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

Official websiteNintendo.com microsite

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

Let’s save the world!

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are so close, oh so close.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beware, it breaks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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First Impression: Coromon (Switch) ~ Modern Nostalgia In The Making

Official websiteWiki

When you read my blog, it’s no real secret that I enjoy all types of games. But when a game promises to bring back the nostalgic feelings of old school 2D Pokémon adventures with a modern twist… You get my attention right away. It didn’t take me long to buy Coromon when I noticed it in the Nintendo eShop not too long ago. Today I want to talk about this game. Did this game take me back to my childhood nostalgia of grand 2D adventures or is this a game we should all pass upon? Or is it somewhere in between? Let’s find out in this article, while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on this game and/or the content of this article.

A journey through the world

When I was attending elementary school here in Belgium, we got the first three Pokémon generations. The 4th generation was right when I went from elementary to secondary school (For the Americans, it’s I mean high school). I can tell a lot of childhood stories about Pokémon. So, when I read the description of Coromon and read the official website and got the impression that this game was like the first Pokémon generations, I was intrigued. Now, Coromon has various different mechanics that make this game stand out from Pokémon. But I’ll talk more about that later in this article. First, let me talk about the story of this game.

In this game, you play as a new battle research in the world of Velua. It doesn’t take long before you get tasked to gather all the Titan Essences spread across the whole region. There are 6 in total, and you’ll to travel over the entire region to find and secure them. Why secure them? Well, there is an evil force going after them as well.

I could be very critical and say that the story doesn’t have a lot to it. But where the story lacks meat around its bones, it makes up for it with a lot of charm. There is no voice acting in this game, but there are emojis that can be displayed above the characters in their head. These are used quite sparingly as well, and they add so much charm to the game. You also don’t play a silent character!

The way the entire story is set up makes the game just quite charming and adorable. It doesn’t really go in depth or make you sit on the edge of your seat, but wraps a warm blanket around you on that cool winter morning when you woke up to watch that new episode of your favorite cartoon. It’s charming, familiar, and relaxing. You know what’s going to happen in the story and can see it from a mile away. But the execution and childlike innocent charm to it just makes it all work amazingly well.

Here, have some Zelda too

So, if you think that this game is only a Pokémon “clone” or Pokémon style game… You’d be very wrong. Sure, at it’s core this game is a creature collecting and raising game that hits a lot of the same beats that the first 3-4 Pokémon generations did. But, something that took me by surprise is that there is also a bit of The Legend of Zelda thrown in.

Yes, you read that correctly. This game combines old school Legend of Zelda & oldschool Pokémon to create something extremely unique in my opinion. First, let me talk about how this game compares to Pokémon.

As you can clearly see from the screenshot in this section of the article, the battle system is turned based. If you are familiar with the battle system of Pokémon, you’ll feel right at home with this one. The unique change in this game is that your Coromon don’t work with powerpoints but with SP for their attacks. Now, what does this mean? Well, each attack costs a certain amount of SP to execute. So, you’ll have to manage your SP quite well.

But, what if you run out of SP? Well, then you can use up a turn to recharge 50% of your max SP. And not only you have to do that, your opponents also have to do that. So, sometimes you’ll have to get lucky or hope that your opponent needs to charge their SP, so you basically have a free shot.

There are also healing items that can heal both HP & SP which makes things more interesting. Since, do you want to heal your health and magic or only one of the two… The strategies you will need to use in this game blow a breath of fresh air in the battle system that I’m really interested to see expanded upon.

Something that this game does better than Pokémon in my opinion is how the XP Share actually works. In modern Pokémon titles, after each encounter all of your Pokémon receive XP. This is something that breaks the game a bit in my opinion. It makes the game a bit too easy. In Coromon, they found an amazing solution. There are these gems you can equip your Coromon with that basically act like an XP Share. If you want all of them to also gain XP, well you’ll have to give all your Coromon a gem. There are different levels of gems as well, giving different amounts of XP. But oh wait, this means that your Coromon can’t carry berries or stat boosting items that can help in battles. So, do you choose to play it safe or risk it for XP?

Now, there is a mechanic made the strategy layers even more interesting. Just like in Pokémon, your Coroman have stats. Apart from gaining XP points after each battle or capture, your Coromon also gain potential. When that potential reaches a certain max, you’ll get three points you can use to increase in one or more stat. You can build your Coromon to your liking. It’s a highly simplied version of EV training in Pokémon but now built in to the core of the gameplay instead of being more reserved for the meta.

Something else quite unique to Coromon is how the four move limit is handled. Just like in Pokémon, each Coromon can have four moves to their disposal. When your Coromon wants to learn a new move after those 4, you’ll have to forget a move. Now, in Coromon this works quite differently. When a new move can be learned, you go into the move menu of that Coromon and set the 4 moves you want. This eliminates the need for a move deleter and a move relearner guy in the world. Since, you can choose the 4 moves you want at any moment outside a battle. So, when you catch a wild Coromon, and they don’t have good enough moves, you can look at their list and adjust it to your playstyle.

The side quest system is a lot easier. When you find a trade, it’s logged in your quest log. In there you can also see the status of your main quest, so you can get right into the game when you haven’t played for a while or when you get stuck.

You also get rewards for reaching certain milestones. These rewards give you points and after a certain amount of points, you level up. Each level has its own useful reward, and you can get to level 50. Currently, I’m going after the 5th Titan, and I’m level 37 out of 50.

The options menu is also a blast! This game actually implemented the difficulty system in a way that Pokémon fans are wishing for in modern Pokémon games. Also, you can change some default behavior of the game after catching a Coromon for example.

I’m certain that I can keep talking about this for quite some time. But all in all, this game is quite unique and charming. My bar was set quite high when I wanted to get into this game, but it’s blown out the water for me especially since it also has some oldschool Zelda mechanics mixed in.

So, the locations of the Titans basically replace your gyms in this game. But, each of those locations could as well be a full-blown Zelda dungeon. Some puzzles aren’t puzzles you expect in a creature collecting game. Sometimes you also need a unique item or gadget to open or get through the dungeon.

You also get a sort of “Shiekah Slate” armband that has several functions that can interact with the world. This armband can help you with quite a lot of things. Like making it easier to find the very plentiful hidden items (and store coupons) in the world to destroying rocks that block your path or even push fallen down trees.

Not only that, each Titan area is unique and has its own mini-story to tell. So yeah, I personally can’t explain it better than Coromon is a mixture of oldschool 2D Zelda and Pokémon with their own unique twist and modern inventions.

It’s so close

I find it very surprising the amount of layers this game has in its gameplay. If I want to talk about the other elements of this game, I think I better move on before this whole article is about the gameplay.

Let’s talk about the controls. This is something where this game shines again. Since this game is multi platform, this game can be controlled via the Joy Cons or even just with the touch screen alone. The controls are quite easy to master and learn and I rarely to never had problems with them. The only tricky thing to get used to is that some buttons have a different feature depending if you hold them down for some time or just press it once. This timing to be sure it’s a short of long press very occasionally tripped me up.

The music in this game is amazing. The music is composed by Davi Vasc, and it’s one of the reasons why I’m a bit sad that I didn’t buy the game on Steam. Since, I would be able to buy the soundtrack and add it to my playlist. The soundtrack of this game fits the game like a glove. While it reminds me quite a lot of the older Pokémon games, it also sounds modern. Just give it a listen, it’s really well done.

The sound effects are pretty good as well. I really got used to certain sound cues this game gives during solving its puzzles and battles. You know you did something right when the sound effects are easy to understand and learn without having a tutorial about it.

All in all, this game hits it out of the park with a lot of unique mechanics whilst combining the gameplay of old school Pokémon and old school Zelda. The fact that this game also has three save slots so you can have three separate adventures is amazing.

This continues to show in the visuals as well. The pixel art of this game add to the charm of the story. I honestly think that if this game would be turned into an anime, a bit of the charm of the pixel art would be gone. The animations of this game also don’t go overboard but help to make the game come to live.

The attention to detail in terms of the visual presentation is amazing. I mean, take this example. There are over 100 different Coromon in this game and each Coromon has their own unique shiny variant and ultimate variant. Tripling the amount of variantions you can have. And each time, the colorsheme of the Coromon just works to make it stand out from the default version. Another example of the great visuals is how each unique area also has unique visuals. It’s almost they created an unique tileset per region instead of recycling parts. It gets a thumbs up from me.

Overall, I have nothing but praising for this game. But is this game flawless? Well, not exactly. This game does make some missteps that can get in the way. The first thing I have to mention is that sometimes, you’ll have to either grind or get quite lucky to defeat a Titan or some trainers. Personally, I didn’t find the grinding in this game too much of a bother honestly. Especially since when my Coromon where to low level, I usually went back to previous area’s to re-explore area’s to battle trainers I have skipped or try to check if I found all hidden items. But, it can’t be avoided. You’ll have to grind sometimes.

