NekoJonez’s August 2021 Update

It’s almost that time of year again, the start of the school year here in Belgium. This year, I start my 3rd year as an IT-admin in the school I work for. So, that also means that my summer break is over, and I restarted working again. Also, I’m quite surprised that my latest update article was from December 2020. I mean, it’s quite usual that there are sometimes big gaps between these articles when not a lot of interesting things happen to collect together in an update… But hey, that’s totally besides the point. Let’s start talking about what’s happening in my life and what’s going on for my blog. And before I start, I want to invite you to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and/or opinions in the comment section down below.

Fewer articles and more gaps

When you look at the numbers of amount of published articles, you’ll notice that since March of this year… I have been skipping more and more weeks. Apart from April, I have been able to write and publish 2-3 articles each month. While I see a decrease in traffic to my blog because of that, I honestly don’t mind that much. I still reach similar numbers in the end. Now, I know that numbers shouldn’t matter since writing this blog is still a hobby. I know that fact all too well, yet… somehow, I feel proud when I see the numbers raise. But, that’s something we all like, seeing numbers raise. It’s a physiological thing.

So, why are there so many gaps in the publishing of articles? Well, it’s because I have written about so many games that I’m as good as through my backlog. I still have several games on my backlog to write about, but most of them should be replayed for at least a little while, since it has been such a long time since I played them for the first time. Before I write an article about a game, I want to have at least played 5-ish hours of that game, unless it’s a game quicky or a small indie game (that’s shorter than 5 hours). And here are the reasons I’m having trouble with that.

First, due to the COVID pandemic and private matters… My day job is extremely busy. I love doing my day job, but it’s extremely draining. So, at the end of the day, I sometimes don’t have the energy left to play games, or I just want to play a game to relax and not having to take notes or prepare an article about it. So, that means I have been playing games I have reviewed before and finishing them and, yes, even replaying some of them.

Secondly, I’m trying to improve my writing style. After writing for about 10 years in a similar writing style, I want to challenge myself to write more in-depth articles with more research and more cohesion. So, I’m putting a lot more time into each article, and it shows. I’m prouder of each article that I publish, and I feel that I’m improving quite a lot.

Thirdly, due to the general business of my personal life and the work for my school… I don’t always have the energy to write. I also want to recover in the weekend or work on my huge to-do list. Furthermore, I’m writing a lot for other things I’ll talk about more later… and that also has consequences. That means I burn myself out of writing sometimes. And I find that sometimes taking a break is better for me. That way I can still publish an interesting and well written article instead of a half-baked article. I like “better quality over more quantity”. So yeah.

And finally, here in Belgium, the COVID restrictions are slowly but surely lifting. Especially for vaccinated people (like myself)! So, that means I can start doing things in my local acting group again and go to see theater performances and movies in the cinema. Man, I have missed that so hard. You know those things you do, to reward yourself after doing a good job? Well, that was theater and cinema for me. Of course, blogging/writing about games has the same effect for me, but variety is the spice of life.

So, what does that mean? Shall you see less articles on my blog? Bluntly said, yes. I might not write weekly articles for a while anymore. I decided that it’s a goal I would love to reach, but I’m not going to force myself to write 4 articles each month. Not only that, but I’m going to try to write at least 1-2 articles/month. And if that’s not possible, I’ll talk about that on my twitter.

Outside of blogging

So, what’s going on in my personal life outside of writing for this blog? Well, quite a lot, actually. I have been expanding my hobbies and skill set. The first hobby I want to talk about is something that’s related to gaming, actually. I started speedrunning Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine. You can find my runs at my Speedrun.com profile. At first, I wanted to beat the PC times, but those are not only extremely optimized already, I’m unable to do the perfect movement.

That’s why I started to focus on the GBC version. While I’m keeping an eye on the PC version, I’m mainly focused on the GBC version. Not too long ago, I have beaten my ANY% GBC full game run I did live that one time. Whenever I feel like it, I have been grinding this run out since that 1h 40 m 08s, I’m certain it can go lower. In a matter of fact, I have found several small skips and improvements that is going to save at least 10-ish minutes all together. But, I’m planning to write an article about the strategies and such involved in the full game run in the future… So, keep an eye out for that.

Besides speedrunning, I’m also creating a new website for my local acting group. Currently, it’s behind closed doors, but I’m spending quite a lot of time on that site. I’m also working on a lot of technical stuff for my acting group to improve work flow and such. It’s something different and a fun challenge for sure. I love the stuff I’m learning since I’m able to use it for the website I maintain for my school and visa versa.

Speaking about the school I work for, I have two updates about that. The first update is that I have a fixed contract. Now, here in Belgium, it works somewhat different in schools. The contract I currently have is if the school has to shut down for what ever reason, a school from the district has to give me a job. In other words, I’m quite certain that I’m going to have a job for the foreseeable future. 🙂 And not only that, it’s in my dream job as an IT admin in a big school. I couldn’t wish for more.

The second update is that the school I work for is growing in amount of students. Currently, we have around 700 students, compared to roughly 600 students at the start of the previous year. This is quite mind-blowing for an art school, and that’s the biggest reason my day job is so busy. I’m so happy that the school I work for is growing so much since that means our school is quite healthy.

So, outside of having a busy day job, writing a gaming blog (semi-)weekly, doing things for my acting group, speeding running games… I’m also active in the development of WordPress. Now, I’m not a coder, so I’m helping that much in the actual development of WordPress outside of testing and reporting bugs… I’m more active in the translation department. I’m a translation editor for all the WordPress plugins & themes on WordPress.org for the locale’s nl_NL(-formal) and nl_BE, which means all forms of Dutch basically. If you want to take a look at my work, you can see it on my profile. And if I contribute to a plugin/extension, it’s mostly issues with strings which make things less easy for translation. You can see most of my contributions on my GitHub profile.

That means, that I do a lot of things in my free time outside of spending time with my family. While it might sound overwhelming and a lot to keep up with, honestly, I enjoy it. I’m expanding my skill set and learning quite a lot. And not only that, I’m giving something back to the community.

What’s next?

Now, you might think that I want to spend less time writing. Because I have so many other hobbies or things I do outside of writing. And, that’s not true. I found that spending time on other things like speedrunning, translations, working on websites… It actually helps me to not burn out on writing. Like I said earlier in this article, variety is the spice of life.

I do have a collab in the works with a good blogging friend of mine, but I’m unable to make a lot of progress due to the busy times at my day job. Thankfully, after next week, it’s going to become a lot less busy, so I can focus on a lot of other things and maybe write more.

I’m also playing around with a few major updates on my blog, but I think most of them are going to have to wait until I have another vacation. Since it’s going to help me in keeping certain things up-to-date here on my blog. And yes, I’m also removing typo’s and such from older articles. If you notice one, feel free to give me a shout, and I’ll try to fix it as soon as I can.

So, what’s the summary of this update? I’m going to try to at least write 2 articles each month, and 4 if I can. I also started speedrunning, getting more involved with the development of WordPress and doing things for my local acting group. On top of that, my day job is extremely busy… eating up a lot of my time. And I don’t want to have it any other way. Mentally, I’m doing a lot better and that’s what counts in the end, in my opinion… If you are happy with your life, than all is well.

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 another article, but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

First Impression: Nightmare Reaper (PC – Steam) ~ Can You Sleep Through This?

nightmare reaper.jpg

Steam store pageGOG page

I can’t tell you exactly why, but I’m a big fan of old school 3D shooters. Last year, I took a look at Ion Fury and Wrath. Honestly, I think that it’s because these games stuck the right balance between modern game design and old school gameplay. Now, one day I stumbled across this game. A game in Early Access that released last year to GOG and Steam. A game that presents itself as a game inspired by Blood, Doom, and Duke Nukem 3D. That’s quite interesting in my eyes. Currently, only the first episode has been released and episode two is coming in the near future. At the moment of writing, the developer said that they are aiming to release the second episode at the end of the summer. But, is this game worth your time and money? Let’s take a look at this game while I invite you to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article. 

