Princess Maker: Go! Go! Princess (Going Back)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £7.19
Where To Get It: Steam

Princess Maker is a funny old series. It popularised the life simulation and trainer genres in the west, and, for all that its basic formula has remained the same, it managed to create different characters, moods, and refinements throughout the series.

A battle to the… Uhhh… Marriage? There’s no death here, so… Yeah. Battle to the marriage.

Even so, when I found Go! Go! Princess, I sat there for a while, just… Blinking. A board game with life-sim elements, containing the first four princesses to be of the series. Competitive princess making, if you will.

Naturally, I got some friends together to play it (after playing it hotseat and solo.) What we agreed on was that this… Definitely had its weirdnesses. Fun overall, but also with a fair bit of jank.

So yes, you are four princesses to be, and the king is setting a number of tasks, which will determine who has the right to join the Prince on the throne… And who gets any other one of the 36 endings (some of which are unique to the princesses.)

Yes, this is the default name for the Princess Maker 2 princess in this game. I wish I was joking.

There’s, er, just one problem with that last bit. You’ll have a bastard of a time achieving the ending you want unless you’re specifically gunning for it, completely ignoring the mad rush to the quests which are… All around the damn map. There is an option to have a smaller map to work with, and quicker games than the full 8 years (96 turns), but even so, there’s a lot of running around, and, with having to move the full value on the die or dice, without going back on your path, some of the quest locations are painful to get to, being at the end of a path. So right off the bat, you have a sometimes painful quest system, which either results in a mad, unstructured rush to each quest location, or, in the case of everyone but a single player ignoring the quests in favour of their ending (itself a problem due to needing to learn the board, rather than just thinking “Ah, yes, this job would do this, perfect for a General’s necessary stats!”), one player going for one quest, and then the rest of the game a cavalcade of “Ahh, fuck it.”

You’d think the odds are stacked in Maria’s favour. But actually, while Maria was dancing, Lisa was studying the blade…

It’s… A very odd design, where the incentive to faff around on the board is, once you’ve achieved a princess ending for the first time, much larger than winning, unless there’s conflict for a goal. Add in that behind the scenes is somewhat obfuscated, and you have further confusion. How does a high magic skill influence the magic roll in combat? Dunno. Is there any way to relieve stress beyond the random 500g doctor event or some specific churches on the map? Dunno. Do higher stats = higher rolls in general? Seems like, but dunno…

Aesthetically, the game is… Alright. It has the small text problem of earlier games, free mode in the map isn’t as helpful as “Original” mode, and while the icons tell you roughly what to expect, it takes practice to know how it benefits, but…

In the end, this is a weird one. I don’t really see it as appealing to lifesim fans, and similarly, it’s got enough board game annoyances and lack of incentive that I don’t really see it as appealing to them, either. It’s a hodgepodge which feels aimless, and, although we had fun, it was mostly because we were friends playing, not because the game was well designed.

The Mad Welshman wonders what else could be shoehorned into a game like this. Doom? System Shock? Alan Wake, maybe?

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Noita (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £15.49 (£7.99 soundtrack, £21.13 game and soundtrack)
Where To Get It: Steam

Ahhh, Noita… Pixel by pixel simulation of object interaction. Want ice vapour to kill you? Don’t worry, particle by particle, you can do that! Want to put out that particle fire? Just hop in some particle liquid that isn’t particle oil, or sprinkle it on yourself! Want to shoot several particle streams of death, which then become more particle streams of death, and so on until your computer is screaming at you to stop? Yes, you can do these things, all of these things, so long as it’s through shooting things, bombing things, kicking things, throwing things, or spraying things!

Pixels! And many of them are currently very deadly!

You can also die in some extremely messy ways. And you will. Often. So yes, welcome to Noita, a procedurally generated roguelike in which you are descending into the depths of a mountain’s cavern/dungeon network, for… Reasons. I’m sure they made sense at the time, whatever those reasons were. It’s got some lovely pixel art, which, y’know, fits because of all those pixels that can be set on fire, slosh around, obstruct you and so on… And the music and sounds are good too.

It’s difficult, and at times twitchy, so if those are turnoffs, turn ye back now, and, as mentioned, it can get resource hoggy, so make sure your computer can handle it before trying it out!

Otherwise… Hot damn, the feeling of doing incredibly silly shit with your wands and potions, whether it works or not… No, really, it’s amusing to have thirty five arrows from a single cast, only for said arrows to bounce back at you because what did you expect when you fired 35 arrows in so many directions?

For this to be my situation on entering the level is a sign that maybe I should have run away. I did not. I died. I had a blast (and I got blasted.)

Well, you expected something amusing to happen. And you got it, even if you have to restart the game. But that’s okay, there’s probably even sillier things you can get up to! (There most definitely are.)

