Review: AI: The Somnium Files – The Nirvana Initative (Switch) ~ Let’s Dive Again

Official English websiteWikipedia page

One of my most favorite genres is an adventure visual novel. A game with a deep story with memorable characters and unique gameplay that draws you into the world of the game. Examples are Corpse Party where a cursed school plays tricks on your mind or Ace Attorney where you play as an attorney that takes on the strangest cases. I could list examples here for quite a while, like Time Hollow, where you get a pen that can mess with the past in certain circumstances. My favorite series in this genre are the Nonary games. I sometimes quote various moments to this day. I was beyond excited that after the trilogy ended, a new series by the same writer started in 2019. AI: The Somnium Files. Now, after I finished that game, I couldn’t wait to see what Kotaro Uchikoshi and his team were going to turn out next. And that is a sequel to AI: The Somnium Files, which picks up 6 years after the original game. But is it any good, or is this a sequel that we should avoid? Well, that’s what I want to talk about in this review. This review is spoiler free, so if you haven’t played the game… You shouldn’t worry about that. But in any case, let’s dive right into the game while I welcome you to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and/or opinions on this game and/or the content of this article.

Editoral note: this game also released on all other major platforms. I chose to play this game on Switch since I played the original on Switch as well.

Have you played?

In the original game, you took on the role of Date. An investigator at ABIS with a special AI companion implanted in his eye. Now, in this game, that isn’t really the case anymore since the focus is more on daughter Mizuki. In this game, you also play as Ryuki who is another investigator at ABIS. Both these agents are involved in a cold case which they are trying to solve for their own reasons. After the case going cold, suddenly 6 years later a new clue is found that totally reopens the cold case. So, why did the case turn into a cold case and why suddenly after 6 years are there new clues found?

In terms of explaining the story, that’s all I’m willing to say to avoid spoilers. I know I might be cutting it a bit short or being extremely vague, but this is a sort of game where you should go in as blind as possible. The story in visual novel adventure games like this one are best experienced as blind as possible. At least, that’s the way how I enjoy it the best. And sidenote, to avoid spoilers I’m going to explain some things in this article with rather generic terms instead of the in game terms.

Something that really surprised me in the opening few minutes of the game is that there is something implemented that is something I think should become a standard in other visual novel games. A sort of check to avoid spoilers of the original game. Since this game is a sequel, there is a potential that people start with this game before the original. And if you won’t get yourself spoiled on the previous game, certain pieces of dialogue are changed if you are unable to answer the questions about the ending of the previous game. Then, it skips over the dialogue that spoils parts of the previous game. Apart from a few lines, it doesn’t change too much, so you won’t be missing out if you answer the question or not.

In terms of writing, this game really delivers. The new characters don’t feel out of place at all. I honestly sometimes felt that the new characters were background characters in the original game… The voice acting in this game is one of the strongest points of this game. They make the characters come to live and pull me in the game’s world so hard. There are some weaker moments in this story, but overall, these are far and few between. In general, this pacing and story of this game is good.

Something that’s really great in this game is that there is a sort of glossary. When you forgot who a certain character is or what a certain word means, you can easily look it up in your file. There is some amazing value in there as well. So, I highly recommend reading through it.

Explore the dreams

Just like in the previous game, in this game you have to explore people’s dreams to find answers and clues for your investigation. If you played the previous game, it’s very familiar. In these explorations, you have 6 minutes to unlock the mental locks of a person to find the big clue that’ll let you progress into the game. Each interaction costs a certain amount of time, so you have to be careful and really think your actions through.

You do have 3 “retry coins” you can spend to travel back to a previous checkpoint. So, if you mess up, and you want to restart a certain section with a bit more time, you can travel back. If you don’t have enough retry coins or game-over, you’ll have to restart from you’re the start of the exploration. Also, in these explorations, it’s possible that the story splits into two paths. Now, I highly recommend that you explore all paths to the end before going to another path.

There are some additional mechanics during these explorations that can influence the time used, but that mechanic is somewhat underused in this game compared to the original. I played this game on the highest difficulty setting and to be honest, while the puzzles are interesting and a blast to figure out… I found them a bit too easy. Furthermore, I have to admit that I had to write some puzzles down on a piece of paper, but rarely did I get stuck or didn’t know right away how to solve a puzzle. The original game was more challenging.

With that said, it doesn’t mean that with easier puzzles that this game is less fun. Maybe I got lucky in figuring them out, or the experience of solving these puzzles from the previous game helped me out here.

Something I really like is when you full beat one of these dives, you unlock that dive without any time limitations. So, I can find out what the dialogue is in the wrong options and enjoy more of the enjoyable writing of this game.

This game controls extremely well. I don’t have any complaints on how this game controls. There is one minor complaint I have. There is one mini-game in the pause menu, which you can’t select by going through the menu. For the longest time, I thought I was able to only play this in handheld mode, but you just have to press the minus button on the controller to enter it. But I’ll talk more in depth about the mini-games and such later in the article.

So, these explorations in people’s minds isn’t the only mechanic in this game. There are also reconstructions you have to do. This is where you have to search for clues in a crime scene to answer a question. These moments are a lot less punishing since they don’t have a time limit.

These moments are a nice distraction to the game. Since, they help to sell that there is actual investigation work going. Yet, some of the hardest puzzles are in these sections. But, if you get stuck, the biggest hint I can give is to write the puzzle down. In these sections, there were one or two puzzles that would work a lot better if you were able to look at the clues, so that’s why I highly recommend you to write them down.

Another gameplay section of this game are the moments with quick time events. These moments are easily the weakest link of this game. I found these moments a bit boring since they are basically an interactive cutscene. You know when they are coming and these moments would have been so much more fun if they weren’t quick time events since they slow the scene down when they happen and these scenes are supposed to be fast paced actually. I’m sorry, but the implementation of the quick time event scenes in this game isn’t the best in this game. All these moments blend in with each other a bit too well.

Now, you can change the difficulty of the quick time events and the exploration moments. So, if you want to focus more on the story instead of the gameplay, that’s totally possible. Lowering the difficulty makes the game easier since it has less penalties for you. The game doesn’t lock any content away from you by lowering the difficulty.

The final gameplay section you have in this game is the investigation section. Where you go from place to place, so you can talk to the various characters to gather more information. During these moments, you can look around and investigate the environment for additional world & character building, jokes and dialogues.

These moments are just the right length. I never really felt that the conversation went on for a bit too long. Also, you can save during at any time during these moments, so when you have to leave the game and want to come back, you can comeback to a save point. This game also saves automatically. But speaking about saving and loading, this game has only one save slot. So, don’t forget about that.

Costumes and such

The music and sound design in this game is quite enjoyable. The music fits this game as a glove. I have already added it to my playlist, so I can listen to it while I’m working.

In terms of sound effects, the high quality is there as well. I don’t have any complaints about them. Most of the sound effects are just like the previous game, and they worked extremely well there.

Visually, this game looks excellent. There are some very minor rough spots, especially in low lighting, but they didn’t bother me too much. Overall, the visuals fit the atmosphere of the game extremely well. The new locations created for this game fit extremely well in the world. The animations in this game are great as well. I did notice some minor animation flaws here and there, especially with the mouths not always closing after some dialogue. But on the other hand, they help put the expression of the character come to life.

Now, let me talk about the performance of this game. Overall, I noticed barely any performance problems during my playthrough. There was some minor slowdown here and there and I felt like some cutscenes ran at a bit lower framerate compared to the rest of the game but overall, nothing really major in that regard. The game did crash on me. Three times even. Thankfully on moments where I didn’t loose to much progress but it did happen.