Can you sleep through this?

ss_b7e8b7e313a53c7bf3c33a58c248e23c44b7b9bd.1920x1080You play as an unnamed girl who is stuck in a psychotic ward. Her story is being told through small notes that you unlock after beating each level. In order for you to enjoy the game, you don’t need to pay any attention to the story, at all. But, I can tell you out of the experience that it enhances the game tenfold. My imagination and the spare bits of story that I got gave the world-building quite a lot of meaning. My imagination filled in some gaps that made the story quite interesting.

Now, I can understand that some people won’t enjoy a story that is this bland where it’s quite clear that you need to protect yourself on the character or fill in some of the gaps yourself. But, I didn’t find this a problem at all. Since this game focusses itself a lot more on the gameplay than on the story and in that case I don’t mind a “weaker” story.

I always find it quite difficult to review or criticize a story when I know that you don’t have every piece of the puzzle. A story can start off strong and end up quite weak. Currently, I’m quite interested to see where the story is going to go and if it wraps up with a nice conclusion or if it leaves it up to the player to figure out.

As I said before, the story is mostly told through small notes that you can read on your table after beating a level. You unlock one note for every level you beat. Each note builds on the previous note painting a more complete picture of the situation. There is no voice acting during these notes, but that doesn’t mean that there is no voice acting in the game.

The girl you play as is voiced by Marie-Claire Lavertu and I haven’t found anything about her. Now, this might raise some red flags but don’t you worry. The voice actor nails the voice acting of the main character flawlessly. The grunts, the smirks, the laughs… It’s all done pretty well. She did a pretty amazing job of bringing this troubled character to live without saying one line. I wonder if she also did the screams of the other patients you hear when you are in your room.

So, how do you play this game; since you start off in a hospital room? Well, as the name of the game suggests, you are going to reap some nightmares. So, it’s time to go to sleep and you get transported to a randomly generated level where your goal is to beat your enemies and reach the goal.

Retroception

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This game features randomly generated levels. Well, to a degree. The developer created a whole slew of rooms and the random level generator just fits them together in random order.

So that means, that you might find the same layout once or twice but in most cases, each level and each playthrough is quite different. But, this isn’t the only thing that stands out in this game.

The Steam Store page boasts that this game has over 32 weapons and is going to have 80+ weapons. Now, before you think that this is going to be an overload to manage them all… You don’t have to manage them all. That’s because you can only carry over one weapon from one level to the next. Yes, one weapon.

It gets even better, each weapon might have special abilities and has a certain level. So, you need to think and strategize about which weapon you want to keep and which weapon you want to sell for those precious coins.

These coins can drop from destroying the environment, defeating enemies, selling weapons at the end of a level, finding treasure, and playing the Gameboy Advance Skilltree minigame. Oh yes, the minigame. One doesn’t simply unlock new powerups in this game, you have to earn them by first having enough coins and then beat the mini-platform level. Only when beating a level, you lose your coins and earn your sweet powerup. Trust me, these power-ups are worth it! After defeating some levels, I felt more equipped and stronger to beat my enemies.

If I would take a look at all the enemies and weapons, I think I would be here all day. Let’s first talk about the weapons. You have swords, staffs, shotguns, rocket launchers, tomes, pistols, rifles… It’s a whole lot. Personally, I rarely used the bows since I found their fire rate a bit too slow since this game can get pretty hectic and intense with some enemies and a strong gun fits my playstyle more in these types of gameplay situations. And my preferred weapon was a double-barreled shotgun with the chance to shock my enemies I picked up in one of the earliest levels.

Obviously, I’m going to talk about the enemies right now. You have a whole range of enemies. From hit scanning enemies to enemies that take you with melee attacks. It’s essential for you to learn the patterns of each enemy so you can play accordingly for which enemy you should take out first.

There are some enemies I absolutely hated during my playthroughs. These Dragon Plants that not only spit acid but also spit little egg projectiles that hatch smaller dragons. These didn’t die fast enough for my liking. And then I’m skipping over the enemies who throw what I assume mutated blobs of themselves to you and these blobs track you and when they explode… You lose a LOT of your health. And these blobs are so freaking small and annoying to kill…

Now, would I remove these enemies? Absolutely not. They ramp up the difficulty of this game to a very rewarding level. For having so many different possibilities, I’m surprised how much work there has been put into the balancing of the game. New enemies are introduced one by one so you can get used to them, learn their patterns, and try to manage them in the chaos of a whole enemy filled room.

The “punishment” for death in this game isn’t that harsh. Thankfully, since you will die quite often since this game can be quite rough. But I mean that in a good way. The punishment is that you have to restart the level with the weapon you choose to keep from the previous level. But, you don’t lose your gold. So, if one level is a bit too tough, you can grind up your coins, beat a few skill tree mini-games and try again with some new powers.

During my playthrough, I regularly felt the urge to play just one more round, to try to beat that annoying level. I found that most of this game is quite fair and balanced apart from the fire boss. I’m sorry but I find that boss battle just too difficult. That boss hits a bit too hard. My biggest complaint is that this boss appears after quite a challenging level and then you have to try and beat quite a difficult fight. Thankfully, the developer said that he is going to take a look at how the fight can become a little bit easier. And also, he has given us some helpful advice to beat it. It’s the biggest frustration I have with this game since I have gotten so close several times… But one of these days, I’ll do it and defeat that – CENSORED –

So, would it surprise you if I said that I’m not even done talking about all the mechanics yet? Oh, I haven’t mentioned the power-ups, the random events, and the possible bonus gold you can earn by killing all the enemies, finding all the gold and secrets… Well, I’ll leave these interesting and fun game mechanics up to you to find out. There must still be something to discover when you play this game after reading this article, right?

Shoot everything

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You might have noticed by looking at the screenshots, that this game doesn’t have the most modern graphics. This game goes for a more retro aesthetic with some modern vibes. And the game succeeds in that quite well.

In the visual presentation, I find this game quite exceptional. I really like the visual presentation and animation of this game. From the enemy design to the animations on the weapons, I really think they are well done. Especially, when I saw some early footage of the game and compare it to what’s on offer now, it’s impressive how far this game has come. The only minor complaint I have in the visual department is a timer. Yes, a timer of how long your power-up is lasting. Since there is no inventory in this game for power-ups and health pickups, so it would have been nice to see how much a powerup is going to last when you want to use it to rush a boss or a difficult room.

To finish up my thoughts on the visual presentation, let’s talk about the UI. Overall, it’s quite well done but there are a few minor things that I would change. First of all, the “Reset Default Settings” is a great future but I would rather have that feature reset for example only the game features instead of resetting everything. Another minor complaint I have about the UI is there are no page numbers on the achievement page.

Speaking about achievements, it’s lovely that these give you coins in-game but I find them to also have them as Steam achievements. I mean, there are over 80 already. Maybe this is just me, but I almost got an achievement in every round, if not two or three. Maybe I look at achievements in a totally different light but I found them not rewarding to earn at all.

There is one thing that I haven’t talked about yet and I usually talk about quite early in my articles and that’s the audio of this game. First of all, let’s talk about the sound effects. The sound design of this game is close to perfect. On quite rare occasions, I didn’t hear some trap or pickup sound effects playing, especially during fights but that isn’t such a big deal. These fights are hectic enough when you try to manage large groups of enemies, the sparse health pickups, and the great sound effects of the enemies and weapons.

But I want to talk about the amazing soundtrack by Andrew Hulshult. Now, if this name doesn’t ring a bell. Well, let me just say he created the soundtrack of a little game called Dusk and Wrath: Aeon Of Ruin. Let me just say, if you enjoy the DooM 2016 soundtrack, oh man you are going to enjoy this quite a lot.

Overall, I would recommend this game to people who enjoy retro games and shooters. At its current state, I found this game quite addictive and I had a hard time putting this game down during my summer holidays. Before I knew it, I had put in 11 hours in this game and I’m not bored with it yet. I can’t wait to see what the second episode will bring to the table.

To be honest, I had a really hard time finding negatives to say about this game apart from the fire boss being too tricky for my liking. All the other things are things that are either quite minor or can change because this game is still in active development. I’m going to keep an eye out on this game and maybe you too.

