Monthly Archives: September 2018

Personal: What’s on my phone

asus zenfone 3 max.jpg Product page

About a year ago, I wanted a new phone. My first smartphone was a Samsung, which was my 2nd and 3rd smartphone as well. I always wanted to try a different brand and since I bought an Asus Zenpad 8S in 2016 for my birthday, I wanted to give the Asus Zenfone a try. I’m quite content with my Asus Zenfone 3 MAX. I have the 5.5-inch version, so it’s quite a big phone in my opinion. So, a while ago, there was a tag challenge in the tech community to tell your audience what you have on your phone. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but I still want to do it. So, here we go. Also, I invite other bloggers to do the same thing. What is on your phone? If you write an article about it, feel free to tag me on Twitter or link to this article. Or feel free to leave a comment here as well. 

Mini review

So, before we go to the main event, I first want to give a mini-review on the Asus Zenfone 3 MAX. What are the things that I love and dislike about the phone? I have been using this phone for a year now. If you want to read up on the specs of my phone, you can read it here on gsmarena.com.

There are a few things I dislike about this phone. If you use the screen at max brightness and either WiFi or 4G, the phone’s battery drains quite fast. Lowering the brightness helps quite a lot to save battery. Another thing has to do with the call quality. Sometimes the microphone doesn’t pick up my voice too well and the other end doesn’t hear me, but if I reposition the phone a bit, that fixes the issue. Another thing I dislike is that buttons like home or back aren’t backlit. But, that’s all I really dislike about this phone. While other reviewers would find other things wrong with it, I really like this phone and it fits my needs perfectly.

So, what are the things I really like about this phone? It’s my first phone with a fingerprint reader. This makes life so much easier. More on that later. Another thing I really like is how this phone seems to get frequent updates to the latest version of Android and all the latest security patches. I prefer the ZenUI over TouchWiz any day of the week. The camera on the phone is really good for family pictures in my opinion. But, the biggest factor for this phone is that it’s priced at 250-280€ and you get an amazing phone for that price.

What’s on my phone?

Now, what’s on my phone? Quite a lot actually. I nearly always carry my phone with me since it’s a handy tool when I need to look up something quickly or snap a quick picture of something I need to remind myself of.

Since I’m rarely at my desk at work, I always have my phone with me. So, they can call me whenever there is a problem. Also, I love listing to music while walking and I use my phone as an old school music player. So, my music app is one of my most frequently used apps.

First of all, I won’t talk about every single app that’s on my phone. There are quite a few games I have installed on my phone for when I’m in a waiting room or have some time on the train and the batteries of my 3DS or Switch are out. I’ll only talk about the apps I placed on my home screen since those are the apps I use the most.

Whenever there is an app I use often, I place it on my home screen. If I stop using it frequently, I remove it from my home screen and replace it with something else I use frequently.

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This is my first home screen. This screen greets me when I unlock my phone. For obvious reasons, I won’t show how I unlock my phone. On the left of my main home screen is the Google Assistant/Google Now. This way I can catch up with the latest news of the subjects I’m interested in. On the right, there is a 2nd home screen with additional apps. More on that later.

At the bottom, I use the classic vanilla apps. From left to right, you have the dialer, my text messages, a button to see all apps, Chrome, and my camera. On top of my home screen is a big clock with the date displayed. Besides that clock, I have the messenger app. I talk quite often to friends over messenger and if I want to share a link, Messenger is the easiest way. Underneath that, you have the Play Store. Each morning, I update all my apps and check the store if there isn’t anything interesting that I could review on my blog.

Then, you have three rows of 4 apps each. The first row is my calendar, my finder app, Discord, and Dropbox. The calendar app is Google Calendar. I use this app often to remind myself of things I need to do. I put more than just my appointments or birthdays in my calendar. Things like: “Article day”, “Write the time for the final project”, “Write a piece for collab” or “Release of thing X” are things that appear in my calendar as well. Appointments have a red color and things I need to do have either blue or yellow. Blue if it’s something I could delay and yellow if it’s urgent or if it can’t be delayed.

The file explorer is the one that comes with Asus’ ZenUI and I love it. It gives me Windows-vibes and it’s really great to use. Whenever I download a file, I can quickly find it with this app. When you open it, you can select to view all images, videos, music, documents… on your phone or just explore the phone. An amazing feature here is that I can set up a wireless method of accessing the files on my phone. When my phone and the device I want to access from being connected to the same network, I can wirelessly access the files on my phone. It creates a link I can visit and I see the same thing as the file explorer app. This app saved me various times.

I use Discord to talk to other bloggers and friends from over the whole world. I’m also part of some servers where game developers look for bloggers to promote their games. If you want to add me on Discord, just shoot me a message over Twitter. But, an app I use really frequently as well. I actually have Dropbox Pro, since I use this as a backup method. I have close to 500GB stored in my Dropbox. Everything from files I need for work to my final project is in there. So, I never worry too much about dying hard drives or losing my files. I also use the Photo Sync feature of Dropbox. This feature saves all the pictures I make with my phone in my Dropbox so I can use them directly on my computer or all the other devices I connected to Dropbox.

In the second row, we find Instagram, WordPress, YouTube, and WhatsApp. I do have an Instagram profile, but don’t frequently use it. I enjoy browsing Instagram to see what my friends are up to. If you can’t guess why I use the WordPress app, well, I use it for checking and fixing things on my blog on the go. So, I’m quite a big fan of YouTube. I love watching tech channels, retro gaming channels, game development channels and various other channels relating to creating things. The final app on that row is Whatsapp. I mostly use that app to keep in contact with my family or my theater group. That’s all I use Whatsapp for.

The final row on my main home screen is the row with the most used apps on my phone. Twitter, since I’m quite active on Twitter. Outlook to check my mails and “Nationaal” is the app I use to check the train schedule to get from and to work. I know that I skipped an app. That’s “Pulsar+“. In one of the firmware updates of my phone, Asus removed the quite excellent ZenUI music app. So, I searched high and low for a great music app on the Play Store. First I used Pi MP3 Player, but I started to run into issues. For some reason, no apps wanted to update on my phone after I installed that app.

