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GOTY '22

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Recently Played See More

Paper Mario TTYD64
Paper Mario TTYD64

May 18

The Grinch
The Grinch

May 16

Alice in Wonderland
Alice in Wonderland

May 16


May 16

Armored Warrior Iris
Armored Warrior Iris

May 16

Recently Reviewed See More

Bitter Companion

It's surprisingly less perverted than the title would lead you to believe. Basically its a short story about a cisgirl falling for a stealth transgirl on the bus after finding out shes a huge fan of her NSFW social media drawings. Eventually she is led back to her home and lewdness ensues. There's a lot of games that play into this more simple queer sexual romance, for instance Demon Dash (2022), Housewarming Gift (2018) both by Nadia Nova. Along with a lot of the releases by Aria such as Ignored and Humiliated by Gamer Girls (2022). The fundamental interaction here is where desire meets respect of the other.

I like to think of these types of games as fairly wholesome LGBT power fantasies, because everything is simplified down to just the erotic desire. Power fantasies are fine and compelling, and I think there can be a bit too much moralizing when it comes to this stuff. If it's not appealing to you specifically or making some shortcuts to keep the story simple and focused, suddenly its wildly offensive, perverted, or otherwise needlessly fetishistic. I condemn this way of thinking and would draw a direct line between this criticism and the conservatives that try to outlaw library books. We need wholesome desire for our bodies out in the world, and I don't think taking undue scrutiny to already obscure texts is that fair. Imagine if you went and wrote some smutty fanfiction, uploaded it, and then found out a lot of people were poking fun at it one day. In a lot of these cases people are not being mindful that teams dont make art like this, but a single person does. At some point so called constructive criticism runs closer to bullying than it does to being anything helpful. I think the difference here is that I've actually had some of the people's works I criticized reach out and thank me or give feedback to what I said and it grounded me to realizing that at the end of the day I'm paroling somebodies creative drive. Like sure, death of the author and all, but it's only fair that people are going to feel hurt. I've had some of my posts on here get reposted to twitter before by big accounts to be mocked (particularly the Vampire Suvivor post) and I have to be honest it kind of stings to just see a bunch of people tell you you're wasting your time and doing nothing.

With that all said though, this doesn't mean I or you have to force ourselves to enjoy these works. Whether it be because the prose isnt effective or it cut a corner you're not fond of (in this case talking smut on the bus is not something im into as I like to keep my bus travel quiet, and the power fantasy of the 1 date girlfriend is something thats a little too fast for my tastes). You can even express that if you want. You can say a work is a bit too fetishistic or plain etc, but at the end of the day its just a preference. You don't get any points for gloating over how bad it is and in general doing so for works this small makes one come off meanspirited and demotivating people from making games you might enjoy in the future. This is a pervasive way of speaking about works that I've seen on RYM and is slowly creeping its way onto here. Almost none of these games were constructed to sustain this kind of mockery. It's likely you could be contributing quite directly to somebodies despair.

There's one other sentiment I want to demystify because it frustrates me deeply. Many people that are trans and most that aren't are way too open with their use of the word chaser to describe something or someones behavior. Again, we trans people like to be desired, and this relegation of everyone wanting for us or writing about our bodies as chasers is harmful. A chaser is somebody who usually wants to meet us on the downlow away from a crowd, that see us mainly as a porn fetish (a ladyboy or a shemale), that are only interested in hitting and quitting. Chasers tend to have no interests in our kinks or getting to know us or seeing us as people. Alex Jones, who was found to be looking at trans porn is a chaser. The person who wrote this story is almost definitively not a chaser. On top of that, while trans people can be uncomfortably perverted they can't be chasers. Chasers are only a term that apply (for the most part) only to cis people, and so saying that a trans person for one reason or another is being a chaser is transphobic rhetoric and should not be done so wantonly. We have other terms to describe perverted behaviour we dont like: Leering, objectifying, etc. Accusing everyone and everything of being a chaser robs that notion of its actual meaning and function. Which if you don't know, is to keep us personally safe since chasers don't respect us and thus can't be trusted to have good motivations.

