Reventure (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £4.99 (£1.69 for soundtrack)
Where To Get It: Steam

What if you were not, in fact, the hero, but some random jackass chosen to wield a magical sword? Such is the question asked by Reventure, and the answer is: You die. A lot. Sometimes entertainingly, sometimes anticlimactically. And this, funnily enough, is the whole point: A collectathon of endings.

He’s Lump, He’s Lump, He’s in mah head…

To say that mileage will vary on this one is… Kind of an understatement. After all, we’ve seen obscure game endings, some of us have gotten those obscure game endings, and always, the question arises: Was that worth the effort to get it? By the time the obvious ones, involving the sword, Power of Love, and just dying to things had come and gone, I was apparently in the top thirtieth percentile of players. By where I am right now, where a lot of what I need to do involves either completing the game’s stated goal of saving the Princess in some fashion, finding obscure things, and the like, I am top 10% of people who bought it already.

Since this is kinda the core deal, it’s important to note, because, aesthetically, the game can shine as much as it wants, and it kind of does, with highly Zelda reminiscent tunage, some amusing writing (“Wait, ignore the heroic music, don’t go past the checkpoint without a weapon!”), and a solid tiled pixel aesthetic… But you’re going to be hearing that heroic music, the eerie temple and Dark Castle tunes, and seeing areas… A lot. And, later on, it’s going to be to the backdrop of “Shit, wait, shit, wait, where do I…?”

Get crushed, and… Well, you’ll be alive, at least? Poor Hero.

It’s basically about discovering things, and, funnily enough, one of the most amusing discoveries is that, for the majority of endings, our hero just… Won’t die. Crushed by a brick? With an “X time later” card, we come back to the house, to find… OH GOOD GOLLY… A boneless, flapping husk is now our player avatar. Eep. Zombies, pirates, even a Tingle… These form a component of its humour, and I definitely appreciate the variety. The other feature of the game, in which Twitch streamers can let a person play the role of the hero verbally, is… Well, the mileage on that can vary quite widely too. I didn’t use that one, even though I know my community’s pretty solid.

Still, this is definitely a game that does what it’s trying to do. It’s trying to give that feeling of hunting obscure endings, of the variety of possibilities that, normally, we just cover with some generic game over, or a brief animatic. It even tries to give them the same sort of weight. But that sort of even weighting isn’t entirely do-able, simply due to the nature of the beast. Its humour mostly works, and, overall, I would recommend this to the completionist in my life, even with that final stretch being a bit tiresome to achieve.

The Mad Welshman is a Grumpy Completionist. He likes completing things, but never has the time

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Deck Hunter (Early Access Review)

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

The feel, the flow of progression is an awkward line to balance. Give nice things too much, and you devalue them. Punish the player too much, or give nice things not enough, and it feels… Well, not worth the time. This is the line Deck Hunter… Isn’t currently treading very well. And it’s a shame, because there’s a couple of decent ideas in there. It’s just there’s also a rather silly amount of grind, and the requirement for good play… Or no play. Well, no win, anyway.

Disclaimer: Cards must be low level, and this reduces the size of your deck. Terms and conditions may apply.

The general idea is one we’ve seen a fair amount before (heck, even this month): You, an adventurer, use cards as attacks, fighting monsters, defeating bosses, going through areas marked as combats, treasures, spin-to-win, and rest sites. Where it gets a little interesting is that cards upgrade through use, and can also be mixed with Alchemy cards to create new, different cards. Crafting items, two card combos…

It’s such a shame then, that, outside of the combos (a mixed blessing, as we’ll discuss), I haven’t been able to see much of it in hours of play. What I’ve seen… Is the first area, again… And again… And again. And, funnily enough, that palls pretty quickly. So… Let’s talk about the why, as I see it.

Thanks to that Corrosion effect, I am, essentially, just going to take damage. The question was “How much?”

A basic combat is, on its face, pretty simple: You have a five card hand, which, at first, consists of strikes (5 damage, 1 energy), defenses (5 damage blocked, 1 energy), and some other cards like a healing potion (usable once per combat, 1 energy… 3 hp recovered.) You have three energy per turn. Okay. So far, so simple. There are even three combos associated with this. And one of them… Is annoying. Strike, then Defend, as opposed to Defend, then Strike. See, the latter gives you another Defend card (can be useful, if you have energy to spend, and, say, had no other Defend cards.) The former, on the other hand, drains one energy, gives you… 2 defence, and… Well, it’s not worth the hassle.

Okay, now let’s look at our enemies and… Huh. 27 HP and 17 HP, with… 11 attack and 7 attack. And here, friends, is where we start to see problems.You can, if you have 3 Defend cards, defend against this, due to the Defend+Defend combo. 5+5(+3)+5. Cool. If you want to deal no damage. Similarly, if you have three Strikes, you can kill the one with less HP. 5+5(+5)+5. Cool. But you will take damage. The question is: Who’s got the 11 damage attack? And, more to the point, without either of these options, the math is not in your favour. Rarely does any enemy have less than 15 HP (or a Two Strike combo’s worth.) There is no defence against status attacks (such as the shroom’s Corrosion/Piro attacks), some of which do damage regardless of your armour. Sooo… On the Micro level, it’s actually pretty damn hard to avoid taking damage somewhere. Unless you play well, right out of the gate. Even if you do, certain enemy combinations are, essentially, a big middle finger to your desire to keep your HP up. Oh, hey, it’s a mushroom and a thief! A thief who has 34 HP, and the Unloader special skill (reduces your energy to 1 next turn.) Plans? The hell are those, you got none!

