West of Dead (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £15.48 (£19.02 for DLC and OST, £4.79 Soundtrack, £2.09 DLC)
Where To Get It: Steam

West of Dead definitely nails its atmosphere down. Heavy black shading, deep shadows, washed out colours, tombs everywhere… It’s a Western styled afterlife, alright. And one cowboy is stuck in purgatory, hunting down the ghost of a preacher… Who might actually have made the land of the dead mighty ornery. Good thing the cowboy in question is tired and ornery too.

Sure ain’t…

Said ghostly cowboy is voiced by… Ron Perlmann. A man who knows his matter of face, practical characters who are Very Tired Of Your Shit. And William Mason is, indeed, a man who takes the situation in his stride. He knows he won’t like the answers to certain questions he could ask, so he doesn’t ask them. He knows something’s wrong, so he just gets down to it. And he can certainly wax poetic, at times. I like him. And the general idea is a twin-stick roguelike shooty type deal, with you shooting various undead folks and beasts in a claustrophobic land of the dead, levelling up and finding hopefully new, hopefully better gear as you go. I like that style of game, too.

I like… The combat a little bit less, however. Not the general idea, it’s quite cool, and encourages the Western shootout feel by having to reload, and that reloading being faster in cover, and slower still while on the move. And cover does break, and there are folks who don’t give a hoot about your cover, such as bombers or the big boys, so you’re shooting all the folks you can from one piece of cover, then rolling to the next, hopefully dodging shots along the way. It’s good stuff, on its most basic level.

Them boys ain’t right…

However… That difficulty ramps up quickly indeed, so this is one of those… Where it doesn’t feel like it wants me to see it. It wants me to die early, over and over again, ’til I’ve either got the muscle memory or the tools to deal with, say, the Butchers, who are only melee in the sense that most of their attacks are melee based. Don’t matter none, they can destroy cover, and if you get close, best be dodging, and dodging the right way, because they got an area attack, friend, and that hurts.

So… This is one where I love the atmosphere. I love the basic idea of the combat, I love the aesthetic, it’s all pretty clear… But I’m honestly finding the difficulty unforgiving, because while I can consistently get to the second level, I also consistently die there. Also in the negative category is that sometimes, the camera really isn’t your best friend. And finally, in niggles, the game goes full screen for a brief time on loading, even if you’ve set it to windowed mode. Which is annoying.

Every character has something going for them, design wise.

I don’t really think it’s a bad game… But it is a tough game, so if you’re frustrated by that sort of thing, I would say stay away, and if not… It’s definitely got a unique atmosphere, and a nice little twist on things, so if difficulty doesn’t turn you off, I’d say give this one a go.

Life ain’t what it used to be. But nor’s death either. Leastways, not in games, where it’s sure as hell painful… And just as surely temporary…

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SUPERHOT (Going Back)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £17.99
Where to Get It: Steam

Ah, SUPERHOT. One hell of an interesting premise, both in terms of mechanics and story. The gist? Time only moves when you do, including looking around… And you’re in some extremely hectic situations in which it’s kill… Or be killed.

But hey, it’s only a pirated in-development game sent by a friend, and you can always restart!

MAKE HIM FLY.

Haha… Hahahaha… Haaaaboy…

It’s kind of amusing, really, how such a simple premise can be stretched out, and, with the story, each area of progression retrospectively makes the levels you’ve already completed something you can feel a vague sense of guilt about. But it’s only vague, because you’re hooked, the enemies are low-poly faceless red people who want you dead, and you want to see more.

Good boy…

Time for some… Dentistry. With bullets.

Aesthetically, that low poly look, the glittering reds of what you need to kill, the blacks of what you can use to maim and stun and kill, the slow sounds of glass shattering, bullets firing, and the sterile white of the rest of the landscape makes everything nice and visually clear, yet disconcertingly off… And that discomfort rises when… Ah, but you thought I was going to spoil something, didn’t you? Well, as far as this review goes…

guruCHAT – so old, it’s riskier to log in than not. Who knows who might hijack your chat?

You are not in control.