This game took me around 35 hours to complete and also to see some of the additional content. So, I think that the price is totally worth it.

One of the last things I want to talk about are the mini-games and the DLC. There is DLC for this game in the forms of alternative customes for the AI assistants in this game. Overall, the additional content is quite cheap but it’s 100% costmetic. If you are a fan of silly alternative customs, they are the right fit for you.

Now, during the game you can unlock eyeballs. With these eyeballs you can purchase the unlocked costmetic items via the bonus menu in the main menu. You can also unlock concept art and other materials. Some of these items even have some easter eggs in them!

What you can buy with these eyeballs depend on your progress in the game. Now, something I really like is how you are unable to unlock everything when you have seen the true ending of this game. You’ll have to go back into the game to go in alternative routes and maybe try the wrong options to have a new evalution. There are in total 40 evaluations to unlock and completing the true ending, I still had 16/40 left to find.

The only dissapointing thing is that there are barely any hints in the game to find these remaining endings. I think it would be a nice feature if you are able to see on which day you can unlock that evalution after you have seen the true ending. This doesn’t take away the challenge of searching for the ending since each day has a lot of content to go through.

There are two “mini-games” in this game. One is a sort of advice room where the AI assistant of the character you are playing as plays a sort of shrink for you as the player. I rarely used this mode apart from it also being the dressing room of the costumes you bought. The combinations you can make with dressing up your AI ball are numerous. I just wish that there was a button to “sync” costumes between them.

Anyways, there is one other mini-game I have to talk about. This is a sort of Tamagochi where depending on how you answer the questions, your tamagochi AI-ball evovles into different AI-balls. Each 20 minutes you get a question. You have four different possible replies. Depending on your replies, a certain stat increases and you can get another creature. Since, it all depends on the stats you increase. You can also unlock a guide when you reach a certain type which can help you unlock all the others. It’s an enjoyable destraction to the game but apart from it being a nice source of eyeballs to purchase costumes, I found that there is nothing really to it. While I can totally see some people enjoying this, I’m not one of those.

Overall, in this article I have mostly praised this game. But, there are a few things that don’t work at all and can be improved in a patch or a sequel. The first big thing is the small font of the option menu. If you play this game in docked mode and sit a meter of two (which is +/- 6 feet), the option screen becomes close to unreadable. Thankfully, there is a zoom feature on the Switch and the top right infobox gives some hints… But still, that menu is too small. If they wanted to keep the same visual design, just make more pages with a bigger font.

A nitpick I have is that when something is added to the file, and it’s in the manual… The green dot is so close to the binder of the manual that you can barely see it. I think changing the color of the manual in the file would have been a great move.

Another nitpick I have is when you go to the bonus section from the main menu, you only see Aiba there. I have never seen the other AI-ball there. I found this a missed oppertunity. It would be kind of fun to have a random chance to see either Aiba or Tama there.

The final thing I dislike about this game is that there is no real run button in this game. You do have a skip button, that’s pretty close to the “auto” button, but you can’t run in explorations. I would even not mind it with having a run button and it costing twice as much time to move around… Since, the walking speed is a bit slow when you are playing again to find the other endings.

So, with that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. So, I think it’s high time to wrap up this article in a nice conclusion so people who are looking at this article to know if this game is any good or not and don’t want to read everything have something to quickly read.

Conclusion

The good:

+ Enjoyable story where you can avoid spoilers of the original.

+ Amazing soundtrack.

+ Creative puzzles.

+ Great controls.

+ …

The bad:

-Some slowdowns/crashes can happen on the Switch version.

-Too small options menu.

-Missed chances with quick time events.

-Some minor issues in terms of polish like one of the mini-games being reachable with a button instead of it being highlighted when scrolling through.

Final thoughts:

To answer the question I posed in my introduction, I think that this game is a worthy sequel to the original game. The game is quite a lot of fun to play and I had a blast playing it. The game has it’s weaker moments but those overall are no big issue compared to the overall package. This sequel can also be a great entry point into the series and there are a lot of winks to veteran fans.

There are some issues for sure and the story has some weaker moments but I might repeat myself but the positive and fun moments far outweigh the negative moments. I enjoyed this game so much when it finally released here in Europe that I even pulled an all nighter during my summer break while playing this game. It’s so much fun.

Thanks to it releasing in my summer break, I have already beaten the game and now I’m looking for the things I missed but so far, it’s one of the best games I have played all year.

Personally, I highly recommend this game to everybody who enjoys adventure and/or visual novel games. This sci-fi thriller story is a blast to play through. This game comes also recommended if you enjoy playing mystery solving games. The original game now has a demo as well on the Switch eShop and if you enjoy that, this game or the original are going to be such an amazing time!

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

Score: 90/100

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It’s almost there! 2022. It’s TOP 10 TIME!

It’s that time of the year again, it’s time to create lists. For the 11 years I have been blogging right now, I have created a tradition of writing two lists at the end of the year. A list of my favorite games I have played in the past year, and a list of the games I’m most excited about in the upcoming year. Today, it’s time to talk about what I’m so hyped to play next year. Since some amazing titles are coming out next year and I can’t wait to play them and/or review them on my blog. So, this is going to be my top 10 list of games I want to play in 2022. What’s your list? Feel free to leave it in the comment section down below, and let’s see how much better we are going to be playing in 2022.

#10 – Sports Story (Nintendo Switch – TBA)

I’m a huge fan when it comes to playing RPG/adventure games that put a spin on your typical “fight the enemy” or “save the world”. Now, when I learned about this game, I was hyped right away.

The reason I placed it so low on my list is that I’m afraid that a lot of the sports gameplay is going to be rhythm or reflexes based, which are two things that I’m not too good at in games and that might ruin it a bit for me. But, then again, looking at the trailer and the promotional material, this game looks quite promising.

Now, I know that this game doesn’t have a release date set in stone yet, so it might be not for 2022… But hey, if this one comes out in 2022, you can be sure that I’m going to play it!

#9 – Yurukill: The Calumniation Games (Nintendo Switch, June 10th)

I wish I could put this game higher on my list. But, the bullet hell gameplay worries me a bit. I easily get frustrated by bullet hell games, but I still enjoy playing them.

But, this game is an escape game that gives off a lot of Zero Escape and Danganrompa vibes and I love it. Also, it’s being developed by the creators of Death Come True and World’s End Club.

I’m quite curious to see what’s going to become of this game. How much they are going to blend the escape-the-room style of gameplay with bullet hell… It is two very different gameplay styles that don’t fit at all, and this might be crazy enough to work.

And even when I’m afraid that the bullet hell sections might frustrate me, since I’m not that good at them… Still, I want to see the end result. And who knows, maybe by playing this game, I might become interested in bullet hell games… We’ll have to wait and see.

#8 – The Cruel King and the Great Hero (Nintendo Switch, March 31st)

You know that moment when you see a trailer, and you fall in love with the art style, setting, and atmosphere right away? This is one of those games to me.

This game looks like a simple, charming RPG game that’s going to have a coming-of-age story.

At first glance, it might look mediocre and a game you might skip. But I think that would be a shame. Since this game looks adorable and charming, and it reminds me how I fell in love with Fantasy Life on the 3DS. A game can also be charming, enjoyable, and relaxing to be fun. And I’m sure this is going to be one of the games I’m going to play next year to wind down after a long day at work. And that’s one of the biggest reasons I’m looking forward to this game.

