First impression: The Safe Place (PC – Steam) ~ Playing With Emotions

Steam store page

Remember two games I have talked about in the past before? Little Kite and Repentant? Well, the developer Anate Studio released his newest game last month. The developer was so kind to provide me with a press key to review and talk about this game before release. But, due to life getting extremely busy… I didn’t have the time to actually write something about this game until today. As usual, you’ll get my 100% honest opinion about this game and if this new point-and-click game is worth your time or not. If this world is really a safe place right now, or if we should do something about it. In any case, let’s dive right into it, and feel free 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. I’m always curious to read those.

Editorial note: this article is written while the game was in v1.1

Playing with emotions

Just like in all previous Anate Studio’s games, this game tackles heavy subjects. In this game, the story is about self-sacrifice and a troubled childhood. In this game, you play as an engineer, Alexander. He lives in the post-Soviet era, which was in the midst of an economic crisis.

One night, he meets a young girl called Christina while waiting for the bus. Things go south from there, and Alexander commits a murder in front of her and covers it up. While the girl promises to keep silent when he helps her, things might and will go even more south from there.

In terms of writing, the story is well tense. There are two majors threats loomed over our main character and they are equally thrilling. Should Alexander deal with the troubles of the economic crisis, or should Alexander make sure that all the traces to the murder are covered up? This struggle also comes back in the writing, making it even more tense for you as the player.

Something I want to mention as well, is that I found it extremely lovely to see the dev diaries on the studio’s YouTube channel. For example, in this video, we see how the first scene is inspired by a real life bridge in Ukraine. You see it all come together in a time-lapse, and you see how much detail and love has been put into this game.

This whole game is also voice acted. I have to say that compared to the previous game, the voice acting has improved quite a lot. The voice acting is a lot less monotone and has a bit more feeling into it. From the three games I have played from this studio, I feel that this is the best voice acting yet. While the voice acting has been improved, it’s still a bit jarring that there is no lip-syncing. So, you will hear the characters talking but not see them talking, you know.

The only critique I have about the voice acting is something I’m unsure is a critique of the voice acting, sound mixing and/or the visuals. It sounds and looks the same when you have thoughts and spoken dialogue. Thankfully, this doesn’t happen very often, so it isn’t a big problem. But, maybe for the next games, have a sort of little distortion on the thoughts and display that text in cursive. Something quite similar has been done by the ports of 999: 9 Hours, 9 Doors, 9 People, and it works extremely well when you are not picking up on context clues.

Before I move on, this time the game is only in English and Ukrainian. I only speak Dutch and English and a bit of French. I know a little bit of German, so I’m only going to stick with the language I understand and I can judge. So, this comes from somebody who doesn’t know any Ukrainian but from what I heard from the voice-over demo on the developer YouTube channel, it sounds pretty good as well.

Drawn by hand

I touched upon this earlier, but visually, this game is extremely detailed. Just look at this screenshot I have placed here. Every environment you visit is highly detailed and looks amazing.

Now, I have chosen this screenshot intentionally. Since, there is a minor issue I want to talk about here. On the desk in the bottom left, there are several items you can pick up. When you click on the desk, the camera zooms in. But, you can still move your character.

This leads to it feeling a bit janky in my opinion. Since, at first I didn’t know how to exit the zoomed in screen and when I learned I could just click on the top to walk away… I felt like you didn’t know what the restrictions were in the zoomed in area. So, if you work with a mechanic like this… Make it evident to the player how they can exit that zoomed in screen and don’t allow the character to move.

In any case, I wanted to talk about the visual presentation of this game. Overall, this game looks amazing. In addition to that, the animations in this game are decent. Some of them don’t really work in my opinion. I mean, the back and forth swaying from some characters feels out of place. It feels a bit unnatural. I can understand that from a gameplay standpoint that it makes the characters stand out more, but it looks a bit silly sometimes. Something I would love to see in future games is that the characters are more expressive, especially in dialogue. Now, they go through the same short animation cycle, and having them more expressive would make the game come more alive.

