Library of Ruina (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £19.49
Where To Get It: Steam

Okay, let’s get an important warning out the way right now: Library of Ruina somewhat spoils the ending of Project Moon’s previous game I’ve reviewed, Lobotomy Corporation. It is, after all, a direct sequel.

And damn, does it have a great intro. The game, also, is solid, if a little grindy at times, and annoying at others. But we’ll be getting into that.

Instant bonus points for the use of my favourite word, Angela. And Project Moon.

So, our protagonist (?) is a Fixer, essentially, a high-grade mercenary in a city where urban legends are both real and deadly, and, having been seemingly killed, he is resurrected, and given a very special job: To kill others in increasing power, who are invited to the library, to create pages from their souls… To hopefully create… The Perfect Book.

And how do you do that? Essentially, by deckbuilding, and using those cards (balancing powerful attacks with lower cost cards) in turn-based battles. Using the powers of the pages to increase your own, as “burned” books create pages, which your increasing cast of Librarians and Assistants can equip to take on their likeness (to an extent) and abilities… And the pages, when burned, can Realise other pages (level them up), and give you cards from said page’s deck, to use in your own combat decks. You don’t need to engage with that last part for the early game at least, but it’s highly recommended to take a look, and see where a Page’s base deck can be improved or changed to fill a good role.

Yes, the ones who came before you have all died here. Repeatedly. I’ve been… Grinding them… Ohohoho…

Earlier fights can be replayed for their pages, which is useful if you want to get said pages to their level cap (although fights also give XP to that page), but generally, you engage in an upward journey, eerily similar to the Sephirah of the previous game (and, indeed, said Sephirah are represented by familiar characters from Lobotomy Corporation, still under the control of Angela from the previous game), occasionally fighting equally familiar Anomalies from the previous game, such as the Forsaken Murderer to progress.

Each Anomaly is, essentially, a sort of puzzle boss, with some pretty specific strategies, although the Anomalies give hints sometimes, and you learn their patterns. Dying doesn’t do anything bad, at least as far as I know, so you’re welcome to try, try again. And, funnily enough, it’s the anomalies where I find the most grind and irritation. Forsaken Murderer, in particular, was, as the technical term goes, “A right bastard”, and it, along with some later fights in the current content, required some good strategy and a fair amount of grind to get things to the level I wanted.

This one, thankfully, wasn’t too bad. Later ones will not be as forgiving.

Aesthetically, the game is split between a well painted manga style, and a more stylised chibi set for the turn based fights themselves, with a sort of Art-Deco look to some elements, contrasting with the blood-red lettering of some elements, the scratchy backgrounds of character thoughts at the bottom, but every element that needs to be clear is clear, from health, to the emotion system, and the UX. Yes, there are lots of fonts, but each has its purpose. The sound, similarly is good, and the music solid.

Basically, if you want to see where Lobotomy Corporation’s world went after the first game, or if you like deckbuilding turn based combat with RPG elements, Library of Ruina is a solid pick, and its eerie world, with some light elements, but mostly surreal and a little dark, appeals.

The Mad Welshman loves libraries. He also loves tastefully done flesh-walls. Perhaps there’s some way to mix the two?

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SUPERHOT (Going Back)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £17.99
Where to Get It: Steam

Ah, SUPERHOT. One hell of an interesting premise, both in terms of mechanics and story. The gist? Time only moves when you do, including looking around… And you’re in some extremely hectic situations in which it’s kill… Or be killed.

But hey, it’s only a pirated in-development game sent by a friend, and you can always restart!

MAKE HIM FLY.

Haha… Hahahaha… Haaaaboy…

It’s kind of amusing, really, how such a simple premise can be stretched out, and, with the story, each area of progression retrospectively makes the levels you’ve already completed something you can feel a vague sense of guilt about. But it’s only vague, because you’re hooked, the enemies are low-poly faceless red people who want you dead, and you want to see more.

Good boy…

Time for some… Dentistry. With bullets.

Aesthetically, that low poly look, the glittering reds of what you need to kill, the blacks of what you can use to maim and stun and kill, the slow sounds of glass shattering, bullets firing, and the sterile white of the rest of the landscape makes everything nice and visually clear, yet disconcertingly off… And that discomfort rises when… Ah, but you thought I was going to spoil something, didn’t you? Well, as far as this review goes…

guruCHAT – so old, it’s riskier to log in than not. Who knows who might hijack your chat?

