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Meet notthatalice, answering questions…

NekoJonez asked me to write a post to answer some basic questions about myself. For people that didn’t know it yet, I’m Jonez’ girlfriend. I’m not a professional blogger myself, yet, so I’m sorry in advance if this post seems a little weird…

(Editor Jonez note: This post is a reply to a previous article written by NekoJonez about a blogging award)

Why did you start your blog?

I used to write stories when i was really young, most of them were fantasy or love stories. I still remember i kept rewriting a story about a family of unicorns. Or also the one story where the enemy troops were Greek sauces…

I told NekoJonez that I wanted to pick up writing again and he was so kind to offer me to write a post on his site. I guess this is my first official blog post now.

What are your favorite topics to write about?

I make up a lot of stories in my head. Most if those are love stories with a hint of bad-boy vs. good girl.

If I can go a little bit further, i like making ‘posts’ (more like English oral exercises) about my favorite books, English history, movies, strange places.

I’ve been taking evening courses of English for adults. This year my speaking exercise was about the Parisian catacombs. You could say this was one of my favorite topics.

How would you describe yourself if you could only use gaming terms?

I would probably be the yellow Kirby. So basically, the supporting player.

Who would be the worst video game character to be stuck in a lift with?

I admit i have to say i’d also choose Zero, but all Zero’s…

If a game based on your life was made, what would be the genre and title?

The title would be upside down wonderland. The genre would probably be adventure, platform and something with healing items…

Also, since a lot of people helped me through harder times, I would probably have allies and items to make me stronger.

Which three video game items would you take into the zombie apocalypse?

Probably the cheats from unreal tournament that’ll give me infinite health and ammo, Indiana Jones’ whip to grab food and other necessary items and Kirby for the companionship and the cuteness :p

Which gaming character should we elect as our next prime minister and why?

I guess I’d take Lara Croft or Junpei from the Zero Escape series. They both seem like honest, admirable people with a sense of extraordinary strength on several zones…

Jonez’ Questions

If your life has a soundtrack, which genre would it be?

My life has had it’s ups and downs. I like to imagine my soundtrack as symphonic metal, with snippets of ballads in it.

On happy days, my life would be accompanied by musical songs from the phantom of the opera, grease,…

You are a parent of a video game character, who would you pick as your child and why?

Probably Clover or Quark from the Nonary Games. They seem like happy-go-lucky children whom are also very smart.

Which video game character you don’t want to meet in a mental asylum?

Zero, Mathias from Tomb Raider (2013) and technically everyone from unreal tournament cause they look creepy.

I’d like to meet Kirby to find out what makes him have his magic powers.

Would you rather go to Silent Hill or Raccoon City?

To be honest, I haven’t played a lot of horror games, because I like action games more. I choose Silent Hill because Raccoon City looks like you wouldn’t possibly leave the city unharmed while in Silent Hill you still have a chance of survival.

If real life had video game cheats, which ONE cheat would you like to have and why?

i would like to cheat life by being able to fly. I would get everywhere without getting hurt (I’m kinda clumsy). I also wouldn’t have to learn how to drive a car and would be able to get everywhere without having to wait in line.

Meet me

I decided to write a small introduction. I’m Jonez’ girlfriend of like 3 months.

Before meeting him, i only played life is strange and unreal tournament. After being introduced to several games, my favorites are now: Lara Croft Tomb Raider and Fire Emblem Warriors.

I spent my free time by reading, listening to music, gaming (duh) and watching series.

Nice to meet y’all and feel free to leave a comment

Notthatalice

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First Impression: Rise of Nations: Extended Edition (PC) ~ Apes With Tanks

21462-rise-of-nations-windows-front-cover.jpgOfficial website

Since my childhood I have been playing a lot of RTS games. From Rise & Fall Civilizations At War to Age Of Empires, I have played a lot of them. And I have to admit, I’m not great at them. Whenever I would play online against other players, I get easily defeated. Yet, I enjoyed my time with these games quite a lot. I love to play skirmishes or various matches against the computer. Now, one of the favorite RTS games is Rise of Nations. And that’s the game we are going to take a look at today. A game where you take your civilization from give or take the stone age to the modern times of today. So, let’s not wait longer and let’s dive right into my first impressions of this game. The reason the first impression is simply because I never finished the campaigns, so yeah. I haven’t seen all the content of the 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.

Apes with tanks

Rise of Nations has been developed by Big Game Studios, the studio that also worked on the second expansion of Age of Empires III. While this game has a “Conquer the world” campaign mode where you play as for example Napoleon conquering Europe, I haven’t played a lot of that mode. And that has a simple explanation, I already talked about in the introduction of this article. Now, for this article I have played parts of the first campaign of Alexander The Great.

Now, for this article I have played the extended edition of the game that is on Steam at the moment. The core gameplay of this game is extremely similar to games like Age of Mythology and Age Of Empires. If you have played a RTS game in the past, you will feel right at home in this game.

Some mechanics do work differently in this game. First of all, the way to claim land. When you start the game, a certain part of the map is colored in your color. You can expand this area by building more cities or defensive buildings. You are unable to build any other buildings outside of that area. It’s quite important that you plan out your city structure well, since it’s a factor in how much wealth you will earn from your trade route or the ability to build even better wood cutting or mining camps.

To increase the population limit or the efficiency of certain buildings, you will need to upgrade at the library. There are 4 trees you can update. The military level which allows you to create even better military units, the science level to have even better buffs to your economic output and military, the economics level to have your resource gathering be even more efficient and stockpile better and the civic level which allows you to build even more units and cities. On top of that, you have to worry about advancing through the ages. You go from the early stone age to the middle ages to finish in the modern ages.

The way you gather resources in this game is also quite different. In this game you don’t have to worry about re-seeding farms or finding now ore veins for your villagers. All the resources are infinite. Now, there are certain restrictions. You can only build up to 5 farms per city. The placement of the building is also quite important. For example, if you place a woodcutter camp in the middle of a forest, more villagers will be able to cut wood for you. If you place it at the edge, less villagers will be able to cut wood for you.

Now, with all of this, you need to keep in mind that if you enter enemy territory, your units automatically get attrition. So, if one of your camps or buildings falls into enemy territory, you will loose slots or loose that building entirely.

Another mechanic in this game are the merchants. Spread over the whole map are certain bonus items. Sometimes they can be presents like the relics you can find in Age of Empires III but without the guardians. And sometimes they can be rare resources that can give certain buffs. On this Wiki page, you have a list of all the different buffs you can get.

One of the mechanics I really love and miss in a lot of other RTS games is the automatic exploring. Seriously, I can let any unit automatically explore the map without me having to worry about it or me always giving it a path. The times I forgot to explore the map in other RTS games… Man, I’m unable to count that anymore.

As you can see, there are many layers on top of the gameplay. The game is very complex and expansive. And I haven’t talked about how you can conquer and take over cities, set the unit production to loop, the fact you can take out your enemies in many different ways, the ability to rename your cities, the unique wonders and their bonuses… The features that set this game apart from other RTS games are just amazing and make for a very unique experience.

Visual fluff

This game can be very challenging. Depending on the difficulty of the AI, this game can be quite easy or quite difficult. While I’m able to beat the computer on Normal, I always have trouble when the computer is on hard mode. Yet, the issue I have with this game is that the normal mode provides just a bit too little challenge for me and the hard mode provides a bit too much challenge for me. Whoops.

Something I really like about this game is the fact that the visuals change when you change through the ages. You see the building style change when you advance through the ages. And not only that, the sound design changes as well. For example, when you get to the industrial ages, you start to hear chainsaws in the lumber camps instead of saws.

Up close, the visuals can look a bit dated. But, that’s completely normal. Since near the end of the game, there are so many units on the screen, I’m glad that they aren’t too detailed. The ending of a game can be so extremely hectic, I can barely keep track of what’s going on. I remember a multiplayer session with my best friend. In the end of that session we neglected our economy and idle villagers because the warfare required most of our attention. At the end of a match, you are able to make 4 big upgrades. One of them is instant creation of units. With this upgrade, the warfare gets so crazy, you have to focus on it.

Some elements of the UI in this game can be expanded and collapsed. For example, when you expand the resource menu, you have quick access to the market where you can trade resources. You don’t need to click on a market to do that. You can also see if there are open spots for mining, farming, wood cutting… And when these get in your way, one simple button click and they are hidden.

Not only the visual presentation and sound design changes through the ages, the animation does as well. When you reach the industrial ages, the miners you jackhammers instead of pickaxes to mine.

The sound design is amazing, it really captures the enjoyable chaos that happens on screen perfectly well. On top of that, the sound effects for male and female units are different. Yes, when a female unit dies, you hear a woman scream. And guess what, you hear a male scream when a male unit dies. This attention to detail is just amazing.

Couple this sound design and amazing visual design with an amazing orchestral soundtrack and you have an amazing visual presentation. In the original version, I had issues with the soundtrack. It never played during gameplay. While playing the Extended Edition, I haven’t encountered that issue once.

Perfection?

Now, is this game perfect? No, there are some things I would change in this game. One complaint I have is that there aren’t too many differences between the nations you can choose to play as.

Due to the various amounts of game mechanics, this game can be extremely overwhelming. If you aren’t into RTS games, just don’t play this game as your first RTS game. This game isn’t easy to get into because the various amount of layers upon layers of complexity in this game.

Due to the length of some rounds, I honestly got a bit bored at the end. This game is a lot of fun to play but near the end, I found that the game became a bit too repetitive to my liking.

Also, compared the to original game and the extended edition, there hasn’t been a lot of additions. Thankfully, the community picks up the slack from the developers in the Steam Workshop.

Some achievements are rather grindy in nature. I have close to 60 hours of playtime in this game and I’m not even halfway to the achievement of killing 50K units. Yes, I have killed 8K units during my 60 hour playthrough.

And to be honest, that are all the negatives I can talk about. Maybe I discover a few more negatives when I’m trying out the campaign mode again soon, but I highly doubt that. This game is quite a lot of fun if you are into RTS games. Once this game has a hook on you, it barely lets go. This game is one of my favorite RTS games and I’m so glad that it’s available on Steam. And after writing this review (well, first impression) I can’t wait to boot the game back up again and start up a new round.

