First Impression: The Survivalists (PC – Steam) ~ Monkey Business

Steam store pageOfficial site

Sometimes, I just need a game to get lost in it. A game where I can dive into and play for hours upon hours. Games like Minecraft and Terreria come to mind. Since last year, a 3rd game joined that list for me, and that’s The Survivalists. But why did I give it a spot on my top 10 games of 2021? Did it deserve that spot, or did I change my mind already? So, let’s start monkeying around and let’s talk about this game, while 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.

Monkey Business

This game is an adventure survival game through and through. The game starts with you getting shipwrecked on an island, and it’s your task to escape. Now, you might think that this game is similar to other survival games like Forager for example. But, this game has a unique mechanic that I love.

During your adventures in this game, you can free imprisoned monkeys. As soon as you free these monkeys, they’ll join your party, and you can use them for anything you want. You can teach your monkeys to do stuff for you. This game slowly goes from a survival game to a micromanagement game. Since these monkeys can learn how to farm, craft, fight, gather resources… So, basically, you can leave the grind tasks to your monkeys. They can level up in these tasks, to complete them even more efficiently. Or you can have an army of monkeys following you around to battle enemies and such.

But I might be going a bit fast here. What’s the story in this game? Well, there is none apart from you shipwrecking and trying to find a way out. You do meet some taskmasters, but those don’t contribute anything besides being your quest givers. So, if you are looking for a survival game with a story of any sort, I think you’d look elsewhere.

Anyway, back to the monkeys. They are the game-changer, and micromanaging them is one of the biggest mechanics in this game. At this moment in my playthrough, I have freed 20 monkeys and trying to find the right balance in which monkeys are assigned to which tasks are an amazing puzzle. Together with an easy-to-understand tutorial, this game teaches you the ropes without holding your hand. After that, you are free to explore the islands.

The difficulty of this game really depends on the random islands you spawn on and in which order you tackle them. So far, I have two playthroughs running, and I have to say that the difference in difficulty makes the game fresh. To make an efficient base and craft the correct equipment to go exploring, is also a great mechanic in this game.

At the start, this game is overwhelming. There are islands to explore, crafting trees to unlock, resources to keep high, dungeons to explore, treasures to find… But, in its current form, the game lacks depth in some areas. There are a lot of mechanics that can be improved or expanded upon.

For example, the blueprint system. You can’t rotate buildings OR cancel blueprints once they are placed. Another example, why can’t you sort your monkeys by e.g. skill in your menu or see their names on the map? Once, one of my monkeys glitched out and got stuck in the middle of the sea without me being able to pick him up. I could use a summon-banana, but I had no idea of the monkey’s name.

If I list all the mechanics that could use a bit more quality of life features, I’d be here for a long time. But, don’t get me wrong here. The features that are here are amazing, but certain things would make the game even more enjoyable to play. For example, see the radius of where gathering monkeys will go to pick up materials. On the other hand, it makes the game a bit more challenging, since you need to plan your building quite well.

Open sea

This game was released in October 2020. Since then, it got 4 big content updates. These updates brought a lot of new things to the game. Sadly, since last summer, there hasn’t been a lot of development of this game. And if there is, I haven’t found any traces of it on the social platforms or on their Discord.

It’s a shame really since the potential of this game is huge. Currently, you can explore 5 islands. At first, I was afraid that it would make the world too small. But thankfully, that’s not a big issue. Each island serves its purpose and going from island to island takes up a lot of time. Thankfully, you can set up transport gates.

These transport gates are one of the best additions to the game in my opinion. They increase the game flow so much. I don’t like having a monkey with me that carries a big chest for storage. Since, when they get knocked out, they don’t re-pick up that chest, and it doesn’t appear on the mini-map. And with the small inventory, these transport gates are a blessing. And it’s also really helpful that items don’t disappear from the ground. On my adventures today, I found some leaves I have thrown out of my inventory when I first discovered the island over a month ago.

Exploring the islands can be quite tense. Since you never know where the enemy villages are. And let me tell you, some of these enemies can pack a punch. Mastering the combat in this game is essential to survive. I also bought this game on my Switch and I have to say that I highly prefer the controls on the PC version. Maybe that’s because I got so used to them with mouse and keyboard, that I have some troubles playing this game with a controller… Which is also an option.

That being said, this game controls amazingly. Sometimes, I had a bit of trouble canceling some crafting of my monkeys, but that was partly my own fault since I placed so many crafting stations so close together.

With these wonderful controls, we can explore the amazingly designed world of this game. While there are only a few biomes, they are all well-designed and have their own reasons to be explored. It’s really quite impressive how well this game runs. In some cases, there is a lot going on, and I barely see any lag or slowdown appear. Which is good, since you’ve to be on your guard in some areas to survive.

I always tense a bit up when I heard that battle music coming. I always look around to make sure if it’s safe to continue to gather the supplies I was gathering or if I should first go into combat mode. The music and sound design are really well done, and it adds so much to the atmosphere of this game. I didn’t hesitate to buy the OST DLC to be able to put the music on my playlists while I’m working.

Replaying

One thing that really tripped me up several times is that this game doesn’t have an autosave. To save your game, you have to sleep.

The loading of another world also isn’t quite easy to do. But, once you have done it, it’s easy to do. You just need to know that “Save slots” is your world select. And, you better have some sort of note system since you can’t give your world’s names. 😦

This game also has multiplayer. I haven’t played a lot of multiplayer, but from what I have played… It works fine. The limited communication options through emotes are somewhat disappointing to me. Sadly, the last two times I got bad experiences in multiplayer with a broken temple and a very spammy host with emotes.

Personally, I don’t regret putting this game on my top 10 games list last year. Yet, I can totally understand why people expected more from this. This game is from the same studio that brought us Overcooked and Worms. The charm in this game is huge, but charm can bring you only so far.

I love playing through this game in short bursts from time to time, trying to finish all the quests and explore everything my islands have to offer. I’m also trying to avoid all outside help from wikis and such since the in-game tutorial and hints are great enough to help you with that.

You can finish this game in roughly 20-ish hours, but currently, I have played this game for 35 hours and I haven’t beaten it yet. Since I want to see everything this game has to offer. In general, I think this game has the potential to become even bigger, but for that, the game will need more content and some major quality of life patch. Like, being able to choose the world you want to open when you start the game?

I wish this game wasn’t such a hidden gem. If the community was larger, I’m sure that this game would get more frequent updates. But, now, I rarely see other players online… I wish there were more online, so I could experience the multiplayer. Maybe I should invite some friends to play this game since I think this game is even more fun when you play it with others. And possibly then I could unlock those final achievements.

If you enjoy games like Forager, Minecraft, or Terrarria… to name just a few; I really think you’ll enjoy this game. At the moment of writing, this game is on sale and I highly advise you to pick up the digital deluxe edition. The additional cosmetic content is totally worth it and the additional hats you can find for your monkeys make it easier to tell them apart.

And with that, I have said almost everything I wanted to say about this game for now. In short, I really like this game. While it has some rough edges, those aren’t a dealbreaker. While this game might not please every fan of the genre, I think there is something here for everyone. Let’s go monkeyin’ around since this is a tense adventure. An adventure worth your bananas and monkeys.

Before I ramble on, I want to thank you so much for reading. 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!

First Impression: Neutopia (Wii U – TurboGraphix16) ~ Is this Zelda?

Wikipedia entry

There are a lot of different Zelda clones out there. And to be honest, I don’t mind it at all. It keeps Nintendo on its toes in making the next Zelda game. If it’s not good enough, then the clones have a chance to be the next big hit. Recently, I took a look at some of them. Blossom King and Lenna’s Inception are two good examples. So, during my week off this week, I was browsing the Nintendo Wii U eShop and I discovered Neutopia. At first, I thought it was an indie developer creating another 2D Zelda clone, but I was quite surprised when I saw that the developer was Hudson Soft. So, I dug a bit deeper, and it turns out that this game was never released in Europe until the Wii and Wii U era. So, why didn’t we get this game, and its sequel over here in Europe? Was the Zelda clone not good enough, or did we miss out? Let’s find out, while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on the content of this article and/or this game.

Is this Zelda?

I find the story in this game quite amusing. It’s, to a certain degree, a cross between your cliché Zelda and Final Fantasy story. Change the Triforce with crystals. Sprinkle some Zelda II with a sleeping princess in a shrine, that instead of getting cursed… gets kidnapped Link to the Past style. Oh, and let’s not forget that the crystals are elemental crystals. The story is silly but oh so amusing to me. The story isn’t the main focal point in this game. Besides the main character, the villain, and the princess… There aren’t many unique characters in the game. Which isn’t a bad thing. The name of the villain is hilarious, actually. He is called Dirth, yes… dirt with an additional H.

In terms of gameplay, this game is everything I could hope for. This game is Zelda I at its heart, and I love it. It didn’t take long for me to get immersed in the game and start exploring the world. All the mechanics were clear to me right away. I had to explore the lands, find the dungeons and find all the medallions. I started out with a sword and started exploring. The controls are extremely easy to learn as well, so in no time I was in the action.

Something that took me by surprise is that there are only 4 dungeons. But, there are two medallions in each dungeon. So, you’ll have to explore them quite thoroughly to make sure you found everything. Speaking of exploring, I was afraid that I would have to look for ages for the various dungeons since the game also copied the “map” system from Zelda I. Thankfully, you have a Charmed Compass that points you into the general direction of the dungeons.

