First Impression: Persona 5 Strikers (Switch) ~ Let’s Steal Hearts

Persona5StrikersWikipedia’s entry – Nintendo.com microsite

I have heard so much about the Persona series, I got so hyped when a new game was coming to the Nintendo Switch. While I know that it’s a spin-off game compared to the mainline series, I honestly found the spin on the gameplay rather interesting. This game is a cross between a Warrior’s game and a Persona game. Now, I have played a little of Persona 3 Golden last year and that made my hype levels for this game even bigger. So, now that I have beaten the first section of the game, I think it’s high time for me to talk about this game and give you my opinions on the game. While I do that, I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and opinions on the game and/or the content of this article. 

Let’s steal hearts

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In this game, you pick up the role of the protagonist of Persona 5 again. The events of this game take place 4 months after the events in Persona 5. The Phantom Thieves are having a reunion together when a campaigning trip is planning. Of course, since this is a video game, it doesn’t take long before the plot reveals itself and trouble arrives. 

Strange things happen around a famous fashion model and pop star Alice and then our lovely Phantom Thieves discover something that is quite close to the “Palaces” they know so well. Yet, this time it’s called a jail. In this jail, the desires are stolen from the people which make them fall a “little more than” head over heels with Alice. But, that’s not the only thing that happens. Our lovely Phantom Thieves also discover this strange girl called Sophia who is an AI who forgot all her memories and wants to be human’s best companion. 

That’s the hook of the first episode of this game. In terms of story, this game doesn’t disappoint at all. Especially, because I haven’t played Persona 5, the writing and pacing of the story explains who is who so easily, it’s a breeze to pick this game up without having to play through Persona 5 first.

I also have to say that the outstanding voice acting does help here too. It really sucks me into the game, the atmosphere and breathes so much life in the characters. To the point that when I come to a part that isn’t voice acted, I actually read it with a poor imitation of the character’s voice in my head. A quick sidenote about the voice acting during gameplay, the various repeating lines add so much to the game. I thought I might get tired of them after a few repeats, but that is far from the case, just like it was for me in a game like Fire Emblem Warriors

I can’t pinpoint exactly why but the story really clicks with me. Like, I really like how you explore the trauma of one character, and before they move on, it gets fully resolved. The writing is excellent, the story has a lot of charm and character. It has it’s funny and more serious moments and I totally understand why so many people fell in love with the Persona franchise. After playing this game and Persona 3 Golden, I think I might become a fan of the franchise myself as well. One of the things that makes me want to continue the game is the story. I want to steal and heal hearts to help people overcome trauma’s and explore subjects that don’t always get the right attention. 

RPG or Warriors?

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The gameplay of this game is in my opinion the perfect mix between a turn based RPG and a Warrior’s game. 

Since the first city in this game doesn’t have any side quests, I’ll only focus on the gameplay in the jail for this article. So, in the jails you can freely explore the area while enemies roam around. When you ambush an enemy or get spotted, you enter a sort of small Warrior-style battle. Where a lot of enemies spawn, and you have to hack and slash your way through. 

If you ambush them (attack them without being seen), you get the advantage. If you get spotted and the enemies attack you first, you get dizzy at the start of the battle, so the enemies can get some free shots in. So, this game has a type system that you can compare quite roughly to Pokémon in a way. Each type has its own strengths and weaknesses, and it’s up to you to choose the correct allies in a battle to fight the enemies ahead. 

The game also has hacking sections where the game plays more like a Warrior’s game than an RPG. In these sections you have to defend The Oracle while she is hacking into the system. Meanwhile, a swarm of enemies attack and their only focus is to destroy the Oracle. 

So far, this is the 3rd Warrior’s spin off I have played. Actually, the 4th depending on how you count. I have played Hyrule Warriors (and like I said, depending on how you count: Hyrule Warriors – Age of Calamity), Fire Emblem Warriors and now Persona 5 Strikers. And out of these games, I have to say that I feel that Persona 5 Strikers has the best balance between both game styles. 

This game still feels like a “normal” Persona game but with the big exception that the whole battle system is replaced by Warrior style gameplay.  And it works remarkably well. I found it a blast trying to find the best strategies to dodge enemy attacks while I tried to attack them back. The risk and reward system of using your special powers compared the environment items is amazing. 

Each character has their own unique playstyle where their character and personality shines through. The game might be a bit overwhelming at first since there are a lot of things you have to keep track of. From leveling up your characters and their persona’s, to weapons and armor, to finding enough treasures and things to have enough healing items and even a bond system where you can level up unique perks that’ll make each playthrough somewhat different from each other. 

It didn’t take long before I got used to all the mechanics and found myself extremely hooked on the game. Depending on the difficulty you choose to play this game in, this game provides the right amount of challenge in my opinion. A few times, I got quite frustrated at a battle and when I put the game down and picked it up back later, I was able to beat that section. 

Don’t forget to save

p5strikersNow, most of my time with the first chapter has been spent inside the jail of Alice. There is some time you can spend in the overworld to buy items, weapons, and armor. With the extremely responsive and smooth controls, I always felt in control and only rarely felt that the game did something unfair. 

If you have read some of my previous articles, you might know that I find good UI design extremely important and this game delivers that in spades. The menus are extremely well crafted and somewhat fun to use since you see small interactions between the Phantom Thieves that flesh them out so much more. 

This brings me to the striking visual presentation of this game. The visuals look amazing. The charm and character that is put into the visuals is outstanding. This game’s style is a combination of a Saturday morning anime and a manga/superhero comic. It’s also quite bold and not afraid to use the style to its full potential. Nothing feels out of place in my opinion. 

When it comes to the animations, these are good as well. Well, maybe this might be on me but I feel that some animations don’t give enough feedback to the player. For example, I found it quite tricky to know where my character was on the battlefield since the combat animations can throw you all over the battlefield. 

Something that might be either a sound effect problem and/or a visual problem is the lack of feedback in combat sometimes. The reaction of an effective and a non-effective attack is so similar to me, it was tricky to separate them in combat. Thankfully, the characters repeat multiple times which type of attack you need to use and when you need to be careful when your HP/SP is running low or when a status is inflicted. This is a nice middle ground to solve an issue to avoid making this game too complex or lose too much of its visual style. 

So, let’s talk about the music and sound effects shall we? Let’s start with the sound effects in this game. In my opinion, this game is walking a fine line between too much and too little sound effects. Overall, the sound effects and the sound mixing is quite good, but sometimes this game has a lot of visual information to process and the sound effects can get a tiny bit distracting. All the while, like I explained in the previous paragraph, they are quite helpful when a character shouts at you to be careful or use a certain attack to defeat an enemy. 

I wish I knew more about music, so I was able to describe the amazing soundtrack to you. Even before I started playing the Persona games, I fell in love with the unique uplifting soundtrack of these games. There are tracks with and without vocals and the Japanese and English versions are so amazing to listen to. So, really great stuff. 

One of the things I really needed to get used to was the fact that there is no “auto save” in this game. If you want to avoid loosing too much progress, keep in mind to save often at save points, or before you enter a dungeon since otherwise you might regret it. You only get a game over when all 4 party members faint. Otherwise, you can continue on playing. But, don’t forget to save since it needs to happen manually. 

And with that said, I have said almost everything I wanted to say about this game. There are a few things I’ll go more in depth about if I ever finish this game and write a review about this game, but the most important things are already said. I think this game is excellent and if you enjoy (Persona) RPG’s, Warrior spin-off games, adventure games and/or action games… You owe it to yourself to check this game out. To be honest, apart from the manual saving, I barely find any flaws with this game or things I really didn’t like. 

So, 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.