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

Award Time – Thanks LaterLevels

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Today I got another blog award from LaterLevels. One of those awards that bloggers give each other to recognize each other for their work. If you want to read the article yourself to get more information, you should take a look at Kim’s post. This award is inspired by Michelle from A Geek Girl’s Guide. So, let’s get into answering some questions. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your answers and/or opinions on the article down below. 

Thanks time

But before I reply to the questions, I have to thank Kim from LaterLevels of course for the recognition. She is a very kind hearted blogger who I look up to very much. Her content sometimes inspires mine. She is a great person and you really should check out her work on the LaterLevels website.

So the way that this award works is that Michelle has five standard questions everybody needs to answer and 5 questions need to be made up.

Question time

Why did you start your blog?

Well, I have told this story many times before on my blog. The TL;DR is, since childhood I have been into writing. While I have a rather small family, we do have a TON of family friends. And to avoid me telling the same story a million times at family gatherings, I have decided to write them and publish them. Not too long after, I started writing game reviews and that’s how the ball got rolling.

What are your favorite topics to write about?

My favorite articles to write are articles about indie games I have played. The ones I enjoy the most are the ones where the developer asks me for feedback and improvements. I just love helping small developers who have a small budget anyways, so some help in QA is welcome for them.

What have you learned since you started your blog?

This is a tricky question. I have been blogging for close to … yes, 10 years. So, to be able to pinpoint something specific that I learned about due to blogging. I think I mostly found my niche and expanded my skills.

If I have to say something, I think I fine tuned my writing and reviewing style. If you compare my current writing and style to my earlier writing, you will see a world of difference.

What do you love about being a geeky blog?

Simple, I love geeky things… so being able to write about geeky things is just amazing.

Where would you like to see your blog go in the future?

Actually, if I could dream, I would love to have some side income with my blog in the future. But I still want it to stay a hobby. In an earlier article, I have talked about how I’m afraid that if I would be blogging as a job, I would burn out. And burning out on one of my passions… No, thank you.

And now, LaterLevels has some questions for us.

 

How would you describe yourself if you could only use gaming terms?

I’m going to be sort of cheating here but I’m an INFJ or the advocate personality. And yes, these are gaming terms. D&D terms actually.

Who would be the worst video game character to be stuck in a lift with?

Zero III, just play Virtue’s Last Reward and you will get it.

If a game based on your life was made, what would be the genre and title?

Well, an adventure/action RPG. Mostly adventure RPG. The things that happen in my life are quite special.

Currently I’m in the wordsmith and merchant class. I have a lot of points in the tech skill.

Which three video game items would you take into the zombie apocalypse?

A ton of revives, Lara Croft’s classic pistols (those with unlimited ammo) and one of those fancy luxurious airships from the game you image.

Which gaming character should we elect as our next prime minister and why?

Booker Dewitt, and telling why would spoil Bioshock Infinite. So, yeaaaaahhhhh….

Questions

So, before I list the people who I like to nominate, I have five questions of my own. So, are you ready? Here we go.

  • If your life has a soundtrack, which genre would it be?
  • You are a parent of a video game character, who would you pick as your child and why?
  • Which video game character you don’t want to meet in a mental asylum?
  • Would you rather go to Silent Hill or Raccoon City?
  • If real life had video game cheats, which ONE cheat would you like to have and why?

So now, who are my vic— fellow bloggers I nominate for an easy Q and A— I mean an award.

So, with that said, I’m looking forward to the replies. Thank you to LaterLevels for the nomination. And tomorrow, I’ll publish another article and that will be about a game. But for now, I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article and until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

 

Review: Pokémon Diamond, Pearl & Platinium (DS) ~ Where Is Our Remake Nintendo?

pokemon_dppt

Bulbapedia entry

It has been quite a while since I talked about the Pokémon series. But today I noticed that I haven’t written an article on the 4th generation of Pokemon games. I think it’s high time to do something about that. Now, I want to tell the story how I acquired this game. Just when I got my DS, I only had one game. The Legend of Zelda – Phantom Hourglass. Not too long after, my sister and I went to buy new games. She bought together with me, Nintendogs since she was 10 € short. While I bought Pokémon Pearl. The nostalgic memories are quite extreme for this game. I played this game quite a lot, sometimes through the night while hiding my DS underneath my pillow to avoid getting caught. But, is the game still good or are my nostalgia goggles clouding my judgment? Let’s take a look at the 4th generation of Pokémon games. As per 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.

Where is our remake Nintendo?

pokmon_pearl_image10A lot of the early generation Pokémon games got a remake from Nintendo. The first generation, Pokémon Blue/Red and Yellow, has been remade on the Nintendo GBA and more recently on the Nintendo Switch. The second generation, Pokemon Gold/Silver and Crystal, got a remake on the Nintendo DS. The third generation, Ruby/Sapphire and Emerald, got a remake on the 3DS.

Fans are hoping for a remake of the Sinnoh region on the Nintendo Switch. The fully experience the story of this 4th generation all over again. Fans want to start in Twin Leaf Town again, together with your childhood rival, meeting the evil team in the first minutes of the game. Now, this game has your usual Pokémon story. If you have played any previous Pokémon games, you will know what to expect. Fight 8 gyms, defeat an evil team, save the world from destruction, defeat the Pokémon League and become champion of the region.

There are a few twists in the story, but overall it stays very normal for a Pokémon game. While I was playing the game for the first time, I remember quite liking the story. I found the characters quite enjoyable and I enjoyed myself following the quirky cast of characters I met on my journey. While I replayed the game for this review, I still enjoyed the story but I felt that there was more that could have been done with the story. Thankfully, in the following generations, the story gets more and more flesh out.

Something I found really great was the pacing of the story. In the previous Pokémon games, the evil team stays a lot on the background during the story and nearing the finale of the game, appears almost out of nowhere. In this game, you have several encounters with them and a lot of road blocks on your adventure are caused by them. This made Team Galactic more memorable compared to some other teams. Then again, I might be saying this out of my nostalgia goggles.

Now, does this game have a good story? In my honest opinion, sort off. If you are expecting a story with deep lore like Skyrim, you won’t find it here. The story has a lot of lore but not too in depth. The story of this game is quite accessible. And that fits the style and theming of this game better then a lore heavy game. It makes the game a lot of accessible for all ages and it stays true to it’s portable nature.

Unique mechanics galore

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If you have played the previous generations, the gameplay will be quite familiar to you. Find and catch Pokémon in the wild to make a team to train and battle other trainers. Now, the usual formula gets enhanced by the Nintendo DS because of the added UI elements of the second screen. The Nintendo DS spoiled me, since from this generation the UI gets a lot of improvements.

Some key items like the Item Finder are now a lot easier to use thanks to the PokéTech on the touch screen. There are over 20 apps you can get for the PokéTech. Some are useful inside the game and others can be quite useful outside of the game. I remember that one time, a friend of mine forgot to bring his calculator to school and was allowed to use the calculator in the game for exercises. I used the coin toss app a lot for various situations.

Now, each generation has it’s own unique special mechanic. The second generation had two regions, the third has secret bases, the fifth has seasons… And this generation has the underground AND the PokéTech. Yes, two unique features. Man, the underground looks like so much fun. Sadly enough, I didn’t have a lot of friends (outside of the internet friends) I could play this mode with. I played this mode twice on the bus and it was quite a lot of fun. In the underground, the secret bases from the 3rd generation return. But there is more, there is a sort of capture the flag mode where you can earn points by raiding the flag of other players their bases. And on top of that, you can put traps in the various hallways. And on top of that, you can mine for various ores and sometimes very useful items. And yes, possible fossils to find several Pokémon. While I wasn’t able to play with the secret bases in the underground, I still spend countless hours just digging for ores and decorating my secret base.

Earlier I talked about the improvements to the UI. Thanks to the touch screen, the battling mechanics and bag management got a lot easier. When you look at the newer generations, it’s clear that these UI improvements work quite well since they got even more fleshed out in those generations. To be honest, I missed the second screen with my menu options and such while I was playing Pokémon Let’s Go.

Actually, there is a third unique mechanic in this game but it isn’t something that game changing. It’s a nice addition that helps with the atmosphere of this game. After some time, your badges get dirty and a bit rusty. So, you can clean them by rubbing on them on the touch screen to make them sparkle again. This is a nice small addition. And yes, as a child I regulary checked my badges to make sure they were still in sparking condition.

Depending on how skilled you are in optimizing your team, this game can be easy and sometimes quite difficult. I’m the more casual type of player and I have to say that I got frustrated with one of two gym leaders. I disliked the 5th gym a lot since I had to grind quite a bit to beat that gym. And if there is one thing I dislike, that’s grinding.

This adventure will take you roughly 40 hours to complete. But, if you want to fully complete this game and see everything that there is to see, you can spend close to 260 hours in the game. While I haven’t fully completed the game 100%, I think I playing this game give or take, 100 hours. Granted, over several save files since I have restarted the game two or three times.

The lakes

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Visually, this game looks amazing. Sinnoh still looks great in my opinion. The game is quite colorful and lively.

In terms of the animation, this game looks quite good. I had to get used to the static Pokémon sprites again while battling, but that was a small price to pay.

And the game also nails in it in the audio department. The music for this game is amazing. It’s one of my favorite soundtracks to listen too when I’m in a Pokémon mood and and the sound effects really add a lot of flavor to the game.

Running around in the world of Sinnoh is a fun experience. From a port town to the snowy tops of Snowpoint City, this region is one of my favorite regions in the series. Especially because there is so much variation in the region. It’s not themed in one giant theme like in Pokémon Sun and Moon where everything is based on Hawaii or in Pokemon X and Y where everything is themed like France.

So far, I have been praising this game quite a lot. But, are there things I didn’t like about this game. Well, yes. There are a few things I didn’t like about this game.