Another annoying issue is how the cloud saves work. You can enable the cloud saves in the options menu and it is a “set it and forget it” option. Now, usually I play my Switch also on the train to work. But, on the train I can’t connect my Switch to the internet. So, then I get almost every 2 minutes that annoying error pop-up from the Switch not being able to connect to the internet. I wish there was a sort of check built in that gave a pop-up message so you could easly disable that without having to remember, oh yes… Cloud saves don’t work right now. Or even, when the game notices that it can’t connect online, just don’t do cloud saves or warn the player in another way then every 2 minutes with the default “can’t connect online” system pop-up. It’s a small annoying thing that can easily be fixed in my opinion.

Another small issue that there are almost no moves that can attack two Coromon at the same time. So, this means that when you encounter two Coromon in one battle, you have to take them out one by one. I also find it strange that I can’t fight with two Coromon. These battles feel like as if double battles were going to be implemented but the devs ran out of time and took the double battles out and left this in. It feels a bit unfinished, underexplored of a mechanic.

A small usability improvement that can be made is to show a spinner icon when you have caught a Coromon. It’s a small feature I loved in Pokémon but now that I miss it, I totally understand the usefullness of it.

Another very minor improvement that could have been created is to show the player’s name on the main menu before you load the profile. Would make things a bit easier for families with a shared Switch.

When I read about this game online, I notice that a lot of people are writing it off as a Pokémon clone and lazy. But honestly, I have to disagree. I look at this game from a different angle. It’s another take on the Pokémon formula with some interesting twists like the SP system or Titans instead of gyms. And lazy? I mean, you can use your save file across platfroms. Or there is a nuzlocke mode built in?

I can agree that this game looks on the surface a lot like the first few Pokémon games but what’s so wrong with that? It’s the execution that counts and this game does it amazingly well. What’s wrong with more content/gameplay of a formula that works? If the game followed the exact same path like also in the story and settings… Then it would be a different story. But, Coromon stands proudly on it’s own two feet. I’m happy that I gave this game a try since I’m quite enjoying myself with this game. While it has some flaws, they don’t really hamper the experience in my opinion.

So, if you enjoy old school Zelda or Pokémon, monster collecting games like Yokai Watch or Digimon, adventure JRPG games, I say, give the demo of this game a chance. Maybe you’ll also fall in love with the charm of this game.

And with that said, 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 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.

The Great Ace Attorney Goes To Review Trial

A collab review by AdventureRules & NekoJonez
Capcom pageNintendo.com micrositeWikipedia entry

Introduction

When the reader clicked open the link, they entered a luxurious courtroom where the jury, the prosecution and the defense were preparing themselves to start the biggest trial in their careers. The headlines didn’t lie. “Is this the great return of the Ace Attorney series?”. When the title dropped on July 27th 2021 on the Nintendo Switch and other platforms, the reviews started to come in. It’s a big departure from the previous entries in the series, and there is a split between the fans. So, two hobbyist reviewers and big fans of the series decided to battle it out in a courtroom and try to be able to answer the question once and for all. Is the game worth your time, dear readers, or is it not? Take a seat in the gallery and enjoy this duel in the courtroom, and feel free to let us know how we did and what you would bring to the table in this battle. 

The judge rose to his podium while he slammed down his gavel. “The court is in session. Is the prosecution ready?” the judge spoke while looking in the direction of the cat-human hybrid sitting behind the prosecution bench. “Yes M’lord” the prosecution answered. Then the judge looked towards the defense and asked: “Are you ready consul of the defense?”. The defense, trying to hide his nerves, firmly pushed up his glasses and said: “Yes, my lord. The defense is ready.” 

The atmosphere in the courtroom was tense. At one hand, you were surprised to see that these two fans stood face to face in this courtroom defending a game. You know that these two writers are good friends, and it’s not the first time they worked together. But now, it looked like they would eat each other raw to win this court battle. But, on the other hand, you were curious what arguments they would bring to the table. You were curious what their thoughts and opinions were about the game you were looking forward to. While you were lost in thought, you missed the judge asking the prosecution to give their opening statement.

“… so, The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles is a combination of two games that left the Japanese shores for the first time this summer.” the prosecutor said, while raising a scroll. “The original versions got released on the Nintendo 3DS way back in the summer of 2015 and the sequel in the summer of 2017. At first, the developers had no intention of bringing this title to our western shores, so fans took it upon themselves to translate the title. But, to everybody’s surprise, this title got an official translation and all the additional content and behind the scenes material got translated into English and as you all know…” the prosecution continued.

You raised an eyebrow, since the way the prosecution was acting looked a lot like how the prosecutor in the trailer of the game was acting. The only thing you were missing was the pouring of wine. Maybe the writer for the prosecutor got a bit lazy and copied the game a bit too much, you thought. You crossed your fingers in the hope that you would see more of his personal style shine through instead of copying the game too much. It would do this trial so much better if it was unique and not copying the established series and formula, you concluded. But, then you got a bit annoyed that you missed the actual opening statement. Thankfully, you read the headlines of the papers, so you know what this trail is going to be about. 

Visual Presentation

“Let’s start with the visual presentation”, the judge said. The attorney and the prosecution quickly agreed that the visual presentation is excellent in this game. “It’s a huge visual upgrade when you look at it from the 3DS games.” the attorney said. The prosecution somewhat agreed and said: “True, the attention to the details is exquisite. Yet, there were some moments when I felt some models looked off. Not polished enough when being brought over from the 3DS. There was even a puzzle that focused on 3D related technology that would have worked so much better on the 3DS. The fact that they didn’t implement something different or a solution for that… But, something that made me roll my eyes is how they reused the models for the jury. The excuse of ‘London is a big city, so you’ll find look-a-likes’ is okay, if it only happens once. It, sadly enough, happened more than once. Too much to count, to be frank.”

The attorney stepped in and said: “Those moments are few and far between. Besides, imagine the poor designers having to create 50 different character models and such to have unique juries. Let them reuse them, as long as there is variation, and it doesn’t get stale… they also justify it in most cases by having them literally be the same character and not just a lookalike. Ryunosuke even comments on it in one of the trials. So while I will allow that some may not like this choice, it was an intentional one on the part of the designers, and they did the work required to make it make sense in the fiction.” 

The attorney paused for a brief second, took a breath, and continued, “… If we are talking about the visual presentation, let’s mention the animations as well. The cutscenes in this game are way better animated than the previous title. The background is less static. The character animations are A+. Multiple times, I found myself literally laughing out loud at some ways these characters behaved. They strongly convey the personality and attitude of the cast.”

A sigh was heard through the courtroom. Of course, the prosecution had an objection. “The cutscenes are less static, I’ll give you that. But, explain to me why there are so few unique locations in this game. We visit the same hospital room in at least 4 to 5 different cases. You have a point that it would cost too many resources to make something unique each and every time, but why do the characters always have to mention… ‘Oh, what a coincidence… that place.’?” The prosecution slammed on his desk and looked straight at the attorney. “Now, let’s talk about the animations. I’m sorry, but I found that some side characters had more memorable animations compared to the main characters. Take Gina for example, her emotions were way more clear when you read her dialogue compared to the ones of Sholmes for example. Honestly, a bit more variation in the animations would be welcome. Especially, you see the same animations during give or take 10 cases this time and not 5. And maybe a few more if you include the bonus content.”

There was a silence in the courtroom. You felt that both parties were making good points. Indeed, the game looked amazing with various memorable locations. The attention to detail and the little nods to the rest of the series can warm any fan’s heart. But, you can also understand the other side of the argument. At first, this game was split into two 3DS games, and having repeat locations and almost the same animations on repeat, well that could get a bit dull and repetitive indeed.

A hammer slammed down, courtesy of the judge. “Okay, I heard both your points, counsels. But a game is more than just visual presentation and animations. Let’s move on to sound, the audio of this game. Let’s talk about that. Counsel of the defense?”

Audio and Controls

You noticed the attorney smiling and when he started talking, you felt the joy and passion of his words. “I loved this soundtrack so much, but of course, Ace Attorney always knocks it out of the park when it comes to music. There were perhaps fewer songs that stood out to me as all-time favorites, but I found that this soundtrack creates a more evocative atmosphere compared to the other games. Having differences in instrumentation and style depending on which country the characters were in made a difference.” the attorney said. 

