Vampire: The Masquerade – Coteries of New York (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £15.49
Where To Get It: Steam

Ah, the World of Darkness. A world of gothic woe, and equally gothic reaching for hope that is, in the long run, doomed to failure. Where supernatural creatures, indubitably powerful, nonetheless hide in the modern world, because yes, people would kill the hell out of them once they learned how if they were public. Well, actually, considering kink culture, probably not if they played their cards right. But anyway!

This woman is honestly pretty sympathetic. She’s gone through a lot.

This is a visual novel that, like another World of Darkness product I’d reviewed before (Preludes) is meant to be a sort of introduction to the world with the story of a newly embraced vampire, from one of three clans: Ventrue, the Blueblood powermongers. Brujah, the philosopher warriors turned anti-authoritarian. And Toreador, those who value art, even as their own artistic talent is crushed by the Embrace. And this is where people might start disliking the game, because the overarching story will remain the same in each playthrough, the main differences being how they lived and were embraced, and the person they’d known before their embrace. Add in that you can’t recruit more than two characters on a single playthrough, and definitely can’t do all the sidequests in the time you have, adds a little replay value, but if it being a shortish game is a big turnoff to you, or the general narrative arc remaining the same, then… This is not for you.

A fine example of the luscious painting style. Goshdarn, this is good stuff.

I don’t personally think of that as a bad thing. Nor do I think of the fact that it’s only really possible to fail at the very beginning as bad. Because I ask myself “What is the goal here?” And the answer comes up the same: It’s to tell a story, to immerse you into a world. Yes, that world is, in the World of Darkness, a world where even supernatural life, especially in the beginning, can be nasty, brutish, and short. But a game with that aspect would prove, as it has for me when sitting at the more adversarial tabletop sessions, unenjoyable. There is an interesting world, and the developers want to show it.

It helps that, aesthetically, the game is gorgeous. The characters and places are lushly painted, the writing is good, providing insight into this setting, and the UX is not bad at all. The soundscape, similarly, is pleasant, fitting with the scenes in question. Accessibility wise, resizable text is good. My only gripe, settings wise, is that there is no windowed mode.

I will note, however, that this guy has some serious Plan 9 vibes. Those eyes! <3

So, as such? My opinion is that it does precisely what it sets out to do: To tell a short story, from three potential perspectives, with potential choices for exploring other clans in the game, and aspects of a vampire’s life. It is, basically, a way to get you into the setting, to explore it a little and entice you to explore it further. And, again, I don’t really see that as a bad thing.

So yes, I don’t see the turnoffs as turnoffs myself, although I can perfectly understand if they are for you, the person thinking “Should I buy this?” My answer is that it’s a solid, short, story led visual novel with great art, good writing, and tight design.

The Mad Welshman values three things: Is it aesthetically consistent? Is it tightly designed? Is it interesting? This ticks those boxes.

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Kindred Spirits on the Roof (NSFW Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £26.99 (£36.13 for all audio dramas and Full Chorus DLC, Full Chorus £7.19, OST £3.99)
Where To Get It: Steam

Content Warnings: Lesbian Sex, Masturbation, Teacher-Student Relationship.

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The Coma 2 (Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £11.99 (£1.69 each for two skins, £3.19 for artbook or soundtrack)
Where To Get It: Steam

Content Warning: This game contains body horror, in addition to what is usually expected in a horror game.

I knew I was going to have a fun time with The Coma 2 when our protagonist, Mina Park, utters a solidly “Horror protagonist” line. Context first: She woke up in a strange, alternate school in which her teachers are monsters, and the halls are filled with student bodies twisted into grotesque forms. She escapes said monsters, rescued by somebody, and is deposited at the local police station, and told to wait there until the rescuer (seemingly the only normal person in this universe) comes back. And what does she say?

You may have gotten a B+ in the English exam, Mina, but you’re A+ on Advance Horror Protagonism.

“While I’m here, I can file a report at the Police Station.” Solid. Gold. Horror protagonists, continue to do counter-survival things in order to make things interesting.

Anyway, yes, The Coma 2: Vicious Sisters is the sequel to The Coma, this time from the perspective of Mina Park, the best friend of the first game’s protagonist, who is drawn into the same shadow world. A world where people she would otherwise have trusted have become shades or monsters, and only a few can be trusted.

It’s pretty good survival horror, to be honest. 6 areas, which you hop between in an effort to, essentially, survive and, hopefully, stop an eldritch horror from entering our world. Does it have a good ending? Ahaha, that would be spoilers.

English, as it turns out, is quite the murderous subject. (Although that’s usually demonstrated by people who butcher the English Language)

Nonetheless, the gameplay is pretty tight. E to interact, some of which will take some time (and notes will take some extra time, as I found out on my first proper death in the Police Station. Avoid death first, notes later!), A and D or the arrow keys to walk, Shift to run, space for a dodge… And WASD/arrow quicktime events (your choice) for holding your breath and difficult actions. This, honestly, is the one thing I wasn’t entirely fond of, but I will say that the game eases you in.