The first big negative of this game has to do with the fact that the Nintendo Online services have been closed down. Because of this, the online features of this game are inaccessible. Well, apart from the local features then.

Sometimes, I felt that the game was running a bit too slow. Now, I don’t mean that there were any frame drops or lag… I mean that there was a bit too much of the text boxes. Especially when certain weather effects where into play.

The best version to play this game is Pokémon Platinium. Apart from fixing some bugs, there are a whole long list of improvements to the game. NintendoEverthing made a very helpful list that can be found right here. And after playing Pokémon Platinium for a bit, I found that a lot of the minor nitpicks I had with the game, were fixed.

And yes, that was almost everything negative I can say about these games… And with that said, I think it’s high time for the conclusion of this article.

Conclusion

Negatives:

-Some rare moments of griding are required to beat the game.

-Nintendo Online being shut down.

-Pokémon Platinium improved the games so much that Pearl and Diamond feel inferior.

Postives:

+ Amazing audio visual design.

+ Several unique mechanics in this game like the underground and the PokéTech.

+ Fun story.

+ …

Final thoughts:

To be honest, I had a real hard time finding negatives for this game. Maybe it’s possible that I have too much nostalgic thoughts about this game or maybe it’s just that good. In terms of Nintendo DS games, this is one of the best Nintendo DS games I have ever played.

There is a reason why so many players want to see this game remade on the Nintendo Switch. They want to bring this game back to the masses so that a whole new generation can experience the amazing journey through Sinnoh again.

I highly recommend that you give this game a try if you enjoy Pokémon games and/or RPG’s. The main game can be easy for hardcore RPG fans but the post game and the side quests will give you a lot of challenge.

While this game has a few minor flaws, I find them not hindering my experience at all. Compared to the generations after this generation, this game can feel a bit lacking. For example, you don’t need to hold a button down to run and the menu is always accessible on the touch screen… But, then again, there are moments I really miss the PokéTech and the underground mechanics from this game.

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

Score: 100/100

Game Quicky: The Pepper Prince 1 – The Seasoning – Episode 2: The Sadness (PC) ~ Let The Rhyme Continue

logoSteam Store page

Back in March, I took a look at the ASCII adventure game called the Pepper Prince Seasoning 1 Episode 1. In that game, a lot of rhyme is used to tell the story. Recently, the second episode of that game got released. I wanted to write an article and release it right on the day of the release of the second episode, but a lot of real life things came in between. For full disclosure, I got a press key for the second episode of the game and like with the first episode, the developers want that I write my 100% honest opinion. So, that’s what you will get in this review. In any case, let’s dive right into the second episode that continues right where the first episode left off. 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.

The good

pepper prince episode 2Now, the second episode will automatically unlock when you finish the first episode. The second episode is called: “The Sadness.” It’s a very fitting title for the episode if you know how the first episode ended. When the episode starts, you get a small and quick reminder on what went down in the first episode. This is quite handy, since it’s close to two months ago that I played the first one.

I’m going to be careful talking about the story of the second episode so that I don’t spoil anything about the first episode. In this episode, a few questions are answered that rose up in the first episode, but a bigger mystery is unfolding. Especially with the wording of certain characters, you get the impression there are hiding something.

The gameplay is quite similar compared to the first episode. Yet, in this episode, a new mechanic is added. Combining items. This mechanic adds some depth to the game and makes the game a bit more difficult. The first episode was quite easy in my opinion and this mechanic adds some challenge. Now, the solution for the puzzles can be already in your inventory.

As in the first episode, there are several puzzles. But unlike the first episode, the puzzles are quite harder in this episode. There is more challenge in the second episode. To be honest, I got stuck at a certain point, but my girlfriend actually found the solution quite easily. If you are stuck, think outside of the box or just talk to the various NPC’s in the town, they might also have useful information.

There are also a few new achievements in this second episode. I still love the fact that there is an achievement that encourages speedrunning the game. Since this game doesn’t have a lot of replay value, this achievement still adds a bit of that.

The visuals of this episode are as pleasingly retro as the first episode. In addition to that, the colors of the objects can distinguished easily so people who are colorblind won’t have issues with that. And if the contrast between the colors isn’t large enough, the mouse cursor even changes when you can interact with an object.  The fact that some parts of the episode or slightly animated to for example simulate the waves of the sea hitting the beach, adds a lot to the atmosphere of the game.

The bad

ViewThere is one thing that I really disliked about the inventory system. It didn’t reset. So, all the items that you had at the first episode are still there. In most modern adventure games, the items you don’t need anymore in the next section of the game are taken out of your inventory. If this happened in this episode as well, it would have made it a bit easier to manage the inventory. Then again, there are one or two puzzles where you need those old items… In any case, I think that this could have been handled better.

While the combine mechanic breaths some fresh air into the gameplay, I don’t like the mess it makes of my inventory. I think it would have been better if the inventory is and stays alphabetized or something in that nature.

The graphics may be charmingly retro, the text can be uneasy on the eyes for some people. For myself, it isn’t too big of a problem, but my girlfriend complained after a while that the text became hard to read.

My girlfriend noticed something I didn’t notice in the previous episode. It’s a minor thing but it can still take you out of the experience. The fact that you use the option “ASK ABOUT…” to milk a cow is a bit awkward don’t you think?

While the puzzles in the second episode where a lot more challenging, one or two puzzles in the second episode were pretty frustrating. Some hints were a bit too vague for my liking. Especially since sometimes one NPC can give the correct clue while the others always give the same reply. I got stuck three times during the game and didn’t know what to do or what could be the possible answer. Now, eventually I was able to get past those puzzles, but I felt the first episode flowed a bit better… yet, on the other hand, the first episode was a bit too easy.

The conclusion

Overall, the second episode is an excellent continuation of the first episode. With the newly added mechanics and the improved puzzles, this game became a bit more fun to play. But, the game could use some minor polish like a better inventory listing and a minor bit of polishing of the script.

I really liked the additional details in the visual department and the music is still quite enjoyable to listen too. I think that if you enjoyed the first episode of this game, you will enjoy the second episode as well. Now, if you are stuck somewhere, feel free to leave a comment, I’m willing to help.

For now, I won’t give this game a score just yet, I’ll do that when I have finished all the episodes of this game. But for now, it’s looking quite good. And I’m looking forward to the 3rd episode.

And that’s everything I wanted to say about the second episode for now. 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.

Publishing: Hissatsu Studios presents Space Outlaw Alice!

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Description

Space Outlaw Alice follows Alice, the main character, as she gets targeted by the corrupt government of the Earth Union and must also deal with mysterious extra-dimensional monsters that appeared out of nowhere. As she runs through the stages, the player will experience a classic platform action with jumping and shooting. However, each stage also contains segments where she will pilot Seraph, her giant robot, and the game will shift to a horizontal scroller shooter. Space Outlaw Alice is highly inspired by the classic games of the NES/Famicom console as well as the mecha anime genre. Its plot and characters are carefully presented through 8-bit cutscenes between the stages.

History

The year is 2378 A.D. Humanity is expanding into space, but its progress is being held back by the corrupt regulation of Earth Union. In addition to the inability to rely on its own government, both Earth and space are plagued by criminal activities and terrorist attacks. Alice, fearless outlaw and captain of the spaceship Valiant Gear, accepts a job to raid a military facility and gets caught up in a situation that will determine the fate of the world. Targeted by the Earth Union army and facing the coming of extra-dimensional creatures that threatens to exterminate all forms of life, she and her crew will need to make a decision. Run and mind their own business or join the battle and help everyone?

Features

  • Retro platformer action
  • Retro shoot’em up action
  • NES inspired pixel art graphics
  • Upbeat 8-bit inspired music
  • Six two-part stages
  • Hidden weapons and upgrades
  • Flashy special attacks
  • 8-bit cutscenes presenting an engaging plot
  • Fights against trained soldiers, monsters and robots

Space Outlaw Alice | Indiegogo Campaign
Crowdfunding campaign for Space Outlaw Alice. igg.me.

Space Outlaw Alice at Game Jolt
Space Outlaw Alice’s page on Game Jolt. Playable demo avaiable. gamejolt.com.

Space Outlaw Alice at itch.io
Space Outlaw Alice’s page on itch.io. Playable demo avaiable. hissatsu-studios.itch.io.


About Hissatsu Studios

Boilerplate
Hissatsu Studios is a brazilian indie game studio founded by Lucio de Godoy in April 2017. Its main inspirations are the 8-bit and 16-bit era videogames. Hissatsu Studios is currently working on its first project, Space Outlaw Alice, a pixel art game with distinct platformer and horizontal shoot’em up segments alternating in a single adventure. It is inspired by the NES/Famicom classics and some of their technical limitations.

More information
More information on Hissatsu Studios, our logo & relevant media are available here.


Space Outlaw Alice Credits

Lucio de Godoy
Game Designer, Artist, Programmer

Rafael Giordanno
Composer

Publishing: Suicide Guy gets updated AND a bundle on PS4!

ChubbyPïxel is writing to you to let you know that they are celebrating the 2 years release and the 40.000 copies sold for their latest game “Suicide Guy” on Steam with a new Update 1.60 and a 60% Sale!

Thanks to the support of the gamers, Chubby Pixel is able to continue the development with more content in the near future for the game.

https://store.steampowered.com/app/303610/Suicide_Guy/

The Update includes:

– Improved physics interactions with the items
– Better and more refined graphics
– Higher FPS and faster loading times
– Bugs and Glitches fixes

But wait… there is more news!

ChubbyPixel is also proud to announce that to celebrate he success of our 2 PS4 games Suicide Guy” and “Suicide Guy: Sleepin’ Deeply”, today Chubby Pixel releases a bundle of the 2 games!

https://store.playstation.com/en-gb/product/EP2659-CUSA11105_00-SUICIDEGUYBUNDLE

The games in bundle contains a total of 34 challenging levels for 6+ hours of gameplay!

