Princess Maker: Go! Go! Princess (Going Back)

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

Princess Maker is a funny old series. It popularised the life simulation and trainer genres in the west, and, for all that its basic formula has remained the same, it managed to create different characters, moods, and refinements throughout the series.

A battle to the… Uhhh… Marriage? There’s no death here, so… Yeah. Battle to the marriage.

Even so, when I found Go! Go! Princess, I sat there for a while, just… Blinking. A board game with life-sim elements, containing the first four princesses to be of the series. Competitive princess making, if you will.

Naturally, I got some friends together to play it (after playing it hotseat and solo.) What we agreed on was that this… Definitely had its weirdnesses. Fun overall, but also with a fair bit of jank.

So yes, you are four princesses to be, and the king is setting a number of tasks, which will determine who has the right to join the Prince on the throne… And who gets any other one of the 36 endings (some of which are unique to the princesses.)

Yes, this is the default name for the Princess Maker 2 princess in this game. I wish I was joking.

There’s, er, just one problem with that last bit. You’ll have a bastard of a time achieving the ending you want unless you’re specifically gunning for it, completely ignoring the mad rush to the quests which are… All around the damn map. There is an option to have a smaller map to work with, and quicker games than the full 8 years (96 turns), but even so, there’s a lot of running around, and, with having to move the full value on the die or dice, without going back on your path, some of the quest locations are painful to get to, being at the end of a path. So right off the bat, you have a sometimes painful quest system, which either results in a mad, unstructured rush to each quest location, or, in the case of everyone but a single player ignoring the quests in favour of their ending (itself a problem due to needing to learn the board, rather than just thinking “Ah, yes, this job would do this, perfect for a General’s necessary stats!”), one player going for one quest, and then the rest of the game a cavalcade of “Ahh, fuck it.”

You’d think the odds are stacked in Maria’s favour. But actually, while Maria was dancing, Lisa was studying the blade…

It’s… A very odd design, where the incentive to faff around on the board is, once you’ve achieved a princess ending for the first time, much larger than winning, unless there’s conflict for a goal. Add in that behind the scenes is somewhat obfuscated, and you have further confusion. How does a high magic skill influence the magic roll in combat? Dunno. Is there any way to relieve stress beyond the random 500g doctor event or some specific churches on the map? Dunno. Do higher stats = higher rolls in general? Seems like, but dunno…

Aesthetically, the game is… Alright. It has the small text problem of earlier games, free mode in the map isn’t as helpful as “Original” mode, and while the icons tell you roughly what to expect, it takes practice to know how it benefits, but…

In the end, this is a weird one. I don’t really see it as appealing to lifesim fans, and similarly, it’s got enough board game annoyances and lack of incentive that I don’t really see it as appealing to them, either. It’s a hodgepodge which feels aimless, and, although we had fun, it was mostly because we were friends playing, not because the game was well designed.

The Mad Welshman wonders what else could be shoehorned into a game like this. Doom? System Shock? Alan Wake, maybe?

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Monster Prom 2: Monster Camp (Review)

Source: Supporter Gift
Price: £9.99
Where To Get It: Steam

I enjoyed the hell out of Monster Prom. Truly, it was an experience that will always stay with me, the days of smooching monsterfolk that shaped me, a magical time fraught with drama and sometimes iffy humour…

This is what happens when you have an already horny player, and a mad lib entry that just begs for this answer. Yes, I do want to fuck the hot nonbinary reaper.

And now, it’s time for summer camp, with a mostly new cast, some new mechanics to shake things up, and, although the core of the game remains the same… Going to places that raise stats, successfully navigating events through picking which of the two choices correspond to the higher stat of the pair (yes, you have to deduce this), a campfire interlude in which you try to get hearts with the monster of your dreams by pandering… All of this remains the same, but there’s new wrinkles, changes. And some of them I like, some of them, I understand (but don’t necessarily like), and… Well, actually, there’s only one thing I don’t reallylike, but we’ll get to that.

It’s basically a VN dating sim type dealio, but with extra horny, a customisable content filter, and a competitive element if you’re playing together.

Damien: Finally outed as a dumbass. As if it wasn’t obvious already.

Anyway, changes. Character choices feel a little more natural, if a little bit more confusing for the first part, which is picking three items for your stat improvements to put in your backpack. With the quiz of the previous game, it was a little more clear, but I sorta get it, and it is a fitting way to work it in, as is trying to break the ice with your chosen bae before you’ve hit the camp.

