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Preview: Saint Kotar: The Yellow Mask (PC – Steam) ~ It’s A Holy Sin.

capsule_616x353Developers’ siteFull game websiteKickstarterSteam page for the prologue

Ah, point-and-click adventure games. One of the best game genres that there is in my opinion. I do love myself a good point-and-click game. Now, you could start a debate if games like Ace Attorney, Corpse Party, Zero Escape series are also point-and-click games. I know that they are visual novels but I find that there is a lot of overlap between both genres. But that might be an interesting topic for a gamer’s thoughts article. Now, today I want to talk about a game that Red Martyr Entertainment is developing called Saint Kotar. They have launched a Kickstarter to raise more money to develop this game even further, you can find the link to the Kickstarter at the start of this article and it’s ending this Friday, July 24th, 2020. So, if this game seems interesting to you, feel free to take a look at that page. But, how would you know if this game is interesting? Well, by playing the free prologue on Steam of course. In this article, you will find my 100% honest opinion on this prologue, as per request of the developer. So, let’s dive right into it. And per usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the article in the comment section down below. 

Reviewed version: v1.3.

It’s A Holy Sin

fisherman_wallpaper.jpgWhen you start a new game in this prologue, you get introduced to the main character of this game. Just by the opening quote, you know which themes this game will tackle. The game is advertised as a dark psychological horror adventure game talking about religion. The story starts in what looks like a hellscape or limbo. The main character feels that he is being punished for something is he is unable to remember.

I don’t want to give a more in depth explanation of the story in this game since the demo is 2 hours long and otherwise I might easily get into spoiler territory. But, if you are interested in games about the exploration of trauma and sins, I think that this game won’t dissapoint you.

The whole prologue is completely voice acted in English and only English. Now, the game got translated to German, Russian, Polish, Turkish, Brazilian, Czech, Spanish, and Chinese. Anything but the voice acting is translated and localized. Since I understand a small bit of German, I replayed the first section with German subtitles and I have to say that I’m quite impressed with the quality of it.

Before I continue to talk about writing, I want to talk about the voice acting. The voice acting is quite well done but it’s on the edge of overacting in my opinion. I can’t really put my finger on it but I felt that some lines weren’t natural enough. But, the fact that I have played in several theatre productions might have something to do with it, since I can get quite nitpicky in details when it comes to delivering lines.

The writing in this game is quite impressive. It strikes that fine balance of creepy and being realistic. Now, something that destroys the immersion a bit for me is the animations, but I’ll talk more about that in a later part of the article. To avoid spoilers, I don’t think it’s a good idea to talk more about the writing. But before we go on to the next section, I do want to talk about this. The pacing is sometimes a bit off. Sometimes there is some downtime where the game looks like it’s soft locked and doing nothing. Most likely, it’s loading the next voice line in the background, but it feels a bit off.

Where is my Bible?

20200719134642_1The artwork in this game is amazing. The enviroments this game takes place in are amazingly detailed and feel realistic. The only complaint I have about the visuals is that it’s clear that somethings stick out a bit. The best example I can give are the charater models. Now, they aren’t bad but 3D characters on heavily detailed 2D image? It somehow doesn’t fit in my mind.

One advise I can give you is to set the brightness to max. There are some sections of the game I thought the game froze but it was playing an animation. That reminds me, I found it quite strange that when the screen went black to load the next scene in, there was no animation on the screen. It was just black with the sound and music where playing in the background. Anyhow, when I set the brightness to the maximum, I was able to see more of the game and some parts didn’t felt too hidden anymore.

When talking about the visuals, we also have to talk about the animations. Now, remember that I said earlier that it broke the immersion for me? Well, let me explain why. In the prologue, the animations feel unfinished and they are inconsistent. Let me give an example of them being inconsistent. In this prologue, you play as different characters. During the game, you meet Nikolay. Nikolay’s mouth moves when he speaks yet for some strange reason, the mouth of the main character doesn’t move while he is speaking. Maybe I’m overanalysing this since it’s quite possible that most of it are inner thoughts, then again, the mouth doesn’t move during dialogue…

What do I mean by unfinished animations? Well, it feels like there is so much more that can be done by adding more animations to the characters while interacting with things. The characters feel a bit to static, locked in their idle frames of animation. Now, I’m not saying that the animations are horrible or bad. Far from it. But, when I’m saying is that they aren’t there quite yet. Just let the character move a bit more and the game will feel a lot better.

It’s getting there

cottage_exterior_wallpaperThere is some minor pixel hunting in this game. This could have been avoided when sometimes hotspots just sprakled or something in that nature. Maybe this could be a difficulty option like a lot of hidden object games do. This could help people when they feel stuck. And then I looked at the “Help” section of the pause menu. This feature is in the game, but it gets never explained. Just press the space bar.

Also, I found it quite strange that when you started the credits from the main menu, you get a message as if you had beaten the game. This is quite strange, since I just wanted to check out how big the team as research for this article.

Overall, this game is really getting there. There are a lot of detailing and polishing work to be done. Thankfully, the developers are quite responisive and open for feedback so I think the full game will be a lot better compared to the prologue. But don’t misunderstand me here, I’m not saying that the prologue isn’t good. I had an amazing time while playing this game.

I’m very impressed by the quality of this game and I’m crossing my fingers for the Kickstarter to reach it’s goal. Since I honestly believe in this team and from what I can see in this prologue, I think this game is going to become quite interesting. So, that’s why I might come over quite harsh in this article in certain sections. I just want to see the game get even better then it currently is. Sometimes, it are just some small details that need to be changed.

For example, the color of the buttons in the main menu are too similar to the colors in the background. The “Options” and “Exit Game” buttons almost blend in with the background for me. Speaking about the UI, it’s extremely well done but it would be bettter if some sound effects would play and if the “ESC” key also exited you out of menu’s.

Speaking about sound effects, they are pretty good. They set the tone and atmosphere quite well. Including the soundtrack of this game, it sells the whole atmosphere without a lot of issues.

In conclusion, this game is pretty decent. I’m seriously impressed with the quality of the game so far. If this is the baseline level of quality that the team can deliver, I’m very excited to see the full game in the future. The game is scheduled to be released in the summer of next year when you look at the deliverly time on the Kickstarter page.

Thank you Red Martyr for this oppertunity and introducing me to this project. I’m going to follow it for sure and whenever the full game is released, you may be sure that I’m going to write an article about it. So yeah, if you are into point-and-click games, horror games and/or adventure games…. I can recommend this game.

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

First Impression: Silicon Dreams (PC – Itch.io) ~ Humans, how do they work?

headerI promised that this article was coming. Back when I published the press kit of this game, I said that I was going to write an article talking about my opinion on the game. This game is being developed by two people who created a very interesting game already in the past called Spinnortality. Now, what is this game about? If robots sleep, do they dream of electric sheep. … I’m sorry, I just wanted to use that phrase at least once in my article about robots and AI. In a way, you are the AI of a robot that is interviewing humans. But, is it any good? Well, let’s find out by taking a look at the pre-release demo that you can find on Itch.io. As usual, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your opinion on the content of this article and/or the game.

Humans, how do they work?

zPkd5MWhen you start up this game, you get greeted with an invitation to subscribe to the newsletter of Clockwork Bird, the developers of this game. Honestly, I think it’s worth it since their game concepts are quite interesting. Spinnortality was a game about building a company that could conquer the world while trying to get yourself immortal. And with this second game, I feel that there is a lot of depth to the game.

In addition to that, I like the attention to detail that this prototype demo has. I mean, it has a nice menu screen and it even has an icon instead of the default icon that some prototype games have that are made in Unity or Unreal Engine.

The menu screen is very interesting, instead of your typical list of options you get in almost every game, you get a radar type of deal where you can click on the menu options to get started. The only nitpick I have is that in this prototype, the animation of selecting a menu item plays after you selected it. So, the animation can point to an empty thing in the next menu. I think it would have been cooler if the animation played while selecting an item in the menu.

After you picked the robot you wanted to start with, you get the basic premise of this game. You are D-0527, and your goal is to try and find out what’s wrong with other Androids that are created by Kronos Robotics.

In order for you to play this game, you only need your mouse. You can interact with three things in this demo. That is, the tablet, the TV screen and the printer. The TV screen starts the actual interrogation of the broken Android. The printer is a log of the things that were already being said and the tablet is the way you select and ask your questions. The yellow text is clickable and brings you to the questions.

Now, how does one find the errors and glitches in the Androids? Well, during the interrogation, you notice that in the middle of the screen, you have a whole range of emotions. Some questions can provoke the Android and have a certain emotional response. It’s up to you to find and ask the right questions to get to the right conclusion. So, you would make a mistake if you clicked through everything since you will have to answer certain questions correctly or you might not be allowed to continue further.

This game gets even more tricky. You can’t see the log of the interrogation during a dialogue. So, yes. For this game, I even got out a pen and paper to take some minor notes. While the log is useful, it becomes one wall of text rather quickly and without a search feature, this can get quite tricky to keep track of all the information. And I’m glad that there isn’t a search feature, since this makes the game that more challenging and rewarding for when you pay attention.

The end goal of each interrogation is to fill in a report. The report asks some questions that Kronos Robotics has about the Android. Now, it’s your job to ask the right personal and general questions to get the information you need. But do keep in mind that you only ask each question once apart from some exceptions. So, be very careful on the questions you ask.

So, that’s the gameplay in this game. And I have to admit, that I have fallen in love with this game. Frequent readers of my blog know that I enjoy games like Ace Attorney and Zero Escape. Two game franchises that just play with your expectations and emotions. And this game has the potential to do the exact same thing, and I simply can’t wait to sink my teeth into the full version.

Let’s give some feedback

LrAvIqWhile I know that this game is still under development and that I most likely played a very early version of the game, I do have some things I would advise to the developers for the full version of the game. Do keep in mind that if you are reading this article in the future when a newer version or even the full version has been released, that some or all of these things might be invalid points of feedback.

First of all, I wouldn’t change anything about the audiovisual design. The atmosphere of the interrogation room is excellent and the animations that are in the game like raising the tablet and report are great.

The music is tense and reminds me a lot of games like Ace Attorney, Zero Escape and Corpse Party. It made me feel tense and I liked it. Since it added a ton to the atmosphere. Now, I do think that this game lacks some sound effects. I think that the game would come a bit more alive when with certain emotional reactions, some sound effect would play. For example, an angry response can have a growl or because they are Androids, a chainsaw starting up. Doesn’t that sound like an angry Android?

But, when I can nitpick about things, I have a few recommendations.

First of all, I find it quite strange that the text on the tablet is being typed out and the words of the Android are all right there in one fell swoop. I think it would have been better if the message of the Android is typed out as well.

Secondly, I think it would be great if in the dialogue box, there is some sort of icon that shows you that the message is done and there is a follow up message after it. Of course, that icon would be different if you reached the last part of that dialogue.

And finally, I would like to mention that the flashing when you hover over the yellow text is a bit too fast to my liking. But, know that I only noticed it when I rest my mouse over it for a longer period of time.

Of course this will be added in the full version of the game, but I just want to warn players who are planning to play the prototype demo that there is no way to save and load the game. Thankfully, the prototype demo is rather short and can be finished in give or take an hour or two.

And honestly, that’s all the major feedback I can give about the game so far. Now, if this game sound interesting to you, I think it would be a great idea to go over to the Itch.io page and try out the free prototype demo that’s available right on there.

With that, I have said everything about this game I wanted to say for now. Of course, when the full version gets released, I’ll write a follow-up review, but until then, 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.

NekoJonez’s May 2020 Update

NekoJonez176p_(long)Hello, there my dear readers. I think it’s high time to write an update article to talk about a few things that are going on behind the scenes. Since there is a lot going in the world and in my personal life. This update article might be brief, but I hope you will still enjoy reading it. Anyways, let’s get right into the news!

The amazing GIF has been made by the amazing Gao Li.

Personal life

So, due to COVID-19, the world is in a strange place. Currently, in Belgium (where I live), we are in the process of exiting our lockdown. The schools are going to somewhat resume, the companies will restart their production, stores will reopen… Of course, step by step.

