Beyond A Steel Sky (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £29.99
Where to Get It: Steam

Beneath A Steel Sky was an interesting game. A tale of dystopia, of consumerism and control gone rampant. And the main character, Foster, and his good pal Joey, saved Union City from the despotic reign of LINC, an AI, and left Joey as the snarky, yet benevolent ruler of Union City.

Even the holograms have to be cheery. Well, except one. I think she’s meant to be gruff to drive people away…

Seems like there’s no room for a sequel, right? But history repeats itself (somewhat), as, once again, the peace of Foster’s australian world is shattered, with the death of a friend, and the kidnapping of said friend’s child. And the trail leads him… Back to Union City. Where Joey, still revered, is missing, and where how good a citizen you are (your QDos score), and how happy you are, will determine where in society you stand.

As in the prequel, this is an adventure game collaborated on by Dave Gibbons and Revolution Software, and that collaboration shows in the world of Union City once more. Repairmen whose job isn’t to repair, but simply to note problems. Wonderful art portraying a city with, as before, a shadowy underbelly. And some very amusing voice acting. It’s the good stuff, aesthetically speaking.

Yes, not everyone is satisfied…

For those whose mileage varies on adventure game logic, there are a few puzzles that require you to see all the elements, some of which are awkwardly placed (wait, an electric fence… Behind a waterfall? Recipe for disaster, mate!), but some really stand out, such as an early one where you need to deceive an asshole from the Ministry of Comfort (Yes, they’re basically the secret police.) You need, in essence, to search for clues among a dead man’s belongings (for that’s who you’re pretending to be) to give enough information about your past life to… At least make them pretend everything’s alright.

Ohhhh, I remember most of you

It controls pretty well, early bugs have been fixed (although the Unreal Engine remains a resource hog), it’s aesthetically appealing, and brings a good (In the “creatively well done”) dystopia to life, with only some puzzles being “Adventure Game Logic.” For fans of adventure games, both this and the original come highly recommended.

The Mad Welshman notes that Beneath A Steel Sky is also on Steam, if you only use Steam. It’s been on GOG for quite a while now.

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SUPERHOT (Going Back)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £17.99
Where to Get It: Steam

Ah, SUPERHOT. One hell of an interesting premise, both in terms of mechanics and story. The gist? Time only moves when you do, including looking around… And you’re in some extremely hectic situations in which it’s kill… Or be killed.

But hey, it’s only a pirated in-development game sent by a friend, and you can always restart!

MAKE HIM FLY.

Haha… Hahahaha… Haaaaboy…

It’s kind of amusing, really, how such a simple premise can be stretched out, and, with the story, each area of progression retrospectively makes the levels you’ve already completed something you can feel a vague sense of guilt about. But it’s only vague, because you’re hooked, the enemies are low-poly faceless red people who want you dead, and you want to see more.

Good boy…

Time for some… Dentistry. With bullets.

Aesthetically, that low poly look, the glittering reds of what you need to kill, the blacks of what you can use to maim and stun and kill, the slow sounds of glass shattering, bullets firing, and the sterile white of the rest of the landscape makes everything nice and visually clear, yet disconcertingly off… And that discomfort rises when… Ah, but you thought I was going to spoil something, didn’t you? Well, as far as this review goes…

guruCHAT – so old, it’s riskier to log in than not. Who knows who might hijack your chat?

You are not in control.

After all, I want people to experience the twists. That slow, dawning “The fuck?” as they happen, as you have to get ever more creative, to not rely on any one thing, be it guns, your fists, or things to throw, to help you survive. Or at least enjoy dying as a means of exploring what you can do, and to find the (really annoying) secrets of the game. After all…

Bodies are disposable.

The Mad Welshman’s reviews are good. Money is disposable. Support is the new… Okay, okay, but you have to admit, it was worth a shot!

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SUPERHOT: MIND, CONTROL, DELETE (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £19.99 (Soundtrack free!)
Where to Get It: Steam

SUPERHOT was an interesting, paranoia inducing game about shooting and killing and beating people in a game that… Haha, well, let’s just say “Time only moves when you do”, and leave spoilers out of it. It’s an interesting premise, the story took some cool and dark turns, and I quite enjoyed it.

