Subara City (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £3.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Cities are interesting places. Some heavily planned, some… Not so much planned as grew. And there have been many arguments as to whether one should take a top down approach (Larger matters to small) or a bottom-up approach.

“That’s Two Level 12 buildings, we can give you, guv’nor, take it or leave it…”

In Subara City, the answer is “Both.” A simple on the surface match puzzle game, Subara City has you match houses and characters with under-tiles of the same colour to combine them, until they reach Level 10. Then it gets a little tricky. You see, there’s a risk-reward thing going on, where Level 10 buildings can only be combined with each other, and once you do… That building can no longer be combined with anything else.

So, ideally, you want as many Level 10s to combine as you can get… But you also have to make sure you can still combine other blocks, otherwise… Game over. Similarly, on the risk-reward front, you have a certain number of demolitions you can do (one gained every 100 turns, and some for high level buildings), but your score is your population, so demolishing that level 17 building in the hope you get a level 18? Won’t gain you that much, if anything.

The first time you satisfy a building or character condition, it’s nice enough to let you know on the left, along with general hints and tips occasionally.

And that, essentially, is the game. Scores are local, but, after a while, you’ll find yourself struggling to reach Top 10… Against yourself. So… That’s the game, mechanically. It pretty much does what it says on the tin. How about aesthetically?

Well, musically and soundwise, there’s really not a lot to say. It has one tune for the main game (A choral piece), one for the menu, and the sounds are equally simple… That choral tune may well wear on you, or you might blank on it, so that’s a “Eh” for sound. Visually, it’s nice and clear, so that’s a definite plus, and there’s a little charm in the buildings and characters (Some of which you unlock through play.)

I’ve done slightly better than this since this screenshot… But I’ve also ensured anything less than 2 million won’t reach the top 10… Curses.

Still, there’s a lot to be said for “Does what it says on the tin”, and while it’s simple on the surface, paying attention to every part of the board is important, as really good play involves thinking several moves ahead. There are, however, a few minor niggles. There are odd (if slight) performance hitches when you select demolition or combining level 10 blocks for the first time, and some of the requirements for character unlocks don’t encourage high score play (A niggle because characters don’t, strictly speaking, have a score element attached to them.) These aside, it is a pleasant game to play, and I think other match puzzler fans will enjoy this one too.

The Mad Welshman is, in particular, fascinated by the most difficult requirement for a character. How many? And that level? Wow.

Become a Patron!

Sigma Theory: Global Cold War (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £15.49 (£22.68 game+soundtrack, £6.47 soundtrack)
Where To Get It: Steam

The only distinction between a Cold War and a normal war is that it’s less obvious about the casualties. Back-room dealings. Thefts. Extractions. Wetwork. It’s a nasty world, the world of espionage.

Since you’re working on mind control technology right now, I wouldn’t blame you. BUT WE HAVE TO BE FIRST…

Similarly, paradigm shifts are often violent things. Every new technology or cultural wave brings with it things that governments and societies don’t necessarily properly get a handle on until decades later. And the most feared kind of paradigm shift of all (or welcomed, depending on your viewpoint and optimism) is Singularity: The point at which our technology takes such a leap forwards, it shakes the world. Free energy. Posthumanism. A workable virtual reality for everyone. Or perhaps the ability to completely accurately predict the financial market. A lot of these sound cool, until you realise they come with changes attached. Big ones, for which there may not be an answer anyone likes.

Sigma Theory: Global Cold War… Takes both of these concepts, and puts them into a (currently) tough turn-based strategy game about hopefully being the first to take the world into a new age, safely. And the hopefully isn’t there just because you’re competing with several other world powers. As noted, these technologies can bite, and since a game generally takes about a game-year’s worth of time… No, nobody really has that much time to prepare.

Fighting against the nation of one’s birth. For a variety of reasons.

Part of the reason the game is tough is because it only really tutorialises for your first game (Which you may not even complete), and, generally speaking, it throws you in at the deep end. This partly works due to the subject matter, and it’s quite clear that you are not expected to win your first, or maybe even fifth game (Taking about an hour to two hours per complete run), but it would be nice to see more tutorialising. Nonetheless, the basic idea is that you have four agents (Hopefully the ones you wanted, but failing to answer their own questions won’t allow you to recruit them), and, using these four agents, a pair of tactical drones, a pair of scientists, and your diplomacy, you convert and exfiltrate scientists (Or just kidnap them, although that’s less effective), play the game of politics for favours (and maybe even big favours, if you’ve played your cards right and got good blackmail material), and try to defend your own home turf as other nations do unto you… As you have clearly demonstrated you want to do unto them.

The UI is pretty clear (The one minor exception being that the menu is fond of that glitch effect that I know not everyone’s comfortable with, and no option yet to turn it off), and the notifications solid, so that definitely helps, as does the fact that once you’ve tried something like exfiltration (An affair where, ideally, you want to leave without the police or agents properly noting you, but the best you should hope for is getting out with the scientist), you know roughly how it goes. The music fits the mood, being ambient synth with that distinct Technothriller vibe, and the sound clearly fits with what’s going on, so… Aesthetically, it all works.