I hope that you aren’t getting the impression that this game is unpolished or that it’s broken. It isn’t. I’m just quite impressed by the leaps forwards that the developer made compared with the previous two titles, and I just want to see their games become even better. For example, in the previous game you only had a few hints you could use, and you had a set number. In this game, the hint system is miles better. In each area, there are several statues hidden. These statues can unlock an image sequence for you to get a hint. But be careful, since you can unlock an image sequence for a puzzle you already completed. And on top of that, there aren’t enough statues to unlock every hint tree. So, look for them and use them wisely. Since, they are hidden extremely well.

If you know what to do, this game will take you roughly two and a half hours. This game is longer than the two previous titles in this trilogy. Yes, the two games mentioned in the introduction are part of this game. Now, you don’t need to play the two previous games to understand everything in this game. But this game is as long as the two previous ones combined.

Sound support

Earlier in this article, I said that the characters should be more expressive. But, there is another side of the coin. Sometimes, the lack of animation works in the visuals in their favor. Since, the sound design and sound effects make your head fill in a lot of details.

The sound effects really play a support role, sometimes to make the world come more alive. A small piece of advice I’d give is that in the next game you have some sort of subtitles for the sound effects as well for the hard of hearing/deaf people in your next game.

Something that shouldn’t change is the soundtrack. The soundtrack fits this game like a glove. It sounds atmospheric and creepy sometimes. And like I said, it fits the atmosphere amazingly. A rather common complaint from the previous game was sometimes the music and sound effects were louder than the voice acting, this is anything but a problem in this game.

This game controls extremely well. In this game, you almost exclusively use the left mouse button to control the game. This makes the game quite easy to learn. You might think that due to the very detailed art style, it’s not always clear where to click on. But the cursor turns into a nice hand icon when you can interact with something, and you can click the magnifying glass in the left corner to make sure you have investigated every spot.

Now, sadly there are a few complaints I have about this game. The first complaint is that activating the running in this game is quite tricky sometimes. I wasn’t always able to get the running to work, and the main character walks rather slow sometimes.

The two other complaints I have about this game are more UI based. Which is a shame, since they drag the amazingly crafted UI down. For of all, I find it a mistake that there is no save time in the load menu. This game has an auto-save system, but it’s unclear what the latest save is. There is also no way to manually save, either. So, you’ll have to rely on the auto-saving of this game. And that doesn’t happen quite often, only after certain specific events.

The second complaint about the UI I have is something of a pet peeve. Since there are multiple words for something, it’s always handy to have each item named. For example, you have a broom handle or broom stick. These names I’d love to see in the inventory. Since, when you don’t play this game in one sitting, it’s extremely handy to quickly hover over the items to quickly catch up with the items in your inventory.

All in all, this game is a huge improvement compared to the previous titles. The puzzles are quite challenging, and it feels quite rewarding to figure them out. The game has some issues for sure, but comparing the first titles of this developer with this game, it’s impressive how far this developer has come. A better hint system, better voice acting, a longer story and adventure… There is also a demo for this game if you are unsure if you want to pay the 12 euros for it.

The biggest issues I have about this game are rather small in the overall picture. My biggest annoyances in during playing were the running not always working as I hoped and the back and non-expressive characters during dialogue. I mean, the voice acting is so much better, but the animation needs to follow. You can’t have two back and forth sawing characters having a heated discussion.

So yeah, if those are the only two major complaints about an adventure game that’s well written and drags you into a emotionally gut-wrenching story with amazingly handcrafted enviroments… I mean, what’s stopped from me to recommend this game to everybody who enjoys adventure and/or point-and-click games? Nothing! I’m convinced that the next games will have more improvements since this developer works almost alone on these titles and the quality he is able to put out is really worth your time and attention.

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

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Review: Resident Evil 8 – Village (PS4) ~ Putting Together Rose.

