Source: Cashmoneys Price: £7.19 Where To Get It: Steam
Ah, I love me a good match game, even the arcadey ones I kind of suck at. And I know a good one when I see it.
Petal Crash is, indeed, a good one, although it is a little twitchy, so folks for whom that’s an accessibility problem, I apologise, story mode might not be for you.
In any case, Petal Crash’s rules are simple: You pick a block in your field to grab and throw in one of the four cardinal directions, if it hits a block of the same colour directly (next to doesn’t count!) then all blocks of the same type go boom, and push the blocks next to them outward. If they hit blocks of the same colour, bam, you have a combo going, so more points! And more blocks appear, so be careful not to let the field get filled, otherwise, you lose!
There’s a little more to it than that in story mode, which usually takes the form of tug of war (get more points than your opponent in the same timeframe to win, first to three ouchies on this count loses), but that’s the general idea. And it’s fun as hell. There’s a variety of different characters, and, honestly? I had a hard time picking between them, because they all have cute designs, and, while the story is “Ye Olde Arcade Game” simple, that of wish granting items kept by the other participants, collected via battles, amiable or otherwise (mostly amiable) to grant the true wish of the character you’ve chosen.
Beyond this, and the fact that it looks cute, and good, and its soundwork is great, there’s… Really not a lot I can say. It’s accessible, it’s fun, there’s… It’s recommended for arcade puzzler fans, and seems accessible enough that new players looking to try this sort of thing could very well have a comfy time. Give it a go.
The Mad Welshman loves hucking blocks at other blocks and watching them go boom. It’s just… Oddly satisfying.
Source: Cashmoneys Price: £15.49 (soundtrack £5.19) Where To Get It: Steam
The torch has been passed on to a new Spelunker. And dear god, is poor Ana up against it. After all, Spelunky 2, while adding more, has also added some particularly mean tricks. Right from the beginning.
Does that mean it’s bad? Oh hell no. Just that it’s probably going to turn some folks off by being tougher than the original. And some of the changes are interesting ones. So let’s get into it.
Spelunky 2 is, like its predecessor, a platformer with procedural generation, with several biomes to get through, and bosses, mini and maxi alike, before the final confrontation. It’s a game of risk versus reward, with somewhat limited resources that you have to husband carefully. Do you use a rope to get down to the bottom of a spike put safely, to get to somewhere? A bomb to get to the sweet little pug (or other animal “damsel in distress” … One of the changes was no actual damsels)? Come to think of it, when time is running short, and the ghost(s) of instant death are due to appear, do you have time to rescue both that cool gun you have and the pug? It’s one hell of a feeling, and you only rarely felt like you died unfairly. It was your fault, and your plan.
The reason I say Spelunky 2 is meaner, from the get go, is that 2 early enemies are definitely wild cards, and, in the wrong place, feel distinctly unfair: The horned lizards, who will roll violently toward you as soon as they see you (and bounce), and the mole rats, who dig rapidly through the ground, and, unless they’re stopped, never stop moving at anything but full speed. You can see where they’re going while in the ground, and they can’t get through wood, but still… Dangerous foes indeed, because they can pop up (or down. Or sideways) from surprising places, and they don’t give you much time to maneuver. Together, they’re an evil combination, and together in a confined space? Well, the odds are really high you’re just going to be juggled to death.
But there are other changes, and they’re more interesting. Like the doorways, the backsides of each level, which can lead to surprising places sometimes. Or the mining challenge from a fortune teller. The choice of two different biomes to go through every now and again. And some new traps for the delicious golden idols.
Oh, also a quick way to hell, which appears aimed at the speedrunning demographic. Watching people take that route over and over again was highly amusing to me, for they are braver folks than I… And also because they die a lot. Pets are another nice change, with fun abilities, such as the turkey’s double jump (and adorable headbutt), the rock dog’s fireballs, and the axolotl’s bubbles, which… Don’t give up on the last one, I’m sure there’s some fun, creative stuff you can do with their bubbles!
Aesthetically, the game remains as fun and clear as its predecessor, each enemy easily distinguishable, a solid soundtrack, and sounds that you quickly associate with their respective enemies and events. It makes some interesting changes, and, while I think the difficulty has increased, if you enjoyed Spelunky, you’ll be alright with this one at the very least, and if you like procgen platformers, I would maybe recommend you play the first one first, but I’d still say go for it.