After all, I want people to experience the twists. That slow, dawning “The fuck?” as they happen, as you have to get ever more creative, to not rely on any one thing, be it guns, your fists, or things to throw, to help you survive. Or at least enjoy dying as a means of exploring what you can do, and to find the (really annoying) secrets of the game. After all…

Bodies are disposable.

The Mad Welshman’s reviews are good. Money is disposable. Support is the new… Okay, okay, but you have to admit, it was worth a shot!

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SUPERHOT: MIND, CONTROL, DELETE (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £19.99 (Soundtrack free!)
Where to Get It: Steam

SUPERHOT was an interesting, paranoia inducing game about shooting and killing and beating people in a game that… Haha, well, let’s just say “Time only moves when you do”, and leave spoilers out of it. It’s an interesting premise, the story took some cool and dark turns, and I quite enjoyed it.

Oh, you poor fool. When it comes to pistol v pistol, friend… I automatically win.

SUPERHOT is more of the same… Except now in a sort of roguelike form. There are areas, and within those areas you have a pattern of random levels taken from a pool, and random upgrades (the number of each is fixed), and defeating everything in an area is completion, which then lets you access other nodes in this network, nodes that have memories, snippets of dialogue, and hacked in upgrades such as the ability to charge people, or bullet deflections that deflect every bullet back toward the enemies, regardless of whether you deflected those. But in its basic level goals, it remains mostly the same: Use your time stopping/slowing powers to murder red people in a level using whatever you can, be it thrown items, melee weapons, or one of a variety of guns.

And naturally, what SUPERHOT: MCD brings to the table, apart from MORE story, is just… MORE… MORE gun. MORE wrinkles, such as enemies who can only be hurt in certain locations, and are otherwise as white and sterile as your non interactible bits of scenery. MORE levels in which to play. Hell, even the achievements are “MORE [thing]”

And indeed there is! There’s so much MORE…

And aesthetically and narratively, it’s also similar, in that paranoid, dystopian tone, which I compared to a mix of David Cronenberg and David Lynch (two film directors well known for surreal and dark films), and the way the aesthetics both subtly put you off balance and highlight everything you need to know.

For anyone with a little first person, low poly roguelike-ish need, this one’s a pretty solid pick. And for the people who played Superhot, but somehow haven’t already got MCD… It’s MORE.

The Mad Welshman apologises that he wasn’t able to screencap mid shuriken throw. Those things go at one hell of a clip…

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Maid of Sker (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £19.99
Where To Get It: Steam

The Maid of Sker (Y Ferch O’r Scer) is an old Welsh ballad, telling the tale of a love denied by class differences, a harper loving a maid, the maid being married off after the father denied the dalliance, and the maid dying of a broken heart. Or, in some versions of the tale, being locked in a tower, dying, and haunting the mansion forever more.

This will probably be the last daylight you’ll see. Along with something you’ll be seeing a fair bit of.

Okay, in at least one version, it turns out alright in the end. But it’s that second one that’s pertinent, as Wales Interactive have decided to take a stab at a first person survival horror, where the maid’s song, a song she was forced to sing, has corrupted the entire household into murderous, faceless mirrors. Or… Maybe it’s not as clear cut as that? Still, we’re here to look at the overall stuff, so how did Wales Interactive do?

Well, aesthetically, they nail it. Since the creatures you face hunt by sound (and they’re faster than you), their deep breaths and clumping footsteps fill with dread, and the areas each have a distinct flavour, be they outside or inside. It feels, in essence, like a place, which happens to have monsters in it.

Ew.

On the gameplay end, however… It can be pretty frustrating. The stealth, not so much, although there are definitely frustrations there (I get it, you’ve got a cough, Thomas, and I also get that it’s there to add a little spice to things, but it felt random and irritating.) I didn’t find the AI omnipotent at times, as others have said, mainly because I took great care not to bump into anything. But mileage apparently varies there.

