Monthly Archives: October 2019

Game Quicky: Island Maze (Switch) ~ Each Island Is A Maze

SQ_NSwitchDS_IslandMaze.jpgOfficial Nintendo micrositeDrageus microsite

From time to time, I enjoy trying out cheap games. Especially when I have some budget leftover and I see a game that looks interesting. That’s why I agreed to write a small review article on Island Maze for the Nintendo Switch. It’s a game Drageus Games developed themselves instead of porting the game over. So, let’s take a look at this game with the review copy that the developers provided. Now, in this review, you will find my 100% honest opinion on the game but feel free to leave your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article down below.

Positives

islandmaze1

This game is quite easy to grasp and has an enjoyable concept. The idea is that you get to the goal in the least amount of moves possible. The catch is that you can’t move over a colored tile without the correct gem. So, you have to think about how your dice is going to move over the field before moving.

Now, the game might seem to limit in the controls department, but you have a lot of helpful tools at your disposal. You can rotate the camera, zoom in and out and even undo moves. You can also reserve the camera’s direction when it doesn’t feel right to you to control.

This game allows you to skip levels. Whenever you are stuck on a certain level, you don’t need to play that level. When you complete 10 levels with the least amount of moves, you unlock every level.

The music is quite relaxing. It fits the atmosphere of the game amazingly well. Together with the amazing visuals, the game looks and sounds amazing. Maybe a bit more sound effects would be nice but then again, I think I would get sick of the dice rolling sound effect extremely quickly. Maybe one or two sound effects in the menus would be nice.

Negatives

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There are a few glaring issues in this game that I want to address.

The first issue is that the undo button only works for one move. So, if you noticed a mistake that you made ten moves ago, you better restart.

Secondly, there is no hint system. So, when you are stuck on a level, there is no way for you to know more. So, if you don’t understand a new mechanic right away… You will have to experiment.

For some reason, the “-” button brings up the controller connect menu of the Nintendo Switch. This serves no purpose in the game at all.

The naming of this game is a bad decision. If you Google: “Island Maze”, the results are mostly the island mazes from Breath of the Wild. If this game was a simple hobby project, I wouldn’t mind it too much. But, I think that in future the developers should pay a bit more attention to the naming in case they want to promote their game online more easily.

This game has been out for a year on Steam. Compared to the Steam version, which is a tad bit cheaper mind you, nothing has been changed. I think that after a year, the game could use some new levels and mechanics to give the game a bit more depth.

Final Thoughts – Conclusion

is_s1This is a good game, but it’s on the wrong platform. The audience for the Nintendo Switch isn’t an audience for quick and short casual games like this game. I think that the game would be better suited for mobile platforms. I felt that touch controls would work better for this game. Honestly, the game gave me that sort of vibe.

Apart from the broken undo system, I don’t see anything wrong with the game. This game is a cheap and enjoyable puzzler that can be entertaining for a rainy afternoon or when you are waiting for the doctor or when you are traveling on the bus or something of that nature.

I’m just a bit sad to see that this game is so short while the concept has a lot of promise. I enjoyed my time with this game but I wouldn’t blame people when they get bored with this game or skip it.

And that’s everything I wanted to say about this game. Thank you so much for reading this article 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, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Score: 3/5

First Impressions: Bloodstained – Ritual Of The Night (Switch) ~ Middle Ages Magic.

Official websiteNintendo Microsite

So, a new Metroidvania game has been released. The Metroidvania genre is one of my favorite style of games. When I heard that Koji Igarashi of Castlevania fame was the director of this game, I was beyond hyped. I even mentioned this game in my top 10 games I wanted to play in 2019. And, yes, the game was even twice on that sort of list. Anyways, this game was a Kickstarter game were major flops like Mighty Number 9 and major hits like A Hat In Time. Where does this game fall? On the major flops or on the amazing titles part of the spectrum? Let’s find out in this first impressions article. Also, feel free to give your opinion on the content of this article and/or the game in the comment section down below. A small editor note I have to make is that I have played this game before and after the visual improvement patches applied, and I will keep this in mind for this review.

Middle Ages Magic

During the Industrial Revolution, the Alchemy Guild got scared of losing their followers and patrons. So, they decided to create Shardbinders. These are humans who are forcibly fused with demonically charged crystals. Thanks to these crystals, the Shardbinders obtained magical powers. Everything was peaceful until the Fire Nation attacked, well sorta. Kinda. The Shardbinders were sacrificed and abused to summon demons from Hell (let’s be honest, this is a sort of Fire Nation. 😉 ). Now, this whole plan backfired and brought mass destruction over the whole of England. Thankfully, the Church was able to intervene and save some areas of destruction.

Two shardbinders survived the whole massacre, Gebel and Miriam. Ten years after the incidents, Miriam wakes up from her unnatural slumber and finds out that Gebel has summoned another demon to continue the revenge of the Shardbinders on what the alchemists did to him. Miriam starts her journey accompanied by Johannes, who is a former member of the Alchemy Guild. Miriam wants to stop Gebel before the whole world is destroyed.

