The Henry Stickmin Collection (Going Back)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £11.39
Where To Get It: Steam

Try this one WEIRD game! Completionists will HATE it!

I mean, that’s a really good capsule summary. It’s weird (unsurprising, considering it’s a meme ridden ex-Newgrounds series, a notable time for experimentation in Flash games, not always to the better, but enjoyably so, in this case), and yes, as a completionist, I can say that 100 percenting this game is a bastard.

If you’re confused, this is an MLG replay of failing utterly by 360 no-scoping your friend there. SO PRO, MUCH 1337. Oh, and content warning flashing imagery for that.

Okay, let’s get into it. Henry Stickmin (not to be confused with Henry Stickman) is a not-great human, er… Stickman. And with him, you go on a choose your own adventure style game (but with some quick time events) where failing still provides entertainment. There are six episodes, one of which requires you to have completed all the endings of the previous two to complete (part one of “Completionists will hate this.”) Choose your method of getting past the obstacle, watch what happens, likely retry, rinse, repeat. As noted, there are quick time events (some of which are brutal, so folks not okay with twitchy games, note well), and… Collectibles.

Oh boy, the collectibles. So, normally, I would be fine with collectathons. Love ’em. But Henry Stickmin wants to make it as hard for you as possible. There are people you have to click within about half a second, or multiple people you have to click within a few seconds, as many as 15. Some of whom are small. The same with the paintings in Stealing the Diamond. Oh, and the Among Us collectibles. And that one achievement where you have to click Gary Mann 5 times, or click where Henry’s going to land correctly in three different scenes…

STANDO!

Yup. I hate the completionist aspect of this one. I’m also less than fond of it using infamous meme “Shoop Da Whoop” (A blackface meme), even considering that it was popular back in the day. Gollywog dolls were too, and I sure as hell wouldn’t defend them. But overall, it picks some solid ones, fun references to Avatar, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Predator, Looney Tunes, Zelda, Pokemon, Phoenix Wright… I could go on for a fair while, but its silly humour lands more often than it misses. Or maybe I’m just an old.

Aesthetically, well, it’s very clear. Choices are nice and big, the text is clear… The music is a bit of a mixed bag, but overall, it works.

Now, when it comes to the audience? I’ll freely admit, the appeal is somewhat niche. Masochistic completionists, I guess, old folks like me who get the memes, Newgrounds Nostalgics… Seriously, I don’t really know. All I know is I found it a generally alright experience, except for the completionist stuff, which I hated.

No, The Mad Welshman has not 100%ed this game. Don’t bug him about it.

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2000 to 1: A Space Felony (Going Back)

Source: Charity Bundle
Price: Name Your Own
Where To Get It: Itch.io

Ah, I do love a good murder mystery. I love gathering the evidence, presenting it, drawing conclusions… But y’know what I don’t love?

Not-twists. Now, not-twists come in several flavours, but one of the most common ones is a twist that is not foreshadowed in any way, shape, or form.

Every time you present evidence or collect it, this, err… Gentleman repeats your testimony on the case.

Why is this relevant? Well, we’ll get to that. First, let’s get another thing clear: This is an alright game of its genre, with relatively few statements to untangle, a fair amount of evidence to poke at, has simple controls, a nice accessibility feature in the form of the option of glowing evidence points (with obvious interactions being obvious), and can be solved in less than an hour, if you’re so inclined or already know how to solve it. Since you’re in a spacesuit, you can rotate and the like, so some motion sick folks might dislike it, and, as far as I’m aware, there’s no windowed mode or resolution changes (BOO), but this is a lesser complaint.

It even has an interesting variation on the deaths in 2001: A Space Odyssey, on which it is very obviously based (C’mon, folks, at least say it’s an homage in the game, not a tongue in cheek “This totes isn’t based on a work by a handsome and talented writer.” The latter half being a claim I dispute anyway. I won’t spoil them, but rather than the relatively simple deaths of 2001, they’re more malevolent. Although one of them is a bit iffy. MAL, old buddy, you can see through the entire ship, how would you not know about that one?

Spacer, do you know what Clemenceau once said about AI?

So, aesthetically, it works well with its low poly style. It even has some tongue in cheek references, like the helmet of one of the crew being held in their arm, as they copy the pose of T. J. Kong from Dr. Strangelove. The music pays homage to the use of classical music in 2001, the writing is mostly solid…

Except for the not-twist. For the obvious reason that this isn’t foreshadowed, you’ll play through the game and… Wait, what? Only by doing something slightly different will this ending change. And, honestly, it’s a bit of a crap ending.

So, if you’re fine with a crap ending, preferring to focus on the gathering of evidence, the asking about evidence, and the presenting thereof, well, this is a solid short game. But if not-twists piss you off as much as they do me, then I can’t really recommend it.

The Mad Welshman eagerly awaits our AI overlords. Except not, because they’ll be capitalist bastards.

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Bard Harder! (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £1.69
Where To Get It: Steam

Bards have quite the reputation in tabletop circles. They can and will romance anything, or at least try to, whether it’s advisable or not. And, due to their natural charm, this will often work. It gets them into trouble, sometimes fatal, as much as it provides rewards.

And it will last until the end of time, Presley! Til the end of time!

So, in essence, they’re human beings who aren’t aromantic.

Okay, okay, there’s more qualifiers and nuance than that, but yes, Bard Harder is simultaneously about one of the more out there examples of bardery (A lich, to be precise), and of their player’s struggle to ask the DM they like on a date.

