I must admit, when looking through my current collection of “Puzzle Snake”, I had a difficult choice. 3D? Mmmm, got its issues. Top-down? Mmm, works, but lacks that certain something.
Doggo snake puzzle? With cheery barks, nomming noises as they reach their bowl, cheery music, and bright colours? YES. This is it. And so, here we are, with Puzzle Puppers. Where for good results, the pups must get to their bowls, made difficult by rushing water, paired tunnels, and, of course, each other. Click a dog, click somewhere for them to stretch to (for lo, they are stretchy doggos), and test things out until you’ve got the cute little pups to their bowls.
And, for the best results, which unlock extra levels? Get all the meat in the level too. Another tight puzzle game, with self contained levels, and a single best solution for each. It’s aesthetically pretty nice, with some relaxing music, and… Ah. Yes, two of the pups can easily be confused, the yellow and the orange one. Maybe if the orange one were a little darker? Anyway, the sounds are also cute, so, for the most part, it’s got aesthetics going for it.
Apart from that, though, there’s… Not a whole lot to say. It tutorialises well, it’s cute and relaxing, and my only real gripe, apart from the potential colourblindness issue, is that it puts you back at the start of the level selection when you go back to said level selection. Which is a niggle.
A good puzzle game, with cute, brightly coloured doggos… It’s a pretty easy recommendation. When dogs are still cute when they’re stretchy, and act cute as their little tails wag and they pant happily, occasionally barking, it tends to relieve the stress of a puzzle such as this pretty easily. For puzzle fans, this one’s a good choice.
I spent just over 300 words saying why this is good instead of just pointing and saying “Doggos. Puzzle. Cute stretchy doggos.”
I must admit, I don’t really get Golf. Mini-golf? Sure. But there, the obstacles are clear, hilarity results from missing, as opposed to a grumbling hike to wherever the hell the ball went (If you even know where), carrying a big trolley of iron tools around.
No, I just don’t get it. But I do get a puzzle game around the hazards of golf, and I understand logic problems involving set moves that you have to do in the right order. Those, I understand. And so… I understand Golf Peaks. Because that’s exactly what you’re working with. A set number of cards, in which you can putt the ball a certain distance, drive the ball a certain distance (that’s “make it jump up/over things”), or do both, the driving part generally being first. From this set of actions you’re given, you have to get to the hole. Run out of actions, whoops, start over.
See? That’s pretty understandable. And equally understandable, because the levels demonstrate what the new terrain feature does, are the obstacles. Sand traps. Water. Mud, which acts a lot like water. Springboards.
Wait, springboards? Well, uhhh… Yes. Springboards. It’s pretty devious, because, for each level, there is generally one correct solution. And, like any good puzzle game, you’ll figuratively tear your hair out a bit, before that wonderful “Aaaaaah!” moment of realisation. Okay, I messed up here, but I got most of it right. I just needed to use that card last!
So it’s a good puzzle game, tight, single solution puzzles. Is it fun? Yes. Does it have a good, clear aesthetic? Yes. Every tile is clearly noted for what it is, the cards leave no doubt as to their function, even without some gentle tutorialising, and the music is calm and relaxing. Which is exactly what you want for this sort of thing.
So yes, overall, this comes recommended for puzzle fans.
Source: Cashmoneys Price: £5.19 Where To Get It: Steam
Rifts in time and space. They let you do lots of fun things! Well, until they inevitably go wrong, and heroes from across time and space have to stop whatever’s behind all of it, or shut down the machine, or whatever.
And so it is with Fareo: Shadowlands, a combination of roguelite and strategy RPG that does a fair amount different to my usual experiences. And I appreciate that.
Even if I most definitely don’t appreciate Yan, the final boss. So let’s get him out of the way first. Like any boss, he has pieces which are associated with some of his attacks, and he has several of them. Like any boss, he can attack all around him, some of his attacks at range (so nowhere’s really safe), and he can do three a turn… Most of which are area attacks. And any two of them in combination destroys one of my heroes.
