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

PC game reviewGBC review

In the past, I have reviewed the two versions of one of the biggest games in my childhood. Ever since I saw Indiana Jones – Raiders of the Lost Arc, I was hooked. When my cousin showed me that he had a 3D PC adventure game starring Indiana Jones, I kept playing that game until the disc actually broke on me. Yes, that frequently. Also, I didn’t have a lot of access to the internet and also my native language isn’t English, so navigating the early internet was a challenge. So, beating this game without it being well known… Was a challenge. It was no Pokémon where you could ask things to other kids during recess. I played this game over and over again, and a while ago I started speedrunning it. And in this new series of articles, I’m going to talk about the routes/tips & tricks on speedrunning this game. I’m going to focus on the GBC version, since that’s the version I mostly run and know best.

Some background

Foremost, I want to give some additional background. Especially since this is the first article in a series. When I got the GBC version for my birthday one day, I was unable to beat it. I was unable to finish Shambala for the longest time. There are some unlogical things you have to do if you haven’t played the PC version or if you don’t try everything.

Fast-forward to last year in April. After re-playing the game for the “I lost count how many times” time on the PC, I wanted to challenge myself. So, I thought, why not speedrun the game. And then I started running the PC version. I started the “All Treasures category” in the PC version since the “Any%” category is quite optimized.

If you are already lost in what I’m saying let me quickly fill you in. A speedrun is a challenge you can do in a game where you have to beat a level or the full game as quickly as possible without cheating. Now, abusing game mechanics or glitches is allowed. Well, depending on the category and/or game. Some terms that speedrunners use are:

  • ILS: a term used when only one level is ran.
  • Any%: a term that’s used to indicate that the goal is beaten as fast as possible by skipping as much as possible.
  • Category: an example of a category is Any% or ILS. It’s a type of speedrun, basically. You either have the complete the whole level/game 100% as fast as possible or collect all X or not take damage or not abuse a certain glitch… It explains itself basically.
  • TAS: Tool Assisted Speedrun. This means that certain tools were used to create the run. For example, using save states to create the perfect run. (A save state is “save” that saves the current state of the game at the moment the save state is made and can be loaded by the press of a button). Tools like emulators to have better quality footage of the run aren’t always TAS runs, depends on the game/community.
  • Strats: just a sort of strategy/technique.
  • PB: personal best time.

Now, I’ll try to explain terms in my article. When you don’t understand a certain term or something written in this article, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section, and I’ll do my best to answer it. Anyways, let’s start with explaining the starts and such are used in the first level of the Game Boy Color version of the game.

Any%

The official rule set at the moment of writing:

Link to Speedrun.com page
The current world record at the time of writing is owned by Molotok who ran this level in 29 seconds.
My current best at the time of writing is 30 seconds, which earns me the second place.

In the Any% route of this level, you get directly introduced the one of the biggest tricks in this game and that’s ladder sniping.

You’d think that runners are jumping to their impending doom here. Yet, this isn’t true. In this game, when you jump down, and you grab a ladder, all movement and fall damage is canceled. After Indy slides down the ramp, almost directly to the right, you can find the ending of the level.

Sadly, there are some annoying parts of this ladder snipe. For of all, take this image. On there, I have drawn a blue line and a green line. Stating the obvious I know, but go with me.

When Indy slides down at the start of the level, he stops somewhere in the blue zone. Well, more in the middle of the ramp. But the annoying thing is that when you go directly to the right then, you’ll hit a wall.

If you want to beat the WR in this level, and you hit that starting wall, you might as well reset. This ladder snipe is so optimized that the world record hasn’t been tied yet. Even master PC/N64 runner the_kovic with his 30 second run has trouble matching that 29 seconds.

After falling down, you need to grab this ladder. Grabbing the ladder when falling down is dubbed a “ladder snipe” in our community. The following image is the frame I grabbed the ladder in my PB.

This is how Molotok got the ladder snipe:

A few pixels higher and a bit more in the middle. This meant he saves some milliseconds there and actually goes faster.

After that, it’s climbing up and going to the right:

Taken from Molotoks video of his 29 second speedrun.

See the green line? Well, that’s a jump. It’s a few frames faster than walking close to it and then jumping. After that, we walk diagonally and give or take at the black X, we jump.

Why a jump towards the ladder there? Well, climbing ladders in this game is extremely slow. The fewer time spent climbing ladders, the better. In this game, you don’t need to start at the bottom of the ladder to climb one. In this game, there are a few moments where you need to drop from the top of a ladder to the bottom of another one. This means, that as soon as Indy hits a ladder, and you hold up, the game’ll cling Indy to the ladder, and you can start climbing. The game automatically centers Indy into the middle of the ladder when you grabbed the sides while climbing upwards. This little jump (ab)uses on how the ladders work to shave off a few frames.

When climbing up the ladder, a trick comes which I have a hard time mastering. And that’s when you reach the top of the ladder, you can go a bit to the side to save a few frames. For some reason, I go too much to the left and fall off. So, that’s why I don’t do it in my run but other runners and the TAS of the Any% of this game does.

It basically looks like this, done by Molotok

After that, we go a little to the left and do two jumps in quick succession.

Still taken from my 30 seconds PB.

The second jump is basically to lower the climbing time.

Comparing my PB to the world record, I notice that it’s mostly movement based. The fact that my snipes usually a little lower, and I don’t do the trick at the top of ladders. This costs me a ton of frames, making my 30 seconds run a bit slower compared to the world record.

After reaching the top, you have give or take 5 seconds of a small cutscene. I highly recommend you mash the A button at that time, since the faster the text box goes away, the better.

Now, when you do this ladder snipe and go for any%, the ending of this level is a bit different. The final scorpion isn’t present at ladder and Sophia doesn’t appear in the end credits scene. I honestly don’t know why, but it’s a unique difference between the Any% route and the “All Treasures route”.

Feedback requested

Now, before I get into the “All treasures” route of this level and the differences in a full game run and an ILS, I want to wrap up this article here. Because I want to hear from you all what you think. Would you want more articles like this? Where I talk about the route, techniques and all that? Do you want it in a different structure or in a different way? Is everything clear or are some parts confusing?

Writing about my speedrunning experiences is something I wanted to do for quite a while. Especially since this blog is a sort of diary of my gaming life and beside in update articles or on my Twitter, I haven’t really talked too in depth on my speedrunning. And since the PC & N64 routes are quite well documented, I thought it would be fun to do that for the GBC as well in my unique way.

I thought writing an article on my blog, giving the game more exposure would be way more fun than; how I wrote that guide about the locations of all the treasures in the PC version you can find on the resources page on the Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine speedrun page. So, this is really an experimental article and depending on your feedback… I’ll continue this series and/or improve it accordingly.

Thank you so much for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed it. I know it’s something else besides my usual game reviews and such, but I felt refreshed writing about something different and still have it game related. I enjoyed writing this so much, and I can’t wait to see, hear and read the reactions. If you all enjoy this, this’ll become another series on my blog until I have talked about every level in the game and talked about the full game runs.

And with that said, I think I have to say goodbye for now. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article about speedrunning this game and/or me talking about another game. But until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Interview with NekoJonez by the Well-Red Mage

Today I want to bring you an article from a website that has totally rebranded. The website is of a good friend of mine, the Well Red Mage. Together with a lot of other co-writers he runs the amazing the-pixels.com. Before the rebranding, he did a series where he interviewed other bloggers. Now, during the rebranding, the decision was made to remove these articles. Since I personally really liked the article, I asked if I was allowed to rehome it. He agreed that I was allowed to republish the article and give it a new home here. An editorial note: this article was published at least 7 years ago. Around 2015-2016. Some information is out-of-date, and some branding has totally changed. But, please do enjoy this old blast from the past.

“Sharing your thoughts and feelings can help so much since you can feel so connected with people going through the same things.”

For our sixth blogger interview I had the pleasure of corresponding across the wide oceans with the collector extraordinaire, NekoJonez of arpegi.wordpress.com. I had a great time chatting and getting some substantial responses! If you’re interested in joining our series of interviewees, but don’t know how, then improve ze mind! Check out our post “Introducing Blogger Interviews“.

“Hello again, NekoJonez!
It is about time we started your interview! Yay, get excited! Let’s start off with the question: How long have you been a gamer?”

“Hello there, I’m pretty excited to do this. I have been a gamer since I was about 4 years old. The year was 1996. I got my first experiences with early computer games and the best handheld line ever made; the Game Boy and DS line. I wasn’t allowed to play consoles when I was a child and I didn’t get a lot of computer time… So, I played a lot on my Game Boy. I ran through so many batteries when I was little, I think the battery companies earned a fortune from my pocket money. Mario & Yoshi, Pokémon, Pac-Man, Tetris, Zelda: Link’s Awakening are just a few games I have played back then.”

Can’t go wrong with the Game Boy. Such an influential system and so accessible for us as children. What was your favorite game for the original green and black Game Boy?

“That’s a very difficult question to answer. Since there have been so many great titles on the green & black Game Boy. Games like Kirby’s Dreamland, Zelda: Link’s Awakening, Super Mario Land 2 are honorable mentions. But if I have to choose, I have to go for the most predictable of them all. Pokémon Red & Blue. There is no game in the Game Boy library that can top that and the childhood memories it created. But, truth to be told, I started playing on the Game Boy Color quite quickly since the old Game Boy brick broke… Thanks to battery acid. Yeah. Right before my birthday. Not too long after, I got my own Game Boy Color, which I still own.”

“Ooh, rest in peace, classic Game Boy.
Wherever you are. Great list of games by the way. It’s hard to overstate how insane those original Pokémon games were when they came out. Still remember your favorite first-gen Pokémon?”

“Yes, and my favorite first-gen Pokémon isn’t picked because it’s the strongest or the best Pokémon in the generation… It’s just because both my nickname and my personality. Also, I loved his character in the anime! Yes, it’s the cat Pokémon, Meowth. The Alola region variant is also in my personal favorite color. Silver-y. . Little story time: I was known as the catlover in primary school and when we played Pokémon on the playground; I always got the role of Meowth or Giovanni. Which is strange, since I’m kindhearted and caring by nature.”

“I can hear Meowth’s grating voice and urban accent already!
So beyond a love for Game Boy, tell us a little more about yourself!”

