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Gamer’s Thoughts: Top 10 Games of 2020 – NekoJonez’s List

NekoJonez176p_(long)It’s that time of the year again. It’s time to list the best games of the year. So, which games did I enjoy in 2020? Before you roll your eyes and think: “Urgh, another list of games the big titles that released in 2020 in another order.”… Well, I have a special surprise for you. My top 10 list doesn’t work that way. On my top 10 games of the year list, I order the games I have started playing in that year, no matter when they were released. So, every game I played for the first time in 2020 is fair game, even when I picked it up in a garage sale or retro game store. So, which games were my favorites in 2020? Let’s check them out while I invite you to leave a comment with your top 10 list and/or your opinion on my personal list.

#10 – Abyss Of The Sacrifice (Switch, December 2020)

capsule_616x353The number 10 of this year literally came out of nowhere for me. I just started to play this game last week and I’m in love with it. Abyss Of The Sacrifice is an enhanced port of a Japanese PSP game from 2010 called “Misshitsu no Sacrifice”. This game was also ported to Steam.

If you have read my blog in the past, you might know that I love the Zero Escape series and games that put you in a situation where you need to solve puzzles to escape meanwhile a tense story is unfolding with betrayals, psychological horror, multiple endings… And does this game deliver that in spades.

When I started to play this game, I was taken back to the joyful memories of first playing the Zero Escape series. Currently, I have solved the first few puzzles but I can’t wait to see what other things this game has in store for me and if I was justified in my decision putting this game in 10th place or if I should replace this game with another game. But, so far… I’m quite certain that this game deserves a spot on this list since it was an amazing surprise to close off this year.

#9 – Baba Is You (Switch, 2019)

Baba is YouFirst impressions of this game.

So, number 10 on my list was the big surprise that closed off my year… And number 9 is the amazing surprise that started my year.

This puzzle game looks extremely charming but looks are deceiving. This game isn’t easy at all. It requires you to think out of the box and really think outside of the box.

I find it still so surprising that this game was first created for a Game Jam and than the developer just started to expand on it. I seriously tip my hat to you good sir, Arvi Teikari. You blew me away with an amazing game that I still need to finish since I want to beat those puzzles that keep stomping me for months now. And yes, I refuse to look at walkthroughs.

#8 – Persona 4 Golden (PC, July 2020 – Original release: PS2, 2008)

persona4

I do have to say that I would have put this game higher on my list if I didn’t get distracted by other games.

The concept and setting of Persona 4 is something that tickles my fancy quite a lot. Earlier in the article, I explained that I have a weak spot for escape games that have a deep story with psychological horror elements. While this game isn’t an escape room game, it still hits my same weak spot with an amazing RPG-adventure dungeon crawler that reminds me of my love of the Etrian Odyssey games.

In this game, your biggest fears come to live to haunt you. And if you don’t face or defeat your biggest fears, they will not only haunt you but kill you. Meanwhile, you can use a sort of alter ego, your Persona to fight for you while you are saving others that are being haunted by their fears. To avoid spoiling things, I have overly simplified the story here, but if you enjoy in-depth RPG’s/adventure games/dungeon crawlers … I highly advise you to check out this game since it’s totally worth your time.

#7 – Death Come True (Multiplatform, June 2020)

death-come-true-switch-heroIf you ever wanted to play a game that was actually a movie where you decided on the major actions of the main character, this is the game for you. And not only that, this game is also written and directed by Kazutaka Kodaka. He is known for his work on Danganronpa.

The biggest negative of this game is it’s length. This game is way to short. I was able to finish this game in one afternoon. But, those three hours of gameplay were well worth it. Since this game is so sort and it’s so easily to spoil parts of the game, I decided against reviewing the game AND writing too much about this game in this article.

If you enjoyed games like the Zero Escape series or Danganronpa, I highly advise you to play this game as blind as possible. Since that makes the game way more fun and the twists all the more fun. Also, I’m so glad that all the bonus and behind the scenes material has been translated and subtitled since that wasn’t the case at release.

#6 – DooM (Multiplatform, 2016)

doom-2016My review of the game.

Oh yes, here we go. DooM 2016 on number 6 instead of DooM Eternal. I haven’t played DooM Eternal simply because my PC isn’t strong enough to run the game. But here is the funny thing about that, my PC hits the minimum specs without an issue… Yet, the game crashes to the desktop when I launch the game. Oh well, maybe in 2021.

But, DooM 2016. What an amazing breath of fresh air in the shooter genre. The unique combat mechanics and the exploration are just two things I love to bits in this game. The reason I haven’t placed this game higher is because there were a few things that hold the game back in my opinion. I think you should read my review because since otherwise I would start repeating myself.

Yet, I still play this game once or twice when I have some downtime and I have to say that this game is still as much fun as it was when I first started playing it. So, it would be a shame if I didn’t include it in this list.

#5 – Blood (PC, May 1997)

Blood_logoI do love myself a good old school 3D shooter once in a while. Now, Blood is a game that I have tried out a lot in the past but only played the first level and left it at that. You could say that I’m breaking my rule of “first started playing in 2020” but I can explain.

I first started to play this game seriously in 2020. And now that I have beaten this game on the easier difficulty, I have to say that this shooter is just extremely well made and was one of the best when it got released. Now, I don’t really dare to touch the sequel since it isn’t the best and I think it might have killed the franchise.

I’m not going to in-depth on my opinions in this article since I’m planning to write about this game in the near future. I find it very surprising that I haven’t written an article on this game yet, since it’s prime review material for my blog. Anyways, keep your eyes peeled for an article about Blood in 2021 here on my blog. That way I can explain myself why I have put this game on the number 5 spot in this list.

#4 – Paper Mario – The Origami King (Switch, July 2020)

origami king boxMy review of the game

As a big fan of retro games, I follow a lot of retro game reviewers on YouTube and I follow a lot of retro game blogs. Whenever they talk about Mario RPG’s and especially about Paper Mario, they fondly remember the N64 and GameCube entries. But then, Sticker Star and Color Splash came.

A lot of people felt that the series was going down hill since it strayed too far away from what made the Paper Mario games so enjoyable to play. While I haven’t played too much Paper Mario games myself, I have to admit that I found Sticker Star and too a lesser extend Color Splash difficult to really get into.

When Paper Mario – The Origami King got announced, I was highly skeptical since I was afraid that it would be another game that let the fanbase down and may destroy the series for good. The biggest issue was the clunky battle system of the past two games and man, did that battle system make a 180.

This game is a huge step in the right direction in my eyes. I enjoyed myself from start to finish with this game and I now understand why people are so fond of the original games. The charm, the characters, the plot and setting… It all makes a lot of sense. Meanwhile, Nintendo was able to find the right balance of the old school playstyle and mixing them with the newer mechanics like repairing the world. So, good job Nintendo! Please, more of this!

#3 – Hyrule Warriors – Age of Calamity (Switch, November 2020)

518x840Together with all the other Zelda fans, I’m waiting for the sequel to Breath of the Wild. But, Nintendo surprised us this year with another game in the Breath of the Wild universe. And I mean what I say with “surprised us”. This game isn’t what you would typically describe as a Zelda game. Yet, it’s canon and tells the story that took place 100 years before Breath of the Wild happened.

I’m on my way to finish this game in the near future and I’m going to write an article about it. All I’m willing to say now is that this game is a well made Warrior’s game that took me back into the Breath of the Wild universe and gave some characters way more screen time, backstory, lore and gave even more live to that universe.

If you love hack-and-slash games and/or if you are a Legend of Zelda fan, I highly advise you to pick up this game and give it a play. It’s even more enjoyable than the first Hyrule Warriors game and it rightfully deserves the 3th place in my list here.

#2 – Fatal Frame 3 – The Tormented (PS2, July 2005)

66263_frontBack in April, I wanted to play some more Fatal Frame. I wasn’t able to find my copy of Fatal Frame 2 to finish that game, so I decided to start playing Fatal Frame 3. I think it’s quite clear what my opinion is on this game.

I think that the Fatal Frame series is slowly convincing me that horror games can be amazing and fun to play. And that they aren’t “difficult to scare the player”. My negative bias towards horror games is changing into a positive one since I started playing games like Corpse Party, Zero Escape, Resident Evil and now Fatal Frame (or Project Zero).

Yes, I’m still planning to write an article about this game so I won’t go too in-depth in this article. But, the fact that you are exploring a grand mystery that’s taking place inside dreams that’s unfolding with 3 different characters and in the same dream mansion, it’s just amazing how well it works together. I even take the time to read every journal entry and listen to every radio stone. The game pulled me that much into it’s world and I’m already afraid of the empty feeling I will have when I have beaten the game. That’s how I currently feel about the game. But, for more information and opinions, I think you should wait until I take an in-depth look to the game in 2021.

Honorable mentions

Before I get to number 1, my game of 2020, I want to mention a few other games that didn’t make this list but were highly enjoyable this year. While there are a lot more games I have played this year, I want to remind you about the rule of this list… I had to have started playing the game in 2020 in order for it to count.

Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics (Switch, June 2020): this game almost made it on the list but then I found out about the number 10 I decided to put on the list this year.

SuperMash (Mutliplatform, December 2019): a game where you mash together two genres to have a randomly generated game with elements of both genres and unique goals? Sign me up!

Corpse Party 2 – Dead Patient: I’m sorry, but I felt that the fact that only the first chapter has been released and no further news… It made me decide to not place this game on this list but give it an honorable mention.

