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Game Quicky: Bridge Strike (Switch) ~ Shall We Strike?

H2x1_NSwitchDS_BridgeStrike_image1600wNintendo.com micrositeDrageus Games portfolioOfficial website

A few weeks ago, my developer friends Drageus Games sent me a press kit about Bridge Strike. As usual, they provided a press code to me so I can review this game in my usual 100% honest opinion. Now, Drageus Games didn’t develop this game but a small team called Project R3D from Poland. Now, retro gamers who enjoy playing games on the Commodore Amiga might know this title. Yes, it’s from the same developers. Now, in this article I’m going to take a look at the Switch version. I just want to also say that this game is also released on mobile platforms. With all that said, I think it’s high time to take a look at this game in my usual game quicky format. Did this indie studio create an hidden gem or a game best skipped? Let’s find out while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

We can strike!

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In this game you play as an unnamed soldier who is piloting “The Eagle”. But more about the story in a later section of this article.

Since the game is also a mobile game, the gameplay is quite simple. With the right joystick, you move your aircraft around and you shoot with the A button. Simple controls and easy to understand. They are also extremely responsive. Most of this game was played with my Switch Pro Controller and it felt quite good to control.

If you just look at the screenshots of this game, it does look amazing. The visual presentation is something that I have to admire. It’s extremely well done and I dare even say that it’s quite impressive for being an indie game. Including the audio design, the sound effects have impact and the music is quite enjoyable to listen to as well.

Something I want to mention for sure that they I really liked the dynamic weather system. It was a nice surprise to see this amount of effort to the visuals.

We are out of ammo!

Now, I do want to mention something about the story. I can understand that this story for a game like this doesn’t need to be very involved or have very deep lore. For a simple top down indie shooter game, a generic plot can work. But, I do have some problems with the story this time around.

It’s a bit too generic. There is barely any to no world building in the story. Also, there is no explanation to why you should shoot down the bridges. Do you need to cut off your country’s supply lines?

But, you want to know something funny? The story does get explained and it gets more lore and world building. Believe it or not, it’s in the help section. Yes, the help section. Where you expect something like a tutorial or the button lay-out. Maybe this is a strange translation decision but it battles me.

In addition to that, when you read the story in the help section you get the impression that there is much more to the game then there actually is. That you have to fight a lot of enemies or stay hidden. Now, if the simple tutorial is anything to go by, I’m afraid that’s just nothing more than a bit of text. Besides moving your ships and shooting, there is nothing else in terms of mechanics.

And guess what, this means that the game falls into a pitfall of being repetitive quite easily. There are only three things you have to do in this game. One is shoot bridges, two is to slow down at fuel stations and three is dodge or shoot obstacles. That’s it. If you are interested in this game, I do advise you to play this game is short bursts, since this game can get a bit boring after a few levels.

Something that would have helped is that there was a bit more for the player to avoid or play around with. For example, that there were power-ups or enemies that shot back. But after playing the raid mode and some of the campaign levels, I haven’t seen anything like that. And if only there was an autofire, that would be amazing sometimes.

EcLkwT-UMAAIy7mThe game does have a polished feel, but I think that QA looked over somethings. I mean, just look at this screenshot. According to the stats, I fired 13 shots and I got 14 hits. How does that even work when your shot doesn’t go through enemies? Also, 107% accuracy and only 2 out of three stars? Excuse me? Why didn’t I get the full three stars? Especially since the next level, I fired 36 shots, I got 35 hits and I got three starts with an accuracy of 97%.

That level was finally something else than shooting bridges, but it was destroy ships in the water. At first, I thought that they were there for decoration, world building. But these ships that posed no threat were enemies. Look, you do need to give the player a reason to destroy these ships besides giving them one coin as a reward. Since players get way more coins for destroying bridges, which is the name sake of the game.

Something I’m quite strict on is the UI design. It lacks some quality of life improvements. Things like, not going to the main menu when you exit a level but to the level select. Or, the tutorial being one of the first options when you pick “play the game”. Or having some sort of buzz sound when you can’t buy a new plane in the hanger.

If you are still interested in this game, I do not bother with the raid mode. I’m sorry but I got bored after a few minutes of playing this mode. It’s just an endless mission where you have to destroy bridges and the only thing that can kill you is either forgetting to fuel to flying into a wall or an obstacle.

And that brings me to the difficulty. This game is extremely easy and that’s the biggest flaw of this game. There is barely any challenge in this game. Especially since there is barely anything that can kill the player. You do only get three lives in the raid mode, but that’s it. If you make three mistakes, you can just restart. Actually, raid mode is an easy way to farm coins. But, that’s besides the point.

Also, why is there no way to either reset the statistics menu or separate that between stats from the mission mode and the raid mode?

Now, I can keep talking and talking but I think I can put my final thoughts in a nice conclusion, so I think it’s high time for that.

So, shall we strike?

I don’t like giving games a bad or luke warm review. I always try to find something unique and enjoyable in all the games I play. While this game has a lot going for it in terms of stunning visuals, great audio design and an interesting basic gameplay loop… It lacks depth and a lot of it.

Usually, I play a game for at least three to four hours before I even consider writing a first impression or game quicky about it. But, after an half hour to an hour of playing this game, I felt that I had seen everything that this game has to offer. Which is a shame, since looking at the mission screen, it looks like there are a lot of missions and a lot of effort and love that went into this game.

But, it all goes to waste because the basic gameplay loop isn’t engaging enough to keep people’s attention for too long. It can be enjoyable for a short bust or when you need to play a game that’s more laid back but I’m sorry, I have a hard time to recommend this game in it’s current state.

I know how hard and difficult developing a game is. I’m developing software to ease up the workload of the admin office in my school and that eats up a ton of my time. But, I rather keep developing my software until it works and covers everything. To be honest, I felt that I was playing a prototype or a vertical slice of the final product. (This is a game development term which means that you have something playable to give a publisher an idea to where you want to take the game.)

When I look around to what other bloggers are saying, I see that this game is getting a 6 or 7/10. And I’m sorry but I have to respectfully disagree with these scores. Now, if I have to give a score on anything but the gameplay, yes, this game would get a 7/10 or even higher from me. But, the unused potential of gameplay and the focus on retro gaming… I’m sorry but I can’t give a such a high score to that.

Now, if the developers are still working on this game and maybe there is more variety and more challenge in the game, I think that this game might become a lot better. But for now, it’s a game that falls flat on it’s face for me. If I’m overlooking something, feel free to let me know in the comments. But for now, I think that the current version I have played is getting nothing more than a 50/100 from me. But, do know that this low score is because the serious lack of difficulty and variety in this game. Everything else is quite well done.

With that said, 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!

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

FlashBayArtwork-GameR-Mate-Stik-Full

Official website

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

What is GameR-Mate?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s included?

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

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

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

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

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

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

The experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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First Impression: Silicon Dreams (PC – Itch.io) ~ Humans, how do they work?

headerI promised that this article was coming. Back when I published the press kit of this game, I said that I was going to write an article talking about my opinion on the game. This game is being developed by two people who created a very interesting game already in the past called Spinnortality. Now, what is this game about? If robots sleep, do they dream of electric sheep. … I’m sorry, I just wanted to use that phrase at least once in my article about robots and AI. In a way, you are the AI of a robot that is interviewing humans. But, is it any good? Well, let’s find out by taking a look at the pre-release demo that you can find on Itch.io. As usual, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your opinion on the content of this article and/or the game.

Humans, how do they work?

zPkd5MWhen you start up this game, you get greeted with an invitation to subscribe to the newsletter of Clockwork Bird, the developers of this game. Honestly, I think it’s worth it since their game concepts are quite interesting. Spinnortality was a game about building a company that could conquer the world while trying to get yourself immortal. And with this second game, I feel that there is a lot of depth to the game.

In addition to that, I like the attention to detail that this prototype demo has. I mean, it has a nice menu screen and it even has an icon instead of the default icon that some prototype games have that are made in Unity or Unreal Engine.