Official websiteWikipedia entry

One of my favorite genres is action adventure games. The Indiana Jones, Tomb Raider and Uncharted games are just a few examples. And I don’t mind when you sprinkle in a bit of horror like in Fatal Frame or Silent Hill. Now, I have played Resident Evil in the past and I have gotten quite far in Resident Evil 4. So, at the start of 2023, I decided to pick up Resident Evil Village on my PS4, since it was on a massive sale, and I was able to grab it with all the DLC for €10. So, was that a good decision? Or should I have skipped this one? Is it a bad thing that I haven’t finished Resident Evil 7? These are all interesting questions that I’m going to answer and maybe you too. Because, I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on the game and/or the content of this article. And just before we start the article, I want to mention that this game was played on my PS4 Pro and I have only played the single player campaign on the default difficulty. I haven’t played a lot of the other modes and I haven’t played a second of the VR mode in this game.

Putting together Rose

This game is a direct story sequel of Resident Evil 7. While I own Resident Evil 7, I haven’t finished the game yet. In a matter of fact, I’m still at the beginning of the game. I didn’t finish that game because I got distracted by other games and I haven’t made the time yet to finish the game.

Now, if you dislike spoilers, I’m afraid to say that the intro to this game spoils the whole ending of Resident Evil 7. Thankfully, you don’t have to have played Resident Evil 7 to understand the story and what’s going on in Resident Evil 8. I’m sure that some references and story beats went over my head, but I take that.

One thing is for sure, now that I have finished Resident Evil 8, I want to finish Resident Evil 7 as well. How did Ethan Winters get in this mess? Ethan Winters is the character you play as in this game. After being kidnapped in your own home and the car being attacked, Ethan lands in a strange village filled with monsters. The opening story beats are in a way similar to Silent Hill 1’s opening if you squint and ignore a lot of details. But I’m going to explain it like that to avoid spoilers of this game.

Let me just say that the world building and overarching story in this game is amazingly put together. The mystery in this game is great, and it leads to an ending that I didn’t see coming at all. The ending leaves so much open for a potential sequel or continuation of the story, it’s insane.

Now, you can experience this game in various modes. I played this game in 3rd person, since I feel that’s the way how Resident Evil games should be played. And it’s a decision I don’t regret at all. Since, the voice acting in this game gets so much more powerful when you see Ethan’s full character model in cutscenes. Not only is the voice acting of the voice actors extremely well done, the sound design of the voices adds so much. The amount of times I was able to hear an enemy crawl up to me and take the right action during combat… I lost track of counting.

I was very immersed in the story of this game. The world building, the story, the additional notes scattered around, and the voice acting are just a few examples of things that this game does really well. The only thing that this game isn’t, is a survival horror game. Maybe it gets more tense when you play on the higher difficulty settings but on the default difficulty, this game isn’t too difficult. And it’s a shame, since I feel that the easier difficulty in this game drags it down a bit.

It’s not that the game holds your hand, but it’s that the game is a bit too easy. There are a lot of signs and moments where the game tries something unique to spice up the gameplay like having a big vampire hunting you down in one section… But by then, that section is reaching its conclusion, so it’s over before you know it.

But, how is it?

I think it’s fair to say that the 8th mainline entry in the Resident Evil series takes some inspiration from the 4th entry. This game feels a lot like Resident Evil 4 in core concepts. Which isn’t a bad thing, but it might not be what Resident Evil fans expect from the series.

I’m just thankful that this game doesn’t overfocus on action like in Resident Evil 5 and 6. In this game, you are having an adventure trying to find answers to various questions.

I’m going to describe the next section for avoid spoilers reasons a bit vague. But, the gist of this game is that there are, depending on how you count, 5 main area’s in this game. One hub area and 4 other sections.

Each of these sections have their own theming and puzzles. You have to explore each one of those sections, trying to find the next puzzle piece to progress. All the while you avoid enemies and loot your environment for supplies. You mostly use these supplies to craft more ammo since some of these enemies you fight either come in mass quantity or are anything but push overs.

Overall, most of the puzzles in this game aren’t too difficult when you pay attention. Only once I looked at a walkthrough because I totally forgot about a mechanic that actually held the solution. Now, something I really liked in this game is how the map system gives you a clue if you got everything in a certain room or not. When the room is colored red on your map, there is still something of value to be found in that room. If it’s blue, you got it all. I really enjoyed looking in every corner to try to find some more items or treasure to get more cash. Do know, that this only counts for rooms, so outside areas don’t follow this mechanic.

