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

H2x1_NSwitchDS_BridgeStrike_image1600wNintendo.com micrositeDrageus Games portfolioOfficial website

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

We can strike!

NSwitchDS_BridgeStrike_04

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

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

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

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

We are out of ammo!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, shall we strike?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Impression: Corpse Party 2 – Dead Patient (Steam) ~ And Then It Happened.

Corpse Party 2Wikipedia entrySteam page

I think it’s no secret that I’m a Corpse Party fan if you read my blog. When I review horror or horror-themed games, I find myself referencing the series. I have also written articles on almost every Corpse Party game. Now, when I noticed that Corpse Party 2 was in development,  I was beyond hyped. I was disappointed when it looked like the series wasn’t going to get an English release. But, then a miracle happened. Around Halloween of last year, Corpse Party 2 – Dead Patient appeared on Steam with an English version! So, is this indie game worth your time and money to play or is this game better left forgotten? Let’s find out in this first impression article, written after I have finished the first episode that’s currently available on Steam. 

Editorial note: At this current point of writing, I have “finished” the game. What I mean with that is that only the first episode and a bonus episode have been released and I have finished both those episodes. Now, as far as we know, more episodes are on their way but it’s unknown when since this is a hobby project. Since we don’t have the full game yet, I have decided that this article is going to be a first impression rather than a review. 

And Then It Happened.

Corpse Party 2 -1

Five years after the events in the Heavily Host arc, Ayame Itou finds herself waking up strapped to a hospital bed without a lot of her memories. When she gets loose from the operating table, she is unable to find a soul in the “Amare Patriarcha Crucis” hospital. After some exploration of the hospital, strange things start to happen. With all exits barricaded off, Ayame finds herself in a sort of Heavenly Host – Hospital Edition with a twist. This time not only ghosts are haunting the hospital but something has happened to the other patients, something that really complicates things.

Some parts of the story really caught me off guard. There are moments in this game that made me jump. The pacing of the dialogues is such a breath of fresh air compared to the previous entries in Corpse Party. Some dialogues, while extremely well written, could drag on and on. But not in this game. Most of the dialogues get right to the point.

It didn’t take long before I was well immersed in the story of this game. While two characters were arguing I had a hard time choosing which character to root for since they both had amazing points.

I’m really holding myself back in not spoiling the big things that happen in the game since the blinder you go into the story, the better it is. That’s why I kept my plot description as vague as I could.

Now, I can totally understand that some people aren’t going to be happy to see a game with only one (and a half) episode released without any information when the next episode(s) are going to be released. Especially when you are able to beat the first episode and the bonus episode in 2 to 4 hours.

Unfinished options

Corpse Party 2 -2So, the game is rather short in its current state. While a huge part of Steam reviews mention that as one of the biggest negatives, there is something else that comes up quite often in the reviews as well. The lack of communication is another thing that’s mentioned in the reviews.

In a few reviews, players talked about the issue that you were unable to play in full screen. Now, you can play this game on full screen but the issue is with awkward UI design. The UI of the game isn’t the best.

To adjust your screen resolution, you have to start the configuration tool. There, the game starts out by the Japanese language by default. For some strange reason, this tool is able to remember your display setting but not the language. If you want to play this game with an XBOX-controller, you have to choose XInput.

But that isn’t the strangest thing. You don’t have an “options” button in the main menu of the game. While you do have that feature while you are playing the game, there are two options you can’t adjust in there. While you can change the controller you use to play the game and the language of the game, you are unable to change the screen resolution and the frame rate cap. I would really love to see the whole configuration tool implemented in the game.

Since you can use that options menu to also change your control bindings. I really think those options are at home in that menu. Now, to finish my thoughts on the options menu, I have two other “complaints”. The first is that you are unable to change the bindings for the keyboard controls and secondly, there is no sample that plays when you adjust the voice volume to test out if your sound mixing/balance is good enough.

Before I continue about other things, I have a minor nitpick. But, the music of the game keeps playing when you minimize the game or alt/tab out of it. Then again, I don’t think that it’s such a big deal since the soundtrack of this game is really enjoyable. The soundtrack really fits the theme that the previous games in the series have set. While some are quite creepy, some are really action-packed and give off some punch. Coupled with good sound effects, the sound design of this game gets a thumbs up from me.

But there are some other things that I think could have improved the user experience quite a bit. First of all, a skip button for already seen dialogue when you replay that chapter to find the other endings would be lovely. Also, there is no message on the screen when you found a certain ending. Apart from the achievement box showing on the screen, it’s credits and back to the main menu with you.

I’m crossing my fingers that when the next episodes drop, there are going to be some quite of life updates as well since I think that this game can become a real gem when the rough edges are polished up a bit more.

That ending

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Now, I can totally understand that you think that this game isn’t a lot of fun to play after you read the last section. But, the opposite is true. This game is a lot of fun to play.

The controls might be a little bit stiff sometimes, especially when trying to interact with objects. But, those moments are quite infrequent. I really liked the control scheme of this game and I got used to it really quickly. I found it strange that I was able to run all the time without almost any penalty.

Speaking of running, the run is extremely useful to outrun the almost braindead enemies. Yes, there are enemies in this game but the AI isn’t the greatest. The enemies in the previous entries of the Corpse Party series were more a lot more difficult than in this game. But, is that a problem? On one hand, you could say that it makes this game a bit too easy but on the other hand you can also say that it’s only the first episode so you need to get used to the enemies. So yeah, you can look at it from two different perspectives.

The difficulty in this game is the puzzles and decisions. Both of them are amazing. The really feel right at home in the Corpse Party series. If you played the previous Corpse Party games, you will feel right at home while playing this game.

Now, the visual presentation of this game is quite nostalgic. Visually, this game looks like some old school DS and 3DS games. The visual presentation reminded me of games like Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks. I can understand that there are people who won’t enjoy this visual presentation but I find a certain charm in it. The animations are equally as retro and that only adds to the charm.

All in all, I really enjoyed playing this game and I can’t wait to see more chapters to this game. I think that if people give this game a chance and spread the word about it, that the developers see that there is an audience waiting for the next chapter and that we might see more information sooner than later.

