Review: AI: The Somnium Files – The Nirvana Initative (Switch) ~ Let’s Dive Again

Official English websiteWikipedia page

One of my most favorite genres is an adventure visual novel. A game with a deep story with memorable characters and unique gameplay that draws you into the world of the game. Examples are Corpse Party where a cursed school plays tricks on your mind or Ace Attorney where you play as an attorney that takes on the strangest cases. I could list examples here for quite a while, like Time Hollow, where you get a pen that can mess with the past in certain circumstances. My favorite series in this genre are the Nonary games. I sometimes quote various moments to this day. I was beyond excited that after the trilogy ended, a new series by the same writer started in 2019. AI: The Somnium Files. Now, after I finished that game, I couldn’t wait to see what Kotaro Uchikoshi and his team were going to turn out next. And that is a sequel to AI: The Somnium Files, which picks up 6 years after the original game. But is it any good, or is this a sequel that we should avoid? Well, that’s what I want to talk about in this review. This review is spoiler free, so if you haven’t played the game… You shouldn’t worry about that. But in any case, let’s dive right into the game while I welcome you to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and/or opinions on this game and/or the content of this article.

Editoral note: this game also released on all other major platforms. I chose to play this game on Switch since I played the original on Switch as well.

Have you played?

In the original game, you took on the role of Date. An investigator at ABIS with a special AI companion implanted in his eye. Now, in this game, that isn’t really the case anymore since the focus is more on daughter Mizuki. In this game, you also play as Ryuki who is another investigator at ABIS. Both these agents are involved in a cold case which they are trying to solve for their own reasons. After the case going cold, suddenly 6 years later a new clue is found that totally reopens the cold case. So, why did the case turn into a cold case and why suddenly after 6 years are there new clues found?

In terms of explaining the story, that’s all I’m willing to say to avoid spoilers. I know I might be cutting it a bit short or being extremely vague, but this is a sort of game where you should go in as blind as possible. The story in visual novel adventure games like this one are best experienced as blind as possible. At least, that’s the way how I enjoy it the best. And sidenote, to avoid spoilers I’m going to explain some things in this article with rather generic terms instead of the in game terms.

Something that really surprised me in the opening few minutes of the game is that there is something implemented that is something I think should become a standard in other visual novel games. A sort of check to avoid spoilers of the original game. Since this game is a sequel, there is a potential that people start with this game before the original. And if you won’t get yourself spoiled on the previous game, certain pieces of dialogue are changed if you are unable to answer the questions about the ending of the previous game. Then, it skips over the dialogue that spoils parts of the previous game. Apart from a few lines, it doesn’t change too much, so you won’t be missing out if you answer the question or not.

In terms of writing, this game really delivers. The new characters don’t feel out of place at all. I honestly sometimes felt that the new characters were background characters in the original game… The voice acting in this game is one of the strongest points of this game. They make the characters come to live and pull me in the game’s world so hard. There are some weaker moments in this story, but overall, these are far and few between. In general, this pacing and story of this game is good.

Something that’s really great in this game is that there is a sort of glossary. When you forgot who a certain character is or what a certain word means, you can easily look it up in your file. There is some amazing value in there as well. So, I highly recommend reading through it.

Explore the dreams

Just like in the previous game, in this game you have to explore people’s dreams to find answers and clues for your investigation. If you played the previous game, it’s very familiar. In these explorations, you have 6 minutes to unlock the mental locks of a person to find the big clue that’ll let you progress into the game. Each interaction costs a certain amount of time, so you have to be careful and really think your actions through.

You do have 3 “retry coins” you can spend to travel back to a previous checkpoint. So, if you mess up, and you want to restart a certain section with a bit more time, you can travel back. If you don’t have enough retry coins or game-over, you’ll have to restart from you’re the start of the exploration. Also, in these explorations, it’s possible that the story splits into two paths. Now, I highly recommend that you explore all paths to the end before going to another path.

There are some additional mechanics during these explorations that can influence the time used, but that mechanic is somewhat underused in this game compared to the original. I played this game on the highest difficulty setting and to be honest, while the puzzles are interesting and a blast to figure out… I found them a bit too easy. Furthermore, I have to admit that I had to write some puzzles down on a piece of paper, but rarely did I get stuck or didn’t know right away how to solve a puzzle. The original game was more challenging.

With that said, it doesn’t mean that with easier puzzles that this game is less fun. Maybe I got lucky in figuring them out, or the experience of solving these puzzles from the previous game helped me out here.

Something I really like is when you full beat one of these dives, you unlock that dive without any time limitations. So, I can find out what the dialogue is in the wrong options and enjoy more of the enjoyable writing of this game.

This game controls extremely well. I don’t have any complaints on how this game controls. There is one minor complaint I have. There is one mini-game in the pause menu, which you can’t select by going through the menu. For the longest time, I thought I was able to only play this in handheld mode, but you just have to press the minus button on the controller to enter it. But I’ll talk more in depth about the mini-games and such later in the article.