The menu screen is very interesting, instead of your typical list of options you get in almost every game, you get a radar type of deal where you can click on the menu options to get started. The only nitpick I have is that in this prototype, the animation of selecting a menu item plays after you selected it. So, the animation can point to an empty thing in the next menu. I think it would have been cooler if the animation played while selecting an item in the menu.

After you picked the robot you wanted to start with, you get the basic premise of this game. You are D-0527, and your goal is to try and find out what’s wrong with other Androids that are created by Kronos Robotics.

In order for you to play this game, you only need your mouse. You can interact with three things in this demo. That is, the tablet, the TV screen and the printer. The TV screen starts the actual interrogation of the broken Android. The printer is a log of the things that were already being said and the tablet is the way you select and ask your questions. The yellow text is clickable and brings you to the questions.

Now, how does one find the errors and glitches in the Androids? Well, during the interrogation, you notice that in the middle of the screen, you have a whole range of emotions. Some questions can provoke the Android and have a certain emotional response. It’s up to you to find and ask the right questions to get to the right conclusion. So, you would make a mistake if you clicked through everything since you will have to answer certain questions correctly or you might not be allowed to continue further.

This game gets even more tricky. You can’t see the log of the interrogation during a dialogue. So, yes. For this game, I even got out a pen and paper to take some minor notes. While the log is useful, it becomes one wall of text rather quickly and without a search feature, this can get quite tricky to keep track of all the information. And I’m glad that there isn’t a search feature, since this makes the game that more challenging and rewarding for when you pay attention.

The end goal of each interrogation is to fill in a report. The report asks some questions that Kronos Robotics has about the Android. Now, it’s your job to ask the right personal and general questions to get the information you need. But do keep in mind that you only ask each question once apart from some exceptions. So, be very careful on the questions you ask.

So, that’s the gameplay in this game. And I have to admit, that I have fallen in love with this game. Frequent readers of my blog know that I enjoy games like Ace Attorney and Zero Escape. Two game franchises that just play with your expectations and emotions. And this game has the potential to do the exact same thing, and I simply can’t wait to sink my teeth into the full version.

Let’s give some feedback

LrAvIqWhile I know that this game is still under development and that I most likely played a very early version of the game, I do have some things I would advise to the developers for the full version of the game. Do keep in mind that if you are reading this article in the future when a newer version or even the full version has been released, that some or all of these things might be invalid points of feedback.

First of all, I wouldn’t change anything about the audiovisual design. The atmosphere of the interrogation room is excellent and the animations that are in the game like raising the tablet and report are great.

The music is tense and reminds me a lot of games like Ace Attorney, Zero Escape and Corpse Party. It made me feel tense and I liked it. Since it added a ton to the atmosphere. Now, I do think that this game lacks some sound effects. I think that the game would come a bit more alive when with certain emotional reactions, some sound effect would play. For example, an angry response can have a growl or because they are Androids, a chainsaw starting up. Doesn’t that sound like an angry Android?

But, when I can nitpick about things, I have a few recommendations.

First of all, I find it quite strange that the text on the tablet is being typed out and the words of the Android are all right there in one fell swoop. I think it would have been better if the message of the Android is typed out as well.

Secondly, I think it would be great if in the dialogue box, there is some sort of icon that shows you that the message is done and there is a follow up message after it. Of course, that icon would be different if you reached the last part of that dialogue.

And finally, I would like to mention that the flashing when you hover over the yellow text is a bit too fast to my liking. But, know that I only noticed it when I rest my mouse over it for a longer period of time.

Of course this will be added in the full version of the game, but I just want to warn players who are planning to play the prototype demo that there is no way to save and load the game. Thankfully, the prototype demo is rather short and can be finished in give or take an hour or two.

And honestly, that’s all the major feedback I can give about the game so far. Now, if this game sound interesting to you, I think it would be a great idea to go over to the Itch.io page and try out the free prototype demo that’s available right on there.

With that, I have said everything about this game I wanted to say for now. Of course, when the full version gets released, I’ll write a follow-up review, but until then, 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.

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 Impressions: The Hive (Steam) ~ War With And Of Bugs

thehiveSteam Store page

One of my favorite game genres is RTS games. The satisfaction that you get from building up your empire, setting up an economy, and preparing yourself to defeat the enemy. It can be such a rewarding feeling. Games like Age of Empires II, Rise of Nations, or Rise & Fall – Civilizations At War are just three of the amazing games I have played to death when I was a kid. Now, when I got a mail from the fine folks over at Skydome Entertainment with a press code for The Hive and full freedom with my article, I was extremely excited. This game has been under development for several years now. The first development blog posts on the Steam Store page date all the way back to December 2014 and the latest patch has been released on March 9th, 2020, which is version 1.203. This is the version I’ll talk about in this article, so if this game got an update, it’s possible that some things in this article or no longer relevant. So, without further ado, I think it’s high time that we take a look at this game and it’s worth your time or if you should skip this game. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article down below.

War With Bugs

TheHive2Something happened to the world. The story of this game starts off in 2175, where our planet Earth got attacked and destroyed. Humanity was able to build a ship and leave Earth before it was completely destroyed and went off a journey to look for a new planet to life. After a human lifetime of searching, a new planet in a new solar system was found. The humans were taken out of their cryogenic sleep to start-up life anew in the harsh climate. But, something is alive underneath the crust of that planet. Something awakens in the City Of Ancients that might prove a big issue for the humans and the catch is, it’s you that takes control of the new species and try and help to find it’s old glory.

You play as The Hive and you are the leader of bugs living in The City Of Ancients. The story gets more interesting in the further chapters but I’m not going to spoil it. To be honest, I got some Overlord vibes from the story. Maybe because both games are about minions you control and have their own unique abilities. The atmosphere is similar to a certain degree. The plot of this game is quite enjoyable and it didn’t disappoint at all.

One thing I should mention is that this game has no skirmish mode as far as I know. So, that means if you finish the 12-ish hour-long campaign, you basically have beaten the game. You could try to beat it on a higher difficulty to challenge yourself but outside that, the game has no real replay value after defeating the campaign.

Now, this game also has voice acting. The voice acting in this game is quite impressive. The production value is impressive for being an indie title. It feels that the voice actors put their heart and soul into the characters and gave them a nice personality. I especially liked the effects they put on the voice for the Insect Advisor.

While this game takes place in a magical universe, there isn’t a lot of technobabble. For those who don’t know that term, it means that everything has its own name and there are a million exposition dumps. If you have played an RTS game in the past, you will know right what to do and the war of the bugs can begin.

War of Bugs

TheHive1So, the gameplay loop in this game is that you have to explore the caves underneath the planet to find a way up. You learn a lot about the War and the fight against the other species that took place. While most levels use the usual RTS gameplay loop of build city, build the economy, build an army, find enemy, attack the enemy army, destroy enemy base; a few puzzles and unique twists are thrown into the mix.

In terms of gameplay and mechanics, I have a mixed feeling. There are things that I enjoyed quite a lot and there are things that baffled me. Let’s do a round of good thing – bad thing to sum a few things up.

So, while building your empire, you can not only rotate around the camera but the buildings as well. Man, I love features like these. It makes it less awkward when I placed a barracks in a corner and my units spawn out of a wall from the building. Alas, the building of buildings has one thing that I found frustrating. I have gotten so used to the fact that you can cue up buildings to build, but that doesn’t work in this game.

The gathering of resources works in a unique way. Food doesn’t rot away and workers don’t have to walk back and forth to the hive. A special cart rides out from the nearest gathering point to collect the resources. So, your workers put all the gather resources on a pile and these carts come and pick it up. The resources don’t even rot away and you don’t have to do anything for it to collect it. The only “downside” is that you can only use one worker per resource gathering point. Now, what’s the bad thing here?