I highly recommend this game to everybody who enjoys horror-themed games, adventure games, Corpse Party fans and people who love games with a rich story and/or lore. But, know that the game is a bit rough around the edges at certain points and is at the moment of writing, quite light on content.

And with that, I have said everything I wanted to say in this article. I think I’ll write a more in-depth and updated article when the game is fully finished but for now, 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!

Game Quicky: Island Maze (Switch) ~ Each Island Is A Maze

SQ_NSwitchDS_IslandMaze.jpgOfficial Nintendo micrositeDrageus microsite

From time to time, I enjoy trying out cheap games. Especially when I have some budget leftover and I see a game that looks interesting. That’s why I agreed to write a small review article on Island Maze for the Nintendo Switch. It’s a game Drageus Games developed themselves instead of porting the game over. So, let’s take a look at this game with the review copy that the developers provided. Now, in this review, you will find my 100% honest opinion on the game but feel free to leave your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article down below.

Positives

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This game is quite easy to grasp and has an enjoyable concept. The idea is that you get to the goal in the least amount of moves possible. The catch is that you can’t move over a colored tile without the correct gem. So, you have to think about how your dice is going to move over the field before moving.

Now, the game might seem to limit in the controls department, but you have a lot of helpful tools at your disposal. You can rotate the camera, zoom in and out and even undo moves. You can also reserve the camera’s direction when it doesn’t feel right to you to control.

This game allows you to skip levels. Whenever you are stuck on a certain level, you don’t need to play that level. When you complete 10 levels with the least amount of moves, you unlock every level.

The music is quite relaxing. It fits the atmosphere of the game amazingly well. Together with the amazing visuals, the game looks and sounds amazing. Maybe a bit more sound effects would be nice but then again, I think I would get sick of the dice rolling sound effect extremely quickly. Maybe one or two sound effects in the menus would be nice.

Negatives

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There are a few glaring issues in this game that I want to address.

The first issue is that the undo button only works for one move. So, if you noticed a mistake that you made ten moves ago, you better restart.

Secondly, there is no hint system. So, when you are stuck on a level, there is no way for you to know more. So, if you don’t understand a new mechanic right away… You will have to experiment.

For some reason, the “-” button brings up the controller connect menu of the Nintendo Switch. This serves no purpose in the game at all.

The naming of this game is a bad decision. If you Google: “Island Maze”, the results are mostly the island mazes from Breath of the Wild. If this game was a simple hobby project, I wouldn’t mind it too much. But, I think that in future the developers should pay a bit more attention to the naming in case they want to promote their game online more easily.

This game has been out for a year on Steam. Compared to the Steam version, which is a tad bit cheaper mind you, nothing has been changed. I think that after a year, the game could use some new levels and mechanics to give the game a bit more depth.

Final Thoughts – Conclusion

is_s1This is a good game, but it’s on the wrong platform. The audience for the Nintendo Switch isn’t an audience for quick and short casual games like this game. I think that the game would be better suited for mobile platforms. I felt that touch controls would work better for this game. Honestly, the game gave me that sort of vibe.

Apart from the broken undo system, I don’t see anything wrong with the game. This game is a cheap and enjoyable puzzler that can be entertaining for a rainy afternoon or when you are waiting for the doctor or when you are traveling on the bus or something of that nature.

I’m just a bit sad to see that this game is so short while the concept has a lot of promise. I enjoyed my time with this game but I wouldn’t blame people when they get bored with this game or skip it.

And that’s everything I wanted to say about this game. Thank you so much for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Score: 3/5

Publishing: How to Tell a Hardware Problem From a Software Problem

Jonez note: This article has been written by the fine folks over at https://businessservicesweek.com if you are interested in various topics you should surely take a look at their site. I found this guest post article quite interesting, so I decided to post it. I found it so interesting, I might revisit this topic in the future with my personal advice.

A computer is made up of various different layers and components, all put in place to perform specifically for the computer’s needs. When a computer breaks or has malfunctioned, it can be a big pain and cause various different issues – especially if you use the computer for work.

save

When we are subject to a computer issue, it can be hard to determine where the problem is coming from. We have been groomed to just instantly turn it off and on again and pray for the best. But, it is more than likely a hardware or software problem. But, to anyone that isn’t very educated in computer makeup, it can be tough to know which is causing the problem.

The Difference Between Hardware and Software

Computer hardware can be defined as any physical attribute used in or with your machine. So, the hardware inside the computer, or the components on the outside such as your mouse, keyboard, server, and workstation. Hardware is anything that can be physically touched. Without these components to your computer, the software wouldn’t have anything to run on.

Software is a collection of code installed onto the computers’ hard drive, that allows the device to perform. Many systems will divide software into 3 different categories. These are system software, programming software, and application software. These major classes are sequenced in a way that will be able to change the state of the hardware of the computer.

Common Hardware Problems

Most common hardware issues are actually caused by your device overheating, and not being able to dispose of that heat to cool down. This can cause issues with all the components and their performance inside of the computer, disrupting workflow. Other than the underlying cause being heat, another way many hardware issues occur is because of physical damage. For example, dropping or smashing your device can cause the component to shift or even break themselves.

Some noticeable hardware problems can be as follows.

Blue Screen

A blue screen occurs when your computer encounters a failure called a ‘stop error’. The coding of this error causes the computer to completely crash and stop working. They can come onto your screen and produce all manners of information and coding that is being saved into your hard drive disk as it is happening. If this happens, the only way the laptop can be saved is to restart it entirely. This can lead to a lot of data loss, as the applications that may be open as the blue screen happens, do not have enough time to save all of their data.

Noisy Hard Drive

Hard drives, unknown to many, have a limited lifespan and these are something you do need to update every few months or years to have optimum performance. So, if there is clicking or disruptive grinding sounds coming from the inside of your computer, then it is highly likely the hard drive needs to be replaced.

