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Nothing of note happened until I reached the next boss battle. The level design is this game is very samey with only slight differences here and there like ice surfaces or conveyor belts. In any case the boss was a giant robot penguin. The ground is constantly moving away from the boss and you can stop different lanes by hitting a switch. Eventually a magnet will appear, so you have to pick it up and when the field is up around the penguin you have to use it and deal some damage. The robot's attacks are fairly easy to avoid by circling him. Overall it's a really easy fight, but after you win Penny gets captured by dropping a cage on herself. Lame.

I found a new weapon called the Vengeance Launcher. It launches explosive rounds which attach themselves to surfaces and enemies and explode after a couple of seconds. It's great for shooting at stronger enemies and immediately moving behind cover. In this cave area I had to fight an Ancient Ambull, which is a meaner version of those daemons which charge at you.

In the next level I added another weapon to my arsenal - the Meltagun. It's incredibly powerful and its blasts travel through terrain. The only drawback is the limited ammo, so this one is best saved for tougher enemies or bigger crowds to hit at once. In fact it was very effective against the Lord of Change who I had to fight again.

The Hidden Sin stage was vast and labyrinthine, but I somehow stumbled upon the Volkite Caliver. It fires a laser, but it's best used against single targets since it deals continuous damage over time. I had to fight another Lord of Change at the end. I wish there was some more boss variety in the game.

Sugoi Girls Lovely Wife is another one of those sliding puzzles lewd games. The art here is definitely AI, so if you want to play a meta game just look at their hands. That being said this one does have toplessness, so there's that. The puzzles are pretty easy, but they do get a bit trickier the busier the backgrounds become. Overall this is a cheap game which should only be bought on sale.

A flashback of Isamu and Shou arguing pretty much confirms they are gay. Gross.

The next Calamity you have to face is Uriel. He is a giant centaur-like monster. In all encounters with him you just have to run away. Uriel thinks the SovKhan is his father and a god, but I didn't give enough of a shit about the story to check if he's talking about his biological dad. The game does this stupid thing where it gives you exposition as you are trying to survive and you miss a lot of the story. X apparently first wanted to be perfect like Uriel's biomecha, but then she learns that he ideal is a mindless machine and has some sort of existential crisis. Anyway the way to defeat Uriel is really dumb - you just destroy some containers while trying to survive enemy waves. Some new cheap monsters are introduced - one type can grab you while you are hitting them and the other explodes into smaller worms when you defeat it. Like the rest of this garbage game they are incredibly cheap.

This game is progressive propaganda. Your character is gay. The first villain is a patriotic American, the second loves guns and the third is a religious devotee. The way it's going the final boss will be Trump. Not to mention that the gameplay is ass - it's by far the worst hack and slash game I've ever played. I'll finish it, but even at this point it's easy to say to avoid this abomination.

Clearing Dodo's cleaning quest earns you a heart fragment and the location of Cheshire's hideout. There you can ask her to return Usada and Kotora to their own world and surprisingly she will oblige. The two girls return to the library, but their mission of finding Alice is incomplete. You get the "Where's Alice?" Ending number 5. Loading the game returns you to the checkpoint right before you talk to Cheshire.

Found Usamura-san behind an ability-locked door (meaning you have to have a certain upgrade to go through) and he gave you an area clearing quest. The reward is a heart fragment. From time to time Cheshire may want to speak with you asking different questions. I guess this quest ends when you exhaust all dialogue options.

On the gameplay side of things I bought an upgrade allowing me to dash twice in the air, which makes platforming much smoother. Two more useful skills I got are the abilities to see heart fragments and ability crystals on the map. Combine those and it's much easier to develop you characters as you wish.

Eventually I got to fight 2 King Card bosses at once. Despite all the upgrades I had they can still kill me in 2 hits. Thankfully they are slow, so utilising Kotora's gun while staying at a distance is the best strategy. Jumping at them is ineffective. When you defeat them you fall through the floor and into the castle where Alice is supposedly located.

Using the wall climb ability I explored for a while, but I didn't find anything of note. At the Town of the Exiled Renee meets Rosalia again, who explains that the barrier surrounding the cursed town prevented her from leaving, but now that you defeated mastermage Auss she can escape at the price of her remaining life energy. Pretty poetic. Now that I had equipped the afterimage which removes the shitty purple mist I could more normally explore that part of the town, but there was nothing interesting there.

In The Columns area I found Patt - the former assistant of mastermage Auss. He says that Auss actually planned to take control of the people with the ritual she performed, so he tried to sabotage it. This is an interesting alternate perspective, but Patt a bit too shady to be trusted. Still, he gives you a new staff, which has 2 spells, one of which is a burst that drains all my mana. Ifree warns Renee against using this particular staff.

Then I wandered around various areas, but didn't encounter anything interesting.

There weren't any new features or gimmicks in the next couple of levels, so it was a matter of going through the motions. Penny somehow invaded Emperor Eddie's bath and she had to face him in a boss battle. He's pretty easy to beat - he'll charge at you and after you dodge you need to pull on his belt. After a couple of hits he'll start spinning instead, but the strategy is the same. Penny then gets flushed by the penguins and the next levels seem to be in some sort of a cosmic library.

