Preview: Tape Recovery Simulator 96K (PC – Steam) ~ It’s Advanced Fixing

Steam linkPress kitOfficial site

It’s no secret that I love old technology. So, when the developer of Tape Recovery Simulator 96K e-mailed me to talk about the game he is working on, I didn’t hesitate. Today, I want to take a look with you at the press demo provided. In this article, you’ll read my 100% honest opinion that I have of the game while I played that demo with a developer-provided key. So, I hope you are ready to dive into the world of tape fixing and decide with me if this game is worth following or not.

Keep in mind that I played a development version for this article. It’s possible that things change quite a lot compared to this preview/first impression.

General info:

Description

Tape Recovery Simulator 96K is a game focusing on recovering data off of reluctant old tapes.

During the 80s and early ’90s, the audio analog tape was one of the main storage mediums with a capacity of 600 Kb stored as actual sound. It wasn’t very reliable, to begin with, since tapes and tape recorders varied greatly in quality and compatibility. If not stored properly, tapes have a tendency to degrade over time, especially if left near strong magnetic/electric fields (like cathode monitors/TVs, speakers, children, power sources, power plants, EMP bombs, any kind of star, …). Sometimes, some data can still be recovered even after decades of mistreatment.

Tape Recovery Simulator 96K builds new game mechanics around old data recovery tricks. Caffeine Withdrawal Games’ philosophy is “games you haven’t played before” and TRS 96K is the perfect example of it.

Features:

  • Enjoy using a real simulated tape player with all the proper buttons (play, stop, ff, rew) + a few new ones.
  • Audio tapes holding data with multiple degrees of corruption.
  • Rediscover the lost art of loading data off tapes:
    • tweak sound (volume, pitch, tape speed, revert, …) to appease the 8bit loading routine that is extremely unforgiving to data errors
    • learn and use old data recovery tricks (header swap, audio channel swap, leader short-circuit, …)
    • play with data (descramble, decrypt, decode, search, piece together, …)
  • Work and suffer for a pittance as an EES employee with an absurd boss and (semi-)impossible tasks.
  • Discover and assemble stories, fake art, real art, conspiracy theories. Everything is sprinkled with lots of plain old insanity fueled by EES’ boss.
  • 8bit applications and mini-games (BASIC / machine code) waiting to be recovered, repaired, executed, re-executed and re-re-executed.
  • The 8bit look, feel and simplicity we all crave for.
  • Turbo tape loading speed of up to 1.6 KB/s
  • Mock advertising
  • No cutscenes (unskippable or otherwise)
  • True tried and tested eye care advice for the player.

The A+ Side

The story approach in this game is excellent. You would expect a silly, over-the-top story about a world where saving and fixing tapes is important. But no, you are part of a company that creates technology and also fixes tapes. The e-mails you’ll receive are nicely written and really pulled me into the world of this game. And it’s a great simulation all right since it feels quite real.

The tutorial section of this game is top-notch. It guides you perfectly through the whole game and teaches you every little mechanic. There are a few minor mistakes, but I’m quite certain that those will be fixed in a future version.

Gameplay-wise, I have played what’s already there. From what I have played, this seems quite promising. It already has some quality-of-life features, like being able to disable the sound effects on the fly. Since the beep tones that sometimes can be generated from corrupted tapes are quite loud.

Visually, this game might still be in development, but I think they work great already. I really like the visual style the developer is going for. I would love to see more animations and feedback in the finished version. Like, only a sound effect when you receive a mail is a bit too weak to draw the attention of the player. But, it’s getting there!

The F- side

It’s going to be quite tricky to write this section of the article. Since this game is still in its early stages of development and I played a pre-release version. So, it would be a bit unfair of me to talk about issues that this version has. Since they might be fixed in the released version and only cause confusion then.

What I can say is that most of the issues I experienced in playing the demo have to do with visual glitches and UI problems. Sadly enough, some of these were game-breaking. But, that’s the developer’s current focus. So, I think those issues will be ironed out before or after release in the first few patches.

All the other things are solid. I’m really curious what other mechanics and things the developer is going to throw into the mix in future versions since this has a lot of potentials.

So, should we play it?

Now, is this game fun? For me, it is. Because I enjoy playing around with old school technology and I work as an IT admin in two big art schools, so this game is right up my alley. But, I do have to warn you. This game is a real niche game. If you don’t enjoy niche games about old-school tech and puzzles, I don’t think this game is for you.

But, if you do enjoy things like that… This game can become a must-play! Just look at this trailer:

I’m so glad that I can play games like these. I’m so happy that people take the time to explore something like this and make an enjoyable game out of it. While this game has some ways to go in terms of the UI and some visual glitches… This game has a really solid foundation. One with a lot of potential for amazing puzzles and experiences.

So, I’m going to keep an eye out on this game, and you can be sure that I’ll write a more detailed review when this game gets released and the developer had time to iron out bugs, polish, and fine-tune the game. Consider me quite interested to see where this game is taken.

So, that’s the end of this article. I want to thank you so much for reading, and I hope you enjoyed reading this one as much as I enjoyed writing it. 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.

Game Quicky: The Rat Pack (Itch.io – PC) ~ The Rats Will Take Over

Itch.io page

Indie games can be unique. Today’s game is no different. Today, I want to talk about a game that’s created by the developers of that point-and-click game, Captain Disaster. I honestly expected a new point-and-click game when he contacted me via Twitter and when I heard it was going to be about rats, the edutainment collector part of my brain went directly to Mia: The Mouse, but this game is something completely different. It’s a TBS game, a turn-based strategy game. About rats? This is going to be unique. But, we need to ask, is this going to be the good kind of unique or the bad kind? Let’s find out in this 100% honest review of this game that I get a press review copy for. And yes, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and/or opinions on the content of this article and/or the game.

Good rats, pet them

I love this easter egg random event to bits.

The story of this game is about a colony of rats going for bigger and better. Starting off on a farm and going to the big city. I’m so happy that in terms of the story, this game isn’t doing anything silly and trying to put a fantasy spin or something on it… It feels realistic and stays in the background. It’s the perfect set dressing for the game. There is one random event, that I really love. I think you can guess which one is with the screenshot here.

Most of this game is spent on one screen. This is the game screen. There are 5 squares. Let’s start with the easiest to explain. You’ll have the yellow square in the top right, this is where everything that happens during your turn is shown.

The white square in the middle is one that shows special messages. I chose a beta screenshot here on purpose, since this random event message is now one of the various events that have a nice artwork accompanying it. But not every random event has a drawing.

Then, in the bottom left, you have the rat lab. This is your upgrades section. You have 4 things that you can upgrade, and these are essential. Depending on your lab level, you earn a certain amount of lab points per turn. You can upgrade the lab by scavenging for treasure. Each upgrade can improve the skills of your rats to avoid a game over. A game over is when your population reaches zero. That’ll cause you to restart the mission.

I could write a whole article explaining how this whole game works, but the tutorial does an amazing job of that. And not only that, the difficulty curve in this game gets a chef kiss from me. In each mission, a new mechanic is introduced, and you learn easily the amount of depth this game has. You learn when you can risk losing rats in your colony and when you urgently need to do something.

There are three difficulty levels, and you can finish this whole game playing on easy mode. But, the easy mode isn’t a cakewalk. You’ll need to learn the game and think carefully about what you want to do with your colony. And try to not get distracted by the amazing music this game has. Seriously, I would love to buy this soundtrack! Together with the amusing voice work and charming sound effects, the audiovisual presentation is quite good.

At first, I was worried that this game would be boring and repetitive. But, after playing 10 missions so far, I really have to say that I’m quite enjoying myself. With an easy to learn but tricky to master game, I’m impressed with this game. Sadly, there are a few things I didn’t really like, and I’m going to explain them in the next section of this article.

Bad rats, trap them!

So, what does this game do wrong? Well, first, there is no way to save mid-mission. Thankfully, this isn’t too big of an issue, since the missions themselves are sort. Well, I say short, but I have only played this game on easy and normal difficulty, so maybe it’s long on the harder difficulty?

The second negative of this game is a strange design quirk. Why is the pause button “F1” and not “Escape”? It really messed with my hardwired brain.

Overall, the UI design is excellent… But, there is something that would take it to the next level. Currently, when you beat a level, it gets a checkmark. And it doesn’t matter on which difficulty. I would love to see a different color checkmark depending on which difficulty you have beaten the level. Since, currently, the only way to see that is in the achievements’ menu which doesn’t even have a back arrow.

Another flaw in terms of the UI is in the red bottom right corner of the game screen. There are two things wrong with that in the version I reviewed. First, it doesn’t tell you the amount of treasure you’ll need to upgrade the attack and defense of your colony. Secondly, it doesn’t tell you when you can do a raid and how many raids you have done. This is somewhat annoying in some missions where you need to do 5 raids, and you didn’t keep count.

Something I personally missed was some animation in this game. Currently, all random events have a nice drawing, but the attacking and under attack events are too static. Either add a drawing or two for them or have some animation. It would polish up the game that much more.

