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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!

Gaming Nostalgia: Mario & Luigi – Bowser Inside Story + Bowser Jr.’s Journey (3DS) ~ It’s inside me, Mario!

Wikipedia entryNintendo Microsite

Remember the Zelda project, Final Fantasy project, and the Tomb Raider project? Well, today a new project drops all about Mario! The mad man, The Well-Red Mage found over 100 bloggers to write about the Mario series in the style that I found several bloggers for talking about the Zelda series and the Tomb Raider series. In any case, of course, I’m a part of this collaboration of fine bloggers! Now, you can find the hub article where you can find links to all the other articles here: [LINK TO ZE HUB BABY!] And in this article I’ll talk about my adventures and thoughts of Mario & Luigi’s Inside Story + Browsers Jr.’s Journey. So, let’s go with this Mario RPG!

It’s a me, a remake!

This game tells the same story as the original Nintendo DS game released in late 2009. From what I can see, most of the changes in the game are focused on the graphics. While the original game has a more 2D look to it, the remake has a more 3D look to the visuals. You can see a great comparison in the video created by aWiibo where both versions are set side by side.

On top of that, this game has an additional story mode telling a story about Bowser Jr. This mode adds 7-ish hours of playtime if I compare the times on howlongtobeat.com. But, the game almost doubled in playtime for people who want to play the game to its full completion.

There is another writer taking a look at the DS version of this game, but I’m focusing on the remake of the game. While I haven’t finished the game for this article due to time constraints, I did some research to make this article interesting in another way.

Some random facts

So, did you know that this game is one of the final games released by Nintendo for the Nintendo 3DS? It wasn’t the last Nintendo published game on the 3DS however, that honor goes to another remake: Kirby’s Epic Yarn a bit later in March of 2019.

The title of this game in development was Mario & Luigi RPG 3!!!. Since it was the 3rd Mario & Luigi game. Before this game, we got Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga on the Gameboy Advance and Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time on the Nintendo DS. So the title makes a lot of sense since it’s the 3rd game in the series.

For some reason, Nintendo skipped over remaking Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time and remade this game. Partners in Time is the only one of the three first games that didn’t get a remake on the 3DS.

Something that I found quite strange is that there are a lot of leftover sound effects from Yoshi’s Story and Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time in the rom for the original DS version. This isn’t the case in the 3DS version.

This game got two updates. The first update fixed an issue where you could soft-lock yourself with Luigi. In the second patch, a sound issue was fixed in the Music menu under records.

According to the TCRF (The Cutting Room Floor), there are various test rooms left in the final version. You can read about them in more detail on the page of this game.

After releasing this game, the developer AlphaDream filed for bankruptcy protection. Which is a shame since we might not see a Mario & Luigi RPG on the Switch. Maybe Nintendo can get the IP to another developer?

My thoughts

So, apart from those interesting facts about the development of this game; let’s give my opinion on this game. I won’t give my full opinion on this game just yet since I haven’t finished the game and I’m planning to write a review about this game in the future anyway.

Now, the tricky thing is that I had almost finished the DS version. I was close to reaching the final area. But then disaster struck. I lost my save file and I felt a bit too discouraged to restart the whole game to get to the point I was at.

It’s a darn shame since the game is quite a lot of fun to play. If you have played the two previous games, you know what to expect here in terms of gameplay. It’s an RPG where you play as Mario & Luigi, where the A button controls Mario and the B button controls Luigi. This is also the case in the battle mechanics where you have to rhythmically time your button presses to do more effective attacks.

The annoying thing is that I’m anything but rhythmic. So some battles took longer for me since I wasn’t able to do all the attacks at full damage. I did improve the more I played the game, but I rarely got consistent.

Yet, I did enjoy the game for silly and unique storytelling. In this game, something strange happens with the toads. They swell up like a balloon getting the nickname “The Blorbs”. After some investigation, all the affected toads act a strange mushroom created by the mad scientist Fawful. So, Princess Peach orders Mario & Luigi to set out and try and find a solution. But, then Bowser tries to kidnap Princess Peach. When this fails, Fawful lets Bowser eat a vacuum mushroom and this sucks Mario, Luigi and various other characters from the mushroom kingdom inside Bowser. Mario & Luigi have to help Bowser to regain his strength in order to escape and find a cure for the Blorbs.

The multiple layers of the story are something I truly love. The writing is rather humorous and lightweight. There isn’t a lot of voice acting, but the voice clips that are used help a lot to understand which emotion is in that certain part of the dialogue.

Bowser Jr.’s story takes place during the events of the main game. So, the additional story is a bit of a side story. Currently, I’m playing through it and I’m going to keep my opinions and this quite interesting side story a secret.

Now, I much prefer the visual upgrade from the remake over the original. I have looked at various screenshots and video comparisons of the original game and the remake. I think that the remake’s visuals feel more alive and pop that much more. It makes the original look more like a sort of Saturday morning cartoon from a decade ago.

Anyways, I think I’m going to end off this short look back at Mario & Luigi’s Bowser Inside Story + Bowser Jr.’s Journey. That’s a mouthful. 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!

Wahoo! You are a Super Reader! But the adventure doesn’t stop here… There’s more of this project in another castle! This article is just one level in an entire Super Mario Multiverse, a galactic collaboration between writers around the world sharing a bit of our hearts and memories about our favorite Mario games. Visit the Center of the Multiverse to see more:

https://thewellredmage.com/2020/03/10/center-of-the-mario-multiverse/

First Impressions: Wrath – Aeon Of Ruin (Steam) ~ Shall We Shoot Some Demons?

Wrath

Steam Store pageWikipedia EntryOfficial website

Well, well, well. Look at what we have here. A new 3D shooter published by 3D Realms of all companies. Last year, I took a look at Ion Fury, a game that emulates the atmosphere of a Duke Nukem game. Today, I’m taking a look at a game from KillingPixel called Wrath – Aeon of Ruin, a game that reminds me of Quake. Now, is this game worth your time or should you skip this game? Let’s take a look together at this tense old school looking 3D shooter and let’s try to answer that question together. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article down below. 

Editorial note: This game is still under development and early access. I’m basing myself on the game before and after the major update of February 25th, 2020 and the minor hotfix of February 27th, 2020 got released.

Shall We Shoot Some Demons?

20200308191332_1When I started this game for this first time, I felt like I started a sort of a cross between DreamKiller and Quake. Now, in this game, you play as an Outlander. You were adrift upon the Ageless Sea but you arrive on the shores of a dying world. This world is under attack from darkness. A strange figure cloaked in white robes called the Shepherd of Wayward Souls tasks you with finding the remaining Guardians of the Old World and save the world.

Now, from where did I get this story? Well, from the store page of course. Currently, the story isn’t really that present in the game.  I’m always a bit mixed with stories of shooter games. Sometimes they are really interesting and a joy to follow like DreamKiller and then you have games where the story doesn’t matter at all like Ion Fury.

But, the atmosphere of the game tells you the story of this game perfectly. The atmosphere of the game is quite dark and scary. A similar story is told through gameplay, but my only wish is the world gets a bit more fleshed out when the game fully releases and goes outside of “Early Access”.

Anyways, let’s focus more on the gameplay than on the story in this article. Since that’s what I was most excited about when I decided to purchase this game. I want to play a shooter game that took you on a sort of H.P. Lovecraft adventure and that’s what this game delivers in spades. You encounter various nasty demons that each have their own attack patterns.

This game isn’t the easiest of them all. This game can be quite challenging. If you don’t pay attention, you can be quickly overwhelmed and you will see the game over menu really quickly.

Forgotten Mechanics

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So, I was quite bumped out when I was unable to use my save file when the major content update happened. But, I completely understand why. The reason for that is that a new enemy has been added that changes up the gameplay quite drastically.

Now, there isn’t an autosave feature in this game. In order for you to save, you have to find and use Soul Tethers or find Shrines. These Soul Tethers are scattered around the game and with the press of a button, you save your game and create a respawn point. But, be careful when you use them since it sort of makes a save state. So, that means that every enemy and every projectile is also saved.

But, when you use them, a problem appears. The game hangs for a few seconds. At first, I thought I crashed the game. But, I haven’t had any crash with the game apart from one major annoying issue. During the loading screens when you go between locations, for example between a level and the hub area, the game can somewhat freeze. Do not click during the loading phase or your game can completely crash. And on top of that, don’t alt/tab out of the game during the loading phase since when you go back into the game, it freezes up and crashes.

