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First Impression: Cave Digger (PC – Steam) ~ Diggy Diggy Dig. (Non-VR Version)

capsule_616x353-1Steam store page

At least once every two or three months, I get an email from a developer who is asking me to review their VR-game. I always have to decline since I quite easily get migraine attacks from VR headsets and that’s one of the main reasons why I don’t play VR and don’t even own a VR headset. Now, why am I taking a look at a VR game then? Well, because the developers of “Cave Digger” made a non-VR version of this game and asked me to write an honest review about their game. So, a VR game that went “Non-VR”, is it any good, or should it remain a VR-game? Let’s dive right into the caves while I invite you to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article. (A press code was provided by the developer to write this article)

Diggy Diggy Dig

Cave-Digger-PC-Edition-3dIn this game, you play as a digger for the Frontier. For the first part of the game, the story doesn’t have a big hook to pull you in. But, the further you get into the game, the bigger the actual hook gets. If you want to enjoy most of the story in this game, I highly advise you to take the second radio station on your train since it describes the mystery a lot better. More on that later.

The goal in this game is that you not only uncover the mystery in this game but you also rebuild the city with the riches you find down in the caves. The more you explore the cave, the more information you get from hidden parts of the caves where a lot of jewels and riches reside that might help you earn more money and buy more upgrades. 

So, what is the mystery about? To stay as spoiler-free as I can, it’s about a hidden ancient civilization that might still be alive or too advanced for our human race. So, in the alternative western setting, you have to make a decision about what to do. I have been playing this game for 3 to 4 hours now and I haven’t met another human character… Physically that is. Most of the story is told over the radio. And I do have a complaint about it. 

The voice acting of the characters is good. It pulls you into the story without an issue. Now, English isn’t my native language and while I’m quite good at speaking it, sometimes I enjoy it when there are subtitles when a word or an expression is used that I don’t know. Sadly enough, this game doesn’t have subtitles. That’s a big bummer. 

It would have been great if there was some sort of archive of previous broadcasts. It would be a great help to those who took a (long) break while playing this game to catch up at what’s happening or to re-listen again in case you missed some parts. 

At first, I thought that this game was going to be quite linear, but that is far from the truth. Since this game has 9 different endings. Yes, the replay value of this game is quite high. Now, I haven’t encountered one of the endings so far but I’m quite curious to see them. So, when I have beaten the game and I write a follow-up review article, I’ll talk more in-depth about the endings. One thing I’m going to say already is that there funny and interesting easter eggs in this game that add a whole lot of charm to the game.

Two Ways Exploration

There are two ways you can explore, you can go to the elevator and the train. The main game is going on an adventure with your train. But, it’s easy to earn money by exploring with the elevator. You need to do both since some items to progress in the game without going into a crazy grinding mode is by buying the items at the elevator. 

The gameplay of the “two modes” are also quite different. In the elevator, you can have secret vault doors, but I don’t know how to interact with them. Most likely, I haven’t found the correct tool. You also get three different stages where you get 30 seconds to mine out resources or collect artifacts. After 30 seconds, you move on to the next section. I find that it’s quite easy to throw a stick of dynamite to the walls and use the vacuum glove to collect all the gems before they disappear into the edges of the elevator. Oh yes, that happens during the transition of the sections as well. 

So, let’s talk about train exploration. With this train, you go into the caves where you have various places you can go to get materials and explore. At first, the train goes extremely slowly but the further you upgrade your train, the faster you will be able to travel. Thankfully, there are warp points to certain landmarks so you don’t have to restart your whole travel each and every run. 

The tutorial only explains the basic controls. But the rest is up to you to actually figure out on your own. How you safely extract fossils and oil from the caves, it’s up to you to figure out. Even what the strange golden statues are doing on several dig sites.

Now, to collect the goodies, you have to throw them in the deposit box in your train. Before I got the glove, I found it extremely annoying to pick up the items one by one and deposit them. When I discovered that the glove allows you to suck up several items at once, I found that the game opens up a lot more. Also, it doesn’t take long before you meet your chest buddy who is also a deposit point and even eats up whole piles of gems and deposits them for you. 

Now, this lack of tutorial is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it makes the game a bit more challenging and it feels more rewarding when you figure something out and solve a puzzle. On the other hand, things like the fact that the glove is a vacuum don’t get explained and might turn some people off from this game… 

Something I can forgive is the fact that this game can be a bit repetitive. If you are interested in this game, I highly recommend that you play this game in short bursts since otherwise, this game might become quite boring. 

