Review: Resident Evil 8 – Village (PS4) ~ Putting Together Rose.

Official websiteWikipedia entry

One of my favorite genres is action adventure games. The Indiana Jones, Tomb Raider and Uncharted games are just a few examples. And I don’t mind when you sprinkle in a bit of horror like in Fatal Frame or Silent Hill. Now, I have played Resident Evil in the past and I have gotten quite far in Resident Evil 4. So, at the start of 2023, I decided to pick up Resident Evil Village on my PS4, since it was on a massive sale, and I was able to grab it with all the DLC for €10. So, was that a good decision? Or should I have skipped this one? Is it a bad thing that I haven’t finished Resident Evil 7? These are all interesting questions that I’m going to answer and maybe you too. Because, I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on the game and/or the content of this article. And just before we start the article, I want to mention that this game was played on my PS4 Pro and I have only played the single player campaign on the default difficulty. I haven’t played a lot of the other modes and I haven’t played a second of the VR mode in this game.

Putting together Rose

This game is a direct story sequel of Resident Evil 7. While I own Resident Evil 7, I haven’t finished the game yet. In a matter of fact, I’m still at the beginning of the game. I didn’t finish that game because I got distracted by other games and I haven’t made the time yet to finish the game.

Now, if you dislike spoilers, I’m afraid to say that the intro to this game spoils the whole ending of Resident Evil 7. Thankfully, you don’t have to have played Resident Evil 7 to understand the story and what’s going on in Resident Evil 8. I’m sure that some references and story beats went over my head, but I take that.

One thing is for sure, now that I have finished Resident Evil 8, I want to finish Resident Evil 7 as well. How did Ethan Winters get in this mess? Ethan Winters is the character you play as in this game. After being kidnapped in your own home and the car being attacked, Ethan lands in a strange village filled with monsters. The opening story beats are in a way similar to Silent Hill 1’s opening if you squint and ignore a lot of details. But I’m going to explain it like that to avoid spoilers of this game.

Let me just say that the world building and overarching story in this game is amazingly put together. The mystery in this game is great, and it leads to an ending that I didn’t see coming at all. The ending leaves so much open for a potential sequel or continuation of the story, it’s insane.

Now, you can experience this game in various modes. I played this game in 3rd person, since I feel that’s the way how Resident Evil games should be played. And it’s a decision I don’t regret at all. Since, the voice acting in this game gets so much more powerful when you see Ethan’s full character model in cutscenes. Not only is the voice acting of the voice actors extremely well done, the sound design of the voices adds so much. The amount of times I was able to hear an enemy crawl up to me and take the right action during combat… I lost track of counting.

I was very immersed in the story of this game. The world building, the story, the additional notes scattered around, and the voice acting are just a few examples of things that this game does really well. The only thing that this game isn’t, is a survival horror game. Maybe it gets more tense when you play on the higher difficulty settings but on the default difficulty, this game isn’t too difficult. And it’s a shame, since I feel that the easier difficulty in this game drags it down a bit.

It’s not that the game holds your hand, but it’s that the game is a bit too easy. There are a lot of signs and moments where the game tries something unique to spice up the gameplay like having a big vampire hunting you down in one section… But by then, that section is reaching its conclusion, so it’s over before you know it.

But, how is it?

I think it’s fair to say that the 8th mainline entry in the Resident Evil series takes some inspiration from the 4th entry. This game feels a lot like Resident Evil 4 in core concepts. Which isn’t a bad thing, but it might not be what Resident Evil fans expect from the series.

I’m just thankful that this game doesn’t overfocus on action like in Resident Evil 5 and 6. In this game, you are having an adventure trying to find answers to various questions.

I’m going to describe the next section for avoid spoilers reasons a bit vague. But, the gist of this game is that there are, depending on how you count, 5 main area’s in this game. One hub area and 4 other sections.

Each of these sections have their own theming and puzzles. You have to explore each one of those sections, trying to find the next puzzle piece to progress. All the while you avoid enemies and loot your environment for supplies. You mostly use these supplies to craft more ammo since some of these enemies you fight either come in mass quantity or are anything but push overs.

Overall, most of the puzzles in this game aren’t too difficult when you pay attention. Only once I looked at a walkthrough because I totally forgot about a mechanic that actually held the solution. Now, something I really liked in this game is how the map system gives you a clue if you got everything in a certain room or not. When the room is colored red on your map, there is still something of value to be found in that room. If it’s blue, you got it all. I really enjoyed looking in every corner to try to find some more items or treasure to get more cash. Do know, that this only counts for rooms, so outside areas don’t follow this mechanic.

The map system is a really great tool to aid you in puzzles. It’s filled with handy notes to quickly find certain locations back when you got the required item. Or it’s a hint on which item you need to find to progress or open that location. So, if you are stuck… Keep an eye on your map. It saved me a handful of times.

Usually, I’m really hesitant when it comes to shooting weapons while playing on a controller. I feel that you can’t aim as well as with a mouse. Of course, there is aim assist but still… Somehow it feels strange in my mind. But, in this game I didn’t have a lot of trouble during combat. I enjoyed the tense moments in combat. The weight of the weapons and trying to find the correct weapon for the situation felt quite rewarding.

While playing this game, I often felt like I was playing the newer Tomb Raider games. The story takes a little backseat in during the campaign but it ramps up near the finale. Also, near the finale it gets more clear that this game is a more cinametic experience then an action adventure game. I have read reviews from other players who call this game a walking simulator. While that’s extremely harsh, some moments do feel like that sadly.

Visually, most of this game looks quite stunning. The enviroment and character models look mighty fine. There were a few textures here and there that felt last gen like dense grass. Granted, I saw that drop in some textures when I disabled HDR in my PlayStation since I think my fan isn’t supporting HDR. But, besides that tall grass texture, this game looks amazing. There are even a lot of throwbacks and easter eggs in the visuals and animations for long time Resident Evil fans to enjoy.

Speaking of animation, the animation in this game gets an A+ from me. The only nitpick I have is that the death animation of some enemies is a bit too long so it gets confusing if you have downed an enemy or if you have killed it. But, apart from that, the animations are so immersive. To that point that I sometimes had a hard time knowing when a cutscene starts or ends. Not only that, sometimes I really felt the punches I threw or the gun being shot.

Survival with a handbrake

The soundtrack in this game is also well crafted. It adds to the creepy and spooky atmosphere of this game. The score for this game feels like a more orchestral version of the Zero Escape soundtrack. When it’s not tense and making you nervous that there is something behind you, the soundtrack is loud and proud. It made me sit on the edge of my seat sometimes.

The only thing I regret is that I didn’t play the whole game with my bluetooth headset on. I only played the finale with my bluetooth headset and let me tell you, it makes the soundtrack that much stronger. It also helps with the sound design. The growls of the enemies are that much creepier when they are creeping up on you.

The controls in this game get a chef’s kiss from me. They all felt really natural and responsive. I only had some occasional janky moments when trying to run and duck underneath something. Since clicking the left stick once is going in or out of a crouch and pressing and holding the left stick is actually running. And in tense moments, the game didn’t always recognise that correctly.

In terms of UI, the only complaint I have is that the map screen and the inventory are two seperate menu’s. This is something that tripped me up multiple times. But, that’s the only complaint I have about the UI. The UI is perfectly designed and everything is easy to find and navigate. So, I was able to tweak the settings in the option menu to my liking. Since, I felt that the sensitivity of the aiming wasn’t fast enough.

The amount of things you can change in the options menu is just perfect. You even unlock some interesting stuff after you have beaten the game once which you can toggle on or off. Something I liked as well, was the fact that you get a warning before you an buy an attachment to a gun you don’t own.

Sadly, there are some glitches in this game as well. Thankfully, I have only experienced a few, but I have seen some strange things online and especially with the speedrun of this game… This game has some crazy out of bounds glitches. I even found one in my playthrough. Thankfully, you have a restart button in the pause menu to go back to your latest save, but the fact that it is there…

Apart from that, I mostly had a glitch free experience. I did have some graphical pop-in in the late game but that might be because after I had beaten the game, I discovered that my HDMI cable was going so that take with a grain of salt.

I do have one nitpick I have to mention as well. I find that the credits’ text didn’t had the best contrast to the background and I was unable to read some names because of that. I usually reference the credits to know if my research is correct.

Now that I have beaten this game, a lot of additional content got unlocked. Currently, I’m playing through the DLC Shadow of Rose. But, I think I’m going to do something unique for this game. I’m going to play through the additional and bonus content and write a follow up review article and tell you if my thoughts and opinions on this game changed. So, if you want to read that, feel free to subscribe to my blog and you’ll get it an e-mail when it’s published. It’s also a good idea to follow me on Twitter to get the latest updates.

So, I have beaten this game in give or take 9 hours. I was able to save quite easily at save spots or rely a bit on the auto save here and there. Now, from what I read, I still have at least three hours of DLC content and some additional game modes to play through. I feel that this game is a bit short and uses it’s idea’s a bit too quickly. Similar games go on for at least 3 – 4 more hours. But, that’s what the additional content will bring. So, if you want to get the most out of this game, I encourage you to buy the DLC as well.

Conclusion

The good:

+ Great visuals

+ Great soundtrack and sound design.

+ Great voice acting

+ An adrenline rollercoaster from start to finish

The bad:

– A bit too easy, no real survival elements in this game.

– Over too fast, some idea’s could have been used more/better.

The final thoughts:

You know what this game feels like in the end? Like you are eating the best french fries you have ever eaten but without any sauce. No ketchup or mayo, just french fries. While you still enjoy these french fries since they are the best you ever had, you still feel that there is something missing.

This game does a lot of things right, but it makes a few mistakes that hurt the game quite a lot. While you can run around in large open area’s, the game is overall quite linear. You go from one large area to another. Combine that with a bit too easy game, you get that your encounters become less scary and your amazingly crafted horror atmosphere looses a lot of its tenseness.

I think that this game shows that there is a great foundation for the future of Resident Evil. A tense story about something that transforms humans in something grotesque and inhumane and about somebody confronting it. But, please, make the game a bit less forgiving and don’t make the next game so linear. I’m not asking for an open world Resident Evil, but I’m asking for the possibility of having more puzzles to work towards at the same time. I feel that Shadow of the Tomb Raider hit a slightly better balance.

Now, is this game a disappointment or is it worth playing? Well, it depends on what you are looking for in a Resident Evil game. If you are looking for a survival horror game, you might enjoy this game if you play it on the highest difficulty… But, I’m afraid that this game isn’t a survival horror game on lower difficulties. If you are looking for a game that’s like the games I mentioned in the introduction of this review… Games like the Indiana Jones games, Tomb Raider or Uncharted but with a more creepy and horror edge to it, then you are in the right spot. Maybe that’s the sauce for those best french fries you have ever eaten… Perhaps Resident Evil is changing its target audience. Or maybe I’m overthinking it and the sauce is something else.

In any case, I still enjoyed my time with this game. I’m planning a second playthrough with the new game plus mode. I’m curious in what I missed. Furthermore, I know that this game has some shortcomings, but honestly, they didn’t bother me. This game was an amazing game to start off my year with, and I’m glad I finished the game. Now, let’s re-install Resident Evil 7 on my desktop and let’s finish up where I left off. Let’s see if Resident Evil 7 is as good as 8, or better or worse…

So, do I recommend this game? Yes, I do. To anyone who is into action adventure games. The production value is through the roof with this game. There are a few things holding it back, but they aren’t so bad in my honest opinion that it hinders the game that much.

Now, I still have to finish the additional (DLC) content of this game. Will this change my opinion on this game? We shall see. I don’t exactly have a time line for when the follow up article is going to be written but it will soon. So, for now I slam this book shut, to be opened in another time.

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

Score: 85/100

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Preview: Conquer Humanity (PC – Steam) ~ Let’s Go Rouge.

