Pummel Party

Mario Party minus bullshit. You’ll still rage at your friends after playing though.

Ed Note: I grabbed the images for this article mostly from the Steam Page. I doubt this will ever be an issue, but I do like to make sure people are aware of the differences between images I take, and stuff that is effectively marketing material.

It’s easy to look at Pummel Party and think “Oh, it’s a Mario Party clone, but for PC”, but while Pummel Party does feel heavily inspired by Mario Party, after playing quite a bit, I think it’s actually a much better game. With that said, just like Mario Party, you will need friends to play it with, because playing Mario Party by yourself is incredibly sad. So lets talk about why Pummel Party is good, and why it doesn’t feel like a 50 minute exercise in coin flipping that is Mario Party. Oh, and it supports up to eight players, instead of just four.

So, first lets talk about the general structure of the game. If you’ve played Mario Party before, you already know most of this, so you can skip this paragraph.

All players are placed on a large board, and a game consists of a series of rounds. During each round, players can choose to use an item if they have one, then they roll a dice to move across the board. Based on where you end your turn, you might get items, coins, or some sort of special event might happen. After everyone has taken a turn, players play a mini-game of some kind, and are rewarded with currency. Currency(Coins/Keys) can be spent to buy victory points(Goblets/Stars), but they can only be purchased by reaching specific areas on the board. Whoever has the most victory points after a given number of rounds, or reaches a threshold first ends the game, and is (probably) the winner.

Okay, boring introductory stuff out of the way. Lets get into the big differences between the two, and talk about the idea of player agency for a bit.

The biggest things that Pummel Party adds to this formula is a second stat called health, better items, and different turn order mechanics. Lets start with those turn order mechanics shall we?

In Pummel Party, turn order is redecided each round by placement in the last round of mini-games. Winners go first, losers go last. This is important because it means that actually being good at the mini-games is important. If two players are neck in neck trying to reach a Goblet, whoever wins the minigame is likely to reach it first, as they get to move first. In addition, doing well in mini-games rewards items, which are far more useful for interacting with other players then anything in Mario Party.

So lets talk about those items and health. Health is a secondary stat that caps out. If it hits zero, you 30% of your keys, (According to patch notes) and get placed back at a graveyard. You might lose health because you ended on a damage spot, or another players Reaper Spot (TLDR: First person to touch them chooses either health or keys. Every player who steps on them after that loses that resource, and it’s sent to the spot claimer.). More likely though, you’ll lose health because another player has opted to pull out a shotgun and blast you in the face. It’s one of those items that you can get for winning in those minigames, or by picking it up from the map.

The big thing here for me is that in Pummel Party, you actually have the ability to stop someone who is starting to cruise their way to victory. You can team up in minigames, you can work together to drop wrecking balls onto their head, or you can just blast them with a cross map orbital laser. Winning minigames lets you pull ahead and act first, before your opponents can take action, and losing means you have less resources.

Okay, so now that I’ve sung the games praises, lets talk about the elephant in the room: The Minigames.

Some of the minigames are very good.

Some are okay.

And some are just not fun.

While the game does let you turn off mini-games you don’t want to play before the game start screen, it’s undeniable that some of these games are just… garbage. There are also quite a few that seem to give host advantage, and others that feel buggy or glitchy. (Looking at you, laser train game.)

This doesn’t bother me enough to not want to play Pummel Party, but it does mean that I usually want to actually play the board game mode instead of just minigames.

Wrath: Aeon of Ruin

Wrath is good, but it’s not finished. You should wait to buy it for now.

Editorial Note: The images in this article I grabbed from the Steam Page. Usually I take my own screenshots, because independence and other stuff, but I had some difficultly with that, and honestly, the screenshots are accurate. But I don’t want to give the impression that I got all these photos myself.

I really like Wrath: Aeon of Ruin. It gives me a wonderful sense of nostalgia for an era of games that I never actually played, that of the old Doom/Quake/Duke Nukem Era. It might be because you will spend most of the game strafing around gothic corridors with a bunch of weapons. It might be because you will use those weapons against monsters that look like they were pulled from a fire sale at low-poly Lovecraft R Us.

The screaming head dudes with multiple faces are legit fucking terrifying.

And it might be because it was actually built on the old Quake engine. I had a ton of fun playing it, which makes me feel a bit bad about what I’m going to say: Even if this is a genre you love, I don’t think you should buy Wrath yet.

My recommendation doesn’t actually have anything to do with the gameplay itself (despite the fact that I definitely have a few gripes with some of the game’s systems), but instead with the fact that the game simply isn’t finished. There are only four levels, and while they’re good and polished, they only took me about 8 hours to play through on the medium difficulty. I actually delayed this write-up a bit because another update was supposed to come out a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, it just got pushed back to this month… so yeah. While I’m sure they intend to do their best to keep their promise, it may be a while before the game ends up in its final state, and as such, I think you can wait on this one. If you’re reading this article after the summer of 2021, you should probably check to see if it’s fully out, as that’s the current estimate for its release date.

Okay, so with that whole thing out of the way, let’s talk about the other simple truth of the game: I had a lot of fun with Wrath. It’s well polished, and very smoothly executed. It’s just fun to run around shotgunning demons and pulping zombies with a stake cannon. I played Wrath because the gameplay was fun. There was no point where I found myself pushing through a boring bit to get back to the story (there really isn’t one right now) or grinding for numbers. Wrath has more or less zero filler.

