Tag Archives: Gear

NekoJonez’s May 2020 Update

NekoJonez176p_(long)Hello, there my dear readers. I think it’s high time to write an update article to talk about a few things that are going on behind the scenes. Since there is a lot going in the world and in my personal life. This update article might be brief, but I hope you will still enjoy reading it. Anyways, let’s get right into the news!

The amazing GIF has been made by the amazing Gao Li.

Personal life

So, due to COVID-19, the world is in a strange place. Currently, in Belgium (where I live), we are in the process of exiting our lockdown. The schools are going to somewhat resume, the companies will restart their production, stores will reopen… Of course, step by step.

During the lockdown, I didn’t sit still at all. I’m working on a ton of projects and putting in a lot of effort into my job. Speaking of my job, something amazing happened! My dream job since childhood has always been working in a school. When I started to develop my passion for computer science, I wanted to become an IT guy at a big school. In December 2019,  I started working in a school in Ghent parttime as my dream job. But, after the week after the Easter Holidays, something magical happened. I got that job full time now. So, yes. I’m now working full time in my dream job. I can’t honestly believe this happened to me. Thank you!

So, I have been spending quite a lot of time on my job. Since a ton of schools now switched to online classes, the IT staff has a ton of support work. There were days that I helped teachers from the early morning until late in the evening. That means that I sometimes didn’t have time to prepare and/or write an article for my blog.

On top of that, my theatre group started something quite unique. We are acting out our version of a popular TV game show here in Belgium called “De Slimste Mens Ter Wereld”. Freely translated, this means: “The Smartest Person on the Planet”. Sadly enough, there isn’t an English article to be found of the show, so I can’t link it to explain the whole format.

Now, the original person who was editing the whole show wasn’t able to continue working on the show. That means that somebody else has to take over. And I’m one of the only people in the group who has the skills and the expertise to actually edit the show. The show airs on Monday – Wednesday, and Fridays. Now, I work to give or take 10 – 15 hours on each episode. So guess what that means, even less time to prepare articles for my blog.

On top of that, there are a few things happening in my private life that makes my life even busier. Things like me studying a new programming language and developing a tool for some friends of mine. So yeah, I haven’t sat still these days.

Blog news

Now, besides working on all the personal projects mentioned above, there are a few things that are blog related as well. Currently, I have 3 developer requests in the pipeline and I have some friends who wanted me to look at their game to help them out in the next projects.

I’m going to try to write these developer requests first before I write about any other games. That means I have to remake my whole schedule. But that isn’t such a big deal.

Currently, I want to focus my time and energy on my job and my theatre group. I think that this isn’t going to come as a surprise, but I think that May might be a big light on articles. Since I’m working on so many things, I don’t always have the time, creativity, energy, and/or motivation to work on an article each week. With a bit of luck, I might be able to publish two articles this month instead of four, but we shall see. It’ll all depend on the time I can put into my blog and prepare myself. Honestly, I prefer delaying an article instead of rushing one out of the door.

To give you an idea to show you how busy I have been, I have published over 500 articles by this point and I haven’t written a special article about it yet. On top of that, I have been blogging for 10 years now! So yeah, there will be a special article for that in the (near) future!

Besides that, I’m also working on fixing a ton of things on my blog. From typos to fixing dead links, broken images, and things like that. Also, I’m toying around with the idea to move my website to a hosting service. But, I’m not 100% sure about that, and undertaking that project will be for the summer holidays at the earliest.

Apart from that, I currently own an XBOX360 now. One of my friends sold his one and I bought it from him. So, that means I might be able to write reviews and articles about XBOX and XBOX360 games in the future. Are there any games I should check out? Feel free to leave a comment about that.

And with that, I have said everything I wanted to say. I’m sorry for the shorter length of the article but that’s all I have time for now. I hope you still enjoyed reading this article and I hope to be able to welcome you to another article in the future. But until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Publishing: Silicon Dreams – A New Kickstarter Release

CWB final front page img_cog aligned_wide.png

Hello there, dear readers. Jonez here. Before I let you enjoy the presskit of Silicon Dreams, I want to give you some background information. This game is under development by Clockwork Bird. This studio is the studio that also brought us Spinnortality. A game I took a look at in the summer of 2017. Today they are presenting their new game and the Kickstarter to fund the development. At first, I wanted to write an article about it but due to the lack of time, I was unable to get an article out before the end of the Kickstarter. That’s why I’m publishing the press kit for now. But don’t worry, you will get an article on this game later down the line since the idea behind the game interests me and I’m looking forward to telling you what I think about it. But in any case, without further ado… Here is the press release!

SDLogo_Now on Kickstarter.png

Short pitch

Interrogate androids in this cyberpunk conversation sim. Question androids, manipulate their emotions, gain their trust. Will you expose their secrets to the company, or risk everything to help them achieve independence?

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Long pitch

Artificial intelligence: it’s never been more advanced, more convincing or more affordable! Believable humanoid androids are as common as smartphones. A lawful and subservient android will be treated fairly. Renegades and non-conformists, or those that glitch too often, will, of course, be terminated.

It is your job to tell us which is which. Company policy encourages:

  • Investigation: delve into an android’s life story to truly understand them.
  • Emotional manipulation:  if an android trusts you it is more likely to share its secrets; if it’s angry, it may let something slip; or, perhaps it could be frightened into obedience?
  • Diagnosis: does the android conform to manufacturer specifications?
  • Action: should this android be wiped, or is it fit to return to service?
  • DO NOT allow glitched androids to escape. Our top priority is easing customer anxiety about “rogue androids” and “liberation movements”; we cannot afford to feed into that panic.

Company note: sympathizers who throw around words like “exploitation” and “slavery” will be terminated.

Kickstarter:
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1870604859/silicon-dreams-interrogate-androids-in-a-cyberpunk-future

SDLogoFinalv5_KS_centred

Demo: https://clockwork-bird.itch.io/silicon-dreams

Trailer: https://youtu.be/X7tOQh3r7ao

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Screenshots

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First Impressions: Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition (Switch) ~ Grand Adventure

DragonQuestXISPackshotLarge

Nintendo.com micrositeWikipedia entry

Today we are going to talk about a game with a lengthy title. It’s also a quite lengthy game to boot. I mean, this game clocks in at giving or take 60 hours of playtime. Now, in the past, I talked about other games in the series like Dragon Quest IX and Dragon Quest Builders and it’s sequel Dragon Quest Builders 2. But now it’s time to look at and talk about the newest game in the series. The 11th entry got an expanded edition on the Nintendo Switch and that’s what I have been playing for the last couple of days. And I think I’m ready to give my opinion on the question if you should spend your time, money and effort in this game or that the adventure isn’t worth it. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

Grand Classical Adventure

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In this game, you play as a nameable hero. You start off in the village of Cobblestone where you partake in a coming of age ritual. It doesn’t take long before things start to go south. Well, it turns out that you are the Luminary, a legendary hero chosen by the world tree Yggdrasil to save Erdrea from evil.

Now, here is the catch. You go to the King to provide your services and things go even more south. The King accuses you of bringing evil upon his land and throws you into the dungeon. So, the stage is set for a grand adventure to prove yourself and save the world before the actual evil entity destroys the world.

The main plotline itself is nothing to really write home about. After playing Dragon Quest Builders 2, where your building was illegal, I felt that I already experienced a similar story in the franchise. Maybe I’m looking a bit too deep into this. Yet, the actual pacing and storytelling are way more enjoyable. The story turns into a journey from town to town where you have a smaller adventure in each town. It’s almost like an anime series where the hero and crew travel around the world.

The writing of this game is just amazing. From medieval speak to people speaking in English with a foreign accent, it’s just lovely. What I mean with a foreign account is that you clearly see the Spanish influences in the made-up language that they speak at some beach cities.

The voice acting really adds a lot to the personality of the characters. While some of the characters really follow some stereotype arcs, I really enjoyed the mix of characters in this game. The characters are written that well, I even started to shout right at some of the characters when they did something frustrating.

Currently, I’m not even halfway in the adventure and I have been enjoying myself throughout the story. I cannot wait to see where the story is going to take me next since the whole world seems massive and a blast to explore.

The Confused Light

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What is a massive world to explore without an interesting visual presentation? This game doesn’t disappoint in that area. One time I played Dragon Quest VII on my PlayStation 2 and I found that game extremely pretty. If you take that game and give it a 1080HD facelift, you get the visual presentation of this game. The world is colorful and extremely detailed to explore. It even has a day and night cycle that makes the world come alive.