The map system is a really great tool to aid you in puzzles. It’s filled with handy notes to quickly find certain locations back when you got the required item. Or it’s a hint on which item you need to find to progress or open that location. So, if you are stuck… Keep an eye on your map. It saved me a handful of times.

Usually, I’m really hesitant when it comes to shooting weapons while playing on a controller. I feel that you can’t aim as well as with a mouse. Of course, there is aim assist but still… Somehow it feels strange in my mind. But, in this game I didn’t have a lot of trouble during combat. I enjoyed the tense moments in combat. The weight of the weapons and trying to find the correct weapon for the situation felt quite rewarding.

While playing this game, I often felt like I was playing the newer Tomb Raider games. The story takes a little backseat in during the campaign but it ramps up near the finale. Also, near the finale it gets more clear that this game is a more cinametic experience then an action adventure game. I have read reviews from other players who call this game a walking simulator. While that’s extremely harsh, some moments do feel like that sadly.

Visually, most of this game looks quite stunning. The enviroment and character models look mighty fine. There were a few textures here and there that felt last gen like dense grass. Granted, I saw that drop in some textures when I disabled HDR in my PlayStation since I think my fan isn’t supporting HDR. But, besides that tall grass texture, this game looks amazing. There are even a lot of throwbacks and easter eggs in the visuals and animations for long time Resident Evil fans to enjoy.

Speaking of animation, the animation in this game gets an A+ from me. The only nitpick I have is that the death animation of some enemies is a bit too long so it gets confusing if you have downed an enemy or if you have killed it. But, apart from that, the animations are so immersive. To that point that I sometimes had a hard time knowing when a cutscene starts or ends. Not only that, sometimes I really felt the punches I threw or the gun being shot.

Survival with a handbrake

The soundtrack in this game is also well crafted. It adds to the creepy and spooky atmosphere of this game. The score for this game feels like a more orchestral version of the Zero Escape soundtrack. When it’s not tense and making you nervous that there is something behind you, the soundtrack is loud and proud. It made me sit on the edge of my seat sometimes.

The only thing I regret is that I didn’t play the whole game with my bluetooth headset on. I only played the finale with my bluetooth headset and let me tell you, it makes the soundtrack that much stronger. It also helps with the sound design. The growls of the enemies are that much creepier when they are creeping up on you.

The controls in this game get a chef’s kiss from me. They all felt really natural and responsive. I only had some occasional janky moments when trying to run and duck underneath something. Since clicking the left stick once is going in or out of a crouch and pressing and holding the left stick is actually running. And in tense moments, the game didn’t always recognise that correctly.

In terms of UI, the only complaint I have is that the map screen and the inventory are two seperate menu’s. This is something that tripped me up multiple times. But, that’s the only complaint I have about the UI. The UI is perfectly designed and everything is easy to find and navigate. So, I was able to tweak the settings in the option menu to my liking. Since, I felt that the sensitivity of the aiming wasn’t fast enough.

The amount of things you can change in the options menu is just perfect. You even unlock some interesting stuff after you have beaten the game once which you can toggle on or off. Something I liked as well, was the fact that you get a warning before you an buy an attachment to a gun you don’t own.

Sadly, there are some glitches in this game as well. Thankfully, I have only experienced a few, but I have seen some strange things online and especially with the speedrun of this game… This game has some crazy out of bounds glitches. I even found one in my playthrough. Thankfully, you have a restart button in the pause menu to go back to your latest save, but the fact that it is there…

Apart from that, I mostly had a glitch free experience. I did have some graphical pop-in in the late game but that might be because after I had beaten the game, I discovered that my HDMI cable was going so that take with a grain of salt.

I do have one nitpick I have to mention as well. I find that the credits’ text didn’t had the best contrast to the background and I was unable to read some names because of that. I usually reference the credits to know if my research is correct.

Now that I have beaten this game, a lot of additional content got unlocked. Currently, I’m playing through the DLC Shadow of Rose. But, I think I’m going to do something unique for this game. I’m going to play through the additional and bonus content and write a follow up review article and tell you if my thoughts and opinions on this game changed. So, if you want to read that, feel free to subscribe to my blog and you’ll get it an e-mail when it’s published. It’s also a good idea to follow me on Twitter to get the latest updates.

