First Impression: Final Fantasy X (PS2) ~ Soccer under water.

Wikipedia entry

So, my vacation recently started, and I felt like playing some games I have in my collection for years but haven’t really played. One of these games is Final Fantasy X on the PS2. A game I started playing this year, but I haven’t gotten the time to start really playing this game. I was even afraid in 2019 that I wouldn’t be able to start playing these two games. But now I have a whole summer to play games, and work inside my apartment. So, was it a good idea to pick Final Fantasy 10 to play during this holiday, or should I start looking for another game? Well, let’s find out together in this first impression article if I think it’s worth our time or if we should skip this game for another one. While I invite you, the reader, to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and/or opinions on the game and/or the content of this article. And no, it’s a coincidence that I pick this RPG with fantasy soccer elements on the day that the final of the European Championship is being played. (That little bit would have worked, if only I was able to finish the article on that day.)

Blitz soccer under water

While writing this article, I found out that this game got an remaster way back in 2016. But, when I was able to pick up this game, and it’s sequel for €5 in my local game store second hand… Well, let’s just say I quickly decided to play the originals. Now that I’m admitting things, I think it’s a good thing to also “admit” or rather inform my readers that I haven’t played a lot of games in the Final Fantasy series. If my memory serves me correctly, this is one of the first Final Fantasy games I really started playing in-depth. I have started playing Final Fantasy 7 and other Final Fantasy titles, but for some unknown reason, I didn’t continue playing them.

Anyway, enough introductory rambling. It’s time to explain the (start) of the story of this game. So, this game opens with Tidus, a blitzball player from Zanarkand who is playing in a memorial cup. This memorial cup is to honor his father, a legendary player who went missing 10 years ago. The memorial cup for Jecht (Tidus’ father) has barely started and a big monster attacks the metropolis. Together with Auron, our main character Tidus is swept away. Who is Auron? Well, he is somebody who was looking after Tidus right after his father went missing and Tidus’ mother died.

Now, where is our Tidus swept away to? To Spira. A world where he barely knows the customs and languages. There, Tidus learns that Zanarkand has been destroyed over 1000 years ago by a being named Sin. And not only that, it turns out the Zanarkand is a holy land.

It doesn’t take long before Tidus’ blitzball skills are discovered by the locals and he enters a tournament. There, he meets various characters like the summoner Yuna. Together with her crew, Yuna is taking a pilgrimage to Zanarkand to destroy Sin. And you can bet on it that Tidus’ joins Yuna’s crew since he wants answers.

A lot of this game is voice acted. If you google this game together with “voice acting”, you get a LOT of varied opinions. From it being the worst they ever heard to being good. Personally, I think the voice acting is a bit on the weak side. I think the biggest issue is the pacing and delivery of the lines. Now, what I mean here is that the delivery of the English lines doesn’t always match the actions on screen. For example, there is a scene where you just enter a village, and you get stopped to get the prayer explained. But, there is a strange pause between the “Oh right, hold up” line and the character actually pulling you aside.

Overall, the writing so far is decent. All the unknown customs and languages are as confusing to us players then they are to our main character. If only the English voice acting was a bit more fine-tuned to give the story a bit more impact, a bit more “umphf” you know. Since there are moments that really have great voice acting, but it isn’t consistent, and it feels unpolished and a tad bit rushed.

Now, I could keep talking about the voice acting and story for a while but since I haven’t beaten the game yet, I think I’ll wait to talk about it more in depth for when I have finished this game and/or I have finished the sequel. Since then, I’ll have a way more clear picture on what the whole game and if it’s really that bad that the internet is actually saying. The only thing I want to say for now is that after 5 hours of playing, this game is a tad bit slow on the story side.

It’s battle time

This game is at its core an RPG. You explore the world while you have random battles with enemies to increase your stats. Besides that, you have a whole blitzball game to play as well. Currently, I haven’t played enough of the game to comment too in depth about blitzball. So, I’m going to focus mainly on the RPG gameplay. The battle system in this game your classic turn based affair. So, that means that if you have played RPG’s before, it won’t take you long before you get into this one.

One of the unique mechanics in this game is the Sphere Grid. I could try and explain it but I found that the Final Fantasy wiki has an excellent explanation. So, props to the writer(s) of that section of the wiki since it’s one of the best explanations of this interesting and fun to play with mechanic I was able to find.

At the end of each battle every party member that took at least one full turn earns AP. Characters who are switched out during their first turn, KO’d, or petrified at the end of the battle will not gain AP. If the player defeats the enemy using an aeon, then Yuna will be treated as having taken a turn even if she only summoned.

When enough AP is earned, the character gains a Sphere Level (“S.Lv“). The amount of AP needed to generate Sphere Levels increases progressively until the character has acquired 101 S.LV, after which an additional Sphere Level will always require 22,000 AP. When moving about the Sphere Grid, the character may move one node forward for each S.LV they have. The player does not need to activate a node to pass by it. Regardless of activation, when the player passes a node, a colored band connects their current node to the node they left to mark their path on the grid. Moving across previously connected paths allows the character to move four nodes for every S.LV they have.

Each character’s starting location on the grid indicates their strengths and weaknesses based on the variety of nodes in their section, though the player can choose to take the character down a different path using Key Spheres. The character-specific sections merge at certain points, allowing a character to take another’s path. The character-specific sections are separated by locked nodes, which become empty nodes once opened, allowing free movement. Ultimately, every node on the Sphere Grid may be accessed by every character.

https://finalfantasy.fandom.com/wiki/Sphere_Grid

The Sphere Grid makes the combat even more interesting. Something that this game does extremely well is teaching the mechanics and the strategies in battles to the player. It doesn’t overwhelm you with all the mechanics of this game in one go, but it steadily builds up until every mechanic has been covered. While I love RPG’s, I always have a hard time getting into the deeper meta of the game and I barely remember several things like what’s effective against what. Thankfully, in the towns, there is a station where you can re-read every tutorial from the game to refresh your memory. I love touches like these in games since it makes the game more accessible whilst the difficulty doesn’t suffer.

Speaking about difficulty, since you have full control over the Sphere Grid, you can somewhat decide that for yourself. I think this is an excellent idea how to handle difficulty. This way more veteran players can make the game more difficult by not unlocking everything on the grid while for more casual players, the game can become “easier” by unlocking the whole grid.

Something that really surprised me is the fact you can control Tidus via the D-pad. I honestly expected that since this game is on the PS2, only the joystick would move him. But that isn’t the case. You can control him with both. Overall, the controls of this game are quite well done. They are responsive and intuitive. Even when I put the game down for several months in February and picked it back up for this summer vacation, I was able to get the hang of the controls extremely quickly.

Also, the small map/radar helps quite a lot while exploring the area’s you come across. The yellow arrow is you and the red arrow is the next major objective. I’m really curious how that’s going to work when I’m further in the game and I hope it doesn’t take away the joy of trying to find the way to your next location. Since sometimes it’s a lot of fun, getting lost in the RPG world. That’s why I love playing games like Dragon Quest.

A bit stiff

I’m not that picky when it comes to the visuals of a game. I don’t mind if a game hasn’t the best visuals or looks from yesteryear, what matters to me is that the visual presentation is consistent with a nice art style that isn’t too hard on the eyes, fits the theme and atmosphere of game and helps me to pull me into the game. But, there are something’s in this game I want to talk about.

While overall, the visual presentation of this game looks quite good, I do notice some visual hiccups here and there. I honestly can’t tell if that’s because of the composite switch I’m using, my PS2 disc or something else, but I have noticed some visual issues. In one cutscene, you could see how Tidus’ hair is modeled, since it blurred out the background on the empty spots.

Maybe I notice these imperfections more easily since I have been reviewing games for over 11 years now and I might have developed an eye for it. But, there are some things that I really don’t like in terms of animation for this game. For example, I find the somewhat slow run cycle of Tidus so unnatural, it’s honestly almost comical in my opinion. Also, I have seen some strange movements from Yuna during her first cutscenes.

It’s a real shame, since this there is a lot that this game does right in terms of the visual presentation. The battle animations look amazing, and I have seen environments that still hold up in my opinion. But, it’s a bit stiff and rough on some edges. Things that could have been patched out if the game was to release in the modern gaming industry.

Now that I have talked about the visual presentation, I think it’s high time I also talk about the audiovisual presentation. Let’s first talk about the music. The orchestral soundtrack of this game has Final Fantasy written all over it. The classic victory tune and the hints to the original theme in the theme of this game are excellent. When I’m listening to game soundtracks, I rarely skip Final Fantasy soundtracks and this game is one of them. Great soundtrack!

That also goes for the audio in this game. There are a lot of ambient sound effects that pull you more into the atmosphere of the visual design. There were some moments where I felt that some additional sound effects could have helped… like with a silent waterfall. But then again, it might run the excellent sound mixing this game has going on… So yeah.

Now, I want to mention a nitpick. There isn’t a way to quickly skip long animations and/or cutscenes. So, yeah. That’s quite annoying if you are in a rush to get somewhere since you got a game over, and you haven’t manually saved at a save stone in a while. Thankfully, I’m that kind of player who saves at every opportunity I can, just in case…

The final thing I want to touch upon in this first impression is the camera. All in all, the camera in this game is good, but sometimes it doesn’t follow the main player well enough and the main character almost goes off-screen before the camera angle switches. Thankfully, the map helps in these moments, but hey, it could have been better.

Overall, I’m quite happy that I’m giving this game a chance during my summer vacation break. While this game is showing its age in the visual department and that complaint is mostly fixed with the remaster… I do still enjoy playing the original version of the game. The only thing that really bothers me is the mediocre voice acting, which breaks some tension of the story. But, thankfully, it’s great voice practice for me since my folk theater group is restarting after the… let’s just say… the “covid-break”. So, I can try to act it out myself how I would have preformed that line.

While I could have gone more in depth on certain aspects of this game, I’m going to keep that for the review when I have fully beaten this game. I’m really curious if certain opinions are going to change. And with that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game for now. I want to thank you so much for reading, and I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another one, but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

Game Quicky: Guards (Switch) ~ Tower Defense Switching

Nintendo.com page

Today I want to talk about the new game that Drageus Games released on the Nintendo Switch eShop. Their previous title, Moon Raider was a pretty nice game, so I actually have high hopes and expectations for this game. So, when Drageus Games send me a press copy over, and I could give my 100% honest opinion, I didn’t hesitate. I wanted to take a look at this game. I know full well that this game has been released for a while now but due to my busy life, I just got time to reviewing it now. So, it’s time to review this smaller game in my shorter game quicky style. And before I truly start, I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and/or opinions on the game and/or the content of the article below!

Time to play

So, in this game, you take on the role of various warriors who are defending their homeland from invaders. Each warrior has his/her strengths and weaknesses. It’s up to you to use them in the right way. The gameplay is turn based. The left area of play field is yours and the right area is from where the enemies come in. In each turn, you can switch the location of two warriors. In order for you to win, you have to defeat a certain amount of enemies before one enemy can breach to the other side.

The gameplay is quite challenging and unique. It’s easy to understand, but oh so tricky to master. It’s a sort of turn based tower defense where you have to swap your towers from location each turn.

Visually, this game looks quite charming. The cartoon presentation of this game gives it some Saturday morning show vibes that add even more to the charm. While the animations might be a bit basic, they work, and they help to draw the player into the game quite well. The UI and menus are also easy to navigate, and I rarely found myself lost in them.

