The Henry Stickmin Collection (Going Back)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £11.39
Where To Get It: Steam

Try this one WEIRD game! Completionists will HATE it!

I mean, that’s a really good capsule summary. It’s weird (unsurprising, considering it’s a meme ridden ex-Newgrounds series, a notable time for experimentation in Flash games, not always to the better, but enjoyably so, in this case), and yes, as a completionist, I can say that 100 percenting this game is a bastard.

If you’re confused, this is an MLG replay of failing utterly by 360 no-scoping your friend there. SO PRO, MUCH 1337. Oh, and content warning flashing imagery for that.

Okay, let’s get into it. Henry Stickmin (not to be confused with Henry Stickman) is a not-great human, er… Stickman. And with him, you go on a choose your own adventure style game (but with some quick time events) where failing still provides entertainment. There are six episodes, one of which requires you to have completed all the endings of the previous two to complete (part one of “Completionists will hate this.”) Choose your method of getting past the obstacle, watch what happens, likely retry, rinse, repeat. As noted, there are quick time events (some of which are brutal, so folks not okay with twitchy games, note well), and… Collectibles.

Oh boy, the collectibles. So, normally, I would be fine with collectathons. Love ’em. But Henry Stickmin wants to make it as hard for you as possible. There are people you have to click within about half a second, or multiple people you have to click within a few seconds, as many as 15. Some of whom are small. The same with the paintings in Stealing the Diamond. Oh, and the Among Us collectibles. And that one achievement where you have to click Gary Mann 5 times, or click where Henry’s going to land correctly in three different scenes…

STANDO!

Yup. I hate the completionist aspect of this one. I’m also less than fond of it using infamous meme “Shoop Da Whoop” (A blackface meme), even considering that it was popular back in the day. Gollywog dolls were too, and I sure as hell wouldn’t defend them. But overall, it picks some solid ones, fun references to Avatar, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Predator, Looney Tunes, Zelda, Pokemon, Phoenix Wright… I could go on for a fair while, but its silly humour lands more often than it misses. Or maybe I’m just an old.

Aesthetically, well, it’s very clear. Choices are nice and big, the text is clear… The music is a bit of a mixed bag, but overall, it works.

Now, when it comes to the audience? I’ll freely admit, the appeal is somewhat niche. Masochistic completionists, I guess, old folks like me who get the memes, Newgrounds Nostalgics… Seriously, I don’t really know. All I know is I found it a generally alright experience, except for the completionist stuff, which I hated.

No, The Mad Welshman has not 100%ed this game. Don’t bug him about it.

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The Sealed Ampoule (Going Back)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £15.49 (Soundtrack £3.99)
Where to Get It: Steam

See, sometimes, you see an idea, you think “Hey, this is cool!” and then… Oh. Hrm. Ah. Not quite as cool in execution.

So it is with The Sealed Ampoule. It’s a very minimalist procgen dungeon crawler. So minimalist, in fact, that it doesn’t gel well with its length. The procedure is very simple. Go into dungeon. Hit things until you feel you aren’t going to survive the next level, go back to room. Use stuff you got in the dungeon to get skills, level up the dungeon’s drop rate and magic circle rate for each level. When you get the ability and have the resources, turn dungeon levels into farms, just dropping the drops. Find story every now and again, or resources to turn more dungeon levels into farms. Rinse, repeat.

Remember these polygons well, for they are the ENEMY. Defeat them, and gain their resources!

I will say this for this set of mechanics, it does cut down on the bumf you’re overlevelled for. I mean, I’m still somewhat overlevelled at any given point beyond the early game, although I suspect that changes the further in you go, but yes, turning the earliest levels into, eventually, a single level you just run through and collect resources from? This is a piece of legitimately good design.

But the rest? Well, as I mention, it’s basically a rinse and repeat. Skills drop once every five levels or so, although those, like the progress toward dungeon farms, require specific materials, dying loses you some resources, and… Well, it boils down to a blur of grind, occasionally interspersed with “Oh, new enem- FUCK, RUN!”, story, or a boss.

The story, similarly, is simple, although it has its compelling mysteries. You play as Irene, who has been depressed since her mother died, but found an advert for a cheap dungeon, and decided to turn it into an alchemy farm, so as to open a shop, make lots of money… And then she finds out that it’s more populated than it first appears, including two small and mysterious children, and… A man who has been bludgeoned to death by nothing less than The Philosopher’s Stone. It’s just that said story progresses in short cutscenes that are… Well, an increasing number of dungeon levels from where you were, even accounting for farms.

