Monster Sanctuary (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £15.99 (£3.99 for Monster Journal, £7.49 Soundtrack)
Where To Get It: Steam

It’s unfortunate, really, that my opinion of Monster Sanctuary hasn’t really changed since I last reviewed it. So let’s kick this off with a disclaimer: This is, in fact, a well designed game, and monster battling folks and metroidvania folks should give it a go, because it mixes both well.

Ow.

It’s just that, for me, it’s still not hitting the right notes, and I can’t really understand why. Which irritates the hell out of me, because it’s a potential for constructive criticism… And also because I dislike understanding why I feel the way I do about what I do.

So yes, it is an unknown time, monsters fill the world, but monster tamers exist, and so, they effectively serve as rangers, keeping the wilds in check, while raising their monster pals. And obviously, you are one such tamer, joining the sanctuary as the latest novice in your prestigious bloodline.

It’s got the right elements, with sensible grind, monsters levelling up in your first six slots (your three battlers and your reserves), visible monsters, so that, if you know what the monster is, you can plan your formation around it, nice skill trees which balance well, a combo system that means the last monster in your battle does more damage than the one at the front…

There’s always a Goblin King… And they never look good in tights, except that one guy…

It’s got a fair few systems, yet they fit well together. It’s got nice pixel art, it’s got nice tunes, it’s got a pretty UI that’s clear, good teleport points, reasonable progression and difficulty curves, and cool monsters with their own special abilities that not only help you fight, but help you get around the world, like the yeti who can push blocks, or the phoenix (my starter) who can levitate you for a brief time.

So I think you can understand why it’s frustrating me that I can’t pin down why it isn’t gelling for me. Because it’s clearly well put together, and yet, it isn’t doing it for me.

Anyway, yes, it’s well designed, go give it a go.

Hrm and haroom…

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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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Brave Pinball (Review)

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

A pinball game in which you are a JRPG hero (and occasionally their party), going through the game world and levelling up? Ohhh, that sounds so good, doesn’t it? And, if you were just going by the screenshots, it looks good too. Solid aesthetic, music fits…

But for me, it fails on one, absolutely basic element: Table design. And that’s an absolute killer, right there.

Rotating. Sodding. Paddle bumpers. Who thought that was a good idea?

So yes, the game is a pinball game, and the story is more implicit than anything else: You are hero. Demon Lord up there somewhere. Go kick his ass, because you are hero.

…And nearly everything is bumpers and roundabouts. And the first area is where I’ve lost the most lives, even though it does at least a little to try and combat that. Because everything is bumpers. Enemies? Bumpers that move a little in preset patterns. Blocks? Bumpers. Bushes? Bumpers. They go away, but they always come back, and it’s quite easy to be launched after you’ve fallen into either the gutters after you’d blown up those bumpers, or the middle… And then get bounced right into the middle or the gutter all over again.

Now, I could nudg- Oh, wait. No nudge. No way to push the table to one side or the other to maybe guide the ball to, I dunno… Not a direct path to the gap between the paddles where the paddles can’t reach?

See this? This is the second part of the multi-table layout. And it’s easier to play. And harder to fall off because of SODDING BUMPERS.

I could talk about the good spriting. I could talk about the clear demarcation for the most part of elements. I could talk about the music, a little stereotypical, but not bad music, and not a bad thing.I could talk about the simple and clear control scheme. But the table design is, in terms of points of interest, sparse. Everything being bumpers easily leads to unfair situations. And when your second tables are actually easier to climb than your first…

…It is unsurprising that, after I’d gotten enough to screenshot this, I just… Put it down. I have better tables. I have better multi-area tables. And I have tables that don’t commit the gravest sin I have ever seen in a pinball game.

This. If it isn’t clear, these two hexagonal wheels? Are also bumpers. Bumpers with physics, so when you bump off them, they rotate. I have never seen a table feature quite that sadistic. And I have no desire to deal with its bullshit.

No, really. Don’t design a table with all bumpers. Learn from this, kids. Please.

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Hades (Going Back)

Source: Supporter Gift
Price: £19.49 (£7.19 soundtrack)
Where To Get It: Steam

Supergiant do it again. They keep doing it. I’m enjoying a game about a rebellious young adult, Zagreus, son of Hades, snarking and battling his way from his home at the lowest depths of Hades, trying to escape, in essence, a shitty family situation.

