Review: Gas Station Simulator (PC – Steam) ~ Let’s Fill ’em Up

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Sometimes, a game just piques my interest. When I saw a game called Gas Station Simulator, I directly wondered… how is this going to work? Especially since we are talking about a gas station in the middle of nowhere. So is this title worthy of your time, or should you skip it? Or maybe wait until it’s more developed? Well, in this article you’ll find my thoughts and opinions on this game. Feel free to leave your thoughts and/or opinions on the game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

Let’s fill ’em up

In this game, you’ll play as an unnamed character who bought up an old gas station in the desert along a busy road. It’s your goal to bring back this station to its former glory. Your shady uncle is here to help you via the telephone.

When you arrive at the station, it’s in disrepair. There is not only trash everywhere, all the walls need a new lick of paint, the store attached to the gas station is totally gone and so on and so forth. With step by step missions, this game teaches all the different mechanics to you. These missions are a tutorial in disguise, but it doesn’t hold your hand. You are free to complete the objectives in any order you want, and you are also free to choose when you go to the next objective. Of course, you won’t be able to upgrade your gas station to the next level without completing all required missions.

Now, if you would play this game only to complete the missions, this game is rather short. It took me around 10-ish hours to beat all missions. Yet, there is more to this game after you have beaten all the missions. There are a lot of upgrades you can purchase to enhance the environment of the gas station. Most of them, but not all, are cosmetic in nature and don’t do anything to attract more customers.

Currently, there is a cheap DLC called Can’t Touch This out for this game. Personally, I recommend buying this DLC as well. Since it not only adds a small bit of post game, but it also adds a lot of new options to customize the look and feel of your gas station, and it’s totally worth it’s price.

This game also has achievements. At the moment of writing, this game has 91 achievements. Currently, I have played this game for give or take 25 hours and I have 80% of the achievements. Most of these achievements are easy to get. Others are a bit trickier to get and require either some luck or some practice. Especially the carting mini-game, to get that achievement you’ll have to become very good. Sadly, those cart controls don’t work for me. But, I’ll talk about the controls later.

Usually, in the first section of a review I talk about the story, the characters, and voice acting. Overall, the story is nothing special. It takes a backseat pretty quickly, and it’s mostly an excuse to string the missions together in a coherent way. Which is for this game a good thing, since it ups the replay value of this game.

Now, I want to talk about the voice acting in this game. Overall, the voice acting is decent, but I do have some things that I’d like to critique. I have nothing to remark on the performance of the voice actors. It sounds pretty good. But, the amount of voice lines is just lacking and plays in strange places. It doesn’t take long before you hear the same voice line over and over again. In addition to that, some voice lines play in situations where they don’t fit at all. For example, I heard a customer shout in the store when the register mini-game failed… “Look what you did to my car!”. I mean, how can a check-out in a store do that?

On top of that, I find it a missed opportunity that some situations don’t have voice acting at all. Your staff doesn’t have any voice acting. Also, as soon as customers step in their car, they have lost their voice as well. So, you’ll never hear a driver shouting to another driver to move. Also, you’ll never hear a customer shout when they aren’t being served.

These things break the atmosphere of the game a bit. It’d give the game a bit more life and immersion when customers only said the appropriate lines in the correct places and the staff would also talk. For example, a simple “Understood” or “On it, boss” when giving them assignments would go a long way.

Let’s play the balance game

So, what’s the gameplay in this game? Well, in the end there are few things your gas station has when you have completed all the missions. Each area has its own little mini-game that’s quick to get the hang of and has its own challenges.

The first is a place to fuel. In this place, you’ll have to fuel the cars of your customers. In this mini-game you have to press the left mouse button until the gauge reaches a certain level. The closer you stop pressing the left mouse button to the ordered amount, the better you get paid.

The second area that will unlock is the store. The mini-game in there is you have to scan all the items of the customer, while keeping the belt clean. As soon as an item either leaves the mini-game area OR drops in the basket without being scanned, you’ll lose that customer when you scanned all their items.

The next area that unlocks is the garage. In there, you’ll have to repair cars. The more you upgrade your garage, the more defects can be fixed with their own little steps. The garage is something you shouldn’t ignore since at the end of the game, this is the biggest source of revenue.

The final thing that unlocks is the car wash. This is a manual car wash where the mini-game is as simple as spraying the car down with water and remove as much of the dirt you can. All in all, this is quite late game and honestly, I leave it closed.

Here are a few examples of things you’ll have to do while serving customers. These are: managing your staff, making sure everything is clean, and the roads are drive-able, making sure you don’t run out of stock for the fuel tank/the garage or the store, unloading deliveries… Honestly, as soon as you get into the micromanaging of it all, you don’t have the time to keep open the car wash. If only you could put your staff to work to unload deliveries or to stock the store/garage OR even do the car wash…

And when you think, that’s all… No, there is the reputation mechanic as well. As soon as you complete a mini-game successfully, you’ll get a few reputation points that can upgrade your popularity level. The higher that level is, the better upgrades you can purchase. But, when you fail a mini-game, you’ll get negative points, and you’ll need to earn them again. There are also optional missions for bonus reputation points after you completed the story missions.

To be honest, it can become overwhelming quite quickly. Especially when you unlocked all area’s. This is why I’m so happy you can close the car wash, and you can enable/disable certain random events in the options’ menu. Don’t want to have to deal with Dennis, who vandalizes your walls? You can turn him off. Don’t want to have to deal with the rush hour party bus? You can turn that off as well. Don’t want to make sure you close your warehouse to avoid stealing? That’s something you can turn off as well. The late game challenge missions are something else.

And the final thing you can turn off, and something I turned off is the sandstorm event. This is a random event that ruin your roads and make them not drive-able and create a pile up. This is a big problem since there is only a certain amount of cars that can be present in your gas station. You can solve this issue with your excavator, but the controls for that are quite tough to control in my opinion. You also have to be extremely precise in order to scoop up the sand, and you can’t dump it anywhere else besides a sandpit at the edge of your station. It’s a mechanic that breaks the flow of the game for me, so I turned it off.

I’m convinced that while talking about all the different area’s your station will have at the end… I forgot to talk about a few mechanics. But overall, this game is a balancing act. You have to juggle various tasks to make sure your gas station runs smoothly, so you don’t have to loan money from uncle. It’s something you can do, but you’ll have a time limit to pay him back. “Or else, Uncle has other ways to earn his money back.”

The reason I can’t tell you what the consequence is, is because it’s extremely easy to pay uncle back when you use it wisely. I never had any moment where I was in trouble of not being able to pay uncle. I mostly used his loan when I was low on stock for the garage and after repairing a few cars, I was able to pay him back easily.

Now, let’s talk about decoration. First, the painting. You can paint your gas station. But, I honestly feel that this mechanic doesn’t work too great. The mini-game to stay in the green area of a slowly rotating circle is annoying and boring and there is no way to cancel when you selected the wrong color. There is also no way to paint the selling in the building itself. You can only paint the roof. Oh, and when you install additional bathrooms, forget painting them. Since, you are unable to enter those. Which is annoying, since the paint decays in this game, so you’ll have to reapply paint after a while and it’s so frustrating to see the dirty paint back there without being able to get there.

In general, all spots are quite easy to reach apart from a few spots in the storage area and the garage. The spots in the storage area are just a bit to reach and the spots in the garage are blocked because the tire rack is in the way and the game thinks you want to fill the tire rack.

Also, you can order a paint job, but this is something I did once and regretted right away. Since, I had a color scheme I got used to and this paint job paints almost everything white. It’d be so much more useful if the color you put on the wall is remembered and for example, for some additional charge that color is applied.

To be honest, I haven’t played too much with the decoration mechanics. I find the default gas station more then enjoyable to play with and first I want to be able to purchase all other decorations before creating a totally new store.

Running out of gas?

This game is being developed by a small indie game studio from Poland called Drago Entertainment. A few days ago, they shared an update on their plans for the rest of the year. Now, why do I talk about this in a review on one of their games. Because they are talking about new features coming to this game in the future and how everything works behind the scenes.

It’s quite clear that the developers are extremely passionate and find communication with their players important. Over the summer break, they also shared what the next update to this game will have. Something I really love to see is there is going to be a patch for the random crashes this game has. In the late game, this game can crash quite often at random moments. There are some work arounds that delay the crashing but at the moment, apart from waiting for the patch, no real fix has been found. Also, you’ll be able to open and close other sections of the gas station. This is something I was going to talk about in this section. I’m quite curious to see how the game preforms when update #7 lands, since it promises to fix the biggest problem I have with this game and that are the random crashes.

Visually, this game look quite good overall. You do see certain models a lot of times but it doesn’t bother me. I think something that might help is randomize the color of the clothing of your customers. Then, when you have the same model coming in, there is a bit more variaty. The animations of this game are great as well.

But, there are a few minor things in terms of the UI that I’d love to see changed. The first is a small one. Why is the default option when you open the main menu, “new game”? I can understand that for when it’s the first time you play the game, but when you reboot the game after a crash and mash a bit… It’s scary to see the game restarting.

