Temtem (Early Access Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £27.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Ah, the games that try to give us the Pokemon experience on PC. The hunting of cute creatures, the training of cute creatures, the, er… Well, let’s skip over one of those points to the charm of gym leaders, the worlds, and the cartoonishly villainous antagonists. Yeah… And Temtem, in Early Access right now, is one of those, and is also… An MMO.

I already like this guy. You just know he’s a field researcher, with stories like that.

That’s right, a massively multiplayer game, in which you can, at times, interact with other trainers. Suffice to say, I am an internet hermit, so I shall most likely end up talking about that on the next Early Access review. For now, though, let’s talk about interesting differences, nice touches, aesthetics, and, of course, how it feels to play.

Pretty much from the beginning, there were interesting things that quickly became apparent. Now, before we talk about that, the way it usually goes for the new folks: You are a monster tamer, catching monsters in some form of digital storage (cards, in this case) after weakening them enough, and using them to fight other trainers, most of whom will pick a fight with you first. The wild temtem only exist in bodies of water and tall grasses, for the most part, and, once a fight begins, you engage in a turn based battle, which is where the first differences crop up.

Note that both kinds of breeding values are actually shown on the Temtem’s character profile. And the leaf is the number of times it can breed.

Some things stay the same. Your Temtem all have types, and those types are strong against one or more types… And weak against others. But here’s an important difference: Once you run out of stamina, the resource each Temtem has for using moves, it’s not “Oh heck, that move’s useless now.” No, you can do one of two things, both of which have different risks. You can rest that Temtem for a turn, which means you’re losing out on damage, but get stamina back… Or you can still use the move, but take the overflow of stamina loss to your hit points, then have to rest a turn. If you have healing items, and that move makes a win that turn likely, odds are high that one’s going to bring you the higher reward.

Even better, once you have a Temtem caught and registered in your codex, the game will colour code the target ring around the Temtem a bright green (for super-effective), or a dark red (for weak.) Value differences, people: They make a lot of difference. It’s by no means the only set of changes, which make for a more streamlined, nuanced experience, but it’s definitely one you notice straight away. Finally on the interesting and positive differences front, there is Temtem Essence, effectively, a full party heal and revive that can be used once, until you return to the nearest healing station. Cool.

Aesthetically, the game is cartoonish in nature, with cel shaded 3D models, nice, orchestral style music (I do love the cheery violin number you first hear when travelling the first route), and the writing… Well, from the moment you look at the Fire starter, and you hear the professor mention he won that starter in a pub brawl, you know the writing’s going to be a little more mature, and I appreciate this step. So… There’s a fair amount to like. What’s not so hot?

Omigosh yes, I don’t have to memorise type pairings anymore (except for those times I haven’t caught one yet.)

Okay, it’s only a few things so far, and I’m sure that, later in Early access, the devs will handle some of them. Balance wise, the first area is a little tough, and I had to rush back to the healing console a few times before I got to the first town, because some of the trainer fights (for example, the fight where there’s a level 11… I already forget the name, but it’s a bigass piranha.) are somewhat tough. Not unbeatable, for sure, but there’s some you’re definitely not coming out of without a Temtem being knocked out. Which neatly leads into another minor niggle… Unless you’re talking to everybody, you may not realise which of the three consoles you come across are the healing one, the storage one, or the vendor. It’s not a big problem, as experimentation quickly shows which is which (it’s the left one for healing), but it is an annoyance. But, on the other hand, it’s a definite improvement that there’s no unskippable speech, and the animation for healing is pretty quick. Very nice quality of life thing, right there.

You just know these guys are gonna try to double team you. Thankfully, only two Temtem are on the field at any one time.

Finally, the things that are interesting, but whether they please is to taste. Firstly, that some Temtem start without offensive moves when they’re caught. That one usually resolves itself relatively quickly, but in your first area, levelling up requires them to be in a fight to get experience, for at least one round. And secondly, that evolution levels are not “This level, full stop”, but “This many levels after the level you caught it at.” Personally, I found it an interesting touch that doesn’t overly affect my experience, but others may get turned off, so that has to be mentioned. There is also the fact that any one Temtem only has a limited number of breedings in them, and, when bred, the child has the lower breeding limit of the two parents. That one can, potentially sting.

