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.
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.
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.
Source: Cashmoneys Price: £5.79 Where To Get It: Steam
Cursed House has potential. It’s got an interesting premise where, from what I gather, somebody has been cursed after almost dying to the ghosts of a haunted house, and must find their way toward breaking it, being hunted by ghosts along the way, and slowly uncovering the secrets of the mansion.
And you do that in a relatively time honoured tradition: Moving between rooms, and exploring, by drawing cards to determine your next event. Nearly always, it’s something that’s going to require one of your four stats challenged (Strength, Speed, Perception, Knowledge), and often, it’s a fight. As you do so, the blood mist slowly rises in your body, until it reaches max, and you can engage in a small boss rush, to accumulate the special points you need to undo the curse. Can you make it the whole way through? Well… About that… There’s some factors in the game that make that more difficult than it needs to be.
I can forgive the slight jank in some of the visuals (The victory sword, in particular.) I can forgive, somewhat, the rather broken English translation. I even appreciate that they have an easy mode, and that it defaults to “On.”
But I don’t know what elements are going into failure or success, beyond a very vague idea. I know, for example, there are multiple skill checks going on, by the multiple hits at the bar. I know some of these are meant to be card picks from a deck. I know that there are curses, such as automatic failure cards, that can end up being introduced.
But I can’t see any of that happening. And I can’t check exactly how boned I am on the deck front. It’s very frustrating, to know that I’m getting my ass kicked by a level 5 event, in my strongest stat, and I don’t know why.
Still, visually, I kinda like it. It’s simple, but sometimes that’s what you need. Although a clearer font that doesn’t make seeing, say, 51 a little hard, and some colourblindness awareness (red text on a dark background? Not good), and, in its general idea, I kinda like it.
I can’t pretend it’s not a flawed game, though. And there are, it must be said, better games of this ilk out there. Maybe, if the translation improves, and things become more clear, I can go back to this review, and see what’s different. Because it certainly shows promise. It just obscures it under a lack of clarity, which creates a feeling of unfairness.
The Mad Welshman is pretty unfazed by hauntings. He’s the kinda guy who would ask God how his health is doing.
Source: Supporter Gift Price: £15.49 Where to Get It: Steam
Yup. This is definitely Rogue Legacy, alright. Platforming and murdering monsters in a procedurally put together castle and environs? Check. Some useful random abilities, some assholish ones, and some funny ones like IBS? Check. Several classes, and rising costs for every improvement you make, with Death taking all, then most of your money every time you die and your successor, from a random pick of three, asks him to ferry you to the castle?
Check. Whoo, that was a lot, wasn’t it? Anyway, yes, Rogue Legacy 2 is a procgen platforming type dealio, where your bloodline has been cursed, and only by defeating the horrors of the haunted castle in which the curse began can you all be free. That’s harder than it sounds, by the way. A lot harder, because you start pretty weak. Weak enough that you’ll likely die within a few rooms at first.
Still, even with the game being in early access, there’s a fair few changes in this sequel, such as the introduction of an Archer class, which has the side effect of… Making mouse controls or using gamepad somewhat mandatory. Sorry, keyboard only buds, it’s one or the other. New abilities, such as one that makes you take more damage, but only have a bullet hell like central hitbox (represented by your heart), or… Sigh… Pacifist. No attacks. No ability to damage, even via your new spin kick. +75% gold, though, so if you’re really canny, you can make it work. I am not, hence the gusty sigh.
And aesthetically, the game is still clean looking as hell, but less pixelated. It’s got this cartoony vibe to it, preserving the general look, and… I like it! Musically, it remains on point, remasters and remixes of the original tunes so far, all good.
Any critiques? Well… Much the same as the first game, honestly. Some of those visual abilities really are a bit of an eyesore, early impressions make the game feel much tougher than it actually is, and, new to this one, they could do with introducing window locking of mouse, because, while using a gamepad negates this, in windowed mode, it’s very easy to click outside the window as, say, the Archer (who I actually like as a class, on par with the barbarian for “Can screw up enemies” with the addition of being ranged, while still being fragile enough to only be on par)
…And then dying horribly as you try and get back to the game window. Most of the classes remain very similar, the general mechanics of “Find things in the dungeon to give you permanent buffs” and challenges are similar (again, a nice new touch is the teleporters that need to be used, themselves making for new challenge puzzles which are interesting), and so, it feels, so far, like a refinement of what’s come before.
And I do like me a refinement. So count this one as recommended, and one to watch.
The Mad Welshman is actually the 253rd Mad Welshman of the name. His full name is Jamie The Mad Welshman, of The Mad Welshman line.
Source: Review Copy Price: £13.49 (Demo is available) Where to Get It: Steam
Being an exorcist in a world where demons not only exist, but have physical form, is a tough, dangerous proposition. And one’s heart needs to be like steel, as the protagonist quickly discovers. And so begins a journey of redemption, and perhaps revenge. Although I will say… Why the hell would you trust a Fox Spirit, a spirit well known for its lies and illusions? Ugh… Well, it makes for an interesting story.
