Loop Hero (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £12.49 (Soundtrack £5.99)
Where To Get It: Steam

I love the premise of this game: In a fate similar to The Neverending Story, the world has been unhappened. Reality has been forgotten. Except for one person, who is, on an endless loop, trying to remember how it all used to be, fighting through monster after monster, returning feature after feature.

Here’s an early run, and, by the end of the review, you’ll see a late run. Vast difference.

It all melts away when you return to camp, but… You’ve still made a difference, even if it feels pointless. And it hits home, time and time again, that the world contains good and evil, and things in between. Narratively, this game works pretty damn well, with its mechanics tightly fitting to this idea that the more the world is remembered in some fashion, the brighter the possibility of bringing it all back becomes.

Gamewise? It’s honestly okay, a nice touch on the strategic roguelike, where the path is set, but what you put on that path is where the calculation comes in. You want room, for example, for villages, or features that heal. You can’t overuse them, because you need items and experience to face the boss of each area. But you can’t overuse those, because if the pressure gets too much, you might as well retreat and lose some of the resources you gained.

You’ve got time. Seemingly endless time. And the more time you spend, the more loops you go through, the more resources you can get, to improve the camp back home, giving you more memories of the outside world, more cards to slip into your limited deck that allows you to recreate a microcosm of the dark world you lived in, to become stronger… And the other two classes.

Bones versus Bones, who will win?!?

I like the three classes of this game, each has their own playstyle, their own focus, and I love it. The warrior, the first, is the most straightforward: Hit things, get equipment from them, get stronger, use crits, fuck shit up, rinse, repeat. There’s still variation in how you do it, builds you can play with, but it’s the simplest in terms of gameplay.

The thief and the necromancer, by contrast, ah, they’re not quite so simple. The thief only gets their items (except for village quest items) at the end/start of each loop, the camp. But their power, their levels, are determined by how many trophies you caught (IE – Monsters you killed.) It’s high risk, high reward, and the one I often push too far with. The necromancer, by contrast, well, they don’t fight themselves. You’re buffing your skelly boys with each equipment drop, with each skill you learn. And yes, each class has their own skillsets they can pick from on levelup, although it’s semirandom.

Once it’s boss time, though… Well, the bosses are no pushovers, so you have to feel like you’re properly prepared to face them. And you’re probably still going to get wrecked your first time or couple of times. Considering there’s three bosses, though? It’s all good, and you will be beating them multiple times.

Aesthetically? Omigod I love it so much. C64 style graphics, even down to the palette, dark, brooding tunes, it oozes aesthetic, is clear, and I fucking love it.

It’s a damn shame this is all going to vanish into the void that’s consumed everything. Even if it’s extremely likely to kill us.

Yes, I definitely like this one, as it has many of the positive points I find in good indie games: Tight design, mechanics married to narrative, an interesting story, and it’s a game that can be played in smaller sessions, respecting your time. Yes, I like this indeed.

The Mad Welshman returns to his own loop, forgetting the past briefly so as to concentrate on the present, the future.

Nah, he’s having so much fun with the present and the past.

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Hades (Going Back)

Source: Supporter Gift
Price: £19.49 (£7.19 soundtrack)
Where To Get It: Steam

Supergiant do it again. They keep doing it. I’m enjoying a game about a rebellious young adult, Zagreus, son of Hades, snarking and battling his way from his home at the lowest depths of Hades, trying to escape, in essence, a shitty family situation.

He’s right. I have no urge to consensually bully Dusa, who is cute.

Its aesthetics are gorgeous (God, so many fucking hunks!) Its progression feels natural, to the point where I knew where I was going, knew what I was doing, and was fine with dying over and over again, because I knew my grind would be rewarded. Its characters, even the grumpy and overbearing dad Hades, charmed me.

And thus, one of those times I hate is upon me, because I can’t say anything bad, so I’m struggling with what the hell else to say.

Okay, so, Hades is an action roguelike, in which, as noted, Zagreus, son of Hades, is attempting to escape, with the aid of his step-mother Nyx, the Olympian Gods, and a few other notable figures, including the most relaxed and friendly incarnation of Sisyphus I’ve ever seen. You start with one weapon, a sword, make your way as far as you can, get your ass beaten down, and come back for more, wading out of the pool of blood that forms the entryway to Zagreus’ home as he bitterly snarks or swears payback.

For the reason that it’s ever so cheesable, I love the spear. But every weapon is, honestly, appealing in this game.

He will escape. Because he cannot die, so he keeps trying, because he knows he can do it. And, as he does, he gets more powerful. He befriends various people, like Dusa, the disembodied medusa head maid of Hades’ abode (She’s so cute!), or Dionysus, who reminds me so damn much of Zaphod Beeblebrox that I find myself smiling. A chill dude, I like him.