You are not in control.

After all, I want people to experience the twists. That slow, dawning “The fuck?” as they happen, as you have to get ever more creative, to not rely on any one thing, be it guns, your fists, or things to throw, to help you survive. Or at least enjoy dying as a means of exploring what you can do, and to find the (really annoying) secrets of the game. After all…

Bodies are disposable.

The Mad Welshman’s reviews are good. Money is disposable. Support is the new… Okay, okay, but you have to admit, it was worth a shot!

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SUPERHOT: MIND, CONTROL, DELETE (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £19.99 (Soundtrack free!)
Where to Get It: Steam

SUPERHOT was an interesting, paranoia inducing game about shooting and killing and beating people in a game that… Haha, well, let’s just say “Time only moves when you do”, and leave spoilers out of it. It’s an interesting premise, the story took some cool and dark turns, and I quite enjoyed it.

Oh, you poor fool. When it comes to pistol v pistol, friend… I automatically win.

SUPERHOT is more of the same… Except now in a sort of roguelike form. There are areas, and within those areas you have a pattern of random levels taken from a pool, and random upgrades (the number of each is fixed), and defeating everything in an area is completion, which then lets you access other nodes in this network, nodes that have memories, snippets of dialogue, and hacked in upgrades such as the ability to charge people, or bullet deflections that deflect every bullet back toward the enemies, regardless of whether you deflected those. But in its basic level goals, it remains mostly the same: Use your time stopping/slowing powers to murder red people in a level using whatever you can, be it thrown items, melee weapons, or one of a variety of guns.

And naturally, what SUPERHOT: MCD brings to the table, apart from MORE story, is just… MORE… MORE gun. MORE wrinkles, such as enemies who can only be hurt in certain locations, and are otherwise as white and sterile as your non interactible bits of scenery. MORE levels in which to play. Hell, even the achievements are “MORE [thing]”

And indeed there is! There’s so much MORE…

And aesthetically and narratively, it’s also similar, in that paranoid, dystopian tone, which I compared to a mix of David Cronenberg and David Lynch (two film directors well known for surreal and dark films), and the way the aesthetics both subtly put you off balance and highlight everything you need to know.

For anyone with a little first person, low poly roguelike-ish need, this one’s a pretty solid pick. And for the people who played Superhot, but somehow haven’t already got MCD… It’s MORE.

The Mad Welshman apologises that he wasn’t able to screencap mid shuriken throw. Those things go at one hell of a clip…

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Maid of Sker (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £19.99
Where To Get It: Steam

The Maid of Sker (Y Ferch O’r Scer) is an old Welsh ballad, telling the tale of a love denied by class differences, a harper loving a maid, the maid being married off after the father denied the dalliance, and the maid dying of a broken heart. Or, in some versions of the tale, being locked in a tower, dying, and haunting the mansion forever more.

This will probably be the last daylight you’ll see. Along with something you’ll be seeing a fair bit of.

Okay, in at least one version, it turns out alright in the end. But it’s that second one that’s pertinent, as Wales Interactive have decided to take a stab at a first person survival horror, where the maid’s song, a song she was forced to sing, has corrupted the entire household into murderous, faceless mirrors. Or… Maybe it’s not as clear cut as that? Still, we’re here to look at the overall stuff, so how did Wales Interactive do?

Well, aesthetically, they nail it. Since the creatures you face hunt by sound (and they’re faster than you), their deep breaths and clumping footsteps fill with dread, and the areas each have a distinct flavour, be they outside or inside. It feels, in essence, like a place, which happens to have monsters in it.

Ew.

On the gameplay end, however… It can be pretty frustrating. The stealth, not so much, although there are definitely frustrations there (I get it, you’ve got a cough, Thomas, and I also get that it’s there to add a little spice to things, but it felt random and irritating.) I didn’t find the AI omnipotent at times, as others have said, mainly because I took great care not to bump into anything. But mileage apparently varies there.

