Aery (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £5.19
Where To Get It: Steam

Aery interested me the moment I noticed this, and I will freely admit that a big part of it was being an Old. “Hey, wow, this looks like a Psygnosis game, if Psygnosis was still around!” It certainly had a visual flair that reminded me of their earlier, odder titles, and the synthwave music wasn’t a detraction either.

I, too, would like to relearn the art of unpowered flight.

However… I then found my detractions. And they’re biggies. One of them is plausibly a bug (Level 4’s “Got the feather” bell is loud no matter what volume you’ve set), but the two others… Annoy the hell out of me.

Still, before we do that, the game: There is a bird that wants to see the world. They fly. They can roll. And they collect feathers. Their journey is told in short prose before each level, and it’s a relatively short experience, which is nonetheless pleasant. The low-poly worlds are mostly quite interesting, the music is good slow journey music (not too driving, but with a good beat to it.) Said bird controls well, feels like a bird, glides and flaps like a bird, looks like a bird with a golden underside.

Spot the feather. Or, indeed, the bird.

While I am most of the way through it, the two big issues: Firstly, the second level is a nightmare, even for those folks who are not colourblind. The feathers are white. The sea… Is white. And the tops of the blocks wot have feathers on are, for the most part… White. I hope the developers see the problem inherent to this trio of sentences. I did very rapidly. Still, I got through that, and the third, and, on the fourth, I finally realised that a problem in the whole game was a problem. When you die, you are sent back to your starting point. The same starting point that’s a good minute of flight to anything of interest, let alone a feather. I am chill, and I like to chill. But that’s a bit much.

Thing is, it’s not, overall, a bad game. It does what it says on the tin, and, if that second level were fixed, I could pretty much recommend it as “Thing you play to relax, or in short bursts over your lunch break.” It definitely looks good.


The Mad Welshman appreciates experiments. Also prog rock.

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Forager (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £14.99
Where to Get It: Steam

Forager is one of those games which blurs the line a little bit. Specifically, between a survival RPG… And an idle game. I’ve actually had some arguments, over the past month, as to whether this label really applies. “But Jamie, you do things. You walk around.”

I’m pretty much getting the obvious screenshot out of the way here. And it’s not hard to see why it’s an obvious choice.

Yes. And a lot of that walking around is so you can find the thing that popped up. To hit the thing. To get more of a thing. So you can make more of the other thing to get more things overall. Everything in Forager is in service to opening up more Forager. And a lot of that time is either clicking on things (To mine them, to kill them, or to solve the odd puzzle), or waiting for things.

Like I said, it blurs the line, because while other survival games and RPGs have precisely this… Even the skill tree is basically “Unlock more things to do.” Ah, now you can mine this metal. Now you can make better mining things. Now you can get more gold when you make gold.

NEED MORE GOLD. AND WHEAT. AND COAL. (But not really food. I’m good there, that’s just to kill time.)

Does that make Forager unenjoyable? Not precisely, it definitely does interesting things. But it really does seem to be enjoyed more if you approach it from an idle-game viewpoint than an RPG viewpoint. Exploration? Well, occasionally you get that, but more often, it’s bam, one puzzle or NPC fetch quest chain, and what’s left is farming, mining, and harvesting. Story? Again, somewhat, but it’s relatively minimal, and in service to… Opening up more mining, farming, and harvesting. It has a hunger meter, it’s true, and a health meter, but rarely are either threatened. The real threat, honestly, is that you hit a progression lull.

See, there’s never a lack of things to do, or things to watch. In fact, quite the opposite, as, quickly, you have inventory management, and meters to watch, and things to make, and things to harvest, and now, because you want to make this special thing, you have more things to harvest, and make, and… It can get overwhelming, with the feeling that you’re running in place while not doing very much (Much like a lull in… An idle game.)

This, by the way, is about the point I gave up on my completionist dreams. NOPE. NOPE NOPE NOPE.