And that’s about everything. So, shall we go on to the conclusion? Before I ramble on, and on.

So, what we RAT this game out?

Terrible pun aside for this final section of the article, is this game worth your time, or is this conclusion going to rip this game apart? Well, to be very honest, it’s the first. This game is really worth your time. Especially because most of the things I didn’t like about this game can be fixed and fine-tuned with an update or two.

Personally, I wouldn’t recommend this game to everyone. If you enjoy casual/puzzle and turn-based games, I would give this game a chance. But, don’t expect this game to be action-packed. This game is more on the calming and relaxing side. The charm of a small group of creators developing a game is oozing out of this one.

I would really pet this rat and not rat this game out. It’s a great game with some minor flaws. And I can’t wait to finish this game and maybe try the hard difficulty option. And maybe I’m even going to try to fill out that achievement page.

And with that said, I want to wrap up this article and thank you for reading it. 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: 70/100

Game Quicky: Neutopia (Wii U – TurboGraphix16) ~ Is this Zelda?

Wikipedia entry

There are a lot of different Zelda clones out there. And to be honest, I don’t mind it at all. It keeps Nintendo on its toes in making the next Zelda game. If it’s not good enough, then the clones have a chance to be the next big hit. Recently, I took a look at some of them. Blossom King and Lenna’s Inception are two good examples. So, during my week off this week, I was browsing the Nintendo Wii U eShop and I discovered Neutopia. At first, I thought it was an indie developer creating another 2D Zelda clone, but I was quite surprised when I saw that the developer was Hudson Soft. So, I dug a bit deeper, and it turns out that this game was never released in Europe until the Wii and Wii U era. So, why didn’t we get this game, and its sequel over here in Europe? Was the Zelda clone not good enough, or did we miss out? Let’s find out, while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on the content of this article and/or this game.

Is this Zelda?

I find the story in this game quite amusing. It’s, to a certain degree, a cross between your cliché Zelda and Final Fantasy story. Change the Triforce with crystals. Sprinkle some Zelda II with a sleeping princess in a shrine, that instead of getting cursed… gets kidnapped Link to the Past style. Oh, and let’s not forget that the crystals are elemental crystals. The story is silly but oh so amusing to me. The story isn’t the main focal point in this game. Besides the main character, the villain, and the princess… There aren’t many unique characters in the game. Which isn’t a bad thing. The name of the villain is hilarious, actually. He is called Dirth, yes… dirt with an additional H.

In terms of gameplay, this game is everything I could hope for. This game is Zelda I at its heart, and I love it. It didn’t take long for me to get immersed in the game and start exploring the world. All the mechanics were clear to me right away. I had to explore the lands, find the dungeons and find all the medallions. I started out with a sword and started exploring. The controls are extremely easy to learn as well, so in no time I was in the action.

Something that took me by surprise is that there are only 4 dungeons. But, there are two medallions in each dungeon. So, you’ll have to explore them quite thoroughly to make sure you found everything. Speaking of exploring, I was afraid that I would have to look for ages for the various dungeons since the game also copied the “map” system from Zelda I. Thankfully, you have a Charmed Compass that points you into the general direction of the dungeons.

There are no keys in this game, so no locked door puzzles. Yet, the map system has a unique feature. It plays a special sound effect whenever you are near a boss or a medallion. This brings me nicely to the audiovisual presentation of this game. The music in this game, oh heavens. The music in this game is excellent! This chiptune soundtrack fits the game so well and is one of the best things in this game. It made the exploration and trying to beat the various challenges the game gives you even more fun. The sound effects are decent too, if only I wished there were a bit more of them to make the enemies and weapons come more alive.

Is this game hard? Well, if you know how to play Zelda I, it’s not hard at all. You have to know that you can burn bushes, push rocks, and that villagers are hidden all over the world that gives you VERY helpful advice. For real, read what the villagers have to say. The only nitpick I have is that when you accidentally press the skip button, you’ll have to exit and re-enter their location to know what they said.

This game is also somewhat forgiving. When you die, you go to the latest checkpoint you saved at. So, whenever you did something big or before a dungeon, remember to save. This isn’t your modern game with autosaves. The save system is unique, when save you get a very long password and the chance to save in a slot. But do yourself a favor, and only use that save feature to create checkpoints so when you die, you don’t lose too much progress and use the actual save states of the virtual console to save. I found that much more reliable than the load system. Especially since the save slots are RAM-based! Any RAM memory can be overwritten. The only thing you lose is a bit of gold.

The items that enemies can drop are the exact same as in the first Zelda game. Apart from having different sprites. From gold, bomb to even a time-stopping power up. And if you listen well to the villagers, you’ll know what each item does, since they hint at them pretty well.

Visually, this game looks amazing. The only thing I found a shame is that there were no real towns or anything in the game. But that’s a minor nitpick since, evener then, the map is quite memorable and great fun to explore. Of course, you have your typical locals from a forest, mountains, and desert, but they all fit the world so well. Strangely enough, there is no ice/cold area in this game. That’s something you don’t see every game every day. But, we don’t see perfect games every day either. Yet, is this game one of those?

This isn’t as good as Zelda.

Sadly enough, no. This game has some flaws. The first is the bombs. The big issue is that you need way too many of them to beat the game, and you can only carry 8 of them at the start. There is also no easy way to farm them, so when you require more… It’s enemy killing time, and cross your fingers they drop bombs. And bombs are one of the few items that stack. When the wings drop, to easily escape to the last save point, you can only have one. Even when you picked up two. … Okay, you can carry two health points.

There is something I feel a bit mixed about, and that is some villagers. Some villagers give you special rewards like money. But only once. That alone is just fine. But, here is the annoying thing. If you die and go back to that spot, you can’t get the money again. Yet, when I think about this… It makes a bit sense too. Since, if the reward of the villager is higher than what you lose when you die… It would be money exploit waiting to happen. If only you could decline the money before you get it, that would have been amazing.

Now, that it was difficult to create a good map system on an 8-bit system for Zelda I, I can totally understand. You only have so much RAM and resources to play with before the system starts to lag. But, on a system that’s at least twice as powerful, the map system can do more. The map system is a huge mess in my eyes.

First, there is no overworld map, so you don’t know where you are in the overworld. Something that the first Zelda game actually did! Second, after getting the dungeon map, it resets the visited rooms when you leave the dungeon by any means. And third, it only shows you the rooms for the first medallion. Which in itself isn’t a big issue, but it’s a big issue since when you die exploring the second part of the dungeon, guess what… The map is reset and the new rooms are gone! Oh, and I hope you remembered where to bomb to continue.

Sadly, this game has the same annoyance as the first Zelda game when it comes to hitboxes. During my playthrough, I felt that sometimes it was easier for the enemies to hit me compared to hitting them. The fact you can’t hit enemies diagonally is a huge issue. Since, when you aren’t lined up right… You don’t hit the enemy, but they hit you. Well, you can hit enemies diagonally but not with the sword. Just increasing the hitboxes of the enemies by a tiny bit would have solved this issue.

Something minor about this is that some airborne enemies were tricky to know when you were able to hit and not hit them. Speaking of iffy enemy design, I found some enemies a bit too cheap. Those mud crawlers are so annoying in predicting where they will turn up.

Now, I think I said almost everything I wanted to say about this game. I honestly think it’s time to wrap this up in a nice conclusion.

Is this worth your time?

For this conclusion, I won’t beat around the bush. If you enjoy any 2D adventure game like let’s say: Zelda I, Blossom Tales, Lenna’s Inception, Fairune… This game is right up your alley. This amazing retro title is an excellent time waster. It does have some flaws, but when you get used to the flaws, this game is stunning. Currently, I’m halfway done with the game, but I couldn’t wait in finishing the game before I started writing this review.

This game brought me back to the joy of 2D Zelda games. Which is one of my favorite types of games. Just keep in mind that this game is a retro game and the things I talked about in my review, and you are golden. I’m playing this game blind and not using a walkthrough at all. It’s a blast, and can’t wait to see what the game is going to throw at me next. And let’s not forget the sequel! Which improvements were made and is it going to be as much fun as this one?

Now, if you decide to play this game… I personally would advise you to play this game on the Virtual Console or PSN. If you want to play it on the TurboGraphix 16, be careful with saving in the cabinets/save files. Do write down your passwords. Since saving to RAM… I don’t trust it personally. And sadly enough, the passwords are long and complex. It’s case-sensitive even.

I highly enjoyed my time with this game, and I can’t recommend it enough to fellow 2D adventure game fans and retro game fans. But, I can totally understand that because of its age and quirks, this game might not be so enjoyable for everybody. But, give it a chance, I really think it is worth it.

And with that said, I want to thank you all 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 to another one, but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Those annoying mud things :/

Game Quicky: Abyss of the Sacrifice (Switch) ~ Puzzlerooms To Sacrifice

Age warning: This game is 16+.

