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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Sanguine Rose (NSFW Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: Name your own price on Itch, would recommend donating.
Where To Get It: Itch.IO

Content Warning: The game contains D/S powerplay, some violence and gore, and an enslavement bad end.

Read more (Age Gated)

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Sanator: Scarlet Scarf (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £7.19 (£9.58 w/soundtrack, soundtrack £2.89, assorted goodies £4.79)
Where To Get It: Steam

Content Warning: This game features a mention of nonconsensual sex, and murder.

Visual Novels come in many forms. That’s part of their charm. And seeing different approaches to visual novels, from different places, is, itself, quite a charm too. Which is, of course, a good segue into Sanator: Scarlet Scarf, the first translated work by Ignis Sanat, and winner of the Anivisual 2019, a yearly Russian Visual Novel contest.

A different approach than usual, somewhat reminiscent of a Light Novel. I kinda like it.

It is, let’s get this out of the way, short. But, as we’ve often seen on TMW, short doesn’t mean bad. It simply means short. The prose in Sanator is good stuff, solemn and heavy, as befits its setting, a town beleaguered by a plague that, as it quickly turns out, is of supernatural origin. The art is solid, anime styled, but with its own texture and flair that I quite enjoy. And, while its choices are relatively few, its characters are interesting, and its setting works without needing to look up too many of the Special Fantasy Words.

It should be noted, before I continue, that the demo is, itself, a prequel to the events of the game, a more linear experience, but still with its own charm, and adding nuance to some of the characters through short vignettes. A little extra to the world is always nice, and it does well not to give away key facts.

Too true, I’m often up at them, writing these… SIGH.

Anyway, both the demo and the game have some pretty good music. Heavy, portentous, a fair few chiming bells and choral parts… I enjoy this. And I enjoy the fact that it all works together in this short, tight narrative about a Sanator (Plague Doctors whose shadows can hurt, who fight both normal disease and spirits of plague), faced with the Scarlet Scarf, a malady that causes a deep, bleeding lesion from the neck to the waist, not unlike… A scarlet scarf. And, of course, it’s supernatural in origin.

If I had regrets about Sanator, it is, honestly, that it is tight. It shows the horror of the plague briefly, resolves quickly, and that horror doesn’t really get a chance to linger unless you’re deliberately savouring it. It doesn’t give the indirect antagonists a lot of room to breathe. I also think that the supernatural being’s origin is… A little squicky (Okay, imprisoned and sacrificed by a cult, fine, but, as writers have noted, rape is a very lazy way of establishing someone else as evil. Suggest “Couldn’t unsee the other, failed sacrifices wot were super horrific and stuff.”)

A Sanator’s Shadow is, as it turns out, its own entity. Cool, huh?

Still, overall, Sanator is a tight narrative, and I’ve enjoyed my time with it.

I do love me some good art. And my cup hath overflown this month.

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Astrologaster (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £9.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Ah, the 16th Century. Such a wondrous age, full of poets, of doctors finally starting to learn what the heck they’re on about, and, of course, the Plague. It is a wondrous age to which our dear leaders wish us to return, in the hope that perhaps the Empire might also coincidentally rise again.

Ah, the British Empire, such a place of tolerance and… Oh. Yeah, it was kind of an exploitative hateful shitpile. I almost forgot. ALMOST.

Speaking of quacks… Astrologaster is a comedic tragedy, in the form of speechcraft and song (Often Madrigals) about a “Doctor” who used Astrology as his form of diagnosis, one Simon Forman. And, to be fair, he is a fitting subject, for he was tangenitally involved with… Well, a lot of London life of the period. The game takes liberties, but it does so to introduce quite a few other major players of the period, such as Sir Walter Raleigh’s circle, the Dean of Rochester, Thomas Blague (and his wife Alice), and Emilia Lanier, a poet, and suspected to have been the Dark Lady of William Shakespeare’s sonnets 127-154.