Despite the fresh look the only new gimmick is a torch which you use for candles and fuses. After several levels Penny meets Taboo, who out of nowhere creates a doll version of our heroine and forces you to race her. This came out of nowhere. You have to beat the puppet to the finish line, but also have more coins than her when you do so. I missed on the latter of those requirements because nobody told me it was a requirement. In any case I eventually got it and Taboo explained how she was Emperor Eddie's partner when performing, but her experimental shows became too much for him and she got offended and went into space to perform to nobody. What a woman moment. Taboo suggested that Penny should stay with her, but the yo-yo master actually has friends and doesn't want to be isolated to do pretentious art for nobody, so instead she now has to remove herself from the Book of Law to not be considered a criminal.

The Sanctum Magistratum level is a cathedral engulfed by the Warp. Here I discovered that the Plasma Gun actually has rapid fire, but after the magazine is depleted it requires some cooldown before it shoots again. I also found a new secret - the Vortex Grenade. It's single use, but it's incredibly powerful and has a huge area of effect. The level itself if full of portals to the point where it's confusing. I think the correct path is seeking a red emblem at the top of the portal, but at one point you have to fall down and walk on the side of bridges.

At the end of all that you face a traitor psyker. He teleports all over the place and it's a bit annoying since you can't really do a lot of damage at a time and have to run around looking for good spots to shoot him from. Much like the previous boss he summons minions to get in your way. His main attack seems to be shooting lasers at you and they are tricky to avoid, so you have to be constantly on the move. When you defeat him the Sorcerer unfortunately escapes and you continue your search for the fragment in the Corrupted Canyon level. The new bige enemies here are the Bloat Drones, which fly around and shoot rockets at you, but thankfully they are quite slow.

Pretty Girls Escape Plus has the same mechanics as Pretty Girls escape. You destroy coloured blocks if they have more than 2 squares next to each other and the goal is to get the girl's portrait to the exit below. You can also shift all the blocks left or right. Each level has a specific challenge like destroying a number of blocks or completing it in a certain amount of time/moves. Completing those earns you points to buy new costumes and backgrounds for the diorama mode. The more you progress the more gimmicks appear in the levels like key blocks necessary to unlock the exit, destrictable boxes and black blocks which are indestructible.

After some struggle I reached one of the Calamities - Thorman the Iron General. He's a patriotic American dude who wants to use the power of the biomecha to restore the United States, which no longer exist in this universe. He's giant and swings a huge blade around. The strategy is just like the regular big enemies - hit him until he breaks, preferably while in Fatal Sync. Using the forward EX moves while he's charging at you may help avoid some damage. You can't juggle him at all, but when a break happens, he falls on the ground, which is when you can do some regular combos or even a charge heavy attack. I'm not sure which is more effective since there are no health bars. In terms of damage he may actually be easier than the regular heavy enemies since they can't be damaged once they fall onto the ground, but his combos are faster, so pick your poison. When you defeat him it's revealed that he's some old man on the inside of the armour. Thorman begs for his life, but Shou murders him.

You get another flashback with Shou and Isamu. They train together and Shou seems to be the better fighter. The way they talk to each other is kind of gay, but I do hope they don't go in that direction.

Then you have to deal with the Second Calamity - Enyo. She really likes her guns and will shoot at you during the levels. It's quite annoying, but at least you can use her bullets to damage the enemies. In this stage enemies with guns start to appear and they should be priorities to get rid of because there is no way to block the shot from what I could tell. Here you also encounter the Heavy Trooper, who wields a hammer and has this annoying charge which grabs you and slams you into the wall. It's really fast and you need to do a double jump to avoid it, but due to how slow your jump is, you need to be somewhat far away from him, which will be rare since you have to be close to hit him.

Eventually you face Enyo. She is apparently not too loyal to the SovKhan. She is flying and she never lands, so you have to do areal combos and perhaps the down-heavy move to reach her. This is a problem because while you are in the air Enyo has a spinning move which damages you. I can't say I have a viable strategy here. I think I just got lucky since it really depends if you can continue your combo once she breaks. The moment Enyo falls to the ground you have to repeat the breaking process. It's really stupid since you have limited moves in the air and you cannot continue the combo and your jump is too slow to catch her into a new string as she's falling. When you defeat Enyo her gun jams.

I randomly discovered Humpty's house and she wasn't too mad at me for attacking her. She apparently lost her memory and sends you on a quest to get her gloves back from Dodo. Cheshire then gives you a key which unlocks a door to the library at the top of the mansion where you find Dodo. Because I levelled up speech you don't have to fight her and she gives you a shrinking potion. Dodo herself gives you another quest to clean up different parts of the mansion, which basically means defeating enemies at a certain spot. After getting her gloves back, she gives you the watering can Usamura-san needed. He upgrades your speech as a reward or more accurately - unlocks the upgrade which you then need to purchase for a red crystal.