Both of these choices can go wrong. But which one works best depends both on context and your agent’s skills.

Where I think Sigma Theory works best, however, is in how it deals with the subjects in question. There’s a lot of groups interested in your work, not just the other nations, and while they want to embrace certain goals (the Hypercaps, the Ancaps, the Mind Control lovers, and at least one criminal syndicate, to nickname but four), that’s… Not necessarily the best thing. Nor, in fact, is just releasing the technology into the wild. Yes, free energy means we never have to worry about energy again… But it has a knock on effect on industry and employment, and, as noted, there’s no real time to prepare for that. Other technologies, such as mind control, are more easily spotted for their effect on the Doomsday Clock. If that runs down, everyone loses… But other nations may not care, for their desire to be first.

Sigma Theory is an interesting strategy game with some equally interesting takes on various singularity and posthuman related subjects (albeit in passing, mostly), and, while it’s tough as heck right now, it’s still enjoyable to play, and I would recommend it. Could do with some granular difficulty settings, though. That would definitely help.

The Mad Welshman doesn’t worry about the Singularity. His reasons are his own.

Become a Patron!

Robot Wants It All (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Where To Get It: Steam

Sometimes, after capitalism has kicked you down, time and time again, it’s time to fight back. Such is the subtext of Robot Wants It All, where Robot, our protagonist, suffers many humiliating deaths (usually, anyway) in their quest of Wanting things that, as it turns out, are monkeys paws (Except Puppy. Puppy is a Good Boy), before eventually realising that what he wants… Is Justice.

Justice, in this case, being saving the workers from the embodied evil of capitalism.

Or it’s a series of early Metroidvania type games from the days of Newgrounds, packaged into a collection that doesn’t run on the now obsolete Flash, with a new installment. It’s that too. But it’s hard to avoid the subtext, any which way, and, funnily enough, I like that.

So… A collection of shortish Metroidvania type escapades, ranging from simple to punishingly unfair (And not necessarily in game order), Robot Wants It All is, right out of the gate, a release that has its turn offs. But, to its credit, it does both add to its subtext and somewhat help with the difficulty with its progression. Starting with the Easy (smaller map, less enemies) version of Robot Wants Kitty, the player earns (in-game) Moneys by killing enemies, getting achievements, and earns the other installments of the series, from Easy, to Classic, to Remix (Hard), along with different robot types for an added challenge. Player, if they want to experience the whole, Wants It All too.

For one game, at least, Kitty and Robot are actually friends. Look at this teamwork!

Aesthetically, it looks somewhat like old shareware titles of the 90s, with pixel art for the main play, and bold illustrations for the endings, with simple (but mostly alright) chiptunes. No, where the interest comes in with Robot Wants It All is that each episode has different mechanics and progressions (Something that’s lampshaded in Robot Wants Justice’s intro.) While powerup collecting remains a core, what powerups vary from game to game. Robot, for example, uses Kitty as their main weapon in Robot Wants Puppy, a risky damage over time effect that ends with the death of either robot or the now quickly running (but not firing) enemy. In Robot Wants Y, they have a very slow to use bouncing laser that requires aiming, while in Robot Wants Fishy, they have both arcing bombs and, later on, harpoons. In Robot Wants Fishy, there is the amusing powerup of… Nothing. Because the explosion you caused to get there is reward enough, is it not?

Well, I chuckled. In any case, it was interesting to see the variations in the basic Metroidvania formula in each installment, even if, as noted, some are more difficult than others, if mainly because of the awkwardness of certain controls… Specifically, swimming. Swimming is a pain in the ass when you can do it (And you have to), and the segments involved often involve death. Some flying enemies have the nasty habit of floating outside of where they originally patrolled, although none have, so far, made things impossible to escape without death… Just awkward.

This, the easiest of the hard bosses, is a gent who, by the end of his life, it’s very tough to shoot without dying at least once. Doable… But tough.

Overall, I honestly like the experimentation within Robot Wants It All. The difficulty variations are somewhat annoying (A straighter progression would perhaps have been nice, but these were, and technically still are, separate games, so… I GUESS…), but I appreciate sticking to the original aesthetic while packaging the games in a more playable format, and adding nice things too. It’s worth a look if you like Metroidvanias.

The Mad Welshman does not, in fact, Want It All. All he wants is to make enough to do this full time. That’s what the support links are for.

Become a Patron!

Phoenix Wright Trilogy (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £29.99 (£38.25 game+soundtrack, £12.99 soundtrack)
Where To Get It: Steam

Ohhh, we’ve been waiting a long time for this, but finally, the first trilogy of Phoenix Wright has hit the shores of the PC, and it’s quite the pleasing turnabout. After all, Phoenix Wright is, overall, an interesting and cool series, and the PC port is pretty good.

Wellington’s as excited as I am for this to have happened. Either that or we caught him in a massive porkie.

