Review: Gas Station Simulator (PC – Steam) ~ Let’s Fill ’em Up

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Sometimes, a game just piques my interest. When I saw a game called Gas Station Simulator, I directly wondered… how is this going to work? Especially since we are talking about a gas station in the middle of nowhere. So is this title worthy of your time, or should you skip it? Or maybe wait until it’s more developed? Well, in this article you’ll find my thoughts and opinions on this game. Feel free to leave your thoughts and/or opinions on the game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

Let’s fill ’em up

In this game, you’ll play as an unnamed character who bought up an old gas station in the desert along a busy road. It’s your goal to bring back this station to its former glory. Your shady uncle is here to help you via the telephone.

When you arrive at the station, it’s in disrepair. There is not only trash everywhere, all the walls need a new lick of paint, the store attached to the gas station is totally gone and so on and so forth. With step by step missions, this game teaches all the different mechanics to you. These missions are a tutorial in disguise, but it doesn’t hold your hand. You are free to complete the objectives in any order you want, and you are also free to choose when you go to the next objective. Of course, you won’t be able to upgrade your gas station to the next level without completing all required missions.

Now, if you would play this game only to complete the missions, this game is rather short. It took me around 10-ish hours to beat all missions. Yet, there is more to this game after you have beaten all the missions. There are a lot of upgrades you can purchase to enhance the environment of the gas station. Most of them, but not all, are cosmetic in nature and don’t do anything to attract more customers.

Currently, there is a cheap DLC called Can’t Touch This out for this game. Personally, I recommend buying this DLC as well. Since it not only adds a small bit of post game, but it also adds a lot of new options to customize the look and feel of your gas station, and it’s totally worth it’s price.

This game also has achievements. At the moment of writing, this game has 91 achievements. Currently, I have played this game for give or take 25 hours and I have 80% of the achievements. Most of these achievements are easy to get. Others are a bit trickier to get and require either some luck or some practice. Especially the carting mini-game, to get that achievement you’ll have to become very good. Sadly, those cart controls don’t work for me. But, I’ll talk about the controls later.

Usually, in the first section of a review I talk about the story, the characters, and voice acting. Overall, the story is nothing special. It takes a backseat pretty quickly, and it’s mostly an excuse to string the missions together in a coherent way. Which is for this game a good thing, since it ups the replay value of this game.

Now, I want to talk about the voice acting in this game. Overall, the voice acting is decent, but I do have some things that I’d like to critique. I have nothing to remark on the performance of the voice actors. It sounds pretty good. But, the amount of voice lines is just lacking and plays in strange places. It doesn’t take long before you hear the same voice line over and over again. In addition to that, some voice lines play in situations where they don’t fit at all. For example, I heard a customer shout in the store when the register mini-game failed… “Look what you did to my car!”. I mean, how can a check-out in a store do that?

On top of that, I find it a missed opportunity that some situations don’t have voice acting at all. Your staff doesn’t have any voice acting. Also, as soon as customers step in their car, they have lost their voice as well. So, you’ll never hear a driver shouting to another driver to move. Also, you’ll never hear a customer shout when they aren’t being served.

These things break the atmosphere of the game a bit. It’d give the game a bit more life and immersion when customers only said the appropriate lines in the correct places and the staff would also talk. For example, a simple “Understood” or “On it, boss” when giving them assignments would go a long way.

Let’s play the balance game

So, what’s the gameplay in this game? Well, in the end there are few things your gas station has when you have completed all the missions. Each area has its own little mini-game that’s quick to get the hang of and has its own challenges.

The first is a place to fuel. In this place, you’ll have to fuel the cars of your customers. In this mini-game you have to press the left mouse button until the gauge reaches a certain level. The closer you stop pressing the left mouse button to the ordered amount, the better you get paid.

The second area that will unlock is the store. The mini-game in there is you have to scan all the items of the customer, while keeping the belt clean. As soon as an item either leaves the mini-game area OR drops in the basket without being scanned, you’ll lose that customer when you scanned all their items.

The next area that unlocks is the garage. In there, you’ll have to repair cars. The more you upgrade your garage, the more defects can be fixed with their own little steps. The garage is something you shouldn’t ignore since at the end of the game, this is the biggest source of revenue.

The final thing that unlocks is the car wash. This is a manual car wash where the mini-game is as simple as spraying the car down with water and remove as much of the dirt you can. All in all, this is quite late game and honestly, I leave it closed.

Here are a few examples of things you’ll have to do while serving customers. These are: managing your staff, making sure everything is clean, and the roads are drive-able, making sure you don’t run out of stock for the fuel tank/the garage or the store, unloading deliveries… Honestly, as soon as you get into the micromanaging of it all, you don’t have the time to keep open the car wash. If only you could put your staff to work to unload deliveries or to stock the store/garage OR even do the car wash…

And when you think, that’s all… No, there is the reputation mechanic as well. As soon as you complete a mini-game successfully, you’ll get a few reputation points that can upgrade your popularity level. The higher that level is, the better upgrades you can purchase. But, when you fail a mini-game, you’ll get negative points, and you’ll need to earn them again. There are also optional missions for bonus reputation points after you completed the story missions.

To be honest, it can become overwhelming quite quickly. Especially when you unlocked all area’s. This is why I’m so happy you can close the car wash, and you can enable/disable certain random events in the options’ menu. Don’t want to have to deal with Dennis, who vandalizes your walls? You can turn him off. Don’t want to have to deal with the rush hour party bus? You can turn that off as well. Don’t want to make sure you close your warehouse to avoid stealing? That’s something you can turn off as well. The late game challenge missions are something else.

And the final thing you can turn off, and something I turned off is the sandstorm event. This is a random event that ruin your roads and make them not drive-able and create a pile up. This is a big problem since there is only a certain amount of cars that can be present in your gas station. You can solve this issue with your excavator, but the controls for that are quite tough to control in my opinion. You also have to be extremely precise in order to scoop up the sand, and you can’t dump it anywhere else besides a sandpit at the edge of your station. It’s a mechanic that breaks the flow of the game for me, so I turned it off.

I’m convinced that while talking about all the different area’s your station will have at the end… I forgot to talk about a few mechanics. But overall, this game is a balancing act. You have to juggle various tasks to make sure your gas station runs smoothly, so you don’t have to loan money from uncle. It’s something you can do, but you’ll have a time limit to pay him back. “Or else, Uncle has other ways to earn his money back.”

The reason I can’t tell you what the consequence is, is because it’s extremely easy to pay uncle back when you use it wisely. I never had any moment where I was in trouble of not being able to pay uncle. I mostly used his loan when I was low on stock for the garage and after repairing a few cars, I was able to pay him back easily.

Now, let’s talk about decoration. First, the painting. You can paint your gas station. But, I honestly feel that this mechanic doesn’t work too great. The mini-game to stay in the green area of a slowly rotating circle is annoying and boring and there is no way to cancel when you selected the wrong color. There is also no way to paint the selling in the building itself. You can only paint the roof. Oh, and when you install additional bathrooms, forget painting them. Since, you are unable to enter those. Which is annoying, since the paint decays in this game, so you’ll have to reapply paint after a while and it’s so frustrating to see the dirty paint back there without being able to get there.

In general, all spots are quite easy to reach apart from a few spots in the storage area and the garage. The spots in the storage area are just a bit to reach and the spots in the garage are blocked because the tire rack is in the way and the game thinks you want to fill the tire rack.

Also, you can order a paint job, but this is something I did once and regretted right away. Since, I had a color scheme I got used to and this paint job paints almost everything white. It’d be so much more useful if the color you put on the wall is remembered and for example, for some additional charge that color is applied.

To be honest, I haven’t played too much with the decoration mechanics. I find the default gas station more then enjoyable to play with and first I want to be able to purchase all other decorations before creating a totally new store.

Running out of gas?

This game is being developed by a small indie game studio from Poland called Drago Entertainment. A few days ago, they shared an update on their plans for the rest of the year. Now, why do I talk about this in a review on one of their games. Because they are talking about new features coming to this game in the future and how everything works behind the scenes.

It’s quite clear that the developers are extremely passionate and find communication with their players important. Over the summer break, they also shared what the next update to this game will have. Something I really love to see is there is going to be a patch for the random crashes this game has. In the late game, this game can crash quite often at random moments. There are some work arounds that delay the crashing but at the moment, apart from waiting for the patch, no real fix has been found. Also, you’ll be able to open and close other sections of the gas station. This is something I was going to talk about in this section. I’m quite curious to see how the game preforms when update #7 lands, since it promises to fix the biggest problem I have with this game and that are the random crashes.

Visually, this game look quite good overall. You do see certain models a lot of times but it doesn’t bother me. I think something that might help is randomize the color of the clothing of your customers. Then, when you have the same model coming in, there is a bit more variaty. The animations of this game are great as well.

But, there are a few minor things in terms of the UI that I’d love to see changed. The first is a small one. Why is the default option when you open the main menu, “new game”? I can understand that for when it’s the first time you play the game, but when you reboot the game after a crash and mash a bit… It’s scary to see the game restarting.

And secondly, it’s a mix between a gameplay problem and UI problem. The car wash is extremely picky. Sometimes a car is done with a lot of dirt on it and sometimes you have to clean almost everything. A sort of meter on how statified the customer is would help a lot.

The soundtrack of this game is good. It fits the atmosphere of you working in a gas station in the American desert quite well. The only downside is that there aren’t a lot of tracks so it won’t take long before you hear repeats. In terms of the music, I like and dislike how they handeld it. In the buildings, it’s played from the radio. But, if you put the radio in the store in a corner, it’s possible that, that area is silent. In terms of sound effects, this game is perfect. I don’t have any complaints or even (nitpicky) remarks about them.