 “I’m NekoJonez. A 23-year Belgian man who works in education. My biggest hobbies are writing, playing games, blogging and acting on stage. Besides games, I like to watch anime to chill. I’m also studying to have a bachelor’s degree in computer science. I love playing games, it doesn’t matter to me when they are released. … Oh, before I forget, I also collect games since I was a child. So, I’m quite proud of my collection too.” 🙂

“Where did the name NekoJonez come from? Neko is ‘Cat’ in Japanese is it not?
I’m guessing Meowth maybe had something to do with that.”

“Well, it has a history. Neko is indeed the Japanese for cat. Because I love cats and I have a big interest in everything that’s Japanese… I added Neko to my nickname. But that addition was only added like 5-6 years ago. Jonez comes from something else. When I was 7 years old, I think, my aunt and I went to a video rental store. I was allowed to rent Indiana Jones and The Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Oh man, I was hooked. My cousin got this amazing PC game of Indiana Jones. It was called, The Infernal Machine. And yeah, I know it from the first level to the last by heart. And because of that, people started calling me Jones. And… as a child I was afraid for getting sued for copyright, so I changed the last letter to a ‘Z’.”

“That’s a charming story! So you’re like a feline treasure hunter. From Belgium!
Are the waffles really famous there?”

“Kind of, but there is one Belgian product way more popular: French fries. In some households it’s a big tradition to go and get fries each week. We also have special stores that only sell French Fries and special meat with it, besides the usual chains. But the waffles are most popular in our capital with tourists. I personally love the one with chocolate on top and sugar in it. Man, those are tasty.”

“Now I want waffles…
How long have you been writing/blogging for and how did you get started? Was it like a sudden epiphany or something?”

“The writing is something that started when I was a child. When I watched movies, read a book, played a game… I was so interested in why people got drawn into the story. So, I tried to write my own. With various levels of success. I once got in the finals of a competition in early high school with a story I wrote in 15 minutes. But in 2010, I thought to myself…. What if I can share my love of games with the world and start reviewing? I’m not too good at designing and things like that, so I ditched the video review idea. I still wanted to share my gaming life with my family, so I can avoid the usual questions of ‘what are you playing and what do you think of it?’ Around early May 2010, I created my blog. I first started to write in Dutch. Since I wanted to share my reviews and such with my family and friends. That was a fun journey. It taught me a lot on the basics of blogging. I once got into a small argument with a TV-channel here. In 2013, I both stopped my Dutch blog, archived it and replaced it with my current English blog. And when my articles got picked up by other blogs, my own blog started growing.”

“That’s pretty cool writing in different languages.
What was the argument with the TV-channel about?”

“Well, it was right around the first E3 presentation of the 3DS. Back then, there was a Belgian gaming TV-channel covering the event. And when the Nintendo event got covered, they did it in such a bad manner… I wrote a lengthy article about it, giving my views and arguments on it. To my surprise, in the next episode, they mentioned my blog by name! They also left a comment on my blog kindly inviting me to the studio to record an episode with them. Sadly enough, I wasn’t able to go, but I still have the article and comment archived somewhere. But yeah, TV-exposure really boosted my blog and from then on out, I went from 2-5/visitors a day to 20-50/visitors a day. And it was a big boost for me since they actually agreed with some of my arguments! Sadly enough, I haven’t recorded the actual shout out and the TV-channel doesn’t exist anymore. Otherwise, I would have posted a link, so it could be added in this interview.”

“Wow, that’s some really awesome exposure.
What are your current thoughts on Nintendo, the Switch or the NES Mini?”

“About the NES Mini, I’m both happy and afraid. I’m happy that people get to play retro games on a dedicated box. This would put retro games more in the spotlight. It does make me afraid though, since now it’s possible I get even more competition when I’m hunting games down at garage sales and flea markets. And the Nintendo Switch looks like an amazing concept to me. Like, it’s almost made for me. I love playing my handheld since I’m on the go a lot. But when I’m home, I can play my games on a big screen. LOVELY. I know that Skyrim is being ported to the Switch, but if I may choose one game that could be ported to the Switch, it’s the Bioshock Trilogy. But the Nintendo Switch has a ton of potential, and I’m avoiding reading up about it as much as I can. So, I can be blown away and amazed when it comes out.” 

“I think I can echo most of those thoughts as well.
Here in the states, the accessibility of the NES Mini is next to nothing. Like it’s impossible to find. I’ve got a visually retro themed blog, so obviously I’d like to get my hands on it whenever that becomes possible. I’m excited about the Nintendo Switch too! Tell me, what would be the best thing you think the Switch could do to be amazing, and conversely what would absolutely ruin the Switch for you?”

“The Switch would be great if it enhanced our way of play. I would love to see games take advantage of the fact that the Switch is portable and a console. Just imagine for a second, you go on a physical Pokémon hunt and when you plug the Switch in, you can have Pokémon battles on a big screen. Think of the possibilities.

“What would ruin the Switch for me is when the battery life sucks. It’s marketed as being portable and fun for the whole family. Also, I hope that the first games that are released for it isn’t all Wii U ports. I want something new and fresh in the launch titles too. But actually thinking about it… Something that raises a red flag is the facts it’s portable too. I am worried that developers will have trouble with it. Since the way how handheld games work versus console games… Time will tell on that. We could spend hours and hours speculating about amazing ideas and red flags for the Switch, but I think we should wait for when more information drops.”

“The battery life will be a big one for sure.
What about your collection you’re so proud of? Care to share more on that?”

“I have been a collector for a long time. It all started because my family and parents found games too expensive to buy. So, when they found out that you can buy big titles on a garage sale, they took me to garage sales. And I love it. Now, I go to various garage sales and thrift stores to let my collection grow. I also talk to coworkers and friends and ask them if they don’t need their old games anymore. So, most of my collection comes from there. I have posted some pictures a while ago, but I always wanted to write and create an updated list of my collection, but it’s such a big project, I rarely find the time for it. I love getting up early to go and buy games for my collection. Something I’m most proud of is the fact that I have a collection with games that interest me, have a history, can be interesting to review on my blog, have some major value. I also have one rule, I try to avoid buying games on sites like eBay or buying them online. I wish to find them all in the wild. And that’s something else I’m quite proud of.”

“That is really cool! You must have some good luck with thrift stores and yard sales.
Seems like nobody in my town is selling stuff like this anymore. What is one of the rarest items in your collection? And which item are you most proud of?”

“Well, I have two different versions of Pokémon Crystal v1.0 and v1.1, I have StarFox on the SNES boxed. I also have a means to play almost every Zelda game released. The most rare items are a few games that were only released here in Belgium. Like educational titles. Those are extremely hard to find in my native language. And some educational titles from other countries in Europe that got translated into English. I enjoy playing educational titles once in a while. Freddi Fish is one of my childhood favorites. If I have to pick the item I’m most proud off, well… It’s my (3)DS. Since I have played so many games on both those devices, it’s ridiculous.”

“That’s awesome! Sounds like a breathtaking collection.
I wish I could just come over for the weekend to hang out. Haha! Well in wrapping this up let me ask you for a bit of encouraging wisdom, if I may. There are many people who are lonely this time of year. What would you say to some of them if you could?”

“If you have family, go and do something with your family. If you have a pet, give it an additional present this time of year. Also, don’t stay lonely. Go out in the world and explore. Go to events and try to enjoy yourself. Instead of keeping the feeling inside, seriously talk about it with family and friends. Seriously, life will be a lot more fun this way. You will have a lot more stories and experiences. And honestly, start to blog and/or vlog. Sharing your thoughts and feelings can help so much since you can feel so connected with people going through the same things.”

“I hope those words touch someone who needs to hear them.
Well, it’s been a real pleasure talking with you across the oceans! Thanks very much for spending your time with me.”

“You’re welcome. Thanks for the interview! Have a great rest of your day!”

End Transmission.

NekoJonez March 2022 Update

It’s time to write a new update article, since a lot is changing and happening. Especially on my blog! I have done a lot of work and changed a lot of things around. Apart from that, I have several things to talk about that I want to share with my fellow readers as well. So, allow me to update you all on what’s going on. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and/or opinions on this article.

Big blog updates

A few weeks ago, I started to work on my new overview page. If you read back in various older update articles, I always mentioned I wanted to rework those pages to merge them into one or have them better structured. Currently, I’m slowly moving all my content over to the new structure. If you have any feedback on the structure/lay-out or content of that page, feel free to contact me or leave a comment here. The main idea is to have one overview page where you can easily see and find all the content I have written. It’ll be a sort of big hub page basically.

While moving over all the content of the old overview pages to the new page, I noticed a lot of old articles that don’t serve any purpose anymore. For example, articles talking about when I used to create let’s plays on my blog or articles which not really belong on a personal gaming blog. So, I have, and I’m doing some spring-cleaning. I’m either editing these articles to update them or deleting them if they don’t need to be a part of my blog anymore.

Talking about editing old articles… If you didn’t know, my native language isn’t English. It’s actually Dutch. Now, I’m currently 29 years old, and I have been writing this blog since 2013. Let’s ignore me writing a personal blog since 2010 for now. Anyway, I noticed that in my old articles… my English has a lot of grammar mistakes and typo’s.

Besides my English improving, I have also learned quite a lot about how to market articles and make them easy to find. That’s why I’m also doing a lot of SEO work for my blog. From removing old numbering systems to making titles and such more searchable. On top of that, I’m also removing “dead links”, like links to websites that aren’t around anymore or removed store pages. Also, I’m trying to fix every broken image on my blog.

So, basically I decided to clean up my blog by removing old unneeded articles, fixing typo’s & grammar mistakes, fixing broken links & images… and letting this all come together in a new overview page. That’s the long and short of it.

This new overview page and the spring-cleaning is something that I’m unable to complete in a few days. Until it’s complete, I’ll have the “BETA” tag there and a note on the old overview pages that I’m moving the content.

You might notice that I have deleted the Tumblr blog that was connected to my blog. That’s because I notice barely any visitors coming from Tumblr to my blog or any interaction on Tumblr itself. On top of that, because of the spring-cleaning… I don’t feel like tracking down the deleted content on Tumblr as well. And since I don’t maintain my Tumblr… I felt I had enough reasons to just delete it.

And finally, I have updated my blogroll and links everywhere. I have deleted links to old platforms I’m not using anymore, and I have added links to platforms I’m now quite active on. To avoid dating this article too much, I’m not going to list them here, but you can see them on the sidebar of my blog.

If you notice any strange things during my spring-cleaning, feel free to DM me on Twitter or use my contact page to contact me. I’m a human being and overlooking things is totally possible.