So, these explorations in people’s minds isn’t the only mechanic in this game. There are also reconstructions you have to do. This is where you have to search for clues in a crime scene to answer a question. These moments are a lot less punishing since they don’t have a time limit.

These moments are a nice distraction to the game. Since, they help to sell that there is actual investigation work going. Yet, some of the hardest puzzles are in these sections. But, if you get stuck, the biggest hint I can give is to write the puzzle down. In these sections, there were one or two puzzles that would work a lot better if you were able to look at the clues, so that’s why I highly recommend you to write them down.

Another gameplay section of this game are the moments with quick time events. These moments are easily the weakest link of this game. I found these moments a bit boring since they are basically an interactive cutscene. You know when they are coming and these moments would have been so much more fun if they weren’t quick time events since they slow the scene down when they happen and these scenes are supposed to be fast paced actually. I’m sorry, but the implementation of the quick time event scenes in this game isn’t the best in this game. All these moments blend in with each other a bit too well.

Now, you can change the difficulty of the quick time events and the exploration moments. So, if you want to focus more on the story instead of the gameplay, that’s totally possible. Lowering the difficulty makes the game easier since it has less penalties for you. The game doesn’t lock any content away from you by lowering the difficulty.

The final gameplay section you have in this game is the investigation section. Where you go from place to place, so you can talk to the various characters to gather more information. During these moments, you can look around and investigate the environment for additional world & character building, jokes and dialogues.

These moments are just the right length. I never really felt that the conversation went on for a bit too long. Also, you can save during at any time during these moments, so when you have to leave the game and want to come back, you can comeback to a save point. This game also saves automatically. But speaking about saving and loading, this game has only one save slot. So, don’t forget about that.

Costumes and such

The music and sound design in this game is quite enjoyable. The music fits this game as a glove. I have already added it to my playlist, so I can listen to it while I’m working.

In terms of sound effects, the high quality is there as well. I don’t have any complaints about them. Most of the sound effects are just like the previous game, and they worked extremely well there.

Visually, this game looks excellent. There are some very minor rough spots, especially in low lighting, but they didn’t bother me too much. Overall, the visuals fit the atmosphere of the game extremely well. The new locations created for this game fit extremely well in the world. The animations in this game are great as well. I did notice some minor animation flaws here and there, especially with the mouths not always closing after some dialogue. But on the other hand, they help put the expression of the character come to life.

Now, let me talk about the performance of this game. Overall, I noticed barely any performance problems during my playthrough. There was some minor slowdown here and there and I felt like some cutscenes ran at a bit lower framerate compared to the rest of the game but overall, nothing really major in that regard. The game did crash on me. Three times even. Thankfully on moments where I didn’t loose to much progress but it did happen.

This game took me around 35 hours to complete and also to see some of the additional content. So, I think that the price is totally worth it.

One of the last things I want to talk about are the mini-games and the DLC. There is DLC for this game in the forms of alternative customes for the AI assistants in this game. Overall, the additional content is quite cheap but it’s 100% costmetic. If you are a fan of silly alternative customs, they are the right fit for you.

Now, during the game you can unlock eyeballs. With these eyeballs you can purchase the unlocked costmetic items via the bonus menu in the main menu. You can also unlock concept art and other materials. Some of these items even have some easter eggs in them!

What you can buy with these eyeballs depend on your progress in the game. Now, something I really like is how you are unable to unlock everything when you have seen the true ending of this game. You’ll have to go back into the game to go in alternative routes and maybe try the wrong options to have a new evalution. There are in total 40 evaluations to unlock and completing the true ending, I still had 16/40 left to find.

The only dissapointing thing is that there are barely any hints in the game to find these remaining endings. I think it would be a nice feature if you are able to see on which day you can unlock that evalution after you have seen the true ending. This doesn’t take away the challenge of searching for the ending since each day has a lot of content to go through.

There are two “mini-games” in this game. One is a sort of advice room where the AI assistant of the character you are playing as plays a sort of shrink for you as the player. I rarely used this mode apart from it also being the dressing room of the costumes you bought. The combinations you can make with dressing up your AI ball are numerous. I just wish that there was a button to “sync” costumes between them.

Anyways, there is one other mini-game I have to talk about. This is a sort of Tamagochi where depending on how you answer the questions, your tamagochi AI-ball evovles into different AI-balls. Each 20 minutes you get a question. You have four different possible replies. Depending on your replies, a certain stat increases and you can get another creature. Since, it all depends on the stats you increase. You can also unlock a guide when you reach a certain type which can help you unlock all the others. It’s an enjoyable destraction to the game but apart from it being a nice source of eyeballs to purchase costumes, I found that there is nothing really to it. While I can totally see some people enjoying this, I’m not one of those.