Apart from the random crashes, this game runs overall quite stable. But, there are a lot of glitchy moments where things mess up. I have seen flipped delivery trucks on route to the station. I have also seen trash bags glitching through the floor into the void. The physics can go haywire sometimes. Jumping into the side of a car can send it flying or moving in some crazy ways.

Thankfully, the game has a sort of reset button for when cars get flipped or get stuck and you are unable to get them unstuck. You can send an alien craft over your station and reset it all. But, do keep in mind that it also sends your staff into rest mode so, you’ll have to reassign their job.

Speaking about staff and jobs, I truly wish you could manage that a bit more. I’d love to see shedules or commands like: “When you are done resting, go to the garage and fix cars.” Then again, it’d ruin a bit of the challenge of this game micromanaging it all.

Overall, the controls are quite responsive and easy to learn. You can also rebind them if needed. Since, at first, this game thought I had an QWERTY keyboard lay-out but I’m from Belgium and we use AZERTY around here.

I do have to say that reviewing games that still get new updates with new features and bug fixes is quite tricky. Especially, since I don’t know to what degree I can talk about the glitches in this game. There are glitches in this game and most of them are either the physics engine doing strange things are characters doing strange floating stuff. Or talking about limiting mechanics like only being able to have a loan of 1K. We never know what will change in the future. So, maybe some points I talked about in this review will be irrelevant in the future. Like, how tricky it is to restock shelves sometimes. The amount of times I took stock from shelves by accident when trying to refill, it’s silly.

But, something I’m totally looking forward too is that in the upcoming days a new DLC for the 1 year anniversairy of the game will come out. And looking at the store page, it’ll be a free DLC. I’m quite curious to see what’s going to be in it!

The final thing I want to talk about is that this game has an autosave. You can’t set the interval of it but every few minutes, this game autosaves. But you can also manually save. The saving and loading in this game is really quick. You do have some minor texture popping when the game loads in for the first time but it fixes itself quite fast.

Now, with that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. I think it’s high time to wrap this one up.

Wrapping up

The bad:

-Still have some polishing up to do.

-Some mechanics like painting need an overhaul

-Silent staff

-The random crashes

The good:

+ Enjoyable micromanagement simulation.

+ A lot of freedom in terms of customization.

+ Amazing replay value.

+ Easy to learn but tricky to master.

+ A lot of post game.

+ Gets new content and bug fixes often.

+ …

Final thoughts:

Gas Station Simulator is one of those games that I’d recommend without any doubt in my mind. This game is quite enjoyable to play for everybody who enjoys simulation games that are a bit more hands on instead of your “spreadsheet simulator” where you stare mostly at stats.

While this game isn’t perfect and still needs some polishing and expanding for certain mechanics… The postives outweigh the negatives here by a lot. The biggest issue at the moment of writing are the random crashes but if the promised upcoming update fixes those, I think that this game can shine even brighter.

This game has an amazing foundation to become an amazing indie title. If this game gets polished up so it’s less janky and has a bit more content, I think you might have a winner here. I’d happily fuel up my tank with this game after a long day at work. But now, I’d fuel it up until it randomly crashes.

In conclusion, I quite enjoy this game with jank and all. It has a lot of charm and I can’t recommend it enough. I’m so glad that I gave this game a shot and I hope you will to.

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

Score: 80/100

The Great Ace Attorney Goes To Review Trial

A collab review by AdventureRules & NekoJonez
Capcom pageNintendo.com micrositeWikipedia entry

Introduction

When the reader clicked open the link, they entered a luxurious courtroom where the jury, the prosecution and the defense were preparing themselves to start the biggest trial in their careers. The headlines didn’t lie. “Is this the great return of the Ace Attorney series?”. When the title dropped on July 27th 2021 on the Nintendo Switch and other platforms, the reviews started to come in. It’s a big departure from the previous entries in the series, and there is a split between the fans. So, two hobbyist reviewers and big fans of the series decided to battle it out in a courtroom and try to be able to answer the question once and for all. Is the game worth your time, dear readers, or is it not? Take a seat in the gallery and enjoy this duel in the courtroom, and feel free to let us know how we did and what you would bring to the table in this battle. 

The judge rose to his podium while he slammed down his gavel. “The court is in session. Is the prosecution ready?” the judge spoke while looking in the direction of the cat-human hybrid sitting behind the prosecution bench. “Yes M’lord” the prosecution answered. Then the judge looked towards the defense and asked: “Are you ready consul of the defense?”. The defense, trying to hide his nerves, firmly pushed up his glasses and said: “Yes, my lord. The defense is ready.” 

The atmosphere in the courtroom was tense. At one hand, you were surprised to see that these two fans stood face to face in this courtroom defending a game. You know that these two writers are good friends, and it’s not the first time they worked together. But now, it looked like they would eat each other raw to win this court battle. But, on the other hand, you were curious what arguments they would bring to the table. You were curious what their thoughts and opinions were about the game you were looking forward to. While you were lost in thought, you missed the judge asking the prosecution to give their opening statement.

“… so, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is a combination of two games that left the Japanese shores for the first time this summer.” the prosecutor said, while raising a scroll. “The original versions got released on the Nintendo 3DS way back in the summer of 2015 and the sequel in the summer of 2017. At first, the developers had no intention of bringing this title to our western shores, so fans took it upon themselves to translate the title. But, to everybody’s surprise, this title got an official translation and all the additional content and behind the scenes material got translated into English and as you all know…” the prosecution continued.

You raised an eyebrow, since the way the prosecution was acting looked a lot like how the prosecutor in the trailer of the game was acting. The only thing you were missing was the pouring of wine. Maybe the writer for the prosecutor got a bit lazy and copied the game a bit too much, you thought. You crossed your fingers in the hope that you would see more of his personal style shine through instead of copying the game too much. It would do this trial so much better if it was unique and not copying the established series and formula, you concluded. But, then you got a bit annoyed that you missed the actual opening statement. Thankfully, you read the headlines of the papers, so you know what this trail is going to be about. 

Visual Presentation

“Let’s start with the visual presentation”, the judge said. The attorney and the prosecution quickly agreed that the visual presentation is excellent in this game. “It’s a huge visual upgrade when you look at it from the 3DS games.” the attorney said. The prosecution somewhat agreed and said: “True, the attention to the details is exquisite. Yet, there were some moments when I felt some models looked off. Not polished enough when being brought over from the 3DS. There was even a puzzle that focused on 3D related technology that would have worked so much better on the 3DS. The fact that they didn’t implement something different or a solution for that… But, something that made me roll my eyes is how they reused the models for the jury. The excuse of ‘London is a big city, so you’ll find look-a-likes’ is okay, if it only happens once. It, sadly enough, happened more than once. Too much to count, to be frank.”

The attorney stepped in and said: “Those moments are few and far between. Besides, imagine the poor designers having to create 50 different character models and such to have unique juries. Let them reuse them, as long as there is variation, and it doesn’t get stale… they also justify it in most cases by having them literally be the same character and not just a lookalike. Ryunosuke even comments on it in one of the trials. So while I will allow that some may not like this choice, it was an intentional one on the part of the designers, and they did the work required to make it make sense in the fiction.” 

The attorney paused for a brief second, took a breath, and continued, “… If we are talking about the visual presentation, let’s mention the animations as well. The cutscenes in this game are way better animated than the previous title. The background is less static. The character animations are A+. Multiple times, I found myself literally laughing out loud at some ways these characters behaved. They strongly convey the personality and attitude of the cast.”

A sigh was heard through the courtroom. Of course, the prosecution had an objection. “The cutscenes are less static, I’ll give you that. But, explain to me why there are so few unique locations in this game. We visit the same hospital room in at least 4 to 5 different cases. You have a point that it would cost too many resources to make something unique each and every time, but why do the characters always have to mention… ‘Oh, what a coincidence… that place.’?” The prosecution slammed on his desk and looked straight at the attorney. “Now, let’s talk about the animations. I’m sorry, but I found that some side characters had more memorable animations compared to the main characters. Take Gina for example, her emotions were way more clear when you read her dialogue compared to the ones of Sholmes for example. Honestly, a bit more variation in the animations would be welcome. Especially, you see the same animations during give or take 10 cases this time and not 5. And maybe a few more if you include the bonus content.”

There was a silence in the courtroom. You felt that both parties were making good points. Indeed, the game looked amazing with various memorable locations. The attention to detail and the little nods to the rest of the series can warm any fan’s heart. But, you can also understand the other side of the argument. At first, this game was split into two 3DS games, and having repeat locations and almost the same animations on repeat, well that could get a bit dull and repetitive indeed.

A hammer slammed down, courtesy of the judge. “Okay, I heard both your points, counsels. But a game is more than just visual presentation and animations. Let’s move on to sound, the audio of this game. Let’s talk about that. Counsel of the defense?”

Audio and Controls

You noticed the attorney smiling and when he started talking, you felt the joy and passion of his words. “I loved this soundtrack so much, but of course, Ace Attorney always knocks it out of the park when it comes to music. There were perhaps fewer songs that stood out to me as all-time favorites, but I found that this soundtrack creates a more evocative atmosphere compared to the other games. Having differences in instrumentation and style depending on which country the characters were in made a difference.” the attorney said. 

The prosecutor squeezed the bridge of his nose and said: “Apart from a few tracks, I can’t agree more. There were a few tracks that didn’t hit the mark in my opinion. But, there is something that this game does that doesn’t sit a hundred percent right with me. Almost every character has his/her own theme. But, they like to use their own themes more during scenes instead of something that would fit the scene more. It made some scenes less memorable in my opinion. Then again, it did make the characters more memorable. So, make of the above point what you will.”

