Princess Maker: Go! Go! Princess (Going Back)

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.

A battle to the… Uhhh… Marriage? There’s no death here, so… Yeah. Battle to the marriage.

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.)

Yes, this is the default name for the Princess Maker 2 princess in this game. I wish I was joking.

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.”

You’d think the odds are stacked in Maria’s favour. But actually, while Maria was dancing, Lisa was studying the blade…

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?

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Monster Prom 2: Monster Camp (Review)

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…

This is what happens when you have an already horny player, and a mad lib entry that just begs for this answer. Yes, I do want to fuck the hot nonbinary reaper.

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.

Damien: Finally outed as a dumbass. As if it wasn’t obvious already.

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.

Hello, Juan, I suppose some of these drinks are revenge for us stealing your FUN. Most of them are pretty cool, though, you’re one hell of a party animal.

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.

I love how adorably vulnerable looking Aaravi the monster slayer is when you date her. She’s opening up to you, and if you break her heart, we will end you

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.

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Re: Legend (Early Access Review)

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

As soon as I saw the farm, messy and strewn with rocks and trees, I knew. Or thought I did. “Ohhh boy”, I thought “I’m going to get halfway through this, and my energy will be pretty low.” Nope. I thought “Fishing is going to be my main source of income, because it’s easy.” Not… Quite true.

“aaaaaaaaa…” [later] “Oh, wait, that was easy. Nice!”

Essentially, I went in with expectations of a farm-life/adventurer sim in the style of Rune Factory, or Stardew Valley, and, while it is that… It’s also got its own flavour. Some good, some not so good, but averaging out, I feel, to “A’ight.” Which, considering it’s in Early Access (and parts of the review may be out of date by tomorrow, since the devs are updating at a steady clip), still gives it a fair bit of wiggle room.

So, let’s begin with the general idea, for those new to the genre: You, an amnesiac hero(ine), are welcomed into a small, rural community (In this case, on an island, so beaches and palm trees are common), given a farm, and, very quickly, you realise there’s adventure to be had in them thar hills. Or, y’know, you could do a lot of avoiding enemies (running doesn’t take stamina? Don’t you dare change that, devs, it’s wonderful!) to mine stuff you can’t get at home, farming, doing quests for folks, festivals, minigames… And, of course, romancing folks.

I haven’t gotten to that part yet, so I can’t tell if there’s some Good Gay options in there, but it’s all there, it’s mostly enjoyable, and those who’ve played this genre before not only know what to expect, they have some pleasant surprises. Like underwater plants (Trust me, if you’re new to this genre: Folks love more things to farm) and a pet system (And pets can have utility both inside and outside of combat, such as the Draconewt you start with, whose watery breath isn’t just useful in combat… It’s a nice, easy way of watering your crops, too!)

Immediately after character creation, you’re shoved off a cliff by some asshole. I hate it when that happens!

Aesthetically, it’s pleasing, with good, lowish poly character designs, a bright and cheery world, and a mostly clear UX (It took a friend pointing it out during multiplayer that I could add to my pet’s stats, for example.) I didn’t really find the tunes memorable, but that’s more because they fit just fine, and things that fit just fine… Well, you only tend to notice what doesn’t fit so well, generally speaking. Speaking of not fitting so well… Complaints and niggles.

Starting with the base stuff, tutorialising for things like fishing is a bit sparse (It took me a few tries to get the hang of fishing, for example, not helped by… ohboy, a bigger fish just ate the smaller one on my hook, and now I’ve got a bigger fight ahead of me), and not all of the minigames are enjoyable. Smithing immediately comes to mind, a “Hit the coloured bits on the bar” game where said coloured bits are… Rather small. Melee is, honestly, not as useful as the ranged options, especially when it comes to, for example, the first boss, who electrifies himself. And it can be fiddly to pick things up, water, or plant things, since you aren’t fixed to the tiles it uses (Also, if a pet is nearby, you can easily end up leaping on to ride them rather than pick up the thing your pet is standing over, necessitating leading said pet away. Every time.)

Yessssssss!

Finally on the crit, there’s multiplayer. It’s a relatively recent addition, so I certainly don’t mind the bugs, knowing that the community is pretty good at reporting them, and the devs, as I’ve noted, update pretty rapidly at the present time. I don’t even mind the lack of any sort of pausing, because synced pausing is unfun for the other player, and any other method would be a bloody nightmare. But the method of starting a co-op session is poorly explained, requiring you to copy the host’s Steam ID (the numerical one the game gives you, not your profile name or account name), and then pasting that in to connect (3 players can join a host, sharing a farm, and… The sales bin. Which, considering myself and my multiplayer partner have yet to find a means of expanding this, isn’t the best of times.)

But this is still relatively early days, the game is pretty solid overall, and, even now, I would recommend this to fans of this genre wot Harvest Moon, Rune Factory, and Stardew Valley belong to, the… Farmer-Adventurer RPG Lifesim? Not quite sure. Anyway, it’s reasonable right now, and certainly shows promise.

The Mad Welshman actually quite likes the humble farmer-adventurer. Sure, they can be massive jerks, but they’re massive jerks who put food on his table.

