Loop Hero (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £12.49 (Soundtrack £5.99)
Where To Get It: Steam

I love the premise of this game: In a fate similar to The Neverending Story, the world has been unhappened. Reality has been forgotten. Except for one person, who is, on an endless loop, trying to remember how it all used to be, fighting through monster after monster, returning feature after feature.

Here’s an early run, and, by the end of the review, you’ll see a late run. Vast difference.

It all melts away when you return to camp, but… You’ve still made a difference, even if it feels pointless. And it hits home, time and time again, that the world contains good and evil, and things in between. Narratively, this game works pretty damn well, with its mechanics tightly fitting to this idea that the more the world is remembered in some fashion, the brighter the possibility of bringing it all back becomes.

Gamewise? It’s honestly okay, a nice touch on the strategic roguelike, where the path is set, but what you put on that path is where the calculation comes in. You want room, for example, for villages, or features that heal. You can’t overuse them, because you need items and experience to face the boss of each area. But you can’t overuse those, because if the pressure gets too much, you might as well retreat and lose some of the resources you gained.

You’ve got time. Seemingly endless time. And the more time you spend, the more loops you go through, the more resources you can get, to improve the camp back home, giving you more memories of the outside world, more cards to slip into your limited deck that allows you to recreate a microcosm of the dark world you lived in, to become stronger… And the other two classes.

Bones versus Bones, who will win?!?

I like the three classes of this game, each has their own playstyle, their own focus, and I love it. The warrior, the first, is the most straightforward: Hit things, get equipment from them, get stronger, use crits, fuck shit up, rinse, repeat. There’s still variation in how you do it, builds you can play with, but it’s the simplest in terms of gameplay.

The thief and the necromancer, by contrast, ah, they’re not quite so simple. The thief only gets their items (except for village quest items) at the end/start of each loop, the camp. But their power, their levels, are determined by how many trophies you caught (IE – Monsters you killed.) It’s high risk, high reward, and the one I often push too far with. The necromancer, by contrast, well, they don’t fight themselves. You’re buffing your skelly boys with each equipment drop, with each skill you learn. And yes, each class has their own skillsets they can pick from on levelup, although it’s semirandom.

Once it’s boss time, though… Well, the bosses are no pushovers, so you have to feel like you’re properly prepared to face them. And you’re probably still going to get wrecked your first time or couple of times. Considering there’s three bosses, though? It’s all good, and you will be beating them multiple times.

Aesthetically? Omigod I love it so much. C64 style graphics, even down to the palette, dark, brooding tunes, it oozes aesthetic, is clear, and I fucking love it.

It’s a damn shame this is all going to vanish into the void that’s consumed everything. Even if it’s extremely likely to kill us.

Yes, I definitely like this one, as it has many of the positive points I find in good indie games: Tight design, mechanics married to narrative, an interesting story, and it’s a game that can be played in smaller sessions, respecting your time. Yes, I like this indeed.

The Mad Welshman returns to his own loop, forgetting the past briefly so as to concentrate on the present, the future.

Nah, he’s having so much fun with the present and the past.

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Abyss of the Sacrifice (Going Back)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £30.99 (Soundtrack £3.99)
Where To Get It: Steam

The game has the following CWs: Mentions of suicide, sexual abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, parental abuse, and human experimentation.

Hrm. Hrm, and other thoughtful noises.

The characters have, at times, a seriously rocky relationship. And there’s good reasons, plural.

Abyss of the Escape is a visual novel/escape room game, in which five girls are trapped, seemingly alone, in the ruins of FOUNDATION, an underground home for humanity after the surface basically got fucked. And shit’s not going well for them, not helped by certain things along the way, and the secrets and traumas each person has. It’s interesting, dark stuff.

