Review: Pokémon Pinball Ruby and Sapphire (Gameboy Advance)

By Merman (@merman1974)

pprs_logo

Console: Game Boy Advance (also playable on GameCube’s Game Boy Player, Wii U Virtual Console)

Developer: Jupiter

Publisher: Nintendo

Release dates:

Game Boy Advance in Japan – 1st August 2003, North America – 25th August 2003, PAL – Australia 26th September 2003 and Europe 14th November 2003

Wii U Virtual Console in Japan – 10th December 2014, North America – 1st January 2015, PAL – Australia 12th December 2014 and Europe 11th December 2014

pprs_intro – Part of the colourful intro animation.

 

 

 

pprs_us_boxart – US box art.

 

 

 

 

pprs_japan_boxart – Japanese box art.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Game Boy Advance hardware gave it more power, equivalent to the Super NES in a handheld console. It also gave Game Freak the chance to revisit its earlier generation of Pokémon games as well as the new Ruby and Sapphire games for Generation III – featuring the Hoenn region Pokédex. This would be echoed by this follow-up to Pokémon Pinball developed by Jupiter featuring the Johto and Hoenn region creatures. Its later Wii U Virtual Console release would make it the first Pokémon game released on that format. The Game Boy Player’s Rumble feature (through the GameCube controller) was supported by the Game Boy Advance Cartridge. Five special eReader cards were made available in Japan, allowing players to scan the card and trigger tricky in-game events; players had to attend the official Pokémon Centers or live Pokémon events to obtain these special cards.

pprs_title – The title screen.

 

 

 

pprs_config – Configuring the controls.

 

 

 

pprs_field_select – Choosing the Ruby or Sapphire tables before starting play.

 

 

 

The major change from the original is the smoothly scrolling table. Where the original flicked between two halves, the new game had a much bigger vertical playfield. There was a choice of two tables, one for Ruby and one for Sapphire with each having unique features. The modes of play carried over from the original – Catch ‘Em, Evo Mode and Map Move. The Bonus sections were an even bigger part of the new Pinball title too.

pprs_ruby_field – The full Ruby field.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

– The complete Sapphire table. pprs_sapphire_field

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although the Hoenn Pokédex is featured in this game, there are only actually 205 of the 210 available. Deoxys cannot be found and captured at all, while Chikorita, Cyndaquil, Totodile, and Aerodactyl are unable to be evolved. If you encounter a Pokémon but fail to capture it, its entry in the Pokédex will appear as a shadow. The battery backup remembers which Pokémon you have caught. From the Pokédex you can transfer a captured Pokémon to another player’s console and their copy of the game via the Link Cable. You can also transfer the high scores you have achieved, with a separate list for each of the tables.

pprs_pokedex_mightyena– Mightyena in the Pokédex.

 

 

 

pprs_pokedex_transfer – Ready to transfer a Pokémon via the link cable.

 

 

 

The player launches the Pokéball from the plunger (the spring-like Spoink) by holding a button to set the power, and then uses two buttons for the flippers. This time it is possible to tilt and nudge the table left, right, and up – helpful to guide the ball into a target or knock it loose from an awkward point. On both tables there are sets of ramps to send the ball around a Pokémon Mart to purchase extras with Coins earned from the table. (Plusle and Minun create an electrical barrier protecting the Sapphire table’s Mart – both must be hit with the ball to make the barrier drop). Pikachu returns in the drain channel, moving left and right with the flipper. Hitting the spinner charges up his Thunder Strike, acting as a kickback to keep the ball in play – but it must then be recharged. The Ball Saver physically picks up the ball and flies it back to the Spoink plunger to launch again; on the Ruby table, it is the Legendary Pokémon Latios, while the Sapphire table’s Saver is Latias.

pprs_ruby_spoink – The Pokéball sits on Spoink, ready to launch.

 

 

 

pprs_ruby_ballsave – Latios swoops down to save the ball on the Ruby table.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_launched – The ball has launched on the right-hand side of the Sapphire table.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_saved – Latias zooms in to save a ball on the Sapphire table.

 

 

 

New to this game is Egg Mode. On the Ruby Field the player must knock Cyndaquil backward into its cave a few times to hatch the egg. On the Sapphire Field, the ball must travel up the right-hand ramp to light the lights surrounding the egg. The next time that ramp is successfully climbed, the egg is hatched. Once hatched, the Pokémon inside will descend to the lower half of the table and can be captured by hitting it twice with the ball. This counts towards the capture limit for opening the Bonus Rounds.

pprs_ruby_hatching – The Egg hatches to reveal Trapinch…

 

 

 

pprs_ruby_trapinch – …and Trapinch is caught.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_egg – Light the four clamps to hatch the egg on the Sapphire table.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_hatching– Ralts is hatching from the egg (Sapphire table).

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_ralts_capture – Ralts being caught by the Pokéball.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_ralts_caught – Ralts has been caught.

 

 

 

Catch ‘Em Mode works in a similar way to the original Pokémon Pinball. The player must first light two or three GET lights on the right outer loop. Then on the Ruby table the ball must be hit into Sharpedo’s mouth while the whale-like Whailmer activates the mode on the Sapphire table. Once started, the player must hit the pop bumpers (Chinchou or Lotad on Ruby, Shroomish on Sapphire) at least three times to fill in the silhouette. Once the Pokémon has been fully revealed, it can be captured by hitting it three times with the Pokéball. Lighting up three Pokéballs in the center of the screen opens the Bonus Round (see below). Catching 15 Pokémon earns an extra ball.

pprs_ruby_catchem – Catch ‘Em Mode is activated on the Ruby table.

 

 

 

pprs_ruby_shadow – The Pokémon appears as a shadow until you hit the bumpers.

 

 

 

pprs_ruby_poochyena_2hits – I have one more hit to catch Poochyena.

 

 

 

pprs_ruby_poochyena_caught – Poochyena has been caught.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_catchem – Catch ‘Em Mode on the Sapphire table.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_shroomish_multihit – Achieving multiple hits on the Shroomish bumpers rapidly reveals the Pokémon in Capture Mode.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_taillow_appears – Taillow has been revealed.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_tailow_capture – The Pokéball captures Taillow.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_taillow_caught – Taillow has been caught, ready to evolve.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_reveal – A chance to capture Voltorb.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_voltorb_2hits – I have two hits on Voltorb.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_voltorb_caught – Voltorb has been caught.

 

 

 

Evo Mode allows you to evolve a previously captured Pokémon. On both tables, the entrance to the Pokémon Mart gains the lit Evo arrow once you have completed three trips around the outer left loop. Starting Evo Mode gives a choice of Pokémon to evolve. The player must then collect three items – including EX (Experience) and Evolution Stones – and sink the ball in the central hole to evolve the chosen Pokémon.

pprs_ruby_evomode – Entering Evo Mode on the Ruby table.

 

 

 

pprs_ruby_evo_select – Selecting which Pokémon to evolve.

 

 

 

pprs_ruby_evo_complete – Enter the Slot to complete the Evolution.

 

 

 

pprs_ruby_evolution – The Pokémon is evolving!

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_evomode – Time to evolve a Pokémon on Sapphire.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_evo_taillow – Choosing Taillow to evolve.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_evo_ex – The EX token is sitting near Wailmer.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_evolution – The Evolution is complete!

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_swellow – Taillow has evolved into Swellow and is added to the Pokédex.

