You’d think that December should be a slow month when it comes to game releases, but Thunderful begs to differ. The publisher is releasing four (!) games in a very short period, with Paper Cut Mansion, Togges, Swordship and Wavetale all getting multi-platform releases. Here are our thoughts on them, so you can see which one(s) you want to pick up ahead of the holiday break.
Paper Cut Mansion review (PS4)
Developed by Space Lizard Studio, Paper Cut Mansion is a title that immediately stands out through its aesthetics. Set entirely in a mansion made out of cardboard, it’s a game that looks completely unlike any other horror/haunted mansion game we’ve ever played. It was also designed as a rogue-lite and comes with a dimension-hopping mechanics, making it rather unique.
The central premise, however, is about having to solve a mystery as a police detective named Toby. You’re looking for clues as to what’s going on, and why you’re even trapped in this strange house to begin with. To do that, you need to traverse the house floor by floor – which is done by gathering clues and solving puzzles.
Easier said than done, of course, because to get to that point you need to make use of the portals that let you switch between dimensions – offering you alternate version of the level you’re in, not just visually but also in terms of gameplay. In the Reptilian dimension, that means being confronted with a lot more combat. In the Limbic System dimension, things are extremely cold and you need to find warmth in order to even survive. Die in any dimension, and that’s the end of your run – though permanent upgrades help you push further over time.
If you look beyond that novel approach and the cool visual style, however, you’ll find that Paper Cut Mansion’s procedurally generated floors and their puzzles are quite alike from run to run, and as a result a sense of repetitiveness sets in after a while. Part of that is the confined nature of an indoor location, but part of it is also the slow pace at which you build your character and thus progress. There are better rogue-lites out there, but this one at least has a look and feel that stands out from the crowd.
Togges review (PS4)
Togges was developed by Regular Studio, and puts an original and colorful spin on the puzzle platformer genre. And if you were wondering what a “togge” is – it roughly translates to “block”, and stacking blocks is one of the core mechanics here. And while we’ve seen plenty of puzzle platformers with blocks and cubes before (Q.U.B.E. comes to mind), this one’s a bit different.
When you’re not stacking and solving puzzles, Togges plays very much like a classic 3D platformer – the kind you’d play on console two decades ago, full of lush colors and charming environments. Where other games are story or objective-driven, Togges is non-linear, and you can explore its large levels at your own pace, checking out different corners of the map in the order you want. Your robo vacuum-like character Toomba can pick up Togges for you and place them elsewhere to create trails and solve puzzles, but in which order you tackle puzzles isn’t important.
This lack of hand-holding will probably not resonate with some players, especially when you consider that levels in Togges are quite large and people are generally used to being guided in a certain direction. We think that that’s probably going to apply more to people coming from a fondness of platformers though, as puzzle fans will love just navigating the map and running into new and sometimes surprising challenge all the time. If that’s you then you’ll enjoy Togges, especially because its audiovisual presentation is lovely and just oozes charm.
Swordship review (PS4)
Swordship, which was developed by Digital Kingdom for Thunderful, is the second roguelite from the publisher in this roundup, but it takes a very different kind of approach to the genre – one that’s almost arcade-like in its reliance on quick reflexes and comes with a flashy visual style to match that.
But despite its arcade-like approach, Swordship comes with a story premise – one that’s set in a post-global warning kind of world where mankind now lives at the bottom of the ocean in manmade cities. Not everyone gets to live there though, and with survivors living on the remnants of habitable land there’s a kind of piracy happening where transport lines between these megacities get attacked for the precious cargo they contain.
It sounds like it could be a cool setup for a grand story-driven RPG, but in reality you won’t see much story here. Instead, it’s an action-heavy roguelite, but with the twist that – despite the aggressive-sounding name Swordship – you’re seriously lacking in firepower. You best way of taking down enemies is maneuvering in such a way that they catch each other in the crossfire. That takes some quick reactions, but it looks and feels great when you pull it off.
While surviving, you can also pick up packages and then drop them in the designated spot – earning you the credits you’ll need to upgrade or boost you score, the latter of which is interesting if you’re looking to climb the online leaderboards. Fail, and you’ll keep some permanent upgrades – it wouldn’t be a roguelite if you didn’t. That’s really the core gameplay in a nutshell, and Swordship isn’t the deepest roguelite out there as a result. It’s fun and accessible like an arcade game though, while still throwing up plenty of challenge. Combined with interesting gameplay mechanics that revolve around NOT directly attacking your enemies, this is an excellent new take on the formula.
Wavetale review (PS4)
It was fun to see that Thunderful’s end-of-the-year releases can be tied together thematically. Wavetale, which was developed internally for PCs and consoles, is an action adventure that – like Swordship – features a backdrop of a world where climate change has led to rising sea levels. It’s like it’s 1995 all over again.
Wavetale is much more easy-going than Swordship though, and as action adventures go it’s relatively light on action and focuses more on traversal as you make your way through the narrative campaign. The story itself leans into its environmental themes and mankind’s role in all that at times, but doesn’t feel overly preachy while doing so. Instead, it’s much more about your own role in Strandville, which is almost entirely under water but is still home to a cast of interesting characters.
Protagonist Sigrid travels through Strandville by surfing its waterways in search of a cure for the “Gloom” that has taken hold of everything. Traversal is one of the highlights of the game, and it’s fun to dip under the surface to pick up some speed, Ecco-style. There are a few monsters to defeat, but combat is something you can get past with some simple button-mashing and it’s not too challenging or exciting because of it. You’ll probably have much more fun whizzing through the world making use of scenery elements to speed yourself up as you complete quests.
A lot of those quests revolve around straightforward objectives that result in you chipping away at the Gloom as you get rid of black clouds by powering lighthouses. Side quests are often in support of these objectives as well, though exploration can also help you find lore and cosmetic items. And while that perhaps may not sound too exciting, the heart and soul of Wavetale lies with the lovely emotional storytelling and the endearing cast, with Sigrid and her grandmother who raised her at the center of it. As a change of pace that lets you engage with a heartfelt story, Wavetale is a nice narrative-driven experience you can easily complete in the scope of a weekend.