It was an interesting question. Should music in a game make a scene or a character more memorable? There was no real right answer for that question, you thought to yourself. And maybe that’s a question you should leave to game designers and producers instead of wondering it for yourself. While you were thinking about that question, you didn’t notice that both parties were talking about the sound effects in the game. You did hear the summary of it, thankfully.

“So, both parties agree that there is nothing wrong with the sound effects. Intriguing.” the judge said. “Let’s move on to the next section. Let’s talk about the various elements of the design.”

“The controls work pretty well. They are extremely responsive and made me feel in control of the whole series of events.” the attorney said. The prosecutor smirked, and you knew that it didn’t take long before a snide remark was going to come the attorney’s way. “Oh yeah? You are totally ignoring some frustrating things. Let’s talk first on when you go through the testimony of the witnesses, you don’t loop after the last statement to the first statement.”

The attorney shook his head and when he looked up to watch the prosecutor right in his eyes and remarked, “But that has an easy explanation. Just imagine being stuck at a certain point, and you skip the dialogue after the cross-examination where you get a hint to progress.” A sigh was heard. “Okay, I get what you are saying. But, think about this one. The original games were released on the 3DS. This version is on the Switch, where we have TWO additional buttons. One of these buttons could have been a sort of switch you could toggle for toggling between a loop or non-loop mode.”

There was no arguing with that. The prosecutor had a valid point there, but he wasn’t done yet talking about the controls. He rose a finger and said with a smile: “Oh, and one other thing. Let’s not forget that fast-forwarding in some scenes don’t even work correctly. The joint reasoning or the dance of deduction is slow when you have to repeat it when you made a few too many mistakes.”

A debate about some small, minor annoyances of the controls continued. You knew that finding the right balance between mechanics, controls and world-building is a difficult one to get perfectly right. There are always going to be things that work and don’t work. If flawless things existed, would they still be fun? From the controls, you heard the debating pair moving on to other things. 

Replayability and Difficulty

“How about you get two games, including the DLC and bonus content, for the price of one? You get 70, if not close to 80 hours of content to enjoy. Isn’t that worth the price of admission by itself?” the attorney said. 

“If only there was a demo for people on the edge to enjoy. That would make that deal even better. Yet, there are two things I want to touch upon. First, the DLC. You can use alternate costumes, but tell me… Why can you only use them in the second part of the game?” the prosecutor said with a slight annoyance in his voice. The attorney wanted to counterargue, but the prosecutor slammed his fist down and continued.

“Oh, and let’s not forget how everything is already unlocked from the start. Apart from a few things, you can start with the bonus material and totally spoil yourself with the spoiler warnings that could have been implemented a LOT better. Granted, all the bonus content is included, but honestly, after finishing the main game… I felt a bit burned out on the game and I haven’t touched the additional content at all.”

The defense attorney’s eyes were wide behind his glasses. The aggressive offense from the prosecution had left him somewhat stunned. He took a calming breath and spoke. “At least the game is somewhat replayable. I imagine it would be fun to revisit this game after you’ve seen the whole story and to recognize the moments of foreshadowing for what they really mean. Also, you can try to go for unlocking all of the achievements – called medals in this game,” he explained. “Oh, and the automated save system is a blessing. You can save essentially anywhere and if you mess up you lose almost no progress.”

“Those two are quite valid points,” the prosecution allowed. “Now, I think we are going to talk about the difficulty of this game now. Well, I have something to say about that. Something that couldn’t be avoided, with combining two games into one as a sort of collection, is that the first few cases in the 2nd half of the game are a bit on the easy side. Since, originally, you couldn’t be 100% certain if a player played the first game before the second. But, the game isn’t too challenging overall. The previous entries in the series were more difficult. That’s not to say that this game is a cakewalk, though. But, overall, this game felt easier compared to the previous games… But that might have to do with the fact I have been playing these games for years now. I actually found the leaps of logic in this game to be tougher than I remember some other games in the series being. In the second game in particular, I had a game over in every case due to moments where I thought the needed evidence was tricky to figure out.” After that long remark, the prosecutor paused.

He thought he had the attorney cornered. But, don’t ever underestimate somebody who is reviewing or talking about games for so long; a comeback can always happen. 

“I’ll allow that following the logic of an Ace Attorney game can be challenging,” the defense began. “But there’s a place for it. For series veterans, the unique brain bending mechanic of pitting two jury members to each other is a welcome addition. Meanwhile, for those who don’t want to deal with the challenge element of the game, there is a story mode where you just watch through the game’s story without any gameplay mechanics slowing you down. So for players who find the challenge to be a barrier, there is a way to experience the story without the puzzles getting in the way.” 

The judge was in awe, he didn’t have to interject nor lead the trail. Both parties were going from one topic to another and putting all their cards on the table. You knew, that’s because both parties have been analyzing games for several years, so they know what to watch out for. They chose to debate in this manner to talk about this game, they wanted to do something unique to review this game, and they were enjoying themselves quite a lot. Suddenly, you heard the hammer of the judge hit, and you looked up to him.

“Before you two ramble on and on about the game, let’s focus on the final two topics of this trial. These are gameplay and the story. Let’s start with the gameplay. Is this game fun to play?” the judge asked.

Gameplay and Story

This time, the attorney started with his argument: “I really liked the analysis sections and pitting the jury against each other. The summation examination mechanic is really solid and adds a lot to the trials. I also liked the Dance of Deduction mechanic for investigations, as it made a section of the game that I usually find to be kind of middling into something more interesting. Being able to examine most pieces of evidence is great and adds a layer of drama to the trials when you suddenly get something new and then a huge new clue comes from checking it out.”

And of course, as expected, the prosecutor wanted to say something as well. “I could start an argument that the game is somewhat repetitive. But, the game is for a certain audience. An audience that enjoyed the mystery novel gameplay. So, they won’t get too bored. And if they get bored, or burned out, they can take a break and come back to the game at a later time. I don’t have any counterarguments in the gameplay department. This game is easy to learn and if you have played previous entries in the series, it’s still enjoyable to play with the new mechanics and tricks it brings to the table.”

So, it’s time for the big one. The story. You didn’t want to miss this. Both parties agreed to keep this debate spoiler free, so you were curious how they were going to handle that. You heard the judge introduce and explain that fact, and both parties looked to each other, readying themselves for the most important topic of this whole debate. 

After a small pause, the attorney started: “I really enjoyed Ryunosuke as a protagonist and the way in which this story is all about building his self-confidence and him finding his path through life. Susato is a wonderful assistant character, and I found myself cheering for her all the time during my playthrough. While Lord van Zieks being racist against the Japanese people really bugs me, it made it fun to get the upper hand against him during the trials, and he has a powerful, evocative design. Also, let’s not forget that this entry has various moments where things don’t always have the rose colored ending we would come to expect.”

The prosecutor agreed, but had to add a few things. “Yet, it sometimes falls in the same trap that all the previous entries started to fall in. I found some sections to be a bit predictable. But, I’m not going to go too in-depth about that since we agreed to keep this debate spoiler  free. One thing I would have loved to see is more voice acting. The voice actors did an amazing job in the cutscenes to make their characters come to life. If only that was used more. Of course, it would be somewhat overkilled if the whole massive script was voice acted, but a bit more would be stunning. It would give more power to certain strong moments in the game.”

The attorney swiftly moved on and said: “It’s a breathtaking entry point for newcomers since it’s a totally new cast of characters. This has been my favorite storyline since Trials and Tribulations. The story is grounded and compelling, with lots of twists and turns throughout. Using two games to tell one big overarching story was a good move.” 

The prosecutor cracked his whip loudly, causing the defense attorney to reflexively flinch. The entire courtroom was paying attention to him. “But, there are a few things that could have been handled better in terms of writing. First, if you don’t understand English too well, especially British English… A lot will go over your head with the dialect writing and no option to turn it off. But, props for writing the script in that way, though. Now, if only there were more Japanese jokes and such snuck in when a case played in Japan. Speaking of which, there is no investigation section in Japan. Which brings me to my next point. The structure of the game feels weird in places. The tutorial feels too long in the first game because of both the first and second chapters being tutorials (one for trials and one for investigations). The first game essentially only has two proper cases in it, and the trials are never broken up by investigation sections, so the investigations feel super long.”

He left a small pause to try and read the room. It looked like he wanted to say something, but he was unsure if he should mention it or not. You could read in his eyes that he has seen this dilemma before. Should he talk about something that might spoil the whole game before or should he leave it out since they agreed not to talk about spoilers in their debate? 

So, you sat there looking at both parties argue. Each party had great points to bring to the table. You could totally understand where both parties were coming from. But, now it’s up to you, dear reader, to draw your own conclusion. Yes, the writers of this collab are taking that ‘easy’ way out. Now that you heard the negatives and the positives of the game, what do you think? Let us know in the comments down below, and maybe we shall ask you to be our next witness in this trail to answer the question in this trail once and for all. 

Editorial note: the portrayals of the prosecution and defense represent the combined views of both NekoJonez and Adventure Rules, who each contributed pros and cons to the review. 

Additional note from me, NekoJonez: Thank you so much Ian from Adventure Rules for working with me on this! Your art, advice, proof reading and advice made this collab come out the amazing way it did. Really check out his blog and his Twitter if you want to see more of his work. It’s amazing and worth checking out! Thanks buddy for this collab and thank you for all the support man!

