Game Quicky: Cube Grid (PC – Steam) ~ Rolling Around On The Grid

Steam store pageOfficial website

To be honest, the mobile games that attract me the most are the simple and easy to understand mobile games. When I play a game on my phone, it’s mostly to waste time while waiting for my train or something along those lines. It’s rare that I play bigger mobile games. When the small German indie studio Alchemical reached out to me with a press code for their newly released Steam port of Cube Grib, I was directly interested. So, in this article you’ll read my 100% honest opinion on the game and if I would recommend it or not. Also, this isn’t the studio’s first game, so, feel free to look at their website if you are looking for other mobile games to try out. In any case, let’s start this game quicky while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on this game and/or the content of this article.

Editorial note: I played v1.0.1 for this review.

The good cubes

There is no silly story in this game. This could be seen as a bummer to some people, but this game gets into the meat of the gameplay right away. The tutorial explains the game wonderfully, and you can dive right into the game.

The idea of this game is that you have to flip each colored tile while your cube is in the right color. Moving over a full colored tile flips it to a “square” tile (since there is a square drawn on it with that color). Moving over a “square” tile with the same color, flips it back to a full colored one. Which means, you have to reflip it before you can finish the level.

This game is a textbook example of being difficult to explain in text and better to see in action. Sadly, the trailer on the Steam page gives the wrong impression. There, the tiles turn black and this is something that doesn’t happen in the game. Since, that’s how it works in the mobile version. In this, somewhat enhanced PC-version, there are a few improvements that make this game even more enjoyable. Like more control options and being visual a bit better. Also, there are achievements in this version. Something that a lot of people adore, myself included. I find it fun to get these achievements when I do or reach certain things in games.

Now, the mobile version is free. This version costs 4 bucks. This is something you can look at in both ways. As a negative and a positive. Personally, I think this game is worth the price of admission, but I would love to see more features in the future to make it stand out more compared to the free version on mobile.

The controls are quite responsive. They are easy to learn but sometimes a bit tricky to master. For some reason, I messed up sometimes. But, quite sure that’s on me. Since the unique viewing angle of the stage made me mess up my directions sometimes. And to help with that, this game has an undo button that doesn’t count for one additional move. Sadly, you can only undo one move. So, if you want to undo more than one move, you are out of luck.

Visually, this game looks amazing. This game looks clean and isn’t “loud”. Even when you don’t understand English, you can play this game easily. The (UI) design is that good. In addition to that, the audiovisual presentation is great as well. The sound effects and music add so much to the game’s atmosphere. There are a few minor moments that miss sound effects, especially menu interactions but that’s so minor that it didn’t really bother me.

Speaking of visual presentation, you can choose the cube you play as. The amount of stars you earn at the end of each level are currency in the shop you can access from the main menu. In there, you can exchange your stars for a new cube you can play as. This is nothing more than just a visual change, but it is a nice feature that gives a bit of diversity to this game.

This game introduces the special mechanics in a pleasant way. The difficulty curve of this game is excellent, and I have nothing to remark about it. Each level provides a new challenge and the further you go, the more mechanics you’ll have to keep in mind. For example, around the 20th level you get introduced to the “timed tile”. So, when you touch that tile with the right color, you have a certain amount of moves before it reflips. So, keep these tiles as the last tile, so you can win the level.

The fact that there is no time limit or punishment if you take like “a million” moves to clear the level makes this game such an amazing title to wind down.

The bad cubes

There are a few minor issues in this Steam port. Let me talk about the controller controls first. You can control this game with a controller, and it works really well. But, controlling the menu’s and UI of the game isn’t possible. In the latest update, a controller button was added to rewind a move or restart the stage but going to the home menu isn’t possible.

Speaking of the controls, in during the levels you see a “WASD” lay-out. But the game doesn’t recognize another keyboard lay-out. So, I’m sitting here with my Belgian “AZERTY” lay-out being a bit annoyed that it’s not showing “ZQSD”. But that’s a minor nitpick since the arrow buttons work as well and that’s how I mostly played this game.

Now, there is no hint system in this game. So, if you are stuck in a certain puzzle, you can’t have any hints. Granted, developing a hint system for this type of game is quite tricky. How would you implement a hint system without it making the game quite easy or “play itself”. Here is an idea, just like in Quell, you have to pay a certain amount of coins to either see the full solution or set you on your way. And how would you earn these coins in this game? Well, maybe there is on or two hidden in each stage, and you have to click on a certain tile OR the amount of stars makes you earn a certain amount of coins?

Now, the tutorials in this game are excellent. Nothing to criticize about that. But, if you display a text box over the game, make it so that the game can’t be played in the background, or you can create weird edge cases that might break your game.

Something that’s really missing in this game is a colorblind mode. Take a game like Tetris Attack on the SNES, in this game each tile has a symbol on it, so colorblind people can easily recognize which tile is which color. In this game, each color can have its own symbol and the cube to switch color can be a similar shape, so it’s easy to distinguish. And if possible, make it an option so that people who find the mode annoying can turn it off.

There is one feature I’d love to see in a new update. In Invincible Cleopatra, there is a bar to the side of your screen that shows how close you are to perfecting the level. This is something that isn’t in this game. So, when you beat the level, it’s always waiting to see if you do or don’t get all three stars.

The conclusion

I might have written a lot of negative things about this game or things that are a bit broken/unpolished. Yet, most of these things can be patched out of the game with a (few) updates, making this game even more fun to play.

Maybe I’m a bit harsh on the game, and maybe I should look at this game for what it is. A love project where a small team of developers poured their hart and soul into. And that’s something you can clearly see.

While this game has a few shortcomings, I still would recommend this game to anyone who enjoys casual puzzle games. Or if you are looking for a simple but challenging (puzzle) game to wind down, this game is something for you.

If you are really interested in this game, I’d buy the Steam version. Since, you throw some money to the developers and that might motivate them to create an even better version or create more games. If you are unsure, you can give the mobile version a try and decide then.

In summary, this game is good and with some additional polishing it can become even better. Most of the issues I have with this game aren’t that big and can be implemented without a lot of effort. Overall, I think this game is an enjoyable time waster and I can’t wait to see which improvements the future brings.

And that’s everything I wanted to say about this game. 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.

Score: 80/100

Game Quicky: My Little Universe (Android) ~ Gather & Dump ’em boys.

Google Play StoreiOS versionFan subreddit

Finding enjoyable mobile games isn’t an easy task now-a-days. A lot of them have a microtransaction trap or are just filled with ads to the brim. And some of them, aren’t even that fun to play. But, when I notice that I start playing a mobile game for several hours and hours, play it on the train from and to work… Then, I know I found a mobile game that I want to talk about. In today’s article, I want to talk about My Little Universe. A game about grinding actually, something I honestly didn’t think I would enjoy this much. But, is it just me enjoying this game or is this game actually good? Let’s find out in this game quicky article where I talk about the positive, negative things about the game and the round it all nicely up with a conclusion bow. And if you want, you can 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.

Editorial note: This review is written while playing v1.16.x branch. There were 3 smaller bugfix updates during me playing and writing this article.

Worth gathering

The idea in this game is that you gather resources to expand your island and repair the portal to the next world. All the while, you can upgrade your gear, battle monsters and explore the world.

Something I really like in this game is how you can’t buy these resources easily through microtransactions. This means that you don’t have to fear that this game locks you into a microtransaction loop.

There is an owl in each world that offers either a huge amount of resources, but these are totally optional. You don’t have to buy them to progress in the game or to “make the game playable”.

This game is extremely easy to learn and master. In terms of controls, you only need to know that you can move your character quite well by moving a virtual joystick. Mining and attacking all happens automatically. This game is also quite forgiving. When you die, you respawn at the last entrance.

Which you can use at your advantage. For example, in the second world in one of the caves you need a ton of stone. Since, the stone supply wasn’t all that good to gather in large quantities in the cave, I went outside to the mountains to gather them. When I felt I had enough, I just jumped in the water and let the sharks eat me to respawn at the cave entrance, so I didn’t have to make the long trek around.

