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

Nintendo.com micrositeWikipedia entry

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

Witchschool

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

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

Official story on the eShop page

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Almost there, Bell

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s play or let’s play?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wikipedia pageSteam pageOfficial website

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

Pop goes the Joy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emotional Telephone Booths

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To Joy or not to Joy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wikipedia entry

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

Blitz soccer under water

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s battle time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A bit stiff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Android Games – Let’s start playing on my phone again.

It has been quite some time since I wrote an article with short reviews of Android games, has it not? Lately, I have been focussing on the bigger games and I haven’t given the smaller games some time to shine on my blog. Also, when I was talking about a smaller game, I wrote a longer article on it instead of a short review. But, since I’m currently working on bigger articles and I didn’t want to skip this week, I decided I wanted to bring this series back and start talking about a few smaller games I have been playing on my phone lately. So, let’s start talking about smaller Android games and let’s take a quick look if they are worth your time/money. Also, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and opinions on the games and/or the content of this article.

ProgressBar95

Steam versionAndroid version

For those who don’t know, I’m 28 years old, and I also have a day job. This day job is being an IT admin in a big art secondary school (high school for some) here in Belgium. My work days are filled with solving problems that teachers and students have, improving our IT infrastructure, developing our website… Apart from that, I’m also a big fan of old tech and I love messing around with old computers and technology.

So, when I came across ProgressBar95 on the app store, I downloaded the game right away. And I fell in love with it right away. The game keeps true to its tagline that this game is a “hypercasual UI game”. The main idea of this game is that you are a progress bar that needs to catch dropping squares to make the progress bar progress. Blue and light blue are good ones, orange are errors but still help you in progress. Pink detracts from your progress bar, so you can get rid of orange squares if you want.

Depending on how well you do, the amount of points you get to unlock various upgrades to your computer. The higher your level, the more difficult this game becomes and the more points you can earn. This game also works with lives, but if you run out of lives, you don’t have to wait a certain amount of time for them to recharge and try the game again.

So, the interface of this game is top-notch. It nails the ascetic of being a computer amazingly. For example, to toggle sound on or off, you can press the sound icon in the bottom right of the computer. If you click the “EN” of the language toolbar, you can switch languages. It also has a colorblind mode, cloud saving, multiple game modes and one of the best ways to handle microtransactions I have seen.

The different gameplay modes I have played so far is a sort infinite runner Wolfenstein game and a “dodge the red numbers and get to the bottom of an Excel spreadsheet”-game. They add so much variety to the game and I love going between them if I’m bored with one game mode.

The biggest recommendation I would give to you is that you buy the extremely cheap “no-ads” package. Overall, the ads aren’t annoying but the game improves so much without forced ads. Now, if you look at the whole shop, you might think that this game is a “pay-to-win” or a money sink. But, no. You can pay to unlock all other levels but 99% of the stuff in the store can be earned easily in-game by winning levels or doing side quests.

It’s clear that this game has a lot of love put into it and I have a hard time finding anything negative about this game. Apart from this game being extremely niche and the game being a little boring for extend playthroughs… But yeah, I honestly would recommend this game to all my other retro gamers or people who are into computer science. It’s an amazing and refreshing experience.

Score: 5/5.

Word Lanes

Android store

So, when I’m in a waiting room or have some time to kill, I love playing small games. Especially when they are puzzle games like word searches or connect the dots to give two examples.

In Word Lanes, you are presented with a grid of letters, and you have to find all the words that fit the clues at the top. Each letter can only be used once and the letters have to connect horizontally or vertically to be used in a word.

This game is rather relaxing, and it’s a great way for me to unwind. I also love how the game is fully translated into my native language. The only complaint I have about that is the fact that as a Belgian person, I always have to struggle when the hint is talking about something from the Netherlands. But, I always report them with a handy report feature after you solved a clue. With this report feature you can report typo’s, wrong clues and things like that.

I’m also on the fence about the microtransactions. You earn coins to use the hint features after beating a level, but I feel I always don’t have enough. Thankfully, you have these daily rewards and saving them up is easy then. Honestly, I just think that the prices of the power-ups are a tad bit too high.

But hey, that’s a minor complaint. Since this game has so much enjoyment to offer and the ads aren’t THAT intrusive and only play between levels. Also, quite frequently, I have an option where the ads are disabled for one day. This is amazing and actually makes me consider buying the “no ads” package since I got a free trial.

Score: 4/5

Reigns

Android store

Way back in 2017, I wrote an article about Questr. A game that has some “Tinder” style gameplay while being a questing game. Now, that game was more about adventuring while you created your party with a sort of Tinder app. In this game, the main feature of Tinder of swiping left to reject or right to approve, is set into a “choose your own adventure” game.

Reigns is published by DeveloperDigital and is so close to be amazing, it’s painful. The gameplay is quite addictive, and I love taking decisions as an immortal king on how my kingdom should progress. The atmosphere, sound effects, music and visual design is amazing. It really pulls you into the game and I love playing the game but…

It’s way too easy to take a decision. It’s too sensitive. I had several moments where I was choosing between two options and just because I hit the edge of one side a bit too much, the game decided for me. And not only that, my phone doesn’t have physical buttons anymore and quite often, I had the game deciding for me just because I swiped down to see the time or see my latest notification.

There is also no “message log”. So, when you put the game down for a moment, you can’t see the history of what happened. And if I want to change the options during gameplay, though luck. The menu only appears when see the progress between kings.

This game has a lot of amazing elements like having to balance your four powers and the various twists and turns certain decisions and pathways can take, but it has various rough edges, I fell so mixed about this game. Maybe the PC version of the game is better, but I feel like this game works best as a mobile game. But, I feel like the mobile version just got a few rough edges. For example, I had to look up a way to reset your progress in the game. It turns out you have to hold two fingers on to have the reset screen to show up.

Yet, I advise people who enjoy adventure games to give this game a go. But be warned, the mobile version has some rough edges. But, for the low asking price of this game and the amount of content in this game, I can say for a fact there is a LOT worse out there. And I’m also so glad that this amazing concept got a few sequels as well… So, I know what to play next on my phone.

Score: 3.5/5

Wrapping up

I’m so glad that I gave this format another go and revived it. It allowed me to talk about three Android games I wanted to showcase on my blog, but I didn’t have the time for or wasn’t able to write a good enough “long” article about. I think I’ll revisit this format more often in the future and maybe also use it when I play small games on Steam, Switch or other platforms.

Then again, with my busy lifestyle and the backlog of games I still want to cover, I can’t promise how frequent I’ll write articles like these. I also challenged myself to be brief and short in this article and I had the urge to keep writing about these three games. So, if you want a more in-depth article about one of these games, let me know in the comments.

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

Review: Pokémon Sword & Shield (Switch) ~ Want Some Tea And Battling Biscuits?

