Review: Pokémon Pinball Mini (Pokémon Mini)

By Merman (@merman1974)

Console: Pokémon mini

Developer: Jupiter

Publisher: Nintendo

Release dates: Japan – December 14th 2001, North America – November 16th 2001, PAL – Europe March 15th 2002 and Australia October 11th 2001

The Pokémon mini console was an unusual move from Nintendo. Going back to an LCD screen seemed strange in 2001, but the success of Game Freaks’ franchise led to a huge number of licensed products. These included a Tamagotchi style virtual pet and an electronic Pokédex.

Pokemon_mini_logo – The Pokémon mini logo

There were three varieties of Pokémon mini, matching the colour of its shell with three Pokémon from the later generations – these colours were: Wooper Blue, Chikorita Green, and Smoochum Purple. The hardware is particularly intriguing, as the smallest Nintendo console with interchangeable cartridges. The monochrome screen has a resolution of just 96×64 pixels, and it is powered by a 4MHz 8-bit CPU from Seiko. Squeezed into the case are an internal real-time clock, an infrared port for multiplayer gaming, a reed switch that detects when the player shakes the console, and a motor for rumble/force feedback. Memory includes 4K of RAM and the 4K BIOS, while each cartridge holds 512 kibibytes (just over half a megabyte). The console also has six save slots, which are shared between games. Power comes from a single AAA battery that can last up to 60 hours of gameplay. Officially the word mini was always shown in lower case, although many sources use that interchangeably with Mini.

  Pokémon_mini_Chikorita_GreenChikorita Green

 

 

Smoochum Purple Pokémon_mini_Smoochum_Purple

 

Pokémon_mini_Wooper_BlueWooper Blue

 

 

 

Internationally there were four titles available at launch. Pokémon Party mini is a mixture of mini-games, Pokémon Puzzle mini requires you to assemble pictures of Pokémon and Pokémon Zany Cards has four card games played with Pokémon cards. We are here to talk about the fourth launch game, Pokémon Pinball mini, but it is worth discussing how the poor sales of the initial games meant no further titles were sold in North America. Pokémon Tetris saw a release in Japan and Europe, but the last five official titles – Pokémon Puzzle Collection vol. 2, Pokémon Race mini, Pichu Bros. mini, Togepi’s Great Adventure and Pokémon Breeder mini – were only sold in Japan. Developers Jupiter were responsible for six of the ten released mini games, including Pinball mini – following on from their work on the original Pokémon Pinball game for Game Boy Color.

Pinball_mini_EN_boxart – The English box art for Pokémon Pinball mini

Pinball_mini_JP_boxart – The Japanese box art for Pokémon Pinball mini

Emulated versions of some Mini games appeared in the later GameCube title Pokémon Channel, and that allowed the console to be reverse engineered by hackers. Pikachu has to find the Pokémon mini under the bed and extra games are then purchased from the Shop ‘n Squirtle. It initially comes with a special bonus mini game known as Snorlax’s Lunch Time. Pokémon Pinball Petit was included in Pokémon Channel, with just ten Quest Mode levels from the original game and no way to save high scores. An emulator and homebrew titles are now available online for those who are unable to track down the elusive mini hardware. There was even a demo (SHizZLE, by Team Pokéme) entered into the Breakpoint “wild” demo competition in 2005. Fans have since created English translations of all the Japanese exclusive titles, making them playable in an emulator or via the Ditto mini flash cartridge (containing Flash memory, and thus allowing homebrew or translated cartridge files to be run on the original hardware itself).

Pokemon_Channel_US_boxart

US box artwork for Pokémon Channel (GameCube)

snorlaxs_lunch_time – Feed Snorlax to keep him awake in this Pokémon Channel mini-game.

So how does the Pinball mini game work? The game is split into three modes. Quest Mode has 70 levels that must be completed in order, Time Attack challenges you to complete one of ten selectable levels as fast as possible, and Score Attack has ten different levels to rack up as many points as possible. As with Time Attack, the player is free to play any of the ten Score Attack levels.

ppmini_title – The title screen initially just shows Diglett hitting the Pokéball.

ppmini_diglett_scoreattack – Diglett taking on a Score Attack level.

In each level, the player hits the Pokéball around with a Pokémon replacing the flipper usually found at the bottom of the table. The player starts off with Digglet, whose head pops up to hit the ball when A is pressed. Time it right and you get a faster-moving Power Shot. As you move through Quest Mode, there are three types of level. Fill Holes requires you to fill all the holes with Pokéballs as quickly as possible. These levels have a time limit, and this type of gameplay is the core of the ten Time Attack levels. High Score levels in Quest and Score Attack award one point for hitting the ball into a hole, and three points for a power shot. In Quest Mode these levels have a minimum score to complete them – also against the time limit. As well as holes, there are other features on the tables. Blocks can be broken by three hits (or one power shot), but hard blocks cannot be broken. Water will end the game, while the gravity changer (a black arrow) makes gravity act in that direction. Bumpers make the ball rebound, but the Out Hole will grab the ball and take time to release it. Ditto stops the ball bouncing and drops it slowly, while Pichu throws the ball in the direction it is facing (with the same strength it was hit).

ppmini_ditto – Ditto will affect the ball when hit.

ppmini_gravity – Hitting the Gravity arrow will make gravity start acting to the left.

ppmini_outhole – The Out Hole in the middle will hold onto the ball for a while.

ppmini_pichu – Naughty Pichu throws the ball around.

There are four Capture Levels in Quest Mode, allowing the player to unlock a different Pokémon. The Pokémon moves back and forth across the screen, starting with 3HP. Hitting the creature with the ball removes 1HP, while a power shot removes 3HP. Once the Pokémon is reduced to 0HP it faints, and needs one more hit with the ball to capture it. The player must then flip the Pokeball into the hole to complete the level, with its weight being heavier (making it slower to move) with the captured creature inside. If the player waits too long to hit a fainted creature, it revives with 1HP and must be hit again.

ppmini_pikachu – The player has unlocked Pikachu, who is a little unpredictable.

When a new Pokémon is unlocked, it can be used to replay any level – except its own capture level. Pikachu (#025) is unlocked by completing level 10, but the ball flies in a random direction when he hits it. Clefairy (#035) is the prize for passing level 20. Its psychic abilities allow you a small amount of control over the ball with the D-pad. The player must use Pikachu on level 11 and Clefairy on level 21 and is excluded from using Clefairy on some later levels. The slow-moving Wobbuffet (#202) is unlocked at level 30 but can send the ball flying further. The final Pokémon to be captured is Poliwag (#060) after level 40. Poliwag moves up faster than the others but is not as powerful (making power shots harder). One level filled with water requires the use of Poliwag, but only Diglett can be used on level 70. Completing the Quest Mode shows Poliwag and Clefairy alongside Diglett on the title screen.

ppmini_clefairy_blocks – Clefairy’s ability to influence the ball’s movement will help get rid of these Blocks.

