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Phasmophobia (Early Access Review)

Source: Supporter Gift
Price: £10.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Phasmophobia is a multiplayer experience that’s like those ghost shows that were all the rage back when (and indeed, follow some of the standard ghost investigation methodology), except the ghosts are nearly always angry, and can and will kill you.

Although, if you have a decent team, or a decent investigation method, or don’t, like me, overextend yourself by strolling through the Prison with just two people, you won’t die.

You can just about make out what happens if you ignore this advice.

Honestly, though, the most fun I’ve had was tackling the prison with a single friend. First we both went in, then one of us alone… We were getting nowhere. EMF wasn’t picking anything up, temperature was normal, no orbs to be found, no fingerprints we could find under UV… But we did manage to get some spirit writing which narrowed it down to, uhhh… About two thirds of the beasties.

Then we pissed it off. The game gives you a five minute grace period during which it won’t get angry, but when it does… The front door locks, the walkie talkie stops working for you, and if you can’t hide, hide from something you can only see in glimpses at best? Well… You find yourself in a small room of corpses, before you become just a ghost.

On the upside, you can sort of see more clearly when you’re dead?

It was tense as hell, right up to the end, with it almost getting my partner, and it definitely got me, and my heart was pumping. And yet, I died with only one regret:

I’d seen the thing on camera, and didn’t hit the screenshot button.

And the best thing of all? Sometimes, you can tell what a ghost is by its behaviour, as well as the signs. My partner in crime made the educated guess of Oni (because it was territorial as hell, and as time went on, its sphere of aggro got bigger), and whaddya know, he was right!

But I was actually tense (I rarely get frightened), not jumpscared. Even in the truck, watching that activity meter go all the way up to 10 and stay there, while my friend slowly tries to make their way out (running? Haha, you have a light jog at best), and the walkie talkie’s static as I try to warn them. Watching doors swing on their own, hearing footsteps, jinglings… And even though the ghosts can see you much more clearly in the dark, you have to keep things dark, because otherwise it becomes difficult to get evidence about them.

You cannot believe how grateful we were these things don’t work anymore.

Aesthetically, it has no music. It’s all atmospheric sound, it’s normal buildings (even, sad to say, the prison), and that works.

If you want a multiplayer co-op game of investigation with the possibility of dying, and high tension, this one’s a good one.

Hardspace: Shipbreaker (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £21.99 (Soundtrack £6.99)
Where To Get It: Steam

If there’s one thing we can be sad about with Hardspace: Shipbreaker, it’s that we can’t huck segments of the ship, especially kersplodey ones, at Corporate. Then again, I can imagine we aren’t the first cutter to be disgruntled and think about that, so they might have giant cannons for just such an eventuality.

One of those “Last things you’ll see” moments. Whoopsie.

Anyway, yes, Hardspace: Shipbreaker is a game about dismantling spaceships in a dystopian hellscape where you are a clone whose processable (not furnaceable) worth is approximately $8. Armed with substandard tools you can improve (and later buy) thanks to completing work orders, and slowly, ever so slowly reducing a billion in debt, you cut up ships and yeet the various portions into the right trash receptacles for recycling, for your corporate masters.

You’re also a clone without a union, so no, diving into one of the three processing areas is a no-go, I’m afraid. You can, to be fair, set your number of clones between infinite, 30 total til game over, and none. Don’t pick none, you will die at least once learning the ropes.

I did, eventually, work out a way of getting these parts apart without this happening. Eventually.

It’s actually pretty relaxing, although there are motion sickness warnings for six degrees of freedom movement and the odd thing that’s moving while you’re looking at something that’s not. And with only a few tools, it’s pretty easy to learn the ropes. Cutting tool in focused mode for getting rid of cutting points or smaller metal plates you just want off to get the sodding airlock already, line cutter for when you’ve got metal things connected you don’t want. Grapple tool, its tether, and force push for moving stuff to the right receptacle and picking up even most things that are nailed down, visor to see the harder to see stuff to shove in the barge or destroy, and demo charges for when you can’t cut the bastard (nanocarbon or cut guard), but you want the damn thing gone. Simple!

…Except a friend just told me I can get rid of cut guards with a charged force push. Fuck my life.

Spooky ship, spooky ship, scares you just like a spooky ship…

The aesthetic is pretty cool, although glitch effects annoy the hell out of me, as does a resetting windowed mode, the UX is pretty clear, the music… Well, it’s space trucker guitars, I have no problem with space trucker guitars for, essentially, working yourself for the company store. The three base ship designs and their variations are pretty cool, each with their own challenges (sod you, Javelin, and your backasswards way of building a ship. I hate ensuring your individual toroids don’t snatch up the core of the ship, or drag the whole thing into the wrong station, and you are my nemesis), so… Yeah, I’m liking it on the aesthetic front.

