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.

First Impression: House Flipper (PC – Steam) ~ Renovations On Top

Steam store pageOfficial website

Sometimes, you just need to give a game or a concept a chance. You’ll never know if it grows on you or not. When I got a Steam key for House Flipper by being a subscriber to Humble Bundle’s Humble Choice, I was intrigued and interested on how this game is going to work. Are we going to flip the houses ourselves or are we going to run a company that does house flipping? Well, it’s the first. We are going to do the house flipping and decorating. And today, I want to take you on a journey with me to talk about my first impressions of this game in my usual Game Quicky format. Where I first mention the good things, then the bad things to wrap up with a conclusion at the end. Oh, and any comments on my work on this article and/or the game are welcome in the comment section down below.

No need to renovate

In this game, you play as a handy man who cleans and renovates houses. The skill set of your character goes from being a painter, electrician, plumber, interior decorator, carpenter… And your character does everything which for some jobs a (whole) crew does.

Honestly, I knew that I wasn’t too good at interior decorating, and it shows. There are several Christmas levels where you have to decorate the house with a lot of decorations. In a lot of cases, my end result often looks like a quickly thrown together mess. But, here is the strange thing about it. I enjoy decorating the houses.

In terms of difficulty: if you want a challenge, look elsewhere. The focus of this game isn’t in being difficult or providing some challenge. It’s more a sort of sandbox-ish type of game where you have to do certain jobs for people and if you want, improve their houses with for example new furniture or nicer decorated walls. Also, the price you earn goes up depending on the materials used and the amount of upgrades you did to the house. This doesn’t mean that the game isn’t rewarding to play. The before and after pictures you get after a job well done are so enjoyable and rewarding.

There are a lot of things you can do around the house. At the start of the game, you’ll unlock each and every skill by tutorial jobs. After these tutorial jobs, you’ll be able to use these skills in your own house and other jobs. The game can get somewhat repetitive if you don’t use the skill/perk system.

The perk system is a great system that helps you do certain tasks more efficient and faster. Image being able to paint three sections of wall at the same time instead of one. Or being able to upgrade your broom to clean faster (To be honest, I wish cleaning worked similar in the real world. Just heaving to wave a mop in the direction of the mess and voilà). Each skill/category has 9 perks in 3 sections. Each time you preform said skill/category a certain amount of times, you get a skill point with which you can unlock an upgrade. Compare it to the skill tree in Skyrim. This system actually compelled me to 100% each job since that made me get closer to new skill points making the next jobs go more smoothly and faster to do.

The controls of this game work flawlessly. This game also works with a controller, but I honestly prefer the mouse & keyboard combo for this game. I find that I have way better control over the game with the mouse and keyboard compared to the controller.

Visually, this game looks amazing. The game looks somewhat realistic while keeping your typical “game” look. Sadly, there are just a few things that look a bit unrealistic, but these don’t really destroy the illusion too much. Something I really like is how this game takes certain possible phobia’s in consideration. There are cockroaches in this game. But if you suffer from Katsaridaphobia, you can disable them right before you see/hear them for the first time. You can change them in glass shards. And to be honest, I find that the mechanic to clean up the glass shards works better and is a bit easier compared to cockroaches, but that’s such a minor detail.

The music and sound effects in this game are quite relaxing. I feel right at ease and relaxed while I’m cleaning and renovating houses. It fits the game like a glove and the sound effects as well. I wish there were more sound effects for some things like for cleaning, placing wall tiles… But that’s always a delicate balance if you put more sound effects in your game or less. Since, too many sound effects can be overwhelming and make the game “too busy”.

There are two styles of gameplay. You can either do jobs where you have a certain requirement of things that need to do be done. This is sort of the adventure mode of the game. Honestly, I have spent most of my time playing this game with the job system. Since, you can use that access money with the other mode. In this mode, you can play on the housing market and really buy, renovate and sell houses. You always have a list of potential buyers and trying to match a house to their needs with their live reactions at the side is a real interesting puzzle.

Now, if you are interested in this game and want to get even more out of it… Well, you can expand this game with additional DLC. You can access most of the main content without the DLC and I can still tell you that this game is still a lot of fun without the DLC. Every DLC adds a handful of missions, new items and new mechanics and expand the game even more. The only negative I have is that the DLC’s are a tad bit expensive in my opinion. I would find a more fair price to be €9,99 instead of €12,5. But oh well, it’s clear that a lot of effort has been put into them and if you are really enjoying the game, I think the DLC is worth it.

This game auto-saves at the interval you set in the options’ menu. And if you leave in the middle of a job, you can continue it when you boot the game back up again. There are some bugs with the cloud saves, but one of the main forum threads has a solution for that. But, the amount of options and things like that in this game is just amazing. You can set almost anything to your hand and I love it.

Something I also really enjoy in this game as well are the achievements. They add additional challenges and charm to the game. They add some replay value, and they even make some jobs unique. Since, if you only stick to the requirements to finish the job… Some achievements can be easily unlocked by later jobs.

Now, something that is amazing is that this game also supports the Steam Workshop! So, if you don’t find what you are looking for in the base game or DLC… You can visit the workshop and look at the over 16000 items on it.

Renovations needed

Overall, the UI is close to perfect. But, at this moment of writing, the text entered into the tablet has some minor delay. It’s also not easy to remove everything at once. Something like a blinking cursor in the search field when you want to type in it would go a long way. Sadly, there are other minor things like that in the visuals. For example, the long grass at your home stops at a certain line. Near the hedges, actually. Another thing in terms of visuals and UI is that sometimes, it’s a pain finding the exact spot of e.g., dirt on the mini-map. In very rare cases, the task list or the mini map is saying that there is still stuff to do while there actually isn’t.

This game is translated in a lot of languages. I love this fact, since it makes the game a lot more accessible. Maybe, I might be extremely strict on this, since I’m an editor for the Dutch/Flemish translation of WordPress… But, the Dutch translation has various typos and inconsistencies. From wrong use of verbs to not using capitals in menu’s. Thankfully, the English version of this game works extremely well and still, I find it extremely impressive that this large game with so much text is translated in so many languages.

The overall quality of the translation is fine, but I honestly think that in an update, they should let various language experts go over the translation since I think there is a lot that can be polished up and improved. Since, if you aren’t well versed in English and know what everything means or what different objects are called, you might have problems with this game.

Overall, the camera works perfectly. Since, this is a first person game, you have full control over it. Sadly, in some montage sections, the camera dips quite weirdly. These moments are thankfully extremely rare and are mainly caused when you do the assembly in a different order. Knowing what the next steps are or going out of the assembly process and going back in usually fixes these minor camera goofs.