Now, there is one very unique mechanic that I often forget that is in the game. And that’s the mechanic that you can extend your jump with your blade. When you charge your blade with the right mouse button and let it go, you fly forward for a bit at the height you let go. That means, when you let go during a jump, you can go over bigger gaps than usual. This mechanic is quite helpful to find secret areas.

But, how does this gameplay? What do you need to do in this game? Well, if you have played games like Ion Fury, Shadow Warrior, Wolfenstein 3D, DooM or Heretic, you know what to expect. The minor difference is that you have to find ruins instead of keys to open doors.

So, you start in a hub world where you can choose which level you start with. While that freedom is quite tempting, please be careful. Choose the first portal as the first level, since that gives you easy access to weapons. I first got stuck in the game since the later levels have a rough enemy placement.

Horror

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This game is still under development so sometimes you experience some glitches like the floating enemy in this screenshot. But, I feel like the visual presentation is finished.

The weapons are extremely fun to use and pack a great punch. I especially love the spike gun that shoots fangs as if it were a machine gun.  The animation that accompanies it is also lovely.

The visual theme of this game is quite gothic, H.P. Lovecraft. I even dare to say that some monsters give off a sort of Silent Hill vibe. Some monsters are especially creepy. I really get freaked out when those fang enemies are chasing me, those buggers are extremely fast and can throw you off your game. Especially when you are doing some crowd control and those buggers spawn.

Yes, spawn. When you step into an empty room it’s always possible that enemies spawn all around you. My advice is that you get used to the controls and mechanics as soon as you can since they will be put to the test. Thankfully, the controls are quite responsive so you can walk around quickly in these spooky areas.

So, it’s possible that when you enter an area or pick up a certain item that enemies spawn. You see the portals appear and the enemies drop. Sometimes they even spring from behind fake walls or from coffins. Those moments get on the edge of being a jump scare but for some reason, I don’t get as spooked. Most likely because I expect there to be enemies all around me.

The music and sound effects are amazing. I really like them all. Not surprisingly, it’s from the same guy who created the soundtrack from DUSK. His name is Andrew Hulshult and my dude, thank you for making this amazing soundtrack. It really adds to the tense atmosphere and makes the game even scarier.

I have already talked about the fact that this game is in early access. So, what are my wishes for the future? Which things would I love to see improved?

First of all, a sort of map screen would be lovely. Since I got lost a few times because I was running in circles.

Secondly, I think it would be a great help if you were able to see which weapon was next when you were scrolling for the next weapon. I love the system that Ion Fury used.

Thirdly, please polish the water mechanics. It’s quite unclear how low the ledges need to be in order for me to jump on them. I had situations where I was unable to get out of the lava and I had to wait until I was fully dead to restart my game. But in the level, the Mire, I had major frame drops when a ton of enemies spawned and later when I was swimming around in the underwater maze.

And lastly, have a better options menu layout. Don’t be afraid to use submenus. Since it feels like everything is crammed onto one screen because screens are bigger nowadays, but it feels a bit chaotic. On top of that, hide the resolutions that the computer and monitor can’t handle.

And that’s everything I wanted to say about this game for now. I’m quite excited to see what the future is going to bring with this game since I have been playing this game for a while now and it looks extremely promising.

I highly recommend this game to people who are interested in games like the old school 3D shooters or even modern shooters. Or modern old school shooters like Dusk and Ion Fury. It’s an amazing action 3D shooter that is only going to get better from here on out.

So, 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!

Game Quicky: Mushroom Quest (Switch) ~ Push The Questing.

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Steam store pageNintendo.com pageDrageus page

Previously, I took a look at Pixel Gladiator from Flying Island Team. Now, this developer created a second game called Mushroom Quest. Drageus Games ported this game to the Nintendo Switch and gave me a free press code to give my 100% true opinion. Now, I found some enjoyment in Pixel Gladiator but I found it too rough around the edges. Did the Flying Island Team create a better game with Mushroom Quest or did they fail in creating a good game? Let’s take a look at Mushroom Quest v1.0.0 for the Nintendo Switch.

The good

The gameplay of this game is quite simple to understand. You have to collect every gem in the level without falling into pits or trapping yourself. This game is sort of a Sokoban clone where instead that you have to move all the boxes on certain squares, you have to collect all the gems. The puzzle aspect of the levels are quite enjoyable.

 

Switch_MushroomQuest_01

The controls of this game are almost perfect. Moving your character is quite easy. You can touch the sides of the screen to move the mushroom in that direction but you can also move the joystick or the arrow buttons to move the mushroom. Now if only you didn’t had to press the button every single time you wanted to move, that would be glorious.

When I heard the menu music, I was a bit scared that we would have a Sweet Witches situation on our hands. But the music that plays during the levels thankfully matches the visual style quite well. The sound effects of this game are also quite cute. While there aren’t a lot of sound effects, the sound effects that are present do their job perfectly.

The visual presentation of this game is also well done. The game has a big charm to them that pulled me into the game. The only thing I disliked is the text that displays during a game over. The sad kitten eyes of your mushroom character with: “heey~” are just a bit too much and/or misplaced.

The level design is good. Some puzzles really made me think and try again and again. This game can be a bit addictive because it has that: “I’m going to give it just one more try”-attitude to it.

The bad

Switch_MushroomQuest_02There is no undo button. So, if you make a minor mistake, you have to restart the whole level. This is quite annoying since some levels can be pretty precise with your movements.

The store page of this game promises innovate features into the classic block moving game. And I’m sorry, I had seen almost every feature done before. And not once, more than once. Please, don’t be fooled by the marketing of this game. I found the marketing write-up of this game just a bit cringe.

Opera Snapshot_2020-01-10_202229_www.nintendo.com

I found the level select screen a chore to use. What’s wrong with putting your levels on a horizontal line? Why do they have to be on a vertical one? In addition to that, just like Pixel Gladiator, this game is lacking in basic features. Apart from deleting your save file via the Nintendo Switch menu’s, you have no way to reset the game.

There are so many different languages in the game. I found it quite ugly that the visual style was broken up by the different fonts used for certain languages. But, why so many? I mean, they could have saved a ton of time by simply creating buttons instead of buttons with text. The game has so few text, it’s a waste of time adding those features in my opinion.

Not only is the game quite short with only 30 levels, there isn’t much variety in the game. To be quite frank and honest, I didn’t get past the 15th level because I felt bored with the game. Maybe this game is more enjoyed in short play sessions but then again, I don’t think I’d finish the game.

Apart from that, I also got a bit fed up with minor imperfections of the game. Like pressing the “B” button in the level goes back to the main menu instead of the level select, the reset button works instantly during levels but it only works after the fall when you are falling… And that are just two examples.

The conclusion

I’m sorry Mushroom Quest. You have several strong points but you just missed the mark. Flying Island Team made a more enjoyable game then their previous game, but Mushroom Quest just missed the mark again.

I would recommend this game to everybody who is looking for a cheap casual puzzle game or people who enjoy small games like this one. While I honestly believe that this game would be better suited for mobile platforms, the game has been released on the Nintendo Switch and Steam.

I don’t enjoy nor like giving a game with this much potential and promise such a low score but I just think I have to. With this low score I just want to say that creating a game where some basic features aren’t present, the game really suffers as a result.

The annoying thing is that some of the missing features can be added with a patch. If the developers are working on a patch, then my wishes are more levels and more features. Also, polish up the game just a bit more that there are no more imperfections and then I think this game would be a ton better.

With that said, I have said everything about this game I wanted to say. 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.

Score: 50/100

Game Quicky: WarioWare Gold (3DS) ~ Minigame Short

WarioWareGold_HOLLarge.jpgNintendo microsite

For those who don’t know, I live in Belgium. Around late November – beginning December, we have a special holiday.  Depending on the region you are in, you either celebrate Sinterklaas or Sint Maarten. Both days are basically the same thing, but Sint Maarten takes place in late November and Sinterklaas in early December. Now, what is this? Sinterklaas or Saint Nicholas Day is a sort of 2nd Christmas day/Santa Claus celebration. I could explain the whole celebration, but I think I’m just going to link to a Wikipedia page that explains it better than I can: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinterklaas. Now, why am I mentioning this? Well, during this celebration I usually give my godchild a gift and I get a special gift from my godmother. This year she gave me WarioWare Gold for the Nintendo 3DS. Now that I have finished the game, what did I think about it? Let’s take a look at it! Oh, and before you say: “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth!” Well, I just want to review this game… Anyways, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article. 

