Archive for the ‘Game Reviews’ Category:

Hermitage: Strange Case Files (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £15.49
Where To Get It: Steam

Content Warning: The game contains mentions of abuse, bullying, self harm, drugs, and suicide. Although TMW has not managed to fully check the CWs, they assume there are more, but these alone are biggies for a fair few folks.

Well… That’s been one hell of a ride.

Yeah, sometimes all you can really say as an opener is something so simple, because Hermitage: Strange Case Files is an emotional rollercoaster, and, naturally for a horror adventure game with obvious Lovecraft influences, it’s a deeply unsettling experience at times.

Ah, a many angled doggy. Sadly, a bit too eldritch and hostile to be pettable. Sorry, you cannot pet the dog in this game.

Slight, yet important tangent here, because I know something’s going to be said: Yes, Lovecraft was a racist fuck to the point where even his peers went “Whoooooah there, buddy!” Yes, a lot of his work has racism, and indeed, much of the subtext and theming is racist as fuck too. But if you are to judge a later work riffing on the created mythos, not on its own merits, but just as a sentence that starts with “This person liked Lovecraft’s work, ergo, they are -”, you’re doing a disservice to the creator in question.

Okay, that said, let’s go into it. Hermitage: Strange Case Files is a supernatural mystery visual novel, mostly from the perspective of a bookshop owner whose landlord is… Mysterious, and knows more than they’re letting on, his lawyer cum investigator friend, and the various people who are caught up in horrors that said trio help solve. The first chapter is available as a free demo, and oh boy, it’s a doozy. A private school. Bullying. Strange dreams that prove to be real. I would definitely say, if you have a trauma trigger about school bullying, that the descriptions are uncomfortably on point. In each chapter, there are only a few puzzles, the majority of which are to do with sliding clues onto questions to answer them (three per question), with three chances on each, and a bad ending awaiting if, well, you fuck any of them up.

This guy… This cryptic god-damn guy…

So, let’s get the bad out the way: Scarlet text on a dark transparent box, with sometimes dark backgrounds? HAVE. COLOURBLINDNESS. OPTIONS. Some of the questions, perhaps due to the translation from Chinese to English, are worded in such a way that you likely won’t get it the first time, and sometimes, when you click to fast forward text before clicking again to skip the line… Well, it just skips the line before it’s done. Okay. That’s the bad out the way.

The writing is good. It will frustrate some folks to know that it has the feel of a sequel at the beginning, but most things get revealed by the end, don’t worry. It’s descriptive, it’s emotive (oh boy is it emotive), and the characters, even the ones who are introduced for only one chapter, are fleshed out as well as they can be for their screentime. It draws you in, and I honestly didn’t realise the first chapter took almost 2 hours, because, well, there were only five puzzles (technically four), and the writing drew me in.

Please do not do this. No, really, I can’t fucking read this at all.

Aesthetically, apart from the aforementioned accessibility issue, it’s styling… The character designs are sharp, an ink and airbrush style you often see in manhua, with the occasional more painted look, the menus of the game fit the mood and theme of a mystery game well, the locations are nice, and the soundtrack and ambient sound… Mmmm, chef’s kiss, it’s good stuff.

So yes, if you like horror, if the content warnings don’t turn you off, and if you like a nice visual novel to keep you up at night, then Hermitage is a definite recommendation from me.

Have. Colourblindness. Options. This is not a request.

Powerwash Simulator (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £15.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Muckingham, a town where beautification committees are considered quaint, and where Health and Safety Inspectors dare not enter, for fear of their lives, has a new hero. The hero they need. The hero they may or may not deserve. The one who’s going to clean up this town!

Hitting tab allows you to gauge the herculean task in front of you. And whether you missed a spot.

Oh, I’m sorry, was the title not clear enough that all that heroic guff was hyperbole, and that it is, in fact, a relaxing game about washing things with a high pressure hose, a variety of nozzles, and whatever background music you choose to put on, for the game deliberately has none? Because yes, it’s a game about cleaning things, both big and small, with a high pressure hose, a variety of nozzles, and whatever background music you choose to put on.

It’s pretty clever, actually. Because it’s not only a game you can take at your own pace, nobody can actually say it isn’t a challenge. That one tiny nook you missed, that’s stopping you from that dopamine inducing ting of “This has been cleaned now!” That swearing as you realise that your quick sweep has just left dirt that you can’t see, outside of your super-power of briefly turning dirt bright yellow, but is nonetheless all over the sodding place. Oh, and let us not forget trying to find that one support or timber out of 21 (people who’ve already bought the game know exactly what I mean) that has only mostly been cleaned.

Considering the state of Muckingham, I’m assuming it went on the “Nearly Unused” listing on mBay.

