Cloud Climber (Review)

Source: It free!
Price: It free!
Where To Get It: Steam!

It’s the end. You’re the last one. And you’re thirsty. But that, honestly, means you can enjoy the last great fruits of humanity’s labour, for good or ill. One. Last. Lap. That’s what Cloud Climber is, a short narrative game about walking through the last remnants of a once… Of a people who worked really hard when their backs were against the wall, one last time.

I wish it were…

See, the world is all desert and sandstorms below. Water stopped coming up the buckets years ago. And that first utterance of the game, that first “Well, I’d better see if anyone else has water”, already has a sense of defeat. But not despair… The calm acceptance of someone who knows it’s over, and there’s nothing they can do about it. One. Last. Lap.

It’s short, so I really can’t say more without spoiling things, but it’s a beautiful set of towers, a beautiful, desolate, and ruined landscape, wood and stone that’s somehow stood the test of time, stood despite building code, and even common sense, has been forgotten. And all for one last push at survival. One. Last. Lap.

It looks so starkly beautiful from up here, doesn’t it?

The music, like the narrator, is calm, appreciating the beauty, gentle strings melding effortlessly in counterpoint to the winds below, the creaking of wood, the rattles and squeals of doors that have warped over the time they’ve been left alone. All presaging One. Last. Lap.

And finally, the acceptance is complete. It’s over. You are the last one, you’ve worked hard. Time to take a well deserved break. And your last lap, your journey to find what you’ve finally given up on finding…

Haha, all I can say is that I’m not sure if it’s a reward… Or a mocking coda on humanity’s…

One.

Last.

Lap.

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Phasmophobia (Early Access Review)

Source: Supporter Gift
Price: £10.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Phasmophobia is a multiplayer experience that’s like those ghost shows that were all the rage back when (and indeed, follow some of the standard ghost investigation methodology), except the ghosts are nearly always angry, and can and will kill you.

Although, if you have a decent team, or a decent investigation method, or don’t, like me, overextend yourself by strolling through the Prison with just two people, you won’t die.

You can just about make out what happens if you ignore this advice.

Honestly, though, the most fun I’ve had was tackling the prison with a single friend. First we both went in, then one of us alone… We were getting nowhere. EMF wasn’t picking anything up, temperature was normal, no orbs to be found, no fingerprints we could find under UV… But we did manage to get some spirit writing which narrowed it down to, uhhh… About two thirds of the beasties.

Then we pissed it off. The game gives you a five minute grace period during which it won’t get angry, but when it does… The front door locks, the walkie talkie stops working for you, and if you can’t hide, hide from something you can only see in glimpses at best? Well… You find yourself in a small room of corpses, before you become just a ghost.

On the upside, you can sort of see more clearly when you’re dead?

It was tense as hell, right up to the end, with it almost getting my partner, and it definitely got me, and my heart was pumping. And yet, I died with only one regret:

I’d seen the thing on camera, and didn’t hit the screenshot button.

And the best thing of all? Sometimes, you can tell what a ghost is by its behaviour, as well as the signs. My partner in crime made the educated guess of Oni (because it was territorial as hell, and as time went on, its sphere of aggro got bigger), and whaddya know, he was right!

But I was actually tense (I rarely get frightened), not jumpscared. Even in the truck, watching that activity meter go all the way up to 10 and stay there, while my friend slowly tries to make their way out (running? Haha, you have a light jog at best), and the walkie talkie’s static as I try to warn them. Watching doors swing on their own, hearing footsteps, jinglings… And even though the ghosts can see you much more clearly in the dark, you have to keep things dark, because otherwise it becomes difficult to get evidence about them.

You cannot believe how grateful we were these things don’t work anymore.

Aesthetically, it has no music. It’s all atmospheric sound, it’s normal buildings (even, sad to say, the prison), and that works.

If you want a multiplayer co-op game of investigation with the possibility of dying, and high tension, this one’s a good one.

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Hardspace: Shipbreaker (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £21.99 (Soundtrack £6.99)
Where To Get It: Steam

If there’s one thing we can be sad about with Hardspace: Shipbreaker, it’s that we can’t huck segments of the ship, especially kersplodey ones, at Corporate. Then again, I can imagine we aren’t the first cutter to be disgruntled and think about that, so they might have giant cannons for just such an eventuality.