There are some minor things that could be communicated to the player better. The best example I can give is in the painting. In a lot of cases, like in the assembly process, you hear a little sound effect when you are finished with a step. You don’t get that with painting. When your wall is done, you don’t get a small notification in the corner or something. Of course, this might be because of the perk that you don’t waste paint on already painted walls but still… It should have more communication.

Like how tasks disappear way too quickly from the small to-do list on the right side of the screen. Give the player some time to see and realize which task they just completed. The task disappears when the jingle of task completed plays.

But the biggest offender of not communicating is the demolition. It’s not easy to fully destroy a wall and know what’s going to disappear or which pieces are waiting on you to hit with your hammer. I honestly think this should be improved upon since it makes this game a tad bit annoying sometimes. A great start should be unable to build a wall in that spot and have the offending still to destroy bricks flash or turn in red or another color. A similar fix would be helpful if you are unable to find that last dirty spot on the windows. Since, the lighting there sometimes makes it extremely hard to spot sometimes.

Sadly, some mechanics are a bit too finky sometimes. If you buy a shelving unit and try to place items on it without a ladder… Oh boy, it’s no easy to put items higher than eye height. Or that if you pick up tiles, and you want to change to different tiles, you first have to remember to lay the remainder down. Thankfully, as soon as I got “used” or knew my way around these little quirks, these problems didn’t annoy me that much anymore.

The invoice – Conclusion

I never expected this game to be so much fun. It’s an enjoyable relaxing time waster that fans of casual games, simulations should give a shot. I’m quite certain that if you enjoy building aspects of games, you’ll enjoy this game as well.

Now, this game isn’t perfect. There are some things that should be polished up. It’s such a shame seeing this amazing title with some rough edges. Especially when there is so much love and soul put into this game. And it pains me that most of the negatives are almost nitpicks. I think that an update where things are polished up, mechanics are made more consistent with the other mechanics… That would be a very welcome update.

Overall, this game is a relaxing enjoyable game. It’s mindblowing how the game handles so many combinations and mechanics so well. The expansiveness of this game is so broad that I can see myself coming back from time to time after a stressful day at work to wind down. (By doing chores in a way, but hey…) While the game has its problems, some textures, and models looking a bit too out of date… There are a lot of other things like two different game modes that more than make up for it.

It’s quite clear that this game is a passion project by the developers and the love and attention to detail is shown in the game. When writing this first impression/review, I had a really hard time finding actual negatives in this game apart from several technical things that can be improved by a few patches.

I found this game at the perfect moment. I was looking for a more relaxing game I could play to wind down when I’m over stressed or had a busy/hard day at work… And then booting up this game and hearing the calming music and being able to let my creativity flow and create and improve houses… If you got interested in reading this article or looking at gameplay video’s, give it a go.

If you enjoy games like the Sims or building in Minecraft or more relaxing games, I would highly advise this game. While I totally understand that this game isn’t for everyone, it did click with me, and I’m still so surprised that this €20 game has so much value and polish. Now I’m so curious to see where the active developers are going to take this game next.

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

First Impression: Desperados III (PC – Steam) ~ Pimping Nostalgia

Official websiteSteam store page

I still remember when I first played the original Desperados back at a friend’s place. It didn’t take long for me to get hooked. To be very honest, I never really beat the original game. That’s mainly due to my playstyle. In action games, I love being more aggressive and “in your face” instead of being stealthy what that game more required. When the 3rd game got announced and released in 2020, I was beyond hyped to play it. But, a lot of different games just distracted me. I was also afraid that I wasn’t going to enjoy the game too much since… yeah my playstyle. But then, this month’s Humble Bundle got a key for Desperados III and I bought it. I started playing this game and yeah. I wasn’t wrong putting this game on my top 10 games I’m looking forward to in 2020 list. But, what exactly do I think about it? Well, I’ll explain in this article while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and/or opinions on this article.

Pimping nostalgia

While this is the 3rd main entry in the series, you don’t need to have played the first two games to enjoy the story in this game. Since, this game is a prequel to the first game. Basically, the backstories of the main characters are set up in this game. While we see a few familiar faces to the originals two games, we also see two brand-new characters.

The pacing of the story is a little weird. Because, the main setup of the story is explained over the whole first chapter. You don’t want to know how many times I have rewritten this section to avoid spoiling something. Let’s just say that the story of this game is quite interesting and doesn’t disappoint for your typical Western story.

The story doesn’t overpower the game, since the star of the show is the gameplay. But, the story doesn’t disappoint at all. I love the voice acting of all the characters. The performances are amazing and fit their characters as a glove. I was surprised to learn that this game got a completely new cast to play the characters. If I hadn’t looked that up, for some characters I wouldn’t have been able to tell.

So, let’s move on from the story and characters and start talking about the gameplay. In this game, you have to complete several missions with a small group of characters. Each mission is different and not only in terms of the map you play on. For example, in one mission, you are trying to fight your way to the dock without any of your weapons and in another mission, your group is separated into two groups that start at the other side of the map.

Survival is awareness

If you want to survive in these missions, you have to be very aware of the characters in your crew. The main cast exists out of 5 characters. And all five of them have different weakness and strengths.

One character can throw a knife whilst the other is a sniper. Understanding their abilities and when you use them, is key. Something that this game does extremely well is that there are various ways of tackling each mission. So, you can play this game however you want.

The additional missions you can do in each chapter, give a clue on how different you can beat each mission. There are even missions where you can beat it without having to kill one guard. Whilst you are playing through a mission for the first time, the optional missions aren’t revealed to you. When you are playing through it again, then you can see the optional missions. You can earn badges for a more “perfect” score as well. On top of that, after beaten several missions, you can unlock new challenges where you can replay a mission with additional challenges and/restrictions.

The difficulty curve of this game is just polished extremely well. When a new character gets introduced, the mission is a sort of tutorial on how to use that character. I still remember that in the original game, after you rescue a character, you get a mission with barely any enemies where you learn how that character works. Not in this game. You get various “papers” you can pick up that show a short movie on how the mechanic works. This is such a breath of fresh air.

Something I adore in this game as well is the quick save and the quick load system. You might think that this mechanic is quite aggressive. Since, when you haven’t saved in a hot minute, you get a pop-up almost in the middle of your screen. But believe you me, it’s a great reminder. It makes this game way less frustrating when you make a tiny mistake or want to try something. Also, when you accidentally quick save in a situation that leaves you in a sort of soft lock, in the pause menu you always have your three last saves. So, you can roll back further when needed.