A Pokémon Retrospective – Creator’s Catch Hub

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It has been 25 years since the Pokémon series started its life on the Gameboy in Japan. When the series came to the west together with an anime, a huge phenomenon happened. The west got hooked to Pokémon so hard that it even got a name. Pokémania, which even got a French Wikipedia page about it. So, if you have read my blog in the past you might have seen that I sometimes do a huge collaboration with various other content creators and/or fans of the series to look to the history of the series together. Today, I want to present to you a group of people who looked back with me to various Pokémon games, and this time, we also looked at some of the spin-off games. Just like the Zelda and Tomb Raider collab I did, this collaboration will take you through various other websites with amazing articles by amazing writers. So, pack your bag and grab your Pokéballs and go on a journey with me through the various Pokémon regions and let’s take a look back together at the Pokémon series, and let’s celebrate the 25th anniversary together.

How does this collaboration work? Well, this is the hub article that leads you to all the games we have covered in this collaboration project. If you click on the name, you will find a page on Bulbapedia with information on the game. If you click on the underlined text, you will be taken to an article written by somebody who was a part of this collaboration. All of these articles will link back to this hub article where you can go to other games as well.

1996 – Pokémon Green/RedPokémon Red/Blue & Yellow (Gameboy) + 2004 – Pokémon FireRed and LeafGreen (Gameboy Advance) + 2018 – Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee (Nintendo Switch)

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The Gaming Omnivore takes us on a journey where it all began.

Like I told you in the introduction, 25 years ago we were able to set foot into the Kanto region for the first time. For many people, this game was their first introduction to the series, and what an introduction it was. A lot of those people have very strong nostalgic feelings about the first generation that there is even a name for it. It’s all “Gen One’s”.

But does the first generation still hold up today or should it be left as a relic of the past? This game is the most remade game in the Pokémon series with two remakes under its belt. Is that justified or should Nintendo focus on other games in the series to remake? Let’s take a look at the memories that our friend the Gaming Omnivore shares with us on his blog.

1999 – Pokémon Gold / Silver / Crystal (Gameboy Color) + 2009 – Pokémon HeartGold & SoulSilver (Nintendo DS)

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Krista takes us on a double journey. Literally, through two games and two regions.

What a surprise it was when the second generation came out. Let’s just say that the number of improvements that the second generation brings blew a lot of minds.

To name just a few: genders, berries, day and night cycle, rematching trainers, events on certain days… And let’s not forget to mention the fact that we got another journey through Kanto in these games.

Before I hand it over to Krista to talk about her memories with the 2nd generation of Pokémon, I want to talk about a personal story. I remember one time I was on holidays in France where somebody shows me how that the cloning glitch worked. How I was able to clone Pokémon and items. Sadly enough, that glitch did a number on my save battery and my save file. It corrupted on the way home. Thankfully, I got the saved battery replaced and all is fine now. Apart from the battery running dry recently when I was playing through my Gameboy Color collection. Oh well, the memories are huge for this generation and I’m curious what other people are going to share about this generation.

2002 – Pokémon Ruby / Sapphire & Emerald (Gameboy Advance) + 2014 – Pokémon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire (Nintendo 3DS)

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L-One-X takes us on a journey of secret bases, oceans, and volcanic lands.

The 3rd generation of the Pokémon series was something special. It was one of the biggest visual upgrades we have ever seen so far. The biggest difference between the first and second generation was mostly color in terms of the visuals.

The third generation also got a more involved story and if you research the message and the inspiration of the story, you will be quite surprised at the message of this game. I learned about it from Tama Hero.

This generation is one of my personal favorite generations. I still remember how people were drawing maps and sharing them during recess since bringing your own Gameboy to school wasn’t allowed. Man, those were the days. Just talking about Pokémon with kids you barely knew. But hey, those are just a few of my personal memories with the 3rd generation. Shall we take a look at what our friend L-One-X remembers?

2006 – Pokémon Diamond, Pearl & Platinum (Nintendo DS)

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McKenna takes us on a journey through Sinnoh. Where there are places where space and time can get wrapped.

Man, I still remember how I got introduced to the Nintendo DS and the 4th generation. I heard about the Nintendo DS through the Legend of Zelda – Phantom Hourglass but through “The Gameboy Club”, I was able to play on a friend’s DS and I learned about how good the game was.

A unique mechanic of the 3rd generation was returning in this game in a more evolved form. We got secret underground bases that allowed a sort of multiplayer capture the flag mode.

In any case, shall we take a look at what McKenna is going to share with us? Let’s dive right into the interesting story that McKenna has written about the 4th generation. The first generation that brought online functionality to the series.

2010 – Pokémon Black & White + 2012 – Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 (Nintendo DS)

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Khinjarsi takes us through the lands of Unova.

It’s a shame to admit, but I skipped the 5th generation at first. I can’t really say why exactly I skipped this generation at first.

Now, I did play the games a few years ago when Pokémon Sun & Moon was in development. And I’m so glad I did. This generation brought so many enjoyable moments, I can totally understand why this game was quite well received.

Now, at this moment in time, this is the only main series Pokémon game that got a direct sequel that expanded on the story of the original game so much. Now, was this sequel well deserved or should Nintendo just made Pokémon Gray or something and called it a day?

Well, that’s an interesting question to ponder upon while we take a look at the article that Khinjarsi shares with us.

2013 – Pokémon X and Y (Nintendo 3DS)

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TriformTrinity takes us on a journey through the first “3D”-region.

The first game on the Nintendo 3DS and the shortest names in the series. Pokémon X and Y.

I was so surprised to see that this game took heavy inspiration from the French region. That region hits quite close to home since I live in one of the neighboring countries Belgium.

When I was looking for writers for this collaboration, TriformTrinity picked up this game. He has never played these games and wants to share his opinions on these games without having nostalgic feelings towards the games. So, let’s find out what his opinions are, shall we?

2016 – Pokémon Sun & Moon + 2017 – Pokémon UltraSun and UltraMoon (Nintendo 3DS)

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DanamesX takes us on the bittersweet final journey on the Gameboy / DS line of systems.

I still remember the bittersweet feeling when it was announced that this game would be the “final” main series Pokémon game on the GameBoy and (3)DS line. After these games, Nintendo would move on to console Pokémon. So it’s the final portable game.

Well sort of, kind of. Granted, the Nintendo Switch is portable so technically it wasn’t the final portable Pokémon game but on the other hand, I felt that it was the end of an era. But it was the end of an era in more ways than one. Since this game also flipped the who Pokémon formula up its head.

In this game, we took a “vacation” to a new region with a new adventure that takes us to several islands and gives us several challenges. It also did something quite unique with the day and night system. If you bought Pokémon Moon, the whole day and night cycle was flipped from your real-life location.

Now, I think it’s high time to take a look at the article that DanamesX wrote about the 7th generation. Shall we join in on exploring this holiday? I have already packed my bags and I’m ready to go and just waiting on you to click that link above to read the article.

2019 – Pokémon Sword and Shield (Nintendo Switch)

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NekoJonez takes you on a tour of the country, old chap.

Oh, is it my time to shine? So, just like with the Tomb Raider collaboration, I took the final main series game.

When this game released, I tried several times to write an article about this game but I never wrote something I felt that would tell my opinion on this game.

Now, I challenged myself to write a nice article for this collaboration and I’m quite curious what you are going to think about it while I am a bit bummed out that two of the neighboring countries of my home country got Pokémon regions based, France and England, upon them now while Belgium is sitting in the middle forgotten. Oh well, maybe one day. (In before our German neighbors get the 9th generation.)

It’s spin-offs time

Sadly enough, we didn’t find enough writers and enough time to take a look at all the spin-offs. So, I’m very sorry if the spin-off you wanted to read about isn’t in this collaboration. We mainly focused on the main-series games and we wanted to give these spin-off games an article to give a nice bonus to this collaboration.