This doesn’t mean Wrath is perfect by any means. I have some problems, so let’s talk about them.

First of all, while the game is really fun, if you want to actually replay a level, you need to make a brand new save file. There’s no option to just reload a given level, or to skip to a certain point with weapons unlocked. This is annoying. The second part, that wasn’t super frustrating for me mostly because I was playing on the medium difficulty, is the save system. Wrath lets you save by either reaching a checkpoint, or by using an item called a Soul Tether, which you find and pick up as you play through the game. You have a limited number of these, and while this limit caused me zero problems on the medium difficulty, I can see it becoming frustrating super fast on the harder difficulties. Wrath is in some ways a puzzle game of “Connect The Bullets With The Enemies” and it’s entirely possible to get through a section of the game you’ve already solved, only to die over and over again in a specific area. This means you end up replaying the same parts a lot, and if you’re trying to conserve soul tethers, it can take like five minutes to get back to the point you were at previously, just to get another try at something.

Walking in a winter murder landdddddddd

These were my two main problems with the game. Wrath is fun, the levels are well made, and outside of a slight overreliance on “You touched a button, now we’re gonna spawn in 10 enemies in your blindspot” the game doesn’t really have any patterns that are frustrating. I honestly expected to be seeing the same levels over and over again, but the actual layout and design is quite varied.

So yeah. Wrath is fun, but currently it’s not finished, and it’s rather short. I have some gripes with the save system, and how you can’t replay levels, but outside of that, I’m excited to see what the full game looks like. If it maintains the level of polish and creativity that I’ve seen so far, it will easily be worth the $20-30 price tag I expect to see on it.

Super Animal Royale

It’s 2D Fortnite for Furries. If you like any of the words in that sentence, you should probably try it, since it’s free.

Sometimes when I write “reviews” for this blog, I feel obligated to play a given amount of a game, or reach a certain threshold before I give my verdict. Then games come along that remind me that I write these articles because it’s fun, and also because when I’m asked “What do you do for fun?” “I write a blog,” is a more adult answer than ,”I think about Pokemon cards.”

The astute reader may note that for a Gametrodon review, it’s taking me a long time give my thoughts on the game, the mechanics, or if I even like it, but surprise! The actual summary was in the excerpt all along.

Super Animal Royale is 2D Fortnite for Furries. It’s free, you can download it here, it’s on Steam, and it’s generally pretty fun. There’s no pay to win bullshit or gacha, though there are a bunch of cosmetic microtransactions.

Is this enough? Can I now go back to wishing that Champion’s Path boosters were less expensive, and wondering why Shiny Charizard V is $400 dollars?

No? I should talk more about the game? Fine.

Part of the reason I don’t have too much to say on the game is that with a few exceptions, there’s nothing here I haven’t seen before. That shouldn’t take away from the game’s quality and polish, but all in all, you have a tiered weapon rarity system, a battle royale where you drop from a giant flying vehicle, a few different game modes, and a battlepass/exp challenge system that might have been copied straight from Fortnite.

Okay, so outside of all of this, the game does one VERY interesting thing that I haven’t actually seen before, and actually makes me think that more games should steal this system: the way it handles healing/health power ups.

In Super Animal Royale, you have a great big health jug. Instead of having bandages or potions, any health juice you pick up just goes into the jug. When you want to heal, you drink from the jug.

And that’s it! No more having to carry around 100 potions. No more having to figure out if you should carry 5 bandages or one Med kit, because the Medkit heals more, but can only be used once, and the bandages can be used on smaller wounds, but are much slower.

Instead, whenever you run over juice, it gets picked up, and added to your health jug.

I think more games should do this. Screw fiddly potion management. Just let me stuff all the healing items I pick up into my great big heal box, and whenever I need healing, I just take a big sip. It’s like Jungle Juice but for liquid bandaids.

Look, I don’t have too much else to say on the game. It’s free. It’s more or less Fortnite. If the screens looked interesting, or if the game looked fun, just go download it and play it.

PS: We streamed the game a bit. And by we, I mean me and another friend who I work on random projects with. You can watch it here if you want to know more about what the game plays like.

PPS: Oh, and the game has bots, which is something everyone who makes battle royales at this point should just do. Keeps the matchmaking time down, and means that even suckers like myself can get kills.

No Delivery

No Delivery has flaws and problems, but there are some really interesting ideas played with here that I haven’t seen in an RPG before.

I like to open reviews with a discussion of whether or not you should play the game I’m reviewing. No Delivery makes my life hard, because that recommendation is conditional. I think if you’re someone who has an interest in game design and the extent to which you can design interesting systems within systems, No Delivery is worth looking at. If you just play games to… well, play games, it’s a little more complicated. I’ve created a simple test below.

  1. Do you like classic turn based RPG’s?
  2. Do you like body horror/squick?
  3. Did you feel that the ending to Lost and How I Met Your Mother were well done and satisfying?

If you answered yes to at least 2 out of 3 questions above, I think you might enjoy No Delivery. It’s $5.00 and you can buy it here. For everyone on the fence, or quite possibly attempting to get themselves off the fence, I’ve written the rest of this article.

Let’s start with the setting shall we?

Not pictured: dead guest in claw machine, creepy animatronics, cursed arcade machines, piles of trash and plates.

Theme-wise, the game is… fine. It’s okay. It takes place in a haunted/infested/might-actually-just-be-a-giant-perpetually-animated-building-that-breathes-life-into-inanimate-objects-within-it-because-of-a-satanic-ritual Chuckie Cheese inspired shithole.

