Game Quicky: In Retrospect (PC – Steam) ~ Automatic Mario

Steam store page

What if, in retrospect, Mario was supposed to be moving on his own? Well, that’s a perfect line to open this article about “In Retrospect”, a runner game developed by Paper Salamander about reflecting on the past. The developer send me a press code for this review, but don’t worry, you’ll get my unfiltered 100% honest opinion on this game. Also, this review is going to be rather short to avoid spoilers, especially because the game is roughly 2 hours long. But, is it worth your time, or should you skip this game outright? Well, let’s find out in this game quicky review while I invite you to leave a comment with your thoughts/opinions on this game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

The good memories

It’s kind of difficult to talk about the story of this game. Especially since this game is a sort of “choose your own adventure” style of game. This game is a sort of self reflection game, without it being a forced self reflection game. The way how the story is handled in this game is wonderful.

The way how certain game mechanics like resetting a level is implemented into the story, it’s charming. As charming as the visuals. The pixel art is extremely well done and makes the game burst with personality.

This game is also excellent at teaching the ropes. Most new mechanics are taught in a sort of safe tutorial level just before the actual level. And, you can skip this tutorial level when you are playing through this game for a second time on another difficulty level.

Usually, I’m not too fond of runner games since I don’t have the best of reflexes when it comes to timing things with the music. Yet, I didn’t find this game too difficult. It was easily to learn the basics of this game and play through it. I played a bit on casual and normal and the balance in this game is really well done.

Besides the story, there are also challenges you can partake in. These are small bonus levels with a special gimmick. You have to reach the highest scores to get on the global leaderboards. Personally, this isn’t really my cup of tea, but it’s an extremely nice addition to the game and I find that it works really well.

The music for this game is pretty good. The tracks are right up my alley, and they really fit the atmosphere of this game like a glove. If the developer ever offers the soundtrack of this game as DLC, I’d buy it right away. Since I want to add the soundtrack to several of my playlists.

The gameplay of this game is really simple but fun. This game is an autorunner, which means your main concern is dodging the enemies and obstacles. During the level, you can pick up items. These items can restore your health. Depending on your answers to the questions you get in between the levels, one pick-up might be more beneficial than the others.

Also, the mechanics slightly change depending on the path you choose. But, if this sounds interesting, I’m going to leave that as a surprise for you to find out! I’m leaving out some mechanics of course, but each level has its own special gimmick or “thing” and I love it. It works wonders in such a short game and really feels like the developer placed a lot of passion in the level design.

The bad memories

There are some things I don’t think work that well. The first thing I want to talk about are the default controls. Overall, the controls are quite responsive, but I think the hover mechanic could have been implemented differently. Quite often I forgot that this game was an automatic runner and I had my hand on the right arrow. Now, when you jump and hold right arrow, you hover in place. This is something that frustrated me during my playthrough.

So, I had to get use to only press the space bar for jumping since this game is an autorunner. But, why is it then that in the options’ menu under controls we have a listing for “directional – arrow keys”. You can’t turn back in this game and only the right arrow is used for hovering. And the up arrow to activate switches, or down arrow when you are running on the ceiling. Which is never really explained in a tutorial in the version I played. But the fact that the down arrow is used for ground pounding is explained in a tutorial level.

Also, you can only choose between WASD & the arrow keys for this movement. This personally bums me out for two reasons. As an AZERTY user, I find it strange that ZQSD isn’t recognized by this game. Also, it would make more sense in my opinion if you were able to find the mechanics to your own keys, so the controls are easier to learn and master for everybody.

A minor complaint I have about the game is that the time you have to reply to questions is just a bit too fast. I barely have any time to read the four answers before I have to decide. On top of that, it’s not always too clear on what the question is. Personally, I think this could have been polished up a bit more.

A second minor complaint I have is that you don’t get a level select after beating the story. It would have been quite fun to be able to play a level with the gimmicks you enjoyed after finishing the story.

Overall, I barely found any bugs in this game… Apart from one. The achievement system is somewhat broken in the version I played. In v1.0.2, the achievements only show up after I have closed the game. You get a small text box instead of the actual achievement pop-up that Steam games usually gives. But, this might be my third minor complaint too… The reason I mention it here is that the amount of pop-ups is a bit ridiculous after you close the game since there are close to 100 achievements in this game.

The truth

Now, is this game worth your 4 bucks? In my honest opinion, if you enjoy casual runner games, yes. This game might be rather short, but it has some unique mechanics that make each level fresh and enjoyable to play.

The biggest issue in this game is with the arrow (or WASD) controls and not being able to rebind them to the keys you want. Apart from that, my complaints about this game are rather minor.

This game is perfect if you have to spend an afternoon, and you are waiting for a big game to download. It doesn’t overstay it’s welcome or get repetitive. This game is walking the fine line of too short and too long and I find it’s balancing perfectly.

Now that my article is writing, I think I’m going for another run since I want to finish the challenges and finally unlock the final challenge. If you are interested in autorunners or casual games, I think this game might be right up your alley. I’m glad that I was able to play this game and that the developer reached out to me. This game gets a personal recommendation from me.

And with that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. 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!

Score: 80/100

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Game Quicky: Stygian (PC – Itch.IO) ~ Short Spooks

Itch.io page

It’s that time of year again. It’s time for some spooky scary skeletons. Well, it’s time for some horror. This year, a small developer sends me a mail inviting me to look at Stygian. It’s a short horror game just in time for the spooky season. Today, I’m going to take a look at it and talk about my own opinions on it. It’s free on Itch.io, but the developer accepts donations if you want to see more from them. In any case, in this review I’m taking a look at v1.01. I also have to give a content warning. Since this is a horror game, there will be some scenes that can trigger certain people especially when you aren’t good with anything related to gore and/or death. So, with that said, let’s dive right into this game quicky and let’s see what this game has to offer. But, one thing before that. I want to invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts/opinions on this game and/or the content of this article.

Editorial note: this is a rather short game, so I only took screenshots of the first few minutes.

The good

This game takes place in the late 1980s in England. A friend group of girls is doing a creepy sleepover at an abounded church. You play as Katherine, a young girl who arrives a bit late from work but is right in time to hear the creepy backstory. But, when Katherine goes back to her bike to pick up her sleeping bag and enters the church again… Things go horribly wrong.

The voice acting in this game is rather charming. The line delivery is a bit off from time to time but overall, solid performance of the voice actors.

Since this game is rather short by design, I’m not going to go more in depth about the story. Otherwise, I might spoil the experience and the story is best experienced as blind as possible.

Overall, the camera system works pretty well. I adore the Resident Evil – early Fatal Frame static camera shots at weird angles. It really takes you back to the early style of gameplay on the PlayStation and early PS2. Sadly, there are a few instances where the camera angles are a bit janky. For example, in one room you can walk through a door with some draped cloth over it. But, the camera switches a bit too soon, making it a pain when you missed entering the door and trying to get out of the corner, so you can attempt back going into the door. Thankfully, these issues happen far and few between.

Now, this game is a complete throwback since this game also sports some early PS1 3D visuals. This visual style can be a turn off for some people but not for me. I adore the visual style of this game. It fits the story and atmosphere like a glove in my eyes. There are a few minor things I’d have tweaked like making it a bit more clear who is talking, but more on that later.

And the throwback continues with the controls. Do we get tank controls? Yes sir, we do! And I love it. It takes me back when I was playing games like Silent Hill, Fatal Frame and Resident Evil on my PlayStation 1 & 2. Now, sadly this game doesn’t know that other keyboard lay-outs like AZERTY exist… or do they? Since the arrow keys also move. I quickly got used to the controls, and I was able to explore this game pretty fast.

