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First Impression: Across The Moment (PC) ~ Let’s Go On A Journey!

Across the moment logo

Official Steam Page

Today, I want to take you on a journey. The journey that the game “Across The Moment” tell you. Currently, the first episode is out. There will be 4 episodes in total. The three other episodes will come as an update in the future. To write this review, I got a review code from the developer. The developer also gave me full control in what I could write in my article. So, this is completely my opinion. In any case, enough introduction. Time to get reviewing this moment. Well, “Across The Moment”. As usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

Note: While I have almost finished the first episode, I’m not going to make this a review since not all episodes are out.

Artstyle tells it all

Across The Moment (2)When you look at the promotional screenshots of this game, one thing is quite clear. This game doesn’t look like your run of the mill adventure game. And it is, this game is trying to tell a grim story about somebody falling into a depression and doing something. I won’t talk about it since it would spoil the game a bit in my opinion. But believe me, this game talks about some heavy subject matter. It also has some social commentary that really made me think about how our lives currently work.

The story gets more power from the voice acting. While the voice acting didn’t click with me at first, after the story started to get more and more clear, I started to understand and appreciate the voice acting and the direction it got.  The only thing I shall say is, imagine it’s somebody telling his life story about he fell into a depression and how defeated he felt. It really comes through in the pacing and voice acting.

Apart from the dialogue, the story is also told by the journal. Whenever something happens, it gets written down in the journal. From story bits to observations of the world you are in. I really like how this game is written. It clearly shows a passion for the story that the creator wants to tell with his game.

Everything is documented from the game, so when you take a break from the game for a while or when you need a refresher on what happened in a certain place or world, you can look it up in the journal. It’s an extremely handy tool.

Thanks to the dark artstyle with bright colors, the story gets even more meaning. The only issue I have with the art style is that sometimes the game is a bit too dark and you barely see where a wall is.

Visually, the game succeeds in setting the required atmosphere. I really liked the world building and the story is told through symbolism. The animations are great too. The use of color really helps to guide the player to where to go next. If I may change one thing in terms of visuals is that more items you can pick up like the screwdriver or the belt are in a different color, even a different shade of grey. Since it’s not always clear if there is an important item you missed or not.

Let’s Go On A Journey

Across The Moment (3)The first episode takes about 1 and half hours to complete if you really know what you are doing. If the other chapters are this long, I think you have a 12-hour game on your hands. But, let’s keep our focus on the current released episode.

This game is a 3D adventure game. It’s more of a walking simulator with a lot of puzzles and exploration. So, basically, it isn’t a walking simulator at all. In this game, you have to solve puzzles to be able to open doors and progress to the next area. Here is where some issues are with the game. My biggest complaint is the inventory. In my honest opinion, the inventory system is decent, apart from one thing. The system that is used to combine items is just annoying to use. Perhaps it’s a limitation of the Unreal 4 Engine being used, but it’s annoying to use. You must click on the ying-yang symbol, drag one item in the left box and the other item in the right box and click on the misaligned “yes” to try and combine them. You don’t even get any feedback if you can’t combine the items. It makes controlling the game annoying.

Which is a shame, since the controls for this game work fine for the most part. I wish that the controls were rebindable. Since, just like various other indie titles, they don’t know that “AZERTY” exists and now I must put my fingers weird again.

Just for you QWERTY-users, a reference. To move forward, I must use the Z key. And to move backward, the Q-key. The S & D-keys do their job fine. Anyways, let’s get back to reviewing this game.

There are two other things I want to point out about the controls. One is there is something odd you can do while you open your inventory. You can still duck, stand up and jump. Also, when you hold any of the movement keys, you hear the walking sound effect.

The second thing I want to talk about in terms on the controls is the jump. Besides having a great jump arc, the jumping is stiff in my opinion. I noticed that when you jump first and then press the move forward key, you don’t reach as far as you jump after you have moved forward a bit.

The jumping mechanic needs some polishing up. I found it frustrating and unreliable to use, especially in the platforming segments of the game. There was one segment in the game that took way too long to make. It would be great too if there were some checkpoints between the jumping segments. There is nothing more frustrating than being almost at the end of a jumping segment and falling all the way down for just one minor mistake.

Symbols

Across The Moment (1)In terms of the music, the soundtrack is good. The style of the soundtrack isn’t 100% my thing, but I love how it adds to the atmosphere of the game. The sound design is decent. While I wish there were a bit more sound effects for when you jump or when you land, I think the sound design is like I said: decent.

The difficulty in this game really depends if you can see the solution or not. Sometimes, the solution isn’t that clear and you are overlooking one thing. Really experiment with your environment and your inventory if you are stuck. Try the “everything on anything and combine everything with everything” tactic if you are stuck.