1999 – Pokémon Stadium (Nintendo 64) + 2001 – Pokémon Stadium 2 (Nintendo 64)

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The Gaming Omnivore welcomes us in the stadium to watch the Pokémon battle.

It’s not a secret that when the first Pokémon games got released, we all wanted a 3D version of the Pokémon games. And in 1999, we got exactly what we wished for.

A 3D-battle simulation of the Pokémon games. Not every Pokémon was included but hey, just seeing these Pokémon in 3D was enough to blow our minds. So, shall we let our friend the Gaming Omnivore talk about this experience? I’m ready to cheer him on from the sidelines of the stadium.

2004 – Pokémon Colosseum (Nintendo GameCube) + 2005 – Pokémon XD Gale of Darkness (Nintendo GameCube)

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DanamesX takes us on a very special journey that spans two Pokémon games on the Nintendo GameCube.

While I love playing the Pokémon games, I have to admit that Pokémon Colosseum and Pokémon Gale of Darkness XD flew under my radar.

Sadly enough, they currently cost an arm and a leg on eBay to buy and play for me so, I’m waiting to pick them up for a more reasonable price. But, I’m quite curious to see what people think about this game. Should I still try to hunt these games down or should I let it slide? I think that the article of DanamesX will help me greatly in deciding that.

2016 – Pokémon Go (Mobile devices)

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Eric Fellner takes us on a walk through our neighborhoods.

To say that Pokémon GO was a hit is an understatement. Pokémon GO still is quite popular, I see various people on the train and students at the school I work for play Pokémon GO.

It wouldn’t surprise me that this game is less popular now than before but it hasn’t died just yet. Now, when Eric Fellner contacted me to talk about this game and told me his personal story about the game, I was hooked. So, without spoiling anything, I think it’s time to give the spotlight to Eric so he can talk about his story with this game.

1999 – Pokémon Pinball (Gameboy Color) + 2003 – Pokémon Pinball Ruby & Sapphire (Gameboy Advance)

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Andrew Fisher plays the first pinball game.

Andrew Fisher also goes to the Hoenn region for the second pinball game.

So, Pokémon Pinball. I still remember getting the big box for Christmas and being surprised that the games now needed batteries to function.

Little did I know that battery was meant for the rumble feature inside the cartridge and not a replacement for the save battery.

Now, this battery didn’t take away the number of hours I spent playing pinball in this game. As a kid, I wasn’t able to get quite far but I kept on trying and trying.

And years later, I learned that this game got a sequel about the Hoenn region. I was only able to add that game quite recently to my collection so, I haven’t played it too much. Thankfully, Andrew Fisher is here to talk quite in-depth about the two Pinball games. Let’s see what he has to say about the games!

2001 – Pokémon Pinball Mini (Pokémon Mini)

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Andrew Fisher takes us on a journey to the Pokémon Mini and playing Pinball on that.

So, in 2001, Nintendo released the Pokémon Mini. An extremely small handheld with cartridges where you could play various Pokémon mini-games on.

Surprisingly, this handheld also got a pinball game on it. So, should Andrew Fisher took a look at this pinball title and let’s see if it’s worthy to add to your collection or should you ignore it? Well, you will be able to find out thanks to Andrew’s amazing article.

2006 – 2020 The Mystery Dungeon series (Gameboy Advance, Nintendo (3)DS and Switch)

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NekoJonez takes a look back at the Mystery Dungeon series.

So, one of the biggest spin-off series is Pokémon Mystery Dungeon. In 2006, we got Red & Blue Rescue Team which got remade in 2020 for the Nintendo Switch under the name of Rescue Team DX. In 2007, we got the Explorer of Time, Darkness, and Sky Mystery Dungeon games. 5 years later, we got our first 3DS game called Gates to Infinity in 2012.

In 2015, we got what we thought was the final game in the series Super Mystery Dungeon on the 3DS. But yeah, a remake on the Switch happened in the first game. But why are these games so popular to get so many sequels? Well, I’m going to tell you in a nostalgic look back on the Mystery Dungeon series.

2006 – Pokémon Ranger + 2008 – Pokémon Ranger: Shadows of Almia + 2010 – Pokémon Ranger: Guardian Signs (Nintendo DS)

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WCRobinson is taking us on a journey through the land of the friendship circles.

I never imagined that drawing circles around Pokémon could be so much fun that Nintendo was able to make a trilogy of games about it.

I have to admit, that I got cramp in my hands and almost destroyed a touch screen while playing these games. I got into this game way more than I expected. If there was one series I wanted to have covered in this collaboration, it was the Pokémon Ranger series. Now, I was already taking the Mystery Dungeon series and the Sword and Shield games to cover so the Ranger games would be a bit too much. Thankfully, WCRobinson picked up these games and wanted to write a piece about them.

So, thank you WCRobinson for covering these games. Now, I’m curious to see if those loops of friendship influenced you in your opinion on the games or not. Let’s find out together and join WCRobinson on his journey as a Pokémon Ranger.

1998 – Pokémon Trading Card Game (Gameboy Color)

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Solarayo takes a look at the card game… on Gameboy.

One of the biggest pieces of merchandise that this series gave us is the Pokémon Trading Card game. It’s still quite popular on YouTube and worldwide.

Now, it does surprise me that Nintendo and Game Freak only made two games about them. And on top of that, the sequel to this game was only released in Japan.

In any case, I think it’s high time to let Solarayo talk about the game and if you should just stick with the physical game or if you should consider playing the Gameboy Color game as well. Maybe I should pick it up for training since I barely know anything about the card game… Hrm, there is thought while I start reading her article.

1999 – Pokémon Snap (Nintendo 64)

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Solarayo takes pictures of Pokémon and gets judged by Professor Oak.

So, while we were preparing for this collaboration we had no clue that a new Pokémon Snap game was going to come out in 2021.

It’s a nice surprise to see a spin-off getting a sequel on modern hardware. But, how is the original? Is it any fun or should we skip taking pictures of Pokémon in the Nintendo 64 game? Well, Solarayo is going to tell us all about it in her article on this game.

2015 – Pokémon Shuffle (Nintendo 3DS / Mobile devices)

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TriformTrinity swipes the Pokémon away.

There was this one game called Pokémon Trozei on the Nintendo DS that is a sort of Bejeweled clone with Pokémon.

In 2015, Nintendo released a free-to-play version and not only released it on the 3DS but also on mobile platforms.

So, let’s swipe Pokémon to safety together with TriformTrinity while he tells us all about the game.

2015 – Pokémon Picross (Nintendo 3DS)

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Khinjarsi puzzles away with the Picross game on 3DS.

Man, do I love solving Picross puzzles. They are so much fun to solve. I don’t have any drawing skills but seeing a drawing come together from just solving a puzzle is such a rewarding feeling!

So, I’m curious to see if Khinjarsi also feels rewarded by solving these puzzles, or was there something wrong with this game? Or did I just make up the last question to create some tension to try to get you to click the link to read the article? Who knows? Well, you would know if you read the article!

2000 – Pokémon Puzzle League (Nintendo 64)

And on the day of this collab releasing, the Gaming Omnivore streamed this competition.

Long-time readers of my blog know that I’m a game collector. One day, I was walking around on a garage sale and found a ton of amazing games.

When I was almost out of the budget I had set aside for that garage sale, I went to eat a burger with my mom who walked with me in that garage and yard sale.

Then, I suddenly saw in the corner of my eye a boxed and complete copy of Pokémon Puzzle Challenge for the Gameboy Color. The guy who was running the stand didn’t know the value of that game I was able to pick it up for 2€. I was so happy to add that game to my collection.

