Brave Pinball (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £7.19
Where To Get It: Steam

A pinball game in which you are a JRPG hero (and occasionally their party), going through the game world and levelling up? Ohhh, that sounds so good, doesn’t it? And, if you were just going by the screenshots, it looks good too. Solid aesthetic, music fits…

But for me, it fails on one, absolutely basic element: Table design. And that’s an absolute killer, right there.

Rotating. Sodding. Paddle bumpers. Who thought that was a good idea?

So yes, the game is a pinball game, and the story is more implicit than anything else: You are hero. Demon Lord up there somewhere. Go kick his ass, because you are hero.

…And nearly everything is bumpers and roundabouts. And the first area is where I’ve lost the most lives, even though it does at least a little to try and combat that. Because everything is bumpers. Enemies? Bumpers that move a little in preset patterns. Blocks? Bumpers. Bushes? Bumpers. They go away, but they always come back, and it’s quite easy to be launched after you’ve fallen into either the gutters after you’d blown up those bumpers, or the middle… And then get bounced right into the middle or the gutter all over again.

Now, I could nudg- Oh, wait. No nudge. No way to push the table to one side or the other to maybe guide the ball to, I dunno… Not a direct path to the gap between the paddles where the paddles can’t reach?

See this? This is the second part of the multi-table layout. And it’s easier to play. And harder to fall off because of SODDING BUMPERS.

I could talk about the good spriting. I could talk about the clear demarcation for the most part of elements. I could talk about the music, a little stereotypical, but not bad music, and not a bad thing.I could talk about the simple and clear control scheme. But the table design is, in terms of points of interest, sparse. Everything being bumpers easily leads to unfair situations. And when your second tables are actually easier to climb than your first…

…It is unsurprising that, after I’d gotten enough to screenshot this, I just… Put it down. I have better tables. I have better multi-area tables. And I have tables that don’t commit the gravest sin I have ever seen in a pinball game.

This. If it isn’t clear, these two hexagonal wheels? Are also bumpers. Bumpers with physics, so when you bump off them, they rotate. I have never seen a table feature quite that sadistic. And I have no desire to deal with its bullshit.

No, really. Don’t design a table with all bumpers. Learn from this, kids. Please.

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Warp Drive (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £10.29
Where To Get It: Steam

Aesthetic can only take you so far. And when that “so far” involves forgetting to tutorialise at all… Ah, that’s not so good, is it? So, suffice to say, Warp Drive on gamepad (generally a good way of playing Future Racers like this) has gotten off to a rocky start. On keyboard, it’s more sensible. But still…

Oh good, I managed to get a screenshot with somebody ahead of me. That’s unusual for me in a Future Racer.

R2 (Lower right bumper) is what you use to accelerate, just an FYI. So you don’t have the frustration of trying to find that most important of controls, because W on keyboard would make you think forward on the d-pad or stick.

So yes, Warp Drive, a future racing game in which you drive drone like hovercars around a track, fulfilling the race objectives in a tournament, and… Wait a second…

Bad impression number 2: No solo tracks, no individual time trials, no challenges. Just a tournament.

Car pretty. I mean, what else can you say about it? It’s pretty, and it flies well.

Beyond these two crits, and that your earliest time trial requires a faster boost and solid racing (I get so sick of seeing that in future racers), it’s… Actually alright. But it’s mostly aesthetics. The gameplay’s relatively simple, there is only a benefit to taking on the higher classes of cars, and, if you’ve got your boosts and warps down, your handling up, and any decentish skill, you’ll, uhhh…

Bad impression number 3: We know there’s a hard corner that would need drift… But I’m in a high handling enough car that it’s not actually a hard corner, ta.

Sigh… Anyway, yes, it’s alright, it handles alright, the tracks are good, with interesting shortcuts, and, as mentioned, most of it’s in the colourful aesthetics, the worlds that are detailed and cartoonish, but not distracting from the track itself, and a soundtrack by the great funkster, Hideki Naganuma. Don’t worry if you don’t know the name, looking up his music is a very pleasant exercise if you’re into funky beats.

