Handsome Ransom

Today we’re looking at Handsome Ransom, by blankd. You are a 21-year old kobold that is turned into a princess by her Fairy Kobmother to fulfill her dream of attending a royal party. Naming herself Kosette in a cursed reminder of the Bowsette era, she attempts to attend a party, but is quickly seen through as not being actual royalty. In order to become royalty, she decides to conspire with a dragon to kidnap actual princes and princesses to acquire the wealth needed to be considered legitimate!

There’s one big issue with the game that’s glaring from the start and it’s that there’s little to no music. The sound is clearly there, there’s just no music set to anything – either that or RPG Maker MV has tried my patience for the last time (like how it’s erasing text on subsequent playthroughs, for me). It’s just kinda weird that there isn’t even RTP music, considering that the creator has no problem using the RTP graphics alongside their original art (which, by the way, is pretty cute).

Going in though, you’re greeted with some fun writing. After Kosette accidentally kills a man, she becomes a wacky, arrogant cartoon villain – in a good way. She meets up with other kinds of kobolds that will lend their aid, all of them offering amusing dialogue as they negotiate pay; there’s even a few interludes where they get to babble as you storm the castle of the demo’s royal. Said royal, the Rose Prince, also turns out to be a huge likable weirdo, which makes his knight upset. Handsome Ransom‘s writing is generally full of character and charm and was easily the best part of the game.

As you meet up with your teammates for the first time, an overwhelming weight is placed on your shoulders: team customization. There’s a whole bunch of characters to recruit and there’s a whole lot of skills to buy. Your shadow kobold friend could be built up as a poison expert or into a glass cannon that could wipe the floor with anyone you set them against; your chef can easily become a healer, but can also be retooled to be a strong attacker based on the amount of meat they have. There’s plenty to play around with, though the demo, covering a plant based area, encourages you to bring fire and cutting skills. The team building potential actually reminded me a lot of YOMOTSU, which was the winner of the last IGMC, so I went in with high expectations.

Unfortunately, going into the demo proper, I’m going to have to be honest: this does not seem like a game that was playtested.

You enter the Land of Roses and go into the next room. But it’s not the next room, because for some reason the teleporter takes you to the next room over. Enemies approach you. But their conditions are set up wrong and they only fight you when you touch them, not when they touch you, making them chasing you feel pointless. You get into a battle and you get poisoned during the battle. The poison carries on after battle and for some reason healing at save points does not remove it.

And the fights themselves are poorly balanced. The Busy Bees can attack with a move called Dazzling Speed that hits in the hundreds. Multiple times. And you typically encounter them in groups of four. To contrast, they’re paired up with Shine Flowers that have mundane attacks, only good for finishing you off if the bees haven’t already. The final boss of the demo has an attack called Thorn that does 0 damage, while also having a group attack that can hit into the hundreds.

Your attacks are no different. As Argeth, a commenter on Handsome Ransom‘s page says, the bees seem to ignore damage randomly. For me, this was a general problem. I brought out the fire breathing party member against the plant monsters and for some reason, attacks either did high damage or no damage whatsoever. On the plus side (in a bad way), if you have the cook and a bunch of regen spells to stack, you can pretty much heal all damage after every turn, as long as you aren’t just flat-out killed during the enemy turns (…which is entirely possible).

I had high hopes for Handsome Ransom. It had the set-up to be really engaging and I dig the original art and fun writing, but it is perhaps the most poorly balanced game I’ve ever personally played. I know that it’s supposed to be a prototype, but this is supposed to be a prototype representative of a bigger experience and I’m sorry to say that it leaves a poor impression. I can personally see myself playing this as a visual novel because as I said, I dig the art and writing, but as an RPG in this state, I wouldn’t rank it highly.

Junkdogs

Junkdogs is a Cowboy Bebop inspired IGMC 2018 entry by sudobeats where you are part of a team of space scavengers that gets on the wrong side of the law. Wanting to get the bounty off their heads, Joe scavenges through an abandoned ship but ends up getting the gang on the wrong side of the wrong side of the law.

While I’m not too into the story, I’m into the game’s atmosphere. Even with a criminal organization chasing after you, there’s this laid-back mood to it all that that gives off this tone that this is just another day of being a space outlaw. This is largely enforced by the game’s original soundtrack, which is a mix of jazz and chill beats to study to that I really got into. The soundtrack, for me, is what makes the game. It made the game’s writing more engaging than it really was with the mood it brings and sets the tone of the game quite nicely. While I personally think the battle theme could be more energetic, the soundtrack is overall a defining part of Junkdogs.

The game is split up into a big adventure segment and a battle segment. The adventure game part has Joe checking around the abandoned spaceship. On top of the usual adventure game puzzle stuff found in adventure RPG Maker games, you can also smash crates to get items for the upcoming battles and hunt down CDs to play the game’s soundtrack, which also includes music that doesn’t play in the game proper for a nice bonus, giving incentive to poke around a bit more.

After you accidentally piss off the local crime syndicate, you’re thrown into the seat of your scouting ship and head into battle. The battle system is your standard turn-based RPG stuff, but framed around spaceship battles. Skills defy the standard in that they’re limited use, with only the combat ones being replenishable. To be honest, the battles didn’t feel engaging to me, but this is likely a result of having only one playable character, which typically closes off variety in what you can do. Like, maybe one of the other characters could have flown in to back Joe up in the second phase of the fighting and have the Arc Cannon as a unique aspect of their ship instead of Joe just suddenly remembering he has it. Personally, I feel that while the game was generally good at presentation, it falters with the battles. It doesn’t fully capture the “cool space battles” image it tries to go for, with its plain scrolling background and mostly simple animations.

On the note of presentation, Junkdogs uses assets from the POP collection of RPG Maker assets for most of the game. The packs are actually geared more toward horror games and are almost always used for that purpose, but I think Junkdogs succeeds in putting them toward a different direction, which I admire.

Junkdogs is an alright game, though it’s one that knows what direction it’s going. While the battles could have been better, I think the demo acts as a good showcase of what a full version of the game would be like and the effort put into the soundtrack indicates a strong direction, to me. It’s definitely an entry that carries itself with confidence.