 

 

 

Travel Mode – the renamed Map Move – acts in a similar way to the original Pokémon Pinball. The starting area is chosen at random when the player launches the ball.  Collecting three Gulpins on the Ruby table starts Travel Mode, while collecting three Seedots is necessary on the Sapphire table. Once activated, the player must send the ball round an outer loop and into the central hole within one minute. The next area chosen is selected depending on whether the loop hit goes left or right. The player can decline to change area if they wish to stay and catch more creatures. Each area has a particular set of Pokémon based on their type. The player will ultimately travel through seven of the nine areas available, with the Ruins only available on both tables after the sixth journey. A neat touch is that Volbeat (Ruby) or Illumise (Sapphire) will fly in to “paint” and reveal the new area reached.

pprs_sapphire_travel – Entering Travel Mode on Sapphire.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_paint_travel – Illimuse painting the new location.

 

 

 

pprs_ruby_travel_painted – Volbeat has filled in the new area on Ruby.

 

 

 

There are five Bonus Rounds, with Kecleon and Groudon on the Ruby table and Dusclops and Kyogre appearing on Sapphire. Completing Groudon or Kyogre rounds will then give access to the Rayquaza Bonus Round on both. Kecleon will turn invisible and must be knocked over to register a hit; fortunately, the tree contains a Devon Scope that can be shaken loose and collected to “see” the invisible creature. Once knocked over Kecleon must take ten hits inside two minutes to capture him. Groudon shakes down rocks, creates pillars of fire, and throws fireballs at the Pokéball. Rocks take three hits to break and the pillars take four, trying to stop you from hitting Groudon itself 30 times inside 3 minutes. Sapphire’s Dusclops round starts in the graveyard, where you must knock down 20 Duskulls. Then Dusclops itself will appear, and it must be hit in the back or while moving five times to conquer it; mistime a hit and it will swallow the ball and throw it back at the flippers. Kyogre uses Sheer Cold to freeze the ball and creates whirlpools to stop the ball from moving. Its final move is to dive under the water, with bubbles giving a clue to where it will rise again. Hit it 15 times in three minutes to win.

pprs_sapphire_bonus_open – The Bonus Round is open on the Sapphire table.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_bonus_duclops – Tackling Dusclops in the Bonus Round.

 

 

 

pprs_ruby_enter_bonus– You can choose not to enter the Bonus Round – but miss out on big points.

 

 

 

pprs_ruby_kecleon_spotted– Kecleon is briefly visible thanks to the Devon Scope.

 

 

 

pprs_ruby_kecleon_surrender – Ten hits later and Kecleon surrenders.

 

 

 

pprs_ruby_kecleon_bonus – Big bonus points for beating the Kecleon Bonus Round.

 

 

 

Rayquaza must be beaten twice to capture it, meaning the player must play through and complete the first two bonus rounds a second time to get back to it. When it bounces left and right, the ball will pass under it. It will pause to cast Thunder at a slow-moving ball and paralyze it, while the ExtremeSpeed move causes two tornadoes to appear – these will send the ball flying helplessly into the air for a few seconds. Fifteen hits on Rayquaza are needed inside three minutes, but it does award a juicy 99,999,999 points for winning.

Lighting up the HOLE lights at the bottom of the table activates the slot machine, entered by putting the ball into the center hole. This can be stopped by pressing the A button – or grabbed by Zigzagoon on the Sapphire table to award the current prize. Small and Big points bonuses and Coins can be awarded, Get starts Catch ‘Em Mode and Evo starts Evo Mode automatically. Ball Saver starts saving the ball for 30, 60 or 90 seconds depending on the value and the player can also be advanced automatically to the next Bonus Round.  Extra gives an extra ball while Max upgrades the current ball to a Master Ball (see below). The Pika bonus in this game sees Pichu joining Pikachu in the drain channels, charged in the same way to act as a kickback.

pprs_ruby_slot_hole – The Slot is open, ready to offer you a bonus.

 

 

 

pprs_ruby_slot_reels – The Slot reels are spinning.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_slot_zigzagoon – Zigzagoon is jumping to stop the reels – on the Small Bonus, unfortunately.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_pikachu_charged – Hitting the Spinner charges Pikachu’s energy levels.

 

 

 

pprs_ruby_pikachu_thunderstrike – Pikachu stops the ball from draining with his Thunderstrike.

 

 

 

On both tables there are the three upgrade channels that can be lit, but as in the first game running over a light already lit turns it off again. The flippers rotate the upgrade lights and the HOLE lights too. The upgraded ball offers a larger bonus multiplier for a short time – x2 for the Great Ball, x3 for the Ultra Ball and x4 for the Master Ball – but the ball will drop back down a level after a while and revert to the basic Pokéball if the player drains it. There is a separate table multiplier that can be increased through the slot machine. Once the ball has drained (dropped off the bottom of the table) then stats for that ball are shown, including the number of Pokémon caught and evolved and the number of spinner turns. These subtotals are multiplied by the bonus multiplier in play at the time. Starting with three balls, when the player runs out it is Game Over – and if they have earned enough points, they can enter up to four initials in the high score list for that table.

pprs_sapphire_upgrade – Upgrading the Pokéball gives higher bonus multipliers.

 

 

 

The game was first revealed at the E3 Expo in 2003, with GameSpy describing it as “much more than a pinball game”. When the reviews arrived, they were as positive as those for the original Pokémon Pinball – currently giving it a Metacritic rating of 82/100. Martin Taylor of Eurogamer surmised that “only the most demanding of pinball wizards would be right to turn their nose up at Pokémon Pinball [Ruby & Sapphire]’s a charming slant on the genre.” It earned an IGN Editor’s Choice award with an 8.8 score, Craig Harris calling it “the greatest pinball game for the Game Boy Advance.” Famitsu in Japan scored it an impressive 34 out of 40.

pprs_sapphire_hiscore – Entering a name on the Sapphire high score table.

 

 

 

In an interesting bit of trivia, the American company Personal Pinball Inc. created a one-of-a-kind real-life pinball table based on the game. It was made for Pokémon USA and was housed in the New York Pokémon Center. Selling more than a million copies on the cartridge, the game would have a second life on Wii U’s Virtual Console. The Cutting Room Floor website (https://tcrf.net/Pok%C3%A9mon_Pinball:_Ruby_%26_Sapphire) has some interesting finds. There is a GameShark code to activate Debug Mode (allowing you to press L to freeze and then move the ball around, with R resuming play) and an unused Bonus Round Select screen. The eReader screen found in the Japanese version is still present (and its text translated) in other regions, but it was disabled for the later Virtual Console release.

pprs_language – European Game Boy Advance titles usually offered in up to five languages, with a selection screen.

 

 

 

This is still a game I pick up and play, as both a pinball and Pokémon fan. The improved physics and scrolling table make it better than the original. There are more motion and animation than the original, with the hatching Pokémon from Egg Mode being particularly adorable. Control feels smoother and it is much easier to achieve the loop shots. I can certainly concur that it is one of the best pinball games on Game Boy Advance and should definitely be in your collection.

OVERALL: 9/10

pprs_ruby_game_over – Thanks for reading! Want to continue your retrospective look at the Pokémon franchise? Well, take a look at the hub article where I and several other content creators made more retrospective content about the Pokémon franchise.

