Archive for the ‘Game Reviews’ Category:

Alex Kidd In Miracle World DX (Review)

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

I am bad at Alex Kidd. I’m not even going to pretend I’m not, because Alex Kidd is from the days of yore, and I’ve gotten used to not dying in one hit, silly billy that I am.

This is the classic look, if you’re wondering. Ahhhh, this takes me back!

But not being good doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t appreciate things. Like the gorgeous aesthetic of the remake, while also allowing you to play it mostly as it originally looked with the push of a button. Gotta love a remake that not only makes things look nicer, but also keep to the vibe. That’s harder than it seems.

Still, yes, Alex Kidd. What a series that was, each installment different enough that it kept it fresh, but this, being one of the earliest ones, is also both the oldest and most unforgiving. Alex is somewhat floaty to control, having some inertia, and while he has a lot of air control, this isn’t always to his benefit (as noted by the times I’ve jumped into a bird. The many many times.) His punch, meanwhile, is purely horizontal, although power ups can change things up, like fireballs.

Yes, this is legitimately the general vibe the jan-ken-pon bosses have. And I love it.

Oh, and some of the bosses play Rock, Paper, Scissors, with an instant death if you don’t win best of three. Yes, old platformers were odd like that. So yes, if you don’t like Ye Olden Game Design, the way Alex controls and the one hit kills in (admittedly well checkpointed) levels not appeal to you. There’s ways to mitigate the rock, paper, scissors bosses, including memorisation, and if you just want to play the damn game, there’s an infinite lives system.

Honestly, even though I’m not good at Alex Kidd, not by a long shot, I still enjoy it. Yes, I had to turn on infinite lives. Sue me, I’m no longer the kid who beat Codename Droid in one try, or regularly enjoyed the obscure game Onslaught. It’s relatively short, but naturally, as in many of Ye Olden Games, part of this is difficulty padding that’s been preserved, but there are new levels, there’s enough quality of life to make this a good remake, and, well, if you like hard platformers, this one’s pretty good for you.

This git will kill you over and over and over again if your reflexes aren’t good. Remember, some enemies take multiple hits.

The Mad Welshman well remembers the time of Nintendo Hard. Nobody seems to talk about Infocom Hard though, it’s just as catchy!

Sunblaze (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £12.39
Where to Get It: Steam

I’ll freely admit, hearing a combo of “Super Meat Boy” and “Celeste” didn’t exactly inspire confidence. For all that they share some things in common, they’re different enough that a mismash of the two would be painful.

But it was, for the most part, correct. Death is common. There is an optimal path through. Anything less than “pretty optimal” to “Optimal as fuck” means death. And, after about 19 levels, I very quickly realised this wasn’t for me.

Pictured: I got a little further, but my imminent demise here is inevitable, even if, looking at it, I see what to do.

Not because it isn’t good. It’s pretty responsive, you know exactly what tools you have in this twitchy puzzle platformer: A double jump and a dash. Maybe you get more tools later, maybe not. And you very quickly learn what things do, the game mostly teaching you ahead of time, such as falling blocks. Oh boy, there’s a lot of falling blocks. And the sprite art is great, and the chiptunes okay, the menu accessible, and options to turn off flashes, screenshake, and gltiching effects. I mean, they should be off by default, but now you know the option’s there.

No, it’s because I’m not great at this game. There’s a lot of levels in the first chapter, and, as mentioned, I got to 19 (pictured) before the momentum completely halted. Because it’s pretty difficult in terms of jumps and dashes almost from the get go. Now, what isn’t pictured is the spring platform that fell down. I know, theoretically, what I have to do: Jump off the ledge, dash to the block, then jump the fuck out before it crushes me under the spikes it crushes, high jump on the spring, dash back, double jump.

Ummmm… SOD.

I just can’t do it, because the timing’s pretty damn tight. The timing’s been pretty tight since about five levels before this.Not super tight, but tight enough that I bit 28 of those 36 deaths in the levels prior.

