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

Wikipedia entry

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

Hipster CSI in Ye Olden England

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pop! Here I am!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Skipping the skip

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nintendo.com micrositeWikipedia entry

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

Crossin’ over at least once

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s draw that map

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Risk and reward systems

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Impression: Persona 5 Strikers (Switch) ~ Let’s Steal Hearts

Persona5StrikersWikipedia’s entry – Nintendo.com microsite

I have heard so much about the Persona series, I got so hyped when a new game was coming to the Nintendo Switch. While I know that it’s a spin-off game compared to the mainline series, I honestly found the spin on the gameplay rather interesting. This game is a cross between a Warrior’s game and a Persona game. Now, I have played a little of Persona 3 Golden last year and that made my hype levels for this game even bigger. So, now that I have beaten the first section of the game, I think it’s high time for me to talk about this game and give you my opinions on the game. While I do that, I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and opinions on the game and/or the content of this article. 

Let’s steal hearts

p5strikers3

In this game, you pick up the role of the protagonist of Persona 5 again. The events of this game take place 4 months after the events in Persona 5. The Phantom Thieves are having a reunion together when a campaigning trip is planning. Of course, since this is a video game, it doesn’t take long before the plot reveals itself and trouble arrives. 

Strange things happen around a famous fashion model and pop star Alice and then our lovely Phantom Thieves discover something that is quite close to the “Palaces” they know so well. Yet, this time it’s called a jail. In this jail, the desires are stolen from the people which make them fall a “little more than” head over heels with Alice. But, that’s not the only thing that happens. Our lovely Phantom Thieves also discover this strange girl called Sophia who is an AI who forgot all her memories and wants to be human’s best companion. 

That’s the hook of the first episode of this game. In terms of story, this game doesn’t disappoint at all. Especially, because I haven’t played Persona 5, the writing and pacing of the story explains who is who so easily, it’s a breeze to pick this game up without having to play through Persona 5 first.

I also have to say that the outstanding voice acting does help here too. It really sucks me into the game, the atmosphere and breathes so much life in the characters. To the point that when I come to a part that isn’t voice acted, I actually read it with a poor imitation of the character’s voice in my head. A quick sidenote about the voice acting during gameplay, the various repeating lines add so much to the game. I thought I might get tired of them after a few repeats, but that is far from the case, just like it was for me in a game like Fire Emblem Warriors

I can’t pinpoint exactly why but the story really clicks with me. Like, I really like how you explore the trauma of one character, and before they move on, it gets fully resolved. The writing is excellent, the story has a lot of charm and character. It has it’s funny and more serious moments and I totally understand why so many people fell in love with the Persona franchise. After playing this game and Persona 3 Golden, I think I might become a fan of the franchise myself as well. One of the things that makes me want to continue the game is the story. I want to steal and heal hearts to help people overcome trauma’s and explore subjects that don’t always get the right attention. 

RPG or Warriors?

p5strikers2

The gameplay of this game is in my opinion the perfect mix between a turn based RPG and a Warrior’s game. 

Since the first city in this game doesn’t have any side quests, I’ll only focus on the gameplay in the jail for this article. So, in the jails you can freely explore the area while enemies roam around. When you ambush an enemy or get spotted, you enter a sort of small Warrior-style battle. Where a lot of enemies spawn, and you have to hack and slash your way through. 

If you ambush them (attack them without being seen), you get the advantage. If you get spotted and the enemies attack you first, you get dizzy at the start of the battle, so the enemies can get some free shots in. So, this game has a type system that you can compare quite roughly to Pokémon in a way. Each type has its own strengths and weaknesses, and it’s up to you to choose the correct allies in a battle to fight the enemies ahead. 

The game also has hacking sections where the game plays more like a Warrior’s game than an RPG. In these sections you have to defend The Oracle while she is hacking into the system. Meanwhile, a swarm of enemies attack and their only focus is to destroy the Oracle. 

So far, this is the 3rd Warrior’s spin off I have played. Actually, the 4th depending on how you count. I have played Hyrule Warriors (and like I said, depending on how you count: Hyrule Warriors – Age of Calamity), Fire Emblem Warriors and now Persona 5 Strikers. And out of these games, I have to say that I feel that Persona 5 Strikers has the best balance between both game styles. 

