Mystic Pillars (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £5.19
Where To Get It: Steam

Counting games, such as games from the Mancala family, are quite interesting. Often seen as games representative of sowing and harvest, a common objective is to lay seeds from one pool, to another set as far away as the number of seeds you have away, dropping a single seed in each hole along the way, and then capture seeds from the next pool over. It’s a game of strategy. And it fits, because Mystic Pillars is a puzzle game where there is a great drought, caused by a spirit who has summoned pillars blocking the river.

He gets a little friendlier. But yes, he is both the storyteller… And the antagonist.

And while you don’t precisely do it like Mancala style games (Ali Guli Mane, or Chenne Mane is the cited inspiration), the general principle to the puzzle is similar: You’re taking from one pillar of seeds to another, and if you go 1 space away, you place 1 seed from the first to the second, if you move 2 spaces, 2 seeds… There are up to 10 spaces on each pillar, and so… You have a logic puzzle.

And, as with any good puzzle game, when I understood the solution of a difficult puzzle, I had that “Ahaaaaa!” moment, that pleasure of figuring it all out. That, alone, would be a recommendation.

But it also engages me with its story. A story of a traveller, seeking to return the flow of the river in the kingdom of Zampi, while a tricksy spirit tells you how it came to pass that the kingdom fell in the first place. I enjoyed it, as I did the clear, beautiful aesthetic of the game. As I did how the move limit is exactly what you need, no more, no less. And how there’s no pressure to solve, even though many of the puzzles are, within only a few experiments, solvable fairly easily.

When you get that “AHA” moment, it’s pretty sweet.

It’s not a long game, by any means. But it’s an enjoyable one, with a story I had fun reading, puzzles that gave my little grey cells a pleasing workout, and, as another game that does what it says on the tin… If you like puzzles, this one may well be a pleasant pick for you.

The Mad Welshman is more of a fan of Sennet. But he still appreciates this game.

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Langrisser 1 & 2 (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £49.99 (Assorted DLC comes to £41.96)
Where To Get It: Steam

The bandits were raiding the village, and my two heroes had things well in hand. Well, except when the next wave of bandits appeared, and… One was really close to a set of villagers, villagers I was meant to be protecting. So, some of this peaceful village died, died because I was too slow. And then some more died… Because they ran headlong into the two barbarian heroes I was trying to kill. I still won the day, but I wondered… Could I have done things differently? Could I have saved everyone?

We didn’t manage to save everyone. But we progressed. And our friend managed to rejoin us.

Well, theoretically, yes. In practice… Welcome to the Langrisser games, turn based strategy RPGs where you can muddle through, but perfection requires pinpoint precision.

And do you know, I quite like it. At least partly because it’s of the more black and white SRPG type, where you fail, because your heroes were killed… Or you win. This, I appreciate.

In any case, Langrisser is one of those fantasy worlds where the story will seem quite familiar to players of this sort of game: King gets murdered, or other horrible thing happens, the protagonist and their friend(s) escape, they defeat evils on their way to returning home to retake it, but wait, a greater evil arises in the second or third act, and…

Ledin is the one on the left. Just to clarify.

It still works surprisingly well. In fact, this pair of remakes of a now almost 30 year old franchise is a pretty solid one, with simple core mechanics (Infantry beats spears, Spears beat Cavalry, Cavalry beats Infantry, your mercs work better inside your commander’s command radius, they heal when they end their turn directly adjacent to you, and killing commanders removes their mercs from the field too, bish, bash, bosh, there’s your basic primer on everything Langrisser), solid combat, an interesting system where your character’s class can change the way they play a fair bit, and, of course, some nice aesthetics, with good music, clear tiles, workable and slightly charming battle animations, and plot divergences.

Basically, it ain’t bad, and with twelve hours average on a run of Langrisser I (for lo, there is a New Game+ on both games), there’s a lot of playtime to be had…

Battles follow a format that would later be popularly associated with the Advance Wars series.