Steam page

In this article, I’m taking a look at a game that’s going to release in the first half of 2023. The developer send me a Steam key for the full version that’s still in development. But, if you get interested in playing this game right after this article, there is a demo available on the Steam store page. In this article, you’ll also get my 100% honest opinion on the game. I’ll take a look at what I played and what I think should be in the full version. So, should we conquer humanity, and should we become a super villain like the Steam store page suggests, or should we wait until this is a bit more polished or skip it outright? Well, that’s what I’m trying to discover with you in this article. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on the game and/or the content of this article.

Editoral note: the release of the full version is set in Q1 2023 at the time of writing.

Simulation Devil

In this game, you enter a simulation where you are a super villain with various powers. Your goal is to destroy and kill as much as you can before you are defeated yourself.

You do this in a very large map where people are spawned around you. But, the more destruction you cause, the more police will come after you.

To defeat the game, you’ll have to reach level 30. The more people you kill, the more XP you’ll get. If you get a great kill streak and do it in style you’ll get a better ranking and earn more XP and do more damage that way. Compare the style thing to Devil May Cry in a way.

This game is anything but easy. You really have to manage your powers and movement strategically. Since, the smallest mistakes get brutally punished. You have ten lives and no way to get any back. You are able to heal, but you’ll have to kill for that. So, getting surrounded might be your end.

This game is described as a brutal, fast-paced, isometric bullet hell. And I honestly can’t describe it better. For this review, I have played several rounds and I had a really hard time getting further than level 15. I’m a bit on the fence on the difficulty curve, since I honestly think that with one change… This game can become way more fair.

The big issue with this game is that you are directly thrown into the deep end. You are dropped into the simulation with 6 powers on a cool down and a few other mechanics. You barely have any chance to get used to everything, since after a few kills… The police spawns, and you have to be quick on your feet. Now, you do have the sandbox mode to get used to the game. Yet, here the powers aren’t on cooldown, and you don’t see the blue level up bar or the powers.

I think it would give the game a better flow if the player is nudged first to the sandbox mode where you have to reach something like level 10 using the different mechanics. Since, I felt close to overwhelmed with all the different mechanics and I felt that I first had to figure a lot of things out before I was able to attempt the actual game mode.

I don’t want to sound like “this game is too difficult for me, make it easier…”. I just feel that if you give new players too many mechanics at once without them having a way to learn them or practice them, they aren’t going to have a fun time. And I think if you add a mode or a few optional tutorial stages to get used to the game would be a blessing. And I really mean, optional. So people who want the experience of jumping into the deep end can still do it. But, others who want to know how everything works can ease themselves into the game. Since, if I’m brutally honest, the controls manual is helpful if you know how everything works. It’s too bare bones for newcomers. Like, why not add the icons of the powers in the controls manual?

Did it fail?

This game is difficult, and it’s a game you will have to get gud at. Once you learn the different powers and when to flee, this game is actually quite enjoyable. This game has the “one more attempt” mentality nailed down. After you are defeated, you can get right into the action in seconds and try again.

The game also has a built-in timer, which can open the gates for speed runners and other competitions as well. Maybe it would be fun to have a leaderboard with the fastest times and the longest survival times in the full game.

And maybe like an endless mode that started on easy and at certain level milestones, it goes to a higher difficulty?

Are there other things I would like to see in the future? Of course! First, I’d love to see a way to change the key binds. It’s something I mention quite often in my PC reviews, but I get annoyed when the game forces WASD on you and don’t keep in account that there are a lot of countries which have another keyboard layout. Here in Belgium, we use an AZERTY layout, and that means I have to set my hand in a pretty weird spot to move. Since our “A” is where the “Q” is and our “W” is where the “Z” is. And then the powers having keys close to WASD… I only have two hands and I still have to control the mouse.

Speaking off the mouse, I think a controls flaw is created there. I noticed that I had trouble preforming my push move because that was clicking with your scroll wheel. Which is all good and well, but using your scroll wheel actually zooms in or out. So, if you didn’t click in the chaos of this game, and you actually scrolled, well… Yeah, that’s an attack that didn’t happen. Which is sadly not limited to the push attack. There is another attack that I feel either isn’t as powerful or the visuals don’t communicate it’s power/range enough. When pressing Control, you can do a slam down attack. But, it’s not only unclear how big the radius is… it’s also unclear how strong it is.

In this game, it’s important that the visuals communicate with the player what’s happening. All in all, the visuals feel “last gen” but I honestly don’t mind that. It optimizes the game quite a lot, and you get a stable game to play. Also, it makes it easier to read what’s going on around you and makes it easier to make the right decision. I think it would be handy in the future to have a sort of radar in the right corner. Since, it would be helpful to know where the police and such are if you flew too far away.

Speaking about flying, that’s something I want to address as well. In the small manual, it teaches you that you can start hero mode by pressing “H” when you reached at least the “A” style rank. Yet, when you start the game, you get a free hero mode and only get a “B” rank. Now, it’s unclear that the message of “A” style rank still has to be on the screen or not… But there isn’t a way to know if you can activate hero mode or not.

In addition to that, I think there might be something strange going on with the flying… Since, once you lose your first life, you loose hero mode. And when you press the fly button then, you sprint away. Very slowly, sprint away. Yet, I had trouble starting to sprint several times when I press moving.

It’s early simulation

Reviewing or talking about early access games is quite tricky. Especially when they are still in development. You never know in how much detail you should go since a lot of things can change when you get the final product.

For example, I really like the animation system in this game. It’s goofy and gory, which fits this game like a glove. Especially when you make a great combo attack… The slowdown to show you the result of your attack is eye candy. And sometimes a much-needed small break in all that intense action.

That’s something I sometimes missed in this game. A spot or a moment to get a breather from the action. It’s intense all the way through, and you can’t let your guard down at all, or you are done for. And your ability to earn any of the achievements is done for.

Another example is that sometimes there is no music during gameplay. I had several times when the track just stopped playing and no new music track started. Sadly, it ruins the atmosphere, but I think this is something that will be fine-tuned and patched when the game releases.

Speaking of the music, the music is a nice heavy metal track that plays. I really enjoy it, and I’m curious to hear the full soundtrack once the game goes out of early access. Since, it’s the perfect music genre for this style of game. In terms of sound effects, this game is fine but still has some work. Sometimes you hear “god dammit” and I can’t say if it’s my character getting damage or a human dying.

Something I’m really on the fence about is that this game doesn’t have a save system. So, that means you’ll have to do each run in one sitting. I think that’s a shame since if you are in a good run and something happens like automatic Windows updates restarting your computer out of nowhere… It’s the end of the run. And failed runs don’t count for your “best run” in the main menu.

Finding the right balance between challenge, fun, and options is extremely tricky. I have no clue how to implement a save system during a run of this game. And it might open the door for a lot of other issues.

Just like deciding on the cooldown period of your powers. Personally, I feel that sometimes the cooldown is a bit too brutal. Quite often, I felt that the laser power cooldown was a bit too slow. Maybe I’m using the wrong strategy of running away from the cops and trying to kill the small gatherings of humans I left around the map, but the cops are faster than your laser power can regen.

So, what do I think so far of Conquer Humanity? Well, I think this game has an addictive concept where the fundamentals are here. It has that “one more try” and “one more round” written all over it. But, it still needs some polish with the controls and animations. Its biggest flaw is currently that the game doesn’t really explain all its mechanics enough for players to learn how everything works. So for newcomers to these type of games, it’s not the game to get into the bullet hell genre.

I recommend that you give this game a shot and give your thoughts and/or opinions to the solo developer since I think that this game has a lot of potential to be an amazing small indie title to test your skills at crowd control and bullet hell. I might be brutally hard, but it’s a game that feels rewarding for the small progress you made. I highly recommend this game to everybody who is looking for an action/arcade type game and looking for a great challenge with it. Since, there is a lot of game to learn here and it’s going to beat you, several times.

And that’s everything I wanted to say about this game in this preview. I might take a look at this game once it’s released to see what’s the finished product is. Thank you so much for reading and I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

A list of 10 games I’m looking forward to play in 2023

Let’s continue my yearly tradition with a 2nd top 10 list at this time of year. After my top 10 games of 2022 list, let’s take a look at the games I’m looking forward to playing in 2023. Now, for this list I only focused on games that are releasing in this year. Since, it would be insane if I’m able to predict which retro games I’m going to play this year and I don’t want to force myself to play certain retro games in a year. Also, creating this list is a great way to keep up with more recent releases. In this list, I’m taking a look in no real order at 10 games I’d love to play in this year. And I’m also curious what you all think of my list. Did I miss any games or do you agree with the games on here? Feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and/or opinions.

#10 – The Legend of Zelda – Tears Of The Kingdom (Switch – May 12th)

In last year’s list, I talked about how I’m a big Zelda fan. How I miss the top-down 2D Zelda games, but how Breath of the Wild grew on me.

As expected somewhat, this game didn’t get a 2022 release but is getting a mid 2023 release. In the middle of May, I shall be able to play Tears of the Kingdom on the Nintendo Switch.

I’m trying to avoid reading too many articles about it and ignore all other trailers then the ones I have seen in Nintendo Directs. Since I want to be surprised as much as I can while playing this game.

I’m really curious to see what they are going to do with this title… Will they continue more the trend from Breath of the Wild or if they bring more old school Zelda gameplay back, like longer and more in-depth dungeons? I just hope that there are a lot of new area’s to explore, and this sequel isn’t an “expansion” / “DLC” for the original game.

#9 – Fire Emblem Engage (Switch – January 20th)

Later this month, a new Fire Emblem game is coming out on Nintendo Switch. While I own a handful of Fire Emblem games, I haven’t beaten any Fire Emblem game. Yet, I still have a lot of fun playing these games.

I can’t really explain why, but when I saw the trailer for this game… I got really interested in this title. Because I felt that there are features that are really going to help me. For example, there is a training mode for the characters. So, I can grind up the characters if I can’t pass a difficult battle.

Also, we can create our own battle maps and share them online. This game has a sort of Fire Emblem Maker lite in the game! The trailer and the additional “Welcome to Somniel” video really sold me on the game.

Like Fire Emblem Three Houses, there is more to do outside of battles and that’s something I’m really looking forward too. And who knows, maybe this game will get me interested in playing all those Fire Emblem games in my collection that I still have to finish.

#8 – Spirit Hunter: Death Mark II (Also known as: Shinigami: Shibito Magire) (Multi-platform – Fall 2023)

Five years ago, I gave Death Mark a chance. A horror visual novel where you have to fight spirits to save your own life… Oh, count me in. The game was created by a small Japanese indie team called Experience Inc.

To my surprise, later the next year we got a sequel to that game called Spirit Hunter – NG. Both were amazing games and I replayed them last year to prepare myself for the 3rd upcoming game.

This game started development with a crowdfunding campaign in Japan. And for a long while, it was unsure if this game was going to come to the west. But, thankfully, we got confirmation that this game is coming to the west in the Fall. Most likely, we are going to see the 3rd entry in the Spirit Hunter franchise around Halloween. That’s my guess at least. And you can bet on it that I’m going to review this game on my blog when I have beaten it.

This game is going to play somewhat different compared to the first two games, but I simply can’t wait to experience it. It’s going to be interesting, and I’m so glad to see that this game series is getting the recognition it deserves.

#7 – Tintin Reporter: Cigars of the Pharaoh (Multi-platform – 2023)

For those who don’t know, I live in Belgium. A famous comic book hero from Belgium is also Tintin. In Dutch, we actually call him after his hairstyle. Kuifje is his Dutch name. So, when I learned that there is a game in the works about him, I bookmarked the website for a release date.

This game looks right up my alley. An adventure, puzzle game set in Egypt and various other places that also promises to be faithful to the original material. I simply can’t wait. The only thing I’m a bit disappointed about is that this game isn’t going to be translated into Dutch. But, then again… It’s going to be translated into French, which is the original language of Tintin anyway.