As a pinball game the small size of the Pokémon mini screen is restrictive. But as a spin-off from the Pokémon games, it has a certain charm in the way it uses different creatures. It is a tough game to play through, thanks to the time and score limits. The cost of the console itself and the limited sales make tracking it down tough for collectors, so the recommendation would be to try the other two Pinball titles on Game Boy instead.

OVERALL: 6/10

This article is part of a big collaboration where various writers take a look at the Pokémon series in a retrospective way. Feel free to read more articles like these by visiting the hub article.

Game Quicky: Colorful Colore (Switch) ~ It’s Sliding Time

colorfulcolorSteam pageNintendo.com microsite

On the day before my 28th birthday, I want to talk about a game called Colorful Colore. A game developed by a small team of developers and ported by Drageus Games over to the Nintendo Switch. As usual with Drageus Games, I got a free press code to take a look at this game and I’m allowed to give my 100% honest opinion on the game. So, in this game quicky article, I’m going to take a look at the Switch port and if it’s worth it to pick it up for the low price of 3 bucks or if you should spend your money elsewhere. With that said, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on the game and/or the content of this article. 

Sliding just right

colorful-colore-switch-screenshot01The goal of this game is quite simple. You have to solve sliding puzzles to get from the start of the level to the end point of the level. There are 50 levels in this game for you to go through. I think the best game to compare this game too is Quell. 

There is an unique mechanic in this game where the blob and the tile it lands on has to color match. If you don’t have the same color, it’s game over and you have to restart the level. So, you have to find the correct way to the end before you get yourself stuck or make a wrong move. 

It’s a great thing that this game has been translated into Spanish and Portuguese, but it shouldn’t matter that much since the UI is so clean, the language of the game shouldn’t matter. The UI is extremely simple to use and get the hang off. 

Just like the responsive controls of this game. There is no input delay and the controls are fast and easy to learn. I don’t have any complaints about them since they allow to play my relaxing puzzle game in peace. 

This puzzle game is so relaxing with the colorful art-style and the relaxing sound effects and music, it works beautifully. I could nitpick and say that the same music track loops throughout the whole game, but it’s rather relaxing and brings me into the right mood to play this game. This game has that “just one more puzzle” mentality and I’m still amazed that this nice little game only costs 3€ and it has this high quality in it’s animations, visuals, music and sound. It’s a joy to slide in these puzzles and to solve them.

Sliding towards doom

ss_e29449a5e0c4dea278a8256d4ff5f426b8904ff4.600x338Sadly enough, there are some negatives I could say about this game. Things that could be improved or could be changed to make an even better game to play and to give it some more life. 

First of all, I was a bit disappointed to learn that stats are lacking in this game. It would be so great to see if I finished the level with the least amount of moves or with the fastest time. And if you could reset those stats in the options menu, where you even can’t reset your progress by the way, then it would be even better. 

Second, some of the teleport icons are too small. When I was playing this game, I had the most comfortable experience in handheld mode with the game at an arm’s length to my face. On my large 51-inch TV, I felt a bit more confused since I had to focus on the symbols on the teleporters for them to make sense which one is which. 

Thirdly, and I can’t tell if this is a problem with this game or with these style of games but I found it quite annoying to “loose my character”. Since this game uses teleporters, I sometimes didn’t notice where my character was. Thankfully, you can hear a “tud” when the blob lands on a wall but here is the annoying thing. I fell that Quell did a better job with these teleporters. They are less instant, use some more sound effects and the player bubble has some minor animation when you loose it. 

Now, my 4th complaint has to do with the unique color-matching mechanic. While I’m no expert on colorblindness, I can totally understand that this game might be quite tricky to play for people who are colorblind. One of my old class mates wasn’t able to tell yellow and red apart and that’s going to be tricky in this game. 

My fifth point is that there is no hint system. While it’s a good thing that this game challenges you in trying to find the right solution, it’s quite annoying when you are stuck on a certain level just because you are unable to figure one or two moves out. I have to be honest, if the hint system in Quell didn’t exist, I would have put the game down in a few levels. I’m afraid that I or some other players will do the exact same for this game. 

And my final complaint is a nitpick and something that this game can’t really solve. This game suffers from the “better played in short bursts”-syndrome. While it has that “one more level” vibe for me, I enjoyed the game quite a lot more when I played it in short bursts while going to the bathroom or while waiting for my food to cook. 

With that said, it’s time for the wrap-up and the conclusion of this article.

Does it slide right?

ss_3904a05c6a4abd54c4e048d31f5b09a065e13d00.600x338If you compare this game to similar games in the genre like Quell, this game comes close but not close enough. Yet, that doesn’t mean that this game is a bad game or has a lot of flaws. 

This game does a lot right and most of the mistakes this game makes have to do with a lack of depth. There are no big flaws in the fundamentals of this game since it explains the game mechanics quite well without holding your hands as if you are a small child. 

To be honest, I’m a bit conflicted on the platform that this game released on. This game would feel perfect to become a mobile game but that might have several ads and it would ruin the flow of the game. Yet, the small teleporters playing the big screen is biggest issue that this Switch port has. And of course the lack of something to aid the people who are colorblind of course. 

Now, should you give this game a try? If you are looking for an enjoyable small puzzle game, I think you won’t be let down by this game. It’s sad to see that there is a lot of untapped potential in this game but hey, it would be quite rude to ask for even more when the game is so cheap. So, if you enjoy games like Quell, I think this game might be an enjoyable time waster while in the waiting room or in the bathroom. 

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

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

jake hunterWikipedia pageNintendo.com page

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

Norse Wolves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Handholding Police Work

Jake2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comic books

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Impression: Accident (PC – Steam) ~ Let us Learn About Saving Lives

Steam store

For those who do not know yet, I work as an IT Admin in a big art high school (secondary school) in Belgium. Also, I have a lot of games in my PC collection that are part of the “edutainment” genre of games. So, when Duality Games offered me a free press copy of their newly released “Accident” game, I was extremely interested. As usual, the developer asked me to give my full 100% honest opinion, so that is what you are going to get in this article. So yeah, does this game hold up while being reviewed by somebody who is working in the education sector for 7 years now? Let us find out and let us find out if it is fun to play as well as a game. Personally, I want to find something out as well from you, the reader. I want to find out what your thoughts and opinions are on the game and/or the content of this article so feel free to leave them in the comment section down below.