 

Gaming Nostalgia: the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series

downloads

I’m so happy that I was able to claim the whole Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series for this amazing Pokémon collaboration. Together with several other content creators, I took a retrospective look back at the Pokémon franchise in this hub article. If you arrived from the hub article to this article about the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series, welcome! In this article, I’m going to talk about my memories with these games and look back at this spin off series and maybe try and discover why Game Freak made so many sequels of this game. I want to give an important side note, this article isn’t going to cover all the Mystery Dungeon games. It’s only going to cover the games that I have played. Basically, it’s a personal retrospective. So, before we really start, feel free to leave a comment down below with your opinions, thoughts and memories of these games and/or the content of this article.

2005 – Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Blue Rescue Team & Red Rescue Team (Gameboy Advance and Nintendo DS)

Pokémon_Mystery_Dungeon_-_Blue_Rescue_Team_Coverart

If you read my blog in the past, you might know that I started blogging in 2010. That was a blog in my native language Dutch. It was more of a personal blog that now transformed into this English blog. 

On there, I took a look at these games but since that blog is archived, that article is archived as well. Yet, don’t worry friends. I have added it to my endless list of games I still have to write about on this blog. 

Now, how did I learn about this game? Well, I love to tell this story. Back in the day, I went each and every summer to the sea side on holiday together with my family. Before we left, my aunt took me to our local video game store to rent some games for the trip and the holiday. It was still a while before I got my own Nintendo DS but when I noticed that there was a new Pokémon game for the Gameboy Advance and the Nintendo DS, I didn’t hesitate and rented out Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Red Rescue Team. 

I was so happy to play a new Pokémon game since I had almost beaten Pokémon Ruby. That year was also the first year I slept in my own room and not together in the room with the bunkbeds where my aunts and sister slept. 

Just to give you an idea how much that game impacted me, the memories of that year’s trip have heavy ties to that game. When I was replaying this game for a bit to better write this article, the memories came flooding back quite hard. The various sand castles I had built and the activities I did with my friends in the holiday park. 

Sadly enough, I had to say goodbye to the cartridge since renting isn’t for ever. I didn’t enjoy returning the game after the trip since I got quite close to beat the game. I can’t remember exactly what happened next but when I got my Nintendo DS a while later from that same lovely aunt, I had gotten my hands on the DS version of the game. You can be sure that I played quite happily through that game. 

In past articles, I talked about how the “Farewell” music having a big impact on me. I’m actually listening to that track while I’m writing this section. This track does something with me. It brings back memories of those trips to the sea side which are memories I never want to say goodbye to. Glorious memories with various friends and family that shaped me as a person and made me look forward to those trips. 

I also remember quite well that the ending of this game was one of the first times I truly cried. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but for the people who have played this game know what I’m talking about. How the writing and music comes together extremely nicely after your long and big adventure with an amazing way to tell the generic message about the strength and importance of friendship. It might sound quite cheesy but I love how beautiful this story comes together. I played a game with an amazing message about friendship while I forged new friendships and enjoyed them without any regrets. 

2007 – Pokémon Mystery Dungeon – Explorers of Time / Darkness + 2009 – Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of the Sky (Nintendo DS)

Pokemon-mystery-dungeon-explorers-of-timeReview of this game

To tell this story, I want to take you back to summer of 2007. In that summer, I learn about this game existing through a magazine. Seeing that the Mystery Dungeon game got a sequel, I was extremely hyped and I started to save up money. 

But then, The Legend Of Zelda – Phantom Hourglass happens. Besides being a big Pokémon fan, I’m also an extremely big Zelda fan. So, I started to play Phantom Hourglass. By the time I have finished the Zelda game, I got myself Pokémon Pearl

Fast forward a bit to Christmas of that same year. It was time to put together a Secret Santa list. While I was browsing the website of my local game store, I noticed that I had almost forgotten about Pokémon Mystery Dungeon. So, I placed the game on my list. And I think you know what happened. I got this game for Christmas. 

That evening, I was a bit of an anti-social person. I was so extremely hyped for this game and because I finally got my hands on it, I started to play this game right away. I can’t remember why I hadn’t bought this game earlier but hey, we don’t remember every single thing.  

It has been almost 15 years since I played this game but I still remember various moments that happened in this game. The atmosphere, writing, music, pacing and various other elements of this game are just engraved in my memories. When an expanded version of this game got released two years later called “Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of the Sky”, I wanted to have that game as well. 

Now, I had to admit that it took me quite a while before I got that expanded version. In a matter of fact, there is a small story behind that as well. I remember that I bought a copy of “Explorers of the Sky” online from a website I have bought various games from before. When the game arrived, it arrived in a shiny box but there was something wrong. There was a copy of “Explorers of Time” inside of the case. So, I was able to return it and they sent me a whole new copy. Thankfully, with the correct game this time. I remember that it felt quite sketchy to send a whole game through the post instead of sending it as a package. 

Oh well, I’m glad that I have the expanded version in my collection now. For some strange reason, I haven’t played that expanded version. I think it’s because I don’t want to destroy or ruin my nostalgic feelings with game since these Mystery Dungeon games have so much nostalgic meaning to me. But, I think that it’s time to play the expanded version since the memories of writing this article and working on the collab are memories I don’t want to forget either. Let’s go and celebrate the Pokémon franchise. 

2013 – Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity (Nintendo 3DS)

PMGTIReview of the game

So, in late 2012 I decided to delete my personal Dutch blog and in the middle of 2013, I decided to completely rebrand myself and my blog in English. When I look back to my earlier work on this blog, I see the growth I have made.

This game was also the first game that inspired me to look more critical to the games I’m playing. To start analyzing why certain mechanics work and why certain mechanics don’t work. It inspired me to write my first ever rant on this blog. If I would have written this article today, I think it would be a bit better structured, but hey. Hindsight is 2021. 

In August of 2013, I decided that I wanted to write a review on this game. I remember opening the editor on that day and opening my notes. And then I started writing the article. Usually, my articles where around 1k-words long in that time. Expect, for this game I kept writing and adding to the article. And I kept writing and writing. Before I knew it, the review was over double of the length of my usual articles. 

That review is what inspired my current style of writing. Trying to find all the things that a game does right and explaining what a game does wrong and how it could have been improved. I know full well that a writing style is something that grows and changes over the years, but the initial spark to write better articles was with that review. 

So yeah, thank you Gates to Infinity to help me improve my writing skills and to help me build a blog that I’m quite proud off. Of course, the game itself is something that I quite enjoyed a lot as well. While it has some rough edges, but I still found it an enjoyable game. Critics really didn’t like this game and most of them tore it apart. 

But, I enjoyed building the paradise to it’s full glory and the story of this game. Now, if you want to know more about my opinion on this game, I highly recommend that you read the review since I still agree with everything I said. 

2015 – Pokémon: Super Mystery Dungeon (Nintendo 3DS)

250px-Super_Mystery_Dungeon_EN_boxartFirst Impression of this game

So, in 2015 we got what we thought was the final game in the Mystery Dungeon series called Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon. The final climax of the series that would end off this enjoyable dungeon crawler with a bang. 

Now, I have to admit that I was afraid that this game was going to be mediocre. Thankfully, I have been proven wrong. This game is one strong entry in the Mystery Dungeon series. The reviews from the critics where more favorable compared to the previous entry.  

Now, you might have noticed that I haven’t written a review for this game yet. That’s because not only did I got distracted by various other games… I have to admit that I sort of rage quitted the game at one point near the end where I was unable to beat a certain dungeon since I barely had enough items. 