And secondly, it’s a mix between a gameplay problem and UI problem. The car wash is extremely picky. Sometimes a car is done with a lot of dirt on it and sometimes you have to clean almost everything. A sort of meter on how statified the customer is would help a lot.

The soundtrack of this game is good. It fits the atmosphere of you working in a gas station in the American desert quite well. The only downside is that there aren’t a lot of tracks so it won’t take long before you hear repeats. In terms of the music, I like and dislike how they handeld it. In the buildings, it’s played from the radio. But, if you put the radio in the store in a corner, it’s possible that, that area is silent. In terms of sound effects, this game is perfect. I don’t have any complaints or even (nitpicky) remarks about them.

Apart from the random crashes, this game runs overall quite stable. But, there are a lot of glitchy moments where things mess up. I have seen flipped delivery trucks on route to the station. I have also seen trash bags glitching through the floor into the void. The physics can go haywire sometimes. Jumping into the side of a car can send it flying or moving in some crazy ways.

Thankfully, the game has a sort of reset button for when cars get flipped or get stuck and you are unable to get them unstuck. You can send an alien craft over your station and reset it all. But, do keep in mind that it also sends your staff into rest mode so, you’ll have to reassign their job.

Speaking about staff and jobs, I truly wish you could manage that a bit more. I’d love to see shedules or commands like: “When you are done resting, go to the garage and fix cars.” Then again, it’d ruin a bit of the challenge of this game micromanaging it all.

Overall, the controls are quite responsive and easy to learn. You can also rebind them if needed. Since, at first, this game thought I had an QWERTY keyboard lay-out but I’m from Belgium and we use AZERTY around here.

I do have to say that reviewing games that still get new updates with new features and bug fixes is quite tricky. Especially, since I don’t know to what degree I can talk about the glitches in this game. There are glitches in this game and most of them are either the physics engine doing strange things are characters doing strange floating stuff. Or talking about limiting mechanics like only being able to have a loan of 1K. We never know what will change in the future. So, maybe some points I talked about in this review will be irrelevant in the future. Like, how tricky it is to restock shelves sometimes. The amount of times I took stock from shelves by accident when trying to refill, it’s silly.

But, something I’m totally looking forward too is that in the upcoming days a new DLC for the 1 year anniversairy of the game will come out. And looking at the store page, it’ll be a free DLC. I’m quite curious to see what’s going to be in it!

The final thing I want to talk about is that this game has an autosave. You can’t set the interval of it but every few minutes, this game autosaves. But you can also manually save. The saving and loading in this game is really quick. You do have some minor texture popping when the game loads in for the first time but it fixes itself quite fast.

Now, with that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. I think it’s high time to wrap this one up.

Wrapping up

The bad:

-Still have some polishing up to do.

-Some mechanics like painting need an overhaul

-Silent staff

-The random crashes

The good:

+ Enjoyable micromanagement simulation.

+ A lot of freedom in terms of customization.

+ Amazing replay value.

+ Easy to learn but tricky to master.

+ A lot of post game.

+ Gets new content and bug fixes often.

+ …

Final thoughts:

Gas Station Simulator is one of those games that I’d recommend without any doubt in my mind. This game is quite enjoyable to play for everybody who enjoys simulation games that are a bit more hands on instead of your “spreadsheet simulator” where you stare mostly at stats.

While this game isn’t perfect and still needs some polishing and expanding for certain mechanics… The postives outweigh the negatives here by a lot. The biggest issue at the moment of writing are the random crashes but if the promised upcoming update fixes those, I think that this game can shine even brighter.

This game has an amazing foundation to become an amazing indie title. If this game gets polished up so it’s less janky and has a bit more content, I think you might have a winner here. I’d happily fuel up my tank with this game after a long day at work. But now, I’d fuel it up until it randomly crashes.

In conclusion, I quite enjoy this game with jank and all. It has a lot of charm and I can’t recommend it enough. I’m so glad that I gave this game a shot and I hope you will to.

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

Score: 80/100

Speedrunning Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine GBC – Level 1 – Canyonlands (Part 2)

Introduction to this miniseries

A while ago, I wrote an article about speedrunning one of my most treasured childhood games. One of my yearly traditions is playing through this game and ever since last year, I wanted to have a new challenge. That challenge I found in speedrunning the game, and now when I’m playing the game, I try to challenge myself to try to beat my PB. In this miniseries, I’m going to talk about the current route, tips, and tricks of the Game Boy Color speedrun of this game. So, let’s grab our hat and whip and let’s dive right into the first level… again? Well, yes. It’ll soon become clear. Also, feel free to leave a comment down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on this article, the content, the game and/or the route.

Introduction to All Treasures

In the first part, linked higher, of this miniseries… I talked about the Any% route. Basically, the goal in the Any% category is to finish the level as quickly as possible. Now, there is another category we have and that’s “All Treasures”.

So, in each level of this game, 10 treasures are hidden. The Game Boy Color version is an exception to that, since it has two levels with no treasures. This exception doesn’t even apply to the PC nor the N64 version.

The treasures are meant to buy supplies at the “IQ store” in between levels. In the PC & N64 version, you can buy more varied health items and ammo but in the GBC (Game Boy Color) version, you can only buy either a health kit or a poison kit. And you can have a max stock of 5, which is also different compared to the PC & N64 version.

Now, all treasures is a tricky run to do. Since, in the GBC version, you need to play close to perfection if you want to unlock the final “secret” level Peru. In a full game all treasures run you can choose between two categories. You either go for “All Treasures (No Peru)” or “2055 IQ”.

The tricky thing about “2055 IQ” is that you basically can’t close to anything, or you won’t have enough points to go to the Peru level. And in the run, you aren’t allowed to cheat and after beating the game enter the level code and skip the challenge. But, the tricky thing is that some levels require you to use a health pack for the quickest route. It’s a puzzle I currently haven’t attempted and plan to do one day.

But, I’ll focus on full game runs in their separate article. For now, let’s focus on Individual Levels Speedruns or ILS for short. So, how is the current route of the “All Treasures” of Canyonlands? Let’s explore!

The category rules as of writing this article:

Link to Speedrun.com page
The current world record at the time of writing is owned by me who ran this level in 4 minutes and 41 seconds on April 17th 2022.
The previous records I had were: 5m25, 4m58, 4m53.

Feel free to follow along while waiting the run.

Note: in this article I talk about time marks of the run. Since there is a failed run in the upload, the video time doesn’t match the run time. I’m sorry about that.

Note 2: when I say “current record”, I obviously mean my current record at the time of writing this article. So, I hope to clears up confusion when this record is beaten and/or improved by me or someone else.

The run explored

So, unlike the Any% route… We avoid the ladder snipe down directly. Since this snipe would make 4 out of the 10 treasures impossible to collect. So, we go left.

Now, the movement of this scorpion on the other platform is an RNG fest. In most cases, if you hug the upper wall, you can avoid it without any problem. When I get bitten by the scorpion, I reset right away. The lost health from the poison makes gathering the first treasures way more risky.

So, the sequence of events here is:

  • Jump over the safe pit
  • Huge the uppermost wall and go left
  • Jump over the unsafe pit
  • Ready Indy’s whip by mashing select twice while running left
  • Jump at the last second, so you jump over the waterfall.

If you do this sequence perfectly, you’ll be right in place to whip over the gap. Yet, this is easier said than done. The sequence of inputs I just described are close to frame perfect in some places. All these actions take place in give or take two or three seconds. When I don’t reach the other end and climbing the ladder when the timer hits 11 seconds, I know I can reset the run.

Why do I see that as a reset point? Well, because I know myself. If I allow my timer to be higher, I’ll go in a slight panic mode since I feel like I’m unable to beat my record and make too many silly mistakes sometimes costing me the whole run. So, it’s to keep myself calm. Anyway, you might have noticed that yellow coin looking thing in the 2nd screenshot. That’s one of the four treasures here. That’s the treasure you should get last. If you take this as your first treasure, you’ll lose a lot of time since there is no easy way to get back to the area with the first three treasures, and you’ll have to do the whip swing again which costs around a second or two.

Oh yes, you can save some time if you jump up right after swinging with the whip. This saves half a second in climbing, but it’s tricky to do, and a bad jump can land you either lower or just at the bottom of the ladder losing the time save. But, as far as I know, there is no real danger in trying to attempt this trick.

Now, after you climbed up… I highly suggest that you press select once so Indy’s hand is the tool you are using. Now, there is something you need to know about doors in this game.

I enter the treasure room in my current world record around 16-17 seconds. If you watch the run, you might notice that Indy looks like he is entering the wall.

Now, here is the thing about doors in this game. The hitboxes are wider than they visually appear. So, in other words, visually it looks like you can enter where the aqua line is. Yet, you can enter where I drew the white line.

Trying to enter a door as soon as possible saves a few frames, but these add up quickly in this level.

Now, this is a moment where you can make a choice. I haven’t tested it which route is faster. The first choice is that you go for the two treasures above and the second choice is that you go for the treasure at the bottom. Both have their dangers but all three need to be collected.