This game is also available in Chinese and Russian. It’s still a mystery to me why this option isn’t in the options menu but in the main menu. I think it would be more helpful if you move this option in the options menu, to be honest.

I do have to say, this game is only 3€ on Steam. I think that you get more value for your money when you buy this game. If you are interested in this game, I think you should buy this game.

There are also Steam Achievements and trading cards for people who are interested in that. There are 4 card drops for 6 cards to create a badge. Good luck.

That’s everything I wanted to say about this game. I can’t wait to see the second episode of this game since I really want to know where the story goes next. Thank you so much to the developer for giving me a key to try out this game. I really enjoyed my time with this game. I hope you also enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

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Review #040: CSI – Hard Evidence (PC ~ Steam) ~ Strange Case

256px-Csi4boxcoverSteam store link

So, today I want to take another look at this very old case. Wait, scrap that. If I try to be too original in my introduction, I might ruin the beauty of my previous CSI article. Yeah, remember that first impression article I wrote about that CSI PS2 game? I tried to set the mood in the introduction and if I repeat that in this one, it might get boring. Yup, I’m rambling on instead of writing a decent introduction for this game. I just finished it and I want to review it. Before I actually start to review it, I’ll come clean. I enjoyed the other CSI games I played. In total, I know there are 3-4 games like this about CSI. I think that this game is the latest in terms of trying to go for realism instead of a more cartoon-y approch they did in the DS games. In any case, I enjoy the tv-show a lot myself. Too bad that my local channel broadcasts the series out of order. As usual, feel free to leave a comment on this article with your opinion on the game and or the content of this article. 

Mediocre game? 

ss_1e28c9ba1188ef3c7530d272dbbd1f5d735f9281.1920x1080

I know that this game was also released on the XBOX360 and the Wii. But for this review, we take a look at the PC version of the game. It’s developed by TellTale Games, who you might know from the Walking Dead series. One might think that this game must be good. I mean, they make all sorts of amazing adventure point-and-click games.

If I look around the internet to what other people think about this game, I read mostly negative reviews. But is this game a cheap cash-in of a very popular series? Let me play devil’s advocate and say no. Sure, there are some problems and you might rest assured I’ll address them in this review but overall, this game is a nice one.

The evidence for that is in the story. Each and every case feels like a CSI episode. The characters are quite memorable and the voice acting is decent. I have to disagree that the voice acting is the best the game has too offer since I sometimes don’t feel the emotion in the voice. I also had moments where I felt that the emotion was acted or forced. But that might be because I act on stage myself.

Addressing the criticism

CSI4_screen_0

The negative you see popping up in each and every review is that the graphics look outdated. This is quite vague in my opinion. The area’s you visit and objects look quite clean and decent. They aren’t the best the genre or the system can offer but that’s not the issue here.

The issue here is in the animation of the models. That’s quite flawed. If this game had a rushed development schedule you can see it in the animations. I didn’t had many visual flaws on my gaming laptop but on my desktop with a much stronger graphics card/CPU/RAM… the mistakes are coming quite clear. Mostly around the mouth area, that’s the worst. In the 4th case, I even saw gaps in the mouth were the model wasn’t finished.

 It’s a shame since the visuals of the cutscene video’s give another impression of this game. This game might have looked so much better if they polished up the animations. They could have looked a whole lot better, since you know that TellTale is able to create amazing stuff.

Why did I play this game?

I can be rather short about the music. In this game, the music isn’t meant to be memorable or catchy. It needs to set a certain mood. The music does this job perfectly. It gets me in the right mood to try and solve a murder case and to catch bugs. If you watch the series, you might know that one of the characters is very interested in bugs. In each case, there are several bugs hidden and if you find them all, you get a bonus.

Talking about the bonus content, while it’s a nice addition, it’s quite lackluster. When the title of the bonus material says: “storyboards of case 3” for example, you just get three storyboards of a fragment that took 5-6 seconds in game. They are quite underwhelming and they wouldn’t add to the experience if you want to 100% the game.

CSI4_screen_4

You might start to wonder why I even beat this game. I point out mistakes in almost every category. Well, this game is a good game but it mainly lacks polish. The sound effects create a great feeling of actually being a CSI but not all the time thankfully. It also gives you the feeling that it is fake, created for a TV-show.

All elements of this game blend together quite well and if you put the time into this game instead of focusing on the negatives of this game, you get a nice experience. Before I forget, I have a few things to mention before I go to my conclusion.

First of all, the saving system is just wonderful. Thanks to the automatic save system, I didn’t need to worry that my progress would be lost.