This game still feels like a “normal” Persona game but with the big exception that the whole battle system is replaced by Warrior style gameplay.  And it works remarkably well. I found it a blast trying to find the best strategies to dodge enemy attacks while I tried to attack them back. The risk and reward system of using your special powers compared the environment items is amazing. 

Each character has their own unique playstyle where their character and personality shines through. The game might be a bit overwhelming at first since there are a lot of things you have to keep track of. From leveling up your characters and their persona’s, to weapons and armor, to finding enough treasures and things to have enough healing items and even a bond system where you can level up unique perks that’ll make each playthrough somewhat different from each other. 

It didn’t take long before I got used to all the mechanics and found myself extremely hooked on the game. Depending on the difficulty you choose to play this game in, this game provides the right amount of challenge in my opinion. A few times, I got quite frustrated at a battle and when I put the game down and picked it up back later, I was able to beat that section. 

Don’t forget to save

p5strikersNow, most of my time with the first chapter has been spent inside the jail of Alice. There is some time you can spend in the overworld to buy items, weapons, and armor. With the extremely responsive and smooth controls, I always felt in control and only rarely felt that the game did something unfair. 

If you have read some of my previous articles, you might know that I find good UI design extremely important and this game delivers that in spades. The menus are extremely well crafted and somewhat fun to use since you see small interactions between the Phantom Thieves that flesh them out so much more. 

This brings me to the striking visual presentation of this game. The visuals look amazing. The charm and character that is put into the visuals is outstanding. This game’s style is a combination of a Saturday morning anime and a manga/superhero comic. It’s also quite bold and not afraid to use the style to its full potential. Nothing feels out of place in my opinion. 

When it comes to the animations, these are good as well. Well, maybe this might be on me but I feel that some animations don’t give enough feedback to the player. For example, I found it quite tricky to know where my character was on the battlefield since the combat animations can throw you all over the battlefield. 

Something that might be either a sound effect problem and/or a visual problem is the lack of feedback in combat sometimes. The reaction of an effective and a non-effective attack is so similar to me, it was tricky to separate them in combat. Thankfully, the characters repeat multiple times which type of attack you need to use and when you need to be careful when your HP/SP is running low or when a status is inflicted. This is a nice middle ground to solve an issue to avoid making this game too complex or lose too much of its visual style. 

So, let’s talk about the music and sound effects shall we? Let’s start with the sound effects in this game. In my opinion, this game is walking a fine line between too much and too little sound effects. Overall, the sound effects and the sound mixing is quite good, but sometimes this game has a lot of visual information to process and the sound effects can get a tiny bit distracting. All the while, like I explained in the previous paragraph, they are quite helpful when a character shouts at you to be careful or use a certain attack to defeat an enemy. 

I wish I knew more about music, so I was able to describe the amazing soundtrack to you. Even before I started playing the Persona games, I fell in love with the unique uplifting soundtrack of these games. There are tracks with and without vocals and the Japanese and English versions are so amazing to listen to. So, really great stuff. 

One of the things I really needed to get used to was the fact that there is no “auto save” in this game. If you want to avoid loosing too much progress, keep in mind to save often at save points, or before you enter a dungeon since otherwise you might regret it. You only get a game over when all 4 party members faint. Otherwise, you can continue on playing. But, don’t forget to save since it needs to happen manually. 

And with that said, I have said almost everything I wanted to say about this game. There are a few things I’ll go more in depth about if I ever finish this game and write a review about this game, but the most important things are already said. I think this game is excellent and if you enjoy (Persona) RPG’s, Warrior spin-off games, adventure games and/or action games… You owe it to yourself to check this game out. To be honest, apart from the manual saving, I barely find any flaws with this game or things I really didn’t like. 

So, 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.

Interview with GameChuck after “SpeedLimit” release

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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)

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The 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)

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First 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)

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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)

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If 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)

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My 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)

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I 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)

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My 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)

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Together 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)

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Back 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)

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My 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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#8 – Age of Empires IV (PC, TBA)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#6 – Haven (PS4/Switch, Q1 2021)

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

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

#5 – Mystiqa (PC, Switch – Q1 2021)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wrapping up

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Dusk (PC – Steam) ~ Spinning Guns

headerSteam store page

I think I’m unable to hide the fact that I love playing retro-style shooters. I love the fact that a lot of new games are coming out in the genre since I like the genre quite a lot. I’m also crossing my fingers that no overload will occur. But, in any case, I think it’s high time to introduce the game I’m going to take a look at today. It’s name is Dusk, developed by New Blood Interactive. And let me tell you, I have set the bar quite high for since game since the producer of this game was the director of the Rise of the Traid (2013) reboot. Well, let’s get into the town of Dusk at dusk to shoot some monsters. But before we do that, I want to invite you to write a comment with your thoughts on the game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

Editorial note: this review has been written after the Dusk Halloween 2020 update. 

