Game Quicky: Guards (Switch) ~ Tower Defense Switching

Nintendo.com page

Today I want to talk about the new game that Drageus Games released on the Nintendo Switch eShop. Their previous title, Moon Raider was a pretty nice game, so I actually have high hopes and expectations for this game. So, when Drageus Games send me a press copy over, and I could give my 100% honest opinion, I didn’t hesitate. I wanted to take a look at this game. I know full well that this game has been released for a while now but due to my busy life, I just got time to reviewing it now. So, it’s time to review this smaller game in my shorter game quicky style. And before I truly start, I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and/or opinions on the game and/or the content of the article below!

Time to play

So, in this game, you take on the role of various warriors who are defending their homeland from invaders. Each warrior has his/her strengths and weaknesses. It’s up to you to use them in the right way. The gameplay is turn based. The left area of play field is yours and the right area is from where the enemies come in. In each turn, you can switch the location of two warriors. In order for you to win, you have to defeat a certain amount of enemies before one enemy can breach to the other side.

The gameplay is quite challenging and unique. It’s easy to understand, but oh so tricky to master. It’s a sort of turn based tower defense where you have to swap your towers from location each turn.

Visually, this game looks quite charming. The cartoon presentation of this game gives it some Saturday morning show vibes that add even more to the charm. While the animations might be a bit basic, they work, and they help to draw the player into the game quite well. The UI and menus are also easy to navigate, and I rarely found myself lost in them.

Time to skip this one

Sometimes I found the gameplay mechanics rather limiting. The fact, you can’t always choose if a magic user is going to use their healing magic or their field clear attack is annoying. On top of that, you weren’t allowed to switch your characters with an empty space. So, you HAD to switch between two characters for your move to count. Oh, and explain to my why I can select characters and “switch” while it’s the enemy’s turn? The switch doesn’t actually happen, but the game registers the button inputs.

Also, there are some things that aren’t communicated to the player well enough. For example, what does the inventory do? I was pressing the X button, and it only highlighted the button. When I continued to play, I started to understand how to use the inventory, but why did I have to find that out by myself? Also, I sometimes thought the game froze or soft locked… and it took me a while before I released that the game was waiting on my inputs since it was my turn.

The lack of an actual story actually hurts this game in my opinion. I rather have a generic, boring story then none. In this game, you don’t have any context why these fights are happening, and my interest in this game quickly went away as I felt myself going through the motions of every other game. I really felt that there was something lacking in this game and the story is one of the biggest mistakes of this game.

In terms of difficulty, I felt that this game is sometimes more luck based then skill based. A game over puts you back at the start of the game, but you get rewards to unlock more powerful characters. Why this game isn’t a high score game after seeing this mechanic is something I don’t understand. But, this made the game more grind heavy and here is where another big downfall of this game lies.

The gameplay loop of this game isn’t there. You go through the same motion over and over again to get just a little further. This unlocks rewards to unlock better heroes or upgrade your current heroes. While this might sound fun on paper, in the case of this game the repetitiveness of this game left me bored, and I had a hard time writing this article because of it.

Conclusion

I could keep writing a lengthy article about this game, but I think everything is boiling down to one point. This game is undercooked and shouldn’t have been released so fast. This game and the ideas it presents have so much potential, but the actual execution falls flat on its face.

This game has three save slots, but the save system itself is confusing, and I don’t know when my game is saved. The game has three difficulty settings, but you need to beat the easiest setting first before you can play on a harder setting. There is no cancel button when upgrading heroes, and you can’t swap heroes for other heroes when you started a run. The audiovisual presentation is quite nice but due to the repetitive nature of this game, I got bored with hearing the tracks so many times.

I’m sorry, but this game isn’t my cup of tea. I true feel that this game is undercooked and needs some major polishing up work for it to work and be enjoyable. Furthermore, I’m glad to see that other reviewers are enjoying themselves with the game, but I respectfully disagree with the high scores that some reviewers give to this game.

Things that should be improved in my opinion are:

  • A more in-depth tutorial on every screen of the game. Not every mechanic is clearly explained to the player.
  • More audio and visual cue’s to explain to the player when they can/can’t do something or when it’s their turn.
  • A better save system that doesn’t only save after the end of a run!
  • Polish out visual bugs like the “amount of enemies to be killed” counter resetting only after the round has started.
    • It always shows the counter from the ending of your previous run.
  • More communication with the player. What does “Magical hints” in the option menu do?
  • Some story to pull in the player a bit more.

Usually, when I feel this negative about a game, I don’t write about the game and I skip it. I write a feedback mail to the developers and/or tell them that I’m not going to write about the game. But in this case, I decided to write an article anyways since I find that this game has so much potential that it actually made me annoyed. Seeing this game so undercooked, it’s a big let down.

I honestly think that this game needed a lot more time in the over before it got released to the Nintendo Switch. From the digging I have done, I noticed that this game first released as a mobile game and after that on Steam. From what I have seen, the same complaints come up in various reviews. Most of those complaints are the exact same then I have. The last update to the game has been since 2017 and most updates have been bug fixes instead of polishing this game up with new features and more content. So, I don’t have high hopes this game is going to improve or if we are going to see a better version in the future.

Do I recommend this game to anyone? Well, if you are curious about this turn based lane defense game with a lot of grinding and a ton of rough edges, I think you might want to give this game a try but for all other players, I would skip this game. Thankfully, the new game from the developers of this game: Warstone TD looks a LOT better and more promising than this undercooked game.

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

Score: 2/5

Android Games – Let’s start playing on my phone again.

It has been quite some time since I wrote an article with short reviews of Android games, has it not? Lately, I have been focussing on the bigger games and I haven’t given the smaller games some time to shine on my blog. Also, when I was talking about a smaller game, I wrote a longer article on it instead of a short review. But, since I’m currently working on bigger articles and I didn’t want to skip this week, I decided I wanted to bring this series back and start talking about a few smaller games I have been playing on my phone lately. So, let’s start talking about smaller Android games and let’s take a quick look if they are worth your time/money. Also, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and opinions on the games and/or the content of this article.

ProgressBar95

Steam versionAndroid version

For those who don’t know, I’m 28 years old, and I also have a day job. This day job is being an IT admin in a big art secondary school (high school for some) here in Belgium. My work days are filled with solving problems that teachers and students have, improving our IT infrastructure, developing our website… Apart from that, I’m also a big fan of old tech and I love messing around with old computers and technology.

So, when I came across ProgressBar95 on the app store, I downloaded the game right away. And I fell in love with it right away. The game keeps true to its tagline that this game is a “hypercasual UI game”. The main idea of this game is that you are a progress bar that needs to catch dropping squares to make the progress bar progress. Blue and light blue are good ones, orange are errors but still help you in progress. Pink detracts from your progress bar, so you can get rid of orange squares if you want.

Depending on how well you do, the amount of points you get to unlock various upgrades to your computer. The higher your level, the more difficult this game becomes and the more points you can earn. This game also works with lives, but if you run out of lives, you don’t have to wait a certain amount of time for them to recharge and try the game again.

So, the interface of this game is top-notch. It nails the ascetic of being a computer amazingly. For example, to toggle sound on or off, you can press the sound icon in the bottom right of the computer. If you click the “EN” of the language toolbar, you can switch languages. It also has a colorblind mode, cloud saving, multiple game modes and one of the best ways to handle microtransactions I have seen.

The different gameplay modes I have played so far is a sort infinite runner Wolfenstein game and a “dodge the red numbers and get to the bottom of an Excel spreadsheet”-game. They add so much variety to the game and I love going between them if I’m bored with one game mode.

