Category Archives: Gamer’s Thoughts

Game Quicky: Inspector Parker in BeTrapped! (PC) ~ Minesweeping Mansion Traps

BeTrapped_7042BigFish Games Store page

My parents aren’t that big into games and always thought that games downloaded from the internet contained either malware or crashed their computer. This was a disaster for me, because I really enjoy playing casual games from time to time. Now, a world opened to me when I discovered websites like Zylom, Gamehouse, BigFish and Alawar to name just a few. I mean, an overload of games that you were able to play 1 hour for free and then buy the game for 10 to 20 euro to own it. I discovered a ton of games through those websites, even through some websites that aren’t around anymore. One of these games is BeTrapped and that’s the game I want to talk about today. Is it still as good as I remember or is the game better left forgotten in my childhood? Let’s find out in this game quicky while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article. 

Cleared Traps

Betrapped1In this game, you play as Inspector Parker on a quest to find out the mystery of who is trying to kill May Vandernot. She is the heir to the recently deceased Lord North Vandernot. Now, it doesn’t take long before you enter the mansion per request of a family solicitor to disarm the rooms and find clues. 

The story is told through a book and the introduction of the game is only one page long. Actually, it’s two pages long but the nice artwork make the story spread over two pages. Overall, the story is quite enjoyable. It’s generic for sure, but it gives a nice atmosphere for the puzzle game we are going to play.

Something I really love is the fact that you can review the story in the “Extra and Options” menu. Since I haven’t played this game in ages and that way I was able to get a quick summary of the story so far without having to replay the game.  

Now, let’s focus on the gameplay. Since that’s the big reason why I wanted to talk about this game. If you have ever played Minesweeper, you will feel right at home in this game. This game is basically minesweeper but with a few twists. 

The first twist is that you have lives. So, that means that if you step on a trap, it’s not game over right away. When you lost all your lives, it’s game over. 

The second twist is that you aren’t able to click around freely. You have to move the inspector through the room as if he is walking through it. So, you can skip over a tile or start from the other side of the board. 

And the final twist is that, you have to disarm all the traps and you are only allowed 5 “misses”. So, that means, if you miss the disarm location of a trap, you loose one of these “misses”. 

But, how do you find out where the traps are? Well, some traps can be found out by just looking at the room and some critical thinking. For example, noticed that piece of armor in the screenshot of this section? Well, there is a trap there. But, the easiest and best way to disarm these traps are by walking around the whole room and looking at the floor tiles. Blue tiles are safe to walk on and other colors mean that there is at least one trap one the adjacent tile. 

You disarm a trap by right clicking on the tile you think the trap is located on. When you are right, the trap is disarmed and when you are wrong, you get a strike. As said earlier, five strikes and you are out. 

During the adventure, you get your lives and misses restocked each level. When you loose all your misses or lives during a level, you have to restart that map. So, thankfully these mistakes or lives you lost don’t carry over. 

There are a few other mechanics like traps that you need to activate and dodge to disarm and the inventory system but the game explain these mechanics quite well. And if you have forgotten or want more information about one of these mechanics, the expansive and detailed help file that’s included in the game is a great way to have a refresher. 

The replay value of this game is through the roof. If you finish the main story, you can always try the puzzle mode. Where you get a randomly generated map with you have to beat it as quickly as possible with the least amount of mistakes. 

Missed traps

UntitledOverall, this game is quite good but it does drop the ball on a few places. The first thing is that this game doesn’t support wide screen. The game is around 16 years old, but by then widescreen existed. 

There is a mechanic in the game that is quite the double edged sword. And that is the quick walk feature. This feature can speed up the gameplay quite a bit, but you are unable to dodge traps that way. While that feature was on, it made my playstyle less careful and that’s just the idea of the game. 

The biggest issue of this game is the repetitiveness. Apart from some minor puzzle and investigation elements, there is barely any variety in this game. If you are interested in playing this game, I highly advice you to play this game in short bursts since otherwise this game can get boring. 

There are apart from that, a few minor things that you can overlook or keep in mind but they can get annoying from time to time. First of all, the controls. Overall, the controls work just fine but I feel that my right clicks don’t always register in the game. This caused some game overs since I right clicked several times on a tile and lost two or three misses in the process. 

Speaking of those misses, when you try to disarm the wrong tile, it doesn’t change color at all. It would have been great if it changed in the color of the tile. It would save some time and possible errors. 

Something I found missing is the fact that you are unable to “plant flags”. Remember that you can plant flags on tiles you think are bombs in minesweeper? Well, you are unable to do that in this game. So, when you think that a certain tile is a trap, you can’t put some sort of flag on it and avoid it. The mechanic works in minesweeper, so why not here? 

Visually, this game looks quite nice but the trap animations… Let’s just say that I can’t say if I like or hate them. Some trap animations make a lot of sense, like a poisoned drink or a gun trap in an old clock… But, giant spikes that rise up from the floor? I’m sorry, but no. That doesn’t fit at all here. Also, I find the knife trap animation quite strange. It almost looks like it’s thrown from somewhere while you would think it comes from the ceiling of the room… 

Anyways I’m glad that I can disable the music since I got bored of it after a while. The music in this game isn’t bad but there is just a huge lack of various songs in the game. And the track is a tad bit too short in my opinion to have it replay over and over again. 

Should you even try?

This game is a rough diamond in my opinion. The game has a lot of potential but it lacks the polish to be really enjoyable. Now, the game can get quite frustrating in the wrong area’s and it made me quite the game once or twice while preparing for this review. 

It didn’t take long before all those frustrating memories from my childhood came back while playing this game. I thought that I would have been able to beat this game more easily now that I’m older but I’m still struggling with this game because of some unpolished mechanics. 

Because parts of the maps are randomly generated, there is no difficulty scaling in the adventure mode which makes the game even more annoying to play. Yet, the game has a certain charm that pulls me in and makes me play it once in a while. 

I can recommend this game to people who enjoy casual and/or puzzle games but I recommend it with a warning, this game could have been so much better and it can be quite frustrating. And then I haven’t mentioned the lack of “investigation notes”. 

Since this is the conclusion of my article and look at this game, I have to conclude that this game isn’t the best. It’s mediocre at it’s best and frustrating at it’s worst. But, I want to mention that I really think that the core idea of the game is amazing and I would love to see another attempt on creating a game with the same mechanics and solving the issues that this game has. I think that would be amazing. But, until then, we have this rough diamond to enjoy. 

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

Score: 60/100

 

Review: Paper Mario – The Origami King (Switch) ~ Fold And Turn

Official websiteWikipedia entry

2020 is quite a strange year. Back in May, we got a trailer for this game and to everybody’s surprise, the game dropped a few weeks later. The game has been out for around a month now and I have finished the game a few days ago. So, I want to talk about this game. Especially, since some people are quite curious how this game holds up compared to the previous entries in the series. The two previous entries in the series weren’t that well received, so will this game “save the series” or will it divide the fanbase even further like Color Splash? Let’s take a look at the game while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article. 

Fold The World

So, the story starts a bit similar to Sticker Star. A festival is held in the (paper) Mushroom Kingdom and something goes horribly wrong. In this case, the princess is converted to origami and suddenly, you meet an evil origami character called Olly that wants to fold the whole world to origami.

In your journey to save Princess Peach and save the Mushroom Kingdom from certain destruction, you team up with the sister of the evil origami character called Oliva. She is able to grant you special powers that aid Mario in his quest.

To avoid spoiling the whole game or sections of it, I’m going to try to keep story explanations to a minimum. But, I do want to give my honest opinion of the story. The writing and the dialogues are pretty good, the pacing is excellent as well. I barely felt that any sections were filler or padding. But, the story isn’t thrilling at all.

The structure of the story is somewhat like the Pokémon anime series. Just replace the gym badges with the streamers and you have the structure of the story in this game. Barely any of the characters, apart from the main duo, of course, go from one section to another.

The next point I want to bring up with the story is that it’s a bit too predictable in my eyes. I can’t pinpoint exactly why but I felt that I experienced this whole story somewhere before or that I had seen the arcs. I think that the main issue with this game is that it barely does anything creative story-wise.

Does this game have a bad story? Well, yes and no. Apart from the predictability and the “safeness” of the whole story, the charm of the story is so great. I have a few ideas that could have improved the story. The first thing is the world-building, I felt that wasn’t done enough. For example, you have an area called “Picnic Road”. Why o why are there no picnic benches? I mean, one of the previous areas had a whole barbeque setup…

The second suggestion I have is that there could have been a bit more side stories. A great example is with Luigi. Side-arcs, side quests, or just things to explore on the side. I know that you can free toads, fill in Not-Bottomless Holes but in most cases, those don’t affect the story that much.

It almost feels that the developers just cut out several sections to improve the flow or the pacing but with that, they also cut out too much. Sometimes a bit of padding or filler doesn’t hurt.

Oh, and before I go to the next section, I usually talk about the voice acting and voice work right after the story. And I can finish my opinion quite fast. That’s something where I think they could have done more but on the other hand, the animations are so good during dialogues that the very little voice work is “replaced” if that makes sense.

Turn Your Way To Victory

One of the biggest criticisms of the previous two entries in the Paper Mario series was the battle system. The games before those had an RPG style battle system. Then in Sticker Star and Color Splash, we got more of a sort of puzzle system.

I think it would make this review too long if I start to analyze the flaws of the two previous battle systems. For the sake of going forward, let’s focus on the battle system of this game. There is no real RPG-style battle system in this game. But, something that does return somewhat is the buddies from previous games. Now, before you get too excited, the buddies just provide a chance of an attack after you finished yours. And that’s it.

Before I talk about the puzzle battle system, I do want to mention a huge improvement compared to the previous two titles. At certain moments, you can find a health improvement. Besides having more HP, these improvements have other implications on the mechanics of the game. For example, after a few upgrades, I was able to just jump or hit these Goomba’s with my hammer and I didn’t have to go into battle. The only downside is that you don’t get all your coins like you would have defeated them in the puzzle battle. But, it does save your weapons for each little encounter.

Speaking about weapons, I barely had any problem with those. At the start of the game, I just stocked up on weapons and healing items and I do have to say, I barely had to go to the shops in the game to stock up on items. The game is quite generous with items to use in battle. A bit too generous for my liking.

The game is a bit too easy. Apart from some scripted sequences, I barely saw the ‘game over’ screen. Also, quite rarely, I felt challenged during the battles. Even when I was unable to solve the puzzle in front of me, I was almost always able to beat the enemies with relative ease.

Now, what is this “puzzle battle” I’m talking about? Well, if you look at the screenshot a bit higher, you might notice that Mario is in a battle area with four rings. Your goal is to line up the enemies in a line or in a group of 2 by 2. You can do that by either rotating a ring or move planed vertically.

In order for you to solve the puzzle, you have a limited amount of moves and time. But, here is where some amazing game design shines through. During the adventure, you can buy various items that give you more time, health and defense during battles. You can enable or disable all of these items in the pause menu. On top of that, you can invest your coins in more time or cheering. Now, what is cheering? Well, that means you can invite the Toads you have rescued during the adventure to aid you in healing or solving the puzzle in front of you. The only moment where the Toads don’t solve the puzzle is during the boss battles. But more on that in a minute. So, if you find the game too easy, you can challenge yourself more by disabling all these support items and not cheering or buying more time during battles.

So, do you HAVE to solve the puzzles to be able to attack the enemies? Oh no, you don’t have to. It just gives you an attack bonus that can one-shot most enemies. Otherwise, you have to rely on your partner or block the attacks and try again. Also, just like the previous games, when you time your button press correctly during the attack, you do more damage to your enemies.

I could talk more in-depth about the battle system but I want to avoid that this review gets too long. So, I’m going to link you to an interesting article of a great blogging buddy of mine Adventure Rules, who talks a bit more in-depth on the battle system on his blog. Be warned, there are some spoilers in his article. (And yes, I know that he is going to read this article… And no, the fact that I’m shouting him out here has nothing to do with it… Maybe… Maybe not. 😉 )

Now, let’s talk boss battles. These battles are the highlight of the game for me. The sheer creativity in these battles is just amazing. Each boss throws a unique challenge your way that changes up the battlefield or the way you have to solve the puzzle. It’s really amazing stuff. I’m not going to talk more in-depth about it to avoid spoilers but I found myself saying out loud, several times, “wow, this is creative and unique.”.

Speaking about creativity, I’m still surprised at the huge amount of different puzzles in this game. Rarely I had similar or the same puzzle during the game and if there were, I barely noticed. I always had to think about how to line up those enemies to win.

Stardance

This review is getting quite long and I have only talked about the story and the battle mechanics. There is still so much to talk about in this rather enjoyable game. For starters, let’s talk about the Starman Theme in this game. I’m just blown away by the amazing remix that has heavy metal influences and electronic influences.

And the rest of the soundtrack, my lord. These tracks are just amazing. I think that this game might have my favorite soundtrack of 2020. If the soundtrack ever comes out on CD, you can be sure that I’ll add that to my collection. The soundtrack is even part of my playlist when I’m writing or games like Minecraft. Now, the sound design of this game is equally as well done as the soundtrack.

Overall, this game is visually quite impressive. In very rare cases, I found that some textures weren’t the best or that the scene had a tad bit too much lighting, but I think that most players won’t notice the moments that I noticed as a hobbyist critic.

The theming of the areas are quite well done as well. So yes, the visual presentation of this game is something to enjoy. It really shows the power of the Nintendo Switch in my opinion. The art style is also quite consistent, vibrant, and colorful. Couple that with great animations and you have a great and smooth running game. Speaking of smoothness, the only time I noticed some slowdown was during the loading of some battles.

The UI of this game is extremely well done. The only minor complaint I have is that you can’t change your weapons during a battle, but that isn’t such a big issue because you just need to remember to swap your weapons after a battle.

One thing I loved in this game is the mechanics in place to help players who have trouble with the game. The electronic manual is quite easily accessible and on top of that, there is a training area for when you need to practice your timings to hit enemies and such.

In most of this review, I have been praising this game and pointing out some minor flaws. To end off this review, let me talk about some things that I didn’t really like. The first thing is the overall running speed, I found that a tad bit too slow. After seeing how fast you can go to the Boot Car or on the ship, I found it a shame that there was no run button. That’s the biggest complaint I have about the controls.

The other issue I have with the controls is that it sometimes was a bit too tricky to hit some enemies with the hammer. But I think that the issue is that you are unable to interrupt the animation and most of the time I wished that I was faster with my hammer because I barely missed the enemy.

A nitpick I have about filling the Not-Bottomless Pits, I found that sometimes it was a bit too tricky to get in the right position to fully cover the hole with confetti. Thankfully, this problem occurred maybe two or three times in the whole game.

One of the biggest irritations in this game is how the bells work. You can buy three bells, one for hidden Toads, one for treasure, and one for hidden blocks. They ring when one of those is close, but I can’t tell the radius of those rings. Especially now when I’m trying to find some parts I have missed during my main playthrough.

But my biggest disappointment is the lack of a completion reward and post-game content. There is barely any post-game content to find and the completion reward is just a 5-second extended ending that changes barely anything. Oh, yes. You get a gold star instead of a silver star on your profile.

And with that said, I have said almost everything I wanted to say about this game. I did leave certain things out of this review because I wanted you to have some surprises when you play this game. So yeah, it’s time for the conclusion.

Wrapping up

The bad:

-The bells can be a bit irritating.

-There is no post-game/completion reward.

-The walking speed can be a bit slow.

-Overall, the game is too easy. You have to create the challenge yourself.

The good:

+ Charming story (even when there was more that could have been done with it)

+ Amazing soundtrack.

+ Creative puzzles and battle mechanics.

+ …

Final thoughts:

It’s quite possible that you will see this game on my top 10 games of 2020 list. This game came out of nowhere and really blew me away. I was expecting an “okay” or a fine game but I was blown away. I can understand that Paper Mario veterans expected more out of this game, but I don’t think we are going to get an RPG Paper Mario in the near future.

I think that this game took major steps in the right direction of an enjoyable adventure game. I enjoyed my time with this game and I can recommend this game to everybody who enjoys adventure and/or puzzle games.

The biggest flaw of the game is that there is just a major lack of depth. There is so much more that could have been done and the game is over after 20-25 hours of gameplay. But, these 20-25 hours are quite enjoyable.

