Tag Archives: differences

Gamer’s Thoughts: Difficulty in games

downloadToday I want to talk about something extremely objective subjective. Something not a lot of people agree on. That subject is the difficulty in games. This isn’t unique to video gaming, since other entertainment mediums can be difficult to understand, analyze or appreciate. But, difficulty is one of the most important factors in gaming. In order to write this article, I have asked in various groups what their opinions about game difficulty are. Are games today too easy? Are difficult games fun to play? Are old school games too difficult? I got some extremely interesting replies. Now, if you have your own opinion on this subject, I would love to talk about it in the comment section down below. Of course, keep it civil down there, everybody has a different opinion.

My own views on game difficulty.

Keep in mind that the following thoughts and opinions are mine. It’s quite possible that you think in a different way due to your different experiences in gaming and/or life. Like I said in the introduction of this article, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts and opinions on the content of this article and or the subject. With that out of the way, on with the show.

Now, with such a broad subject as game difficulty, it’s quite tricky to give a full opinion. In the introduction alone, I gave a few different angles I could take this article. In addition to that, this subject is extremely subjective. For example, I’m not rhythmic at all. When I talk about the DS, a lot of people talk about games like Elite Beat Agents, a rhythm game. I have to admit that I find this game too difficult.

pokemon goFirst of all, let’s talk about a sentence you often hear us older players say: “Games today are too easy.” Are they really too easy? Well, they became easier in one way but more challenging too. For example, take the Pokémon games. When Game Freak remade the 3rd generation on Nintendo 3DS, one of the biggest complaints was that the game was too easy. And yes, I finished the game without losing 3 battles during the whole playthrough and 2 of these loses were because I wasn’t paying attention during the battle and forgot to heal my Pokémon and the other loss was because I forgot that grass was weak to flying and I most had grass Pokémon in a flying gym. Whoops.

photoNow, why do I think that games can be too easy now-a-days? That’s has two reasons. The first reason is because games just got more accessible. Because the growth of the hobby, a lot more people play video games. So, there need to be ways for every style of player to play video games, even the youngest ones. Thankfully, you have difficulty options that can provide the other players with some additional challenge. Sadly enough, not all games do this. In most games, the difficulty settings have a small explanation to what each level means.

And this brings me to the second reason why games are too easy now-a-days and that’s skill. I have been playing games since I was a young lad. I started playing games give or take 21 years ago. During these years, I have played a TON of games and got a TON of different experiences. That means I have seen quite a lot and the chances of a puzzle stumping me or a fight being too difficult get slimmer with every game I play.

Is this a bad thing? Depends on what you are looking for in a game. Do you want a game that challenges your strategizing skills or the ability to solve puzzles than the lower difficulty can be a problem. If you are looking for a game to play to pass the time, in that case the drop in difficulty shouldn’t matter that much.

resident evil 4It’s always a difficult balancing act in how difficult you make your game. Since if a game is too difficult, people will stop playing. A great example for me is Resident Evil 4. There is a section in that game where during an already hectic fight, two chainsaw enemies spawn that kill you instantly when they come to close. There were three times that one of those enemies actually spawned right behind me, giving me no time nor room to turn around and defend myself. These moments I actually rage quitted the game. Another example is Atelier Rorona. The amount of depth in this game is just insane. You have to think about so many things like the freshness of ingredients, how long it takes to collect them and get them home, the amount of MP you have to fight and or craft… It was quite challenging to balance all of these things.

EuropaUniversalisIV_Packshot_editedThat brings me to the question, what makes a game difficult and how difficult should a game be? It speaks for itself that how more layers of gameplay and mechanics you add, the more difficult a game becomes. Take Europa Universalis 4 for example. In this grand strategy game, there are so many mechanics; it’s not even funny anymore. The complexity of a game can turn some people off. I would love to play Europe Universalis 4 with more people but most of my friends don’t understand how the game works or get too scared when they hear how many things they need to think about while playing the game.

In a way, the difficulty of a game can limit your audience. I would love to play a game like Cuphead, but from what I have seen and tried, the game is a bit too much for me. I don’t really like games that depend on memorization or trying over and over again. This makes the game boring and repetitive in my eyes. For me personally, I want to have a great time while I’m playing games. I want some parts to be challenging and test the skills I learned during the game and I want some sections to be easy to play through so I can relax and enjoy the game.

SI_NDS_NewSuperMarioBrosDS_image1600wA game series that nailed difficulty in my opinion are the Super Mario World games. In these games, you learn by playing the game. You might have heard this explanation in various other video’s or articles but if you haven’t heard it yet, allow me to explain. At the start of the level, you are able to experiment with a new level mechanic in a safe area. One where you can easily avoid the enemies and you don’t have death pits. And the further you go in the level, the more challenging the mechanic or level gimmick becomes. And during the later and last stages of the game, all the challenges are combined into one big final set of levels that test your skills and what you learned through the game. In a way, you can compare it to school. The early levels and sections are the classes while the later levels and finale of the game is the final test/exam.

Now, should games become “NES-hard” again? To be honest, I think we shouldn’t do that. In the current gaming climate, we get a lot of games inspired by the more challenging nature of older games and we also get easier games. That means we have options. Now, were all old school games difficult? Were games more challenging in the past? Well, that’s a tricky question to answer.

Tomb Raider LegendFor example, I grew up with the original Tomb Raider games. When I play these games today, I don’t have a lot of trouble with jumping from platform to platform. Of course, due to the limitations of the systems at the time, it wasn’t always clear to which ledge you should jump and how you should make that jump. In more recent games, the better visual presentation helps out with that problem a lot. This “issue” became clear when I did the Tomb Raider project. Some people in that collaboration had never played an old school Tomb Raider game and gave it a try for the first time. And because they were more used to the newer style of the series or the newer style of play in more modern games, they had trouble during the game.

Something I often got during me search for writers in the Tomb Raider project was: “Also the old Tomb Raider games that aged poorly?” or something similar. I completely agree that the original Tomb Raider games aged poorly. The newer Tomb Raider games, and not per se the more modern games, play better because the developers improved their craft and learned a lot from developing the previous entries in the series.

I don’t find all retro inspired games that difficult. I was able to beat some without much trouble like Blossom Tales or Retro Game Challenge. While I did had some trouble in Shovel Knight because I haven’t played a lot of games similar to that.

When I was researching and brainstorming for this article, I came to conclusion that there are 4 types of difficulty in my eyes.

The first type is intended difficulty. This is planned by the developers to challenge you during the game. Think about a Zelda dungeon where you get a new item in a dungeon and you have to learn to use it or remember the places where you were unable to progress and needed to use the item.

The second type is unintended difficulty. This was unplanned difficulty due to bugs, randomness (like RNG or random generation) or just plain bad game design. Or it can be because of things like certain mechanics. For example, a lot of people complained when Super Mario 64 DS came out. While it’s a good remake, the controls weren’t loved by various reviews because the original game was designed with a joystick in mind while the DS didn’t have a joystick.

The first two types can be mixed with the other two types.

The third type is fair difficulty. With this I mean, the game provides you with a challenging and rewarding experience. Like, you finally figured out how to beat that one puzzle or beat that one boss.

The forth type of difficulty is , you guessed it, unfair difficulty. Now, this can be because of bad and or lazy game design but this can also be a huge spike in difficulty. A great example is Suikoden Tierkreis for me. Overall, the game is somewhat easy. If you don’t skip too many battles and pay attention to what you are doing, the game isn’t all too challenging. I rarely to never saw the game over screen. Until, I came at the final boss. This annoying battle gets such a difficulty spike made me not fully finish the game and actually look up the ending online. Now, while writing this article, I actually restarted playing the game and I’m hell bent in finally beating the game this time.

The more difficulty of type 2 and 4 you have, the worse it becomes for your game. One time a developer asked me to review an Android game. In this game, you had to feed various foods to some customers. The issue was, all of the dishes were based on Asian dishes and I’m European. I barely know anything about the Asian cuisine. The unfair difficulty in this game is that almost nothing was explained in the game about the foods themselves. So, I was unable to figure out which food was what, so it became a guessing game.

Another example of unfair difficulty is more recent. A developer asked me to review a Switch game they just released. The game is a twin stick shooter and in the shooting tutorial, there were two spawners in the room that spawned so many enemies so quickly, it became overwhelming. You shouldn’t put so many enemies in the first level of your game while the player is still learning the basic mechanics of the game. That’s unfair.

headerDoes a game like Dark Souls have unfair difficulty? Well no, the game is quite balanced in my opinion. There is a lot of risk and reward gameplay, the punishment is just a bit too harsh in my opinion. But the game becomes beatable when you learn the finer details of the game and get used to the inner workings of the game.

The line and difference between the four types is really thin and makes it still personal. Speaking of personal, some people talk proudly when they were able to beat a certain game on the highest difficulty. While that is impressive, you shouldn’t look down upon people having trouble on the lower difficulties. While my gaming buddy MiseryLC can beat the AI in Europe Universalis IV on hard, I feel that the normal difficulty provides just enough challenge for me.

I think it would be a great development if all games have difficulty sliders. The more you can adjust the difficulty, the better. Something I really loved in the Etrian Odyssey series is that you can change the difficulty setting when you are in the town without any other punishments. This is great, because when I was unable to beat a certain boss and almost stopped playing, I was able to lower the difficulty a bit so I was able to beat the boss and move on. After I had beaten the boss, I set the difficulty back on normal. This is a perfect system since people can choose how easy or hard you want the game to be.

Now, I have said quite a lot about the topic now. To avoid this article becoming a bit too long or having too much rambling, I think it’s time to let some of my friends talk. I want to thank everybody for their input since they helped me quite a lot while putting my thoughts together for this article.

How others think about difficulty.

Now, I asked around on various groups on Discord and Facebook on their opinions on game difficulty. Here is what they have to say. Note, some quotes I translated from Dutch to English. Some quotes had minor edits since sometimes contained an answer to another topic in the conversation or something in those lines.

The following quotes come from a Facebook group where Belgian retro game collectors gather.

Ward: “Some games are pretty challenging due to their difficulty like Slain and Cuphead. But other games hold your hand, but that doesn’t always take away from the fun of the game. It really depends on the game and how enjoyable the story is.”

Hakim: “Sometimes a too difficult game can be really frustrating. And out of this frustration, the game can go on my shelves to be never played again.”

Kenny: “Personally, I think that the player should have a choice how difficult the game should be. Some games I play personally for the story and not for an extreme challenge.”