A big improvement compared to the first game as well is the speed up & the pause feature. With a simple press of a button, you can slightly speed up the gameplay. Which can be handy to speed up the patrol of a guard you are trying to sneak past. Now, the pause feature is something quite special. With this feature, you can pause the game and plan out a choreography to take down various enemies at once. You can cue up one character double shot while another character sneaks in to give a deadly shot to the third enemy. Once I was able to take out a patrol of five enemies with one pause and let me tell you how amazing it fells when it all goes to plan.

Apart from understanding how your characters work, it’s also quite important to understand your enemies. There are several groups of enemies that each have their unique traits. For example, you have Poncho enemies who don’t react to traps and distractions. And you have long coat enemies who are difficult to take out and need three hits to be taken out. And if you don’t take them out in one time, and they spot you, and they hit you… Well, instead game over.

With a simple right click on an enemy, you can make their view cone appear. As soon as you walk in their view cone, you can get spotted. When moving a character, you need to get out of the view cone before it goes red. Since, as soon as it turns red, an alarm is raised and nearby enemies come to help and track you down. But, you can also “view cone surf” where you sneak from one view cone to the next. Confusing the surrounding enemies can possibly be sneaking away.

Let’s do this again.

In the previous section, I mostly explained how the gameplay works. I only explained some of the more basic mechanics. The whole puzzle aspect of this game and the quick thinking you have to do in this game is quite addictive. While I’m playing through this game on the easiest difficulty setting, I still feel that this game is quite challenging.

I tried to play this game on higher difficulty settings, and it’s too brutal for my tastes. Thankfully, you aren’t punished with too many fewer mechanics or other penalties because you aren’t playing on the highest difficulty setting. The gameplay is still addicting. It’s a prefect example of “easy to play but hard to master”. Just like I said in the previous section, awareness of everything is key in this game. Awareness of where you hide your characters, how many enemies are around, who has which abilities, which opportunities you have to kill or knock out an enemy, blind spots …

Now, in order for this style of game to work, you’ll need a good set of controls. And this game controls amazingly. The controls are fast and responsive and apart from some minor moments I don’t have any problems with them. Something I struggle with sometimes is remembering that certain actions like throwing a torch required me to press an additional button. Or that when I want to retrieve the knife, I don’t have to pick up the dead body.

I rarely use the keyboard shortcuts for my characters to preform actions. But did you also know that you can totally remap them to however you want? It’s mind blowing that this game allows you to do that. It’s a great tool to customize and personalize the game to your liking.

So, the gameplay in this game is a blast. I rarely felt that the game cheated me out. And the quick save and quick load system makes this game a ton more fun. Something I can appreciate as well is how detailed this game is. Visually, this game looks stunning. For the low system specs that this game requires, this game is turning out mighty fine visuals. Also, I haven’t noticed any moments where the frame rate stuttered or went down to unplayable numbers.

Maybe it’s because of my playstyle, but I sometimes wish I took more time to enjoy the visual presentation of this game. The environments, the animations of this game… they look amazing. The run that the citizens do to get away from danger is just beyond funny. It’s a sort of Naruto run and I often have a hard time focusing on the mission when I see them running.

In addition to that, the music of this game is just pure ear candy. It’s very memorable but also a blast to listen outside the game. When I’m writing an article about a game, I usually listen to the soundtrack in the background. This article is no different and whilst listening to the soundtrack I was able to play the missions inside my head.

Add to that, the great sound effects that add to the atmosphere of this game, and you have a top-notch audiovisual design. I don’t have any complaints about them. They help me quite a lot during the game. Especially, they can be great to know if you are spotted or not.

So far, I have mostly been raving about this game. Are there actually things I didn’t like about this game? Well, to be honest, I don’t have a lot of negative things to say. There is one mission I disliked beyond belief, and I was stuck at for quite a long time. But, when I was passed it, I was able to play through this game and continue enjoying it. Later, I returned to that mission, and I was able to beat it more easily because I got more used to some characters.

The only thing I could criticize in this game is that the hint system isn’t flawless. Often times, I had it bug out on me and giving me hints to parts of the mission I had already completed. But, it’s a mechanic you can just let aside.

In conclusion, I personally think that if you enjoyed the original games, find the concepts I have explained in this article interesting, enjoy stealth/tactical gameplay and/or enjoy action-puzzle games… I seriously think that this game is worth checking out. I’d highly recommend this game on PC, since I don’t think you can translate the complex controls on a controller too well.

I have barely any negative things to say about this game, so I think it won’t be a surprise that I boot up this game again after publishing this article. It’s a thrilling ride from start to finish and really tests your skills that you learn through playing this game. The witty banter between the characters or the enemies you can listen in are such a blast or can even give you a hint on how to beat the mission.

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

Game Quicky: 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

First Impression: 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.

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

Wikipedia entry

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

Blitz soccer under water

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s battle time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A bit stiff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Impression: Prey 2017 (PC – Steam) ~ This is the real one.

Wikipedia entrySteam page

I love atmospheric shooters. Ever since I played games like Bioshock, Outlaws, Blood, Doom (2016) … I fell in love with shooters that are more than just your typical war or good versus evil shooters. One day, on a school friend’s birthday, he gave a pile of games he got for his birthday to me. It were a whole pile of shooters that he got as a present. He didn’t like shooters, and he knew I was a game collector. One of these games was the original Prey game. Now, that game ended on a cliffhanger and Prey 2 never released. Instead, 4 years ago now, we got a reboot of the franchise or a game with the same name called Prey. The only thing that those two have in common from what I can see is that they are both atmospheric fantasy shooters. But is this Prey 2017 game also good enough to be played, or should I have skipped this game? Well, let’s find out together in this article, while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and/or opinions on the content of this article and/or the game.

The real one

In this game, you take on the role of Morgan Yu. A researcher in this alternate timeline where the Soviet Union found a special type of aliens. After doing some tests, you find out that your life is a lie and that you are living in a simulation. It doesn’t take long before the scary things start happening, and you find out that the base you are living was attacked. These attackers are quite powerful black blobs who can mimic anything. So, it’s up to Yu to find out what happened and to save the day if needed.

Now, trying to briefly explain what happens in the story if this game is extremely tricky since this game has a lot of lore and explaining too much might spoil some neat surprises the story takes. So, since I don’t like to spoil games in my articles, I’m not going to talk too much more about what happens in the story of this game.

