Rogue Legacy 2 (Early Access Review)

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?

KAME… HAME… HAAAAAAAAA!

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.

Ooookay. That… Is indeed a boss door. Jesus…

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)

Ah, the spiky ball that bounces slowly around… I didn’t miss you, old nemesis…

…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.

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Carrion (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £16.99 (£7.19 soundtrack)
Where To Get It: Steam

Ah, Hollywood Scientists… Always poking into things man was not mean to. And it’s no spoiler to say that you are the monster, that your goal is to escape in order to eat the world, and I am very down for that.

See these guys? They’re fucked.

Carrion, essentially, is a metroidvania (That sort of game where you move around a world, unlocking abilities, solving puzzles, and opening doors to progress) in which you are a wriggling, tentacular mass of teeth and animal hate, able to eat people, throw things (and people around), and later, do all sorts of nasty things to people. But that is spoilers, even if the ending…

Look, what are you going to expect when you have a potentially world eating monster, and that monster is the protagonist? You’ve got a 50/50 shot, I reckon, of being completely right. Especially if you’ve watched movies like Invasion of the Bodysnatchers or, pertinently, John Carpenter’s The Thing (the original, not the prequel.)

This guy? Not going to have a good time. In fact, they’re fucked. Although sadly inedible.

Aesthetically… Damn… The whipping, whistling noises of your tentacular body, the screams, the growls, the dark, brooding music (that spikes into sharp stings or combat music, depending)… If there was something I could point at and say “This was done most excellently, it would be the soundscape. Visually, it’s fairly clear, and you learn very quickly what items do, even if the map… Is nonexistent. The pixel characters aren’t characterful, per se, although they have differing looks… But that’s fine, because they’re prey.

Well, most of them are. Once you get into the late game, encounters become more deadly. You have more tools to deal with them, but just being a hammer made of tentacles, spikes, and death doesn’t quite cut it. You have to act smart. And the puzzles require you to use all three of your mass levels, each with differing powers available, to get through.

These folks, being unarmed, are especially fucked. But their bodies are a good backup in case you need to replenish health without saving.

It’s a pleasure then, to see mouse controls that are responsive.

As to the story, well… It’s all shown and not told, it isn’t terribly complex, but it works. People may well critique it for being short, or the lack of map confusing them… But the checkpoint saves are fair, the aesthetic overall is brutal, bloody, and brooding, and… Yeah, I do love me a game with a villain protagonist, a monster counts, it’s tightly designed, and I’d rather that over a 120 hour game, 80 (at best) of which is padding. Recommended.

Does anyone else remember how creepy the whipping, whistling noises the Thing made during the dog scene? Yeah, you probably do. It was awesome!

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Eastern Exorcist (Early Access Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £13.49 (Demo is available)
Where to Get It: Steam

Being an exorcist in a world where demons not only exist, but have physical form, is a tough, dangerous proposition. And one’s heart needs to be like steel, as the protagonist quickly discovers. And so begins a journey of redemption, and perhaps revenge. Although I will say… Why the hell would you trust a Fox Spirit, a spirit well known for its lies and illusions? Ugh… Well, it makes for an interesting story.

Yes… How dare she turn into a vengeful ghost because we murdered her!

Eastern Exorcist looks pretty good. It even has an alright story. But… It has flaws. And gamepad comes heavily recommended. The various attack, parry, special, etcetera keys build up very quickly, and follow the JKL… Wait, no… H, JKL, UIO… And I’m sure Y will end up there pretty quickly. 8 buttons, not counting basic movement and jumping. That’s a fair amount, and, placed so close together… Either rebinding the keys for your comfort, or playing on gamepad is heavily recommended. And its gameplay…

This big guy moves more than this, but yes, he has a hefty recovery time for an equally heft boy.

It looks, on the surface, like an ARPG metroidvania. And maybe it improves from its somewhat basic formula later on… But the early game feels… Flat. I have a dash. I have a double jump. And yet… I don’t seem to use them much in the early game. The tutorialisation is, for the most part, pretty good, despite some segments being forced, but some concepts remain a little mysterious to me. And I meant to dash, and immediately hit J if I know it’s going to be a perfect, or as the symbol appears (usually when I’m too far away) or… It’s only one example, and the other mechanics, such as perfect parries or reflection, are explained well, but it’s a small thing that annoys me.

Moments later, they slashed me up but good. Not lethally, but still… Argh.

And so… I’m rather torn on this one. I’m not all that fond of what I call the “Gamepad heavily recommended ” games, and its early game feels flat in both the platform sense and the combat formula sense (Although that may just be me, as the enemy variety is solid pretty early on), but… It is Early Access, there’s plenty of time for it to improve, and the art style is definitely good, with well telegraphed attacks and clear signs of perfect dodge timing.

It’s one of these games where some problems are obvious to me, but others… Others are annoying me with not being able to properly pin my feelings down. It’s still one to at least watch, as I certainly didn’t find fault with the story, and the English localisation seems solid.