Using the shrinking potion our heroines proceed on the path to the tea party. On the way they meet Yamane and March Hare who need the enlargement potion to bring some logs to form a bridge in order to reach Mad Hatter's tea party. When you find the potion Cheshire steals it from you and you have to fight her again. Then you get back the potion, build the bridge and reach the Sea of Black tea, where you have to fight enemies on a boat. Finally you get to the tea party and everything is going great until Mad Hatter asks you if you've seen one of her hats. I tried giving her the Weird Hat, but she wanted another one and got paranoid and attacked. The fight against her is pretty easy. She will attack you with her sword and occasionally summon cup enemies and throw her hat. Staying at a safe distance with Kotora is the way to go. After the fight Usamura-san appears and vouches for our heroines, so Mad Hatter gives them a key to the Castle Gardens.

I didn't find anything of note while exploring the desert area. Then I somehow got into an icy cave, where I encounter Izotz The Frozen Knight, who wasn't frozen, but rather very hostile and aggressive. He has tons of attacks - he'll lunge forward with the sword doing multiple stabs or he will do a jumping combo, so it's a rather unfair 50/50. Same with his projectiles - he can send a large energy wave, which you can't jump over, so you have to dash away from it or he'll throw some knives which you have to deflect - another unfair 50/50. He also stomps the ground from time to time. I don't have a good strategy against him - he's too fast, so I just outlasted him by downing health potions. He drops a Stream Crystal and I have absolutely no idea what it does.

Using the manta ray I reached a new area called the Whispering Forest which was filled with mutated creatures and plants. It also has some annoying platforming sections where you have to hit switches to activate a time-limited mushroom to jump on. A boss monster here was a bug-man called Failure. It flies around and shoots 2 different types of projectiles at you - bubbles and homing spears which then remain in the ground as an obstacle. It also zips around frantically and from what I could tell this is unavoidable since there is no pattern. At the end of that Failure will crash into the ground summoning claws from the floor. When you defeat it you get the Agile Claw afterimage, which allows you to climb on walls.

Another monster I fought was Gongor The Eldritch Fusion. The problem here was that it was located in an area of the map where it had that disgusting purple smoke everywhere, so I couldn't see it. From what I could tell it bombards you with orbs and from time to time it will use its tentacles on the ground. Gongor also creates portals and passes its hands through them, but I couldn't see shit, so I have no idea how to avoid them. In the end I beat it like all the other bosses - I outlasted it by using healing. The design of the boss battles in this game are awful. There doesn't seem to be any viable strategy for most of them due to your own limited move set. In any case you get the Eye of Gongor afterimage, which cures petrified targets, but I have no idea where to find those.

Then I met a robot called Meditator 00, which opened up a portal to another area. Then I used the wall climb to find new items I might have missed. One important thing I learned is that the passive afterimages have to be equipped and you have limited capacity depending on the number of Divine Seeds you have found. Also even if you pick them up and have a space they are not automatically equipped and you can only select them at the save point trees for some bizarre reason. I have a passive which removes the stupid purple fog, so that will make some areas easier to move around. Shame that I had to fight a boss basically blind before learning this terrible design decision.

The levels continued to be the pretty standard deal. I found a new power up called Whirling Wafer, which allows you to fly for a bit when you spin the right stick. Then I reached the first boss fight of the game against Sheila - a sea captain who is understandably upset with Penny for cutting in line and stealing her chance to perform. This was actually somewhat enjoyable despite the clunky controls. You have to ride your yo-you on the water and reach Sheila's ship. There you have to screw in 3 screws while avoiding her attacks. Each iteration makes it more difficult to reach the ship since she shoots stuff at you. Sheila is thankful to Penny for fixing her ship and forgives her.

Picking up a Hot Rod Pepper gives you an enhanced ride ability which allows you to travel up some walls. This is useful to get some special coins, but if you don't know where they are you can miss your opportunity to get them.

Several stages later I faced Mr. Q - a court magician for Emperor Eddie. The explained how the ruler previously had a partner, but lost her and now nobody knows how to bring her back. Mr Q will throw an energy ball, which you have to reflect back. I found using the right stick to direct the yo-yo to be the best way to catch it. When you do this several times his head will fall off and you'll have to put it in a hole similar to snooker. Then will will go wild and start dancing around and do a stomp attack, so you have to dodge him until the energy ball deflection game starts again. It becomes harder and Mr Q will have 2 and then 3 heads to dispose of with more obstacles in your way to do so. When the fight ends Mr Q tells Penny that her yo-yo has a Cosmic String created by the Taboo Artist, who she's now on a quest to find.

After clearing some lava-filled levels Penny witnesses a conversation between Judge Rufus and Emperor Eddie, who now plans to cancel the show because he doesn't want to perform due to his humiliation, but that's an impeachable offence, because the Gala is one of hte most important events in this world.

I got a bit confused as to where to go in a level, but eventually found my way around. Unless you remember the level you may get lost since there is no map and your flying skull buddy isn't exactly helpful. There's always the method of going where there are living enemies.