Running around in this creepy church, reading various clues and discovering what really happened is a blast. The game gives you small sparkling hints to most objects you can interact with. So, this is no game of mashing the use key while going over every area to find one or two items.

The music in this game is great. While playing this game, the music reminded me a lot of Silent Hill. The more quote unquote strange ambiance sounds that strange form a melody that’s interesting to listen too but also puts you on edge. This is helped by the silent moments and the excellent sound design with the sound effects to make the game even more creepy.

Something else I want to mention is that this game is available for Windows & MAC. So, if you are a MAC user… You can also play this game.

The bad

There are certain things that this game lacks that make this game a small chore to play. And these are small things that can help make the game more enjoyable to play.

Let me get the biggest problem out of the way first. You can’t skip dialogue at all. Now why is this an issue? Well, in one playthrough I got the wrong ending. Without any game over screen, I got booted back to the main menu. I thought that was it, but then I decided to play through it again, and I found another route and got to experience more. But, that isn’t communicated well enough.

And the opening dialogue is runs on for a bit. But the intro cutscene has a few shots too many and that can’t be skipped either. Other horror games like the Zero Escape series did this a lot better. There you can skip through dialogue you already experienced, and it automatically stops when you encounter new dialogue.

There is something about the visuals I want to mention. The animation in certain cutscenes is a bit lacking. For example, in the opening cutscene, I thought I did something wrong since we see the same scene of Katherine riding her bike twice. It’s a bit confusing and pads out the opening scene too much. But a better example is when we get to meet the other characters for the first time. We are sitting in a circle, and they start talking. Yet, it’s not too clear who is who. A bit later this is better since you can speak to the girls one by one but still, this shouldn’t have been an issue. Just a bit more character animation when somebody is talking would go a long way. It’d also give some scenes a bit more pazzaz, if you understand what I mean.

The final negative I want to mention is that the screen to toggle full screen on and off only works in certain places. Do yourself a favor and toggle full screen on at the main menu. The keybind is F.

The conclusion

This game is an amazing indie game to play at Halloween night. It’s a charming throwback to the early PS1 games that might make you nostalgic to that area.

While this game is a bit rough especially when it’s missing some more modern innovations like skipable text/cutscenes or even a sort of save system, I was able to put those negatives to the side and enjoy my time.

This game isn’t for everyone, especially since some people can be turned off by the visual presentation and/or the control scheme of this game. But I think this game is developed for that niche audience that loves old school horror games and want to experience something like that again.

I think it’s clear if I recommend this game or not. Even with its shortcomings, that might be fixed or improved upon in a patch, this game an enjoyable horror story to play through. It’s charming, and I feel that it’s clearly a passion project done right.

Ant that’s everything I wanted to say about this game. A short article about a short game. I hope you enjoy playing this game and also enjoyed reading this article. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Likewise, 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: 70/100

Game Quicky: Cube Grid (PC – Steam) ~ Rolling Around On The Grid

Steam store pageOfficial website

To be honest, the mobile games that attract me the most are the simple and easy to understand mobile games. When I play a game on my phone, it’s mostly to waste time while waiting for my train or something along those lines. It’s rare that I play bigger mobile games. When the small German indie studio Alchemical reached out to me with a press code for their newly released Steam port of Cube Grib, I was directly interested. So, in this article you’ll read my 100% honest opinion on the game and if I would recommend it or not. Also, this isn’t the studio’s first game, so, feel free to look at their website if you are looking for other mobile games to try out. In any case, let’s start this game quicky while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on this game and/or the content of this article.

Editorial note: I played v1.0.1 for this review.

The good cubes

There is no silly story in this game. This could be seen as a bummer to some people, but this game gets into the meat of the gameplay right away. The tutorial explains the game wonderfully, and you can dive right into the game.

The idea of this game is that you have to flip each colored tile while your cube is in the right color. Moving over a full colored tile flips it to a “square” tile (since there is a square drawn on it with that color). Moving over a “square” tile with the same color, flips it back to a full colored one. Which means, you have to reflip it before you can finish the level.

This game is a textbook example of being difficult to explain in text and better to see in action. Sadly, the trailer on the Steam page gives the wrong impression. There, the tiles turn black and this is something that doesn’t happen in the game. Since, that’s how it works in the mobile version. In this, somewhat enhanced PC-version, there are a few improvements that make this game even more enjoyable. Like more control options and being visual a bit better. Also, there are achievements in this version. Something that a lot of people adore, myself included. I find it fun to get these achievements when I do or reach certain things in games.

Now, the mobile version is free. This version costs 4 bucks. This is something you can look at in both ways. As a negative and a positive. Personally, I think this game is worth the price of admission, but I would love to see more features in the future to make it stand out more compared to the free version on mobile.

The controls are quite responsive. They are easy to learn but sometimes a bit tricky to master. For some reason, I messed up sometimes. But, quite sure that’s on me. Since the unique viewing angle of the stage made me mess up my directions sometimes. And to help with that, this game has an undo button that doesn’t count for one additional move. Sadly, you can only undo one move. So, if you want to undo more than one move, you are out of luck.

Visually, this game looks amazing. This game looks clean and isn’t “loud”. Even when you don’t understand English, you can play this game easily. The (UI) design is that good. In addition to that, the audiovisual presentation is great as well. The sound effects and music add so much to the game’s atmosphere. There are a few minor moments that miss sound effects, especially menu interactions but that’s so minor that it didn’t really bother me.

Speaking of visual presentation, you can choose the cube you play as. The amount of stars you earn at the end of each level are currency in the shop you can access from the main menu. In there, you can exchange your stars for a new cube you can play as. This is nothing more than just a visual change, but it is a nice feature that gives a bit of diversity to this game.

This game introduces the special mechanics in a pleasant way. The difficulty curve of this game is excellent, and I have nothing to remark about it. Each level provides a new challenge and the further you go, the more mechanics you’ll have to keep in mind. For example, around the 20th level you get introduced to the “timed tile”. So, when you touch that tile with the right color, you have a certain amount of moves before it reflips. So, keep these tiles as the last tile, so you can win the level.

The fact that there is no time limit or punishment if you take like “a million” moves to clear the level makes this game such an amazing title to wind down.

The bad cubes

There are a few minor issues in this Steam port. Let me talk about the controller controls first. You can control this game with a controller, and it works really well. But, controlling the menu’s and UI of the game isn’t possible. In the latest update, a controller button was added to rewind a move or restart the stage but going to the home menu isn’t possible.

Speaking of the controls, in during the levels you see a “WASD” lay-out. But the game doesn’t recognize another keyboard lay-out. So, I’m sitting here with my Belgian “AZERTY” lay-out being a bit annoyed that it’s not showing “ZQSD”. But that’s a minor nitpick since the arrow buttons work as well and that’s how I mostly played this game.

Now, there is no hint system in this game. So, if you are stuck in a certain puzzle, you can’t have any hints. Granted, developing a hint system for this type of game is quite tricky. How would you implement a hint system without it making the game quite easy or “play itself”. Here is an idea, just like in Quell, you have to pay a certain amount of coins to either see the full solution or set you on your way. And how would you earn these coins in this game? Well, maybe there is on or two hidden in each stage, and you have to click on a certain tile OR the amount of stars makes you earn a certain amount of coins?

Now, the tutorials in this game are excellent. Nothing to criticize about that. But, if you display a text box over the game, make it so that the game can’t be played in the background, or you can create weird edge cases that might break your game.

Something that’s really missing in this game is a colorblind mode. Take a game like Tetris Attack on the SNES, in this game each tile has a symbol on it, so colorblind people can easily recognize which tile is which color. In this game, each color can have its own symbol and the cube to switch color can be a similar shape, so it’s easy to distinguish. And if possible, make it an option so that people who find the mode annoying can turn it off.