One of those “Last things you’ll see” moments. Whoopsie.

Anyway, yes, Hardspace: Shipbreaker is a game about dismantling spaceships in a dystopian hellscape where you are a clone whose processable (not furnaceable) worth is approximately $8. Armed with substandard tools you can improve (and later buy) thanks to completing work orders, and slowly, ever so slowly reducing a billion in debt, you cut up ships and yeet the various portions into the right trash receptacles for recycling, for your corporate masters.

You’re also a clone without a union, so no, diving into one of the three processing areas is a no-go, I’m afraid. You can, to be fair, set your number of clones between infinite, 30 total til game over, and none. Don’t pick none, you will die at least once learning the ropes.

I did, eventually, work out a way of getting these parts apart without this happening. Eventually.

It’s actually pretty relaxing, although there are motion sickness warnings for six degrees of freedom movement and the odd thing that’s moving while you’re looking at something that’s not. And with only a few tools, it’s pretty easy to learn the ropes. Cutting tool in focused mode for getting rid of cutting points or smaller metal plates you just want off to get the sodding airlock already, line cutter for when you’ve got metal things connected you don’t want. Grapple tool, its tether, and force push for moving stuff to the right receptacle and picking up even most things that are nailed down, visor to see the harder to see stuff to shove in the barge or destroy, and demo charges for when you can’t cut the bastard (nanocarbon or cut guard), but you want the damn thing gone. Simple!

…Except a friend just told me I can get rid of cut guards with a charged force push. Fuck my life.

Spooky ship, spooky ship, scares you just like a spooky ship…

The aesthetic is pretty cool, although glitch effects annoy the hell out of me, as does a resetting windowed mode, the UX is pretty clear, the music… Well, it’s space trucker guitars, I have no problem with space trucker guitars for, essentially, working yourself for the company store. The three base ship designs and their variations are pretty cool, each with their own challenges (sod you, Javelin, and your backasswards way of building a ship. I hate ensuring your individual toroids don’t snatch up the core of the ship, or drag the whole thing into the wrong station, and you are my nemesis), so… Yeah, I’m liking it on the aesthetic front.

But I also love me some worldbuilding, and, through collecting data boxes, we see just how shit a company Lynx is… And the mystery behind the AI nodes hiding in the Ghost Ships you encounter later on. It’s really not much of a spoiler to say “Someone done fucked up their if-whiles”…

This one isn’t the biggest. Even at the current stage.

Shipbreaker is pretty far along from the looks of things, and I’d love to see multiplayer, but as it is? Granular difficulty’s fun, the world’s fun, the game modes are fun, and if you’re into just chilling out for an hour or two with some mild swearing, a session of Shipbreaker is a good way to do it.

(EDIT: Well, ain’t my timing great. I published this, then found out the story update is hitting soon. Ah well, enjoy the story, I’m certain it’s suitably dystopian!)

Taaake me hoooome, hyperspace roooaaaads…

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Umurangi Generation (Going Back)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £11.39 (Soundtrack £3.99, DLC £7.19 (good stuff), Soundtrack for DLC £3.99)
Where To Get It: Steam

Photography is one hell of a thing. Like all art, it can show beauty or ugliness. It creates feelings, and often informs. And so, Umurangi Generation is all about… Just that. In each area, get all 10 basic photos (and five bonus objectives), and get more tools to take more photos.

Your four friends. Remember, it doesn’t count as taking a photo of them if even one is left out. Who would leave a cute penguin friend out? Monsters, that’s who.

Seems simple, doesn’t it? Hahaha, it’s not. In many respects. Control wise, it is actually that simple. Hold up camera, take photos, get money, although you get more for photos with lots of objects in that have lots of colours. You can even fiddle with exposure, colour balance, and tint, if you think it looks cool. Take the photos you’re asked for, get to the red marker, always where you start (the yellow one is a sign for the postcard objective), hit E, you’re done. Do it in 10 minutes for extra kudos.