Yet, it pains me to say it but I do have some things I disliked about the visual presentation. First of all, there are a few details that were missed while designing some towns. For example, in one of the towns, they forgot to add in a door at the backside of a store. I have posted a video about it on my Twitter. Notice how inside the store, the door is present and when you run behind the back, the door is suddenly nowhere to be seen.

Thankfully, these moments aren’t too frequent and overall, the world is extremely detailed. But, something that is somewhat broken is the triggers to change the lighting. Now, the lighting changes when you enter a building. That isn’t a problem until you start walking to edges of buildings and the light level already changes when you are still outside and next to a wall. Just look at this video I posted on my Twitter, where the ending shows off what I mean. Sadly enough, this problem occurs extremely frequently. Especially at night time and even more when the roof sticks out of the building or when the pathway has a roof itself.

It’s a shame since this is a problem that puts a damper on the excellent animation. I was extremely surprised to see characters actually react surprised or angry when you raided their cupboards or their belongings. Or the fact you can turn the camera around while in battle and see everything from every angle you wish.

Now, I think that the next issue I noticed has to do with memory management for the Nintendo Switch version but the render distance isn’t the best. This is something I can personally forgive since it affects the far off objects that get less detailed render. You can clearly see more detail appear in the frame when you walk up to it. On extremely rare occasions, the detail appears when you are just up close.

Automation

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This game plays like every other J-RPG and especially like most previous Dragon Quest games that came before it. I haven’t played all the Dragon Quest games, so I can’t tell you what’s unique in this title compared to the previous entries in the series.

If you haven’t played any of these games in the past, let me quickly explain it to you. While you take your party on a journey throughout the land, you fight various battles to make your characters stronger and let them learn new skills. With each won battle, your characters gain experience points. When they gain enough experience points, they gain a level. For each level, they get points that allow them to open up a skill in their skill tree.

There are a lot of different character classes that spice up the fighting style and gameplay. From characters that are meant for healing to characters that act as a sponge for all the attacks, better known as a tank. So, you have to choose your equipment wisely as well. You buy a strong shield for your tank and a strong wand for your healer.

There are two ways of battle encounters and this game has them both. On the overworld, the monsters are visible and roam around, so you can pick and choose your battles. Alas, while traveling in places that aren’t the overworld, like the sea, the battles are random and can happen at any moment. Thankfully, in most cases, you see the enemies so it’s not a mess to understand where which system is used.

So, during the adventure, you also have to solve puzzles where you have to look around the environment and dungeons for clues. These puzzles can range from conquering a dungeon to do a fetch side quest to using a monster to climb a crumbling building. A tight control scheme is essential for this type of games and I have to say that this game doesn’t disappoint. After you get used to the control scheme of this game, I have to say that it’s a blast to use. Some features are a bit too buried in menus for my liking but that might be the biggest complaint about that.

Everything is paired together with an amazing soundtrack and sound design. Now a lot of the soundtrack and sound effects sound extremely familiar when you have played previous games in the series. This isn’t a bad thing since this really helps to put the game into the Dragon Quest universe. Plus, the music still fits the atmosphere quite well and doesn’t get boring.

And with that said, I think I have said almost everything I wanted to say about this game for now. Because I’m not even halfway done with the game, I’m not going to talk more in-depth about the game for now. When I have finished the game, or put more hours into it, I might write a more in-depth review. But, at this moment I already reached a conclusion.

This game is one of the best games I have played on the Nintendo Switch when it comes to RPG’s. The expansive world and the amazing story is an amazing journey to take part in. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the adventure will bring since I’m enjoying myself with this adventure. I also highly recommend this game to every Dragon Quest fan, RPG fan, adventure game fan and people who are looking for a lengthy and expansive game to sink their teeth into. And if you want to know if the game is for you, you can download a free demo in the Nintendo eShop to try out the game before you buy it.

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

First Impressions: Wrath – Aeon Of Ruin (Steam) ~ Shall We Shoot Some Demons?

Wrath

Steam Store pageWikipedia EntryOfficial website

Well, well, well. Look at what we have here. A new 3D shooter published by 3D Realms of all companies. Last year, I took a look at Ion Fury, a game that emulates the atmosphere of a Duke Nukem game. Today, I’m taking a look at a game from KillingPixel called Wrath – Aeon of Ruin, a game that reminds me of Quake. Now, is this game worth your time or should you skip this game? Let’s take a look together at this tense old school looking 3D shooter and let’s try to answer that question together. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article down below. 

Editorial note: This game is still under development and early access. I’m basing myself on the game before and after the major update of February 25th, 2020 and the minor hotfix of February 27th, 2020 got released.

Shall We Shoot Some Demons?

20200308191332_1When I started this game for this first time, I felt like I started a sort of a cross between DreamKiller and Quake. Now, in this game, you play as an Outlander. You were adrift upon the Ageless Sea but you arrive on the shores of a dying world. This world is under attack from darkness. A strange figure cloaked in white robes called the Shepherd of Wayward Souls tasks you with finding the remaining Guardians of the Old World and save the world.

Now, from where did I get this story? Well, from the store page of course. Currently, the story isn’t really that present in the game.  I’m always a bit mixed with stories of shooter games. Sometimes they are really interesting and a joy to follow like DreamKiller and then you have games where the story doesn’t matter at all like Ion Fury.

But, the atmosphere of the game tells you the story of this game perfectly. The atmosphere of the game is quite dark and scary. A similar story is told through gameplay, but my only wish is the world gets a bit more fleshed out when the game fully releases and goes outside of “Early Access”.

Anyways, let’s focus more on the gameplay than on the story in this article. Since that’s what I was most excited about when I decided to purchase this game. I want to play a shooter game that took you on a sort of H.P. Lovecraft adventure and that’s what this game delivers in spades. You encounter various nasty demons that each have their own attack patterns.

This game isn’t the easiest of them all. This game can be quite challenging. If you don’t pay attention, you can be quickly overwhelmed and you will see the game over menu really quickly.

Forgotten Mechanics

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So, I was quite bumped out when I was unable to use my save file when the major content update happened. But, I completely understand why. The reason for that is that a new enemy has been added that changes up the gameplay quite drastically.

Now, there isn’t an autosave feature in this game. In order for you to save, you have to find and use Soul Tethers or find Shrines. These Soul Tethers are scattered around the game and with the press of a button, you save your game and create a respawn point. But, be careful when you use them since it sort of makes a save state. So, that means that every enemy and every projectile is also saved.

But, when you use them, a problem appears. The game hangs for a few seconds. At first, I thought I crashed the game. But, I haven’t had any crash with the game apart from one major annoying issue. During the loading screens when you go between locations, for example between a level and the hub area, the game can somewhat freeze. Do not click during the loading phase or your game can completely crash. And on top of that, don’t alt/tab out of the game during the loading phase since when you go back into the game, it freezes up and crashes.

Now, there is one very unique mechanic that I often forget that is in the game. And that’s the mechanic that you can extend your jump with your blade. When you charge your blade with the right mouse button and let it go, you fly forward for a bit at the height you let go. That means, when you let go during a jump, you can go over bigger gaps than usual. This mechanic is quite helpful to find secret areas.

But, how does this gameplay? What do you need to do in this game? Well, if you have played games like Ion Fury, Shadow Warrior, Wolfenstein 3D, DooM or Heretic, you know what to expect. The minor difference is that you have to find ruins instead of keys to open doors.

So, you start in a hub world where you can choose which level you start with. While that freedom is quite tempting, please be careful. Choose the first portal as the first level, since that gives you easy access to weapons. I first got stuck in the game since the later levels have a rough enemy placement.

Horror

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This game is still under development so sometimes you experience some glitches like the floating enemy in this screenshot. But, I feel like the visual presentation is finished.

The weapons are extremely fun to use and pack a great punch. I especially love the spike gun that shoots fangs as if it were a machine gun.  The animation that accompanies it is also lovely.

The visual theme of this game is quite gothic, H.P. Lovecraft. I even dare to say that some monsters give off a sort of Silent Hill vibe. Some monsters are especially creepy. I really get freaked out when those fang enemies are chasing me, those buggers are extremely fast and can throw you off your game. Especially when you are doing some crowd control and those buggers spawn.