Pokémon_Sword_and_Shield

Official websiteWikipedia entry

Before I introduce the game, I want to mention that this article is a part of a collaboration with other content creators for the celebration of the Pokémon series, Creator’s Catch. If you want to read more Pokémon content on this 25th anniversary of the original Pokémon games in Japan, there a hub article with more information. In any case, one of my pieces for this collaboration is a review on the latest main series Pokémon games called Pokémon Sword and Shield which released in late 2019 and got two expansion packs in 2020. Now, should you play this game or leave this game at the wayside? Was the “Dexit” controversy right, when not all the Pokémon were going to be included, to boycott the game or shouldn’t they worry? Let’s find out in my review of Pokémon Sword and Shield. I have played the Shield version and most of the DLC for this review. So, what is your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article, let me know in the comment section down below!

Want some tea?

In-Game-Screenshot-2

This game takes place in the Galar region. This region is based on a place that’s extremely close to me. I just have to cross the pond for it. Our above neighbors Great Britain were the inspiration for this game. In terms of story, the structure of the game is extremely similar to the original games. There is less focus on a more unique attempt at gyms like in Pokémon Sun & Moon.

So, you start out in your home town, picking one of three starter Pokémon to set out on a journey to discover the secrets and the evil lurking over the region by going to each and every gym and trying to defeat the Pokémon league.

I’m going to be blunt and honest here. While the story has some fun and quirky characters, it’s way to stripped down of anything that gives some tension to it. There isn’t even an “evil team” in this game. The motivations of the antagonist are weak at best. The biggest flaw is that the story lacked depth.

I finished these games last year and to remind myself what happened in the story, I had to take out my strategy guide and skim through it to get the gist of it. Now, there are a few moments that stood out during the story but these moments were far and few between.

It’s a shame really, since the writing and potential for a better story are in the game. I’m not going to argue that the previous Pokémon games always had a very in-depth story but I’m going to argue that the story was more engaging and gave a better atmosphere to the game. For example, Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire tell a story about the climate in terms of the balance of land and water. Pokémon Black and White told a story about the moral of capturing creatures to help in work. Pokémon Sun and Moon told a story about how power can go and make you mad.

I can’t tell you what the moral or message of the Pokémon Sword and Shield games are. In a matter of fact, the actual climax and buildup is so see through that I’m quite sure that even a young child is going to see the twist at the end coming from a mile away. The DLC thankfully takes a step in the right direction, they feel a bit more fleshed out and still have a story to tell instead of something quite generic that the main story is telling.

I think I could ramble on and on about the story, but I think I should focus on review this game and talk about other elements as well, so let’s take a further look into this Pokémon game and let’s see why the fans of the Pokémon franchise are so divided on this game.

Some biscuits, please!

In-Game-Screenshot-18

Even when a game doesn’t have an enjoyable story, the game can still be quite fun. Now, let me first tackle the “Dexit” controversy. There was a group of Pokémon fans who were quite angry when it was announced that not all Pokémon would make it over into the Pokémon Sword and Shield games. I can totally understand from where these people are coming from but I can totally understand the viewpoint of the developers.

It’s a bummer for the fans that they might be unable to catch their favorite Pokémon or carry their Pokémon over from older games. I can totally understand the fear that it’s now possible that Pokémon are going to be locked behind a DLC-paywall. I would totally agree with that fear if the developers implemented a pay per Pokémon scheme, but thankfully enough, they didn’t. Thankfully in the DLC we got 200 Pokémon that were returning to the game for a reasonable price.

Now, what do I personally think about the whole Dexit controversy? Well, to be honest, I don’t mind the fact that not every Pokémon is in the game. And I’m going to explain myself. I think it would have been a huge workload to make close to 900 new models and make them work in the new game. In addition to that, I think it’s a great way to force players to experiment with the new Pokémon. Since why should you catch or try out the new Pokémon if you are able to catch all the ones you know?

Just thinking about the workload that adding 900 Pokémon in one game is going to bring is making my head spin. Not only you need to make sure that there is the right balancing, but you also need to make sure that every Pokémon has it’s use and reason for existing. And let’s not forget the fact that you need to animate them in a large dynamax form as well. Also, just imagine that you had an extremely low chance to catch a certain Pokémon just because there are too many in one route.

It would bloat the game beyond belief. I think that it’s quite possible that when the next generation comes out, we are going to have close to 1000 Pokémon. So, you could start to argue that maybe we shouldn’t have new Pokémon in the next generation but discovering the new Pokémon is just half the fun of a Pokémon game isn’t it.

Anyways, I think it’s time to focus on Pokémon Sword and Shield’s gameplay isn’t it? So, how does this game play? Well, in terms of gameplay, nothing really changed. If you have played Pokémon games in the past, you know what to expect in this game. You train your Pokémon during Pokémon battles in routes and cities and try to defeat 8 gyms that specialize in a type to gain 8 badges to defeat the 5 strongest trainers in the region. Meanwhile you discover the truth behind the legend of that region’s legendary Pokémon(s).

For some veterans, the formula is getting a bit stale. I still enjoyed going through the whole game but I’m a bit disappointed that they are returning to the old school gym design. The trail challenges in the previous Sun and Moon games were such an amazing breath of fresh air. In this game, it’s a strange mixture between the old school gym design an a sort of challenge based design. It’s a step in the right direction to make gyms more fun but something that did surprise me is the fact that there are differences in the gym depending on the version you are playing. Finally, there are more differences between the versions then just the Pokémon you can catch. For example, in Circhester, you fight Gordie who uses rock Pokémon for the 6th badge if you play the Sword version. But in the Shield version, you fight Gordie’s mother Melony and she uses ice Pokémon to challenge you. Sadly enough, this happens for one other gym. I would love to see more in the future. More differences between the versions instead of just the Pokémon you can catch and/or some minor visual/text differences.

There are two unique mechanics in this game. The first is dynamaxing. With this mechanic, you can dynamax your Pokémon in certain criteria. You can use this mechanic during special battles basically. When you dynamax your Pokémon, they grow quite large and they can use extremely strong attacks. I could explain it in detail, but if you want to know more, Bulbapedia has an amazing in-depth article on it. This mechanic really puts an interesting twist on battling but I feel that this doesn’t scream Pokémon to me. It feels like just a spin on Mega Evolution which is basically Dynamax Lite now.

The second unique mechanic are the wild areas. These areas are basically quite open routes where you can do just a little bit more than just battle trainers, battle wild Pokémon and go from one place to the next. If all the routes were more as open and as large to the wild area, then I would applaud the developers. Now, the wild area feels painfully underdeveloped. You can camp and cook in these areas but that is just a small distraction at best. The things you can do while camping feel extremely limited and the cooking mini game is enjoyable but I rarely came back to it.