The good

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While the story isn’t anything special, the voice acting is just amazing. It’s one of the best performances that Charles Martinet as Wario. The voice acting actually gives the story the charm it needs.

The theming of the minigames is perfect. This game is sort of a compilation game of all the previous WarioWare games, the 300 mini-games it has are a blast to play. Especially since you have games where you need to use the microphone, gyrosensors and the touch screen.

There are quite interesting extras in this game like recording your own voice in the cutscenes and the mini-games. There is also a lot of Nintendo history in this game that made me quite nostalgic.

So, the gameplay is amazing. If you played WarioWare games in the past, you’ll feel right at home with this game. If you have never played a WarioWare game, the game works like this. You get challenged by a character that sets the theme of the mini-games. In these mini-games, you have to quickly perform one action to complete a goal. For example; shave three hairs for a chin or blow, blow out a candle, raise a bridge on time… All of this with a simple action or button press. It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, you go to the next round. The consequence is if you lose, you lose one of your 4 lives. Logically, you need to restart the whole chapter when your 4 lives are lost. The mini-games speed up at a certain point and after a couple of rounds, you’ll face the final challenge of that character.

The visuals of this game are amazing. The game looks colorful and vibrant. The artwork is sublime. There are a lot of amazing references to other Nintendo games and to earlier WarioWare series. I especially loved the nods to WarioWare D.I.Y. with some mini-games having crudely drawn visuals like a casual player would create on the Nintendo DS.

I had a really hard time deciding where to place the soundtrack of this game. I’m personally a bit mixed on it. While the soundtrack has a lot of great tracks, there are a few that didn’t click with me. Now, when I replayed these sections, I noticed that the tracks didn’t click with me outside of the game. So, I can’t fault the game too much for that. So, that’s why I decided to mention the soundtrack in the good section.

The bad

CI_3DS_WarioWareGold_13

So, let’s talk about the story in this game. While the voice acting is amazing and adds a lot of charm, it doesn’t fix the mediocre story of this game. The story just feels incomplete, storylines that go too quickly to their conclusion. There is barely any arc.

I can totally understand that the story needs to be short and bite-sized for the WarioWare games, but I feel that there is a lot of wasted potentials here and that this story could have been more interesting if it was more fleshed out for a Wario platformer.

While collecting the collectibles is a fun distraction and a nice post-game objective, most of them are just useless. In previous games, most of the unlockables had some sort of interesting function but in this game, a lot of them are just images of previous Nintendo products with a little bit of explanation. That’s a major let down.

Conclusion

This game is an interesting one. While I highly enjoyed my time with the game, I felt that there were a few things lacking. I felt that a bit more polish might have improved this game to be even better. But, on the other hand, there are a lot of things that this game does right and nails in the process. Like the voice acting and the visuals.

Personally, I highly recommend this game to everybody who enjoys playing mini-game collections, puzzle games, Nintendo games, and other WarioWare games. Personally, I wouldn’t pay full price for this game and wait for a discount. But, I wouldn’t skip this game at all. I think it’s worthy to be in your 3DS collection or library.

Since this game is one of the only games that use almost all the features of the 3DS and I think that’s just great. Thankfully, they didn’t use the 3D feature or I would be in trouble because I use a 2DS XL.

With that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. And yes, I have left a few things out for you to discover… 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.

Score: 75/100

First Impressions: AI – The Somnium Files (Switch) ~ Kotaro Uchikoshi Is At It Again.

Official website

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One of my favorite horror series is the Zero Escape series. I have reviewed every game here on my blog. I have played through all of these games again this year since I introduced the series to my girlfriend. When I’m reviewing adventure games or visual novels, I often find myself referencing 999, Virtue’s Last Reward or Zero Time Dilemma. Now, sadly enough this trilogy of games has ended with Zero Time Dilemma. Now, last month I learned that the director and main writer of the series were finishing development on a new game. Ai: The Somnium Files. When I saw Kotaro Uchikoshi’s name in the promotion material, I got extremely hyped. I honestly pre-ordered the game right away. Now, do I regret that pre-order or was it worth it? I’m going to give you an answer to that question in the form of this first impression review of the game. And before I start, I always say: feel free to leave a comment with your opinion in the comment section down below about the content of this article and/or the game itself.

Date and Aiba

3568502-3 - kopie

In this game, you play as special agent Date who is investigating a gruesome murder. Now, this is unlike any detective game because Date has a special ability. His left eye is quite special. In this left eye, an AI lives. This AI is called Aiba and helps Date to make phone calls, access databases, x-ray vision, zooming and so much more. On top of that, Date can explore people’s somnium, which is created by their dreams. These dreams can help in the investigation whenever you need to get information out of a witness that refuses to give testimony.

The story is quite complex and takes a lot of twists and turns. Like the previous games that Uchikoshi worked on, this game has branching paths as well. Depending on certain actions you take during the somnium exploration, the story can go in very different directions. Now, I have already seen one ending of the game and it even got me a bit emotional while playing it. The writing and pacing of this game are wonderful. While there is some dry and lame humor in this game, the actual jokes work quite well and made me and my girlfriend laugh out loud more than once.

I’m leaving quite a lot of details on the story out on purpose since this game is better experienced without a lot of knowledge of the story. Go in this game as blind as possible. Since the twists are better without knowing them in advance. Which honestly, speaks for itself don’t you think? Now, something that I quite liked is the various nods to the Zero Escape series. Certain sound effects and visual cues come from or are heavily inspired by the Zero Escape series.

Now, before I talk more about that comparison, I want to talk about the voice acting. While you can play through this game with the original Japanese cast, I’m playing through this game with the English voice actors and I have to say that the dub of this game is amazing. The cast has been cast quite well. Maybe I might be a bit biased since I’m heavily invested in the story and now I’m quite used to the voice work of the voice actors.

He is at it again

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The gameplay in this visual novel is quite varied. This isn’t a visual novel where just choosing between a few options makes the difference. In this visual novel, there are various puzzles to solve and dialogue trees to explore. The first gameplay type is simply one where you explore a location. This can be a crime scene or the house of a suspect. In these scenes, the Date doesn’t move around. You explore your surroundings to find various clues and leads. To make sure you didn’t miss anything, whenever the text turns green whenever you move over the cursor over something, that means that there is still some interaction to be done. If the text turns gray, you have done every possible interaction.

So you go through various dialogue trees where you get new information. Whenever you missed something, you can quickly bring up the log and replay the voice clips. Something that I found a bit missing, is a sort of summary of the events that happened. Since very different things happen in the story depending on the path you take. So, a quick summary of past events might be helpful. Especially since there are character bios and a word list where various terms are explained.

Speaking of these character bios and terms, these are handled amazingly. The various hidden jokes and references add so much to the atmosphere of the game. Especially the way how some explanations are written, it’s almost like writers are talking to the player directly. Sometimes even saying that if you want more information that you “have to look it up on the internet.” And as an IT guy, I found the binary joke in one of the character profiles an extremely nice touch.

Now, the exploration in this game is quite limited and somewhat linear. While you can choose which location you visit first, it doesn’t make a difference in the story if you go in order or out of order. So, this is quite linear. Now, the dream sequences are something completely different. Now, if you played any game in the Zero Escape series, you will quickly get used to these sections. These dream puzzles are the escape rooms of this game, but the big difference is that you can move in the whole area.

If you compare the gameplay of this game with any game in the Zero Escape series, I have to compliment this game for improving the dialogue sections of the game. The dialogue and story sections are more involved now and you can choose in which order you experience it. This makes the game more accessible and doesn’t dump a lot of text and story on you all at once.

That said, now the dream sequences and puzzles are a blast to play through. Some of them are a tad bit too easily to my liking, but the later puzzles more than makeup for it. For one puzzle, I even considered using a walkthrough but after a lot of trial and error, I figured it out and it gave me such an amazing feeling.

In each puzzle, you have to unlock various mental locks. You can do this by exploring and interacting with the dream. Because you are exploring a dream, extremely strange things can happen. So, you have to make sure you understand why and what is going wrong. There is a catch, you have 6 minutes to solve the whole puzzle. If you don’t, you get a game over. You can use 3 tokens to go back to a previous checkpoint. If you go back one checkpoint, you use one token. If you go back two checkpoints, you use 2 tokens.