The prosecutor squeezed the bridge of his nose and said: “Apart from a few tracks, I can’t agree more. There were a few tracks that didn’t hit the mark in my opinion. But, there is something that this game does that doesn’t sit a hundred percent right with me. Almost every character has his/her own theme. But, they like to use their own themes more during scenes instead of something that would fit the scene more. It made some scenes less memorable in my opinion. Then again, it did make the characters more memorable. So, make of the above point what you will.”

It was an interesting question. Should music in a game make a scene or a character more memorable? There was no real right answer for that question, you thought to yourself. And maybe that’s a question you should leave to game designers and producers instead of wondering it for yourself. While you were thinking about that question, you didn’t notice that both parties were talking about the sound effects in the game. You did hear the summary of it, thankfully.

“So, both parties agree that there is nothing wrong with the sound effects. Intriguing.” the judge said. “Let’s move on to the next section. Let’s talk about the various elements of the design.”

“The controls work pretty well. They are extremely responsive and made me feel in control of the whole series of events.” the attorney said. The prosecutor smirked, and you knew that it didn’t take long before a snide remark was going to come the attorney’s way. “Oh yeah? You are totally ignoring some frustrating things. Let’s talk first on when you go through the testimony of the witnesses, you don’t loop after the last statement to the first statement.”

The attorney shook his head and when he looked up to watch the prosecutor right in his eyes and remarked, “But that has an easy explanation. Just imagine being stuck at a certain point, and you skip the dialogue after the cross-examination where you get a hint to progress.” A sigh was heard. “Okay, I get what you are saying. But, think about this one. The original games were released on the 3DS. This version is on the Switch, where we have TWO additional buttons. One of these buttons could have been a sort of switch you could toggle for toggling between a loop or non-loop mode.”

There was no arguing with that. The prosecutor had a valid point there, but he wasn’t done yet talking about the controls. He rose a finger and said with a smile: “Oh, and one other thing. Let’s not forget that fast-forwarding in some scenes don’t even work correctly. The joint reasoning or the dance of deduction is slow when you have to repeat it when you made a few too many mistakes.”

A debate about some small, minor annoyances of the controls continued. You knew that finding the right balance between mechanics, controls and world-building is a difficult one to get perfectly right. There are always going to be things that work and don’t work. If flawless things existed, would they still be fun? From the controls, you heard the debating pair moving on to other things. 

Replayability and Difficulty

“How about you get two games, including the DLC and bonus content, for the price of one? You get 70, if not close to 80 hours of content to enjoy. Isn’t that worth the price of admission by itself?” the attorney said. 

“If only there was a demo for people on the edge to enjoy. That would make that deal even better. Yet, there are two things I want to touch upon. First, the DLC. You can use alternate costumes, but tell me… Why can you only use them in the second part of the game?” the prosecutor said with a slight annoyance in his voice. The attorney wanted to counterargue, but the prosecutor slammed his fist down and continued.

“Oh, and let’s not forget how everything is already unlocked from the start. Apart from a few things, you can start with the bonus material and totally spoil yourself with the spoiler warnings that could have been implemented a LOT better. Granted, all the bonus content is included, but honestly, after finishing the main game… I felt a bit burned out on the game and I haven’t touched the additional content at all.”

The defense attorney’s eyes were wide behind his glasses. The aggressive offense from the prosecution had left him somewhat stunned. He took a calming breath and spoke. “At least the game is somewhat replayable. I imagine it would be fun to revisit this game after you’ve seen the whole story and to recognize the moments of foreshadowing for what they really mean. Also, you can try to go for unlocking all of the achievements – called medals in this game,” he explained. “Oh, and the automated save system is a blessing. You can save essentially anywhere and if you mess up you lose almost no progress.”

“Those two are quite valid points,” the prosecution allowed. “Now, I think we are going to talk about the difficulty of this game now. Well, I have something to say about that. Something that couldn’t be avoided, with combining two games into one as a sort of collection, is that the first few cases in the 2nd half of the game are a bit on the easy side. Since, originally, you couldn’t be 100% certain if a player played the first game before the second. But, the game isn’t too challenging overall. The previous entries in the series were more difficult. That’s not to say that this game is a cakewalk, though. But, overall, this game felt easier compared to the previous games… But that might have to do with the fact I have been playing these games for years now. I actually found the leaps of logic in this game to be tougher than I remember some other games in the series being. In the second game in particular, I had a game over in every case due to moments where I thought the needed evidence was tricky to figure out.” After that long remark, the prosecutor paused.

He thought he had the attorney cornered. But, don’t ever underestimate somebody who is reviewing or talking about games for so long; a comeback can always happen. 

“I’ll allow that following the logic of an Ace Attorney game can be challenging,” the defense began. “But there’s a place for it. For series veterans, the unique brain bending mechanic of pitting two jury members to each other is a welcome addition. Meanwhile, for those who don’t want to deal with the challenge element of the game, there is a story mode where you just watch through the game’s story without any gameplay mechanics slowing you down. So for players who find the challenge to be a barrier, there is a way to experience the story without the puzzles getting in the way.” 

The judge was in awe, he didn’t have to interject nor lead the trail. Both parties were going from one topic to another and putting all their cards on the table. You knew, that’s because both parties have been analyzing games for several years, so they know what to watch out for. They chose to debate in this manner to talk about this game, they wanted to do something unique to review this game, and they were enjoying themselves quite a lot. Suddenly, you heard the hammer of the judge hit, and you looked up to him.

“Before you two ramble on and on about the game, let’s focus on the final two topics of this trial. These are gameplay and the story. Let’s start with the gameplay. Is this game fun to play?” the judge asked.

Gameplay and Story

This time, the attorney started with his argument: “I really liked the analysis sections and pitting the jury against each other. The summation examination mechanic is really solid and adds a lot to the trials. I also liked the Dance of Deduction mechanic for investigations, as it made a section of the game that I usually find to be kind of middling into something more interesting. Being able to examine most pieces of evidence is great and adds a layer of drama to the trials when you suddenly get something new and then a huge new clue comes from checking it out.”

And of course, as expected, the prosecutor wanted to say something as well. “I could start an argument that the game is somewhat repetitive. But, the game is for a certain audience. An audience that enjoyed the mystery novel gameplay. So, they won’t get too bored. And if they get bored, or burned out, they can take a break and come back to the game at a later time. I don’t have any counterarguments in the gameplay department. This game is easy to learn and if you have played previous entries in the series, it’s still enjoyable to play with the new mechanics and tricks it brings to the table.”

So, it’s time for the big one. The story. You didn’t want to miss this. Both parties agreed to keep this debate spoiler free, so you were curious how they were going to handle that. You heard the judge introduce and explain that fact, and both parties looked to each other, readying themselves for the most important topic of this whole debate. 

After a small pause, the attorney started: “I really enjoyed Ryunosuke as a protagonist and the way in which this story is all about building his self-confidence and him finding his path through life. Susato is a wonderful assistant character, and I found myself cheering for her all the time during my playthrough. While Lord van Zieks being racist against the Japanese people really bugs me, it made it fun to get the upper hand against him during the trials, and he has a powerful, evocative design. Also, let’s not forget that this entry has various moments where things don’t always have the rose colored ending we would come to expect.”

The prosecutor agreed, but had to add a few things. “Yet, it sometimes falls in the same trap that all the previous entries started to fall in. I found some sections to be a bit predictable. But, I’m not going to go too in-depth about that since we agreed to keep this debate spoiler  free. One thing I would have loved to see is more voice acting. The voice actors did an amazing job in the cutscenes to make their characters come to life. If only that was used more. Of course, it would be somewhat overkilled if the whole massive script was voice acted, but a bit more would be stunning. It would give more power to certain strong moments in the game.”

The attorney swiftly moved on and said: “It’s a breathtaking entry point for newcomers since it’s a totally new cast of characters. This has been my favorite storyline since Trials and Tribulations. The story is grounded and compelling, with lots of twists and turns throughout. Using two games to tell one big overarching story was a good move.” 

The prosecutor cracked his whip loudly, causing the defense attorney to reflexively flinch. The entire courtroom was paying attention to him. “But, there are a few things that could have been handled better in terms of writing. First, if you don’t understand English too well, especially British English… A lot will go over your head with the dialect writing and no option to turn it off. But, props for writing the script in that way, though. Now, if only there were more Japanese jokes and such snuck in when a case played in Japan. Speaking of which, there is no investigation section in Japan. Which brings me to my next point. The structure of the game feels weird in places. The tutorial feels too long in the first game because of both the first and second chapters being tutorials (one for trials and one for investigations). The first game essentially only has two proper cases in it, and the trials are never broken up by investigation sections, so the investigations feel super long.”

He left a small pause to try and read the room. It looked like he wanted to say something, but he was unsure if he should mention it or not. You could read in his eyes that he has seen this dilemma before. Should he talk about something that might spoil the whole game before or should he leave it out since they agreed not to talk about spoilers in their debate? 