Jake Hunter – Detective Story: Ghost Of The Dusk: so close to a spot on this list, I can’t lie about that. Yet, there were a few games that I enjoyed more this year.

And let’s quick fire some honorable mentions:

Dragon Quest XI S (Switch), Coffee Talk (Multiplatform), Wrath: Age of Aeon (PC), Dusk (Multiplatform), Amid Evil (Switch/PC), ReTurn – One Way Trip (Multiplatform), Prodeus (PC), Hellbound (PC), Haedon (PC), The Touryst (Mutliplatform), SpeedLimit (PC).

#1 – Nightmare Reaper (PC, July 2019)

nightmare reaperMy article about this game

I have a few good reasons why I wanted to place Nightmare Reaper on the number one spot this year. But before I do that, I do have an update on my article about the game. Since my article of this game, the second chapter got released with new mechanics and levels. The game also got a visual overhaul, more music, more weapons… It’s just mind blowing how much the second chapter added and changed. And all for the better, with a totally new grappling hook mechanic and the fact you can choose the order of the levels through a hub, amazing stuff!

Now, why is this game my game of the year. First of all, because of the story and setting of this game. This game is about an abused child/teenager that’s fighting her demons and the abuse through her nightmares. She is reaping through them, as the title suggests. The writing and atmosphere really makes me want to help her overcome her demons and be able to move on.

Secondly, the replay value of this game is through the roof. With the randomly generated levels and weapons, each playthrough is extremely different. I have started a second file when the second chapter was released and let me tell you, it felt quite different from my first playthrough.

Thirdly, this game has that “just one more round” that’s so addictive to play through. Some bosses are a bit too challenging to beat in my opinion, but I always wanted to give it one more try to try and finally beat the boss and move on to the next level or area of this game.

The 4th reason why I think this game is my game of the year is because I just enjoyed this game to bits. When I was writing my article in August, I had a lot of trouble finding negatives or things that the developer should improve and since the release of the second chapter and the patches polished the game even more.

And the 5th reason is that this game is still getting more content and even a new game plus and mod support. So, I’ll be able to enjoy this game even more in 2021. What do you need more?

Final words

So, that’s my list. I have to say that it was quite tricky to put this list together. Especially since so many things happened this year, I didn’t keep great records of the games I had played in 2020. Also, due to the lockdown, I played a lot more games in 2020 compared to the previous years.

Also, I started to complete the games I started in the past and never finished. So, I had to take a good look at my list to make sure I didn’t start playing one of these games in the past.

I also know what to do in the upcoming weeks in terms of writing. I noticed that a lot of games I have played in 2020 haven’t gotten an article yet. So, I think that’s something I will need to fix in 2021.

Now, with 2020 almost coming to an end, I want to thank everybody so much for reading and enjoying my blog. While I only got 12k readers this year, I felt that my articles did better this year compared to all other years. Also, I recently broke the 100k visitors milestone on my blog and I’m nearing the 1k subscribers.

While I know that other blogs hit these numbers faster and easier, I’m blown away that there are so many people interested in reading my opinion on games and I don’t even focus on the big budget titles and the latest and greatest that comes out on the market. While it’s so extremely cliché, I want to thank you all so much for the amazing interactions I had in 2020 and I hope I’ll be able to entertain and/or inform you in 2021.

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

NekoJonez’s December 2020 Update

NekoJonez176p_(long)We are in the final days of 2020 and my lord, what a year it has been. I think it’s high time to talk about my plans for 2021 and the future in the form of an update article. What has been going on in my personal life and what will the future bring? Well, let’s dive right into the updates!

Personal updates

Let’s start off with the personal updates. First of all, I have to bring the news that my car broke down after 10+ years of service. I bought myself a Citroen C3 in red. I’ll post pictures on my Twitter when it arrives next month. While I could get it serviced and fixed, the cost of the repair would be way higher than the value of the car if I would sell it today. So, that’s why I decided to purchase my very own car. The car I was driving was my mother’s old car which my sister and I used to learn how to drive.

Now, this car became my car when I moved to my apartment. Yes, I’m now living on my own. Honestly, I don’t live alone since Troy moved in with me. Currently, he is sleeping in one of my spare relax chairs while I’m writing this article. He keeps me company while I’m playing games, researching, writing articles and doing stuff in my apartment.

In earlier update articles, I talked about me starting my dream job last year. A year ago, I started working as an IT-admin at an art school. This is a dream that came true since I always wanted to combine my passion for technology and education and the fact that it’s in art secondary school is just an amazing bonus since I see so much great art that’s being produced by our students.

Currently, I’m doing this job full time. One of my bigger projects is revamping the website of the school, being a first line support for tech issues, automating and optimizing processes and many other things. Now, this means that a lot of my time and energy goes to my job that I love doing. I’ll talk a bit more on what this means for my schedule later in this update article.

The final personal update I can give is that I’m doing a tech clean-up. What I mean with that is that I’m upgrading everything from a better monitor and equipment to play (retro) games to throwing away things that don’t work anymore or don’t have any purpose being stored in my drawers.

For example, I tried to install Windows 98SE recently on an IBM PC I had laying around. Sadly enough, during the installation I discovered that the sound chip was broken. I don’t have the expertise nor do I have the knowledge to fix motherboards. On top of that, due to some malfunction in the case, one of the IDE cables decided to melt to the power brick and part of the motherboard. Yeah, that computer is dead now.

I’m also throwing out old spare laptops that I kept for spare parts. I did recover some laptops to give to students who don’t have the money nor the budget to get their computer. That way they could follow the classes during the COVID lockdowns. But some devices were too old for that, so they go to our local tech recycle center.

Now, in terms of upgrades I got myself a new computer monitor for example.  Currently, I’m using the ASUS TUF Gaming VG27VQ and as a second monitor I’m using an Iiyama Prolite GE2488HS. I’m considering upgrading my Iiyama monitor but on the other hand, I use this monitor since it has a VGA port I can use for my retro computers to play older games on. But I love the curved nature of my new Asus monitor and the high refresh rate give the games I play on it such a nicer experience.

Currently, I upgraded my router to an Asus ROG one and the additional security features it gives me in my next work are just amazing. And for obvious reasons I won’t be talking about how I set-up my network. Something I’m going to talk about is that I upgraded my Asus Zenfone 3 to an Asus Zenfone 7. And let me tell you, what a difference it makes. The Zenfone 7 is one of the best phones I ever used, it helps me to do work on the go and the battery lasts me such a long time it’s crazy. I also upgraded my TV and printer. Living alone is such a great experience. Now, I have total control over my network and devices to the extend I want.

With that said, I think it’s high time to shift the focus over to the updates in terms of my blog and what the future will bring in 2021. Since it won’t be a surprise that the remaining articles of this year will be my top 10 games of 2020 and the games I’m looking forward to play in 2021. Of course, it’s possible that I finish an article on a game and/or a developer request in the meantime and publish it.

Blog news

I turned 27 years old/young this year. That means, I have been blogging for 10 years this year. Yes, I started my Dutch blog that preceded this blog in late 2010. I rebranded myself in 2013 to this English blog and I haven’t stopped since. I haven’t done anything special since I really didn’t have the time nor a good idea to celebrate my 10 years in the community.

Maybe I’ll write something unique and special next year or when I hit 10 years of blogging on this blog but only time will tell. Since I can’t promise I’ll be able to write weekly anymore.

Due to my focus on my job and me living on my own, that means that the time I have to play games, research them, write and edit my articles is rather limited. I honestly thought that I wrote way less articles this year compared the to previous years but color me surprised that I wrote almost 52 articles this year when everything will be said and done. Granted, I wrote close to 90 articles last year but I publishing various press kits this year so I think that number is a bit inflated. Also, I put a lot more work and effort into the articles I write compared to last year.

So, I won’t promise that I’ll be able to write an article every week in 2021. I won’t be able to promise that I might be able to write more than one article during my vacation times. From a personal experiment I found that not forcing myself to write weekly and trying to push out an article in a weekend create a not-so-good article in the end.

Does this mean I have a more loose schedule? Well, I haven’t fully decided on that yet. Honestly, I don’t really think that will be case at this moment in time. I think you might see less articles when my personal life gets quite busy like when my acting group can restart after the COVID lockdowns and when things get quite hectic at work (like when we have an open school day).

I also want to do more community events in 2021. I felt that I missed a lot of amazing collabs and events in 2020 due to my busy personal schedule. So, if you are organizing a blogging community event, feel free to tag me on Twitter, DM or mail me. When I can fit it in my schedule I’ll.

The last thing I want to give you guys and girls an update about is the Pokémon Retrospective Collab. At this moment, we have 12 writers (including myself). We also have found a name for the collab. The name that we currently have agreed upon is “Creator’s Catch” and the current publishing date will be the 27th of February. That would be the 25th anniversary of Pokémon Red & Green in Japan.

Now, if you are still interested in joining this collab, there are still some spin-offs open. At the moment of writing, the Rumble series, Trozei, Puzzle, PokePark amongst one time spin off games are still open. Feel free to hit me up if you are interested in joining and join our lovely collab.

