Source: Cashmoneys Price: £1.99 Where To Get It: Steam
When I went into this game, a divination game similar to… Well, Divination, in which you choose from a limited set of interpretations (of Tarot Cards, as Cartomante would imply) to “deal” with three people’s problems… I wasn’t expecting to try and solve a gay love triangle of man, their boyfriend, and their pupper (In the werewolf sense, who is also the boyfriend’s ex.)
Okay, okay, that’s a big spoiler, but, as with any short game, it’s kind of hard to avoid them, and… Well, there’s several ways that could go. Several cards. Thirty potential endings.
And it helps that it has an aesthetic. Bright, colourful, with an off kilter soundtrack, it feels wonderful and weird, and the three clients are quite the set of characters. A voiceless (?), masked figure with a heavy load. A tattooed man with a ghostly dog on his shoulder. And a bourgeois plantgirl who is utterly blind to the fact her nephew is having orgies in the flower shop she entrusted to him.
God, she really is a bitch, and I’m looking forward to finding the ending to her story where she gets hers. But I did get her to legalise sex work in one ending, so there’s that!
Anyway, yes, the writing is as colourful and oddly off kilter as the game’s visuals. Sometimes, you get hints of a very dark supernatural world. Other times, it’s a supernatural world where people just casually talk to the Nameless like it ain’t no thing, and others, it’s an ordinary world with ordinary (and sometimes dumb) problems.
In any case, if you want something weird, with a fair bit of replayability while being short in terms of individual sessions, and like short VNs, well, Cartomante is £2, its sessions are short, it shows when you’ve picked an interpretation , and one feature I’d really appreciate is tracking what you’ve got and where, but…Well, as mentioned, it’s £2, it’s fun, it’s got good writing, and what the hey, bring a notebook.
The Mad Welshman seeks advice from the cards on what to if he’s secretly 300 bwci bois in a sweater…
Source: Review Copy Price: £34.99 (Some “Time saving DLC, £2.39 max each, artbook £3.99) Where To Get It: Steam
Ah, Disgaea. An SRPG series I’ve come to enjoy, in the short time I’ve researched it before taking on this review. Its world is an odd one, it has a mix of the dark and the humorous that intrigues me, and… Well, a game where a sardine loving vampiric demon lord takes on a corrupt government over Prinny rights?
What the hell’s not to like about that story setup?
Before this continues, however, there is one important warning to players new and old: Autosave is on by default. Turn it off. Turn it off for your own sanity.
Okay, okay, the autosave is separate from manual saves, but you do want to get into the habit of saving early, and saving often. Even if you think you’ve bribed senators on votes enough, there’s still the chance you’ll be voted down and lose mana.
So, I’ve already gone over the basic plot, what the heck is this? Well, it’s a turn based strategy RPG, in which you summon units to your team, level them up, use them to kick the snot out of your enemies, and each area is about 5 maps, the last having a boss encounter. As to the details?
Well, you can tell this is a transitional game between 3 and 5, because it has the most complex set of mechanics I’ve seen in the Disgaea series. From earlier games, the summoning that doesn’t have levelling built in, so you can improve stats (somewhat), but you have to level them up through fighting, leading to repeating maps or entering the Item World, a mechanic that exists throughout the series (go through a randomly generated dungeon, with bosses every 10 levels, to level up an item and make it more rare. Oh, and this game has branching paths in the dungeons every 5 levels too.) The senate, also, has a new wrinkle to it, in the form of evil dispatches. I haven’t quite worked that one out yet, to be honest, beyond “You can place buildings that have effects on surrounding tiles, the tickmark of which chooses the leader of the group getting the benefit.”
Skills are learned through the use of mana rather than levelling, weapon levelling is gone for this installment, replaced by “You can only learn skills in your character’s weapon specialties.” Even in combat, there’s something new: Fusion. Effectively, two monsters of the same type can become one giant monster, for better stats, the ability to punt people, friend and foe alike, to one side, and, if you’re in the late game, you can magichange a fused monster (magichange being “Monster turns into a weapon, with a special ability unique to them.”) or dual wield magichanged monsters.
I could go on, and on, and on, but let’s wrap this one up. Aesthetically, it’s damn fine. My only gripe visually is the one I’ve had throughout the series, where you need to rotate the map to see certain tiles, and the things on them, and even that… Is not guaranteed if it’s a trough of some sort. You can also zoom out, but… That doesn’t really help much. The voice acting is good, from the Prinnies (we rock, dood!) to Valvatorez (SARDINES!) to the villains (some of whom become your allies.) The game is grindier than, say, 5, but not as grindy as the earlier installments.
I wouldn’t recommend this to people who don’t have a lot of free time on their hands, or people who get irritated by grind, but for SRPG players, or people with a fair amount of free time and wanting to get into SRPGs? Honestly, Disgaea isn’t a bad start, and this is certainly the best story in the series (although they’re all fun.) So yes, I recommend this one with those caveats: It’s got a lot of grind, it’s mechanically the most complex in the series, but… Well, the Disgaea series in general has fun, often silly stories (that sometimes turn dark and serious later, but there’s always a hint of the ridiculous), cool characters, and each installment has something to recommend it.
Source: Bundle Price: £7.19 (With option to donate more on Itch.IO) Where To Get It: Steam, Itch.IO
I love puzzle boxes. Hell, I enjoy puzzles overall. But I do love puzzle boxes. So, when asked “Would you enjoy puzzle boxes, but they’re a computer game?”
The answer is very obviously yes. And, after playing it, the answer is “More please!”
So, GNOG, as you might have figured, is a game about puzzle boxes, those containers where the goal is to go through a series of steps that may or may not be clear, in order to open the box. That’s… Not strictly what happens here, but the goal is to open the box’s mouth, so we’ll count it as that, mmm?
