Divination (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £1.69 (£3.36 Collector’s Edition, £2.09 for artbook, soundtrack, other extras)
Where To Get It: Steam
Other Reviews: Itch release

Content Warning: This game has themes of self harm and suicide, and a depiction of suicide. As such, the review has been age gated, and this content warning has been added to the original review.

(more…)

Become a Patron!

SD Gundam G Generation Cross Rays (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £39.99 (£54.98 for Deluxe Edition, Season Pass £19.99, Extra Dispatch Missions 1 £4.99)
Where To Get It: Steam

No, that isn’t a word salad up there in the title. Or, rather, it is, but it’s a meaningful one. It is, indeed, Super Deformed (Bobblehead Gundams fighting, basically), It is part of the G Generation series (The first to hit the PC, in fact), and you do, indeed, Cross both Rays (in the beam weapon sense) and, occasionally, Rays (In the “That’s their first name sense.”) Simple, no?

Damn bloody right I’ve got a Hyakuri on my Sortie team!

Well, that still doesn’t really tell us anything, and it only tells fans of Super Robot Wars something when I say it’s like that, so… It’s a turn based strategy game, with some customisation, lots of units, 13 campaigns covering the Wing, Seed, 00, and Iron Blood Orphans series and some of their spinoffs, like Seed Astray, lots of characters… And a system that encourages a certain style of play… Namely, that if you weaken multiple enemies, a single Gundam could kill up to three of them at once. Oh, and you can also link your Gundams of the same team in a single, devastating multi-target attack.

Or you can fluff a 78% chance, and swear at the wasted energy, the resource that only really renews without docking back at base for Warships and Story Gundams, maybe taking a hit yourself into the bargain. UWAAAAAAGH! –Splode.

This is 5 of them. And only a few of them are short.

And I definitely don’t feel guilty for this taking a not insignificant portion of my review budget, because, as mentioned… 13… Goddamn… Campaigns. At this very moment in time, 13 hours in, I’ve gotten 29% of the things to get (Which… Isn’t actually as far along as I’d like. Especially since I haven’t yet got my two favourites available in this game, the Gusion and the Hyakuri), and have finished most of… The first missions.

Yeah, be prepared for each of even the first missions to take… A while. And doing well, getting those sweet, sweet extra missions? Unlocks… A harder part to the mission, which will test your endurance and tactical skill. You get some neat unlocks though, whether through that, developing higher levelled mechs into different mechs, combining designs, adding abilities to your characters… More of which you can unlock… There’s a lot to it.

Although sometimes, what results from developing mechs can be a distinct downgrade. Gundam. Zaku. Gundam. Zaku… GUNDAM.

Aesthetically, well… Gundam has always been known for some good tunes, and some high drama in its voicework, and this game is no exception. A dramatic sting happens with every phase change (from you, to enemies, to different groups of enemies if there’s more than one…) There are theme tunes, attract movies, the top down forced perspective stuff is mostly clear and alright, the battle animations are great. You can skip them once you’ve seen them, to save time, but… Don’t skip animations just by weapon, as different units use those weapons in different ways. One Gundam will have a proper Beam Rifle, one will use two Beam Pistols, and, in a particularly silly animation, one will slap two Beam Pistols together to make a bigger Beam Pistol that they fire. It’s very pretty.

Now, not all is roses. The UI text can get pretty damn small sometimes, which isn’t great accessibility wise, there’s some “Your mileage may vary” in the fact that the game is using moments from the series completely, so there’s a lot of dialogue and narration between missions (You can skip this, but for those who don’t like to, be warned, it goes on a while a lot of the time), and in some series, you’re going to get severely hamstrung if your Sortie mechs are, for example, all using Beam weapons in IBO, where nearly everything resists Beam Weaponry.

I LOVE CANNONS!!!

Say goodbye to that 4K damage, friendo, you’re only doing 1.5K tops against a Graze. And you will feel shame at not being able to damage what’s effectively a mook with ease. On the other hand, IBO units do pretty well in Beam heavy series. Muahahaha. Finally, yes, there is grind. Some units can only be gained by either maxing out meters, or developing them from other mechs, which requires levelling them up. Thankfully, this grind can be lessened by doing “Dispatch” missions, which take your group out of play for a certain time (From 2 and a half to 12 hours), but… You don’t actually have to be playing the game to run that timer down. Actually a pretty reasonable way of handling it!

But, here’s the thing: Overall? Hot damn is this value for money, with some moderately alright tutorialisation, to the point where you’ll very quickly get some tricks to shoot down units by the score, even Warships, and look cool doing it. For Gundam fans, well, hey, you’ve got a Gundam SD game you can play on PC (Super Robot Wars when, Bamco?), and for turn based tactical strategy games, you’ve got something you can sink your teeth into. Definite recommend here!

The Mad Welshman notes with some amusement that his sortie team is now several levels higher than… Well, anything except major story Gundams now.