Mayu: “For me, a game can never be too difficult. I’ll play until the end as long as the difficulty, challenge, story and such are fun. It already happened that I was disappointed when I bought a new game and I finished it without issue. The solution for this is lately, collection or completion rewards. Some of them are really letdowns. In the past, gaming was a very niche hobby. When a game was too difficult, you just had to try and try again. But, now that gaming isn’t a niche hobby anymore, the difficult games don’t sell that well anymore. And with companies trying to make as much profit as possible…”

Koen: “Making a game extremely difficult is no issue for me. As long as all the elements of the game are fun, it doesn’t matter to me. I really enjoy the rewarding feeling of finally being able to beat a game at the highest difficult setting after trying on it for weeks and seeing the real/true ending. But, when the story is garbage and I have to replay the game on a harder difficulty setting, I won’t be spending my time on a new playthrough.”

Niels: “As long as a game stays fair, it’s worth my time. Nowadays, there are a lot of games that are too easy for everybody to play. From endless tutorial sections to special power-ups when you die a lot and sometimes even a skip button, these are just a few things that you find more and more in modern games. Now, there is nothing wrong with that, as long as they are optional or are disabled by higher difficulty settings. Something I really want to stress, a game that is too difficult thanks to bad enemy placement, terrible controls or bad decisions is a bad game.”

Xavier: “I prefer easier games. There are a lot of games that are quite enjoyable to play. It doesn’t matter to me if games are shorter, I usually buy them at a lower price after they have been released for a while. It’s better then having to play a game where you have to retry a section 20 times to finish it.”

Dennis: “I usually start a game on normal mode. Depending on my experience, I raise or lower the difficulty. So, this means that I play some games on easy, some on normal and some on the hardest difficulty. I don’t really enjoy games where you respawn a thousand times before you can continue and especially when you have the same issue 10 minutes later in the next section. If I enjoyed the game enough, I might replay it on a higher difficulty setting. Most of the games interest me for somewhere between 10 to 20 hours. But, this is absolutely not the case for me with Final Fantasy games.”

The following opinions are from fellow bloggers or friends in the blogging world.

Aiphafemaie: “A couple thoughts – I think games felt more difficult in the past because you had to rely more on yourself to figure out how to pass levels or quests. Or printing out walkthroughs from GameFaqs.com lmao.  Now when you’re stuck, you can just to YouTube and see how it’s done. I don’t think games were more difficult in the past, but “difficult” is a subjective word.  Today’s games do have varying difficulty modes, in comparison to the past. Before most games could only be played on default.”

TwoTall4uFool: “I think there was a lot of trial and error with games back in the 80’s and 90’s. Even in the 2000’s. Aiphafemaie you bring up a great point about GameFaqs but there are some games out there that I would’ve never beaten if it wasn’t for Game Genie/Gameshark. Today in games you have tutorials and of course there is YouTube. And even with plug and plays such as the SNES Classic you can rewind and try a part again if you fail. And plus suspend you point. So emulating older games have made them easier ….. sort of.”

ReaperInteractive: “I agree with @aiphafemaie . Games in the past had no clear instructions or clear, “Go here to pass to the next level.” Games nowadays are a lot more direct and I feel that developers intentianally make these instructions extremely clear as to make the game as playable and prevent people from giving up midway. A little more on the note. There have been games where the instructions were so unclear that I literally had no clue what to do and ended up giving up. Another reason I feel that games nowadays are a lot easier is because we’ve played the same basic mechanic over and over again as to games in the past, there were hundreds of different mechanics. Most games nowadays can be grouped into a couple dozen genres with the same mechanic and controls. Contrary to this, I feel that games in the past are composed of hundreds of different genres, some completely new to the people hence why I feel that why games in the past are a tad more difficult than those of our age.”

The Well Red Mage: “I think that games can still pretty hard now, some of them, but there are new varieties of games now. There are brutal platformers as a subgenre now that are built on difficulty, but then there are also walking simulators and interactive movies now that eschew difficulty almost entirely. I think some would say that the difficulty of retro games was such that it was unfair, but I think that the lives systems and the memorization of patterns (two very retro-centric ideas of difficulty) are perfectly valid; we maybe just don’t have the toleration for them that we used to. Those games were still demanding something of the player (memory or timing). So I think this is a conversation that benefits from specifics like specific games and specific features in those games that bring difficulty into the equation (memorization, level design, limited options or limited chances to complete a challenge, longer periods without save features, increasing speed, item management, enemy AI… all those things are specific features that games then and now used and use to create difficulty).”

The Badly Backlogged Mage/MrBacklog: “I think the obvious-but-unhelpful answer is “as difficult as they need to be to convey the desired experience”. Dark Souls, the Walking Dead and Mario Party are all different in terms of difficulty because they’re going for different experiences.”

OverThinkerY: “I think there are different ways of adding difficulty – Backlogged makes a good point about those games being difficult in different ways as part of the experience. There’s perhaps the most classic sort of difficulty, which is reacting and executing the right series of inputs quickly enough to proceed, and then there are things more dependent on memory, ingenuity, or sheer emotional fortitude. I think there are more examples these days of different sorts of difficulty other than simply pressing buttons accurately, which might be down to better tech or just natural progression, but it enables different kinds of experiences to be made effective in that way.”

Mail Order Ninja Mage/Daniel Flatt: “Difficulty is the hardest thing to get right in video games. If you push back too hard you lose all but your most dedicated player, if you don’t present any challenge then moderately skilled players become bored. Like everyone said above it is drastically different depending on the game and furthermore the individual playing.

That being said games aren’t necessarily easier than they were before, but they have become better at not wasting our time. Games previously were artificially hard, first because checkpoints and saves weren’t a thing, and then because many NES games are a handful of hours long without constantly starting over. They had to have that difficulty to make the game worth it, can’t have Billy coming to you after an hour and asking for a new game. I dare anyone to play B side levels of Celeste and say games are easier, but the difference is you don’t have to play through the same 30 minutes over and over to finally get through something and die 20 seconds later to start all over.

The best games have difficulty determined by the player, Nintendo excels at this, but one of the best examples is Ori. It has a function where you basically create your own checkpoints or don’t, depending on your preference. It could be brutally hard, but if I get to try again right away for a certain section it wasn’t wasting my time making me play the same section a hundred times.”

Now, as you can read, the opinions are extremely diverse when it comes to difficulty. This brainstorm was extremely interesting to do. I honestly think that I’ll return to this topic in future. Before I close this article, I want to point you to an article created by Rob “I Played The Game” Covell that he wrote in 2017 about the same subject. “A Difficult Conversation”.

Closing off

Like I said in the previous paragraph, the conversation of how difficult a game could be or if games are too easy now-a-days gets quite diverse opinions. While this topic could be discussed for hours and the opinions will go in various directions, I think I’ll close off this article here. I’m quite curious what everybody thinks. Maybe I’ll revisit this topic on a later date.

If you have written or talked about this subject in the past or know a great resource like another article or video, feel free to send me a message with the link. Maybe I’ll included it in the next article. And with that said, I think I’ll really end off this article. Thank you everybody for helping me putting this article together. It was a blast. 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.

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First Impression: Project Zero 2 – The Crimson Butterfly (PS2) ~ A Sisterly Bond

Fatal_Frame_II_-_Crimson_Butterfly

Wikipedia entry

Ah Fatal Frame, a series I found quite interesting when I was a little child but fell in love with a few years ago when I was able to get my hands on a collector’s edition of the Wii U entry in the series. It was the 5th entry in the series and I loved it so much, I started to hunt down all the other entries in the series. Last year, I was able to get myself all the European released games on PS2, in a physical copy! While testing them out,  enjoyed myself quite a lot with Fatal Frame 2. So, I kept playing that game. It’s no secret that I enjoyed myself with this game since I gave a spot on my top 10 games I played in 2018. So what are my actual opinions on this game? Well, let’s find out! And as usual, feel free to leave a comment down below with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

PS: The article was originally going to be publish on this Sunday, but because today is my 26th birthday, I decided to publish it today as a birthday special.

A sisterly bond

fatal frame II screenshot 2The story starts out with two sisters running around in the forest playing. Suddenly, the pass a stone and it looks like the duo entered another dimension. The two get terrified that there is no easy way out and even worse, the two split up. Not willing, mind you. One of the two sisters get mesmerized with a crimson butterfly that she keeps following.

So, you need to go look for your sister in a creepy and haunted town while you need to escape ghosts and try to find an exit of the city. The setting for this horror game is excellent. The voice acting in this game is really well done, the voices of the two sisters is excellent. I also loved the performances of the ghosts since they kept me on the edge of my seat in certain battles.

The story is mostly told through notes, cutscenes and the environment.  There are moments you are together with your sister and there are moments she sees that damned butterfly again.  She really likes these red butterflies. Now, the story so far has been quite enjoyable. While sometimes I feel that the story is mostly used to string levels and area’s together, it’s executed extremely well. I really felt that something strange was happening and that there were higher powers at play.

Now, I am quite curious where the story of this game will go. The mysteries are getting unrevealed slowly but I still don’t have any answers. Now, do you need to play the first game before you can understand the story of the 2nd game? Well, not at all. The story is totally independent from the first game, while a lot of story mechanics return in the second game, all the characters are new.

Also, I haven’t beaten the original game myself. Now, you might wonder why I have chosen to play this game on the PS2 and not go for the director cut on the XBOX or Wii. That has two reasons. One, I don’t own an XBOX and two, the physical copy of the Wii game is extremely expensive. Now, when I was finishing up this review, I discovered that the game got released on the Nintendo eShop, so I bought myself a digital copy.

Anyways, we are getting off track here. The story itself is interesting. It’s two fold actually. In one part, it’s about how to escape the village and in another part, it’s about saving your sister. So, I have the impression that this game has multiple endings. But, I have to beat the game to know that for sure!

Spooky Camera

project_zero_2-6Because this is a Fatal Frame game, the Camera Obscura shows itself again. If you have played any other games in the series, you know how this game plays. In this game, you have to explore an area that’s filled with ghosts. Some ghosts aren’t hostile but the most of them are hostile. In order to defeat the ghosts, you have to take pictures of the ghosts. The better they are in frame, the more damage they receive. The damage also depends on the film you use. There is an aspect of survival horror to this game since the amount of film isn’t infinite. The stronger films are really hard to find and quite rare.

Combat in this game is an awkward dance with the ghosts. You have to come close to snap a good picture. But, if they are too close, they can grab you and you get damage. So, you have to move backwards. Now, the camera you use is quite old. So, it needs to recharge after each use. You have audio and visual cues to see when the camera is recharging.

To be honest, I found the combat controls better in the Wii U game I played. In my review of Resident Evil 4, I mentioned that I had difficulty with aiming my gun on the PlayStation 2. The same thing applies here. So, each play session, I have to get used to the controls. It doesn’t take too long, but it makes me miss the Wii U controls. Maybe when I play the Wii version, I won’t have this issue too much.