In the cooking mini game, you have to combine berries and a core ingredient to create all sorts of curry. You can find these ingredients in the wild area. These curries can give a boost to the friendship you have with the Pokémon and other very minor boosts. One of these boots can be to experience gain.

There is a multiplayer aspect to camping and cooking but to be honest, I haven’t used it nor have I experimented with it that much so I’m not going to comment on it. Feel free to talk about it in the comments since I would love to know if it’s fun or not.

Something I feel rather mixed about is the fact you can easily access the boxes anywhere in the world. So, that means you can easily swap your team members on the fly. Thankfully, they don’t fully heal if you switch them in and out of the box during your adventure, since that would have broken the difficulty of this game even more.

This brings me to the point of the difficulty of Pokémon Sword and Shield. Balancing a game just right is something quite tricky to do. I have written a lengthy article about it in 2019. Now, I’m sad to say that this game doesn’t deliver in that department. You have to go out of your way to make the game more challenging. There are various video’s and articles floating around on the internet to give you tips and tricks to make the game more difficult. I’m just going to give some examples: TheGamer and NintendoLife.

The aftertaste

In-Game-Screenshot-27

Now, it might seem that I’m ripping this game apart. Complaining about the story, the unique mechanics and the difficulty of the games. I think I’m going to run ahead of the conclusion of this article but I feel that Pokémon Sword and Shield could have been so much better, miles better in fact. The potential is there in the game.

The game controls amazingly well. It’s the first mainline Pokémon game on a console and it made the transformation quite well. While I got some minor slowdowns during some intense senses and during some battles after selecting a move, they weren’t too bad and the framerate got stable again quite fast.

Something I really liked in this game is the soundtrack and the audio design. Some tracks in this soundtrack like the battle theme of Bede or the battle theme of Marnie are absolute bobs. I also listen to the soundtrack from this game from time to time while at work and while writing articles. I enjoy it just that much. The sound effects add to the atmosphere of the game as well. For example, you feel that moves having the impact it should have to draw you in into the world of this game.

I can totally understand that some people are somewhat disappointed with the visual presentation of this game. Especially since some attacks have a 2D animation while some attacks have a grand 3D animation. To be honest, I didn’t mind it that much. I rather have a generic animation that can be used for every Pokémon that can learn or execute that move instead of the developers having to create a separate animation for each and every Pokémon that can learn the move.

This game is quite colorful and detailed. The visual presentation of a steampunk Great Britain is rather well executed and well done in my opinion. I really like the fact that battles with gym leaders are in a grand stadium, it’s something I always imagined as a kid. Then again, I wonder every gym battle can draw those huge crowds if this region where real. But that’s nitpicking beyond belief.

In terms of visuals, I have been comparing character models of Pokémon from Sun & Moon and Sword & Shield. I have to say that it’s a huge improvement and they look a lot better with better lighting and details in Sword & Shield. Now, you can clearly notice during the game that the developers hit the limits of the 3DS in Sun & Moon, so we should only get better models in the future. It’s also amazing to see that you can see the first Pokémon in your party to follow you in the overworld.

HM moves are a thing of the past in this game. This is something I really feel mixed about. It’s something that could be used to gate players from progressing too fast in the game in more unique ways instead of just blocking the road with various people. It also created more interesting puzzles by sliding blocks or having to dive under water. It’s something I’m going to miss to be quite honest yet I totally understand why it has been done. This way you don’t have to have a Pokémon in your party that’s simply your HM slave and make the world more open to exploration.

A huge positive in this game is the fact that they finally fixed the random battle system. You can finally see all the wild Pokémon in the overworld and avoid them if needed to catch a certain one. In addition to that, you can see which moves are effective against the Pokémon you are battling if you have fought the Pokémon before. If only there was an option to turn it off for more veteran players, that would be awesome. Like an option to disable the always on experience share or turn it in another mode would have been great as well.

This game also has a few online modes like raids and versus battles. But I’m not that big of an online gamer so I’m going to comment on those very much because I haven’t experienced them enough to talk about them. Now, you can do raid battles solo and those are fine but you feel that these are more enjoyable when you do them with friends or strangers online.

Something I’m totally forgetting to talk about is the fact that there is a way you can ease of the griding of your Pokémon! Since you can send them on jobs. In the Pokémon Centers you have a machine where you can play the Pokémon Lottery but more important, send your Pokémon on certain jobs. The better they preform on a better, the more experience and rarer items they will bring back. You can also choose for how long you will have to miss your Pokémon. It’s a sort of free daycare system.

That brings me to how content is somewhat locked in this game. The further you get in the game, the more items unlock. So, even if you were to cheat and go out of bounds towards another city’s Pokémon Center to go to the market, you won’t be able to buy more powerful items. It’s the same with collecting the League cards, which is just an immersion mechanic in the game.

Something new in this game is that there is an autosave feature. So, the days of manually saving are over. Surprisingly enough, there is an option to enable to disable the autosave feature. Now, I have mostly played this game without the autosave feature since I felt that my game ran a smidge better with it off.

The last things I want to talk about is the postgame and the DLC’s. Let’s start with the postgame. There is a minor silly additional story you get after becoming the champion. I’m sorry but I can’t take the characters in this story chapter seriously, I find it a bit ridiculous and silly. Apart from that, you can learn unique moves and do various other things. A nice list has been created by gamewith.net. Personally, I find the post-game content rather enjoyable apart from the silly story of course.

So, the DLC. I honestly have to say that it’s totally worth a purchase. The base game provides around 30 to 40-ish hours of content if you want to play the main story and the extra’s. If you add the two DLC’s on top of that, it’s another 10 to 20 hours on top of that. If you want to fully complete the game, you are looking at an adventure that takes close to 130 hours to complete.

The DLC is also amazing postgame content. It adds unique mechanics and is a step in the right direction when it comes to game difficulty. So, if you enjoyed the base game, I think that the additional 30€ is worth it for both DLC’s. They might be a tad bit on the expensive side but they add more then enough content to justify the price in my opinion.

To avoid spoilers, I’m not going to talk too in-depth about them, but one DLC is a whole new island to explore with a fun quest to find all the Digletts and to train a Pokémon to fight in one of two towers to choose between which legendary Pokémon you want in addition to the biggest wild area in the game. The other DLC gives a whole new boss rush rouge like mini game for legendary hunting and another new wild area.

And with that said, I think it’s high time for my conclusion. Since this review is getting rather lengthy isn’t it?

Conclusion

The bad:

-Rather underwhelming story.

-The game is too easy.

-Some parts of the game feel underdeveloped and underused.

The good:

+ Amazing visual design.

+ Interesting new spins on the gym battles.

+ Amazing soundtrack.

+ …

Final thoughts:

After I had beaten the main game and played parts of the DLC, I started a review of this game multiple times and scrapped it each and every time. This game has so many underdeveloped good and fun elements it hurts to see them dragged down by the two biggest downfalls of this game and that’s the weak story and the game being too easy for it’s own good.