As a big fan of the Bioshock franchise, I do have to say that I love the way this story is paced. I always wanted to play another game that resembles the gameplay formula but does a lot of things differently. Just like in Bioshock, this game takes you from area to solve puzzles, fight enemies and progress in the story. I felt right at home.

The voice acting in this game is excellent. I love how you can choose the gender of the main character, and they are both done by excellent actors. If you want to dive deeper into the voice actors, the page on Behind the Voice Actors lists them all quite nicely.

The atmosphere of this game combined with the amazing voice work really pulls me into the game. Like I said before, I felt right at home and I felt that my wish of playing another atmospheric shooter like the Bioshock games was coming true.

This game is a horror adventure shooter game. That’s the best way I can describe this game. I hesitate to call this game an RPG but then again, it has various elements of that. During your travels, you can find neuromods that can unlock abilities like being able to lift heavier things or resist more damage. You can compare it to the skill system that is used in the Tomb Raider reboot games.

Apart from this, you can also find junk lying around in this game that you can transform into usual materials you can use to craft more ammo or better weapons. But beware, all these items are in a shared inventory, together with your weapons, ammo, healing items and so on. Compare the inventory system to Resident Evil 4.

Exploration in outer space

Almost like DooM 2016, this game doesn’t really take place on Earth. It’s set in space, Talos I to be exact. Unlike DooM 2016, there are outer space sections in this game. Then again, DooM 2016 goes to hell and back. Anyways, you go through various locations during your adventure in this game, and you even have sections that are in outer space that gave a similar feeling to the underwater sections in Bioshock 2. But, I haven’t gotten far enough into the game to tell you what these “out door” sections are all about.

During this adventure, you can use a huge amount of weapons. So far, I have gotten three very different types of guns and various types of grenades. So, the most common enemies in this game are the mimics. These enemies can change into various objects in the space station. Thankfully, your weapons can be quite helpful. For example, your crossbow has reusable darts you can shoot when you suspect a certain object to be a mimic. Another example is the first gun you get in this game, the gloop gun. This gun can’t only stun mimics, but it can also be used to create ladders to climb walls.

I really like how open this game feels. With the various power ups you can unlock and the various uses of your weapons, this game feels like an open world game, while it is anything but. The levels/area’s are quite open and you can totally choose how to tackle them. So, I think the replay value in this game will be quite high all the while this game having a very linear story.

In terms of difficulty, this game isn’t the easiest nor the hardest game I have ever played. Depending on the things you unlock in the skill tree, this game can become easier. But don’t get me wrong, this game kept challenging me in quite unique ways. Quite often, I had to think outside the box to solve certain sections or to find secrets. I loved reading the various lore books scattered around the levels. They gave so much more depth to the story. Those were quite rewarding secrets to find.

I have to admit that I find this game quite addictive to play. This game feels like an amazing cross between amazing elements of great games like Resident Evil, Tomb Raider, DooM, System Shock and Bioshock. And it works together so amazingly. I had to adjust the default control scheme a little to suit my AZERTY keyboard lay-out a bit more, but the fact that it recognizes my AZERTY keyboard made me smile. Speaking about the controls, they are excellent. I always felt in control of my character, and every death felt like my mistake and not the game cheating me out of it.

Peek-a-boo!

The AI of the enemies in this game is excellent. The amount of times I was chasing a mimic while it disappeared on me… for me having to turn the corner and suddenly a chair transforms back into a mimic and attacks me… Well, I can’t tell you how much something along those lines happened.

This brings me to the visual presentation of this game. I’m so glad that this game runs so fluently on my GTX 1050Ti, so I can experience the visuals of this game in all its glory. Just look at the screenshots I chose in this article. The environmental details in this game are amazing. Together with the excellent animations, moments like I described above work so well in this game. This space station really feels like it would have been a real work and living space for some, many people, making the atmosphere more realistic and more enjoyable.

I have jumped out of my chair several times while playing this game. Especially when the mimics suddenly attacked me or when a big mimic monster started to follow or attack me. But, there were also moments where I was extremely impressed on the presentation this game has. I think this game is going to hold up visually quite well in the future, it looks that good in my opinion.

But, what is an amazing visual presentation without sound design and music? I’m happy to say that this game also delivers on that front. The techno-dance / orchestral soundtrack of this game only adds to the atmosphere. The soundtrack is done by Mick Gordon together with Ben Crossbones, Matt Piershall and Raphaël Colantonio. These composers did an amazing job on this soundtrack and made some amazing soundtracks for other games in this own rights.

And yes, the sound effects are also amazing. I always feel like I have to be on my toes while strange noises fill the empty and scary hallways of the space station. I think I might repeat myself again here, but I felt on edge while playing this game, in the good way. Almost everything in this game falls into place just right for me. I actually had a hard time writing this article since I wanted to keep playing the game more than I felt like finishing this article.

So far, I have been praising this game quite a lot. Are there things that I didn’t like about this game? Sadly enough, there are a few of them. The first is that the crafting process of ammo is a bit silly since you can’t mutli craft. Seriously, when I want a ton of gloo gun ammo, I have to craft them one by one.

Secondly, the amount of healing items is a tad bit too low in this game. I felt that one mistake gets too harshly pushing. One time in the outer space section, I bumped into an explosive that took out almost all my health. So, back inside the station… A strong enemy is waiting for me. Oh well, this might have been my bad luck or more moments where you can heal would be nice.

And to be honest, that’s it in terms of negatives. I could complain about the game sometimes lagging a bit, but that’s mostly because my system meets the recommended specs quite well. My CPU is a lot stronger, but my GPU is just one generation newer.

Do I recommend this game? Oh heavens yes, I do. If you enjoy games like I mentioned in this article, shooters, horror games, Dead Space… I think this game is going to be one for you! When I bought this game, I knew that I was going to enjoy this game, but I didn’t expect the game exceeding my hype and hopes for the game. I can’t wait for my summer holidays to start since then I can start on finishing this amazing title. I’m also glad that I’m playing this game after the technical issues that this game had at the start with save games. According to howlongtobeat.com, this game is going to take around 40-ish hours to beat, and I currently am 5 hours in. So, I can’t wait. I can’t wait to be pulled into the mystery of the mimics and phantoms and what happened on that space station. But I’m not going to be the Prey… right?