Well, there is a soft-lock potential. The resources aren’t infinite. Now, imagine this scenario in the Age of Empires II. There is no more wood on the map but you need wood for your archers. What can you do? Well, you can build up a ton of farms and trade that food over for gold to buy wood at the market. This avoids the issue that if everything of one resource is gathered, it’s impossible to get. Now, in The Hive, there is no such thing as a market or a farm. Meaning that every decision counts. Thankfully, you really have to make bad decision after bad decision in order for you to soft-lock yourself but the fact that the potential is there always worried me.

The UI of this game is pretty impressive. The options menu is something that I can only praise. An explanation of what key does what? It’s a feature I’ll miss in other games. If only, a similar explanation appeared for the graphic options, but hey, that would clutter the UI of the graphics options a bit too much. Yet, I have two things that I disliked about the UI. First of all, if I may nitpick, I found the text on the buttons on the pause menu a bit hard to read since the text color and the color of the buttons are somewhat close to each other. And second, the visual design of the menu’s that you open using the pause menu are so different in design… I mean, the pause menu has a sort of cave theming like the UI in-game, and suddenly, a more space / modern UI appears for the options menu.

The fact that your vision cone appears on the mini-map is a great feature and it even rotates with you when you rotate the camera. Yet, I do have a complaint. It doesn’t change size when you zoom and/or out and especially, it always appears a bit underneath the place where you click on the mini-map. I can understand why this happens since the location of the camera isn’t where you click but a bit underneath that spot. But, it gave me a feeling I wasn’t able to click where I wanted on the mini-map.

It’s great that you can skip cutscenes and even have subtitles. But why aren’t both possible in the opening cutscene? A minor nitpick is that there are some minor grammar errors in the game (“Click of the paintings” instead “Click on the paintings” in the second level)

There is this unique mechanic where you can find treasures to upgrade your units to dissolve them for DNA points to unlock special upgrades for your units. It’s a perfect balancing act since you need to decide if you are going to dissolve the treasures and get an upgrade or use them to improve your unit(s). If only that would be explained in some sort of tutorial, which the game somewhat lacks.

Just a bit more

giphyIf you read the previous section, it might look that I’m ripping this game a new one. That there are so many things missing or wrong with this game, that it’s not a great game to play. Well, then I think you got the wrong idea. I loved my time with the game and I found it a bit disappointing that some features I expect weren’t there.

Also, the price for this game is only 15€. So, it would be wrong of me to compare this game to big titles with way bigger budgets behind it. The thing is that I enjoy this game so much, that it frustrated me that the potential that this game has is unused.

Take for example the visual presentation. The artwork, unit design, level design… they all look amazing. You really feel like being in an abandoned cave where an old civilization used to live. The animations really make the world come alive. It’s so adorable that your workers dig into the ground to create a building and that it rises up like a sort of mole hole.

The audiovisual design is outstanding as well. This game has an orchestral soundtrack that reminds me of the reboot Tomb Raider games, Rise & Fall – Civilizations At War, and other similar games. It sounds familiar on one hand but new and fresh on the other hand. It’s a blast to listen too. The sound effects only add to the great atmosphere. The audiovisual design is so well done that I can excuse that some things don’t have sound effects or voice lines like when you click on an option where you don’t have enough DNA points for or certain interactions in your inventory are silent.

This game is a blast to play but you have to take into account that there are some things that don’t really work or work in the way you expect them to work. I have given several examples in the previous section, but here is another one. Why does your cursor not change when you hover over a resource or why don’t your worker acknowledge that interaction is going to happen?

This is why I said earlier in the article that I feel quite mixed about the gameplay. I enjoy playing this game but the final touches are just not there in certain cases. Now, I’m not saying that this game is unpolished or anything since there is a lot of attention to detail in most mechanics but not in all of them.

I think that this game could use another major content update or update that just focusses on making the game a bit more accessible. I think if a tutorial is added, something to avoid the soft lock potential and the functions that miss sound effects or voice lines are added; that this game gets even better.

So, I can’t wait to finish the final 5 levels I still have left to play. Since I really enjoyed my time with the game. I highly recommend this game to everybody who enjoys sci-fi games, RTS games, and even to people who enjoy adventure games. This game is quite enjoyable to play and experience. It’s an enjoyable RTS experience that I won’t soon forget. Congrats to the small Finnish team of 6 people who put their heart, soul, blood, sweat, and tears into this game since I have to say, the end result is something to be proud of and it shows a ton of potential for future games and/or more adventures in the world of The Hive.

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

Preview: The Uncharted Roads of Marco Polo (PC) ~ The Road To Development

4 (1)[15753]Today I have something quick unique to present to you. Not too long ago, I met somebody on a Facebook group about point-and-click adventure games who was developing a new title. The game is called ”The Uncharted Roads of Marco Polo” and it looks extremely interesting to me. I suggested creating an article for the developers and they agreed. So, here we are. I’m writing a preview article for a game that only released some screenshots and a small trailer video. But there is more! I had the chance to talk to one of the developers of this game called Josip Makjanic and we are going to talk about the uncharted road that took him to this development. So, with that said, it’s time to dive into this article and invite you to leave a comment in the comment section with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

 The pitch

So, what is this game about? The developer provided me with a bit more information about the game. Basically, the game is a point-and-click adventure game like Broken Sword and Monkey Island. You can also compare it to Captain Disaster, Another Code R, Time Hollow, Ace Attorney, Professor Layton or the CSI games.

The game takes the player all over various landmarks in Croatia to solve puzzles and have a grand adventure. The story will be based on historic locations and figures. At this moment, the game is in its pre-alpha stage and has over 60 locations planned together with various characters to populate them. The puzzles will be in the style you would find in the Broken Sword or the Monkey Island series.

Pre-Alpha means that the game is in a sort “draft” phase. It means that everything is being prepared to go into the production of the game. Compare it to baking a cake, the moment you plan to bake a cake and make a list of which ingredients you will need and for whom you are making the cake… Those are things you would do in the pre-alpha stage of development. You can read more information about the development cycle on this Wikipedia article.

Personally, I love games that take place in unusual locations around the world. So, this game takes place in Croatia and is being developed by Svarog Interactive. This 4-man team is also based in Croatia. Now, the guys from there also send us a little teaser video that you can find right here:

I have to say, this teaser is extremely impressive. Right away, I noticed that the art style resembled the art style in the first Broken Sword games. Like the Broken Sword games, the locations are extremely detailed and colorful. Unlike the Broken Sword games, the animation like the leaves and the flies on screen… Well, the location feels more alive than ever. I find it rather enjoyable that everything looks quite realistic and those flies, man, they look so goofy I love it.

If you compare the Pre-Alpha video to the screenshots I shared on top of this article, you notice some big differences right away. First of all, the dialogue system looks a lot cleaner. You get dialogue boxes with character portraits on top. Also, you notice that on the bottom right corner, you have a bag. Most likely, this is where your items are going to be stored. So, you won’t have to go to the top of your screen for that. In addition to that, in the right upper corner, you notice that there is a gear icon. This will most likely be a way to go to the pause menu.

Early EnvironmentsSadly enough, since this game is still in extremely early development, there is nothing more I can show you or talk about. I can’t wait to see more and I’m going to follow the development of this game quite closely.

Yet, if you want more and you speak Croatian, you can read this article with one of the developers by 24Sata. Now, there is also this YouTube video where the developer talks about his road towards development. While the video is in Croatian, there are English subtitles provided. Sadly, the subtitles just stop around the 5:11 mark, so there are 2 minutes without subtitles ☹.

Now, before we continue with the interview with Josip Makjanic, one of the co-founders of Svarog Interactive, I want to share some links where you can follow the project as well. They have a Facebook page and Twitter page.

Oliver, Alice & Evil Seagul

Let’s talk

Jonez: Welcome Josip Makjanic, co-founder of Svarog Interactive. Can you give us a small introduction about yourself?

Josip: Hello Jonez. My name is Josip Makjanic, a co-founder and Game Designer in Svarog Interactive.

Jonez: In our conversation over mail you told me that this isn’t your first game. You worked on impressive games like Serious Sam 4 and Serious Sam VR: The Last Hope. Serious Sam is an amazing series from Croatia, your home country. Was it always your dream to develop games?

