The Librarian: Special Edition (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £2.89
Where To Get It: Steam

The Librarian, as a game itself, is short, tight, and simple. A short adventure game, with a few puzzles, and that… Is that.

But neither that, nor the quiet, moody soundscape, or the pixel style visuals, are what really grabs the attention of someone. And no, not the fact that it’s less than £3 either…

Also, another world is part of the question. How, what, why?

It’s the world it only hints at. In its short time, it generates many questions, and, slyly, answers none of them. The Librarian doesn’t find her world fucked up, even if we do. So, unquestioning, she walks right past a tree with skulls piled on it (after dealing with a giant, wolflike spirit… This is right outside her house, by the way), and a pair of huddled skeletons under an abandoned house on her way there. She’s shocked by her window blowing open, but takes everything calmly after that. And, while she’s a Librarian, she wears a military style uniform and carries a dagger.

This is only some of the strange things she encounters, and is completely unfazed by in the short time the game goes on. I could spoil the whole thing, but the point has been made, just in the “On the way to the library part.”

See? She just walks by them without a glance, they’re not examinable, aaaaa!

As a point and click adventure, it’s simple, it’s clear. You click to move, click to interact, and occasionally, you click one of the things you’re holding, then click a thing to do another thing. This isn’t really the point. The point is this short, surreal journey that the protagonist considers to be… Just another day. And that’s the fascinating part. And it wants you to see it. It wants you to see this weirdness, this short, simple, and wordless story, set in a world we see as strange and a little frightening… But they see as their world.

For less than £3, I definitely don’t regret exploring this one again. And fans of short, interesting adventure games would like this, I feel.

The Mad Welshman enjoys tight experiences. Can you perhaps tell?

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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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Library of Ruina (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £19.49
Where To Get It: Steam

Okay, let’s get an important warning out the way right now: Library of Ruina somewhat spoils the ending of Project Moon’s previous game I’ve reviewed, Lobotomy Corporation. It is, after all, a direct sequel.

And damn, does it have a great intro. The game, also, is solid, if a little grindy at times, and annoying at others. But we’ll be getting into that.

Instant bonus points for the use of my favourite word, Angela. And Project Moon.

So, our protagonist (?) is a Fixer, essentially, a high-grade mercenary in a city where urban legends are both real and deadly, and, having been seemingly killed, he is resurrected, and given a very special job: To kill others in increasing power, who are invited to the library, to create pages from their souls… To hopefully create… The Perfect Book.

And how do you do that? Essentially, by deckbuilding, and using those cards (balancing powerful attacks with lower cost cards) in turn-based battles. Using the powers of the pages to increase your own, as “burned” books create pages, which your increasing cast of Librarians and Assistants can equip to take on their likeness (to an extent) and abilities… And the pages, when burned, can Realise other pages (level them up), and give you cards from said page’s deck, to use in your own combat decks. You don’t need to engage with that last part for the early game at least, but it’s highly recommended to take a look, and see where a Page’s base deck can be improved or changed to fill a good role.

Yes, the ones who came before you have all died here. Repeatedly. I’ve been… Grinding them… Ohohoho…

Earlier fights can be replayed for their pages, which is useful if you want to get said pages to their level cap (although fights also give XP to that page), but generally, you engage in an upward journey, eerily similar to the Sephirah of the previous game (and, indeed, said Sephirah are represented by familiar characters from Lobotomy Corporation, still under the control of Angela from the previous game), occasionally fighting equally familiar Anomalies from the previous game, such as the Forsaken Murderer to progress.

Each Anomaly is, essentially, a sort of puzzle boss, with some pretty specific strategies, although the Anomalies give hints sometimes, and you learn their patterns. Dying doesn’t do anything bad, at least as far as I know, so you’re welcome to try, try again. And, funnily enough, it’s the anomalies where I find the most grind and irritation. Forsaken Murderer, in particular, was, as the technical term goes, “A right bastard”, and it, along with some later fights in the current content, required some good strategy and a fair amount of grind to get things to the level I wanted.

This one, thankfully, wasn’t too bad. Later ones will not be as forgiving.

Aesthetically, the game is split between a well painted manga style, and a more stylised chibi set for the turn based fights themselves, with a sort of Art-Deco look to some elements, contrasting with the blood-red lettering of some elements, the scratchy backgrounds of character thoughts at the bottom, but every element that needs to be clear is clear, from health, to the emotion system, and the UX. Yes, there are lots of fonts, but each has its purpose. The sound, similarly is good, and the music solid.

Basically, if you want to see where Lobotomy Corporation’s world went after the first game, or if you like deckbuilding turn based combat with RPG elements, Library of Ruina is a solid pick, and its eerie world, with some light elements, but mostly surreal and a little dark, appeals.

The Mad Welshman loves libraries. He also loves tastefully done flesh-walls. Perhaps there’s some way to mix the two?

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West of Dead (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £15.48 (£19.02 for DLC and OST, £4.79 Soundtrack, £2.09 DLC)
Where To Get It: Steam

West of Dead definitely nails its atmosphere down. Heavy black shading, deep shadows, washed out colours, tombs everywhere… It’s a Western styled afterlife, alright. And one cowboy is stuck in purgatory, hunting down the ghost of a preacher… Who might actually have made the land of the dead mighty ornery. Good thing the cowboy in question is tired and ornery too.

Sure ain’t…

Said ghostly cowboy is voiced by… Ron Perlmann. A man who knows his matter of face, practical characters who are Very Tired Of Your Shit. And William Mason is, indeed, a man who takes the situation in his stride. He knows he won’t like the answers to certain questions he could ask, so he doesn’t ask them. He knows something’s wrong, so he just gets down to it. And he can certainly wax poetic, at times. I like him. And the general idea is a twin-stick roguelike shooty type deal, with you shooting various undead folks and beasts in a claustrophobic land of the dead, levelling up and finding hopefully new, hopefully better gear as you go. I like that style of game, too.

I like… The combat a little bit less, however. Not the general idea, it’s quite cool, and encourages the Western shootout feel by having to reload, and that reloading being faster in cover, and slower still while on the move. And cover does break, and there are folks who don’t give a hoot about your cover, such as bombers or the big boys, so you’re shooting all the folks you can from one piece of cover, then rolling to the next, hopefully dodging shots along the way. It’s good stuff, on its most basic level.

Them boys ain’t right…

However… That difficulty ramps up quickly indeed, so this is one of those… Where it doesn’t feel like it wants me to see it. It wants me to die early, over and over again, ’til I’ve either got the muscle memory or the tools to deal with, say, the Butchers, who are only melee in the sense that most of their attacks are melee based. Don’t matter none, they can destroy cover, and if you get close, best be dodging, and dodging the right way, because they got an area attack, friend, and that hurts.

So… This is one where I love the atmosphere. I love the basic idea of the combat, I love the aesthetic, it’s all pretty clear… But I’m honestly finding the difficulty unforgiving, because while I can consistently get to the second level, I also consistently die there. Also in the negative category is that sometimes, the camera really isn’t your best friend. And finally, in niggles, the game goes full screen for a brief time on loading, even if you’ve set it to windowed mode. Which is annoying.

Every character has something going for them, design wise.

I don’t really think it’s a bad game… But it is a tough game, so if you’re frustrated by that sort of thing, I would say stay away, and if not… It’s definitely got a unique atmosphere, and a nice little twist on things, so if difficulty doesn’t turn you off, I’d say give this one a go.

Life ain’t what it used to be. But nor’s death either. Leastways, not in games, where it’s sure as hell painful… And just as surely temporary…

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