hey ho…)

Will this… Will this work? I’m not sure. It looks dicey.

So Spring Falls, a game about, essentially, trying to make water fall in such a way that the grass grows in a line around your water… That leads to one or more flowers. Of course, the falls part becomes obvious pretty early on… You have limited space to work with, and, being on a cliffside, if the water falls off the edges, or falls lower than it needs to to water a plant… Well, might as well restart. And, for the most part, you can only pull hexes (for lo, tiles are hexagonal) down. Well, mostly…

A nice, simple premise, no? It adds things later on, but let’s take a break from that, and talk about the game’s aesthetics. It’s pretty, a minimalist kind of pretty that’s also clear, and the music is so very relaxing… Sound wise, there’s not a lot, some stings, flowing water sounds, and pops… But there doesn’t need to be a lot, because what sounds there are are both clear and pleasant. Indeed, the puzzles use some pretty restricted space, in order to get you to focus on a relatively small number of moves. Hrm, this cracked clay sort of block, what does it… Oh! It rises when it’s watered! And, from then on, bam, you know what it does, and can immediately identify it.

So pretty… <3

And the game tutorialises pretty damn well. At first, the clay block rising was a good thing. But then it got in the way, and I could see no way around it to the flower, except… AHA… It can be dragged down not only one level, but to its original height!

Beyond this, and a problem I seem to be seeing a lot this month (That the volume can’t be manually adjusted in game, only the sound turned on and off), there really isn’t a whole lot to say about Spring Falls, precisely because it’s a tight puzzle game where the objective becomes clear from the get go, so all you have to do… Is relax… And think. You’ve got all the time in the world. Drink it in, like a flower.

The Mad Welshman, even with his hayfever, appreciates flowers. So many lovely sights and (ACHOO! …sniff) smells

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Detective Kobayashi (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £9.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Detective Kobayashi is a detective game in the rough style of Phoenix Wright, where a key mechanic is rebutting statements by an antagonist, and you can read the protagonist’s thoughts. Which, er… If it was a flagship feature, I wouldn’t exactly say it’s all that hot. Thankfully, it isn’t, and the game is… Pretty solid.

Detective games in this vein work in a pretty similar fashion: Explore scenes and talk to people until you have all the evidence you need, at which point it kicks you into deduction mode, either picking dialogue options that opens the door of truth a little further, or present evidence to contradict statements.

Which would be just dandy, if it weren’t very easy to trap yourself in these contradiction exposing segments. Each one has three possible statements to contradict: Only one of them is the one you should attack. Generally, you are only using a few pieces of evidence, out of… A lot. And you have to make sure you’ve got it in the right order.

Yes, everyone outright states the introverted child has a lot of trouble making friends, and yes, he left his newest and his favourite toys at home… But neither is the way to progress in the first case… Although I do seem to recall one is mentioned in the domino chain that comes next. In the second case, you play the deduction game if you pick the wrong culprit… But while you can get to a certain point, and the third case (of four) unlocks regardless, you will lose the case. A classic Dead Man Walking scenario.

Sometimes, it’s multiple choice answers for debating a viewpoint. This is one of those scenarios, and… God I hate this smug fuck.

Oh, and you can’t save during these particular parts. That’s a problem too. Along with having to remember the numbers you’re given to text people you haven’t met.

The first two cases, however, are interesting, in that the first doesn’t result in an arrest even if you solve it (I won’t spoil it, because it is legitimately a good twist, and the foreshadowing is subtle), and the second, the solution is foreshadowed very early on, as is the culprit, and I’m kicking myself for not noticing it the first time I yelled “J’ACCUSE!”

As to the writing overall? Detective Kobayashi himself does have a heart, as the first case shows, but it’s hard to like him considering what a pushy horndog he is, always trying to get his female partner, Matsuda, to admit she likes him (She… May or may not. Again, won’t spoil things.) There’s also a transphobic and fatphobic line in the second case early on that predisposes me to dislike him. The other characters… Some of them are quite interesting, some are a bit flat, so, overall… The writing is… Okay? I’m not hating it, I’m not loving it, so, yeah… Okay.

Protip: None of this line is cool, it’s somewhat shitty, on multiple levels.