This game controls extremely well, and I highly advise you to learn the timing on when resources respawn. This can be quite helpful to gather huge amounts of resources easily. At the start, you’ll gather only small amounts of resources from each location, so that’s why my second tip is to upgrade your pickaxe and axe. Since, they’ll increase the amount of resources you get from each mining session or even the speed.

If you regularly upgrade your tools, you rarely to never have to fear that you get stopped because you can’t mind the resources you need since your tool isn’t at a high enough level. And in terms of tools, you only have three of them. Your sword, your pickaxe and your axe. So, no real need of fearing that you need to upgrade a lot.

While the visual presentation is close to very good, I really like how the UI works. The UI shows only what you need to know. It hides the amount of resources you don’t need to know about. For example, if you aren’t working with resources from the first world, they are hidden. You can still use your backpack to see how much resources you have of what. You can also use that to locate certain resources when you need them. A big arrow will appear above your head to locate them.

This game automatically saves. So, you don’t have to worry that you loose progress when you exit the game. You’ll also restart at the last entrance you started at when you start the game.

This game is quite optimized. I never noticed slowdowns nor lag. Also, the loading times between locations is incredible. The amount of assets that are loaded in such a short time is just impressive.

The music and sound effects of this game are amazing. I really like them. They add a lot to the atmosphere and feeling of the game. I find it a bummer that I’m unable to easily listen to the soundtrack outside the game.

There is no real story in this game. So, that means that there is no real need for translation of this game. So, you don’t need to know English to play this game. But…

Let’s dump this

There is no real story in this game. Now, why did I place this in the negative part. Well, while I do understand and enjoy the roleplay potential that this game has, where your mind is able to run free what the worlds are supposed to be… I feel like a lot of chances for more atmosphere are missed. When I started the 3rd world, I felt like this game was missing something.

I just wish there was a little more character in the game. Like danger signs when entering a cave or more set dressing. The idea’s in how the worlds are designed are just amazing, but it lacks a bit of immersion. And I think a bit more set dressing can go a long way.

Maybe this is only on my phone, but there was a lot of Z-fighting happening in the game. Especially on the edges or bottom of textures. For those who don’t know what Z-fighting is, it’s basically when the game doesn’t know which texture should be displayed on top of which texture, and you get blinking textures where they alternate and try to be on top. It’s quite distracting if it happens on a large scale. I have added an example from Minecraft here.

Z-fighting in Minecraft with the stone fences. Taken from the bug tracker.

While I totally understand that a free game needs to have ads, I do want to talk about them. In most cases, the ads in this game aren’t that bad, but they are currently dangerously close to being quite annoying. I don’t have problems with the ad banner on the bottom, nor do I have a problem with the big resource piles you can get for free by watching an ad or the chance that you get a short ad after dying or going between worlds/caves. I do have an issue with the ads that play after you unlock a platform. These are sometimes too frequent and have the potential to break the gameplay flow somewhat.

Also, you can buy tickets to skip ads. And here they decided to do something I really dislike personally. You can’t choose to watch an ad and save your “skip ad ticket”. Thankfully you don’t lose one when an ad plays during other moments. Yeah, when you have those tickets, you can only skip those ads during picking up resources. These, thankfully short, ads still play when you travel between locations or respawn.

Depending on how you are with repetitive gameplay, this game can be boring in longer play sessions. I notice that when I play this game, I often play it in short bursts. Since there aren’t a lot of different mechanics besides gathering resources and placing them in the right location.

Something I don’t know if it’s the fault of the developers or the ad engines, but some ads can be quite annoying. Some ads appear to be playable, but then aren’t playable and appear blank. Others have an unresponsive skip or close button and take you to the App store. These should be able to be blocked by the developer if they have the chance since it shines a bad light on the game.

So, what now?

Personally, I enjoy playing this game. This game is fun to play in a short burst and respects the player. The ads walk that fine line of being acceptable and quite intrusive. Honestly, it depends on my patience level for them on that moment.

The fact that when you upgrade your gear, it’s also shown on the character. Visually, apart from the sometimes quite aggressive Z-fighting, this game looks quite polished for a mobile game. Together with a great soundtrack and sound effects, this game doesn’t have a lot of negatives.

True, the game can be repetitive in longer play sessions… But, that’s not such a big problem since this game autosaves, and you can easily play this game in shorts burst because of that.

If you enjoy casual games or games where you can wind down… Or you need easy to pick up and play games, I really think that this game is something for you. I really like to play this game during my breaks, while crossing my fingers that the ads aren’t too aggressive that 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 also hope to welcome you in another article, but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Score: 4/5

First Impression: The Survivalists (PC – Steam) ~ Monkey Business

Steam store pageOfficial site

Sometimes, I just need a game to get lost in it. A game where I can dive into and play for hours upon hours. Games like Minecraft and Terreria come to mind. Since last year, a 3rd game joined that list for me, and that’s The Survivalists. But why did I give it a spot on my top 10 games of 2021? Did it deserve that spot, or did I change my mind already? So, let’s start monkeying around and let’s talk about this game, while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on this game and/or the content of this article.

Monkey Business

This game is an adventure survival game through and through. The game starts with you getting shipwrecked on an island, and it’s your task to escape. Now, you might think that this game is similar to other survival games like Forager for example. But, this game has a unique mechanic that I love.

During your adventures in this game, you can free imprisoned monkeys. As soon as you free these monkeys, they’ll join your party, and you can use them for anything you want. You can teach your monkeys to do stuff for you. This game slowly goes from a survival game to a micromanagement game. Since these monkeys can learn how to farm, craft, fight, gather resources… So, basically, you can leave the grind tasks to your monkeys. They can level up in these tasks, to complete them even more efficiently. Or you can have an army of monkeys following you around to battle enemies and such.

But I might be going a bit fast here. What’s the story in this game? Well, there is none apart from you shipwrecking and trying to find a way out. You do meet some taskmasters, but those don’t contribute anything besides being your quest givers. So, if you are looking for a survival game with a story of any sort, I think you’d look elsewhere.

Anyway, back to the monkeys. They are the game-changer, and micromanaging them is one of the biggest mechanics in this game. At this moment in my playthrough, I have freed 20 monkeys and trying to find the right balance in which monkeys are assigned to which tasks are an amazing puzzle. Together with an easy-to-understand tutorial, this game teaches you the ropes without holding your hand. After that, you are free to explore the islands.

The difficulty of this game really depends on the random islands you spawn on and in which order you tackle them. So far, I have two playthroughs running, and I have to say that the difference in difficulty makes the game fresh. To make an efficient base and craft the correct equipment to go exploring, is also a great mechanic in this game.

At the start, this game is overwhelming. There are islands to explore, crafting trees to unlock, resources to keep high, dungeons to explore, treasures to find… But, in its current form, the game lacks depth in some areas. There are a lot of mechanics that can be improved or expanded upon.

For example, the blueprint system. You can’t rotate buildings OR cancel blueprints once they are placed. Another example, why can’t you sort your monkeys by e.g. skill in your menu or see their names on the map? Once, one of my monkeys glitched out and got stuck in the middle of the sea without me being able to pick him up. I could use a summon-banana, but I had no idea of the monkey’s name.

If I list all the mechanics that could use a bit more quality of life features, I’d be here for a long time. But, don’t get me wrong here. The features that are here are amazing, but certain things would make the game even more enjoyable to play. For example, see the radius of where gathering monkeys will go to pick up materials. On the other hand, it makes the game a bit more challenging, since you need to plan your building quite well.

Open sea

This game was released in October 2020. Since then, it got 4 big content updates. These updates brought a lot of new things to the game. Sadly, since last summer, there hasn’t been a lot of development of this game. And if there is, I haven’t found any traces of it on the social platforms or on their Discord.