Time to skip this one

Sometimes I found the gameplay mechanics rather limiting. The fact, you can’t always choose if a magic user is going to use their healing magic or their field clear attack is annoying. On top of that, you weren’t allowed to switch your characters with an empty space. So, you HAD to switch between two characters for your move to count. Oh, and explain to my why I can select characters and “switch” while it’s the enemy’s turn? The switch doesn’t actually happen, but the game registers the button inputs.

Also, there are some things that aren’t communicated to the player well enough. For example, what does the inventory do? I was pressing the X button, and it only highlighted the button. When I continued to play, I started to understand how to use the inventory, but why did I have to find that out by myself? Also, I sometimes thought the game froze or soft locked… and it took me a while before I released that the game was waiting on my inputs since it was my turn.

The lack of an actual story actually hurts this game in my opinion. I rather have a generic, boring story then none. In this game, you don’t have any context why these fights are happening, and my interest in this game quickly went away as I felt myself going through the motions of every other game. I really felt that there was something lacking in this game and the story is one of the biggest mistakes of this game.

In terms of difficulty, I felt that this game is sometimes more luck based then skill based. A game over puts you back at the start of the game, but you get rewards to unlock more powerful characters. Why this game isn’t a high score game after seeing this mechanic is something I don’t understand. But, this made the game more grind heavy and here is where another big downfall of this game lies.

The gameplay loop of this game isn’t there. You go through the same motion over and over again to get just a little further. This unlocks rewards to unlock better heroes or upgrade your current heroes. While this might sound fun on paper, in the case of this game the repetitiveness of this game left me bored, and I had a hard time writing this article because of it.

Conclusion

I could keep writing a lengthy article about this game, but I think everything is boiling down to one point. This game is undercooked and shouldn’t have been released so fast. This game and the ideas it presents have so much potential, but the actual execution falls flat on its face.

This game has three save slots, but the save system itself is confusing, and I don’t know when my game is saved. The game has three difficulty settings, but you need to beat the easiest setting first before you can play on a harder setting. There is no cancel button when upgrading heroes, and you can’t swap heroes for other heroes when you started a run. The audiovisual presentation is quite nice but due to the repetitive nature of this game, I got bored with hearing the tracks so many times.

I’m sorry, but this game isn’t my cup of tea. I true feel that this game is undercooked and needs some major polishing up work for it to work and be enjoyable. Furthermore, I’m glad to see that other reviewers are enjoying themselves with the game, but I respectfully disagree with the high scores that some reviewers give to this game.

Things that should be improved in my opinion are:

  • A more in-depth tutorial on every screen of the game. Not every mechanic is clearly explained to the player.
  • More audio and visual cue’s to explain to the player when they can/can’t do something or when it’s their turn.
  • A better save system that doesn’t only save after the end of a run!
  • Polish out visual bugs like the “amount of enemies to be killed” counter resetting only after the round has started.
    • It always shows the counter from the ending of your previous run.
  • More communication with the player. What does “Magical hints” in the option menu do?
  • Some story to pull in the player a bit more.

Usually, when I feel this negative about a game, I don’t write about the game and I skip it. I write a feedback mail to the developers and/or tell them that I’m not going to write about the game. But in this case, I decided to write an article anyways since I find that this game has so much potential that it actually made me annoyed. Seeing this game so undercooked, it’s a big let down.

I honestly think that this game needed a lot more time in the over before it got released to the Nintendo Switch. From the digging I have done, I noticed that this game first released as a mobile game and after that on Steam. From what I have seen, the same complaints come up in various reviews. Most of those complaints are the exact same then I have. The last update to the game has been since 2017 and most updates have been bug fixes instead of polishing this game up with new features and more content. So, I don’t have high hopes this game is going to improve or if we are going to see a better version in the future.

Do I recommend this game to anyone? Well, if you are curious about this turn based lane defense game with a lot of grinding and a ton of rough edges, I think you might want to give this game a try but for all other players, I would skip this game. Thankfully, the new game from the developers of this game: Warstone TD looks a LOT better and more promising than this undercooked game.

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

Score: 2/5

NekoJonez’s 11 YEARS of blogging

Has it already been 11 years? On in late 2010, I opened my Dutch personal blog. And now, that blog died due to personal reasons and I restarted my English blog on the 20th March 2013. So, I have been blogging for 8 years in English and quite close to 11 years if you count the years that I wrote articles in my native Dutch language. So, let’s have a retrospective look at my experiences as a writer, blogger and things like that. Let’s do a sort of celebration for this milestone that I reached with a simple hobby. But, first, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and opinions on this article. Yeah, the usual ending of my opening paragraph.

The usual word of thanks

So, the fact that I’m able to reach around 10.000 people each and every year is amazing. Sadly enough, my numbers have been taking a big dive lately. While I can explain that away with the fact that I’m writing less, but way better, articles… It still surprises me that I get around 10-20/visitors each day. I know, I shouldn’t focus on these numbers too much or else I’ll burn out but still, when I compare these numbers with numbers from other people in the community, I honestly feel humbled.

If only I had more time to write more articles, I think I would be able to have even better numbers. I would love to reach as much people as I can since the people I have met over the years, is just mind-blowing. I have created friendships that will last a lifetime. Furthermore, I’m not going to list any names here since I want to avoid that people are going to feel left out, but you know who you are. I love talking to you guys and girls.

Apart from meeting so much other content creators, I also love to interact with the people that read my blog. From indie developers to people who are looking for their next game to play. It warms my heart that people like what I write, and I have to say. From childhood, I always wanted a way to share my experiences and my life stories with others and writing this blog allowed to make that dream become a reality. Because I don’t always play the latest of the latest games and I don’t always play the “most popular” retro titles, I had a hard time connecting to other gamers.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for reading my articles. I’m still blown away by the support I get from others all the while I keep writing. As said earlier, I might be writing less than in the past, I still see a lot of people interacting with my blog and I always see huge spikes in my visitor graph whenever I publish an article. So, yeah. If only I was better at expressing gratitude and things like that without resorting to the classic speech is usually given by other content creators….

Highlights from the past 11 years

A typical question to ask when somebody celebrates a milestone like writing for over 11 years is what your favorite or most memorable moment was. To be quite honest, I don’t have just one moment. At first, I was planning to through each and every year and give you my best moment for each and every year, but even that wouldn’t do justice to the opportunities and highlights I had in the past 11 years.

This stats above, show how much I have written over the past 8 years while I’m writing this English blog. Let’s just say that I have written over 700.000 words in the past 560+ articles. That’s roughly 1250 words per article as an average. I write and publish around 40 – 75 articles each and every year. So, finding my favorite(s) moment(s) would be finding a needle in a haystack.

So, let me just name a few of them. A few memorable moments that stick out for me and that I currently remember from the top of my head. By all means, these just a few examples of moments I just adored and are the things that just make this blogging experience so memorable for me.

Reviewing Stella Glow

http://thebuttonsmashers.com/2016/08/game-review-stella-glow/

Back in 2016, I sometimes got requests from small developers to take a look at their game. But, when a good blogging friend of mine gave me the opportunity to write about a game I just played the demo off, and I was planning to go and pick up, I was over the moon.

When I started to play the game, I was amazed at the quality and polish that the game had. And not only that, the music and the atmosphere was so amazing. While it’s a shame to admit that I haven’t fully completed the game just yet since I didn’t grind certain characters enough to beat a certain fight, I’m actually planning to finish this game in the near future.

Now, you might notice that the link to the article isn’t on my blog. That’s because as a part of the agreement, I had to publish the article on his site. Which is only fair since he has provided me with the press key to this game. But, it felt so strange being able to write for a bigger company than all the indie developers.

Don’t get me wrong here. It’s not that I don’t enjoy writing for indie developers. But, the fact that even bigger companies trust their brand in my hands and I only do this as a hobby is such a special feeling for me. So yeah, thank you, Stella Glow for providing me with such an amazing opportunity and the memories that I created while playing this game and talking about it with family and friends while I was preparing the review was such an amazing feeling.

Retrospective collabs

One of my favorite memories in the blogging world is the fact that I was able to do 3 retrospective collabs so far. The idea started when I wanted to write a retrospective series on a game series, but I didn’t want to do it alone. So, the idea of the hub article was born.

The moment of the birth of this idea was actually in a Discord call with another blogger who wanted to start out and was looking for idea’s and cross promotion. Sadly enough, I didn’t hear from that blogger when I was working on the first hub article… But, I felt that the idea had so much potential, I kept the collab running. The end result was:

Not too long after that, The Well Red Mage, who was one of the writers for this collab started his own collab in the same style for the Final Fantasy series. He also did one for the Mario series. In the meantime, I did two other ones.

All three collabs have their own unique stories and memories attached to it. From being able to work with an actual journalist, YouTubers, being promoted by YouTubers, celebrating the anniversary of the series together and writing about the latest recently released game in the series, it’s just magical. I love doing these collab, but they are so extremely draining and demanding to do. But, the rewarding feeling you get when everything comes together, and you see everything get published and launch at the same time… And then seeing the community read and interact with the whole collab, it’s so lovely. And yes, here is a little hint… I may be thinking about the next game series to give it the hub retrospective look… Keep an eye on my blog and such if you want to be part of it.

And while I have only chosen two moments, I can keep listing a lot more amazing moments. From writing an article for HP, The Creative Christmas collab in 2017, those two weeks in 2017 where I wrote 2 articles every day for two weeks(!), the time I interviewed an internet friend who turned game dev, the time that a quote of mine made it on the Steam store page, being called the best tech blog in 2017 and being a part of the list of best gaming blogs on the Internet… those are just a few examples of my amazing ride. And yeah, I just noticed that 2017 was an amazing year for my blog, but strangely enough, it’s the year after that I got the biggest spike in visitors and such. Strange how things go.

Award questions

You know what would be fun as well? Let’s take a look back some previous award question posts I have written and let’s see if some of my answers would change today. How much have I changed in the past years? Let’s find out together. Meanwhile, it’s a fun trip through memory lane taking a look back at the various bloggers who think it’s worth it to follow and read my work.

What’s your earliest gaming memory?

So, my answer isn’t going to change from what I have said in that article. Rather, I’m going to add to the story. It’s true that the earliest gaming memories are playing Pac-Man on the Gameboy. But, one of my earliest gaming memories is also playing Tarzan on my parent’s computer. I still remember that when they bought their first computer, they called me into the office but instead of explaining me on how to properly use the computer, my mom took out a copied version of the PC game Tarzan. I remember playing it all afternoon and bragging to my mom how far I had gotten.

The copied version of the game came from one of her co-workers. I was so sad when the copy stopped working, I had one goal, buy my own copy. And, I’m proud to admit that I took my bike and rode to the toystore and bought a copy for myself. And yes, as a proud game collector, I still have that copy in my collection. It’s one of the games that will never ever leave my collection when I have anything to say about it.

Do you have a games room / corner?

Now, it might only be 4 years since that article, but I have to say, a lot changed. Not only do I live on my own but my games room/corner changed quite a lot. Currently, my retro systems and my computer is in my office and my more modern systems are in my living room. Compared to the pictures, I gained a NES and a Switch in terms of consoles and a few more retro game computers.

Of course, I also gained quite a lot of games to add to my collection. I don’t dare to count the size of my collection at the moment but I estimate that my game collection is nearing the 5K games mark. I really should start counting them one day. I feel like a project is coming up for this summer.

Oh, and if you want to see pictures of my current game room… Well, here are two.