ED NOTE: The autocorrect above just suggested that I correct shithole to shibboleth, which is… wow. Amazingly on theme, and also why is that in the dictionary?

It’s not that the theme is bad, it’s just that if I had to compare the general tone and aesthetic of the game, it would be the bastard child of Five Nights At Freddy’s and Binding of Issac. All of the attacks that give the “Nausea” status usually involve shitting on things. You kill a man by baking him in an industrial microwave oven. This is an accident, not deliberate. There are a fair amount of slashed up corpses and news articles about missing children and families. There are gift boxes that try to eat you, and you fight cursed/broken animatronics. The horror and humor is much less subtle, and much more Cronenberg then Stephen King.

I don’t love horror, I don’t love FNAF, and I played Binding of Issac in spite of the artistic theme. I’m not sure I’m the right person to be looking at No Delivery’s theme. So take this with a grain of salt: while the theme grabbed me, I never liked it or enjoyed it. The best thing I can say about it is that it’s surprisingly well polished for what it is, with death screens, dialogue, and sprites working together to bring that old-timey rotting corpse of a entertainment franchise atmosphere.

Now let’s talk mechanics. No Delivery is a fairly classic turned-based RPG, but with a few big twists. Your characters don’t level up, and you don’t construct a party. Instead, you are given a single random character, and each time you die (more on that in a bit), you get another random character from the pool of classes you’ve unlocked, and you continue on. In addition, there’s no mana or secondary resource. Almost all skills are powered by either health or items, and many of the items will give you other items when used. When you eat food, you’ll be given dishes and trash. Both can be sold for money, or used by attacks from some of the other classes (e.g., the waitress can throw dishes, and recycle trash). This can lead to some very neat resource engine moments, but often gets hamstrung by the way that the game’s dungeons, “Wrong Turns,” work. Outside of the leveling and items, it’s pretty classic “You take a turn, I take a turn” RPG stuff.

My biggest issue with the game’s combat mechanics is how party construction works, or to be more accurate, how it doesn’t. A large section of the game is spent running random dungeons, called Wrong Turns. You go from room to room, and some rooms have a chance to give you an extra Ally that you’ve unlocked, and add them to your party. While this would be fine, it’s entirely possible to go an entire Wrong Turn without getting one party member and the end result is a very screwed up action economy. I failed a boss fight several times before getting a party member with a stun, who I then used to stunlock and clear that boss without taking a point of damage on the next run. The biggest issue I have with the random party/lack of party is that it cripples the interesting engine mechanics I mentioned up above. Without a diverse enough party to use different items, many items you pick up will feel useless. (Looking at you Ammo, and by extension Batteries. I played 16 hours and rolled a Security Guard ONCE.)

The drowned waiter spends health for almost all their skills, but has no way of recovering it outside of items, or with any level of efficiency. The mascot though…
In theory, there’s some cool synergy between a class that can heal, and a class that must spend health as its primary resource, but because you never really know your party composition ahead of time, you don’t really so much get to “Build teams” as “Try to find some way to salvage your current situation before you’re eaten by a living trash compactor”.

The other thing to know is that once you clear a Wrong Turn, you lose the additional party members, and while there are a few other special party members you can get, they leave as soon as you’re no longer in the fights you’re expected to use them in. It’s kind of a bummer. The item transformation/resource mechanics are one of the coolest things about No Delivery, but they don’t get as much time to shine as they could.

There’s a lot of pixelated B-movie gore of this sort in the game.

So, if I don’t love the theme, and parts of the gameplay feel a bit hamstrung, why do I still think this game is very cool? Well, ultimately, it has to do with the engine the game is made in. Despite what it might be named, RPGMaker isn’t actually super easy to make interesting or good games in. Most of the time I’ve tried to make projects with it, I’ve either felt constrained by the engine, either mechanically or in terms of design space.

No Delivery utterly breaks that mold, though. Within what feels like almost entirely vanilla combat mechanics, it manages to build a really interesting item based resource system, even if it could be fleshed out a bit more. It manages to execute its “gross out” theme despite being built in a game engine that is made to create fantasy fluff. It even does some really neat things with enemy sprites, hiding information about them so that they appear as a single pair of eyes, but morph into a whole face when you select them as an attack target.

For me, this was the value of playing No Delivery: a reminder that really cool mechanics and systems can always be constructed, and that it’s a poor craftsman who blames his tools. No Delivery is not the most polished or clean experience, but there are legitimately really interesting ideas and mechanics at play here. For an almost entirely one-person project, it’s impressive.

While I wouldn’t play through the whole game again, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how neat the item mechanics are, and wondering what else you could with them in if you expanded them.

No Delivery is $5.00 on itch.io, and if you purchased the itch.io Racial Justice Bundle a while back, you already own it. Do yourself a favor and play it.

Spelunky 2

Spelunky 2 will beat me before I beat it.

I like Spelunky 2. With that said, using cheese and shortcuts, and having played 55 hours, I’ve gotten to the final boss twice, and died both times. So I don’t think I’m very good at it. On the other hand, the stats for steam achievements say that only 5% of players have actually finished building all the shortcuts. Maybe the game is just hard.

Spelunky 2 is the sequel to Spelunky. (Surprise, surprise) Having only ever played Spelunky very briefly, they feel rather similar to me, but I suspect someone who has played both could give you an extensive set of differences. Spelunky 2 has the classic roguelike loop: start the run, acquire power-ups and items, then try to go as far as you can without dying. The game itself is a platformer, with the main character starting out with a simple whip, a jump, and a duck/crawl. And that’s it! These are the tools you have to get as far as you can. Let’s talk about that “As far as you can” bit.