And that’s 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 you in a future article, but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

First Impression: Jake Hunter – Detective Story: Ghost Of The Dusk (3DS) ~ Norse Wolves

jake hunterWikipedia pageNintendo.com page

I can’t hide the fact that I love adventure games that take you on a story that takes a lot of twists and turns. The Nintendo DS and 3DS introduced me to many series like Ace Attorney, Professor Layton, Zero Escape, Trace Memory and many others. So, it seems fitting that one of the latest games I add to my 3DS collection is one that fits my favorite genre perfectly. It’s the second Jake Hunter game released in the west. So, is it any good or should this series stay in Japan? Let’s find out if this game meets my high bars while I give you my honest spoiler free opinion while I invite you to leave a comment with your opinion on the content of this article and/or the game in the comment section down below. 

Norse Wolves

Jake1In this game you play as Jake Hunter, a private detective who is enjoying his drink at the bar while a strange man starts talking to him. One of the coworkers of this strange man dared the strange man to go inside an abounded house in the middle of the night. There are a lot of tales about this house and they all have a pattern. The house is cursed and everybody who enters and/or lives in the house is going to die in an accident. 

Jake doesn’t waste time and investigates the house and indeed finds a dead body of a homeless man. When you discover that the homeless man has been murdered and when you meet the owner of the house who lives in a small shack at the back of the giant house/mansion, a chain of events is started that takes Jake Hunter on an adventure with everything you would want in a detective story.  

In terms of the game delivering on my high expectations in terms of story and pacing, the game fully delivers. The only shame is that you miss some backstory and interactions with the characters which isn’t referenced too much. It’s like starting to watch a police series from the 3rd or 4th season in. But apart from that minor complaint, the story is still good enough to take you in it’s world and take you along on the adventure. 

I do have to mention that so far I have only spent my time with the main case on offer. In total, there are 6 cases in this game. In order to not spoil myself, I have decided to play these cases in order. So far, I’m still in the first case which has the same title as the game. 

This game also has voice acting, there are short Japanese lines spoken to breathe a bit more life into the characters but don’t expect them to be fully voice acted. Most of the dialogue is written out in text boxes. And about them, I do have some complaints. 

The first complaint is the fact that the color used for some characters matches the color for Jake thinking or preforming actions. I find this rather confusing and I think that it would have been better if another color had been used or another font or even put it in cursive. 

The second complaint is that the game asks you to remember who has which dialogue color. So, if you have forgotten that the green text is for another officer, well too bad… The game doesn’t tell you who is talking. 

While I do have two complaints about the dialogue system, I got used to it quite quickly. I kept these two issues in the back of my mind while I was playing the game. Overall, they didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the game too much but I was so glad that I could use the up and down arrows to move through a short history of the dialogues to check out where I went wrong. 

Handholding Police Work

Jake2

So, the story and pacing lives up to my high bar of expectations. But does the rest of the game live up to my expectations? Well, let’s talk about that. 

In terms of gameplay, you can compare this game most to the Ace Attorney series. You interview people and go to various locations to investigate and gather evidence to find the culprit. 

Now, unlike Ace Attorney, this game can be extremely handholdy. What I mean with that is that it’s almost unlikely that you leave a scene without finding all the evidence and/or talking to everybody. This take a lot away from the challenge in my opinion. So, if you are looking for a challenging game, I think that this game might not be the right one for you. 

It isn’t a cake walk either. Since some parts of the investigations require some pixel hunting. So, if you are stuck in a search, take a good look at everything. If the joystick is too sensitive, use the D-Pad for more accuracy. If only spots you haven’t investigated sparkled or gave some sort of identification, this would have helped so much.  

There are some cutscenes in this game, most of them are used to set up the start and/or end of a chapter. I’ll talk more about the scenes when I’m going to talk about the visuals of this game. But there is a thing I want to mention before that. The save system. 

This game doesn’t have any feature to speed up and/or skip these cutscenes to my knowledge. And why is this important? Well, because you only have three save slots. Yes, three save slots. For all the 6 cases. Man, I wish I had three save slots per case or one per case. Oh well, this isn’t too big of a deal since this game is quite linear so you can at least save for 3 different cases without loosing your progress in one. 

Which is a good thing since it’s quite tricky to find your latest save. Thankfully, it tells you how far you got into the case before you load the save file. But that information would have been way more useful on the box of the save file itself. 

Apart from that, I don’t have any other UI complaints. So let’s return to talk about the gameplay. The core gameplay consists mainly out of two parts. Talking and investigations. Let’s start with the talking one first. 

I could start explaining how every mechanic works in detail but that would make this article quite long. So, take it from me that you learn how to use the UI quite fast due to the excellent tutorial chapter. Now, about the first core mechanic, the talking. Of course, you have your normal conversations where you either share information with other characters or just gather information. In itself, this isn’t the difficult part. The “difficult” part is the interrogation of some characters or the “Talk Profile”. 

When you are doing the “Talk Profile” of somebody, you have to choose the right angle of attack to get the information out of somebody. It’s a bit like the cross examination in the Ace Attorney series without the penalty part. If you get it wrong, you can try over again without seeing a game over screen once. The same mechanic is applied when you are deducing something or thinking which action you should take next. 

The second core mechanic of this game is the investigation. Apart from moving from place to place, you can investigate a location at certain parts of the story. In these parts, the pixel hunting can be huge. At least two times I have been stuck at an investigation because I hadn’t found one clue. Oh well, spam clicking sometimes helps or revisiting the game with a fresh mind after a good night sleep helped as well. 

If these two mechanics weren’t into the game, this game would be a kinetic novel. This game doesn’t provide a lot of challenge but I keep finding it fun to play. I find it funny that there is even a sort of hint system in this amazingly linear game. Then again, it once helped me in the pixel hunting since I overlooked something. 

Comic books

jake3Visually, this game reminds me a lot of reading a comic book. There are barely any animations in this game apart from the UI elements but on the screen, there isn’t a lot of animation. Sound effects are used to great effect in this game as well as clever camera motions during the cutscenes. The box-art of the game also adds to the idea of a comic book further. For some reason, I find it quite refreshing to see this visual style. It sparks my imagination to make the characters come to live and how they act. 

The presentation of this game is quite detailed and I applaud the amount of work that the designers have put into this game. It really looks like you are playing through a comic book. The characters really look like I would image them and together with the minor pieces of voice acting and the sound design, the game comes to live.

Speaking of the sound design, I’m really impressed with it. It walks that fine line of adding tension and not being too present to get annoying. In addition to that, the soundtrack. This soundtrack is quite enjoyable. I found it quite surprising that the intro theme of this game even had some sung lyrics. No other track of in the soundtrack is like that.