The story itself is nothing that special. To be quite frank, the story didn’t really grab my attention. Now, I have reviewed two Castlevania games in the past: Castlevania – Portrait of Ruin and Castlevania – Lords Of Shadow – Mirror Of Shadow and of both these games, I don’t remember a lot about the story. It’s a shame since the story has quite a lot of potential to go quite in-depth and in different directions. The story takes a backseat in this game, to a point that sometimes the story is used as a sort of in-game guide. Like, when you have defeated a boss and you talk to one of the members of the Church, she straight up tells you (this isn’t an exact quote but it’s quite similar): “I have heard rumors that one of the high ranking officers can jump again in the air. (…) You need to look for a tower where…”

Now, the cast of the voice actors of this game is just mindblowing. Miriam is voiced by Erica Lindbeck who voiced Barbie herself in a few movies and also voiced one of the leading characters in Fire Emblem Echoes. Gebel is voiced by Ray Chase who’s a voice you can also hear in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate as Roy and in Final Fantasy 15 as Noctis. Zangetsu is voiced by a voice acting legend by the name of David Hayter who is famous for his voice work on Solid Snake. You can dig deeper into the voice cast using this page from Behind the Voice Actors. With so much talent on board and pretty good direction, you can be sure that the dub of this game is pretty well done.

Now, what could have improved the story? Well, first of all, a bit more character development. Some characters are quite two dimensional. I barely notice any progress in these characters. Secondly, I feel that too many stereotypical characters were used. A more diverse cast of characters or characters that broke their stereotype would be a great twist in the story. And finally, be a bit less hand-holding. If you want to guide the players to a certain location to gain a new power-up, you can do that by other means. I loved the system the developers used in Monster Tale on the DS. In that game, you also have a guide to where you need to go, but it’s up to you to fight through the enemies and find your way there.

Metroidvania at its finest

In the previous section, I have already mentioned three games I have reviewed that were in the same style as this game. The two Castlevania games and Monster Tale.

If you have played games like Castlevania, Metroid, Monster Tale or Axiom Verge then you’ll know what to expect in this game. In this game, you explore a huge map, defeat different bosses, learn new techniques to make exploring easier and access unknown areas. Meanwhile, you have to fight through a lot of enemies and try to balance your items right in order for you to stay alive.

Most Metroidvania’s are anything but easy. This game is no exception. This game can be quite difficult. But, the difficulty is fun difficulty. Sometimes you aren’t strong enough or don’t have the right gear to survive the encounters. Now, some people would enjoy the challenge of this game and try to defeat this game with the weakest gear possible. Now, this means that this game has some minor forms of grinding to improve your stats and defeat some bosses easier.

Now, the map of this game is quite huge. Thankfully, there are several warp points that allow you to fast travel to other areas in the castle. These warp points are in special rooms marked in green on your map. A minor nitpick I have is that the warp point to the central base of the game is outside right after some enemy encounters. I think that it would be better inside so I can go with full health to the boss. Yeah, I’m that kind of a player. So, that’s why I mentioned it as a nitpick.

Anyways, the warp rooms aren’t the only special things on your journey. You also have to save rooms. This game doesn’t have an autosave feature, but you can save (and heal your HP/MP) at the various save rooms that are shattered around the castle.

I really love the freedom of exploration in this game. While the story is a minor disappointment to me, the gameplay more than makes up for it. Exploring the castle and the areas around it is a ton of fun. Trying out the different mechanics and abilities of Miriam is just a great experience to have.

Together with the decent controls, this game is a blast to play. Now, I have read in different reviews that the controls of this game have a bit of input lag or are a bit floaty. Thankfully, I find that they improved them a lot in the patches that the game received and I think that the future patches in November 2019 will improve the game even more.

Visually underpowered

Allow me to address the elephant in the room. Look, there it is. His name is Dumbo and he has a movie made about him. Now, let’s be a bit more serious. Visually, this game doesn’t look that great when you compare it to the other versions on PlayStation or PC. The publishers even posted a statement on the rather spotty technical performance. Now, I think that’s a great move to improve technical performance through patches. On the other hand, delaying the Switch port to work on the technical performance would have been an even better move in the first place.

While the Switch is quite powerful, compared to the other consoles on the market today… Well, it’s underpowered. So, I can understand that the Switch version has some fewer animations or visual effects. Something I think that I don’t understand is the inconsistent performance of the game and the input lag in certain areas. Now, these things will be addressed in the patched that is scheduled for November. This is a shame since this game would be an amazing title to play on Halloween night, but they will miss the mark on that completely.

With all that talk about the Switch version having a spotty performance, I do have to say… I don’t find it that bad. The issues are the worst when you play the game in undocked mode. When you play this game in docked mode, this game plays just … decent. In very rare spots, the game has a bit of frame or input lag but nothing game-breaking.

In its current state, the game still looks quite good. I think the visual presentation is great and the animations are quite good as well. Together with the amazing music and enjoyable sound effects, the audiovisual presentation still gets a pass from me. So, I’m a bit mixed on this whole thing.