NekoJonez’s April 2019 Update

It has been quite some time since I wrote an update article. A lot of things are happening and I think it’s high time that I update you all on my life and all that. There are going to be a lot of changes and big updates in this article. Especially because I’m nearing my 8 year blogging anniversary next month. Also, if you want to keep up-to-date with my latest updates on my life and the things I do, I highly advice that you follow me on Twitter. Since, that’s the platform I use the most to communicate with my readers and other bloggers for updates and things of that nature. But, some of these updates haven’t appeared on Twitter yet, so, let’s not stall any further and let’s get into the updates.

 Personal life things

 So, a lot of things are happening in my personal life. I wrote this update article on Friday the 26th of April. Today is the night of the premiere of the play I have been practicing for since late December last year. We play it 6 times. Tonight, tomorrow night and on Sunday in the afternoon. We also play next weekend. Because of the frequent amount of rehearsals, I focused my attention more on the play then on playing games or working on my blog. That’s why articles have been so slow lately. On top of that, this whole week I have been out with a nasty cold. Luckily, I have been recovering quite well.

Another big change in my personal life is a huge job change. On Monday, I’m going to start working in local computer hardware store. I’m quite excited to start at my new workplace. Because I’m starting in the upcoming week, I’m not going to talk too in-depth about my new job yet. So, that’s also a huge focus of mine. I’m preparing myself to start working there by reading up on the latest tech news and things of that nature for what I think are obvious reasons.

But it doesn’t stop there! Another huge change in my personal life is the fact that I met someone. She is my special someone. We met each other through a closed Facebook group and after a bit of talking… we started dating and since the 21st of April, we have been a couple for one month. So yes, I have been spending quite a lot of time with her. While it isn’t her main hobby, she also plays games. So, it’s highly possible that I’ll ask her for a second opinion when I’m writing articles about certain games I think she will enjoy as well.

Now, another huge change in my life is the fact that I’m not going to college anymore. The reason for that is that I got my degree. I’m now a graduate computer scientist with my specialty in networking and repair. This actually happened in late December of 2018, but I haven’t written an update article since then, so I wanted to mention it here.

Last year, I wrote in various update articles that my bad mental health. So, because of my new job, me finding a girlfriend, completing my degree and various other things, I’m happy to announce that I’m finally out of that bad mental health state. A lot of my friends are telling me that I made a 180° flip. While I’m not going to talk too much in depth on my blog, but let me say it like this; thanks to the support of friends, family and my support network… I have been looking for solutions to tackle the things that were making me unhappy in the first place. I’m so thankful for everybody’s kind words and advice that I can’t thank you guys, girls (or whatever gender you prefer) enough for everything. 2018 was extremely rough for me, but 2019 looks like it’s going to be an amazing year.

With all of that said, I think it’s high time to talk about the updates concerning my blog and things of that nature.

Blog & brand updates

 First of all, if you go to my YouTube channel, you might notice that I have a lot fewer video’s then in the past. That’s because I have unlisted most of them. The reason for that is, I didn’t feel happy or content with the quality of those videos anymore. From low frame rate footage, badly edited videos to horrible microphone quality… I might have been happy with it when I was creating these videos, but now a days, I feel they don’t represent me or the quality I want to bring now. So, that’s why I also deleted these video’s from my blog as well. Now, will I put these videos back publically? Well, at the moment of writing I think that the chances are quite low of that happening.

In the future, I’ll be using my YouTube channel to upload glitches or weird things that happening in the games that I have been playing. So, if I want to share a bug, exploit or something of that nature, I’ll create a video about it and share it on my YouTube channel. I won’t make an article for each and every video I create, but I’ll tweet the video out. Now, will I search for these things to have some sort of consistent upload schedule? No, not at all. I feel that I’m way better in writing articles and maintaining a blog then I’m at creating videos. Besides that, I don’t have enough time to create videos, write a blog, work full time, spend time with my girlfriend… I think I’ll exhaust myself too quickly that way.

Now, something that will happen sporadically in the future are streams. Because I bought an AverMedia Live Gamer Portable 2 Plus (what a mouthful), I’m now able to stream almost everything from the original hardware. At the moment, you can find a few archives on my Twitch channel of test streams I did. So, whenever I fell like sharing my gameplay experiences with my you guys and girls, I’ll be doing that over Twitch. Thanks to this, I’ll be able to create better screenshots and video’s to support future articles.

You might have noticed that I have been publishing fewer articles in 2019 when you compare it to last year. This has a lot of reasons. One of the main reasons is that I have been focusing on improving my bad mental health state. The results of that, you already read earlier in this article. Another reason for fewer amount of articles is one that you might have noticed already. My articles are getting longer and longer, more in-depth. It’s simply because I’m spending much more time and effort into writing each and every article. In the past, I have been able to research, draft, write and finalize an article in 2 or 3 evenings. Now, it takes me at least 3 evenings to complete an article.

I have been thinking about reducing the amount of article I write as well. I have been thinking to reduce the amount of articles to 2 articles each month instead of 4 articles. So, I can spend even more time for each article instead of rushing 4 articles through the door. While I tried doing that, I miss writing articles so much, I write 2 additional articles anyways.

Usually, I write during the evening or the weekends. Because at those times, I’m able to focus myself on the creation of an article. But, this is also going to change in a way. I’m going to work on Saturdays. Now, I do have another day off and this is Thursday. So, it’s quite possible that I’ll be publishing articles on Thursday in the future. Because I’ll be starting an article on Sunday and then being able to finish it on Thursday. I’ll have to wait and see how it’s going to turn out. It’s also possible that I’ll still be publishing on Sunday as well. Only time will tell.

Another thing I want to mention and talk about are the collabs. A lot of blogging collaborations are happening on a lot of my friend’s their blogs. But, because I have been so busy with other things, I have missed a lot of them. So, until I have been able to get used to the new rhythm of my new job and the big life changes, I’ll keeping the amount of collaborations I’m contributing with to a real minimum. That way I can grantee I’m able to give my all during the collaborations and not burn myself out.

So, a good summary of what I have been saying in this article is that I have been cleaning up my blog to make it look more professional. There are also a lot of big changes in my personal life, a new job, a girlfriend, a degree… so I’ll have to get used to the new rhythm. This might cause scheduling changes, fewer or no collabs for the time being and possibly fewer articles. I’m also putting more time and effort into writing the articles as well. And because I bought an AverMedia device, I might live stream some gaming sessions of games I’m playing.

I have to admit that it has been strange writing an update article when I haven’t written one in almost 6 months. In any case, that’s everything I wanted to talk about. 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.

The Sunshine Blogger Award – Q and A

sunshine-blogger-awardI think that I write a similar introduction for every community award I receive. The introduction talks about how the blogging community is one big family that supports each other and to support each other we have these community awards. You can compare them to YouTubers doing shoutouts or collaborations to promote each other and help each other grow. One of these awards is the Sunshine Blogger Award. All of these awards work in a very similar way, while thanking the blogger who gave you the award, you have to answer his or her questions, write up the same amount of questions that the bloggers have to reply to that you select to receive the award.

Thank you!

The blogger who gave me the 3rd Sunshine Blogger Award is AK from Sonatano1. It really makes my day when another blogger gives me an award like this, I feel recognized and it really makes my day. Now, AK writes articles on various game related subjects. From old to new games. If you enjoy my content, I’m quite sure you will enjoy his content. One of my favorite articles is one on the Windows Entertainment Packs. It just tickles the collector and retro gamer in me.

Now, I think it’s time that we get to answering the questions that were asked by AK. Let’s dive right into some interesting things and facts about myself.

The Questions

1) What’s your favorite or most-used medium for entertainment?

cropped-bannerblog3-1.jpgMy favorite form of entertainment is gaming, followed by YouTube and anime. I also love theater and stand up comedy quite a lot. Here and there, I go to the movies.

Now, if you follow my blog you might know that I play games on a ton of systems. From my phone to my gaming desktop. From my Nintendo 3DS to my Sony PSP. I even play games on rip-off consoles. So, my favorite medium for entertainment are devices that can play games. My most-used platform is Switch and my computer at the moment of writing. But, because I got some new 3DS games, I think that might change in the future.

2) What character in a work of fiction would you inhabit and why?  (Assuming you’re experiencing the entire storyline of the game/novel/film/whatever as this character.)

Oh dear lord, to answer this question I had to stop myself from cheating and counting one of the stories I wrote in the past. My biggest hobby, besides gaming and acting, is writing. Before I started writing this blog, I used to write a lot of fantasy stories on paper. I have a couple of binders full with story ideas and pitches for quite interesting stories.

Now, because I full control over those worlds, I think it would be too easy to pick one of those stories. On top of that, none of those stories are finished and aren’t even released to the public.

256px-Indiana_Jones_and_the_Infernal_MachineSo, in which universe would I want to live? In that case, give me Indiana Jones in one of the Indiana Jones movies or games. The reason for that is quite simple. I’m in love with the Indiana Jones universe. My favorite game is Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine, which is released on Steam and GOG now. My favorite movie is the first movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark. While I know that the 4th movie wasn’t one of the best Indiana Jones movies and was filled with various plot holes and things of that nature; truth to be told, I still enjoyed the movie quite a lot. But,  I do agree that it’s one of the worst movies in the series. My love for the series is so big that I went dressed up as Indiana Jones three times to carnival as a child. I even own a replica of the hat Indiana wears in the movies and games. It felt so amazing when I was able to use it in a play last year. So, yeah. Indiana Jones would be my character, the adventures and the mysteries… Do I even have to explain?

3) What work would you wipe all memories of from your brain if you could so that you could experience it all over again?

To be honest, I have a huge list of games and experiences that I would love to be able to re-experience without any memories. To name just a few: the Tomb Raider games, A Hat in Time, Time Hollow, all the Ace Attorney gamesFantasy Life, Stella Glow, Dream Chronicles and a ton more. I could be adding entries to this list all day.

Now, to be honest, I don’t think I’m open for the idea that my memories would be wiped from my brain from one or more experiences. Quite simply because all of these experiences shaped me into the person and gamer that I’m today. On top of that, this would always change since the older I get, the more works could go on this list.