There is one feature I’d love to see in a new update. In Invincible Cleopatra, there is a bar to the side of your screen that shows how close you are to perfecting the level. This is something that isn’t in this game. So, when you beat the level, it’s always waiting to see if you do or don’t get all three stars.

The conclusion

I might have written a lot of negative things about this game or things that are a bit broken/unpolished. Yet, most of these things can be patched out of the game with a (few) updates, making this game even more fun to play.

Maybe I’m a bit harsh on the game, and maybe I should look at this game for what it is. A love project where a small team of developers poured their hart and soul into. And that’s something you can clearly see.

While this game has a few shortcomings, I still would recommend this game to anyone who enjoys casual puzzle games. Or if you are looking for a simple but challenging (puzzle) game to wind down, this game is something for you.

If you are really interested in this game, I’d buy the Steam version. Since, you throw some money to the developers and that might motivate them to create an even better version or create more games. If you are unsure, you can give the mobile version a try and decide then.

In summary, this game is good and with some additional polishing it can become even better. Most of the issues I have with this game aren’t that big and can be implemented without a lot of effort. Overall, I think this game is an enjoyable time waster and I can’t wait to see which improvements the future brings.

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: 80/100

Game Quicky: Invincible Cleopatra: Caesar’s Dreams Collectors’ Edition (PC) ~ Mummy’s At Work

Steam linkBigfish Games (Collectors Edition)

It’s no secret that I enjoyed playing casual games. If a game looks interesting to me, I want to give it a try. It doesn’t matter to me if the game is from a big studio or a small indie team of 1 or 2 people in their bedroom. Today, I want to talk about a game set in Ancient Egypt. Something I really have a weak spot for. Games set in old mythological settings like Ancient Egypt, Rome, Greece… Sing me up! But, is this game worth your time as well or is this a guilty pleasure of mine? Let’s take a look at this game while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on this game.

Who let the mummy’s out?

In this game you play as Cleopatra. You are trying to save Egypt from an attack from the Romans. You have to collect resources and find your way to the next area, so you can confront Caesar to try and save Egypt before it’s too late. And how are you going to do that? By invading Caesar’s dreams of course by trying to find a special mysterious amulet. It’s inception levels of peace talks. The story is quite silly and I love it. While it’s not a story that’s going to bring you to the edge of your seat, it’s still a nice addition.

If you just look at this screenshot, you’ll have a rough idea on how this game works. I call these type of games: “Free the pathway puzzlers”. So basically, you have to free a way to the end of the level by sending your limited amount of troops to gather the various resources. Removing obstacles cost a certain amount of resources, so you have to think fast about which resources to gather first and which obstacle to remove first.

I bought the collectors’ edition from Bigfish Games. In this edition, you have an additional chapter with more challenging levels to enjoy. It also includes a strategy guide that you can use when you want to beat the game 100%.

But I find it more fun to use that guide when you are 100% stuck. It also doesn’t hold your hand in how to beat the game but gives very good advice and basically explains the strategy on which section you have to focus on. There is a bit more in the collectors’ edition like the complete soundtrack, some developer art and some wallpapers.

Now, I haven’t played a lot of these type of games, but this game is managing to make me interested to play more of these type of games. I just hope they are as high quality as this one. I especially enjoy the hidden gem in each level that is a small distraction if you are waiting on your mummies to return to base camp.

The visual and audiovisual presentation of this game is great as well. It doesn’t take long before you learn all the little things that the developers put in place to aid you. The visual indication when you are trying to do something impossible; the way it shows how the path is blocked. Or the little sound cue that plays when you haven’t beaten the developers’ time.

The difficulty curve of this game is excellent. It eases you into the game, and you learn the mechanics and the small details quite easily. I never really had a moment where I didn’t really understand a mechanic. The bulk of the challenge in this game is trying to remember and optimize everything you learned in the later levels.

The visual design of the level map is great. You can quickly see how many stars you have earned in a level and if you have found the hidden gem as well. Thanks to the minimalistic UI design, it’s extremely easy to understand and use. To the point that English doesn’t need to be your first language to enjoy this game. You’ll miss out on the story, but that isn’t the biggest strong point of this game.

This game isn’t too difficult. While it’s a big challenge to beat the developer’s time, you aren’t punished too hard when you don’t beat the time. There is no real “game over” screen. Which can be seen as a negative as well. But, I honestly see it as a positive. It gives something for completions to aim towards while more casual players can just relax and enjoy the game.

Who let the mummy’s out??!!

This game is best played in short bursts if you aren’t really into these types of games. Since the repetitive nature of this game can become boring if you keep playing it without a break. The core mechanics never really change and so far, 25 levels in… I haven’t seen a lot of variations on the formula.

Some achievements are quite unclear. There isn’t even a hint in the build in strategy guide. Which is quite a shame in my opinion. Especially since you don’t know if you need to play at a certain difficulty level to unlock it or not.

Especially when you can collect two types of stars. You have the yellow stars, and you have the green stars. I’m currently halfway into the game and I still don’t understand how to get those green stars. I even played several easy levels on the highest difficulty and I still didn’t receive green stars. Most likely, I’m overlooking something, and it’s easier than I think.

Something I find a bit disappointing is that you can see the complete strategy guide from the main menu. So, you can spoil yourself on all the boards of the game. But, this isn’t such a big deal since the strategy guide is quite lacking. It explains the steps is extremely basic terms. It’s not really a strategy guide but more of a hint system. Especially, because like I said before, it doesn’t explain how to get certain achievements.

While there is a tutorial, there isn’t a “help feature” in this game. So, when you haven’t played this game for a while, and you forgot what certain buildings do, you are out of luck. You either try to understand it from context clues or replay the first few levels in the hope you find the correct level. Thankfully, this isn’t such a big problem, since in most cases, the context clues gives you the right hints but still. Maybe it would have explained how to get the green stars?

There is one mechanic I wished they handled differently. And that’s the “skip level” feature. You can skip levels as soon as the level is loaded. This makes the game way too easy. I wish you were able to use that button after for example three failed attempts or finding the hidden gem in the level.

The final negative I wanted to talk about is how silent the game is. When I placed everything on max volume, I still was able to hear my Groove play music in the background. I totally forgot to close my music player when I started playing this game a bit while writing this article and I noticed that Groove was only at 10% of its max volume. I continued to test, and it turns out that this game is just quite silent. Which is a shame since the soundtrack is enjoyable and the sound clues are important during gameplay.

Conclusion

This game got quite close to being an amazing casual game. But the rough edges it has, can be a dealbreaker for some players. Thankfully, the rough edges aren’t such big dealbreakers that make this game unplayable.

I really enjoy playing through this Egyptian adventure. I’m happy that I gave this game a try, and I’m quite curious to see other games of the same genre. How different are they and are they as fun to play as this one?

If you know of any good games like this one, feel free to leave a comment. I do have a few in my collection. Maybe you’ll see a few of them on my blog in the future?

So, if you enjoy casual games or just want a relaxing game… This game might be up your alley. Maybe even this article convinced you to take a look at this game. Who knows?

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

Score: 4/5

Game Quicky: My Little Universe (Android) ~ Gather & Dump ’em boys.

Google Play StoreiOS versionFan subreddit

Finding enjoyable mobile games isn’t an easy task now-a-days. A lot of them have a microtransaction trap or are just filled with ads to the brim. And some of them, aren’t even that fun to play. But, when I notice that I start playing a mobile game for several hours and hours, play it on the train from and to work… Then, I know I found a mobile game that I want to talk about. In today’s article, I want to talk about My Little Universe. A game about grinding actually, something I honestly didn’t think I would enjoy this much. But, is it just me enjoying this game or is this game actually good? Let’s find out in this game quicky article where I talk about the positive, negative things about the game and the round it all nicely up with a conclusion bow. And if you want, you can leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on the game and/or the content of this article.