Light theme, or dark theme?

To be honest, for writing I prefer my light theme. It reminds me more of writing on a piece of paper and I feel like I have a bit more control. For reading, I tend to switch between the two.

Now, most of the apps I use on my phone and the default setting on my computer is in dark mode. I just prefer those apps that way. But, I don’t mind interacting with a light theme. A big example is that I have my Microsoft Teams set in dark mode but when I help teachers or students to solve problems with Teams, I notice that the majority has still light mode on.

Now, my answer if I should choose a light or dark theme hasn’t changed… I rather prefer a gray/silver-ish theme since that’s my favorite color. The “bland” yet special color that can support so much while not standing out at all and being easy on the eyes… Yes please. (At least, that’s my opinion on the color.)

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

This is one answer that’s going to change completely. When I was writing that article, I was playing a ton of RPG’s, so it doesn’t surprise me. Also, action…? Well, let me put this into context. There are a lot of things that happen in my life, but it isn’t THAT eventful that you would say it’s an action game.

Lately, I feel that my life is more in the style of a visual novel/adventure game. One where an interesting story is told through the eyes of an IT-admin in an art school who has a lot of experiences in terms of having a ton of different experiences due to being involved in a theater group, speedrunning…

Then again, maybe a simulation like the Sims would fit my life as well. But then again, I think that would fit almost everybody’s life wouldn’t it? But, I think that if you would base a character on me, I think I would be either that helpful companion who helps to solve the problems or something along those lines.

What things do you do to relax?

So, I still love to explore cities but lately, I’m more into speedrunning one of my favorite childhood games. Also, I’m watching less anime lately. I don’t know why exactly, but lately I do enjoy reading more on the SPC-wiki. I just love the idea of a whole universe being created from everybody who wants to contribute to the universe. Also, the stories that are created can be so interesting and unique they can be their own film/movie or have such a deep meaning.

On top of that, I also quite enjoy contributing to open source projects. Especially WordPress lately. I’m not that good of a coder, so I currently help in translating plugins and themes into Dutch and Flemish.

Apart from that, I still enjoy playing games, watching anime/YouTube and writing. Something I also enjoy is going to theater. Which wouldn’t be a surprise if you knew that I also love acting on stage and/or being a part of the technical crew while preforming a play.

So, one of the biggest projects I did this school year was completely revamping my school’s website. I’m quite proud of it, but I’m not done revamping it. But, I have to admit that doing this project also made me discover that I also enjoy creating websites quite a lot. So, yeah…

Wrapping up time

I was planning to do something special last year with my 10 years of blogging milestone but my workload with my job and other personal things stopped me from writing something special. Now, a lot of my workload has to do with me being unable to be unproductive. I always want to do something to work on something. I think that’s just a curse of being a creator. My mind never shuts down. I always think about the next story/article to write or what I can do to help out others.

Like I said in the article I wrote in 2014, I sometimes have trouble enjoying certain things like games. Since I always think about: “How can I turn this into an enjoyable article?”. It’s not that I’m not having fun tho. I’m having quite a lot of fun. Yet, I’m so glad that I decided to listen a bit more to my mental health instead of pushing myself into writing each and every week. Sometimes it’s okay to skip a week (or two), as long as I keep the quality of my articles up.

Looking back to my first article and the articles I write today, I am quite amazed at the progression I made. When I read my older articles, I feel they are incomplete, and I want to edit them to make them more complete. But, I’m not going to. This blog is also sort of my portfolio, and it’s my life’s journey. And I’m so happy that I can share it with you all. It’s a journey that I love going on.

It might be extremely cliché, but I can’t thank everybody enough who helped me, supported me and been there for me in the past 11 years. But, I’m so grateful for all my readers and people who went into interaction with my articles. If you decided to buy a certain game because of me, I hope you enjoyed your time with it. Feel free to let me know if you did.

I don’t know what the future will bring for me and my blog. But you can be sure that I’m going to keep writing. At the moment, I don’t have any reason to stop doing this enjoyable hobby. And if you want to see your game or a certain game reviewed on this blog, feel free to reach out to me via my contact page. The best way to follow me is following my Twitter, since I’m that sort of person who can only maintain a few social media channels and Twitter is the easiest for me to share short updates.

And with that, I’m going to close off this ramble article. It might have been all over the place, but I hope you enjoyed reading it and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in a future article and until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Review: Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine (GBC) ~ Speedrun Time!

InfernalMachineGBCWikipedia entry

Times can change quite a lot. Way back in 2014, I wrote an article about one of my most favorite childhood games ever made. Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine. You might think, why am I reviewing this again? Well, in today’s article I’m going to review the port to the Gameboy Color. I still remember getting my copy for one of my birthdays. Since I wasn’t allowed much time on the computer and I saw I was able to take the game on the go with me, the solution was easy. My godmother aunt bought the game for me and gave it to me when I was sleeping over at her place. A few days later, I want to my cousin who introduced me to this game and he got so jealous of my copy that he started to beg his mother for a copy as well. Amazing memories. Anyways, now that I’m also speedrunning the game (both this version and the PC version) and that I have fully finished this game, I think it would be a neat idea to review the GBC version of this game. Is it a good game or should we ignore it? Let’s talk about that while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

Editorial note: want to see runs of this game? 

So, what happened?

3If the developers of this game were able to cram the whole PC game into a Gameboy Color game, I would be amazed. But we all know how powerful the Gameboy Color was a playing a 3D game on that wasn’t fully realized yet. There are a few 3D titles on the Gameboy Color but not too many. So, some things had to give. But, how much had to go and did we still have a good game left? 

Let’s first talk about the extremely strange cuts into the story of this game. When you are used to playing the PC or N64 version of this game, the story in the Gameboy Color game is quite strange to say the least. There is so much less story in this game that if you would only play the Gameboy Color game, you might be unable to follow along.  

The best example is almost the whole ending cutscene after the first level is cut out of the game. You don’t get an explanation on why Sophia was looking for you and the whole setup of the story falls in like a cake you take too soon out of the oven. Yet, when you have played the PC/N64 version, you’ll recognize the story beats right away and know where in the story you are. 

So, since the gameboy wasn’t powerful enough, some sections and even entire levels have been cut. For example, there aren’t any final bosses in this version and Palawan Temple, Jeep Trek and King Sol’s Mines are missing in this version. Instead, we got a new level, the Russian Border. This level is a sort of extended version of the Tian Shan River opening section. 

The story in this game is a mess. I don’t really advise that you try to follow it if you haven’t played the PC/N64 version. It’s a shame since the story of the original versions is great. It really makes you feel that you are playing through an Indy movie. Fun fact, did you know that this game was first going to be about aliens before it got veto’ed because the script for the 4th movie was in development? That movie some Indy fans don’t talk about.

So, is this 2D or 3D?

indjgb004Even games with a messy story can be quite fun to play. So, is this game fun to play? Well, in my honest opinion, I’m having quite a lot of fun in playing this game, but this game has a lot of special quirks you need to get used to, to be able to enjoy this game to the fullest. The first one is that this game is sort of 2,5D game where you look at Indy from above. Thanks to the good use of shadows and different textures, you can be able to quickly see when you are approaching a cliff. 

While you can explore in this game, this game is somewhat linear. There aren’t a lot of moments where you need to backtrack. There is a certain order in which you have to play and beat the level but finding that out is half the fun. Now, as soon as you get a hang of the quirks of this game, it really opens up. Together with the extremely responsive controls, this game is challenge to play. 

So, when I started to speedrun this game, I hadn’t beaten the whole game yet. I had beaten the first 3 levels in my childhood, but the 4th level gave me a lot of trouble. When I actually started to run the levels I hadn’t played yet, I challenged myself and I tried to finish them without looking at the guide. To be honest, I was extremely surprised how the knowledge of the PC version helped me in certain sections and that this game also has unique sections and puzzles. 

Is the game difficult? Well, in a certain degree, yes it is. Healing items are more scarce in this game and there are no checkpoints in this game. When you die, you have to restart the level. A difference in terms of difficulty in this game is that poison can run out. Yes; it can run out. Oh, and med kits don’t heal poison. Only venom kits (green medkits) do. 

Surprisingly, the machine parts have the same use as in the PC/N64 version. The Azerim (flying) tool works a small bit differently but has the same concept behind it. So, knowledge of the PC/N64 version can be extremely helpful in this game to not get stuck. Since, like the original game, the GBC version doesn’t have a tutorial. It doesn’t help you in explaining the controls and the fact you can interact with certain things. A big piece of advice from me, if you are stuck, use the hand on anything strange. If a certain tile on the floor looks strange, use your hand on it. Since lifts aren’t always clear that they are lifts. 

So, the controls. Earlier I said they are extremely responsive. Now that I have quite some experience with them thanks to speed running this game, I have to say that they are precise but can feel a bit floaty. It’s something that has to click with you, or you will have some trouble with it. The D-pad is used to control Indy, the A button interacts with the selected item and B jumps. Start opens the inventory and Select cycles through your tools. 

For this review, I have played quite a lot on my Gameboy Advance as well and I have to say that I can’t decide if I like the fact that I run on an emulator since it gives me more screen space and I can connect my XBOX controller for finer control, or if I enjoy the charm of the game on a smaller screen with a bit more stiff controls. The difference in controls might have to do with the fact I’m running this game. 

Another big difference you might have noticed between the PC/N64 version and the GBC version from the inventory screen you can see a bit higher in this article is that you can only carry 5 of each healing item. You can’t carry more of them. You can purchase more of them with the treasures you find at the end of each level. But, here is something interesting. You can sell your healing items. For example, when you want more medkits, you can sell your green medkits. 

So, what is the gameplay here? This game is an adventure game where you have to platform your way to the end. All the while you have to solve puzzles, fight enemies and avoid traps. This adventure takes you through 15 levels that quite closely follow the structure of the N64/PC version. The red bar is your health and the blue bar is your stamina. 

To beat this game, you have to pull blocks, jump and swing over gaps and solve some puzzles. Most of the puzzles have to do with using the right item on the right location. Sadly enough, picking up and using items can be a bit pixel perfect which is annoying during runs. 

Sadly, you don’t have a map in this game for the larger levels. But, all in all, the levels won’t take you that long to beat. The longest level is Nub’s Tomb, which took me around 11 minutes in my speedrun. Now, certain levels can be beaten in under a minute if you know what you are doing. If you hold up while Indy is moving over a ladder, he can climb it… No matter how long his fall is going. And this game uses that mechanic in certain levels as well. 

All in all, the gameplay is quite addicitive. Especially if you enjoyed the original game. But, I can understand why people would get frustrated and lost in this game if they haven’t played the PC or N64 versions of this game.  

It’s fine

gfs_44058_2_11Now, visually this game looks fin in my opinion. There are better looking games on the Gameboy Color yet, I find the atmosphere the developers created with the visuals is quite nice to look at. But, it looks the best in the correct ratio. It doesn’t look bad in a bigger screensize, but you will have some blur here and there. 

Sadly enough, sometimes certain things like breakable walls or places where you can swing with your whip blend in a bit too much in the background. I’m certain that if when you play this game in a darker room or if you suffer from colorblindness that you’ll be unable to see them sometimes. Which is a shame. I wish they stood out a bit more since things like this give the neat visuals a bad name. 