Overall, in this article I have mostly praised this game. But, there are a few things that don’t work at all and can be improved in a patch or a sequel. The first big thing is the small font of the option menu. If you play this game in docked mode and sit a meter of two (which is +/- 6 feet), the option screen becomes close to unreadable. Thankfully, there is a zoom feature on the Switch and the top right infobox gives some hints… But still, that menu is too small. If they wanted to keep the same visual design, just make more pages with a bigger font.

A nitpick I have is that when something is added to the file, and it’s in the manual… The green dot is so close to the binder of the manual that you can barely see it. I think changing the color of the manual in the file would have been a great move.

Another nitpick I have is when you go to the bonus section from the main menu, you only see Aiba there. I have never seen the other AI-ball there. I found this a missed oppertunity. It would be kind of fun to have a random chance to see either Aiba or Tama there.

The final thing I dislike about this game is that there is no real run button in this game. You do have a skip button, that’s pretty close to the “auto” button, but you can’t run in explorations. I would even not mind it with having a run button and it costing twice as much time to move around… Since, the walking speed is a bit slow when you are playing again to find the other endings.

So, with that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. So, I think it’s high time to wrap up this article in a nice conclusion so people who are looking at this article to know if this game is any good or not and don’t want to read everything have something to quickly read.

Conclusion

The good:

+ Enjoyable story where you can avoid spoilers of the original.

+ Amazing soundtrack.

+ Creative puzzles.

+ Great controls.

+ …

The bad:

-Some slowdowns/crashes can happen on the Switch version.

-Too small options menu.

-Missed chances with quick time events.

-Some minor issues in terms of polish like one of the mini-games being reachable with a button instead of it being highlighted when scrolling through.

Final thoughts:

To answer the question I posed in my introduction, I think that this game is a worthy sequel to the original game. The game is quite a lot of fun to play and I had a blast playing it. The game has it’s weaker moments but those overall are no big issue compared to the overall package. This sequel can also be a great entry point into the series and there are a lot of winks to veteran fans.

There are some issues for sure and the story has some weaker moments but I might repeat myself but the positive and fun moments far outweigh the negative moments. I enjoyed this game so much when it finally released here in Europe that I even pulled an all nighter during my summer break while playing this game. It’s so much fun.

Thanks to it releasing in my summer break, I have already beaten the game and now I’m looking for the things I missed but so far, it’s one of the best games I have played all year.

Personally, I highly recommend this game to everybody who enjoys adventure and/or visual novel games. This sci-fi thriller story is a blast to play through. This game comes also recommended if you enjoy playing mystery solving games. The original game now has a demo as well on the Switch eShop and if you enjoy that, this game or the original are going to be such an amazing time!

With that said, I really have said everything I 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 welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Score: 90/100

Speedrunning Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine GBC – Level 1 – Canyonlands (Part 2)

Introduction to this miniseries

A while ago, I wrote an article about speedrunning one of my most treasured childhood games. One of my yearly traditions is playing through this game and ever since last year, I wanted to have a new challenge. That challenge I found in speedrunning the game, and now when I’m playing the game, I try to challenge myself to try to beat my PB. In this miniseries, I’m going to talk about the current route, tips, and tricks of the Game Boy Color speedrun of this game. So, let’s grab our hat and whip and let’s dive right into the first level… again? Well, yes. It’ll soon become clear. Also, feel free to leave a comment down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on this article, the content, the game and/or the route.

Introduction to All Treasures

In the first part, linked higher, of this miniseries… I talked about the Any% route. Basically, the goal in the Any% category is to finish the level as quickly as possible. Now, there is another category we have and that’s “All Treasures”.

So, in each level of this game, 10 treasures are hidden. The Game Boy Color version is an exception to that, since it has two levels with no treasures. This exception doesn’t even apply to the PC nor the N64 version.

The treasures are meant to buy supplies at the “IQ store” in between levels. In the PC & N64 version, you can buy more varied health items and ammo but in the GBC (Game Boy Color) version, you can only buy either a health kit or a poison kit. And you can have a max stock of 5, which is also different compared to the PC & N64 version.

Now, all treasures is a tricky run to do. Since, in the GBC version, you need to play close to perfection if you want to unlock the final “secret” level Peru. In a full game all treasures run you can choose between two categories. You either go for “All Treasures (No Peru)” or “2055 IQ”.

The tricky thing about “2055 IQ” is that you basically can’t close to anything, or you won’t have enough points to go to the Peru level. And in the run, you aren’t allowed to cheat and after beating the game enter the level code and skip the challenge. But, the tricky thing is that some levels require you to use a health pack for the quickest route. It’s a puzzle I currently haven’t attempted and plan to do one day.

But, I’ll focus on full game runs in their separate article. For now, let’s focus on Individual Levels Speedruns or ILS for short. So, how is the current route of the “All Treasures” of Canyonlands? Let’s explore!

