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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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

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Re:Turn – One Way Trip (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £9.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Content warnings: Depictions of suicide, some gore, body horror, jumpscares.

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Curse of Disaster Spirit: Anecdotes of Mansion (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £5.79
Where To Get It: Steam

Cursed House has potential. It’s got an interesting premise where, from what I gather, somebody has been cursed after almost dying to the ghosts of a haunted house, and must find their way toward breaking it, being hunted by ghosts along the way, and slowly uncovering the secrets of the mansion.

Rooms! Which become locked or unlocked as the story progresses.

And you do that in a relatively time honoured tradition: Moving between rooms, and exploring, by drawing cards to determine your next event. Nearly always, it’s something that’s going to require one of your four stats challenged (Strength, Speed, Perception, Knowledge), and often, it’s a fight. As you do so, the blood mist slowly rises in your body, until it reaches max, and you can engage in a small boss rush, to accumulate the special points you need to undo the curse. Can you make it the whole way through? Well… About that… There’s some factors in the game that make that more difficult than it needs to be.

I can forgive the slight jank in some of the visuals (The victory sword, in particular.) I can forgive, somewhat, the rather broken English translation. I even appreciate that they have an easy mode, and that it defaults to “On.”

I lost this fight, whereas I’d won the last one against this ghostie. I have no idea why.

But I don’t know what elements are going into failure or success, beyond a very vague idea. I know, for example, there are multiple skill checks going on, by the multiple hits at the bar. I know some of these are meant to be card picks from a deck. I know that there are curses, such as automatic failure cards, that can end up being introduced.

But I can’t see any of that happening. And I can’t check exactly how boned I am on the deck front. It’s very frustrating, to know that I’m getting my ass kicked by a level 5 event, in my strongest stat, and I don’t know why.

Still, visually, I kinda like it. It’s simple, but sometimes that’s what you need. Although a clearer font that doesn’t make seeing, say, 51 a little hard, and some colourblindness awareness (red text on a dark background? Not good), and, in its general idea, I kinda like it.

Don’t know about the first sentence, but… “I just need to move carefully. Suddenly, I had a bad feeling, and, behind me, a hand stretched out from a mural…”

I can’t pretend it’s not a flawed game, though. And there are, it must be said, better games of this ilk out there. Maybe, if the translation improves, and things become more clear, I can go back to this review, and see what’s different. Because it certainly shows promise. It just obscures it under a lack of clarity, which creates a feeling of unfairness.

The Mad Welshman is pretty unfazed by hauntings. He’s the kinda guy who would ask God how his health is doing.

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Carrion (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £16.99 (£7.19 soundtrack)
Where To Get It: Steam

Ah, Hollywood Scientists… Always poking into things man was not mean to. And it’s no spoiler to say that you are the monster, that your goal is to escape in order to eat the world, and I am very down for that.

See these guys? They’re fucked.

Carrion, essentially, is a metroidvania (That sort of game where you move around a world, unlocking abilities, solving puzzles, and opening doors to progress) in which you are a wriggling, tentacular mass of teeth and animal hate, able to eat people, throw things (and people around), and later, do all sorts of nasty things to people. But that is spoilers, even if the ending…

Look, what are you going to expect when you have a potentially world eating monster, and that monster is the protagonist? You’ve got a 50/50 shot, I reckon, of being completely right. Especially if you’ve watched movies like Invasion of the Bodysnatchers or, pertinently, John Carpenter’s The Thing (the original, not the prequel.)

This guy? Not going to have a good time. In fact, they’re fucked. Although sadly inedible.

Aesthetically… Damn… The whipping, whistling noises of your tentacular body, the screams, the growls, the dark, brooding music (that spikes into sharp stings or combat music, depending)… If there was something I could point at and say “This was done most excellently, it would be the soundscape. Visually, it’s fairly clear, and you learn very quickly what items do, even if the map… Is nonexistent. The pixel characters aren’t characterful, per se, although they have differing looks… But that’s fine, because they’re prey.

Well, most of them are. Once you get into the late game, encounters become more deadly. You have more tools to deal with them, but just being a hammer made of tentacles, spikes, and death doesn’t quite cut it. You have to act smart. And the puzzles require you to use all three of your mass levels, each with differing powers available, to get through.

These folks, being unarmed, are especially fucked. But their bodies are a good backup in case you need to replenish health without saving.

It’s a pleasure then, to see mouse controls that are responsive.

As to the story, well… It’s all shown and not told, it isn’t terribly complex, but it works. People may well critique it for being short, or the lack of map confusing them… But the checkpoint saves are fair, the aesthetic overall is brutal, bloody, and brooding, and… Yeah, I do love me a game with a villain protagonist, a monster counts, it’s tightly designed, and I’d rather that over a 120 hour game, 80 (at best) of which is padding. Recommended.

Does anyone else remember how creepy the whipping, whistling noises the Thing made during the dog scene? Yeah, you probably do. It was awesome!

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