The sequence of collecting these three depend on me if I’m able to enter the door behind the stone you can push. Usually, I go to the right of the stone and push it to the left while hugging the wall. I let go of left at the end of the push animation to push up and usually Indy goes in the door right away.

Yet, in my current world record run I decided to do things a bit different. I decided to jump up right away and get the two treasures on top. Without pushing the stone at all. Which is a dangerous and risky move.

Usually, when you push the block to the left… You can jump up on the left side and grab the red jewel. After that, it’s easy to avoid the bastard of an enemy and grab the green jewel. Oh, jump over those tiles with the crack in them. Since, if Indy is full on that tile… He’ll fall down below in the water without any way out. Loosing your chance to pick up the treasures in this area.

If you go up right away, the chances of that enemy poising Indy is a lot higher. But if you go up, you’ll need to first go for the green jewel. Since going for the red first will make you a better target for the enemy and corner jumps are quite tricky, and I landed so many times on those unstable tiles during attempts, it’s not funny anymore. Also, I find that when you drop down after the red jewel, it’s easier to line Indy up to push the stone without having to re-orient him.

So, let’s push the stone, so we can pick up the final treasure in this treasure room. After going up, there is a very ideal way to move in this room to have the fastest time.

Yes, I’m taking screenshots of the YouTube upload

The blue and purple lines show the way towards and back from the treasure. Depending on the movement of the scorpion, it’s easier to line yourself up. While you can walk pretty close to the water… It’s a reset when you fall in. Since, you lost your chance to pick up two treasures now. In my current record, I chose to go down & around since the scorpion was a bit too close to the ideal route and I didn’t want to risk it.

And also, it’s best that you pick up the treasure on the first few frames on your way back. Since, you’ll be able to keep your momentum which saves a few frames. You can see how I do my controller inputs for this around the 37 second mark in the run.

On my way back, I noticed that the scorpion was down below, so I was able to get closer to the edge with the water. But, it’s possible to get even closer, but remember… This is quite risky since falling into the water makes you unable to obtain certain treasures. Since, unlike the PC/N64 version, there is no way to get back up here and obtain these treasures. Even in casual play.

So, around the 48-second mark… I have left the treasure room. With a bit better movement and not being poisoned by the enemy I think I can shave a second off here. Yet, it would be extremely tricky to do and risky. After leaving the treasure room, it’s time to go to the right to go down, jump over the waterfall and pick up the coins we saw earlier to pick up the final out of 4 treasures on top here.

During my current record, I lose a bit of time here as well by hugging the upper wall.

Now, comes something risky. After collecting the coins, you’ll need to jump down and try to line Indy up the closest edge of the waterfall. The goal is to land in the pool down below closest to the exit point. But, when you jump down too early… You might let Indy miss the pool and die. Jump too late, and you lose a second or two in the water since Indy swims so slow in this game. My drop/jump around the 53-second mark isn’t perfect. I was too center. I had better but I also had worse. After dropping into the water, exit it as soon as you can at the top right-hand side.

After exiting the water, you might notice that enemy and want to jump over or away from it. Don’t. Since, it’s somewhat easy to avoid and you are risking loosing time by either dropping back into the water or jumping too early/late and getting poisoned. Just move a bit down around the spot in the screenshot above. I actually moved down perfectly in my current record. Since, you need to avoid a wall and go into the door a bit behind it. This is what you see me do around the 1 minute 4 seconds mark.

Now we enter a “puzzle” room where I hate the movement with a passion. If there is one thing I’m not too good at… that’s precise movement.

The solution to the puzzle is that you need to walk on the sun tiles in a certain sequence. First, you hit the 3rd tile counting from the left. Then, go to the first tile without walking over the second tile and just walk over the rest. So, from the left the sequence is: 2-3-1-4.

The issue here is that the hitboxes of these tiles are a bit off. The tops are quite sensitive and the bottoms aren’t. So, when you try and walk from tile 3 to tile 1, it’s easy to trigger tile 2 when you go overtop. Now, it’s highly recommended that you go overtop since the treasurees will drop from the totempole you see on top this room. So, yeah, this room is tricky and might require some “training”.

Now, after the treasures drop: go for the left most treasure first! Since, the right most treasure is perfectly in line with the door. Mixing these up might cost you a few frames. After exiting this puzzle room, you go to the right. There is another stone which needs to be pushed down once and then left once. It’s possible to jump from there to ledge above the door. Yet, I find it safer and more consitent to push it left twice so the gap is only one block. For some reason, I have a hard time making those two block jumps from a lower to a higher platform. While it is possible as you’ll see in the next level.

Now, hug the wall and jump at the last second as shown in the screenshot below here. If you do it right, you’ll grab the ladder and skip a part of the climbing animation. This is one of the minor optimisations you can do to save a few frames. Yet, be careful with trying this one. If you push Indy too much to the left, you will not grab the ladder and miss the platform and have to go back on the ledge.

After this, it’s a bit of climbing we need to do. Jump earlier to the ladder to skip climbing it when you can. This is an easy trick to master which can shave so much time off your runs. After the 2nd ladder, be careful since there is a scorpion quite close to the part where you accend from the ladder and being poisoned there is real easy. That’s why I usually jump forwards once to avoid that and get closer to the door.

Be sure you are at least more half health now since there are some parts coming up that will require you to be able to tank/take some damage. If needed, there is a herb in the hallway. Herbs are faster to heal compared to going into the menu, going to a medkit and then going out of the menu. You see me pick up the one outside of the hallway around the 2 minute 2 seconds mark.

There is a reason why I take out the pistol around the 2 minute 18 seconds mark. Because there are some enemies coming up which are difficult to avoid when you exit a door. I rather shoot them to be safe. Now, it’s possible to save a bit of time to do a corner jump from the ladder platform as shown with the purple line. But, it’s a tricky one and might cause you to loose your run. Corner jumps are in general not easy in this game. Usually, I take the safe route wit the lightblue line. Which looses a few frames, but it’s safer and more consistent.

Now, after this, you can make another choice. Go right into the closest door or go for another treasure. There are 4 left we still need to get and it doesn’t really matter which one you go for first. I usually go for the bottom one last. If you want to go for the bottom one first, be my guest. This will be the last treasure talked about in this article.

So, I go into the closest door right after killing that enemy. In that case, don’t put your revolver away. Since, scorpions have this nasty “”feature”” where they can poison you during the whipping across animation. So, shoot the scorpion dead when you enter the room and go left to whip across. Remember to use select to switch between your tools to save time. Opening & closing the menu adds so much additional time.

Now, don’t make the same mistake as me here. When you need to whip across, you shouldn’t be right at the edge since Indy’ll whip in front of him then. And this’ll cost you a second or so. Stand a bit more back. When you are swinging across, you might notice the next treasure.

If you pick it up now, it’s fine. If you want to pick it up on your way back… It’s fine as well. The time to pick up this treasure is the same either way. In my current record, I chose to pick it up after the two treasures after whipping across again. So, don’t forget to pick this one up if you skip it now. But, after whipping across… Shoot the enemy, for a similar reason as before. Now, after that, you’ll see two doors at the bottom.

You can choose the sequence of the two here. Since I have the gun equiped, I prefer the left door first. So, I’ll explain the right part later.

The gun is equiped and we go in the left door. The gun is needed since there is a nasty troll scorpion that you will encouter right after exiting the hallway after the door. Either move to the right, right away, or shoot it. If you shot it without getting poisoned, count yourself lucky since that will make the upcoming part way easier.

Now, the treasure is at the bottom of this section. Drop down as quickly as you can without taking too much damage. Since, you’ll need the health to tank scorpion poison since they are so nastly placed. Be sure to switch back to the hand to pick up the treasure box. I started my decent on the 2 minutes 47 seconds mark. The decent was quite clean. But, my ascend. Oh boy. From 2 minutes 56 seconds you see some messy jumping and me getting screwed over by scorpion poison twice. It’s something to costs me so much time and doing the ascend propely is somewhat stressful.

So, after the hallway, equip your gun again to kill the newly spawned scorpion and now, it’s time to explain the right door. For that door, be sure you have the hand equipped. Since, right after exiting the door, you’ll have to drop down.

If you drop down on the corner edge of the platform, you reach the hitbox when Indy is in that landing animation and when you mash “A”, you’ll pick up the treasure. Go left and swap to the whip to swing across.

Jump across the death pit and be VERY careful trying to do a ladder jump here. It might save you a few frames into the climbing animation but missing the ladder means certain doom and dead run. I rarely to never risk it here since I desipe loosing a run to a silly mistake near the end of the run.

After the ladder, go to the right, up and over jump across and get back into the door. After that, swing across the two gaps and get into the door again. Now, we come back to one of the choice spots. Since I started to talk about the “top” door first, let’s go down and to the left now for the final treasure.

In here, there is the final treasure of this level. Be careful to not step on the cracked tiles since they drop you down lower in the level. And when you don’t have enough health, they are deadly.