During the lockdown, I didn’t sit still at all. I’m working on a ton of projects and putting in a lot of effort into my job. Speaking of my job, something amazing happened! My dream job since childhood has always been working in a school. When I started to develop my passion for computer science, I wanted to become an IT guy at a big school. In December 2019,  I started working in a school in Ghent parttime as my dream job. But, after the week after the Easter Holidays, something magical happened. I got that job full time now. So, yes. I’m now working full time in my dream job. I can’t honestly believe this happened to me. Thank you!

So, I have been spending quite a lot of time on my job. Since a ton of schools now switched to online classes, the IT staff has a ton of support work. There were days that I helped teachers from the early morning until late in the evening. That means that I sometimes didn’t have time to prepare and/or write an article for my blog.

On top of that, my theatre group started something quite unique. We are acting out our version of a popular TV game show here in Belgium called “De Slimste Mens Ter Wereld”. Freely translated, this means: “The Smartest Person on the Planet”. Sadly enough, there isn’t an English article to be found of the show, so I can’t link it to explain the whole format.

Now, the original person who was editing the whole show wasn’t able to continue working on the show. That means that somebody else has to take over. And I’m one of the only people in the group who has the skills and the expertise to actually edit the show. The show airs on Monday – Wednesday, and Fridays. Now, I work to give or take 10 – 15 hours on each episode. So guess what that means, even less time to prepare articles for my blog.

On top of that, there are a few things happening in my private life that makes my life even busier. Things like me studying a new programming language and developing a tool for some friends of mine. So yeah, I haven’t sat still these days.

Blog news

Now, besides working on all the personal projects mentioned above, there are a few things that are blog related as well. Currently, I have 3 developer requests in the pipeline and I have some friends who wanted me to look at their game to help them out in the next projects.

I’m going to try to write these developer requests first before I write about any other games. That means I have to remake my whole schedule. But that isn’t such a big deal.

Currently, I want to focus my time and energy on my job and my theatre group. I think that this isn’t going to come as a surprise, but I think that May might be a big light on articles. Since I’m working on so many things, I don’t always have the time, creativity, energy, and/or motivation to work on an article each week. With a bit of luck, I might be able to publish two articles this month instead of four, but we shall see. It’ll all depend on the time I can put into my blog and prepare myself. Honestly, I prefer delaying an article instead of rushing one out of the door.

To give you an idea to show you how busy I have been, I have published over 500 articles by this point and I haven’t written a special article about it yet. On top of that, I have been blogging for 10 years now! So yeah, there will be a special article for that in the (near) future!

Besides that, I’m also working on fixing a ton of things on my blog. From typos to fixing dead links, broken images, and things like that. Also, I’m toying around with the idea to move my website to a hosting service. But, I’m not 100% sure about that, and undertaking that project will be for the summer holidays at the earliest.

Apart from that, I currently own an XBOX360 now. One of my friends sold his one and I bought it from him. So, that means I might be able to write reviews and articles about XBOX and XBOX360 games in the future. Are there any games I should check out? Feel free to leave a comment about that.

And with that, I have said everything I wanted to say. I’m sorry for the shorter length of the article but that’s all I have time for now. I hope you still enjoyed reading this article and I hope to be able to welcome you to another article in the future. But until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

First Impressions: The Hive (Steam) ~ War With And Of Bugs

thehiveSteam Store page

One of my favorite game genres is RTS games. The satisfaction that you get from building up your empire, setting up an economy, and preparing yourself to defeat the enemy. It can be such a rewarding feeling. Games like Age of Empires II, Rise of Nations, or Rise & Fall – Civilizations At War are just three of the amazing games I have played to death when I was a kid. Now, when I got a mail from the fine folks over at Skydome Entertainment with a press code for The Hive and full freedom with my article, I was extremely excited. This game has been under development for several years now. The first development blog posts on the Steam Store page date all the way back to December 2014 and the latest patch has been released on March 9th, 2020, which is version 1.203. This is the version I’ll talk about in this article, so if this game got an update, it’s possible that some things in this article or no longer relevant. So, without further ado, I think it’s high time that we take a look at this game and it’s worth your time or if you should skip this game. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article down below.

War With Bugs

TheHive2Something happened to the world. The story of this game starts off in 2175, where our planet Earth got attacked and destroyed. Humanity was able to build a ship and leave Earth before it was completely destroyed and went off a journey to look for a new planet to life. After a human lifetime of searching, a new planet in a new solar system was found. The humans were taken out of their cryogenic sleep to start-up life anew in the harsh climate. But, something is alive underneath the crust of that planet. Something awakens in the City Of Ancients that might prove a big issue for the humans and the catch is, it’s you that takes control of the new species and try and help to find it’s old glory.

You play as The Hive and you are the leader of bugs living in The City Of Ancients. The story gets more interesting in the further chapters but I’m not going to spoil it. To be honest, I got some Overlord vibes from the story. Maybe because both games are about minions you control and have their own unique abilities. The atmosphere is similar to a certain degree. The plot of this game is quite enjoyable and it didn’t disappoint at all.

One thing I should mention is that this game has no skirmish mode as far as I know. So, that means if you finish the 12-ish hour-long campaign, you basically have beaten the game. You could try to beat it on a higher difficulty to challenge yourself but outside that, the game has no real replay value after defeating the campaign.

Now, this game also has voice acting. The voice acting in this game is quite impressive. The production value is impressive for being an indie title. It feels that the voice actors put their heart and soul into the characters and gave them a nice personality. I especially liked the effects they put on the voice for the Insect Advisor.

While this game takes place in a magical universe, there isn’t a lot of technobabble. For those who don’t know that term, it means that everything has its own name and there are a million exposition dumps. If you have played an RTS game in the past, you will know right what to do and the war of the bugs can begin.

War of Bugs

TheHive1So, the gameplay loop in this game is that you have to explore the caves underneath the planet to find a way up. You learn a lot about the War and the fight against the other species that took place. While most levels use the usual RTS gameplay loop of build city, build the economy, build an army, find enemy, attack the enemy army, destroy enemy base; a few puzzles and unique twists are thrown into the mix.

In terms of gameplay and mechanics, I have a mixed feeling. There are things that I enjoyed quite a lot and there are things that baffled me. Let’s do a round of good thing – bad thing to sum a few things up.

So, while building your empire, you can not only rotate around the camera but the buildings as well. Man, I love features like these. It makes it less awkward when I placed a barracks in a corner and my units spawn out of a wall from the building. Alas, the building of buildings has one thing that I found frustrating. I have gotten so used to the fact that you can cue up buildings to build, but that doesn’t work in this game.

The gathering of resources works in a unique way. Food doesn’t rot away and workers don’t have to walk back and forth to the hive. A special cart rides out from the nearest gathering point to collect the resources. So, your workers put all the gather resources on a pile and these carts come and pick it up. The resources don’t even rot away and you don’t have to do anything for it to collect it. The only “downside” is that you can only use one worker per resource gathering point. Now, what’s the bad thing here?

Well, there is a soft-lock potential. The resources aren’t infinite. Now, imagine this scenario in the Age of Empires II. There is no more wood on the map but you need wood for your archers. What can you do? Well, you can build up a ton of farms and trade that food over for gold to buy wood at the market. This avoids the issue that if everything of one resource is gathered, it’s impossible to get. Now, in The Hive, there is no such thing as a market or a farm. Meaning that every decision counts. Thankfully, you really have to make bad decision after bad decision in order for you to soft-lock yourself but the fact that the potential is there always worried me.

The UI of this game is pretty impressive. The options menu is something that I can only praise. An explanation of what key does what? It’s a feature I’ll miss in other games. If only, a similar explanation appeared for the graphic options, but hey, that would clutter the UI of the graphics options a bit too much. Yet, I have two things that I disliked about the UI. First of all, if I may nitpick, I found the text on the buttons on the pause menu a bit hard to read since the text color and the color of the buttons are somewhat close to each other. And second, the visual design of the menu’s that you open using the pause menu are so different in design… I mean, the pause menu has a sort of cave theming like the UI in-game, and suddenly, a more space / modern UI appears for the options menu.

The fact that your vision cone appears on the mini-map is a great feature and it even rotates with you when you rotate the camera. Yet, I do have a complaint. It doesn’t change size when you zoom and/or out and especially, it always appears a bit underneath the place where you click on the mini-map. I can understand why this happens since the location of the camera isn’t where you click but a bit underneath that spot. But, it gave me a feeling I wasn’t able to click where I wanted on the mini-map.

It’s great that you can skip cutscenes and even have subtitles. But why aren’t both possible in the opening cutscene? A minor nitpick is that there are some minor grammar errors in the game (“Click of the paintings” instead “Click on the paintings” in the second level)

There is this unique mechanic where you can find treasures to upgrade your units to dissolve them for DNA points to unlock special upgrades for your units. It’s a perfect balancing act since you need to decide if you are going to dissolve the treasures and get an upgrade or use them to improve your unit(s). If only that would be explained in some sort of tutorial, which the game somewhat lacks.

Just a bit more

giphyIf you read the previous section, it might look that I’m ripping this game a new one. That there are so many things missing or wrong with this game, that it’s not a great game to play. Well, then I think you got the wrong idea. I loved my time with the game and I found it a bit disappointing that some features I expect weren’t there.

Also, the price for this game is only 15€. So, it would be wrong of me to compare this game to big titles with way bigger budgets behind it. The thing is that I enjoy this game so much, that it frustrated me that the potential that this game has is unused.

Take for example the visual presentation. The artwork, unit design, level design… they all look amazing. You really feel like being in an abandoned cave where an old civilization used to live. The animations really make the world come alive. It’s so adorable that your workers dig into the ground to create a building and that it rises up like a sort of mole hole.

The audiovisual design is outstanding as well. This game has an orchestral soundtrack that reminds me of the reboot Tomb Raider games, Rise & Fall – Civilizations At War, and other similar games. It sounds familiar on one hand but new and fresh on the other hand. It’s a blast to listen too. The sound effects only add to the great atmosphere. The audiovisual design is so well done that I can excuse that some things don’t have sound effects or voice lines like when you click on an option where you don’t have enough DNA points for or certain interactions in your inventory are silent.

This game is a blast to play but you have to take into account that there are some things that don’t really work or work in the way you expect them to work. I have given several examples in the previous section, but here is another one. Why does your cursor not change when you hover over a resource or why don’t your worker acknowledge that interaction is going to happen?

This is why I said earlier in the article that I feel quite mixed about the gameplay. I enjoy playing this game but the final touches are just not there in certain cases. Now, I’m not saying that this game is unpolished or anything since there is a lot of attention to detail in most mechanics but not in all of them.

I think that this game could use another major content update or update that just focusses on making the game a bit more accessible. I think if a tutorial is added, something to avoid the soft lock potential and the functions that miss sound effects or voice lines are added; that this game gets even better.

So, I can’t wait to finish the final 5 levels I still have left to play. Since I really enjoyed my time with the game. I highly recommend this game to everybody who enjoys sci-fi games, RTS games, and even to people who enjoy adventure games. This game is quite enjoyable to play and experience. It’s an enjoyable RTS experience that I won’t soon forget. Congrats to the small Finnish team of 6 people who put their heart, soul, blood, sweat, and tears into this game since I have to say, the end result is something to be proud of and it shows a ton of potential for future games and/or more adventures in the world of The Hive.

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

Publishing: Silicon Dreams – A New Kickstarter Release

CWB final front page img_cog aligned_wide.png

Hello there, dear readers. Jonez here. Before I let you enjoy the presskit of Silicon Dreams, I want to give you some background information. This game is under development by Clockwork Bird. This studio is the studio that also brought us Spinnortality. A game I took a look at in the summer of 2017. Today they are presenting their new game and the Kickstarter to fund the development. At first, I wanted to write an article about it but due to the lack of time, I was unable to get an article out before the end of the Kickstarter. That’s why I’m publishing the press kit for now. But don’t worry, you will get an article on this game later down the line since the idea behind the game interests me and I’m looking forward to telling you what I think about it. But in any case, without further ado… Here is the press release!

