Demon’s Tilt (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £11.39 (£18.58 for Deluxe edition, £7.19 for Deluxe Content DLC)
Where To Get It: Steam

It’s been a while since I last looked at Demon’s Tilt, but it’s now out, and… Yup, it’s still a multi-segment pinball table where the three main features (bosses) change as you defeat them, is still a pretty tough pinball table that nonetheless is cool and interesting, and is still partly a bullet hell game where you can avoid the bullets, but sometimes using them is a better option. Oh, and nudge is encouraged, although the default keyboard binds (WSAD for nudge, the usual Left and Right shift for paddles, Space for the plunger) are a little uncomfortable (It has controller support, and I’ve had an okay time with that)

Yup, I feel like a badass priest alright, getting in the headgear of a succubus, smacking a chimera in its dumb helmeted head as she smacks me into it, and about to ride down a snake’s gullet for SUPER HOLY POINTS. Hell yes.

The amusing thing being, that I’ve already sung its praises in a previous review (Because yes, even for the price, this is a good and highly involved table, once you get to see things), there’s going to be a little repetition here. Actually, a lot of repetition.

The table is inspired by a few older pinball titles, namely Alien Crush and Devil Crush, and Crue Ball, and has three segments, a few hidden sub-tables, and, in EX mode, more hidden sub-tables. And each segment has at least one boss monster, from the Iron Chimera and Priestess Lilith, to the various gribbleys that populate the lowest segment.

Enemies only stop your ball from below, with the exception a few larger ones, and bullets kill the momentum of your ball regardless, so you can either use that to your advantage, swear and quickly nudge to avoid the dread drain (the pinball term for the ball falling below the lowest paddles, the point of no return), or… Well, not noticing and losing a ball. As well as all this, there are teleportals, spikes, the aforementioned sub tables… And aesthetically, it hits the nail on the head too.

This one’s an older screenshot, but hot damn, that was a good run. Also one of my few pics of this scary bossdude.

Gothic imagery, synthwaveish tunes and neon splashes (and, indeed, neon splash text), good impact and UX layout… There’s a lot to like about it. Although, fair warning, it’s a stimulation heavy game, lots of things flashing and sparking and bouncing and flashing, and it’s very easy to get overloaded. But hot damn, it looks so good while it’s doing it! It even gives you a hint as to what to do to get your next letter on the three LOADSAPOINTS objectives, and highlights jackpots and super jackpots as they appear.

Of course, no game is perfect, and perhaps my worst criticism is that the flippers are a little slow, requiring you to account for this with your timing. More than once, I’ve said to myself “I’ll set up an end of flipper shot”, and watched in irritation as I hit the flipper half a second too late, and watched it slide a table segment down.

These assholes, for example, shoot bullets a fair bit, and explode a lot, and this isn’t even counting when there’s lots of bullets. It’s a lot to take in!

But, overall? For pinball fans, this one is basically a must. It’s an exciting table, it’s got a great aesthetic, there’s replayability, the obligatory leaderboards (My PB is 302M, I’m sure there’s folks out there that can beat that), and there’s a lot to explore.

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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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Ashen (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £30.99 (Definitive Edition £38.18 , Soundtrack £5.19, Nightstorm Isle DLC £7.19)
Where To Get It: Steam

And so the dark age passed into an age of light, a… Wait a minute, I was promised Dark Souls, not… Okay, fun aside, it’s actually nice to see some legitimate hope in a game with the “Go out, bash things with an input system that encourages only hitting the buttons you need to, not mashing them, die, spend money on improvement, hopefully get further this time” formula that has been called “Soulslike.”

I wanted to focus on the beauty for this review. For the combat, imagine a small circle in the middle of an enemy, as I slam that giant axe into its smug midsection.

In Ashen, you are, obviously, a voiceless Chosen One, who, along with two friends (and the others you meet along the way), must protect the Ashen, a bloody great bird made of light and life that sat on the World Tree, died (its three breaths creating three ages, which passed, and elements of the three civilisations still lived through the dark age), and is due to be reborn. Gosh, my throat’s a little bit norse from that short bit of exposition, lemme back up a bit.

Essentially, this is a third person action RPG, in which your low poly protagonist wanders through a map, directed by both the needs of currency/items gained from enemies, and the quests, side or main, from the people of your small, new township. This actually deserves a mention right now, because it’s a fulfilling aspect of the game: The further along the game you get, the more sidequests you do, the more your town hub (Well, more of a “start point on the journey”, really, as you travel along a narrowing spiral toward the end, unlocking Ritual Stones, your travel points, along the way) builds up and grows, starting as this near barren, ramshackle set of ruins, and, by the end of the game? It’s a thriving village, with each of your fellow characters having their own cohabitation with various people attracted to this glowing beacon of hope.

Early in the game, but I like the image of Batarn, the giant one armed smith, helping to build what will be a beautiful village toward the end, an enduring legacy of hope.

Even if the game weren’t good, this would have to be mentioned, precisely because it’s almost unheard of in this genre (or indeed, quite a few.) But the game is good. It doesn’t give you fast travel until a few main quests in, but the progression feels natural, and I only died once or twice in the early game, mostly due to either overconfidence or stupidity. Especially as you have a friend, always (whether a co-op partner, or one of the companions you meet, each with certain styles of weaponry), and so long as one of you is alive long enough to resurrect the other, you’re okay.

And the world is pretty. Even in the bleaker areas of the game, there’s a sense of beauty, fallen or otherwise. From the parts of the world so far reclaimed from the Ash, to the almost tundra like ruins of Sindre’s View, to… Ah, well, that would be spoiling things, but suffice to say, there’s a lot of environments, including, yes, dark areas. And the difficulty does ramp up, with some of the underground segments, in particular, making for a large difficulty spike. Still, it’s also a world where the developers want you to try clambering over it, to see what you can do, and want you to see it, and this, also, is appreciated. Finally, the music is, for the most part, calm, relaxing. This is a world you’re meant to take in.

Even in this bleak, ashen wasteland, there is beauty.

Are there complaints? Well, yes. The game very much overloads you with stuff early on, and it’s somewhat resource hoggy, with slowish loading times, and, outside of challenge runs, why wouldn’t you give your companions their quest items? But… There’s a lot it does right, over its compatriots, a lot it does differently. The game doesn’t really bar you that much, so you can engage or not as you like, explore as much or as little as you like, although it is highly encouraged you do those side quests before tackling a main one. As such, it’s more guiding than holding back or pushing, not holding your hand, but showing you the way.

So, in summary, I would say that this is a better introduction to the subgenre known as “Soulslikes” than… Well, Dark Souls, the game which popularised the term! It’s pretty, it’s interesting, its characters are cool… Yup, I like it.

The Mad Welshman appreciates beauty, bleak or otherwise, as much as he appreciates bearded handaxes. Which is to say, a fair bit.

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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.

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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.

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