Oh, you poor fool. When it comes to pistol v pistol, friend… I automatically win.

SUPERHOT is more of the same… Except now in a sort of roguelike form. There are areas, and within those areas you have a pattern of random levels taken from a pool, and random upgrades (the number of each is fixed), and defeating everything in an area is completion, which then lets you access other nodes in this network, nodes that have memories, snippets of dialogue, and hacked in upgrades such as the ability to charge people, or bullet deflections that deflect every bullet back toward the enemies, regardless of whether you deflected those. But in its basic level goals, it remains mostly the same: Use your time stopping/slowing powers to murder red people in a level using whatever you can, be it thrown items, melee weapons, or one of a variety of guns.

And naturally, what SUPERHOT: MCD brings to the table, apart from MORE story, is just… MORE… MORE gun. MORE wrinkles, such as enemies who can only be hurt in certain locations, and are otherwise as white and sterile as your non interactible bits of scenery. MORE levels in which to play. Hell, even the achievements are “MORE [thing]”

And indeed there is! There’s so much MORE…

And aesthetically and narratively, it’s also similar, in that paranoid, dystopian tone, which I compared to a mix of David Cronenberg and David Lynch (two film directors well known for surreal and dark films), and the way the aesthetics both subtly put you off balance and highlight everything you need to know.

For anyone with a little first person, low poly roguelike-ish need, this one’s a pretty solid pick. And for the people who played Superhot, but somehow haven’t already got MCD… It’s MORE.

The Mad Welshman apologises that he wasn’t able to screencap mid shuriken throw. Those things go at one hell of a clip…

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Cloudpunk (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £16.99 (£24.98 for game and soundtrack, soundtrack £7.99)
Where To Get It: Steam

The City. We all know The City. It’s a dark place, always raining, always cloudy… Or is that smoggy? Yeah, it’s smoggy… Ramen’s your go to vending food, the lights are neon, and the streets are grimy and filled with refuse, both human and otherwise. Welcome to this version of The City. Welcome to Cloudpunk.

And this is one of the nicer portions…

But what is Cloudpunk? Essentially, it’s a narrative delivery service game, set in a dystopian future city with high tech… And low life. You’re a worker for the Cloudpunk service, a service that doesn’t want its drivers to be known as Cloudpunk. You keep hearing the word CORA, and can’t pin down what that means. And within your first hour, you’ve either delivered a highly suspicious package (or haven’t), talked to a variety of people, and met your neighbour, the android Evelin, whose close friend locked away memories in her mind, and is decrypting them (like you, not wanting Corporate Security’s attention) by… Punchcards.

No, the memories aren’t on the punchcards, that’d be silly. But the encryption key to her memories is.

Evelin has many problems in her life. This is but one.

And so, you fly through the world, in your hovercar, walking round places, picking things up, delivering things that you’re meant to deliver after picking things up, and, after a point, just… Exploring. Looking around. This is your first night, and most drivers apparently don’t survive their first night. So why not enjoy yourself, talk to people, get a feel for the city first, eh?

And there’s a fair bit to it. Not only is there the main story, with its sometimes wonky voice acting (mostly pretty good, though), its almost surreal cyberpunk setting (and yes, this counts as cyberpunk, you are Little People, and even living is a rebellion), and its people. An Engineer for the city, the city that’s falling apart, but only he knows what’s up. Red street signs blinking three times is bad. Also blue signs in general. Aaaand orange, yellow, green… Purple’s the worst though. If you see purple, you’re fucked already… Well, according to him, anyway. And he’s just one example.

The Marrow, as you can guess, has been sucked dry by the ghouls.

Aesthetically, this game is pretty good. It uses voxel art (that’s cubes instead of dots) pretty well, the music ambient, synthy, and very fitting, and the soundscape… Police fly by, hovercars and trucks (called HOVAS, collectively) whibbleywhoo over the place, and the rain… Nearly always… The rain.

I don’t really have bad things to say, to be honest, but if a game mostly about exploring in your car and on foot, about keeping the gas going, keeping your HOVA repaired, and exploring the story isn’t for you, then it isn’t for you. If it is, Cloudpunk’s a pretty solid example of an exploration game with narrative, not just story.

…And I do love me narrative…

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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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