Spinning guns

DUSK-GameplayMost of the story of this game is told through the environment. Yet, some details are told the DLC comic. Let me give you the gist of it. This game takes place in the fictional rural town Dusk, Pennsylvania. A huge network of ruins are discovered underneath the town. Those who were researching these tunnels got possessed and it’s up to you, DuskDude, to save the town from destruction. Yet, you are a treasure hunter and you want the riches that are rumored to be hidden in the town.

The influence of the original Doom is quite clear. In terms of story, this game takes the Doom story/setting and puts an Lovecraftian spin on it. I could talk more in-depth on the story but I want to keep this review as spoiler free as possible. The only thing I’ll say is that the story is an amazing homage to several famous horror movies and amazing shooters.

Now, let me tell you. If you expect a deep story with a lot of lore… I think you might have to look elsewhere. Don’t get me wrong, the story and setting is extremely well done but this game focuses more on the gameplay and creating unique scenario’s then on telling a deep story.

Something that’s quite interesting to note is that there is some voice acting in this game. Something that surprised me is that the voice actor for this game is the legendary Andrew Hulshult and he is also the composer for this game. I heard his work before in Nightmare Reaper and now I have the pleasure to hear more work of his. But more about the soundtrack later. The voice acting that Andrew did in this game is amazing. You can feel that he leaned into the role and made the characters come alive.

While the story doesn’t have a lot of depth, the voice acting and the pacing the story was able to draw me in. Something that this story does quite well is that giving you the smallest amount of details that are enough to let your mind wonder and fill in the details and the rest of the story yourself.

Anyways, I have been rambling a lot about the story for now. I think it’s high time to talk about the gameplay. Is this game fun to play with a DuskDude that doesn’t have to reload his guns and spins them when you reload them.

The running slide

950313-dusk-windows-screenshot-fighting-an-enemy-in-the-fields-earlyYour goal in this game is to get to the ending of the level without dying. In order to do that, you have several weapons at your disposal. You start off with the sickles, these are your melee weapon if you are out of ammo. In my playthrough, I rarely used these. I found that they weren’t effective enough to conquer the various amount of enemies in this game.

Before I continue to talk about the weapons, I want to mention the cigar. This is an item that’s in your inventory at all time and you can use it to slowly recover health. I discovered that fact through researching this game. So, rest assured, this game can be beaten without the use of the cigar. To be honest, it’s annoying to use since it’s slow and has a cool down, which is a good thing mind you. Image having a health pack to quickly heal you, on you at all times. That would break the difficulty curve so fast.

Anyways, the weapon selection in this game has your standard pistol, shotgun, assault rifle, hunting rifle and rocket launcher guns. There are two types of shotguns and rocket launchers. On top of that, there is also a sword and a crossbow in this game. Managing these weapons and deciding when the use them is the biggest mechanic of this game. Also, don’t forget that DuskDude can pick up items that you help you to save ammo. Also, some items may be stronger then you think. 

So, you can fight your enemies by shooting or throwing stuff at them. Earlier I talked about the fact that you can spin your weapons. Hitting your enemies with a spinning weapon does ten points of damage to them. Of course, there is also the possibility that you can let them start in fighting. But I have seen this happen quite rarely during my playthrough. But, the crystal of madness holds some secrets about that.

During your quest to find the keys that open the doors to the ending of the level, you can also find various secrets. Some of them are in plain sight and others are hidden behind fake walls. If you are secret hunting, pay close attention to the environment and don’t destroy boxes since they can be used to jump higher. And each secret is worth it, let me tell you. Some secrets saved my skin during my playthrough. 

There is one mechanic in this game I’m honestly missing in other shooter games and that’s the slide mechanic. When you are running and press the crouch button, DuskDude does a slide. This feels so gratifying to pull off and helps quite a lot during combat. 