The game is a blast to play and has some extremely helpful features like the ability to leave markers on your map so you can remind yourself to visit these areas later. The game even has a lot of depth with its own crafting system, various shops, various unlockable skills and builds you can make… Even when you change your outfit in the menu’s, Miriam wears the armor and outfits in the game, during gameplay, and during cutscenes.

But, the whole game is held back by the lack of polish that is now coming in the form of patches. It gives the game a wrong first impression to a lot of players. Not everybody knows that this game’s performance and visuals are going to improve. Also, I have stopped playing this game because I want to replay this game when all the patches have been released so I can experience this game in it’s the best form. And that’s what’s so disappointing to me. I’m already halfway the game and now I have to restart the whole game. Well, then again, it’s my own choice…

So yeah, this article is going to be continued. I think it would be a bit unfair to fully judge the game right now when I know that there are patches to improve the visuals, the controls and the gameplay in the near future. But, I still wanted to talk about this game so here we are. So, for a full review, you will have to come back a few weeks after the patches have been released. If I don’t forget, I’ll also link the updated article here: [TO BE ANNOUNCED.] And maybe I should go more in-depth about the gameplay in that updated article as well.

And that’s everything I currently wanted to say about this game. I want to thank you for reading this article 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, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Review: NG – Spirit Hunter (Switch) ~ Let’s Play A Ghostly Game, Shall We?

Official Nintendo subsite

I have to admit that this year was an extremely crazy year in terms of games for me. So many amazing games have been released and still have to release. When I reviewed Death Mark last year, I was extremely hyped when I learned that a sequel was in development called NG. It was extremely difficult to find even a shred of information about this game since the abbreviation NG stands for various things like a name to companies. In any case, I didn’t have high hopes that this game was coming to the west. Image my surprise when I saw this game in the “Coming Soon” section of the Nintendo Switch eShop. I patiently waited until the release date and when the release date came, I bought it during my break and let it download while I was at work so I could play it right away when I came home. Now, was it worth it? Is this game as good as the previous game or should you skip this game? Let’s take a look at this game, while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

Let’s play a Ghostly Game, shall we?

This game is the 2nd game in the Spirit Hunter series. The first game was Death Mark. This game isn’t a sequel of that game nor is it a continuation. This game just takes the whole gameplay concept and puts it into a new story and setting.

The story of this game is quite interesting. You play as the protagonist, that you can name yourself. His mother died a few years prior to this game and now he is living alone. His aunt took him in. She is a horror novel author and she runs a bar on the side. Her daughter became quite good friends with the protagonist. One evening, the protagonist finds a black postcard at his doorstep inviting him to play a game with a Princess. He simply ignores this because he thinks that it’s a simple prank.

But, that’s a mistake he is going to regret since not too long after he encounters his first ghost. After that, a ghost kidnaps his cousin and invites him to play a game. If he doesn’t play along, the curse will kill him.

Now, if you have played Death Mark, the curse works quite similar to the Death Mark of the original game. This curse is a sort of time limit in which you have to solve the case of the spirit you have to defeat or purify. Unlike the previous game, the protagonist doesn’t have one evening to deal with the spirit, but he has a bit more time.

While I would love to tell you more about the story of this game, I don’t think that’s a great idea. Since the story is that more enjoyable the less you know in advance. The twists and turns of the story are just amazing. The writing, the jokes, the pacing, the horror… everything comes together quite nicely in this game and I’m bumped out that I have finished this game.

There are some mechanics in this game that even give some replay value to this game. Now that I have finished this game, I want to replay this game and take it in a totally different direction to see where I end up.

This game has some minor Japanese voice acting as well. This isn’t overused at all and it’s used to add some punch to certain dialogues. The voice acting itself is done quite well, the voice acting of the ghosts are personally my favorites. The creepy effects and distortion the developers added to the voice acting is just amazing.

The slider of spooks

An extremely nice feature is the different modes you can play the game in. Like Death Mark, this game contains some jump scares and spooks. They are extremely well crafted and in most cases fit the story nicely. Also, they trigger when you investigate certain sections so it’s quite possible to miss multiple spooks. Some spooks mess with the text or the screen instead of a ghost popping up.

These different modes affect the amount of jump scares and spooks that happen. When you dislike these spooks or jumps scares, you can tone them down and even turn them off completely. I played through this game with all the jump scares intact and I have to say that it added quite a lot to the atmosphere of this game.

The atmosphere is quite creepy, to begin with. The writing draws you into the game and the amazing artwork and illustrations make the world come alive. There isn’t a lot in terms of animations but the beautiful artwork more than makes up for it. For example, the artwork of some death scenes is just extremely well done.

The character portraits, the design of the spirits, the design of the environments… It’s clear that quite a lot of thought and detail has been put into it. I’m quite thankful that the developers added a button to hid the on-screen UI to take screenshots of those amazing scenes to make them even more memorable.