But this game gives me high hopes for the next Paper Mario game. Since if this is the direction that they are taking with the series, I’m carefully optimistic about the series again. While there is a very vocal veteran fanbase that wants the old school style of Paper Mario back, I think that is better suited for the Mario & Luigi series. I think that Paper Mario is better suited for games like this. But, that might be just me, I still have to beat the original Paper Mario trilogy.

But, I’m trying to see this game apart from the whole series that it originated from. And when I look at this game as a standalone game, I’m quite impressed with the game. Compared to the two previous games, this game makes a ton of improvements that make the game more enjoyable and entertaining to play.

Any 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.

Score: 85/100

First Impression: GameR-Mate Stik (Hardware) ~ Take Your Ubuntu Everywhere.

FlashBayArtwork-GameR-Mate-Stik-Full

Official website

Today I want to talk about something that has been in the works for quite a while. Last year, the folks over at BlackRangerSoftware sent me an mail promoting their newest product called the GameR-Mate Stik v1.0.0. I was going to write an article about it back then, but the devs created an updated version right after I sent them my feedback. On top of that, the COVID-19 outbreak and shipping something from the USA to Europe delayed this article until now. Now, with that said, I think it’s high time to talk about this product. Know that the developer asked for my 100% honest opinion and that’s what you are going to read in this article. Now, let’s take a look at the first physical product I’m going to review on my blog. Feel free to leave a comment with your opinions on the product and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

What is GameR-Mate?

So, image this. An USB stick that you can plug into any computer that can run USB3.0 sticks and with that, you can play your games without affecting the computer itself. That’s GameR-Mate. The technical term for it is a Live-USB.

The latest version I received is running a modified version of Ubuntu 16.08. Now, what is Ubuntu? Let me tell you. So, to be able to run your computer, you need an operating system. An operating system is a sort of “translator”. It translates instructions from software to actual machine code. For example, when you make a new folder, the operating system gets that information from Windows or OSX and tells the hard drive: “Hey, make me a new folder on that location”. An operating system is much more than that, but for keeping this article simple, let’s not dive too much deeper into the inner working of computers.  

Now, the two biggest operating systems on the market are: Windows from Microsoft and OSX from Apple. Of course, you have Android from Google and iOS from Apple for smartphones. Let’s not forget ChromeOS for Chromebooks. And there is a special one as well. It’s called Linux.

Linux comes in a ton of flavors called “Distro’s”. Most of these distro’s are free to use and give you even more control of your computer than Windows and OSX. In the tech community, there are a lot of people who prefer using Linux to Windows or OSX. They enjoy the greater privacy control, ability to control every little thing about the system or just don’t want to pay for an operating system. There are many more reasons why people choose for Linux.

The userbase for Linux is rather small. According to NetMarketShare.com, the most used operating systems on the market are Windows (88,14%), Mac OSX (9,38%) and then Linux with (1,89%). Now, that’s mostly in the desktop and laptop space. Now, something quite “funny” happens when we look at the server side of things. Just take a look at datanyze.com with the comparisons between the usage of Windows Server and Ubuntu… Now, this is only just one website, but let me tell you from personal experience as an IT staff guy in a big school here in Belgium, we server techies prefer Linux distro’s for our servers in most cases over Windows server because it gives us more control over the system and is generally more lightweight so it uses less resources.

So, why am I putting so much effort into explaining Linux for this article? Especially in the section where I should be explaining what GameR-Mate actually is? Well, because Linux gives you the freedom to create very specific products without a lot of modifications. Just take a look at this list and you might be surprised on how much things run on Linux.

GameR-Mate is a special USB stick. So, you can boot to it and play your games and take it with you. The biggest limitation is that you need a “host” computer to be able to run it. So, if you don’t have a computer, you won’t be able to access your games. But that’s a limitation of each USB stick is it not?

What’s included?

Now, you can buy a GameR-Mate USB-stick right from Gamer-Mate.net. At the time of writing, the stick costs 70$ (discounted to 50$) which is give or take, 65 euro (45€ if it’s discounted). In order for you to be able to run your games, you need to have a computer that supports at least USB3.0. I have tested mine on older devices that don’t have an USB3.0 port and let me tell you, it wasn’t a fun time.

But, how do you know if your computer has USB3.0 ports? Well, in most cases these USB ports are blue. You can also double check that via the instructions in this article. So, after you placed your order, you get your GameR-Mate stick.

My stick arrived in a protective envelope that had the stick in a plastic bag stapled to a quick start guide. This quick start guide helps you to boot your computer to an USB stick instead of the actual operating system of your computer. Besides that, you get an user guide with explanation and some great information to get started using the stick. You also get a thank you letter from the CEO for buying the product. And finally you get a welcome letter as well.

I did get something additional, but that’s because I got a beta version of the product so I get some forms to fill in to give feedback on the product to create a better product. Personally, I think that they should include this with every purchase, even when the beta phase is over, you never know when it can come in handy.

The USB stick itself is made out of metal and plastic. It feels quite sturdy but you can remove the metal a bit too easily from the housing. Also, if you ever created USB sticks with your own print on them, you will recognize them right away. Maybe it’s a thing here in Belgium, but I got the same design of USB from various other places at events. I have the same model in yellow, green, blue and red. But, that’s nitpicking.

Something I missed with the USB-stick is a better way to store it. Now, I added an additional metal ring so I can attach it to a lanyard. I find that a bit more secure since during the research and testing I was doing for this article, my cat Troy knocked the USB stick underneath my desk while he was sleeping on my desk. Thanks to the lanyard, I was able to get it back from underneath my desk more easily. Now, adding a lanyard to the shipment might be too big of a cost, but adding a small metal ring to add it to your own lanyard would be lovely.

The experience

Depending on the hardware you run the stick on, the better performance you are going to get. Keep in mind that you need at least a port that can run USB3 sticks. In order to test this stick out, I tested this stick on my main machine. My main computer is running an i7-4820K, 16GB of DDR3 RAM at 666MHz and an MSI GTX 1050Ti. My motherboard is an ASROCK X79 Extreme 6. While this isn’t the strongest of systems out there, my computer is strong enough to run all the games I want to play at 30-60FPS at medium to high settings.

When you boot the stick, you can select various different modes. From what I can understand is that you can choose between loading it from the USB or load the system into RAM. There is also a recovery mode included. I had to use that once since an update failed to install and that corrupted my whole OS.

In the user guide, you get the advice to make frequent backups. If I had made a backup, I would have saved my first testing version from death. But yeah, I’m to blame since I thought I would be able to fix it since I used Linux various times during my studies and at work. But when you can even boot the OS, let alone go in recovery mode… Well, then you are quite screwed.

In a future article, I’ll take a look at the games that are included in this package. The list of pre-installed software is quite expansive. You can find the list at BlackRangerSoftware’s blog. Important footnote with this list, since this list is created during the development of the stick, it might be that some games aren’t included on the stick and/or on the list. But, I’m quite certain that the amount of games won’t change. Games that I could recommend are:

0AD, which is an open source RTS game like Age Of Empires

Alex 4, a lovely retro platformer in the style of an old Gameboy game.

B.A.L.L.Z, a platformer game where you are a ball and you need to use the bounce mechanics to your advantage.

Frogatto, this adventure platformer reminds me a lot of games like Shantae.

Sadly enough, there are some repeats. A lot of repeats actually. There are various Tetris-style, Pac-Man-style, Breakout-style… games. This gave me mixed feelings. At once hand, I love the choice I’m getting between all these various games. But at the other hand, I got the feeling that all of those games were just added to have a higher number of games to try and sell more sticks.

Is this GameR-Mate fun to use? If I have to answer that question, I’m going to have to add a disclaimer. There is going to be a learning curve if you have never worked with Linux. If you are used to Windows 10, there are a lot of things you will miss that you took for granted on your Windows machine. For example: seeing the password you are typing in, loading animations while settings are changing, double clicking a window to make it full screen, a place where all settings are combined into one place, a notification center…. It’s just not there in the Linux distro on the USB-stick. Now, do keep in mind that this can be updated and added in a future version of the stick.

But, you still have to learn a completely new operating system. While Linux has a lot of tutorials, due to the huge amount of different distro’s and differences between them, it can be quite overwhelming. So, give yourself some time and keep in mind that the system might work quite different compared to your Windows machine. Now, I do think that Apple users will have a better time adjusting to Linux since in a way, the user interface of Apple systems and Linux systems have various things in common. (Sidenote: while they have things in common, Apple OSX isn’t Linux and Linux isn’t OSX. But the flow in the OS can be similar.)

When you give this USB stick a chance, I think it might have the same effect on you then it has on me. I love to play around with unique ways to play games. I don’t mind honestly if the game is a retro or a current game. As long as I’m having fun while playing my games, it’s all that matters to me. So, I personally recommend this stick to people who love playing a ton of different games and/or people who travel a lot and aren’t able to take their main gaming rig with them. I think that the asking price is well worth it for the amount of value you are getting. Plus, you can always install more games from the various store fronts.

With that, I think I’m going to wrap up this first article on the GameR-Mate Stik. I want to thank BlackRangerSoftware for being so patient with me and also for giving me the opportunity to test out this product. 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 and I wish you a great rest of your day and take care!

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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)

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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!

NekoJonez’s Top 10 Games of 2019

my personal top 10 games of 20192019 has been a very special year for me. A lot of things happened in my personal life like job changes and meeting the love of my life NotThatAlice94. Now, I might have written fewer articles compared to 2018, I still have a top 10 games ready for you! If you haven’t read my top 10 games of the year lists before, let me explain something to you. I’m not that big of a fan on top 10 lists where all the games came out that year because you nearly always get the same games on that list. Besides that, I’m a retro gamer and I play a lot of retro games and I find that those also can be my pick for game of the year. So, that’s why I can pick ANY game for my game of the year. The only rule I had to start playing the game in 2019. Games that I started in 2018 or earlier don’t count. So, I can’t pick games like the Zero Escape since I replayed them with my girlfriend this year because I played those games in the past. So, what games did make my top 10 list and which games didn’t make the list? Let’s find out together! Also, remember that I haven’t played every game that came out and that this list is my opinion. So, if you disagree, feel free to leave a respectful comment. But, in all other cases, also feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the games, the list, the content of this article and/or your own list.

Editoral note: Some of the games I have already reviewed, if that’s the case, the link will go to my review or article. If that isn’t the case, the link will take you to a store page.

Number 10: Degree of Separation (Switch) (2019)

degreeofseperationI have only started to play this game at the start of December. But, the mechanics and gameplay made such a big impression on me that I decided to place it on my top 10 games list I played this year. While I know you can play this game as a single-player game, I’m going through the adventure together with my girlfriend. We started to play this game right after we finished Tick Tock: A Tale For Two. We wanted to play another co-op game.

This game is a co-op game where you have to help each other to reach the end of the section. Meanwhile, you have to solve various puzzles to collect scarfs. One player plays as an ice prince and the other player plays as a fire Princess. Both characters have very different abilities that you have to use together to solve the challenges of the game.

The mechanics that there is a separation and a bond between the characters are just amazing. I’m tempted to finish this game in single-player but I’m holding myself back from doing that since it’s such a great game to play with my girlfriend that I want to fully complete the adventure with her. It helps me to create amazing memories with her and I can’t wait to create even more. Speaking of which… one of the other co-op games is one of the honorable mentions.

Number 9: Etrain Odyssey Nexus (3DS) (2019)

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The most likely final entry in the Etrain Odyssey series has been released around my birthday. I’m a huge fan of the series and whenever I have the time, I’m trying to make progress in one of the Etrain Odyssey games I own.

I haven’t gotten around to writing a review or an article about this game just yet, but I’ll make sure that next year will see an article about this game.

Since it’s bittersweet knowing that no new games will come in this amazing franchise. The reason is that the gameplay was created with the DS and the 3DS in mind. On the top screen, you were exploring the brutal dungeons and on the bottom screen, you were creating your very own map.

This game is an amazing finale to the series. It combines all the amazing aspects of all the previous games and it’s a great way to finish the series. Personally, I don’t recommend this game to a newcomer to the series since it might be a bit overwhelming.

On top of that, it’s one of the final big new games on the 3DS. While I’m totally not done with playing games on the 3DS just yet, this swansong feels even more strange because of that. So, thank you Nintendo for the amazing memories with the DS and 3DS. I’m so grateful that you developed this hardware and made it possible that this amazing series got created.

Number 8: My Big Sister (Switch) (2019)

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So, this game is an RPG Maker adventure game created by Stranga. While the gameplay isn’t anything too special since the game isn’t too difficult nor it is it quite long… The game’s story is quite well written.

The charm of this game reminded me a lot of Angels of Death, which was one of my favorite games last year.

The story tells a tale about a special bond that two sisters have while going through some troubling times. It has quite a lot of symbolism and after it was finished, I needed some time to let it all sink in. Recently, I have started one of the other games from this developer and I’m quite enjoying my time with that game as well. So, thank you for this game for introducing me to an amazing indie developer that I’ll be following from now on.

Number 7: Uncharted – The Lost Legacy (PS4) (2017)

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So, I can’t hide the fact that I’m a huge fan of the Tomb Raider series. So, I knew that the Uncharted franchise existed but I have never played any of the games.

Now, my girlfriend owns almost all of the games and one of the first times I came over her place, we played Uncharted – The Lost Legacy together. She was stuck at a puzzle and I wanted to help her out.

It didn’t take long before I was hooked at this game and I finished the remainder of the game. Not long after that, we went on holiday together and after that, I lent her PS4 for a short while. During that time, I finished the campaign I hadn’t played yet and I knew one thing for certain. That this game will be on my top 10 games of 2019 list.

While I enjoyed the modern Tomb Raider games a little bit more, I still think that the Uncharted games deserve recognition. Now, I can’t wait to start playing the other Uncharted games. So, maybe next year you might see a review or two from other games in the series…

Number 6: Horizon Zero Dawn (PS4) (2017)

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Ever since I heard about this game, I wanted to give this game a try. This game looked extremely interesting to me. Now, I don’t own a PS4 but my girlfriend does.

So, when we saw the base game on sale in our local game store, we bought it right away and started playing it. And I fell in love with the game right away.

The story and atmosphere reminded me to the amazing time I had in games like Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Breath of the Wild.

While I haven’t played a lot of this game, I can’t wait to play more and actually finish this game. It’s one of the best games I have been playing on the PS4 and it made me want to buy my own PS4. If only I had the budget to do that…

So, thank you Horizon Zero Dawn for taking me on a journey that reminds me of two of the best games I have played in the last two years. I can’t wait to see where the adventure is going to take me next since the world is calling me back in.

Number 5: Ion Fury (PC) (2019)

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If you look through my blog, I’m quite a big fan of retro titles. When one of my favorite YouTubers introduced me to this game, I was quite interested.

Yes, I bought the game right after watching that review and I was unable to put the game down for a few weeks. It was almost the only game that I played during that time. The old school shooter games were back in business!

Now, the game gets frequent updates that add improvements and even new content. So, that’s why I’m currently putting this game a bit on hold. I’m going to give this game another shot really soon to see what has been changed and try to beat this game again and find even more secrets. And I’m also thinking to dip my feet into the mods that the community is creating for this game since I have seen some interesting things that might make this game even more enjoyable.

Number 4: Bloodstained – Ritual of the Night (Switch) (2019)

H2x1_NSwitch_BloodstainedRitualOfTheNight_image1600wYes, yes,  I haven’t played the best version of this game. I know that the other versions have a better performance. But, honestly, I still think that this game is a blast to play.

I really missed playing a great Metroidvania game ever since I had beaten Monster Tale on the DS.

And this game just exceeded my expectations. I was really worried that this game would crash and burn like Mighty Number 9. But thankfully, this Kickstarter game delivered on its promises and turned out great.

I have talked more in-depth about this game in my review, so when you want to know more, I advise you to read that article. Currently, I’m considering if I should start over or not since a big patch is coming soon to the Nintendo Switch version. Now, that’s up to me to decide when the patch comes out in a few weeks.

Number 3: Dragon Quest Builders 2 (Switch) (2019)

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Well, well, well. Here is a surprise. One of my most anticipated games of 2019 is only number 3 in my Top 10 games of 2019 list.