So, you sat there looking at both parties argue. Each party had great points to bring to the table. You could totally understand where both parties were coming from. But, now it’s up to you, dear reader, to draw your own conclusion. Yes, the writers of this collab are taking that ‘easy’ way out. Now that you heard the negatives and the positives of the game, what do you think? Let us know in the comments down below, and maybe we shall ask you to be our next witness in this trail to answer the question in this trail once and for all. 

Editorial note: the portrayals of the prosecution and defense represent the combined views of both NekoJonez and Adventure Rules, who each contributed pros and cons to the review. 

Additional note from me, NekoJonez: Thank you so much Ian from Adventure Rules for working with me on this! Your art, advice, proof reading and advice made this collab come out the amazing way it did. Really check out his blog and his Twitter if you want to see more of his work. It’s amazing and worth checking out! Thanks buddy for this collab and thank you for all the support man!

First Impressions: Sherlock Holmes – Crimes and Punishments (XBOX360) ~ Hipster CSI in Ye Olden England

Wikipedia entry

I can’t really explain why, but sometimes I really like to play detective games and trying to solve a crime. That’s why I’m really into the CSI games. Now, when one of my neighbors in our yearly local garage sale started selling his XBOX360 and PS4 collection, I saw he had Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments. While I’m well aware that this game got a port this year onto the Nintendo Switch and Steam, I chose to play the XBOX360 version. Mainly since it was €4 at the garage sale and the Switch version would have set me back way more for just a bit of visual upgrades? Well, I wanted another excuse to boot up my XBOX360 once more. But, did it stay on, or did I start looking toward other games and/or consoles? Well, let’s talk about it in this article, while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on the content of the game and/or this article.

Hipster CSI in Ye Olden England

It’s no real surprise that you take on the role of Sherlock Holmes in this game. Together with your trusty best friend Watson, you are solving strange cases left and right in London in the Victorian era. This game takes place in 1893. In the first case, you investigate the murder of an old captain with a vile reputation. Explaining any more of the plot would ruin the story.

The cases in this game aren’t that long, and they are somewhat unrelated. So, if you are looking for a game with character development or growth… This isn’t the game for you. The writing in this game is more aimed at players who want to relax and enjoy a fun murder mystery like an episode of CSI. With some familiar characters, but each episode is a different case.

The writing itself is quite enjoyable. I really feel that I’m in a Sherlock Holmes story, and I’m enjoying every minute of it. The story really scratches that itch, I have to play some more detective games but only this time, it isn’t with modern technology.

The voice work is also quite good. They made the atmosphere of this game come to life. Every line of dialogue and thoughts are voice acted. Now, there is one thing I’m a bit on the fence about in terms of the voice acting. Maybe it’s because I have been reviewing games for so long and know a bit about developing games as well, but I had times when I felt like some lines were a bit generic.

For example, when you are searching in Holmes’ archives and find the piece you are looking for… It’s always the same line. Sometimes recording more than one line, and randomizing it, helps with the immersion of the game. Otherwise, you are running the risk of it all blending together and making some mechanics feel a bit boring. Or why does doctor Watson nearly always ask where to go next. It’s as if they didn’t record other lines for him. Maybe some fun banter or remark about the location. Like, in the first case, about the well-kept garden. I wouldn’t mind it looping, but something more than “Where to go next, Holmes” and Sherlock not even replying. Since, now, the line feels a bit out of place to me. Thankfully, these moments didn’t bother me too much and are overall quite rare.

I’m well aware that perfection doesn’t exist, and thankfully so. Thankfully, this is the only problem I have with the writing. Very few lines are a bit generic or out of place. And maybe I really notice them because I wanted to review this game and the overall quality is quite high, and I wondered if there was something to critique about the story.

Pop! Here I am!

Visually, this game looks good. The environments are quite detailed and look amazing. But, it isn’t perfect. This game suffers from popping issues sometimes. Especially when you go from a cut scene to gameplay, where some textures just take a bit longer to load, and it just looks weird. I had one especially bad case of this when Holmes’ case book didn’t load the correct texture for like 30 seconds. And I was wondering what the text was on the book.

This happened to me while I was in the “load screen” wagon between two locations. During the loading screen, you can view your case book or enter your thoughts’ menu. And, to be honest, I highly advise you do, since the background scrolling during these wagon scenes don’t always look great. I even saw moments where the background suddenly restarted. And the backgrounds are such lower quality compared to the rest of the game, it’s a shame. Just like the small screen tear issues this game sometimes has when exploring around.

The animations of this game are good as well. They make the game come to life that much more. Yet, sometimes I feel that some characters move a bit too slow or lack a few frames of animation to make it look like the game it’s dipping in frames. But that isn’t the worst issue I have with the visuals and animation. That dubious honor is for the fact that sometimes when exploring, Holmes can “raise up in the air” on an object and when you move the camera just a tiny bit immediately snap down to earth. This happened more than once, but thankfully it didn’t cause any game breaking bugs by for example placing me out of bounds.

Maybe I’m being too harsh on the game. I mean, image the amount of work the developers had to put into the visuals. Especially when you are able to chose if you want a first person camera or a third person camera by the press of a button. This goes so seamless it’s a surprise to me that this works so amazingly well.

Also, you can dress up Sherlock Holmes as you want. The amount of different variations is just silly and adds to the impressive visual possibilities that this game has. Dressing up is just one of the mechanics this game has. You’ll need it sometimes to trick a character into talking.

Now, what exactly is it that you do in this game? Well, you investigate a crime and you look at the crime scene for clues. Sometimes you go back to Baker Street to preform experiments or the search in your archive. While you are exploring the locations, you can also talk to suspects to gather more information about the case.

During your research, you’ll find a lot of clues. Some of these clues need to be interacted with. In your notebook, those clues have a special icon so you know that you need to research in your archive or preform certain experiments with them. Also, the task list is quite handy to keep track of what you still should investigate.

During your research, you’ll be able to use your imagniation. This is a sort of “recreation” button for some scenes in the game. Or when a clue is quite hidden, you can use the strong observation skills of Holmes. To avoid these mechanics becoming a needle in a haystack story, you’ll notice those icons at the top right when you need to use those skills.

Another important mechanic is what I call the “connect the logic dots” mechanic. Here you need to connect two clues to form another clue. It reminds me a bit of Time Hollow which has a similar mechanic, but explaining that would spoil parts of that game. When you connected all your loose clue’s, you can try to make sense of them all. Connecting the right dots will lead you to a conclusion. But is it the right one? Who knows? Be sure to think it over more then once. Since, seeing if your theory is correct is a lot of fun to see play out.

Something that this game does a lot better compared to the CSI games is that this game gives you some freedom. You can actually explore the area the crime took place and look for clues. Some of these areas are huge but expertly crafted, making it a breeze to explore them.

The responsive controls make it quite fun to walk around and explore those areas. Thankfully, Holmes has infinite stamina, so you can also run around when you find his walking pace too slow. And when you forget how to control the game, you can just press the two joysticks of your controller to bring up a handy chart of the games’ controls.

There are two things that controls a bit awkward at first and that’s searching in the archives and searching in your case book, but it doesn’t take long before you can get the hang of it when you know that almost every button has a different purpose, and you look at the buttons that are displayed on the screen.

Skipping the skip

One big difference compared to the CSI games is that there is no hint system in this game during your case. If you are stuck, you can’t get any hints from somebody. This is something that some people like and others aren’t really fond of. But, just like the CSI games, this game has mini-games and puzzles.

Now, you can skip most of these puzzles and mini-games by the press of a button. It barely has any influence on the game if you played or skipped the puzzles, but it’s a nice addition that it’s there. When you just want to get on with the game instead of figuring out one stupid puzzle that otherwise would have locked you out the rest of the game. Something that would make it even more perfect is that in the end of the case, you can see how much puzzles you have skipped. That way you can make it an “honor” thing where people who completed the game without skipping any puzzle get an achievement or something.

Speaking about the ending of the cases, you can come to the wrong conclusion. If it has consequences or not, I won’t reveal to not spoil the game, but it’s great to see that you are able to redo it when you want to see the other endings OR want to correct yourself. You can also choose between either reporting the criminal or letting the criminal go. And that’s also everything I wanted to say about that mechanic. It leads to some quite interesting things.

This game isn’t too difficult. The biggest difficulty in this game is when you overlook a clue and reach the wrong conclusion. If you are stuck, I highly advise you to go over your case notebook and imagination. Since, you might have missed a clue. Only once I had to look up the walkthrough, and it turned out that I was doing two things in the wrong order. Apart from one puzzle in the 3rd case, this game doesn’t have any “moon logic” puzzles. The puzzle in the 3rd case isn’t hard, but it takes a while to click with some people what the idea behind the puzzle is.