Meanwhile… The puzzles. Some are obtuse and frustrating, and I can’t help but feel what happened was that I missed a document somewhere. In any case, that and the protagonist being seemingly the only properly mute character in the whole thing is also a tadge annoying (I’m going to note, with some amusement here, that some have said the perfect Welsh singing of Ms. Williams with a seemingly English accent was offputting… Believe me, butt, I can sing flawlessly in Welsh, but my accent is English too. Bloody Radio 4 cursed me.)

Eesh. When you care more about proper records and salvage than people. Wreckers…

Still, there’s enough it does right that it still errs on the side of recommendation. The introduction of the monsters is well done, the little vignettes you see, such as the gravekeeper seeming to burn someone alive, are good, and you get the picture of what went on very early on. It’s kind of bleak to read, at one point, the tally of these hotel owners/shipwreckers’ victims (Clothes 2/6, Trinkets 1/6), and then, later on, to hear your dear heart talk, seemingly oblivious, about how her father and brother were swearing over the guest vanishing, but no money coming out of them. So, aesthetically, it works, and horror wise, it does more than just jump scare (although it does that too, so the jump scare averse, stay away)

I won’t say I had the best time with it, but I can at least lay that partially down to frustration with the puzzles and the feeling I was missing something (especially maps for certain areas, which bugged the hell out of my completionist reflexes), and partly down to my pickiness with horror coming from years of familiarity. And it does, in the end, have more going for it than against it.

The Mad Welshman loves his home country, and its relationship with myth and the supernatural. It’s a largely untapped resource, to be quite honest. Doctor Davies, Warlock Exorcist, when, folks?

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Death Come True (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £12.39
Where To Get It: Steam

Death Come True definitely has a quiet pizazz to it. Protagonist wakes up in hotel with amnesia, sees on the news that he is, apparently, a serial killer… And something is definitely wrong with the hotel he’s in.

Like, y’know, how every time he dies, he wakes up in the same bed, the same time, reliving the same events. And that there’s a scary murderer on the loose in the hotel.

Yes, he does use that chainsaw, so content warnings for both glitching and murder by chainsaws, hammers… Oh, and a suicide or two.

So… This is one of those games where yes, deaths abound, but each death brings you closer to the truth. And while I wish it were longer, I can certainly understand why it wasn’t so. It’s technically a visual novel, as there are no puzzles, a heavy emphasis on story, and the mechanic is “Make choice(s)”, but it’s presented in a full motion video, fully voice acted form. Interesting stuff we don’t see a lot, because… Well, it’s fucking expensive.

But did I enjoy this experience? Well, this is one of those where, when asked that, I wave my hand back and forth, if only a little before saying “Overall, yes.” I enjoyed the acting, and the writing, with characters who are easily identifiable, and two or three out of the small cast you can sympathise with. Each film segment is fairly well shot, I was brought into the story, and there’s some subtle visual imagery I quite enjoyed, that makes sense later. And the UX is solid, even nice, as it shows a tiny preview of your path (even if it takes a short time to realise the choices are pretty much always on the left… And right.)

ACAB.

And that preview, a very nice element in the UX… Becomes an eyesore after a certain point. I understand why they did it (It works with the narrative), but it’s hard on the eyes, and I will say that if you don’t like glitch effects, or have photosensitive epilepsy, that happens a lot, and this game is probably not for you. The path becomes pretty clear after a short while, and I would honestly have liked some sort of timeline feature to see the deaths, rather than replaying the entire storyline to deliberately make the wrong choices to see them, since, as mentioned, after a certain point, those nice previews go to shit, meaning that getting to those choices becomes a chore on the eyes.

Apart from this, where yes, the UX is most of my complaints (One of the deaths seems completely out of the blue, feeling like it’s there for the sake of a death, and one is rather dull compared to the others), I did legitimately enjoy my time with Death Come True, and I would say that if you’re interested in short visual novels with well acted FMV, and glitching effects are not a turn off for you, then this one is a nice pick, even if it’s slightly flawed in places.

Such a useful person, to just point the way!

My main issue is, funnily enough, with something that still fits in the game, narratively… But oh boy, am I not a fan of glitch effects myself.

The developers have very kindly requested I keep this as spoiler light as possible, and use the given screenshots.

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