I don’t like Yan, final boss of the dungeon or no.
Otherwise, however, I’m quite enjoying Fareo: Shadowlands, partly because it’s aesthetically solid. I wouldn’t really use superlatives, or go “gosh!”, but it’s solid stuff, a consistent aesthetic, and, apart from parts being a little hard to hover over or parse (tooltips and icons in battle, mainly), it’s okay in terms of accessibility.
But mostly because of its interesting systems. The basic idea is that you take one of three paths offered to you, which can be a number of things. For example, Rifts are a normal fight, Huge Rifts are a more difficult fight, Priest can (for a price in one of the currencies of the game, the coins) resurrect dead party members, so on. But some of these are necessary for levelling up heroes you find, items you find, enchanting items you find… And there are good reasons for doing so.
Before Level 5 (the maximum, which all four of your base party members start with), you only have one special ability. Levels 1 to 4 are for rune slots, modifiers you can make to your hero, costing 1, 1, 3, and 5 runes out of the 10 allotted to you in the prep phase for a fight. For example, Fandrake, a beefy shark boy with a massive boomeranchor, can, with 5 runes, make the party immune to damage reflection. But with his first two rune slots, he can make half his damage be unblockable Chaos type (rather than wearing away the enemy’s armour), and every time he kills someone with his special Sweep ability, all the party gets their potion effect.
The other important thing is the card/movement system. Each turn, you’re dealt a number of cards (2 x the number of currently alive heroes, an important fact to remember for later) in one of four types: Attack, Defence, Mana, and Potion. They serve a quadruple purpose: They’re spent on movement, 1 a tile. They buff the hero (In the case of Attack and Defense, better attack and a shield respectively. The last two give mana or use your equipped potion.) They trigger special abilities when used in the correct order (like Sword and Shield for Hasaki, which unleashes a devastating attack.)
The thing is, you have to use the cards while moving to get their effect. Just standing still does nothing. So it emphasises mobility and synergy for the best effect. But not moving, not spending those cards, unleashes the other, fourth use: Using the terrain. Sometimes this is necessary, to move a map obstacle out of the way. But each single tile terrain item has an effect, and putting it on top of someone, for good or ill, does things. Rocks stun. Snowy trees freeze. Scrolls power up. That sort of thing.
It still heavily incentivises moving around, which is a shift in thinking that’s important to playing, but it’s an interesting one. Flaws wise, well, apart from the bosses being fucking hard, and the aforementioned tiny icons, there’s some tiny amount of untranslated text, or poorly translated text, but that last one’s a minor niggle, and overall?
Overall, this is an interesting game, trying something different, and it seems to be working. I look forward to seeing what happens next with it, and recommend taking a look.
I feel like rifts between time and space throwing disparate groups together to clash in a fun way isn’t done enough. Just throwing that out there…
Source: Cashmoneys Price: £16.99 (£24.98 for game and soundtrack, soundtrack £7.99) Where To Get It: Steam
The City. We all know The City. It’s a dark place, always raining, always cloudy… Or is that smoggy? Yeah, it’s smoggy… Ramen’s your go to vending food, the lights are neon, and the streets are grimy and filled with refuse, both human and otherwise. Welcome to this version of The City. Welcome to Cloudpunk.
But what is Cloudpunk? Essentially, it’s a narrative delivery service game, set in a dystopian future city with high tech… And low life. You’re a worker for the Cloudpunk service, a service that doesn’t want its drivers to be known as Cloudpunk. You keep hearing the word CORA, and can’t pin down what that means. And within your first hour, you’ve either delivered a highly suspicious package (or haven’t), talked to a variety of people, and met your neighbour, the android Evelin, whose close friend locked away memories in her mind, and is decrypting them (like you, not wanting Corporate Security’s attention) by… Punchcards.
No, the memories aren’t on the punchcards, that’d be silly. But the encryption key to her memories is.