Editorial note: This review is written while playing v1.16.x branch. There were 3 smaller bugfix updates during me playing and writing this article.

Worth gathering

The idea in this game is that you gather resources to expand your island and repair the portal to the next world. All the while, you can upgrade your gear, battle monsters and explore the world.

Something I really like in this game is how you can’t buy these resources easily through microtransactions. This means that you don’t have to fear that this game locks you into a microtransaction loop.

There is an owl in each world that offers either a huge amount of resources, but these are totally optional. You don’t have to buy them to progress in the game or to “make the game playable”.

This game is extremely easy to learn and master. In terms of controls, you only need to know that you can move your character quite well by moving a virtual joystick. Mining and attacking all happens automatically. This game is also quite forgiving. When you die, you respawn at the last entrance.

Which you can use at your advantage. For example, in the second world in one of the caves you need a ton of stone. Since, the stone supply wasn’t all that good to gather in large quantities in the cave, I went outside to the mountains to gather them. When I felt I had enough, I just jumped in the water and let the sharks eat me to respawn at the cave entrance, so I didn’t have to make the long trek around.

This game controls extremely well, and I highly advise you to learn the timing on when resources respawn. This can be quite helpful to gather huge amounts of resources easily. At the start, you’ll gather only small amounts of resources from each location, so that’s why my second tip is to upgrade your pickaxe and axe. Since, they’ll increase the amount of resources you get from each mining session or even the speed.

If you regularly upgrade your tools, you rarely to never have to fear that you get stopped because you can’t mind the resources you need since your tool isn’t at a high enough level. And in terms of tools, you only have three of them. Your sword, your pickaxe and your axe. So, no real need of fearing that you need to upgrade a lot.

While the visual presentation is close to very good, I really like how the UI works. The UI shows only what you need to know. It hides the amount of resources you don’t need to know about. For example, if you aren’t working with resources from the first world, they are hidden. You can still use your backpack to see how much resources you have of what. You can also use that to locate certain resources when you need them. A big arrow will appear above your head to locate them.

This game automatically saves. So, you don’t have to worry that you loose progress when you exit the game. You’ll also restart at the last entrance you started at when you start the game.

This game is quite optimized. I never noticed slowdowns nor lag. Also, the loading times between locations is incredible. The amount of assets that are loaded in such a short time is just impressive.

The music and sound effects of this game are amazing. I really like them. They add a lot to the atmosphere and feeling of the game. I find it a bummer that I’m unable to easily listen to the soundtrack outside the game.

There is no real story in this game. So, that means that there is no real need for translation of this game. So, you don’t need to know English to play this game. But…

Let’s dump this

There is no real story in this game. Now, why did I place this in the negative part. Well, while I do understand and enjoy the roleplay potential that this game has, where your mind is able to run free what the worlds are supposed to be… I feel like a lot of chances for more atmosphere are missed. When I started the 3rd world, I felt like this game was missing something.

I just wish there was a little more character in the game. Like danger signs when entering a cave or more set dressing. The idea’s in how the worlds are designed are just amazing, but it lacks a bit of immersion. And I think a bit more set dressing can go a long way.

Maybe this is only on my phone, but there was a lot of Z-fighting happening in the game. Especially on the edges or bottom of textures. For those who don’t know what Z-fighting is, it’s basically when the game doesn’t know which texture should be displayed on top of which texture, and you get blinking textures where they alternate and try to be on top. It’s quite distracting if it happens on a large scale. I have added an example from Minecraft here.

Z-fighting in Minecraft with the stone fences. Taken from the bug tracker.

While I totally understand that a free game needs to have ads, I do want to talk about them. In most cases, the ads in this game aren’t that bad, but they are currently dangerously close to being quite annoying. I don’t have problems with the ad banner on the bottom, nor do I have a problem with the big resource piles you can get for free by watching an ad or the chance that you get a short ad after dying or going between worlds/caves. I do have an issue with the ads that play after you unlock a platform. These are sometimes too frequent and have the potential to break the gameplay flow somewhat.

Also, you can buy tickets to skip ads. And here they decided to do something I really dislike personally. You can’t choose to watch an ad and save your “skip ad ticket”. Thankfully you don’t lose one when an ad plays during other moments. Yeah, when you have those tickets, you can only skip those ads during picking up resources. These, thankfully short, ads still play when you travel between locations or respawn.

Depending on how you are with repetitive gameplay, this game can be boring in longer play sessions. I notice that when I play this game, I often play it in short bursts. Since there aren’t a lot of different mechanics besides gathering resources and placing them in the right location.

Something I don’t know if it’s the fault of the developers or the ad engines, but some ads can be quite annoying. Some ads appear to be playable, but then aren’t playable and appear blank. Others have an unresponsive skip or close button and take you to the App store. These should be able to be blocked by the developer if they have the chance since it shines a bad light on the game.

So, what now?

Personally, I enjoy playing this game. This game is fun to play in a short burst and respects the player. The ads walk that fine line of being acceptable and quite intrusive. Honestly, it depends on my patience level for them on that moment.

The fact that when you upgrade your gear, it’s also shown on the character. Visually, apart from the sometimes quite aggressive Z-fighting, this game looks quite polished for a mobile game. Together with a great soundtrack and sound effects, this game doesn’t have a lot of negatives.

True, the game can be repetitive in longer play sessions… But, that’s not such a big problem since this game autosaves, and you can easily play this game in shorts burst because of that.

If you enjoy casual games or games where you can wind down… Or you need easy to pick up and play games, I really think that this game is something for you. I really like to play this game during my breaks, while crossing my fingers that the ads aren’t too aggressive that time.

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

Score: 4/5

Game Quicky: The Rat Pack (Itch.io – PC) ~ The Rats Will Take Over

Itch.io page

Indie games can be unique. Today’s game is no different. Today, I want to talk about a game that’s created by the developers of that point-and-click game, Captain Disaster. I honestly expected a new point-and-click game when he contacted me via Twitter and when I heard it was going to be about rats, the edutainment collector part of my brain went directly to Mia: The Mouse, but this game is something completely different. It’s a TBS game, a turn-based strategy game. About rats? This is going to be unique. But, we need to ask, is this going to be the good kind of unique or the bad kind? Let’s find out in this 100% honest review of this game that I get a press review copy for. And yes, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and/or opinions on the content of this article and/or the game.

Good rats, pet them

I love this easter egg random event to bits.

The story of this game is about a colony of rats going for bigger and better. Starting off on a farm and going to the big city. I’m so happy that in terms of the story, this game isn’t doing anything silly and trying to put a fantasy spin or something on it… It feels realistic and stays in the background. It’s the perfect set dressing for the game. There is one random event, that I really love. I think you can guess which one is with the screenshot here.

Most of this game is spent on one screen. This is the game screen. There are 5 squares. Let’s start with the easiest to explain. You’ll have the yellow square in the top right, this is where everything that happens during your turn is shown.

The white square in the middle is one that shows special messages. I chose a beta screenshot here on purpose, since this random event message is now one of the various events that have a nice artwork accompanying it. But not every random event has a drawing.

Then, in the bottom left, you have the rat lab. This is your upgrades section. You have 4 things that you can upgrade, and these are essential. Depending on your lab level, you earn a certain amount of lab points per turn. You can upgrade the lab by scavenging for treasure. Each upgrade can improve the skills of your rats to avoid a game over. A game over is when your population reaches zero. That’ll cause you to restart the mission.