Reviewed version: Build 1.05

Let us Learn About Saving Lives

In this game, you play a nameless person who is working for a nameless company that started a new project called “Roadside Heroes”. In this VR-experience, you are set in the shoes of a person who encountered a traffic accident and it’s to you to make sure that the people in the accident make it out alive.

In terms of story, this game is a bit lacking. Since it’s unclear if you are working for a game company who is working on a VR-game about traffic accidents or if you are a part of your police training or if it’s for the emergency workers or if it’s part of a recreation program for reports and journalists… It is all a bit vague. On one hand, this can help to insert yourself in the game and make the story whatever you want but on the other hand, I felt a bit disconnected from the game since the story didn’t immerse me. (Now, I am going to completely ignore the fact that the store page gives more story since I mostly focus on these articles on what is told to the player through the game itself.)

While writing this article, I was asking myself: “Should this game even have a good story?”. And this is a tricky question to answer. For reasons I will explain later, this game can be a perfect teaching tool to help people what to do in the event of a traffic accident. It can also be a great “shock game” for people who feel that traffic laws are only a suggestion. So yeah, in that case, the fact that this game does not have a too in-depth story is a good thing since it does not get in the way of the actual intention of the game.

Most of the story is being told through your phone on your desk. After completing a case, you get a text from Mark telling about the next case. A neat detail in this game is that the clock on the mobile phone matches the real-time of the system clock.

In terms of writing, this game is decent even for a “lacking story” (which again, is not a negative for this game for the reason I explained earlier). There is some minor voice acting and voice work but most of it is nothing special to write home about.

So, this game starts off with a tutorial case. In this case, you learn the basic operations and mechanics in this game. It teaches you the controls and the steps you should take during the other cases. The tutorial is a little bit hand-holdy, but I noticed that this only happens during the tutorial since you are mostly on your own during the other cases. You do have objectives to complete, but it is up to you to find out how to complete these objectives with what you learned during the tutorial. So, let us dive right into some cases and start saving lives.

Teaching tool?

Each case starts the same way. You drive towards the site and you call the emergency services. The reason why I feel like this game can be a great teaching tool is that in various moments, a non-intrusive box appears on the top in the middle of your screen with the reason why you would do such actions in real life. For example: “Turning off the engine will stop the chance of engine fires in real life.” This can be very helpful advice and maybe save lives in the real world. This is not the only occasion that this happens.

This game can teach you a lot of things but there is no backend for the teachers. So, there is no way to see how your students reacted or if they had to redo certain cases or how they failed… Honestly, if this would be added to the game, it would make this game a very powerful teaching tool for those traffic lessons. But teachers can be creative and maybe this can be used in group work.

Before I ramble too much about that, let us put the focus on reviewing this game as a game. This game has been localized in different languages. You can play this game in English, French, Chinese, Polish, German, Spanish, and Russian. Since I know some French, I tried this game in French and I can tell you that the translation is done extremely well.

So, what do you have to do in this game? Well, you play the role of the guy or girl who was the first person that intervened when the accident happened. You must call the emergency services and provide first aid to the victims if needed. After that, you must piece together what happened and why the accident happened.

There is something unique about each case. In one case, you are knee-deep in the Russian winter, and in another case, you are in the extremely hot desert. If I have to give a genre to this game, I would say that it’s a puzzle game since you need to find out what the right steps are to finish the case with the least amount of deaths. Sadly enough, when you did not provide the correct aid and somebody died, it is game over.

On one hand, I dislike this mechanic and on the other hand, I don’t mind the mechanic too much since you can rewind time at any moment to redo a certain part in case you can do it better or faster. When you press “R”, you can rewind time to a previous decision point. The longer you press “R”, the further you go back.

Sadly enough, this means that there is only one way to complete each case. I silently hoped that this game would have worked with some sort of rating system where you could see if your actions saved the most lives or were the best way to handle the situation.

The whole package

If you look at the credits of this game, most of this game is created by Paul Dyvel apart from the music and the 3D art in this game. I must be honest, for the result is rather impressive. Let us first talk about the controls of this game. Thankfully, I was able to rebind them since this game does not recognize the keyboard layout “AZERTY” from Belgium and France… But that is a nitpick I have in almost every game.

Sadly enough, I do have to complain in terms of the controls. The first complaint has to do with putting out fires. I feel that this is a bit too pixel perfect. I had to redo the tutorial several times because I was unable to put out the fire. I honestly do not understand how to put out the fires since there is not enough feedback to the player in my opinion to tell them if they are actually putting out the fire or missing it completely.

The second complaint is about CPR. It took me a while to get into a correct rhythm for the chest compressions but when I learned that the heart rate graph is a nice indication to get in the correct rhythm, I didn’t have problems with chest compressions anymore. But here is the most annoying issue. It is the breathing mask and its controls. You must drag your mouse up and down. But that dragging up and down… Well, I know I have a small mousepad, but I almost must drag it all the way up my desk. It is a bit much. Also, as soon as you let go of dragging up, you must restart that breath… It is a bit too finicky. Apart from those two issues, the controls are quite responsive and easy to learn.  

Let us talk about the audio-visual design. In this game, the music is created by artists over at SoundStripe.com. It is extremely kind of the developers to list in the credits which artists were used. But I am unable to track the actual tracks down. It is a shame since I really enjoy listing to the tracks, and I would love to hear more from the artists. In terms of sound design, I think Paul did a very nice job. I have to say, I highly recommend that you play this game with a headset since it enhances the sound design and the music so much more.  

Something else I would like to talk about is the difficultly of this game. This game rides that fine line of being too easy and too challenging. Some scenarios are a bit too easy in my opinion. The scenario in America was over before I knew it while the two other unlocked scenarios were trickier to finish.

It is time now to talk about the visual presentation of this game. This game looks amazing for being created by such a small team. The models look extremely detailed and they are nicely animated. I love that there is some attention to detail like the chest slightly moving when you check if the victim is breathing or not.

It pains me to say that in some cases, I noticed that some corners were cut. For example, the textures for the clothes look less detailed than the other parts of the game. Another example is the car mirrors, it is quite clear that a less detailed version of the road is playing in it.

While this game has high attention to details, there are a few mistakes in terms of details that can break immersion. For example, the Wi-Fi symbol on the phones while there is no Wi-Fi access point nearby. Or the fact that the kilometers per hour do not make any sense on the dashboard of the car, I have even seen it go into the negatives several times during the Russian case. And let us not forget to mention that you can enter cars while holding victims without an issue.