And so, you fly through the world, in your hovercar, walking round places, picking things up, delivering things that you’re meant to deliver after picking things up, and, after a point, just… Exploring. Looking around. This is your first night, and most drivers apparently don’t survive their first night. So why not enjoy yourself, talk to people, get a feel for the city first, eh?
And there’s a fair bit to it. Not only is there the main story, with its sometimes wonky voice acting (mostly pretty good, though), its almost surreal cyberpunk setting (and yes, this counts as cyberpunk, you are Little People, and even living is a rebellion), and its people. An Engineer for the city, the city that’s falling apart, but only he knows what’s up. Red street signs blinking three times is bad. Also blue signs in general. Aaaand orange, yellow, green… Purple’s the worst though. If you see purple, you’re fucked already… Well, according to him, anyway. And he’s just one example.
Aesthetically, this game is pretty good. It uses voxel art (that’s cubes instead of dots) pretty well, the music ambient, synthy, and very fitting, and the soundscape… Police fly by, hovercars and trucks (called HOVAS, collectively) whibbleywhoo over the place, and the rain… Nearly always… The rain.
I don’t really have bad things to say, to be honest, but if a game mostly about exploring in your car and on foot, about keeping the gas going, keeping your HOVA repaired, and exploring the story isn’t for you, then it isn’t for you. If it is, Cloudpunk’s a pretty solid example of an exploration game with narrative, not just story.
Deck of Ashes is, to me, an odd one. It’s not often we deal with Grimdark (where the darkness almost seems so dark as to be comical, except… When it’s not.) A world where Death’s Curse has been unleashed by 3 fools and an evil jester who misled them. And now… A mysterious man leads all four back, to meet their fates.
Except it’s never that easy, is it?
Deck of Ashes is one of those card combat, turn based roguelike dealios, in which our four protagonists, each with their own unique gimmick, fight their way to Lady Death, unlocking cards for their deck along the way, along with useful items.
The deck part is important, because your deck… Has a direct effect on your health. No, no free reshuffles for you, boyo, every time you run out of cards, you have to spend 10 health points, to get 5 random cards back in. You can upgrade this to either 8 random cards or five selected cards, but the cost remains pretty much the same: Health, for cards back.
And this, funnily enough, is both a help and a hindrance to all characters. Lucia’s fire magic, for example, is damaging to herself, so ending fights quickly is a must. Buck doesn’t want some of his cards back, because while they’re in the Ash deck, as the discard pile is known, some of them give him special abilities. So if one or more goes out… Whoops, there they go, and you only get one chance of putting all ash cards… In your hand… Back into the Ash pile to do their thing.
Similarly, everyone has a story, and the grimdark is strong with this one, as every single one of the characters has some kind of dark past, although the most relatable is Buck, who is highly empathetic, and wants to save his friend. Least relatable is Magnus the Jester, who is a manipulative, hateful asshole through and through, using his powers of manipulation not to solve his problem (people dismiss him and despise him for his deformity), but to ruin things, and even at the time we join him, after he unleashed the Ash Curse, nope, he wants to become a new god. Asshole. Suffice to say, nobody’s end seems happy, because grimdark.
Despite the whole “Your mileage may vary on grimdark” thing, aesthetically, it’s pretty pleasing overall. Good art style (even if the loading screens are in a different style, they still show the characters well), solid music, with threatening bass lines and violins quavering at the violence (not actually, but this is the mood they were going for), and… Ah, yeah, we do have one problem: Although most of the tooltips, menus, etcetera are clear and readable, there is one very odd exception: The resource trade menu… Which is tiny. Not only is it hard to read, it’s hard to select, and I don’t know why this is.
Still, overall, there’s some interesting tactics here, an interesting take on the roguelike card battling type genre, and even though I’m not particularly a fan of grimdark, I do appreciate that the story is pretty well presented for what it is. So, overall, a recommendation.
Er, fix the menu though, folks, eh?
The Mad Welshman appreciates a good experiment. He’s less fond of all the screaming and gore during one, though…