With Spelunky, the game is broken up into worlds, each consisting of one or more levels. A level is procedurally generated, which shouldn’t be confused with “randomly generated.” Rather, you’ll get used to seeing certain patterns and setups, and certain blocks of rooms, but the way they’re connected or placed together changes from run to run, as well as what they’re populated with. In addition, each world is populated with different enemies and traps.

Which arrow launching trap will our brave hero forget to trigger in advance, and be shot by about eight seconds after taking this screenshot?

To beat a non-boss level, you just have to get to the exit door. This is easier said than done, because not only are the levels populated by enemies, traps and problems, they’re also full of gold, gems, dogs (Yes, dogs, we’ll talk about them later), altars, shops, and other things you might want. Your primary resources are health, which if you run out of you die, bombs for blowing up walls, and ropes for climbing down large depths.

So far I’ve mostly just talked about what Spelunky 2 is, and not really why I like it, or continue to play it despite being very bad at it. The reason I’m still playing is that in close to 30 hours, there have been maybe only one or two instances where I died because of what felt like actual bullshit. Almost every situation in which you lose life or die, you can look back at what led up to that point, and see how you got there. In my case, for example, it’s usually because I get greedy, and press my luck on something stupid that goes horribly wrong. None of my failed runs are because of bad luck, they’re failed because I made bad choices, and it means I have no problem starting another run, confident that this time I’ll do better. (This will usually turn out to be a lie.)

Yes, the game does have more then two biomes, but I hadn’t seen them when I was taking pictures for this article.

To try to illustrate this, let’s talk about pots in Spelunky 2. A pot is a small item that shows up pretty much everywhere. Pots break when things hit them, and you can also pick them up and throw them. When you break a pot, it can have a variety of things inside, including gems, gold, or various enemies. They’re incredibly simple in that regard, but the flow chart of how you actually end up interacting with them is far more complex.

Pots can be used to set off arrow traps like most thrown items, and kill weaker enemies, but they also can have loot inside. They’re single use, so if you throw them early, you might find yourself without another projectile weapon in the short term future. So when you find a pot, the questions you really should be asking are things like, “Do I have space now to break this safely, and grab whatever comes out if it’s a good thing, or should I pick it up and carry it until I need it? If I’m already carrying something else, should I just throw that at the pot? Can I just smash it with my whip and call it a day?” And because you’re doing this all very quickly, if you’re me, you will inevitably forget some part of this flowchart, and do something stupid, break the pot, and have a snake pop out that hits for one of your limited health points.

And almost every item and enemy in Spelunky 2 has this level of twitchy decision making around it. Did you fire the shotgun near a ledge, only to forget about the knock back? Enjoy being launched into a pit of spikes. Accidentally whip the dog? Hope you don’t have to use it to get past a arrow trap, since now it only has two life left. Try to drop a bomb down a shaft, only to forget you have bombs that stick to walls, and now you have about two seconds before the floor under your feet isn’t? Better move quick!

And because the game is random, you can’t just memorize your way though. You’ll really have to learn how objects and enemies work and interact, discover how items function, and then remember to actually use that knowledge. You can’t faceroll Spelunky. And while the levels are different, the objects are not. Pots and Rocks will always be thrown the same, arrow traps will always trigger, and enemies behave the same.

I really like Spelunky, but if you don’t like platformers, and you don’t like rougelites, and you really, really don’t like bashing down brick walls with your face, you may not have as good a time. I’d buy Spelunky 2 again, and for the $20 price tag, I’d say it was worth it.

Ed Note: There’s no online Co-Op on PC yet, which is kind of frustrating, so hopefully that gets patched in soon enough. Apparently it released super janky on console, so maybe we’re not missing much.


Fun with friends, less fun just on your own.

This article has been rewritten multiple times. After playing 5 hours of Phasmaphobia, my conclusion was, “I hate it, and it’s buggy, dumb and boring.” I’ve now played 20 hours, and as you might guess I no longer hate it. That said, I have some problems with it. In brief, Phasmaphobia is fun to play with friends, but many of the mechanics are unintuitive (Wiki Ahoy!) and the game is still buggy. For right now, I’d only say it’s worth getting if you have a group of people to play it with.

Phasmaphobia is a ghost hunting game, except it follows more of a lite-simulation route than a gamey experience. You and up to 3 other people go out to a haunted location. Once there, you use the equipment you brought with you to try and find the ghost, and determine what type of ghost it is. You do this by walking around real slowly in a traditional first person view.

The equipment itself is all “traditional” ghost hunting equipment, such as EMF detectors, thermometers, cameras, sound sensors, and spirit boxes. There are also a variety of other things, such as crucifixes, salt, flashlights, smudging sticks, and ghost books.

The equipment addition menu. In Co-op, each player contributes gear up to a cap.

One thing to keep in mind is that not all ghosts respond the same way to all stimuli: e.g., some types will drop temperatures to freezing, while others won’t. Some are more active if multiple players are around, and some are not. Some give off EMF readings, and some just don’t. The main gameplay loop is to try to determine which type of ghost you’re dealing with based on the reactions you get from your equipment.