The category rules as of writing this article:

Link to Speedrun.com page
The current world record at the time of writing is owned by me who ran this level in 4 minutes and 41 seconds on April 17th 2022.
The previous records I had were: 5m25, 4m58, 4m53.

Feel free to follow along while waiting the run.

Note: in this article I talk about time marks of the run. Since there is a failed run in the upload, the video time doesn’t match the run time. I’m sorry about that.

Note 2: when I say “current record”, I obviously mean my current record at the time of writing this article. So, I hope to clears up confusion when this record is beaten and/or improved by me or someone else.

The run explored

So, unlike the Any% route… We avoid the ladder snipe down directly. Since this snipe would make 4 out of the 10 treasures impossible to collect. So, we go left.

Now, the movement of this scorpion on the other platform is an RNG fest. In most cases, if you hug the upper wall, you can avoid it without any problem. When I get bitten by the scorpion, I reset right away. The lost health from the poison makes gathering the first treasures way more risky.

So, the sequence of events here is:

  • Jump over the safe pit
  • Huge the uppermost wall and go left
  • Jump over the unsafe pit
  • Ready Indy’s whip by mashing select twice while running left
  • Jump at the last second, so you jump over the waterfall.

If you do this sequence perfectly, you’ll be right in place to whip over the gap. Yet, this is easier said than done. The sequence of inputs I just described are close to frame perfect in some places. All these actions take place in give or take two or three seconds. When I don’t reach the other end and climbing the ladder when the timer hits 11 seconds, I know I can reset the run.

Why do I see that as a reset point? Well, because I know myself. If I allow my timer to be higher, I’ll go in a slight panic mode since I feel like I’m unable to beat my record and make too many silly mistakes sometimes costing me the whole run. So, it’s to keep myself calm. Anyway, you might have noticed that yellow coin looking thing in the 2nd screenshot. That’s one of the four treasures here. That’s the treasure you should get last. If you take this as your first treasure, you’ll lose a lot of time since there is no easy way to get back to the area with the first three treasures, and you’ll have to do the whip swing again which costs around a second or two.

Oh yes, you can save some time if you jump up right after swinging with the whip. This saves half a second in climbing, but it’s tricky to do, and a bad jump can land you either lower or just at the bottom of the ladder losing the time save. But, as far as I know, there is no real danger in trying to attempt this trick.

Now, after you climbed up… I highly suggest that you press select once so Indy’s hand is the tool you are using. Now, there is something you need to know about doors in this game.

I enter the treasure room in my current world record around 16-17 seconds. If you watch the run, you might notice that Indy looks like he is entering the wall.

Now, here is the thing about doors in this game. The hitboxes are wider than they visually appear. So, in other words, visually it looks like you can enter where the aqua line is. Yet, you can enter where I drew the white line.

Trying to enter a door as soon as possible saves a few frames, but these add up quickly in this level.

Now, this is a moment where you can make a choice. I haven’t tested it which route is faster. The first choice is that you go for the two treasures above and the second choice is that you go for the treasure at the bottom. Both have their dangers but all three need to be collected.

The sequence of collecting these three depend on me if I’m able to enter the door behind the stone you can push. Usually, I go to the right of the stone and push it to the left while hugging the wall. I let go of left at the end of the push animation to push up and usually Indy goes in the door right away.

Yet, in my current world record run I decided to do things a bit different. I decided to jump up right away and get the two treasures on top. Without pushing the stone at all. Which is a dangerous and risky move.

Usually, when you push the block to the left… You can jump up on the left side and grab the red jewel. After that, it’s easy to avoid the bastard of an enemy and grab the green jewel. Oh, jump over those tiles with the crack in them. Since, if Indy is full on that tile… He’ll fall down below in the water without any way out. Loosing your chance to pick up the treasures in this area.

If you go up right away, the chances of that enemy poising Indy is a lot higher. But if you go up, you’ll need to first go for the green jewel. Since going for the red first will make you a better target for the enemy and corner jumps are quite tricky, and I landed so many times on those unstable tiles during attempts, it’s not funny anymore. Also, I find that when you drop down after the red jewel, it’s easier to line Indy up to push the stone without having to re-orient him.

So, let’s push the stone, so we can pick up the final treasure in this treasure room. After going up, there is a very ideal way to move in this room to have the fastest time.

Yes, I’m taking screenshots of the YouTube upload

The blue and purple lines show the way towards and back from the treasure. Depending on the movement of the scorpion, it’s easier to line yourself up. While you can walk pretty close to the water… It’s a reset when you fall in. Since, you lost your chance to pick up two treasures now. In my current record, I chose to go down & around since the scorpion was a bit too close to the ideal route and I didn’t want to risk it.

And also, it’s best that you pick up the treasure on the first few frames on your way back. Since, you’ll be able to keep your momentum which saves a few frames. You can see how I do my controller inputs for this around the 37 second mark in the run.