Personal things and such

Besides that spring-cleaning, I have a few other plans for my blog but let’s first start with that spring-cleaning and finishing that before I even start on my other plans. Anyway, what’s keeping me busy outside the blogging world? Well, first, I got my hands on a PS Vita! I always hesitated if I should buy a PS Vita or not and when I saw one for quite cheap a month ago on a second hand website, I didn’t hesitate for a second. This means that I’m also in the market for hidden gems on the PS Vita. If you know of any, feel free to let me know. And maybe, I’m going to talk about that game in the future.

I might have talked about this earlier, but I finally got a fixed contract for my dream job now. And not only that, I got it full time! I work as an IT admin for two big Belgian art schools in Ghent. Since I was young, I always wanted to do something with computers and IT. Also, most of my family were teachers or did something education related. So, it’s the perfect combination.

Since I love my job so much, a lot of my time and energy is going towards that. That’s one of the biggest reasons I’m writing less lately. To balance writing and my job to avoid burnout.

Outside of writing articles and playing games, I do have other hobby’s. I’m also a speedrunner for Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine. Quite recently, I improved a lot of my records of the “Any% category” and the “All Treasures (No Peru)” full game runs of the Game Boy Color version. From time to time, I’m doing attempts to try and lower my records.

I’m also still quite active on the Polyglot side of WordPress. I help to translate WordPress theme’s and plugins to my native language. Furthermore, I’m also an editor for all themes and plugins for the nl_NL locale (Dutch – Netherlands) and a global editor for the nl_BE (Dutch – Belgium) locale. I love translating and helping to improve WordPress to make it an even better blogging platform.

For the release of WordPress 5.9, I have also submitted my first piece of code to WordPress itself. It is mainly translator notes, so other translators don’t mistranslate certain sections of WordPress. I also helped with some UI related things.

So, that’s how I’m filling my free time outside of playing games, writing articles and maintaining this blog. And that’s also everything I had for this update. I want to thank you so much for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to welcome you in another one but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

The TEN best GAMES of 2021 – NekoJonez Edition

What a year, 2021 was. While I haven’t been able to write as much as I wanted to, I still had an amazing eventful year. A lot of incredible things happened, like the Pokémon collab, me blogging for 11 years, my start in speedrunning, and a lot more. Besides that, my personal life was quite eventful and in all the chaos of 2021, I did have a stunning year. I was able to realize a lot of projects and achieve a lot of my goals. I’m enjoying life more and more, and I’m personally quite excited for 2022 since I have various personal things to look forward to. But it’s high time that I make that incredibly difficult to make list at the end of the year. Which 10 games were my favorite games of 2021? And if this is your first time reading one of these end-of-the-year lists of mine, let me fill you in on what puts my list apart from the others. On this list, only the games that I have started playing in the past year count. The release year doesn’t matter. If I started playing this year and I thought it was amazing, it’s going to deserve a spot on this list. So, are you ready? Since it’s high time to get listing!

Editorial note: some of these games are multi-platform, but the platform between brackets is the platform I played the game on.

#10 – Age Of Empires IV (PC – October 2021)

It’s here and it’s a great game. After years and years of improving the original trilogy, expanding the originals with new DLC… We got Age Of Empires IV. But, I wish I was able to place this game higher on my list.

It does so much for the RTS genre, but there is one thing that frustrates me with this game. There aren’t enough unique mechanics for this game to stand out. It almost feels like a well-balanced mix between Age of Empires 2 and 3.

But, that is what 2022 is going to be for. There is new content coming for this game in 2022, and maybe it will make this game stand out a bit more. Now, don’t get me wrong. This isn’t a bad game by any stretch. This game is amazing, and I can’t wait to play even more. If only I didn’t get too distracted by the other games on this list.

#9 – World’s End Club (Nintendo Switch – September 2020)

My review

I have to admit, I didn’t get what I expected from this game. I expected a death game, but I got a mediocre platformer with hints of horror.

But, the atmosphere of this game is what made me fall in love with this game. I’m so glad that the game doesn’t take itself too seriously and goes overboard with being silly. This game has its flaws, for sure, but the great moments hold this game together quite well.

Just thinking about this game while writing this section of the article, I was smiling. Because of the joyful memories that were returning from this game. If only the game was polished a bit more and the game went a bit more in-depth with its mechanics, this game would be so much better.

But still, I enjoyed my time with this game enough to give it a well-deserved spot in my top 10 games list of 2021.

#8 – Lenna’s Inception (PC – January 2020)

My first impression

At certain moments, I just know what a certain game is going to end up on my top 10 games of the year list. While I don’t know on which spot yet, I do know it’s a runner-up.

While playing Lenna’s Inception, I was hooked right away. It scratched that itch of playing a new 2D Zelda-style game perfectly. This indie game did so many great things, like randomizing dungeons, co-op, and various other things. Since I got this game for free in an Itch.io bundle and I enjoyed this game so much, I decided to buy a copy on Steam, so I could support the developers.

And the developer is already working on their next game called Cassette Beasts, and it looks like it’s going to be even bigger and better than this game. So, I have my eyes on this indie studio for sure! And ByttenStudio, thank you for bringing this amazing top-down Zelda game to the table!

#7 – Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl (Nintendo Switch, November 2021)

My article on the originals

Back in 2019, I wondered if we ever would see a remake of the 4th gen Pokémon games. A generation that has a lot of nostalgic memories for me.

The first time I played the game was on a family trip. I brought Pokémon Ruby with me, and another kid I met there brought Pokémon Pearl. He always wanted to play Ruby and I wanted to play Pearl. So, we agreed to meet in the lounge each evening and play each other’s games for the whole night. Which led to the creation of a Gameboy club. Before I ramble on about this for too much, I highly recommend you to read that story I linked there.

Anyway, I also remember buying this game and giving the rest of my Christmas money to my sister, so we could buy Nintendogs together. I could go on for hours and hours about my memories with the originals. So, I had high hopes for the remakes.

I think I’ll go more in-depth about the remakes in a future article, but I have to say that even when it’s a bit clunky sometimes, the remakes are amazing! I so love playing through the adventure of the 4th generation again.

#6 – Persona 5 Strikers (Nintendo Switch, February 2021)

Look, my article is linked here!

At first, I was afraid that this game was going to be another Dynasty Warriors spin-off game, but I’m so glad that it’s not. This game is just like all other Persona games, but when you enter combat… Then it’s a Dynasty Warriors-ish kind of gameplay.

I found the mix and cross-over of these two gameplay styles amazing. While I still have to beat this game, I know that I’m going to enjoy it. This game just made me fall in love with the Persona series even more.

I still have to beat this game. Currently, I’m over the midway point. I recently picked the game up again after being distracted by other games, and I still had so much fun. So, I know that I’ll spend those boring train rides to work with Joker and his friends fighting crime.

#5 – Prey (PC, May 2017)

This isn’t a link… wait, it is. To my article.

One of my favorite atmospheric shooters series is Bioshock. I just had so much fun playing through that trilogy. Now, this year I gave Prey (2017) a try, and I was brought back right away to that amazing feeling of exploring a destroyed world with special powers.

And not only that, anything could be an enemy. The number of times, I jumped from my chair by a mimic suddenly appearing. It isn’t even funny anymore. I was so glad that I could play this game throughout my summer break. Now, I just hope that the rumors of a sequel are true since I would love to play through even more of this concept, this style of gameplay. Oh, I cross my fingers.

I just love the atmosphere in this game. You never knew you were safe or not until it was, sometimes, too late. And the limited amount of ammo and resources made me always feel on edge. The only thing I didn’t really like was how there were a bit too many quests going on at once, and it was a bit hard to keep track of which ones you are doing. Oh well, pen and paper are handy in those cases.

#4 – The Survivalist (PC, October 2020)

This game came out of nowhere. Seriously, only yesterday I decided to claim all my Humble Bundle games from my subscription and I decided to give this game a go.

Well, I’m not ashamed in saying that I already played this game for close to 14 hours already. And because of games like these, I always wait until one of the last days of the year to finalize this list.

This game will get its own full article but let me tell you, this game hits all the right notes for me. While playing this game, I get so nostalgic for The Sims 2 – Castaway on the DS. (On which I still have to write an article.) Throw a few bits of Minecraft and Terreria in there and mix it with the unique monkey mechanic, and you have this game.

If you like survival games or adventure games which are a bit more slow-paced, give this game a shot. It’s really well-made, and I can’t wait for what will come of this game. Full article to come.

#3 – The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles (Nintendo Switch, July 2021)

I’m really holding myself back in trying to not go too in-depth about this game in this article. Since Adventure Rules and I are working on something special.

A special article about this game. An article where we shall explain how we feel about this game. But, that’s all I’ll reveal for now… We are currently aiming to finish that article somewhere in January – February. But, it will all depend on our schedules. It was supposed to be finished somewhere this year, but my personal life just got too busy and I got focused on too many other projects. Anyway, all I’ll reveal for now is that there are some reasons why I don’t put this game as number 1 and why it’s so high on the list.

For those who don’t really know me, I’m a huge fan of visual novel games that have gameplay and puzzle elements like the Ace Attorney series, but also like the Zero Escape series or Death Mark. But, there are two games that topped this game, which was going to be my number 1 until I played the following two games.

#2 – SuperLiminal (Nintendo Switch, November 2019)

Don’t have to resize this article link

Man, this game took me by surprise. This rather short game with amazing visual puzzles took me on a trip.

Not only did the ending make me cry and made me think about certain things, but it also made me happy that there is a game that dares to ask those questions.

If PillowCastle or the developers read this article by any chance… Please, make more content or a sequel to this game. The concept, the story, and the ideas presented in this game are just… The potential is through the roof. If you want to know more about my thoughts and opinions on this game, please read my article about it.

Honorable mentions

These are the games that just didn’t make my top 10 list. But still, I want to mention them.

Haven (Nintendo Switch), Going Under (PC), Blue Dragon (XBOX 360), The Ship – Single Player (PC), Mystik Belle (Nintendo Switch), Neutopia (Wii U – Virtual Console), Pokémon XD Gale of Darkness (Gamecube), We Happy Few (PC), There Is No Game (Nintendo Switch), Super Metroid (SNES), L.A. Noire (XBOX 360).

And let me tell you, it was a hard list to put together. I had re-arranged this list MULTIPLE times. Each game is amazing in its own right. And believe me, I’m certain that if you ask me to make this list at a later date, it’s quite possible that this whole list has another ranking. (Apart from a few titles)

So, yeah. Let’s just say that if you haven’t given these games a chance, you don’t know what you are missing out on. And I’m also sorry for the various amount of games I haven’t included in my honorable mentions list because I haven’t played them enough or just forgot that I started to play them this year…

But enough stalling, let’s talk about my number 1 of 2021.

