Pacer (Review)

Source: Early Access Purchase
Price: £34.99
Where To Get It: Steam
Other Reviews: Early Access 1, Early Access 2, Formula Fusion Release

I can’t lie, I’m still a bit confused as to what’s happened with Pacer, formerly Formula Fusion. It was finished (I tend not to write “Review” if it’s still Early Access), then it wasn’t, now it’s finished, but under a new name… It’s been a bit of a weird ride. But, since it is apparently finished now, well, it’s time for a review, isn’t it?

Ah, the middle rear of the pack. My lease favourite place to be. Still, 1st is pretty lonely…

And yes, the feel has changed. The vehicles… Well, actually, it can be tough to tell the difference without looking hard, mechanically speaking, and you aren’t going to be working out whose team someone’s on midrace, even if the craft themselves do have their own character. So… Eh? But a fair bit has changed. Some of it I like, some of it I don’t, and the Gauss Cannon (Actually a machine gun that heavily glitches your screen on hit and does damage like billy-oh if it hits) can go to hell.

As noted, the feel of actual racing has changed, becoming more, as I suppose the fans wanted, Wipeout-ish… Honestly, I was happy with FF having its own flavour, but fans are… Yeah, let’s move on. Airbraking is harder than I expected, slowing you down somewhat drastically, but also turning you more sharply (good), and, while the weapon system hasn’t significantly changed (pick up weapon pickups, so you can use either of your chosen weaponry), the boosting system has a slow buildup on top of the usual method of hitting turbo pads to add boost. So that’s nice. There’s a fair variety of weapons, not all of which are weapons (alas, the shield analogue, the Tank, can only shield one hit.)

In a static image, you can just about see the mines (except the one literally next to me.) When moving? Yeah, it’s hard.

And there’s a few interesting game modes, even if Storm is somewhat poorly explained (Stay inside the bubble, the center of which is a sort of handlebar icon), and Thread The Needle runs into a problem I noted last time I looked at the game: Mines are an utter bastard to see, and, being light blue, they’re even more of an issue to see on the first track they’re introduced in, a Russian tundra track. Colourblindness checking, people, or colourblindness options, they’re fucking useful! Boost pads can also, at times, be a git to spot, again, the problem mostly being on ice tracks and the occasional blue glowy track.

Still, aesthetically, the game’s a treat. Pretty craft, somewhat customisable, gorgeous tracks, a slicker and more compact UX (my only bitch there is we can’t see the splash for the races before we click on it, if that’s changed, it saves us a click to see that and just go right into the event menu.) And, speaking of gorgeous and slicker, oh look, the music is a whole panoply of great artists (including, of course, CoLD SToRAGE, whose music has been iconic throughout the future racing genre.) And, best of all, this game, while in UE4 (normally a resource hoggy engine) is well optimised, so loading times are minimal, and I can get stuck in.

Unsurprising to anybody who knows my history with Future Racing, I go with the Russian team every time.

And finally, tracks… Alas, airtime has completely been removed from the game, so it’s sticking to the track like glue. Shame, that sometimes led to hilarity, and sometimes, it led to track skips. Oh well. There’s a fair few tracks, the unlocks doled out over the career mode, and they’re, uhh… Mostly technical tracks, some with blind corners and hills, although even the blind hills generally give you time afterwards to see what’s in front of you. Not always though, so, if technical is a turnoff, then yeah, you’re probably going to be turned off.

So, overall, yes, it is somewhat of an improvement on the previous iteration, but I’ll say what I said last time: If you can look past or cope with the flaws, this remains a solid future racing game, although not necessarily an introduction to the genre.

In conclusion: Haha, Gagarin Gauss Cannon go brbrbrbrbr…

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Noita (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £15.49 (£7.99 soundtrack, £21.13 game and soundtrack)
Where To Get It: Steam

Ahhh, Noita… Pixel by pixel simulation of object interaction. Want ice vapour to kill you? Don’t worry, particle by particle, you can do that! Want to put out that particle fire? Just hop in some particle liquid that isn’t particle oil, or sprinkle it on yourself! Want to shoot several particle streams of death, which then become more particle streams of death, and so on until your computer is screaming at you to stop? Yes, you can do these things, all of these things, so long as it’s through shooting things, bombing things, kicking things, throwing things, or spraying things!

Pixels! And many of them are currently very deadly!

You can also die in some extremely messy ways. And you will. Often. So yes, welcome to Noita, a procedurally generated roguelike in which you are descending into the depths of a mountain’s cavern/dungeon network, for… Reasons. I’m sure they made sense at the time, whatever those reasons were. It’s got some lovely pixel art, which, y’know, fits because of all those pixels that can be set on fire, slosh around, obstruct you and so on… And the music and sounds are good too.