After a couple of levels I had my first boss fight in the game against the Lord of Change, who is no doubt some creation of Tzeench. He is a massive damage sponge and I wouldn't say there's a good strategy against him. The area you are fighting in has a lot of exploding barrels, but he teleports a lot, so its difficult to utilise them, aside from quickly dispatching the smaller enemies. I usually cleared those out and then concentrated on the boss, but he does summon more from time to time. Don't spare your grenades - there are some you can pick up and since you have a stupidly low limit of how many you can carry it's best to use them whenever the chance presents itself. The Heavy Bolter did decent damage against him, but that's the best weapon I had, so it makes sense. The Lord of Change has a homing spell which does massive damage and he will shoot some energy balls from time to time. All I can advise is to constantly move around and gather health and Contempt (armour). Eventually I defeated the heretical being.

Slave Zero X is a 2D hack and slash game. You play as Shou - a warrior who steals a biomecha labelled X on his quest to kill the dictator of this world SovKhan. They fuse together similar to something like Venom and start their bloody path. These actions are in rebellion to Shou's master, whose group is called The Guardians. Things were going OK until one of SovKhan's lieutenants Atavaka appears and kicks your ass. He's then contacted by the other 4 distracting him long enough so that Shou gets a chance to escape. You then get a flashback of Shou talking to his fellow Guardian Isamu, who he's likely trying to avenge.

The combat system in this game is incredibly stiff and grounded. I expected simple beat 'em up mechanics, but instead the people who made this game tried to re-invent the wheel and failed miserably. It's hard to convey what's wrong with the combo system just by watching it, but I'll try to explain it. You have standard light-light-heavy combos, but after a heavy hit of any sort your character freezes and you can't continue your sting with anything else. That is except EX moves, which are modified versions of the heavy attacks. How do you make EX moves? Well, you have to press light and then heavy attack in really quick succession, so you can never be sure whether you will do light-light-heavy or light-EX combo in the heat of battle. The problem is you really need those if you are to extend your combos and deal decent damage to the stronger foes. Another problem is that EX moves unsurprisingly require energy - about a quarter of your bar to be precise. So if you waste some of that you are in trouble. The only decent workaround is the Fatal Sync mechanic. When you have full energy meter you activate this install for a time, which allows you to use EX moves for free for a limited time and you fill your health as you damage enemies, which is the only healing mechanic in the game - no chickens in objects or anything similar. Now, the problem with that is that is that you have to suffer until you have full energy. A partial solution is the burst, which you can hit an enemy with to fill your energy immediately. The burst recharges with time, so you can use it, activate Fatal Sync and by the time that finishes, use burst again giving you a nice loop. There is a problem here too though - if you are hit while activating the burst you will break out of the enemy combo, but your energy will not be filled meaning that you don't get your Fatal Sync.

Another problem is the defensive mechanics. You have a dash, but it's range is pathetic and you don't even get an invincibility frame in there making it next to useless. There is no block in the game. You can counter enemy attacks by pressing forward at the exact moment the attack is about to hit you, which is ass, because you are usually in a middle of a combo and are pressing different directional buttons to bring out a different heavy/EX move. You don't notice it as much when fighting the regular enemies, but the heavier ones and the mini-bosses sometimes have projectiles which you can't avoid in any other way. You do have a double jump, but it's incredibly slow and absolutely useless in combat aside from helping to juggle enemies, which are already in a combo.

Speaking of the mini-bosses, they are a pain to fight. They have armour, meaning that your attacks can't combo them and they are not even staggered. This leads to the above problem of them executing their attack while you are hitting them and you have to prey to hit the correct timing to counter in the middle of your own combo. At some point you break their shields and can juggle them, but if they fall to the ground you are shit out of luck because you don't have any attacks to hit grounded enemies, so you have to wait for them to stand up, wasting your Fatal Sync. After barely defeating a couple mini-bosses I had to stop because my hands started to hurt from constantly fighting with the controls.

Decided to give the Witch's Trials a try and I picked the TItan Trial since it looked the easiest. You start with 2000 gold and can immediately go to a shop to strengthen your lineup. I picked Halvor, who has a great super move and after defeating a wave of weak enemies I bought Amelie. Maybe the selection is based on your relationship with the Lilliputs. My battle against the King boss didn't go well and I wasted all of my potions trying to stay alive. After that I had to buy a healing herb and while watching the replay I stupidly missed getting a crystal which would've boosted my stats. In my defence these are not usually present in the shops, so I didn't see them. Thankfully my fight against the Titan was pretty easy since I have memorised all his attack patterns and he wasn't able to touch me. The rewards for completing it were very underwhelming - just 200 Mana. I also tried the Beast trial, but failed twice.

Then I decided to try Zipper as a playable character and he's definitely more challenging. You don't get healing potions and his super move kind of sucks - he just gets unlimited Aether Thrusts for some time. On the flip side he can start with more powerful champs, but after being sued to the regular combo structure, this can too be weird to adapt to. I did manage to get to the second world, but there doesn't seem to be any extra story content, so this is just a different play style if somebody wants to challenge themselves. With the gathered Mana I increased Noah's wind damage, which may be my favourite element here.