I could write a whole article explaining how this whole game works, but the tutorial does an amazing job of that. And not only that, the difficulty curve in this game gets a chef kiss from me. In each mission, a new mechanic is introduced, and you learn easily the amount of depth this game has. You learn when you can risk losing rats in your colony and when you urgently need to do something.

There are three difficulty levels, and you can finish this whole game playing on easy mode. But, the easy mode isn’t a cakewalk. You’ll need to learn the game and think carefully about what you want to do with your colony. And try to not get distracted by the amazing music this game has. Seriously, I would love to buy this soundtrack! Together with the amusing voice work and charming sound effects, the audiovisual presentation is quite good.

At first, I was worried that this game would be boring and repetitive. But, after playing 10 missions so far, I really have to say that I’m quite enjoying myself. With an easy to learn but tricky to master game, I’m impressed with this game. Sadly, there are a few things I didn’t really like, and I’m going to explain them in the next section of this article.

Bad rats, trap them!

So, what does this game do wrong? Well, first, there is no way to save mid-mission. Thankfully, this isn’t too big of an issue, since the missions themselves are sort. Well, I say short, but I have only played this game on easy and normal difficulty, so maybe it’s long on the harder difficulty?

The second negative of this game is a strange design quirk. Why is the pause button “F1” and not “Escape”? It really messed with my hardwired brain.

Overall, the UI design is excellent… But, there is something that would take it to the next level. Currently, when you beat a level, it gets a checkmark. And it doesn’t matter on which difficulty. I would love to see a different color checkmark depending on which difficulty you have beaten the level. Since, currently, the only way to see that is in the achievements’ menu which doesn’t even have a back arrow.

Another flaw in terms of the UI is in the red bottom right corner of the game screen. There are two things wrong with that in the version I reviewed. First, it doesn’t tell you the amount of treasure you’ll need to upgrade the attack and defense of your colony. Secondly, it doesn’t tell you when you can do a raid and how many raids you have done. This is somewhat annoying in some missions where you need to do 5 raids, and you didn’t keep count.

Something I personally missed was some animation in this game. Currently, all random events have a nice drawing, but the attacking and under attack events are too static. Either add a drawing or two for them or have some animation. It would polish up the game that much more.

And that’s about everything. So, shall we go on to the conclusion? Before I ramble on, and on.

So, what we RAT this game out?

Terrible pun aside for this final section of the article, is this game worth your time, or is this conclusion going to rip this game apart? Well, to be very honest, it’s the first. This game is really worth your time. Especially because most of the things I didn’t like about this game can be fixed and fine-tuned with an update or two.

Personally, I wouldn’t recommend this game to everyone. If you enjoy casual/puzzle and turn-based games, I would give this game a chance. But, don’t expect this game to be action-packed. This game is more on the calming and relaxing side. The charm of a small group of creators developing a game is oozing out of this one.

I would really pet this rat and not rat this game out. It’s a great game with some minor flaws. And I can’t wait to finish this game and maybe try the hard difficulty option. And maybe I’m even going to try to fill out that achievement page.

And with that said, I want to wrap up this article and thank you for reading it. 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: 70/100

Game Quicky: Pnevmo-Capsula: Domiki (PC – Steam) ~ Riding The Message

Steam store page

Today, I want to talk about a game called Pnevmo-Capsula: Domiki. A sort of interactive rollercoaster set in the old Soviet Russia. A game was created by a tiny team that created and published their first game. The developers reached out to me with a press code and asked me to write my 100% honest opinion on the game. So, is this game worth our time and our money, or should the developers try something else for their next project? Or should they stop creating games in the first place? That’s what I’m going to try and figure out in this article. And as usual, I invite to you leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and/or opinions on the game and/or the content of this article.

Riding the message

This game is really simple to understand. There are two sections in this game. The riding and the puzzle-solving section. In the riding section, you can control the cart quite easily left and right. You’ll have to look out for holes in the tracks and maybe use different routes to overcome the hole. You’ll also have to disable electric gates, which you can do with your electric shock ability at the end of the wire of the electric gate.

This electric ability is also how you interact with puzzles. Almost all the puzzles are the exact same. You have to start a machine and then figure out the four numbers of the recipient of the message. This might sound boring and repetitive, but the puzzles are all well crafted and fun to solve. I was so happy that I had two monitors, so I could take a screenshot of the list of possible numbers to aid me in solving the puzzle.

These two styles of gameplay give the game a lot of variation. There are eight chapters in this game, and whenever you mess up, you start at the beginning of the chapter. But, everything is still unlocked. So, for example, when you opened several gates… These will stay open when you respawn. This might be a useful trick for speedrunners.

In terms of visuals, this game looks amazing. I have seen games that look several times worse at this price point. There are some rough textures, like at the start of the 2nd chapter and somewhere in the 3rd on the telephone pole, but these moments were far and few in between. The camera work is really stunning. The only thing I would improve a bit is making it a bit more clear when you are at the right spot to interact with a puzzle, gate, or something.

The music and sound effect are decent. Nothing too special in my opinion, but I feel they are good enough to fit the atmosphere and setting of this game. But something else that’s mind-blowing is how, after the first chapter, there are no loading screens in the whole game. And respawning only takes a couple of seconds.

The message is lost

In this game, you play as a capsule. You’re riding on a railroad towards your final location to deliver various messages. That’s the story of this game. Sadly enough, that’s literally IT in terms of story. Apart from some world-building with the puzzles, there is no real story in this game. Why are we delivering messages in this manner? It’s such a shame that for a game that looks as nice as this, there is no real story present.

I don’t mind games that are short in nature. Creating a game is quite difficult, and making unique puzzles is a tricky thing to do. But the runtime of this game is a real shame. This game took me only 2 hours to beat TWICE. Yes, twice. There are no different endings or different ways to beat the game. So yeah, the mechanics and ideas in this game are seriously under-explored.

In general, the controls are good. Yet, there are some things that can be polished up. First of all, you can speed up with the left-hand shift key. And if you have a right-hand shift key, well, that doesn’t work to speed up. Secondly, sometimes in bends, the key I was using to go forward didn’t move the cart forward and almost got stuck. And finally, apart from interacting with the space bar… there is no real “break” button for your cart.

There are some minor things I would have improved as well. For example, it’s quite tricky to control the puzzles in some cases. It’s not always clear what you can do and how to move in the puzzle itself. I think it would be a lot better if you could use the mouse during these sections. Since the mouse is on-screen and can only be used in the menus.

The UI in this game is good, but sometimes it does strange things like not remembering your language. But, the options’ menu is lacking in my opinion. You can disable the music, but there is no volume slider. So, you can’t disable the sound effects, either. The resolutions are quite strange as well. There is a 7680*4320 resolution? Also, the buttons are clickable from anywhere on the screen as long as you are at the same height as them.

But the BIGGEST no-no this game makes is when you finish the game and restart from an earlier chapter, be careful with your save then. Since, as soon as you beat a chapter… All your other progress gets erased. For example, you have beaten chapter 6 and want to replay chapter 1. So, you go back to the main menu, choose chapters, and start chapter one. You finish chapter one, and you go back to the main menu, to start chapter 6… You’ll notice that only chapters 1 and 2 are unlocked! Thankfully, the game is short, so you can go right ahead to the location you were in, but if the game were longer this would have been a grave issue.

A less grave issue is that there is no continue option in the main menu. That’s a bit of polish this game lacks. Like, the strange jitter effect you get when you ram into an electric gate. Or the fact, that you don’t get a visual notification when you finish a chapter besides going through a gate that closes behind you. And the final thing of lacking polish is that only going from chapters 1 to 2, you have a loading screen. When you start from any other point, you’ll get a black screen… Yeah.

