Fury of Dracula: Digital Edition (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £15.49 (Soundtrack £3.99)
Where To Get It: Steam

Hunting tabletop games are fun. One player against multiple, the one trying to stay hidden long enough to win, the others… Well, that’s where the “hunting” part comes in. But, obviously, friends are required.

So I called some in. And we had a great time, right up until timing out a combat led to a softlock. We’d almost taken out Dracula, too. 3 HP. 3. Stinkin’. HP.

The Dracula here has perhaps the funniest Live2D eyebrow waggle I’ve ever seen. And yes, I count that as a plus.

Well, I was getting my ass handed to me by that vampire in the last fight anyway. But we were doing so well!

Anyway, yes, Fury of Dracula is, as you might have guessed, an adaptation of the board game of the same name, in which Lord Godalming, Mina Harker, Abraham Van Helsing, and Jonathan Harker attempt to hunt down… Dracula. Bleigh! On the upside, heroes have two turns each compared to Dracula’s one. On the other hand, if Dracula’s canny, he can obfuscate his trail enough that he wins through terror, because his trail runs cold after 6 cities worth of movement. He can also, y’know, leave traps, hoaxes, vampire ambushes, and other fun toys, and can see some of Mina’s cards, since she has an incurable vampire bite.

So, items, allies, and ingenuity versus stealth, trickery, and ambushes. If you’re playing Dracula well, you get to look smug as they hunt you elsewhere… Then less smug if you screw up. Playing as the hunters? It’s fun, discussing where he might be, where he might have escaped, why is he travelling by sea so much? And other fun (legitimately fun) discussions. With friends, it’s really fun.

IT ME! Well… My goatee’s a bit thicker, hair’s longer, but… IT COULD BE ME!

And it’s faithful to the rules, with some cool artwork. Alas, that’s… Kind of where the charm runs out. Red… Why is red always involved whenever accessibility comes up?

Oh. Yeah. For obvious reasons. Anyway, yes, while rail routes are delineated clearly, carriage routes are not until you try moving, being a dull red that, in most places, is kind of hard to see. Test your games for colourblindness problems, folks, it’s not tough! Similarly, those of us who hadn’t played the game before didn’t quite know how sea travel worked, and the UX was… Less than clear in places, such as effects on combatants, clarification on certain specials (Hi, Mina!), using your hand, and hand limits… Look, we know they’re in the rulebook. Not everyone knows the game.

The trail only lasts seven steps, and you have a limited time to hunt down our boy Vlad. Make the most of it!

But, despite all of this (I have faith the devs will hunt down the combat bug, but in the meantime, escape on the 5th turn if it seems like it’s dragging on), I cannot deny we had fun. I want the game to be more accessible precisely because it’s so fun. There is local (yay) and online (that’s dependent on how many players you can pick up, or whether you can all arrange a match, but that’s fine if you have friends), and you can play solo (although honestly, if you’re playing all humans, it’s not fun, because it’s not intended.) But, at the time of review, whether you’ll like it really depends on how the accessibility affects you.

The Mad Welshman is also a creature of the night who does not drink… Vine… But that’s just his screwed up sleep schedule.

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Pacer (Review)

Source: Early Access Purchase
Price: £34.99
Where To Get It: Steam
Other Reviews: Early Access 1, Early Access 2, Formula Fusion Release

I can’t lie, I’m still a bit confused as to what’s happened with Pacer, formerly Formula Fusion. It was finished (I tend not to write “Review” if it’s still Early Access), then it wasn’t, now it’s finished, but under a new name… It’s been a bit of a weird ride. But, since it is apparently finished now, well, it’s time for a review, isn’t it?

