Powerwash Simulator (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £15.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Muckingham, a town where beautification committees are considered quaint, and where Health and Safety Inspectors dare not enter, for fear of their lives, has a new hero. The hero they need. The hero they may or may not deserve. The one who’s going to clean up this town!

Hitting tab allows you to gauge the herculean task in front of you. And whether you missed a spot.

Oh, I’m sorry, was the title not clear enough that all that heroic guff was hyperbole, and that it is, in fact, a relaxing game about washing things with a high pressure hose, a variety of nozzles, and whatever background music you choose to put on, for the game deliberately has none? Because yes, it’s a game about cleaning things, both big and small, with a high pressure hose, a variety of nozzles, and whatever background music you choose to put on.

It’s pretty clever, actually. Because it’s not only a game you can take at your own pace, nobody can actually say it isn’t a challenge. That one tiny nook you missed, that’s stopping you from that dopamine inducing ting of “This has been cleaned now!” That swearing as you realise that your quick sweep has just left dirt that you can’t see, outside of your super-power of briefly turning dirt bright yellow, but is nonetheless all over the sodding place. Oh, and let us not forget trying to find that one support or timber out of 21 (people who’ve already bought the game know exactly what I mean) that has only mostly been cleaned.

Considering the state of Muckingham, I’m assuming it went on the “Nearly Unused” listing on mBay.

It’s got it’s challenges, that’s for sure. But it’s well designed, in that it’ll give you a big one, maybe a couple of big ones… Then a smaller job. Then a few more big ones, maybe a medium one, smaller job, so on… It’s well paced, in its career mode, and the writing of the characters who hire you is humorous indeed. From the old park keeper who doesn’t understand why people are complaining about a little bit of muck (read: The whole fucking park), to the bakery folks who live in a rustic cottage, one Hansel and Gretel Hexenjager, who are definitely bakers and not anything else!

It’s pretty accessible, with a right click toggle of the water to save your poor finger if you wish (although alas, your wrist is likely to suffer if you play for long periods), clear UX, the bright yellow of the dirt sight clearly contrasting with a good 99% of the surfaces (so even though some grime may not be visible at first glance, it will always be when you Tab to check), colour coding for your nozzles…

And, aesthetically, it’s solid. Often bright, colourful locations, making a night and day transition from Ye Liveliest Awfulness to pristine, friendly locales, the sound of the pressure washer against various surfaces is relaxing, and fitting… It doesn’t have music, it’s true, but this is a deliberate decision so you can put your own on.

Your reward for a job well done is to see the work you’ve done… Being done. Ah, watching that dirt vanish in moments is… Slightly taunting the time you actually took doing it…

I like Powerwash Simulator already, a bunch, and I’m very unlikely to change this opinion. There’s a lot of rinsey, bubbly bang for your buck if you’re into nice, relaxing simulation games that aren’t really simulations, per se, but are good enough that you can imagine you’re having a nice, relaxing time drenching things at high pressure and watching the muck and grime and rust melt away…

…Ahhh, bliss. Even for a mucky pup like myself!

Oh, and the Multiplayer Beta dropped, so soon, you’ll be able to powerwash with your friends, too, wheeee!

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Hell Architect (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £19.49
Where To Get It: Steam

Much like describing my issues with demons/Lucifer as tempters, knowing where the hell (ha) to start with this review has been difficult for me. But what I can say is that I felt… An odd sense of disappointment with it. Maybe I’m just being picky. Maybe. But nonetheless, let’s start there.

Hahaha, clothes? Why would you need clothes in hell?… I bet you’re all 1%ers too, how does it feel to lose your underwear, let alone your shirt?

There is, on the surface, nothing wrong with Hell Architect. It’s one of those pauseable real time management and building deals, in which you take care of your sinners while torturing them (sinners, apparently, still need food, drink, and proper toilet breaks (to make drinks) in Hell), building various things to look good to your boss (Lucifer, naturally), set underground (again, this is natural and common imagery of Hell), coming with a sandbox (the most commonly played), a solid tutorial, and scenarios to play with. All well and good.

Except… I can’t help but compare it to an earlier game, not only because of the (very) similar gameplay, but because it’s precisely why I feel so dissatisfied. The game being Oxygen Not Included (review here.)