Anyway, yes, the progression is natural, the sound design great, the VA good…

Look, I can’t keep saying nice things, so I will end with this: If you like action roguelikes, then yes, this is a good one to pick. It’s easy on beginners, it’s accessible (alas, never perfectly, for it is twitchy, but still), and, as mentioned, the grind feels less like a grind, and more like a natural state of affairs.

It’s criminal how hunky, laid back, and smooth talking he is. CRIMINAL, I TELL YOU!

It’s good stuff.

Call me, Dionysus, we had a fun time! xoxo

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Sublevel Zero Redux (Going Back)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £10.99 (Soundtrack £4.99)
Where To Get It: Steam

Wait, I never reviewed the original? Apparently I never reviewed the original. Which is rather odd, because Sublevel Zero is exactly my jam, and exactly the sort of thing I’d want to tell you about. Even if, alas, many wouldn’t be able to play it for the same reason they can’t play other 6 degrees of freedom shooters, procedurally generated or not.

OHGODHORRRRRKKKK!!!

Also particles. Lots and lots of particles.

Yes, motion sickness warning on this one, and a biggie. Moreso if you’re going to try this VR. God, even I feel a little queasy thinking about that. Now, let’s get into it.

It is the far future. Space-time is kind of fucked. But you, a space explorer, have been drawn into a mysterious space station full of killer drones, a space station which might actually hold the clues as to what broke space-time in the first place.

Oh. Yeah. Those killer drones might be a problem. Also some of the generators at the end of each level getting all murderous, presumably because they heard their siblings got wrecked.

Good thing you thought ahead and have guns and missiles, isn’t it?

That… Sounds like a normal one, honestly…

So yes, Sublevel Zero is a procedurally generated shooter, in which you fly around a station where “up” is a room to room matter of preference, you need to think in three dimensions (and keep track of enemies and hazards in those same dimensions), get to the end of each level, hopefully collecting lots of moolah and finding or crafting better weapons, engines, and armour along the way, until… The end. Individual runs are short, although they get longer the more you win, the more you unlock.

And it is a good game. The guns feel different, the unlocks are mostly reasonable, the story, as slim as it is, is slowly revealed to be a dramatic fuckup of epic proportions, and each enemy is recognisable by both shape and colour, even if, sometimes, they’re hard to spot due to mixing in with a specific biome (or deliberately and fittingly designed to be a little hard to spot until you’re too close, like the drone mines. Evil little things…)

Low Poly: Extremely my jam.

Aesthetically, it’s that low poly shit I love so much. Clean, yet with character, a UX that does the job, maybe a little workmanlike, but overall, its worst sins are some smallish text, good and responsive controls, a decent tutorial, and enjoyable, mood fitting sounds and music.

Problems? Well… In its final levels, it relies a bit too much on rooms filled with monsters, which, yes, is hectic, but sometimes, it’s just… Annoying, a packed shooting gallery for you to waste ammo on, as they’re all jostling in the corridor.

Overall, though, it’s a solid roguelike shooter in an arcade style of space combat, a ship that has 6 degrees of freedom, and it comes recommended for fans of both.

Pew pew, pew pew pew pew…

What, were you expecting The Mad Welshman to have something else to say when there’s so much that goes pew pew? Oh wait, dakkadakkadakka. And KABOOOOOM. Yup, that about covers it.

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Slasher’s Keep (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £10.99
Where To Get It: Steam
Other Reviews: Early Access

Content Warning: There are insects in this game, including spiders.

So here I am, trying to escape from perhaps the most Midlands dungeon keep of all time. I forgot how to beat the first floor boss, and so, surrounded by zombies and the technically invincible boss, I die ignobly.

No, really, this is just embarassing

So, here I am, trying to escape again. Dunno how I survived, but this time, I’m more prepared. This time, I bop the boss with my loot bag into spikes, killing them instantly, make my way upstairs… And then I try to make a flying leap to murder a bug, overshoot, and plummet to my death.

And now, I am trying to escape from perhaps the most Midlands dungeon, consistently getting to floor 5, and my only woes in life are the healer orcs, who heal enemies faster than I can smash them in the face.

That might be something to look at, balance wise. And skulls and flies remain aggravating enemies where, without a wand, you’re playing the waiting game (which sucks)

See that little box over in the corner? That’s how you know it’s a well made dungeon: EMPLOYEES CAN TURN OFF THE SODDING TRAPS. And so can you…

But otherwise, I’m having a whale of a time, in a first person roguelike with a silly sense of humour, some cool enemies, and an incremental system where, so long as individual runs go well, my trajectory is upward and outward. And, due to levelling also gaining you the ability to permanently copy (and improve) skills that previously belonged to your kit? Yes, I’m becoming quite the monster, and look forward to eventually finding out what our amazon’s deal is. Or one of the other characters.