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

Review: Paper Mario – The Origami King (Switch) ~ Fold And Turn

Official websiteWikipedia entry

2020 is quite a strange year. Back in May, we got a trailer for this game and to everybody’s surprise, the game dropped a few weeks later. The game has been out for around a month now and I have finished the game a few days ago. So, I want to talk about this game. Especially, since some people are quite curious how this game holds up compared to the previous entries in the series. The two previous entries in the series weren’t that well received, so will this game “save the series” or will it divide the fanbase even further like Color Splash? Let’s take a look at the game 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. 

Fold The World

So, the story starts a bit similar to Sticker Star. A festival is held in the (paper) Mushroom Kingdom and something goes horribly wrong. In this case, the princess is converted to origami and suddenly, you meet an evil origami character called Olly that wants to fold the whole world to origami.

In your journey to save Princess Peach and save the Mushroom Kingdom from certain destruction, you team up with the sister of the evil origami character called Oliva. She is able to grant you special powers that aid Mario in his quest.

To avoid spoiling the whole game or sections of it, I’m going to try to keep story explanations to a minimum. But, I do want to give my honest opinion of the story. The writing and the dialogues are pretty good, the pacing is excellent as well. I barely felt that any sections were filler or padding. But, the story isn’t thrilling at all.

The structure of the story is somewhat like the Pokémon anime series. Just replace the gym badges with the streamers and you have the structure of the story in this game. Barely any of the characters, apart from the main duo, of course, go from one section to another.

The next point I want to bring up with the story is that it’s a bit too predictable in my eyes. I can’t pinpoint exactly why but I felt that I experienced this whole story somewhere before or that I had seen the arcs. I think that the main issue with this game is that it barely does anything creative story-wise.

Does this game have a bad story? Well, yes and no. Apart from the predictability and the “safeness” of the whole story, the charm of the story is so great. I have a few ideas that could have improved the story. The first thing is the world-building, I felt that wasn’t done enough. For example, you have an area called “Picnic Road”. Why o why are there no picnic benches? I mean, one of the previous areas had a whole barbeque setup…

The second suggestion I have is that there could have been a bit more side stories. A great example is with Luigi. Side-arcs, side quests, or just things to explore on the side. I know that you can free toads, fill in Not-Bottomless Holes but in most cases, those don’t affect the story that much.

It almost feels that the developers just cut out several sections to improve the flow or the pacing but with that, they also cut out too much. Sometimes a bit of padding or filler doesn’t hurt.

Oh, and before I go to the next section, I usually talk about the voice acting and voice work right after the story. And I can finish my opinion quite fast. That’s something where I think they could have done more but on the other hand, the animations are so good during dialogues that the very little voice work is “replaced” if that makes sense.

Turn Your Way To Victory

One of the biggest criticisms of the previous two entries in the Paper Mario series was the battle system. The games before those had an RPG style battle system. Then in Sticker Star and Color Splash, we got more of a sort of puzzle system.

I think it would make this review too long if I start to analyze the flaws of the two previous battle systems. For the sake of going forward, let’s focus on the battle system of this game. There is no real RPG-style battle system in this game. But, something that does return somewhat is the buddies from previous games. Now, before you get too excited, the buddies just provide a chance of an attack after you finished yours. And that’s it.

Before I talk about the puzzle battle system, I do want to mention a huge improvement compared to the previous two titles. At certain moments, you can find a health improvement. Besides having more HP, these improvements have other implications on the mechanics of the game. For example, after a few upgrades, I was able to just jump or hit these Goomba’s with my hammer and I didn’t have to go into battle. The only downside is that you don’t get all your coins like you would have defeated them in the puzzle battle. But, it does save your weapons for each little encounter.

Speaking about weapons, I barely had any problem with those. At the start of the game, I just stocked up on weapons and healing items and I do have to say, I barely had to go to the shops in the game to stock up on items. The game is quite generous with items to use in battle. A bit too generous for my liking.

The game is a bit too easy. Apart from some scripted sequences, I barely saw the ‘game over’ screen. Also, quite rarely, I felt challenged during the battles. Even when I was unable to solve the puzzle in front of me, I was almost always able to beat the enemies with relative ease.

Now, what is this “puzzle battle” I’m talking about? Well, if you look at the screenshot a bit higher, you might notice that Mario is in a battle area with four rings. Your goal is to line up the enemies in a line or in a group of 2 by 2. You can do that by either rotating a ring or move planed vertically.

In order for you to solve the puzzle, you have a limited amount of moves and time. But, here is where some amazing game design shines through. During the adventure, you can buy various items that give you more time, health and defense during battles. You can enable or disable all of these items in the pause menu. On top of that, you can invest your coins in more time or cheering. Now, what is cheering? Well, that means you can invite the Toads you have rescued during the adventure to aid you in healing or solving the puzzle in front of you. The only moment where the Toads don’t solve the puzzle is during the boss battles. But more on that in a minute. So, if you find the game too easy, you can challenge yourself more by disabling all these support items and not cheering or buying more time during battles.

So, do you HAVE to solve the puzzles to be able to attack the enemies? Oh no, you don’t have to. It just gives you an attack bonus that can one-shot most enemies. Otherwise, you have to rely on your partner or block the attacks and try again. Also, just like the previous games, when you time your button press correctly during the attack, you do more damage to your enemies.

I could talk more in-depth about the battle system but I want to avoid that this review gets too long. So, I’m going to link you to an interesting article of a great blogging buddy of mine Adventure Rules, who talks a bit more in-depth on the battle system on his blog. Be warned, there are some spoilers in his article. (And yes, I know that he is going to read this article… And no, the fact that I’m shouting him out here has nothing to do with it… Maybe… Maybe not. 😉 )

Now, let’s talk boss battles. These battles are the highlight of the game for me. The sheer creativity in these battles is just amazing. Each boss throws a unique challenge your way that changes up the battlefield or the way you have to solve the puzzle. It’s really amazing stuff. I’m not going to talk more in-depth about it to avoid spoilers but I found myself saying out loud, several times, “wow, this is creative and unique.”.

Speaking about creativity, I’m still surprised at the huge amount of different puzzles in this game. Rarely I had similar or the same puzzle during the game and if there were, I barely noticed. I always had to think about how to line up those enemies to win.

Stardance

This review is getting quite long and I have only talked about the story and the battle mechanics. There is still so much to talk about in this rather enjoyable game. For starters, let’s talk about the Starman Theme in this game. I’m just blown away by the amazing remix that has heavy metal influences and electronic influences.

And the rest of the soundtrack, my lord. These tracks are just amazing. I think that this game might have my favorite soundtrack of 2020. If the soundtrack ever comes out on CD, you can be sure that I’ll add that to my collection. The soundtrack is even part of my playlist when I’m writing or games like Minecraft. Now, the sound design of this game is equally as well done as the soundtrack.

Overall, this game is visually quite impressive. In very rare cases, I found that some textures weren’t the best or that the scene had a tad bit too much lighting, but I think that most players won’t notice the moments that I noticed as a hobbyist critic.

The theming of the areas are quite well done as well. So yes, the visual presentation of this game is something to enjoy. It really shows the power of the Nintendo Switch in my opinion. The art style is also quite consistent, vibrant, and colorful. Couple that with great animations and you have a great and smooth running game. Speaking of smoothness, the only time I noticed some slowdown was during the loading of some battles.

The UI of this game is extremely well done. The only minor complaint I have is that you can’t change your weapons during a battle, but that isn’t such a big issue because you just need to remember to swap your weapons after a battle.

One thing I loved in this game is the mechanics in place to help players who have trouble with the game. The electronic manual is quite easily accessible and on top of that, there is a training area for when you need to practice your timings to hit enemies and such.

In most of this review, I have been praising this game and pointing out some minor flaws. To end off this review, let me talk about some things that I didn’t really like. The first thing is the overall running speed, I found that a tad bit too slow. After seeing how fast you can go to the Boot Car or on the ship, I found it a shame that there was no run button. That’s the biggest complaint I have about the controls.

The other issue I have with the controls is that it sometimes was a bit too tricky to hit some enemies with the hammer. But I think that the issue is that you are unable to interrupt the animation and most of the time I wished that I was faster with my hammer because I barely missed the enemy.