There are no keys in this game, so no locked door puzzles. Yet, the map system has a unique feature. It plays a special sound effect whenever you are near a boss or a medallion. This brings me nicely to the audiovisual presentation of this game. The music in this game, oh heavens. The music in this game is excellent! This chiptune soundtrack fits the game so well and is one of the best things in this game. It made the exploration and trying to beat the various challenges the game gives you even more fun. The sound effects are decent too, if only I wished there were a bit more of them to make the enemies and weapons come more alive.

Is this game hard? Well, if you know how to play Zelda I, it’s not hard at all. You have to know that you can burn bushes, push rocks, and that villagers are hidden all over the world that gives you VERY helpful advice. For real, read what the villagers have to say. The only nitpick I have is that when you accidentally press the skip button, you’ll have to exit and re-enter their location to know what they said.

This game is also somewhat forgiving. When you die, you go to the latest checkpoint you saved at. So, whenever you did something big or before a dungeon, remember to save. This isn’t your modern game with autosaves. The save system is unique, when save you get a very long password and the chance to save in a slot. But do yourself a favor, and only use that save feature to create checkpoints so when you die, you don’t lose too much progress and use the actual save states of the virtual console to save. I found that much more reliable than the load system. Especially since the save slots are RAM-based! Any RAM memory can be overwritten. The only thing you lose is a bit of gold.

The items that enemies can drop are the exact same as in the first Zelda game. Apart from having different sprites. From gold, bomb to even a time-stopping power up. And if you listen well to the villagers, you’ll know what each item does, since they hint at them pretty well.

Visually, this game looks amazing. The only thing I found a shame is that there were no real towns or anything in the game. But that’s a minor nitpick since, evener then, the map is quite memorable and great fun to explore. Of course, you have your typical locals from a forest, mountains, and desert, but they all fit the world so well. Strangely enough, there is no ice/cold area in this game. That’s something you don’t see every game every day. But, we don’t see perfect games every day either. Yet, is this game one of those?

This isn’t as good as Zelda.

Sadly enough, no. This game has some flaws. The first is the bombs. The big issue is that you need way too many of them to beat the game, and you can only carry 8 of them at the start. There is also no easy way to farm them, so when you require more… It’s enemy killing time, and cross your fingers they drop bombs. And bombs are one of the few items that stack. When the wings drop, to easily escape to the last save point, you can only have one. Even when you picked up two. … Okay, you can carry two health points.

There is something I feel a bit mixed about, and that is some villagers. Some villagers give you special rewards like money. But only once. That alone is just fine. But, here is the annoying thing. If you die and go back to that spot, you can’t get the money again. Yet, when I think about this… It makes a bit sense too. Since, if the reward of the villager is higher than what you lose when you die… It would be money exploit waiting to happen. If only you could decline the money before you get it, that would have been amazing.

Now, that it was difficult to create a good map system on an 8-bit system for Zelda I, I can totally understand. You only have so much RAM and resources to play with before the system starts to lag. But, on a system that’s at least twice as powerful, the map system can do more. The map system is a huge mess in my eyes.

First, there is no overworld map, so you don’t know where you are in the overworld. Something that the first Zelda game actually did! Second, after getting the dungeon map, it resets the visited rooms when you leave the dungeon by any means. And third, it only shows you the rooms for the first medallion. Which in itself isn’t a big issue, but it’s a big issue since when you die exploring the second part of the dungeon, guess what… The map is reset and the new rooms are gone! Oh, and I hope you remembered where to bomb to continue.

Sadly, this game has the same annoyance as the first Zelda game when it comes to hitboxes. During my playthrough, I felt that sometimes it was easier for the enemies to hit me compared to hitting them. The fact you can’t hit enemies diagonally is a huge issue. Since, when you aren’t lined up right… You don’t hit the enemy, but they hit you. Well, you can hit enemies diagonally but not with the sword. Just increasing the hitboxes of the enemies by a tiny bit would have solved this issue.

Something minor about this is that some airborne enemies were tricky to know when you were able to hit and not hit them. Speaking of iffy enemy design, I found some enemies a bit too cheap. Those mud crawlers are so annoying in predicting where they will turn up.

Now, I think I said almost everything I wanted to say about this game. I honestly think it’s time to wrap this up in a nice conclusion.

Is this worth your time?

For this conclusion, I won’t beat around the bush. If you enjoy any 2D adventure game like let’s say: Zelda I, Blossom Tales, Lenna’s Inception, Fairune… This game is right up your alley. This amazing retro title is an excellent time waster. It does have some flaws, but when you get used to the flaws, this game is stunning. Currently, I’m halfway done with the game, but I couldn’t wait in finishing the game before I started writing this review.

This game brought me back to the joy of 2D Zelda games. Which is one of my favorite types of games. Just keep in mind that this game is a retro game and the things I talked about in my review, and you are golden. I’m playing this game blind and not using a walkthrough at all. It’s a blast, and can’t wait to see what the game is going to throw at me next. And let’s not forget the sequel! Which improvements were made and is it going to be as much fun as this one?

Now, if you decide to play this game… I personally would advise you to play this game on the Virtual Console or PSN. If you want to play it on the TurboGraphix 16, be careful with saving in the cabinets/save files. Do write down your passwords. Since saving to RAM… I don’t trust it personally. And sadly enough, the passwords are long and complex. It’s case-sensitive even.

I highly enjoyed my time with this game, and I can’t recommend it enough to fellow 2D adventure game fans and retro game fans. But, I can totally understand that because of its age and quirks, this game might not be so enjoyable for everybody. But, give it a chance, I really think it is worth it.

And with that said, I want to thank you all 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 to another one, but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Those annoying mud things :/

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

Nintendo.com micrositeWikipedia entry

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

Witchschool

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

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

Official story on the eShop page

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Almost there, Bell

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s play or let’s play?

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Impression: Arietta of Spirits (Switch) ~ Being Bound

Nintendo.com subsiteOfficial website

Family traditions are such a big part of families. One of the biggest family traditions in my family is that at least one person goes to the seaside each and every year. It’s a tradition I don’t want to see end since it brings back so many memories, and it’s also where my love for collecting games started. The amount of garage sales and flea markets I did at the seaside, I can’t count on two hands. Anyway, today I want to talk about a game that means a lot to me currently and also talks about family traditions. And that’s Arietta of Spirits. A little indie game by Third Spirit Games and Red Art Games. It caught my attention since it looked like an interesting Zelda-ish clone, and it reminded me of games like Blossom Tales. But is this game as good as that one? Let’s find out together, shall we? But before we start, 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.

Being bound

In this game, you take on the role of Arietta. After the passing of her grandmother, here family takes a trip to her house on the island. Now, it doesn’t take a long time before Arietta discovers that she has a special ability when she meets a mysterious friend. She can see and talk to the spirits on the island. And not only that, she can help them move on.

Currently, I’m midway in the story and while this game has a good setting, writing and atmosphere, I feel that’s something is missing. The story is currently a bit “loose”. There is not really an overarching reason to move the story forward. If you asked me to explain what happens in the story of this game, I can talk about the characters you meet and their stories but the reason why you meet these characters and what Arietta’s end goal is… I can’t tell. Of course, there is a line in the story that “explains” it, but it’s so generic…

Now, this doesn’t mean that this game has a weak story. Far from it. The character development and writing in this game is pretty nice. But, there is a lot of wasted potential because this game is rather short. There is so much more that can be done with the story and idea, but the game is over when it really gets started.

There is no real voice acting in this game apart from some grunts by our main character. So, if you don’t like that, this isn’t the game for you. Yet, the dialogues are somewhat fast-paced and flow pretty nicely. One of the taglines of this game is that this game doesn’t have a lot of filler moments and this is quite true. This game has some side quests but barely any filler at all. Yet, I felt that some moments might have left a bigger impact if the story didn’t go on such a break neck speed.

Entry level Zelda game

If you have played games like Blossom Tales or any 2D Zelda game, you’ll feel right at home. This game is your typical 2D Zelda game where you go from dungeon to dungeon and defeat bosses. Well, they aren’t really dungeons, it is more themed area’s, but explaining that would spoil parts of the story. But, there are some unique mechanics in this game.

For example, there are two types of enemies. The first type are your normal overworld enemies. And sadly, they are your “generic” bee/bats. But, they have interesting movement patterns and learning and avoiding them is quite fun. Apart from maybe dropping a health pick-up, these enemies aren’t anything to write home about.

The other type of enemies are the “spirit” enemies. These are trickier to defeat, and after defeating these, you’ll earn crystals. Earn enough crystals to fill up a demon core, and Arietta grows stronger. It’s quite easy to farm these crystals, since enemies respawn when you leave and re-enter the area. But, I dislike the fact that when a certain core is filled, you can’t pick up any more crystals. Well, you can pick them up, but it doesn’t raise your total.

So, when you have enough crystals to power up your Roamer Cores, power it up right away. Otherwise, you’ll lose various crystals and have to grind for them. You can power your core up in the inventory menu under “Roamer Cores”.