He’s right. I have no urge to consensually bully Dusa, who is cute.

Its aesthetics are gorgeous (God, so many fucking hunks!) Its progression feels natural, to the point where I knew where I was going, knew what I was doing, and was fine with dying over and over again, because I knew my grind would be rewarded. Its characters, even the grumpy and overbearing dad Hades, charmed me.

And thus, one of those times I hate is upon me, because I can’t say anything bad, so I’m struggling with what the hell else to say.

Okay, so, Hades is an action roguelike, in which, as noted, Zagreus, son of Hades, is attempting to escape, with the aid of his step-mother Nyx, the Olympian Gods, and a few other notable figures, including the most relaxed and friendly incarnation of Sisyphus I’ve ever seen. You start with one weapon, a sword, make your way as far as you can, get your ass beaten down, and come back for more, wading out of the pool of blood that forms the entryway to Zagreus’ home as he bitterly snarks or swears payback.

For the reason that it’s ever so cheesable, I love the spear. But every weapon is, honestly, appealing in this game.

He will escape. Because he cannot die, so he keeps trying, because he knows he can do it. And, as he does, he gets more powerful. He befriends various people, like Dusa, the disembodied medusa head maid of Hades’ abode (She’s so cute!), or Dionysus, who reminds me so damn much of Zaphod Beeblebrox that I find myself smiling. A chill dude, I like him.

Anyway, yes, the progression is natural, the sound design great, the VA good…

Look, I can’t keep saying nice things, so I will end with this: If you like action roguelikes, then yes, this is a good one to pick. It’s easy on beginners, it’s accessible (alas, never perfectly, for it is twitchy, but still), and, as mentioned, the grind feels less like a grind, and more like a natural state of affairs.

It’s criminal how hunky, laid back, and smooth talking he is. CRIMINAL, I TELL YOU!

It’s good stuff.

Call me, Dionysus, we had a fun time! xoxo

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Warp Drive (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £10.29
Where To Get It: Steam

Aesthetic can only take you so far. And when that “so far” involves forgetting to tutorialise at all… Ah, that’s not so good, is it? So, suffice to say, Warp Drive on gamepad (generally a good way of playing Future Racers like this) has gotten off to a rocky start. On keyboard, it’s more sensible. But still…

Oh good, I managed to get a screenshot with somebody ahead of me. That’s unusual for me in a Future Racer.

R2 (Lower right bumper) is what you use to accelerate, just an FYI. So you don’t have the frustration of trying to find that most important of controls, because W on keyboard would make you think forward on the d-pad or stick.

So yes, Warp Drive, a future racing game in which you drive drone like hovercars around a track, fulfilling the race objectives in a tournament, and… Wait a second…

Bad impression number 2: No solo tracks, no individual time trials, no challenges. Just a tournament.

Car pretty. I mean, what else can you say about it? It’s pretty, and it flies well.

Beyond these two crits, and that your earliest time trial requires a faster boost and solid racing (I get so sick of seeing that in future racers), it’s… Actually alright. But it’s mostly aesthetics. The gameplay’s relatively simple, there is only a benefit to taking on the higher classes of cars, and, if you’ve got your boosts and warps down, your handling up, and any decentish skill, you’ll, uhhh…

Bad impression number 3: We know there’s a hard corner that would need drift… But I’m in a high handling enough car that it’s not actually a hard corner, ta.

Sigh… Anyway, yes, it’s alright, it handles alright, the tracks are good, with interesting shortcuts, and, as mentioned, most of it’s in the colourful aesthetics, the worlds that are detailed and cartoonish, but not distracting from the track itself, and a soundtrack by the great funkster, Hideki Naganuma. Don’t worry if you don’t know the name, looking up his music is a very pleasant exercise if you’re into funky beats.

Oh, wait, bad impression 4: No option to turn off the flashy pink warp animations. Y’know, the epilepsy risk ones the game doesn’t warn you about.

Yeaaaahhh…

But beyond that, with the good and the bad impressions mixing, it comes out… Well, okay. Its visuals grabbed me, its music got the blood pumping, but the game… Well, I felt lukewarm about the actual game part.

It’s some good popcorn if you’re into racing games. But I really get the impression it could have ended up with a lot more character than it did. And there’s stuff it really could have fixed.

I’m kinda sad that the game ain’t nothin’ like a funky beat.

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