So yes, I like the aesthetic. I like the characters, especially the very dadly professordad. I like that it’s clear and simple, and I like its accessibility.

It’s just that it’s clearly laser focused on folks who say “Omigod, that game was hard as balls, but I finished it, got all the data cubes for the hard modes, and beat those, and I feel so good!”

And I am not one of those folks.

The Mad Welshman SETS deathtraps, he doesn’t try to escape them!

The Henry Stickmin Collection (Going Back)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £11.39
Where To Get It: Steam

Try this one WEIRD game! Completionists will HATE it!

I mean, that’s a really good capsule summary. It’s weird (unsurprising, considering it’s a meme ridden ex-Newgrounds series, a notable time for experimentation in Flash games, not always to the better, but enjoyably so, in this case), and yes, as a completionist, I can say that 100 percenting this game is a bastard.

If you’re confused, this is an MLG replay of failing utterly by 360 no-scoping your friend there. SO PRO, MUCH 1337. Oh, and content warning flashing imagery for that.

Okay, let’s get into it. Henry Stickmin (not to be confused with Henry Stickman) is a not-great human, er… Stickman. And with him, you go on a choose your own adventure style game (but with some quick time events) where failing still provides entertainment. There are six episodes, one of which requires you to have completed all the endings of the previous two to complete (part one of “Completionists will hate this.”) Choose your method of getting past the obstacle, watch what happens, likely retry, rinse, repeat. As noted, there are quick time events (some of which are brutal, so folks not okay with twitchy games, note well), and… Collectibles.

Oh boy, the collectibles. So, normally, I would be fine with collectathons. Love ’em. But Henry Stickmin wants to make it as hard for you as possible. There are people you have to click within about half a second, or multiple people you have to click within a few seconds, as many as 15. Some of whom are small. The same with the paintings in Stealing the Diamond. Oh, and the Among Us collectibles. And that one achievement where you have to click Gary Mann 5 times, or click where Henry’s going to land correctly in three different scenes…

STANDO!

Yup. I hate the completionist aspect of this one. I’m also less than fond of it using infamous meme “Shoop Da Whoop” (A blackface meme), even considering that it was popular back in the day. Gollywog dolls were too, and I sure as hell wouldn’t defend them. But overall, it picks some solid ones, fun references to Avatar, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Predator, Looney Tunes, Zelda, Pokemon, Phoenix Wright… I could go on for a fair while, but its silly humour lands more often than it misses. Or maybe I’m just an old.

Aesthetically, well, it’s very clear. Choices are nice and big, the text is clear… The music is a bit of a mixed bag, but overall, it works.

Now, when it comes to the audience? I’ll freely admit, the appeal is somewhat niche. Masochistic completionists, I guess, old folks like me who get the memes, Newgrounds Nostalgics… Seriously, I don’t really know. All I know is I found it a generally alright experience, except for the completionist stuff, which I hated.

No, The Mad Welshman has not 100%ed this game. Don’t bug him about it.

The Sealed Ampoule (Going Back)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £15.49 (Soundtrack £3.99)
Where to Get It: Steam

See, sometimes, you see an idea, you think “Hey, this is cool!” and then… Oh. Hrm. Ah. Not quite as cool in execution.

So it is with The Sealed Ampoule. It’s a very minimalist procgen dungeon crawler. So minimalist, in fact, that it doesn’t gel well with its length. The procedure is very simple. Go into dungeon. Hit things until you feel you aren’t going to survive the next level, go back to room. Use stuff you got in the dungeon to get skills, level up the dungeon’s drop rate and magic circle rate for each level. When you get the ability and have the resources, turn dungeon levels into farms, just dropping the drops. Find story every now and again, or resources to turn more dungeon levels into farms. Rinse, repeat.

Remember these polygons well, for they are the ENEMY. Defeat them, and gain their resources!

I will say this for this set of mechanics, it does cut down on the bumf you’re overlevelled for. I mean, I’m still somewhat overlevelled at any given point beyond the early game, although I suspect that changes the further in you go, but yes, turning the earliest levels into, eventually, a single level you just run through and collect resources from? This is a piece of legitimately good design.