Oh, wait, bad impression 4: No option to turn off the flashy pink warp animations. Y’know, the epilepsy risk ones the game doesn’t warn you about.


But beyond that, with the good and the bad impressions mixing, it comes out… Well, okay. Its visuals grabbed me, its music got the blood pumping, but the game… Well, I felt lukewarm about the actual game part.

It’s some good popcorn if you’re into racing games. But I really get the impression it could have ended up with a lot more character than it did. And there’s stuff it really could have fixed.

I’m kinda sad that the game ain’t nothin’ like a funky beat.

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Petal Crash (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £7.19
Where To Get It: Steam

Ah, I love me a good match game, even the arcadey ones I kind of suck at. And I know a good one when I see it.

Petal Crash is, indeed, a good one, although it is a little twitchy, so folks for whom that’s an accessibility problem, I apologise, story mode might not be for you.

Tut. No respecting library rules, IT’S TIME FOR A GEM-OFF!

In any case, Petal Crash’s rules are simple: You pick a block in your field to grab and throw in one of the four cardinal directions, if it hits a block of the same colour directly (next to doesn’t count!) then all blocks of the same type go boom, and push the blocks next to them outward. If they hit blocks of the same colour, bam, you have a combo going, so more points! And more blocks appear, so be careful not to let the field get filled, otherwise, you lose!

There’s a little more to it than that in story mode, which usually takes the form of tug of war (get more points than your opponent in the same timeframe to win, first to three ouchies on this count loses), but that’s the general idea. And it’s fun as hell. There’s a variety of different characters, and, honestly? I had a hard time picking between them, because they all have cute designs, and, while the story is “Ye Olde Arcade Game” simple, that of wish granting items kept by the other participants, collected via battles, amiable or otherwise (mostly amiable) to grant the true wish of the character you’ve chosen.

Awww yeah!

Beyond this, and the fact that it looks cute, and good, and its soundwork is great, there’s… Really not a lot I can say. It’s accessible, it’s fun, there’s… It’s recommended for arcade puzzler fans, and seems accessible enough that new players looking to try this sort of thing could very well have a comfy time. Give it a go.

The Mad Welshman loves hucking blocks at other blocks and watching them go boom. It’s just… Oddly satisfying.

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Panzer Dragoon Remake (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £19.49
Where To Get It: Steam

Ohhh boy. Panzer Dragoon was a classic of the rail shooters. A weird world and story that could have fit within the pages of Metal Hurlant, a system wherein you earned credits by doing well at the game, and had to basically finish it in one sitting… Yep, a classic, arcade hard game. Only seven levels, but oh boy, they’re all a ride… So yes, it’s twitchy. And replayable.

Look. At these beautiful. Environments.

Especially when, like me, you forget that you can change your direction of viewing with a keypress. Not least because the game, original and remake, doesn’t tutorialise. At all. You’d perhaps think that teensy bit of quality of life could have been put into said remake, but… Apparently not. See also “Both parts of the intro before you even get to the menu, hope you like 1920×1080 fullscreen until then.”

Funnily enough, no, no I do not. It’s annoying as hell to restore and max windows back to normal. Start in windowed mode is, as a general rule, going to get you less complaints like this.

Anyway, the game itself. The story is that a young man, Keil Fluge, who, chasing monsters, finds himself the owner of a blue dragon, and gets embroiled in an apocalyptic fight, in a post-apocalypse, no less, over Ancient technology (yes, capital letter. This is a post-apocalypse of a highly advanced society, of course they’re going to have left their potentially world ending shit lying around.) On his side, a blue dragon called Solo Wing. On the other, lots of gribbleys, an empire’s fleet, the Black Dragon, who Keil is charged to stop from getting to an Ancient obelisk.