Now, aesthetically, the game is on point. An inked and cel shaded hand drawn style that’s quite charming, ambient, eerie music with its own feel, and audio cues that let you know when a monster that isn’t one of the basic obstacle types is on your floor, and what direction they’re coming from? These are all good. Similarly, the writing is solid, with the character of Mina and others sold well, and the world given to you piece by piece, in a sensible manner.

WELP. Very, very dead.

Difficulty wise, it eases you in, and collecting the story notes is, for the most part, pretty easy when you start, ramping somewhat in difficulty the first time you hit the Police Station, and… Well, let’s leave it at “The difficulty curve is reasonable, and I enjoy this.” And feel wise? Well, I appreciated that there are few jump scares, preferring to go with enemies you at least know when you first see them, and the twisted humans, who are quick, screamy, and will murder you quickly if you don’t succesfully hide or try to just run (they’re slightly faster than you, although doors and stairs briefly delay them.) Also a sensible stamina bar. I always appreciate a stamina bar that lets you run for more than 5 seconds, although this is still… About fifteen seconds before you’re out of puff.

So, overall, this is fairly nice for a horror game, and, for horror fans, this one is one you should definitely give a go, at the very least.

The Mad Welshman is always pleasantly surprised when someone actually gets what a good horror game should be like. It’s fairly rare.

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Divination (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £1.69 (£3.36 Collector’s Edition, £2.09 for artbook, soundtrack, other extras)
Where To Get It: Steam
Other Reviews: Itch release

Content Warning: This game has themes of self harm and suicide, and a depiction of suicide. As such, the review has been age gated, and this content warning has been added to the original review.

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Nexomon (Early Access Review)

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

Aaargh. Aaaargh. Sometimes, I hate Windows 10. Hey, is your app too blurry, why don’t we, why don’t we, why don’t we Stop Tabbing Out Win10, it’s not blurry! (To fix this, turn display change notifications the hell off)

Please don’t do this. Especially don’t do this more than 5 times in the first two gym areas. Kthxbai

Anyway, yes, Nexomon starts in full screen mode, and it seems to be a little while before you can actually get into the options. Have options on the main screen, folks, because otherwise you have, for example, the game’s volume blaring until the into cutscenes are over (one of which, for some reason, is unskippable.) And yes, I had that experience, and yes, it was a bad start to the game for me. And then another bad experience, with a fourth wall breaking joke that was less funny than the developers thought it was (Which has, so far, happened about eight or nine times), and perhaps the most obvious foreshadowing that the…

Wait, the Gym Leaders in this Pokemon-alike are part of Team Evil? I… Hrm. Anyways, yes, this is one of the Pokemon style games that have been cropping up this past year, and it’s… A very mixed bag. On the one hand, it’s visually pleasing, with lots of cool designs. The animations work pretty well, and the music pleases, even through the acknowledgement that the musical stings and the like have very similar motifs to the Pokemon franchise. At least the shopkeeper is a cat called Ron. That’s nice. And the battles, if you know what your moves actually do, is good.

A recent patch meant you know vaguely what moves do. The database is still very sparse, though.

But I did say it was a mixed bag, and most of this is in the writing, some things that may or may not irritate, the aforementioned lack of an options menu until you’re in the game, and status effects are, for the most part, single turn effects. That’s right. Single turn. Oh yeah, and if you’re wanting a team of a single Nexomon, you’re outta luck, because only one can be captured, and if you try to capture another, you’re wasting Nexotraps, the Pokeballs of this game. In one case, where the “captured” icon didn’t show up in the top right, I wasted three before I said “soddit!” and finished it off. And then I went back and, sure enough… Already captured, 750 coins worth of Nexotraps lost to the ether.

Pew-eee! Anyway, yes, it gets super dramatic after every gym. In a painfully predictable way.

Now, there are, indeed, 300 Nexomon in the game. And many of them are packed into a very tight space. As in, I was finding different Nexomon, including different rare ones, in different screens of a route. And, since there doesn’t appear to be much in the way of quick routes (You’d think they’d give you running shoes after the second gym, but no, it’s apparently somewhere in the third gym), it’s a slow trudge, and…

Well, it’s at this point that I talk about what this is: It’s a port of a mobile game, and it shows. It shows in the lack of move descriptions in battle, and the UX. It shows in how minimal the database and move descriptions are (beyond their energy cost, which may or may not reflect how powerful the move actually is.) And it shows in being more grindy than your default Pokemon experience. Since the writing isn’t all that great, and considering all of this, I would definitely understand if you were turned off, or at best non-committal, since, even when reviewing it, I had to take breaks out of, basically, irritation at how slow it was going. It had a feature where you could switch between moves you’d learned, but… Not enough to save it.

This poor dork, on the other hand… This guy really gets it. Repeatedly.

And, after the second gym, and the knowledge that I was going to have to grind more to beat the first trainer battle after it, I checked out. There are some good designs here, and, like Disc Creatures, it has the feature of allowing you to pick between your moves, but the game itself? Is a tedious slog with some distinctly hammy and awful writing in places, especially when it breaks the fourth wall.

The Mad Welshman would like to remind spiritual successor types: Please fully understand why a thing is good. Thank you for your time.

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