Now, why am I telling you this? Because I didn’t have a Nintendo 64 and I always wanted to try and play the Pokémon Puzzle games. And when I saw it for the Gameboy Color, I was so happy that I was able to grab a copy of it in that yardsale.

So, when preparing this collaboration, the Gaming Omnivore said in one of his streams that he wanted to stream the N64 version of the game on Pokémon day. So, let’s take a look at how this game plays? I loved watching the stream while I was counting down for this collab to release.

Closing words

This collaboration was a lot of fun to put together and do. I met so many wonderful writers through this collaboration and I’m so happy to be able to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Pokémon with such an amazing group of writers. I want to thank everybody who helped in this collaboration and make it turn out amazingly.

I want to thank: Gaming Omnivore, Krista, L-One-X, McKenna, Khinjarsi, TriformTrinity, DanamesX, Eric Fellner, Solarayo, Andrew Fisher, and WCRobinson.

The impact that the Pokémon series has on today’s gaming culture and climate can’t be understated. This collaboration showed me that I’m not the only one who has so many amazing memories with the Pokémon series.

So, I’m quite curious to see what is going to be next for the franchise. Will we finally see Pokémon 2? Sorry, I just wanted to make that silly joke somewhere in this article. But for real, what will we see after New Pokémon Snap releases in late April? Will we see a special celebration game for this big anniversary? Sadly enough, we can’t be sure with the current pandemic throwing a lot of schedules in disarray.

Now, I might go and repeat myself here but the amount of memories this series created with the main series games and the spin-offs is something that can’t be understated. This series is one of the biggest series that my generation grew up on. And since the 25th birthday was coming up, I wanted to gather other Pokémon fans to do something special together.

Did you enjoy this collaboration? What did you think of it? Did you find new bloggers and writers to keep an eye upon? Currently, I want to say in name of the whole group who worked together to create this collaboration: “THANK YOU SO MUCH! Thank you for reading and enjoying our content. We hope you enjoyed reading this and feel free to leave a comment on our articles so we can talk together and reminisce together about our memories on the Pokémon franchise.”

And with that said, I want to thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed reading this hub article and I hope to see you in a future article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care! And happy 25th birthday Pokémon! Thank you for all of the amazing memories and here are for all the memories to come!

Interview with GameChuck after “SpeedLimit” release

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Welcome my dear reader! Today, I want to share something special. Last year, I took a look at a game called Speed Limit. When I looked at the game it was still in development but a demo was released. Now, this week the full version was released on all major platforms. You can find more information on the official website and on the website of the publisher. Now, instead of writing a very same-y article, I thought it would be more fun to talk about the game with the developers. So, that’s what’s going to happen today. I’m going to share an interview with you guys and girls that I had with GameChunck! Thank you so much for answering my questions. Before I start, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion and/or thoughts on the interview, the game and/or the content of this article. 

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Jonez: Hello there and welcome. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview with me. So, to whom do I have the pleasure of speaking to from the development team?

Alex: Hi, I’m Alex, the CEO of Gamechuck and level designer for some small parts of Speed Limit. Most of the development was done by others but as they are too busy celebrating our pan-console release, I will try my best to tell you everything you want to know!

Jonez: So, last year a demo for Speed Limit was released. Now, we are almost a year later and the game got more development. What is new in this full version? Did the game get easier or more difficult? 

Alex: The game is much bigger than the demo – it features 10 (or more, khm khm, spoilers) levels, with 5 distinct gameplay genres, while the demo is just the first three levels (side scrolling genre and top-down). Also, we used the feedback from the demo release to make the game much more enticing, but not easier per se (although we did add Easy mode in both the demo and the full game since then).

Jonez: Now, this game got released on multiple platforms like the PS4, PS5, XBOX One, Steam and Switch. What challenges did you face in porting this game? 

Alex: The Switch is at the same time the most slick experience (they check on everything and give you detailed feedback on where they found which error) but also quite cumbersome as every change takes a long time to get approved. Also, the PS4 had some issues regarding how we draw shaders for light for the bike rear lights, but we fixed it using clever math so now it works as intended on all platforms!

Jonez: This game is almost one long interactive movie. I guess this game wasn’t the easiest to develop since you risked to damage the flow of the game. So, what was the most challenging in developing this game? 

Alex: The most difficult part was correctly figuring out how much time it will take for each feature, and since we were starting from scratch with every level (e.g. every new genre) it was really hard, but we needed to guesstimate anyway since due to porting and so on, we were operating on a schedule.

Jonez: So, can I ask if you guys have future plans for the game? Or will this game only get bug fixes?

Alex: We hope to give the game a lot of interesting updates and maybe even DLCs, because the game this well received deserves to be continually updated! I can’t promise co-op mode (although I’d really like to!) but more modes, achievements etc. – definitely!

Jonez: You know, when I played the first level. I always wondered… Can you defeat those enemy soldiers?

Alex: No, but you can reach a stalemate with them, by standing at a spot where they can’t hurt you and just keep shooting them down!

Jonez: It didn’t take long for me to find an easter egg. The Chuck Norris easter egg was a nice gag. Are there more in the game?

Alex: A lot. Let me get back to you with an exact figure later.

Jonez: As I said earlier, this game feels like some sort of interactive action movie. How did you go about testing this game? Did you always start from the start or did you test it section by section?

Alex: We tested both specific sections and the whole game, and also used the G.Round platform for testing the game with hundreds of players prior to launch so we can iron out any big issues (there weren’t any and we got incredibly glowing remarks!)

Jonez: So, an indie studio is always known for having a small team. Who were the heroes that brought this game to life? 

Alex: The dev team is 7 people (artist Jurica and the game director Igor doing pixel art, Vanja and Karlo and one student Sara coding various levels and Matija doing sounds and music) and then there’s me, Lucija doing PR/bizdev and Iggy doing community management. 10 people seems like a lot but bear in mind we weren’t all doing the game full time and we do have a lot of other games in the pipeline!

Jonez: So, one of the biggest differences I noticed is the fact there is an easy mode. Which differences are there in the easy mode compared to the normal mode?

Alex: The difference between easy and hard is almost exclusively in the number of enemies and/or their hitpoints, and of course – the true ending is not available in Easy mode!

Jonez: It wouldn’t surprise me that the game broke quite often during development. Can you share one of the funniest moments of the game breaking during development? 

Alex: There were many but here’s one that was quite fun:

Jonez: And my final question: You are also developing another game. Tell us more about it? Did you learn anything while develeoping Speed Limit that is going to be used in that new game? 

Alex: The level designer of Speed Limit is, incidentally, also the lead writer for our narrative game Trip the Ark Fantastic. A complete departure from Speed Limit, this is a slow non-combat narrative experience about the scientific method, philosophy and cute rabbits striking for better working conditions. Now, if that didn’t hook you, then the classical animation and orchestral score will!

Jonez: Thank you so much for answering my questions! I’m quite curious to see what your studio is going to publish next. I also want to thank you all for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it and putting it together. I hope to be able to welcome you in a future article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care! 

Also, don’t forget to give SpeedLimit a try!

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First Impressions: Bloodstained – Ritual Of The Night (Switch) ~ Middle Ages Magic.

Official websiteNintendo Microsite

So, a new Metroidvania game has been released. The Metroidvania genre is one of my favorite style of games. When I heard that Koji Igarashi of Castlevania fame was the director of this game, I was beyond hyped. I even mentioned this game in my top 10 games I wanted to play in 2019. And, yes, the game was even twice on that sort of list. Anyways, this game was a Kickstarter game were major flops like Mighty Number 9 and major hits like A Hat In Time. Where does this game fall? On the major flops or on the amazing titles part of the spectrum? Let’s find out in this first impressions article. Also, feel free to give your opinion on the content of this article and/or the game in the comment section down below. A small editor note I have to make is that I have played this game before and after the visual improvement patches applied, and I will keep this in mind for this review.