Thankfully, these are small little things that are not a big deal breaker in terms of immersion and gameplay. Since overall, the atmosphere and the visual design of this game are good. The environments like quite real and apart from what I mentioned above, I barely have any complaints or suggestions to improve.

This brings me to the final part of this game I want to talk about. And that is the UI. There are a few things I would like to say about the UI. Overall, the UI is pretty good apart from several minor issues that give the game an unpolished feeling. Let me give you a few examples. Granted, some of these examples are visual issues combined with UI things.

Number 1: the “return” button can clash with the feedback button. This results in being able to return from the accident screen and opening the feedback screen.

Number 2: the feedback screen is strange. You do not get a message if your feedback has been sent or not and you have to select a thumbs up or down when you want to report a bug…

Number 3: you are unable to open the pause menu during the rewinding of time.

Number 4: there is no “reset to defaults” button in the video settings of the options menu.

Number 5: the credits text is a bit hard to read. Speaking about the credits, they do not wrap. So, you must scroll up to restart them. And the strange thing is, that this does not always happen… Sometimes I can easily read the credits. I think it depends on the resolution.

Number 6: when you complete a case, the complete sticker appears over the name of the case. Making you unable to read it.

Number 7: you are unable to skip the intro to each case.

Number 8: you are unable to scroll in dropdown menus.

Number 9: you do not get an error message when you try and double-bind keys.

Number 10: you are unable to save during a case. You must do them in one sitting. But after finishing the case, it autosaves.

So, in general. What do I think about this game? Well, I honestly think that this is an enjoyable game and a nice concept. I think it would be a shame if this game does not get more cases or some sort of a sequel. Thankfully, there are high hopes for that! Since this game is in early access now. There is a demo version available but reading from the reviews, that’s less polished than the final product.

Would I recommend this game? Yes, I would. I think this game is a great adventure/puzzle game that also teaches you several things about car accidents. While the game takes some liberties on how to save people, the game always tells you when the game and reality conflicts. Also, each country works quite differently… But that is a whole other can of worms where I do not have the right knowledge and specifications to discuss. So let me say this, always call the emergency number when you come across an accident and ask what you should do and follow their instructions. 

So, I am quite curious about which improvements this game will get when it is in its final state. There are going to be more cases, tweaks, and improvements. If I have the time, I will write a follow-up article and review this game but for now, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. So, with that said: thank you so much for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

 

Game Quicky: WeakWood Throne (Switch) ~ An Adventure For You.

Nintendo.com page

It has been a long time, hasn’t it? I’m sorry about that, but moving houses just takes a lot of your time. On top of that, my internet connection isn’t up and running yet but I’m quite sure that in the upcoming week, that will be fixed. In any case, this offline time give me some time to play some developer request games like WeakWood Throne. I got a publisher code on the Nintendo Switch for Drageus Games who as you know always want my 100% honest opinion on the game. So, let’s talk about WeakWood Throne and if you should give it a shot or if you should ignore this game. Should you take on this adventure or should you leave it up to the influencers and watch a let’s play about it? Or should you avoid this game at all costs? Anyways, I think we should take a look at this game in my game quicky format 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.

An Adventure For You

The visual presentation of this game is amazing. This game looks like a high budget flash game where the developers put in a lot of hours to make everything look cartoony and vibrant. Everything looks very consistent and has a lot of charm.

I really like how the UI elements and the menu really tie into the visual presentation of the game. I don’t have any complaints about the UI and the visual presentation apart from the mini-map that could have provided a bit more information.

The animation is also pretty good. The only minor nitpick that I have is that the player character is rather static when you are in a boat. But if that’s the only thing, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. If even small details like when you change weapons in your inventory change the weapon that the player character is holding are present in this game, I can only say praise to this game.

The music in this game is good. It really fits the mood of the game extremely well and it adds the relaxing atmosphere of this game. The fact that are only sound effects playing during the night cycle gives the night a more eerie atmosphere than the day.

This game is a completely open world and it doesn’t hold your hand. So, you have to figure out this game by yourself while you are free to explore. So, when you encounter an area with only strong enemies, well tough luck. Have fun escaping that area.

While this game is somewhat challenging when you die you can restart at the screen you died. So, there isn’t a big penalty for failure. The only thing I wished is that the game didn’t kick you back to the main menu and showed a small “game over” screen.

The quality you get for the money for this game is quite nice. This game is only 5€ on the European eShop and I think that’s a fair price for the game. You’ll get your money’s worth of it without any doubt.

Maybe let’s just watch this adventure

There are some things I’m on the fence about with this game. The first thing is the map system. While there is a mini-map, there is no overall map. It would have been so helpful when you were able to see a full map and maybe even keep notes or something on it. For example, where you got a quest from or where the nearest potion shop is.

Speaking about potions, that’s the only way I found to heal your character. There is no passive healing in this game. This is an issue in my opinion since gold is quite rare and some enemies hit quite hard.

There is something that I found a missed opportunity in terms of the day and night cycle. It would bring the game so much more alive when the NPC’s where in their houses or on different locations when it’s night. Now they have the same routine and it’s a bit immersion-breaking.

The controls are quite responsive and good but there is something the ruins it for me. Backing out of a menu is quite tricky since I always am using the “B” button to go out of a menu. But guess what, to escape the menu you have to use the same button to enter it, which is “X”. The “B” button drops items and sadly enough, you don’t pick them up right away.

On top of that, the most frustrating part of the controls is the skateboard and the dodge roll. These two actions are bound to the same button. But here is the thing. Tapping “ZL” does a roll but holding the “ZL” button starts skateboarding. But I can’t get consistent with this mechanic. Sometimes I start skating always when I go to the left and on another screen, I start rolling and never skating.

The combat is quite tricky to master. While there are a lot of higher-level enemies in the early section of the game which will wreck you when you aren’t careful, as soon as you get used to the combat controls, it’s quite enjoyable. Just keep your eye out on how much damage you are doing to the enemy and how much health it has left. If it’s too strong, just avoid it.

Let’s not go on this adventure

Sadly enough, there are some things that I really didn’t like about this game. First of all, let’s talk about hitboxes. In combat, they are just fine. Rarely I felt that I was unable to hit an enemy or that a hit didn’t connect. But the issue starts with everything else. You can clip with NPC’s quite easily and push them around. But the worst of it all is trying to hit plants or bushes. That hitbox is so precise that if you don’t hit it dead center, the hit doesn’t register.