Now, you have to plan your actions right since each action uses a certain amount of time. With some actions, you earn special bonuses that can increase or decrease the used time in the game. It’s very important that you plan ahead and that you are sure of the option you pick. Now, whenever you are standing still, your clock ticks down slower than when you are moving. Take this time to plan out your moves and make sure you aren’t losing time by walking in the wrong direction.

This whole mechanic gives the game a very tense atmosphere. Am I going to have enough time to crack the other mental locks or have I lost too much time in the previous sections? Sometimes it’s better to restart the whole puzzle instead of using your tokens to go back to a previous checkpoint. Now, you can also use these tokens during gameplay. The time you had on the clock is the time you have when you return to that checkpoint. You get 3 tokens for each puzzle and they reset whenever you restart the whole puzzle.

I was pretty interested in the game whenever I saw the teaser trailer, but the gameplay is not disappointing me at all. It’s one of the best games I have played this year. And to be honest, if the quality of the game keeps up during the rest of the game, I think there are big chances that this game might be my Game Of The Year. And yes, maybe my bias towards the author and director of this game might have some to do with it, but you still have to deliver a great product and gameplay and story-wise, I think they more than succeed here.

Pretty and funny

AI: THE SOMNIUM FILES_20190905202822

Visually, this game looks amazing. The detail in the character models and the environment are just amazing. Compared to Zero Time Dilemma, the animation work got a huge overhaul. The character portraits are no longer static, they have the same animation as the actual characters on screen. That way you can still see their animations whenever you missed their animations because you were looking around.

The little details in the animations are mindblowing. For example, there was a scene where a teacher was talking about a student and when she was talking about the student, her head actually moved towards the student itself and the student broke her idle animation and looked at her teacher. These things might be small moments but are moments that give just that bit of extra flavor and atmosphere to the game.

On top of that, the audiovisual presentation of this game is equally as good as the animation. Some parts of the soundtrack reminded me of a lot of the music that’s used in the Zero Escape series. Now, there are some sound effects that are exactly the same from the Zero Escape series like the save sound and some other sound effects. If it’s intentional, I found it a great easter egg for people who played the previous games. Now, it’s also quite possible that they used the same sound library to save some development money and even if that’s the case, I wouldn’t mind at all.

Surprisingly, the composer of this game also wrote the music for BloodStained and the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games on (3)DS. The Zero Escape series’ soundtracks were composed by Shinji Hosoe who wrote music for Fate/Extra and Tekken 6. The composer of this game is Keisuke Ito and he did an amazing job with his team to create this soundtrack.

One of the biggest shames of this game is the fact that sometimes those games have some stuttering or some major slowdowns during gameplay. Thankfully these don’t have that often and it only affects the Visuals and not music nor the voice acting. Most of these slowdowns happen during dialogues or when a lot of animation is playing. On these moments, the fan of my Switch didn’t blast me away like in Dragon Quest Builders 2.

If I’m allowed to nitpick just a minor bit, I can’t remember exactly where but there are just 1 or 2 lines that aren’t voice acted. These are very short lines and if you are just following the story, you might not even notice them. I clearly remember that one of these lines was said by Date somewhere in the first few sections of the story. I think it was in a conversation between Boss, Aiba, and Date. But given the whole script of this game, just one or two missed lines is something that isn’t THAT bad and can be easily looked over.

This game has only one difficulty level. The overall difficulty of this game is quite well done, the difficulty scaling is very well done. Some puzzles require some trial and error but once it clicks, the whole thing makes sense. The biggest challenge is in the exploration of the dreams since you need to think fast and think about the time limit.

The controls of this game are almost perfect. The only thing that’s missing is touchscreen controls. But hey, that’s huge nitpick since the controls are quite responsive and easily mastered. Thanks to the amazing UI, I can find any negatives about the controls and UI. Apart from maybe one minor thing. I find the text in the word list and character bios a little bit too small to read when I’m playing in docked mode and when I’m sitting a bit too far away from the screen. All the other text can be read just fine, apart from that part.

I’m also forgetting to talk about something quite important and that’s the save system. While there is an autosave system present in the game, you also have three save slots you can use. Thanks to these three save slots, I’m able to continue to play the game by myself but also save at the point me and my girlfriend left off so we can pick up the game right where we left off when we play it the next time.

Now there is some minor replay value when you want to unlock everything. During each Somnium, there is an eye hidden that when collected and finished the Somnium without failing; you unlock additional concept art. These are quite fun to watch and a great reward for people who explore the game to the smallest detail.

Now, this review is already getting extremely long for a first impression. It’s quite clear what I’m thinking of this game. I think it’s high time to wrap this first impression up. This game comes highly recommend to everybody who enjoys adventure games, puzzle games, mystery games, visual novel games and games like the Zero Escape series. This game is one of the best games I have played in 2019 and I can’t wait to see how this game ends. Apart from some minor flaws like the slowdowns, this game is in my eyes as good as perfect. It’s such a shame that this game doesn’t get the publicity that it deserves. I hope that with this article more people give this game a try and give it the audience it deserves. With that said, I want to thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

One minor side note, this game is also on PS4 and PC.

First Impression: Dragon Quest Builders 2 (Switch) ~ Illegal Building Is Fun!

dragonquestbuilders2cover.jpg

Official website

When I played Dragon Quest Builders on the Nintendo Switch, I was highly surprised by the quality of the game. Now, granted, not everybody enjoyed the game and some Dragon Quest fans even disliked the game quite a lot. Take for example my buddy Drakulus, who gave the game a 5/10. Another friend of mine, FalconGameReviews wrote a more lukewarm review of the game. And then you have me, giving the game the full marks. While I won’t deny that the original had some flaws like the lacking combat, I heavily enjoyed my time with the game. After I had beaten the original game, I certainly wanted to play more and when I saw the trailer for the sequel, I was extremely hyped. So, now that I was able to play the game for a while, I can give you my first impressions on it. So, what did I think of the game so far? Let’s take a look. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

Illegal Building Is Fun!

dragon-quest-builders-2-11The events of the original game took place in an alternative universe of the ending from the original Dragon Quest. Dragon Quest Builders 2 takes place a few years after Dragon Quest II. In the 2nd Dragon Quest game, the hero Erdirck takes on Hargon and Malroth. Their followers, the children of Hargon want revenge and make sure that nobody is allowed to create anything. But during the story, you teach the brainwashed citizens that building is still fun while trying to avoid being caught by the children of Hargon.

So, they paint builders as a sort of criminal. You start on a ship where you learn the ropes of the game and get a tutorial on the basic game mechanics. When the ship actually crashes, you wake up on an island together with a person named Malroth, that has no memories of his past.

The story so far has been quite enjoyable. The charm of an actual Dragon Quest game is still here. The humor and great writing are still here. Also, in this game, the story is a bit more in-depth. It takes some various turns and it’s more expansive than the original one. Story-wise, I personally think that the story of the sequel is a lot better than the original. It plays more on the central theme of the story but it also has a lot of side stories and side quests to keep you occupied.

The only negative about the story is that the pacing is a bit slow. Personally, I don’t see this as a big deal but I think that this can be a turnoff to some people. Sadly enough there no way to skip the dialogue outright. Or there is no way to look at the previous dialogue, like if you accidentally pressed a button and skipped a part of the dialogue while you were reading.

Now, while I was enjoying the story, I noticed something that worried me a bit. While I was playing the game, either in docked or in handheld mode, the Switch’s cooling fans kick into high gear. My Switch actually got extremely hot in the middle. Also, the Switch is blowing out hot air, which was an unwelcome thing while I was playing this game during a heatwave…

Expanded

Dragon-Quest-Builders-2-Monster-Recruitment-Guide.jpg

A ton of mechanics in this game got expanded to aid you in building the town or doing your quests.

First of all, you don’t need Chimera Wings anymore to fast travel back to your base. There is a new fast travel mechanic that makes life a lot easier. It’s a huge improvement over Dragon Quest Builders 1.

The gilder feature is a godsend. I loved it in Breath of the Wild and I love it in this game. It’s an amazing feature that aids a lot with traveling and exploring the vast and open world in this game.

The Builderpedia feature is an extremely welcome feature as well, it’s a sort of mini wiki inside the game that can help you when you want to build a certain room in your base and you don’t know which items you need to have in your room in order for it to register as a certain room.

The new builder tools like the handy builder’s glove is also an extremely welcome feature. When you misplaced a block, you don’t have to mine it out anymore. You just pick it up again with the glove and place it where you want.

