Source: Cashmoneys Price: Donationware Where To Get It: Itch-IO
I loved Return of the Obra-Dinn. Its detective stylings, where you felt clever because you were actually putting together clues. And I love music, especially of the 80s to the mid 90s. So when a friend recommended Family to me, I was extremely on board.
It’s a shorter experience, to be sure… But no less cool. In fact, it makes up for its length in cool factor, specifically… Its soundtrack.
You see, Family is a game about looking back at the history of a fictional 80s London Scene. And each of the nine bands has a representative song. Along with some very believable lore about said scene.
Anyway, for those unfamiliar, Family goes like this: You use various clues, such as articles, roadie notes, and even the game’s Sussex Radio, to determine, essentially, who played in what band. Who moved, and whether they changed instruments (because some do.) And while you certainly won’t get all the drama from piecing things together, you can certainly imagine some of it. The failures along the way. The arguments. The losses. Deduce a certain number right, and you get more clues to work from, until finally… You have all the artists placed. And the character who’s seen it all, Ella Neil, gives one last, bittersweet song to let you go with.
Aesthetically, it’s very minimalist, and the tutorial “cutscenes” are, unfortunately, a little janky, with some obvious tearing… But that minimalism works for it, and makes everything more clear. Whenever in doubt, click on a thing. Play a song. Listen to the radio, and the snippets of interview. Click someone’s face to set a name.
I ended up being confused by one last one… But it clicked when a friend gave me a subtle hint, and the clues are all there. If you like music, and if you like games of deduction, Family gives you that radio feeling while also being a good, tight puzzler. Definitely recommend this one.
The Mad Welshman loves a good tune. And damn, these are some good tunes…
Source: Cashmoneys Price: £10.29 (Artbook £3.99, Soundtrack £7.19) Where To Get It: Steam, Itch.IO
It is 2020. Elves, dwarves, orcs, fairies, demons… They all live in this alternate world… And they all have everyday lives. And they’ve got the same happinesses (mostly), the same drama (mostly), and the same problems (sorta mostly) as we do. And Coffee Talk, through the medium of a late night coffee shop, explores those lives in its fictional setting.
I’m loving some of the little things. The joking between a vampire
and a werewolf about werewolves using BDSM as a method for calming
themselves during a fury (myth, in the setting. Some werewolves can
calm themselves with sex, but for obvious risk reasons, they stick to
vanilla.) The little things that remain the same, like people who’ve
been there before giving advice to those going through troubles
(Yeah, really is best not to leave issues unresolved, because yeah,
they fester. Ain’t good for anyone. Wise advice, cop in a computer
And, here’s the thing: Even though there’s wider story, a wider world
out there, it’s these little stories, these slices of people’s lives,
that are important. And I can only talk about so many, not only for
space reasons, but spoiler reasons too. But I do want to mention that
there’s one point that directly engages with the concept of fantasy
allegories of racism, with a writer in this world pointing out that
yes, there are different species to be racist about, but that
wouldn’t mean that racism as a concept wouldn’t exist if there are
only humans. And, of course, we know it to be true.
Now, mechanically, it’s very simple: Brew the drinks the customers
want, or brew specific ones. There’s a pretty robust save function,
and while, unfortunately, there isn’t a multiple save system, you can
go back to previous days, and there are three profiles to play
with… And the writing’s good enough that I’m reasonably sure you’ll
have an okay time playing through. But also, as a free hint,
be aware that the order of the ingredients is as important as
the type of the ingredients. I learned that the hard way, and several
saves and loads, my first time playing. I wanted to make sure I got a
specific drink right, you see. And that, basically, is the mechanics:
Make the kind of drinks you’d make in a coffee shop, what the
customers want, and the story will progress. Make the wrong kinds of
drinks, and you may just find other things, maybe good, maybe bad,
But of course, a visual novel, for that’s basically what it is,
stands on its writing (It’s good, if you hadn’t got that from my two
paragraphs of gushing), and its aesthetics. And its aesthetics, the
pixel art of the various characters, their designs, the simple and
clear UX (the menu is a little small, but not tiny. Just a
little small), and the chill beats really sell the atmosphere
of a warm, welcoming place where people can talk to the mysterious
barista, each other, and be… Be themselves.