Between missions, you level up from surviving, and acquire cash based on your performance, taking photos of the ghost, and some other bonus objectives. This allows you to buy more equipment to hunt the ghost in the future. Equipment isn’t lost if you drop it/lose it, but it is lost if you die during the mission. While I think this could become annoying, I haven’t acquired enough cash for it to become a problem. Some of the other random players I played with though mentioned it frustrated them, and another mentioned that the “strat” is to have one person buy all the equipment, and then stay in the van, so you can’t lose anything.

If you’re a coward, you’ll spend a lot of time in the car, watching your friends die. LIKE SOME PEOPLE KYLE.

Oh, and you can play Phasmaphobia in VR.

I can’t group my problems with Phasmaphobia into one big overarching chunk or theme, so I’m just gonna list off everything about the game that annoys me.

Ed Note: I’ve edited the original version of this list. The list is accurate to my experience of playing the game, but I’ve updated various points with more information.

  1. The game has all the thrills and excitement of real life ghost hunting, which is to say none whatsoever. I don’t know who thinks wandering around a big ass building with all the lights off and waiting for something to happen is interesting. It really isn’t. If you’ve ever watched a ghost hunting show of some sort, you have seen the primary experience of Phasmaphobia, which is a bunch of folks wandering around a dark building, shouting things out, and then getting scared when the floorboard creaks. And because not every single type of ghost reacts to every type of equipment, and the limited inventory slots, it is entirely possible to search the entire building, and not find the ghost, and then have to go back and grab more equipment. UPDATE: While this is true at the lower difficulties, it’s much less true on larger maps, and higher difficulties where the ghost can begin hunting you much faster. The bit about equipment is also not true, as with more players and a strong plan of attack, you can sweep faster and move quicker.
  2. The controls are miserable. With mouse and keyboard, the ability to pick up and manipulate things feels extremely limited, and makes it very frustrating to do things like get cameras in good positions. I don’t actually know how to even light a candle in non-VR, since you can’t have a lighter and a candle out at the same time; you can only have one thing in your hand. UPDATE: You need to have the smudge stick out and press F while the lighter is in your inventory. You can also light them by using the lighter on a dropped smudge stick.
  3. The VR has one of the single worst movement implementations that I’ve ever seen in a VR game, and commits the number one sin of VR camera movement: You DO NOT have the player move in a way where the in-game camera moves, and the real life player stays still. This is how you make people sick. And this is exactly how Phasmaphobia does it. I wasn’t able to complete a single round before having to take off my headset and lie down for like 15 minutes, making Phasmaphobia the first VR game I’ve played to make me feel ill.
  4. The VR controls suck. This one honestly might be because I’m using a Vive, but the VR controls use the thumbpads for movement, and this includes just touching the thumbpads, not actually pressing on them. Every time I did so, the game started spinning me around or lurching me forward. I found it insanely frustrating. If you’re thinking “Well, just don’t touch the thumbpads,” I’d like to point out that you have to be able to move around, and in addition, because of the way you grip the controllers, you will almost always be touching the thumbpads.
  5. The game is buggy. If you try to load into a game, and the game doesn’t let everyone from your lobby load in, you’re gonna have to restart the game, and remake the whole lobby. Same thing could be said for the voice recognition. It’s cool, but it doesn’t always seem to actually, well, work. There isn’t really physics for any of the objects, and I’ve had situations where ghost types that are supposed to create freezing temperatures just… don’t. I’ve had situations where I can go into the building, shout myself blue in the face about the ghost, and have nothing happen. The second my two friends walk in, the ghost shows up, locks the building, and strangles one of them to death. This is for ghosts that the guide tells us are “Shy, and will only react to one person”. UPDATE: I’d say that some of this is still true, but the game has gotten updates that have made some things show up easier, and I’ve had less instances of crashes when attempting to load in. Generally speaking, the game feels much less clunky, but it also might partly be I know what I’m doing at this point.
The game assets and general vibe are honestly pretty “Purchased off the Unity store at best value” but I’m not very bothered by it. If you are the sort of person who needs nice graphics… this may not be for you.

So here’s the thing. Despite that above, I’m still playing and enjoying Phasmaphobia, but I feel like at least to an extent, it’s because I have a solid group of 2-3 other people to play with. Strategizing, planning, and looking for clues cooperatively is a really neat experience when it works the way it should, and the game is still fairly challenging for us with the larger maps. With that said, there are also still issues. Taking pictures of ghosts is incredibly hit or miss, running away from ghosts and hiding is kinda “eh”, and I honestly have no idea how crucifixes are supposed to work.

For the $14 cost of the game, I’d buy Phasmaphobia as long as I had a group of people to play it with, but if I was going in solo, I’d probably pass.

The ghost models are much more detailed than the player models, and because of the way they move, you won’t really have time to think of things other then “Oh fuck, oh shit”

Hades: A Game I Never Thought I Would Play

Hades has fun in spades

Let me preface this by saying two things: I’ve never enjoyed any of the roguelike/rogue-lite games I’ve ever tried and I’m also an extremely cheap person.

In the past I’ve tried games like Enter the Gungeon, Risk of Rain 2, and Immortal Redneck and just never enjoyed them. It might have been the lack of an interesting narrative, or of gameplay that really grabbed me. It’s also hard to justify spending $10+ dollars on these games when I could purchase other games I knew I’d like. So despite trying the aforementioned titles for a bit, I always ended up refunding them. Perhaps playing them for a bit longer might have changed my opinion about the games, but I don’t like forcing myself to try to have fun.