So, I have beaten this game in give or take 9 hours. I was able to save quite easily at save spots or rely a bit on the auto save here and there. Now, from what I read, I still have at least three hours of DLC content and some additional game modes to play through. I feel that this game is a bit short and uses it’s idea’s a bit too quickly. Similar games go on for at least 3 – 4 more hours. But, that’s what the additional content will bring. So, if you want to get the most out of this game, I encourage you to buy the DLC as well.

Conclusion

The good:

+ Great visuals

+ Great soundtrack and sound design.

+ Great voice acting

+ An adrenline rollercoaster from start to finish

The bad:

– A bit too easy, no real survival elements in this game.

– Over too fast, some idea’s could have been used more/better.

The final thoughts:

You know what this game feels like in the end? Like you are eating the best french fries you have ever eaten but without any sauce. No ketchup or mayo, just french fries. While you still enjoy these french fries since they are the best you ever had, you still feel that there is something missing.

This game does a lot of things right, but it makes a few mistakes that hurt the game quite a lot. While you can run around in large open area’s, the game is overall quite linear. You go from one large area to another. Combine that with a bit too easy game, you get that your encounters become less scary and your amazingly crafted horror atmosphere looses a lot of its tenseness.

I think that this game shows that there is a great foundation for the future of Resident Evil. A tense story about something that transforms humans in something grotesque and inhumane and about somebody confronting it. But, please, make the game a bit less forgiving and don’t make the next game so linear. I’m not asking for an open world Resident Evil, but I’m asking for the possibility of having more puzzles to work towards at the same time. I feel that Shadow of the Tomb Raider hit a slightly better balance.

Now, is this game a disappointment or is it worth playing? Well, it depends on what you are looking for in a Resident Evil game. If you are looking for a survival horror game, you might enjoy this game if you play it on the highest difficulty… But, I’m afraid that this game isn’t a survival horror game on lower difficulties. If you are looking for a game that’s like the games I mentioned in the introduction of this review… Games like the Indiana Jones games, Tomb Raider or Uncharted but with a more creepy and horror edge to it, then you are in the right spot. Maybe that’s the sauce for those best french fries you have ever eaten… Perhaps Resident Evil is changing its target audience. Or maybe I’m overthinking it and the sauce is something else.

In any case, I still enjoyed my time with this game. I’m planning a second playthrough with the new game plus mode. I’m curious in what I missed. Furthermore, I know that this game has some shortcomings, but honestly, they didn’t bother me. This game was an amazing game to start off my year with, and I’m glad I finished the game. Now, let’s re-install Resident Evil 7 on my desktop and let’s finish up where I left off. Let’s see if Resident Evil 7 is as good as 8, or better or worse…

So, do I recommend this game? Yes, I do. To anyone who is into action adventure games. The production value is through the roof with this game. There are a few things holding it back, but they aren’t so bad in my honest opinion that it hinders the game that much.

Now, I still have to finish the additional (DLC) content of this game. Will this change my opinion on this game? We shall see. I don’t exactly have a time line for when the follow up article is going to be written but it will soon. So, for now I slam this book shut, to be opened in another time.

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

Score: 85/100

First Impression: Desperados III (PC – Steam) ~ Pimping Nostalgia

Official websiteSteam store page

I still remember when I first played the original Desperados back at a friend’s place. It didn’t take long for me to get hooked. To be very honest, I never really beat the original game. That’s mainly due to my playstyle. In action games, I love being more aggressive and “in your face” instead of being stealthy what that game more required. When the 3rd game got announced and released in 2020, I was beyond hyped to play it. But, a lot of different games just distracted me. I was also afraid that I wasn’t going to enjoy the game too much since… yeah my playstyle. But then, this month’s Humble Bundle got a key for Desperados III and I bought it. I started playing this game and yeah. I wasn’t wrong putting this game on my top 10 games I’m looking forward to in 2020 list. But, what exactly do I think about it? Well, I’ll explain in this article while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and/or opinions on this article.