And that’s honestly everything I could say about this game. So, I think it’s high time to wrap up this article with the conclusion.

Should the message be delivered?

This game is a decent game for the low price point of €9. But, at its current point, I wouldn’t pay anything more. Especially for the extremely short length of this game. There is so much more that could have been done with the concept and mechanics. For example, a puzzle where you have to deliver several messages in a certain order. Or having to open/close gates.

Besides that, like every other game… This game has some other flaws. Apart from the quirkiness with the chapters, I explained earlier, most of these negatives can be polished with a patch. Apart from the lacking story, of course.

If you enjoy casual puzzle games, I would certainly give this game a look. But, to the developers, I would say, keep working on this game. Keep expanding it with new content and mechanics. If this is your first released game, I would have to say bravo. There is a lot of potential here, and I would love to see longer and more in-depth experiences.

For a small passion project, this game turned out amazing. But, I want to see this game become more than a passion project. Since, when I had beaten the game, I felt cheated. I wanted to see more, play more, but it was over when I was really getting into it.

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

Score: 3/5

First Impression: Neutopia (Wii U – TurboGraphix16) ~ Is this Zelda?

Wikipedia entry

There are a lot of different Zelda clones out there. And to be honest, I don’t mind it at all. It keeps Nintendo on its toes in making the next Zelda game. If it’s not good enough, then the clones have a chance to be the next big hit. Recently, I took a look at some of them. Blossom King and Lenna’s Inception are two good examples. So, during my week off this week, I was browsing the Nintendo Wii U eShop and I discovered Neutopia. At first, I thought it was an indie developer creating another 2D Zelda clone, but I was quite surprised when I saw that the developer was Hudson Soft. So, I dug a bit deeper, and it turns out that this game was never released in Europe until the Wii and Wii U era. So, why didn’t we get this game, and its sequel over here in Europe? Was the Zelda clone not good enough, or did we miss out? Let’s find out, while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on the content of this article and/or this game.

Is this Zelda?

I find the story in this game quite amusing. It’s, to a certain degree, a cross between your cliché Zelda and Final Fantasy story. Change the Triforce with crystals. Sprinkle some Zelda II with a sleeping princess in a shrine, that instead of getting cursed… gets kidnapped Link to the Past style. Oh, and let’s not forget that the crystals are elemental crystals. The story is silly but oh so amusing to me. The story isn’t the main focal point in this game. Besides the main character, the villain, and the princess… There aren’t many unique characters in the game. Which isn’t a bad thing. The name of the villain is hilarious, actually. He is called Dirth, yes… dirt with an additional H.

In terms of gameplay, this game is everything I could hope for. This game is Zelda I at its heart, and I love it. It didn’t take long for me to get immersed in the game and start exploring the world. All the mechanics were clear to me right away. I had to explore the lands, find the dungeons and find all the medallions. I started out with a sword and started exploring. The controls are extremely easy to learn as well, so in no time I was in the action.

Something that took me by surprise is that there are only 4 dungeons. But, there are two medallions in each dungeon. So, you’ll have to explore them quite thoroughly to make sure you found everything. Speaking of exploring, I was afraid that I would have to look for ages for the various dungeons since the game also copied the “map” system from Zelda I. Thankfully, you have a Charmed Compass that points you into the general direction of the dungeons.

There are no keys in this game, so no locked door puzzles. Yet, the map system has a unique feature. It plays a special sound effect whenever you are near a boss or a medallion. This brings me nicely to the audiovisual presentation of this game. The music in this game, oh heavens. The music in this game is excellent! This chiptune soundtrack fits the game so well and is one of the best things in this game. It made the exploration and trying to beat the various challenges the game gives you even more fun. The sound effects are decent too, if only I wished there were a bit more of them to make the enemies and weapons come more alive.

Is this game hard? Well, if you know how to play Zelda I, it’s not hard at all. You have to know that you can burn bushes, push rocks, and that villagers are hidden all over the world that gives you VERY helpful advice. For real, read what the villagers have to say. The only nitpick I have is that when you accidentally press the skip button, you’ll have to exit and re-enter their location to know what they said.

This game is also somewhat forgiving. When you die, you go to the latest checkpoint you saved at. So, whenever you did something big or before a dungeon, remember to save. This isn’t your modern game with autosaves. The save system is unique, when save you get a very long password and the chance to save in a slot. But do yourself a favor, and only use that save feature to create checkpoints so when you die, you don’t lose too much progress and use the actual save states of the virtual console to save. I found that much more reliable than the load system. Especially since the save slots are RAM-based! Any RAM memory can be overwritten. The only thing you lose is a bit of gold.

The items that enemies can drop are the exact same as in the first Zelda game. Apart from having different sprites. From gold, bomb to even a time-stopping power up. And if you listen well to the villagers, you’ll know what each item does, since they hint at them pretty well.

Visually, this game looks amazing. The only thing I found a shame is that there were no real towns or anything in the game. But that’s a minor nitpick since, evener then, the map is quite memorable and great fun to explore. Of course, you have your typical locals from a forest, mountains, and desert, but they all fit the world so well. Strangely enough, there is no ice/cold area in this game. That’s something you don’t see every game every day. But, we don’t see perfect games every day either. Yet, is this game one of those?

This isn’t as good as Zelda.

Sadly enough, no. This game has some flaws. The first is the bombs. The big issue is that you need way too many of them to beat the game, and you can only carry 8 of them at the start. There is also no easy way to farm them, so when you require more… It’s enemy killing time, and cross your fingers they drop bombs. And bombs are one of the few items that stack. When the wings drop, to easily escape to the last save point, you can only have one. Even when you picked up two. … Okay, you can carry two health points.

There is something I feel a bit mixed about, and that is some villagers. Some villagers give you special rewards like money. But only once. That alone is just fine. But, here is the annoying thing. If you die and go back to that spot, you can’t get the money again. Yet, when I think about this… It makes a bit sense too. Since, if the reward of the villager is higher than what you lose when you die… It would be money exploit waiting to happen. If only you could decline the money before you get it, that would have been amazing.

Now, that it was difficult to create a good map system on an 8-bit system for Zelda I, I can totally understand. You only have so much RAM and resources to play with before the system starts to lag. But, on a system that’s at least twice as powerful, the map system can do more. The map system is a huge mess in my eyes.

First, there is no overworld map, so you don’t know where you are in the overworld. Something that the first Zelda game actually did! Second, after getting the dungeon map, it resets the visited rooms when you leave the dungeon by any means. And third, it only shows you the rooms for the first medallion. Which in itself isn’t a big issue, but it’s a big issue since when you die exploring the second part of the dungeon, guess what… The map is reset and the new rooms are gone! Oh, and I hope you remembered where to bomb to continue.

Sadly, this game has the same annoyance as the first Zelda game when it comes to hitboxes. During my playthrough, I felt that sometimes it was easier for the enemies to hit me compared to hitting them. The fact you can’t hit enemies diagonally is a huge issue. Since, when you aren’t lined up right… You don’t hit the enemy, but they hit you. Well, you can hit enemies diagonally but not with the sword. Just increasing the hitboxes of the enemies by a tiny bit would have solved this issue.

Something minor about this is that some airborne enemies were tricky to know when you were able to hit and not hit them. Speaking of iffy enemy design, I found some enemies a bit too cheap. Those mud crawlers are so annoying in predicting where they will turn up.

Now, I think I said almost everything I wanted to say about this game. I honestly think it’s time to wrap this up in a nice conclusion.

Is this worth your time?

