Spooky Starlets (NSFW Early Access Review)

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

Content Warnings: Monsterfolk.

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Fury of Dracula: Digital Edition (Review)

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

Hunting tabletop games are fun. One player against multiple, the one trying to stay hidden long enough to win, the others… Well, that’s where the “hunting” part comes in. But, obviously, friends are required.

So I called some in. And we had a great time, right up until timing out a combat led to a softlock. We’d almost taken out Dracula, too. 3 HP. 3. Stinkin’. HP.

The Dracula here has perhaps the funniest Live2D eyebrow waggle I’ve ever seen. And yes, I count that as a plus.

Well, I was getting my ass handed to me by that vampire in the last fight anyway. But we were doing so well!

Anyway, yes, Fury of Dracula is, as you might have guessed, an adaptation of the board game of the same name, in which Lord Godalming, Mina Harker, Abraham Van Helsing, and Jonathan Harker attempt to hunt down… Dracula. Bleigh! On the upside, heroes have two turns each compared to Dracula’s one. On the other hand, if Dracula’s canny, he can obfuscate his trail enough that he wins through terror, because his trail runs cold after 6 cities worth of movement. He can also, y’know, leave traps, hoaxes, vampire ambushes, and other fun toys, and can see some of Mina’s cards, since she has an incurable vampire bite.

So, items, allies, and ingenuity versus stealth, trickery, and ambushes. If you’re playing Dracula well, you get to look smug as they hunt you elsewhere… Then less smug if you screw up. Playing as the hunters? It’s fun, discussing where he might be, where he might have escaped, why is he travelling by sea so much? And other fun (legitimately fun) discussions. With friends, it’s really fun.

IT ME! Well… My goatee’s a bit thicker, hair’s longer, but… IT COULD BE ME!

And it’s faithful to the rules, with some cool artwork. Alas, that’s… Kind of where the charm runs out. Red… Why is red always involved whenever accessibility comes up?

Oh. Yeah. For obvious reasons. Anyway, yes, while rail routes are delineated clearly, carriage routes are not until you try moving, being a dull red that, in most places, is kind of hard to see. Test your games for colourblindness problems, folks, it’s not tough! Similarly, those of us who hadn’t played the game before didn’t quite know how sea travel worked, and the UX was… Less than clear in places, such as effects on combatants, clarification on certain specials (Hi, Mina!), using your hand, and hand limits… Look, we know they’re in the rulebook. Not everyone knows the game.

The trail only lasts seven steps, and you have a limited time to hunt down our boy Vlad. Make the most of it!

But, despite all of this (I have faith the devs will hunt down the combat bug, but in the meantime, escape on the 5th turn if it seems like it’s dragging on), I cannot deny we had fun. I want the game to be more accessible precisely because it’s so fun. There is local (yay) and online (that’s dependent on how many players you can pick up, or whether you can all arrange a match, but that’s fine if you have friends), and you can play solo (although honestly, if you’re playing all humans, it’s not fun, because it’s not intended.) But, at the time of review, whether you’ll like it really depends on how the accessibility affects you.

The Mad Welshman is also a creature of the night who does not drink… Vine… But that’s just his screwed up sleep schedule.

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Monster MonPiece (Going Back)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £7.19 (Full bundle £11.34, soundtrack/artbook/wallpapers £6.99)
Where To Get It: Steam

I love me monstergirls. I love me women protags, because, even today, they’re a relative rarity. And I have recently developed a weakness for Gacha style gameplay, where the character drops are random, and upgrading them is the order of the day.

You’d think my back’s against the wall here. And it is.

So, nominally, Monster MonPiece ticked all the boxes. But it does have some problems. Even if it’s not the ones you might be thinking of from the screenshot above. Although it is related. You see, weird sexualised minigames (along with other awkwardness about small lookin’ monsterfolk in bikinis), I am somewhat used to, having survived reviewing Senran Kagura (eeeeeeeesssh.) I’m not gonna say it isn’t weird, or a turnoff, because both can easily apply. But that speaks for itself. No, what isn’t seen here is that, despite this levelup with “touching/rubbing games” (ew) being a core mechanic, what’s gained is often unclear, while what’s lost is very clear.

Wait, my big ol’ buff warrior type lost attack? What did it get back? Where can I find what the hell it got back? Why would I want my main gal Fia to suddenly become an unmoving character, rather than raising hell? (Okay, that one, at least, makes a vague sort of sense… But others suddenly gain that property, while becoming, for want of a better word, crap.)

Gets a buff… Can’t move.

Anyway, yes… Basic idea. So, some monstergirls have been tamed, becoming friends with humanity, while others are still Lost in their urges (and so have some humans.) Cue our protag, who, at first, is a bit of a wet blanket, but her resolve hardens when her friend is made Lost by the villainess, and cue a shounen-like battle to collect the big magic things wot might be used to end the world but were previously benign. And, gameplay wise, it’s a mix of a card game and a tower attack/defense, with three lanes of monsterfolk being placed in your area, moving forward with each turn, whacking each other with sticks/bows, using special abilities… It’s pretty tactical, actually… And, the aforementioned gacha. After each fight, or when you pay the in-game currency, you get card packs, or individual cards, from a region based deck. Level ’em up via… Sigh… The rubbing minigame, plonk ’em down, rinse, repeat.

And it’s that rinse/repeat that’s palled on me. It takes a fair few battles to get to the next part of the story, and… They’re a bit nondescript. Little things change, new monstergirls slowly get introduced, but… The story isn’t enough, and isn’t common enough, to make this not feel like a bit of a grind.

Yes, I rubbed a nerd ghost. Don’t judge me.