Yes, spawn. When you step into an empty room it’s always possible that enemies spawn all around you. My advice is that you get used to the controls and mechanics as soon as you can since they will be put to the test. Thankfully, the controls are quite responsive so you can walk around quickly in these spooky areas.

So, it’s possible that when you enter an area or pick up a certain item that enemies spawn. You see the portals appear and the enemies drop. Sometimes they even spring from behind fake walls or from coffins. Those moments get on the edge of being a jump scare but for some reason, I don’t get as spooked. Most likely because I expect there to be enemies all around me.

The music and sound effects are amazing. I really like them all. Not surprisingly, it’s from the same guy who created the soundtrack from DUSK. His name is Andrew Hulshult and my dude, thank you for making this amazing soundtrack. It really adds to the tense atmosphere and makes the game even scarier.

I have already talked about the fact that this game is in early access. So, what are my wishes for the future? Which things would I love to see improved?

First of all, a sort of map screen would be lovely. Since I got lost a few times because I was running in circles.

Secondly, I think it would be a great help if you were able to see which weapon was next when you were scrolling for the next weapon. I love the system that Ion Fury used.

Thirdly, please polish the water mechanics. It’s quite unclear how low the ledges need to be in order for me to jump on them. I had situations where I was unable to get out of the lava and I had to wait until I was fully dead to restart my game. But in the level, the Mire, I had major frame drops when a ton of enemies spawned and later when I was swimming around in the underwater maze.

And lastly, have a better options menu layout. Don’t be afraid to use submenus. Since it feels like everything is crammed onto one screen because screens are bigger nowadays, but it feels a bit chaotic. On top of that, hide the resolutions that the computer and monitor can’t handle.

And that’s everything I wanted to say about this game for now. I’m quite excited to see what the future is going to bring with this game since I have been playing this game for a while now and it looks extremely promising.

I highly recommend this game to people who are interested in games like the old school 3D shooters or even modern shooters. Or modern old school shooters like Dusk and Ion Fury. It’s an amazing action 3D shooter that is only going to get better from here on out.

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

First Impression: Drawngeon: Dungeons of Ink and Paper (Switch) ~ Classroom Doodles Came To Life

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Nintendo.com micrositeDrageus pageOfficial Steam Page

As somebody who works in a school as an IT guy, I’m interested when a game does something that is somewhat school-related. Today I’m going to talk about a game that does something of that nature. Well, the connection might be a bit far fetched but hey, it’s there if you look far enough. So, today’s game is Drawngeon. The publisher Drageus Games gave me a press code for the Nintendo Switch version. In this game, a drawn dungeon comes to life. Now, this game is rather cheap so it might turn people off. But, should you be turned off by this game or is it totally worth your time? Let’s find out in this 100% my honest opinion game quicky review of this game. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below. 

Editorial note: During the play sessions and writing of this review, an update came out. It’s possible that some complaints might be fixed in a future version. This review is written on v1.0.3.

Classroom Doodles Came To Life

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In this game, you play as a nameable character that is going to explore the drawn dungeons of this world. I think that the store page explains the story better then I can explain it.

The life went on as usual in the Inkland, until the Tower has suddenly fallen straight from the sky!
Many heroes tried to solve its mystery, but none of them succeeded! Maybe it’s your turn to test yourself?

Explore the procedurally generated game world of the Inkland – dungeons, caves, forest and, of course, the Mysterious Tower. Who can reveal all the secrets of the Mysterious Tower?

For those who don’t know what “procedurally generated” means, let me quickly explain it. It means that every time you enter the game, the layout will be different. If you have ever heard about Pokémon Mystery Dungeon, it’s the same basic idea. I find this quite surprising in a good way. For a cheap game like this, the fact that you can replay this game multiple… well, it gives you even more bang for your 4-5 bucks (Depends if the game is on sale or not 😉 ).

This gives the game more variety as well.  Every playthrough will be different. There is a game that’s quite similar to this one in concept and that’s Delver and Eldritch.  These games throw you into a dungeon as well, where the layout and enemy placement is very different every time. And I enjoyed those two games quite a lot. What I’m saying is that I enjoyed my time quite a lot with this game.

The game looks amazing. It looks like somebody drew his whole ideal Dungeons and Dragons lay-out in a sketchbook during study hall or something of that nature. The little use of color makes the items you can interact with stand out that much more.

The further you get into the game, the more bonus material you unlock. These are mostly concept art but they are a nice view of the development of this game. Now, there is a collectable that makes a cat person like me extremely happy. There are a ton of hidden cats all over the map and they are a joy to collect!

The bad ones.

EReFQHkUYAE6jh1Now, the game looks quite nice. I mentioned that before. Yet, there are a few things that ruin the immersion a bit. For example, the game has a problem with slopes. You can look right through them from some angles. You can see an example in the screenshot here. The void or the textures from the block behind are clearly visible.

But that isn’t the only problem I have with the visual presentation of this game. The big issue I have comes with animation of especially the battles. During a battle, which isn’t turned based but rather in realtime, you get an indication that you got hit. But, there is no indication that you hit the enemy. Yes, the text underneath the playing field tells you that you did or didn’t do damage to the enemy but why isn’t this visually shown like hits on your character?

Now, I can totally understand that a game of this nature needs to have a certain difficulty curve. But this game’s difficulty curve is a bit too much. I have no problem with enemies taking 3 to 4 hits to kill when you start the game, but the damage you get versus the damage you can do is a bit too much. Similar games like Delver are more balanced and make the game a bit more enjoyable to play.

The controls are easy to get used to but I’m sorry, they have a few issues that I really didn’t like at all. The first big issue is turning. You can turn by using the left and right shoulder buttons. Personally, I would have used these as strafe buttons. So, basically switch the left and right arrows around with the shoulder buttons.

The second issue I have with the controls is inventory management. The fact that there is no tutorial section, makes it extremely difficult to easily figure out the mechanics of the inventory. It took me some time before I was able to throw items on the ground, move and equip them. This brings me to another issue with the UI. But more on that later.

The 3rd issue is the fact that there isn’t a run button. This makes exploring the map a bit boring. Especially when you are restarting for the 10th time. You have seen most of the early area and you want to get through it as quickly as possible.

When you equip a stat-boosting item, it appears that your stats stay unchanged. Your stats are displayed next to your character portrait and those stay the same no matter what you equip. In addition to that, I don’t even know or understand which stats are what. Now, the description of the items changes color when it’s an improvement but it’s in orange. Why not green or red like in any other RPG?

Not to mention, the inventory is a bit tricky to use. It’s extremely small, so you have to really think about what you take with you and what you leave behind. But, when you want to pick up an item and you don’t have enough room in your inventory, you get the same basic text: “Not enough room in your inventory.” So, you don’t know about what item you can’t pick up and how much space you need in your inventory.

The sound design is a hit and miss story. While the sound effects add to the immersion of this game, sadly there aren’t enough sound effects in the game. For example, the sound effects for most of the enemy’s movements are exactly the same for bats, spiders, and other monsters. This is a big shame since a lot of players use these sound effects to know which enemies are coming to properly prepare themselves. Now, the music or the lack thereof really adds to the atmosphere of the game. The music that’s present is really well done and gives off the tense atmosphere that the game has.

Something that I found, on one hand, interesting and on the other hand extremely annoying, is the fact that to level up or boost your stats, you have to go to a tree at the starting village. It’s an interesting way to level up your character but it’s annoying that you can’t do this in a menu like almost every other similar game.

And with all that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game, so I think it’s high time to wrap up this article with the conclusion and my thoughts on this game.

Conclusion

If you read this article, it might seem that this game has a ton of flaws. And I have to admit, this game has extremely rough edges that can frustrate a lot of players. But on the other hand, this game does have a lot of positives that make the game extremely enjoyable to play.

The big problem is that I have seen and played better games in this style. And even on the Nintendo Switch: One More Dungeon is an example. So, is this game a bad game? Well, yes and no. It has its problems and shortcomings but it also has a lot of strong points.

This game is like a broken phone screen. It still works and it’s still a decent way to use your phone but the more the cracks start growing and showing, the more you have to get used to the shortcomings or replace it with a better and more polished screen.

Honestly, I think that this game needed way more time to develop. Since the potential for an extremely enjoyable game is present in this game. But not in the version I have reviewed.