The campfire, much like the lunch hall of the previous game, is mostly the same, except… There’s two differences, and they’re both fun. Want to give another player a boost? Spread some goss, honey, the mothman over there is dying to hear the latest! Haven’t seen it backfire yet (nope, just did, right now… -4 Boldness, OW), and there’s some fun madlibs. Now… Juan the Magical Latino Cat, this… Is a slightly different story. His role is to shake things up, by providing you with one drink, chosen from either one you can see, and maybe guess the effects of… Or the Mystery Box. There’s a couple that screw you over, but mostly, it’s interesting stuff, which does change your plans, and I like that.

Hello, Juan, I suppose some of these drinks are revenge for us stealing your FUN. Most of them are pretty cool, though, you’re one hell of a party animal.

Then there’s the little bit of rep, and this time, definitely intentional. Last game, we had Zoey, who many consider to be transgender (and awesome), and now? Milo, the nonbinary reaper. Who, like pretty much all of the main cast, is extremely cute. Would talk up on their instagram contents, 10/10. And someone’s parents being a gay couple. And pretty much all the main cast technically being pansexual. Okay, I take it back, this game’s pretty queer.

Aesthetically, it remains the same, although the music does feel samey pretty quickly, I kinda miss the “What they did after” vignettes, but the replacement of a cool credits animation makes up for that somewhat, and, while there’s stuff still needing to be put into the game (Hi there Gallery mode, I want a full screenshot of Milo’s hot bod, thanks in advance.) It remains accessible, the content filters are a nice feature, even if they don’t… Full cover everything, but I’m reasonably certain they’ve tried to keep it CW free, outside of the events and endings.

I love how adorably vulnerable looking Aaravi the monster slayer is when you date her. She’s opening up to you, and if you break her heart, we will end you

So, is it a recommendation? Yup, pretty much. I’d have liked it if they’d released with all the content, rather than putting it out now with some stuff missing, but, honestly, it’s definitely enjoyable right now, even if I do wish there was a cheat sheet built in that, once you’ve smooched your date once, helps narrow down what stats you need to smooch them again. Mostly because it’s tiresome remembering, and I want to enjoy the events along the way. Still, if you like smooching monsterfolk, Monster Prom remains a series to enjoy.

Well, unless you’re not up for thirst. Because hoo boy, there’s a lot of thirst.

As before, The Mad Welshman had real difficulty working out who they wanted to date. So they dated them all.

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Wicked Willow (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £15.49 (£17.70 for game, OST, and art book, OST and art book £2.09 each)
Where To Get It: Steam

Magic has a Price. This is a common theme in fantasy fiction, especially in magical realism or urban fantasy, in which yes, magic takes a toll, isn’t always predictable, and sometimes… That price is too much. And when you are only just starting out? Well… A beginning is a delicate time.

…A delicate time that involves an axe murderer. Uhhh…

Good thing you’re able to go through it over and over again until you know what’s going on, know the consequences, and are maybe… Maybe able to deal with them.

And I’ll admit, the first few endings I got, I was… A little disappointed. I fucked things up royally several times, got myself in a coma… But eventually, I found other endings, the good ones… And I appreciated it for the good, queer funtime that it can be, when you get that happy ending.

One straight ending, and a whole lot of gay ones, including a transgender character. Yep, fair! Still… The writing, and the voice acting…

Valid.

They are… Alright. The premise is a good one, a groundhog day of a witch whose magic always has an unintended price, with a shady organisation (or, more accurately, way of life, the One Right Way) behind the scenes… Mostly… Still, the One Right Way speech, by the nominal villainess, is an interesting one, and unsubtle. People do often go through the world thinking there is One Right Way of living your life. One Right Type of Relationship. One Right Way to look at it all. I can’t really say more without spoiling things, but alas, the character who represents ORW, and their philosophy is… An unsurprising choice. Still, seeing some trans-euphoria happen in a story is definitely nice, so… Another good reason to like this.

Cheerful British Cat Called Shadow is my new band name.

Aesthetically, it’s a clear visual novel, it’s voiced, its progress checkpoints are both a system I rarely see outside of, say, the wild rides of Kotaro Uchikoshi (look them up, I’ve reviewed Zero Time Dilemma and 428: Shibuya Scramble here, as fine examples), and well represented and checkpointed, letting you know where you can find more endings…

Overall, I must say I’ve enjoyed my time with Wicked Willow. It’s writing may be a little stiff or overdone in a few places, but overall, it is, as the technical term goes, “Dat Good Queer Shit.”