Blank Screens

Having a blank monitor is one of the most common hardware problems. A blank screen is something that is most likely to occur at least once in your time when using a computer. This can be an annoyance if the computer is being used for work purposes or important work, so it’s an issue that would really need to be fixed fast. This problem can usually be caused by loose cables in the back of the computer such as the supply cord or video cable. A simple fix would be too check all of these and ensure they are securely plugged in, to decipher if these are the culprits.

Common Software Issues

Most common software issues are caused due to a bug in the coding sequence or because the system is not working as expected due to an external issue. Software problems can cause a lot of frustration as the software coding in your device is what runs your hardware to work smoothly.

Computer Freezing

A very common software issue in many devices is the incessant freezing of applications or the screen whilst it is in use. As the laptop will now not be able to be controlled by the mouse and no clicks are doing anything, the only option left is to restart the computer. But, instead of flicking the main supply to rid the laptop of complete power, just holding down the power button for 5-10 seconds will allow the device to restart without losing power – hopefully leaving any opened work untouched.

App Command Not Working

Another confusing and troublesome software problem that could occur is apps on the device are not loading or responding when opened. This can be caused by the software trying to load too many applications at once, and it just doesn’t have the power to configure them all. On the other hand, it could be the app compatibility with the strength of the software in your device. It may be possible that the device being used does not have the appropriate coding or sequence in its software to run the app.

Ways around these issues will be to either reboot your device and start on a clean screen with no additional applications running in the background – then start up the app you want to see if it loads. Or, it will be to research the chosen application and the environment it needs to work and compare that to your own device.

Your Computer Boots Extremely Slowly

Although a slow computer can be much of an annoyance, it is luckily one of the easiest problems to fix. The most common cause of the system taking its time to boot up is because there are too many applications trying to load at once in the background as your computer is trying to start too. The best way to avoid this issue would be to set all of the applications on the computer to only load when they are being used. This will stop new downloads sticking to their factory settings and loading as soon as the laptop starts – hopefully allowing your device to start a lot faster.

Conclusion

It is an annoyance for almost everyone when a device has problems or isn’t working properly – especially when it is of great importance to everyday life. It is hard to be able to configure by yourself why the problems are happening and find the cause. Therefore, the most beneficial decision would be to take your device to a repair shop, if the issue continues after reading through the tips and tricks of this article.

Gamer’s Thoughts: Difficulty in games

downloadToday I want to talk about something extremely objective subjective. Something not a lot of people agrees 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, the 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 nowadays? That’s has two reasons. The first reason is that games just got more accessible. Because of 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 challenges. Sadly enough, not all games do this. In most games, the difficulty settings have a small explanation of what each level means.

And this brings me to the second reason why games are too easy nowadays and that’s a 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 to get slimmer with every game I play.

Is this a bad thing? It 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, is the Super Mario World games. In these games, you learn by playing the game. You might have heard this explanation in various other videos 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 are 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, we’re 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, a 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 my 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 the conclusion that there are 4 types of difficulty in my eyes.

The first type is the 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 an unintended difficulty. This was an 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 a 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 fourth 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 to the final boss. This annoying battle gets such a difficulty spike that 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 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 are really thin and make 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 the 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 nowadays 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 about what everybody thinks. Maybe I’ll revisit this topic at 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 include it in the next article. And with that said, I think I’ll really end off this article. Thank you, everybody, for helping me put 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.

Review: Lucid Path (PC) ~ Let’s Go RPG’ing

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Official steam page

Today I want to take a look at a game that got sent to me. The name is Lucid Path. It’s an RPG created by Grevicor. I got a review copy of this game to write this review but the developer asked me to give my 100% honest opinion, so that’s what you are going to get in this article. I’m honestly glad that I’m able to try this game, since looking at the screenshots, I’m quite interested in playing it. Also, the developer told me that this is a very short game that throws the player in unexpected and twisted situations. So, you got my attention. Let’s explore those situations then. And as usual, feel free to write a comment with your opinion on the content of this article and/or the game in the comment section down below.

Misery Loves Company

20181117175122_1The story of this game starts out quite simple. You are tired of your miserable life and you go set out on an adventure. Luck is on your side since adventure finds you really fast. You come across a village that has a problem with a nearby dungeon. Now, it’s up to you to solve their problem.

Before I continue, I must say that the font chosen in dialogue boxes fits the theming for the game really well. But, it made it tricky to easily see the difference between some letters like the “o” and “a”. Now, I didn’t mind it too much, since I’m pretty fluent in English (…If you need evidence, in what language am I even writing then?) so, I was able to read it without a problem.

You go and explore the dungeon and try to solve the problem. You meet several characters that will aid you in your quest. In addition to that, you learn that there is a bigger problem in this dungeon than just the monsters.

The writing itself is pretty decent. You meet some other people from the village during your quest. Since the game is pretty short, I don’t want to spoil the ending or any more of the story. If you are interested, I highly recommend that you check it out for yourself.

Chilling in the dungeon

20181117180029_1The gameplay of this game is quite relaxing. This game is a casual RPG. The gameplay of this game consists out of playing mini-games, choosing when to use your spells and improving your character. Now, what do I mean by “mini-games”? When your character takes on a quest, you don’t have to do anything. You play a small mini-game on an old computer. Depending on how you do in the mini-game, the faster your character is able to finish the quest.

Each time you go and explore the dungeon, you earn coins and medals. With these coins, you can buy better equipment and with the medals, you can improve your stats at the castle. Now, you can also earn coins and medals by doing quests. There are 3 quests you can do. After you have done those three quests, you have to go inside the dungeon to get new ones.

Before I talk about the dungeon, I want to mention the shop. This part of the game still needs some polishing work. There are two things I disliked about the store. The first thing is that you have to drag & drop from and to your inventory to buy and sell. When you try to sell an armor piece you are wearing, that won’t work. And if you double click on something to buy, that won’t work either. This was annoying while I was using the shop. I get used to it, but I felt like I was doing a click too much.

The second thing I disliked about the shop was the colored items. It’s quite unclear with the spectrum is. The ones without a background are the cheapest and weakest ones. Followed by a green background, yellow background, blue background and those with a purple background are the strongest. Now, why not show “lv.1”, “lv.2”…? This makes it easier to figure out and it also helps colorblind people.