I’d been struggling to find a new game that I could put a good chunk of time into for about six to eight months. I’d end up in a loop of playing PUBG, Halo MCC, Valorant, and the occasional spree modding Skyrim, playing it for a bit, then forgetting about it. This was the loop I wanted to break free from.

Fast forward to September. I open up Steam, and a banner for Hades pops up. \ Greek mythology, fantastic artwork, soundtrack seems like a banger from the trailers, and “Overwhelmingly Positive” reviews galore! This looks like a great game! The trailer has me sold until one word pops up: roguelike.

Well, shit. It can’t be that bad right?

So I buy it, play it, die at the first boss, and refund it.

That could have been the end of it. But it wasn’t. I couldn’t get this game out of my head, (mostly because Steam kept slapping the banner in my face). So twenty-four hours after I returned it, I purchased it again, and decided to give it another shot. I’d just play it once more, I thought.

And then I didn’t stop.

The story of Hades is told through the interactions between the protagonist, Zagreus, the son of Hades, and those he meets along the way as he attempts to escape his father’s domain of the Greek Underworld. He has some, um, daddy issues and he would like to run away to Olympus. Yep, that’s basically the premise without any spoilers. Despite what my crappy synopsis might imply, the characters and story are complex and rich. Every character interaction either adds to the story, allows for character development, and/or is just plain funny. It’s exciting when you see a dialogue bubble pop up, informing you that someone has something new to say. The characters all have their own personalities, from the residents of the Underworld who want to keep Zagreus locked up, to the Olympian gods themselves, who are keen to see their nephew leave the Underworld and his father behind and ascend to Olympus. The voice acting is on point; as Yahtzee put it in his review, every character seems to be voiced by someone incredibly sexy in real life or an actor in a Bond movie.

The combat is incredibly smooth, responsive, varied, and so much fun. There are six weapons for you to choose from, once they are unlocked, and each comes with a unique play style and upgrades. Add to that the various “boons”, or power ups, presented by the Olympian gods and you have an incredible variety of builds you can use on any given run.

Each time you beat the game, you can increase the difficulty of your next run to not only be more challenging, but also increase the rewards you receive upon completing it. I found myself tinkering with different boons, weapons, upgrades, and difficulty modifiers a lot, with no intention of beating the game but just to see how viable the build would be.

Of course, doing so meant that I died, a lot.

Once you die, you show up at the House of Hades to be reprimanded by the God of Death himself, telling you that there is no escape. Eh, whatever daddy-o. All the resources that Zagreus gathered in the past run stay with him upon death, which you can use to increase his powers and abilities. This added RPG element ensures that you feel more powerful, more prepared for the next run. In addition, there are mini-story progressions and additional unlocked dialogues, even in death, which provides a small sense of advancement even in failure.

For all the praises that I’m rightfully singing for Hades, I wouldn’t call it perfect. The biggest issue I had was that once I found a working combination of weapon, boons, and upgrades, I found it fairly easy to beat the game by aiming to collect those boons and weapons. After my fifth or sixth run with the same build, it started to feel stale for me. Now this is partly own fault; I didn’t feel like trying to break out of a working formula, but I wished the game tried to encourage switching up builds a bit more.

Trying out a new weapon felt like a inconvenience at first, but you truly get to see how each weapon/boon combination handles different scenario better than another. For example, I primarily used the spear with an Athena/Poseidon boon combination which worked very effectively for the general mobs. However I found my DPS against bosses to be lacking. Switching over to the bow with an Artemis/Ares combination however, bosses simply melted. So it really does fall on the player to experiment in order to master each weapon and bring out its true potential.

If there is one word I can use to describe Hades, it would be refined. Maybe even polished. There is no aspect to this game that feels like it was added as filler, no element that makes me roll my eyes and curse the developers for a minor inconvenience. I cannot praise this game enough for what it is. Hades is right up there with Metal Gear Solid V and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice as the best game I’ve played in 2020. It is smooth, it is engaging, and it is fun. And fun I believe is what matters most when it comes to a video game. Hades has that in spades.

Call it $20 very, very well spent.

Ed Note: You can buy Hades in a variety of places, including the Epic Game Store, and Steam. It’s also available on Switch, and I believe the other two consoles.

Genshin Impact

Free to play, more expensive then a trip to Vegas if you actually want to buy anything in game.

I’ve been wanting to write about Genshin Impact, but I’ve had a hard time doing so over the last week. This is because Genshin Impact might be the highest quality free-to-play game ever made, but discussing the game without talking about the monetization model would be crazy. It’s like discussing a tiger, without mentioning the teeth or claws, and just discussing its fluffy-wuffy tail. Let’s start with that fluffy tail though.

Genshin Impact is a free to play RPG for everything except your Nintendo Switch. It has cross-play for pretty much everything, and cross-progression for everything that isn’t a PS4. You can actually close the game on your PC, then open it on your phone, and just… keep playing. The same game. From where you left it on your PC. You can do cross-play between phone, PC and PS4. It’s incredible.

And when I say RPG, I mean RPG. You’re presented with a massive world to wander around, search for treasure and do quests in. There are world bosses, and hidden secrets, and all the good stuff. Mechanically, the game borrows a massive amount from Breath of the Wild. You can just climb up mountains and hills and walls, and you also get a glider fairly early on which lets you drift around.