There are also power-ups in this game that enhance the gameplay quite a lot. My two favorites are the Fast Fire Totem and the Wall Climbing power-up. The Fast Fire Totem just reduces your weapon cool down to 0. It’s ridiculous and using it on a large group of enemies felt so enjoyable to do. Also, the Wall Climbing power-up is used in excellent moments and set pieces that made it a lot of fun to use. 

In terms of gameplay, this game is a well built shooter and it controls amazingly well. I never had a moment where I felt that a death was the game’s fault. The only nitpick I had with the controls is that picking up items and moving them is sometimes a bit tricky when you are getting things from between tight spaces. 

The Steam achievements were fun to get while exploring the various landscapes in this game. Visually, this game looks right out of the early 90’s. The visual style has been nailed perfectly with blocky models and everything. Yet, surprisingly, the game is quite detailed and feels like a real dystopian landscape. 

In terms of animations, this game hits another nail on the head. I highly advise you to learn the attack animations of your enemies since they can save your life in certain spots. Some enemies are a big pain to deal with but when you learn their patterns and animations, they can be worked around. 

To top this all off, you have an amazing soundtrack by Andrew Hulshult. This soundtrack adds so much to the game, it’s amazing. While the game gives off a horror and Lovecraft vibe, you can rip and tear with the epic metal soundtrack in the background that even gets moody at certain moments. That in combination with great sound design makes it fun to hunt down your enemies, avoid their attacks and shoot them. 

So far I have been praising this game, like the additional fun I had when I messed around with the cheats in this game, but I’m sad to report that this game does drop the ball in some area’s. Let’s talk about them. 

Nostalgic loading screen

950317-dusk-windows-screenshot-many-weapons-can-be-dual-wielded-earlyLet me first start with the biggest bummer of them all. I wanted to try out the multiplayer in order to be able to write about it. Sadly enough, the multiplayer is quite deserted at times. I’m not the best in shooter games but I felt that the balance was all over the place. In the few matches I was able to play, I got spawn killed quite often. Maybe I need to give it another chance but I have a bit of a sour taste in my mouth so I don’t think that will happen anytime soon. Thankfully, the single player is more then fun enough to play through and there is were the focus is at. 

I was about to complain about the lack of the weapon wheel, but this is coming in a future patch when the console versions are released. In addition to that, we are also getting custom weapons, co-op and mod support. So, these things might help in fixing some of the issues I have with the game. 

Something I didn’t like is that this game is quite short. There are 30 levels in this game and you can finish this game in give or take 10-ish hours. This game has so much potential and it’s over before you know it. I was really getting into it nearing the end and then I was fighting the final boss. Oh well, this game is somewhat replayable due to the secret hunting you can do and trying to beat your fastest time. 

You know, I don’t want to do this but this game does drop the ball in something that’s a big pet peeve of mine. This is the UI. While it works and is easy to use, there is some major polish that needs to happen to it. Let’s start with the lack of a map. I got lost several times in some levels because I was unable to bring up a map. Some of these levels are huge and without a map, you can get lost if you didn’t pay attention during a fight. 

If you use your mouse wheel to scroll in some menu’s like the save/load menu or in the language menu, the scrolling up is quite broken. Sometimes it works and other times it refuses to work. 

Speaking of the save/load system, the save and load system isn’t good. I hate the fact that the list of save files is alphabetical and not sorted by the latest save you made. I always had a hard time finding my most recent save when I wanted to continue the game. Also, when you saved the game for a second time in a level, it doesn’t ask you to overwrite your latest save… It takes the name of the latest save and starts adding lines to it. 

When selecting a save file to load, you get the level name and the time stamp of when you saved the game. I wish I was able to see how long I was in the level as well. That way I would how far I was in the level. 

Now, this game doesn’t do an autosave when you enter a new level. You have to save manually each and every time. Thankfully, you can start at the beginning of the level through the main menu quite easily. 

All of these things are such a shame. Since it puts a blemish on quite an interesting game. A game that does a lot right like an enjoyable endless mode where you have to keep being fast and efficient since there is a huge lack of health pickups. Something else this game does well is setting the atmosphere with the fake DOS-loading screen and sound effects. 

But then strange mistakes happen like your controls settings not carrying over from single player to multiplayer. Or the custom cursor not working all to well in the multiplayer menu. 

Also, there are things like when you use your double barreled shotgun and you have only one bullet left, you can’t shoot your shotgun. But here is the thing that annoys me, when you are out of ammo for all your other weapons, DuskDude switches to another gun. And guess what he doesn’t do in the situation I described earlier? But of course, switch weapons! 

