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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Fission Superstar X (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £11.39 (£2.09 soundtrack)
Where to Get It: Steam

Ahhh, Space. There’s so much more room for plotting and cackling there. Also dogfights and heavy capital ship whaling, which… Is where Fission Superstar X comes in. With a distinct Death Road to Canada vibe, Fission Superstar X is the tale of Doctor Leopold Merkin, and his attempts to make a super-nuclear bomb… A superstar. Her name is Celine Fission, and you will enjoy her concert, fools…

Aaaaand IIIIIII-EEEEIIIII Will always bomb YOUUU-OOOOHHHHHH!

Describing how this roguelike shmup works can seem a little fusterclucky, but it’s really quite simple: You have four potential crew slots, up to two of which are filled at the beginning (For a while, it will just be your Clone Pilot and Clone Scientist, but options open up the more you play.) Each one mans a single turret quadrant (From Pilot, top, to Engineer, rear), and enemies will come at you from varying directions. Kill them before they kill you, and you’ll get a chance to train up your folks or heal in some fashion, then pick where to go next, including Recruitment (potentially better crew), Shipyards (potentially better ship stats, definitely some repairs), and special event locations of varying evil (From the relatively nice Medicaid Drones, to Comet Tails which blow you the heck about, to the Ion Storm or Minefield, which might as well be marked with “HERE BE ALMOST CERTAIN DEATH.”) You pick up money and ammo from destroyed ships where you can, and, once you beat a planet’s boss (From Pluto all the way to…???), you can choose to blow up the bomb early, earning you a new ship (and a shot of Doctor Merkin angrily wondering how it went wrong.)

This is what is known as “Hanging on through sheer bloody mindedness.” That’s me at the top, by the way.

And them’s the basics, although there’s a lot more to it than that. Armoured ships, whose only weak point is the cockpit. Minibosses, including the Doctor Leopold Police Task Force. Those terrifying saw-ships, whose only purpose is to ram into you and murder murder murder. And, of course, different weapon types. I could probably spend a long while just talking about the variety of things that can happen, and references, and joy at the pew-pew guns. So let’s just assume “It is packed full of things wot happen”, and move on.

Aesthetically, the game is pretty interesting. Cartoonish pixels, junk, gore every now and again, and a fair amount of male presenting nipples, the ships are both clear in their design, and also interesting in and of themselves. Heck, there’s visible representation of your own ship upgrades, always a nice touch, and the music is solid stuff, giving that space opera B-Movie vibe. The ships deliberately don’t control that hot until you upgrade the handling (seriously, in the case of the Big Yins), and it’s all, honestly, very fitting for what it’s aiming for (The feel of a gigantic space bomber lurching its way through space.) The difficulty progression is mostly fair (Although those sawship enemies fill me with terror the moment they’re on screen, regardless of my or my crew’s armour), and, in the case of nastier encounters, it does warn you.

“Where we’re going, we don’t need eyes. Geddit, guys? I’m Dr. Where!”

“Shut up and shoot this guy before he shoots you. Or we do…”

Feelwise, it’s meant to feel like a hectic chase across the Solar System, hounded by everyone and their dog, with you the villain, and… Yep, it nails that feel. The speed of even the slowest ships is shown in the starfield, and the feeling of trying to slide past a small battleship while it’s peppering you with missiles, wave beams, and whatever whatnots it’s throwing at you (probably while other things are also shooting at you) invokes just as much adrenaline based swearing as you’d imagine, and it’s a nice touch that you know how long the level’s going to last, as well as how much closer it gets you toward its goal.

So, overall, it does really well. What does it not do so well? Window customisation and the fact that individual runs are long. That last one’s more a taste thing than anything else (It isn’t a lunch break game, it’s something you play of an evening when you want to… Hrm, destress probably isn’t the right word… Play, I guess.) Still, overall, I like its feel, I like its guns, I like its heft… Fission Superstar X gets a vaudevillainous thumbs up, one Mad Scientist to another.

The Mad Welshman doesn’t have too much to add to this. He’s still working on writing his name on the moon. Best demonstration of ownership, writing your name on the moon with a giant laser…

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Octonaut (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £4.99
Where to Get It: Steam

Ahhh, shoot-em-ups have such an interesting family tree. From space invaders, to 1942, and Gradius, and Uridium, to… Well, a whole world of little to middling changes with big effects. And Gradius, or, more accurately, Parodius appears to be the inspiration for Octonaut, a fun little shmup about an octopus that’s going to save the world. And look cartoonishly cute and oblivious while doing so.

TFW When a mutant shark is thirsty for an Octopus starship,..

Mechanically, a shmup is a subtle thing, most of the time. Yes, okay, “gun go bang, thing go boom, get score, don’t get hit” is not subtle at all, but the reason a lot of patterns in shmups look familiar (The snake, the circling, the “I’m just going to sit here looking dangerous before shooting”) is because they clearly communicate expectations to the player. What Octonaut has, in addition that, and an interesting set of weapons, is dodging into the background, and a very timing based outlook rather than a twitchy one. For example, as with games like Twinbee and Parodius, the score items increase in colour and value the more you shoot them… To a point, after which they revert to the lowest point value, and you have to do it again… If you have the time. Movement is relatively slow, and enemies vary a fair bit in their tactics, so it’s more recognition. And I like that.

