Game Review: Merek’s Market

Have you ever wanted to run and work in your very own medieval crafting store? A place where you can supply local villagers with various wares, daring knights with ceramic pots and so on? Well, now you can thanks to developer and publisher Big Village Games Limited and their new game, Merek’s Market.

“We’ve all been that adventurer throwing down bags of gold to buy swords and shields, but what about the poor souls rushing around behind the shop counter? Strange customers? Yes. Over the top crafting challenges? You bet. A shop cat? Absolutely! Take ownership of Merek’s Market as you haggle, barter and craft your way through a comical single player campaign or team up with friends to supply the whole town.”

You play as the titular Merek and have to please the customers that enter your shop by crafting the items that they request. The customers come in, tell you what they want and you go off and craft it for them. Example: someone comes in and asks for a chair. You grab a piece of wood and a cowhide and make a chair on the crafting table, to then deliver it to the awaiting customer before they leave. Different resources make different items and combining not just individual resources, but also fully made items can make new and different wares for your customers before time runs out and they leave.


Forgotten what resources make what items? Don’t worry as there’s a handy ‘recipe book’ that keeps all of your items and just how to make them. But you will waste valuable time stopping to read up on what items needed what resources. Need to make a staff? Just take a piece of wood to your workstation and away you go. But other items will need other and more resources. As you progress through the game, more recipes and resources become available to make more elaborate items. Every tenth level sees you having to take part in a ‘boss build’. These are massively large items that require much more work, all while you still try to manage the normal running of your shop at the same time. When you do finish one of these boss builds, your shop is upgraded. More workstations, more resources and so on. This really is basically Team 17’s Overcooked, but set in a medieval shop.

Occasionally, a customer will come in and instead of having to build an item for them, they will want one of your already made items, This begins a little mini-game where you haggle with the customer for the best price. Demand too high a price for your wares and the customer will get upset and even leave. Give a too low price and the customer will leave very happy, but you’ll be out of pocket. There’s also a 4-player couch co-op mode for some multiplayer mayhem where you all have to work together to keep the local villagers happy.


I have to be honest and finish the review by saying how I don’t much like these types of games. I tried to get into the aforementioned Overcooked, but it just didn’t do anything for me. I’m much of a fan of being rushed to play games, so titles that use time constraints as a gameplay mechanic are just an instant turn off for me. Still, I always try to be objective when I do my reviews and I always look at the cost of the game too. Merek’s Market is being sold for around £15 and despite this really not being my bag at all, I do think that’s a very fair price for what you get.


If you do enjoy these time and resource management, run around a shop-type games, you might really enjoy this one. There’s a good amount of content here, plenty of items to craft for your customers. The haggling mini-game helps to breaks up the continual crafting and the ‘boss builds’ can actually be quite entertaining and amusing. Speaking of which, Merek’s Market had a fantastic sense of humour and I admit to getting a few laughs out of it several times. It may not be my type of game, but it is a solid game nevertheless and worth a play if you’re into the likes of Overcooked.

Game Review: Crown Trick

I do love a good roguelike/lite game and it’s a sub-genre that is massively popular in the indie game scene right now. I’ve actually lost count of how many I have played and reviewed this year already and yet, I still have a major weakness for the sub-genre. Here’s another one too, Crown Trick from developer NExT Studios and publisher Team 17.  

The first thing that struck me about Crown Trick was its bold and vibrant art style. The opening animation really was a joy to watch and one that perfectly sets up the rich and beautiful world the game takes place in. A lot of the charm and personality of the intro finds its way into the game itself too. But I don’t want to bore you with the animation and graphics of the game, I need to look at how it plays.

As already mentioned, Crown Trick is a roguelite game, a sub-genre born from 1980’s Rogue. A very quick history lesson for you here. Rogue was a (what we now call) dungeon crawler where the main gameplay mechanic was that you die (a lot) but when you restart, the dungeon is randomly generated, so you get to experience a new game every time. Rogue was also turn-based and in that regard, Crown Trick is a wonderful homage to those roots. Yup, Crown Trick uses the old turn-based mechanic here too. Thinking about it, Crown Trick is probably the most Rogue-like roguelite that I have played in a long while. 