Oh, I’m forgetting about one thing. And that are the updates to the old articles. Currently, I’m updating these old articles whenever I have the time and feeling like updating them. As stated before, I don’t want to update these articles with new content, I only want to fix up grammar and spelling mistakes, broken links and images. But, they will be less of a focus of mine. It’s like keeping my overview pages up to date. I still have to work on those…

Phew, that has been everything to update you guys and girls about. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

First Impression: Jake Hunter – Detective Story: Ghost Of The Dusk (3DS) ~ Norse Wolves

jake hunterWikipedia pageNintendo.com page

I can’t hide the fact that I love adventure games that take you on a story that takes a lot of twists and turns. The Nintendo DS and 3DS introduced me to many series like Ace Attorney, Professor Layton, Zero Escape, Trace Memory and many others. So, it seems fitting that one of the latest games I add to my 3DS collection is one that fits my favorite genre perfectly. It’s the second Jake Hunter game released in the west. So, is it any good or should this series stay in Japan? Let’s find out if this game meets my high bars while I give you my honest spoiler free opinion while I invite you to leave a comment with your opinion on the content of this article and/or the game in the comment section down below. 

Norse Wolves

Jake1In this game you play as Jake Hunter, a private detective who is enjoying his drink at the bar while a strange man starts talking to him. One of the coworkers of this strange man dared the strange man to go inside an abounded house in the middle of the night. There are a lot of tales about this house and they all have a pattern. The house is cursed and everybody who enters and/or lives in the house is going to die in an accident. 

Jake doesn’t waste time and investigates the house and indeed finds a dead body of a homeless man. When you discover that the homeless man has been murdered and when you meet the owner of the house who lives in a small shack at the back of the giant house/mansion, a chain of events is started that takes Jake Hunter on an adventure with everything you would want in a detective story.  

In terms of the game delivering on my high expectations in terms of story and pacing, the game fully delivers. The only shame is that you miss some backstory and interactions with the characters which isn’t referenced too much. It’s like starting to watch a police series from the 3rd or 4th season in. But apart from that minor complaint, the story is still good enough to take you in it’s world and take you along on the adventure. 

I do have to mention that so far I have only spent my time with the main case on offer. In total, there are 6 cases in this game. In order to not spoil myself, I have decided to play these cases in order. So far, I’m still in the first case which has the same title as the game. 

This game also has voice acting, there are short Japanese lines spoken to breathe a bit more life into the characters but don’t expect them to be fully voice acted. Most of the dialogue is written out in text boxes. And about them, I do have some complaints. 

The first complaint is the fact that the color used for some characters matches the color for Jake thinking or preforming actions. I find this rather confusing and I think that it would have been better if another color had been used or another font or even put it in cursive. 

The second complaint is that the game asks you to remember who has which dialogue color. So, if you have forgotten that the green text is for another officer, well too bad… The game doesn’t tell you who is talking. 

While I do have two complaints about the dialogue system, I got used to it quite quickly. I kept these two issues in the back of my mind while I was playing the game. Overall, they didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the game too much but I was so glad that I could use the up and down arrows to move through a short history of the dialogues to check out where I went wrong. 

Handholding Police Work

Jake2

So, the story and pacing lives up to my high bar of expectations. But does the rest of the game live up to my expectations? Well, let’s talk about that. 

In terms of gameplay, you can compare this game most to the Ace Attorney series. You interview people and go to various locations to investigate and gather evidence to find the culprit. 

Now, unlike Ace Attorney, this game can be extremely handholdy. What I mean with that is that it’s almost unlikely that you leave a scene without finding all the evidence and/or talking to everybody. This take a lot away from the challenge in my opinion. So, if you are looking for a challenging game, I think that this game might not be the right one for you. 

It isn’t a cake walk either. Since some parts of the investigations require some pixel hunting. So, if you are stuck in a search, take a good look at everything. If the joystick is too sensitive, use the D-Pad for more accuracy. If only spots you haven’t investigated sparkled or gave some sort of identification, this would have helped so much.  

There are some cutscenes in this game, most of them are used to set up the start and/or end of a chapter. I’ll talk more about the scenes when I’m going to talk about the visuals of this game. But there is a thing I want to mention before that. The save system. 

This game doesn’t have any feature to speed up and/or skip these cutscenes to my knowledge. And why is this important? Well, because you only have three save slots. Yes, three save slots. For all the 6 cases. Man, I wish I had three save slots per case or one per case. Oh well, this isn’t too big of a deal since this game is quite linear so you can at least save for 3 different cases without loosing your progress in one. 

Which is a good thing since it’s quite tricky to find your latest save. Thankfully, it tells you how far you got into the case before you load the save file. But that information would have been way more useful on the box of the save file itself. 

Apart from that, I don’t have any other UI complaints. So let’s return to talk about the gameplay. The core gameplay consists mainly out of two parts. Talking and investigations. Let’s start with the talking one first. 

I could start explaining how every mechanic works in detail but that would make this article quite long. So, take it from me that you learn how to use the UI quite fast due to the excellent tutorial chapter. Now, about the first core mechanic, the talking. Of course, you have your normal conversations where you either share information with other characters or just gather information. In itself, this isn’t the difficult part. The “difficult” part is the interrogation of some characters or the “Talk Profile”. 

When you are doing the “Talk Profile” of somebody, you have to choose the right angle of attack to get the information out of somebody. It’s a bit like the cross examination in the Ace Attorney series without the penalty part. If you get it wrong, you can try over again without seeing a game over screen once. The same mechanic is applied when you are deducing something or thinking which action you should take next. 

The second core mechanic of this game is the investigation. Apart from moving from place to place, you can investigate a location at certain parts of the story. In these parts, the pixel hunting can be huge. At least two times I have been stuck at an investigation because I hadn’t found one clue. Oh well, spam clicking sometimes helps or revisiting the game with a fresh mind after a good night sleep helped as well. 

If these two mechanics weren’t into the game, this game would be a kinetic novel. This game doesn’t provide a lot of challenge but I keep finding it fun to play. I find it funny that there is even a sort of hint system in this amazingly linear game. Then again, it once helped me in the pixel hunting since I overlooked something. 

Comic books

jake3Visually, this game reminds me a lot of reading a comic book. There are barely any animations in this game apart from the UI elements but on the screen, there isn’t a lot of animation. Sound effects are used to great effect in this game as well as clever camera motions during the cutscenes. The box-art of the game also adds to the idea of a comic book further. For some reason, I find it quite refreshing to see this visual style. It sparks my imagination to make the characters come to live and how they act. 

The presentation of this game is quite detailed and I applaud the amount of work that the designers have put into this game. It really looks like you are playing through a comic book. The characters really look like I would image them and together with the minor pieces of voice acting and the sound design, the game comes to live.

Speaking of the sound design, I’m really impressed with it. It walks that fine line of adding tension and not being too present to get annoying. In addition to that, the soundtrack. This soundtrack is quite enjoyable. I found it quite surprising that the intro theme of this game even had some sung lyrics. No other track of in the soundtrack is like that.

So, the cutscenes are a perfect example on how this game works like a living comic book. There are barely any animations in these as well. For some people, this would be a negative of this game but in my eyes, I find that it adds to the atmosphere quite well.

Now, I think it high time to get some minor nitpicks out of the way before I finish my overall opinion on this game. The minor things that annoyed me through my playthrough.

First of all, I would have loved that some checkmark or something like that appeared next the questions I couldn’t get more information over. Since that would have saved me some time asking repeat questions.

Secondly, I hated that if you finished a dialogue, you weren’t always able to use the DPAD to watch the history of the conversation. Thankfully, I save often so it isn’t too big of a deal to reload my manually saved file and replay a part of the game.

Thirdly, saving in the middle of a dialogue means that the save restarts at the beginning of a certain scene. So, keep that in mind and don’t be alarmed when you have to redo a converstation.

The fourth thing is that when you are in the game, you are unable to get to the options menu. Only in the main menu, you are able to see the options menu.

And the final and 5th thing is that when the game tells you, you can advance by touching the screen it expects you to touch in exact spots. For example, if you check your log, you have to touch the paper in order for you to see more. While this helps immersion, I would have loved a sort of scroll bar instead… Yet, the biggest issue is when you have to tap the bottom of the screen while the rest of the screen doesn’t react on your touch.

In conclusion, I think it’s clear that I’m enjoying myself with this game quite a lot. Honestly, I highly recommend this game to everybody who enjoys games like Ace Attorney or CSI. I find the story well written and the visual presentation is a nice change of pace of the highly animated and detailed characters of the more recent adventure/detective games.

Sadly enough, it makes a few mistakes in terms of pixel hunting and the lack of a real difficulty… But the positives are so good that it highly outweighs the negatives in my opinion. It’s so enjoyable that I went on eBay to buy myself a copy of the DS game that was the first Jake Hunter game ever come out in the west. I want to experience more of this series while I haven’t finished 1 out of the 6 cases in this game.

So yes, I’m quite sure that I’ll finish this game and maybe write a review about it if other interesting things appear like what is hidden in the gallery after you finish a case. But apart from that, I have said everything that I wanted to say about this game so I think it’s high time for my usual outro.

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

Review: Dusk (PC – Steam) ~ Spinning Guns

headerSteam store page

I think I’m unable to hide the fact that I love playing retro-style shooters. I love the fact that a lot of new games are coming out in the genre since I like the genre quite a lot. I’m also crossing my fingers that no overload will occur. But, in any case, I think it’s high time to introduce the game I’m going to take a look at today. It’s name is Dusk, developed by New Blood Interactive. And let me tell you, I have set the bar quite high for since game since the producer of this game was the director of the Rise of the Traid (2013) reboot. Well, let’s get into the town of Dusk at dusk to shoot some monsters. But before we do that, I want to invite you to write a comment with your thoughts on the game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

Editorial note: this review has been written after the Dusk Halloween 2020 update. 

