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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Noita (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £15.49 (£7.99 soundtrack, £21.13 game and soundtrack)
Where To Get It: Steam

Ahhh, Noita… Pixel by pixel simulation of object interaction. Want ice vapour to kill you? Don’t worry, particle by particle, you can do that! Want to put out that particle fire? Just hop in some particle liquid that isn’t particle oil, or sprinkle it on yourself! Want to shoot several particle streams of death, which then become more particle streams of death, and so on until your computer is screaming at you to stop? Yes, you can do these things, all of these things, so long as it’s through shooting things, bombing things, kicking things, throwing things, or spraying things!

Pixels! And many of them are currently very deadly!

You can also die in some extremely messy ways. And you will. Often. So yes, welcome to Noita, a procedurally generated roguelike in which you are descending into the depths of a mountain’s cavern/dungeon network, for… Reasons. I’m sure they made sense at the time, whatever those reasons were. It’s got some lovely pixel art, which, y’know, fits because of all those pixels that can be set on fire, slosh around, obstruct you and so on… And the music and sounds are good too.

It’s difficult, and at times twitchy, so if those are turnoffs, turn ye back now, and, as mentioned, it can get resource hoggy, so make sure your computer can handle it before trying it out!

Otherwise… Hot damn, the feeling of doing incredibly silly shit with your wands and potions, whether it works or not… No, really, it’s amusing to have thirty five arrows from a single cast, only for said arrows to bounce back at you because what did you expect when you fired 35 arrows in so many directions?

For this to be my situation on entering the level is a sign that maybe I should have run away. I did not. I died. I had a blast (and I got blasted.)

Well, you expected something amusing to happen. And you got it, even if you have to restart the game. But that’s okay, there’s probably even sillier things you can get up to! (There most definitely are.)

Any criticisms? Well… Apart from the game turning very resource hoggy when there’s a lot of stuff going on (and believe me, you can easily ensure a lot of stuff is going on, and so can some of the enemies), it’s in this weird space where the basic learning curve is actually quite easy… But the mastery curve is several sharp inclines, which, even with the potential for very amusing deaths, also creates some frustrating ones. Argh, why did I have to die just by getting shot? Boring! Also, some enemies, like the snipers, are… Oh god, they’re utter bastards.

Helpfully, the game now lists things you’ve found, and counts the secrets the game has. Yes, I mentioned secrets, and have found none personally. I know how to get them, I just haven’t tried.

But, overall, I love Noita. I love the destructive creativity. I love the war stories it can create. And, if you don’t mind a tough action roguelike, where you’re going to die in the first few areas a lot before you get further, you’ll like this one.

The Mad Welshman appreciates that wizards have no sense of responsibility. So consider sending wizards into this hellhole a chance for one of them to learn. Maybe.

Look, it’s enjoyable to send the bastards to their doom, alright?

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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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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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