But it’s not that simple, for a couple of reasons. First, some of your objectives are out of the way, difficult to find, or outright hidden. Sometimes, you need a specific lens, which makes it tough to deal with. And, the further you go on, the further you realise these are, essentially, postcards from hell.

I needlessly tilted that one, but… Yeah, shit’s going to hell…

At first, it’s subtle. You can just about see a UN blockade in the first area. Then it becomes more obvious: The troops are here, and the world is somewhat fucked. And the folks high up? They don’t give a fuck. It’s a dystopian future, which you’re living through and documenting… Just like photojournalists covering some of the events of the modern day.

Some of it, yes, is fantastical, like the Squids, but it’s all couched in a sense of reality, however strange it may seem. The UN soldiers on break are lounging around, smoking. The people of the city are… People. And it’s all with a sense of its location, a Maori world, with their symbols and culture… And graffiti and snaps you need to take… That paint the whole, grim picture.

They may be chilling out now… But things are going to hell.

Climate change, war, the price of rampant capitalism… All seen through a camera lens. You’re just trying to get by, in a world getting closer to apocalypse, a world where the leaders desert their duty because they don’t see it as a serious problem… A world that can feel all too real.

It’s a solid, sometimes depressing, sometimes beautiful game. It engages with its subjects through its level design, and I’d highly recommend it. Well, except for folks for whom this will be too depressing.

The Mad Welshman admits he got too-real vibes. Yes, even during the bigger stuff.

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Sublevel Zero Redux (Going Back)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £10.99 (Soundtrack £4.99)
Where To Get It: Steam

Wait, I never reviewed the original? Apparently I never reviewed the original. Which is rather odd, because Sublevel Zero is exactly my jam, and exactly the sort of thing I’d want to tell you about. Even if, alas, many wouldn’t be able to play it for the same reason they can’t play other 6 degrees of freedom shooters, procedurally generated or not.

OHGODHORRRRRKKKK!!!

Also particles. Lots and lots of particles.

Yes, motion sickness warning on this one, and a biggie. Moreso if you’re going to try this VR. God, even I feel a little queasy thinking about that. Now, let’s get into it.

It is the far future. Space-time is kind of fucked. But you, a space explorer, have been drawn into a mysterious space station full of killer drones, a space station which might actually hold the clues as to what broke space-time in the first place.

Oh. Yeah. Those killer drones might be a problem. Also some of the generators at the end of each level getting all murderous, presumably because they heard their siblings got wrecked.

Good thing you thought ahead and have guns and missiles, isn’t it?

That… Sounds like a normal one, honestly…

So yes, Sublevel Zero is a procedurally generated shooter, in which you fly around a station where “up” is a room to room matter of preference, you need to think in three dimensions (and keep track of enemies and hazards in those same dimensions), get to the end of each level, hopefully collecting lots of moolah and finding or crafting better weapons, engines, and armour along the way, until… The end. Individual runs are short, although they get longer the more you win, the more you unlock.

And it is a good game. The guns feel different, the unlocks are mostly reasonable, the story, as slim as it is, is slowly revealed to be a dramatic fuckup of epic proportions, and each enemy is recognisable by both shape and colour, even if, sometimes, they’re hard to spot due to mixing in with a specific biome (or deliberately and fittingly designed to be a little hard to spot until you’re too close, like the drone mines. Evil little things…)

Low Poly: Extremely my jam.

Aesthetically, it’s that low poly shit I love so much. Clean, yet with character, a UX that does the job, maybe a little workmanlike, but overall, its worst sins are some smallish text, good and responsive controls, a decent tutorial, and enjoyable, mood fitting sounds and music.

Problems? Well… In its final levels, it relies a bit too much on rooms filled with monsters, which, yes, is hectic, but sometimes, it’s just… Annoying, a packed shooting gallery for you to waste ammo on, as they’re all jostling in the corridor.

Overall, though, it’s a solid roguelike shooter in an arcade style of space combat, a ship that has 6 degrees of freedom, and it comes recommended for fans of both.

Pew pew, pew pew pew pew…

What, were you expecting The Mad Welshman to have something else to say when there’s so much that goes pew pew? Oh wait, dakkadakkadakka. And KABOOOOOM. Yup, that about covers it.

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