Alex Kidd In Miracle World DX (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £14.99
Where to Get It: Steam

I am bad at Alex Kidd. I’m not even going to pretend I’m not, because Alex Kidd is from the days of yore, and I’ve gotten used to not dying in one hit, silly billy that I am.

This is the classic look, if you’re wondering. Ahhhh, this takes me back!

But not being good doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t appreciate things. Like the gorgeous aesthetic of the remake, while also allowing you to play it mostly as it originally looked with the push of a button. Gotta love a remake that not only makes things look nicer, but also keep to the vibe. That’s harder than it seems.

Still, yes, Alex Kidd. What a series that was, each installment different enough that it kept it fresh, but this, being one of the earliest ones, is also both the oldest and most unforgiving. Alex is somewhat floaty to control, having some inertia, and while he has a lot of air control, this isn’t always to his benefit (as noted by the times I’ve jumped into a bird. The many many times.) His punch, meanwhile, is purely horizontal, although power ups can change things up, like fireballs.

Yes, this is legitimately the general vibe the jan-ken-pon bosses have. And I love it.

Oh, and some of the bosses play Rock, Paper, Scissors, with an instant death if you don’t win best of three. Yes, old platformers were odd like that. So yes, if you don’t like Ye Olden Game Design, the way Alex controls and the one hit kills in (admittedly well checkpointed) levels not appeal to you. There’s ways to mitigate the rock, paper, scissors bosses, including memorisation, and if you just want to play the damn game, there’s an infinite lives system.

Honestly, even though I’m not good at Alex Kidd, not by a long shot, I still enjoy it. Yes, I had to turn on infinite lives. Sue me, I’m no longer the kid who beat Codename Droid in one try, or regularly enjoyed the obscure game Onslaught. It’s relatively short, but naturally, as in many of Ye Olden Games, part of this is difficulty padding that’s been preserved, but there are new levels, there’s enough quality of life to make this a good remake, and, well, if you like hard platformers, this one’s pretty good for you.

This git will kill you over and over and over again if your reflexes aren’t good. Remember, some enemies take multiple hits.

The Mad Welshman well remembers the time of Nintendo Hard. Nobody seems to talk about Infocom Hard though, it’s just as catchy!

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Sunblaze (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £12.39
Where to Get It: Steam

I’ll freely admit, hearing a combo of “Super Meat Boy” and “Celeste” didn’t exactly inspire confidence. For all that they share some things in common, they’re different enough that a mismash of the two would be painful.

But it was, for the most part, correct. Death is common. There is an optimal path through. Anything less than “pretty optimal” to “Optimal as fuck” means death. And, after about 19 levels, I very quickly realised this wasn’t for me.

Pictured: I got a little further, but my imminent demise here is inevitable, even if, looking at it, I see what to do.

Not because it isn’t good. It’s pretty responsive, you know exactly what tools you have in this twitchy puzzle platformer: A double jump and a dash. Maybe you get more tools later, maybe not. And you very quickly learn what things do, the game mostly teaching you ahead of time, such as falling blocks. Oh boy, there’s a lot of falling blocks. And the sprite art is great, and the chiptunes okay, the menu accessible, and options to turn off flashes, screenshake, and gltiching effects. I mean, they should be off by default, but now you know the option’s there.

No, it’s because I’m not great at this game. There’s a lot of levels in the first chapter, and, as mentioned, I got to 19 (pictured) before the momentum completely halted. Because it’s pretty difficult in terms of jumps and dashes almost from the get go. Now, what isn’t pictured is the spring platform that fell down. I know, theoretically, what I have to do: Jump off the ledge, dash to the block, then jump the fuck out before it crushes me under the spikes it crushes, high jump on the spring, dash back, double jump.

Ummmm… SOD.

I just can’t do it, because the timing’s pretty damn tight. The timing’s been pretty tight since about five levels before this.Not super tight, but tight enough that I bit 28 of those 36 deaths in the levels prior.

So yes, I like the aesthetic. I like the characters, especially the very dadly professordad. I like that it’s clear and simple, and I like its accessibility.

It’s just that it’s clearly laser focused on folks who say “Omigod, that game was hard as balls, but I finished it, got all the data cubes for the hard modes, and beat those, and I feel so good!”

And I am not one of those folks.

The Mad Welshman SETS deathtraps, he doesn’t try to escape them!

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

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £15.49 (OST £5.79)
Where To Get It: Steam
Previous Reviews: Early Access

So… Lodoss War. It’s a big, long (and cool) multimedia franchise, which is continuing to this day, with a fair few characters across the series, high drama, etcetera…

This guy is important. Except here, where he is a boss who says words.

It’s somewhat important to point this out, because one of Deedlit’s failings here is that it fails to get me interested in any of it (as opposed to the rest.) If I were just playing the game, without context, I know that Deedlit is a high elf, in love with a guy called Parn, after their many adventures together. I know there’s a dark elf in here who’s been a common foe, although I forget the name. Karla is apparently sometimes a bad person, sometimes not, but a schemer?

This… Is basically the extent of what I’d know, only some of which is dealt with in the intro, and some of which I’d have to google. Honestly, some of it I still had to google.

So, uhhh…

Why yes, these are the same screenshots. Arrow puzzles are actually kinda fun.

Mechanically, it’s a metroidvania, in which you get new weapons, abilities, and the like, and use them to get to new places, meet new monsters, and bash their faces in, occasionally fighting bosses. It’s more fun than that, but a fair few of the tools in your toolbox are given to you before you even fight the first boss: A sylph, which allows you to ignore water element attacks and float when active, a salamander, who allows you to set things on fire and blow things up (and ignore fire element attacks), and a bow, which you use to cut ropes and hit buttons, bouncing off metal walls in short, puzzle like segments.

You get more than that, of course, but these three things comprise a big chunk of the gameplay. And yet, it feels kind of empty. Part of that is aesthetic. Since the place is one big castle, there’s not a whole lot of variation. Ah yes, the bit with lava in. The bit where the pretty water effects are (honestly, hovering over the water is a joy, visually.) It’s a bit flat, even if it’s gorgeously rendered. This isn’t to take away from the rest of the aesthetics, from the clear UX, the well done pixel art, the character and enemy designs, some of which are kinda creepy. Giant centipede content warning, folks. And the music isn’t bad, if a little limited.

These guys remain utter gits.

But while, mechanically, it’s alright, and uses its element change mechanics to good effect, outside of that, there’s… Not a whole lot. It’s still a solid metroidvania, although the short playtime will turn some folks off (sod them), but… I still didn’t mesh with it, even at the end.

This just… Drained my enthusiasm, honestly. Or maybe I’m just already knackered right now.

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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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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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