Salad Fields (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £11.39 (£3.99 soundtrack)
Where to Get It: Steam

“It’s a leather mouse recipe… It was handed down to me by my leather daddy.”

I see what you did there, Salad Fields, and I thoroughly approve.

Heh… Skulls are cool…

So yes, Salad Fields, a block pushing puzzle game with a surreal, wildly contrasting set of aesthetics, dialogue and characters who toe the line between “Barely subtextually queer” and “Holy shit”, is… A game. Bear with me, I’m still blinking and staring into space contemplatively. Surreal queer retropunk games, relatively rare as they are, can do that to you.

Apart from the block pushing puzzles’ mechanics, which are pretty understandable (if having quite the variable difficulty curve), it’s… Well, I’ve described it above, but there’s a lot to potentially unpack. Like the depressed snake whose birthday apparently sucks. Or the bird who’s into self bondage, teleporting elsewhere if they get unbound to do it again.

God, saaaaaaame…

Okay, maybe there’s not a lot to unpack there. They like tying themselves up. But there’s others, like the computer who’s terrified of Y2K… Look, it’s got characters, and they’re characterful, even if they’re surreal at times. The contrasting aesthetic elements fit with this strange, broken world, in need of a whole load of vegetables and a helping, comforting hand from your furry protagonist.

Well, except the magical boyfriends, they seem to be alright (Indeed, between the first chapter and the second, they talk about how well you’re doing, and chat about thrifting and the other’s cool t-shirt.) But there is, for example, the aforementioned computer, or an ampersand who never wanted to be fancy, but was pressured into it. There’s characters who are run down, depressed, or don’t have the spoons to deal with you right now, and… Well, you don’t see that too often, it must be said.

I could have put another puzzle here, for you to pre-emptively figure out or something. But nah, magical furry boyfriend time.

There’s some fine music, the sounds aren’t bad, and the aesthetics of each area are unique and interesting, although your mileage will vary depending on how you like Windows 95 era 3D and sprites. My only real crit is that movement is smooth enough that holding down a movement button for fiddlier stuff is a really bad idea, as you may have to restart from pushing something a space… Too far. Edging against boundaries you already know about sorta thing.

Anyway, I like it, queerphobic people will probably be, at best, confused, and queer folks into puzzles might find a character who they react to with “God, saaaaaame…” And… Well, I’m going to continue staring into space and blinking.

I like how this game is simultaneously “Big mood”, “ARGH”, and “wat.” Nothing pithy here, just an extra observation.

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Meteorfall: Krumit’s Tale (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £11.39 (£13.48 for game and soundtrack, £2.09 for soundtrack)
Where To Get It: Steam

Other Reviews: Early Access 2, Early Access 1

Glowmancers… Terrible to be in a relationship with, because they’re self destructive, toxic, and quite happy to take you down with them.

Oh, and they’re the same as enemies too.

WELP.

Yes, Meteorfall: Krumit’s Tale has left Early Access, and do you know what? Still humorous, still a good cartoony aesthetic, still a solid level of simplicity leading to all sorts of strategic fun. For those not caught up, it’s a sort of deckbuilding roguelike, in that you attain tiles, which can be weapons, abilities, etcetera, they fall onto the board in a random manner, and… Well, there, the similarities mostly end, because you still have to pay to put said tiles in your hand (most of the time), and, if you want good money, you want to be thrifty about which ones you use to defeat all the enemies that have also been shuffled into the deck, for lo, that is the goal: Kill ’em all before they kill you.

Rose actually looks less scary as the Evil Queen.

But what really makes it, for me, isn’t the strategy arising from dealing with the hand you’re dealt, it’s the characters. Not just the main characters, who are a right old band of murderous misfits (from Bruno the Warrior, to Rose, who is simultaneously a pure priestess (ha) and an evil queen, with part of her abilities being able to switch between the two. I talked about an enemy example right at the top, the Glowmancer, a boss of the game, and oh boy, she’s nasty. Heavy damage, but damages herself in the process, so you want to go in with things that stop her from damaging you (Damaging herself is less of an issue, that helps.)