After I had beaten the original game last year, I was really hyped for the sequel. I was waiting to see a release date appear on various outlets and when it got announced, I pre-ordered it right away through my favorite local game store.

The game didn’t disappoint at all. It was an extremely enjoyable ride from start to finish. While I still have a ton of postgame content left to do, I’m currently on a break from this game. I have spent over 100 hours in this game, so yeah…

Now, I have been playing this game with my girlfriend as well and while the multiplayer is somewhat limited, it’s quite a lot of fun. Maybe one of these days I might return to this game with her and start playing the post-game content and improving my Ilse of Awakening even more to have a better-looking island. Since now it’s a huge construction zone…

Number 2: AI – The Somnium Files (Switch) (2019)

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This game came out of nowhere for me. After the amazing Zero Escape series, I didn’t expect that Kotaro Uchikoshi was writing a new horror-themed visual novel game with its own unique twist.

So, I was counting down until the release date hit and I even patiently waited until I could start this game with my girlfriend since she is a big fan of Kotaro’s work as well since we had beaten the Zero Escape series together this summer. Well, she finished the games since I was replaying them with her.

When the game started, we noticed all the little nods to his previous work. The subtle references in the story and the sound effects being reused. It was an amazing feeling.

At first, the story was a bit mediocre. But, then a sudden plot twist changed everything. My girlfriend wasn’t interested in the game after a few play sessions but when I told her the twists the game took, she wanted to see them.

I remember the time we finished the game during my week off in November. A few times, I had to put the controller down because the story just blew my mind. It’s an amazingly written story if you let yourself get drawn into it. Now, a ton of people argues that it’s not his best work. I see where they are coming from, but that doesn’t mean that the story in this game is bad at all.

The issue is that when you know Kotaro’s style of revealing plot details and that even small details mean quite a lot, you can see some twists coming from a mile away. But, it didn’t bother me that much. The suspense then is, how are the characters going to find out the truth you knew all along. And that’s where this game shines in the story department. If only this game didn’t wrap up the story so nicely, then we might have some sequel potential. The whole dream concept of this game and the gameplay is just amazing. But, I’m equally as hyped for the next games of Kotaro. Keep on creating my dude! I fell in love with your games since the Zero Escape series and now I want to play even more games from you and your team.

Honorable mentions

Before I reveal my number 1 of this year, my game of the year if you will… I think it’s time we talk about honorable mentions. Games that I loved playing this year but didn’t make the top 10 for some reason. Also, keep in mind that this isn’t a complete list of games that I played this year that fit the rules of this top 10 but it’s more a list of games that I want to mention that fit the rules but didn’t make the top 10.

Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes (Switch), Fire Emblem – Three Houses (Switch), Resident Evil 7 (PC), Silence (PS4), Peggle 2 (XBOX360), Halo 3 (XBOX360), Call of Duty – World At War (XBOX360), Resident Evil 1 (PS1), Life is Strange (PS4), Adera (PC), Chrono Trigger (Android), Forager (Switch), The Legend of Zelda – Links Awakening (Switch), Wii Sports Resorts (Wii), Mario + Rabbits: Kingdom Battles (Switch), Atlantis (PC), Pokémon Sword & Shield (Switch), 2048 – Read Only Memories (Switch), WarioWare Gold (3DS) and Asterix and Obelix – XXL 2 (PS2).

Man, I do have to say that choosing my top 5 this year was extremely difficult. Usually, I start putting this list together by either late October or early November. I have a text file with the games and I change the order around in November and December and add games I really enjoyed during those two months if that is needed. I start writing the article in middle December and I finalize the article in the last week of the year. So, this article went through a ton of revisions.

Last year, it was an extremely easy decision which game should be number 1. This year, I had to choose between 5 games I enjoyed it quite a lot. It’s quite possible that I want to change the order around the top 5 in 2020. But, I’m not going to change the order around in this article, after a lot of careful consideration, I decided which game should be my number 1. And I’ll explain why right now:

Number 1: NG – Spirit Hunter (Switch) (2019)

81EBL2k3XTL._AC_SL1500_So, why is this game my game of the year? Out of all the games I could have chosen, why did I choose a rather niche Japanese horror visual novel adventure game. Well, let me explain. One of the big reasons is the story. The story is about a guy taking care of his sister. Well, technically, she isn’t his sister but his niece. But, she addresses him as “big brother” so I think it counts. I care a lot about my younger sister. So, the story spoke to me emotionally.

Both my numbers 2 and 1 have amazing stories in my opinion. But, the story is one of the reasons that made my decision. My 2nd reason for picking this game as my game of the year is simple. The different endings are just amazing. There is a chance that there is going to be a sequel to this game and I’m really curious which ending the 3rd game will take to build upon. The good or the bad ending, since both have amazing story potential to continue the franchise.

I’m crossing my fingers that the crowdfunding campaign is going to be successful for the next entry in the series. At the time of writing, it’s extremely close to its goal. More information about the sequel can be read in this Siliconera’s writeup.

So yeah, this game didn’t only improve on the mechanics of the previous game Death Mark, it blew that game out of the water. Sadly enough, the performance issues on some platforms kept the game a bit back, but those were quickly fixed by the developer. Thank you Experience for this amazing game, the amazing experience. If only I could understand Japanese so I could play your other games. Then again, most of your games got localized, so I know which studio I’m going to keep an eye on next year.

Conclusion

Like I said before, this article was extremely difficult to write. It was extremely difficult to choose between NG, AI, Dragon Quest Builders 2, Ion Fury and Bloodstained. These 5 games were the most memorable games for me this year.

Now, this list underwent a ton of changes. I have looked to the number of revisions in my Dropbox of the draft document of this article and I have around 20 revisions where either the order of the games changed or I swapped out a game from the top 10 for another one.

So, most of the games I played in 2019 took me on an amazing story journey. Almost half of the games on this list, I fell in love with the story and/or the world of the game. And some games even pulled some emotional strings.

I can’t wait to see what 2020 is going to bring and what games I’m going to play. I have seen a lot of games that I’m looking forward to playing next year but lately, I’m finishing a lot of games that I started. Mostly because I’m enjoying my collection quite a lot.

Anyways, thank you for taking the time out of your day to take a look back at 2019 with me. I’m quite curious about what you people think about the games I have chosen for this year’s list. Do you agree or disagree with my list? I would love to hear it in the comments.

Thank you for all the support for my blog in 2019. Due to a lot of personal things going on, I haven’t written a lot of articles but I feel that the quality of my writing improved quite a lot. I can’t wait to keep on writing and improve my skills and entertain you guys and girls with new content.

Before I write my usual ending phrases, I have a question for you, the reader. What games or series did you discover through my blog this year or in the past? I’m really curious about that. Anyways, here is the usual ending of my articles:

Now, 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!

The Point-and-click puzzle Pinnacle – Jonez Edition

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Ah, point-and-click games. Amazing adventure games with amazing stories that stick with you and rarely let go. I have spent countless hours playing these games. When LaterLevels and Quietschisto from RNG approached me with a collab idea, I directly jumped on the wagon to join this adventure. In this article, I’ll talk about my favorite and most hated puzzle in point-and-click adventures. Be sure to check their website for a poll of what other people said that their favorite and least favorite puzzles where. In any case, let’s dive right into my answers since I think I have found some gems to mention.

The polls: greatest puzzleworst puzzle

Terminology

Alright, before we start talking about my favorite puzzles, I want to make sure that nobody is confused about what games I’m talking about. Otherwise, this list would be a bit too broad. Since the Point-And-Click genre is a subgenre of the adventure game genre, I think it’s a good idea to set some ground rules.

Can I use games like Virtue’s Last Reward on this list? Technically, I can. Since these games follow the rules of a point-and-click game. Now, what exactly are the rules? Well, I found that FlossManuals wrote a great explanation of it. Escape Room games are a sort of point-and-click game without a lot of character interaction.

Now, does this give me a free pass to use other visual novels like NG – Spirit Hunter or Another Code: R? That might be stretching the definition a bit too much. These are more adventure games that have a lot of point-and-click elements in them.

And what about Hidden Object games like Adera? Are these games point-and-click games? And in my opinion, yes, they are. These games are the casual version of the point-and-click genre of games with just an additional repeated mini-game.

Another great question is, do point and click games have to be 2D? The reason I’m asking that question is, the two first Broken Sword games are famous point-and-click adventure games but is the 3rd game still a point-and-click game? This brings us in a gray zone. Think about this, if you don’t consider the 3rd Broken Sword game to be a point-and-click game since it’s in 3D and uses 3D puzzles, what about Myst and Riven? These games appear on top 10 point-and-click lists all the time.

We could be here discussing this for hours upon hours. Talking about the rise and fall of the genre, but Ed Jefferson wrote an interesting piece on that for the NewsStateMan in January. Maybe that will help to give more clarity to what exactly makes a game a point-and-click game… But, I think it’s high time we start talking about my favorite and least favorite puzzles in these games, otherwise, we would be here for hours.

Most hated puzzle

Escape From Monkey Island (PS2) – Monkey Combat

Escape_from_Monkey_Island_artwork

Oh dear lord, this puzzle is something I truly hate. Let me set the scene for you. Back in 2013, I almost completed Escape From Monkey Island on my PS2. I enjoyed myself quite a lot, with the funny writing and the fourth wall breaks.

While some puzzles give me some challenges, I was always able to overcome them and get to the next section of the game. But, near the ending, there is a huge puzzle that is always randomized so you are unable to find a walkthrough for it.

This puzzle is an expanded version of Rock-Paper-Scissors with monkeys called Monkey Combat. This puzzle really made me take several notes and hope that I was able to be lucky so I could fill in all the squares. Guides like the one of GameBoomers or this one were ones I tried out, but either my copy was bugged or I did something wrong… and I was never able to beat the puzzle.

To be quite honest, I stopped playing the game and deleted my save file out of frustration. Maybe now that I’m a bit more experienced with solving these types of puzzles, I might go back to the game and retry this whole section but it really put me off in trying to beat this game again just to get stuck on that part again.

Favorite puzzle

Zero Time Dilemma (3DS) – Healing Room

zero time dilemma box

The Zero Escape trilogy. One of my favorite trilogies ever made. More often than not, I find myself referring to these games when I’m reviewing adventure games.

When we are talking about my favorite puzzle, I think we should talk about the Healing Room puzzle of the 3rd game, Zero Time Dilemma.

This escape room puzzle is amazing. It quite creative and requires a lot of thought. Without spoiling the puzzle too much, I’ll explain what makes this puzzle so great.

First of all, you are playing a game where your life is on the line. When you don’t escape out of the room, something terrible might happen and you might be unable to survive. This alone makes this healing room is a strange breath of fresh air. It’s a relaxing room where the tense atmosphere goes away for a bit.

The room was actually built for that purpose. You are in a bomb shelter and to not go crazy, you can enter this healing room to relax and come back to your senses.

The second reason why this puzzle is so great is that this puzzle is just extremely fun to solve. It has various puzzles that all fit the various wallpapers you can choose for the room. The flow of the room is just amazing and once everything starts to click, you get bumped out when it’s over.

And my third and final reason is a story reason. The events that happen just before and after this room are one of the best parts of the game and just turn the whole mystery of this game on its head.

Final words

And those are my two picks for this collaboration. There are so many more puzzles I could talk about, so I think I might revisit this topic in the future. Feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and opinions on the chosen puzzles and your favorite and least favorite puzzle. I’m curious to hear them.

Thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Be sure to check out LaterLevel’s website to vote for your favorites and check out other websites their pick. But, that will be it for me, for now. 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 Impressions: Bloodstained – Ritual Of The Night (Switch) ~ Middle Ages Magic.

Official websiteNintendo Microsite

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

Middle Ages Magic

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

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

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

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

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

Metroidvania at its finest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visually underpowered

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gamer’s Thoughts: The Meta Skill

I’m rarely able to beat a Pokémon game. Some bosses in RPG’s give me a lot of trouble. Battles in Europa Universalis 4 are extremely difficult for me. What is going on? I have been playing games for my whole life and I still have trouble with a lot of things in video games. Especially when it comes to the finer things in video games. The meta, the nitty and gritty of gaming. This article is mainly just a braindump of various things about metagaming. If you don’t really know what I’m talking about, this Wikipedia article and Urban Dictionary explains it quite well. Also, I’m curious, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your opinion and/or your experiences. 

Git gud

So, do I need to git gud at playing games?  To be honest, I don’t think my gaming skills are lacking. I don’t mean to brag but I have beaten quite a lot of games.

I think that the biggest issue with my gaming skill is that I’m a jack of all trades. I have basic skills in almost every gaming genre due to my gaming collection but I haven’t specialized in any particular genre.

This lack of knowledge always comes back to bite me in the behind. For example, in Super Mario Odyssey, I’m unable to perform the Cappy Jump. Or, in Etrain Odyssey, my team build is either so unbalanced or too diverse. And when I encounter a powerful enemy, I always know that I’m in for either a restart or for a longer battle than usual.

The fact that a lot of people upload their gameplay onto YouTube or talk about various mad tricks on their blog is not helping. When I’m watching a gameplay video and somebody is performing a trick with ease that I’m unable to perform, I get jealous.

Now, certain things are quite difficult to explain as well. Take for example the combat in Europa Universalis 4. Whenever I’m a multiplayer match with MiseryLC, he is always talking about how he is building his army or which terrain he is using to fight the enemy. This gets extremely confusing to me extremely quickly.

An easier and more universal example is, try to explain how every jump works in a Mario game and how to perform it. It gets quite challenging to do that. I experienced this difficulty first hand when I was explaining how Lara Croft controls in the fan-made levels of the Level Editor. I had to rewrite that section at least 10 times before I was content with it.

Training

Let’s talk a bit more about one of the examples I gave in the introduction of this article. I haven’t been able to beat certain Pokémon games because my team isn’t diverse enough to beat the Elite Four easily.

I haven’t been able to beat the original Pokémon Red/Blue and Yellow, yet, I have been able to beat Pokémon Gold/Silver and Platinum, the sequels of that game. Granted, I abused the cloning glitch the first time, but the second and third time, I had beaten the game completely legit.

My issues with the meta gameplay come when my friends want to challenge me in a duel. Almost every time and also when I prepare myself on a duel, I get beaten. In various cases, I’m even unable to defeat one or two of their Pokémon.

This problem isn’t unique to Pokémon for me. There are several RPG games in my backlog where I’m just unable to progress due to me either having to grind or be unable to beat a certain boss. Take Atelier Rorona as an example, I haven’t been able to get any other ending because I rarely plan out my journey and I always have to race the clock to be able to meet the goal.

For this article, I sat down and thought about why I was having so much trouble with these kinds of mechanics. And I think I might have a reason. For of all, I have a lot of trouble remembering the weapons triangle. Let’s take Pokémon again as an example. The main battle mechanics are a rock/paper and scissor model. Rock beats scissors. Scissor beats paper and paper beats rock. But, there are more than three types of Pokémon. Take a look at this type chart from Reddit user u/ar-gee.

Now, this chart is quite handy. But then game throws an additional wrench in the works. The fact that some Pokémon has more than one type. This makes this chart even more complicated. And let’s not get started about the strength of certain moves and the special stats.

Whenever you level up in an RPG, you see a ton of stats rise of your characters. More often than not, I rarely pay attention to them. When I’m buying gear for my characters, I always make sure that the previous gear is stronger than their current gear. In turn-based RPG’s, this isn’t such a big issue. But in real-time strategy games like Rise of Nations, that’s where things get even more tricky.

During a match in any real-time strategy game, I always create a random army. A handful of soldiers, some cavalry and some archers. Rarely I know which balance to maintain. When my enemy attacks, I always send in my whole army. Instead of trying to think which units are the most effective to use.

Now, knowing the mechanics is one thing. Being able to train them is another thing. How do you train yourself in building a better Pokémon team or upgrading the right stats in an RPG? Or having a better army balance in a real-time strategy game. Barely any game gives you feedback where the weaknesses and/or strengths are in your team. Maybe one day…

Do you need to know?

I could keep giving example after example. But, do I need to know the meta mechanics of a game in order for me to enjoy it? Well, that really depends on one thing for me. If I’m able to enjoy myself and continue in the game.

I barely know anything about the meta gameplay of the Pokémon games yet, I’m able to beat certain mainline Pokémon RPG games. While I don’t have the strongest or the best team in the game, I’m able to finish the game.

