First Impression: Amid Evil (PC – Steam) ~ Champion!

Steam pageWikipedia entry

In the near future, Amid Evil will have new content named The Black Labyrinth. Now, this is quite extincting, since this gives me an amazing opportunity to talk about the base game. Since, this game comes from the same studio that brought us the amazing retro-style shooter Dusk and does it live up to that name, or should we totally look elsewhere? Should we leave this game amid evil, or should we save it from evil? Well, that’s what I want to figure out with while writing this article with my first impressions about the game. So, let’s dive right into the game and talk about it, while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on the content of this article and/or this game. So, Amid Evil… What do you get for us?

Champion !

Amid Evil is being called the spiritual successor to games like Hexen and Heretic. That’s quite a high bar to set since I really enjoy Heretic. I love the concept, and I was quite impressed with it. I remember discovering Heretic through a website that shared old DOS shareware versions of games. Now, before I get side tracked and this article turns into a half Heretic review, let’s focus on the game.

In Amid Evil, you play as one of the last standing heroes that is tasked with saving various worlds. In this game, the evil forces already took over and it’s to you, the Champion to save them. And in terms of story, that’s mostly it. This shooter pulls you right into the action. That’s not to say, that this game doesn’t have any story. Each episode has a lot of world building and builds up the various evil forces that took over those worlds in a unique theme, but if you are looking for a shooter with a strong overarching story, I’m afraid that you might be disappointed with this game.

To avoid spoilers, I’m going to talk about the next bit somewhat vague. But there are 7 episodes in this game, with each episode having 3 levels each and then a boss fight. In each level, there are various moments of lore and world building that if you really spend time with it, it tells an amazing story. The game tells just enough for you to let your imagination run wild and fill in the “story gaps”.

Due to the story taking quite the backseat in this game, there isn’t a lot of voice acting in this game. Apart from the Champion’s pain grunts, jump sounds and alike… There is only one character that really says lines. That’s the voice of the ancients, who is played by Tamara Ryan. She did an amazing job in voicing that character. I really enjoyed her comments when I returned to the level hub. And also, I wasn’t able to find out who voiced the main character, but the voice work there is amazing as well.

Now, if you have read earlier articles from me, you might expect that I’m going to say that it’s a shame that the story take such a backseat, but you would be wrong. I think the execution and the pacing of the story in this game is excellent. The story is told through the world building and because of this, each episode feels like a sort of anime arch/season with a start, middle and end. Especially, because each episode tells a different story with different enemies and ways you have to defeat the levels. The only thing that remains the same are the weapons and their abilities.

Something that remains the same are the controls. Those smooth and amazing controls. I really like how in control I feel of the Champion I play as. I also like things like the fact you can even choose how your crosshair looks in the options menu. That’s so lovely and allows you to add that personal touch to the game that I really love.

It’s shooting time

At it’s core, this game is an old-school linear shooter. The best way to somewhat explain the gameplay of this game is take games like Dusk or Blood, and put them in a dark fantasy setting. So, in this game, you through long levels, shooting your way through various enemies with various weapons. While going through the levels, you also have to hit switches, flip levers, make jumps, hunt for keys to open doors and maybe find secrets along the way. With a handy press of the tab button, you can easily see how many enemies and secrets there are left, but also your time in the level. So, there is an in-game time mode for speedrunners. Lovely.

So, let’s talk about the weapons you can use in this game. The “infinite ammo” weapon in this game is the Axe of the Black Labyrinth. It’s a rather strong weapon, but it’s extremely slow. I’m quite sure that this weapon was my least used weapon because of that slow speed. You also had to get up close and personal with the enemies for it to have effect, and the hectic and fun combat of this game doesn’t always allow that. Since, health in this game is rather precious. I’m not saying that this game is brutal, but if you don’t understand how the enemies work, the can become a lot of trouble.

Maybe the first shooting weapon in this game might be of help. It’s what I call “an upgraded version of Heretic’s staff” and it’s called the Staff of the Azure Orb in this game. While it’s far from the strongest weapon in the game, it was one of my favorite weapons to use. This is a water based weapon, so if you hit flame enemies with it, you deal some extra damage. But then again, water based enemies are immune to this weapon. So remember that well when you are fighting to use another weapon in case of water spirits.

Another weapon like the Whisper’s Edge. It might give you an edge in combat since it’s a sort of “shooting sword”. And not like you shoot energy beams from the top of the blade, oh no. You shoot “slashes”. This is a slow weapon, but it’s a very strong weapon. I see it as the shotgun of the weapons in this game. If you use it well, you can deal a lot of damage, quite fast. And that’s handy since this game likes to put you into tight rooms with a lot of enemies with their unique quirks. It’s essential to understand the weapons and the enemies in each episode, since that knowledge will help you survive the episode.

Like in the original DooM, each enemy has their own unique cry and sound effect. Learning these sound effects and playing this game with a good headset or surround system is a must. It helps you quite a lot to avoid dying over and over again in the chaotic and addictive battles. Something that also helped quite a lot is the Voltride. This is Poseidon’s trident combined with Zeus’ thunder in weapon form. Oh, do I love this weapon since it’s such a strong weapon, but it eats through your mana so quickly.

Speaking of mana, there are three types of mana in this game. Blue, Green and Orange mana. I really like the attention to detail that this game has with giving the ammo count the same color as the mana you need to pick up to power it. The first weapon in the roster with orange mana is the Celestial Claw. This bazooka of a claw shoots actual planets, and sometimes even our own Earth! Man, I love to use this weapon to try to hit a lot of enemies at once while circle strafing around the room.