So, the cutscenes are a perfect example on how this game works like a living comic book. There are barely any animations in these as well. For some people, this would be a negative of this game but in my eyes, I find that it adds to the atmosphere quite well.

Now, I think it high time to get some minor nitpicks out of the way before I finish my overall opinion on this game. The minor things that annoyed me through my playthrough.

First of all, I would have loved that some checkmark or something like that appeared next the questions I couldn’t get more information over. Since that would have saved me some time asking repeat questions.

Secondly, I hated that if you finished a dialogue, you weren’t always able to use the DPAD to watch the history of the conversation. Thankfully, I save often so it isn’t too big of a deal to reload my manually saved file and replay a part of the game.

Thirdly, saving in the middle of a dialogue means that the save restarts at the beginning of a certain scene. So, keep that in mind and don’t be alarmed when you have to redo a converstation.

The fourth thing is that when you are in the game, you are unable to get to the options menu. Only in the main menu, you are able to see the options menu.

And the final and 5th thing is that when the game tells you, you can advance by touching the screen it expects you to touch in exact spots. For example, if you check your log, you have to touch the paper in order for you to see more. While this helps immersion, I would have loved a sort of scroll bar instead… Yet, the biggest issue is when you have to tap the bottom of the screen while the rest of the screen doesn’t react on your touch.

In conclusion, I think it’s clear that I’m enjoying myself with this game quite a lot. Honestly, I highly recommend this game to everybody who enjoys games like Ace Attorney or CSI. I find the story well written and the visual presentation is a nice change of pace of the highly animated and detailed characters of the more recent adventure/detective games.

Sadly enough, it makes a few mistakes in terms of pixel hunting and the lack of a real difficulty… But the positives are so good that it highly outweighs the negatives in my opinion. It’s so enjoyable that I went on eBay to buy myself a copy of the DS game that was the first Jake Hunter game ever come out in the west. I want to experience more of this series while I haven’t finished 1 out of the 6 cases in this game.

So yes, I’m quite sure that I’ll finish this game and maybe write a review about it if other interesting things appear like what is hidden in the gallery after you finish a case. But apart from that, I have said everything that I wanted to say about this game so I think it’s high time for my usual outro.

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

First Impression: Cave Digger (PC – Steam) ~ Diggy Diggy Dig. (Non-VR Version)

capsule_616x353-1Steam store page

At least once every two or three months, I get an email from a developer who is asking me to review their VR-game. I always have to decline since I quite easily get migraine attacks from VR headsets and that’s one of the main reasons why I don’t play VR and don’t even own a VR headset. Now, why am I taking a look at a VR game then? Well, because the developers of “Cave Digger” made a non-VR version of this game and asked me to write an honest review about their game. So, a VR game that went “Non-VR”, is it any good, or should it remain a VR-game? Let’s dive right into the caves while I invite you to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article. (A press code was provided by the developer to write this article)

Diggy Diggy Dig

Cave-Digger-PC-Edition-3dIn this game, you play as a digger for the Frontier. For the first part of the game, the story doesn’t have a big hook to pull you in. But, the further you get into the game, the bigger the actual hook gets. If you want to enjoy most of the story in this game, I highly advise you to take the second radio station on your train since it describes the mystery a lot better. More on that later.

The goal in this game is that you not only uncover the mystery in this game but you also rebuild the city with the riches you find down in the caves. The more you explore the cave, the more information you get from hidden parts of the caves where a lot of jewels and riches reside that might help you earn more money and buy more upgrades. 

So, what is the mystery about? To stay as spoiler-free as I can, it’s about a hidden ancient civilization that might still be alive or too advanced for our human race. So, in the alternative western setting, you have to make a decision about what to do. I have been playing this game for 3 to 4 hours now and I haven’t met another human character… Physically that is. Most of the story is told over the radio. And I do have a complaint about it. 

The voice acting of the characters is good. It pulls you into the story without an issue. Now, English isn’t my native language and while I’m quite good at speaking it, sometimes I enjoy it when there are subtitles when a word or an expression is used that I don’t know. Sadly enough, this game doesn’t have subtitles. That’s a big bummer. 

It would have been great if there was some sort of archive of previous broadcasts. It would be a great help to those who took a (long) break while playing this game to catch up at what’s happening or to re-listen again in case you missed some parts. 

At first, I thought that this game was going to be quite linear, but that is far from the truth. Since this game has 9 different endings. Yes, the replay value of this game is quite high. Now, I haven’t encountered one of the endings so far but I’m quite curious to see them. So, when I have beaten the game and I write a follow-up review article, I’ll talk more in-depth about the endings. One thing I’m going to say already is that there funny and interesting easter eggs in this game that add a whole lot of charm to the game.

Two Ways Exploration

There are two ways you can explore, you can go to the elevator and the train. The main game is going on an adventure with your train. But, it’s easy to earn money by exploring with the elevator. You need to do both since some items to progress in the game without going into a crazy grinding mode is by buying the items at the elevator. 

The gameplay of the “two modes” are also quite different. In the elevator, you can have secret vault doors, but I don’t know how to interact with them. Most likely, I haven’t found the correct tool. You also get three different stages where you get 30 seconds to mine out resources or collect artifacts. After 30 seconds, you move on to the next section. I find that it’s quite easy to throw a stick of dynamite to the walls and use the vacuum glove to collect all the gems before they disappear into the edges of the elevator. Oh yes, that happens during the transition of the sections as well. 

So, let’s talk about train exploration. With this train, you go into the caves where you have various places you can go to get materials and explore. At first, the train goes extremely slowly but the further you upgrade your train, the faster you will be able to travel. Thankfully, there are warp points to certain landmarks so you don’t have to restart your whole travel each and every run. 

The tutorial only explains the basic controls. But the rest is up to you to actually figure out on your own. How you safely extract fossils and oil from the caves, it’s up to you to figure out. Even what the strange golden statues are doing on several dig sites.

Now, to collect the goodies, you have to throw them in the deposit box in your train. Before I got the glove, I found it extremely annoying to pick up the items one by one and deposit them. When I discovered that the glove allows you to suck up several items at once, I found that the game opens up a lot more. Also, it doesn’t take long before you meet your chest buddy who is also a deposit point and even eats up whole piles of gems and deposits them for you. 

Now, this lack of tutorial is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it makes the game a bit more challenging and it feels more rewarding when you figure something out and solve a puzzle. On the other hand, things like the fact that the glove is a vacuum don’t get explained and might turn some people off from this game… 

Something I can forgive is the fact that this game can be a bit repetitive. If you are interested in this game, I highly recommend that you play this game in short bursts since otherwise, this game might become quite boring. 

