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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Corpse Party 2: Dead Patient Chapter 1 (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £8.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Content Warning: There’s a fair bit of gore here, and one of the zombies is a small child (pictured in review.) No jumpscares that I noticed in this particular episode, although that may change in the future.

(more…)

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Sea Salt (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £13.99 (£18.78 Digital Deluxe, £4.79 Digital Deluxe upgrade)
Where To Get It: Steam

“Argh, why did the Eldritch Horror bite my face off?!” asked the primary worshipper of the “Eldritch Horrors Biting People’s Faces Off” cult. That’s a good way to sum up the general story of Sea Salt, in which a town’s archbishop, of the Church of Dagon, the fish god, refuses to go quietly when he is ordered not only to sacrifice others (which he’s alright with), but himself.

Guess who voted for the aforementioned Eldritch Horrors Cult? Well, what goes around comes around.

You are Dagon, who summons your horde from afar, controls them from afar, and slaughters the chosen townsfolk and anyone who gets in the way. And, while the game is alright, and aesthetically works quite well, I do have some problems with it. So let’s talk gribbleys.

The basic idea is just fine: You start a level with some kind of creature, you surround townsfolk and murder them by leading them with your cursor to an enemy, then holding SPACE once you’re reasonably sure they’re surrounded. Nearly every enemy in the early game will panic once you’re close enough, so, even with ranged enemies becoming a thing very early on, this, and the idea that not holding space allows your gribbleys to navigate hazards like fire are the basics (but not bullets, or the impending fire of a molotov cocktail: Those, you just have to deal with, one way or another.) When you find a summoning circle, or simply collect enough gold from townsfolk, you can summon more, of any type that you’ve unlocked in the playthrough so far (yes, this includes restarting entirely.)

Case in point, this sailor (and his friends strewn around off screen behind us) are even more screwed than they were on my first run, because now I have Cultists.

And that, plus the narrative of a church leader deceiving his people into thinking this horde is a test of faith, rather than a punishment for the leader of the church refusing to be faithful, is pretty interesting. Hell, even the bosses are interesting, although they may frustrate the first time you meet them. But it’s okay, you’re not expected to win in one go. Play an arena. Try again with different folks. You’re still progressing toward unlocking new cult leaders with which to try something different.

Aesthetically, it looks pretty good. Good, gothic music, the UX is well presented, the sprites for the various townsfolk, monsters, etc, are evocative with a low pixel count, and the world is suitably grimy.

It is perhaps a shame then, that it’s been an utter bastard to screenshot due to problem number one: Yes, there is a windowed mode, via alt+enter. No, it isn’t in the options. Yes, it’s tiny, and you have to manually resize. And if that were all, I wouldn’t mind so much, and this wouldn’t be getting the thumb being waved back and fore uncertainly. But it isn’t. The game being somewhat slow, I understand. It gives you room to think, even if it doesn’t particularly feel great.

A good simulation of how my eyeballs felt in areas of the game where there were a lot of fires.

But the fires causing this godawful blur effect that makes my eyes hurt is bloody terrible, and it only gets worse the more fire there is. No, there isn’t an option to turn that off, although there is for “Ye Olde School Graine Filtre” Similarly, while the UX is alright, what isn’t alright is the lack of clarity in the menu organisation: When it says “Start” , it means “Continue”, and, when leaving an arena, it asks “Retry” when, in fact, it means “Back to menu.” And the difficulty starts spiking pretty early also.

If you like playing the monsters or villains, as I do, and want something a little different, this one’s a moderately good pick. But I know I’m going to be waiting until the eyestrain inducing post-effects can be turned off, because that’s the kind of Eldritch Horror I’m not into. Where I’m going, I will need eyes.

The Mad Welshman is more of a Labour voter than the Eldritch Horror Party, but he does support the “Great Cthulhu Eats The Rich” platform.