Now, it’s time to go to the right the whole way after exiting this door. Go towards the ladder we climbing up, where I said you could save time with that risky corner jump. And now go to the right instead of the left. And then, it’s basically the Any% run route after the ladder snipe. Be careful, since now there is an extra scorpion for you to avoid. But, I use that one to jump at the right time to speed up the first long climb.

My ending was a bit messy but hey. That means more time can be shaved off this run. Since we played the full level, we see Sophia actually walk up to Indy. When you do the ladder snipe of the Any% run, Sophia won’t show up but the textbox will play.

Don’t forget to push “A” to skip the textbox faster. And yeah, that’s the whole route.

Looking back on this run, I’m certain that a run of 4 minutes 38 seconds is totally possible. Especially since I saw a lot of potential improvement while looking through this run to write this article.

Now, this level has one of the biggest differences between the Any % route and the All Treasures route. A 4-minute difference even.

After writing this article, I’m quite hyped to try and beat my record. So, I’m going to try and do that during my summer holidays. Keep an eye on my Twitter since I’ll post there when I have beaten my time.

But oh boy, was this a long article yet a fun one to write. Next time in this miniseries, I’m going to take a look at the second level Babylon. Maybe I might write only one article about that level since most of these treasures aren’t too far off the main route for Any%, yet they do cost a lot of time to grab.

And with that said, 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 and until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Speedrunning Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine GBC – Level 1 – Canyonlands (Part 1)

PC game reviewGBC review

In the past, I have reviewed the two versions of one of the biggest games in my childhood. Ever since I saw Indiana Jones – Raiders of the Lost Arc, I was hooked. When my cousin showed me that he had a 3D PC adventure game starring Indiana Jones, I kept playing that game until the disc actually broke on me. Yes, that frequently. Also, I didn’t have a lot of access to the internet and also my native language isn’t English, so navigating the early internet was a challenge. So, beating this game without it being well known… Was a challenge. It was no Pokémon where you could ask things to other kids during recess. I played this game over and over again, and a while ago I started speedrunning it. And in this new series of articles, I’m going to talk about the routes/tips & tricks on speedrunning this game. I’m going to focus on the GBC version, since that’s the version I mostly run and know best.

Some background

Foremost, I want to give some additional background. Especially since this is the first article in a series. When I got the GBC version for my birthday one day, I was unable to beat it. I was unable to finish Shambala for the longest time. There are some unlogical things you have to do if you haven’t played the PC version or if you don’t try everything.

Fast-forward to last year in April. After re-playing the game for the “I lost count how many times” time on the PC, I wanted to challenge myself. So, I thought, why not speedrun the game. And then I started running the PC version. I started the “All Treasures category” in the PC version since the “Any%” category is quite optimized.

If you are already lost in what I’m saying let me quickly fill you in. A speedrun is a challenge you can do in a game where you have to beat a level or the full game as quickly as possible without cheating. Now, abusing game mechanics or glitches is allowed. Well, depending on the category and/or game. Some terms that speedrunners use are:

  • ILS: a term used when only one level is ran.
  • Any%: a term that’s used to indicate that the goal is beaten as fast as possible by skipping as much as possible.
  • Category: an example of a category is Any% or ILS. It’s a type of speedrun, basically. You either have the complete the whole level/game 100% as fast as possible or collect all X or not take damage or not abuse a certain glitch… It explains itself basically.
  • TAS: Tool Assisted Speedrun. This means that certain tools were used to create the run. For example, using save states to create the perfect run. (A save state is “save” that saves the current state of the game at the moment the save state is made and can be loaded by the press of a button). Tools like emulators to have better quality footage of the run aren’t always TAS runs, depends on the game/community.
  • Strats: just a sort of strategy/technique.
  • PB: personal best time.

Now, I’ll try to explain terms in my article. When you don’t understand a certain term or something written in this article, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section, and I’ll do my best to answer it. Anyways, let’s start with explaining the starts and such are used in the first level of the Game Boy Color version of the game.

Any%

The official rule set at the moment of writing:

Link to Speedrun.com page
The current world record at the time of writing is owned by Molotok who ran this level in 29 seconds.
My current best at the time of writing is 30 seconds, which earns me the second place.

In the Any% route of this level, you get directly introduced the one of the biggest tricks in this game and that’s ladder sniping.

You’d think that runners are jumping to their impending doom here. Yet, this isn’t true. In this game, when you jump down, and you grab a ladder, all movement and fall damage is canceled. After Indy slides down the ramp, almost directly to the right, you can find the ending of the level.

Sadly, there are some annoying parts of this ladder snipe. For of all, take this image. On there, I have drawn a blue line and a green line. Stating the obvious I know, but go with me.

When Indy slides down at the start of the level, he stops somewhere in the blue zone. Well, more in the middle of the ramp. But the annoying thing is that when you go directly to the right then, you’ll hit a wall.

If you want to beat the WR in this level, and you hit that starting wall, you might as well reset. This ladder snipe is so optimized that the world record hasn’t been tied yet. Even master PC/N64 runner the_kovic with his 30 second run has trouble matching that 29 seconds.

After falling down, you need to grab this ladder. Grabbing the ladder when falling down is dubbed a “ladder snipe” in our community. The following image is the frame I grabbed the ladder in my PB.

This is how Molotok got the ladder snipe:

A few pixels higher and a bit more in the middle. This meant he saves some milliseconds there and actually goes faster.

After that, it’s climbing up and going to the right:

Taken from Molotoks video of his 29 second speedrun.

See the green line? Well, that’s a jump. It’s a few frames faster than walking close to it and then jumping. After that, we walk diagonally and give or take at the black X, we jump.

Why a jump towards the ladder there? Well, climbing ladders in this game is extremely slow. The fewer time spent climbing ladders, the better. In this game, you don’t need to start at the bottom of the ladder to climb one. In this game, there are a few moments where you need to drop from the top of a ladder to the bottom of another one. This means, that as soon as Indy hits a ladder, and you hold up, the game’ll cling Indy to the ladder, and you can start climbing. The game automatically centers Indy into the middle of the ladder when you grabbed the sides while climbing upwards. This little jump (ab)uses on how the ladders work to shave off a few frames.

When climbing up the ladder, a trick comes which I have a hard time mastering. And that’s when you reach the top of the ladder, you can go a bit to the side to save a few frames. For some reason, I go too much to the left and fall off. So, that’s why I don’t do it in my run but other runners and the TAS of the Any% of this game does.

It basically looks like this, done by Molotok

After that, we go a little to the left and do two jumps in quick succession.

Still taken from my 30 seconds PB.

The second jump is basically to lower the climbing time.

Comparing my PB to the world record, I notice that it’s mostly movement based. The fact that my snipes usually a little lower, and I don’t do the trick at the top of ladders. This costs me a ton of frames, making my 30 seconds run a bit slower compared to the world record.

After reaching the top, you have give or take 5 seconds of a small cutscene. I highly recommend you mash the A button at that time, since the faster the text box goes away, the better.

Now, when you do this ladder snipe and go for any%, the ending of this level is a bit different. The final scorpion isn’t present at ladder and Sophia doesn’t appear in the end credits scene. I honestly don’t know why, but it’s a unique difference between the Any% route and the “All Treasures route”.

Feedback requested

Now, before I get into the “All treasures” route of this level and the differences in a full game run and an ILS, I want to wrap up this article here. Because I want to hear from you all what you think. Would you want more articles like this? Where I talk about the route, techniques and all that? Do you want it in a different structure or in a different way? Is everything clear or are some parts confusing?

Writing about my speedrunning experiences is something I wanted to do for quite a while. Especially since this blog is a sort of diary of my gaming life and beside in update articles or on my Twitter, I haven’t really talked too in depth on my speedrunning. And since the PC & N64 routes are quite well documented, I thought it would be fun to do that for the GBC as well in my unique way.

I thought writing an article on my blog, giving the game more exposure would be way more fun than; how I wrote that guide about the locations of all the treasures in the PC version you can find on the resources page on the Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine speedrun page. So, this is really an experimental article and depending on your feedback… I’ll continue this series and/or improve it accordingly.

Thank you so much for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed it. I know it’s something else besides my usual game reviews and such, but I felt refreshed writing about something different and still have it game related. I enjoyed writing this so much, and I can’t wait to see, hear and read the reactions. If you all enjoy this, this’ll become another series on my blog until I have talked about every level in the game and talked about the full game runs.

And with that said, I think I have to say goodbye for now. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article about speedrunning this game and/or me talking about another game. But until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Interview with GameChuck after “SpeedLimit” release

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

H2x1_NSwitchDS_SpeedLimit_image1600w

First Impression: Barn Finders (PC – Steam) ~ Let’s Find Our Stock

capsule_616x353Steam Store page

It’s no secret that I love to go to garage sales and thrift stores. I love looking around at those places to try and find unique items to add to my collection. So, when the developers of Barn Finders approached me and asked me to write a 100% honest opinion review about it, I didn’t hesitate. This game sounded right up my alley. So, after a few hours of playing this game, can I recommend this game or is this game worthy of a skip? Let’s find out while I invite you to write a comment in the comment section down below with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

Side note: if this game looks interesting but you want to try it out before you buy, there is a demo on the Steam Store. 

