Robo Instructus (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £10
Where To Get It: Steam

Programming puzzle games are, normally, extremely my jam. Teaching the logic behind programming is good, and, while it doesn’t teach actual programming most of the time, it does help understand it better. And that’s nice.

There. In the top left. That’s your options. That’s TINY by default!

Unfortunately, Robo Instructus doesn’t do a great job, for multiple reasons. Starting with a start interface best described as “Not great.” Okay, fun programmer joke, putting the save profiles in a 1d array. Cool. But when your options at the start are a small icon in the top left of a mostly black screen (even if it is one of the icons that is commonly accepted to be “Menu”), you’ve got some accessiblity problems. Add in the fact that while windowed mode is there, but it’s a resizable window, rather than one with options for common sizes, and it becomes needlessly difficult for streamers to get the right proportions, even with a scaling UI (and UI scale options, which, admittedly, is a thing done right.)

The level after this one is the pain in the ass.

Then, of course, there’s the things the game doesn’t tell you. Some of them are par for the course, and thus not a complaint (such as teaching the various parts piecemeal, so you don’t need to do a thing), but others… Well, for example, the third level taught me, although it took a while for me to realise, that a teleporter in a multiple level area (which is most of them) seems to either not count the teleporter as part of a robot_forward() command, or automatically call that command without a call on teleporting to a new area. Or it’s a bug. Finally, in terms of gripes, entering the program is, in places, needlessly pernickety, specifically on indenting. In most Object Oriented languages, anything contained between { and } (and with each command ending in a ; ) is considered as correct but in Robo Instructus, it needs to be indented correctly, and it only autocorrects to this formatting if you started with the instruction that isn’t indented (loop or if, for example.) Sooo, a lot of gripes here, which isn’t great.

The tower behind this wall-o-text(TM) is, essentially, your level structure. No, it doesn’t appear to widen out as it goes, terrible construction practices…

Aesthetically, it’s an odd mix. Most of it, visually, can best be described as “workmanlike” (or, possibly more accurately, a programmer’s visual design), but I’ll admit the actual robot section is visually pleasing, and the music is good.

But, overall? These gripes are certainly not trivial, for the most part, annoyances and accessibility problems that add up to make a programming puzzle game that, for once, I haven’t particularly enjoyed from the get-go.

The Mad Welshman knows enough coding to get him into trouble. Apparently, this trouble now also involves running robots off triangular cliffs.

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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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Steamworld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £22.49 (£7.49 for soundtrack, game available as part of Steamworld bundle)
Where To Get It: Steam

I knew I’d done the wrong thing when the lovely mage Copernica fell. I won the boss battle, somehow, but I knew… I’d done the wrong thing. And the fact that I very quickly caught on exactly what I’d done wrong… Says nice things about Steamworld Quest, the latest in the growing Steamworld franchise, and this time… It’s a turn-based, card battling RPG with some real time elements.

A pair of robot ladies, strolling through the woods to kick ass and take shrooms.

The general idea is this: Some unlikely heroes (More setting wise than anything else, because they very quickly become quite badass) have, after a short adventure picking mushrooms (Which, yes, results in a boss battle, because it turns out a large mushroom doesn’t appreciate this), they return to town to find it on fire, with the heroes kidnapped by an evil army, of the kind that hasn’t been seen in the land for a long time. And then things get interesting.

So, there’s a fair amount to like about Steamworld Dig, starting with its somewhat unique approach to the card-based combat system of the type we’ve seen often lately. For a start, each character has their own deck, but all of these are shuffled into a single deck, from which you get 6 cards. You can play 3 cards a turn, but it’s heavily to your advantage if you play all three cards from the same character. Okay, that’s one interesting thing, but the other is where I made my mistake. You see, each character’s deck is limited (8 cards at the beginning), which come in two forms: Those that build power… And those that use power. Guess which fule put too many of the latter in their deck before Chapter 2’s boss fight? This fule.