This game has achievements. And it’s quite a lot of fun to go for the achievements in this game. They don’t add a lot of replay value since this game doesn’t have a lot of replay value. Unless you decide to start speedrunning it to see the endings you missed since you didn’t start over when you choose your moral stance.

Usually in my reviews, I write about the audiovisual presentation right after the visual presentation. But, since I had some more things I wanted to talk about in the visual presentation department, I’m talking about the audiovisual presentation later. And I can be very short about it, it’s nothing special. Don’t get me wrong, the music is good and fits the atmosphere like a glove… But, it doesn’t stand out to me. I find the music a bit to the generic opera side of things, and I would have a hard time matching it with Sherlock Holmes outside the game. I think the main issue is that it doesn’t feel like a “song” or “track” but more like a 10 or 20 second melody that’s repeating in somewhat different tones for 3-ish minutes.

Now, the sound effects are used amazingly well. While exploring, it really adds to the atmosphere sometimes. Really listen while exploring that one area at the end of the 3rd case, and you’ll understand what I mean.

Before I go to the conclusion, I want to talk about the game’s preformance. A big complaint is that the load times are quite lengthy sometimes and honestly, I have to disagree. I have played games with longer load times and the load times in this game didn’t bother me at all. It was the ideal moment for me to sip of my drink or to think about my theory of the case.

The game ran always at quite the stable frame rate (apart from some small moments in cut scenes). But, there is one thing that should have worked differently. I find it a strange decision that when you are waiting for a door to open since the game needs to load the area behind it… You can move away from it. It gave me the impression at first that my input didn’t register. Locking Holmes in place would communicated that a bit better to the player.

Anyways, when you read this article you might think that this is a very flawed game. If you got that impression, you reached the wrong conclusion and didn’t see all the evedince I left in the article. You might want to think it over and you might reach the intended conclusion (which you can always see at the press of a button when you have beaten the case once).

I fell in love with this game. I totally understand why so many people see this game as one of the best Sherlock Holmes games. It does so many things right that it’s still so much fun after 8 years later, this game is still a blast to play through. Of course, the XBOX360 release has some issues. Especially in the visuals department where the preformance can be spotty sometimes and in some places the game really shows its age.

But did those problems bother me? Oh heavens no. I still enjoyed myself and I was quite happy that I was able to pick up this game for quite a cheap price. It also made me quite curious to play the other Sherlock Holmes games in my collection and that’s perfect since my summer break just started.

So, if you enjoy mystery adventure games like Professor Layton, CSI or Ace Attorney AND/OR if you enjoy point-and-click adventure games like Deponia or Broken Sword or Monkey Island… I think you owe it yourself to check out this game. Since the port earlier this year, this game is on so many platforms and quite easy to get so if you want some better preformance, I highly suspect that the PS4 and Switch versions’ll outpreform the XBOX360 version. But hey, the XBOX360 version is still worth playing!

And with that said, I have reached my conclusion about this highly enjoyable game and where shall we go next–

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

First Impressions: Persona Q – Shadow Of The Labyrinth (3DS) ~ Crossin’ Over At Least Once

Nintendo.com micrositeWikipedia entry

When I’m playing console exclusives, I love it when said exclusive does something unique that is difficult to replicate on other consoles. That’s why I love exclusive to the Nintendo (3)DS or Wii U so much. Since, most of these games use the console gimmick extremely well. And today I want to take a look at a game in the Persona series that crosses over with one of my favorite Nintendo handheld exclusive series, Etrian Odyssey. But, that isn’t the only cross-over in this game. Oh no, the cover of this game already spoils that. The characters of Persona 3 and 4 are meeting each other. Are they meeting each other for a tense and amazing adventure or will this an adventure you can skip over? Let’s talk about it while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on this game and/or the content of this article.

Crossin’ over at least once

Like I said in the intro, Persona 3 and 4 characters are meeting each other. And you can choose with which cast of characters you start playing. Since, I played a decent chunk of Persona 4 Golden and haven’t played Persona 3, I decided Persona 4 cast to start out with.

So, in this game, your cast somehow gets transported to a different dimension. Something that’s really cool is that the opening of the game depends on the cast you chose and fits the world and themes of the original game like a glove.

As soon as you enter the first dungeon, the storylines merge and are almost the same. In the first dungeon themed after Alice in Wonderland, you meet two strange characters named Zen and Rei. Both have amnesia both know that the dungeon is extremely dangerous. It doesn’t take long before they join your party to explore this strange world.

A world where the normal Persona rules are somewhat flipped on their head. Now, the hero lost their Joker ability which caused them to wield any Persona and now everybody has the same unique additional ability. They all can wield a 2nd Persona that they can choose and change.

On top of that, in this strange world, there are several dungeons. The main hub of the game is a school where a strange clock tower is standing in the middle of the courtyard. What is that clock tower doing there, and how can they unlock it? That’s what are heroes are trying to find out.

Explaining more about the story is bordering on spoiling parts of the game. So, if I have sold you on the game, I think you should take a look at it. Now, you don’t need to have played ANY Persona before jumping into this one but some jokes, references, and story bits will go over your head if you haven’t played Persona before. So, yes, this game is extremely welcome to veterans and newcomers.

Now, the voice talent of in this game is beyond amazing. Listing off all the voice actors and their credits would make this article not only go off track quite fast but also get extremely lengthy. The excellent voice acting make the story even more enjoyable. I especially love the little voice clips in the dungeon and during fights since they give the game so much more character. I love it in Etrian Odyssey and I love it here.

Let’s draw that map

If you have played any Persona game before, you’ll feel right at home in this game. It’s your typical dungeon crawler with themed dungeons with a lot of RPG mechanics. And if you have played any Etrian Odyssey games, you’ll feel right at home as well.

Just like Persona 5 Strikers was the perfect mix between hack-and-slash and the Persona formula, this game is the perfect mix between Etrian Odyssey and Persona.

Something that’s quite unique in Etrian Odyssey is that it’s a dungeon crawler where you have to draw your own map to some degree. The game draws out where you walk automatically, but you have to draw where the walls are, place the location of doors, treasure boxes, traps… You even have to take notes.

FOE’s return in this game as well. And let me tell you, in this game they aren’t a pushover. I really advise you to avoid them at all costs. FOE’s are huge monsters which roam around the dungeon on a set path. Each FOE has their pattern and quirks, and sometimes you have to manipulate them to solve an environment puzzle.

The FOE’s are the only enemies you’ll see roam around on the bottom screen map. All the other enemies are encountered by exploring the dungeon. Like in Etrian Odyssey, you have a counter at the bottom left of the top screen that indicates how close you are to a battle. Battles in this game are turn-based. Something that really annoyed me in Etrian Odyssey is the MP management. For some characters, it is too easy to run out of MP and be useless. Unless you either heal that MP with the rare and/or finite amount of times you can heal that in the dungeon or their MP is just drained way too easily.

In this game, a solution to that problem has been found. In this game, each character that has a second Persona equipped, gets a low but certain amount of MP at the start of each battle. And not only that, when you have a critical hit OR hit the weak spot of an enemy, the next round the character won’t use MP. And you can chain this in a combo if you learn the weak spots of each enemy. So, it’s quite helpful to learn who is weak against what and create the best team and couple them with the best Persona’s.

The difficulty curve of this game is somewhat unforgiving. There is no auto-saving in this game when you reach a game over, you’ll have to restart with the last save. Thankfully, you can lower the difficulty at any time in the hub if you are stuck at a hard enemy or boss unless you have chosen the highest difficulty.

In this article, I have mentioned a Persona several times. Allow me to explain this to people who don’t know what Persona is. Depending on the Persona game, the theme is a bit different, but basically it’s a monster created out of strong emotions that’s bonded in a way to somebody. This bond allows them to use special abilities and magic during battle. You can read and discover more about the concept on the Persona wiki but beware spoilers on that page.

Risk and reward systems

This game isn’t easy, even on the lower difficulty settings. You really have to think on your actions and be mindful on what you are doing.

Should I save my money since the higher your level, the higher the healing costs become OR should I buy this strong weapon/armor? It’s just an example of the thought you have to put into this game. This game nails that fine balancing act of being challenging and rewarding.

At the end of the first dungeon, you meet the other cast of characters. This doubles the amount of useable characters in this game. And this makes this game very replayable to a certain degree. While the lay-outs don’t change of the dungeons, you can only carry five characters in a dungeon. And that means that you can make each playthrough of this game quite different.