Middle Ages Magic

During the Industrial Revolution, the Alchemy Guild got scared of losing their followers and patrons. So, they decided to create Shardbinders. These are humans who are forcibly fused with demonically charged crystals. Thanks to these crystals, the Shardbinders obtained magical powers. Everything was peaceful until the Fire Nation attacked, well sorta. Kinda. The Shardbinders were sacrificed and abused to summon demons from Hell (let’s be honest, this is a sort of Fire Nation. 😉 ). Now, this whole plan backfired and brought mass destruction over the whole of England. Thankfully, the Church was able to intervene and save some areas of destruction.

Two shardbinders survived the whole massacre, Gebel and Miriam. Ten years after the incidents, Miriam wakes up from her unnatural slumber and finds out that Gebel has summoned another demon to continue the revenge of the Shardbinders on what the alchemists did to him. Miriam starts her journey accompanied by Johannes, who is a former member of the Alchemy Guild. Miriam wants to stop Gebel before the whole world is destroyed.

The story itself is nothing that special. To be quite frank, the story didn’t really grab my attention. Now, I have reviewed two Castlevania games in the past: Castlevania – Portrait of Ruin and Castlevania – Lords Of Shadow – Mirror Of Shadow and of both these games, I don’t remember a lot about the story. It’s a shame since the story has quite a lot of potential to go quite in-depth and in different directions. The story takes a backseat in this game, to a point that sometimes the story is used as a sort of in-game guide. Like, when you have defeated a boss and you talk to one of the members of the Church, she straight up tells you (this isn’t an exact quote but it’s quite similar): “I have heard rumors that one of the high ranking officers can jump again in the air. (…) You need to look for a tower where…”

Now, the cast of the voice actors of this game is just mindblowing. Miriam is voiced by Erica Lindbeck who voiced Barbie herself in a few movies and also voiced one of the leading characters in Fire Emblem Echoes. Gebel is voiced by Ray Chase who’s a voice you can also hear in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate as Roy and in Final Fantasy 15 as Noctis. Zangetsu is voiced by a voice acting legend by the name of David Hayter who is famous for his voice work on Solid Snake. You can dig deeper into the voice cast using this page from Behind the Voice Actors. With so much talent on board and pretty good direction, you can be sure that the dub of this game is pretty well done.

Now, what could have improved the story? Well, first of all, a bit more character development. Some characters are quite two dimensional. I barely notice any progress in these characters. Secondly, I feel that too many stereotypical characters were used. A more diverse cast of characters or characters that broke their stereotype would be a great twist in the story. And finally, be a bit less hand-holding. If you want to guide the players to a certain location to gain a new power-up, you can do that by other means. I loved the system the developers used in Monster Tale on the DS. In that game, you also have a guide to where you need to go, but it’s up to you to fight through the enemies and find your way there.

Metroidvania at its finest

In the previous section, I have already mentioned three games I have reviewed that were in the same style as this game. The two Castlevania games and Monster Tale.

If you have played games like Castlevania, Metroid, Monster Tale or Axiom Verge then you’ll know what to expect in this game. In this game, you explore a huge map, defeat different bosses, learn new techniques to make exploring easier and access unknown areas. Meanwhile, you have to fight through a lot of enemies and try to balance your items right in order for you to stay alive.

Most Metroidvania’s are anything but easy. This game is no exception. This game can be quite difficult. But, the difficulty is fun difficulty. Sometimes you aren’t strong enough or don’t have the right gear to survive the encounters. Now, some people would enjoy the challenge of this game and try to defeat this game with the weakest gear possible. Now, this means that this game has some minor forms of grinding to improve your stats and defeat some bosses easier.

Now, the map of this game is quite huge. Thankfully, there are several warp points that allow you to fast travel to other areas in the castle. These warp points are in special rooms marked in green on your map. A minor nitpick I have is that the warp point to the central base of the game is outside right after some enemy encounters. I think that it would be better inside so I can go with full health to the boss. Yeah, I’m that kind of a player. So, that’s why I mentioned it as a nitpick.

Anyways, the warp rooms aren’t the only special things on your journey. You also have to save rooms. This game doesn’t have an autosave feature, but you can save (and heal your HP/MP) at the various save rooms that are shattered around the castle.

I really love the freedom of exploration in this game. While the story is a minor disappointment to me, the gameplay more than makes up for it. Exploring the castle and the areas around it is a ton of fun. Trying out the different mechanics and abilities of Miriam is just a great experience to have.

Together with the decent controls, this game is a blast to play. Now, I have read in different reviews that the controls of this game have a bit of input lag or are a bit floaty. Thankfully, I find that they improved them a lot in the patches that the game received and I think that the future patches in November 2019 will improve the game even more.

Visually underpowered

Allow me to address the elephant in the room. Look, there it is. His name is Dumbo and he has a movie made about him. Now, let’s be a bit more serious. Visually, this game doesn’t look that great when you compare it to the other versions on PlayStation or PC. The publishers even posted a statement on the rather spotty technical performance. Now, I think that’s a great move to improve technical performance through patches. On the other hand, delaying the Switch port to work on the technical performance would have been an even better move in the first place.

While the Switch is quite powerful, compared to the other consoles on the market today… Well, it’s underpowered. So, I can understand that the Switch version has some fewer animations or visual effects. Something I think that I don’t understand is the inconsistent performance of the game and the input lag in certain areas. Now, these things will be addressed in the patched that is scheduled for November. This is a shame since this game would be an amazing title to play on Halloween night, but they will miss the mark on that completely.

With all that talk about the Switch version having a spotty performance, I do have to say… I don’t find it that bad. The issues are the worst when you play the game in undocked mode. When you play this game in docked mode, this game plays just … decent. In very rare spots, the game has a bit of frame or input lag but nothing game-breaking.

In its current state, the game still looks quite good. I think the visual presentation is great and the animations are quite good as well. Together with the amazing music and enjoyable sound effects, the audiovisual presentation still gets a pass from me. So, I’m a bit mixed on this whole thing.

The game is a blast to play and has some extremely helpful features like the ability to leave markers on your map so you can remind yourself to visit these areas later. The game even has a lot of depth with its own crafting system, various shops, various unlockable skills and builds you can make… Even when you change your outfit in the menu’s, Miriam wears the armor and outfits in the game, during gameplay, and during cutscenes.

But, the whole game is held back by the lack of polish that is now coming in the form of patches. It gives the game a wrong first impression to a lot of players. Not everybody knows that this game’s performance and visuals are going to improve. Also, I have stopped playing this game because I want to replay this game when all the patches have been released so I can experience this game in it’s the best form. And that’s what’s so disappointing to me. I’m already halfway the game and now I have to restart the whole game. Well, then again, it’s my own choice…

So yeah, this article is going to be continued. I think it would be a bit unfair to fully judge the game right now when I know that there are patches to improve the visuals, the controls and the gameplay in the near future. But, I still wanted to talk about this game so here we are. So, for a full review, you will have to come back a few weeks after the patches have been released. If I don’t forget, I’ll also link the updated article here: [TO BE ANNOUNCED.] And maybe I should go more in-depth about the gameplay in that updated article as well.

And that’s everything I currently 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 another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

First Impressions: Ion Fury (PC) ~ Is it “Hail to the Queen” now?