Review: AI: The Somnium Files – The Nirvana Initative (Switch) ~ Let’s Dive Again

Official English websiteWikipedia page

One of my most favorite genres is an adventure visual novel. A game with a deep story with memorable characters and unique gameplay that draws you into the world of the game. Examples are Corpse Party where a cursed school plays tricks on your mind or Ace Attorney where you play as an attorney that takes on the strangest cases. I could list examples here for quite a while, like Time Hollow, where you get a pen that can mess with the past in certain circumstances. My favorite series in this genre are the Nonary games. I sometimes quote various moments to this day. I was beyond excited that after the trilogy ended, a new series by the same writer started in 2019. AI: The Somnium Files. Now, after I finished that game, I couldn’t wait to see what Kotaro Uchikoshi and his team were going to turn out next. And that is a sequel to AI: The Somnium Files, which picks up 6 years after the original game. But is it any good, or is this a sequel that we should avoid? Well, that’s what I want to talk about in this review. This review is spoiler free, so if you haven’t played the game… You shouldn’t worry about that. But in any case, let’s dive right into the game while I welcome you to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and/or opinions on this game and/or the content of this article.

Editoral note: this game also released on all other major platforms. I chose to play this game on Switch since I played the original on Switch as well.

Have you played?

In the original game, you took on the role of Date. An investigator at ABIS with a special AI companion implanted in his eye. Now, in this game, that isn’t really the case anymore since the focus is more on daughter Mizuki. In this game, you also play as Ryuki who is another investigator at ABIS. Both these agents are involved in a cold case which they are trying to solve for their own reasons. After the case going cold, suddenly 6 years later a new clue is found that totally reopens the cold case. So, why did the case turn into a cold case and why suddenly after 6 years are there new clues found?

In terms of explaining the story, that’s all I’m willing to say to avoid spoilers. I know I might be cutting it a bit short or being extremely vague, but this is a sort of game where you should go in as blind as possible. The story in visual novel adventure games like this one are best experienced as blind as possible. At least, that’s the way how I enjoy it the best. And sidenote, to avoid spoilers I’m going to explain some things in this article with rather generic terms instead of the in game terms.

Something that really surprised me in the opening few minutes of the game is that there is something implemented that is something I think should become a standard in other visual novel games. A sort of check to avoid spoilers of the original game. Since this game is a sequel, there is a potential that people start with this game before the original. And if you won’t get yourself spoiled on the previous game, certain pieces of dialogue are changed if you are unable to answer the questions about the ending of the previous game. Then, it skips over the dialogue that spoils parts of the previous game. Apart from a few lines, it doesn’t change too much, so you won’t be missing out if you answer the question or not.

In terms of writing, this game really delivers. The new characters don’t feel out of place at all. I honestly sometimes felt that the new characters were background characters in the original game… The voice acting in this game is one of the strongest points of this game. They make the characters come to live and pull me in the game’s world so hard. There are some weaker moments in this story, but overall, these are far and few between. In general, this pacing and story of this game is good.

Something that’s really great in this game is that there is a sort of glossary. When you forgot who a certain character is or what a certain word means, you can easily look it up in your file. There is some amazing value in there as well. So, I highly recommend reading through it.

Explore the dreams

Just like in the previous game, in this game you have to explore people’s dreams to find answers and clues for your investigation. If you played the previous game, it’s very familiar. In these explorations, you have 6 minutes to unlock the mental locks of a person to find the big clue that’ll let you progress into the game. Each interaction costs a certain amount of time, so you have to be careful and really think your actions through.

You do have 3 “retry coins” you can spend to travel back to a previous checkpoint. So, if you mess up, and you want to restart a certain section with a bit more time, you can travel back. If you don’t have enough retry coins or game-over, you’ll have to restart from you’re the start of the exploration. Also, in these explorations, it’s possible that the story splits into two paths. Now, I highly recommend that you explore all paths to the end before going to another path.

There are some additional mechanics during these explorations that can influence the time used, but that mechanic is somewhat underused in this game compared to the original. I played this game on the highest difficulty setting and to be honest, while the puzzles are interesting and a blast to figure out… I found them a bit too easy. Furthermore, I have to admit that I had to write some puzzles down on a piece of paper, but rarely did I get stuck or didn’t know right away how to solve a puzzle. The original game was more challenging.

With that said, it doesn’t mean that with easier puzzles that this game is less fun. Maybe I got lucky in figuring them out, or the experience of solving these puzzles from the previous game helped me out here.

Something I really like is when you full beat one of these dives, you unlock that dive without any time limitations. So, I can find out what the dialogue is in the wrong options and enjoy more of the enjoyable writing of this game.

This game controls extremely well. I don’t have any complaints on how this game controls. There is one minor complaint I have. There is one mini-game in the pause menu, which you can’t select by going through the menu. For the longest time, I thought I was able to only play this in handheld mode, but you just have to press the minus button on the controller to enter it. But I’ll talk more in depth about the mini-games and such later in the article.

So, these explorations in people’s minds isn’t the only mechanic in this game. There are also reconstructions you have to do. This is where you have to search for clues in a crime scene to answer a question. These moments are a lot less punishing since they don’t have a time limit.

These moments are a nice distraction to the game. Since, they help to sell that there is actual investigation work going. Yet, some of the hardest puzzles are in these sections. But, if you get stuck, the biggest hint I can give is to write the puzzle down. In these sections, there were one or two puzzles that would work a lot better if you were able to look at the clues, so that’s why I highly recommend you to write them down.

Another gameplay section of this game are the moments with quick time events. These moments are easily the weakest link of this game. I found these moments a bit boring since they are basically an interactive cutscene. You know when they are coming and these moments would have been so much more fun if they weren’t quick time events since they slow the scene down when they happen and these scenes are supposed to be fast paced actually. I’m sorry, but the implementation of the quick time event scenes in this game isn’t the best in this game. All these moments blend in with each other a bit too well.

Now, you can change the difficulty of the quick time events and the exploration moments. So, if you want to focus more on the story instead of the gameplay, that’s totally possible. Lowering the difficulty makes the game easier since it has less penalties for you. The game doesn’t lock any content away from you by lowering the difficulty.

The final gameplay section you have in this game is the investigation section. Where you go from place to place, so you can talk to the various characters to gather more information. During these moments, you can look around and investigate the environment for additional world & character building, jokes and dialogues.

These moments are just the right length. I never really felt that the conversation went on for a bit too long. Also, you can save during at any time during these moments, so when you have to leave the game and want to come back, you can comeback to a save point. This game also saves automatically. But speaking about saving and loading, this game has only one save slot. So, don’t forget about that.

Costumes and such

The music and sound design in this game is quite enjoyable. The music fits this game as a glove. I have already added it to my playlist, so I can listen to it while I’m working.

In terms of sound effects, the high quality is there as well. I don’t have any complaints about them. Most of the sound effects are just like the previous game, and they worked extremely well there.

Visually, this game looks excellent. There are some very minor rough spots, especially in low lighting, but they didn’t bother me too much. Overall, the visuals fit the atmosphere of the game extremely well. The new locations created for this game fit extremely well in the world. The animations in this game are great as well. I did notice some minor animation flaws here and there, especially with the mouths not always closing after some dialogue. But on the other hand, they help put the expression of the character come to life.

Now, let me talk about the performance of this game. Overall, I noticed barely any performance problems during my playthrough. There was some minor slowdown here and there and I felt like some cutscenes ran at a bit lower framerate compared to the rest of the game but overall, nothing really major in that regard. The game did crash on me. Three times even. Thankfully on moments where I didn’t loose to much progress but it did happen.

This game took me around 35 hours to complete and also to see some of the additional content. So, I think that the price is totally worth it.

One of the last things I want to talk about are the mini-games and the DLC. There is DLC for this game in the forms of alternative customes for the AI assistants in this game. Overall, the additional content is quite cheap but it’s 100% costmetic. If you are a fan of silly alternative customs, they are the right fit for you.

Now, during the game you can unlock eyeballs. With these eyeballs you can purchase the unlocked costmetic items via the bonus menu in the main menu. You can also unlock concept art and other materials. Some of these items even have some easter eggs in them!

What you can buy with these eyeballs depend on your progress in the game. Now, something I really like is how you are unable to unlock everything when you have seen the true ending of this game. You’ll have to go back into the game to go in alternative routes and maybe try the wrong options to have a new evalution. There are in total 40 evaluations to unlock and completing the true ending, I still had 16/40 left to find.

The only dissapointing thing is that there are barely any hints in the game to find these remaining endings. I think it would be a nice feature if you are able to see on which day you can unlock that evalution after you have seen the true ending. This doesn’t take away the challenge of searching for the ending since each day has a lot of content to go through.

There are two “mini-games” in this game. One is a sort of advice room where the AI assistant of the character you are playing as plays a sort of shrink for you as the player. I rarely used this mode apart from it also being the dressing room of the costumes you bought. The combinations you can make with dressing up your AI ball are numerous. I just wish that there was a button to “sync” costumes between them.

Anyways, there is one other mini-game I have to talk about. This is a sort of Tamagochi where depending on how you answer the questions, your tamagochi AI-ball evovles into different AI-balls. Each 20 minutes you get a question. You have four different possible replies. Depending on your replies, a certain stat increases and you can get another creature. Since, it all depends on the stats you increase. You can also unlock a guide when you reach a certain type which can help you unlock all the others. It’s an enjoyable destraction to the game but apart from it being a nice source of eyeballs to purchase costumes, I found that there is nothing really to it. While I can totally see some people enjoying this, I’m not one of those.

Overall, in this article I have mostly praised this game. But, there are a few things that don’t work at all and can be improved in a patch or a sequel. The first big thing is the small font of the option menu. If you play this game in docked mode and sit a meter of two (which is +/- 6 feet), the option screen becomes close to unreadable. Thankfully, there is a zoom feature on the Switch and the top right infobox gives some hints… But still, that menu is too small. If they wanted to keep the same visual design, just make more pages with a bigger font.

A nitpick I have is that when something is added to the file, and it’s in the manual… The green dot is so close to the binder of the manual that you can barely see it. I think changing the color of the manual in the file would have been a great move.