You play as Elle who finds herself trapped in a dream/nightmare. Early in the game, Elle finds a talking crown (stay with me) and this crown becomes her guide and helper. Right from the off, you are thrown into the action, exploring the dungeon-like dream you find yourself in and killing enemies and finding loot. At first, this all seems very button-mashy and rather shallow. However, there’s much more going on than just wandering around a dungeon and smacking enemies in the face.

Just going back to the whole turn-based thing for a second. Every step you make, the enemies move. This leads to some rather interesting strategy opportunities as you can lead enemies into traps and lure them to their doom. You could just pick up the controller and run around like a fool, bashing the attack button until the bad guys are dead. Yet, this would be a terrible idea for two reasons. First, you’ll end up dying a lot more than necessary. Second, you’re really going to miss out on a lot of the intricacies that Crown Trick’s gameplay has to offer. Everything is played on a grid, so you can move one square at a time. As it’s turn-based, you can really stop and think about your next move before you make it. It almost becomes a game of chess between you and whatever the dungeon has to throw at you, the game feels very tactical over action-based gameplay.


Like any roguelite game, you will die, die, die and die again. Upon your many deaths, you will be transported to the ‘Hall of Reincarnation’. This is your main hub and as you further explore the dungeon, you’ll find and recruit NPCs. These NPCs really work as upgrade shops for you various skills and items. As you kill enemies, you’ll earn Soul Shards, which act as your main currency in the game to unlock and buy upgrades. Kill more enemies, get more Soul Shards, die, upgrade, get further in the game, earn more Soul Shards, die, upgrade and repeat. 

Weapons and items come in a wide range of varieties too. Do you go for a long-range gun weapon to kill bad guys from a distance? If so, you need to remember that they need reloading and that’ll take up one of your precious turns. Or do you go for a melee weapon, you’ll have to get in closer to the enemy and risk taking a hit or seven. I think what separates Crown Trick from a lot of other roguelites is that element of strategy and thought. You enter a room and instead of just rushing in, you try to read the room, look at what enemies are about and keeping in mind what you have learned from previous runs, you try to anticipate their moves. This is where the whole turn-based gameplay really comes into strength. You seriously do need to just slow things down and make a plan of attack before you do actually attack. 


I have to admit that at first, Crown Trick really rubbed me up the wrong way. It all felt rather cumbersome and stiff to play, I was dying a lot more than I usually would with a roguelite. But that was all my own fault because I was playing it like your average dungeon crawler, like Diablo or something similar. I’d just rush in and start attacking enemies without even thinking… and that was the main issue, I wasn’t thinking. Once I slowed myself down and played the game correctly, once I got to grasps with the turn-based gameplay and more strategic elements that Crown Trick has to offer, everything just fell into place and clicked with me. Suddenly, I found myself really enjoying the game more and more.

Playing the Xbox version (it is available on Game Pass), I learned to really love and appreciate Crown Trick once I understood how to play it. This is not a game you put on for a quick blast, to kill half an hour. This is a game you really do need to invest some time and effort into. A game that is far more rewarding the more you stop and think. Most definitely a recommendation from me and as I said, it is on Game Pass for Xbox owners, so you can try it out for ‘free’ (so to speak). For everyone else, you’re looking at spending around £16 and at that price, you get plenty of game for your money. A real gem of a roguelite and one that is deeply rewarding… if you play it correctly. 

Game Review: Lake

Some games are easy to categorise and put into a specific genre. Beat ’em up, shoot ’em up, adventure game, FPS, etc. Some are not, just like Lake from developer Gamious. Honestly, I really don’t know how to define this game at all. It’s an adventure game… I guess, kind of. But not really at the same time. Here, take a look at the trailer, then I’ll do my best to explain what it’s all about.

So, the game is set in 1986 and you play as Meredith Weiss. Meredith takes a break from her job in the big city at a software company to return to her small hometown of Providence Oaks, where she works as a mail carrier… and that’s about it. You deliver mail. During your mail delivering duties, you’ll meet friends old and new, have conversations to then unwind after work. There’s no right or wrong way to play Lake at all, you just play it. And it’s a ‘strange’ experience too, not a bad strange at all, but more of an interesting and intriguing strange.