I still enjoyed my time with the game but sometimes I felt that these games are becoming a shadow of their former selves. I honestly think that if the story had more depth and there were difficulty options, this game wouldn’t have divided the fanbase so much. Of course, you have the whole Dexit controversy thing, but as I explained before, I don’t find it too big of a disaster.

The game is still a blast to play with an amazing soundtrack, new and fun mechanics like the wild area’s and a lot of accessibility features like seeing the effectiveness of moves. Also, we are finally seeing more differences between both versions that just simply the Pokémon you can catch in the wild.

This generation took a few steps back and a few steps forward and I’m quite curious to see what we are going to get in the future. What games are we going to get in this anniversary year of Pokémon? Since I would love to see the franchise continue and thrive since this game proves that the formula can still be quite a lot of fun if it’s handled well.

So, should you pick up this game? I would recommend it but I would warn players that they shouldn’t expect an expansive story and a lot of challenge expect they create their own challenge. But, it’s still a great and enjoyable Pokémon game where you can sink a lot of hours into.

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

Score: 70/100

Remember, this article is part of a huge collab of content creators to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Pokémon in Japan. Want to read more articles and content? Click here to go to the hub article where we all take a look at the main line Pokémon games and various spin-offs.

First Impressions: Lenna’s Inception (PC – Itch.io) ~ Glitching The Zelda Formula

Lennas-Inception-Free-DownloadItch.ioSteam

If you have read my blog in the past, you might know that I highly enjoy the Zelda series. It’s one of my favorite series ever created. My favorite games are the Oracle games because it’s one of the first Zelda games I played and I just feel in love with the formula, the world, the setting, the mechanics… Now, since A Link Between Worlds we didn’t got a new top down Zelda game. Thankfully, indie game developers pick up that banner and create new games heavily inspired by the formula. Today, I want to talk about Lenna’s Inception, a game I played through the Itch.io page of the developers. Is it any good, does it scratch my Zelda itch or should we skip this game and look at another game? Let’s find out while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

Editorial note: I have played multiple versions of this game but I played v1.1.5 for this article.

Glitching the Zelda formula

6EtbsPIn this game, you take control of Lenna. As long as you don’t rename her that is. Lenna is a teacher at a local school and as soon as she steps out, she notices that her whole school is glitched out and you are unable to enter it. So, it doesn’t take long before you meet Link, I mean Lance. He is the actual hero in the story and Lenna guides him towards the first dungeon to help Lenna save her students. 

Now, as you would expect, Lance meets a terrible fate and actually dies. Now, it’s up to Lenna to save the world before it corrupts even more. During the story you meet several characters and interact with the world. The writing contains a whole load of puns and references to other games and pop-culture. It’s quite enjoyable. 

Something I want to praise the developers for is that they managed to up the replay value in a lot of unique and interesting ways. First of all, let me tell you that there are a lot of gameplay modes besides the story mode. There are various challenge modes with leaderboards that actually invite speedrunners to make them categories. 

On top of that, there is a sort of “Spoiler Log” in the story mode. I haven’t beaten the game, so I don’t know what it exactly is, but I have seen in the changelog for v1.1 that it has to do with speedrunning the story mode.

Speedrunning this game will be quite tricky, since this game world is completely randomized. You can set a seed to know where you need to go, but the lay-out of the land and the locations of various things are random in every save file. So that means that no playthroughs are exactly the same. 

I have to say that I rather enjoyed the story and the setting of this game. There are various 4th wall breaks and self referential humor which makes the story much more enjoyable. Too bad that one playthrough of this game is rather short, if you know what you are doing, you can beat this game in 4-ish hours. Add 10 hours on top if you want to complete everything. But, again, it’s not a bad thing that this game is short since the randomly generated content makes this game so replayable. I’m quite sure that after I have beaten this game, I’ll be playing this game again during holiday breaks.

Throwback Styling

UntitledThis game makes it’s throwback to the old school top down Zelda-style complete with a 8-bit and 32-bit visual style. You can choose in the main menu if you want to use the 8-bit or 32-bit visuals for the game. In most of my playthrough, I have used the 32-bit style since I felt that style looked better. But, for this article, I booted up the 8-bit style and I was blown away. 

Seriously, it looks as good as the 32-bit style. Obviously, the 32-bit style has more details and looks better by modern standards, but the 8-bit visual style took me back to the days that I played the port of the original Zelda game on my Gameboy Advance. 

The visuals of this game are really polished, apart from one thing I don’t have any complaints. The visuals really give an amazing atmosphere and add to the story and the setting of the game. It really sells a fantasy world that is alive and that the main character of the game is actually living in it. 

Now, the lay-out of the land depends on your seed, which is nicely displayed in the load menu. I choose “Arpegi” as my seed, because why not? It’s sort of my brand name after all. When I checked out the Discord of the game, I noticed that there were snowy area’s that looked cool and I have them barely in my seed. So, I think I’m going to replay the game with another seed to try and see new things. 

The visual presentation has one flaw and that’s that the glitch effect can be a trigger for people who are epileptic. It does add a lot to the story and setting of the game but I think they might trigger some people. Something that can also trigger people are the flashing screens when the game is doing it’s randomizing magic. You can change this through the options menu, but I think you should get a warning screen to turn these off before they happen. This might be in the game, but I’m not 100% sure since I can’t remember and I don’t want to delete my save files to test it.

Yes, save files! There are multiple save slots. Well, this is partially true. You can have multiple runs but you have one save file per run. Also, this game doesn’t use an autosave! You have to save manually. So, don’t forget to save whenever you have beaten a dungeon or got a heartpiece.  

A game can have amazing visual presentation but what is the presentation of a game without it’s sound effects and music? This game delivers an amazing soundtrack and amazing sound work. While I would have loved a bit more ambient sound effects, the music is still amazing. Oh, the attention to detail in this game is top notch as well. I mean, this game even makes the soundtrack and sound effects 8-bit if you use the 8-bit visual style. 

Exploration distraction

dfgdfIf I didn’t get distracted by all the side quests you can do, I think I might have beaten this game for the first time. Yet, in this game there are several optional side quests that you can do to upgrade your gear, increase your health and even complete a whole trading sequence. 

In terms of gameplay, this game works the exact same as a top down Zelda game. You have to complete dungeons gather new items and unlock more of the story. Some mechanics are more in-depth than in the Zelda games. For example, there are way more potions and tunics in this game than in any Zelda game. In addition to that, you can even use these potions on enemies. I discovered that by accidentally shooting a healing potion into one of the dungeon bosses. 

Unlike Zelda, you can have a companion in this game. While a NPC attacking nearby enemies can be quite helpful, I found that they sometimes got stuck in dungeons on doors and they don’t help you in boss fights. Each companion NPC has it’s own health bar that’s displayed in green above your health bar. When an NPC picks up a heart, you and the NPC get healed. 