Another nitpick I have is when you go to the bonus section from the main menu, you only see Aiba there. I have never seen the other AI-ball there. I found this a missed oppertunity. It would be kind of fun to have a random chance to see either Aiba or Tama there.

The final thing I dislike about this game is that there is no real run button in this game. You do have a skip button, that’s pretty close to the “auto” button, but you can’t run in explorations. I would even not mind it with having a run button and it costing twice as much time to move around… Since, the walking speed is a bit slow when you are playing again to find the other endings.

So, with that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. So, I think it’s high time to wrap up this article in a nice conclusion so people who are looking at this article to know if this game is any good or not and don’t want to read everything have something to quickly read.

Conclusion

The good:

+ Enjoyable story where you can avoid spoilers of the original.

+ Amazing soundtrack.

+ Creative puzzles.

+ Great controls.

+ …

The bad:

-Some slowdowns/crashes can happen on the Switch version.

-Too small options menu.

-Missed chances with quick time events.

-Some minor issues in terms of polish like one of the mini-games being reachable with a button instead of it being highlighted when scrolling through.

Final thoughts:

To answer the question I posed in my introduction, I think that this game is a worthy sequel to the original game. The game is quite a lot of fun to play and I had a blast playing it. The game has it’s weaker moments but those overall are no big issue compared to the overall package. This sequel can also be a great entry point into the series and there are a lot of winks to veteran fans.

There are some issues for sure and the story has some weaker moments but I might repeat myself but the positive and fun moments far outweigh the negative moments. I enjoyed this game so much when it finally released here in Europe that I even pulled an all nighter during my summer break while playing this game. It’s so much fun.

Thanks to it releasing in my summer break, I have already beaten the game and now I’m looking for the things I missed but so far, it’s one of the best games I have played all year.

Personally, I highly recommend this game to everybody who enjoys adventure and/or visual novel games. This sci-fi thriller story is a blast to play through. This game comes also recommended if you enjoy playing mystery solving games. The original game now has a demo as well on the Switch eShop and if you enjoy that, this game or the original are going to be such an amazing time!

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

Score: 90/100

First Impressions: Sherlock Holmes – Crimes and Punishments (XBOX360) ~ Hipster CSI in Ye Olden England

Wikipedia entry

I can’t really explain why, but sometimes I really like to play detective games and trying to solve a crime. That’s why I’m really into the CSI games. Now, when one of my neighbors in our yearly local garage sale started selling his XBOX360 and PS4 collection, I saw he had Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments. While I’m well aware that this game got a port this year onto the Nintendo Switch and Steam, I chose to play the XBOX360 version. Mainly since it was €4 at the garage sale and the Switch version would have set me back way more for just a bit of visual upgrades? Well, I wanted another excuse to boot up my XBOX360 once more. But, did it stay on, or did I start looking toward other games and/or consoles? Well, let’s talk about it in this article, while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on the content of the game and/or this article.

Hipster CSI in Ye Olden England

It’s no real surprise that you take on the role of Sherlock Holmes in this game. Together with your trusty best friend Watson, you are solving strange cases left and right in London in the Victorian era. This game takes place in 1893. In the first case, you investigate the murder of an old captain with a vile reputation. Explaining any more of the plot would ruin the story.

The cases in this game aren’t that long, and they are somewhat unrelated. So, if you are looking for a game with character development or growth… This isn’t the game for you. The writing in this game is more aimed at players who want to relax and enjoy a fun murder mystery like an episode of CSI. With some familiar characters, but each episode is a different case.

The writing itself is quite enjoyable. I really feel that I’m in a Sherlock Holmes story, and I’m enjoying every minute of it. The story really scratches that itch, I have to play some more detective games but only this time, it isn’t with modern technology.

The voice work is also quite good. They made the atmosphere of this game come to life. Every line of dialogue and thoughts are voice acted. Now, there is one thing I’m a bit on the fence about in terms of the voice acting. Maybe it’s because I have been reviewing games for so long and know a bit about developing games as well, but I had times when I felt like some lines were a bit generic.

For example, when you are searching in Holmes’ archives and find the piece you are looking for… It’s always the same line. Sometimes recording more than one line, and randomizing it, helps with the immersion of the game. Otherwise, you are running the risk of it all blending together and making some mechanics feel a bit boring. Or why does doctor Watson nearly always ask where to go next. It’s as if they didn’t record other lines for him. Maybe some fun banter or remark about the location. Like, in the first case, about the well-kept garden. I wouldn’t mind it looping, but something more than “Where to go next, Holmes” and Sherlock not even replying. Since, now, the line feels a bit out of place to me. Thankfully, these moments didn’t bother me too much and are overall quite rare.

I’m well aware that perfection doesn’t exist, and thankfully so. Thankfully, this is the only problem I have with the writing. Very few lines are a bit generic or out of place. And maybe I really notice them because I wanted to review this game and the overall quality is quite high, and I wondered if there was something to critique about the story.

Pop! Here I am!

Visually, this game looks good. The environments are quite detailed and look amazing. But, it isn’t perfect. This game suffers from popping issues sometimes. Especially when you go from a cut scene to gameplay, where some textures just take a bit longer to load, and it just looks weird. I had one especially bad case of this when Holmes’ case book didn’t load the correct texture for like 30 seconds. And I was wondering what the text was on the book.

This happened to me while I was in the “load screen” wagon between two locations. During the loading screen, you can view your case book or enter your thoughts’ menu. And, to be honest, I highly advise you do, since the background scrolling during these wagon scenes don’t always look great. I even saw moments where the background suddenly restarted. And the backgrounds are such lower quality compared to the rest of the game, it’s a shame. Just like the small screen tear issues this game sometimes has when exploring around.

The animations of this game are good as well. They make the game come to life that much more. Yet, sometimes I feel that some characters move a bit too slow or lack a few frames of animation to make it look like the game it’s dipping in frames. But that isn’t the worst issue I have with the visuals and animation. That dubious honor is for the fact that sometimes when exploring, Holmes can “raise up in the air” on an object and when you move the camera just a tiny bit immediately snap down to earth. This happened more than once, but thankfully it didn’t cause any game breaking bugs by for example placing me out of bounds.

Maybe I’m being too harsh on the game. I mean, image the amount of work the developers had to put into the visuals. Especially when you are able to chose if you want a first person camera or a third person camera by the press of a button. This goes so seamless it’s a surprise to me that this works so amazingly well.

Also, you can dress up Sherlock Holmes as you want. The amount of different variations is just silly and adds to the impressive visual possibilities that this game has. Dressing up is just one of the mechanics this game has. You’ll need it sometimes to trick a character into talking.

Now, what exactly is it that you do in this game? Well, you investigate a crime and you look at the crime scene for clues. Sometimes you go back to Baker Street to preform experiments or the search in your archive. While you are exploring the locations, you can also talk to suspects to gather more information about the case.

During your research, you’ll find a lot of clues. Some of these clues need to be interacted with. In your notebook, those clues have a special icon so you know that you need to research in your archive or preform certain experiments with them. Also, the task list is quite handy to keep track of what you still should investigate.

During your research, you’ll be able to use your imagniation. This is a sort of “recreation” button for some scenes in the game. Or when a clue is quite hidden, you can use the strong observation skills of Holmes. To avoid these mechanics becoming a needle in a haystack story, you’ll notice those icons at the top right when you need to use those skills.

Another important mechanic is what I call the “connect the logic dots” mechanic. Here you need to connect two clues to form another clue. It reminds me a bit of Time Hollow which has a similar mechanic, but explaining that would spoil parts of that game. When you connected all your loose clue’s, you can try to make sense of them all. Connecting the right dots will lead you to a conclusion. But is it the right one? Who knows? Be sure to think it over more then once. Since, seeing if your theory is correct is a lot of fun to see play out.

Something that this game does a lot better compared to the CSI games is that this game gives you some freedom. You can actually explore the area the crime took place and look for clues. Some of these areas are huge but expertly crafted, making it a breeze to explore them.

The responsive controls make it quite fun to walk around and explore those areas. Thankfully, Holmes has infinite stamina, so you can also run around when you find his walking pace too slow. And when you forget how to control the game, you can just press the two joysticks of your controller to bring up a handy chart of the games’ controls.

There are two things that controls a bit awkward at first and that’s searching in the archives and searching in your case book, but it doesn’t take long before you can get the hang of it when you know that almost every button has a different purpose, and you look at the buttons that are displayed on the screen.

Skipping the skip

One big difference compared to the CSI games is that there is no hint system in this game during your case. If you are stuck, you can’t get any hints from somebody. This is something that some people like and others aren’t really fond of. But, just like the CSI games, this game has mini-games and puzzles.

Now, you can skip most of these puzzles and mini-games by the press of a button. It barely has any influence on the game if you played or skipped the puzzles, but it’s a nice addition that it’s there. When you just want to get on with the game instead of figuring out one stupid puzzle that otherwise would have locked you out the rest of the game. Something that would make it even more perfect is that in the end of the case, you can see how much puzzles you have skipped. That way you can make it an “honor” thing where people who completed the game without skipping any puzzle get an achievement or something.

Speaking about the ending of the cases, you can come to the wrong conclusion. If it has consequences or not, I won’t reveal to not spoil the game, but it’s great to see that you are able to redo it when you want to see the other endings OR want to correct yourself. You can also choose between either reporting the criminal or letting the criminal go. And that’s also everything I wanted to say about that mechanic. It leads to some quite interesting things.