The main gameplay has you driving around Providence Oaks in your delivery van and handing out letters and parcels to the various residents. At the start of every day, you are given a list of the residents who’ll be needing their post. There’s a handy list with the addresses of everyone you need to make a delivery to. Thankfully, you don’t need to memorise the names of people or their addresses. In fact, you don’t even need the list itself as everything is displayed on the in-game map. Bring up the map, place a waypoint to your next delivery location and away you go. Technically you don’t even need to drive yourself either. The game features both a fast travel system to key locations and even an auto-drive option. So you can just pick a house, let the auto-drive do its thing, then just sit back and relax.


The driving of the postal truck in the game is really basic too. There’s the usual accelerate and reverse, of course. You can’t even crash so to speak. You can bump into roadside obstacles and even other vehicles driving around town, but those crashes don’t really affect you other than make you stop. There’s no GTA style road rage here. Anyway, get to your delivery location and you’ll either have to post some mail into the roadside mailboxes, which is done with a simple press of a button. Or, in the case of delivering a parcel, you’ll have to go to the back of your truck, open it and grab the correct parcel for the address you are at. Again, this is simple as each parcel is individually addressed and the address that you are at is displayed in the bottom corner of the screen. Everything about this game is foolproof and devilishly simple too.

As you deliver to the residents of Providence Oaks, you’ll get to know them more and more. Conversations will reveal more about everyone you meet, as well as fill in Meredith’s (your) backstory. The main story is (as already covered) you getting away from your high-paid software company job to work as a mail-person. You are taking the place of your father who has gone to Florida for a break himself with your mother. Anyway, after you finish a day of delivering the post, you get to unwind at home. You’ll also get various phone calls from both your parents letting you know how they are getting on as well as your boss from work asking for favours. After which, it is back to delivering post. You’ll also do side-quests around town such as helping the local cat-lady get one of her cats well after falling ill or even helping out the owner of the local VHS store to drum up some business.


The later side-quest even opens up relationship options in the game that I’ll not spoil here. The VHS shop is also a bit of a hoot to visit anyway. It’s full of parody VHS tapes for you to spot and have a laugh with. At first, I thought the parody films were to get around possible tricky copyright issues. However, the side-quest for the VHS shop has you delivering videotapes of real (non-parody) films to residents. Other side-quests open up all sorts of other issues for you to deal with as the game progresses.

After a little contemplation, I think I have the perfect genre the game fits into. Lake is a cosy ’em up. Everything is just so pleasant, nice, relaxing and, well… cosy. There is no action to speak of, no running around killing enemies, no experience points and levelling up or worrying about your character build. You just drive around, deliver mail and talk to people. It’s all very twee, serene, wholesome and relaxing. You can even go to the local diner and play an arcade game if you like.


I did come across a few negatives in terms of the low budget of the game. I found more than a few graphical issues. Shadows glitching as I was driving around, some very obvious pop-up graphics, questionable character animations. There was even a time when I was using the auto-drive option and my van got stuck in the road. However, I’m not going to sit here and rip this game apart for minor niggles. This is a low budget indie game and you just can’t expect perfection. Hell, a lot of AAA, big-budget titles have similar and even worse issues than this. So I’m more than willing to overlook a few slight niggles that never really ruined the game for me. Even more so when Lake is actually a very pretty game to look at to boot.

This all brings me to my final conclusion. Lake is being sold for £16 and for me, that is just feels a shade too much for what you get. Don’t get me wrong, I really loved my time delivering mail in the small town of Providence Oaks. I loved meeting all the people. I loved the slow pace and freedom the game has with no right or wrong way to play. Lake really chilled me out, to be honest. However, the interactions just feel too restrictive and pedestrian, conversations you have never feel like they’ll have any real impact for the most part (save a couple of instances at the end). Lake is a wonderful concept, it’s just a tad too linear and the choices you have never do really feel like choices in the grand scheme or that they will affect the story… aside from the very end. Still, I think that’s kind of the point.