The combat system is also pretty neat. You build a party of 4 characters, and as long as you aren’t in a Domain (Dungeon) or combat, you can swap characters out as you wish. Each character has a weapon type, basic attack, ability, and ultimate ability, all on separate cooldowns. Each character also has an element, and elements interact in various ways. For example, if you launch an Anemo (wind) character’s ability into an area with fire on it, it will Swirl, and create a fire tornado. Put ice onto a character affected by water, or vice versa, and that character will freeze. There are about seven of these elements, and in addition, things like walking through puddles will make both you and enemies wet.

There is a day night cycle as well.

These abilities can be used outside of combat to light torches, trigger pressure plates, and do other puzzly stuff. You can even use ice attacks to freeze and then cross lakes and oceans. Theres an entire quest line that requires you to take advantage of this to get to a hidden island that doesn’t even show up on the map.

Moments like this are Genshin Impact at its best. When you’re just running around, fighting monsters, climbing terrain, and discovering things, you might even forget you’re playing a free to play game, and if I had any gripes with the game as it is, it would most likely be that the climbing behavior can occasionally be a bit funky. You can climb all over every mountain, and every hill in the game, and there is treasure everywhere. Every mountain top has hidden collectibles, there are puzzles in every cave.

Okay, so now lets talk about the bad part.

If the moment to moment gameplay of Genshin Impact is Breath of the Wild, the meat of the game’s advancement system is classic mobile gacha. If you’ve ever played Puzzles and Dragons, Azur Lane, Fate Grand Order, or Dragalia Lost, you’ve seen this sort of thing before. You have Resin (Energy) which recharges over time and is used to collect treasure from world bosses and dungeons. These include advancement materials that are used to increase the max level of your characters and weapons, books that are used to upgrade their talents, and artifacts that can slotted in to give set bonuses, and extra stats.

You can spend in game currency to refill your energy, and honestly, as frustrated as some people are by Resin, I don’t take too much issue with it.

What I do take issue with is the drop rates and costs of the Wish system, the system by which you get new characters, and most of the higher rarity weapons. I refuse to call these micro-transactions, because there is nothing fucking micro about them.

ONE roll of the Wish system is 160 Primogems/Genesis Crystals. A SINGLE ROLL.

These are the prices, and after you buy the first time bonus, they change to this.

$Primogems / # of Rolls
0.9960 / .33
4.99330 / 1.83
14.991090 / 6.06
29.992240 / 12.44
49.993880 / 21.56
99.998080 / 44.89

So if you’re looking at this, and thinking, “This seems a bit expensive,” then yeah. It fucking is. But here comes the kicker: the drop rates are AWFUL.

The Wish system in Genshin has multiple different tables you can choose to roll against, usually called banners. For the featured character in a banner, the drop rate is 0.6%, or 3/500. The drop rate for an weapon OR character of the highest rarity is 1.6% total, or 2/125.

Ed Note: I think fractions do a better job illustrating how low this is, which is why I’ve included them here.

Keep in mind, a single roll costs $2.20 at its cheapest, if you buy the $100 currency pack. This gets you just over 44 rolls.

There’s also a pity system in place in which if you haven’t gotten a weapon/character of max rarity after 90 rolls, you will be given one. I want to point out that the real money cost of 90 rolls is just under $200. At this point, if you’re rolling on a featured banner, you will have a 50% chance to get the featured character. If you don’t, you’ll be guaranteed to get them at the next pity roll. Which means at this point, you’ll have to have spent over $400.

TLDR: If you want a FEATURED character in Genshin Impact, they can end up costing you $400 for a single copy of the character. In addition, the game has system by which characters are powered up for each duplicate you get of them. So getting a character to their max potential requires you to get receive them 6 times.

So yeah. That’s the state of Genshin Impact as of today, an incredible free to play game that is unmatched by anything on the market, with what I’m going to call “Macro-Transactions” that can easily total the same price of a new PS5 to get a single character. Play it. Enjoy the story, the anime bullshit, and the voice acting. Explore the incredible world, scouring every nook and cranny for treasure, and climbing every mountain.

But please don’t spend money on it.

Dead By Daylight

I’ve played a shit ton of Dead by Daylight over the last few weeks, and I really like it. If you’re familiar with the game, but haven’t really given it a chance because of the horror theme, I’d encourage you to check it out.

So what is Dead by Daylight? Well, it’s a 4v1 asymmetric hunt. If you don’t know the genre, that’s fine, because I can’t come up with one either. Maybe I’ll come up with a better descriptor by the time I finish writing this article. Maybe not. The point is, it’s one of very few games I’ve chosen to play instead of Dota 2. It’s sorta perpetually competitive, and also a game I’d like to get better at.

Before we dive into the game itself, I do wanna get my two main gripes with it out of the way. First of all, the game has a shit ton of DLC. Buying the base game at $20 gives you five out of the twenty one playable killer characters, and six or so of the twenty-three survivors. I’m mostly just going to look at killers for the sake of simplicity here, but of the remaining sixteen killers currently in the game, seven are permanently pay walled, as they are licensed characters from other horror franchises. The others can theoretically be unlocked by grinding. At about 90 hours played, I think I’ve earned enough currency to unlock… 2 other killers. So yeah. The time to unlock ratio ain’t great. Also, on their own, killers and survivors are $5 each, and you can buy packs of specific ones for $7.

Editors Note: I’m pretty sure I counted right for the killers here, but I may have miscounted the survivors. Point is, there’s a lot of DLC if you actually want to play all the characters.

