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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Legend of Homebody (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £4.79
Where To Get It: Steam

Wow. Legend of Homebody doesn’t fuck around. It’s not even spring, and I’m already nearly half dead from stress, despite eating, sleeping, and entertaining myself somewhat reasonably. I’ve earned about 15k and spent about twice that. My father is telling me I’m a useless waste of space, while my mother understandingly sends me the cake that is my lifeline.

And the winner of the “Too fucking real” award for 2021 is…

The worst part is, this could accurately be named Womenintech.jpg

So yes, Legend of Homebody is a lifesim game about a NEET (Not in Employment, Education, or Training) trying to make their way in the world through creative endeavours, while keeping their health and mood as best they can. And it’s hard. The Education part? False. You won’t get anywhere in the game without the online courses offered to our poor protag, and, while you can do commissions to pay for your bread and butter, that’s time away from the work that might let you make it big.

So, more fool me, I went with what I know: Gamedev. Which led to the aforementioned situation I started with. Who knew that developing and publishing a game on your own was hard?

God, two trashdads in one month…

Well, me. And every solo indie dev. But I digress. The game is pretty clear, UX wise, it’s pretty well translated, it looks good, for something that never leaves a single room (Another Big Mood from the TMW HQ… Sips tea), and it’s easy to work out the basics. Everything else? Is struggle. And it’s meant to be. There’s story mode, several hard modes, a slightly easier mode with less time, and… Robot mode.

And it’s when you play robot mode that it hits home how this is most definitely a game with something to say about how unnecessarily hard it is to live for creative endeavours. Because you find yourself succeeding. Hell, if it hadn’t been for some boneheaded decisions, I could have gotten an indie darling award, which would be a near unreachable dream in story mode. I made a massive profit.

And all because I had no need for food, sleep, or even entertainment or toilet breaks. That’s what it took to turn from a heartbreaking, depressing run to a successful one.

Gee, I wonder if this screenshot has any sort of social message

You just need to be a good little robot with no needs, drone. So I applaud this game for the way it ties its message to its mechanics, while simultaneously giving it the nastiest curse I can fling at it, the Too Fucking Real For 2021 Award.

Enjoy it.

Hooo boy. Time to sip a cup of tea. In my room. Writing reviews. Staring at the screen in thought.

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Leak Elite (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £6.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Leak Elite is the kind of game I’d normally like a lot. It has a storyline about a group of hackers, who aren’t after some evil corporation, just leaking emails, fucking with people, enjoying the process. It has strategy puzzle elements. It would normally be extremely my jam.

It looks like a simple map, doesn’t it?

But it doesn’t tutorialise well. Beyond the absolute basics, it tells you… Nothing. Ah, okay, I’m meant to block the spawn of a follower using this deallocation, wot removes a tile. This is the first time I’m doing it, game… How?

I didn’t actually work out how. I knew it had something to do with patience, with waiting for patrol paths, so the spawn got blocked… But the security requirement was tight, so I ended up with no clue what to do.

Which is a shame, because its lo-fi aesthetic is pretty good. Its tunes are pretty chill. Its chat logs are… Well, they are indeed believable for a group like this, even down to the casual ableist slur.

Yup.

But when two of the beginning server nodes, including the important one, are rough af to deal with? Well, that’s a bad sign, and, not being able to complete what’s effectively the tutorial mission, I bowed out.

Sorry, Leak Elite. You are, in fact, too Elite for me. Maybe hardcore strategy puzzle fans will get it better than I did. Maybe not. We’ll have to see.

(EDIT: Since the release of this review, the developer has changed security requirements for some of the levels, and clarified the final part of the first mission. So yes, if you have problems, let the developer know, and please give your feedback constructively.)

Leak Elite, as it turns out, was too 1337 for my n00b ass.

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Soul Smith of the Kingdom (Going Back)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £5.19 (Soundtrack £1.69)
Where To Get It: Steam

Inu To Neko games… They’re often about starting a business, and equally as often, it’s a case of tough (and sometimes misguided) love. In the case of Soul Smith of the Kingdom, Nine is the greatest smith in the nation of Aldenoar. But her uncle, perceiving a vital weakness, forbids her from smithing until she raises another great blacksmith. After all, she needs some business sense, and knowledge of how to train employees, so the legacy of the Soul Smiths can continue.

You’re right, lads. Never work at a black company. That shit can only lead to poor health and shitty Isekai.

And so, enter perhaps the most idle game like entry in the series. Although, as always, it’s not that simple, but not as intimidating as it looks. You start with two low level blacksmiths, and, as is often in the series, you get your friends (the cast of the series) to enter dungeons to get materials, you set the weapons the blacksmiths are making, gain skills, gain new blueprints by either buying them, finding them in the dungeon, or, as is most often the case, soul-smithing a weapon the blacksmith is proficicient in.

Oh, and you get skills and, once you get a single smith to level 30, you can get other smiths to inherit their skills, gain souls, and buy more skills. And the minigame, once every month.

It looks complicated. But it’s not as complex as all that.

Funnily enough, most of the game is pleasant. Yes, the translation of the character stories is Engrishy, but honestly, I don’t have that much of a problem with it, as the characters are cool, and the stories are warm and light hearted generally.

But the minigames, or, specifically, the difficulty of some of them, is my biggest issue with the game. Jesus H Christ, if I see Drop Ball or Fill In The Blanks (and, to a lesser extent, Face Checker and Speed Aim), I just leave them alone, because math puzzles involving four numbers from 1 to 9 is not something I like to do on a regular basis, and Drop Ball rapidly becomes bullshit, since both a miss and a ball falling out loses you a heart, and so it’s very easy to lose it all in three rapid clicks of panic. I dislike the minigames, except for Big Search (which grid has the bigger total?)

Face Checker gets evil on three stars and above… Little things start becoming important. ARGH.

But, overall, it’s a game I can relax with. I’m at the mid-late game now, and I’ve made my smiths too good, as, if they’re all left to make more expensive things, they’ll rapidly run out of materials. So I make the smaller stuff with two of them, to level up my friends for deeper dungeon delving, and try to ensoulise weapons with one at a time.

I’d definitely recommend this one out of the Inu To Neko games, as its mix of idle and management gameplay is pretty nice, and it’s got a pretty clear UX.

The Mad Welshman supports improving your craft. But not at the expense of your health, okay?

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