Cartomante (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £1.99
Where To Get It: Steam

When I went into this game, a divination game similar to… Well, Divination, in which you choose from a limited set of interpretations (of Tarot Cards, as Cartomante would imply) to “deal” with three people’s problems… I wasn’t expecting to try and solve a gay love triangle of man, their boyfriend, and their pupper (In the werewolf sense, who is also the boyfriend’s ex.)

Whoops. This guy is so fascinating he dominated my screenshots…

Okay, okay, that’s a big spoiler, but, as with any short game, it’s kind of hard to avoid them, and… Well, there’s several ways that could go. Several cards. Thirty potential endings.

And it helps that it has an aesthetic. Bright, colourful, with an off kilter soundtrack, it feels wonderful and weird, and the three clients are quite the set of characters. A voiceless (?), masked figure with a heavy load. A tattooed man with a ghostly dog on his shoulder. And a bourgeois plantgirl who is utterly blind to the fact her nephew is having orgies in the flower shop she entrusted to him.

God, she really is a bitch, and I’m looking forward to finding the ending to her story where she gets hers. But I did get her to legalise sex work in one ending, so there’s that!

Damn straight, tell it like it is!

Anyway, yes, the writing is as colourful and oddly off kilter as the game’s visuals. Sometimes, you get hints of a very dark supernatural world. Other times, it’s a supernatural world where people just casually talk to the Nameless like it ain’t no thing, and others, it’s an ordinary world with ordinary (and sometimes dumb) problems.

In any case, if you want something weird, with a fair bit of replayability while being short in terms of individual sessions, and like short VNs, well, Cartomante is £2, its sessions are short, it shows when you’ve picked an interpretation , and one feature I’d really appreciate is tracking what you’ve got and where, but…Well, as mentioned, it’s £2, it’s fun, it’s got good writing, and what the hey, bring a notebook.

The Mad Welshman seeks advice from the cards on what to if he’s secretly 300 bwci bois in a sweater…

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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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Disgaea 5 Complete (Going Back)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £29.99 (Arbook £3.99)
Where To Get It: Steam

Ever since I heard Disgaea 4+ Complete was coming to the PC, I’d gotten curious about the series. So I gave 1 a go… 2 a go… And, recently, 5. And it’s not hard to see how the series has evolved.

Seraphina’s… A little oblivious. And narcissistic.

So, a refresher, even though we’ve reviewed another Disgaea game this month: Disgaea is an SRPG fantasy series, in which Demon Lords (with one exception in the series) face some sort of tribulation, having to rise through the ranks of their kind by beating the shit out of others, in small battles comprising chapters in the story. And Disgaea 5 is perhaps the darkest one, as the antagonist is a Demon Lord who enslaves and conquers other netherworlds, Void Dark. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have silly moments, it certainly has those, and in spades… But it also has, for example, a demon world where it’s revealed someone in a royal family was held hostage, the people were sent off to fight as disposable soldiers, and then… The royal family was slain and resurrected as zombies.

I can’t wait to murderise the demon lord responsible for that, to be quite honest.

Just run. Just run until you’re at least in New Game Plus.

In any case, as mentioned, the evolution is interesting. Fusions? Gone, replaced by a “Mon-Toss”, aka “Monster can throw you, even if they can’t lift you.” When you hire, it doesn’t cost Mana, but HL, and characters… Can be levelled up to the highest named character level. Mana, meanwhile, goes on Skills, the Senate, and later, the Chara World, which… Well, that one’s not great in retrospect, but it is a fun little game, even if you probably want to focus on skills in your first loop. And then there are quests, which allow you to get neat stuff, from skill scrolls, to new character types (at the time of writing, I’m working toward Sage. And got her before I finished this paragraph.) There are other changes, but those are the biggies.

Aesthetically, it keeps the cel shaded/hi-def spritework of its predecessor, with a great soundtrack (the one you’ll hear the most is the bittersweet base theme, vocals and all), and some solid voice and sound work. Accessibility wise, it’s okay… Turn based stuff generally is, and it certainly tries to have map design that doesn’t obscure shit needlessly, but, sad to say, this remains a problem with the series.

There is no such word as “Overkill” in Disgaea. It’s always “Not Enough Kill”

But, except for the changes, Disgaea 5 remains what the rest of the series is: A solid strategy RPG, where I’ve never felt pressured into worrying about whether my units fall or not (except in terms of “Damn, I need them to do damage”), where I don’t feel bad about the grind (even the grinding of the Item World gives you sweet stuff, especially on or around your level), and where the stories are this interesting mix of silly and dark that I quite enjoy. Although the mileage varies on individual Disgaea games, I do recommend them as a whole for dipping your toes into SRPGs, and for the devoted SRPG fan who wants really big numbers (over time, anyway.)

The Mad Welshman is not normally a fan of pretty numbers. But even he has to admit, SRPG Big Numbers are a good feeling.

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Disgaea 4+ Complete (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £34.99 (Some “Time saving DLC, £2.39 max each, artbook £3.99)
Where To Get It: Steam

Ah, Disgaea. An SRPG series I’ve come to enjoy, in the short time I’ve researched it before taking on this review. Its world is an odd one, it has a mix of the dark and the humorous that intrigues me, and… Well, a game where a sardine loving vampiric demon lord takes on a corrupt government over Prinny rights?