Speaking of the inventory menu, why are there two menus in the Switch version? You have a pause menu and an inventory menu. The pause menu is opened with the “+” button and the inventory menu with the “-” button. It trips me up. Then again, I totally understand why this is the case in how the menus are designed. That’s why I call the “-” the inventory menu since it’s really the menu where you can see the inventory, your goals, your achievements… While the pause menu is more of an options menu.

A bit higher, you can see the inventory menu. From that screenshot, you can also see the various other mechanics. Like, the tasks where you have to find hidden items and the amount of hidden spirit cubs you have found. Now, you might think that you’ll need the item’s menu often, but alas. The opposite is true.

There aren’t a lot of puzzles in this game. I’m even having a hard time saying there are puzzles in this game. Maybe the fact that you need to figure out how to defeat the bosses most optimally but other than, that… There aren’t really any puzzles in this game. And if there are, they aren’t cryptic or challenging enough to matter.

Something that’s extremely puzzling is the fact that there is no world map of any kind to speak off. Thankfully, this isn’t a huge game, but the lack of a world map really hurts sometimes. Especially when I want to explore an area to complete a task. It adds so much more time roaming around. You could also argue that it makes the game a bit more realistic since when you are exploring an island, you don’t have a map either… But you can either make one or have a map printed out from the internet.

Once you get the hang of the responsive and easy to master controls, this game isn’t too challenging at all. This game really feels like it’s an entry level adventure game. And you can look at this in two ways. It can be either a relaxing time to enjoy the story, but it can be boring since it’s not “engaging” or challenging.

Thankfully, this game has difficulty options. I started on the normal difficulty and found it too easy. So, after getting halfway in the game, I wanted a bit more challenge. So, I had to use the dodge, shield mechanics more to defeat enemies and not rely on health drops from cutting down bushes. I wanted to start a new save file on extreme, and I learned I wasn’t able to skip cutscenes. I sighed, and I continued playing my “normal difficulty” save file. I can totally understand that when you play through a game for this first time you are unable to skip cutscenes, but the fact you can unlock an additional difficulty after beating the game and the fact I can’t skip cutscenes worries me a bit. But, maybe you have that option then…

Joyful lost

So, because this game doesn’t have a world map… I have to admit that I got lost a few times. But, it didn’t matter too much. I really enjoyed being able to explore the island. Especially since the pixel art and design of this game is gorgeous. I really love the visual presentation of this game. I also love the animation quite a lot.

The animation makes the game a lot more immersive, but it makes the game also easier. Since the enemies telegraph their attacks so bluntly, it makes it easier to avoid. Now, there is this small mechanic that I really like.

At first, I wanted to talk about how when you have low health in this game, you barely get any feedback from the game. But then, I noticed something. My joycons vibrated in a heart beat whenever I was on low health. This is genius. The only small touch I would add is a bit more visual feedback on the screen since when you are fighting, you might miss that rumbling, especially since you are quite focused on dodging enemies and such.

Something I also quite like in this game is how the roll is handled. You can roll around to get faster to your destination, but you have stamina. The more you roll, the more fatigued Arietta gets and the shorter her rolls are. You can see how tired Arietta is by the amount of sweat dripping down her face. This really makes me think what the most optimal way is to roll and go fast. Since, there is no sprint button.

Sometimes, I got lost in area’s with a lot of enemies. The first time I got a game over, I was quite worried where I was going to respawn. But, this game is quite forgiving in that. You respawn at the start of the screen you died at. When you die at a boss, you start right at the beginning of the battle. It’s quite nice to get directly back into the action and not have to go through the whole dialogue of the boss again or having lost a lot of progress. The game auto-saves every time you change in a screen.

The final thing I want to talk about is the audiovisual presentation of this game. Let’s start with the sound effects. These are amazing. The sound effects really help you to prepare yourself for the upcoming map and to take the right actions in combat. For example, the flying bat screeches before it flies at you, so when you hear it… You know that it’s time to dodge. But, the sound effects can be helpful too to find cubs. When you get close to one, you hear it shouting. It has a distinct sound effect that really helped me find the more hidden ones.

This brings me to the music of this game. The calm vibe and atmosphere of the game really comes through in the music. The soundtrack mostly feels like lounge and relaxing music. But, it can be quite tense when it needs to. Especially the battle music. But it fits the game like a glove.

Now, what do I think overall of this game? I haven’t beaten it yet, but what is my conclusion after getting past the midway point of this game? The charm and love of this game is something quite unique. This game does have some flaws like no overworld map, more puzzles, being able to skip cutscenes…

But, what bothers me the most is that the potential of this story and setting isn’t used to its full potential in this short game. Yet, like I said earlier, the charm of this game makes up for quite a lot of it. I can totally understand that some people might not really like this game or get bored with it, but this game really got its hooks in me. For me, this game is an easy recommendation if you are looking for a nice and relaxing game to spend an afternoon or two.

What this game proves to me is that I’m going to keep an eye out for further projects from the developers, since I really think they have a lot of potential. I’m curious what they are going to do next. If they are going to make a sequel to this game, you can be sure I’m going to buy it. The charm and love of this game is infectious.

I really enjoyed playing through this game and I can’t wait to see how this game ends. It’s really a relaxing game, and it comes at the right moment in my life when I need something to calm me down after busy work days. This game is really a case of the positives outweighing the negatives for me. But, I’m repeating myself. So, it’s time to close off this article by saying my usual:

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

Game Quicky: Superliminal (Switch) ~ Objects are differently shaped than they appear.

Nintendo.com micrositeWikipedia entry

I remember seeing a game floating around on the internet many years ago. I even bookmarked the page I saw it on, since I wanted to keep myself up-to-date on future updates. It looked extremely cool and had a lot of potential to have amazing puzzles and mind binding twists. But that was in 2014-2015 if I remember correctly. Then, I honestly forgot about the game, and it fell off my radar. Not too long ago, I was cleaning out my overload of bookmarks and I suddenly found that game again. That reminded me about the game and when I suddenly saw it on my Nintendo Switch eShop that evening, I knew that I had to buy it right away. So, the game released a year ago, and I totally forgot about it. Oh well, that’s no big deal. Since, now, I have a lot of time to find out if my expectations were correct or if I shouldn’t have started playing this game. Now, while I have beaten the game now, I’m going to review this game in my game quicky style of articles since it’s rather short. But more on that later, let’s find out if this game is good or not, while I invite you to leave a comment with your thoughts and/or opinions in the comment section down below.

Objects are better shaped than they appear.

In this game, you are taken on a trip to the Pierce Institute to help test a new technology. This new technology is to help people with therapy using dreams. In these dreams, you can manipulate objects in some very strange ways. But, since this is a video game, something goes wrong. Instead of waking up, you get stuck inside the dream world due to Emergency Exit Protocol failing for whatever reason. So, it’s up to you to figure out why and to leave the dreamworld.

Now, I wish I could say more, but it would spoil the amazing story and strong message that this game has. This game is, give or take, 3 hours long if you only want to beat it and not 100% complete it. The story telling and voice acting in this game is so well crafted. The game spoke to me on a personal level several times. The game is also filled with some amazing life advice, and I’m so glad I played through it.

The main mechanic in this game is that perspective matters. A lot. You can enlarge or shrink certain objects in this game, so you can reach higher ledges or jump over huge gaps. The best way I can explain it, is if you go away from objects, they appear to “shrink” and when you get closer, they appear to “enlarge”. Now, image that when the “shrinking” or “enlarging” is happening, the object actually takes those dimensions. So, suddenly the cheese wheel can become a giant ramp for you to walk on. If you don’t really understand what I’m trying to explain here, take a look at these gifs, I think they might explain it way better.

I’m not going to show more or explain more of the mechanics since, it would ruin the surprises and the unique and amazingly crafted puzzles that this game has. This game can become quite tricky, but remember, it’s all a matter of having the right perspective and understanding the space you are in. Each section introduces its own unique spin or mechanic on the perspective puzzle theme, and it’s just great. I had so much fun trying to figure them all out.

Something that surprised me is that with the various elements that this game has and with the unique shrink/enlarge mechanics, it’s so well optimized. I didn’t experience any slowdowns nor did I experience any graphical glitches. Now, this is when you play the game normally. And why am I saying this? Well, it’s because the game actually encourages you to speedrun it once or twice. The Steam achievements of this game are ported over to the Nintendo Switch version. And I think I might give it a go myself one day. The controls of this game are solid enough and I think they are responsive enough for me to speedrun this game. I learned them extremely quickly and mastered them fast as well.

It would be an amazing way to dive right back into this amazing adventure and to go through the well detailed levels again. Visually, this game is stunning. While I think that the game has some moments that might trigger players that aren’t too good with flashing lights, I was amazed with the detail and visual presentation that this game has. The game also has a lot of triggers, so you don’t softlock yourself. For example, if you shrink the exit door and throw it in a trash can, the exit door spits it right back out. One animation detail I loved is seeing all the different jokes the developer made with the loading screens. You’ll have to see it to understand what I mean, but they were a nice way to do something unique with a loading screen instead of having a boring static or short moving image…

Apart from the objects you can interact with, this game doesn’t have a lot of animations. But, the animations it does have pulled you into the game so much more. Including with the enjoyable sound design. It has been at least a month since I have beaten this game since I’m writing this article and I can still remember the sound effects, how the voice acting sound and how the music sounds.