The biggest recommendation I would give to you is that you buy the extremely cheap “no-ads” package. Overall, the ads aren’t annoying but the game improves so much without forced ads. Now, if you look at the whole shop, you might think that this game is a “pay-to-win” or a money sink. But, no. You can pay to unlock all other levels but 99% of the stuff in the store can be earned easily in-game by winning levels or doing side quests.

It’s clear that this game has a lot of love put into it and I have a hard time finding anything negative about this game. Apart from this game being extremely niche and the game being a little boring for extend playthroughs… But yeah, I honestly would recommend this game to all my other retro gamers or people who are into computer science. It’s an amazing and refreshing experience.

Score: 5/5.

Word Lanes

Android store

So, when I’m in a waiting room or have some time to kill, I love playing small games. Especially when they are puzzle games like word searches or connect the dots to give two examples.

In Word Lanes, you are presented with a grid of letters, and you have to find all the words that fit the clues at the top. Each letter can only be used once and the letters have to connect horizontally or vertically to be used in a word.

This game is rather relaxing, and it’s a great way for me to unwind. I also love how the game is fully translated into my native language. The only complaint I have about that is the fact that as a Belgian person, I always have to struggle when the hint is talking about something from the Netherlands. But, I always report them with a handy report feature after you solved a clue. With this report feature you can report typo’s, wrong clues and things like that.

I’m also on the fence about the microtransactions. You earn coins to use the hint features after beating a level, but I feel I always don’t have enough. Thankfully, you have these daily rewards and saving them up is easy then. Honestly, I just think that the prices of the power-ups are a tad bit too high.

But hey, that’s a minor complaint. Since this game has so much enjoyment to offer and the ads aren’t THAT intrusive and only play between levels. Also, quite frequently, I have an option where the ads are disabled for one day. This is amazing and actually makes me consider buying the “no ads” package since I got a free trial.

Score: 4/5

Reigns

Android store

Way back in 2017, I wrote an article about Questr. A game that has some “Tinder” style gameplay while being a questing game. Now, that game was more about adventuring while you created your party with a sort of Tinder app. In this game, the main feature of Tinder of swiping left to reject or right to approve, is set into a “choose your own adventure” game.

Reigns is published by DeveloperDigital and is so close to be amazing, it’s painful. The gameplay is quite addictive, and I love taking decisions as an immortal king on how my kingdom should progress. The atmosphere, sound effects, music and visual design is amazing. It really pulls you into the game and I love playing the game but…

It’s way too easy to take a decision. It’s too sensitive. I had several moments where I was choosing between two options and just because I hit the edge of one side a bit too much, the game decided for me. And not only that, my phone doesn’t have physical buttons anymore and quite often, I had the game deciding for me just because I swiped down to see the time or see my latest notification.

There is also no “message log”. So, when you put the game down for a moment, you can’t see the history of what happened. And if I want to change the options during gameplay, though luck. The menu only appears when see the progress between kings.

This game has a lot of amazing elements like having to balance your four powers and the various twists and turns certain decisions and pathways can take, but it has various rough edges, I fell so mixed about this game. Maybe the PC version of the game is better, but I feel like this game works best as a mobile game. But, I feel like the mobile version just got a few rough edges. For example, I had to look up a way to reset your progress in the game. It turns out you have to hold two fingers on to have the reset screen to show up.

Yet, I advise people who enjoy adventure games to give this game a go. But be warned, the mobile version has some rough edges. But, for the low asking price of this game and the amount of content in this game, I can say for a fact there is a LOT worse out there. And I’m also so glad that this amazing concept got a few sequels as well… So, I know what to play next on my phone.

Score: 3.5/5

Wrapping up

I’m so glad that I gave this format another go and revived it. It allowed me to talk about three Android games I wanted to showcase on my blog, but I didn’t have the time for or wasn’t able to write a good enough “long” article about. I think I’ll revisit this format more often in the future and maybe also use it when I play small games on Steam, Switch or other platforms.

Then again, with my busy lifestyle and the backlog of games I still want to cover, I can’t promise how frequent I’ll write articles like these. I also challenged myself to be brief and short in this article and I had the urge to keep writing about these three games. So, if you want a more in-depth article about one of these games, let me know in the comments.

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

Review: Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine (GBC) ~ Speedrun Time!

InfernalMachineGBCWikipedia entry

Times can change quite a lot. Way back in 2014, I wrote an article about one of my most favorite childhood games ever made. Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine. You might think, why am I reviewing this again? Well, in today’s article I’m going to review the port to the Gameboy Color. I still remember getting my copy for one of my birthdays. Since I wasn’t allowed much time on the computer and I saw I was able to take the game on the go with me, the solution was easy. My godmother aunt bought the game for me and gave it to me when I was sleeping over at her place. A few days later, I want to my cousin who introduced me to this game and he got so jealous of my copy that he started to beg his mother for a copy as well. Amazing memories. Anyways, now that I’m also speedrunning the game (both this version and the PC version) and that I have fully finished this game, I think it would be a neat idea to review the GBC version of this game. Is it a good game or should we ignore it? Let’s talk about that while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

Editorial note: want to see runs of this game? 

So, what happened?

3If the developers of this game were able to cram the whole PC game into a Gameboy Color game, I would be amazed. But we all know how powerful the Gameboy Color was a playing a 3D game on that wasn’t fully realized yet. There are a few 3D titles on the Gameboy Color but not too many. So, some things had to give. But, how much had to go and did we still have a good game left? 

Let’s first talk about the extremely strange cuts into the story of this game. When you are used to playing the PC or N64 version of this game, the story in the Gameboy Color game is quite strange to say the least. There is so much less story in this game that if you would only play the Gameboy Color game, you might be unable to follow along.  

The best example is almost the whole ending cutscene after the first level is cut out of the game. You don’t get an explanation on why Sophia was looking for you and the whole setup of the story falls in like a cake you take too soon out of the oven. Yet, when you have played the PC/N64 version, you’ll recognize the story beats right away and know where in the story you are. 

So, since the gameboy wasn’t powerful enough, some sections and even entire levels have been cut. For example, there aren’t any final bosses in this version and Palawan Temple, Jeep Trek and King Sol’s Mines are missing in this version. Instead, we got a new level, the Russian Border. This level is a sort of extended version of the Tian Shan River opening section. 

The story in this game is a mess. I don’t really advise that you try to follow it if you haven’t played the PC/N64 version. It’s a shame since the story of the original versions is great. It really makes you feel that you are playing through an Indy movie. Fun fact, did you know that this game was first going to be about aliens before it got veto’ed because the script for the 4th movie was in development? That movie some Indy fans don’t talk about.

So, is this 2D or 3D?

indjgb004Even games with a messy story can be quite fun to play. So, is this game fun to play? Well, in my honest opinion, I’m having quite a lot of fun in playing this game, but this game has a lot of special quirks you need to get used to, to be able to enjoy this game to the fullest. The first one is that this game is sort of 2,5D game where you look at Indy from above. Thanks to the good use of shadows and different textures, you can be able to quickly see when you are approaching a cliff. 

While you can explore in this game, this game is somewhat linear. There aren’t a lot of moments where you need to backtrack. There is a certain order in which you have to play and beat the level but finding that out is half the fun. Now, as soon as you get a hang of the quirks of this game, it really opens up. Together with the extremely responsive controls, this game is challenge to play. 

So, when I started to speedrun this game, I hadn’t beaten the whole game yet. I had beaten the first 3 levels in my childhood, but the 4th level gave me a lot of trouble. When I actually started to run the levels I hadn’t played yet, I challenged myself and I tried to finish them without looking at the guide. To be honest, I was extremely surprised how the knowledge of the PC version helped me in certain sections and that this game also has unique sections and puzzles. 

