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Totally Sucks Blood

This series... man. So good. And they're contest entries!? I have no idea why I like this game so much!

Oh, wait, yes I do. Here's why.

The game's appeal lies a lot in its humor. I mention some of the "jokes" that the game uses, so if you'd like to remain un-spoiled, know that I recommend this game wholeheartedly.

Halloween Bash is a prequel to Halloween Flop. It takes place in what is essentially a Halloween Town, minus Tim Burton. The world is filled with ghosts, vampires, witches, mages, and were-beasts. There is also a myriad of media references (I'll touch on this again later), which actually makes sense in a "Halloween costume" way. If ever there's a world in which fairies could look and act like Cartoon Network heroines, it's this one.

You play as Bobby, Delila, and Eddy, a newly-dead ghost, vampire, and human spell-caster respectively. Bobby's recent death has her confused and lonely. Her immortal soul now resides where Delila and Eddy call home, and they take almost no plot time to start their adventure by heading to what promises to be a killer Halloween monster bash. But, instead of a party, they find that all of the guests oppose them... under the orders of a witch!



Yeah, better be scared!


The dialogues are short and effective. And so is the plot. This all works to the game's advantage. "Simple" is a term I'll be using a lot, and I mean that in the most flattering way. A hero can display character, relationship dynamics, and humor in a single breath.



Bobby, telling it like it is.


It may seem too pander-y to call the writing of such a tongue-in-cheek game "tight," but it is. A game doesn't have to be epic, heartbreaking, and thought-provoking to be clear, impressive, and thoughtfully executed.

There are no gut-wrenching deaths or tear-jerking family issues that we can all relate to. Instead, there's a feeling of success. In one way, you feel like the game is made exactly like it needs to be. Success! And in another, each stage of the game gives the player everything a player should get to feel accomplished and progressive. Double success!

When entering a room you're likely to see a couple of things: people, stuff, and an idea.



A manor without a large library is no manor at all.


The people are your opposition. They are the meat of the game, having personality and conflict. When they are defeated you're treated to dialogue that further fleshes out the heroes and amuses. (Seriously, don't underestimate amusement in a game.) You're even given a Training Manual to progress your characters; Every encounter provides direct enhancement!

The "stuff" in the room is decor, but in its simplicity you get more chances for lovely dialogue and world-building. Beyond that, which is a reward in itself, you might find stat growths. These are useful, but not necessary.



What the hell are these, and why do they make me better at hurting people?


Useful-but-not-necessary rewards for clicking on things is the bread and butter of games centered around exploration, so it may seem out of place or misguided in a Halloween RPG. However, the rooms are so--again--simple that the addition of these little bonuses makes the area feel dense with delight! That's a feeling of satisfaction I heavily enjoy. I'd much rather have a small, dense room to explore than a giant, empty desert. (I'm looking at you, Estersands...)

Then there's the idea of the area. This might seem like a minor point, but if I'm allowed to nitpick faults I can certainly nitpick merits. The layout of the manor as a whole is... unrealistic. Yet, every room is themed. There's a courtyard, a kitchen, a bedroom, etc. The thing is that you never fully and openly comprehend these rooms as the rooms that they are, yet they leave a good impression in the back of your skull. If, for instance, most of the side rooms were just guest bedrooms or some repeated hallways, something wouldn't sit right in your head. There would be a feeling of in-completion, or oddness, that might taint the overall feeling.

Again, this seems minor, but finding your enemies practicing acapella in the kitchen seeps the game in just that much more atmosphere.



Actually more of a pantry than a kitchen, but I'll take your word for it, Alvin.


Speaking of Alvin and what look like undead chipmunks, let's get back to references.

There are plenty.

This is a hard line to walk. There are so many references to external media in here that, if told about it, you might cringe from the obvious gimmickry. ("What is this, a Dreamworks film? Lay off the modern appeal a bit.") And, truly, this game might not age as well because of this.

However, they accomplish the feat really well. So well, in fact, that there are groups of characters that are in all likelihood parodies of some other game/movie and yet still felt like good characters. In the library, there'e a trio comprised of a mer-person, a demon-y thing, and a... black creature. Who were they? No idea. Still, they had enough going on in their dialogue and character that I enjoyed them even without "getting the joke."



What IS that thing!? And WHY!?


Almost all of the characters are written this way. If you don't understand that Disgaea reference near the end of the game, you still enjoy the sequence. But if you DO understand the reference, there's an extra layer of "haHA" in it for you. This is tough to execute, and they do it well.



Look at the minimalism and clarity of this menu screen. LOOK AT IT!