The Uncanny Valley Twins.

And finally, there are the aesthetics. Again, it’s minimalist. A few music tracks, that mostly fit the mood, but still feel off, and a few sound effects, generally around two per enemy, sometimes shared between groups. A low poly look that normally, I’d be down for, but feels like a waste of enemy design, and hits the uncanny valley in the case of Irene, whose mouth never seems to work right, and whose movement is… Well, speaking frankly, Irene’s animations are godawful. All five or so.

Otherwise, the accessibility is just fine. The menus are clear, albeit with calligraphic and serif text, you have a helpful toolbar about the status effects you know, and, with the exception of floating numbers for regeneration, nothing’s too small to distinguish. Starts in windowed mode, keys are simple, but options to change things are sparse, and there doesn’t appear to be any gamepad support.

It’s honestly disappointing, because you can see hints of what the developers were going for, but a lot of it just falls flat. If you want a time waster, then yes, this is alright, but otherwise, I can’t really recommend it.

The Mad Welshman loves games of alchemy. He just finds so few of them FUN.

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Ultimate ADOM (Early Access Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £17.49
Where To Get It: Steam

As soon as I get down the stairs, I know I’m fucked. The rat, I’m not worried about. The hobgoblin, I’m sort of worried about. But the Chaos Barbarian, the one with the star over their head? Oh yeah, definitely worried about them. And no matter where I go, I’m going to be trapped by at least two of them.

Well, dash it all

Welp. Yep, Ultimate ADOM is still the tough roguelike I know and love, although “love” may not apply evenly to folks. After all, even with easy class/race combos like a Dwarven Fighter, you’re not necessarily going to last. Something is going to screw you if you’re not careful. And patient. And even that may not save you.

So, a little context. ADOM, originally created in 1994 by Thomas Biskup, is a true blue roguelike. Permadeath, turn based movement and combat, dungeons, procedural generation, etcetera, etcetera, everything in the Berlin Interpretation, basically. You’ll die, you’ll die a lot, you’ll learn about the game over time, its systems, managing its resources (both the “high good” and “high bad” variety), and you will become intimately familiar with the wait button, because this is a game where healing options are few.

So, even among roguelikes, it’s a slowish game. But how is this version “Ultimate”?

So, yes, my Ratling’s gender is always tentacled.

Well, basically, a GUI, more races (Well, sort of, the rest of the races have yet to be finished at this point), more genders (although your mileage may vary in ye olde dealybobber of having stat bonuses for your gender… Props for having Tentacled as a gender, and giving nonbinary people charm bonuses, though, it warms my nonbinary heart a little… Ehehe), more classes, and, of course, more features. All the classic ones are in there, like the equivalent of both the game’s mutation stat and its timer (Corruption), and gaining experience, health, or magic from destroying items (an elegant solution to both trash drops and the somewhat slow progression, although only XP is unlocked at first) Although what it doesn’t have, at the present time at least, is a massive game world. It’s one, big dungeon. And that’s fine, honestly.

Aesthetically, it’s okay. No colourblindness issues I could find, text is sans serif and not small, although a little thin, items on the floor are shown as a popup over your quickslots when they’re under you, mollifying the “items can be tiny” deal you sometimes see, tooltips… And, of course, it’s turn based, and its design encourages you to take your time.

You’d think this room would be a problem. And it is for a Ratling. But it’s not impossible. It just requires a bit of running away and holding down the wait button a fair way away, eating what food you have when you get hungry.

So, generally, this is a solid roguelike, albeit definitely not entry level, somewhere on the harder side, although permadeath can be disabled if you want, and I would recommend this to roguelike fans either looking for something with a little (a fair bit) more bite, or fans of ADOM looking for a glow-up to their favourite.

There’s really not a lot else to say, excet that hobgoblins go splat so pleasantly.

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Paperback: The Game (Going Back)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £3.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Words are great. I love words. Especially words that make sentences, then paragraphs, then pages, then books… Yup, I love words. I mean, they’re double edged swords, like the…

Wait, game, what do you mean Estoc isn’t a real word? Or Wales? (There was actually a better example, but we’ll leave that…) I’ve wielded the former, and lived in the latter, so…

I agree, past me, this dictionary sucks if it doesn’t acknowledge Wales.