On the other hand, you have to Remember Me. In this game, the combat is rather rhythmic and you have to perform a lot of button combos for the stronger attacks. Now, if there is one thing I’m not that good at, it’s keeping a rhythm. There is one boss I need to defeat in Remember Me, but because I’m always unable to preform the button prompts in time, I always lose. And yes, I have rage quit the game.

Of course, the meta is quite important. There are certain games where I’m even able to abuse the meta. Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine on the PC is one example. I know how to abuse certain mechanics to reach certain places that can’t be reached by certain means. Just take a look at the speedruns of the game to get an understanding of what I mean with how broken the roll and the chalk is in this game. If only I was able to perform these tricks with greater ease, I would compete in this speedrun category.

The obvious importance of the meta in games is for the people who play online and/or in a competition. I don’t think I have to explain that. Maybe that’s another reason for me. I barely play online or in a competition. It just doesn’t interest me that much. I prefer to play games on a casual level, in my own time.

Before I continue to ramble on about this topic, I think it’s time to finish this article. I might return on this topic but I would like to know what you, the readers think. If I revisit this topic, what do you want me to talk about? Am I alone with these “issues” or are there other people? Do you need to “git gud”?

With that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this subject for now. 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.

Gamer’s Thoughts: Difficulty in games

downloadToday I want to talk about something extremely objective subjective. Something not a lot of people agrees on. That subject is the difficulty in games. This isn’t unique to video gaming since other entertainment mediums can be difficult to understand, analyze or appreciate. But, the difficulty is one of the most important factors in gaming. In order to write this article, I have asked in various groups what their opinions about game difficulty are. Are games today too easy? Are difficult games fun to play? Are old school games too difficult? I got some extremely interesting replies. Now, if you have your own opinion on this subject, I would love to talk about it in the comment section down below. Of course, keep it civil down there, everybody has a different opinion.

My own views on game difficulty.

Keep in mind that the following thoughts and opinions are mine. It’s quite possible that you think in a different way due to your different experiences in gaming and/or life. Like I said in the introduction of this article, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts and opinions on the content of this article and or the subject. With that out of the way, on with the show.

Now, with such a broad subject as game difficulty, it’s quite tricky to give a full opinion. In the introduction alone, I gave a few different angles I could take this article. In addition to that, this subject is extremely subjective. For example, I’m not rhythmic at all. When I talk about the DS, a lot of people talk about games like Elite Beat Agents, a rhythm game. I have to admit that I find this game too difficult.

pokemon goFirst of all, let’s talk about a sentence you often hear us older players say: “Games today are too easy.” Are they really too easy? Well, they became easier in one way but more challenging too. For example, take the Pokémon games. When Game Freak remade the 3rd generation on Nintendo 3DS, one of the biggest complaints was that the game was too easy. And yes, I finished the game without losing 3 battles during the whole playthrough and 2 of these loses were because I wasn’t paying attention during the battle and forgot to heal my Pokémon and the other loss was because I forgot that grass was weak to flying and I most had grass Pokémon in a flying gym. Whoops.

photoNow, why do I think that games can be too easy nowadays? That’s has two reasons. The first reason is that games just got more accessible. Because of the growth of the hobby, a lot more people play video games. So, there need to be ways for every style of player to play video games, even the youngest ones. Thankfully, you have difficulty options that can provide the other players with some additional challenges. Sadly enough, not all games do this. In most games, the difficulty settings have a small explanation of what each level means.

And this brings me to the second reason why games are too easy nowadays and that’s a skill. I have been playing games since I was a young lad. I started playing games give or take 21 years ago. During these years, I have played a TON of games and got a TON of different experiences. That means I have seen quite a lot and the chances of a puzzle stumping me or a fight being too difficult to get slimmer with every game I play.

Is this a bad thing? It depends on what you are looking for in a game. Do you want a game that challenges your strategizing skills or the ability to solve puzzles than the lower difficulty can be a problem? If you are looking for a game to play to pass the time, in that case, the drop in difficulty shouldn’t matter that much.

resident evil 4It’s always a difficult balancing act in how difficult you make your game. Since if a game is too difficult, people will stop playing. A great example for me is Resident Evil 4. There is a section in that game where during an already hectic fight, two chainsaw enemies spawn that kill you instantly when they come to close. There were three times that one of those enemies actually spawned right behind me, giving me no time nor room to turn around and defend myself. These moments I actually rage quitted the game. Another example is Atelier Rorona. The amount of depth in this game is just insane. You have to think about so many things like the freshness of ingredients, how long it takes to collect them and get them home, the amount of MP you have to fight and or craft… It was quite challenging to balance all of these things.

EuropaUniversalisIV_Packshot_editedThat brings me to the question, what makes a game difficult and how difficult should a game be? It speaks for itself that how more layers of gameplay and mechanics you add, the more difficult a game becomes. Take Europa Universalis 4 for example. In this grand strategy game, there are so many mechanics; it’s not even funny anymore. The complexity of a game can turn some people off. I would love to play Europe Universalis 4 with more people but most of my friends don’t understand how the game works or get too scared when they hear how many things they need to think about while playing the game.

In a way, the difficulty of a game can limit your audience. I would love to play a game like Cuphead, but from what I have seen and tried, the game is a bit too much for me. I don’t really like games that depend on memorization or trying over and over again. This makes the game boring and repetitive in my eyes. For me personally, I want to have a great time while I’m playing games. I want some parts to be challenging and test the skills I learned during the game and I want some sections to be easy to play through so I can relax and enjoy the game.

SI_NDS_NewSuperMarioBrosDS_image1600wA game series that nailed difficulty, in my opinion, is the Super Mario World games. In these games, you learn by playing the game. You might have heard this explanation in various other videos or articles but if you haven’t heard it yet, allow me to explain. At the start of the level, you are able to experiment with a new level mechanic in a safe area. One where you can easily avoid the enemies and you don’t have death pits. And the further you go in the level, the more challenging the mechanic or level gimmick becomes. And during the later and last stages of the game, all the challenges are combined into one big final set of levels that test your skills and what you learned through the game. In a way, you can compare it to school. The early levels and sections are the classes while the later levels and finale of the game are the final test/exam.

Now, should games become “NES-hard” again? To be honest, I think we shouldn’t do that. In the current gaming climate, we get a lot of games inspired by the more challenging nature of older games and we also get easier games. That means we have options. Now, we’re all old school games difficult? Were games more challenging in the past? Well, that’s a tricky question to answer.

Tomb Raider LegendFor example, I grew up with the original Tomb Raider games. When I play these games today, I don’t have a lot of trouble with jumping from platform to platform. Of course, due to the limitations of the systems at the time, it wasn’t always clear to which ledge you should jump and how you should make that jump. In more recent games, a better visual presentation helps out with that problem a lot. This “issue” became clear when I did the Tomb Raider project. Some people in that collaboration had never played an old school Tomb Raider game and gave it a try for the first time. And because they were more used to the newer style of the series or the newer style of play in more modern games, they had trouble during the game.

Something I often got during my search for writers in the Tomb Raider project was: “Also the old Tomb Raider games that aged poorly?” or something similar. I completely agree that the original Tomb Raider games aged poorly. The newer Tomb Raider games, and not per se the more modern games, play better because the developers improved their craft and learned a lot from developing the previous entries in the series.

I don’t find all retro-inspired games that difficult. I was able to beat some without much trouble like Blossom Tales or Retro Game Challenge. While I did had some trouble in Shovel Knight because I haven’t played a lot of games similar to that.

When I was researching and brainstorming for this article, I came to the conclusion that there are 4 types of difficulty in my eyes.

The first type is the intended difficulty. This is planned by the developers to challenge you during the game. Think about a Zelda dungeon where you get a new item in a dungeon and you have to learn to use it or remember the places where you were unable to progress and needed to use the item.

The second type is an unintended difficulty. This was an unplanned difficulty due to bugs, randomness (like RNG or random generation) or just plain bad game design. Or it can be because of things like certain mechanics. For example, a lot of people complained when Super Mario 64 DS came out. While it’s a good remake, the controls weren’t loved by various reviews because the original game was designed with a joystick in mind while the DS didn’t have a joystick.

The first two types can be mixed with the other two types.

The third type is a fair difficulty. With this I mean, the game provides you with a challenging and rewarding experience. Like, you finally figured out how to beat that one puzzle or beat that one boss.

The fourth type of difficulty is, you guessed it, unfair difficulty. Now, this can be because of bad and or lazy game design but this can also be a huge spike in difficulty. A great example is Suikoden Tierkreis for me. Overall, the game is somewhat easy. If you don’t skip too many battles and pay attention to what you are doing, the game isn’t all too challenging. I rarely to never saw the game over screen. Until I came to the final boss. This annoying battle gets such a difficulty spike that made me not fully finish the game and actually look up the ending online. Now, while writing this article, I actually restarted playing the game and I’m hell-bent in finally beating the game this time.

The more difficulty of type 2 and 4 you have, the worse it becomes for your game. One time a developer asked me to review an Android game. In this game, you had to feed various foods to some customers. The issue was, all of the dishes were based on Asian dishes and I’m European. I barely know anything about Asian cuisine. The unfair difficulty in this game is that almost nothing was explained in the game about the foods themselves. So, I was unable to figure out which food was what, so it became a guessing game.

Another example of unfair difficulty is more recent. A developer asked me to review a Switch game they just released. The game is a twin-stick shooter and in the shooting tutorial, there were two spawners in the room that spawned so many enemies so quickly, it became overwhelming. You shouldn’t put so many enemies in the first level of your game while the player is still learning the basic mechanics of the game. That’s unfair.

headerDoes a game like Dark Souls have unfair difficulty? Well no, the game is quite balanced in my opinion. There is a lot of risk and reward gameplay, the punishment is just a bit too harsh in my opinion. But the game becomes beatable when you learn the finer details of the game and get used to the inner workings of the game.

The line and difference between the four types are really thin and make it still personal. Speaking of personal, some people talk proudly when they were able to beat a certain game on the highest difficulty. While that is impressive, you shouldn’t look down upon people having trouble on the lower difficulties. While my gaming buddy MiseryLC can beat the AI in Europe Universalis IV on hard, I feel that the normal difficulty provides just enough challenge for me.

I think it would be a great development if all games have difficulty sliders. The more you can adjust the difficulty, the better. Something I really loved in the Etrian Odyssey series is that you can change the difficulty setting when you are in the town without any other punishments. This is great because when I was unable to beat a certain boss and almost stopped playing, I was able to lower the difficulty a bit so I was able to beat the boss and move on. After I had beaten the boss, I set the difficulty back on normal. This is a perfect system since people can choose how easy or hard you want the game to be.

Now, I have said quite a lot about the topic now. To avoid this article becoming a bit too long or having too much rambling, I think it’s time to let some of my friends talk. I want to thank everybody for their input since they helped me quite a lot while putting my thoughts together for this article.

How others think about difficulty.

Now, I asked around on various groups on Discord and Facebook on their opinions on game difficulty. Here is what they have to say. Note, some quotes I translated from Dutch to English. Some quotes had minor edits since sometimes contained an answer to another topic in the conversation or something in those lines.

The following quotes come from a Facebook group where Belgian retro game collectors gather.

Ward: “Some games are pretty challenging due to their difficulty like Slain and Cuphead. But other games hold your hand, but that doesn’t always take away from the fun of the game. It really depends on the game and how enjoyable the story is.”

Hakim: “Sometimes a too difficult game can be really frustrating. And out of this frustration, the game can go on my shelves to be never played again.”

Kenny: “Personally, I think that the player should have a choice how difficult the game should be. Some games I play personally for the story and not for an extreme challenge.”

Mayu: “For me, a game can never be too difficult. I’ll play until the end as long as the difficulty, challenge, story and such are fun. It already happened that I was disappointed when I bought a new game and I finished it without issue. The solution for this is lately, collection or completion rewards. Some of them are really letdowns. In the past, gaming was a very niche hobby. When a game was too difficult, you just had to try and try again. But, now that gaming isn’t a niche hobby anymore, the difficult games don’t sell that well anymore. And with companies trying to make as much profit as possible…”

Koen: “Making a game extremely difficult is no issue for me. As long as all the elements of the game are fun, it doesn’t matter to me. I really enjoy the rewarding feeling of finally being able to beat a game at the highest difficult setting after trying on it for weeks and seeing the real/true ending. But, when the story is garbage and I have to replay the game on a harder difficulty setting, I won’t be spending my time on a new playthrough.”

Niels: “As long as a game stays fair, it’s worth my time. Nowadays, there are a lot of games that are too easy for everybody to play. From endless tutorial sections to special power-ups when you die a lot and sometimes even a skip button, these are just a few things that you find more and more in modern games. Now, there is nothing wrong with that, as long as they are optional or are disabled by higher difficulty settings. Something I really want to stress, a game that is too difficult thanks to bad enemy placement, terrible controls or bad decisions is a bad game.”

Xavier: “I prefer easier games. There are a lot of games that are quite enjoyable to play. It doesn’t matter to me if games are shorter, I usually buy them at a lower price after they have been released for a while. It’s better then having to play a game where you have to retry a section 20 times to finish it.”

Dennis: “I usually start a game on normal mode. Depending on my experience, I raise or lower the difficulty. So, this means that I play some games on easy, some on normal and some on the hardest difficulty. I don’t really enjoy games where you respawn a thousand times before you can continue and especially when you have the same issue 10 minutes later in the next section. If I enjoyed the game enough, I might replay it on a higher difficulty setting. Most of the games interest me for somewhere between 10 to 20 hours. But, this is absolutely not the case for me with Final Fantasy games.”

The following opinions are from fellow bloggers or friends in the blogging world.

Aiphafemaie: “A couple thoughts – I think games felt more difficult in the past because you had to rely more on yourself to figure out how to pass levels or quests. Or printing out walkthroughs from GameFaqs.com lmao.  Now when you’re stuck, you can just to YouTube and see how it’s done. I don’t think games were more difficult in the past, but “difficult” is a subjective word.  Today’s games do have varying difficulty modes, in comparison to the past. Before most games could only be played on default.”

TwoTall4uFool: “I think there was a lot of trial and error with games back in the 80’s and 90’s. Even in the 2000’s. Aiphafemaie you bring up a great point about GameFaqs but there are some games out there that I would’ve never beaten if it wasn’t for Game Genie/Gameshark. Today in games you have tutorials and of course there is YouTube. And even with plug and plays such as the SNES Classic you can rewind and try a part again if you fail. And plus suspend you point. So emulating older games have made them easier ….. sort of.”

ReaperInteractive: “I agree with @aiphafemaie . Games in the past had no clear instructions or clear, “Go here to pass to the next level.” Games nowadays are a lot more direct and I feel that developers intentianally make these instructions extremely clear as to make the game as playable and prevent people from giving up midway. A little more on the note. There have been games where the instructions were so unclear that I literally had no clue what to do and ended up giving up. Another reason I feel that games nowadays are a lot easier is because we’ve played the same basic mechanic over and over again as to games in the past, there were hundreds of different mechanics. Most games nowadays can be grouped into a couple dozen genres with the same mechanic and controls. Contrary to this, I feel that games in the past are composed of hundreds of different genres, some completely new to the people hence why I feel that why games in the past are a tad more difficult than those of our age.”

The Well Red Mage: “I think that games can still pretty hard now, some of them, but there are new varieties of games now. There are brutal platformers as a subgenre now that are built on difficulty, but then there are also walking simulators and interactive movies now that eschew difficulty almost entirely. I think some would say that the difficulty of retro games was such that it was unfair, but I think that the lives systems and the memorization of patterns (two very retro-centric ideas of difficulty) are perfectly valid; we maybe just don’t have the toleration for them that we used to. Those games were still demanding something of the player (memory or timing). So I think this is a conversation that benefits from specifics like specific games and specific features in those games that bring difficulty into the equation (memorization, level design, limited options or limited chances to complete a challenge, longer periods without save features, increasing speed, item management, enemy AI… all those things are specific features that games then and now used and use to create difficulty).”

The Badly Backlogged Mage/MrBacklog: “I think the obvious-but-unhelpful answer is “as difficult as they need to be to convey the desired experience”. Dark Souls, the Walking Dead and Mario Party are all different in terms of difficulty because they’re going for different experiences.”

