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First impression: Sanator: Scarlet Scarf (PC) ~ Who wears that scarf?

Steam store page

Hi, NotThatAlice here. NekoJonez asked me to review this game and I gladly agreed. Unfortunately, due to bad mental health, I put off reviewing this game until the last moment… Today I’ll be talking about a visual novel game called Sanator: Scarlet Scarf. For this review, the developers provided me with a review code. As requested by the developer, you will be able to read my 100% honest opinion in this article. As usual, just leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of the article in the section down below. 

The story

The story of this game is based upon the legend of the Plague Maiden, a Norse mythological creature. A woman can become a plague maiden when she didn’t get a proper burial after she was murdered on her wedding day. Now, this legend is also used in German-speaking regions when the bubonic plague was happening.

In this game you explore the world that has fallen twice and has an unclear future. You dive right into the mystery of a dying city with the fate of the Sanator in your hands. Are you able to stop the calamity before it’s too late? Because this is a big story based game, I’ll keep spoilers to a minimum in this review.

Now, if you are a fan of text-heavy games, you will absolutely love this game. Personally, I prefer action-packed games more but I believe that everyone has its own favorite game style. One of the great things of this game is that you can use your imagination, you don’t have to do what the game tells you to.

One thing you need to play this game is patience, it takes a while before you can decide something in the game. This also means that the game can have more than one ending so it has some replay value to find out what the other decisions have as an outcome.

The game sometimes uses unknown wordings, that something to get used to. It has some kind of codex but not every word is explained. On the other hand, they are talking about a plague that is killing tons  of people, that is a realistic thing from the middle ages. I also recognized the crow mask as a mask that was used in the middle ages by doctors in times of the plague. (I totally didn’t learn this from watching Beauty and the Beast, Disney-fan talking :p )

A little side note, something that NekoJonez didn’t like was the fact that some text was extremely close together. This can be seen in the codex. He said that sometimes an enter or two could have helped.

The text settings in the game are quite simple. You can choose to remove the text from the screen so you can see the full picture, you can change the text shading,… I would’ve made the text a little bigger though, it kinda made my head hurt a little.

Even though the game is read-through, you can enable voice assistance. This means you can still read the text but it is also read to you. One thing i would maybe change to this feature is that the text is only read to you when everything is on the screen and not while the text is written. This means you have to wait a while before you hear what is being written. It is also all in the same voice, which means you have to concentrate on who’s talking. If only the text and dialogues were color coded, that would help quite a lot.

Technical thingies

I really liked the visuals of the game, even though there isn’t a lot of animation. The style of the game is like it is painted on your screen, with paint strokes and darker colors. This makes the game a little extra special since it isn’t just an average animated game.

The background music gave me the chills. The music is kinda monotonous but at the same time it gave me the feeling that something was about to happen… The music also kinda resembled that of the Zero Escape series, which made it even scarier to me.

While playing through the game for the review, it really made me want to play on and on. The beginning may be a little slow but it you keep going until Syl tells her story you might be as restless to advance as me. This makes me admire the writer of the story a lot. I have read a lot of books, but if a book started slow, it makes me stop reading it. This game doesn’t have that problem at all.

One thing I accidentally did while first starting the game was put the game in Russian. I kinda was impatient and just pressed the first thing I saw. Maybe it’s easier if the language settings on the screen instead of only lighting them up if you move your cursor over them. I had to look up how Russian was written in Russian to find out where i had to click next. Now i kinda think it’s funny that it happened though.

Something I think that could have been improved was how the demo was handled. The demo of this game is a stand-alone package. But here is the thing, it’s a bit unclear that the demo is a prequel to the story. I think it would have worked better if the demo was the implemented into the full game as a sort of first chapter. Maybe as a sort optional chapter for those who already played the demo. What I thought when NekoJonez started playing the game at his place was that the demo actually looked like the beginning of the actual game. I don’t know if that was intentional or not.

I think that  the price of 8,19 euros for the game is a good  price. If the game only had 1 ending it would be a bit much but the game can be played several times, like I said earlier. There is some replay value in this game.