#1 – Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc (Nintendo Switch, December 2021)

It’s no secret that I love adventure mystery games like Ace Attorney, Zero Escape, Corpse Party, Bioshock… And when I saw in a Nintendo Direct, that Danganronpa was coming to the Nintendo Switch in December, I didn’t hesitate twice.

As soon as I had the budget, I bought the three games, and I’m currently playing the final two cases of the second one. At this moment, it’s kind of hard to decide if I should put the original or the sequel here on the number one spot since they both deserve it.

After I finished Zero Time Dilemma way back in 2016, I always wanted to play another trilogy with just the same amount of amazing twists, well-written characters, and amazing gameplay. And this series delivers that in spades. I honestly don’t want to finish this series, since I’m enjoying it that much. I want it to continue. But then again, the saying: “Don’t cry because it’s over, slime because it happened” applies here.

So, I’m so going to enjoy the final parts of the Danganronpa series and for my full thoughts and opinions, you’ll have to wait for the full article next year on these games. But, these games provide everything I’m looking for in a mystery adventure game and hits all the right beats. So, yeah. I would be ashamed if I didn’t place this game/series at my number 1 spot.

Wrapping up 2021

Sadly, due to me writing less and also focusing on other projects like contributing to open-source software, speedrunning and such… I have seen a drop in the number of visitors to my blog. I actually halved the number of visitors this year compared to 2020. But, I’m not sad about that.

When I look at the data, it turns out that I have more returning visitors and that my articles are performing better compared to last year. Also, I broke various milestones this year, like beating my day record twice AND breaking the 100k views barrier. I can’t thank you, my readers, enough for that.

I want to thank everybody who made my 2021 such an amazing year. I find it mind-blowing that people take time out of their day to read my articles, where I just talk about what I think about the games I play. And also talk to me about it, ask advice or questions. Looking back at what I wrote in the past 11 years, I think I created something to be proud of.

So, thank you for making 2021 amazing for me. I can’t wait to see what 2022 will bring. There are a few things I know that are going to happen in my personal life, which makes me even more excited to start 2022. And with that, 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!

First Impression: Arietta of Spirits (Switch) ~ Being Bound

Nintendo.com subsiteOfficial website

Family traditions are such a big part of families. One of the biggest family traditions in my family is that at least one person goes to the seaside each and every year. It’s a tradition I don’t want to see end since it brings back so many memories, and it’s also where my love for collecting games started. The amount of garage sales and flea markets I did at the seaside, I can’t count on two hands. Anyway, today I want to talk about a game that means a lot to me currently and also talks about family traditions. And that’s Arietta of Spirits. A little indie game by Third Spirit Games and Red Art Games. It caught my attention since it looked like an interesting Zelda-ish clone, and it reminded me of games like Blossom Tales. But is this game as good as that one? Let’s find out together, shall we? But before we start, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on the game and/or the content of this article.

Being bound

In this game, you take on the role of Arietta. After the passing of her grandmother, here family takes a trip to her house on the island. Now, it doesn’t take a long time before Arietta discovers that she has a special ability when she meets a mysterious friend. She can see and talk to the spirits on the island. And not only that, she can help them move on.

Currently, I’m midway in the story and while this game has a good setting, writing and atmosphere, I feel that’s something is missing. The story is currently a bit “loose”. There is not really an overarching reason to move the story forward. If you asked me to explain what happens in the story of this game, I can talk about the characters you meet and their stories but the reason why you meet these characters and what Arietta’s end goal is… I can’t tell. Of course, there is a line in the story that “explains” it, but it’s so generic…

Now, this doesn’t mean that this game has a weak story. Far from it. The character development and writing in this game is pretty nice. But, there is a lot of wasted potential because this game is rather short. There is so much more that can be done with the story and idea, but the game is over when it really gets started.

There is no real voice acting in this game apart from some grunts by our main character. So, if you don’t like that, this isn’t the game for you. Yet, the dialogues are somewhat fast-paced and flow pretty nicely. One of the taglines of this game is that this game doesn’t have a lot of filler moments and this is quite true. This game has some side quests but barely any filler at all. Yet, I felt that some moments might have left a bigger impact if the story didn’t go on such a break neck speed.

Entry level Zelda game

If you have played games like Blossom Tales or any 2D Zelda game, you’ll feel right at home. This game is your typical 2D Zelda game where you go from dungeon to dungeon and defeat bosses. Well, they aren’t really dungeons, it is more themed area’s, but explaining that would spoil parts of the story. But, there are some unique mechanics in this game.

For example, there are two types of enemies. The first type are your normal overworld enemies. And sadly, they are your “generic” bee/bats. But, they have interesting movement patterns and learning and avoiding them is quite fun. Apart from maybe dropping a health pick-up, these enemies aren’t anything to write home about.

The other type of enemies are the “spirit” enemies. These are trickier to defeat, and after defeating these, you’ll earn crystals. Earn enough crystals to fill up a demon core, and Arietta grows stronger. It’s quite easy to farm these crystals, since enemies respawn when you leave and re-enter the area. But, I dislike the fact that when a certain core is filled, you can’t pick up any more crystals. Well, you can pick them up, but it doesn’t raise your total.

So, when you have enough crystals to power up your Roamer Cores, power it up right away. Otherwise, you’ll lose various crystals and have to grind for them. You can power your core up in the inventory menu under “Roamer Cores”.

Speaking of the inventory menu, why are there two menus in the Switch version? You have a pause menu and an inventory menu. The pause menu is opened with the “+” button and the inventory menu with the “-” button. It trips me up. Then again, I totally understand why this is the case in how the menus are designed. That’s why I call the “-” the inventory menu since it’s really the menu where you can see the inventory, your goals, your achievements… While the pause menu is more of an options menu.

A bit higher, you can see the inventory menu. From that screenshot, you can also see the various other mechanics. Like, the tasks where you have to find hidden items and the amount of hidden spirit cubs you have found. Now, you might think that you’ll need the item’s menu often, but alas. The opposite is true.

There aren’t a lot of puzzles in this game. I’m even having a hard time saying there are puzzles in this game. Maybe the fact that you need to figure out how to defeat the bosses most optimally but other than, that… There aren’t really any puzzles in this game. And if there are, they aren’t cryptic or challenging enough to matter.

Something that’s extremely puzzling is the fact that there is no world map of any kind to speak off. Thankfully, this isn’t a huge game, but the lack of a world map really hurts sometimes. Especially when I want to explore an area to complete a task. It adds so much more time roaming around. You could also argue that it makes the game a bit more realistic since when you are exploring an island, you don’t have a map either… But you can either make one or have a map printed out from the internet.

Once you get the hang of the responsive and easy to master controls, this game isn’t too challenging at all. This game really feels like it’s an entry level adventure game. And you can look at this in two ways. It can be either a relaxing time to enjoy the story, but it can be boring since it’s not “engaging” or challenging.

Thankfully, this game has difficulty options. I started on the normal difficulty and found it too easy. So, after getting halfway in the game, I wanted a bit more challenge. So, I had to use the dodge, shield mechanics more to defeat enemies and not rely on health drops from cutting down bushes. I wanted to start a new save file on extreme, and I learned I wasn’t able to skip cutscenes. I sighed, and I continued playing my “normal difficulty” save file. I can totally understand that when you play through a game for this first time you are unable to skip cutscenes, but the fact you can unlock an additional difficulty after beating the game and the fact I can’t skip cutscenes worries me a bit. But, maybe you have that option then…

Joyful lost

So, because this game doesn’t have a world map… I have to admit that I got lost a few times. But, it didn’t matter too much. I really enjoyed being able to explore the island. Especially since the pixel art and design of this game is gorgeous. I really love the visual presentation of this game. I also love the animation quite a lot.

The animation makes the game a lot more immersive, but it makes the game also easier. Since the enemies telegraph their attacks so bluntly, it makes it easier to avoid. Now, there is this small mechanic that I really like.

At first, I wanted to talk about how when you have low health in this game, you barely get any feedback from the game. But then, I noticed something. My joycons vibrated in a heart beat whenever I was on low health. This is genius. The only small touch I would add is a bit more visual feedback on the screen since when you are fighting, you might miss that rumbling, especially since you are quite focused on dodging enemies and such.

Something I also quite like in this game is how the roll is handled. You can roll around to get faster to your destination, but you have stamina. The more you roll, the more fatigued Arietta gets and the shorter her rolls are. You can see how tired Arietta is by the amount of sweat dripping down her face. This really makes me think what the most optimal way is to roll and go fast. Since, there is no sprint button.

Sometimes, I got lost in area’s with a lot of enemies. The first time I got a game over, I was quite worried where I was going to respawn. But, this game is quite forgiving in that. You respawn at the start of the screen you died at. When you die at a boss, you start right at the beginning of the battle. It’s quite nice to get directly back into the action and not have to go through the whole dialogue of the boss again or having lost a lot of progress. The game auto-saves every time you change in a screen.

The final thing I want to talk about is the audiovisual presentation of this game. Let’s start with the sound effects. These are amazing. The sound effects really help you to prepare yourself for the upcoming map and to take the right actions in combat. For example, the flying bat screeches before it flies at you, so when you hear it… You know that it’s time to dodge. But, the sound effects can be helpful too to find cubs. When you get close to one, you hear it shouting. It has a distinct sound effect that really helped me find the more hidden ones.

This brings me to the music of this game. The calm vibe and atmosphere of the game really comes through in the music. The soundtrack mostly feels like lounge and relaxing music. But, it can be quite tense when it needs to. Especially the battle music. But it fits the game like a glove.

Now, what do I think overall of this game? I haven’t beaten it yet, but what is my conclusion after getting past the midway point of this game? The charm and love of this game is something quite unique. This game does have some flaws like no overworld map, more puzzles, being able to skip cutscenes…

But, what bothers me the most is that the potential of this story and setting isn’t used to its full potential in this short game. Yet, like I said earlier, the charm of this game makes up for quite a lot of it. I can totally understand that some people might not really like this game or get bored with it, but this game really got its hooks in me. For me, this game is an easy recommendation if you are looking for a nice and relaxing game to spend an afternoon or two.

What this game proves to me is that I’m going to keep an eye out for further projects from the developers, since I really think they have a lot of potential. I’m curious what they are going to do next. If they are going to make a sequel to this game, you can be sure I’m going to buy it. The charm and love of this game is infectious.