So, I’m sorry, I don’t think I have one answer for this. Maybe I should play these two Gameboy Color games that I haven’t played yet from the Zelda series. One is called Oracle of Seasons and the other one is called Oracle of Ages. Maybe that might be a great answer for this question…

And for those who totally missed the punchline in the paragraph above, the Oracle games in the Zelda series are the games that introduced me to adventures you can take with you where ever you go. They taught me so many things in life and they were on of the reasons why I wanted to become a game collector. Since I got Oracle of Ages from a garage sale and after I finished the game and so the “To be continued” screen… I wanted to see the story continue so bad. But at the time, the Gameboy Advance SP was released, so it got quite tricky to find Gameboy Color games in garage sales. After a long time (2 years) I found myself a copy of the game and I played completely through it. Since then, I got quite hooked at collecting games.

4) What’s the most annoying trend occurring in your favorite medium today?

I know for a fact that my answer on this question is going to have some people disagreeing with me but still, I find it very annoying. The decline of physical media is somewhat worrying to me. I talked about this before multiple times on my blog but the reasons I find it annoying are multiple.

SotTR_HERO-1-heroFirst of all, as a game collector, I love having a physical copy on my shelf to look at and have nostalgic memories flood back. I don’t have that with digital releases too easily. Now, let me be clear, I’m not against digital releases but I find it worrying that even big titles don’t get a physical release. Take Shadow of the Tomb Raider for example. That game didn’t get a physical release on PC but it did get one on consoles.

The second reason I’m not that fond of going full digital is, the possibility of digital shops getting deleted or shut down. For example, the Wii Shop channel. There is no legal way anymore to buy WiiWare in 2019, which is disappointing. So, if you were saving up as a retro game collector to buy some Virtual Console games on your Wii, cross your fingers it’s on the Wii U. I watched a YouTube series by Scott the Woz that talks about my feelings quite well.

And a 3rd reason is game shops. I find it mind boggling that the biggest entertainment industry is reduced to a few shelves in retail stores. In one of my local tech and multimedia shops, I see the amount of shelf space that is reserved for gaming and gaming merch decreasing by the year. Now, there are a lot of online stores but I feel that it’s less and less present in our day to day lives. I also love to go to game stores and chat with the people about games, tech and various other things. Of course, you can do that on the internet, sure. But, I enjoyed the non-virtual contact more.

A 4th reason is that it’s a nightmare for game collectors. Apart from having nothing physical for our gaming shelves, the whole move to the digital market space is killing the second hand market. I need to keep a careful eye on the packaging when buying a game on garage sales or during flea markets. Some game cases come with a game code you can only activate once. Even when it has a disc inside, the game can’t be installed without the code.

There are a few other reasons, but I won’t get into those in this article. I’ll leave those for when I talk more in-depth on this topic.

5) What’s the most promising trend occurring in your favorite medium today?

2017-12-29 19.22.57The acceptance of the gaming hobby by today’s community. When I was a teenager walking around with my Nintendo DS, I get strange looks by adults. “Aren’t you too old to still be playing video games?” is a question I got asked.

But, now-a-days, when I talk to people and say that one of my favorite hobbies is playing video games, I usually get one of these answers:

“Oh cool, it doesn’t interest me to be honest, but my [child, family member, friend, coworker…] also plays games.”

OR

“On which platform do you play?”

I’m also under the impression that there is a growing part of non-gamers who understand why gaming is so appealing and that a lot of cliché things like: “violent video games make youngster violent.” is less easily believed.

The gaming community is also growing each and every day. Which I find amazing. But, like my answer on the previous question, I think I’ll go more in depth on this topic in a later article.

6) How much or how little romance do you like in your games/films/novels/etc.?

It’s quite tricky to give this a proper answer. At one hand, it depends on the story and such. It also depends on what you understand under romance.

But what I find very important is consistency and proper use. What I mean by proper use is that romance isn’t used just because “all other games in the genre do that.”. If romance fits in the story, then I don’t mind. If I’m still making sense.

7) If you had to be the ruler of one country in any work of fiction, which one would you pick?

pokemon-alpha-sapphire-limited-edition-steelbookI have rewritten my answer to this question several times simply because I always wanted to choose one of the stories I wrote myself as a kid. But that wouldn’t be too much fun since I have full control over that world.

For the sake of this article, I think it’s more fun if I choose a world that already exists and people know the rules of. So, after a lot of thinking.. and trying to avoid me getting distracted by the stories I wrote in the past, I decided to choose the Heonn region from Pokémon Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald. Just because those games are my favorite Pokémon games and the nostalgic memories with those games are so big.

Also, who wouldn’t want to live in a real Pokémon world? There are so many possibilities in those worlds, it would be amazing.

8) Do you think virtual reality will improve anytime in the near future to the extent that it’s actually worth using?  Or are we already at that point?

One of the biggest problems with virtual reality is the price. I know that there are a lot of cheap VR possibilities with smartphones. But for that you need a pretty powerful phone and that doesn’t come cheap either. Also, the more popular VR-glasses like the Rift and the HTC Vive just got three years old.

While there are a lot of practical uses for VR, I’m not interested enough to invest in the technology yet. To be honest, I haven’t tried VR for myself for several reasons. From not having the equipment and budget and just because there isn’t a game out yet that I would love to play that’s exclusive to VR.

Personally, I think that VR will be one of the possible platforms we will be able to play games in the future. In the future, we will have consoles, handhelds, PC and VR. I don’t think that will go away.

To call VR a gimmick or a fad like the Wii would be wrong in my opinion. There are many practical applications for VR. I think it just needs to grow and evolve. At the moment, you need to be quite tech savy to set it up, just take a look at the sensors and the specs you need to run VR at a decent frame rate.

Actually, answering this question gave me an idea for a future article. So, I’ll go more in depth about my opinions and thoughts on VR in the future.

9) I’ve heard people say that the novel is a dying form of art and that changes in attention span length and the constant multitasking our generation is involved in will make them obsolete.  If you have an opinion on that matter, do you agree or disagree?

If the novel would be dying, please explain to me why companies like Audible and Scribd are so popular? Besides that, if novels would be a dying art form, why do people still write and read blogs? Now, this discussion is so popular that it has it’s own Wikipedia page about it. 

As a kid, I read a lot of books. I enjoyed reading quite a lot. Now-a-days, I barely read one book in a year. I don’t feel the need to actually read books. But, I still read blogs and my favorite gaming genre are visual novels like Death Mark or Trace Memory. I still “read” novels but in a totally different experience. Besides that, my sister enjoys reading books quite a lot. Granted, she has to read a lot of novels and books for her studies.

My two cents on the subject goes as follows. I honestly think that the novels just lost some popularity. Because other hobbies like video gaming and watching content online grew, other art forms are loosing terrain.

Yet, I still see a lot of people from all ages during my commute to and from work who are reading books. There is still a market for novels. Otherwise products like the Amazon Kindle wouldn’t be created. Also, if big companies like Google still provide a service to read books like Google Play Books, I honestly think that novels aren’t dying, they are evolving with the time.

10) Are you optimistic about the future of the human race?

My answer for this question depends on the mood you catch me in. There are things I’m quite optimistic about like the improved awareness about the climate change and the willingness to do something about it but there are things that worry me quite a lot. Something like article 13 that might ruin the internet as we know it.

I think it’s something were we just have to wait and see. There is always going to be something that makes me optimistic and something that worries me. As long as we don’t plunge the world into chaos, I think we will be just fine.

11) Cake or pie?  (There’s only one right answer.)

The fact I had to look up the difference between cake and pie explains quite a lot. Now, did you know that in my native language we have one word for cake and pie? In Dutch we use “taart” for both words.

To be honest, I like both. So, I don’t discriminate. 🙂 And if you want it, the pie cake is a lie, thanks Glad0s.

My questions and nominations

Now, for my eleven questions. Let’s go.

  1. Do you think that nowadays there are too many reboots and sequels to old games instead of new IP’s?
  2. Can the big studio’s like Nintendo, EA, Ubisoft… make indie games?
  3. If one of the games you played in the past gets a HD remake, do you get excited? Would you play the remake?
  4. What do you do during a grinding session? Do you do something else while grinding for resources or characters or do you focus on the game?
  5. How do you take notes for your articles? Do you write them down on a piece of paper while playing the game? Do you record your gameplay and write down time stamps?
  6. What are your least favorite sections in gaming?
  7. What is something unique/fun/interesting about your hometown and/or community?
  8. What’s your advice to new bloggers or even, experienced bloggers looking for advice?
  9. Can you answer this question with a wrong answer?
  10. Do you sometimes look back at your old(er) articles and think, if I write another article about that today, it would be totally different?

So, here are the people I tag. And yes, these are all worth your time and you should seriously take a visit to their blog. For your convenience, I have linked to their latest article. I invite all these people to answer one or all the questions and share the love with the community.

LaterLevels

Sheikah Plate

Triform Trinity

ABXY Reviews

Pix1001 – Shoot the Rookie

Drakulus

Hundstrasse

OverThinkerY

A Geeky Girl

Adventure Rules

Killer Robotics

NormalHappenings

Winst0lf

TwoTall4uFool

Reaper Interactive

Falcon Reviews

GamersUnitedGG

I Played The Game

LividLighting

Well Red Mage

TheDragonsTeaParty

Games With Coffee

The Shameful Narcissist

And that will do it. While there are a ton of other bloggers around, I don’t want the end of this article to end up as a long extensive list of amazing people. Now, I think I’ll end off this article here. Thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I’m looking forward to the possible replies to this post. I also 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: Woodle Tree Deluxe (Switch) ~ Raindrops To The End.

Woodly TreeNintendo microsite

In 2017, the developers behind Suicide Guy contacted me to ask if I would take a look at their game. Last year, they asked me to take a look at the sequel/follow-up of the game called Suicide Guy – Sleeping Deeply. Now, Chubby Pixel sent over a review copy of Woodle Tree Adventures Deluxe on the Nintendo Switch. While the developer provided me with a review copy for this game, you will find my 100% personal opinion in this article. I’m quite excited to see what this game has to offer and how different their other titles are. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the content of this article and/or the game in the comment section down below.