If you play the game, always remember to save your progress. The game doesn’t autosave, and when you exit, it doesn’t give you a prompt to save. This means all unsaved progress will be lost. Also, I found it a bit annoying that you can’t name your saves. The name of the save is simply the date from when you made the save. So, if I wanted to go back to a certain point, I had to remember which save file it was.

The settings of the game are quite simple, you can choose between windowed and borderless mode, you can change the volume of the music and sound and, which I thought was a nice extra, you can change the mouse cursor in the game. There is also an option where you can easily listen to the whole soundtrack that the game has. Besides that, you can also choose to darken the text that isn’t part of the current paragraph or on which side of the screen the text will appear on. I could nitpick that the arrow buttons weren’t the best symbol for this, since it almost gives you the impression you can move the text window to your heart content… to the middle for example.

And that’s everything I wanted to say about this game for now. When I have fully finished the game, I might write a more in depth review about this game. I want to thank the developers for the opportunity of reviewing this game. I also want to thank you, the readers for reading this article. Feel free to let me know if you enjoyed reading this review 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.

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Review: Adera (PC) ~ Let’s Rescue Grandfather!

AderaSteam store page – Microsoft Store

During a spring cleaning, my mom found her old Windows Surface RT tablet back. She didn’t need it anymore but I saw some use in it. After I reset the tablet to it’s factory settings, I set the whole thing up. It would be a tablet I used to start writing articles while I was on the go and also to take notes during gameplay. I have an Asus Zenpad 8.0 S for that as well, but this tablet was bigger and had Word built in. Now, this tablet can also play games. And that’s a second reason why I saw a use for this tablet. And a 3rd reason is because I just enjoy toying around with old hardware and tech. Now, one of the first games I started playing on this tablet was Adera. I recently finished this game and today I want to talk about it. Let’s go and have that adventure in the Adera. 

Let’s rescue Grandfather!

Adera - 1In this adventure hidden object game, you take on the role of Jane. Jane’s grandfather got himself into trouble and sent a distress letter to Jane. When Jane goes to try and find him together with her partner Hawk, their helicopter crashes in the middle of a desert. It’s there that Jane’s adventure starts. Together with the mysterious orb that she received from the package of her grandfather.

The story of this game is decent. The writing is well done and the pacing as well, but if you have played fantasy adventure games, the story won’t bring a lot new to the table. Now, I did still enjoy the story in this game. My biggest complaint is that it could have been so much more. The world and the setting have so much more potential to be explored.

Now, if you decide to play this game, I highly recommend that you play this game with the original voice acting. The English voice acting is quite well done in my opinion. But, most likely because of the region settings of my Microsoft Account, when I play this game on my desktop instead of my Surface, the voice acting is in Dutch. Now, I have nothing against the Dutch voice actors in this game but after I had experienced the English voices, I found the English voice over a lot better.

The following issue with the game is most likely because of the aging Windows RT hardware, but I had moments where the game’s text was sometimes in English and sometimes in Dutch. But, when the menu appeared in Dutch, some text was repeated several times. Take a look at this screenshot for example:

Adera-4.png

At the bottom left, it says: “Rate Adera!Rate Adera!Rate Adera!”. And there are a few other sections in the game that have the same issue. So, to avoid visual messes like that, I highly recommend that if you are interested in this game, that you buy it on Steam. You won’t have the issue where the game tries to display in another language and you have the best voice over work. I even bought the Steam version of this game for this review to do some further research.

But this review will mostly focus on the Windows Store version because that’s the one I played and finished. Now, something I can’t hold against the game was the fact that I played it on aging hardware. I played this game on the Windows Surface RT running Windows 8.1. Due to a bug in one of the updates, the Windows Store doesn’t work, so I had to reset the tablet multiple times. Each time, I had to download each and every episode. Now, the downloading and installing of these episodes took a long time. Maybe because the WiFi card and the hard disk inside the tablet is quite slow.

Thankfully, this game has an autosave in the cloud when you connect this game with your XBOX account. So, even when I had to reset my tablet to factory settings, download and install the game and the episodes all over again, I didn’t loose any progress. This is quite surprising to me and a very nice feature.