I just hope to see a release date in the near future. Since, I want to play this game and with the release date, I can fit it in my schedule for sure.

#6 – Suikoden 1 & 2 HD Remaster Gate Rune and Dunan Unification Wars (Multi-platform – 2023)

After I played Suikoden Tierkreis on the Nintendo DS, I always wanted to play the other entries in the series. But getting a copy of the games is pretty expensive on eBay for my tastes.

Now, an HD remaster of the first two games is going to be released this year and I can’t wait to give the original two games a try. Are they as good as the DS game or are they going to show their age? In any case, this is a wait and see thing.

Who knows how this remaster is going to turn out. But one thing is for sure, I’m going to give it a shot. Since, two JRPG’s in one package? Count me in!

#5 – Alan Wake II (Multi-platform – 2023)

Is it a surprise that Alan Wake, a series about an author whose horror story comes to life, is a series near and dear to me? As a blogger who enjoys writing stories himself from time to time…

In any case, after 13 years, we are finally seeing a sequel to Alan Wake. Of course, we got American Nightmare, but that game was more of a glorified DLC since it contained idea’s and a story that they wanted to implement in the original game.

There isn’t too much known yet about this game, so I’m afraid that this game might be a 2024 release… But who knows? Maybe this game has been in development longer than we think, and the game is going to be released this year. So, let’s see what Remedy has cooked up since I want to see what happens to Alan next.

#4 – Tales of Symphonia Remastered (Multi-platform – February 17th)

I enjoy watching YouTube quite a lot. I watch quite a lot of content on YouTube. Something I adore watching are gaming channels who have their own gaming review shows like Caddicarus, NitroRad, Austin Eruption amongst various others.

So, I have heard about the Tales series from them quite a lot. One of the games I really wanted to try from that series after playing Tales of Vesperia is Tales of Symphonia. And now I have the chance to play it without having to hunt down a copy.

I’m really curious to see if that this game is going to pull me into the Tales series. Since, after playing Tales of Vesperia… I just might. And maybe, after playing the game, I’m going to hunt down the spin-off sequel to this game on the Nintendo Wii and play through that. Oh dear, it might already be starting. But let’s first wait and see if I enjoy Tales of Symphania enough to want to continue the story since my free time is rather limited, and I don’t want to spend it on games I don’t enjoy.

#3 – Rise of the Triad: Ludicrous Edition (Multi-platform – Early 2023)

If we list all the big influential shooters from the ’90’s, it would be a crime if Rise of the Triad isn’t on there. You have DOOM, Quake and Duke Nukem as other examples of course.

But, early this year we are getting a remastered version of this game with new and restored content. Rise of the Triad is a shooter that’s on my backlog for quite a while and with this remaster I have the best excuse to jump into the game.

It’s coming out SOON(tm), so I know what to do. Refresh the page every so often to see if the “buy now” button is there. I’m so ready to make them EAT LEAD and burry them in my LUNCHBOX.

#2 – Minecraft Legends (Multi-platform – Spring 2023)

This game is being developed by Mojang and BlackBird Interactive. Now, why is this so important to mention? Well, BlackBird Interactive is a studio founded by former Relic Entertainment employees. Also, BlackBird Interactive is well known for their RTS HomeWorld.

So, that means that this game is going to be some sort of Action RTS game set in the Minecraft universe which is going to provide some additional lore to the series.

One of my favorite genres is RTS games. I’m not good at them, but I love playing them. So, I’m quite curious to see how an action RTS game in the Minecraft universe is going to look like. And how it’s going to set itself apart from the other spin-off Minecraft Dungeons.

From what I have seen in the trailers, it also reminds me a bit of the Overlord games. Yes, the one where you have to gather up minions for your tasks. And that makes me simply more excited. Since, I have played through the Overlord games and those had some amazing gameplay. So, in Spring of this year, I’m going to fight the Nether and save the overworld.

#1 – Master Detective Archives: Rain Code (Switch – Spring 2023)

When you watch the trailer of this game, it’s quite obvious that the people from Danganronpa are behind this game. The music, the gameplay… It all feels like a sort of Danganronpa 4. Surprisingly, this game is going to be a Switch exclusive.

I honestly can’t hide my hype for this game. I wouldn’t be surprised that this game is going to turn up as a review on my blog and maybe even in my top 10 games of the year. Yeah, I’m so excited about this game.

It’s even written by the writer of Danganronpa and the music is composed by the same composer. It’s almost like it’s the introduction of the next trilogy by the developers of Danganronpa and I hope it becomes as big as Danganronpa. Since, the idea’s behind shown in the trailer are a naturual evolution of the Danganronpa formula and gameplay.

But, I’m trying to keep my hype in check. So, that I’m not overhyped and that I don’t have unrealistic expectations of this game. Since, it’s a new IP and we have to wait for it to come out first. Let’s not judge this book by it’s cover too fast, while it’s pretty difficult to not do so.

Conclusion

There are a lot of games coming out in 2023, I simply can’t wait to play. I had to honestly stop myself from looking on schedulded games lists because I fear I’ll run my wallet dry.

Games like Octopath Traveler 2, the port of Kirby’s Return to Dream Land, Fatal Frame: Mask of Lunar Eclipse, System Shock remake, Pikmin 4, Slime Rancher 2, The Settlers: New Allies… Man, it’s going to be a great year for gaming. The only big annoying thing is that we don’t have a release date for a lot of them. The list of “To Be Announced” is so long.

Which is a good and bad thing. Since, that means that there is no date set in stone yet and developers can create a polished title instead of rushing it and bringing us a buggy or unfinished mess.

Sadly, 2023 is going to be a busy year for me because a lot of personal things are going to happen. But, I’m totally looking forward to the upcoming year. I have a lot of games to look forward too and I have a lot of games I want to review on my blog. Also, I have a few things planned in terms of live streams with my friends and speedrunning as well. So, if you want to keep up-to-date with me, I highly recommend to follow my Twitter where I post updates when I’m going to publish an article or when I’m taking a break. Or when I just want to share something short with you all.

Anyways, the year has already started and I’m so ready to get into this year. It’s time to play some games from my backlog and start writing on some games. But, I’m going to wrap up this article with my usual outro. 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 welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Game Quicky: Snow Problem (PC – Steam) ~ Sorting The Snow

Steam store page

It’s winter. So, that means that snow is falling. Snow is something you can’t stop and that might cause a problem. But, not in this game. In this game, the concern is that we need a certain amount of colored snow to beat the level before the time limit is up. This game is created by Dave Seaman from whom I reviewed games in the past. He was the developer behind The Rat Pack and Captain Disaster in: Death Has A Million Stomping Boots. Is the 3rd game I’m going to review from him a recommendation or is it one where he swings a miss. Let’s find out together in this Game Quicky article. For full disclosure, the developer provided me with a press key to play this game, but you may rest assured that you’ll get my 100% honest opinion on this game. And as usual, I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on this game and/or the content of this article.

Let’s save the snow

This game is the perfect easy to understand game. This game is perfect for small sessions when you have a bit of time to kill. The levels in this game are short and easy to understand, so it has that one more round mentality.

The controls are extremely easy. You basically only need the mouse to control this game. While there are keyboard shortcuts for the menu, the game is played with the mouse. It’s a little finicky at first to know at what speed you need to draw the lines, since the faster you go… The more holes there are in your line.

The biggest challenge in this game is to know where and how to draw your lines. Since, momentum is still a thing, so you really need to be careful so that you don’t screw yourself over by drawing a bad line. That’s why on the store page the developer recommends playing with a mouse… Since, this game with a trackpad, auwch. I tried it, and it wasn’t so much fun anymore.

To get used to the game, I highly recommend that you put the prep time to the highest setting in the main menu. The game can be pretty challenging and turn into a trail and error puzzle game, but the short prep time is really irritating if you aren’t used to the game. But, if you want more challenge, you can switch the difficulty easily by changing the prep timer.

A lot of the music in this game is famous classical music and, while I would have loved some original pieces by the developer as well, they fit the game perfectly. There are various tracks which play randomly in the background. It’s almost like you have your favorite music app playing a playlist in the background. Maybe it would be fun if the name of the track shows up somewhere and there is a sort of mini-player. But, that’s possibly a bit of a wild idea.

There is also a level editor in this game. So, that means you can share self created levels with other players. There is no Steam Workshop integration, but if that ever comes it would be nuts. But, the level files are small and easy to share… And the developer invites you to share your levels with him and who knows, they might be added as bonus levels in a future update.

Now, if you are unsure about this game… There is even a demo out of this game. So, you can easily try it before you decide to buy this game for the low price of 4€. You can also bring your progress of the demo to the full game which is an amazing feature.

There are also adorable punny Steam achievements in this game. They are extremely easy to get, but the pun filled nature really adds to the charm of this game.

Something I really like is how you don’t need to play all the levels in order. I really dislike the 21st level. I have tried various times to beat it, but I’m unable to. But, since you always have a handful of levels unlocked, you can just skip that level and keep it for later. You also unlock the next levels so, you don’t have to worry that one level will block you from seeing the rest of the game.

But not all is good in this game, sadly, I do have a few things to criticize.

Let the snow melt

There are a few minor issues in this game. First, there isn’t a safe way to alt-tab out of the game. Usually, when you use alt-tab OR the Windows key to go back to the desktop, you can quickly look something up on the internet and return to the game. Not in this game, since when you re-open it… The resolution goes off, and all color is drained. I had this issue on three laptops I tested this game on. So, be careful if you alt-tab.

But, that’s a minor point. Since the levels are rather short and the game opening so fast, it’s easy to recover from that. Something that I do find a bit disappointing is that there is no pause feature during gameplay or a speed-up feature. Several times I was tapping my fingers on my desk because I knew I was going to beat the level, but I had to wait until it had played out.

Something I’d personally change is that the “how to play” is something that appears before you play your first level. While the gameplay is pretty simple, it didn’t click for me right away. It was easy to figure out after a bit of messing around, but I find it strange that this game has a sort of tutorial but hides it in the main menu.

Which brings me to something else, and it’s something I also have a solution for. This game doesn’t have a colorblind mode. And this is a big issue in this game since this game is highly based on color. One solution is to drastically change the colors OR use different shapes somehow. Like squares that aren’t filled or triangles. Or a 3rd solution is that you can see the color of the snowflake when you hover over it… But, that might not be too handy in the short levels. Now that I think about it, I think drastically changing the colors when somebody enables colorblind mode would be the best solution.

A minor thing I’d love to see changed as well is that after the prep timer ran out and the snow starts falling, that timer turns into a timer that shows for how long the snow will fall. While you have a little more time than there is snow falling, it would just be an additional touch on the game.

Something I have to bring up in the negatives is that this game can be repetitive for some people. That’s because this game only has “one” mechanic. You can only draw those brown lines to try to guide the snow to the spot you want too. I have a few ideas for other mechanics like having to draw those colored lines yourself OR having weight switches to open another path. And wouldn’t it be cool if there were levels where you have to avoid ANY snow from reaching the bottom? There is a lot more that can be done with this game and maybe food for thought for a sequel or spin-off? Or maybe DLC?

The final nitpick I have is, that ALT+F4 isn’t working. Only the assigned keys in the menu’s are working and that can throw you off when you forget about that. I got used to it, but it was a bit annoying sometimes when I accidentally alt-tab’ed out of the game to write this article and I had to force shutdown the game via task manager.

The final suggestion I’d give is that in the main menu… It would be amazing to see a small level preview pop-up when you hover over the level. It would be handy if you want to let your friends try a level without you having to click through all the levels you think that it is.