As said earlier, there are a lot better looking games on the Gameboy Color but with the “weaker” visuals, they still pull off an amazing atmosphere. One of my favorite levels visually is Nub’s Tomb. It also has the worst puzzle in the game with the music puzzle. And let’s not forget the jump over the lake bit and if you miss one jump, you have to restart that whole section.

Are there glitches in this game? Well, not a lot. I found a few spots where the game gets confused so you are able to stand on places you aren’t supposed to stand and if you fall into the liquid in the Infernal Machine level and you are holding a direction button while facing a wall, you don’t die until you release the movement button. 

Now, going back to the visuals. There are also animations in this game. These animations are good. They really add to the game, all the while they don’t feel out of palace. They really blend into the created atmosphere really well. I always enjoyed seeing Indy swing over large pits and always hearing that amazing melody is just icing on the cake. But, let’s not mention how tricky it is to get in the right position to whip over a pit. 

Sadly, in terms of sound effects and music, this game lacks quite a lot. Apart from the main theme at the start and some short tunes, there isn’t a lot of music in this game. In the later parts of the game, there is a bit more music but it mostly aids in the puzzles or certain a bit more tension. I wish these moments were used a bit more. And there aren’t a lot of sound effects either. If I didn’t have to focus on my gameplay, I would play this game while listening to music. It’s a shame since when this game has music, it’s amazing chiptune goodness but it’s so sparingly implemented it’s annoying. Thankfully, the walking sound effects of Indy aren’t annoying. 

There are 15 levels in this game and when you play each level optimally, I think you can beat this game in 4 to 5 hours in your first run and without using a guide. Currently, I’m griding for a full run of this game and I estimate that it will take 2,5 hours if I don’t make too many mistakes. Granted, that’s when I skip all the treasures that are in most of the levels. Apart from, I think, 2 levels, there are 10 treasures hidden in each level. But, in this version of the game, they are a bit well less hidden compared to the PC/N64 version.

The final thing I want to talk about is the password system. As a speedrunner, I’m a bit on the edge on this mechanic. Before I started running this game, I hated this system. Why couldn’t I use the save system like in the Zelda games and other Gameboy Color games. But, now that I run this game, it’s quite helpful in training certain levels or trying to set a new level record. So, yeah. 

Anyways, I think it’s high time for a conclusion is it not? Let’s wrap up this article with a nice conclusion to summerize my thoughts.

Summary time

The good:

+ Enjoyable gameplay with exploration and nice puzzles.

+ Decent visuals (for the most part)

+ …

The bad:

-Butchered story.

-Too little in terms of music.

-Some sections are a bit too pixel perfect.

-Lack of tutorial.

Final thoughts:

Is this game worth your time? If you enjoy games like the old school Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine, I would say yes. If you enjoy unique and special old mobile games, I would also recommend this game. But, know that this game is a niche game and it has it’s quirks.

Two things can happen. It can click like it did with me and then you have a nice experience all the while you see the flaws and issues that this game has. The other thing is you realize that this game isn’t your cup of tea and you don’t play it. 

I honestly think that it’s quite impressive how they were able to cram a somewhat solid version of the PC/N64 version into a small Gameboy Color cartridge. I mean, the rom file for this game is only 1MB! This whole game is 1MB and it can provide you with a decent Indy game..? Sign me up! 

Now, if you are on the fence about it, just give the first two levels a try. If you notice that it’s not your cup of tea, then skip this game. If you enjoyed playing the first two levels, I would highly recommend you continue to play this game. 

Granted, I think that the nostalgia for this game might have placed a lot of rose colored glasses on my eyes and I might see this game in a better light then it actually is but should that matter? I think this game is a nice gem in the Gameboy Color library and I would recommend it to people who enjoy adventure games. All the while, I would warn it’s an unique and special game with it’s own flaws but it’s still enjoyable. If only the story was a bit more intact… 

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

Score: 80/100

 

First Impression: There Is No Game: Wrong Dimension (Switch) ~ Ceci n’est pas un article.

ThereisnogameWikipedia entryNintendo.com micrositeDeveloper site

There is no game here, so there is no article here. I have been searching everywhere in this game and I have found nothing. So, why am I writing about this then? Because I have no other game to write about, and I still want to write an article since it’s one of my biggest hobbies? Well, who knows. I can’t say, since there isn’t an expanded version of a game jam here. Maybe that section in the latest Nintendo Indie World was a lie. … Okay, I don’t think he is looking anymore. I think it’s time to let you in on a little secret. … There might be a game here. Shall we take a look at it? Come on, you and me. Let’s talk about this secret game while you sneakily go to the comment section after reading this article and tell me what you think about this game and/or the content of this article.

Ceci n’est pas une pipe

fileD8CAV347I don’t think I’ll be able to keep up the gag from the introduction paragraph through the whole article before it gets extremely stale and boring to read. No really, it might not be enjoyable at all. There would be loads of things that’ll be way more enjoyable to do. Like, read one of my articles or play a game. 

But, since you are still here, I think you want to poke around in the wrong dimension that’s part of the title right? Alright then, reader. In this game, you take on the role of “the user”. Explaining how your adventure gets started would spoil various gags that this game pulls with you and since I try to keep my content as spoiler free as possible, it gets quite tricky. 

The different chapters of this game can be a standalone episode in a series, but it still has an overarching plot. It tells a story about a certain game program that is convincing you that there is no game. But, some strange glitch is haunting him and messing things up for him, so maybe it’s time to set things right. 

You and the game program travel through the various wrong dimensions on your way home to set things right while having amazing humorous adventures throughout various game genres that poke fun at various elements of that genre. The amount of the sneaky references and the clever use in the gameplay and puzzles of this game is just amazing. 

When I said “various game genres”, you might think that this game has a lot of different gameplay styles. Well, this game is a point-and-click adventure. So, while you might be a Zelda-style adventure game dimension, you have to interact with the game via the modern point-and-click controls. But, more about the gameplay later. 

First, let’s talk about our Russian(?) host. Your game program friend is fully voice acted. The voice work has been done by Pascal Cammisotto, who is actually the French developer of this game. While the game is translated in various other languages, the voice acting is stays in English, and it’s glorious. The voice acting in this game is extremely well done and adds even more charm to the game, which may or may not be there.

The pacing of this story is walking on the fine line of going a tad bit too fast and just fast enough. I felt that some sections of this “fictional” game that I have played so far went over a bit too quickly, but I also think that if they dragged on for a bit longer they might overstay their welcome. In other words, in most places the pacing hits the right beats but in some cases, I found that a section was over a bit too fast.

“User, please solve that.”

20200807202822_1So, in this game you have to interact with the world in various unique ways via your usual point-and-click style gameplay. You find various items that can aid you on your quest. Your inventory is at the bottom of the screen, and you can place it in the order you like. If two objects might be able to interact, they get a white outline around them. 

Not that this information matters, since I’m not talking about a game that’s here on Switch, but I felt that this game controls better when being played on the touch screen of your Switch compared to the docked controls. I’m not saying that the controls while docked don’t work, but you need to quickly interact with some actions, and I was able to solve most of the puzzles more easy using the touch controls. 

The controls were quite easy to get a hang of. It didn’t take long before I was able to tackle the amazing puzzles in this game. The difficulty balance in this game gets a thumbs up from me. I really loved to solve the puzzles in this game and the mechanics and gags used to solve the puzzles in this game make the game being a love letter to our hobby even better. 

Also, when you are stuck in a certain section, the hint system gets a chef’s kiss. A ten out of ten. Whenever you click the “Help” button, you can unlock a hint. In most cases, you have to unlock another hint before you can unlock the solution. The only penalty you get from using the hint system is a small “boo” shout that the game gives you. But, I highly advise you to not use the hint system. The solution and out-of-the-box thinking you have to do is so much more enjoyable when you solve it without a hint. It’s a shame, since the hint system is one of the best I have seen in point-and-click games so far. 

The biggest shame of this game is that this game is extremely short. This game can be beaten in 5 to 8 hours. So, I currently played this game for 3 hours, so that means I’m somewhat over half way to beat this game. I always feel quite conflicted about these short games. At one hand, some of these are a blast to play through and provide a lot of unique experiences but on the other hand… I always wanted from the game. 

Nostalgic

tng-fp__xlI think we are currently in the time period where people who grew up with the same sort of games then I did are currently in the indie game development scene. The various game spoofs that this game visits feel so extremely nostalgic all the while that this game is putting its own unique spin on them. For example, the Zelda-style spoof reminds me so much of playing the Minish Cap for the first time. And the first spoof reminds me so much of playing old school point-and-click games from Humongous Entertainment or LucasArts.

The game’s visual presentation pulls you in so much that it makes the game more addictive to play for me. It blends the visual style of its own and the games it’s spoofing so well I have a hard time telling which is which sometimes. I can only praise the artist who works on the visual presentation and the animations since you did an amazing job. 

And as usual, after talking about the visual presentation… I talk about the music and sound effects. And just like the visual presentation, I have no complaints about those either. It’s an amazing blend between modern and retro styled sound effects. I could be an annoying nitpicker and say that it’s an extremely minor shame that the whole soundtrack of this game is orchestrated but then again, that’s extremely impressive for such a small indie game that only costs $13.

So far, I have been praising this game to the moon and back. It’s almost that this game doesn’t have any negatives apart from its short length. The save system works fine, the UI is excellent… I feel that this game is polished and play tested quite a lot before it got released.   

The biggest negative I can say is that this game has some jokes that might go unnoticed or fall flat for younger gamers or people who just get into gaming. I honestly don’t think that the story is going to be so strong if you played it with people who aren’t that into video games. But, if you are well versed into games, I think that this game’s humor and charm will draw you in like it did with me.

Now, this game falls into the trap of being a short point-and-click game. If you want to enjoy this game to its full potential, I highly recommend that you read as little about the game as possible since the fewer you know about the game the better. Otherwise, the charm and humor will hit less hard and that’s a lot of what makes this game so addictive and fun to play. 

The second trap of the point-and-click genre is that the replay value is extremely low. While you might enjoy your 2nd or 3rd playthrough, you will know most of the gags and story beats in this game which makes a 2nd playthrough way less enjoyable. Unless you are doing a speedrun of this game of course. 

So, I think I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. It’s high time for the conclusion I sort of already gave earlier in this article. If you are into video games and enjoy a point-and-click adventure game, I think that this short game is one you shouldn’t sleep on. While the game works a lot better with touch controls compared to controlling it with the joy cons or a pro controller, I don’t think that it would hinder your experience too much in this game. 

Now, if you aren’t into video games, I would still recommend this game to you, but I have to warn you that a lot of the gags and spoofs in this game will go over your head. The strength of the story only shines when you know a little about computers and games. Then the beautiful game world and the nice audiovisual design will draw you in just like it does it with me. 

If I have to describe my feelings and thoughts about this game in a short paragraph I have to say that this game is a humorous point-and-click adventure that takes you through a nostalgic trip throughout (recent) gaming history that uses it’s gags extremely well. The charm of the story, settings, visual and audiovisual presentation quite well to deliver a short but extremely enjoyable adventure that makes me keep an eye on the developer of this game about what he is going to do next.

So, it’s high time to wrap up this article so I can start finishing this game. I want to thank you a lot for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading this 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. Oh, so there was a game there… Should I start reviewing it?