Is the game difficult? Well, in a certain degree, yes it is. Healing items are more scarce in this game and there are no checkpoints in this game. When you die, you have to restart the level. A difference in terms of difficulty in this game is that poison can run out. Yes; it can run out. Oh, and med kits don’t heal poison. Only venom kits (green medkits) do. 

Surprisingly, the machine parts have the same use as in the PC/N64 version. The Azerim (flying) tool works a small bit differently but has the same concept behind it. So, knowledge of the PC/N64 version can be extremely helpful in this game to not get stuck. Since, like the original game, the GBC version doesn’t have a tutorial. It doesn’t help you in explaining the controls and the fact you can interact with certain things. A big piece of advice from me, if you are stuck, use the hand on anything strange. If a certain tile on the floor looks strange, use your hand on it. Since lifts aren’t always clear that they are lifts. 

So, the controls. Earlier I said they are extremely responsive. Now that I have quite some experience with them thanks to speed running this game, I have to say that they are precise but can feel a bit floaty. It’s something that has to click with you, or you will have some trouble with it. The D-pad is used to control Indy, the A button interacts with the selected item and B jumps. Start opens the inventory and Select cycles through your tools. 

For this review, I have played quite a lot on my Gameboy Advance as well and I have to say that I can’t decide if I like the fact that I run on an emulator since it gives me more screen space and I can connect my XBOX controller for finer control, or if I enjoy the charm of the game on a smaller screen with a bit more stiff controls. The difference in controls might have to do with the fact I’m running this game. 

Another big difference you might have noticed between the PC/N64 version and the GBC version from the inventory screen you can see a bit higher in this article is that you can only carry 5 of each healing item. You can’t carry more of them. You can purchase more of them with the treasures you find at the end of each level. But, here is something interesting. You can sell your healing items. For example, when you want more medkits, you can sell your green medkits. 

So, what is the gameplay here? This game is an adventure game where you have to platform your way to the end. All the while you have to solve puzzles, fight enemies and avoid traps. This adventure takes you through 15 levels that quite closely follow the structure of the N64/PC version. The red bar is your health and the blue bar is your stamina. 

To beat this game, you have to pull blocks, jump and swing over gaps and solve some puzzles. Most of the puzzles have to do with using the right item on the right location. Sadly enough, picking up and using items can be a bit pixel perfect which is annoying during runs. 

Sadly, you don’t have a map in this game for the larger levels. But, all in all, the levels won’t take you that long to beat. The longest level is Nub’s Tomb, which took me around 11 minutes in my speedrun. Now, certain levels can be beaten in under a minute if you know what you are doing. If you hold up while Indy is moving over a ladder, he can climb it… No matter how long his fall is going. And this game uses that mechanic in certain levels as well. 

All in all, the gameplay is quite addicitive. Especially if you enjoyed the original game. But, I can understand why people would get frustrated and lost in this game if they haven’t played the PC or N64 versions of this game.  

It’s fine

gfs_44058_2_11Now, visually this game looks fin in my opinion. There are better looking games on the Gameboy Color yet, I find the atmosphere the developers created with the visuals is quite nice to look at. But, it looks the best in the correct ratio. It doesn’t look bad in a bigger screensize, but you will have some blur here and there. 

Sadly enough, sometimes certain things like breakable walls or places where you can swing with your whip blend in a bit too much in the background. I’m certain that if when you play this game in a darker room or if you suffer from colorblindness that you’ll be unable to see them sometimes. Which is a shame. I wish they stood out a bit more since things like this give the neat visuals a bad name. 

As said earlier, there are a lot better looking games on the Gameboy Color but with the “weaker” visuals, they still pull off an amazing atmosphere. One of my favorite levels visually is Nub’s Tomb. It also has the worst puzzle in the game with the music puzzle. And let’s not forget the jump over the lake bit and if you miss one jump, you have to restart that whole section.

Are there glitches in this game? Well, not a lot. I found a few spots where the game gets confused so you are able to stand on places you aren’t supposed to stand and if you fall into the liquid in the Infernal Machine level and you are holding a direction button while facing a wall, you don’t die until you release the movement button. 

Now, going back to the visuals. There are also animations in this game. These animations are good. They really add to the game, all the while they don’t feel out of palace. They really blend into the created atmosphere really well. I always enjoyed seeing Indy swing over large pits and always hearing that amazing melody is just icing on the cake. But, let’s not mention how tricky it is to get in the right position to whip over a pit. 

Sadly, in terms of sound effects and music, this game lacks quite a lot. Apart from the main theme at the start and some short tunes, there isn’t a lot of music in this game. In the later parts of the game, there is a bit more music but it mostly aids in the puzzles or certain a bit more tension. I wish these moments were used a bit more. And there aren’t a lot of sound effects either. If I didn’t have to focus on my gameplay, I would play this game while listening to music. It’s a shame since when this game has music, it’s amazing chiptune goodness but it’s so sparingly implemented it’s annoying. Thankfully, the walking sound effects of Indy aren’t annoying. 

There are 15 levels in this game and when you play each level optimally, I think you can beat this game in 4 to 5 hours in your first run and without using a guide. Currently, I’m griding for a full run of this game and I estimate that it will take 2,5 hours if I don’t make too many mistakes. Granted, that’s when I skip all the treasures that are in most of the levels. Apart from, I think, 2 levels, there are 10 treasures hidden in each level. But, in this version of the game, they are a bit well less hidden compared to the PC/N64 version.

The final thing I want to talk about is the password system. As a speedrunner, I’m a bit on the edge on this mechanic. Before I started running this game, I hated this system. Why couldn’t I use the save system like in the Zelda games and other Gameboy Color games. But, now that I run this game, it’s quite helpful in training certain levels or trying to set a new level record. So, yeah. 

Anyways, I think it’s high time for a conclusion is it not? Let’s wrap up this article with a nice conclusion to summerize my thoughts.

Summary time

The good:

+ Enjoyable gameplay with exploration and nice puzzles.

+ Decent visuals (for the most part)

+ …

The bad:

-Butchered story.

-Too little in terms of music.

-Some sections are a bit too pixel perfect.

-Lack of tutorial.

Final thoughts:

Is this game worth your time? If you enjoy games like the old school Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine, I would say yes. If you enjoy unique and special old mobile games, I would also recommend this game. But, know that this game is a niche game and it has it’s quirks.

Two things can happen. It can click like it did with me and then you have a nice experience all the while you see the flaws and issues that this game has. The other thing is you realize that this game isn’t your cup of tea and you don’t play it. 

I honestly think that it’s quite impressive how they were able to cram a somewhat solid version of the PC/N64 version into a small Gameboy Color cartridge. I mean, the rom file for this game is only 1MB! This whole game is 1MB and it can provide you with a decent Indy game..? Sign me up! 

Now, if you are on the fence about it, just give the first two levels a try. If you notice that it’s not your cup of tea, then skip this game. If you enjoyed playing the first two levels, I would highly recommend you continue to play this game. 

Granted, I think that the nostalgia for this game might have placed a lot of rose colored glasses on my eyes and I might see this game in a better light then it actually is but should that matter? I think this game is a nice gem in the Gameboy Color library and I would recommend it to people who enjoy adventure games. All the while, I would warn it’s an unique and special game with it’s own flaws but it’s still enjoyable. If only the story was a bit more intact… 

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

Score: 80/100

 

First Impression: There Is No Game: Wrong Dimension (Switch) ~ Ceci n’est pas un article.