Wikipedia entryNintendo.com microsite

I might be a day late for Halloween, but today on the day after, I still want to talk about a somewhat horror related game. As regular readers of my blog know, I’m an avid fan of the Zero Escape trilogy. So, when I saw this game pop up on the Nintendo Switch eShop, I didn’t hesitate for a moment. I had to give it a try. I enjoyed my time with it that much, that it even slipped in my top 10 games of 2020. Why did I give this game a spot there? Well, let me explain why, while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on the game and/or the content of this article.

Puzzlerooms to sacrifice

This game follows the story of 5 girls who are left in the “Foundation”. This is a strange place underground that has been built for some reason that everybody has forgotten. It doesn’t take long before our 5 heroines meet each other and strange things like earthquakes start happening. And let’s not forget, since everybody is gone from the Foundation, food and water supplies are getting more difficult to come by every day.

I don’t want to talk much about the story, since it hinges on its mystery quite a lot. It’s that sort of story where you are left in the dark about everything right from the start, but the further you go in the story the more gets explained. I do highly recommend playing this game without a break like I did. I had to restart my playthrough since I completely forgot what was going on, and I got confused.

Something that took me by surprise is the fact that this game is fully voice acted, in Japanese. Now, this makes my job of reviewing this game a bit more difficult. I barely know any Japanese, so take what I’m going to say next with a grain of salt. But, I feel that the voice acting is pretty good. I really felt the emotional performance of the voice actors and I feel they did an amazing job.

Something I really did like is how there are some cliché characters, like your doctors’ girl and the patient that went in and out of hospitals but the interaction and the backstory of these characters is handled in such a unique way, it feels quite fresh and unique. The story itself is getting quite interesting at the moment where I’m at, and I’m so glad I choose the Switch version over the Steam version since now I can take it with me on the train from and to work.

Visually, the game looks amazing. The artwork really immersed me into the world and the story. Together with the great music and sound design, I really felt like I was exploring a mystery in the Foundation. Sometimes, an important item blended into the scenery, but it gave off a small sparkle, so you didn’t have to go pixel hunting.

I really like the hint system in this game. At any time, without a penalty, you can in the menu to the “Hint” system, and you can look at the hints. Only the hints that help you to get further in the puzzle are unlocked. The ones you need later in the puzzle aren’t accessible and not even shown. The minor negative you could say that this system brings is that it somewhat spoils the length of the room, but that’s a minor thing in my opinion.

You can play this game out of order. So, each time you finish a chapter, you unlock the next entries of the story of each girl. You can play them in any order you like. To avoid getting even more confused about what’s going on, I played them somewhat in order. But, it’s a great thing that if you get stuck on one puzzle, you can stop it and go to another girl to try on that puzzle later. And believe you me, the puzzles can get quite challenging. I even had to get out a pen and paper for several puzzles to solve it.

The controls and the UI of this game is something to be praised. The only minor negative thing is that there is no real autosave, but you can save easily at any time in an overload of save slots. The amount of options is a good to have, so that way you can adjust your experience to your liking. And the easy to learn controls are shown in the options menu in case that you forgot one or two buttons.

Escape is not needed

Sadly enough, this game does have some flaws. In terms of variation, this game doesn’t have a lot of it. This game is a visual novel with some escape the room elements thrown in. But, there are some things that the visual novel sections don’t do all to well. First, the contrast of the text with the background isn’t always the best. I sometimes had trouble reading the text. Thankfully, my English is pretty decent, and I can make out the words, but I can image that it’s going to be quite annoying for people who aren’t so good at English.

Something else that really bothered me is the fact that it’s sometimes a bit unclear who is talking to who in the dialogue sections. There is no real “speaking” animation. That’s a shame, since I’m that kind of person who has a hard time remembering names. I was so glad that in World’s End Club, you had that overview screen with the names and abilities. Even in the backlog it’s unclear who is talking.

Speaking of which, when I looked into the backlog of this game… I found some strange things in the writing. This game sometimes jumps from 1st person to 3rd person writing. A great example where you can get easily confused is this one:

Suddenly, she felt a sharp tug on her arm.

"Huh?"

I didn't fall....?

As she blinked in disbelief, a voice called out above her.

That’s exactly how it appears in the game. If only a different styling was used for thoughts OR keep writing in either 1st or 3rd person, this could have improved the writing.

There were some moments of frustration as well during the puzzle segments. For example, in one room, I had to pick up a robot from the cleaning station but the area I could click to pick it up was almost completely overlapped by the “Exit screen” UI. So, be really precise with your clicks or otherwise, you’ll be stuck while you have the correct solution. Thankfully, if you find the joystick movement controls a bit too fast like me, you can use the D-pad to solve that issue.

Sadly enough, some puzzles are a bit too tricky for my liking. Even with the hint system. One time I got stuck because I tried to combine item A with B, and it didn’t work… The solution was combining item B with A. Which brings me to talk about the interface you use to combine items. This interface is a mess in my opinion. It could have been designed a lot better, since if it wasn’t explained in the tutorial section… I would have forgotten how to use it and that it was even a mechanic.

You might have noticed that I didn’t talk about the animations in the visuals’ section of this review. That’s because, there was so much more that could have been done with the animations. I really felt that the game was a bit too static and comic-book like. There could have been so much more life into the game with a bit more animations. And in some cases, I had the impression that the animations lagged while the game was anything but lagging. But, I think it’s high time to get into the conclusion of this article before I start lagging myself and go rambling.

Conclusion

This game is the perfect example of getting pretty close to greatness but missing the mark. This game has so much going for it. The amazing artstyle, the music, the concept, the atmosphere… I don’t regret my decision to include this game in my top 10 games of 2020.

Yet, this game lacks some polish which is a real shame. Since, I can truly see some people skipping this game because of it. It even makes it a bit difficult for me to recommend this game.

When I saw the scores that other reviewers were giving for this game, I was a bit annoyed. I felt that this game was getting too low scores for what’s offered here. This game tells a great story of 5 girls trying to survive and trying to figure out what happened to the world. But some technical issues hold it back. Some can be solved with a patch like the issues with the script and such, but others like the animations… That is going to need either a big patch or a remake.

But, if you enjoy games like the Zero Escape games or Corpse Party, I would say… Check out this game. Give it a chance. But, know that this game has some flaws and you best play it without too long of a break to fully enjoy this game. I personally think that this game is totally worth your time, maybe on sale. And as soon as you get use to the quirks, the negatives aren’t too bad. So, this review is luke warm, but warm enough to recommend it with caution.

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

Game Quicky: Mystik Belle – Enchanted Edition (Switch) ~ The Metroidvania Witchschool Adventure

Nintendo.com micrositeWikipedia entry

So, I was browsing the Nintendo Switch eShop one day and I came across this game. Without doing a lot of research, I bought it since it looked like an interesting indie Metroidvania game. I didn’t know that a big studio like WayForward helped the developers Last Dimension in publishing this game to the Nintendo Switch. For some reason, I didn’t realize that this game is a port either. Even with the subtitle “Enchanted Edition”. In any case, I was also surprised to learn that this game is created in GameMaker Studio. A tool I used to learn about game development when I was younger. But, with that said, how is the actual game? Is it worth your money or should you rather focus on the original edition or is this a game you could skip without hesitation? Well, I’m here to give you my opinion and while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and/or opinions on the game and/or the content of this article.

Witchschool

Usually, I write something myself to explain the story. But, the way the developers described the story is so good, I’m going to quote it here:

Being a student of mysterious art is a daunting task, doubly if you are Bell McFay – a freshman at the Hugmore Magic School. The teachers and staff are mean, I have few friends, and my grades are poor. Worst of all – Bell tends to be in the wrong place at worst. When she stayed up late to practice the magic of fire, for example tonight, but was instead assembled to confuse ancient rituals. And is there a better way to punish the unlucky first-grader than to prosecute her for an impossible job on the worst night of the year? Reproduce or exile Walpurgisnacht Brew. The sound of expulsion is beginning to improve as all types of spies hijack the school.

Official story on the eShop page

There is no voice acting in this game, so the story is told through text boxes and the environment design. Overall, the writing in this game is good. It sets up the arc of the game nicely without a lot of technobabble to pull you out of the experience. It’s quite difficult to review the story of this game because this game is somewhat short. This game takes around 5-ish hours to beat.

Usually, in these short games, I expect the story to grip me and focus more on telling a good story with interesting mechanics like Super Liminal or There Is No Game. Yet, this game doesn’t do that. I’m not saying that the story is bad, it’s just that this game focuses more on the gameplay and it’s puzzles than the overall story. This isn’t such a big negative in my eyes. While, yes, the setting and the atmosphere gives the story a lot of potential… I’m just extremely happy that it’s not bloated or is just filler to make the game longer. It’s to the point and quite enjoyable.

This game almost plays like your typical Metroidvania game. If you don’t know what a Metroidvania game is, compare it to games like Monster Tale, Blossom Tales, Lenna’s Inception amongst others. You explore large area’s where you learn new skills and abilities to help you on the way and discover secrets. Now, what this game does special is that this game has also a focus on puzzle elements and a whole inventory mechanic. In extremely rough terms, this game is a giant fetch quest in a Metroidvania game.