Josip: Yes. I was always fascinated by it. I started making video games not so long ago, but I sort of designed games in general since I was a kid, by designing them on paper, writing stories and creating concepts. When I lived in a high school dorm I used to make versions of Warcraft, Diablo and even Counter Strike on paper that we played with dice, and people from the dorm would come and play in our room.

I was always fascinated by it and loved creating, so today, with some experience behind and with some good friends by my side, I thought it’s time to start working on our own video games.

Jonez: On the road to the developping of “The Uncharted Road of Marco Polo”, you created two other games called “Day in Dementia” and “In Memory”. Both games have a similar concept and art style. As a side note, I have to say that I’m touched by “In Memory”. The story behind it, a game to honor the dead of your mother, I have one word for you: respect. Respect man. Now, I noticed that both games were created in Construct. Are you using the same engine for this game?

Josip: Thank you. 🙂 Both of these games were made in Construct 2, and were created as a personal project. I don’t even know if I could call them games, but rather some sort of experiences that meant a lot to me personally. Marco Polo is being developed in Unity since it gives us more freedom from the technical sides of things.

Jonez: In our conversation, you talk about an open-world RPG. So, this point-and-click game isn’t the only title you are working on? What is this open-world RPG game or is it more a testing ground for possible future titles?

Josip: We are huge fans of Point & Click games and huge fans of RPG’s. We grew up on those games and always wanted to make our own worlds that others can enjoy with us. So, we are working on an open-world RPG system and have stories and concepts, but, we don’t like to rush ourselves, as we know how ambitious and big these projects are, and we would, of course, need a much bigger team. So before it happens, and we hope it will, there are other, smaller projects in mind, but we are going in that direction.

It’s very important for us to first understand how everything works and make many tests so we don’t waste time or get lost in the projects we’re developing, which makes the development much more enjoyable and better organized. So yes, we are making tests and preparations for other projects, but Marco Polo is a priority and is written as a trilogy. We are also huge fans of traditional drawing and animations, so I don’t think we will ever want to part with it. 🙂

Jonez: Now, let’s get back to The Uncharted Road of Marco Polo since that’s the game that I’m previewing with this article. I’m rather curious. Why about Marco Polo? If the game is set in Croatia and Marco Polo is a merchant from Italy. Of course, there is this debate about his birthplace might be Croatian as well… So, why the decision for Marco Polo?

Josip: The game is talking about historic figures and real places, and players will learn so much about Croatia from it, and while the game has many real things people can learn about, it’s story is fictional and we won’t get involved into that debate, but will rather focus on some other, more interesting aspects based on his life, and how to make an enjoyable story and experience in general. 🙂

Jonez: Are you developing this game full-time or are you developing this game on the side like the Corpse Party developers GrisGris? Also, how do you make sure that there is enough budget to create this game?

Josip: We are currently working in our free time, so that means that we also have other jobs, doing freelancing and helping each other out, but we believe that soon we’ll be able to work full time on the game, and when that happens, we will inform everyone about it. If we don’t get a publisher then we will definitely go Kickstarter with playable Demo, Trailer and some other interesting things in mind. So the game’s development is currently going smoothly without too many investments, but we will definitely depend on a publisher or Kickstarter later if we want to finish the game in a reasonable time.

We also don’t want to go on Kickstarter without having some quality content that people can enjoy before considering supporting us. 🙂

Jonez: You told me that there are, including you, 4 people working on this game. Can you tell us a bit more about the team and the talent in it?

Josip: Yes, there are 4 of us and we all have some projects behind us. There is Alen, our technical guy who makes sure all the systems work in general. Devis is our character artist and animator, and Andrija is our manager. I make backgrounds, write a story and making a game design in general, but we are all highly involved in each part of the development so there is a bit of everyone in every aspect of the game. Andrija, for example, came up with the idea of Marco Polo, so we all worked together to make a story that will fit the game’s mechanics.

There will be behind the scenes when it comes out. 🙂

Jonez: And as a final question, I would like to ask what are your favorite parts of being a game developer and what do you dislike in being a game developer.

Josip: I like how rewarding it can be. It sure isn’t easy to make a game and that’s why I started with those small ones. To build strong foundations and to be able to better understand it and move on to bigger projects. 

And the better I understand it and the more I know about the technical side, the more I can enjoy the creative parts of it, so I guess after every day of work you get rewarded with new knowledge and skills, and I find it very enjoyable.

The bad part of the development would definitely be one issue in the industry in general, and that’s the crunch. I’m not talking about a month or two of crunching, but about the developers who crunch for 6 months or more.

It’s not healthy and I believe that the health of those developers should be in the first place and by organizing yourself better before getting into developing a certain project would save many from that.

It’s a huge problem and something we want to avoid and not be a part of, so that’s one of the reasons for our long preparations and organization before the project even starts. I maybe went a bit off-topic with it, but I believe it’s very important to talk about it

Jonez: And with that, thank you Josip for the interview and the answers! Thank you for answering my silly questions and talking about games and development. I enjoyed it quite a lot.

Josip: Here’s a few words for the gamers out there. It is a huge compliment for us to be compared to a classic such as Broken Sword, as we saw many of you talk about it, and we are happy that you love what you see at this stage of development. It will maybe remind you of it, as we see it already do but I just want to say that we don’t want to be another Broken Sword in the end, as Broken Sword is a timeless classic and we don’t want to compete with it, nor I believe we can.

But what I believe is that we can make an enjoyable experience that will make your time worth playing it, a game on its own that we would like to play too, and that’s what we hope to achieve.

We want to make games like they used to be, or at least, make them feel like they used to be, and even though we are not the most experienced studio in the industry, we will give our best to make them worth your time, and try to be better with each one.

Thank you. 🙂

Jonez: And as a closing note, you can follow Josip’s personal projects over at his CrobbitArts Facebook page!

Ending of the article

And with that, I have to call this article a wrap. I want to thank Josip Makjanic for the interview and the material he provided for me to write this article. I’m quite hyped for this game and I can’t wait to play a demo or see more. Yes, I have quite the weak spot when it comes to well-crafted point-and-click adventure games. I love them more when there is a certain charm to it, like with this game.

This game looks to have quite some potential. Currently, we got only some screenshots and a teaser video and it’s already looking quite amazing. So, here is to Svarog Interactive, keep up the good work you guys! You can do it!

So, I’m curious. Do you think that this game is as interesting as I think? Have you noticed something I overlooked? Tell me in the comment section down below. And with that said, I want to thank you 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!

First Impressions: Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition (Switch) ~ Grand Adventure

DragonQuestXISPackshotLarge

Nintendo.com micrositeWikipedia entry

Today we are going to talk about a game with a lengthy title. It’s also a quite lengthy game to boot. I mean, this game clocks in at giving or take 60 hours of playtime. Now, in the past, I talked about other games in the series like Dragon Quest IX and Dragon Quest Builders and it’s sequel Dragon Quest Builders 2. But now it’s time to look at and talk about the newest game in the series. The 11th entry got an expanded edition on the Nintendo Switch and that’s what I have been playing for the last couple of days. And I think I’m ready to give my opinion on the question if you should spend your time, money and effort in this game or that the adventure isn’t worth it. 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.

Grand Classical Adventure

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In this game, you play as a nameable hero. You start off in the village of Cobblestone where you partake in a coming of age ritual. It doesn’t take long before things start to go south. Well, it turns out that you are the Luminary, a legendary hero chosen by the world tree Yggdrasil to save Erdrea from evil.

Now, here is the catch. You go to the King to provide your services and things go even more south. The King accuses you of bringing evil upon his land and throws you into the dungeon. So, the stage is set for a grand adventure to prove yourself and save the world before the actual evil entity destroys the world.

The main plotline itself is nothing to really write home about. After playing Dragon Quest Builders 2, where your building was illegal, I felt that I already experienced a similar story in the franchise. Maybe I’m looking a bit too deep into this. Yet, the actual pacing and storytelling are way more enjoyable. The story turns into a journey from town to town where you have a smaller adventure in each town. It’s almost like an anime series where the hero and crew travel around the world.

