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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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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Demon’s Tilt (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £11.39 (£18.58 for Deluxe edition, £7.19 for Deluxe Content DLC)
Where To Get It: Steam

It’s been a while since I last looked at Demon’s Tilt, but it’s now out, and… Yup, it’s still a multi-segment pinball table where the three main features (bosses) change as you defeat them, is still a pretty tough pinball table that nonetheless is cool and interesting, and is still partly a bullet hell game where you can avoid the bullets, but sometimes using them is a better option. Oh, and nudge is encouraged, although the default keyboard binds (WSAD for nudge, the usual Left and Right shift for paddles, Space for the plunger) are a little uncomfortable (It has controller support, and I’ve had an okay time with that)

Yup, I feel like a badass priest alright, getting in the headgear of a succubus, smacking a chimera in its dumb helmeted head as she smacks me into it, and about to ride down a snake’s gullet for SUPER HOLY POINTS. Hell yes.

The amusing thing being, that I’ve already sung its praises in a previous review (Because yes, even for the price, this is a good and highly involved table, once you get to see things), there’s going to be a little repetition here. Actually, a lot of repetition.

The table is inspired by a few older pinball titles, namely Alien Crush and Devil Crush, and Crue Ball, and has three segments, a few hidden sub-tables, and, in EX mode, more hidden sub-tables. And each segment has at least one boss monster, from the Iron Chimera and Priestess Lilith, to the various gribbleys that populate the lowest segment.

Enemies only stop your ball from below, with the exception a few larger ones, and bullets kill the momentum of your ball regardless, so you can either use that to your advantage, swear and quickly nudge to avoid the dread drain (the pinball term for the ball falling below the lowest paddles, the point of no return), or… Well, not noticing and losing a ball. As well as all this, there are teleportals, spikes, the aforementioned sub tables… And aesthetically, it hits the nail on the head too.

This one’s an older screenshot, but hot damn, that was a good run. Also one of my few pics of this scary bossdude.

Gothic imagery, synthwaveish tunes and neon splashes (and, indeed, neon splash text), good impact and UX layout… There’s a lot to like about it. Although, fair warning, it’s a stimulation heavy game, lots of things flashing and sparking and bouncing and flashing, and it’s very easy to get overloaded. But hot damn, it looks so good while it’s doing it! It even gives you a hint as to what to do to get your next letter on the three LOADSAPOINTS objectives, and highlights jackpots and super jackpots as they appear.

Of course, no game is perfect, and perhaps my worst criticism is that the flippers are a little slow, requiring you to account for this with your timing. More than once, I’ve said to myself “I’ll set up an end of flipper shot”, and watched in irritation as I hit the flipper half a second too late, and watched it slide a table segment down.

These assholes, for example, shoot bullets a fair bit, and explode a lot, and this isn’t even counting when there’s lots of bullets. It’s a lot to take in!

But, overall? For pinball fans, this one is basically a must. It’s an exciting table, it’s got a great aesthetic, there’s replayability, the obligatory leaderboards (My PB is 302M, I’m sure there’s folks out there that can beat that), and there’s a lot to explore.

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The 13th Doll: A 7th Guest Fangame (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £23.79
Where To Get It: Steam

Well, I came into The 13th Doll expecting cheese, evil puzzles, and Stauf being sarcastic, and, beyond some odd design choices, that’s… Exactly what I got. Good job, everybody, let’s pack it up and…

Ah, the puns. I actually missed these.

…Oh, wait, I need to talk about it, don’t I? Well, The 13th Doll, like the 7th Guest, is a first person puzzle adventure with 3d areas and, occasionally, live action on top. It looks relatively natural for such a thing, which is a somewhat difficult thing to pull off. Now, though, they’re using Unity, and so they’re not limited to awkward, individually raytraced movement frames between locations. You just… Move around, your cursor changes when you can change rooms (A skeletal finger beckons), when you can’t just yet (it wags), when you can do a puzzle (A skull with a pulsating brain), and when you can pick up or otherwise interact with something (Chattering teeth or a comedy mask, depending on what it is.)

The other thing here is that there are, in fact, two protagonists: Tad, the boy from the original game, who escaped the mansion after being stuck there as a time looping ghost. And, since this game is set in the 20s or 30s, starts the game placed in a “hospital for the mentally insane” (If anyone knows what physical insanity is, let me know too, I’m curious.) The other is the new psychiatric doctor, Dr. Richmond, who, as exposure therapy, takes Tad back… To the mansion! Legitimately a nice way to have 26 puzzles (13 apiece) in the game, and their stories both intersect at points… And diverge the rest of the time.

Tad has grown, and… Well, I suppose he’s got good reason to be so sulky as an adult.

Tad, quite literally haunted by the spectres of his past, seeks to destroy Stauf once and for all by… Well, he’s told the 13th doll is the key, but, considering it tried to grab his ankles in the intro, I’m not entirely sure this is true. Meanwhile, Dr Richmond’s story… Ohh, it burns my ass to see Stauf engaging in historical revisionism. He’s a brilliant man! A genius! His wife was the serial killer, and she was the one who caused the children to die in the first game through a virus she had! BLECH.

In any case, aesthetically, it works alright, overall… The music is pretty good, sometimes covers of the first game’s soundtrack, others new tracks, and they’re all pretty fitting. The acting, on the other hand… That’s more variable. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting shakespearean ham from anyone but Robert Hirschboeck (who both reprises his role as Henry Stauf, and brings his style, panache, and ham to the role once more) but the protagonists are sometimes a little flat in their speech. Visually, well… It’s not a bad looking rendition of the Stauf Mansion, and I like the new touches on some of the old spookings. It also has a relatively clear UX, although there is the oddity that, to save, you have to go to the main menu. Don’t quite know why that decision was made, but I’ve let you know now.

ARGH. AAAAAARGH.

Still, a game like this wouldn’t be complete without the puzzles, and… Ohhh boy. There is colourblind assistance, but it’s a text overlay, which, in the case of some puzzles early on, makes it a sod to see the puzzle itself. And the puzzles are, for the most part, bastard hard. Case in point, on Doctor Richmond’s path, there is… The clock puzzle. Can you split a clock into four parts, so that each endpoint of your segments adds up to the same number? I’ve been racking my brain over this one for a while, suffice to say. Some are new takes on old puzzles, such as the artery puzzle (Now a sliding block puzzle with a twist: The blocks can fall off the edges, never to be regained.) Oh, and the return of the fucking first person maze. Oh yes, that was indeed a memorable moment in 7th Guest. That was the part most of us said “Nope, fuck this!” and missed out on the endings. Get your graph paper out for that one, friends!

Overall, though, it’s by no means a bad game. The story is ham and cheese, but I went in expecting that, and if you do too, you’ll be alright. The puzzles, the mansion… These are the meat of the game, and, while not all the accessibility options work well (if you have problems, let them know.), it’s worth hitting options before you begin to check them. In any case, the puzzles, while fiendish, are mostly well explained (Although the hints mostly seem to be restatements of the puzzle mechanics, sadly), the callbacks are mostly fun, and, overall… Yep, definitely recommended for 7th Guest fans, moderately recommended for puzzle adventure fans who like hard puzzles. Good Stauf!

Robert Hirschboeck. Playing the Man in the Moon at a theater near you.

The Mad Welshman finds himself… Chilling with this game. That was a graaave mistake… (Ohohoho)

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Corpse Party 2: Dead Patient Chapter 1 (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £8.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Content Warning: There’s a fair bit of gore here, and one of the zombies is a small child (pictured in review.) No jumpscares that I noticed in this particular episode, although that may change in the future.

(more…)

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