On my way back, I noticed that the scorpion was down below, so I was able to get closer to the edge with the water. But, it’s possible to get even closer, but remember… This is quite risky since falling into the water makes you unable to obtain certain treasures. Since, unlike the PC/N64 version, there is no way to get back up here and obtain these treasures. Even in casual play.

So, around the 48-second mark… I have left the treasure room. With a bit better movement and not being poisoned by the enemy I think I can shave a second off here. Yet, it would be extremely tricky to do and risky. After leaving the treasure room, it’s time to go to the right to go down, jump over the waterfall and pick up the coins we saw earlier to pick up the final out of 4 treasures on top here.

During my current record, I lose a bit of time here as well by hugging the upper wall.

Now, comes something risky. After collecting the coins, you’ll need to jump down and try to line Indy up the closest edge of the waterfall. The goal is to land in the pool down below closest to the exit point. But, when you jump down too early… You might let Indy miss the pool and die. Jump too late, and you lose a second or two in the water since Indy swims so slow in this game. My drop/jump around the 53-second mark isn’t perfect. I was too center. I had better but I also had worse. After dropping into the water, exit it as soon as you can at the top right-hand side.

After exiting the water, you might notice that enemy and want to jump over or away from it. Don’t. Since, it’s somewhat easy to avoid and you are risking loosing time by either dropping back into the water or jumping too early/late and getting poisoned. Just move a bit down around the spot in the screenshot above. I actually moved down perfectly in my current record. Since, you need to avoid a wall and go into the door a bit behind it. This is what you see me do around the 1 minute 4 seconds mark.

Now we enter a “puzzle” room where I hate the movement with a passion. If there is one thing I’m not too good at… that’s precise movement.

The solution to the puzzle is that you need to walk on the sun tiles in a certain sequence. First, you hit the 3rd tile counting from the left. Then, go to the first tile without walking over the second tile and just walk over the rest. So, from the left the sequence is: 2-3-1-4.

The issue here is that the hitboxes of these tiles are a bit off. The tops are quite sensitive and the bottoms aren’t. So, when you try and walk from tile 3 to tile 1, it’s easy to trigger tile 2 when you go overtop. Now, it’s highly recommended that you go overtop since the treasurees will drop from the totempole you see on top this room. So, yeah, this room is tricky and might require some “training”.

Now, after the treasures drop: go for the left most treasure first! Since, the right most treasure is perfectly in line with the door. Mixing these up might cost you a few frames. After exiting this puzzle room, you go to the right. There is another stone which needs to be pushed down once and then left once. It’s possible to jump from there to ledge above the door. Yet, I find it safer and more consitent to push it left twice so the gap is only one block. For some reason, I have a hard time making those two block jumps from a lower to a higher platform. While it is possible as you’ll see in the next level.

Now, hug the wall and jump at the last second as shown in the screenshot below here. If you do it right, you’ll grab the ladder and skip a part of the climbing animation. This is one of the minor optimisations you can do to save a few frames. Yet, be careful with trying this one. If you push Indy too much to the left, you will not grab the ladder and miss the platform and have to go back on the ledge.

After this, it’s a bit of climbing we need to do. Jump earlier to the ladder to skip climbing it when you can. This is an easy trick to master which can shave so much time off your runs. After the 2nd ladder, be careful since there is a scorpion quite close to the part where you accend from the ladder and being poisoned there is real easy. That’s why I usually jump forwards once to avoid that and get closer to the door.

Be sure you are at least more half health now since there are some parts coming up that will require you to be able to tank/take some damage. If needed, there is a herb in the hallway. Herbs are faster to heal compared to going into the menu, going to a medkit and then going out of the menu. You see me pick up the one outside of the hallway around the 2 minute 2 seconds mark.

There is a reason why I take out the pistol around the 2 minute 18 seconds mark. Because there are some enemies coming up which are difficult to avoid when you exit a door. I rather shoot them to be safe. Now, it’s possible to save a bit of time to do a corner jump from the ladder platform as shown with the purple line. But, it’s a tricky one and might cause you to loose your run. Corner jumps are in general not easy in this game. Usually, I take the safe route wit the lightblue line. Which looses a few frames, but it’s safer and more consistent.

Now, after this, you can make another choice. Go right into the closest door or go for another treasure. There are 4 left we still need to get and it doesn’t really matter which one you go for first. I usually go for the bottom one last. If you want to go for the bottom one first, be my guest. This will be the last treasure talked about in this article.

So, I go into the closest door right after killing that enemy. In that case, don’t put your revolver away. Since, scorpions have this nasty “”feature”” where they can poison you during the whipping across animation. So, shoot the scorpion dead when you enter the room and go left to whip across. Remember to use select to switch between your tools to save time. Opening & closing the menu adds so much additional time.

Now, don’t make the same mistake as me here. When you need to whip across, you shouldn’t be right at the edge since Indy’ll whip in front of him then. And this’ll cost you a second or so. Stand a bit more back. When you are swinging across, you might notice the next treasure.