So, would I recommend this game? Yes, but with a disclaimer. Know that this game isn’t the best game you will ever play but it has a certain charm. To who would I recommend this game? To people who enjoy dungeon crawlers or games like Delver and One More Dungeon.

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

Score: 60/100

First Impression: Soul Warrior Merope (PC) ~ Featuring The Developer

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Itch.io pageDeveloper TwitterTrailer

Today I’m going to write a special article. Last year, a friend of mine created a game called “Soul Warrior Merope“. At first, he wanted to create this game for mobile platforms but due to some technical difficulties, the game has been released on PC. I promised him to write an article about the game to promote and here we are. I’m sorry mate that it took so long for me to get around to it, but better late than never. So, I think it would be quite fun to review this game interview style. Yes, interview style. So, I wrote a sort of review where I asked the developer to respond to why he created the game in a certain way and things of that nature. So, introducing Priom from HatCatGames, the developer of this game.

Before I begin, I have to give some disclosure. I have helped Priom testing a previous build of the game while he was developing the game. I only gave him some advice to improve the quality of his game. But, this was when he was still developing it for mobile platforms.

Editorial note: Some friends call me Neko, others call me Jonez. If Priom mentions Jonez, he means me.

Jonez: Before we start, feel free to introduce yourself Priom. Tell us a bit about yourself and why you started developing games. Have you created other games before Soul Warrior Merope? How long was the development process for the game?

Priom: Well, I’m Quazi Fahian Muntakim. Better known as Priom or Bear Gril if you only know me on select social media platforms. I’m currently a university student from Bangladesh and a hobbyist game dev.

As for how I got here, well, I think you bore witness to some of it, Jonez. I love video games always have. Fun fact, our family was one of the earliest to adopt a computer for consumer use in Bangladesh. So I always had a love for games. Especially Side-Scrollers and RPGs.

But I think the want to make my own game for others to enjoy. And to weave interesting stories that can only be done in this medium. I think that idea started in 2012 when one of our mutual friends introduced us to RPG MAKER. And that desire kept growing until I joined the GMTK Game Jam 2017 and felt like I wanted to make something that’s available for just about anyone to play!

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Jonez: Visually, this game looks like it was created on the NES or with a sort of pixel-art style in mind. I quite like the visual style of the while. Why did you choose for this visual style? I noticed that the castle has a lot of darker tones and the outside is more colorful. Is the art style inspired by other games or franchises?

Priom: Well again, much like you, I love retro games. Some of my fondest memories come from the GBA, which also had a lot of ports for SNES games. So of course, I wanted to follow that style. Other than that I feel like pixel-art has become an art form in itself in recent times, rather than being a product of limited hardware. So choosing this particular style was a no-brainer.

As for inspiration, I can think of 2. Team Cherry’s “Hollow Knight” and Bombservice’s “Momodora” franchise. Both of them have a cutesy yet somewhat grim art-style which I absolutely adore. Other than that, I have had people mention the castle interiors remind them of “Prince of Persia” for the DOS. I wasn’t exactly trying to replicate that but perhaps it was a subconscious decision, hmm?

Jonez: The game tells a story about a young strong lady Merope looking for two missing children. A mysterious figure called Madd has something to do with it. So, are you in Madd’s castle or lair? How involved is the story, is it extremely present or does it take a backseat while the visuals and gameplay tell most of the story?

Priom: Well, since it is at the very start of the story. I guess I could tell you. The castle belonged to Arthur, the tiny glowing spirit following you around. But he and his people have been long dead. So Madd is using Arthur’s castle as a hideout.

As for the story, I was going for a bit of a free-fall route. The idea was to make an opening with a strong yet simple premise that I can add on to later. So the story’s presence is like that too. Where there’s a lot happening at the start after that you get to experience the story at your own pace while exploring the castle.

I’d like to mention that I do want to make games with more plot later on. I’ve actually gotten into the habit of having a notepad on my person and taking notes whenever ideas pop up.

Jonez: So, you can name your own price on Itch.IO for this game. Basically, the consumer can pay anything they want. Does this decision have a special reason?

Priom: The reason was simple. As this is the first game I made public like this I wanted as many people to play it as possible! It also provides an opportunity for more people to provide feedback. And I have been receiving useful feedback. So it all works out.

Jonez: In some cases, the game is a bit rough around the edges. Like hitboxes of objects only reacting to the tip of the sword or not having a jumping animation. Game development isn’t an easy task and there are so many things to keep in mind while creating a game. What did you focus on while developing?

Priom: Well, the game was rather *experimental* is how I’d put it. If there was anything I wanted to try that could help me further later on then I took it as being worth it. Which might have resulted in some things being a bit subpar than others I’d admit. But I’d like to think even the shortcomings are valuable learning experiences. You don’t realize certain things until others point them out or you relax your mind a bit.

Jonez: Now, I have a sort of related question. Let’s say that you had all the knowledge, time and resources to change a few things in the game. Which things would you change and why would you change them?

Priom: The checkpoint system. It would’ve gone bye-bye in exchange for a more standard system. It was fine at first but it managed to create more and more restrictions as the game got more fleshed out.

As for additions, I would probably just made the castle bigger with more visual lore added. I’d add a better catalog of info and a more informative UI. Along with lots of tweaks for the melee combat from experiences I gained from Game Jams I joined later down the line.

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Jonez: The game plays like a Metroidvania, where you have to get new abilities and get stronger to progress. Was it easy to find mechanics that set your game apart like using lives for your special abilities or did you had to try a lot of ideas?

Priom: As I said. Soul Warrior Merope was born from the GMTK Game Jam 2017. Which was a 2-day jam where you have to make a game under a theme? The main theme of that jam a single mechanic with multiple functions. The other abilities kind of grew from that original idea.

Jonez: Let’s talk about the music and sound design. While there aren’t too many sound effects in the game, how did you decide which sound effects to include or not include?

Priom: I think there are 8 music tracks in total. An intro, 5 for the five major areas, the boss theme which has 3 variations based on which boss you’re fighting and a track used for a very specific ending. All of the tracks are long enough so that you’ll pass through the area before the songs loop too many times.

As for sound effects, I actually like to believe that you should have enough recognizable SFX that someone can make a guess as to what’s happening blindfolded. In that sense, I would’ve preferred to add more SFX if I had more time too. But what’s chosen is the ones that are absolutely necessary to convey what’s going on, granted as long as they don’t sound bad.

Jonez: So, you told me once that you were creating the game in YoYo Games’ GameMaker: Studio. Why did you choose that engine? Apart from that program, which tools did you use and for what? Did you run into any trouble?

Priom: Well, I think it was in 2015 or earlier when my younger brother told me that Game Maker Studio’s Standard Edition was free. I was still using RPG Maker at that time but found it rather restricting. I did not, however, have much coding knowledge since my educational curriculum at that time only involved some basic C++ and HTML. So, a programmable engine for free was a generally risk-free investment. After using it I found a YouTuber by the name of HeartBeast who has some amazing tutorials that I definitely recommend for people starting out. And well I kinda just got used to the engine and bought the pro version.

Other than that, I used Piskel & Paint.Net for the art, LMMS+Audacity for audio and my younger brother, who was responsible for some of the art such as the UI and menu icons, used Aseprite.

As for the issues we faced, as time’s going on Game Maker Studio 1.x is becoming more and more obsolete. Google’s new policy doesn’t allow 32-bit apps on the play store anymore which means the game couldn’t be put into the platform. Not to mention, it didn’t provide me with a proper description of why the Android export stopped functioning too. It’s still pretty good for PC games though.

Jonez: The game isn’t that easy, you really have to learn the various abilities of your character and explore around. How did you decide to balance the game?

Priom: Well, that was the reasoning behind letting the player explore around so many of the different areas from the get-go. The game is actually less linear than initial impressions may imply. The idea is that if you get stuck in a certain place it’s perfectly fine to explore another place and through the use of the abilities you have at that moment you might be able to take a completely different route than the intended route of the game.

Jonez: Do you have any plans for the game? Do you plan on updating the game with new content, bug fixes, improvements…?

Priom: Initially, after making the game public like this. I wanted to keep it like that. But I’ve mentioned on twitter recently that I haven’t coded anything in the engine for a while due to my PC being broken. So changing certain things based on all the responses I received might be good for me to get back on track. But that all is uncertain. I do have plans on making larger and more polished games using the valuable lessons learned from the experience of making Soul Warrior Merope though. So I’d like to end this by thanking everyone who decided to give the game a shot. Thank you!