Something that I find a tad bit irritating was the decision to make the “L” button the skip dialogue option. I think that another button like one of the arrow keys on the D-pad would have worked better. Since I can’t count on my two hands anymore the number of times I accidentally pressed the button and skipped a bit of the text. Thankfully, there is an easy way to bring up the log and you can re-read what you skipped.

Everything goes in that log that appears on the screen. From you trying to use an item to decisions you have to make. For some reason, I wasn’t always able to bring up this log easily. In most cases when the log refused to open, I was trying to investigate something. So, quickly going out of investigation mode was the solution.

Speaking of this mode, this is the only mode that allows you to save your game. You are unable to access the save menu while in a dialogue section. Thankfully, the dialogues aren’t Corpse Party Blood Drive long, so an investigation section can be right up the corner.

One thing that I found a real shame is some minor bugs in the UI of the options menu. In one option, the text overflows its checkbox and in another option, they forgot to remove a character at the end of the description. These are minor mistakes that can easily be patched out.

Gameplay-wise, this game is quite addictive. You have to explore the different area’s to either purify or destroy the spirit haunting the place. In order to do this, you explore at night with a partner and search for different subsections of this area.

You explore parts of a town, an office building, and various other locations. You search these locations for clues and items to learn more about the spirit and try and defeat/purify them. The better you explore and investigate the area, the more information you have in the fight with the spirit. If you have played Death Mark, you will feel right at home since it looks quite similar.

I found the gameplay of this game quite addictive. I wanted to keep playing and experience the story to it’s a full conclusion. And yes, now that I have beaten the game, I’m considering playing through the whole game again and trying to take a different route to see where it leads me. I know that this game has multiple endings, but I would love to see how much endings there are.

One extremely welcome improvement over Death Mark I have to mention is that when you want to swap partners, you can do that more easily now. You don’t have to go the whole way back to the mansion, you can easily go to the start of the place you are searching and ask the person directly.

Think quick!

There are some more things to do in this game compared to Death Mark. The items you choose still decide the outcome of purification of the spirit of destruction, but there are more things that matter now. Speaking about that in more detail would spoil certain story sections.

The whole spirit fighting mechanic has been reworked. Now, you don’t have to combine items anymore to attack the spirit, but you have to use your items in the area and analyze the situation. I love these spirits fights a whole lot more compared to Death Mark. The improvements these fights bring to the table are just amazing. It brings a bit more challenge to the table.

On top of that, there are now 2 styles of quick decision-making sections. Both work extremely similar and have the same outcome when you fail. A Game Over. One of these styles is a crisis choice, as you can see in the screenshot in this section of the article. Like Death Mark, the “1000” ticks down as soon as you are able to make a selection. Unlike Death Mark, you can’t find charms to increase this time and it also resets back to 100 each and every time you encounter that section.

Now, this game is quite lengthy. To beat the game, you will need to put give or take 20 hours aside. Let’s not forget to mention the fact that this game is somewhat replayable due to the “emotional reaction system”. Now, you can react with different emotions in certain sections. I have no idea if this makes a difference to the story. But, I have tried it one and it makes the characters react quite differently.

Something that does matter is during some sections you have to make harsh decisions that affect the story to a big degree. I wish I could talk about them, but that would spoil the big parts of the story and that’s something I’m trying to avoid in this review.

Another interesting game mechanic is the “D-Man”. This strange man texts you riddles that you can solve to find cards. These cards contain throwbacks to the previous game or add to the lore of the game. These are a joy to read but contain some spoilers of the previous game. Thankfully, only about the DLC bonus case, so it isn’t THAT bad. Now, the search for these cards works in a very unique way. As soon as you get the text, you have to look around in the area you are in. As soon as you exit the area, you will be unable to search for that card again. You’ll also lose the items you obtained and needed to find the said card. So, be careful.

An easy question to ask is, how difficult is this game? Well, this game is tricky. There are some sections that took me several attempts. In most cases, it was because I overlooked one item or didn’t check my area thoroughly enough. Thankfully, the game is quite forgiving with checkpoints and when you fail a crisis choice or spirit encounter, you can easily restart the whole fight by selecting the wanted option in the “Game Over” menu.

One of the biggest mistakes in this game is the save system in my opinion. I feel that it’s a downgrade compared to the system of Death Mark. There is no autosave, there are fewer save slots and there is less information on the save/load screen compared to the previous game. This is something I wish that will be improved in the possible sequel. Yes, a sequel has been sort of announced/confirmed. You can read more information on the article that Gematsu published a month ago.

The controls of this game are quite simple. They are easy to grasp and master. The only minor thing is that in some areas the spotlight isn’t bright enough to see where the spotlight is on the background art. Thankfully, this happens in only a few places, so it isn’t THAT bad.

Something I’m a bit mixed about is that this game doesn’t have a lot of music. Most of the music is also re-used from the previous game or sounds extremely similar. The music is amazing in this game and I wish I able to buy the soundtrack somewhere. Since I want to add this soundtrack to my music library when I’m relaxing or writing other articles.

And with that said, I said everything I wanted to say about this game. I have left out a few things so they can be surprised at you when you play this game. I think it’s high time for the conclusion of this article, don’t you think?