Finally I went for the Endurance Trial where you don't even get to select your costume - it's always Noah's default and none of the ship upgrades are active. This is essentially a boss rush challenge and I ended up dying when I reached Queen, who is one of the trickier fights in the game. This didn't earn me any rewards. Perhaps completing the challenge may unlock new costumes, which are always a treat since each super move is different and has a dedicated animation.

Little Noah: Scion of Paradise is a fantastic game. It is by far my favourite rogue-lite which I've played. Every run gives you a sense of progression because you earn decent amount of Mana for upgrades, making you think that with this you can definitely advance further. In most of these games you usually have to grind for hours until you earn enough for one of the better skills. I really like the combat system and its customisation - you can adjust it to your play style. The story is simple, but the characters are charming and likeable. Even the villain is given some depth at the end rather than being "I just want to destroy the world" guy. The game is so well designed that it's a joy to play. One of my favourite features is the instant teleport to any room on the map saving you a lot of time. It has tons of extra content and you can customise your experience depending on how hard you want to make it. You can even exclude items and upgrades you don't want in your playthrough. I cannot recommend this game enough. Even writing about it makes me want to play again.

Alice Escaped is a 2D action game with some light Metroidvania elements. You play as Usada and Kotora - two girls who were at the library studying and then they found a magic book, which transported them into a version of Alice in Wonderland. Our heroines assume that they must find Alice since this is what a note in the book said, so they follow the White Rabbit. Usada has a hammer to attack enemies with and Kotora wields a machine gun. I prefer the play style of the former since you can juggle enemies and combo them and while Kotora does have the range advantage her damage is pretty weak and it doesn't stop the enemies approaching you. She can throw grenades though and that does the job, even if they are a little slow. Both can dash in 8 directions. You can freely switch between the two and there is a common skill tree to upgrade their abilities. You gain blue crystals from killing enemies, but some skills require green ones to unlock. When you hold down the attack button with both girls you unleash a super move (if you have enough energy). Usada spins with her hammer in an arc while Kotora unleashes a massive laser beam. In my first boss battle against a giant card wielding a fork I found keeping my distance the best strategy. Bosses have a shield and when it's broken it puts them into a stun-state giving you a chance to do damage. Kotora's gun is the best at breaking that shield.

The girls then catch up to the White Rabbit who is called Usamura-san here and learn that he's also looking for Alice. Later on in a mansion the girls meet Cheshire Cat who is avoiding all their questions about the world and Alice. They couldn't take any more trolling so a boss battle is engaged. Cheshire teleports and attacks you with her claws. She can also dive bomb from walls, so you have to constantly move. After you defeat her she leaves a doll behind and disappears. When you find her again she gives you a single blue crystal and runs away.

At the top of the mansion the girls meet Dodo, who is apparently the owner and isn't too fond of Cheshire. She doesn't trust you and you have another boss battle on your hands. Dodo summons vertical and horizontal waves of water at rather frequent intervals and combined with her jumping around, she's hard to hit. Eventually I defeated her, but she disappeared. There are locked doors all over the place and I'm missing the keys, so some backtracking will be necessary. Thankfully there are bus stops which you can teleport between.

In The Mushroom Forest i encountered another girl, who turned out to be Humpty Dumpty, but before we can talk to her I attacked her since I unlocked an upgrade for that - I somewhat regret it since I didn't learn anything about her. She flies around on her umbrella and bombards you with eggs. She can be tricky to reach but it's overall an easy fight. Later on you follow Usamura-san, but he goes through a tiny door and you don't have the shrinking potion. Cheshire appears out of nowhere to gloat, but I gave her a good smack, which was satisfying.

While exploring the Town of the Exiled I encountered another one of those random bosses - Jade the Knowledgeable (who is oddly purple). His attacks are crazy fast and his range is insane. He also throws mines. You can either spam him with magic or do a 50/50 by jumping as you approach him to land an aerial attack or to be hit by his rising slash. Thankfully he doesn't have too much health so I beat him and got the Purple Jade dual blades. In the middle of the town I found a merchant named Stanley who protected himself with a magic circle. He sells unique items and you can see all the equipment you've found in magic spheres in his shop. A book I bought off him with the title Words of Shenlong jogged my memory of the sleeping fairy I found in another area. I went back to her and she awoke. Her name is Se and she only deals in special coins, some of which I've found on my journey. Apparently Se is quite powerful because Ifree is afraid of her. One thing to mention about the Town of the Exiled is that on the lower levels there is a horrid purple mist and you can barely see where you are going - it's really painful on the eyes and I don't know how you get rid of it.