Speaking about the music, most of the soundtrack of this game is extremely relaxing and sounds extremely dreamy. The great use of the piano and, which is the center instrument in this soundtrack, and it’s just lovely. It’s that lovely, I actually bought the game again on Steam since it includes the soundtrack and some official Lo-Fi remixes as DLC.

Objects are worse shaped than they appear.

So far, I’m talking quite positively about this game. While I enjoy this game an awful lot and I even dare to say that it wouldn’t surprise me that I put it on my top 10 games of 2021 list, I do have several things that I disliked about this game and that made the experience less enjoyable.

While I barely experienced any bugs, I did fall three times through the map in similar ways. Once, I was pushed out of the map when I made a way too big object fall on me. Another time I fell through the map when getting on the roof of a building and trying to get onto the wall (which wasn’t the solution, by the way) and I don’t remember what triggered the 3rd time. Thankfully, the game autosave quite often, so I didn’t lose too much progress. But, it was a bit annoying that there is no death plane underneath the maps that automatically reset you to the latest checkpoint. So, thankfully, you have the “reset” option in the game.

Something I feel extremely mixed about is the game’s length. This game is so short but the mechanics it has, have so much potential, it’s a shame. I really think that this game should have a sequel where even trickier puzzles are introduced. On the other hand, due to the short length, the story has barely any bloat or unneeded sections and flows extremely nicely. Let’s just say that I’m quite jealous of the Steam workshop features that the PC version has. While it’s amazing that I can take this game on the go and show it off to other people, I’m also glad I bought the PC version to not only have the DLC but play more of this game.

Now, while I personally had a ton of fun with this game… When I really look at the game and take a step back… In terms of gameplay, this game could have been so much stronger. I honestly have to agree with what other critics are saying about this game to a certain degree. That some mechanics are seriously underused. Not to say that the puzzles in this game are bad, far from it. I think the biggest issue is that the games’ hooks are so good that the short length to conserve the story flow actually hurt it somewhat. I do heavily disagree with the “lackluster” story. But that’s maybe because it spoke to me on a personal level.

But, yeah, the underused mechanics are such a shame. Yet! Don’t care because it’s over, be happy that it happened. And maybe play some custom-made workshop levels via the Steam version. Meanwhile, I’m crossing my fingers for a sequel or DLC content to expand on the universe and lore of this game.

Objects’ true sizes

So, in conclusion. What do I think of the Switch version of this game? Is it worth your time, or should you buy another version or totally skip this game? Personally, I would highly recommend this game. But, do play it in one sitting. I personally think that the message that the story has it that much stronger when you get it all in one go.

The big novelty of the Switch version is that you can easily take it on the go. Of course, with the right laptop you can also take this game on the go, but the Switch is more convenient. But know that this game’s short length might annoy you, since like I explained earlier, the hooks of the game are that good. If you want to get the most out of this game, I think that the PC version might be the better option here, since it looks like it’s more actively developed, and it has the Steam Workshop with custom content!

Overall, this game does do a lot right. It has a strong story, fun and unique mechanics, amazing atmosphere, great visual presentation but due to some minor bugs and especially the short length, this game might be a difficult sell for some people. But if anything sounded interesting from what I have said in this article, please give this game a go. I really meant in what I said earlier. I wouldn’t surprise me if this game turns up in my top 10 games of 2021 list.

If you are interested in this game, I highly recommend going as blind as possible in this game. Reading too much about this game will ruin various surprises and twists this game takes. It’s like the Stanley Parable. A great short game that leaves so much impact on me as a player, and maybe it does with you too. And if it doesn’t have the same strong impact on you, you might have played a unique puzzle game that challenge your perception abilities and skills. Since, I think this game found the right perception.

What that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. I hope you enjoyed reading this article and 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: 90/100

Want to read another review of this game? Well, visit my friend Indiecator, Dan or Magi and read his review here: https://indiecator.home.blog/2021/11/11/indietail-superliminal//

Review: DooM (PC – Steam) ~ Let’s Give Hell, Hell!

doom-2016Steam Store pageWikipedia EntryOfficial website

Since I upgraded my graphics card late last year, I wanted to play a game I wasn’t able to play before. I had a GTX 660 in my machine which was just not strong enough to play DooM 2016 at a decent framerate. So, when I installed my NVIDIA GTX 1050Ti, I bought myself a copy of DooM 2016 and started playing it. Ever since DooM came out, I wanted to play it. But yeah, 2016 was jam packed with other amazing titles I wanted to play. Rise of The Tomb Raider, Rayman Legends, Stella Glow, Zero Time Dilemma and Bioshock Infinite to name just a few. So yeah, I’m sorry that I haven’t played DooM when it came out but let me make that up by reviewing the game right now. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below. But now, let’s give Hell… Hell.

Those pesky demons.

379720_screenshots_20160513232709_1So, in this shooter, you play as the slayer. The Doom guy that took down all of those demons all those years ago. Like the original two Doom games, you are a silent protagonist. The story itself takes a back seat for the gameplay. Most of the story and exposition is told through runes and the environment. This made me few scripted cutscenes tipping on the edge of immersion breaking for me. 

The voice acting in this game is pretty well done. But, that didn’t save the story of being predictable. I was able to predict the ending from a mile away. Around the mid-point of the game, I was able to call out the ending. I wouldn’t consider this a negative if the game didn’t take it’s lore so seriously. So yeah, the story didn’t click with me at all. 

Yet, the voice acting in this game is just amazing. First of all, there are just a few voice actors for this game but they did their job almost perfectly. While hearing the same voice line from the intercom for the 20th time was a tad bit annoying, it didn’t make the line have any less impact. It started to feel a bit calming to hear the ending when all the demons where dead. Couple that with amazing grunts of the demons and the voice acting is something that actually kept me interested in the story believe it or not. 

Before I continue this review, I do have to mention that I haven’t spend any time with the multiplayer. That’s because I’m not that fond of playing multiplayer games in general. So, I’m sorry but if you want a review of the multiplayer component, you will have to look elsewhere. 

Fun in repetition

DOOM-1If you want to know how this game plays, well, then just think of the original Doom games but now you are able to jump, double jump and preform way more brutal kills. This might sound harsh but the core gameplay of this game is basically just that. 

You go from monster room to monster room, where you have to defeat all demons before you can move on. Of course, the difficulty ramps up with every monster room you encounter, but I have to be honest… I was so glad that there were moments of platforming and exploration to give some diversity in between the shooting or I would have called the game too repetitive. 

This game divided into several levels, called missions in this game. You can always go back and replay those missions to try and find the collectibles you have missed. There are also hidden classic Doom maps that just pull on my nostalgic strings even more than the nostalgic gameplay. I do have an issue with the collectibles though. You can find these vinyl figurines of the Doom guy scattered everywhere. Most of these give you access to models of the demons. That reward would be worth it if only I would have been able to see them. For some reason, they are completely transparent in my game. 

Anyways, I might be riffing a bit on the gameplay here. But please don’t get me wrong. While the core gameplay loop is quite basic and repetitive, I don’t mean that it isn’t fun to play. The game is an enjoyable ride from start to finish. The shooting feels just right with the various amount of weapons and abilities you have and the amount of various demons you have to fight. Also, in this game, there is a lot of variety in the ways that demons act. 

Some demons charge at you and stun you, others climb up walls to try and get an advantage. You have to keep moving and be aware of your surroundings in order for you to survive. Also, people who play a lot of modern shooters will have to get used to the fact that you don’t regenerate health automatically. 

There are two ways to get your health back up. You either find a medkit or you preform a glory kill on a demon. Now, glory killing a demon doesn’t 100% guarantee you health drops, but the chance is quite high. Now, what is glory killing? Well, that means you have wounded the demon enough to put it in a stun. At that moment it starts flashing blue for a while. When it starts to flash orange, your time to get a glory kill is almost up. 

So, when you press the button when you are close to an enemy that’s flashing, you finish said enemy with a rather nice animation. The first few times, seeing this animation is pretty satisfying. But, I felt that it got old nearing the end of the playthrough. Since there are just a few animations that it could be, so after seeing it 50 times, I just wanted an option to be able to skip it. 

Now, speaking of options, I want to take this chance to talk about some strange design decisions that were taken for this game when it comes to the menu design. First of all, you are only able to access the options menu when you have loaded a save file. The reason why this is an issue is that I recently got a new monitor that can handle a resolution that my GPU and CPU can’t handle to output this kind of game on the higher graphic settings. The lag was just extremely annoying and took a lot of time to change. 

Secondly, why is there no apply button in the settings menu? I get the impression it’s there somewhere since when I change a setting the game asks me that if I’m sure about my new settings since I didn’t save nor applied them. 

And finally, and this is something that isn’t 100% UI related but… There are these rune missions that you can do to get new abilities. When I have finished a mission and I find a new rune challenge, I get kicked out of the mission. Why does this happen? Since that doesn’t happen during the first time I was playing the mission. 

And before I talk about the abilities, can I mention how annoying I think that autosaves can be? Image this, you want to stop playing after you finally defeated a challenging room. So, you quit the game, saying “Unsaved progress will be lost.”… That’s fine, but when was the last autosave again? Oh, and you can’t manually save. Oh, fun for the whole family! With that rant over, let’s talk about abilities. 

Too much red and brown.