Yes, “Dat Good Queer Shit” is a technical term. Don’t @ me.

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Kindred Spirits on the Roof (NSFW Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £26.99 (£36.13 for all audio dramas and Full Chorus DLC, Full Chorus £7.19, OST £3.99)
Where To Get It: Steam

Content Warnings: Lesbian Sex, Masturbation, Teacher-Student Relationship.

(more…)

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Sayonara Wild Hearts (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £8.23 (Soundtrack £7.19, Deluxe Edition £13.72)
Where To Get It: Steam

Sayonara Wild Hearts fits in an interesting place in my mind. It’s somewhat akin to Audiosurf, in that you’re collecting things to a musical track, but it is, at the same time, less and more than that. It’s a game that rapidly, often to the point of disorientation, shifts gears on you, from floating to flying to quick-time fighting (space only for that, no worries on that front), to moments where you just enjoy that sparkle of things being collected and… Oh, yeah, photosensitive epilepsy warning, folks, because there’s a lot of flashing. The hearts flash, the world can flash, the fights are flashy in both senses of the word…

Not pictured: The rapid changes of pose and colour in this scene. Although this was a well timed screenshot, eh?

But it can’t be described with reference. Because it’s its own thing, and that thing is an arcade music video. Or, more accurately, an arcade music movie, sort of like Interstella 555 (Go watch that if you haven’t, it’s pretty good.) The multiverse used to be a cool place, full of love, and ruled by three of the Major Arcana. But then five of them decided to get up in everyone’s business and break those hearts. So they used the pieces of a broken heart to create a magical girl, a magical girl who’s going to heal the hearts of those broken hearted Arcana.

If you guessed there was a queer as fuck subtext here, you’re wrong. It’s text, and it’s fucking amazing. Biker girls, wolf girls, literal sword lesbians… And the music starts bittersweet, and, while it gets lonesome and bitter in places, that’s the point. You’re fighting that. You’re fighting, by the end, an avatar of homophobia, and then? Well, you get to do it again, this time with the goal of beautiful smooches, now you’re a proven Magical Girl Heart Mender!

What can I say but… Literal. Sword. Lesbians. Yes.

And, as you might have guessed from the idea that it’s a music movie, yes, the aesthetics are gorgeous, the tunes vary quite a bit, but they’re all good (I happycried the first time I went through some of them), the visuals are… Ah. Yes. Let’s talk about the heartbreak for me, and probably some other folks.

You see, even though the game is forgiving in terms of forgiving deaths, and having low score barriers to finish the main story… As mentioned, the game flashes a lot, there’s a level where it’s twisting in a way that’s guaranteed to set off somebody’s motion sickness, and when it gets twitchy, it gets twitchy. As in “You have precisely 0.1 seconds to reorient yourself, because here’s a narrow corridor/sudden obstacle/need for a turn-pad very quickly after another one” twitchy. The QTEs are actually just fine. They’re friendly, they pause for a short, grey moment before you screw it up (and don’t let you screw it up because you pushed it before the prompt even appeared. And the game takes itself in directions with little notice, from race-collecting, to shooters, to even a Space Harrier or Panzer Dragoon like experience where you’re locking onto enemies to shoot them.

This, however, is what you’ll see most often. Usually at high speed.

The controls, thankfully, are accessible, and twitch was expected in a game like this, but, even with that forgiveness, it can get brutal, and I had real trouble getting through the aforementioned twisty level, the second Moon level against the Howling Moons Gang, precisely because it was fucking me up. And I will also mention that this disorientation is only fitting, considering it’s a coming out story, set to music, and narrated by Queen Latifah. Shit’s disorienting, and things can come at you from unexpected angles… It is fitting!

And so, while I’d heartily recommend it to the quick fingered and strong stomached, and while I would less heartily recommend it to folks who are at least strong stomached (Because, as noted, you’re going to finish the levels regardless, and getting bronze is definitely do-able on each level), I find myself reacting to its cuteness, coolness, and positive, bubbly nature like the disaster bisexual I am: Longing for mutual fulfilment, yet finding myself gunshy about engaging, because… What if it rejected me or hurt me?

Like I said, even though it’s a recommendation with some heavy qualifications, it is a recommendation. I just wish it didn’t seem so out of my league, y’know?

The Mad Welshman is, in case you hadn’t noticed, pro queer rep. So to see this was a balm to an otherwise terrible month for him.

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