A nitpick I have about filling the Not-Bottomless Pits, I found that sometimes it was a bit too tricky to get in the right position to fully cover the hole with confetti. Thankfully, this problem occurred maybe two or three times in the whole game.

One of the biggest irritations in this game is how the bells work. You can buy three bells, one for hidden Toads, one for treasure, and one for hidden blocks. They ring when one of those is close, but I can’t tell the radius of those rings. Especially now when I’m trying to find some parts I have missed during my main playthrough.

But my biggest disappointment is the lack of a completion reward and post-game content. There is barely any post-game content to find and the completion reward is just a 5-second extended ending that changes barely anything. Oh, yes. You get a gold star instead of a silver star on your profile.

And with that said, I have said almost everything I wanted to say about this game. I did leave certain things out of this review because I wanted you to have some surprises when you play this game. So yeah, it’s time for the conclusion.

Wrapping up

The bad:

-The bells can be a bit irritating.

-There is no post-game/completion reward.

-The walking speed can be a bit slow.

-Overall, the game is too easy. You have to create the challenge yourself.

The good:

+ Charming story (even when there was more that could have been done with it)

+ Amazing soundtrack.

+ Creative puzzles and battle mechanics.

+ …

Final thoughts:

It’s quite possible that you will see this game on my top 10 games of 2020 list. This game came out of nowhere and really blew me away. I was expecting an “okay” or a fine game but I was blown away. I can understand that Paper Mario veterans expected more out of this game, but I don’t think we are going to get an RPG Paper Mario in the near future.

I think that this game took major steps in the right direction of an enjoyable adventure game. I enjoyed my time with this game and I can recommend this game to everybody who enjoys adventure and/or puzzle games.

The biggest flaw of the game is that there is just a major lack of depth. There is so much more that could have been done and the game is over after 20-25 hours of gameplay. But, these 20-25 hours are quite enjoyable.

But this game gives me high hopes for the next Paper Mario game. Since if this is the direction that they are taking with the series, I’m carefully optimistic about the series again. While there is a very vocal veteran fanbase that wants the old school style of Paper Mario back, I think that is better suited for the Mario & Luigi series. I think that Paper Mario is better suited for games like this. But, that might be just me, I still have to beat the original Paper Mario trilogy.

But, I’m trying to see this game apart from the whole series that it originated from. And when I look at this game as a standalone game, I’m quite impressed with the game. Compared to the two previous games, this game makes a ton of improvements that make the game more enjoyable and entertaining to play.

Any 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 another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Score: 85/100

First Impression: The Great Perhaps (Switch) ~ I Dunno, Time Travel Perhaps?

H2x1_NSwitchDS_TheGreatPerhaps_image1600wDrageus pageSteam pageDevelopers websiteNintendo microsite

Today I want to talk about a game that asks a question. The question of how the world would look like after a big disaster occurred. But, more on the story later in the article. To give full disclosure, I got a review code for this game from the developers of the Switch port Drageus Games for this review. As usual, Drageus Games asked that I gave my 100% true honest opinion. So, that’s what you are going to read in this article. Now, Drageus Games didn’t publish the PC-version. That’s been handled by Daedalic Entertainment of Deponia fame. Anyways, let’s dive right into this adventure game and look at what it has to offer. Should you play or skip this game? Let’s find out. One thing before I continue, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article. 

I dunno, time travel perhaps?

ss_80c8f6807052540764e0c21b6a70cd8f9f84b89b.1920x1080I already started to explain the story in the introduction paragraph of this article. In this game, Earth is destroyed by natural disasters. You play an astronaut that was in his spaceship during the disasters. Now, when you descent back to Earth, you find a lamp that aids you to see the past and interact with it. Together with this lamp, you set out on a journey to find your family and explore what’s left of the Earth.

While the setup of the story is completely different, the story reminded me of another game a bit. In Time Hollow, you also have an object that allows you to interact with the past and you go through a very emotional adventure. But, that’s beside the point, I just wanted to mention that game if the premise of this game interests you, there are also other games with that sort of story nature.

The writing in this game is decent. From what I have seen so far, there was nothing that stuck out as really good or really bad to me. The only thing that stuck a bit out with the mediocre voice acting. I really can’t put my finger onto why but I felt that some lines were either a bit forced or strangely delivered. Maybe it’s the writing itself or the pacing, I can’t tell why exactly but the voice acting isn’t the strongest point in this game.

All in all, this game isn’t that long. This game can take you 2-4 hours of playtime. Currently, I’m in the middle of the game. You do explore various locations from a metro station to a zoo. The thing is, this game isn’t 3D, so it’s quite linear. But, I’ll go more in-depth on this when I’m going to talk about the gameplay.

Trial and error

Screenshot_19

This game uses an auto-save system. I’m so glad that it does since this game can be quite tricky at the beginning. One of the first areas you visit is a metro station and I have to say that it wasn’t the most enjoyable experience I had.

I think that two things made my experience frustrating that can be fixed or addressed in an update. The first thing is that the icons for interaction or way too small. The size is bordering on too small when you play the game in handheld mode but when I was playing in the dock, I had to sit a bit too close to my TV for comfort to see the interaction icons.

The 2nd issue was the biggest cause of my frustration. I wasn’t able to get used to the delay of the time traveling. If you travel to the past in the metro station, you have to look out for a train. Your AI-companion does warn you when the train is approaching, but you do still have some time to switch back to the present. I always started to switch back when I visually saw the train approaching. To save yourself some frustration, don’t do that. The delay is long enough so that the train will always hit you and kill you. Keep that delay in mind.

Speaking about that delay, there is a mechanic that I would have implemented quite differently. That is the time you can stay in the past. After a while, a sound effect starts playing to let you know that your time is almost up and that you are going to switch back to the present. The issue I have with this is that the only sign you get is done with audio. Not everybody can hear the audio or is focused on audio-cues. I think it would have been greater if some sort of animation or effect started displaying when the audio starts. You could argue that the flashing of the lamp is a visual clue, I give you that. But, you do have, give or take, a second before it switches back when the final flash happened.

Now, how does this game play? It’s almost like a puzzle-platformer without the platforming. By using your lamp, you have to solve puzzles to go back to the past and the present. Compare the idea a bit with the Harp of Ages from The Legend of Zelda – Oracle of Ages.

There is some trial and error involved in this game. Because there is no real hint system in this game, you do have to try everything you can think of. Unlike the Steam version that has achievements that can help you a bit to steer you in the right direction, you are on your own in this game. You don’t even have some sort of map system or “to do” list that can help you remember what your next objective is. So, this game is a bit old school in that regard. Now, there are achievements in this game but they are less present than in the Steam version.

While it’s easy to die in the present, the respawn time is rather quick. So, if you failed to solve a puzzle, don’t worry, it doesn’t take long in order for you to give it another go. And because the game autosaves frequently, you don’t have to worry about losing too much progress.

Comic book?

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Visually, this game is pretty amazing. Everything has this hand-drawn look to it and is amazingly detailed. Sadly, there were a few moments where I felt that some details were either missed or not clear enough. For example, in the metro station, you can’t pass through a door because it’s damaged. But, the visual damage on the door is only a few scratches on the door itself. That’s like saying that a bush blocks your way and you are unable to walk around it… Isn’t that right Pokémon?

The visual presentation is like you are playing through a comic book. It’s quite clear that a lot of work and thought has been put into the visuals and the backgrounds of this game. I have to compliment the artists on their work since they did an amazing job.

The animations on the other hand aren’t bad but aren’t good either. The jump animation could have been better for example. The character is a bit too static but strangely, a part of the suit does move.

The audiovisual presentation of this game is decent. The music fits the theming and atmosphere of the game like a glove. Now, there isn’t an option to adjust the volume of the music and/or sound effects in the menu. You can only change the master volume in the options.

When digging around in the options menu, I found out that the voice acting can also be in Russian. Apart from that, you can also choose to change the language of the subtitles and the menu system. I find it very strange that you can also change the language of only the menu system honestly. I think that it would have made more sense to merge the subtitle and the menu language option.

So, the UI of this game. Earlier I talked about the too-small interaction icons. The rest of the UI is good apart from some minor things I would have changed. One thing is that I think that the word “Areas” or “Sections” would have fitted better in the main menu instead of “Levels”.

