Source: Review Copy
Price: £2.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Pyromind, in its own words, is a turn based, but also real time action puzzler, in which you are a “Mind” , in a minefield (A… Mindfield? Your groans sustain me), trying to defuse bombs before they go off, reaching a higher and higher score, with more difficult elements, every time you do so. There are two kinds of mines, but there only needs to be two kinds of mines, because a Pobomb (1 square radius) or a chain of them can kill you just as easily as a Limonka (Cross effect across the entire field) or its chain can. Your only saving grace? You can cross from one side of the field to the other.


So… That, and the fact you can earn minds (slowly, oh so slowly at first) with their own special abilities (you start with none, obviously) is pretty much the core of things. There’s a time attack mode, a multiplayer battle mode (alas, I can’t say much about that… Not much of a multiplayer guy), and a campaign in the battle arena mode, essentially a CPU vs Player version of the multiplayer mode.

Alas, while single player modes earn gems for new characters, the Battle Arena does not, although the idea is fun: Essentially, the more points a player has over their opponent, the quicker a screen splitting laser moves toward the opponent, and horizontal screen movement isn’t allowed, only vertical.

So, simple to describe, and indeed learn, and not difficult to master, just requires keeping a sharp eye on where bombs are. Still ramps up the difficulty quickly, and I do wish difficulty was selectable once you’d cleared more than one difficulty, but this isn’t really a big flaw. A middling flaw, really.

It’s a variation on the sudden death of other puzzle action games, but I like its touches.

Finally, we have the aesthetic. Everthing except the menu is relatively clear, there’s a fair amount of good music, both tense and charming, and its clean, vector style appeals. As mentioned, the menu could do with more clarity, rather than going fully stylistic as it has (Options and credits are currently the arrow in the top right, tooltip for what the hell something is in the top left.) But, apart from the flaws described, this is a solid title, with an interesting core mechanic, and I’m having fun with it.

The Mad Welshman hates Limonkas. They may have become his newest worst enemy.

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A Harmless Bite (NSFW Review)

Big ol’ Content Warning! Although this game does take an interesting and nonfatal approach to its kink (hard vore, aka “Person gets eaten, and not whole”), it does involve the aforementioned fantastical kink, and, as a result, gore, sometimes heavy gore, although no depictions of this are in the article. You have been warned.


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Dicey Dungeons (Review)

Source: Supporter copy
Price: £11.39 (Soundtrack £5.19)
Where To Get It: Steam, Itch.IO

When you can build an entire, multifaceted procgen RPG out of dice, you pretty much know you’ve got it in the bag. And Dicey Dungeons is… Exactly that. It’s a game where yes, there are only D6s involved, but those dice? They go a long way, and are used in cool ways. Let’s get into this.

Ohno, I’m soooooo dead!

So, the story is pretty simple: Several adventurers are participating in a game show run by Lady Luck herself. A deadly game show, in which the winners take home a prize of their choosing (Disclaimer: Prize may in fact be an asshole genie wish), and the losers? Well, they get either death, or a lifetime of servitude in Lady Luck’s dungeon game show. Aesthetically, it’s got a great cartoony style, some synth beats that, to put it bluntly, fucking slap (Yes, technical term), and everything is very clear and understandable. Nice.

Mechanically? Well, let’s pick a few examples, both among equipment and characters. The game starts with the Warrior, who gets three rerolls a turn. This, honestly, isn’t bad. But I’ve had a lot more fun with the Robot, whose gimmick is that they don’t actually have a set number of dice, only a total they can’t roll above, their CPU count. Roll above it, and all abilities you have left become useless, Roll exactly on your CPU, and you get one of three special abilities in addition. It’s a tense game of chicken with the dice, and I love it. Especially since there are items, unique to the robot, that can play with both CPU count and the jackpot range, and one item in particular, the Ultima Sword, does double damage on a jackpot.

Music has quite the bite to it, and I have little doubt my poor thief is going to be on the receiving end of a shattering high note…

Meanwhile, there are abilities that seem useless unless upgraded (and even then, some aren’t great.) But, with certain other items, they become more useful, and, with the Inventor, whose gimmick is they have to destroy at least one item (more on that in a sec) for their special ability each combat, they’re a damn good way of keeping what you want to keep.

