Juicy Realm (Review)

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

The fruit and veg, it appears, has evolved rapidly to rule the world. A world that sure as hell ain’t Earth, if those dinosaur bones are anything to go by… But still, fruit and veg with guns. But the remnants of humanity are fighting back!

Yes, for you, the game is over, ghosts of enemies. GG, fruitthings. GG…

Ah, what an exciting synopsis. It’s a shame, then, that it’s a somewhat plodding game, in multiple senses. The game’s characters don’t so much run about as lightly jog, even plodding in some cases, the enemies fire… Occasionally? It’s about once every few seconds… And, while there is a dash, it’s a somewhat short one on a rather long cooldown. This isn’t, in the purely technical sense, bad design, as the enemies become more numerous, the weapon patterns and environmental traps more devious, and the game appears balanced around the speed it’s at.

In the more subjective sense, though? It feels like a marathon of attention, with the main killer being, essentially, too distracted to even notice the bullets among the chaos, be that from the effects of your own bullets, cloudy visual effects, or the fact that there’s several enemies on screen.

Spot the… Well, anything of importance.

Beyond this, unfortunately, it’s… Not got a lot of variety. Yes, there are many guns, but most are your average bullet shooters, with only a few (The cross-gun, which does hideous damage and multiple projectiles on impact too) of note, a couple of melee weapons you’ll mostly end up forgetting about, and a few that I assume are meant to be joke weapons (Such as GG, the keyboard that fires “GG” at people, hoho, or Steam, the gun that prints money when you hit things with it… My sides, they do split…)

Juicy Realm is not, strictly speaking, a bad game. However, its ideas are as staid and plodding as the game itself, and I don’t find myself particularly feeling much at all, whether I’m winning, losing, or even just plodding along.

Thankfully, the boss arenas are clear enough that you have a pretty good idea what you need to do.

The Mad Welshman is, it’s true, a fan of good aesthetic. However, good aesthetic often involves enough clarity you know what the hell you’re doing at any given moment.

Become a Patron!

Hacktag (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £15.49
Where To Get It: Steam
Other Reviews: Early Access, Early Access 2

Even after release, Hacktag remains an odd sort of beast to me. It is, and, at the same time, isn’t my sort of game. It remains recommended because, despite my own problems, it is, nonetheless, an interesting and fairly accessible take on co-op stealth/hacking games.

Oops… I see trouble in my future…

Goodness me, that was a bit of a mouthful. Let’s back up a sec. Hacktag is, at the same time, competitive and co-operative, involving an anthropomorphic (that’s animals as people, in this case) world of corporate espionage, in which two players steal data in one of three mission types, either as a stealth operative, or a hacker. The gameplay in each is different, but has the same base idea: Do the things, don’t get caught, and if you do get caught, hope your friend (or you, in the case of Solo play) don’t get caught trying to bust you out. Occasionally, you do things together, and, overall, it’s a tense experience.

Aesthetically, the game works fairly well. Clear visuals, some good stealthy music, ramping up to fever pitch when, inevitably, something goes to hell, and its icons and tutorialising are pretty clear. The controls are understandable, and it comes in the three flavours of multiplayer (friends or random players), local (Two players, one machine), and solo (switching between controlling characters with TAB, the majority of my experience with the game.)

Mainframe hacking is the mission type added for release, and it’s a long, tense haul…

I’ve already mentioned that I find it a little odd that, despite its co-op nature, players are scored (and level up) separately, especially as co-operation is, in at least some cases, mandatory. Indeed, part of the tensions comes from situations like one player trying to unlock the way ahead for the other, to run into a situation like the alarm trap, which requires both players to deactivate (Indeed, one of the pictures of this review is a fine example of when this happens.) Nonetheless, unlockables, co-op play, an interesting visual style… There’s a lot to recommend it.

It isn’t, as it turns out, my particular cup of tea, but if you’re looking for something new in a relatively small genre (at the present time, anyway), this may well be worth a look.

As far as I am aware, while this deeply resembles a lootbox, Coins are earned in-game. Nonetheless, I did get a little skittish when I noticed this…

The Mad Welshman isn’t, as it turns out, much of a multiplayer feller.

Become a Patron!

Hacktag (Early Access Review 2)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £15.49
Where To Get It: Steam
Other Reviews: Early Access 1, Release

Last time, on Hacktag

“You’re a loose cannon, Hacktag! Competition and co-op play in the same game? Hand me your badge!”

And now, we return you to… Hacktag

People forget, I think, how many possible ways there are of making a multiplayer experience single player. They also forget that sometimes this can be quite tough. AI companions require extra code, extra thought. A checkpoint based auto companion can feel very samey, but cuts down on the work.

Updated skills and lobby interface? Yes, please!

Hacktag has gone for something a little more old fashioned, but it’s interesting to note how it changes the game: Split-screen, swappable solo. One keyboard, two characters, and you’re switching between the perspective of both. How is it?

Challenging! With multiplayer, the other player is able to spot and avoid threats just fine on their own. The only times you worry about them is when they screw up and get caught, when you screw up and need to be rescued, or when you both need to be at the same place for the dual hacks. With singleplayer? Ahh, there’s the rub. Because whether you’re on split screen or full screen perspective for each character, once you switch characters, the other is helpless, and so, timing becomes much more important. As do safe zones. As such, it’s both a more challenging, and, at the present stage at least, frustrating experience. In the middle of a dual hack when bam, guard. Stealthing to the next safe point, but… Crap, antivirus. It’s got a lot of planning to it, that’s to be sure.