It’s a shame really since the potential of this game is huge. Currently, you can explore 5 islands. At first, I was afraid that it would make the world too small. But thankfully, that’s not a big issue. Each island serves its purpose and going from island to island takes up a lot of time. Thankfully, you can set up transport gates.

These transport gates are one of the best additions to the game in my opinion. They increase the game flow so much. I don’t like having a monkey with me that carries a big chest for storage. Since, when they get knocked out, they don’t re-pick up that chest, and it doesn’t appear on the mini-map. And with the small inventory, these transport gates are a blessing. And it’s also really helpful that items don’t disappear from the ground. On my adventures today, I found some leaves I have thrown out of my inventory when I first discovered the island over a month ago.

Exploring the islands can be quite tense. Since you never know where the enemy villages are. And let me tell you, some of these enemies can pack a punch. Mastering the combat in this game is essential to survive. I also bought this game on my Switch and I have to say that I highly prefer the controls on the PC version. Maybe that’s because I got so used to them with mouse and keyboard, that I have some troubles playing this game with a controller… Which is also an option.

That being said, this game controls amazingly. Sometimes, I had a bit of trouble canceling some crafting of my monkeys, but that was partly my own fault since I placed so many crafting stations so close together.

With these wonderful controls, we can explore the amazingly designed world of this game. While there are only a few biomes, they are all well-designed and have their own reasons to be explored. It’s really quite impressive how well this game runs. In some cases, there is a lot going on, and I barely see any lag or slowdown appear. Which is good, since you’ve to be on your guard in some areas to survive.

I always tense a bit up when I heard that battle music coming. I always look around to make sure if it’s safe to continue to gather the supplies I was gathering or if I should first go into combat mode. The music and sound design are really well done, and it adds so much to the atmosphere of this game. I didn’t hesitate to buy the OST DLC to be able to put the music on my playlists while I’m working.

Replaying

One thing that really tripped me up several times is that this game doesn’t have an autosave. To save your game, you have to sleep.

The loading of another world also isn’t quite easy to do. But, once you have done it, it’s easy to do. You just need to know that “Save slots” is your world select. And, you better have some sort of note system since you can’t give your world’s names. 😦

This game also has multiplayer. I haven’t played a lot of multiplayer, but from what I have played… It works fine. The limited communication options through emotes are somewhat disappointing to me. Sadly, the last two times I got bad experiences in multiplayer with a broken temple and a very spammy host with emotes.

Personally, I don’t regret putting this game on my top 10 games list last year. Yet, I can totally understand why people expected more from this. This game is from the same studio that brought us Overcooked and Worms. The charm in this game is huge, but charm can bring you only so far.

I love playing through this game in short bursts from time to time, trying to finish all the quests and explore everything my islands have to offer. I’m also trying to avoid all outside help from wikis and such since the in-game tutorial and hints are great enough to help you with that.

You can finish this game in roughly 20-ish hours, but currently, I have played this game for 35 hours and I haven’t beaten it yet. Since I want to see everything this game has to offer. In general, I think this game has the potential to become even bigger, but for that, the game will need more content and some major quality of life patch. Like, being able to choose the world you want to open when you start the game?

I wish this game wasn’t such a hidden gem. If the community was larger, I’m sure that this game would get more frequent updates. But, now, I rarely see other players online… I wish there were more online, so I could experience the multiplayer. Maybe I should invite some friends to play this game since I think this game is even more fun when you play it with others. And possibly then I could unlock those final achievements.

If you enjoy games like Forager, Minecraft, or Terrarria… to name just a few; I really think you’ll enjoy this game. At the moment of writing, this game is on sale and I highly advise you to pick up the digital deluxe edition. The additional cosmetic content is totally worth it and the additional hats you can find for your monkeys make it easier to tell them apart.

And with that, I have said almost everything I wanted to say about this game for now. In short, I really like this game. While it has some rough edges, those aren’t a dealbreaker. While this game might not please every fan of the genre, I think there is something here for everyone. Let’s go monkeyin’ around since this is a tense adventure. An adventure worth your bananas and monkeys.

Before I ramble on, I want to thank you so much for reading. 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!

Publishing: BlueStacks launches BlueStacks X, the world’s first cloud gaming service for mobile games

BlueStacks X is free, live in 14 countries with 200+ games, available via the browser, native client/apps and Discord bots

London, United Kingdom, Sept. 30, 2021 – BlueStacks Inc., a pioneer of Android gaming on PC and the world’s leading mobile gaming platform, today announced the release of BlueStacks X (beta), the world’s first cloud-based game streaming service for mobile games. BlueStacks X is available on Windows 10 and 11, Mac, iOS, Android, Chromebook and Raspberry Pi. It is the only cloud gaming service on the market that offers free game streaming for mobile games across platforms and devices.

BlueStacks X (beta) is powered by hybrid cloud technology, built in partnership with now.gg,  BlueStacks’ sister company. Hybrid cloud enables the cloud to offload parts of compute and graphics rendering to the endpoints, dramatically reducing the cloud costs and enabling users to enjoy a free service. This can be achieved both with using a native client and browsers capable of native graphics rendering. This technology works transparently and does not require any integration from game developers. 

“BlueStacks App Player recently crossed 1 Billion lifetime downloads. BlueStacks X is a natural next step for us. Hybrid cloud is a big technological breakthrough which makes it economically viable to launch the service,” said Rosen Sharma, CEO, BlueStacks Inc. “We are a trusted partner to top mobile game developers. There is a lot of excitement among them about BlueStacks X and some of the other innovations we have like deep Discord integration.”

“These days all gamers practically live on Discord. Launching BlueStacks X as a Discord bot is so innovative and smart. We can literally just click a link and jump into a game. I can customize the service for my server, way cool,” said Aevatrex (Jonathan Fermin), leading mobile gaming influencer. 

BlueStacks X can be accessed via the mobile browser on iOS, Android, Windows 11, Mac, Chromebooks and even some smart TVs. The BlueStacks X native client is available on Windows 11, Windows 10 and older versions of Windows. BlueStacks X can also be used by BlueStacks App Player users.

BlueStacks X (beta) already has over 200 games, and several new games are being added every week. The service has a great collection of RPG and Strategy games with other genres being added over time. 

Android in the browser

Choose from 200+ free cloud games

Play 200+ thrilling cloud games, with a new game added every week. Go on epic quests with top RPG and strategy titles.

Play cloud games via a web app or PC client

Play games online from the web app on any device or download BlueStacks X (Beta) on your PC and get started. 

Play instantly. No download, no installation.

Play games directly in the browser, without waiting for lengthy downloads.

Play with friends across devices 

Play games effortlessly across devices—phone, tablet, PC, laptop, and TV. And on any OS—Windows, macOS, ChromeOS, Linux, iOS, Android, and Raspberry pi.

Resume game play in any device

Start the game on any device, save and resume playing from another device.

Experience one-click gaming anywhere, anytime.

Interested, visit: x.bluestacks.com

More information about the discord bot:


About BlueStacks

BlueStacks is an award-winning mobile gaming platform adopted by over 1 Billion gamers in 100 countries and six continents around the world. In 2020 over 6 Billion gaming sessions of 70,000 different games were played on BlueStacks. In 2021 BlueStacks launched BlueStacks X (beta) the world’s first game streaming service for mobile games. BlueStacks has a global team of over 400 and is one of the most recognized tech brands in the industry. The world’s top game developers leverage its platform to promote their games.

Contact

Peter McCormack for BlueStacks

bluestacks@highwirepr.com 

Android Games – Let’s start playing on my phone again.

It has been quite some time since I wrote an article with short reviews of Android games, has it not? Lately, I have been focussing on the bigger games and I haven’t given the smaller games some time to shine on my blog. Also, when I was talking about a smaller game, I wrote a longer article on it instead of a short review. But, since I’m currently working on bigger articles and I didn’t want to skip this week, I decided I wanted to bring this series back and start talking about a few smaller games I have been playing on my phone lately. So, let’s start talking about smaller Android games and let’s take a quick look if they are worth your time/money. Also, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and opinions on the games and/or the content of this article.