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Vilmonic (Review)

Source: Supporter Gift
Price: £11.39
Where To Get It: Steam

Vilmonic is, at heart, a sandbox. If you had, perhaps, let your sandbox get wet, in a marsh, and then let millennia pass it by, with the ruins of civilisation just barely holding onto coherency, and strange, fungal creatures giving way to strange, fungal animatroids.

Welcome to Vilmonic, I hope you like fungus!

Looking at an animatroid gives you hints as to what it’s going to do… If you know how to parse them.

Okay, that’s simplifying things a heckuva lot, but the basic premise, while simple, hides a lot of complexity, and a lot of fellow nerds nerding out over that (mostly unseen) backstage fun. You are a being that is trying to kickstart new life. You’re the only one who seems to want to do this, as the rest of your compatriots are corrupted, shambling versions of themselves, that want to spread their infection as far and wide as possible.

However, your fungal friends are not nearly so united, and so what plays out is, essentially, a Game of Life. Some fungaloids are aggressive, attacking all comers (including you.)

The Drone is never a good sign. It means your “Friends” are looking for you. Luckily for me, everything nearby is aggressive. And I have the power of WALLS.

And it all plays out with a minimalist, pixel art UI, both a blessing, and a curse. On the one hand, there’s not much to distract you, except the passage of time, and lots of things are clear. On the other, that minimalism hides complexity. I had, in my own world, a relatively easy time by leaving things mostly alone, and get to enjoy wandering around, looking at the various species that have cropped up on my world, but, behind this, there are sensory priorities, urges, genetics, and all sorts of odd stuff going on that, if you didn’t have an easy time of things at the beginning, or you have a goal you want to work towards (Say, carnivorous desert dwelling animatroids), it’s going to take wiki-play to understand how to get there, because even the information needs information the game doesn’t straight up give you to understand.

Vilmonic is interesting. It’s a game that does cool things. And if you like a game where your goals are mostly self imposed, where you can wander through the herds of beings you’ve created (or, just as likely, observe from a safe distance), maybe try and play God and find it’s not as easy as all that, then Vilmonic is worth a look.

Genes, urges, diet… It’s pretty comprehensive!

Cymrus Villainous is a carnivorous animatroid. It is highly aggressive.

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Princess Maker 5 (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £23.79
Where To Get It: Steam

For all that the Princess Maker games are, in their way, somewhat unfriendly, there’s nearly always something delightful about raising your small child, be that into a great scholar, a dancer or musician, or a HELLION OF BATTLE. And Princess Maker 5, recently localised into English (A little clumsily, it must be said, but still mostly understandable) does well at showing the joyous end of raising children.

HRNGH, GONNA STUDY, YEAH! (I love how *pumped* she is for academia. Always)

So, the Princess Maker games have changed in the details many times over the years, but the core life-sim gameplay has remained the same: Schedule time for your daughter’s activities, grow her stats (while paying attention to her needs), take part in events, and, depending on what you’ve done over the years, get one of the many, many endings. For all that it is somewhat complex, since there are no, strictly speaking, bad endings (Or few, easily avoidable ones), I can somewhat forgive the unfriendliness of the Princess Maker series. This time, it’s set in the modern day, and adventuring has returned!

Wait… Modern day? Adventuring? What’s my daughter beating up, the undeserving homeless? No, monsters do exist, because your lovely daughter, saved by Cube during the revolution after the end of the (sadly unlocalised) Princess Maker 4, comes from another world. A world that impinges on ours soon enough…

…But this, like many elements of Princess Maker 5, take time to get to. For the first year or two, it’s the usual deal of taking part-time jobs, studies, electives… Of making friends, and going to events to destress… Of buying Winter and Summer dresses (Sidenote: I enjoy how accurate the game is that children’s clothes are much more sodding expensive) , and, of course, exams. Mostly, features work as well as they did before. Weekly scheduling is better than PM3’s more confusing system, the town is hard to get around at first because you don’t, without a guide, know where anything actually is, and, if you’re looking for a specific ending, then you’re probably not doing it without a wiki.

On the one hand, there are a *lot* of stats. On the other, don’t worry, focus on a few, others will come naturally.

Still, the issues of an older lifesim game re-released aside, and some odd translations that seem odder if you don’t know Japanese culture (Bathe with your daughter is communal bathing, a common practice, and not anything filthy), Princess Maker 5 shines in one area in particular: The job animations. When studying or practicing skills, good performance feels good (Such as Athletics club, where she pulls ahead of the pack and wins by a nose), and when failure occurs? Well, I’ve winced more than a couple of times in sympathy, especially with Karate club, where failing to break those planks is… Particularly painful. There’s a lot of character to the daughter, and the cast is also characterful and interesting. Adventuring makes a welcome return, albeit with less control, but hey, adventuring, heck yes!

If you like life-sims, Princess Maker was one of the first big series in the genre, and Princess Maker 5 is definitely worth a look. I wasn’t sold on the blond moppet at first, but the animation, the writing, and the world definitely charm, and, not gonna lie, one of the things that charms the most is the cultural references, such as going to see a Tokusatsu show and cheering on the protagonists twice a month. GO BLADE MAN! YOU CAN DO IIIIIT!

As you deepen relationships, even more events unlock. Alas, love relationships are hetero only, but still… BASEBALL.

The Mad Welshman would probably be a terrible parent in real life, but here, he’s raising a master of both art, both in the traditional and martial senses. Fran: The Demoness With A Paintbrush.

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