My best shot at the boss, in which several cards upgraded during the fight. Not that it helped.

Enemies, in general, seem to scale faster than you do.

Now we add in that, to upgrade a card, it has to be used a certain number of times. And those upgrades… Well, gee, my Defence got upgraded to… A slightly better Defence. As in, 1 point. And it can’t be used in Defence combos anymore, only Improved Defence combos. Thiiiis might not be the best plan unless I have several upgrades in a row real soon. (Narrator: It wasn’t. He did. It didn’t matter.)

And then you get to the first boss. Gee, I sure hope you have a plan which involves 40+ damage and some unblockable damage, 104 HP, and two adds that like to add corrosion, and, more importantly, boodles of defence to the boss!

Overall, right now, Deck Hunter feels more like a losing battle of attrition than a game of skill and tactics. It looks alright, but playing through that first area, with that first area music, and those first area enemies, time and time again, has palled me on it, and I just want to move on.

The Mad Welshman sighs. The Balance has been disturbed…

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Cliff Empire (Early Access Reviews)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £5.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Right now, Cliff Empire is a frustrating experience. Not because it doesn’t have a good idea. Not because it doesn’t have a good aesthetic (futurist and clean.) No, it’s simply because its tutorial… Does not actually teach very well. Or, more accurately, it doesn’t keep up very well with how it is currently balanced.

Our latest bunch of hapless colonists.

Example: You are asked to build one matter generator. Then you’re asked to build a whole bunch of stuff that uses matter. Congratulations, your matter economy is now borked. If you, yourself, fix that, well… Did you know the power economy is, in the early game, heavily weighted toward building a lot of power surplus during the day, then disabling buildings and using batteries constructed by power surplus for the night? No? Oh. Well now you do. Some other things are more obvious, such as needing enough food and water to keep your colonist fed. But some needs are… Irritating.

Oh, yes… Premise. Earth has been blasted by radioactive war, leaving a lot of the fallout. Some folks escaped to an orbital station (which is doing just fine, by the by. Bastards), while the ones who remained, out of some weird altruism (that I don’t think those station folk are owed) built giant cliffs to rise above the radioactive fog that now covers the Earth.

Fun fact: They don’t always fill your needs. Perhaps the survivors on Earth had a sense of humour. In any case, there are three modes of play: Sandbox (currently preferred), Default (In which raiders don’t appear to come, but you have to fill those needs), and Tower Defense, which I haven’t even touched because… Come the hell on, I don’t need powering missile stations and shit on top of the hot mess that is currently “Just keeping folks alive.”

Trying to go it alone resulted in a… Marginally better life. Marginally.

Because yes, you will have trouble balancing needs. Colonists come in groups of 15 (needing Uranium to land, something you will have to trade for in the early game because you don’t know how much is in your particular cliff top), but housing comes in… 13, with the options for more if you spend the money. The money you won’t have until you build a trading station.

While we’re on the subject, let’s talk about the UI. Most of the time, the UI is just fine. But currently, the trading UI is clear as mud. It specifically wants you to enter numbers in the more than columns and less than columns as needed (Once you’ve put in a number, entering 0 for less than, or a number higher than you think you can feasibly reach for more than, is needed.) Buuuut guess how the columns, and the rows are differentiated? Answer: Not at all. It’s a big black space that, honestly, confused me for far longer than it should have.

What this doesn’t tell you: Also have enough matter creation to be able to handle that 3d printing and everything else you’re about to do…

Overall, Cliff Empire has an interesting premise (Even if I feel antipathy toward the orbital station survivors, considering their likely background), and it doesn’t need much more work, aesthetically speaking (Music is fine and calming, buildings are clear and futurist, UI… Needs some scaling options, and the aforementioned Trading UI thing.) But the balancing seems to need work, considering that nearly every building past the first few has some sort of roadblock or bottleneck associated with it.

The Mad Welshman will not allow the rich to get to the orbital stations. His knife and fork are at the ready…

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Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (Review)

Source: Supporter Gift
Price: £34.99 (Iga’s Back Pack £7.99, Soundtrack £7.99)
Where To Get It: Steam

Ohhh, Castlevania. The mere name evokes memories of violin and piano laden music, memorable monsters, and, of course, a castle with a monster in it who plans to destroy the world. But alas, Castlevania is no more.

Die, Barber! You Don’t Belong In This World!

Good thing ArtPlay have perhaps created a new name: Bloodstained. And, for a first outing, it’s… Pretty close, if not spot on, to what I wanted, at the very least. A castle to explore, with paths opening up the more I fight. Memorable monsters with a mythical bent (Props on the Welsh and Gaelic stuff, by the way. XD.) Equally memorable characters, even if some of them are, on the face of it, a little stereotypical (But still highly enjoyable.) And some bloody amazing music, paying homage to the tunes and world that the team had previously created.