Any criticisms? Well… Apart from the game turning very resource hoggy when there’s a lot of stuff going on (and believe me, you can easily ensure a lot of stuff is going on, and so can some of the enemies), it’s in this weird space where the basic learning curve is actually quite easy… But the mastery curve is several sharp inclines, which, even with the potential for very amusing deaths, also creates some frustrating ones. Argh, why did I have to die just by getting shot? Boring! Also, some enemies, like the snipers, are… Oh god, they’re utter bastards.

Helpfully, the game now lists things you’ve found, and counts the secrets the game has. Yes, I mentioned secrets, and have found none personally. I know how to get them, I just haven’t tried.

But, overall, I love Noita. I love the destructive creativity. I love the war stories it can create. And, if you don’t mind a tough action roguelike, where you’re going to die in the first few areas a lot before you get further, you’ll like this one.

The Mad Welshman appreciates that wizards have no sense of responsibility. So consider sending wizards into this hellhole a chance for one of them to learn. Maybe.

Look, it’s enjoyable to send the bastards to their doom, alright?

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Dave-Man (Going Back)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £2.09
Where To Get It: Steam

It’s a day at the office. 27 days to retirement. It’s been a long day, but all you have to do is get the coffee beans that have nonsensically been scattered around the office and make some coffee before work really starts, and you will have enough energy to cope with the day.

Chatty Cathy has the latest goss. And she won’t let you go until you’ve heard all of it.

And then one of the Chatty Cathys of the office turns a corner before you can turn yours to the coffee machine, time goes by in an endless haze of gossip, complaints, and ramblings that you cannot diplomatically leave, and… Whoops, there goes your day. You didn’t even get a nice coffee.

And the wife, at home, wants you to get the wallpaper. Blurgh.

Welcome to Dave Man, in which an almost retired office worker has to collect coffee beans and reach the exit, pacman style, without incurring the wrath or distractions of other office workers. Chatty Cathy is but one opponent on your quest to retire with enough stuff to keep you happy in your retirement, and equally, enough stuff to keep your wife happy in hers.

So, it’s a pacman game with an endpoint, and increasing difficulty, essentially. And while the option exists to go for a higher floor, don’t do this without confidence in your skills, because failure? Means no money. Oh, it means more brownie points for promotion, even if you lose, but… You only have a limited time to do this, you must work your ass off harder and harder to do what you want, and…

Can confirm that I am a more functional human being after my wake up beverage.

Wait, this is sounding familiar, isn’t it? It’s almost as if something as simple as a 1-bit pacman with a story mode could be a metaphor for the daily grind, and having to work yourself extremely hard to even hope to have a decent retirement.

Aesthetically, it works, good use of 1-bit pixel art and lo-fi tunes. In terms of its narrative, it appears to work. In terms of price, £2 is definitely not complaint worthy. So yes, if you like the idea of a pacman game that is also an allegory for the horrors of the daily grind, then yes, this is recommended. Hell, if you like a pacman game this is alright.

Honestly, if your house looks this empty at this time of your life… Shit’s been rough for you, I’m so, so sorry.

My only criticisms? It’s full screen only, it seems, and since it’s a HTML5 game, hitting the normal screenshot button for Steam shows the chrome developer console and completely stops your movement until you close it. Which, since I was screenshotting for review… Well… That’s why a Chatty Cathy got me in an early level, losing me $150 that could have gone on cool shit for the mostly empty house.

The Mad Welshman appreciates Dave’s struggle for a morning coffee before work. He doesn’t have to deal with co-workers spilling his coffee beans, but… He sympathises. He’s been there.

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Monster Prom 2: Monster Camp (Review)

Source: Supporter Gift
Price: £9.99
Where To Get It: Steam

I enjoyed the hell out of Monster Prom. Truly, it was an experience that will always stay with me, the days of smooching monsterfolk that shaped me, a magical time fraught with drama and sometimes iffy humour…

This is what happens when you have an already horny player, and a mad lib entry that just begs for this answer. Yes, I do want to fuck the hot nonbinary reaper.

And now, it’s time for summer camp, with a mostly new cast, some new mechanics to shake things up, and, although the core of the game remains the same… Going to places that raise stats, successfully navigating events through picking which of the two choices correspond to the higher stat of the pair (yes, you have to deduce this), a campfire interlude in which you try to get hearts with the monster of your dreams by pandering… All of this remains the same, but there’s new wrinkles, changes. And some of them I like, some of them, I understand (but don’t necessarily like), and… Well, actually, there’s only one thing I don’t reallylike, but we’ll get to that.

It’s basically a VN dating sim type dealio, but with extra horny, a customisable content filter, and a competitive element if you’re playing together.