There's lots of art like this running around, and every time people crowd together to make fun of it, it creates a quicksand pit of resentment and discontent. Every time people do that for art like this, it makes the people that even brought it to attention not want to anymore. It hits our morale a bit. God forbid the people just want to make games to practice and have fun with their desires in the process. It's exactly this attitude why I have my comments turned off. I don't want to argue with the types of prudes that would've tried to hang DeSade.

Maudlin Clown Companion

Edit: After playing the game for about a week or two up to gold stake difficulty and unlocking all the cards and vouchers, I have decided it's mediocre and underwhelming. Most of the problem is found in a lack of options in the shop. The demo had us go to ante 5 with 2 options and this worked. The full release has us go to ante 10 with still only 2 options. It feels in retrospect outclassed even by it's biggest inspiration luck be a landlord. It also only has 1 song which gets extremely repetitive. Uncomfortably top close to the appeal of casino flow states in that sense. On top of this the alternative decks force play styles like flush builds or going for chips, unlike the first 2 decks, this makes most of the game a novelty. Longer thoughts from earlier on below but can't in good conscious reccomend this.

I've won 8 different times now over the course of about 25 hours with a few different starter decks. For a roguelite thats not too often but that on its own is not a knock. People will play Nethack for 100 hours without a single win. It's about what you do in a game that matters. The decision making and that overall goal. In a game like Astrea or Nethack these goals are discreet yet ambitious, killing a big heart after going through complicated dice or ascending after dealing with a litany of confusing combat engagements.

Balatro is about taking a 52 card poker deck and using the hands you're given to make points off a sheet to eventually win. When you do win the celebration is mild and unsatifying and it asks you if you want to play endless mode immediately. In one of the early dev builds there was a simple story where the joker that sets the game up and jeers you in the meantime, setting up some fairly simple motivational stakes to beat the asshole joker. That was removed from the finished build, leaving no core motivation to play besides winning for its own sake.

The game is a simple maths strategy game, after you beat a round you are entered into a shop with an option to choose between 2 different cards to buy in the shop and a few 'booster packs' below. All the sounds are satisfying but this is where the game runs into its main issue. The main cards, the jokers, only have 2 options to buy between and especially as you unlock more of the pool that pool becomes flooded with useless stuff. Tarot cards you cant use, planet cards that dont help, jokers with no multipliers, etc. This leads to the fundamental problem of the game: None of the runs feel special unless you have really curated your deck somehow or you have 'won' that particular round. You're just walking into a shop hoping it feeds you what you want (usually early on its mult jokers). If you can get out of the early game then you have plenty of time to decide in the midgame but often, you wont. I've often lost before the end of the first 'boss blind' or in other words the third 'fight'. You only have 2 options, buy from shop or skip a blind. Even if you skip a blind you have to play the next round which expects more points so it isnt usually reccomended. So the meta usually ends up being playing rounds and hoping the shop has useful things. There's a 5$ reroll button but usually it only makes sense to use that when you're desperate. Leaving you with only making a few choices until the mid to end game.

So eventually the game turns into an issue of restarting for a good opener, whether or not you restart you play the opener through. Because the combat engagements are so abstracted there's no feeling like in an ascii roguelike that an early failure is amusing in its own right. You don't fall off a horse and instantly die, or get consumed by a random slime because you forgot to equip your weapon, you just lose to a poker table screen. In my view the input variance was just made too high with a lack of stakes and a fairly simple opening meta to follow (play the first three rounds clean unless you see a multiplier joker).

Finally, the metaprogression unlocks just end up sullying the shop pool, so the game on a base level gets more difficult to play than you started only as a result of input varience increasing. In a world where games like Astrea, Wildfrost, Desktop Dungeons, Griftlands, and Cobalt Core exists, Balatro ends up feeling too simple and yet too high varience to be reccomendable. It's a time sink roguelite, something to toy around with in the background in hopes of a next win. The early game is very satisfying to play but as the shop pool clogs up and the hedonic treadmill hits in you can't help but think you should probably be doing something else. This focus on refining difficulty to this point along with high varience reminds me of how Binding of Isaac played out. At first it was narratively focused, a story of a traumatized kid running through the basement in tears, playing pretend. Eventually that game was turned into an RNG fiesta and made so difficult and took away most of the scaling options through variance that even for most players the ability to win became way too difficult. I feel like Balatro is learning the wrong lessons from late Isaac in this sense. Not every player needs a perfect narrative to anchor their play experience, but the difficulty spike with a lack of early game options just turns the whole game into a grinding treadmill. Mind you this is a criticism coming from somebody who has some of the rarest achievements in the game at the moment, including finding a legendary Joker, so I have actually played the game I'm not just trying to be difficult for no reason.

