The 'Shroom:Issue XCVII/Critic Corner
Your own personal Jesus
Section of the Month
ROIGHT THEN, MOITES! We got a bloody good turnout this month, and I’m chuffed; our wonderful victor was, once again, Yoshi876 (talk) for his Character Review of the ever annoying duo MC Ballyhoo and Big Top, which got a whopping ten votes. Good work, cobber.
Second place was my own Crocodile Style Review of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate with 5 votes, and third place was Pyro (talk) for Hottest Reviews Around, reviewing Kirby and the Rainbow Curse with 3 votes. Good on us!
Non-Mario Game Reviews
With the Super Smash Ballot announced I thought I'd go ahead and review one of the most likely candidates: Gold Mario. What's that you're asking? Jow is Gold Mario the most likely? Well, he's Mario, and with Dr. Mario it’s obvious that we need more Marios. And with Golden Plains as a stage we can get Gold Gold Mario, and gold equates to money.
Gold Mario was originally introduced as a power-up (like most modern day playable characters in spin-offs nowadays) and he had an actually kind of cool power. All of those annoying, pointless, empty Brick Blocks became useful, giving you a bucketload of coin, and that's not all, the gold fireball would create a shockwave that would kill nearby enemies upon contact with an obstacle, which made it very useful. Unfortunately, it wasn't the most of common power-ups and it could only be used in the levels that it appeared in making it even more limited and made it feel like the main gimmick of New Super Mario Bros. 2 was underused.
Luckily though, if you thought he was underused he returned in Mario Golf: World Tour as a playable character! Yes, you heard right, another goddamn power-up got elevated to playable status when we could've had a much better character like Toadsworth, who’s yet to make a mainstream spin-off playable appearance. Like all other power-ups he feels like he’s clogging up the roster and it feels like the voice actor has been clogging up his pipes to provide the voice, and this isn't how it should be.
My stance on Gold Mario is my stance on many other power-ups. It's a cool addition and is utilized properly, if not frequently enough, but is ridiculous when it comes to the spin-off. I don't want all these power-ups separate from the main character; I want to see the various characters in the Mario series interacting with each other in a playful way in a sporty setting, not some random power-up that wrecks all the laws of time and stuff. Please give me the unique characters; even make them up if you have too, but no more variations on existing characters.
Crocodile Style Reviews
Do you remember when Steam Greenlight wasn’t the cesspit of shattered dreams and twisted ambitions that it is now? There was a time when Early Access was an exciting venture, since it felt like being the godmother to an adorable little digital baby on its first steps to becoming a bloated and ungrateful young adult sucking the mountain dew vapours swirling around their basement holes. Now it’s associated with blood, tears, and stolen assets, usually hacked together mad scientist-style in the Unity engine and tossed out into the already-clogged arteries of the Steam service. But despite how hard it has become to find even marginally playable releases in the Early Access avenue of Steam, sometimes you get lucky and find one that actually does seem worth the asking price. Or two, in this review’s case.
So first up we have Darkest Dungeon, a game that people have told me is super hard. Often I leer sceptically for such bold statements in this day and age of hand-holding, but a game where one of my blokes died on the tutorial level is not one to fuck around, I’m sure. The story goes that the owner of an affluent estate attempts to salvage the ancient ruins beneath his mansion, apparently forgetting the first rule of ruins spelunking is the great cosmic middle finger waiting at the end. Things go to shit as per usual and he sends a letter to you – his nephew, or long-lost child, or childhood dog for all we know – to mow his lawn and take out the netherworldly trash for him while he enjoys a nice evening of murdering himself, a seemingly mild inconvenience as it doesn’t stop him from nagging you or monologuing about how much of a fuck up he is.
The atmosphere of the game sits somewhere between a Shakespearian recital and one of Travis’ fanfictions, layering on enough edge to slice a whale in half, mixed in with one of the most ludicrously verbose ongoing narrations I’ve ever heard in a game. I actually like it since it seems almost like the game has its swollen, pierced tongue sat firmly within its cheek, and the narration and gorgeous gothic art style certainly keeps the occasionally dull dungeon trek interesting. Because you are but a lowly serf, you hire doe-eyed mercenaries to pointlessly die in your stead, coming in a rich assortment of classes of varying skillsets and personality traits. You send four of the unlucky bastards into a dungeon to explore, each equipped with different abilities that can be interchanged and upgraded at your leisure, as you fight enemies turn-based style and take whatever mouldy, plague-infested tokens you happen to find along the way.
So far, so typical for your average LARP, but what sets the game apart is the Stress mechanic, in which you and your friends start panicking that every girl in school is making fun of your DND sessions in the school cellar. Progressing through the dungeons as the light dims, taking critical damage from enemies, being hit by certain stress-inducing spells, falling into hazards, and being texted by your crush will increase a given heroes’ stress metre. While this can be managed in-dungeon by landing critical strikes or having a reassuring cuddle near the campfire, if the metre reaches maximum then the heroes resolve is tested, resulting in either valiant conquest of their fears with appropriate stat boosts to go with it, or sobbing profusely in the corner while occasionally screaming profanities at the rest of the team.