Always fond of a wee cutscene, and I do like the painted aesthetic on display…

Aesthetically, it’s alright. UX is a little small, even on max scaling (upside: It has UX scaling. No congratulations, devs, this really should be normal across the games industry), but the cutscenes are visually appealing, what’s what is pretty clear, the music’s fitting, and the voice acting’s solid.

But it’s lacking the same character I saw in Oxygen Not Included, except with the torture devices. It… Feels blander, if that makes sense. And this is the thing… If I didn’t have this comparison, it would be an alright game in my book. Hell, it still is, perfectly serviceable, lots of playtime ahead, things to look forward to, tortures, etcetera.

Wh-whoah-whoah-whoah-whoah-whoah… They actually do have needs? Well, shit…

Even so, this is one of those times where, despite my heavy dislike of doing this, I can’t help but compare it to another game, and find it wanting in comparison. Maybe, if you like strategy/management/building type deals, you’ll find pleasure in this. For me, however, it just didn’t gel, even if that feels unfair to say, even to me.

I can’t ignore the emotional component of playing a game, however. That, as well, wouldn’t be fair.

The Mad Welshman doesn’t mind visiting Hell. They’re all pretty chill down there. Very big on responsibility for one’s actions…

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Foreclosed (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £13.49
Where To Get It: Steam

Cyberpunk. Proper cyberpunk, not neo-futurism or cyber SF. Comic book aesthetic. Stealth, gunplay, hacking… You’d think this was right up my street.

But, in short, it’s not. I quite Foreclosed pretty early, and I’m not ashamed to say that. Because, on several levels, it just. Didn’t. Work for me. We’ll get into it after I explain what the game is.

Mmmm… A stealth section where I don’t have quite as much info as I’d like. Well, the important stuff is there, at least.

So, a third person (occasionally switching to first person, more on that in a bit) shooter with levelling, stealth kills, stealth, low health (at least to start), and “hit arrows in the right order” based hacking minigames. Oh, and the stealth kill is a QTE, button mashing 2. That’s your basics, right there. So… Let’s get into the few parts it got right, and then… The bits it got wrong.

In terms of general aesthetics, the music was good, tense stuff, chilling out during the quiet moments, the comic book aesthetic was indeed like some gritty inks I’ve seen in the past with colour, the voice acting (what I heard of it, anyway), was good, the comic booky bits looked good, and…

He’s a big feller.

That’s pretty much it. That’s… Pretty much it. Our protagonist takes up a lot of screen real estate, switches between walking and running… Well, seemingly in predetermined areas that nonetheless feel random, it switched to full screen mode whenever I came back to the main menu, keys don’t appear to be rebindable, default mouselook is fast, the first person camera has headbob you can’t turn off (and has a disorienting switch), the third person can sometimes be fucky, and there are segments where you’re forced into a different third person perspective than “behind the protagonist” (thankfully with absolute movement controls, so left is still left, right still right, and so on.)

And this was just what I saw in the first… checks… Half hour. I died precisely twice, once in the first stealth section (that one was most definitely my fault), and once in the first proper shooting segment (that… The protagonist is pretty squishy, the cover’s not great…)

Dead. And again. And again…

I’d have maybe switched to a lower difficulty (yes, there is a lower difficulty), but when I see this many problems this early on? Foreclosed was definitely not for me. I’m honestly glad I found this out early, even considering this is a review copy.

It’s a shame, really. There’s enough of interest here that if these problems were fixed, maybe it would be a fun, interesting romp, much like one of its main inspirations, XIII. But alas, it was not to be.

The Mad Welshman sighed as he looked at the television screen sky, and puffed on his neon vape. Time to get back to the grind…

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Tetrix (Review)

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

Wow, I haven’t seen this since FRAC, way back in the day… Legally distinct falling tetromino (well, not always) game, but in 3D, with a top down perspective, good luuuuuck!

No, really, if you get this I hope you have fun with it, because when I played this sort of game way back in the day, it was fun. Y’see, you can rotate in three dimensions, so more options, more thought, and, at high levels, more panic. The good stuff!

Let’s face it, do you need any other screenshots?

And, aesthetically, it’s alright! Nice vapourwave tunes, I’m good with those, a few UX themes to pick from, good colour differentiation, clear UX, and block types, yes! Although, sadly, none of the fun bullshittery of ye days of yore, like 4x4x6 blocks, or the dread CORNER T-BLOCK (no, really.)