End of the interview

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And with that all said, I found this quite an enjoyable experience to write an article like this. Maybe if I have the time, I might write another one on a different game. In any case, I want to thank my buddy Priom quite a lot for giving me the chance to be a part of his dream and giving me the chance of writing this special article with him.

So, I highly recommend that you give this game a try. It might be a bit experimental and a bit rough around the edges but I honestly think that this won’t be his last project and any constructive feedback you send him, he can use to become an even better developer. On top of that, his very first game is pretty enjoyable and has quite a lot of charm.

And with that, 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 a future article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Game Quicky: Mushroom Quest (Switch) ~ Push The Questing.

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Steam store pageNintendo.com pageDrageus page

Previously, I took a look at Pixel Gladiator from Flying Island Team. Now, this developer created a second game called Mushroom Quest. Drageus Games ported this game to the Nintendo Switch and gave me a free press code to give my 100% true opinion. Now, I found some enjoyment in Pixel Gladiator but I found it too rough around the edges. Did the Flying Island Team create a better game with Mushroom Quest or did they fail in creating a good game? Let’s take a look at Mushroom Quest v1.0.0 for the Nintendo Switch.

The good

The gameplay of this game is quite simple to understand. You have to collect every gem in the level without falling into pits or trapping yourself. This game is sort of a Sokoban clone where instead that you have to move all the boxes on certain squares, you have to collect all the gems. The puzzle aspect of the levels are quite enjoyable.

 

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The controls of this game are almost perfect. Moving your character is quite easy. You can touch the sides of the screen to move the mushroom in that direction but you can also move the joystick or the arrow buttons to move the mushroom. Now if only you didn’t had to press the button every single time you wanted to move, that would be glorious.

When I heard the menu music, I was a bit scared that we would have a Sweet Witches situation on our hands. But the music that plays during the levels thankfully matches the visual style quite well. The sound effects of this game are also quite cute. While there aren’t a lot of sound effects, the sound effects that are present do their job perfectly.

The visual presentation of this game is also well done. The game has a big charm to them that pulled me into the game. The only thing I disliked is the text that displays during a game over. The sad kitten eyes of your mushroom character with: “heey~” are just a bit too much and/or misplaced.

The level design is good. Some puzzles really made me think and try again and again. This game can be a bit addictive because it has that: “I’m going to give it just one more try”-attitude to it.

The bad

Switch_MushroomQuest_02There is no undo button. So, if you make a minor mistake, you have to restart the whole level. This is quite annoying since some levels can be pretty precise with your movements.

The store page of this game promises innovate features into the classic block moving game. And I’m sorry, I had seen almost every feature done before. And not once, more than once. Please, don’t be fooled by the marketing of this game. I found the marketing write-up of this game just a bit cringe.

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I found the level select screen a chore to use. What’s wrong with putting your levels on a horizontal line? Why do they have to be on a vertical one? In addition to that, just like Pixel Gladiator, this game is lacking in basic features. Apart from deleting your save file via the Nintendo Switch menu’s, you have no way to reset the game.

There are so many different languages in the game. I found it quite ugly that the visual style was broken up by the different fonts used for certain languages. But, why so many? I mean, they could have saved a ton of time by simply creating buttons instead of buttons with text. The game has so few text, it’s a waste of time adding those features in my opinion.

Not only is the game quite short with only 30 levels, there isn’t much variety in the game. To be quite frank and honest, I didn’t get past the 15th level because I felt bored with the game. Maybe this game is more enjoyed in short play sessions but then again, I don’t think I’d finish the game.

Apart from that, I also got a bit fed up with minor imperfections of the game. Like pressing the “B” button in the level goes back to the main menu instead of the level select, the reset button works instantly during levels but it only works after the fall when you are falling… And that are just two examples.

The conclusion

I’m sorry Mushroom Quest. You have several strong points but you just missed the mark. Flying Island Team made a more enjoyable game then their previous game, but Mushroom Quest just missed the mark again.

I would recommend this game to everybody who is looking for a cheap casual puzzle game or people who enjoy small games like this one. While I honestly believe that this game would be better suited for mobile platforms, the game has been released on the Nintendo Switch and Steam.

I don’t enjoy nor like giving a game with this much potential and promise such a low score but I just think I have to. With this low score I just want to say that creating a game where some basic features aren’t present, the game really suffers as a result.

The annoying thing is that some of the missing features can be added with a patch. If the developers are working on a patch, then my wishes are more levels and more features. Also, polish up the game just a bit more that there are no more imperfections and then I think this game would be a ton better.

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

Score: 50/100

NekoJonez’s Top 10 Games of 2019

my personal top 10 games of 20192019 has been a very special year for me. A lot of things happened in my personal life like job changes and meeting the love of my life NotThatAlice94. Now, I might have written fewer articles compared to 2018, I still have a top 10 games ready for you! If you haven’t read my top 10 games of the year lists before, let me explain something to you. I’m not that big of a fan on top 10 lists where all the games came out that year because you nearly always get the same games on that list. Besides that, I’m a retro gamer and I play a lot of retro games and I find that those also can be my pick for game of the year. So, that’s why I can pick ANY game for my game of the year. The only rule I had to start playing the game in 2019. Games that I started in 2018 or earlier don’t count. So, I can’t pick games like the Zero Escape since I replayed them with my girlfriend this year because I played those games in the past. So, what games did make my top 10 list and which games didn’t make the list? Let’s find out together! Also, remember that I haven’t played every game that came out and that this list is my opinion. So, if you disagree, feel free to leave a respectful comment. But, in all other cases, also feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the games, the list, the content of this article and/or your own list.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Number 5: Ion Fury (PC) (2019)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honorable mentions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Game Quicky: Spirit Roots (Switch) ~ Two Halves Make A Whole

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Nintendo micrositeDrageus Game pageDeveloper website

Today I want to talk about a game that I got a review code for from the people over at Drageus Games. In this article, I’ll give my 100% honest opinion. For this review, I’m reviewing the Switch port. The original game was created by FireArt Games and released on mobile platforms and Steam. More information can be found on the developer’s website. But for now, let’s dive right into Spirit Roots and let’s take a look if this game is worth your money or if you should skip this game. And as usual with these articles, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article. 

Editorial note: this review has been written for v1.0.0

The good

NSwitchDS_SpiritRoots_01

In this game, you play as the unnamed main character on a journey to save your planet. For the purposes of this review, I’ll call him Jos. That’s the name my girlfriend chooses to name characters and she is out of inspiration. Now, Jos’s task in this game is simple. He has to save his planet that’s at the end of the stellar system.

This planet has a unique cirque. Because the planet had several hundred years of conflict, the two remaining parts of the fighting planets got stitched together to form one huge planet. Now, peace rains on the planet because both parties agreed to never cross the border. Well, that’s going to change. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have an interesting setup for a game, wouldn’t you?

The story is just amazing. The whole concept is lovely. There are so many things you can do with this idea. You can explore the concepts of who rightfully owns the land because the planet has been stitched together. Or you can explore the idea of two nations that had years upon years of conflict living together. But, more on the story later.

The audiovisual presentation is a blast to hear and see. Visually, this game looks amazing. It looks quite cute and impressively detailed. The world looks alive and quite colorful. It was a blast to play through it. The soundtrack of this game reminded me a bit of Fantasy Life on the 3DS, a soundtrack that I really enjoyed.

The levels are quite enjoyable. The game can be pretty challenging if you aren’t careful. Thankfully, the game is pretty generous with checkpoints, so you don’t have to lose a lot of progress when you die. The game also comes with three difficulty settings, that increase or decrease the challenge of the game. The game is also available in 7 languages.

The game is also quite lengthy. There are 50 levels divided over several worlds. In each level, you have a certain goal to gather all the souls. You can keep track of that goal by watching the counter at the upper left of the screen.

You don’t need to complete all the levels. When you are stuck on a certain level and have enough golden souls, you can move on to the next world and try your luck there. In order for you to reach the last world, you have to gather 44 of them. So, you have to finish around 15 levels completely before you can reach the final world. This allows you to continue the game without being frustrated because you are stuck on one level.

It’s quite clear that the game took some inspiration from games like Rayman Legends. The souls remind me of lums and the art style looks quite similar too.