And it’s a lot of fun. I love exploring the school and trying to figure out which abilities I’m going to get to explore more of the castle. The responsive controls were so easy to learn that I was able to get the hang of the mechanics quite easily. The only thing that is different compared to your typical Metroidvania games is that there are no save rooms in this game. The game autosave when you change rooms. But that’s anything but a negative, to be honest.

Now, there are two ways to play this game. You can play through this game with warp chests, that help you with your inventory and makes the game a bit easier. It also gives you the option to choose if you restart the room or start from the counsel room. Or you have the harder difficulty, where you don’t have: warp chests, restart the room and the enemies hit harder. So, you can play on the difficulty you enjoy.

I really love shooting my fire spell around and leveling it up when I killed more enemies. I really liked running around this school with the amazing pixel art and animation. The game looks amazing, and the level design is well done for a Metroidvania game. While the level design makes the school feel less like a school since you don’t see a lot of classrooms and weird architecture, the pixel art is so good-looking and well-designed that it doesn’t bother me at all. (Only my really harsh critic side, tho.)

Not only does the game have amazing visuals and animations, the music is a jam. It’s amazing chiptune by Dan Rogers. I have listened to it while writing this article and I liked it so much that I decided to buy the whole soundtrack from Dan Roger’s Bandcamp I linked earlier.

Something that’s quite impressive is that this game is the love child of Andrew Bado. He placed so much love and care into the game. I mean, he even made an option where the dialogue is child-friendly in the PC version. Yes, an option! That’s something I can applaud. If only this came to the Switch version.

Almost there, Bell

I have thrown quite a lot of praise towards this game, but I’m sad to say that this game does make a few mistakes or things I don’t like. Let me first talk about the health system. There is one thing I didn’t like at all. That’s the way you heal. To heal, you have to pick up hearts that can randomly drop from enemies. The hearts drop where you kill the enemy. So, if you kill the enemy while it’s in the wall, since your projectiles go through into the wall… Your health pick-up is going to be stuck in the wall. And those don’t get attracted when you get close.

Also, there is no “quick heal” method or room. The health you have is the health you start with when you respawn or restart the room. So, when you are low on health, you better find a room where you can grind enemies to grind the health drops to get back to full health. This is one of the few moments where the game just stopped in its tracks, to be honest. Granted, you could restart at the counsel room with full health, but then you have to backtrack all the way… That isn’t fun.

Now, here is something I really found annoying. This game has an amazing mini-map, but why can’t I look at it with more detail? In this game, you have to gather and manage a lot of items. Around 60 in fact. And they are spread out over the whole map. But, remembering which item goes where is a real pain. Either having a quest list and/or which character is where it could have helped so much. Thankfully, the map is rather small, so going through all of it and trying out which item goes where wasn’t such a pain. Yet, I really missed a feature a like that in this game.

Sadly enough, there is actually a second thing I don’t like about the health system. There is this mechanic where you are able to kill enemies by just colliding with them. But this costs health. Now here is the issue with that, the sound effect and visual feedback is so similar to normally killing enemies it’s confusing. Something to improve this would be another sound effect if Belle gets hit compared to when she kills an enemy. Since, overall, the sound effects are excellent.

One of the final things I want to talk about is the pacing. In this game, you need to get three ingredients and something that really surprised me is that the second act is short. But this is an extremely minor complaint, a nitpick even. As big as a nitpick as the I find it a shame that some nice designs like statues go to waste since they are mostly in the dark. But, then again, it adds to the atmosphere and gives off a slightly creepy vibe.

Now, I think it’s high time for the conclusion, don’t you think? A summary of what I think in general about this game and trying to answer the questions I asked in the introduction of this article.

Let’s play or let’s play?

Is this game worth your time? Yes, yes it is! While the game has some annoying things like I talked about in the previous section, I really think that the positives highly outweigh the negatives for this game.

Now, if you would ask me… Which version should I play? Then, I have to answer the enchanted edition on Switch. It’s quite difficult to answer what’s new in this version since you don’t have an official change log but reading from the Twitter feeds of the developers it seems that it’s mostly a graphical upgrade and various tweaks to make the experience more enjoyable.

It also looks like this game is going to have a sequel or expansion from what I’m reading on the developers twitter feed.

I’m so glad that I gave this game a chance, since because of this game I discovered a very passionate developer that loves creating charming games like this one. I really enjoyed my time with this game, trying to figure out which item goes where. While it’s tempting to use a walkthrough, I highly advise that you don’t. There is barely any moon logic in this game, and it feels so much more rewarding to play it blind.

The charm of this game is just amazing. Mystik Belle is a hidden gem that more people should know of and play. This game has so much potential even while I haven’t finished the original, I’m already hyped for new content that’s upcoming.

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

First Impression: Arietta of Spirits (Switch) ~ Being Bound

Nintendo.com subsiteOfficial website

Family traditions are such a big part of families. One of the biggest family traditions in my family is that at least one person goes to the seaside each and every year. It’s a tradition I don’t want to see end since it brings back so many memories, and it’s also where my love for collecting games started. The amount of garage sales and flea markets I did at the seaside, I can’t count on two hands. Anyway, today I want to talk about a game that means a lot to me currently and also talks about family traditions. And that’s Arietta of Spirits. A little indie game by Third Spirit Games and Red Art Games. It caught my attention since it looked like an interesting Zelda-ish clone, and it reminded me of games like Blossom Tales. But is this game as good as that one? Let’s find out together, shall we? But before we start, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on the game and/or the content of this article.

Being bound

In this game, you take on the role of Arietta. After the passing of her grandmother, here family takes a trip to her house on the island. Now, it doesn’t take a long time before Arietta discovers that she has a special ability when she meets a mysterious friend. She can see and talk to the spirits on the island. And not only that, she can help them move on.

Currently, I’m midway in the story and while this game has a good setting, writing and atmosphere, I feel that’s something is missing. The story is currently a bit “loose”. There is not really an overarching reason to move the story forward. If you asked me to explain what happens in the story of this game, I can talk about the characters you meet and their stories but the reason why you meet these characters and what Arietta’s end goal is… I can’t tell. Of course, there is a line in the story that “explains” it, but it’s so generic…

Now, this doesn’t mean that this game has a weak story. Far from it. The character development and writing in this game is pretty nice. But, there is a lot of wasted potential because this game is rather short. There is so much more that can be done with the story and idea, but the game is over when it really gets started.

There is no real voice acting in this game apart from some grunts by our main character. So, if you don’t like that, this isn’t the game for you. Yet, the dialogues are somewhat fast-paced and flow pretty nicely. One of the taglines of this game is that this game doesn’t have a lot of filler moments and this is quite true. This game has some side quests but barely any filler at all. Yet, I felt that some moments might have left a bigger impact if the story didn’t go on such a break neck speed.

Entry level Zelda game

If you have played games like Blossom Tales or any 2D Zelda game, you’ll feel right at home. This game is your typical 2D Zelda game where you go from dungeon to dungeon and defeat bosses. Well, they aren’t really dungeons, it is more themed area’s, but explaining that would spoil parts of the story. But, there are some unique mechanics in this game.

For example, there are two types of enemies. The first type are your normal overworld enemies. And sadly, they are your “generic” bee/bats. But, they have interesting movement patterns and learning and avoiding them is quite fun. Apart from maybe dropping a health pick-up, these enemies aren’t anything to write home about.

The other type of enemies are the “spirit” enemies. These are trickier to defeat, and after defeating these, you’ll earn crystals. Earn enough crystals to fill up a demon core, and Arietta grows stronger. It’s quite easy to farm these crystals, since enemies respawn when you leave and re-enter the area. But, I dislike the fact that when a certain core is filled, you can’t pick up any more crystals. Well, you can pick them up, but it doesn’t raise your total.

So, when you have enough crystals to power up your Roamer Cores, power it up right away. Otherwise, you’ll lose various crystals and have to grind for them. You can power your core up in the inventory menu under “Roamer Cores”.

Speaking of the inventory menu, why are there two menus in the Switch version? You have a pause menu and an inventory menu. The pause menu is opened with the “+” button and the inventory menu with the “-” button. It trips me up. Then again, I totally understand why this is the case in how the menus are designed. That’s why I call the “-” the inventory menu since it’s really the menu where you can see the inventory, your goals, your achievements… While the pause menu is more of an options menu.

A bit higher, you can see the inventory menu. From that screenshot, you can also see the various other mechanics. Like, the tasks where you have to find hidden items and the amount of hidden spirit cubs you have found. Now, you might think that you’ll need the item’s menu often, but alas. The opposite is true.

There aren’t a lot of puzzles in this game. I’m even having a hard time saying there are puzzles in this game. Maybe the fact that you need to figure out how to defeat the bosses most optimally but other than, that… There aren’t really any puzzles in this game. And if there are, they aren’t cryptic or challenging enough to matter.