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Short pitch

Interrogate androids in this cyberpunk conversation sim. Question androids, manipulate their emotions, gain their trust. Will you expose their secrets to the company, or risk everything to help them achieve independence?

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Long pitch

Artificial intelligence: it’s never been more advanced, more convincing or more affordable! Believable humanoid androids are as common as smartphones. A lawful and subservient android will be treated fairly. Renegades and non-conformists, or those that glitch too often, will, of course, be terminated.

It is your job to tell us which is which. Company policy encourages:

  • Investigation: delve into an android’s life story to truly understand them.
  • Emotional manipulation:  if an android trusts you it is more likely to share its secrets; if it’s angry, it may let something slip; or, perhaps it could be frightened into obedience?
  • Diagnosis: does the android conform to manufacturer specifications?
  • Action: should this android be wiped, or is it fit to return to service?
  • DO NOT allow glitched androids to escape. Our top priority is easing customer anxiety about “rogue androids” and “liberation movements”; we cannot afford to feed into that panic.

Company note: sympathizers who throw around words like “exploitation” and “slavery” will be terminated.

Kickstarter:
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1870604859/silicon-dreams-interrogate-androids-in-a-cyberpunk-future

SDLogoFinalv5_KS_centred

Demo: https://clockwork-bird.itch.io/silicon-dreams

Trailer: https://youtu.be/X7tOQh3r7ao

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Screenshots

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Preview: The Uncharted Roads of Marco Polo (PC) ~ The Road To Development

4 (1)[15753]Today I have something quick unique to present to you. Not too long ago, I met somebody on a Facebook group about point-and-click adventure games who was developing a new title. The game is called ”The Uncharted Roads of Marco Polo” and it looks extremely interesting to me. I suggested creating an article for the developers and they agreed. So, here we are. I’m writing a preview article for a game that only released some screenshots and a small trailer video. But there is more! I had the chance to talk to one of the developers of this game called Josip Makjanic and we are going to talk about the uncharted road that took him to this development. So, with that said, it’s time to dive into this article and invite you to leave a comment in the comment section with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

 The pitch

So, what is this game about? The developer provided me with a bit more information about the game. Basically, the game is a point-and-click adventure game like Broken Sword and Monkey Island. You can also compare it to Captain Disaster, Another Code R, Time Hollow, Ace Attorney, Professor Layton or the CSI games.

The game takes the player all over various landmarks in Croatia to solve puzzles and have a grand adventure. The story will be based on historic locations and figures. At this moment, the game is in its pre-alpha stage and has over 60 locations planned together with various characters to populate them. The puzzles will be in the style you would find in the Broken Sword or the Monkey Island series.

Pre-Alpha means that the game is in a sort “draft” phase. It means that everything is being prepared to go into the production of the game. Compare it to baking a cake, the moment you plan to bake a cake and make a list of which ingredients you will need and for whom you are making the cake… Those are things you would do in the pre-alpha stage of development. You can read more information about the development cycle on this Wikipedia article.

Personally, I love games that take place in unusual locations around the world. So, this game takes place in Croatia and is being developed by Svarog Interactive. This 4-man team is also based in Croatia. Now, the guys from there also send us a little teaser video that you can find right here:

I have to say, this teaser is extremely impressive. Right away, I noticed that the art style resembled the art style in the first Broken Sword games. Like the Broken Sword games, the locations are extremely detailed and colorful. Unlike the Broken Sword games, the animation like the leaves and the flies on screen… Well, the location feels more alive than ever. I find it rather enjoyable that everything looks quite realistic and those flies, man, they look so goofy I love it.

If you compare the Pre-Alpha video to the screenshots I shared on top of this article, you notice some big differences right away. First of all, the dialogue system looks a lot cleaner. You get dialogue boxes with character portraits on top. Also, you notice that on the bottom right corner, you have a bag. Most likely, this is where your items are going to be stored. So, you won’t have to go to the top of your screen for that. In addition to that, in the right upper corner, you notice that there is a gear icon. This will most likely be a way to go to the pause menu.

Early EnvironmentsSadly enough, since this game is still in extremely early development, there is nothing more I can show you or talk about. I can’t wait to see more and I’m going to follow the development of this game quite closely.

Yet, if you want more and you speak Croatian, you can read this article with one of the developers by 24Sata. Now, there is also this YouTube video where the developer talks about his road towards development. While the video is in Croatian, there are English subtitles provided. Sadly, the subtitles just stop around the 5:11 mark, so there are 2 minutes without subtitles ☹.

Now, before we continue with the interview with Josip Makjanic, one of the co-founders of Svarog Interactive, I want to share some links where you can follow the project as well. They have a Facebook page and Twitter page.

Oliver, Alice & Evil Seagul

Let’s talk

Jonez: Welcome Josip Makjanic, co-founder of Svarog Interactive. Can you give us a small introduction about yourself?

Josip: Hello Jonez. My name is Josip Makjanic, a co-founder and Game Designer in Svarog Interactive.

Jonez: In our conversation over mail you told me that this isn’t your first game. You worked on impressive games like Serious Sam 4 and Serious Sam VR: The Last Hope. Serious Sam is an amazing series from Croatia, your home country. Was it always your dream to develop games?

Josip: Yes. I was always fascinated by it. I started making video games not so long ago, but I sort of designed games in general since I was a kid, by designing them on paper, writing stories and creating concepts. When I lived in a high school dorm I used to make versions of Warcraft, Diablo and even Counter Strike on paper that we played with dice, and people from the dorm would come and play in our room.

I was always fascinated by it and loved creating, so today, with some experience behind and with some good friends by my side, I thought it’s time to start working on our own video games.

Jonez: On the road to the developping of “The Uncharted Road of Marco Polo”, you created two other games called “Day in Dementia” and “In Memory”. Both games have a similar concept and art style. As a side note, I have to say that I’m touched by “In Memory”. The story behind it, a game to honor the dead of your mother, I have one word for you: respect. Respect man. Now, I noticed that both games were created in Construct. Are you using the same engine for this game?

Josip: Thank you. 🙂 Both of these games were made in Construct 2, and were created as a personal project. I don’t even know if I could call them games, but rather some sort of experiences that meant a lot to me personally. Marco Polo is being developed in Unity since it gives us more freedom from the technical sides of things.

Jonez: In our conversation, you talk about an open-world RPG. So, this point-and-click game isn’t the only title you are working on? What is this open-world RPG game or is it more a testing ground for possible future titles?

Josip: We are huge fans of Point & Click games and huge fans of RPG’s. We grew up on those games and always wanted to make our own worlds that others can enjoy with us. So, we are working on an open-world RPG system and have stories and concepts, but, we don’t like to rush ourselves, as we know how ambitious and big these projects are, and we would, of course, need a much bigger team. So before it happens, and we hope it will, there are other, smaller projects in mind, but we are going in that direction.

It’s very important for us to first understand how everything works and make many tests so we don’t waste time or get lost in the projects we’re developing, which makes the development much more enjoyable and better organized. So yes, we are making tests and preparations for other projects, but Marco Polo is a priority and is written as a trilogy. We are also huge fans of traditional drawing and animations, so I don’t think we will ever want to part with it. 🙂

Jonez: Now, let’s get back to The Uncharted Road of Marco Polo since that’s the game that I’m previewing with this article. I’m rather curious. Why about Marco Polo? If the game is set in Croatia and Marco Polo is a merchant from Italy. Of course, there is this debate about his birthplace might be Croatian as well… So, why the decision for Marco Polo?

Josip: The game is talking about historic figures and real places, and players will learn so much about Croatia from it, and while the game has many real things people can learn about, it’s story is fictional and we won’t get involved into that debate, but will rather focus on some other, more interesting aspects based on his life, and how to make an enjoyable story and experience in general. 🙂

Jonez: Are you developing this game full-time or are you developing this game on the side like the Corpse Party developers GrisGris? Also, how do you make sure that there is enough budget to create this game?

Josip: We are currently working in our free time, so that means that we also have other jobs, doing freelancing and helping each other out, but we believe that soon we’ll be able to work full time on the game, and when that happens, we will inform everyone about it. If we don’t get a publisher then we will definitely go Kickstarter with playable Demo, Trailer and some other interesting things in mind. So the game’s development is currently going smoothly without too many investments, but we will definitely depend on a publisher or Kickstarter later if we want to finish the game in a reasonable time.

We also don’t want to go on Kickstarter without having some quality content that people can enjoy before considering supporting us. 🙂

Jonez: You told me that there are, including you, 4 people working on this game. Can you tell us a bit more about the team and the talent in it?

Josip: Yes, there are 4 of us and we all have some projects behind us. There is Alen, our technical guy who makes sure all the systems work in general. Devis is our character artist and animator, and Andrija is our manager. I make backgrounds, write a story and making a game design in general, but we are all highly involved in each part of the development so there is a bit of everyone in every aspect of the game. Andrija, for example, came up with the idea of Marco Polo, so we all worked together to make a story that will fit the game’s mechanics.

There will be behind the scenes when it comes out. 🙂

Jonez: And as a final question, I would like to ask what are your favorite parts of being a game developer and what do you dislike in being a game developer.

Josip: I like how rewarding it can be. It sure isn’t easy to make a game and that’s why I started with those small ones. To build strong foundations and to be able to better understand it and move on to bigger projects. 

And the better I understand it and the more I know about the technical side, the more I can enjoy the creative parts of it, so I guess after every day of work you get rewarded with new knowledge and skills, and I find it very enjoyable.

The bad part of the development would definitely be one issue in the industry in general, and that’s the crunch. I’m not talking about a month or two of crunching, but about the developers who crunch for 6 months or more.

It’s not healthy and I believe that the health of those developers should be in the first place and by organizing yourself better before getting into developing a certain project would save many from that.

It’s a huge problem and something we want to avoid and not be a part of, so that’s one of the reasons for our long preparations and organization before the project even starts. I maybe went a bit off-topic with it, but I believe it’s very important to talk about it

Jonez: And with that, thank you Josip for the interview and the answers! Thank you for answering my silly questions and talking about games and development. I enjoyed it quite a lot.

Josip: Here’s a few words for the gamers out there. It is a huge compliment for us to be compared to a classic such as Broken Sword, as we saw many of you talk about it, and we are happy that you love what you see at this stage of development. It will maybe remind you of it, as we see it already do but I just want to say that we don’t want to be another Broken Sword in the end, as Broken Sword is a timeless classic and we don’t want to compete with it, nor I believe we can.

But what I believe is that we can make an enjoyable experience that will make your time worth playing it, a game on its own that we would like to play too, and that’s what we hope to achieve.

We want to make games like they used to be, or at least, make them feel like they used to be, and even though we are not the most experienced studio in the industry, we will give our best to make them worth your time, and try to be better with each one.

Thank you. 🙂

Jonez: And as a closing note, you can follow Josip’s personal projects over at his CrobbitArts Facebook page!

Ending of the article

And with that, I have to call this article a wrap. I want to thank Josip Makjanic for the interview and the material he provided for me to write this article. I’m quite hyped for this game and I can’t wait to play a demo or see more. Yes, I have quite the weak spot when it comes to well-crafted point-and-click adventure games. I love them more when there is a certain charm to it, like with this game.

This game looks to have quite some potential. Currently, we got only some screenshots and a teaser video and it’s already looking quite amazing. So, here is to Svarog Interactive, keep up the good work you guys! You can do it!

So, I’m curious. Do you think that this game is as interesting as I think? Have you noticed something I overlooked? Tell me in the comment section down below. And with that said, I want to thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Preview: SpeedLimit (Steam) ~ Shall We Run Away?

speedlimit-verticalgamecover6x9Official websiteSteam Store page

Remember “All You Can Eat“? Well, the people over at GameChuck are developing a new game and it’s called Speed Limit. A few weeks ago, a demo version released to test out the game and gather feedback for further development of the game. Today, I’m going to take a look at the game and talk about my 100% honest opinions on the game with the provided press copy. Now, do keep in mind that this game is under development and that I only played the demo. So, things mentioned in this article might be changed when the full version comes out in the second quarter of 2021. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article. 