And with that said, I think it’s high time I wrap up this article. So, in conclusion…

But, what’s the snow quality

Overall, this is a very charming and relaxing game. While it has some rough edges, I think it’s honestly worth it’s €4 price tag. This game is the perfect time waster to waste a few minutes. It can be addictive as well. The game is easy to understand, and it has that “one more try” and “one more level” atmosphere to it.

There are a lot more things that can be done with this game, like more mechanics to spice up the puzzles but like I said in the article. But, the basis of an amazing charming little puzzle game is here. I’d recommend it to everybody who enjoys puzzle and/or casual games. Since, this might be right up your alley. It’s also perfect for to get into gaming in the first place.

I think this will be a game I’ll boot up once in a while to beat a few levels and move on. Especially, when my other games are downloading updates for example. Or I’d boot it up when I want to wind down. Since, I felt very relaxed while playing this game.

Snow Problem is another game by Dave Seaman with a lot of charm I had a blast playing. I’m really glad that the developer asked me to play this game since otherwise I might have just written it off as a silly little game, but under the hood you have a nice relaxing puzzle game.

And that’s everything I wanted to say about this game. I want to thank you so much for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it. 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: 7,5/10

The Top 10 Games NekoJonez played in 2022.

It’s that time of year once again. The year is coming to a close, and it’s time to look back at what I played in 2022. This year has been an extremely busy year for me and that’s why I didn’t write as many articles this year as I usually do. Also, I started spring-cleaning on my blog and working on things behind the scenes to make my blog even better. Besides playing “new” games, I have been focusing as well on finishing unfinished games and also improving my speedrunning records. Anyway, before I forget to mention this… My top 10 games of the year list is special. In this list I talk about the games I enjoyed playing through the year, and it doesn’t matter if they were released this year or earlier. The only thing that matter is that I started playing it this year for this first time. Otherwise, it doesn’t count. That way I’m sure I can talk about ten new games every time at the end of the year. It’s both to challenge myself and to make the article more interesting for you to read since you never know which games will appear on here. So, what’s your top 10, and what do you think of my list? Feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions. And yes, this is my personal list, so yours’ll be different.

#10 – Wolfenstein – A New Order (PC ~ Steam) (May 2014)

Sometimes, all that I need is a good shooter that’s just fun to play. The new Wolfenstein games were on my backlog for so long and this year I decided to give it a go. And I’m so glad I did. The new Wolfenstein games are amazing to play and are what I’m looking for in a shooter.

While a military shooter like a Call of Duty can be a lot of fun as well… I do like games like Wolfenstein or Outlaws, where the gameplay is more than shooting alone. I love exploring the environment and solving puzzles. And that’s something I sometimes miss in more modern shooter games. It’s almost always going from one shooting room to the next.

Something I adore in this game as well is the “what if” scenario and how the game embraces its weirdness without a second thought. I mean, the machines and everything that the Nazi’s are using in this game are just silly.

It’s a game that gave me a breath of fresh air and showed me again that I don’t need to play the newest and latest games to enjoy myself. Even a game I skipped 8 years ago can be a lot of fun to blast through then a game released a week ago. Now, I still have to finish the game… Maybe another round after writing this article won’t hurt?

#9 – Powerslave Exhumed (PC ~ Steam) (February 2022)

A second shooter on my top ten games of the year list? Well, yes, my friend. And in this shooter, we visit Ancient Egypt to fight our way to victory. And on top of that, it also has great puzzles and is just a real blast to play.

Lately, I don’t always have the time to find the right retro game for me, so when a remake/remaster or a modern port gets released… Yeah, I have the perfect excuse to play “retro” games. One thing I really like in this game is the fact that in terms of health and ammo, there are only two pick-ups. One for your health, and one for your ammo. But, not all guns drain the same ammo pool. So, when picking up ammo, you have to be careful to have the right gun equipped.

This game is an amazing balancing act between an old school 3D shooter, puzzle game and strategy game. The Egyptian setting is more than just set dressing. You really go through old temples of gods and pharaohs like it’s almost real. I always get the feeling that I’m Indiana Jones running around in these tombs trying to find the next artifact to progress in the story.

The only thing I dislike about this game is that when you put it down for a while, it’s a bit unclear what the next level is. Thankfully, you can get a hint when you go through the intro level again… But, this could have been handled a bit better. But, overall, that’s a nitpick about an amazing game I can’t wait to find more time for. So, I can finish it and put it out of my backlog and finally give it a full review on my blog.

#8 – Gas Station Simulator (PC ~ Steam) (September 2021)

My review

So, if you had told me a few years ago that a simulation game about gas stations was going to be in my top ten games of the year list… I mostly likely declare you crazy.

Yet, here we are. Gas Station Simulator gets the number 8 spot in my 2022 list. Simply because it was the perfect wind down game for me.

While I wrote my review, the big performance enhancing patch hadn’t dropped. But, now that it did, and some additional features were added, the game is even more fun. I’m oh so curious what the developers have in store for the next patches and DLC, but that’s something that we shall see next year. I’m mostly curious on how they are going to combine the other games they have announced to work together. Games working together is something I have only seen in The Legend of Zelda – Oracle of Ages & Oracle of Seasons and I found it really underused back then. Now, I hope they didn’t bite off more than they can chew… But, that’s something we’ll find out when it’s released, most likely. But for now, I have seen the first great stepping stones for an amazing tycoon universe. Here is to hope they don’t overcomplicate it!

I also wrote a review about it, so if you want my opinion… Feel free to check out my review. But know that it was written before the big preformance patches.

#7 – The Last of Us Remastered (PS4) (July 2014)

I’m such a big fan of the Tomb Raider & Indiana Jones games… I just love a big adventure game where you go from place to place, to find an ancient artifact. Now, we have confirmation that a new Tomb Raider game AND a new Indiana Jones game is in the works. But when will they release? We don’t really know yet. We don’t even know on which platform(s) they will release.

Now, with that kind of intro… You’d expect an Uncharted game to fill this spot. But, no. It’s another amazing series from the same developers. The Last of Us surprised me in many ways. It scratched that itch of exploring a world, trying to survive and find a way forward.

While I’m not too big on zombie or infection stories, I’m so happy that this game doesn’t focus too much on your cliché things that those stories usually focus on. Expect, you get a game about a bond between two people in an apocalyptic world.

Currently, I’m quite close to the end of the game. There is this one section I can’t get passed, but one of these days I’ll. And then, I can start working on the review for this game. But, the fact that I’m almost done with the first game makes me a bit sad since it’s such a nice experience to go through. But, I think I’m going to save my full opinion on this game for when I eventually review this game.

#6 – Coromon (Switch) (March 2022)

My article

I totally understand that 2D Pokémon games are something from the past. But, I still miss them. So, when I started playing Coromon… I got such a nostalgic wave over me.

Finally, I was able to play a totally new Pokémon-ish adventure in the style of my childhood with more modern things.

On top of that, I was blown away by the unique mechanics in this game. Also, the unique puzzles and style of this game made me appreciate this game even more.

I really think that this is one of the better indie games I have played all year, and I can’t wait to see what the developer of this game does next. But, maybe I should take a look at Coromon in a few months, since in various articles the developers said there might be new content added via patches. So yeah, if you want to know what I think about this game… I have written a nice review of the game and I highly recommend you check it out.

#5 – Silent Hill 3 (PS2) (May 2003)

In February, I’m turning 30 years old. And in the past years, a lot of people recommended the Silent Hill franchise to me. Currently, I only own the first 4 Silent Hill games and Homecoming. In 2018, I gave Silent Hill 4 a chance. Yet, it was so close to getting a spot in my top ten games of the year list.

Now, I do enjoy playing horror games once in a while and while I have been more “distracted” by games like Fatal Frame and Resident Evil, this year I finally gave Silent Hill 3 a chance. And man, I’m so glad I did.

Silent Hill 3 is one of those games that is exactly what I’m looking for lately. A horror game that’s less focused on combat but more on puzzles and world building. Something I really love is how there are different difficulty modes for the actual game and the riddles in some Silent Hill games and this is one of them. So, you can tune the game to how you want. Do you want to a more combat-focused run or a brain teaser… Or both? That’s totally up to the player. And best of all, these difficulties don’t gatekeep endings.

Anyways, I still have a lot to play and go through before I can even write a first impression of this game. But, I’m so glad that I’m giving this game a chance. I can’t wait to see how this game is going to impress me next or what twists and turns it will take. And because of that, it gets a well-deserved fifth place on my top ten games of 2022 list.

#4 – AI – The Somnium Files: Nirvana Initiative (Switch) (June 2022)

My review

Kotaro Uchikoshi is one of my favorite game directors. He is one of the minds behind the Zero Escape series. A series I love and still quote to this day.

After the Zero Escape trilogy, Kotaro started work on his next big project which is the AI: The Somnium Files series. And this year, we got the 2nd game in the series, the Nirvana Iniative.

While this game isn’t as strong as the original game, it’s still an amazing game. I felt that this sequel played it a bit too safe in certain areas. But, maybe I’m judging it too harshly because I loved the first game so much. Like how fans of the game always expect something bigger and better then the first game for a sequel but are then angry if it’s too different or not different enough.

Something that did this game also no real favors is that the first game’s story had no real loose ends. So, what could a sequel build on apart from throwing in a lot of new characters? Surprisingly, this game also re-uses some of the background characters of the first game and gives them more depth.

I might expected a bit more for this sequel, but it’s an excellent game in its own right. It also has a built-in spoiler filter to avoid players who start with this game, to not spoil the original game. So, that’s something I love to see in these kinds of games. Especially since there isn’t anything in title to indicate that this game is a sequel.

#3 – Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony (Switch) (December 2021)

I remember that at the end of 2015, I started the Bioshock trilogy. And then, in 2016, I played Bioshock Infinite. And the final part of that trilogy was such an amazing part of the trilogy, it even scored a spot as my most favorite game of that year.

Late 2021, I started playing the Danganronpa games. Last year, the original Danganronpa scored game of the year for me. And this year, I played two Danganronpa games. I have only played the start of Another Episode, but I have finished the amazing 3rd entry in the series in January.

Apart from some major slowdown issues in some parts, this game is fantastic. Explaining why would ruin so much of the story. Let me just say, it’s a worthy ending of an amazing series that I didn’t want to end just like the Zero Escape series.

So, thank you Kazutaka Kodaka and your team for creating this amazing franchise and porting it over to the Nintendo Switch. I heard so much about it and always wanted to try the whole series and now that I finished the original trilogy, I have to say that if you enjoy the Zero Escape series, these games are a must play. Now, to finish the two spin off games and I’m … finished … with the series. Wait.

#2 – Persona 5 Royal (PS4) (October 2019)

This year, I tracked down a PSVita and a PS4 Pro. Mostly, because there were various exclusive titles for those systems I wanted to try and play. One of those was Persona 5 Royal. So, I buy a second hand PS4 Pro just before the summer and I buy myself a copy of Persona 5 Royal… Not knowing that in a port of Persona 5 Royal released in October of this year. But, that’s totally beside the point. It’s easy to judge ourselves in the future for actions in the past.

I expected to enjoy Persona 5, since I already bonded with the characters in Persona 5 Strikers last year. But something that I didn’t expect is how Persona 5 made me fall in love with the Persona and Shin Megami Tensei series. After beating Persona 5 and close to beating the extra chapter, I went onto a spree playing various other Persona and Shin Megami Tensei games in my collection.

But, Persona 5 really clicked with me. This game was my summer jam. While I bought a whole load of other games that summer for my PS4, I always went back to Persona 5. I don’t want to know how many hours I already spent in my two playthroughs of the game. Especially, since this game is over 100 hours long.

Yeah, not joking about that. This game is anything but short. You’ll get your money worth out of it and then some. I especially love going through the game after I have beaten the story to try and unlock even more and see everything. Since, it’s close to impossible to see everything on your first playthrough unless you have a great guide and you aren’t playing this game casually.