The Mad Welshman would like to remind you that, if at first you don’t succeed, whip, whip again.
Source: Cashmoneys Price: £7.19 Where To Get It: Steam
Princess Maker is a funny old series. It popularised the life simulation and trainer genres in the west, and, for all that its basic formula has remained the same, it managed to create different characters, moods, and refinements throughout the series.
Even so, when I found Go! Go! Princess, I sat there for a while, just… Blinking. A board game with life-sim elements, containing the first four princesses to be of the series. Competitive princess making, if you will.
Naturally, I got some friends together to play it (after playing it hotseat and solo.) What we agreed on was that this… Definitely had its weirdnesses. Fun overall, but also with a fair bit of jank.
So yes, you are four princesses to be, and the king is setting a number of tasks, which will determine who has the right to join the Prince on the throne… And who gets any other one of the 36 endings (some of which are unique to the princesses.)
There’s, er, just one problem with that last bit. You’ll have a bastard of a time achieving the ending you want unless you’re specifically gunning for it, completely ignoring the mad rush to the quests which are… All around the damn map. There is an option to have a smaller map to work with, and quicker games than the full 8 years (96 turns), but even so, there’s a lot of running around, and, with having to move the full value on the die or dice, without going back on your path, some of the quest locations are painful to get to, being at the end of a path. So right off the bat, you have a sometimes painful quest system, which either results in a mad, unstructured rush to each quest location, or, in the case of everyone but a single player ignoring the quests in favour of their ending (itself a problem due to needing to learn the board, rather than just thinking “Ah, yes, this job would do this, perfect for a General’s necessary stats!”), one player going for one quest, and then the rest of the game a cavalcade of “Ahh, fuck it.”
It’s… A very odd design, where the incentive to faff around on the board is, once you’ve achieved a princess ending for the first time, much larger than winning, unless there’s conflict for a goal. Add in that behind the scenes is somewhat obfuscated, and you have further confusion. How does a high magic skill influence the magic roll in combat? Dunno. Is there any way to relieve stress beyond the random 500g doctor event or some specific churches on the map? Dunno. Do higher stats = higher rolls in general? Seems like, but dunno…
Aesthetically, the game is… Alright. It has the small text problem of earlier games, free mode in the map isn’t as helpful as “Original” mode, and while the icons tell you roughly what to expect, it takes practice to know how it benefits, but…
In the end, this is a weird one. I don’t really see it as appealing to lifesim fans, and similarly, it’s got enough board game annoyances and lack of incentive that I don’t really see it as appealing to them, either. It’s a hodgepodge which feels aimless, and, although we had fun, it was mostly because we were friends playing, not because the game was well designed.
The Mad Welshman wonders what else could be shoehorned into a game like this. Doom? System Shock? Alan Wake, maybe?
Source: Supporter Gift Price: £9.99 Where To Get It: Steam
I enjoyed the hell out of Monster Prom. Truly, it was an experience that will always stay with me, the days of smooching monsterfolk that shaped me, a magical time fraught with drama and sometimes iffy humour…
And now, it’s time for summer camp, with a mostly new cast, some new mechanics to shake things up, and, although the core of the game remains the same… Going to places that raise stats, successfully navigating events through picking which of the two choices correspond to the higher stat of the pair (yes, you have to deduce this), a campfire interlude in which you try to get hearts with the monster of your dreams by pandering… All of this remains the same, but there’s new wrinkles, changes. And some of them I like, some of them, I understand (but don’t necessarily like), and… Well, actually, there’s only one thing I don’t reallylike, but we’ll get to that.
It’s basically a VN dating sim type dealio, but with extra horny, a customisable content filter, and a competitive element if you’re playing together.
Anyway, changes. Character choices feel a little more natural, if a little bit more confusing for the first part, which is picking three items for your stat improvements to put in your backpack. With the quiz of the previous game, it was a little more clear, but I sorta get it, and it is a fitting way to work it in, as is trying to break the ice with your chosen bae before you’ve hit the camp.
The campfire, much like the lunch hall of the previous game, is mostly the same, except… There’s two differences, and they’re both fun. Want to give another player a boost? Spread some goss, honey, the mothman over there is dying to hear the latest! Haven’t seen it backfire yet (nope, just did, right now… -4 Boldness, OW), and there’s some fun madlibs. Now… Juan the Magical Latino Cat, this… Is a slightly different story. His role is to shake things up, by providing you with one drink, chosen from either one you can see, and maybe guess the effects of… Or the Mystery Box. There’s a couple that screw you over, but mostly, it’s interesting stuff, which does change your plans, and I like that.