I’m not going to reveal the items you can gather in this game since it’s part a spoiler and I want to leave that a surprise to you if you decide to play this game. But, I do highly advise you to learn all the mechanics of the items since they can be helpful. Overall, the difficulty of this game isn’t that high but that might also be seed-related, I don’t know. But, I rarely had trouble with the story mode. I also never had to use a guide to progress in this game. But, I do have to say that some puzzles especially in the castle are expertly crafted and quiz you on the possible uses of certain items. 

To be quite honest, I have a lot of trouble finding negatives about this game. The only negative I could say is that the default keyboard controls are a bit awkward to use. But hey, nothing that changing the keyboard bindings can’t fix. But, then I tried out my controller on this game and I felt that the game worked even better. I could nitpick and say that I find it a bit disappointing that the options menu doesn’t have an overview of the controller controls but hey, that’s nitpicking. 

Something that I didn’t saw coming is that this game has a local multiplayer option. Yes, you can play through this adventure with a friend. Sadly enough, only local play. If you play through this game with a friend, know that it’s best with a keyboard / controller combo and that only the “non-shadow” player can move the screen. Yes, this game works with screens that can scroll like the old school Zelda games. 

While I was doing research about this game, I learned in the press kit that the developers of this game worked on titles like Stardew Valley, Starbound and WarGroove. No wonder that the quality of this game is so high. This game has been created by veterans in the indie game industry. 

So, overall, what do I think about this game? I think that this game is one that every adventure game fan/Zelda fan/indie game fan should play. This game is only 8€ and the game is worth every cent. I would even pay more, to be honest. The only things I didn’t like where the short length of the game and the default keyboard controls. But both can be solved easily. The issue with the awkward keyboard controls was easily solved by rebinding then and the short length is solved by a randomly generated adventure that differs from playthrough to playthrough. 

Visually, this game looks and sounds amazing. It also changes depending on the visual style you choose. The game does scratch that top down Zelda itch. I wanted to play more game in that style and this game delivers that in spades. I even have a hard time finding mistakes in this game. So, Lenna. Shall we go on another epic adventure and save the world again?

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 another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care. Also, happy first birthday to the game. The game has been released for over a year now. 

First Impression: The Wizard – WizHarder Edition (PC – Steam) ~ Now With Less Rhymes

headerSteam Store linkOfficial website

Remember last year when I started talking about an adventure game where everything was in rhyme in the old school ASCII-art? Currently, the 3rd episode of the Pepper Prince hasn’t been released yet but Hypnotic Owl hasn’t stopped making games. In a matter of fact, last month they released their second game in early access called The Wizard: Wizharder Edition. The developers send me a press code and asked me to write an article with my honest opinion on the game. When I saw the press materials, I must admit that I was hooked right away. I wanted to play this game and write an article about it. Sadly enough, my personal life was quite too busy to finish the article around the time of the launch of the game. So, that’s why I’m writing about it a month late. During that time, the game got various updates bringing it to v0.3.11 which I have played to write this article. Now, I want to invite you to look together with me to this game to see if this game should be finished or should the developers move on to other projects? Let’s find out!

Now with less rhymes

20201226190151_1In this game you play as Kevin, who awoke from his slumber in the middle of the night. He was woken up by a strange feeling on his face. When he wanted to touch it, he felt nothing. An empty black void with two dark red dots for eyes was there in its place. He was able to confirm that by looking in the mirror. So, your face has been stolen. Kevin jumps into action since he hears a noise in his hallway so the thief couldn’t get that far.

To avoid spoilers and since this game is still in early access, I’m going to refrain from going deeper into the story. I found it amusing to read the story since I got flashbacks to the unique 3DS title Miitopia where you played with your Mii’s to recover their stolen faces.

From what I have seen so far of the story, I’m under the impression that the story is going to take a backseat and is just a way to set up the world and characters for this game. Which isn’t a bad thing since this game is a puzzle game. And a story in a puzzle game is quite difficult to pull off right. It’s either too involved or too absent. So far, this game is hitting the right balance between the two.

The only thing I would advise to the developers is give it a bit more “life”. What I mean is, don’t display the whole text in one time and play a bit with some sound effects to draw the player a bit more in. I personally feel that it would give the game a bit more atmosphere. Then again, currently it’s in a book format as if you were reading a journal which can be fun as well.

Something I find quite surprising is that this game is already translated into German. Because my native language Dutch is in some respects a bit close to German, I played the tutorial level in German. Let me tell you that the translation has been well done and I’m quite curious if they are going to be more languages added into the full build of the game. (But the game being translated in German isn’t that surprising since the developers are German after all…)

It’s a tile game.

20201226193504_1The controls of this game are quite simple. If you don’t have a mouse, you won’t be able to play this game. This game uses the left-click button to its full potential. The controls are quite responsive, easy to understand and fun to master. The only thing I would improve in terms of the controls are keyboard shortcuts. It would be so nice to move Kevin with the arrow keys or something since the number of times I misclicked and started a spell instead of moving, I can’t keep count of that.

Before I go more in-depth about the gameplay, I first want to mention something that has to do with the controls and the gameplay. I would love to see in the full version, three features to perform some actions quite fast. The first key would be just a simple “undo” key. If you did an action you regretted, you could simply undo the move and try again. Maybe this “undo” can cost points each time you use it, and you need a certain amount of points to use it.

The second key would be a key that reset the level back to your latest checkpoint and the third key is of course, a total level reset. The second and third key would be a nice quality of life feature in my opinion but the first feature, the “undo” key would be a bit more than a nice quality of life feature. Because currently there is no “undo” feature. If you either die or want to erase a wrong move, you either must restart from the checkpoint or the start of the level.

Thankfully, at the start these levels are quite short and easy to conquer, but I’m afraid that without an undo key, it might get frustrating if you get bigger, more difficult and larger levels. At one hand, I totally understand that there is no “undo” key since it might be a part of the challenge of this game that you must think of your every move but at the other hand, I think that accessibility in this way wouldn’t hurt the core experience. You even could have an option to disable it completely if people want the challenge. Think “Classic” and “Casual” modes in Fire Emblem.

Granted, you can work around this a bit since there can be only one checkpoint active at one time. So, if you want to make sure you don’t have a redo a certain fight, you can walk back to a previous checkpoint to activate it. Then again, if you are faced with several enemies, this might not always work as well.

Any who, let’s focus on the gameplay of this game. In this game you must get to the end of the stage. Each stage is divided up into tiles. You can drag Kevin to start forming a spell to attack or you could drag the green squares beside him to move to another spot. When you either successfully attack or move a tile, the enemies can do as well. The enemies only move when they have spotted you or get hurt, otherwise, they will sit in place.