I just wish I could pin down more things about why I’m torn on this one right now.

The Mad Welshman, as an important reference, has not seen Chinese Opera. Just want that out there.

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Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit In Wonder Labyrinth (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £10.29
Where To Get It: Steam

Mmmm, I love me some experimentation, and I’ve been getting a fair bit of it. I love me some Metroidvania funtimes, those action platformers where you unlock new areas by finding items, powerups, switches for somewhere way off, and defeating bosses. I’m not particularly familiar with Record of Lodoss War, but I’m informed it’s good.

And yet, I’m not quite meshing with Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth, even knowing and loving its inspiration. And it’s mostly my fault.

Not pictured: A big ass water blast.

Let’s explain that: One of the things somewhat unique to this game is a spirit mechanic. The Wind spirit protects you from small wind element attacks, and gives you a sort of glide (we’ll come back to that.) The Fire spirit protects you, again, from small fire attacks, and adds fire to your attacks. Switching between them is important in this game, as, without it, you’re going to take a lot of unnecessary damage on the first boss, not get to certain areas you need to, and not, generally speaking, progress very far in the game.

I am not very good at this. Oh, and gamepad is recommended, or some heavy reconfiguring of keyboard controls, because the keyboard mapping is… Ohgod, for the first boss fight, three things you will definitely want are your bow (S), your jump (X), and switching your spirit (W.)

I genuinely love this mechanic. Good puzzling action.

Now, in my defense, health is not plentiful. You get some back by successfully attacking in fire form, but it doesn’t take all that much for you to keel over and go back to the last save point. And it doesn’t level up. Your magic levels up, and down, and your attacks level up (and down) based on how well you fight, but your health doesn’t appear to.

So it’s a tadge difficult, and I’m bad at it. It should also be mentioned, at this point, that it’s very much a work in progress, and only two areas (each with a midboss and a final boss) are in the game at the time of writing. So if that’s a turnoff, wait.

Still, it plays well, my badness and the keyboard controls notwithstanding, and aesthetically, it’s great. The feel it’s intending to give off is a homage to Symphony of the Night, and it pulls it off very well, with Deedlit even having, as fans call it, the Alucard Strut. The music is good, the spritework is damn fine, and the only real mar on the aesthetic is a smallish text size. Nonetheless, it’s a clear text separated well from the background, and the UX is otherwise pretty damn clear, so it’s solid in that respect.

God-damn door mimics!

I’m sure I’ll get better at this, and I appreciate most of the changes it makes to the formula of this genre, so I’d say that if you’re not turned off by the currrently short playtime (comparatively), and if you like a little challenge, then Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth is a solid pick. And I get the feeling it’ll only get more interesting with time.

Elves. Nothing poignant, just… Elves, man, elves…

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Monster Sanctuary (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £13.99
Where To Get It: Steam

For me, Monster Sanctuary is a bit of an odd experience. It is, by no means, a bad game, a metroidvania combined with the monster raising and fighting type games many of us love so much. Its skill trees, balance, and difficulty curve appear pretty solid, and I like its pixel art designs.

So it’s bugging the hell out of me that I’m not terribly enthused with it, and can’t work out why.

Monsters, some tame, some not, protag, got it, I know where I stand!

It’s certainly not the thinnish story, or the obvious gamey unlocks of features based on progression. I’m used to those, and honestly, it’s not that big a deal. You want to be the very best Monster Tamer, bad things are happening, and you work in an organisation, so it’s all good there.

The grind, similarly, isn’t bad. After all, monsters in the line share XP, so if you’re in need of seriously levelling someone up, you can put them as a reserve, beat up some lower level monsters, and don’t put them in the frontlines until they’re needed. And, of course, monsters are the level you catch them at.

It’s some solid visrep of combat, and a clear UX too.

Even the combat is engaging, because it’s this balancing act of factors. Do you put a monster in the very front, where it won’t do as much damage, but it’ll rack up combos for the monsters after it? Do you use a powerful ability, or tone it down and do less damage, because the powerful version outstrips the mana regeneration that monster currently has? Adding to this, you can see the types of monsters in a group (and they are, apart from uniques, always in a group), and plan accordingly, looking at your monster journal for weaknesses, coming up with a plan for the following encounter.

So, the systems fit pretty well together, with multiple elements to play with, multiple different roles, and the fact that even healing will add to a combo helps you keep the flow going with a healer role in the party. Moving around isn’t bad, especially since different monsters have different abilities you can use in the world, from breaking open inaccessible areas, to mobility improvements…

An example of this would be the bird. Poor bird, he has to carry the protag. Can’t do it for too long, but it’s enough.

It’s a solid game. And yet… I had trouble keeping my enthusiasm going, and I don’t particularly know why. There’s still time to work it out. There’s still time to change my mind, or have my mind changed by some update or another. And it’s a solid mix of platformer and turn-based monster taming RPG. It just… Doesn’t really grab me right now.

The Mad Welshman hates not knowing why he doesn’t get on with a thing. Normally he’s much better than that.

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