This game isn’t too difficult. The biggest difficulty in this game is when you overlook a clue and reach the wrong conclusion. If you are stuck, I highly advise you to go over your case notebook and imagination. Since, you might have missed a clue. Only once I had to look up the walkthrough, and it turned out that I was doing two things in the wrong order. Apart from one puzzle in the 3rd case, this game doesn’t have any “moon logic” puzzles. The puzzle in the 3rd case isn’t hard, but it takes a while to click with some people what the idea behind the puzzle is.

This game has achievements. And it’s quite a lot of fun to go for the achievements in this game. They don’t add a lot of replay value since this game doesn’t have a lot of replay value. Unless you decide to start speedrunning it to see the endings you missed since you didn’t start over when you choose your moral stance.

Usually in my reviews, I write about the audiovisual presentation right after the visual presentation. But, since I had some more things I wanted to talk about in the visual presentation department, I’m talking about the audiovisual presentation later. And I can be very short about it, it’s nothing special. Don’t get me wrong, the music is good and fits the atmosphere like a glove… But, it doesn’t stand out to me. I find the music a bit to the generic opera side of things, and I would have a hard time matching it with Sherlock Holmes outside the game. I think the main issue is that it doesn’t feel like a “song” or “track” but more like a 10 or 20 second melody that’s repeating in somewhat different tones for 3-ish minutes.

Now, the sound effects are used amazingly well. While exploring, it really adds to the atmosphere sometimes. Really listen while exploring that one area at the end of the 3rd case, and you’ll understand what I mean.

Before I go to the conclusion, I want to talk about the game’s preformance. A big complaint is that the load times are quite lengthy sometimes and honestly, I have to disagree. I have played games with longer load times and the load times in this game didn’t bother me at all. It was the ideal moment for me to sip of my drink or to think about my theory of the case.

The game ran always at quite the stable frame rate (apart from some small moments in cut scenes). But, there is one thing that should have worked differently. I find it a strange decision that when you are waiting for a door to open since the game needs to load the area behind it… You can move away from it. It gave me the impression at first that my input didn’t register. Locking Holmes in place would communicated that a bit better to the player.

Anyways, when you read this article you might think that this is a very flawed game. If you got that impression, you reached the wrong conclusion and didn’t see all the evedince I left in the article. You might want to think it over and you might reach the intended conclusion (which you can always see at the press of a button when you have beaten the case once).

I fell in love with this game. I totally understand why so many people see this game as one of the best Sherlock Holmes games. It does so many things right that it’s still so much fun after 8 years later, this game is still a blast to play through. Of course, the XBOX360 release has some issues. Especially in the visuals department where the preformance can be spotty sometimes and in some places the game really shows its age.

But did those problems bother me? Oh heavens no. I still enjoyed myself and I was quite happy that I was able to pick up this game for quite a cheap price. It also made me quite curious to play the other Sherlock Holmes games in my collection and that’s perfect since my summer break just started.

So, if you enjoy mystery adventure games like Professor Layton, CSI or Ace Attorney AND/OR if you enjoy point-and-click adventure games like Deponia or Broken Sword or Monkey Island… I think you owe it yourself to check out this game. Since the port earlier this year, this game is on so many platforms and quite easy to get so if you want some better preformance, I highly suspect that the PS4 and Switch versions’ll outpreform the XBOX360 version. But hey, the XBOX360 version is still worth playing!

And with that said, I have reached my conclusion about this highly enjoyable game and where shall we go next–

Thank you for reading this article so much. 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: Cube Grid (PC – Steam) ~ Rolling Around On The Grid

Steam store pageOfficial website

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

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

The good cubes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The bad cubes

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

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

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

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

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

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

The conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

Score: 80/100

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.

First Impressions: Persona Q – Shadow Of The Labyrinth (3DS) ~ Crossin’ Over At Least Once

Nintendo.com micrositeWikipedia entry

When I’m playing console exclusives, I love it when said exclusive does something unique that is difficult to replicate on other consoles. That’s why I love exclusive to the Nintendo (3)DS or Wii U so much. Since, most of these games use the console gimmick extremely well. And today I want to take a look at a game in the Persona series that crosses over with one of my favorite Nintendo handheld exclusive series, Etrian Odyssey. But, that isn’t the only cross-over in this game. Oh no, the cover of this game already spoils that. The characters of Persona 3 and 4 are meeting each other. Are they meeting each other for a tense and amazing adventure or will this an adventure you can skip over? Let’s talk about it while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on this game and/or the content of this article.

Crossin’ over at least once

Like I said in the intro, Persona 3 and 4 characters are meeting each other. And you can choose with which cast of characters you start playing. Since, I played a decent chunk of Persona 4 Golden and haven’t played Persona 3, I decided Persona 4 cast to start out with.

So, in this game, your cast somehow gets transported to a different dimension. Something that’s really cool is that the opening of the game depends on the cast you chose and fits the world and themes of the original game like a glove.

As soon as you enter the first dungeon, the storylines merge and are almost the same. In the first dungeon themed after Alice in Wonderland, you meet two strange characters named Zen and Rei. Both have amnesia both know that the dungeon is extremely dangerous. It doesn’t take long before they join your party to explore this strange world.

A world where the normal Persona rules are somewhat flipped on their head. Now, the hero lost their Joker ability which caused them to wield any Persona and now everybody has the same unique additional ability. They all can wield a 2nd Persona that they can choose and change.

On top of that, in this strange world, there are several dungeons. The main hub of the game is a school where a strange clock tower is standing in the middle of the courtyard. What is that clock tower doing there, and how can they unlock it? That’s what are heroes are trying to find out.

Explaining more about the story is bordering on spoiling parts of the game. So, if I have sold you on the game, I think you should take a look at it. Now, you don’t need to have played ANY Persona before jumping into this one but some jokes, references, and story bits will go over your head if you haven’t played Persona before. So, yes, this game is extremely welcome to veterans and newcomers.

Now, the voice talent of in this game is beyond amazing. Listing off all the voice actors and their credits would make this article not only go off track quite fast but also get extremely lengthy. The excellent voice acting make the story even more enjoyable. I especially love the little voice clips in the dungeon and during fights since they give the game so much more character. I love it in Etrian Odyssey and I love it here.

Let’s draw that map

If you have played any Persona game before, you’ll feel right at home in this game. It’s your typical dungeon crawler with themed dungeons with a lot of RPG mechanics. And if you have played any Etrian Odyssey games, you’ll feel right at home as well.

Just like Persona 5 Strikers was the perfect mix between hack-and-slash and the Persona formula, this game is the perfect mix between Etrian Odyssey and Persona.

Something that’s quite unique in Etrian Odyssey is that it’s a dungeon crawler where you have to draw your own map to some degree. The game draws out where you walk automatically, but you have to draw where the walls are, place the location of doors, treasure boxes, traps… You even have to take notes.

FOE’s return in this game as well. And let me tell you, in this game they aren’t a pushover. I really advise you to avoid them at all costs. FOE’s are huge monsters which roam around the dungeon on a set path. Each FOE has their pattern and quirks, and sometimes you have to manipulate them to solve an environment puzzle.

The FOE’s are the only enemies you’ll see roam around on the bottom screen map. All the other enemies are encountered by exploring the dungeon. Like in Etrian Odyssey, you have a counter at the bottom left of the top screen that indicates how close you are to a battle. Battles in this game are turn-based. Something that really annoyed me in Etrian Odyssey is the MP management. For some characters, it is too easy to run out of MP and be useless. Unless you either heal that MP with the rare and/or finite amount of times you can heal that in the dungeon or their MP is just drained way too easily.

In this game, a solution to that problem has been found. In this game, each character that has a second Persona equipped, gets a low but certain amount of MP at the start of each battle. And not only that, when you have a critical hit OR hit the weak spot of an enemy, the next round the character won’t use MP. And you can chain this in a combo if you learn the weak spots of each enemy. So, it’s quite helpful to learn who is weak against what and create the best team and couple them with the best Persona’s.

The difficulty curve of this game is somewhat unforgiving. There is no auto-saving in this game when you reach a game over, you’ll have to restart with the last save. Thankfully, you can lower the difficulty at any time in the hub if you are stuck at a hard enemy or boss unless you have chosen the highest difficulty.

In this article, I have mentioned a Persona several times. Allow me to explain this to people who don’t know what Persona is. Depending on the Persona game, the theme is a bit different, but basically it’s a monster created out of strong emotions that’s bonded in a way to somebody. This bond allows them to use special abilities and magic during battle. You can read and discover more about the concept on the Persona wiki but beware spoilers on that page.

Risk and reward systems

This game isn’t easy, even on the lower difficulty settings. You really have to think on your actions and be mindful on what you are doing.

Should I save my money since the higher your level, the higher the healing costs become OR should I buy this strong weapon/armor? It’s just an example of the thought you have to put into this game. This game nails that fine balancing act of being challenging and rewarding.

At the end of the first dungeon, you meet the other cast of characters. This doubles the amount of useable characters in this game. And this makes this game very replayable to a certain degree. While the lay-outs don’t change of the dungeons, you can only carry five characters in a dungeon. And that means that you can make each playthrough of this game quite different.

Now, something I really miss from the Etrian Odyssey games that isn’t in this game is the simple fact that you can’t floor hop. Remember when you almost finished the whole map in Etrian Odyssey and you found the entrance and exit, so you can warp to that floor’s entrance/exit almost immediately? That isn’t present in this game. On the other hand, this game has a mechanic I wished was in more Etrian Odyssey games. You can choose the color of the elements you place on the map. So, you have way more options in placing things on the map making it a lot easier to mark for example certain traps or moving tiles.

Being able to draw the map myself is one of the biggest selling points to me of the Etrian Odyssey games. In a way, you draw a part of the UI. Speaking of which, the UI in this game is extremely solid. It took me no time at all to learn the controls of this game and get going. The fact that this game also has amazing visual presentation is great as well.