For this conclusion, I won’t beat around the bush. If you enjoy any 2D adventure game like let’s say: Zelda I, Blossom Tales, Lenna’s Inception, Fairune… This game is right up your alley. This amazing retro title is an excellent time waster. It does have some flaws, but when you get used to the flaws, this game is stunning. Currently, I’m halfway done with the game, but I couldn’t wait in finishing the game before I started writing this review.

This game brought me back to the joy of 2D Zelda games. Which is one of my favorite types of games. Just keep in mind that this game is a retro game and the things I talked about in my review, and you are golden. I’m playing this game blind and not using a walkthrough at all. It’s a blast, and can’t wait to see what the game is going to throw at me next. And let’s not forget the sequel! Which improvements were made and is it going to be as much fun as this one?

Now, if you decide to play this game… I personally would advise you to play this game on the Virtual Console or PSN. If you want to play it on the TurboGraphix 16, be careful with saving in the cabinets/save files. Do write down your passwords. Since saving to RAM… I don’t trust it personally. And sadly enough, the passwords are long and complex. It’s case-sensitive even.

I highly enjoyed my time with this game, and I can’t recommend it enough to fellow 2D adventure game fans and retro game fans. But, I can totally understand that because of its age and quirks, this game might not be so enjoyable for everybody. But, give it a chance, I really think it is worth it.

And with that said, I want to thank you all 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 to another one, but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Those annoying mud things :/

First Impression: Abyss of the Sacrifice (Switch) ~ Puzzlerooms To Sacrifice

Age warning: This game is 16+.

Wikipedia entryNintendo.com microsite

I might be a day late for Halloween, but today on the day after, I still want to talk about a somewhat horror related game. As regular readers of my blog know, I’m an avid fan of the Zero Escape trilogy. So, when I saw this game pop up on the Nintendo Switch eShop, I didn’t hesitate for a moment. I had to give it a try. I enjoyed my time with it that much, that it even slipped in my top 10 games of 2020. Why did I give this game a spot there? Well, let me explain why, while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on the game and/or the content of this article.

Puzzlerooms to sacrifice

This game follows the story of 5 girls who are left in the “Foundation”. This is a strange place underground that has been built for some reason that everybody has forgotten. It doesn’t take long before our 5 heroines meet each other and strange things like earthquakes start happening. And let’s not forget, since everybody is gone from the Foundation, food and water supplies are getting more difficult to come by every day.

I don’t want to talk much about the story, since it hinges on its mystery quite a lot. It’s that sort of story where you are left in the dark about everything right from the start, but the further you go in the story the more gets explained. I do highly recommend playing this game without a break like I did. I had to restart my playthrough since I completely forgot what was going on, and I got confused.

Something that took me by surprise is the fact that this game is fully voice acted, in Japanese. Now, this makes my job of reviewing this game a bit more difficult. I barely know any Japanese, so take what I’m going to say next with a grain of salt. But, I feel that the voice acting is pretty good. I really felt the emotional performance of the voice actors and I feel they did an amazing job.

Something I really did like is how there are some cliché characters, like your doctors’ girl and the patient that went in and out of hospitals but the interaction and the backstory of these characters is handled in such a unique way, it feels quite fresh and unique. The story itself is getting quite interesting at the moment where I’m at, and I’m so glad I choose the Switch version over the Steam version since now I can take it with me on the train from and to work.

Visually, the game looks amazing. The artwork really immersed me into the world and the story. Together with the great music and sound design, I really felt like I was exploring a mystery in the Foundation. Sometimes, an important item blended into the scenery, but it gave off a small sparkle, so you didn’t have to go pixel hunting.

I really like the hint system in this game. At any time, without a penalty, you can in the menu to the “Hint” system, and you can look at the hints. Only the hints that help you to get further in the puzzle are unlocked. The ones you need later in the puzzle aren’t accessible and not even shown. The minor negative you could say that this system brings is that it somewhat spoils the length of the room, but that’s a minor thing in my opinion.

You can play this game out of order. So, each time you finish a chapter, you unlock the next entries of the story of each girl. You can play them in any order you like. To avoid getting even more confused about what’s going on, I played them somewhat in order. But, it’s a great thing that if you get stuck on one puzzle, you can stop it and go to another girl to try on that puzzle later. And believe you me, the puzzles can get quite challenging. I even had to get out a pen and paper for several puzzles to solve it.

The controls and the UI of this game is something to be praised. The only minor negative thing is that there is no real autosave, but you can save easily at any time in an overload of save slots. The amount of options is a good to have, so that way you can adjust your experience to your liking. And the easy to learn controls are shown in the options menu in case that you forgot one or two buttons.

Escape is not needed

Sadly enough, this game does have some flaws. In terms of variation, this game doesn’t have a lot of it. This game is a visual novel with some escape the room elements thrown in. But, there are some things that the visual novel sections don’t do all to well. First, the contrast of the text with the background isn’t always the best. I sometimes had trouble reading the text. Thankfully, my English is pretty decent, and I can make out the words, but I can image that it’s going to be quite annoying for people who aren’t so good at English.

Something else that really bothered me is the fact that it’s sometimes a bit unclear who is talking to who in the dialogue sections. There is no real “speaking” animation. That’s a shame, since I’m that kind of person who has a hard time remembering names. I was so glad that in World’s End Club, you had that overview screen with the names and abilities. Even in the backlog it’s unclear who is talking.

Speaking of which, when I looked into the backlog of this game… I found some strange things in the writing. This game sometimes jumps from 1st person to 3rd person writing. A great example where you can get easily confused is this one:

Suddenly, she felt a sharp tug on her arm.

"Huh?"

I didn't fall....?

As she blinked in disbelief, a voice called out above her.

That’s exactly how it appears in the game. If only a different styling was used for thoughts OR keep writing in either 1st or 3rd person, this could have improved the writing.

There were some moments of frustration as well during the puzzle segments. For example, in one room, I had to pick up a robot from the cleaning station but the area I could click to pick it up was almost completely overlapped by the “Exit screen” UI. So, be really precise with your clicks or otherwise, you’ll be stuck while you have the correct solution. Thankfully, if you find the joystick movement controls a bit too fast like me, you can use the D-pad to solve that issue.

Sadly enough, some puzzles are a bit too tricky for my liking. Even with the hint system. One time I got stuck because I tried to combine item A with B, and it didn’t work… The solution was combining item B with A. Which brings me to talk about the interface you use to combine items. This interface is a mess in my opinion. It could have been designed a lot better, since if it wasn’t explained in the tutorial section… I would have forgotten how to use it and that it was even a mechanic.

You might have noticed that I didn’t talk about the animations in the visuals’ section of this review. That’s because, there was so much more that could have been done with the animations. I really felt that the game was a bit too static and comic-book like. There could have been so much more life into the game with a bit more animations. And in some cases, I had the impression that the animations lagged while the game was anything but lagging. But, I think it’s high time to get into the conclusion of this article before I start lagging myself and go rambling.

Conclusion

This game is the perfect example of getting pretty close to greatness but missing the mark. This game has so much going for it. The amazing artstyle, the music, the concept, the atmosphere… I don’t regret my decision to include this game in my top 10 games of 2020.

Yet, this game lacks some polish which is a real shame. Since, I can truly see some people skipping this game because of it. It even makes it a bit difficult for me to recommend this game.

When I saw the scores that other reviewers were giving for this game, I was a bit annoyed. I felt that this game was getting too low scores for what’s offered here. This game tells a great story of 5 girls trying to survive and trying to figure out what happened to the world. But some technical issues hold it back. Some can be solved with a patch like the issues with the script and such, but others like the animations… That is going to need either a big patch or a remake.