And the second thing I would have changed is that I think that it would have been great that next to “Continue” the name of the area you were in appeared. But this brings me to another point. Why does this game have only one save slot? I mean, this genre screams to have multiple save slots. Especially when you share your Switch! Image that your sibling finished the game and you had to find the point where you were at.

Something that I personally find a huge negative in this game is the lack of an help section. Just image that you take a break from playing this game and you want to pick it back up. That means that you have to relearn all the different mechanics and controls of this game from scrath. That’s a pain in my opinion. It’s just a small feature that can save a lot of people headaches.

Now, I haven’t spoken about the controls. They are quite resposive and I didn’t had a lot of problems with them. Apart from the delay of switching back and forth between the past and the present. But, is this a problem with the controls or the gameplay? You can give arguments for both options.

When I’m reading back this article, you might think that this game isn’t the best or is mediocre. Well, that isn’t 100% true. This game is quite charming and you feel that a lot of care has been put into this game. But, it’s quite rough around the edges. If you are looking for a really polished game, I have to say that you should look elsewhere. If you don’t mind a game that’s a bit rough around the edges, I think this game can be for you.

If you enjoy adventure, point-and-click and/or puzzle games, this game might be an enjoyable time waster. With some additional polish, this game can get even better and then I wouldn’t say that it’s rough around the edges anymore.

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

Preview: Saint Kotar: The Yellow Mask (PC – Steam) ~ It’s A Holy Sin.

capsule_616x353Developers’ siteFull game websiteKickstarterSteam page for the prologue

Ah, point-and-click adventure games. One of the best game genres that there is in my opinion. I do love myself a good point-and-click game. Now, you could start a debate if games like Ace Attorney, Corpse Party, Zero Escape series are also point-and-click games. I know that they are visual novels but I find that there is a lot of overlap between both genres. But that might be an interesting topic for a gamer’s thoughts article. Now, today I want to talk about a game that Red Martyr Entertainment is developing called Saint Kotar. They have launched a Kickstarter to raise more money to develop this game even further, you can find the link to the Kickstarter at the start of this article and it’s ending this Friday, July 24th, 2020. So, if this game seems interesting to you, feel free to take a look at that page. But, how would you know if this game is interesting? Well, by playing the free prologue on Steam of course. In this article, you will find my 100% honest opinion on this prologue, as per request of the developer. So, let’s dive right into it. And per usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the article in the comment section down below. 

Reviewed version: v1.3.

It’s A Holy Sin

fisherman_wallpaper.jpgWhen you start a new game in this prologue, you get introduced to the main character of this game. Just by the opening quote, you know which themes this game will tackle. The game is advertised as a dark psychological horror adventure game talking about religion. The story starts in what looks like a hellscape or limbo. The main character feels that he is being punished for something is he is unable to remember.

I don’t want to give a more in depth explanation of the story in this game since the demo is 2 hours long and otherwise I might easily get into spoiler territory. But, if you are interested in games about the exploration of trauma and sins, I think that this game won’t dissapoint you.

The whole prologue is completely voice acted in English and only English. Now, the game got translated to German, Russian, Polish, Turkish, Brazilian, Czech, Spanish, and Chinese. Anything but the voice acting is translated and localized. Since I understand a small bit of German, I replayed the first section with German subtitles and I have to say that I’m quite impressed with the quality of it.

Before I continue to talk about writing, I want to talk about the voice acting. The voice acting is quite well done but it’s on the edge of overacting in my opinion. I can’t really put my finger on it but I felt that some lines weren’t natural enough. But, the fact that I have played in several theatre productions might have something to do with it, since I can get quite nitpicky in details when it comes to delivering lines.

The writing in this game is quite impressive. It strikes that fine balance of creepy and being realistic. Now, something that destroys the immersion a bit for me is the animations, but I’ll talk more about that in a later part of the article. To avoid spoilers, I don’t think it’s a good idea to talk more about the writing. But before we go on to the next section, I do want to talk about this. The pacing is sometimes a bit off. Sometimes there is some downtime where the game looks like it’s soft locked and doing nothing. Most likely, it’s loading the next voice line in the background, but it feels a bit off.

Where is my Bible?

20200719134642_1The artwork in this game is amazing. The enviroments this game takes place in are amazingly detailed and feel realistic. The only complaint I have about the visuals is that it’s clear that somethings stick out a bit. The best example I can give are the charater models. Now, they aren’t bad but 3D characters on heavily detailed 2D image? It somehow doesn’t fit in my mind.

One advise I can give you is to set the brightness to max. There are some sections of the game I thought the game froze but it was playing an animation. That reminds me, I found it quite strange that when the screen went black to load the next scene in, there was no animation on the screen. It was just black with the sound and music where playing in the background. Anyhow, when I set the brightness to the maximum, I was able to see more of the game and some parts didn’t felt too hidden anymore.

When talking about the visuals, we also have to talk about the animations. Now, remember that I said earlier that it broke the immersion for me? Well, let me explain why. In the prologue, the animations feel unfinished and they are inconsistent. Let me give an example of them being inconsistent. In this prologue, you play as different characters. During the game, you meet Nikolay. Nikolay’s mouth moves when he speaks yet for some strange reason, the mouth of the main character doesn’t move while he is speaking. Maybe I’m overanalysing this since it’s quite possible that most of it are inner thoughts, then again, the mouth doesn’t move during dialogue…

What do I mean by unfinished animations? Well, it feels like there is so much more that can be done by adding more animations to the characters while interacting with things. The characters feel a bit to static, locked in their idle frames of animation. Now, I’m not saying that the animations are horrible or bad. Far from it. But, when I’m saying is that they aren’t there quite yet. Just let the character move a bit more and the game will feel a lot better.

It’s getting there

cottage_exterior_wallpaperThere is some minor pixel hunting in this game. This could have been avoided when sometimes hotspots just sprakled or something in that nature. Maybe this could be a difficulty option like a lot of hidden object games do. This could help people when they feel stuck. And then I looked at the “Help” section of the pause menu. This feature is in the game, but it gets never explained. Just press the space bar.

Also, I found it quite strange that when you started the credits from the main menu, you get a message as if you had beaten the game. This is quite strange, since I just wanted to check out how big the team as research for this article.

Overall, this game is really getting there. There are a lot of detailing and polishing work to be done. Thankfully, the developers are quite responisive and open for feedback so I think the full game will be a lot better compared to the prologue. But don’t misunderstand me here, I’m not saying that the prologue isn’t good. I had an amazing time while playing this game.

I’m very impressed by the quality of this game and I’m crossing my fingers for the Kickstarter to reach it’s goal. Since I honestly believe in this team and from what I can see in this prologue, I think this game is going to become quite interesting. So, that’s why I might come over quite harsh in this article in certain sections. I just want to see the game get even better then it currently is. Sometimes, it are just some small details that need to be changed.

For example, the color of the buttons in the main menu are too similar to the colors in the background. The “Options” and “Exit Game” buttons almost blend in with the background for me. Speaking about the UI, it’s extremely well done but it would be bettter if some sound effects would play and if the “ESC” key also exited you out of menu’s.

Speaking about sound effects, they are pretty good. They set the tone and atmosphere quite well. Including the soundtrack of this game, it sells the whole atmosphere without a lot of issues.

In conclusion, this game is pretty decent. I’m seriously impressed with the quality of the game so far. If this is the baseline level of quality that the team can deliver, I’m very excited to see the full game in the future. The game is scheduled to be released in the summer of next year when you look at the deliverly time on the Kickstarter page.

Thank you Red Martyr for this oppertunity and introducing me to this project. I’m going to follow it for sure and whenever the full game is released, you may be sure that I’m going to write an article about it. So yeah, if you are into point-and-click games, horror games and/or adventure games…. I can recommend this game.

And with that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game for now. I want to thank you so much for reading 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.