Now, I want to talk about something but I’m going to spoil something of the ending. If you are alright with that or if you have finished the game, feel free to highlight the following part. Otherwise, just scroll a bit down so you can skip the spoiler. So, here comes the spoiler: Something that really annoys me is the fact that there is a “season 1”. This implies that the game is going to get a season 2 or even 3. Because the cliffhanger at the end and multiple unanswered questions, the game feels incomplete. Now, the game is released in 2015 and the social media accounts have gone silent. So, I don’t think we will ever know what happened to grandfather after he got kidnapped… again. Now, the game got a re-release on Steam in 2018, so there is hope that we get a continuation of the story in the future… Who knows.

Windows Surface RT

Adera - 2Now yes, I might have played this game on aging hardware, but I actually enjoyed the fact that I was able to make use of the unique feature of this game. I think this feature is also in the Android and iOS versions of the game but the fact that the game supports touch controls is just amazing. Also, the fact that there are gyrocontrols for this game is amazing. When I moved the tablet around, the in game camera moved around as well. It was almost like I was controlling where Jane was looking by physically moving the tablet. The Steam version does not support this. Well, I might support it, but I don’t have a laptop has supports this kind of feature.

Anyways, because this game focuses on touch controls, the controls are a bit awkward when you decide to play this game with a mouse. Because you either swipe or physically move your device to look around in several area’s in order to find items and solve puzzles. That’s something that isn’t easily done with a mouse. Now, you can simulate a swipe with the mouse, but it feels different. Yet, I was able to get used to it while playing around with the Steam version after a while.

Now, let’s focus on the gameplay of Adera for a moment. If you have ever played those adventure games with hidden object scenes, you will feel right at home in this game. There are a few types of puzzles in this game. The first type of puzzle are the hidden object puzzles. In these puzzles, you are tasked with finding a handful of items in picture. There is a punishment when you spamclick on the picture. The screen will “break” and you are unable to click for a certain amount of time.

A second type of puzzles has to do with the mysterious orb that Jane received from her grandfather. This orb can do some strange things but in order for it to do that, you have to solve different puzzles. Speaking of the orb puzzles, there was one style of puzzles I truly hated with a passion. There is a puzzle where you have to tap the symbols at a correct time. When you tapped them at the correct time, you were able to progress one space in the puzzle. But, if you tapped them too early or too late, that means one space back for you. Thankfully, you are able to skip these puzzles. This means that I’m unable to complete some achievements, but rather that then being frustrated at a puzzle. Now, why did I hate this puzzle? Because for this puzzle you need to have a certain sense of rhythm and that’s something I don’t really have. The puzzle itself works just fine.

A third type of puzzle in this game is the fact that there are a lot and I really mean, a lot of hidden items in the game. There are close to a 180 optional items hidden all over the game.  From masks, pieces of clothing, coins, artifacts, butterflies to special items. There are even more items to collect. You can always see the items you have collected in the collection section of the main menu. These are separated in different sections giving you a hint in which episode you missed an object. And these items are truly hidden. After I had finished the game, I only found a bit over 80% of all the items. And I thought I was very good in finding these objects. To be honest, this is an interesting way to add a little bit of replay value to this really linear game.

The fourth and final type of puzzle are the fact that certain obstacles block your way. In order to progress you will have to find items. Some of these items are hidden in the hidden object puzzles and some can be found by exploring the area. The best way to compare these puzzles is with the gameplay of games like Broken Sword.

The game might be more on the casual side of things, but that doesn’t take away that the game is rather enjoyable. I really liked exploring the areas the game threw me in and finding the items to solve the puzzles. All the while I was looking around for hidden collectibles. I have played a lot of hidden object adventure games and this game is one of the better I have played. The fact that there are additional things to do like the hidden collectibles and the various achievements you can get is refreshing and great fun.

Something I really liked about the Windows Store version is the fact that I bought the collectors edition of this game. In this collectors edition of the game, there are various wallpapers and pieces of concept art. The whole soundtrack of the game is also included for your listing pleasure. In addition to that, there is a very short but quite humorous gag reel. There is also an ad for the eBook variant of the game.