But, if you enjoy games like the Zero Escape games or Corpse Party, I would say… Check out this game. Give it a chance. But, know that this game has some flaws and you best play it without too long of a break to fully enjoy this game. I personally think that this game is totally worth your time, maybe on sale. And as soon as you get use to the quirks, the negatives aren’t too bad. So, this review is luke warm, but warm enough to recommend it with caution.

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

Game Quicky: Mystik Belle – Enchanted Edition (Switch) ~ The Metroidvania Witchschool Adventure

Nintendo.com micrositeWikipedia entry

So, I was browsing the Nintendo Switch eShop one day and I came across this game. Without doing a lot of research, I bought it since it looked like an interesting indie Metroidvania game. I didn’t know that a big studio like WayForward helped the developers Last Dimension in publishing this game to the Nintendo Switch. For some reason, I didn’t realize that this game is a port either. Even with the subtitle “Enchanted Edition”. In any case, I was also surprised to learn that this game is created in GameMaker Studio. A tool I used to learn about game development when I was younger. But, with that said, how is the actual game? Is it worth your money or should you rather focus on the original edition or is this a game you could skip without hesitation? Well, I’m here to give you my opinion and while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and/or opinions on the game and/or the content of this article.

Witchschool

Usually, I write something myself to explain the story. But, the way the developers described the story is so good, I’m going to quote it here:

Being a student of mysterious art is a daunting task, doubly if you are Bell McFay – a freshman at the Hugmore Magic School. The teachers and staff are mean, I have few friends, and my grades are poor. Worst of all – Bell tends to be in the wrong place at worst. When she stayed up late to practice the magic of fire, for example tonight, but was instead assembled to confuse ancient rituals. And is there a better way to punish the unlucky first-grader than to prosecute her for an impossible job on the worst night of the year? Reproduce or exile Walpurgisnacht Brew. The sound of expulsion is beginning to improve as all types of spies hijack the school.

Official story on the eShop page

There is no voice acting in this game, so the story is told through text boxes and the environment design. Overall, the writing in this game is good. It sets up the arc of the game nicely without a lot of technobabble to pull you out of the experience. It’s quite difficult to review the story of this game because this game is somewhat short. This game takes around 5-ish hours to beat.

Usually, in these short games, I expect the story to grip me and focus more on telling a good story with interesting mechanics like Super Liminal or There Is No Game. Yet, this game doesn’t do that. I’m not saying that the story is bad, it’s just that this game focuses more on the gameplay and it’s puzzles than the overall story. This isn’t such a big negative in my eyes. While, yes, the setting and the atmosphere gives the story a lot of potential… I’m just extremely happy that it’s not bloated or is just filler to make the game longer. It’s to the point and quite enjoyable.

This game almost plays like your typical Metroidvania game. If you don’t know what a Metroidvania game is, compare it to games like Monster Tale, Blossom Tales, Lenna’s Inception amongst others. You explore large area’s where you learn new skills and abilities to help you on the way and discover secrets. Now, what this game does special is that this game has also a focus on puzzle elements and a whole inventory mechanic. In extremely rough terms, this game is a giant fetch quest in a Metroidvania game.

And it’s a lot of fun. I love exploring the school and trying to figure out which abilities I’m going to get to explore more of the castle. The responsive controls were so easy to learn that I was able to get the hang of the mechanics quite easily. The only thing that is different compared to your typical Metroidvania games is that there are no save rooms in this game. The game autosave when you change rooms. But that’s anything but a negative, to be honest.

Now, there are two ways to play this game. You can play through this game with warp chests, that help you with your inventory and makes the game a bit easier. It also gives you the option to choose if you restart the room or start from the counsel room. Or you have the harder difficulty, where you don’t have: warp chests, restart the room and the enemies hit harder. So, you can play on the difficulty you enjoy.

I really love shooting my fire spell around and leveling it up when I killed more enemies. I really liked running around this school with the amazing pixel art and animation. The game looks amazing, and the level design is well done for a Metroidvania game. While the level design makes the school feel less like a school since you don’t see a lot of classrooms and weird architecture, the pixel art is so good-looking and well-designed that it doesn’t bother me at all. (Only my really harsh critic side, tho.)

Not only does the game have amazing visuals and animations, the music is a jam. It’s amazing chiptune by Dan Rogers. I have listened to it while writing this article and I liked it so much that I decided to buy the whole soundtrack from Dan Roger’s Bandcamp I linked earlier.

Something that’s quite impressive is that this game is the love child of Andrew Bado. He placed so much love and care into the game. I mean, he even made an option where the dialogue is child-friendly in the PC version. Yes, an option! That’s something I can applaud. If only this came to the Switch version.

Almost there, Bell

I have thrown quite a lot of praise towards this game, but I’m sad to say that this game does make a few mistakes or things I don’t like. Let me first talk about the health system. There is one thing I didn’t like at all. That’s the way you heal. To heal, you have to pick up hearts that can randomly drop from enemies. The hearts drop where you kill the enemy. So, if you kill the enemy while it’s in the wall, since your projectiles go through into the wall… Your health pick-up is going to be stuck in the wall. And those don’t get attracted when you get close.

Also, there is no “quick heal” method or room. The health you have is the health you start with when you respawn or restart the room. So, when you are low on health, you better find a room where you can grind enemies to grind the health drops to get back to full health. This is one of the few moments where the game just stopped in its tracks, to be honest. Granted, you could restart at the counsel room with full health, but then you have to backtrack all the way… That isn’t fun.

Now, here is something I really found annoying. This game has an amazing mini-map, but why can’t I look at it with more detail? In this game, you have to gather and manage a lot of items. Around 60 in fact. And they are spread out over the whole map. But, remembering which item goes where is a real pain. Either having a quest list and/or which character is where it could have helped so much. Thankfully, the map is rather small, so going through all of it and trying out which item goes where wasn’t such a pain. Yet, I really missed a feature a like that in this game.

Sadly enough, there is actually a second thing I don’t like about the health system. There is this mechanic where you are able to kill enemies by just colliding with them. But this costs health. Now here is the issue with that, the sound effect and visual feedback is so similar to normally killing enemies it’s confusing. Something to improve this would be another sound effect if Belle gets hit compared to when she kills an enemy. Since, overall, the sound effects are excellent.

One of the final things I want to talk about is the pacing. In this game, you need to get three ingredients and something that really surprised me is that the second act is short. But this is an extremely minor complaint, a nitpick even. As big as a nitpick as the I find it a shame that some nice designs like statues go to waste since they are mostly in the dark. But, then again, it adds to the atmosphere and gives off a slightly creepy vibe.

Now, I think it’s high time for the conclusion, don’t you think? A summary of what I think in general about this game and trying to answer the questions I asked in the introduction of this article.

Let’s play or let’s play?

Is this game worth your time? Yes, yes it is! While the game has some annoying things like I talked about in the previous section, I really think that the positives highly outweigh the negatives for this game.

Now, if you would ask me… Which version should I play? Then, I have to answer the enchanted edition on Switch. It’s quite difficult to answer what’s new in this version since you don’t have an official change log but reading from the Twitter feeds of the developers it seems that it’s mostly a graphical upgrade and various tweaks to make the experience more enjoyable.

It also looks like this game is going to have a sequel or expansion from what I’m reading on the developers twitter feed.

I’m so glad that I gave this game a chance, since because of this game I discovered a very passionate developer that loves creating charming games like this one. I really enjoyed my time with this game, trying to figure out which item goes where. While it’s tempting to use a walkthrough, I highly advise that you don’t. There is barely any moon logic in this game, and it feels so much more rewarding to play it blind.

The charm of this game is just amazing. Mystik Belle is a hidden gem that more people should know of and play. This game has so much potential even while I haven’t finished the original, I’m already hyped for new content that’s upcoming.

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