If you are interested in this game and you want to read more or even the press materials like screenshots, trailers and other interesting things, you can read the press kit right here. There are also dev logs on their YouTube channel.

Editorial note: I have written this review while playing the demo version released on March 16th, 2020.

The game

Asset-8 (1)In this game, you play as a guy just commuting on the train. Suddenly, a strange man walks into the cart with a gun and collapses into your arms. The annoying thing is that it knocks out the phone from your hand and changes it with the gun. Well, this catches the attention of the secret agent on the train and send the whole SWAT Team after you. Now, it’s time to escape their grip and save yourself before it’s too late. Your goal is to avoid all their fire and dodge every last enemy that gets thrown your way since one hit kills you.

The extremely difficult adventure can easily be controlled by a few buttons. The arrow keys are for moving to sideways, the down key is for ducking and the up key is to aim up. The default keys for shooting it’s the space bar and for jumping it’s the control key. The controls are easily rebinded in the options menu. Oh, and let’s not forget to mention that this game also can be controlled by a controller.

Speaking of the options menu, the only other things you can currently do is change the volume of the music or reset the options. The consistency of the menu system sticks out and makes it easy to use. The color scheme is used throughout the whole game and that’s a nice thing.

This game also has an amazing audiovisual presentation. Let’s talk first about the visuals. If you ever played a game like Heart of Darkness on the PS1 or Another World on PC, the pixel art will feel extremely familiar. The animations and the visuals are extremely impressive for a game that’s still under active development and still has at least a year left in development.

Speed-Limit-bg1Couple that with an amazing tense tech/dance soundtrack and you have the great audiovisual presentation that this game delivers. The sound effects get the same praise and I have to say that the immersion sometimes is extremely high.

Now, something that’s also quite interesting to know is that this game has several gameplay styles. The variety of this game is quite impressive. For the sake of surprise, I won’t spoil too much, but a motorcycle and plane play a role in this game.

The game also has achievements, this is quite interesting and gives a peek to the feature of this game. Currently, the demo has three stages for us to enjoy. And I have to admit, I have trouble reaching the ending of the first stage. But hey, I’m ready to try and try again, since the adrenaline kick will be amazing when I finally do it.

Comments

Screenshot_3Now, it’s time to give my opinion on the game so far. If it isn’t clear from the previous section, I really enjoy the game and I think that the finished product will have a lot of potential. But, there are some flaws I think that could be changed.

Let’s start with a minor thing. The “Reset To Default” button in the options menu also resets the volume of the music and sound effects. I think an additional button to only reset the control bindings would be a great idea.

I can understand that this game is supposed to be difficult and that it’s a game of memorization. But, something that annoyed me to no end was the fact you can’t shoot while crouch walking. You need to be at a standstill and duck in order for you to shoot while crouching. I felt that it’s a bit unfair since sometimes your execution speed can mean the difference between life or death.

At the current moment, there isn’t enough feedback in the sound department. There is no game over sound and the animation can easily be missed. Just give a little sound effect that the player lost before you respawn. Now, the respawn happens quite fast so, it isn’t that big of a deal as soon as you get used to it.

Also, I think that the difficulty curve ramps up just a bit too fast. By the 2nd cart, you get swarmed from above, left and right. When you survive that, the next enemy has a shield that bounces your bullets back and because you barely have time to attack the enemies from above from the previous cart, they attack you from the previous cart while you are still trying to figure out how to beat the enemy with the shield. It can be quite overwhelming. Then again, this might be part of the charm, but it’s quite frustrating when you barely get the time to get used to certain enemies or patterns.

You might have read it earlier, I haven’t been able yet to beat the first stage. I think that I came quite close, but there is always something that I overlook that spells disaster. Now, because of that reason, I won’t comment if the game saves your progress or not, but the fact that there isn’t an option to reset the save file in the options menu has me a bit worried that this has to be done all in one go. And if you die, you have to restart everything from the start. Then again, you might just get an option to either continue or start a new game when you reached the second level.

And that’s currently all the feedback I can give for the demo I played. So, I think it’s time for my conclusion on this article and my final thoughts on this game.

Overall opinion

I know that this “review” is going to be out of date as soon as the demo gets an update or when the game fully releases. I’m fully aware that my reflexes aren’t quick enough to play this style of game optimally. But, that doesn’t stop me from enjoying this game.

Before I started to write this article, I had to keep in mind that this article is both a preview to introduce this game to my readers and it’s a feedback article. The difference is that this time, I shared my feedback for the developer in my article instead of in a mail.

The direction that this game is taking is interesting. In this article, I have talked about games like Another World and Heart of Darkness. And, this game seriously reminds me of those style of games, extremely difficult but rewarding games to beat.

While this game wouldn’t be my first choice when I’m buying games, I’m glad that the developers provided me with a press copy since I want to beat this game to try and get better at these style of games. The “just one more try” mentality got to me for this game. Maybe the fact that the soundtrack of this game is so catchy might have to do with it.

If the game gets even more polish and gets just a bit more balanced in terms of difficulty, I think this game is going to do great in the indie scene. The foundation is already there and if this is only the demo so far… I’m looking forward to the full version. And you may be sure that when I notice that this game gets an update, that I test it out and help the developers to polish up this game to be even better.

If this game sounds interesting to you, I advise that you keep an eye on the Steam Store page and wishlist it. Since this is a game you don’t want to miss if you enjoy games like Super Meat Boy, Another World, Heart of Darkness and games of that nature. Or if you enjoy highspeed action games.

Before I ramble on and on, I think it’s a great idea that I close off this article. 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.

Community Award: Real Neat Blog Award from Frostilye

real-neat-blog

I have won an award with my blog. Well sort of. Remember the time you got those chain emails where people ask “send this to X amount of people to…”? In the blogging community, we gave this concept a unique spin. We have community/tag awards. The idea is that bloggers promote each other by passing an award. In March, I got tagged with the “Real Neat Blog Award” by Frostilyte (who also created the picture you see at the top of this post). Man, I’m always so thankful when other bloggers tag me in these kinds of posts since I find it amazing to see how we as bloggers stick together and help each other but also recognize each other. So, it’s time to follow the rules of this kind of posts where I thank the tagger, answer the questions and ask my own questions for the people I tag. Oh, also feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the content of the article and/or maybe your own answers on the questions if you want to. 

1) Have you ever been really excited about a game only to be disappointed by it?

I think the way I select the games I want to play actually helped me to avoid being really disappointed by a game. When I start a game, I’m always going in with an open mind and telling myself that it’s possible that the game isn’t going to be my cup of tea.

Of course, there are games that I’m extremely excited about and weren’t the best they could be. But, let’s be honest here, there is always something in a game that you find disappointing and it can range from a small or minor thing to something that affects the whole game.

For example, I really enjoyed The Legend of Zelda – A Link Between Worlds but I’m not that big of a fan of the art style. Yet, there are a lot of people who really liked the art style of that game.

Another example is Etrain Odyssey IV, the thing that I found disappointing is that there wasn’t any voice acting. Yes, no voice acting. Now here is the thing, usually, there is no voice acting in the franchise apart from 4 out of 10 games in the series. So yeah, it’s an extremely silly reason since I loved playing Etrain Odyssey on the DS and that game doesn’t have voice acting either.

Or, The Legend of Zelda – Breath Of The Wild. I was beyond excited about the game, but when I played it, I found that the game shifted a bit too much from the usual Zelda formula, but after a while, I really started to grow on me.

I could talk way more in-depth about this topic, and maybe I should in another article. But I think that I have to answer the question with “no, I haven’t or I can’t remember.” Since there are always aspects of the game I enjoy and aspects I’m not that fond of.

2) Is there any aspect of your life, big or small, that you’re not completely content with and that you frequently think about changing?

It’s a cheesy answer but I’m going to give it. Life is far from perfect and there will be always things you want to change.

I know that my English isn’t perfect and that I often write mistakes. It would be easy for me to hide behind the fact that English isn’t my native language. My native language is Dutch and I also know French and a small bit of German. But, I’m always content when people point out mistakes. It helps me improve my writing and my English skills.

I know that I tend to procrastinate a lot. Sometimes a bit too much. From small to big projects, for some reason, I love to do things at the last minute for some reason. There are moments in time that I don’t procrastinate that much, but that’s not always the case.

Then again, when I’m really honest with myself. I find that myself quite content with my life and where things are going. If I keep up the good work I’m currently doing, I think I will be able to realize my dreams.

3) Can you tell me a joke?

You know that I love to tell stories, so let me tell you an amusing story. I think I was around 10 years old and my family and I were on our yearly trip to the seaside. In the vacation park, we were staying at, there is a football field (I mean for playing soccer. Not for American Football.). Well, more like a farmers field since it was quite uneven and you were able to see puddles when had rained. Keep that in mind, the field is anything but even.

There was this guy, let’s call him Dave,  who always got angry when we were playing with a leather football since it was extremely dangerous. His reasoning, you were able to kick out a window with them. So, in the summer evening, there were a lot of kids and teenagers playing football.

Dave was playing tennis on the road next to the football field together with his brother. Everything went fine until one of the kids brought a leather ball. When Dave saw that leather ball, he got so pissed that he pointed at the ball with the tennis racket he was holding. But, his grip… oh man, his grip. I think you might see what’s coming next.

Dave swung his arm with the racket towards the leather ball and lost grip of the racket. The racket went off flying with some speed towards the football field. The metal side of the racket hit an uneven part of the football field and almost crashed into a window. And yes, it was the window of his front door.

Yes, that was extremely funny to see. I remember that moment extremely well. I wish I had a smartphone that day to record the whole event but back in those days, we all had those PDA-type phones. Those old-school Nokia’s. So, yeah. The moment will live on as a memory instead of a movie.

4) I recently read how evil a company directly correlates to how honest and heartfelt the company tries to appear in its advertising. Do you think there is any truth to this?

That’s an interesting question. But, I think there is an issue with the question. For starters, try to define “evil”. On top of that, find me one company that creates advertisements that present their brand or company in a negative way.

The statement/conclusion doesn’t sit well with me. I feel like I’m missing context. So, it could be that there is some truth to it, but it could also be that there isn’t any truth to it.

5) We all have post styles, or series that we create on our blogs. What is your favorite post style/series on your blog?

I try to use the same or a similar writing style on my works and posts. I just love talking about games and giving my opinion on it. Now, I’m quite proud of The Legend of Zelda – Bloggers Journey. It started off as a simple idea and now that this style of post happened for 3 different series: Mario, Final Fantasy and Tomb Raider; I’m just so happy to see what it has become.

The thing I love to see the most is the change in my writing style. I love to see how my writing style evolved over the years. I’m really interested to see how my writing style is going to be in a few years. Am I still going to explain why certain things or mechanics don’t work, pointing out flaws in games? Am I still going to talk about games? Only the future will give an answer to that question.

6) Light theme, or dark theme?

When I have the option to pick a theme, I prefer to fiddle around with the options to fit my personal needs. Now, my favorite color is gray/silver and the dark theme fits more to that. Apart from that, I feel that the dark theme feels easier on the eyes when looking to a screen for a long time. And since my job involves a lot of computers, I’m quite happy with the recent trend of adding dark modes everywhere.

7) What’s something you accomplished in the past several months that you’re really proud of?

The simple fact that I was able to find my dream job. I always dreamt of working in a school and helping teachers and students to have the best time possible. I also love to work with computers and technology. I’m part of the IT Staff in an art school and I love it.

I’m really proud of myself that I was able to land the job and that I’m able to work in my field of passion. Since it’s something that I adore doing, and to be honest, sometimes it doesn’t feel like work to me. My tasks include maintaining the website, fixing problems with the IT equipment, explaining how tech works to teachers…

Maintain a website, well just look at this blog. I already do it as a hobby, so yeah. Fixing problems with IT equipment is something that I already did on the side for friends and family. And explaining how tech works to teachers feels extremely rewarding when you see teachers being able to use the tech to improve their classes and make life easier for them and the students. Could you ask for more?