Something I did really like about the store is the fact that the inventory of the store is random each and every time. You can refresh the store’s inventory by spending a few coins. I made sure to check the store each and every time before I went to the dungeon to make sure there wasn’t more powerful gear waiting for me in the dungeon.

The gameplay in the dungeon is a bit too uninvolved. The battle takes place automatically. There are two things you can influence. The first thing is when you decide to use your spells. You can store 4 spells. You have a fire spell, thunder spell, poison spell… There is a handful of them. You can only use each spell once during your session. The session ends when you are out of health. When you are out of health, you go back to the town.

Now, the 2nd thing you can influence in the dungeon is the speed of the game. Now, you can either pause, play at normal speed or play sped up. You even have a button to leave the dungeon early. The leave button isn’t a temporary checkpoint, it’s like a retreat. When you faint and enter the dungeon again, you start at the latest checkpoint. Every five rooms, you get a checkpoint.

About the controls for controlling the speed of the game, I found it disappointing that it was unclear which button was pressed. It would be really helpful if there is a visual identification to show which button you have chosen.

Besides that, there isn’t a lot to do in the dungeon. I found this disappointing, I wish it was a bit more involved. I also felt that the AI of the monsters attacked my character more than your companion. Thankfully, upgrading and improving your character isn’t hard. Each time I trained my character and bought better items, I felt I was able to progress one or two rooms further in the dungeon.

Alright, I have to be honest about something. There are some additional things to do in the dungeon. But, I would ruin a surprise for that. So, if you want to know what that is, you should play this game. The only thing I would say is that there should be more moments like those that happen in the dungeon.

You are able to heal yourself outside of the dungeon by doing quests. These quests give green pearls that heal you. So, each time you want to heal, you have to play a mini-game. You can’t enter the dungeon without full health either.

Now, there is a more involved version of the dungeon and that is the arena in the castle. You can choose between three different tiers and with that, you can win an item. Now, you have to press the space bar at the right time to deal more damage. It’s that kind of mini-game that you need to press the button when the pointer is in the green area. In the arena, your equipment does not make a difference. So, it’s pure skill-based in there. You do have to pay coins to get in the arena. The more difficult the challenge is, the cheaper it becomes. This makes sense, since that way you can’t easily farm the cheap items to have a huge mountain of cash to easily buy the most powerful items.

Now, if this was in the main dungeon, that would make the game a bit more interesting. Since most of my enjoyment in this game came from the times I was playing the mini-games and messing around in the town…

Vector mini-games

20181117195941_1Now, this game doesn’t automatically save, so if you don’t want to lose any progress… Quit the game using the menu in the town. Now, if you reboot the game in full screen, you might notice that there is some graphical weirdness going on. Just go into the options menu, click the full-screen option once to go to windowed mode and click it again to go back to full screen. That fixes that issue.

The mini-games are vector-based mini-games. The first mini-game you encounter is a top-down shooter that reminded me of a lot of Asteroids. Each time you shoot a falling rock, the rocks’ drop speed increases. The faster the rock, the more points it gives to completing the quest. Oh, you have to actually do something in the mini-games or your character won’t progress in his quest. After a few floors, you unlock the possibility to play another mini-game for a good amount of coins.

The 2nd mini-game is one where you go down and you aren’t allowed to touch the edges. I personally highly dislike this style of mini-games. Now, this is something personal, but I have never been good at this mini-game. Each mini-game has 2 achievements. There is the “Good at” and “Great at” mini-game. Each achievement is tied to your score.

The final mini-game felt broken to me. For some reason, the mini-game didn’t react on my inputs at certain moments making me lose it. But, that might be because it’s a rhythm-ish style mini-game and I’m not that great when it comes to that.

Now the other mini-games I will leave as a surprise if you decide to play the game. They are quite interesting, but for some reason I found myself enjoying the first one the most. In this game, the Asteroids one is called Planetoids.

Now, this game isn’t too difficult. Some people will find this game repetitive, but I found it a relaxing experience. It was a blast to play something where I was able to just relax and I didn’t need to take the game too seriously. The game became even more interesting after a few hours of play, it opened up more. But, I won’t spoil that. This is especially true when you think that the game is repetitive. Don’t worry, something unique and fun will happen near the end.

There isn’t a lot of replay value in this game. After you have beaten the game, there isn’t too much different in a 2nd playthrough.

This game is also really cheap. So, if you are looking for a cheap enjoyable game; look no further. Yes, I found the game enjoyable. Especially the charm of the visual presentation. It reminded me a lot of Knights of Pen and Paper. The retro feel while not using true 8bit or 16bit visuals is just pretty to me. The game is colorful and lively and just gives off that relaxing vibe. It also has a lot of charm in my opinion. A charm I can’t get enough off.

The animations might be basic, they were just perfect in this game. Like the sound effects, they fit the theming of the game perfectly. The music, well, it’s something I would like to add to my playlist of relaxing music. I really liked the soundtrack of this game.

That’s everything I wanted to say about the game. I think it’s high time for my conclusion and final thoughts.

Conclusion

The bad:

  • The game can be a bit repetitive.
  • Some minor visual issues in full-screen mode when booting the game.
  • The shop needs some polishing work.
  • The exploration of the dungeon can be boring.
  • Some UI improvements are needed.

The good:

+ Enjoyable writing.

+ Great music & sound design.

+ Great visual presentation.

+ Fun mini-games.

+ ….

Final thoughts:

At certain times, I felt that this game could make for a perfect mobile game. At certain points, I felt like this game isn’t really meant to play in long sessions. This game could be enjoyed more in short sessions.

This game has a lot of potential. There are some flaws that could be polished and patched out but they didn’t stop me from enjoying my time with the game. If you are looking for an enjoyable cheap game, I wouldn’t look any further. This is a great time-wasting game.

The biggest issue I felt that this game has is that the game didn’t have enough gameplay. I wish there was a bit more to do, especially during the exploration of the dungeon. Oh well, not every game can be perfect.