Aesthetically, the game works really well. The music is Sega Genesis/MegaDrive inspired, and it is indeed heavily reminiscent, with a variety of moods, all well crafted tracks, and the aesthetics, similarly, are that cartoonish, clean look seen in shooters of the period. It’s pretty, and this, also, I appreciate.

Some segments, as noted, outstay their welcome. This one in particular.

Okay, things I appreciate a little less. Screenshotting this was annoying, because the game’s window is not customisable, and is, in fact, quite small. Playing it in full screen is fine, but… Yes, the default window being tiny and unchangeable annoys. It’s more a reflection on me and my time-starved ways that completion appears to be required for Custom and Panic modes, instead requiring you to get through the game (Thankfully, Normal difficulty is both generous with lives, with good health, and is definitely do-able, I can report), so that one goes under niggles, but otherwise?

Otherwise, this is a solid shmup, with fine music, good aesthetics, solid wave design, and interesting bosses. Its levels have interesting gimmicks to them, none of which are frustrating (Although some, like laser jerk, go on a bit too long), and… Yeah, shmup fans, chalk another one to check out, this one’s pretty nice!

Wait, the Metroid Bees have skulls now? ABANDON OCTOPUS!

The Mad Welshman doesn’t know what’s been going on with shmups and windowed mode, but… Heck, this month has a lot going on overall…

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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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Talisman: Origins (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £5.19
Where To Get It: Steam

Talisman is one of those games that, honestly, shouldn’t really have been made as much as it has. It’s not at Blood Bowl levels of “Oh, that’s just milking it now”, but… When the main thing I can say about Talisman: Origins is that it’s “Talisman: Digital Edition, but single player, and with story”, or “It’s Talisman: Prologue, but more expensive and with story/quests” , I kind of have to throw my hands up a bit.

This is now something like the third time I have seen this exact board. And, on reflection… I ask myself Why?

So, for those who don’t know Talisman, it’s an old Games Workshop board game, with elements reminiscent of Warhammer Fantasy (Eagle Lords, grim cities, dark magical artefacts), but its own, High fantasy world. You travel around the board, looking to reach the Crown of Power, the tile in the middle of the board, strengthening yourself, weakening others, occasionally running into trouble, and, because it’s not a game that really does progression (normally), every so often running into a string of unwinnable situations, swearing, and mentally flipping a table. It had a number of expansions, each one alone with interesting twists and scenarios, but, all together? A recipe for minutiae, and backstabbing, and many, many dice rolls.

I tried Talisman: Digital once with all the expansions. That was… An experience. See, the digital editions of the game have, with even one AI player, a certain amount of waiting for them to decide what to do. Even without, there’s dice rolling, waiting for animations, noise cues… It wants to be as clear as possible, but no, you do not get any option to skip said animations and cues and things that slow it down. It is, generally speaking, a game you play with friends, understanding friends who won’t get angry at you when its old school, adversarial play gets the better of them, and where conversation definitely helps it go smoother.

“An Epic tale, as told by dice rolls that can just as easily harm the narrative as help it!”

As such, you can maybe imagine my confusion. And this is as someone who likes hotseat 4X games and board game adaptations where yes, you can play by yourself. Talisman’s lore is… Not particularly deep (It is, essentially, a “chase’n’race” board-game with fantasy trappings and a lot of randomness), and adding lore doesn’t really make any of its shenanigans make more sense. And this, essentially, is where I find myself: Trying to work out where the audience lies here.

Does it really appeal to the folks who already have Talisman: Digital Edition? There’s nothing new animation wise, I’m pretty sure there’s not much new card-wise, and, as I’ve alluded to, Talisman’s expansions are… A lot. Does it, then, appeal to somebody new to Talisman? I’d argue no, because the lore is mostly unreferenced outside of this game (Apart, obviously, from the Crown of Power), and its first tutorial alone took me about half an hour (And not, it must be said, a terribly exciting half an hour.) It does, somewhat, prepare players for the PvP core of the game with AI characters, but… The same experience could be had hotseat. What it adds are lore, quests, and challenges, and… Honestly, that’s not the biggest of niches.

As it turns out, this Great Wizard has Weakness to Ghost types.

So, overall, Talisman: Origins just… Leaves me confused. With other games, I can clearly point and go “Ah, here’s this interesting core” or “Ah, I can see where this is appealing to X”, and, with this… If there were no DLC for the thing planned, I’d say “This is a cheaper alternative to the main Talisman, as the DLC for that comes to around ninety quid”, but I’m not certain about that, considering how even Talisman: The Horus Heresy (It’s 40K themed, less visually readable cousin) has about 9 DLC. The biggest draw of Talisman has always been the social aspect to it, and so… All the “for” arguments I can think of are rather weak.

The Mad Welshman doesn’t enjoy being confused. It is his least favourite status effect outside of “Hangry-Thirsty.”

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