The bad

NSwitchDS_SpiritRoots_02Now, I said earlier that I wanted to talk about the story again. Sadly enough I have to do that in the negatives section. You want to know how I learned about the interesting story? Not through the game, but through the information that I found on the microsite of Nintendo. Even the developer’s website is quite sparse with information. It’s a big missed opportunity. I would have loved to see how the story was used in this game. But alas, when you start the first level, you are dropped right away in the first level without any explanation.

That’s one of the biggest drawbacks of the game. But sadly enough, I found a few other problems with the game that I would like to address in this review. The first one is the jumping. Sometimes when I’m on moving platforms, I fell through them. Also, after using your slash attack, the jump doesn’t always work. This lead to various deaths that could have been avoided.

The game’s use of the term “health points” is a bit misleading. There is a 1-hit system in this game like in the Mario games. So, the health points just mean how many retries you have from the checkpoints. When you have to retry a stage, well, then you lose all your progress since the last checkpoint. But, that isn’t too big of a deal in my opinion.

Something that I found extremely silly is the fact that you have to wait for three seconds when you open the pause menu to resume playing.

Apart from that, the game lacks some minor polish. There a few animations and little things that are missing. It would be a bit too much if I sum them all up one by one but here are a few.

  • When you reach a checkpoint, only the arrow disappears. No real fanfare. In the village. The ones in the swap have an animation. But only barely, the light just switches on.
  • When you die closeby an enemy that throws projectiles, the projectiles land at the other side of the enemy, even clipping into walls.
  • The sound can hang when a tutorial appears on the screen. Especially when you slash open a change.
  • On some levels, like the 3rd one, you can see the top of the level… And it looks quite flat.
  • The texture of a door you can slash through and one you need to flip a lever for are too similar.
  • When you shoot a bullet, it keeps traveling until it’s off-screen. It doesn’t break on the walls.
  • The death animation is a bit too long in my opinion. It would have been better if you were able to get back into the action more quickly.
  • When you choose to exit a level, it tells you that it will take you to the main menu yet it takes you to the level select.

Due to these things, the game feels a bit unfinished to me. Like it’s in a state where it’s almost finished and ready to go but it’s not there yet. If the developers would put some finishing touches on the game, it would have been perfect.

But, something that I really missed in this game is a system where you can somewhat move the camera. Various times, I died to a moving spike that I wasn’t able to see coming because it came from off-screen. It would have been a big help if a similar system was implemented to avoid things like that.

Conclusion

Spirit Roots isn’t bad nor is it a good game. During my research on this game, I came across a video review by Defunct Games. I have to agree with almost the whole video. Due to some pretty major negatives, this game isn’t the best it can be.  The same goes for the review by PocketGamer.

This game shines in the audiovisual department but lacks some major features in the platforming department. So, I have a hard time recommending this game. If you enjoy B-grade platformers, I think you might enjoy this game.

But, I think that a remake or a remaster would better suit this game. It’s just a bit too stiff, a bit too rough around the edges. While I did enjoy my time with the game, I don’t think I’m going to finish this game in the near future. Maybe when I have some downtime, but we shall see.

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

Score: 60/100

Community Awards: The Real Neat Blog Award – December 2019

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WordPress Community Awards are always amazing. It’s a great feeling to get various community awards since it feels like recognition of other bloggers for your work and it also allows you to create interesting articles. Today I have the pleasure to receive the Real Neat Blog award from Sanato1 over at his website. He writes amazing pieces on anime, music, games and many other things. Here is a fun fact, we both started blogging around the middle of 2013. Well, I was writing since 2010, but I only started to write in English a few months before he did. Something that’s quite cool is that he’s an attorney and writes about al those various subjects. It’s a really interesting read. Anyways, let’s get into the actual award and the Q&A that’s attached to it. 

The usual stuff

Here are the rules once again:

1. Display the logo
2. Thank the bloggers for the award.
3. Answer the questions from the one who nominated you.
4. Nominate 7 to 10 bloggers.
5. Ask them 7 questions.

The questions

1) Is there a game, book, or other work that you’d like to experience but that you can’t because it’s untranslated, not ported, or otherwise inaccessible?

That’s an interesting question. It would be extremely easy to look at various animes or games that didn’t get translated into English.

Of course, various works got subtitles but I’m too slow of a reader to follow subtitles and I honestly prefer works in a language I can understand since I feel that native jokes almost always get lost in translation. For example, if they use in a clever Japanese wordplay in an anime, they have to either translate it in the subtitles or let it slip by.

But, after some searching, I found something that you might not really suspect from me. There was this publisher in Belgium called Transposia. They used to localize games like Freddi Fish, Spyfox, Pyjama Sam, Putt-Putt amongst various other games to Belgium and the Netherlands. One of these series is Skipper & Skeeto which is originally called Magnus og Myggen in it’s native Danish language.

hqdefaultSadly enough, Transposia wasn’t able to localize every game into Dutch. Various games only got realized in Danish.

Besides my native Flemish/Dutch language, I can speak French and English but I can’t speak Danish. While one of my blogging buddies is Danish, I think it would be a hassle to fully translate the whole game just to be able to play the game.

Surprisingly, some of these titles got translated into English, but those aren’t the adventure games. The translated titles are the edutainment games. But, they would be nice to add to my collection as well. But, that’s for when I have the budget to let them ship overseas from the UK.

2) What’s one work that really affected you or stuck with you in the last year, and why do you think it did?

If you mean 2018, well, to be honest… I have played so many amazing games, I can’t say one single game. Games like Death Mark or Shadow Of The Tomb Raider are two games that come to mind. Most games that stick with me have either an interesting story mechanic or have a really strong message.

Now, if you mean 2019, I honestly think you’ll have to wait until I reveal my top 10 games I played in 2019. But, if you have been reading my articles, I think I have given various hints about the games that are big contenders for the top spot.

If we are talking outside of games, that’s going to get tougher. Then I think I could say the Death Parade anime. Just the whole concept of the show is mindblowing and well written. The ending really touched my emotional strings. I also started watching it around the time that my pet cat Sparta passed away last year.

That was for 2018. If we are talking about 2019, I have to say Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day. It was the first anime I watched with my girlfriend from beginning to end and it was an amazing coming of age story. It was quite enjoyable and reminded me a lot of my past and the things I used to do when I was younger.

3) If you could revive one series of works that’s been abandoned or dropped by its creators for any reason, what series would it be and why?

That’s a tricky question and for several reasons. Sometimes it’s better left in the past to let the series or work end on a high note. Sometimes they ran out of ideas and it’s better to end it.

I could talk about animes like Log Horizon and No Game No Life. These animes have a lot of source material to create new season(s) but due to various reasons, haven’t gotten a new season. Now, I could also talk about my wishes for a new Indiana Jones game or a follow up to Time Hollow, Monster Tale, Stella Glow or Etrain Odyssey. But I’m not going to.

There are so many things that could be revived but they might never live up to expectations. I don’t want a sort of Duke Nukem Forever situation on my hands with the franchises I adore.

Besides, there are so many games, shows, music… out there, it’s getting insane. So, I’m the sort of guy the tries to experience as much as I can instead of trying to revive or keep a show alive. Yes, I vote with my wallet on what I want to see.

4) When it comes to music, do you prefer songs with vocals and lyrics or instrumental pieces, or do you have a preference at all?  If you prefer one type over the other, why do you think that is?

I don’t have a preference. But, I do notice that a lot of my favorite pieces of music have vocals and lyrics. Yet, I also have a lot of instrumental tracks that I adore as well. In most cases, these are tracks from shows or games that are quite nostalgic for me.

But, I think I’m going to talk a bit more in-depth in a future music article on this subject.

5) When was the last time you bought a magazine, newspaper, or another form of print media?

Now, if we also include physical copies of games; then I have to say the day of writing this article. I ordered two retro games for quite cheap online. If we are talking about things print on paper, then I have to say; past summer. When I bought an art book of a Wii U game and a strategy guide on a garage sale.

I used to buy gaming magazines often but my budget doesn’t allow that lately. So, I decided to save some money by not buying them anymore. It’s a shame since now that they are dying out, I might not be helping the cause by not supporting them.

6) Is there a holiday you don’t get to celebrate/take off because of family or work reasons but that you wish you could?

Luckily, I don’t have that issue. Since I work in schools, most of the holidays fall either on weekends or during school holidays.

And my family is rather small so we are able to celebrate almost every holiday together. And since this year, I can celebrate Valentine’s Day due to my meeting my soulmate this year.