Not too long after, I found Pulsar. I liked the app so much, I actually bought the premium version. It includes additional themes and some neat additional features. I can’t recommend this app enough if you enjoy listing to music on your phone. It’s one of the best apps I have used in a while.

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So, on my 2nd home screen are the apps I use less frequently but I want quick access too. Let’s start with the first row. This has the Facebook app, the UEFA soccer app, a weather app, and the Nintendo Switch Online app. The weather app, AccuWeather, is an amazing weather app. It’s quite accurate in my area and I use it to check if I need to take an umbrella on my walks or not. I use the UEFA soccer app since the soccer app of my local sports channel doesn’t have the UEFA Nations League tables built-in. I use the Facebook app since I dislike the website on mobile and I find that it was quicker and easier access to certain features. And finally the Switch online app, I use that app for if I want to voice chat during online Switch play.

The next row has the Steam app, for when I want to check the Steam Store and to have an additional layer of security for my Steam account. Besides that, the Easy Banking app is the app I use to check my finances. Then, you have the Sporza Soccer app. I use this app to follow my local soccer league and to see what the Red Devils, our national soccer team is up to. And Bancontact is used for quick payments, once you set up this app, paying for the doctor goes so quickly.

Oh, before I continue, quick side note. If you are American, I mean football when I say soccer. That said, let’s continue.

The next row has my gallery. When I need to show a picture of somebody. I find the way that the gallery app sorts pictures better than how my finder app sorts them. Besides that, you have the calculator app. Strangely, this is one of the only apps that doesn’t have its name translated in the ZenUI to Dutch. It such say “rekenmachine”. Oh well. It doesn’t bother me that much. Then, you have the Maps app, I use it as a GPS. And finally on that row, you have Imgur, for quickly uploading pictures and since I love this website.

The final row has the Telenet Mobile app. This app is from my ISP and I use this app to check on how much mobile data I have left. Besides that, you got Reddit. I have periods when I get very addicted to Reddit and go on the site a lot and there are moments I rarely visit the site. The final two icons on that row are the Patreon app and the Grumpy Cat game.

I use the Patreon app to check on posts the creators made that I support on Patreon and the Grumpy Cat game is just one of my favorite games on my phone at the moment.

You might notice that I leave one row empty. This row is my temp row. On this row I place apps I just installed and I want to test or if a developer asks me to review them. So yes, that screenshot might be a teaser for an upcoming article. Whenever I tested them or wrote the article, I usually remove them from my home screen.

A few apps that I want to mention that aren’t on my home screen are:

Ringtone Maker – MP3 Cutter – One feature I miss from Samsung is that when you select a song as a ringtone, it searches the best part of the track to start the ringtone. This app solves that and I can even choose from where start my ringtone.

Datasize Explorer Pro – Whenever I’m running low on space on my phone, I use this app to check which apps take up a lot of space and I should remove or clean the cache of.

WiFi Analyzer – If you are a techie or a networking person, this app is a must on Android devices. It helps you to visualize WiFi to help you troubleshoot issues with WiFi.

And all the other apps, outside of games, are apps from local stores here in Belgium or the Netherlands I use to shop or to buy my retro games from. Or your typical apps that almost everybody has like Shazam. And a few apps I don’t think are worth mentioning.

So, that was quite a lot. I’m quite curious to see which phones you guys have and for what you use it and what apps are on your phones. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. It was something different from what I usually do, but next time I’ll get back into gaming stuff. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Publishing: The Evolution of AI in movies Infographic

AIinfographic.jpg

If you want to read more and know more about the authors of this infographic, you can visit their site at https://enlightened-digital.com/ai-goes-to-the-movies-a-history-of-artificial-intelligence-in-film/

Gamer’s Thoughts: How to play mobile games on your PC.

CaptureOfficial website

For some people, it isn’t easy to buy the latest and greatest phone to play the newest and greatest Android games on. Thankfully, there is a solution for that. It’s a solution I often use myself actually. There is a program called “BlueStacks” that allows you to play any Android game on your PC. I use this tool when I want to take screenshots when I want to review an Android game. To my big surprise, the folks over at Bluestacks contacted me with more information about BlueStacks 4. So, that’s what I’m writing about today. Before I begin, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts on the program and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

What’s new

Currently, BlueStacks got a huge update. In v4, a lot of work has been done to make BlueStacks an even better platform to play Android games on. In this infographic created by the developers, you can find an overview of the changes and improvements in this new version.

If you want to download the program for yourself, just go to the official website that’s linked higher in the article and install the program. The installation is extremely easy. Just follow the on-screen steps and the installer does the rest for you. It gets even better, when you log in with the same account you use on your phone, you will be able to download all your purchased apps and install them in BlueStacks.

It’s quite impressive how far this program has come. Back in 2011, the first version of BlueStacks was released and today it’s one of the best programs on the market to play Android games on. With this program, you can easily stream, record or create screenshots from all Android games. And you can even play them.

If you don’t like the Google Play Store, BlueStacks also has its own AppCenter. This center is a new skin for the Play Store. Each program takes you directly to the corresponding page in the App Store.

Here is the best thing of all, using BlueStacks is completely free. There are some ads in the program and you can’t customize your wallpaper. If you buy a premium account, you will be able to change your wallpaper and have no ads. You also got priority responses from the support team, if you need them. This subscription costs only 40 dollars yearly. The only annoying thing is that there aren’t too many payment options.

By doing various tasks, like loading up a game and returning daily, you earn BlueStack Points. With these points, you can buy themes and various merch prizes. At the moment of writing, there isn’t a list of which actions award you points. You can also buy BlueStack Points as a sort of microtransaction. But, these points are totally optional.