ProgressBar95

Steam versionAndroid version

For those who don’t know, I’m 28 years old, and I also have a day job. This day job is being an IT admin in a big art secondary school (high school for some) here in Belgium. My work days are filled with solving problems that teachers and students have, improving our IT infrastructure, developing our website… Apart from that, I’m also a big fan of old tech and I love messing around with old computers and technology.

So, when I came across ProgressBar95 on the app store, I downloaded the game right away. And I fell in love with it right away. The game keeps true to its tagline that this game is a “hypercasual UI game”. The main idea of this game is that you are a progress bar that needs to catch dropping squares to make the progress bar progress. Blue and light blue are good ones, orange are errors but still help you in progress. Pink detracts from your progress bar, so you can get rid of orange squares if you want.

Depending on how well you do, the amount of points you get to unlock various upgrades to your computer. The higher your level, the more difficult this game becomes and the more points you can earn. This game also works with lives, but if you run out of lives, you don’t have to wait a certain amount of time for them to recharge and try the game again.

So, the interface of this game is top-notch. It nails the ascetic of being a computer amazingly. For example, to toggle sound on or off, you can press the sound icon in the bottom right of the computer. If you click the “EN” of the language toolbar, you can switch languages. It also has a colorblind mode, cloud saving, multiple game modes and one of the best ways to handle microtransactions I have seen.

The different gameplay modes I have played so far is a sort infinite runner Wolfenstein game and a “dodge the red numbers and get to the bottom of an Excel spreadsheet”-game. They add so much variety to the game and I love going between them if I’m bored with one game mode.

The biggest recommendation I would give to you is that you buy the extremely cheap “no-ads” package. Overall, the ads aren’t annoying but the game improves so much without forced ads. Now, if you look at the whole shop, you might think that this game is a “pay-to-win” or a money sink. But, no. You can pay to unlock all other levels but 99% of the stuff in the store can be earned easily in-game by winning levels or doing side quests.

It’s clear that this game has a lot of love put into it and I have a hard time finding anything negative about this game. Apart from this game being extremely niche and the game being a little boring for extend playthroughs… But yeah, I honestly would recommend this game to all my other retro gamers or people who are into computer science. It’s an amazing and refreshing experience.

Score: 5/5.

Word Lanes

Android store

So, when I’m in a waiting room or have some time to kill, I love playing small games. Especially when they are puzzle games like word searches or connect the dots to give two examples.

In Word Lanes, you are presented with a grid of letters, and you have to find all the words that fit the clues at the top. Each letter can only be used once and the letters have to connect horizontally or vertically to be used in a word.

This game is rather relaxing, and it’s a great way for me to unwind. I also love how the game is fully translated into my native language. The only complaint I have about that is the fact that as a Belgian person, I always have to struggle when the hint is talking about something from the Netherlands. But, I always report them with a handy report feature after you solved a clue. With this report feature you can report typo’s, wrong clues and things like that.

I’m also on the fence about the microtransactions. You earn coins to use the hint features after beating a level, but I feel I always don’t have enough. Thankfully, you have these daily rewards and saving them up is easy then. Honestly, I just think that the prices of the power-ups are a tad bit too high.

But hey, that’s a minor complaint. Since this game has so much enjoyment to offer and the ads aren’t THAT intrusive and only play between levels. Also, quite frequently, I have an option where the ads are disabled for one day. This is amazing and actually makes me consider buying the “no ads” package since I got a free trial.

Score: 4/5

Reigns

Android store

Way back in 2017, I wrote an article about Questr. A game that has some “Tinder” style gameplay while being a questing game. Now, that game was more about adventuring while you created your party with a sort of Tinder app. In this game, the main feature of Tinder of swiping left to reject or right to approve, is set into a “choose your own adventure” game.

Reigns is published by DeveloperDigital and is so close to be amazing, it’s painful. The gameplay is quite addictive, and I love taking decisions as an immortal king on how my kingdom should progress. The atmosphere, sound effects, music and visual design is amazing. It really pulls you into the game and I love playing the game but…

It’s way too easy to take a decision. It’s too sensitive. I had several moments where I was choosing between two options and just because I hit the edge of one side a bit too much, the game decided for me. And not only that, my phone doesn’t have physical buttons anymore and quite often, I had the game deciding for me just because I swiped down to see the time or see my latest notification.

There is also no “message log”. So, when you put the game down for a moment, you can’t see the history of what happened. And if I want to change the options during gameplay, though luck. The menu only appears when see the progress between kings.

This game has a lot of amazing elements like having to balance your four powers and the various twists and turns certain decisions and pathways can take, but it has various rough edges, I fell so mixed about this game. Maybe the PC version of the game is better, but I feel like this game works best as a mobile game. But, I feel like the mobile version just got a few rough edges. For example, I had to look up a way to reset your progress in the game. It turns out you have to hold two fingers on to have the reset screen to show up.

Yet, I advise people who enjoy adventure games to give this game a go. But be warned, the mobile version has some rough edges. But, for the low asking price of this game and the amount of content in this game, I can say for a fact there is a LOT worse out there. And I’m also so glad that this amazing concept got a few sequels as well… So, I know what to play next on my phone.

Score: 3.5/5

Wrapping up

I’m so glad that I gave this format another go and revived it. It allowed me to talk about three Android games I wanted to showcase on my blog, but I didn’t have the time for or wasn’t able to write a good enough “long” article about. I think I’ll revisit this format more often in the future and maybe also use it when I play small games on Steam, Switch or other platforms.

Then again, with my busy lifestyle and the backlog of games I still want to cover, I can’t promise how frequent I’ll write articles like these. I also challenged myself to be brief and short in this article and I had the urge to keep writing about these three games. So, if you want a more in-depth article about one of these games, let me know in the comments.

So, with that said, 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 a future article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Game Quicky: Moon Raider (Switch) ~ Time For Revenge

heroNintendo.com micrositeDeveloper site

Drageus Games is back, and they provided me with another press key for a game with the request to give my 100% honest opinion on the game. The game I’m going to take a look at is going to release on April 23rd on Switch but if you want to play it right now, you can play it on Steam, iOS, Android. Apart from the game releasing on Switch, it’ll also release on the Xbox One and PS4. So, is this action, platformer / metroidvania-ish game worth your time, or should you skip this one? Let’s find out in this game quicky while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and opinions on the game and/or the content of this article.

Editorial note: please note that it's possible that this game gets updated when it gets released and that some things mentioned won't apply. 

Time for revenge

screenshot01In this game you play as Ava, the daughter of a scientist and the former queen of the moon, Selene. Now, our former queen needs special gems to stay alive, but they start to run out and Selene gets quite ill. So, it’s up to Ava to rescue her mother, and she does that by raiding the moon of all places. 

So far, I haven’t gotten too far into the story, but the setup for the story is simple and to the point. I was hanging out yesterday in a livestream of this game done by Star or Shovelware. The reason I bring this up is that I also used his stream as a research to write this article. Of course, I played the game myself but if you want to have an additional opinion, I would recommend watching that stream after reading this article. 

Anyways, the story. It doesn’t get in the way of the game at all. Which is both a negative and a positive. I felt like the story has potential but due to the lack of development of any kind, the story feels a bit useless. Oh well, I’m happy it’s here, and it’s not too generic and actually has a great motivation to play the game.

You would get the impression that this game is a sort of Metroidvania game since it has various elements of the genre but from what I have seen and played so far, this game isn’t that. This game is an action-adventure platformer game with elements of the Metroidvania genre. Surprisingly, it flows pretty well. 

The main goal of the game is getting from the start to the end of the zone. You can do these zones somewhat out of order, but overall this game is quite linear with some secrets hidden for explorers. The move set is quite basic, but it does the job. You have your standard double jump, attack, and you unlock some special abilities later in the game. 