The attention to detail is superb and gives the game such a great atmosphere. Visually, this game is eye candy to me. To such a degree, that when I tried this game with the battle animations disabled in the option menu, I felt that this game was missing something. While I totally understand that the game and battle system might be a bit too slow with them on for some people, I love how accessible this game is with the option menu.

Not only the visual presentation and animations are amazing, but the soundtrack is on point. It hits all those strong beats you are used to in a Persona game. It also reminded me sometimes of the Etrian Odyssey games and I got nostalgic sometimes.

Something to be wary of is that the Nintendo 3DS eShop is closing in the really near future. This game has some DLC as well, expanding some features. Mostly, they add some optional additional Persona’s or voice packs. So, if you are interested in this game and want all the content… But warned that you have until late August 2022 to do it.

And with that said, I have said everything about this game I wanted to say about this game for now. If you enjoy dungeon crawlers, Persona, RPG’s and/or Etrian Odyssey, I urge you to give this game a chance. To be honest, I fell in love with this game and all it quirks. While this game isn’t for everybody and certainly the difficulty might turn some people off, I have a hard time to say anything negative about this game.

This game is a must-play for every Persona and Etrian Odyssey fan in my opinion. I can’t wait to see where this game is going next, and I’m also quite hyped that this game has a sequel Persona Q 2 – New Cinema. Which I might review in the future. But for now, I have the original to beat here. So, I have to wrap up this article, publish it and after that I can get back right into this game trying to finish it.

And with that said, I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing this article. 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: My Little Universe (Android) ~ Gather & Dump ’em boys.

Google Play StoreiOS versionFan subreddit

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

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

Worth gathering

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s dump this

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, what now?

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

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

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

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

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

Score: 4/5

Review: Danganronpa – Trigger Happy Havoc (Switch) ~ Extreme Education Surviving

Wikipedia’s entryDanganronpa Wiki entry

I adore games like the Zero Escape trilogy, Corpse Party, Time Hollow, Ace Attorney… The story and setting are the strongest parts of these games, and they tend to stick with me longer. It has been over 5 years since I had beaten one of my favorite series in this style of adventure visual novel games, and I was hungry for more. I knew that Danganronpa existed, but I never really played it. And then, last summer, Nintendo suddenly dropped that for the 10th anniversary of the series… The games will be ported to the Nintendo Switch. Not too long after the games were released, I bought the first game and hoped that it lived up to my expectations. Well, I already revealed the answer to that in a previous article. The fact that I chose this game to be my game of the year 2021, does reveal a lot. So, why did I decide to select this game to be my game of the year? What did I like so much about this game? Is it actually good or did it just click with me? Well, let me tell you. But, before that, I want to invite you to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and/or opinions on the content of this article and/or the game.

Editorial note: this review will be spoiler-free. Also, this review is written for the Anniversary Edition on the Switch.

Extreme Education Surviving

In this game, you play as a lucky student named Makoto Naegi. The reason why he is a lucky student is that he was chosen by a big lottery to attend Hope Peak’s Academy. A school for the most gifted students in their fields. From the best swimmer to the best fortune-teller. But, when school starts; something strange happens. Suddenly, he and his class find themselves in a locked school building without any way to escape. Well, the students do get offered a way to escape by a mysterious bear figure. If one of them is able to kill another student without being found out in a class trial, he or she can escape the school and the others… well, they won’t be living long. So yeah, it’s a game of life or death.

To avoid spoilers, I’m not going to go too much more in-depth on the story. The story works the best when you go in blind. If this game looks interesting to you, do yourself a favor and don’t use a walkthrough or look up the story in any kind of way. While I personally found certain things predictable, the execution and pacing of the story are wonderful. There is barely any unneeded filler to the game.

The writing of this game is one of the strongest I have seen in a while. I was pulled into the characters and story right away. It really felt I was playing through a thrilling anime series that sometimes made me feel I was part of that group. Something that really helped with that is how the game handled free time. Something I really liked in games like Time Hollow, is that there are moments where the characters just interact with each other, where there are moments of character building. Some downtime between the big action moments or story beats.

In these moments, you can choose with whom you interact. If you give these characters a present, which you can buy from the school store, you get extra information about that character. And these moments are optional. So, if you don’t want to do them, you can decide to sleep these chances away. At no moment in this game, this mechanic is forced on you.

There is a lot of voice acting in this game. Almost everything in the class trails is voiced by very talented voice actors, and they knock it out of the park. They add so much character to the characters and really made me root for certain characters. I enjoyed the voice work to the point that I even read the non-voice acted parts in their voice.

Counter with an objection

I already talked a bit about the gameplay. In between the investigations and the class trials, you’ll be able to have some free time. In this free time, you can investigate the school to find coins to buy presents. You can also interact with the other characters. This gives some replay value since there aren’t enough moments to see everything.

Now, in terms of keeping track of how far you are with each character… Well, that has been handled in the sequels a lot better. The UI is decent, but the sequels have improved the UI so much… Not to say that the UI is bad, but it could be better. It’s the same for how you can earn coins. That’s easier in the sequels than in the original. But, those are minor nitpicks to be very honest with you.

Anyway, let’s focus on the investigation first. When an incident occurred, you have a certain amount of time to search around before you start the class trial. At this moment, the game turns into a sort of Ace Attorney investigation style of game. A feature I really love in this game and I missed in the original Ace Attorney games is that you can highlight the search spots by the press of a button. So, you don’t have to “pixel hunt”. The game also stops you from leaving a location when you haven’t found all the information, so that helps in not being stuck.

But, the meat of the game is in the class trials. In these trials, the difficulty that you choose matters. The higher the difficulty, the harsher the game is with its penalties for messing up. Also, more additional mechanics are in play. During these class trials, you go through a non-stop debate. It’s up to you to shoot the actual contradiction with the right piece of evidence. Think Ace Attorney’s Cross-Examination, but you can’t flip through the statements AND there is a time limit.

Yes, there is a time limit for each section of the trial. The better you perform, the more coins you’ll earn at the end of it. So, do be careful. Now, you can also make the class trials easier or more difficult depending on if you unlock and/or use skills. These skills can be unlocked by spending free time with other characters and giving them the correct present. You can’t use them all at once, since some of them cost SP and you have only so much to use per trial.

There are several mechanics in play during these trials besides the non-stop debates. One of them is the white noise. These are basically comments from the other students that block statements you could shoot a truth bullet at. (A truth bullet is an evidence bullet basically.) If you shoot the wrong statements instead of the white noise, you’ll lose time. Shooting white noise, you’ll gain time. Oh, and truth bullets can’t go through white noise!

You can also memorize a statement. Sometimes, you’ll notice that during the non-stop debates, people contradict each other. So, shoot others’ statements at their statements. But remember, you can only shoot these statements once. If you miss or hit the wrong one, you’ll have to re-remember the statement.

On top of this, you have the Hangman’s Gambit. This is basically Hangman, but instead of you guessing the letters, you’ll have to shoot them down. A wrong answer you’ll cost you some life points. And just like the UI, the sequels made this mini-game way more fun to play. Making this version of the Hangman’s Gambit boring to play if you have played the sequels.

Then, you have Bullet Time Battle. I hated these sections with a passion. I understood what I was supposed to do but either I understood the timing wrong or my lack of rhythm did me in here. But, visually, the sequels improved this section a lot as well.

To finish the mechanics during the trials, you also have the closing argument. In this argument, you have to complete the sequence. The sequence is basically a retelling of the events with all the facts.

This game is quite forgiving. When you lose all your health points, you can choose to restart from that section right away. You’ll also get full health right away. The only consequence is that you’ll earn fewer coins in the end for that section. This means, fewer chances to buy presents for the other students and that means fewer chances to unlock new skills. But, after I unlocked the skills I’m happy with, I didn’t mind that too much.

In which dimension are we?

Visually, this game has a unique art style. While you can run around in this school in 3D, most of this game is in 2D. And, what’s in 2D stays in 2D. You’ll notice that every character is in 2D and during the class trials when the camera spins around, the backside of the characters is totally black. Just look at this screenshot here. You’ll notice that the characters don’t have any depth. If you don’t really notice what I mean, take a look at the chair and desk on the left side of the screenshot. See what I mean now?

This unique art style is also present in most of the cutscenes of this game. I really love the bold visual presentation of this game. It gives the game a unique character that really sets the tone of the visuals in the next games.

While this game tackles very grim and dark subjects, this game never loses its visual identity and the charm really worked on me. I really felt that I was in some sort of manga where I was having a huge adventure.

Add to this, an amazing soundtrack and great sound design… And you have a complete package. I already added the soundtrack of this game to my playlists, so I can enjoy it while I’m on the train to work or just during work.

Now, the controls of this game work pretty well. It didn’t take long at all before I was able to get used to them. There was only one moment when I wasn’t able to figure out how something worked. That was the first time I had to shoot a bullet. It took me some time to figure that out, but that might be just me. As soon as that clicked, everything fell right into place. Thankfully, you can see the controls at the press of a button. There are tutorials and those explain the game and the mechanics amazingly well. I just misunderstood the section of “how to shoot a bullet”.

There is one thing you should know. And it’s something that can trip you up if you aren’t careful. This game doesn’t really autosave. You’ll have to save manually. And you can’t save during the mini-game sections of the class trial. You can’t name your saves either, but the name of the save explains it quite well.

Speaking of saves, there are no separate save slots for the main game content and the bonus material. So, when you have beaten the game, there is additional content for you to enjoy. From character art to a music player. But, this is something the game doesn’t handle too well.

First, unlocking the additional content costs in game coins. This would be fine if there was an easier in-game way to “farm” these coins. Since in this game they are quite rare to find outside the whole heap you get at the end of a class trial.