Game Quicky: Moon Raider (Switch) ~ Time For Revenge

heroNintendo.com micrositeDeveloper site

Drageus Games is back, and they provided me with another press key for a game with the request to give my 100% honest opinion on the game. The game I’m going to take a look at is going to release on April 23rd on Switch but if you want to play it right now, you can play it on Steam, iOS, Android. Apart from the game releasing on Switch, it’ll also release on the Xbox One and PS4. So, is this action, platformer / metroidvania-ish game worth your time, or should you skip this one? Let’s find out in this game quicky while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and opinions on the game and/or the content of this article.

Editorial note: please note that it's possible that this game gets updated when it gets released and that some things mentioned won't apply. 

Time for revenge

screenshot01In this game you play as Ava, the daughter of a scientist and the former queen of the moon, Selene. Now, our former queen needs special gems to stay alive, but they start to run out and Selene gets quite ill. So, it’s up to Ava to rescue her mother, and she does that by raiding the moon of all places. 

So far, I haven’t gotten too far into the story, but the setup for the story is simple and to the point. I was hanging out yesterday in a livestream of this game done by Star or Shovelware. The reason I bring this up is that I also used his stream as a research to write this article. Of course, I played the game myself but if you want to have an additional opinion, I would recommend watching that stream after reading this article. 

Anyways, the story. It doesn’t get in the way of the game at all. Which is both a negative and a positive. I felt like the story has potential but due to the lack of development of any kind, the story feels a bit useless. Oh well, I’m happy it’s here, and it’s not too generic and actually has a great motivation to play the game.

You would get the impression that this game is a sort of Metroidvania game since it has various elements of the genre but from what I have seen and played so far, this game isn’t that. This game is an action-adventure platformer game with elements of the Metroidvania genre. Surprisingly, it flows pretty well. 

The main goal of the game is getting from the start to the end of the zone. You can do these zones somewhat out of order, but overall this game is quite linear with some secrets hidden for explorers. The move set is quite basic, but it does the job. You have your standard double jump, attack, and you unlock some special abilities later in the game. 

Overall, the controls are extremely responsive. I got used to them extremely quickly, and I also got used to the quirky hitboxes of some things of the level geometry. But, I have a bit more to say about the controls, but I’m going to save that for later since this isn’t the correct section of the article for it. 

Something that surprised me is that by default, the sound and music is set to 50%. I have no idea why that is since the music and sound effects are amazing for this indie title. When you are playing this game, I highly recommend that you raise the volume of the sound effects and music since it enhances the experience quite a lot. The voice samples for the enemies are so well done. The music is decent, and it really adds to the moon raiding vibe. The minor nitpick I have is that this game doesn’t have sound effects for the UI. So, moving in the menu’s is completely silent, apart from the music.

Something you might have noticed by watching the screenshots of this game is that this game looks amazing. The environments are extremely detailed, nicely themed and quite colorful. I think it’s one of the strongest points of this game. The same counts for the animation as well. Together, the game runs at an amazing frame rate and is quite immersive. A minor complaint/praise I want to give about the visuals is that I felt that some traps like the prickly vines in one of the treasure room blends in a bit too well. This can be seen as a good and a bad thing. 

The revenge isn’t needed

screenshot04So, where does this game drop the ball? Well, first, let’s just say that the respawn mechanic is a bit broken. It’s also mentioned in the livestream by Star or Shovelware, but I also didn’t like the mechanic where when you die, you respawn at the start of the zone with the health you entered.

Health pots are quite rare, and I highly advise you to try and stock up before leaving the zone since otherwise you might regret it. For one of the bosses I had to go to the previous zones and get a health pot, go back to the boss zone, go back to the previous zone… Since, one health pot only heals one bit of health. 

There is nothing wrong with the quick respawing, so you can try again and try to avoid your mistake that got you killed, but the health thing really slows down gameplay. If the developer really wanted to balance the game, I think that at least half of your health should have been filled at respawning since nothing is more annoying than being in a long level where one mistake kills you.

A second mistake is the lack of a level select/map/completion screen. There are some animals to free in certain levels and special gems to aid Ava’s mother to pick up in the levels, but you have no idea in which levels they are and how many you have collected already. You have an overall counter on the top middle of your screen, but that’s about it. Thanks to the lords that already picked up gems and freed animals stay freed when you leave the zone, but not when you die.

Thirdly, there are some moments where I felt that some minor quality of life polish could have helped the game quite a bit. I had to learn the hard way that some smaller creatures are not set decoration but enemies. But the biggest thing I feel could be better in terms of quality of life in this game is a bit more sound effects when you use your gem energy. Especially when you are dashing, it would have been nice to have some sound effect when it’s almost depleted, so you could act accordingly and not try to go cross-eyed between the top monitoring your gem energy and the middle of the screen where you have to play the game. 

Another nice example is how the great save system works. The game saves every time you enter a zone. It doesn’t matter if you enter it via the exit or the entrance, your game saves, and you respawn with the amount of gem energy and health you had while entering. Now, this isn’t said anywhere. There isn’t even a save icon to indicate that.

The 4th thing that this game doesn’t do all that well has to do with the movement. Now, hear me out. You can jump up in the middle of a platform, but you don’t go down. In the middle of the lava zones, I opened a gate and jumped up to a higher ledge to avoid an enemy. But, I jumped on the higher ledge, and now I had to go all the way around to pick up the crystal since I couldn’t go down. 

In addition to that, I felt that using the dash was clunky sometimes. I didn’t always feel in control. Since I mostly control Ava by the left joystick and the dash works a LOT better by using the D-pad arrows. I also felt that the “Y” button is a strange button for that. You use “B” to jump and my fingers won’t go naturally to the “Y” button to dash but to one of the shoulder buttons. Maybe this might just be me, but I feel that if you had the ability to remap or use another control scheme, this would have been better.

Apart from that, I feel like the dash drains your gem energy way to fast. This drain made me grind for gems several times which is extremely slow mind you.

There is also no duck button. I can’t count the amount of times I tried to duck to either hit a small enemy or dodge a rocket and looked down instead… That was quite annoying.

The final thing I want to mention is that I find it quite surprising that this game isn’t translated. Usually, Drageus Games’ games are always translated into various other languages. But not this time, this game is only in English. Maybe that might change after the release.

So, yes or no?

ss_b360b3da6090a8aeb997ac9333be437be1189f51.1920x1080

So, is this game worth your time? My answer to that question is YES. While the game has some rough spots which I mentioned in section above, I honestly think the positives outweigh the negatives here. 

If the developers improved the respawing mechanic, gave us a completion list, tweaked the dash controls and gem drain, polished up the controls a bit and maybe control remapping, this game would improve so much. But overall, this game plays amazingly for being a budget indie title. It’s only €10 here in Europe and I have played a lot worse games for that price. 

The hand drawn visuals, the amazing animation and the nice mix between an action adventure platformer and metroidvania makes this game somewhat addictive, and it wouldn’t surprise me that I’m going to finish this game on the train back and from work. It’s an amazing time waster, and I’m so glad that I was able to play it. 

So, if you enjoy action-adventure platformers, I would recommend that you check this game out. Like I said before, it has some rough edges but who knows, they might get polished up in a future update. Since, the potential of this game is amazing, and I would love to see this game get the spotlight it deserves and maybe a bit more content since reading from the press kit, I think this game might be a bit too short. 

And that wraps up my article about Moon Raider on the Nintendo Switch. 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: 4/5

Review: Blood: Fresh Supply (PC – Steam) ~ He lives AGAIN.

Blood_logoWikipedia entry – Steam linkSteam link
The Build Engine. One of the biggest game engines ever created in 3D shooter history. Three landmark titles have been created in that engine called Duke Nukem 3D, Shadow Warrior and today’s topic: Blood. Back in the day, I used to download a lot of old archived shareware or demo versions of old DOS games. In one of these adventures, I downloaded the demo for the legendary Blood, and I was hooked. At the time, things like Steam weren’t what they are today and I still was in secondary school (high school for you Americans) and too young to start a holiday job. Then, on one summer Steam sale, I found this game for a rather cheap price and I thought: “Why not.”. So, I bought the game for €1 and moved on with my day. Then, COVID-19 happened last year, and I was looking through my game library to play after work. I booted up Blood, and it got my top 10 games of 2020 list. Why did I give this game a spot on my top 10 games list? What did I like so much about this game to place it on that list? Let’s find out together while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts/opinions on the content of the article and/or the game.

He lives AGAIN

Blood 1In this game, you take on the role of Caleb. Caleb has a reputation for being a merciless gunfighter from the Midwest. Caleb is a servant of the god Tchernobog and his minions called ‘The Cabal’. Now, for some reason, our “friendly” god kills Caleb and his fellow chosen for whatever reason and dumps Caleb in a grave. Caleb rises up from his grave several years later, and he is looking for vengeance of course.

Like your typical old school 3D shooters, the story isn’t the main focus of this game. Most of the story in this game is told through cutscenes at the start and end of a chapter and the environment that you are going through. Speaking about which, there is are  a lot of moments like: you start on the train you that you crashed in the previous level. The whole game feels interconnected due to small details like that.

There are a few cutscenes in the game that enhance the story by a little. The reason I’m saying only a little is that the total runtime of these cutscenes is give or take only 5 minutes. Which is a shame, since the cutscenes really added to the atmosphere of the game. On the other hand, I think that if this game had more cutscenes, it would overpower the gameplay and the environmental story telling.

There is voice acting in this game. Of course, you have your typical enemy shouting that is as immersive as the cowboy shouting from Outlaws. You also have your wise-cracking main character Caleb voiced by Stephan Weyte. Stephan also did voice work for one of my favorite edutainment companies Humongous Entertainment. He voiced several side characters in the Pajama Sam and Freddi Fish games. Before I start rambling about unrelated things for this review, I have to say that Stephan killed it with his performance in this game. His delivery is extremely memorable, and I love his voice work for this game. A fun fact is that the voice acting for our evil god has been done by the executive producer Jace Hall.

Should you play Blood for the story? Oh, heavens no. Don’t misunderstand me here, the story of this game is fine, but it is far from the best story you can experience in a shooter. The story is there to set the mood and set up the atmosphere of this game and to help you immerse yourself in the game. But, nothing more nothing less.

Now, if we check on the Blood Wiki on the amount of different versions and ports that this game got we learn that there are two versions of this game on Steam. You have Blood – Fresh Supply and Blood – One Unit Whole Blood. At the moment of writing, the “One Unit Whole Blood” version has been removed from Steam and the “Fresh Supply” version is still up for sale. I found a nice forum post about the biggest differences on the GOG.com forums between the two versions. As the title suggests, I played Fresh Supply for this review.

Crazy cultists

Blood 3I don’t think I have to explain what you have to do in old school 3D shooter games. You have to fight various enemies, find keys to open doors, do some platforming and solve some puzzles. Personally, I compare this game in a way to games like Heretic and Duke Nukem 3D. It’s an old school 3D shooter with amazing weapons and power ups to aid you in your battle against your enemies. There are a lot of different enemies with their own attack sound, strengths, and weaknesses.

Most of the weapons in this game has a secondary fire mode. For example, the double barred shotgun secondary fire shoots both bullets at once or the Tommy gun’s second fire let out a burst of bullets where you swing the weapon back and forth. You can even use one weapon as a turret and another weapon is a voodoo doll.

But the most iconic weapon in Blood is the dynamite. There are big differences in terms of the dynamite you can use. You have your normal dynamite, proximity, and dynamite you can remotely detonate. Depending on the chosen difficulty, the skill to use your weapons and especially dynamite is essential to your survival. I can’t count how many times I had to resort to dynamite to “thin out the herd”.

