Fhtagn! Tales of the Creeping Madness (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £3.99
Where To Get It: Steam

I do love me some Lovecraftian shenanigans. I also love party visual novels. So you can perhaps imagine my pleasure when I saw Fhtagn! (Pronounced Fuh-tagh-un, Fe-Tahh-gun, or Steve), which is both of these things, involving the summoning of Dread Lord Cthulhu (who sleeps and is dead in his island city until the Stars Are Right comes on the telly.)

Ahh, the sleepy town of Arkham, home of scenic Night Terrors and a solid, if mind-bending academic institution!

It is, in its basics, a very familiar formula: There are up to four players in local co-op, eight locations, seven stats, six turns, and eight possible endings in the base game. With two tasks per location, each giving some combo of three stats (Except gambling at Madame Fufu’s), and only one player allowed per location, it’s up to the players to get their stats up to the major and minor requirements of their chosen ritual by succeeding in stat based events and upping stats with their chosen activity, while…

…Ah, now this is where it gets interesting. As I found out when streaming the game, just one of the players succeeding in their ritual isn’t enough for a victory… So there is a co-op element… It’s just, by its layout, you expect it to be competitive. Good trick!

In any case, this is one of those games where the writing is important, and is it good? It is! The humour in this game lands a lot more than it misses, like how a spicy burrito coming back to haunt your cultist can, in some circumstances, actually bring you closer to your goal… Whether that’s by successfully blaming your gastric upset on someone else, or by holding it in and inspiring the cult to greater eldritch dancing by your own tortured contortions. It’s a game aware of, and affectionately parodying its inspiration, while also sidestepping a lot of the stuff that makes liking Lovecraft’s work rather awkward (You know, like the fact that a lot of it is based on racism as well as the limitations of rationalism.)


Aesthetically, it also hits the shoggoth on the (nominal) noggin, with some lively, jazzy music to get you into that roaring 20s mood, some good animations, and, in the Mayor’s office, Himself rules over Arkham, perhaps for a Newer, Better Deal… Well, until we wreck the place and summon the Older, Awful Deal, anyway…

As to flaws, I can’t really pick anything out as more than a minor niggle, for two reasons: While the base game itself is quite short (In less than 2 hours, which includes a lengthy stream, I have 5 of the 8 endings), the developers are adding content quite soon to the game, and it has a content creation tool, which some folks have already added things, and you can, too (LINK)

As such… It’s tightly designed, fun to play with friends, got a lot of humour and charm, and you can make new content for it? That’s two squamous appendages up, Fhtagn!


The Mad Welshman has only two squamous appendages, so this is a hefty endorsement indeed!

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Austen Translation (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £4.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Austen Translation is an interestingly simple game: Spend four turns (plus some secret events) to try and get your stats (Wit, Ruthlessness, and Charm) close enough that your prospective hubby to be proposes to you, while sabotaging anyone else who might be after your beau (or… Well, just sabotage people so you’re the best match.) That is, beyond some twists and minigames, the whole thing, mechanically. Five players, local play only as far as I can tell, with randomly generated AI players if you don’t feel like filling the roster, and character generation with randomised stats, but you get to customise your lady’s looks.

Everybody got that?

Normally, this would get a “What it says on the tin”, some words about how, once again, Worthing & Moncrieff have nailed a clear, simple aesthetic with a good voice-actress for the round intros (Love the scandalised disgust in her voice when she asks “Did you really just interrupt me?” for clicking through an intro too fast), classical music fitting the theme of the piece…

…But I’ll freely admit, the narrative of the game doesn’t sit terribly well with me. See, Jane Austen was pretty good at critiquing the mores of the time, such as asking that dread question “Why can’t we marry for love, not money or standing?” in Pride and Prejudice… And Austen Translation, by parodying Austen, is almost as if Austen were playing it straight.

It’s pretty clear everyone’s competing, it’s definitely about the fat-stacks of cash the hubbies have, the losers “die in a rat-infested hovel” , and not even the odd winky asides and pleasant classical piano can really distract me from how uncomfortable it made me feel. It’s not played as being romantic, and from the outset, it’s made clear the women are going to be the dominant partners, but I still felt distinctly odd playing a narrative I’d kind of hoped we’d escaped a while back.


So, while I can’t personally recommend this, I will say again that it’s easy to pick up, tutorialises well, and has a good aesthetic going for it, with the minor niggle that maybe, just maybe, Wit and Charm could be different colours, or at least one could be made darker than the other so as to better differentiate them? It’s perhaps an interesting party game, albeit one with a narrative that, as noted, didn’t sit well with me.

I’m sorry, but I cannot accept, for my heart belongs to a man with six-degrees of freedom…

The Mad Welshman politely sipped his tea, wallet empty, and thought to himself “Thank goodness I’m a babbage-card critic, and don’t have to get embroiled in such things…”

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Mount Your Friends 3D (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £5.19
Where To Get It: Steam

Mount Your Friends 3D, also titled “A Hard Man Is Good To Climb” , is many things. A party game. A work of sculpture, different with every play, but following roughly the same design ideals. Homoerotic testament to extremely buff men with tight posing pouches…

The goal, so simply and plainly expressed. Beautiful.