I like Coffee Talk. And I’d recommend it. There’s not really anything more to say.
Except that no, I will never screenshot my attempts at latte art.
Source: Review Copy Price: £32.99 for the base game, £9.17 total for the soundtrack and “time-savers” Where To Get It: Steam
Azur Lane is one hell of a phenomenon. It was, originally a mobile shmup gacha type deal that persists to this day. Gacha, by the way, means random drops, like the toy ball machines you sometimes see in cinemas and arcades, which are called Gacha Machines.
But over the years, it’s gotten an anime, several manga, a fan following that make doujin and headcanon, expanding on the world… And the developers, basing their shipgirls, or kansen (women who’ve been given magical girl powers from rebuilt battleships to fight an alien threat called the Sirens… Or to use that alien threat’s technology to be evil) on the battles and cruisers, destroyers, battleships and carriers of World War 2, even down to a plotline in the main game that closely matches that of World War 2.
It’s interesting stuff, and, prior to the release of this game, a
friend encouraged me to try out the original. So here I am, reviewing
a 3D, third person character shmup with players switching between
shipgirls of various abilities to achieve three goals for S rank: All
player ships survive. Bosses killed. And to do that in 2 minutes or
And it’s honestly pretty nice! Very talky, and with a game loop
that’s a somewhat acquired taste, but the writing is good, and each
character shows their development, from Shimakaze, the protagonist of
story mode, a cute, but naïve shipgirl just coming into her own, to
Amagi, the sadistic, dominant, and extremely thirsty cruiser who was
the villain of the early arc of Azur Lane, along with her adoptive
“sister”, Kaga, who is a much more quiet character who merely
appreciates the art of battle… And is a grumpy dork. There’s even a
particularly humorous section in Chapter 4 of the game, where one of
the bigger bads, the Siren “Purifier”, attempts to fight the main
character, with a big, dramatic build up… And then all of that, the
dramatic music, the stormy clouds, the evil laughter and dramatic
monologue… All fall down as she’s told Shimakaze is in the middle
of a friendly match with another character.
“…What.” I laughed, just as I laughed at several moments up
Mechanically, while the main loop of “Sit through a ton of events,
have some two to five minute battles, maybe grind some earlier
battles to make sure you S rank, collect loot boxes, then do it some
more” may turn folks off, the battles themselves do have their
interesting parts. As with the original mobile game, there are up to
three frontliners, and three support ships, which provide abilities,
covering fire, that sort of thing. But you can switch between the
characters, and when you do… The character you were using heals, a
subtle encouragement to switch characters to use their special
abilities (such as Shimakaze’s speed boost), their lock on attacks,
and their own weaponry, with strengths and weaknesses. My one crit so
far is that while moving forward to the next objective is clearly
marked with a green arrow, it could sometimes be simpler, mission
wise, if the enemies just… Spawned in, rather than wasting time.
Maybe a personal preference thing.
Meanwhile, the keyboard is not recommended for this one, as there are
directional controls, camera controls, two attacks, two specials, a
dodge… That’s tough to keybind well, and I had trouble before I
went to controller to carry on playing.
Aesthetically, Azur Lane in general has been known for its music, and
it’s no different here, with some good tunage, solid sound and voice
work, and the visual novel/overworld map elements are well done. The
UX is pretty clear, and, while the 3D isn’t top notch, it’s still
pretty good, and I do like the water, unrealistic though it may be. I
dunno, maybe it’s because it adds a touch of stylisation.
So, overall, I enjoy Azur Lane: Crosswave. It’s definitely one fans of the original should check out, and, if you like these sorts of genres, there’s going to be an element of the game, at least, that will be enjoyable to you. It knows what niche it’s aiming for, and it lands it, and… Well, I appreciate a well written game!
The Mad Welshman curses the day his friend got him to Azur Lane. It’s killed his productivity…
Source: Cashmoneys Price: £13.99 (Deluxe Edition £17.26, Soundtrack £5.19) Where To Get It: Steam
In a way, I already knew what I was going to write about Jamestown+ well before I got it. Because, before this site was even in being (I’ve been writing since 2010, folks), I’d reviewed Jamestown, and I found it both bloody hard… And immensely satisfying, a Western bullet hell shooter using Victorian steampunk pulp as an inspiration. Well, it would be considered scientific romance, but… Anyway, Mars is a green land of floating rocks and blue skies, except for those bloody Martians and the Spanish Armada, who are planning to attack. Sir Raleigh, while on the run from the British Empire because he was framed for the disappearance of the Roanoke colony, must save the day!
as this is set in an alternate Victorian Period, it’s colonialist.