Ah, the middle rear of the pack. My lease favourite place to be. Still, 1st is pretty lonely…

And yes, the feel has changed. The vehicles… Well, actually, it can be tough to tell the difference without looking hard, mechanically speaking, and you aren’t going to be working out whose team someone’s on midrace, even if the craft themselves do have their own character. So… Eh? But a fair bit has changed. Some of it I like, some of it I don’t, and the Gauss Cannon (Actually a machine gun that heavily glitches your screen on hit and does damage like billy-oh if it hits) can go to hell.

As noted, the feel of actual racing has changed, becoming more, as I suppose the fans wanted, Wipeout-ish… Honestly, I was happy with FF having its own flavour, but fans are… Yeah, let’s move on. Airbraking is harder than I expected, slowing you down somewhat drastically, but also turning you more sharply (good), and, while the weapon system hasn’t significantly changed (pick up weapon pickups, so you can use either of your chosen weaponry), the boosting system has a slow buildup on top of the usual method of hitting turbo pads to add boost. So that’s nice. There’s a fair variety of weapons, not all of which are weapons (alas, the shield analogue, the Tank, can only shield one hit.)

In a static image, you can just about see the mines (except the one literally next to me.) When moving? Yeah, it’s hard.

And there’s a few interesting game modes, even if Storm is somewhat poorly explained (Stay inside the bubble, the center of which is a sort of handlebar icon), and Thread The Needle runs into a problem I noted last time I looked at the game: Mines are an utter bastard to see, and, being light blue, they’re even more of an issue to see on the first track they’re introduced in, a Russian tundra track. Colourblindness checking, people, or colourblindness options, they’re fucking useful! Boost pads can also, at times, be a git to spot, again, the problem mostly being on ice tracks and the occasional blue glowy track.

Still, aesthetically, the game’s a treat. Pretty craft, somewhat customisable, gorgeous tracks, a slicker and more compact UX (my only bitch there is we can’t see the splash for the races before we click on it, if that’s changed, it saves us a click to see that and just go right into the event menu.) And, speaking of gorgeous and slicker, oh look, the music is a whole panoply of great artists (including, of course, CoLD SToRAGE, whose music has been iconic throughout the future racing genre.) And, best of all, this game, while in UE4 (normally a resource hoggy engine) is well optimised, so loading times are minimal, and I can get stuck in.

Unsurprising to anybody who knows my history with Future Racing, I go with the Russian team every time.

And finally, tracks… Alas, airtime has completely been removed from the game, so it’s sticking to the track like glue. Shame, that sometimes led to hilarity, and sometimes, it led to track skips. Oh well. There’s a fair few tracks, the unlocks doled out over the career mode, and they’re, uhh… Mostly technical tracks, some with blind corners and hills, although even the blind hills generally give you time afterwards to see what’s in front of you. Not always though, so, if technical is a turnoff, then yeah, you’re probably going to be turned off.

So, overall, yes, it is somewhat of an improvement on the previous iteration, but I’ll say what I said last time: If you can look past or cope with the flaws, this remains a solid future racing game, although not necessarily an introduction to the genre.

In conclusion: Haha, Gagarin Gauss Cannon go brbrbrbrbr…

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Petal Crash (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £7.19
Where To Get It: Steam

Ah, I love me a good match game, even the arcadey ones I kind of suck at. And I know a good one when I see it.

Petal Crash is, indeed, a good one, although it is a little twitchy, so folks for whom that’s an accessibility problem, I apologise, story mode might not be for you.

Tut. No respecting library rules, IT’S TIME FOR A GEM-OFF!

In any case, Petal Crash’s rules are simple: You pick a block in your field to grab and throw in one of the four cardinal directions, if it hits a block of the same colour directly (next to doesn’t count!) then all blocks of the same type go boom, and push the blocks next to them outward. If they hit blocks of the same colour, bam, you have a combo going, so more points! And more blocks appear, so be careful not to let the field get filled, otherwise, you lose!