While the sound effects are decent, I fell that there aren’t enough sound effects. If these were for non-essential mechanics, I wouldn’t mind so much but I really missed a sound effect for unable to use a potion, picking up an item, and having low health. Some of them also didn’t make sense at all. Why do lily pads and walking on wooden bridges have the same sound effect?

The biggest issue in this game is the lack of a tutorial. While there is a tutorial in the first few screens, it doesn’t explain the mechanics like leveling up your character or how to use the quest menu and things like that. It’s a real shame since as soon as I got the hang of the leveling up mechanics and being able to buy stronger weapons, I started to enjoy the game more. Oh, and let’s not forget to mention that if you revisit the first screens, the tutorial messages still pop up for some reason.

A minor thing that I really didn’t like is  the screen transitions. My issue with it is that it’s sometimes unclear if you are able to transition to another screen or not.  Sometimes you hit an invisible wall and sometimes you don’t. A few times I wasn’t able to transition to another screen while I was in a boat while I was able to transition on foot.

I think it’s time that I address the elephant in the room. Normally I start my articles by talking about the story or the premise of the game. But in this article, I haven’t done that. That has a very simple reason. The story isn’t that good in my honest opinion. I had to open the store description to get some explanation but it was your generic explanation that almost every RPG has, that there is something wrong in the kingdom and it’s up to you to figure it out and help the people. So, I’m sorry, but if you are looking for deep lore and dialogues, I think this game isn’t for you. Granted, I have only played this game for up to 2 hours and maybe the rest of the game will have a better story but so far it didn’t impress me one bit.

Oh, I’m forgetting about something. The save system. Yes, the save system. While it works, I can’t explain how it works. I think the game saves during every screen transition. But there is no icon indicating that so I can’t tell you for certain.

And the final point I want to make is that this game just forgets to bring the options in the pause menu. So, you have to go to the main menu when you want to change the options of the game. And with that, I think it’s high time to wrap this article up before I forget to save it.

Let’s make a decision

I honestly think that if the game had a better tutorial, better hitbox detection, and a map system… Then this game would have been so much better. This game is well made and has so much potential but it lacks depth on some quite essential levels.

I could forgive the game having a lackluster story if it did give some direction to the game. For example, the story in Breath of the Wild isn’t anything special but it gave the player a goal to work towards and it built the world and the culture of it. On the other hand, I think that I might be expecting too much of a game that cost only 5€.

Can I recommend this game? Well, yes and no. I would recommend this game to people who enjoy playing simple RPG/Adventure games or people who are looking for the next game to play on the bus or in the waiting room. But I’m afraid that the issues of the game hold it back and that it will put a lot of people off.

I enjoyed myself while playing this game for this review but I’m unsure that I’ll finish or revisit the game in the near future. Maybe when I’m on holiday and I’m looking for the next game to finish. Or I might pick this game up again when it gets a major update that fixes (some of) the issues I have mentioned in this article.

Honestly, I think that with the right personality, this game might make an enjoyable let’s play to watch. While the game has it’s flawed to play, it has quite a lot of charm and I think that it’s worth going through it.

So yeah, I’m a bit on the fence about this game. While I have played better games, I also played a lot of worse games. I think that’s the gist of it. I think that this game is a perfect example of a very rough diamond that with some polish can get better.

With that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. Thank you so much for reading this article and  I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article on my blog 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

 

First Impression: GameR-Mate Stik (Hardware) ~ Take Your Ubuntu Everywhere.

FlashBayArtwork-GameR-Mate-Stik-Full

Official website

Today I want to talk about something that has been in the works for quite a while. Last year, the folks over at BlackRangerSoftware sent me an mail promoting their newest product called the GameR-Mate Stik v1.0.0. I was going to write an article about it back then, but the devs created an updated version right after I sent them my feedback. On top of that, the COVID-19 outbreak and shipping something from the USA to Europe delayed this article until now. Now, with that said, I think it’s high time to talk about this product. Know that the developer asked for my 100% honest opinion and that’s what you are going to read in this article. Now, let’s take a look at the first physical product I’m going to review on my blog. Feel free to leave a comment with your opinions on the product and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

What is GameR-Mate?

So, image this. An USB stick that you can plug into any computer that can run USB3.0 sticks and with that, you can play your games without affecting the computer itself. That’s GameR-Mate. The technical term for it is a Live-USB.

The latest version I received is running a modified version of Ubuntu 16.08. Now, what is Ubuntu? Let me tell you. So, to be able to run your computer, you need an operating system. An operating system is a sort of “translator”. It translates instructions from software to actual machine code. For example, when you make a new folder, the operating system gets that information from Windows or OSX and tells the hard drive: “Hey, make me a new folder on that location”. An operating system is much more than that, but for keeping this article simple, let’s not dive too much deeper into the inner working of computers.  

Now, the two biggest operating systems on the market are: Windows from Microsoft and OSX from Apple. Of course, you have Android from Google and iOS from Apple for smartphones. Let’s not forget ChromeOS for Chromebooks. And there is a special one as well. It’s called Linux.

Linux comes in a ton of flavors called “Distro’s”. Most of these distro’s are free to use and give you even more control of your computer than Windows and OSX. In the tech community, there are a lot of people who prefer using Linux to Windows or OSX. They enjoy the greater privacy control, ability to control every little thing about the system or just don’t want to pay for an operating system. There are many more reasons why people choose for Linux.

The userbase for Linux is rather small. According to NetMarketShare.com, the most used operating systems on the market are Windows (88,14%), Mac OSX (9,38%) and then Linux with (1,89%). Now, that’s mostly in the desktop and laptop space. Now, something quite “funny” happens when we look at the server side of things. Just take a look at datanyze.com with the comparisons between the usage of Windows Server and Ubuntu… Now, this is only just one website, but let me tell you from personal experience as an IT staff guy in a big school here in Belgium, we server techies prefer Linux distro’s for our servers in most cases over Windows server because it gives us more control over the system and is generally more lightweight so it uses less resources.

So, why am I putting so much effort into explaining Linux for this article? Especially in the section where I should be explaining what GameR-Mate actually is? Well, because Linux gives you the freedom to create very specific products without a lot of modifications. Just take a look at this list and you might be surprised on how much things run on Linux.

GameR-Mate is a special USB stick. So, you can boot to it and play your games and take it with you. The biggest limitation is that you need a “host” computer to be able to run it. So, if you don’t have a computer, you won’t be able to access your games. But that’s a limitation of each USB stick is it not?

What’s included?