Still, the rate of progression, to an extent, depends on how you want it to progress. I’ve seen folks try single island challenges, and others (like me) try desperately to see everything there is in the game, buying islands as soon as they can, levelling as best they can (Levelling is done by just doing things, but, as you might expect, it gets slower the further you go), and that self goal setting is a nice way to approach this.

Anyway, as noted, Forager seems to be most enjoyable when played from an idle, as opposed to RPG perspective, and that’s just fine. I am a little annoyed that the option to quit is hidden in options, but other reviewers have noted this, and it hasn’t changed, so I guess it stays.

This review took one reviewer, two word processors, five computers, and a sharp stick to make. Only the sharp stick was a base component.

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Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £4.79
Where To Get It: Steam

Ahhh, the city builder. The puzzle city builder. They’ve both got their own beauty, but, done well, both can be extremely relaxing times. And Islanders… Is done pretty well.

I’m about to lose… But, you know what? I feel accomplished for having done this much, not bad for losing.

As with city builders, buildings in the right range of each other create synergy, for good or for ill. A lumberjack does well with lots of trees around, better with a statue, better with a sawmill… But it makes parks, shamans, and other stuff less palatable to place nearby. Some buildings, like the Temple, are very picky, so thinking ahead is definitely a useful skill.

And then there’s the title. See, it all revolves around islands. Sometimes tiny archipelagos, sometimes big grassy dealios with ruins… But always, space is at a premium. And always, progress must be made. Most of the time, this means making enough points to get more buildings. But once you get far enough, the next island starts calling, and, whether through feeling you’ve maximised your work here, running out of useful buildings, or simply from having placed a lot of buildings, it’s time to move to the next, keeping only the score you’ve accumulated so far.

Every Island has its specific challenges, things that work well, and things not so well. For example here, brickies aren’t going to have a great time: No sand.

Thing is, while it is challenging, it does a lot to make it a chill experience. Tooltips handily tell you what a building does before placing it, allowing you to think. When placing things, there’s visual guides both to its sphere of influence and the points you’ll rack up from placement (Occasionally leading to “Just a pixel to the left, and… BAM, 32!”) It’s very quickly clear what’s what, and, throughout, light, relaxing music is playing, keeping you calm. Since the game automatically restarts on a loss, and saves progress if you leave, there’s also no pressure there, and I like that.

Islanders, overall, feels quite pleasant to play, sounds good, looks good… And, of course, the feeling when you have an island almost filled is a good feeling. Sometimes, you need something relaxing that still challenges the mind, and Islanders is definitely that.

Ohhh yeah. That’s the stuff. Still got placements, still got the chance to go to the next island. MMMMMMM.

The Mad Welshman always has time for relaxation. So ISLANDERS is definitely going in his “Play this when things are getting you down” folder.

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Faerie Solitaire: Harvest (Review)

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

You can’t please everyone all the time. This is the main thought running through my head as I look at Faerie Solitaire: Harvest, a sequel which has, at release at least, cut the story, cut the purchasing of building aspects, and made pets a little more accesible, but confusingly.

The thing is, its core is still solid, and its soundtrack is really bloody good. So these things shouldn’t matter so much. But it does, nonetheless, feel odd.

The meanest kind of layout… The one-card (or multiple one-card, in this case) blockage…

Okay, so, last time on Faerie Solitaire, faeries got trapped by an evil wizard (That you were apprenticed to) with layered cards in patterns you got rid of by going up and down the ranks of the cards (With help from powerups and the bottom deck, which could only be shuffled a certain amount of times.) Big combos were good, individual levels had tasks, there was a lot going on, but, at its core, was one particular solitaire variant.

Now, the faeries are again trapped, but somewhere else and by ??? , with the plucky young ??? to save them by matching pairs of the same rank, and, preferably for combos, the same colour, with the aid of the bottom deck, an ability (Wild Cards earned with combos), and, as before, there’s only a limited amount of reshuffles (One, either free, or due to paying 1000 of the ingame currency.) As noted, the core is solid, with exactly the benefits and problems you would expect from a solitaire game. For example, Oh look, the two cards you need to match are directly under each other, and you did not know this. Sod. Well, that happens sometimes, fine.