Conclusion

The bad:
-Some minor UI elements that could easily be fixed.

-The save feature could have been expanded quite a bit.
The good:

+ Amazing writing and story.

+ Great visuals.

+ The ability to disable the jump scares if you dislike them.

+ Great challenging puzzles

+ ….
Final thoughts:
This game is quite an improvement over Death Mark. Last year, Death Mark was one of my favorite games of 2018. This game is one of my favorite games of this year. This game is the perfect game to play during Halloween. I can’t recommend this game enough for fans of Death Mark, fans of horror games and fans of visual novels. I would even recommend this game to fans of adventure games.

This game is one of the best visual novels I have played in a while. And it’s up to high competition like Ai: Somnium Files. This will be quite interesting in my “Top 10 Games of 2019”. Take it from me, give this game a try. Because it’s totally worth playing and experiencing this game.

Of course, this game has some shortcomings like the bare bones save system and some minor annoyances with the controls but these are easily overlooked and don’t hinder the enjoyment of the game too much or even at all.

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

Score: 100/100

First Impressions: AI – The Somnium Files (Switch) ~ Kotaro Uchikoshi Is At It Again.

Official website

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One of my favorite horror series is the Zero Escape series. I have reviewed every game here on my blog. I have played through all of these games again this year since I introduced the series to my girlfriend. When I’m reviewing adventure games or visual novels, I often find myself referencing 999, Virtue’s Last Reward or Zero Time Dilemma. Now, sadly enough this trilogy of games has ended with Zero Time Dilemma. Now, last month I learned that the director and main writer of the series were finishing development on a new game. Ai: The Somnium Files. When I saw Kotaro Uchikoshi’s name in the promotion material, I got extremely hyped. I honestly pre-ordered the game right away. Now, do I regret that pre-order or was it worth it? I’m going to give you an answer to that question in the form of this first impression review of the game. And before I start, I always say: feel free to leave a comment with your opinion in the comment section down below about the content of this article and/or the game itself.

Date and Aiba

3568502-3 - kopie

In this game, you play as special agent Date who is investigating a gruesome murder. Now, this is unlike any detective game because Date has a special ability. His left eye is quite special. In this left eye, an AI lives. This AI is called Aiba and helps Date to make phone calls, access databases, x-ray vision, zooming and so much more. On top of that, Date can explore people’s somnium, which is created by their dreams. These dreams can help in the investigation whenever you need to get information out of a witness that refuses to give testimony.

The story is quite complex and takes a lot of twists and turns. Like the previous games that Uchikoshi worked on, this game has branching paths as well. Depending on certain actions you take during the somnium exploration, the story can go in very different directions. Now, I have already seen one ending of the game and it even got me a bit emotional while playing it. The writing and pacing of this game are wonderful. While there is some dry and lame humor in this game, the actual jokes work quite well and made me and my girlfriend laugh out loud more than once.

I’m leaving quite a lot of details on the story out on purpose since this game is better experienced without a lot of knowledge of the story. Go in this game as blind as possible. Since the twists are better without knowing them in advance. Which honestly, speaks for itself don’t you think? Now, something that I quite liked is the various nods to the Zero Escape series. Certain sound effects and visual cues come from or are heavily inspired by the Zero Escape series.

Now, before I talk more about that comparison, I want to talk about the voice acting. While you can play through this game with the original Japanese cast, I’m playing through this game with the English voice actors and I have to say that the dub of this game is amazing. The cast has been cast quite well. Maybe I might be a bit biased since I’m heavily invested in the story and now I’m quite used to the voice work of the voice actors.

He is at it again

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The gameplay in this visual novel is quite varied. This isn’t a visual novel where just choosing between a few options makes the difference. In this visual novel, there are various puzzles to solve and dialogue trees to explore. The first gameplay type is simply one where you explore a location. This can be a crime scene or the house of a suspect. In these scenes, the Date doesn’t move around. You explore your surroundings to find various clues and leads. To make sure you didn’t miss anything, whenever the text turns green whenever you move over the cursor over something, that means that there is still some interaction to be done. If the text turns gray, you have done every possible interaction.

So you go through various dialogue trees where you get new information. Whenever you missed something, you can quickly bring up the log and replay the voice clips. Something that I found a bit missing, is a sort of summary of the events that happened. Since very different things happen in the story depending on the path you take. So, a quick summary of past events might be helpful. Especially since there are character bios and a word list where various terms are explained.

Speaking of these character bios and terms, these are handled amazingly. The various hidden jokes and references add so much to the atmosphere of the game. Especially the way how some explanations are written, it’s almost like writers are talking to the player directly. Sometimes even saying that if you want more information that you “have to look it up on the internet.” And as an IT guy, I found the binary joke in one of the character profiles an extremely nice touch.

Now, the exploration in this game is quite limited and somewhat linear. While you can choose which location you visit first, it doesn’t make a difference in the story if you go in order or out of order. So, this is quite linear. Now, the dream sequences are something completely different. Now, if you played any game in the Zero Escape series, you will quickly get used to these sections. These dream puzzles are the escape rooms of this game, but the big difference is that you can move in the whole area.