Now, this game doesn’t have an autosave. Much like Resident Evil 4, you can save at certain locations. In this game, it’s a red lantern on a pedestal. You have a limited amount of save slots, but that doesn’t bother me too much since it helps me to get more points. Side note, there is an improvement over the save system of Resident Evil since there is a small picture accompanying the save file.

Yes, the better the image, the higher the points you get. These points can be used to upgrade your camera. Upgrades like shutter speed or damage output. You can also find upgrades in various, sometimes hidden, locations to get certain things up to a higher level. There is a safer way in earning points as well. If you are able to make a picture of the scripted harmless ghosts, you get some bonus points. So, it’s highly advised to explore around and not go to solve the puzzles straight away.

Oh yes, this game has puzzles. Some of the puzzles require you to analyze a photograph and try to work out where it came from. Other puzzles require you to find a certain key item to open a door or to lift a curse on a door in order to progress.

Like a lot of other survival horror games, this game also suffers from some jump scares. Now, I find the build up to the jump scares pretty good. Most of the jump scares happen a bit off screen when you haven’t encountered a ghost for a while. In the Wii U game, the jump scares were way worse. Also, it’s quite possible to miss some jump scares if you didn’t explore certain areas of the room.

Exploring the city and the buildings is made much easier with a great map system. The map draws itself while you are exploring. The area only adds itself when the area is discovered. Also, when a door is locked, the door isn’t shown in blue but in red. Now, if you unlock a door when solving a puzzle that is somewhere else on the map, I don’t know for sure if the door also changes to blue. Since, to be honest, I haven’t paid attention to that.

There are a few additional things to the combat and gameplay I’m going to keep a secret for this article. The only thing I’ll say about it is that there is a combo system and a few other features. The camera is used in so many different unique and creative ways, it keeps the mechanic from being repetitive.

 Atmosphere in the dark

fatal frame II screenshotThis game is totally worth to wear the title of horror game. The atmosphere of the game is done extremely well. While this game first released on the PS, this game still looks amazing to this day. Some models and textures do show their age, but the lighting and visual design gives an extremely creepy atmosphere. I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat during most of my play sessions. I even went as far as closing the curtains of my room or to play this game at night with a good pair of headphones and in the dark. Only the dim glow of my darkened LCD television to keep me company.

I have played this game without and with my headset on. I found the game better when I played with a headset or with a good sound system. I wouldn’t listen to most of the soundtrack outside of the game but in the game, it helps to build the scary atmosphere so well. Some tracks sound like wind blowing through the room or that something is chasing and/or following you. Together with the amazing sound design of the ghosts, this game is just creepy.

The ghosts don’t sound either human nor other worldly. This is especially creepy because the ghosts moan and speak in Japanese. Well, most of them speak Japanese. Some ghosts also speak English and hearing that suddenly makes it even more creepy. They even managed to make picking up items scary with playing an animation and a creepy sound effect each time when you reach down to pick up an item. You also never know what the item will be since it’s a glowing white orb on the ground. It’s also possible to find some items in various drawers and house hold items. So, explore away!

Now, the bulk of the story is told through the locations you visit. There are some cut scenes where somethings are explained, but the visuals help to tell the story. There are also some moments where you find a stone that tells some additional story to flesh out the story even more. Earlier in this first impression, I talked about how the two sisters entered a cursed village and they are trying to find their way out. In this game you explore various locations. From a graveyard to a scary forest. You also explore various typical Japanese homes to a big shrine. While I was exploring, I really felt I was exploring an abandoned haunted village. The realism and attention for detail in the visual presentation is amazing.

Something I really want to praise this game for is that lighting. The lighting in this game is one of the strongest points. Of course, the game takes place during the night. It’s never light outside. At least, so far. I haven’t finished the game after all. The various candles littered around the village help to sell the atmosphere even more. The flashlight that you can control with one of the joysticks of the PS controller works flawlessly.

So, I think it’s quite clear that the atmosphere of this game is solid. When you want to play a good horror game, I highly recommend this game. The game also provides you with some good challenges. From tricky ghost encounters to clever puzzles. Now, you can run away from the ghosts, but you’ll lose points. And if you don’t get enough points, you might not be able to defeat certain bosses easily. Since, points = upgrades.

The controls is something that some people don’t like about this game. Personally, I got used to them after a while. I already talked about the struggle I had with the aiming of the camera. But, that also helps in the immersion department in a way. Remember, you are playing as a young Japanese girl trapped in a cursed village looking for your sister and a way to escape. Of course, you are scared and you are looking frantically for a way to defend yourself.

I’m almost forgetting to talk about the animation of this game. The animation in this game gets extremely close to the uncanny valley. I’m convinced that it’s in the uncanny valley for some. Especially how certain characters react and express their emotions. For example, how the two sisters like arms when they are witnessing something scary for the first time. They are looking for comfort with each other. It still blows my mind that there was such life like animation on the PlayStation 2.

I could continue to talk about this game for a while longer but most of it will be praising the game. If you are a horror fan, you really owe it to yourself to check out this game. The quality of the Fatal Frame series is up there with the Silent Hill and the original Resident Evil games. I’ll talk a bit more in depth about the game when I write my review. Consider the things I haven’t talked about in this first impression review as nice surprises when you decide to play this game.

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

Review: Death Mark (Switch) ~ Alive Until Dawn

death mark

Official website

You are walking on a street and you overhear two schoolgirls talking to each other. They tell a story about one of their teachers dying in a horrible death. Her arm was found in the library of the school, cut off from the rest of the body with a red bite mark on the hand. That’s how Death Mark opens. The game I decided to play during the Halloween season because I already finished Angels of Death by then. Since I started playing the Zero Escape series and Corpse Party, I have been hooked on the horror genre. I wanted to play more horror games or games with a strong focus on horror. It doesn’t need to be survival horror like Resident Evil 4 or Silent Hill but a game that fits the mood of the holiday perfectly. Now, I know I’m terribly late with my review of this game. But, it was part of my top 10 games of 2018 list and I want to give my honest opinion on it. So, let’s talk about the PS Vita game that got ported to the Switch called Death Mark. As usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion of the game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

Alive until dawn

nswitch_deathmark_05So, the story of this game centers around the mystery of the mysterious Death Mark people have been receiving. This red bit mark appears on people’s bodies when they interact with spirits. The protagonist of this game suffers from your typical case of memory loss and doesn’t remember his past. After you heard the two girl’s their story, your own mark starts to burn and you get teleported to a mansion. When you enter the mansion, you find it to be abandoned. When you visit one of the bedrooms, a thunder crack reveals the dead body of a girl on the floor with flowers blooming from her stomach and chest. Startled, you run down starts where you meet up with a doll that explains to you that the Death Mark is quite real.

If you are unable to remove your mark, you will die by the time dawn comes. One theory that you quickly form is that you can possibly remove the mark by killing or defeating a spirit. But, how do you kill a spirit? How do you kill something that is already dead? Well, by trying to solve the grudge that is keeping them in the living realm.

After you got the explanation of the living wooden doll that lives on the sofa in the entrance of the mansion, you heard a knock on the door. You open the door and find two teenagers. They are looking for the previous inhabitant of the mansion. She is a spirit healer and they are looking for her help to get rid of the same mark you possess. It’s revealed that she was the dead body you discovered earlier. So, you try and take her place. So, now you start in trying to help the other people with a Death Mark while trying to discover who you are and which spirit gave you your Death Mark.

All of this is explained in a quite lengthy introduction. The writing of this game is amazing. If this story sounds interesting to you, I have to give you a fair warning. This game is a visual novel adventure game. There is quite a lot of text in this game. If you aren’t interested in playing a game that has more dialogue then gameplay, this isn’t your game.

I do have to say that the writing is amazing in this game. The story has it a weird charm. At one hand, the game has amazing characters and great development. It didn’t take long before I got attached to certain characters and I got quite invested in them. Yet, this game is also a horror game. So, a lot of creepy stuff happens on your journey. From finding death bodies to combating spirits, this game has it all. This game has just the perfect mix between the two worlds and I have no complaints about them. The pacing of the game is just perfect as well.

The only minor disappointment is that the characters are voice acted in Japanese. Now, I don’t mind Japanese voice acting that much, but I personally prefer English voice acting. The whole game isn’t voice acted, but quite a lot is. The voice acted that is present in the game is really great. But, I’m not going to critique it too much since I don’t know enough about Japanese to say it’s good or bad. But, from my personal experience, I feel that the voice actors always used the right emotion to what appears on screen.

This game has 6 chapters. The original PS Vita game had 5 chapters and one DLC chapter. The DLC chapter is included for free in this Switch port. There is something in terms of the chapters I’m quite on the fence about. The chapters themselves are not too long nor too short. But, if you combine all playtime to get through the game and fully beat it, this game takes around 8 to 10 hours to complete. This game is quite short, too short even.

Near the end, I was so invested in the game, I was extremely bummed when I finished the final chapter. I wanted to play more, explore the world and setting of the game a bit more. But alas. Thankfully, this game doesn’t have a lot of filler content. The story in some chapters can go at a breakneck pace and that was a refreshing experience.

Explore and read

nswitch_deathmark_04One of my favorite genres in video games is the visual novel. There are two types of visual novels; the ones with gameplay and the kinetic ones. The kinetic ones almost have no gameplay and I honestly dislike playing. This game isn’t a kinetic novel. In this game, you have to explore various areas where a spirit is roaming. During your exploration, you have to find a reason of the grudge of the spirit.

While you are exploring the area, you can come across live or death situations. You get presented with different options and if you choose the wrong option, you get a game over. In some cases, you lose soul power. What is this soul power? It’s the power of your soul, when this drops to 0, the spirit of the chapter catches you right away.

When you are in a live or death situation, you are timed. The remaining time you have, is the remaining soul power you have. During your exploration, you can find talismans that restore your soul power if it gets low. Now that I have beaten the game, I can say that there is no additional reward when you answer all the questions correctly without losing soul power. This is a missed opportunity. It would be great if this unlocked the additional 6th chapter or some character art.

Anyways, your soul power fully restores in-between chapters. So, you aren’t punished for mistakes in an earlier chapter. Personally, my favorite chapter is the 6th chapter. The moral of that chapter speaks to me on a personal level.

Now, there are two different endings to this game. The ending that you get depends if you are able to fully solve the grudge of the spirit of that chapter. So, when it comes to the climax of each chapter, think long and hard before you make your next move. Since one mistake during those battles can change the ending dramatically.