Playing games in BlueStacks

Thanks to the developers over at BlueStacks, I already got the chance to play around in a development build of version 4. Since BlueStack now supports the mapping of joysticks to keyboard buttons, I decided to try it out in Corpse Party – BloodDrive. Thankfully, there are cloud saves so I can pick up from where I left off.

screen 1

When I first installed the game, for some reason, the game closed to the desktop twice. But, the 3rd launch, the game just works perfectly fine. After mapping the joystick to the ZQSD (WASD in AZERTY, since I’m from Belgium and use AZERTY.) and the other joystick to the arrow keys, I was surprised at how accurate and fluent this works.

After that, I tried to map my keyboard keys to my wireless XBOX360 controller using a program called XPadder. With this program, you can map keyboard keys to one input on your controller. It’s quite a neat program actually. BlueStacks and XPadder work just fine together. While I wish that BlueStacks works with controllers like the wireless XBOX360 controller; then again, for how many games will you be able to only use the controller and not have to use the mouse to tap/click on a spot? So yeah.

If you want to set this up for yourself, you need to click on the keyboard icon in the righthand corner. This brings up a new menu where you can choose between controls for various actions. Currently, the following things are supported: a tap spot, d-pad, zoom, aim/pan & shoot, Moba Skill Pad, Swipe & Tilt. You click on what you need and drag it to where the button is on screen. If you want to change the keymap, you click on the button and press the key you want. It’s as simple as that.

screen 2

After you click save, you can start playing. Now, you can hide those keys. If you click on the eye icon that’s next to the keyboard icon, have a slider to choose how transparent you want those keys to be. I have set them all as invisible for the next screenshots in this article. I usually play on BlueStacks with invisible controls actually.

The next game I tested was the port of Sword of Mana, I played this on my tablet a while ago and it’s a very great port actually.

screen 3

I quickly got used to the controls I set up for this game. While I could set up a whole lay-out for the menu system for this game, I found that the clicking through it with the mouse works just fine. Also, I found this game easier to play, since now my hand didn’t cover up parts of the screen. I think I’m going to switch to BlueStacks to finish this game since it’s a more enjoyable experience than playing this on my actual tablet.

The final game I tested was Minecraft Story Mode. At first, I was annoyed that I was unable to login to my TellTales Account. But, I quickly realized why. Since I used to enter to confirm my password, I went back to the login screen. When I clicked “OK”, the login actually happened. Curious, I took my own tablet and tried the same thing on there, and I had the same problem.

Anyways, I was surprised at how quickly I was able to download and install the episodes on BlueStacks. I actually tested the download speed of episode 5 on my tablet and on BlueStacks and I found that the episode was downloaded and installed faster on BlueStacks than on my tablet.

The reason I wanted to test this game on BlueStacks is that I wanted to check if this game also has the graphical issues I experienced on my tablet or if it’s a problem with the graphics chipset of my tablet. Besides that, I wanted to test a game that didn’t have a d-pad for moving the character but relies on pressing the screen to move your character.

BlueStacks_ScreenShot

Surprisingly, this game works perfectly. I actually placed a hidden dpad and the game reacts perfectly to that. Also, I didn’t notice any graphical issues. But, the graphical issues happened so rarely on my tablet, I can’t say it’s totally fixed. Something I did experience was a small audio desync in the 5th episode. The voice acting started a second after the characters opened their mouths.

The quick-time events were easily done with the mouse. It did require me to get a bit used to the new way of playing this game but it didn’t take long. It reminded me that I want to finish this game.

So, now that I tested 3 different games on BlueStacks, I invite you to test out different games. Please, tell me your experiences with BlueStacks in the comment section. What games work and where fun to play on BlueStacks and which games gave you issues?

And with that, I want to thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, take care and have a great rest of your day.

Review: Age of Mythology Extended Edition (PC) ~ And on the 7th day he gamed.

ageofmythologyextendededitionSteam store page

Ah, Age of Mythology. I got introduced to this game when I wasn’t able to understand English. It was at a co-worker of my mom’s house. I was playing the games on the PC I didn’t own. The first time, I played with the Egyptian culture, since I have quite a fondness for the old Egyptian culture. A few years later, I found Age of Mythology in a garage sale. It was a French version, but I didn’t mind. I was finally able to play that one game I played for myself. Back then, my French was better than it is now. It didn’t take long before I found a copy of the Gold Edition with the Titans expansion pack. I played the game quite a lot back then. I even dabbled in online play. Fast forward to 2014 and Age Of Mythology Extended Edition releases. Overjoyed, I start it up and have a nostalgic wave. But, is the game any good and does it still hold up. Let’s find out. 

Tale of the Dragon

To my surprise, in 2016, the game received new content. This new content isn’t too well received if you read the Steam reviews. But, I’m running ahead of myself here. First, let’s take a look at the story of this game. In this game, you play as Arkantos, an admiral from Atlantis. Something strange I have to point out is that the Atlanteans were added with the expansion pack “Rise of the Titans”. 

Anyways, Arkantos gets a mission where he has to help Agamemnon in the Trojan War. Things go south right away and Arkantos’s fierce enemy Kamos tries to boycott him. The story of this game is quite long. It has over 30 missions and it will take you 30 hours to finish the main campaign. If you decide to play the additional campaign the DLC brings, you get a 10 hours additional playtime.

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During the story, you come across various allies and go on a big adventure. The writing in the game is good. Personally, I prefer the stories in this game more than the stories that were told in Age of Empires I & II. The way how they used the mythologies and stories to create one huge story is just amazing.

Something that still holds up from the original is the voice acting. During the story, you come across Greek, Egyptian & Norse missions and each character feels and sounds unique. My favorite missions were Egyptian missions. The reason for that might be because I’m really fond of Egyptian mythology.

But, would I say that the voice acting is actually good? Oh, no. The voice acting is cheesy and over-the-top. And to be honest, I love it. It adds to the craziness of the story and atmosphere. I get the impression that the voice actors had an amazing time in the recording booth. The voice acting just clicked with me and actually made me laugh out loud sometimes.