Something is wrong, I can feel it.

To be quite honest with you, I felt quite conflicted while writing this article. Since there is a lot that this game does right but the mistakes that this game makes are quite major. 

A great example of this is the visual presentation. Visually, this game looks amazing. The environments are detailed and feel life-like. For example, there is a volcano level in the elevator and you really feel that you are mining in an extremely hot place. In terms of animations, it’s good. Nothing too groundbreaking but good. 

Yet, there are several moments where I thought: “shouldn’t there be some visual to tell the player you are breaking this rock?” or “why does my drill always get so zoomed in when I walk very close to walls?”  or “why isn’t there a fuse animation on the dynamite?” … There are several more of these questions in the visual department, sadly enough. There isn’t enough feedback from the game to the player to communicate if they are hitting or missing a rock for example and this breaks the immersion fast. 

And it pains me to say that the smooth and stable visual presentation isn’t the only victim to this problem. The controls are as well. In most cases, the controls of this game work amazingly. I rarely felt like I was cheated out of something or that the game was unresponsive. Yet, I felt that the vacuum didn’t always work as I was expecting, and carrying around items to other places felt a bit … janky. Sometimes I dropped an item with me being unable to explain why my character dropped the item. 

But there also problems with the audiovisual presentation. The soundtrack of this game is just amazing. The variety of tracks in this game is just perfect. I really enjoy the fact there are different genres present in this game apart from all old-western-style music. The sound effects are pretty neat as well but don’t always play consistently. Sometimes they don’t play and sometimes they play for too long. Sounds that don’t always play are the drill when you are excavating relics and sounds that play too long are your gloves when you are using the super punch and cancel it. 

Not even the UI gets saved in build 2020-08-25. For some reason, there are still controller controls in the level bottom of the pause menu… while I don’t have a controller connected. On top of that, the counter for the number of unlocked endings is completely wrong. Just look at this screenshot to see both issues:

So yeah, it pains me to see this since you can clearly see that the rest of the UI is fine and works great. You can see your current main objective and your special mission to gain additional resources but mistakes like I mentioned above are just giving this game a sort of “beta” feel.

Now, most of the issues I mentioned so far I can personally overlook to a certain degree. Yes, they are annoying and they make the game less enjoyable but not unplayable for me. Yet, the thing that makes the game a bit unplayable in my opinion is the fact there is no real way to lose this game. There is no real danger in this game lurking. There is even no punishment for jumping in the ravine, you simply respawn next to your train.

So, is this game a bad or a good game? On one hand, this game is extremely relaxing and maybe it isn’t so bad that there isn’t a lot of danger lurking over your shoulder so you can enjoy the game at your own pace. Yet, on the other hand, I got a bit bored during parts of this game since I didn’t feel challenged at all.

I think the best conclusion is this. This game is perfectly balanced, as all things should be. While it has (huge) flaws that can turn people away, there are a lot of good things that can draw others in. I honestly think that with some more depth and polish, this game can become a real hit but in it’s current state, I think it will become a footnote in history.

Now, I think the big problem I have with this game is that I have played a game that did this concept a whole lot better in my opinion. I’m talking about SteamWorld Dig. Maybe I’m comparing this game and that game a bit too much in my mind diminishing my experience with this game. But, that makes this game: not a bad game. Since I enjoy trying to get the achievements in this game.

As I said earlier, I’m conflicted about this game. On one hand, I enjoy this game and I would recommend it to people who enjoy games like Minecraft or Steamworld Dig, but on the other hand, I don’t want to recommend this game since it needs a lot more work to be enjoyed by more than a niche audience. Also, I haven’t played the VR version of this game. Maybe that version is more polished.

Maybe when I finish all the endings, I might be able to form better opinions on this game. And who knows, maybe by then a few patches are released that improve the game and I might praise this game a lot more in my review. But for now, I think I’m going to wrap up this article. 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!

First Impression: Barn Finders (PC – Steam) ~ Let’s Find Our Stock

capsule_616x353Steam Store page

It’s no secret that I love to go to garage sales and thrift stores. I love looking around at those places to try and find unique items to add to my collection. So, when the developers of Barn Finders approached me and asked me to write a 100% honest opinion review about it, I didn’t hesitate. This game sounded right up my alley. So, after a few hours of playing this game, can I recommend this game or is this game worthy of a skip? Let’s find out while I invite you to write a comment in the comment section down below with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

Side note: if this game looks interesting but you want to try it out before you buy, there is a demo on the Steam Store. 