Speaking about the climax of each chapter, think carefully who you take as a partner on your journey. Sometimes you will be unable to defeat a spirit if you don’t have the right character in your party. I loved trying to work out who would be the best character to use against the spirit. Reading their character profile is even more important now than before. My advice is, save often. You are only able to save outside of dialogue sections. So, don’t be a hero and save after you made some progress. Also, pay attention that this game doesn’t automatically save. And when you are dead, you have to restart from your last save point. You can save using the “Y” button. There are a limited amount of save slots, so use them wisely.

Saving is this game is quite easy. After the introduction, you can save when you are in the mansion in a limited amount of save slots. Now, if you want to be able to restart a chapter, I highly advise you to save right after the introduction of the chapter. Since, there is no other way to start from a certain chapter. The only option in the main menu are new game, continue or a gallery. In this gallery, you can see the animation of the spirits and the images you saw during the chapter.

In terms of the UI, this game is good. I have no real complaints. I do have some minor suggestions. Especially with the inventory screen. This would feel so much better if the inventory screen had a static image of the item you have selected. Now, it’s just a boring looking list of items, like you would see in a spreadsheet.

Anyways, sometimes the story of one spirit links to the story of another spirit. In that case, you can always read a small summary in the pause menu. During that, you can watch the amazing full screen pictures that were used during the chapter.

During each chapter, you have to explore a location. You can only explore with one partner. The other partner or partners will stay at the mansion to look for clues in solving the mystery of the Death Mark. You can go at any moment to the entrance of the location to take the car back to the mansion to change partners. Like I said earlier, the choice of partner matters. If you are unable to solve a puzzle or pass through a location, try having another partner.

The locations themselves aren’t that large. It doesn’t take too long before you are able to fully explore the location. Now, there is something to do in each and every screen of the game. From small jump scares to big puzzles. Oh yes, this game has small jump scares. Most of the jump scares are rather subtle and aren’t too distracting from the exploration. To be honest, I found them used quite well. Also, it’s possible that you don’t even see all the jump scares since they are location specific.

During your journey for the truth in the Death Mark mystery, you explore a forest, a school and various other locations. Each location is extremely memorable. The detail in the artwork of each location is impressive. The atmosphere building with the visual presentation in this game is a strong point of this game. I really felt on edge while exploring certain locations. I really felt that the location I was exploring had a certain presence and a morbid history to it. In some occasions, the game managed to get underneath my skin.

Now, in terms of the animations, this game has a lot of missed potential. Apart from the spirit battles, this game doesn’t have a lot of animations. I think it would have been better if the game had a bit more animations and scene transitions. For example, a walking animation from going between rooms would aid a lot with the world building and immersion. And if you give the option to the players to turn this animation on or off, it would be perfect. Now, there is a small dialogue box that appears when you move between rooms with a sound effect, but could be so much more.

On the edge of my seat

nswitch_deathmark_03Exploration in this game is really well done. During the game, you are able to use your flashlight to investigate each and every room. I highly advise that you look around carefully in each and every room. Since every little detail can aid you in your quest to solve the grudge of the spirit. The game helps you out a bit in the investigation. When you can interact with something, you see a little sparkle animation when you hover over it with your flash light.

When you have to use an item in your quest, the item will be automatically used. Expect during the spirit battles. In those battles you have to use every item in your inventory to try and defend yourself. You and the spirit take turns in making a move. If the spirit comes too close, it’s game over.

Apart from one puzzle, the puzzles in this game are well crafted. They really test your skills in exploring the area you are in and your investigation skills. Exploring the location gets even better with the fluid controls. The flashlight is mapped to one of the joysticks of the joycon and reacts very responsively.

Now, there is one thing that could turn some people off and that is the map system. During the exploration, you have a mini-map of the location at the top right. This mini-map is nothing more than a few squares and lines how the squares connect. So, you will have to build a mental map of the location during your exploration. This is highly essential when you don’t want to get lost. A more detailed map would have been welcome, but I felt it added to the world building of the game. Remember the story? You only have the few short hours of the night to try and get rid of the grudge of the spirit before you die. So, creating an actual map might lose too much time.

The controls in this game are quite decent. Sometimes I got a bit disoriented, but that’s because my mediocre navigational skills in games. It doesn’t take long before you get used to the control scheme of this game and learn to use it to your advantage.

The exploration is added with some great sound and music design. The soundtrack sounds like a combination of the Zero Escape series, Ace Attorney and Corpse Party. The music gives of eerie vibes and fits the visual presentation like a glove. I’m actually hunting down the soundtrack of this game to add it to my music library.

Together with the amazing sound effects, the visual and audiovisual presentation of this game is a real treat. I can’t make any complaints about that aspect of the game. Before I keep repeating myself, I think it’s time that we talk about another aspect of the game.

The difficulty of this game is just right. The game is even more difficult when you don’t pay attention during the investigation. In the later chapters, I even took some physical notes to aid myself during the investigation.

Now, if you forgot to save, there is a button that you can use to fast forward the cut scenes. I rarely used this button since I was too invested in the story. I used this button only once when I forgot to save before a LIVE OR DEATH situation and I got a game over… Now, I could have used the “decide again” option to restart from the beginning of the LIVE OR DEATH situation but I lost too much soul power. So, restarting from an earlier point actually benefited me.

Also, there is a message log you can access. A minor complaint is that the button to fast forward is quite hidden in the UI. It’s the L-button.

The replay value of his game isn’t too high. Not counting replays for fun, you can play twice through the game before you have seen it all. Now, this isn’t a big issue but more endings would extend the already short overall game time.

With that said, I said almost everything I wanted to say about this game. I think it’s high time to go to the summary and closing statement of this review.

Summary

The good:

+ Amazing atmosphere in the visual and audio department.

+ Great writing.

+ The game has a lot of text.

+ …

The bad:

  • The game is too short.
  • The game has a lot of text.
  • A bit more animations would enhance the game a lot.
  • You can’t restart a chapter without a save.

Final thoughts:

This game is not for everybody. If you don’t like a game that has a lot of text, I think that it’s best for you to skip this game. If you enjoy games like Ace Attorney, Zero Escape, Walking Dead, Corpse Party, Trace Memory… I highly recommend this game.

This game is the perfect game to play through on Halloween night or whenever you are in the mood to play more horror focused games. The writing, pacing, audio and visual presentation of this game is very well done. The biggest flaw of this game is that it’s too short. I got so invested and the ride was over before I knew it.

Now, a spiritual successor is going to be released in Japan really soon called NG. I really hope and wish that they are going to bring this game to the west as well. Since the trailer looks amazing and I really would love to play it.

I can totally see why some people would be turned off by this game. But personally I loved my playthrough. When you play this game, don’t use a walkthrough. This game gets even more fun when you aren’t using a walkthrough to guide you in every step of the way.

If you ask me, I think that this game is totally worth it’s price. This developer really convinced me of the quality games they can put out. While this game has flaws, in my eyes they don’t ruin the experience at all. But, I’m really going to hammer this home… This game would be perfect if there were a bit more chapters. A bit more content.

And with that said, I have really said everything I could 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 be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Score: 90/100

First Impression: Resident Evil 4 (PS2) ~ Leon, Help Me! LEEEEOOONN!

residentevil4

Wikipedia entry

Not to long ago, I revealed my 10 favorite games I have started playing in 2018. One of these games was Resident Evil 4. Now, I shorty explained why I enjoyed that game so much in that article but I think it’s time to give a more in depth opinion on the game. I haven’t finished the game yet, I’m closing in on the mid-way point of the game. I think I have seen enough of the game to give my first impressions on the game and to give my honest opinion on the game. So, will this be the game that drags me into survival horror or will this game be the one that turns me off? As usual, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts on the game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below. 

Ashley & Leon’s “vacation”

re4_1

In this game, you take on the role of Leon S. Kennedy. A police officer that was involved with Raccoon City that has been sent to Spain to rescue the President’s kidnapped daughter. Very quickly after your arrival, you discover that things aren’t normal and that something went horribly wrong. It’s up to Leon to find and rescue Ashley as quickly as he can.

The writing in this game is excellent. Some story elements are explained in notes you can find in the world and others are explained in cutscenes. The voice acting is amazing, I especially love the voice acting during combat sections since it really helps with building the atmosphere. The only missed opportunity in my opinion is that there aren’t a lot of interactions between Ashley and Leon during your exploration. Maybe Bioshock Infinite with Booker and Elisabeth spoiled me too much there.

Most of this game is a sort of escort quest. But, Leon isn’t taking Ashley on a nice vacation to Spain, at all. Remember the start of this section? Leon came to the village to extract Ashley and get her back to the United States of the Americas.

Now, I’ll talk more about gameplay mechanics later but first I want to talk about a flaw with the story of this game. The flaw is that some parts of the story, especially some characters and events aren’t explained too well to newcomers. This game is the first Resident Evil game I’m trying to beat and I had to look up certain things. Now, at the other hand, these unexplained gaps in the story made me even more interested to play the previous Resident Evil games so that everything can fall into place.

Since I haven’t beaten the game, I won’t comment on the writing too much. To be quite honest, I feel that sometimes the story takes a bit of a backseat and is more used as a sort of tool to string different sections together. I even dare to say that you would be able to cut some sections out without it making a (big) impact on the story or the atmosphere. Yes, the notes fill in some of the gaps but since they are optional and can be skipped, the story feels incomplete to me. As if there were sections removed from the final version.

Ashley isn’t Elisabeth

re4_3

Now, I knew in advance that this game was going to be an escort mission sort of game.I have played Bioshock Infinite, so I got used to guiding a character around.

Now, there are big differences between Elisabeth and Ashley. First of all, Ashley can be kidnapped. Whenever certain enemies are close to her, she can be picked up and kidnapped. Whenever she is dragged through a door to another section, it’s game over.

There are two other big differences. The first is that Ashley isn’t helpful during your exploration. You can tell her to wait, hide and follow you. She can only hide in certain places, she doesn’t look for them herself. Now, I tested out how good her pathfinding is. Whenever I called for her when she was in hiding and I ran to a corner of the map, she was always able to find me and team up with me.

The second big difference is that Ashley isn’t invincible. If you see the screenshot I placed a bit earlier, you notice that Ashley has a health bar as well. So, you have to be careful that Ashley doesn’t take damage. Since, you need to rescue her alive. Whenever you use your healing items, you can choose to heal either yourself or Ashley.

Thankfully, both Elisabeth and Ashley rarely get in your way during combat. Elisabeth goes and looks for items while Ashley ducks so fast when you aim at an enemy behind her, it’s almost impossible to hit her. Also, whenever I threw a grenade in her direction to try and defeat an enemy close to her, she quickly gets out of the way. Thank god, I would have thrown out the disc if that wasn’t the case.