These bonus additions are nowhere to be found in the Steam version. In addition to that, something that I found quite helpful was the fact that I was able to zoom in during the hidden object puzzles. There is no way to do that in the Steam version.

Now, something that the Steam game does better is the fact that the game is really full screen. This is only an issue when you play this game on a Windows 10 computer or laptop instead of on a Microsoft tablet. If you play the game on a computer, blue bars will fill the top and bottom of the screen like in the screenshot here:

Adera 4.png

This is a shame, since there is so much unused space and the game can run in full screen, since this is something that the Steam version shows.

So close, yet so far

Adera - 3

It always pains me when I have to write in a review that a game is so close to being a good game. Adera has a ton of amazing elements but it also makes a few mistakes.

Now, this game will take you roughly 7 hours to finish. It’ll take you a few more hours in order for you to complete. Yes, this game is somewhat short but when you compare it to other games in this genre, this game is actually rather lengthy. It also has replay value and for the price of 10€, you can’t complain in my opinion.

This game isn’t for everybody. When you dislike puzzle games or casual games, I don’t think you will enjoy this game. Which is a darn shame, since you will miss out on the lush environments and the amazing artwork. This game looks amazing. The animation is also pretty well done. You can skip most cutscenes, but you will miss out on the plot and the great animation. Now, the only thing that could have been improved was there was a bit more animation on the characters during gameplay. The characters are quite static outside of cutscenes.

The controls of this game do something unique. Usually, when you click or tap just above the middle of the inventory bar, you go to the previous location. This isn’t the case in this game. Because this game has a back arrow. This has it’s advantages. For example, now I don’t return to my previous location when I tap a bit too high by accident. But, this arrow works a bit inconsistent. In some cases, you are able to move to that location without the aid of that arrow and in some cases, you can only go to that location with the down arrow. It’s tricky to explain by text, but it will make more sense once you play the game. While I got used to the mechanic after an episode, it was annoying that the down arrow to move backwards wasn’t consistently used for the same thing and in the same way.

In terms of the UI of this game, it took me a while to get used to the Windows Apps interface style. Because I rarely used Windows 8(.1), I wasn’t used to the fact that you had to do certain swiping actions to bring up the menu system. This is something that the Steam version does a lot better. It was also confusing that the settings of the game were somewhat outside of the menu system of the game.

Now, in terms of the UI. Something I really disliked was when I replayed parts of the game on my PC to write this review, I noticed that the swiping doesn’t work in the menu’s. I had to use my scroll wheel. Another annoying “feature” of this game is that when you go to any menu during gameplay; to for example the collection menu, the back button in the menu system brings you back to the main menu. It would have been so much easier if this back button brought you back to the game to continue your playthrough.

While the game saves automatically and quite frequently, I found the load feature a bit lacking. Now, it works perfectly but when you continue an episode, you don’t know where your save file is at. When you finish an episode, the game saves right before the cutscene that plays as the cliffhanger for the next episode. Now, the thing is, the game uses cloud saves when you sign in with your XBOX account. So, when I clicked continue on the first episode on my PC, the end cut scene of the first episode started playing. It would be lovely if the load feature told you where the game saved. In addition to that, when you click on the “play now” buttons in the main menu with the episodes, the game directly loads your save file. So, if you want to start from the beginning because you think you skipped some collectables, you need to go to the “episode” section of the main menu and start it from there.

It’s a shame really, the UI could be so much better. There are just of bad design decisions. Thankfully, most of them are fixed in the Steam version where you don’t have the Microsoft App UI on top of the game. But, that version misses quite a lot of features of the collectors edition.

Something I haven’t mentioned or talked about is the music and sound design. The soundtrack of this game is quite well done. The only complaint I have is that some tracks are a bit too short and because they are played quite often, the loop started to annoy me in some puzzles. Yet, the soundtrack is one that I’m going to add to my music library so I can listen to it while I’m writing or relaxing. It’s that good. It’s a relaxing but mysterious soundtrack that’s fully orchestrated. Together with amazing sound effects and sound design, this game really shines in it’s audio visual presentation. Now, one nitpick is that I feel that the music for the main menu is a bit too quiet, a bit too mysterious. Sometimes I felt there wasn’t any music in the main menu.