Speaking about the difficulty, if you aren’t too familiar with all Blood’s mechanics and secrets and different routes, I don’t advise the higher difficulty settings. I have to admit that I’m not the most skilled player when it comes to shooters and I had an extremely hard time with the medium setting. Get used to the mechanics of this game before you play on the highest difficulty settings and thank me later. The game is otherwise too frustrating for newcomers.

Earlier, I said that this game feels quite interconnected due to the level design. That start of the level represents the previous level. Most of the levels have a sort of linear design. You have to backtrack quite rarely. Yet, I found myself stuck in a few levels and the map system, while impressive, was far from helpful. Now, in terms of map systems, I think I might be spoiled by the more modern design methods where the key door locations are marked on your map.

Sadly enough, there are some moments that the level design wasn’t the best. For example, I found one or two spots where you can get soft locked. But more annoyingly, I found some monster rooms quite annoying since the exit gets locked, and you have to go switch hunt. I think these moments could have benefitted from Caleb saying: “Where is the switch” when interacting with the door.

This game is controlled through mouse and keyboard. While this game has controller support, I only played this game through mouse and keyboard. I didn’t have any problems with the controls and felt they worked amazingly. After a minor bit of tweaking to fit the AZERTY lay-out better that we use here in Belgium, I was able to master the responsive controls.

Visually, this game still looks fine. The visual improvements you can choose to either enable or disable are a great way to choose between the vanilla textures and the newer “more modern” visuals. Of course, this game really shows its age in the visual department but, that isn’t a bad thing for this game. I still find that the visual atmosphere is created amazingly, and I feel that the world still feels somewhat real and alive.

Something that truly impressed me are the animations. The animations in this game are a masterclass in how animations should look in shooter games. Enemies that get shot in the legs crawl towards you and keep shooting, enemies set on fire with a flare run around crazily… And that are just two examples.

Very rarely, I found some visual glitches. In one level there was some Z-fighting with a pillar switch. (Z-Fighting is when two textures overlap and the game can’t decide which one to show, so it flickers in between them.) In some spots, the shells of the Tommy gun vanished. These moments were thankfully rare and didn’t impact gameplay too much.

Dynamite

Blood 2The sound design in this game is extremely important. If you don’t pay attention to the well crafted sound effects, you might miss some important enemy cues especially from the zombies. Since those don’t die right away from the weaker weapons. So, yeah, heard of hearing and deaf people are disavantaged when it comes to this game.

Sadly enough, the soundtrack could have been better. I feel that it’s too short and for some reason, it bugged out during my playthrough and it didn’t always play. While I was writing this section of the review, I was listening to the soundtrack on YouTube and I heard some tracks I haven’t heard in the game. While the music in itself is quite good and adds a lot to the atmosphere but it being only around 30 minutes, I felt that the soundtrack is too short for the game’s length.

This game has the perfect length for a shooter game like this. This game packs all the expansion packs so that means that a casual playthrough might take you around 10-ish hours. If you want to go for 100% you might be able to double that. But, this game gets so much more challenging and rewarding when you play it on higher difficulty settings so you might be able to get a lot more hours out of it than that.

Now, there is one thing in terms of the UI I really didn’t like. That’s the weapon wheel / ammo system. Let me explain. In the bottom center, you can see how much ammo you have for your weapons. Just like in other shooters from that time period, you have no idea which number corresponds with which weapon. It still shows “0″ even when you don’t have that weapon. The weapon wheel also doesn’t really show well to which weapon it’s going to switch since, it’s a wheel. When you pass the last weapon, it goes back to the first.

There is one thing I feel that the game totally dropped the ball on. And that’s the saving system. It’s not that the saving system doesn’t work, but it’s extremely bare bones. This game uses manual saving. There is no checkpoint saves when you enter a new level, but that isn’t such a big problem. I don’t mind manually saving once in a while I enter a new level or passed a difficult section. What I do mind is that the load system doesn’t give you ANY information in which level the save is. On top of that, you only have a limited amount of save slots and no visual information when you successfully saved the game. I worked around it by naming my saves with the level name like: “E1M3” (Episode 1 Map 3) and some additional info, but it shouldn’t be such a pain. Thankfully, we have a way better system now-a-days.

A minor thing that I really didn’t like in this game is the respawn mechanic. Of course, when you die, you are going to respawn at the start of the level with only your pitchfork. No problem there. But, the issue is in my opinion that the reloading just take a bit too long for my liking. It’s always faster to load your save from the pause menu then waiting on the game to respawn you. It might also save you some frustration since “pitchfork starting” isn’t always the most enjoyable way to play some levels.

This game also has Steam Achievements. These were a whole lot of fun to try and get. After I had beaten the game, I got 6 out of the 20 achievements. I could have gotten more but for some reason, my game glitched out and some achievements are still locked. Oh well, all the more reason for me to play through the game again at a later date.

There is quite a long list of references in this game. While I was 5 years old at the time of the original release, I had to admit I was able to pick up on several references. Maybe my love for retro games and retro media might have helped me out quite a lot there.

Oh, before I forget, there is a multiplayer mode in this game. I’m sorry but I haven’t played it at all so I’m not going to comment on it. But, from what I have read and seen, you both have your typical death match gameplay and a way to play through the campaign in a co-op fashion. That is sounding quite interesting for when I can let friends come over again.

And with that said, I think it’s high time for me to wrap up this review. I have said almost everything I wanted to say about this game and before I ramble on and on, I’m going to wrap up this article in a neat conclusion like I usually do for my review articles.

Conclusion time

The good:

+ Amazing shooter with replay value.

+ Easy to learn but oh so difficult to master.

+ Still good looking after all these years.

+ Amazing audio design.

+ …

The bad:

-The save and load system isn’t the best.

-The weapon wheel is a bit broken.

-Some softlocks / switch hunting moments.

Final thoughts:

Blood is a game that came out in 1997. This game is almost 25 years old and I have to say that this game still holds up amazingly well. The visual improvements that the Fresh Supply remake brings to the table are amazing. It gives a breath of fresh air in an already amazing game.

While I was researching this game, I found several video’s by one of my favorite YouTubers Civvie11. The release of this remake wasn’t the best. Thankfully, through the years, the game got various patches and updates that improved the game quite a lot to the point that I barely noticed the points that Civvie gave in his original “Blood: Fresh Supply is broken” video.

Apart from some flaws, this game holds up amazingly well. I knew that Blood had a high reputation when I started playing it and I was so happy when the game didn’t dissapoint me at all. Of course, I encountered some jank because this game isn’t the newest but that’s to be expected.

Would I recommend this game to people who enjoy shooters? Absolutely. This game gets an easy recommendation from me. The game costs only 8,2€ here and let me tell you, you can play a lot worse games for that price. The few issues this game have can be taken care off and they won’t hinder your playthrough too much. Is Blood one of the best retro game shooters? Easy answer, yes. Yes, it is. It’s as good as the original Doom, Heretic, Hexen, Duke Nukem and if you enjoy retro games and especially shooters it should be a crime to not at least give this game a try.

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

Score: 95 / 100

First Impression: Blue Dragon (XBOX360) ~ Helpful Shadows

BlueDragonWikipedia entry

It has been quite some time since I have written an article about a game on the XBOX360. Which is quite surprising to me, since I bought my XBOX360 from an old classmate of mine three-ish years ago. Anyways, I’m glad that I bought the system since when I moved in September of last year, I had a lot of issues with getting my internet up and running, so it was my DVD player. Besides that, I kept playing games on it since it was on anyways. Anyways, earlier this month I felt like browsing the XBOX360 Online store and I wanted to play an RPG. When I found Blue Dragon, a game I thought released only on Nintendo DS, was actually a series that started on the XBOX. I didn’t hesitate and bought the game for 20€. And, because you guys and girls voted for it on my Twitter, here we are. I’m going to talk about my first impressions of this game after playing this game for about 2-ish hours. Let’s dive right into this while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and opinions on the game and/or the content of this article.

Helpful shadows

Blue-Dragon-XBOX-360In this game, you take on the role of Shu, Jiro and Kiuke. These three young kids live in a village that gets attacked yearly by a mysterious landshark. This landshark not only destroys almost the whole village but also caused several victims. During one attack, these three children want revenge on the landshark and try to trap and fight it. This doesn’t turn out so well and they get dragged away by the landshark. 

After a small exploration of the resting place of the landshark, they discover that the landshark is being controlled by somebody else who is taking great pleasure in seeing the destruction and panic. Our three heroes are able to escape this evil person but they also eat a special light orb which transforms their shadows into beats that make them not only stronger but also give them magic abilities. 

Now, allow me to be blunt and direct for a moment. If you expect a deep and rich story from this RPG, I’m afraid to say that you are barking up the wrong tree. The writing and the pacing is perfect for an children anime series. But, to be honest, I think it fits the game well. If the writers would have written a more grim plot with the whole “your shadow gives you special powers” plot you would either go more in the lines of a Persona game or risking that the story becomes too silly to be taken seriously. 

Yet, on the other hand, this does put the game in a weird position for me. When I play RPG games, I expect more from the story then a simple story for the young kids. Granted, I can enjoy the stories in a Pokémon game and those aren’t too special, but the story in this game is just a bit mediocre. If I have to pin point why I feel that the story in this game isn’t the best, I think I have to say that the story in this game is like a small rain puddle. 

A small rain puddle that is quite enjoyable to jump into and kick the water around but it’s just that. A puddle. It has no depth and it doesn’t provide you with more enjoyment than the surface layer. A perfect example is that the resolution of some missions can be skipped completely. In one of the first missions, you have to save the “bravest warrior” from a sheep village. After you have done so, the exit to the next section of the game is right there and you never see the “bravest sheep” return home and lie about him defeating the monster that was trapping him. 

There is just not enough reaction on the situation by either the NPC’s or even the playable characters. When they get trapped in a big machine with no way out, there is no panic, no plan meeting… Nothing. Anything would be nice to provide more depth. 

The voice acting of this game is decent. I have heard better voice acting but I have also heard a lot worse. But the voice acting has the same problem compared to the shallow story. I feel that some scenes should have been voice acted or at least have some more sound effects to draw you in more but alas, we get silent textboxes. 

Missing: Depth

538221-blue-dragon-xbox-360-screenshot-marumaro-dashing-through-the

So, the story isn’t the strong suit of this game. Granted, I have only experienced a small part of the story and maybe the story improves quite a lot when I continue playing this game. Since, I’m seeing a lot of amazing mechanics and idea’s in this game that show the potential of this game. 

I really like how you can choose which character is the character you explore this game with. There are no real difference in terms of gameplay doing that, apart from one minor visual one. 

But then there are things that are quite flawed. A great example is the map system. Explain me why it’s possible to see the locations on the map in the teleport system but not on the world map? The world map in this game is the most useless map I have seen in a RPG. Apart from a location pointer and an icon where all teleport places are, you have no further information. You can’t even see area maps apart from the small compass in the bottom right corner. 

Thankfully, not everything is as broken as the global map. There are minor flaws in the game as well. They can be distracting but they didn’t ruin the game (too much) for me. For example, I think it’s hardcoded in the game that after cutscenes, every character joins Shu to continue the adventure… even when you selected another character to explore the world with. And after a small second, you transform into the correct character. 