So yes, random loot, several item slots, potions, wands, edible maggots, and moleman shopkeepers from Yorkshire are all part of this experience. Along with 2d drawings, in eight different directions, in a 3d low poly dungeon with painted textures, a cartoony look, some fun, silly voice acting, and fittingly off kilter music. This is extremely my jam. Especially with its very British sense of humour, your jailor “back in a bit” forever.

I make this ensemble look good. And anybody who disagrees can get walloped with my loot bag.

It just feels good, from the swinging of the sword and a quick parry system (remember, parry the weapon, not the enemy holding it), to the joy of smacking a zombie or nastier beast into spikes, killing them instantly, to the occasional comedy. It’s honestly not a bad beginner’s first person roguelike, as your general upward progression is noticable. But it has things for other fans of the genre too, so… Yes, definitely recommended, guv’nor!

The Mad Welshman used to live in West Yorkshire. Maybe he should go back there, and go down t’dungeon for a nice bitter…

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Legend of Keepers (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £15.99 (Supporter pack £7.19)
Where To Get It: Steam

Ah, being a dungeon keeper. It’s a good job, all told. Protect yourself, lure adventurers in (those damn assholes), and murder them horribly with a combination of traps and monsterfolk.

I mean, it’s better than letting the little gits run rackets, blow up small villages or forests (accidentally or otherwise), cause diplomatic incidents… The list goes on.

And on…

If your heroes keep getting this far… You might be in trouble. Just… Overall.

And on. In any case, such is the idea of Legend of Keeper. Except you’re basically part of a miserly dungeon keeping corporation. The health plan’s good… When you can find the staff doctor. But everything else is performance based, and staff turnover and morale… God, they’re awful. All to keep adventurers away from the boss.

Okay, maybe it’s not a good job after all.

In any case, Legend of Keeper is one of those rogue like (Sorta. Maybe. Kinda) deals, where you go through two years of defending the dungeon. It’s not like the adventurers come every day… In fact, you often have a fair breather. But with each party you run off or murder (intimidate into running for tears, kill for blood), they get stronger. More assholish.

No, actually, some of them start off assholes. Like the fire mage, whose first action on entering the first battle is to shuffle your carefully curated battle line. The only way of possibly preserving your tactically placed monsters (for the elemental rock/paper/scissors of attack and defence) when you see that particular one is to deliberately place your first team out of order. And pray.

THIS GIT ON THE FAR LEFT. THIS GIT CANNOT DIE ENOUGH. I WILL RESURRECT HIM JUST TO KILL HIM AGAIN!

I hate that guy, and each time I send him to hell, I wish him the iciest time, and extremely pointy sticks. Anyway, yes, dungeon fights, when they happen, are turn based, and consist of several rooms, always with two trap rooms, two monster rooms, a spell room, and your chosen class of boss. There are three bosses, and each has something to recommend them. The Slaver, for example, has a good monster selection, and gets a free big monster, with a room of its own, each year you win (I really hope there’s a third year, because yeah, just having the one big monster feels like a waste.)

But, funnily enough, I have the best time with the glassiest of glass cannons, reliant on shields and a nasty air attack, the Mechanic.

So, how does it feel, is it accessible, does it look good? Well, apart from no subtitles for the three or four barks for each boss (You’re not missing much, especially with the Slaver, who has a bad case of internet poisoning. “Come at me, bro!” … Nyuh huh. I’ll get right on that, really I will), it’s okay. No colourblindness issues that I could see, text is okay, buttons for attacks are very clear, tooltips are easy mouse overs… Visually, it looks quite nice, actually, relatively hi-fi pixel art, with some fun and silly event pictures (like the orc caught reading an anthro magazine. Ohhh, you dirty boy, you!)

Audio wise, it’s okay. Nothing stunning, it works, that’s fine.

Yes, we’re Dungeon Keeping salarymen… And oh boy, the Marketing Department, for what it does, can go to the same place as the fire mage.

Still, this is definitely not a bad roguelike dungeon keeper deal. I’ve been having a nice, tactical time with it, getting comfortably into the swing of murdering the shit out of heroes I definitely don’t sympathise with, and if you like turn based strategy, of the “series of battles” SRPG type deal, yeah, this is a solid choice.

The Mad Welshman floats an idea… How about… We make a dungeon which unceremoniously dumps the hero(ine)s into black company office jobs? That’s MUCH more evil than what we’re doing…

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