At one point Renee met Ethan the mage. He was looking for the Town of Exiled and he is looking to purge those spirits who whe sees as an affront to the Goddess. Then I reached the manta ray and used the whistle to communicate with it. This allows you to ride it and you are presented with an overview of a map where you can use the manta ray to travel to different shores and thus reach new areas. In one of those Renee met Nicole again who was next to a giant teapot and cups. This presents a puzzle where you have to play a melody, but the tones of the cups sounded weirdly samey, so I couldn't solve it.

In a desert area I found Emily - a cook who is seeking ingredients for her specific meals.

Penny's Big Breakaway is a 3D platformer from the people who created the highly acclaimed Sonic Mania, so I had high expectations. You play as Penny - a girl with a living yo-yo who is a performer. One day she went to a Gala and performed in front of Emperor Eddie, but her living yo-yo attacked the monarch, stripped him to his undies and embarrassed him. Now Penny must run from the law enforced by Eddie's penguin army. The story is pretty basic, but it gets the job done.

The controls shocked me. I expected a normal 3D platformer where you use your yo-yo for combat, but you also use it for most basic maneuvers. The actions are pretty basic - you have a jump button, an attack button and a ride button. The ride button creates a vehicle from the yo-yo, which allows you to scale vertical walls if you have the right momentum. The attack button serves multiple purposes. Pressing it once launches it in the direction you are facing damaging enemies. Pressing it 2 times quickly pulls Penny forward in something of a dash. Pressing and holing the button in mid-air creates a pivot for the yo-yo and lets you swing. I have a question - why? Why put all these moves on a single button when there are other unused buttons on the controller? While fighting you have to wait for the attack to hit an enemy before pressing the button again, otherwise you may dash. When being in the air you have to time your presses carefully because one of 3 moves can come out between a hit in the air, swing and a dash. The controls are one of the key elements for enjoying a platformer and here you are fighting against them.

In terms of level design, each stage has 3 extra missions and 3 secret coins to discover. The missions usually involved collecting a number of items in a specific part of the level or bringing something to an NPC. The emperor's penguins will swarm you and if 5 of them attach themselves to you, you have to restart from the last checkpoint. The way to shake them off is to perform a dash or a swing. I found it more useful to spin the right stick which creates a spin attack not letting them touch you in the first place. Plus this way you are not risking flying off the stage by performing a move you didn't want. The end of the level is called a Busker Stage. It is made of 3 concentrated circles and the closer to the centre you land, the more moves you get to perform in a final QTE minigame earning you more points in the level. If you get above a certain score you earn a gallery image. The QTEs are not that hard, but actually landing in the centre can be tricky depending on where the Busker Stage is positioned.

In one stage you are chased around by a giant ball of penguins and despite the shoddy controls I had fun. The special coins unlock challenge stages, which can earn you more pictures if you manage to get the required score. Those are quite tricky though. You can spend the regular gold coins at a shop, but it only offers items giving Penny boosts just for the next played stage.

In our quest to purge the heretic I've found a new weapon - the Heavy Bolter, which act like a machine gun with no reloads. It is the most powerful gun in my arsenal and quite effective against taking down tougher enemies like Chaos Space Marines and the new flying demons. One cool new secret I discovered was the Assault Doctrine Melee Smash giving you a rage mode state for 30 seconds where your chainsword does massive damage. The next stage introduces a new type of foe - the Aspiring Champion. This traitor will charge at you and when you kill him he'll resurrect, so you have to reduce his body to mush to be certain he's dead.

The run didn't start great since I never got decent 3-star champs until the second world, when I obtained Tomoe, whose special move is a forward going combo attack. In the 3rd world I bought a Resurrection Doll from one of the stores, which was great, as well as the Plucky Herb Pot, giving you an extra herb when you clear a room with less than 50% HP. I had to buy Halvor, whose 3-hit alternating combo is a pretty good special move.

After all that I finally reached the Command Centre Core where Greigh was waiting for our heroine. He babbles on about destiny and then reveals that he was actually a champ created by Noah's father. He teleports a lot and throws a ton of different projectiles. One of his more annoying moves is a body slam after a teleport, which is pretty fast and difficult to avoid. When you deal some damage to him he'll summon other champs to fight for him and they are the shadow versions, who deal a lot of damage, so one has to be careful when facing them. Thankfully they drop a herb when you defeat them, so you can recover some of the hits you take. When you defeat him, Greigh gets into a giant robot and you must fight him again. He will mostly attack with the robot's arms and they deal a lot of damage, but after a couple of repetitions you can learn the patterns. After taking some damage he will start using lasers - first a spinning cross one and then ones which cover the screen, so you need to quickly find a safe spot. The bastard actually managed to kill me once, so I was glad to have a Resurrection Doll, so I finished him off. Gregh is then defeated and started to disappear since he used his Mana to control the machine. Noah showed concern for him and he revealed that her father is actually alive - Greigh just drained his Mana, but didn't kill him. The misguided champ then faded away. Zipper then decides to remain in the ruins as their guardian and has a touching goodbye with Noah. Zipper gives Noah a rainbow as a present as she continues her journey to find her father. A great feel-good ending.

