The TEN best GAMES of 2021 – NekoJonez Edition

What a year, 2021 was. While I haven’t been able to write as much as I wanted to, I still had an amazing eventful year. A lot of incredible things happened, like the Pokémon collab, me blogging for 11 years, my start in speedrunning, and a lot more. Besides that, my personal life was quite eventful and in all the chaos of 2021, I did have a stunning year. I was able to realize a lot of projects and achieve a lot of my goals. I’m enjoying life more and more, and I’m personally quite excited for 2022 since I have various personal things to look forward to. But it’s high time that I make that incredibly difficult to make list at the end of the year. Which 10 games were my favorite games of 2021? And if this is your first time reading one of these end-of-the-year lists of mine, let me fill you in on what puts my list apart from the others. On this list, only the games that I have started playing in the past year count. The release year doesn’t matter. If I started playing this year and I thought it was amazing, it’s going to deserve a spot on this list. So, are you ready? Since it’s high time to get listing!

Editorial note: some of these games are multi-platform, but the platform between brackets is the platform I played the game on.

#10 – Age Of Empires IV (PC – October 2021)

It’s here and it’s a great game. After years and years of improving the original trilogy, expanding the originals with new DLC… We got Age Of Empires IV. But, I wish I was able to place this game higher on my list.

It does so much for the RTS genre, but there is one thing that frustrates me with this game. There aren’t enough unique mechanics for this game to stand out. It almost feels like a well-balanced mix between Age of Empires 2 and 3.

But, that is what 2022 is going to be for. There is new content coming for this game in 2022, and maybe it will make this game stand out a bit more. Now, don’t get me wrong. This isn’t a bad game by any stretch. This game is amazing, and I can’t wait to play even more. If only I didn’t get too distracted by the other games on this list.

#9 – World’s End Club (Nintendo Switch – September 2020)

My review

I have to admit, I didn’t get what I expected from this game. I expected a death game, but I got a mediocre platformer with hints of horror.

But, the atmosphere of this game is what made me fall in love with this game. I’m so glad that the game doesn’t take itself too seriously and goes overboard with being silly. This game has its flaws, for sure, but the great moments hold this game together quite well.

Just thinking about this game while writing this section of the article, I was smiling. Because of the joyful memories that were returning from this game. If only the game was polished a bit more and the game went a bit more in-depth with its mechanics, this game would be so much better.

But still, I enjoyed my time with this game enough to give it a well-deserved spot in my top 10 games list of 2021.

#8 – Lenna’s Inception (PC – January 2020)

My first impression

At certain moments, I just know what a certain game is going to end up on my top 10 games of the year list. While I don’t know on which spot yet, I do know it’s a runner-up.

While playing Lenna’s Inception, I was hooked right away. It scratched that itch of playing a new 2D Zelda-style game perfectly. This indie game did so many great things, like randomizing dungeons, co-op, and various other things. Since I got this game for free in an Itch.io bundle and I enjoyed this game so much, I decided to buy a copy on Steam, so I could support the developers.

And the developer is already working on their next game called Cassette Beasts, and it looks like it’s going to be even bigger and better than this game. So, I have my eyes on this indie studio for sure! And ByttenStudio, thank you for bringing this amazing top-down Zelda game to the table!

#7 – Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl (Nintendo Switch, November 2021)

My article on the originals

Back in 2019, I wondered if we ever would see a remake of the 4th gen Pokémon games. A generation that has a lot of nostalgic memories for me.

The first time I played the game was on a family trip. I brought Pokémon Ruby with me, and another kid I met there brought Pokémon Pearl. He always wanted to play Ruby and I wanted to play Pearl. So, we agreed to meet in the lounge each evening and play each other’s games for the whole night. Which led to the creation of a Gameboy club. Before I ramble on about this for too much, I highly recommend you to read that story I linked there.

Anyway, I also remember buying this game and giving the rest of my Christmas money to my sister, so we could buy Nintendogs together. I could go on for hours and hours about my memories with the originals. So, I had high hopes for the remakes.

I think I’ll go more in-depth about the remakes in a future article, but I have to say that even when it’s a bit clunky sometimes, the remakes are amazing! I so love playing through the adventure of the 4th generation again.

#6 – Persona 5 Strikers (Nintendo Switch, February 2021)

Look, my article is linked here!