OverThinkerY: “I think there are different ways of adding difficulty – Backlogged makes a good point about those games being difficult in different ways as part of the experience. There’s perhaps the most classic sort of difficulty, which is reacting and executing the right series of inputs quickly enough to proceed, and then there are things more dependent on memory, ingenuity, or sheer emotional fortitude. I think there are more examples these days of different sorts of difficulty other than simply pressing buttons accurately, which might be down to better tech or just natural progression, but it enables different kinds of experiences to be made effective in that way.”

Mail Order Ninja Mage/Daniel Flatt: “Difficulty is the hardest thing to get right in video games. If you push back too hard you lose all but your most dedicated player, if you don’t present any challenge then moderately skilled players become bored. Like everyone said above it is drastically different depending on the game and furthermore the individual playing.

That being said games aren’t necessarily easier than they were before, but they have become better at not wasting our time. Games previously were artificially hard, first because checkpoints and saves weren’t a thing, and then because many NES games are a handful of hours long without constantly starting over. They had to have that difficulty to make the game worth it, can’t have Billy coming to you after an hour and asking for a new game. I dare anyone to play B side levels of Celeste and say games are easier, but the difference is you don’t have to play through the same 30 minutes over and over to finally get through something and die 20 seconds later to start all over.

The best games have difficulty determined by the player, Nintendo excels at this, but one of the best examples is Ori. It has a function where you basically create your own checkpoints or don’t, depending on your preference. It could be brutally hard, but if I get to try again right away for a certain section it wasn’t wasting my time making me play the same section a hundred times.”

Now, as you can read, the opinions are extremely diverse when it comes to difficulty. This brainstorm was extremely interesting to do. I honestly think that I’ll return to this topic in the future. Before I close this article, I want to point you to an article created by Rob “I Played The Game” Covell that he wrote in 2017 about the same subject. “A Difficult Conversation”.

Closing off

Like I said in the previous paragraph, the conversation of how difficult a game could be or if games are too easy nowadays gets quite diverse opinions. While this topic could be discussed for hours and the opinions will go in various directions, I think I’ll close off this article here. I’m quite curious about what everybody thinks. Maybe I’ll revisit this topic at a later date.

If you have written or talked about this subject in the past or know a great resource like another article or video, feel free to send me a message with the link. Maybe I’ll include it in the next article. And with that said, I think I’ll really end off this article. Thank you, everybody, for helping me put this article together. It was a blast. 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.

LaterLevels’ QOTM – January 2019 – The Ultimate Game: Themes

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For a couple of years now, LaterLevels is organizing a question of the month. In 2017, you were able to send in a small section to be featured in the article. You were limited to the number of characters you had for a tweet. In 2018, every month a writer got a challenge to write an article centered around a question asked by LaterLevels. This year, LaterLevels is going “to develop” the best and/or ultimate game. In each month, another part of the game will be created. The idea is that other bloggers write up an article with their thoughts and ideas on that section and submit it to the post of that month. At the end of the month, the best is chosen by the already existing development team and will be invited to join the secret Discord to judge the entries in the following months. If you want to read more about the rules in-depth, you can read the post of LaterLevels here. Now that I have explained all that, it’s time for my entry. In January, the setting and theme will be decided without deciding the story and such. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the content of this article and/or the question in the comment section down below.

The challenge and my background

yoyo_logo_512Now, I don’t want to brag but I have various ideas to make a very interesting game. In the past, I actually created some arcade clones with YoYo Game Maker. I’m not going to republish them since I lost the source files and I want to change so much for them to get republished.

alleyway_boxartBut, here is the thing. When I was developing a game, I always started with the mechanics and gameplay. For example, when I wanted to create a Break-Out clone, I actually started out with recreating the Gameboy game Alleyway. Now, I felt too limited in level design, so I started to look further. Then, I found an asset pack with different blocks, a ball and various other sprites with a sea theme. So, I totally reskinned the game and I made up a story about a submarine stuck in a big magical coral reef trying to find its way out.

warioware-diy-top-625x352Another example is when I wanted to remake those simple flash and phone games that you need to tap a ball or an object to keep it from the ground. When I started to make that game, I got some small ideas for other mini-games with the sprites in that asset pack and I started to create a sort of WarioWare inspired game.

Now, you might have noticed that I always talk about an asset pack. This is a pack where various sprites, sound effects, music, backgrounds… are provided to game developers. In almost all of the games I created, I used asset packs. I can barely draw a decent stick figure let alone design various level elements. Also, when I created those games; I was 12 years old. So, I didn’t know how copyright and licensing work. That’s another reason why I’m not going to republish the games.

Anyways, let’s end this storytime about my history here and let’s get back to answer LaterLevel’s question. The reason why I’m talking about my hobbyist game development past is the fact I mentioned earlier. I mainly focused on an interesting and unique gameplay. The setting and themes would come later. While that is not the best approach, but it was the approach my young teenage mind took. And because LaterLevels didn’t want too many story details, the challenge got even harder.

81i7ndliszl._sx385_I also messed around in RPG Maker. And I always had one or two chapters of the story written before I started to create the world and setting the characters lived in. I had a general idea of the world but when I write, I love to let the readers create the world for themselves instead of possibly boring them with the millionth description of how a fantasy castle town looked like. In addition to that, the fact that I don’t describe a scene gives me the liberty to use the setting to my advantage. That way I can bend the world to the story and my needs. But it makes continuity much more challenging.

So, the ultimate video game. What could be a setting and/or a theme of the game? Well, I have a few suggestions without giving too many plot details. Let’s take a look at that.

Themes and settings

First of all, when you are talking about the best game, I think that the theme should be one of the variety. A power fantasy in another world would be extremely easy and generic. Most RPGs use a silent character you can name yourself or has the most generic dialogue that can be used for each RPG main character. To be honest, this is a generalization. There are exceptions of course.

91fbW6yu4TL.jpgA perfect video game needs to grab you and pull you into the story, world, and setting. When I was brainstorming for ideas I noticed that most of my favorite story-driven games take place in one location. For example, in Corpse Party, you explore one haunted school and the associated buildings. In Another Code: R, you explore the vacation resort where your father works. And as a final example, in the first two Bioshock games, you explore Rapture.

swordartonlineSuddenly, various things started to click in my mind. I got my eureka moment. I got it when I remembered the story of Sword Art Online. In that series, people are trapped in an online VR-game. In order to escape, they have to beat the game. The catch is, when they die in the game, they die in real life. In that series, the game takes place in a huge fantasy open world with various dungeons and quests.

Now, what if we take the idea of Sword Art Online and expand it for the best game, but with a huge twist? First of all, we can decide if we create the game in VR or not later. My suggestion is that the best video game takes place in a sort of fantasy open world with castles and towns that provide a lot of quests and things to do.

no game no ligeThe twist is that everything in the world happens with games. Think of the mechanics of the No Game No Life series, where every dispute is settled with a bet who wins a game of for example chess, rock/paper/scissors, poker or even more extreme examples. Now, it would an interesting idea if this idea is implemented into a real game we can play.

Back to the story of Sword Art Online, in order for those who are trapped to escape they have to beat all bosses in a huge tower. Now, what if each floor in this tower is replaced with a challenge in another genre and that you have to beat different challenges in that genre before you can progress.

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Think about the overall story of Retro Game Challenge. In that game, you get sent back to the past and in order for you to return, you have to beat various challenges in retro games. These challenges range from beating the first three levels of a top-down shooter to performing some unique tricks in a sports game.

So, the setting would be a great fantasy open world with one central tower the players have to beat in order to climb the leader boards. On each floor, another mini-game or challenge is provided. To avoid people getting frustrated at being stuck on one floor, I think it would be wise to give the player two or three options on the floor. For example, a fighting game challenge, an RPG challenge or a rhythm game challenge.

51vk2fckjhlMaybe it’s an interesting idea to also have separate dimensions where players specialize in a certain genre or style of gameplay. Compare it a bit to the main characters in Kingdom Hearts traveling between various Disney stories to solve issues there.

The theme of the game can be either competition or teamwork. Various guilds can possibly form to aid players to easily beat certain genres. On the other hand, I totally see certain players compete with each other to be the best player in a certain genre.

Being one of the best players in a certain genre can give advantages in the game. In terms of balance, each genre should have a “contrast genre”. That way we avoid players getting overpowered because they mastered too many genres. For example, the players who master a fast-paced genre like rhythm games shouldn’t be able to easily level up their stats in a more slower based genre like grand strategy.

Do you see it now? Just trying to find a setting and or a theme for a game is tricky for me. Like I said earlier, I don’t create worlds too often and I leave them as vague as I can so I can bend them to the will of the gameplay and story. As soon as I got a certain idea, I start thinking about how the world actually works and how the world is balanced. And then we get eerily close to game design and how the game plays.

When I cut out all my gameplay & story suggestions, my idea for the ultimate game’s setting and the theme is this. A big open-world game with various challenges like dungeons and (side)quests, possibly with different universes. In the center of it all, is a huge tower that serves as a leader board for the solo and or clans that play the game.

Closing statement

And with that, I think it’s a good idea to end this article here. Otherwise, I might restart giving my ideas and suggestions on how the game will play. Now, if you want to know if my idea has won or not, you should follow OverThinkerY, since, on 31st January 2019, they will reveal the winner on his blog.

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If you want to join in on this challenge, don’t wait. Check out LaterLevels blog for the February challenge.

With that said, I want to thank you so much for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed 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.

NekoJonez’s looking forward to these 10 games in 2019

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The year 2018 is almost history. The final moments are happening when this article was in the process of being written. Like each year, I want to take the time to look to the upcoming year. Since I’m writing a gaming blog, I especially want to take a look at 10 games I’m quite excited about that currently have a release date in 2019. If you want to know what the 10 best games of 2018 for me where I have already written an article on that subject. Before I start talking about my list, remember that this list is my personal opinion. It’s quite possible that the games you are looking forward too aren’t on my list. In any case, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the article, my list and/or with your list. And now, it’s time for the actual list in no particular order. 

#10 – Minecraft Dungeons (PC)

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Announcement blogpost

To be honest, Minecon Earth passed me by this year. When I heard about “Minecraft Dungeons” I honestly thought that it was another skin pack for the console edition. I was very pleasantly surprised to learn that it’s actually a new game in the Minecraft universe.

From what I have read on the Minecraft website, the game looks like a dungeon crawler game like Pokémon Mystery Dungeon or The Binding of Isaac in concept. Now, it looks like it’s a multiplayer game, but I hope there will be a single-player component to the game as well.

I have started playing Minecraft in late 2011 and I play the game here and there today. While I play less Minecraft today then I did in the past, I still hold Minecraft very near and dear to my heart. Now, I’m quite interested and hyped to see what the Mojang team has in store with this new game and how they are going to use the actual Minecraft mechanics in this new game or if they are going to introduce new mechanics. Maybe, the new game might link to the original game in a way… maybe. We shall see. Currently, there is no release date announced, apart from somewhere in 2019. The only thing we know for sure is that this game is going to release for PC.

 #9 – Desperados III (PC)

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Official Steam page

I remember the day I got introduced to the Desperados games when I visited a coworker of my mom. Her son was playing the game. He introduced me to the game and actually made a copy of his disc for me to play at home.

Yes, I started to play this series illegally. A year later, I actually bought myself a legit copy on Steam and I bought all the other entries in the series. I really love the gameplay of these games. The game is extremely challenging and I haven’t beaten the games until this day. I have come quite far. I was in the final three levels of the original game.

When I was installing Desperados on my laptop, I suddenly noticed that the game got a new post in the news section. To my surprise, a new reboot/sequel got announced and to blow my mind even further, the game was coming in the summer of 2019!

So, I know what I’m going to do this upcoming summer. I’m going to play the first two Desperados games to refresh the story and lore of the series so I can get right into the new game. I’m quite excited to relive my childhood and finally beat the games I wasn’t able to beat as a child.

#8 – Fire Emblem – The Three Houses (Switch)

Nintendo.com Mini-site

H2x1_NSwitch_FireEmblemThreeHouses_image1600wI was playing Fire Emblem Warriors at the time this game got announced. When I saw this game during Nintendo’s E3 presentation, my mind was blown.

When I was watching the trailer, I got the impression that some elements of the Fire Emblem Warriors game actually made it into the actual main series, while staying true to their roots. It also looked like the game got a lot of new mechanics compared to the games I have played on the 3DS.

Now, apart from the Fire Emblem Warriors spin-off, I haven’t finished any Fire Emblem game. And all the Fire Emblem games I have started playing were the handheld games. I have never tried a console Fire Emblem. Then again, the Switch is a hybrid; both console and handheld.

Nevertheless, when Spring 2019 rolls around, the game will finally hit the shelves. You can count on it that I’ll have some budget to spare to get myself a copy of this game and give it a try. I want to give this Fire Emblem game a try. Maybe this is the game that convinces me even more that I should finish all the other Fire Emblem games in my collection.

 #7 – Final Fantasy remakes (Switch)

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IGN article

I know for a fact that there are going to be people that are not going to like the following confession from me. I have never finished a Final Fantasy game in my life. I have started a few of them but I haven’t gotten into them at all.

I have Final Fantasy 7 on Steam and I have Final Fantasy X and X-2 on the PS2. I also played a few Final Fantasy remakes on my DS but I haven’t gotten further than the introduction chapters.

They are all extremely interesting and I loved my time playing them but I always got distracted with other games. So, I’m going to grab my chance to change that in 2019. A few of the biggest titles of the Final Fantasy series are getting an HD facelift and are coming to the Nintendo Switch. So, I can take these games on the go and finally finish them. Now, let’s hope I don’t get distracted by other games on my backlog or coming out in 2019.

#6 – Etrain Odyssey Nexus (3DS)

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It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the Etrain Odyssey series on the Nintendo DS and 3DS. When I learned that Etrain Odyssey 5 was going to be the last game in the series on the 3DS, I was disappointed yet I was very understanding. There isn’t a good way to actually re-create the gameplay on another system than on the DS or 3DS. Well, you could argue that tablets could work, but still…

Now, the gameplay isn’t unique at all. It’s a challenging dungeon crawler RPG like Pokémon Mystery Dungeon or The Binding of Isaac. What sets this game apart is the fact that you don’t have random dungeons AND you have to draw your very own map. This makes the exploration so unique and personal. It’s highly possible that you miss a pathway because you drew a wall in that place.

But, Atlus gave me two big surprises this year. The first one was that the series is going to get a new life on another platform. Possibly the Nintendo Switch. Only a teaser has been published but I haven’t found too much more information.

The second big news was that Etrain Odyssey X, a game which I honestly thought would stay in Japan forever, is coming to the west. And sooner than I thought. The game is going to release a bit short of my birthday. On the 5th of February. Man, I can’t wait to play this new entry into the series. Now, I still have to finish all the other games in the series but I’m just so happy that I will have more Etrain Odyssey content coming my way pretty soon. And yes, I pre-ordered myself a copy for my birthday already, which is the 7th of February.

#5 – Animal Crossing (Switch)

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Nintendo.co.uk microsite

Often when I’m watching videos by Nintendo YouTubers, they all have a story about playing a version of Animal Crossing on either the Gamecube, DS or Wii. I haven’t spent a lot of time with the Animal Crossing series until Animal Crossing New Leaf got released in 2012.

When I started playing the game, I started to understand how people love this series so much. To be honest, I started to fall into love with the series myself. I have spent countless hours on my 3DS manging my town, running errands and doing favors for my townsfolk.

This year, I was able to add Animal Crossing: City Folk to my collection. Well, here in Belgium it’s called “Animal Crossing – Let’s Go To Town”. While I didn’t have a lot of time this year to play a game like Animal Crossing, I’ll have more time in 2019 to give the new Animal Crossing title a go and explore the new town I’m going to build.

The reason I love the series so much is that it provides a more relaxing experience. It’s a game I can play to wind down after all the more action-packed games or the events in my day. So, I’m looking forward to the version of the Nintendo Switch. And I’m convinced that I’ll see even more people playing their Nintendo Switch on the train once it’s released.

#4 – Bloodstained – Ritual of the Night (Multiplatform)

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Yes, I know. This game was also on my list last year. But the game hasn’t been released this year. It’s going to be released in 2019.

We got a spin-off mini-game under the title of BloodStained: Curse of the Moon this year, which I haven’t finished nor played yet.