My questions

  1. If I start a new retrospective collab project like my Zelda and Tomb Raider project, which series should I pick and why?
  2. What’s the most difficult part of being a blogger according to you?
  3. With YouTube being so big, do you think that written articles still have a place in the current entertainment industry?
  4. Did games become easier or have we as gamers become more skilled?
  5. What are your favorite (gaming related) April Fool jokes?
  6. Which series/game would you love to see revived?
  7. Do you think there is still a place in the gaming market for handheld gaming or did the smartphone market take it over? Or are those two the same market?

And the people I tag:

Matt from NormalHappenings

Robert from AdventureRules

Kim from LaterLevels

Shelby from FalconGameReviews

All my mage buddies over at the WellRedMage

Omar from Pete’s Corner

KillerRobotics

And with that said, I have left out a ton of amazing video game bloggers. I highly recommend that you check out everybody linked here since they all write amazing things and have interesting viewpoints on the gaming world.

But, I also want to thank you all for reading. I’m always so happy when people read my articles and interact with them. It makes my day. I’m writing this blog as a hobby and being able to review games from indie developers and being recognized by other bloggers for the work I put in my blog is such a rewarding and great feeling. Thank you!

Thank you again 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!

 

Gaming Nostalgia: Mario & Luigi – Bowser Inside Story + Bowser Jr.’s Journey (3DS) ~ It’s inside me, Mario!

Wikipedia entryNintendo Microsite

Remember the Zelda project, Final Fantasy project, and the Tomb Raider project? Well, today a new project drops all about Mario! The mad man, The Well-Red Mage found over 100 bloggers to write about the Mario series in the style that I found several bloggers for talking about the Zelda series and the Tomb Raider series. In any case, of course, I’m a part of this collaboration of fine bloggers! Now, you can find the hub article where you can find links to all the other articles here: [LINK TO ZE HUB BABY!] And in this article I’ll talk about my adventures and thoughts of Mario & Luigi’s Inside Story + Browsers Jr.’s Journey. So, let’s go with this Mario RPG!

It’s a me, a remake!

This game tells the same story as the original Nintendo DS game released in late 2009. From what I can see, most of the changes in the game are focused on the graphics. While the original game has a more 2D look to it, the remake has a more 3D look to the visuals. You can see a great comparison in the video created by aWiibo where both versions are set side by side.

On top of that, this game has an additional story mode telling a story about Bowser Jr. This mode adds 7-ish hours of playtime if I compare the times on howlongtobeat.com. But, the game almost doubled in playtime for people who want to play the game to its full completion.

There is another writer taking a look at the DS version of this game, but I’m focusing on the remake of the game. While I haven’t finished the game for this article due to time constraints, I did some research to make this article interesting in another way.

Some random facts

So, did you know that this game is one of the final games released by Nintendo for the Nintendo 3DS? It wasn’t the last Nintendo published game on the 3DS however, that honor goes to another remake: Kirby’s Epic Yarn a bit later in March of 2019.

The title of this game in development was Mario & Luigi RPG 3!!!. Since it was the 3rd Mario & Luigi game. Before this game, we got Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga on the Gameboy Advance and Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time on the Nintendo DS. So the title makes a lot of sense since it’s the 3rd game in the series.

For some reason, Nintendo skipped over remaking Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time and remade this game. Partners in Time is the only one of the three first games that didn’t get a remake on the 3DS.

Something that I found quite strange is that there are a lot of leftover sound effects from Yoshi’s Story and Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time in the rom for the original DS version. This isn’t the case in the 3DS version.

This game got two updates. The first update fixed an issue where you could soft-lock yourself with Luigi. In the second patch, a sound issue was fixed in the Music menu under records.

According to the TCRF (The Cutting Room Floor), there are various test rooms left in the final version. You can read about them in more detail on the page of this game.

After releasing this game, the developer AlphaDream filed for bankruptcy protection. Which is a shame since we might not see a Mario & Luigi RPG on the Switch. Maybe Nintendo can get the IP to another developer?

My thoughts

So, apart from those interesting facts about the development of this game; let’s give my opinion on this game. I won’t give my full opinion on this game just yet since I haven’t finished the game and I’m planning to write a review about this game in the future anyway.

Now, the tricky thing is that I had almost finished the DS version. I was close to reaching the final area. But then disaster struck. I lost my save file and I felt a bit too discouraged to restart the whole game to get to the point I was at.

It’s a darn shame since the game is quite a lot of fun to play. If you have played the two previous games, you know what to expect here in terms of gameplay. It’s an RPG where you play as Mario & Luigi, where the A button controls Mario and the B button controls Luigi. This is also the case in the battle mechanics where you have to rhythmically time your button presses to do more effective attacks.

The annoying thing is that I’m anything but rhythmic. So some battles took longer for me since I wasn’t able to do all the attacks at full damage. I did improve the more I played the game, but I rarely got consistent.

Yet, I did enjoy the game for silly and unique storytelling. In this game, something strange happens with the toads. They swell up like a balloon getting the nickname “The Blorbs”. After some investigation, all the affected toads act a strange mushroom created by the mad scientist Fawful. So, Princess Peach orders Mario & Luigi to set out and try and find a solution. But, then Bowser tries to kidnap Princess Peach. When this fails, Fawful lets Bowser eat a vacuum mushroom and this sucks Mario, Luigi and various other characters from the mushroom kingdom inside Bowser. Mario & Luigi have to help Bowser to regain his strength in order to escape and find a cure for the Blorbs.

The multiple layers of the story are something I truly love. The writing is rather humorous and lightweight. There isn’t a lot of voice acting, but the voice clips that are used help a lot to understand which emotion is in that certain part of the dialogue.

Bowser Jr.’s story takes place during the events of the main game. So, the additional story is a bit of a side story. Currently, I’m playing through it and I’m going to keep my opinions and this quite interesting side story a secret.

Now, I much prefer the visual upgrade from the remake over the original. I have looked at various screenshots and video comparisons of the original game and the remake. I think that the remake’s visuals feel more alive and pop that much more. It makes the original look more like a sort of Saturday morning cartoon from a decade ago.

Anyways, I think I’m going to end off this short look back at Mario & Luigi’s Bowser Inside Story + Bowser Jr.’s Journey. That’s a mouthful. 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 but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Wahoo! You are a Super Reader! But the adventure doesn’t stop here… There’s more of this project in another castle! This article is just one level in an entire Super Mario Multiverse, a galactic collaboration between writers around the world sharing a bit of our hearts and memories about our favorite Mario games. Visit the Center of the Multiverse to see more:

https://thewellredmage.com/2020/03/10/center-of-the-mario-multiverse/

First Impression: Drawngeon: Dungeons of Ink and Paper (Switch) ~ Classroom Doodles Came To Life

drawgeon

Nintendo.com micrositeDrageus pageOfficial Steam Page

As somebody who works in a school as an IT guy, I’m interested when a game does something that is somewhat school-related. Today I’m going to talk about a game that does something of that nature. Well, the connection might be a bit far fetched but hey, it’s there if you look far enough. So, today’s game is Drawngeon. The publisher Drageus Games gave me a press code for the Nintendo Switch version. In this game, a drawn dungeon comes to life. Now, this game is rather cheap so it might turn people off. But, should you be turned off by this game or is it totally worth your time? Let’s find out in this 100% my honest opinion game quicky review of this game. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below. 

Editorial note: During the play sessions and writing of this review, an update came out. It’s possible that some complaints might be fixed in a future version. This review is written on v1.0.3.

Classroom Doodles Came To Life

Drawngeon-Dungeons-of-Ink-and-Paper-Review-Screenshot-2

In this game, you play as a nameable character that is going to explore the drawn dungeons of this world. I think that the store page explains the story better then I can explain it.

The life went on as usual in the Inkland, until the Tower has suddenly fallen straight from the sky!
Many heroes tried to solve its mystery, but none of them succeeded! Maybe it’s your turn to test yourself?

Explore the procedurally generated game world of the Inkland – dungeons, caves, forest and, of course, the Mysterious Tower. Who can reveal all the secrets of the Mysterious Tower?

For those who don’t know what “procedurally generated” means, let me quickly explain it. It means that every time you enter the game, the layout will be different. If you have ever heard about Pokémon Mystery Dungeon, it’s the same basic idea. I find this quite surprising in a good way. For a cheap game like this, the fact that you can replay this game multiple… well, it gives you even more bang for your 4-5 bucks (Depends if the game is on sale or not 😉 ).

This gives the game more variety as well.  Every playthrough will be different. There is a game that’s quite similar to this one in concept and that’s Delver and Eldritch.  These games throw you into a dungeon as well, where the layout and enemy placement is very different every time. And I enjoyed those two games quite a lot. What I’m saying is that I enjoyed my time quite a lot with this game.

The game looks amazing. It looks like somebody drew his whole ideal Dungeons and Dragons lay-out in a sketchbook during study hall or something of that nature. The little use of color makes the items you can interact with stand out that much more.

The further you get into the game, the more bonus material you unlock. These are mostly concept art but they are a nice view of the development of this game. Now, there is a collectable that makes a cat person like me extremely happy. There are a ton of hidden cats all over the map and they are a joy to collect!

The bad ones.

EReFQHkUYAE6jh1Now, the game looks quite nice. I mentioned that before. Yet, there are a few things that ruin the immersion a bit. For example, the game has a problem with slopes. You can look right through them from some angles. You can see an example in the screenshot here. The void or the textures from the block behind are clearly visible.

But that isn’t the only problem I have with the visual presentation of this game. The big issue I have comes with animation of especially the battles. During a battle, which isn’t turned based but rather in realtime, you get an indication that you got hit. But, there is no indication that you hit the enemy. Yes, the text underneath the playing field tells you that you did or didn’t do damage to the enemy but why isn’t this visually shown like hits on your character?

Now, I can totally understand that a game of this nature needs to have a certain difficulty curve. But this game’s difficulty curve is a bit too much. I have no problem with enemies taking 3 to 4 hits to kill when you start the game, but the damage you get versus the damage you can do is a bit too much. Similar games like Delver are more balanced and make the game a bit more enjoyable to play.

The controls are easy to get used to but I’m sorry, they have a few issues that I really didn’t like at all. The first big issue is turning. You can turn by using the left and right shoulder buttons. Personally, I would have used these as strafe buttons. So, basically switch the left and right arrows around with the shoulder buttons.

The second issue I have with the controls is inventory management. The fact that there is no tutorial section, makes it extremely difficult to easily figure out the mechanics of the inventory. It took me some time before I was able to throw items on the ground, move and equip them. This brings me to another issue with the UI. But more on that later.

The 3rd issue is the fact that there isn’t a run button. This makes exploring the map a bit boring. Especially when you are restarting for the 10th time. You have seen most of the early area and you want to get through it as quickly as possible.

When you equip a stat-boosting item, it appears that your stats stay unchanged. Your stats are displayed next to your character portrait and those stay the same no matter what you equip. In addition to that, I don’t even know or understand which stats are what. Now, the description of the items changes color when it’s an improvement but it’s in orange. Why not green or red like in any other RPG?

Not to mention, the inventory is a bit tricky to use. It’s extremely small, so you have to really think about what you take with you and what you leave behind. But, when you want to pick up an item and you don’t have enough room in your inventory, you get the same basic text: “Not enough room in your inventory.” So, you don’t know about what item you can’t pick up and how much space you need in your inventory.

The sound design is a hit and miss story. While the sound effects add to the immersion of this game, sadly there aren’t enough sound effects in the game. For example, the sound effects for most of the enemy’s movements are exactly the same for bats, spiders, and other monsters. This is a big shame since a lot of players use these sound effects to know which enemies are coming to properly prepare themselves. Now, the music or the lack thereof really adds to the atmosphere of the game. The music that’s present is really well done and gives off the tense atmosphere that the game has.

Something that I found, on one hand, interesting and on the other hand extremely annoying, is the fact that to level up or boost your stats, you have to go to a tree at the starting village. It’s an interesting way to level up your character but it’s annoying that you can’t do this in a menu like almost every other similar game.