The writing of this game is just amazing. From medieval speak to people speaking in English with a foreign accent, it’s just lovely. What I mean with a foreign account is that you clearly see the Spanish influences in the made-up language that they speak at some beach cities.

The voice acting really adds a lot to the personality of the characters. While some of the characters really follow some stereotype arcs, I really enjoyed the mix of characters in this game. The characters are written that well, I even started to shout right at some of the characters when they did something frustrating.

Currently, I’m not even halfway in the adventure and I have been enjoying myself throughout the story. I cannot wait to see where the story is going to take me next since the whole world seems massive and a blast to explore.

The Confused Light

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What is a massive world to explore without an interesting visual presentation? This game doesn’t disappoint in that area. One time I played Dragon Quest VII on my PlayStation 2 and I found that game extremely pretty. If you take that game and give it a 1080HD facelift, you get the visual presentation of this game. The world is colorful and extremely detailed to explore. It even has a day and night cycle that makes the world come alive.

Yet, it pains me to say it but I do have some things I disliked about the visual presentation. First of all, there are a few details that were missed while designing some towns. For example, in one of the towns, they forgot to add in a door at the backside of a store. I have posted a video about it on my Twitter. Notice how inside the store, the door is present and when you run behind the back, the door is suddenly nowhere to be seen.

Thankfully, these moments aren’t too frequent and overall, the world is extremely detailed. But, something that is somewhat broken is the triggers to change the lighting. Now, the lighting changes when you enter a building. That isn’t a problem until you start walking to edges of buildings and the light level already changes when you are still outside and next to a wall. Just look at this video I posted on my Twitter, where the ending shows off what I mean. Sadly enough, this problem occurs extremely frequently. Especially at night time and even more when the roof sticks out of the building or when the pathway has a roof itself.

It’s a shame since this is a problem that puts a damper on the excellent animation. I was extremely surprised to see characters actually react surprised or angry when you raided their cupboards or their belongings. Or the fact you can turn the camera around while in battle and see everything from every angle you wish.

Now, I think that the next issue I noticed has to do with memory management for the Nintendo Switch version but the render distance isn’t the best. This is something I can personally forgive since it affects the far off objects that get less detailed render. You can clearly see more detail appear in the frame when you walk up to it. On extremely rare occasions, the detail appears when you are just up close.

Automation

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This game plays like every other J-RPG and especially like most previous Dragon Quest games that came before it. I haven’t played all the Dragon Quest games, so I can’t tell you what’s unique in this title compared to the previous entries in the series.

If you haven’t played any of these games in the past, let me quickly explain it to you. While you take your party on a journey throughout the land, you fight various battles to make your characters stronger and let them learn new skills. With each won battle, your characters gain experience points. When they gain enough experience points, they gain a level. For each level, they get points that allow them to open up a skill in their skill tree.

There are a lot of different character classes that spice up the fighting style and gameplay. From characters that are meant for healing to characters that act as a sponge for all the attacks, better known as a tank. So, you have to choose your equipment wisely as well. You buy a strong shield for your tank and a strong wand for your healer.

There are two ways of battle encounters and this game has them both. On the overworld, the monsters are visible and roam around, so you can pick and choose your battles. Alas, while traveling in places that aren’t the overworld, like the sea, the battles are random and can happen at any moment. Thankfully, in most cases, you see the enemies so it’s not a mess to understand where which system is used.

So, during the adventure, you also have to solve puzzles where you have to look around the environment and dungeons for clues. These puzzles can range from conquering a dungeon to do a fetch side quest to using a monster to climb a crumbling building. A tight control scheme is essential for this type of games and I have to say that this game doesn’t disappoint. After you get used to the control scheme of this game, I have to say that it’s a blast to use. Some features are a bit too buried in menus for my liking but that might be the biggest complaint about that.

Everything is paired together with an amazing soundtrack and sound design. Now a lot of the soundtrack and sound effects sound extremely familiar when you have played previous games in the series. This isn’t a bad thing since this really helps to put the game into the Dragon Quest universe. Plus, the music still fits the atmosphere quite well and doesn’t get boring.

And with that said, I think I have said almost everything I wanted to say about this game for now. Because I’m not even halfway done with the game, I’m not going to talk more in-depth about the game for now. When I have finished the game, or put more hours into it, I might write a more in-depth review. But, at this moment I already reached a conclusion.

This game is one of the best games I have played on the Nintendo Switch when it comes to RPG’s. The expansive world and the amazing story is an amazing journey to take part in. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the adventure will bring since I’m enjoying myself with this adventure. I also highly recommend this game to every Dragon Quest fan, RPG fan, adventure game fan and people who are looking for a lengthy and expansive game to sink their teeth into. And if you want to know if the game is for you, you can download a free demo in the Nintendo eShop to try out the game before you buy it.

So, that’s everything I wanted to say about this game (for now). I want to thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading 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: Corpse Party 2 – Dead Patient (Steam) ~ And Then It Happened.

Corpse Party 2Wikipedia entrySteam page

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

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

And Then It Happened.

Corpse Party 2 -1

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

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

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

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

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

Unfinished options

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That ending

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And with that, I have said everything I wanted to say in this article. I think I’ll write a more in-depth and updated article when the game is fully finished but for now, I want to thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

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

Wikipedia entryNintendo Microsite

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

It’s a me, a remake!

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

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

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

Some random facts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyways, I think I’m going to end off this short look back at Mario & Luigi’s Bowser Inside Story + Bowser Jr.’s Journey. That’s a mouthful. That said, I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

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

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

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

Wrath

Steam Store pageWikipedia EntryOfficial website

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

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

Shall We Shoot Some Demons?

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

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

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

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

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

Forgotten Mechanics

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

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

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

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

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

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

Horror

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Game Quicky: All You Can Eat (Steam) ~ Are You Hungry?

all you can eatOfficial websiteSteam page

Some time ago, I published a press kit about a game that GameChunk is developing. This Croatian indie developer is creating a title called Trip the Ark Fantastic. Now, I discovered that this isn’t the first game developed by the studio. They created an adventure game called “All You Can Eat”. And that’s what this review is going to be about. The developers provided me with a press code for the game. And of course, in this review, you will get my 100% honest opinion on the game. In any case, let’s dive right into the comic game that’s “All You Can Eat”. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

The good meal.

20200222134458_1In this game, you play as a lazy slob that is living in a diner. A few years ago, the diner started doing an all-you-can-eat buffet for the low price of 2 bucks. The idea is that he can keep eating for free unless he leaves the diner. But after some peaceful time, disaster strikes and the chef Luigi gets an offer he can’t refuse. He is going to sell the diner for a million bucks to build a parking lot on it. So, now you have to get into action to try and save your precious diner from closing by collecting a million dollars as quickly as possible.

The humor and story of this game is spot on. It’s quite enjoyable and fun. There aren’t too many characters and they don’t get a lot of character development but the chosen stereotypes are just great. Now, after you have beaten the game for the first time, you get a new game plus. Here two of the developers explain a lot about the decisions that they took in creating this game and they tell a lot of interesting details I didn’t pick up in my playthrough.

You might have already picked this up from the screenshots in this article but the visual style is something unique. The developers tried to mimic the way that newspaper comics worked. Those three-panel comics you see in the newspaper. In the end, you can also print out your playthrough as a sort of comic book you can print out. This is an amazing feature that really surprised me. This also explains the reason why there isn’t any animation in the game. Otherwise, the whole printable comic idea wouldn’t work.

Now, this game is really short. You can finish this game in a few minutes. It’s possible to see and do everything in one or two hours of play. While you can argue that this is negative, I honestly think that this isn’t such a bad thing. Since the developers actually explained in their commentary that this game was a sort of taste test, to see if people were interested in this style of game.