Spinning guns

DUSK-GameplayMost of the story of this game is told through the environment. Yet, some details are told the DLC comic. Let me give you the gist of it. This game takes place in the fictional rural town Dusk, Pennsylvania. A huge network of ruins are discovered underneath the town. Those who were researching these tunnels got possessed and it’s up to you, DuskDude, to save the town from destruction. Yet, you are a treasure hunter and you want the riches that are rumored to be hidden in the town.

The influence of the original Doom is quite clear. In terms of story, this game takes the Doom story/setting and puts an Lovecraftian spin on it. I could talk more in-depth on the story but I want to keep this review as spoiler free as possible. The only thing I’ll say is that the story is an amazing homage to several famous horror movies and amazing shooters.

Now, let me tell you. If you expect a deep story with a lot of lore… I think you might have to look elsewhere. Don’t get me wrong, the story and setting is extremely well done but this game focuses more on the gameplay and creating unique scenario’s then on telling a deep story.

Something that’s quite interesting to note is that there is some voice acting in this game. Something that surprised me is that the voice actor for this game is the legendary Andrew Hulshult and he is also the composer for this game. I heard his work before in Nightmare Reaper and now I have the pleasure to hear more work of his. But more about the soundtrack later. The voice acting that Andrew did in this game is amazing. You can feel that he leaned into the role and made the characters come alive.

While the story doesn’t have a lot of depth, the voice acting and the pacing the story was able to draw me in. Something that this story does quite well is that giving you the smallest amount of details that are enough to let your mind wonder and fill in the details and the rest of the story yourself.

Anyways, I have been rambling a lot about the story for now. I think it’s high time to talk about the gameplay. Is this game fun to play with a DuskDude that doesn’t have to reload his guns and spins them when you reload them.

The running slide

950313-dusk-windows-screenshot-fighting-an-enemy-in-the-fields-earlyYour goal in this game is to get to the ending of the level without dying. In order to do that, you have several weapons at your disposal. You start off with the sickles, these are your melee weapon if you are out of ammo. In my playthrough, I rarely used these. I found that they weren’t effective enough to conquer the various amount of enemies in this game.

Before I continue to talk about the weapons, I want to mention the cigar. This is an item that’s in your inventory at all time and you can use it to slowly recover health. I discovered that fact through researching this game. So, rest assured, this game can be beaten without the use of the cigar. To be honest, it’s annoying to use since it’s slow and has a cool down, which is a good thing mind you. Image having a health pack to quickly heal you, on you at all times. That would break the difficulty curve so fast.

Anyways, the weapon selection in this game has your standard pistol, shotgun, assault rifle, hunting rifle and rocket launcher guns. There are two types of shotguns and rocket launchers. On top of that, there is also a sword and a crossbow in this game. Managing these weapons and deciding when the use them is the biggest mechanic of this game. Also, don’t forget that DuskDude can pick up items that you help you to save ammo. Also, some items may be stronger then you think. 

So, you can fight your enemies by shooting or throwing stuff at them. Earlier I talked about the fact that you can spin your weapons. Hitting your enemies with a spinning weapon does ten points of damage to them. Of course, there is also the possibility that you can let them start in fighting. But I have seen this happen quite rarely during my playthrough. But, the crystal of madness holds some secrets about that.

During your quest to find the keys that open the doors to the ending of the level, you can also find various secrets. Some of them are in plain sight and others are hidden behind fake walls. If you are secret hunting, pay close attention to the environment and don’t destroy boxes since they can be used to jump higher. And each secret is worth it, let me tell you. Some secrets saved my skin during my playthrough. 

There is one mechanic in this game I’m honestly missing in other shooter games and that’s the slide mechanic. When you are running and press the crouch button, DuskDude does a slide. This feels so gratifying to pull off and helps quite a lot during combat. 

There are also power-ups in this game that enhance the gameplay quite a lot. My two favorites are the Fast Fire Totem and the Wall Climbing power-up. The Fast Fire Totem just reduces your weapon cool down to 0. It’s ridiculous and using it on a large group of enemies felt so enjoyable to do. Also, the Wall Climbing power-up is used in excellent moments and set pieces that made it a lot of fun to use. 

In terms of gameplay, this game is a well built shooter and it controls amazingly well. I never had a moment where I felt that a death was the game’s fault. The only nitpick I had with the controls is that picking up items and moving them is sometimes a bit tricky when you are getting things from between tight spaces. 

The Steam achievements were fun to get while exploring the various landscapes in this game. Visually, this game looks right out of the early 90’s. The visual style has been nailed perfectly with blocky models and everything. Yet, surprisingly, the game is quite detailed and feels like a real dystopian landscape. 

In terms of animations, this game hits another nail on the head. I highly advise you to learn the attack animations of your enemies since they can save your life in certain spots. Some enemies are a big pain to deal with but when you learn their patterns and animations, they can be worked around. 

To top this all off, you have an amazing soundtrack by Andrew Hulshult. This soundtrack adds so much to the game, it’s amazing. While the game gives off a horror and Lovecraft vibe, you can rip and tear with the epic metal soundtrack in the background that even gets moody at certain moments. That in combination with great sound design makes it fun to hunt down your enemies, avoid their attacks and shoot them. 

So far I have been praising this game, like the additional fun I had when I messed around with the cheats in this game, but I’m sad to report that this game does drop the ball in some area’s. Let’s talk about them. 

Nostalgic loading screen

950317-dusk-windows-screenshot-many-weapons-can-be-dual-wielded-earlyLet me first start with the biggest bummer of them all. I wanted to try out the multiplayer in order to be able to write about it. Sadly enough, the multiplayer is quite deserted at times. I’m not the best in shooter games but I felt that the balance was all over the place. In the few matches I was able to play, I got spawn killed quite often. Maybe I need to give it another chance but I have a bit of a sour taste in my mouth so I don’t think that will happen anytime soon. Thankfully, the single player is more then fun enough to play through and there is were the focus is at. 

I was about to complain about the lack of the weapon wheel, but this is coming in a future patch when the console versions are released. In addition to that, we are also getting custom weapons, co-op and mod support. So, these things might help in fixing some of the issues I have with the game. 

Something I didn’t like is that this game is quite short. There are 30 levels in this game and you can finish this game in give or take 10-ish hours. This game has so much potential and it’s over before you know it. I was really getting into it nearing the end and then I was fighting the final boss. Oh well, this game is somewhat replayable due to the secret hunting you can do and trying to beat your fastest time. 

You know, I don’t want to do this but this game does drop the ball in something that’s a big pet peeve of mine. This is the UI. While it works and is easy to use, there is some major polish that needs to happen to it. Let’s start with the lack of a map. I got lost several times in some levels because I was unable to bring up a map. Some of these levels are huge and without a map, you can get lost if you didn’t pay attention during a fight. 

If you use your mouse wheel to scroll in some menu’s like the save/load menu or in the language menu, the scrolling up is quite broken. Sometimes it works and other times it refuses to work. 

Speaking of the save/load system, the save and load system isn’t good. I hate the fact that the list of save files is alphabetical and not sorted by the latest save you made. I always had a hard time finding my most recent save when I wanted to continue the game. Also, when you saved the game for a second time in a level, it doesn’t ask you to overwrite your latest save… It takes the name of the latest save and starts adding lines to it. 

When selecting a save file to load, you get the level name and the time stamp of when you saved the game. I wish I was able to see how long I was in the level as well. That way I would how far I was in the level. 

Now, this game doesn’t do an autosave when you enter a new level. You have to save manually each and every time. Thankfully, you can start at the beginning of the level through the main menu quite easily. 

All of these things are such a shame. Since it puts a blemish on quite an interesting game. A game that does a lot right like an enjoyable endless mode where you have to keep being fast and efficient since there is a huge lack of health pickups. Something else this game does well is setting the atmosphere with the fake DOS-loading screen and sound effects. 

But then strange mistakes happen like your controls settings not carrying over from single player to multiplayer. Or the custom cursor not working all to well in the multiplayer menu. 

Also, there are things like when you use your double barreled shotgun and you have only one bullet left, you can’t shoot your shotgun. But here is the thing that annoys me, when you are out of ammo for all your other weapons, DuskDude switches to another gun. And guess what he doesn’t do in the situation I described earlier? But of course, switch weapons! 

Now, there are moments where DuskDude flips upside down. During swimming moments or in certain levels. And let me tell you, the sudden camera movement was quite disorienting for me sometimes. One timing during my playthrough I even had to stop playing since I got a major headache… But that might be just me… 

So, with all of this said, I think it’s high time for the conclusion of this article. Time to wrap everything up in a nice TL;DR and give my final thoughts on the game. 

Conclusion

The good:

+ Addictive and fast gameplay.

+ The amount of homages and easter eggs are amazing.

+ The audio and visual design is excellent.

+ Andrew Hulshult’s soundtrack is a big plus.

+ …

The bad:

-Can be a bit short if you don’t go 100% it.

-The multiplayer is a bit eh, in my opinion.

-Some UI issues.

-The save/load system is somewhat broken. (The UI)

Final thoughts:

Dusk is an amazing game that takes you back to the times of the original Doom, Quake and other old school shooters. It’s an enjoyable shooter to play through and I had to a lot of fun from beginning to end. 

It’s clear that a lot of polish and love went into this game and it shows. This game is a labor of love that turned out quite well. It’s a shame that some UI issues (especially in the SAVE/LOAD system) are a blemish on an otherwise amazing game. 