If you compare the gameplay of this game with any game in the Zero Escape series, I have to compliment this game for improving the dialogue sections of the game. The dialogue and story sections are more involved now and you can choose in which order you experience it. This makes the game more accessible and doesn’t dump a lot of text and story on you all at once.

That said, now the dream sequences and puzzles are a blast to play through. Some of them are a tad bit too easily to my liking, but the later puzzles more than makeup for it. For one puzzle, I even considered using a walkthrough but after a lot of trial and error, I figured it out and it gave me such an amazing feeling.

In each puzzle, you have to unlock various mental locks. You can do this by exploring and interacting with the dream. Because you are exploring a dream, extremely strange things can happen. So, you have to make sure you understand why and what is going wrong. There is a catch, you have 6 minutes to solve the whole puzzle. If you don’t, you get a game over. You can use 3 tokens to go back to a previous checkpoint. If you go back one checkpoint, you use one token. If you go back two checkpoints, you use 2 tokens.

Now, you have to plan your actions right since each action uses a certain amount of time. With some actions, you earn special bonuses that can increase or decrease the used time in the game. It’s very important that you plan ahead and that you are sure of the option you pick. Now, whenever you are standing still, your clock ticks down slower than when you are moving. Take this time to plan out your moves and make sure you aren’t losing time by walking in the wrong direction.

This whole mechanic gives the game a very tense atmosphere. Am I going to have enough time to crack the other mental locks or have I lost too much time in the previous sections? Sometimes it’s better to restart the whole puzzle instead of using your tokens to go back to a previous checkpoint. Now, you can also use these tokens during gameplay. The time you had on the clock is the time you have when you return to that checkpoint. You get 3 tokens for each puzzle and they reset whenever you restart the whole puzzle.

I was pretty interested in the game whenever I saw the teaser trailer, but the gameplay is not disappointing me at all. It’s one of the best games I have played this year. And to be honest, if the quality of the game keeps up during the rest of the game, I think there are big chances that this game might be my Game Of The Year. And yes, maybe my bias towards the author and director of this game might have some to do with it, but you still have to deliver a great product and gameplay and story-wise, I think they more than succeed here.

Pretty and funny

AI: THE SOMNIUM FILES_20190905202822

Visually, this game looks amazing. The detail in the character models and the environment are just amazing. Compared to Zero Time Dilemma, the animation work got a huge overhaul. The character portraits are no longer static, they have the same animation as the actual characters on screen. That way you can still see their animations whenever you missed their animations because you were looking around.

The little details in the animations are mindblowing. For example, there was a scene where a teacher was talking about a student and when she was talking about the student, her head actually moved towards the student itself and the student broke her idle animation and looked at her teacher. These things might be small moments but are moments that give just that bit of extra flavor and atmosphere to the game.

On top of that, the audiovisual presentation of this game is equally as good as the animation. Some parts of the soundtrack reminded me of a lot of the music that’s used in the Zero Escape series. Now, there are some sound effects that are exactly the same from the Zero Escape series like the save sound and some other sound effects. If it’s intentional, I found it a great easter egg for people who played the previous games. Now, it’s also quite possible that they used the same sound library to save some development money and even if that’s the case, I wouldn’t mind at all.

Surprisingly, the composer of this game also wrote the music for BloodStained and the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games on (3)DS. The Zero Escape series’ soundtracks were composed by Shinji Hosoe who wrote music for Fate/Extra and Tekken 6. The composer of this game is Keisuke Ito and he did an amazing job with his team to create this soundtrack.

One of the biggest shames of this game is the fact that sometimes those games have some stuttering or some major slowdowns during gameplay. Thankfully these don’t have that often and it only affects the Visuals and not music nor the voice acting. Most of these slowdowns happen during dialogues or when a lot of animation is playing. On these moments, the fan of my Switch didn’t blast me away like in Dragon Quest Builders 2.

If I’m allowed to nitpick just a minor bit, I can’t remember exactly where but there are just 1 or 2 lines that aren’t voice acted. These are very short lines and if you are just following the story, you might not even notice them. I clearly remember that one of these lines was said by Date somewhere in the first few sections of the story. I think it was in a conversation between Boss, Aiba, and Date. But given the whole script of this game, just one or two missed lines is something that isn’t THAT bad and can be easily looked over.

This game has only one difficulty level. The overall difficulty of this game is quite well done, the difficulty scaling is very well done. Some puzzles require some trial and error but once it clicks, the whole thing makes sense. The biggest challenge is in the exploration of the dreams since you need to think fast and think about the time limit.

The controls of this game are almost perfect. The only thing that’s missing is touchscreen controls. But hey, that’s huge nitpick since the controls are quite responsive and easily mastered. Thanks to the amazing UI, I can find any negatives about the controls and UI. Apart from maybe one minor thing. I find the text in the word list and character bios a little bit too small to read when I’m playing in docked mode and when I’m sitting a bit too far away from the screen. All the other text can be read just fine, apart from that part.