Now, something I really miss from the Etrian Odyssey games that isn’t in this game is the simple fact that you can’t floor hop. Remember when you almost finished the whole map in Etrian Odyssey and you found the entrance and exit, so you can warp to that floor’s entrance/exit almost immediately? That isn’t present in this game. On the other hand, this game has a mechanic I wished was in more Etrian Odyssey games. You can choose the color of the elements you place on the map. So, you have way more options in placing things on the map making it a lot easier to mark for example certain traps or moving tiles.

Being able to draw the map myself is one of the biggest selling points to me of the Etrian Odyssey games. In a way, you draw a part of the UI. Speaking of which, the UI in this game is extremely solid. It took me no time at all to learn the controls of this game and get going. The fact that this game also has amazing visual presentation is great as well.

The attention to detail is superb and gives the game such a great atmosphere. Visually, this game is eye candy to me. To such a degree, that when I tried this game with the battle animations disabled in the option menu, I felt that this game was missing something. While I totally understand that the game and battle system might be a bit too slow with them on for some people, I love how accessible this game is with the option menu.

Not only the visual presentation and animations are amazing, but the soundtrack is on point. It hits all those strong beats you are used to in a Persona game. It also reminded me sometimes of the Etrian Odyssey games and I got nostalgic sometimes.

Something to be wary of is that the Nintendo 3DS eShop is closing in the really near future. This game has some DLC as well, expanding some features. Mostly, they add some optional additional Persona’s or voice packs. So, if you are interested in this game and want all the content… But warned that you have until late August 2022 to do it.

And with that said, I have said everything about this game I wanted to say about this game for now. If you enjoy dungeon crawlers, Persona, RPG’s and/or Etrian Odyssey, I urge you to give this game a chance. To be honest, I fell in love with this game and all it quirks. While this game isn’t for everybody and certainly the difficulty might turn some people off, I have a hard time to say anything negative about this game.

This game is a must-play for every Persona and Etrian Odyssey fan in my opinion. I can’t wait to see where this game is going next, and I’m also quite hyped that this game has a sequel Persona Q 2 – New Cinema. Which I might review in the future. But for now, I have the original to beat here. So, I have to wrap up this article, publish it and after that I can get back right into this game trying to finish it.

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

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

Steam store pageOfficial site

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

Monkey Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Open sea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Replaying

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A tale about the original Legend of Zelda

Editorial note: this article is from @timbledsoe689. The reason it’s republished here is that his website got taken down due to events out of his control. In mutual agreement, we are republishing the article here to give it a new home. Apart from fixing a few typos… there is no difference between this publication and the original.

There I was, twelve or thirteen years old, in a quiet corner of a Sears department store. It was
midday, and no one else was around the lone Nintendo kiosk with its strange rectangle
controllers. As I picked up the now iconic but then alien controller, I had no idea my life was
about to be changed.


The video games I had played before were all in the arcade. I had played Atari at a friend’s
house once, but the abstract dots and lines and harsh bleeps and bloops never caught my
attention. The arcade games were better, with better graphics and sound, and a better sense of
what you were supposed to be doing. But even the arcade games never held my attention, they
seemed like simple experiences limited to one usually burned out CRT screen. The Legend of
Zelda was different.


It was mid-summer and my dad had dropped us off at the mall for a few hours to get us out of
his thinning hair. After the usual wandering, I came across this Nintendo kiosk and started
playing. There was no time limit, no line. The opening screen had beautiful music and this
intriguing screen that promised a great adventure.

was blown away by the freedom I had exploring Hyrule. I could travel any of the four compass
directions in a land that had realistic geographic boundaries like mountains and lakes. Going
any direction was a revelation; all games I’d played before had been single screen like Pac-Man
or Centipede. Side scrolling games like Super Mario Bros. were out there, but I hadn’t played
Then, and besides, that was just one direction. The Legend of Zelda let you go anywhere! Well,
almost.


It didn’t take long for me to run into monsters that took bites out of my three red hearts, killing
me and sending me back to the beginning. Soon enough, I found the strange old man in the
cave uttering the words that are now on 1000 T-shirts, “It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this.”
Armed with my new sword, I went back and took my revenge on the beasties who had
destroyed me earlier. But I still died a lot, as each enemy moved and attacked in different ways.
It would be several months later until I even learned how to use my shield to block Octorock and
other monster’s projectiles. The Tektites were my least favorite, leaping at me from above in (to
me at the time) unpredictable frightening death dealing drops.


Avoiding some monsters, I explored as far as I could. Along the way I discovered that stones
could sometimes be pushed, some shrubs could be slashed with the sword. My sense of
wonder increased with each discovery. I found a magical fairy fountain that replenished my
hearts. More strange old men in caves selling items.


I had just discovered my first dungeon in a tree on an island, when I felt a tap on my shoulder.
Was it someone else wanting to play at the Sears kiosk? No, it was mall security. Apparently I’d
been playing for four hours, lost all track of time, and forgotten to go back to my pickup point in
the mall. My father had contacted mall security, and they were all looking for me!
That time with the demo of The Legend of Zelda profoundly affected me. Not only would I start a
lawn mowing business, so I could save up for a NES and a 13-inch TV, but my interest in gaming
was cemented At that moment. It’s safe to say that I would not be writing on games blogs now if
it weren’t for that day.


That was my own personal introduction to the Legend of Zelda, but the game had quite a
worldwide impact as well. It was a bestseller for Nintendo, selling over 6.5 million copies. The
game is almost always included in any list of influential video games that have shaped the
industry. In The Legend of Zelda, there are 8 pieces of the Triforce of Wisdom to collect before
you can rescue Zelda. In a similar vain, I thought I would list 8 great things about The Legend of
Zelda, that when combined form a greater whole.

Exploration


For its time, The Legend of Zelda had a large, sprawling map. It was divided into squares
co-responding with what could be displayed on the screen. When the player leaves the edge of
the screen, the view shifts to the next square on the grid, which might seem jarring and limited
now, but in 1986, felt like a vast wilderness to explore. There were green forests, gray
graveyards, brown deserts and mountains, and blue streams and lake. Yes, it might seem
simple by today’s standards, but the brightly colored map allowed the player to fill in details with
their imagination and there was always the feeling that something magical would be discovered
on the next screen. Game Designer Shigeru Miyamoto drew inspiration for the game from
memories of his childhood exploring caves, forests, and streams around Kyoto. “When I was a
child,” said Miyamoto, “I went hiking and found a lake. It was quite a surprise for me to stumble
upon it. When I traveled around the country without a map, trying to find my way, stumbling on
amazing things as I went, I realized how it felt to go on an adventure like this.”


Secrets


Almost every screen of the map held a secret to be discovered. That differently colored crack in
the wall? Bomb it for a secret passage. Three stones in a row? Push them to reveal a trapdoor.
Bushes could also be burned to reveal entrances, and there were a few other ways to interact
with the environment, once the proper tools were acquired. Once the player figured out a lot
was hidden under the surface, they were encouraged to spend more time in each area, and it
made the areas something to explore, not just rush through.


Items and Tools


Sometimes the player would be certain an area held a secret, but there was no way to interact
with the suspicious item in the environment. That’s ok! After playing the game for a while, the
player knew they would beat a dungeon later that would give them an item that would let them
tackle that spot. For example, maybe you can now burn that gnarled tree thanks to the Blue
Candle you just earned. By the way, anyone who says anything other than the Magical
Boomerang is the best item is just dead wrong!
Monsters
While a few monsters such as the goblin-like Moblins or Wizzrobes felt familiar for a fantasy
game, The Legend of Zelda, introduced many unique monsters. Pesky Octroks flung stones at
you from Qbert like mouths, Tektites bounced toward you like your worst nightmare, and who
could forget the crazy spinning Leevers? Seriously, were they a plant or an animal? Some of the
most terrifying (and my favorite) monsters were reserved for the dungeons. These monsters
could not only kill you, they could make your life difficult. Once you were trapped in the
snakelike grasp of a Like Like, you would lose your precious shield! Or if you were scooped up
by the ominous floating handed Wall Master, it was back to the start of the dungeon for you, all
progress lost.


Dungeons


Dungeons were the treats the game rewarded you for exploring. Twisted challenging mazes
with traps, rooms that would go dark, and their own set of monsters, dungeon were a challenge
you loved to hate. In the days before the internet, it was not uncommon to be stuck in a
dungeon for a while until you talked to a friend or gave up and called the Nintendo game play
counselor. Yes, that was a thing. And if you reached the center of the dungeon, your reward
was a special Boss monster! In a whimsical touch, the grids of the dungeons were shaped after
creatures like eagles, dragons, and demons. For all the frustration, the dungeons of the Legend
of Zelda were somehow one of the aspects of the game I remember most fondly.