And with all 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 with the conclusion and my thoughts on this game.

Conclusion

If you read this article, it might seem that this game has a ton of flaws. And I have to admit, this game has extremely rough edges that can frustrate a lot of players. But on the other hand, this game does have a lot of positives that make the game extremely enjoyable to play.

The big problem is that I have seen and played better games in this style. And even on the Nintendo Switch: One More Dungeon is an example. So, is this game a bad game? Well, yes and no. It has its problems and shortcomings but it also has a lot of strong points.

This game is like a broken phone screen. It still works and it’s still a decent way to use your phone but the more the cracks start growing and showing, the more you have to get used to the shortcomings or replace it with a better and more polished screen.

Honestly, I think that this game needed way more time to develop. Since the potential for an extremely enjoyable game is present in this game. But not in the version I have reviewed.

So, would I recommend this game? Yes, but with a disclaimer. Know that this game isn’t the best game you will ever play but it has a certain charm. To who would I recommend this game? To people who enjoy dungeon crawlers or games like Delver and One More Dungeon.

And with that, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. I want to 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: 60/100

Game Quicky: All You Can Eat (Steam) ~ Are You Hungry?

all you can eatOfficial websiteSteam page

Some time ago, I published a press kit about a game that GameChunk is developing. This Croatian indie developer is creating a title called Trip the Ark Fantastic. Now, I discovered that this isn’t the first game developed by the studio. They created an adventure game called “All You Can Eat”. And that’s what this review is going to be about. The developers provided me with a press code for the game. And of course, in this review, you will get my 100% honest opinion on the game. In any case, let’s dive right into the comic game that’s “All You Can Eat”. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

The good meal.

20200222134458_1In this game, you play as a lazy slob that is living in a diner. A few years ago, the diner started doing an all-you-can-eat buffet for the low price of 2 bucks. The idea is that he can keep eating for free unless he leaves the diner. But after some peaceful time, disaster strikes and the chef Luigi gets an offer he can’t refuse. He is going to sell the diner for a million bucks to build a parking lot on it. So, now you have to get into action to try and save your precious diner from closing by collecting a million dollars as quickly as possible.

The humor and story of this game is spot on. It’s quite enjoyable and fun. There aren’t too many characters and they don’t get a lot of character development but the chosen stereotypes are just great. Now, after you have beaten the game for the first time, you get a new game plus. Here two of the developers explain a lot about the decisions that they took in creating this game and they tell a lot of interesting details I didn’t pick up in my playthrough.

You might have already picked this up from the screenshots in this article but the visual style is something unique. The developers tried to mimic the way that newspaper comics worked. Those three-panel comics you see in the newspaper. In the end, you can also print out your playthrough as a sort of comic book you can print out. This is an amazing feature that really surprised me. This also explains the reason why there isn’t any animation in the game. Otherwise, the whole printable comic idea wouldn’t work.

Now, this game is really short. You can finish this game in a few minutes. It’s possible to see and do everything in one or two hours of play. While you can argue that this is negative, I honestly think that this isn’t such a bad thing. Since the developers actually explained in their commentary that this game was a sort of taste test, to see if people were interested in this style of game.

Now, this game has been translated into German, Russian and Chinese. Thank you to the translators that made this possible. In addition to that, the additional options you have in the options menu to stop the camera shake, colorblind mode, mute the game and such are great additions. But I wonder why the colorblind mode was added since the whole game is in black/white. So, if somebody can explain this to me in the comments that would be amazing.

The controls of the game are quite simple. The only thing you will need to play this game is the mouse. You can use the left mouse button to interact, speak and combine items. When you use the right mouse button, the main character gives you his opinion on the object in question. This is also a very helpful hint system if you are stuck or new in the adventure game genre.

That funny bad aftertaste

20200222134511_1The sound design of this game is decent. Since this game didn’t have a big budget, the game doesn’t have any music and doesn’t have a lot of sound effects. Now, this in itself isn’t such a bad thing. Remember, you can print the story as a comic at the end and if the game relied on music or sound effects, the comic wouldn’t work at all. The negative part is that I wished there were a bit more ambient sound effects. Like some sizzling in the kitchen or some police radio noise in the police office.

The printable PDF is a cool feature but I had my mess up with my first playthrough. I was going to send it to the developers but something happened. I started the playthrough of new game plus for this review and that pdf overwrote my broken pdf. So, it’s possible that your comic printout gets a bit corrupted.

And if I’m allowed to nitpick, the fact that the game hangs and seems frozen when the pdf is being created is a bit annoying. From a programmer standpoint, I totally understand what’s happening. The game is creating the pdf in the background and it freezes the game to make sure there are no additional variables that can interfere with the creation. Now, I would have moved the screen to the visual of “please wait while your PDF is printed” while the PDF is being printed. Not after. At first, I was going to ALT+F4 the game since I thought it had completely frozen.

Now, one other minor nitpick is that the game didn’t close right away when I exited the game. Steam kept saying that I was playing the game while I was unable to find anything running while using the task manager. Maybe it takes a long time to shut down the PDF engine in the background?

There is one minor thing that I dislike about the printable PDF. And that is the fact you don’t see which question or reply was picked by the player. This makes that some jokes like the name of the dinner chef looses a bit of their impact.

Sadly enough, there is one somewhat game-breaking bug in the game. Thankfully, it doesn’t ruin your save file but it confuses the game enough you get into a loop of empty screens. This can be achieved when you use the right mouse button on the empty sign in the MegaSlime Corp. I think this might be caused by a conflict in the code. But, when you move on to a blank square… The best action is to pause the game and resume with the continue option. That seems to fix it. Thankfully, it’s the only location where it happens.

And that brings me to the last nitpick of the game. There is no clickable button to pause the game. You have to use the “ESC” key to get to the pause menu. But, I totally understand why this decision has been made. Since, if you create a button that’s always on screen, I don’t want to imagine the effort that needs to go make sure that it doesn’t appear on the printable pdf.

The rating in the newspaper

This game is short and it’s possible to get all the achievements in 1 or 2 hours if you are familiar with point-and-click adventure games. But, this game is a big breath of fresh air in my opinion. I really enjoyed the references and throwbacks of the plot. The story made me laugh several times.

Visually, this game reminds me of a simpler time. When I was drawing story ideas in my textbooks in the study hall or during a boring class. Or when I was reading comics on a rainy Sunday afternoon. I think my weakness for nostalgia really made this game even better for me.

It’s a shame that there I have a few minor nitpicks with the game. Most of them I can totally understand why the decision has been made. Expect the game-breaking bug, that’s something I wish was fixed.

Even with the game-breaking bug, I still fully recommend this game. It’s an amazing demonstration of what this style of game can do. The potential for this concept is endless. Imagine being able to share your adventures with other players or creating your own comic book. It’s the ultimate merchandising.

It was quite difficult to find things I didn’t like about this game apart from the extremely short length. I want to play more games in this style and I’m happy that I can talk about this game and spread the word. Since there is another game announced called “The Heist” that looks extremely promising.

So yeah, I think this game is totally worth your 2 bucks and with that, you get a coupon to an amazing concept that gives the taste for more. Thank you GameChunk for bringing this game to Steam! I can’t wait to see what your other projects are going to bring us.

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

Score: 90/100

Editorial note: The developers of this game got a draft of this review and might fix the game-breaking bug in the future.

Game Quicky: Baba Is You (Switch) ~ Review Is Win

Official websiteNintendo.com subsite

So, what if a game developer falls in love with the game he created for a game jam? Well, some of those developers make their game into a fully-fledged game like the developer behind Baba is You. Arvi Teikari created the basic concept for this game for a Game Jam. The Jam version is free, but for a more expanded version, you have to pay around 15 dollars. But, is this puzzle game worth your time or was it better as a Jam Game? Let’s take a first impression and quick look at the game that has been released on PC and Switch. The version I’m reviewing is the Switch version. 

The good

One of the main reasons I’m writing a review for this game in my game quicky style is because this game doesn’t have a story. So, I have less to critique which makes for a shorter article. But, why am I mentioning this with the good points? Well, that’s simple. The lack of a story in this game is actually a rather enjoyable thing.

Since this game is a really meta puzzle game, writing a story for this game would be a huge hindrance. It would be too silly or it would take itself too seriously. Also, it puts the focus on the unique gameplay of the game and that’s all that matters.

The gameplay of this game is extremely addictive. The idea of this game is that you finish the level by hitting the object that “Is Win”. So, how do you that? Well, by manipulating almost everything in the level. You can see the basic idea at work in the gif I attached to this article (source: official website of the game).

You see “Pillar is Push”, so that means that you can push around the pillar. Off-screen, there is “Water is Sink”, so you sink/die when you touch the water. Now, something that’s unique is that the text can also be moved. So, you can make: “Pillar is You” as well. And that means that you control both Baba and the pillar.

As long as you make real sentences, the game will act accordingly. Now, there is no real tutorial in the game but the game is divided into sections. The first few stages of a level are introductory levels to the mechanics that the level is going to use. And, these training levels are needed since this game can get pretty challenging.

Mark Brown from Game Maker’s Toolkit explained how smart this game is in his video where he praised this game as his most innovative game of 2019. And I have to agree, this game challenges the most veteran players to finish each level. And sometimes the level is stupidly simple while you look over the solution multiple times. It’s such a rewarding feeling when you finally beat a stage that you were stuck on for so long. Something I enjoyed quite a lot was when a friend and I were figuring out puzzles together. Discussing strategies and trying to figure out how each puzzle worked.

Now, I can keep praising the gameplay for a long time here. But, take it from me. If you enjoy puzzle games or great brain teasers, this is the game for you. But is the rest of the game any good? In the visuals department, I can only give you one answer and that’s yes!

Compared to the Game Jam build, this game got a visual overhaul. From a cuter main character to better animations. It’s all here. I personally think that Baba is a sort of white rabbit/cat hybrid animal. In this version, the improved animations give the player more information instead of the rather static look of the original game.

There are barely any sound effects in the game. But, that’s no big issue. Since it would destroy the atmosphere of the game if the developer added sound effects for the calm water or lava. It would be a bit too much. The music, on the other hand, is amazing. It’s rather calming and soothing to listen too. It’s a trance soundtrack that relaxes you to think outside of the box to find the answer more easily.

Controlling this game is also a blast. I rarely had any issues with the controls. The fact that you only need a few buttons makes the game easy to understand. All you need to know is how to move Baba, how to undo an action or how to wait. You can press the “A” button to wait for an object to either teleport, move, jump… while you are standing still.

Now, yes, I’m praising this game to the moon and back. But, does that mean it’s flawless? Sadly enough, no. I have a few things that I have to mention in my negatives section. 😦

The bad

Now, the game makes a few minor mistakes that might be called nitpicks. First of all, there is something I really dislike about the UI. You are stuck to the level layout. That means that you can’t move freely over the screen when selecting levels. This can make navigating in the level select a bit tricky.

You get a flower when you finish a level in a stage. Whenever you finished around 6 stages in a level, you can go on to the next level. But sometimes, you earn sun symbols. And it’s never clear when you are going to win which symbol. This is extremely annoying when you are only one sun-symbol removed from opening that one gate that’s blocking that one world.

Now, since when is the “B” button a select button? In almost every game I play, the “B” button is a cancel button. Not in this game, it’s a selection button. My brain is so hardwired to press B to go back to the world map, I get extremely confused when I suddenly enter a level or select an option that I didn’t want to select.

Something that I think would be great is a sort of hint system. This game could have used a help system where the user could unlock a hint after a certain amount of time. Sadly enough, you are on your own in this game. Oh well, thankfully there are walkthroughs when I really want to know the solution to one level.

And yes, that are all the negatives of this game. So, let’s wrap this article up and let’s go to the conclusion.

Conclusion

I can totally understand that this game isn’t for everybody. This game is for people who really enjoy solving brain-melting puzzles or extremely unique indie games. The game is extremely charming and enjoyable. The addictiveness of this game has that one more try mentality. And as soon as you find the solution, you get that rush of adrenaline.