The big issue is that I’m still looking for an angle to review this game. But, I have a feeling that in 2023… A Persona 5 Royal review will appear on my blog, where I can take you more in depth on my thoughts and opinions on this gem of a game. Since, I highly recommend this game to everybody who enjoy JRPG games. This should be a must play.

Honorable mentions

It would be weird if I only played ten new games this year or if all the other new games I played this year weren’t in the running for this list. So, here are the honorable mentions that didn’t make the cut this year. All of them are amazing games, but for one reason or another… They didn’t make the cut for this list. Also, if a game I played and isn’t on these honorable mentions list, it’s by no means a bad game. I have to limit it somewhere.

Shin Megami Tensei V (Switch), Soul Hackers 2 (PS4), Pokémon Scarlet & Violet (Switch), Pokémon Arcues (Switch), Danganronpa – Another Episode (PC ~ Steam), House Flipper (PC ~ Steam), Sherlock Holmes – Crimes & Punishments (XBOX360), YuruKill (PS4), Turok (PC ~ Steam), Stanley Parable Ultra Deluxe (Switch), Evil Within (XBOX360), Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux (3DS), Mary Skelter: Nightmares (PSVita), Uncharted – The Lost Legacy (PSVita), Kirby and the Forgotten Lands (Switch)

#1 – Desperados III (PC ~ Steam) (June 2020)

My review

When I finished this game, I was left in awe. Desperados was one of my favorite childhood games but I found it a bit too difficult sometimes.

While Desperados III had some moments where I almost pulled my hair out, I kept sticking with it. The quick save and load feature of this game is a godsend. While, this feature was in the previous games as well, I felt that the implementation in this game is just perfect.

Also, the unique mechanics in this 3rd gem of a game are fantastic. No more endless bullets to corridor shoot down the enemies. You have to be wise and use all items and mechanics at your disposal. Something that’s tested more in depth in the additional challenges you can do.

I can talk for quite a while about this game. While writing my article about this game, I had a real hard time coming up with negatives for the game. Apart from some big difficulty spikes, this game made me want to play even more Desperados. I’m so planning to replay this game next year to try and improve my score and try to do some of the harder achievements.

Also, I still have the original games to play through. I find them too difficult as a kid and maybe with my current skillset these games might be a bit easier and maybe I’m able to finish them. In any case, Desperados III is an amazing game that I kept playing on and off this past year and a game I didn’t want to beat. Since, I knew that I wanted to keep playing it and discover new maps, new content and new things. But everything must have an end, even this year. And I’m glad that Desperados III, the gem of a game, was in my 2022.

Conclusion

2022 is a beast of a year for me. To be brutally honest, I’m so happy that the year is almost over. The amount of things that were packed into this year were simply a bit nuts. A lot of amazing things happened like me getting a fixed contract for my current job which is my dream job…

But, a lot of other things happened in my private life as well. Sometimes I really had to do a balancing act to stay on top of things. Sometimes I wasn’t even able to write for my blog or do other things. But hey, a lot of things are coming to their conclusion and 2023 has a lot of amazing things to look forward too.

But something that’s surprising to me is that, even with the drastic drop in amount of articles this year, I still grew a slight bit in 2022. Yes, the amount of views/visitors in 2021 was 7,3K and now I’m getting close to 9,5K. After so many years in the blogging world, I still enjoy being a part of it and with the plans I have for the upcoming year, I can’t wait.

I just hope that next year, I have more time for writing and my blog since I really missed that this year as my creative outlet. If you want to stay on top of things, I recommend that you follow me on my Twitter. I post the latest updates on there and I also post on there if I’m doing something else like spending time on my speedruns of Indiana Jones, streaming with friends or other things like that.

Besides all that, I still saw a lot of amazing games this year and as usual… It was far from easy to put this list for me together. I have moved games so much around and there are a lot of amazing titles that aren’t on this list. For some strange reason, I’m always afraid that I’m replaying too many games instead of playing new games and that the list is way too small. But, I’m always surprised at the amount of games that are on my list each and every year.

I’m quite curious to see what you all think about my list. And with this being one of the final articles for this year, I want to wish you all an amazing new year and with that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this year 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/year and take care.

First Impression: We Who Are About To Die (PC – Steam) ~ It’s But A Flesh Wound.

Steam store pageOfficial website

Usually, I try to avoid writing about early access games. Especially when they are still in development. Because, you never know if my article and review is still going to be relevant down the line. But, this time I’m making an exception. A while ago, I got a press key for ‘We who are about to die’ from the solo developer of this game. The solo developer is actually a fellow Belgian and created this project out of passion. So, as a Belgian hobbyist blogger I feel I have to write an article about his game. Although, I got a press key to review this game you don’t have to worry. When I go into the arena to battle this game, you as the crowd will get my 100% honest opinion on this game. Now that the countdown is starting, and I’m readying myself to enter the arena… I hope you as the audience for this article tell your opinion/thoughts on this game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below. So, let’s go and start the match!

Editorial note: the review version of this game is the first publically released version after the beta versions of this game. (Early Access v0.1)

A story discussion

In this game you play as a starting Roman gladiator who is trying to raise through the ranks. In general, there isn’t really a story in this game. This game more focuses on the gameplay and it’s mechanics. Depending on what you enjoy in games, this can be a positive or a negative. Personally, I’d have like a bit more world building with a small intro or something. There are several mechanics like the four hosts who remain a bit “faceless” because they don’t have a backstory at all in the game. Now, the backstory of your own fighter is created on your battles. That works a bit like Rogue Legacy, where you can create bonus traits on your previous runs.

At the other hand, I can understand that there is no real story in this game since now the game is more open and anything can happen. We can create the story and lore ourselves, which gives the game a more sandbox-y feel. This can help with immersion into the game. Now, because certain mechanics in this game… I think it would be hard to create a story of any kind for this game and the characters.

Maybe the only thing that I’d love to see in the future in the game is a bit more historical backstory in the game. What I mean by that is that, this game uses the terms like Aspirant. But, what is an aspirant? Some history lessons would be a nice touch to this game.

So, what do you actually do in this game? The idea of this game is that you play through various battles to build up your fame and budget. With the fame and budget you can acquire various things like new gear or bonus buffs. But, a stronger character doesn’t mean a guaranteed victory. In one of my runs, I did a 5 vs 1 match and my team of 5 was beaten by that one dude since he used a strong morning star that was tricky to block.

This game is somewhat unpredictable, because there is a lot of randomness involved, you have to decide if using your hard-earned cash and fame is worth it to heal or get better gear or better save it for another roll. But do you risk waiting? Since, you might not survive the next battle and the money passed on to your next character is only a fraction of it.

Let’s please the crowd

Trying to describe the genre of this game is one of the harder things to do. Part of the core gameplay is a fighting game. In the arena, you have to fight and win the battle. Depending on your performance, you may have multipliers for your gold and fame. But, if you please the crowd by making nice hits and not hitting your teammates, the crowd throws additional weapons and gear that might win you the match. I’ll talk more about the fighting mechanics later in the article.

This game is also a strategy RPG. Since, you have to strategically uses your resources to improve the gear and stats of your character. Also, the more you use a certain weapon, the more damage you do with it. So, you have to take that into account since you won’t be using the same weapon and gear throughout your run. Using your gear efficiently is key to survival in this game. I lost one run because I forgot to repair my shield and I got cornered with my enemies, and I was unable to get a shield that the crowd threw onto the battlefield.

Earlier in this article, I already talked about the randomness in this game. So, this game is also part roguelike. Due to the rougelike elements in this game… the game becomes a huge balancing act. This game isn’t the easiest out there, but it’s forgiving in a way. It’s easy to get back into the action with a new character and to build him up. But, since the new character has different stats and perks, the gameplay is new and fresh.

If I had to place this game in a certain genre, I’d say that it’s a sort of action simulation game about gladiatorial combat. Since trying to put it in a better category would be a nightmare.

Now, let’s circle back to the combat system. This combat system isn’t your typical combat system. The best way to explain part of the combat system is the following: image that the main controls of the fighting system is the Wii remote. This game doesn’t have mention controls but the idea behind it isn’t too far off. To swing your weapon, you have to left-click and swipe your mouse into the direction you want to hit. The strength of your swipe also influences the strength of the attack. Also, when you right-click to defend, the location of your shield or weapon depends on how you swing your mouse.

There are a lot of different layers to the movement and combat that make the combat feel janky and unpolished, but it’s the entire idea behind this game. Since, you can interrupt and attack and decide to throw your weapon or shield to the enemy instead. The combat system might need some more iterations for it to feel perfect, but it’s a unique system. It may put some people off playing this game, but I find that it adds to the charm of this game. Since now the game is a bit more newcomer friendly towards people who don’t play a lot of fighting games. You don’t have to remember a lot of combos for strong attacks, you need to learn how these directional attacks work and how to use them in your favor.

This brings me onto the point of the controls of this game. The starting tutorial explains the mechanics you can use in this game quite well. The only tutorial that can use some better wording is the tutorial on how throwing weapons work. It took me a while before I was able to get throwing weapons to work consistently. Now, it’s a bit funny how the wording in the Aspirant Trainer is better than the actual tutorial. This Aspirant Trainer is a great way to quickly check your abilities in the pause menu, when you are unsure how a certain mechanic works. A very minor UI complaint is that when you click the “?” mark outside of battle, is that clicking on it again doesn’t close the explainations. You have to “approve” it on an empty part of the screen.

A great piece of advice, stay in the tutorial area as long as you need to. Get used to all the mechanics and little quirks of this game, since unless you reset your whole character and everything, you are unable to return there. And trying to learn the mechanics on the battlefield is anything but a good idea.

The current gameplay loop is as follows. You start first on the battle preparation screen where you can decide to heal, get new armor, bribe enemies… Here you make the most difficult choices since a few bad mistakes might cost you your character. When you are finished preparing your character, you choose a battle to praticipate in and fight. This can be a 1vs1, 1 vs many and many vs many.

Overall, fights are short. Most fights are done in 5 to 7 minutes. Currently, there are only 12 out of the 14 planned arena’s in the game but every arena feels unique and has it’s own additional challenges and quirks. Like one has wooden panels you can hide behind and another has a central elevated stage. Depending on your preformance in that battle, you get fame and coins for winning the battle. Loosing the battle, will mean you have to start over with a new character but you can pass a few things on, especially money.

Your goal is to buy your freedom from being an aspirant. Basically, an aspirant is a prisonner in acient Rome that’s fighting for his freedom. These goals is extremely steep and aren’t easy to achieve. Don’t expect to get it with the first few characters unless you are very good in these type of games. The difficulty in this game is a bit unforgiving. But, it has that “just one more run” mentality written over it. That “I’m going to get it this time” phrase is one I said often. And then, I’m out of glory to re-roll the fights I can enter and I get fights I know I can’t win… And then I win one by the skin of my teeth.

I’m quite curious what the other gameplay types and modes are going to be. Those who you can see on the roadmap of this game.

This game is the excellent game for one or two quick rounds and can is even fun for longer play sessions. The balance of between being not repetitive and repetitive is small but currently the game is balacing on it just fine. Especially, since you have to fight with different weapons and a unique battle system that is so much fun once it clicks.

For seven years?!

This game has been under development for seven years. Most of it is done by Jordy Lakiere, and it’s really impressive. For example, the amount of detail in the visuals is mind-blowing. The game looks wonderful and runs extremely well. In the options’ menu, you can set your max frame rate to 60FPS or 120FPS, and let me tell you that this game runs extremely smooth. My gaming desktop is getting rather old, but I didn’t have any big frame drops or lag in this game.

The effects and animations used in this game are also superb. There are a lot of weapons & shield combinations, and they all have unique animations. Something I really like is how the game slows down when you are going to make a strong hit or about to kill an enemy. Sometimes the blood animations might be a bit overboard, but then again… It feels quite rewarding when you kill that one annoying enemy with that big shield that’s blocking all your attacks since the start of the match.

