Soul Smith of the Kingdom (Going Back)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £5.19 (Soundtrack £1.69)
Where To Get It: Steam

Inu To Neko games… They’re often about starting a business, and equally as often, it’s a case of tough (and sometimes misguided) love. In the case of Soul Smith of the Kingdom, Nine is the greatest smith in the nation of Aldenoar. But her uncle, perceiving a vital weakness, forbids her from smithing until she raises another great blacksmith. After all, she needs some business sense, and knowledge of how to train employees, so the legacy of the Soul Smiths can continue.

You’re right, lads. Never work at a black company. That shit can only lead to poor health and shitty Isekai.

And so, enter perhaps the most idle game like entry in the series. Although, as always, it’s not that simple, but not as intimidating as it looks. You start with two low level blacksmiths, and, as is often in the series, you get your friends (the cast of the series) to enter dungeons to get materials, you set the weapons the blacksmiths are making, gain skills, gain new blueprints by either buying them, finding them in the dungeon, or, as is most often the case, soul-smithing a weapon the blacksmith is proficicient in.

Oh, and you get skills and, once you get a single smith to level 30, you can get other smiths to inherit their skills, gain souls, and buy more skills. And the minigame, once every month.

It looks complicated. But it’s not as complex as all that.

Funnily enough, most of the game is pleasant. Yes, the translation of the character stories is Engrishy, but honestly, I don’t have that much of a problem with it, as the characters are cool, and the stories are warm and light hearted generally.

But the minigames, or, specifically, the difficulty of some of them, is my biggest issue with the game. Jesus H Christ, if I see Drop Ball or Fill In The Blanks (and, to a lesser extent, Face Checker and Speed Aim), I just leave them alone, because math puzzles involving four numbers from 1 to 9 is not something I like to do on a regular basis, and Drop Ball rapidly becomes bullshit, since both a miss and a ball falling out loses you a heart, and so it’s very easy to lose it all in three rapid clicks of panic. I dislike the minigames, except for Big Search (which grid has the bigger total?)

Face Checker gets evil on three stars and above… Little things start becoming important. ARGH.

But, overall, it’s a game I can relax with. I’m at the mid-late game now, and I’ve made my smiths too good, as, if they’re all left to make more expensive things, they’ll rapidly run out of materials. So I make the smaller stuff with two of them, to level up my friends for deeper dungeon delving, and try to ensoulise weapons with one at a time.

I’d definitely recommend this one out of the Inu To Neko games, as its mix of idle and management gameplay is pretty nice, and it’s got a pretty clear UX.

The Mad Welshman supports improving your craft. But not at the expense of your health, okay?

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Slasher’s Keep (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £10.99
Where To Get It: Steam
Other Reviews: Early Access

Content Warning: There are insects in this game, including spiders.

So here I am, trying to escape from perhaps the most Midlands dungeon keep of all time. I forgot how to beat the first floor boss, and so, surrounded by zombies and the technically invincible boss, I die ignobly.

No, really, this is just embarassing

So, here I am, trying to escape again. Dunno how I survived, but this time, I’m more prepared. This time, I bop the boss with my loot bag into spikes, killing them instantly, make my way upstairs… And then I try to make a flying leap to murder a bug, overshoot, and plummet to my death.

And now, I am trying to escape from perhaps the most Midlands dungeon, consistently getting to floor 5, and my only woes in life are the healer orcs, who heal enemies faster than I can smash them in the face.

That might be something to look at, balance wise. And skulls and flies remain aggravating enemies where, without a wand, you’re playing the waiting game (which sucks)

See that little box over in the corner? That’s how you know it’s a well made dungeon: EMPLOYEES CAN TURN OFF THE SODDING TRAPS. And so can you…

But otherwise, I’m having a whale of a time, in a first person roguelike with a silly sense of humour, some cool enemies, and an incremental system where, so long as individual runs go well, my trajectory is upward and outward. And, due to levelling also gaining you the ability to permanently copy (and improve) skills that previously belonged to your kit? Yes, I’m becoming quite the monster, and look forward to eventually finding out what our amazon’s deal is. Or one of the other characters.

So yes, random loot, several item slots, potions, wands, edible maggots, and moleman shopkeepers from Yorkshire are all part of this experience. Along with 2d drawings, in eight different directions, in a 3d low poly dungeon with painted textures, a cartoony look, some fun, silly voice acting, and fittingly off kilter music. This is extremely my jam. Especially with its very British sense of humour, your jailor “back in a bit” forever.

I make this ensemble look good. And anybody who disagrees can get walloped with my loot bag.

It just feels good, from the swinging of the sword and a quick parry system (remember, parry the weapon, not the enemy holding it), to the joy of smacking a zombie or nastier beast into spikes, killing them instantly, to the occasional comedy. It’s honestly not a bad beginner’s first person roguelike, as your general upward progression is noticable. But it has things for other fans of the genre too, so… Yes, definitely recommended, guv’nor!

The Mad Welshman used to live in West Yorkshire. Maybe he should go back there, and go down t’dungeon for a nice bitter…

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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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Legend of Keepers (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £15.99 (Supporter pack £7.19)
Where To Get It: Steam

Ah, being a dungeon keeper. It’s a good job, all told. Protect yourself, lure adventurers in (those damn assholes), and murder them horribly with a combination of traps and monsterfolk.

I mean, it’s better than letting the little gits run rackets, blow up small villages or forests (accidentally or otherwise), cause diplomatic incidents… The list goes on.

And on…

If your heroes keep getting this far… You might be in trouble. Just… Overall.