Sound and Music

Composer and sound director of the series, Koji Kondo had very limited hardware to create
sounds and music for the game. Yet, with scratchy percussion and tinny horns, he managed to
create a theme that was beautiful and evocative. Although I will confess I enjoy versions of the
theme played with real instruments, I still get nostalgic when I hear it in its original 8-bit glory.
The game sounds were fantastic too. I still to this day feel elation when I hear the sound of Link
acquiring a new item!


Second Quest


Other games have done it before and since, but it was still neat that after you beat the game,
you could play “The Second Quest”. While most of the Overland areas were laid out the same,
the dungeons were laid out much differently, and the enemies were harder. Back when the
game came out, games weren’t released as often as they are now and were quite expensive, so
in effect, doubling the content of the game was a very nice thing for Nintendo to do. Word soon
spread on the playground back in the day that you could access the Second Quest right from
the beginning by typing “Zelda” as your player’s name!


The Gold cartridge


There was just something cool about seeing the gold Legend of Zelda cartridge next to all the
standard gray NES carts in your collection. Nintendo knew they had something epic and special
with this game, and I’m glad they chose to celebrate it with the extra effort and expense to
modify their normal manufacturing process and give us something nice. In the day of more and
more games being downloaded directly, something as cool as a gold cartridge becomes an
even rarer


If you’ve never played The Legend of Zelda, I hope this article gave you a taste of what made it
such an amazing experience at the time. This blog is part of a larger series explores the history
of the series and its major entries. Be sure to check out the hub article via this link for links to all the
great articles and retrospectives on this epic series.

It’s almost there! 2022. It’s TOP 10 TIME!

It’s that time of the year again, it’s time to create lists. For the 11 years I have been blogging right now, I have created a tradition of writing two lists at the end of the year. A list of my favorite games I have played in the past year, and a list of the games I’m most excited about in the upcoming year. Today, it’s time to talk about what I’m so hyped to play next year. Since some amazing titles are coming out next year and I can’t wait to play them and/or review them on my blog. So, this is going to be my top 10 list of games I want to play in 2022. What’s your list? Feel free to leave it in the comment section down below, and let’s see how much better we are going to be playing in 2022.

#10 – Sports Story (Nintendo Switch – TBA)

I’m a huge fan when it comes to playing RPG/adventure games that put a spin on your typical “fight the enemy” or “save the world”. Now, when I learned about this game, I was hyped right away.

The reason I placed it so low on my list is that I’m afraid that a lot of the sports gameplay is going to be rhythm or reflexes based, which are two things that I’m not too good at in games and that might ruin it a bit for me. But, then again, looking at the trailer and the promotional material, this game looks quite promising.

Now, I know that this game doesn’t have a release date set in stone yet, so it might be not for 2022… But hey, if this one comes out in 2022, you can be sure that I’m going to play it!

#9 – Yurukill: The Calumniation Games (Nintendo Switch, June 10th)

I wish I could put this game higher on my list. But, the bullet hell gameplay worries me a bit. I easily get frustrated by bullet hell games, but I still enjoy playing them.

But, this game is an escape game that gives off a lot of Zero Escape and Danganrompa vibes and I love it. Also, it’s being developed by the creators of Death Come True and World’s End Club.

I’m quite curious to see what’s going to become of this game. How much they are going to blend the escape-the-room style of gameplay with bullet hell… It is two very different gameplay styles that don’t fit at all, and this might be crazy enough to work.

And even when I’m afraid that the bullet hell sections might frustrate me, since I’m not that good at them… Still, I want to see the end result. And who knows, maybe by playing this game, I might become interested in bullet hell games… We’ll have to wait and see.

#8 – The Cruel King and the Great Hero (Nintendo Switch, March 31st)

You know that moment when you see a trailer, and you fall in love with the art style, setting, and atmosphere right away? This is one of those games to me.

This game looks like a simple, charming RPG game that’s going to have a coming-of-age story.

At first glance, it might look mediocre and a game you might skip. But I think that would be a shame. Since this game looks adorable and charming, and it reminds me how I fell in love with Fantasy Life on the 3DS. A game can also be charming, enjoyable, and relaxing to be fun. And I’m sure this is going to be one of the games I’m going to play next year to wind down after a long day at work. And that’s one of the biggest reasons I’m looking forward to this game.

You know what, it also reminds me off? Like a storybook game. Where you go from location to location and stories are told to children to teach them life lessons. A bit like the core story concept of Blossom Tales.

#7 – Mario + Rabbids – Sparks of Hope (Nintendo Switch, TBA)

Throughout this year, I have been slowly chipping away at the Mario + Rabbits game. I have been distracted by so many other games, I didn’t finish the original.

But, then out of nowhere in a Nintendo Direct, this game got dropped. And I’m so happy to see this happen. The original game is an amazing mash-up of both worlds, and it would be a shame if it was a one-time spin-off.

And now we are getting a sequel. I feel it’s more than well deserved. The passion and love put into the first game… So, I have some time to finish the first game, so I can dive right into the next game next year. So, I know what I’m going to play right after this article is published.

#6 – Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp (Nintendo Switch, Spring 2022)

The amount of times I wanted to start playing Advance Wars 1/2 or purchase my own copy via a second-hand website, is just crazy. I always wanted to give this series a try after I heard so many amazing things about it from other people I follow and YouTubers I watch.

But, next year is going to be my chance. I’ll be able to play both games and more in the remake. A big turn-based strategy game that started on a handheld that helped shape my childhood, the Game Boy Advance, is going to come to the Nintendo Switch.

And maybe, with a subtitle like “Re-Boot Camp”, it might mean we get an Advance Wars 3… It might be the reboot we are waiting for. So, I’m ready to enter the tanks in the Spring of 2022 and fight alongside Andy and the others.

#5 – The Stanley Parable – Ultra Deluxe (PC – Early 2022)

This game has been delayed since 2019 till early 2022. I honestly think that each and every time, the developers had more ideas and wanted to improve the game even more.

Now, as a writer and a gamer, I’m in love with the concept of the Stanley Parable that turns the story-telling in games on its head. So, the promise of seeing more of this, well, you don’t have to tell me twice.

So, I already wishlisted the game on Steam. The only thing I can do now is wait… Right Stanley? Did I follow the correct path? I think so, I haven’t taken a wrong turn anywhere…

#4 – Kirby And The Forgotten Land (Nintendo Switch, Spring 2022)

The last mainline Kirby game was Kirby Star Allies, way back in 2018. We got two spin-off games in the meantime, but Kirby is going to be back in 2022. And not only that, it’s going to be one of three open-world games from Nintendo in the upcoming year.

Yes, I couldn’t believe my ears. An open-world Kirby game. And yes, one of three. Anyways, I always wanted to play an open-world Kirby game. Well, honestly, I wanted to play a 3D Kirby game where you can explore the whole world.

And with this entry in the Kirby series, my wish came true. We shall be able to explore the forgotten lands and together with Kirby we shall uncover the secrets of the Forgotten Land.

#3 – Pokémon Legends Arceus (Nintendo Switch, January 28th)

I honestly think I don’t have to explain myself why I’m so crazy hyped about this game. It’s what Pokémon fans have been asking, begging GameFreak and Nintendo for years. Ever since the first generations, we always wanted a 3D Pokémon game where you can run around and catch Pokémon. Something more than what the main series is offering. Something where you can explore a world freely and maybe use Pokémon to your advantage.

And Pokémon Legends Arceus promises to deliver that. A sort of Breath of the Wild version of Pokémon. I’m really avoiding all released press materials, so I can go into this game as blind as possible. The only thing I have seen is the initial trailer and I also read the news that new materials have improved the frame rate of the game.

While I’m fully aware that we all have an extremely high bar set for this game… I’m going to play it with an open mind. I’m going to try and silence my critical voice in my head while playing this game and let this game’s atmosphere do the work. Since, I’m also silently hoping that this style of Pokémon will be a spin-off series or maybe… Even more. The next generation of gameplay.

#2 – The Legend of Zelda – Breath of the Wild 2 (Nintendo Switch, TBA 2022)

I’m crossing my fingers so hard that this game doesn’t get another delay. Since, I really want to play this game. It’s the 3rd open-world game scheduled for 2022 by Nintendo, and it’s one of the most anticipated games of Nintendo so far.

While I personally miss the top-down Zelda gameplay and first, I wasn’t too fond of the changes in Breath of the Wild, I have to admit that the game grew on me. It added so much more freedom to explore the unique mechanics and gameplay, instead of some items being under-used.