Pimping nostalgia

While this is the 3rd main entry in the series, you don’t need to have played the first two games to enjoy the story in this game. Since, this game is a prequel to the first game. Basically, the backstories of the main characters are set up in this game. While we see a few familiar faces to the originals two games, we also see two brand-new characters.

The pacing of the story is a little weird. Because, the main setup of the story is explained over the whole first chapter. You don’t want to know how many times I have rewritten this section to avoid spoiling something. Let’s just say that the story of this game is quite interesting and doesn’t disappoint for your typical Western story.

The story doesn’t overpower the game, since the star of the show is the gameplay. But, the story doesn’t disappoint at all. I love the voice acting of all the characters. The performances are amazing and fit their characters as a glove. I was surprised to learn that this game got a completely new cast to play the characters. If I hadn’t looked that up, for some characters I wouldn’t have been able to tell.

So, let’s move on from the story and characters and start talking about the gameplay. In this game, you have to complete several missions with a small group of characters. Each mission is different and not only in terms of the map you play on. For example, in one mission, you are trying to fight your way to the dock without any of your weapons and in another mission, your group is separated into two groups that start at the other side of the map.

Survival is awareness

If you want to survive in these missions, you have to be very aware of the characters in your crew. The main cast exists out of 5 characters. And all five of them have different weakness and strengths.

One character can throw a knife whilst the other is a sniper. Understanding their abilities and when you use them, is key. Something that this game does extremely well is that there are various ways of tackling each mission. So, you can play this game however you want.

The additional missions you can do in each chapter, give a clue on how different you can beat each mission. There are even missions where you can beat it without having to kill one guard. Whilst you are playing through a mission for the first time, the optional missions aren’t revealed to you. When you are playing through it again, then you can see the optional missions. You can earn badges for a more “perfect” score as well. On top of that, after beaten several missions, you can unlock new challenges where you can replay a mission with additional challenges and/restrictions.

The difficulty curve of this game is just polished extremely well. When a new character gets introduced, the mission is a sort of tutorial on how to use that character. I still remember that in the original game, after you rescue a character, you get a mission with barely any enemies where you learn how that character works. Not in this game. You get various “papers” you can pick up that show a short movie on how the mechanic works. This is such a breath of fresh air.

Something I adore in this game as well is the quick save and the quick load system. You might think that this mechanic is quite aggressive. Since, when you haven’t saved in a hot minute, you get a pop-up almost in the middle of your screen. But believe you me, it’s a great reminder. It makes this game way less frustrating when you make a tiny mistake or want to try something. Also, when you accidentally quick save in a situation that leaves you in a sort of soft lock, in the pause menu you always have your three last saves. So, you can roll back further when needed.

A big improvement compared to the first game as well is the speed up & the pause feature. With a simple press of a button, you can slightly speed up the gameplay. Which can be handy to speed up the patrol of a guard you are trying to sneak past. Now, the pause feature is something quite special. With this feature, you can pause the game and plan out a choreography to take down various enemies at once. You can cue up one character double shot while another character sneaks in to give a deadly shot to the third enemy. Once I was able to take out a patrol of five enemies with one pause and let me tell you how amazing it fells when it all goes to plan.

Apart from understanding how your characters work, it’s also quite important to understand your enemies. There are several groups of enemies that each have their unique traits. For example, you have Poncho enemies who don’t react to traps and distractions. And you have long coat enemies who are difficult to take out and need three hits to be taken out. And if you don’t take them out in one time, and they spot you, and they hit you… Well, instead game over.

With a simple right click on an enemy, you can make their view cone appear. As soon as you walk in their view cone, you can get spotted. When moving a character, you need to get out of the view cone before it goes red. Since, as soon as it turns red, an alarm is raised and nearby enemies come to help and track you down. But, you can also “view cone surf” where you sneak from one view cone to the next. Confusing the surrounding enemies can possibly be sneaking away.

Let’s do this again.