I can forgive the game being rather short since you can go secret hunting or try to beat the game on a higher difficulty or beat your fastest time. Also, for the price of only 25€, you get an additional 26 page comic and the whole soundtrack by the amazing Andrew Hulshult. That dude has the shooter soundtrack creation nailed to a T. 

Would I recommend this game to fans of (retro-style) shooters? I think that’s a no-brainer YES, OF COURSE! The positives highly outweigh the negatives for this game. And with some updates on the horizon, this game might only get better and maybe some of the UI issues I mentioned in this article might be fixed in the future. Who knows? 

So, if you would excuse me… I think it’s high time I continue to shoot some of these enemies that are calling me a heretic while I wrap up this final paragraph. I want to thank you so much for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Score: 90/100

 

NekoJonez’s Favorite Gaming Music -SPECIAL- ~ It’s Podcast Time

It has been quite some time since I wrote about my favorite music tracks in video games. So far, I have written 23 articles in this series. Today I have a special spin-off article in this series. I was a guest on the “Untitled Game Music Podcast” by Alexander Sigsworth. Today it’s finally live and to give it some publicity since this series is amazing and I highly recommend that you all listen to it, this week’s article is simply going to be an embedded version of the podcast. Please enjoy and feel free to leave a comment here or on Alexander’s channel!

Game Quicky: Grood (Switch) ~ Not That Three One.

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v80), quality = 82Steam versionNintendo.com pageOfficial website

Drageus Games is at it again, they published a new game called Grood. Not to be confused with Marvel’s character named “Groot”. Fun fact, groot is actually a Dutch word as well. When you literally translate it into English, it means big. Anyways, I’m getting off track. Drageus Games provided me with a press copy to take an honest look at this game and in this article I’m going to take a look at this 2,5D side scrolling shooter by CC_Arts. Is it any good or should you skip this indie title for 5€? Let’s find out while I invite you to shoot me a comment in the comment section down below with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this (game quicky) article. 

Editorial note: this review has been written while playing v1.1.0.

Load the canons!

the-woods1

The story of this game is short and simple. There are a lot of enemy robots and machines out there, so you build a big attack ship called Grood. You want to take on the enemy with this ship and you set out on a mission for it.

In terms of story, there isn’t much more. On one hand, this can be seen as a negative by some people but I personally see it as a positive for this game. The focus of this game is the gameplay and not telling a story. So, it doesn’t get in the way at all. Also, this time it’s in the game instead of only in the description of the game in the eShop.

Something that I found a huge positive for this game is the fact that there is a co-op feature. It would be a huge ask to have an online co-op as well, but hey. I’m surprised that there is a co-op mode. I do have a small nitpick about it, but I’m going to talk about that in the negatives section of this article.

Let me tell you, this game doesn’t fool around. The epilepsy warning at the start of the game is a serious warning since there are some flashing imagery in this game. This game is anything except a cakewalk. At first, I was afraid that this game would use a lot of unfair or unbalanced ways to make the game “more difficult” but I was pleasantly surprised.

This game hits the right balance at being challenging but not too challenging. The pattern of the enemies are easy to learn and avoid. This game doesn’t go into bullet hell mode or spawn a ton of enemies you have to damage through. In most cases, there are one or two enemies who are a bit too cheap in my opinion. At the start of the 3rd level, there is this ship that shoots lazers without too much of a warning in which direction making it too much of a cheap shot.

The damage system is quite interesting as well. The more damage you take, the less color there is during gameplay. Yet, this game throws an unique wrench in the mix. It simulates a broken screen so you have to also think where to aim your bullets since you can’t line them up properly anymore.

There is also this slow motion mechanic. Once you have defeated a certain amount of enemies, you can go into slowdown mode. Everything, even your own ship, slows down so you can plan out your shots even more. You notice how much more time you have in the slow-motion mode with the battery next to your score. It has to be full before you can start it and it has to be depleted to exit out of the mode. You can’t start or stop the slow-motion at will.

You could think that this game can be cheesed by hanging at the bottom at passing through the levels quite easily. Yet, you shoot yourself in the foot with that tactic. Since this game also focuses on high scores. There is even a leader board in the main menu. I only wish it told me on what platforms these scores where achieved since I would love to see which platforms have the highest score.

Visually, this game looks extremely nice. In terms of animation and visual presentation, I don’t have any complaints. The animation of text appearing is a nice touch and pleases the computer scientist in me greatly. The game runs quite smooth through the detailed terrain and I rarely experience frame drops or slowdowns.

Speaking of impressive visuals: you can play this game in “90’s love modus”. If you enable this option in the options menu, you go from the 3D visual artstyle to pixelart with the same attention to detail that the 3D-style brings. This makes the retro gamer inside of me extremely happy. I do have two minor complaints about it and that’s the score isn’t readable enough in TV mode as well as the health bar. But these can be fixed with a minor patch I think.

This game feels quite gratifying to play. The quite responsive controls is another part the helps achieve that fact. Add an nice metal soundtrack with great sound design and you get a game where you have that “one more round” mentality.

This game has been localized in 4 languages. Which I find a bit strange, since usually Drageus Games has more languages then 4. This game can be played in English, Russian, Spanish and Italian. Since I only speak English out of these 4, I can’t review or talk about the quality of the translation.

Let’s forget about the cannons

philosopher-path0No game is perfect, and this game made a few mistakes. Since I only played the Switch port, I can’t say that these issues appear on other platforms but these things were a bit of a downer on my experience.

First of all, let’s talk about the health situation. While the draining of color is a interesting mechanic that has been used in other games like Tomb Raider, sometimes it’s quite unclear how much health I still had left. This made me play too careful sometimes.

Secondly, let’s talk about that silly “continue” feature. I can understand that you only have one life and when you are death, you have to restart the whole game. But, I think it would make the game more accessible and ease the tension a bit when the player had more or infinite lives. With the consequence, that when a player died, there score was reset to 0 or they could “pay with their score” to revive. That way people can still finish the game but try and get a high score to get higher on the leaderboards. Also, that would provide a solution that you could only continue when you have beaten level 4.

Thirdly, let’s talk about the UI. It makes a few mistakes alright. While the visual design is quite cool and interesting to use… It suffers in the usability department. Take the credits for example, these are unreadable while you are in TV mode due to the angle of the menu.

Another bigger example is the options menu. Each option brings you to a submenu. Apart from the vibration option, that can be set in that menu. Now, if only you could feel a sample of the vibration and we would be set.

But the biggest issue with the UI I have is something quite simple. I find it extremely strange that you can’t go back to the main menu during gameplay. You either have to restart the game or have a game over.

Fourthly, in this negatives section of this article I want to mention that there is no overview of the controls. Since the tutorial only appears the first time and doesn’t appear after that, that means you have to figure out the game on your own if you take a break or let a friend play.

Fifthly, why o why isn’t there a sort of level leaderboard? Wouldn’t it be cool to know which are the high scores per level? Or in what level a certain high score was achieved?

And finally, let’s talk about the co-op mode. I do have one gripe with it. Earlier I talked about the health situation. Image that issue but now you have two ships and you are unable to tell who is almost dead and who has still a lot of health points. Let’s not forget to mention the fact that there is no tutorial in this game so your partner has to figure everything out from either you or trail and error.

So, let’s save or not?

Is this game worth it or should you skip it? Well, it depends. There is a lot going for this game. It’s challenging and fun. It has that one more round mentality and it has a lot of competition with the high scores and leaderboards. Yet, with only having one live, this game can feel quite unforgiving.

The biggest mistakes are made in the UI department. There are some things that really bothered me and made me quite thankful that the Switch has some features to easily reset the game.

Would I be able to recommend this game to anybody? Yes! I would recommend this game to anybody who enjoy side scrolling shooters. This game quite well done and has a lot of love put into it. It does have a ton of minor issues that make the game a bit less enjoyable but apart from the one live – restart situation, most of the things shouldn’t get too much in the way of enjoying this game.

I have left out one mechanic from this review for those who want to give this game a try and want to still have a surprise left. I’m rather curious what you guys and girls think about it. But, apart from that, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game.

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

Score: 3.5/5

Community Award: Real Neat Blog Award from Frostilye

real-neat-blog

I have won an award with my blog. Well sort of. Remember the time you got those chain emails where people ask “send this to X amount of people to…”? In the blogging community, we gave this concept a unique spin. We have community/tag awards. The idea is that bloggers promote each other by passing an award. In March, I got tagged with the “Real Neat Blog Award” by Frostilyte (who also created the picture you see at the top of this post). Man, I’m always so thankful when other bloggers tag me in these kinds of posts since I find it amazing to see how we as bloggers stick together and help each other but also recognize each other. So, it’s time to follow the rules of this kind of posts where I thank the tagger, answer the questions and ask my own questions for the people I tag. Oh, also feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the content of the article and/or maybe your own answers on the questions if you want to. 

1) Have you ever been really excited about a game only to be disappointed by it?

I think the way I select the games I want to play actually helped me to avoid being really disappointed by a game. When I start a game, I’m always going in with an open mind and telling myself that it’s possible that the game isn’t going to be my cup of tea.

Of course, there are games that I’m extremely excited about and weren’t the best they could be. But, let’s be honest here, there is always something in a game that you find disappointing and it can range from a small or minor thing to something that affects the whole game.

For example, I really enjoyed The Legend of Zelda – A Link Between Worlds but I’m not that big of a fan of the art style. Yet, there are a lot of people who really liked the art style of that game.