Aesthetically though, it works. Good music, character designs that fit within the world, and give a little bit of added character (There seems to be a lotta hangdog expressions here. Not a criticism, just an observation), and, while I can’t say whether the VA is good or bad because I don’t speak enough Mandarin, or Chinese dialects in general, to be able to tell. Sorry folks.

Overall… Detective Kobayashi is pretty tightly designed in terms of the actual investigations, but the contradiction segments never really sat well with me, Dead Man Walking, even if it’s just the one, has definitely never sat well with me… But it does work aesthetically, and the writing’s alright (apart from that transphobic and fatphobic comment, which is definitely a turnoff), so… A “Worth trying if you’re into this sort of thing, but be aware of the above.”

A good detective understands other viewpoints. So… A good detective knows not to shit on other people. Just sayin’.

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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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Tangle Tower (Review)

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

Families can be… Difficult. The unspoken. The misspoken. The very much spoken. As much as they can be a joy, people to hold onto in difficult times… They can equally be a burden, a curse. And the latter is… Sort of true in Tangle Tower, a mystery adventure game where the murder of one of its scions not only causes grief for the family, but exposes the cracks, the pain that’s already there. The failed dreams, the self delusions.

I can’t help but like Poppy. In a way, she’s the most honest of the lot.

Families can be difficult, and never moreso than when there’s a death in the family. A death, in this case, that was premeditated by a family member. But who?

Well, that’s your job, as Detective Grimoire and Sally. To solve the murder of Freya Fellow, an artist and lover of insects. And while the game is most definitely pleasant, the story of the murder itself? Well, murder can be for some not very rational decisions.

Anyway, the game. The game has three or four base elements to it: Investigating the various locales of Tangle Tower, solving the various puzzles and puzzle locks around the house, interrogating the family members (plus a brusque fellow detective named Hawkshaw), and putting together those suspicions in one of two ways: By making sentences with two pieces of evidence and two sentence fragments, or by picking the relevant clue item.

This one caught me out for the longest time…

The most complex elements are the puzzles, and it warmed my heart to see that not only was there a clue button that would let you know where to go next if you were stuck (or who to talk to, if you had all the pieces to reveal someone’s secret), the puzzles would have hints. Not big ones, just a general hint on how to solve the puzzle if you took multiple tries, but that was nice. Add in that pretty much everything is done by clicking the left mouse button, or dragging it, and it’s pretty accessible to play too.

Aesthetically, it works quite well. Clear UX, so you know what is what and what does what, the soundscapes were nice, from the music that fit each character (For example, melancholy piano for Poppy) and situation (The eerie, final areas have an equally eerie tune), to the little things, like ambient sound. The art style is solid, painted backgrounds working well with the heavily inked, flat shaded characters, and the voice work? The voice work is good. You get the feel for each character, and, when their suspicious aspect is revealed, you can hear the defeat, the brittleness in most of their voices. I say most, because some are already brittle.

Fifi is one hell of a character. Autistic readers, if you play the game, lemme know if they’re good autistic rep, and I’ll edit this caption to reflect that.

As to the writing? Well, I can’t spoil it, but it follows the rules of a good mystery: Red herrings, misdirections, every clue having a reason to be there, and moderately good foreshadowing of various elements. Why is there a bloodstain on the floor when Freya was standing close to the painting when she got stabbed, in the chest? There’s fantastical elements, it’s true, from the more outlandish characters to the general idea of the island, a place where the lake waters mutate creatures and plants much more rapidly than the surroundings, to the eccentricities of the family.

And, of course, a little humour. Sometimes it’s the kind of humour that stays light, like the sarcastic banter between Grimoire and Sally. Sometimes, it’s the kind that, later on, makes you feel a little bad for laughing.

In any case, I finished Tangle Tower in a single setting, and, while it’s not the longest game, clocking in at around 4 hours for a playthrough, I’ve had a whale of a time with it. Not, specifically, fun, because fun isn’t, strictly speaking, the goal. But I wanted to know, know about the family, about the island, about the mechanics of this strange murder, and the reason for it. Well, I got all those things. And I recommend it.

The Mad Welshman honestly wishes the folks who still live in Tangle Tower well. Life’s tough, people need a break.

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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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