Raindrops To The End

Woodle Tree 1In this game, you play as a walking log. You are tasked by the Great Tree, that looks a lot like the Deku Tree from Ocarina of Time, to bring the water back to the world. Why do you have to bring the water back to the world? Because it’s going through a draught at the moment. After the Great Tree shows you the Fairy Tears you need to collect in order for you to save the world, you get teleported to the hub world. This hub world is the home that the Great Tree for you build and there you find a backpack (it’s called a rugsack in game) and your weapon, the magical leaf.

And that’s about it in terms of story. I haven’t finished the game yet, but I think the there will be a bit more story bits after I finished the last level. Now, I didn’t expect a grand story from this game. Because the stories in the Suicide Guy games was handled in the same way. It’s all about the gameplay in these games.

Before I talk about the gameplay, I want to mention one thing that I didn’t like about the story. In this game, there isn’t a button to skip dialogues. When I started playing this game and I read the first dialogue and I wasn’t able to advance, I thought that my Switch froze. But, you have a wait for a bit too long in order for the game to advance. It sounds like a nitpick, but it would improve the game quite a lot.

With that said, let’s focus our attention to the gameplay. In this game, you go through various levels looking around for these Fairy Tears. There is no tutorial in the first level, but a quick look at the controls by pressing the “+” key on the right joycon explains everything you need to know. The controls are easy to grasp and understand.

The goal in each level is to find the tree hidden Fairy Tears and bring them to the three cups at the end of the level. If you reach the end of the level without all three tears, you won’t be able to finish the level. While the levels are quite linear, to find all three tears, you will have to explore off the main path and look everywhere.

Checkpoint mystery

Woodle-Tree-Adventures-Deluxe-2Whenever you fall of the edge of the level or get hit by an enemy, you respawn at a checkpoint. Now, at first, I didn’t understand how the checkpoint system worked, but after some experimentation, I think I understand it. Let’s say there are 5 checkpoints in a level. When you die past the 4th checkpoint, you respawn at checkpoint 4. If you die again, you respawn at checkpoint 3, die again -> checkpoint 2. So, the punishment of dying is respawning at an earlier checkpoint.

In this game, you don’t have hitpoints nor lives. So, if you are hit by an enemy, you are dead. But, you will never get a game over. Speaking about enemies, they die in one hit as well. Some will chase after you, others will stand in your way to make certain platforming sections trickier to complete. The enemies were a small point of frustration in this game for me, since the attack of your character is so slow, I ran into them quite often. Thankfully, you don’t loose your already collected tears whenever you die.

But, there is something that was ever more annoying, and that was the camera. You don’t have full control over the camera in this game. You can zoom in and out in most places. I’m extremely happy for that feature since it made certain platforming sections possible. In other sections, the zooming in or out mechanic didn’t work properly or not at all. Making some sections extremely tricky, especially when you have trouble seeing depth.

A cute cover

Woodle-Tree-Adventures-Deluxe-3This game is a port of the Steam game “Woodle Tree Adventures”. In this version, with get an additional level, the new camera system and better jumping mechanics.

Speaking about the jumping mechanics, the animation of the jump looks a bit weird. It looks a bit floaty. I think that a few more frames of animation for the jump would give it a more natural feel.

Visually speaking, this game looks very good. The world is very colorful and vibrant. The visual presentation of the game is one of the strongest points of this game. The game even looks stunning in some places. Especially some lighting effects like the sun’s rays peeking through some models, giving a sunset vibe.

Yet, underneath this cute cover, the game feels unfinished. For example, the controls of this game respond quite well but they can be quite slippery sometimes. I lost count how many times I died because my character took one or two additional steps and feel into the abyss.

Also, I felt that there was something missing during my playthrough of this game. There is barely any UI in this game. I missed an on screen counter for the collected fruits in each level. With these you can buy various cosmetic items for your character, but it’s tricky to know how much you have already collected. You can see this in one space in the hub world, but the counter isn’t visible at the location you can buy these cosmetics at.

All of this happens in the hub world. And there is another element that I don’t like about this game. The placement of the levels. To start a level, you have to hit the orb with your magic leaf. But these orbs appear randomly in the hub world without any indication of which ones you already finished or which one is new.

Overall, this game is quite easy. The only moment that this game can become difficult is when the controls become slippery or when the camera decides you can’t zoom in or out. But, it didn’t take me long to finish the first few levels of this game.

The music and sound effects are a bit lacking as well. While the music of this game is quite enjoyable, I wish there was a bit more to the soundtrack and a bit more sound effects. I think there are only 5 sound effects in this whole game. And that is a bummer. Speaking about sound effects, I noticed that the dying sound effect sometimes played multiple times when you fall off the edge.

Overall, this is a decent game. But, it’s lacking. The game could use a lot more polish and content. The concept is interesting and fun to play but with slippery controls, boring level design and especially an annoying camera, this game is hindered so much. This game could have been so much better then what’s released right now. With that said, I have a hard time recommending this game. While it has a ton of elements that work and work well, but there are just too many elements that need polishing or updating for me to fully recommend without any hesitation.

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

Game Quicky: The Pepper Prince – Episode 1 (PC) ~ Rhyming For A Cake

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Quite often I get indie developers requesting me to take a look to their game. Today I want to talk about a game called “The Pepper Prince” which is an episodic adventure fully created in ASCII art. At the moment, there are 5 episodes planned and only the first episode has been released. Full disclosure, the developers provided me with a press key for this review. And as usual, in this article you will find my 100% honest opinion. So, let’s get backing and rhyming for a wedding cake of two princes. Yes, princes. And also as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the content of this article and/or the game in the comment section down below.

The positives

pp-7The story in this game is very quirky. It’s completely written in rhyme and it’s enjoyable to read through. The humor, charm and pacing is just on point.

The only minor thing is that the story was over before I knew it, it was that well-crafted, it drew me in that much that I forgot that each episode contains only one hour of gameplay. I’m now even more excited to play the following parts of the story.

The gameplay of this game is quite enjoyable. It’s a great point-and-click game where you need to look for items to help other characters that in turn help you to progress your quest. The “TO DO” list in the journal was a great help when I didn’t know what my next steps would be.

The visual presentation isn’t for everybody. I can totally imagine some players looking at the ASCII art and skipping this game. But not for this retro gamer, oh no! While playing this game, I felt like I looked up my old-school retro gaming PC and I was playing those old DOS games during those winter-y nights with a cup of hot chocolate and an a warm blanket wrapped around me. This game leaves a lot up to the imagination and I love it when games pull this off well.

The music in this game adds to the old school charm. The only thing I would recommend to the developers is that there is an option to have more MIDI music playing. It would just make the whole experience that more perfect.

The difficulty in this game is just right. Thanks to the journal, you have a great list of all the things you have to do. You can always ask about various tasks to all the characters that often point you in the right direction. While this game doesn’t have a mini-map screen, the characters point you in the right direction by saying things like: “I have seen him go west.” and things like that. Now, this game isn’t too challenging. In a matter of fact, it’s quite easy and relaxing actually.

The negatives

pp-2Now, this game is very well created. But, there are some things I would change in a future update or for the following episodes.

I’m quite happy to see an achievement for speedrunners. You get an achievement when you are able to finish the first episode in 15 minutes. Now, I totally miss one option that would make this even more helpful. A timer. Yes, a timer so speedrunners can keep track of the time and know when they need to restart when they aren’t going to make the 15 minute mark.

Something I would personally change is the color of either the items you can pick up and the characters. At the moment, they use the same color. This confused me a few times, thinking that an item was a character I could interact with. In addition to that, a small sound effect when you get something in your inventory would be a great addition.

This whole game is controlled by the mouse. Something that would add quite a lot to the charm of this game is if you were able to use the keyboard to control this game to some extent. Since a lot of old school DOS games don’t support the mouse. But that might be just my preference.

Conclusion

This game nailed the charm of an old school DOS game perfectly. The game is enjoyable and great to play through.

The game also has a lot of potential and with a few changes, the game can become even better.

If you are into point-and-click games and or into old school DOS games, I highly recommend this game. Like I said earlier in my article, I was pulled into the charm and story of this game so much, I forgot that the game is quite short. It made me even more excited to play the upcoming episodes of this game. I want to see how the story will continue and where it takes me next.

The game is also quite cheap on Steam, so I think you have no excuse to give this game a go. I enjoyed the relaxing gameplay. 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.

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

atelier-rorona-featureWikipedia page

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

Get of your lazy bum

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

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

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

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

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

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

Running that shop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arland is saved

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

The bad:

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

The good:

+ Enjoyable story, writing and voice acting.

+ Amazing charm.

+ Great UI.

+ High replay value due to the different endings.

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

+ ….

Final thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Score: 70/100

Publishing: Be Part Of History With Rise Of Ages

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Rise of Ages is a sandbox game that lets you explore, build, found cities, make wars and evolve technologies to reach the highest level of a civilization and then travel to other planets! The game begins in prehistory and advances through ages, as the player evolves. In each era, the player will live a unique story, which will lead him to face dangerous dungeons and powerful enemies. Several building blocks and items will allow the player to create their own culture with unique structures.

History

Development of Rise of Ages began in early 2015, the team has dedicated all its time and effort since then to bring the game to life. Late 2016 a public demo was released at gamejolt to see public reception. The team keeped working on the game and is preparing to lauch the game on early access.

Features

  • Evolve from stone age to space age, going through a total of six eras.
  • Discover new technologies, each one expanding your possibilities. There is more than 30 of them.
  • Found your civilization and call NPCs to live there. A city is just the beginning, claim other cities through war and build an empire.
  • Each NPC will have a job and will work for you. They can specialize in a profession and become better at it. You can even create a supply chain.
  • Experience a unique story on each age through dozens of quests and multiple side quests.
  • Fight bosses that are powerful enemies and unimaginable beings.
  • Craft multiple objects from your hands or from your skilled workers.
  • Explore the world beyond the limits, going through the left/right most side of a region will leave you to the World Map that connects multiple regions of the world.