Something is wrong, I can feel it.

To be quite honest with you, I felt quite conflicted while writing this article. Since there is a lot that this game does right but the mistakes that this game makes are quite major. 

A great example of this is the visual presentation. Visually, this game looks amazing. The environments are detailed and feel life-like. For example, there is a volcano level in the elevator and you really feel that you are mining in an extremely hot place. In terms of animations, it’s good. Nothing too groundbreaking but good. 

Yet, there are several moments where I thought: “shouldn’t there be some visual to tell the player you are breaking this rock?” or “why does my drill always get so zoomed in when I walk very close to walls?”  or “why isn’t there a fuse animation on the dynamite?” … There are several more of these questions in the visual department, sadly enough. There isn’t enough feedback from the game to the player to communicate if they are hitting or missing a rock for example and this breaks the immersion fast. 

And it pains me to say that the smooth and stable visual presentation isn’t the only victim to this problem. The controls are as well. In most cases, the controls of this game work amazingly. I rarely felt like I was cheated out of something or that the game was unresponsive. Yet, I felt that the vacuum didn’t always work as I was expecting, and carrying around items to other places felt a bit … janky. Sometimes I dropped an item with me being unable to explain why my character dropped the item. 

But there also problems with the audiovisual presentation. The soundtrack of this game is just amazing. The variety of tracks in this game is just perfect. I really enjoy the fact there are different genres present in this game apart from all old-western-style music. The sound effects are pretty neat as well but don’t always play consistently. Sometimes they don’t play and sometimes they play for too long. Sounds that don’t always play are the drill when you are excavating relics and sounds that play too long are your gloves when you are using the super punch and cancel it. 

Not even the UI gets saved in build 2020-08-25. For some reason, there are still controller controls in the level bottom of the pause menu… while I don’t have a controller connected. On top of that, the counter for the number of unlocked endings is completely wrong. Just look at this screenshot to see both issues:

So yeah, it pains me to see this since you can clearly see that the rest of the UI is fine and works great. You can see your current main objective and your special mission to gain additional resources but mistakes like I mentioned above are just giving this game a sort of “beta” feel.

Now, most of the issues I mentioned so far I can personally overlook to a certain degree. Yes, they are annoying and they make the game less enjoyable but not unplayable for me. Yet, the thing that makes the game a bit unplayable in my opinion is the fact there is no real way to lose this game. There is no real danger in this game lurking. There is even no punishment for jumping in the ravine, you simply respawn next to your train.

So, is this game a bad or a good game? On one hand, this game is extremely relaxing and maybe it isn’t so bad that there isn’t a lot of danger lurking over your shoulder so you can enjoy the game at your own pace. Yet, on the other hand, I got a bit bored during parts of this game since I didn’t feel challenged at all.

I think the best conclusion is this. This game is perfectly balanced, as all things should be. While it has (huge) flaws that can turn people away, there are a lot of good things that can draw others in. I honestly think that with some more depth and polish, this game can become a real hit but in it’s current state, I think it will become a footnote in history.

Now, I think the big problem I have with this game is that I have played a game that did this concept a whole lot better in my opinion. I’m talking about SteamWorld Dig. Maybe I’m comparing this game and that game a bit too much in my mind diminishing my experience with this game. But, that makes this game: not a bad game. Since I enjoy trying to get the achievements in this game.

As I said earlier, I’m conflicted about this game. On one hand, I enjoy this game and I would recommend it to people who enjoy games like Minecraft or Steamworld Dig, but on the other hand, I don’t want to recommend this game since it needs a lot more work to be enjoyed by more than a niche audience. Also, I haven’t played the VR version of this game. Maybe that version is more polished.

Maybe when I finish all the endings, I might be able to form better opinions on this game. And who knows, maybe by then a few patches are released that improve the game and I might praise this game a lot more in my review. But for now, I think I’m going to wrap up 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 another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

First Impression: Nightmare Reaper (PC – Steam) ~ Can You Sleep Through This?

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Steam store pageGOG page

I can’t tell you exactly why, but I’m a big fan of old school 3D shooters. Last year, I took a look at Ion Fury and Wrath. Honestly, I think that it’s because these games stuck the right balance between modern game design and old school gameplay. Now, one day I stumbled across this game. A game in Early Access that released last year to GOG and Steam. A game that presents itself as a game inspired by Blood, Doom, and Duke Nukem 3D. That’s quite interesting in my eyes. Currently, only the first episode has been released and episode two is coming in the near future. At the moment of writing, the developer said that they are aiming to release the second episode at the end of the summer. But, is this game worth your time and money? Let’s take a look at this game while I invite you to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article. 

Can you sleep through this?

ss_b7e8b7e313a53c7bf3c33a58c248e23c44b7b9bd.1920x1080You play as an unnamed girl who is stuck in a psychotic ward. Her story is being told through small notes that you unlock after beating each level. In order for you to enjoy the game, you don’t need to pay any attention to the story, at all. But, I can tell you out of the experience that it enhances the game tenfold. My imagination and the spare bits of story that I got gave the world-building quite a lot of meaning. My imagination filled in some gaps that made the story quite interesting.

Now, I can understand that some people won’t enjoy a story that is this bland where it’s quite clear that you need to protect yourself on the character or fill in some of the gaps yourself. But, I didn’t find this a problem at all. Since this game focusses itself a lot more on the gameplay than on the story and in that case I don’t mind a “weaker” story.

I always find it quite difficult to review or criticize a story when I know that you don’t have every piece of the puzzle. A story can start off strong and end up quite weak. Currently, I’m quite interested to see where the story is going to go and if it wraps up with a nice conclusion or if it leaves it up to the player to figure out.

As I said before, the story is mostly told through small notes that you can read on your table after beating a level. You unlock one note for every level you beat. Each note builds on the previous note painting a more complete picture of the situation. There is no voice acting during these notes, but that doesn’t mean that there is no voice acting in the game.

The girl you play as is voiced by Marie-Claire Lavertu and I haven’t found anything about her. Now, this might raise some red flags but don’t you worry. The voice actor nails the voice acting of the main character flawlessly. The grunts, the smirks, the laughs… It’s all done pretty well. She did a pretty amazing job of bringing this troubled character to live without saying one line. I wonder if she also did the screams of the other patients you hear when you are in your room.