It’s difficult, and at times twitchy, so if those are turnoffs, turn ye back now, and, as mentioned, it can get resource hoggy, so make sure your computer can handle it before trying it out!

Otherwise… Hot damn, the feeling of doing incredibly silly shit with your wands and potions, whether it works or not… No, really, it’s amusing to have thirty five arrows from a single cast, only for said arrows to bounce back at you because what did you expect when you fired 35 arrows in so many directions?

For this to be my situation on entering the level is a sign that maybe I should have run away. I did not. I died. I had a blast (and I got blasted.)

Well, you expected something amusing to happen. And you got it, even if you have to restart the game. But that’s okay, there’s probably even sillier things you can get up to! (There most definitely are.)

Any criticisms? Well… Apart from the game turning very resource hoggy when there’s a lot of stuff going on (and believe me, you can easily ensure a lot of stuff is going on, and so can some of the enemies), it’s in this weird space where the basic learning curve is actually quite easy… But the mastery curve is several sharp inclines, which, even with the potential for very amusing deaths, also creates some frustrating ones. Argh, why did I have to die just by getting shot? Boring! Also, some enemies, like the snipers, are… Oh god, they’re utter bastards.

Helpfully, the game now lists things you’ve found, and counts the secrets the game has. Yes, I mentioned secrets, and have found none personally. I know how to get them, I just haven’t tried.

But, overall, I love Noita. I love the destructive creativity. I love the war stories it can create. And, if you don’t mind a tough action roguelike, where you’re going to die in the first few areas a lot before you get further, you’ll like this one.

The Mad Welshman appreciates that wizards have no sense of responsibility. So consider sending wizards into this hellhole a chance for one of them to learn. Maybe.

Look, it’s enjoyable to send the bastards to their doom, alright?

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Risk of Rain 2 (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £19.99 (£5.19 soundtrack)
Where To Get It: Steam

Other Reviews: Early Access 1

“WHERE’S THE FUCKING TELEPORTER?!?” I cry. I’m running for dear life, chased by 30 enemies of various types, including some very big boys indeed. The enemy level has risen to “Insane” (one step below “Impossible”), and I am hunting for a circular space with two horns, dark grey… In a multi-levelled cavern, floating islands and chains aplenty… And most of the surfaces are red.

It is world 4 out of something like 30 I’m meant to clear. Or maybe less to win the game. I don’t know, because I have real trouble finding the teleporter quickly.

Sod, sod, sod, sod, where the fuck is it?!?

Of course, part of that problem is that Risk of Rain 2 is a noisy game, visually. There are, I seem to recall, indicators of where the hell it’s meant to be… But even in levels where colourblindness isn’t an issue, there are enemies, often bright and attracting attention (not least because they’re trying to kill you.) When you have turrets, and you can’t directly see them, there are arrows to let you know where they are on the edge of the screen. Things are going boom, things are going ratatat-tat, things are going zap… And, often, they are coming from all directions. There are sparkly glowies that roughly signify where it is, but… Look to the aforementioned visual noise.

A similar thing happened in Risk of Rain, the first one. But there, you didn’t have to worry about the teleporter blending into the background. Its big horns were harder to miss.

Ah yes, this big ol’ lad… With the laser that’s nigh impossible to avoid.

Does it, apart from that, feel alright? Well, I’ve already mentioned how noisy it is visually, but its UX is relatively unobtrusive… With the glaring exception of getting an achievement, which covers said UX in a big, attention grabbing “YOU GOT THIS.” I would say “at the worst times”, but there isn’t a good time to get distracted. Still, you don’t need to worry about much of it, so that, at least, is okay.

Sounds are good. What characters I’ve unlocked are interesting to play, each with their own loadouts of skills. And I definitely cannot say the bosses and enemies aren’t interesting, because they are, even if, like its predecessor, the AI is essentially “Hyper-aggressive, all the time.”

You knew there had to be one death screenshot, right? Wouldn’t be representative otherwise.

The thing is, for all that I’m told it gets easier, when a core part of progressing is so damn frustrating to me, all the interesting enemies, good sounds, and progress based gameplay means jack and shit. I want to fight those bosses. I want to find those teleporters. I want to see those characters.

If you like a hard, twitchy challenge, even on the easiest difficulty, then yes, Risk of Rain 2 is for you. If you do not, this will only frustrate the hell out of you, as it has me.

After a discussion with friends, The Mad Welshman has deduced that we would all die if Isekai’d. Especially here.