Ion_Fury_logo

Official websiteSteam Store page

Once upon a time, there was a game engine. It was called “Build Engine”. With that engine, a lot of masterpieces like Duke Nukem 3D, Blood and Shadow Warrior were created. Around 1999 – 2000, no new games came out that were made in the engine and the engine was sad. The King Duke Nukem had moved on to other projects. Well, sort of. It took FOREVER for his next game to come out. But, this year, something happened. A prince kissed the sleeping engine awake and it transformed into a new game. Wait, this isn’t working at all. Writing this introduction as a history lesson and a fairy tale isn’t working at all. Maybe we need a breath of fresh air. One was a Queen shows the ropes of the game instead of the king. So, shall we look if Ion Fury is successful in that quest or if it crashes and burns? This article is being written after I played the pre-release version until v1.02a. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of the article in the comment section down below.

Editorial note

Before I talk about the game, I want to acknowledge that I know about the controversy of this game. That the developers possibly made some transphobic remarks and there are some homophobic jokes. Personally, I don’t want to spend too much time on this controversy since a lot has been said and written about it.

My personal stance on the whole matter is simple. I’m under the impression that some things were taken out of context or provided with the wrong context and cancel culture did the rest. Also, let me be clear on one thing. I think that you should decide for yourself. Take a step back and take a look at both sides of the story before you make a decision and come to a conclusion.

About the homophobic jokes, one of them is a word pun that fits perfectly in a 90’s throwback game. The other homophobic joke is something that you have to go out of your way to discover. Where you have to enable a cheat and go out of bounds to a developer room where slang is displayed. So yeah, is this something you should take offense over or not…? That’s up to you to decide.

And that’s everything I wanted to say about the controversy. I’m here to review and talk about games. I’m not here to write long articles about drama or controversies. My mental energy is best to spend elsewhere, like on all the positive things in the world.

Bombshell, the next queen?

IonFury1

In Ion Fury, you play as Shelly “Bombshell” Harrison who earned her codename defusing bombs for the Global Defense Force. Then everything changed when the firing squad attacked. The firing squad of evil cybernetic cult robots made by the equally evil transhumanist mastermind Dr. Jadus Heskel. Now, Shelly has to clean up the streets of Neo DC that she knows so well.

The story brings up in several locations and areas. While this game sort of works with different levels, the world is still interconnected. It feels like you are playing on one huge map instead. Speaking of the levels, each level is quite huge. Currently, the main story takes around 15 hours to complete. Now, this is the perfect length for a shooting game. But, that doesn’t mean that you are done after those 15 hours. You can still find a lot of secrets and easter eggs in the game. And on top of that, the Steam version will have Steam Workshop support which opens the floodgates for custom weapons and even custom levels.

While you play the game, the story takes a backseat. The story doesn’t take a lot of twists and turns or isn’t anything to write home about. Yet, the personality of Shelly is amazingly done. Her one-liners and personality is almost a carbon copy of Duke Nukem in female form. It’s great.

I love the voice work done in this game. The voice works for Shelly is done by Valerie Arem, who also did voice work in Final Fantasy 15, Zero Time Dilemma, Sailor Moon and many other series. She nailed it in this game. On top of that, Jon St. John, the original voice of Duke Nukem voiced the antagonist. It’s almost like the game is poking fun at the similarities between Shelly and Duke.

The charm of the voice acting and the one-liners is amazing. It was one of the reasons why I got so drawn into the atmosphere of this game. Even the enemy grunts are well done. So, this brings me to the sound design of the game. I have no complaints about the sound design at all. Everything sounds amazing and there aren’t any sound effects I would change or tweak. The sound mixing is great as well, I never had trouble with it.

Old game design

Ion Fury.jpg

Let’s talk about something you might have noticed already. While this game released this year, it looks and feels like it was released in the late ’90s. For some people, this might be a turn-off, but to me, it’s a breath of fresh air.

The game has this amazing retro vibe to it and makes me quite nostalgic about the times when I first played games like Doom or Heretic. Yet, the game manages to still look amazing. Every area is quite detailed and decorated. The color pallet is extremely varied and this makes the game easy to navigate while giving ample opportunity to hide secrets in various spots.

The gameplay of this game is quite simple. Like the old school shooters of yesteryear, you have to explore the level to find keycards to open doors in order for you to progress. When you reach the end of the level, you get promoted with a message: “are you sure you want to leave this area? You haven’t found X amount of secrets.” This is an amazing feature and made me go back several times to look if I haven’t missed any cracks or holes that might hide a secret.

The gameplay of this game is quite simple. While you are exploring the map, you have to shoot through various waves of enemies. Some of these fly and another move around. Currently, the AI of this game isn’t that smart but that doesn’t make them easy. The game provided me with a lot of challenges in the medium difficulty setting.

I had to redo some sections over and over again because there was just an overload of enemies. At first, I was annoyed by this. While the weapons are easy and fun to use, I found it annoying that I didn’t see how many bullets I had before I had to reload. But, after a while, I got used to the flow of the game and I was defeating these hoards of enemies. When you prepare yourself and really pay attention, the game isn’t that difficult. But, yeah, you will need to do some old school trail and error.

Something that I really liked is the fact that this game has an autosave and a manual save system. So, whenever you are faced with a difficult section, you can save in advance and have a point to return to when you need to retry. The save menu provides all the information you might need and is a perfect example of a UI done well.

I like the way you die!

Earlier in this article, I talked about the visual presentation of this game. Now, the animations of this game are amazing. Some of them are a little bit gory, but they are over the top gory. Bodies can explode when you hit them with a rocket launcher, and the added sound effects are amazing. The fact that some parts of the world are destructible is great fun too. You can blow up some walls.

Now, speaking about blowing up walls… Something I found a tad bit annoying was how bombs were handled. You can throw them with the left mouse button, but you only light and throw them with the right mouse button. The reason I found the annoying is simple, in the heat of a battle I keep clicking my left mouse button to shoot and use my scroll wheel to quickly and easily select the weapon I need for the situation. But, because I’m so drawn into the game, I keep clicking the left mouse button and waiting for an explosion that never comes.

This is the only issue I have with the controls of the game. All other controls work flawlessly. Now, sometimes it’s a bit of a struggle to jump into gaps while crouched, but I quickly got used to that. These controls are quite helpful to explore the expansive levels to find the keycards, items, and ammo on the map. Some levels have a straight path forward but other levels have some branching paths with rewards for exploration.

It comes with the territory but there is some backtracking in the game. Once or twice I got lost in the level because I thought I picked up a keycard or found a keycard while I actually hadn’t done that. Oh well, these are things that happen in these old school 3D shooters. I think I have to pay better attention to the UI since it displays quite well which items you have.

Maybe that would help me to save up more ammo. Since sometimes I felt that I didn’t have enough ammo and other times I had

Speaking about items, this is were Ion Fury dropped the ball a bit. While the game is inspired by Duke Nukem 3D, the game doesn’t have a lot of items. In Duke Nukem 3D, you have a lot of different items to experiment with, like the Holo Duke and the Jet Pack. The two items that I found in this game are a radar and a portable med-pack. If only this mechanic would be expanded in a DLC or an update, that would be amazing. Also, I found the radar item quite useless and barely used it. But, that might be because I don’t fully understand the purpose of the item.

Everything comes together in a well-designed game with expansive maps and fun challenges to blast through. Together with a great soundtrack, this game can be a rush from start to end. Now, the soundtrack of this game is more electronica/dance than either rock/metal/orchestral focused soundtracks of the other games in the engine. I can totally understand why some players didn’t really enjoy the soundtrack, but that’s not the case for me.

While this game isn’t that long compared to other games I have played recently, I love to replay this game several times. Due to the updates changing the map layout since the pre-release, I love to find the added details since the updates or play through the game with the new mechanics and all the fixed bugs. And, as soon as I know the maps better, I might even play through the game on a higher difficulty setting.

