Soul Smith of the Kingdom (Going Back)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £5.19 (Soundtrack £1.69)
Where To Get It: Steam

Inu To Neko games… They’re often about starting a business, and equally as often, it’s a case of tough (and sometimes misguided) love. In the case of Soul Smith of the Kingdom, Nine is the greatest smith in the nation of Aldenoar. But her uncle, perceiving a vital weakness, forbids her from smithing until she raises another great blacksmith. After all, she needs some business sense, and knowledge of how to train employees, so the legacy of the Soul Smiths can continue.

You’re right, lads. Never work at a black company. That shit can only lead to poor health and shitty Isekai.

And so, enter perhaps the most idle game like entry in the series. Although, as always, it’s not that simple, but not as intimidating as it looks. You start with two low level blacksmiths, and, as is often in the series, you get your friends (the cast of the series) to enter dungeons to get materials, you set the weapons the blacksmiths are making, gain skills, gain new blueprints by either buying them, finding them in the dungeon, or, as is most often the case, soul-smithing a weapon the blacksmith is proficicient in.

Oh, and you get skills and, once you get a single smith to level 30, you can get other smiths to inherit their skills, gain souls, and buy more skills. And the minigame, once every month.

It looks complicated. But it’s not as complex as all that.

Funnily enough, most of the game is pleasant. Yes, the translation of the character stories is Engrishy, but honestly, I don’t have that much of a problem with it, as the characters are cool, and the stories are warm and light hearted generally.

But the minigames, or, specifically, the difficulty of some of them, is my biggest issue with the game. Jesus H Christ, if I see Drop Ball or Fill In The Blanks (and, to a lesser extent, Face Checker and Speed Aim), I just leave them alone, because math puzzles involving four numbers from 1 to 9 is not something I like to do on a regular basis, and Drop Ball rapidly becomes bullshit, since both a miss and a ball falling out loses you a heart, and so it’s very easy to lose it all in three rapid clicks of panic. I dislike the minigames, except for Big Search (which grid has the bigger total?)

Face Checker gets evil on three stars and above… Little things start becoming important. ARGH.

But, overall, it’s a game I can relax with. I’m at the mid-late game now, and I’ve made my smiths too good, as, if they’re all left to make more expensive things, they’ll rapidly run out of materials. So I make the smaller stuff with two of them, to level up my friends for deeper dungeon delving, and try to ensoulise weapons with one at a time.

I’d definitely recommend this one out of the Inu To Neko games, as its mix of idle and management gameplay is pretty nice, and it’s got a pretty clear UX.

The Mad Welshman supports improving your craft. But not at the expense of your health, okay?

Become a Patron!

Umurangi Generation (Going Back)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £11.39 (Soundtrack £3.99, DLC £7.19 (good stuff), Soundtrack for DLC £3.99)
Where To Get It: Steam

Photography is one hell of a thing. Like all art, it can show beauty or ugliness. It creates feelings, and often informs. And so, Umurangi Generation is all about… Just that. In each area, get all 10 basic photos (and five bonus objectives), and get more tools to take more photos.

Your four friends. Remember, it doesn’t count as taking a photo of them if even one is left out. Who would leave a cute penguin friend out? Monsters, that’s who.

Seems simple, doesn’t it? Hahaha, it’s not. In many respects. Control wise, it is actually that simple. Hold up camera, take photos, get money, although you get more for photos with lots of objects in that have lots of colours. You can even fiddle with exposure, colour balance, and tint, if you think it looks cool. Take the photos you’re asked for, get to the red marker, always where you start (the yellow one is a sign for the postcard objective), hit E, you’re done. Do it in 10 minutes for extra kudos.

But it’s not that simple, for a couple of reasons. First, some of your objectives are out of the way, difficult to find, or outright hidden. Sometimes, you need a specific lens, which makes it tough to deal with. And, the further you go on, the further you realise these are, essentially, postcards from hell.

I needlessly tilted that one, but… Yeah, shit’s going to hell…

At first, it’s subtle. You can just about see a UN blockade in the first area. Then it becomes more obvious: The troops are here, and the world is somewhat fucked. And the folks high up? They don’t give a fuck. It’s a dystopian future, which you’re living through and documenting… Just like photojournalists covering some of the events of the modern day.