The two base campaigns of the game are a blast to play through. I’m also glad that the downloadable short campaign “The Golden Gift” is also added in the Extended Edition. This was a 4-mission long campaign you were able to download from the official website as a sort of update/free expansion.

So, I also played a bit through Tale of the Dragon for this review. While I can understand the negative reception of this DLC, I would still recommend it. Now, there are some balancing issues and the multiplayer with the new Chinese civilization is sometimes quite unstable. But, it provides some new and fresh challenges in the game. I have to admit that I haven’t experimented with them too much since I love playing with the Egyptians the most, but from what I have played; the Chinese look like a lot of fun to play with. If you want a more in-depth review of the DLC, I would recommend that you read Moshfish’s review on it. It’s an amazing summary of what’s good and what’s bad with the DLC and I agree with a lot of it.

I want to add one thing to the Tale of the Dragons review. I don’t know if it’s just me or if other people experienced it as well, but in some missions, I didn’t have background music. Also, I found it a missed opportunity to add additional Asian tracks to the soundtrack.

Something minor that I experienced as well is that when you use a God power, usually a name is display who uses it. In the main campaigns, that’s Arkantos. In Tale of the Dragon, it’s nobody… No name is displayed.

God powers and such

age-of-mythology-extended-edition-windows-screenshot-arkantos

This game plays like your typical RTS game. If you have played games like Age of Empires II or Rise & Fall – Civilizations At War, you will feel right at home. Your main goal is to build your civilization. You do this by assigning villagers various tasks to collect resources or create buildings. With these resources, you can create more units to improve your economy or create an army to defend from enemies or attack them.

There are, including the DLC, 5 different civilizations to play with. The Norse, Greek, Atlanteans, Egyptian and Chinese. Each civilization has it’s unique units and quirks. For example, the Norse has a special cart, the Oxcart, that is a sort of movable drop off point for resources. The Greeks need to have villagers praying to great favors while the Egyptians need to build statues of their gods to create favors. 

The best way to learn how to play with these civilizations is to play through the campaign. By the end, you will know the basics and some advanced mechanics with each civilization. But, if you are totally new to RTS games, there is a “Learn To Play” map where you get the basics of RTS gameplay. You learn how to play with the Greek civilization. The unique elements for each civilization are explained in a cinematic. Now, there is no Greek one and in the Chinese one, some bits take a bit too long.

If you ever want to know more about a unit or a building, you can just click on the portrait. You get a very detailed screen with a lot of information. This information contains the unit’s or building’s things like strengths, weaknesses, and uses. You can also click on “contents” to read a full in-game Wiki. Too bad it doesn’t have a search feature or a better menu system. If this was expanded upon, this would have been an even better tool.

You can play through the campaign on 4 difficulties. I mostly played through the campaign on the normal (moderate) difficulty. I would recommend that you play the game on the Normal difficulty first and decide if the game is too easy to too hard for you and switch if needed. Overall, the game is quite balanced and I rarely had moments where I found the AI was quite unfair.

There are a few unique mechanics in this game. First, let’s talk about a new unit class. Besides your typical triangle of sword, bow, and horse; there is a 4th unit class. Myth Units. These units can be trained in temples and are effective against human units. Each civilization has unique to the mythology of that civilization. For example, centaurs for the Greeks and sphinxes for the Egyptians.

The second unique mechanic is the Titans. When you reach the last age, you can start building a Titan Gate. When this gate is completed, a titan unique to that civilization is summoned. These are huge and powerful units that can be used as tank units to attack the enemy. Now, you can only place this Titan gate once, so if it’s destroyed, though luck. Also, the Titan is quite weak to Hero Units and siege units. So, be careful if you use the Titan.

Now, if you have played Age of Empires III, this mechanic might be sort of familiar. When you advance to the next age, you can choose between various advisors who give you a certain reward when you advance. This isn’t different in this game. When you advance to the next age, you can choose between two minor gods. The god you choose decides which myth unit you can create at your temple and which god powers you can use.

Yes, the final unique mechanic is the god powers you can use. Each civilization has it’s own unique god powers which range from offensive to defensive powers. You can summon earthquakes, spy on the enemy for a limited time, summon a healing spring, have a moment where nobody can attack… There are a lot of them. Most of them can only be used once during gameplay. Some can be used more than once, but they all have a limit.

If you want to read more in-depth about how this game works, I recommend that you take a look at this website: http://aom.heavengames.com. It’s a huge website containing very detailed information and strategies on how to play this game.

Most of my time has been spending in this game playing random matches versus the AI of this game. In the past, I was quite skilled in this game. I knew most of the keys to quickly and efficiently create my base and build up my army. While I love the economic play in this game, I’m horrible when it comes to balancing my army. Since I played a lot with the Egyptian civilization, I don’t know a lot about the other civilizations.

If it’s not clear by now, I think that the gameplay in this game is excellent. The campaign has quite a lot of challenges but just playing on a random map versus the AI is quite a lot of fun as well. There are some things I would love to change about this game but there is a very active modding community providing a ton of mods in the workshop fixing bugs and fixing most of the issues I have with this game.

Let’s dance

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The soundtrack of this game is amazing. The soundtrack is orchestrated and uses an amazing mix of various instruments.

Each civilization has it’s own unique theme and unique tracks. Also, the developers enjoyed themselves way too much with naming these tracks. The main theme of this game is called “A Cat Named Mittens” and one of the most relaxed and most chill tracks is called: “Eat Your Potatoes”.

Together with very good sound effects, the audio of this game is a hit. To this day, when I listen to the soundtrack casually, I remember how the villagers sound and other sound effects. Something I really like is how the sound effects are played in stereo. So, if you move a unit from the left to the right, you will hear your unit in your left speaker.