I really meant what I said in my tweet in January. I think there are huge chances that this game will be in my top 10 games of 2020 list. I enjoyed my time with the game, the visuals, the soundtrack, and the gameplay that much.

So, give this game a try! It’s totally worth your time in my opinion. And not only that, 10% of the game’s profits go to charity which is an extremely nice move of the developer. Even for an indie developer.

There are a few minor things that this game does wrong but honestly, I think they can be fixed with a patch or a feature update easily. Especially the “B” button thing since I found that extremely annoying.

And with that said, I think I have said everything about this game I wanted to say. Thank you so much for reading and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it. I hope you have a great rest of your day and take care!

Score: 100/100

First Impression: Soul Warrior Merope (PC) ~ Featuring The Developer

SnLGTK

Itch.io pageDeveloper TwitterTrailer

Today I’m going to write a special article. Last year, a friend of mine created a game called “Soul Warrior Merope“. At first, he wanted to create this game for mobile platforms but due to some technical difficulties, the game has been released on PC. I promised him to write an article about the game to promote and here we are. I’m sorry mate that it took so long for me to get around to it, but better late than never. So, I think it would be quite fun to review this game interview style. Yes, interview style. So, I wrote a sort of review where I asked the developer to respond to why he created the game in a certain way and things of that nature. So, introducing Priom from HatCatGames, the developer of this game.

Before I begin, I have to give some disclosure. I have helped Priom testing a previous build of the game while he was developing the game. I only gave him some advice to improve the quality of his game. But, this was when he was still developing it for mobile platforms.

Editorial note: Some friends call me Neko, others call me Jonez. If Priom mentions Jonez, he means me.

Jonez: Before we start, feel free to introduce yourself Priom. Tell us a bit about yourself and why you started developing games. Have you created other games before Soul Warrior Merope? How long was the development process for the game?

Priom: Well, I’m Quazi Fahian Muntakim. Better known as Priom or Bear Gril if you only know me on select social media platforms. I’m currently a university student from Bangladesh and a hobbyist game dev.

As for how I got here, well, I think you bore witness to some of it, Jonez. I love video games always have. Fun fact, our family was one of the earliest to adopt a computer for consumer use in Bangladesh. So I always had a love for games. Especially Side-Scrollers and RPGs.

But I think the want to make my own game for others to enjoy. And to weave interesting stories that can only be done in this medium. I think that idea started in 2012 when one of our mutual friends introduced us to RPG MAKER. And that desire kept growing until I joined the GMTK Game Jam 2017 and felt like I wanted to make something that’s available for just about anyone to play!

8RDZod

Jonez: Visually, this game looks like it was created on the NES or with a sort of pixel-art style in mind. I quite like the visual style of the while. Why did you choose for this visual style? I noticed that the castle has a lot of darker tones and the outside is more colorful. Is the art style inspired by other games or franchises?

Priom: Well again, much like you, I love retro games. Some of my fondest memories come from the GBA, which also had a lot of ports for SNES games. So of course, I wanted to follow that style. Other than that I feel like pixel-art has become an art form in itself in recent times, rather than being a product of limited hardware. So choosing this particular style was a no-brainer.

As for inspiration, I can think of 2. Team Cherry’s “Hollow Knight” and Bombservice’s “Momodora” franchise. Both of them have a cutesy yet somewhat grim art-style which I absolutely adore. Other than that, I have had people mention the castle interiors remind them of “Prince of Persia” for the DOS. I wasn’t exactly trying to replicate that but perhaps it was a subconscious decision, hmm?

Jonez: The game tells a story about a young strong lady Merope looking for two missing children. A mysterious figure called Madd has something to do with it. So, are you in Madd’s castle or lair? How involved is the story, is it extremely present or does it take a backseat while the visuals and gameplay tell most of the story?

Priom: Well, since it is at the very start of the story. I guess I could tell you. The castle belonged to Arthur, the tiny glowing spirit following you around. But he and his people have been long dead. So Madd is using Arthur’s castle as a hideout.

As for the story, I was going for a bit of a free-fall route. The idea was to make an opening with a strong yet simple premise that I can add on to later. So the story’s presence is like that too. Where there’s a lot happening at the start after that you get to experience the story at your own pace while exploring the castle.

I’d like to mention that I do want to make games with more plot later on. I’ve actually gotten into the habit of having a notepad on my person and taking notes whenever ideas pop up.

Jonez: So, you can name your own price on Itch.IO for this game. Basically, the consumer can pay anything they want. Does this decision have a special reason?

Priom: The reason was simple. As this is the first game I made public like this I wanted as many people to play it as possible! It also provides an opportunity for more people to provide feedback. And I have been receiving useful feedback. So it all works out.

Jonez: In some cases, the game is a bit rough around the edges. Like hitboxes of objects only reacting to the tip of the sword or not having a jumping animation. Game development isn’t an easy task and there are so many things to keep in mind while creating a game. What did you focus on while developing?

Priom: Well, the game was rather *experimental* is how I’d put it. If there was anything I wanted to try that could help me further later on then I took it as being worth it. Which might have resulted in some things being a bit subpar than others I’d admit. But I’d like to think even the shortcomings are valuable learning experiences. You don’t realize certain things until others point them out or you relax your mind a bit.

Jonez: Now, I have a sort of related question. Let’s say that you had all the knowledge, time and resources to change a few things in the game. Which things would you change and why would you change them?

Priom: The checkpoint system. It would’ve gone bye-bye in exchange for a more standard system. It was fine at first but it managed to create more and more restrictions as the game got more fleshed out.

As for additions, I would probably just made the castle bigger with more visual lore added. I’d add a better catalog of info and a more informative UI. Along with lots of tweaks for the melee combat from experiences I gained from Game Jams I joined later down the line.

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Jonez: The game plays like a Metroidvania, where you have to get new abilities and get stronger to progress. Was it easy to find mechanics that set your game apart like using lives for your special abilities or did you had to try a lot of ideas?

Priom: As I said. Soul Warrior Merope was born from the GMTK Game Jam 2017. Which was a 2-day jam where you have to make a game under a theme? The main theme of that jam a single mechanic with multiple functions. The other abilities kind of grew from that original idea.

Jonez: Let’s talk about the music and sound design. While there aren’t too many sound effects in the game, how did you decide which sound effects to include or not include?

Priom: I think there are 8 music tracks in total. An intro, 5 for the five major areas, the boss theme which has 3 variations based on which boss you’re fighting and a track used for a very specific ending. All of the tracks are long enough so that you’ll pass through the area before the songs loop too many times.

As for sound effects, I actually like to believe that you should have enough recognizable SFX that someone can make a guess as to what’s happening blindfolded. In that sense, I would’ve preferred to add more SFX if I had more time too. But what’s chosen is the ones that are absolutely necessary to convey what’s going on, granted as long as they don’t sound bad.

Jonez: So, you told me once that you were creating the game in YoYo Games’ GameMaker: Studio. Why did you choose that engine? Apart from that program, which tools did you use and for what? Did you run into any trouble?

Priom: Well, I think it was in 2015 or earlier when my younger brother told me that Game Maker Studio’s Standard Edition was free. I was still using RPG Maker at that time but found it rather restricting. I did not, however, have much coding knowledge since my educational curriculum at that time only involved some basic C++ and HTML. So, a programmable engine for free was a generally risk-free investment. After using it I found a YouTuber by the name of HeartBeast who has some amazing tutorials that I definitely recommend for people starting out. And well I kinda just got used to the engine and bought the pro version.

Other than that, I used Piskel & Paint.Net for the art, LMMS+Audacity for audio and my younger brother, who was responsible for some of the art such as the UI and menu icons, used Aseprite.

As for the issues we faced, as time’s going on Game Maker Studio 1.x is becoming more and more obsolete. Google’s new policy doesn’t allow 32-bit apps on the play store anymore which means the game couldn’t be put into the platform. Not to mention, it didn’t provide me with a proper description of why the Android export stopped functioning too. It’s still pretty good for PC games though.

Jonez: The game isn’t that easy, you really have to learn the various abilities of your character and explore around. How did you decide to balance the game?

Priom: Well, that was the reasoning behind letting the player explore around so many of the different areas from the get-go. The game is actually less linear than initial impressions may imply. The idea is that if you get stuck in a certain place it’s perfectly fine to explore another place and through the use of the abilities you have at that moment you might be able to take a completely different route than the intended route of the game.

Jonez: Do you have any plans for the game? Do you plan on updating the game with new content, bug fixes, improvements…?

Priom: Initially, after making the game public like this. I wanted to keep it like that. But I’ve mentioned on twitter recently that I haven’t coded anything in the engine for a while due to my PC being broken. So changing certain things based on all the responses I received might be good for me to get back on track. But that all is uncertain. I do have plans on making larger and more polished games using the valuable lessons learned from the experience of making Soul Warrior Merope though. So I’d like to end this by thanking everyone who decided to give the game a shot. Thank you!

End of the interview

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And with that all said, I found this quite an enjoyable experience to write an article like this. Maybe if I have the time, I might write another one on a different game. In any case, I want to thank my buddy Priom quite a lot for giving me the chance to be a part of his dream and giving me the chance of writing this special article with him.

So, I highly recommend that you give this game a try. It might be a bit experimental and a bit rough around the edges but I honestly think that this won’t be his last project and any constructive feedback you send him, he can use to become an even better developer. On top of that, his very first game is pretty enjoyable and has quite a lot of charm.

And with that, 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 a future article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Game Quicky: Pixel Gladiator (Switch) ~ Defend Your Base!

H2x1_NSwitchDS_PixelGladiator_image1600w.jpgSteam pageNintendo.com pageDrageus page

It’s a well-known fact that a lot of games get ported to the Nintendo Switch. Drageus Games is a studio that ports various indie and small scale games to the Nintendo Switch. Today I’m taking a look at Pixel Gladiator. The original game is called Flying Island Team. I was unable to find much more information on this team. In any case, Drageus Games provided me with a review code for this game and gave me the freedom to give my 100% true opinion. So, let’s take a look at Pixel Gladiator and feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article. 

The good

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This game is quite easy to pick up and play. While there is no tutorial present, the game is easy enough to understand.

The audiovisual design of this game is extremely well done. Visually, the game has pretty nice pixel art and the animations are quite rich for the low price point of this game.

The music is totally my style of music. The techno and trance melodies in the game are that good that I actually want to add them to my library. I’m so glad that the soundtrack is on Steam so I can buy it and listen to it whenever I want.

The gameplay loop of this game is very enjoyable. You have to buildup your base with the earnings of the defeated enemies. You have to buildup your base to defend your core. When your core is destroyed or if you run out of health, it’s game over.

The UI is one of the better I have seen in Drageus Games their ports. The only minor complaint I have is that there is no test noise when you adjust the volume of the sound effects. But the menu’s are quite easy to navigate and work with.

There are a lot of different languages in the game. So, if you want to play this game in your native language and you speak English, Russian, Ukrainian, French, German or Spanish… Well, you are in luck.

Not every round is the same. I noticed that a lot of different enemies can spawn in the survival mode at random times. So, you can’t form a strategy for the next time you have to go through the same route. You have to guess and prepare yourself and your base.

The bad

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Even when the game has a fun gameplay loop, looks and sounds nice; that doesn’t mean that the game is good. There are some major flaws in this game.

First of all, while there is a leaderboard, there is no way to easily see your own personal high scores. To make matters even worse, it’s unclear in which sort of stage those people achieved that high score and how long ago. So, it’s a big guessing game.

Secondly, this game has no save feature as far as I can tell. Yes, you are reading this correctly. Whenever you exit the game or go to the main menu, you have to restart everything from the beginning of the game in survival mode or Arena mode.

Thirdly, the controls are decent but make some mistakes. The aiming is too sensitive for my liking and not only that… You don’t have an option to invert it or adjust the sensitivity. Oh, but it gets even worse! Jumping is done by holding the left stick up. And so, if you want to jump over the barrier on the left side… You have to hold the joystick to the upper left. If you don’t adjust the position of the joystick, guess what, you keep jumping up left. And if you made a turn with that jump, your crosshair doesn’t move with you.