If you pick it up now, it’s fine. If you want to pick it up on your way back… It’s fine as well. The time to pick up this treasure is the same either way. In my current record, I chose to pick it up after the two treasures after whipping across again. So, don’t forget to pick this one up if you skip it now. But, after whipping across… Shoot the enemy, for a similar reason as before. Now, after that, you’ll see two doors at the bottom.

You can choose the sequence of the two here. Since I have the gun equiped, I prefer the left door first. So, I’ll explain the right part later.

The gun is equiped and we go in the left door. The gun is needed since there is a nasty troll scorpion that you will encouter right after exiting the hallway after the door. Either move to the right, right away, or shoot it. If you shot it without getting poisoned, count yourself lucky since that will make the upcoming part way easier.

Now, the treasure is at the bottom of this section. Drop down as quickly as you can without taking too much damage. Since, you’ll need the health to tank scorpion poison since they are so nastly placed. Be sure to switch back to the hand to pick up the treasure box. I started my decent on the 2 minutes 47 seconds mark. The decent was quite clean. But, my ascend. Oh boy. From 2 minutes 56 seconds you see some messy jumping and me getting screwed over by scorpion poison twice. It’s something to costs me so much time and doing the ascend propely is somewhat stressful.

So, after the hallway, equip your gun again to kill the newly spawned scorpion and now, it’s time to explain the right door. For that door, be sure you have the hand equipped. Since, right after exiting the door, you’ll have to drop down.

If you drop down on the corner edge of the platform, you reach the hitbox when Indy is in that landing animation and when you mash “A”, you’ll pick up the treasure. Go left and swap to the whip to swing across.

Jump across the death pit and be VERY careful trying to do a ladder jump here. It might save you a few frames into the climbing animation but missing the ladder means certain doom and dead run. I rarely to never risk it here since I desipe loosing a run to a silly mistake near the end of the run.

After the ladder, go to the right, up and over jump across and get back into the door. After that, swing across the two gaps and get into the door again. Now, we come back to one of the choice spots. Since I started to talk about the “top” door first, let’s go down and to the left now for the final treasure.

In here, there is the final treasure of this level. Be careful to not step on the cracked tiles since they drop you down lower in the level. And when you don’t have enough health, they are deadly.

Now, it’s time to go to the right the whole way after exiting this door. Go towards the ladder we climbing up, where I said you could save time with that risky corner jump. And now go to the right instead of the left. And then, it’s basically the Any% run route after the ladder snipe. Be careful, since now there is an extra scorpion for you to avoid. But, I use that one to jump at the right time to speed up the first long climb.

My ending was a bit messy but hey. That means more time can be shaved off this run. Since we played the full level, we see Sophia actually walk up to Indy. When you do the ladder snipe of the Any% run, Sophia won’t show up but the textbox will play.

Don’t forget to push “A” to skip the textbox faster. And yeah, that’s the whole route.

Looking back on this run, I’m certain that a run of 4 minutes 38 seconds is totally possible. Especially since I saw a lot of potential improvement while looking through this run to write this article.

Now, this level has one of the biggest differences between the Any % route and the All Treasures route. A 4-minute difference even.

After writing this article, I’m quite hyped to try and beat my record. So, I’m going to try and do that during my summer holidays. Keep an eye on my Twitter since I’ll post there when I have beaten my time.

But oh boy, was this a long article yet a fun one to write. Next time in this miniseries, I’m going to take a look at the second level Babylon. Maybe I might write only one article about that level since most of these treasures aren’t too far off the main route for Any%, yet they do cost a lot of time to grab.

And with that said, 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 and until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

First Impressions: Sherlock Holmes – Crimes and Punishments (XBOX360) ~ Hipster CSI in Ye Olden England

Wikipedia entry

I can’t really explain why, but sometimes I really like to play detective games and trying to solve a crime. That’s why I’m really into the CSI games. Now, when one of my neighbors in our yearly local garage sale started selling his XBOX360 and PS4 collection, I saw he had Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments. While I’m well aware that this game got a port this year onto the Nintendo Switch and Steam, I chose to play the XBOX360 version. Mainly since it was €4 at the garage sale and the Switch version would have set me back way more for just a bit of visual upgrades? Well, I wanted another excuse to boot up my XBOX360 once more. But, did it stay on, or did I start looking toward other games and/or consoles? Well, let’s talk about it in this article, while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on the content of the game and/or this article.

Hipster CSI in Ye Olden England

It’s no real surprise that you take on the role of Sherlock Holmes in this game. Together with your trusty best friend Watson, you are solving strange cases left and right in London in the Victorian era. This game takes place in 1893. In the first case, you investigate the murder of an old captain with a vile reputation. Explaining any more of the plot would ruin the story.