Now, the rest of the presentation of this game isn’t that great. Don’t get me wrong, the game looks great and the theming is very well done but some character models look out-dated. While I personally don’t mind that much, I feel like this extended edition could have done a lot more than just simple widescreen support. The additional visual polish isn’t much to write home about. Just look at this Imgur library created by NecessaryDerp from 2014 where the graphics from the original are compared to the Extended Edition: https://imgur.com/gallery/L8WEE

Am I saying that the game looks ugly? No, I’m not. Like I said before, the game still looks great. The improved visuals for the liquids like water and lava are quite pleasing to the eye. And to be honest, the only moment I find the graphics dated is when you are extremely zoomed into the map. Also, thanks to the magic of Steam Workshop ingratiation, you can use a lot of mods to improve the visuals to your liking.

In the past, the online community of this game was quite alive. There were a lot of people playing this game. I remember that were at least 100 different lobbies. Nowadays, the online community of this game is dying. The day I publish this review, there were only 5 lobbies. It’s a shame since I played some great game mods online. From King of the Hill to a sort of Dota clone.

There is one thing I really dislike in this game and that’s the save and load menu. Now, it works fine but I wish it displayed more information. For example, if you were playing a random match or if it’s a save in a mission/scenario. I haven’t found a mod that’s able to solve the issues I have with it.

A nitpick I have with this game is with the map. I love how you can rotate the map holding the CTRL-key down, but there is no identification on what position it was originally in. It’s a minor thing.

Something that frustrates me the most is that this game doesn’t receive additional patches. The updates stopped in 2016. Yet, the developers keep updating Age of Empires II HD. This game could use a lot of minor polishing updates but the focus of the developers is on their other products.

So, that’s everything I wanted to say about this game. I think it’s time for a conclusion.

Conclusion

The bad:

-The visuals are just okay.

-The Tale of the Dragon DLC misses some polish.

-The in-game wiki could have been so much better.

-The save menu should display more information.

-Dying online multiplayer community.

The good:

+ A lot of unique mechanics like Titans and God Powers.

+ You can use mods.

+ Amazing and addictive RTS gameplay.

+ Amazing soundtrack & sound design.

+ Cheesy and over-the-top fun voice acting.

+ Good story.

+ …

Final thoughts:

I might be blinded by nostalgia and quite biased while reviewing this game. But, I think this game still holds up well. Yet, I fell in love with this game the first time I played it. I have a lot of fond memories with this game and reviewing the game just makes me want to replay the game some more.

This game isn’t perfect and could use some polish to fix those last bugs and improve some models, especially the human units. Yet, the charm of this game is something else. The over-the-top voice acting and endless replay value make this game a must-play for every strategy and RTS fan.

The original reception of this game was poor, but thanks to the patches, this game has improved quite a lot already. If only Skybox Labs kept updating the game, then I would give this game a higher score.

Now, that’s everything for this review. Thank you so much for reading and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, take care and have a great rest of your day.

Score: 70/100

Review: Kirby Star Allies (Switch) ~ Let’s Be Friends

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Official website

I enjoy the Kirby games quite a lot. The atmosphere and gameplay are the biggest reasons I’m drawn to the series. So, when I learned that a new game got released on Switch, I placed it on my “To Buy” list. Earlier this month, I bought myself a copy of this game on a small sale. So, today I want to give my honest opinions on the game. Is it any good or is it not worth your time? After playing Kirby Triple Deluxe and Kirby Planet Robobot, I was quite interested to see what the new offer on the Nintendo Switch will bring. As usual, feel free to leave your opinion on this game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below. 

It’s raining hearts

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Kirby is peacefully sleeping in his house when he gets a rude awakening. Some dark hearts are raining down on his homeland, the land of Popstar. Of course, Kirby goes on an adventure to save the day.

As usual for a Kirby story, the story isn’t the big reason you play this adventure. If you played Triple Deluxe or Planet Robobot, you have seen and experienced this storyline and structure before. The writing is solid and together with the character noises, the story comes somewhat alive. But, again, the story shouldn’t be the reason you play a Kirby game.

If you do care about spoilers, don’t highlight the following part. But, I want to tell you some things about the ending of the main story. So highlight the rest of this paragraph if you don’t mind spoilers or have already beaten the game. … Okay, while I was playing the final levels of this game, I got a déjà vu. And I had to look it up. This ending has actually been done quite a few times before, but the reason I got a deja vu is that this ending is so similar to the ending of the Kirby game on NES. Seriously, watch a video from the final boss of Kirby Star Allies and then Kirby on the NES. You will be surprised. But, I guess it’s a reference or easter egg? 

Alright, the spoilers end here. Before I continue any further, I want to say that this game is extremely short. You can finish this game in an afternoon since the main story will take you only 6 hours. If you want to complete the whole game, you can do this in 14 hours. This was a huge let down since the 3DS games were longer than that to fully complete. If you wanted to fully complete those games, you have to put aside 26 hours for each game.

I honestly don’t understand why this game is so short. Since the worlds you explore are fun to go through. Yet, there are only 4 worlds, well 5 if you count the one-stage world to fight the final boss in.

Besides that, there are a few mini-games and a co-op mode and that’s it. The post-game content isn’t anything special. I’m sorry, but Nintendo, why is this game priced at 60€? Are we for real? You can get 3DS games for less money. Also, other Switch games like Super Mario Odyssey have a lot more to do in it for the same price tag.

Anyways, I’m not going to ramble about the price & length for too long. Otherwise, it will overtake this whole review. Let’s be friends and review this … short … adventure.

Let’s be friends

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Each Kirby game has a unique gimmick that sets the games apart. In this game, you can recruit 3 enemies to fight along your side. These characters can be controlled by either a pretty good AI or a friend.

I haven’t played this game with a friend so, I won’t comment on that but, you can play this game with up to 4 players. Since the game is quite short, this game would make for the ideal late-night gaming session to play through with your friends.

Now, this game goes further with the gimmick and sort-of reuses a gimmick from a previous entry in the series. Remember Kirby 64 – The Crystal Shards, where you were able to combine two different powers to create one unique power? Well, that returns in this game. Sort of.