Eastern Exorcist looks pretty good. It even has an alright story. But… It has flaws. And gamepad comes heavily recommended. The various attack, parry, special, etcetera keys build up very quickly, and follow the JKL… Wait, no… H, JKL, UIO… And I’m sure Y will end up there pretty quickly. 8 buttons, not counting basic movement and jumping. That’s a fair amount, and, placed so close together… Either rebinding the keys for your comfort, or playing on gamepad is heavily recommended. And its gameplay…
It looks, on the surface, like an ARPG metroidvania. And maybe it improves from its somewhat basic formula later on… But the early game feels… Flat. I have a dash. I have a double jump. And yet… I don’t seem to use them much in the early game. The tutorialisation is, for the most part, pretty good, despite some segments being forced, but some concepts remain a little mysterious to me. And I meant to dash, and immediately hit J if I know it’s going to be a perfect, or as the symbol appears (usually when I’m too far away) or… It’s only one example, and the other mechanics, such as perfect parries or reflection, are explained well, but it’s a small thing that annoys me.
And so… I’m rather torn on this one. I’m not all that fond of what I call the “Gamepad heavily recommended ” games, and its early game feels flat in both the platform sense and the combat formula sense (Although that may just be me, as the enemy variety is solid pretty early on), but… It is Early Access, there’s plenty of time for it to improve, and the art style is definitely good, with well telegraphed attacks and clear signs of perfect dodge timing.
It’s one of these games where some problems are obvious to me, but others… Others are annoying me with not being able to properly pin my feelings down. It’s still one to at least watch, as I certainly didn’t find fault with the story, and the English localisation seems solid.
I just wish I could pin down more things about why I’m torn on this one right now.
The Mad Welshman, as an important reference, has not seen Chinese Opera. Just want that out there.
Source: Cashmoneys Price: £19.49 Where To Get It: Steam
Okay, let’s get an important warning out the way right now: Library of Ruina somewhat spoils the ending of Project Moon’s previous game I’ve reviewed, Lobotomy Corporation. It is, after all, a direct sequel.
And damn, does it have a great intro. The game, also, is solid, if a little grindy at times, and annoying at others. But we’ll be getting into that.
So, our protagonist (?) is a Fixer, essentially, a high-grade mercenary in a city where urban legends are both real and deadly, and, having been seemingly killed, he is resurrected, and given a very special job: To kill others in increasing power, who are invited to the library, to create pages from their souls… To hopefully create… The Perfect Book.
And how do you do that? Essentially, by deckbuilding, and using those cards (balancing powerful attacks with lower cost cards) in turn-based battles. Using the powers of the pages to increase your own, as “burned” books create pages, which your increasing cast of Librarians and Assistants can equip to take on their likeness (to an extent) and abilities… And the pages, when burned, can Realise other pages (level them up), and give you cards from said page’s deck, to use in your own combat decks. You don’t need to engage with that last part for the early game at least, but it’s highly recommended to take a look, and see where a Page’s base deck can be improved or changed to fill a good role.
Earlier fights can be replayed for their pages, which is useful if you want to get said pages to their level cap (although fights also give XP to that page), but generally, you engage in an upward journey, eerily similar to the Sephirah of the previous game (and, indeed, said Sephirah are represented by familiar characters from Lobotomy Corporation, still under the control of Angela from the previous game), occasionally fighting equally familiar Anomalies from the previous game, such as the Forsaken Murderer to progress.
Each Anomaly is, essentially, a sort of puzzle boss, with some pretty specific strategies, although the Anomalies give hints sometimes, and you learn their patterns. Dying doesn’t do anything bad, at least as far as I know, so you’re welcome to try, try again. And, funnily enough, it’s the anomalies where I find the most grind and irritation. Forsaken Murderer, in particular, was, as the technical term goes, “A right bastard”, and it, along with some later fights in the current content, required some good strategy and a fair amount of grind to get things to the level I wanted.
Aesthetically, the game is split between a well painted manga style, and a more stylised chibi set for the turn based fights themselves, with a sort of Art-Deco look to some elements, contrasting with the blood-red lettering of some elements, the scratchy backgrounds of character thoughts at the bottom, but every element that needs to be clear is clear, from health, to the emotion system, and the UX. Yes, there are lots of fonts, but each has its purpose. The sound, similarly is good, and the music solid.
Basically, if you want to see where Lobotomy Corporation’s world went after the first game, or if you like deckbuilding turn based combat with RPG elements, Library of Ruina is a solid pick, and its eerie world, with some light elements, but mostly surreal and a little dark, appeals.
The Mad Welshman loves libraries. He also loves tastefully done flesh-walls. Perhaps there’s some way to mix the two?