You know what, it also reminds me off? Like a storybook game. Where you go from location to location and stories are told to children to teach them life lessons. A bit like the core story concept of Blossom Tales.

#7 – Mario + Rabbids – Sparks of Hope (Nintendo Switch, TBA)

Throughout this year, I have been slowly chipping away at the Mario + Rabbits game. I have been distracted by so many other games, I didn’t finish the original.

But, then out of nowhere in a Nintendo Direct, this game got dropped. And I’m so happy to see this happen. The original game is an amazing mash-up of both worlds, and it would be a shame if it was a one-time spin-off.

And now we are getting a sequel. I feel it’s more than well deserved. The passion and love put into the first game… So, I have some time to finish the first game, so I can dive right into the next game next year. So, I know what I’m going to play right after this article is published.

#6 – Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp (Nintendo Switch, Spring 2022)

The amount of times I wanted to start playing Advance Wars 1/2 or purchase my own copy via a second-hand website, is just crazy. I always wanted to give this series a try after I heard so many amazing things about it from other people I follow and YouTubers I watch.

But, next year is going to be my chance. I’ll be able to play both games and more in the remake. A big turn-based strategy game that started on a handheld that helped shape my childhood, the Game Boy Advance, is going to come to the Nintendo Switch.

And maybe, with a subtitle like “Re-Boot Camp”, it might mean we get an Advance Wars 3… It might be the reboot we are waiting for. So, I’m ready to enter the tanks in the Spring of 2022 and fight alongside Andy and the others.

#5 – The Stanley Parable – Ultra Deluxe (PC – Early 2022)

This game has been delayed since 2019 till early 2022. I honestly think that each and every time, the developers had more ideas and wanted to improve the game even more.

Now, as a writer and a gamer, I’m in love with the concept of the Stanley Parable that turns the story-telling in games on its head. So, the promise of seeing more of this, well, you don’t have to tell me twice.

So, I already wishlisted the game on Steam. The only thing I can do now is wait… Right Stanley? Did I follow the correct path? I think so, I haven’t taken a wrong turn anywhere…

#4 – Kirby And The Forgotten Land (Nintendo Switch, Spring 2022)

The last mainline Kirby game was Kirby Star Allies, way back in 2018. We got two spin-off games in the meantime, but Kirby is going to be back in 2022. And not only that, it’s going to be one of three open-world games from Nintendo in the upcoming year.

Yes, I couldn’t believe my ears. An open-world Kirby game. And yes, one of three. Anyways, I always wanted to play an open-world Kirby game. Well, honestly, I wanted to play a 3D Kirby game where you can explore the whole world.

And with this entry in the Kirby series, my wish came true. We shall be able to explore the forgotten lands and together with Kirby we shall uncover the secrets of the Forgotten Land.

#3 – Pokémon Legends Arceus (Nintendo Switch, January 28th)

I honestly think I don’t have to explain myself why I’m so crazy hyped about this game. It’s what Pokémon fans have been asking, begging GameFreak and Nintendo for years. Ever since the first generations, we always wanted a 3D Pokémon game where you can run around and catch Pokémon. Something more than what the main series is offering. Something where you can explore a world freely and maybe use Pokémon to your advantage.

And Pokémon Legends Arceus promises to deliver that. A sort of Breath of the Wild version of Pokémon. I’m really avoiding all released press materials, so I can go into this game as blind as possible. The only thing I have seen is the initial trailer and I also read the news that new materials have improved the frame rate of the game.

While I’m fully aware that we all have an extremely high bar set for this game… I’m going to play it with an open mind. I’m going to try and silence my critical voice in my head while playing this game and let this game’s atmosphere do the work. Since, I’m also silently hoping that this style of Pokémon will be a spin-off series or maybe… Even more. The next generation of gameplay.

#2 – The Legend of Zelda – Breath of the Wild 2 (Nintendo Switch, TBA 2022)

I’m crossing my fingers so hard that this game doesn’t get another delay. Since, I really want to play this game. It’s the 3rd open-world game scheduled for 2022 by Nintendo, and it’s one of the most anticipated games of Nintendo so far.

While I personally miss the top-down Zelda gameplay and first, I wasn’t too fond of the changes in Breath of the Wild, I have to admit that the game grew on me. It added so much more freedom to explore the unique mechanics and gameplay, instead of some items being under-used.

And from what we have seen from the sequel, this game is going above and beyond. From going through floors, skydiving and rewinding time… Man, the possibilities for puzzles and challenges is just huge. I can’t wait. But, if a delay is needed to polish up the game and/or iron out bugs… I wouldn’t mind a delay but on the other hand…

#1 – AI The Somnium Files – Nirvana Initiative (Nintendo Switch, Spring 2022)

Creating this list, and especially the top 5 was extremely difficult. There are so many good games coming out in 2022, I’m afraid that I won’t be able to play all the games I want to play.

Now, why did I put this game on top? Well, since I have the feeling that this game is going to be one of my favorite games I’m going to play in 2022.

When I played the original game, I was so impressed and blown away… I mean, it was almost my favorite game of 2019.

I’m a huge fan of Kotaro’s Uchikoshi’s work. Especially after the Zero Escape series, which I tend to quote in real life sometimes. And seeing a new game from him, made me extremely happy.

Which mysteries is this game going to bring? Since, you would think that the original game wrapped up everything with a nice bow on top of it. But nope, our beloved cast of characters is coming back and we are going to have a new adventure. I’m so ready!

Final thoughts

You might have noticed that my whole list is almost only Switch games. That’s because due to my busy personal life and events, I mostly play on my retro consoles or on my Switch. Currently, I have no major interest in buying an XBOX or PS5, since there aren’t enough games for me to justify buying those consoles. The same with PC games, the new PC games don’t grab my interest enough for me to upgrade my setup.

Maybe the ports of God Of War and Uncharted might be the games that make me consider upgrading my setup… But then, you have a sequel to Blossom Tales or Coffee Talk and then I get even less interested in upgrading my setup.

Then again, you have the Vampire: The Masquerade sequel… But that’s also coming out on Switch. And I also keep forgetting that huge pile of retro games I still have backlogged. 2022 will be a big year in gaming and for me personally, and I can’t wait to see where it will take me. So, 2021 is almost over and it’s time to wrap it up in the next article(s) and prepare ourselves for 2022. Since, it’s going to be big.

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

NekoJonez’s Top 10 Games of 2019

my personal top 10 games of 20192019 has been a very special year for me. A lot of things happened in my personal life like job changes. Now, I might have written fewer articles compared to 2018, I still have a top 10 games ready for you! If you haven’t read my top 10 games of the year lists before, let me explain something to you. I’m not that big of a fan on top 10 lists where all the games came out that year because you nearly always get the same games on that list. Besides that, I’m a retro gamer and I play a lot of retro games and I find that those also can be my pick for game of the year. So, that’s why I can pick ANY game for my game of the year. The only rule I had to start playing the game in 2019. Games that I started in 2018 or earlier don’t count. So, I can’t pick games like the Zero Escape since I replayed them with a friend this year because I played those games in the past. So, what games did make my top 10 list and which games didn’t make the list? Let’s find out together! Also, remember that I haven’t played every game that came out and that this list is my opinion. So, if you disagree, feel free to leave a respectful comment. But, in all other cases, also feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the games, the list, the content of this article and/or your own list.

Editoral note: Some of the games I have already reviewed, if that’s the case, the link will go to my review or article. If that isn’t the case, the link will take you to a store page.