Now, when I was putting this collab together, I started to play this game again from my save file and I got through that part. So, I’m now almost finished with the game and I can’t wait to finally beat it and write a review about it. Since I want to share my thoughts on this game after beating the game. 

Man, playing this game was always so bittersweet. Since I knew it was the final game in the spin-off series and to be quite honest, I don’t want to finish this game. Since for some reason, I don’t want to close the book on this series. Ever since the first game, these spin-offs became a huge part of my life. If you read through this whole article, you see how much these games mean to me. Then again, all nice things must come to an end and maybe it’s time to wrap everything up and let everything come full circle. 

2020 – Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX (Nintendo Switch)

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Then again, this series might not have come to an end. It’s possible that this game is just an one off remake of the series but who knows… It’s possible that Game Freak is working on bringing this spin-off series back. 

I have to admit that I haven’t bought the game on release. A lot of that had to do with the fact that the game released in early March last year and then COVID started happening in my home country and my life is extremely occupied with other things like my job and various other projects. 

So, in late 2020, when I started looking for writers for this collab, I finally decided to buy myself a boxed copy. Since then, I have been playing this remake in between the games I play to review or write about on my blog. To be honest, I’m quite glad that I bought this remake. Since this remake improved so much on the original game, it’s amazing. 

I think that this remake is going to be one time remake of the original, but like I said previously, I’m silently hoping that there will be more stories told in this spin-off style. So crossing my fingers for either another remake or a brand new Mystery Dungeon game.

And that was it

I feel that I’m going to repeat myself when I say that this spin off series means quite a lot to me. While it’s sad to know that the Switch remake might be the final game in the spin-off series, I’m also happy that it ended on quite a high note. 

The reason that the spin-off series ended was because the developers didn’t know where to take the series next. Which I can totally understand, since each story is quite unique.

I think that the Mystery Dungeon series is to Pokémon what the Mario RPG games are to the Mario series. A series of well loved spin off games that have touching and humorous stories that to be quite honest, sometimes are better than the original stories. 

In any case, I think I can ramble on and on about this series and before I start repeating myself a million times with different words I want to thank Game Freak and Chunsoft from creating this amazing spin-off series. While I silently hope that there are going to be more games in this style, I’m quite happy with the games that were released. Thank you for this memorable series. 

And with that, I feel like I said everything I wanted to say about these games for now. Thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care. Also, be sure to check out the hub article if you want to read more articles from other amazing content creators about the Pokémon series. This retrospective collab was so much fun to work on and it allowed me to write an amazing piece like this one. 🙂 

 

Review: Pokémon Pinball Mini (Pokémon Mini)

By Merman (@merman1974)

Console: Pokémon mini

Developer: Jupiter

Publisher: Nintendo

Release dates: Japan – December 14th 2001, North America – November 16th 2001, PAL – Europe March 15th 2002 and Australia October 11th 2001

The Pokémon mini console was an unusual move from Nintendo. Going back to an LCD screen seemed strange in 2001, but the success of Game Freaks’ franchise led to a huge number of licensed products. These included a Tamagotchi style virtual pet and an electronic Pokédex.

Pokemon_mini_logo – The Pokémon mini logo

There were three varieties of Pokémon mini, matching the colour of its shell with three Pokémon from the later generations – these colours were: Wooper Blue, Chikorita Green, and Smoochum Purple. The hardware is particularly intriguing, as the smallest Nintendo console with interchangeable cartridges. The monochrome screen has a resolution of just 96×64 pixels, and it is powered by a 4MHz 8-bit CPU from Seiko. Squeezed into the case are an internal real-time clock, an infrared port for multiplayer gaming, a reed switch that detects when the player shakes the console, and a motor for rumble/force feedback. Memory includes 4K of RAM and the 4K BIOS, while each cartridge holds 512 kibibytes (just over half a megabyte). The console also has six save slots, which are shared between games. Power comes from a single AAA battery that can last up to 60 hours of gameplay. Officially the word mini was always shown in lower case, although many sources use that interchangeably with Mini.

  Pokémon_mini_Chikorita_GreenChikorita Green

 

 

Smoochum Purple Pokémon_mini_Smoochum_Purple

 

Pokémon_mini_Wooper_BlueWooper Blue

 

 

 

Internationally there were four titles available at launch. Pokémon Party mini is a mixture of mini-games, Pokémon Puzzle mini requires you to assemble pictures of Pokémon and Pokémon Zany Cards has four card games played with Pokémon cards. We are here to talk about the fourth launch game, Pokémon Pinball mini, but it is worth discussing how the poor sales of the initial games meant no further titles were sold in North America. Pokémon Tetris saw a release in Japan and Europe, but the last five official titles – Pokémon Puzzle Collection vol. 2, Pokémon Race mini, Pichu Bros. mini, Togepi’s Great Adventure and Pokémon Breeder mini – were only sold in Japan. Developers Jupiter were responsible for six of the ten released mini games, including Pinball mini – following on from their work on the original Pokémon Pinball game for Game Boy Color.

Pinball_mini_EN_boxart – The English box art for Pokémon Pinball mini

Pinball_mini_JP_boxart – The Japanese box art for Pokémon Pinball mini

Emulated versions of some Mini games appeared in the later GameCube title Pokémon Channel, and that allowed the console to be reverse engineered by hackers. Pikachu has to find the Pokémon mini under the bed and extra games are then purchased from the Shop ‘n Squirtle. It initially comes with a special bonus mini game known as Snorlax’s Lunch Time. Pokémon Pinball Petit was included in Pokémon Channel, with just ten Quest Mode levels from the original game and no way to save high scores. An emulator and homebrew titles are now available online for those who are unable to track down the elusive mini hardware. There was even a demo (SHizZLE, by Team Pokéme) entered into the Breakpoint “wild” demo competition in 2005. Fans have since created English translations of all the Japanese exclusive titles, making them playable in an emulator or via the Ditto mini flash cartridge (containing Flash memory, and thus allowing homebrew or translated cartridge files to be run on the original hardware itself).

Pokemon_Channel_US_boxart

US box artwork for Pokémon Channel (GameCube)

snorlaxs_lunch_time – Feed Snorlax to keep him awake in this Pokémon Channel mini-game.

So how does the Pinball mini game work? The game is split into three modes. Quest Mode has 70 levels that must be completed in order, Time Attack challenges you to complete one of ten selectable levels as fast as possible, and Score Attack has ten different levels to rack up as many points as possible. As with Time Attack, the player is free to play any of the ten Score Attack levels.

ppmini_title – The title screen initially just shows Diglett hitting the Pokéball.

ppmini_diglett_scoreattack – Diglett taking on a Score Attack level.

In each level, the player hits the Pokéball around with a Pokémon replacing the flipper usually found at the bottom of the table. The player starts off with Digglet, whose head pops up to hit the ball when A is pressed. Time it right and you get a faster-moving Power Shot. As you move through Quest Mode, there are three types of level. Fill Holes requires you to fill all the holes with Pokéballs as quickly as possible. These levels have a time limit, and this type of gameplay is the core of the ten Time Attack levels. High Score levels in Quest and Score Attack award one point for hitting the ball into a hole, and three points for a power shot. In Quest Mode these levels have a minimum score to complete them – also against the time limit. As well as holes, there are other features on the tables. Blocks can be broken by three hits (or one power shot), but hard blocks cannot be broken. Water will end the game, while the gravity changer (a black arrow) makes gravity act in that direction. Bumpers make the ball rebound, but the Out Hole will grab the ball and take time to release it. Ditto stops the ball bouncing and drops it slowly, while Pichu throws the ball in the direction it is facing (with the same strength it was hit).

ppmini_ditto – Ditto will affect the ball when hit.

ppmini_gravity – Hitting the Gravity arrow will make gravity start acting to the left.

ppmini_outhole – The Out Hole in the middle will hold onto the ball for a while.

ppmini_pichu – Naughty Pichu throws the ball around.