Now, you can buy a GameR-Mate USB-stick right from Gamer-Mate.net. At the time of writing, the stick costs 70$ (discounted to 50$) which is give or take, 65 euro (45€ if it’s discounted). In order for you to be able to run your games, you need to have a computer that supports at least USB3.0. I have tested mine on older devices that don’t have an USB3.0 port and let me tell you, it wasn’t a fun time.

But, how do you know if your computer has USB3.0 ports? Well, in most cases these USB ports are blue. You can also double check that via the instructions in this article. So, after you placed your order, you get your GameR-Mate stick.

My stick arrived in a protective envelope that had the stick in a plastic bag stapled to a quick start guide. This quick start guide helps you to boot your computer to an USB stick instead of the actual operating system of your computer. Besides that, you get an user guide with explanation and some great information to get started using the stick. You also get a thank you letter from the CEO for buying the product. And finally you get a welcome letter as well.

I did get something additional, but that’s because I got a beta version of the product so I get some forms to fill in to give feedback on the product to create a better product. Personally, I think that they should include this with every purchase, even when the beta phase is over, you never know when it can come in handy.

The USB stick itself is made out of metal and plastic. It feels quite sturdy but you can remove the metal a bit too easily from the housing. Also, if you ever created USB sticks with your own print on them, you will recognize them right away. Maybe it’s a thing here in Belgium, but I got the same design of USB from various other places at events. I have the same model in yellow, green, blue and red. But, that’s nitpicking.

Something I missed with the USB-stick is a better way to store it. Now, I added an additional metal ring so I can attach it to a lanyard. I find that a bit more secure since during the research and testing I was doing for this article, my cat Troy knocked the USB stick underneath my desk while he was sleeping on my desk. Thanks to the lanyard, I was able to get it back from underneath my desk more easily. Now, adding a lanyard to the shipment might be too big of a cost, but adding a small metal ring to add it to your own lanyard would be lovely.

The experience

Depending on the hardware you run the stick on, the better performance you are going to get. Keep in mind that you need at least a port that can run USB3 sticks. In order to test this stick out, I tested this stick on my main machine. My main computer is running an i7-4820K, 16GB of DDR3 RAM at 666MHz and an MSI GTX 1050Ti. My motherboard is an ASROCK X79 Extreme 6. While this isn’t the strongest of systems out there, my computer is strong enough to run all the games I want to play at 30-60FPS at medium to high settings.

When you boot the stick, you can select various different modes. From what I can understand is that you can choose between loading it from the USB or load the system into RAM. There is also a recovery mode included. I had to use that once since an update failed to install and that corrupted my whole OS.

In the user guide, you get the advice to make frequent backups. If I had made a backup, I would have saved my first testing version from death. But yeah, I’m to blame since I thought I would be able to fix it since I used Linux various times during my studies and at work. But when you can even boot the OS, let alone go in recovery mode… Well, then you are quite screwed.

In a future article, I’ll take a look at the games that are included in this package. The list of pre-installed software is quite expansive. You can find the list at BlackRangerSoftware’s blog. Important footnote with this list, since this list is created during the development of the stick, it might be that some games aren’t included on the stick and/or on the list. But, I’m quite certain that the amount of games won’t change. Games that I could recommend are:

0AD, which is an open source RTS game like Age Of Empires

Alex 4, a lovely retro platformer in the style of an old Gameboy game.

B.A.L.L.Z, a platformer game where you are a ball and you need to use the bounce mechanics to your advantage.

Frogatto, this adventure platformer reminds me a lot of games like Shantae.

Sadly enough, there are some repeats. A lot of repeats actually. There are various Tetris-style, Pac-Man-style, Breakout-style… games. This gave me mixed feelings. At once hand, I love the choice I’m getting between all these various games. But at the other hand, I got the feeling that all of those games were just added to have a higher number of games to try and sell more sticks.

Is this GameR-Mate fun to use? If I have to answer that question, I’m going to have to add a disclaimer. There is going to be a learning curve if you have never worked with Linux. If you are used to Windows 10, there are a lot of things you will miss that you took for granted on your Windows machine. For example: seeing the password you are typing in, loading animations while settings are changing, double clicking a window to make it full screen, a place where all settings are combined into one place, a notification center…. It’s just not there in the Linux distro on the USB-stick. Now, do keep in mind that this can be updated and added in a future version of the stick.

But, you still have to learn a completely new operating system. While Linux has a lot of tutorials, due to the huge amount of different distro’s and differences between them, it can be quite overwhelming. So, give yourself some time and keep in mind that the system might work quite different compared to your Windows machine. Now, I do think that Apple users will have a better time adjusting to Linux since in a way, the user interface of Apple systems and Linux systems have various things in common. (Sidenote: while they have things in common, Apple OSX isn’t Linux and Linux isn’t OSX. But the flow in the OS can be similar.)

When you give this USB stick a chance, I think it might have the same effect on you then it has on me. I love to play around with unique ways to play games. I don’t mind honestly if the game is a retro or a current game. As long as I’m having fun while playing my games, it’s all that matters to me. So, I personally recommend this stick to people who love playing a ton of different games and/or people who travel a lot and aren’t able to take their main gaming rig with them. I think that the asking price is well worth it for the amount of value you are getting. Plus, you can always install more games from the various store fronts.

With that, I think I’m going to wrap up this first article on the GameR-Mate Stik. I want to thank BlackRangerSoftware for being so patient with me and also for giving me the opportunity to test out this product. 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 and I wish you a great rest of your day and take care!

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NekoJonez’s May 2020 Update

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

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

Personal life

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blog news

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Community Award: Real Neat Blog Award from Frostilye

real-neat-blog

I have won an award with my blog. Well sort of. Remember the time you got those chain emails where people ask “send this to X amount of people to…”? In the blogging community, we gave this concept a unique spin. We have community/tag awards. The idea is that bloggers promote each other by passing an award. In March, I got tagged with the “Real Neat Blog Award” by Frostilyte (who also created the picture you see at the top of this post). Man, I’m always so thankful when other bloggers tag me in these kinds of posts since I find it amazing to see how we as bloggers stick together and help each other but also recognize each other. So, it’s time to follow the rules of this kind of posts where I thank the tagger, answer the questions and ask my own questions for the people I tag. Oh, also feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the content of the article and/or maybe your own answers on the questions if you want to. 

1) Have you ever been really excited about a game only to be disappointed by it?

I think the way I select the games I want to play actually helped me to avoid being really disappointed by a game. When I start a game, I’m always going in with an open mind and telling myself that it’s possible that the game isn’t going to be my cup of tea.