Now, there are moments where DuskDude flips upside down. During swimming moments or in certain levels. And let me tell you, the sudden camera movement was quite disorienting for me sometimes. One timing during my playthrough I even had to stop playing since I got a major headache… But that might be just me… 

So, with all of this said, I think it’s high time for the conclusion of this article. Time to wrap everything up in a nice TL;DR and give my final thoughts on the game. 

Conclusion

The good:

+ Addictive and fast gameplay.

+ The amount of homages and easter eggs are amazing.

+ The audio and visual design is excellent.

+ Andrew Hulshult’s soundtrack is a big plus.

+ …

The bad:

-Can be a bit short if you don’t go 100% it.

-The multiplayer is a bit eh, in my opinion.

-Some UI issues.

-The save/load system is somewhat broken. (The UI)

Final thoughts:

Dusk is an amazing game that takes you back to the times of the original Doom, Quake and other old school shooters. It’s an enjoyable shooter to play through and I had to a lot of fun from beginning to end. 

It’s clear that a lot of polish and love went into this game and it shows. This game is a labor of love that turned out quite well. It’s a shame that some UI issues (especially in the SAVE/LOAD system) are a blemish on an otherwise amazing game. 

I can forgive the game being rather short since you can go secret hunting or try to beat the game on a higher difficulty or beat your fastest time. Also, for the price of only 25€, you get an additional 26 page comic and the whole soundtrack by the amazing Andrew Hulshult. That dude has the shooter soundtrack creation nailed to a T. 

Would I recommend this game to fans of (retro-style) shooters? I think that’s a no-brainer YES, OF COURSE! The positives highly outweigh the negatives for this game. And with some updates on the horizon, this game might only get better and maybe some of the UI issues I mentioned in this article might be fixed in the future. Who knows? 

So, if you would excuse me… I think it’s high time I continue to shoot some of these enemies that are calling me a heretic while I wrap up this final paragraph. I want to thank you so much for reading this article. 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: 90/100

Game Music: My Favorites – Numbero 24: The Return

1771904_3356_6The previous articles in this series.

While I’m preparing my move, I’m playing less and less new games. I started to play a ton of games that I have already taken a look at but I’m now trying to finish since I packed most of my games already. Next weekend is my final weekend in my current house and the weekend after that, it’s moving weekend. Now, during packing my stuff and my games, I played a lot of music and that inspired me to bring back this series and talk about my favorite tracks in gaming. For those new to the series, in this series I talk about game music I really like and I use the opportunity to either talk about the games’ music OR talk about the game itself. Except for some special articles, I don’t allow remixes or music about games in these articles and I limit myself to one track per franchise per article. So, let’s dive right into today’s selection and if I notice that I re-use a track from a previous entry, let me know and I’ll change it.

Nightmare Reaper (PC) ~ Nightmare

nightmare reaperMy first impression article about this game

This soundtrack by Andrew Hulshult is just amazing. The guitar riffs and the drums give the game a tense metal feel. 

Honestly, I tend to enjoy the combat more when the soundtrack is playing. I love that each area has it’s own track for battle. I’m extremely bummed out that only one or two tracks are available on YouTube right now, but I’m patiently awaiting the full release of the game or a soundtrack DLC. 

If you at all enjoy soundtracks like DooM 2016 for example, you will feel right at home. Also, Andrew just composed part of the music for the DooM Eternal DLC, The Acient Gods. If only my CPU was strong enough to run the game so that I could enjoy the amazing work as well. But then again, I’m playing through Nightmare Reaper which might be one of my favorite games in 2020.

Horizon Zero Dawn (PC) ~ Years of Training

horizon zero dawnI know that this port is plagued with a lot of issues. While I’m glad that the developers are listing to the community and fixing the biggest issues. I’m even happier that this PS4-exclusive game got ported to the PC for even more players to enjoy. When I first played the game, I was hooked right away. 

Since there is no new Tomb Raider game to look forward too and we don’t know when Breath of the Wild 2 is coming to our Switch… I’m looking for my next big adventure game fix. 

And Horizon Zero Dawn scratches that itch for me perfectly. I’m so glad that my PC can handle this game on low to medium settings so that I experience this new and interesting adventure that almost made me buy a PS4. 

