Source: Cashmoneys Price: £4.79 Where To Get It: Steam
Dice puzzles are an interesting one. And yet… Minimalist just doesn’t feel right for it. But that’s what Sokodice went for: Simple, ambient, clean… A little sterile. And it doesn’t help that it feels like the keyboard controls change every now and again in terms of directions.
Anyway, yes, Sokodice. The general idea is to push one or more dice to a specific point, with a specific number on it, face by face. If the number you need is on top, congratulations, you pass! If not, well, you’ll get it eventually. Or you’ll restart it over and over again until you hit par. Depends how much you want that, or just to screw around with it. So, for example, if you have a 6 at the “front” of your move, and a two on top, one direction would end with a 3, another with 1, another with 4, and one, obviously, would end in 6. So the opposing top would take two moves in any direction.
I suck at these things, by the way. But it’s not the difficulty (It’s a puzzle involving space, your mileage will vary) that I find somewhat dull. After all, it adds little wrinkles, things to watch out for, as a good puzzle game does.
It’s the presentation. And the control weirdness. In essence, it’s better to play with the mouse then the keyboard, because it gets rid of “Which axis am I moving on again?” There is an undo, but save yourself the frustration if you get it.
No, it’s simply that this minimalism feels more workmanlike than an aesthetic decision. It feels lacking in character. Maybe I’m spoiled on that front, but still… Even when it gets into more colourful designs and tunes, it feels, as I’ve noted, sterile. Lacking feeling.
In any case, Sokodice is less than £5, so if puzzle enthusiasts want to give it a go, then it’s not a big investment, although I would say that dice puzzles are not a beginner puzzle set, so people getting into puzzle games may find only frustration. Personally… It just didn’t grab me.
The Mad Welshman is always sad when something doesn’t grab him, because the devs put in hard work to make their cool stuff. But… Can’t be helped.
Source: Review Copy Price: £34.99 (Some “Time saving DLC, £2.39 max each, artbook £3.99) Where To Get It: Steam
Ah, Disgaea. An SRPG series I’ve come to enjoy, in the short time I’ve researched it before taking on this review. Its world is an odd one, it has a mix of the dark and the humorous that intrigues me, and… Well, a game where a sardine loving vampiric demon lord takes on a corrupt government over Prinny rights?
What the hell’s not to like about that story setup?
Before this continues, however, there is one important warning to players new and old: Autosave is on by default. Turn it off. Turn it off for your own sanity.
Okay, okay, the autosave is separate from manual saves, but you do want to get into the habit of saving early, and saving often. Even if you think you’ve bribed senators on votes enough, there’s still the chance you’ll be voted down and lose mana.
So, I’ve already gone over the basic plot, what the heck is this? Well, it’s a turn based strategy RPG, in which you summon units to your team, level them up, use them to kick the snot out of your enemies, and each area is about 5 maps, the last having a boss encounter. As to the details?
Well, you can tell this is a transitional game between 3 and 5, because it has the most complex set of mechanics I’ve seen in the Disgaea series. From earlier games, the summoning that doesn’t have levelling built in, so you can improve stats (somewhat), but you have to level them up through fighting, leading to repeating maps or entering the Item World, a mechanic that exists throughout the series (go through a randomly generated dungeon, with bosses every 10 levels, to level up an item and make it more rare. Oh, and this game has branching paths in the dungeons every 5 levels too.) The senate, also, has a new wrinkle to it, in the form of evil dispatches. I haven’t quite worked that one out yet, to be honest, beyond “You can place buildings that have effects on surrounding tiles, the tickmark of which chooses the leader of the group getting the benefit.”
Skills are learned through the use of mana rather than levelling, weapon levelling is gone for this installment, replaced by “You can only learn skills in your character’s weapon specialties.” Even in combat, there’s something new: Fusion. Effectively, two monsters of the same type can become one giant monster, for better stats, the ability to punt people, friend and foe alike, to one side, and, if you’re in the late game, you can magichange a fused monster (magichange being “Monster turns into a weapon, with a special ability unique to them.”) or dual wield magichanged monsters.
I could go on, and on, and on, but let’s wrap this one up. Aesthetically, it’s damn fine. My only gripe visually is the one I’ve had throughout the series, where you need to rotate the map to see certain tiles, and the things on them, and even that… Is not guaranteed if it’s a trough of some sort. You can also zoom out, but… That doesn’t really help much. The voice acting is good, from the Prinnies (we rock, dood!) to Valvatorez (SARDINES!) to the villains (some of whom become your allies.) The game is grindier than, say, 5, but not as grindy as the earlier installments.
I wouldn’t recommend this to people who don’t have a lot of free time on their hands, or people who get irritated by grind, but for SRPG players, or people with a fair amount of free time and wanting to get into SRPGs? Honestly, Disgaea isn’t a bad start, and this is certainly the best story in the series (although they’re all fun.) So yes, I recommend this one with those caveats: It’s got a lot of grind, it’s mechanically the most complex in the series, but… Well, the Disgaea series in general has fun, often silly stories (that sometimes turn dark and serious later, but there’s always a hint of the ridiculous), cool characters, and each installment has something to recommend it.
Source: Review Copy Price: £15.49 (£19.28 for game+soundtrack, £7.19 soundtrack) Where To Get It: Steam
I love a good murder mystery. The twists, the turns, the red herrings, slowly being guided along a path. And sometimes… Beingwrong. In a way, aside from all the other cool stuff, that’s what’s so good about Paradise Killer…
You’re allowed to be totally wrong. Even if you do need at least some evidence. And hell, even after a marathon session with one trial I felt was off, I’m still not sure I got the whole truth. Pieces were missing, strange pieces, but, considering how large the world is, I’d probably need a walkthrough to find the clues. But it’s okay, even if I feel like I shafted some friends in the process.