The only minor complaint I have about the visual presentation is that in team battles, it’s a bit unclear sometimes who is on your team and who isn’t. This issue is mostly present in nighttime arenas where visibility is lower or when the other fighters aren’t wearing a lot of armor. Due to your teammates following you, I sometimes mistook my allies for enemies. And that negatively impacts your rewards. But on the other hand, it can be a balancing thing.

In terms of audiovisual presentation, the game is also pretty good. The music is a joy to listen too but the sound effects and sound design really adds to the atmosphere. There are a few things I’d improve on. First, I’d change the sound effect when you don’t have enough gold to purchase an item to a more “error-y” sound effect. It’s a bit “basic” and didn’t communicate the message always. Maybe add a little visual animation as well instead of only a message in the left corner.

Secondly, I think the sound effects of the weapons breaking and/or throwing should be polished up. Quite often when I was playing a character with a spear, I didn’t realize I have thrown my weapon. I feel that those sound effects get a bit too lost into the gameplay and doesn’t communicate with the player enough when you are unarmed.

And finally, I feel like the pause menu should have music as well. Since, it’s quiet, and I find that a bit boring. It could also be a great sound test when you are in the options’ menu.

Something I really like is how this game has an in-game menu to report bugs. It’s easy to use and helps the developer to quickly gather bug reports and things that the players don’t like.

Speaking of which, here are a few things I’d change and/or improve:

  • You can only see the week you are on, on the battle select screen. Why not show it over the whole screen?
  • The music doesn’t “follow up” with each other. Sometimes there is a silence gap when one track fades out and another one fades in.
  • What is “mouse X” and “mouse Y” in the keybind menu? Is that moving up and down / moving left & right? And how would you rebind that?
  • Make it easier to compare stats of armor. Since, sometimes I had to write things down or take a quick screenshot.
  • Buying an item is only possibly when you click on the icon. It also only shows the stats when you hover over it. Why not the whole box?
  • Why not have items of different status like Legendary have a special color around the icon box? It’d be easy to swap things around from your storage to your character.
  • During the game, I’d change the option in the pause menu of “Save & Quit” to “Save & Quit to main menu”. Since, that’s what happens. You don’t quit the game.

Most of those are polishing suggestions. Now, the roadmap promises more gamemodes and more things that can happen… which is all fine and amazing to look forward too. But I hope to developer doesn’t forget that sometimes it’s not about the amount of content but about the quality of the content. That’s what I sometimes forget when writing as well. I sometimes forget to make sure I still enjoy writing and write good and informative articles instead of trying to push out one a week to have more articles.

Overall, I really enjoyed my time while playing this game. I took me a battle or two to “get used” to the game but then the game hooked me. If you enjoy action simulation games or just want to try something different… This game is excellent. The game is also still in development, so more content is going to come in the future. The game is also fairly priced at 22€ here in Belgium and with the amount of polish and content there is already here, it’s a steal. The developer is also very open in his communication. I mean, look at this massive thread about the received feedback and what he is going to do with it moving forward. So, the fact he is talking about addressing a lot of the current feedback in the first patch(es), is amazing.

I think I may revisit this game on my blog after a while, when there are more patches out to see how the game evolved. Since, this is a game to keep your eye on. I’m so glad that Jordy reached out to me to try his game since it’s a real indie gem and I can’t wait to see what he is going to do next with it.

And with that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game for now. This amazing gem of a passion project game that’s worth your time if you enjoy action fighting games with unique mechanics. 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: In Retrospect (PC – Steam) ~ Automatic Mario

Steam store page

What if, in retrospect, Mario was supposed to be moving on his own? Well, that’s a perfect line to open this article about “In Retrospect”, a runner game developed by Paper Salamander about reflecting on the past. The developer send me a press code for this review, but don’t worry, you’ll get my unfiltered 100% honest opinion on this game. Also, this review is going to be rather short to avoid spoilers, especially because the game is roughly 2 hours long. But, is it worth your time, or should you skip this game outright? Well, let’s find out in this game quicky review while I invite you to leave a comment with your thoughts/opinions on this game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

The good memories

It’s kind of difficult to talk about the story of this game. Especially since this game is a sort of “choose your own adventure” style of game. This game is a sort of self reflection game, without it being a forced self reflection game. The way how the story is handled in this game is wonderful.

The way how certain game mechanics like resetting a level is implemented into the story, it’s charming. As charming as the visuals. The pixel art is extremely well done and makes the game burst with personality.

This game is also excellent at teaching the ropes. Most new mechanics are taught in a sort of safe tutorial level just before the actual level. And, you can skip this tutorial level when you are playing through this game for a second time on another difficulty level.

Usually, I’m not too fond of runner games since I don’t have the best of reflexes when it comes to timing things with the music. Yet, I didn’t find this game too difficult. It was easily to learn the basics of this game and play through it. I played a bit on casual and normal and the balance in this game is really well done.

Besides the story, there are also challenges you can partake in. These are small bonus levels with a special gimmick. You have to reach the highest scores to get on the global leaderboards. Personally, this isn’t really my cup of tea, but it’s an extremely nice addition to the game and I find that it works really well.

The music for this game is pretty good. The tracks are right up my alley, and they really fit the atmosphere of this game like a glove. If the developer ever offers the soundtrack of this game as DLC, I’d buy it right away. Since I want to add the soundtrack to several of my playlists.

The gameplay of this game is really simple but fun. This game is an autorunner, which means your main concern is dodging the enemies and obstacles. During the level, you can pick up items. These items can restore your health. Depending on your answers to the questions you get in between the levels, one pick-up might be more beneficial than the others.

Also, the mechanics slightly change depending on the path you choose. But, if this sounds interesting, I’m going to leave that as a surprise for you to find out! I’m leaving out some mechanics of course, but each level has its own special gimmick or “thing” and I love it. It works wonders in such a short game and really feels like the developer placed a lot of passion in the level design.

The bad memories

There are some things I don’t think work that well. The first thing I want to talk about are the default controls. Overall, the controls are quite responsive, but I think the hover mechanic could have been implemented differently. Quite often I forgot that this game was an automatic runner and I had my hand on the right arrow. Now, when you jump and hold right arrow, you hover in place. This is something that frustrated me during my playthrough.

So, I had to get use to only press the space bar for jumping since this game is an autorunner. But, why is it then that in the options’ menu under controls we have a listing for “directional – arrow keys”. You can’t turn back in this game and only the right arrow is used for hovering. And the up arrow to activate switches, or down arrow when you are running on the ceiling. Which is never really explained in a tutorial in the version I played. But the fact that the down arrow is used for ground pounding is explained in a tutorial level.

Also, you can only choose between WASD & the arrow keys for this movement. This personally bums me out for two reasons. As an AZERTY user, I find it strange that ZQSD isn’t recognized by this game. Also, it would make more sense in my opinion if you were able to find the mechanics to your own keys, so the controls are easier to learn and master for everybody.

A minor complaint I have about the game is that the time you have to reply to questions is just a bit too fast. I barely have any time to read the four answers before I have to decide. On top of that, it’s not always too clear on what the question is. Personally, I think this could have been polished up a bit more.

A second minor complaint I have is that you don’t get a level select after beating the story. It would have been quite fun to be able to play a level with the gimmicks you enjoyed after finishing the story.

Overall, I barely found any bugs in this game… Apart from one. The achievement system is somewhat broken in the version I played. In v1.0.2, the achievements only show up after I have closed the game. You get a small text box instead of the actual achievement pop-up that Steam games usually gives. But, this might be my third minor complaint too… The reason I mention it here is that the amount of pop-ups is a bit ridiculous after you close the game since there are close to 100 achievements in this game.

The truth

Now, is this game worth your 4 bucks? In my honest opinion, if you enjoy casual runner games, yes. This game might be rather short, but it has some unique mechanics that make each level fresh and enjoyable to play.

The biggest issue in this game is with the arrow (or WASD) controls and not being able to rebind them to the keys you want. Apart from that, my complaints about this game are rather minor.

This game is perfect if you have to spend an afternoon, and you are waiting for a big game to download. It doesn’t overstay it’s welcome or get repetitive. This game is walking the fine line of too short and too long and I find it’s balancing perfectly.

Now that my article is writing, I think I’m going for another run since I want to finish the challenges and finally unlock the final challenge. If you are interested in autorunners or casual games, I think this game might be right up your alley. I’m glad that I was able to play this game and that the developer reached out to me. This game gets a personal recommendation from me.

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

Score: 80/100

Game Quicky: Stygian (PC – Itch.IO) ~ Short Spooks

Itch.io page

It’s that time of year again. It’s time for some spooky scary skeletons. Well, it’s time for some horror. This year, a small developer sends me a mail inviting me to look at Stygian. It’s a short horror game just in time for the spooky season. Today, I’m going to take a look at it and talk about my own opinions on it. It’s free on Itch.io, but the developer accepts donations if you want to see more from them. In any case, in this review I’m taking a look at v1.01. I also have to give a content warning. Since this is a horror game, there will be some scenes that can trigger certain people especially when you aren’t good with anything related to gore and/or death. So, with that said, let’s dive right into this game quicky and let’s see what this game has to offer. But, one thing before that. I want to invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts/opinions on this game and/or the content of this article.

Editorial note: this is a rather short game, so I only took screenshots of the first few minutes.

The good

This game takes place in the late 1980s in England. A friend group of girls is doing a creepy sleepover at an abounded church. You play as Katherine, a young girl who arrives a bit late from work but is right in time to hear the creepy backstory. But, when Katherine goes back to her bike to pick up her sleeping bag and enters the church again… Things go horribly wrong.

The voice acting in this game is rather charming. The line delivery is a bit off from time to time but overall, solid performance of the voice actors.

Since this game is rather short by design, I’m not going to go more in depth about the story. Otherwise, I might spoil the experience and the story is best experienced as blind as possible.

Overall, the camera system works pretty well. I adore the Resident Evil – early Fatal Frame static camera shots at weird angles. It really takes you back to the early style of gameplay on the PlayStation and early PS2. Sadly, there are a few instances where the camera angles are a bit janky. For example, in one room you can walk through a door with some draped cloth over it. But, the camera switches a bit too soon, making it a pain when you missed entering the door and trying to get out of the corner, so you can attempt back going into the door. Thankfully, these issues happen far and few between.

Now, this game is a complete throwback since this game also sports some early PS1 3D visuals. This visual style can be a turn off for some people but not for me. I adore the visual style of this game. It fits the story and atmosphere like a glove in my eyes. There are a few minor things I’d have tweaked like making it a bit more clear who is talking, but more on that later.

And the throwback continues with the controls. Do we get tank controls? Yes sir, we do! And I love it. It takes me back when I was playing games like Silent Hill, Fatal Frame and Resident Evil on my PlayStation 1 & 2. Now, sadly this game doesn’t know that other keyboard lay-outs like AZERTY exist… or do they? Since the arrow keys also move. I quickly got used to the controls, and I was able to explore this game pretty fast.

Running around in this creepy church, reading various clues and discovering what really happened is a blast. The game gives you small sparkling hints to most objects you can interact with. So, this is no game of mashing the use key while going over every area to find one or two items.

The music in this game is great. While playing this game, the music reminded me a lot of Silent Hill. The more quote unquote strange ambiance sounds that strange form a melody that’s interesting to listen too but also puts you on edge. This is helped by the silent moments and the excellent sound design with the sound effects to make the game even more creepy.

Something else I want to mention is that this game is available for Windows & MAC. So, if you are a MAC user… You can also play this game.

The bad

There are certain things that this game lacks that make this game a small chore to play. And these are small things that can help make the game more enjoyable to play.

