Source: Cashmoneys Price: £4.79 Where To Get It: Steam
Dice puzzles are an interesting one. And yet… Minimalist just doesn’t feel right for it. But that’s what Sokodice went for: Simple, ambient, clean… A little sterile. And it doesn’t help that it feels like the keyboard controls change every now and again in terms of directions.
Anyway, yes, Sokodice. The general idea is to push one or more dice to a specific point, with a specific number on it, face by face. If the number you need is on top, congratulations, you pass! If not, well, you’ll get it eventually. Or you’ll restart it over and over again until you hit par. Depends how much you want that, or just to screw around with it. So, for example, if you have a 6 at the “front” of your move, and a two on top, one direction would end with a 3, another with 1, another with 4, and one, obviously, would end in 6. So the opposing top would take two moves in any direction.
I suck at these things, by the way. But it’s not the difficulty (It’s a puzzle involving space, your mileage will vary) that I find somewhat dull. After all, it adds little wrinkles, things to watch out for, as a good puzzle game does.
It’s the presentation. And the control weirdness. In essence, it’s better to play with the mouse then the keyboard, because it gets rid of “Which axis am I moving on again?” There is an undo, but save yourself the frustration if you get it.
No, it’s simply that this minimalism feels more workmanlike than an aesthetic decision. It feels lacking in character. Maybe I’m spoiled on that front, but still… Even when it gets into more colourful designs and tunes, it feels, as I’ve noted, sterile. Lacking feeling.
In any case, Sokodice is less than £5, so if puzzle enthusiasts want to give it a go, then it’s not a big investment, although I would say that dice puzzles are not a beginner puzzle set, so people getting into puzzle games may find only frustration. Personally… It just didn’t grab me.
The Mad Welshman is always sad when something doesn’t grab him, because the devs put in hard work to make their cool stuff. But… Can’t be helped.
Source: Cashmoneys Price: £29.99 (Arbook £3.99) Where To Get It: Steam
Ever since I heard Disgaea 4+ Complete was coming to the PC, I’d gotten curious about the series. So I gave 1 a go… 2 a go… And, recently, 5. And it’s not hard to see how the series has evolved.
So, a refresher, even though we’ve reviewed another Disgaea game this month: Disgaea is an SRPG fantasy series, in which Demon Lords (with one exception in the series) face some sort of tribulation, having to rise through the ranks of their kind by beating the shit out of others, in small battles comprising chapters in the story. And Disgaea 5 is perhaps the darkest one, as the antagonist is a Demon Lord who enslaves and conquers other netherworlds, Void Dark. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have silly moments, it certainly has those, and in spades… But it also has, for example, a demon world where it’s revealed someone in a royal family was held hostage, the people were sent off to fight as disposable soldiers, and then… The royal family was slain and resurrected as zombies.
I can’t wait to murderise the demon lord responsible for that, to be quite honest.
In any case, as mentioned, the evolution is interesting. Fusions? Gone, replaced by a “Mon-Toss”, aka “Monster can throw you, even if they can’t lift you.” When you hire, it doesn’t cost Mana, but HL, and characters… Can be levelled up to the highest named character level. Mana, meanwhile, goes on Skills, the Senate, and later, the Chara World, which… Well, that one’s not great in retrospect, but it is a fun little game, even if you probably want to focus on skills in your first loop. And then there are quests, which allow you to get neat stuff, from skill scrolls, to new character types (at the time of writing, I’m working toward Sage. And got her before I finished this paragraph.) There are other changes, but those are the biggies.
Aesthetically, it keeps the cel shaded/hi-def spritework of its predecessor, with a great soundtrack (the one you’ll hear the most is the bittersweet base theme, vocals and all), and some solid voice and sound work. Accessibility wise, it’s okay… Turn based stuff generally is, and it certainly tries to have map design that doesn’t obscure shit needlessly, but, sad to say, this remains a problem with the series.
But, except for the changes, Disgaea 5 remains what the rest of the series is: A solid strategy RPG, where I’ve never felt pressured into worrying about whether my units fall or not (except in terms of “Damn, I need them to do damage”), where I don’t feel bad about the grind (even the grinding of the Item World gives you sweet stuff, especially on or around your level), and where the stories are this interesting mix of silly and dark that I quite enjoy. Although the mileage varies on individual Disgaea games, I do recommend them as a whole for dipping your toes into SRPGs, and for the devoted SRPG fan who wants really big numbers (over time, anyway.)
The Mad Welshman is not normally a fan of pretty numbers. But even he has to admit, SRPG Big Numbers are a good feeling.
Source: Review Copy Price: £34.99 (Some “Time saving DLC, £2.39 max each, artbook £3.99) Where To Get It: Steam
Ah, Disgaea. An SRPG series I’ve come to enjoy, in the short time I’ve researched it before taking on this review. Its world is an odd one, it has a mix of the dark and the humorous that intrigues me, and… Well, a game where a sardine loving vampiric demon lord takes on a corrupt government over Prinny rights?
