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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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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