Something that’s extremely puzzling is the fact that there is no world map of any kind to speak off. Thankfully, this isn’t a huge game, but the lack of a world map really hurts sometimes. Especially when I want to explore an area to complete a task. It adds so much more time roaming around. You could also argue that it makes the game a bit more realistic since when you are exploring an island, you don’t have a map either… But you can either make one or have a map printed out from the internet.

Once you get the hang of the responsive and easy to master controls, this game isn’t too challenging at all. This game really feels like it’s an entry level adventure game. And you can look at this in two ways. It can be either a relaxing time to enjoy the story, but it can be boring since it’s not “engaging” or challenging.

Thankfully, this game has difficulty options. I started on the normal difficulty and found it too easy. So, after getting halfway in the game, I wanted a bit more challenge. So, I had to use the dodge, shield mechanics more to defeat enemies and not rely on health drops from cutting down bushes. I wanted to start a new save file on extreme, and I learned I wasn’t able to skip cutscenes. I sighed, and I continued playing my “normal difficulty” save file. I can totally understand that when you play through a game for this first time you are unable to skip cutscenes, but the fact you can unlock an additional difficulty after beating the game and the fact I can’t skip cutscenes worries me a bit. But, maybe you have that option then…

Joyful lost

So, because this game doesn’t have a world map… I have to admit that I got lost a few times. But, it didn’t matter too much. I really enjoyed being able to explore the island. Especially since the pixel art and design of this game is gorgeous. I really love the visual presentation of this game. I also love the animation quite a lot.

The animation makes the game a lot more immersive, but it makes the game also easier. Since the enemies telegraph their attacks so bluntly, it makes it easier to avoid. Now, there is this small mechanic that I really like.

At first, I wanted to talk about how when you have low health in this game, you barely get any feedback from the game. But then, I noticed something. My joycons vibrated in a heart beat whenever I was on low health. This is genius. The only small touch I would add is a bit more visual feedback on the screen since when you are fighting, you might miss that rumbling, especially since you are quite focused on dodging enemies and such.

Something I also quite like in this game is how the roll is handled. You can roll around to get faster to your destination, but you have stamina. The more you roll, the more fatigued Arietta gets and the shorter her rolls are. You can see how tired Arietta is by the amount of sweat dripping down her face. This really makes me think what the most optimal way is to roll and go fast. Since, there is no sprint button.

Sometimes, I got lost in area’s with a lot of enemies. The first time I got a game over, I was quite worried where I was going to respawn. But, this game is quite forgiving in that. You respawn at the start of the screen you died at. When you die at a boss, you start right at the beginning of the battle. It’s quite nice to get directly back into the action and not have to go through the whole dialogue of the boss again or having lost a lot of progress. The game auto-saves every time you change in a screen.

The final thing I want to talk about is the audiovisual presentation of this game. Let’s start with the sound effects. These are amazing. The sound effects really help you to prepare yourself for the upcoming map and to take the right actions in combat. For example, the flying bat screeches before it flies at you, so when you hear it… You know that it’s time to dodge. But, the sound effects can be helpful too to find cubs. When you get close to one, you hear it shouting. It has a distinct sound effect that really helped me find the more hidden ones.

This brings me to the music of this game. The calm vibe and atmosphere of the game really comes through in the music. The soundtrack mostly feels like lounge and relaxing music. But, it can be quite tense when it needs to. Especially the battle music. But it fits the game like a glove.

Now, what do I think overall of this game? I haven’t beaten it yet, but what is my conclusion after getting past the midway point of this game? The charm and love of this game is something quite unique. This game does have some flaws like no overworld map, more puzzles, being able to skip cutscenes…

But, what bothers me the most is that the potential of this story and setting isn’t used to its full potential in this short game. Yet, like I said earlier, the charm of this game makes up for quite a lot of it. I can totally understand that some people might not really like this game or get bored with it, but this game really got its hooks in me. For me, this game is an easy recommendation if you are looking for a nice and relaxing game to spend an afternoon or two.

What this game proves to me is that I’m going to keep an eye out for further projects from the developers, since I really think they have a lot of potential. I’m curious what they are going to do next. If they are going to make a sequel to this game, you can be sure I’m going to buy it. The charm and love of this game is infectious.

I really enjoyed playing through this game and I can’t wait to see how this game ends. It’s really a relaxing game, and it comes at the right moment in my life when I need something to calm me down after busy work days. This game is really a case of the positives outweighing the negatives for me. But, I’m repeating myself. So, it’s time to close off this article by saying my usual:

Thank you so much for reading my 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 one, but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

My favorite gaming music #27 – Restart playing it?

More selections via this hub page

Heavens, my life is still extremely busy. But today, I was finally able to do something I haven’t been able to do in such a long time! I was finally able to go to a garage sale. I posted a nice loot picture on my Twitter. During my walk on that garage sale, I started thinking on which games are prime article material and I have found a couple. But, I mostly started thinking… Now, that I’m listening to music while browsing the stalls; isn’t it time to write another article about music I really like from that games I play? Of course! That’s what I wanted to do when I arrived home before I started playing my new games. So, grab a snack and turn up that volume since I want to share some amazing gaming music. The rules of this series are simple, I have to pick the original version (remixes and game related music is for specials in this series), one song per article and per game series and try to never duplicate songs in the whole series. So, are you ready? I am! Let’s dive right into it while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below!

Electronic Super Joy 2 (PC) – Very Nice

My platform skills aren’t the best ones out there. Yet, the Electronic Super Joy series always pulls me back into trying to beat several levels and I have major trouble not trying since the music… The music in this game is such a blast to listen to.

One of my favorite music genres is electro and dance. And the epicenes that this track provides during gameplay is just mind-blowing. I have to admit that I have a hard time focussing on the game while this track is playing, since various amazing scenes are playing in my head of the little guy jumping his heart out from platform to platform.

There is another track in Electronic Super Joy 2, called “Cuts” that gives me a similar vibe. And for some reason, the intro… it reminds me of the start of a Sabaton song. Oh, well.

In any case, I really like the soundtrack of this game and I play it quite often while I’m working or writing for my blog. S give this track a listen and give the other tracks in the OST a listen. You might want to replay the games again, like me.

Dusk (PC) – Dusk

Imagine, you open a retro FPS and prepare yourself to explore a grim and dark world filled with enemies that want you dead. A metal track that is not only ominous but also pumps you up, starts playing. If only it wouldn’t be over the top that you see an action filled montage during this track.

That’s how the main menu of Dusk hits the player. If you want to know my opinions on the game, I have written an article on Dusk in the past. But, it was one of the first games that I played with Andrew Hulshult’s music, and I really fell in love with his work. I have recommended his work several times in the past, but he really deserves it, in my honest opinion.

The power his music brings to the game is amazing. The game is several times better with it. While playing Dusk, I really felt somewhat creeped out but pumped up and ready to defeat the Lovecraftian enemies that the game was throwing at me. And now, I want to play Dusk again… great.

Prey (2017) (PC) – The Phantoms

Prey is an intense game. It’s a game that has me on edge because of the mimic mechanic, everything that jump out at you. That innocent chair might be a mimic waiting to attack you.

So, you tiptoe around being careful that you don’t get jumped in that deserted spaceship when suddenly even larger enemies start to show up. The phantoms.

And then this tense and glitched out techno/electro track starts playing. I really love the battles with the phantoms, and the tense/glitched out music really add to the urgency of those fights and make them even more memorable.

Since I have written an article on the game, I haven’t gotten the time to beat it yet, but I’m really planning to do so since this game and the core mechanics are so enjoyable that I really want to see it through to the end. I’m currently about 60% done with the game so, I’m really surprised that I started focusing on other games while the story is getting pretty tense. Oh well, I’m sensing a theme in this article… Now, I really want to play Prey again.

The Great Ace Attorney (Switch) – The Core

There is this game I really want to write about and that’s “The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles” on the Nintendo Switch. Two games which first had no plans to get localized and out of nowhere, these two games with all the extra cases and DLC got localized in one package for us on the Nintendo Switch.

While I’m still bummed out that we don’t get a physical version here in Belgium, I’m still playing this game and making a lot of progress with my buddy Adventure Rules for our collab.

We are making something quite unique, and we want to do it good. It’s taking us such a long time because we are both busy people AND because the idea we have is a lot of work to pull off right. But, I’m certain you will love it when it comes out. Keep an eye out on our twitters to be kept up-to-date on our progress. But, for now, I’ll leave you with this amazing tense track from the game to hype the collab up again. 🙂

Conclusion

I have a list of music tracks I want to write about in this series but, when I looked at my list today, I noticed a few tracks to make a nice theme. So, the theme is the title, and it’s twofold. The idea is that I wanted to talk about tracks from games I still want to finish, and that I wanted to “restart” playing to listen to them again.