7) If you had to create a new holiday, when would it be and what would it involve?

I would have a holiday to celebrate godfathers/godmothers and their godchildren. As a godfather myself, I find it a shame that a holiday doesn’t exist for that. Since I find the tradition and relationship extremely beautiful. Because it’s a sort of 3rd parent to the child.

Now, what would it involve? Something similar to Mothers or Fathersday? Where godchildren could make a small present for their godparents? And that the godparents could create/buy a present for them?

I tag and ask:

Now, as the rules state. I have to tag 7 to 10 other bloggers.

So, here we go:

  1. LaterLevels
  2. TriformTrinity
  3. Well-Red Mage
  4. NormalHappenings
  5. BearedGamer82
  6. LividLighting aka Lighting Ellen
  7. KillerRobotics
  8. VideoGamesNebula

And the 7 questions I want to ask you:

  1. Did your view or look at games change since you started writing a blog?
  2. Is there something you miss in the current gaming industry?
  3. What’s your favorite part about writing a blog?
  4. What’s something you wish you owned?
  5. What’s something unique about your hometown?
  6. Do you think that these kinds of tag questions should be themed?
  7. How much time do you put into your blog daily, weekly, monthly, yearly?

I’m also looking forward to the answers of the other bloggers! While I could nominate a ton more of them, I think I’m going to leave it at those eight. Each of these blogs is an amazing read and I highly recommend them!

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

NekoJonez’s November 2019 Update

Hello there, dear reader! Thank you for checking out my blog and taking time out of your day to check out this post. 2019 is coming to a close but not only that, a new decennium is going to start soon as well. I’m quite excited about it and I have a couple of plans for the future. But, I think it’s best that I mention a few things in an update article to keep my readers up to date. So, that’s why we are here. Let’s dive right into the updates about my personal life and my blog. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your opinion and/or suggestions.

Blog updates

Something I have been promising in a lot of update articles is the fact that I’m proofreading my blog and trying to get rid of as many typos as I can. Now, I understand the argument that there shouldn’t be any, to begin with, but I’m human and spell checking isn’t my strong suit.

Now, I’m happy to say that since writing this update article, I have updated every article that I published in 2019 and a part of 2018. I’m also fixing broken links and broken images.

So, whenever you see a typo or a sentence that doesn’t make sense, feel free to hit me up on Twitter, in the comments, on Discord or on any place you catch me. I’m always happy to receive feedback and even when it’s a small typo that I have overlooked. I’m also going to do my best in the future to avoid as many mistakes as I can.

Apart from that, I have also started working on various other things like improving the overview pages, updating outdated information on the about me page and various other pages. I’m planning to somewhat merge a few pages and I have started working on that as well.

Besides that, I’m also thinking about creating new artwork and new logos for my blog. On top of that, I’m trying to work out a new theme for my blog as well. I have been using a similar site theme for so many years now, I think it’s high time for something new. But, before I do that, I want to finish reworking all the pages, categories and fixing the typos and grammar mistakes.

Lately, I’m quite busy with my personal life. I’ll talk a bit more about that in a later part of this article. This means that I’m running behind on developer requests and I even had to scrap a few. But, I’m going to try and catch up. Instead of publishing them on the weekends, I’ll publish them whenever they are done.

Now, I have a few major plans for December. Of course, I’ll publish the usual end of the year spiel but besides that, I have a few games in mind that I want to write about. In January 2020, I’m planning various nostalgic posts to look back at the past 10 years in gaming.

Before I got to the updates about my personal life, I think it’s time for the usual “update”. That is: I’m quite active on Twitter. So, when I have to skip a week or when I have updated a page or when I want to share something, you can follow it on Twitter. Most of these updates in this article are tweets I have posted in the past few months.

Personal life stuff

So, one huge piece of news is that my girlfriend @notthatalice94 started her own personal blog. You can find her on NotThatAlice’s Creative Space. On that blog, she will be mostly writing about her creative projects like photography or sewing but also about things that happened in her life. If you enjoy lifestyle blogging, be sure to check her blog out. Sure, the blog is still a work in progress, but I’m helping her out. And maybe, I’ll be writing a few guest posts on there. These posts will be mostly about things that have nothing to do with games. Of course, NotThatAlice might still write gaming-related articles on this blog as well.

So, 2019 was an extremely crazy year for me. My mental health wasn’t the best during this year but thanks to amazing friends and family I have been improving slowly. I’m also recovering from a major writing burn-out which caused me to skip several weeks. This means that I wrote fewer articles this year and my stats really show that. Last year, I had over 25k visitors to my site. In 2019, I currently have 13k. Which isn’t bad, but it’s a major decline in readers. Yet, it is better numbered then the number of people who read my blog in 2017, which were just over 12k people and we still have a month and a half to go.

Since I met NotThatAlice in March of this year, my schedule became filled pretty quickly. We have been doing so many different activities together and I have been enjoying my time quite a lot. I could write a very long love letter, but I don’t think this is the right article for it. Anyways, the reason that I mention this is that in the future my reviews might have her viewpoint as well.

Something else I have been doing is a major cleaning in my collection and my gaming room. I noticed that I had a lot of unused cables, broken handhelds, empty batteries, books I don’t read anymore… Because of this, I have a lot more room in my gaming area but this also means that I came across a ton of games I haven’t written an article on and I want to replay.

In the past few months, I have also been playing games I have started in the past but never finished. A lot of games I have written a first impression article on but never a review. So, maybe I’ll write a few follow up articles on games I have wrote first impression articles on. I have an interesting format in mind, so that might be fun.

And that is everything major that’s been happening in my life. I’m sorry for the shorter article this week, but there are a lot of events going on in my personal life and I have been reorganizing and decluttering my life. And I think that this made my last few articles even better.

In any case, thank you for reading this update 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.

The Point-and-click puzzle Pinnacle – Jonez Edition

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Ah, point-and-click games. Amazing adventure games with amazing stories that stick with you and rarely let go. I have spent countless hours playing these games. When LaterLevels and Quietschisto from RNG approached me with a collab idea, I directly jumped on the wagon to join this adventure. In this article, I’ll talk about my favorite and most hated puzzle in point-and-click adventures. Be sure to check their website for a poll of what other people said that their favorite and least favorite puzzles where. In any case, let’s dive right into my answers since I think I have found some gems to mention.

The polls: greatest puzzleworst puzzle

Terminology

Alright, before we start talking about my favorite puzzles, I want to make sure that nobody is confused about what games I’m talking about. Otherwise, this list would be a bit too broad. Since the Point-And-Click genre is a subgenre of the adventure game genre, I think it’s a good idea to set some ground rules.

Can I use games like Virtue’s Last Reward on this list? Technically, I can. Since these games follow the rules of a point-and-click game. Now, what exactly are the rules? Well, I found that FlossManuals wrote a great explanation of it. Escape Room games are a sort of point-and-click game without a lot of character interaction.

Now, does this give me a free pass to use other visual novels like NG – Spirit Hunter or Another Code: R? That might be stretching the definition a bit too much. These are more adventure games that have a lot of point-and-click elements in them.

And what about Hidden Object games like Adera? Are these games point-and-click games? And in my opinion, yes, they are. These games are the casual version of the point-and-click genre of games with just an additional repeated mini-game.

Another great question is, do point and click games have to be 2D? The reason I’m asking that question is, the two first Broken Sword games are famous point-and-click adventure games but is the 3rd game still a point-and-click game? This brings us in a gray zone. Think about this, if you don’t consider the 3rd Broken Sword game to be a point-and-click game since it’s in 3D and uses 3D puzzles, what about Myst and Riven? These games appear on top 10 point-and-click lists all the time.

We could be here discussing this for hours upon hours. Talking about the rise and fall of the genre, but Ed Jefferson wrote an interesting piece on that for the NewsStateMan in January. Maybe that will help to give more clarity to what exactly makes a game a point-and-click game… But, I think it’s high time we start talking about my favorite and least favorite puzzles in these games, otherwise, we would be here for hours.

Most hated puzzle

Escape From Monkey Island (PS2) – Monkey Combat

Escape_from_Monkey_Island_artwork

Oh dear lord, this puzzle is something I truly hate. Let me set the scene for you. Back in 2013, I almost completed Escape From Monkey Island on my PS2. I enjoyed myself quite a lot, with the funny writing and the fourth wall breaks.