A big complaint about the original game was the camera. Now, the issue was that in tight spaces or in buildings with multiple floors, it was sometimes a struggle to center the camera on your character. In this game, they have a brilliant solution to that problem. With the simple press of a button, you can go into the first-person mode and more easily explore around.

Another great feature is the autosave. The game autosaves after a while of playing. Also, you don’t have to go to the village center to save it anymore. You can easily do that from the menu.

There are a ton of amazing other additions in this game that make this game even more enjoyable to play. From more easily creating rivers and lakes to changing walls into another block with the click of a button… If I would be talking about all the new mechanics and how they improve this game, I would be here all day.

Now, there are a few things that got downgraded. First of all, cooking. While it’s unique and somewhat fun that you need to cook your food on a campfire, you can’t cook in bulk anymore. Meaning that you are unable to easily get all of your food cooked.

While that is negative, the new cooking system allows for more experimentation. Since in some cooking stations you are able to throw ingredients together to make something unique like in Breath of the Wild.

Something I also missed from the original game was the fact you could keep blueprints in your inventory after building a certain room. It would be so handy if I was able to just reuse a blueprint somewhere else. For example, when I wanted to rebuild a certain bar from the main story on the Isle of Awakening, I had to either take screenshots or reference the Builderpedia several times.

Complaining out of love

Dragon-Quest-Builders-2-Boy-Malroth-Windmill.jpgIt might seem that I’m complaining a lot about this game. That’s because I’m highly enjoying my time with this game while still being a bit frustrated at several mistakes that make this game less enjoyable. Now, if I would score the game, I would still give it full marks.

One of the reasons why this game gets full marks is the visual presentation. This game looks amazing. I’m so glad that there is photo mode and a screenshot button on the Switch so I can make screenshots of the amazing landscapes and gorgeous visual presentation of this game. Together with amazing animations, this game really comes to life. I especially like little details like when you move the camera from under weather to above weather, the camera appears wet and various water droplets roll off your screen.

Like every Dragon Quest game, the music in this game is fantastic. I haven’t played a Dragon Quest game where I didn’t like music. That said, I do have to ask the Dragon Quest fanbase a question. Does the soundtrack of this game have original songs or does it also reuse classics from the previous Dragon Quest games, like the original Dragon Quest Builders? I was unable to find more information on that.

Together with amazing sound effects, the audiovisual presentation is excellent. In addition to that, the stable 60FPS framerate of this game is just a blessing. The game runs and plays extremely smooth. I can even say that I rarely had a slowdown. In some rare situations, I didn’t see the animation of a block-breaking but that happened so rarely, I don’t think it’s a huge problem.

Now, let’s talk about the controls of this game. The controls are still excellent. While I played the original with the Nintendo Switch Joycons, I did play this game with a wired Pro Controller. And I have to say it’s great fun.

Even with great controls, the combat is still quite generic. Not a lot changed when you compare it to the original. Now, when I read other reviews, I see a lot of people complain about basic combat. To be honest, personally, I don’t see this as that big of a problem. The game isn’t focused on combat with enemies, the game is more focused on building and crafting a world and your town. So yeah, the basic combat doesn’t bother me that much.

Something that did bother me and got me in a lot of trouble was the fact that I was sometimes unable to eat my healing pots during combat. I’m under the impression that there is either some delay on it during combat or some sort of cool down. Quite often I had to walk away from a battle to eat a healing pot.

Now, a feature that I love quite a bit is that after scripted battles, your citizens actually repair your city. Yes, if monsters manage to destroy your city or parts of it, it gets fully repaired to the way you actually build it. This is an amazing tweak and one that saved me a lot of headaches. Since one time I actually rage quit a boss in the original game simply because it destroyed around 75% of my town.

This might be just me, but I have the impression that this game is easier than the original. So far, I have fought several bosses in the game and quite rarely the gave me trouble.

A minor complaint that I have with this game is that there is only one save slot. Compared to Dragon Quest Builders 1, you had 5 slots per chapter. Granted, this game isn’t split up into chapters, but I really miss the 5 save slots. Since now I can’t really lend out my Switch to my girlfriend without me fearing that she saves over my save for example.

This game is an excellent sequel, it builds upon the original game quite a lot. From a central island where you bring all of your befriended villagers and build your own paradise to unlocking new blocks and various other things with the gratitude you receive. There are also monsters you can tame and ride, you can swim… You can quite easily change your look in-game and let’s not forgot to mention the multiplayer functionality that this game has.

It’s no wonder that various people who are playing this game got addicted to this title. For me, it got to the point that I even put other games aside. Games like Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, Fire Emblem – The Three Houses… While this game came out, I was lending my girlfriend’s PS4 since she has Uncharted, a game series I always wanted to play. And nope, I kept playing Dragon Quest Builders 2.

But to whom do I recommend this game? Well, easy. I highly recommend this game to anyone who enjoys open-world games like Breath of the Wild or Skyrim. I also recommend this game to people who enjoy Minecraft, Terarria or games of that nature. If you have enjoyed the original Dragon Quest Builders, this game is for you as well. The biggest issue, in my opinion, is the overheating of the Switch. The other negatives don’t affect my enjoyment with this game that much.

So, yeah. I’m in love with this game. There are high chances that this game will be in my top 10 games I played in 2019 list. To be honest, so far it’s even on my list as a contender for Game of the Year. But let’s just wait and see, the second part of 2019 has a lot of amazing titles that will come out. And also, the game will receive DLC later this year, so my opinion might change on that…

I may talk a bit more in-depth about this game if I ever write a review on this game but for now, I think it’s about time that I end off this article right here. I 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.

Review: Adera (PC) ~ Let’s Rescue Grandfather!

AderaSteam store page – Microsoft Store

During a spring cleaning, my mom found her old Windows Surface RT tablet back. She didn’t need it anymore but I saw some use in it. After I reset the tablet to its factory settings, I set the whole thing up. It would be a tablet I used to start writing articles while I was on the go and also to take notes during gameplay. I have an Asus Zenpad 8.0 S for that as well, but this tablet was bigger and had Word built-in. Now, this tablet can also play games. And that’s a second reason why I saw a use for this tablet. And a 3rd reason is that I just enjoy toying around with old hardware and tech. Now, one of the first games I started playing on this tablet was Adera. I recently finished this game and today I want to talk about it. Let’s go and have that adventure in the Adera. 

Let’s rescue Grandfather!

Adera - 1In this adventure hidden object game, you take on the role of Jane. Jane’s grandfather got himself into trouble and sent a distress letter to Jane. When Jane goes to try and find him together with her partner Hawk, their helicopter crashes in the middle of a desert. It’s there that Jane’s adventure starts. Together with the mysterious orb that she received from the package of her grandfather.

The story of this game is decent. The writing is well done and the pacing as well, but if you have played fantasy adventure games, the story won’t bring a lot new to the table. Now, I did still enjoy the story in this game. My biggest complaint is that it could have been so much more. The world and the setting have so much more potential to be explored.

Now, if you decide to play this game, I highly recommend that you play this game with the original voice acting. The English voice acting is quite well done in my opinion. But, most likely because of the region settings of my Microsoft Account, when I play this game on my desktop instead of my Surface, the voice acting is in Dutch. Now, I have nothing against the Dutch voice actors in this game but after I had experienced the English voices, I found the English voice over a lot better.

The following issue with the game is most likely because of the aging Windows RT hardware, but I had moments where the game’s text was sometimes in English and sometimes in Dutch. But, when the menu appeared in Dutch, some text was repeated several times. Take a look at this screenshot for example:

Adera-4.png

At the bottom left, it says “Rate Adera!Rate Adera!Rate Adera!”. And there are a few other sections in the game that have the same issue. So, to avoid visual messes like that, I highly recommend that if you are interested in this game, that you buy it on Steam. You won’t have the issue where the game tries to display in another language and you have the best voice overwork. I even bought the Steam version of this game for this review to do some further research.

But this review will mostly focus on the Windows Store version because that’s the one I played and finished. Now, something I can’t hold against the game was the fact that I played it on aging hardware. I played this game on the Windows Surface RT running Windows 8.1. Due to a bug in one of the updates, the Windows Store doesn’t work, so I had to reset the tablet multiple times. Each time, I had to download each and every episode. Now, the downloading and installing of these episodes took a long time. Maybe because the WiFi card and the hard disk inside the tablet are quite slow.

