Paradise Killer (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £15.49 (£19.28 for game+soundtrack, £7.19 soundtrack)
Where To Get It: Steam

I love a good murder mystery. The twists, the turns, the red herrings, slowly being guided along a path. And sometimes… Being wrong. In a way, aside from all the other cool stuff, that’s what’s so good about Paradise Killer…

You’re allowed to be totally wrong. Even if you do need at least some evidence. And hell, even after a marathon session with one trial I felt was off, I’m still not sure I got the whole truth. Pieces were missing, strange pieces, but, considering how large the world is, I’d probably need a walkthrough to find the clues. But it’s okay, even if I feel like I shafted some friends in the process.

Regardless of right or wrong, the sentence remains… DEATH.

In any case, Paradise Killer is a first person exploration type murder mystery, with some visual novel elements (the interrogations, the trial, some of the puzzles) where the Council of Island 24 have been murdered just prior to the Island’s reality being broken down to make way for Island 25, Island Perfection (ha.) And you, Lady Love Dies, interrogator, investigator, and, when the time comes, executioner, must find out who did it. Maybe who plural.

Writing wise, it’s great, and aesthetically, it’s this strange 80s/90s vibe combined with urban fantasy, a paradise island with pyramids, some small hellscapes, obelisks, tenements… The supernatural and the “Normal” live hand in hand. The soundtrack’s great, the sound design is, except for the static in the second gate, good, and the VA pleases, very characterful.

I like Lydia. She’s down to earth, even in as strange a place as Island 24.

Now, mechanically… Ah, here’s where there are some imperfections. I’ve noted that you’re allowed to get it wrong, and this is good. But this is a fairly big open world, and, oddly, I feel that works against it in some respects. Hunt relics. Why? Completionism and a few quests, it seems. Hunt blood jewels. Why? Well, that’s more useful, unlocking a secret item needed for the best clues, unlocking fast travel points, and paying the toll for travelling from them.

But it definitely felt like a needle in a haystack at times, finding the clues. And then… There are the puzzles. Use symbols from a set to complete the image, except… I never used some. I never came across a lock that used some of the symbol elements. Maybe that’s by design, maybe not, but it kinda frustrated me on some odd level.

Yeah, ummm… Some of these, I didn’t use my whole playthrough.

Still, the mysteries kept me hooked, and the mysteries left are seriously tempting me to dive back in now that the review’s written, hunt down those final clues, and that, along with its aesthetics and writing, really nail it for me. Some of the platforming is annoying as fuck, but, overall, I would highly recommend this one, especially to murder mystery lovers.

May the million eyes watch over you as you play this…

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Curse of Disaster Spirit: Anecdotes of Mansion (Early Access Review)

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.

Rooms! Which become locked or unlocked as the story progresses.

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.”

I lost this fight, whereas I’d won the last one against this ghostie. I have no idea why.

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.

Don’t know about the first sentence, but… “I just need to move carefully. Suddenly, I had a bad feeling, and, behind me, a hand stretched out from a mural…”

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.

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The Librarian: Special Edition (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £2.89
Where To Get It: Steam

The Librarian, as a game itself, is short, tight, and simple. A short adventure game, with a few puzzles, and that… Is that.

But neither that, nor the quiet, moody soundscape, or the pixel style visuals, are what really grabs the attention of someone. And no, not the fact that it’s less than £3 either…

Also, another world is part of the question. How, what, why?

It’s the world it only hints at. In its short time, it generates many questions, and, slyly, answers none of them. The Librarian doesn’t find her world fucked up, even if we do. So, unquestioning, she walks right past a tree with skulls piled on it (after dealing with a giant, wolflike spirit… This is right outside her house, by the way), and a pair of huddled skeletons under an abandoned house on her way there. She’s shocked by her window blowing open, but takes everything calmly after that. And, while she’s a Librarian, she wears a military style uniform and carries a dagger.

This is only some of the strange things she encounters, and is completely unfazed by in the short time the game goes on. I could spoil the whole thing, but the point has been made, just in the “On the way to the library part.”

See? She just walks by them without a glance, they’re not examinable, aaaaa!

As a point and click adventure, it’s simple, it’s clear. You click to move, click to interact, and occasionally, you click one of the things you’re holding, then click a thing to do another thing. This isn’t really the point. The point is this short, surreal journey that the protagonist considers to be… Just another day. And that’s the fascinating part. And it wants you to see it. It wants you to see this weirdness, this short, simple, and wordless story, set in a world we see as strange and a little frightening… But they see as their world.

For less than £3, I definitely don’t regret exploring this one again. And fans of short, interesting adventure games would like this, I feel.

The Mad Welshman enjoys tight experiences. Can you perhaps tell?

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Beyond A Steel Sky (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £29.99
Where to Get It: Steam

Beneath A Steel Sky was an interesting game. A tale of dystopia, of consumerism and control gone rampant. And the main character, Foster, and his good pal Joey, saved Union City from the despotic reign of LINC, an AI, and left Joey as the snarky, yet benevolent ruler of Union City.