Another example is Etrain Odyssey IV, the thing that I found disappointing is that there wasn’t any voice acting. Yes, no voice acting. Now here is the thing, usually, there is no voice acting in the franchise apart from 4 out of 10 games in the series. So yeah, it’s an extremely silly reason since I loved playing Etrain Odyssey on the DS and that game doesn’t have voice acting either.

Or, The Legend of Zelda – Breath Of The Wild. I was beyond excited about the game, but when I played it, I found that the game shifted a bit too much from the usual Zelda formula, but after a while, I really started to grow on me.

I could talk way more in-depth about this topic, and maybe I should in another article. But I think that I have to answer the question with “no, I haven’t or I can’t remember.” Since there are always aspects of the game I enjoy and aspects I’m not that fond of.

2) Is there any aspect of your life, big or small, that you’re not completely content with and that you frequently think about changing?

It’s a cheesy answer but I’m going to give it. Life is far from perfect and there will be always things you want to change.

I know that my English isn’t perfect and that I often write mistakes. It would be easy for me to hide behind the fact that English isn’t my native language. My native language is Dutch and I also know French and a small bit of German. But, I’m always content when people point out mistakes. It helps me improve my writing and my English skills.

I know that I tend to procrastinate a lot. Sometimes a bit too much. From small to big projects, for some reason, I love to do things at the last minute for some reason. There are moments in time that I don’t procrastinate that much, but that’s not always the case.

Then again, when I’m really honest with myself. I find that myself quite content with my life and where things are going. If I keep up the good work I’m currently doing, I think I will be able to realize my dreams.

3) Can you tell me a joke?

You know that I love to tell stories, so let me tell you an amusing story. I think I was around 10 years old and my family and I were on our yearly trip to the seaside. In the vacation park, we were staying at, there is a football field (I mean for playing soccer. Not for American Football.). Well, more like a farmers field since it was quite uneven and you were able to see puddles when had rained. Keep that in mind, the field is anything but even.

There was this guy, let’s call him Dave,  who always got angry when we were playing with a leather football since it was extremely dangerous. His reasoning, you were able to kick out a window with them. So, in the summer evening, there were a lot of kids and teenagers playing football.

Dave was playing tennis on the road next to the football field together with his brother. Everything went fine until one of the kids brought a leather ball. When Dave saw that leather ball, he got so pissed that he pointed at the ball with the tennis racket he was holding. But, his grip… oh man, his grip. I think you might see what’s coming next.

Dave swung his arm with the racket towards the leather ball and lost grip of the racket. The racket went off flying with some speed towards the football field. The metal side of the racket hit an uneven part of the football field and almost crashed into a window. And yes, it was the window of his front door.

Yes, that was extremely funny to see. I remember that moment extremely well. I wish I had a smartphone that day to record the whole event but back in those days, we all had those PDA-type phones. Those old-school Nokia’s. So, yeah. The moment will live on as a memory instead of a movie.

4) I recently read how evil a company directly correlates to how honest and heartfelt the company tries to appear in its advertising. Do you think there is any truth to this?

That’s an interesting question. But, I think there is an issue with the question. For starters, try to define “evil”. On top of that, find me one company that creates advertisements that present their brand or company in a negative way.

The statement/conclusion doesn’t sit well with me. I feel like I’m missing context. So, it could be that there is some truth to it, but it could also be that there isn’t any truth to it.

5) We all have post styles, or series that we create on our blogs. What is your favorite post style/series on your blog?

I try to use the same or a similar writing style on my works and posts. I just love talking about games and giving my opinion on it. Now, I’m quite proud of The Legend of Zelda – Bloggers Journey. It started off as a simple idea and now that this style of post happened for 3 different series: Mario, Final Fantasy and Tomb Raider; I’m just so happy to see what it has become.

The thing I love to see the most is the change in my writing style. I love to see how my writing style evolved over the years. I’m really interested to see how my writing style is going to be in a few years. Am I still going to explain why certain things or mechanics don’t work, pointing out flaws in games? Am I still going to talk about games? Only the future will give an answer to that question.

6) Light theme, or dark theme?

When I have the option to pick a theme, I prefer to fiddle around with the options to fit my personal needs. Now, my favorite color is gray/silver and the dark theme fits more to that. Apart from that, I feel that the dark theme feels easier on the eyes when looking to a screen for a long time. And since my job involves a lot of computers, I’m quite happy with the recent trend of adding dark modes everywhere.

7) What’s something you accomplished in the past several months that you’re really proud of?

The simple fact that I was able to find my dream job. I always dreamt of working in a school and helping teachers and students to have the best time possible. I also love to work with computers and technology. I’m part of the IT Staff in an art school and I love it.

I’m really proud of myself that I was able to land the job and that I’m able to work in my field of passion. Since it’s something that I adore doing, and to be honest, sometimes it doesn’t feel like work to me. My tasks include maintaining the website, fixing problems with the IT equipment, explaining how tech works to teachers…

Maintain a website, well just look at this blog. I already do it as a hobby, so yeah. Fixing problems with IT equipment is something that I already did on the side for friends and family. And explaining how tech works to teachers feels extremely rewarding when you see teachers being able to use the tech to improve their classes and make life easier for them and the students. Could you ask for more?

My questions

  1. If I start a new retrospective collab project like my Zelda and Tomb Raider project, which series should I pick and why?
  2. What’s the most difficult part of being a blogger according to you?
  3. With YouTube being so big, do you think that written articles still have a place in the current entertainment industry?
  4. Did games become easier or have we as gamers become more skilled?
  5. What are your favorite (gaming related) April Fool jokes?
  6. Which series/game would you love to see revived?
  7. Do you think there is still a place in the gaming market for handheld gaming or did the smartphone market take it over? Or are those two the same market?

And the people I tag:

Matt from NormalHappenings

Robert from AdventureRules

Kim from LaterLevels

Shelby from FalconGameReviews

All my mage buddies over at the WellRedMage

Omar from Pete’s Corner

KillerRobotics

And with that said, I have left out a ton of amazing video game bloggers. I highly recommend that you check out everybody linked here since they all write amazing things and have interesting viewpoints on the gaming world.

But, I also want to thank you all for reading. I’m always so happy when people read my articles and interact with them. It makes my day. I’m writing this blog as a hobby and being able to review games from indie developers and being recognized by other bloggers for the work I put in my blog is such a rewarding and great feeling. Thank you!

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

 

Gamer’s Thoughts: Difficulty in games

downloadToday I want to talk about something extremely objective subjective. Something not a lot of people agrees on. That subject is the difficulty in games. This isn’t unique to video gaming since other entertainment mediums can be difficult to understand, analyze or appreciate. But, the difficulty is one of the most important factors in gaming. In order to write this article, I have asked in various groups what their opinions about game difficulty are. Are games today too easy? Are difficult games fun to play? Are old school games too difficult? I got some extremely interesting replies. Now, if you have your own opinion on this subject, I would love to talk about it in the comment section down below. Of course, keep it civil down there, everybody has a different opinion.

My own views on game difficulty.

Keep in mind that the following thoughts and opinions are mine. It’s quite possible that you think in a different way due to your different experiences in gaming and/or life. Like I said in the introduction of this article, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts and opinions on the content of this article and or the subject. With that out of the way, on with the show.

Now, with such a broad subject as game difficulty, it’s quite tricky to give a full opinion. In the introduction alone, I gave a few different angles I could take this article. In addition to that, this subject is extremely subjective. For example, I’m not rhythmic at all. When I talk about the DS, a lot of people talk about games like Elite Beat Agents, a rhythm game. I have to admit that I find this game too difficult.

pokemon goFirst of all, let’s talk about a sentence you often hear us older players say: “Games today are too easy.” Are they really too easy? Well, they became easier in one way but more challenging too. For example, take the Pokémon games. When Game Freak remade the 3rd generation on Nintendo 3DS, one of the biggest complaints was that the game was too easy. And yes, I finished the game without losing 3 battles during the whole playthrough and 2 of these loses were because I wasn’t paying attention during the battle and forgot to heal my Pokémon and the other loss was because I forgot that grass was weak to flying and I most had grass Pokémon in a flying gym. Whoops.

photoNow, why do I think that games can be too easy nowadays? That’s has two reasons. The first reason is that games just got more accessible. Because of the growth of the hobby, a lot more people play video games. So, there need to be ways for every style of player to play video games, even the youngest ones. Thankfully, you have difficulty options that can provide the other players with some additional challenges. Sadly enough, not all games do this. In most games, the difficulty settings have a small explanation of what each level means.

And this brings me to the second reason why games are too easy nowadays and that’s a skill. I have been playing games since I was a young lad. I started playing games give or take 21 years ago. During these years, I have played a TON of games and got a TON of different experiences. That means I have seen quite a lot and the chances of a puzzle stumping me or a fight being too difficult to get slimmer with every game I play.

Is this a bad thing? It depends on what you are looking for in a game. Do you want a game that challenges your strategizing skills or the ability to solve puzzles than the lower difficulty can be a problem? If you are looking for a game to play to pass the time, in that case, the drop in difficulty shouldn’t matter that much.

resident evil 4It’s always a difficult balancing act in how difficult you make your game. Since if a game is too difficult, people will stop playing. A great example for me is Resident Evil 4. There is a section in that game where during an already hectic fight, two chainsaw enemies spawn that kill you instantly when they come to close. There were three times that one of those enemies actually spawned right behind me, giving me no time nor room to turn around and defend myself. These moments I actually rage quitted the game. Another example is Atelier Rorona. The amount of depth in this game is just insane. You have to think about so many things like the freshness of ingredients, how long it takes to collect them and get them home, the amount of MP you have to fight and or craft… It was quite challenging to balance all of these things.