I do recommend that you give this game a try and just relax and enjoy the experience. Since, that’s, in my opinion, the best way to enjoy the game.

Thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading this 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: Monster Tale (DS) ~ Are You Ready, Chomp?

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Wikipedia entry

Last week when I was writing about Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, I wanted to reference Monster Tale. To my surprise, I haven’t written a review or talked about this game in full on my blog. So, that’s why I’m going to fix that right now. Let’s tell the tale on one of the best Nintendo DS games ever made. As usual, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below about the content of this article and/or the game. For now, let’s ready, set, go!

Are you ready, Chomp?

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In this game, you take the role of Ellie. A young girl that gets dragged into a world filled with monsters. It doesn’t take long before she meets a monster that hatches right in front of her and follows her around as if she was the mother. She decides to name the monster Chomp.

Then, Jinx, a shopkeeper explains what the world is.  There are other humans in the Monster World and they are king of their own domain.

Now, Ellie and Chomp go on a quest to try and defeat these evil Kid-Kings and try to get them all home.

The reason I stay pretty vague about the story is simple. This game is a very nicely written plot and talking about it more would spoil it. The characters might be cliche here and there, but I really liked the chemistry between the characters. To this day, I still remember the characters and their role in the story by just looking at screenshots or hearing their theme.

The story is a blast to experience from start to finish. All 10 hours of it. Yes, all 10 hours of it. This game is criminally short. You can squeeze a few more hours out of the game when you want to fully complete it.

There is voice acting in this game, but no full lines are voice acted. Some of the major characters have some spoken phrases or noises but nothing really more. Which is a darn shame since the whole voice cast is extremely talented amine dub voice actors. On the other hand, it helps with the charm that this game has quite a lot.

I especially love the grunts of Ellie and the noises Chomp makes. They are so adorable and made me fall in love with this game. It’s still a mystery how the adorable and cute game can tackle serious subject matter like what’s presented in this game. So, I hope that you are ready since you and Chomp are going on an adventure.

Metroidvania

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Back when I first played this game, I hadn’t really played a lot of Metroid or Castlevania games. I had heard about both series but I haven’t played them. That all changed when I started to play this game.

The gameplay is your typical Metroidvania game. You explore this world and fight monsters on your way. Don’t be fooled by the visuals, this game isn’t easy at all.

This game is unforgiving sometimes and you really have to learn how each move works and how to use the special items provided to you.

This game has a lot of depth as well. There are three enemy types; fire, water, and earth. These work on a rock, paper scissors theme. So, you will have to keep in mind which version of Chomp you level up and bring with you. Yes, you can level up Chomp. While it’s not 100% needed to unlock all versions of Chomp to defeat the final boss of the game, it’s highly recommended that you level up at least one form quite a lot.

During combat, enemies can drop various items like footballs, books, slingshots, ice cream, camera’s… to help Chomp level up. Some dropped items even have additional benefits, like the football bounces around on the top screen.

Now is a good time to address the top and bottom screen, since it’s used in this game to its full potential. On the top, you have the Monster World that Ellie is exploring. You can have Chomp with you for a limited amount of time. That’s what the yellow bar on the 2nd screen is for. This bar drains as soon as Chomp is in the Monster World.

You can let the bar recharge when Chomp is resting in his den, which is the bottom screen. Once there, the bar recharges and he can experiment and learn about the various items that enemies drop. There is also another catch, each version of Chomp has different attributes, abilities and special powers to play around with.

Now, I love the risk and reward system of combat. There are a lot of ways to handle the situation. One possible option is to let Chomp handle the enemies. Another possible situation is to shoot the enemies down and another is to melee combat. Now, you would argue that the melee combat sounds useless. Well, I would agree with you there but there is a limit to your shooting ability. When the 2nd bar on the 2nd screen, the blue one, depletes; you can’t shoot anymore. You can recharge this bar at save points or by finding rare blue orbs in the world or as drops. But the easiest way is to melee defeat enemies.

Now, there is a lot more done with the mechanics of the two screens and I have to tell that I really liked it. The combat is extremely challenging to do but in a fun way. Also, no playthrough feels and plays the same since you have so many different ways to tackle the situation.

In addition to that, you never get lost on what to do next since the next spot you need to go to is always indicated on the map. I have no idea if there is an option to disable this, but I think it’s a very useful feature.

Gameplay-wise, this game is extremely addictive. There are a lot of power-ups for Ellie and various forms for Chomp. So, this game quickly becomes a balancing act on who to power up with your hard-earned cash. Do invest in both, since otherwise, you will regret it later.

Control-wise, this game is solid. While in very few occasions, the ground pound move was a bit tricky to pull off, but that was a minor annoyance. Since, when you die in this game, you get quickly put back to the latest checkpoint. Now, if there is one thing I really disliked in this game is the lack of teleports.

There is a lot of backtracking in this game. That’s the biggest problem I have with this game. The Castlevania have teleport stones, but Monster Tale doesn’t have that. That’s the biggest flaw this game has. Besides being criminally short that is.

Save often!

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So, this game doesn’t have an autosave. At certain locations, you come across a book where you can save. There, you can recharge every meter to it’s fullest potential. These rooms are highly needed since the lower your hearts, the more tricky this game can become.

Something I will never get tired of with this game is the presentation. This game looks amazing. It’s clear that a lot of love has been put in the creation of this game. The backgrounds of each zone look stunning, vibrant and have a lot of detail.

The colors pop and they build an amazing atmosphere. I especially love the beach zone since it has a lot of memories for me. As a kid, I took a lot of trips to the seaside with my family and I love to sit on the beach and watch the sea do its thing.

Besides that, the monster design is adorable. In some cases, I didn’t even want to hurt the enemies. They all have unique designs and patterns, it’s tricky to kill them. Both since they look so good and some have very unique killing patterns.

Now, the soundtrack of this game is good. While there are some tracks that I find mediocre, the overall package is a blast to listen to. It really pumps you up to continue. You won’t regret hearing these tunes during gameplay and even outside. I played the soundtrack in the background while I was writing this article and I actually heard the various enemy noises and the various other sounds in my head.