Let’s find our stock

840948bcfe9343c08c45cdb7d429eb43In this game you play as a guy who is living in a barn with Uncle Joe. He is your oldest cousin and together you run a thrift store. But instead of people bringing their stuff in, you go to auctions and go to barns to stock your store. 

The story in this game isn’t anything special. You travel from barn to barn while doing stops in your pawn shop. You also have to deal with your customers. You can accept or decline their offer but you can also haggle with them. Pay attention since some customers will rob you blind and even literally, there are thieves in this game. 

While there isn’t a lot of story present in this game, the atmosphere and setting of this game is really well done. I really feel that this game takes place in the late ’80/early ’90 in the more rural area’s of America. 

Now, there is something that confuses me a bit. There is voice acting in this game over the radio and the upgrade shop but all the other things are sim-lish. You know, mumbling like in The Sims. I honestly think that the game would be a bit better if this mumbling met the tone of the dialogue a bit more. 

Not everything has mumble dialogue, take for example the auctions. At the moments, you rarely have mumbling of the characters. Well, you do have it for the guy running the auction but that’s quite monotone and clearly a soundbite playing on repeat. Anyways, the voice acting itself on the radio and the mumbling is quite enjoyable for the rest. I feel that they give more atmosphere to the game and even bring it more alive. 

In terms of characters in this game, well there a few characters that you meet but there isn’t a lot of character building. While this can be a turn off for some people, I personally don’t mind that much in this game. But here is the thing, there is a limited amount of character models and quite quickly you will see the same people coming to your store. You also meet the same characters on auctions. I don’t know if they are the same characters but they are the same character models. 

All over America

10d3deb9968b4beb860b64739ecdf409The gameplay of this game is three part. The first part is simple, you have to run your own pawn shop. Thankfully there are no mechanics where you have to pay the electric bills and things like that. Most of the mechanics of maintaining a the shop are explained in the tutorial and easily accessible with the “F1” key. I love it when games have a clear and nice tutorial.

I do have some minor complaints about the tutorial. First of all, I don’t know why the part of the generator is still in the tutorial since you only have to do this once. Secondly, a small table of contents would have been amazing. Thirdly, there are some minor spelling errors like: “car Battery” instead of “car battery”.  And finally, the final tutorial has some text that runs off the yellow square while in the final square you see that they made the font small to fit it all in the yellow square… I mean, some consistency please. 

Now, the second and third part of the gameplay are kinda similar and kinda not. On some maps, there is an auction that you need to do before you can explore the map completely. And sometimes there is no auction. To be honest, I didn’t like these auctions one bit because I got the impression that they were a barrier to stop the player from progressing too fast into the game. The solution for making them more interesting would be that you would get some information about the other candidates and their shop, if you are able to outbid them or not. Since the only information you get about that is there is an amount of money on the map before you move to that place. 

While exploring the map, there are a different type of things you can collect. The first type are “trash” items. These are for example: packs of cigarettes or booze. These give you a small amount of money right away. The second type of things are the materials. These are obtained by destroying interact able objects like trash cans or barrels. These items can be used to repair broken items in your pawn shop. And the final type of thing are the times you can arrange a pickup for, to sell in your pawn shop. 

Apart from that, there are collectibles in each map. These range from new floor tiles or wallpaper to a secretly hidden golden toilet roll. Now, on a lot of maps, you have a bathroom you can interact with. Each time you interact with it, a small “character goes to the bathroom” sound plays while the screen goes black. I found this funny at first but I didn’t see the joke in it. 

I do have some minor complaints about exploring the maps. First of all, the meter for the amount of remaining items is janky. I’m sorry but what does count as remaining items? And why is this some sort of health bar instead of a number? The game shows you a number when you go to the truck…? Oh, yeah, trash items don’t count for that meter. 

Secondly, is it me or are some hitboxes of digging spots a bit off? I had to move away and closer from the digging location to continue digging. Speaking about digging, it would have added to the immersion if there was a bit more animation while digging and maybe that the item you were digging up started to slowly show?

And finally, why isn’t there a counter for the amount of resources you can still pick up or trash items that are still present on the map? That would have been a great help to know if I found every single thing on the map. 

Now, this brings me to two complaints about the maintaining of your shop. The first complaint I have about that are the various stations. You can let the item you are cleaning or reaping get in a very glitchy state when you drag the item a tiny bit out of the machine and then try to clean or repair right away. 

While I was researching why my items were glitching out, I found out that you can double bind a key in the option menu. But, more on the UI later in this article. 

The second complaint I have about the shop part of the game are the hitboxes of the signs. These are too janky to use sometimes. I had a lot of trouble trying to pick another sign to hang up. 

Close enough

ss_14a44569ca3559382eda63d13e670e25b43eea0d.1920x1080If you read the previous section, you might think that the gameplay of this game isn’t the best. If you got that impression, I’m sorry but you got the wrong idea. I found this game quite enjoyable to play. But, it does have a few problems that can be solved with some patches. There is a DLC coming in the future and maybe with that DLC, some issues might get fixed. 

Is this game challenging? Well, not really. There isn’t a lot of challenge in this game. This game is perfect for when you want to relax and don’t be afraid that you get a game over screen or get stuck in a difficult level. 

Visually, this game looks quite decent. Some textures look flat like the leaves on bushes and you have the occasional clipping of characters, but in general the visuals are quite good. Now, the area’s you walk around in are quite detailed and look real. Apart from the invisible walls that is but hey, you need a way to keep the player in the correct playing area. 

In terms of animations, they are fine. All the animations of the characters that are standing still, I don’t have any complaints about them. I do have a complaint that there no walking animation of the characters. They magically teleport to the location you need them in, and they do that with a puff of smoke. At the other hand, it sort of grew on me and I felt that it added to the charm of the game. 

Like the reference achievements, those grew on me as well. It’s quite clear that the developers had a lot of fun putting these achievements together. And I think I might try to get all the achievements since it adds one more goal to this game. 

Now, let’s get on to the audiovisual presentation of this game. Let me start with the sound effects, these are good. I don’t have any complaints on that part. I do have some complaints about the soundtrack. While the soundtrack is good and fits the atmosphere of the game quite well, I feel that there aren’t enough music tracks. There are moments when the silence could have been filled with a bit of music. Then again, of most these moments where when I returned to the pawn shop or when I was loading in a map… So, does this game have enough music? I don’t know for sure. 

Let’s talk about the UI of this game. Overall, the UI is quite well done. Yet, I already mentioned one flaw with it. The fact that you can bind one key to more than one action. I’m sad to report that there is another flaw with the UI. I would be able to forgive the fact you can’t name your profiles, if you were able to disable the frame limiter… Which has been spelled with an underscore in the build I reviewed for some reason… 😉 But the most annoying mistake in terms of the UI is the controls bind menu… The controller lay-out, why don’t you use the XBOX or PS style buttons? Why the literal generic button lay-out? 

Before I talk about the final thing, I want to mention that there is no stamina meter in the game. So, when you are running and you want to know how long you still have before your character slows down, good look… 

Anyways, the final thing I want to talk about are the controls of the game. This is something that really confused me at first but as soon as I got used to them, they clicked quite well. Most of this game is controlled with the mouse and keyboard. A lot of actions are with the mouse, like interacting with objects and NPC’s. Very rarely I found myself using the wrong mouse button, but I was able to correct myself quite quickly. The controls are extremely responsive and I felt in complete control of my character. So, no complaints there.

So, I have played this game for about 4 hours now. While I found some small and big issues with the game, I still want to recommend this game to casual or adventure players who want to play something relaxing. This game is the perfect game to wind down after a long day of work. Maybe this might be just me but I find the gameplay loop quite rewarding.

While the game has some rough edges, the fact that there is an in-game feedback feature and the fact that there is a DLC coming next year is giving me hope that this game will become an even better game. Some of the issues that I mentioned in this article can be solved with in-game mechanics.

The game runs amazingly smooth and I never had any frame dips. The only minor issue I still want to mention is that I found it quite unclear when a character has finished his or her dialogue. But, that doesn’t stop me from recommend this game.

So yes, it would be a shame if you skipped this 20€ game since I enjoyed myself and I found the positives outweigh the negatives by a lot. And I think I have said everything I wanted to say about this game for now. I might take another look at this game when I beat it but for now, I want to thank you so much for reading my article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

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!

8RDZod

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!

First Impression: Resident Evil 4 (PS2) ~ Leon, Help Me! LEEEEOOONN!

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Wikipedia entry

Not too long ago, I revealed my 10 favorite games I have started playing in 2018. One of these games was Resident Evil 4. Now, I shorty explained why I enjoyed that game so much in that article but I think it’s time to give a more in-depth opinion on the game. I haven’t finished the game yet, I’m closing in on the mid-way point of the game. I think I have seen enough of the game to give my first impressions on the game and to give my honest opinion on the game. So, will this be the game that drags me into survival horror or will this game be the one that turns me off? As usual, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts on the game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below. 