Yes, knowing this period of history helps with some of the jokes. But by no means all, for nearly everyone is mercilessly riffed on, excepting some folks whose lives… Really didn’t deserve that much mockery. In any case, a fair warning, the game does end rather suddenly, and the reason for this is that the good “Doctor” ended… Rather suddenly. But the aim is, through astrology (Or, more accurately, through a cunning combination of actually divining what’s wrong, and telling people what they want to hear), to diagnose folks’ complaints.

Ah, Dean Blague… Maybe one day you’ll make a sound investme-AHAHAHA I CAN’T FINISH THAT SENTENCE.

It’s very clear, in the sense that you know what’s what, even if the diagnoses are sometimes… Difficult, and the picturebook aesthetic works well. Where it really shines, though, is the aforementioned voice acting and singing. Jo Ashe does an excellent job of playing concerned wife Emma Sharpe (how do her older husbands keep dying on her?), for example, and the songs about Thomas Blague are wonderful examples of a new musical art form I would like to call “Getting owned by the Church Chorus.”

It’s… Honestly kind of hard to write about the charm of Astrologaster without either going on a history lecture, spoiling the results of some choices, or both, but… History buffs will get several laughs (and knowing nods), most folks will have a charming experience and quite a few laughs, and, overall… Yup, I like Astrologaster.

Astrologaster: Latest winner of the “NOT WHILE I’M [splutter] DRINKING COFFEE!” award.

I cannot really Madrigal, but Iamb good with that Pentameter. Honest.

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Divination (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: Minimum $1, but if you drop less than $5 on it I’ll be disappointed in you.
Where to get it: Itch.IO

Anyone remember Cyber City Oedo 808? To me, it was one of the more interesting cyberpunk anime out there, because it not only had your oppressive government and criminals trying to fight the system (Albeit, because they were captured by the system, in small ways), but vampires, ghosts in the machine, and psychics. It was short, but it captured the imagination.

Cop uses Divinatory Pair of Hands, aka “Letting you know it’s fantastical right out of the gate.”

Divination, also, is short. But boy, does it capture the imagination. Imagine, if you will, a city that had, until a while ago, been run by Mother, an AI that, for some reason, decided that life was pointless, and, since the people believed her… Well, suicides and horror skyrocketed.

Imagine, if you will, a disembodied pair of hands in a room. They choose runes picked by their claimant, who is invited to their home with accurate predictions of their near future to tempt them. The payment for this service, answering one of their questions, is to recount a dream they had. Imagine four such divinations, each difficult questions, sometimes painful questions. And, at the end of those divinations, the hands sit back, look at what they have done… And are, for some reason, unsatisfied.

OBJECTIVE NOT REACHED: RESTARTING DIVINATION OF DIVINATIONS.

Divination is short, but goodness me, it has atmosphere, a clever gimmick, and replayability. Helped by the fact that you do not, strictly speaking, know what the runes mean yourself. Your avatar, the Diviner, most certainly does, as their confident predictions based on what you choose show (I was only disappointed once, but it was an important one), but you don’t. And arranging those symbols well is the key to your choice.

Aesthetically, the game has M O O D. A darkened room. Slow synth. The sharp tap of your steel fingers to change channels, meet guests… The red words on your screen, endlessly repeated, to speak. And the writing… As mentioned, some of the divinations are painful. Will my daughter wake up? Is there meaning to my (robotic) life? (Robots have, since Mother’s suicide, been fitted with anti-suicide protocols, so this is… A very important question.) And the dreams. From the very start, they’re disturbing, symptoms of a city clearly in pain. The English isn’t perfect, but the mood still gets across, and the mood is, for want of a better word, portentous.

Ouch. Yeah, you’re kinda right, Robot Buddy. At least I have the hope of being able to watch Doom Patrol sometime this century

I won’t spoil what’s most disturbing about it all, but… I got there, and it’s an interesting twist. Divination is cyberpunk as hell, albeit from a twisted perspective, it’s definitely got its horrific side, and I heartily recommend it for fans of short, mood-heavy narrative pieces.

The Mad Welshman has cast the runes, and he confidently predicts he’ll have 20+ reviews this month. No, he didn’t already know that, shut up!

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