1

So, you do have different abilities. These can range from weapon abilities to abilities of the Doom guy itself. Now, I’m not going to spoil them but they are quite worth looking for the ways to upgrade them. Since they will help you during your quest to slay the demons. 

I especially loved the weapon challenges. The pistol one was a fun one to do, since I only found out of this mechanic near the ending of the game. And that’s killing demons with a charged headshot and take a wild guess how few weak enemies there were in the later levels. Yup, close to zero. 

Most of this game is quite linear. You go from room to room with platforming sections in between. You do have the radar at the top of the screen to guide you in the right direction when you don’t know where to go next. But, the map in the tab screen can be a great help as well, especially when you are looking for those missed secrets. 

Now, I do have to mention one thing. If you want some challenge and you have played games like Tomb Raider or any other shooter in the past, do yourself a favor and don’t play on the easiest difficulty setting. When you are fully powered up near the end, the game just becomes a cake walk then. Most of my playthrough was on normal and I didn’t had a lot of trouble with it, so I don’t dare to think how easy it will be on the lower difficulty settings. 

So, I do want to talk about the audiovisual design that is presented to you in this 10 to 12 hour adventure through hell and back and on Mars. There is too much brown and dark early evening colors used. But, that isn’t such a big deal in my opinion. You can paint it red with the blood of your enemy demons… 😛 Anyways, visually the game looks amazing. One minor detail is that I often had moments where I had a ton of loading issues. Not that the game loaded slow or weird, but that the details loaded in way slower then models. I think that the technical term for that is calling issues, but I’m not too sure. But that might be an issue of my slightly older hardware I used to play this game, so when you are running a more modern computer, you might not run into this issue. If you are wondering, I’m using an i7-4820K, 16GB of 666MHz DDR3 RAM and a GTX 1050Ti, so it ain’t that bad of a machine. It’s a shame though, since the visual design of this game is really well done and detailed. 

Anyways, I loved the visual design of Hell the most. I can’t explain why but I really enjoyed the design of the scenery. Maybe I’m a bit burned out on seeing abandoned factories or ships with broken walls and wires hanging everywhere and then the overload of blood on walls, I think it was the breath of fresh air I needed. 

On top of that, you have the amazing visual design of the demons you can fight together with their amazing animation. In some battles, I really felt the adrenaline pumping through my veins. The game can get that intense. Especially during the boss fights, those were great. And those were puzzles in itself and as soon you had solved them and found the weakspot of the boss, it felt so amazing to finally kill them with an amazingly animated glory kill.

That brings me to the music and audio design. Let’s talk about the music first. The music is a mix between electronic and metal music. The main focus is on the metal in the soundtrack. While I prefer electronic music over metal music, I do have to say that I enjoyed this soundtrack quite a lot and I’m quite happy that I was able to get the soundtrack on Steam as well. I have already added it to my music library and my writing playlists. 

The audio design is equally as great. The monster grunts, the sounds that you make while jumping or shooting… Man, it’s gratifying. The sound effects are the perfect tool to aid you to do the right thing admits the chaos of fighting hoards of demons. The only weird thing I want to mention is that, when I got out of range to hear what a rune was saying and I came back, the rune just stopped playing it’s voice clip. Even when it wasn’t fully finished. 

Anyways, I have talked about almost everything I wanted to say about this game. If I would continue further, I would either start rambling or start nitpicking and I think it would be a better idea then to go on to the conclusion of this article. 

Conclusion

The bad:

-The story is a bit meh while the lore that’s there could have made it so much better.

-The gameplay is a tad bit repetitive sometimes. 

-Some strange UI/menu decisions. 

-Some calling issues that quickly fix themselves. 

-The easier difficulty is a tad bit too easy.

The good:

+ Even when the gameplay is repetitive, it’s still a rush to play. 

+ Amazing locations to shoot through.

+ A ton of nostalgic throwbacks. 

+ An amazing health system that rewards players to get close to dangerous enemies. 

+ …

Final thoughts:

Was Doom 4 worth the 4 year wait I had to do to play it. Let me put it this way, I’m glad I play it but it isn’t the best game I have played in recent years. Most of it has to do with the sometimes repetitive gameplay. For some reason, I want to compare it to the Tomb Raider games. While those games are completely different, I still felt that they are somewhat similar in structure. With the ability to explore around, fight enemies in closed spaces and find secrets to upgrade your gear or find additional lore. And once that comparison got into my head, I just wanted to play more Tomb Raider since I enjoyed those games more than Doom 2016.

Now, does that make DooM 4 a bad game? Oh heavens and hell, no! The game is still a rush to play through from start to finish. If you enjoy shooters or games in the style of Tomb Raider or Bioshock, I think it would be a shame to skip this game. But, I do think that this game is a tad bit overhyped. It’s not THAT good since I could have done so much more especially in terms of exploration. 

Maybe Doom Eternal fixes a lot of the gripes I have with the amazing DooM 4, but I do have to upgrade my rig first for that. So, maybe in a few years you might see a review of the sequel from me. 

But in all seriousness, Doom 4 is a really good game. While it wasn’t always my cup of tea and it didn’t always pull me in like I expected it would or compared to other games, I’m so happy that I played this game and I’m even considering replaying this game in the future like I did with all the Bioshock games and Tomb Raider games recently. 

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

Score: 80/100

First Impression: Drawngeon: Dungeons of Ink and Paper (Switch) ~ Classroom Doodles Came To Life

drawgeon

Nintendo.com micrositeDrageus pageOfficial Steam Page

As somebody who works in a school as an IT guy, I’m interested when a game does something that is somewhat school-related. Today I’m going to talk about a game that does something of that nature. Well, the connection might be a bit far fetched but hey, it’s there if you look far enough. So, today’s game is Drawngeon. The publisher Drageus Games gave me a press code for the Nintendo Switch version. In this game, a drawn dungeon comes to life. Now, this game is rather cheap so it might turn people off. But, should you be turned off by this game or is it totally worth your time? Let’s find out in this 100% my honest opinion game quicky review of this game. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below. 

Editorial note: During the play sessions and writing of this review, an update came out. It’s possible that some complaints might be fixed in a future version. This review is written on v1.0.3.

Classroom Doodles Came To Life

Drawngeon-Dungeons-of-Ink-and-Paper-Review-Screenshot-2

In this game, you play as a nameable character that is going to explore the drawn dungeons of this world. I think that the store page explains the story better then I can explain it.

The life went on as usual in the Inkland, until the Tower has suddenly fallen straight from the sky!
Many heroes tried to solve its mystery, but none of them succeeded! Maybe it’s your turn to test yourself?

Explore the procedurally generated game world of the Inkland – dungeons, caves, forest and, of course, the Mysterious Tower. Who can reveal all the secrets of the Mysterious Tower?

For those who don’t know what “procedurally generated” means, let me quickly explain it. It means that every time you enter the game, the layout will be different. If you have ever heard about Pokémon Mystery Dungeon, it’s the same basic idea. I find this quite surprising in a good way. For a cheap game like this, the fact that you can replay this game multiple… well, it gives you even more bang for your 4-5 bucks (Depends if the game is on sale or not 😉 ).

This gives the game more variety as well.  Every playthrough will be different. There is a game that’s quite similar to this one in concept and that’s Delver and Eldritch.  These games throw you into a dungeon as well, where the layout and enemy placement is very different every time. And I enjoyed those two games quite a lot. What I’m saying is that I enjoyed my time quite a lot with this game.

The game looks amazing. It looks like somebody drew his whole ideal Dungeons and Dragons lay-out in a sketchbook during study hall or something of that nature. The little use of color makes the items you can interact with stand out that much more.

The further you get into the game, the more bonus material you unlock. These are mostly concept art but they are a nice view of the development of this game. Now, there is a collectable that makes a cat person like me extremely happy. There are a ton of hidden cats all over the map and they are a joy to collect!

The bad ones.

EReFQHkUYAE6jh1Now, the game looks quite nice. I mentioned that before. Yet, there are a few things that ruin the immersion a bit. For example, the game has a problem with slopes. You can look right through them from some angles. You can see an example in the screenshot here. The void or the textures from the block behind are clearly visible.

But that isn’t the only problem I have with the visual presentation of this game. The big issue I have comes with animation of especially the battles. During a battle, which isn’t turned based but rather in realtime, you get an indication that you got hit. But, there is no indication that you hit the enemy. Yes, the text underneath the playing field tells you that you did or didn’t do damage to the enemy but why isn’t this visually shown like hits on your character?

Now, I can totally understand that a game of this nature needs to have a certain difficulty curve. But this game’s difficulty curve is a bit too much. I have no problem with enemies taking 3 to 4 hits to kill when you start the game, but the damage you get versus the damage you can do is a bit too much. Similar games like Delver are more balanced and make the game a bit more enjoyable to play.

The controls are easy to get used to but I’m sorry, they have a few issues that I really didn’t like at all. The first big issue is turning. You can turn by using the left and right shoulder buttons. Personally, I would have used these as strafe buttons. So, basically switch the left and right arrows around with the shoulder buttons.

The second issue I have with the controls is inventory management. The fact that there is no tutorial section, makes it extremely difficult to easily figure out the mechanics of the inventory. It took me some time before I was able to throw items on the ground, move and equip them. This brings me to another issue with the UI. But more on that later.