There are four Capture Levels in Quest Mode, allowing the player to unlock a different Pokémon. The Pokémon moves back and forth across the screen, starting with 3HP. Hitting the creature with the ball removes 1HP, while a power shot removes 3HP. Once the Pokémon is reduced to 0HP it faints, and needs one more hit with the ball to capture it. The player must then flip the Pokeball into the hole to complete the level, with its weight being heavier (making it slower to move) with the captured creature inside. If the player waits too long to hit a fainted creature, it revives with 1HP and must be hit again.

ppmini_pikachu – The player has unlocked Pikachu, who is a little unpredictable.

When a new Pokémon is unlocked, it can be used to replay any level – except its own capture level. Pikachu (#025) is unlocked by completing level 10, but the ball flies in a random direction when he hits it. Clefairy (#035) is the prize for passing level 20. Its psychic abilities allow you a small amount of control over the ball with the D-pad. The player must use Pikachu on level 11 and Clefairy on level 21 and is excluded from using Clefairy on some later levels. The slow-moving Wobbuffet (#202) is unlocked at level 30 but can send the ball flying further. The final Pokémon to be captured is Poliwag (#060) after level 40. Poliwag moves up faster than the others but is not as powerful (making power shots harder). One level filled with water requires the use of Poliwag, but only Diglett can be used on level 70. Completing the Quest Mode shows Poliwag and Clefairy alongside Diglett on the title screen.

ppmini_clefairy_blocks – Clefairy’s ability to influence the ball’s movement will help get rid of these Blocks.

As a pinball game the small size of the Pokémon mini screen is restrictive. But as a spin-off from the Pokémon games, it has a certain charm in the way it uses different creatures. It is a tough game to play through, thanks to the time and score limits. The cost of the console itself and the limited sales make tracking it down tough for collectors, so the recommendation would be to try the other two Pinball titles on Game Boy instead.

OVERALL: 6/10

This article is part of a big collaboration where various writers take a look at the Pokémon series in a retrospective way. Feel free to read more articles like these by visiting the hub article.

Interview with GameChuck after “SpeedLimit” release

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Welcome my dear reader! Today, I want to share something special. Last year, I took a look at a game called Speed Limit. When I looked at the game it was still in development but a demo was released. Now, this week the full version was released on all major platforms. You can find more information on the official website and on the website of the publisher. Now, instead of writing a very same-y article, I thought it would be more fun to talk about the game with the developers. So, that’s what’s going to happen today. I’m going to share an interview with you guys and girls that I had with GameChunck! Thank you so much for answering my questions. Before I start, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion and/or thoughts on the interview, the game and/or the content of this article. 

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Jonez: Hello there and welcome. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview with me. So, to whom do I have the pleasure of speaking to from the development team?

Alex: Hi, I’m Alex, the CEO of Gamechuck and level designer for some small parts of Speed Limit. Most of the development was done by others but as they are too busy celebrating our pan-console release, I will try my best to tell you everything you want to know!

Jonez: So, last year a demo for Speed Limit was released. Now, we are almost a year later and the game got more development. What is new in this full version? Did the game get easier or more difficult? 

Alex: The game is much bigger than the demo – it features 10 (or more, khm khm, spoilers) levels, with 5 distinct gameplay genres, while the demo is just the first three levels (side scrolling genre and top-down). Also, we used the feedback from the demo release to make the game much more enticing, but not easier per se (although we did add Easy mode in both the demo and the full game since then).

Jonez: Now, this game got released on multiple platforms like the PS4, PS5, XBOX One, Steam and Switch. What challenges did you face in porting this game? 

Alex: The Switch is at the same time the most slick experience (they check on everything and give you detailed feedback on where they found which error) but also quite cumbersome as every change takes a long time to get approved. Also, the PS4 had some issues regarding how we draw shaders for light for the bike rear lights, but we fixed it using clever math so now it works as intended on all platforms!

Jonez: This game is almost one long interactive movie. I guess this game wasn’t the easiest to develop since you risked to damage the flow of the game. So, what was the most challenging in developing this game? 

Alex: The most difficult part was correctly figuring out how much time it will take for each feature, and since we were starting from scratch with every level (e.g. every new genre) it was really hard, but we needed to guesstimate anyway since due to porting and so on, we were operating on a schedule.

Jonez: So, can I ask if you guys have future plans for the game? Or will this game only get bug fixes?

Alex: We hope to give the game a lot of interesting updates and maybe even DLCs, because the game this well received deserves to be continually updated! I can’t promise co-op mode (although I’d really like to!) but more modes, achievements etc. – definitely!

Jonez: You know, when I played the first level. I always wondered… Can you defeat those enemy soldiers?

Alex: No, but you can reach a stalemate with them, by standing at a spot where they can’t hurt you and just keep shooting them down!

Jonez: It didn’t take long for me to find an easter egg. The Chuck Norris easter egg was a nice gag. Are there more in the game?

Alex: A lot. Let me get back to you with an exact figure later.

Jonez: As I said earlier, this game feels like some sort of interactive action movie. How did you go about testing this game? Did you always start from the start or did you test it section by section?

Alex: We tested both specific sections and the whole game, and also used the G.Round platform for testing the game with hundreds of players prior to launch so we can iron out any big issues (there weren’t any and we got incredibly glowing remarks!)

Jonez: So, an indie studio is always known for having a small team. Who were the heroes that brought this game to life? 

Alex: The dev team is 7 people (artist Jurica and the game director Igor doing pixel art, Vanja and Karlo and one student Sara coding various levels and Matija doing sounds and music) and then there’s me, Lucija doing PR/bizdev and Iggy doing community management. 10 people seems like a lot but bear in mind we weren’t all doing the game full time and we do have a lot of other games in the pipeline!

Jonez: So, one of the biggest differences I noticed is the fact there is an easy mode. Which differences are there in the easy mode compared to the normal mode?

Alex: The difference between easy and hard is almost exclusively in the number of enemies and/or their hitpoints, and of course – the true ending is not available in Easy mode!

Jonez: It wouldn’t surprise me that the game broke quite often during development. Can you share one of the funniest moments of the game breaking during development? 

Alex: There were many but here’s one that was quite fun:

Jonez: And my final question: You are also developing another game. Tell us more about it? Did you learn anything while develeoping Speed Limit that is going to be used in that new game? 

Alex: The level designer of Speed Limit is, incidentally, also the lead writer for our narrative game Trip the Ark Fantastic. A complete departure from Speed Limit, this is a slow non-combat narrative experience about the scientific method, philosophy and cute rabbits striking for better working conditions. Now, if that didn’t hook you, then the classical animation and orchestral score will!

Jonez: Thank you so much for answering my questions! I’m quite curious to see what your studio is going to publish next. I also want to thank you all for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it and putting it together. I hope to be able to welcome you in a future article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care! 