At first, I was afraid that this game was going to be another Dynasty Warriors spin-off game, but I’m so glad that it’s not. This game is just like all other Persona games, but when you enter combat… Then it’s a Dynasty Warriors-ish kind of gameplay.

I found the mix and cross-over of these two gameplay styles amazing. While I still have to beat this game, I know that I’m going to enjoy it. This game just made me fall in love with the Persona series even more.

I still have to beat this game. Currently, I’m over the midway point. I recently picked the game up again after being distracted by other games, and I still had so much fun. So, I know that I’ll spend those boring train rides to work with Joker and his friends fighting crime.

#5 – Prey (PC, May 2017)

This isn’t a link… wait, it is. To my article.

One of my favorite atmospheric shooters series is Bioshock. I just had so much fun playing through that trilogy. Now, this year I gave Prey (2017) a try, and I was brought back right away to that amazing feeling of exploring a destroyed world with special powers.

And not only that, anything could be an enemy. The number of times, I jumped from my chair by a mimic suddenly appearing. It isn’t even funny anymore. I was so glad that I could play this game throughout my summer break. Now, I just hope that the rumors of a sequel are true since I would love to play through even more of this concept, this style of gameplay. Oh, I cross my fingers.

I just love the atmosphere in this game. You never knew you were safe or not until it was, sometimes, too late. And the limited amount of ammo and resources made me always feel on edge. The only thing I didn’t really like was how there were a bit too many quests going on at once, and it was a bit hard to keep track of which ones you are doing. Oh well, pen and paper are handy in those cases.

#4 – The Survivalist (PC, October 2020)

This game came out of nowhere. Seriously, only yesterday I decided to claim all my Humble Bundle games from my subscription and I decided to give this game a go.

Well, I’m not ashamed in saying that I already played this game for close to 14 hours already. And because of games like these, I always wait until one of the last days of the year to finalize this list.

This game will get its own full article but let me tell you, this game hits all the right notes for me. While playing this game, I get so nostalgic for The Sims 2 – Castaway on the DS. (On which I still have to write an article.) Throw a few bits of Minecraft and Terreria in there and mix it with the unique monkey mechanic, and you have this game.

If you like survival games or adventure games which are a bit more slow-paced, give this game a shot. It’s really well-made, and I can’t wait for what will come of this game. Full article to come.

#3 – The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles (Nintendo Switch, July 2021)

I’m really holding myself back in trying to not go too in-depth about this game in this article. Since Adventure Rules and I are working on something special.

A special article about this game. An article where we shall explain how we feel about this game. But, that’s all I’ll reveal for now… We are currently aiming to finish that article somewhere in January – February. But, it will all depend on our schedules. It was supposed to be finished somewhere this year, but my personal life just got too busy and I got focused on too many other projects. Anyway, all I’ll reveal for now is that there are some reasons why I don’t put this game as number 1 and why it’s so high on the list.

For those who don’t really know me, I’m a huge fan of visual novel games that have gameplay and puzzle elements like the Ace Attorney series, but also like the Zero Escape series or Death Mark. But, there are two games that topped this game, which was going to be my number 1 until I played the following two games.

#2 – SuperLiminal (Nintendo Switch, November 2019)

Don’t have to resize this article link

Man, this game took me by surprise. This rather short game with amazing visual puzzles took me on a trip.

Not only did the ending make me cry and made me think about certain things, but it also made me happy that there is a game that dares to ask those questions.

If PillowCastle or the developers read this article by any chance… Please, make more content or a sequel to this game. The concept, the story, and the ideas presented in this game are just… The potential is through the roof. If you want to know more about my thoughts and opinions on this game, please read my article about it.

Honorable mentions

These are the games that just didn’t make my top 10 list. But still, I want to mention them.

Haven (Nintendo Switch), Going Under (PC), Blue Dragon (XBOX 360), The Ship – Single Player (PC), Mystik Belle (Nintendo Switch), Neutopia (Wii U – Virtual Console), Pokémon XD Gale of Darkness (Gamecube), We Happy Few (PC), There Is No Game (Nintendo Switch), Super Metroid (SNES), L.A. Noire (XBOX 360).