The aesthetic and snarky humour basically supports this weird and wonderful world, where barbarian bikers brawl in belligerent bars, golems made of nuclear waste slop their way about, and killing buckethead goblinoids makes you feel less intelligent, thinking everything costs more than it does… What toll does the war on goblinoids take, mmm, mmm?

Look, it’s a good map, alright?

So yes… It’s a solid game. It has amusing humour, it has a good aesthetic, and characterful depictions. It has an oddball world. And it has an interesting take on the ol’ deckbuilding roguelike type experience, even if, like many of them, earlier areas become sort of rote after a while. Worth a go!

The Mad Welshman idly wonders what’s next for the procgen tile/card/dice based genre. Perhaps roguelike Shogi?

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Helltaker (Review)

Source: Free
Price: Free, but the artbook has a pancake recipe, is £7.19, and if you like the game, buy it, let the dev know you liked it!
Where To Get It: Steam

Mmm, I do love me a sliding puzzle where I hit things. And I love me some demon gals. And I love the wooing thereof. So… That’s the major points of the review done with, let’s wrap it up, take it home, and-

Damn right!

Wait, you want me to say more? Ugh, fiiiiine… Okay, so… Helltaker is a game in which you, an incredibly macho (to the point of parody) protagonist, goes down to hell to get him a demon harem. Skeletons will bar your way. Block puzzles with one solution, and a perfectly fitting turn limit will haunt you. And saying the wrong thing to a demon girl will result in a bad end. But you are undeterred, because, as the protagonist states above, “When demon girls are involved, no price is high enough.”

Oh, and a multi-stage bossfight. I probably should have mentioned that.

HSSSSSSS!!!!

Anyway, it’s a puzzle game, it’s short, it’s free, and damn, does it have a good aesthetic. I love me some good inks. I love me some cartoonish, consistent visuals. And I love me a clear UX. It has all these things. So I never felt that much frustration with it, even with the normally despised Multi-stage rhythm boss fight (HISSSS!)

Don’t worry, it has a skip button. But doing them gets you cheevos.

And I liked the writing too, short as it is. You could be forgiven for thinking the entirety of the writing is “Short conversation, two choices, one is a bad end where you restart the puzzle”, but there’s also a little bit if you happen to ask the demon girls for advice. Including a secret ending (This is where the CW of suicide mention comes in, as one advice conversation has the choice of “Kill both of them” and “Kill yourself.” Only CW worthy ending that I know in the game, however)

And I would do aanything for love… Crap, that falls through, because I will push blocks…

So… Yeah, I love me a sliding puzzle where I hit things. I love demon gals, and the wooing thereof. And I like the humour of it. It’s horny, but SFW, and it prefers a little comedy, playing into the silliness of the concept, and I like the fact that the artbook also has a pancake recipe (There’s a reason why, but that’s to be discovered through play. If you like the game, get the artbook, give the dev some dough for making this short, but cool game.)

Seriously, buy the artbook if you like the game. It has a pancake recipe, and you’re supporting an indie developer.

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Meteorfall: Krumit’s Tale (Early Access Review 2)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £10.29 (£11.14 for game and soundtrack, £2.09 for Soundtrack)
Where To Get It: Steam

Other Reviews: Early Access 1 , Release Review

Note: This review was written using the optional beta, allowing early early access to features not yet complete. Like the fourth character.

They’re available now, but look, I’m impatient.

Last time I looked at Meteorfall, I appreciated a lot about it. The subtle depth of the deckbuilding, the encouragement to do more with less, and its fun, cartoony aesthetic and character. Oh, and adventurers being represented as characterful assholes too. Oh, Bruno, you growling brute of a man, I still love how your approach to life is to SMASH it…

That is the face of someone extremely smug they did this.