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Beyond A Steel Sky (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £29.99
Where to Get It: Steam

Beneath A Steel Sky was an interesting game. A tale of dystopia, of consumerism and control gone rampant. And the main character, Foster, and his good pal Joey, saved Union City from the despotic reign of LINC, an AI, and left Joey as the snarky, yet benevolent ruler of Union City.

Even the holograms have to be cheery. Well, except one. I think she’s meant to be gruff to drive people away…

Seems like there’s no room for a sequel, right? But history repeats itself (somewhat), as, once again, the peace of Foster’s australian world is shattered, with the death of a friend, and the kidnapping of said friend’s child. And the trail leads him… Back to Union City. Where Joey, still revered, is missing, and where how good a citizen you are (your QDos score), and how happy you are, will determine where in society you stand.

As in the prequel, this is an adventure game collaborated on by Dave Gibbons and Revolution Software, and that collaboration shows in the world of Union City once more. Repairmen whose job isn’t to repair, but simply to note problems. Wonderful art portraying a city with, as before, a shadowy underbelly. And some very amusing voice acting. It’s the good stuff, aesthetically speaking.

Yes, not everyone is satisfied…

For those whose mileage varies on adventure game logic, there are a few puzzles that require you to see all the elements, some of which are awkwardly placed (wait, an electric fence… Behind a waterfall? Recipe for disaster, mate!), but some really stand out, such as an early one where you need to deceive an asshole from the Ministry of Comfort (Yes, they’re basically the secret police.) You need, in essence, to search for clues among a dead man’s belongings (for that’s who you’re pretending to be) to give enough information about your past life to… At least make them pretend everything’s alright.

Ohhhh, I remember most of you

It controls pretty well, early bugs have been fixed (although the Unreal Engine remains a resource hog), it’s aesthetically appealing, and brings a good (In the “creatively well done”) dystopia to life, with only some puzzles being “Adventure Game Logic.” For fans of adventure games, both this and the original come highly recommended.

The Mad Welshman notes that Beneath A Steel Sky is also on Steam, if you only use Steam. It’s been on GOG for quite a while now.

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Subnautica: Below Zero (Early Access Review 2)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £15.49
Where To Get It: Steam

Other Reviews: Early Access 1

Ah, Subnautica. An oceanic first person survival game, a bit of a rarity as a subgenre, and damn, was it beautiful. Even though the ending had you leaving the planet, I never got there, because I loved the sea too much. Still, Below Zero, its sequel, has changed the planet, or at least the region… New meter, new creatures, new overarching threats… Looking forward to more of it, just as I have before…

These are not optimal conditions for a re-entry, asshole!!!

But… Below Zero’s new story… There are some beats that are the same from when I last looked at it, and there are certainly some interesting changes, but… I don’t know, it doesn’t grab me as much. Maybe that’s due to the lines not being voiced yet, because, I freely admit, I loved Robin’s voice (and her enthusiasm, in the old story, about the world she was researching.) Maybe it’s that it has a similar start to the previous game, but with a little extra boneheadedness (Okay, going to find out what happened? Good. Flying close to a meteorite on descend? Nooooot so smart.) But… As a starting point, I am going to say that the story hasn’t been grabbing me, so far, as much as it had previously.

Ah, Sea Monkeys… My old enemy…

ALAN remains interesting, though. And so, funnily enough, does the world of Subnautica, now frostier than its previous incarnation. And the threats, also, have changed. I was surprised by the brinefish my first time, and, holy shit, I almost died from the innocuous little bastards. You see… They freeze you. And naturally, if you’re frozen underwater, and you’re close to running out of oxygen… You’re very… Very dead. Add to this the creatures I’d previously talked about, the Sea Monkeys (who steal shit from your hands), among quite a few others, and you’ve already got some new, interesting wrinkles in the world.

Ohhh, don’t worry, players… Bombfish are still there, and they’ll still do their best to kill you while you try to harvest that sweet, sweet sulfur.

Not pictured… The sound of something angry which isn’t close… But I don’t know how “Not-close” it is…

Aesthetically, the game remains as pleasing as its previous incarnation, with the soundscape really immersing you, letting you know there are threats around, and otherwise so calming, the musical stings being relatively rare… And visually, the world is as intriguing as its previous incarnation.

Essentially, if you want to try oceanic survival games in a science fiction world, Subnautica and this sequel remain the top of their field, and, despite my lukewarm reception to the new story, I still heavily recommend this, and look forward to where it’s going.

Still not leaving once I’m mostly done with the plot, Subnautica team. Can’t make me!

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