Let’s find our stock

840948bcfe9343c08c45cdb7d429eb43In this game you play as a guy who is living in a barn with Uncle Joe. He is your oldest cousin and together you run a thrift store. But instead of people bringing their stuff in, you go to auctions and go to barns to stock your store. 

The story in this game isn’t anything special. You travel from barn to barn while doing stops in your pawn shop. You also have to deal with your customers. You can accept or decline their offer but you can also haggle with them. Pay attention since some customers will rob you blind and even literally, there are thieves in this game. 

While there isn’t a lot of story present in this game, the atmosphere and setting of this game is really well done. I really feel that this game takes place in the late ’80/early ’90 in the more rural area’s of America. 

Now, there is something that confuses me a bit. There is voice acting in this game over the radio and the upgrade shop but all the other things are sim-lish. You know, mumbling like in The Sims. I honestly think that the game would be a bit better if this mumbling met the tone of the dialogue a bit more. 

Not everything has mumble dialogue, take for example the auctions. At the moments, you rarely have mumbling of the characters. Well, you do have it for the guy running the auction but that’s quite monotone and clearly a soundbite playing on repeat. Anyways, the voice acting itself on the radio and the mumbling is quite enjoyable for the rest. I feel that they give more atmosphere to the game and even bring it more alive. 

In terms of characters in this game, well there a few characters that you meet but there isn’t a lot of character building. While this can be a turn off for some people, I personally don’t mind that much in this game. But here is the thing, there is a limited amount of character models and quite quickly you will see the same people coming to your store. You also meet the same characters on auctions. I don’t know if they are the same characters but they are the same character models. 

All over America

10d3deb9968b4beb860b64739ecdf409The gameplay of this game is three part. The first part is simple, you have to run your own pawn shop. Thankfully there are no mechanics where you have to pay the electric bills and things like that. Most of the mechanics of maintaining a the shop are explained in the tutorial and easily accessible with the “F1” key. I love it when games have a clear and nice tutorial.

I do have some minor complaints about the tutorial. First of all, I don’t know why the part of the generator is still in the tutorial since you only have to do this once. Secondly, a small table of contents would have been amazing. Thirdly, there are some minor spelling errors like: “car Battery” instead of “car battery”.  And finally, the final tutorial has some text that runs off the yellow square while in the final square you see that they made the font small to fit it all in the yellow square… I mean, some consistency please. 

Now, the second and third part of the gameplay are kinda similar and kinda not. On some maps, there is an auction that you need to do before you can explore the map completely. And sometimes there is no auction. To be honest, I didn’t like these auctions one bit because I got the impression that they were a barrier to stop the player from progressing too fast into the game. The solution for making them more interesting would be that you would get some information about the other candidates and their shop, if you are able to outbid them or not. Since the only information you get about that is there is an amount of money on the map before you move to that place. 

While exploring the map, there are a different type of things you can collect. The first type are “trash” items. These are for example: packs of cigarettes or booze. These give you a small amount of money right away. The second type of things are the materials. These are obtained by destroying interact able objects like trash cans or barrels. These items can be used to repair broken items in your pawn shop. And the final type of thing are the times you can arrange a pickup for, to sell in your pawn shop. 

Apart from that, there are collectibles in each map. These range from new floor tiles or wallpaper to a secretly hidden golden toilet roll. Now, on a lot of maps, you have a bathroom you can interact with. Each time you interact with it, a small “character goes to the bathroom” sound plays while the screen goes black. I found this funny at first but I didn’t see the joke in it. 

I do have some minor complaints about exploring the maps. First of all, the meter for the amount of remaining items is janky. I’m sorry but what does count as remaining items? And why is this some sort of health bar instead of a number? The game shows you a number when you go to the truck…? Oh, yeah, trash items don’t count for that meter. 

Secondly, is it me or are some hitboxes of digging spots a bit off? I had to move away and closer from the digging location to continue digging. Speaking about digging, it would have added to the immersion if there was a bit more animation while digging and maybe that the item you were digging up started to slowly show?

