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!

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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!

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Monster Hunter World (Going Back)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £24.99 base game, lots of gubbins including Iceborne, which is the big DLC wot costs £35+ quid)
Where To Get It: Steam

Oh, how I’d wanted to do this one when it first came out. And Iceborne. Oh, and Rise when it comes out on PC next year. But, alas, a small thing called “My Computer Was Dying Just A Little Bit” stopped me, and the pricepoint for a while thereafter.

This is pretty much mandatory in any coverage of the game.

But now, I’m here. Now, I’m rekindling my love fo- Haha, just kidding, I don’t have to rekindle my love of MonHun. After all, a game in which you live in a monster filled world, hunting them for resources and safety, and going on to bigger and bigger monsters? I like it. I’ve loved its take on progression, where yes, monster get beeg, but you don’t get big. Your equipment does, in a sense, but that’s the arms race between you and monsters, one you have to keep up with. But picking good equipment, learning about the monster from the mistakes you can make and come back from, taking educated guesses based on what it is, and then using these tools to take down a monster, alone or with friends? Heck yeah.

Let’s get a thing out of the way though. Monster Hunter World is doing a colonialism under thin pretenses of study. It’s an improved, quality of life added, and bigger MonHun than I’ve seen (although next to none of us here in the West ever really saw the actual MMO), it’s gorgeous, and it plays well according to the rules of MonHun. Learn thy weapons with the cat in the house, traveller, or just test them out where you aren’t going to get flattened. Each is unique. Each is pretty damn cool. Dual blades are the best and I will fight you on this.

I remain Easy To Create In Videogames.

But yes, its story can’t help but be framed as colonialist af, considering yes, the Fifth Fleet are trying to force their methods to work here as they do elsewhere, and… Well, I think this is the first title where we actively screwed up with the Big Elder Dragon, rather than “Ohshit, it woke up for some unknown reason, is causing disasters and/or heading directly to our village/town, it’s them or us!” (Well, except the first bit. That first bit was classic MonHun “Ohshit it just turned up”)

So, aesthetically, it’s good, it’s got some wonderful tunes, including a new rendition of that iconic theme, “Proof of a Hero”, the monsters are animated wonderfully. I mean, they’ve had a lot of experience here, but the monsters fighting each other… Sometimes, I just get out the popcorn and yell “HIT HIM WITH THE CHAIR!” from a safe distance, and the UX is… Somewhat changed. I won’t say it’s all for the better, it’s still a bit of an issue finding things, and the scoutflies feel like a necesssary addition, considering how certain plants and items blend into the landscape as well as, well, a native plant should!

And mechanically… Well, the formula got refined. There’s an always available weapon called the Slinger (y’know, that thing you use to look cool as you ride pterodactyls), but the weapon types, from my personal fave, the lightning fast dual blades, to the lumbering Greatsword, or the swag pseudo-hammer that buffs everyone, the Hunting Horn, have added little mechanics from previous games…

THE TOP ROPE’S RIGHT THERE, HE’S DOWN, PEOPLE’S ELBOW THEM IN THE FORK!

It’s somewhat hard to talk about Monster Hunter games precisely because they are, despite their simple formula, A Lot, but yes, overall, I would in fact recommend MHW. From what I’ve seen, it’s pretty likely I’d recommend Rise a bit more, although part of that is on the grounds that we haven’t seen this flavour of village in MonHun since Portable 3rd (Technically Generations, but Generations is a mashup.)

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to take down The Dread Pickle.

Or, as is just as likely for the overconfident like me, to be leapt on from a mile away, and gored.

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Atelier Firis DX: The Alchemist And The Mysterious Journey (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £32.99 (or £74.22 for this, Sophie DX, and Lydie and Suelle DX)
Where To Get It: Steam

Time limits. My ancient nemesis. Why, I haven’t seen you since… Come to think of it, I haven’t played an RPG with time limits since Recettear. Huh.

Anyway, before I go on, I will mention they’re quite generous unless you want to do aaaaall the sidequesting, but, can’t lie, I’ve been spoiled by the recent ones and feel like it’s antithetical to cute alchemist chill times.

Well, except maybe in Escha & Logy, what with the whole “World on the verge of ruin” dealio. Anyway, bitching over, time to talk about cute alchemist funtimes. Because, oh look, it’s still a quality series.

I feel you, Firis. I feel you.

And this installment… Apart from the ones I haven’t played (most of the earlier ones), this is perhaps the saddest beginning. Little bird Firis, trapped in a stone cage, barred with an iron door.

I mean, the cage is actually a mining town, and she has a valued job because she can “hear” gathering points (ores is specifically what she was trained for), but… A cage all the same, and she wants to see the blue sky, feel the wind… The world outside, dagnabbit!

Well, obviously it’d be a short game if she didn’t find a way to leave, but… It’s an emotional beginning, all the same. And then, of course, it’s cute alchemist funtimes, with cute alchemist obsta-

Obligatory Random Barrel Text Screenshot. Also, yes, this is before I got to the actual building part of the questline.