EuropaUniversalisIV_Packshot_editedThat brings me to the question, what makes a game difficult and how difficult should a game be? It speaks for itself that how more layers of gameplay and mechanics you add, the more difficult a game becomes. Take Europa Universalis 4 for example. In this grand strategy game, there are so many mechanics; it’s not even funny anymore. The complexity of a game can turn some people off. I would love to play Europe Universalis 4 with more people but most of my friends don’t understand how the game works or get too scared when they hear how many things they need to think about while playing the game.

In a way, the difficulty of a game can limit your audience. I would love to play a game like Cuphead, but from what I have seen and tried, the game is a bit too much for me. I don’t really like games that depend on memorization or trying over and over again. This makes the game boring and repetitive in my eyes. For me personally, I want to have a great time while I’m playing games. I want some parts to be challenging and test the skills I learned during the game and I want some sections to be easy to play through so I can relax and enjoy the game.

SI_NDS_NewSuperMarioBrosDS_image1600wA game series that nailed difficulty, in my opinion, is the Super Mario World games. In these games, you learn by playing the game. You might have heard this explanation in various other videos or articles but if you haven’t heard it yet, allow me to explain. At the start of the level, you are able to experiment with a new level mechanic in a safe area. One where you can easily avoid the enemies and you don’t have death pits. And the further you go in the level, the more challenging the mechanic or level gimmick becomes. And during the later and last stages of the game, all the challenges are combined into one big final set of levels that test your skills and what you learned through the game. In a way, you can compare it to school. The early levels and sections are the classes while the later levels and finale of the game are the final test/exam.

Now, should games become “NES-hard” again? To be honest, I think we shouldn’t do that. In the current gaming climate, we get a lot of games inspired by the more challenging nature of older games and we also get easier games. That means we have options. Now, we’re all old school games difficult? Were games more challenging in the past? Well, that’s a tricky question to answer.

Tomb Raider LegendFor example, I grew up with the original Tomb Raider games. When I play these games today, I don’t have a lot of trouble with jumping from platform to platform. Of course, due to the limitations of the systems at the time, it wasn’t always clear to which ledge you should jump and how you should make that jump. In more recent games, a better visual presentation helps out with that problem a lot. This “issue” became clear when I did the Tomb Raider project. Some people in that collaboration had never played an old school Tomb Raider game and gave it a try for the first time. And because they were more used to the newer style of the series or the newer style of play in more modern games, they had trouble during the game.

Something I often got during my search for writers in the Tomb Raider project was: “Also the old Tomb Raider games that aged poorly?” or something similar. I completely agree that the original Tomb Raider games aged poorly. The newer Tomb Raider games, and not per se the more modern games, play better because the developers improved their craft and learned a lot from developing the previous entries in the series.

I don’t find all retro-inspired games that difficult. I was able to beat some without much trouble like Blossom Tales or Retro Game Challenge. While I did had some trouble in Shovel Knight because I haven’t played a lot of games similar to that.

When I was researching and brainstorming for this article, I came to the conclusion that there are 4 types of difficulty in my eyes.

The first type is the intended difficulty. This is planned by the developers to challenge you during the game. Think about a Zelda dungeon where you get a new item in a dungeon and you have to learn to use it or remember the places where you were unable to progress and needed to use the item.

The second type is an unintended difficulty. This was an unplanned difficulty due to bugs, randomness (like RNG or random generation) or just plain bad game design. Or it can be because of things like certain mechanics. For example, a lot of people complained when Super Mario 64 DS came out. While it’s a good remake, the controls weren’t loved by various reviews because the original game was designed with a joystick in mind while the DS didn’t have a joystick.

The first two types can be mixed with the other two types.

The third type is a fair difficulty. With this I mean, the game provides you with a challenging and rewarding experience. Like, you finally figured out how to beat that one puzzle or beat that one boss.

The fourth type of difficulty is, you guessed it, unfair difficulty. Now, this can be because of bad and or lazy game design but this can also be a huge spike in difficulty. A great example is Suikoden Tierkreis for me. Overall, the game is somewhat easy. If you don’t skip too many battles and pay attention to what you are doing, the game isn’t all too challenging. I rarely to never saw the game over screen. Until I came to the final boss. This annoying battle gets such a difficulty spike that made me not fully finish the game and actually look up the ending online. Now, while writing this article, I actually restarted playing the game and I’m hell-bent in finally beating the game this time.

The more difficulty of type 2 and 4 you have, the worse it becomes for your game. One time a developer asked me to review an Android game. In this game, you had to feed various foods to some customers. The issue was, all of the dishes were based on Asian dishes and I’m European. I barely know anything about Asian cuisine. The unfair difficulty in this game is that almost nothing was explained in the game about the foods themselves. So, I was unable to figure out which food was what, so it became a guessing game.

Another example of unfair difficulty is more recent. A developer asked me to review a Switch game they just released. The game is a twin-stick shooter and in the shooting tutorial, there were two spawners in the room that spawned so many enemies so quickly, it became overwhelming. You shouldn’t put so many enemies in the first level of your game while the player is still learning the basic mechanics of the game. That’s unfair.

headerDoes a game like Dark Souls have unfair difficulty? Well no, the game is quite balanced in my opinion. There is a lot of risk and reward gameplay, the punishment is just a bit too harsh in my opinion. But the game becomes beatable when you learn the finer details of the game and get used to the inner workings of the game.

The line and difference between the four types are really thin and make it still personal. Speaking of personal, some people talk proudly when they were able to beat a certain game on the highest difficulty. While that is impressive, you shouldn’t look down upon people having trouble on the lower difficulties. While my gaming buddy MiseryLC can beat the AI in Europe Universalis IV on hard, I feel that the normal difficulty provides just enough challenge for me.

I think it would be a great development if all games have difficulty sliders. The more you can adjust the difficulty, the better. Something I really loved in the Etrian Odyssey series is that you can change the difficulty setting when you are in the town without any other punishments. This is great because when I was unable to beat a certain boss and almost stopped playing, I was able to lower the difficulty a bit so I was able to beat the boss and move on. After I had beaten the boss, I set the difficulty back on normal. This is a perfect system since people can choose how easy or hard you want the game to be.

Now, I have said quite a lot about the topic now. To avoid this article becoming a bit too long or having too much rambling, I think it’s time to let some of my friends talk. I want to thank everybody for their input since they helped me quite a lot while putting my thoughts together for this article.

How others think about difficulty.

Now, I asked around on various groups on Discord and Facebook on their opinions on game difficulty. Here is what they have to say. Note, some quotes I translated from Dutch to English. Some quotes had minor edits since sometimes contained an answer to another topic in the conversation or something in those lines.

The following quotes come from a Facebook group where Belgian retro game collectors gather.

Ward: “Some games are pretty challenging due to their difficulty like Slain and Cuphead. But other games hold your hand, but that doesn’t always take away from the fun of the game. It really depends on the game and how enjoyable the story is.”

Hakim: “Sometimes a too difficult game can be really frustrating. And out of this frustration, the game can go on my shelves to be never played again.”

Kenny: “Personally, I think that the player should have a choice how difficult the game should be. Some games I play personally for the story and not for an extreme challenge.”

Mayu: “For me, a game can never be too difficult. I’ll play until the end as long as the difficulty, challenge, story and such are fun. It already happened that I was disappointed when I bought a new game and I finished it without issue. The solution for this is lately, collection or completion rewards. Some of them are really letdowns. In the past, gaming was a very niche hobby. When a game was too difficult, you just had to try and try again. But, now that gaming isn’t a niche hobby anymore, the difficult games don’t sell that well anymore. And with companies trying to make as much profit as possible…”

Koen: “Making a game extremely difficult is no issue for me. As long as all the elements of the game are fun, it doesn’t matter to me. I really enjoy the rewarding feeling of finally being able to beat a game at the highest difficult setting after trying on it for weeks and seeing the real/true ending. But, when the story is garbage and I have to replay the game on a harder difficulty setting, I won’t be spending my time on a new playthrough.”

Niels: “As long as a game stays fair, it’s worth my time. Nowadays, there are a lot of games that are too easy for everybody to play. From endless tutorial sections to special power-ups when you die a lot and sometimes even a skip button, these are just a few things that you find more and more in modern games. Now, there is nothing wrong with that, as long as they are optional or are disabled by higher difficulty settings. Something I really want to stress, a game that is too difficult thanks to bad enemy placement, terrible controls or bad decisions is a bad game.”

Xavier: “I prefer easier games. There are a lot of games that are quite enjoyable to play. It doesn’t matter to me if games are shorter, I usually buy them at a lower price after they have been released for a while. It’s better then having to play a game where you have to retry a section 20 times to finish it.”

Dennis: “I usually start a game on normal mode. Depending on my experience, I raise or lower the difficulty. So, this means that I play some games on easy, some on normal and some on the hardest difficulty. I don’t really enjoy games where you respawn a thousand times before you can continue and especially when you have the same issue 10 minutes later in the next section. If I enjoyed the game enough, I might replay it on a higher difficulty setting. Most of the games interest me for somewhere between 10 to 20 hours. But, this is absolutely not the case for me with Final Fantasy games.”

The following opinions are from fellow bloggers or friends in the blogging world.