Honestly, from the moment Castlevania big name Koji Igarashii threw down his wine glass, it was pretty clear that this was going to be polished to an eerie sheen. And, funnily enough, it mostly is, as I have very few complaints… Mostly things that could just be me (Zangetsu and Andrealphus were somewhat painful for me, but part of this could be I was going quite INT heavy), or things that have a solution (On keyboard and mouse, RMB hold + MMB click for directional spells is somewhat of a pain, but… That can be rebound in a way that’s more playable.)

Too cute to die… Too dangerous to live.

So, for those new to how a Castlevania game works, this is basically the deal: There is a big castle that has appeared out of nowhere, casting demons and other gribbleys across the land (Some of which looks too cute to destroy, but you sort of have to. Sorry, demon pupper!) You, Miriam, one of the two survivors of the first attempt to summon demons, have come to stop the other, Gebel, from conquering the world (but maybe not all is as it seems?), with the power of Shardbinding (Taking demon’s souls, and taking them into yourself to gain new abilities), whatever weapons you can find, get in quests, or craft (Often very lovely to boot, each with their own special moves), and the fact that nearly everything that looks vaguely like a torch contains money or mana when smashed, have to save the world.

Aaaaand inhale, after all that! I love the feel, the cries of the beasts as they vanish, or their characterful moves. I love the music, and, funnily enough, one of the best love letters to the departed Castlevania involves this (Sit at the piano. And just wait for a soulful goodbye to what was left behind.) I love the designs, especially those of the two Shardbinders, Gebel and Miriam. And I love all the little touches inspired by the Castlevania series. Shardbinding works like Circle of the Moon. The Crafting works like some of the later titles.

The game uses its 2.5D stylings well for dramatic effect, or just for prettiness, whenever it needs to.

Look… I could rhapsodise for a long while about the feeling of beating down demons, getting new stuff, finding new areas with the new stuff, and the laughter at, even to this day, finding Wall Chicken… But overall, Bloodstained is the developers showing their love to the series they couldn’t carry on, by bringing it a new name, and all the care and design they’d honed over the years. It’s good stuff.

The Mad Welshman kneels before the Dark Lord. Nuff said.

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Team Sonic Racing (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £34.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Obligatory “Oh look, it has Denuvo” warning.

Ah, doesn’t Team Sonic Racing look pretty? Aren’t its tracks interesting, and its soundtrack gorgeous butt rock of the type we’ve come to love and expect? Solid voice acting, and a typically Sonic story with fourth wall breaking and silliness? Golly gee, this would normally make for a very positive review, wouldn’t it?

Exceeept… Team Sonic Racing, to me, feels like a case of “You had one job.” Because the racing… Is somewhat painful.

Oh dear. Knuckles got hit by something. Not my fault!

Not the team aspect. That was actually quite interesting and cool. After all, encouraging co-operation in a team racer is a good thing, and this, it does quite well, by giving benefits to those who slipstream each other, give each other little nudges forward, weapon boxes when they ask for them (The person heavily in first place rarely needs them, after all), and even for agreeing to use Team Ultimate at the same time. That is legitmately cool, so props where props are due.

No. It’s the rest of it. Let’s start with this whole drifting thing. If your drifting is painful, on both mouse and keyboard (and it was for me), then maybe, just maybe, it’s not a good idea to so heavily emphasise it. Or make it the star ability behind both the “collect things” challenge types that exist. Overall steering is, honestly, not terrible (not great, but not terrible), but, since the track design also has things for which a simple turn doesn’t suffice, er… That drifting is required. The same drifting that so badly gelled with me. Joy. It doesn’t help that the drift boost is… Disappointing, compared to the headliner team mechanics.

Attempted, a light drift: What I get… OH GOD WALL WHY.

And then… Customisation. Normally, I am a beast for customisation in racing games. I love me new parts. But when firstly, said customisation is based on gacha (That’s random drops, ala lootboxes), and there are a total of three parts of Speed, Technique, and Power type, along with gold versions of the exact same powerups… Well, that’s somewhat dull, especially as their boosts and maluses are… Middling, at best, not significantly changing play.

As noted, on an aesthetic level, it works just fine. Most things are clear (The only thing I didn’t find too clear was the quicksand v track segment of one track, but overall, it’s bright, with solid readability and good value shifts for clarity), the designs work well, and the music and VO are good, solid stuff. But this is, unfortunately, an at best passable racing game. At worst, its drift’n’collect stages are frustrating, and the online play… Well, it isn’t great. The ending animations become unskippable (and they are slow), reports come in of matchmaking problems…

AEAB. That’s all I have to say.

…Overall, TMW has definitely seen better kart racing. TMW has definitely seen better racing games overall. And this is a shame, because an otherwise glittering core element, and an otherwise shiny exterior sandwiches… Well, blandness and some irritation.

It is The Mad Welshman’s sad duty is to inform you that no, you do not, in fact, go that fast here.

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