At least some of which is due to unskippable combat animations, and individual movement animations even if you automate. Personally, I don’t mind it, mainly because I prefer manual movement myself. But I can see how that would be a turnoff.

Still, I’ve enjoyed my time with Langrisser, and I expect to enjoy more time with it. It doesn’t overcomplicate things, its characters charm, its aesthetics please, and… It’s something where I know where I stand. Because it lets me know clearly. And I appreciate something that does that.

The Mad Welshman is off to… Ahaha, not save the kingdom! Conquer it! Big difference!

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World of Horror (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £11.39
Where To Get It: Steam, Itch.IO

Content Warning: This game has body horror and mutilation imagery, mentions of suicide, self harm, and murder.

(more…)

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Jupiter Hell (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £19.49
Where To Get It: Steam
Previous Reviews: Early Access 1

There is perhaps nothing more satisfying than riddling demons with holes with dual wielded SMGs. The kickback, the satisfying noise, the rapid thuds followed by the larger thud (or boom) as the monstrosity from another dimension finally keels over. In your imagination, of course, because while there’s bullet trails in Jupiter Hell (allowing you to see just how much ammo you wasted murdering them), death animations aren’t really that impressive, nor do they need to be.

Oh. Wait. There is perhaps nothing more satisfying than seeing the sizzling holes, melting a demon piece by piece, with dual wielded plasma SMGs. I stand corrected.

Buddy, you can… See all these bodies around, right? And me, without a scratch?

What I’m saying is, 0.8.8, the Dual Wield update for Jupiter Hell, has a feature that’s pretty damn satisfying, even if it has some qualifiers, like “You get this cool thing if you survive your first three level ups”, “It will still take up two weapon slots”, “Remember how you had that ammo problem? It will chew through ammo faster”, and “Only Marines and Scouts get this. Sorry Techies.”

Of course, it’s not the only change, although hacking turrets feels… A little underwhelming, as an example. Find the computer terminal on a level, spend 3 of the new combo armour replacement/hacking items, the multitool, and bam, turrets are… Deactivated, seemingly. Since I’ve never seen a turret shoot someone, and they have an ammo drop next to them, that’s basically what I assume, anyways. I mean, it makes levels slightly easier?

And now I’m on fire, how ’bout that?

Anyway, yes, I forgot, all this time, to say what Jupiter Hell is, for the folks in the back. Jupiter Hell is a turn-based roguelike, heavily inspired by Doom (Its spiritual predecessor actually was Doom: The Roguelike, and it was only Bethesda’s litigiousness, in spite of Id Software being cool with it, even flattered, that it is not called DoomRL2 today.) Actions like moving, reloading, firing… All take a certain amount of time, and the enemies, similarly, work on a timer. Diagonal movement costs two squares of movement, but moving doubles your chance of evading shots, so it’s valid to, when seeing a big old bundle of enemies, to book it to a safer position. Indeed, considering enemies will now hit cover when they see you most times, and only get out if you destroy it (sometimes possible) or lure them out (a risky move in some cases, but risk management is the name of the game.)

And how does all this feel? Well, easy mode feels pretty do-able, although you definitely have hairy moments. Normal is a roguelike experience, something that takes a fair amount of tactical thought to defeat… And, of course, there’s challenge modes. I don’t recommend challenge modes for the casual player, or the higher difficulties. But it is casual playthrough accessible, with relatively minimal unlocks for getting certain achievements.

Poor dualjay. He never got to see the plasma pistols…

It helps that it also looks and sounds pretty good. Shots sound satisfying, the clank of one of the chonky security robots is a sound that, once you know the enemy itself, makes you break into a cold sweat and hunt cautiously for both the robot and the best cover, the maps look pretty good for being tile based, quite atmospheric, and the music… Well, as with its inspiration, it veers between heavy, driving metal, and ominous, low tunes, setting the mood for each area. Oh, and then there’s the Marine/Scout/Techie, whose angry growls evoke that 90s protag feel, but in a way that’s not, like quite a few of the 90s FPS protags, a dickwad. Just a dude very, very angry that shit’s gone to hell.