Lake is a fantastically relaxing and tranquil game, a delightful change of pace if you ever feel like just unwinding and chilling out. It just needed a bit more meat on the bones. More interactions (like the arcade game), more depth, more… just more. Why can’t I pet the cats? Maybe do a spot of fishing? I still do recommend the game, very much so. But I need to just make people aware that Lake is very restrictive and you never really feel as free as I think the game wants you to feel. The gameplay is very light but it was the story and characters that kept me going until the end. I just had to see what was going to happen. Then, as I watched the end credits to the game (after about seven hours of playtime), I have to admit to having a warm and fuzzy feeling though. It really is a cosy ’em up and I do hope to see more from the devs in the future.

Game Review: Cotton Reboot

Time for a game review, but not from me. Instead, guest reviewer for my blog, Dave Corn, picks up his Switch to play some Cotton Reboot from developer Rocket-Engine Co. This is a remake of the classic Cotton: Fantastic Night Dreams, a side-scrolling ‘cute ’em up’ from 1991. This new version has updated graphics and a few other bells and whistles, but is it any good? Well, that’s what Dave is here to answer.

I think that labelling this title as a ‘cute ’em up’ does Cotton Reboot an injustice. When I say cute ’em up, what’s the first game that comes to mind? For me, it is Fantasy Zone on the Sega Master System/Mega Drive. Its bright colour pallet, chirpy music and generally not as violent as such a shoot em up can be. Titled as a reboot of the original Cotton: Fantastic Night Dreams, Cotton Reboot is less a reboot and much more like a remake. The Switch release also includes the 2019 re-release of the Sharp x68000 arcade port of the original, so you can make quick comparisons between the two if you like.

Cotton Reboot falls into a sub-genre also known as a witch ’em ups. In places, Cotton is much closer to a bullet-hell type shooter and feels incredibly well placed with Deathsmiles, another witch ’em up verging on a bullet-hell shooter. Cotton won’t take you very long to play through either. From start to finish, it clocks in at around thirty to forty minutes. However, game length is not the point of these games, it’s all about the high score, lives/continue usage and getting trying for that great score in less time.


I think that speedrunners will adore this game. Seven stages with two to three bosses per level and each with their own mechanics and patterns to master. Whether it be your usual shot, bombs and magic, learning the correct tactics for each stage would knock plenty of time and deaths down as you try to perfect your run.

The storyline for Cotton Reboot is really weak but 90% of the people playing an arcade shooter like this, they’re not investing in these games for their stories. It’s all about fast and frantic shooting action from start to finish. The inclusion of the original game is a nice touch. If you haven’t played Cotton before, then Reboot is a vastly improved version, so the original will feel more than a tad empty now. There have been other Cotton games released between the original back in 1991 and Cotton Reboot now. The last game before this reboot was released on the Neo Geo Pocket following other titles on the Saturn, PS1 and several other consoles.


Cotton Reboot really boils down to being a really great arcade game. Definitely something for people who’ll want to try and finish it with one coin (being able to complete an arcade machine using only a single credit, no continues) to really sink their teeth into. Side-scrolling shooter fans will love this game but with a price point of around £30 (physical), which works out to a pound a minute of gameplay for a single playthrough. To me, that seems a bit harsh on fans. The time I spent playing this game was fun but at its price point, it seems to be forcing titles into rarity. A limited batch of physical releases means this fan favourite title will become more expensive and increasingly harder to find than the Super Mario Bros. 35th Anniversary game, a prime example of creating a faux rarity in modern gaming.

If you have played the original and you are a fan, then this title is for you. But, if you are looking for a new bullet-hell come side-scrolling shooter, then there are cheaper and longer games on Nintendo’s virtual store that offer far better value for money. To finish, this shooting, magic throwing ‘cute em up’ does exactly what it says on the tin but without an audience reminiscing over the original, that too high price point doesn’t seem justified. Don’t get me wrong, this is most definitely a great game, but I suggest waiting to see if you can grab it in some sale or on offer. At full cost, you may feel a bit ripped off with what you are getting for your hard-earned coin.


Gameplay 7/10. Fun but too short.
Price 5/10. Too high but hardcore fans may appreciate this at full price.
Presentation 8/10. A nicely wrapped reboot.remake with several great mixes of art styles.

A big thank you to Dave Corn for doing this review for me. Perhaps they’ll be more reviews from Dave in the future? You can find Dave and me over at Lockdown Gaming on Facebook. Come join us for some top gaming and general entertainment chat, why not?