Thankfully, this game has an autosave in the cloud when you connect this game with your XBOX account. So, even when I had to reset my tablet to factory settings, download and install the game and the episodes all over again, I didn’t lose any progress. This is quite surprising to me and a very nice feature.

Now, I want to talk about something but I’m going to spoil something of the ending. If you are alright with that or if you have finished the game, feel free to highlight the following part. Otherwise, just scroll a bit down so you can skip the spoiler. So, here comes the spoiler: Something that really annoys me is the fact that there is a “season 1”. This implies that the game is going to get a season 2 or even 3. Because of the cliffhanger at the end and multiple unanswered questions, the game feels incomplete. Now, the game is released in 2015 and the social media accounts have gone silent. So, I don’t think we will ever know what happened to grandfather after he got kidnapped… again. Now, the game got a re-release on Steam in 2018, so there is hope that we get a continuation of the story in the future… Who knows.

Windows Surface RT

Adera - 2Now yes, I might have played this game on aging hardware, but I actually enjoyed the fact that I was able to make use of the unique feature of this game. I think this feature is also in the Android and iOS versions of the game but the fact that the game supports touch controls is just amazing. Also, the fact that there are gyro controls for this game is amazing. When I moved the tablet around, the in-game camera moved around as well. It was almost like I was controlling where Jane was looking by physically moving the tablet. The Steam version does not support this. Well, I might support it, but I don’t have a laptop has supported this kind of feature.

Anyways, because this game focuses on touch controls, the controls are a bit awkward when you decide to play this game with a mouse. Because you either swipe or physically move your device to look around in several areas in order to find items and solve puzzles. That’s something that isn’t easily done with a mouse. Now, you can simulate a swipe with the mouse, but it feels different. Yet, I was able to get used to it while playing around with the Steam version after a while.

Now, let’s focus on the gameplay of Adera for a moment. If you have ever played those adventure games with hidden object scenes, you will feel right at home in this game. There are a few types of puzzles in this game. The first type of puzzle is hidden-object puzzles. In these puzzles, you are tasked with finding a handful of items in the picture. There is a punishment when you spam click on the picture. The screen will “break” and you are unable to click for a certain amount of time.

The second type of puzzles has to do with the mysterious orb that Jane received from her grandfather. This orb can do some strange things but in order for it to do that, you have to solve different puzzles. Speaking of the orb puzzles, there was one style of puzzles I truly hated with a passion. There is a puzzle where you have to tap the symbols at the correct time. When you tapped them at the correct time, you were able to progress one space in the puzzle. But, if you tapped them too early or too late, that means one space back for you. Thankfully, you are able to skip these puzzles. This means that I’m unable to complete some achievements, but rather that then being frustrated at a puzzle. Now, why did I hate this puzzle? Because for this puzzle you need to have a certain sense of rhythm and that’s something I don’t really have. The puzzle itself works just fine.

The third type of puzzle in this game is the fact that there are a lot and I really mean, a lot of hidden items in the game. There are close to 180 optional items hidden all over the game.  From masks, pieces of clothing, coins, artifacts, butterflies to special items. There are even more items to collect. You can always see the items you have collected in the collection section of the main menu. These are separated in different sections giving you a hint in which episode you missed an object. And these items are truly hidden. After I had finished the game, I only found a bit over 80% of all the items. And I thought I was very good at finding these objects. To be honest, this is an interesting way to add a little bit of replay value to this really linear game.

The fourth and final type of puzzle is the fact that certain obstacles block your way. In order to progress you will have to find items. Some of these items are hidden in the hidden object puzzles and some can be found by exploring the area. The best way to compare these puzzles is with the gameplay of games like Broken Sword.

The game might be more on the casual side of things, but that doesn’t take away that the game is rather enjoyable. I really liked exploring the areas the game threw me in and finding the items to solve the puzzles. All the while I was looking around for hidden collectibles. I have played a lot of hidden object adventure games and this game is one of the better I have played. The fact that there are additional things to do like the hidden collectibles and the various achievements you can get is refreshing and great fun.

Something I really liked about the Windows Store version is the fact that I bought the collectors edition of this game. In this collectors edition of the game, there are various wallpapers and pieces of concept art. The whole soundtrack of the game is also included for your listing pleasure. In addition to that, there is a very short but quite humorous gag reel. There is also an ad for the eBook variant of the game.

These bonus additions are nowhere to be found in the Steam version. In addition to that, something that I found quite helpful was the fact that I was able to zoom in during the hidden-object puzzles. There is no way to do that in the Steam version.

Now, something that the Steam game does better is the fact that the game is really full screen. This is only an issue when you play this game on a Windows 10 computer or laptop instead of on a Microsoft tablet. If you play the game on a computer, blue bars will fill the top and bottom of the screen like in the screenshot here:

Adera 4.png

This is a shame since there is so much unused space and the game can run in full screen since this is something that the Steam version shows.

So close, yet so far

Adera - 3

It always pains me when I have to write in a review that a game is so close to being a good game. Adera has a ton of amazing elements but it also makes a few mistakes.

Now, this game will take you roughly 7 hours to finish. It’ll take you a few more hours in order for you to complete it. Yes, this game is somewhat short but when you compare it to other games in this genre, this game is actually rather lengthy. It also has replay value and for the price of 10€, you can’t complain in my opinion.

This game isn’t for everybody. When you dislike puzzle games or casual games, I don’t think you will enjoy this game. Which is a darn shame, since you will miss out on the lush environments and the amazing artwork. This game looks amazing. The animation is also pretty well done. You can skip most cutscenes, but you will miss out on the plot and the great animation. Now, the only thing that could have been improved as there was a bit more animation on the characters during gameplay. The characters are quite static outside of cutscenes.

The controls of this game do something unique. Usually, when you click or tap just above the middle of the inventory bar, you go to the previous location. This isn’t the case in this game. Because this game has a back arrow. This has its advantages. For example, now I don’t return to my previous location when I tap a bit too high by accident. But, this arrow works a bit inconsistent. In some cases, you are able to move to that location without the aid of that arrow and in some cases, you can only go to that location with the down arrow. It’s tricky to explain by text, but it will make more sense once you play the game. While I got used to the mechanic after an episode, it was annoying that the down arrow to move backwards wasn’t consistently used for the same thing and in the same way.

In terms of the UI of this game, it took me a while to get used to the Windows Apps interface style. Because I rarely used Windows 8(.1), I wasn’t used to the fact that you had to do certain swiping actions to bring up the menu system. This is something that the Steam version does a lot better. It was also confusing that the settings of the game were somewhat outside of the menu system of the game.

Now, in terms of the UI. Something I really disliked was when I replayed parts of the game on my PC to write this review, I noticed that the swiping doesn’t work in the menus. I had to use my scroll wheel. Another annoying “feature” of this game is that when you go to any menu during gameplay; to for example the collection menu, the back button in the menu system brings you back to the main menu. It would have been so much easier if this back button brought you back to the game to continue your playthrough.

While the game saves automatically and quite frequently, I found the load feature a bit lacking. Now, it works perfectly but when you continue an episode, you don’t know where your save file is at. When you finish an episode, the game saves right before the cutscene that plays as the cliffhanger for the next episode. Now, the thing is, the game uses cloud saves when you sign in with your XBOX account. So, when I clicked continue on the first episode on my PC, the end cut scene of the first episode started playing. It would be lovely if the load feature told you where the game saved. In addition to that, when you click on the “play now” buttons in the main menu with the episodes, the game directly loads your save file. So, if you want to start from the beginning because you think you skipped some collectibles, you need to go to the “episode” section of the main menu and start it from there.

It’s a shame really, the UI could be so much better. There are just bad design decisions. Thankfully, most of them are fixed in the Steam version where you don’t have the Microsoft App UI on top of the game. But, that version misses quite a lot of features of the collector’s edition.

Something I haven’t mentioned or talked about is the music and sound design. The soundtrack of this game is quite well done. The only complaint I have is that some tracks are a bit too short and because they are played quite often, the loop started to annoy me in some puzzles. Yet, the soundtrack is one that I’m going to add to my music library so I can listen to it while I’m writing or relaxing. It’s that good. It’s a relaxing but mysterious soundtrack that’s fully orchestrated. Together with amazing sound effects and sound design, this game really shines in its audiovisual presentation. Now, one nitpick is that I feel that the music for the main menu is a bit too quiet, a bit too mysterious. Sometimes I felt there wasn’t any music in the main menu.