It’s got it’s challenges, that’s for sure. But it’s well designed, in that it’ll give you a big one, maybe a couple of big ones… Then a smaller job. Then a few more big ones, maybe a medium one, smaller job, so on… It’s well paced, in its career mode, and the writing of the characters who hire you is humorous indeed. From the old park keeper who doesn’t understand why people are complaining about a little bit of muck (read: The whole fucking park), to the bakery folks who live in a rustic cottage, one Hansel and Gretel Hexenjager, who are definitely bakers and not anything else!

It’s pretty accessible, with a right click toggle of the water to save your poor finger if you wish (although alas, your wrist is likely to suffer if you play for long periods), clear UX, the bright yellow of the dirt sight clearly contrasting with a good 99% of the surfaces (so even though some grime may not be visible at first glance, it will always be when you Tab to check), colour coding for your nozzles…

And, aesthetically, it’s solid. Often bright, colourful locations, making a night and day transition from Ye Liveliest Awfulness to pristine, friendly locales, the sound of the pressure washer against various surfaces is relaxing, and fitting… It doesn’t have music, it’s true, but this is a deliberate decision so you can put your own on.

Your reward for a job well done is to see the work you’ve done… Being done. Ah, watching that dirt vanish in moments is… Slightly taunting the time you actually took doing it…

I like Powerwash Simulator already, a bunch, and I’m very unlikely to change this opinion. There’s a lot of rinsey, bubbly bang for your buck if you’re into nice, relaxing simulation games that aren’t really simulations, per se, but are good enough that you can imagine you’re having a nice, relaxing time drenching things at high pressure and watching the muck and grime and rust melt away…

…Ahhh, bliss. Even for a mucky pup like myself!

Oh, and the Multiplayer Beta dropped, so soon, you’ll be able to powerwash with your friends, too, wheeee!

Ultimate ADOM (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £17.49
Where To Get It: Steam
Previous Review: Early Access

Ah, ADOM. I’m going to say this now, if you don’t like hard, old school roguelikes, stay away, because ADOM is very, very traditional. In the “If you don’t know the systems, you’re unlikely to get past Level 3, and random start is Challenge Mode” sense.

MONSTER CLOSET, WOOOOOOOO!!!!

Also if you find a clunky UX which occasionally does things like have text that’s obviously code (such as, in at least one of these screenshots, “DRINK_SYMBOL”) offputting. Because that’s a thing too.

Anyway, yes, despite this, it’s not a bad roguelike. It is, after all, one of the earlier ones that’s gone through a lot of rejigging, although this version doesn’t have the massive world traditional ADOM does. Gender options are alright (including, as I mentioned in my Early Access review, Tentacled… Gotta love Tentacled and Non-Binary as options… Although, as with older RPGs, each gender comes with stat mods… Not my favourite), class and race options are pretty plentiful, and there’s certainly a fair few systems to interact with, like summoning, grafting, corruption and mutation… There’s not all that many roguelikes where I can say “I, a Gray Elf Necromancer, decided I wanted a third arm that belonged to a goblin. I never did find a third dagger for it before I died, but I could have, and that would have rocked. Damn you, dark elf immune to life draining magic, which was my main healing…”

Bree-Yark is… God-damn, I think that’s one of the oldest tabletop/roguelike memes in existence… Glad to see it here.

And aesthetically, it’s alright. No major issues besides skinny text for accessibility, the chibis and monsters look alright… Honestly, my main problem is that it’s clunky. Progression has gotten faster, so levelling isn’t a big problem, but going through a mini-menu when you want to do certain things gets annoying quickly, even with a turn based game where taking your time and thinking is the preferable path.

In the end, Ultimate ADOM may well please traditional roguelike fans who don’t mind a little jank, but folks looking to get into roguelikes should definitely look elsewhere. I honestly wish I could say more, but… There’s not a lot else to say that I haven’t said before.

The Mad Welshman is one of the deities in this game. Well, he’s like one of the deities in this game. Certainly as stylish.

Deep Sea Valentine (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £3.99 (£3.99 artbook)
Where To Get It: Steam

On the one hand, I love my Good Queer Shit, this is well known. I like gijinkas (human anthropomorphisations of various stuff), and I like games that use engines that aren’t really built for the game. But…

When you’re not talking to people, you’re walking through a smallish world. Considering this is using a visual novel engine, I’m slightly impressed.

…This game tries way too hard. And the result is a little painful.

Okay, maybe more than a little, this thing… I think I heard ten memes in the space of five minutes, and my brain (and teeth) ache a little.