Let me get the biggest problem out of the way first. You can’t skip dialogue at all. Now why is this an issue? Well, in one playthrough I got the wrong ending. Without any game over screen, I got booted back to the main menu. I thought that was it, but then I decided to play through it again, and I found another route and got to experience more. But, that isn’t communicated well enough.

And the opening dialogue is runs on for a bit. But the intro cutscene has a few shots too many and that can’t be skipped either. Other horror games like the Zero Escape series did this a lot better. There you can skip through dialogue you already experienced, and it automatically stops when you encounter new dialogue.

There is something about the visuals I want to mention. The animation in certain cutscenes is a bit lacking. For example, in the opening cutscene, I thought I did something wrong since we see the same scene of Katherine riding her bike twice. It’s a bit confusing and pads out the opening scene too much. But a better example is when we get to meet the other characters for the first time. We are sitting in a circle, and they start talking. Yet, it’s not too clear who is who. A bit later this is better since you can speak to the girls one by one but still, this shouldn’t have been an issue. Just a bit more character animation when somebody is talking would go a long way. It’d also give some scenes a bit more pazzaz, if you understand what I mean.

The final negative I want to mention is that the screen to toggle full screen on and off only works in certain places. Do yourself a favor and toggle full screen on at the main menu. The keybind is F.

The conclusion

This game is an amazing indie game to play at Halloween night. It’s a charming throwback to the early PS1 games that might make you nostalgic to that area.

While this game is a bit rough especially when it’s missing some more modern innovations like skipable text/cutscenes or even a sort of save system, I was able to put those negatives to the side and enjoy my time.

This game isn’t for everyone, especially since some people can be turned off by the visual presentation and/or the control scheme of this game. But I think this game is developed for that niche audience that loves old school horror games and want to experience something like that again.

I think it’s clear if I recommend this game or not. Even with its shortcomings, that might be fixed or improved upon in a patch, this game an enjoyable horror story to play through. It’s charming, and I feel that it’s clearly a passion project done right.

Ant that’s everything I wanted to say about this game. A short article about a short game. I hope you enjoy playing this game and also enjoyed reading this article. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Likewise, I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Score: 70/100

First Impression: Island Saver by NatWest (Switch) ~ Saving The Planet With Banks?

Official websiteNintendo.com microsite

I love games with a unique story or goal. When I saw Island Saver by NatWest for free on the Nintendo Switch eShop, I didn’t hesitate for a second. While playing, it suddenly dawned on me. The publishers of this game is an actual English bank from Westminster. Is this free game a hidden ad for their bank or is it a fun game? Or is it something else? Well, allow me to tell you about my experience as a Belgian citizen who doesn’t know anything about the English banking system what my 100% honest thoughts and opinions are! Meanwhile, I also invite you to write a comment about your thoughts and/or opinions on the content of this article and/or the game in the comment section down below.

Let’s save the world!

In this game, you play as an unnamed Bio Agent, and your goal is to clean up a peaceful island from pollution. You get equipped with a blaster which can vacuum and shoot out items. This also doubles as your water gun to clear out the goop on the island.

The story in this game is very light. To be brutally honest, the story isn’t anything to write home about. It’s a very generic plot. Yet, I’m going to praise it for something else. As an IT admin in two art schools here in Belgium, I have seen a lot of “edutainment” games that try to teach children things. But most of these applications and games I have seen are mostly exercise machines with a pretty skin.

Not in this game! The basic mechanics and idea’s of taxes and the risks of pollution are explained with mechanics. You also get from time to time, quick and small pop-ups referring to the real world. But, these are far and few between it isn’t a problem at all. This game really reminded me of those old school Humongous Entertainment games, those that sneak actual education in their games without it feeling like a lesson.

NatWest also provided some nice work sheets together with this game on their website for teachers and parents to use. Yet, nothing about this is forced into this game. All these mechanics feel natural in this game, and it all flows extremely well.

Now, what is it that you have to do in this game? Well, in this game you go to various islands to go from area to area, to clean it all up and help the animals living on the island. You do this by vacuuming up all the trash in the area so that plants can grow. You deposit this trash in the correct recycle bin while these animals eat from the plants. These animals are special bank animals, which have to fill up to be saved. As soon as you have saved all the animals in a certain area, you can move on to the next one.

There are a few other mechanics, like you can only store 20 items of the same kind per inventory slot. You also have to clean the goop left by the enemies in this game. But here is one of the first negative things about this game. This game does have enemies but besides undoing some cleaning progress and temporary ink your screen… They don’t do much.

We are so close, oh so close.

The disappointing enemies are the perfect example of one of the biggest flaws in this game. This game is way too easy. Because of this, the game barely has any challenge.

Yet, the gameplay loop of cleaning up the island can be enjoyable for some people. Especially if you enjoy games like Slime Rancher. But there is no real risk in this game.

You could argue that the challenge can come from collecting the special twenty items on the island. But, that’s an optional collectable. When I finished the first island, I found 17/20 without even really trying. So, even that isn’t challenging.

So, let’s see if there is any challenge to be found in this game? Let’s see, you sometimes have to buy seeds to progress from the in-game store. But wait, the game showers you with coins… I can’t remember one moment where I didn’t have enough coins to purchase what I needed.

I’d talk about various other examples, but the biggest issue is that this game doesn’t have enough meat around its bones. And then, the cracks start to show. Because of the repetitive nature of this game, it’s better played in short bursts. And to be quite frank, if you have played the free islands… The DLC islands don’t offer too many new things to justify the asking price.

It’s a shame, since a lot more could have been done with the world that was created here. Maybe we could have used the trash we vacuumed up to create new houses for the animals, or maybe we had to water the plants more than once to make them give off their fruit. But, alas, the game stays too much on the surface level and doesn’t dare to dive into the depth of its possibilities.

I wish it did since there is a lot of potential here. Visually, this game looks amazing. Colorful and family friendly. It’s also easy to understand so the tutorials are short, sweet and to the point. But, then the game lacks a map screen so, it’s a pain to find certain areas when you get lost in the later parts of the level. It’s also a pain to sometimes find a full bank animal in a large area… Since, when a bank animal is filled, it stays in place until you vacuum out the coins from its belly. Yeah, these bank animals are basically walking piggy banks.

The animation in this game is adorable and works really well. Together with the clean UI, it quickly shows the player all the information that you need… But, then finding the enemies can be a pain with the annoying radar. You barely see the distance between you and the enemy. And on top of that, the amount of times the enemies just stopped in front of me, so I could shoot them. It’s painful.

Beware, it breaks.

It’s clear that a lot of passion and love was put into this game. The joyful and relaxing music and charming sound effects are another examples of that. This is a game you can wind down with and relax.

At one hand, I miss some challenge in this game… But, on the other hand it’s still enjoyable to have a game that you can wind down with after a long day at work.

The fact that this free game isn’t riddled with microtransactions left and right is a blessing. The only content you’ll have to pay for are two optional, additional levels. But, here is where I have to report on something. I don’t know yet if this is a freak occurrence but, in one of the DLC levels, the game broke for me.

Broke as in, really broke completely. Just look at the following Tweet I posted yesterday. So, some background. Quite often I play games I want to review on the train from and to work. During one train ride, my game decided to crash during a cutscene that would allow me to go to the next area. Now, I think some variables got flipped but not all. And sadly, the automatic saving system screwed me over here.

Since, when I reloaded that save after rebooting the game, I was unable to vacuum up any items. The gun kept being stuck in the vacuum mode and my rumble went into overdrive. And when I tried to open the pause menu or the menu to summon a bank animal to ride… The game went into a full softlock. This is a situation where a game keeps working, but almost everything locks up, and you can’t do anything about it. Sadly, to recover from this, I had to fully wipe my save file and restart everything. It’s a shame to see that certain softlocks and bugs are still in the game. Thankfully, a lot of the reported ones got fixed but, I don’t see this issue getting fixed almost 2 years after release.

Just like I don’t have high hopes of seeing the power-ups coming to the game. Since, it always says: “coming soon”… But the last update to this game was in September 2020.

Yet, I don’t think I can complain too much. I mean, this is a free game released during a pandemic. Also, when you look at the website of the developer Storm Cloud Games, this is the first game that greets you. It’s also released for free on almost every platform. The amount of work that this would have taken is just insane.

Overall, this game is clearly an edutainment children game that put entertainment first. With easy to learn and easy to master controls, this game is quite enjoyable to play in short bursts but the lack of depth in the game and the repetitive nature of the game makes you wish for a bit more. The game has the charm but not the “umph“. I’m honestly afraid that other similar games like Slime Rancher blow it out of the water.

Would I recommend playing this game? Yes, I do recommend it for casual players who are looking for an enjoyable charming adventure game. But, don’t set your bar too high… Since, this game doesn’t dare to go deeper into the ocean than dipping its toes into it. But, maybe that’s enough to have an enjoyable train ride to school or work for you.

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

Speedrunning Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine GBC – Level 2 – Babylon

In May and July, I have written about how the speedrun of Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine for the GBC works. I wrote about the Any % route and the All Treasures route of the first level Canyonlands. Today, I want to take you on a journey to the second level Babylon. So far, we are following the levels of the N64 and PC version. But later in the game, we’ll have some differences. Anyways, before I get right into talking about the route, I want to mention that I’ll be talking certain terms and techniques that I have explained in the previous articles. If something is unclear, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section. Also, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts/opinions on this article! Anyways, let’s get right into it… Here I go explaining the route of the second level.

A small update

I have a few announcements to make. The first announcement is that two weeks after I published my write-up on the All Treasures route of Canyonlands, I decided to run the level again. With the possible time saves I have talked about in the article. And wouldn’t you know it, I have lowered the record from 4 minutes 41 seconds to 4 minutes and 36 seconds. Yup, I lowered the record by 5 seconds. I’m convinced that with a bit better movement and a bit more luck with RNG, the record might even go lower.

The second announcement is that all GBC categories are currently filled. What I mean by that is, that each category has at least one run. The only category that didn’t have a run was the full 100% run of the game. Where all treasures were picked up, almost all healing items (and sold) to play the full game including the secret level Return to Peru.

This run is stressful and not a lot of fun to do. Since, one or two mistakes in a level can cost you the whole level and in certain levels that can be a major time loss. In my run, I made a lot of mistakes, and I’m convinced it can get lowered, but that’s not for today. After trying for over three months, I finally got a run that I felt happy with, that made it to the end. And to my surprise, the end time was only ~25 minutes longer than my All Treasures run without Peru. The run took me 2 hours, 25 minutes and 56 seconds.

The final announcement is that I lowered a few other records. I lowered the time on Palawan Volcano and Infernal Machine. But, I’ll go more in detail about that when I get to the write-up of those levels.

With that said, here are the current stats of the second level.

Link to Speedrun.com page (All Treasures)Link to Speedrun.com page (Any %)
The current world record at the time of writing is owned by:

for Any %: the_kovic who ran this level in 4 minutes and 19 seconds on January 29th 2022.
for All Treasures: me who ran this level in 6 minutes and 44 seconds on February 28th 2022. (Note, my ILS is part of my All Treasures – No Peru record. That’s why the video time is so different.)

Editorial note: when I haven’t given credit to screenshots, it’s taken from my runs.

ILS = Individual Level Speedrun. A speedrun of only one level.

Good to know: when I talk about a “two block gap” or “a tile”… the size of a tile is give or take half Indy’s sprite.

The route

You would think that the route is quite different in the two categories due to the almost 2 minutes and a half-time difference between the two. But, let me assure you, that’s not true. The route is almost the same but only some differences that add up some time on the clock. So, I’ll mention these “side paths” in cursive when the time comes. So, the cursive text is something additional for the All Treasures route. Text in cursive should be skipped and ignored when you go for the Any % route.

The first 30 seconds of the level is the exact same for both categories. As soon as the level starts, you’ll have to mash “A” to get the text box out of the way and move to the right.