For example, when you get the sword’s ability, you can hold up your sword up in the air. When some elemental friend sees this, they will infuse their power with the sword. So, you can get a flame sword. This leads to some unique strategies and puzzles to get the collectibles.

I found it quite enjoyable to see which unique combinations I could make by mixing powers. While some combinations create the same outcome, I was a bit disappointed that there weren’t too many joke combinations in this game. That was part of the charm in Crystal Shards. Where a combination could turn Kirby into a fridge.

Each time you combine power, an animation plays where Kirby shows his new weapon/ability in a short of Smash Bros style. Surprisingly, you can change this in the options menu. You can choose between “always show them” or “show them only once.”. If you pick the last one, it will play the animation for each combination one time and when you make that combination again, it won’t play that animation.

There are various new unique abilities in the game as well. For example, the spider and art ability. To be honest, the art ability is overpowered, even for a Kirby game. It can spawn in various healing items with a short cool down. So, you can heal yourself and allies very quickly.

Now, I might be a bit too harsh on this game now. While the game is too short and could have been expanded a bit more, the level design was a blast to play through. The various abilities and friend combinations you can have to make for a very replayable game. Also, in the puzzle rooms, the abilities you need are usually inside the room. And if the AI kills them, just walk off-screen, wait a few moments and go back and they will have respawned.

The collectibles this time around are puzzle pieces. The hunt for them reminds me of the puzzle mini-game in the Mii Plaza on the 3DS. There are two types of puzzle pieces inside the levels. The normal blue ones and the special rainbow-colored ones. The special rainbow-colored ones unlock the pink pieces. The blue ones unlock a random piece of a picture. These pictures are just for having something to collect. I think they unlock new characters in the Dream Palace, but I’m unsure. Since I got every character unlocked by beating the game but I haven’t got all the puzzles unlocked. The message after unlocking a puzzle stats: “You will be able to meet legendary characters”. So yeah.

It’s no secret that the Kirby games are easy and have a more challenging mode for more experienced players. To fully complete the puzzles, you will have to look around at the various levels. If you would have missed a unique piece, you can see that right from the level select screen. Included on the level select screen, you can also see if there is a hidden switch in the level that opens a hidden level. Including the hidden levels, there are 40 levels in total.

Press X to revive

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These 40 levels take you through 4 different chapters. During these 4 chapters, you explore various locations presented with amazing visual polish.

The artwork in this game is really good. Together with great animations, the game’s visual presentation is top-notch. I don’t have anything to criticize that front.

In terms of music and sound, I do have something to say. The soundtrack of this game is pretty good. For those who love nostalgia as much as myself, you will be happy to know that there are a lot of musical references in this soundtrack. Now, there are a few tracks of this soundtrack I disliked. These play in the final moments of the game. Thankfully, it’s only for one battle.

Now, speaking about battles and combat, the controls for this game are good. I did have some minor issues here and there. With some abilities, I was unable to easily switch directions, like with the bird ability. When I started attacking, I felt I was locked in that attacking animation. Giving my enemy the chance to put in some damage.

It’s a minor problem since I finished this game with 85 additional lives. You only lose a life when Kirby dies. When an ally dies, you can hold “X” for a short time to revive them with a 1/2 health bar. Speaking about those friends, like the music there are some amazing references there too. My favorite reference is the return of the animal buddies from Kirby’s Dreamland 2 on the GameBoy. That game was one of the first Kirby games I ever played.

Anyways, I was talking about the minor issues I had with controls. Another minor issue is that when you have a certain ability and you want to release that ability as a friend… Well, though luck. I haven’t found a way to do that.

The gameplay in this game is like any other Kirby game. It’s a 2D platformer-adventure game where you try to get to the big door at the end of the level. Now, another unique gimmick appears in some levels. In some levels, you will need to have 3 friends before you can progress. You can come across pedestals where you can “merge” together to from a bridge for an ally with a key to cross or you can form a boulder to roll down smashing rocks. I know that it’s a kids game, but the names the developers gave for some of these things are just… “The Friendship Bridge”… Do I have to say more?

The game is still a blast to play. I enjoyed myself quite a lot and rarely got annoyed with the level design. The final level gets a bit tricky with moving blocks. I lost a handful of lives thanks to being squished by those blocks. But, I was rushing things where I needed to take it slow.

Besides the music and various returning characters, the game has other references to previous games in them. Just look at what statues Kirby can change into using the stone ability. The Kirby dance makes a return as well and is adorable as ever.

In this game, there are also various puzzle rooms where you can get bonus stars, puzzle pieces, and various other things. By default, the game tells you which abilities you need to use to solve the puzzle. You can disable this in the options menu, from the main menu. Why are the options you find in the main menu not able to be changed during gameplay? I can understand that it’s tricky to code while you are on a level but I think it would serve no big problems on the world map right?

The post-game content is decent but I expected a lot more from it. The two new modes are fun to mess around with but I feel like they are more designed for multi-player than for single players.

Anyways, that’s everything I wanted to say about this game. I think it’s time for the conclusion of this article and my final thoughts on the game.

The conclusion

The good:

+ Fun new gimmicks.

+ Fun to play.

+ Great visual design.

+ Great soundtrack.

+ The nostalgic references.

The bad:

-Way too short & too expensive at 60€.

-Minor control issues.

-The story…

-Useless collectibles.

Final thoughts:

Is this game a bad game? No, this game is a decent game but it’s too light on content. This game has the usual Nintendo polish and there is nothing really game-breaking wrong with the game.

My big problem with this game is the length and the price they ask for it. In addition to that, some parts of this game are more designed for multiplayer. I feel that this game could be more fun to play with friends or family.

I do recommend this game, but wait for a price drop or buy it on the cheap. If you pay full price for this game like myself, the shortness of the game might be disappointing. I was able to beat this game in 2 days. This game just needed longer development time.

That’s everything for this article. Thank you so much for reading and I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, take care and have a great rest of your day.