ThereisnogameWikipedia entryNintendo.com micrositeDeveloper site

There is no game here, so there is no article here. I have been searching everywhere in this game and I have found nothing. So, why am I writing about this then? Because I have no other game to write about, and I still want to write an article since it’s one of my biggest hobbies? Well, who knows. I can’t say, since there isn’t an expanded version of a game jam here. Maybe that section in the latest Nintendo Indie World was a lie. … Okay, I don’t think he is looking anymore. I think it’s time to let you in on a little secret. … There might be a game here. Shall we take a look at it? Come on, you and me. Let’s talk about this secret game while you sneakily go to the comment section after reading this article and tell me what you think about this game and/or the content of this article.

Ceci n’est pas une pipe

fileD8CAV347I don’t think I’ll be able to keep up the gag from the introduction paragraph through the whole article before it gets extremely stale and boring to read. No really, it might not be enjoyable at all. There would be loads of things that’ll be way more enjoyable to do. Like, read one of my articles or play a game. 

But, since you are still here, I think you want to poke around in the wrong dimension that’s part of the title right? Alright then, reader. In this game, you take on the role of “the user”. Explaining how your adventure gets started would spoil various gags that this game pulls with you and since I try to keep my content as spoiler free as possible, it gets quite tricky. 

The different chapters of this game can be a standalone episode in a series, but it still has an overarching plot. It tells a story about a certain game program that is convincing you that there is no game. But, some strange glitch is haunting him and messing things up for him, so maybe it’s time to set things right. 

You and the game program travel through the various wrong dimensions on your way home to set things right while having amazing humorous adventures throughout various game genres that poke fun at various elements of that genre. The amount of the sneaky references and the clever use in the gameplay and puzzles of this game is just amazing. 

When I said “various game genres”, you might think that this game has a lot of different gameplay styles. Well, this game is a point-and-click adventure. So, while you might be a Zelda-style adventure game dimension, you have to interact with the game via the modern point-and-click controls. But, more about the gameplay later. 

First, let’s talk about our Russian(?) host. Your game program friend is fully voice acted. The voice work has been done by Pascal Cammisotto, who is actually the French developer of this game. While the game is translated in various other languages, the voice acting is stays in English, and it’s glorious. The voice acting in this game is extremely well done and adds even more charm to the game, which may or may not be there.

The pacing of this story is walking on the fine line of going a tad bit too fast and just fast enough. I felt that some sections of this “fictional” game that I have played so far went over a bit too quickly, but I also think that if they dragged on for a bit longer they might overstay their welcome. In other words, in most places the pacing hits the right beats but in some cases, I found that a section was over a bit too fast.

“User, please solve that.”

20200807202822_1So, in this game you have to interact with the world in various unique ways via your usual point-and-click style gameplay. You find various items that can aid you on your quest. Your inventory is at the bottom of the screen, and you can place it in the order you like. If two objects might be able to interact, they get a white outline around them. 

Not that this information matters, since I’m not talking about a game that’s here on Switch, but I felt that this game controls better when being played on the touch screen of your Switch compared to the docked controls. I’m not saying that the controls while docked don’t work, but you need to quickly interact with some actions, and I was able to solve most of the puzzles more easy using the touch controls. 

The controls were quite easy to get a hang of. It didn’t take long before I was able to tackle the amazing puzzles in this game. The difficulty balance in this game gets a thumbs up from me. I really loved to solve the puzzles in this game and the mechanics and gags used to solve the puzzles in this game make the game being a love letter to our hobby even better. 

Also, when you are stuck in a certain section, the hint system gets a chef’s kiss. A ten out of ten. Whenever you click the “Help” button, you can unlock a hint. In most cases, you have to unlock another hint before you can unlock the solution. The only penalty you get from using the hint system is a small “boo” shout that the game gives you. But, I highly advise you to not use the hint system. The solution and out-of-the-box thinking you have to do is so much more enjoyable when you solve it without a hint. It’s a shame, since the hint system is one of the best I have seen in point-and-click games so far. 

The biggest shame of this game is that this game is extremely short. This game can be beaten in 5 to 8 hours. So, I currently played this game for 3 hours, so that means I’m somewhat over half way to beat this game. I always feel quite conflicted about these short games. At one hand, some of these are a blast to play through and provide a lot of unique experiences but on the other hand… I always wanted from the game. 

Nostalgic

tng-fp__xlI think we are currently in the time period where people who grew up with the same sort of games then I did are currently in the indie game development scene. The various game spoofs that this game visits feel so extremely nostalgic all the while that this game is putting its own unique spin on them. For example, the Zelda-style spoof reminds me so much of playing the Minish Cap for the first time. And the first spoof reminds me so much of playing old school point-and-click games from Humongous Entertainment or LucasArts.

The game’s visual presentation pulls you in so much that it makes the game more addictive to play for me. It blends the visual style of its own and the games it’s spoofing so well I have a hard time telling which is which sometimes. I can only praise the artist who works on the visual presentation and the animations since you did an amazing job. 

And as usual, after talking about the visual presentation… I talk about the music and sound effects. And just like the visual presentation, I have no complaints about those either. It’s an amazing blend between modern and retro styled sound effects. I could be an annoying nitpicker and say that it’s an extremely minor shame that the whole soundtrack of this game is orchestrated but then again, that’s extremely impressive for such a small indie game that only costs $13.

So far, I have been praising this game to the moon and back. It’s almost that this game doesn’t have any negatives apart from its short length. The save system works fine, the UI is excellent… I feel that this game is polished and play tested quite a lot before it got released.   

The biggest negative I can say is that this game has some jokes that might go unnoticed or fall flat for younger gamers or people who just get into gaming. I honestly don’t think that the story is going to be so strong if you played it with people who aren’t that into video games. But, if you are well versed into games, I think that this game’s humor and charm will draw you in like it did with me.

Now, this game falls into the trap of being a short point-and-click game. If you want to enjoy this game to its full potential, I highly recommend that you read as little about the game as possible since the fewer you know about the game the better. Otherwise, the charm and humor will hit less hard and that’s a lot of what makes this game so addictive and fun to play. 

The second trap of the point-and-click genre is that the replay value is extremely low. While you might enjoy your 2nd or 3rd playthrough, you will know most of the gags and story beats in this game which makes a 2nd playthrough way less enjoyable. Unless you are doing a speedrun of this game of course. 

So, I think I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. It’s high time for the conclusion I sort of already gave earlier in this article. If you are into video games and enjoy a point-and-click adventure game, I think that this short game is one you shouldn’t sleep on. While the game works a lot better with touch controls compared to controlling it with the joy cons or a pro controller, I don’t think that it would hinder your experience too much in this game. 

Now, if you aren’t into video games, I would still recommend this game to you, but I have to warn you that a lot of the gags and spoofs in this game will go over your head. The strength of the story only shines when you know a little about computers and games. Then the beautiful game world and the nice audiovisual design will draw you in just like it does it with me. 

If I have to describe my feelings and thoughts about this game in a short paragraph I have to say that this game is a humorous point-and-click adventure that takes you through a nostalgic trip throughout (recent) gaming history that uses it’s gags extremely well. The charm of the story, settings, visual and audiovisual presentation quite well to deliver a short but extremely enjoyable adventure that makes me keep an eye on the developer of this game about what he is going to do next.

So, it’s high time to wrap up this article so I can start finishing this game. I want to thank you a lot for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading this 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. Oh, so there was a game there… Should I start reviewing it?

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

Pokémon_Sword_and_Shield

Official websiteWikipedia entry

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

Want some tea?

In-Game-Screenshot-2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some biscuits, please!

In-Game-Screenshot-18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The aftertaste

In-Game-Screenshot-27

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

The bad:

-Rather underwhelming story.

-The game is too easy.

-Some parts of the game feel underdeveloped and underused.

The good:

+ Amazing visual design.

+ Interesting new spins on the gym battles.

+ Amazing soundtrack.