And let me tell you, it was a hard list to put together. I had re-arranged this list MULTIPLE times. Each game is amazing in its own right. And believe me, I’m certain that if you ask me to make this list at a later date, it’s quite possible that this whole list has another ranking. (Apart from a few titles)

So, yeah. Let’s just say that if you haven’t given these games a chance, you don’t know what you are missing out on. And I’m also sorry for the various amount of games I haven’t included in my honorable mentions list because I haven’t played them enough or just forgot that I started to play them this year…

But enough stalling, let’s talk about my number 1 of 2021.

#1 – Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc (Nintendo Switch, December 2021)

It’s no secret that I love adventure mystery games like Ace Attorney, Zero Escape, Corpse Party, Bioshock… And when I saw in a Nintendo Direct, that Danganronpa was coming to the Nintendo Switch in December, I didn’t hesitate twice.

As soon as I had the budget, I bought the three games, and I’m currently playing the final two cases of the second one. At this moment, it’s kind of hard to decide if I should put the original or the sequel here on the number one spot since they both deserve it.

After I finished Zero Time Dilemma way back in 2016, I always wanted to play another trilogy with just the same amount of amazing twists, well-written characters, and amazing gameplay. And this series delivers that in spades. I honestly don’t want to finish this series, since I’m enjoying it that much. I want it to continue. But then again, the saying: “Don’t cry because it’s over, slime because it happened” applies here.

So, I’m so going to enjoy the final parts of the Danganronpa series and for my full thoughts and opinions, you’ll have to wait for the full article next year on these games. But, these games provide everything I’m looking for in a mystery adventure game and hits all the right beats. So, yeah. I would be ashamed if I didn’t place this game/series at my number 1 spot.

Wrapping up 2021

Sadly, due to me writing less and also focusing on other projects like contributing to open-source software, speedrunning and such… I have seen a drop in the number of visitors to my blog. I actually halved the number of visitors this year compared to 2020. But, I’m not sad about that.

When I look at the data, it turns out that I have more returning visitors and that my articles are performing better compared to last year. Also, I broke various milestones this year, like beating my day record twice AND breaking the 100k views barrier. I can’t thank you, my readers, enough for that.

I want to thank everybody who made my 2021 such an amazing year. I find it mind-blowing that people take time out of their day to read my articles, where I just talk about what I think about the games I play. And also talk to me about it, ask advice or questions. Looking back at what I wrote in the past 11 years, I think I created something to be proud of.

So, thank you for making 2021 amazing for me. I can’t wait to see what 2022 will bring. There are a few things I know that are going to happen in my personal life, which makes me even more excited to start 2022. And with that, I want to thank you for reading this article, and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article! But until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

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

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

#10 – Sports Story (Nintendo Switch – TBA)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

Steam linkPress kitOfficial site

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

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

General info:

Description

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

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

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

Features:

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

The A+ Side

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

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

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

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

The F- side

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

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

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

So, should we play it?

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

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

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

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

So, that’s the end of this article. I want to thank you so much for reading, and I hope you enjoyed reading this one as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in a future article, but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

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

Itch.io page

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

Good rats, pet them

I love this easter egg random event to bits.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bad rats, trap them!

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, what we RAT this game out?

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

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

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

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

Score: 70/100

Game Quicky: Pnevmo-Capsula: Domiki (PC – Steam) ~ Riding The Message

Steam store page

Today, I want to talk about a game called Pnevmo-Capsula: Domiki. A sort of interactive rollercoaster set in the old Soviet Russia. A game was created by a tiny team that created and published their first game. The developers reached out to me with a press code and asked me to write my 100% honest opinion on the game. So, is this game worth our time and our money, or should the developers try something else for their next project? Or should they stop creating games in the first place? That’s what I’m going to try and figure out in this article. And as usual, I invite to you leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and/or opinions on the game and/or the content of this article.

Riding the message

This game is really simple to understand. There are two sections in this game. The riding and the puzzle-solving section. In the riding section, you can control the cart quite easily left and right. You’ll have to look out for holes in the tracks and maybe use different routes to overcome the hole. You’ll also have to disable electric gates, which you can do with your electric shock ability at the end of the wire of the electric gate.