Damien: Finally outed as a dumbass. As if it wasn’t obvious already.

Anyway, changes. Character choices feel a little more natural, if a little bit more confusing for the first part, which is picking three items for your stat improvements to put in your backpack. With the quiz of the previous game, it was a little more clear, but I sorta get it, and it is a fitting way to work it in, as is trying to break the ice with your chosen bae before you’ve hit the camp.

The campfire, much like the lunch hall of the previous game, is mostly the same, except… There’s two differences, and they’re both fun. Want to give another player a boost? Spread some goss, honey, the mothman over there is dying to hear the latest! Haven’t seen it backfire yet (nope, just did, right now… -4 Boldness, OW), and there’s some fun madlibs. Now… Juan the Magical Latino Cat, this… Is a slightly different story. His role is to shake things up, by providing you with one drink, chosen from either one you can see, and maybe guess the effects of… Or the Mystery Box. There’s a couple that screw you over, but mostly, it’s interesting stuff, which does change your plans, and I like that.

Hello, Juan, I suppose some of these drinks are revenge for us stealing your FUN. Most of them are pretty cool, though, you’re one hell of a party animal.

Then there’s the little bit of rep, and this time, definitely intentional. Last game, we had Zoey, who many consider to be transgender (and awesome), and now? Milo, the nonbinary reaper. Who, like pretty much all of the main cast, is extremely cute. Would talk up on their instagram contents, 10/10. And someone’s parents being a gay couple. And pretty much all the main cast technically being pansexual. Okay, I take it back, this game’s pretty queer.

Aesthetically, it remains the same, although the music does feel samey pretty quickly, I kinda miss the “What they did after” vignettes, but the replacement of a cool credits animation makes up for that somewhat, and, while there’s stuff still needing to be put into the game (Hi there Gallery mode, I want a full screenshot of Milo’s hot bod, thanks in advance.) It remains accessible, the content filters are a nice feature, even if they don’t… Full cover everything, but I’m reasonably certain they’ve tried to keep it CW free, outside of the events and endings.

I love how adorably vulnerable looking Aaravi the monster slayer is when you date her. She’s opening up to you, and if you break her heart, we will end you

So, is it a recommendation? Yup, pretty much. I’d have liked it if they’d released with all the content, rather than putting it out now with some stuff missing, but, honestly, it’s definitely enjoyable right now, even if I do wish there was a cheat sheet built in that, once you’ve smooched your date once, helps narrow down what stats you need to smooch them again. Mostly because it’s tiresome remembering, and I want to enjoy the events along the way. Still, if you like smooching monsterfolk, Monster Prom remains a series to enjoy.

Well, unless you’re not up for thirst. Because hoo boy, there’s a lot of thirst.

As before, The Mad Welshman had real difficulty working out who they wanted to date. So they dated them all.

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Necronator: Dead Wrong (Review/Going Back)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £14.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Okay, so… I’m hecka late on this release review, for which I apologise. Anyway, yes… Necronator, a tower defence game with a whimsically comedic evil overlord theme (such bright, cheery overlords, such big wallies for the lords we’re meant to defeat!), in which you go through a procedurally generated area, fighting tower defence battles, meeting events, buying cards (for lo, your units are cards, with a mana cost, a hand, and all that jazz), and just generally having fun and getting into trouble.

We got this. Go, my skeletal minions, go!

It’s a game that, I feel, respects my time, as I’ve felt previously. After all, there’s a heavy incentive to win quickly, as once that timer at the top runs down, the enemy castle will spawn much quicker, and it’ll be all that much harder to defeat them, or you could even find yourself on the losing end. So battles are quick. Maps are quick. And you breeze through, thinking on your feet, and, essentially, having fun.

Like, I’m not a tower defence guy. And I’m having fun. It’s easily understandable, tooltips are solid, the units are fun and interesting, and, pretty quickly, you’ll find yourself with three different commanders to play with, each with their own fun and interesting units. Aesthetically, it’s on point, some really cool pixel/voxel art, the maps are more clear than last time I played, the menus were good the first time round…

There’s other stuff beyond this, but it’s got less visual pop than “Here be the landscape you’re going to trample over!”

I can’t find fault with necronator, beyond the mild annoyance of “I can’t drag my card anywhere on screen to summon units, only the dungeon heart? Booooo…”

Have fun with three undead cuties on a fun murderous rampage. I’d recommend that, and, it’s a good introduction game to tower defence games. Not a bad combo, I’d say!

The Mad Welshman approves of women getting into evil overlording. Hopefully, with enough entering the industry, we can change the term, give it some extra kick. The committee’s still deciding on a good name, though, input welcomed!

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