The cases in this game aren’t that long, and they are somewhat unrelated. So, if you are looking for a game with character development or growth… This isn’t the game for you. The writing in this game is more aimed at players who want to relax and enjoy a fun murder mystery like an episode of CSI. With some familiar characters, but each episode is a different case.

The writing itself is quite enjoyable. I really feel that I’m in a Sherlock Holmes story, and I’m enjoying every minute of it. The story really scratches that itch, I have to play some more detective games but only this time, it isn’t with modern technology.

The voice work is also quite good. They made the atmosphere of this game come to life. Every line of dialogue and thoughts are voice acted. Now, there is one thing I’m a bit on the fence about in terms of the voice acting. Maybe it’s because I have been reviewing games for so long and know a bit about developing games as well, but I had times when I felt like some lines were a bit generic.

For example, when you are searching in Holmes’ archives and find the piece you are looking for… It’s always the same line. Sometimes recording more than one line, and randomizing it, helps with the immersion of the game. Otherwise, you are running the risk of it all blending together and making some mechanics feel a bit boring. Or why does doctor Watson nearly always ask where to go next. It’s as if they didn’t record other lines for him. Maybe some fun banter or remark about the location. Like, in the first case, about the well-kept garden. I wouldn’t mind it looping, but something more than “Where to go next, Holmes” and Sherlock not even replying. Since, now, the line feels a bit out of place to me. Thankfully, these moments didn’t bother me too much and are overall quite rare.

I’m well aware that perfection doesn’t exist, and thankfully so. Thankfully, this is the only problem I have with the writing. Very few lines are a bit generic or out of place. And maybe I really notice them because I wanted to review this game and the overall quality is quite high, and I wondered if there was something to critique about the story.

Pop! Here I am!

Visually, this game looks good. The environments are quite detailed and look amazing. But, it isn’t perfect. This game suffers from popping issues sometimes. Especially when you go from a cut scene to gameplay, where some textures just take a bit longer to load, and it just looks weird. I had one especially bad case of this when Holmes’ case book didn’t load the correct texture for like 30 seconds. And I was wondering what the text was on the book.

This happened to me while I was in the “load screen” wagon between two locations. During the loading screen, you can view your case book or enter your thoughts’ menu. And, to be honest, I highly advise you do, since the background scrolling during these wagon scenes don’t always look great. I even saw moments where the background suddenly restarted. And the backgrounds are such lower quality compared to the rest of the game, it’s a shame. Just like the small screen tear issues this game sometimes has when exploring around.

The animations of this game are good as well. They make the game come to life that much more. Yet, sometimes I feel that some characters move a bit too slow or lack a few frames of animation to make it look like the game it’s dipping in frames. But that isn’t the worst issue I have with the visuals and animation. That dubious honor is for the fact that sometimes when exploring, Holmes can “raise up in the air” on an object and when you move the camera just a tiny bit immediately snap down to earth. This happened more than once, but thankfully it didn’t cause any game breaking bugs by for example placing me out of bounds.

Maybe I’m being too harsh on the game. I mean, image the amount of work the developers had to put into the visuals. Especially when you are able to chose if you want a first person camera or a third person camera by the press of a button. This goes so seamless it’s a surprise to me that this works so amazingly well.

Also, you can dress up Sherlock Holmes as you want. The amount of different variations is just silly and adds to the impressive visual possibilities that this game has. Dressing up is just one of the mechanics this game has. You’ll need it sometimes to trick a character into talking.

Now, what exactly is it that you do in this game? Well, you investigate a crime and you look at the crime scene for clues. Sometimes you go back to Baker Street to preform experiments or the search in your archive. While you are exploring the locations, you can also talk to suspects to gather more information about the case.

During your research, you’ll find a lot of clues. Some of these clues need to be interacted with. In your notebook, those clues have a special icon so you know that you need to research in your archive or preform certain experiments with them. Also, the task list is quite handy to keep track of what you still should investigate.

During your research, you’ll be able to use your imagniation. This is a sort of “recreation” button for some scenes in the game. Or when a clue is quite hidden, you can use the strong observation skills of Holmes. To avoid these mechanics becoming a needle in a haystack story, you’ll notice those icons at the top right when you need to use those skills.

Another important mechanic is what I call the “connect the logic dots” mechanic. Here you need to connect two clues to form another clue. It reminds me a bit of Time Hollow which has a similar mechanic, but explaining that would spoil parts of that game. When you connected all your loose clue’s, you can try to make sense of them all. Connecting the right dots will lead you to a conclusion. But is it the right one? Who knows? Be sure to think it over more then once. Since, seeing if your theory is correct is a lot of fun to see play out.

Something that this game does a lot better compared to the CSI games is that this game gives you some freedom. You can actually explore the area the crime took place and look for clues. Some of these areas are huge but expertly crafted, making it a breeze to explore them.

The responsive controls make it quite fun to walk around and explore those areas. Thankfully, Holmes has infinite stamina, so you can also run around when you find his walking pace too slow. And when you forget how to control the game, you can just press the two joysticks of your controller to bring up a handy chart of the games’ controls.