AAAaaaaAAA! There are also new objectives. Now… AaaaAAAAaaaaAAa!!!

Nonetheless, if that were the only change at this stage, rough as it is, I’d be happy. But the general experience has improved as well, with more types of event, rejiggered minigames for hacking and stealthing, and… Traps. Sometimes, it’ll be the standard “There is an alarm, get to it and disable it before it goes off.” Sometimes, it’ll be a laser grid, to be avoided in either hacker or stealth mode until the timer runs out. What’s nice about that one is that it varies depending on who triggers it, a clever touch that swings things a little back toward parity between stealth and hacking play.

The competitive score with co-operative play remains (And seems to now firmly be a part of the vision), but skills and cosmetics have also been improved, so levelling up gives a broader depth of rewards, and now, should your heart desire, you can be one of a small multitude of anthropomorphic animal cat burglars. Go you!

So, on the whole, the potential of Hacktag is really shaping up. Good co-op play can tough out even the meanest of missions, be it local or multiplayer, solo play is there for those of us who like planning (and also acknowledge that a plan never survives contact with the enemy), and, even aesthetically, there’s a little more variation. There are still some bugs and glitches, but they are, at the present time, relatively minor, so, overall, I guess I’ll leave you with the denouement of this episode of Hacktag.

Solo *does* have the option of switching between fullscreen perspectives, but… Nah, not risking it!

KOFF, I never shoulda cancelled my laser-grid insurance!”
“No… Don’t say that… You’re Gonna Live.”

The Mad Welshman recommends this and many other games… Because they’re video-games. And all your friends are playing them.

Become a Patron!

Hacktag (Early Access Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £10.99
Where To Get It: Steam
Other Reviews: Early Access 2, Release

Hacktag is an odd beast, all told. And beast is quite apt here, as it’s a hacking/stealth arcade game set in a corporate world of anthropomorphic animals. Lions, does, panthers… It’s a cat eat deer world out there, and yet… It feels a little bit empty at the present stage.

For future notice, screenshots show usernames, so the black bars are to protect player identity, not actually part of the game.

That’s not to say that it is empty, but some decisions feel odd, considering 90% of the game right now is procedurally generated missions that can only be played multiplayer (in pairs, one stealth agent, one hacking agent.) Let’s start with how it is a co-operative game, but… Is scored competitively. Not gonna lie, this doesn’t entirely make sense for a whole bunch of reasons. The hacker, for example, is nearly always going to get, if you’ll pardon the pun, the lion’s share of the computer thievery done, and whoever gets started on a computer first, unless they get caught, pretty much has the points from hacking. But this conflicts with the fact that, to complete the mission, you do have to co-operate. And yes, this has an influence on your XP (+1 XP per 100 points scored)

Still, that need for co-operation is an interesting feature, and I honestly like it. Yes, a hacker could race past doors that the stealth agent can’t get through (because they need the hacker to unlock them), but the hacker is also barred by firewalls, and there are some doors that require both players to progress. Now, some of this is done with holding a button and waiting, and some via recognisable minigames such as “Hit the right arrows in sequence” and “Both players scroll through a code-list, match the codes.” These are mainly made tense by guards and online watchers, neither of which can be defended against, only avoided, distracted, or, in the case of the watchers, temporarily trapped in a single computer node by the stealth agent, and, should you be captured? You’ll be herded into a holding cell, and the other partner will have to get you out. If both players are captured, or you can’t get them out in time, then whups, run over!

The hacker’s view is at once more colourful, and, in a sense, more empty. They also move a *lot* quicker without having to worry about noise.

The emptiness, mainly, comes from a combination of sameyness, and the fact that there’s just the teensiest bit of bias toward the hacker (Beyond what we’ve already mentioned, there is, overall, more the hacker can deal with than the agent.) For all that different corporations are being raided, there will be the same sort of rhino guards, the same amorphous blob of the watchers, and, indeed, many of the same threats. The pre-mission conversations, optional as they are, also feel a little samey, with the brief following a formula, and the responses ranging from “professional” to “Extremely unprofessional.” As such, they feel somewhat superfluous. One feature I’m not so fond of is that rooms in the newer maps can randomly trigger alarms. Yes, I get that challenge has to be added, but I don’t really feel RNG is the way to go there, and I hope future releases replace this “feature” with something else. It is, if that’s not your thing and you still want to play the game, only on the newer maps as of the Sept 15th release.

Is this to say the game doesn’t have promise, or doesn’t work in and of itself? No, and no. What’s in the game works (The hacker cannot stop once they’ve taken a path, but this is explained, and merely requires more care), and the single player tutorial ran me through the concepts just fine, although I’ll freely admit I often forget I have a holographic distraction device (and mainly do alright without.) But right now, for all that there are unlockable bonuses (Such as being able to screw up certain minigames some of the time, or having less options to choose between on co-op minigames), and customisation options, it feels like the game needs to build its world, its character somewhat. If you have a co-op partner handy, you can quite happily complete a mission or two in an hour. If you don’t, well, alas, this game is currently multiplayer only, and I am uncertain if there will be any SP content beyond the tutorial. Either way, the game is currently only in the 0.1s, so there is plenty of time to see change.

There’s a lot of friendly highlighting going on, and I definitely respect this feature. Capture radii, timers, unhacked computers being white highlighted… This is definitely a positive feature.

The Mad Welshman is perfectly willing to give stealth co-op games like this their chance to shine. As noted, it’s early days yet, and I wish Piece of Cake well.

Become a Patron!