So, how do you play this game; since you start off in a hospital room? Well, as the name of the game suggests, you are going to reap some nightmares. So, it’s time to go to sleep and you get transported to a randomly generated level where your goal is to beat your enemies and reach the goal.

Retroception

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This game features randomly generated levels. Well, to a degree. The developer created a whole slew of rooms and the random level generator just fits them together in random order.

So that means, that you might find the same layout once or twice but in most cases, each level and each playthrough is quite different. But, this isn’t the only thing that stands out in this game.

The Steam Store page boasts that this game has over 32 weapons and is going to have 80+ weapons. Now, before you think that this is going to be an overload to manage them all… You don’t have to manage them all. That’s because you can only carry over one weapon from one level to the next. Yes, one weapon.

It gets even better, each weapon might have special abilities and has a certain level. So, you need to think and strategize about which weapon you want to keep and which weapon you want to sell for those precious coins.

These coins can drop from destroying the environment, defeating enemies, selling weapons at the end of a level, finding treasure, and playing the Gameboy Advance Skilltree minigame. Oh yes, the minigame. One doesn’t simply unlock new powerups in this game, you have to earn them by first having enough coins and then beat the mini-platform level. Only when beating a level, you lose your coins and earn your sweet powerup. Trust me, these power-ups are worth it! After defeating some levels, I felt more equipped and stronger to beat my enemies.

If I would take a look at all the enemies and weapons, I think I would be here all day. Let’s first talk about the weapons. You have swords, staffs, shotguns, rocket launchers, tomes, pistols, rifles… It’s a whole lot. Personally, I rarely used the bows since I found their fire rate a bit too slow since this game can get pretty hectic and intense with some enemies and a strong gun fits my playstyle more in these types of gameplay situations. And my preferred weapon was a double-barreled shotgun with the chance to shock my enemies I picked up in one of the earliest levels.

Obviously, I’m going to talk about the enemies right now. You have a whole range of enemies. From hit scanning enemies to enemies that take you with melee attacks. It’s essential for you to learn the patterns of each enemy so you can play accordingly for which enemy you should take out first.

There are some enemies I absolutely hated during my playthroughs. These Dragon Plants that not only spit acid but also spit little egg projectiles that hatch smaller dragons. These didn’t die fast enough for my liking. And then I’m skipping over the enemies who throw what I assume mutated blobs of themselves to you and these blobs track you and when they explode… You lose a LOT of your health. And these blobs are so freaking small and annoying to kill…

Now, would I remove these enemies? Absolutely not. They ramp up the difficulty of this game to a very rewarding level. For having so many different possibilities, I’m surprised how much work there has been put into the balancing of the game. New enemies are introduced one by one so you can get used to them, learn their patterns, and try to manage them in the chaos of a whole enemy filled room.

The “punishment” for death in this game isn’t that harsh. Thankfully, since you will die quite often since this game can be quite rough. But I mean that in a good way. The punishment is that you have to restart the level with the weapon you choose to keep from the previous level. But, you don’t lose your gold. So, if one level is a bit too tough, you can grind up your coins, beat a few skill tree mini-games and try again with some new powers.

During my playthrough, I regularly felt the urge to play just one more round, to try to beat that annoying level. I found that most of this game is quite fair and balanced apart from the fire boss. I’m sorry but I find that boss battle just too difficult. That boss hits a bit too hard. My biggest complaint is that this boss appears after quite a challenging level and then you have to try and beat quite a difficult fight. Thankfully, the developer said that he is going to take a look at how the fight can become a little bit easier. And also, he has given us some helpful advice to beat it. It’s the biggest frustration I have with this game since I have gotten so close several times… But one of these days, I’ll do it and defeat that – CENSORED –

So, would it surprise you if I said that I’m not even done talking about all the mechanics yet? Oh, I haven’t mentioned the power-ups, the random events, and the possible bonus gold you can earn by killing all the enemies, finding all the gold and secrets… Well, I’ll leave these interesting and fun game mechanics up to you to find out. There must still be something to discover when you play this game after reading this article, right?

Shoot everything

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You might have noticed by looking at the screenshots, that this game doesn’t have the most modern graphics. This game goes for a more retro aesthetic with some modern vibes. And the game succeeds in that quite well.

In the visual presentation, I find this game quite exceptional. I really like the visual presentation and animation of this game. From the enemy design to the animations on the weapons, I really think they are well done. Especially, when I saw some early footage of the game and compare it to what’s on offer now, it’s impressive how far this game has come. The only minor complaint I have in the visual department is a timer. Yes, a timer of how long your power-up is lasting. Since there is no inventory in this game for power-ups and health pickups, so it would have been nice to see how much a powerup is going to last when you want to use it to rush a boss or a difficult room.

To finish up my thoughts on the visual presentation, let’s talk about the UI. Overall, it’s quite well done but there are a few minor things that I would change. First of all, the “Reset Default Settings” is a great future but I would rather have that feature reset for example only the game features instead of resetting everything. Another minor complaint I have about the UI is there are no page numbers on the achievement page.

Speaking about achievements, it’s lovely that these give you coins in-game but I find them to also have them as Steam achievements. I mean, there are over 80 already. Maybe this is just me, but I almost got an achievement in every round, if not two or three. Maybe I look at achievements in a totally different light but I found them not rewarding to earn at all.

There is one thing that I haven’t talked about yet and I usually talk about quite early in my articles and that’s the audio of this game. First of all, let’s talk about the sound effects. The sound design of this game is close to perfect. On quite rare occasions, I didn’t hear some trap or pickup sound effects playing, especially during fights but that isn’t such a big deal. These fights are hectic enough when you try to manage large groups of enemies, the sparse health pickups, and the great sound effects of the enemies and weapons.

But I want to talk about the amazing soundtrack by Andrew Hulshult. Now, if this name doesn’t ring a bell. Well, let me just say he created the soundtrack of a little game called Dusk and Wrath: Aeon Of Ruin. Let me just say, if you enjoy the DooM 2016 soundtrack, oh man you are going to enjoy this quite a lot.

Overall, I would recommend this game to people who enjoy retro games and shooters. At its current state, I found this game quite addictive and I had a hard time putting this game down during my summer holidays. Before I knew it, I had put in 11 hours in this game and I’m not bored with it yet. I can’t wait to see what the second episode will bring to the table.

To be honest, I had a really hard time finding negatives to say about this game apart from the fire boss being too tricky for my liking. All the other things are things that are either quite minor or can change because this game is still in active development. I’m going to keep an eye out on this game and maybe you too.

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