+ …

Final thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Score: 70/100

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

Review: Pokémon Pinball (Gameboy)

By Merman (@merman1974)

Console: Game Boy Color (playable on DMG Game Boys, and Super Game Boy for Super NES)
Developers: HAL Laboratory & Jupiter
Publisher: Nintendo
Release dates: Japan – April 14th 1999, North America – 28th June 1999, PAL – Australia July 13th 1999 and Europe October 6th 2000

pp_box_art_hires

– US box art.

pp_japan_box_art

 Japanese box art –

 

 

 

 

A Pokémon pinball spin-off makes a lot of sense, not least because the Pokéball is round like a pinball. Let us look back at some of the unique features of the first Pokémon Pinball game.

pp_main_title

– Title screen.

 

 

 

 

 

The Pokémon you are catching are of course from the original Generation One game, Blue and Red (as they are known to Western audiences). The game has two separate tables, called Blue and Red, featuring the Pokémon from the relevant game. Unlike other Pokémon titles, you do not need to trade to unlock all 151 in the battery-backed Pokédex – but it is possible to trade high-scores via the Game Boy Color’s infrared port, as well as print out high scores if you attach a Game Boy Printer. There is a unique screen surround when playing on the Super Game Boy attachment for Super NES. Although the cartridge can be played on earlier DMG models of Game Boy, certain features are disabled (including the animated Pokémon in the Pokédex) and the graphics are of course textured monochrome rather than full color.

ppblue_supergameboy

– Super Game Boy surround with the Blue table.

 

 

 

 

 

ppred_DMG_capture – Playing the Red table on a DMG Game Boy.

 

 

 

 

 

The game was a joint development between HAL Laboratory and Jupiter, under license from Game Freak. HAL is of course known for their work on the Kirby games, with former employees and then President Satoru Iwata moving on to become Nintendo’s president. And in 2020 HAL moved part of its staff into Nintendo’s Tokyo Building, meaning it now shares offices with Pokémon creators Game Freak, 1Up Studios, and Nintendo EPD Tokyo. Jupiter is based in Kyoto, with a Tokyo sub-office. The company’s motto translates as “Let’s Play! Let’s Smile!” and it has a long history of releasing games for Nintendo’s handheld consoles – from Game Boy to Switch. Jupiter also worked on the -Game Boy Camera’s built-in software and created an unreleased Pokémon Picross game for Game Boy Color (which was uncovered in the recent large leak of Nintendo data, after only being known about through a few magazine articles of the time).

pp_us_cartridge

– The Pokémon Pinball cartridge with its distinctive shape.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At first glance, the Game Boy Color cartridge for Pokémon Pinball is much larger than normal. At the top is the cover for a AAA battery. This powers the rumble motors inside the cartridge, much like the force feedback found in more recent controllers. This feature is disabled when playing on the Super Game Boy. The Japanese and American versions allow you to switch the Rumble, so it is either on or off. The European cart offers a choice of strengths – Off, Mild or Strong. It is one of a few unique Game Boy cartridge designs with extra hardware inside, alongside the likes of Kirby Tilt ‘n’ Tumble, Wario Ware Twisted, and Yoshi’s Universal Gravitation.

 

ppblue_field_complete

– The complete Blue table.

The complete Red table – ppred_field_complete

How do you go about catching ‘em all in this pinball spin-off? There are common modes to both tables, so it is best to look at the first and then explain the differences. The player can enter Catch ‘Em Mode by flipping the Pokéball over the GET light two or three times. A different type of Pokémon will be available to catch if you light it three times. Then the mode is activated by hitting a particular target – Bellsprout on Red and Cloyster on Blue. A silhouette of a Pokémon will then appear at the bottom of the table and must be filled in by hitting the pop bumpers (at the top of the table – Voltorbs on the Red table and Shellders on Blue). This will fill in the silhouette and make the Pokémon itself appear in the middle, so it must be hit three times to light up the word CATCH! (This is shown as GET in the Japanese version). Each Pokémon caught is recorded in the Pokédex, and awards one of three Pokéballs needed to reach the Bonus Stage (lighting up in the middle of the table). If you encounter a Pokémon but do not capture it, its image appears as a shadow in the Pokédex until you capture it another time.

ppred_abra_reveal

– Abra is being revealed for capture.

 

 

 

 

 

ppblue_zubat_reveal2

– Zubat is almost revealed.

 

 

 

 

 

ppblue_bellsprout_2hits

– Bellsprout has taken two hits.

 

 

 

 

 

ppblue_zubat_0hits

– Hit Zutbat three times with the ball.

 

 

 

 

 

ppred_abra_2hit

– One more hit to capture Abra.

 

 

 

 

 

Once you have caught a Pokémon, the EVO light must be passed over three times to light it up and enter Evolution Mode by hitting the target (Ditto on Red and Slowpoke on Blue). The player uses the flipper buttons to choose between any Pokémon already captured that can evolve. Arrows will guide the player to where the necessary EX (Experience), Evolution Stone, or Link Cable are hidden on the field. The player must collect three of these items; hitting the wrong location will mean the player must send the ball around the outer “loop” of the table or wait 10 seconds for a fresh item to appear and the Pokémon to recover from “fainting”. Both Evolution Mode and Catch’ Em Mode are played against a time limit that gradually counts down. Get the three items in Evolution Mode before time runs out and a hole appears in the middle of the table; flipping the ball into it will secure the Evolution for the selected Pokémon and fill in its new Pokédex entry.

ppblue_choose_evo

– Here on the Blue table, choosing a Pokémon to Evolve.

 

 

 

 

ppblue_evo_ex_token

– An Experience Token to be hit.

 

 

 

 

 

ppblue_evo_1ex

– One EX token down, two to go.

 

 

 

 

 

Once the player has three Pokéball icons lit from captures, the Bonus Stage can be activated by hitting the open center hole. Red has Bonus Stages based on Diglett and Gengar, while Blue has Meowth and Seel. Completing both Bonus Stages on either table will then open the special Mewtwo Bonus Stage. Diglett requires the player to knock down all the Digletts and then hit Dugtrio at the top three times; the player only gets one ball on this stage. Gengar is played against a 1:30 minute time limit in the graveyard. Hitting Gastly ten times will launch Haunted; hitting Haunted ten times will see the player facing a huge Gengar, which must be hit five times to complete the stage. Meowth throws coins around, and the player must collect them with the ball; hitting more than one pile in a row increases the multiplier (the first coin is worth 1, the second is worth 2, and so on). Dropping (draining, in pinball parlance) the ball resets the multiplier and costs four coins. Against a one-minute time limit, the player must collect 20 coins to complete the stage. Seels swim around underwater, with their heads “popping up” every so often. Hit ahead with the Pokéball and a point/icon is earned, with the chance to earn multipliers as in Meowth’s stage. The player has 1:30 to collect 20 icons but can continue to earn points after they reach 20 until time runs out.

Mewtwo’s Bonus Stage is more challenging, as the Legendary Pokémon is surrounded by six moving black circles. Hitting a circle earns a million points and hitting Mewtwo himself earns 50,000,000. With just 2:00 to play, the player must accumulate 25 hits on Mewtwo to capture it. Fortunately, each hit also removes a black circle. A clever player can fail and replay Mewtwo’s bonus stage to earn huge scores.

To simulate a Trainer moving around the region, Map Move is used. The starting location is chosen at random from a shortlist, with different areas for each table. Each area also has its own types of Pokémon available. Red requires you to hit Diglett twice to enter Map Move, while Blue requires three hits on Poliwag or Psyduck. Once these triggers on the table are hit, the player has 30 seconds to hit key targets and make a Map Move. This means a player will play three locations from the “Area 1” list, two from the “Area 2” list, and then the sixth and final area visited will be Indigo Plateau on both tables. Mew can be encountered on Indigo Plateau, but its strength means it would take 1024 hits to capture – and so its entry is added to the Pokédex on finding it rather than capture.

ppblue_mapmove_mtmoon

– The trainer has arrived at Mt. Moon.