Just so you know.
any case, the plus is there because yes, this is a remaster, and yes,
this does have some extra stuff. Specifically, the Treason DLC, and a
new one, the Armada DLC, which adds two new levels, and a new
viewpoint character: John Smith, adventurer, great lover, and
shameless braggart. So, that makes several levels, including two new
ones, quite a few challenges, local multiplayer (up to 4 players, if
you have the space, friends, and/or controllers. I know I don’t have
at least two of those things!), and twelve ships, four of which have
two potential alternate fire modes… Means there’s a lot of stuff.
Especially as the game tracks whether you’ve done challenges or
levels with specific ships, and what difficulty you’ve done it on.
annoyingly, an earlier restriction is still in place: You must be
this good to enter Levels 4 and 5! (Respectively, beating the first
three levels on the second difficulty level, and then, if I recall
correctly, the first 4 on the third difficulty level. Out of
five, the last two of which are hair-raising experiences.
let’s count out the positives: Lots of ships and replayability, or
simply finding the ship you’re comfortable with and having a good
time? Check. Heck, you don’t even need to stick to the same ship
level by level. Good visuals, mostly clear, good music and
sounds, and keyboard moving of a mouse cursor for those who want to
stay wholly keyboard? Check. Relatively low grind, not least because
losing a level will still earn you some money for
whatever cool thing you’re after (including a very silly “Farce
Mode”, more challenges once you’ve finished the first four, and
different types of shots and, in the case of the Armada ships, an
alternate-alternate fire mode)? Check. The writing is minimalist, but
does get across the characters of Raleigh and Smith respectively
(alas, not the other viewpoints, although I understand why.) And
while it is a bullet hell shooter, for a bullet hell, it’s one
of the more accessible and flashy ones, with some interesting variety
in the weaponry.
Overall, I have pretty much the same opinion as back in the day: For shooter fans, this one’s an interesting one, for bullet hell fans, it’s a good example of a Western bullet hell, and for people looking to get into shooters for the first time? Aaaaahhhh it’s better than some options. But yes, overall, recommended.
The Mad Welshman would like to see more anti-establishment victorian cogs’n’steam settings. Because Steampunk, overall… Ain’t punk.
Scythe is one of those games where, for all that it added in the three all too brief months since I last looked at it, I can’t really recommend it without qualifications. Specifically, that it is definitely still better with friends, multiplayer or no… And that the Rusviet faction still causes colour issues, at two of the three distances you would normally look at them (Essentially, only up close are the workers easily visible.) Small text remains small, small icons remain small. Still some accessibility issues.
Spot the Rusviet Workers (DISCLAIMER: Difficulty *still* determined by colour blindness type)
Knowing this, let’s do a brief recap. Scythe is a boardgame set in an alternate history where a strange factory is at the core of a landgrab power struggle between six russian themed factions, where, unless you have the option to turn score previews off, you’re wondering whether ending the game is really a good idea, because there are multiple factors at play that mean the person to end the game (Getting six stars for various objectives)… May not actually be the winner.
Maybe one player has courted Popularity so well that their score multiplier takes them to first place. Maybe their winning several fights has boosted them slightly beyond you. It adapts its boardgame style very well visually, the card art is gorgeous, the music is great, and it now has both multiplayer and an extra reason to keep playing (some extra cards for play are now locked behind completing objectives in games.)
But none of this, unfortunately, gets around the fact that it still has those accessibility issues. Its addition of multiplayer was definitely a step forward, but it’s the only complaint of mine about it that was really addressed. And, as such, while it is an interesting game, I can’t really give a whole hearted recommendation. Nor, because it still has its interest, and definite fun from the diplomacy, and uncertainty that comes from playing with others, can I thumb it down.
There is, perhaps, a minor assumption here. An *understandable* assumption… But an assumption nonetheless…
The Mad Welshman is slightly amused it’s taken 3 years to get to the point where he hasn’t much to add on release.