Check out the last public demo of Rise of Ages. gamejolt.com.


About Anguis Game Studio

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Anguis Game Studio is an independent game studio based in Porto Alegre, Brazil. We are working on our first title Rise of Ages

More information
More information on Anguis Game Studio, our logo & relevant media are available here.


Rise of Ages Credits

Michel Alves: Founder & Programmer

Ronaldo Boeira: Founder & Artist

Contact

Inquiries: contact@anguis.net

Twitter: twitter.com/AnguisStudio

Facebook: facebook.com/anguisstudio

Web: anguis.net

More information can be found in the press kit located here: http://playriseofages.com/presskit/sheet.php?p=Rise%20of%20Ages

The game is released on Steam TODAY: https://store.steampowered.com/app/744270/Rise_of_Ages/

LaterLevels’ QOTM – January 2019 – The Ultimate Game: Themes

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For a couple of years now, LaterLevels is organizing a question of the month. In 2017, you were able to send in a small section to be featured in the article. You were limited to the amount of characters you had for a tweet. In 2018, every month a writer got a challenge to write an article centered around a question asked by LaterLevels. This year, LaterLevels is going “to develop” the best and/or ultimate game. In each month, another part of the game will be created. The idea is that other bloggers write up an article with their thoughts and ideas on that section and submit it to the post of that month. At the end of the month, the best is chosen by the already existing development team and will be invited to join the secret Discord to judge the entries in the following months. If you want to read more about the rules in depth, you can read the post of LaterLevels here. Now that I have explained all that, it’s time for my entry. In January, the setting and theme will be decided without deciding the story and such. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the content of this article and/or the question in the comment section down below.

The challenge and my background

yoyo_logo_512Now, I don’t want to brag but I have various ideas to make a very interesting game. In the past, I actually created some arcade clones with YoYo Game Maker. I’m not going to republish them since I lost the source files and I want to change so much for them to get republished.

alleyway_boxartBut, here is the thing. When I was developing a game, I always started with the mechanics and gameplay. For example, when I wanted to create a Break-Out clone, I actually started out with recreating the Gameboy game Alleyway. Now, I felt myself too limited in level design, so I started to look further. Then, I found an asset pack with different blocks, a ball and various other sprites with a sea theme. So, I totally reskinned the game and I made up a story about a submarine stuck in a big magical coral reef trying to find its way out.

warioware-diy-top-625x352Another example is when I wanted to remake those simple flash and phone games that you need to tap a ball or an object to keep it from the ground. When I started to make that game, I got some small ideas for other mini-games with the sprites in that asset pack and I started to create a sort of WarioWare inspired game.

Now, you might have noticed that I always talk about an asset pack. This is a pack where various sprites, sound effects, music, backgrounds… are provided to game developers. In almost all of my games I created, I used asset packs. I can barely draw a decent stick figure let alone design various level elements. Also, when I created those games; I was 12 years old. So, I didn’t know how copyright and licensing worked. That’s another reason why I’m not going to republish the games.

Anyways, let’s end this story time about my history here and let’s get back to answer LaterLevel’s question. The reason why I’m talking about my hobbyist game development past is the fact I mentioned earlier. I mainly focused on interesting and unique gameplay. The setting and themes would come later. While that is not the best approach, but it was the approach my young teenage mind took. And because LaterLevels didn’t want too many story details, the challenge got even harder.

81i7ndliszl._sx385_I also messed around in RPG Maker. And I always had one or two chapters of the story written before I started to create the world and setting the characters lived in. I had a general idea of the world but when I write, I love to let the readers create the world for themselves instead of possibly boring them with the millionth description of how a fantasy castle town looked like. In addition to that, the fact that I don’t describe a scene gives me liberty to use the setting to my advantage. That way I can bend the world to the story and my needs. But it makes continuity much more challenging.

So, the ultimate video game. What could be a setting and/or a theme of the game? Well, I have a few suggestions without giving too much plot details. Let’s take a look at that.

Themes and settings

First of all, when you are talking about the best game, I think that the theme should be one of variety. A power fantasy in another world would be extremely easy and generic. Most RPG’s use a silent character you can name yourself or has the most generic dialogue that can be used for each RPG main character. To be honest, this is a generalization. There are exceptions of course.

91fbW6yu4TL.jpgA perfect video game needs to grab you and pull you into the story, world and setting. When I was brainstorming for ideas I noticed that most of my favorite story driven games take place in one location. For example, in Corpse Party, you explore one haunted school and the associated buildings. In Another Code: R, you explore the vacation resort where your father works. And as a final example, in the first two Bioshock games you explore Rapture.

swordartonlineSuddenly, various things started to click in my mind. I got my eureka moment. I got it when I remembered the story of Sword Art Online. In that series, people are trapped in an online VR-game. In order to escape, they have to beat the game. The catch is, when they die in the game, they die in real life. In that series, the game takes place in a huge fantasy open world with various dungeons and quests.

Now, what if we take the idea of Sword Art Online and expand it for the best game, but with a huge twist? First of all, we can decide if we create the game in VR or not later. My suggestion is that the best video game takes place in a sort of fantasy open world with castles and towns that provide a lot of quests and things to do.

no game no ligeThe twist is that everything in the world happens with games. Think of the mechanics of the No Game No Life series, where every dispute is settled with a bet who wins a game of for example chess, rock/paper/scissors, poker or even more extreme examples. Now, it would an interesting idea if this idea is implemented into a real game we can play.

Back to the story of Sword Art Online, in order for those who are trapped to escape they have to beat all bosses in a huge tower. Now, what if each floor in this tower is replaced with a challenge in another genre and that you have to beat different challenges in that genre before you can progress.

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Think about the overall story of Retro Game Challenge. In that game, you get sent back to the past and in order for you to return, you have to beat various challenges in retro games. These challenges range from beaten the first three levels of a top down shooter to performing some unique tricks in a sports game.

So, the setting would be a great fantasy open world with one central tower the players have to beat in order to climb the leader boards. On each floor, another mini game or challenge is provided. To avoid people getting frustrated at being stuck on one floor, I think it would be wise to give the player two or three options on the floor. For example, a fighting game challenge, an RPG challenge or a rhythm game challenge.

51vk2fckjhlMaybe it’s an interesting idea to also have separate dimensions where players specialize in a certain genre or style of gameplay. Compare it a bit to the main characters in Kingdom Hearts traveling between various Disney stories to solve issues there.

The theme of the game can be either competition or teamwork. Various guilds can possibly form to aid players to easily beat the certain genres. On the other hand, I totally see certain players compete with each other to be the best player in a certain genre.

Being one of the best players in a certain genre can give advantages in the game. In terms of balance, each genre should have a “contrast genre”. That way we avoid players getting overpowered because they mastered too many genres. For example, the players who master a fast paced genre like rhythm games shouldn’t be able to easily level up their stats in a more slower based genre like grand strategy.

Do you see it now? Just trying to find a setting and or a theme for a game is tricky for me. Like I said earlier, I don’t create worlds too often and I leave them as vague as I can so I can bend them to the will of the gameplay and story. As soon as I got a certain idea, I start thinking about how the world actually works and how the world is balanced. And then we get eerily close to game design and how the game plays.

When I cut out all my gameplay & story suggestions, my idea for the ultimate game’s setting and theme is this. A big open world game with various challenges like dungeons and (side)quests, possibly with different universes. In the center of it all, is a huge tower that serves as a leader board for the solo and or clans that play the game.

Closing statement

And with that, I think it’s a good idea to end this article here. Otherwise I might restart giving my ideas and suggestions on how the game will play. Now, if you want to know if my idea has won or not, you should follow OverThinkerY, since on 31st January 2019, they will reveal the winner on his blog.

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If you want to join in on this challenge, don’t wait. Check out LaterLevels blog for the February challenge.

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

Review: Death Mark (Switch) ~ Alive Until Dawn

death mark

Official website

You are walking on a street and you overhear two schoolgirls talking to each other. They tell a story about one of their teachers dying in a horrible death. Her arm was found in the library of the school, cut off from the rest of the body with a red bite mark on the hand. That’s how Death Mark opens. The game I decided to play during the Halloween season because I already finished Angels of Death by then. Since I started playing the Zero Escape series and Corpse Party, I have been hooked on the horror genre. I wanted to play more horror games or games with a strong focus on horror. It doesn’t need to be survival horror like Resident Evil 4 or Silent Hill but a game that fits the mood of the holiday perfectly. Now, I know I’m terribly late with my review of this game. But, it was part of my top 10 games of 2018 list and I want to give my honest opinion on it. So, let’s talk about the PS Vita game that got ported to the Switch called Death Mark. As usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion of the game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

Alive until dawn

nswitch_deathmark_05So, the story of this game centers around the mystery of the mysterious Death Mark people have been receiving. This red bit mark appears on people’s bodies when they interact with spirits. The protagonist of this game suffers from your typical case of memory loss and doesn’t remember his past. After you heard the two girl’s their story, your own mark starts to burn and you get teleported to a mansion. When you enter the mansion, you find it to be abandoned. When you visit one of the bedrooms, a thunder crack reveals the dead body of a girl on the floor with flowers blooming from her stomach and chest. Startled, you run down starts where you meet up with a doll that explains to you that the Death Mark is quite real.

If you are unable to remove your mark, you will die by the time dawn comes. One theory that you quickly form is that you can possibly remove the mark by killing or defeating a spirit. But, how do you kill a spirit? How do you kill something that is already dead? Well, by trying to solve the grudge that is keeping them in the living realm.

After you got the explanation of the living wooden doll that lives on the sofa in the entrance of the mansion, you heard a knock on the door. You open the door and find two teenagers. They are looking for the previous inhabitant of the mansion. She is a spirit healer and they are looking for her help to get rid of the same mark you possess. It’s revealed that she was the dead body you discovered earlier. So, you try and take her place. So, now you start in trying to help the other people with a Death Mark while trying to discover who you are and which spirit gave you your Death Mark.