By clicking anywhere else, you can drag around the map and look at what’s to come. This helps plan out your next move. You play this game at the speed you want to play. If you want to take your time and plan every move, you can do that. If you want to kill the least number of enemies to go to the next stage, you can do that as well. It’s all up to you. This gives some replay value to the game.

In terms of gameplay, I do have one complaint and that’s about the health system and potions. Currently, there is no bag or anything of the sorts, so that means that when you pick up a health potion at hull health, the potion gets used and disappears.

A big hint I can give you is to make sure that you draw the right spell. Currently, there is no way to undo or stop the spell when you drew the wrong one. I learned this the hard way.

Oh, maybe one minor thing about the controls. The camera and dragging mechanic stop you from going off screen. Maybe being able to follow it would be quite nice. But that’s a minor complaint after all. Since as soon as I got the hang of the game, I fell in love with the game. Honestly, I think I’ll keep an eye on it since I really want to see where the game goes next.

Into The Sewers

20201226184144_1Visually, this game has a lot of pixel-art of pixelated visuals. And they look amazing. I think they would look even better when they are a bit more animated but hey, if these are the final pieces of art for the full game, consider me extremely impressed already.

The nice visual presentation extends to the great animations in this game. As if it’s a theme in this article, I think that the game would be better if there were a bit more animations. For example, to give the enemies a bit more life.

It’s always quite difficult to give your opinion on a game that’s in early access and in full development since you never know what developer art is and what’s already finalized. But I really hope that the audio is finalized since the music and sound effects in this game are excellent.

If I didn’t know better, I would say that this game is almost complete. Apart from the game lacking some polish here and there, this game is enjoyable to play and I would recommend it to everybody who enjoys playing strategy, adventure and/or puzzle games.

Now, there is one more thing I would like to touch upon and that’s a few strange UI things. First, when you press “ESC” in an option menu, you don’t go back one level but go back to the pause menu. I would love to see this changed to the “ESC” button going back one level.

But the biggest mistake of this game is that there is no logo at the main menu yet. I found this extremely strange since everything else has been carried over from the original. Yes, you read that right. This game is a remake of a browser game. Well, calling it just a remake would be a dis-service. It is an extended version of the original game. If this game looks interesting to you, you can give the original game a try for free in your web browser by following this link.

Now, why would you pay 19€ for a game that got a graphical upgrade and more music when you can play a free version? Well, that’s because there are a lot of things coming to the full version of the game. Things like a level maker, a roguelike challenge mode, more levels… So, yeah. I honestly think that this will be 19€ well spend if you are interested in the full version and the additional upcoming features. Honestly, I’m quite curious to see what the “Mario Maker style Level Maker” means. Will this mean we will be able to share our levels through the Steam Workshop? Will we be able to make a level pack? Well, only time will tell.

And with that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game for now. I want to thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading 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: Terraria (PC – Steam) ~ The Adventure Of Digging

headerSteam storeOfficial website

I know I was going to write another article this week, but I felt that I was pushing myself creatively too much so I decided to let my readers decide on which game I was going to write next. Twitter polls only give me 4 options and Terraria won. So, Terraria. A game that quite recently got it’s “final content update” not too long ago. So, in it’s “final form” is this game (still) worth playing? Let’s take a look at the game together in this article while I talk about my own opinion on the game and invite you to leave a comment with your opinion on this content of this article and/or the game. 

Editorial note: Review written while playing v1.4.1.2

The Adventure of Digging

There is no real story in this game. This game is an open world sandbox game. This game gets compared to games like Minecraft. Some even call(ed) it Minecraft 2D. But let me tell you, there is a lot more to this game than just a “simple Minecraft clone in 2D”.

The amount of differences in gameplay mechanics is so huge you can’t really compare Minecraft and Terraria a whole lot. I only use the comparison to say things like: “If you don’t know what Terraria is, think of Minecraft in 2D with some extremely interesting mechanics, richer combat, more bosses…”

I think it’s high time to talk about the “story” that exists in this game. Since there is some sort of a story in this game. I’m not going to talk too much in-depth about it, but if you want to know more… then I invite you to read the lore page on the Terraria Wiki. While in-game, you won’t really encounter this story so it’s an interesting additional piece of content for this game.

I’m going to apologize in advance if I compare this game a lot to Minecraft since this article comes from somebody who has been playing Minecraft for years upon years (since Beta 1.4 in 2011) and only recently got into Terraria. I have played it with some friends in the past but rarely on my own.

Now, I think this puts me in an position where I can take an interesting angle while reviewing/talking about this game. I think that’s it’s going to be very clear as soon as you read the following paragraphs. Now, this might mean that some things won’t get reviewed too in-depth to keep true to the theme of the article.

Terraria outdigs Minecraft

20201206145644_1I honestly enjoy Terraria more in the music department. While Minecraft has an amazing soundtrack, I feel that Terraria uses it’s music in a better way. Honestly, it has been quite some time since I played Minecraft with the in-game music simply I find Minecraft a bit too silent. But it’s quite rare to have a silent moment in Terraria. Also, it has a lot of unique music for each type of biome, boss and if you are underground or above ground…

Something I adore Terraria for is the fact it solves the issue a lot of players have with the early game grind. So, it works like this. When creating a character and when you create a world, you have to choose if you either play on Journey, Easy, Medium or Hardcore. If the world and character matches, you can enter the game. And here is the thing, you take your items and inventory with you.

So this means that you can take your strongest gear to a new world if you want to. That also means you can skip over the whole early game grind and directly get into the good stuff if you want. The only thing I could complain about this mechanic is that the menu UI is a bit clunky in that regard. I would have loved if the character selection screen and the world selection screen where combined. That would help switching between Classic and Journey mode so much easier. It also means you can play both Crimson and Corruption worlds with the same gear and character.

If you use a character created in the “Journey” difficult, you can even duplicate items when you have collected enough of a certain material. For example, if you collect roughly 400 pieces of a certain wood type, you can duplicate it. And guess what, this mechanic also transfers over to other worlds with the same character. You also have more control with this duplication mechanic like controlling time, weather, strength of the enemies among other things. Compare it a bit to commands in Minecraft with the duplication mechanic as an additional mechanic.

At first, I was afraid that this duplication mechanic was going to be overpowered. But I enjoy trying to collect every single variant that there is. There are a lot, but I mean a lot of items in Terraria, it’s not even funny.

Exploring and adventuring in Minecraft can be a lot of fun. Yet, at the moment of writing I feel that Terraria has a lot more to explore and do. Don’t get me wrong here, since it’s only by a slim margin. I feel that the dungeons and the progression is just a bit better implemented in this game than in Minecraft. But, I’m afraid that more big content updates like the Nether Update and Cave & Cliffs might give this point to Minecraft.