Now, this game has been translated into German, Russian and Chinese. Thank you to the translators that made this possible. In addition to that, the additional options you have in the options menu to stop the camera shake, colorblind mode, mute the game and such are great additions. But I wonder why the colorblind mode was added since the whole game is in black/white. So, if somebody can explain this to me in the comments that would be amazing.

The controls of the game are quite simple. The only thing you will need to play this game is the mouse. You can use the left mouse button to interact, speak and combine items. When you use the right mouse button, the main character gives you his opinion on the object in question. This is also a very helpful hint system if you are stuck or new in the adventure game genre.

That funny bad aftertaste

20200222134511_1The sound design of this game is decent. Since this game didn’t have a big budget, the game doesn’t have any music and doesn’t have a lot of sound effects. Now, this in itself isn’t such a bad thing. Remember, you can print the story as a comic at the end and if the game relied on music or sound effects, the comic wouldn’t work at all. The negative part is that I wished there were a bit more ambient sound effects. Like some sizzling in the kitchen or some police radio noise in the police office.

The printable PDF is a cool feature but I had my mess up with my first playthrough. I was going to send it to the developers but something happened. I started the playthrough of new game plus for this review and that pdf overwrote my broken pdf. So, it’s possible that your comic printout gets a bit corrupted.

And if I’m allowed to nitpick, the fact that the game hangs and seems frozen when the pdf is being created is a bit annoying. From a programmer standpoint, I totally understand what’s happening. The game is creating the pdf in the background and it freezes the game to make sure there are no additional variables that can interfere with the creation. Now, I would have moved the screen to the visual of “please wait while your PDF is printed” while the PDF is being printed. Not after. At first, I was going to ALT+F4 the game since I thought it had completely frozen.

Now, one other minor nitpick is that the game didn’t close right away when I exited the game. Steam kept saying that I was playing the game while I was unable to find anything running while using the task manager. Maybe it takes a long time to shut down the PDF engine in the background?

There is one minor thing that I dislike about the printable PDF. And that is the fact you don’t see which question or reply was picked by the player. This makes that some jokes like the name of the dinner chef looses a bit of their impact.

Sadly enough, there is one somewhat game-breaking bug in the game. Thankfully, it doesn’t ruin your save file but it confuses the game enough you get into a loop of empty screens. This can be achieved when you use the right mouse button on the empty sign in the MegaSlime Corp. I think this might be caused by a conflict in the code. But, when you move on to a blank square… The best action is to pause the game and resume with the continue option. That seems to fix it. Thankfully, it’s the only location where it happens.

And that brings me to the last nitpick of the game. There is no clickable button to pause the game. You have to use the “ESC” key to get to the pause menu. But, I totally understand why this decision has been made. Since, if you create a button that’s always on screen, I don’t want to imagine the effort that needs to go make sure that it doesn’t appear on the printable pdf.

The rating in the newspaper

This game is short and it’s possible to get all the achievements in 1 or 2 hours if you are familiar with point-and-click adventure games. But, this game is a big breath of fresh air in my opinion. I really enjoyed the references and throwbacks of the plot. The story made me laugh several times.

Visually, this game reminds me of a simpler time. When I was drawing story ideas in my textbooks in the study hall or during a boring class. Or when I was reading comics on a rainy Sunday afternoon. I think my weakness for nostalgia really made this game even better for me.

It’s a shame that there I have a few minor nitpicks with the game. Most of them I can totally understand why the decision has been made. Expect the game-breaking bug, that’s something I wish was fixed.

Even with the game-breaking bug, I still fully recommend this game. It’s an amazing demonstration of what this style of game can do. The potential for this concept is endless. Imagine being able to share your adventures with other players or creating your own comic book. It’s the ultimate merchandising.

It was quite difficult to find things I didn’t like about this game apart from the extremely short length. I want to play more games in this style and I’m happy that I can talk about this game and spread the word. Since there is another game announced called “The Heist” that looks extremely promising.

So yeah, I think this game is totally worth your 2 bucks and with that, you get a coupon to an amazing concept that gives the taste for more. Thank you GameChunk for bringing this game to Steam! I can’t wait to see what your other projects are going to bring us.

And with that, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. Thank you so much for reading this game 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

Editorial note: The developers of this game got a draft of this review and might fix the game-breaking bug in the future.

First Impression: Soul Warrior Merope (PC) ~ Featuring The Developer

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Itch.io pageDeveloper TwitterTrailer

Today I’m going to write a special article. Last year, a friend of mine created a game called “Soul Warrior Merope“. At first, he wanted to create this game for mobile platforms but due to some technical difficulties, the game has been released on PC. I promised him to write an article about the game to promote and here we are. I’m sorry mate that it took so long for me to get around to it, but better late than never. So, I think it would be quite fun to review this game interview style. Yes, interview style. So, I wrote a sort of review where I asked the developer to respond to why he created the game in a certain way and things of that nature. So, introducing Priom from HatCatGames, the developer of this game.

Before I begin, I have to give some disclosure. I have helped Priom testing a previous build of the game while he was developing the game. I only gave him some advice to improve the quality of his game. But, this was when he was still developing it for mobile platforms.

Editorial note: Some friends call me Neko, others call me Jonez. If Priom mentions Jonez, he means me.

Jonez: Before we start, feel free to introduce yourself Priom. Tell us a bit about yourself and why you started developing games. Have you created other games before Soul Warrior Merope? How long was the development process for the game?

Priom: Well, I’m Quazi Fahian Muntakim. Better known as Priom or Bear Gril if you only know me on select social media platforms. I’m currently a university student from Bangladesh and a hobbyist game dev.

As for how I got here, well, I think you bore witness to some of it, Jonez. I love video games always have. Fun fact, our family was one of the earliest to adopt a computer for consumer use in Bangladesh. So I always had a love for games. Especially Side-Scrollers and RPGs.

But I think the want to make my own game for others to enjoy. And to weave interesting stories that can only be done in this medium. I think that idea started in 2012 when one of our mutual friends introduced us to RPG MAKER. And that desire kept growing until I joined the GMTK Game Jam 2017 and felt like I wanted to make something that’s available for just about anyone to play!

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Jonez: Visually, this game looks like it was created on the NES or with a sort of pixel-art style in mind. I quite like the visual style of the while. Why did you choose for this visual style? I noticed that the castle has a lot of darker tones and the outside is more colorful. Is the art style inspired by other games or franchises?

Priom: Well again, much like you, I love retro games. Some of my fondest memories come from the GBA, which also had a lot of ports for SNES games. So of course, I wanted to follow that style. Other than that I feel like pixel-art has become an art form in itself in recent times, rather than being a product of limited hardware. So choosing this particular style was a no-brainer.

As for inspiration, I can think of 2. Team Cherry’s “Hollow Knight” and Bombservice’s “Momodora” franchise. Both of them have a cutesy yet somewhat grim art-style which I absolutely adore. Other than that, I have had people mention the castle interiors remind them of “Prince of Persia” for the DOS. I wasn’t exactly trying to replicate that but perhaps it was a subconscious decision, hmm?

Jonez: The game tells a story about a young strong lady Merope looking for two missing children. A mysterious figure called Madd has something to do with it. So, are you in Madd’s castle or lair? How involved is the story, is it extremely present or does it take a backseat while the visuals and gameplay tell most of the story?

Priom: Well, since it is at the very start of the story. I guess I could tell you. The castle belonged to Arthur, the tiny glowing spirit following you around. But he and his people have been long dead. So Madd is using Arthur’s castle as a hideout.

As for the story, I was going for a bit of a free-fall route. The idea was to make an opening with a strong yet simple premise that I can add on to later. So the story’s presence is like that too. Where there’s a lot happening at the start after that you get to experience the story at your own pace while exploring the castle.

I’d like to mention that I do want to make games with more plot later on. I’ve actually gotten into the habit of having a notepad on my person and taking notes whenever ideas pop up.

Jonez: So, you can name your own price on Itch.IO for this game. Basically, the consumer can pay anything they want. Does this decision have a special reason?