It’s cute, it’s silly, and, overall, it’s a story about the importance of knowing the target of your affections, listening to them, and clearly communicating with them. It’s a visual novel in which most of the bad ends are due, simply, to not using the information you gather.

I’ll freely admit I didn’t gather all the endings. I just wanted the one. But it was the main one, and it was sweet. Aesthetically, it’s pretty nice, UX is pretty standard for a Ren’py work, but the music and visuals appeal, and the writing… I have to admit, I agree with the people who simultaneously spoiler and screenshot said lich screaming “WHY ARE YOU SO CUTE?!?”

Look, this isn’t a spoiler. This is fanservice.

If you want a short, appealing visual novel, this one’s a pretty pleasant one, although I would drop the content warning of “Kissing a skeleton.” Even I’m not sure how that one works.

<3 No u! <3

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Slasher’s Keep (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £10.99
Where To Get It: Steam
Other Reviews: Early Access

Content Warning: There are insects in this game, including spiders.

So here I am, trying to escape from perhaps the most Midlands dungeon keep of all time. I forgot how to beat the first floor boss, and so, surrounded by zombies and the technically invincible boss, I die ignobly.

No, really, this is just embarassing

So, here I am, trying to escape again. Dunno how I survived, but this time, I’m more prepared. This time, I bop the boss with my loot bag into spikes, killing them instantly, make my way upstairs… And then I try to make a flying leap to murder a bug, overshoot, and plummet to my death.

And now, I am trying to escape from perhaps the most Midlands dungeon, consistently getting to floor 5, and my only woes in life are the healer orcs, who heal enemies faster than I can smash them in the face.

That might be something to look at, balance wise. And skulls and flies remain aggravating enemies where, without a wand, you’re playing the waiting game (which sucks)

See that little box over in the corner? That’s how you know it’s a well made dungeon: EMPLOYEES CAN TURN OFF THE SODDING TRAPS. And so can you…

But otherwise, I’m having a whale of a time, in a first person roguelike with a silly sense of humour, some cool enemies, and an incremental system where, so long as individual runs go well, my trajectory is upward and outward. And, due to levelling also gaining you the ability to permanently copy (and improve) skills that previously belonged to your kit? Yes, I’m becoming quite the monster, and look forward to eventually finding out what our amazon’s deal is. Or one of the other characters.

So yes, random loot, several item slots, potions, wands, edible maggots, and moleman shopkeepers from Yorkshire are all part of this experience. Along with 2d drawings, in eight different directions, in a 3d low poly dungeon with painted textures, a cartoony look, some fun, silly voice acting, and fittingly off kilter music. This is extremely my jam. Especially with its very British sense of humour, your jailor “back in a bit” forever.

I make this ensemble look good. And anybody who disagrees can get walloped with my loot bag.

It just feels good, from the swinging of the sword and a quick parry system (remember, parry the weapon, not the enemy holding it), to the joy of smacking a zombie or nastier beast into spikes, killing them instantly, to the occasional comedy. It’s honestly not a bad beginner’s first person roguelike, as your general upward progression is noticable. But it has things for other fans of the genre too, so… Yes, definitely recommended, guv’nor!

The Mad Welshman used to live in West Yorkshire. Maybe he should go back there, and go down t’dungeon for a nice bitter…

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What The Golf? (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £15.49
Where To Get It: Steam

I dislike Golf. I don’t get it. I don’t like it. I don’t like many of the people who play it, because it is the sport of the bourgeoisie, and honestly? Fuck those guys. But I have realised I hate What The Golf, a game that is only tangenitally about golf, in that you have a power and direction to your swing, and environmental bullshit in the way… More.

It made me. Play. Flappy Golf. Unforgivable.

Not because it’s a bad game. It really, really isn’t. Not because I don’t like its sense of humour, its playfulness. Nope. It’s because it made me race that fucking sheep. It made me play Flappy Golf. At some point, it might make me play Golf Doom, and I will die a lot (unlike in Doom), and I’ll get irritable.

And so, the rant is over, and we get to what’s fun about this. In short, it’s a combination of the aforementioned humour and playfulness (the Not-Mario level, for example, has “What The Golf” being sung to the tune of our well beloved plumber’s 1-1 theme), a solid, low poly aesthetic with real charm to it, and surprising you at almost every turn with whatever zany thing you’re going to do with the basic mechanic of “Hold the mouse away from the direction you want to go, further away = stronger.”

One of the really fun touches are the silly “HOLE IN ONE” type messages on completion. I love these.

The aforementioned flappy golf is one of the annoying ones, but one that made me laugh was the one where the pointer was the thing that got thrown around. Or maybe that couch launching ragdoll one. Those are two good early examples.

Design wise, it’s pretty accessible. Clear colour differences, level objectives are pretty clear, the aesthetics are pretty good… My only major gripe is that the difficulty, especially with the crown levels, is highly variable, even early on, and that it’s not made clear that playing a level multiple times (three times, each a variation) can be done.

Ah yes, the institute of Golf Science. All sorts of strange golfing experiments, probably to work out why the hell golf is actually popular. Like, at all…

So yes, What the Golf? has its flaws, but is overall a good game, sometimes fast paced and twitch, sometimes calm, and often funny… But I still find myself grinding my teeth, even as I acknowledge it’s a good game.

The Mad Welshman well remembers a friend from his youth who got some use out of golf. He used to collect discarded golf balls, break ’em open, and sell the rubber bands. Good pocket money, really.

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