It's a shame because I was looking forward to balatro but I think while it will be a flash in the pan for a while it won't ultimately stand up to the test of time. Unlike something like Vampire Survivors its not egregious, because runs arent strictly stuck to a time limit you have to sit through, nor is it an eye sore, nor is it entirely without decision making. Yet, the difficulty being as high as it is, without any narrative amusement for failed runs, means that it becomes mind numbing repetition to play. You end up playing just to win to unlock the next meta progression unlock (which can all be unlocked from the menu anyway if you don't care about achievements thus nullifying any goal other than 'win'). The appeal of the game only lasts for the first dozen unlocks and first win and becomes more or less busywork after that point. I will probably get 100% but I'll remember my experiences with it in a year far less fondly than Colbalt Core and I think on some level a game you can feel happy reminiscing about matters a lot more.

This review contains spoilers

Unraveled Companion

CW: Discussions of Child Abuse, CSA, and Rape

This is an interesting instance, to a certain extent, of how the functions of what a 'game' should do get in the way. For instance even the set up here wants to have its cake and eat it to. The warning at the beginning of the work is a bland and vague warning that the 'topics in the game' may be 'sensitive to some players' but then when you're actually playing it, its pretty clear its about extreme parental abuse and child rape. This is not rape as in 'allusions to extreme creepiness', this directly and bluntly a fiction about CSA and rape. The kid gets impregnated in the route towards one ending or theres a drugging and belt unbuckling sound reveal in the other. You have to signpost this stuff or at least put it in a strongly recommended readme you can't mess around with depictions like this. That's the literary approach. The game developer approach is to hold onto some cards and not 'give away' the impact you're setting up.

Then there's the smaller details: There's a leapfrog leapster clone in the work, but the game there is just a bland minimalist minigame rather than anything a child would actually want to play. The goal marker in the corner is both extraneous and a little odd from a UI standpoint as it always has this little dash marker next to it despite only showing one task on screen at a time. The dots hovering over the items you can interact with and the wait function also feels like a very basic UI element. These are once again game design tricks that impair a more serious narrative.

It may seem incredibly anally retentive to bring this up, but I do so for a very specific reason: Most of the problems for why the game are bad is because the creator has decided to make their very first public project this heavy and is thus borrowing assets and plotlines from other horror games they like. Most clearly the work is borrowing from Presentable Liberty (2014) with the limited 1 room environment, minigame that marks itself as completed and unreplayable after you beat it, and the dual endings with one being a desecration into further abuse and the other being escaping the confines of your imprisonment. The issue here is that Presentable Liberty's tone is way more of a zany scenegirl approach (ala Invader Zim or Llamas with Hats) which allows the mechanics to function fine in line with the tone. These mechanics don't work with this more sombre tone at all and actually impairs it immensely. If this work wanted to do this subject matter effectively it should have been borrowing from the more muted interface of a chrstphfr work like The Space Between (2019). Thereby removing the hackneyed music, the UI overlays, removing button prompts, simplifying dialogue text to silent hanging statements, relegating to a single ending, probably focusing more on sound design, etc. This approach, along with more general refinement, would have garnered the game a lot more staying power and success at what its trying to depict, whereas in its current state it became an amateur youtube flash in the pan horror game of the week.

Obviously I feel we need to bring back trigger warnings as a serious notation to the public in a big way. However, I am also concerned this game is gonna open up a giant 'sexual assault storytelling' commercial portal in the middle of what is generally considered to be videogames indie creepypasta scene. Imagine something like this with this level of attention dropped back during the early days of the SCP, and then you had a bunch of sombre rape stories floating around in there. It would be a mess and it would taint the whole joy of that niche when recommending it to your buddies. 'Oh dont read SCP-1030 that one is a forced impregnation story where the person gets gangraped by the subject'. Like I'm not trying to be histrionic I'm just giving a comparison point for why this reaks.

I'm glad to see the game has gone mostly ignored by this point, but if any more games like this come down the line I'm gonna chew them out to.