So… Anyway, the game. It’s a visual novel made in Ren’py, simple choices, a choice of sea life gals to smooch on Valentine’s Day, short, to the point… And it has top down walking in it. Top down walking that scrolls somewhat jankily, and… Feels superfluous, honestly. There are set situations you’re faced with, things only opening up (a little) when you get to a certain point, so… Why not go with a more traditional structure, choosing where to go, etcetera?

Cheese. Health Advisory: Do not use this line.

Honestly, that’s mostly dissatisfaction with the jank of the top-down, majority segment of the game. Aesthetically, it be pixels, with hand drawn character art for the conversations, so I’m not complaining about the aesthetics.

The writing, on the other hand… Ohhh boy. See, I was down with “It’s time to pick up women. [pause] Respectfully.” But then, shortly after?… Stans, Stands, Darude’s Sandstorm, lots of cheesy lines… It grated. It grated a whole lot, and the humour seemed forced. I didn’t really feel any attraction to anyone (much less the protag), and…

I… Really wasn’t joking about the Darude Sandstorm thing. SIGH.

As such, I… Really can’t recommend this, unless you’re a masochist, or are as internet poisoned as the two jackass boys who seem to be the nominal antagonists of the story. I like my Good Queer Shit, but this… This ain’t it.

The Mad Welshman would like to be, under the sea, in a cute dolphingirl’s parlour, in a cave… Alas…

Ambition: A Minuet In Power (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £15.99 (Game plus soundtrack £23.18, Soundtrack £7.19)
Where To Get It: Steam

My word, this one is a delight. I mean, I’ve heard some… Interesting things about the developers, nothing you could repeat, mind you, but…

I am joking, I’ve heard nothing. But that’s the most fitting intro I could think of for a game set just before La Revolution, in which scheming is rife, including yours. Who shall you side with, who shall you snub, and what shall you wear, while avoiding poverty because your fiancee ran off to God knows where before you even arrived?

The obligatory Map Screenshot. Look, it’s in my contract…

In any case, this is a life simulation game, in which you’re balancing various stats (it’s a relatively simple one, so it’s favour with factions and characters, money, peril, and exhaustion) while engaging in social situations in a visual novel style format. Read the text, enjoy the expressions, pick the most suitable path for you, and see what ending results (or, you know, aim for a specific one)

At the time of the review, I was, essentially, already on my way to revenge, revolution, and a lesbian romance with an older widow. Perfect path for me, honestly, I love me Dat Good Queer Shit, I dislike the Bourgeoisie, and the noblewoman who snubs you at the beginning of the game is a hateful bitch. I could have curried favour with another lady (a painter for the Queen), some men, the military, the church, but… Naaahhhhh. So, what do I like and dislike about the game, then, now I’ve mentioned this?

I’m not normally one for older women, much less toppy ones. But when they understand me this well? Yes. Yes please, and thank you.

Aesthetically, I love it. Expressive characters, solid writing, clear UX, music that fits both the period and the mood, good tooltips… My only bitch with the UX is that when something is grayed out, this is the time to hit Escape to go back, but it does not, in fact, inform you of this. Oh, and the windowed mode going a bit fucky from time to time. But, overall, it pleases me, very good.

Now, the core gameplay loop and the writing? Oh. God. Yes. The gameplay is simple in all its elements. When you’re not at a party, you get one thing to do a day, like buying a new dress, selling or disseminating that Hot Gossip, engaging in encounters, trysts, furthering one of the stories, some days gives you invitations to parties, where declining hurts your credibility (remember, this is also the word for “Someone believing you”), and accepting sets a day aside for attending said party. When you do, you get two social encounters, picked from a pool. Do well, get nice things, maybe some bad things, like Peril (leading, obviously, to bad things. Do poorly, get more of the latter, and expect your reputation to plummet.

Let me romance this charming partner in crime, god-dammit! Look at that radiant smile, and the willingness to help cover up my crimes!

It’s easy to navigate, which leaves… The writing. The characters are, as mentioned, expressive visually, and it’s the same in terms of writing. Madame Honorade Gazelle (alas, a Bourgeoisie… Maybe I can persuade her otherwise), for example, is a firebrand, teetotal, but passionate, and caring not for your silly conventions. Camille, your maid… Well, I screenshotted one of her exchanges above, she’s most definitely not law abiding when she needs (or wants) to be, and a cheerful and helpful servant. Alas, not romanceable. Maybe that could be in a patch, or a DLC? After all, out of the romance options, only two are gay (out of six), and we could do with a bigger scandal, couldn’t we?

In any case, to folks who like lifesims, visual novels, and intrigue with a historical touch, this is a very good pick. I’m having a lot of fun, and I expect to have more.

Give us Camille if you want to live, developers. The villains and villainesses demand Camille. (We won’t really hurt you. Camile pweaaaasee?)