…Okay, so that last one’s stretching things a bit, about as much as the posing pouches on the mounting friends of Mount Your Friends 3D, perhaps… But the party game bit is definitely true, for lo, Mount Your Friends 3D is a competition in which you and some friends both form a mountain made of buff men, all trying to strain higher from the base that is… A goat on a hill, on a pole.

No, don’t ask me, I don’t know either. In fact, beyond the facts that firstly, the game is indeed fun to play with friends, and challenging too, the basic rules of play, and that it has a lot of grunting and groaning as your buff, sometimes sweaty, sometimes sparkly avatars attempt, in a set time, to reach the pinnacle of Man Mountain, setting a new bar for the next one, and the next, and the next… Hold the pose, and the height, for three seconds, and a new record is set, and the next player’s turn is taken.

I call this performance piece “Mounting Equality.”

…It’s a very silly game. But tight controls, a similarly tight control scheme (Hold left or right mouse to release your grip and control said limb, release to hopefully grab onto whatever you were wanting to grab onto), make the title so very true… A hard man is good to climb. It helps that there’s added variety, both from unlocks by playing the game (Customisation options and chat stickers, the means of communication between players), and in its game modes, at least some of which are deceptively simple looking.

Take, for example, Spiral mode. At set heights, the men are replaced by a long 3d block, at an angle to the one before it (hence, Spiral.) At first, the blocks make things easier, but, as it gets higher, the spirals get harder to climb, with less room for error, until… Oh no, you fell down, and spent all your reserve time on the way back up. Oh well, keep watching, friend, this is how… Oh no, I fell down, and spent all my reserve time on the way back up… Good game, folks, good game!

And this collaborative piece, entitlted “We will hit the Minions memes with large blocks and buff men.”

There are others, of course. Standard, classic, low gravity, ones with and without blocks, but through it all, there are three constants. Firstly, that it’s fun with friends. Secondly, that buff men and a goat are always involved. And thirdly, that it costs less than £6 , for something with a fair amount of replay value, a lot of silliness, and pretty accessible play.

The Mad Welshman is, you may have noticed, pro buff men in tight posing pouches.

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Quiplash (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £6.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Ah, Jackbox, purveyors of party games that you can play anywhere… Y’know, so long as you have something that can connect to the internet, and at least one person who owns the game. Who’s streaming. And here is where a score-based review of Quiplash would fall down, because it would really have to have two separate pretty numbers: One for the game client itself (£6.99), and one for the actual player experience (jackbox.tv, price: Fuck all, but you will never host the game, nor will you be able to play without a room code.) One of these scores would, to many, be a fair bit lower.

Sometimes you get cool things, and your friends smile.

Sometimes you get cool things, and your friends smile.

But not to me. You see, the client, in its way, is equally as hamfisted as the jackbox.tv, player input end. As a host, I get to see all sorts of pretty pictures, hear pretty voices and noises, and, if I’m feeling generous, stream them to the less fortunate players (And audience.) Without that last one, none of the players will ever know how well they did, because the player side client won’t tell you. On the other hand, I can’t do a damn thing through the client (like join the game I created), having to rely on the simple, almost HTML form-ish nature of the jackbox site to do things, rather than all these pretty visuals.

Put them together, along with some mates, a voice chat, and the ability to show all the other players what the hell is going on, however, and all of a sudden, the magic happens. Through brute-force and the magic of socialising, the bits of interface come together, and the result is laughter, groans, all the noises that you associate with people playing and enjoying a party game. The rules are pretty simple. Three rounds, 2 questions each to answer in 2 of them, as many questions as there are players in the first two rounds to vote on, and the third round is a single free-for-all question. Twice the points in round 2, three times the points in round 3, and if your suggestion is the only one to get all player or audience votes in a question (and wins), that’s a QUIPLASH, worth bonus points, oww! Oh, yeah… The game is pretty much built for streaming, or a packed party, because the audience actually matters, and anyone with the room code can vote, even if they can’t play.

...And sometimes you think "Uhhh... Do I know these people? I don't know these people, really I don't, Officer"

…And sometimes you think “Uhhh… Do I know these people? I don’t know these people, really I don’t, Officer”

People have likened it to Cards Against Humanity, but with improv, and… That kinda works. I’ve seen some terrible suggestions (Armenian Genocide as a sound that weirdly makes someone sleep better), and some beautiful ones (The Artist Formerly Known As Prince as a Crackerjack box prize. Step right up, one in every box!) I’ve seen injustices (Forget-Me-Not was a terrible name for a Goldfish, and, on reflection, worse than Edward Cullen… It’s just we all hate Twilight more) and deserved victories (“If anyone says CUMquat is a better name for Kumquat, they lose” was, considering how filthy minded the group was, an excellent choice)… But one thing cannot be denied. All of us had fun. We agreed it would be cool to do this again. And all of us playing agreed it was good, despite having to stream the client window somehow.

So yeah, this game is good. It looks like it’ll last a while. But be aware, if you buy it, that you’ll need friends. That you’ll need some way of showing the client window to the other players, and talking to them. Otherwise, all I can really say is: The voting system rewards playing to a crowd, and if you play well with others, folks, then you’ll have fun. Let yourself go a bit, and have a laugh with it.

The Mad Welshman learned many things from this game. For example, people claim that Bears are a good substitute for toilet paper. Truly, the world is a strange place.

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