Now, is this game difficult? Not really, this game can be extremely easy and quite challenging depending on the difficulty setting you to pick. There are three settings. Depending on how difficult you make the game, the more supporting features are disabled. On the “EASY” setting, active hidden object or puzzle locations are revealed with sparkles and the hint and skip buttons recharge quite quickly. On the “NORMAL” difficulty setting, the sparkles appear less frequently and the hint and skip buttons recharge slower. And finally, on the highest difficulty, also known as “EXPERT”, no sparkles and the hint and skip buttons are disabled. You can change the difficulty setting at any time while you are playing an episode.

Speaking about the hint button, I really liked the way this game gives you hints. When you click on the hint button the first time, you get a clue to what is the next step you could take. There is an additional button on the hint pop-up and if you click on that button, you get the exact solution you are looking for.

During this review, I have talked about various things that this game does better compared to other hidden object adventure games like for example the length, the back button, and the replay value. But, there is one thing that this game doesn’t have compared to newer games that would have been a great addition in this title. The custom difficulty setting. With these settings, you can adjust which supporting options you want to enable and disable or how long you want to the hint and/or skip buttons to recharge for. But, this might have been too tricky to program with the ability to change the difficulty settings on the fly. The other thing that this game doesn’t have is a map screen. Usually, in these map screens, you can see the locations you have visited and where actions can be done. This would have been helpful with some of the longer episodes.

With that said, I think it’s high time to close off this review. It’s time for the closing thoughts on this game!

Conclusion

Note: While I talked a lot in this review about the Steam version of this game. The conclusion applies to the Windows App Store version of the game that I played on the Windows Surface RT tablet.

The bad: 

  • The UI could use some more polish.
  • The Dutch translation has some text bugs.
  • There was no way to choose the language of the game.

The good:

+ Amazing audiovisual presentation.

+ Replay value in a hidden object game!

+ The collector’s edition has a lot of amazing bonus content.

+ Amazing artwork.

+ …

Final thoughts:

Man, this has been a tricky game to review. I have played parts of the Steam version and the Windows App store version. I’m certain that the versions for Android and iOS have some differences but will most likely play similar to the Windows Surface RT version.

While the Steam version has a better UI, it lacks all the additional neat features of the collector’s edition that can be found on the Microsoft Store. But, the version of the Microsoft Store has a lacking UI.

Now, this game isn’t perfect and isn’t for everybody. But what it does, it does very well. I highly recommend this game to fans of the hidden object genre or fans of the point-and-click genre. This game is quite underrated and should deserve more recognition. It was the first game I started playing on the Windows Surface RT and it was the first game I had beaten. Sometimes I replay a bit of the game in the hope I find the collectibles I missed.

The game gives you the impression that there are going to be more seasons, that the story of Adera will continue. With the game getting a Steam port last year, I have hopes that we will see another season in the (near) future. But, I highly doubt it will happen since there is no mention of seasons in the Steam version. Then again, it could be possible that the second season will start with episode 6 or something.

So, if you want to give this game a chance and you don’t mind a bit of messy menu UI, I highly recommend the Windows Store version. If you want a better menu UI, play the Steam version but know that you will miss out on the collector’s edition content.

Personally, I really enjoyed playing this game and I’m happy that I discovered it. Now, I’m quite curious to see if somebody who reads this article is going to pick up this game. If you do, please let me know in the comments which version you bought and what you thought of it.

And with that said, I said everything I wanted to say about this game. 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 the next article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Score: 70/100

Review: Atelier Rorona -The Alchemist of Arland- DX (Switch) ~ Crafting The Adventure With Alchemy.

atelier-rorona-featureWikipedia page

On my top 10 games list of 2018, I talked about Atelier Rorona. I talked about how this game got me interested in playing the Atelier series. Now, it’s time to give my full opinion on the game. Why did I place this game on my top ten list and why wasn’t it higher on the list? I think it’s time to talk about crafting and exploring. Adventuring and RPG’ing. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

Get off your lazy bum

atelier rorona screen 1The story of this game has a simple premise. You play as Rorona, a young girl who is an apprentice at a local alchemy shop in the Arland Kingdom. Her master Astrid is so lazy that business isn’t going well at all. As a matter of fact, she didn’t get off her lazy bum for so long, the kingdom is considering to close down the shop. Rorona doesn’t want this to happen so she takes on the challenges provided by the kingdom. She gets a deadline of three years. During these three years, she has to prove that she can run the alchemy shop and make a profit. If she fails one of these challenges, the shop will be closed without any further questions.

On the surface, the story of this game isn’t anything special. It’s one that has been done various times before. Yet, the story actually changes a lot in your actions. It depends on who you take with you on your journey, how good you craft your items, how you interact with the characters and how you run your alchemy shop. The one that lazy Astrid sort of gave to you because she wanted more sleep but didn’t want the shop to be closed.

This makes the story quite a lot of fun to play through. Because each and every playthrough is going to be different, you will have a different story. This game has various endings that all depend on how good you did during your missions provided by the kingdom. When I had beaten the game for the first time, I got a very generic ending that didn’t give the closure I felt that the story deserved. Because of that, I feel motivated to replay this game with so I can get an even better ending.

The writing of this game makes replaying this game even more enjoyable. While I was playing this game, I posted a short clip on my Twitter showing off the voice acting. The game has a lot of funny and charming moments. I actually fell in love with the characters of this game. Now, depending on how good you play this game, the characters you interact with getting more character development.

Now, during my playthrough, the story was quite enjoyable. While it didn’t have a lot of moments where I sat on the edge of my seat, it was quite relaxing. Maybe the other endings have more thrilling moments, but overall I enjoyed the story quite a lot. The writing, the pacing, and the voice acting make for an enjoyable experience. I can’t wait to see how the game plays out on my next playthrough.

With that said, how do you actually go about saving the shop? For that, Rorona needs to gather ingredients from various locations and craft various items. Depending on the quality of the items, you get better items. Now, I do have one thing I felt mixed about in terms of the gameplay.

Running that shop

atelier-rorona-the-alchemist-of-arland-dx-screenshot-01-ps4-us-04dec2018

Yes, this is a screenshot from the PS3 version, but the Switch version looks the same apart from the different buttons.

While the story pacing is quite good, the pacing of the game is … let’s just say, strange. Because the game gives off a relaxing and casual vibe, the game can feel extremely slow. But this is very misleading. Because you have a strict time limit; you shouldn’t waste time at all. You have to play every move extremely carefully. The more mistakes you make, the worse your ending gets. The depth in this game is crazy. You do get an assistant at the middle point of the game. This mechanic saved me various times. You can assign this assistant to go and explore for you or craft items for you.

Be warned, the tutorials of this game only scratch the surface of the mechanics of this game. Something I recommend is that you use the save system to your advantage. I had various saves at various points. So, I can go back when I felt I was able to finish the missions with better results.

Talking about the save system, the fact that this game got ported from a PlayStation system really shows in the UI. If you have played a game on a PlayStation you will recognize the typical save and load UI easily. The only thing that annoys me is that I’m unable to name my saves. This would have helped quite a lot.

So, you have to explore, fight monster and craft items. This sounds like your typical RPG fare. You do have side quests that can help you to get a better relationship with a certain character. Some of these side quests have the potential to improve the reputation of the shop which also has a big influence on the ending of the story.

All in all, the biggest challenge of this game is time management. Use your time wisely and try to waste as few days as you can. I always tried to finish the assignment of the kingdom as fast as I could. When I finished that, I used the remaining days to explore new areas and improve my relationship with the other characters.

The gameplay immersed me quite a lot. I really felt like a shop owner trying to find the best strategy to get my shop up and running and to try to get as many customers as I can. While the game isn’t too difficult to get the most basic ending, the challenge for this game hides in trying to get the best endings.

A normal playthrough of this game will take you somewhere around 20 hours. But, if you want to see all the endings, you will get a lot more out of this game. On howlongtobeat.com, there are reports of players taking 60 to 100 hours to fully complete this game. Now, this is for the PlayStation 3 version. At the time of writing this review, the website has no listing for the Nintendo Switch version.

Now, the meat of this game is in exploration and crafting. First of all, let’s go a bit more in-depth about the exploration. During your exploration, you can take two allies with you. Certain allies require a certain price to hire. This price needs to be paid upfront. So, make sure you have enough gold in the bank to hire them.

During the exploration, you can go to various locations. Each location has several areas you can explore that provide different items. These items aren’t randomized, so if you find herbs in a certain area, you will be able to find those herbs every time there.