But I also love me some worldbuilding, and, through collecting data boxes, we see just how shit a company Lynx is… And the mystery behind the AI nodes hiding in the Ghost Ships you encounter later on. It’s really not much of a spoiler to say “Someone done fucked up their if-whiles”…

This one isn’t the biggest. Even at the current stage.

Shipbreaker is pretty far along from the looks of things, and I’d love to see multiplayer, but as it is? Granular difficulty’s fun, the world’s fun, the game modes are fun, and if you’re into just chilling out for an hour or two with some mild swearing, a session of Shipbreaker is a good way to do it.

(EDIT: Well, ain’t my timing great. I published this, then found out the story update is hitting soon. Ah well, enjoy the story, I’m certain it’s suitably dystopian!)

Taaake me hoooome, hyperspace roooaaaads…

Legend of Keepers (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £15.99 (Supporter pack £7.19)
Where To Get It: Steam

Ah, being a dungeon keeper. It’s a good job, all told. Protect yourself, lure adventurers in (those damn assholes), and murder them horribly with a combination of traps and monsterfolk.

I mean, it’s better than letting the little gits run rackets, blow up small villages or forests (accidentally or otherwise), cause diplomatic incidents… The list goes on.

And on…

If your heroes keep getting this far… You might be in trouble. Just… Overall.

And on. In any case, such is the idea of Legend of Keeper. Except you’re basically part of a miserly dungeon keeping corporation. The health plan’s good… When you can find the staff doctor. But everything else is performance based, and staff turnover and morale… God, they’re awful. All to keep adventurers away from the boss.

Okay, maybe it’s not a good job after all.

In any case, Legend of Keeper is one of those rogue like (Sorta. Maybe. Kinda) deals, where you go through two years of defending the dungeon. It’s not like the adventurers come every day… In fact, you often have a fair breather. But with each party you run off or murder (intimidate into running for tears, kill for blood), they get stronger. More assholish.

No, actually, some of them start off assholes. Like the fire mage, whose first action on entering the first battle is to shuffle your carefully curated battle line. The only way of possibly preserving your tactically placed monsters (for the elemental rock/paper/scissors of attack and defence) when you see that particular one is to deliberately place your first team out of order. And pray.

THIS GIT ON THE FAR LEFT. THIS GIT CANNOT DIE ENOUGH. I WILL RESURRECT HIM JUST TO KILL HIM AGAIN!

I hate that guy, and each time I send him to hell, I wish him the iciest time, and extremely pointy sticks. Anyway, yes, dungeon fights, when they happen, are turn based, and consist of several rooms, always with two trap rooms, two monster rooms, a spell room, and your chosen class of boss. There are three bosses, and each has something to recommend them. The Slaver, for example, has a good monster selection, and gets a free big monster, with a room of its own, each year you win (I really hope there’s a third year, because yeah, just having the one big monster feels like a waste.)

But, funnily enough, I have the best time with the glassiest of glass cannons, reliant on shields and a nasty air attack, the Mechanic.

So, how does it feel, is it accessible, does it look good? Well, apart from no subtitles for the three or four barks for each boss (You’re not missing much, especially with the Slaver, who has a bad case of internet poisoning. “Come at me, bro!” … Nyuh huh. I’ll get right on that, really I will), it’s okay. No colourblindness issues that I could see, text is okay, buttons for attacks are very clear, tooltips are easy mouse overs… Visually, it looks quite nice, actually, relatively hi-fi pixel art, with some fun and silly event pictures (like the orc caught reading an anthro magazine. Ohhh, you dirty boy, you!)

Audio wise, it’s okay. Nothing stunning, it works, that’s fine.

Yes, we’re Dungeon Keeping salarymen… And oh boy, the Marketing Department, for what it does, can go to the same place as the fire mage.

Still, this is definitely not a bad roguelike dungeon keeper deal. I’ve been having a nice, tactical time with it, getting comfortably into the swing of murdering the shit out of heroes I definitely don’t sympathise with, and if you like turn based strategy, of the “series of battles” SRPG type deal, yeah, this is a solid choice.