Also, don’t forget to give SpeedLimit a try!

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Gamer’s Thoughts: The 10 games I want to play in 2021

2021

2020, what a strange year it has been. I think everybody will agree that this is an understatement and a half. Of course there is still this world pandemic which is causing all sorts of havoc. But let’s not forget the events that also happened this year like the Australian bushfires, a new American president, the UK royal family growing smaller, a Brexit agreement… In terms of 2020 being an historic year, I think we delivered in spades. In my personal life, a lot of things happened as well. From me starting my dream job full time to living on my own, it has been a crazy year to say the least. While 2020 was filled with a lot of positives for me, there were also some things that I wish turned out in another way. Anyways, that’s enough rambling about 2020. This blog is a gaming blog and you are all here for me talking about video games. So, I think it’s high time to start talking about 10 games I’m looking forward to be playing in 2021. Feel free to leave a comment with your list of games you want to play next year and if you agree or disagree with my list and/or some of the games on it. Ready? Let’s go and take a look at my personal list in a random order.

#10 – Persona 5 Strikers (PC/PS4/Switch – Feb 23th) 

Persona_5_Scramble

In the past we started to see various franchises cross over with Lego and I think we’ll now see cross overs with Dynasty Warrior cross overs next. We have seen cross overs with series like Fire Emblem, Zelda, Dragon Quest, One Piece and now we are getting a cross over with Persona. 

It was a big surprise when Joker got added to Smash last year, but this year we got the announcement that for the worldwide release of Persona 5 Strikers, we are getting a port to the Nintendo Switch alongside with a PS4 and PC version. 

I really enjoyed playing Fire Emblem Warriors and Hyrule Warriors on the Switch so I’m quite hyped for playing this cross-over. I haven’t played a lot of the Persona series but from what I have played through Persona 3 Golden and Persona Q, I’m extremely interested in seeing how they tackled the franchise and this cross-over. Maybe one day I might have to invest in getting the Persona games on other platforms if I enjoy them enough. 

#9 – World’s End Club (was Death March Club – Switch, Spring 2021)

maxresdefaultLast year, I told you all about Death March Club. A game that’s written by the creator of the Zero Escape franchise. Now, color me surprised when the game released this year under another name exclusively on the Apple Arcade this September. 

Currently, this game is a timed exclusive on the Apple Arcade and it’s coming in Spring of 2021 to the Nintendo Switch where you can be sure that I’m going to play it. I’m currently having a lot of trouble trying to avoid spoilers by not watching gameplay, teasers or anything of the sort. I’m even avoiding reading reviews of the game since I really want to experience it for myself. 

The only thing I know is that it’s going to be a death game where you have to work together to win all the while you need to sacrifice your class mates to avoid bad things in the world above. You can be damn sure that I’m keeping an eye on this game to get a final release date on the Nintendo Switch so I can start playing it and write an article about it!

#8 – Age of Empires IV (PC, TBA)

age_of_empires_iv_logoThe new entry in the amazing RTS Age of Empires franchise got announced late 2019. The original rumors where that this game was going to release in 2020. In hindsight, I should have known better since the teaser we got barely showed any gameplay so it would be way to optimistic to see this game release in 2020. Now, the rumors are that this game is going to release in 2021.   Somehow, I highly doubt that. We do know a few things about the game already which you can read in this helpful article by “Windows Central“. 

As a fan of the series, it’s amazing to see that this series never died. It had some low points but ever since the Age Of Empires II HD version released in 2013, we got a steady stream of upgrades. Granted, apart from 3 new expansion packs we barely saw any new content since 2007. But hey, in the last three years we got definitive editions of the whole franchise (apart from Age of Mythology, oh well) so I have high hopes that Age Of Empires IV will be an amazing game since the team has a lot of experience with the franchise now. 

#7 – Lord Winklebottom Investigates (Switch, Q1 2021)

headerBut, hey! This game has already released in the PC back in 2019. So, why is this on the list of games you want to play in 2021? You have a good point there and I’m going to explain myself. 

When I’m preparing to write this list, I always look around for games releasing in the upcoming year that I want to play. I go over huge lists created by other news outlets and check various games if they could be interesting or not. When I found out that this game was coming to the Nintendo Switch in 2021, I added it to my list. 

Since this game is a port from the 2019 version of the game, the team will have the chance to also iron out some bugs and things for the Switch port so we might get more or better content. Now, why am I excited for this game? Well, doesn’t the logo remind you of the Professor Layton series? 

Because we got only one new game in the past seven years and three ports to mobile platforms, I don’t have high hopes we are going to get any new Professor Layton content real soon. But, in comes this game. A game that looks to be a sort of Layton’s Mystery Journey game but in an animal universe. Do I have to say more? The potential and all those things. Yeah.

#6 – Haven (PS4/Switch, Q1 2021)

Haven_Steam_cover_artworkYes, yes, I know. This game has been released earlier this December. But, I only discovered this game this week and now I’m quite hyped to play it on my Nintendo Switch. 

The story and concept is what drew me into this game. A world where you have to survive with two people all the while being an RPG… Sign me up! The only thing that has me slightly worried is that this game has some rhythm game elements, which is one of my least favorite genres. But we will see, maybe it isn’t that bad and it might be even quite enjoyable. So yeah, let’s wait and see what the Nintendo Switch version is going to bring in the first few months of 2021.

#5 – Mystiqa (PC, Switch – Q1 2021)

capsule_616x353Man, do I miss the old school 2D topdown Zelda games. I wish there were still games developed in that style where you have a whole big adventure in big world. Like the Link’s Awakening remake last year. 

But, wait, what is this? A game that’s inspired by the old school Zelda games, Final Fantasy Adventure, Dragon Quest amongst other amazing games? And it’s even a rouge like so the replay value is through the roof? Plus, this game is coming out in 2021 on Steam and Switch? 

When I followed this indie developer on Twitter, I found out that there are several of these games in development! Well, well, well. I think my dream came true. More content in the style of the old school 2D-Zelda games. I simply can’t wait to play them and you can be sure I’m going to write an article about them!

#4 – Bravely Default II (Switch, 26th February)

220px-Bravely_Default_III have played Bravely Default back when it got released on the 3DS. I still have to play the 3DS sequel Bravely Second but from what I have seen from the demo, I think I’m going to have a great time with that. I have also played the demo of Bravely Default II and I’m also quite hyped for that game. 

I can’t put my finger on exactly why I enjoy playing the Bravely Default games but something is really drawing me in. Maybe it’s the unique battle mechanic where you can skip turns to use stronger attacks or the whole class system. Yet, I do know full well that these mechanics are also present in other RPG games but something just clicked for me with Bravely Default. Maybe I’ll be able to answer that question when I have played Bravely Default II. 

One thing I know is that my birthday month is going to be extremely busy with two games releasing I want to play. Not even that, a few games are releasing in Q1 2021, which can be in February as well. And I have the Pokémon collab to finish as well. Wish me luck!

#3 – Re:Zero – Staring Life in Another World: The Prophecy of the Throne (PS4/PC/Switch, 5th February)

headerI love the setup of the Re:Zero story. When Subaru, our main character, got transported to another world he discovered that he has a special ability which he can’t speak about. Whenever he gets killed in the new world, the whole world gets reset. As if he is part of a game that gets reset whenever he dies. He does remember everything but nobody in that world is able to remember the reset. 