I have explained in the article from 2017 why I’m so excited to play this game. I’m really looking forward to a new game in the Metroidvania style since it’s one of my favorite genres and I really feel that not enough games are released in that style.

Now, here is hoping that the game doesn’t get another delay and that I’m able to play this game in 2019.

#3 – Town (Switch)

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Teaser from E3 (Thanks GameExplain)

A new game from the developers who brought us Pokémon? Where do I sign up? While an exact release date hasn’t been announced, I’m sure we going to see more of this game in the upcoming year.

There isn’t too much known about this game. The only things we know are from the teaser that we got in the E3 presentation of Nintendo this year.

Now, I’m getting the impression that this is going to be a sort of tower defense style game. A game where you need to develop a village so you can get the right skills and equipment to fend of the monsters that are going to attack your village. To a certain degree, the game reminds me a bit of Ever Oasis. Now, we will have to wait and see how this game is going to play and more details of the actual gameplay. But, I’m already quite interested after seeing the 40-second teaser.

#2 – Pokemon (Switch)

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So, GameFreak released Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee this year. Personally, I’m a bit mixed on the games. I feel that they made it too accessible and a bit too stripped down for my liking. Now, I’ll save that for my actual review of the game.

But, we were warned that Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee were going to be stripped down versions of the games. In 2019, we are going to get the next generation of Pokémon. My biggest hope is the new game will be more like the Pokémon games of the past like Sun & Moon and less like Pokémon Let’s Go.

Anyways, I think we will have to “wait and see” on this one. While I’m still quite excited for the new Pokémon generation, I have a little bit of a bad taste in my mouth because of Pokémon Let’s GO! But, I have faith in GameFreak. Let’s hope they don’t shame it.

#1 – Dragon Quest Builders 2 (Switch)

Dragon Quest Builders II

Dragon Quest Wiki entry

This game is already released in Japan, but the western version is going to be released in the future. According to Forbes, the release date of this game will be somewhere in 2019.

If you have read my review of Dragon Quest Builders 1, I think it shouldn’t be a surprise to see this game on this list. I enjoyed the original game so much, I wanted to play more. And, next year I’ll get more.

While not everybody agrees with me on this, but I find that Dragon Quest Builders mixes the Dragon Quest formula perfectly with open world-building games like Terreria and Minecraft.

In the sequel, I’ll be able to play with even more features and mechanics then the original. From swimming and waterfalls to gliding through the air. While I’m extremely tempted to watch let’s plays of the Japanese version, I have decided that I’m not going to watch nor read anymore on this game until it’s released. I want to be as spoiler-free as possible. But, you can be sure that whenever this game releases here in the west, I’ll be playing it as soon as I can get my hands on it.

Closing words

So, 2019 is almost here. To my surprise, there aren’t a lot of games announced for 2019. I’m rather curious to see what next year is going to bring. I have a gut feeling that 2019 will be a slow year for gaming that’s going to build up for a special 2020. There are a few games in 2020 I’m also really hyped for like Age of Empires IV and Beyond Good and Evil 2.

Then again, 2019 hasn’t started yet. It’s quite possible that a lot of games are going to be announced and that 2019 will still be an amazing year for gaming after all. Only time will tell.

In any case, I’m not going to ramble too much here. 2018 was an interesting year for me, but 2019 shows a lot of promise and I’m looking forward to the challenges that are life going to throw my way in the upcoming year. Of course, I’ll still be playing games and you will still be able to read about my adventures on my blog. So, thank you for taking your time into 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.

Gamer’s Thoughts: NekoJonez’s Top 10 Played Games of 2018

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2018 was an extremely strange year for me personally. A lot has happened in the past 12 months both good and bad. I have graduated this year. I’m now a bachelor in Computer Science – Networking. But on the other hand, I have gone through a lot of personal rough patches that did quite a number on my mental health. I’m slowly recovering and the support I’m getting is motivating me, even more, to go forward and get better. That said, I also played quite a lot of games this year. I got a Switch this year and I enjoyed it quite a lot. I also finished and completed a lot of games I started in the past few years so I had a bit of trouble putting this list together. So, for those who are new here, this list contains my 10 favorite games I have STARTED playing in 2018. The release date of the game itself doesn’t matter, what matters is that I started playing it in 2018. Before we get into the actual list, reminder, this list is my personal opinion. So, feel free to discuss it in the comments and also feel free to post your own list into the comments. I’m rather curious. Anyways, this introduction is getting quite long, it’s time to get into the actual list.

Place 10: Angels of Death (Nintendo Switch)

angels-of-death

My review

At first, this game would have a higher place on this list. The story and theming of this game grabbed my attention so much, I felt the black hole after finishing this game quite hard. I wanted to spend more time in the world of this game and spend more time with the characters.

I think that my love for the Corpse Party series and the Zero Escape series made me enjoy this game so much more. If you are a fan of either series, I highly recommend that you check out this game.

In addition to that, this game might have one of the best soundtracks I have heard this year. How many times I have listened to it this year, I lost count already. And mind you, I found this game in late October.

Now, why is this game not higher on the list? I praised it quite a lot in my review and I might have given the impression that this game would be my game of the year… Well, it’s because I played another horror game this year that just did that bit more. Outside of that, the short length and gameplay; the game felt like a game I play in between big releases. So yeah. That’s why.

Place 9: Shining Resonance – Refrain (Switch)

Shining_Metal_SwitchLarge.jpgWikipedia

So, back in 2016, I played Stella Glow. I got quite into the story of music playing a big role in an RPG by giving buffs or debuffs. When I found Shining Resonance: Refrain on the Nintendo eShop on the Switch and read that music played an important role as well, I was sold.

When I started to play this game, I got flashbacks to Stella Glow. Even when this game plays quite a lot differently than Stella Glow. This game is more action-focused and in real-time while Stella Glow’s gameplay is more a big puzzle and turn-based.

While I haven’t even come close to finishing this game, I’m quite curious about what else I’ll encounter in this game. I’m at the midway mark of this game but I have been rushing through it. I think that the next couple of playing sessions will be to catch up with various side quests and improving my characters and their equipment since I quite a lot of trouble while battling the last boss.

Now, this game is a port of a PS3 game released in 2014. It’s also a part of the Shining series. If the other games in the series are as enjoyable as this game, I think I might explore this series in the future. Too bad that a lot of games in this series haven’t left Japan.

Place 8: Atelier Rorona – The Alchemist of Arland (Nintendo Switch)

Atelier Rorona

Wikipedia

So, not too long ago, a bundle of three Atelier games got released on the Nintendo Switch. These games are the Arland trilogy. After I figured out what was the first game in the series, I started playing Atelier Rorona.

I was very surprised with the game actually. The game is quite enjoyable to play but it can be repetitive. The game is about an alchemy workshop with a very lazy owner. You play as her pupil named Rorona. When the kingdom orders the closure of the workshop, you get three years to prove the worth of the shop and finish various assignments of the kingdom. If you fail one of these, the workshop closes right away.

Now, what I didn’t know is how replayable this game is. These are so many mechanics I discovered during my first time playing this game, I also found out that there are a lot of various endings to the game. Now that I have beaten the game once, I think I’ll first beat the other two games before I do another playthrough to get an even better ending.

I personally really liked this game but I have to say that this game isn’t for everyone. I recommend this game to everybody who enjoys a more laid back RPG game. This game does have a lot of depth, but overall I found this game a more relaxing experience. That statement might change if I try to go for the other endings, who knows.

In any case, I’m rather curious about what the other two games have an offer for me. Since I’m going to beat those next. And who knows, these games might convince me to further check out the Atelier series, of which there are many… many games.

Place 7: Resident Evil 4 (PlayStation 2)

resident evil 4.jpg

Wikipedia

When I started playing games like Corpse Party, Fatal Frame and Zero Escape; I knew that one day I’ll have to look into the horror genre. A long time ago, in one of my local toy stores, there was a PS2 booth where a demo of Resident Evil 4 was playable. I think I was 14 years old and while I enjoyed playing the game, I didn’t even know the title nor the impact that game was going to have in the gaming scene. I think I only played the game for like 10-15 minutes in total since the next time I went, the booth was replaced with a demo Gamecube with Donkey Kong Jungle Beat.

I actually forgot about the game until some of my favorite YouTubers started to talk about it on their channels. Back then, I was more into adventure and puzzle games, so I took note of the name and moved on.

Fast forward to this year. I was browsing the second-hand games in my local game store and I saw a copy of Resident Evil 4 for the PS2 for only 10€. I didn’t hesitate twice. I bought this game and after I came home I started to play it right away. While I was afraid that I would suck at survival horror, I was able to finish chapter after chapter.

I also got quickly used to aiming and firing a gun with a controller. Since that was one of my biggest fears. I tried playing various shooters with a controller in the past and I always had a lot of trouble.

So, because I was highly surprised at how much fun I was having, I felt that this game rightfully deserved a spot on this year’s list.

Place 6: Project Zero II (Fatal Frame II) – The Crimson Butterfly (PlayStation 2)Fatal_Frame_II_-_Crimson_Butterfly.jpg

Wikipedia

So, due to Project Zero V – Maiden of the Black Water last year, I got quite into the Project Zero / Fatal Frame series. But seeing the pricing of getting other entries in the series ranging from 30€ to 60€, I had a hard time tracking down a copy.

To my surprise, around my birthday, somebody brought Fatal Frame I, II and III into my local game store and I was able to buy the three titles for 20€ each.

I started playing all three games to test out if the games worked or not. Yet, when I was testing Fatal Frame II, I found myself not able to stop playing the game. The concept of the story where one sister is always looking for her sibling just spoke to me on a personal level. It was quite tricky to get used to playing this game on the PS2 since I always tried to move the camera while moving the PS2 controller since I was used it that playing the other game on the Wii U.

I enjoy playing this game the most, late at night while I darken my room and turn off the lights so I have only the glow of the TV and the disc spinning in the PS2 to keep my company. This makes the game and the experience that more enjoyable. I can’t wait to boot up my PS2 again tonight and try to make some more progress in this quite enjoyable game.

Place 5: Death Mark  (Nintendo Switch)

Death MArk.png

Official website

It looks like I was in a horror rush this year. Death Mark is the 4th game on my favorite games of 2018 list. Now, when I wrote my Halloween special on Angels of Death this year, I actually completed the game before Halloween. So, I was looking for a new horror game to play on Halloween and that’s when I found Death Mark on the Nintendo eShop.

When I was looking at the screenshots and reading the description, it felt like a mixture of Corpse Party and the Zero Escape series. A visual novel horror adventure game that throws you in front of a lot of puzzles.

And that’s what the game delivers perfectly. An enjoyable story with multiple outcomes depending on your actions and one that gripped me to the end. While I was able to see some twists coming from a mile away, the pacing and writing the story more than made up for it.

The story is about a mysterious mark that appears on your body when you go to a haunted place and that mark spells death by dawn if you are unable to clear the grudge of the spirit that gave you the mark. So, if you enjoy a visual novel style horror adventure game, I highly recommend that you check out this game.

Now, Japan is getting a sequel/follow up to this game next year.  Now here is my call to the developers, please localize the follow-up game as well. Looking at the screenshots and the teaser, I’m quite interested! And here is my call to everybody who is interested in horror, please give this game a shot and share it around. This game is highly underrated and deserves more attention and love!

Place 4: Blossom Tales (Switch)

Blossom Tales

My review

I often check the Nintendo Switch store for interesting and unique games. When I came across Blossom Tales, I was sold. The game looked like a well made 2D-Zelda clone and as a big fan of the Legend of Zelda… Let’s just say it was a no-brainer.

And I didn’t regret that decision once. I enjoyed playing this game quite a lot. I felt right at home as a Zelda fan. Also, this game reminded me a bit of the Fairune games. It reminded me how fun that 2D Zelda games are and how much I miss that style of gameplay. I wonder that if we are going to ever see a 2D Zelda game again after the massive success that was Breath of the Wild.  Only time will tell, but for now, I’m happy to see that there are indie game studios that will create games in that style so I’ll always have a game in that style to look forward too.

What I liked the most about this game was the unique way the story was told. A grandfather telling his grandchildren a story since they are bored. That’s one of the biggest strengths of this game. It gives off so much charm and character to the game, for that alone I would recommend that you play this game. And, since we are in the holidays period, the charm is even better!

Place 3: Fire Emblem Warriors (Nintendo Switch)

Fire-Emblem-Warriors-369674-Detail

My review

Raise your hand if you saw this one coming. This game is one of the reasons I bought a Nintendo Switch. I think the praise I gave in my review on this game made it pretty clear that this was one of the best games I have played in 2018.

Honestly, at first, I was afraid that I wasn’t going to like the game. Since I had put so many hours into Hyrule Warriors, I was afraid that I was burnt out on the formula and gameplay.

But Fire Emblem Warriors brings a lot of new and fresh mechanics to the table to make me enjoy the game even more. The only criticism I have about the game is that some parts are a bit too complex and not well explained enough in-game. Everything else is highly polished. Even the trick that Drakalus gave me to improve the frame rate in multiplayer aided quite a lot.

Thanks to this game, I got back into the Fire Emblem series. I think that in the upcoming months, I will start tackling my huge backlog of Fire Emblem games I have in my collection. I have at least 6 Fire Emblem games that I have started but never finished. I think it’s time to change that. This game convinced me that the series has quite a lot to offer and I can’t wait to see which adventures the world of Fire Emblem will bring me.

Place 2: Dragon Quest Builders (Nintendo Switch)

dragon-quest-builders-07-20-16-2-724x1024

My review

When I saw a trailer for Dragon Quest Builders for the first time, I was hooked. I was disappointed when I learned that this game was going to release for the PlayStation 3, 4 and PSVita. At first, I was considering to buy a PSVita for this game (and Corpse Party Blood Drive before that got ported over to Android)

The game got ported to the Nintendo Switch, so I was able to buy it on the system I bought this year. And I’m glad I was able to play this game. I loved every moment of this game and I’m so extremely hyped for the upcoming sequel. The Japanese version released a couple of days ago. It’s quite tempting to look up let’s plays but I want to keep my experience as spoiler-free as I can.

The only new negative is that I’m unable to play the Terra Incognita mode. Since I have to pay for a Nintendo Online subscription and purchasing that for only that and a few NES games is currently not worth it for me in my opinion. But hey, that’s my opinion.

Honorable mentions

Now, I have played a lot of games and some games deserve a mention but haven’t made it on my list for various reasons. So, before I reveal my “game of the year” / number 1, it’s time for the honorable mentions.
Cleopatra – A Queen’s Destiny (PC), Knights of Pen & Paper (PC/Switch), Darkest Dungeon (Switch), Kamiko (Switch), A Magical High School Girl (Switch), Grumpy Cat (Android),
Etrain Odyssey 5 (3DS), Zack & Wiki (Wii), Steamworld Dig 2 (3DS), Silent Hill 4 (PS2), Telsagrad (Wii U), DuckTales (NES), Age of Empires – Definitive Edition (PC), Devil May Cry 4 (PS2).

Now, I know that a lot of major titles released in 2018 didn’t make it on my list or on my honorable mentions. In any case, I think it’s time to reveal the game I was most hyped for this year and I enjoyed the most. Which game is MY personal game of the year 2018? Let’s. Find. Out.

Number 1 – Game of the Year – Shadow of the Tomb Raider (PC)

SotTR_HERO-1-hero

My review

So, this experience. This game is my game of the year in 2018. Shadow of the Tomb Raider. When I was planning the Tomb Raider – Writers Raid collaboration, I claimed this game right away. I wanted to write about this game.

While some fans in the Tomb Raider series aren’t a big fan of the reboot since it’s a more action-focused and linear game; I enjoy the new direction of the series. Especially this game. The improved visual style, improved writing, the improved quality of life features… The game is just an amazing way to finish this reboot trilogy.

I seriously hope that this isn’t going to be the final game in the Tomb Raider series. Since I enjoyed myself with this game so much, I can’t wait to see where Lara goes next. Besides that, this year a new Tomb Raider movie got released. That movie I personally enjoyed quite a lot. For a movie based on a video game, I find that they did an extremely good job. I’m not really a movie review but if I have to grade the movie, it would get a 75/100.