While some puzzles give me some challenges, I was always able to overcome them and get to the next section of the game. But, near the ending, there is a huge puzzle that is always randomized so you are unable to find a walkthrough for it.

This puzzle is an expanded version of Rock-Paper-Scissors with monkeys called Monkey Combat. This puzzle really made me take several notes and hope that I was able to be lucky so I could fill in all the squares. Guides like the one of GameBoomers or this one were ones I tried out, but either my copy was bugged or I did something wrong… and I was never able to beat the puzzle.

To be quite honest, I stopped playing the game and deleted my save file out of frustration. Maybe now that I’m a bit more experienced with solving these types of puzzles, I might go back to the game and retry this whole section but it really put me off in trying to beat this game again just to get stuck on that part again.

Favorite puzzle

Zero Time Dilemma (3DS) – Healing Room

zero time dilemma box

The Zero Escape trilogy. One of my favorite trilogies ever made. More often than not, I find myself referring to these games when I’m reviewing adventure games.

When we are talking about my favorite puzzle, I think we should talk about the Healing Room puzzle of the 3rd game, Zero Time Dilemma.

This escape room puzzle is amazing. It quite creative and requires a lot of thought. Without spoiling the puzzle too much, I’ll explain what makes this puzzle so great.

First of all, you are playing a game where your life is on the line. When you don’t escape out of the room, something terrible might happen and you might be unable to survive. This alone makes this healing room is a strange breath of fresh air. It’s a relaxing room where the tense atmosphere goes away for a bit.

The room was actually built for that purpose. You are in a bomb shelter and to not go crazy, you can enter this healing room to relax and come back to your senses.

The second reason why this puzzle is so great is that this puzzle is just extremely fun to solve. It has various puzzles that all fit the various wallpapers you can choose for the room. The flow of the room is just amazing and once everything starts to click, you get bumped out when it’s over.

And my third and final reason is a story reason. The events that happen just before and after this room are one of the best parts of the game and just turn the whole mystery of this game on its head.

Final words

And those are my two picks for this collaboration. There are so many more puzzles I could talk about, so I think I might revisit this topic in the future. Feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and opinions on the chosen puzzles and your favorite and least favorite puzzle. I’m curious to hear them.

Thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Be sure to check out LaterLevel’s website to vote for your favorites and check out other websites their pick. But, that will be it for me, for now. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

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

Official websiteNintendo Microsite

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

Middle Ages Magic

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

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

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

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

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

Metroidvania at its finest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visually underpowered

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Official website

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

Date and Aiba

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

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

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

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

He is at it again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pretty and funny

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Game Quicky: Forager (Switch) ~ Collecting the Mining

Forager

Official website

A few days ago, I wrote an article about a few of my favorite pieces of music in games. In that article, I talked about Forager. A game that recently got ported to the Nintendo Switch. Because the game looked quite interesting to me, I decided to give it a try and now that I have almost finished the game, I decided that it’s high time that I write an article about it. So, in this game quicky, you will find my opinions on the game and feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your opinion on the content of this article and/or the game itself. A little side note, this review is written when the original version came out on Switch, it’s possible that things from this review can become irrelevant when new content comes out.

Positives

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In this game, you play as a sort of nameless somebody that’s stranded on an island. Your goal is to expand the islands and survive. Now, there are a lot of game mechanics and there is a lot of crafting that will need to be done. The pacing of the game is something special. Depending on your playstyle and what you unlock, the game can go quickly or slowly.

The gameplay is quite unique. You start off on one lonely island. I was unsure at first what I needed to do. I was able to mine away from the resources on the island and after a while they randomly respawned. So, where a flower spawned first, a tree was now standing. I always got small bits of experience. When I leveled up, I was able to unlock new skills and buildings. These skills and buildings allowed to me gather even more types of resources and sometimes even more efficiently.

It didn’t take long before I had a ton of farms and factories setup that helped me in automating certain parts of the crafting process. Now, it would be lovely if they expanded a bit more on this process in future updates, like for example, a certain furnace always smelting a certain ore when it got below a certain point.

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Besides crafting and grinding for resources, you also have enemies to worry about. Depending on the strength of your weapons and gear, these enemies can range from major treats or pushovers. I found it extremely enjoyable to improve my gear and then to take revenge on some annoying enemies by defeating them in one swipe of my sword.

On top of that, there are various dungeons, quests, and secrets to find throughout the game. Almost every island has something to do or to discover it. Some islands have even more than one thing. So, it’s a great idea to try out different things. If you watch closely to each island and try out things, you might discover some secret treasures and upgrades.

I found the visual presentation of this game quite nicely. The pixel art of this game is excellent and fits the style of this game quite well. The animations aren’t too special or flashy, but that isn’t too big of a deal. The goofy writing and humor of the characters more than make up for it. Speaking about that, the characters in this game can be quite amusing and entertaining.

Now, if you talk about the presentation you can’t forget about the music and sound effects. These are excellent as well. The soundtrack of this game is a joy to listen too. I’m even considering adding the soundtrack to my playlist for when I’m writing or just relaxing. The soundtrack is in general quite relaxing but can be quite tense when it needs to be.

The controls of this game are quite responsive and easy to get the hang of. It didn’t take long for me to get used to the controls and do some advanced moves. The inventory management is a bit basic, but more on that later.

So, you have to purchase land, find secrets, unlock achievements and so much more. Whenever you finish a quest line or finish an achievement, you get special costumes that give you special abilities. These special abilities can range from taking less damage or certain enemies ignoring you. And some of these costumes are great easter eggs or references to other series. One thing to know is that once you unlock the effect of a costume, it’s always active. Even when you are not wearing it, it’s active.

Negatives

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Certain building mechanics are quite underdeveloped. When I wanted to place another oil pumping station, I had an extremely difficult time removing all the wood I had placed in the ocean. Also, I was unable to remove any land tiles that were blocking the pumping station.

The vaults are quite handy and aid you in stocking up resources. The issue I have with the vaults is that you are unable to choose where which item goes when your inventory overflows. At the end of my playthrough, I had several vaults and I didn’t know which item was where. It was always a find expedition when I needed to find one item or check if there weren’t item stacks that could be combined.

In an extension of that, the inventory management is too basic. You can’t move items in your inventory, you can’t change the order of the items in the hot bar. Also, when I was catching things with bottles, the hot bar sometimes switched to the caught item and I accidentally released the fairy.

The randomness and luck-based drops nearing the end can get extremely frustrating. There are two artifacts that I still have to get to complete the museum but the random drop rates of the remaining treasures are so low that after 5 hours of trying, I was unable to get even one of those drops.

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There are some minor game-breaking bugs in the game. For example, there are some puzzles where the required items don’t always spawn. These bugs are fixed in the Steam version of the game, but I still experience them on the Nintendo Switch. The one that affected me is the bug with the mushroom puzzle on the rainbow island.

When you bought all the islands and crafted almost every upgrade, the game gets a bit boring. Not only is one of the final upgrades quite repetitive and slow to get, but there is also nothing to do after you bought all the islands. Now, this might change in the future, since additional content is being developed. Recently a new content pack has been released for the Steam version.

In most cases, the frame rate is quite stable. But, whenever you enter or exit a building or when there is a lot happening on screen… The framerate can drop drastically. For example, I noticed a lot of frame drops whenever I had some special buffs applied to me and I was digging all over the place. Speaking of the frame rate, there is one dungeon where you have to guide a beam towards certain obstacles to open the doors. How the longer the beam was, the worse the framerate got.

Conclusion

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This game is quite a lot of fun, I enjoyed myself with this game quite a lot. But, the game can be a bit rough around the edges. There are some parts of the game that are still a bit underdeveloped and could some expanding.

The tricky thing about reviewing this game is that there are a few major updates planned and I have no idea what they will change or add to the game. I don’t even know if I have to restart or if I’m able to continue on the same save file when the updates come out. While some of them already got released on Steam, I don’t know if and when they come to the Nintendo Switch.

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Yet, I still recommend this game to people who enjoy games like Terraria, Zelda or Minecraft. This game is a lot of fun and quite addictive as well. When I started playing this game, I had a very hard time putting the game down and playing other games. I’m very excited to see what the next updates will bring and which improvements it will bring to the game. Since if they polish the mechanics that I talked about in the negatives section of this game, the game can become even more enjoyable.

And with that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. Thank you so much for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed right it 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.

Score: 70/100