Number 10: Degree of Separation (Switch) (2019)

degreeofseperationI have only started to play this game at the start of December. But, the mechanics and gameplay made such a big impression on me that I decided to place it on my top 10 games list I played this year. While I know you can play this game as a single-player game, I’m going through the adventure together with a friend. We started to play this game right after we finished Tick Tock: A Tale For Two. We wanted to play another co-op game.

This game is a co-op game where you have to help each other to reach the end of the section. Meanwhile, you have to solve various puzzles to collect scarfs. One player plays as an ice prince and the other player plays as a fire Princess. Both characters have very different abilities that you have to use together to solve the challenges of the game.

The mechanics that there is a separation and a bond between the characters are just amazing. I’m tempted to finish this game in single-player but I’m holding myself back from doing that since it’s such a great game to play with a friend that I want to fully complete the adventure with her. It helps me to create amazing memories with her and I can’t wait to create even more. Speaking of which… one of the other co-op games is one of the honorable mentions.

Number 9: Etrain Odyssey Nexus (3DS) (2019)

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The most likely final entry in the Etrain Odyssey series has been released around my birthday. I’m a huge fan of the series and whenever I have the time, I’m trying to make progress in one of the Etrain Odyssey games I own.

I haven’t gotten around to writing a review or an article about this game just yet, but I’ll make sure that next year will see an article about this game.

Since it’s bittersweet knowing that no new games will come in this amazing franchise. The reason is that the gameplay was created with the DS and the 3DS in mind. On the top screen, you were exploring the brutal dungeons and on the bottom screen, you were creating your very own map.

This game is an amazing finale to the series. It combines all the amazing aspects of all the previous games and it’s a great way to finish the series. Personally, I don’t recommend this game to a newcomer to the series since it might be a bit overwhelming.

On top of that, it’s one of the final big new games on the 3DS. While I’m totally not done with playing games on the 3DS just yet, this swansong feels even more strange because of that. So, thank you Nintendo for the amazing memories with the DS and 3DS. I’m so grateful that you developed this hardware and made it possible that this amazing series got created.

Number 8: My Big Sister (Switch) (2019)

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So, this game is an RPG Maker adventure game created by Stranga. While the gameplay isn’t anything too special since the game isn’t too difficult nor it is it quite long… The game’s story is quite well written.

The charm of this game reminded me a lot of Angels of Death, which was one of my favorite games last year.

The story tells a tale about a special bond that two sisters have while going through some troubling times. It has quite a lot of symbolism and after it was finished, I needed some time to let it all sink in. Recently, I have started one of the other games from this developer and I’m quite enjoying my time with that game as well. So, thank you for this game for introducing me to an amazing indie developer that I’ll be following from now on.

Number 7: Uncharted – The Lost Legacy (PS4) (2017)

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So, I can’t hide the fact that I’m a huge fan of the Tomb Raider series. So, I knew that the Uncharted franchise existed but I have never played any of the games.

Now, a good friend owns almost all of the games and one of the first times I came over her place, we played Uncharted – The Lost Legacy together. She was stuck at a puzzle and I wanted to help her out.

It didn’t take long before I was hooked at this game and I finished the remainder of the game. Not long after that, we went on holiday together and after that, I lent her PS4 for a short while. During that time, I finished the campaign I hadn’t played yet and I knew one thing for certain. That this game will be on my top 10 games of 2019 list.

While I enjoyed the modern Tomb Raider games a little bit more, I still think that the Uncharted games deserve recognition. Now, I can’t wait to start playing the other Uncharted games. So, maybe next year you might see a review or two from other games in the series…

Number 6: Horizon Zero Dawn (PS4) (2017)

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Ever since I heard about this game, I wanted to give this game a try. This game looked extremely interesting to me. Now, I don’t own a PS4 but my a friend of mine does.

So, when we saw the base game on sale in our local game store, we bought it right away and started playing it. And I fell in love with the game right away.

The story and atmosphere reminded me to the amazing time I had in games like Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Breath of the Wild.

While I haven’t played a lot of this game, I can’t wait to play more and actually finish this game. It’s one of the best games I have been playing on the PS4 and it made me want to buy my own PS4. If only I had the budget to do that…

So, thank you Horizon Zero Dawn for taking me on a journey that reminds me of two of the best games I have played in the last two years. I can’t wait to see where the adventure is going to take me next since the world is calling me back in.

Number 5: Ion Fury (PC) (2019)

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If you look through my blog, I’m quite a big fan of retro titles. When one of my favorite YouTubers introduced me to this game, I was quite interested.

Yes, I bought the game right after watching that review and I was unable to put the game down for a few weeks. It was almost the only game that I played during that time. The old school shooter games were back in business!

Now, the game gets frequent updates that add improvements and even new content. So, that’s why I’m currently putting this game a bit on hold. I’m going to give this game another shot really soon to see what has been changed and try to beat this game again and find even more secrets. And I’m also thinking to dip my feet into the mods that the community is creating for this game since I have seen some interesting things that might make this game even more enjoyable.

Number 4: Bloodstained – Ritual of the Night (Switch) (2019)

H2x1_NSwitch_BloodstainedRitualOfTheNight_image1600wYes, yes,  I haven’t played the best version of this game. I know that the other versions have a better performance. But, honestly, I still think that this game is a blast to play.

I really missed playing a great Metroidvania game ever since I had beaten Monster Tale on the DS.

And this game just exceeded my expectations. I was really worried that this game would crash and burn like Mighty Number 9. But thankfully, this Kickstarter game delivered on its promises and turned out great.

I have talked more in-depth about this game in my review, so when you want to know more, I advise you to read that article. Currently, I’m considering if I should start over or not since a big patch is coming soon to the Nintendo Switch version. Now, that’s up to me to decide when the patch comes out in a few weeks.

Number 3: Dragon Quest Builders 2 (Switch) (2019)

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Well, well, well. Here is a surprise. One of my most anticipated games of 2019 is only number 3 in my Top 10 games of 2019 list.

After I had beaten the original game last year, I was really hyped for the sequel. I was waiting to see a release date appear on various outlets and when it got announced, I pre-ordered it right away through my favorite local game store.

The game didn’t disappoint at all. It was an extremely enjoyable ride from start to finish. While I still have a ton of postgame content left to do, I’m currently on a break from this game. I have spent over 100 hours in this game, so yeah…

Now, I have been playing this game with friends as well and while the multiplayer is somewhat limited, it’s quite a lot of fun. Maybe one of these days I might return to this game with her and start playing the post-game content and improving my Ilse of Awakening even more to have a better-looking island. Since now it’s a huge construction zone…

Number 2: AI – The Somnium Files (Switch) (2019)

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This game came out of nowhere for me. After the amazing Zero Escape series, I didn’t expect that Kotaro Uchikoshi was writing a new horror-themed visual novel game with its own unique twist.

So, I was counting down until the release date hit and I even patiently waited until I could start this game with a good friend of mine since she is a big fan of Kotaro’s work as well since we had beaten the Zero Escape series together this summer. Well, she finished the games since I was replaying them with her.

When the game started, we noticed all the little nods to his previous work. The subtle references in the story and the sound effects being reused. It was an amazing feeling.

At first, the story was a bit mediocre. But, then a sudden plot twist changed everything. That friend wasn’t interested in the game after a few play sessions but when I told her the twists the game took, she wanted to see them.