Now, is this game difficult? Not really, this game can be extremely easy and quite challenging depending on the difficulty setting you pick. There are three settings. Depending on how difficult you make the game, the more supporting features are disabled. On the “EASY” setting, active hidden object or puzzle locations are revealed with sparkles and the hint and skip buttons recharge quite quickly. On the “NORMAL” difficulty setting, the sparkles appear less frequently and the hint and skip buttons recharge slower. And finally, on the highest difficulty, also known as “EXPERT”, no sparkles and the hint and skip buttons are disabled. You can change the difficulty setting at any time while you are playing an episode.

Speaking about the hint button, I really liked the way this game gives you hints. When you click on the hint button the first time, you get a clue to what is the next step you could take. There is an additional button on the hint pop-up and if you click on that button, you get the exact solution you are looking for.

During this review I have talked about various things that this game does better compared to other hidden object adventure games like for example the length, the back button and the replay value. But, there is one thing that this game doesn’t have compared to newer games that would have been a great addition in this title. The custom difficulty setting. With these setting, you can adjust which supporting options you want to enable and disable or how long you want to the hint and/or skip buttons to recharge for. But, this might have been too tricky to program with the ability to change the difficulty settings on the fly. The other thing that this game doesn’t have is a map screen. Usually, in these map screens you can see the locations you have visited and where actions can be done. This would have been helpful with some of the longer episodes.

With that said, I think it’s high time to close off this review. It’s time for the closing thoughts on this game!

Conclusion

Note: While I talked a lot in this review about the Steam version of this game. The conclusion applies to the Windows App Store version of the game that I played on the Windows Surface RT tablet.

The bad: 

  • The UI could used some more polish.
  • The Dutch translation has some text bugs.
  • There was no way to choose the language of the game.

The good:

+ Amazing audiovisual presentation.

+ Replay value in a hidden object game!

+ The collectors edition has a lot of amazing bonus content.

+ Amazing artwork.

+ …

Final thoughts:

Man, this has been a tricky game to review. I have played parts of the Steam version and the Windows App store version. I’m certain that the versions for Android and iOS have some differences but will most likely play similar to the Windows Surface RT version.

While the Steam version has a better UI, it lacks all the additional neat features of the collectors edition that can be found on the Microsoft Store. But, the version of the Microsoft Store has a lacking UI.

Now, this game isn’t perfect and isn’t for everybody. But what it does, it does very well. I highly recommend this game to fans of the hidden object genre or fans of the point-and-click genre. This game is quite underrated and should deserve more recognition. It was the first game I started playing on the Windows Surface RT and it was the first game I had beaten. Sometimes I replay a bit of the game in the hope I find the collectibles I missed.

The game gives you the impression that there are going to be more seasons, that the story of Adera will continue. With the game getting a Steam port last year, I have hopes that we will see another season in the (near) future. But, I highly doubt it will happen since there is no mention of seasons in the Steam version. Then again, it could be possible that the second season will start with episode 6 or something.

So, if you want to give this game a chance and you don’t mind a bit of messy menu UI, I highly recommend the Windows Store version. If you want a better menu UI, play the Steam version but know that you will miss out on the collectors edition content.

Personally, I really enjoyed playing this game and I’m happy that I discovered it. Now, I’m quite curious to see if somebody who reads this article is going to pick up this game. If you do, please let me know in the comments which version you bought and what you thought of it.

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

Score: 70/100

Let’s look at: The Stanley’s Parable

TSP-beginagain

Official website

This is a story about a Neko. This Neko’s name is Jonez. He works at a website and all he did was writing articles, by pushing buttons. He was employee number 427. In his office he had a screen where a game was displayed so he could push buttons to write an article. The screen also gave hints in how long he had to press the buttons and how many times. But one day, no order came on the screen for more then a hour. He was confused, asking for comments to what people thought of this game or this article, but because he found nobody, he had to wait for comments…

Un-reviewable

stanley parable 1Did the introduction interest you? Confuse you? Good. Since this game isn’t one I can review. Since this game is an experiment. And a great one. It’s one of those experiences you have to have. And if you play the different versions, you’ll get a different experience every time. The original source mod and the HD remake differ a lot.