This proves that this game has an amazing audio design. To this day, I still remember sound effects and music from the game. And that’s what I mean with that this game will leave a visual impression on you. The game is not only pretty but also sounds pretty.

The animations are fluid and the game runs at a very stable frame rate. I actually don’t remember the game ever dropping frames. Also, I really like how there are two save slots. This way you have tried for two very different runs.

In terms of the UI, there is one minor thing I have to complain about. It’s actually extremely nitpicky but I really find the use of the start and select buttons to switch between the menu’s a bit too much. The start and select buttons on the DS Lite are extremely small. Besides, I wished they merged the map screen and the other menu into one option. Maybe an ability to select from the pause screen if you wanted to see the map screen or the evolution screen of Chomp.

So, that’s everything I wanted to say about this game. I left a few things unexplained for when you are interested in giving this game a chance. You will be surprised. But, it’s time for the section of the review of the people who need a tl;dr. Time for the conclusion!

Conclusion

The bad:

-The pause menu could be reorganized a bit better.

-The harsh difficulty could be a turn off for some people.

-The game is really short.

-No teleporting in the game.

The good:

+ Amazing Metroidvania game.

+ Great story.

+ Amazing visual and sound presentation.

+ This game oozes charm.

+ Great controls.

+ …

Final thoughts:

If you highly enjoy the 2D Castlevania games, the Metroid games or any other Metroidvania game and you are looking for something more light-hearted, then Monster Tale is your game. This game looks and sounds amazing.

Besides a few minor flaws, this game comes highly recommended. It’s a big shame that the remake for 3DS actually fell through and that the original developers of this game went bankrupt.

If you see this game for sale, pick it up and play it. It’s one of the best games on the DS. I wish more people knew about it so another developer could pick up the IP and make a sequel to it.

On the other hand, the ending wraps up things extremely nicely and makes for an amazing package. Due to the various possible playstyles, this game is highly replayable. But, it’s the complete experience that will stay with you. And that’s what makes this game so memorable and unique.

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

Score: 99/100

Creative Christmas #7: Present Time

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And we are back with the Creative Christmas series, a collab I’m doing with LaterLevels. To be honest, during the past two days I was too busy with family parties. So, I was unable to think of a theme for this series. Okay, I have to admit that I thought about it, but I wasn’t able to implement. I thought of one where each article was a page in Santa’s diary, but then I wouldn’t answer for myself. Another idea would be where I would talk about if my answer would be in the naughty or kid side of Santa’s book. Well, maybe with the help of a present I can think of a theme. I got a new Mario shirt and a new compressor to blow out electronic material. But what’s this? Another question about presents for me to answer, let’s take a look! 

Your help must have worked, because it’s now Christmas morning and presents are under the tree! There’s a fancy box with your name on it; which gaming-related item are you hoping is inside?

If I would ever be able to get a certain gaming related item, I would have to divide my answer into two parts. First of all, real existing items. Which game-related items would I want that truly exist?

Besides a boatload of games that I want in my collection and a few consoles I want to have and start collecting for, let say which piece of merchandise do I really want to have?

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For me personally, I would love to have some more merchandise of the Bioshock series. I know that there are some nice looking t-shirts and bags out there.

If you would give me some merch from the Bioshock series, even when I already have it, I would always be happy. The Bioshock series is such a great series that is near and dear to my heart.

The same counts for merch from the Zelda series. I’m in love with the Zelda series and I would love to own a bit more shirts and merch of it. Oh, or the mangas that I don’t own of “the Zelda series” yet would also be a nice gift to get.

Now, there are a few games I know that there is barely any or no official merchandise on the market. But I would love some merch for it anyways. These games include Ace Attorney, Monster Tale, Stella Glow and the Zero Escape series.

Actually, if you ever need to give a gift to me; anything game related merch would do the trick for me. Because I’m a game collector I enjoy getting something game-related. You would make me even happier if you relate it to a game series I like. And you know those series if you read my blog or talk to me.

Now we come to part 2 of my answer. What if I’m able to get a fictional game item in the real world. This is going to be interesting.

You know what would be nuts? If I would be able to get any of the transformation masks for The Legend Of Zelda Majora’s Mask into the real world. Then again, what practical use would it have besides the cool factor? Besides, it wouldn’t be that much fun since I would have to use these while nobody sees me or I would be used for experiments and all that jazz.

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Then I thought about getting the Harp of Ages or the Rod Of Seasons from The Legend Of Zelda Oracle of Ages/Seasons. It would be so close to reverse the flow of time or change the seasons at will.

While messing with time presents a whole different host of problems, the same can be said for the Rod Of Seasons. If I would be able to change the seasons at will, I might destroy the planet with it. So, that’s not a good idea either. Besides, the rod only seems to work on sawn-off tree trumps and those aren’t around too often in my area.

The notebook from Scribblenauts would be pretty interesting to own as well. I would be able to summon what I want and when I want it. Then again, if this would fall into the wrong hands, dangerous things can happen and we would live in a strange world.

While it would be amazing to have any video game item in the real world, I think it would cause a whole host of other problems that might bring me into greater trouble. If the problems are solvable, you would have to put the practicality into question. Since not everything from the land of video games would have a use in the real world.

So, if I would be able to avoid any trouble, I would love to have the items I listed above these paragraphs. Yet, I think that the answer that was expected in the questions was more the 1st part of this article. I see the second part of this article more as a fun thought expirement.

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

You can find other bloggers their answers here.

Review: Mirillis Action v2.7.3 (PC) ~ A Let’s Player Tool.

action-1Mirillis official website

So, you want one tool that can easily record your screen, your gameplay, screenshots, record only sound, stream to Twitch AND record your stream and much more? In the past, I used various tools for that, but ever since I got contacted by the developers of Mirillis Action, I uninstalled most of those tools. Was this a good idea? Is the software good enough to replace them or does the software have holes? Mirillis gave me a review code. The software is usually 30$. So, let’s get right into the review and talk about how this software performs according to me. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion and/or thoughts about the software and/or the content of the article down below.