Bolstering this is the Death’s Door mechanic, wherein once a hero loses all their health, they’ll still hold their ground but with stat penalties and they’ll have a chance of either surviving incoming killing blows or succumbing to them, dependent on whether Jesus has had his morning coffee or not. It’s a very tightly-knitted but layered experience, of the kind I’m quite fond; the darkness of the dungeon determines how difficult fights will be, whilst yielding more treasure as a trade-off, and longer quests allow your team to regroup in camps. Exploration is rewarded with gold, which can be used to buy upgraded equipment, spells, or your heroes’ sanity in the red light district, and treasures which can be used to upgrade said services. You can abandon quests anytime you want if things are going to absolute shite, and while I usually take that as a personal challenge, this is one game that will certainly be pressuring you to take the coward’s way out more often than not.
While the game is still in early access, you could be forgiven for not noticing at first since the game is rich with content already, and it all ties in so well with each other to create an insanely difficult game where one wrong move can completely destroy your day. This does, however, make it your typical roguelike experience in that it’s less a test of skill and reflexes and more of your decision-making and ability to weigh the risk versus reward of a situation. I mean, I like it since it fits well into the feeling of being buttfucked by a legion of eldritch dickheads, but I can absolutely understand why some people may find leaving their fate up to the roll of the thorn-studded dice to not be their cup of tea.
The next one on the list isn’t actually in Early Access anymore, but fuck it I ain’t getting payed for this production. Besides, it was made by an Australian studio, and I’ll be damned if you bloody yanks get all the glory in this industry; Hand of Fate, another roguelike title that trades dice-rolling for card-dealing, so now all we need is a slot machine roguelike and we’ll be all set to start ourselves a dead man’s casino. You are placed in the shoes of a mute man who looks like Mr. T dipped in olive oil, presumably seeking help for his crippling gambling addiction, so does the responsible thing and plays a card game with an irate magician.
There are twelve different levels to trek through associated with a different boss monster from the four card suites; Dust (thieves), Skulls (undead), Plague (ratmen), and Scales (the Illuminati). You are given an initial deck of cards which can be personally customised later on as you unlock more cards, all divided into Equipment, which are your weapons, shields, and power-ups; and Encounter cards, mostly beneficial scenarios that can range from traders, booby-trapped dungeons with treasure, or fights with Meepo from Dota 2. The dealer, on the other hand, throws in cards to fuck you up, uniquely tailored to each level as they come with their own sets of play conditions and curses that can range from the mildly inconvenient to nails being driven through your torn heart.
The cards are strewn out much like a Dungeons and Dragons board with each step costing Food; consuming Food heals you, but take a step with no food then you’d best hope your guy works well on an empty stomach. As such, Hand of Fate is similar to Darkest Dungeon in that its exploration is based heavily on the randomised deal of the cards, although it has a bit more emphasis on your reflexes with the real-time combat during enemy encounter cards. The combat is borrowed heavily from the Arkham Asylum games because everyone wants to be Batman these days, with a focus on chaining combos together and countering enemy attacks for additional damage, and as well as using spells you may pick up along the way to deflect projectiles or set yourself on fire… Because they can’t grab you if you’re on fire! It’s easily manageable at first when the enemies are weak and come in small packages, but the fights start becoming less of a walk in the park as the dealer throws ten or more of the little shits at you, even occasionally throwing in an earlier boss to just completely spite your ridiculous beard. But hey, what would a game be without a challenge, right?
The Deckmaster has an ongoing narration all throughout and unique quotes for every single card in the game, a pleasant if not somewhat distracting feature given his cultivated Australian accent really clashes with the whole mysterious Arab wizard aesthetic he’s got going on. His condescending nature may seem a bit off-putting at first, but given the protagonist never says anything and is likely just sitting there staring at him the whole time, I’m surprised the dealer hasn’t called security to escort him out. I feel an opportunity was missed to have an engaging character dynamic between the two, since it’s implied that both are playing for their very lives and I’d wager my entire collection of stuffed animals that that’s something you may have a few arguments about between each sip of cheap brandy.
But whatever, most of my gripes with each are fairly negligible, since they’re rich with content and more tightly-wound than a can of baked beans. If I had to pick one, tho, I’d say Darkest Dungeon is my favourite of the two, if not just because it has a bard in it but also because I feel it has more replay value and a more appealing art style, but certainly don’t let that lower the value of my motherland’s gambling endeavours either. Although lowered value might be worth it, since I spent almost $50 to get both of these games, which is either a sign of confidence from the developers or a sign that I desperately need to get out of Australia before I’m sitting in the streets playing Wonderwall sixty four times a day for a loaf of bread.
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