The next weapon on the list if the Star of Torment. This weapon has its use cases. This is a weapon you need to learn how to use, since it’s not your typical “gun weapon”. The Star of Torment is a weapon that can cause not only splash damage to nearby enemies, but it can also nail enemies to the floor and/or walls if used correctly. I like to use it in crowded rooms to quickly damage the biggest enemies, they are easy pickings when I’m focusing myself on the weaker enemies.

My last case scenario is the Aethurnum. This weapon is quite close to a small screen nuke. It will rip out the souls of the enemies quite easily. And with these souls, you can charge up your soul meter. At a certain point, your soul meter is full and you can activate a sort of “rage mode”. In this mode, your weapons are stronger and do a lot more damage, but they also eat you a LOT more of your mana. I’m not going to spoil the alternate attacks of each and every weapon but let’s just say that the slow weapons aren’t slow anymore.

There is no armor in this game, so that means that you really need to be careful while playing this game, so you don’t die. In the levels, there are also red orbs you can collect that heal you. But be careful, sometimes it’s more recommend to either safe the orb and pick it up later, since it might not be the only time you pass through the section. But, if you learn the enemy attack patterns and really dive into how this game works, you might be able to even pass up some of those health pickups since, full is full.

Worship or not?

Visually, this game does a lot right. This game is the best cross between old school 3D shooters on the PS1, while it looks quite modern as well. The artstyle and theming in this game is superb, and if only I had a stronger gaming PC to see how the new DLSS visuals look like. Since, from what I have seen in the promotional material, the game looks even better.

As I said earlier in this article, the story in this game really takes a backseat, and the game tells you just enough to fill in the details with your imagination. Well, a lot of that has to do with the amazing work the developers did in theming each episode. For example, one episode is quite industrial themed. So, you go through old machines, use giant cog wheels to go around while you avoid robots with lasers. Another episode is more medieval themed, so you will see knights and soldiers hunting you down.

In terms of the UI, I don’t have anything I would change. I really like how you quickly get all the information you need from it. It shows you on the left, your health and your soul power and on the right, your mana and the acquired weapons. Combine that with the beautiful animations as this game has, and the package is complete.

For real, the way how enemies go into a stun animation or die, it told me all the right information I needed to know to try and survive the rather hectic fights. The same counts for the bosses. While they are quite challenging, they telegraph their attacks quite well to give you a chance to dodge and/or get to a safe spot. It makes the game even more fun to play.

A guilty pleasure of mine is that if there are cheats in the game, I like to experiment with them. The cheats in this game give this game such a nostalgic feel to me. But, then you have amazing things like you can play the episodes somewhat out of order. Like, how you can choose which level to play like in the 2nd episode of Nightmare Reaper. It’s really great stuff.

So, earlier I talked about that you need to learn the sound effects of each enemy. I said that for a reason, since the sound design in this game is really, really good. I’m so glad that I play PC games with a noise-cancelling headset, since I’m quite sure it saved me several times from dying. Combine that with an amazing soundtrack by the legendary Andrew Hulshult and the music and sound design gets a chef’s kiss… A ten out of ten. The soundtrack has been part of my work playlist for quite a long time, I love it. It fits the theming of the game like a glove.

There is a lot of attention to detail in this game, like how you have different death screens in this game tell you how you died and giving you quick and easy access to either reload the level, reload a save… The polish in this game makes it quite tricky to find negatives in this game. Yet, there are a few things I really didn’t like.

First of all, this is something I think can be fixed with a patch, but the alt+tab out of the game is extremely glitchy. I had to start and quit the game several times since it had quite a hard time remembering my screen size. It also wasn’t always active, and it switched between focus and not focused mode quite often.

The second thing, could also be fixed with a patch, but the counter in the codex isn’t always correct. Especially with the episodes. For some reason, it’s stuck at 8 for me, while it has double the pages.

But the 3rd thing is something I really disliked. The lack of a map screen. There isn’t an in-game map in this game. And if there is one, I haven’t been able to find it. While this game has great level design, and it flows quite nice, I sometimes missed in-game map to find secrets more easily. Since, some secret locations are so silly as underneath a stair.

Something I feel honestly somewhat mixed about are the power ups. There are so rare and far between, I honestly didn’t remember that this game had power-ups before I clicked open the codex for this article. While it came flooding back then, I think that there could have been much more use of these. Maybe if there is ever a multiplayer or death match or even a sort of zombie style mini-game, I think they can shine.

As you can see, this game is an excellent retro throwback shooter with a lot of polish. The fact that even after 3 years, this game gets frequent updates to polish up bugs and the game, I can’t really fault it for a lot besides not having a sort of in-game map. I really enjoyed myself with this game and I highly recommend it to everybody who enjoys playing shooters like Dusk, Nightmare Reaper, Blood, Bioshock, DooM… It’s really good. Be aware, it isn’t the easiest game you will play, but it’s a fair game, and it has that: “just one more try” attitude written all over it.

I’m really curious to see what the new DLC will bring since it will have new levels, new music and new weapons. Then, I shall wake up the champion once more to fight amid the evil and conquer it. But until then, I think I’ll end of the article here. I want to thank you so much for reading this article, and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

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

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

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

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

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

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

#9 – Baba Is You (Switch, 2019)

Baba is YouFirst impressions of this game.

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

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

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

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

persona4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#6 – DooM (Multiplatform, 2016)

doom-2016My review of the game.

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

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

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

#5 – Blood (PC, May 1997)

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

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

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

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

origami king boxMy review of the game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honorable mentions

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

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

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

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

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

And let’s quick fire some honorable mentions:

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

#1 – Nightmare Reaper (PC, July 2019)

nightmare reaperMy article about this game

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final words

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

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

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

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

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

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