The details are no less impressive. For example, there's an enemy that is part of a larger joke about him being secretly smart. When you highlight this enemy in battle, the cursor also reveals "E=MC^2" and other equation-like bits. That's subtle, easily missed, and wonderful.

Likewise, they implemented a data log in battle that shows everything that you and the enemy have done. This is great for the battle strategy, but it's also great in that it works to balance the action text. When a move is used, you get treated to some funny quips. But if you had to read them every time, the battles would be slow and tedious. The text speed is fast enough that you can get through the battles at a perfect pace, yet slow enough that if it looks like something funny flashed by you can check the data log. They compliment each other well.



Another detail: The mummy on the left is named Stop and is wrapped in caution tape. Brilliant.


Speaking of the battle system, maybe I should mention it, yeah?

It's great. I don't mean that it's revolutionary by any means, but it's kind of perfect for the game.

Each creature is either Magic, Undead, or Astral. The way they affect each other makes sense in the grand scheme of the world, but also provides the main strategy. Some might say it has the Elemental Affinity triad we see a lot, but even that's not entirely true. Rather than each type being effective against the other in a triangle, two types have strengths against another while the third (Astral) has an immunity. This allows the third the ability to work as a differing job. Instead of being another hitter that is useful against the Undead, they are self-sacrificing healers that are immune to the Undead.

It's hard to not appreciate this variance from the trope. There's a real Tank aspect to this healer in that she is protected from an entire enemy type. She even has a counterattack. Then there's also a sort of Warrior aspect in that she uses the bulk of her HP to be active. But even with the HP-usage, type-immunity, and counterattack, she's clearly responsible for healing HP, resurrecting, and restoring MP/BP. She's a support character that is altered in such a way that she has to support herself first, then kill herself more to aid her team.

The balancing of it all is really well done. It never felt too easy or too hard. I'm sure directing the AI and adjusting the movesets was tough, especially since the player is given full control over which characters grow first.

But the thing that I loved about the system the most--a carry-over love from Halloween Flop--was the battle scope. By the time the battle might start feeling old or predictable--right before that happens--the game is over. You're given a meal that completely satiates you. Every move has been tested, every strategy thought of, and every dynamic explored. Then you get to the last fight in which you get one last SURPRISE to appreciate.

Well done.


Okay, this game is only an hour long or so... and yet here I am, talking it up like crazy. Yep. But that's the charm of this piece.

You don't come away with all of the grand feelings other indie giants might give you, but there's a very real place that a game like this sits. This fills a hole in the compendium of indie titles that can only be filled by smaller, tighter, lovingly crafted experiences. A need is being satisfied whether players know they want it or not.

Play this game and enjoy it.

Posts

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Thank you for the lovely review~! Especially thank you for pointing out a lot of the tiny little details and jokes and such that are all over the game. As the writer (and the artist who abused those hidden enemy select details haha) it makes me grin from ear to ear when these things are caught and appreciated!

The whole time you're working on those sorts of things you're thinking "Will anyone even notice that E=MC2? Gosh I hope so!" So I'm just super glad and thank you!

As for the trio in the library, since they were mentioned, they are a reference to a webstory I co-write/illustrate called Artoris. (you totally want to check that out! *shameless plug*)
It also doubles as a call back to the first game. In the first game, all of the references are pulled from well known things, save for one - which was a team inspired by Castle Chase (a game Rach and I made prior to these)
So we did the same thing this time around, and had one personal reference in a sea of 'pulp culture'

Thank you again! I'm glad you enjoy both this game and the original!!
Indra
YOU ARE BEING TOO AGGRO
10701
+10 for accuracy. This game is friggin awesome, as it should be, made by two friggin awesome ladies >I
author=Indra
+10 for accuracy. This game is friggin awesome, as it should be, made by two friggin awesome ladies >I

Only friggin' awesome ladies can identify other friggin' awesome ladies. ;D
I concede that you're all awesome!

author=MakioKuta
As for the trio in the library, since they were mentioned, they are a reference to a webstory I co-write/illustrate called Artoris. (you totally want to check that out! *shameless plug*)
It also doubles as a call back to the first game. In the first game, all of the references are pulled from well known things, save for one - which was a team inspired by Castle Chase (a game Rach and I made prior to these)
So we did the same thing this time around, and had one personal reference in a sea of 'pulp culture'


Great! I have Artoris bookmarked! I played (and loved) Castle Chase, so I got that reference in Flop. Cool to know that not only was this trio also from an "inside" work, but that they fit so well into Bash. :)

So far all of your works that I've played (including Sunken Spire) have left a lasting impression--in the good way. I'm not sure how your teams are arranged or if you have a constant flux of people, but some magic among you works well. :)
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