Ah. Let’s talk a little about Flussheim. Flussheim is not my favourite place in Atelier Firis. In fact, it seems to serve almost solely as something to make the clock flow by. Long runs from objective to objective, a small mazelike portion of the map where I waste a day on average trying to get to the two shops there during their opening hours, and your first mass alchemy. Oh boy. I hope you were collecting ingredients despite feeling the time pressure, otherwise you’re going to be spending time gathering ingredients. 40 metals. 30 fuel. I forget the others, but in addition to the other quest item requirements, you can pretty much expect to be a pro at Ingots, and spend several days, probably around 20 or 30, just making this one thing.

This killed my buzz pretty quickly. Up to this point, I’d been happily gathering, getting new recipes, meeting new folks, chuckling as an old lady very obviously put us through the wringer with chores for the sake of putting us through the wringer (oh, you cunning old biddy), engaging with the turn based combat and making new friends to fight with, pretty much all of them useful in some fashion in the party, enjoying the aesthetic…

I didn’t check out during Flussheim’s final step. But god, I was tempted, and I think, honestly, this point in the game is going to be where people get put off from finishing. It’s a segment of the game that doesn’t respect your time. And what with the time pressure, it’s a frustrating, evil segment that brings the rest down.

Some of the combat animations are great. Suffice to say, she wrecks face with this skill.

The rest of the game is fine, and indeed, once you’ve gotten through the alchemy exam, the time limits go away, and it remains cute alchemist funtimes, with great music, well designed enemies, cool crafting with puzzle elements (Addition: Oh hi there, colourblind unfriendly ingredient colours!), interesting places… But I can’t say I’m fond of time constraints, however generous, and I’m even less fond of them after encountering Flussheim. And I’m also less fond of Atelier Firis.

In conclusion? Firis is one of the weaker entries I’ve encountered so far in the series.

Which is a shame, because otherwise, it’s a fun story.

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Atelier Sophie DX: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £32.99 (or £74.22 for the whole trilogy of Sophie, Firis, and Lydie and Suelle)
Where To Get It: Steam

Atelier Sophie, The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book, and indeed, the first in the Mysterious Trilogy of the Atelier series, starts off with a bang. In Lydie & Suelle, we had a missing mom, and trashdad. In Firis, we had the feeling of being a bird in a cage, needing to be free.

In Sophie, we encounter a talking alchemy book that has lost its memories. A very snarky talking book too.

Suffice to say, I like Plachta.

Happens all the time, Sophie, it’s no big! (NARRATOR: But it is a big)

In any case, best to mention the gist of the Atelier games, as this’ll be the first posted of the two parts of the Mysterious Trilogy I haven’t covered: Cute alchemists go on adventures, relatively low stakes until suddenly it’s not, with a puzzle-like crafting system, turn based combat (this time, it varies), and a beautiful world filled with characterful people. By this point, they’d been at the Atelier games for 16 previous games, iterating and testing each time, so for the most part, they’ve got the formula polished (although they experiment to this day.) It’s fun stuff.

It’s also the first Atelier game I’ve played (I have yet to play most of the series) where the stakes introduce themselves pretty early, in the form of a pair of very sus folks. We’ll not go into details, but suffice to say, there’s heavy foreshadowing in the game, and I’m okay with this.

GET HEEEEEECCCCCKKKEEED!

Aesthetically, well… It be an Atelier game. Cool tunes, great character designs, beautiful landscapes to pick flowers and mine from and murder punis in… I haven’t had a complaint yet in terms of aesthetics, and this is no different.

So… Mechanically? Storywise? Any particular problem segments? Not really. The game has some small bugs, but otherwise, it has an interesting take on the usual alchemy funtimes (Where you can improve your cauldron for better effect, rotating parts, that sort of funtime), locations are more limited, but you can revisit them quickly (for greater risk), combat’s very much about chaining things together, although this isn’t terribly difficult, and the game has no timer. Plot is, in fact, based on unlocking recipes, which does, on the one hand, mean you’re grinding things out, but you’re going to be grinding things out anyway, because holy shit, you’ll need those bombs and unis and other weapons of alchemic destruction.

Crafting in Sophie and Firis is similarish, so here’s a good ol’ screenshot of making a nice, low stakes creation.

But while, of this trilogy, Lydie & Suelle is my favourite, Sophie comes a close second. I’m enjoying my time with the cast, many of whom return in later games. Including Sophie herself.

As with any Atelier game, if you like cute alchemists, crafting, low stakes gameplay until the latter half of the game, and JRPG funtimes, then yes, Atelier Sophie is a good pick.

Look, cute alchemists doing cute alchemist things, only needing to save the world in the third act? This is extremely my jam. Gimme the Dusk Trilogy. Do it. I’ll do a Going Back on those too!

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