Second, they are save-dependent. Basically, when you revert to an earlier safe, the additional content gets locked. And if you don’t unlock it again or spend your coins elsewhere… Well, though luck.

Third, because you can save over your completed game save, it’s also possible to lock yourself out the additional bonus game and content unless you “refinish” the game.

Fourth, but this is actually a good thing. You can’t unlock certain things unless you have progressed in the game far enough. Otherwise, the additional content could have been spoiler territory.

All in all, the bonus section isn’t as polished as the rest of the game. The bonus content and mini-game is amazing, don’t get me wrong but the usability could have been so much better and it would be so nice if you were able to avoid screwing yourself over.

One thing I want to mention is that I did mention some minor performance hits during the trial preparation. I felt that the visuals were a bit lagging in some menu sections. Thankfully, nothing else lagged so it wasn’t such a big deal. And it was only during that moment… So, yeah.

The final thing I want to say is that this game is quite lengthy. Playing through the game casually will take you give or take 30 hours. You can add at least 15 hours on top of that, if you want to fully complete it.

And that’s basically everything I wanted to say about this game. Before I ramble on too much, I think it’s high time for the conclusion no? So, let’s spin the wheel for the results.

Conclusion time!

The good:

+ Amazing story.

+ Excellent soundtrack.

+ Unique and fun visual design.

+ Quite lengthy game.

+ …

The bad:

-The additional content unlocking could have been handled better.

-The rhythm mini-game didn’t work for me at all.

-The game is a bit too forgiving for a game over.

Final thoughts:

Quite recently, I have beaten the final game in this trilogy and while I was reviewing this game… I always had something in the back of my mind saying… But the sequels improved such and such. While I highly advise you to play these games in order, I do want to say that it gets even better in the sequels. Especially the UI and things like that get a lot better.

Now, don’t see this as me saying that “this game is bad” or anything of that nature. This game deserves all the praise it gets. This game started an amazing series that I’m so glad that I gave a chance. Currently, I’m saving up to buy the anime on DVD.

If you enjoy games like Ace Attorney, Zero Escape, Corpse Party, Time Hollow, Professor Layton… You really owe yourself to give this game a shot. It’s an amazing ride from start to finish with a few minor blemishes that can be solved with just paying a bit of attention. So, it’s totally worth your time.

I’m so glad that I gave this game a chance. Since, it’s becoming part of my favorite series ever list and I’m silently hoping that we get new content in the future and if we don’t, I’m looking forward to more work of the creators of the series…

And with that said, I want to wrap up this article. 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: 99/100

First Impression: The Survivalists (PC – Steam) ~ Monkey Business

Steam store pageOfficial site

Sometimes, I just need a game to get lost in it. A game where I can dive into and play for hours upon hours. Games like Minecraft and Terreria come to mind. Since last year, a 3rd game joined that list for me, and that’s The Survivalists. But why did I give it a spot on my top 10 games of 2021? Did it deserve that spot, or did I change my mind already? So, let’s start monkeying around and let’s talk about this game, while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on this game and/or the content of this article.

Monkey Business

This game is an adventure survival game through and through. The game starts with you getting shipwrecked on an island, and it’s your task to escape. Now, you might think that this game is similar to other survival games like Forager for example. But, this game has a unique mechanic that I love.

During your adventures in this game, you can free imprisoned monkeys. As soon as you free these monkeys, they’ll join your party, and you can use them for anything you want. You can teach your monkeys to do stuff for you. This game slowly goes from a survival game to a micromanagement game. Since these monkeys can learn how to farm, craft, fight, gather resources… So, basically, you can leave the grind tasks to your monkeys. They can level up in these tasks, to complete them even more efficiently. Or you can have an army of monkeys following you around to battle enemies and such.

But I might be going a bit fast here. What’s the story in this game? Well, there is none apart from you shipwrecking and trying to find a way out. You do meet some taskmasters, but those don’t contribute anything besides being your quest givers. So, if you are looking for a survival game with a story of any sort, I think you’d look elsewhere.

Anyway, back to the monkeys. They are the game-changer, and micromanaging them is one of the biggest mechanics in this game. At this moment in my playthrough, I have freed 20 monkeys and trying to find the right balance in which monkeys are assigned to which tasks are an amazing puzzle. Together with an easy-to-understand tutorial, this game teaches you the ropes without holding your hand. After that, you are free to explore the islands.

The difficulty of this game really depends on the random islands you spawn on and in which order you tackle them. So far, I have two playthroughs running, and I have to say that the difference in difficulty makes the game fresh. To make an efficient base and craft the correct equipment to go exploring, is also a great mechanic in this game.

At the start, this game is overwhelming. There are islands to explore, crafting trees to unlock, resources to keep high, dungeons to explore, treasures to find… But, in its current form, the game lacks depth in some areas. There are a lot of mechanics that can be improved or expanded upon.

For example, the blueprint system. You can’t rotate buildings OR cancel blueprints once they are placed. Another example, why can’t you sort your monkeys by e.g. skill in your menu or see their names on the map? Once, one of my monkeys glitched out and got stuck in the middle of the sea without me being able to pick him up. I could use a summon-banana, but I had no idea of the monkey’s name.

If I list all the mechanics that could use a bit more quality of life features, I’d be here for a long time. But, don’t get me wrong here. The features that are here are amazing, but certain things would make the game even more enjoyable to play. For example, see the radius of where gathering monkeys will go to pick up materials. On the other hand, it makes the game a bit more challenging, since you need to plan your building quite well.

Open sea

This game was released in October 2020. Since then, it got 4 big content updates. These updates brought a lot of new things to the game. Sadly, since last summer, there hasn’t been a lot of development of this game. And if there is, I haven’t found any traces of it on the social platforms or on their Discord.

It’s a shame really since the potential of this game is huge. Currently, you can explore 5 islands. At first, I was afraid that it would make the world too small. But thankfully, that’s not a big issue. Each island serves its purpose and going from island to island takes up a lot of time. Thankfully, you can set up transport gates.

These transport gates are one of the best additions to the game in my opinion. They increase the game flow so much. I don’t like having a monkey with me that carries a big chest for storage. Since, when they get knocked out, they don’t re-pick up that chest, and it doesn’t appear on the mini-map. And with the small inventory, these transport gates are a blessing. And it’s also really helpful that items don’t disappear from the ground. On my adventures today, I found some leaves I have thrown out of my inventory when I first discovered the island over a month ago.

Exploring the islands can be quite tense. Since you never know where the enemy villages are. And let me tell you, some of these enemies can pack a punch. Mastering the combat in this game is essential to survive. I also bought this game on my Switch and I have to say that I highly prefer the controls on the PC version. Maybe that’s because I got so used to them with mouse and keyboard, that I have some troubles playing this game with a controller… Which is also an option.

That being said, this game controls amazingly. Sometimes, I had a bit of trouble canceling some crafting of my monkeys, but that was partly my own fault since I placed so many crafting stations so close together.

With these wonderful controls, we can explore the amazingly designed world of this game. While there are only a few biomes, they are all well-designed and have their own reasons to be explored. It’s really quite impressive how well this game runs. In some cases, there is a lot going on, and I barely see any lag or slowdown appear. Which is good, since you’ve to be on your guard in some areas to survive.

I always tense a bit up when I heard that battle music coming. I always look around to make sure if it’s safe to continue to gather the supplies I was gathering or if I should first go into combat mode. The music and sound design are really well done, and it adds so much to the atmosphere of this game. I didn’t hesitate to buy the OST DLC to be able to put the music on my playlists while I’m working.

Replaying

One thing that really tripped me up several times is that this game doesn’t have an autosave. To save your game, you have to sleep.

The loading of another world also isn’t quite easy to do. But, once you have done it, it’s easy to do. You just need to know that “Save slots” is your world select. And, you better have some sort of note system since you can’t give your world’s names. 😦

This game also has multiplayer. I haven’t played a lot of multiplayer, but from what I have played… It works fine. The limited communication options through emotes are somewhat disappointing to me. Sadly, the last two times I got bad experiences in multiplayer with a broken temple and a very spammy host with emotes.

Personally, I don’t regret putting this game on my top 10 games list last year. Yet, I can totally understand why people expected more from this. This game is from the same studio that brought us Overcooked and Worms. The charm in this game is huge, but charm can bring you only so far.

I love playing through this game in short bursts from time to time, trying to finish all the quests and explore everything my islands have to offer. I’m also trying to avoid all outside help from wikis and such since the in-game tutorial and hints are great enough to help you with that.

You can finish this game in roughly 20-ish hours, but currently, I have played this game for 35 hours and I haven’t beaten it yet. Since I want to see everything this game has to offer. In general, I think this game has the potential to become even bigger, but for that, the game will need more content and some major quality of life patch. Like, being able to choose the world you want to open when you start the game?

I wish this game wasn’t such a hidden gem. If the community was larger, I’m sure that this game would get more frequent updates. But, now, I rarely see other players online… I wish there were more online, so I could experience the multiplayer. Maybe I should invite some friends to play this game since I think this game is even more fun when you play it with others. And possibly then I could unlock those final achievements.

If you enjoy games like Forager, Minecraft, or Terrarria… to name just a few; I really think you’ll enjoy this game. At the moment of writing, this game is on sale and I highly advise you to pick up the digital deluxe edition. The additional cosmetic content is totally worth it and the additional hats you can find for your monkeys make it easier to tell them apart.

And with that, I have said almost everything I wanted to say about this game for now. In short, I really like this game. While it has some rough edges, those aren’t a dealbreaker. While this game might not please every fan of the genre, I think there is something here for everyone. Let’s go monkeyin’ around since this is a tense adventure. An adventure worth your bananas and monkeys.

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