I’m also forgetting to talk about something quite important and that’s the save system. While there is an autosave system present in the game, you also have three save slots you can use. Thanks to these three save slots, I’m able to continue to play the game by myself but also save at the point me and my girlfriend left off so we can pick up the game right where we left off when we play it the next time.

Now there is some minor replay value when you want to unlock everything. During each Somnium, there is an eye hidden that when collected and finished the Somnium without failing; you unlock additional concept art. These are quite fun to watch and a great reward for people who explore the game to the smallest detail.

Now, this review is already getting extremely long for a first impression. It’s quite clear what I’m thinking of this game. I think it’s high time to wrap this first impression up. This game comes highly recommend to everybody who enjoys adventure games, puzzle games, mystery games, visual novel games and games like the Zero Escape series. This game is one of the best games I have played in 2019 and I can’t wait to see how this game ends. Apart from some minor flaws like the slowdowns, this game is in my eyes as good as perfect. It’s such a shame that this game doesn’t get the publicity that it deserves. I hope that with this article more people give this game a try and give it the audience it deserves. With that said, I want to thank you for reading this article 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, have a great rest of your day and take care.

One minor side note, this game is also on PS4 and PC.

First Impressions: Ion Fury (PC) ~ Is it “Hail to the Queen” now?

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Official websiteSteam Store page

Once upon a time, there was a game engine. It was called “Build Engine”. With that engine, a lot of masterpieces like Duke Nukem 3D, Blood and Shadow Warrior were created. Around 1999 – 2000, no new games came out that were made in the engine and the engine was sad. The King Duke Nukem had moved on to other projects. Well, sort of. It took FOREVER for his next game to come out. But, this year, something happened. A prince kissed the sleeping engine awake and it transformed into a new game. Wait, this isn’t working at all. Writing this introduction as a history lesson and a fairy tale isn’t working at all. Maybe we need a breath of fresh air. One was a Queen shows the ropes of the game instead of the king. So, shall we look if Ion Fury is successful in that quest or if it crashes and burns? This article is being written after I played the pre-release version until v1.02a. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of the article in the comment section down below.

Editorial note

Before I talk about the game, I want to acknowledge that I know about the controversy of this game. That the developers possibly made some transphobic remarks and there are some homophobic jokes. Personally, I don’t want to spend too much time on this controversy since a lot has been said and written about it.

My personal stance on the whole matter is simple. I’m under the impression that some things were taken out of context or provided with the wrong context and cancel culture did the rest. Also, let me be clear on one thing. I think that you should decide for yourself. Take a step back and take a look at both sides of the story before you make a decision and come to a conclusion.

About the homophobic jokes, one of them is a word pun that fits perfectly in a 90’s throwback game. The other homophobic joke is something that you have to go out of your way to discover. Where you have to enable a cheat and go out of bounds to a developer room where slang is displayed. So yeah, is this something you should take offense over or not…? That’s up to you to decide.

And that’s everything I wanted to say about the controversy. I’m here to review and talk about games. I’m not here to write long articles about drama or controversies. My mental energy is best to spend elsewhere, like on all the positive things in the world.

Bombshell, the next queen?

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In Ion Fury, you play as Shelly “Bombshell” Harrison who earned her codename defusing bombs for the Global Defense Force. Then everything changed when the firing squad attacked. The firing squad of evil cybernetic cult robots made by the equally evil transhumanist mastermind Dr. Jadus Heskel. Now, Shelly has to clean up the streets of Neo DC that she knows so well.

The story brings up in several locations and areas. While this game sort of works with different levels, the world is still interconnected. It feels like you are playing on one huge map instead. Speaking of the levels, each level is quite huge. Currently, the main story takes around 15 hours to complete. Now, this is the perfect length for a shooting game. But, that doesn’t mean that you are done after those 15 hours. You can still find a lot of secrets and easter eggs in the game. And on top of that, the Steam version will have Steam Workshop support which opens the floodgates for custom weapons and even custom levels.

While you play the game, the story takes a backseat. The story doesn’t take a lot of twists and turns or isn’t anything to write home about. Yet, the personality of Shelly is amazingly done. Her one-liners and personality is almost a carbon copy of Duke Nukem in female form. It’s great.

I love the voice work done in this game. The voice works for Shelly is done by Valerie Arem, who also did voice work in Final Fantasy 15, Zero Time Dilemma, Sailor Moon and many other series. She nailed it in this game. On top of that, Jon St. John, the original voice of Duke Nukem voiced the antagonist. It’s almost like the game is poking fun at the similarities between Shelly and Duke.

The charm of the voice acting and the one-liners is amazing. It was one of the reasons why I got so drawn into the atmosphere of this game. Even the enemy grunts are well done. So, this brings me to the sound design of the game. I have no complaints about the sound design at all. Everything sounds amazing and there aren’t any sound effects I would change or tweak. The sound mixing is great as well, I never had trouble with it.