In the previous section, I mostly explained how the gameplay works. I only explained some of the more basic mechanics. The whole puzzle aspect of this game and the quick thinking you have to do in this game is quite addictive. While I’m playing through this game on the easiest difficulty setting, I still feel that this game is quite challenging.

I tried to play this game on higher difficulty settings, and it’s too brutal for my tastes. Thankfully, you aren’t punished with too many fewer mechanics or other penalties because you aren’t playing on the highest difficulty setting. The gameplay is still addicting. It’s a prefect example of “easy to play but hard to master”. Just like I said in the previous section, awareness of everything is key in this game. Awareness of where you hide your characters, how many enemies are around, who has which abilities, which opportunities you have to kill or knock out an enemy, blind spots …

Now, in order for this style of game to work, you’ll need a good set of controls. And this game controls amazingly. The controls are fast and responsive and apart from some minor moments I don’t have any problems with them. Something I struggle with sometimes is remembering that certain actions like throwing a torch required me to press an additional button. Or that when I want to retrieve the knife, I don’t have to pick up the dead body.

I rarely use the keyboard shortcuts for my characters to preform actions. But did you also know that you can totally remap them to however you want? It’s mind blowing that this game allows you to do that. It’s a great tool to customize and personalize the game to your liking.

So, the gameplay in this game is a blast. I rarely felt that the game cheated me out. And the quick save and quick load system makes this game a ton more fun. Something I can appreciate as well is how detailed this game is. Visually, this game looks stunning. For the low system specs that this game requires, this game is turning out mighty fine visuals. Also, I haven’t noticed any moments where the frame rate stuttered or went down to unplayable numbers.

Maybe it’s because of my playstyle, but I sometimes wish I took more time to enjoy the visual presentation of this game. The environments, the animations of this game… they look amazing. The run that the citizens do to get away from danger is just beyond funny. It’s a sort of Naruto run and I often have a hard time focusing on the mission when I see them running.

In addition to that, the music of this game is just pure ear candy. It’s very memorable but also a blast to listen outside the game. When I’m writing an article about a game, I usually listen to the soundtrack in the background. This article is no different and whilst listening to the soundtrack I was able to play the missions inside my head.

Add to that, the great sound effects that add to the atmosphere of this game, and you have a top-notch audiovisual design. I don’t have any complaints about them. They help me quite a lot during the game. Especially, they can be great to know if you are spotted or not.

So far, I have mostly been raving about this game. Are there actually things I didn’t like about this game? Well, to be honest, I don’t have a lot of negative things to say. There is one mission I disliked beyond belief, and I was stuck at for quite a long time. But, when I was passed it, I was able to play through this game and continue enjoying it. Later, I returned to that mission, and I was able to beat it more easily because I got more used to some characters.

The only thing I could criticize in this game is that the hint system isn’t flawless. Often times, I had it bug out on me and giving me hints to parts of the mission I had already completed. But, it’s a mechanic you can just set aside.

In conclusion, I personally think that if you enjoyed the original games, find the concepts I have explained in this article interesting, enjoy stealth/tactical gameplay and/or enjoy action-puzzle games… I seriously think that this game is worth checking out. I’d highly recommend this game on PC, since I don’t think you can translate the complex controls on a controller too well.

I have barely any negative things to say about this game, so I think it won’t be a surprise that I boot up this game again after publishing this article. It’s a thrilling ride from start to finish and really tests your skills that you learn through playing this game. The witty banter between the characters or the enemies you can listen in are such a blast or can even give you a hint on how to beat the mission.

And with that said, I think I have said everything that I wanted to say about this game for now. I want to thank you so much for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed playing 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: 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 its 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 that 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 overwork. 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 are 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 lose 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 of 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 gyro controls 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 supported 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 areas 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 is hidden-object puzzles. In these puzzles, you are tasked with finding a handful of items in the picture. There is a punishment when you spam click on the picture. The screen will “break” and you are unable to click for a certain amount of time.

The 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 the 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.

The 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 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 at 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 is 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 it. 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 as 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 its 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 menus. 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 collectibles, 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 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 collector’s 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 its audiovisual 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 to 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 settings, 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 use 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 collector’s 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 collector’s 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 collector’s 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