Now, something that Terraria nails over Minecraft is the combat. I find that the flow of the Terraria combat mechanics are a lot better than Minecraft’s. Also, there are much more way to fight your enemies than in Minecraft. From swords, throwing knifes, bows, morning star… In combat I love to use my sword for close by enemies and my bow for enemies further away.

There are also more bosses and enemies to fight in this game than in Minecraft. So, you can experiment with the different weapons that you can collect. Some weapons even have a special effect where you can spawn an ally and/or a pet. And then I haven’t started talking about the special armor that allows you to double jump, fly, climb walls….

Since that changes the gameplay quite a lot. There are various items that give you additional movement options and they all are unique and fun to play with. There is nothing to compare it with, since the enchantments in Minecraft compare more to stronger pickaxes or pickaxes of a certain material. Things like a double jump, wings, rocket boots… You have to juggle these items since you have a limited amount of slots to use. You also have the “social slots” that can also change your character’s appearance without showing your armor. The downside to it is that the effects of those items aren’t applied to you during gameplay.

One of the biggest advantages in my opinion is the fact that Terraria is on Steam and can use the Steam Cloud feature. This means that you can easily back-up your saves to the cloud and you don’t have to move files around when you play on another computer. I can only wish Minecraft had a similar system. I’m toying around with saving my worlds in my Dropbox folder but I don’t know how stable that will be.

Both reach the end

20201206145605_1Of course, there are things where I can’t pick a precise winner. There are things were I can’t say which game does it better. One of these things are the controls. Both games have amazingly solid controls. I’m purely talking about the PC versions since I haven’t played one second of Terraria on a console platform and I find Minecraft’s interface on console like the PS4 and Switch extremely clunky to use. But that’s my opinion and beyond the scope of this article.

The only minor nitpick I have with the Terraria controls is that I have a bit of trouble getting the grappling hook to work the way I want. But, I rarely use it so I haven’t given myself time to get used to it so yeah, that’s nitpicking.

If we would talk about difficulty, then you could either ask which one is the easier game but I rather ask the balance and progression. Both games have different mechanics and punishments. Both games have amazing difficulty settings so you can play the game at your own pace and difficulty. Both games have very different ways of punishing the player. Both games use beds to skip time and set spawn points of the player. The “biggest” difference is that there are items in Terraria that allows to warp to your spawn points when things get to hairy or your inventory is full. But this is only a one-way trip.

Minecraft has it’s hunger system to juggle while you have to juggle your mana use in Terraria. So picking a winner for who has the best difficulty system and things like that is impossible. Even when you are geared out the nose in both games, there are still things that can ruin your day so yeah.

Also, both games have a sort of achievement system where they teach you the game and nudge you in the right direction.

The next things were I can’t decide a winner is the visuals. While Terraria has a lot more items and animations than Minecraft, I feel that the smaller block pallet in Minecraft pushes the players to be a bit more creative with the items you have.

On one hand, the fact you can dress up your character to whatever you want in Terraria is an amazing feature but the skin layers in Minecraft is something that I have found something amazing to play around with too.

Also, I think it’s not even possible to pick a clear winner in terms of visuals and animations since both games aren’t even played on the same plain. Minecraft’s art needs to look good from every single angle while Terraria’s art “only needs to look good up front”. And both games pull it off extremely well. Biomes feel give the right feeling and the color pallet used in both games give them their own unique feel.

The villager system is something that I can’t find a winner for. Since Minecraft’s Village & Pillage update, the villager trading system is completely reworked with profession blocks and them having to restock. This makes trading now quite interesting since you need to level up your villagers by trading with them. In Terraria, there is this social system. You need to build houses for NPC’s to come and you have to puzzle them together. If you place certain NPC’s close together, it’s possible that you get locked out of certain items. And it also depends on your biome you build the house in. So, yeah. It’s a puzzle on it’s own.

Minecraft outdigs Terraria

20201205163138_1Now, there are somethings I prefer Minecraft’s way of doing over Terraria. Also, let me be clear here. The things that, in my opinion, Minecraft does better don’t mean that Terraria’s way of doing it is bad or broken perse. In terms of certain mechanics, there are things where I prefer Minecraft’s way of doing things over Terraria.

One of these things it the fact there is an infinite world in Minecraft and not in Terraria. Terraria’s world is large but when I created five different worlds, I found structures that weren’t there in my other worlds. Maybe it’s just me but I enjoy the fact that everything in the game can be found in the same world. Well, Terraria does have a more enjoyable map-system since you can more easily see everything you have explored so you can easily find your way back to a certain place…

Also, I miss some information from the F3 menu in Minecraft. Things like my coordinates, which biome I’m in… Those aren’t really present in Terraria. There are a few items in the game that give some information like your depth, but it takes up a slot in my inventory… So yeah.

Earlier I said that Terraria has a lot of items. I can also mention that Terraria also uses a ton of crafting stations. Now, if only there was some sort of recipe book like in Minecraft that would tell you which items you can craft and what the recipe is and which crafting station you need to use… That would have been great. I’m so glad that I have a second monitor attached to my PC so I can have the Wiki open when I quickly want to look up something.

But I find that Minecraft teaches the players a bit better with some landmarks and the recipe book on how the game works. For example, when you touch the water, you get the recipe for a boat. Or when you punch down a tree, you get the recipes for the wooden tools.

In Terraria, you have the guide explaining some of the recipes but I find that interface quite clunky to use. Especially since you can’t place workstations to see which items you can craft with them and the text can be barely readable since it’s one color. This UI isn’t the best.

Now there are three nitpicks I have with Terraria. The first is that when you press “esc”, you don’t pause the game. You don’t pause the game when you loose focus either. This let to some deaths, and even one while I was writing this article. But hey, this isn’t such a big deal when you get used to open the settings menu.

The second nitpick is that when you exit the game in Minecraft, you enter at the exact same location when you click the continue button. This isn’t true in Terraria. You enter at your spawn point.

And the 3rd and final one is that I would love to see or hear some drowning damage when you are drowning. Since now it simply slowly costs you health until you go above the water to breathe.

So, I think it’s high time for a conclusion since this article is getting rather long don’t you think?

Is Terraria a good game? 

To answer your question, yes. Terraria is a VERY good game. Is it better or worse then Minecraft? That’s a wrong question in my opinion. If you would ask: “if people who enjoy Minecraft will enjoy Terraria”. That would be a better question. The answer is yes by the way since I’m a great example and I know that there are a few other examples in my friend group as well.

Terraria and Minecraft are two very different games but they have some similar elements. Exploring their world and adventuring in it is an amazingly rewarding experience to play through.

Terraria is an addictive game with it’s amazing visuals and it’s freedom. I have sunken quite a few hours into it before I decided to write this review but I feel that a lot more time will be spent in this game before I decide to give the game a break.