Apart from the main game, there are also some additional gameplay modes. One of these is an endless mode where you have to survive wave after wave of enemies. This is quite fun since the better you do, the better drops you get to defend yourself. This is a fun distraction from the main game. The other modes are something that you will have to discover when you play the game for yourself. And let’s not forget to mention that in a future patch, we will have multiplayer!

In conclusion, this game is a well-crafted throwback 3D shooter. Apart from some minor issues, I don’t have anything negative to say about this game. If you enjoy playing shooters or retro games, you should do yourself a favor and check this game out. Feel free to support the developers by leaving feedback on their forums. Personally, I think this game is that good, I might even buy the big box collectors edition for my collection.

And with that said, I think I’m going to close off this article. I might talk a bit more in-depth about certain things or mechanics if I ever write a review but for now, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Review: Uncharted – The Lost Legacy (PS4) ~ Where is Lara, Fraizer?

Wikipedia entry

After I have finished most of the Tomb Raider games, I wanted to play more adventure games like it. The only adventure games I knew that were on the market was the Uncharted series. One problem, I don’t own a PS4. But, a good friend of mine has a PS4 and kindly lend me her PS4 to play one of the Uncharted games. Now, how do these games play for a big Tomb Raider fan? Did I compare these games to Tomb Raider or did it manage to stand out as it’s own thing? Let’s take a look at the final game in the series, Uncharted – The Lost Legacy. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the content of the article and/or the game in the comment section down below. 

Where is Lara, Fraizer?

In this game, you play as Chloe Fraizer. You are hired for a job finding something that your father was after. You meet up with Nadine, where you find a disc that is in Asav’s possession, the bad guy of this game. After you are able to steal it, you go on a wild adventure finding a special artifact.

Storywise, this game reminded me a lot of the first Tomb Raider game. the one were Lara’s bonds with her friends just get formed. But, the interaction of Chloe and Nadine reminded me a lot of Bioshock Infinite as well. Especially between Elisabeth and Booker. But explaining that would get me into spoiler territory.

Maybe it’s my bias talking here, but I enjoyed the story in the Tomb Raider games a bit more than the story in this game. It’s also possible that I watched a bit too many Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider-style movies to easily pick up on the various tropes used in these kinds of stories. The story of this game does nothing really new, nothing to stand out in the competition.

With that said, I don’t mean that the story of this game is bad or mediocre. Far from that. The story, the pacing, and the writing are quite well done. I especially liked the quite human interaction between the main characters. Personally, I felt that the main bad guy Asav was underwritten. With that, I mean that most of his personality is explained through dialogue from other people. This is a big missed opportunity since the voice actor really nails his role.

Now, speaking about the voice acting, I have both heard the Dutch and English voice acting. Why Dutch? Because that’s my native language and modern gaming consoles always set language and voice acting to Dutch automatically when it’s available because I live in Belgium. The voice work in both languages is amazing. I enjoyed the Asav in the English version more than in the Dutch version but I enjoyed Chloe a bit more in the Dutch version.

Shoot those enemies

In the gameplay department, I felt that this game was a mixture between Tomb Raider and Bioshock. The puzzle and platforming felt like a real Tomb Raider game, but the combat felt like a mix between Bioshock Infinite and Tomb Raider.

Let’s talk about the combat first. You can obtain weapons and ammo from defeated enemies or by hacking crates. The way you hack into crates is extremely simple. You have to turn the left joystick until you feel the controller vibrate. At that point, you need to find the correct spot, where the lock icon turns green and hold it there. This is one of the easiest lock picking mini games I have ever played.

During most of the combat, you get the aid of Nadine who takes out enemies on her own. She also gives remarks on your shooting, especially when you helped her or not. So, compare her to Elisabeth but then without searching for supplies.

At first, I was quite afraid of the combat. Personally, I thought that shooters wouldn’t work on consoles that well. I’m so used to aiming with the mouse, I thought that controllers wouldn’t be able to live up to that experience. But, this game pleasantly surprised me. While the shooting is assisted with some automatic lock-on system, the combat is still enjoyable. It didn’t take long before I got used to aiming with the controller and I was breezing through the combat. My friend started this game on the easiest difficulty level. I increased the difficulty level to have some more challenges.

Something that did disappoint me was the puzzles in this game. Sometimes when I played a Tomb Raider game, I really needed to think where to jump next and look around in the room. Perhaps, I’m getting quite efficient in playing these games but I felt that the puzzles were extremely lacking in this game. There were some creative puzzles and really good puzzles but I didn’t feel challenged enough by the puzzles. I felt that there could be so many more opportunities in this game for better puzzles.

I had the same feeling with big parts of the platforming. I was playing most of this game on auto-pilot. I still enjoyed myself but I didn’t feel the adrenaline rush I feel when I play a Tomb Raider game. So, yes, I’m stating that the recent Tomb Raider games have better gameplay than Uncharted The Lost Legacy. But, does that make this game bad? Well, no. Not in the slightest.

This game was quite enjoyable from start to finish. The pacing was fantastic. There wasn’t too much combat nor was there too much downtime. Something I really loved in this game was the bonus features you could unlock with the treasures. In the Tomb Raider games, the treasures give you a bit more backstory of the location Lara is at. In this game, you get points that you can spend on costumes for the characters, good ol’ cheats, filters, gameplay modifiers, and special weapons. Now, this adds a ton of replay value to the game. Now that I have finished the game, I want to replay the whole game with filters and gameplay modifiers.

And snap!

Now, you have most likely already noticed it from the screenshots that this game looks amazing. The visual presentation of this game is outstanding. I really felt home as a Tomb Raider player in this game.

Something I also really liked in this game was the little touches on the characters. For example, whenever you fell into the mud, you get mud on your clothes, but that gets washed away as soon as you walk through some water. Or the characters shaking their hands dry whenever they exit the water. These are amazing touches.

Together with amazing music and sound design, the audiovisual presentation is one of the strongest points of this game. And on top of that, the filters you can use can make this game even more fun to play through.

Just like in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, you also have a photo mode where you can easily snap screenshots to share online or use in an article. Now, this is a fun bonus feature and one that I might use a bit more with the unlocked special filters.

So, during this game, you visit various locations. From deserts to jungles, this game has it all. I already raved about the outstanding visual presentation with rich detail, great lighting and amazing set pieces. But, if the game has control issues or has an unstable frame rate, then you are unable to enjoy that.

During my playthrough, I noticed some minor slowdowns. Only once or twice during heavy combat. But, in most cases, the game ran perfectly and stable.

The controls reacted perfectly. It didn’t take long for me to adjust to the PS4 controller, after playing so many games with the XBOX 360 controller on my PC. It didn’t take long before the controller became second nature to me. Now, one thing I didn’t like was the mechanic to switch weapons. For that, you have to use the arrow keys. I felt that the touchpad on the PS4 controller could have been a better choice for this.

Now, there was one thing I really disliked and that was something at the final level. That final level kept dragging on and on. I thought it would never end. Something I didn’t like either was the fist-to-fist combat sections with Asav. I felt that the game was a bit unresponsive at times and I barely knew what I should do.

The biggest let down for me is the fact that this game was only 8 hours long. I was able to finish this game in one weekend. Now, I haven’t unlocked all the bonus items nor have I collected all the trophies. These also help with the replay value of this game. That’s something that somewhat makes up for the short game length.

And with that said, I think it’s high time for the conclusion of this article. What did I think in summary of this game? Let’s find out! Now, I did leave some things out about the gameplay and story on purpose. I wanted to leave those things like a nice surprise if you are interested in playing this game.