Anyway, each character’s arc is divided into 6 “episodes”, and only the first is the default experience. After that, Lady Luck starts introducing gimmicks. Nasty gimmicks that fit her charmingly mean spirited demeanour, like the Inventor having to destroy more items (but getting more in return), or doubles being destroyed (making certain items completely useless, and possibly doing you out of certain results you want.) Thankfully, each character is introduced whether you win or lose a run, and the further episodes are unlocked once you’ve got the hang of the five main characters (there is a sixth, but… Well, spoilers)

This is still the state of things on publishing this review… I am #cursed …

I wouldn’t really say the game is endlessly replayable, but, honestly, it doesn’t have to be. It’s got a lot of content, it’s easy to learn and middling to master, and its colourful cast, writing, and aesthetics are enjoyable as hell. Definitely worth giving a go, and I would say that this is one of those good first introductions to RPGs with some procgen content (Y’know, roguesortakindamaybelikes.)

The Mad Welshman would probably make a great D6. Would be hard to read black numbers on a black dice though. Ehehehe.

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Siberian Dawn

Source: Review Copy
Price: Free (£2.99 for Mission Pack 1. And yes, it is apparently possible to get F2P review codes.)
Where To Get It: Steam

Siberian Dawn is, sad to say, a frustrating experience. It has a tutorial, it’s true. A long, multifaceted tutorial that takes the steps in isolation. But when it comes to putting it all together? There’s no helping, beyond a brief help screen that… Isn’t actually that helpful. No tooltips. And… Look, let’s talk about the basics, then we can get into problems, and possible solutions.

The, er… Help overlay. It does, to be fair, contain a lot of information.

Siberian Dawn is a turn-based tactical card game set in an alternate universe where a russian empire is being assaulted by… Its own robots, seemingly. It has several missions in the base game, and some more in a DLC pack. The unit art is somewhat interesting, even if the UI is… Well, it shifts in and out of visibility on the menu and some of the screens, and, while I’m sure it’s meant to be reminiscent of technology that doesn’t quite work, all it really does is annoy. Finally in the aesthetic end, the music is an ambient loop, which, on the one hand, is suitably threatening. But, by association, it quickly becomes tiresome. Association with what?

Well, with the frustration of playing. As has already been mentioned, the help screen isn’t terribly useful, and the tutorials remove context, while also setting up ideal conditions that… Just don’t exist in the actual missions. A really basic example: Tactics cost command points. Units cost either command points or money to buy, but they also cost Command Points to deploy. And the hand size is based on your rank, while resources “dropped” do not stay outside of their turn. And, since a unit is put into the resource hand, it’s not actually guaranteed you have the resources to play it even if it’s in the hand.

Since the slot unlocked for your first soldier is set before the first turn… Well, this was effecitvely pre-ordained…

Meanwhile, these robots? No such limitations. They turn up, once a turn, in the first mission, and… Well, the screenshot above says it all, really. Except it doesn’t, because you’d need to correlate the screenshot with the “help” screen to know what the hell is what. There is a mechanic to somewhat help with this, but it’s a painful one: Glory (that’s the G) can be spent to buy command points. But once it goes down to 0, your Command Rank (The R) goes down by 1, which may bar you from getting units. So, generally speaking, robots attack with impunity, while your own units… Not so much. It’s a pretty severe balance issue, and a multifaceted one that doesn’t fully make sense at that. You’ve hired a unit, why… Why do you need extra resources to both deploy the card, and make it attack?

There’s other elements that lack clarity (Well, the majority lacks clarity), so… Honestly, I can’t really recommend this one, even with the base game being free to play, and the Mission DLC being cheap. The mechanics are not taught well, and rely on memorising a long tutorial, the balance is decidedly toward the enemies (You may notice, in this screenshot, Mk 4 robots. They have a defence equal to their rank, as far as I’m aware. So, er, good luck with that!) It just isn’t fun to play from the get go.

The Mad Welshman has excellent bala-WHOOP!

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The Church In The Darkness (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £14.99 (OST+ BTS £7.19)
Where to Get It: Steam

I can’t really lie, but when I looked at Church In The Darkness, I was… Wary. A game about cults, especially American ones, can be… A widely variable experience, in terms of narrative quality. Often, cults are enemies, generic or otherwise. Sometimes interesting things are done with them. And, at worst, they can be games with an odd poltical slant while the company in question vehemently denies there’s any politics… Despite the fact there clearly is.

They get across well that this is a cult of charisma as much as… Well, it varies, but it pretends to be socialist, every time.

But, I’m happy to say, there are interesting things about The Church In The Darkness, even if I unfortunately couldn’t tell you everything at the time of review. After all, the cult in this game can have multiple possible actual motives. But I can tell you how it presents this cult, and how it plays, without either hitting spoiler territory, or ignoring its themes.

First, let’s begin with it being the late 1977s. Conservatives were in power (Specifically, Gerald Ford, but Watergate only having been three years previously was still in people’s minds), and were pushing back at rights movements and welfare programs alike. Vietnam had only ended two years previously, which, even today, has left its psychological scars on people. And, while there were fights for women’s rights, and the blaxploitation film movement, it was mostly a time of rising conservatism, and a bigoted focus on “Traditional Values.” And this could be argued to be one of the points from which conservatives pushed harder for using “Socialism” as a dogwhistle for everything progressive they hated in America.