The Mad Welshman floats an idea… How about… We make a dungeon which unceremoniously dumps the hero(ine)s into black company office jobs? That’s MUCH more evil than what we’re doing…

Ziggurat 2 (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £14.99 (Soundtrack £4.79, bundle £17.80)
Where To Get It: Steam

Well, well, well… Ziggurat was one of those games that, if you were into arena fight roguelites (Walk into room, if room has enemies, kill them all before you leave, get stuff, rinse, repeat, boss, end level) was not bad at all. Some cool bosses, interesting weapons (some of which were, alas, crap), and carnivorous carrots aplenty. Good times.

There is little more horrifying than seeing this as you close your eyes for the last time.

So now, we have a sequel, and it’s changed the formula somewhat. Let’s start with the story. In the first game, you, a wizard from a pool of wizards (some of whom were unlockable), had to go up the Ziggurat, a prison to seal away horrific beasties, as your wizarding exam. Turns out wizards don’t fuck around when it comes to higher education.

Alas, wizards are also known, beyond deadly educational procedures, for warring over things and causing apocalypses or other terrible events. So, yay, wizard schism, the Ziggurat (reminder: Prison to seal away very bad monsters) got blown up in the war. Now you, some of the few surviving wizards, have to clean up the mess this wizarding war caused by, er… Doing what you did last time, but in discrete areas.

And this is honestly one of the more interesting changes: Rather than a strict level based structure, it’s a more quest based deal, in which solving mini dungeons gets you cool stuff and money. Which you’ll need to level up your wands, staffs, spellbooks, amulets, and alchemical/mechanical weaponry. And your wizards. And, of course, you do that by blowing the shit out of stuff with those weapons and wizards.

Oh, whaddya know, one of my screenshots with shooting in it has the little bastards in it too. God-damn carnivorous carrots, cackling and getting everywhere…

But it’s still got a ways to go right now, and it shows. As far as looks go, it’s very pretty, and you can tell the modellers on the team have been improving their craft. And the new levelling system (XP and coins are necessary) and map system are definitely an interesting change. But it does need fine tuning, as, right now, coin drops are annoyingly hard to get, and I have far more things in need of a level up than I have coins to level them up. Add in that length 1 can mean 1 floor (okay, cool) or two floors (Less cool, that’s a war of attrition it’s not so easy to get through when you’re low level), and… Yeah, it needs a little work.

Aesthetically, a definite improvement, and pretty accessible to boot. Difficulty levels appear alright, although it’s definitely recommended you try the easiest difficulty first (don’t worry, you have multiple save slots, you’re good), and I can’t really say that being easy to be backed into a corner because you don’t dare look behind you is a flaw, as it’s very much by design (and a dash-dodge means you can leap over, for example, those fucking carnivorous carrots that are the bane of my existence.)

Hrm, what with running into this guy in repeated runs, would you say… Repetition helps hammer home a point?

It’s relatively early days, though, and as far as these arena type roguesortamaybekindalikes goes, it’s not a bad one, even now.

The Mad Welshman repeats that wizards should never be allowed to be prison guards. This sort of thing ends up happening, you get monsters everywhere… It’s a nightmare.

Cloud Gardens (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £5.19
Where To Get It: Steam

Sooner or later, everything falls to ruin. Everything returns to nature. And Cloud Gardens, as much an experience as a puzzle game, is all about that. All about making it happen. And, in its sandbox mode, all about making something that will look all the more… Bleakly beautiful, once it’s been overgrown, nature triumphing over the works of man.

The steel may be rusted, but the plants, the plants are always verdant, the colours of life steel cannot match.

Yes, that’s a very poetic way of putting things. It’s that kind of game, even though there’s not a single word spoken. Like how a cactus in a corner, with bricks around it, and the fact that candles were my items for the majority of it… Led to a sort of shrine. It’s meditative. It’s quiet. And the only sounds are the ambient music, the light thuds as you place items near your plants (in order to make them grow), the rustle of growth, and the gentle, echoing drips as you replenish water from harvesting seeds, to make new plants.

This game isn’t perfect. It tutorialises well, but some of its areas are tricky as hell (especially the overpass signs early on), and it’s sometimes hard to see elements, leading to confusion as to why you aren’t either losing because you haven’t overgrown the world enough, or being given more stuff.

Who knows why those chairs are there. Maybe they sat, to witness the end. Maybe they were forgotten, the remains of a picnic. Their story may never be known.

But overall… Cloud Gardens is an interesting puzzle experience, with a good aesthetic to it, and simple, yet gripping play. Although the theme might make some folks depressed.

The party’s over, it’s time to call it a day…

The Mad Welshman isn’t sure whether to call this calming, or depressing. Probably both.