There are two things that controls a bit awkward at first and that’s searching in the archives and searching in your case book, but it doesn’t take long before you can get the hang of it when you know that almost every button has a different purpose, and you look at the buttons that are displayed on the screen.

Skipping the skip

One big difference compared to the CSI games is that there is no hint system in this game during your case. If you are stuck, you can’t get any hints from somebody. This is something that some people like and others aren’t really fond of. But, just like the CSI games, this game has mini-games and puzzles.

Now, you can skip most of these puzzles and mini-games by the press of a button. It barely has any influence on the game if you played or skipped the puzzles, but it’s a nice addition that it’s there. When you just want to get on with the game instead of figuring out one stupid puzzle that otherwise would have locked you out the rest of the game. Something that would make it even more perfect is that in the end of the case, you can see how much puzzles you have skipped. That way you can make it an “honor” thing where people who completed the game without skipping any puzzle get an achievement or something.

Speaking about the ending of the cases, you can come to the wrong conclusion. If it has consequences or not, I won’t reveal to not spoil the game, but it’s great to see that you are able to redo it when you want to see the other endings OR want to correct yourself. You can also choose between either reporting the criminal or letting the criminal go. And that’s also everything I wanted to say about that mechanic. It leads to some quite interesting things.

This game isn’t too difficult. The biggest difficulty in this game is when you overlook a clue and reach the wrong conclusion. If you are stuck, I highly advise you to go over your case notebook and imagination. Since, you might have missed a clue. Only once I had to look up the walkthrough, and it turned out that I was doing two things in the wrong order. Apart from one puzzle in the 3rd case, this game doesn’t have any “moon logic” puzzles. The puzzle in the 3rd case isn’t hard, but it takes a while to click with some people what the idea behind the puzzle is.

This game has achievements. And it’s quite a lot of fun to go for the achievements in this game. They don’t add a lot of replay value since this game doesn’t have a lot of replay value. Unless you decide to start speedrunning it to see the endings you missed since you didn’t start over when you choose your moral stance.

Usually in my reviews, I write about the audiovisual presentation right after the visual presentation. But, since I had some more things I wanted to talk about in the visual presentation department, I’m talking about the audiovisual presentation later. And I can be very short about it, it’s nothing special. Don’t get me wrong, the music is good and fits the atmosphere like a glove… But, it doesn’t stand out to me. I find the music a bit to the generic opera side of things, and I would have a hard time matching it with Sherlock Holmes outside the game. I think the main issue is that it doesn’t feel like a “song” or “track” but more like a 10 or 20 second melody that’s repeating in somewhat different tones for 3-ish minutes.

Now, the sound effects are used amazingly well. While exploring, it really adds to the atmosphere sometimes. Really listen while exploring that one area at the end of the 3rd case, and you’ll understand what I mean.

Before I go to the conclusion, I want to talk about the game’s preformance. A big complaint is that the load times are quite lengthy sometimes and honestly, I have to disagree. I have played games with longer load times and the load times in this game didn’t bother me at all. It was the ideal moment for me to sip of my drink or to think about my theory of the case.

The game ran always at quite the stable frame rate (apart from some small moments in cut scenes). But, there is one thing that should have worked differently. I find it a strange decision that when you are waiting for a door to open since the game needs to load the area behind it… You can move away from it. It gave me the impression at first that my input didn’t register. Locking Holmes in place would communicated that a bit better to the player.

Anyways, when you read this article you might think that this is a very flawed game. If you got that impression, you reached the wrong conclusion and didn’t see all the evedince I left in the article. You might want to think it over and you might reach the intended conclusion (which you can always see at the press of a button when you have beaten the case once).

I fell in love with this game. I totally understand why so many people see this game as one of the best Sherlock Holmes games. It does so many things right that it’s still so much fun after 8 years later, this game is still a blast to play through. Of course, the XBOX360 release has some issues. Especially in the visuals department where the preformance can be spotty sometimes and in some places the game really shows its age.

But did those problems bother me? Oh heavens no. I still enjoyed myself and I was quite happy that I was able to pick up this game for quite a cheap price. It also made me quite curious to play the other Sherlock Holmes games in my collection and that’s perfect since my summer break just started.

So, if you enjoy mystery adventure games like Professor Layton, CSI or Ace Attorney AND/OR if you enjoy point-and-click adventure games like Deponia or Broken Sword or Monkey Island… I think you owe it yourself to check out this game. Since the port earlier this year, this game is on so many platforms and quite easy to get so if you want some better preformance, I highly suspect that the PS4 and Switch versions’ll outpreform the XBOX360 version. But hey, the XBOX360 version is still worth playing!

And with that said, I have reached my conclusion about this highly enjoyable game and where shall we go next–

Thank you for reading this article so much. 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.