I really enjoyed playing through this game and I can’t wait to see how this game ends. It’s really a relaxing game, and it comes at the right moment in my life when I need something to calm me down after busy work days. This game is really a case of the positives outweighing the negatives for me. But, I’m repeating myself. So, it’s time to close off this article by saying my usual:

Thank you so much for reading my 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 one, but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

NekoJonez’s August 2021 Update

It’s almost that time of year again, the start of the school year here in Belgium. This year, I start my 3rd year as an IT-admin in the school I work for. So, that also means that my summer break is over, and I restarted working again. Also, I’m quite surprised that my latest update article was from December 2020. I mean, it’s quite usual that there are sometimes big gaps between these articles when not a lot of interesting things happen to collect together in an update… But hey, that’s totally besides the point. Let’s start talking about what’s happening in my life and what’s going on for my blog. And before I start, I want to invite you to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and/or opinions in the comment section down below.

Fewer articles and more gaps

When you look at the numbers of amount of published articles, you’ll notice that since March of this year… I have been skipping more and more weeks. Apart from April, I have been able to write and publish 2-3 articles each month. While I see a decrease in traffic to my blog because of that, I honestly don’t mind that much. I still reach similar numbers in the end. Now, I know that numbers shouldn’t matter since writing this blog is still a hobby. I know that fact all too well, yet… somehow, I feel proud when I see the numbers raise. But, that’s something we all like, seeing numbers raise. It’s a physiological thing.

So, why are there so many gaps in the publishing of articles? Well, it’s because I have written about so many games that I’m as good as through my backlog. I still have several games on my backlog to write about, but most of them should be replayed for at least a little while, since it has been such a long time since I played them for the first time. Before I write an article about a game, I want to have at least played 5-ish hours of that game, unless it’s a game quicky or a small indie game (that’s shorter than 5 hours). And here are the reasons I’m having trouble with that.

First, due to the COVID pandemic and private matters… My day job is extremely busy. I love doing my day job, but it’s extremely draining. So, at the end of the day, I sometimes don’t have the energy left to play games, or I just want to play a game to relax and not having to take notes or prepare an article about it. So, that means I have been playing games I have reviewed before and finishing them and, yes, even replaying some of them.

Secondly, I’m trying to improve my writing style. After writing for about 10 years in a similar writing style, I want to challenge myself to write more in-depth articles with more research and more cohesion. So, I’m putting a lot more time into each article, and it shows. I’m prouder of each article that I publish, and I feel that I’m improving quite a lot.

Thirdly, due to the general business of my personal life and the work for my school… I don’t always have the energy to write. I also want to recover in the weekend or work on my huge to-do list. Furthermore, I’m writing a lot for other things I’ll talk about more later… and that also has consequences. That means I burn myself out of writing sometimes. And I find that sometimes taking a break is better for me. That way I can still publish an interesting and well written article instead of a half-baked article. I like “better quality over more quantity”. So yeah.

And finally, here in Belgium, the COVID restrictions are slowly but surely lifting. Especially for vaccinated people (like myself)! So, that means I can start doing things in my local acting group again and go to see theater performances and movies in the cinema. Man, I have missed that so hard. You know those things you do, to reward yourself after doing a good job? Well, that was theater and cinema for me. Of course, blogging/writing about games has the same effect for me, but variety is the spice of life.

So, what does that mean? Shall you see less articles on my blog? Bluntly said, yes. I might not write weekly articles for a while anymore. I decided that it’s a goal I would love to reach, but I’m not going to force myself to write 4 articles each month. Not only that, but I’m going to try to write at least 1-2 articles/month. And if that’s not possible, I’ll talk about that on my twitter.

Outside of blogging

So, what’s going on in my personal life outside of writing for this blog? Well, quite a lot, actually. I have been expanding my hobbies and skill set. The first hobby I want to talk about is something that’s related to gaming, actually. I started speedrunning Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine. You can find my runs at my Speedrun.com profile. At first, I wanted to beat the PC times, but those are not only extremely optimized already, I’m unable to do the perfect movement.

That’s why I started to focus on the GBC version. While I’m keeping an eye on the PC version, I’m mainly focused on the GBC version. Not too long ago, I have beaten my ANY% GBC full game run I did live that one time. Whenever I feel like it, I have been grinding this run out since that 1h 40 m 08s, I’m certain it can go lower. In a matter of fact, I have found several small skips and improvements that is going to save at least 10-ish minutes all together. But, I’m planning to write an article about the strategies and such involved in the full game run in the future… So, keep an eye out for that.

Besides speedrunning, I’m also creating a new website for my local acting group. Currently, it’s behind closed doors, but I’m spending quite a lot of time on that site. I’m also working on a lot of technical stuff for my acting group to improve work flow and such. It’s something different and a fun challenge for sure. I love the stuff I’m learning since I’m able to use it for the website I maintain for my school and visa versa.

Speaking about the school I work for, I have two updates about that. The first update is that I have a fixed contract. Now, here in Belgium, it works somewhat different in schools. The contract I currently have is if the school has to shut down for what ever reason, a school from the district has to give me a job. In other words, I’m quite certain that I’m going to have a job for the foreseeable future. 🙂 And not only that, it’s in my dream job as an IT admin in a big school. I couldn’t wish for more.

The second update is that the school I work for is growing in amount of students. Currently, we have around 700 students, compared to roughly 600 students at the start of the previous year. This is quite mind-blowing for an art school, and that’s the biggest reason my day job is so busy. I’m so happy that the school I work for is growing so much since that means our school is quite healthy.

So, outside of having a busy day job, writing a gaming blog (semi-)weekly, doing things for my acting group, speeding running games… I’m also active in the development of WordPress. Now, I’m not a coder, so I’m helping that much in the actual development of WordPress outside of testing and reporting bugs… I’m more active in the translation department. I’m a translation editor for all the WordPress plugins & themes on WordPress.org for the locale’s nl_NL(-formal) and nl_BE, which means all forms of Dutch basically. If you want to take a look at my work, you can see it on my profile. And if I contribute to a plugin/extension, it’s mostly issues with strings which make things less easy for translation. You can see most of my contributions on my GitHub profile.

That means, that I do a lot of things in my free time outside of spending time with my family. While it might sound overwhelming and a lot to keep up with, honestly, I enjoy it. I’m expanding my skill set and learning quite a lot. And not only that, I’m giving something back to the community.

What’s next?

Now, you might think that I want to spend less time writing. Because I have so many other hobbies or things I do outside of writing. And, that’s not true. I found that spending time on other things like speedrunning, translations, working on websites… It actually helps me to not burn out on writing. Like I said earlier in this article, variety is the spice of life.

I do have a collab in the works with a good blogging friend of mine, but I’m unable to make a lot of progress due to the busy times at my day job. Thankfully, after next week, it’s going to become a lot less busy, so I can focus on a lot of other things and maybe write more.

I’m also playing around with a few major updates on my blog, but I think most of them are going to have to wait until I have another vacation. Since it’s going to help me in keeping certain things up-to-date here on my blog. And yes, I’m also removing typo’s and such from older articles. If you notice one, feel free to give me a shout, and I’ll try to fix it as soon as I can.

So, what’s the summary of this update? I’m going to try to at least write 2 articles each month, and 4 if I can. I also started speedrunning, getting more involved with the development of WordPress and doing things for my local acting group. On top of that, my day job is extremely busy… eating up a lot of my time. And I don’t want to have it any other way. Mentally, I’m doing a lot better and that’s what counts in the end, in my opinion… If you are happy with your life, than all is well.

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!

Game Quicky: Superliminal (Switch) ~ Objects are differently shaped than they appear.

Nintendo.com micrositeWikipedia entry

I remember seeing a game floating around on the internet many years ago. I even bookmarked the page I saw it on, since I wanted to keep myself up-to-date on future updates. It looked extremely cool and had a lot of potential to have amazing puzzles and mind binding twists. But that was in 2014-2015 if I remember correctly. Then, I honestly forgot about the game, and it fell off my radar. Not too long ago, I was cleaning out my overload of bookmarks and I suddenly found that game again. That reminded me about the game and when I suddenly saw it on my Nintendo Switch eShop that evening, I knew that I had to buy it right away. So, the game released a year ago, and I totally forgot about it. Oh well, that’s no big deal. Since, now, I have a lot of time to find out if my expectations were correct or if I shouldn’t have started playing this game. Now, while I have beaten the game now, I’m going to review this game in my game quicky style of articles since it’s rather short. But more on that later, let’s find out if this game is good or not, while I invite you to leave a comment with your thoughts and/or opinions in the comment section down below.

Objects are better shaped than they appear.

In this game, you are taken on a trip to the Pierce Institute to help test a new technology. This new technology is to help people with therapy using dreams. In these dreams, you can manipulate objects in some very strange ways. But, since this is a video game, something goes wrong. Instead of waking up, you get stuck inside the dream world due to Emergency Exit Protocol failing for whatever reason. So, it’s up to you to figure out why and to leave the dreamworld.

Now, I wish I could say more, but it would spoil the amazing story and strong message that this game has. This game is, give or take, 3 hours long if you only want to beat it and not 100% complete it. The story telling and voice acting in this game is so well crafted. The game spoke to me on a personal level several times. The game is also filled with some amazing life advice, and I’m so glad I played through it.

The main mechanic in this game is that perspective matters. A lot. You can enlarge or shrink certain objects in this game, so you can reach higher ledges or jump over huge gaps. The best way I can explain it, is if you go away from objects, they appear to “shrink” and when you get closer, they appear to “enlarge”. Now, image that when the “shrinking” or “enlarging” is happening, the object actually takes those dimensions. So, suddenly the cheese wheel can become a giant ramp for you to walk on. If you don’t really understand what I’m trying to explain here, take a look at these gifs, I think they might explain it way better.

I’m not going to show more or explain more of the mechanics since, it would ruin the surprises and the unique and amazingly crafted puzzles that this game has. This game can become quite tricky, but remember, it’s all a matter of having the right perspective and understanding the space you are in. Each section introduces its own unique spin or mechanic on the perspective puzzle theme, and it’s just great. I had so much fun trying to figure them all out.

Something that surprised me is that with the various elements that this game has and with the unique shrink/enlarge mechanics, it’s so well optimized. I didn’t experience any slowdowns nor did I experience any graphical glitches. Now, this is when you play the game normally. And why am I saying this? Well, it’s because the game actually encourages you to speedrun it once or twice. The Steam achievements of this game are ported over to the Nintendo Switch version. And I think I might give it a go myself one day. The controls of this game are solid enough and I think they are responsive enough for me to speedrun this game. I learned them extremely quickly and mastered them fast as well.