Become a Patron!

Das Geisterschiff (Going Back)

Source: Supporter Gift
Price: £7.19 (£13.79 for all DLC, OST £2.29, unreleased tracks £1.25, remixes free)
Where To Get It: Steam

Content Warning: Although this review is not age gated, be aware that the game has mentions of forced drug use and kidnapping early on.

Ah, the corporate dystopia. The corporate dystopia where people have fucked the planet, the rich have gone to space, and the rest… Are left underground, fearing the sun they once loved. Yup, that totally isn’t too real right now, nosirree… Although, to be fair, the rich would be using rich people spaceships, so at least we get the black comedy of watching their autopilot ignore an asteroid.

See those sunbeams on the right? The sun is so hostile now, it’ll start melting the armour of an exosuit. And, as this note outright states later, it cooks a human in moments.

In any case, Das Geisterschiff is, as you might have guessed, one of those corporate dystopia games. You, the nameless protagonist, have joined a corporate Combat Unit, in order to hopefully make enough money to get off Earth.

Well, we all know how that’s meant to turn out. And, indeed, this game is hard. A fitting kind of hard, but yes, a fair amount of the time, avoiding a fight is the absolute best thing you can do once an enemy hits your radar. And if you do get in a fight, there’s still a fair amount to consider: Do you use some of your limited ammo? Or do you get up close and shoulder-barge the robotic sonuvabitch, because they’re lighter than you, and they can’t take i- Argh, this one was a suicide bomber, great.

Also on the good side, the game is atmospheric as hell, and the atmosphere is dark. The music is heavy saws and bass beats, threatening in tone, the world is dark as hell (As denoted by the content warnings above. Whee, lot of age gating this month!) And your shadowy boss is, as you quickly discover by the second mission, is shady as hell. Well, he is a corporate dystopia boss, of course he is.

It’s a low poly feel, but a good one. Y’know, red aside. And yes, I had trouble telling these screenshots apart when picking them to upload.

Still, content warnings aside, it’s not all roses. Accessibility wise, everything is shades of red, and quite dark, and while the text is sans serif, and the menu text is readable, the notes and talking type text are somewhat small, even on full screen with a big monitor and downtuning the resolution. And part of the game’s difficulty is somewhat of a lack of clarity as to what things are. For example, the screenshot lower down the review is a horrifying scene, if you know what those cuboids are (They’re dead bodies.)

But, unless you’re using things that sort of look like they’re usable, you’re not going to work things out. And you’re definitely going to have trouble finding upgrades, as the only clue I’ve seen is “They’re near those black boxes. Mostly.” Finally, you seem to only have a minimap. So I hope you brought your mapping software! (I didn’t, my first time, mainly because I’ve gotten so used to, y’know, actual maps.)

Six corpses. laid out. And if you hadn’t found another body in this level that explicitly tells you it is, you might not have guessed.

Finally, while I’m not entirely sure if it’s a bad thing or not, there are only a limited amount of saves. 100, to be exact. And it should be remembered that if you come into an area with low health from another, you might as well restart the whole chapter, with what you’ve learned. Because you’ll restart with that low health.

Would I recommend it? Sort of. As always, if the content warnings and accessibility problems turn you off, then no, and I also wouldn’t recommend this to first time players of first person RPGs. But for the more experienced player, it’s definitely an interesting one, just… Use a mapping tool.

The Mad Welshman loves him a dystopia. In fiction. Can you rich old assholes stop trying to fanfic yours in real life? Ta.

Become a Patron!

Blaster Master Zero 2 (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £8.99 (£1.79 for Soundtrack)
Where To Get It: Steam

Ah, Blaster Master. The original was a bit of a cult classic, in that it could be bastard hard, was somewhat difficult to get hold of, and so, built up a small following of very devoted fans. Including, it seems, IntiCreates, who created Blaster Master Zero, a fun little Metroidvania type dealio with the same general idea of “One boy, a frog, and his tank.” And, you know, the friends you make along the way, your friend who you want to save from a mutant parasite slowly taking her over… Usual stuff, really!

You’ll believe a Tank can fly…

And, while there is a lot to like about it… Dear god, some of it is finicky as hell. Like the game’s walljump, which does what I’d like for it to do in terms of my opinion toward it… But not in terms of what I’d actually want it to do. So, metaphorically, it can go jump on some spikes. In actuality, I’d really like for that to stop happening, whether it’s through tight windows, reading a jump as a hover, not jumping the whole way between walls when it really can, or… Well, any combination of the above. I eventually got over that hurdle, but while it was happening, I was less than impressed.

The game does have other potential turnoffs that have been part of the series since… Well, since its first incarnation, really. The tank’s jumps are pretty floaty, its movement has a little bit of inertia, and, while you can get used to it, I know some folks dislike it. Meanwhile, I’ve always liked the “get out of the tank” idea, even if your protagonist, in the tank part of the world, can easily injure himself… With his own jump. Indeed, falling off a shortish ladder can be a lethal error, so… Don’t do either of those things.