Overall, the controls are extremely responsive. I got used to them extremely quickly, and I also got used to the quirky hitboxes of some things of the level geometry. But, I have a bit more to say about the controls, but I’m going to save that for later since this isn’t the correct section of the article for it. 

Something that surprised me is that by default, the sound and music is set to 50%. I have no idea why that is since the music and sound effects are amazing for this indie title. When you are playing this game, I highly recommend that you raise the volume of the sound effects and music since it enhances the experience quite a lot. The voice samples for the enemies are so well done. The music is decent, and it really adds to the moon raiding vibe. The minor nitpick I have is that this game doesn’t have sound effects for the UI. So, moving in the menu’s is completely silent, apart from the music.

Something you might have noticed by watching the screenshots of this game is that this game looks amazing. The environments are extremely detailed, nicely themed and quite colorful. I think it’s one of the strongest points of this game. The same counts for the animation as well. Together, the game runs at an amazing frame rate and is quite immersive. A minor complaint/praise I want to give about the visuals is that I felt that some traps like the prickly vines in one of the treasure room blends in a bit too well. This can be seen as a good and a bad thing. 

The revenge isn’t needed

screenshot04So, where does this game drop the ball? Well, first, let’s just say that the respawn mechanic is a bit broken. It’s also mentioned in the livestream by Star or Shovelware, but I also didn’t like the mechanic where when you die, you respawn at the start of the zone with the health you entered.

Health pots are quite rare, and I highly advise you to try and stock up before leaving the zone since otherwise you might regret it. For one of the bosses I had to go to the previous zones and get a health pot, go back to the boss zone, go back to the previous zone… Since, one health pot only heals one bit of health. 

There is nothing wrong with the quick respawing, so you can try again and try to avoid your mistake that got you killed, but the health thing really slows down gameplay. If the developer really wanted to balance the game, I think that at least half of your health should have been filled at respawning since nothing is more annoying than being in a long level where one mistake kills you.

A second mistake is the lack of a level select/map/completion screen. There are some animals to free in certain levels and special gems to aid Ava’s mother to pick up in the levels, but you have no idea in which levels they are and how many you have collected already. You have an overall counter on the top middle of your screen, but that’s about it. Thanks to the lords that already picked up gems and freed animals stay freed when you leave the zone, but not when you die.

Thirdly, there are some moments where I felt that some minor quality of life polish could have helped the game quite a bit. I had to learn the hard way that some smaller creatures are not set decoration but enemies. But the biggest thing I feel could be better in terms of quality of life in this game is a bit more sound effects when you use your gem energy. Especially when you are dashing, it would have been nice to have some sound effect when it’s almost depleted, so you could act accordingly and not try to go cross-eyed between the top monitoring your gem energy and the middle of the screen where you have to play the game. 

Another nice example is how the great save system works. The game saves every time you enter a zone. It doesn’t matter if you enter it via the exit or the entrance, your game saves, and you respawn with the amount of gem energy and health you had while entering. Now, this isn’t said anywhere. There isn’t even a save icon to indicate that.

The 4th thing that this game doesn’t do all that well has to do with the movement. Now, hear me out. You can jump up in the middle of a platform, but you don’t go down. In the middle of the lava zones, I opened a gate and jumped up to a higher ledge to avoid an enemy. But, I jumped on the higher ledge, and now I had to go all the way around to pick up the crystal since I couldn’t go down. 

In addition to that, I felt that using the dash was clunky sometimes. I didn’t always feel in control. Since I mostly control Ava by the left joystick and the dash works a LOT better by using the D-pad arrows. I also felt that the “Y” button is a strange button for that. You use “B” to jump and my fingers won’t go naturally to the “Y” button to dash but to one of the shoulder buttons. Maybe this might just be me, but I feel that if you had the ability to remap or use another control scheme, this would have been better.

Apart from that, I feel like the dash drains your gem energy way to fast. This drain made me grind for gems several times which is extremely slow mind you.

There is also no duck button. I can’t count the amount of times I tried to duck to either hit a small enemy or dodge a rocket and looked down instead… That was quite annoying.

The final thing I want to mention is that I find it quite surprising that this game isn’t translated. Usually, Drageus Games’ games are always translated into various other languages. But not this time, this game is only in English. Maybe that might change after the release.

So, yes or no?

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So, is this game worth your time? My answer to that question is YES. While the game has some rough spots which I mentioned in section above, I honestly think the positives outweigh the negatives here. 

If the developers improved the respawing mechanic, gave us a completion list, tweaked the dash controls and gem drain, polished up the controls a bit and maybe control remapping, this game would improve so much. But overall, this game plays amazingly for being a budget indie title. It’s only €10 here in Europe and I have played a lot worse games for that price. 

The hand drawn visuals, the amazing animation and the nice mix between an action adventure platformer and metroidvania makes this game somewhat addictive, and it wouldn’t surprise me that I’m going to finish this game on the train back and from work. It’s an amazing time waster, and I’m so glad that I was able to play it. 

So, if you enjoy action-adventure platformers, I would recommend that you check this game out. Like I said before, it has some rough edges but who knows, they might get polished up in a future update. Since, the potential of this game is amazing, and I would love to see this game get the spotlight it deserves and maybe a bit more content since reading from the press kit, I think this game might be a bit too short. 

And that wraps up my article about Moon Raider on the Nintendo Switch. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Score: 4/5

Counting Steps: Pokemon Go!

General info:

Official websiteWikipedia entry

  • Developed by: Niantic
  • Published by: Nintendo, Pokémon Company
  • Original release date: July 6th, 2016
  • Platforms: Android, iOS
  • Written in Unity

I was late to the game with Pokemon. My generation was in elementary school at the height of the Pokemon craze. From what I hear, it was a grand ole time. Due to some satanic-panic logic (that remains unclear to me) Pokemon was forbidden in my house, growing up.

In fact, that was the reason behind most prohibited activities of my childhood. No Casper. No Power Rangers. No Pokemon. All of that exclusion kept me away from the cool kids’ table. Nobody deserves to be bullied, but looking back, I wasn’t any of the things you usually see in kids that get picked on. Not being an obvious target wound up hurting me in the long run. “How could you get picked on? You’re the biggest kid in class!” I was. Eventually, I had to figure out how to get with it or get left in the dust. 

Not only was it banned at home, most of the disciplinary action I witnessed in grade school revolved around punishing kids for bringing Pokemon cards to school. That prohibition was my “in.” After confiscating a large quantity of Pokemon cards, teachers carelessly tossed the collection in one pile onto the floor. 

Predictably, there were dogpiles. Whatever lay on the floor was up for grabs. I was left out of the conversation, but I certainly overheard them. What 9 years old could resist the opportunity to brag about their 1st edition Charizard? Or their holographic Pikachu? The kids making fun of me gave away exactly which cards I should steal from them. With everyone’s eyes on the prize, nobody noticed the only kid in class who couldn’t play Pokemon joining the ambush. On a few occasions, I’d crawl out with quite the score. 

My brothers obtained their own collections over time. Only, they would get caught. Every time one brother was busted, I’d overhear my parents threaten to search every bag in the house. While they sniffed for clues, I’d ditch my cards among the discarded contraband in the kitchen garbage to save my skin. In the end, every heist proved fruitless. My name’s Eric Fellner, and I stole my friend’s and classmates’ cherished Pokemon cards so I could throw them in the trash.

July 2016. Imagine my surprise the day Pokemon Go comes out, and my mom has it downloaded on her phone. After all that effort! After years of enforcement! 

Possibly the allure of augmented reality swayed my mother’s feelings on the matter? Maybe she admitted to herself the ban never had any rationale to start with? Whatever occurred, Pokemon Go was my first game in the series at the age of 23. 

It was a good summer to start! I had returned from a month-long stay in Brooklyn, which was honestly the time of my life. I had booked my first show for my return to North Carolina. A month of walking around the city got me into great shape. To my knowledge, the relationship I was in was going well. July 2016 was starting off as the peak of my “Jordan-year.”