It would be an amazing way to dive right back into this amazing adventure and to go through the well detailed levels again. Visually, this game is stunning. While I think that the game has some moments that might trigger players that aren’t too good with flashing lights, I was amazed with the detail and visual presentation that this game has. The game also has a lot of triggers, so you don’t softlock yourself. For example, if you shrink the exit door and throw it in a trash can, the exit door spits it right back out. One animation detail I loved is seeing all the different jokes the developer made with the loading screens. You’ll have to see it to understand what I mean, but they were a nice way to do something unique with a loading screen instead of having a boring static or short moving image…

Apart from the objects you can interact with, this game doesn’t have a lot of animations. But, the animations it does have pulled you into the game so much more. Including with the enjoyable sound design. It has been at least a month since I have beaten this game since I’m writing this article and I can still remember the sound effects, how the voice acting sound and how the music sounds.

Speaking about the music, most of the soundtrack of this game is extremely relaxing and sounds extremely dreamy. The great use of the piano and, which is the center instrument in this soundtrack, and it’s just lovely. It’s that lovely, I actually bought the game again on Steam since it includes the soundtrack and some official Lo-Fi remixes as DLC.

Objects are worse shaped than they appear.

So far, I’m talking quite positively about this game. While I enjoy this game an awful lot and I even dare to say that it wouldn’t surprise me that I put it on my top 10 games of 2021 list, I do have several things that I disliked about this game and that made the experience less enjoyable.

While I barely experienced any bugs, I did fall three times through the map in similar ways. Once, I was pushed out of the map when I made a way too big object fall on me. Another time I fell through the map when getting on the roof of a building and trying to get onto the wall (which wasn’t the solution, by the way) and I don’t remember what triggered the 3rd time. Thankfully, the game autosave quite often, so I didn’t lose too much progress. But, it was a bit annoying that there is no death plane underneath the maps that automatically reset you to the latest checkpoint. So, thankfully, you have the “reset” option in the game.

Something I feel extremely mixed about is the game’s length. This game is so short but the mechanics it has, have so much potential, it’s a shame. I really think that this game should have a sequel where even trickier puzzles are introduced. On the other hand, due to the short length, the story has barely any bloat or unneeded sections and flows extremely nicely. Let’s just say that I’m quite jealous of the Steam workshop features that the PC version has. While it’s amazing that I can take this game on the go and show it off to other people, I’m also glad I bought the PC version to not only have the DLC but play more of this game.

Now, while I personally had a ton of fun with this game… When I really look at the game and take a step back… In terms of gameplay, this game could have been so much stronger. I honestly have to agree with what other critics are saying about this game to a certain degree. That some mechanics are seriously underused. Not to say that the puzzles in this game are bad, far from it. I think the biggest issue is that the games’ hooks are so good that the short length to conserve the story flow actually hurt it somewhat. I do heavily disagree with the “lackluster” story. But that’s maybe because it spoke to me on a personal level.

But, yeah, the underused mechanics are such a shame. Yet! Don’t care because it’s over, be happy that it happened. And maybe play some custom-made workshop levels via the Steam version. Meanwhile, I’m crossing my fingers for a sequel or DLC content to expand on the universe and lore of this game.

Objects’ true sizes

So, in conclusion. What do I think of the Switch version of this game? Is it worth your time, or should you buy another version or totally skip this game? Personally, I would highly recommend this game. But, do play it in one sitting. I personally think that the message that the story has it that much stronger when you get it all in one go.

The big novelty of the Switch version is that you can easily take it on the go. Of course, with the right laptop you can also take this game on the go, but the Switch is more convenient. But know that this game’s short length might annoy you, since like I explained earlier, the hooks of the game are that good. If you want to get the most out of this game, I think that the PC version might be the better option here, since it looks like it’s more actively developed, and it has the Steam Workshop with custom content!

Overall, this game does do a lot right. It has a strong story, fun and unique mechanics, amazing atmosphere, great visual presentation but due to some minor bugs and especially the short length, this game might be a difficult sell for some people. But if anything sounded interesting from what I have said in this article, please give this game a go. I really meant in what I said earlier. I wouldn’t surprise me if this game turns up in my top 10 games of 2021 list.

If you are interested in this game, I highly recommend going as blind as possible in this game. Reading too much about this game will ruin various surprises and twists this game takes. It’s like the Stanley Parable. A great short game that leaves so much impact on me as a player, and maybe it does with you too. And if it doesn’t have the same strong impact on you, you might have played a unique puzzle game that challenge your perception abilities and skills. Since, I think this game found the right perception.

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

Score: 90/100

Want to read another review of this game? Well, visit my friend Indiecator, Dan or Magi and read his review here: https://indiecator.home.blog/2021/11/11/indietail-superliminal//

NekoJonez’s 11 YEARS of blogging

Has it already been 11 years? On in late 2010, I opened my Dutch personal blog. And now, that blog died due to personal reasons and I restarted my English blog on the 20th March 2013. So, I have been blogging for 8 years in English and quite close to 11 years if you count the years that I wrote articles in my native Dutch language. So, let’s have a retrospective look at my experiences as a writer, blogger and things like that. Let’s do a sort of celebration for this milestone that I reached with a simple hobby. But, first, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and opinions on this article. Yeah, the usual ending of my opening paragraph.

The usual word of thanks

So, the fact that I’m able to reach around 10.000 people each and every year is amazing. Sadly enough, my numbers have been taking a big dive lately. While I can explain that away with the fact that I’m writing less, but way better, articles… It still surprises me that I get around 10-20/visitors each day. I know, I shouldn’t focus on these numbers too much or else I’ll burn out but still, when I compare these numbers with numbers from other people in the community, I honestly feel humbled.

If only I had more time to write more articles, I think I would be able to have even better numbers. I would love to reach as much people as I can since the people I have met over the years, is just mind-blowing. I have created friendships that will last a lifetime. Furthermore, I’m not going to list any names here since I want to avoid that people are going to feel left out, but you know who you are. I love talking to you guys and girls.

Apart from meeting so much other content creators, I also love to interact with the people that read my blog. From indie developers to people who are looking for their next game to play. It warms my heart that people like what I write, and I have to say. From childhood, I always wanted a way to share my experiences and my life stories with others and writing this blog allowed to make that dream become a reality. Because I don’t always play the latest of the latest games and I don’t always play the “most popular” retro titles, I had a hard time connecting to other gamers.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for reading my articles. I’m still blown away by the support I get from others all the while I keep writing. As said earlier, I might be writing less than in the past, I still see a lot of people interacting with my blog and I always see huge spikes in my visitor graph whenever I publish an article. So, yeah. If only I was better at expressing gratitude and things like that without resorting to the classic speech is usually given by other content creators….

Highlights from the past 11 years

A typical question to ask when somebody celebrates a milestone like writing for over 11 years is what your favorite or most memorable moment was. To be quite honest, I don’t have just one moment. At first, I was planning to through each and every year and give you my best moment for each and every year, but even that wouldn’t do justice to the opportunities and highlights I had in the past 11 years.

This stats above, show how much I have written over the past 8 years while I’m writing this English blog. Let’s just say that I have written over 700.000 words in the past 560+ articles. That’s roughly 1250 words per article as an average. I write and publish around 40 – 75 articles each and every year. So, finding my favorite(s) moment(s) would be finding a needle in a haystack.

So, let me just name a few of them. A few memorable moments that stick out for me and that I currently remember from the top of my head. By all means, these just a few examples of moments I just adored and are the things that just make this blogging experience so memorable for me.

Reviewing Stella Glow

http://thebuttonsmashers.com/2016/08/game-review-stella-glow/

Back in 2016, I sometimes got requests from small developers to take a look at their game. But, when a good blogging friend of mine gave me the opportunity to write about a game I just played the demo off, and I was planning to go and pick up, I was over the moon.

When I started to play the game, I was amazed at the quality and polish that the game had. And not only that, the music and the atmosphere was so amazing. While it’s a shame to admit that I haven’t fully completed the game just yet since I didn’t grind certain characters enough to beat a certain fight, I’m actually planning to finish this game in the near future.

Now, you might notice that the link to the article isn’t on my blog. That’s because as a part of the agreement, I had to publish the article on his site. Which is only fair since he has provided me with the press key to this game. But, it felt so strange being able to write for a bigger company than all the indie developers.

Don’t get me wrong here. It’s not that I don’t enjoy writing for indie developers. But, the fact that even bigger companies trust their brand in my hands and I only do this as a hobby is such a special feeling for me. So yeah, thank you, Stella Glow for providing me with such an amazing opportunity and the memories that I created while playing this game and talking about it with family and friends while I was preparing the review was such an amazing feeling.

Retrospective collabs

One of my favorite memories in the blogging world is the fact that I was able to do 3 retrospective collabs so far. The idea started when I wanted to write a retrospective series on a game series, but I didn’t want to do it alone. So, the idea of the hub article was born.

The moment of the birth of this idea was actually in a Discord call with another blogger who wanted to start out and was looking for idea’s and cross promotion. Sadly enough, I didn’t hear from that blogger when I was working on the first hub article… But, I felt that the idea had so much potential, I kept the collab running. The end result was:

Not too long after that, The Well Red Mage, who was one of the writers for this collab started his own collab in the same style for the Final Fantasy series. He also did one for the Mario series. In the meantime, I did two other ones.

All three collabs have their own unique stories and memories attached to it. From being able to work with an actual journalist, YouTubers, being promoted by YouTubers, celebrating the anniversary of the series together and writing about the latest recently released game in the series, it’s just magical. I love doing these collab, but they are so extremely draining and demanding to do. But, the rewarding feeling you get when everything comes together, and you see everything get published and launch at the same time… And then seeing the community read and interact with the whole collab, it’s so lovely. And yes, here is a little hint… I may be thinking about the next game series to give it the hub retrospective look… Keep an eye on my blog and such if you want to be part of it.

And while I have only chosen two moments, I can keep listing a lot more amazing moments. From writing an article for HP, The Creative Christmas collab in 2017, those two weeks in 2017 where I wrote 2 articles every day for two weeks(!), the time I interviewed an internet friend who turned game dev, the time that a quote of mine made it on the Steam store page, being called the best tech blog in 2017 and being a part of the list of best gaming blogs on the Internet… those are just a few examples of my amazing ride. And yeah, I just noticed that 2017 was an amazing year for my blog, but strangely enough, it’s the year after that I got the biggest spike in visitors and such. Strange how things go.