Second main gripe would be this: The game can be buggy as all hell. When I mentioned bugs in my last review for OddRealm, I mentioned them because while they were rare, they were game breaking. In Dead By Daylight, the reverse is kinda true. I’ve seen only one bug that actually ruins games (a piece of level geometry that you can clip into, and get stuck in). With that said, 7/10 times, your pre-made animations will clip the camera into a wall. You will hook survivors onto empty air. Mostly stuff like this.

So now that those two things are out of the way, lets talk about the actual gameplay. Like I mentioned, it’s a 4v1 hunt. One player plays the killer, and four players play survivors. (You do get to pick which role you want to queue for before starting a game.)

The games take place in semi-randomly generated maps, with each side having a different set of goals. Survivors have to repair five generators, and then open an escape door in order to get out. They do this by interacting with the generators, and completing quick time events to continue the repairs. Killers need to (surprise, surprise) kill the survivors, which they do by inflicting damage until the survivors are downed, and then hanging the survivors on giant meat hooks so a spider god can try to eat them. Survivors can still save their friends from hooks, but it’s always possible the killer is nearby.

While this sounds simple, it’s made markedly more complex by the variety of game mechanics, perks, items and other factors in play, as well as the fact that regardless of which role you choose to play, you will be facing off against other humans. If you trick someone, it’s because you outsmarted them, not because the game let you.

Here’s just one example of a mechanic in the game that’s quite interesting, and it’s also why I wouldn’t consider the game to be a horror game: The Terror Radius. You know how in horror movies, the tense music plays as the murderer gets closer to our unsuspecting victim? Well, Dead By Daylight has something similar. You can actually hear the killer approaching, which means while they mostly can’t sneak up on you. Of course, they do have perks and options to lessen, or even temporarily hide their radius, so you’ll still have to pay attention.

And there are a bunch of mechanics like this. Killers have a first person point of view, but survivors have third person, and can use it to see around corners and over walls. At the same time, Killers move faster then Survivors, so without careful play, Killers will always win chases.

I could go on, and just list out mechanics, but I’m not sure it would sell anyone on the game, or it would help explain why the game is so compelling. What I will say is that Dead By Daylight has one of the best ratios of money/time spent in game of anything I’ve played this year.

Quantum League

A mind bending shooter that’s best played with a friend. Really neat unique time mechanics, but not a massive player base.

I first saw Quantum League about 2 years ago at PAX East, and even though I didn’t play it then, I was interested in the premise. So what is the premise? Simple.

Quantum League is a 1v1 or 2v2 shooter played in rounds, where each round is a 15 second time loop that repeats three times. I enjoy the game, but it can be a little draining after a while, since there are only those two games modes, and you’ll only ever play against humans. For explaining the mechanics, I’m going to talk about the 1v1 mode only.

When a round starts, you have your dude, you have a pistol, and you have five other weapons. The weapons are pretty straightforward, you have a sub machine gun, a sniper rifle, a shotgun, a grenade launcher, and the only funky one, a kinda beam-stick flamethrower. All of them behave pretty much as you would expect from any FPS. In the first round, it’ll just be you and your opponent, and depending on the game mode, your goal will be to either shoot ’em, or be the only person standing on a given capture point at the end of the round, which (big surprise) will most likely involve shooting them. The round will end after 15 seconds, even if you kill them early on.

Loop two is where things get interesting, and where Quantum League really shines as its own game. Like I said above, the game is played in loops, and in round two, you’ll have the same starting locations, weapons, everything else, with the game’s one big mechanic in play: there will now a be copy of you, replaying all your actions from loop one in addition to your normal controlled self. Your opponent gets one, too. They will replay all actions you took in round 1, exactly as you performed them, and they can still be interacted with. In Quantum League, when you die, instead of waiting to respawn or taking other actions, you instead just continue playing, but as a ghost. Your ghost version can’t interact with anything, damage anything, or score. But it can still shoot, move and otherwise do whatever it wants, because there is a very real chance that at some point in a future loop, you might kill the killer before they kill you, and as such, your clone will suddenly remain alive instead, meaning that its actions are now a resource you can use.

Loop three is the same as loop two, except with clones from round one and two, and one big difference: rounds are only scored at the end of loop three.

This time mechanic is the thing that turns Quantum League on its head, and is what makes the game completely different from almost any shooter out there. The key to winning in Quantum League isn’t pure twitch reflexes, or more accurate aim, but to plan your actions, recognize what your opponent will do in response, and then move to anticipate their future actions.

Here’s an example: Iin any given loop one of Quantum League, my preferred weapon is the sub machine gun. The SMG is a medium range weapon, losing at long range to the sniper, short range to the shotgun and beam rifle, and lacks the inherent area denial and angle capacity of the grenade launcher. So why pick it? For me, the SMG is the most effective continual area denial tool in the game. My plan is to move up behind cover, fire a few shots down various angles that I suspect my opponent may try to use in future rounds, punishing them with chip damage if they do, before finally actually moving to try to take out my opponent and win the round. In short, I’m not even shooting at my opponent, I’m shooting at where I think they’ll be in the future.

And this is just a small fraction of the sorta neat stuff you can get up to. There are also respawn globes and a few other mechanics that make the game even mind melting then it starts out as.

The only two big gripes I have with Quantum League are the hyper competitive nature of the game, which makes playing it for a long period of time fairly draining, and the lack of other game modes.

If Quantum League sounds like your sort of game, you can get it on Steam and it looks like a Switch version comes out soon as well, but I haven’t played it. I really suggest find a friend who also interested, because that way you can do 2v2 matches, and 1v1 matches if no one else is playing at that point in time. The game’s player base is still pretty small.