 

 

 

 

 

At the top of each table, above the bumpers, are three channels. Dropping the ball through a channel lights one, and the position of lit channels can be cycled with the flippers. Passing over a lit light will turn it off again. Note that on the Red table, hitting Staryu toggles whether the player can upgrade the ball using the channels. Once all three channels are lit the Pokéball upgrades, giving a higher score multiplier. The basic Pokéball becomes a Great Ball (x2 multiplier), then an Ultra Ball (x3), and finally a Master Ball (x5). Combined with the basic table multiplier this can rapidly increase your score. However, each ball only lasts a short while and will change back to the previous strength – and draining the ball off the bottom of the screen reverts to the standard Pokéball.

ppblue_masterball

– A Master Ball with its x5 bonus multiplier.

 

 

 

 

 

Also on each table are the CAVE lights (HOLE in Japan) that can be lit up by the ball passing over them. Once all four are lit, the Slots feature becomes active (but only if the player is not in another mode – i.e., Catch ‘Em, Evolution, or Map Move). The slot machine is started by putting the ball into the center hole. The reel spins to offer an upgrade, with the reel slowing down once the player presses A. Among the upgrades are Small and Big Scores, a Pokéball upgrade, or an increase in score multiplier. The ball Saver protects the player for either 30, 60, or 90 seconds (or until the ball is drained twice), while the Pika power-up can be handy. Normally a Pikachu will sit in one of the two drain channels at the bottom of the table and can be moved between them with the flippers. If his power meter is fully charged – by hitting the spinner on the outer loop, filling the thunder icon – then he will fire his Thunder Strike to act as a kickback, saving the ball from draining. If you get the Pika bonus you have two Pikachus, protecting on both sides and able to charge. The Slots can also award an extra Ball (life) or automatically start a mode – Catch ‘Em, Evolution, or Map Move.

ppred_slot

– The Slot is open.

 

 

 

 

 

ppblue_slot_smallbonus

– The Small Bonus awards a miserly few points.

 

 

 

 

 

ppblue_pika_bonus

 – Gaining the Pika bonus

 

 

 

 

 

 

The player starts with three Pokéballs, but once all balls are lost it is Game Over. Helpfully the Ball Saver is activated for 30 seconds at the start of each life. There is a separate high score list for each table, and as mentioned you can transfer these scores to another Game Boy Color via infrared for your friend to beat. Stats are shown after each ball, awarding bonus points for the number of Pokémon caught or evolved with that ball (times the score multiplier in effect), as well extra for turning the spinner multiple times. As well as flipping the flippers, the player can tilt the table to shake a stuck ball loose – but it is not often needed.

ppred_ballsaved

– Ball Saved! Launch it again.

 

 

 

 

 

ppblue_slot_saved

– I was going for the Slot but missed the ball.

 

 

 

 

 

Positive reviews of Pokémon Pinball give it a GameRankings average of 81.73%. This included 32 out of a possible 40 from legendary Japanese magazine Famitsu. GameSpot’s 8.7 ratings praised the display and presentation but did feel the physics were poor – and the rumble was just a “nice novelty”. CNET was more positive, calling it one of the best pinball games for the Game Boy Color and “more than a shameless cash-in on the Pokémon phenomenon”.

Looking back, these reviews seem fair. The major problem with the game – as in several Game Boy pinball titles – is the way the viewpoint “flicks” between two halves of the table. Although other Game Boy Color pinball games managed to achieve scrolling tables, the 8-bit processor was slow for moving a large table around. The physics are mixed but for the most part, the ball moves realistically. The flippers take some getting used to as there are limited angles, so it is more about controlling the speed of the ball when you hit it to get the right target. And I found the fixed launch speed unusual; most pinball games simulate the spring-based “plunger” which gives the possibility of different launch speeds and skill shots. Graphics are pleasing with some cute, animated Pokémon – although they do not move around (except in the bonus rounds). It is of course the long-term challenge of catching ‘em all that will keep you playing. Personally, I prefer the Blue table, but both are great fun to play in short bursts.

ppred_hiscore

– Red table high scores, storing the top five scores.

 

 

 

 

 

ppblue_hiscore

– Blue table high scores, with the names of the companies involved.

 

 

 

 

There are some other interesting problems and changes between regions, beyond the obvious Language selection menu for Europe. Japanese and American versions allow the player to reconfigure all the controls, but European users are limited to a choice of three pre-set control schemes. The Pokédex entries are taken from Red and Blue with a full stop added at the end. But there are spelling mistakes and translation errors in there. The Japanese text in-game displays the Romanised Japanese names (Poppo for Pidgey, Pawou for Seel) but the Pokédex itself shows the names in kanji. The Cutting Room Floor website (https://tcrf.net/Pok%C3%A9mon_Pinball) reveals unused graphics that could have been a third table or layout, as well as an unused Japanese font. Entering the Game Genie code 000-21D-E6E unlocks a hidden Debug menu that allows you to switch between Game Boy Color and DMG mode for earlier Game Boys.

ppblue_keyconfig

– The Key Config screen from the US game.

 

 

 

 

 

ppblue_pokedex_geodude_anima

 

– Geodude animating in the Pokédex.

 

 

 

 

 

ppblue_pokedex_shadow_meowth

 – I encountered a Meowth but failed to capture it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ppred_abra_text2

 – The second page of text for Abra in the Pokédex.

 

 

 

 

 

The music by Go Ichinose is particularly good for the hardware, reusing familiar themes from the games and the anime. Interestingly the Blue Table’s background theme has a melody that appeared in Pokémon Gold and Silver when visiting Ecruteak City and Cianwood City – games that were released seven months after Pokémon Pinball. Red’s background melody meanwhile is from the Generation II games, when visiting Kanto province. Catch ‘Em Mode on the Blue table uses an instrumental version of “Aim To Be A Pokémon Master” – the original opening theme of the anime.

If you have never played Pokémon Pinball, I can recommend it. For pinball fans, there are some quirks to be endured, but Pokémon fans will get a real kick out of it.

OVERALL: 8/10

ppblue_gameover

 – Game Over!

Curious for more? Well, this article is part of a collaboration between various content creators where we took a look back together on the Pokémon franchise. Feel free to read all the other articles by following the links you can find in the hub article.

 

Review: Pokémon Pinball Mini (Pokémon Mini)

By Merman (@merman1974)

Console: Pokémon mini

Developer: Jupiter

Publisher: Nintendo

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

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

Pokemon_mini_logo – The Pokémon mini logo

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

  Pokémon_mini_Chikorita_GreenChikorita Green

 

 

Smoochum Purple Pokémon_mini_Smoochum_Purple

 

Pokémon_mini_Wooper_BlueWooper Blue

 

 

 

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

Pinball_mini_EN_boxart – The English box art for Pokémon Pinball mini

Pinball_mini_JP_boxart – The Japanese box art for Pokémon Pinball mini

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

Pokemon_Channel_US_boxart

US box artwork for Pokémon Channel (GameCube)

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

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

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

ppmini_diglett_scoreattack – Diglett taking on a Score Attack level.

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

ppmini_ditto – Ditto will affect the ball when hit.

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

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

ppmini_pichu – Naughty Pichu throws the ball around.