And there’s a whole variety of them, such as submarines, giant frogs, a cartoonish tenement complex, all in this well put together, 3d mini-world. And there’s nearly always something moving, whether under its own power, or asking yourself “What does this [knob/button/switch/dial/OTHER] do?”
Aesthetically, it’s great. Bright, contrasting colours, clear differentiation, beautiful music, my only real gripes are that one puzzle in particular’s signposting is… Not great (HOM-3’s security floor), and that some of the interactions, even with mouse, are somewhat fiddly. But the storytelling through showing in each area is pleasant, from the simple “What does animal/person want, and what stops them”, to the subtle overarch of “Let’s piece together the things this boy loves in life, to reassemble the home wot we broke in the first puzzle.”, the music is fitting to each area, and fittingly uplifting as the puzzle boxes groan-sing in joy as they’re awakened, and the sound is good.
Essentially, if you like puzzles with cool, low-poly aesthetics, then GNOG is good. If you like puzzle boxes, GNOG is cool. And, since I like all of these things, I recommend GNOG. It’s as simple as that.
The Mad Welshman Starts singing tenor if you gently boop his nose, tickle under the ear, and headpat him. True facts!
Source: Supporter Gift Price: £15.49 Where to Get It: Steam
Yup. This is definitely Rogue Legacy, alright. Platforming and murdering monsters in a procedurally put together castle and environs? Check. Some useful random abilities, some assholish ones, and some funny ones like IBS? Check. Several classes, and rising costs for every improvement you make, with Death taking all, then most of your money every time you die and your successor, from a random pick of three, asks him to ferry you to the castle?
Check. Whoo, that was a lot, wasn’t it? Anyway, yes, Rogue Legacy 2 is a procgen platforming type dealio, where your bloodline has been cursed, and only by defeating the horrors of the haunted castle in which the curse began can you all be free. That’s harder than it sounds, by the way. A lot harder, because you start pretty weak. Weak enough that you’ll likely die within a few rooms at first.
Still, even with the game being in early access, there’s a fair few changes in this sequel, such as the introduction of an Archer class, which has the side effect of… Making mouse controls or using gamepad somewhat mandatory. Sorry, keyboard only buds, it’s one or the other. New abilities, such as one that makes you take more damage, but only have a bullet hell like central hitbox (represented by your heart), or… Sigh… Pacifist. No attacks. No ability to damage, even via your new spin kick. +75% gold, though, so if you’re really canny, you can make it work. I am not, hence the gusty sigh.
And aesthetically, the game is still clean looking as hell, but less pixelated. It’s got this cartoony vibe to it, preserving the general look, and… I like it! Musically, it remains on point, remasters and remixes of the original tunes so far, all good.
Any critiques? Well… Much the same as the first game, honestly. Some of those visual abilities really are a bit of an eyesore, early impressions make the game feel much tougher than it actually is, and, new to this one, they could do with introducing window locking of mouse, because, while using a gamepad negates this, in windowed mode, it’s very easy to click outside the window as, say, the Archer (who I actually like as a class, on par with the barbarian for “Can screw up enemies” with the addition of being ranged, while still being fragile enough to only be on par)
…And then dying horribly as you try and get back to the game window. Most of the classes remain very similar, the general mechanics of “Find things in the dungeon to give you permanent buffs” and challenges are similar (again, a nice new touch is the teleporters that need to be used, themselves making for new challenge puzzles which are interesting), and so, it feels, so far, like a refinement of what’s come before.
And I do like me a refinement. So count this one as recommended, and one to watch.
The Mad Welshman is actually the 253rd Mad Welshman of the name. His full name is Jamie The Mad Welshman, of The Mad Welshman line.
In a land with a great wizard, and quite a few warriors, clerics, etcetera, who’s going to save the day? Who’s going to stop the evil sorceress or what have you from bringing back an ancient evil? Who’s going to clean up the dungeons and stop the earthquakes?
One of a cavalcade of largely identical and disposable peasants. That’s who. And they pay the company store for their equipment. Yay capitalism! (Not yay at all.)
And yes, that is basically the setup for Undermine: You are a peasant, who is very handy with a pick and has a gold hauling canary, and if you die, well, another, sometimes eerily similar peasant drops into the dungeon to have a go, trampling figuratively on the backs of those who died before them.
Which, for a shooty slashy roguelike sort of game with rooms filled with traps, enemies, gold, and the cute slimes that try to steal that gold when you mine it (oh, and bosses and shops, obviously), is actually a blackly hilarious setup. Instead of a dodge roll, you have a special power. An amazing power.
Peasants are the only buggers in this world who can jump. Take that how you will. In any case, swinging your pick, throwing your pick, dropping bombs, and occasionally chugging potions are your absolute basics here, along with “If you die, you lose some of your gold, and can either spend what’s left on improving yourself, or going right back in in the hopes that you make enough gold to get bigger improvements.”
It’s a tried and true method, and, honestly, it works really well here. The visuals are good spritework, the menus are clear, the enemies are interesting… And the bosses… Ahhh, these are some good quality bosses. Just qualifying enough in the category of “A Shower of Bastards” to make you hate them, but you get the idea of how to beat them pretty quickly. It’s just a matter of doing it. The difficulty curve is pretty fair… This is one of those games where it’s tightly designed, it’s fun, and I’d have to look really hard to find something I’m actually critical.
And I have. And I’ve failed. So… Undermine: If you like procgen twin-sticky collected arenas-as-dungeons games, then yes, this is a good pick for you. I wouldn’t necessarily say it would be a good game for dipping your toes in the water to see if you like it, but I also wouldn’t say it’s a bad place to start.