Game Review: Big Rumble Boxing: Creed Champions

I love the Rocky films and I mean a deep-rooted love. For me, Rocky Balboa is one of the most endearing characters in cinematic history, by far Sylvester Stallone’s greatest role. There have been a few Rocky based games over the years… with varying degrees of success. But overall the Rocky films have not been represented all that well in terms of video games. Can developer and publisher, Survios give us a worthy title? Let’s find out.

Big Rumble Boxing: Creed Champions is a sequel/spin-off from Survios’ other boxing game, Creed Rise to Glory where you played as Adonis Creed from the films. Oh, it was VR too. Of course, VR is limiting as not everyone (or every console) has it. Big Rumble Boxing: Creed Champions is basically a non-VR version of the previous game, now available for everything and with a few bells and whistles thrown in to ring.

Okay, right off the bat, this game has the official Rocky and Creed licenses. As you can tell from the main pic (or trailer) for this article, they’re all there (pretty much). Both Apollo and Adonis Creed, Ivan Drago, Clubber Lang and yes Rocky Balboa too. All using the likenesses of their respective actors too. But the license doesn’t just end there, there’s the music. Gonna Fly Now, Eye Of The Tiger and more. Big Rumble Boxing certainly looks and sounds the part. Even the locales used in the game are authentic, from huge boxing stadiums to Mighty Mick’s gym. Honestly, just from being on the main menu for this game, I had a huge smile on my face because… well it was authentic Rocky.


Speaking of the menu, there’s not a lot here to get your teeth into. Aside from what you’d expect in terms of options, etc there’s not much in terms of actual gameplay options. There’s a training mode where you can practise your fighting, combos and so on. A versus mode for some local one-on-one fisticuffs (no online play). Then there’s the main meat of the game, the arcade mode.

The arcade mode plays pretty much like any arcade beat ’em up. One fighter vs another, first to KO wins. Oh yeah, this is a pure arcade fighter here. You won’t find realistic boxing mechanics, no fighters tiring due to a lack of stamina, zero World Boxing Association rules and regulations. This is exaggerated, pure arcade beat ’em up action from start to finish. You have a light, a hard and a grapple attack (one button for each). You can block and dodge. Then there’s the special meter, it fills up the more you land hits then, at the press of a button, you can unleash a haymaker of an attack.


You can counter an attack if you time the block just right. Stagger/stun your opponent with a well timed-combo. You can even bounce them off the ropes or slump them against the turnbuckle with a well-placed powerful hit. Really, there can be a few layers to the boxing and while button mashers will do okay, you will need to learn the various moves to get the most out of a fight. Even so, those layers to the fighting never do feel quite deep enough. How the arcade mode works is that you pick a fighter and you get to play through their own mini-story. As an example, play as Rocky Balboa and you’ll relieve moments from his career shown in the films. The second fight against Apollo from Rocky II. The battle against Clubber Lang from Rocky III. The awesome slice of the eighties that was the Ivan Drago brawl from Rocky IV… no Rocky V or Rocky Balboa fights though.

There are also fantasy fights. You can play as Rocky in his prime vs Adonis Creed or even have Apollo actually beat Drago instead of getting killed in the ring, etc. Anyway, you pick your fighter and take them through their own mini-story. Finish that fighter’s story and you’ll unlock a new fighter. Play as Rocky and unlock Apollo. Play through Viktor Drago’s story and unlock his father, Ivan. You’ll also unlock alternate costumes for the fighters when you complete their story’s too. To break up the fights, there’s a training mini-game. The training doesn’t actually affect your fighter in any way. Plus the training is nothing more than just simple QTEs. Quickly tap the trigger buttons when running on a treadmill, press the correct button in time on the heavy bag, etc. They are a mild distraction that I really don’t think wouldn’t have been missed if they weren’t here.


Time for some niggles, these really are very personal niggles too. You can’t KO an opponent in the way you may think. Every single fight really is a battle to knock down your opponent four times before they do the same to you. This plays very much like any arcade beat ’em up where it’s a best of three (sometimes five) rounds. But because this is boxing based, for me, it just felt ‘off’ that you can’t KO anyone, no matter how well you fight. It’s four knockdowns (the fourth leads to a KO no matter what) to win. Once you get your head around the fact that this is how the game works and ‘proper’ KOs are just not possible, it works.