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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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Autonauts (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £17.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Robots can be frustrating things. Colonists and their needs can be frustrating things. So… What happens when you put them together? Well, it sure ain’t cherry pie, friends. So… Autonauts is a colony building game, but instead of a group of colonists you control (directly or indirectly), it’s robots. Robots you… “Program.”

I would say we’ll get to that in a second, but no, it’s a core issue with why I find the game so damn frustrating. It’s got a programming language, programming limitations, but, apart from being able to delete instructions, what is it actually? It’s monkey-see, monkey-do. You set the robot to record actions, you do the things, and… Once you’ve done that, you’d think it was over, right?

This, funnily enough, still doesn’t seem to do the job right. If only I had… A variable to compare rather than a binary state…

Well, not quite. You can change some conditions, such as loop conditions, but without knowing that (It doesn’t actually teach you that explicitly, you have to futz with that menu you see (or know Scratch, and how it does that too) to know this.) But otherwise, there’s not a lot of programming going on, and, since the robots were designed by the Department of Cut Corners, the early game is a massive drag for several reasons. Let’s start with getting your basic industry up and running.

So, in the tutorial, it tells you you need three robots to log and replant an area. Fine, cool, this is technically true. What it doesn’t tell you is that, if you don’t want to be rushing around trying to fill every one of their needs, from recharging (the default bot’s battery life can best be described as “Shit”) to needing tools when they break, you’ll want an extra two bots, one for recharging, one for making tools, a set of crates to put those tools in, and to go back and adjust the robots so they get a tool from the crate when theirs is broken. Not to mention the log chopping bots, the plank chopping bots, the storing bots, the recharge bots for all of these, the mining bot, the stone storing bot, the charging bot for those

Pictured: A bot about to run out of battery, halting progress until I recharge him, because I hadn’t, at this early point, realised you can program a robot to recharge other robots (Disclaimer: A robot needs to not be charged for this instruction to be programmed.)

And until you have that basic logging and mining setup, you’re going to be manually doing a lot of this work. Does it get any easier later on? Not… Really. Because then, there are colonists. Who are factories of a resource called, no joke, Wuv. Suffice to say, I have very little Wuv for these parasites, because while I and the robots are working our asses off to fill their pyramid of needs, they… Well, they don’t really do anything except generate Wuv. Which you need for research to improve their needs, and…

Oh shit. We’ve got more industries to deal with. Which you’ll be setting up bots for. You can, to be fair, make this slightly easier by… Building several robots to build robots, a specified number, rather than an infinite loop. That way, you can just hit play on up to four bots to build a more complicated bot. (their charging bot is always active unless it loses battery, and no, another charging bot won’t solve the problem, it’ll just delay it a fair bit (Unless their batteries run down simultaneously early))

But I hope I’m getting across my main problem with this game: It is perhaps the most busywork colony builder I’ve come across in a while, because there’s not much breathing room for things to just work without… Oh. Yeah. Doing the legwork to build, program, and equip several bots for a single task that… I dunno, maybe those lazy bastards we’re feeding, clothing, and housing could help with?

Okay, arable land, check… Cooking pot, check… Wait, crap, now I need, like, three or four new robots. Per meal type. SOD.

Aesthetically, by the way, it’s quite pleasing. Nice low poly look, good sound, the music is… Well, it’s meant to be relaxing, but, as you might gather, it hasn’t helped a lot. It has clear menus (Although it should be noted that the Blueprint encyclopedia is also the “What’s in the world” encyclopedia. So you know), the Scratch interface for robots is somewhat clear (Yes, I missed conditional loops for hours, so you can imagine how frustrated I was before this small, but very significant detail was spotted), so… This is alright.

But I have to admit, I’m not having fun with it. My colonists are parasites, my robots are flawed, and for every new task I need to do, there’s a lot more setup than is perhaps necessary, and I didn’t feel like the tutorialising was clear. Is it an interesting approach to a colony building game? Yes. Is it unfortunately an unenjoyable romp into this territory? Well, for me, at least, it was.

The Mad Welshman does count his blessings. At least it’s not the SP10 series we’re using.

Okay, that one was a little obscure, even for me.

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