And from what we have seen from the sequel, this game is going above and beyond. From going through floors, skydiving and rewinding time… Man, the possibilities for puzzles and challenges is just huge. I can’t wait. But, if a delay is needed to polish up the game and/or iron out bugs… I wouldn’t mind a delay but on the other hand…

#1 – AI The Somnium Files – Nirvana Initiative (Nintendo Switch, Spring 2022)

Creating this list, and especially the top 5 was extremely difficult. There are so many good games coming out in 2022, I’m afraid that I won’t be able to play all the games I want to play.

Now, why did I put this game on top? Well, since I have the feeling that this game is going to be one of my favorite games I’m going to play in 2022.

When I played the original game, I was so impressed and blown away… I mean, it was almost my favorite game of 2019.

I’m a huge fan of Kotaro’s Uchikoshi’s work. Especially after the Zero Escape series, which I tend to quote in real life sometimes. And seeing a new game from him, made me extremely happy.

Which mysteries is this game going to bring? Since, you would think that the original game wrapped up everything with a nice bow on top of it. But nope, our beloved cast of characters is coming back and we are going to have a new adventure. I’m so ready!

Final thoughts

You might have noticed that my whole list is almost only Switch games. That’s because due to my busy personal life and events, I mostly play on my retro consoles or on my Switch. Currently, I have no major interest in buying an XBOX or PS5, since there aren’t enough games for me to justify buying those consoles. The same with PC games, the new PC games don’t grab my interest enough for me to upgrade my setup.

Maybe the ports of God Of War and Uncharted might be the games that make me consider upgrading my setup… But then, you have a sequel to Blossom Tales or Coffee Talk and then I get even less interested in upgrading my setup.

Then again, you have the Vampire: The Masquerade sequel… But that’s also coming out on Switch. And I also keep forgetting that huge pile of retro games I still have backlogged. 2022 will be a big year in gaming and for me personally, and I can’t wait to see where it will take me. So, 2021 is almost over and it’s time to wrap it up in the next article(s) and prepare ourselves for 2022. Since, it’s going to be big.

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

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

Wikipedia entry

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

Is this Zelda?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This isn’t as good as Zelda.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is this worth your time?

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

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

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

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

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

Those annoying mud things :/

First Impression: Abyss of the Sacrifice (Switch) ~ Puzzlerooms To Sacrifice

Age warning: This game is 16+.

Wikipedia entryNintendo.com microsite

I might be a day late for Halloween, but today on the day after, I still want to talk about a somewhat horror related game. As regular readers of my blog know, I’m an avid fan of the Zero Escape trilogy. So, when I saw this game pop up on the Nintendo Switch eShop, I didn’t hesitate for a moment. I had to give it a try. I enjoyed my time with it that much, that it even slipped in my top 10 games of 2020. Why did I give this game a spot there? Well, let me explain why, while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on the game and/or the content of this article.

Puzzlerooms to sacrifice

This game follows the story of 5 girls who are left in the “Foundation”. This is a strange place underground that has been built for some reason that everybody has forgotten. It doesn’t take long before our 5 heroines meet each other and strange things like earthquakes start happening. And let’s not forget, since everybody is gone from the Foundation, food and water supplies are getting more difficult to come by every day.

I don’t want to talk much about the story, since it hinges on its mystery quite a lot. It’s that sort of story where you are left in the dark about everything right from the start, but the further you go in the story the more gets explained. I do highly recommend playing this game without a break like I did. I had to restart my playthrough since I completely forgot what was going on, and I got confused.

Something that took me by surprise is the fact that this game is fully voice acted, in Japanese. Now, this makes my job of reviewing this game a bit more difficult. I barely know any Japanese, so take what I’m going to say next with a grain of salt. But, I feel that the voice acting is pretty good. I really felt the emotional performance of the voice actors and I feel they did an amazing job.

Something I really did like is how there are some cliché characters, like your doctors’ girl and the patient that went in and out of hospitals but the interaction and the backstory of these characters is handled in such a unique way, it feels quite fresh and unique. The story itself is getting quite interesting at the moment where I’m at, and I’m so glad I choose the Switch version over the Steam version since now I can take it with me on the train from and to work.

Visually, the game looks amazing. The artwork really immersed me into the world and the story. Together with the great music and sound design, I really felt like I was exploring a mystery in the Foundation. Sometimes, an important item blended into the scenery, but it gave off a small sparkle, so you didn’t have to go pixel hunting.

I really like the hint system in this game. At any time, without a penalty, you can in the menu to the “Hint” system, and you can look at the hints. Only the hints that help you to get further in the puzzle are unlocked. The ones you need later in the puzzle aren’t accessible and not even shown. The minor negative you could say that this system brings is that it somewhat spoils the length of the room, but that’s a minor thing in my opinion.

You can play this game out of order. So, each time you finish a chapter, you unlock the next entries of the story of each girl. You can play them in any order you like. To avoid getting even more confused about what’s going on, I played them somewhat in order. But, it’s a great thing that if you get stuck on one puzzle, you can stop it and go to another girl to try on that puzzle later. And believe you me, the puzzles can get quite challenging. I even had to get out a pen and paper for several puzzles to solve it.

The controls and the UI of this game is something to be praised. The only minor negative thing is that there is no real autosave, but you can save easily at any time in an overload of save slots. The amount of options is a good to have, so that way you can adjust your experience to your liking. And the easy to learn controls are shown in the options menu in case that you forgot one or two buttons.

Escape is not needed

Sadly enough, this game does have some flaws. In terms of variation, this game doesn’t have a lot of it. This game is a visual novel with some escape the room elements thrown in. But, there are some things that the visual novel sections don’t do all to well. First, the contrast of the text with the background isn’t always the best. I sometimes had trouble reading the text. Thankfully, my English is pretty decent, and I can make out the words, but I can image that it’s going to be quite annoying for people who aren’t so good at English.

Something else that really bothered me is the fact that it’s sometimes a bit unclear who is talking to who in the dialogue sections. There is no real “speaking” animation. That’s a shame, since I’m that kind of person who has a hard time remembering names. I was so glad that in World’s End Club, you had that overview screen with the names and abilities. Even in the backlog it’s unclear who is talking.

Speaking of which, when I looked into the backlog of this game… I found some strange things in the writing. This game sometimes jumps from 1st person to 3rd person writing. A great example where you can get easily confused is this one:

Suddenly, she felt a sharp tug on her arm.

"Huh?"

I didn't fall....?

As she blinked in disbelief, a voice called out above her.

That’s exactly how it appears in the game. If only a different styling was used for thoughts OR keep writing in either 1st or 3rd person, this could have improved the writing.

There were some moments of frustration as well during the puzzle segments. For example, in one room, I had to pick up a robot from the cleaning station but the area I could click to pick it up was almost completely overlapped by the “Exit screen” UI. So, be really precise with your clicks or otherwise, you’ll be stuck while you have the correct solution. Thankfully, if you find the joystick movement controls a bit too fast like me, you can use the D-pad to solve that issue.

Sadly enough, some puzzles are a bit too tricky for my liking. Even with the hint system. One time I got stuck because I tried to combine item A with B, and it didn’t work… The solution was combining item B with A. Which brings me to talk about the interface you use to combine items. This interface is a mess in my opinion. It could have been designed a lot better, since if it wasn’t explained in the tutorial section… I would have forgotten how to use it and that it was even a mechanic.

You might have noticed that I didn’t talk about the animations in the visuals’ section of this review. That’s because, there was so much more that could have been done with the animations. I really felt that the game was a bit too static and comic-book like. There could have been so much more life into the game with a bit more animations. And in some cases, I had the impression that the animations lagged while the game was anything but lagging. But, I think it’s high time to get into the conclusion of this article before I start lagging myself and go rambling.

Conclusion

This game is the perfect example of getting pretty close to greatness but missing the mark. This game has so much going for it. The amazing artstyle, the music, the concept, the atmosphere… I don’t regret my decision to include this game in my top 10 games of 2020.

Yet, this game lacks some polish which is a real shame. Since, I can truly see some people skipping this game because of it. It even makes it a bit difficult for me to recommend this game.

When I saw the scores that other reviewers were giving for this game, I was a bit annoyed. I felt that this game was getting too low scores for what’s offered here. This game tells a great story of 5 girls trying to survive and trying to figure out what happened to the world. But some technical issues hold it back. Some can be solved with a patch like the issues with the script and such, but others like the animations… That is going to need either a big patch or a remake.

But, if you enjoy games like the Zero Escape games or Corpse Party, I would say… Check out this game. Give it a chance. But, know that this game has some flaws and you best play it without too long of a break to fully enjoy this game. I personally think that this game is totally worth your time, maybe on sale. And as soon as you get use to the quirks, the negatives aren’t too bad. So, this review is luke warm, but warm enough to recommend it with caution.

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