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

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

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

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

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

OVERALL: 6/10

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

Review: Pokémon Pinball Ruby and Sapphire (Gameboy Advance)

By Merman (@merman1974)

pprs_logo

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

Developer: Jupiter

Publisher: Nintendo

Release dates:

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

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

pprs_intro – Part of the colourful intro animation.

 

 

 

pprs_us_boxart – US box art.

 

 

 

 

pprs_japan_boxart – Japanese box art.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

pprs_title – The title screen.

 

 

 

pprs_config – Configuring the controls.

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

pprs_ruby_field – The full Ruby field.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

– The complete Sapphire table. pprs_sapphire_field

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

pprs_pokedex_mightyena– Mightyena in the Pokédex.

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

pprs_ruby_hatching – The Egg hatches to reveal Trapinch…

 

 

 

pprs_ruby_trapinch – …and Trapinch is caught.

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_ralts_capture – Ralts being caught by the Pokéball.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_ralts_caught – Ralts has been caught.

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

pprs_ruby_poochyena_2hits – I have one more hit to catch Poochyena.

 

 

 

pprs_ruby_poochyena_caught – Poochyena has been caught.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_catchem – Catch ‘Em Mode on the Sapphire table.

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_taillow_appears – Taillow has been revealed.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_tailow_capture – The Pokéball captures Taillow.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_taillow_caught – Taillow has been caught, ready to evolve.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_reveal – A chance to capture Voltorb.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_voltorb_2hits – I have two hits on Voltorb.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_voltorb_caught – Voltorb has been caught.

 

 

 

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

pprs_ruby_evomode – Entering Evo Mode on the Ruby table.

 

 

 

pprs_ruby_evo_select – Selecting which Pokémon to evolve.

 

 

 

pprs_ruby_evo_complete – Enter the Slot to complete the Evolution.

 

 

 

pprs_ruby_evolution – The Pokémon is evolving!

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_evomode – Time to evolve a Pokémon on Sapphire.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_evo_taillow – Choosing Taillow to evolve.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_evo_ex – The EX token is sitting near Wailmer.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_evolution – The Evolution is complete!

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

pprs_sapphire_travel – Entering Travel Mode on Sapphire.

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_paint_travel – Illimuse painting the new location.

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

pprs_sapphire_bonus_duclops – Tackling Dusclops in the Bonus Round.

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

pprs_ruby_kecleon_surrender – Ten hits later and Kecleon surrenders.

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

pprs_ruby_slot_reels – The Slot reels are spinning.

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

pprs_sapphire_upgrade – Upgrading the Pokéball gives higher bonus multipliers.

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

OVERALL: 9/10

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

 

Interview with GameChuck after “SpeedLimit” release

H2x1_NSwitchDS_SpeedLimit_image1600w

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

gamechuck_logo_200x200

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Gamer’s Thoughts: Top 10 Games of 2020 – NekoJonez’s List

NekoJonez176p_(long)It’s that time of the year again. It’s time to list the best games of the year. So, which games did I enjoy in 2020? Before you roll your eyes and think: “Urgh, another list of games the big titles that released in 2020 in another order.”… Well, I have a special surprise for you. My top 10 list doesn’t work that way. On my top 10 games of the year list, I order the games I have started playing in that year, no matter when they were released. So, every game I played for the first time in 2020 is fair game, even when I picked it up in a garage sale or retro game store. So, which games were my favorites in 2020? Let’s check them out while I invite you to leave a comment with your top 10 list and/or your opinion on my personal list.

#10 – Abyss Of The Sacrifice (Switch, December 2020)

capsule_616x353The number 10 of this year literally came out of nowhere for me. I just started to play this game last week and I’m in love with it. Abyss Of The Sacrifice is an enhanced port of a Japanese PSP game from 2010 called “Misshitsu no Sacrifice”. This game was also ported to Steam.

If you have read my blog in the past, you might know that I love the Zero Escape series and games that put you in a situation where you need to solve puzzles to escape meanwhile a tense story is unfolding with betrayals, psychological horror, multiple endings… And does this game deliver that in spades.

When I started to play this game, I was taken back to the joyful memories of first playing the Zero Escape series. Currently, I have solved the first few puzzles but I can’t wait to see what other things this game has in store for me and if I was justified in my decision putting this game in 10th place or if I should replace this game with another game. But, so far… I’m quite certain that this game deserves a spot on this list since it was an amazing surprise to close off this year.

#9 – Baba Is You (Switch, 2019)

Baba is YouFirst impressions of this game.

So, number 10 on my list was the big surprise that closed off my year… And number 9 is the amazing surprise that started my year.

This puzzle game looks extremely charming but looks are deceiving. This game isn’t easy at all. It requires you to think out of the box and really think outside of the box.

I find it still so surprising that this game was first created for a Game Jam and than the developer just started to expand on it. I seriously tip my hat to you good sir, Arvi Teikari. You blew me away with an amazing game that I still need to finish since I want to beat those puzzles that keep stomping me for months now. And yes, I refuse to look at walkthroughs.

#8 – Persona 4 Golden (PC, July 2020 – Original release: PS2, 2008)

persona4

I do have to say that I would have put this game higher on my list if I didn’t get distracted by other games.

The concept and setting of Persona 4 is something that tickles my fancy quite a lot. Earlier in the article, I explained that I have a weak spot for escape games that have a deep story with psychological horror elements. While this game isn’t an escape room game, it still hits my same weak spot with an amazing RPG-adventure dungeon crawler that reminds me of my love of the Etrian Odyssey games.

In this game, your biggest fears come to live to haunt you. And if you don’t face or defeat your biggest fears, they will not only haunt you but kill you. Meanwhile, you can use a sort of alter ego, your Persona to fight for you while you are saving others that are being haunted by their fears. To avoid spoiling things, I have overly simplified the story here, but if you enjoy in-depth RPG’s/adventure games/dungeon crawlers … I highly advise you to check out this game since it’s totally worth your time.

#7 – Death Come True (Multiplatform, June 2020)

death-come-true-switch-heroIf you ever wanted to play a game that was actually a movie where you decided on the major actions of the main character, this is the game for you. And not only that, this game is also written and directed by Kazutaka Kodaka. He is known for his work on Danganronpa.

The biggest negative of this game is it’s length. This game is way to short. I was able to finish this game in one afternoon. But, those three hours of gameplay were well worth it. Since this game is so sort and it’s so easily to spoil parts of the game, I decided against reviewing the game AND writing too much about this game in this article.

If you enjoyed games like the Zero Escape series or Danganronpa, I highly advise you to play this game as blind as possible. Since that makes the game way more fun and the twists all the more fun. Also, I’m so glad that all the bonus and behind the scenes material has been translated and subtitled since that wasn’t the case at release.

#6 – DooM (Multiplatform, 2016)

doom-2016My review of the game.

Oh yes, here we go. DooM 2016 on number 6 instead of DooM Eternal. I haven’t played DooM Eternal simply because my PC isn’t strong enough to run the game. But here is the funny thing about that, my PC hits the minimum specs without an issue… Yet, the game crashes to the desktop when I launch the game. Oh well, maybe in 2021.

But, DooM 2016. What an amazing breath of fresh air in the shooter genre. The unique combat mechanics and the exploration are just two things I love to bits in this game. The reason I haven’t placed this game higher is because there were a few things that hold the game back in my opinion. I think you should read my review because since otherwise I would start repeating myself.

Yet, I still play this game once or twice when I have some downtime and I have to say that this game is still as much fun as it was when I first started playing it. So, it would be a shame if I didn’t include it in this list.

#5 – Blood (PC, May 1997)

Blood_logoI do love myself a good old school 3D shooter once in a while. Now, Blood is a game that I have tried out a lot in the past but only played the first level and left it at that. You could say that I’m breaking my rule of “first started playing in 2020” but I can explain.