Anyway, overall, I’ve had a pleasant time so far, now that the rush of the first few days has gone down. It has quite a few quality of life features (more than I could explain in my usual review size), interesting mechanical changes from its spiritual inspiration, a nice aesthetic, and, of course, playing with your friends. I can appreciate this a fair bit.

The Mad Welshman is a hermit, it’s true. But in his time in the mountains, he learned well the art of swearing at a monster-capturing device to make it work better. A valuable skill.

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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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Digimon Stories: Cyber Sleuth Complete Edition (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £34.99
Where To Get It: Steam

Digimon, Digital Monsters, only certain ranks of Digimon are the Champions, as it turns out, doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. But that’s besides the point, we’re reviewing one I missed, because the budget’s never great: Digimon Stories – Cyber Sleuth, Complete Edition. Bit of a mouthful, but I appreciate that it is. Even down to the “Timesaver” bonus content. Whuff.

Okay, it’s time for the Devilma- What do you mean, Devimon doesn’t have the same theme song?

So yes, the general idea: It’s the future of our world, virtual reality that doesn’t make you motion sick (or need to move physically) is a thing, people quite literally “go on the internet”, and cyber crime still exists… Except using Digimon, which humanity, as a whole, seems to be unaware are actually living beings, albeit in digital form. And two protagonists, along with their friends and mentors, discover Great Events in the offing, as they gain the friendship of Digimon, and the Digital World and the Human World entwine and bleed into each other all the more.

It’s dramatic stuff, and I appreciate how the main plot’s kept me coming back, what with corrupt corporate businessfolks I love to hate (Well, no, I just hate, to be honest), Digimon of various personalities, such as one that simply wants friends, but goes about it in precisely the wrong way (and other, darker individuals), and, of course, friends, characters, their own stories. Nice. It’s also aesthetically pleasing, mostly, with a mostly clear UX. We’ll get into that mostly in a moment. But how does it play?

Not only are these two cute as hell. Not only are these two magical girls in the vein of Bayonetta or Panty and Stocking, but cute… You can get them as Digimon, and embrace cute. Doooo iiiiit.

Well, beyond the basics, which are a little more involved than Pokemon (You have two sets of types to consider: Vaccine/Virus/Data/Free, and element types. And yes, both of them factor into damage, so if you have precisely the wrong matchup, prepare to have that Digimon knocked out very quickly indeed), the devil’s in the details of which story you’re playing in the game: The Hacker’s Memories, or Cyber Sleuth. The Hacker’s Memories involves different kinds of battles, and seemingly no use for the Mirror Dungeon part of the DigiLab (where you do various things starting with Digi- to Digimon, such as Digivolution, the changing of a Digimon into a different Digimon, or back to give a little more of a level benefit. A thing that’s required for certain kinds of digivolutions.) Meanwhile, Cyber Sleuth has more of a real world map. But both involve… Look, I would be here for a very long time if I were talking about mechanical differences, and the Digivolution process, so let’s talk about how it feels… And the negatives of the game. Positive wise, we shall leave it so far as “Mostly good aesthetics, mostly good UX, a fair bit of depth and complexity, without being overwhelming, and puzzle areas that didn’t make me want to tear my hair out at the roots.

Feel wise, I’m feeling myself drawn into the story and its characters, enjoying the boss battles, and finding the world interesting. It dripfeeds the lore, only as it needs to, and, for the most part, doesn’t go “Hey, did you know about ‘World thing?’” unless it’s genuinely something the character wouldn’t know, or is unclear about. Good! The random battles… Exist. Maybe I’m overlevelled a lot of the time, maybe it’s just that way once you get any sort of decent team, but it’s only either when I’m in a new area, or am just starting out that I don’t seem to be one-shotting Digimon that I’m not weak against. So… The random battles feel a little like busywork as a result, especially due to the digicapture system (yes, a lot of things being with digi- . Deal with it.)

