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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Undermine (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £15.49 (Soundtrack £3.99)
Where To Get It: Steam

Other Reviews: Early Access

In a land with a great wizard, and quite a few warriors, clerics, etcetera, who’s going to save the day? Who’s going to stop the evil sorceress or what have you from bringing back an ancient evil? Who’s going to clean up the dungeons and stop the earthquakes?

One of a cavalcade of largely identical and disposable peasants. That’s who. And they pay the company store for their equipment. Yay capitalism! (Not yay at all.)

They will not be getting their pension, due to “Cost saving measures.” IE – Letting them die. They never got hazard pay.

And yes, that is basically the setup for Undermine: You are a peasant, who is very handy with a pick and has a gold hauling canary, and if you die, well, another, sometimes eerily similar peasant drops into the dungeon to have a go, trampling figuratively on the backs of those who died before them.

Which, for a shooty slashy roguelike sort of game with rooms filled with traps, enemies, gold, and the cute slimes that try to steal that gold when you mine it (oh, and bosses and shops, obviously), is actually a blackly hilarious setup. Instead of a dodge roll, you have a special power. An amazing power.

Yeaaaaahhh, this isn’t in my comp package. Because that doesn’t exist.

Peasants are the only buggers in this world who can jump. Take that how you will. In any case, swinging your pick, throwing your pick, dropping bombs, and occasionally chugging potions are your absolute basics here, along with “If you die, you lose some of your gold, and can either spend what’s left on improving yourself, or going right back in in the hopes that you make enough gold to get bigger improvements.”

It’s a tried and true method, and, honestly, it works really well here. The visuals are good spritework, the menus are clear, the enemies are interesting… And the bosses… Ahhh, these are some good quality bosses. Just qualifying enough in the category of “A Shower of Bastards” to make you hate them, but you get the idea of how to beat them pretty quickly. It’s just a matter of doing it. The difficulty curve is pretty fair… This is one of those games where it’s tightly designed, it’s fun, and I’d have to look really hard to find something I’m actually critical.

There, a screenshot where they didn’t die, from the training video! Except they died two or three minutes after.

And I have. And I’ve failed. So… Undermine: If you like procgen twin-sticky collected arenas-as-dungeons games, then yes, this is a good pick for you. I wouldn’t necessarily say it would be a good game for dipping your toes in the water to see if you like it, but I also wouldn’t say it’s a bad place to start.

And that’s Undermine. Eat the Wizards.

AWAB, is all The Mad Welshman has to say.

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Sayonara Wild Hearts (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £8.23 (Soundtrack £7.19, Deluxe Edition £13.72)
Where To Get It: Steam

Sayonara Wild Hearts fits in an interesting place in my mind. It’s somewhat akin to Audiosurf, in that you’re collecting things to a musical track, but it is, at the same time, less and more than that. It’s a game that rapidly, often to the point of disorientation, shifts gears on you, from floating to flying to quick-time fighting (space only for that, no worries on that front), to moments where you just enjoy that sparkle of things being collected and… Oh, yeah, photosensitive epilepsy warning, folks, because there’s a lot of flashing. The hearts flash, the world can flash, the fights are flashy in both senses of the word…

Not pictured: The rapid changes of pose and colour in this scene. Although this was a well timed screenshot, eh?

But it can’t be described with reference. Because it’s its own thing, and that thing is an arcade music video. Or, more accurately, an arcade music movie, sort of like Interstella 555 (Go watch that if you haven’t, it’s pretty good.) The multiverse used to be a cool place, full of love, and ruled by three of the Major Arcana. But then five of them decided to get up in everyone’s business and break those hearts. So they used the pieces of a broken heart to create a magical girl, a magical girl who’s going to heal the hearts of those broken hearted Arcana.

If you guessed there was a queer as fuck subtext here, you’re wrong. It’s text, and it’s fucking amazing. Biker girls, wolf girls, literal sword lesbians… And the music starts bittersweet, and, while it gets lonesome and bitter in places, that’s the point. You’re fighting that. You’re fighting, by the end, an avatar of homophobia, and then? Well, you get to do it again, this time with the goal of beautiful smooches, now you’re a proven Magical Girl Heart Mender!

What can I say but… Literal. Sword. Lesbians. Yes.

And, as you might have guessed from the idea that it’s a music movie, yes, the aesthetics are gorgeous, the tunes vary quite a bit, but they’re all good (I happycried the first time I went through some of them), the visuals are… Ah. Yes. Let’s talk about the heartbreak for me, and probably some other folks.

You see, even though the game is forgiving in terms of forgiving deaths, and having low score barriers to finish the main story… As mentioned, the game flashes a lot, there’s a level where it’s twisting in a way that’s guaranteed to set off somebody’s motion sickness, and when it gets twitchy, it gets twitchy. As in “You have precisely 0.1 seconds to reorient yourself, because here’s a narrow corridor/sudden obstacle/need for a turn-pad very quickly after another one” twitchy. The QTEs are actually just fine. They’re friendly, they pause for a short, grey moment before you screw it up (and don’t let you screw it up because you pushed it before the prompt even appeared. And the game takes itself in directions with little notice, from race-collecting, to shooters, to even a Space Harrier or Panzer Dragoon like experience where you’re locking onto enemies to shoot them.

This, however, is what you’ll see most often. Usually at high speed.

The controls, thankfully, are accessible, and twitch was expected in a game like this, but, even with that forgiveness, it can get brutal, and I had real trouble getting through the aforementioned twisty level, the second Moon level against the Howling Moons Gang, precisely because it was fucking me up. And I will also mention that this disorientation is only fitting, considering it’s a coming out story, set to music, and narrated by Queen Latifah. Shit’s disorienting, and things can come at you from unexpected angles… It is fitting!

And so, while I’d heartily recommend it to the quick fingered and strong stomached, and while I would less heartily recommend it to folks who are at least strong stomached (Because, as noted, you’re going to finish the levels regardless, and getting bronze is definitely do-able on each level), I find myself reacting to its cuteness, coolness, and positive, bubbly nature like the disaster bisexual I am: Longing for mutual fulfilment, yet finding myself gunshy about engaging, because… What if it rejected me or hurt me?

Like I said, even though it’s a recommendation with some heavy qualifications, it is a recommendation. I just wish it didn’t seem so out of my league, y’know?

The Mad Welshman is, in case you hadn’t noticed, pro queer rep. So to see this was a balm to an otherwise terrible month for him.

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