There’s a little more to it than that in story mode, which usually takes the form of tug of war (get more points than your opponent in the same timeframe to win, first to three ouchies on this count loses), but that’s the general idea. And it’s fun as hell. There’s a variety of different characters, and, honestly? I had a hard time picking between them, because they all have cute designs, and, while the story is “Ye Olde Arcade Game” simple, that of wish granting items kept by the other participants, collected via battles, amiable or otherwise (mostly amiable) to grant the true wish of the character you’ve chosen.

Awww yeah!

Beyond this, and the fact that it looks cute, and good, and its soundwork is great, there’s… Really not a lot I can say. It’s accessible, it’s fun, there’s… It’s recommended for arcade puzzler fans, and seems accessible enough that new players looking to try this sort of thing could very well have a comfy time. Give it a go.

The Mad Welshman loves hucking blocks at other blocks and watching them go boom. It’s just… Oddly satisfying.

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Spelunky 2 (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £15.49 (soundtrack £5.19)
Where To Get It: Steam

The torch has been passed on to a new Spelunker. And dear god, is poor Ana up against it. After all, Spelunky 2, while adding more, has also added some particularly mean tricks. Right from the beginning.

Does that mean it’s bad? Oh hell no. Just that it’s probably going to turn some folks off by being tougher than the original. And some of the changes are interesting ones. So let’s get into it.

Squeesh. Yep, he’s back. But this isn’t the end. It’s world 3’s beginning.

Spelunky 2 is, like its predecessor, a platformer with procedural generation, with several biomes to get through, and bosses, mini and maxi alike, before the final confrontation. It’s a game of risk versus reward, with somewhat limited resources that you have to husband carefully. Do you use a rope to get down to the bottom of a spike put safely, to get to somewhere? A bomb to get to the sweet little pug (or other animal “damsel in distress” … One of the changes was no actual damsels)? Come to think of it, when time is running short, and the ghost(s) of instant death are due to appear, do you have time to rescue both that cool gun you have and the pug? It’s one hell of a feeling, and you only rarely felt like you died unfairly. It was your fault, and your plan.

The reason I say Spelunky 2 is meaner, from the get go, is that 2 early enemies are definitely wild cards, and, in the wrong place, feel distinctly unfair: The horned lizards, who will roll violently toward you as soon as they see you (and bounce), and the mole rats, who dig rapidly through the ground, and, unless they’re stopped, never stop moving at anything but full speed. You can see where they’re going while in the ground, and they can’t get through wood, but still… Dangerous foes indeed, because they can pop up (or down. Or sideways) from surprising places, and they don’t give you much time to maneuver. Together, they’re an evil combination, and together in a confined space? Well, the odds are really high you’re just going to be juggled to death.

Gobble gobble, motherfucker.

But there are other changes, and they’re more interesting. Like the doorways, the backsides of each level, which can lead to surprising places sometimes. Or the mining challenge from a fortune teller. The choice of two different biomes to go through every now and again. And some new traps for the delicious golden idols.

Oh, also a quick way to hell, which appears aimed at the speedrunning demographic. Watching people take that route over and over again was highly amusing to me, for they are braver folks than I… And also because they die a lot. Pets are another nice change, with fun abilities, such as the turkey’s double jump (and adorable headbutt), the rock dog’s fireballs, and the axolotl’s bubbles, which… Don’t give up on the last one, I’m sure there’s some fun, creative stuff you can do with their bubbles!

Sometimes, you just have a really embarassing death. I mean… There’s giant spiders down there, and what do I die to? Thorns. Welp.

Aesthetically, the game remains as fun and clear as its predecessor, each enemy easily distinguishable, a solid soundtrack, and sounds that you quickly associate with their respective enemies and events. It makes some interesting changes, and, while I think the difficulty has increased, if you enjoyed Spelunky, you’ll be alright with this one at the very least, and if you like procgen platformers, I would maybe recommend you play the first one first, but I’d still say go for it.

The Mad Welshman would like to remind you that, if at first you don’t succeed, whip, whip again.

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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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