Anyways, this article is actually about the gaming music. So, I want to talk about the track I have chosen from this game called “Years of Training”. I choose this track for a reason. Because this track really pulls me back to the memories of playing the reboot Tomb Raider series and Breath of the Wild for the first time. It pulls me into the world of this game even more. 

The soundtrack also has it’s own unique identity. I listened to the Horizon Zero Dawn and Tomb Raider soundtracks side by side and while I hear similar things, both have their own unique tones and styles. The adventure-rpg lover in me is extremely happy with amazing music like this. 

Phoenix Wright – Ace Attorney 6 – Spirit of Justice (3DS) ~ Pursuit: Cornering Together

phoenixwrightspirit_boxFirst impression of this game

Man, I still remember back in 2016 when this game got released. Three years after the amazing Dual Destinies game, we got this game. 

While some fans aren’t too pleased with some parts of the story, I think it’ll make the sequels quite interesting. 

The iconic music in this game sounds amazing. When I’m listing to the Ace Attorney soundtracks, I always have a hard time picking the game or the tracks I want to listen to. There aren’t many tracks I dislike in all of the soundtracks, I find them that good. 

The reason I have chosen for one of Spirit of Justice for this article is because I’m finally finishing up the DLC case of this game. This game released in late 2016 and during that year, I have been playing so many other games as well, I simply forgot about that one unfinished case and I kept forgetting and forgetting. Now, I decided that I want to beat that case before I move into my new apartment. So, being re-exposed to the soundtrack after 4 years… Man, it has been a nostalgic trip to say the least. 

Now, I was quite sad when I learned that Takeshi Yamazaki, the director of the series, left Capcom. Does that mean we won’t see another Ace Attorney game in the future or will the series take a drastic new direction? While my gut feeling is saying the former, I’m hoping for the latter. So yeah, Capcom, we are waiting. Where is our next installment of Ace Attorney since the last new game we got that weren’t remakes is 4 years ago now… 

Persona 4 Golden (PC) ~ Time to make history

persona4

The Persona-series always interested me. I have heard a lot of my favorite YouTubers like NitroRad talk about the series and ever since I wanted to play it for myself. 

When the enhanced remake of the 4th game got ported from the PS Vita to the PC this summer, I took the opportunity to finally start playing one of the Persona games. And all I have to say is: I wish I was less busy and that there were less interesting games releasing lately since I fell in love with the story and setting of the game. 

I think I might start playing a bit after finishing up this article. I’m also planning to write an article about this game in the future, so stay on the lookout for that. But, for now, let’s enjoy the amazing joyful soundtrack of this game which is in strong contract with the themes of the game. 

I’m even considering hunting down the original PS2 release of this game just to see the biggest differences between the original and the Golden remake. Maybe that would make for an interesting article. So yeah, time to get thinking about how I’m going to write that article…

The end

And with that last track, I want to wrap up this article. I found it quite refreshing to be able to talk about several games instead of focusing my whole week on one game to write an article. Anywho, I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. Feel free to leave your opinion on the chosen tracks and/or games in the comment section down below. 

With that said, I hope to be able to welcome you in another article. Have a great rest of your day and take care. 

 

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

FlashBayArtwork-GameR-Mate-Stik-Full

Official website

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

What is GameR-Mate?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s included?

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

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

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

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

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

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

The experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Game Quicky: Baba Is You (Switch) ~ Review Is Win

Official websiteNintendo.com subsite

So, what if a game developer falls in love with the game he created for a game jam? Well, some of those developers make their game into a fully-fledged game like the developer behind Baba is You. Arvi Teikari created the basic concept for this game for a Game Jam. The Jam version is free, but for a more expanded version, you have to pay around 15 dollars. But, is this puzzle game worth your time or was it better as a Jam Game? Let’s take a first impression and quick look at the game that has been released on PC and Switch. The version I’m reviewing is the Switch version. 

The good

One of the main reasons I’m writing a review for this game in my game quicky style is because this game doesn’t have a story. So, I have less to critique which makes for a shorter article. But, why am I mentioning this with the good points? Well, that’s simple. The lack of a story in this game is actually a rather enjoyable thing.

Since this game is a really meta puzzle game, writing a story for this game would be a huge hindrance. It would be too silly or it would take itself too seriously. Also, it puts the focus on the unique gameplay of the game and that’s all that matters.