Priom: The reason was simple. As this is the first game I made public like this I wanted as many people to play it as possible! It also provides an opportunity for more people to provide feedback. And I have been receiving useful feedback. So it all works out.

Jonez: In some cases, the game is a bit rough around the edges. Like hitboxes of objects only reacting to the tip of the sword or not having a jumping animation. Game development isn’t an easy task and there are so many things to keep in mind while creating a game. What did you focus on while developing?

Priom: Well, the game was rather *experimental* is how I’d put it. If there was anything I wanted to try that could help me further later on then I took it as being worth it. Which might have resulted in some things being a bit subpar than others I’d admit. But I’d like to think even the shortcomings are valuable learning experiences. You don’t realize certain things until others point them out or you relax your mind a bit.

Jonez: Now, I have a sort of related question. Let’s say that you had all the knowledge, time and resources to change a few things in the game. Which things would you change and why would you change them?

Priom: The checkpoint system. It would’ve gone bye-bye in exchange for a more standard system. It was fine at first but it managed to create more and more restrictions as the game got more fleshed out.

As for additions, I would probably just made the castle bigger with more visual lore added. I’d add a better catalog of info and a more informative UI. Along with lots of tweaks for the melee combat from experiences I gained from Game Jams I joined later down the line.

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Jonez: The game plays like a Metroidvania, where you have to get new abilities and get stronger to progress. Was it easy to find mechanics that set your game apart like using lives for your special abilities or did you had to try a lot of ideas?

Priom: As I said. Soul Warrior Merope was born from the GMTK Game Jam 2017. Which was a 2-day jam where you have to make a game under a theme? The main theme of that jam a single mechanic with multiple functions. The other abilities kind of grew from that original idea.

Jonez: Let’s talk about the music and sound design. While there aren’t too many sound effects in the game, how did you decide which sound effects to include or not include?

Priom: I think there are 8 music tracks in total. An intro, 5 for the five major areas, the boss theme which has 3 variations based on which boss you’re fighting and a track used for a very specific ending. All of the tracks are long enough so that you’ll pass through the area before the songs loop too many times.

As for sound effects, I actually like to believe that you should have enough recognizable SFX that someone can make a guess as to what’s happening blindfolded. In that sense, I would’ve preferred to add more SFX if I had more time too. But what’s chosen is the ones that are absolutely necessary to convey what’s going on, granted as long as they don’t sound bad.

Jonez: So, you told me once that you were creating the game in YoYo Games’ GameMaker: Studio. Why did you choose that engine? Apart from that program, which tools did you use and for what? Did you run into any trouble?

Priom: Well, I think it was in 2015 or earlier when my younger brother told me that Game Maker Studio’s Standard Edition was free. I was still using RPG Maker at that time but found it rather restricting. I did not, however, have much coding knowledge since my educational curriculum at that time only involved some basic C++ and HTML. So, a programmable engine for free was a generally risk-free investment. After using it I found a YouTuber by the name of HeartBeast who has some amazing tutorials that I definitely recommend for people starting out. And well I kinda just got used to the engine and bought the pro version.

Other than that, I used Piskel & Paint.Net for the art, LMMS+Audacity for audio and my younger brother, who was responsible for some of the art such as the UI and menu icons, used Aseprite.

As for the issues we faced, as time’s going on Game Maker Studio 1.x is becoming more and more obsolete. Google’s new policy doesn’t allow 32-bit apps on the play store anymore which means the game couldn’t be put into the platform. Not to mention, it didn’t provide me with a proper description of why the Android export stopped functioning too. It’s still pretty good for PC games though.

Jonez: The game isn’t that easy, you really have to learn the various abilities of your character and explore around. How did you decide to balance the game?

Priom: Well, that was the reasoning behind letting the player explore around so many of the different areas from the get-go. The game is actually less linear than initial impressions may imply. The idea is that if you get stuck in a certain place it’s perfectly fine to explore another place and through the use of the abilities you have at that moment you might be able to take a completely different route than the intended route of the game.

Jonez: Do you have any plans for the game? Do you plan on updating the game with new content, bug fixes, improvements…?

Priom: Initially, after making the game public like this. I wanted to keep it like that. But I’ve mentioned on twitter recently that I haven’t coded anything in the engine for a while due to my PC being broken. So changing certain things based on all the responses I received might be good for me to get back on track. But that all is uncertain. I do have plans on making larger and more polished games using the valuable lessons learned from the experience of making Soul Warrior Merope though. So I’d like to end this by thanking everyone who decided to give the game a shot. Thank you!

End of the interview

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And with that all said, I found this quite an enjoyable experience to write an article like this. Maybe if I have the time, I might write another one on a different game. In any case, I want to thank my buddy Priom quite a lot for giving me the chance to be a part of his dream and giving me the chance of writing this special article with him.

So, I highly recommend that you give this game a try. It might be a bit experimental and a bit rough around the edges but I honestly think that this won’t be his last project and any constructive feedback you send him, he can use to become an even better developer. On top of that, his very first game is pretty enjoyable and has quite a lot of charm.

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

Game Quicky: Pixel Gladiator (Switch) ~ Defend Your Base!

H2x1_NSwitchDS_PixelGladiator_image1600w.jpgSteam pageNintendo.com pageDrageus page

It’s a well-known fact that a lot of games get ported to the Nintendo Switch. Drageus Games is a studio that ports various indie and small scale games to the Nintendo Switch. Today I’m taking a look at Pixel Gladiator. The original game is called Flying Island Team. I was unable to find much more information on this team. In any case, Drageus Games provided me with a review code for this game and gave me the freedom to give my 100% true opinion. So, let’s take a look at Pixel Gladiator and feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article. 

The good

pixel gladiator 1

This game is quite easy to pick up and play. While there is no tutorial present, the game is easy enough to understand.

The audiovisual design of this game is extremely well done. Visually, the game has pretty nice pixel art and the animations are quite rich for the low price point of this game.

The music is totally my style of music. The techno and trance melodies in the game are that good that I actually want to add them to my library. I’m so glad that the soundtrack is on Steam so I can buy it and listen to it whenever I want.

The gameplay loop of this game is very enjoyable. You have to buildup your base with the earnings of the defeated enemies. You have to buildup your base to defend your core. When your core is destroyed or if you run out of health, it’s game over.

The UI is one of the better I have seen in Drageus Games their ports. The only minor complaint I have is that there is no test noise when you adjust the volume of the sound effects. But the menu’s are quite easy to navigate and work with.

There are a lot of different languages in the game. So, if you want to play this game in your native language and you speak English, Russian, Ukrainian, French, German or Spanish… Well, you are in luck.

Not every round is the same. I noticed that a lot of different enemies can spawn in the survival mode at random times. So, you can’t form a strategy for the next time you have to go through the same route. You have to guess and prepare yourself and your base.

The bad

pixel-gladiator-xbox-one

Even when the game has a fun gameplay loop, looks and sounds nice; that doesn’t mean that the game is good. There are some major flaws in this game.

First of all, while there is a leaderboard, there is no way to easily see your own personal high scores. To make matters even worse, it’s unclear in which sort of stage those people achieved that high score and how long ago. So, it’s a big guessing game.

Secondly, this game has no save feature as far as I can tell. Yes, you are reading this correctly. Whenever you exit the game or go to the main menu, you have to restart everything from the beginning of the game in survival mode or Arena mode.

Thirdly, the controls are decent but make some mistakes. The aiming is too sensitive for my liking and not only that… You don’t have an option to invert it or adjust the sensitivity. Oh, but it gets even worse! Jumping is done by holding the left stick up. And so, if you want to jump over the barrier on the left side… You have to hold the joystick to the upper left. If you don’t adjust the position of the joystick, guess what, you keep jumping up left. And if you made a turn with that jump, your crosshair doesn’t move with you.

The fourth issue I have with this game has to do with the randomness of the stages. While it keeps you on your toes, it does make the game unfair at certain stages. Because in some cases, you have to survive a meteor storm. In other cases, there are a ton of spring balls attacking you. It’s quite impossible to prepare and this means that a lot is based on luck.