But, I think most of you have realized that play on words already. So, with that said… I’m going to wrap up the article here. Since, as I said in the intro, I went to a garage sale and I really want to start playing the games I found but didn’t want to skip another week in writing. That’s why this article is a bit shorter than my usual articles.

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

Game Quicky: Superliminal (Switch) ~ Objects are differently shaped than they appear.

Nintendo.com micrositeWikipedia entry

I remember seeing a game floating around on the internet many years ago. I even bookmarked the page I saw it on, since I wanted to keep myself up-to-date on future updates. It looked extremely cool and had a lot of potential to have amazing puzzles and mind binding twists. But that was in 2014-2015 if I remember correctly. Then, I honestly forgot about the game, and it fell off my radar. Not too long ago, I was cleaning out my overload of bookmarks and I suddenly found that game again. That reminded me about the game and when I suddenly saw it on my Nintendo Switch eShop that evening, I knew that I had to buy it right away. So, the game released a year ago, and I totally forgot about it. Oh well, that’s no big deal. Since, now, I have a lot of time to find out if my expectations were correct or if I shouldn’t have started playing this game. Now, while I have beaten the game now, I’m going to review this game in my game quicky style of articles since it’s rather short. But more on that later, let’s find out if this game is good or not, while I invite you to leave a comment with your thoughts and/or opinions in the comment section down below.

Objects are better shaped than they appear.

In this game, you are taken on a trip to the Pierce Institute to help test a new technology. This new technology is to help people with therapy using dreams. In these dreams, you can manipulate objects in some very strange ways. But, since this is a video game, something goes wrong. Instead of waking up, you get stuck inside the dream world due to Emergency Exit Protocol failing for whatever reason. So, it’s up to you to figure out why and to leave the dreamworld.

Now, I wish I could say more, but it would spoil the amazing story and strong message that this game has. This game is, give or take, 3 hours long if you only want to beat it and not 100% complete it. The story telling and voice acting in this game is so well crafted. The game spoke to me on a personal level several times. The game is also filled with some amazing life advice, and I’m so glad I played through it.

The main mechanic in this game is that perspective matters. A lot. You can enlarge or shrink certain objects in this game, so you can reach higher ledges or jump over huge gaps. The best way I can explain it, is if you go away from objects, they appear to “shrink” and when you get closer, they appear to “enlarge”. Now, image that when the “shrinking” or “enlarging” is happening, the object actually takes those dimensions. So, suddenly the cheese wheel can become a giant ramp for you to walk on. If you don’t really understand what I’m trying to explain here, take a look at these gifs, I think they might explain it way better.

I’m not going to show more or explain more of the mechanics since, it would ruin the surprises and the unique and amazingly crafted puzzles that this game has. This game can become quite tricky, but remember, it’s all a matter of having the right perspective and understanding the space you are in. Each section introduces its own unique spin or mechanic on the perspective puzzle theme, and it’s just great. I had so much fun trying to figure them all out.

Something that surprised me is that with the various elements that this game has and with the unique shrink/enlarge mechanics, it’s so well optimized. I didn’t experience any slowdowns nor did I experience any graphical glitches. Now, this is when you play the game normally. And why am I saying this? Well, it’s because the game actually encourages you to speedrun it once or twice. The Steam achievements of this game are ported over to the Nintendo Switch version. And I think I might give it a go myself one day. The controls of this game are solid enough and I think they are responsive enough for me to speedrun this game. I learned them extremely quickly and mastered them fast as well.

It would be an amazing way to dive right back into this amazing adventure and to go through the well detailed levels again. Visually, this game is stunning. While I think that the game has some moments that might trigger players that aren’t too good with flashing lights, I was amazed with the detail and visual presentation that this game has. The game also has a lot of triggers, so you don’t softlock yourself. For example, if you shrink the exit door and throw it in a trash can, the exit door spits it right back out. One animation detail I loved is seeing all the different jokes the developer made with the loading screens. You’ll have to see it to understand what I mean, but they were a nice way to do something unique with a loading screen instead of having a boring static or short moving image…

Apart from the objects you can interact with, this game doesn’t have a lot of animations. But, the animations it does have pulled you into the game so much more. Including with the enjoyable sound design. It has been at least a month since I have beaten this game since I’m writing this article and I can still remember the sound effects, how the voice acting sound and how the music sounds.

Speaking about the music, most of the soundtrack of this game is extremely relaxing and sounds extremely dreamy. The great use of the piano and, which is the center instrument in this soundtrack, and it’s just lovely. It’s that lovely, I actually bought the game again on Steam since it includes the soundtrack and some official Lo-Fi remixes as DLC.

Objects are worse shaped than they appear.

So far, I’m talking quite positively about this game. While I enjoy this game an awful lot and I even dare to say that it wouldn’t surprise me that I put it on my top 10 games of 2021 list, I do have several things that I disliked about this game and that made the experience less enjoyable.

While I barely experienced any bugs, I did fall three times through the map in similar ways. Once, I was pushed out of the map when I made a way too big object fall on me. Another time I fell through the map when getting on the roof of a building and trying to get onto the wall (which wasn’t the solution, by the way) and I don’t remember what triggered the 3rd time. Thankfully, the game autosave quite often, so I didn’t lose too much progress. But, it was a bit annoying that there is no death plane underneath the maps that automatically reset you to the latest checkpoint. So, thankfully, you have the “reset” option in the game.

Something I feel extremely mixed about is the game’s length. This game is so short but the mechanics it has, have so much potential, it’s a shame. I really think that this game should have a sequel where even trickier puzzles are introduced. On the other hand, due to the short length, the story has barely any bloat or unneeded sections and flows extremely nicely. Let’s just say that I’m quite jealous of the Steam workshop features that the PC version has. While it’s amazing that I can take this game on the go and show it off to other people, I’m also glad I bought the PC version to not only have the DLC but play more of this game.

Now, while I personally had a ton of fun with this game… When I really look at the game and take a step back… In terms of gameplay, this game could have been so much stronger. I honestly have to agree with what other critics are saying about this game to a certain degree. That some mechanics are seriously underused. Not to say that the puzzles in this game are bad, far from it. I think the biggest issue is that the games’ hooks are so good that the short length to conserve the story flow actually hurt it somewhat. I do heavily disagree with the “lackluster” story. But that’s maybe because it spoke to me on a personal level.

But, yeah, the underused mechanics are such a shame. Yet! Don’t care because it’s over, be happy that it happened. And maybe play some custom-made workshop levels via the Steam version. Meanwhile, I’m crossing my fingers for a sequel or DLC content to expand on the universe and lore of this game.

Objects’ true sizes

So, in conclusion. What do I think of the Switch version of this game? Is it worth your time, or should you buy another version or totally skip this game? Personally, I would highly recommend this game. But, do play it in one sitting. I personally think that the message that the story has it that much stronger when you get it all in one go.

The big novelty of the Switch version is that you can easily take it on the go. Of course, with the right laptop you can also take this game on the go, but the Switch is more convenient. But know that this game’s short length might annoy you, since like I explained earlier, the hooks of the game are that good. If you want to get the most out of this game, I think that the PC version might be the better option here, since it looks like it’s more actively developed, and it has the Steam Workshop with custom content!

Overall, this game does do a lot right. It has a strong story, fun and unique mechanics, amazing atmosphere, great visual presentation but due to some minor bugs and especially the short length, this game might be a difficult sell for some people. But if anything sounded interesting from what I have said in this article, please give this game a go. I really meant in what I said earlier. I wouldn’t surprise me if this game turns up in my top 10 games of 2021 list.

If you are interested in this game, I highly recommend going as blind as possible in this game. Reading too much about this game will ruin various surprises and twists this game takes. It’s like the Stanley Parable. A great short game that leaves so much impact on me as a player, and maybe it does with you too. And if it doesn’t have the same strong impact on you, you might have played a unique puzzle game that challenge your perception abilities and skills. Since, I think this game found the right perception.

What that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. I hope you enjoyed reading this article and 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

Want to read another review of this game? Well, visit my friend Indiecator, Dan or Magi and read his review here: https://indiecator.home.blog/2021/11/11/indietail-superliminal//

First Impression: We Happy Few (PC – Steam) ~ Pop Goes The Joy

Wikipedia pageSteam pageOfficial website

Being happy is a wonderful thing. Now imagine that you can take a happiness pill that makes you happy and joyful all the time. And on top of that, imagine that participation is mandatory, and you live in bliss… That’s the situation we have in We Happy Few, the game I want to talk about today. Now, to say that this game had a rocky release with a lot of bugs and glitches is an understatement. But, now that the game isn’t in early access and out for several years and the last update being from 2019, I think it’s the best time to take a good look at this game and if it’s really worth our time or that we should pop a Joy to cover up this game. Also, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and/or opinions on the content of this article and/or this game. Ready, let’s go!