Some of it, yes, is fantastical, like the Squids, but it’s all couched in a sense of reality, however strange it may seem. The UN soldiers on break are lounging around, smoking. The people of the city are… People. And it’s all with a sense of its location, a Maori world, with their symbols and culture… And graffiti and snaps you need to take… That paint the whole, grim picture.

They may be chilling out now… But things are going to hell.

Climate change, war, the price of rampant capitalism… All seen through a camera lens. You’re just trying to get by, in a world getting closer to apocalypse, a world where the leaders desert their duty because they don’t see it as a serious problem… A world that can feel all too real.

It’s a solid, sometimes depressing, sometimes beautiful game. It engages with its subjects through its level design, and I’d highly recommend it. Well, except for folks for whom this will be too depressing.

The Mad Welshman admits he got too-real vibes. Yes, even during the bigger stuff.

Become a Patron!

In Other Waters (Going Back)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £11.39 (Soundtrack £5.79, “A Study of Gliese 677Cc” (book), £7.19)
Where To Get It: Steam

Exploring alien worlds, with new life… We see it a lot in fiction. What we don’t see so often is a world that gets properly explored. Oh, those pretty plants? What’s their function, their relation to other species, how does it fit into the ecosystem, and… Is it actually healthy?

You can juuuust about see that the good Doctor’s ship has only 75% oxygen right now. Feelin’ a little pressured…

Well, this is all a consideration to an exobiologist, and indeed, In Other Waters, that would be all that you’d be worrying about outside of your own health. But the protagonists of In Other Waters have other problems. One, the human Dr. Ellery Vas, has been summoned to this world by an old… Well, their feelings are conflicted… Let’s say friend for now. Except she’s nowhere to be found, and her bases have been abandoned.

The other is you, the suspiciously advanced AI of a diving suit, and a malfunctioning suit at that. You’re her only hope. Both to survive… And to solve the riddles of Gliese 677Cc, a world where all may not be well.

Or, y’know, nature is just being nature, and you and Dr. Vas happened to stop in at a bad time. That could be it too. I’m not telling you.

Speaking of nature, once you finish studying a species, you get sweet biological drawings! Awww, isn’t this thing the cutest/

Still, what this results in? Is a minimalist game, in an undersea world which doesn’t really know you, and you don’t know it. Dr. Vas is fascinated, because, well, scientist, and she tries her best to understand the role of the various species she encounters, adding them to a rough taxonomy. Even as an expert, she isn’t sure of what’s going on, but she makes reasonable, educated guesses. And, despite the fact you can’t talk, she tries to communicate with you. After all, the friend she was looking for doesn’t look like she’s anywhere around. You’re all that’s left.

And, as such, it’s a game where you read about beauty… Yet, as a suit, it’s a sterile radar display, a UX for a robot, function, direction… You can see the movement of creatures, hear the water, the hissing of toxins clogging your rebreather, sometimes noises of the various animals and plants and fungi… But you are disconnected from it all. Just as Dr. Vas… Ellery… Is disconnected from her friend, and cannot properly communicate with you, disconnected from you in a different way.

The world as you see it. A washed out radar readout. Come to think of it, this is a bit of a nightmare colourblindness wise. Hrm.

You are all, in a sense, strangers in a strange land, alone, seeing beauty, trying to understand it… But you aren’t part of it. And the music, this UX, clean, easily understood, yet sterile, the way the world is presented… It all adds to one feeling, a feeling that’s strange for a game of exploration. Well, sort of strange. It fits well here, for example.

Loneliness. Maybe that’s just me, but it’s a lonely game, in several respects.

But here’s the thing: It wants you to explore its world. It eases you in, and each area has a sort of puzzle associated with it. How to get creatures to come out of their hidey holes. How to put others back in. How to maybe, just maybe, clear a toxic area with local plantlife just long enough to get where you need to go without Dr. Vas running out of oxygen, causing an override to your suit.

And I recommend it. I recommend its serene bleakness, the beauty you can only read about, and not experience for yourself, not fully. I recommend its story about searching for truth and piercing the veil of secrets, on several levels. It’s slow… But it’s good.

I’d like to be… Beneath the sea… In a… Sod, this doesn’t actually work. Beep boop, I can human well.

Become a Patron!

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.

Become a Patron!

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…

Become a Patron!