Special abilities in combat are the equivalent of parries, and god-damn are they fun when you pull them off. And you can pull them off relatively easily.

But each has their own strengths. The tank gains more abilities over time, and so does the pilot, Jason. Admittedly, each character’s abilities can only really be used in their respective worlds (for the most part), but each gets interesting fairly quickly, getting special weapons, mobility powerups… And, of course, each fighting different styles of bosses. For Jason, it’s Zelda style forced perspective battles with giant mutant spiders, other Mobile Armour pilots (Jason thought he was the last, but he is wrong), and, for the tank, things like a giant bee holding its hexagonal hive below it, both as a shield, and, of course, as a spawner of its ilk. They’re interesting fights, and it’s pretty easy to get the pattern down in only a short time. And, of course, if you screw it up, the save points are always there pre-bosses (They’re… Not terribly generous elsewhere, but just enough that you don’t feel like they’re too far apart. Just… Somewhat far apart.)

Aesthetically, it’s a lo-fi pixel dealio, with some lovely chip-tunes and SNES like sound effects, making it feel retro while… No, it is a modern game, and while some of its tricks are old school, the rest are modern indeed.

Okay, so some of you would want your companion to turn into a slimegirl. But, y’know, this isn’t that sort of game.

And I may have spent a couple of paragraphs griping, but, honestly, Blaster Master 02 really… Isn’t bad. It’s the second game in the modern series, itself an interesting take on the Metroidvania formula, it’s aesthetically pleasing and clear, and, apart from some mobility finickiness, I never really felt like I was bashing my head against a brick wall.

Aaaand I’ve got a brand new Mobile Armour, and I’ll give you the key…

Become a Patron!

Blink: Rogues (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £5.79
Where To Get It: Steam

There is a common misconception among folks relatively new to vertical or horizontal shooters (or shmups, as they’re called) : That the Japanese ones are more difficult than the Western ones. While this certainly can be true (Hello Gradius, Hello Touhou!), there are still Western Shmups that are, for want of a better phrase (haha, not really), “Bastard Hard.” Jamestown. Raptor: Call of the Shadows. Xenon 2. They’re slower paced, for the most part, but enemies can be nasty.

Hrm, now how am I going to murder all eight of these enemies efficiently?

And so it is with Blink: Rogues, which combines some elements of the older European Shmup style (Slow paced, health bars, enemies are bullet spongey to the basic attack) with other ideas known to the genre, like enemies that can only be murderised with one of the three special weapons you have, flipping your craft to fire backwards, and a feature I haven’t seen outside of one other game (Dimension Drive) : Swapping between two different playfields, both because there are enemies to kill/avoid in both, and there are obstacles in both, some of which can only be avoided by blinking between sides.

Which would make the game more interesting, if it wasn’t for a lack of flair to it all. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like me a low poly aesthetic, I love it contrasting with painted characters and nice, clean text. And I love little touches like parts that come off when you shoot them, even if it makes the enemies that little bit more bullet spongey. But the projectiles, the music, the enemy explosions… They can best be described as “workmanlike.”

I do like a bearded older man with a cigar and a naval uniform sometimes…

Add in that there’s no UX scaling for the main, shooty bits, and no reminder as to what the special weapon keys are. Yes, I forgot. Regularly. Colours? No. Keys? Yes. I’m also not certain as to its colourblind friendliness (being Red, Blue, and Green), so maaaybe different shield animations would help there? In any case, it’s not quite as accessible as I would like, and while the story is reminiscent of old arcade games and the DOS shooters that had story (Short conversations and collectible journals), it’s also somewhat workmanlike.

I don’t know, maybe I’m jaded. In any case, the difficulty ramps up reasonably well, although a big part of that is that death doesn’t lose you the mission, but instead takes you out of the fight for a whole 3 seconds (and, if you were in the middle of a wave, 3 seconds is a loooong time), and lose your multiplier. That’s pretty much it, although it does make reaching the star goals of a level that much harder if you die (Kill 50%, 75%, and 100% of enemies, sometimes with an extra modification like “You have to kill all the red beacon ships!”)

Rocks. Cuboid rocks, but… Well, they are rocks, I’ll give this mission that.

Despite that workmanlike nature, it’s not a bad game, by any means, and a multiplayer mode (local, whether against another player, or an AI with 5 difficulty levels) with several story missions that don’t outstay their welcome (and now, survival levels afterward, presumably on a “One life” basis) helps give it that little touch of replayability once you’re done (Whether that’s “Beaten all the levels” or “All the stars, all of them!”), but… As mentioned, it’s workmanlike and low key, and I can perfectly understand why that would be a turn off to folks.

The Mad Welshman once had a successful 100% run of the Monty Python DOS game. To this day, he doesn’t quite know how.

Become a Patron!