…Which is why folks of colour in the game, mirroring the real world, and their exclusion… That’s appreciated.

Enter… The Collective Justice Mission, a radical (by 1970s standards) group, charismatic leaders and all, who’ve relocated to South America to found what they consider their ideal society, under a regime they think will support them. And enter you, Vic, a man asked to find your friend’s nephew, Alex, and try to get him away from this group. Now… Enter nuance. Enter narrative and choices.

Overall, the game is a stealth game. Vision cones, distraction tactics, going loud, going silent, going nonlethal, and procuring on site. It’s visually clear, the voice work is great, and has a few stars like Ellen McLain and John Patrick Lowrie, playing Rebecca (Cult Leader 1) and Isaac (Cult Leader 2) respectively. The controls and play are easily understood, and it’s actively recommended you try it on easy until you’re comfortable with the idea of extra handicaps. But this, honestly, isn’t the most interesting part of it to me. And I feel that was the intention.

What was interesting, to me, was the discoveries, and the narrative. I did say it was nuanced, and I stand by that. Alex is latino. Other characters are folks of colour. Rebecaa and Isaac are… Well, they’re white, and, since their motives can differ from playthrough to playthrough, you don’t notice, at first, what kind of radicals they both are. Because, for the early game at least, they’re emphasising that this is their home, their paradise in which they’ll show America that they are wrong, and that they are right. And they’ll mention injustices, historically accurate ones, from gripes to serious matters.

It’s a big community, and… Well, there’s a lot to rummage through. Sometimes to the point of padding.

And the people walking around, the wooden huts, the rural life… At first, it all seems so bright and cozy, with the exception of, you know, people shooting you when you’re detected, then locking you in an increasingly difficult to escape situation each time, with one of the cult leaders telling you that your imperialist ways won’t stop them, that no-one can stop them. And they are convincing, full of fire and brimstone when it comes to enemies, sweet and caring (at first) for their devotees. When you find Alex, no matter who you were sent to consult who is at least neutral to your presence, he’ll tell you that the cult, genuinely helped him, emotionally and physically, out of a bad situation, and he’ll even be confused by the fact his family is looking for him, considering they had previously ostracised him.

But, the more you explore, the longer it goes on, and… You start noticing there’s trouble in paradise. Alex may tell you that food is scarce, and others who let you talk to them may also tell you troubling things (Or they’ll deny that there is a problem, because the cult had, seemingly, genuinely done good things for some of its members.) But this is a cult with guns, and firing ranges. Sometimes (often) you’ll come across corporal punishments and shaming, from a public haranguing session, all the way to people being stoned and locked in cages. There are relatively few farms, relatively few people fishing.

Such as this… Or caged people… Or… Well, there’s quite a few sights that let you know that something is definitely badly wrong…

And, over time, the tone of the respective cult leaders… Changes. In the playthrough where I’d gotten the furthest (Yes, you can, once you’ve found Alex, just book it, but I didn’t take that option once), Isaac started sounding more tired, talking like a divorced husband trying not to let the children know how bad the fights had gotten, while Rebecca… Her fire and brimstone tone got louder, talking about her allies in the South American military, and more emphasis on not being stopped. Even the documents, scattered around, show that this paradise is rotten to the core, unbeknownst to its members who form the peel.

But even when I met Isaac, snuck into his home base (notably, separated from Rebecca’s), he was loudly denouncing me as an enemy, someone who would murder him, kill his great dream… Even as I just… Stood there. Hell, I don’t think I even had a gun, at that point. And this was jarring, until I realised… Oh. Yeah. To him, I’m the Great Satan, aren’t I? No matter what I do, I want to take away one of his flock, and see what’s really going on, and that’s anathema to him. Well, shit.

…And then it outright tells you what you’ve already worked out (to an extent.)

Now, in the interest of balance, I will say this is probably one I want to come back to, not just because I find the narrative as presented so far interesting and pretty well presented, but because I want to see if it stays that way. It isn’t the easiest to sneak around, and I have to do a lot of sneaking around, with the rare villagers’ clothing not being as big a help as you’d think. Which, again, makes mechanical sense, as everyone here knows each other. Clothes or no, get close enough, and they’ll recognise you as an outsider, as other.

But, overall, I feel it goes interesting places, and I do want to explore its multiple motivations, its multiple potential endings. And that’s a good sign.

The Mad Welshman believes in giving interesting narrative its fair due. And there’s… A lot to unpack here.

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