What the hell’s not to like about that story setup?
Before this continues, however, there is one important warning to players new and old: Autosave is on by default. Turn it off. Turn it off for your own sanity.
Okay, okay, the autosave is separate from manual saves, but you do want to get into the habit of saving early, and saving often. Even if you think you’ve bribed senators on votes enough, there’s still the chance you’ll be voted down and lose mana.
So, I’ve already gone over the basic plot, what the heck is this? Well, it’s a turn based strategy RPG, in which you summon units to your team, level them up, use them to kick the snot out of your enemies, and each area is about 5 maps, the last having a boss encounter. As to the details?
Well, you can tell this is a transitional game between 3 and 5, because it has the most complex set of mechanics I’ve seen in the Disgaea series. From earlier games, the summoning that doesn’t have levelling built in, so you can improve stats (somewhat), but you have to level them up through fighting, leading to repeating maps or entering the Item World, a mechanic that exists throughout the series (go through a randomly generated dungeon, with bosses every 10 levels, to level up an item and make it more rare. Oh, and this game has branching paths in the dungeons every 5 levels too.) The senate, also, has a new wrinkle to it, in the form of evil dispatches. I haven’t quite worked that one out yet, to be honest, beyond “You can place buildings that have effects on surrounding tiles, the tickmark of which chooses the leader of the group getting the benefit.”
Skills are learned through the use of mana rather than levelling, weapon levelling is gone for this installment, replaced by “You can only learn skills in your character’s weapon specialties.” Even in combat, there’s something new: Fusion. Effectively, two monsters of the same type can become one giant monster, for better stats, the ability to punt people, friend and foe alike, to one side, and, if you’re in the late game, you can magichange a fused monster (magichange being “Monster turns into a weapon, with a special ability unique to them.”) or dual wield magichanged monsters.
I could go on, and on, and on, but let’s wrap this one up. Aesthetically, it’s damn fine. My only gripe visually is the one I’ve had throughout the series, where you need to rotate the map to see certain tiles, and the things on them, and even that… Is not guaranteed if it’s a trough of some sort. You can also zoom out, but… That doesn’t really help much. The voice acting is good, from the Prinnies (we rock, dood!) to Valvatorez (SARDINES!) to the villains (some of whom become your allies.) The game is grindier than, say, 5, but not as grindy as the earlier installments.
I wouldn’t recommend this to people who don’t have a lot of free time on their hands, or people who get irritated by grind, but for SRPG players, or people with a fair amount of free time and wanting to get into SRPGs? Honestly, Disgaea isn’t a bad start, and this is certainly the best story in the series (although they’re all fun.) So yes, I recommend this one with those caveats: It’s got a lot of grind, it’s mechanically the most complex in the series, but… Well, the Disgaea series in general has fun, often silly stories (that sometimes turn dark and serious later, but there’s always a hint of the ridiculous), cool characters, and each installment has something to recommend it.
Source: Cashmoneys Price: £5.79 Where To Get It: Steam
Cursed House has potential. It’s got an interesting premise where, from what I gather, somebody has been cursed after almost dying to the ghosts of a haunted house, and must find their way toward breaking it, being hunted by ghosts along the way, and slowly uncovering the secrets of the mansion.
And you do that in a relatively time honoured tradition: Moving between rooms, and exploring, by drawing cards to determine your next event. Nearly always, it’s something that’s going to require one of your four stats challenged (Strength, Speed, Perception, Knowledge), and often, it’s a fight. As you do so, the blood mist slowly rises in your body, until it reaches max, and you can engage in a small boss rush, to accumulate the special points you need to undo the curse. Can you make it the whole way through? Well… About that… There’s some factors in the game that make that more difficult than it needs to be.
I can forgive the slight jank in some of the visuals (The victory sword, in particular.) I can forgive, somewhat, the rather broken English translation. I even appreciate that they have an easy mode, and that it defaults to “On.”
But I don’t know what elements are going into failure or success, beyond a very vague idea. I know, for example, there are multiple skill checks going on, by the multiple hits at the bar. I know some of these are meant to be card picks from a deck. I know that there are curses, such as automatic failure cards, that can end up being introduced.
But I can’t see any of that happening. And I can’t check exactly how boned I am on the deck front. It’s very frustrating, to know that I’m getting my ass kicked by a level 5 event, in my strongest stat, and I don’t know why.
Still, visually, I kinda like it. It’s simple, but sometimes that’s what you need. Although a clearer font that doesn’t make seeing, say, 51 a little hard, and some colourblindness awareness (red text on a dark background? Not good), and, in its general idea, I kinda like it.
I can’t pretend it’s not a flawed game, though. And there are, it must be said, better games of this ilk out there. Maybe, if the translation improves, and things become more clear, I can go back to this review, and see what’s different. Because it certainly shows promise. It just obscures it under a lack of clarity, which creates a feeling of unfairness.
The Mad Welshman is pretty unfazed by hauntings. He’s the kinda guy who would ask God how his health is doing.
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.
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.
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.
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?