The fourth issue I have with this game has to do with the randomness of the stages. While it keeps you on your toes, it does make the game unfair at certain stages. Because in some cases, you have to survive a meteor storm. In other cases, there are a ton of spring balls attacking you. It’s quite impossible to prepare and this means that a lot is based on luck.

The 5th issue with this game has to do with the difficulty scaling. This is broken beyond belief in my opinion. The difficulty wraps up so fast, it’s quite tricky to keep up with. In addition to that, not every enemy drops money. So, this makes it even trickier. Add on top of that, that there is no tutorial… and you have a recipe for disaster. I had to learn every small mechanic in the game. From not being able to heal during waves to the reactor core healing itself at the end of the wave. From being unable to do a melee attack and how to survive those meteor storms. Oh, and let’s not forget that the tougher enemies look the same as the regular enemies so you don’t know with which one you are dealing with!

Something I also missed in this game was the fact that there wasn’t some sort of radar. It would be quite helpful to see where and how many enemies were coming from the other side of the screen. This would help me to avoid various enemies that appeared a bit too quickly from off-screen to avoid.

And finally, this game has a story, but you only know that story when you either read the press material or the store description. And the story has a lot of potentials. Why was this unused?

Verdict

While this game looks great and can be enjoyable to play, the various amount of issues that this game has will appear quite quickly. The game doesn’t have any bugs and the audiovisual presentation is quite decent, I’ll give it that. But, the lack of a tutorial, balanced gameplay, floaty aiming controls, the inability to save your progress… It all adds up.

Now, do I recommend this game? Well, I don’t really know. The game can be a really fun timewaster and fun to play, but I don’t think that I can recommend this game in its current state to a lot of people.

I felt that this game has been released too quickly. Since it’s such a shame to see the potential that this game has gone to waste. Maybe this game can be improved with various patches. If the game gets a patch, I would love to see a better aiming system, tighter controls, the ability to save and a better balance in the gameplay. A tutorial and a radar can be added in a later patch.

So yeah, if you are interested in giving this game a try, by all means; go for it! But keep in mind that this game is quite rough around the edges and can get quite frustrating. Know that this review has been written after playing the Switch v1.0.0. Maybe in the future, we might see a better version and maybe the PC version plays quite differently…

You might notice the low score I give this game. Maybe this game was not my cup of tea. But I felt that the negatives of this title far outweigh the positives here. If this game ever gets an update that changes a lot about the gameplay, I might change that score. Other reviewers give this game a higher score, but I feel that the score is a bit too generous.

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: 40/100

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Gamer’s Thoughts: Looking Forward to 2020.

2020_0With a bit of a delay, the article that I was going to write at the end of December is here. Anyways, 2020 is here. It’s a new decennium and I’m quite excited about it. I have a lot of plans in my personal life for this year, but there are a lot of games I’m looking forward to be playing this year. If you want to know what my favorite games were in 2019, I have already written an article about that. In this article, I’m going to talk about 10 games I’m looking forward to be playing in 2020. Unlike my top 10 list of 2019, this list will only have games that are going to release in 2020. Since I can’t predict which games I’m going to add to my collection this year. Feel free to leave a comment with your list and/or your opinion on my list and/or games. Anyways, let’s dive right into the list!

#10 – Desperados 3 (PC) (TBA)

Desperados IIIIt looks like a ton of games I’m excited for often get delayed. In 2018, I wanted to play Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. It took until 2019 when I was able to play the game.

Now when I learned that a series from my childhood, Desperados is going to get a reboot/new entry in the franchise, I was quite hyped. This game was going to release in 2019, but the year has come and gone and the game hasn’t been released…

To be honest, I never finished any Desperados game due to the rather difficult nature of the game. But I had quite a lot of fun trying to beat the levels over and over again. I got quite far in the original game where I was a few levels removed from the ending of the game.

I’m planning to replay the Desperados games to review them on my blog in the future and maybe I’m going to do a marathon with as the final review the new game. For those who don’t know how Desperados plays, let me explain that to you.

So, the game plays a bit like Fire Emblem in a way, but instead of it being turn-based, it’s in real-time. In a way, it also elements of the Metal Gear Solid series where enemies react on sounds, vision and other elements in their surroundings. I find it quite difficult to explain in text, but if you watch a bit of a playthrough, you quickly get an idea of the gameplay.

Quick reflexes, good stealth, quick thinking, and good planning are key to surviving in this game. And this is all set in a western-style game that has interesting and diverse characters that test your skills to the absolute limit.

#9 – Animal Crossing – New Horizons (Switch) (March 20th, 2020)

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While I’m not the biggest fan of the Animal Crossing series and I’m not the biggest fan of the gameplay, I would lie if I said that I wasn’t excited about the new Animal Crossing game.

The new game is about camping and building your own town from scratch. I haven’t kept myself up-to-date with the latest news on the game for a reason since I want to keep myself as spoiler-free as possible.

From the footage I have seen, I can tell that a lot of campaign and scouts’ memories will come back to me while playing this game. And that’s the biggest reason that I’m excited about this game. So, yeah. Let’s see how that is going to turn out.

#8 – Minecraft Dungeons (PC) (TBA – April 2020)

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Just like Desperados III, this game was on my list last year. I was looking forward to being able to play this game in 2019. Sadly enough, this game has been delayed to 2020.

Now that we got more information on the game, I’m even more excited to be able to play this game. Especially since this game is going to include multiplayer! So, this game will be perfect for me and my girlfriend @notthatalice94 to play through and enjoy.

While I have played some Minecraft in 2019, I think I’m a bit burned out on the classic survival formula. So, maybe Minecraft Dungeons breathes new life into the franchise for me and maybe I might get back into classic Minecraft, who knows?

#7 – Shantae And The Seven Sirens (Switch) (Q1-Q2 2020)

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Now, this is interesting. I’m including a game on my list actually is already released. The game is released for iOS and macOS platforms. But I don’t have an iPhone nor do I have a MacBook or an iMac.

Thankfully, the game is being ported to the PC, Switch, PS4 and XBOX One early this year. I’m planning to pick up the Switch version since I’m playing more games on my Switch lately than on my PC. But, that’s not set in stone since after playing a bit of A Hat In Time on my girlfriend’s Switch, I felt that the joy-cons aren’t really the controller for me to play tight platformers like the amazing Shantae series. So, I might buy it for the PC and use my XBOX One controller.

Anyways, maybe this game will give me the drive to finish all the other unfinished Shantae games I have in my collection. I’m having so much fun with those games, yet I’m always getting distracted by other games and it’s getting quite annoying to let the Shantae games left unfinished since they are all quite enjoyable in my opinion.

#6 – Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe (PC) (TBA 2020)

Stanley Parable

I simply love adventure games. While I’m not that into walking simulators, The Stanley Parable really surprised me when I played it way back in 2013.

So, a few months ago, I learned that the developers of the game are making an upgrade and expanded version to be released on various platforms. While we know that the game is going to be released on the PC but we don’t know which consoles it’s also going to release on. The developers are looking into the possibilities.

At the moment, the developers state in their press kit that they are aiming to release the game before the summer of 2020. But, we shall see. Since the game was going to come out in 2019 but it has been delayed to 2020 to improve the quality of the game which I think is a good thing.

But, you can count on it that I’m going to write an article on the expanded version of the game as soon as it comes out. When you want to read more on the game, I highly recommend that you read the press kit on their website.

#5 – DooM 64 (Switch) (March 20th, 2020)

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March is going to be a busy gaming month for me. Games like Animal Crossing are getting released but also the remake of DooM64 on Nintendo Switch.

While I have played DooM countless times on the PC and various other platforms, I haven’t played the Nintendo64 port of the game. I have been interested in playing this port ever since I saw Derek Alexander’s video on it. And now I’ll be able in a little while.

So, I’m quite curious to see how different the game is compared to the PC version. Also, I’m curious to see if the developers made changes to the game or if it’s going to be sort of emulated on the Nintendo Switch. Only time will tell.

#4 – Gods and Monsters (Switch) (Febraury 2020)

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I can’t really explain why, but I love a great story about mythological beings. For that reason, my favorite game of the Age of Empires series is Age of Mythology. So, when I learned that Ubisoft is developing a game with that premise, well… I think it’s quite clear that I’m beyond excited about it.

So, yeah, a game that reminds me of a lot of Breath of the Wild and has a talented team behind it; I think this game is going to be quite good. Now, we will have to wait and see how good the game is until it releases. But, I’m going an eye on the game and I’m quite sure I’m going to pick it up as soon as I got the chance to do so.

#3 – Age of Empires IV (PC) (Q4 2020)

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On one hand, I wish that this game doesn’t release in 2020 but on the other hand, I wish it does.

Now, at the time of writing this article, the developers haven’t given a concrete release date yet. But in various press materials, I read that this game is going to release either late this year or early 2021. The only thing I hope is that they don’t rush the release of this game. I rather wait a few more months to have a more polished game than having the game quicker. Unless it’s a sort of beta version where people who pre-order the game can help test the game and help in the final polishing stage of development.

The Age of Empires series is one of my favorite series ever made. I have spent so many hours in the Age of Empires games, it’s crazy. While I’m no pro at the game, I enjoy playing a game from time to time. Earlier in the article, I even mentioned one of the spin-offs that’s my favorite game in the series, Age of Mythology.

Anyways, good luck Relic Entertainment with the development of the title. I know that is a lot of pressure on your shoulders to develop the next entry such a highly regarded series with such a devoted and dedicated fanbase, but we believe in you!

#2 – Death Come True (Switch) (TBA 2020)

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I’m beyond hyped for this game. This game is being directed by the writer of the Danganronpa series, Kazutaka Kodaka. Not only that, but the story also has some elements that remind me a lot about the Zero Escape series.

This game is an adventure game where the main character wakes up without him remembering anything. He is charged with committing various murders. So, together with his time leap abilities, he has to solve the mystery and find out the truth of these murders.

Now, there isn’t a lot of information out there on this game. Also, there isn’t any news if the game is coming to the west, but the fact that almost every tweet is tweeted twice; once in Japanese and once in English gives me a lot of hope.

So, I’m looking forward to this game quite a lot. It feels like a sort of spiritual successor to the Zero Escape games which are high up my personal top 10 games ever made list. I’m also avoiding any press releases on the game like the plague to avoid spoilers and being able to go as blind as possible in the game. And you may be sure that whenever I have the chance, I’m so going to write about this game.

Honorable mentions

Now, there are a few more games that I’m looking forward to but didn’t make the top 10 games list.

#1 – Death March Club (Switch) (TBA 2020)

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Are we for real now? The writer and director of Zero Escape and Ai The Somnium Files are going to release another game in 2020? I’ll be able to enjoy the work of Kotaro Uchikoshi again this year? And the game his big chances about coming to the west since it has an English website as well as a Japanese?

On top of that, this game is also going to be a death game like the Zero Escape games! Just reading the premise of this game is making me want to play this game even more. So, one group needs to sacrifice themselves in order for the other group to even stand a chance in death game.

Just reading the development story of this game on the fandom of this game, makes me even more interested in this game. The talent that’s involved with this game is just amazing. On one hand, I don’t want to read anything more about it so I can go in blind, but on the other hand, I want to know as much as I can to enjoy the game even more… What to do, what to do… Urgh. Oh well, now I have to patiently wait for an announcement of a release date and then wait until I’m able to get my hands on it.

Closing thoughts

So, 2020 is going to be jampacked with a ton of amazing titles. While I had a lot of trouble creating this list at first, in the end, I even had to create a section for honorable mentions.

I’m quite curious about which games I’ll be able to play this year and what I’ll think about it. Maybe I should look back at the end of the year to this list and compare my expectations to the actual released game.

So yeah, that were my top 10 games I’m looking forward to be playing in 2020. I’m curious if you agree or disagree with my list and which games you would have picked. Thank you so much for reading this article and I hope you had as much fun as I had 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!