The 3rd issue is the fact that there isn’t a run button. This makes exploring the map a bit boring. Especially when you are restarting for the 10th time. You have seen most of the early area and you want to get through it as quickly as possible.

When you equip a stat-boosting item, it appears that your stats stay unchanged. Your stats are displayed next to your character portrait and those stay the same no matter what you equip. In addition to that, I don’t even know or understand which stats are what. Now, the description of the items changes color when it’s an improvement but it’s in orange. Why not green or red like in any other RPG?

Not to mention, the inventory is a bit tricky to use. It’s extremely small, so you have to really think about what you take with you and what you leave behind. But, when you want to pick up an item and you don’t have enough room in your inventory, you get the same basic text: “Not enough room in your inventory.” So, you don’t know about what item you can’t pick up and how much space you need in your inventory.

The sound design is a hit and miss story. While the sound effects add to the immersion of this game, sadly there aren’t enough sound effects in the game. For example, the sound effects for most of the enemy’s movements are exactly the same for bats, spiders, and other monsters. This is a big shame since a lot of players use these sound effects to know which enemies are coming to properly prepare themselves. Now, the music or the lack thereof really adds to the atmosphere of the game. The music that’s present is really well done and gives off the tense atmosphere that the game has.

Something that I found, on one hand, interesting and on the other hand extremely annoying, is the fact that to level up or boost your stats, you have to go to a tree at the starting village. It’s an interesting way to level up your character but it’s annoying that you can’t do this in a menu like almost every other similar game.

And with all that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game, so I think it’s high time to wrap up this article with the conclusion and my thoughts on this game.

Conclusion

If you read this article, it might seem that this game has a ton of flaws. And I have to admit, this game has extremely rough edges that can frustrate a lot of players. But on the other hand, this game does have a lot of positives that make the game extremely enjoyable to play.

The big problem is that I have seen and played better games in this style. And even on the Nintendo Switch: One More Dungeon is an example. So, is this game a bad game? Well, yes and no. It has its problems and shortcomings but it also has a lot of strong points.

This game is like a broken phone screen. It still works and it’s still a decent way to use your phone but the more the cracks start growing and showing, the more you have to get used to the shortcomings or replace it with a better and more polished screen.

Honestly, I think that this game needed way more time to develop. Since the potential for an extremely enjoyable game is present in this game. But not in the version I have reviewed.

So, would I recommend this game? Yes, but with a disclaimer. Know that this game isn’t the best game you will ever play but it has a certain charm. To who would I recommend this game? To people who enjoy dungeon crawlers or games like Delver and One More Dungeon.

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

Score: 60/100

Writers Raid: Tomb Raider Level Editor ~ Lara Raided Fantombs

Tomb_Raider_Level_Editor

Today I want to take you on a journey. Together with various other writers, we decided to celebrate the Tomb Raider series. While a lot of people look at the early Tomb Raider games as games that didn’t age well, I don’t mind that much. True, the games aren’t the best to play nowadays, but I still enjoy them. I knew that there was a level editor as a child but I never took the time to learn the ins and outs of the tool. In the past, I thought that it was a cheating tool that allowed you to edit levels to give you an advantage. Anyways, the level editor, that’s the theme of this article.

History

Now, what’s the TLRE? What’s the Tomb Raider Level Editor? Well, it’s the actual tool that Core Design used to create the first 5 Tomb Raider games. This tool was released to the public in 2000. Included in the package were beta versions of various levels and a couple of completed levels. A bit later, Eidos Interactive released another few levels. You can dig deeper into the details of those levels on the Tomb Raider Wiki.

If you want to mess around with the tool itself, you can find it here. Out of personal experience, I can say that the tool works on Windows 10. There are various tutorials you can find online. On YouTube and on various forums. Here are a few links you could use:

http://www.tombraiderforums.com/forumdisplay.php?f=16

https://tombraiders.net/stella/trle.html

http://www.trle.net

https://www.aspidetr.com/en/tools/tomb-raider-level-editor/

There is also an updated fan version of the tool called Tomb Raider Level Editor Next Generation. It’s quite a mouthful, but it has more features than the original tool. It also has widescreen support and various other features. More information can be found on this website: http://www.trlevelmanager.eu/ng.htm or you can read about it in detail on this forum thread: http://www.tombraiderforums.com/showthread.php?t=216848

Before I continue with this article, I have to admit that I’m not that good at creating levels with the tools. So, if you are looking for a review of the tools, I think you are in the wrong place. In this article, I want to take a look at some random levels I played. Most of these levels are created by other people and the download link will be provided. If you want to play any custom created levels yourself, the best website to find them is: http://www.trle.net

Do keep in mind that all of these custom levels run on one the engine of Tomb Raider I, II, III, IV or V. So, don’t expect HD visuals or anything that the engine can’t handle. So, if you aren’t into the original Tomb Raider games, you might not get into these levels. But, if you are a Tomb Raider fan or enjoy retro adventure games, do give them a try. And don’t worry, there are reviews on almost every level on TRLE.net so you know if a level is good or not.

To play the custom levels you don’t need to have the level editor itself installed or any of the Tomb Raider games. The way how you play these levels is quite simple. After downloading a level, you unpack them and click on the .exe file. In some cases, you can hold the CTRL key down to adjust some options like the visuals and things like that. Sometimes there is a readme file included by the author to aid you when certain problems occur. Do read them, since sometimes there is useful information in there. Uninstalling a custom level/game is quite simple. Since you didn’t have to install anything, you can just remove the files.

For beginners

Now, if you decided that you want to give these custom levels a try and you haven’t played Tomb Raider in the past or it was too long ago, let me give you some advice to better enjoy these custom levels. This might look like a lot to take in, but you will get used it to when you play more levels. Start with the highest rated ones. Those are really well built and rarely have cheap traps or overly difficult jumps in them.

First of all, if you run a level that’s made in TRI, II or III, you are able to change the controls from the main menu using the option with the arrow keys. If you are playing a custom level created in TRIV or V, you are able to do so using the “P” key during gameplay. Here is the basic layout for the keys:

TRLE1

Feel free to use these pictures as a reference in case the game is in a different language. The sequence of this list almost NEVER changes. To my knowledge, you are unable to rebind the keys in levels created in TR I, II and III. In other cases you can select the action using the arrow keys, press enter and press the key you want to bind it too. Pay attention while you are doing this since the game won’t complain if you bind two things to the same key.

Alright, now while playing this game, know that the game never autosaves. You can save by using F5 and load by using F6. You can save at any location you want, apart from when you are in a cutscene. You can’t pause the game using ESC during cutscenes either.

Remember that Lara never automatically grabs ledges. You need to hold down the action button. So, if you jump towards a ledge, hold that button or you will fill. The same button is used to flick levers, pick up items, press buttons and so on and so forth.

You can save while hanging from a ledge, but press the action button right after the game loaded or you will fall. But, the action button is useful for so much more. From pushing boxes to open trapdoors. If you are stuck, look for a place where the action button does something. Also, when you are trying to open a trapdoor, always try the action button while standing in the middle of aside. The final useful thing to know is when you press action in front of a keyhole and you have the actual key, your inventory will automatically open.

Do experiment with Lara’s jump, since she is quite acrobatic. Something I love using backward rolls when I press a button and quickly need to run away. This can be done by pressing the up and down key together while you perform a jump. In one custom level, I have to jump back and forth between platforms to make it to the other side.

In some cases, Lara will be able to climb up. Whenever she needs to pull herself up in a tight spot, use the duck key while pulling yourself up. That way she will squeeze herself into the tight space.

Here is another hint. If you need to jump from a ladder to something behind you, don’t jump from the top. Lara will bump her head on the ceiling and loose height. You can jump from a ladder by pressing the down arrow and jump (while letting go of the control key), and then hold the up arrow and control. This technique will proof tricky at first, but practice makes perfect.

Now, I could keep explaining the whole move set Lara has. But that’s something you will learn when you play custom levels. Whenever you are stuck, simply google the name of the custom level and add “Tomb Raider Level Editor” behind it. 9.99 out of 10 chances you will find a walkthrough on it. Unless the level just released, in that case, you can either use the TRLE.net forums or wait a day or two.

Or you can experiment by downloading the level editor and playing the first two included levels. These have very easy levels that aid you in learning how the game is played. The download link can be found earlier in the article.

Oh, and it’s maybe handy to know how to exit a game. If you don’t find the quit button easy, just “ALT+F4” always worked for me.

Now, one annoying thing I want to mention is that “ALT+TAB” doesn’t always work. Be careful if you want to look at a walkthrough or something. Since it’s possible that you are unable to open the game again. It might either crash or black screen. If that happens, use task manager to kill the process of the game and load it up again. That’s why I use the F5 key to quickly save before “Alt+Tab”. If you use “Alt+Tab” the safest way to get back to the game is to “Alt+Tab” into the game again. It’s possible that it has two open windows, the best is choosing the window that has a title displayed. In most cases, that’s the name of the engine that’s used.

You can quickly load your game using F6, this is very handy. Since you can save everywhere, you can also save while on ladders or while hanging from a ledge. If you press the Action button (usually the CTRL key) during loading, you won’t fall off the ladder or edge. So, be careful with that.

With that said, it’s time for me to look at a few randomly chosen levels over at TLRE.net. I’ll give my opinions on the levels and a small score. If you know of some amazing levels, please do share them in the comment section down below. Footnote, every rating is on a max score of 10. Be aware, I’m not going to give these levels an in-depth review. Just some quick thoughts.