Yes, Paperback, the digital edition, has the same flaw you’d find in, say, some versions of Scrabble online: The dictionary doesn’t accept some words you know damn well are real. There goes my dream of making a novel set in Wales about aliens and 50s sensibilities clashing with modern ones in a videogame!

Except not, because, essentially, Paperback is simply about making words with the letters you have in your hand (for lo, it is card based), and either buying better letters, or the wild cards that give you fame. Some letter cards have special effects, like giving you more money if it’s first or last in the word (Maybe the editors have a thing for Ts, or a hangup about Ss), or allowing you to trash cards, and making a word with 7 letters or more gives you props too. Run out of two wild card piles, tot up the fame points for your Great Welsh Novel, and the winner’s the one with the most fame!

I vaguely remember this getting through and being shocked it did. Or it didn’t, and I went for Ennui, which definitely works instead.

Life. Don’t talk to me about life…

So… Accessibility wise, it’s okay. It’s windowed, but it can be made a window that fills the whole screen, and you can click on a card to see what the hell it does if the text is a bit small (which it is when you’re not zoomed in.) Both of these are good points. Less good is that there is no volume slider, only on… Or off for sound and music. And while Paperback has a chill, elevator music style track to play to, it is… A track. Or if it’s multiple tracks, they blur together that well.

In any case, paperback has a hotseat mode (always a plus, I find) and an online mode with a signup and login (I can’t really speak as to how well that works), it plays alright, it’s okay, accessibility wise, and as a game? It ain’t bad. If you want a chill word game with friends, this is a solid pick.

Panty, toilet, dirty devil! Words are trouble, words are subtle…

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Tanto Cuore (Review)

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

“So, Who wants to collect maids competitively with me so I can review this sucker?”

She is, presumably, very good at maiding. Also at card battles about recruiting maids to keep the Fake Masters out.

Firstly, this is emblematic of game reviewing, where, occasionally, you will say a sentence that not only makes no sense to the listener without context, but also gives you major side-eye if you say it in a public place.

But yes, Tanto Cuore is the digital adaptation of a card game in which you are hiring maids with Love, and either sending them to your Private Quarters for Victory Points or… STOP LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT, I’M DESCRIBING THE GENERAL GOAL, DAMMIT..

It will not surprise the manga/anime fans to know that yes, this is a Japanese game. And musically, it shows. Bright, pumping beats full of cheer and the promise of shoujo storylines, equally bright visuals… Maids. Maids.

This, this is the screen you’ll mostly be seeing. Partly obscured by a card animation captured too late, but that’s only obscuring where you play your love cards and special ability maids you haven’t put in your chambers.

…Maids… There are, in fact, several different types of maids, and employing them either as general maids (in your deck), Chief Maids (on the top of your Private Quarters, with their own special abilities, and indeed Victory Points), Chamber-maids (placed into your private quarters for their Victory Points), or… Crap, I forget the name of the maids with the green outline on the card, but those stay in your deck and count for victory points at the end, at the cost of stuffing up your deck with maids you can’t play. And, indeed, there’s tactics here, because some maids will give you stuff for playing them as cards, not private maids, others give you victory points so long as there’s a certain number in your deck, you can set bad habits and illnesses upon your opponent, and even ending the game is a tactical decision, requiring you to completely clear two stacks of maids… Something I didn’t learn for a while because of one of the flaws of the game.

There are rules. You can look at the rules via the book icon, that’s about as obfuscatory as the UX goes, nice big letters, clear presentation, bright and cheerful… But you will only gain this information near the end of the rulebook.

I knew, errr… None of this while I was playing, beyond “Oh, thank god, I turned all those bad habits back on them!”

And you will definitely gain no information (that I can find) about how far ahead or behind you are. Other flaws include that there is no hotseat (just versus AI, a single player “story” mode, with cheevos per battle against the maids of the house), and that there is one piece of music. And it plays a lot. And your brain is already melting from trying to calculate victory points, and…

Look, this is a gem. A flawed gem, but a gem nonetheless. And I would recommend this to people who want a light-hearted, simple once you understand what the heck you’re doing, and yet competitive game.

But trying to say this without sounding like a massive pervert is extremely difficult, okay?

I mean, The Mad Welshman IS a kinkster, but seriously, explaining this game without getting side eye is hard.

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