Now, I have been talking about the differences between Ashley and Elisabeth for a while now. But, how does this game play? What is the actual gameplay? This game is an adventure-exploration 3D shooter game. I even dare to say that you can compare it to the reboot Tomb Raider games to a certain extent. The big differences are Ashley and that this game focuses more on big bosses and horror than Tomb Raider.

I have to admit that I’m playing this game on easy difficulty. Because this is one of my first times I’m playing a survival horror game, I wanted to get used to the mechanics before I challenged myself and played through the genre on a harder difficulty. Surprisingly, this game keeps being challenging. I’m always thinking on how I can save the ammo of my most powerful weapons to quickly dispatch groups of enemies.

The biggest thing I dislike during the combat is that I can’t see a difference between an enemy that is close to dying and one that is full health. What is even more annoying is that it’s sometimes, and especially with the bosses, hard to read if you are hitting them or not. In one run, I was sure I hit an enemy but the enemy didn’t go down and used her chainsaw to insta-kill me. The red dot at the end of where you are aiming is too small and too little of an indication during hectic combat. Because of this, I’m sure that I have wasted so much ammo fighting bosses.

I think I can summarize it like this: the combat is a bit rough around the edges. While it’s a lot of fun, sometimes I got annoyed with the limitations of the mechanics. At one hand, I can understand where the developers were coming from. This game is a survival horror game after all and you have to fell tense and afraid, since it’s a horror game. At the other hand, it doesn’t take away that I would have loved to see a bit more polish on the combat.

Something I’m disappointed a bit by are the puzzles. I feel that most of the puzzles rely a bit too much on the “press the buttons in the right order” cliché. Almost all of the non-combat puzzles have to pressing switches in a certain sequence. Granted, I’m somewhere in the middle of the game so, it’s quite possible that the rest of the game will have a bit more unique puzzles.

It has aged

re4_2

Because I’m a retro gamer, I don’t mind it when games look dated. If you wondered why I didn’t play the HD version for this article, I can easily explain that by saying that I was able to pick up a physical copy of the original and that interests me more as a collector.

Now, the game looks fine on PS2. There is a lot of detail in the atmosphere of the game and the monster design is delicious grotesque. I especially love it when characters transform mid-battle, because then I have to think quickly and change my strategy accordingly.

But alas, the fact that this game is now almost 15 years old is starting to show. In certain sections, I feel that there isn’t enough detail. I also had the impression that in certain sections, the textures on the models were a bit too flat making certain objects like a bed in the castle look like it would belong in a PS1 Tomb Raider game. I haven’t played the HD version of the game, but from what I have seen, all the complaints I have about the visuals… well, let’s just say that the HD version looks a LOT better than the PS2 version. I even checked some comparison videos between the Gamecube, Wii and this version of the game and I have to say, that the versions on the Nintendo platforms look a lot better.

Now, I’m not saying that this game looks ugly. Remember that I said that this game looks fine? Well, I really stand by that. I love all the detail they put in the world and the animations in this game are amazing. I especially love how destructible the world is. When a huge boss throws a tree to a shack you are standing in, the tree doesn’t break on the shack because video games, the tree actually breaks the shack because realism.

The only “negative” I can say in terms on the animations are that certain death scenes are a bit too scripted. What I mean is for example, when you kill an enemy with a head shot, it doesn’t go down right away. It nearly always takes a few steps forward before collapsing. This isn’t the only example of that, but it stands out. But, after a while I got used to it and it didn’t bother me that much.

Now, besides puzzles and combat; there is one other part of the gameplay I haven’t mentioned. And that are the quick time events. In certain sections, you have to much a button as quick as you can to survive. These sections were the most annoying sections of the game in my opinion. Thankfully, they are short. So, they are over without too much hassle.

This game doesn’t have an autosave. You can save at certain save points in scattered around. You can save an infinite amount of times as long as you are at the type writer. Thankfully, when you get a game over, you don’t have to restart from your last save point. You start from the section you died at. For example, when you died during a quick time event with a boss and die, you respawn at the start of that quick time event. This is a great feature since whenever I died, I learned something new and I got a new idea on how to possibly defeat the boss.

Besides strategy, there is something else that helps with defeating bosses and that are good controls. This game has that. The only things I struggle a bit with are turning while using the knife or aiming with a weapon. Now, the turning with a knife isn’t too much of an issue. I stop pushing the knife button and press it again when I have done my turn.

The aiming of weapons is a different story. This game is one of the first games I played on a console that involves a lot of shooting. I’m quite used to being able to easily shoot using a mouse of the Wii Remote. I had to get used to aiming with a joystick. To my surprise, I quickly got used to it. When I look at the stats at the end of each level, I notice that I’m improving quite a lot in my accuracy.

To my surprise, I haven’t talked about the music and sound design of this game and it’s almost the end of the article. The soundtrack of this game is one that helps build the atmosphere quite well. Personally, I wouldn’t listen to most of the tracks outside of the game, but I enjoy the soundtrack quite a lot during gameplay.

The sound design of this game get a big thumbs up from me. The game sound just right, from the sound of the guns to enemies transforming. It all sounds like you would imagine it sounding in real life.

Well, that’s everything I wanted to say about this game for now. I know that I haven’t talked about everything but I’ll leave those things for my review, if I ever write one on this game. So, I think it’s time to wrap up this article.

Thank you so much for reading this article! 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: Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katerielle and the Millonaires’ Conspiracy (3DS) ~ Miss Layton

layton lady katrielle mystery journey.jpgWikipedia page

To be honest, when I first heard about the release of this game, I thought that Level5 was going to port the Android spin-off Layton Brothers to the 3DS. Since it has a similar concept. A team that solves smaller cases as a detective and try to solve crimes. Yet, to my surprise, the story of this game goes about the daughter of the famous professor Layton, named Katrielle. While the game first released on mobile devices, I played the 3DS version. I’m used to be playing Professor Layton games on the 3DS, so why change that if I knew that a 3DS version was coming. Since I haven’t played the mobile version, that means I won’t be talking about it in my first impression here either. So, I think it’s time that I talk about this game, is it a good entry into the Layton franchise or is it a spin-off that should only exist one time? As usual, feel free to leave your opinion on the article and/or the game in the comment section down below.

It’s Miss Layton now

Laytons-Mystery-Journey-Katrielle-and-the-Millionaires-Consipracy-Screenshot-01.jpgIn this game, you play as Katrielle, Layton’s daughter. She just opened a mystery solving shop in London and she is awaiting her first mysteries to solve. Her motto is “any mystery solved”. Together with her assistant named Ernest, you come across a talking dog. Katrielle gives the talking dog a name, Sherl. Yes, as a reference to Sherlock Holmes. The strange thing is that not everybody can hear Sherl talking. Katrielle’s first mystery is trying to solve why that is. Yet, it doesn’t take long before the first case reveals itself and Katrielle gets distracted by solving that. Not too soon after, Katrielle, Ernest, and Sherl go on different adventures to solve cases.

The writing in this game is very lighthearted and a joy to read. I really enjoy how Katrielle does anything for food, how Ernest is the clumsy romantic and Sherl the dog that knows a lot about how humans live their daily lives. The story can take itself seriously when it needs to, but overall, this is a less serious entry into the series compared to the previous games in the series. I’m currently at the 5th case in the game, so it’s possible that it can change. But, we shall see. The voice acting on the characters is also amazing. I think that the cast did an amazing job voicing these characters and make them come to life. A gold star for that!

I do have one minor complaint about the naming of certain characters in the game. The word puns in some cases made me cringe a bit. They didn’t feel creative, they felt forced in. Like, there was a couple where the lady was called Vic and the male called Tim. There were a bit more names like that and it didn’t click with me. I felt that more day-to-day names like Marc, William, Sara, Marian would be fitted better.

The story is structured in such a way that it more resembles a Saturday morning anime. Each case doesn’t take too long to solve, but each case has a nice start, middle and finale. During the case, you gather clues, that you have to fit in a puzzle. While this puzzle is extremely easy to make, I think it’s a step up from the previous Layton games since it’s more than a button that unlocks in a menu.

I do have one complaint about the story actually. I feel like the focus on the backstory of Sherl is a bit too much pushed to the background in the first cases. For real, the twist the game starts with about Sherl didn’t go anywhere substantial in the first four cases. If it did, I must have missed it.

Layton at its core

Laytons-Mystery-Journey-Katrielle-and-the-Millionaires-Consipracy-Screenshot-02While this game has a different main cast, the gameplay of this game is still the usual Layton gameplay at its core. In this game, you solve brain teasers and puzzles to get information from people. There are over 150 puzzles in this game. While you don’t have to solve them all to beat the game, there are some points in the game where you need to solve a certain amount of puzzles in order to progress. In this case, the game will clearly state how many you need to solve.

As I said earlier, this game is all about solving mysteries and finding clues to solve that mystery. Like I said before, the game is pretty lighthearted, so the mysteries aren’t; well how shall I put it? A missing pet or a missing part of a movie, that is the two of the first four cases. Yeah, I think that explains itself. So, you have to explore the London to find clues to what happened and how to solve the case.

While you are exploring, you can go to various locations and each location has various things to do. Exploration is just traveling from screen to screen. Sometimes you will have to ride a bike to another remote location, but that is about it. Also, you can only go to screens you unlocked. What I mean by this is that when for example, a lady on street tells you that your client lives a bit more down the road, the map opens up to that location.

This is how exploration always worked in the Layton games. Yet, you can do a lot on each screen. You can find hidden collectibles or puzzles, hint coins, progress the story or get interesting commentary about the object you tapped on. I really advise you to look at each screen with a lot of attention since all those things can be handy in solving the future cases. Especially the hint coins, if you can collect them, that’s always a great idea.

If you have played Layton games before, most hiding spots of the hint coins won’t be a surprise to you. Otherwise, try to tap on everything and it won’t take long before you will start to understand how this whole system works. So, why are these hint coins so handy? Well, let me tell you. You can get a hint when you are stuck in solving a brain teaser. Believe me, some will get you stumped and make you think. A great advice from me is to have a pen and notebook handy and maybe a calculator too.

While you can take notes and draw on the touchscreen while you solve the puzzle, I always felt that this system didn’t work flawlessly. If you want to input an answer, you have to exit out of your notes. In addition to that, I love writing my thoughts more on paper or on a bigger screen than the 3DS’s screen to solve puzzles.