My only problems with the game? Well… A few typos. Free Mode, Campaign mode. That’s… About it. It even starts nice and slow, adjusts the speed you start at in free mode, and, while it takes some getting used to (Check your controls for what’s X, Y, and Z rotation), once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty fun to play if you like Ye Olde Block Fallinge Game.

I do still wish it had some sillier blocks though, that was half the fun of some of the older varieties of this concept. Ah well. Another solid game, another game simple enough to understand and talk about that this entire sentence is simply padding. Give it a go if you like that one game which shares five letters with this one. You know the one.

The Mad Welshman loves spatial puzzles. Like where the hell to fit this book he just got. No, he doesn’t have a bibliophilia problem, why would you possibly ask that?!?

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Tsugu No Hi (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £7.19 (£4.79 for Evil God Korone)
Where To Get It: Steam

Hrm. “Day of Atonement”, according to the developer. It’s a good title for this series of horror vignettes, and furthermore allows a simple change to make Tsugi No Hi (The Next Day), even if… What are the characters in these vignettes atoning for again?

I thought I’d start with a note that yes, there is a Kizuna Ai Tsugu no Hi story. And a Korone one at the time of publishing.

Well, except for one, maybe two cases? Just being in the wrong place at the wrong time, intruding upon something that they never would have realised they were intruding on. It’s honestly one of the things I like about Japanese horror stories like these: It doesn’t feel the need to explain the why or the what. If you happen to know why you’re being targeted by this ghost/youkai/kami/whatever (no, I’m not using these interchangably, I’m just covering the bases), then good, but most of the time… You won’t. Why would you? How would you?

I got pretty far ahead of myself here, so let’s back up a bit. Tsugu No Hi is a series of short adventures that were previously made in Flash, in which, for the majority of games, there are precisely two necessary controls: Left, to go left. Enter to pass onto the next bit of dialogue. You do this a few times, each time being a day, and eventually… Well, you inevitably reach your fate. It’s one of the more literal interpretations of Kinetic Novels I’ve seen, and I like that.

Equally, I like the aesthetic when it’s not trying its best to burst my eardrums or jumpscare me. Photoshopped people, a photocollage for most of the stories, blank spaces where the eyes should be being the norm, normal, ambient sounds, until… Oh… Oh… Things are starting to get weird. A good staple of horror that: The slow realisation of wrongness in reality. The music in the end and the beginning of each story is also good, so… Mmm, do like, and same with ye ambient horror bass.

A brief summary of the series. Despite this sign, you enter. And bad things happen. And you vanish from the world, presumably horribly. No, not even this cat is immune.

Now, let’s get onto problems. So, first up, if kinetic novels are not your thing, this will miss you. You have next to no control, you cannot escape this fate, and, while this is thematically appropriate (after all, you were fucked from the moment whatever is happening started), this is what it is. A dark ghost house ride, jumpscares and all. Some of these hit, adding to the atmosphere, and some, well, they’re silly, shock and nothing more.

Secondly, this is… A pretty direct set of ports. Volume control? Gonna have to go into your mixer while the game’s running, buddy. The small window of the story selection screen is most definitely… A thing, although the windows for the games themselves can be maximised just fine. And thirdly, fans of the originals will find the “The Next Day” transitioning to “The Day of Atonement” (in this translation “The Hexed Day”… Oh ho ho) to be a disappointment. I can’t really speak about the quality of translation, alas, but it seems mostly faithful from what I’ve seen of translators Let’s Playing it.

Sometimes, it’s just… Jumpscare after jumpscare, right at the end. It’s not bad, but it’s not great either when it happens.

Honestly, I like Tsugu No Hi overall, I love the implication of connected incidents in many of the chapters, and I like the general concept, even if the aural and visual assault of the final days is a mixed bag for me, usually a miss when it’s really over the top. But I like the connected stories, even if the connection isn’t obvious. This… Is an extremely cursed place. Spirits abound, people are fucked (and one cat. So, yes, CW: Cat death)…

…I just wish this was more of an update using the assets, rather than most of the originals, jank and all, collected in one place. But hey, if you like janky J-horror, know to turn the volume down in the mixer lest your eardrums suffer, and are fine with jumpscares (either in the sense of enjoying the ARGH! Or just… Being okay with them, like me), this definitely isn’t a bad pick to while away a few hours.

The Mad Welshman has somehow not reached The Day of Atonement. He’s kind of disappointed, actually. He’s always wanted to punch a ghost in the face for trying to claw his own off.

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