Ashley & Leon’s “vacation”

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In this game, you take on the role of Leon S. Kennedy. A police officer that was involved with Raccoon City that has been sent to Spain to rescue the President’s kidnapped daughter. Very quickly after your arrival, you discover that things aren’t normal and that something went horribly wrong. It’s up to Leon to find and rescue Ashley as quickly as he can.

The writing in this game is excellent. Some story elements are explained in notes you can find in the world and others are explained in cutscenes. The voice acting is amazing, I especially love the voice acting during combat sections since it really helps with building the atmosphere. The only missed opportunity, in my opinion, is that there aren’t a lot of interactions between Ashley and Leon during your exploration. Maybe Bioshock Infinite with Booker and Elisabeth spoiled me too much there.

Most of this game is a sort of escort quest. But, Leon isn’t taking Ashley on a nice vacation to Spain, at all. Remember the start of this section? Leon came to the village to extract Ashley and get her back to the United States of the Americas.

Now, I’ll talk more about gameplay mechanics later but first I want to talk about a flaw with the story of this game. The flaw is that some parts of the story, especially some characters and events aren’t explained too well to newcomers. This game is the first Resident Evil game I’m trying to beat and I had to look up certain things. Now, on the other hand, these unexplained gaps in the story made me even more interested to play the previous Resident Evil games so that everything can fall into place.

Since I haven’t beaten the game, I won’t comment on the writing too much. To be quite honest, I feel that sometimes the story takes a bit of a backseat and is more used as a sort of tool to string different sections together. I even dare to say that you would be able to cut some sections out without it making a (big) impact on the story or the atmosphere. Yes, the notes fill in some of the gaps but since they are optional and can be skipped, the story feels incomplete to me. As if there were sections removed from the final version.

Ashley isn’t Elisabeth

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Now, I knew in advance that this game was going to be an escort mission sort of game. I have played Bioshock Infinite, so I got used to guiding a character around.

Now, there are big differences between Elisabeth and Ashley. First of all, Ashley can be kidnapped. Whenever certain enemies are close to her, she can be picked up and kidnapped. Whenever she is dragged through a door to another section, it’s game over.

There are two other big differences. The first is that Ashley isn’t helpful during your exploration. You can tell her to wait, hide and follow you. She can only hide in certain places, she doesn’t look for them herself. Now, I tested out how good her pathfinding is. Whenever I called for her when she was in hiding and I ran to a corner of the map, she was always able to find me and team up with me.

The second big difference is that Ashley isn’t invincible. If you see the screenshot I placed a bit earlier, you notice that Ashley has a health bar as well. So, you have to be careful that Ashley doesn’t take damage. Since you need to rescue her alive. Whenever you use your healing items, you can choose to heal either yourself or Ashley.

Thankfully, both Elisabeth and Ashley rarely get in your way during combat. Elisabeth goes and looks for items while Ashley ducks so fast when you aim at an enemy behind her, it’s almost impossible to hit her. Also, whenever I threw a grenade in her direction to try and defeat an enemy close to her, she quickly gets out of the way. Thank god, I would have thrown out the disc if that wasn’t the case.

Now, I have been talking about the differences between Ashley and Elisabeth for a while now. But, how does this gameplay? What is the actual gameplay? This game is an adventure-exploration 3D shooter game. I even dare to say that you can compare it to the reboot Tomb Raider games to a certain extent. The big differences are Ashley and that this game focuses more on big bosses and horror than Tomb Raider.

I have to admit that I’m playing this game on the easy difficulty. Because this is one of my first times I’m playing a survival horror game, I wanted to get used to the mechanics before I challenged myself and played through the genre on a harder difficulty. Surprisingly, this game keeps being challenging. I’m always thinking of how I can save the ammo of my most powerful weapons to quickly dispatch groups of enemies.

The biggest thing I dislike during combat is that I can’t see a difference between an enemy that is close to dying and one that is full health. What is even more annoying is that it’s sometimes, and especially with the bosses, hard to read if you are hitting them or not. In one run, I was sure I hit an enemy but the enemy didn’t go down and used her chainsaw to insta-kill me. The red dot at the end of where you are aiming is too small and too little of an indication during hectic combat. Because of this, I’m sure that I have wasted so much ammo fighting bosses.

I think I can summarize it like this: the combat is a bit rough around the edges. While it’s a lot of fun, sometimes I got annoyed with the limitations of the mechanics. On one hand, I can understand where the developers were coming from. This game is a survival horror game after all and you have to fell tense and afraid since it’s a horror game. On the other hand, it doesn’t take away that I would have loved to see a bit more polish on the combat.

Something I’m disappointed a bit by is the puzzles. I feel that most of the puzzles rely a bit too much on the “press the buttons in the right order” cliché. Almost all of the non-combat puzzles have to press switches in a certain sequence. Granted, I’m somewhere in the middle of the game so, it’s quite possible that the rest of the game will have a bit more unique puzzles.

It has aged

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Because I’m a retro gamer, I don’t mind it when games look dated. If you wondered why I didn’t play the HD version for this article, I can easily explain that by saying that I was able to pick up a physical copy of the original and that interests me more as a collector.

Now, the game looks fine on PS2. There is a lot of detail in the atmosphere of the game and the monster design is delicious grotesque. I especially love it when characters transform mid-battle because then I have to think quickly and change my strategy accordingly.

But alas, the fact that this game is now almost 15 years old is starting to show. In certain sections, I feel that there isn’t enough detail. I also had the impression that in certain sections, the textures on the models were a bit too flat making certain objects like a bed in the castle look like it would belong in a PS1 Tomb Raider game. I haven’t played the HD version of the game, but from what I have seen, all the complaints I have about the visuals… well, let’s just say that the HD version looks a LOT better than the PS2 version. I even checked some comparison videos between the Gamecube, Wii and this version of the game and I have to say, that the versions on the Nintendo platforms look a lot better.

Now, I’m not saying that this game looks ugly. Remember that I said that this game looks fine? Well, I really stand by that. I love all the detail they put in the world and the animations in this game are amazing. I especially love how destructible the world is. When a huge boss throws a tree to a shack you are standing in, the tree doesn’t break on the shack because video games, the tree actually breaks the shack because of realism.

The only “negative” I can say in terms of the animations is that certain death scenes are a bit too scripted. What I mean is for example, when you kill an enemy with a headshot, it doesn’t go down right away. It nearly always takes a few steps forward before collapsing. This isn’t the only example of that, but it stands out. But, after a while, I got used to it and it didn’t bother me that much.

Now, besides puzzles and combat; there is one other part of the gameplay I haven’t mentioned. And that are the quick-time events. In certain sections, you have too much a button as quick as you can to survive. These sections were the most annoying sections of the game in my opinion. Thankfully, they are short. So, they are over without too much hassle.

This game doesn’t have an autosave. You can save at certain save points scattered around. You can save an infinite amount of times as long as you are at the typewriter. Thankfully, when you get a game over, you don’t have to restart from your last save point. You start from the section you died at. For example, when you died during a quick time event with a boss and die, you respawn at the start of that quick-time event. This is a great feature since whenever I died, I learned something new and I got a new idea on how to possibly defeat the boss.

Besides strategy, there is something else that helps with defeating bosses and that are good controls. This game has that. The only things I struggle a bit with are turning while using the knife or aiming with a weapon. Now, turning with a knife isn’t too much of an issue. I stop pushing the knife button and press it again when I have done my turn.

The aiming of weapons is a different story. This game is one of the first games I played on a console that involves a lot of shooting. I’m quite used to being able to easily shoot using a mouse of the Wii Remote. I had to get used to aiming with a joystick. To my surprise, I quickly got used to it. When I look at the stats at the end of each level, I notice that I’m improving quite a lot in my accuracy.

To my surprise, I haven’t talked about the music and sound design of this game and it’s almost the end of the article. The soundtrack of this game is one that helps build the atmosphere quite well. Personally, I wouldn’t listen to most of the tracks outside of the game, but I enjoy the soundtrack quite a lot during gameplay.

The sound design of this game gets a big thumbs up from me. The game sound just right, from the sound of the guns to enemies transforming. It all sounds like you would imagine it sounding in real life.

Well, that’s everything I wanted to say about this game for now. I know that I haven’t talked about everything but I’ll leave those things for my review if I ever write one on this game. So, I think it’s time to wrap up this article.

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.

Gamer’s Thoughts: Super Mario Odyssey isn’t a perfect game.

Super_Mario_OdysseyOfficial website

I wanted to write a review of this game for quite a while. I have finished this game over a month ago and I haven’t written a first impression or a review about this game. I want to fix that today. But, instead of writing a review I wanted to do something special. While the game got praise from other bloggers left and right, I want to point out some of the flaws and issues I have with the game. Disclaimer, I don’t think this is a bad game but I want to explain my reasoning for why I wouldn’t give this game a 100/100. So, let’s get critical and look at this game again. As per usual, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts on the game and/or the game. 

Mini-review

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So, what do I actually think about this game? While it’s a very unique and enjoyable game, I found the game quite repetitive.