It’s such a shame then, that it’s timeline implementation is awkward, and many of its puzzles are obtuse, some downright frustrating in their lack of information. I had to rely on hints for a fair few puzzles, and a few, in particular, I would not have found the solutions to without either pixel hunting, or looking the solution up. All I will say about that, if you play it, is that two numbers you haven’t lit up are hidden inside another, single digit number. It must also be said that some of the puzzles feel out of place for the situation.

Huh, big barrier in the garbage room? What purpose did that serve, except to arbitrarily separate the two characters involved for a dual viewpoint puzzle? Making tea? Good Doctor, I understand that you don’t want to let your daughter near your best tea, but an entire puzzle about tea making is only going to interest the tea fanatics. Who will then get turned off by the puzzle lock on the crucial ingredient. Although the last puzzle of that scene did fit the character of the Doctor.

I kicked myself after realising the solution. And this is an early puzzle.

And these two faults kind of taint the whole experience, which is a shame, because there’s some legitimately good writing in there, including the main twist. The rather heavily foreshadowed main twist.

Aesthetically, it works. Clear UX, some good illustrations, solid music, some good VA, and overall, as noted, good writing, because a good twist is foreshadowed, but even heavy foreshadowing works if it doesn’t quite make sense until the twist.

But yes, the awkward implementation of the timeline, some obtuse and sometimes arbitrary puzzles, they bring the game from legitimately good and interesting, to a cautious recommendation with heavy qualifications.

See this? THESE HELP PEOPLE GET INTO YOUR GAME IF IT’S A TADGE BIG.

Timelines, VN devs. I’ll stress this and stress this until it sinks in. Timelines. They make our lives easier.

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Doctor Who: The Lonely Assassin (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £5.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Found thingumajigger type games can be interesting. When, that is, they properly open up. Or don’t tell a random person who found a random phone that they’re looking for a doctor who isn’t actually a doctor but travels through time and space.

Y’know, just normal found mobile game stuff, which wouldn’t result in the protagonist dropping the thing in the trash or handing it into a police station or… Look, there’s immersion breaking, and then there’s “everything about this feels wrong from very early on.”

Petronella…? Petronella, honey? UNIT is sort of meant to not talk about the Doctor so much, even if the Doctor talks about the Doctor the whole time…

None of the choices I’m given seem like something I would say in the situation. Some of the clues I’d like to pass on I can’t. I’ve been handheld for approximately 17 minutes (I’ll update as I go on.) For the first twenty minutes… I don’t feel like I’m solving anything.

It does, after this point, begin to open up. But… I still feel like I’m an observer of an observer, someone who’s more watching someone else click through a phone, listening to phone calls, talking to, as mentioned, someone who just casually mentions the Doctor like it ain’t no thing… A person I’m watching who doesn’t make sense to me. In fact, every time the Doctor comes up in conversation, I wince. Because, from the outside looking in, it feels so forced.

And, at times, I feel a frustration I haven’t felt in a long time. The frustration of having to go through all dialogue options to end the conversation in question, get back to the uploading of clues. And that’s forced in, most of all, when talking about the Doctor.

If they’ve bought the game, they know who the Doctor is. They know. They don’t need Petronella Osgood to forcefeed them.

Spooky! Scary! Neither of these adjectives actually held true for me!

It’s at this point that I feel I should point out that the history of Doctor Who games (and their quality) has been… Variable, but tending toward the lower end. Which is a massive shame, because it’s an interesting franchise, with some really memorable plots (and yes, some notable stinkers.) And yet…

It tries to jumpscare me, and I merely sigh. I see the staticky bits, and I tut, noting that this is not an epileptic friendly game.

And the mystery… After an hour or so, I stopped caring. I’m surprised I lasted that long, because apart from trips to jumpscare territory (and one unskippable video of a secondary antagonist, Mr. Flint), it… Didn’t feel like it was going anywhere. It was holding my hand for a fair few portions, and, honestly, it didn’t sell the concept it was trying to pull off at any point in that hour and a half. I come away disappointed, and the history seems on course.

I have more faith in Petronella Osgood than this, game, chatty though she may be…

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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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