The puzzles that you can solve in this game will range from math riddles to mazes you will have to solve. If you are stuck, don’t hesitate to think outside of the box. Since a lot of answers will simpler then you think. Something I didn’t like about this game is something that Level5 stopped doing in the previous entry in the Layton series. In the first games in the series, they explained the answer. In this game, they don’t always do that. So, when I didn’t understand why I had to answer in a certain way, I was disappointed to see a simple screen saying “you do it!” and nothing more.

Compared to previous Layton games, this game has also some side quests you can perform. During your exploration, you come across various characters who give you a new puzzle that is saved in Katrielle’s trunk. Like a puzzle where you need to solve a maze with the least amount of steps and finding the perfect meal with a cryptic description. Actually, I wouldn’t call them side quests, I think a better name is a side activity or a side puzzle.

Each puzzle is worth a certain amount of picards. The side puzzles aren’t worth any picards. So, what do these picards do? Well, the more you earn, the more bonus material you unlock after finishing the game. So, try to gain as much picards if you can. Since, if you give a wrong answer to a puzzle, the number of picards you earn from that puzzle drop. Keep that in mind if you want to unlock everything.

Visual eye-candy

lady layton 2.jpgThe visual presentation of this game is just amazing. This game has some amazing artwork and is a real piece of visual eye-candy to look at. While the game doesn’t use 3D that often, or at all, I think I can’t decide which art style I like the best for the game. The overall game is 2D, but the character models are rendered in 3D. While in cutscenes, everything is in 2D. I think the screenshots will explain it better than I can with words.

But, there is one thing that I didn’t like about the presentation and that are the cutscenes. To be honest, most cutscenes are just too short. Some cutscenes aren’t longer than one sneeze and blowing your nose. This is a shame since the cutscenes look so well made. I really wish there were longer cutscenes to enjoy. I feel that they are just an afterthought, while they feel like a nice reward for finding a breakthrough or solving the case.

The music for this game is enjoyable as well. The soundtrack isn’t one where I would listen to when I’m doing other things, but it adds a lot to the atmosphere of the game and I have no complaints about that. The music really fits the Layton universe perfectly, if you didn’t know better, you would say that it’s a soundtrack from another Layton game earlier in the series. The sound design also feels right at home. While there aren’t too many sound effects in the game, when they are used, they are used to give the world a bit more life or the story a bit more punch.

Like previous Layton games, this game also has daily puzzles. But this time, I feel that the reward is better for solving them. As you might know, I’m a game collector and I love seeing artwork from the games I played. So, when you solve a daily puzzle, you will get museum points. If you get 100 museum points, you can unlock artwork from any of the previous titles. This is such a great feature since it pulls on my nostalgic strings so much. To be honest, I spend a lot of time-solving the daily puzzles. I really enjoy solving most of them and I wish that time went a bit faster so I could receive my puzzles a bit faster.

While most of the issues I have with the game are minor, I think this game is still a great game. Some issues I have with the game or some minor, they became a nitpick. For example, I really liked how in previous games, each save slot had a different character from the main cast presenting it. In this game, it’s Katrielle for all three. Yeah, major nitpick right there.

Another minor issue that I have are some parts of the controls. While you can use the “A” button, and strangely enough the arrow buttons, to continue dialogues; you can’t use the psychical buttons for anything else. Besides solving some puzzles. Everything is done using the touchscreen. I really miss some shortcut keys. Like using the circle button to move your looking glass around or the shoulder buttons to open the movement menu or a button to open the trunk like “Y” for example. That would be a great addition.

Then again, there are things in the game I really like. Like how you can decorate the mystery solving office to how you want. Changing the Fengshui if you want. Depending on how many puzzles you solve, you get a ticket to “buy” a new item to change up the decoration of your office.

That isn’t the only thing you can change, there are also outfits for Katrielle you can buy. Some even as DLC for a small fee. While they have only a visual purpose and nothing else, the ones you can buy as DLC have an additional puzzle for you to solve.

About the costumes, there is one minor flaw I have to bring up. You can change Katrielle’s costume at any time you want. Yet, I noticed that Katrielle wears special outfits during other chapters. For example, in one chapter she dresses up in a nice dress since she is going out to see a movie with Ernest. If you exit that case and go to a different case to find hint coins you missed, Katrielle is still wearing that special dress. This is a bit out of context in my eyes and shouldn’t happen. Oh well, only a minor complaint?

Oh yeah, you can go back to previous cases in order to find hint coins and puzzles you missed. The only minor complaint I have is that there is no indication when you missed another collectible in the case. Even an indication on the case brief screen would have been nice. Since, if you skipped over one collectible, have fun looking for it, since the game won’t help you there. On the other hand, I think it’s a great move that you can visit back and solve puzzles you haven’t solved or found and looking for hint coins you missed. The only tip the game gives you there is the screen you missed it on. So, have fun looking for what you missed.

So far, I’m enjoying myself with this game. While the game isn’t flawless at all, I think that the positives outweigh the negatives here. If you are still deciding if this game is for you, know that it’s a more lighthearted Layton game with the same atmosphere and gameplay but without Layton, Luke and the usual gang. This game has a completely new cast of characters. It’s a breath of fresh air for the series and I can’t wait to see where Level5 takes this. I would love to see Katrielle and Layton meet one day.

That is everything I wanted to say about this game for now. I thank you so much for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article on my blog but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

 

Review: Tomb Raider Legend (PC) ~ The Sword of King Arthur

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Wikipedia entry

I remember picking up this game quite well. I was hyped for this game. Not too long before the release of this game, I got a new computer that was able to run to this game quite well. It even ran with the next-gen graphics. Back then, I finished this game and I remember that I had a lot of fun. Eleven years later, I decided that I want to write a review of this game. So, I took my copy from the shelves and booted up my Windows XP retro game pc and restarted playing this game. So, does this game still hold up or is this game just good in my nostalgic filled mind? Let’s dive into the Legend of the Tomb Raider. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of the article in the comment section below. 

Thrill ride

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The story of this game starts off with a young Lara on a plane. She is flying with her mother through a thunderstorm when suddenly, the plane crashes.

Lara finds an ancient sword and touches it. Her mother pulls Lara away and then pulls out the sword and disappears.  We fast forward a few years when Lara starts the journey to try and find out what happened to her mother.

In my opinion, the story is pretty good. Not great, since some parts of the story a bit too predictable. I was able to guess what was going to happen in the last parts of the game. I really liked the twist at the end, setting up the next game Underworld perfectly.

I know that Anniversary released before Underworld, but it has really nothing to do with the story of this game and Underworld.

In any case, the voice acting in this game is pretty good. I loved it when I played the game for the first time when I was a child and I still love it now. My favorite voice actress in the game is Keeley Hawes. She voices Lara Croft in this game and she does a pretty great job, just how I imagine Lara Croft sounding like.

Most of this game story is told in cutscenes. But, if you already finished the game, you can skip the cutscene by tapping the pause button and choose for “Skip Cinematic”.

I have played this game on two different systems for this review. One that can handle the next generation content and one that can’t handle that. The next generation content is nothing really special in my opinion. It just adds some additional visual fluff to the game.

Something I did notice, is that when I played it on my more than capable retro gaming PC, one that his the recommend specs perfectly, there is a lot of flickering in some stages and textures not fully loading in. I mostly had this problem when I did the motorcycle bit in the snowy area.

There is a lot of variaty in this game. You have driving sections, QTE, platforming and shooting sections. Wait, Quick Time Events? I know that some people really hate this, but I personally don’t mind them too much. They aren’t too frequent and they are over quickly. To be honest, I enjoy most of them.

Exploring Lara’s house

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It’s a shame that the game has some graphical problems here and there. Maybe it has to do with the fact that old PC has an ATI device in it, and the other PC has a NVidea card. It does display at the start.

But, the overall presentation is good. The environments and tombs you explore in this game are pretty well designed. The animation is great too. Some death animations really send a shiver down my spine. They felt a bit too real, but some became funny when Lara keeps sliding more than you expect and falls off a cliff.

You can also explore the Croft Manor in this game. In this game, the Croft Manor isn’t the tutorial like we have seen in all previous Tomb Raider games. Now, you can unlock certain training areas to explore when you finish a certain level in the game. I personally recommend that you play through the Croft Manor when you either want a relaxing level or a post-game thing to play.

There are also secrets to find in the Croft Manor. These extras range from character profiles to object models. There is also a special surprise if you collect them all. Thankfully, it’s quite easy to replay a level to try and find secrets you missed.

One thing that really annoyed me was the saving mechanic. It works fine and the autosave points are placed perfectly, but the loading of save games is just a bit broken. Tomb Raider is known for difficult jumps sometimes or multiple jumps you have to do in a row. I like to save after I did a few of them so I can load the game when I did something wrong. In all the previous titles, that I played, when you load; you start right back at the position you saved. Not in this game, you start at the beginning of the jump bit or sometimes even earlier.

The soundtrack of this game is great. I really enjoy listing to it and it added a great atmosphere while you are exploring the tombs. The orchestral soundtrack of this game really impressed me as a kid and it still does as an adult. The sound design for this game is good as well.

Put that gun away, Lara!

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If there is one thing that could use some improvement in this game is the controls.

Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t terrible in any meaning of the word.

There were just a few times that I pressed the grab button, but Lara didn’t grab a ledge. Yet, it isn’t the wrong thing about the controls. There isn’t a “put your gun away” button. And if there is, I wasn’t able to find it. This was really annoying when you were done fighting some enemies and you wanted to start a jump puzzle and Lara doesn’t grab the ledge because she is still holding a gun.

Also, the default layout for the controls is just bad for some functions. For example, to switch your weapon, it’s “End”. To switch your light on or off, it’s “Del”. Medkit is “Home” and your binoculars is “Page Down”. So, I highly recommend you rebinding those controls when you want to play this game.

I don’t know what was causing this problem, but sometimes, the camera moved without me moving my mouse at all. This happened multiple times when I was swinging on a rope.

That’s enough complaining about the controls. Let’s talk about the rest of the game. There is a sort of help system in the game. The PDA. It’s helpful, but I rarely used it. The only time I used it was when I returned to the game after a long while to check what I needed to do.

But, the binoculars can help there as well. With them, you can see what you can use and plan out your route. Yet, the level design is so clear, you barely have to use it when you pay attention to what’s around you.

The difficulty in this game is spot on. No complaints there. The UI of this game is pretty well crafted too. Again, no issues there.

The combat in this game is really enjoyable. My favorite moments are when you enter a sort of bullet time mode and you jump on enemies shield to launch you into the air and shoot the defenseless enemy.

Before we go to the conclusion, I want to touch on one final thing. This game’s length is spot on. It isn’t too long but it isn’t too short either. If you decide to complete this game that is. Since, if you rush through this game, you might be able to beat it in a day. Since it’s 8 hours long. If you want to complete this game, you double your play time.