Team Monster +1, in that rare crit, the “Somebody is going to become very very dead” triple link-up!

See, you have to beat up a certain number of Digimon of a species to get enough data to hatch one yourself. And then more data, up to 200%, to make sure your Digimon is the best of its kind it can be. This can be eight fights with a digimon of a type (25%-30% each.) It can be ten. And it can be 14 fights. I haven’t found anything below 15% Data from each fight yet, but… Yeah, getting Digimon can be a grind. And some, you have to either feed in the Digifarm a lot, or have along with you in fights, to raise their CAMaraderie to the level you need. Rare Digimon can take a silly number of levels, plus special items to make, but… That’s rare ones, I’m okay with that.

What I’m less fine with is the type-match colouring when you select an enemy to hit, which is Red (Good damage, but not necessarily great damage, because, as you recall, there are two sets of type matchup.) which is fine… White for normal, which is fine… And blue for bad, or, more accurately speaking… Cyan for bad. These last two colours are very close together, to the point where even a fair few folks who aren’t colourblind can’t tell them apart, so… Bit shit, that. And no, there is no colourblindness option. At all.

It is no spoiler to say that this… This is the face of evil. Believe me, she gives away how gleefully evil she is from the first time(s) you meet her.

Equally, there are two minor niggles. The dungeon animations, or animations where your group is both running and bigger than 2, get weird, because the monsters can easily get caught up on you (stilling their animations, although it doesn’t restrict their movement), and are always pointed toward you when they’re running, which looks janky as hell. It’s not a dealbreaker, and nor is the fact that audio options don’t seem to take effect (or can even be set) until you start a game or continue it (the first time you play, you set them, and can change them in game.)

Overall, I’ve had a fairly good time with Digimon Stories, and it’s probably one of the games I’ll actually new game+ , in my large backlog. As a monster collecting game, it’s solidly designed overall, its story is drawing me in, and, apart from these problems, I’m having fun, and would recommend it to other fans of RPGs, especially those who are into the monster collecting gig.

I’ve appreciated having two months in a row where I’ve had nice monster collecting games. Now if only I had the free time to play them…

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Jamestown + (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £13.99 (Deluxe Edition £17.26, Soundtrack £5.19)
Where To Get It: Steam

In a way, I already knew what I was going to write about Jamestown+ well before I got it. Because, before this site was even in being (I’ve been writing since 2010, folks), I’d reviewed Jamestown, and I found it both bloody hard… And immensely satisfying, a Western bullet hell shooter using Victorian steampunk pulp as an inspiration. Well, it would be considered scientific romance, but… Anyway, Mars is a green land of floating rocks and blue skies, except for those bloody Martians and the Spanish Armada, who are planning to attack. Sir Raleigh, while on the run from the British Empire because he was framed for the disappearance of the Roanoke colony, must save the day!

Sir Walter Raleigh, and a Blue Mars.

Yes, as this is set in an alternate Victorian Period, it’s colonialist. Just so you know.

In any case, the plus is there because yes, this is a remaster, and yes, this does have some extra stuff. Specifically, the Treason DLC, and a new one, the Armada DLC, which adds two new levels, and a new viewpoint character: John Smith, adventurer, great lover, and shameless braggart. So, that makes several levels, including two new ones, quite a few challenges, local multiplayer (up to 4 players, if you have the space, friends, and/or controllers. I know I don’t have at least two of those things!), and twelve ships, four of which have two potential alternate fire modes… Means there’s a lot of stuff. Especially as the game tracks whether you’ve done challenges or levels with specific ships, and what difficulty you’ve done it on.

Hucking a barrel may well blow this Martian up. But I’ll temporarily lose bulle- hucks barrel.