Run from the_Kovic
Run for the_Kovic

You’ll quickly reach a part of the structure where you can jump on. Jump on top of the lower brick and try to stay at the right edge of it while moving up. Here is a screenshot from the_Kovic’s run that has amazing positioning.

The reason that you have to be as close to the right edge as possible is that it saves a few frames on the jump to the right you’ll have to do when on the top.

Also, the_Kovic also discovered during making the TAS of the Any% of this game… That when you are on the edge of a block, the actual edge… You can make jumps further and higher than you expect. This’ll come in handy in the next screen. So, after the jump to the right, you’ll have to do some jumping up a “staircase” to exit the screen.

Run from the_Kovic

When you enter the next screen, it’s important that you land on the block that’s sticking out. The reason is that otherwise, you’ll lose a lot of health. Health that you’ll need later in the level.

Granted, there is a herb really close by but grabbing that herb in Any% is out of the way and makes you lose more time than landing on the block. If you are certain of your abilities, this block can be skipped when you go for the All Treasures route, but the time gain is as good as lost with picking up the herb. So, yeah. I usually try to avoid taking damage here.

Now, next is moving towards that movable brown block. In the current world record by the_Kovic, he actually lost time. Remember how I talked about the discovery he made during the creation of the TAS? Well, you can make two gap jumps and land one block higher when you jump from the edge of the block. It’s something you can see in action in my All Treasures run at the 6 minutes mark.

Sadly, this is quite a precise trick and being able to do it saves ~ 2 to 3 seconds. Yet, failing it… Well, let’s say it can cost you ~ 5 or even more seconds. Depending on if you move the block or not. This jump can be implemented in more spots, but it’s not too beginner-friendly. Since, the edge of the block almost looks like Indy isn’t touching the block anymore at all.

Anyway, after you made this jump you’ll have to jump on the building. Be careful when you jump since almost the whole back tile is blocked by a wall. So, don’t jump too early. When you land on the building, a small cutscene plays with a door opening. And here is where the first route difference happens. After the cutscene, you’ll have two options.

The blue arrow points to the all treasures route and the red arrow to the Any % route. Now, this door goes to a location where you only pick up one treasure and only has one entrance and exit. So, after picking up that treasure, you’ll have to jump on the building again and continue with the Any % route.

Now, let’s pick up our first treasure. To enter the door, you can either drop and run or jump from the block.

Jumping is a few frames difference since jumping is a tad bit faster compared to first having the dropping down animation. Anyhow, it can also be a mental thing… It feels faster to me. Now that we entered the room, we have to do something that I always call… Dancing with the guard. The treasure is in the top left corner of the room. In the top right, a guard spawns. This guard is annoying and can decide if you lose time or not.

The fastest way to get the first treasure is going to the bottom of the tent and picking up the treasure, like the purple line shows. Now, the faster you do this, the less far down the guard goes. If the guard is at the position from the screenshot, you are safe to leave in the exact same way you came. Otherwise, you’ll have to go around via the top of the tent and lure the guard a bit away from the exit. Since, his hit box otherwise blocks the exit if you take the bottom route. Going via the top route looses a second but is safer. Also, if you lost too much health, don’t take the herb from the other screen… There will be a herb that’s a bit later you can grab that’s less of a time loss. Now, take the route with the red arrow before the cursive text began.

So, when you jumped over the gap and moved down to the next screen. Here, you’ll enter a room with two treasures and this room is a pain for the All Treasures %. But, for the Any %, you’ll have to just drop in the water… Or when you know the right spot, jump into the water to save a few frames.

Now, picking up these treasures is a pain in the behind. It doesn’t matter to which way you jump first. But it matters from where. The safest is jumping from inside the purple squares. The best thing that can happen when you jump wrong is that you hit the wall. The worst thing that can happen when you jump wrong is that you drop into the water, and you’ll have to go around to get another chance. And that time loss, is way too high when you want to beat the ILS. This can only be a back-up strat in full game runs. In any case, after picking up the two gems, drop down in the water, so we follow the Any% route again.

After dropping into the water, you’ll have to swim up. Now, for the all treasures route of this level, you’ll have to make a small detour. The quickest way to exit the water for the Any% route is like the black arrow, hugging all the way to the left. For the All Treasures route, let’s go with the red arrow. You’ll enter the same room but for the all treasures route, swimming all the way to the right avoids one scorpion to pick up the treasure. Also, there is a herb in the middle of the path. Something good to know is that this herb also cures poison stings.

So, let’s pick up our fourth treasure. For this treasure, you’ll have to avoid some scorpions in narrow hallways. After exiting the water, go up right away until you hit the well and then go to the left. You’ll find a blue gem. Be careful with jumping to avoid the scorpions on your way back to the other side of the wall where you picked up the blue gem… Since, jumping too far means, back into the water with you.

When exiting the water following the black arrow, avoid the sting when going up and exit the screen via the left exit. When you are following the All Treasure route of this level, the room you enter in might look familiar. It’s on top of the room with the tent where the first treasure is picked up. When you missed picking up the second and/or third treasure… Those gems, you can drop down here to get another shot.

Depending on how good your lines are, you won’t loose too much health in this screen. Go around the bend and jump on the ladder when there is one tile between you and that will make Indy grab almost the top of the ladder. After climbing up, go left right away, with a bit of luck, the guard won’t shoot you. After that, go down when you can’t go left anymore. But don’t hug the right most edge of the pathway down since the screen transition to the next screen won’t happen.

In the next screen, go to the left and drop down in the section without the guard. To get to the next screen, run on the left most line of the sand. Walking on the tiles won’t transition you to the next screen. On the next screen, hug the left wall and when it bends to the left, go left as well all the while hugging the wall. Now, you’ll come into an open area.

Let’s go a bit to the right to pick up the treasure we saw when entering this screen. When you jump up the block via the right edge to reach the right edge of the platform… You’ll be able to grab the golden coins without the guard being alerted.

Now, go left a tiny bit to enter the door. You’ll enter a small room with a lever. Try to flip the lever as early as you can. This’ll open a bigger door to the left. Exit the room and go to the left to the newly opened door. Now, it’s time to dodge some guards. Also, don’t get distracted but this is one of the few rooms where you’ll notice some slowdown, it looks like this room isn’t optimized and in the long corridor, you’ll notice it… If you don’t hug the wall that is.

In this office space, there are three guards. Now, not taking damage here is almost impossible. So, dodge and weave boys. Go up, go left (don’t forget to pick up the treasure in the first office room, to the left) and go down. Go to the right. Now, in the one to last room, you’ll see a David Star with a hint to solve a block puzzle later. Since we are speedrunning, we shall ignore going into that room since the solution is easy and will be shown later in the article.

When you go up after the room, you’ll see the last guard. If you lost too much health, feel free to pick up the herb. If you have at least half your health, you are safe to continue. Shoot the two barrels so they explore and you can continue to the next screen.

The way forward is quite clear, it’s going down. This will make Indy drop down into a pool of water and now we get to the water maze. The biggest reason why there is such a big time difference between the Any % route and the All Treausures.

Now, allow me to me to use a diagram from the walkthrough by Jeff H. to explain the next parts. The red line is how the fast way in the underwater maze is. Always hug the walls, since that saves frames. Also, there is a small mistake in the diagram. The part before the last bend is a bit higher than shown on the diagram. Don’t waste too much time, since it’s a thight squeeze otherwise. When you go for the all treasures route, do pick up the first treasure in the first swim. After picking up treasure one, exit the water maze and let the breath meter fill before you go to pick up treasure two. This additional swim is one of the biggest reasons for the time difference. We have collected 8 treasures now. Be careful to not press A too soon to pick up the treasures, since Indy’ll swing his machette and this is a small timeloss.

After exiting the water maze, you’ll notice two pressure plates to the edges of the room. First go for the left one and then for the right one. This’ll activate an elevator down in a small cutscene. Then, from the right switch, go up to hit another pressure plate. Hit this switch three times by going on it and off it and on it again. The faster you do this, the more time you save. Then, press the pressure plate one of the left also three times for a small door opening cutscene. Enter that door.

Now, you will enter the room with the David Star where you saw the clue earlier. Move the right block to the most bottom spot on the star. Move the left block to the second spot if when counting anti-clockwise. A door should open. A visual aid:

We are almost at the end of this level. Let’s pick up some tablets. Now, remember this moment for a bit later in the article. Go to the left right away to find a small platform with a yellow L looking thing on it. This is one of the four tablets you’ll need to finish this level.

The red circle in the screenshot is where the tablet was. Now, the next jumps are a bit tricky if you aren’t too used to diagonal jumps in this game. Of course, in the all treasure route, we pick up the treasure. Doing this jump to the ladder saves some climbing time. And like I explained in the Canyonlands write-up, climbing in this game is extremely slow.

When you reach the top of this ladder, you’ll see another L-tablet. Of course, pick that up. Then use your whip to reach the platform to the right. On that platform, pick up the tablet and use your whip to go to the right again to go pick up the final clay tablet.

Now, on the last platform, there is an extremely tricky ladder snipe you can do. The ladder at the bottom is extremely close and it’s extremely easy to over or undershoot it. Feel free to try it since it save a few seconds, but missing the snipe means game over. I usually play it safe and jump across the gap on the right to slide down. This is one of the main reasons why I said you’ll need some health, since if you keep pressing down to go faster on this slide down, you’ll take a considerable amount of damage.

The next step is exiting the room. Now, remember that moment when I said to remember that moment? Well, if you know this room well and practice it… You’ll be able to finish this room in 45 – 50 seconds. The most annoying bit is the whip part since if you aren’t at the right spot, Indy swings his whip in the air and this is the biggest possible time loss in this room. Also, don’t forget that the SELECT button swaps faster between your inventory than actually going in it. The clay tablets don’t appear while using SELECT.

So, now you will need to head to the elevator you activated earlier. Activate the elevator by pressing A whilst having the hand icon at the bottom. This room is the final room of the level. Don’t forget to pick up the final treasure. Since, you won’t be able to pick it up as soon as you place the final tablet! I usually pick it up before doing anything else in this room.

You’ll see a cog and something that looks like a button/switch. Go stand right in front of it, facing it. Open your inventory and select the cog item. This will open the location where you need to place your four tablets you picked up.

Now, when you face the tablet placing spot… Keep calm whilst navigating the inventory. Know that the cursor goes a bit slower then when you press or hold it. The amount of time I lost by doing horrible inventory navigation, it isn’t funny anymore. After placing the 4th and final tablet, a map will be revealed and the end of the level jingle will play.

Wrapping up

This is one of the levels I rarely have trouble with. While I did make some silly movement mistakes in my All Treasures ILS, I did have the route down. I think I can shave off at least 5 to 10 seconds with a lot better movement.

Also, the current Any % world record can be beaten when the at the start, the block isn’t pulled to get on the building and the ladder snipe at the end is implemented. It would bring the record a down by a few seconds. But, you’ll need to play the level close to perfect to beat it. I tried it once and I thought I got it, but due to a bad jump, a bad lever flip to open the office area and no ladder snipe, I lost too much time.

Both records are close to fully optimized. Like I said earlier, my All Treasures has some bad movement and the_Kovic’s Any% doens’t have all tricks implemented. But, you’ll need to practice to be able to beat the times. Unless, there is something I’m overlooking or a new strategy is found or route optimization.

The biggest thing of this level is that it’s a longer level to run sandwiched between three shorter levels. Especially for the Any% runs. I mean, Canyonlands is beaten in a few seconds, and the two next levels can be beaten in give or take 2 minutes. Actually, think about it, the comment doesn’t really count if you go for the All Treasures route.

Anyways, that was the write-up for Babylon. It would be a bit silly to create two parts for this level since almost all treasures are on the Any% route or a bit besides it. But, it made for an amasuing article to write and I hope to read as well. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.