This game started as a “simple” mod. Yet, since PewDiePie played this game, it’s popularity sky-rocketed of course. And it’s worth it. This game has a great story. A special one, one I really like. One where your chooses make you have a different ending. Virtue’s Last Reward and various other games come to mind then.

Yet, the demo of this game doesn’t even give the correct impression. While it indeed gives the right impression for the newly updated graphics and the style of the game, it’s nothing really like the full game.

Difficult to review

imagesWhen I release this article, a friend of mine over at ButtonSmashersBlog has his birthday. And his nickname surely explains what this game is. TheThinker (linking to his Twitter), I wish thou a happy birthday man. And if you really want a game that challenges your thinking abilities, play this one.

So, why is this difficult to review? Truth being told, this game can be beaten in under 5 minutes. Yet, there are different endings. To achieve all endings, you have to think outside of the box.

But the game is an experience. It’s different for everybody. And with the lack of many music tracks and only good graphics, great controls and an amazing story, you can’t really write a review without spoiling it too much. The only controls are moving and clicking on buttons. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less.

I do wish that this game got a more lengthy sequel. The game is short. The achievements on Steam do help it having some replay value but you’ll be done with it after a week or so. Yet, don’t worry, it’s a game you will never forget.

Mod to HD.

thumbnail-420x215.jpg.pagespeed.ce.v5NTnBPvIu

This game actually started out as a mod for Source. Then this game got a HD remix. With there first of all a demo and secondly the full game. I have beaten all three multiple times. And I enjoyed them a lot.

While the mod and the HD remake are very similar, there are things you can only find in the Source mod and things you can only find in the HD remake. If you ask me which one is the best, I prefer the HD remake better. Since it’s a bit more funny and it has more references to itself. In addition, the menu is amazingly designed.

Yet, the HD remake has a major issue. When you alt+tab out of the game, going back into the game is a major issue. It crashed on me then several times. Also, I’m disappointed that the game doesn’t have an overview of all endings you already got. Like the ending room at one ending, I would have loved to have seen it in all the endings.

The demo is a different beast all together. It’s a special thing. It’s self-aware and it makes fun of itself. The game is extremely funny and worth playing through. If you want to have the real experience, I truly advice that you watch the trailers as well. Those make fun of Let’s Players and the usual angry “YOUR GAME SUCKS” letters.

Yet, the mod version of this game has it’s charm playing for it. It’s free and you really get the great taste of the Stanley Parable. The artwork isn’t made for the game though, so it’s more with the assests of the engine. But hey, it’s used extremely well. No complaints there. And even a reference to the engine itself was extremely clever.

Final thoughts

StanleyParableTestChamber610

I have done my utter best in this article to not spoil things to much. Yet, I have told hopefully enough to raise your awareness to give this game a shot. Really, try spending your pocket money on this game instead of the latest Pokémon or Call of Duty we are all waiting for so much.

You won’t regret it, go in it with a fresh mind. And let the game guide you pushing buttons. Don’t go all “WTF AM I PLAYING?!”, yet let it sink in. Relax and enjoy the ride. And honestly, the first time I played the full game, I played on for more then a hour. But keep in mind that the game was able to be beaten in 5 minutes. Yup, that happened.

To conclude this article, I can’t write a full review of this game. While the inner workings like the alt+tabbing needs some improvement in the game, it gets from me the full 100/100. Agreed, it’s not a perfect game at all, considering it’s length. Yet, this is a game you must play. One you must experience to truly understand that this game is a gem. One of a kind, something you won’t see in a while. Play all three of the games. The demo, full game and the mod. Two of them are even free so you don’t have an excuse there! And the full game is 10 euro’s here in Europe, so if you come to truly dislike it, you haven’t lost so much money. But thanks for reading, a happy birthday to theThinker, and I hope to see you another time here!