Piko Piko (Early Access Review)

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

This is, honestly, the first time a metroidvania has bewildered me. Not confused. Not a dislike. Just a sort of mild “Wha- What’s going on?” Part of that is that it throws you into the storyline quite quickly. Part of that is that it’s a colourful assault on the senses at times, especially during boss time… And partly… It’s confusing, and doesn’t currently tutorialise well.

The protagonist is only slightly less confused than I am. Although she does seem the Go with the Flow type.

So yes, this is the story of Piko, a Piko Piko hammer (A plastic whack-a-mole mallet with rubber ends) wielding girl and her fox friend, both students at the Blacksmith Academy, where… Oh no, the Great Blacksmith Hammer has been stolen, the school is in ruins, and Teacher has been framed! Piko and her friend must beat the everloving crap out of people, mostly fellow students, until they can get to the bottom of this!

No, really, that’s the premise behind this indie metroidvania type deal. You are a girl with a surprisingly whallopy plastic hammer, who goes around hammering things, and using her special abilities, to go from boss fight to boss fight, solving hammer and ability based puzzles, and gaining powerups along the way, in their quest to… Basically, find out what’s going on. And it’s here where we get into “Shows promise, needs work” territory. Let’s start with the visual.

In boss fights, whalloping enemies directly on the head is the best way to stun them. But it quickly becomes tough as nails.

On the plus side, it has a windowed mode, the UX is pretty clear, it looks pretty, and only a few enemies are hard to distinguish from the backdrop (mostly the leafy enemies.) On the downside, windowed mode is a little glitchy on the highest windowed resolution it has, not actually resizing the display, and, if you want over 1440 width, you might as well go full screen (or 760 and some change, if you want your window not to be 760 and some change with lots of blackspace.) The sound design is nice, some nice chunky noises, and a fair few cute ones too, and, if you expected character design to be cutesy with a side order of “The hell?” in the case of some of the bosses (Like the german third grader transfer student in a tank), then you’re doing well. Similarly, the maps have enough interest, and locations of interest, to be able to lead you around.

Now, here’s where it gets annoying. The keyboard layout is, in and of itself, not bad. But it’s not signposted. So you won’t know without experimenting that jumping, then holding down and jump, will do a very useful move: A slam. You’d think it would be, for example, down and X (attack on the keyboard), but… No. It’s jump, and, in midair, whether you double jumped or not, down and jump. It wasn’t until a second run through that I even noticed Piko had a jumping special attack on C, because C normally results in your partner throwing a drill.

The characters are also quite expressive.

Oh, and down and C is a slide, which I also didn’t know about. Perhaps you can see why this might be a problem. Options? Not really. Is the hammer slam useful? Yes. But this leads into another thing… The hammer slam is, inarguably, one of your best tools for stunning bosses, letting you get free hits in. It’s also a bitch to land. So… It’s somewhat obtuse, requires experimentation with the controls, and some of its more useful skills, while you have them early on, are hard to use.

Does that make it a bad game? No. Once I got into the swing of things, I beat a few bosses, explored quite a bit, had a lot of fun, and, as mentioned, beat the everloving crap out of lots of cutesy things with my hammer. I even explored the world quite a bit, although there doesn’t appear to be much of a reason to visit many areas (maybe I haven’t gotten far enough.) But it does make it exactly what it is: A work in progress, an Early Access game with some “Mileage May Vary” warning in there. If you’re looking for another pixel metroidvania fix, and don’t mind the game being a work in progress, it’s worth a shot. Otherwise, wait.

The Mad Welshman also has a hammer, but it is not a Piko Piko. It’s a rather large Lucerne, for henchfolk who displease him.

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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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Meteorfall: Krumit’s Tale (Early Access Review)

Source: Review Copy
Price: £5.79 (£7.09 for game and soundtrack, £2.09 for soundtrack)
Where To Get It: Steam

Adventurers are not the smartest of folks. They run heedlessly into dungeons, and then scratch their heads as they’re faced with… A grid? A small economy system? A… Puzzle? BRUNO SMASH. Bruno dead. Whoops, Bruno should have listened to the tutorial of Krumit’s Tale, a fun little puzzle and deckbuilding roguelite in which you try to efficiently clear out a dungeon, with the only major criteria being survival. Of course, if you survive and leave a lot of item tiles on the board, you get more opportunities to beef up your deck. And that’s so very tempting.

All these tiles will be lost… Like tears in the rain. Time to die…

The actual rules of Krumit’s Tale are pretty simple. With an enemy, you attack first, unless they’re ambushing or blitzing you (the lightning symbol.) Killing an enemy nets you 1 gold, and gold is used to buy abilities. I mention this before things like parrying, where if you have more armour the the enemy’s attack? They’re stunned for a turn, which, effectively, counts for either two turns of damage, or the enemy’s death, depending on how much they have left in the (heart) tank, because you don’t start with weapons or armour.

You have to buy them, if you have the option. Once all enemies are dead, you’ve won, and the equipment and ability tiles you have left on the board are counted toward your bonus points. You get a free tile, you pick a special ability out of four, and then you buy tiles and rubbish cards you don’t want anymore until your deck size is the current maximum. Then you do it again. Die? You’ve earned XP, which will, over runs, unlock you new abilities for the character you’ve played.

A dangerous foe indeed!

The devil’s in the details, of course, with each new enemy having something that complicates matters, but the base ideas are tight, simple, and easily understandable. It doesn’t take long to get the hang of. Which is good, I like me some tight design! But what about… Everything else?