The gameplay of this game is extremely addictive. The idea of this game is that you finish the level by hitting the object that “Is Win”. So, how do you that? Well, by manipulating almost everything in the level. You can see the basic idea at work in the gif I attached to this article (source: official website of the game).

You see “Pillar is Push”, so that means that you can push around the pillar. Off-screen, there is “Water is Sink”, so you sink/die when you touch the water. Now, something that’s unique is that the text can also be moved. So, you can make: “Pillar is You” as well. And that means that you control both Baba and the pillar.

As long as you make real sentences, the game will act accordingly. Now, there is no real tutorial in the game but the game is divided into sections. The first few stages of a level are introductory levels to the mechanics that the level is going to use. And, these training levels are needed since this game can get pretty challenging.

Mark Brown from Game Maker’s Toolkit explained how smart this game is in his video where he praised this game as his most innovative game of 2019. And I have to agree, this game challenges the most veteran players to finish each level. And sometimes the level is stupidly simple while you look over the solution multiple times. It’s such a rewarding feeling when you finally beat a stage that you were stuck on for so long. Something I enjoyed quite a lot was when a friend and I were figuring out puzzles together. Discussing strategies and trying to figure out how each puzzle worked.

Now, I can keep praising the gameplay for a long time here. But, take it from me. If you enjoy puzzle games or great brain teasers, this is the game for you. But is the rest of the game any good? In the visuals department, I can only give you one answer and that’s yes!

Compared to the Game Jam build, this game got a visual overhaul. From a cuter main character to better animations. It’s all here. I personally think that Baba is a sort of white rabbit/cat hybrid animal. In this version, the improved animations give the player more information instead of the rather static look of the original game.

There are barely any sound effects in the game. But, that’s no big issue. Since it would destroy the atmosphere of the game if the developer added sound effects for the calm water or lava. It would be a bit too much. The music, on the other hand, is amazing. It’s rather calming and soothing to listen too. It’s a trance soundtrack that relaxes you to think outside of the box to find the answer more easily.

Controlling this game is also a blast. I rarely had any issues with the controls. The fact that you only need a few buttons makes the game easy to understand. All you need to know is how to move Baba, how to undo an action or how to wait. You can press the “A” button to wait for an object to either teleport, move, jump… while you are standing still.

Now, yes, I’m praising this game to the moon and back. But, does that mean it’s flawless? Sadly enough, no. I have a few things that I have to mention in my negatives section. 😦

The bad

Now, the game makes a few minor mistakes that might be called nitpicks. First of all, there is something I really dislike about the UI. You are stuck to the level layout. That means that you can’t move freely over the screen when selecting levels. This can make navigating in the level select a bit tricky.

You get a flower when you finish a level in a stage. Whenever you finished around 6 stages in a level, you can go on to the next level. But sometimes, you earn sun symbols. And it’s never clear when you are going to win which symbol. This is extremely annoying when you are only one sun-symbol removed from opening that one gate that’s blocking that one world.

Now, since when is the “B” button a select button? In almost every game I play, the “B” button is a cancel button. Not in this game, it’s a selection button. My brain is so hardwired to press B to go back to the world map, I get extremely confused when I suddenly enter a level or select an option that I didn’t want to select.

Something that I think would be great is a sort of hint system. This game could have used a help system where the user could unlock a hint after a certain amount of time. Sadly enough, you are on your own in this game. Oh well, thankfully there are walkthroughs when I really want to know the solution to one level.

And yes, that are all the negatives of this game. So, let’s wrap this article up and let’s go to the conclusion.

Conclusion

I can totally understand that this game isn’t for everybody. This game is for people who really enjoy solving brain-melting puzzles or extremely unique indie games. The game is extremely charming and enjoyable. The addictiveness of this game has that one more try mentality. And as soon as you find the solution, you get that rush of adrenaline.

I really meant what I said in my tweet in January. I think there are huge chances that this game will be in my top 10 games of 2020 list. I enjoyed my time with the game, the visuals, the soundtrack, and the gameplay that much.

So, give this game a try! It’s totally worth your time in my opinion. And not only that, 10% of the game’s profits go to charity which is an extremely nice move of the developer. Even for an indie developer.

There are a few minor things that this game does wrong but honestly, I think they can be fixed with a patch or a feature update easily. Especially the “B” button thing since I found that extremely annoying.

And with that said, I think I have said everything about this game I wanted to say. Thank you so much for reading and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it. I hope you have a great rest of your day and take care!

Score: 100/100