Then there’s the little bit of rep, and this time, definitely intentional. Last game, we had Zoey, who many consider to be transgender (and awesome), and now? Milo, the nonbinary reaper. Who, like pretty much all of the main cast, is extremely cute. Would talk up on their instagram contents, 10/10. And someone’s parents being a gay couple. And pretty much all the main cast technically being pansexual. Okay, I take it back, this game’s pretty queer.
Aesthetically, it remains the same, although the music does feel samey pretty quickly, I kinda miss the “What they did after” vignettes, but the replacement of a cool credits animation makes up for that somewhat, and, while there’s stuff still needing to be put into the game (Hi there Gallery mode, I want a full screenshot of Milo’s hot bod, thanks in advance.) It remains accessible, the content filters are a nice feature, even if they don’t… Full cover everything, but I’m reasonably certain they’ve tried to keep it CW free, outside of the events and endings.
So, is it a recommendation? Yup, pretty much. I’d have liked it if they’d released with all the content, rather than putting it out now with some stuff missing, but, honestly, it’s definitely enjoyable right now, even if I do wish there was a cheat sheet built in that, once you’ve smooched your date once, helps narrow down what stats you need to smooch them again. Mostly because it’s tiresome remembering, and I want to enjoy the events along the way. Still, if you like smooching monsterfolk, Monster Prom remains a series to enjoy.
Well, unless you’re not up for thirst. Because hoo boy, there’s a lot of thirst.
As before, The Mad Welshman had real difficulty working out who they wanted to date. So they dated them all.
Source: Cashmoneys Price: £10.29 Where To Get It: Steam
Let’s get one thing noted right now, because I know this is going to turn folks off: Archeo – Shinar is a game with the theme of 1920s archaeology, which, as fans of history may know, was colonialist as hell. The game embraces that as a thematic element, so you are not playing some philanthropist, but an asshole, employing assholes, exploiting land, meddling in ways that distort history, and the like. So be warned.
Fortunately, it… Honestly isn’t the most engaging of games on its
own. Essentially, it’s a 30 turn game, with two main segments:
Planning and Management, and Expeditions. The planning phase is the
meat of the game, but the expeditions are what mainly earn you the
points, events, and interest of the game, with the expeditions
being… Well, what your planning went toward, with some added risk
management thrown in. Do you use the person good at Archeology now,
or do you save him for a potential check down the line that might be
much harder (or use another skill which you weren’t warned about,
because he’s a really good everyman.) Succeed more than you fail, and
you win reputation and money for your shameless plundering (earning
artefacts you can sell on the black market for big successes, and
phobias, debuffs for your explorers, on essentially chance.) Fail,
and you get recompensed a small amount… Probably smaller than what
you spent on it.
Meanwhile, the management is where most things happen. Do you try and
sell your story to one of the papers? Who do you hire? How do you
train them? Do you make them take more risks, or play it much more
cautiously? What do you bring along? And what land do you bid on,
to exploit for bonuses down the line? In all of this, reputation
is important. Build up a good rapport with one paper, you can use it
to slander the other explorer(s). Get good land, and exploit it well,
get nice things. Take a risky play on the black market that pans out?
Free money, awwh yiss!
Thing is, a lot of this is, effectively, a black box, even on Easy.
You know what things do, and you know what the majority of
checks are going to be on an expedition, but a lot of it boils down
to taking a chance. And, for me, at least, it didn’t really feel
enjoyable. It looks good, with a simplified style that fits
the period it’s representing, some nice music, and a mostly clear UX
with good tooltipping, but its humour fell flat for me, its embracing
of its theme (historically accurate though it may be) didn’t sit well
with me, and playing it… Well, it didn’t feel like I really knew
what I was doing, even though I was staying afloat, and had a hotseat
to fall back on to learn the game.
And that, in the end, is what killed my engagement with it. Still, maybe others will find enjoyment, and that’s about the best I can personally say.
The Mad Welshman despises the bullshit the UK, among others has perpetuated over its history, not only in archaeology, but folklore, culture… A fair bit more than that, let’s say, in understated British fashion.