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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Hero Among Us (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £7.19
Where To Get It: Steam

You’re just one hero. You can be as fast as you want, as strong as you want, as smart as you want, but, in the end, you’re fighting an uphill battle. And you can’t possibly save them all. But maybe, if you save enough… You’ll save the world.

I started in the West. And there are no other heroes. And I am so, so sorry. 🙁

Such is the premise of Hero Among Us, a race against time strategy game in which you, picking from a set of hero archetypes, must solve enough world problems, improve enough world infrastructure, that the world is nominally “peaceful.” Let the villains do too much, let them create enough problems, and you lose.

It’s pretty hectic stuff, as it’s pretty much about cooldown and crisis management. And it gets harder and harder as the game goes on, with more villains cropping up (either creating problems, or trying to stop you solving them) and more problems appearing as time goes on, each linked to a stat of yours. And you only heal the exhaustion you gain from solving these problems by resting somewhere you’ve made completely safe, especially your home base.

Oh look, your home base is very often under threat, as you’d expect from hero media. You’re not just battling hunger, or pollution, or epidemic crime rates… You’re not just battling colourful villains… No, you’re battling your own weariness in this nigh constant struggle.

Just… Just one last stretch, and I can rest. Just for a little while. Just… For a moment…

UX wise, it’s pretty clear. More blue good, more red bad. Problems are similarly clearly highlighted, and villains (and sidekicks or drones, if you have them) are tokens. Skill trees fit the character in question, as much dealing with infrastructure additions as the improvement of your own stats, which dictate how fast you can solve problems, and how weary you get from fighting them, and…

Well, it’s a pretty good game, with a tight narrative all about fighting a tiring, endless battle against the woes. Damn near alone. The only big hero on the planet.

You’re all alone, hero. Comrades nowhere to be seen… I’ll enjoy this…

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Abyss of the Sacrifice (Going Back)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £30.99 (Soundtrack £3.99)
Where To Get It: Steam

The game has the following CWs: Mentions of suicide, sexual abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, parental abuse, and human experimentation.

Hrm. Hrm, and other thoughtful noises.

The characters have, at times, a seriously rocky relationship. And there’s good reasons, plural.

Abyss of the Escape is a visual novel/escape room game, in which five girls are trapped, seemingly alone, in the ruins of FOUNDATION, an underground home for humanity after the surface basically got fucked. And shit’s not going well for them, not helped by certain things along the way, and the secrets and traumas each person has. It’s interesting, dark stuff.

It’s such a shame then, that it’s timeline implementation is awkward, and many of its puzzles are obtuse, some downright frustrating in their lack of information. I had to rely on hints for a fair few puzzles, and a few, in particular, I would not have found the solutions to without either pixel hunting, or looking the solution up. All I will say about that, if you play it, is that two numbers you haven’t lit up are hidden inside another, single digit number. It must also be said that some of the puzzles feel out of place for the situation.

Huh, big barrier in the garbage room? What purpose did that serve, except to arbitrarily separate the two characters involved for a dual viewpoint puzzle? Making tea? Good Doctor, I understand that you don’t want to let your daughter near your best tea, but an entire puzzle about tea making is only going to interest the tea fanatics. Who will then get turned off by the puzzle lock on the crucial ingredient. Although the last puzzle of that scene did fit the character of the Doctor.

I kicked myself after realising the solution. And this is an early puzzle.

And these two faults kind of taint the whole experience, which is a shame, because there’s some legitimately good writing in there, including the main twist. The rather heavily foreshadowed main twist.

Aesthetically, it works. Clear UX, some good illustrations, solid music, some good VA, and overall, as noted, good writing, because a good twist is foreshadowed, but even heavy foreshadowing works if it doesn’t quite make sense until the twist.

But yes, the awkward implementation of the timeline, some obtuse and sometimes arbitrary puzzles, they bring the game from legitimately good and interesting, to a cautious recommendation with heavy qualifications.

See this? THESE HELP PEOPLE GET INTO YOUR GAME IF IT’S A TADGE BIG.

Timelines, VN devs. I’ll stress this and stress this until it sinks in. Timelines. They make our lives easier.

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Doctor Who: The Lonely Assassin (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £5.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Found thingumajigger type games can be interesting. When, that is, they properly open up. Or don’t tell a random person who found a random phone that they’re looking for a doctor who isn’t actually a doctor but travels through time and space.

Y’know, just normal found mobile game stuff, which wouldn’t result in the protagonist dropping the thing in the trash or handing it into a police station or… Look, there’s immersion breaking, and then there’s “everything about this feels wrong from very early on.”