Although, annoyingly, an earlier restriction is still in place: You must be this good to enter Levels 4 and 5! (Respectively, beating the first three levels on the second difficulty level, and then, if I recall correctly, the first 4 on the third difficulty level. Out of five, the last two of which are hair-raising experiences.

Still, let’s count out the positives: Lots of ships and replayability, or simply finding the ship you’re comfortable with and having a good time? Check. Heck, you don’t even need to stick to the same ship level by level. Good visuals, mostly clear, good music and sounds, and keyboard moving of a mouse cursor for those who want to stay wholly keyboard? Check. Relatively low grind, not least because losing a level will still earn you some money for whatever cool thing you’re after (including a very silly “Farce Mode”, more challenges once you’ve finished the first four, and different types of shots and, in the case of the Armada ships, an alternate-alternate fire mode)? Check. The writing is minimalist, but does get across the characters of Raleigh and Smith respectively (alas, not the other viewpoints, although I understand why.) And while it is a bullet hell shooter, for a bullet hell, it’s one of the more accessible and flashy ones, with some interesting variety in the weaponry.

Not pictured: You must be this good to finish the game. Annoyingly.

Overall, I have pretty much the same opinion as back in the day: For shooter fans, this one’s an interesting one, for bullet hell fans, it’s a good example of a Western bullet hell, and for people looking to get into shooters for the first time? Aaaaahhhh it’s better than some options. But yes, overall, recommended.

The Mad Welshman would like to see more anti-establishment victorian cogs’n’steam settings. Because Steampunk, overall… Ain’t punk.

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Disc Creatures (Review)

Source: Cashmoneys
Price: £11.39 (Soundtrack £2.31)
Where To Get It: Steam

This one took quite a while to review. Unsurprising, because, as anyone who’s played Pokemon would know, Pokemon takes a while to get going, and Disc Creatures is heavily inspired by Pokemon. Down to emulating the game-boy incarnation’s style.

It’s so nice to see different generations get into things. You go old man!

However, before someone groans and goes “Oh good lord, not another one”, I will say, right now, that it has ideas that are its own, and has also taken on board the evolution of Pokemon’s world, in the sense that it tries to explore the subject of being a trainer. Or, to use the game’s own term, a DiscR. And the conflicts that arise when the sentient Disc Creatures, or the DiscRs who catch wild creatures… Go bad. So, let’s get the one problem out of the way first, before we talk about what makes this one interesting: Its window is very small, and there’s no adjustment for this save being full screen. Argh. Gripe out of the way, moving on!

DiscR is, as you might have guessed, a pokemon style game. Beat up monsters, catch them, add them to your collection, beat other monsters up with them to make them stronger… You know, the usual stuff, right? Not quite. For example, the move changer. There are a silly amount of moves for each Disc Creature, much like there’s quite a few for individual Pokemon, but guess what? You get the potential to use all of them! And then… There’s combat.

And with their elements displayed too. Lovely!

So, let’s see how you like these apples: HP doesn’t regenerate unless you heal or use Energin (because Disc Creatures are more like Digimon, in that they’re electronic, and can be burned to a CD), but the energy that powers your moves? Ahhh, that’s where it gets interesting. Because each fight, you start with 10 energy, and that’s definitely enough to power some basic moves for a few turns. But while sometimes, you or the opponents regain energy, the only surefire way to do so is to E-Charge. And that… Leaves the Disc Creature doing it wide open to attack, ensuring a critical hit if they are attacked. It’s pretty tactical.

Aesthetically, well… It’s a pretty faithful GameBoy Colour style overall… Pixels, limited palette, chiptunes… It all works, and, apart from the aforementioned “Windowed mode is tiny” thing, the UX in fullscreen is fine and dandy for play.

For reference, these screenshots are not resized.

It’s got some interesting mechanics. It’s got solid writing. It’s got good creature designs, good aesthetic, a nice, lo-fi world… When my only gripe is about windowed mode/resolution, and there’s some good quality of life stuff into the mix? Well, that’s a definite recommend, isn’t it?

The Mad Welshman loves it when somebody tries hard to be actually retro.

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