Game Quicky: Archaica- The Path Of Light (Switch) ~ Pointing Lazers

Archaica

Steam store pageNintendo.com pageOfficial websiteDrageus Games page

It’s no big secret that I love to play various types of games. From shooters to more relaxing games like Forager. Now, I enjoy playing casual games like the ones on Bigfishgames.com. So, when Drageus Games sent me a press release about Archaica and I saw it was based on one of the classic light and mirror puzzles you have to do in those games, it grabbed my attention right away. So, I took the press code I got and I started working on this first impression/review article of the game that will have 100% my own opinion. So, without further ado, let’s see how well Two Mammoths game got ported to the Nintendo Switch. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on the game and/or the content of this article. 

The good

Archiaca

The story in this game is pretty relaxed. The story is about you discovering the acient secrets of an old and long forgotten civilization. Yet, since this is a puzzle game and in most of the puzzle games the story can be a bit… mediocre, the developers focused more on the atmosphere and tying the puzzles into the lore.

This is something they did quite well. The story is being told through various hidden collectables and it’s a joy to play through a puzzle game that way. The only “ehrm” thing about it, is that it’s a bit ruined by the fact that there is no real “log” of the things you discover. So, if you want to read previous entries, you are out of luck.

Now, the gameplay is quite easy to understand. You have to place mirrors on the right location on the grid and get them in the right oriantion for them to bounce the light right into the crystals. The really responsive controls make this game easy to pick up and play.

While this game can be fun in short and longer play sessions, the thing that kept me going was the atmosphere. The lore building storytelling combined with the amazing visual presenation and animation, it’s really good for a first indie game project. Together with the mysterious Aztec-themed music, the sound design is pretty well done as well.

The difficulty of the game can be a bit frustrating, since it’s the answer is always a bit tricky, but the satisfaction of finally figuring out that level you were stuck on is such a great feeling.

The game autosaves your progress. It’s a joy, since it also saves the collectables you have found in uncompleted levels.

The bad

ss_d871b37b8608ef3297d35735f074f0efe593847c.600x338

So, I don’t know who is to blame here but on the official Drageus website, they claim that this game has an unique hint system and that it has dynamic boards.

I’m sorry but this is a bit of false advertising. Let me begin first about the “dynamic boards”. Since it’s a term that I didn’t find anywhere else, it’s a bit up for whatever we make of it. And that can cause some expectations that aren’t realistic like randomly generated puzzles.

But the publishers aren’t navite English speakers so I can forgive that to an extend. Something I can’t forgive and found quite dissapointing is the actual lack of a hint system. I’m sorry, but I was unable to find this “unique hint system”. Now, if they meant with “unique hint system” the fact that you get more explanation about a certain type of mirror when you find the three glowing pedestals hidden in the level, then I don’t call that a hint system but a tutorial.

Sadly enough, there are some other things I can’t let off the hook either. The menu UI, especially the method to return to a previous menu is a bit cluncky. You have to hold B to go to a previous menu. But, the annoying thing is that there is no indication of the game registering your input.

Also, the options menu is a bit unpolished. You don’t go to the top option when you scrolled down to the bottom, and the game doesn’t tell you that the options autosave when you exit. So imagne my surprise when my game was suddenly in a different language because I was looking at the different options for this review.

The option to replay the intro is just filler. I’m sorry but the intro is just a few seconds long and has just one textbox with a bit of the story.

So yeah, with that said, I think I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. Apart from my conclusion here. What is my actual conclusion? Let’s find out.

The conclusion

This game is a strange beast. While the game is really enjoyable to play and I had a lot of fun with it… There are some things that just ruin the experience to a degree. From the lack of a promised hint system to unpolished UI.

I’m under the impression that this game tried to be something it isn’t. It could have been so much more when the story was more fleshed out and you had some sort of log you could read previous entries. Or when you had a hint system and a reason to actually collect those shine glowing orbs.

I really wanted to like this game since the audiovisual design and the gameplay are excellent. Especially the audiovisual design is exceptionally well done for an indie title. But alas, it isn’t meant to be.

I can recommend this game to casual and hardcore fans of the puzzle genre. If the premise of lazor and mirror puzzles interests you, I think that this game might be worth your time but don’t expect the next Talos Principle from this game.

I might sound a bit harsh in my conclusion and I do have a reason for that. I find it such a shame that such a beautiful game is pulled down by such simple mistakes. This is something the developers can fix through patches and content updates. So, please. Just polish up the game a bit more and it can be a real gem. But for now, I think I’ll just enjoy my unpolished rough diamond.

Thank you so much for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope I’ll be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Score: 60/100

NekoJonez’s May 2020 Update

NekoJonez176p_(long)Hello, there my dear readers. I think it’s high time to write an update article to talk about a few things that are going on behind the scenes. Since there is a lot going in the world and in my personal life. This update article might be brief, but I hope you will still enjoy reading it. Anyways, let’s get right into the news!

The amazing GIF has been made by the amazing Gao Li.

Personal life

So, due to COVID-19, the world is in a strange place. Currently, in Belgium (where I live), we are in the process of exiting our lockdown. The schools are going to somewhat resume, the companies will restart their production, stores will reopen… Of course, step by step.

During the lockdown, I didn’t sit still at all. I’m working on a ton of projects and putting in a lot of effort into my job. Speaking of my job, something amazing happened! My dream job since childhood has always been working in a school. When I started to develop my passion for computer science, I wanted to become an IT guy at a big school. In December 2019,  I started working in a school in Ghent parttime as my dream job. But, after the week after the Easter Holidays, something magical happened. I got that job full time now. So, yes. I’m now working full time in my dream job. I can’t honestly believe this happened to me. Thank you!

So, I have been spending quite a lot of time on my job. Since a ton of schools now switched to online classes, the IT staff has a ton of support work. There were days that I helped teachers from the early morning until late in the evening. That means that I sometimes didn’t have time to prepare and/or write an article for my blog.

On top of that, my theatre group started something quite unique. We are acting out our version of a popular TV game show here in Belgium called “De Slimste Mens Ter Wereld”. Freely translated, this means: “The Smartest Person on the Planet”. Sadly enough, there isn’t an English article to be found of the show, so I can’t link it to explain the whole format.

Now, the original person who was editing the whole show wasn’t able to continue working on the show. That means that somebody else has to take over. And I’m one of the only people in the group who has the skills and the expertise to actually edit the show. The show airs on Monday – Wednesday, and Fridays. Now, I work to give or take 10 – 15 hours on each episode. So guess what that means, even less time to prepare articles for my blog.

On top of that, there are a few things happening in my private life that makes my life even busier. Things like me studying a new programming language and developing a tool for some friends of mine. So yeah, I haven’t sat still these days.

Blog news

Now, besides working on all the personal projects mentioned above, there are a few things that are blog related as well. Currently, I have 3 developer requests in the pipeline and I have some friends who wanted me to look at their game to help them out in the next projects.

I’m going to try to write these developer requests first before I write about any other games. That means I have to remake my whole schedule. But that isn’t such a big deal.

Currently, I want to focus my time and energy on my job and my theatre group. I think that this isn’t going to come as a surprise, but I think that May might be a big light on articles. Since I’m working on so many things, I don’t always have the time, creativity, energy, and/or motivation to work on an article each week. With a bit of luck, I might be able to publish two articles this month instead of four, but we shall see. It’ll all depend on the time I can put into my blog and prepare myself. Honestly, I prefer delaying an article instead of rushing one out of the door.

To give you an idea to show you how busy I have been, I have published over 500 articles by this point and I haven’t written a special article about it yet. On top of that, I have been blogging for 10 years now! So yeah, there will be a special article for that in the (near) future!

Besides that, I’m also working on fixing a ton of things on my blog. From typos to fixing dead links, broken images, and things like that. Also, I’m toying around with the idea to move my website to a hosting service. But, I’m not 100% sure about that, and undertaking that project will be for the summer holidays at the earliest.

Apart from that, I currently own an XBOX360 now. One of my friends sold his one and I bought it from him. So, that means I might be able to write reviews and articles about XBOX and XBOX360 games in the future. Are there any games I should check out? Feel free to leave a comment about that.