Meanwhile… The puzzles. Some are obtuse and frustrating, and I can’t help but feel what happened was that I missed a document somewhere. In any case, that and the protagonist being seemingly the only properly mute character in the whole thing is also a tadge annoying (I’m going to note, with some amusement here, that some have said the perfect Welsh singing of Ms. Williams with a seemingly English accent was offputting… Believe me, butt, I can sing flawlessly in Welsh, but my accent is English too. Bloody Radio 4 cursed me.)

Eesh. When you care more about proper records and salvage than people. Wreckers…

Still, there’s enough it does right that it still errs on the side of recommendation. The introduction of the monsters is well done, the little vignettes you see, such as the gravekeeper seeming to burn someone alive, are good, and you get the picture of what went on very early on. It’s kind of bleak to read, at one point, the tally of these hotel owners/shipwreckers’ victims (Clothes 2/6, Trinkets 1/6), and then, later on, to hear your dear heart talk, seemingly oblivious, about how her father and brother were swearing over the guest vanishing, but no money coming out of them. So, aesthetically, it works, and horror wise, it does more than just jump scare (although it does that too, so the jump scare averse, stay away)

I won’t say I had the best time with it, but I can at least lay that partially down to frustration with the puzzles and the feeling I was missing something (especially maps for certain areas, which bugged the hell out of my completionist reflexes), and partly down to my pickiness with horror coming from years of familiarity. And it does, in the end, have more going for it than against it.

The Mad Welshman loves his home country, and its relationship with myth and the supernatural. It’s a largely untapped resource, to be quite honest. Doctor Davies, Warlock Exorcist, when, folks?

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Cloudpunk (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £16.99 (£24.98 for game and soundtrack, soundtrack £7.99)
Where To Get It: Steam

The City. We all know The City. It’s a dark place, always raining, always cloudy… Or is that smoggy? Yeah, it’s smoggy… Ramen’s your go to vending food, the lights are neon, and the streets are grimy and filled with refuse, both human and otherwise. Welcome to this version of The City. Welcome to Cloudpunk.

And this is one of the nicer portions…

But what is Cloudpunk? Essentially, it’s a narrative delivery service game, set in a dystopian future city with high tech… And low life. You’re a worker for the Cloudpunk service, a service that doesn’t want its drivers to be known as Cloudpunk. You keep hearing the word CORA, and can’t pin down what that means. And within your first hour, you’ve either delivered a highly suspicious package (or haven’t), talked to a variety of people, and met your neighbour, the android Evelin, whose close friend locked away memories in her mind, and is decrypting them (like you, not wanting Corporate Security’s attention) by… Punchcards.

No, the memories aren’t on the punchcards, that’d be silly. But the encryption key to her memories is.

Evelin has many problems in her life. This is but one.

And so, you fly through the world, in your hovercar, walking round places, picking things up, delivering things that you’re meant to deliver after picking things up, and, after a point, just… Exploring. Looking around. This is your first night, and most drivers apparently don’t survive their first night. So why not enjoy yourself, talk to people, get a feel for the city first, eh?

And there’s a fair bit to it. Not only is there the main story, with its sometimes wonky voice acting (mostly pretty good, though), its almost surreal cyberpunk setting (and yes, this counts as cyberpunk, you are Little People, and even living is a rebellion), and its people. An Engineer for the city, the city that’s falling apart, but only he knows what’s up. Red street signs blinking three times is bad. Also blue signs in general. Aaaand orange, yellow, green… Purple’s the worst though. If you see purple, you’re fucked already… Well, according to him, anyway. And he’s just one example.

The Marrow, as you can guess, has been sucked dry by the ghouls.

Aesthetically, this game is pretty good. It uses voxel art (that’s cubes instead of dots) pretty well, the music ambient, synthy, and very fitting, and the soundscape… Police fly by, hovercars and trucks (called HOVAS, collectively) whibbleywhoo over the place, and the rain… Nearly always… The rain.

I don’t really have bad things to say, to be honest, but if a game mostly about exploring in your car and on foot, about keeping the gas going, keeping your HOVA repaired, and exploring the story isn’t for you, then it isn’t for you. If it is, Cloudpunk’s a pretty solid example of an exploration game with narrative, not just story.

…And I do love me narrative…

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