I remember the time we finished the game during my week off in November. A few times, I had to put the controller down because the story just blew my mind. It’s an amazingly written story if you let yourself get drawn into it. Now, a ton of people argues that it’s not his best work. I see where they are coming from, but that doesn’t mean that the story in this game is bad at all.

The issue is that when you know Kotaro’s style of revealing plot details and that even small details mean quite a lot, you can see some twists coming from a mile away. But, it didn’t bother me that much. The suspense then is, how are the characters going to find out the truth you knew all along. And that’s where this game shines in the story department. If only this game didn’t wrap up the story so nicely, then we might have some sequel potential. The whole dream concept of this game and the gameplay is just amazing. But, I’m equally as hyped for the next games of Kotaro. Keep on creating my dude! I fell in love with your games since the Zero Escape series and now I want to play even more games from you and your team.

Honorable mentions

Before I reveal my number 1 of this year, my game of the year if you will… I think it’s time we talk about honorable mentions. Games that I loved playing this year but didn’t make the top 10 for some reason. Also, keep in mind that this isn’t a complete list of games that I played this year that fit the rules of this top 10 but it’s more a list of games that I want to mention that fit the rules but didn’t make the top 10.

Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes (Switch), Fire Emblem – Three Houses (Switch), Resident Evil 7 (PC), Silence (PS4), Peggle 2 (XBOX360), Halo 3 (XBOX360), Call of Duty – World At War (XBOX360), Resident Evil 1 (PS1), Life is Strange (PS4), Adera (PC), Chrono Trigger (Android), Forager (Switch), The Legend of Zelda – Links Awakening (Switch), Wii Sports Resorts (Wii), Mario + Rabbits: Kingdom Battles (Switch), Atlantis (PC), Pokémon Sword & Shield (Switch), 2048 – Read Only Memories (Switch), WarioWare Gold (3DS) and Asterix and Obelix – XXL 2 (PS2).

Man, I do have to say that choosing my top 5 this year was extremely difficult. Usually, I start putting this list together by either late October or early November. I have a text file with the games and I change the order around in November and December and add games I really enjoyed during those two months if that is needed. I start writing the article in middle December and I finalize the article in the last week of the year. So, this article went through a ton of revisions.

Last year, it was an extremely easy decision which game should be number 1. This year, I had to choose between 5 games I enjoyed it quite a lot. It’s quite possible that I want to change the order around the top 5 in 2020. But, I’m not going to change the order around in this article, after a lot of careful consideration, I decided which game should be my number 1. And I’ll explain why right now:

Number 1: NG – Spirit Hunter (Switch) (2019)

81EBL2k3XTL._AC_SL1500_So, why is this game my game of the year? Out of all the games I could have chosen, why did I choose a rather niche Japanese horror visual novel adventure game. Well, let me explain. One of the big reasons is the story. The story is about a guy taking care of his sister. Well, technically, she isn’t his sister but his niece. But, she addresses him as “big brother” so I think it counts. I care a lot about my younger sister. So, the story spoke to me emotionally.

Both my numbers 2 and 1 have amazing stories in my opinion. But, the story is one of the reasons that made my decision. My 2nd reason for picking this game as my game of the year is simple. The different endings are just amazing. There is a chance that there is going to be a sequel to this game and I’m really curious which ending the 3rd game will take to build upon. The good or the bad ending, since both have amazing story potential to continue the franchise.

I’m crossing my fingers that the crowdfunding campaign is going to be successful for the next entry in the series. At the time of writing, it’s extremely close to its goal. More information about the sequel can be read in this Siliconera’s writeup.

So yeah, this game didn’t only improve on the mechanics of the previous game Death Mark, it blew that game out of the water. Sadly enough, the performance issues on some platforms kept the game a bit back, but those were quickly fixed by the developer. Thank you Experience for this amazing game, the amazing experience. If only I could understand Japanese so I could play your other games. Then again, most of your games got localized, so I know which studio I’m going to keep an eye on next year.

Conclusion

Like I said before, this article was extremely difficult to write. It was extremely difficult to choose between NG, AI, Dragon Quest Builders 2, Ion Fury and Bloodstained. These 5 games were the most memorable games for me this year.

Now, this list underwent a ton of changes. I have looked to the number of revisions in my Dropbox of the draft document of this article and I have around 20 revisions where either the order of the games changed or I swapped out a game from the top 10 for another one.

So, most of the games I played in 2019 took me on an amazing story journey. Almost half of the games on this list, I fell in love with the story and/or the world of the game. And some games even pulled some emotional strings.

I can’t wait to see what 2020 is going to bring and what games I’m going to play. I have seen a lot of games that I’m looking forward to playing next year but lately, I’m finishing a lot of games that I started. Mostly because I’m enjoying my collection quite a lot.

Anyways, thank you for taking the time out of your day to take a look back at 2019 with me. I’m quite curious about what you people think about the games I have chosen for this year’s list. Do you agree or disagree with my list? I would love to hear it in the comments.

Thank you for all the support for my blog in 2019. Due to a lot of personal things going on, I haven’t written a lot of articles but I feel that the quality of my writing improved quite a lot. I can’t wait to keep on writing and improve my skills and entertain you guys and girls with new content.

Before I write my usual ending phrases, I have a question for you, the reader. What games or series did you discover through my blog this year or in the past? I’m really curious about that. Anyways, here is the usual ending of my articles:

Now, 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!

First Impressions: AI – The Somnium Files (Switch) ~ Kotaro Uchikoshi Is At It Again.

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Official website

One of my favorite horror series is the Zero Escape series. I have reviewed every game here on my blog. I have played through all of these games again this year since I introduced the series to a good friend. When I’m reviewing adventure games or visual novels, I often find myself referencing 999, Virtue’s Last Reward or Zero Time Dilemma. Now, sadly enough this trilogy of games has ended with Zero Time Dilemma. Now, last month I learned that the director and main writer of the series were finishing development on a new game. Ai: The Somnium Files. When I saw Kotaro Uchikoshi’s name in the promotion material, I got extremely hyped. I honestly pre-ordered the game right away. Now, do I regret that pre-order or was it worth it? I’m going to give you an answer to that question in the form of this first impression review of the game. And before I start, I always say: feel free to leave a comment with your opinion in the comment section down below about the content of this article and/or the game itself.

Date and Aiba

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In this game, you play as special agent Date who is investigating a gruesome murder. Now, this is unlike any detective game because Date has a special ability. His left eye is quite special. In this left eye, an AI lives. This AI is called Aiba and helps Date to make phone calls, access databases, x-ray vision, zooming and so much more. On top of that, Date can explore people’s somnium, which is created by their dreams. These dreams can help in the investigation whenever you need to get information out of a witness that refuses to give testimony.

The story is quite complex and takes a lot of twists and turns. Like the previous games that Uchikoshi worked on, this game has branching paths as well. Depending on certain actions you take during the somnium exploration, the story can go in very different directions. Now, I have already seen one ending of the game and it even got me a bit emotional while playing it. The writing and pacing of this game are wonderful. While there is some dry and lame humor in this game, the actual jokes work quite well and made me laugh out loud more than once.

I’m leaving quite a lot of details on the story out on purpose since this game is better experienced without a lot of knowledge of the story. Go in this game as blind as possible. Since the twists are better without knowing them in advance. Which honestly, speaks for itself don’t you think? Now, something that I quite liked is the various nods to the Zero Escape series. Certain sound effects and visual cues come from or are heavily inspired by the Zero Escape series.