Okay, let’s get the niggle out of the way before we sum up the trilogy: It only remembers what window size it’s meant to be on loading. That’s pretty minor, so… Phoenix Wright. It’s a series of police procedural visual novels, in which you play the titular character, a novice lawyer, in the deadly justice system of what has been dubbed by fans “Japanifornia” (For being both Japanese and American), where simply defending your client isn’t enough… If you can’t find the real murderer in 3 days, your client is guilty by default. Game over, man… Game over.

It comes in two segments, investigation and the trial, but, thankfully, I can’t think of an instance where the investigation can end without you having collected the necessary evidence. The trials, however… Ah, they get tricksy at times, because not only do you have to choose between pressing for further details and presenting evidence, sometimes, what seems like the obvious path is… Well, the wrong one for the time. So, yes, occasionally there’s a bit of “Read the developer’s mind.”

Artist’s rendition of the player versus the developer in these moments…

Thankfully, you can save at any time, so if you’re unsure, remember the old adventure gamer’s adage: Save Early, Save Often!

Now, of course, is it good? Well, the original games and their HD ports come highly recommended for charming writing, good visuals, fairly accessible play (They were originally developed for the DS), and good tunes (Especially “Cornered”, which really gets the blood pumping), and, I’m happy to say, this particular port is… No different. The pacing and tone shifts are well handled, it breaks up the tension well with its comedic moments, and there are characters to love (Edgeworth, who definitely isn’t a secret Steel Samurai fan, nope), characters to love hating (Redd White and April May definitely come to mind for this), and I’m having a whale of a time playing through the first three games (Although I am informed that whales don’t get involved until Dual Destinies, which is outside the scope of this review.) As mentioned, there’s one correct path, and sometimes it involves reading the developer’s mind, but these are relatively few and far between.

When it breaks up the tension with humour… Well, it works. Poor Phoenix…

As such, Phoenix Wright Trilogy definitely comes recommended. It’s fun, it’s interesting, and hot damn, you do feel clever getting a case done without, say, looking at a walkthrough. For fans of mysteries and visual novels, Phoenix Wright is a no brainer.

The Defence Rests, Yeronner.

Become a Patron!

Pathway (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £12.99 (£3.99 soundtrack)
Where To Get It: Steam

There is little more cathartic, in most media, than giving a Nazi what for. A boop to the snoot. The old one-two. Especially since the Ratzis do have this nasty habit of exploring things man was not meant to explore, in an attempt to find that unbeatable, supernatural edge in their hateful war on that which is not them.

Blowing them to kingdom come also works, I’m reliably informed.

If you guessed, from that intro, that Pathway heavily involves some pulpiness and Nazi-murdering, then yes, you win a No-Prize. It does, along with zombies, Bedouin tribesmen, strangely intelligent dogs, and companions who aren’t always clean as a whistle themselves. It essentially comes in two main parts: Exploring a map in your jeep, encountering events and folks in your path, and trying not to run out of fuel (You can run out of fuel, but it’s never good, as your characters’ health becomes the next fuel meter)… And, if the situation demands it, tactical RPG action where you can move and take a single action, balancing risk and reward.

Do you trust your wolfhound to not only take out that Nazi, but take the punishment from his friend before you get there? Do you think your gun can do more damage than your bowie knife to that Zombie, and, considering it’s one that blows up after it dies, do you want to risk melee? The answer varies, but only some clever tactical thinking will let you out of a fight unharmed.

Alas, zombies have that tactical advantage known as “Sheer numbers.” I fought bravely, though…

Nonetheless, it’s all pretty clear. Go places, kill nazis, limited inventory, multiple characters, and where the icons aren’t all that clear, the tooltips help immensely. Being able to adjust the combat difficulty and fuel is nice, and, although it has no effect on the difficulty, being able to change what “Daytime” looks like is a nice aesthetic touch. The visual style works pretty well, being solid pixel art, and the animations not only make it clear what’s going on, they have a fair amount of impact to them (Especially vaulting over cover. Even with an eagle eye perspective, the energy is obvious.)

Musically, and sound wise? Well, the inspiration of Nazi-punching pulp media is strong here. A little Indiana Jones style tunes here, a little The Mummy there… It’s good stuff, and the sounds are solid as well. Although dog lovers, be aware that the Good Boy companion can pass on just the same as any other, and it breaks my heart, too, to hear that whimper. Just so you know.

A nice touch is that, if you lose one half of your team, a Good Boy may well come and join you. Good Donut, Bite that Ratzi!

The basic maps, as far as I know, remain pretty much the same, so you do know roughly how much fuel you need to get from start to finish, although what’s in the map is random, based on a variety of events, allowing a fair amount of replay value. Also helping this is a large roster of characters, each with their own up and downsides, and the fact that character skills have a bearing on how some events can be completed.

Overall, I’ve found this one interesting. While I wouldn’t say it’s amazing, or great, it is fun to me, a fan of procgenned RPG content, and while the Nazis-Seek-Evil-Occult-Power storyline is nothing new, it’s still enjoyable.

Nazis… One of the few kinds of villains The Mad Welshman will happily team up with those Dudley-Do-Rights to fight.

Become a Patron!