Now, why did I enjoy this game so much? Why did I pick this game as my game of the year? For several reasons, the first reason is that this game’s story is the best story out of the three games in the reboot series. I had several moments where I felt the emotions of the characters, the voice actors did that good of a job.

The second reason is that this game is just beautiful. The visual presentation is just amazing. There are various spots where you look out over a huge forest from on top of a mountain or you get other breathtaking views. Now, a few moments had some minor visual glitching or some spots where the game could have look a bit better, but that might be because of my older GPU on my desktop. That might explain various lighting glitches I have in the post-launch DLC.

A third reason why this is my game of the year is that the Tomb Raider series just means a lot to me personally. I’m a huge Indiana Jones fan and I see and I have always seen Lara Croft as a sort of “sister” to Indiana Jones. But Indiana Jones doesn’t get a lot of attention in the video game scene while Lara does get that. So, being able to play games like Tomb Raider… Well, it’s my favorite genre and style of games after all. A mystery adventure game mixed with action and platforming segments.

The only disappointing thing is that I don’t have a physical copy of this game. The PC version of this game hasn’t gotten a physical release. And I feel it would be a waste of money to buy a PS4 or XBOX copy of the game just to have a physical version. But, if you want to know my actual opinion on the game, I advise that you read my review. Since I really detailed my opinion in that article.

So, if you will excuse me now. I think it’s time to wrap up this article so I can play the newly added tombs and story segments.

Wrapping up 2018.

Like I said at the beginning of this article, 2018 was an extremely weird year for me. I even got my articles stolen various times. Outside of that, I had 25,000 views on my blog. This is more than double compared to the number of views I got in 2017.

This inspires me to continue and write even more articles in 2019. I have a few in mind so I hope I’ll be able to welcome you on my blog next year. Blogging is my biggest hobby since I’m able to share my opinion on the games I have played with the world. I’m quite grateful for everybody who reads my articles and leaves comments or talks to me on social media or even in person about my articles and/or the games I have talked about.

I also love it when developers contact me and give me various chances to play unique and fun games. It also helps me to expand my collection and takes makes me even happier.

If I have to pick my favorite blogging moments of this year, I have to say how the community came together for helping me and other bloggers in fighting article theft, the Tomb Raider project and the various milestones I reached like 500+ followers on my Twitter. It’s still the best way to keep up-to-date with me.

2019 is going to celebrate the 9th year I have been blogging. Before 2013, I had a Dutch blog. That means that this blog will be 7 years old next year.

That will mean that 2020 will be an extremely special year for me. But, let’s focus first on 2019. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Speaking of 2019, I think I should talk about the games I’m looking forward to! That’s going to be (one of the) next articles on my blog. So, keep an eye out for that.

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.

Tomb Raider – Writer’s Raid

Tomb_Raider_raid

The logo for this project is created by The Well-Red Mage

Official website

The Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy are series that have a lot of loving fans. Now, besides the Legend of Zelda series, there is another series that had a strong presence in my childhood. As a child, I fell in love with the Indiana Jones franchise. I played the various Indiana Jones games until either the cartridge or the CD gave up. Now, I wanted more. Because of that lust for more, I discovered the Tomb Raider franchise. The first Tomb Raider game I ever played was Tomb Raider 5 – Chronicles. That was enough for me to decide to hunt down all Tomb Raider games and play them from start to finish. And I’m not the only one who enjoys Tomb Raider and let me prove that to you, I’m going to raider the various tombs this franchise throws at us together with some amazing befriended bloggers. I hope you are ready since various treasures of articles will await you in these tombs. Let’s. Get. Raiding.

1996 – Tomb Raider

Tomb_Raider_(1996)Games With Coffee takes us through Lara’s adventure to help Natla.

Grab yourself a cup of coffee, since we are taking a journey through the good old first entry of Tomb Raider.

Together with Games With Coffee we take a nostalgic look to Tomb Raider and discover how it “holds up” today. Depending on who you ask of course.

The analysis of this game is extremely well done and made me remember various stories of the first time I played Tomb Raider. Seriously, give it a read! 

1997 – Tomb Raider II Featuring Lara Croft

Tomb_Raider_IIABXY Game Reviews is following Lara through her journey to find a Dragon’s dagger!

ABXY Game Reviews really wanted to play an old school Tomb Raider game. And I was looking for writers. A match made in heaven I think.

In heaven, that’s where the object Lara is after in her second adventure. A mythological Chinese dagger can came from the heavens that can turn mere mortals into dragons.

Did ABXY Game Reviews enjoy his journey through old school Tomb Raider or do fans of this game get blinded by nostalgia? You have to read this article to find out.

1998 – Tomb Raider III – The Adventures of Lara Croft

Tomb_Raider_IIINekoJonez helps us find four artifacts.

I love telling this story. When I first played Tomb Raider III, I thought I was playing Tomb Raider IV. The reason for that, well, I explained that in my nostalgic look-back of Tomb Raider III.

I tried to avoid writing a review for this game and give some retrospective facts. But it was great fun playing through this game again for this project.

So please, feel free to give one of my entries in this project a read.

1999 – Tomb Raider IV – The Last Revelation

Tomb_Raider_-_The_Last_RevelationSarahsGameCollection is going to take us on a journey to raid the Egyptian tombs!

I discovered Sarah’s website through this project. And I haven’t regretted it at all. Her website is a joy to browse through and read.

Her unique writing style is something I love most about her website. While she writes, she adds personal comments like if she is telling a story to you and it’s great fun to read.

I think that this article came together quite well since it made me want to replay Tomb Raider IV for myself.

2000 – Tomb Raider V – Chronicles

Tomb_Raider_-_ChroniclesTriformTrinity is taking us to Lara’s funeral…?

If you want to know if you should play Tomb Raider Chronicles, you shouldn’t look further. Triform Trinity wrote a short review of the game.

I wrote an article on this game last year, and it shows how people can differ in opinion.

Anyways, I  highly recommend you reading this article. It was a joy to work with TriformTrinity and reading his through his website is such a great and fun time. Since I can assure you that I always have a fun time when I visit his website.

 

2000 – Tomb Raider Level Editor

Tomb_Raider_Level_EditorNekoJonez took a look at Tomb Raider fan’s levels.

I have to admit that I was planning to write an article about the level editor for Tomb Raider for quite a while.

To be honest, this game is one of the reasons why I organized this collaboration in the first place. Since it’s a creative platform that brings a community together. And this project is the perfect “excuse” to talk about something unique like this.

So, if you are curious about what the level editor can do, feel free to read it on my blog and I hope you like it.

2003 – Tomb Raider – Angel of Darkness

Tomb_Raider_-_The_Angel_of_DarknessSarah’s Game Collection is helping to solve this murder mystery…

If there is one Tomb Raider game I haven’t fully played it, it has to be Tomb Raider – Angel of Darkness.

I heard so many things about it. From it being a bad game to being a decent game. After reading the review that Sarah wrote for this game I got even more interested in finishing this game.

Now, I invite you to read along with me this amazing analysis of the final game that Core worked on in the series.

2006 – Tomb Raider Legend

Tomb_Raider_-_LegendLiana takes us on the legendary journey for a sword.

In this retrospective collaboration project, I always give freedom to the writers. This resulted in Liana writing an amazing piece where she analyzed the game very deeply.

Not only that, she talks about the history and development of this game. And she even took a deeper look at who Lara Croft actually is.

I can highly recommend that you give this article by Liana a read. And if you are interested in more of her work, you can also visit her YouTube channel, which I HIGHLY recommend as well.

And allow me to slip some personal advertisement in as well since I reviewed this game last year myself.

2007 – Tomb Raider – Anniversary

Tomb_Raider_-_AnniversaryGames with Coffee takes us, again, on Lara’s adventure to help Natla…

Now, I hope your coffee didn’t go cold since we are going to take a look at the remake of Tomb Raider I.

Games with Coffee brings you a very in-depth review and look at this game. He played it on Steam. I played this game on my PC as well and I have to agree with a lot he said in the article.

This game was one of the games that really drew me into the whole Tomb Raider franchise and it hasn’t let go since.

2008 – Tomb Raider Underworld

Tomb_Raider_-_UnderworldLiana takes us on a journey through the underworld.

Now, Liana takes a look at Tomb Raider Underworld in a very interesting way. You won’t find a review of the game in this article but a very interesting in-depth analysis of the game’s story.

Reading the article was extremely interesting. It helped me to connect some dots I didn’t even realize that there were before.

She also analyses Lara’s character and how it all fits in the lore of the series. Seriously, what are you waiting for? Go read Liana’s article!

2010 – Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

Lara_Croft_and_the_Guardian_of_LightLaterLevels is going to battle for the light.

After I finished Tomb Raider Underworld, I was waiting on the next entry in the Tomb Raider series. To my surprise, we had to wait 5 years on a new entry in the main series.

Yet, during this wait, we got Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. A game that’s on my endless backlog list.

When I talked to Kim from LaterLevels and asked her if she wanted to be part of the Tomb Raider project, she suggested playing this game on stream together with her other half. She didn’t stream this game but the other spin-off. More on that later.

Now, what did she think of this game? You can read it in Kim’s article. Enjoy!

2013 – Tomb Raider

TombRaider2013OverThinkerY takes us to a Japanese island…

“A famous explorer once said, that the extraordinary is in what we do, not who we are. I’d finally set out to make my mark; to find adventure. But instead adventure found me. In our darkest moments, when life flashes before us, we find something; Something that keeps us going. Something that pushes us.”

That was one of the best quotes out the reboot of Tomb Raider in 2013. In this article, my good friend OverThinkerY took a look at the game. His analysis is great and I loved reading his article. I think you will enjoy it as well.

Also, this game has a special place for me on my blog since it’s the first game I reviewed since I started my English blog in 2013. You can read it here.

2014 – Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris

Lara_croft_and_the_temple_of_osiris_artLaterLevels takes us on a journey through the Temple of Osiris.

So, Kim didn’t know that there were two spin-off games. When I told that to Kim, she didn’t hesitate for a second and decided that she wanted to also write about the 2nd spin-off game.

Kim did a stream of this game together with her other half. You can watch Twitch.TV archive in case you missed it: https://www.twitch.tv/videos/310930370

But I also highly recommend to check out her review of this game. Since I loved reading it.

2015 – Lara Croft: GO! & Lara Croft Relic Run

TriformTrinity puzzles his way through various tombs…

…and runs for relics.

Now, in this Writer’s Raid, we also took a look at two Lara Croft mobile games. These are Lara Croft Go and Lara Croft Relic Run. Honestly, I have played a bit of Lara Croft GO myself, but I haven’t played a lot of Lara Croft Relic Run.

So, if you are curious if these games are something for you and worth buying on your Android or iOS device, I think you will enjoy these two articles that TriformTrinity wrote. Have a great read!

2015 – Rise of the Tomb Raider

Rise_of_the_Tomb_RaiderOverThinkerY looks at Lara’s rise in Lara Croft.

Of course, had Tomb Raider (2013) to end with a cliff hanger. So, the story could continue in Rise of the Tomb Raider.

OverThinkerY takes a great look at the game and gives his own honest opinion on it. (And I gave mine a few years ago)

Something I really liked in OverThinkerY’s article is that he compared this game to what he likes in other games. And he played this game with the DLC included. So, give it a read, I can highly recommend it.

2018 – Shadow Of The Tomb Raider

SotTR_HERO-1-heroNekoJonez is going to take us on Lara’s latest journey.

While we were planning this project, the newest Tomb Raider game got released. To be honest, I claimed this game right away. I wanted to play this game anyways and I felt that it was a perfect way to close this collaboration.

So, what did I think of Lara’s latest adventure? If you want to know that, you’ll have to read my article on Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

And then this was the loot

I knew in advance that the group of writers for this project was going to be very different compared to my previous projects. I want to thank all the writers who helped me in this project, some even replayed games which didn’t age too well.

I hope you enjoyed reading this collaboration between me and these lovely bloggers: Games With Coffee, ABXY Game Reviews, Sarah’s Game Collection, Liana Kerzner, TriformTrinity, LaterLevels, and OverThinkerY.

Do check these people out! They are all amazing people and I have to thank all of them to make this become a reality. Besides The Legend of Zelda, Tomb Raider is one of the biggest series from my childhood and reading all these different pieces made me remember why I love the series.

I have to admit that the games didn’t age all too well so it was quite interesting to see what everybody thought about the games they played.

I hope you enjoyed reading through these articles and enjoyed exploring the websites that made this unique project come to life. Feel free to be a Tomb Raider and explore these websites since they are all great sites that I can highly recommend.

If you want to read more articles like these, last year I did a similar project like this on the Zelda series. Also, my friend the Well-Red Mage did something similar to the Final Fantasy series. So, thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed creating 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!

Writers Raid: Tomb Raider Level Editor ~ Lara Raided Fantombs

Tomb_Raider_Level_Editor

Today I want to take you on a journey. Together with various other writers, we decided to celebrate the Tomb Raider series. While a lot of people look at the early Tomb Raider games as games that didn’t age well, I don’t mind that much. True, the games aren’t the best to play nowadays, but I still enjoy them. I knew that there was a level editor as a child but I never took the time to learn the ins and outs of the tool. In the past, I thought that it was a cheating tool that allowed you to edit levels to give you an advantage. Anyways, the level editor, that’s the theme of this article.

History

Now, what’s the TLRE? What’s the Tomb Raider Level Editor? Well, it’s the actual tool that Core Design used to create the first 5 Tomb Raider games. This tool was released to the public in 2000. Included in the package were beta versions of various levels and a couple of completed levels. A bit later, Eidos Interactive released another few levels. You can dig deeper into the details of those levels on the Tomb Raider Wiki.

If you want to mess around with the tool itself, you can find it here. Out of personal experience, I can say that the tool works on Windows 10. There are various tutorials you can find online. On YouTube and on various forums. Here are a few links you could use:

http://www.tombraiderforums.com/forumdisplay.php?f=16

https://tombraiders.net/stella/trle.html

http://www.trle.net

https://www.aspidetr.com/en/tools/tomb-raider-level-editor/

There is also an updated fan version of the tool called Tomb Raider Level Editor Next Generation. It’s quite a mouthful, but it has more features than the original tool. It also has widescreen support and various other features. More information can be found on this website: http://www.trlevelmanager.eu/ng.htm or you can read about it in detail on this forum thread: http://www.tombraiderforums.com/showthread.php?t=216848

Before I continue with this article, I have to admit that I’m not that good at creating levels with the tools. So, if you are looking for a review of the tools, I think you are in the wrong place. In this article, I want to take a look at some random levels I played. Most of these levels are created by other people and the download link will be provided. If you want to play any custom created levels yourself, the best website to find them is: http://www.trle.net

Do keep in mind that all of these custom levels run on one the engine of Tomb Raider I, II, III, IV or V. So, don’t expect HD visuals or anything that the engine can’t handle. So, if you aren’t into the original Tomb Raider games, you might not get into these levels. But, if you are a Tomb Raider fan or enjoy retro adventure games, do give them a try. And don’t worry, there are reviews on almost every level on TRLE.net so you know if a level is good or not.

To play the custom levels you don’t need to have the level editor itself installed or any of the Tomb Raider games. The way how you play these levels is quite simple. After downloading a level, you unpack them and click on the .exe file. In some cases, you can hold the CTRL key down to adjust some options like the visuals and things like that. Sometimes there is a readme file included by the author to aid you when certain problems occur. Do read them, since sometimes there is useful information in there. Uninstalling a custom level/game is quite simple. Since you didn’t have to install anything, you can just remove the files.

For beginners

Now, if you decided that you want to give these custom levels a try and you haven’t played Tomb Raider in the past or it was too long ago, let me give you some advice to better enjoy these custom levels. This might look like a lot to take in, but you will get used it to when you play more levels. Start with the highest rated ones. Those are really well built and rarely have cheap traps or overly difficult jumps in them.

First of all, if you run a level that’s made in TRI, II or III, you are able to change the controls from the main menu using the option with the arrow keys. If you are playing a custom level created in TRIV or V, you are able to do so using the “P” key during gameplay. Here is the basic layout for the keys:

TRLE1

Feel free to use these pictures as a reference in case the game is in a different language. The sequence of this list almost NEVER changes. To my knowledge, you are unable to rebind the keys in levels created in TR I, II and III. In other cases you can select the action using the arrow keys, press enter and press the key you want to bind it too. Pay attention while you are doing this since the game won’t complain if you bind two things to the same key.