Score: 65/100

EDIT: This post got a “Nice Job” badge from NormalHappenings. Read more here: https://normalhappenings.com/2018/09/14/nice-job-badges-for-september-14-and-a-guide-to-making-the-most-boring-game-show-ever/

 

The Sunshine Blogger Award #2 of 2018 for NekoJonez

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It took me quite some time to reply to this. I was nominated for the Sunshine Blogger award for the second time this year. Now, I want to thank Why We Play Games for this award. The recognition means a lot to me. I just love writing and sharing my experiences with people who want to read my stories. And, people do enjoy it. As shown by the various community awards my blog keeps getting. I also love these community awards, since it not only helps the readers to discover new people, it’s also a motivational boost for the person who receives it. And another reason is, it’s a nice opportunity to get to know the actual person behind the blog. So, it’s time to do my duty here and talk about this award. As usual, feel free to give your opinion on the content of this article in the comment section down below. 

The rules

Ah, copy-paste is a useful thing in these kinds of situations.

  • Thank the blogger(s) who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blog.
  • Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you.
  • Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.
  • List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or on your blog.

So, we can already check that first one from the introduction. Now, let’s take a look at the questions that Why We Play Games asked us.

Questions and answer

1. What is the game that you play the most?

Well, I have some games I have clocked more than 200 hours in. Since not every console tracks your playtime, I can’t say with which game I spent the most time. So, here are a few.

Minecraft: it’s a game I play on and off. There are times I don’t play anything else besides Minecraft and there are times I don’t want to play it. I just love exploring the worlds the generator throws at me. I create a base, where the main focus is a storage system of all the different things I hoard during my explorations. Also, I have very fond memories of playing on various servers with my friends. Ah, good times.

Europa Universalis IV: I have to thank one of my best friends MiseryLC for this. From the over 350 hours I have clocked in this game, I think more than half is spent with him. It’s really surprising how addictive this game is while it’s nothing more than staring at a map.

To avoid that this article gets too long, here are a few games that I adore and I have spent ages playing.

Rollercoaster Tycoon, Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine, The Legend of Zelda Oracle of Ages / Oracle of Seasons, Age of Mythology and The Legend of Zelda – Breath Of The Wild to name a few

2. What is your favorite gaming memory?

Well, it is the memories that stick with me. Like various stories, I can tell from my times playing together with friends. Besides that, there are various other games of which the story really hit some emotional strings.

Games like A Hat in TimeThe Legend of Zelda – Breath Of The Wild, Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice, Zero Time Dilemma (and the whole Zero Escape series actually)Bioshock 2, and Pokémon Mystery Dungeon are just a few games that come to mind.

There are other games were the story or the concept really interests me. Games like Alan Wake, Evoland, Remember Me and Mirror’s Edge are a few that come to mind. I could list these games for hours.

I just love how they give inspiration for other stories. When I was a young lad (I’m 25 now) I used to write fantasy stories. And playing these games and them giving me new inspiration for writing stories is just amazing. So, I’m sorry that I can’t pinpoint my favorite memory since I have too many.

3. What is your favorite gaming series?

This is an evil question. But if I have to name one series that’s almost always an instant-buy for me than it’s… The Legend of Zelda. Those games introduced me to my favorite genre in gaming and that’s the adventure genre. Which are adventure games?

While I love playing a lot of genres, adventure games are my absolute favorite. There aren’t too many genres that I love playing more. I just love exploring worlds and going on quests. Sometimes I enjoy some additional RPG elements like in Pokémon and sometimes I want to explore tombs like in Tomb Raider.

4. What is your favorite part of gaming?

The answer to this question has two parts for me. The first part is simple. Gaming is my hobby. It helps to get my stress levels down and help me relax. In addition to this, it transports me to different worlds and has amazing experiences. And these experiences feel more immersive than movies or books.

The second answer is this blog. I love sharing my experiences with you all. Thanks to this blog, various developers contacted me and gave amazing and very interesting experiences to play.

So, thanks to this blog I can combine the two biggest things I love about this hobby. I can relax and enjoy playing games while I’m able to share my opinion about it.

Actually, thinking about this question, I have another answer as well. I enjoy having interesting experiences. And thanks to modern and retro games I have that experience. That’s why I perhaps go after the more unique and less known games.

5. What is your favorite genre of music?

If I have to choose an absolute favorite style of music, I have to say that I love Euphoric Hardstyle. Here is an example of this style of music, it’s an almost 3-hour long mix created by Euphoric Hardstylez.

I can’t say when I discovered hardstyle. Back when I was younger, I had a friend who introduced me to Angerfist and various other techno hardcore artists. I think that thanks to YouTube I discovered artists like Coone, Zatox, Code Black, Frontliner, Wasted Penguins and various others.

Yet, I don’t like every hardstyle track. It has to be melodic. I really dislike music where it sounds like some broken machines. While I’m sure there is an audience for those styles of music, it’s not really in my library.

Besides that, I have a few other genres that I really like. Obviously, I really like game OST. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have written a lot of articles about my favorite tracks I heard while playing games. I also like Vocaloid, chiptune, orchestral, techno, dance, trance, Eurobeat, pop-rock, symphonic metal, power metal, drum & bass…

6. What is your favorite book or book series?

Well shoot, I’m not really a book reader. I used to enjoy reading books but the last time I actually read a book was a couple of years ago when I read the novelization of Alan Wake.

It’s really awkward. I enjoy writing stories and novels, but I don’t like reading them. I think my main issue is that I always think of how things could be written differently. How would I have written the story?

And now, allow me to make it even more awkward. I love visual novels*. The asterisk means that there is an exception. I don’t like kinetic novels, those games where there is barely any gameplay.

I love reading stories in games. Games like Ace Attorney, Zero Escape, Another Code, Time Hollow, and Corpse Party are just a few examples of games I really like to play. These games are very rare and I rarely come across them. But, when I find them, these games I always finish.

So, yeah. I think I read a maximum of one book per year. And in most cases, these are books related to my education or a game series I really like. Yet, I adore story-heavy games and I love writing stories myself.