The music and sound design were amazing but I sometimes had trouble with the controls and more advanced moves.

The visuals are amazing and I loved running around in all the different kingdoms but I found the story lacking and I expected a lot more from the hype and praise it got.

If I would have to give my score for this game it would be an 80/100. Since in my eyes, the game could have done so much more and it left me disappointed in some areas of the game.

This game has a lot to love. Like I said, the visuals, the music, the concept… they are all amazing. The attention to detail is amazing. Cappy is one of the most helpful companions I have seen in a while. Yet, I felt like I enjoyed this game less then the other 3D platformers I played like A Hat In Time. So yeah, personally I felt that there was something lacking. Something that kept me from fully enjoying the game and that thought exercise resulted in this article.

Breath of the Wild did it better

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The story has one big issue and that’s the open world and the overkill of moons you can collect. Now, not too long before the release of this game, Nintendo released The Legend Of Zelda – Breath of the Wild. In this game, you were also able to run around freely and gather the things you need to finish the game.

Now, there is a big difference in how the story is handled in the Zelda games and in the Mario games. The big difference is in how the ending is handled. And if you don’t want either of these games spoiled, just start reading when the text is black again. If you don’t mind the spoilers, just highlight the next part in order for you to read it.

So, in each kingdom in Super Mario Odyssey, there is a story quest you can complete to easily get enough moons to advance to the next kingdom. But, this is an open-world game so you can skip this story quest by collecting other moons. Fair enough. You can do the same thing in the Zelda game. You don’t have to defeat the divine beasts in order for you to go to the final boss. 

Now, here is the difference between the two games. If you don’t defeat the Divine Beasts in Breath of the Wild, you will have a harder time before you go and do the battle with Ganon. Since you will need to defeat them before you can fight with Ganon. The more Divine Beasts you beat, the easier you make it for yourself during the final battle. Since they bring down Ganon’s health to half if you have beaten all 4 Divine Beasts. This is not only good story writing, but it’s also an amazing reward for the player. You helped free the souls from their prisons and they came back one last time to help the hero in his quest to defeat evil. 

In Super Mario Odyssey, this doesn’t matter at all. I haven’t finished the story quest in three kingdoms and it doesn’t have any difference in the ending scenes or on the final battle at all. So, why should I bother saving or helping people in a certain kingdom? When I entered a kingdom, I felt like I was dropped in a zone and if I found enough goodies I was allowed to go to the next zone. 

Another thing Breath of the Wild did better then Super Mario Odyssey are the Korok Seeds vs Moons. Now, you get both items as rewards for solving puzzles or doing small challenges in the world.  At some moments I felt like Super Mario Odyssey was the whole Korok Seed quest with a Mario skin. Now, I felt rewarded when I found a Korok Seed. Even when I had beaten the game. It gave me another chance to upgrade my bag so I was able to carry more equipment in the game and experiment more.

Now, besides needing them to continue in the main story, there are no additional rewards for collecting moons. Besides unlocking one more world/level, and maybe two small completion bonus things at the end of the game, I didn’t feel any incentive to collect these moons. I felt like I was on a fetch quest for them just because it’s a video game.

The final thing that Breath of the Wild did better is the towers and map mechanics. Yes, the towers. I loved climbing towers in Breath of the Wild and looking over the whole zone trying to find interesting areas to visit. I felt a lack of that in Super Mario Odyssey. Also, the mechanic where you could pin beams of light on the map as markers for you to visit later… man, that would have been great in Super Mario Odyssey as well.

And it would fit the visual theming of the game extremely well. The map of each kingdom is a travel brochure of the kingdom. And let’s be honest, how many times you wrote on the map of a travel brochure to mark certain areas you still want to visit.

And a final and possibly a minor thing is that Breath of the Wild felt more interconnected. The best way to explain here is, ask yourself this. You can walk over from region to region in Breath of the Wild easily. You need to fly over from kingdom to kingdom in Super Mario Odyssey. And while it’s on a planet, you are able to fall into a void if you reach the edge of a kingdom.

A Hat In Time did it better

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Now, I’m certain that people will disagree with me on this but I felt that the controls of A Hat In Time felt better than Super Mario Odyssey.

It’s no secret that I’m not the best in platforming games. So, the running up walls move in A Hat In Time was a godsend to me.

But, the issue is that nowadays, I miss various jumps because I try to rely on that mechanic. It gets better when I kept playing Super Mario Odyssey but I missed that mechanic. Not only that, I got so much used to the dive move in A Hat In Time. I was able to pull off more advanced moves than I ever could in a platforming game. With the 2nd dive/jump, you were able to stop at any time you want. So, if you noticed that you overshoot the jump, you can save yourself easily.

So, at that moment I started comparing the moves I was able to pull off in A Hat In Time to Super Mario Odyssey. And I felt like I was more in control in A Hat In Time. For example, I can’t pull off the Cappy Jump at all in Super Mario Odyssey but I’m able to defeat the hardest jumping challenges in A Hat In Time. I don’t know what’s going on exactly, but I think it has to do with the two things I said above.

Or it might have to do with me being more used to the XBOX360 controller I play A Hat In Time with compared to the first game I had beaten on Nintendo Switch. Maybe when I’m more used to the Switch controller, I might be able to do these more difficult moves.

Other things

Now, remember, I still enjoyed myself with Super Mario Odyssey and it’s still a great game. But, I have seen other games do certain aspects better. Besides that, are there other things I don’t like about Super Mario Odyssey?

The motion controls were also a big issue for me. I played a lot of this game on the go. On the train from and to work. And I think that I’m unable to get a few moons easily without those motion control moves. But, that’s mentioned in almost every review I have seen. And as pointed out by some, why weren’t they able to remap those moves to certain buttons that went barely used in the game like ZL/ZR?

Besides that, I think I have said my main issues with the game. I could go on and extremely nitpick, but that would make this article boring to read. Like I felt each world should have its own Rabbit mini-boss and not repeat them over several worlds with barely any differences…

In the end and I have mentioned this multiple times, I think that this game is wonderful, one of the best games Nintendo has put out in 2017. While it isn’t their best game from 2017, it’s in the top 5. While I feel that this game deserves a lot of praise, it could have done things a lot better and I hope I was able to point that out in this article.

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

Review: Tomb Raider Legend (PC) ~ The Sword of King Arthur

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Wikipedia entry

I remember picking up this game quite well. I was hyped for this game. Not too long before the release of this game, I got a new computer that was able to run to this game quite well. It even ran with the next-gen graphics. Back then, I finished this game and I remember that I had a lot of fun. Eleven years later, I decided that I want to write a review of this game. So, I took my copy from the shelves and booted up my Windows XP retro game pc and restarted playing this game. So, does this game still hold up or is this game just good in my nostalgic filled mind? Let’s dive into the Legend of the Tomb Raider. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of the article in the comment section below. 

Thrill ride

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The story of this game starts off with a young Lara on a plane. She is flying with her mother through a thunderstorm when suddenly, the plane crashes.

Lara finds an ancient sword and touches it. Her mother pulls Lara away and then pulls out the sword and disappears.  We fast forward a few years when Lara starts the journey to try and find out what happened to her mother.

In my opinion, the story is pretty good. Not great, since some parts of the story a bit too predictable. I was able to guess what was going to happen in the last parts of the game. I really liked the twist at the end, setting up the next game Underworld perfectly.

I know that Anniversary released before Underworld, but it has really nothing to do with the story of this game and Underworld.

In any case, the voice acting in this game is pretty good. I loved it when I played the game for the first time when I was a child and I still love it now. My favorite voice actress in the game is Keeley Hawes. She voices Lara Croft in this game and she does a pretty great job, just how I imagine Lara Croft sounding like.

Most of this game story is told in cutscenes. But, if you already finished the game, you can skip the cutscene by tapping the pause button and choose for “Skip Cinematic”.

I have played this game on two different systems for this review. One that can handle the next generation content and one that can’t handle that. The next generation content is nothing really special in my opinion. It just adds some additional visual fluff to the game.

Something I did notice, is that when I played it on my more than capable retro gaming PC, one that his the recommend specs perfectly, there is a lot of flickering in some stages and textures not fully loading in. I mostly had this problem when I did the motorcycle bit in the snowy area.

There is a lot of variaty in this game. You have driving sections, QTE, platforming and shooting sections. Wait, Quick Time Events? I know that some people really hate this, but I personally don’t mind them too much. They aren’t too frequent and they are over quickly. To be honest, I enjoy most of them.

Exploring Lara’s house

Tomb Raider Legend

It’s a shame that the game has some graphical problems here and there. Maybe it has to do with the fact that old PC has an ATI device in it, and the other PC has a NVidea card. It does display at the start.

But, the overall presentation is good. The environments and tombs you explore in this game are pretty well designed. The animation is great too. Some death animations really send a shiver down my spine. They felt a bit too real, but some became funny when Lara keeps sliding more than you expect and falls off a cliff.

You can also explore the Croft Manor in this game. In this game, the Croft Manor isn’t the tutorial like we have seen in all previous Tomb Raider games. Now, you can unlock certain training areas to explore when you finish a certain level in the game. I personally recommend that you play through the Croft Manor when you either want a relaxing level or a post-game thing to play.