I highly recommend this game to everybody who enjoys sandbox, adventure, RPG-games like Minecraft or Starbound. If even anything sounded remotely interesting to you, I encourage you to give this game a shot. Since I find that the negatives heavily outweigh the positives for Terraria.

So, with that said I think it’s time to wrap up this article. It was certainly an unique experience to review a game while comparing it to another one. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I would love it if I would be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

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

capsule_616x353Steam Store page

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

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

Let’s find our stock

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

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

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

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

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

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

All over America

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Close enough

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Game Quicky: Inspector Parker in BeTrapped! (PC) ~ Minesweeping Mansion Traps

BeTrapped_7042BigFish Games Store page

My parents aren’t that big into games and always thought that games downloaded from the internet contained either malware or crashed their computer. This was a disaster for me, because I really enjoy playing casual games from time to time. Now, a world opened to me when I discovered websites like Zylom, Gamehouse, BigFish and Alawar to name just a few. I mean, an overload of games that you were able to play 1 hour for free and then buy the game for 10 to 20 euro to own it. I discovered a ton of games through those websites, even through some websites that aren’t around anymore. One of these games is BeTrapped and that’s the game I want to talk about today. Is it still as good as I remember or is the game better left forgotten in my childhood? Let’s find out in this game quicky while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article. 

Cleared Traps

Betrapped1In this game, you play as Inspector Parker on a quest to find out the mystery of who is trying to kill May Vandernot. She is the heir to the recently deceased Lord North Vandernot. Now, it doesn’t take long before you enter the mansion per request of a family solicitor to disarm the rooms and find clues. 

The story is told through a book and the introduction of the game is only one page long. Actually, it’s two pages long but the nice artwork make the story spread over two pages. Overall, the story is quite enjoyable. It’s generic for sure, but it gives a nice atmosphere for the puzzle game we are going to play.

Something I really love is the fact that you can review the story in the “Extra and Options” menu. Since I haven’t played this game in ages and that way I was able to get a quick summary of the story so far without having to replay the game.  

Now, let’s focus on the gameplay. Since that’s the big reason why I wanted to talk about this game. If you have ever played Minesweeper, you will feel right at home in this game. This game is basically minesweeper but with a few twists. 

The first twist is that you have lives. So, that means that if you step on a trap, it’s not game over right away. When you lost all your lives, it’s game over. 

The second twist is that you aren’t able to click around freely. You have to move the inspector through the room as if he is walking through it. So, you can skip over a tile or start from the other side of the board. 

And the final twist is that, you have to disarm all the traps and you are only allowed 5 “misses”. So, that means, if you miss the disarm location of a trap, you loose one of these “misses”. 

But, how do you find out where the traps are? Well, some traps can be found out by just looking at the room and some critical thinking. For example, noticed that piece of armor in the screenshot of this section? Well, there is a trap there. But, the easiest and best way to disarm these traps are by walking around the whole room and looking at the floor tiles. Blue tiles are safe to walk on and other colors mean that there is at least one trap one the adjacent tile. 

You disarm a trap by right clicking on the tile you think the trap is located on. When you are right, the trap is disarmed and when you are wrong, you get a strike. As said earlier, five strikes and you are out. 

During the adventure, you get your lives and misses restocked each level. When you loose all your misses or lives during a level, you have to restart that map. So, thankfully these mistakes or lives you lost don’t carry over. 

There are a few other mechanics like traps that you need to activate and dodge to disarm and the inventory system but the game explain these mechanics quite well. And if you have forgotten or want more information about one of these mechanics, the expansive and detailed help file that’s included in the game is a great way to have a refresher. 

The replay value of this game is through the roof. If you finish the main story, you can always try the puzzle mode. Where you get a randomly generated map with you have to beat it as quickly as possible with the least amount of mistakes. 

Missed traps

UntitledOverall, this game is quite good but it does drop the ball on a few places. The first thing is that this game doesn’t support wide screen. The game is around 16 years old, but by then widescreen existed. 

There is a mechanic in the game that is quite the double edged sword. And that is the quick walk feature. This feature can speed up the gameplay quite a bit, but you are unable to dodge traps that way. While that feature was on, it made my playstyle less careful and that’s just the idea of the game. 

The biggest issue of this game is the repetitiveness. Apart from some minor puzzle and investigation elements, there is barely any variety in this game. If you are interested in playing this game, I highly advice you to play this game in short bursts since otherwise this game can get boring. 

There are apart from that, a few minor things that you can overlook or keep in mind but they can get annoying from time to time. First of all, the controls. Overall, the controls work just fine but I feel that my right clicks don’t always register in the game. This caused some game overs since I right clicked several times on a tile and lost two or three misses in the process. 

Speaking of those misses, when you try to disarm the wrong tile, it doesn’t change color at all. It would have been great if it changed in the color of the tile. It would save some time and possible errors. 

Something I found missing is the fact that you are unable to “plant flags”. Remember that you can plant flags on tiles you think are bombs in minesweeper? Well, you are unable to do that in this game. So, when you think that a certain tile is a trap, you can’t put some sort of flag on it and avoid it. The mechanic works in minesweeper, so why not here? 

Visually, this game looks quite nice but the trap animations… Let’s just say that I can’t say if I like or hate them. Some trap animations make a lot of sense, like a poisoned drink or a gun trap in an old clock… But, giant spikes that rise up from the floor? I’m sorry, but no. That doesn’t fit at all here. Also, I find the knife trap animation quite strange. It almost looks like it’s thrown from somewhere while you would think it comes from the ceiling of the room… 

Anyways I’m glad that I can disable the music since I got bored of it after a while. The music in this game isn’t bad but there is just a huge lack of various songs in the game. And the track is a tad bit too short in my opinion to have it replay over and over again. 

Should you even try?

This game is a rough diamond in my opinion. The game has a lot of potential but it lacks the polish to be really enjoyable. Now, the game can get quite frustrating in the wrong area’s and it made me quite the game once or twice while preparing for this review. 

It didn’t take long before all those frustrating memories from my childhood came back while playing this game. I thought that I would have been able to beat this game more easily now that I’m older but I’m still struggling with this game because of some unpolished mechanics. 

Because parts of the maps are randomly generated, there is no difficulty scaling in the adventure mode which makes the game even more annoying to play. Yet, the game has a certain charm that pulls me in and makes me play it once in a while. 

I can recommend this game to people who enjoy casual and/or puzzle games but I recommend it with a warning, this game could have been so much better and it can be quite frustrating. And then I haven’t mentioned the lack of “investigation notes”. 

Since this is the conclusion of my article and look at this game, I have to conclude that this game isn’t the best. It’s mediocre at it’s best and frustrating at it’s worst. But, I want to mention that I really think that the core idea of the game is amazing and I would love to see another attempt on creating a game with the same mechanics and solving the issues that this game has. I think that would be amazing. But, until then, we have this rough diamond to enjoy. 

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 but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care. 

Score: 60/100