All of this is explained in a quite lengthy introduction. The writing of this game is amazing. If this story sounds interesting to you, I have to give you a fair warning. This game is a visual novel adventure game. There is quite a lot of text in this game. If you aren’t interested in playing a game that has more dialogue then gameplay, this isn’t your game.

I do have to say that the writing is amazing in this game. The story has it a weird charm. At one hand, the game has amazing characters and great development. It didn’t take long before I got attached to certain characters and I got quite invested in them. Yet, this game is also a horror game. So, a lot of creepy stuff happens on your journey. From finding death bodies to combating spirits, this game has it all. This game has just the perfect mix between the two worlds and I have no complaints about them. The pacing of the game is just perfect as well.

The only minor disappointment is that the characters are voice acted in Japanese. Now, I don’t mind Japanese voice acting that much, but I personally prefer English voice acting. The whole game isn’t voice acted, but quite a lot is. The voice acted that is present in the game is really great. But, I’m not going to critique it too much since I don’t know enough about Japanese to say it’s good or bad. But, from my personal experience, I feel that the voice actors always used the right emotion to what appears on screen.

This game has 6 chapters. The original PS Vita game had 5 chapters and one DLC chapter. The DLC chapter is included for free in this Switch port. There is something in terms of the chapters I’m quite on the fence about. The chapters themselves are not too long nor too short. But, if you combine all playtime to get through the game and fully beat it, this game takes around 8 to 10 hours to complete. This game is quite short, too short even.

Near the end, I was so invested in the game, I was extremely bummed when I finished the final chapter. I wanted to play more, explore the world and setting of the game a bit more. But alas. Thankfully, this game doesn’t have a lot of filler content. The story in some chapters can go at a breakneck pace and that was a refreshing experience.

Explore and read

nswitch_deathmark_04One of my favorite genres in video games is the visual novel. There are two types of visual novels; the ones with gameplay and the kinetic ones. The kinetic ones almost have no gameplay and I honestly dislike playing. This game isn’t a kinetic novel. In this game, you have to explore various areas where a spirit is roaming. During your exploration, you have to find a reason of the grudge of the spirit.

While you are exploring the area, you can come across live or death situations. You get presented with different options and if you choose the wrong option, you get a game over. In some cases, you lose soul power. What is this soul power? It’s the power of your soul, when this drops to 0, the spirit of the chapter catches you right away.

When you are in a live or death situation, you are timed. The remaining time you have, is the remaining soul power you have. During your exploration, you can find talismans that restore your soul power if it gets low. Now that I have beaten the game, I can say that there is no additional reward when you answer all the questions correctly without losing soul power. This is a missed opportunity. It would be great if this unlocked the additional 6th chapter or some character art.

Anyways, your soul power fully restores in-between chapters. So, you aren’t punished for mistakes in an earlier chapter. Personally, my favorite chapter is the 6th chapter. The moral of that chapter speaks to me on a personal level.

Now, there are two different endings to this game. The ending that you get depends if you are able to fully solve the grudge of the spirit of that chapter. So, when it comes to the climax of each chapter, think long and hard before you make your next move. Since one mistake during those battles can change the ending dramatically.

Speaking about the climax of each chapter, think carefully who you take as a partner on your journey. Sometimes you will be unable to defeat a spirit if you don’t have the right character in your party. I loved trying to work out who would be the best character to use against the spirit. Reading their character profile is even more important now than before. My advice is, save often. You are only able to save outside of dialogue sections. So, don’t be a hero and save after you made some progress. Also, pay attention that this game doesn’t automatically save. And when you are dead, you have to restart from your last save point. You can save using the “Y” button. There are a limited amount of save slots, so use them wisely.

Saving is this game is quite easy. After the introduction, you can save when you are in the mansion in a limited amount of save slots. Now, if you want to be able to restart a chapter, I highly advise you to save right after the introduction of the chapter. Since, there is no other way to start from a certain chapter. The only option in the main menu are new game, continue or a gallery. In this gallery, you can see the animation of the spirits and the images you saw during the chapter.

In terms of the UI, this game is good. I have no real complaints. I do have some minor suggestions. Especially with the inventory screen. This would feel so much better if the inventory screen had a static image of the item you have selected. Now, it’s just a boring looking list of items, like you would see in a spreadsheet.

Anyways, sometimes the story of one spirit links to the story of another spirit. In that case, you can always read a small summary in the pause menu. During that, you can watch the amazing full screen pictures that were used during the chapter.

During each chapter, you have to explore a location. You can only explore with one partner. The other partner or partners will stay at the mansion to look for clues in solving the mystery of the Death Mark. You can go at any moment to the entrance of the location to take the car back to the mansion to change partners. Like I said earlier, the choice of partner matters. If you are unable to solve a puzzle or pass through a location, try having another partner.

The locations themselves aren’t that large. It doesn’t take too long before you are able to fully explore the location. Now, there is something to do in each and every screen of the game. From small jump scares to big puzzles. Oh yes, this game has small jump scares. Most of the jump scares are rather subtle and aren’t too distracting from the exploration. To be honest, I found them used quite well. Also, it’s possible that you don’t even see all the jump scares since they are location specific.

During your journey for the truth in the Death Mark mystery, you explore a forest, a school and various other locations. Each location is extremely memorable. The detail in the artwork of each location is impressive. The atmosphere building with the visual presentation in this game is a strong point of this game. I really felt on edge while exploring certain locations. I really felt that the location I was exploring had a certain presence and a morbid history to it. In some occasions, the game managed to get underneath my skin.

Now, in terms of the animations, this game has a lot of missed potential. Apart from the spirit battles, this game doesn’t have a lot of animations. I think it would have been better if the game had a bit more animations and scene transitions. For example, a walking animation from going between rooms would aid a lot with the world building and immersion. And if you give the option to the players to turn this animation on or off, it would be perfect. Now, there is a small dialogue box that appears when you move between rooms with a sound effect, but could be so much more.

On the edge of my seat

nswitch_deathmark_03Exploration in this game is really well done. During the game, you are able to use your flashlight to investigate each and every room. I highly advise that you look around carefully in each and every room. Since every little detail can aid you in your quest to solve the grudge of the spirit. The game helps you out a bit in the investigation. When you can interact with something, you see a little sparkle animation when you hover over it with your flash light.

When you have to use an item in your quest, the item will be automatically used. Expect during the spirit battles. In those battles you have to use every item in your inventory to try and defend yourself. You and the spirit take turns in making a move. If the spirit comes too close, it’s game over.

Apart from one puzzle, the puzzles in this game are well crafted. They really test your skills in exploring the area you are in and your investigation skills. Exploring the location gets even better with the fluid controls. The flashlight is mapped to one of the joysticks of the joycon and reacts very responsively.

Now, there is one thing that could turn some people off and that is the map system. During the exploration, you have a mini-map of the location at the top right. This mini-map is nothing more than a few squares and lines how the squares connect. So, you will have to build a mental map of the location during your exploration. This is highly essential when you don’t want to get lost. A more detailed map would have been welcome, but I felt it added to the world building of the game. Remember the story? You only have the few short hours of the night to try and get rid of the grudge of the spirit before you die. So, creating an actual map might lose too much time.

The controls in this game are quite decent. Sometimes I got a bit disoriented, but that’s because my mediocre navigational skills in games. It doesn’t take long before you get used to the control scheme of this game and learn to use it to your advantage.

The exploration is added with some great sound and music design. The soundtrack sounds like a combination of the Zero Escape series, Ace Attorney and Corpse Party. The music gives of eerie vibes and fits the visual presentation like a glove. I’m actually hunting down the soundtrack of this game to add it to my music library.

Together with the amazing sound effects, the visual and audiovisual presentation of this game is a real treat. I can’t make any complaints about that aspect of the game. Before I keep repeating myself, I think it’s time that we talk about another aspect of the game.

The difficulty of this game is just right. The game is even more difficult when you don’t pay attention during the investigation. In the later chapters, I even took some physical notes to aid myself during the investigation.

Now, if you forgot to save, there is a button that you can use to fast forward the cut scenes. I rarely used this button since I was too invested in the story. I used this button only once when I forgot to save before a LIVE OR DEATH situation and I got a game over… Now, I could have used the “decide again” option to restart from the beginning of the LIVE OR DEATH situation but I lost too much soul power. So, restarting from an earlier point actually benefited me.

Also, there is a message log you can access. A minor complaint is that the button to fast forward is quite hidden in the UI. It’s the L-button.

The replay value of his game isn’t too high. Not counting replays for fun, you can play twice through the game before you have seen it all. Now, this isn’t a big issue but more endings would extend the already short overall game time.

With that said, I said almost everything I wanted to say about this game. I think it’s high time to go to the summary and closing statement of this review.

Summary

The good:

+ Amazing atmosphere in the visual and audio department.

+ Great writing.

+ The game has a lot of text.

+ …

The bad:

  • The game is too short.
  • The game has a lot of text.
  • A bit more animations would enhance the game a lot.
  • You can’t restart a chapter without a save.

Final thoughts:

This game is not for everybody. If you don’t like a game that has a lot of text, I think that it’s best for you to skip this game. If you enjoy games like Ace Attorney, Zero Escape, Walking Dead, Corpse Party, Trace Memory… I highly recommend this game.

This game is the perfect game to play through on Halloween night or whenever you are in the mood to play more horror focused games. The writing, pacing, audio and visual presentation of this game is very well done. The biggest flaw of this game is that it’s too short. I got so invested and the ride was over before I knew it.

Now, a spiritual successor is going to be released in Japan really soon called NG. I really hope and wish that they are going to bring this game to the west as well. Since the trailer looks amazing and I really would love to play it.

I can totally see why some people would be turned off by this game. But personally I loved my playthrough. When you play this game, don’t use a walkthrough. This game gets even more fun when you aren’t using a walkthrough to guide you in every step of the way.

If you ask me, I think that this game is totally worth it’s price. This developer really convinced me of the quality games they can put out. While this game has flaws, in my eyes they don’t ruin the experience at all. But, I’m really going to hammer this home… This game would be perfect if there were a bit more chapters. A bit more content.

And with that said, I have really said everything I could 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 article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Score: 90/100