Award questions

You know what would be fun as well? Let’s take a look back some previous award question posts I have written and let’s see if some of my answers would change today. How much have I changed in the past years? Let’s find out together. Meanwhile, it’s a fun trip through memory lane taking a look back at the various bloggers who think it’s worth it to follow and read my work.

What’s your earliest gaming memory?

So, my answer isn’t going to change from what I have said in that article. Rather, I’m going to add to the story. It’s true that the earliest gaming memories are playing Pac-Man on the Gameboy. But, one of my earliest gaming memories is also playing Tarzan on my parent’s computer. I still remember that when they bought their first computer, they called me into the office but instead of explaining me on how to properly use the computer, my mom took out a copied version of the PC game Tarzan. I remember playing it all afternoon and bragging to my mom how far I had gotten.

The copied version of the game came from one of her co-workers. I was so sad when the copy stopped working, I had one goal, buy my own copy. And, I’m proud to admit that I took my bike and rode to the toystore and bought a copy for myself. And yes, as a proud game collector, I still have that copy in my collection. It’s one of the games that will never ever leave my collection when I have anything to say about it.

Do you have a games room / corner?

Now, it might only be 4 years since that article, but I have to say, a lot changed. Not only do I live on my own but my games room/corner changed quite a lot. Currently, my retro systems and my computer is in my office and my more modern systems are in my living room. Compared to the pictures, I gained a NES and a Switch in terms of consoles and a few more retro game computers.

Of course, I also gained quite a lot of games to add to my collection. I don’t dare to count the size of my collection at the moment but I estimate that my game collection is nearing the 5K games mark. I really should start counting them one day. I feel like a project is coming up for this summer.

Oh, and if you want to see pictures of my current game room… Well, here are two.

Light theme, or dark theme?

To be honest, for writing I prefer my light theme. It reminds me more of writing on a piece of paper and I feel like I have a bit more control. For reading, I tend to switch between the two.

Now, most of the apps I use on my phone and the default setting on my computer is in dark mode. I just prefer those apps that way. But, I don’t mind interacting with a light theme. A big example is that I have my Microsoft Teams set in dark mode but when I help teachers or students to solve problems with Teams, I notice that the majority has still light mode on.

Now, my answer if I should choose a light or dark theme hasn’t changed… I rather prefer a gray/silver-ish theme since that’s my favorite color. The “bland” yet special color that can support so much while not standing out at all and being easy on the eyes… Yes please. (At least, that’s my opinion on the color.)

If a game based on your life was made, what would be the genre and title?

This is one answer that’s going to change completely. When I was writing that article, I was playing a ton of RPG’s, so it doesn’t surprise me. Also, action…? Well, let me put this into context. There are a lot of things that happen in my life, but it isn’t THAT eventful that you would say it’s an action game.

Lately, I feel that my life is more in the style of a visual novel/adventure game. One where an interesting story is told through the eyes of an IT-admin in an art school who has a lot of experiences in terms of having a ton of different experiences due to being involved in a theater group, speedrunning…

Then again, maybe a simulation like the Sims would fit my life as well. But then again, I think that would fit almost everybody’s life wouldn’t it? But, I think that if you would base a character on me, I think I would be either that helpful companion who helps to solve the problems or something along those lines.

What things do you do to relax?

So, I still love to explore cities but lately, I’m more into speedrunning one of my favorite childhood games. Also, I’m watching less anime lately. I don’t know why exactly, but lately I do enjoy reading more on the SPC-wiki. I just love the idea of a whole universe being created from everybody who wants to contribute to the universe. Also, the stories that are created can be so interesting and unique they can be their own film/movie or have such a deep meaning.

On top of that, I also quite enjoy contributing to open source projects. Especially WordPress lately. I’m not that good of a coder, so I currently help in translating plugins and themes into Dutch and Flemish.

Apart from that, I still enjoy playing games, watching anime/YouTube and writing. Something I also enjoy is going to theater. Which wouldn’t be a surprise if you knew that I also love acting on stage and/or being a part of the technical crew while preforming a play.

So, one of the biggest projects I did this school year was completely revamping my school’s website. I’m quite proud of it, but I’m not done revamping it. But, I have to admit that doing this project also made me discover that I also enjoy creating websites quite a lot. So, yeah…

Wrapping up time

I was planning to do something special last year with my 10 years of blogging milestone but my workload with my job and other personal things stopped me from writing something special. Now, a lot of my workload has to do with me being unable to be unproductive. I always want to do something to work on something. I think that’s just a curse of being a creator. My mind never shuts down. I always think about the next story/article to write or what I can do to help out others.

Like I said in the article I wrote in 2014, I sometimes have trouble enjoying certain things like games. Since I always think about: “How can I turn this into an enjoyable article?”. It’s not that I’m not having fun tho. I’m having quite a lot of fun. Yet, I’m so glad that I decided to listen a bit more to my mental health instead of pushing myself into writing each and every week. Sometimes it’s okay to skip a week (or two), as long as I keep the quality of my articles up.

Looking back to my first article and the articles I write today, I am quite amazed at the progression I made. When I read my older articles, I feel they are incomplete, and I want to edit them to make them more complete. But, I’m not going to. This blog is also sort of my portfolio, and it’s my life’s journey. And I’m so happy that I can share it with you all. It’s a journey that I love going on.

It might be extremely cliché, but I can’t thank everybody enough who helped me, supported me and been there for me in the past 11 years. But, I’m so grateful for all my readers and people who went into interaction with my articles. If you decided to buy a certain game because of me, I hope you enjoyed your time with it. Feel free to let me know if you did.

I don’t know what the future will bring for me and my blog. But you can be sure that I’m going to keep writing. At the moment, I don’t have any reason to stop doing this enjoyable hobby. And if you want to see your game or a certain game reviewed on this blog, feel free to reach out to me via my contact page. The best way to follow me is following my Twitter, since I’m that sort of person who can only maintain a few social media channels and Twitter is the easiest for me to share short updates.

And with that, I’m going to close off this ramble article. It might have been all over the place, but I hope you enjoyed reading it and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in a future article and until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

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 Sword & Shield (Switch) ~ Want Some Tea And Battling Biscuits?

Pokémon_Sword_and_Shield

Official websiteWikipedia entry

Before I introduce the game, I want to mention that this article is a part of a collaboration with other content creators for the celebration of the Pokémon series, Creator’s Catch. If you want to read more Pokémon content on this 25th anniversary of the original Pokémon games in Japan, there a hub article with more information. In any case, one of my pieces for this collaboration is a review on the latest main series Pokémon games called Pokémon Sword and Shield which released in late 2019 and got two expansion packs in 2020. Now, should you play this game or leave this game at the wayside? Was the “Dexit” controversy right, when not all the Pokémon were going to be included, to boycott the game or shouldn’t they worry? Let’s find out in my review of Pokémon Sword and Shield. I have played the Shield version and most of the DLC for this review. So, what is your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article, let me know in the comment section down below!

Want some tea?

In-Game-Screenshot-2

This game takes place in the Galar region. This region is based on a place that’s extremely close to me. I just have to cross the pond for it. Our above neighbors Great Britain were the inspiration for this game. In terms of story, the structure of the game is extremely similar to the original games. There is less focus on a more unique attempt at gyms like in Pokémon Sun & Moon.

So, you start out in your home town, picking one of three starter Pokémon to set out on a journey to discover the secrets and the evil lurking over the region by going to each and every gym and trying to defeat the Pokémon league.

I’m going to be blunt and honest here. While the story has some fun and quirky characters, it’s way to stripped down of anything that gives some tension to it. There isn’t even an “evil team” in this game. The motivations of the antagonist are weak at best. The biggest flaw is that the story lacked depth.

I finished these games last year and to remind myself what happened in the story, I had to take out my strategy guide and skim through it to get the gist of it. Now, there are a few moments that stood out during the story but these moments were far and few between.

It’s a shame really, since the writing and potential for a better story are in the game. I’m not going to argue that the previous Pokémon games always had a very in-depth story but I’m going to argue that the story was more engaging and gave a better atmosphere to the game. For example, Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire tell a story about the climate in terms of the balance of land and water. Pokémon Black and White told a story about the moral of capturing creatures to help in work. Pokémon Sun and Moon told a story about how power can go and make you mad.

I can’t tell you what the moral or message of the Pokémon Sword and Shield games are. In a matter of fact, the actual climax and buildup is so see through that I’m quite sure that even a young child is going to see the twist at the end coming from a mile away. The DLC thankfully takes a step in the right direction, they feel a bit more fleshed out and still have a story to tell instead of something quite generic that the main story is telling.

I think I could ramble on and on about the story, but I think I should focus on review this game and talk about other elements as well, so let’s take a further look into this Pokémon game and let’s see why the fans of the Pokémon franchise are so divided on this game.

Some biscuits, please!

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Even when a game doesn’t have an enjoyable story, the game can still be quite fun. Now, let me first tackle the “Dexit” controversy. There was a group of Pokémon fans who were quite angry when it was announced that not all Pokémon would make it over into the Pokémon Sword and Shield games. I can totally understand from where these people are coming from but I can totally understand the viewpoint of the developers.

It’s a bummer for the fans that they might be unable to catch their favorite Pokémon or carry their Pokémon over from older games. I can totally understand the fear that it’s now possible that Pokémon are going to be locked behind a DLC-paywall. I would totally agree with that fear if the developers implemented a pay per Pokémon scheme, but thankfully enough, they didn’t. Thankfully in the DLC we got 200 Pokémon that were returning to the game for a reasonable price.

Now, what do I personally think about the whole Dexit controversy? Well, to be honest, I don’t mind the fact that not every Pokémon is in the game. And I’m going to explain myself. I think it would have been a huge workload to make close to 900 new models and make them work in the new game. In addition to that, I think it’s a great way to force players to experiment with the new Pokémon. Since why should you catch or try out the new Pokémon if you are able to catch all the ones you know?

Just thinking about the workload that adding 900 Pokémon in one game is going to bring is making my head spin. Not only you need to make sure that there is the right balancing, but you also need to make sure that every Pokémon has it’s use and reason for existing. And let’s not forget the fact that you need to animate them in a large dynamax form as well. Also, just imagine that you had an extremely low chance to catch a certain Pokémon just because there are too many in one route.