The 5th issue with this game has to do with the difficulty scaling. This is broken beyond belief in my opinion. The difficulty wraps up so fast, it’s quite tricky to keep up with. In addition to that, not every enemy drops money. So, this makes it even trickier. Add on top of that, that there is no tutorial… and you have a recipe for disaster. I had to learn every small mechanic in the game. From not being able to heal during waves to the reactor core healing itself at the end of the wave. From being unable to do a melee attack and how to survive those meteor storms. Oh, and let’s not forget that the tougher enemies look the same as the regular enemies so you don’t know with which one you are dealing with!

Something I also missed in this game was the fact that there wasn’t some sort of radar. It would be quite helpful to see where and how many enemies were coming from the other side of the screen. This would help me to avoid various enemies that appeared a bit too quickly from off-screen to avoid.

And finally, this game has a story, but you only know that story when you either read the press material or the store description. And the story has a lot of potentials. Why was this unused?

Verdict

While this game looks great and can be enjoyable to play, the various amount of issues that this game has will appear quite quickly. The game doesn’t have any bugs and the audiovisual presentation is quite decent, I’ll give it that. But, the lack of a tutorial, balanced gameplay, floaty aiming controls, the inability to save your progress… It all adds up.

Now, do I recommend this game? Well, I don’t really know. The game can be a really fun timewaster and fun to play, but I don’t think that I can recommend this game in its current state to a lot of people.

I felt that this game has been released too quickly. Since it’s such a shame to see the potential that this game has gone to waste. Maybe this game can be improved with various patches. If the game gets a patch, I would love to see a better aiming system, tighter controls, the ability to save and a better balance in the gameplay. A tutorial and a radar can be added in a later patch.

So yeah, if you are interested in giving this game a try, by all means; go for it! But keep in mind that this game is quite rough around the edges and can get quite frustrating. Know that this review has been written after playing the Switch v1.0.0. Maybe in the future, we might see a better version and maybe the PC version plays quite differently…

You might notice the low score I give this game. Maybe this game was not my cup of tea. But I felt that the negatives of this title far outweigh the positives here. If this game ever gets an update that changes a lot about the gameplay, I might change that score. Other reviewers give this game a higher score, but I feel that the score is a bit too generous.

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

Score: 40/100

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Game Quicky: Spirit Roots (Switch) ~ Two Halves Make A Whole

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Nintendo micrositeDrageus Game pageDeveloper website

Today I want to talk about a game that I got a review code for from the people over at Drageus Games. In this article, I’ll give my 100% honest opinion. For this review, I’m reviewing the Switch port. The original game was created by FireArt Games and released on mobile platforms and Steam. More information can be found on the developer’s website. But for now, let’s dive right into Spirit Roots and let’s take a look if this game is worth your money or if you should skip this game. And as usual with these articles, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article. 

Editorial note: this review has been written for v1.0.0

The good

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In this game, you play as the unnamed main character on a journey to save your planet. For the purposes of this review, I’ll call him Jos. That’s the name my girlfriend chooses to name characters and she is out of inspiration. Now, Jos’s task in this game is simple. He has to save his planet that’s at the end of the stellar system.

This planet has a unique cirque. Because the planet had several hundred years of conflict, the two remaining parts of the fighting planets got stitched together to form one huge planet. Now, peace rains on the planet because both parties agreed to never cross the border. Well, that’s going to change. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have an interesting setup for a game, wouldn’t you?

The story is just amazing. The whole concept is lovely. There are so many things you can do with this idea. You can explore the concepts of who rightfully owns the land because the planet has been stitched together. Or you can explore the idea of two nations that had years upon years of conflict living together. But, more on the story later.

The audiovisual presentation is a blast to hear and see. Visually, this game looks amazing. It looks quite cute and impressively detailed. The world looks alive and quite colorful. It was a blast to play through it. The soundtrack of this game reminded me a bit of Fantasy Life on the 3DS, a soundtrack that I really enjoyed.

The levels are quite enjoyable. The game can be pretty challenging if you aren’t careful. Thankfully, the game is pretty generous with checkpoints, so you don’t have to lose a lot of progress when you die. The game also comes with three difficulty settings, that increase or decrease the challenge of the game. The game is also available in 7 languages.

The game is also quite lengthy. There are 50 levels divided over several worlds. In each level, you have a certain goal to gather all the souls. You can keep track of that goal by watching the counter at the upper left of the screen.

You don’t need to complete all the levels. When you are stuck on a certain level and have enough golden souls, you can move on to the next world and try your luck there. In order for you to reach the last world, you have to gather 44 of them. So, you have to finish around 15 levels completely before you can reach the final world. This allows you to continue the game without being frustrated because you are stuck on one level.

It’s quite clear that the game took some inspiration from games like Rayman Legends. The souls remind me of lums and the art style looks quite similar too.

The bad

NSwitchDS_SpiritRoots_02Now, I said earlier that I wanted to talk about the story again. Sadly enough I have to do that in the negatives section. You want to know how I learned about the interesting story? Not through the game, but through the information that I found on the microsite of Nintendo. Even the developer’s website is quite sparse with information. It’s a big missed opportunity. I would have loved to see how the story was used in this game. But alas, when you start the first level, you are dropped right away in the first level without any explanation.

That’s one of the biggest drawbacks of the game. But sadly enough, I found a few other problems with the game that I would like to address in this review. The first one is the jumping. Sometimes when I’m on moving platforms, I fell through them. Also, after using your slash attack, the jump doesn’t always work. This lead to various deaths that could have been avoided.

The game’s use of the term “health points” is a bit misleading. There is a 1-hit system in this game like in the Mario games. So, the health points just mean how many retries you have from the checkpoints. When you have to retry a stage, well, then you lose all your progress since the last checkpoint. But, that isn’t too big of a deal in my opinion.

Something that I found extremely silly is the fact that you have to wait for three seconds when you open the pause menu to resume playing.

Apart from that, the game lacks some minor polish. There a few animations and little things that are missing. It would be a bit too much if I sum them all up one by one but here are a few.

  • When you reach a checkpoint, only the arrow disappears. No real fanfare. In the village. The ones in the swap have an animation. But only barely, the light just switches on.
  • When you die closeby an enemy that throws projectiles, the projectiles land at the other side of the enemy, even clipping into walls.
  • The sound can hang when a tutorial appears on the screen. Especially when you slash open a change.
  • On some levels, like the 3rd one, you can see the top of the level… And it looks quite flat.
  • The texture of a door you can slash through and one you need to flip a lever for are too similar.
  • When you shoot a bullet, it keeps traveling until it’s off-screen. It doesn’t break on the walls.
  • The death animation is a bit too long in my opinion. It would have been better if you were able to get back into the action more quickly.
  • When you choose to exit a level, it tells you that it will take you to the main menu yet it takes you to the level select.

Due to these things, the game feels a bit unfinished to me. Like it’s in a state where it’s almost finished and ready to go but it’s not there yet. If the developers would put some finishing touches on the game, it would have been perfect.

But, something that I really missed in this game is a system where you can somewhat move the camera. Various times, I died to a moving spike that I wasn’t able to see coming because it came from off-screen. It would have been a big help if a similar system was implemented to avoid things like that.

Conclusion

Spirit Roots isn’t bad nor is it a good game. During my research on this game, I came across a video review by Defunct Games. I have to agree with almost the whole video. Due to some pretty major negatives, this game isn’t the best it can be.  The same goes for the review by PocketGamer.

This game shines in the audiovisual department but lacks some major features in the platforming department. So, I have a hard time recommending this game. If you enjoy B-grade platformers, I think you might enjoy this game.

But, I think that a remake or a remaster would better suit this game. It’s just a bit too stiff, a bit too rough around the edges. While I did enjoy my time with the game, I don’t think I’m going to finish this game in the near future. Maybe when I have some downtime, but we shall see.

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

Score: 60/100