Specs and such

Before we continue, I should say that I tested this program on two different machines. Both on my laptop I use for classes and my gaming desktop. My laptop is a Lenovo B50-80, the only modification I did was that I changed the standard 8GB RAM into 16GB RAM. I need that much RAM since I have to run 4 or more virtual machines and each VM can use up to 2-ish GB RAM each. And yeah, if I only had 8GB of RAM, I wouldn’t be able to follow the classes.

Before I tell you the specs of my gaming desktop, a computer I built myself with my uncle, I know that the graphics card isn’t the strongest or best in these modern times to play games on; but I’m happy with it. The specs of my gaming desktop are an i7-4820K CPU (3.7 GHz), GeForce GTX 660, 16GB of DDR3 RAM, 128GB Boot SSD and a 3TB HDD for my data. It’s quite a beefy PC in my opinion.

During the time I tested the software, the software updated twice. From v2.7.1 to 2.7.2 and then again to v2.7.3. While the software update crashed on my laptop when updating from v2.7.2 to v2.7.3, it ran fine on my gaming desktop. Probably a hiccup with files that were in use by Windows Update or something. Thankfully, a simple uninstall and reinstall fixed everything.

 The positive aspects.

action-3I can hear some content creator say already, why do we need this tool? What does it have over OBS Studio, which is free? I think a big plus is how clean the interface is when you compare it to OBS.

You can do a lot with OBS, but it’s all buried in menus. When I used OBS for the first time, I was quite confused how to set it up. I had to use a guide to get started. Most features of OBS are hidden in drop-down menus and that’s a real shame.

In addition to having a better-looking UI, a big advantage in Action is that you have a better indication if you are recording or not. The counter is visibly more present than in OBS Studio.

This tool is much more than a streaming and recording tool alone. You can take screenshots and benchmark as well. These are two quite handy features to have. The more I worked with the program, the more I was amazed by how handy this tool is for content creators.

Some neat features are, you can easily cap the framerate the video, you can set a length of time to record, there is a built-in video converter for the recorded videos. I think that this tool will be quite useful when I’m benchmarking a game for a review or when I want to record some gameplay footage to refer to when I’m writing a review.

Something that might make video creators quite happy is the feature that you can record your microphone audio on a separate track. So, when something happens in-game that is quite loud, you can easily edit that out without having your commentary be too silent.

If you need any help with the program, the help button is not too far away. When you use it, the program will display a very to the point help screen. If you still need more help, you have a button that will redirect you to the website with even more information to help you.

There is also support for greenscreen webcam recording. At this moment, I don’t own a good webcam or a green screen, so I wasn’t able to test out this feature. But, from what I read online; it’s pretty good.

The Action RCU app is an amazing feature, but I’ll talk about that more in depth later in the article.

The negative aspects

action-2Now that I talked about all the reasons why I would recommend this software, here are the things that I didn’t like. Keep in mind, these remarks are made about v2.7.3. It’s possible that Mirillis patch or update their software to make these remarks invalid.

When you open Action, it displays by default a box (called the HUD) of what you will record and how many frames per second it takes. The default location for this is rather annoying. It’s in the top right of your screen. While I understand that the box is more visible there, it’s quite annoying when you have apps on full screen. While clicking the box does nothing, I keep thinking it will open the program. So, I try to navigate my mouse around it. I think it would be better if it showed by default in the middle of your screen at the right-hand side. Then, I realize that you can quickly hide it with F6. So, this is a true nitpick.

Something I miss from OBS Studio is a preview of what the video is going to look like. When you boot up OBS Studio, you see what it’s going to record. This is something you don’t see with Action. So, I had to make a test video every time I tried out some new settings.

A nice feature to have is to easily move the output folders at once to another location. In the current version, you must move it feature by feature. If an option is added where you specify a folder to output and Action creates the 4 folders it needs for the output; that would be awesome.

Something that is missing from the video recording & streaming tab, is an option if you want to record system audio. I would move that option from the options menu to the streaming and video recording tab. Since it’s more useful there.

A huge incoming update

Something I wanted to quickly touch upon is that there is going to be a big update in the feature. Action 3.0 will fix almost every negative I have with the program. The new features will include things like a live preview of the video composition and an improved HUD. Let’s not forget to mention that v3 will have StreamLabs support. You can read more about it and give your own suggestions on this Facebook post.

If you already own Action v2, you will be able to freely upgrade to the v3.

The Action RCU Android App

If you have an Android phone and you are a YouTuber or streamer, you are going to love this feature! When you enable Action RCU in the options menu and install the app on your smartphone, you will be able to control parts of the program with your smartphone. Before I forget to mention it, this is a free app! Yep, free.

In the app, you will be able to start and stop recording or streaming. But not only that, you will see the program that Is recording, how much free space is on the drive you are recording too, how many FPS you have and how long you are recording.

This is an amazing additional feature. I would love to see more promotion of this feature. Since this is going to be a selling point for a lot of let’s players and streamers.

If the app gets updated with these few remarks, I think that the app would be even better.

First, I think it’s quite dangerous that you can connect with any computer without giving a password. I think it would a good idea that you must enter a preset password before the connection is made. This password can be set in the program itself in the options menu. This would avoid annoying roommates stopping your recording without you knowing it. Or let the program pair your smartphone with the program and smartphones that aren’t paired, block them until they are paired.

Second, I couldn’t connect at first to my computer. After a bit a troubleshooting, I found out that some firewalls are blocking the app. I use Avast Internet Security now on my gaming desktop. Right after I made the connection, I can enable Avast again and the firewall doesn’t interfere with the app. There is a solution for this. You can whitelist the program in Avast and the problems will stop. On my laptop, I use Avira Free and Windows Firewall and that didn’t have any problems when I allowed it in the Windows Firewall settings.

Third, I think it would be amazing if a button is added in the app to mute the microphone. In addition to that, possibly a “light” that changes when the microphone is active or not.

Four, this might possibly in the pipeline; but create an iOS and Windows Phone version of this feature. Since the smartphone market is more than Android alone. The developers told me that they will first develop a MAC version of the program before they port the app to iOS. This is planned to start production next year.