Additionally, the whole world seemed united in (at least novel) interest in this game. And I could finally buy-in! My co-workers at Starbucks would dip into the parking lot catching Pokemon while they took drive-through orders. All hours of the night, pods of kids and adults alike crowded what was suddenly considered “landmarks.” In search of resources. Battling over gyms. Trying to “catch ‘em all.” You’re familiar with the game.

Counting on!

Personally, I loved using the game as a pedometer! It kept me in great shape. Endlessly running through the neighborhood and shopping centers felt as true to the core gameplay loop of Pokemon as you can get. Only, there was slightly less animal violence.

Then, July came to a close. One night, I stopped in late to see my grandfather who lived in town, Popop. We had open plans to visit a 24-hour bakery in Charlotte called Amelie’s. Unfortunately, he passed in his sleep sometime before I arrived. 

Between that night and the funeral, the girl I had been seeing ended things over text. The next week, I played that show I had booked while I was in New York. Due to similar circumstances in the other bandmates’ lives, the band immediately disbanded. 

After a month of riding high, things crashed spectacularly. My enthusiasm for Pokemon Go died amid the chaos and depression of the time. I didn’t feel like running. I didn’t want to see people out, people together. It’s no exaggeration that week in August took years to recover from. Not just emotionally. Regaining the sense of momentum I felt that summer took time. Pokemon Go forever resides in my memory as the pop-culture phenomenon that coincides with that period of my life.

February 2020. After a couple rough years, I was quitting the worst job of my life (thanks for nothing, Target) to teach guitar full-time. Playing music, for a living. Then, wouldn’t you know it? COVID-19 struck! 

Boy did it. And the job I just went all-in on was at high risk of being yanked from under me. Reflecting now, I wonder if the sink or swim of the moment shocked me into a state of flow. One day, my boss and I devised a plan to transition the entire studio to a remote format. The next day, the admin team and teachers were executing that plan. We were infinitely fortunate. We never missed a single day of lessons.

My girlfriend lived two hours away in Raleigh, and we decided to lock down together while I could work remotely. Despite having some work, I still had a considerable amount of free time. We were 5 miles from Moore Park, the center of downtown Raleigh, with everything in the city closed. As that normal set in, I found myself running across Raleigh playing Pokemon Go. Me and my Snorlax, Popop.

Normal is hopefully starting to shift yet again, and I continue to log (slightly fewer) kilometers in Pokemon Go. I’m no longer interested in Pokemon to get along with classmates, and if tragedy strikes, I’m a little better prepared. Pokemon Go is more of a glorified pedometer more than augmented reality, but my fondness for it still runs deep.

This piece is part of a larger collaboration, Pokemon: Creator’s Catch. Click here to check out all the work by other great writers and artists!

Game Quicky: Bridge Strike (Switch) ~ Shall We Strike?

H2x1_NSwitchDS_BridgeStrike_image1600wNintendo.com micrositeDrageus Games portfolioOfficial website

A few weeks ago, my developer friends Drageus Games sent me a press kit about Bridge Strike. As usual, they provided a press code to me so I can review this game in my usual 100% honest opinion. Now, Drageus Games didn’t develop this game but a small team called Project R3D from Poland. Now, retro gamers who enjoy playing games on the Commodore Amiga might know this title. Yes, it’s from the same developers. Now, in this article I’m going to take a look at the Switch version. I just want to also say that this game is also released on mobile platforms. With all that said, I think it’s high time to take a look at this game in my usual game quicky format. Did this indie studio create an hidden gem or a game best skipped? Let’s find out while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

We can strike!

NSwitchDS_BridgeStrike_04

In this game you play as an unnamed soldier who is piloting “The Eagle”. But more about the story in a later section of this article.

Since the game is also a mobile game, the gameplay is quite simple. With the right joystick, you move your aircraft around and you shoot with the A button. Simple controls and easy to understand. They are also extremely responsive. Most of this game was played with my Switch Pro Controller and it felt quite good to control.

If you just look at the screenshots of this game, it does look amazing. The visual presentation is something that I have to admire. It’s extremely well done and I dare even say that it’s quite impressive for being an indie game. Including the audio design, the sound effects have impact and the music is quite enjoyable to listen to as well.

Something I want to mention for sure that they I really liked the dynamic weather system. It was a nice surprise to see this amount of effort to the visuals.

We are out of ammo!

Now, I do want to mention something about the story. I can understand that this story for a game like this doesn’t need to be very involved or have very deep lore. For a simple top down indie shooter game, a generic plot can work. But, I do have some problems with the story this time around.

It’s a bit too generic. There is barely any to no world building in the story. Also, there is no explanation to why you should shoot down the bridges. Do you need to cut off your country’s supply lines?

But, you want to know something funny? The story does get explained and it gets more lore and world building. Believe it or not, it’s in the help section. Yes, the help section. Where you expect something like a tutorial or the button lay-out. Maybe this is a strange translation decision but it battles me.

In addition to that, when you read the story in the help section you get the impression that there is much more to the game then there actually is. That you have to fight a lot of enemies or stay hidden. Now, if the simple tutorial is anything to go by, I’m afraid that’s just nothing more than a bit of text. Besides moving your ships and shooting, there is nothing else in terms of mechanics.

And guess what, this means that the game falls into a pitfall of being repetitive quite easily. There are only three things you have to do in this game. One is shoot bridges, two is to slow down at fuel stations and three is dodge or shoot obstacles. That’s it. If you are interested in this game, I do advise you to play this game is short bursts, since this game can get a bit boring after a few levels.

Something that would have helped is that there was a bit more for the player to avoid or play around with. For example, that there were power-ups or enemies that shot back. But after playing the raid mode and some of the campaign levels, I haven’t seen anything like that. And if only there was an autofire, that would be amazing sometimes.

EcLkwT-UMAAIy7mThe game does have a polished feel, but I think that QA looked over somethings. I mean, just look at this screenshot. According to the stats, I fired 13 shots and I got 14 hits. How does that even work when your shot doesn’t go through enemies? Also, 107% accuracy and only 2 out of three stars? Excuse me? Why didn’t I get the full three stars? Especially since the next level, I fired 36 shots, I got 35 hits and I got three starts with an accuracy of 97%.

That level was finally something else than shooting bridges, but it was destroy ships in the water. At first, I thought that they were there for decoration, world building. But these ships that posed no threat were enemies. Look, you do need to give the player a reason to destroy these ships besides giving them one coin as a reward. Since players get way more coins for destroying bridges, which is the name sake of the game.

Something I’m quite strict on is the UI design. It lacks some quality of life improvements. Things like, not going to the main menu when you exit a level but to the level select. Or, the tutorial being one of the first options when you pick “play the game”. Or having some sort of buzz sound when you can’t buy a new plane in the hanger.

If you are still interested in this game, I do not bother with the raid mode. I’m sorry but I got bored after a few minutes of playing this mode. It’s just an endless mission where you have to destroy bridges and the only thing that can kill you is either forgetting to fuel to flying into a wall or an obstacle.

And that brings me to the difficulty. This game is extremely easy and that’s the biggest flaw of this game. There is barely any challenge in this game. Especially since there is barely anything that can kill the player. You do only get three lives in the raid mode, but that’s it. If you make three mistakes, you can just restart. Actually, raid mode is an easy way to farm coins. But, that’s besides the point.

Also, why is there no way to either reset the statistics menu or separate that between stats from the mission mode and the raid mode?

Now, I can keep talking and talking but I think I can put my final thoughts in a nice conclusion, so I think it’s high time for that.

So, shall we strike?

I don’t like giving games a bad or luke warm review. I always try to find something unique and enjoyable in all the games I play. While this game has a lot going for it in terms of stunning visuals, great audio design and an interesting basic gameplay loop… It lacks depth and a lot of it.

Usually, I play a game for at least three to four hours before I even consider writing a first impression or game quicky about it. But, after an half hour to an hour of playing this game, I felt that I had seen everything that this game has to offer. Which is a shame, since looking at the mission screen, it looks like there are a lot of missions and a lot of effort and love that went into this game.