This electric ability is also how you interact with puzzles. Almost all the puzzles are the exact same. You have to start a machine and then figure out the four numbers of the recipient of the message. This might sound boring and repetitive, but the puzzles are all well crafted and fun to solve. I was so happy that I had two monitors, so I could take a screenshot of the list of possible numbers to aid me in solving the puzzle.

These two styles of gameplay give the game a lot of variation. There are eight chapters in this game, and whenever you mess up, you start at the beginning of the chapter. But, everything is still unlocked. So, for example, when you opened several gates… These will stay open when you respawn. This might be a useful trick for speedrunners.

In terms of visuals, this game looks amazing. I have seen games that look several times worse at this price point. There are some rough textures, like at the start of the 2nd chapter and somewhere in the 3rd on the telephone pole, but these moments were far and few in between. The camera work is really stunning. The only thing I would improve a bit is making it a bit more clear when you are at the right spot to interact with a puzzle, gate, or something.

The music and sound effect are decent. Nothing too special in my opinion, but I feel they are good enough to fit the atmosphere and setting of this game. But something else that’s mind-blowing is how, after the first chapter, there are no loading screens in the whole game. And respawning only takes a couple of seconds.

The message is lost

In this game, you play as a capsule. You’re riding on a railroad towards your final location to deliver various messages. That’s the story of this game. Sadly enough, that’s literally IT in terms of story. Apart from some world-building with the puzzles, there is no real story in this game. Why are we delivering messages in this manner? It’s such a shame that for a game that looks as nice as this, there is no real story present.

I don’t mind games that are short in nature. Creating a game is quite difficult, and making unique puzzles is a tricky thing to do. But the runtime of this game is a real shame. This game took me only 2 hours to beat TWICE. Yes, twice. There are no different endings or different ways to beat the game. So yeah, the mechanics and ideas in this game are seriously under-explored.

In general, the controls are good. Yet, there are some things that can be polished up. First of all, you can speed up with the left-hand shift key. And if you have a right-hand shift key, well, that doesn’t work to speed up. Secondly, sometimes in bends, the key I was using to go forward didn’t move the cart forward and almost got stuck. And finally, apart from interacting with the space bar… there is no real “break” button for your cart.

There are some minor things I would have improved as well. For example, it’s quite tricky to control the puzzles in some cases. It’s not always clear what you can do and how to move in the puzzle itself. I think it would be a lot better if you could use the mouse during these sections. Since the mouse is on-screen and can only be used in the menus.

The UI in this game is good, but sometimes it does strange things like not remembering your language. But, the options’ menu is lacking in my opinion. You can disable the music, but there is no volume slider. So, you can’t disable the sound effects, either. The resolutions are quite strange as well. There is a 7680*4320 resolution? Also, the buttons are clickable from anywhere on the screen as long as you are at the same height as them.

But the BIGGEST no-no this game makes is when you finish the game and restart from an earlier chapter, be careful with your save then. Since, as soon as you beat a chapter… All your other progress gets erased. For example, you have beaten chapter 6 and want to replay chapter 1. So, you go back to the main menu, choose chapters, and start chapter one. You finish chapter one, and you go back to the main menu, to start chapter 6… You’ll notice that only chapters 1 and 2 are unlocked! Thankfully, the game is short, so you can go right ahead to the location you were in, but if the game were longer this would have been a grave issue.

A less grave issue is that there is no continue option in the main menu. That’s a bit of polish this game lacks. Like, the strange jitter effect you get when you ram into an electric gate. Or the fact, that you don’t get a visual notification when you finish a chapter besides going through a gate that closes behind you. And the final thing of lacking polish is that only going from chapters 1 to 2, you have a loading screen. When you start from any other point, you’ll get a black screen… Yeah.

And that’s honestly everything I could say about this game. So, I think it’s high time to wrap up this article with the conclusion.

Should the message be delivered?

This game is a decent game for the low price point of €9. But, at its current point, I wouldn’t pay anything more. Especially for the extremely short length of this game. There is so much more that could have been done with the concept and mechanics. For example, a puzzle where you have to deliver several messages in a certain order. Or having to open/close gates.

Besides that, like every other game… This game has some other flaws. Apart from the quirkiness with the chapters, I explained earlier, most of these negatives can be polished with a patch. Apart from the lacking story, of course.