Now, before I talk more about that comparison, I want to talk about the voice acting. While you can play through this game with the original Japanese cast, I’m playing through this game with the English voice actors and I have to say that the dub of this game is amazing. The cast has been cast quite well. Maybe I might be a bit biased since I’m heavily invested in the story and now I’m quite used to the voice work of the voice actors.

He is at it again

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The gameplay in this visual novel is quite varied. This isn’t a visual novel where just choosing between a few options makes the difference. In this visual novel, there are various puzzles to solve and dialogue trees to explore. The first gameplay type is simply one where you explore a location. This can be a crime scene or the house of a suspect. In these scenes, the Date doesn’t move around. You explore your surroundings to find various clues and leads. To make sure you didn’t miss anything, whenever the text turns green whenever you move over the cursor over something, that means that there is still some interaction to be done. If the text turns gray, you have done every possible interaction.

So you go through various dialogue trees where you get new information. Whenever you missed something, you can quickly bring up the log and replay the voice clips. Something that I found a bit missing, is a sort of summary of the events that happened. Since very different things happen in the story depending on the path you take. So, a quick summary of past events might be helpful. Especially since there are character bios and a word list where various terms are explained.

Speaking of these character bios and terms, these are handled amazingly. The various hidden jokes and references add so much to the atmosphere of the game. Especially the way how some explanations are written, it’s almost like writers are talking to the player directly. Sometimes even saying that if you want more information that you “have to look it up on the internet.” And as an IT guy, I found the binary joke in one of the character profiles an extremely nice touch.

Now, the exploration in this game is quite limited and somewhat linear. While you can choose which location you visit first, it doesn’t make a difference in the story if you go in order or out of order. So, this is quite linear. Now, the dream sequences are something completely different. Now, if you played any game in the Zero Escape series, you will quickly get used to these sections. These dream puzzles are the escape rooms of this game, but the big difference is that you can move in the whole area.

If you compare the gameplay of this game with any game in the Zero Escape series, I have to compliment this game for improving the dialogue sections of the game. The dialogue and story sections are more involved now and you can choose in which order you experience it. This makes the game more accessible and doesn’t dump a lot of text and story on you all at once.

That said, now the dream sequences and puzzles are a blast to play through. Some of them are a tad bit too easily to my liking, but the later puzzles more than makeup for it. For one puzzle, I even considered using a walkthrough but after a lot of trial and error, I figured it out and it gave me such an amazing feeling.

In each puzzle, you have to unlock various mental locks. You can do this by exploring and interacting with the dream. Because you are exploring a dream, extremely strange things can happen. So, you have to make sure you understand why and what is going wrong. There is a catch, you have 6 minutes to solve the whole puzzle. If you don’t, you get a game over. You can use 3 tokens to go back to a previous checkpoint. If you go back one checkpoint, you use one token. If you go back two checkpoints, you use 2 tokens.

Now, you have to plan your actions right since each action uses a certain amount of time. With some actions, you earn special bonuses that can increase or decrease the used time in the game. It’s very important that you plan ahead and that you are sure of the option you pick. Now, whenever you are standing still, your clock ticks down slower than when you are moving. Take this time to plan out your moves and make sure you aren’t losing time by walking in the wrong direction.

This whole mechanic gives the game a very tense atmosphere. Am I going to have enough time to crack the other mental locks or have I lost too much time in the previous sections? Sometimes it’s better to restart the whole puzzle instead of using your tokens to go back to a previous checkpoint. Now, you can also use these tokens during gameplay. The time you had on the clock is the time you have when you return to that checkpoint. You get 3 tokens for each puzzle and they reset whenever you restart the whole puzzle.

I was pretty interested in the game whenever I saw the teaser trailer, but the gameplay is not disappointing me at all. It’s one of the best games I have played this year. And to be honest, if the quality of the game keeps up during the rest of the game, I think there are big chances that this game might be my Game Of The Year. And yes, maybe my bias towards the author and director of this game might have some to do with it, but you still have to deliver a great product and gameplay and story-wise, I think they more than succeed here.

Pretty and funny

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Visually, this game looks amazing. The detail in the character models and the environment are just amazing. Compared to Zero Time Dilemma, the animation work got a huge overhaul. The character portraits are no longer static, they have the same animation as the actual characters on screen. That way you can still see their animations whenever you missed their animations because you were looking around.

The little details in the animations are mindblowing. For example, there was a scene where a teacher was talking about a student and when she was talking about the student, her head actually moved towards the student itself and the student broke her idle animation and looked at her teacher. These things might be small moments but are moments that give just that bit of extra flavor and atmosphere to the game.

On top of that, the audiovisual presentation of this game is equally as good as the animation. Some parts of the soundtrack reminded me of a lot of the music that’s used in the Zero Escape series. Now, there are some sound effects that are exactly the same from the Zero Escape series like the save sound and some other sound effects. If it’s intentional, I found it a great easter egg for people who played the previous games. Now, it’s also quite possible that they used the same sound library to save some development money and even if that’s the case, I wouldn’t mind at all.

Surprisingly, the composer of this game also wrote the music for BloodStained and the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games on (3)DS. The Zero Escape series’ soundtracks were composed by Shinji Hosoe who wrote music for Fate/Extra and Tekken 6. The composer of this game is Keisuke Ito and he did an amazing job with his team to create this soundtrack.

One of the biggest shames of this game is the fact that sometimes those games have some stuttering or some major slowdowns during gameplay. Thankfully these don’t have that often and it only affects the Visuals and not music nor the voice acting. Most of these slowdowns happen during dialogues or when a lot of animation is playing. On these moments, the fan of my Switch didn’t blast me away like in Dragon Quest Builders 2.

If I’m allowed to nitpick just a minor bit, I can’t remember exactly where but there are just 1 or 2 lines that aren’t voice acted. These are very short lines and if you are just following the story, you might not even notice them. I clearly remember that one of these lines was said by Date somewhere in the first few sections of the story. I think it was in a conversation between Boss, Aiba, and Date. But given the whole script of this game, just one or two missed lines is something that isn’t THAT bad and can be easily looked over.

This game has only one difficulty level. The overall difficulty of this game is quite well done, the difficulty scaling is very well done. Some puzzles require some trial and error but once it clicks, the whole thing makes sense. The biggest challenge is in the exploration of the dreams since you need to think fast and think about the time limit.

The controls of this game are almost perfect. The only thing that’s missing is touchscreen controls. But hey, that’s huge nitpick since the controls are quite responsive and easily mastered. Thanks to the amazing UI, I can find any negatives about the controls and UI. Apart from maybe one minor thing. I find the text in the word list and character bios a little bit too small to read when I’m playing in docked mode and when I’m sitting a bit too far away from the screen. All the other text can be read just fine, apart from that part.

I’m also forgetting to talk about something quite important and that’s the save system. While there is an autosave system present in the game, you also have three save slots you can use. Thanks to these three save slots, I’m able to continue to play the game by myself but also save at the point me left off so I could pick up the game right where I left off when I played it for the next time.

Now there is some minor replay value when you want to unlock everything. During each Somnium, there is an eye hidden that when collected and finished the Somnium without failing; you unlock additional concept art. These are quite fun to watch and a great reward for people who explore the game to the smallest detail.