I first started to play this game seriously in 2020. And now that I have beaten this game on the easier difficulty, I have to say that this shooter is just extremely well made and was one of the best when it got released. Now, I don’t really dare to touch the sequel since it isn’t the best and I think it might have killed the franchise.

I’m not going to in-depth on my opinions in this article since I’m planning to write about this game in the near future. I find it very surprising that I haven’t written an article on this game yet, since it’s prime review material for my blog. Anyways, keep your eyes peeled for an article about Blood in 2021 here on my blog. That way I can explain myself why I have put this game on the number 5 spot in this list.

#4 – Paper Mario – The Origami King (Switch, July 2020)

origami king boxMy review of the game

As a big fan of retro games, I follow a lot of retro game reviewers on YouTube and I follow a lot of retro game blogs. Whenever they talk about Mario RPG’s and especially about Paper Mario, they fondly remember the N64 and GameCube entries. But then, Sticker Star and Color Splash came.

A lot of people felt that the series was going down hill since it strayed too far away from what made the Paper Mario games so enjoyable to play. While I haven’t played too much Paper Mario games myself, I have to admit that I found Sticker Star and too a lesser extend Color Splash difficult to really get into.

When Paper Mario – The Origami King got announced, I was highly skeptical since I was afraid that it would be another game that let the fanbase down and may destroy the series for good. The biggest issue was the clunky battle system of the past two games and man, did that battle system make a 180.

This game is a huge step in the right direction in my eyes. I enjoyed myself from start to finish with this game and I now understand why people are so fond of the original games. The charm, the characters, the plot and setting… It all makes a lot of sense. Meanwhile, Nintendo was able to find the right balance of the old school playstyle and mixing them with the newer mechanics like repairing the world. So, good job Nintendo! Please, more of this!

#3 – Hyrule Warriors – Age of Calamity (Switch, November 2020)

518x840Together with all the other Zelda fans, I’m waiting for the sequel to Breath of the Wild. But, Nintendo surprised us this year with another game in the Breath of the Wild universe. And I mean what I say with “surprised us”. This game isn’t what you would typically describe as a Zelda game. Yet, it’s canon and tells the story that took place 100 years before Breath of the Wild happened.

I’m on my way to finish this game in the near future and I’m going to write an article about it. All I’m willing to say now is that this game is a well made Warrior’s game that took me back into the Breath of the Wild universe and gave some characters way more screen time, backstory, lore and gave even more live to that universe.

If you love hack-and-slash games and/or if you are a Legend of Zelda fan, I highly advise you to pick up this game and give it a play. It’s even more enjoyable than the first Hyrule Warriors game and it rightfully deserves the 3th place in my list here.

#2 – Fatal Frame 3 – The Tormented (PS2, July 2005)

66263_frontBack in April, I wanted to play some more Fatal Frame. I wasn’t able to find my copy of Fatal Frame 2 to finish that game, so I decided to start playing Fatal Frame 3. I think it’s quite clear what my opinion is on this game.

I think that the Fatal Frame series is slowly convincing me that horror games can be amazing and fun to play. And that they aren’t “difficult to scare the player”. My negative bias towards horror games is changing into a positive one since I started playing games like Corpse Party, Zero Escape, Resident Evil and now Fatal Frame (or Project Zero).

Yes, I’m still planning to write an article about this game so I won’t go too in-depth in this article. But, the fact that you are exploring a grand mystery that’s taking place inside dreams that’s unfolding with 3 different characters and in the same dream mansion, it’s just amazing how well it works together. I even take the time to read every journal entry and listen to every radio stone. The game pulled me that much into it’s world and I’m already afraid of the empty feeling I will have when I have beaten the game. That’s how I currently feel about the game. But, for more information and opinions, I think you should wait until I take an in-depth look to the game in 2021.

Honorable mentions

Before I get to number 1, my game of 2020, I want to mention a few other games that didn’t make this list but were highly enjoyable this year. While there are a lot more games I have played this year, I want to remind you about the rule of this list… I had to have started playing the game in 2020 in order for it to count.

Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics (Switch, June 2020): this game almost made it on the list but then I found out about the number 10 I decided to put on the list this year.

SuperMash (Mutliplatform, December 2019): a game where you mash together two genres to have a randomly generated game with elements of both genres and unique goals? Sign me up!

Corpse Party 2 – Dead Patient: I’m sorry, but I felt that the fact that only the first chapter has been released and no further news… It made me decide to not place this game on this list but give it an honorable mention.

Jake Hunter – Detective Story: Ghost Of The Dusk: so close to a spot on this list, I can’t lie about that. Yet, there were a few games that I enjoyed more this year.

And let’s quick fire some honorable mentions:

Dragon Quest XI S (Switch), Coffee Talk (Multiplatform), Wrath: Age of Aeon (PC), Dusk (Multiplatform), Amid Evil (Switch/PC), ReTurn – One Way Trip (Multiplatform), Prodeus (PC), Hellbound (PC), Haedon (PC), The Touryst (Mutliplatform), SpeedLimit (PC).

#1 – Nightmare Reaper (PC, July 2019)

nightmare reaperMy article about this game

I have a few good reasons why I wanted to place Nightmare Reaper on the number one spot this year. But before I do that, I do have an update on my article about the game. Since my article of this game, the second chapter got released with new mechanics and levels. The game also got a visual overhaul, more music, more weapons… It’s just mind blowing how much the second chapter added and changed. And all for the better, with a totally new grappling hook mechanic and the fact you can choose the order of the levels through a hub, amazing stuff!

Now, why is this game my game of the year. First of all, because of the story and setting of this game. This game is about an abused child/teenager that’s fighting her demons and the abuse through her nightmares. She is reaping through them, as the title suggests. The writing and atmosphere really makes me want to help her overcome her demons and be able to move on.

Secondly, the replay value of this game is through the roof. With the randomly generated levels and weapons, each playthrough is extremely different. I have started a second file when the second chapter was released and let me tell you, it felt quite different from my first playthrough.

Thirdly, this game has that “just one more round” that’s so addictive to play through. Some bosses are a bit too challenging to beat in my opinion, but I always wanted to give it one more try to try and finally beat the boss and move on to the next level or area of this game.

The 4th reason why I think this game is my game of the year is because I just enjoyed this game to bits. When I was writing my article in August, I had a lot of trouble finding negatives or things that the developer should improve and since the release of the second chapter and the patches polished the game even more.

And the 5th reason is that this game is still getting more content and even a new game plus and mod support. So, I’ll be able to enjoy this game even more in 2021. What do you need more?

Final words

So, that’s my list. I have to say that it was quite tricky to put this list together. Especially since so many things happened this year, I didn’t keep great records of the games I had played in 2020. Also, due to the lockdown, I played a lot more games in 2020 compared to the previous years.

Also, I started to complete the games I started in the past and never finished. So, I had to take a good look at my list to make sure I didn’t start playing one of these games in the past.

I also know what to do in the upcoming weeks in terms of writing. I noticed that a lot of games I have played in 2020 haven’t gotten an article yet. So, I think that’s something I will need to fix in 2021.

Now, with 2020 almost coming to an end, I want to thank everybody so much for reading and enjoying my blog. While I only got 12k readers this year, I felt that my articles did better this year compared to all other years. Also, I recently broke the 100k visitors milestone on my blog and I’m nearing the 1k subscribers.

While I know that other blogs hit these numbers faster and easier, I’m blown away that there are so many people interested in reading my opinion on games and I don’t even focus on the big budget titles and the latest and greatest that comes out on the market. While it’s so extremely cliché, I want to thank you all so much for the amazing interactions I had in 2020 and I hope I’ll be able to entertain and/or inform you in 2021.

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