The Wolf Pack – Part 2

Image00001

Created by: JesseG

Created in: TR4

Rating: 9.25

Released: 23/08/2018

http://www.trle.net/sc/levelfeatures.php?lid=3065

This is at the moment of writing this article, the most recently released entry. This level isn’t beginner-friendly since it requires some precise jumps from ladders. Especially backward. To more experienced players, this level is a nice challenge.

In this level, the character model of Lara is replaced by a wolf model. This model is very nice to look at and the visual presentation fits the visuals of Tomb Raider 4 nicely. The custom music and sound effects are decent. It was quite unexpected to find more MIDI-sounding music in a Tomb Raider level.

At first, I found that the music didn’t fit the Tomb Raider universe at all, but the more I played the game and the more I heard the music, the more it grew on me. I’m adding the music to my game OST library since I like it that much.

This is quite a lengthy game. As a matter of fact, this game can take up to an hour to complete the three levels. In these three levels, you play as two different playable characters. Yes, you have two playable characters. You can swap between them using swap points you find at certain places. Both characters have different unique abilities. This is something I rarely see in TRLE levels and was a pleasant surprise to see.

Since I have played the second part before the first, I think it would be handy if the creator included some sort of link to download the first part of these levels in the download.

The only points of criticism are as follows.  First of all, while almost all sound effects have been changed, I found it strange that the sound effect of falling to your doom hasn’t been changed.

Secondly, I found the first jump from a ladder you had to do pretty annoying. I think it would be better if the platform had a different color or a bit more identification that you are supposed to jump there.

Thirdly, I think that the levels were either too long or too short. The first level was too long and the two other levels were over before I knew it. I think it would have been better if the first level was cut into more levels and the 2nd and 3rd levels were merged into one level.

Overall, a very creative level pack but needs some minor polish to get perfect. This level pack does a lot of unique things in the TRLE community and is really recommended for veteran players or new players looking for a challenge.

Personal score: 9/10

Wolfpack screenie

Lost in Temple

Created by: Sal

Created in: TR5

Rating: 5.98

Released: 11/10/2015

http://trle.net/sc/levelfeatures.php?lid=2873

This custom level is according to the TRLE.net walkthrough a remake of Fenician Temple 4 from Tomb Raider 3. Something that I didn’t like for this model is the outfit Lara is wearing during this level. I felt that it didn’t fit the theming of this level at all.

Lost in Temple screenie

While this level impressed me at the start with some amazing camera angles and two big rooms filled with jump puzzles, the issues with this level became clear to me quickly. This level has quite a lot of backtracking.

This level honestly got a bit boring in my opinion. For example, to solve one block puzzle I had to run from one room to another so many times.

Also, I was unable to play this game in full screen. I had to fix the broken shortcut to the setup tool, which was easy to do. Just replacing the path where the EXE of the game is located. I had to play windowed. But, from the reviews I have read, this might be a universal issue with Tomb Raider 5 and Windows 10.

This level would have been better if there was a bit more direction as well. I had to consult a walkthrough since I didn’t find where I was supposed to go. It turned out that I was able to grab a wall. The thing is, it used the same texture as the bottom part of the wall where the wall isn’t grabbable nor climbable.

Also, I found the walkthrough of the actual author of this level. And he had to speed up some parts of his video. Looking at that video, this level goes on for quite a while. I have quit playing this level when I had to fight enemies in the dark. I just felt done with the level.

Looking at the reviews on TRLE.net, I’m happy to see that there were people who enjoyed this level. Since I have seen much worse. This level is balanced and very detailed. But, it’s unpolished and isn’t fun to play in my opinion.

Personal score: 4/10

Poseidon’s Sanctum

Poseidons Sanctum screenie

Created by: Sarikman

Created in: TR3

Rating: 8.94

Released: 21/11/2011

http://www.trle.net/sc/levelfeatures.php?lid=2478

This level was quite a good one. This level is created in an unofficial editor called DXTRE3D created by Turbo Pascal. This level is also pretty tricky but it’s doable. You will have to think old-school Tomb Raider to find every secret and the way forward in these levels.

I had a great time playing these levels. If you decide to play these levels, I have a tip for you. At first, you might think that the camera does some weird things but pay attention when the angle changes. What is it showing you? Seriously, it shows some extremely helpful things.

Visually, this level looks amazing for using the Tomb Raider 3 engine as a base. I started Tomb Raider III right after playing this one to compare and I like the visuals a bit more at the custom level than in the original one. Sadly enough, there were some minor texturing issues here and there, but they weren’t too noticeable.

The music selection in this level pack is top-notch. I really liked how the music went more silent when you were underwater.

While this level pack has a few bugs, the author provided some screenshots and explanations on how to fix them or how to avoid these bugs. The author also provided a text file with some interesting advice for people who got stuck and not only that, it’s written in a way that Lara is talking to you. Very interesting and fun read.

I won’t talk too much more about this level since if you want to play an amazing example of what people can do with the level editor, just play this level. It’s one of the best I have played in a long while. I haven’t finished this level but I’m going to play this over my next break.

The only advice I could give to the author for this level is if you create bug pictures and such, use more than an arrow to point out ledges. If possible, give them a color or make it a bit more clear which ledge you mean.

Personal score: 8/10

Final words

Thank you so much for reading my entry for the Tomb Raider Writer’s Raid series. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing this one. I play from time to time at various TRLE levels. I enjoy them quite a lot. Seeing these new levels makes my retro heart happy.

While I completely understand that there is a crowd that dislikes the old Tomb Raider, I’m not part of that crowd. I enjoy playing retro games quite a lot and I’m always curious about what adventures I’ll find myself in next.

I have been in various unique situations while playing Tomb Raider Level Editor. I wanted to write about this tool for quite a while now. It has been on my “to write about” list for three years now. So, the ultimate excuse was this project.

If you want to read some nostalgic articles from other writers about the Tomb Raider series, feel free to go to the hub article where various amazing writers talk about their experience of the Tomb Raider series. You can find a link here.

With that said, it’s time for my usual outro. 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 meet you in another article but until then take care and have a great rest of your day.

Tomb_Raider_raid
The logo for this project is created by The Well-Red Mage

 

Review: Blossom Tales – The Sleeping King (Switch) ~ Cloned To Perfection

Blossom Tales.jpg

Publisher’s website

I’m quite certain that since the success of The Legend Of Zelda – Breath Of The Wild, the next games in the Zelda series will be a more open world. But, 3D-Zelda games aren’t even my favorite games. My favorite Zelda titles are the Oracle games. So, when I was browsing YouTube and saw a video of this game, I grabbed my Switch and bought it without thinking twice. Now, thanks to the Switch, the developer of this game has been able to stay afloat. That’s quite impressive I must say. It raised the bar quite high for me, so I had high expectations. So, in the end, how is the game? Is it worth playing or not? Let’s find out. As usual, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts on the game and/or the article. 

Note: This game is also released on Steam. So, if you don’t own a Switch and you are interested in this game, you can play it on your PC. I haven’t played this game on PC so this review will be focused on the Switch version of the game.

Cloned to perfection

blossom-tales-2.jpgIn this game, you play as Lily. A character in a story that the grandfather of two grandchildren is listening too. I found it really charming that the heroine’s name is Lily since that’s also the name of the female grandchild. The boy is named Chrys.

At first, the grandfather wanted to tell the story of: “the brave elf boy who lived in a magical land called H-..” but the grandkids have heard that story a million times. So, that’s why the grandpa started to tell the above-mentioned story. During the story, the grandchildren don’t hesitate to intervene and give commentary, sometimes arguing between the two of them which enemy the heroine faced.

It also gives the game some minor replay value in some areas. Since you get the option to choose between which grandchild gets his or her wish when they are arguing about the enemy you are facing.

I’m not going to talk more about the story since it would spoil the excellent humor and charm of the writing. The writing pokes fun at the original 2D-Zelda games and the tropes of telling a story like that. While the story isn’t THAT unique, it’s executed so well and with so much charm, I really enjoyed it. The references and pokes towards the Zelda series also made me smile and enjoy it even more.

At the start, you would be under the impression that this game is a clone of the Zelda series. Almost completely copying the gameplay of the Zelda series. But, this game is cloned to perfection. This game has a lot of elements from different 2D-Zelda games and they all work perfectly together. If you didn’t know, you would say that this game is a spin-off in the Zelda series.

The gameplay can be compared to every 2D-Zelda game like Oracle of Ages/Seasons, A Link To The Past, The original Legend of Zelda, Link Between Worlds… I felt like playing a “best of” from those games.

Exploring the open world, trying to find all hidden areas on the map, upgrading your gear to do more damage… It made me come back for more and more. Too bad that this game is short. According to HowLongToBeat.com, this game only takes you 9-ish hours to complete.

Wake up Grandpa, I mean King!

blossom-tales-1.jpg

It’s a shame that this game is so short. The dungeons are challenging to play through and the overworld is fun to explore.

I wanted this game to continue on for a while longer. Since, when I first started my journey, the visual design of this game gave me a wave of nostalgia. The game looks amazing. Vibrant and colorful, but most of all, nostalgic. The pixel-art feels almost like it would be possible on a Gameboy Color.