Now, let’s talk about something good about this game for a change. I really enjoy the battle system. While I would have loved a better animation for the start of a battle, that nitpick doesn’t take away that the battle system has some unique and fun mechanics. Every enemy can be seen during exploration. So, there are no random battles in sight in this game. You can also bring up a circle in which you can choose which enemies to group together to attack in one battle. And while you’re exploring, weaker enemies will flee from you while stronger enemies try and chase you down for a while.

So, you can assign classes to your shadow. These classes dictate which spells and attacks you can use. This adds a layer of complexity to the game that I enjoy quite a lot. In addition to that, the battle system also has a timing mechanic. Unlike the Paper Mario games where you have to time a button press with the attack landing, in this game you have to hold the “A” button and if you land in the “critical” red zone, your spell or attack is more powerful BUT it might need a turn to charge up. The risk/reward system is excellent. 

Let’s power through

538217-blue-dragon-xbox-360-screenshot-activating-warp-devices-willFrom the previous section of the article, you might get the idea that this game is mediocre or isn’t worth your time. Now, that’s something I personally disagree with. I think this game is worth at least a try if you enjoy playing RPG or adventure games and you want to play something more lighthearted. 

Maybe the amazing visual presentation of this game might pull you in like it does with me. While some animations aren’t the best and a bit silly, like some walk cycles. The game looks well crafted and apart from some minor animation hiccups during cutscenes with the mouths not moving during talking, I don’t see too many major issues. The biggest issue is that some unskipable attack animations have some minor slowdown or tearing in them. But, that might be because I’m playing this game on a very new TV and maybe the high refresh rate and the big size might be overloading my poor XBOX360’s GPU buffer. 

The other big part of the presentation of this game is the audio. Apart from the game needing a bit more sound effects during cutscenes, I think the audio does a decent job of giving this game more character. Yet, I do have some complaints. I noticed that in some spots, the audio mixing wasn’t the greatest and the sound effects sounded too loud compared to the music that was playing. Speaking about the soundtrack, I enjoy most of it but there are some tracks with vocals. And these miss their mark completely in my opinion. Not only is it hard to understand what is actually being sung but combined with the sound effects of the battle, it gets even worse. Also, these songs don’t fit at all as a boss battle theme. 

Something I feel on the edge about is the fact that this game doesn’t have an autosave system. All the saving happens manually. So, don’t forget to save when you get the chance since a “Game Over” sends you back to the main menu where you have to load your save. Thankfully, this game isn’t too difficult but loosing progress is never fun.

And I’m not saying that this game is too easy. If you aren’t careful, you will loose and “Press A” to win doesn’t apply in this game. You will have to use some strategy or else you will be defeated. 

So, if you would ask me if I would recommend this game… I would say “Yes, but know that this game is not for everybody.”. While this game is quite enjoyable, I don’t think that this game aged quite well. While I heavily disagree with the 90+/100 scores that some reviewers gave this game, I don’t think this game is a bad game. 

While I haven’t gotten too far into the game and according to a small peak at the walkthrough, I currently finished 10% of the main story, I’m quite curious to see what this game is going to throw at me. So far, this game is quite enjoyable in my eyes despite it’s childish nature and the various flaws this game has. But, it puts a great battle system, enjoyable worlds and various other things to balance the flaws out. 

Normally, I wouldn’t score a game in a first impressions article but I’m going to do it because earlier I said that I disagree with the 90+ scores that this game is getting. I would give this game 70/100. This game has a lot of good elements but the lack of depth and polish in this game is something I would love to see improved in the sequels when I get around in playing them. 

And with that said, I think it’s high time to wrap up this article before I find another way to talk about the same point again in another way. There are a few things I’m leaving for the review when I have beaten this game but I have mentioned the most important things. 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. 

Counting Steps: Pokemon Go!

General info:

Official websiteWikipedia entry

  • Developed by: Niantic
  • Published by: Nintendo, Pokémon Company
  • Original release date: July 6th, 2016
  • Platforms: Android, iOS
  • Written in Unity

I was late to the game with Pokemon. My generation was in elementary school at the height of the Pokemon craze. From what I hear, it was a grand ole time. Due to some satanic-panic logic (that remains unclear to me) Pokemon was forbidden in my house, growing up.

In fact, that was the reason behind most prohibited activities of my childhood. No Casper. No Power Rangers. No Pokemon. All of that exclusion kept me away from the cool kids’ table. Nobody deserves to be bullied, but looking back, I wasn’t any of the things you usually see in kids that get picked on. Not being an obvious target wound up hurting me in the long run. “How could you get picked on? You’re the biggest kid in class!” I was. Eventually, I had to figure out how to get with it or get left in the dust. 

Not only was it banned at home, most of the disciplinary action I witnessed in grade school revolved around punishing kids for bringing Pokemon cards to school. That prohibition was my “in.” After confiscating a large quantity of Pokemon cards, teachers carelessly tossed the collection in one pile onto the floor. 

Predictably, there were dogpiles. Whatever lay on the floor was up for grabs. I was left out of the conversation, but I certainly overheard them. What 9 years old could resist the opportunity to brag about their 1st edition Charizard? Or their holographic Pikachu? The kids making fun of me gave away exactly which cards I should steal from them. With everyone’s eyes on the prize, nobody noticed the only kid in class who couldn’t play Pokemon joining the ambush. On a few occasions, I’d crawl out with quite the score. 

My brothers obtained their own collections over time. Only, they would get caught. Every time one brother was busted, I’d overhear my parents threaten to search every bag in the house. While they sniffed for clues, I’d ditch my cards among the discarded contraband in the kitchen garbage to save my skin. In the end, every heist proved fruitless. My name’s Eric Fellner, and I stole my friend’s and classmates’ cherished Pokemon cards so I could throw them in the trash.

July 2016. Imagine my surprise the day Pokemon Go comes out, and my mom has it downloaded on her phone. After all that effort! After years of enforcement! 

Possibly the allure of augmented reality swayed my mother’s feelings on the matter? Maybe she admitted to herself the ban never had any rationale to start with? Whatever occurred, Pokemon Go was my first game in the series at the age of 23. 

It was a good summer to start! I had returned from a month-long stay in Brooklyn, which was honestly the time of my life. I had booked my first show for my return to North Carolina. A month of walking around the city got me into great shape. To my knowledge, the relationship I was in was going well. July 2016 was starting off as the peak of my “Jordan-year.”

Additionally, the whole world seemed united in (at least novel) interest in this game. And I could finally buy-in! My co-workers at Starbucks would dip into the parking lot catching Pokemon while they took drive-through orders. All hours of the night, pods of kids and adults alike crowded what was suddenly considered “landmarks.” In search of resources. Battling over gyms. Trying to “catch ‘em all.” You’re familiar with the game.

Counting on!

Personally, I loved using the game as a pedometer! It kept me in great shape. Endlessly running through the neighborhood and shopping centers felt as true to the core gameplay loop of Pokemon as you can get. Only, there was slightly less animal violence.

Then, July came to a close. One night, I stopped in late to see my grandfather who lived in town, Popop. We had open plans to visit a 24-hour bakery in Charlotte called Amelie’s. Unfortunately, he passed in his sleep sometime before I arrived. 

Between that night and the funeral, the girl I had been seeing ended things over text. The next week, I played that show I had booked while I was in New York. Due to similar circumstances in the other bandmates’ lives, the band immediately disbanded. 

After a month of riding high, things crashed spectacularly. My enthusiasm for Pokemon Go died amid the chaos and depression of the time. I didn’t feel like running. I didn’t want to see people out, people together. It’s no exaggeration that week in August took years to recover from. Not just emotionally. Regaining the sense of momentum I felt that summer took time. Pokemon Go forever resides in my memory as the pop-culture phenomenon that coincides with that period of my life.

February 2020. After a couple rough years, I was quitting the worst job of my life (thanks for nothing, Target) to teach guitar full-time. Playing music, for a living. Then, wouldn’t you know it? COVID-19 struck! 

Boy did it. And the job I just went all-in on was at high risk of being yanked from under me. Reflecting now, I wonder if the sink or swim of the moment shocked me into a state of flow. One day, my boss and I devised a plan to transition the entire studio to a remote format. The next day, the admin team and teachers were executing that plan. We were infinitely fortunate. We never missed a single day of lessons.

My girlfriend lived two hours away in Raleigh, and we decided to lock down together while I could work remotely. Despite having some work, I still had a considerable amount of free time. We were 5 miles from Moore Park, the center of downtown Raleigh, with everything in the city closed. As that normal set in, I found myself running across Raleigh playing Pokemon Go. Me and my Snorlax, Popop.

Normal is hopefully starting to shift yet again, and I continue to log (slightly fewer) kilometers in Pokemon Go. I’m no longer interested in Pokemon to get along with classmates, and if tragedy strikes, I’m a little better prepared. Pokemon Go is more of a glorified pedometer more than augmented reality, but my fondness for it still runs deep.

This piece is part of a larger collaboration, Pokemon: Creator’s Catch. Click here to check out all the work by other great writers and artists!

Review: Pokémon Pinball (Gameboy)

By Merman (@merman1974)

Console: Game Boy Color (playable on DMG Game Boys, and Super Game Boy for Super NES)
Developers: HAL Laboratory & Jupiter
Publisher: Nintendo
Release dates: Japan – April 14th 1999, North America – 28th June 1999, PAL – Australia July 13th 1999 and Europe October 6th 2000

pp_box_art_hires

– US box art.

pp_japan_box_art

 Japanese box art –

 

 

 

 

A Pokémon pinball spin-off makes a lot of sense, not least because the Pokéball is round like a pinball. Let us look back at some of the unique features of the first Pokémon Pinball game.

pp_main_title

– Title screen.

 

 

 

 

 

The Pokémon you are catching are of course from the original Generation One game, Blue and Red (as they are known to Western audiences). The game has two separate tables, called Blue and Red, featuring the Pokémon from the relevant game. Unlike other Pokémon titles, you do not need to trade to unlock all 151 in the battery-backed Pokédex – but it is possible to trade high-scores via the Game Boy Color’s infrared port, as well as print out high scores if you attach a Game Boy Printer. There is a unique screen surround when playing on the Super Game Boy attachment for Super NES. Although the cartridge can be played on earlier DMG models of Game Boy, certain features are disabled (including the animated Pokémon in the Pokédex) and the graphics are of course textured monochrome rather than full color.

ppblue_supergameboy

– Super Game Boy surround with the Blue table.

 

 

 

 

 

ppred_DMG_capture – Playing the Red table on a DMG Game Boy.

 

 

 

 

 

The game was a joint development between HAL Laboratory and Jupiter, under license from Game Freak. HAL is of course known for their work on the Kirby games, with former employees and then President Satoru Iwata moving on to become Nintendo’s president. And in 2020 HAL moved part of its staff into Nintendo’s Tokyo Building, meaning it now shares offices with Pokémon creators Game Freak, 1Up Studios, and Nintendo EPD Tokyo. Jupiter is based in Kyoto, with a Tokyo sub-office. The company’s motto translates as “Let’s Play! Let’s Smile!” and it has a long history of releasing games for Nintendo’s handheld consoles – from Game Boy to Switch. Jupiter also worked on the -Game Boy Camera’s built-in software and created an unreleased Pokémon Picross game for Game Boy Color (which was uncovered in the recent large leak of Nintendo data, after only being known about through a few magazine articles of the time).

pp_us_cartridge

– The Pokémon Pinball cartridge with its distinctive shape.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At first glance, the Game Boy Color cartridge for Pokémon Pinball is much larger than normal. At the top is the cover for a AAA battery. This powers the rumble motors inside the cartridge, much like the force feedback found in more recent controllers. This feature is disabled when playing on the Super Game Boy. The Japanese and American versions allow you to switch the Rumble, so it is either on or off. The European cart offers a choice of strengths – Off, Mild or Strong. It is one of a few unique Game Boy cartridge designs with extra hardware inside, alongside the likes of Kirby Tilt ‘n’ Tumble, Wario Ware Twisted, and Yoshi’s Universal Gravitation.