What the hell’s not to like about that story setup?

This guy knows what’s what! (Although I’m more of a cod man, myself)

Before this continues, however, there is one important warning to players new and old: Autosave is on by default. Turn it off. Turn it off for your own sanity.

Okay, okay, the autosave is separate from manual saves, but you do want to get into the habit of saving early, and saving often. Even if you think you’ve bribed senators on votes enough, there’s still the chance you’ll be voted down and lose mana.

So, I’ve already gone over the basic plot, what the heck is this? Well, it’s a turn based strategy RPG, in which you summon units to your team, level them up, use them to kick the snot out of your enemies, and each area is about 5 maps, the last having a boss encounter. As to the details?

Well, yes. Until you inevitably slap someone with a herring, and you ruin your social media presence, warcatte.

Well, you can tell this is a transitional game between 3 and 5, because it has the most complex set of mechanics I’ve seen in the Disgaea series. From earlier games, the summoning that doesn’t have levelling built in, so you can improve stats (somewhat), but you have to level them up through fighting, leading to repeating maps or entering the Item World, a mechanic that exists throughout the series (go through a randomly generated dungeon, with bosses every 10 levels, to level up an item and make it more rare. Oh, and this game has branching paths in the dungeons every 5 levels too.) The senate, also, has a new wrinkle to it, in the form of evil dispatches. I haven’t quite worked that one out yet, to be honest, beyond “You can place buildings that have effects on surrounding tiles, the tickmark of which chooses the leader of the group getting the benefit.”

Haha, I bet you thought you’d see big numbers, didn’t you? Nah, this one only did 890 damage at the end.

Skills are learned through the use of mana rather than levelling, weapon levelling is gone for this installment, replaced by “You can only learn skills in your character’s weapon specialties.” Even in combat, there’s something new: Fusion. Effectively, two monsters of the same type can become one giant monster, for better stats, the ability to punt people, friend and foe alike, to one side, and, if you’re in the late game, you can magichange a fused monster (magichange being “Monster turns into a weapon, with a special ability unique to them.”) or dual wield magichanged monsters.

I could go on, and on, and on, but let’s wrap this one up. Aesthetically, it’s damn fine. My only gripe visually is the one I’ve had throughout the series, where you need to rotate the map to see certain tiles, and the things on them, and even that… Is not guaranteed if it’s a trough of some sort. You can also zoom out, but… That doesn’t really help much. The voice acting is good, from the Prinnies (we rock, dood!) to Valvatorez (SARDINES!) to the villains (some of whom become your allies.) The game is grindier than, say, 5, but not as grindy as the earlier installments.

The one casting this, by the way, is behind the wall. They’re a friendly, so…

I wouldn’t recommend this to people who don’t have a lot of free time on their hands, or people who get irritated by grind, but for SRPG players, or people with a fair amount of free time and wanting to get into SRPGs? Honestly, Disgaea isn’t a bad start, and this is certainly the best story in the series (although they’re all fun.) So yes, I recommend this one with those caveats: It’s got a lot of grind, it’s mechanically the most complex in the series, but… Well, the Disgaea series in general has fun, often silly stories (that sometimes turn dark and serious later, but there’s always a hint of the ridiculous), cool characters, and each installment has something to recommend it.

The Mad Welshman is totally not a Prinny, dood!

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GNOG (Going Back)

Source: Bundle
Price: £7.19 (With option to donate more on Itch.IO)
Where To Get It: Steam, Itch.IO

I love puzzle boxes. Hell, I enjoy puzzles overall. But I do love puzzle boxes. So, when asked “Would you enjoy puzzle boxes, but they’re a computer game?”

The answer is very obviously yes. And, after playing it, the answer is “More please!”

Don’t worry lil’ buddy, I’ll get your supplies back, thank god you still have oxygen, right?

So, GNOG, as you might have figured, is a game about puzzle boxes, those containers where the goal is to go through a series of steps that may or may not be clear, in order to open the box. That’s… Not strictly what happens here, but the goal is to open the box’s mouth, so we’ll count it as that, mmm?

And there’s a whole variety of them, such as submarines, giant frogs, a cartoonish tenement complex, all in this well put together, 3d mini-world. And there’s nearly always something moving, whether under its own power, or asking yourself “What does this [knob/button/switch/dial/OTHER] do?”

The puzzle home, splitting apart. And it’s our job to put it together again.

Aesthetically, it’s great. Bright, contrasting colours, clear differentiation, beautiful music, my only real gripes are that one puzzle in particular’s signposting is… Not great (HOM-3’s security floor), and that some of the interactions, even with mouse, are somewhat fiddly. But the storytelling through showing in each area is pleasant, from the simple “What does animal/person want, and what stops them”, to the subtle overarch of “Let’s piece together the things this boy loves in life, to reassemble the home wot we broke in the first puzzle.”, the music is fitting to each area, and fittingly uplifting as the puzzle boxes groan-sing in joy as they’re awakened, and the sound is good.

Ah, that wonderful bass fits FR-0G the best…

Essentially, if you like puzzles with cool, low-poly aesthetics, then GNOG is good. If you like puzzle boxes, GNOG is cool. And, since I like all of these things, I recommend GNOG. It’s as simple as that.

The Mad Welshman Starts singing tenor if you gently boop his nose, tickle under the ear, and headpat him. True facts!

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