But the rest? Well, as I mention, it’s basically a rinse and repeat. Skills drop once every five levels or so, although those, like the progress toward dungeon farms, require specific materials, dying loses you some resources, and… Well, it boils down to a blur of grind, occasionally interspersed with “Oh, new enem- FUCK, RUN!”, story, or a boss.

The story, similarly, is simple, although it has its compelling mysteries. You play as Irene, who has been depressed since her mother died, but found an advert for a cheap dungeon, and decided to turn it into an alchemy farm, so as to open a shop, make lots of money… And then she finds out that it’s more populated than it first appears, including two small and mysterious children, and… A man who has been bludgeoned to death by nothing less than The Philosopher’s Stone. It’s just that said story progresses in short cutscenes that are… Well, an increasing number of dungeon levels from where you were, even accounting for farms.

The Uncanny Valley Twins.

And finally, there are the aesthetics. Again, it’s minimalist. A few music tracks, that mostly fit the mood, but still feel off, and a few sound effects, generally around two per enemy, sometimes shared between groups. A low poly look that normally, I’d be down for, but feels like a waste of enemy design, and hits the uncanny valley in the case of Irene, whose mouth never seems to work right, and whose movement is… Well, speaking frankly, Irene’s animations are godawful. All five or so.

Otherwise, the accessibility is just fine. The menus are clear, albeit with calligraphic and serif text, you have a helpful toolbar about the status effects you know, and, with the exception of floating numbers for regeneration, nothing’s too small to distinguish. Starts in windowed mode, keys are simple, but options to change things are sparse, and there doesn’t appear to be any gamepad support.

It’s honestly disappointing, because you can see hints of what the developers were going for, but a lot of it just falls flat. If you want a time waster, then yes, this is alright, but otherwise, I can’t really recommend it.

The Mad Welshman loves games of alchemy. He just finds so few of them FUN.

Potion Explosion (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £5.19 (£2.89 for DLC)
Where to Get It: Steam

My god… Actual windowed modes in a tabletop adaptation? Blessed be!

And yes, I shouldn’t be getting excited because this should be bloody normal… But it’s not as common as I would like. Anyway…

This professor… I’ve actually had one like that before. Alas, it wasn’t a potions class… English Lang/Lit, if I recall correctly…

Potion Explosion is an adaptation of the tabletop game of the same name, and… Well, due to its nature, I feel like it works better as a digital adaptation, even if the tabletop version is undeniably quite pretty. You see, it’s a game in which you’re collecting marbles containing potion ingredients, but, importantly, if a potion of the same ingredient colour as the one below your chosen marble falls, well, all of that colour then get collected, which can then chain. Using these ingredients, you can, as the game implies, make potions for points. Make five different potions? Get a merit badge. Make three of the same kind of potion? Get a merit badge. The combination of merit badges and points then decides what place you are… But there can only be one teacher’s pet for Albedus Humblescore (Yes, the boardgame was made during this period.)

Visually, it’s pretty damn clear. Even the tabletop game was clear, with four clearly differentiated colours of marbles, but in the digital adaptation, they add symbols in too. Moons (black), Fire (red), Water (blue) and Star (Yellow.) There’s DLC which adds extra rules and a fifth potion element, but that’s another beast entirely, so… Brownie points for accessibility.

Unsurprisingly, I win.

Musically, well, it’s a bit limited, but it isn’t unpleasant, and that’s about all I can say about that.

Overall? I’m okay with Potion Explosion. It’s a good adaptation of the tabletop game that plays to the strength of a digital format, the tabletop game was fun to play with friends, and I have no doubt this one is too. Oh, and for folks like me who prefer to play alone, yes, there is a Versus AI mode, with varying levels of difficulty.

So, a fairly warm recommendation from the Welshman.

The Mad Welshman loves making potions. His family, however, do not, ever since his childhood thought of “What happens when I mix all the ingredients of an 80s chemistry set into one test tube?”