 

ppblue_field_complete

– The complete Blue table.

The complete Red table – ppred_field_complete

How do you go about catching ‘em all in this pinball spin-off? There are common modes to both tables, so it is best to look at the first and then explain the differences. The player can enter Catch ‘Em Mode by flipping the Pokéball over the GET light two or three times. A different type of Pokémon will be available to catch if you light it three times. Then the mode is activated by hitting a particular target – Bellsprout on Red and Cloyster on Blue. A silhouette of a Pokémon will then appear at the bottom of the table and must be filled in by hitting the pop bumpers (at the top of the table – Voltorbs on the Red table and Shellders on Blue). This will fill in the silhouette and make the Pokémon itself appear in the middle, so it must be hit three times to light up the word CATCH! (This is shown as GET in the Japanese version). Each Pokémon caught is recorded in the Pokédex, and awards one of three Pokéballs needed to reach the Bonus Stage (lighting up in the middle of the table). If you encounter a Pokémon but do not capture it, its image appears as a shadow in the Pokédex until you capture it another time.

ppred_abra_reveal

– Abra is being revealed for capture.

 

 

 

 

 

ppblue_zubat_reveal2

– Zubat is almost revealed.

 

 

 

 

 

ppblue_bellsprout_2hits

– Bellsprout has taken two hits.

 

 

 

 

 

ppblue_zubat_0hits

– Hit Zutbat three times with the ball.

 

 

 

 

 

ppred_abra_2hit

– One more hit to capture Abra.

 

 

 

 

 

Once you have caught a Pokémon, the EVO light must be passed over three times to light it up and enter Evolution Mode by hitting the target (Ditto on Red and Slowpoke on Blue). The player uses the flipper buttons to choose between any Pokémon already captured that can evolve. Arrows will guide the player to where the necessary EX (Experience), Evolution Stone, or Link Cable are hidden on the field. The player must collect three of these items; hitting the wrong location will mean the player must send the ball around the outer “loop” of the table or wait 10 seconds for a fresh item to appear and the Pokémon to recover from “fainting”. Both Evolution Mode and Catch’ Em Mode are played against a time limit that gradually counts down. Get the three items in Evolution Mode before time runs out and a hole appears in the middle of the table; flipping the ball into it will secure the Evolution for the selected Pokémon and fill in its new Pokédex entry.

ppblue_choose_evo

– Here on the Blue table, choosing a Pokémon to Evolve.

 

 

 

 

ppblue_evo_ex_token

– An Experience Token to be hit.

 

 

 

 

 

ppblue_evo_1ex

– One EX token down, two to go.

 

 

 

 

 

Once the player has three Pokéball icons lit from captures, the Bonus Stage can be activated by hitting the open center hole. Red has Bonus Stages based on Diglett and Gengar, while Blue has Meowth and Seel. Completing both Bonus Stages on either table will then open the special Mewtwo Bonus Stage. Diglett requires the player to knock down all the Digletts and then hit Dugtrio at the top three times; the player only gets one ball on this stage. Gengar is played against a 1:30 minute time limit in the graveyard. Hitting Gastly ten times will launch Haunted; hitting Haunted ten times will see the player facing a huge Gengar, which must be hit five times to complete the stage. Meowth throws coins around, and the player must collect them with the ball; hitting more than one pile in a row increases the multiplier (the first coin is worth 1, the second is worth 2, and so on). Dropping (draining, in pinball parlance) the ball resets the multiplier and costs four coins. Against a one-minute time limit, the player must collect 20 coins to complete the stage. Seels swim around underwater, with their heads “popping up” every so often. Hit ahead with the Pokéball and a point/icon is earned, with the chance to earn multipliers as in Meowth’s stage. The player has 1:30 to collect 20 icons but can continue to earn points after they reach 20 until time runs out.

Mewtwo’s Bonus Stage is more challenging, as the Legendary Pokémon is surrounded by six moving black circles. Hitting a circle earns a million points and hitting Mewtwo himself earns 50,000,000. With just 2:00 to play, the player must accumulate 25 hits on Mewtwo to capture it. Fortunately, each hit also removes a black circle. A clever player can fail and replay Mewtwo’s bonus stage to earn huge scores.

To simulate a Trainer moving around the region, Map Move is used. The starting location is chosen at random from a shortlist, with different areas for each table. Each area also has its own types of Pokémon available. Red requires you to hit Diglett twice to enter Map Move, while Blue requires three hits on Poliwag or Psyduck. Once these triggers on the table are hit, the player has 30 seconds to hit key targets and make a Map Move. This means a player will play three locations from the “Area 1” list, two from the “Area 2” list, and then the sixth and final area visited will be Indigo Plateau on both tables. Mew can be encountered on Indigo Plateau, but its strength means it would take 1024 hits to capture – and so its entry is added to the Pokédex on finding it rather than capture.

ppblue_mapmove_mtmoon

– The trainer has arrived at Mt. Moon.

 

 

 

 

 

At the top of each table, above the bumpers, are three channels. Dropping the ball through a channel lights one, and the position of lit channels can be cycled with the flippers. Passing over a lit light will turn it off again. Note that on the Red table, hitting Staryu toggles whether the player can upgrade the ball using the channels. Once all three channels are lit the Pokéball upgrades, giving a higher score multiplier. The basic Pokéball becomes a Great Ball (x2 multiplier), then an Ultra Ball (x3), and finally a Master Ball (x5). Combined with the basic table multiplier this can rapidly increase your score. However, each ball only lasts a short while and will change back to the previous strength – and draining the ball off the bottom of the screen reverts to the standard Pokéball.

ppblue_masterball

– A Master Ball with its x5 bonus multiplier.

 

 

 

 

 

Also on each table are the CAVE lights (HOLE in Japan) that can be lit up by the ball passing over them. Once all four are lit, the Slots feature becomes active (but only if the player is not in another mode – i.e., Catch ‘Em, Evolution, or Map Move). The slot machine is started by putting the ball into the center hole. The reel spins to offer an upgrade, with the reel slowing down once the player presses A. Among the upgrades are Small and Big Scores, a Pokéball upgrade, or an increase in score multiplier. The ball Saver protects the player for either 30, 60, or 90 seconds (or until the ball is drained twice), while the Pika power-up can be handy. Normally a Pikachu will sit in one of the two drain channels at the bottom of the table and can be moved between them with the flippers. If his power meter is fully charged – by hitting the spinner on the outer loop, filling the thunder icon – then he will fire his Thunder Strike to act as a kickback, saving the ball from draining. If you get the Pika bonus you have two Pikachus, protecting on both sides and able to charge. The Slots can also award an extra Ball (life) or automatically start a mode – Catch ‘Em, Evolution, or Map Move.

ppred_slot

– The Slot is open.

 

 

 

 

 

ppblue_slot_smallbonus

– The Small Bonus awards a miserly few points.

 

 

 

 

 

ppblue_pika_bonus

 – Gaining the Pika bonus

 

 

 

 

 

 

The player starts with three Pokéballs, but once all balls are lost it is Game Over. Helpfully the Ball Saver is activated for 30 seconds at the start of each life. There is a separate high score list for each table, and as mentioned you can transfer these scores to another Game Boy Color via infrared for your friend to beat. Stats are shown after each ball, awarding bonus points for the number of Pokémon caught or evolved with that ball (times the score multiplier in effect), as well extra for turning the spinner multiple times. As well as flipping the flippers, the player can tilt the table to shake a stuck ball loose – but it is not often needed.

ppred_ballsaved

– Ball Saved! Launch it again.

 

 

 

 

 

ppblue_slot_saved

– I was going for the Slot but missed the ball.

 

 

 

 

 

Positive reviews of Pokémon Pinball give it a GameRankings average of 81.73%. This included 32 out of a possible 40 from legendary Japanese magazine Famitsu. GameSpot’s 8.7 ratings praised the display and presentation but did feel the physics were poor – and the rumble was just a “nice novelty”. CNET was more positive, calling it one of the best pinball games for the Game Boy Color and “more than a shameless cash-in on the Pokémon phenomenon”.

Looking back, these reviews seem fair. The major problem with the game – as in several Game Boy pinball titles – is the way the viewpoint “flicks” between two halves of the table. Although other Game Boy Color pinball games managed to achieve scrolling tables, the 8-bit processor was slow for moving a large table around. The physics are mixed but for the most part, the ball moves realistically. The flippers take some getting used to as there are limited angles, so it is more about controlling the speed of the ball when you hit it to get the right target. And I found the fixed launch speed unusual; most pinball games simulate the spring-based “plunger” which gives the possibility of different launch speeds and skill shots. Graphics are pleasing with some cute, animated Pokémon – although they do not move around (except in the bonus rounds). It is of course the long-term challenge of catching ‘em all that will keep you playing. Personally, I prefer the Blue table, but both are great fun to play in short bursts.

ppred_hiscore

– Red table high scores, storing the top five scores.

 

 

 

 

 

ppblue_hiscore

– Blue table high scores, with the names of the companies involved.

 

 

 

 

There are some other interesting problems and changes between regions, beyond the obvious Language selection menu for Europe. Japanese and American versions allow the player to reconfigure all the controls, but European users are limited to a choice of three pre-set control schemes. The Pokédex entries are taken from Red and Blue with a full stop added at the end. But there are spelling mistakes and translation errors in there. The Japanese text in-game displays the Romanised Japanese names (Poppo for Pidgey, Pawou for Seel) but the Pokédex itself shows the names in kanji. The Cutting Room Floor website (https://tcrf.net/Pok%C3%A9mon_Pinball) reveals unused graphics that could have been a third table or layout, as well as an unused Japanese font. Entering the Game Genie code 000-21D-E6E unlocks a hidden Debug menu that allows you to switch between Game Boy Color and DMG mode for earlier Game Boys.

ppblue_keyconfig

– The Key Config screen from the US game.

 

 

 

 

 

ppblue_pokedex_geodude_anima

 

– Geodude animating in the Pokédex.

 

 

 

 

 

ppblue_pokedex_shadow_meowth

 – I encountered a Meowth but failed to capture it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ppred_abra_text2

 – The second page of text for Abra in the Pokédex.

 

 

 

 

 

The music by Go Ichinose is particularly good for the hardware, reusing familiar themes from the games and the anime. Interestingly the Blue Table’s background theme has a melody that appeared in Pokémon Gold and Silver when visiting Ecruteak City and Cianwood City – games that were released seven months after Pokémon Pinball. Red’s background melody meanwhile is from the Generation II games, when visiting Kanto province. Catch ‘Em Mode on the Blue table uses an instrumental version of “Aim To Be A Pokémon Master” – the original opening theme of the anime.

If you have never played Pokémon Pinball, I can recommend it. For pinball fans, there are some quirks to be endured, but Pokémon fans will get a real kick out of it.

OVERALL: 8/10

ppblue_gameover

 – Game Over!

Curious for more? Well, this article is part of a collaboration between various content creators where we took a look back together on the Pokémon franchise. Feel free to read all the other articles by following the links you can find in the hub article.