Of course, there are games that I’m extremely excited about and weren’t the best they could be. But, let’s be honest here, there is always something in a game that you find disappointing and it can range from a small or minor thing to something that affects the whole game.

For example, I really enjoyed The Legend of Zelda – A Link Between Worlds but I’m not that big of a fan of the art style. Yet, there are a lot of people who really liked the art style of that game.

Another example is Etrain Odyssey IV, the thing that I found disappointing is that there wasn’t any voice acting. Yes, no voice acting. Now here is the thing, usually, there is no voice acting in the franchise apart from 4 out of 10 games in the series. So yeah, it’s an extremely silly reason since I loved playing Etrain Odyssey on the DS and that game doesn’t have voice acting either.

Or, The Legend of Zelda – Breath Of The Wild. I was beyond excited about the game, but when I played it, I found that the game shifted a bit too much from the usual Zelda formula, but after a while, I really started to grow on me.

I could talk way more in-depth about this topic, and maybe I should in another article. But I think that I have to answer the question with “no, I haven’t or I can’t remember.” Since there are always aspects of the game I enjoy and aspects I’m not that fond of.

2) Is there any aspect of your life, big or small, that you’re not completely content with and that you frequently think about changing?

It’s a cheesy answer but I’m going to give it. Life is far from perfect and there will be always things you want to change.

I know that my English isn’t perfect and that I often write mistakes. It would be easy for me to hide behind the fact that English isn’t my native language. My native language is Dutch and I also know French and a small bit of German. But, I’m always content when people point out mistakes. It helps me improve my writing and my English skills.

I know that I tend to procrastinate a lot. Sometimes a bit too much. From small to big projects, for some reason, I love to do things at the last minute for some reason. There are moments in time that I don’t procrastinate that much, but that’s not always the case.

Then again, when I’m really honest with myself. I find that myself quite content with my life and where things are going. If I keep up the good work I’m currently doing, I think I will be able to realize my dreams.

3) Can you tell me a joke?

You know that I love to tell stories, so let me tell you an amusing story. I think I was around 10 years old and my family and I were on our yearly trip to the seaside. In the vacation park, we were staying at, there is a football field (I mean for playing soccer. Not for American Football.). Well, more like a farmers field since it was quite uneven and you were able to see puddles when had rained. Keep that in mind, the field is anything but even.

There was this guy, let’s call him Dave,  who always got angry when we were playing with a leather football since it was extremely dangerous. His reasoning, you were able to kick out a window with them. So, in the summer evening, there were a lot of kids and teenagers playing football.

Dave was playing tennis on the road next to the football field together with his brother. Everything went fine until one of the kids brought a leather ball. When Dave saw that leather ball, he got so pissed that he pointed at the ball with the tennis racket he was holding. But, his grip… oh man, his grip. I think you might see what’s coming next.

Dave swung his arm with the racket towards the leather ball and lost grip of the racket. The racket went off flying with some speed towards the football field. The metal side of the racket hit an uneven part of the football field and almost crashed into a window. And yes, it was the window of his front door.

Yes, that was extremely funny to see. I remember that moment extremely well. I wish I had a smartphone that day to record the whole event but back in those days, we all had those PDA-type phones. Those old-school Nokia’s. So, yeah. The moment will live on as a memory instead of a movie.

4) I recently read how evil a company directly correlates to how honest and heartfelt the company tries to appear in its advertising. Do you think there is any truth to this?

That’s an interesting question. But, I think there is an issue with the question. For starters, try to define “evil”. On top of that, find me one company that creates advertisements that present their brand or company in a negative way.

The statement/conclusion doesn’t sit well with me. I feel like I’m missing context. So, it could be that there is some truth to it, but it could also be that there isn’t any truth to it.

5) We all have post styles, or series that we create on our blogs. What is your favorite post style/series on your blog?

I try to use the same or a similar writing style on my works and posts. I just love talking about games and giving my opinion on it. Now, I’m quite proud of The Legend of Zelda – Bloggers Journey. It started off as a simple idea and now that this style of post happened for 3 different series: Mario, Final Fantasy and Tomb Raider; I’m just so happy to see what it has become.

The thing I love to see the most is the change in my writing style. I love to see how my writing style evolved over the years. I’m really interested to see how my writing style is going to be in a few years. Am I still going to explain why certain things or mechanics don’t work, pointing out flaws in games? Am I still going to talk about games? Only the future will give an answer to that question.

6) Light theme, or dark theme?

When I have the option to pick a theme, I prefer to fiddle around with the options to fit my personal needs. Now, my favorite color is gray/silver and the dark theme fits more to that. Apart from that, I feel that the dark theme feels easier on the eyes when looking to a screen for a long time. And since my job involves a lot of computers, I’m quite happy with the recent trend of adding dark modes everywhere.

7) What’s something you accomplished in the past several months that you’re really proud of?

The simple fact that I was able to find my dream job. I always dreamt of working in a school and helping teachers and students to have the best time possible. I also love to work with computers and technology. I’m part of the IT Staff in an art school and I love it.

I’m really proud of myself that I was able to land the job and that I’m able to work in my field of passion. Since it’s something that I adore doing, and to be honest, sometimes it doesn’t feel like work to me. My tasks include maintaining the website, fixing problems with the IT equipment, explaining how tech works to teachers…

Maintain a website, well just look at this blog. I already do it as a hobby, so yeah. Fixing problems with IT equipment is something that I already did on the side for friends and family. And explaining how tech works to teachers feels extremely rewarding when you see teachers being able to use the tech to improve their classes and make life easier for them and the students. Could you ask for more?

My questions

  1. If I start a new retrospective collab project like my Zelda and Tomb Raider project, which series should I pick and why?
  2. What’s the most difficult part of being a blogger according to you?
  3. With YouTube being so big, do you think that written articles still have a place in the current entertainment industry?
  4. Did games become easier or have we as gamers become more skilled?
  5. What are your favorite (gaming related) April Fool jokes?
  6. Which series/game would you love to see revived?
  7. Do you think there is still a place in the gaming market for handheld gaming or did the smartphone market take it over? Or are those two the same market?

And the people I tag:

Matt from NormalHappenings

Robert from AdventureRules

Kim from LaterLevels

Shelby from FalconGameReviews

All my mage buddies over at the WellRedMage

Omar from Pete’s Corner

KillerRobotics

And with that said, I have left out a ton of amazing video game bloggers. I highly recommend that you check out everybody linked here since they all write amazing things and have interesting viewpoints on the gaming world.