Conclusion

The good:

+ Good story, while predictable sometimes

+ Great voice acting.

+ Good level design.

+ A lot of variety in gameplay styles.

+ ….

The bad:

-Some visual issues on some computers.

-The controls, while good, could use some polishing up. The default layout is just bad.

-The game is too short if you rush through it.

Final thoughts:

This game didn’t age too well. As a kid, I thought this game was one of the best games I have ever played. But, looking at it now as an adult, I see the flaws of this game. It’s by no means a bad game. The story, voice acting, level design… they are all good.

The big issue is that they aren’t great. The sequel games, like Anniversary and Underworld, are so much better in my opinion.

In general, this game has its problems. Some are noticeable, others aren’t. I do remember having adrenaline rushes when I played this game for the first time. When I played it for this review, I had them too but way less.

In conclusion, I think that this game is worth it. I would recommend it to any fan of Tomb Raider and adventure games. If you have a decent enough computer that can run it and doesn’t get affected by the same graphical issues I was. Since I can tell you for a fact, I didn’t have them on my old childhood computer. This game is good, but not great. It could have been better if there was a bit more polish.

Thank you for reading this review 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, take care and have a great rest of your day!

Score: 70/100

Review: Bioshock 2 (PC) ~ Daddy, please!

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Wikipedia pageOfficial website

Back in late 2015, I wrote an article on Bioshock. Then, in middle of 2016, I wrote my review of Bioshock Infinite. Now, today I want to talk about the 2nd game in the series, Bioshock 2. It’s no secret that I love the Bioshock series. It’s one of my favorite game series. Weirdly enough, this game is pretty well received by the press, yet some Bioshock fans and gamers hate this game. Now, in this review, I’ll tell you my honest opinion. Is this game good or is it bad? So, let’s go to Rapture again to try and crack this case. As usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of the article. 

Footnote: for this review, I played the original version. I have beaten the original but I haven’t beaten the remaster yet.

Daddy, please!

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8 years after the events of Bioshock, Subject Delta is woken up by little sisters. You thought that all little sisters were saved in the original Bioshock? Well, some things happened and now, you play the role of Subject Delta and you have to save the day. Not only that, you are a Big Daddy without a Little Sister.

This time, the plot is quite different from the original Bioshock. Personally, I think it’s well written. It touches on some subjects that make the story quite interesting. There is also a section where you play through the eyes of a little sister. This was a great idea. It made the setting of Bioshock more real to me.

The voice acting was, to be honest, hit or miss. There were moments that the actors delivered the line perfectly. But some lines could have been directed better. In those moments, the voice acting missed the soul of the character or the game. But, this problem might be because, like many others, I compare it to the original Bioshock. The voice acting in that game was exceptional.

The biggest issue with the story is that it’s bland at some points. I remember the introduction and the ending part of Bioshock 2. But, I don’t remember a lot of the middle section of the game, in terms of the story that is.

A bit more of Rapture

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In this game, you discover a bit more of Rapture. You visit locations that you haven’t visited in the first game. Some locations are quite memorable. Yet, like I said before in this review, I don’t always remember what happened in those sections of the story.

One thing I don’t remember is multiplayer. Simply because I haven’t played any match online. But, when I read on the Bioshock Wiki, it sounds interesting. The only thing remember is that there aren’t a lot of players online though.

Visually, this game still looks great. If you find that the game needs a visual upgrade, the remastered edition. But be warned, the remastered version of this game lacks the multiplayer.

The animations in the game look amazing. The animation quality of the original Bioshock has returned and still looks as great as ever in this game. If it works that is. What I mean here is that sometimes, the animation bugged out for me and repeated three or four times before ending. Especially when the Splicers opened a door with a blow torch. In various occasions, the animation kept playing where it ended.

Overall, the visual presentation is pretty great. If you can stand the occasional visual glitch, that is. I especially love the design of the Big Sisters. This is a new type of enemy that you encounter in this game. They are pretty scary enemies to deal with since they are even more powerful than the Big Daddy’s. They can hurt you pretty bad.

If you want to beat this game, you will have to give or take 15 hours of game time. If you rush this game, you get 11 hours. This game has some replay value since you can explore various areas for missed tonics and plasmids.

Gameplay-wise, this game plays very similarly to the first Bioshock.  This game is a shooter as well. You will have various tonics at your disposal to play around with. There is also a new gameplay section in this game. Since you play as a Big Daddy, you can drop off your Little Sister at “an angel”. At this moment, you drop off your Little Sister while she collects ADAM. Then this game turns into a “defend the point” shooter. A lot of enemies come in various locations and attack you. If they reach the girl, she doesn’t continue to gather the ADAM. I think this would have been better if you had the possibility of losing your little sister then. That would make this section tenser.

You are a Big Daddy now

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There is one gameplay change I like but hate at the same time. I’m happy that they changed the hacking mini game into something else. But, I hate what they changed it into. They changed it into a reaction based

You have to press a button while the arrow is in the green section to continue hacking the machine. The issue I have with it is that the landing areas get so small, it gets very hard. I don’t have the best reflexes or rhythm and I tripped more alarms than necessary.

In this game, you also play with a lot of new weapons compared to the original game. Of course, you are a Big Daddy in this title.  The same counts of plasmids and tonics. I loved the “Hypnotize” and “Electro Shock” plasmids a lot. I have used them the most.

The “Decoy” plasmid was pretty handy as well in the sections where you needed to protect your Little Sister. Switching between plasmids and weapons is pretty great. Like the controls of this game. I didn’t have any issues with them.

Something I didn’t need to complain about was the UI of this game. Every option was easy to find and everything that needed to be displayed was displayed. You can also disable parts of the UI if you want a more immersive experience.

The difficulty curve in this game is pretty good. There were some sections that were pretty tense, but I enjoyed the gameplay a lot. While the adventure itself might be short, there are so many different ways to kill your enemies making it a somewhat unique experience each playthrough. You can also research Little Sisters after you killed the accompanying Big Daddy.

Sadly enough, the whole ride isn’t enjoyable. Some moments of the gameplay are quite boring. There are sections where you need to go from point A to B under water. I hated those parts since they felt as filler gameplay. But, I can understand the inclusion for two reasons.

One, the add to the character of a Big Daddy. You saw them repairing broken parts of Rapture in the original game in the ocean.

Two, they can be used as what developers call a “Loading Gate”. These moments give the game time to unload the old part of the game and load in the new part of the game. This is a trick to save resources.

The soundtrack of this game is pretty decent. Personally, I’m not a big fan of the music from the time period that Bioshock takes place in, but the themes played during the combat and exploration sections are lovely.

The sound-effects of this game are pretty well done as well. I played this game with some gaming headphones and I have to say, that they really helped to immerse me into the game. Thanks to the sound design, I jumped out of my skin quite a few times when I didn’t see an enemy coming or when I was battling with a Big Sister.

Also, this game got a DLC with one additional story. It’s called Minerva’s Den. This DLC adds a 5-hour campaign to the main game and it’s pretty decent. I have seen and played worse DLC’s. I haven’t completely beaten it yet, but I’m near the end of the DLC. If you are planning to buy and play this game; I highly recommend that you buy the DLC as well. You will get more out of your game.

That said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. It’s time to get to the conclusion.

Conclusion

The bad:

-Sometimes the game can be pretty buggy. Mostly the animations suffer from this.

-The voice acting is not good.

-The new hacking minigame is just bad.

-Parts of the story aren’t memorable, which is a shame since it’s an interesting story.

-The multiplayer is removed in the remaster.

The good:

+ Addictive gameplay with the new plasmids, weapons, tonics and Little Sisters.

+ The game looks still pretty great visually.

+ Amazing sound design and a great soundtrack.

+ Longer than your typical shooter.

+ …

Final Thoughts:

Is Bioshock 2 a bad game? Not in my opinion. Let me explain it this way, Bioshock 2 isn’t like Half Life 2. The sequel isn’t better than the original game.

Sidenote: let me be clear with calling Half Life 2 better than Half Life 1, I hear more praise for the second game compared to the first. That’s all.

Bioshock 2 has problems, it lacks polish in some areas and you can hear that in the voice acting and see that in the various minor bugs left in the game. On the Wikipedia article, you can read an interesting development history of this game. The developers had quite a big task ahead of them. How are you going to follow up the amazing Bioshock?

I personally think that this game is an amazing sequel that has some flaws. If you enjoyed Bioshock, there is a chance you might enjoy the sequel. Give it a chance, since this game has some amazing moments. And if you want the best visual experience, you can play the remastered version. About the remastered version, Drakulus wrote a pretty interesting article on the remaster of the original. You can read it here.

That’s everything for this review folks! I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Thank you for reading and I hope to be able to welcome you in another article. But until then, take care and have a great rest of your day.

Score: 70/100

First Impression: Dragon Quest VIII – Journey of the Cursed King (PS2) ~ Let’s Go Forward!

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Wikipedia entry

So, I have something to admit, I actually wanted to talk about this game last summer. But, I wrote about other games and this game got on my “to review” list. Let’s fix that today. Let’s talk about the journey of the cursed king. A journey I own on two different systems. Yes, this game got a remake for the 3DS. But, I haven’t played a lot of the 3DS remake, so I’m going to look at the PS2 version. Oh, if you are wondering what the differences are between this version and the 3DS remake, RPGSite.net wrote a great piece about it. In any case, that’s enough rambling. Let’s get this first impression started since I haven’t beaten the whole game. For this review, I am give or take 25% through the story. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the article and/or the game.

Direct story

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In most RPG’s I played, the story mostly starts with a peaceful setting and then something big happens and the world needs to be saved. Yet, this story starts out a bit more “humble”.

You start looking for a jester that cursed the king and the princess into a monster and a horse. If you want to know what happened before that, you have to read the manual. So far, the story is very enjoyable. The writing is great and the voice acting is really great. But for a better analysis of the story, I think I have to get further into the game.

The gameplay of this game is a good but it has some flaws. In this game, there are random encounters. In some cases, there is an overkill of random encounters. I had several times where each 5 to 10 steps I took, got me in a random battle. Thankfully, the 3DS version fixes this with showing the enemies in the overworld so you can avoid them if you want.

Yet, it isn’t a great idea to avoid them at all, at least all the time. Since not only does the game keeps a counter with how many times you fled a battle, you will need all the experience you can get. This game can be quite hard and you will have to grind if you want to survive.

So, you will have to get yourself a lot of healing items before you can fight bosses and enter into caves. I recommend that you at least raise 2-3 levels before you venture into a new area. Also, explore each area as much as you can. Since there are a lot of side quests that might help you on your journey and make the grinding less repetitive.