Well, it just so happens that I like the aesthetic too. Visually, it’s a cartoonish style, with some interestingly grim elements, and lovely little touches like the M of Krumit’s fluttering above the candle flame of the L, and the animations of each character. Speaking of characters, both of the currently available characters have their own… I won’t quite say “charm” , but character works. Bruno is definitely a barbarian of a man, with a constant, low key gargling of suppressed rage, and similarly, Greybeard the wizard is toothily muttering his incantations. Their designs, and that of the monsters, are pretty cool, and the music? Suitably creepy. Nice!

Yes, this would be an ideal spot. I love sneks!

This, the difficulty curve, the clever little things you can do (If your inventory isn’t used up, it counts toward that tile bonus, friends!), and its sarcastic, sometimes grim humour works well for me. As far as deckbuilder roguelites go, it comes recommended, even in this early stage, showing promise and polish.

The Mad Welshman loves the description of W’aggu. Alas, he didn’t screenshot it. Go play the game.

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Why Is There A Girl In My House?! (NSFW Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £2.09
Where To Get It: Steam

Catgirls have served many purposes in fiction. As horrific huntresses. As comedy characters. And yes, sometimes, like real cats, they’re horny. And so we come to this game, where the setup is that a retail saleswoman is gifted a catgirl by her auntie. Yes, catgirls are intelligent. Yes, they are pets. No, it doesn’t engage with that, except to note that there’s basically catgirl breeds, care information, communities… Oh, and catgirls in porn. I’m reasonably sure that was referenced. So that, and the fact it’s a kinetic visual novel (No branching points, just sit back and enjoy the story), and that it’s short (Depends on reading speed, but I clock it at sub 2 hours) are the major points out of the way.

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Cat Lady (Early Access Review)

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

Cats are magical creatures. But even I have to admit that a ghost cat with deadly psychokinetic hairballs is a new one on me. But this is one of the cats available to shoot with in Cat Lady, a roguelite twin-stick shooter that isn’t to be confused with The Cat Lady. Which isn’t even in the same genre.

Grandma, as it turns out, has a lot of stuffed rabbits, among other things.

The story is quite simple: You’re visiting Grandma’s house, but, oh dear, it’s been haunted by a poltergeist, who is commanding a legion of ghosts infesting household objects, and they’re out for Grandma for some reason! Luckily for you, now her small horde of cats can talk, and have gained magical abilities. Including the aforementioned ghost cat, one who throws deadly kisses, a wizard cat you start with… And this is without mentioning secondary cats and their abilities (Personal favourite is Box Cat, who paws at anything near where you told him to set up shop)

And, while the first few areas can be breezed through, not only does it definitely show promise, I appreciate being able to see everything the game has to offer. As far as the mechanical formula goes, it’s not a new deal (nor does it have to be.) You walk into a room, if it has enemies in it, it locks the doors until all the enemies are dead, you pick up one of two kinds of currency (the in-run Kibble, and the between-run Ghostly Spirits), you sometimes trade up your primary and secondary cats, exit levels via stairs, fight bosses (currently 3), and you get powerups.

Approximately 3 seconds before everything in this room dies.

Let’s take a brief digression into the powerups, because, while some are a little iffy, they do combine, so when you have a good combo, your shots break the game over their knees. For example, at first, I made my life more difficult by getting erratic shots. I couldn’t reliably aim at enemies, so… Whoops! But then… Bouncing projectiles (cool, less worries), burst fire (Wow, that’s a fair few bouncy projectiles!), giant projectiles (I… I’m having trouble seeing what’s going on, but I’m reasonably sure everything except me is dying), and finally… A poison effect.

To cut a long story short, by the time I’d gotten halfway through the third area, I was filling the screen with giant, deadly, knockbacktastic and poisonous catfarts. And my box cat? Well, I could set him down, and he would be batting murderously at a large portion of the room.

Suffice to say, I expect these powerups will get nerfed somewhat over the course of Early Access.

Your groans sustain me as much as they no doubt sustain the developers. Long live bad cat puns.

Aesthetically, I quite like it. It’s not quite 1-bit colouring (Black, and colour), but you, the room, and your cats have one colour (determined by area), and the enemies have another (determined by area), and the shadows are black. It’s clear, it’s highly readable, and I appreciate that. The telegraphing of enemy attacks is similarly good, and, indeed, the clear hurtboxes shown on the screen are sometimes used cleverly, as with the first boss’s bite attack, which has two forms in quick succession: A toothy mouth where the hurtboxes are the teeth, and, as soon as that one lands, it’s the inside of the mouth that’s the hurtbox. Nice touch, that.

So, problems? Well, right now, the hitboxes for interactions are finicky as hell, and buying something in the shop boots you away from the shop, so you have to… Interact again to buy more. I found myself shuffling back and fore, effectively pixel hunting for the area where I could do the thing I wanted to do. And, although the hurtboxes are clear, sometimes the attack lands before you think it would land (a problem with the muscle bunnies and the weird skeletal rabbit things that leap at you.) Some of the powerups seem outright detrimental, although maybe that’s just me not finding a good combo.

Silly Ally Marie, can’t you see your cat’s grumpy because you photobombed their sweet viral selfie?

Apart from that, though, while it’s currently moderately easy (Well, it becomes easy once you have a good powerup set), and there’s not a great amount to the game, it definitely shows promise, and I look forward to seeing where it goes. Nyaa.

More games with adorable murdercats, please.

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