One thing you need to keep in mind is that you have an inventory limit. If you reach that limit, you have to throw out items. Also, you need to keep in mind that certain items can lose their freshness. For example, if you collect berries and don’t put them in your storage in the chest in the shop, the quality will drop.

During your exploration, you can see certain spots where items can be gathered. In the meantime, you see the enemies roaming around. When you interact with them, you can start a fight with them. The battles are turn-based. It’s the system you see in a million other RPG’s. But there are a few differences.

One difference is that only an alchemist can use items. So, only Rorona can use healing items during the battle. Another difference is that you can use certain characters to defend you and make combo attacks. In each battle, a meter builds up. When that meter is full, you can use the shoulder buttons to defend Rorona. A similar mechanic counts for the combo attacks.

One thing you need to keep in mind during the exploration is that moving between locations and areas takes valuable time. So, make sure you know which items you need and where you can find them and plan accordingly. Otherwise, you might get into trouble and you aren’t able to craft certain items.

In addition to that, keep in mind that you have a limited amount of MP. MP is also used to craft items. And this brings me on the second part of the gameplay I want to focus on, the crafting. This is something I didn’t always pay attention too. Each item can have certain properties that make a huge difference during crafting. Each item has also a quality level that changes the outcome quite a lot as well.

Something I found extremely tricky was looking for high-quality items. For some reason, I always found a mid tear or low tier quality items. I’m quite sure that this was one of the reasons that resulted in me having a mediocre ending. Now that I know that, I know what I should look for in a second playthrough.

Anyways, the crafting system itself is a bit basic. You can select various ingredients to craft an item. If you don’t have a certain sub ingredient that is craftable, you get forwarded to the crafting menu of that item. One thing that I found really annoying was that it wasn’t always clear which ingredients were missing. For example, the icon of the missing ingredient was a flame. But I had a few ores that looked extremely similar. Yet that wasn’t the ingredient I needed. It turns out I needed oil.

Something I really liked was that in the crafting list, you were able to sort ingredients in terms of quality or rarity. Also, you had various symbols that gave information if you were or weren’t able to craft a certain item. For example, a triangle means that you are able to craft the item but you have to craft a sub-item first.

One thing that I would like to mention is that this game can be repetitive. It’s quite easy to fall in a loop for every assignment or mission. Explore, craft, rest. Explore, craft, rest. Explore, craft, rest. And repeat. Each assignment has a different theme like preparing for a festival or helping to craft medicine.

I didn’t mind too much, but I feel that a bit more variation in the gameplay would do the game some good. For example, a bit more assignments where you needed to defeat a certain number of monsters or collect a certain amount of ingredients would do the trick.

Arland is saved

atelier-rorona-the-alchemist-of-arland-dx-screenshot-03-ps4-us-04dec2018Let’s talk about the visuals. This game looks quite nice in my opinion. While the game could have benefited from a free camera, I actually didn’t mind too much since the camera allowed me to watch the nice city and fun dungeons in great detail. Some enemies suffer from the recolor syndrome, like the slime enemies. There are at least 3 variants and only the color has been changed. I wish those games added a few extra details. Oh well. At least I never had slowdowns during gameplay and I was able to play the game at a decent frame rate.

In terms of animation, this game is good. While the cut scenes would have benefited from some more character animation instead of gorgeous looking 2D artwork. Now, if the game came out in a previous generation, I would excuse this…. oh, wait… that’s right, this game is a port of a PS3 game. Then again, the PS3 is capable of so much more. Oh well.

Now, something that bugged me a bit is the rather awkward jumping animation. I think it’s missing a few frames near the end where Rorona’s feet almost snap into place. It also looks strange when you adjust your jump in midair. Since Rorona sort of floats awkwardly. It’s hard to put into words but while the jump works great, it feels off and looks a bit off.

Jumping in itself is easy to do and control. You just press the jump button and voila. I don’t have any complaints about the controls. I really like how there is a dedicated button to cycle through Rorona’s animations. The game controls great and I didn’t have the need to spend time getting used to them. The UI explains it so well, I got the hang of it right away. One minor nitpick is that the prompt for running is a tad confusing. When the UI shows a button for “running ON” and you press that button, Rorona actually starts walking. So, that prompt in the UI actually shows the status if you are running or not.

Now, the UI has some amazing things I really liked. Like how easy it is to sort items or the great and easy to use crafting system. But I have a few complaints. First of all, I wish I was able to see which ingredients were at a certain location before I actually traveled there. I would have been able to save so many days…

Secondly, while I totally understand why the developers did this; I wish I was able to see how many days it would take to go to a newly discovered gathering area. The reason why they don’t tell you this is most likely for immersion reasons.

And my final and third complaint is when you buy armor, you can’t see if it would increase somebody’s stats or not. This was quite annoying, especially when the armor shop rarely has new items because the game really wants that you craft it yourself.

The music and sound effects for this game are good. The soundtrack really fits the mood of the story quite well. It’s relaxing and rather melodic. It helps to get immersed in the game. I even added the soundtrack to my playlist for when I want to relax. Now, the sound effects are great but I wish there were a bit more of them. For the whole crafting system, the use the same effects and I would love some different ones for food or bombs. Also, one for days passing, while the clock ticked over, would be the cherry on the cake.

Oh, and here is something nice, you can totally change the whole soundtrack. Yes, while interacting with the book in the atelier, you can change each and every track to another track. You can choose between a pretty long list of other games in the series. Now, this is an amazing feature but it could have used some additional features. Like a reset to default option and one where you easily see which song you have selected since in that menu there is a lot of unused screen space. And the biggest missing feature is, in my opinion, a preview of what song is currently playing. Oh dear, they were so close.

In that same menu, you can access the different costumes for Rorona. As far as I know, these are only cosmetic. You can do save file management and decorate the atelier to a certain degree. You can also access the options menu where you can adjust the sound mix to your liking. Here, you can also change the language of the voice acting to Japanese or English. So, if you want Rorona to greet you in Japanese on the main menu, you can do that.

After you have finished the game, there is a post-game chapter. I won’t spoil what the chapter is about but it adds some additional story. But after this post-game, there is no free-roaming. So, you can’t experiment with the game… This is a real missed opportunity since I would have loved to try and experiment with the game to learn and have a better run next time. Yet, on the other hand, I totally understand why they did this. Because the game has so many different endings in which different characters aren’t present, it would have been a hell to program.

Interestingly, during my writing this review and posting it; the game got a small update. I have no clue what has been added, but I wanted to mention it, just in case something in my review doesn’t make sense anymore.

With that said, I have said almost everything I wanted to say about this game. I did leave some things out for you as a surprise if you decide to play this game. But, it’s time for the conclusion of this review and my final thoughts.

Conclusion

The bad:

  • The jump animation looks awkward.
  • The game can be repetitive.
  • There is no free play in the post content.

The good:

+ Enjoyable story, writing and voice acting.

+ Amazing charm.

+ Great UI.

+ High replay value due to the different endings.

+ Relaxing soundtrack and you can change it to your liking!

+ ….

Final thoughts:

I don’t know exactly how this game compares to other games in the Atelier series. Since this game is the first game in the series I have played. Nevertheless, I did enjoy my time with this game quite a lot. The game is on the surface of a relaxing game with a lot of charm. But, don’t get fooled, this game can become quite hectic in a good way.

The game is quite enjoyable to play but difficult to master. You really need to plan every single move to make sure to you get yourself in a difficult situation.

This game is perfect for everybody who is looking for an RPG with a crafting system or somebody who is looking for a shop simulator. While I can totally understand why some people won’t enjoy this game too much, it did click with me.

But the game is far from perfect. Don’t get me wrong, this game is quite good but it has some flaws that hinder the gameplay in my opinion. Like the strict deadlines and the repetitive nature of the game.

Personally, I recommend that you give this game a try. If only there was a demo of this game you could try out and judge for yourself if this game is for you are not. I bought this game because the screenshots and descriptions looked interesting on the Nintendo eShop and I wasn’t disappointed.

Now, I can’t wait to play the other games in this trilogy to see if they improved the mechanics in the other games. Maybe they crafted an even better adventure while they kept everything that worked quite well in this game.

Do keep in mind that I’m not saying that this is a bad game. It’s a good game with some flaws. It’s up to you to decide if these flaws would hinder your enjoyment of the game or not. Since this game has a lot of depth so you will be able to have a lot of fun with this game.

With that said, I want to thank you 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 a different article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Score: 70/100