Petronella…? Petronella, honey? UNIT is sort of meant to not talk about the Doctor so much, even if the Doctor talks about the Doctor the whole time…

None of the choices I’m given seem like something I would say in the situation. Some of the clues I’d like to pass on I can’t. I’ve been handheld for approximately 17 minutes (I’ll update as I go on.) For the first twenty minutes… I don’t feel like I’m solving anything.

It does, after this point, begin to open up. But… I still feel like I’m an observer of an observer, someone who’s more watching someone else click through a phone, listening to phone calls, talking to, as mentioned, someone who just casually mentions the Doctor like it ain’t no thing… A person I’m watching who doesn’t make sense to me. In fact, every time the Doctor comes up in conversation, I wince. Because, from the outside looking in, it feels so forced.

And, at times, I feel a frustration I haven’t felt in a long time. The frustration of having to go through all dialogue options to end the conversation in question, get back to the uploading of clues. And that’s forced in, most of all, when talking about the Doctor.

If they’ve bought the game, they know who the Doctor is. They know. They don’t need Petronella Osgood to forcefeed them.

Spooky! Scary! Neither of these adjectives actually held true for me!

It’s at this point that I feel I should point out that the history of Doctor Who games (and their quality) has been… Variable, but tending toward the lower end. Which is a massive shame, because it’s an interesting franchise, with some really memorable plots (and yes, some notable stinkers.) And yet…

It tries to jumpscare me, and I merely sigh. I see the staticky bits, and I tut, noting that this is not an epileptic friendly game.

And the mystery… After an hour or so, I stopped caring. I’m surprised I lasted that long, because apart from trips to jumpscare territory (and one unskippable video of a secondary antagonist, Mr. Flint), it… Didn’t feel like it was going anywhere. It was holding my hand for a fair few portions, and, honestly, it didn’t sell the concept it was trying to pull off at any point in that hour and a half. I come away disappointed, and the history seems on course.

I have more faith in Petronella Osgood than this, game, chatty though she may be…

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Nioh 2 Complete (Review)

Source: Review Copy (Which meant I had the DLC of ye original Nioh 2, and still died a whole bunch)
Price: £49.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Play with a controller. Make sure you get a comfortable right stick setting. Prepare to die a whole bunch learning this. This is your primary warning for Nioh 2, as it is unforgiving of mistakes.

I learned this… A lot. A lot a lot.

Meet your first exam. It’s a real killer.

So yes, Nioh 2 is an action RPG with slowish levelling, more requiring skill with equipment and your abilities than anything else (although what you can equip is limited by your stats, and you should definitely keep this considered), fixed attack animations (don’t be hammering on the attack keys), combat with a fair amount of depth, such as which stances to use, tactics, using your demon abilities well… You’ll get an exam on these real early on, along with the exam on “There are enemies you definitely shouldn’t fight unless you’re super skilled”, and the lessons will be painful.

Getting to your stuff you dropped when you died is not going to be easy if you died in a particularly nasty spot, and… Look, it’s a tough game with a steep early learning curve. Play the tutorials. Experiment. Be prepared to die a lot, or less if you’re already experienced in this. There’s a fair amount of timing to it, such as recovering your ki (stamina) by pulsing it at the right moment after a combo, which also serves the purpose of purifying an area, an important facet of fights with demons, because they can power up or use them.

I think I see why I’m being dunked on so mercilessly… I chose to play a nerd.

Aesthetically, it’s gorgeous. Lovely music, characters and monsters that really pop, taken from Japanese mythology and history alike, great sounds, and a clear UX. It’s good here. Writing wise, it’s stylish, and an early touch of the ghosts of your parents commenting on your character creation is… Okay, I teared up a little at hearing the character’s mother, who’d died messily not even thirty seconds earlier, say how we’ve grown so fondly.

But yes, it is tough as heck, and if that’s a turnoff, don’t bother, even with toning the difficulty down, mastering the systems I pretty much a must.

Beyond this, though, there’s… Not a lot for me to say. It’s good, and it has a lot of the stuff you’d expect from an RPG, with several different weapon types (I went edge, with a kusarigama and a switchblade, aka “It’s a scythe that turns into a bat’leth, deal with it, yokai.”), and… I enjoy it. Even if I die, and am going to die, time and time and time again.

This intro story shares a little with the story of the Red Oni and Blue Oni, but… I honestly just wanted an excuse to post a screenshot of a buff horny man with a big stick.

So, yes, if you’re either good at this sort of thing, want to struggle to play a cool game using Japanese mythology and history to tell a dramatic tale in a world of demons… This one’s good for you.

The Mad Welshman defends quick weapons to the death. Multiple deaths. Many, many deaths.

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