7. What things do you do to relax?

Besides playing games, I really love writing. For some reason, it helps me to zone out. When I was younger, I always wanted to create content or improve already existing content. After experimenting with creating videos, music, art and various other things… I finally settled on writing.

So, other things I really like doing are watching anime. I really like anime since it feels nostalgic but always new and fresh. Also, the storylines in anime just appeal more to me than western series.

Another thing I do to relax is to experiment with virtual machines or computers. Just trying to find little tricks and tips to fix computers really interests me. I find that I learn the most when I was able to experiment or find it out myself.

Let’s not forget about my theater group. I really enjoy being up on stage and playing a role to entertain an audience. It’s quite a lot of work in studying lines and during rehearsals but it’s oh so gratifying when you get the applause when everything comes together.

On rare occasions, I really like exploring cities. It’s really fun to do. Just take a train to a city and explore. Don’t prepare yourself. Besides the opening hours of some places, you want to visit. But, just explore the city. I have discovered so many places that way.

8. What inspired you to start blogging?

I have told this story various times before. I don’t have a large family, but we have a lot of family friends. So, I got tired of telling each story five or six times each family party. Or answering the same questions again and again: “How is school?” or “How is it going with such and such?”. So, that’s why I decided to make a website and share these stories on a personal site. I wrote my articles in my native language back then, which is Dutch. Well… it’s Flemish. But Flemish and Dutch are like American and British English. Quite similar but not the same.

At first, I shared it with Facebook but not too long after, I got visitors that found my blog over Google. One summer week when nothing special was happening I decided to write a game review. And I got hooked.

I decided to remove the Dutch blog, but I still missed writing. So, back in 2013, I decided to start writing in English after I played the reboot of Tomb Raider.

Besides that, I have been writing since my childhood. I just love writing and creating stories. As I said earlier, I’m not that good at creating art or music; so I settled on writing.

9. What is one of your favorite articles that you have written?

I have been writing for 8 years on my blog so picking one of my favorites is quite difficult to do. I enjoy writing to each and every article a lot. It’s fun thinking and reflecting on the gaming industry.

But, if I have to choose it’s my Zelda project I did last year. Just the fact that I was able to work along with all these other bloggers and that two of those bloggers started the Final Fantasy project in the style I did my Zelda project… well, it’s humbling.

This year I’m following it up with the Tomb Raider project, which I’m quite excited about. We are trying to aim for the release in October.

10. What is your favorite part about blogging?

The moment when it all comes together. When I’m able to write and don’t need to interrupt myself with looking something up or thinking about how I formulate a certain sentence.

But, something I love doing more is the interaction with readers and developers. Yeah, the PR stuff. I write this gaming blog for two reasons. The first reason is to have some sort of log/diary of my gaming life.

My 2nd reason is to talk about games that I want to talk about. Certain games I play don’t get a lot of attention and I want to change that. Thanks to that, I got the chance to play various games that have unique experiences.

It surprises me every time that developers actually want to know my opinion or what I would change in a game. It’s quite an honor and I enjoy playing the beta versions of these games and giving them feedback to improve their game. And I enjoy playing these games months or years later to see what the finished product is.

11. What is one piece of advice you would give to other bloggers?

Well, I have been blogging for 8 years so I could give various points of advice. But something I think is very important is, get yourself a place to write down notes that’s handy to take along and is easy to manage.

I use a built-in note app on my tablet. It’s easy to sort and when I’m looking for certain notes about a game, I can easily find them. It’s a godsend. Since you never know when inspiration will strike.

My 11 nominations

Drakulus – I really like the style of content he puts out. He is a great reviewer and always gives his honest opinion. Check him out.

SheikahPlate – A very tasty gaming blog run by an outstanding woman!

TriformTrinity – This guy creates amazing content. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

LaterLevels – Always a joy to read and maybe level up… 😉

I Played The Game! – Thanks again for helping me defeat those theft bots earlier this year. You are a great guy and write pretty nice stuff.

LividLightning – I’m so glad that you are back. I really love your stuff.

KillerRobotics – The support this guy gives to bloggers like us is heartwarming. He also creates very interesting content for tech people so give it a read!

FalconGameReviews – Reading his blog wants me to spend a whole afternoon browsing his website. Good stuff man.

OverThinkerY – I don’t need to overthink this to nominate this blog!

AdventureRules – The charm and art on your blog are lovely as is the writing and blogging collabs you organize!

The Well-Red Mage – Hey my magey friend! Keep rocking on!

AmbiGamingCorner – What are you doing? Go and read AmbiGamingCorner, this is a must-read site!

And there are many others I would love to nominate but I already cheated with 12 bloggers here… Sorry to everybody else.

My 11 questions

  1. At what point do you decide a certain game is good enough to write an article about?
  2. How would you describe your own writing style?
  3. About what would you want to write if you weren’t allowed to write about games for a year?
  4. Would you wait on the DLC release of a game before you review the game or do you review the DLC later?
  5. What inspires you to come up with ideas for articles and/or events?
  6. How do you write? Do you create a draft first or just start writing? Do you write while listening to music?
  7. Do you have hobbies and/or activities you do outside writing/gaming?
  8. What game(s) are underrated or not well known enough in your opinion?
  9. Are there genres you don’t like reviewing and why?
  10. Would you consider writing/blogging as a job?
  11. What you dislike doing the most when writing or publishing an article?

Closing words

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed reading this since I really enjoy writing Q&A’s like this. If you ever have a question for me, feel free to contact me on Twitter or my contact page. I love answering them.

Receiving community awards like these are quite a lot of fun. The fact that your peers recognize you is such a humbling feeling. But, I’m also quite surprised by the amount of traffic my blog is getting the past few months. It’s a big motivation for me to continue in what I’m doing and I hope you keep enjoying the content I’m writing. So, with that, I hope I’ll be able to welcome you in another article but until then have a great rest of your day and take care.