Now, this review is already getting extremely long for a first impression. It’s quite clear what I’m thinking of this game. I think it’s high time to wrap this first impression up. This game comes highly recommend to everybody who enjoys adventure games, puzzle games, mystery games, visual novel games and games like the Zero Escape series. This game is one of the best games I have played in 2019 and I can’t wait to see how this game ends. Apart from some minor flaws like the slowdowns, this game is in my eyes as good as perfect. It’s such a shame that this game doesn’t get the publicity that it deserves. I hope that with this article more people give this game a try and give it the audience it deserves. With that said, I want to thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

One minor side note, this game is also on PS4 and PC.

Review: Adera (PC) ~ Let’s Rescue Grandfather!

AderaSteam store page – Microsoft Store

During a spring cleaning, my mom found her old Windows Surface RT tablet back. She didn’t need it anymore but I saw some use in it. After I reset the tablet to its factory settings, I set the whole thing up. It would be a tablet I used to start writing articles while I was on the go and also to take notes during gameplay. I have an Asus Zenpad 8.0 S for that as well, but this tablet was bigger and had Word built-in. Now, this tablet can also play games. And that’s a second reason why I saw a use for this tablet. And a 3rd reason is that I just enjoy toying around with old hardware and tech. Now, one of the first games I started playing on this tablet was Adera. I recently finished this game and today I want to talk about it. Let’s go and have that adventure in the Adera. 

Let’s rescue Grandfather!

Adera - 1In this adventure hidden object game, you take on the role of Jane. Jane’s grandfather got himself into trouble and sent a distress letter to Jane. When Jane goes to try and find him together with her partner Hawk, their helicopter crashes in the middle of a desert. It’s there that Jane’s adventure starts. Together with the mysterious orb that she received from the package of her grandfather.

The story of this game is decent. The writing is well done and the pacing as well, but if you have played fantasy adventure games, the story won’t bring a lot new to the table. Now, I did still enjoy the story in this game. My biggest complaint is that it could have been so much more. The world and the setting have so much more potential to be explored.

Now, if you decide to play this game, I highly recommend that you play this game with the original voice acting. The English voice acting is quite well done in my opinion. But, most likely because of the region settings of my Microsoft Account, when I play this game on my desktop instead of my Surface, the voice acting is in Dutch. Now, I have nothing against the Dutch voice actors in this game but after I had experienced the English voices, I found the English voice over a lot better.

The following issue with the game is most likely because of the aging Windows RT hardware, but I had moments where the game’s text was sometimes in English and sometimes in Dutch. But, when the menu appeared in Dutch, some text was repeated several times. Take a look at this screenshot for example:

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At the bottom left, it says “Rate Adera!Rate Adera!Rate Adera!”. And there are a few other sections in the game that have the same issue. So, to avoid visual messes like that, I highly recommend that if you are interested in this game, that you buy it on Steam. You won’t have the issue where the game tries to display in another language and you have the best voice overwork. I even bought the Steam version of this game for this review to do some further research.

But this review will mostly focus on the Windows Store version because that’s the one I played and finished. Now, something I can’t hold against the game was the fact that I played it on aging hardware. I played this game on the Windows Surface RT running Windows 8.1. Due to a bug in one of the updates, the Windows Store doesn’t work, so I had to reset the tablet multiple times. Each time, I had to download each and every episode. Now, the downloading and installing of these episodes took a long time. Maybe because the WiFi card and the hard disk inside the tablet are quite slow.

Thankfully, this game has an autosave in the cloud when you connect this game with your XBOX account. So, even when I had to reset my tablet to factory settings, download and install the game and the episodes all over again, I didn’t lose any progress. This is quite surprising to me and a very nice feature.

Now, I want to talk about something but I’m going to spoil something of the ending. If you are alright with that or if you have finished the game, feel free to highlight the following part. Otherwise, just scroll a bit down so you can skip the spoiler. So, here comes the spoiler: Something that really annoys me is the fact that there is a “season 1”. This implies that the game is going to get a season 2 or even 3. Because of the cliffhanger at the end and multiple unanswered questions, the game feels incomplete. Now, the game is released in 2015 and the social media accounts have gone silent. So, I don’t think we will ever know what happened to grandfather after he got kidnapped… again. Now, the game got a re-release on Steam in 2018, so there is hope that we get a continuation of the story in the future… Who knows.

Windows Surface RT

Adera - 2Now yes, I might have played this game on aging hardware, but I actually enjoyed the fact that I was able to make use of the unique feature of this game. I think this feature is also in the Android and iOS versions of the game but the fact that the game supports touch controls is just amazing. Also, the fact that there are gyro controls for this game is amazing. When I moved the tablet around, the in-game camera moved around as well. It was almost like I was controlling where Jane was looking by physically moving the tablet. The Steam version does not support this. Well, I might support it, but I don’t have a laptop has supported this kind of feature.

Anyways, because this game focuses on touch controls, the controls are a bit awkward when you decide to play this game with a mouse. Because you either swipe or physically move your device to look around in several areas in order to find items and solve puzzles. That’s something that isn’t easily done with a mouse. Now, you can simulate a swipe with the mouse, but it feels different. Yet, I was able to get used to it while playing around with the Steam version after a while.

Now, let’s focus on the gameplay of Adera for a moment. If you have ever played those adventure games with hidden object scenes, you will feel right at home in this game. There are a few types of puzzles in this game. The first type of puzzle is hidden-object puzzles. In these puzzles, you are tasked with finding a handful of items in the picture. There is a punishment when you spam click on the picture. The screen will “break” and you are unable to click for a certain amount of time.

The second type of puzzles has to do with the mysterious orb that Jane received from her grandfather. This orb can do some strange things but in order for it to do that, you have to solve different puzzles. Speaking of the orb puzzles, there was one style of puzzles I truly hated with a passion. There is a puzzle where you have to tap the symbols at the correct time. When you tapped them at the correct time, you were able to progress one space in the puzzle. But, if you tapped them too early or too late, that means one space back for you. Thankfully, you are able to skip these puzzles. This means that I’m unable to complete some achievements, but rather that then being frustrated at a puzzle. Now, why did I hate this puzzle? Because for this puzzle you need to have a certain sense of rhythm and that’s something I don’t really have. The puzzle itself works just fine.

The third type of puzzle in this game is the fact that there are a lot and I really mean, a lot of hidden items in the game. There are close to 180 optional items hidden all over the game.  From masks, pieces of clothing, coins, artifacts, butterflies to special items. There are even more items to collect. You can always see the items you have collected in the collection section of the main menu. These are separated in different sections giving you a hint in which episode you missed an object. And these items are truly hidden. After I had finished the game, I only found a bit over 80% of all the items. And I thought I was very good at finding these objects. To be honest, this is an interesting way to add a little bit of replay value to this really linear game.

The fourth and final type of puzzle is the fact that certain obstacles block your way. In order to progress you will have to find items. Some of these items are hidden in the hidden object puzzles and some can be found by exploring the area. The best way to compare these puzzles is with the gameplay of games like Broken Sword.

The game might be more on the casual side of things, but that doesn’t take away that the game is rather enjoyable. I really liked exploring the areas the game threw me in and finding the items to solve the puzzles. All the while I was looking around for hidden collectibles. I have played a lot of hidden object adventure games and this game is one of the better I have played. The fact that there are additional things to do like the hidden collectibles and the various achievements you can get is refreshing and great fun.

Something I really liked about the Windows Store version is the fact that I bought the collectors edition of this game. In this collectors edition of the game, there are various wallpapers and pieces of concept art. The whole soundtrack of the game is also included for your listing pleasure. In addition to that, there is a very short but quite humorous gag reel. There is also an ad for the eBook variant of the game.