And on. In any case, such is the idea of Legend of Keeper. Except you’re basically part of a miserly dungeon keeping corporation. The health plan’s good… When you can find the staff doctor. But everything else is performance based, and staff turnover and morale… God, they’re awful. All to keep adventurers away from the boss.

Okay, maybe it’s not a good job after all.

In any case, Legend of Keeper is one of those rogue like (Sorta. Maybe. Kinda) deals, where you go through two years of defending the dungeon. It’s not like the adventurers come every day… In fact, you often have a fair breather. But with each party you run off or murder (intimidate into running for tears, kill for blood), they get stronger. More assholish.

No, actually, some of them start off assholes. Like the fire mage, whose first action on entering the first battle is to shuffle your carefully curated battle line. The only way of possibly preserving your tactically placed monsters (for the elemental rock/paper/scissors of attack and defence) when you see that particular one is to deliberately place your first team out of order. And pray.

THIS GIT ON THE FAR LEFT. THIS GIT CANNOT DIE ENOUGH. I WILL RESURRECT HIM JUST TO KILL HIM AGAIN!

I hate that guy, and each time I send him to hell, I wish him the iciest time, and extremely pointy sticks. Anyway, yes, dungeon fights, when they happen, are turn based, and consist of several rooms, always with two trap rooms, two monster rooms, a spell room, and your chosen class of boss. There are three bosses, and each has something to recommend them. The Slaver, for example, has a good monster selection, and gets a free big monster, with a room of its own, each year you win (I really hope there’s a third year, because yeah, just having the one big monster feels like a waste.)

But, funnily enough, I have the best time with the glassiest of glass cannons, reliant on shields and a nasty air attack, the Mechanic.

So, how does it feel, is it accessible, does it look good? Well, apart from no subtitles for the three or four barks for each boss (You’re not missing much, especially with the Slaver, who has a bad case of internet poisoning. “Come at me, bro!” … Nyuh huh. I’ll get right on that, really I will), it’s okay. No colourblindness issues that I could see, text is okay, buttons for attacks are very clear, tooltips are easy mouse overs… Visually, it looks quite nice, actually, relatively hi-fi pixel art, with some fun and silly event pictures (like the orc caught reading an anthro magazine. Ohhh, you dirty boy, you!)

Audio wise, it’s okay. Nothing stunning, it works, that’s fine.

Yes, we’re Dungeon Keeping salarymen… And oh boy, the Marketing Department, for what it does, can go to the same place as the fire mage.

Still, this is definitely not a bad roguelike dungeon keeper deal. I’ve been having a nice, tactical time with it, getting comfortably into the swing of murdering the shit out of heroes I definitely don’t sympathise with, and if you like turn based strategy, of the “series of battles” SRPG type deal, yeah, this is a solid choice.

The Mad Welshman floats an idea… How about… We make a dungeon which unceremoniously dumps the hero(ine)s into black company office jobs? That’s MUCH more evil than what we’re doing…

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Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly (Going Back)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £23.79 (Soundtrack £3.99)
Where To Get It: Steam

I love ghost stories. Tales of regrets, of vengeance, and sometimes, of telling a loved one it’s okay from beyond the grave. I also hate them, because few of their endings are happy, and even the “happy” ones are most often bittersweet.

ACTUAL BEST ENDING

And so it is with Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly, where I refuse to believe the ending called the Best Ending is, in fact, the best. And, to put it bluntly, some of the endings can fuck right off.

But, honestly, that’s what grief is. And grief, and the delusions thereof, the regrets, the unfulfilled desires, is essentially what it’s about.

Oh, and somebody who wants to murder existence itself. But that’s more set dressing, more characters for the plot to revolve around, more endings. We’ll get to the endings, believe me. But first, the game in general.

Aesthetically, it’s gorgeous. Soft, bishy visuals (no really, look at these cute boys! Unf!) and beautiful music, along with some solid Japanese voice acting, make this pleasant to play. It also has a VN flowchart, which, as I may have said before, is a godsend in general.

AaaaaaAAAaaAA, so Bishilicious!

However, for some endings of the game, it’s a pain in the ass, because you still basically have to play the routes from certain parts. So I’m two endings short, because I cannot be arsed to go through the entire game again just to get them. Besides, I’ve already unlocked the “Best” ending (Bullshit. The Happy Ending is much better.) And then there’s the minigame.

Look, I love a good minigame, which probably gets me some weird looks. But I had an abysmal time with the butterfly shooting game, which you’ll have to do several times, either in the main menu or by selecting a chapter where you fight one of the dangerous shadows of the mansion. On keyboard, it seems to only take one input at a time, on mouse, if it goes outside of a window, you have to click back at the window, wasting valuable time (and probably a butterfly)… And considering it’s the method to unlock the side stories (necessary for certain endings), I was… Annoyed. See also the lack of fastskip.

The thing is, overall? This is a solid, well written visual novel, and I basically played this in one sitting, all the way through (except the Yamato endings. Sorry dude), before writing this review. I don’t often manage to get a VN like this played through in one sitting, and that’s basically a recommendation right there.

So, for folks who like a good supernatural or psychological horror, this one comes recommended.

Okay… Now we deal with the story. Five amnesiac characters, one of which is our lady protagonist, who wake up in a strange mansion, immediately hunted by beasts who used to be people, and cryptically told to finish some sort of kaleidoscope, by finding gems dropped from said beasts wot used to be people. And it’s got its scary moments, its heartwarming moments, its heartbreaking moments, and its funny moments.

SPOILERS NOW AHEAD

(more…)

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