But, it all goes to waste because the basic gameplay loop isn’t engaging enough to keep people’s attention for too long. It can be enjoyable for a short bust or when you need to play a game that’s more laid back but I’m sorry, I have a hard time to recommend this game in it’s current state.

I know how hard and difficult developing a game is. I’m developing software to ease up the workload of the admin office in my school and that eats up a ton of my time. But, I rather keep developing my software until it works and covers everything. To be honest, I felt that I was playing a prototype or a vertical slice of the final product. (This is a game development term which means that you have something playable to give a publisher an idea to where you want to take the game.)

When I look around to what other bloggers are saying, I see that this game is getting a 6 or 7/10. And I’m sorry but I have to respectfully disagree with these scores. Now, if I have to give a score on anything but the gameplay, yes, this game would get a 7/10 or even higher from me. But, the unused potential of gameplay and the focus on retro gaming… I’m sorry but I can’t give a such a high score to that.

Now, if the developers are still working on this game and maybe there is more variety and more challenge in the game, I think that this game might become a lot better. But for now, it’s a game that falls flat on it’s face for me. If I’m overlooking something, feel free to let me know in the comments. But for now, I think that the current version I have played is getting nothing more than a 50/100 from me. But, do know that this low score is because the serious lack of difficulty and variety in this game. Everything else is quite well done.

With that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. 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!

First Impression: Soul Warrior Merope (PC) ~ Featuring The Developer

SnLGTK

Itch.io pageDeveloper TwitterTrailer

Today I’m going to write a special article. Last year, a friend of mine created a game called “Soul Warrior Merope“. At first, he wanted to create this game for mobile platforms but due to some technical difficulties, the game has been released on PC. I promised him to write an article about the game to promote and here we are. I’m sorry mate that it took so long for me to get around to it, but better late than never. So, I think it would be quite fun to review this game interview style. Yes, interview style. So, I wrote a sort of review where I asked the developer to respond to why he created the game in a certain way and things of that nature. So, introducing Priom from HatCatGames, the developer of this game.

Before I begin, I have to give some disclosure. I have helped Priom testing a previous build of the game while he was developing the game. I only gave him some advice to improve the quality of his game. But, this was when he was still developing it for mobile platforms.

Editorial note: Some friends call me Neko, others call me Jonez. If Priom mentions Jonez, he means me.

Jonez: Before we start, feel free to introduce yourself Priom. Tell us a bit about yourself and why you started developing games. Have you created other games before Soul Warrior Merope? How long was the development process for the game?

Priom: Well, I’m Quazi Fahian Muntakim. Better known as Priom or Bear Gril if you only know me on select social media platforms. I’m currently a university student from Bangladesh and a hobbyist game dev.

As for how I got here, well, I think you bore witness to some of it, Jonez. I love video games always have. Fun fact, our family was one of the earliest to adopt a computer for consumer use in Bangladesh. So I always had a love for games. Especially Side-Scrollers and RPGs.

But I think the want to make my own game for others to enjoy. And to weave interesting stories that can only be done in this medium. I think that idea started in 2012 when one of our mutual friends introduced us to RPG MAKER. And that desire kept growing until I joined the GMTK Game Jam 2017 and felt like I wanted to make something that’s available for just about anyone to play!

8RDZod

Jonez: Visually, this game looks like it was created on the NES or with a sort of pixel-art style in mind. I quite like the visual style of the while. Why did you choose for this visual style? I noticed that the castle has a lot of darker tones and the outside is more colorful. Is the art style inspired by other games or franchises?

Priom: Well again, much like you, I love retro games. Some of my fondest memories come from the GBA, which also had a lot of ports for SNES games. So of course, I wanted to follow that style. Other than that I feel like pixel-art has become an art form in itself in recent times, rather than being a product of limited hardware. So choosing this particular style was a no-brainer.

As for inspiration, I can think of 2. Team Cherry’s “Hollow Knight” and Bombservice’s “Momodora” franchise. Both of them have a cutesy yet somewhat grim art-style which I absolutely adore. Other than that, I have had people mention the castle interiors remind them of “Prince of Persia” for the DOS. I wasn’t exactly trying to replicate that but perhaps it was a subconscious decision, hmm?

Jonez: The game tells a story about a young strong lady Merope looking for two missing children. A mysterious figure called Madd has something to do with it. So, are you in Madd’s castle or lair? How involved is the story, is it extremely present or does it take a backseat while the visuals and gameplay tell most of the story?

Priom: Well, since it is at the very start of the story. I guess I could tell you. The castle belonged to Arthur, the tiny glowing spirit following you around. But he and his people have been long dead. So Madd is using Arthur’s castle as a hideout.

As for the story, I was going for a bit of a free-fall route. The idea was to make an opening with a strong yet simple premise that I can add on to later. So the story’s presence is like that too. Where there’s a lot happening at the start after that you get to experience the story at your own pace while exploring the castle.

I’d like to mention that I do want to make games with more plot later on. I’ve actually gotten into the habit of having a notepad on my person and taking notes whenever ideas pop up.

Jonez: So, you can name your own price on Itch.IO for this game. Basically, the consumer can pay anything they want. Does this decision have a special reason?

Priom: The reason was simple. As this is the first game I made public like this I wanted as many people to play it as possible! It also provides an opportunity for more people to provide feedback. And I have been receiving useful feedback. So it all works out.

Jonez: In some cases, the game is a bit rough around the edges. Like hitboxes of objects only reacting to the tip of the sword or not having a jumping animation. Game development isn’t an easy task and there are so many things to keep in mind while creating a game. What did you focus on while developing?

Priom: Well, the game was rather *experimental* is how I’d put it. If there was anything I wanted to try that could help me further later on then I took it as being worth it. Which might have resulted in some things being a bit subpar than others I’d admit. But I’d like to think even the shortcomings are valuable learning experiences. You don’t realize certain things until others point them out or you relax your mind a bit.

Jonez: Now, I have a sort of related question. Let’s say that you had all the knowledge, time and resources to change a few things in the game. Which things would you change and why would you change them?

Priom: The checkpoint system. It would’ve gone bye-bye in exchange for a more standard system. It was fine at first but it managed to create more and more restrictions as the game got more fleshed out.

As for additions, I would probably just made the castle bigger with more visual lore added. I’d add a better catalog of info and a more informative UI. Along with lots of tweaks for the melee combat from experiences I gained from Game Jams I joined later down the line.

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Jonez: The game plays like a Metroidvania, where you have to get new abilities and get stronger to progress. Was it easy to find mechanics that set your game apart like using lives for your special abilities or did you had to try a lot of ideas?

Priom: As I said. Soul Warrior Merope was born from the GMTK Game Jam 2017. Which was a 2-day jam where you have to make a game under a theme? The main theme of that jam a single mechanic with multiple functions. The other abilities kind of grew from that original idea.

Jonez: Let’s talk about the music and sound design. While there aren’t too many sound effects in the game, how did you decide which sound effects to include or not include?

Priom: I think there are 8 music tracks in total. An intro, 5 for the five major areas, the boss theme which has 3 variations based on which boss you’re fighting and a track used for a very specific ending. All of the tracks are long enough so that you’ll pass through the area before the songs loop too many times.

As for sound effects, I actually like to believe that you should have enough recognizable SFX that someone can make a guess as to what’s happening blindfolded. In that sense, I would’ve preferred to add more SFX if I had more time too. But what’s chosen is the ones that are absolutely necessary to convey what’s going on, granted as long as they don’t sound bad.

Jonez: So, you told me once that you were creating the game in YoYo Games’ GameMaker: Studio. Why did you choose that engine? Apart from that program, which tools did you use and for what? Did you run into any trouble?