When I finished the game I saw that I still had an extra Resurrection Doll which was reassuring. This unlocks Hell mode - an ultra-hard difficulty where Noah dies from a single hit - I'm definitely not playing that. Another more reasonable difficulty is Very Hard where the enemies are tougher. There are also the Witch's Trials which are a truly rogue-like challenge modes where your upgrades don't apply. Zipper is also added as a playable character - his health is lower and he can't use potions, but he can start the game with better spirits. I bought the final damage boost with the Mana I acquired.

Stage 6 is filled with traps and you fight some weird golems. At times it also has annoying foreground objects obscuring your vision - this is never good design in any game. At the end a statue of a warrior comes to life and you have to fight him For a guy with a shield and sword he has a surprising number of projectiles, including summoning a dragon. When you defeat him the story decides to go off the rails. His name is Beowulf and he's apparently the first human Contra. That's right - Contra is now some chosen hero title based on DNA rather than the name of the organisation. This is a prime example of how over-explaining can become stupid. The Lemeris artefact is supposedly sent by an alien race called Sol to influence human evolution and create these warriors. It also creates a shield around Earth so that the evil empire of Zagard can't create wormholes near the planet and conquer it. It ALSO has a record of Sol's history and civilisation. Come on. Varanis then appears to steal the artefact since he was disguised as Stanley. He is of course a Zagard commander. The end boss of the level is a terminator-like robot shooting lasers - it's not too difficult if you cling to the walls and avoid them. The best weapon here are the missiles while overloading the rest of the arsenal to keep yourself alive.

Stage 7 becomes more flesh-like. The mid-level boss is a flying monster spitting acid, which is a pain to avoid. The boss is a scorpion-like creature, which grows a face on its ass, which spits lasers. Turns out the flamethrower shield isn't effective against that, making it even more useless. With the money I gathered I purchased more lives. Stage 8 is rather short until you meet Varanis again. He has a variety of energy weapons, so you have to be constantly on your guard, but they are not too fast to react. When you defeat him, he destabilises the Lemeris, basically turning it into a bomb. To make things worse for our heroes a giant alien eats them, so they have to fight their way out of its belly and then fight the giant monster. It's basically a huge xenomorph. You have to target its eyes while avoiding all the garbage it throws at you. It's surprisingly not too difficult. It explodes and our heroes are saved on a helicopter. Lucia then activates a portal with the Lemeris so that the explosion is teleported elsewhere. She sacrifices herself heroically, but I don't care about her. The destruction of the artefact however meant that Earth is no longer protected and the Zagard empire invades - you get a shitty cliffhanger ending, so despite all your efforts you basically lose. Bummer. Oh, and in an after credits scene you see Brad turning into a werewolf and he was supposedly genetically modified to hunt Bill and Lance. This is what some unknown chick is telling you at least, but at this point I don't care.

Operation Galuga is a mixed bag. While the gameplay is solid and I like the upgrade system (which can be a bit on the grindy side), the visuals are all over the place, sometimes making it hard to see enemy projectiles. This could be a fun co-op experience. The game has challenges and an arcade mode, which skips the awful story. The narrative is mindbogglingly idiotic. Imagine you get a sequel to Predator where Arnold's character turns out to be genetically engineered by a different alien race - it completely ruins his achievement and badassery. Like all Wayforward games this one is way too expensive for what it is. I don't recommend it until you find it at a deep sale.

While walking around I just encountered a boss called Loss, The Galefeather. It's some sort of a winged monster, which attacks you with its spear. From time to time it will charge at you and throw 2 types of projectiles, but overall it's a pretty easy fight. The whip is still the best weapon since it gives you enough distance to dodge on time. Just after the fight you find the Feather of the Windwalker afterimage giving you the ability to double jump. I also met Martin - a blacksmith, who was scared by the giant bird and informed you he'd now return to Resting Town. Later on I saw that you can buy and sell equipment from him, but he can't upgrade what you have. You also get the ability to downkick those fuzzy flying creatures giving you a bounce. Maybe you always had that ability, but it was never explicitly stated.

Next I reached an area filled with water-based monsters. There I decided to try out the great sword weapon type, which has a nice arc to hit enemies above you, plus it does decent damage. At one point I found a room full of treasure with a sleeping fairy in it, but there was no way for me to wake her up.

Later on I found a haunted town filled with ghosts and zombies. In a building here I encountered a female ghost named Madeline who was looking for her husband. I also ran into a boss fight against a blob monster called Twisted Legion - you fight smaller varieties of that in the level. It will summon short pillars of poison from the ground and spew some orbs from time to time. The best move is to use the whip in the air - this way you deal damage while you are safe from its ground attacks.

Leaving the haunted town I ran into another boss fight against a Crystallised Wolf. Its attacks are pretty easy to avoid, since they have a slow startup, but at one point it will spam projectiles at you. When you defeat it you reach a big manta ray, but you can't communicate with it. Then I went south through a room with some really tough enemies which had a glowing sphere in the centre of it. This has got to be important, but I couldn't interact with it at all.