If you enjoy casual puzzle games, I would certainly give this game a look. But, to the developers, I would say, keep working on this game. Keep expanding it with new content and mechanics. If this is your first released game, I would have to say bravo. There is a lot of potential here, and I would love to see longer and more in-depth experiences.

For a small passion project, this game turned out amazing. But, I want to see this game become more than a passion project. Since, when I had beaten the game, I felt cheated. I wanted to see more, play more, but it was over when I was really getting into it.

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

Score: 3/5

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

Age warning: This game is 16+.

Wikipedia entryNintendo.com microsite

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

Puzzlerooms to sacrifice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Escape is not needed

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

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

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

Suddenly, she felt a sharp tug on her arm.

"Huh?"

I didn't fall....?

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nintendo.com micrositeWikipedia entry

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

Witchschool

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

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

Official story on the eShop page

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Almost there, Bell

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s play or let’s play?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nintendo.com subsiteOfficial website

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

Being bound

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

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

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

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

Entry level Zelda game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joyful lost

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My favorite gaming music #27 – Restart playing it?

More selections via this hub page

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

Electronic Super Joy 2 (PC) – Very Nice

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

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

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

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

Dusk (PC) – Dusk

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

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

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

Prey (2017) (PC) – The Phantoms

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

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

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

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

The Great Ace Attorney (Switch) – The Core

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

NekoJonez’s August 2021 Update

It’s almost that time of year again, the start of the school year here in Belgium. This year, I start my 3rd year as an IT-admin in the school I work for. So, that also means that my summer break is over, and I restarted working again. Also, I’m quite surprised that my latest update article was from December 2020. I mean, it’s quite usual that there are sometimes big gaps between these articles when not a lot of interesting things happen to collect together in an update… But hey, that’s totally besides the point. Let’s start talking about what’s happening in my life and what’s going on for my blog. And before I start, I want to invite you to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and/or opinions in the comment section down below.

Fewer articles and more gaps

When you look at the numbers of amount of published articles, you’ll notice that since March of this year… I have been skipping more and more weeks. Apart from April, I have been able to write and publish 2-3 articles each month. While I see a decrease in traffic to my blog because of that, I honestly don’t mind that much. I still reach similar numbers in the end. Now, I know that numbers shouldn’t matter since writing this blog is still a hobby. I know that fact all too well, yet… somehow, I feel proud when I see the numbers raise. But, that’s something we all like, seeing numbers raise. It’s a physiological thing.

So, why are there so many gaps in the publishing of articles? Well, it’s because I have written about so many games that I’m as good as through my backlog. I still have several games on my backlog to write about, but most of them should be replayed for at least a little while, since it has been such a long time since I played them for the first time. Before I write an article about a game, I want to have at least played 5-ish hours of that game, unless it’s a game quicky or a small indie game (that’s shorter than 5 hours). And here are the reasons I’m having trouble with that.

First, due to the COVID pandemic and private matters… My day job is extremely busy. I love doing my day job, but it’s extremely draining. So, at the end of the day, I sometimes don’t have the energy left to play games, or I just want to play a game to relax and not having to take notes or prepare an article about it. So, that means I have been playing games I have reviewed before and finishing them and, yes, even replaying some of them.

Secondly, I’m trying to improve my writing style. After writing for about 10 years in a similar writing style, I want to challenge myself to write more in-depth articles with more research and more cohesion. So, I’m putting a lot more time into each article, and it shows. I’m prouder of each article that I publish, and I feel that I’m improving quite a lot.

Thirdly, due to the general business of my personal life and the work for my school… I don’t always have the energy to write. I also want to recover in the weekend or work on my huge to-do list. Furthermore, I’m writing a lot for other things I’ll talk about more later… and that also has consequences. That means I burn myself out of writing sometimes. And I find that sometimes taking a break is better for me. That way I can still publish an interesting and well written article instead of a half-baked article. I like “better quality over more quantity”. So yeah.

And finally, here in Belgium, the COVID restrictions are slowly but surely lifting. Especially for vaccinated people (like myself)! So, that means I can start doing things in my local acting group again and go to see theater performances and movies in the cinema. Man, I have missed that so hard. You know those things you do, to reward yourself after doing a good job? Well, that was theater and cinema for me. Of course, blogging/writing about games has the same effect for me, but variety is the spice of life.