Even the holograms have to be cheery. Well, except one. I think she’s meant to be gruff to drive people away…

Seems like there’s no room for a sequel, right? But history repeats itself (somewhat), as, once again, the peace of Foster’s australian world is shattered, with the death of a friend, and the kidnapping of said friend’s child. And the trail leads him… Back to Union City. Where Joey, still revered, is missing, and where how good a citizen you are (your QDos score), and how happy you are, will determine where in society you stand.

As in the prequel, this is an adventure game collaborated on by Dave Gibbons and Revolution Software, and that collaboration shows in the world of Union City once more. Repairmen whose job isn’t to repair, but simply to note problems. Wonderful art portraying a city with, as before, a shadowy underbelly. And some very amusing voice acting. It’s the good stuff, aesthetically speaking.

Yes, not everyone is satisfied…

For those whose mileage varies on adventure game logic, there are a few puzzles that require you to see all the elements, some of which are awkwardly placed (wait, an electric fence… Behind a waterfall? Recipe for disaster, mate!), but some really stand out, such as an early one where you need to deceive an asshole from the Ministry of Comfort (Yes, they’re basically the secret police.) You need, in essence, to search for clues among a dead man’s belongings (for that’s who you’re pretending to be) to give enough information about your past life to… At least make them pretend everything’s alright.

Ohhhh, I remember most of you

It controls pretty well, early bugs have been fixed (although the Unreal Engine remains a resource hog), it’s aesthetically appealing, and brings a good (In the “creatively well done”) dystopia to life, with only some puzzles being “Adventure Game Logic.” For fans of adventure games, both this and the original come highly recommended.

The Mad Welshman notes that Beneath A Steel Sky is also on Steam, if you only use Steam. It’s been on GOG for quite a while now.

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Maid of Sker (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £19.99
Where To Get It: Steam

The Maid of Sker (Y Ferch O’r Scer) is an old Welsh ballad, telling the tale of a love denied by class differences, a harper loving a maid, the maid being married off after the father denied the dalliance, and the maid dying of a broken heart. Or, in some versions of the tale, being locked in a tower, dying, and haunting the mansion forever more.

This will probably be the last daylight you’ll see. Along with something you’ll be seeing a fair bit of.

Okay, in at least one version, it turns out alright in the end. But it’s that second one that’s pertinent, as Wales Interactive have decided to take a stab at a first person survival horror, where the maid’s song, a song she was forced to sing, has corrupted the entire household into murderous, faceless mirrors. Or… Maybe it’s not as clear cut as that? Still, we’re here to look at the overall stuff, so how did Wales Interactive do?

Well, aesthetically, they nail it. Since the creatures you face hunt by sound (and they’re faster than you), their deep breaths and clumping footsteps fill with dread, and the areas each have a distinct flavour, be they outside or inside. It feels, in essence, like a place, which happens to have monsters in it.

Ew.

On the gameplay end, however… It can be pretty frustrating. The stealth, not so much, although there are definitely frustrations there (I get it, you’ve got a cough, Thomas, and I also get that it’s there to add a little spice to things, but it felt random and irritating.) I didn’t find the AI omnipotent at times, as others have said, mainly because I took great care not to bump into anything. But mileage apparently varies there.

Meanwhile… The puzzles. Some are obtuse and frustrating, and I can’t help but feel what happened was that I missed a document somewhere. In any case, that and the protagonist being seemingly the only properly mute character in the whole thing is also a tadge annoying (I’m going to note, with some amusement here, that some have said the perfect Welsh singing of Ms. Williams with a seemingly English accent was offputting… Believe me, butt, I can sing flawlessly in Welsh, but my accent is English too. Bloody Radio 4 cursed me.)

Eesh. When you care more about proper records and salvage than people. Wreckers…

Still, there’s enough it does right that it still errs on the side of recommendation. The introduction of the monsters is well done, the little vignettes you see, such as the gravekeeper seeming to burn someone alive, are good, and you get the picture of what went on very early on. It’s kind of bleak to read, at one point, the tally of these hotel owners/shipwreckers’ victims (Clothes 2/6, Trinkets 1/6), and then, later on, to hear your dear heart talk, seemingly oblivious, about how her father and brother were swearing over the guest vanishing, but no money coming out of them. So, aesthetically, it works, and horror wise, it does more than just jump scare (although it does that too, so the jump scare averse, stay away)

I won’t say I had the best time with it, but I can at least lay that partially down to frustration with the puzzles and the feeling I was missing something (especially maps for certain areas, which bugged the hell out of my completionist reflexes), and partly down to my pickiness with horror coming from years of familiarity. And it does, in the end, have more going for it than against it.

The Mad Welshman loves his home country, and its relationship with myth and the supernatural. It’s a largely untapped resource, to be quite honest. Doctor Davies, Warlock Exorcist, when, folks?

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