Accessibility wise, the rubbing minigames are the worst aspect of things. Tap repeatedly. Waggle the mouse repeatedly… It’s hell on even my hardened wrists and fingers, and I can’t think how bad it would be for people who can’t use the mouse like that. And, aesthetically, it’s… Actually alright. The weirdness aside, the art is good, the music is alright…

But that doesn’t save it from feeling kind of eh. So, this isn’t really a recommendation or “Nah”, it’s just… Eh, I guess if the screenshots appeal, if the idea appeals, and if what you see on LP vids or the like appeals, then… Yeah? But it’s certainly a flawed title, regardless.

The Mad Welshman would like to catch all the monstergirls, but twitter keeps stealing his stash. Which is hella rude.

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Golf Peaks (Going Back)

Source: Bundle
Price: £3.99
Where To Get It: Steam Itch.IO

I must admit, I don’t really get Golf. Mini-golf? Sure. But there, the obstacles are clear, hilarity results from missing, as opposed to a grumbling hike to wherever the hell the ball went (If you even know where), carrying a big trolley of iron tools around.

Each map is small. But that doesn’t mean you’re not going to be scratching your head.

No, I just don’t get it. But I do get a puzzle game around the hazards of golf, and I understand logic problems involving set moves that you have to do in the right order. Those, I understand. And so… I understand Golf Peaks. Because that’s exactly what you’re working with. A set number of cards, in which you can putt the ball a certain distance, drive the ball a certain distance (that’s “make it jump up/over things”), or do both, the driving part generally being first. From this set of actions you’re given, you have to get to the hole. Run out of actions, whoops, start over.

See? That’s pretty understandable. And equally understandable, because the levels demonstrate what the new terrain feature does, are the obstacles. Sand traps. Water. Mud, which acts a lot like water. Springboards.

Just one lone springboard, huh? And yet, I get the feeling somehow it’s central to the puzzle…

Wait, springboards? Well, uhhh… Yes. Springboards. It’s pretty devious, because, for each level, there is generally one correct solution. And, like any good puzzle game, you’ll figuratively tear your hair out a bit, before that wonderful “Aaaaaah!” moment of realisation. Okay, I messed up here, but I got most of it right. I just needed to use that card last!

So it’s a good puzzle game, tight, single solution puzzles. Is it fun? Yes. Does it have a good, clear aesthetic? Yes. Every tile is clearly noted for what it is, the cards leave no doubt as to their function, even without some gentle tutorialising, and the music is calm and relaxing. Which is exactly what you want for this sort of thing.

So yes, overall, this comes recommended for puzzle fans.

Does… Anybody really get Golf?

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Deck of Ashes (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £15.49 (£5.19 each for OST and Print-Ready Posters, £7.19 each for expanded art book and unique character skins)
Where To Get It: Steam

Other Reviews: Early Access

Deck of Ashes is, to me, an odd one. It’s not often we deal with Grimdark (where the darkness almost seems so dark as to be comical, except… When it’s not.) A world where Death’s Curse has been unleashed by 3 fools and an evil jester who misled them. And now… A mysterious man leads all four back, to meet their fates.

Except it’s never that easy, is it?

Bah, you shall have the food in your mouth turn to ash, asshole.

Deck of Ashes is one of those card combat, turn based roguelike dealios, in which our four protagonists, each with their own unique gimmick, fight their way to Lady Death, unlocking cards for their deck along the way, along with useful items.

The deck part is important, because your deck… Has a direct effect on your health. No, no free reshuffles for you, boyo, every time you run out of cards, you have to spend 10 health points, to get 5 random cards back in. You can upgrade this to either 8 random cards or five selected cards, but the cost remains pretty much the same: Health, for cards back.

Buck’s friend Charon, when unable to lend their strength to Buck, gets mean.

And this, funnily enough, is both a help and a hindrance to all characters. Lucia’s fire magic, for example, is damaging to herself, so ending fights quickly is a must. Buck doesn’t want some of his cards back, because while they’re in the Ash deck, as the discard pile is known, some of them give him special abilities. So if one or more goes out… Whoops, there they go, and you only get one chance of putting all ash cards… In your hand… Back into the Ash pile to do their thing.

Similarly, everyone has a story, and the grimdark is strong with this one, as every single one of the characters has some kind of dark past, although the most relatable is Buck, who is highly empathetic, and wants to save his friend. Least relatable is Magnus the Jester, who is a manipulative, hateful asshole through and through, using his powers of manipulation not to solve his problem (people dismiss him and despise him for his deformity), but to ruin things, and even at the time we join him, after he unleashed the Ash Curse, nope, he wants to become a new god. Asshole. Suffice to say, nobody’s end seems happy, because grimdark.

That’s right. Go back to the hateful, small little fool you are, Magnus.

Despite the whole “Your mileage may vary on grimdark” thing, aesthetically, it’s pretty pleasing overall. Good art style (even if the loading screens are in a different style, they still show the characters well), solid music, with threatening bass lines and violins quavering at the violence (not actually, but this is the mood they were going for), and… Ah, yeah, we do have one problem: Although most of the tooltips, menus, etcetera are clear and readable, there is one very odd exception: The resource trade menu… Which is tiny. Not only is it hard to read, it’s hard to select, and I don’t know why this is.

Still, overall, there’s some interesting tactics here, an interesting take on the roguelike card battling type genre, and even though I’m not particularly a fan of grimdark, I do appreciate that the story is pretty well presented for what it is. So, overall, a recommendation.

Er, fix the menu though, folks, eh?

The Mad Welshman appreciates a good experiment. He’s less fond of all the screaming and gore during one, though…

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