The difficulty of this game is right in the middle. While this is one of the easiest games I played in the series, it can be challenging and puts everything you learned in the tutorial case to the test.

Anyways, I think I talked about most of the things I wanted to talk about, about this game. So, let’s get on with the conclusion.

Conclusion

The bad:

– Animations can be quite bad.

– The interface isn’t always good to work with.

– No cloud saves.

The good;

+ Acceptable visuals.

+ Nice experience for a CSI fan.

+ Easy but sometimes challenging game.

+ Decent length.

+ Nice and responsive controls.

+ Great voice acting.

Final thoughts:

I said it in my last paragraph, this game lacks polish. If TellTale put a bit more time into the animations, the interface and the game as a whole… I think this game wouldn’t get such a bad rating.

This game can be quite a fun game in the right hands, but if I need to look at it objectively: this game is a mediocre one. But as a fan of CSI and point-and-click games… it isn’t half that bad.

If you start to play this game, don’t set your expectations too high. It isn’t a masterpiece and it’s flaws show quite clearly. If you look passed them, you get 5 interesting cases to play through that each CSI and crime story fan will enjoy.

Score: 70/100.

First Impression: Bully – Scholarship Edition (PC / Steam) ~ It’s a game at least.

bully-scholarship-edition-pc-boxartOfficial website

My current studies in college are teacher. So, honest, I was quite interested in this game. I was curious how they would address the problems of a bully. Knowing the developer, the first impression of this game is that this game actually gives bullying a “good vibe”. But let me explain in this article why I think the game is actually not even worth it. How they totally missed tons and tons of opportunities. If you follow me on my Twitter, you know that I tweeted out to Q that this game left me ‘meh’.  In other words, I’m not extremely interested in beating this game. There are just too many flaws in this game that it isn’t even funny. And it’s an extreme shame, RockStar games are known for amazing games but they failed on various parts in this game. I kinda feel like a real teacher now, sometimes repeating this same information but in different ways. Hah! Food for thought. Something my colleague teachers will understand. Anyways, while I do realize that I can possibly get hate on this article, I honestly only care about people who can say their opinion with respect. And I invite you to post a comment with your own thoughts on this article and or the game. 

And I haven’t played yet.

pc-09bigWhen you have games like GTA under your belt, you expect quality things from the developer. But the download on Steam was just finished and I noticed that the game was going to be a major let down.

I researched the problem and I wasn’t the only one. The game has freezing issues at the start-up loading screen. I repeat, the start-up loading screen. Yeah, and I haven’t played the game yet. And we are off to a great start. And sorry RockStar, you have no excuse! At the title screen it says “1.200”. Assuming this is your version number, this means most likely that you released 2 patches. Ignoring that issue is a shame.

Then the main menu, I seriously thought that I was going to pull my hair out. The main menu on the Steam version is terrible. It has an interesting design behind it but it barely has any options you expect from the main menu. To configure most options, apart from video (If I recall correctly), have to be done when you loaded your save.

Sadly enough, the problems don’t stop there. The game can be played with an XBOX360 controller. And honestly, I recommend playing it with a controller. Why? Because the controls feel stiff and awkward. The controller’s controls are an improvement but not that much. And how can a big studio not program the recognition of the controller? I found this out in mid-game. So, I plugged in my controller and I have to reboot the game in order for it to work. And here is the fun part, when I unplugged it mid-game, the game didn’t react to keyboard input!

Nice try guys.

bully-scholarship-edition-qdphGraphically this game is pretty okay. It isn’t anything amazing but thankfully they used some detail. But then, the developer got GTA in their heads and the designing a school got a “GTA upgrade”.

You can buy new clothes to wear instead of the uniform. I facefalmed hard right there. If you missed why, look up the definition of a school uniform. You have to wear that uniform and nothing else. Okay, it’s to rebel, I understand. But you easily get in trouble in real life if you break rules.

Now, the animation. Do I truly have to? Well, here we go then. The animation of this game is just awful. Please tell me when I can come out of hiding after the hoard of angry fanboys went by.

The game is riddled with animation problems. From twitching characters to people falling upwards, they got it all. As if this game has been thrown on Steam just to have some more cash. This game is pretty bad at hiding it’s problems. In cutscenes you can see the problems popping up. In the cutscenes! I mean, come on. If you know your engine has issues, use movies like in the old days as cut scenes.

More issues

344247-bully-scholarship-edition-windows-screenshot-picking-a-lockI might start talking again about the design and the animation of this game in this article, but if I don’t, I’ll surely talk about it in my full review if I ever write one.