“Omae wa mou shindeiru…”

Aesthetically, the game works pretty well: Smooth paperdoll animations for the characters, clear and friendly UX, good and fitting music, and some solid sounds and splashes make up for the fact that the attacks, being of the JRPG style, don’t always connect with as much impact as I’d like.

And then, of course, there’s the humour. The Steamworld games, even when they get dark, have a sense of playfulness about them, and Quest is no exception. In Chapter 3, in particular, we get the distinct impression that the Adventurer’s Guild had been living on easy street up until now (They have their own golf course, the bougie gits), and that the large world… Well, it carries on, even with an evil army on the march… Look for the two robots playing chess in the background. A subtle touch, but an amusing one.

One or both of these frontline mages can completely heal from this single attack. Good thing I’m chaining…

I do have one criticism of the game, but it’s an odd one, because it does tutorialise well: If you do not engage with its core systems (such as, for example, using the redraws you have to maybe make that “Three from the same character” chain), you’re going to have a much harder time. Even early Void Mages can heal each other, or themselves, for definitely more damage per turn than Copernica’s basic attacks, and a little less than what Galeo (the punchy healer) can put out with his… And since they rarely turn up alone, it can make a fight really drag on. Which, considering that the longer a fight drags on, the more you get hurt, and that healing items are not the most plentiful?

Well, please listen to the tutorials. Overall, though, I appreciate Steamworld Quest going for tight play, focusing on managing a small deck with more potential tools as you go on, and even something of an ambush system (Okay, second crit: Since ambushing an enemy means clicking directly on them when you’re close enough, it’s a hassle to get ambushes, and those are that little extra edge that can help a fight a fair bit.) It has style, it has humour, and, as always, I do like a good experiment. Especially when, as with Steamworld Quest, it seems to work.

The Mad Welshman has yet to meet a robot he hasn’t liked. Admittedly, some have been murderous mixes of skeletons, T-Rexes, and lawnmowers, but they were his kind of skeletal murderous lawnmower t-rex robots.

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Tales of the Neon Sea: Chapters 1-3 (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price:
£13.49
Where To Get It: Steam

Ah, how adventure games have grown. Sometimes forward, sometimes sideways… Sometimes, they take lessons from earlier eras. I mostly like Tales of the Neon Sea, because it’s using old puzzles, and one of the oldest forms of adventure game stylings (The side-on, almost platformerish adventure), and making an interesting noirish story with it.

Remembering that robots are now sentient… Trafficking is entirely the right word. Eugh.

It helps that there is at least one section that is entirely from the viewpoint of a cybernetic cat. That, I feel, is a big draw in and of itself.

It is the noir future (Eh? Ehhhh?!?), and you are Rex, a down on his luck, psychic robot, in a world where robots and humans… Sort of co-exist. Suffice to say, bigotry is alive and well. A murder of a little old lady leads… Well, interesting places. To a robotic serial killer. To a cat mafia. To meddling in a very important election. And, on a more day to day level, disassembling your household appliances because you can’t afford to fix your helper robot properly.

We will have need of that courage and respect, if the Families are to prosper, my friend…

Aesthetically, the game works quite well. Its pixel art is clear, and its text clearer, with context sensitive options, and, if you’re hitting E to examine and/or use like a wally, some fun hidden descriptions. Its grime contrasted with the bright lights fits the mood well, its character design is solid, and its music… Ah, atmospheric and fitting. A few of its puzzles (Mainly light/cable switching) could do with some colour-blindness support, but, overall, it’s visually pretty accessible, with a simple control scheme, and, while some segments have timing based elements, it’s mostly good for not being twitchy too.

In fact… It is, it must be said, a little slow paced. It’s a deliberate slow pace, a design choice, and I respect that, but when puzzles, especially later on, become these large, sprawling affairs, and even the run is a light jog, I can understand that would be a turn-off for some folks. However, the puzzles mostly fit in their world (Nothing really felt like a Resident Evil Lock, just… Security and some shoddy in-world workmanship), and the writing… The writing is enjoyable. Mostly light hearted, sometimes absurd, it nonetheless puts on the frighteners and those tense moments when it needs to.