Now, this unique story mechanic is getting worked into a game. It’s going to be a visual novel but it’s also going to be a tactical RPG/adventure game. So, this is going to be quite enjoyable if the “Return by Death” is implemented well and might set up various twists up extremely well. 

For some reason, the USA is getting this game a week earlier than we over here in Europe. Oh well, that means I’ll have to dodge spoilers for a week which won’t be too big of an issue since it’s a work week and also working on the final stages of the Pokémon collab by then. 

#2 – Shin Megami Tensei V (Switch, Early 2021)

Shin_Megami_Tensei_VThis series is one of the biggest RPG series ever created. I think I don’t have to explain more by simply saying that Persona is a spin-off of this series. Yes, you read this correctly, the popular Persona series is actually a spin off of this franchise. 

I have played some Shin Megami Tensei games over the years but everytime it was in between waiting for other games to release. But, I decided that in 2021, I want to fully play through a Shin Megami Tensei game. I quite enjoyed my time with the series so far playing the (3)DS entries and the cross over Tokyo Mirrage Sessions #FE. So, it’s a good thing then that a new game is going to be released on the Switch in the near future.

You might argue that it’s not a great idea to jump into the series with the 5th main entry but then again, it might make it more interesting to me to play the other games to connect the dots and to answer all the unanswered questions in the 5th entry. 

#1 – Axiom Verge 2 (Switch, Early 2021)

H2x1_NSwitchDS_AxiomVerge2I honestly have a weakspot when it comes to MetroidVania games. When I learned about Axiom Verge and the unique mechanics that the game brought the genre, I was hooked. I haven’t finished the game yet but it’s one of those games that I pop into my Nintendo Switch or start up on my Wii U once in a while to wind down and relax. Maybe I should continue the game on only one of the two platforms instead of two. But, I own the collectors edition on Switch… 

At first, this game was going to be released in the fall of this year. Sadly enough, due to a delay, this game has been pushed to early next year. For now, I think this game will be an exclusive or a timed exclusive to the Nintendo Switch. And looking at the screenshots, oh wow.. Is this game going to be fun! Maybe I should finish Axiom Verge and Axiom Verge 2 back to back… That might be fun.

Wrapping up

I have to say that it’s getting more difficult by the year to create these lists. Mostly because most of the announced games are scheduled in Q1/Q2 of the upcoming year and a lot of them are sequels or entries in a long running series. On top of that, we lately get more remakes/remasters and ports in the last few years. 

Another big reason is that I’m more and more focusing on my collection and collecting games instead of playing the upcoming and new games. So, that means I’m not going to buy a PS5 or the new XBOX or even upgrading my computer to play the newest games. I’m quite enjoying myself by playing games on my consoles. 

That means I have an even smaller pool of games to pick from. And when I notice that a game that looks interesting to me requires to either upgrade my PC or get a new console, I dismiss it. For now, there aren’t enough games that I really want to play that validate the purchase of a new console or a stronger computer in my mind. 

I rather spend my money on games I actually want to play or add to my collection instead of having the “latest and strongest” gaming hardware. I know that this might be just me or my collecting hobby but maybe this year a lot of games will release that validate the purchase of a better computer. 

Besides all that, it looks like my Nintendo Switch will be quite busy in the upcoming year. Which is a good thing, since I love playing my Switch on the train to and from work. I just a great way to spend the long train journey creating memories and something starting to talk to other gamers on the train about various games. And I wish to be able to do that in 2021 and make new friends. That would create some sunshine in these strange times. 

But with all that said, I think it’s high time to wrap up this article and thank you for reading this one. I hope you enjoyed reading this article and as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care. 

First Impression: Terraria (PC – Steam) ~ The Adventure Of Digging

headerSteam storeOfficial website

I know I was going to write another article this week, but I felt that I was pushing myself creatively too much so I decided to let my readers decide on which game I was going to write next. Twitter polls only give me 4 options and Terraria won. So, Terraria. A game that quite recently got it’s “final content update” not too long ago. So, in it’s “final form” is this game (still) worth playing? Let’s take a look at the game together in this article while I talk about my own opinion on the game and invite you to leave a comment with your opinion on this content of this article and/or the game. 

Editorial note: Review written while playing v1.4.1.2

The Adventure of Digging

There is no real story in this game. This game is an open world sandbox game. This game gets compared to games like Minecraft. Some even call(ed) it Minecraft 2D. But let me tell you, there is a lot more to this game than just a “simple Minecraft clone in 2D”.

The amount of differences in gameplay mechanics is so huge you can’t really compare Minecraft and Terraria a whole lot. I only use the comparison to say things like: “If you don’t know what Terraria is, think of Minecraft in 2D with some extremely interesting mechanics, richer combat, more bosses…”

I think it’s high time to talk about the “story” that exists in this game. Since there is some sort of a story in this game. I’m not going to talk too much in-depth about it, but if you want to know more… then I invite you to read the lore page on the Terraria Wiki. While in-game, you won’t really encounter this story so it’s an interesting additional piece of content for this game.

I’m going to apologize in advance if I compare this game a lot to Minecraft since this article comes from somebody who has been playing Minecraft for years upon years (since Beta 1.4 in 2011) and only recently got into Terraria. I have played it with some friends in the past but rarely on my own.

Now, I think this puts me in an position where I can take an interesting angle while reviewing/talking about this game. I think that’s it’s going to be very clear as soon as you read the following paragraphs. Now, this might mean that some things won’t get reviewed too in-depth to keep true to the theme of the article.

Terraria outdigs Minecraft

20201206145644_1I honestly enjoy Terraria more in the music department. While Minecraft has an amazing soundtrack, I feel that Terraria uses it’s music in a better way. Honestly, it has been quite some time since I played Minecraft with the in-game music simply I find Minecraft a bit too silent. But it’s quite rare to have a silent moment in Terraria. Also, it has a lot of unique music for each type of biome, boss and if you are underground or above ground…

Something I adore Terraria for is the fact it solves the issue a lot of players have with the early game grind. So, it works like this. When creating a character and when you create a world, you have to choose if you either play on Journey, Easy, Medium or Hardcore. If the world and character matches, you can enter the game. And here is the thing, you take your items and inventory with you.

So this means that you can take your strongest gear to a new world if you want to. That also means you can skip over the whole early game grind and directly get into the good stuff if you want. The only thing I could complain about this mechanic is that the menu UI is a bit clunky in that regard. I would have loved if the character selection screen and the world selection screen where combined. That would help switching between Classic and Journey mode so much easier. It also means you can play both Crimson and Corruption worlds with the same gear and character.

If you use a character created in the “Journey” difficult, you can even duplicate items when you have collected enough of a certain material. For example, if you collect roughly 400 pieces of a certain wood type, you can duplicate it. And guess what, this mechanic also transfers over to other worlds with the same character. You also have more control with this duplication mechanic like controlling time, weather, strength of the enemies among other things. Compare it a bit to commands in Minecraft with the duplication mechanic as an additional mechanic.

At first, I was afraid that this duplication mechanic was going to be overpowered. But I enjoy trying to collect every single variant that there is. There are a lot, but I mean a lot of items in Terraria, it’s not even funny.