Old game design

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Let’s talk about something you might have noticed already. While this game released this year, it looks and feels like it was released in the late ’90s. For some people, this might be a turn-off, but to me, it’s a breath of fresh air.

The game has this amazing retro vibe to it and makes me quite nostalgic about the times when I first played games like Doom or Heretic. Yet, the game manages to still look amazing. Every area is quite detailed and decorated. The color pallet is extremely varied and this makes the game easy to navigate while giving ample opportunity to hide secrets in various spots.

The gameplay of this game is quite simple. Like the old school shooters of yesteryear, you have to explore the level to find keycards to open doors in order for you to progress. When you reach the end of the level, you get promoted with a message: “are you sure you want to leave this area? You haven’t found X amount of secrets.” This is an amazing feature and made me go back several times to look if I haven’t missed any cracks or holes that might hide a secret.

The gameplay of this game is quite simple. While you are exploring the map, you have to shoot through various waves of enemies. Some of these fly and another move around. Currently, the AI of this game isn’t that smart but that doesn’t make them easy. The game provided me with a lot of challenges in the medium difficulty setting.

I had to redo some sections over and over again because there was just an overload of enemies. At first, I was annoyed by this. While the weapons are easy and fun to use, I found it annoying that I didn’t see how many bullets I had before I had to reload. But, after a while, I got used to the flow of the game and I was defeating these hoards of enemies. When you prepare yourself and really pay attention, the game isn’t that difficult. But, yeah, you will need to do some old school trail and error.

Something that I really liked is the fact that this game has an autosave and a manual save system. So, whenever you are faced with a difficult section, you can save in advance and have a point to return to when you need to retry. The save menu provides all the information you might need and is a perfect example of a UI done well.

I like the way you die!

Earlier in this article, I talked about the visual presentation of this game. Now, the animations of this game are amazing. Some of them are a little bit gory, but they are over the top gory. Bodies can explode when you hit them with a rocket launcher, and the added sound effects are amazing. The fact that some parts of the world are destructible is great fun too. You can blow up some walls.

Now, speaking about blowing up walls… Something I found a tad bit annoying was how bombs were handled. You can throw them with the left mouse button, but you only light and throw them with the right mouse button. The reason I found the annoying is simple, in the heat of a battle I keep clicking my left mouse button to shoot and use my scroll wheel to quickly and easily select the weapon I need for the situation. But, because I’m so drawn into the game, I keep clicking the left mouse button and waiting for an explosion that never comes.

This is the only issue I have with the controls of the game. All other controls work flawlessly. Now, sometimes it’s a bit of a struggle to jump into gaps while crouched, but I quickly got used to that. These controls are quite helpful to explore the expansive levels to find the keycards, items, and ammo on the map. Some levels have a straight path forward but other levels have some branching paths with rewards for exploration.

It comes with the territory but there is some backtracking in the game. Once or twice I got lost in the level because I thought I picked up a keycard or found a keycard while I actually hadn’t done that. Oh well, these are things that happen in these old school 3D shooters. I think I have to pay better attention to the UI since it displays quite well which items you have.

Maybe that would help me to save up more ammo. Since sometimes I felt that I didn’t have enough ammo and other times I had

Speaking about items, this is were Ion Fury dropped the ball a bit. While the game is inspired by Duke Nukem 3D, the game doesn’t have a lot of items. In Duke Nukem 3D, you have a lot of different items to experiment with, like the Holo Duke and the Jet Pack. The two items that I found in this game are a radar and a portable med-pack. If only this mechanic would be expanded in a DLC or an update, that would be amazing. Also, I found the radar item quite useless and barely used it. But, that might be because I don’t fully understand the purpose of the item.

Everything comes together in a well-designed game with expansive maps and fun challenges to blast through. Together with a great soundtrack, this game can be a rush from start to end. Now, the soundtrack of this game is more electronica/dance than either rock/metal/orchestral focused soundtracks of the other games in the engine. I can totally understand why some players didn’t really enjoy the soundtrack, but that’s not the case for me.

While this game isn’t that long compared to other games I have played recently, I love to replay this game several times. Due to the updates changing the map layout since the pre-release, I love to find the added details since the updates or play through the game with the new mechanics and all the fixed bugs. And, as soon as I know the maps better, I might even play through the game on a higher difficulty setting.

Apart from the main game, there are also some additional gameplay modes. One of these is an endless mode where you have to survive wave after wave of enemies. This is quite fun since the better you do, the better drops you get to defend yourself. This is a fun distraction from the main game. The other modes are something that you will have to discover when you play the game for yourself. And let’s not forget to mention that in a future patch, we will have multiplayer!

In conclusion, this game is a well-crafted throwback 3D shooter. Apart from some minor issues, I don’t have anything negative to say about this game. If you enjoy playing shooters or retro games, you should do yourself a favor and check this game out. Feel free to support the developers by leaving feedback on their forums. Personally, I think this game is that good, I might even buy the big box collectors edition for my collection.

And with that said, I think I’m going to close off this article. I might talk a bit more in-depth about certain things or mechanics if I ever write a review but for now, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. 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, have a great rest of your day and take care.