And with that, I have said everything I wanted to say. I’m sorry for the shorter length of the article but that’s all I have time for now. I hope you still enjoyed reading this article and I hope to be able to welcome you to another article in the future. But until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

First Impressions: The Hive (Steam) ~ War With And Of Bugs

thehiveSteam Store page

One of my favorite game genres is RTS games. The satisfaction that you get from building up your empire, setting up an economy, and preparing yourself to defeat the enemy. It can be such a rewarding feeling. Games like Age of Empires II, Rise of Nations, or Rise & Fall – Civilizations At War are just three of the amazing games I have played to death when I was a kid. Now, when I got a mail from the fine folks over at Skydome Entertainment with a press code for The Hive and full freedom with my article, I was extremely excited. This game has been under development for several years now. The first development blog posts on the Steam Store page date all the way back to December 2014 and the latest patch has been released on March 9th, 2020, which is version 1.203. This is the version I’ll talk about in this article, so if this game got an update, it’s possible that some things in this article or no longer relevant. So, without further ado, I think it’s high time that we take a look at this game and it’s worth your time or if you should skip this game. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article down below.

War With Bugs

TheHive2Something happened to the world. The story of this game starts off in 2175, where our planet Earth got attacked and destroyed. Humanity was able to build a ship and leave Earth before it was completely destroyed and went off a journey to look for a new planet to life. After a human lifetime of searching, a new planet in a new solar system was found. The humans were taken out of their cryogenic sleep to start-up life anew in the harsh climate. But, something is alive underneath the crust of that planet. Something awakens in the City Of Ancients that might prove a big issue for the humans and the catch is, it’s you that takes control of the new species and try and help to find it’s old glory.

You play as The Hive and you are the leader of bugs living in The City Of Ancients. The story gets more interesting in the further chapters but I’m not going to spoil it. To be honest, I got some Overlord vibes from the story. Maybe because both games are about minions you control and have their own unique abilities. The atmosphere is similar to a certain degree. The plot of this game is quite enjoyable and it didn’t disappoint at all.

One thing I should mention is that this game has no skirmish mode as far as I know. So, that means if you finish the 12-ish hour-long campaign, you basically have beaten the game. You could try to beat it on a higher difficulty to challenge yourself but outside that, the game has no real replay value after defeating the campaign.

Now, this game also has voice acting. The voice acting in this game is quite impressive. The production value is impressive for being an indie title. It feels that the voice actors put their heart and soul into the characters and gave them a nice personality. I especially liked the effects they put on the voice for the Insect Advisor.

While this game takes place in a magical universe, there isn’t a lot of technobabble. For those who don’t know that term, it means that everything has its own name and there are a million exposition dumps. If you have played an RTS game in the past, you will know right what to do and the war of the bugs can begin.

War of Bugs

TheHive1So, the gameplay loop in this game is that you have to explore the caves underneath the planet to find a way up. You learn a lot about the War and the fight against the other species that took place. While most levels use the usual RTS gameplay loop of build city, build the economy, build an army, find enemy, attack the enemy army, destroy enemy base; a few puzzles and unique twists are thrown into the mix.

In terms of gameplay and mechanics, I have a mixed feeling. There are things that I enjoyed quite a lot and there are things that baffled me. Let’s do a round of good thing – bad thing to sum a few things up.

So, while building your empire, you can not only rotate around the camera but the buildings as well. Man, I love features like these. It makes it less awkward when I placed a barracks in a corner and my units spawn out of a wall from the building. Alas, the building of buildings has one thing that I found frustrating. I have gotten so used to the fact that you can cue up buildings to build, but that doesn’t work in this game.

The gathering of resources works in a unique way. Food doesn’t rot away and workers don’t have to walk back and forth to the hive. A special cart rides out from the nearest gathering point to collect the resources. So, your workers put all the gather resources on a pile and these carts come and pick it up. The resources don’t even rot away and you don’t have to do anything for it to collect it. The only “downside” is that you can only use one worker per resource gathering point. Now, what’s the bad thing here?

Well, there is a soft-lock potential. The resources aren’t infinite. Now, imagine this scenario in the Age of Empires II. There is no more wood on the map but you need wood for your archers. What can you do? Well, you can build up a ton of farms and trade that food over for gold to buy wood at the market. This avoids the issue that if everything of one resource is gathered, it’s impossible to get. Now, in The Hive, there is no such thing as a market or a farm. Meaning that every decision counts. Thankfully, you really have to make bad decision after bad decision in order for you to soft-lock yourself but the fact that the potential is there always worried me.

The UI of this game is pretty impressive. The options menu is something that I can only praise. An explanation of what key does what? It’s a feature I’ll miss in other games. If only, a similar explanation appeared for the graphic options, but hey, that would clutter the UI of the graphics options a bit too much. Yet, I have two things that I disliked about the UI. First of all, if I may nitpick, I found the text on the buttons on the pause menu a bit hard to read since the text color and the color of the buttons are somewhat close to each other. And second, the visual design of the menu’s that you open using the pause menu are so different in design… I mean, the pause menu has a sort of cave theming like the UI in-game, and suddenly, a more space / modern UI appears for the options menu.

The fact that your vision cone appears on the mini-map is a great feature and it even rotates with you when you rotate the camera. Yet, I do have a complaint. It doesn’t change size when you zoom and/or out and especially, it always appears a bit underneath the place where you click on the mini-map. I can understand why this happens since the location of the camera isn’t where you click but a bit underneath that spot. But, it gave me a feeling I wasn’t able to click where I wanted on the mini-map.

It’s great that you can skip cutscenes and even have subtitles. But why aren’t both possible in the opening cutscene? A minor nitpick is that there are some minor grammar errors in the game (“Click of the paintings” instead “Click on the paintings” in the second level)

There is this unique mechanic where you can find treasures to upgrade your units to dissolve them for DNA points to unlock special upgrades for your units. It’s a perfect balancing act since you need to decide if you are going to dissolve the treasures and get an upgrade or use them to improve your unit(s). If only that would be explained in some sort of tutorial, which the game somewhat lacks.

Just a bit more

giphyIf you read the previous section, it might look that I’m ripping this game a new one. That there are so many things missing or wrong with this game, that it’s not a great game to play. Well, then I think you got the wrong idea. I loved my time with the game and I found it a bit disappointing that some features I expect weren’t there.

Also, the price for this game is only 15€. So, it would be wrong of me to compare this game to big titles with way bigger budgets behind it. The thing is that I enjoy this game so much, that it frustrated me that the potential that this game has is unused.

Take for example the visual presentation. The artwork, unit design, level design… they all look amazing. You really feel like being in an abandoned cave where an old civilization used to live. The animations really make the world come alive. It’s so adorable that your workers dig into the ground to create a building and that it rises up like a sort of mole hole.

The audiovisual design is outstanding as well. This game has an orchestral soundtrack that reminds me of the reboot Tomb Raider games, Rise & Fall – Civilizations At War, and other similar games. It sounds familiar on one hand but new and fresh on the other hand. It’s a blast to listen too. The sound effects only add to the great atmosphere. The audiovisual design is so well done that I can excuse that some things don’t have sound effects or voice lines like when you click on an option where you don’t have enough DNA points for or certain interactions in your inventory are silent.

This game is a blast to play but you have to take into account that there are some things that don’t really work or work in the way you expect them to work. I have given several examples in the previous section, but here is another one. Why does your cursor not change when you hover over a resource or why don’t your worker acknowledge that interaction is going to happen?

This is why I said earlier in the article that I feel quite mixed about the gameplay. I enjoy playing this game but the final touches are just not there in certain cases. Now, I’m not saying that this game is unpolished or anything since there is a lot of attention to detail in most mechanics but not in all of them.

I think that this game could use another major content update or update that just focusses on making the game a bit more accessible. I think if a tutorial is added, something to avoid the soft lock potential and the functions that miss sound effects or voice lines are added; that this game gets even better.

So, I can’t wait to finish the final 5 levels I still have left to play. Since I really enjoyed my time with the game. I highly recommend this game to everybody who enjoys sci-fi games, RTS games, and even to people who enjoy adventure games. This game is quite enjoyable to play and experience. It’s an enjoyable RTS experience that I won’t soon forget. Congrats to the small Finnish team of 6 people who put their heart, soul, blood, sweat, and tears into this game since I have to say, the end result is something to be proud of and it shows a ton of potential for future games and/or more adventures in the world of The Hive.