“Why don’t you try adjusting the phase? That’s the… Rightmost dial…”

Overall, I’d say that Tales of the Neon Sea is a solid adventure, an interesting hybrid of traditional inventory hustling, platform puzzling, and just straight up puzzles. It should be noted that Tales of the Neon Sea is an episodic game, and, as such, the story is not quite complete (the later chapters are apparently releasing in the fall, so I shall take a look then), but there’s definitely a fair amount of play here, an interesting world, and I look forward to seeing more.

The Mad Welshman loves a good puzzle. He loves good robots. And he loves cats. So you might have to take this review with a grain of saline crystal or two.

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Invisible Fist (Review)

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

The Invisible Fist of Capitalism. It stands ready, waiting to grind you down under its knuckles, to pummel you with sudden charges and unexpected disasters. It feels nothing, being an idea, and yet, it’s an idea that hates you, yes, you, personally. You cannot bring enough to its gaping, central maw to satisfy it, so it will destroy you, singly or in groups. Welcome to Late Stage Capitalism.

That’s… a $15 film ticket. The film could at least not be shit for that price.

So yes, this is another one of those games that has the content warning “Too Fuckin’ Real”, even with deliberate parody. Joy of joys. I needed that in my life right now. And this, funnily enough, is Invisible Fist’s biggest obstacle to success: It does what it sets out to do a little too well.

Okay, let’s unpack that: Invisible Fist is a turn-based, resource management game where your opponent is the Invisible Fist of Capitalism. As one of three characters (In fact, for a while, it will only be one of three characters, more on that in a moment), you attempt to survive, as long as you can, and maybe, just maybe, fight the fucking thing off you.

Suffice to say, what with that “Too fuckin’ real” comment, the odds are not in your favour. Even as your starting character, a douchebag startup techbro who is trying to create and market MONA, Mother of the New Age, an AI claimed to be for “Millennials who need new mommies” (Yes, he’s a sickening shitlord, ignorant of the fact that yes, he’s a Millennial too), while meeting the demands of both capitalism… And his own, clinging mother (Do you, perhaps, see where he might be projecting a bit?)

Funnily enough, the Announcer works best when the excesses are, in and of themselves, ridiculous.

So… Starting as a rich kid exploiting his workforce, blind to the ills of capitalism could easily be described as “Oooh, aren’t they bold?”, but… No matter who they would have started as, the tone of the game itself would have made this one emotionally draining. Considering the other two are “Self made college student selling weed to get by” and “Indian Factory Worker far from their family and lover”? Yeah, this wasn’t going to be easy. And it could all too easily emotionally backfire, considering… The Announcer.

The Announcer is the fucknugget who enjoys watching the world burn. He’s the shitheel gatekeeper, the Trololol asshole… And his insufferable, hateful spin on things very often veers into “Okay, the writers need to take a fuckin’ step back and seriously consider this guy.” Put it like this… Techbro’s techy startup is emblematic of the worst excesses, just like seemingly everything in this game, and so… Oh look, let’s add a content warning here for a random chance of “Mentions of Non-consensual Sex”, shall we?

There’s a lotta layers to this asshole, and they’re all made of dog turd.

Of course, unlocking a new character means new challenges. For example, Rena, the student, has limited funds, and her work options… Well, they don’t always make the bucks that are worth your time. And relaxing costs money. It nearly always costs money. Or health in terms of her pet cat sometimes deciding that no, it wants to roughhouse (nastily) instead of be scratched behind the ears delightfully.

Individual games of Invisible Fist go by quickly, but only by doing well, by meeting its (sometimes deliberately bullshit) challenges, and by defeating the Fist with good work-play balance, can you earn… Two, more difficult challenges. Interesting ones, and with the same level of social commentary (Spun by the Announcer in as shitty a way as possible, sometimes even if you nail it), but… Yeah, this game gets too damn real sometimes, in uncomfortable ways. So… Well designed, in that sense.

The Mad Welshman isn’t sure what to add. The shittiness of Capitalism kinda speaks for itself.

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