Pop goes the Joy

In We Happy Few, we take on the role of Arthur. Somebody who is working for the newspaper and censoring unhappy articles. When he suddenly sees a picture of his brother, he gets a lot of flashbacks that makes him stop popping his mandatory Joy. What is Joy? Well, like I explained in the introduction paragraph of this article, it’s a drug that makes people extremely happy and that’s mandatory to take or else you will be killed or exiled to the slums. People who don’t take Joy and don’t see the dangers of the world be camouflaged by the drug’s effects are called Downers and are shunned by all the Joy takers.

Now, how did the world get to this place? Well, that’s something for you to find out. The concept and setup of this game is excellent and I personally think it’s amazing. I feel like I’m playing a game like Bioshock or Prey again. Somewhat open-world yet linear-ish games that take you on a journey through a deep and rich story. And from what I have played so far, We Happy Few certainly delivers upon that front in my opinion.

Couple this with amazing voice acting that really helped me to get even more immersed into the world and the game, I don’t have any complaints about the story and the delivery. The pacing is also good. Everything gets some depth, but it doesn’t stay on one subject for too long. Some sections feels a bit too small in my opinion but thinking about it again, it would ruin the great world building that this game does.

I can forgive the fact that there are a lot of lines repeated when you talk to the townsfolk because the way the towns are populated adds so much to the atmosphere, and it makes the game even more immersive. The fact I can interact with every person on the street, and they play a random line with the accompanying animation, it’s delightful. If this concept is tried again, I think it would be great if it had a bit more lines and variations between the townsfolk.

Anyways, that’s more then enough about the story and the setting. Let’s talk about the other aspects of this game. It’s possible that even when this game has a nice story and setting, the game isn’t fun to play. Remember that I talked about various technical issues in the opening paragraph of this article? Well, I’m sad to say that there are still several technical issues. Thankfully, most of them are visual oddities but nothing game breaking anymore. I once had a dead enemy instead of dying, t-posing and following me around the map.

Only I time during a mission, I was afraid that my save file got cursed by a technical glitch, but exiting and restarting the game solved that issue with me loosing only 2-ish minutes of progress, since that isn’t too bad. The auto-saving in this game works miracles! And you can still manually save whenever you wish in 10 save slots just in case you want to experiment in this game. Or want to make a safety save or make a safe you can use whenever you want to also finish side quests.

Emotional Telephone Booths

You could play this game without using any Joy, but I highly recommend against it. Simply because it isn’t that much fun always running from everybody, and the stealth in this game isn’t that good to hide away. Since, when you are seen, you can’t hide until you are off the radar, and you find a good spot. And if you think, let’s fight the enemies then… Do think again. Since, when you get violent, people act like Zombie Pigman in Minecraft. They make other people around you hostile, and you quickly get piled up.

In those moments, it’s recommended you find a telephone booth to pop Arthur’s favorite strawberry Joy and try to go to an area where the folks people aren’t angry at you. Since, the Joy is a timed mechanic. At the upper left part of your screen, you see a sort of timer that indicates for how much longer you under the effects of Joy. When that meter runs out, you better find a source of Joy OR hide from the surrounding people, since not taking Joy is a crime. Oh, and don’t overdose on Joy either since that’s going to be a bad trip.

So, how does this game play like? Well, this game is more a sort of adventure game. You can pick up various items to either play this game more stealthy, or play like me and go all in and don’t care about what happens. The difficulty of this game highly depends on how good you understand the mechanics of this game. Do you understand the crafting system and where each item spawns or do you understand how to skill tree works and how to use your points to buy the best abilities…

Something that you will have to understand is how the compass at the middle of your screen works. It tells you a lot about your situation and nearby quests. You can even select which quest you are tracking, like in the Fallout games. I wish other games had that too, since in Prey for example… You have several tracks on the screen that all lead to your active quests. Sometimes markers even say: “multiple objectives”.

There are several other mechanics in this game like a hunger, thirst and sleep system. While those meters can deplete, they don’t affect the game too much, sadly. Most of the effects in the game you have from this system is that your stamina depletes a bit faster, and you have to attack more. It’s a shame, really, since it could be an amazing mechanic. It feels undercooked and it shows. The fact that finding food and drinks in the world isn’t easy, or beds for that matter.

So, when you lose all your health, you get set back at the latest checkpoint, and you can try again. Overall, the game is somewhat forgiving in my opinion. I have seen games that are more difficult. I personally felt I was able to breeze through the game somewhat and if I did die or hit a roadblock, just trying it again from another angle seemed to help. During my playthrough, I didn’t have a lot of weapons, so I had to improvise and running in the open fields with a quickly recharging stamina bar helped me quite a lot. Since, most enemies aren’t THAT fast.

Something this game does quite well in the UI. I find the UI spotless and to the point. You get a lot of information without it having too much information or getting confusing. Some things in the UI are a bit clunky, like how you can’t multicraft or discard multiple items at once when you are overburdened, but I got extremely quickly used to it.

While this game has some minor negatives, I find this game quite enjoyable to play. I really like solving the puzzle in taking just enjoy Joy and the right items to craft the right things, so I can survive another mission and encounter. Since, experiencing the humor and world building that this game provides is so fitting for the gameplay and so enjoyable.

To Joy or not to Joy

I could start and go nitpicking on how certain animations look a bit weird or how some bodies ragedoll extremely weird, but honestly, I think it doesn’t really matter because the art team of this game did an amazing job on this game. Not only does this game run smoothly on my 1050Ti, it also looks pretty good.

I really have to applaud the effort in the difference you can see if you are or aren’t under the influence of Joy. It looks very differently depending on if you take or don’t take any Joy. And it even looks different when you overdose or take drugs. Speaking of which, I really like the intrusive messages that discourage drug use in real life. It talks about how your combat abilities in the game are improved, but it has very negative and different effects in real life.

Apart from some very occasional nitpicks, visually this game looks great, and I’m sure it’s going to hold up for quite a while. The lush fields and the amazing cities with a lot of attention to detail are really commendable. No wonder that with so much visual stuff going on, that sometimes residents are sitting on the air in front of a bench. You can’t simply account for every edge case. If I can give one sort of nitpick in terms of the visuals, I think a bit more character models for the citizens would be great since once I tried to get the whole city to chase me and I did see a LOT of duplicates… I don’t mind duplicates, but if you have 10-ish of the same guy chasing you… ah well, it ruins the good character model just a bit.

On top of this great visual design, you have some amazing sound design. The sound effects in this game are great. They fit the art style and the atmosphere quite well, and it gave me the right information to assess the situation. And not only that, it helped to immerse me quite a lot into this game. The little sirens for example to let you know you are caught and people are looking for you are a great tool to know you have to escape and hide until the sirens stops.

If you have read my blog in the past, you know I find the music in a game quite important. And does this game deliver? Yes. Yes, it does. The soundtrack is quite pleasing and fits the atmosphere quite well. It wouldn’t surprise me that I’m going to add the soundtrack to my playlists after I have played the game a bit more or if I have beaten it. Actually, I think I might just add it to my playlists after publishing this article.

All in all, this game highly surprised me when I saw the trailer, and I was afraid when I heard the news of the technical issues. But, then I gave this game a try and I have to say that I really like this game. It has its quirks that I had to get used to but it didn’t take long before I was running around with the fluent and responsive controls. I might have to learn the combat system a bit more, but I panic too easily in those sorts of situations and I tend to “mash the attack button and strafe” mostly. Whoops.

Do I recommend this game? Yes, I do. I highly recommend this game to everybody who enjoys playing adventure games in the genre of Bioshock, Prey, Alice in Wonderland… but might want to have a bit less shooting action in the game. It’s a unique game that really deserves a chance. It won’t be a perfect, flawless experience, but it doesn’t matter. And no, I didn’t take a Joy to write this segment. I really do enJoy … sorry, lame pun. I really do enjoy playing this game and can’t wait to see how it continues. Together with Prey, this game is going to fill my summer quite nicely. A summer full of joy and amazing adventures, one in space but this one… it’s an adventure on earth were not following the norm is going to move you forward and it teaches some nice life lessons when you think about it in that way.

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

First Impression: Final Fantasy X (PS2) ~ Soccer under water.

Wikipedia entry

So, my vacation recently started, and I felt like playing some games I have in my collection for years but haven’t really played. One of these games is Final Fantasy X on the PS2. A game I started playing this year, but I haven’t gotten the time to start really playing this game. I was even afraid in 2019 that I wouldn’t be able to start playing these two games. But now I have a whole summer to play games, and work inside my apartment. So, was it a good idea to pick Final Fantasy 10 to play during this holiday, or should I start looking for another game? Well, let’s find out together in this first impression article if I think it’s worth our time or if we should skip this game for another one. While I invite you, the reader, to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and/or opinions on the game and/or the content of this article. And no, it’s a coincidence that I pick this RPG with fantasy soccer elements on the day that the final of the European Championship is being played. (That little bit would have worked, if only I was able to finish the article on that day.)

