Cats Organised Neatly and Box Cats Puzzle (Review(s))

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: CON £1.99. Box Cats £1.69
Where To Get Them: Steam (CON) and Steam (Box Cats)

After a bit of thought, I’d decided to lump two games together for this one: Cats Organised Neatly, and Box Cat Puzzle. Mainly because the basic idea is the same: Fit cats into boxes. They’re around the same price, as well. But, while the basic concept is the same, both are subtly different experiences. Different flavours of cat herding, if you will.

Yup, those are definitely cats, they are cute, and they’re being organised neatly. The advertising standards commission is content.

Of the two, I’d say that Cats Organised Neatly is the more fleshed out game. A chill vibe, cute cats, rotation, a gallery of catte… Its puzzles, however, get nastier quickly. Box Cat Puzzle, meanwhile, is less polished. There is none of this rotation bollocks, you know where you stand with the pieces… Even if they’ve got a minimal representation until you place them.

But placing them, again, brings a different vibe. Cats Organised Neatly’s cats are cute. They are uniformly cute. They make you go d’aww regardless. The idealised form of cat, the cats cat owners see when they’re not seeing their cat be catlike in the “I own you, not the other way around” moments. While Box Cat Puzzle is very… Yup, they are definitely cats. Yes, sometimes they’re cute. But I chose the screenshot below for a reason.

I mean, let’s face it, that’s a work of god-damn art. <3

Okay, two, I just couldn’t help but appreciate the aesthetics of four cats in a circle licking their balls. This, too, is part of Cat Life. Box Cat Puzzle also has an editor, which is a nice feature.

They are similar. Not the same, each having their own flavour, little differences that make them their own works. But I chose to review them together for one simple reason…

Regardless of the fact that both are good in their way (although you’ll quickly tire of Box Cat’s music loop, so points deducted, and both have elements in their UX that are less than clear, namely the back button in Cats Organised Neatly actually being the way you get to both the menu and the puzzle select (ARGH), and the buttons that aren’t “get the pieces out of the box” in Box Cat, it’s… Kinda hard to write a lot of words around a puzzle game about putting cats in boxes. So, since I had two to hand… Why not both?

Both is good. Both are, in their own way, good. And if you like a puzzle game involving cats, well, these are both cheap options that provide some fun. And that ain’t bad.

Cats own people. Not the other way around. All cat owners know this… Well, except the ones cats have trained particularly early…

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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.

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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.

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Fury of Dracula: Digital Edition (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £15.49 (Soundtrack £3.99)
Where To Get It: Steam

Hunting tabletop games are fun. One player against multiple, the one trying to stay hidden long enough to win, the others… Well, that’s where the “hunting” part comes in. But, obviously, friends are required.

So I called some in. And we had a great time, right up until timing out a combat led to a softlock. We’d almost taken out Dracula, too. 3 HP. 3. Stinkin’. HP.

The Dracula here has perhaps the funniest Live2D eyebrow waggle I’ve ever seen. And yes, I count that as a plus.

Well, I was getting my ass handed to me by that vampire in the last fight anyway. But we were doing so well!

Anyway, yes, Fury of Dracula is, as you might have guessed, an adaptation of the board game of the same name, in which Lord Godalming, Mina Harker, Abraham Van Helsing, and Jonathan Harker attempt to hunt down… Dracula. Bleigh! On the upside, heroes have two turns each compared to Dracula’s one. On the other hand, if Dracula’s canny, he can obfuscate his trail enough that he wins through terror, because his trail runs cold after 6 cities worth of movement. He can also, y’know, leave traps, hoaxes, vampire ambushes, and other fun toys, and can see some of Mina’s cards, since she has an incurable vampire bite.

So, items, allies, and ingenuity versus stealth, trickery, and ambushes. If you’re playing Dracula well, you get to look smug as they hunt you elsewhere… Then less smug if you screw up. Playing as the hunters? It’s fun, discussing where he might be, where he might have escaped, why is he travelling by sea so much? And other fun (legitimately fun) discussions. With friends, it’s really fun.

IT ME! Well… My goatee’s a bit thicker, hair’s longer, but… IT COULD BE ME!

And it’s faithful to the rules, with some cool artwork. Alas, that’s… Kind of where the charm runs out. Red… Why is red always involved whenever accessibility comes up?