These bonus additions are nowhere to be found in the Steam version. In addition to that, something that I found quite helpful was the fact that I was able to zoom in during the hidden-object puzzles. There is no way to do that in the Steam version.

Now, something that the Steam game does better is the fact that the game is really full screen. This is only an issue when you play this game on a Windows 10 computer or laptop instead of on a Microsoft tablet. If you play the game on a computer, blue bars will fill the top and bottom of the screen like in the screenshot here:

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This is a shame since there is so much unused space and the game can run in full screen since this is something that the Steam version shows.

So close, yet so far

Adera - 3

It always pains me when I have to write in a review that a game is so close to being a good game. Adera has a ton of amazing elements but it also makes a few mistakes.

Now, this game will take you roughly 7 hours to finish. It’ll take you a few more hours in order for you to complete it. Yes, this game is somewhat short but when you compare it to other games in this genre, this game is actually rather lengthy. It also has replay value and for the price of 10€, you can’t complain in my opinion.

This game isn’t for everybody. When you dislike puzzle games or casual games, I don’t think you will enjoy this game. Which is a darn shame, since you will miss out on the lush environments and the amazing artwork. This game looks amazing. The animation is also pretty well done. You can skip most cutscenes, but you will miss out on the plot and the great animation. Now, the only thing that could have been improved as there was a bit more animation on the characters during gameplay. The characters are quite static outside of cutscenes.

The controls of this game do something unique. Usually, when you click or tap just above the middle of the inventory bar, you go to the previous location. This isn’t the case in this game. Because this game has a back arrow. This has its advantages. For example, now I don’t return to my previous location when I tap a bit too high by accident. But, this arrow works a bit inconsistent. In some cases, you are able to move to that location without the aid of that arrow and in some cases, you can only go to that location with the down arrow. It’s tricky to explain by text, but it will make more sense once you play the game. While I got used to the mechanic after an episode, it was annoying that the down arrow to move backwards wasn’t consistently used for the same thing and in the same way.

In terms of the UI of this game, it took me a while to get used to the Windows Apps interface style. Because I rarely used Windows 8(.1), I wasn’t used to the fact that you had to do certain swiping actions to bring up the menu system. This is something that the Steam version does a lot better. It was also confusing that the settings of the game were somewhat outside of the menu system of the game.

Now, in terms of the UI. Something I really disliked was when I replayed parts of the game on my PC to write this review, I noticed that the swiping doesn’t work in the menus. I had to use my scroll wheel. Another annoying “feature” of this game is that when you go to any menu during gameplay; to for example the collection menu, the back button in the menu system brings you back to the main menu. It would have been so much easier if this back button brought you back to the game to continue your playthrough.

While the game saves automatically and quite frequently, I found the load feature a bit lacking. Now, it works perfectly but when you continue an episode, you don’t know where your save file is at. When you finish an episode, the game saves right before the cutscene that plays as the cliffhanger for the next episode. Now, the thing is, the game uses cloud saves when you sign in with your XBOX account. So, when I clicked continue on the first episode on my PC, the end cut scene of the first episode started playing. It would be lovely if the load feature told you where the game saved. In addition to that, when you click on the “play now” buttons in the main menu with the episodes, the game directly loads your save file. So, if you want to start from the beginning because you think you skipped some collectibles, you need to go to the “episode” section of the main menu and start it from there.

It’s a shame really, the UI could be so much better. There are just bad design decisions. Thankfully, most of them are fixed in the Steam version where you don’t have the Microsoft App UI on top of the game. But, that version misses quite a lot of features of the collector’s edition.

Something I haven’t mentioned or talked about is the music and sound design. The soundtrack of this game is quite well done. The only complaint I have is that some tracks are a bit too short and because they are played quite often, the loop started to annoy me in some puzzles. Yet, the soundtrack is one that I’m going to add to my music library so I can listen to it while I’m writing or relaxing. It’s that good. It’s a relaxing but mysterious soundtrack that’s fully orchestrated. Together with amazing sound effects and sound design, this game really shines in its audiovisual presentation. Now, one nitpick is that I feel that the music for the main menu is a bit too quiet, a bit too mysterious. Sometimes I felt there wasn’t any music in the main menu.

Now, is this game difficult? Not really, this game can be extremely easy and quite challenging depending on the difficulty setting you to pick. There are three settings. Depending on how difficult you make the game, the more supporting features are disabled. On the “EASY” setting, active hidden object or puzzle locations are revealed with sparkles and the hint and skip buttons recharge quite quickly. On the “NORMAL” difficulty setting, the sparkles appear less frequently and the hint and skip buttons recharge slower. And finally, on the highest difficulty, also known as “EXPERT”, no sparkles and the hint and skip buttons are disabled. You can change the difficulty setting at any time while you are playing an episode.

Speaking about the hint button, I really liked the way this game gives you hints. When you click on the hint button the first time, you get a clue to what is the next step you could take. There is an additional button on the hint pop-up and if you click on that button, you get the exact solution you are looking for.

During this review, I have talked about various things that this game does better compared to other hidden object adventure games like for example the length, the back button, and the replay value. But, there is one thing that this game doesn’t have compared to newer games that would have been a great addition in this title. The custom difficulty setting. With these settings, you can adjust which supporting options you want to enable and disable or how long you want to the hint and/or skip buttons to recharge for. But, this might have been too tricky to program with the ability to change the difficulty settings on the fly. The other thing that this game doesn’t have is a map screen. Usually, in these map screens, you can see the locations you have visited and where actions can be done. This would have been helpful with some of the longer episodes.

With that said, I think it’s high time to close off this review. It’s time for the closing thoughts on this game!

Conclusion

Note: While I talked a lot in this review about the Steam version of this game. The conclusion applies to the Windows App Store version of the game that I played on the Windows Surface RT tablet.

The bad: 

  • The UI could use some more polish.
  • The Dutch translation has some text bugs.
  • There was no way to choose the language of the game.

The good:

+ Amazing audiovisual presentation.

+ Replay value in a hidden object game!

+ The collector’s edition has a lot of amazing bonus content.

+ Amazing artwork.

+ …

Final thoughts:

Man, this has been a tricky game to review. I have played parts of the Steam version and the Windows App store version. I’m certain that the versions for Android and iOS have some differences but will most likely play similar to the Windows Surface RT version.

While the Steam version has a better UI, it lacks all the additional neat features of the collector’s edition that can be found on the Microsoft Store. But, the version of the Microsoft Store has a lacking UI.

Now, this game isn’t perfect and isn’t for everybody. But what it does, it does very well. I highly recommend this game to fans of the hidden object genre or fans of the point-and-click genre. This game is quite underrated and should deserve more recognition. It was the first game I started playing on the Windows Surface RT and it was the first game I had beaten. Sometimes I replay a bit of the game in the hope I find the collectibles I missed.

The game gives you the impression that there are going to be more seasons, that the story of Adera will continue. With the game getting a Steam port last year, I have hopes that we will see another season in the (near) future. But, I highly doubt it will happen since there is no mention of seasons in the Steam version. Then again, it could be possible that the second season will start with episode 6 or something.

So, if you want to give this game a chance and you don’t mind a bit of messy menu UI, I highly recommend the Windows Store version. If you want a better menu UI, play the Steam version but know that you will miss out on the collector’s edition content.

Personally, I really enjoyed playing this game and I’m happy that I discovered it. Now, I’m quite curious to see if somebody who reads this article is going to pick up this game. If you do, please let me know in the comments which version you bought and what you thought of it.

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

Score: 70/100