Orchestral

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I want to touch upon a few things that could have improved the game. I seriously miss a run button. Sometimes, I feel that you walk so slow and getting somewhere takes a bit too long.

Another thing that I don’t really like about this game is the inventory system. For certain tasks, it takes too many steps to preform. Like moving an item from the central inventory to a characters inventory. At first, I wasn’t a big fan of the split inventories but after a while, I learned to appriciate it. It adds realism into the game, since you can give certain characters items to help them in battle, like your allies are carrying a bit of the resources on your journey. But it also adds a layer of strategy. To whom do you give healing items and such.

Something that didn’t need any improvement is the soundtrack. Why is the soundtrack in this game so good? I mean, running around the open fields exploring the world with an amazing orchestral soundtrack, what’s not to love. On top of that, visually, this game looks amazing. I had several times that I just stopped moving and looked around. This game looks amazing and still holds up today.

You venture through various locations that each have an unique feel. Not only that, in some cases, you can play as the pet mouse of the main character and let it run around in buildings to open locked doors or to get more information about a certain quest.

If you have forgotten what your main quest was, you can always ask your team mates when you press the “Start” button. With this, I think it’s a great time to talk about the controls. They are great, the only complaint I have is that the menu button isn’t the start button. But, this nitpick might be because my brain is hardwired by handheld games.

Spoiled by 3DS

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So far, I’m enjoying myself with this game a whole lot. Like I said, this game looks and sounds amazing. If you have any doubt, I also mean the animations too, they are great as well.

The only thing I lack sometimes is a sort of ingame map. Maybe I have looked over it, but there isn’t any map to speak off. I’m somebody who easily gets distracted and looses their way easily. So, I use the in-game map to navigate. Also, I’m bad in remembering names like street names, town names and things like that. It’s so bad sometimes that I forget the streetnames of the neighbouring streets of the street I live at. Yeah. So, an in-game map with names would be so lovely. That’s why I “cheat” sometimes and have an overworld map open on my tablet if I need to take a quick look at it. But only the overworld map.

Like I said various times in this first impression, I think that this game is great but the 3DS improved on a lot of things. It also added additional content. But, why don’t I play it on the 3DS then? Well, for two reasons. My first reason is that I owned this game on PS2 first and I gotten to far and didn’t want to restart. And my second reason is that I think this game looks a bit better on a bigger screen than the 3DS screen.

So far, this game has a high score in my book. But, due to the high random encounter rate, the need for griding and the sometimes slow flow of the game; I have to get in the right mindset but I can play this game. But if I do play the game, I have play sessions that clock in at 3 hours or more each time I boot this game up. That’s why I haven’t gotten too far in this game in over a year. According to some sources, you can get over 100 hours of gameplay out of this game, so I have a long away ahead of me if I want to complete this game.

That’s everything I wanted to say about this game for now. If I ever beat this game, I will write a review about it. But for now, I have to thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing this. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

NekoJonez: Review #016: Alan Wake (PC) ~ Departure

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Official website

You would have thought that I would write my 15th game review on my blog. Yet, I decided to write it here on ButtonSmashers. Why? Well, to thank the guys for the great times they gave me and because Q gives me sometimes some free games and I think that means I need to pay him back somehow. So, I write an article on one of the best horror/adventure PC games ever made, well in the recent years. Besides, for me it’s all about reaching the milestone instead of the location. Another reason why I write it on my friends blog here is that I actually got this game for free from somebody of Arpegi. And my first impression is already on my blog. So yeah. If you want to read my first impression of this game, you can do that here. Anyways, unlike Alan here, I’m not in the dark. My dark, well black, cat is sleeping in my arms, making the time I spent on this review a lot longer then I originally planned. Oh well, the two additional collector edition episodes will have to wait. I have a game to review. In my introduction I always make it clear how I got to this game. Well, I got this game as a present. I was allowed to choose between three titles for buying someone a game. I knew the title Alan Wake from seeing it on a YouTube channel called Lazy Game Reviews. I wanted to link his video but the highly trained monkey’s of Google failed to work. (Yeah, YouTube has been bugging out for me. So, after some 500 error’s I gave up.) Anyways, enough stalling of this! Let’s get on with the review. Nothing special for the 15th, just a plain old review. And my plain old invite for you to write a comment what you think about this game and/or review. 

Manuscript pages

Wake_Barry.jpgThis game blew me out of the water. One of it’s many stronger points is the writing. It’s just an amazing story. Don’t go spoiling yourself because the ending is somewhat open ended and ready for a sequel. Yet, I haven’t finished the additional DLC’s yet. So, maybe I get my answers there.

I actually bought myself the novel version of this game. And I’m pumped to read it. I can feel Wake’s pain. He’s a writer who lost inspiration. Sometimes I have that myself. But apart from a story with deep and rich characters, it’s extremely memorable. It makes a lot of twists and turns. Even Alan starts to doubt himself from time to time. It feels more human.

The presentation of the story is what made this game for me. What’s going to happen in the (near) future of a chapter is written out on manuscript pages, some are extremely well hidden. Some provide backstory to the characters. While the pages play a very important role in the game, it’s implementation is just brilliant and how it should be.

I’m so sad that I finished this awesome story and this is one that I wished I could play over and over again without knowing the story. Where is that reset button in your brain when you need it?

Well, let’s talk about this game’s gameplay. And is it something where many game developers can learn from. You play the role of Alan Wake, like I told earlier, a writer who is in trouble. This game is a mostly linear adventure game, at some moments there are two or more paths, and it’s a shooter as well. But with a big twist. Before you can hurt your enemies, you must shine your flashlight on them. I only wish that not all enemies where male. But this is such an extremely big nitpick.

Ammo?!

cabinIn the game you use several weapons. A pistol, shotgun and a flare gun. You sometimes have flares and flash bangs at your disposal. And when you explore you can have more ammo as your reward. The additional batteries I found for my flashlight came in extremely helpful.

Yet with this comes on of my few complaints with the game. The weapon selection is not that great. When you play it, you will understand me better. But it’s as simple as putting everything under the scroll wheel. So when you wish to switch your flash bangs to flares without switching your weapon, well though luck.

And your objective is nearly always the same. Go from point A to B. Yet, the journey is always extremely different. From fighting through ambushes to driving a car to an other location, the game never feels really repetitive. This game also haves some major horror mixed in. From being in the woods with a lot of bear traps and the Taken following you to being in a hospital that is consumed by darkness.

I also love how the creators of this game hid several QR codes to scan in the game. I uncovered some GIFs with it. I’m so curious with I’ll find on my second playthrough. Yes, you read it correctly, I’ll probably play through this game more then once. Not only since the highest difficulty provides all pages to find but also because of several paths I didn’t explore and I wish I did.

One other complaint I have is that the driving is a bit broken. It’s too loose. You sometimes feel like you’re riding on ice. And with sudden tight corners in the road, this game makes the driving not so easy. Plus, your car can break down. Excellent, yet a damage meter is nowhere to be seen.

While the ammo for your weapons is extremely scare, you’ll never be without bullets. If you don’t waste them that is. With a human jump and a limited sprint, this gameplay can’t be any more talked about I guess. On to the next segment! Like in the game. It’s also in parts. And when you reach the next part, a quick recap plays. This makes being up to speed with the story such an easy task.

Well lit room

poltergeistLet’s first talk about this game’s soundtrack. I like almost every track. Some songs at the end aren’t really my style but I won’t talk bad on the game because of this. The set the mood like it should. The music gets tense when it needs to. And the music gets lighthearted when there is drama.

And the sound design is how I think it should be in all games of this genre. All weapons are such a blast to use because of this. Except, I miss a bit of a ticking sound for the flash bang. But that’s the only change I would do in the sound department.

And does this game gets tense. A full 100% yes please! The further you go, the more I got on the edge of my seat. This game provides a lot of challenge. One or two parts where a bit unfair but hey, that I can let slip.

The level design is excellent. I never really felt stuck and it was always clear in which direction I should head. Thanks to the ability to press “F” to focus on the part Alan was talking about makes that you have more control in your hands and that’s something I can only applaud. The only thin I should have dropped was the clicking to start an engine for light. One time it got a bit too difficult to remain fun.

Oh, now I suddenly remember that I should have mentioned in the gameplay section that there are various additional collectibles to find. Well, now that I mention it here, I can say that this games it’s length is great. I have beaten it on normal difficulty in 18 hours. Yet, I know that I skipped some parts and I haven’t finished the DLC. And I truly look forward to beat this game again with the developer commentary playing in my headset. Yeah, I advice you that you play this game with a headset, it makes the experience a lot better.

There are also parts in the game that you play with a side kick. And it’s AI is great. I had moments where I really was saved by the AI. And there where moments where the enemies really took me off guard. And I like how the animation helps you see enemies swarm you from different directions. This makes the possibility of cheap deaths go down so much. But before we talk about that, I want to say that I had to try some parts several times. Not because of cheap things but because I was truly taken off guard or I took the situation on with a wrong weapon. The bosses really require that you use the tactics of the weapons and ammo that you have.

So to finish this review, I’ll talk about the visuals and animation. And wow, the visuals are just mind blowing. The excellent voice work really shines through here. With nice and extremely well done locations, it’s a joy to walk around in this game’s setting. Nothing feels out of place and the developer really made it in such a way that this game might be real as well. The character’s detail is also well done.

I also like how you get a nice death animation when you kill the last enemy of the attacking group or when you die. The animation might have a hiccup here and there, it’s not really noticeable when you don’t pay attention to it or when you don’t look at it with a reviewer’s eye.

So, let’s wrap up this special longer review here and let’s get right to my conclusion, shall we?

Conclusion

The good:

+ Amazing story.

+ Great setting.

+ Nice gameplay.

+ Decent length.

+ Pretty epic soundtrack.

+ And much more.

The bad:

– The driving is a tad bit broken. A damage indicator and improved driving would be welcome.

– The switching of weapons isn’t the easiest thing to do.

Conclusion:

When even MiseryLC talks about this game, you may be sure it’s quality content. He didn’t play this game, he only saw a let’s play of the sequel. And I agree with my statement there. This game is a mindblowing experience. One that every one should play that likes adventure and horror games.

The presentation is unique. In terms of visuals and the story. It’s different yet familiar. It’s really worth to check this game out on Steam and play it right now.

I truly had trouble looking for negative parts of this game. This is one gem that should be high on everybody’s list. And it’s even a port from a XBOX360 game. Take that, a well made port.

Play this game, you won’t regret it.

Score: 95 / 100