While exploring the swamp, I almost felt like my younger self again. When I was covered in a blanket, playing A Link To The Past at my cousin’s house on his SNES. The game mixes elements of fantasy and magic quite well.

Besides that the game looks amazing, the animations of this game are extremely well done as well. I really like the idle animation of this game since it fits the story so well. When you leave your Switch alone, the main character would nervously tap her foot. As if she is waiting to know how she needs to progress in the story. A small touch that would make this perfect is that sometimes the kids would yell at grandpa that “he fell asleep while telling the story.” But, that’s nitpicking at this point.

Now, you go on your journey to wake up the King. Now, the reason for that is something I will leave up to you to discover. During your journey, you get a rather big arsenal of weapons. Every weapon is quite unique and is used in various places in the overworld. So, experiment with your items.

There is also a collect-a-ton aspect to the game where you can pick up certain enemy drops. Enemies rarely drop coins or hearts; but they drop feathers, zombie brains, bee hives… and those can be traded in for coins or other great rewards. The game has a bit more depth besides the main quest. So, to tease the gameplay even more… I will mention that there are side quests like scroll collecting.

Now, this game has a great price. The game costs 12€, 15USD. It’s a great price for this game.

All of this sounds fine, amazing gameplay, great story, and excellent presentation. Are there negatives to this game or will I continue to praise it? Well, there are a few things that made me raise an eyebrow or two.

So close, so close.

blossom-tales-3.jpg

Something I didn’t like was that you were unable to choose the sword button. This might seem like a nitpick, but I found it impractical that it was the “A” button.

Now, I only discovered that this could be changed after I finished the game. But, when you change your sword button, it also changes the button you need to press to accept dialogues. So yeah… Nitpicking much here. So, check your control options when you want to change that.

While the controls respond quite well, there are a few other things that I didn’t like. Like when you aim your bow, you are locked in the position you started aiming in. There is also no way to cancel the bow aiming. This is a problem since it takes a chunk out of your mana bar. And without mana, you can’t use your special items leaving you wide open to attacks.

If you have read other reviews I wrote, you know that I find the music and sound design pretty important for a game. Now, the sound design of this game is decent. While I would have loved a bit more sound effects for the monster grunts and people talking, it’s pretty okay.

The soundtrack, well, it’s good but some tracks are too short. And there are one or two tracks that I really didn’t like. The track for the race side quests worked on my nerves. On the other hand, it’s a great way to hear how much time you have left, but it made me just even more nervous while doing an obstacle course quickly. That said, the rest of the soundtrack is really enjoyable and I have to say that Visager did a great job with the music.

Now, there are a few things that could make this game even better. The first thing is the completion percentage. There are a lot of side quests and things like that, I would love to see a completion percentage or a sort of quest log so I can keep track of them.

A second thing that would improve the game quite a lot is polishing up the teleport system. Now, you step on the teleport stone and you choose in a lost of teleport locations you have activated. It would be amazing if you would see them on the map as well and instead of choosing them from a simple list, you would pick them from the map.

A third thing that would be nice is that there is a different sprite or some sort of identification if you have activated a teleport stone or not. This is a minor thing, I know, but it would be a great minor change.

The difficulty of this game is good. This game isn’t too hard or too easy. While it would be neat if the dungeon bosses have some sort of health bar, I think that the visuals give the health of a boss away.

Now, sometimes I felt like there was a bit too much going on with the dungeon boss. The more I have to keep in mind while fighting a boss, the more frustrated I get. There were two bosses that almost made me throw my Switch one or twice. Something that would help is an easier way to find the red potions. If that’s in the game, I overlooked it.

So, that’s everything I wanted to say about this game. I think it’s time for the conclusion and my final thoughts (which act as a TL;DR most of the time) for this game.

Conclusion

The good:

+ Amazing story

+ Excellent visuals

+ Addictive gameplay.

+ ….

The bad:

– Way too short. It’s over before you know it.

– Some bosses have a bit too much stuff going on.

– Locking in one direction when firing a bow.

– The soundtrack could have been so much more.

Final thoughts:

So, is this game any good? Yes! I never expected that this game was this good. While it’s highly possible that the nostalgia for the Legend of Zelda series overtakes me and makes me look over some flaws, but truth to be told, this game deserves all the praise it’s getting.

As mentioned above, this game isn’t perfect. But, the positives highly outweigh the negatives. This game is a lot of fun for casual and hardcore players. And because I finished this game and I want to see more, I’m well determined to support the developer even more. I want to see more of this developer.

You really owe it to yourself if you enjoy 2D-Zelda or adventure/action games to play this game to the end. For now, this game is one of the best games I have played all year. Yes, I enjoyed it that much.

In addition to that, when I was testing out the Switch screenshot sharing feature, I tweeted out a picture where signposts still tell what’s on it:

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And yes, that’s the actual WRITER of this game replying to my tweet. The developers of this game are very active on social media! I love what you are doing with the fans and players of your game! Great work! Now, if you make another game; please notify me. I would love to see more of you guys. Even when it’s a sequel to Blossom Tales.

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

Score: 90/100

First Impression: Etrian Odyssey Untold: The Millennium Girl (3DS) ~ Dungeon Crawler with own maps

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Back when the 3DS wasn’t released, I played an overload of DS games. More then I care to admit. There was one series I wanted to get into but actually never gave a fair chance. That was Etrian Odyssey. So, two weeks ago, I decided to pick up one of the 3DS games. Since the core game mechanic interested me. Now, I haven’t played many other games besides this the last two weeks. But why is it so good to me? I will explain in this first impression. I hope you are ready, since we are going to the labyrinth. Wait, no… This is real life, not the game world. So, I have to say my usual sentence. Feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and or the content of this article. 

Going old school

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Alright, first of all. I’m blown away by the story. Most of all, I think this is one of the best writing I have seen since I played Corpse Party. Sometimes the writing is as if you are reading a book. While nothing that much happens on screen, the short yet extremely powerful descriptions you are given are enough to immerse yourself in the world and give you the feeling to be there in the world.

The characters are also memorable. The story goes about a girl that lost her memory. But, strangely, the story wasn’t the main focus of the story until the point I played. It was something different. There are other side stories that are all leading up to one interesting setup. It’s almost like a real life as an explorer. There are so many things going on and you try to make the best of it.

The characters are what makes the story even more interesting. They might be your typical hotheaded mage, wise healer, strong (female!) tank and silent main character. Yet, they have been written in such a way that it doesn’t bother the story. The characters even get fleshed out and thrown in day to day situations.

But enough about the story. I can’t praise it enough. What I love the most about this game is the fact you have to draw your own map on the touch screen. This takes me back so many years, when I was first playing The Legend Of Zelda on my cousin’s NES. We both started to draw maps together and tried to find and share secrets that way. The wonder I get when I find an unexplored part on a floor I thought I completed is just amazing.

Music to enjoy.

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So, this game has a very nice map creating tool. It doesn’t punish you by not allowing you to the next floor until every square has been discovered, it rewards you to try and get to hard to reach area’s with amazing treasure.

I’ll talk a bit about the gameplay later. First, I want to talk about something else. The music of this game is really well done. In fact, I even replaced my main ringtone with one of my favorite tracks from the game.

Another thing that also shines in the sound department is the voice acting. The voices are really well done and add a lot of character … to the characters. They also are really helpful. The shout what they think is the enemies weakness in battle. This is where I have some minor nitpicks. The battle system is where some polish of this game … well, I has some minor mistakes.

The “auto” feature doesn’t always chooses the best option to attack and looking up a monster while fighting can’t be done in sub menu’s. That are just two examples of issues I have with the battle system. The randomizing of the characters don’t bother me that much, since that brings some element of luck to the game… Which I really like.

The presentation of this game is what I really think doesn’t need an upgrade. I have barely anything negative to say. Apart from some lazy recoloring of some enemy models, I think they made some eye candy to enjoy while playing this game. If only the added some more ambient sound effects into the game to make it a bit more alive then it already is.

Enjoying this game like mad

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To say that this game is perfect would be a lie. There are some minor annoyances, like the deleting of icons is kinda tricky to do… But most of the things I find are mostly minor. Even the controls, I can’t seem to find any major issues. They are responsive and work pretty well.

I could argue that there isn’t anywhere to heal your party for free, but that just adds the strategy element of this game. You need to keep exploring and find enough items and treasure to sell so you can keep healing.

That price always goes up, from what I understand… along with the levels of your party members.

Is this game for everybody? Well, that seriously depends on what mode you play. I’m playing classic mode. That means I get the full story yet the game is a bit more challenging. I wanted to play a game that could kick my ass if I wasn’t ready for a battle or if I wasn’t paying enough attention. It delivers on that front. With some well placed traps and the introduction of really strong enemies really early, I’m always on my guard.

From what I read, the story mode is much more forgiving. But I wanted a challenge and I’m getting it for sure. And I’m enjoying it. That much, that I had trouble with writing a really coherent article. So, I tried to talk like an excited friend that tries to sell you on this game. I hope I succeeded in that. Even when you aren’t interested in this game, I highly recommend you watch a let’s play episode or something since the game is so well put together, I think it’s a shame if you would to miss out on this. So, I’m going to wrap up this article right here. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. And hopefully, I would like to welcome you at another article. Until then, take care.~