Alright, now while playing this game, know that the game never autosaves. You can save by using F5 and load by using F6. You can save at any location you want, apart from when you are in a cutscene. You can’t pause the game using ESC during cutscenes either.

Remember that Lara never automatically grabs ledges. You need to hold down the action button. So, if you jump towards a ledge, hold that button or you will fill. The same button is used to flick levers, pick up items, press buttons and so on and so forth.

You can save while hanging from a ledge, but press the action button right after the game loaded or you will fall. But, the action button is useful for so much more. From pushing boxes to open trapdoors. If you are stuck, look for a place where the action button does something. Also, when you are trying to open a trapdoor, always try the action button while standing in the middle of aside. The final useful thing to know is when you press action in front of a keyhole and you have the actual key, your inventory will automatically open.

Do experiment with Lara’s jump, since she is quite acrobatic. Something I love using backward rolls when I press a button and quickly need to run away. This can be done by pressing the up and down key together while you perform a jump. In one custom level, I have to jump back and forth between platforms to make it to the other side.

In some cases, Lara will be able to climb up. Whenever she needs to pull herself up in a tight spot, use the duck key while pulling yourself up. That way she will squeeze herself into the tight space.

Here is another hint. If you need to jump from a ladder to something behind you, don’t jump from the top. Lara will bump her head on the ceiling and loose height. You can jump from a ladder by pressing the down arrow and jump (while letting go of the control key), and then hold the up arrow and control. This technique will proof tricky at first, but practice makes perfect.

Now, I could keep explaining the whole move set Lara has. But that’s something you will learn when you play custom levels. Whenever you are stuck, simply google the name of the custom level and add “Tomb Raider Level Editor” behind it. 9.99 out of 10 chances you will find a walkthrough on it. Unless the level just released, in that case, you can either use the TRLE.net forums or wait a day or two.

Or you can experiment by downloading the level editor and playing the first two included levels. These have very easy levels that aid you in learning how the game is played. The download link can be found earlier in the article.

Oh, and it’s maybe handy to know how to exit a game. If you don’t find the quit button easy, just “ALT+F4” always worked for me.

Now, one annoying thing I want to mention is that “ALT+TAB” doesn’t always work. Be careful if you want to look at a walkthrough or something. Since it’s possible that you are unable to open the game again. It might either crash or black screen. If that happens, use task manager to kill the process of the game and load it up again. That’s why I use the F5 key to quickly save before “Alt+Tab”. If you use “Alt+Tab” the safest way to get back to the game is to “Alt+Tab” into the game again. It’s possible that it has two open windows, the best is choosing the window that has a title displayed. In most cases, that’s the name of the engine that’s used.

You can quickly load your game using F6, this is very handy. Since you can save everywhere, you can also save while on ladders or while hanging from a ledge. If you press the Action button (usually the CTRL key) during loading, you won’t fall off the ladder or edge. So, be careful with that.

With that said, it’s time for me to look at a few randomly chosen levels over at TLRE.net. I’ll give my opinions on the levels and a small score. If you know of some amazing levels, please do share them in the comment section down below. Footnote, every rating is on a max score of 10. Be aware, I’m not going to give these levels an in-depth review. Just some quick thoughts.

The Wolf Pack – Part 2

Image00001

Created by: JesseG

Created in: TR4

Rating: 9.25

Released: 23/08/2018

http://www.trle.net/sc/levelfeatures.php?lid=3065

This is at the moment of writing this article, the most recently released entry. This level isn’t beginner-friendly since it requires some precise jumps from ladders. Especially backward. To more experienced players, this level is a nice challenge.

In this level, the character model of Lara is replaced by a wolf model. This model is very nice to look at and the visual presentation fits the visuals of Tomb Raider 4 nicely. The custom music and sound effects are decent. It was quite unexpected to find more MIDI-sounding music in a Tomb Raider level.

At first, I found that the music didn’t fit the Tomb Raider universe at all, but the more I played the game and the more I heard the music, the more it grew on me. I’m adding the music to my game OST library since I like it that much.

This is quite a lengthy game. As a matter of fact, this game can take up to an hour to complete the three levels. In these three levels, you play as two different playable characters. Yes, you have two playable characters. You can swap between them using swap points you find at certain places. Both characters have different unique abilities. This is something I rarely see in TRLE levels and was a pleasant surprise to see.

Since I have played the second part before the first, I think it would be handy if the creator included some sort of link to download the first part of these levels in the download.

The only points of criticism are as follows.  First of all, while almost all sound effects have been changed, I found it strange that the sound effect of falling to your doom hasn’t been changed.

Secondly, I found the first jump from a ladder you had to do pretty annoying. I think it would be better if the platform had a different color or a bit more identification that you are supposed to jump there.

Thirdly, I think that the levels were either too long or too short. The first level was too long and the two other levels were over before I knew it. I think it would have been better if the first level was cut into more levels and the 2nd and 3rd levels were merged into one level.

Overall, a very creative level pack but needs some minor polish to get perfect. This level pack does a lot of unique things in the TRLE community and is really recommended for veteran players or new players looking for a challenge.

Personal score: 9/10

Wolfpack screenie

Lost in Temple

Created by: Sal

Created in: TR5

Rating: 5.98

Released: 11/10/2015

http://trle.net/sc/levelfeatures.php?lid=2873

This custom level is according to the TRLE.net walkthrough a remake of Fenician Temple 4 from Tomb Raider 3. Something that I didn’t like for this model is the outfit Lara is wearing during this level. I felt that it didn’t fit the theming of this level at all.

Lost in Temple screenie

While this level impressed me at the start with some amazing camera angles and two big rooms filled with jump puzzles, the issues with this level became clear to me quickly. This level has quite a lot of backtracking.

This level honestly got a bit boring in my opinion. For example, to solve one block puzzle I had to run from one room to another so many times.

Also, I was unable to play this game in full screen. I had to fix the broken shortcut to the setup tool, which was easy to do. Just replacing the path where the EXE of the game is located. I had to play windowed. But, from the reviews I have read, this might be a universal issue with Tomb Raider 5 and Windows 10.

This level would have been better if there was a bit more direction as well. I had to consult a walkthrough since I didn’t find where I was supposed to go. It turned out that I was able to grab a wall. The thing is, it used the same texture as the bottom part of the wall where the wall isn’t grabbable nor climbable.

Also, I found the walkthrough of the actual author of this level. And he had to speed up some parts of his video. Looking at that video, this level goes on for quite a while. I have quit playing this level when I had to fight enemies in the dark. I just felt done with the level.

Looking at the reviews on TRLE.net, I’m happy to see that there were people who enjoyed this level. Since I have seen much worse. This level is balanced and very detailed. But, it’s unpolished and isn’t fun to play in my opinion.

Personal score: 4/10

Poseidon’s Sanctum

Poseidons Sanctum screenie

Created by: Sarikman

Created in: TR3

Rating: 8.94

Released: 21/11/2011

http://www.trle.net/sc/levelfeatures.php?lid=2478

This level was quite a good one. This level is created in an unofficial editor called DXTRE3D created by Turbo Pascal. This level is also pretty tricky but it’s doable. You will have to think old-school Tomb Raider to find every secret and the way forward in these levels.

I had a great time playing these levels. If you decide to play these levels, I have a tip for you. At first, you might think that the camera does some weird things but pay attention when the angle changes. What is it showing you? Seriously, it shows some extremely helpful things.

Visually, this level looks amazing for using the Tomb Raider 3 engine as a base. I started Tomb Raider III right after playing this one to compare and I like the visuals a bit more at the custom level than in the original one. Sadly enough, there were some minor texturing issues here and there, but they weren’t too noticeable.

The music selection in this level pack is top-notch. I really liked how the music went more silent when you were underwater.

While this level pack has a few bugs, the author provided some screenshots and explanations on how to fix them or how to avoid these bugs. The author also provided a text file with some interesting advice for people who got stuck and not only that, it’s written in a way that Lara is talking to you. Very interesting and fun read.

I won’t talk too much more about this level since if you want to play an amazing example of what people can do with the level editor, just play this level. It’s one of the best I have played in a long while. I haven’t finished this level but I’m going to play this over my next break.

The only advice I could give to the author for this level is if you create bug pictures and such, use more than an arrow to point out ledges. If possible, give them a color or make it a bit more clear which ledge you mean.

Personal score: 8/10

Final words

Thank you so much for reading my entry for the Tomb Raider Writer’s Raid series. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing this one. I play from time to time at various TRLE levels. I enjoy them quite a lot. Seeing these new levels makes my retro heart happy.

While I completely understand that there is a crowd that dislikes the old Tomb Raider, I’m not part of that crowd. I enjoy playing retro games quite a lot and I’m always curious about what adventures I’ll find myself in next.

I have been in various unique situations while playing Tomb Raider Level Editor. I wanted to write about this tool for quite a while now. It has been on my “to write about” list for three years now. So, the ultimate excuse was this project.

If you want to read some nostalgic articles from other writers about the Tomb Raider series, feel free to go to the hub article where various amazing writers talk about their experience of the Tomb Raider series. You can find a link here.

With that said, it’s time for my usual outro. Thank you so much for reading and I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to meet you in another article but until then take care and have a great rest of your day.

Tomb_Raider_raid

The logo for this project is created by The Well-Red Mage

 

Gamer’s Thoughts: Super Mario Odyssey isn’t a perfect game.

Super_Mario_OdysseyOfficial website

I wanted to write a review of this game for quite a while. I have finished this game over a month ago and I haven’t written a first impression or a review about this game. I want to fix that today. But, instead of writing a review I wanted to do something special. While the game got praise from other bloggers left and right, I want to point out some of the flaws and issues I have with the game. Disclaimer, I don’t think this is a bad game but I want to explain my reasoning for why I wouldn’t give this game a 100/100. So, let’s get critical and look at this game again. As per usual, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts on the game and/or the game. 

Mini-review

Super_Mario_Odyssey_-_Screenshot_023.png

So, what do I actually think about this game? While it’s a very unique and enjoyable game, I found the game quite repetitive.

The music and sound design were amazing but I sometimes had trouble with the controls and more advanced moves.

The visuals are amazing and I loved running around in all the different kingdoms but I found the story lacking and I expected a lot more from the hype and praise it got.

If I would have to give my score for this game it would be an 80/100. Since in my eyes, the game could have done so much more and it left me disappointed in some areas of the game.

This game has a lot to love. Like I said, the visuals, the music, the concept… they are all amazing. The attention to detail is amazing. Cappy is one of the most helpful companions I have seen in a while. Yet, I felt like I enjoyed this game less then the other 3D platformers I played like A Hat In Time. So yeah, personally I felt that there was something lacking. Something that kept me from fully enjoying the game and that thought exercise resulted in this article.

Breath of the Wild did it better

Super-Mario-Odyssey-preview-powerup-107.jpg

The story has one big issue and that’s the open world and the overkill of moons you can collect. Now, not too long before the release of this game, Nintendo released The Legend Of Zelda – Breath of the Wild. In this game, you were also able to run around freely and gather the things you need to finish the game.

Now, there is a big difference in how the story is handled in the Zelda games and in the Mario games. The big difference is in how the ending is handled. And if you don’t want either of these games spoiled, just start reading when the text is black again. If you don’t mind the spoilers, just highlight the next part in order for you to read it.

So, in each kingdom in Super Mario Odyssey, there is a story quest you can complete to easily get enough moons to advance to the next kingdom. But, this is an open-world game so you can skip this story quest by collecting other moons. Fair enough. You can do the same thing in the Zelda game. You don’t have to defeat the divine beasts in order for you to go to the final boss. 

Now, here is the difference between the two games. If you don’t defeat the Divine Beasts in Breath of the Wild, you will have a harder time before you go and do the battle with Ganon. Since you will need to defeat them before you can fight with Ganon. The more Divine Beasts you beat, the easier you make it for yourself during the final battle. Since they bring down Ganon’s health to half if you have beaten all 4 Divine Beasts. This is not only good story writing, but it’s also an amazing reward for the player. You helped free the souls from their prisons and they came back one last time to help the hero in his quest to defeat evil. 

In Super Mario Odyssey, this doesn’t matter at all. I haven’t finished the story quest in three kingdoms and it doesn’t have any difference in the ending scenes or on the final battle at all. So, why should I bother saving or helping people in a certain kingdom? When I entered a kingdom, I felt like I was dropped in a zone and if I found enough goodies I was allowed to go to the next zone. 

Another thing Breath of the Wild did better then Super Mario Odyssey are the Korok Seeds vs Moons. Now, you get both items as rewards for solving puzzles or doing small challenges in the world.  At some moments I felt like Super Mario Odyssey was the whole Korok Seed quest with a Mario skin. Now, I felt rewarded when I found a Korok Seed. Even when I had beaten the game. It gave me another chance to upgrade my bag so I was able to carry more equipment in the game and experiment more.

Now, besides needing them to continue in the main story, there are no additional rewards for collecting moons. Besides unlocking one more world/level, and maybe two small completion bonus things at the end of the game, I didn’t feel any incentive to collect these moons. I felt like I was on a fetch quest for them just because it’s a video game.

The final thing that Breath of the Wild did better is the towers and map mechanics. Yes, the towers. I loved climbing towers in Breath of the Wild and looking over the whole zone trying to find interesting areas to visit. I felt a lack of that in Super Mario Odyssey. Also, the mechanic where you could pin beams of light on the map as markers for you to visit later… man, that would have been great in Super Mario Odyssey as well.

And it would fit the visual theming of the game extremely well. The map of each kingdom is a travel brochure of the kingdom. And let’s be honest, how many times you wrote on the map of a travel brochure to mark certain areas you still want to visit.

And a final and possibly a minor thing is that Breath of the Wild felt more interconnected. The best way to explain here is, ask yourself this. You can walk over from region to region in Breath of the Wild easily. You need to fly over from kingdom to kingdom in Super Mario Odyssey. And while it’s on a planet, you are able to fall into a void if you reach the edge of a kingdom.

A Hat In Time did it better

63.jpg

Now, I’m certain that people will disagree with me on this but I felt that the controls of A Hat In Time felt better than Super Mario Odyssey.

It’s no secret that I’m not the best in platforming games. So, the running up walls move in A Hat In Time was a godsend to me.

But, the issue is that nowadays, I miss various jumps because I try to rely on that mechanic. It gets better when I kept playing Super Mario Odyssey but I missed that mechanic. Not only that, I got so much used to the dive move in A Hat In Time. I was able to pull off more advanced moves than I ever could in a platforming game. With the 2nd dive/jump, you were able to stop at any time you want. So, if you noticed that you overshoot the jump, you can save yourself easily.

So, at that moment I started comparing the moves I was able to pull off in A Hat In Time to Super Mario Odyssey. And I felt like I was more in control in A Hat In Time. For example, I can’t pull off the Cappy Jump at all in Super Mario Odyssey but I’m able to defeat the hardest jumping challenges in A Hat In Time. I don’t know what’s going on exactly, but I think it has to do with the two things I said above.

Or it might have to do with me being more used to the XBOX360 controller I play A Hat In Time with compared to the first game I had beaten on Nintendo Switch. Maybe when I’m more used to the Switch controller, I might be able to do these more difficult moves.

Other things

Now, remember, I still enjoyed myself with Super Mario Odyssey and it’s still a great game. But, I have seen other games do certain aspects better. Besides that, are there other things I don’t like about Super Mario Odyssey?

The motion controls were also a big issue for me. I played a lot of this game on the go. On the train from and to work. And I think that I’m unable to get a few moons easily without those motion control moves. But, that’s mentioned in almost every review I have seen. And as pointed out by some, why weren’t they able to remap those moves to certain buttons that went barely used in the game like ZL/ZR?

Besides that, I think I have said my main issues with the game. I could go on and extremely nitpick, but that would make this article boring to read. Like I felt each world should have its own Rabbit mini-boss and not repeat them over several worlds with barely any differences…

In the end and I have mentioned this multiple times, I think that this game is wonderful, one of the best games Nintendo has put out in 2017. While it isn’t their best game from 2017, it’s in the top 5. While I feel that this game deserves a lot of praise, it could have done things a lot better and I hope I was able to point that out in this article.

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 the next article but until then, take care and have a great rest of your day.