But, I also want to thank you all for reading. I’m always so happy when people read my articles and interact with them. It makes my day. I’m writing this blog as a hobby and being able to review games from indie developers and being recognized by other bloggers for the work I put in my blog is such a rewarding and great feeling. Thank you!

Thank you again 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: Corpse Party 2 – Dead Patient (Steam) ~ And Then It Happened.

Corpse Party 2Wikipedia entrySteam page

I think it’s no secret that I’m a Corpse Party fan if you read my blog. When I review horror or horror-themed games, I find myself referencing the series. I have also written articles on almost every Corpse Party game. Now, when I noticed that Corpse Party 2 was in development,  I was beyond hyped. I was disappointed when it looked like the series wasn’t going to get an English release. But, then a miracle happened. Around Halloween of last year, Corpse Party 2 – Dead Patient appeared on Steam with an English version! So, is this indie game worth your time and money to play or is this game better left forgotten? Let’s find out in this first impression article, written after I have finished the first episode that’s currently available on Steam. 

Editorial note: At this current point of writing, I have “finished” the game. What I mean with that is that only the first episode and a bonus episode have been released and I have finished both those episodes. Now, as far as we know, more episodes are on their way but it’s unknown when since this is a hobby project. Since we don’t have the full game yet, I have decided that this article is going to be a first impression rather than a review. 

And Then It Happened.

Corpse Party 2 -1

Five years after the events in the Heavily Host arc, Ayame Itou finds herself waking up strapped to a hospital bed without a lot of her memories. When she gets loose from the operating table, she is unable to find a soul in the “Amare Patriarcha Crucis” hospital. After some exploration of the hospital, strange things start to happen. With all exits barricaded off, Ayame finds herself in a sort of Heavenly Host – Hospital Edition with a twist. This time not only ghosts are haunting the hospital but something has happened to the other patients, something that really complicates things.

Some parts of the story really caught me off guard. There are moments in this game that made me jump. The pacing of the dialogues is such a breath of fresh air compared to the previous entries in Corpse Party. Some dialogues, while extremely well written, could drag on and on. But not in this game. Most of the dialogues get right to the point.

It didn’t take long before I was well immersed in the story of this game. While two characters were arguing I had a hard time choosing which character to root for since they both had amazing points.

I’m really holding myself back in not spoiling the big things that happen in the game since the blinder you go into the story, the better it is. That’s why I kept my plot description as vague as I could.

Now, I can totally understand that some people aren’t going to be happy to see a game with only one (and a half) episode released without any information when the next episode(s) are going to be released. Especially when you are able to beat the first episode and the bonus episode in 2 to 4 hours.

Unfinished options

Corpse Party 2 -2So, the game is rather short in its current state. While a huge part of Steam reviews mention that as one of the biggest negatives, there is something else that comes up quite often in the reviews as well. The lack of communication is another thing that’s mentioned in the reviews.

In a few reviews, players talked about the issue that you were unable to play in full screen. Now, you can play this game on full screen but the issue is with awkward UI design. The UI of the game isn’t the best.

To adjust your screen resolution, you have to start the configuration tool. There, the game starts out by the Japanese language by default. For some strange reason, this tool is able to remember your display setting but not the language. If you want to play this game with an XBOX-controller, you have to choose XInput.

But that isn’t the strangest thing. You don’t have an “options” button in the main menu of the game. While you do have that feature while you are playing the game, there are two options you can’t adjust in there. While you can change the controller you use to play the game and the language of the game, you are unable to change the screen resolution and the frame rate cap. I would really love to see the whole configuration tool implemented in the game.

Since you can use that options menu to also change your control bindings. I really think those options are at home in that menu. Now, to finish my thoughts on the options menu, I have two other “complaints”. The first is that you are unable to change the bindings for the keyboard controls and secondly, there is no sample that plays when you adjust the voice volume to test out if your sound mixing/balance is good enough.

Before I continue about other things, I have a minor nitpick. But, the music of the game keeps playing when you minimize the game or alt/tab out of it. Then again, I don’t think that it’s such a big deal since the soundtrack of this game is really enjoyable. The soundtrack really fits the theme that the previous games in the series have set. While some are quite creepy, some are really action-packed and give off some punch. Coupled with good sound effects, the sound design of this game gets a thumbs up from me.

But there are some other things that I think could have improved the user experience quite a bit. First of all, a skip button for already seen dialogue when you replay that chapter to find the other endings would be lovely. Also, there is no message on the screen when you found a certain ending. Apart from the achievement box showing on the screen, it’s credits and back to the main menu with you.

I’m crossing my fingers that when the next episodes drop, there are going to be some quite of life updates as well since I think that this game can become a real gem when the rough edges are polished up a bit more.

That ending

corpse-party-2-dead-patient-screenshot-12

Now, I can totally understand that you think that this game isn’t a lot of fun to play after you read the last section. But, the opposite is true. This game is a lot of fun to play.

The controls might be a little bit stiff sometimes, especially when trying to interact with objects. But, those moments are quite infrequent. I really liked the control scheme of this game and I got used to it really quickly. I found it strange that I was able to run all the time without almost any penalty.

Speaking of running, the run is extremely useful to outrun the almost braindead enemies. Yes, there are enemies in this game but the AI isn’t the greatest. The enemies in the previous entries of the Corpse Party series were more a lot more difficult than in this game. But, is that a problem? On one hand, you could say that it makes this game a bit too easy but on the other hand you can also say that it’s only the first episode so you need to get used to the enemies. So yeah, you can look at it from two different perspectives.

The difficulty in this game is the puzzles and decisions. Both of them are amazing. The really feel right at home in the Corpse Party series. If you played the previous Corpse Party games, you will feel right at home while playing this game.

Now, the visual presentation of this game is quite nostalgic. Visually, this game looks like some old school DS and 3DS games. The visual presentation reminded me of games like Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks. I can understand that there are people who won’t enjoy this visual presentation but I find a certain charm in it. The animations are equally as retro and that only adds to the charm.

All in all, I really enjoyed playing this game and I can’t wait to see more chapters to this game. I think that if people give this game a chance and spread the word about it, that the developers see that there is an audience waiting for the next chapter and that we might see more information sooner than later.

I highly recommend this game to everybody who enjoys horror-themed games, adventure games, Corpse Party fans and people who love games with a rich story and/or lore. But, know that the game is a bit rough around the edges at certain points and is at the moment of writing, quite light on content.

And with that, I have said everything I wanted to say in this article. I think I’ll write a more in-depth and updated article when the game is fully finished but 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!