The Black Dragon. It bad. It’s as cool looking as ours.

Cue shooting. Now, before we get into this, I would like to properly start by saying “Holy shit this game looks even more amazing than the original!” Trust me, even the original looked pretty damn good. The shooting, once you get used to it, is great, the music is good, the sound is good… Apart from an annoying colourblindness problem with the main menu (lessened when an option is highlighted, but… Still, another QoL that didn’t get introduced, BOO), the game is very much on point, aesthetically.

It would normally be something I’d definitely recommend, if it weren’t for the aforementioned quality of life and tutorial issues. Also, please note, folks, that even if this game didn’t have motion blur, there’s a heavy motion sickness warning. I’m not prone to motion sickness, but even I felt somewhat disoriented.

I’ve been inwardly comparing this to Metal Hurlant precisely because this is some Mobius level design. Look at thiiiis!

Nonetheless, the feel, the world, the aesthetics… It hits all the right spots, so it’s still a recommendation, even to players new to rail shooters. Controller might well be a good idea with this game, although it’s certainly comfortable to play with keyboard and mouse. But damn, I wouldn’t mind seeing more worlds like that one in video games. I wouldn’t mind at all.

I too, would agree to save the world if I was told I would do it with a dragon. I mean… [slaps scales] You can fit so many capitalists in this bad-boy…

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Dave-Man (Going Back)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £2.09
Where To Get It: Steam

It’s a day at the office. 27 days to retirement. It’s been a long day, but all you have to do is get the coffee beans that have nonsensically been scattered around the office and make some coffee before work really starts, and you will have enough energy to cope with the day.

Chatty Cathy has the latest goss. And she won’t let you go until you’ve heard all of it.

And then one of the Chatty Cathys of the office turns a corner before you can turn yours to the coffee machine, time goes by in an endless haze of gossip, complaints, and ramblings that you cannot diplomatically leave, and… Whoops, there goes your day. You didn’t even get a nice coffee.

And the wife, at home, wants you to get the wallpaper. Blurgh.

Welcome to Dave Man, in which an almost retired office worker has to collect coffee beans and reach the exit, pacman style, without incurring the wrath or distractions of other office workers. Chatty Cathy is but one opponent on your quest to retire with enough stuff to keep you happy in your retirement, and equally, enough stuff to keep your wife happy in hers.

So, it’s a pacman game with an endpoint, and increasing difficulty, essentially. And while the option exists to go for a higher floor, don’t do this without confidence in your skills, because failure? Means no money. Oh, it means more brownie points for promotion, even if you lose, but… You only have a limited time to do this, you must work your ass off harder and harder to do what you want, and…

Can confirm that I am a more functional human being after my wake up beverage.

Wait, this is sounding familiar, isn’t it? It’s almost as if something as simple as a 1-bit pacman with a story mode could be a metaphor for the daily grind, and having to work yourself extremely hard to even hope to have a decent retirement.

Aesthetically, it works, good use of 1-bit pixel art and lo-fi tunes. In terms of its narrative, it appears to work. In terms of price, £2 is definitely not complaint worthy. So yes, if you like the idea of a pacman game that is also an allegory for the horrors of the daily grind, then yes, this is recommended. Hell, if you like a pacman game this is alright.

Honestly, if your house looks this empty at this time of your life… Shit’s been rough for you, I’m so, so sorry.

My only criticisms? It’s full screen only, it seems, and since it’s a HTML5 game, hitting the normal screenshot button for Steam shows the chrome developer console and completely stops your movement until you close it. Which, since I was screenshotting for review… Well… That’s why a Chatty Cathy got me in an early level, losing me $150 that could have gone on cool shit for the mostly empty house.

The Mad Welshman appreciates Dave’s struggle for a morning coffee before work. He doesn’t have to deal with co-workers spilling his coffee beans, but… He sympathises. He’s been there.

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