So yeah, Jupiter Hell is getting closeish to release now, the devs have been very good about trying to balance it while maintaining interesting mechanics, and, while I don’t think they’re quite there yet, it’s a pretty good roguelike to start your entrance into the genre.

The Mad Welshman has nothing against demonic denizens. He just wished they’d stop trying to kill him.

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Dungeon Origins (Review)

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

I admit it: Normally, I am not a fan of Tower Defence. It’s just a personal preference, and I’ve only enjoyed a few games in the genre. So for me to say Dungeon Origins is okay? It might be more than that for you. Who knows. Let’s get into it.

See this? This is a very bad idea. This is your actual bad management skills at work here.

The story idea is actually a pretty fun one: A hero has cleansed the land of the great evils, and the kingdom is at peace. Well, right up until the moment where the King makes the extremely unwise decision of trying to kill said hero, who has defeated great evils, because he’s too dangerous to let live.

Kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy, as said hero then resolves to create a great and evil dungeon, with which to punish the kingdom. And what results can basically be summed up as “Dungeon management tower defense.” With a tutorial that… Isn’t great. Basically, plonk down paths, making sure you have a nice twisty path with the space available to you (because, at the beginning, it ain’t much), traps, monsters (mostly monsters, as traps are less reliable), and, when you’re ready, go for the next wave! Every 10 or so waves, a boss spawns… And, of course, the more waves you get through, the tougher the obstacles on the way.

Whoops, I am dead, and so are all my minions. Gee willickers, I wish I could have been able to buy some corridors to distract them!

And here is where it’s alright instead of good. See, while it has some cool ideas, its implementation, even as a score attack type deal where you see how many days you last is… Not great. Monsters, for the most part, are fine. Learning how to mix monsters, like a tough melee type in front of weaker, ranged monsters, is a must, and, if worst comes to worst, the dungeon core itself can attack intruders who’ve reached it, with monsters respawning after each wave… That’s fine. But paths and tile placement is… Awkward. Mainly because you are encouraged to get certain dungeon features, which, in addition to costing… A lot, will also cost a tile worth of gold, an increasing cost, and those features will completely block that tile. Traps not being able to be placed with monsters? That’s more reasonable. But special rooms take up more of the economy than they claim to, and what they claim to is an arm and a leg for wherever they’re recommended.

There’s also a skill tree, which, again, is fine… But traps deserve another mention, because the earliest trap (indeed, the only trap I was able to unlock on the first run) has… a 10% chance of going off. Which, not going to lie, feels a little ridiculous. The idea is that, if it goes off, it does a significant chunk of damage… But it also does sod all to thieves, who will steal the hardest resource to get in the game: Gold.

Ah, raiding. The dungeon keeper’s equivalent of taking the kids to the park.

Mana gems are, it’s true, the rarest, but regular raids will provide you with a pretty consistent supply, whereas gold… Gold drops in relatively piddling amounts unless you’re going big with the raids (potentially disastrous, because raids cost your most common… And most used resource, Souls.) Spells… Exist, but have long cooldowns for what is, at first, not a great effect. Perhaps a scaling cooldown might have worked better there, but a single use, and then a several day cooldown is not great. (Hero assaults occur once a turn, which is a day, and raids for magic gems and gold take several days, a minimum of 2.)

Aesthetically, it’s alright. Lo-fi pixelwork, some chunky sounds, a relatively clear UX… But I found myself hemming and hawwing over this one, because while it was entertaining and a little interesting at first, the power creep of the heroes compared to the growth of me and my dungeon felt uncomfortable. So… If you want a Tower Defence game with RPG elements, then… Maybe?

The Mad Welshman has a dungeon. It’s where he reviews from. Quite nice, considering…

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