Update 28/09: so, there is an iOS version of the app. There will be a version for MAC of the actual program possibly next year. Still, I would love to see a version for Windows Phones.

Five, if a limited record time is set, I think it would be lovely to have a countdown timer of some sorts too.

Six, add a screenshot button! Seriously, one that will be something useful to make thumbnails without having to search around in the video afterward.

And last, why not display the key(s) you need to press to pause the recording also in the app?

Apart from the first two remarks, the other remarks are just additions to improve the app and make it more powerful and even more useful than it already is.

Conclusion

Would I recommend this program? Without any doubt in my mind, I would. This program is already a great tool but with some additional features based on the remarks I raised in this article, I think this program can compete with major names like OBS Studio or DXTory. Besides, the program has more features than DXTory and is cheaper.

This powerful tool is cheap in my opinion and I’m glad that Mirillis Team contacted me to look at their software. Since now I’m a proud owner of a great piece of software that’s going to prove useful in class when I record how to enter commands to configure routers and switches but it’s also going to prove useful to create screenshots for my articles.

The program is already worth the asking price, but it can only grow and improve. The developers update this program quite often, so it’s going to only get better from here on out! In my opinion, this is one of the best recording tools out there right now.

There are a lot more than this program can do, so if this program sounds interesting to you; go and check it out. So, that’s everything I wanted to say about this program. Time to wrap up this article.

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

Gamer’s Thoughts: Are retro or retro-styled games too hard?

retro consolesThe tweet that started that gave me the idea for this article.

A few days ago, the Well Red Mage made a tweet with the very question that is the title of this article. We talked about this a bit back & forth on Twitter. After a few tweets, I thought that my answer would make a great article in my gamer’s thoughts series. I play retro and more modern games, so I think my opinion can matter in the grand scheme of things here. So, here are my two cents. As usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion about the content of the article and/or the question. 

Are games too hard?

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Back in 2013, I wrote an article talking about: “What’s a retro game“. I asked myself the question, when does a game become retro? For the sake of this article, let’s not go too in depth about that, since we are here to answer another question.

Let’s focus first on the retro games. Games that are at least 15 years old. Are those too hard? This is a tricky question to answer.

Currently, playing games is a more frequent hobby. There are more people who play games than there were in the past. So, modern games became more accessible. This doesn’t always mean that games of today are easier. There are still very difficult games out there like Dark Souls or the Touhou games. Also, let’s keep it general in this article. Since there are always exceptions to the rule.

This does mean that some retro games are less accessible. This makes them overwhelming and more difficult. For example, the first Tomb Raider games. There were no real tutorials or anything of that nature. So, you had to figure a lot out by yourself. Some old Tomb Raider games had tutorials, but they were optional. You didn’t have to play them. This meant that you didn’t learn all the mechanics and moves. But, that has changed. Now, almost every game starts out with a tutorial.

The fact that the gaming industry has changed makes answering the question of this article more difficult. The first commercial game cabinets were published in the late 1970’s and the first consoles came not too long after. The gaming industry is still quite young when you compare it to other media. Nowadays, developers have more experience.

Let’s leave it at that, otherwise, we might be here all day talking about the changes in the gaming industry instead of trying to answer the question of the article. So, are retro games too hard?

Retro games

Wikipedia_NES_PALHonestly, this is too general question to be able to answer. But, I honestly think that it all comes down to the play style a gamer prefers.

A very common issue with older games is that some games required so much time input to memorize each level and area to get the most perfect run. Time, that not everybody has in this day and age.

Additionally, this can be a very frustrating game mechanic. Having to play each level over and over again. So, when we get bored with a game; we simply take another game to play. There are so many games we can play nowadays. Something we lacked in the past, so we tried and tried again until we succeeded to beat the Pokémon Leauge Champion or Doctor Robotnik.

Modern games are spoilt with the latest and best knowledge of the developers. Something that makes a huge difference is the controls. There are more buttons on the modern game controllers compared to the retro style controllers. This means that the developers can give better controls to the player. I grew up with the D-Pad, but I prefer to play platformers with a joystick now. You have better control of your character and this makes the game easier.

Handholding

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Something I noticed in modern games is that they are sometimes too easy. Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are a perfect example. I didn’t loose one fight in that game, I was able to beat that game with ease.

That isn’t the only game that I played that I didn’t have a lot of trouble with to beat the game. Perhaps, the fact that I’m older and more skilled with games has to do with it. Because I’m nowadays able to beat sections in games I never got passed as a kid for some reason.

I can’t deny that some games hold your hand throughout the adventure or give you tips that help you to beat the game. Mini-maps and mission markers are great examples. There are a lot of modern game mechanics that make games for the player too easy. Some open world games even lack the scene of discovery. Thankfully, Breath of the Wild fixes this somewhat with its towers. Frustrated Jacob made a great video with this point.

In retro games, you didn’t have the hand-holding or all the mechanics we have today. Making the game more difficult in the process. Does that make the games too hard? No, not in my opinion. It makes them outdated. Does outdated mean bad? Far from it!

Retro games are still a lot of fun and they are still relevant. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have retro-styled games. One of my favorite retro styled games is Retro Game Challenge on the DS. In this game, you play through some games that are inspired by retro game classics like Gallica.

I think that retro games aren’t too hard per se, they are out dated due to older and limited technology. Also, modern games are made with more knowledge about how games work. But, let’s not forget about the impact that the internet has in this argument.

Walkthroughs and YouTube videos expose the secrets of every game in mere days of its release. There are a lot of guides to get the best armor or what the fastest or most optimal route is through a game. I think that the impact of the internet speaks for itself here.

So, are retro(styled) games too hard? No, not really. They just use mechanics that have been improved and perfected over time. Games are more accessible now.

I would love to hear your opinion about this. Do you think that retro games are too hard and why? Tell me in the comments and maybe I write a follow-up article using your comments.

But, that’s everything I wanted to say about this subject for now. 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 artice but until then, take care and have a great rest of your day.