Oh. Yeah. For obvious reasons. Anyway, yes, while rail routes are delineated clearly, carriage routes are not until you try moving, being a dull red that, in most places, is kind of hard to see. Test your games for colourblindness problems, folks, it’s not tough! Similarly, those of us who hadn’t played the game before didn’t quite know how sea travel worked, and the UX was… Less than clear in places, such as effects on combatants, clarification on certain specials (Hi, Mina!), using your hand, and hand limits… Look, we know they’re in the rulebook. Not everyone knows the game.

The trail only lasts seven steps, and you have a limited time to hunt down our boy Vlad. Make the most of it!

But, despite all of this (I have faith the devs will hunt down the combat bug, but in the meantime, escape on the 5th turn if it seems like it’s dragging on), I cannot deny we had fun. I want the game to be more accessible precisely because it’s so fun. There is local (yay) and online (that’s dependent on how many players you can pick up, or whether you can all arrange a match, but that’s fine if you have friends), and you can play solo (although honestly, if you’re playing all humans, it’s not fun, because it’s not intended.) But, at the time of review, whether you’ll like it really depends on how the accessibility affects you.

The Mad Welshman is also a creature of the night who does not drink… Vine… But that’s just his screwed up sleep schedule.

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Legend of Keepers (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £15.99 (Supporter pack £7.19)
Where To Get It: Steam

Ah, being a dungeon keeper. It’s a good job, all told. Protect yourself, lure adventurers in (those damn assholes), and murder them horribly with a combination of traps and monsterfolk.

I mean, it’s better than letting the little gits run rackets, blow up small villages or forests (accidentally or otherwise), cause diplomatic incidents… The list goes on.

And on…

If your heroes keep getting this far… You might be in trouble. Just… Overall.

And on. In any case, such is the idea of Legend of Keeper. Except you’re basically part of a miserly dungeon keeping corporation. The health plan’s good… When you can find the staff doctor. But everything else is performance based, and staff turnover and morale… God, they’re awful. All to keep adventurers away from the boss.

Okay, maybe it’s not a good job after all.

In any case, Legend of Keeper is one of those rogue like (Sorta. Maybe. Kinda) deals, where you go through two years of defending the dungeon. It’s not like the adventurers come every day… In fact, you often have a fair breather. But with each party you run off or murder (intimidate into running for tears, kill for blood), they get stronger. More assholish.

No, actually, some of them start off assholes. Like the fire mage, whose first action on entering the first battle is to shuffle your carefully curated battle line. The only way of possibly preserving your tactically placed monsters (for the elemental rock/paper/scissors of attack and defence) when you see that particular one is to deliberately place your first team out of order. And pray.

THIS GIT ON THE FAR LEFT. THIS GIT CANNOT DIE ENOUGH. I WILL RESURRECT HIM JUST TO KILL HIM AGAIN!

I hate that guy, and each time I send him to hell, I wish him the iciest time, and extremely pointy sticks. Anyway, yes, dungeon fights, when they happen, are turn based, and consist of several rooms, always with two trap rooms, two monster rooms, a spell room, and your chosen class of boss. There are three bosses, and each has something to recommend them. The Slaver, for example, has a good monster selection, and gets a free big monster, with a room of its own, each year you win (I really hope there’s a third year, because yeah, just having the one big monster feels like a waste.)

But, funnily enough, I have the best time with the glassiest of glass cannons, reliant on shields and a nasty air attack, the Mechanic.

So, how does it feel, is it accessible, does it look good? Well, apart from no subtitles for the three or four barks for each boss (You’re not missing much, especially with the Slaver, who has a bad case of internet poisoning. “Come at me, bro!” … Nyuh huh. I’ll get right on that, really I will), it’s okay. No colourblindness issues that I could see, text is okay, buttons for attacks are very clear, tooltips are easy mouse overs… Visually, it looks quite nice, actually, relatively hi-fi pixel art, with some fun and silly event pictures (like the orc caught reading an anthro magazine. Ohhh, you dirty boy, you!)

Audio wise, it’s okay. Nothing stunning, it works, that’s fine.

Yes, we’re Dungeon Keeping salarymen… And oh boy, the Marketing Department, for what it does, can go to the same place as the fire mage.

Still, this is definitely not a bad roguelike dungeon keeper deal. I’ve been having a nice, tactical time with it, getting comfortably into the swing of murdering the shit out of heroes I definitely don’t sympathise with, and if you like turn based strategy, of the “series of battles” SRPG type deal, yeah, this is a solid choice.

The Mad Welshman floats an idea… How about… We make a dungeon which unceremoniously dumps the hero(ine)s into black company office jobs? That’s MUCH more evil than what we’re doing…

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