Summary

The bad:

-The fistfights.

-The puzzles should have been more challenging.

-The length.

The good:

+ Amazing audiovisual presentation.

+ A ton of replay value.

+ Great controls.

+ …

Final thoughts:

You might have noticed it while reading this review, I have compared this game quite a lot to the Tomb Raider series. While I was playing this game, I did get a lot of Tomb Raider vibes. So, when you enjoy the latest Tomb Raider games, I would highly recommend this game. You will enjoy it quite a lot.

While I think that the Tomb Raider games are the better games, I wouldn’t say that this Uncharted game is a bad game. Maybe I’m a bit biased… Now, if you love adventure games and exploring huge areas to try and solve puzzles, you really should give this game a go.

I’m also quite thankful to my friend for lending me her PS4 and a copy of this game. I’m so happy that I was able to enjoy this game. Because I enjoyed this game so much, I’m going to give the other Uncharted games a chance in the near future.

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

Score: 80/100

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: Death Mark (Switch) ~ Alive Until Dawn

death mark

Official website

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

Alive until dawn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Explore and read

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the edge of my seat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary

The good:

+ Amazing atmosphere in the visual and audio department.

+ Great writing.

+ The game has a lot of text.

+ …

The bad:

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

Final thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Score: 90/100

Publishing: Suicide Guy – Sleeping Deeply is now out on PS4!

“Suicide Guy: Sleepin’ Deeply” is a new Chapter from the original Suicide Guy game series.

suicide guy sleeping deeply logo

The game is a first-person action-puzzle game set in a world of dreams. You’ll assume the role of a nice big guy unable to wake up from his dreams. Your task is to help him to step out of them.

Features:

  • 3 to 4 hours of pure gameplay set inside Suicide Guy’s subconscious
  • A whole new story with an unexpected plot twist
  • Physics-based levels
  • Ultimate moves: able to pick up items, throw them, activate mechanisms and even burp.
  • Funny creatures to annoy
  • Vehicles to drive
  • New Collectible items to find

Gamers will have to use different items in every kind of situation by solving original brain teasers. Despite the title, the game is NOT at all about suicide or depression.

Link to the game on the PS4: https://store.playstation.com/en-gb/product/EP2659-CUSA14842_00-0000000000000000

More information can be found in the presskit: https://www.igdb.com/games/suicide-guy-sleepin-deeply/presskit

Link to my first impression of the PC version.

First Impression: Suicide Guy – Sleepin’ Deeply (PC) ~ Moar Beer

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Official website

Today I want to talk about a sequel, another chapter in a game I review last year. That game goes by the name of Suicide Guy. A game that got ported to the Nintendo Switch and the PlayStation 4 too. Now, the developer gave me a review key for this game and asked me to give my opinion. So, this article will be that, my unfiltered opinion on this game. Also, real talk for a moment. While this might be a game about killing yourself in various ways, if you are really struggling with mental health issues or thoughts about suicide, please look for proper medical help. That said, let’s take a look at this game. Feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article down below.

(Note, the version that’s used for this review is v1.35. Some comments might be changed with an update.)

Moar beer

In this game, your goal is to wake up. Again. But this time, you feel asleep drinking some stronger beer than usual. He wanted to drink some stronger beer since he saw a (voice acted) commercial on the TV.

Suicide Guy Sleeping Deeply Screenshot.jpgThe first level is a battle with a giant octopus. This battle introduces the mechanics of the game to new players. But, players who have played the original game will feel right at home with this one. It even has the same controls, the same issues with not recognizing AZERTY keyboards as well. If you could rebind your controls, this wouldn’t be an issue.

Because I haven’t gotten too far into the game, I can’t comment too much on the story. I’m looking forward to the promised twist in the end. The only thing, story-wise, I felt was a missed opportunity is the hub area. It would have been amazing if you were on some sort of a sinking ship, where the incoming water represented the beer falling to the ground. Maybe this is a lucky guess towards the twist ending, who knows?

The hub area of this game is the exact same as the first game. Now, I feel that there is something missing. The motivation of our main character to wake up.  You don’t have anything on the screens of the beer falling. There is, therefore, less urgency to finish the game. That’s why, to me, it feels like a level pack DLC. Then again, there is nothing wrong with that, but some of these small touches really added to the atmosphere of the original.

Earlier, I said that this game has voice acting. While it isn’t the best voice acting I have heard, it’s good. The price tag of this game is 3,29€ and you that, you would expect some cheap voice acting, but no, that’s not present in this game.

Frustration

Suicide Guy Sleeping Deeply Screenshot zwei.jpg

Now, let’s look at the actual gameplay. Like I said earlier in the article, the goal of this game is to find a way to commit suicide and wake up from the dream. The first two levels, I really enjoyed. But the 3rd level, the Rube Goldberg machine… I have to be honest, I dislike these kinds of levels.

A level where you need to finish a whole obstacle course without failing once. Those cups near the end were the bain of my existence. I have to admit that I have quitted the game several times. This level is a bit too long, I would have liked checkpoints. One fix can help this level to feel less frustrating. If you are able to finish the jumps of a section, you could knock over a ladder that lets the player pass that section so they can try to finish that part again. And, to make it more challenging, make it that the statue can’t be obtained if shortcuts are used.

Now, it might look that I’m giving this game a bad rap because I’m unable to pass one level. Then again, I might be spoiled by games like Super Mario Odyssey and A Hat In Time, where you didn’t have to finish all the levels to continue in the game. This game has so much potential and it would be a shame if somebody would quit because they are unable to finish one level.

Besides that, I feel like this game needs some polishing work in different areas as well. The animations in this game aren’t the best. They aren’t bad but, I felt like they could be smoother. For example, water splashes staying too long on-screen at the introduction level or no climbing animation. If the developer added a climbing animation, that would make this game a lot better.

Visually, this game looks extremely good. The texture work here gets a thumbs up from me. The references and the humor of this game really shine due to the visual design of this game. While there are some areas that look unfinished as well. For example, I found a spot where the poles of the wooden bridge didn’t connect to the ground, making the bridge floating in the air. Now, a quick email to the developer fixed this. He is also very responsive on the Steam forums so if you find a bug, don’t hesitate to report it.

The UI needs some minor polishing up to do as well. These might seem like nitpicks; one thing is that when you enter a level, you are unable to go back to the hub area. You need to go to the main menu and then to the hub area. The list of languages in the options should be alphabetically organized and there are some major issues with windowed mode.

Good but not great

Suicide Guy Sleeping Deeply Screenshot driejpg.jpg

Now, the music and audio design of this game are great. It helps to build the charm of this game tenfold. I’m really interested to hear what the rest of the game will offer when I finally beat that 3rd level.

In terms of controls, while it’s a shame I can’t rebind them, I feel like they are better in this game. It’s also possible that I got more used to them in the sequel but I felt fewer times that the game wasn’t doing what I asked it to do.

The game is good, but not great. It still needs some polishing up work to be done. Since there are still a few bugs in this game. Thankfully, the developer is quite active in polishing up the game. So, report every bug to make this game better. I might have been harsh on this game on several moments but that’s because I believe in this game. If the developer polishes up that 3rd level and adds some quality of life updates, like a climbing animation or rebindable controls, this game will be better for it. Things like that would make the game great.

If you were a fan of the original, I think it would be a shame if you skipped over this one. If you enjoy puzzle/action/adventure games, this is a great time waster. While it isn’t the most polished game, it’s enjoyable and unique. The references and gameplay is something I really enjoy. I have finished the original game, but I hope I’ll be able to finish this sequel one day. And who knows, I might even write a full review then.

That’s everything I wanted to say about the game for now. 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, take care and have a great rest of your day.