Blitz soccer under water

While writing this article, I found out that this game got an remaster way back in 2016. But, when I was able to pick up this game, and it’s sequel for €5 in my local game store second hand… Well, let’s just say I quickly decided to play the originals. Now that I’m admitting things, I think it’s a good thing to also “admit” or rather inform my readers that I haven’t played a lot of games in the Final Fantasy series. If my memory serves me correctly, this is one of the first Final Fantasy games I really started playing in-depth. I have started playing Final Fantasy 7 and other Final Fantasy titles, but for some unknown reason, I didn’t continue playing them.

Anyway, enough introductory rambling. It’s time to explain the (start) of the story of this game. So, this game opens with Tidus, a blitzball player from Zanarkand who is playing in a memorial cup. This memorial cup is to honor his father, a legendary player who went missing 10 years ago. The memorial cup for Jecht (Tidus’ father) has barely started and a big monster attacks the metropolis. Together with Auron, our main character Tidus is swept away. Who is Auron? Well, he is somebody who was looking after Tidus right after his father went missing and Tidus’ mother died.

Now, where is our Tidus swept away to? To Spira. A world where he barely knows the customs and languages. There, Tidus learns that Zanarkand has been destroyed over 1000 years ago by a being named Sin. And not only that, it turns out the Zanarkand is a holy land.

It doesn’t take long before Tidus’ blitzball skills are discovered by the locals and he enters a tournament. There, he meets various characters like the summoner Yuna. Together with her crew, Yuna is taking a pilgrimage to Zanarkand to destroy Sin. And you can bet on it that Tidus’ joins Yuna’s crew since he wants answers.

A lot of this game is voice acted. If you google this game together with “voice acting”, you get a LOT of varied opinions. From it being the worst they ever heard to being good. Personally, I think the voice acting is a bit on the weak side. I think the biggest issue is the pacing and delivery of the lines. Now, what I mean here is that the delivery of the English lines doesn’t always match the actions on screen. For example, there is a scene where you just enter a village, and you get stopped to get the prayer explained. But, there is a strange pause between the “Oh right, hold up” line and the character actually pulling you aside.

Overall, the writing so far is decent. All the unknown customs and languages are as confusing to us players then they are to our main character. If only the English voice acting was a bit more fine-tuned to give the story a bit more impact, a bit more “umphf” you know. Since there are moments that really have great voice acting, but it isn’t consistent, and it feels unpolished and a tad bit rushed.

Now, I could keep talking about the voice acting and story for a while but since I haven’t beaten the game yet, I think I’ll wait to talk about it more in depth for when I have finished this game and/or I have finished the sequel. Since then, I’ll have a way more clear picture on what the whole game and if it’s really that bad that the internet is actually saying. The only thing I want to say for now is that after 5 hours of playing, this game is a tad bit slow on the story side.

It’s battle time

This game is at its core an RPG. You explore the world while you have random battles with enemies to increase your stats. Besides that, you have a whole blitzball game to play as well. Currently, I haven’t played enough of the game to comment too in depth about blitzball. So, I’m going to focus mainly on the RPG gameplay. The battle system in this game your classic turn based affair. So, that means that if you have played RPG’s before, it won’t take you long before you get into this one.

One of the unique mechanics in this game is the Sphere Grid. I could try and explain it but I found that the Final Fantasy wiki has an excellent explanation. So, props to the writer(s) of that section of the wiki since it’s one of the best explanations of this interesting and fun to play with mechanic I was able to find.

At the end of each battle every party member that took at least one full turn earns AP. Characters who are switched out during their first turn, KO’d, or petrified at the end of the battle will not gain AP. If the player defeats the enemy using an aeon, then Yuna will be treated as having taken a turn even if she only summoned.

When enough AP is earned, the character gains a Sphere Level (“S.Lv“). The amount of AP needed to generate Sphere Levels increases progressively until the character has acquired 101 S.LV, after which an additional Sphere Level will always require 22,000 AP. When moving about the Sphere Grid, the character may move one node forward for each S.LV they have. The player does not need to activate a node to pass by it. Regardless of activation, when the player passes a node, a colored band connects their current node to the node they left to mark their path on the grid. Moving across previously connected paths allows the character to move four nodes for every S.LV they have.

Each character’s starting location on the grid indicates their strengths and weaknesses based on the variety of nodes in their section, though the player can choose to take the character down a different path using Key Spheres. The character-specific sections merge at certain points, allowing a character to take another’s path. The character-specific sections are separated by locked nodes, which become empty nodes once opened, allowing free movement. Ultimately, every node on the Sphere Grid may be accessed by every character.

https://finalfantasy.fandom.com/wiki/Sphere_Grid

The Sphere Grid makes the combat even more interesting. Something that this game does extremely well is teaching the mechanics and the strategies in battles to the player. It doesn’t overwhelm you with all the mechanics of this game in one go, but it steadily builds up until every mechanic has been covered. While I love RPG’s, I always have a hard time getting into the deeper meta of the game and I barely remember several things like what’s effective against what. Thankfully, in the towns, there is a station where you can re-read every tutorial from the game to refresh your memory. I love touches like these in games since it makes the game more accessible whilst the difficulty doesn’t suffer.

Speaking about difficulty, since you have full control over the Sphere Grid, you can somewhat decide that for yourself. I think this is an excellent idea how to handle difficulty. This way more veteran players can make the game more difficult by not unlocking everything on the grid while for more casual players, the game can become “easier” by unlocking the whole grid.

Something that really surprised me is the fact you can control Tidus via the D-pad. I honestly expected that since this game is on the PS2, only the joystick would move him. But that isn’t the case. You can control him with both. Overall, the controls of this game are quite well done. They are responsive and intuitive. Even when I put the game down for several months in February and picked it back up for this summer vacation, I was able to get the hang of the controls extremely quickly.

Also, the small map/radar helps quite a lot while exploring the area’s you come across. The yellow arrow is you and the red arrow is the next major objective. I’m really curious how that’s going to work when I’m further in the game and I hope it doesn’t take away the joy of trying to find the way to your next location. Since sometimes it’s a lot of fun, getting lost in the RPG world. That’s why I love playing games like Dragon Quest.

A bit stiff

I’m not that picky when it comes to the visuals of a game. I don’t mind if a game hasn’t the best visuals or looks from yesteryear, what matters to me is that the visual presentation is consistent with a nice art style that isn’t too hard on the eyes, fits the theme and atmosphere of game and helps me to pull me into the game. But, there are something’s in this game I want to talk about.

While overall, the visual presentation of this game looks quite good, I do notice some visual hiccups here and there. I honestly can’t tell if that’s because of the composite switch I’m using, my PS2 disc or something else, but I have noticed some visual issues. In one cutscene, you could see how Tidus’ hair is modeled, since it blurred out the background on the empty spots.

Maybe I notice these imperfections more easily since I have been reviewing games for over 11 years now and I might have developed an eye for it. But, there are some things that I really don’t like in terms of animation for this game. For example, I find the somewhat slow run cycle of Tidus so unnatural, it’s honestly almost comical in my opinion. Also, I have seen some strange movements from Yuna during her first cutscenes.

It’s a real shame, since this there is a lot that this game does right in terms of the visual presentation. The battle animations look amazing, and I have seen environments that still hold up in my opinion. But, it’s a bit stiff and rough on some edges. Things that could have been patched out if the game was to release in the modern gaming industry.

Now that I have talked about the visual presentation, I think it’s high time I also talk about the audiovisual presentation. Let’s first talk about the music. The orchestral soundtrack of this game has Final Fantasy written all over it. The classic victory tune and the hints to the original theme in the theme of this game are excellent. When I’m listening to game soundtracks, I rarely skip Final Fantasy soundtracks and this game is one of them. Great soundtrack!

That also goes for the audio in this game. There are a lot of ambient sound effects that pull you more into the atmosphere of the visual design. There were some moments where I felt that some additional sound effects could have helped… like with a silent waterfall. But then again, it might run the excellent sound mixing this game has going on… So yeah.

Now, I want to mention a nitpick. There isn’t a way to quickly skip long animations and/or cutscenes. So, yeah. That’s quite annoying if you are in a rush to get somewhere since you got a game over, and you haven’t manually saved at a save stone in a while. Thankfully, I’m that kind of player who saves at every opportunity I can, just in case…

The final thing I want to touch upon in this first impression is the camera. All in all, the camera in this game is good, but sometimes it doesn’t follow the main player well enough and the main character almost goes off-screen before the camera angle switches. Thankfully, the map helps in these moments, but hey, it could have been better.

Overall, I’m quite happy that I’m giving this game a chance during my summer vacation break. While this game is showing its age in the visual department and that complaint is mostly fixed with the remaster… I do still enjoy playing the original version of the game. The only thing that really bothers me is the mediocre voice acting, which breaks some tension of the story. But, thankfully, it’s great voice practice for me since my folk theater group is restarting after the… let’s just say… the “covid-break”. So, I can try to act it out myself how I would have preformed that line.

While I could have gone more in depth on certain aspects of this game, I’m going to keep that for the review when I have fully beaten this game. I’m really curious if certain opinions are going to change. And with that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game for now. I want to thank you so much for reading, and I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another one, but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!