In any case, Paradise Killer is a first person exploration type murder mystery, with some visual novel elements (the interrogations, the trial, some of the puzzles) where the Council of Island 24 have been murdered just prior to the Island’s reality being broken down to make way for Island 25, Island Perfection (ha.) And you, Lady Love Dies, interrogator, investigator, and, when the time comes, executioner, must find out who did it. Maybe who plural.
Writing wise, it’s great, and aesthetically, it’s this strange 80s/90s vibe combined with urban fantasy, a paradise island with pyramids, some small hellscapes, obelisks, tenements… The supernatural and the “Normal” live hand in hand. The soundtrack’s great, the sound design is, except for the static in the second gate, good, and the VA pleases, very characterful.
Now, mechanically… Ah, here’s where there are some imperfections. I’ve noted that you’re allowed to get it wrong, and this is good. But this is a fairly big open world, and, oddly, I feel that works against it in some respects. Hunt relics. Why? Completionism and a few quests, it seems. Hunt blood jewels. Why? Well, that’s more useful, unlocking a secret item needed for the best clues, unlocking fast travel points, and paying the toll for travelling from them.
But it definitely felt like a needle in a haystack at times, finding the clues. And then… There are the puzzles. Use symbols from a set to complete the image, except… I never used some. I never came across a lock that used some of the symbol elements. Maybe that’s by design, maybe not, but it kinda frustrated me on some odd level.
Still, the mysteries kept me hooked, and the mysteries left are seriously tempting me to dive back in now that the review’s written, hunt down those final clues, and that, along with its aesthetics and writing, really nail it for me. Some of the platforming is annoying as fuck, but, overall, I would highly recommend this one, especially to murder mystery lovers.
May the million eyes watch over you as you play this…
Source: Cashmoneys Price: £5.79 Where To Get It: Steam
Cursed House has potential. It’s got an interesting premise where, from what I gather, somebody has been cursed after almost dying to the ghosts of a haunted house, and must find their way toward breaking it, being hunted by ghosts along the way, and slowly uncovering the secrets of the mansion.
And you do that in a relatively time honoured tradition: Moving between rooms, and exploring, by drawing cards to determine your next event. Nearly always, it’s something that’s going to require one of your four stats challenged (Strength, Speed, Perception, Knowledge), and often, it’s a fight. As you do so, the blood mist slowly rises in your body, until it reaches max, and you can engage in a small boss rush, to accumulate the special points you need to undo the curse. Can you make it the whole way through? Well… About that… There’s some factors in the game that make that more difficult than it needs to be.
I can forgive the slight jank in some of the visuals (The victory sword, in particular.) I can forgive, somewhat, the rather broken English translation. I even appreciate that they have an easy mode, and that it defaults to “On.”
But I don’t know what elements are going into failure or success, beyond a very vague idea. I know, for example, there are multiple skill checks going on, by the multiple hits at the bar. I know some of these are meant to be card picks from a deck. I know that there are curses, such as automatic failure cards, that can end up being introduced.
But I can’t see any of that happening. And I can’t check exactly how boned I am on the deck front. It’s very frustrating, to know that I’m getting my ass kicked by a level 5 event, in my strongest stat, and I don’t know why.
Still, visually, I kinda like it. It’s simple, but sometimes that’s what you need. Although a clearer font that doesn’t make seeing, say, 51 a little hard, and some colourblindness awareness (red text on a dark background? Not good), and, in its general idea, I kinda like it.
I can’t pretend it’s not a flawed game, though. And there are, it must be said, better games of this ilk out there. Maybe, if the translation improves, and things become more clear, I can go back to this review, and see what’s different. Because it certainly shows promise. It just obscures it under a lack of clarity, which creates a feeling of unfairness.
The Mad Welshman is pretty unfazed by hauntings. He’s the kinda guy who would ask God how his health is doing.
Source: Cashmoneys Price: Donationware Where To Get It: Itch-IO
I loved Return of the Obra-Dinn. Its detective stylings, where you felt clever because you were actually putting together clues. And I love music, especially of the 80s to the mid 90s. So when a friend recommended Family to me, I was extremely on board.
It’s a shorter experience, to be sure… But no less cool. In fact, it makes up for its length in cool factor, specifically… Its soundtrack.
You see, Family is a game about looking back at the history of a fictional 80s London Scene. And each of the nine bands has a representative song. Along with some very believable lore about said scene.
Anyway, for those unfamiliar, Family goes like this: You use various clues, such as articles, roadie notes, and even the game’s Sussex Radio, to determine, essentially, who played in what band. Who moved, and whether they changed instruments (because some do.) And while you certainly won’t get all the drama from piecing things together, you can certainly imagine some of it. The failures along the way. The arguments. The losses. Deduce a certain number right, and you get more clues to work from, until finally… You have all the artists placed. And the character who’s seen it all, Ella Neil, gives one last, bittersweet song to let you go with.
Aesthetically, it’s very minimalist, and the tutorial “cutscenes” are, unfortunately, a little janky, with some obvious tearing… But that minimalism works for it, and makes everything more clear. Whenever in doubt, click on a thing. Play a song. Listen to the radio, and the snippets of interview. Click someone’s face to set a name.
I ended up being confused by one last one… But it clicked when a friend gave me a subtle hint, and the clues are all there. If you like music, and if you like games of deduction, Family gives you that radio feeling while also being a good, tight puzzler. Definitely recommend this one.
The Mad Welshman loves a good tune. And damn, these are some good tunes…