Exploring and adventuring in Minecraft can be a lot of fun. Yet, at the moment of writing I feel that Terraria has a lot more to explore and do. Don’t get me wrong here, since it’s only by a slim margin. I feel that the dungeons and the progression is just a bit better implemented in this game than in Minecraft. But, I’m afraid that more big content updates like the Nether Update and Cave & Cliffs might give this point to Minecraft.

Now, something that Terraria nails over Minecraft is the combat. I find that the flow of the Terraria combat mechanics are a lot better than Minecraft’s. Also, there are much more way to fight your enemies than in Minecraft. From swords, throwing knifes, bows, morning star… In combat I love to use my sword for close by enemies and my bow for enemies further away.

There are also more bosses and enemies to fight in this game than in Minecraft. So, you can experiment with the different weapons that you can collect. Some weapons even have a special effect where you can spawn an ally and/or a pet. And then I haven’t started talking about the special armor that allows you to double jump, fly, climb walls….

Since that changes the gameplay quite a lot. There are various items that give you additional movement options and they all are unique and fun to play with. There is nothing to compare it with, since the enchantments in Minecraft compare more to stronger pickaxes or pickaxes of a certain material. Things like a double jump, wings, rocket boots… You have to juggle these items since you have a limited amount of slots to use. You also have the “social slots” that can also change your character’s appearance without showing your armor. The downside to it is that the effects of those items aren’t applied to you during gameplay.

One of the biggest advantages in my opinion is the fact that Terraria is on Steam and can use the Steam Cloud feature. This means that you can easily back-up your saves to the cloud and you don’t have to move files around when you play on another computer. I can only wish Minecraft had a similar system. I’m toying around with saving my worlds in my Dropbox folder but I don’t know how stable that will be.

Both reach the end

20201206145605_1Of course, there are things where I can’t pick a precise winner. There are things were I can’t say which game does it better. One of these things are the controls. Both games have amazingly solid controls. I’m purely talking about the PC versions since I haven’t played one second of Terraria on a console platform and I find Minecraft’s interface on console like the PS4 and Switch extremely clunky to use. But that’s my opinion and beyond the scope of this article.

The only minor nitpick I have with the Terraria controls is that I have a bit of trouble getting the grappling hook to work the way I want. But, I rarely use it so I haven’t given myself time to get used to it so yeah, that’s nitpicking.

If we would talk about difficulty, then you could either ask which one is the easier game but I rather ask the balance and progression. Both games have different mechanics and punishments. Both games have amazing difficulty settings so you can play the game at your own pace and difficulty. Both games have very different ways of punishing the player. Both games use beds to skip time and set spawn points of the player. The “biggest” difference is that there are items in Terraria that allows to warp to your spawn points when things get to hairy or your inventory is full. But this is only a one-way trip.

Minecraft has it’s hunger system to juggle while you have to juggle your mana use in Terraria. So picking a winner for who has the best difficulty system and things like that is impossible. Even when you are geared out the nose in both games, there are still things that can ruin your day so yeah.

Also, both games have a sort of achievement system where they teach you the game and nudge you in the right direction.

The next things were I can’t decide a winner is the visuals. While Terraria has a lot more items and animations than Minecraft, I feel that the smaller block pallet in Minecraft pushes the players to be a bit more creative with the items you have.

On one hand, the fact you can dress up your character to whatever you want in Terraria is an amazing feature but the skin layers in Minecraft is something that I have found something amazing to play around with too.

Also, I think it’s not even possible to pick a clear winner in terms of visuals and animations since both games aren’t even played on the same plain. Minecraft’s art needs to look good from every single angle while Terraria’s art “only needs to look good up front”. And both games pull it off extremely well. Biomes feel give the right feeling and the color pallet used in both games give them their own unique feel.

The villager system is something that I can’t find a winner for. Since Minecraft’s Village & Pillage update, the villager trading system is completely reworked with profession blocks and them having to restock. This makes trading now quite interesting since you need to level up your villagers by trading with them. In Terraria, there is this social system. You need to build houses for NPC’s to come and you have to puzzle them together. If you place certain NPC’s close together, it’s possible that you get locked out of certain items. And it also depends on your biome you build the house in. So, yeah. It’s a puzzle on it’s own.

Minecraft outdigs Terraria

20201205163138_1Now, there are somethings I prefer Minecraft’s way of doing over Terraria. Also, let me be clear here. The things that, in my opinion, Minecraft does better don’t mean that Terraria’s way of doing it is bad or broken perse. In terms of certain mechanics, there are things where I prefer Minecraft’s way of doing things over Terraria.

One of these things it the fact there is an infinite world in Minecraft and not in Terraria. Terraria’s world is large but when I created five different worlds, I found structures that weren’t there in my other worlds. Maybe it’s just me but I enjoy the fact that everything in the game can be found in the same world. Well, Terraria does have a more enjoyable map-system since you can more easily see everything you have explored so you can easily find your way back to a certain place…

Also, I miss some information from the F3 menu in Minecraft. Things like my coordinates, which biome I’m in… Those aren’t really present in Terraria. There are a few items in the game that give some information like your depth, but it takes up a slot in my inventory… So yeah.

Earlier I said that Terraria has a lot of items. I can also mention that Terraria also uses a ton of crafting stations. Now, if only there was some sort of recipe book like in Minecraft that would tell you which items you can craft and what the recipe is and which crafting station you need to use… That would have been great. I’m so glad that I have a second monitor attached to my PC so I can have the Wiki open when I quickly want to look up something.

But I find that Minecraft teaches the players a bit better with some landmarks and the recipe book on how the game works. For example, when you touch the water, you get the recipe for a boat. Or when you punch down a tree, you get the recipes for the wooden tools.

In Terraria, you have the guide explaining some of the recipes but I find that interface quite clunky to use. Especially since you can’t place workstations to see which items you can craft with them and the text can be barely readable since it’s one color. This UI isn’t the best.

Now there are three nitpicks I have with Terraria. The first is that when you press “esc”, you don’t pause the game. You don’t pause the game when you loose focus either. This let to some deaths, and even one while I was writing this article. But hey, this isn’t such a big deal when you get used to open the settings menu.

The second nitpick is that when you exit the game in Minecraft, you enter at the exact same location when you click the continue button. This isn’t true in Terraria. You enter at your spawn point.

And the 3rd and final one is that I would love to see or hear some drowning damage when you are drowning. Since now it simply slowly costs you health until you go above the water to breathe.

So, I think it’s high time for a conclusion since this article is getting rather long don’t you think?

Is Terraria a good game? 

To answer your question, yes. Terraria is a VERY good game. Is it better or worse then Minecraft? That’s a wrong question in my opinion. If you would ask: “if people who enjoy Minecraft will enjoy Terraria”. That would be a better question. The answer is yes by the way since I’m a great example and I know that there are a few other examples in my friend group as well.

Terraria and Minecraft are two very different games but they have some similar elements. Exploring their world and adventuring in it is an amazingly rewarding experience to play through.

Terraria is an addictive game with it’s amazing visuals and it’s freedom. I have sunken quite a few hours into it before I decided to write this review but I feel that a lot more time will be spent in this game before I decide to give the game a break.

I highly recommend this game to everybody who enjoys sandbox, adventure, RPG-games like Minecraft or Starbound. If even anything sounded remotely interesting to you, I encourage you to give this game a shot. Since I find that the negatives heavily outweigh the positives for Terraria.

So, with that said I think it’s time to wrap up this article. It was certainly an unique experience to review a game while comparing it to another one. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I would love it if I would be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

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!

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. 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!