The Field of Pyro is filled with fire-based enemies as the name suggests. When you meet Karsa here he warns Renee that the monsters are pretty fierce and Ifree also confirms that the Goliath of Pyro is the strongest one, meaning that his is more of an endgame area. I went back to the Town of the Exiled and on top of it I encountered Auss The Lunatic Mastermage. This was a challenging boss battle. She floats in the air, so all your ground attacks are ineffective and the same goes for the spells. I had to change to the earth column magic to reach her. Auss shoot a variety of different projectiles and some of them are even homing. She will summon energy beams from the ground, but you usually have enough time to run to a safe spot. Near the end of the battle she will start casting a massive spell - you do minuscule damage with your physical attacks, so I decided to use the areal whip move, which is by far the best one it the game to do multiple hits. Then on a whim I activated an Geo column, which finished her off. She dropped the Clammy Whistle which had a manta ray picture on it, so I'll have to go back to see what the fish does. I also obtained a Key To the Room of Ritual, and I have no idea what this opens. After the battle we met a female ghost called Rosalia. She reveals that Mastermage Auss wanted to perform a ritual on the town folk to separate their souls from their bodies, but it went wrong and everybody became evil spirits. Rosalia apparently has an inn and is another merchant in this world. I found a Divine Seed and I have no idea what it does.

The time came to tackle the last circle of Hell - Heresy. Early on I got Guy Fawkes, who applies 5 Decay to the enemy at the start of the battle giving you essentially 15 free damage when you attack. In fact I managed to upgrade him at the Anvil of Souls making him apply 10 Decay instead (55 extra damage in total). One of the tougher fights was against Chernobog (a miniboss), who hit really hard - each of his damage cards was about 30+ points, so shields were essential. I finished him by imploding the Stigma on him, dealing massive damage. While struggling to use the Anvil of Souls due to the frankly broken UI, I just realised that you can only equip 2 Damned at a time unless you upgrade your character.

Eventually I reached the boss of this circle - Lucifer The Morning Star. His attacks start normal, but a lot of them have massive Boosts on them, meaning the longer you play the more dangerous he becomes. Lucifer's redraw ability damages you and it also has 3 Boost, so you can't really redraw until you have the best cards to avoid damage from his regular cards. From what I can tell it's best to finish him as quickly as possible and I did that by Imploding the Stigma on him. Disappointingly there is no ending for Jeanne - just some text how she's the ruler of Hell now that Lucifer is defeated. Back at Nadir I unlocked Cortes as a playable character and some more card packs for Vlad. Honestly though, I have no motivation to replay the game with these 2 characters (who should've been unlocked from the start).

Nadir is an interesting deck builder game. The system is simple, but there is a lot of strategy involved on which enemy cards you'd want to activate. I really love the grim-dark aesthetic and creature designs. The game definitely has some UI issues here and there and the Anvil of Souls is downright broken and nearly unusable. Even with all that I would still recommend the game. It doesn't have much replay incentives once you complete it, but you can have a lot of fun trying the other characters and fighting against new enemies. I really recommend giving this game a try if you like the genre.

Cynthia's journey leads to a cave. There was a pretty cool labyrinth puzzle here where you have to figure out which door to use in each subsequent room based on the number of light signals you get when you enter. The trick is to number the doors from the left to the right and go through the value of the count. They she has to escape from a spiked wall going towards her. It's pretty easy, but still a fun and unexpected sequence. Cynthia then finds the second part of the Moonshadow artefact. It also turns out that the figure of light was Alisa - the Moonshadow goddess who wants to help our heroine.

In the next area you have to go through a swamp, where there are places where you'd notice bubbles - avoid those or you will be instantly killed. I also noticed that after I got the part of the artefact I obtained a new arrow type. The red arrows were described as having the ability to distract 2 people at once which was very misleading - I tried to shoot next to an enemy, but nothing happened. When you directly hit a foe he becomes confused and he'll kill one of his comrades before dying himself - nasty, but you don't have many resources to craft those arrows. Plus you don't get much of a chance to use them, because the next level is the final battle against Isidor. You are located in some sort of a space temple and he starts summoning his soldiers. I assumed that you have to avoid them and go towards him, but there's a barrier preventing you from going closer. It tuns out you actually have to shoot his minions with your bow, which is stupid because up until this point they were unaffected by arrows. This game has the same problem a lot of stealth games do - final boss battles often clash with the mechanics of the entire game. In any case, once you defeat them all minions you can approach Isidor. He tries to destroy Cynthia, but Alisa appears and sends him to another dimension. Then you get a happy ending of Cynthia's family and beloved returning to normal.

Cynthia Hidden In the Moonshadow is a pretty relaxing stealth game. It can be clunky at times, but you can feel that the game is made with love and passion. Once you complete it, there's little reason to replay the levels unless you try to get the achievements. I was wondering what the statues with the blessings actually do, but it's possible that I got a good ending because I collected them all. The different costumes are fun and so is the photo mode - I appreciate the anime-like chibi stickers. Overall this was an easy fun game and although it's not perfect, it's worth a try, especially for kids.


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