But now… Well, there’s two more characters, two more playstyles… And I’m enjoying them both. Mischief (the one that, at the time of writing, is available on the main branch of the game) is a rogue. Dextrous, stealthy until she attacks… And so, so smug. Thing is, she’s even more of a glass cannon than Greybeard, and, out of stealth… Well, she’s a bit crap without buffing. She relies upon it. Think of her as a hard mode, where you’re milking your resources to their limit.

Muldorf, meanwhile, is a jolly necromancer, and, while his skeletons take health to summon (mostly), and are not, in and of themselves, all that strong (mostly), they can still kill a couple of low level enemies without dying, and can be buffed by various means. This also means that, if you play your cards right, you’re rarely without four cards in your inventory, and his base weapons lifestealing or summoning enemies on killing others means that, if you get a chain going, you’re going to be a tough old coot. Even if you can’t heal normally.

Spooky Scary Skeletons, They Block Me From My Death…

What else has changed? Well, not a whole lot, if we’re talking about core elements. More items, abilities and perks have been added, and not just because there are two new characters with their own level rewards, but the core loop of “Beat all enemies and win, the more tiles still in play, the more bonus points you get to buy cool shit so you can discard some of your own shit, manage your resources well, and get abilities” is unchanged, the emphasis and encouragement of managing your limited resources effectively hasn’t changed, and the sarcastic, sometimes grim humour hasn’t changed either.

So, it’s still recommended as a card-based roguelike, it’s still promising… It’s just there’s more of it. Without drastic changes, I expect I’ll see you all at the release review, which will most likely read “Yup, it’s still good!”

I wouldn’t really call myself a Vaudedude, but hey, Muldorf the Necrodude does Muldorf, and I respect that.

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Necronator: Dead Wrong (Early Access Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £14.99
Where To Get It: Steam

For all that I am not the biggest fan of tower defense games, I do respect a game that respects my time. And Necronator, being a tower defense roguelike, is a game that respects my time. And has a sense of humour. And, so far, only a few flaws.

Ah, the fresh… The freshly exhumed face of a new Overlord in training!

If you’ve never played one of these, the deal in this one is relatively simple. You summon enemies from your own “tower” (a crystal sphere, in this case), they go toward the enemy settlements or along the path you choose for them (by flipping signs), and the enemy does the same from their castle. Why a crystal ball and a castle?

Well, because you’re an evil overlord. Well, an evil overlord in training. And each time you defeat a settlement, be it an actual battle, a shop, an event, or a rest point, you move onto the next, down a branching map until… The boss. Gaining more servants along the way, that you cast.

Muahahahahaa…

There’s more to it than that, of course, mana, how getting minor settlements from the enemy speeds up your mana production, and makes defending a lane a little easier, how if you’re not quick enough to ruin an opponent, they reinforce, and the fight gets harder the longer it drags on… It’s a deckbuilder too.

Anyway, yes, battles are, overall, short. They get longer, as the sectors drag on, but for the first hour or so of play, you’ll be hard pressed to find one that lasts longer than five minutes. And I respect that. It’s pretty frantic, it looks pretty nice, and a rotatable view means that things can obscure the path you’re looking at, but it’s never more than a keyboard press away, and dragging units onto the field can be done anywhere, so this is a pretty good deal.

Pffft. Giving this guy the cold shoulder. Repeatedly.

Actually, wait. Giving him a cold shoulder’s actually a good thing, for an undead. It’s not like you have a warm shoulder!

Helps that it aesthetically looks pretty good, with some nice music, a good pixelly feel mixing well with cel-shaded art… My main criticism, aesthetically, is that some things don’t seem to get sound cues, so you have to trust, for example, that enrages are proccing, and that the status symbols over a unit are small unless you zoom in… Which you don’t, generally speaking, want to do.

Overall, though, it feels frantic and challenging without actually being twitchy, it’s got an interesting deck mix, a good aesthetic, it respects your time… It’s a promising start for Necronator, and I look forward to seeing where it’s going.

The Mad Welshman salutes his fellow Overlords. Soon, brethren, soon, we shall face… The Finals!

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