There are also secrets to find in the Croft Manor. These extras range from character profiles to object models. There is also a special surprise if you collect them all. Thankfully, it’s quite easy to replay a level to try and find secrets you missed.

One thing that really annoyed me was the saving mechanic. It works fine and the autosave points are placed perfectly, but the loading of save games is just a bit broken. Tomb Raider is known for difficult jumps sometimes or multiple jumps you have to do in a row. I like to save after I did a few of them so I can load the game when I did something wrong. In all the previous titles, that I played, when you load; you start right back at the position you saved. Not in this game, you start at the beginning of the jump bit or sometimes even earlier.

The soundtrack of this game is great. I really enjoy listing to it and it added a great atmosphere while you are exploring the tombs. The orchestral soundtrack of this game really impressed me as a kid and it still does as an adult. The sound design for this game is good as well.

Put that gun away, Lara!

tr7_ghana

If there is one thing that could use some improvement in this game is the controls.

Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t terrible in any meaning of the word.

There were just a few times that I pressed the grab button, but Lara didn’t grab a ledge. Yet, it isn’t the wrong thing about the controls. There isn’t a “put your gun away” button. And if there is, I wasn’t able to find it. This was really annoying when you were done fighting some enemies and you wanted to start a jump puzzle and Lara doesn’t grab the ledge because she is still holding a gun.

Also, the default layout for the controls is just bad for some functions. For example, to switch your weapon, it’s “End”. To switch your light on or off, it’s “Del”. Medkit is “Home” and your binoculars is “Page Down”. So, I highly recommend you rebinding those controls when you want to play this game.

I don’t know what was causing this problem, but sometimes, the camera moved without me moving my mouse at all. This happened multiple times when I was swinging on a rope.

That’s enough complaining about the controls. Let’s talk about the rest of the game. There is a sort of help system in the game. The PDA. It’s helpful, but I rarely used it. The only time I used it was when I returned to the game after a long while to check what I needed to do.

But, the binoculars can help there as well. With them, you can see what you can use and plan out your route. Yet, the level design is so clear, you barely have to use it when you pay attention to what’s around you.

The difficulty in this game is spot on. No complaints there. The UI of this game is pretty well crafted too. Again, no issues there.

The combat in this game is really enjoyable. My favorite moments are when you enter a sort of bullet time mode and you jump on enemies shield to launch you into the air and shoot the defenseless enemy.

Before we go to the conclusion, I want to touch on one final thing. This game’s length is spot on. It isn’t too long but it isn’t too short either. If you decide to complete this game that is. Since, if you rush through this game, you might be able to beat it in a day. Since it’s 8 hours long. If you want to complete this game, you double your play time.

Conclusion

The good:

+ Good story, while predictable sometimes

+ Great voice acting.

+ Good level design.

+ A lot of variety in gameplay styles.

+ ….

The bad:

-Some visual issues on some computers.

-The controls, while good, could use some polishing up. The default layout is just bad.

-The game is too short if you rush through it.

Final thoughts:

This game didn’t age too well. As a kid, I thought this game was one of the best games I have ever played. But, looking at it now as an adult, I see the flaws of this game. It’s by no means a bad game. The story, voice acting, level design… they are all good.

The big issue is that they aren’t great. The sequel games, like Anniversary and Underworld, are so much better in my opinion.

In general, this game has its problems. Some are noticeable, others aren’t. I do remember having adrenaline rushes when I played this game for the first time. When I played it for this review, I had them too but way less.

In conclusion, I think that this game is worth it. I would recommend it to any fan of Tomb Raider and adventure games. If you have a decent enough computer that can run it and doesn’t get affected by the same graphical issues I was. Since I can tell you for a fact, I didn’t have them on my old childhood computer. This game is good, but not great. It could have been better if there was a bit more polish.

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

Score: 70/100

First Impression: Minecraft Story Mode (Android) ~ Tappin’ That Adventure, yo!

Minecraft_Story_Mode_Logo.pngOfficial website

Back in 2015, when I was at Minecon, I saw the trailer for Minecraft Story Mode. I actually attended the panel as well. And truth to be told, the game didn’t interest me at all. Which is really strange since I enjoy adventure games a whole lot, but this game didn’t grab my interest enough for me to put it onto my “to play” list. But in November 2016, I bought this game in a sale on the Android store. And now, I have to explain why it made it on the list of best games I played in 2016 as an honorable mention… So, let’s dive right into my first impressions of this game. When writing this article, I’m halfway into episode 4. There are 8 in total. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

This isn’t Minecraft!

Minecraft-Story-Mode-9-840x525.pngFor those wondering, I’m playing this game on my Asus ZenPad 8S. So, yeah. In any case, let’s talk about the story as spoiler free as possible.

At the start of the game, you get to choose how your character looks and the gender. Right after that, you are thrown into the game. In this game, you go to a building competition to decide who goes to EnderCon. But, it doesn’t take long before something horrible happens. A monster gets loose that tries to destroy the world.

Before I take a better look at the story, I have to say, that I find it sad that people bash the story and the game because “it isn’t Minecraft”.  Minecraft is a sandbox game, a game where you have full control of the situation. But that’s a rant for another time.

This story is made more interesting thanks to the subplots that are going on. Since for most of the story that big monster “takes a backseat”. The whole story is written pretty well in my opinion. I enjoy how the dynamic works between all the characters. And how each action you take, changes the dialogue of the game. And something I truly like is that at certain points, the story branches off. Like you could choose between two heroes you could save, and your start of the next episode would be totally different. But that’s to be expected with a TellTale game.

Something that makes the writing even more interesting to me is that the developers made an interesting attempt into trying to implement all the subcultures of Minecraft into one story. The Redstoners, YouTubers, Builders, Adventures… they are all present in some way in the game.

About the story, there is one thing that I think would improve the game, in my opinion, is a sort of skip button or speed up button. I think that would be a great option for people who are playing through an episode again.

Sit through this game

Minecraft-Story-Mode-51-840x525.pngSomething I saw other people be disappointed with is the fact that this game has way less gameplay than Minecraft. But, that isn’t a bad thing in my eyes. That isn’t the main focus of this game. The main focus of this game is to tell a story using the Minecraft setting and lore.

The gameplay is your typical adventure genre gameplay. It’s very close to point and click gameplay. So, the first gameplay element is the dialogues. You can choose between 5 dialogue options to react to a certain situation. The 5th option is pure silence. That isn’t available in every dialogue, but hey, it’s there. The only nitpick complaint I have with this is that in some cases, that time runs out way too quickly. By the time I have read the options, the time is nearly up and then I still have to decide which reply to go with. Thank you for the pause button at least!

The second element of gameplay is the exploration. I have to admit, I would have loved a bit more exploration in the game. The exploration parts are way to easy in my opinion. Yet, I can forgive the game for that, because you can beat various situations in different ways. This gives the game more replay value. You also solve puzzles in this game and so far, no puzzle has really stumped me. Maybe in the later episodes, I have some harder puzzles, but so far, I haven’t gotten stuck at all.

And the third gameplay element is the quick time events. Oh dear lord, the quick time events. I have nothing more to say that they are sometimes pretty annoying to play.

So, the final gameplay element is the combat. And I have to say, this isn’t great on Android. The combat is slow and when you miss an attack, you can’t attack again before the animation is finished. I don’t enjoy the combat sections very much.

The rest of the package.

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Now, let’s talk about the other parts of the game. First of all, the music and sound design. The music is good, but this soundtrack isn’t one I would listen to outside the game. It loses its charm without some visuals.

The sound design is pretty well done. Because most of the sounds are from the great sound design by C418 for Minecraft. So, no complaints there. Also, the sound packs way more punch when you play this game with a headset.

The voice acting in this game is pretty good. I have played this game once while I was on the train and I forgot my headset, and I truly missed the voices. Yeah, they are that good in my opinion.

Visually, this game is pretty good but not perfect. Maybe it has to do with my tablet, but sometimes things didn’t render for me. I remember one scene pretty well.The gang was feeling on horseback, and the horse for the main character didn’t render always. So, the main character was floating away. Apart from the very few creative liberties the designers took, the game looks like an adventure map built in Minecraft. And I have to applaud the designers for that!

The atmosphere and visual presentation of the different areas you visit are pretty great. There isn’t a place I would change or adjust.

So, I have to praise the controls for the most part in this game. I was afraid that this game would control pretty poorly on Android, but I was surprised. This game controls pretty great on my tablet. The only problems I had with the controls were during the quick time sections, but thankfully, I was able to redo those sections and not make my mistakes.

Oh, before I forget, there is something truly annoying in this game. The download speed for the episodes is just way too slow. At first, I thought it had to do with the download speed of my tablet, but no. I have tested it with various speed tests and downloading large files from the internet. It has to do with this game, I’m sure of it.

I think I said everything I wanted to say about this game for now. There are a few things I have left for the review, but nothing that special. In any case, it’s time to wrap up this article up.

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!