And finally, why isn’t there a counter for the amount of resources you can still pick up or trash items that are still present on the map? That would have been a great help to know if I found every single thing on the map. 

Now, this brings me to two complaints about the maintaining of your shop. The first complaint I have about that are the various stations. You can let the item you are cleaning or reaping get in a very glitchy state when you drag the item a tiny bit out of the machine and then try to clean or repair right away. 

While I was researching why my items were glitching out, I found out that you can double bind a key in the option menu. But, more on the UI later in this article. 

The second complaint I have about the shop part of the game are the hitboxes of the signs. These are too janky to use sometimes. I had a lot of trouble trying to pick another sign to hang up. 

Close enough

ss_14a44569ca3559382eda63d13e670e25b43eea0d.1920x1080If you read the previous section, you might think that the gameplay of this game isn’t the best. If you got that impression, I’m sorry but you got the wrong idea. I found this game quite enjoyable to play. But, it does have a few problems that can be solved with some patches. There is a DLC coming in the future and maybe with that DLC, some issues might get fixed. 

Is this game challenging? Well, not really. There isn’t a lot of challenge in this game. This game is perfect for when you want to relax and don’t be afraid that you get a game over screen or get stuck in a difficult level. 

Visually, this game looks quite decent. Some textures look flat like the leaves on bushes and you have the occasional clipping of characters, but in general the visuals are quite good. Now, the area’s you walk around in are quite detailed and look real. Apart from the invisible walls that is but hey, you need a way to keep the player in the correct playing area. 

In terms of animations, they are fine. All the animations of the characters that are standing still, I don’t have any complaints about them. I do have a complaint that there no walking animation of the characters. They magically teleport to the location you need them in, and they do that with a puff of smoke. At the other hand, it sort of grew on me and I felt that it added to the charm of the game. 

Like the reference achievements, those grew on me as well. It’s quite clear that the developers had a lot of fun putting these achievements together. And I think I might try to get all the achievements since it adds one more goal to this game. 

Now, let’s get on to the audiovisual presentation of this game. Let me start with the sound effects, these are good. I don’t have any complaints on that part. I do have some complaints about the soundtrack. While the soundtrack is good and fits the atmosphere of the game quite well, I feel that there aren’t enough music tracks. There are moments when the silence could have been filled with a bit of music. Then again, of most these moments where when I returned to the pawn shop or when I was loading in a map… So, does this game have enough music? I don’t know for sure. 

Let’s talk about the UI of this game. Overall, the UI is quite well done. Yet, I already mentioned one flaw with it. The fact that you can bind one key to more than one action. I’m sad to report that there is another flaw with the UI. I would be able to forgive the fact you can’t name your profiles, if you were able to disable the frame limiter… Which has been spelled with an underscore in the build I reviewed for some reason… 😉 But the most annoying mistake in terms of the UI is the controls bind menu… The controller lay-out, why don’t you use the XBOX or PS style buttons? Why the literal generic button lay-out? 

Before I talk about the final thing, I want to mention that there is no stamina meter in the game. So, when you are running and you want to know how long you still have before your character slows down, good look… 

Anyways, the final thing I want to talk about are the controls of the game. This is something that really confused me at first but as soon as I got used to them, they clicked quite well. Most of this game is controlled with the mouse and keyboard. A lot of actions are with the mouse, like interacting with objects and NPC’s. Very rarely I found myself using the wrong mouse button, but I was able to correct myself quite quickly. The controls are extremely responsive and I felt in complete control of my character. So, no complaints there.

So, I have played this game for about 4 hours now. While I found some small and big issues with the game, I still want to recommend this game to casual or adventure players who want to play something relaxing. This game is the perfect game to wind down after a long day of work. Maybe this might be just me but I find the gameplay loop quite rewarding.

While the game has some rough edges, the fact that there is an in-game feedback feature and the fact that there is a DLC coming next year is giving me hope that this game will become an even better game. Some of the issues that I mentioned in this article can be solved with in-game mechanics.

The game runs amazingly smooth and I never had any frame dips. The only minor issue I still want to mention is that I found it quite unclear when a character has finished his or her dialogue. But, that doesn’t stop me from recommend this game.

So yes, it would be a shame if you skipped this 20€ game since I enjoyed myself and I found the positives outweigh the negatives by a lot. And I think I have said everything I wanted to say about this game for now. I might take another look at this game when I beat it but for now, I want to thank you so much for reading my 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.