Pets! You can evolve them, and then… You can, er… Well, you can toggle whether they’re evolved or not.

On the one hand, I can definitely say it doesn’t stint on that Solitaire part. 40 areas, each with 9 levels, and increasingly devilish layouts. That’s the good stuff for someone who likes Solitaire, right there. But, alas, this isn’t just about this Faerie Solitaire, as, as noted, Harvest feels somewhat stripped down compared to its predecessor. A fair bit of that, to be honest, was bloat, trying to add more interest, and not always succeeding. But since some things have changed and others haven’t as much, it ends up feeling a little hollower than its predecessor.

Let’s take the currency of the game, pets, and resources, for example. It’s nice that, if you liked baby pets more, you can switch between baby pet and adult pet forms at will. That’s nice. But, beyond this and a little urge to completionism, with 32 pets to grow from eggs (By playing) and evolve (By playing and gaining resources), there’s… No real reason for them, or the resources. The main currency of the game also buys two of the abilities, an extra card slot, and a reshuffle if you hadn’t managed to land a BIG COMBO to get a free reshuffle. That’s… Er… It. And it is needed when layouts get meaner…

Ah, I got wood… Look, I’ve gotta wring some humour out of this, dammit!

…But, with these cuts, what you have is a pretty solitaire game with some knobs on, and a soundtrack that feels like it comes from an epic JRPG. If this is what you expect coming in, then you’re good. Having played the predecessor, I felt, as noted… A little odd.

The Mad Welshman always feels a little forlorn when a sequel strips things. Even if it makes sense. And he’s aware this isn’t a great feel.

…Doesn’t stop him feeling it, though.

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Subara City (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £3.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Cities are interesting places. Some heavily planned, some… Not so much planned as grew. And there have been many arguments as to whether one should take a top down approach (Larger matters to small) or a bottom-up approach.

“That’s Two Level 12 buildings, we can give you, guv’nor, take it or leave it…”

In Subara City, the answer is “Both.” A simple on the surface match puzzle game, Subara City has you match houses and characters with under-tiles of the same colour to combine them, until they reach Level 10. Then it gets a little tricky. You see, there’s a risk-reward thing going on, where Level 10 buildings can only be combined with each other, and once you do… That building can no longer be combined with anything else.

So, ideally, you want as many Level 10s to combine as you can get… But you also have to make sure you can still combine other blocks, otherwise… Game over. Similarly, on the risk-reward front, you have a certain number of demolitions you can do (one gained every 100 turns, and some for high level buildings), but your score is your population, so demolishing that level 17 building in the hope you get a level 18? Won’t gain you that much, if anything.

The first time you satisfy a building or character condition, it’s nice enough to let you know on the left, along with general hints and tips occasionally.

And that, essentially, is the game. Scores are local, but, after a while, you’ll find yourself struggling to reach Top 10… Against yourself. So… That’s the game, mechanically. It pretty much does what it says on the tin. How about aesthetically?

Well, musically and soundwise, there’s really not a lot to say. It has one tune for the main game (A choral piece), one for the menu, and the sounds are equally simple… That choral tune may well wear on you, or you might blank on it, so that’s a “Eh” for sound. Visually, it’s nice and clear, so that’s a definite plus, and there’s a little charm in the buildings and characters (Some of which you unlock through play.)

I’ve done slightly better than this since this screenshot… But I’ve also ensured anything less than 2 million won’t reach the top 10… Curses.

Still, there’s a lot to be said for “Does what it says on the tin”, and while it’s simple on the surface, paying attention to every part of the board is important, as really good play involves thinking several moves ahead. There are, however, a few minor niggles. There are odd (if slight) performance hitches when you select demolition or combining level 10 blocks for the first time, and some of the requirements for character unlocks don’t encourage high score play (A niggle because characters don’t, strictly speaking, have a score element attached to them.) These aside, it is a pleasant game to play, and I think other match puzzler fans will enjoy this one too.

The Mad Welshman is, in particular, fascinated by the most difficult requirement for a character. How many? And that level? Wow.

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