Priom: Well, I think it was in 2015 or earlier when my younger brother told me that Game Maker Studio’s Standard Edition was free. I was still using RPG Maker at that time but found it rather restricting. I did not, however, have much coding knowledge since my educational curriculum at that time only involved some basic C++ and HTML. So, a programmable engine for free was a generally risk-free investment. After using it I found a YouTuber by the name of HeartBeast who has some amazing tutorials that I definitely recommend for people starting out. And well I kinda just got used to the engine and bought the pro version.

Other than that, I used Piskel & Paint.Net for the art, LMMS+Audacity for audio and my younger brother, who was responsible for some of the art such as the UI and menu icons, used Aseprite.

As for the issues we faced, as time’s going on Game Maker Studio 1.x is becoming more and more obsolete. Google’s new policy doesn’t allow 32-bit apps on the play store anymore which means the game couldn’t be put into the platform. Not to mention, it didn’t provide me with a proper description of why the Android export stopped functioning too. It’s still pretty good for PC games though.

Jonez: The game isn’t that easy, you really have to learn the various abilities of your character and explore around. How did you decide to balance the game?

Priom: Well, that was the reasoning behind letting the player explore around so many of the different areas from the get-go. The game is actually less linear than initial impressions may imply. The idea is that if you get stuck in a certain place it’s perfectly fine to explore another place and through the use of the abilities you have at that moment you might be able to take a completely different route than the intended route of the game.

Jonez: Do you have any plans for the game? Do you plan on updating the game with new content, bug fixes, improvements…?

Priom: Initially, after making the game public like this. I wanted to keep it like that. But I’ve mentioned on twitter recently that I haven’t coded anything in the engine for a while due to my PC being broken. So changing certain things based on all the responses I received might be good for me to get back on track. But that all is uncertain. I do have plans on making larger and more polished games using the valuable lessons learned from the experience of making Soul Warrior Merope though. So I’d like to end this by thanking everyone who decided to give the game a shot. Thank you!

End of the interview

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And with that all said, I found this quite an enjoyable experience to write an article like this. Maybe if I have the time, I might write another one on a different game. In any case, I want to thank my buddy Priom quite a lot for giving me the chance to be a part of his dream and giving me the chance of writing this special article with him.

So, I highly recommend that you give this game a try. It might be a bit experimental and a bit rough around the edges but I honestly think that this won’t be his last project and any constructive feedback you send him, he can use to become an even better developer. On top of that, his very first game is pretty enjoyable and has quite a lot of charm.

And with that, 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 a future article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Game Quicky: Spirit Roots (Switch) ~ Two Halves Make A Whole

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Nintendo micrositeDrageus Game pageDeveloper website

Today I want to talk about a game that I got a review code for from the people over at Drageus Games. In this article, I’ll give my 100% honest opinion. For this review, I’m reviewing the Switch port. The original game was created by FireArt Games and released on mobile platforms and Steam. More information can be found on the developer’s website. But for now, let’s dive right into Spirit Roots and let’s take a look if this game is worth your money or if you should skip this game. And as usual with these articles, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article. 

Editorial note: this review has been written for v1.0.0

The good

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In this game, you play as the unnamed main character on a journey to save your planet. For the purposes of this review, I’ll call him Jos. Just because I don’t feel like being creative now and looking for another name. Now, Jos’s task in this game is simple. He has to save his planet that’s at the end of the stellar system.

This planet has a unique cirque. Because the planet had several hundred years of conflict, the two remaining parts of the fighting planets got stitched together to form one huge planet. Now, peace rains on the planet because both parties agreed to never cross the border. Well, that’s going to change. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have an interesting setup for a game, wouldn’t you?

The story is just amazing. The whole concept is lovely. There are so many things you can do with this idea. You can explore the concepts of who rightfully owns the land because the planet has been stitched together. Or you can explore the idea of two nations that had years upon years of conflict living together. But, more on the story later.

The audiovisual presentation is a blast to hear and see. Visually, this game looks amazing. It looks quite cute and impressively detailed. The world looks alive and quite colorful. It was a blast to play through it. The soundtrack of this game reminded me a bit of Fantasy Life on the 3DS, a soundtrack that I really enjoyed.

The levels are quite enjoyable. The game can be pretty challenging if you aren’t careful. Thankfully, the game is pretty generous with checkpoints, so you don’t have to lose a lot of progress when you die. The game also comes with three difficulty settings, that increase or decrease the challenge of the game. The game is also available in 7 languages.

The game is also quite lengthy. There are 50 levels divided over several worlds. In each level, you have a certain goal to gather all the souls. You can keep track of that goal by watching the counter at the upper left of the screen.

You don’t need to complete all the levels. When you are stuck on a certain level and have enough golden souls, you can move on to the next world and try your luck there. In order for you to reach the last world, you have to gather 44 of them. So, you have to finish around 15 levels completely before you can reach the final world. This allows you to continue the game without being frustrated because you are stuck on one level.

It’s quite clear that the game took some inspiration from games like Rayman Legends. The souls remind me of lums and the art style looks quite similar too.

The bad

NSwitchDS_SpiritRoots_02Now, I said earlier that I wanted to talk about the story again. Sadly enough I have to do that in the negatives section. You want to know how I learned about the interesting story? Not through the game, but through the information that I found on the microsite of Nintendo. Even the developer’s website is quite sparse with information. It’s a big missed opportunity. I would have loved to see how the story was used in this game. But alas, when you start the first level, you are dropped right away in the first level without any explanation.

That’s one of the biggest drawbacks of the game. But sadly enough, I found a few other problems with the game that I would like to address in this review. The first one is the jumping. Sometimes when I’m on moving platforms, I fell through them. Also, after using your slash attack, the jump doesn’t always work. This lead to various deaths that could have been avoided.

The game’s use of the term “health points” is a bit misleading. There is a 1-hit system in this game like in the Mario games. So, the health points just mean how many retries you have from the checkpoints. When you have to retry a stage, well, then you lose all your progress since the last checkpoint. But, that isn’t too big of a deal in my opinion.

Something that I found extremely silly is the fact that you have to wait for three seconds when you open the pause menu to resume playing.

Apart from that, the game lacks some minor polish. There a few animations and little things that are missing. It would be a bit too much if I sum them all up one by one but here are a few.

  • When you reach a checkpoint, only the arrow disappears. No real fanfare. In the village. The ones in the swap have an animation. But only barely, the light just switches on.
  • When you die closeby an enemy that throws projectiles, the projectiles land at the other side of the enemy, even clipping into walls.
  • The sound can hang when a tutorial appears on the screen. Especially when you slash open a change.
  • On some levels, like the 3rd one, you can see the top of the level… And it looks quite flat.
  • The texture of a door you can slash through and one you need to flip a lever for are too similar.
  • When you shoot a bullet, it keeps traveling until it’s off-screen. It doesn’t break on the walls.
  • The death animation is a bit too long in my opinion. It would have been better if you were able to get back into the action more quickly.
  • When you choose to exit a level, it tells you that it will take you to the main menu yet it takes you to the level select.

Due to these things, the game feels a bit unfinished to me. Like it’s in a state where it’s almost finished and ready to go but it’s not there yet. If the developers would put some finishing touches on the game, it would have been perfect.

But, something that I really missed in this game is a system where you can somewhat move the camera. Various times, I died to a moving spike that I wasn’t able to see coming because it came from off-screen. It would have been a big help if a similar system was implemented to avoid things like that.

Conclusion

Spirit Roots isn’t bad nor is it a good game. During my research on this game, I came across a video review by Defunct Games. I have to agree with almost the whole video. Due to some pretty major negatives, this game isn’t the best it can be.  The same goes for the review by PocketGamer.

This game shines in the audiovisual department but lacks some major features in the platforming department. So, I have a hard time recommending this game. If you enjoy B-grade platformers, I think you might enjoy this game.

But, I think that a remake or a remaster would better suit this game. It’s just a bit too stiff, a bit too rough around the edges. While I did enjoy my time with the game, I don’t think I’m going to finish this game in the near future. Maybe when I have some downtime, but we shall see.

Anyways, that’s everything I wanted to say about this game. 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.

Score: 60/100