Aiphafemaie: “A couple thoughts – I think games felt more difficult in the past because you had to rely more on yourself to figure out how to pass levels or quests. Or printing out walkthroughs from GameFaqs.com lmao.  Now when you’re stuck, you can just to YouTube and see how it’s done. I don’t think games were more difficult in the past, but “difficult” is a subjective word.  Today’s games do have varying difficulty modes, in comparison to the past. Before most games could only be played on default.”

TwoTall4uFool: “I think there was a lot of trial and error with games back in the 80’s and 90’s. Even in the 2000’s. Aiphafemaie you bring up a great point about GameFaqs but there are some games out there that I would’ve never beaten if it wasn’t for Game Genie/Gameshark. Today in games you have tutorials and of course there is YouTube. And even with plug and plays such as the SNES Classic you can rewind and try a part again if you fail. And plus suspend you point. So emulating older games have made them easier ….. sort of.”

ReaperInteractive: “I agree with @aiphafemaie . Games in the past had no clear instructions or clear, “Go here to pass to the next level.” Games nowadays are a lot more direct and I feel that developers intentianally make these instructions extremely clear as to make the game as playable and prevent people from giving up midway. A little more on the note. There have been games where the instructions were so unclear that I literally had no clue what to do and ended up giving up. Another reason I feel that games nowadays are a lot easier is because we’ve played the same basic mechanic over and over again as to games in the past, there were hundreds of different mechanics. Most games nowadays can be grouped into a couple dozen genres with the same mechanic and controls. Contrary to this, I feel that games in the past are composed of hundreds of different genres, some completely new to the people hence why I feel that why games in the past are a tad more difficult than those of our age.”

The Well Red Mage: “I think that games can still pretty hard now, some of them, but there are new varieties of games now. There are brutal platformers as a subgenre now that are built on difficulty, but then there are also walking simulators and interactive movies now that eschew difficulty almost entirely. I think some would say that the difficulty of retro games was such that it was unfair, but I think that the lives systems and the memorization of patterns (two very retro-centric ideas of difficulty) are perfectly valid; we maybe just don’t have the toleration for them that we used to. Those games were still demanding something of the player (memory or timing). So I think this is a conversation that benefits from specifics like specific games and specific features in those games that bring difficulty into the equation (memorization, level design, limited options or limited chances to complete a challenge, longer periods without save features, increasing speed, item management, enemy AI… all those things are specific features that games then and now used and use to create difficulty).”

The Badly Backlogged Mage/MrBacklog: “I think the obvious-but-unhelpful answer is “as difficult as they need to be to convey the desired experience”. Dark Souls, the Walking Dead and Mario Party are all different in terms of difficulty because they’re going for different experiences.”

OverThinkerY: “I think there are different ways of adding difficulty – Backlogged makes a good point about those games being difficult in different ways as part of the experience. There’s perhaps the most classic sort of difficulty, which is reacting and executing the right series of inputs quickly enough to proceed, and then there are things more dependent on memory, ingenuity, or sheer emotional fortitude. I think there are more examples these days of different sorts of difficulty other than simply pressing buttons accurately, which might be down to better tech or just natural progression, but it enables different kinds of experiences to be made effective in that way.”

Mail Order Ninja Mage/Daniel Flatt: “Difficulty is the hardest thing to get right in video games. If you push back too hard you lose all but your most dedicated player, if you don’t present any challenge then moderately skilled players become bored. Like everyone said above it is drastically different depending on the game and furthermore the individual playing.

That being said games aren’t necessarily easier than they were before, but they have become better at not wasting our time. Games previously were artificially hard, first because checkpoints and saves weren’t a thing, and then because many NES games are a handful of hours long without constantly starting over. They had to have that difficulty to make the game worth it, can’t have Billy coming to you after an hour and asking for a new game. I dare anyone to play B side levels of Celeste and say games are easier, but the difference is you don’t have to play through the same 30 minutes over and over to finally get through something and die 20 seconds later to start all over.

The best games have difficulty determined by the player, Nintendo excels at this, but one of the best examples is Ori. It has a function where you basically create your own checkpoints or don’t, depending on your preference. It could be brutally hard, but if I get to try again right away for a certain section it wasn’t wasting my time making me play the same section a hundred times.”

Now, as you can read, the opinions are extremely diverse when it comes to difficulty. This brainstorm was extremely interesting to do. I honestly think that I’ll return to this topic in the future. Before I close this article, I want to point you to an article created by Rob “I Played The Game” Covell that he wrote in 2017 about the same subject. “A Difficult Conversation”.

Closing off

Like I said in the previous paragraph, the conversation of how difficult a game could be or if games are too easy nowadays gets quite diverse opinions. While this topic could be discussed for hours and the opinions will go in various directions, I think I’ll close off this article here. I’m quite curious about what everybody thinks. Maybe I’ll revisit this topic at a later date.

If you have written or talked about this subject in the past or know a great resource like another article or video, feel free to send me a message with the link. Maybe I’ll include it in the next article. And with that said, I think I’ll really end off this article. Thank you, everybody, for helping me put this article together. It was a blast. Thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Review: Death Mark (Switch) ~ Alive Until Dawn

death mark

Official website

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

Alive until dawn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Explore and read

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the edge of my seat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary

The good:

+ Amazing atmosphere in the visual and audio department.

+ Great writing.

+ The game has a lot of text.

+ …

The bad:

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

Final thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Score: 90/100

First Impression: Fire Emblem Awakening (3DS) ~ Tactics Galore

PS_3DS_FireEmblemAwakening_enGBOfficial website

So, the start of 2016 brings a boatload of amazing new (3DS) titles. But one game got me addicted to my 3DS lately. It was that one game I wanted to try out but never gave a fair chance. I always thought that strategy games like these weren’t my thing. But why, does it bring me so much enjoyment? And is the game a guilty pleasure or something I could recommend to anybody. Well, it’s time to take a look at this game and what I think of it. As usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or of the content of this article in the comment section down below. 

Tactical RPG

Fire_Emblem_Awakening_gameplay

After hearing so much other content creators (bloggers and YouTubers I watch) talk about this game, I decided to give it a chance. First, I played the demo, and almost right after finishing the demo, I bought the full game.

The first thing the game does right is the character creation. You decide how he or she looks and how his or her voice sounds. Finally, you can play a character that isn’t a silent one. A character that actually is a part of the story.

About the story, you can play this game in two different ways. Classic and normal mode. In classic mode, when a character dies, it’s gone for good. In normal mode, you can keep the character. It returns after the battle is over. This is something I really like. I’m not that good in tactical RPG’s. I’m afraid that one or two stupid mistakes might screw up my progress and put me in a battle I might never win. That’s why I love the normal mode so much. After I finish the game, I might give classic mode a try since I honestly feel that I’m missing the entire point of the series.

So, the story I have seen until now is quite decent. I finished the first part of the game and I’m having the impression that it’s structured in a sort of anime show format. Like each battle is a separate episode of an anime. And a good one at that. But where the story really shines is that you can influence parts of it, yourself! How you fight your battles will decide who marries who. Oh yeah, that’s a thing. Shipping is totally a thing in this game.

Different and unique

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So, thanks to the “shipping” mechanic, each playthrough of this game are pretty personal. I might pair up my characters differently than somebody else. But enough about that, let’s talk about the gameplay.

And in this game, it throws in so many options for you… I’m amazed at how accessible this game is. If you use only your powerful characters, you don’t level up your weaker but very useful characters. I’m now in a situation where I have to be very careful with my archers since I haven’t used them a lot. This makes me very weak against certain units and is my current weak point of my army.

In this game, you are the tactics master of the kingdom. So, you decide who runs where on the battlefield and when to attack or fall back. This game also works in turns. So, after you moved your character, it has moved. After you moved all your characters, your turn ends and your opponent’s turn starts.

Once your unit has moved, you can’t undo the move. I wish I could do that sometimes. But the game has a solution for that, it’s the dancer. They dance to motivate your warriors to give them one additional turn.

Explaining how this game works could take me a while. But compare the battle system a little bit to how the battle system in Pokémon or any turn based RPG works. Only two differences, your enemy attacks back when it can in YOUR turn and weapons can and do break after repeated use.

While I haven’t played many tactical RPG’s, I want to try out more. Thanks to this game. The gameplay is a lot of fun when you like planning ahead but sometimes changing your strategy to get out of dangerous situations. If you like to play games like Age Of Empires or Advanced Wars, this is game for you.

The Fire Emblem

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So, there are still a few things I want to talk about. First of all, the voice acting is something I have a love-hate relationship with. It’s extremely well done but it falls short sometimes.

When a cutscene plays, only some of lines are spoken. And sometimes, a random line is said to give the emotion more meaning. This can be distracting for some people when the voice acting is saying something completely different than the lines on the screen. While it annoys me here and there, I don’t mind it that much personally.

Visually, this game looks amazing. Graphically this game is really nice done. A good example is that the character portraits change depending on how they are doing in battle. Or better said, how much health they still have left.

But what I love the most about the visual presentation is how the game is animated. When your characters level up, they do different moves. It’s something I can’t explain and you should see for yourself to understand. It really helps to immerse me into the game.

The sound design and music is something… well… It’s one of the best soundtracks I have heard in quite a while. I actually want to buy the soundtrack to add to my collection. I like it that much. It really helps to set the mood.

I think I’m going to wrap up my first impression here. While I have some minor issues with the menu design, they are really nitpicky. In any case, I feel that I can fully recommend this game to any person who likes to play strategy games, RTS, Tactical RPG’s… This game is something I wish I tried sooner. Since it’s a series I’m becoming a fan of.