Another BIG issue I have to address is the sound. From the music to the sound effects. The music, honestly, is bland. I always listen to the game’s music when writing articles. It helps my brain to get into the mood and feel from the game. But the music is nothing special. I find it hard to even remember tunes from the game. While I can easily recognize many tracks of other games I played. But that might be because I didn’t hear everything yet.

And the sound effects, my lords. Are they bad! The sound of students stepping sounds like they clapped two coconut shells to each other. Or those old plastic pots with cords that you walked around with on the playing ground. It breaks the immersion quick.  I had it happen often.

And don’t get my started about the students. They are loud and thanks to that you can barely hear what’s said in some cutscenes and what your reply was of a student you praised or said bad things too. Also, they sometimes give you awkward replies or the same one over and over again.

Is this game junk? Well, no not completely. The gameplay is somewhat interesting. But please, anything but the classes. While they could have showed the interesting part of teaching they replaced the courses by simple mini-games. And English class is such a pain for a not native speaker. Trying to make words with the letters given. I had to struggle a lot. My native language isn’t English, it’s Dutch. So, that’s a spot where they missed something they could have done gameplay wise.

Anyways, I think I’m going to leave it here. I might play this game a bit more to research it but that’s my current opinion on it. If you want to try it, know it didn’t talk in depth about the graphics, design, gameplay and control. That’s something for you to discover. But I warn my readers, think this one through before you buy it. You might be let down by the sheer unpolished elements in this game.

Rant #002: Broken Menu’s

Broken menu minecraft

Don’t you just love it? You are playing a game and the menu’s are all glitched up? Like in this screenshot, where the “Done” button is too stubborn to move. This is a curse that many modders have in Minecraft. But in my current playthrough of certain games I have encountered some issues with menu’s for me to talk about in this rant. But before I continue, what problems did you guys have had with menu’s before? Let me know in the comments. Maybe I’ll add them in a follow up article if I ever write one. So let’s dive into the menu’s and my rant about them. 

Standard menu’s?

I often ask myself, why do developers not have some rules about menu’s? I recently tried out Call Of Duty and the options to change the controls are separate. Great, I looked over it since I expected them to be under an option tab.

All the menu’s in the games are different. I have no big issue with that. The might try to fit the style of the game. But, the issue is mainly that all options have a different spot in each game. What really makes me nervous is when developers don’t give you a chance to play a game in a windowed mode or in full screen. Some games stay full screen anyways. Or when you can’t change the screen sizes to the screen size of your monitor.

A big example of bad menu design is Overlord. Yes, for the options there are two menu’s. Awesome! But the most useful options like screen size and the changing of buttons is in the launcher and you can’t access that in game. This made me close and restart the game often to try to really fit the controls to my likeness.

To accept or not to accept?

Why do so many games have menu’s where you need to click on “accept” before the changes happen? For older games, I can forgive that, but in more recent games I have seen so many examples where the game changes the settings as soon as you change the setting. Even a preview button would be sweet.

This extremely confuses me, to the extend where I look in every game for an accept button or I get mad went the changes didn’t happen because I missed the “accept” button.

Another annoying example is how messy the Devil May Cry menu’s are. The buttons to accept options are, well displayed if they would be on a controller. What in the holy name of flying cows? Not everybody has a XBOX guys so, not everybody has a controller to attach to their computer.

This actually gives me the opportunity to do a small additional rant. Who plays with a controller on a computer? For emulators, yes, but for PC games? Oh heck no, this just silly. That shows to me that you rather have the console version. It’s so silly to sit there with a controller when you have a whole array of buttons to press on your keyboard.

Tooltips

Tooltips are a great way of letting the player know what option does what. But oh so many games don’t have this. They just throw the option in your face and you have to guess what it is.

What I really like is how some sound menu’s have a sample that plays when you lower or raise the volume. All that games need to have that, it’s great to just tweak it to your hearts content.

But truth to be told, you have games where the menu’s are so extreme, that it’s a game in itself to navigate them. Most sandbox games like SimCity have this. Where you are actually playing with menu’s most of the time.

RollerCoaster Tycoon, the first game, has a big issue with menu’s as well. Each option is a menu. You can open a menu by almost clicking anywhere in game. It’s extremely difficult to keep track of them all and I find the screen get easily cluttered with menu’s. And there is no real way of closing them all at once.

I can agree that some games are lacking options. But I will mention that in my reviews then. I think I’m going to leave it here for this rant. Actually with my conclusion.

Menu’s can be messy, different and not easy to navigate. There is a lot of improvement in this part of gaming. But once you see some touches in other games, you get annoyed that some games don’t have them. I realize that I haven’t talked about how bad the menu’s can be on Kinect games, and that’s simply because I don’t own one.

So, that’s all for this rant. Happy gaming and NekoJonez signing out!