It would bloat the game beyond belief. I think that it’s quite possible that when the next generation comes out, we are going to have close to 1000 Pokémon. So, you could start to argue that maybe we shouldn’t have new Pokémon in the next generation but discovering the new Pokémon is just half the fun of a Pokémon game isn’t it.

Anyways, I think it’s time to focus on Pokémon Sword and Shield’s gameplay isn’t it? So, how does this game play? Well, in terms of gameplay, nothing really changed. If you have played Pokémon games in the past, you know what to expect in this game. You train your Pokémon during Pokémon battles in routes and cities and try to defeat 8 gyms that specialize in a type to gain 8 badges to defeat the 5 strongest trainers in the region. Meanwhile you discover the truth behind the legend of that region’s legendary Pokémon(s).

For some veterans, the formula is getting a bit stale. I still enjoyed going through the whole game but I’m a bit disappointed that they are returning to the old school gym design. The trail challenges in the previous Sun and Moon games were such an amazing breath of fresh air. In this game, it’s a strange mixture between the old school gym design an a sort of challenge based design. It’s a step in the right direction to make gyms more fun but something that did surprise me is the fact that there are differences in the gym depending on the version you are playing. Finally, there are more differences between the versions then just the Pokémon you can catch. For example, in Circhester, you fight Gordie who uses rock Pokémon for the 6th badge if you play the Sword version. But in the Shield version, you fight Gordie’s mother Melony and she uses ice Pokémon to challenge you. Sadly enough, this happens for one other gym. I would love to see more in the future. More differences between the versions instead of just the Pokémon you can catch and/or some minor visual/text differences.

There are two unique mechanics in this game. The first is dynamaxing. With this mechanic, you can dynamax your Pokémon in certain criteria. You can use this mechanic during special battles basically. When you dynamax your Pokémon, they grow quite large and they can use extremely strong attacks. I could explain it in detail, but if you want to know more, Bulbapedia has an amazing in-depth article on it. This mechanic really puts an interesting twist on battling but I feel that this doesn’t scream Pokémon to me. It feels like just a spin on Mega Evolution which is basically Dynamax Lite now.

The second unique mechanic are the wild areas. These areas are basically quite open routes where you can do just a little bit more than just battle trainers, battle wild Pokémon and go from one place to the next. If all the routes were more as open and as large to the wild area, then I would applaud the developers. Now, the wild area feels painfully underdeveloped. You can camp and cook in these areas but that is just a small distraction at best. The things you can do while camping feel extremely limited and the cooking mini game is enjoyable but I rarely came back to it.

In the cooking mini game, you have to combine berries and a core ingredient to create all sorts of curry. You can find these ingredients in the wild area. These curries can give a boost to the friendship you have with the Pokémon and other very minor boosts. One of these boots can be to experience gain.

There is a multiplayer aspect to camping and cooking but to be honest, I haven’t used it nor have I experimented with it that much so I’m not going to comment on it. Feel free to talk about it in the comments since I would love to know if it’s fun or not.

Something I feel rather mixed about is the fact you can easily access the boxes anywhere in the world. So, that means you can easily swap your team members on the fly. Thankfully, they don’t fully heal if you switch them in and out of the box during your adventure, since that would have broken the difficulty of this game even more.

This brings me to the point of the difficulty of Pokémon Sword and Shield. Balancing a game just right is something quite tricky to do. I have written a lengthy article about it in 2019. Now, I’m sad to say that this game doesn’t deliver in that department. You have to go out of your way to make the game more challenging. There are various video’s and articles floating around on the internet to give you tips and tricks to make the game more difficult. I’m just going to give some examples: TheGamer and NintendoLife.

The aftertaste

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Now, it might seem that I’m ripping this game apart. Complaining about the story, the unique mechanics and the difficulty of the games. I think I’m going to run ahead of the conclusion of this article but I feel that Pokémon Sword and Shield could have been so much better, miles better in fact. The potential is there in the game.

The game controls amazingly well. It’s the first mainline Pokémon game on a console and it made the transformation quite well. While I got some minor slowdowns during some intense senses and during some battles after selecting a move, they weren’t too bad and the framerate got stable again quite fast.

Something I really liked in this game is the soundtrack and the audio design. Some tracks in this soundtrack like the battle theme of Bede or the battle theme of Marnie are absolute bobs. I also listen to the soundtrack from this game from time to time while at work and while writing articles. I enjoy it just that much. The sound effects add to the atmosphere of the game as well. For example, you feel that moves having the impact it should have to draw you in into the world of this game.

I can totally understand that some people are somewhat disappointed with the visual presentation of this game. Especially since some attacks have a 2D animation while some attacks have a grand 3D animation. To be honest, I didn’t mind it that much. I rather have a generic animation that can be used for every Pokémon that can learn or execute that move instead of the developers having to create a separate animation for each and every Pokémon that can learn the move.

This game is quite colorful and detailed. The visual presentation of a steampunk Great Britain is rather well executed and well done in my opinion. I really like the fact that battles with gym leaders are in a grand stadium, it’s something I always imagined as a kid. Then again, I wonder every gym battle can draw those huge crowds if this region where real. But that’s nitpicking beyond belief.

In terms of visuals, I have been comparing character models of Pokémon from Sun & Moon and Sword & Shield. I have to say that it’s a huge improvement and they look a lot better with better lighting and details in Sword & Shield. Now, you can clearly notice during the game that the developers hit the limits of the 3DS in Sun & Moon, so we should only get better models in the future. It’s also amazing to see that you can see the first Pokémon in your party to follow you in the overworld.

HM moves are a thing of the past in this game. This is something I really feel mixed about. It’s something that could be used to gate players from progressing too fast in the game in more unique ways instead of just blocking the road with various people. It also created more interesting puzzles by sliding blocks or having to dive under water. It’s something I’m going to miss to be quite honest yet I totally understand why it has been done. This way you don’t have to have a Pokémon in your party that’s simply your HM slave and make the world more open to exploration.

A huge positive in this game is the fact that they finally fixed the random battle system. You can finally see all the wild Pokémon in the overworld and avoid them if needed to catch a certain one. In addition to that, you can see which moves are effective against the Pokémon you are battling if you have fought the Pokémon before. If only there was an option to turn it off for more veteran players, that would be awesome. Like an option to disable the always on experience share or turn it in another mode would have been great as well.

This game also has a few online modes like raids and versus battles. But I’m not that big of an online gamer so I’m going to comment on those very much because I haven’t experienced them enough to talk about them. Now, you can do raid battles solo and those are fine but you feel that these are more enjoyable when you do them with friends or strangers online.

Something I’m totally forgetting to talk about is the fact that there is a way you can ease of the griding of your Pokémon! Since you can send them on jobs. In the Pokémon Centers you have a machine where you can play the Pokémon Lottery but more important, send your Pokémon on certain jobs. The better they preform on a better, the more experience and rarer items they will bring back. You can also choose for how long you will have to miss your Pokémon. It’s a sort of free daycare system.

That brings me to how content is somewhat locked in this game. The further you get in the game, the more items unlock. So, even if you were to cheat and go out of bounds towards another city’s Pokémon Center to go to the market, you won’t be able to buy more powerful items. It’s the same with collecting the League cards, which is just an immersion mechanic in the game.

Something new in this game is that there is an autosave feature. So, the days of manually saving are over. Surprisingly enough, there is an option to enable to disable the autosave feature. Now, I have mostly played this game without the autosave feature since I felt that my game ran a smidge better with it off.

The last things I want to talk about is the postgame and the DLC’s. Let’s start with the postgame. There is a minor silly additional story you get after becoming the champion. I’m sorry but I can’t take the characters in this story chapter seriously, I find it a bit ridiculous and silly. Apart from that, you can learn unique moves and do various other things. A nice list has been created by gamewith.net. Personally, I find the post-game content rather enjoyable apart from the silly story of course.

So, the DLC. I honestly have to say that it’s totally worth a purchase. The base game provides around 30 to 40-ish hours of content if you want to play the main story and the extra’s. If you add the two DLC’s on top of that, it’s another 10 to 20 hours on top of that. If you want to fully complete the game, you are looking at an adventure that takes close to 130 hours to complete.

The DLC is also amazing postgame content. It adds unique mechanics and is a step in the right direction when it comes to game difficulty. So, if you enjoyed the base game, I think that the additional 30€ is worth it for both DLC’s. They might be a tad bit on the expensive side but they add more then enough content to justify the price in my opinion.

To avoid spoilers, I’m not going to talk too in-depth about them, but one DLC is a whole new island to explore with a fun quest to find all the Digletts and to train a Pokémon to fight in one of two towers to choose between which legendary Pokémon you want in addition to the biggest wild area in the game. The other DLC gives a whole new boss rush rouge like mini game for legendary hunting and another new wild area.

And with that said, I think it’s high time for my conclusion. Since this review is getting rather lengthy isn’t it?

Conclusion

The bad:

-Rather underwhelming story.

-The game is too easy.

-Some parts of the game feel underdeveloped and underused.

The good:

+ Amazing visual design.

+ Interesting new spins on the gym battles.

+ Amazing soundtrack.

+ …

Final thoughts:

After I had beaten the main game and played parts of the DLC, I started a review of this game multiple times and scrapped it each and every time. This game has so many underdeveloped good and fun elements it hurts to see them dragged down by the two biggest downfalls of this game and that’s the weak story and the game being too easy for it’s own good.

I still enjoyed my time with the game but sometimes I felt that these games are becoming a shadow of their former selves. I honestly think that if the story had more depth and there were difficulty options, this game wouldn’t have divided the fanbase so much. Of course, you have the whole Dexit controversy thing, but as I explained before, I don’t find it too big of a disaster.

The game is still a blast to play with an amazing soundtrack, new and fun mechanics like the wild area’s and a lot of accessibility features like seeing the effectiveness of moves. Also, we are finally seeing more differences between both versions that just simply the Pokémon you can catch in the wild.

This generation took a few steps back and a few steps forward and I’m quite curious to see what we are going to get in the future. What games are we going to get in this anniversary year of Pokémon? Since I would love to see the franchise continue and thrive since this game proves that the formula can still be quite a lot of fun if it’s handled well.

So, should you pick up this game? I would recommend it but I would warn players that they shouldn’t expect an expansive story and a lot of challenge expect they create their own challenge. But, it’s still a great and enjoyable Pokémon game where you can sink a lot of hours into.

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

Score: 70/100

Remember, this article is part of a huge collab of content creators to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Pokémon in Japan. Want to read more articles and content? Click here to go to the hub article where we all take a look at the main line Pokémon games and various spin-offs.