So, what does that mean? Shall you see less articles on my blog? Bluntly said, yes. I might not write weekly articles for a while anymore. I decided that it’s a goal I would love to reach, but I’m not going to force myself to write 4 articles each month. Not only that, but I’m going to try to write at least 1-2 articles/month. And if that’s not possible, I’ll talk about that on my twitter.

Outside of blogging

So, what’s going on in my personal life outside of writing for this blog? Well, quite a lot, actually. I have been expanding my hobbies and skill set. The first hobby I want to talk about is something that’s related to gaming, actually. I started speedrunning Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine. You can find my runs at my Speedrun.com profile. At first, I wanted to beat the PC times, but those are not only extremely optimized already, I’m unable to do the perfect movement.

That’s why I started to focus on the GBC version. While I’m keeping an eye on the PC version, I’m mainly focused on the GBC version. Not too long ago, I have beaten my ANY% GBC full game run I did live that one time. Whenever I feel like it, I have been grinding this run out since that 1h 40 m 08s, I’m certain it can go lower. In a matter of fact, I have found several small skips and improvements that is going to save at least 10-ish minutes all together. But, I’m planning to write an article about the strategies and such involved in the full game run in the future… So, keep an eye out for that.

Besides speedrunning, I’m also creating a new website for my local acting group. Currently, it’s behind closed doors, but I’m spending quite a lot of time on that site. I’m also working on a lot of technical stuff for my acting group to improve work flow and such. It’s something different and a fun challenge for sure. I love the stuff I’m learning since I’m able to use it for the website I maintain for my school and visa versa.

Speaking about the school I work for, I have two updates about that. The first update is that I have a fixed contract. Now, here in Belgium, it works somewhat different in schools. The contract I currently have is if the school has to shut down for what ever reason, a school from the district has to give me a job. In other words, I’m quite certain that I’m going to have a job for the foreseeable future. 🙂 And not only that, it’s in my dream job as an IT admin in a big school. I couldn’t wish for more.

The second update is that the school I work for is growing in amount of students. Currently, we have around 700 students, compared to roughly 600 students at the start of the previous year. This is quite mind-blowing for an art school, and that’s the biggest reason my day job is so busy. I’m so happy that the school I work for is growing so much since that means our school is quite healthy.

So, outside of having a busy day job, writing a gaming blog (semi-)weekly, doing things for my acting group, speeding running games… I’m also active in the development of WordPress. Now, I’m not a coder, so I’m helping that much in the actual development of WordPress outside of testing and reporting bugs… I’m more active in the translation department. I’m a translation editor for all the WordPress plugins & themes on WordPress.org for the locale’s nl_NL(-formal) and nl_BE, which means all forms of Dutch basically. If you want to take a look at my work, you can see it on my profile. And if I contribute to a plugin/extension, it’s mostly issues with strings which make things less easy for translation. You can see most of my contributions on my GitHub profile.

That means, that I do a lot of things in my free time outside of spending time with my family. While it might sound overwhelming and a lot to keep up with, honestly, I enjoy it. I’m expanding my skill set and learning quite a lot. And not only that, I’m giving something back to the community.

What’s next?

Now, you might think that I want to spend less time writing. Because I have so many other hobbies or things I do outside of writing. And, that’s not true. I found that spending time on other things like speedrunning, translations, working on websites… It actually helps me to not burn out on writing. Like I said earlier in this article, variety is the spice of life.

I do have a collab in the works with a good blogging friend of mine, but I’m unable to make a lot of progress due to the busy times at my day job. Thankfully, after next week, it’s going to become a lot less busy, so I can focus on a lot of other things and maybe write more.

I’m also playing around with a few major updates on my blog, but I think most of them are going to have to wait until I have another vacation. Since it’s going to help me in keeping certain things up-to-date here on my blog. And yes, I’m also removing typo’s and such from older articles. If you notice one, feel free to give me a shout, and I’ll try to fix it as soon as I can.

So, what’s the summary of this update? I’m going to try to at least write 2 articles each month, and 4 if I can. I also started speedrunning, getting more involved with the development of WordPress and doing things for my local acting group. On top of that, my day job is extremely busy… eating up a lot of my time. And I don’t want to have it any other way. Mentally, I’m doing a lot better and that’s what counts in the end, in my opinion… If you are happy with your life, than all is well.

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