And with that, I conclude my first impression. I want to thank you for reading and 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: Silicon Dreams – A New Kickstarter Release

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Hello there, dear readers. Jonez here. Before I let you enjoy the presskit of Silicon Dreams, I want to give you some background information. This game is under development by Clockwork Bird. This studio is the studio that also brought us Spinnortality. A game I took a look at in the summer of 2017. Today they are presenting their new game and the Kickstarter to fund the development. At first, I wanted to write an article about it but due to the lack of time, I was unable to get an article out before the end of the Kickstarter. That’s why I’m publishing the press kit for now. But don’t worry, you will get an article on this game later down the line since the idea behind the game interests me and I’m looking forward to telling you what I think about it. But in any case, without further ado… Here is the press release!

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Short pitch

Interrogate androids in this cyberpunk conversation sim. Question androids, manipulate their emotions, gain their trust. Will you expose their secrets to the company, or risk everything to help them achieve independence?

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Long pitch

Artificial intelligence: it’s never been more advanced, more convincing or more affordable! Believable humanoid androids are as common as smartphones. A lawful and subservient android will be treated fairly. Renegades and non-conformists, or those that glitch too often, will, of course, be terminated.

It is your job to tell us which is which. Company policy encourages:

  • Investigation: delve into an android’s life story to truly understand them.
  • Emotional manipulation:  if an android trusts you it is more likely to share its secrets; if it’s angry, it may let something slip; or, perhaps it could be frightened into obedience?
  • Diagnosis: does the android conform to manufacturer specifications?
  • Action: should this android be wiped, or is it fit to return to service?
  • DO NOT allow glitched androids to escape. Our top priority is easing customer anxiety about “rogue androids” and “liberation movements”; we cannot afford to feed into that panic.

Company note: sympathizers who throw around words like “exploitation” and “slavery” will be terminated.

Kickstarter:
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1870604859/silicon-dreams-interrogate-androids-in-a-cyberpunk-future

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Demo: https://clockwork-bird.itch.io/silicon-dreams

Trailer: https://youtu.be/X7tOQh3r7ao

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Screenshots

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Preview: SpeedLimit (Steam) ~ Shall We Run Away?

speedlimit-verticalgamecover6x9Official websiteSteam Store page

Remember “All You Can Eat“? Well, the people over at GameChuck are developing a new game and it’s called Speed Limit. A few weeks ago, a demo version released to test out the game and gather feedback for further development of the game. Today, I’m going to take a look at the game and talk about my 100% honest opinions on the game with the provided press copy. Now, do keep in mind that this game is under development and that I only played the demo. So, things mentioned in this article might be changed when the full version comes out in the second quarter of 2021. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article. 

If you are interested in this game and you want to read more or even the press materials like screenshots, trailers and other interesting things, you can read the press kit right here. There are also dev logs on their YouTube channel.

Editorial note: I have written this review while playing the demo version released on March 16th, 2020.

The game

Asset-8 (1)In this game, you play as a guy just commuting on the train. Suddenly, a strange man walks into the cart with a gun and collapses into your arms. The annoying thing is that it knocks out the phone from your hand and changes it with the gun. Well, this catches the attention of the secret agent on the train and send the whole SWAT Team after you. Now, it’s time to escape their grip and save yourself before it’s too late. Your goal is to avoid all their fire and dodge every last enemy that gets thrown your way since one hit kills you.

The extremely difficult adventure can easily be controlled by a few buttons. The arrow keys are for moving to sideways, the down key is for ducking and the up key is to aim up. The default keys for shooting it’s the space bar and for jumping it’s the control key. The controls are easily rebinded in the options menu. Oh, and let’s not forget to mention that this game also can be controlled by a controller.

Speaking of the options menu, the only other things you can currently do is change the volume of the music or reset the options. The consistency of the menu system sticks out and makes it easy to use. The color scheme is used throughout the whole game and that’s a nice thing.

This game also has an amazing audiovisual presentation. Let’s talk first about the visuals. If you ever played a game like Heart of Darkness on the PS1 or Another World on PC, the pixel art will feel extremely familiar. The animations and the visuals are extremely impressive for a game that’s still under active development and still has at least a year left in development.

Speed-Limit-bg1Couple that with an amazing tense tech/dance soundtrack and you have the great audiovisual presentation that this game delivers. The sound effects get the same praise and I have to say that the immersion sometimes is extremely high.

Now, something that’s also quite interesting to know is that this game has several gameplay styles. The variety of this game is quite impressive. For the sake of surprise, I won’t spoil too much, but a motorcycle and plane play a role in this game.

The game also has achievements, this is quite interesting and gives a peek to the feature of this game. Currently, the demo has three stages for us to enjoy. And I have to admit, I have trouble reaching the ending of the first stage. But hey, I’m ready to try and try again, since the adrenaline kick will be amazing when I finally do it.

Comments

Screenshot_3Now, it’s time to give my opinion on the game so far. If it isn’t clear from the previous section, I really enjoy the game and I think that the finished product will have a lot of potential. But, there are some flaws I think that could be changed.

Let’s start with a minor thing. The “Reset To Default” button in the options menu also resets the volume of the music and sound effects. I think an additional button to only reset the control bindings would be a great idea.

I can understand that this game is supposed to be difficult and that it’s a game of memorization. But, something that annoyed me to no end was the fact you can’t shoot while crouch walking. You need to be at a standstill and duck in order for you to shoot while crouching. I felt that it’s a bit unfair since sometimes your execution speed can mean the difference between life or death.

At the current moment, there isn’t enough feedback in the sound department. There is no game over sound and the animation can easily be missed. Just give a little sound effect that the player lost before you respawn. Now, the respawn happens quite fast so, it isn’t that big of a deal as soon as you get used to it.

Also, I think that the difficulty curve ramps up just a bit too fast. By the 2nd cart, you get swarmed from above, left and right. When you survive that, the next enemy has a shield that bounces your bullets back and because you barely have time to attack the enemies from above from the previous cart, they attack you from the previous cart while you are still trying to figure out how to beat the enemy with the shield. It can be quite overwhelming. Then again, this might be part of the charm, but it’s quite frustrating when you barely get the time to get used to certain enemies or patterns.

You might have read it earlier, I haven’t been able yet to beat the first stage. I think that I came quite close, but there is always something that I overlook that spells disaster. Now, because of that reason, I won’t comment if the game saves your progress or not, but the fact that there isn’t an option to reset the save file in the options menu has me a bit worried that this has to be done all in one go. And if you die, you have to restart everything from the start. Then again, you might just get an option to either continue or start a new game when you reached the second level.

And that’s currently all the feedback I can give for the demo I played. So, I think it’s time for my conclusion on this article and my final thoughts on this game.

Overall opinion

I know that this “review” is going to be out of date as soon as the demo gets an update or when the game fully releases. I’m fully aware that my reflexes aren’t quick enough to play this style of game optimally. But, that doesn’t stop me from enjoying this game.

Before I started to write this article, I had to keep in mind that this article is both a preview to introduce this game to my readers and it’s a feedback article. The difference is that this time, I shared my feedback for the developer in my article instead of in a mail.

The direction that this game is taking is interesting. In this article, I have talked about games like Another World and Heart of Darkness. And, this game seriously reminds me of those style of games, extremely difficult but rewarding games to beat.

While this game wouldn’t be my first choice when I’m buying games, I’m glad that the developers provided me with a press copy since I want to beat this game to try and get better at these style of games. The “just one more try” mentality got to me for this game. Maybe the fact that the soundtrack of this game is so catchy might have to do with it.

If the game gets even more polish and gets just a bit more balanced in terms of difficulty, I think this game is going to do great in the indie scene. The foundation is already there and if this is only the demo so far… I’m looking forward to the full version. And you may be sure that when I notice that this game gets an update, that I test it out and help the developers to polish up this game to be even better.

If this game sounds interesting to you, I advise that you keep an eye on the Steam Store page and wishlist it. Since this is a game you don’t want to miss if you enjoy games like Super Meat Boy, Another World, Heart of Darkness and games of that nature. Or if you enjoy highspeed action games.

Before I ramble on and on, I think it’s a great idea that I close off this article. 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 another article, but until then: have a great rest of your day and take care.