Next niggle. As I said, I’m a massive Rocky film fan and there are inconsistencies here when you relive events from the films. A few examples for you. You can live out the never seen fight between Rocky and Apollo from the end of Rocky III. In the film, it takes place in Mick’s gym and the two are alone, nobody witnessed the fight. But in this game, while it still takes place in Mick’s gym… there are dozens of people watching and cheering. It really takes away from the legendary fight that the film set up and the whole intimacy of it when you’re surrounded by cheering fans. Also, I was doing a fight playing as Apollo in the 1970s and at one of the venues was a banner for Adonis Creed. You know, Apollo’s son who wouldn’t have been alive at the time that the fight took place. There’s also a fight when playing as Rocky when you go back to his days as a debt collector for a local small-time gangster. The fight rightfully takes place in a dirty back alley… but both Rocky and his opponent are dressed in full boxing gear. So Rocky collected debts in his boxing shorts and gloves did he and from fellow boxers too? Little things like that just took me out of the game slightly. As I said, they were personal niggles.


On to more gameplay focused issues. Though there are a total of twenty characters to play as (ten unlocked from the start, ten you have to unlock by playing), they are all pretty much the same. Yes, boxers have various styles, Rocky is a brute and hits hard whereas Apollo’s punches are weaker, but he is faster. All the boxers still feel very much the same. I guess the best way to explain this is that it would be like playing Street Fighter II and all of the characters in the game were either Ryu or Ken. Aside from the special move, which varies depending on the style of the fighter, the boxers are all the same. Oh, and there is only one special move per fighter too and that really gets repetitive seeing the same animation over and over and over.

There are just not enough modes to keep you interested. Remove the training where you can practise and all you have is the versus and arcade modes… that’s it. No story mode or career, no online fights or anything. Big Rumble Boxing: Creed Champions is really bare minimal for a fighting game. This was a wonderful opportunity to really let the players live out the Rocky saga but you can’t. A fantastic chance to include a create a boxer and career mode, where you take a hungry fighter from the bottom to the top. The game is just a very bare basic arcade fighter and with all the boxers pretty much playing the same, the fights being so ‘structured’ and all, there’s not a great deal to drag you back into it once you have seen one or two of the character’s story’s play out.

Oh, and before I forget, Big Rumble Boxing also does that dirty, cheating final boss fight that all arcade beat ’em ups do. If you have ever played any one-on-one fighter in the past, then you’ll know what I mean. It doesn’t matter how well you fight to get to the boss, if you have managed to not lose a single round because you’re actually pretty damn good… the boss will flatten you. There’s a major difficulty spike when you reach the final opponent, no matter what fighter you play as. The boss will doge 90% of your attacks, while his blows will connect 100% of the time. He will successfully counter your moves nine out of ten times. His special meter fills quicker and he’ll never miss with a special attack either. Remember when you first got to M. Bison and Street Fighter II or Heihachi in Tekken… or worse, Seth in Street Fighter IV and they completely demolished you no matter what? Yup, that happens here too. I hate this faux difficulty shit. Like rubberbanding in racing games, if I’m winning via my own skill but the opponents need to cheat to claim victory.


I always end my reviews by asking myself if the game is worth buying. For that, I need to look a the price tag. Big Rumble Boxing: Creed Champions is available on all formats for around £31 – £35 (depending on the format) and for me, that is a very difficult price tag to swallow for the very limited game you do get. This is a £12 – £15 game at the most and seeing it go for double that really is disappointing. Yeah I know this is fully licensed and all… but that is still way too much to pay for what you are getting here. For £30-odd, I’d expect Sylvester Stallone himself to turn up at my door, sit there as I play and offer me training tips. Nope, this game is way too overpriced for what it is.

Hey, if there was a deeper story mode, a career that you could really get your teeth into, then just maybe a £30 price would be justified. But I honestly can’t sit here and pretend that you get a worthy game for your money… you don’t. Big Rumble Boxing: Creed Champions is fun in short bursts. The actual fighting is limited as the fighters themselves are just too similar to each other. There aren’t enough gameplay modes to keep you interested and everything is just too short-lived. If you can get it in a sale down the road, it might be worth a purchase.