Tag Archives: old

First Impression: Nightmare Reaper (PC – Steam) ~ Can You Sleep Through This?

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Steam store pageGOG page

I can’t tell you exactly why, but I’m a big fan of old school 3D shooters. Last year, I took a look at Ion Fury and Wrath. Honestly, I think that it’s because these games stuck the right balance between modern game design and old school gameplay. Now, one day I stumbled across this game. A game in Early Access that released last year to GOG and Steam. A game that presents itself as a game inspired by Blood, Doom, and Duke Nukem 3D. That’s quite interesting in my eyes. Currently, only the first episode has been released and episode two is coming in the near future. At the moment of writing, the developer said that they are aiming to release the second episode at the end of the summer. But, is this game worth your time and money? Let’s take a look at this game while I invite you to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article. 

Can you sleep through this?

ss_b7e8b7e313a53c7bf3c33a58c248e23c44b7b9bd.1920x1080You play as an unnamed girl who is stuck in a psychotic ward. Her story is being told through small notes that you unlock after beating each level. In order for you to enjoy the game, you don’t need to pay any attention to the story, at all. But, I can tell you out of the experience that it enhances the game tenfold. My imagination and the spare bits of story that I got gave the world-building quite a lot of meaning. My imagination filled in some gaps that made the story quite interesting.

Now, I can understand that some people won’t enjoy a story that is this bland where it’s quite clear that you need to protect yourself on the character or fill in some of the gaps yourself. But, I didn’t find this a problem at all. Since this game focusses itself a lot more on the gameplay than on the story and in that case I don’t mind a “weaker” story.

I always find it quite difficult to review or criticize a story when I know that you don’t have every piece of the puzzle. A story can start off strong and end up quite weak. Currently, I’m quite interested to see where the story is going to go and if it wraps up with a nice conclusion or if it leaves it up to the player to figure out.

As I said before, the story is mostly told through small notes that you can read on your table after beating a level. You unlock one note for every level you beat. Each note builds on the previous note painting a more complete picture of the situation. There is no voice acting during these notes, but that doesn’t mean that there is no voice acting in the game.

The girl you play as is voiced by Marie-Claire Lavertu and I haven’t found anything about her. Now, this might raise some red flags but don’t you worry. The voice actor nails the voice acting of the main character flawlessly. The grunts, the smirks, the laughs… It’s all done pretty well. She did a pretty amazing job of bringing this troubled character to live without saying one line. I wonder if she also did the screams of the other patients you hear when you are in your room.

So, how do you play this game; since you start off in a hospital room? Well, as the name of the game suggests, you are going to reap some nightmares. So, it’s time to go to sleep and you get transported to a randomly generated level where your goal is to beat your enemies and reach the goal.

Retroception

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This game features randomly generated levels. Well, to a degree. The developer created a whole slew of rooms and the random level generator just fits them together in random order.

So that means, that you might find the same layout once or twice but in most cases, each level and each playthrough is quite different. But, this isn’t the only thing that stands out in this game.

The Steam Store page boasts that this game has over 32 weapons and is going to have 80+ weapons. Now, before you think that this is going to be an overload to manage them all… You don’t have to manage them all. That’s because you can only carry over one weapon from one level to the next. Yes, one weapon.

It gets even better, each weapon might have special abilities and has a certain level. So, you need to think and strategize about which weapon you want to keep and which weapon you want to sell for those precious coins.

These coins can drop from destroying the environment, defeating enemies, selling weapons at the end of a level, finding treasure, and playing the Gameboy Advance Skilltree minigame. Oh yes, the minigame. One doesn’t simply unlock new powerups in this game, you have to earn them by first having enough coins and then beat the mini-platform level. Only when beating a level, you lose your coins and earn your sweet powerup. Trust me, these power-ups are worth it! After defeating some levels, I felt more equipped and stronger to beat my enemies.

If I would take a look at all the enemies and weapons, I think I would be here all day. Let’s first talk about the weapons. You have swords, staffs, shotguns, rocket launchers, tomes, pistols, rifles… It’s a whole lot. Personally, I rarely used the bows since I found their fire rate a bit too slow since this game can get pretty hectic and intense with some enemies and a strong gun fits my playstyle more in these types of gameplay situations. And my preferred weapon was a double-barreled shotgun with the chance to shock my enemies I picked up in one of the earliest levels.

Obviously, I’m going to talk about the enemies right now. You have a whole range of enemies. From hit scanning enemies to enemies that take you with melee attacks. It’s essential for you to learn the patterns of each enemy so you can play accordingly for which enemy you should take out first.

There are some enemies I absolutely hated during my playthroughs. These Dragon Plants that not only spit acid but also spit little egg projectiles that hatch smaller dragons. These didn’t die fast enough for my liking. And then I’m skipping over the enemies who throw what I assume mutated blobs of themselves to you and these blobs track you and when they explode… You lose a LOT of your health. And these blobs are so freaking small and annoying to kill…

Now, would I remove these enemies? Absolutely not. They ramp up the difficulty of this game to a very rewarding level. For having so many different possibilities, I’m surprised how much work there has been put into the balancing of the game. New enemies are introduced one by one so you can get used to them, learn their patterns, and try to manage them in the chaos of a whole enemy filled room.

The “punishment” for death in this game isn’t that harsh. Thankfully, since you will die quite often since this game can be quite rough. But I mean that in a good way. The punishment is that you have to restart the level with the weapon you choose to keep from the previous level. But, you don’t lose your gold. So, if one level is a bit too tough, you can grind up your coins, beat a few skill tree mini-games and try again with some new powers.

During my playthrough, I regularly felt the urge to play just one more round, to try to beat that annoying level. I found that most of this game is quite fair and balanced apart from the fire boss. I’m sorry but I find that boss battle just too difficult. That boss hits a bit too hard. My biggest complaint is that this boss appears after quite a challenging level and then you have to try and beat quite a difficult fight. Thankfully, the developer said that he is going to take a look at how the fight can become a little bit easier. And also, he has given us some helpful advice to beat it. It’s the biggest frustration I have with this game since I have gotten so close several times… But one of these days, I’ll do it and defeat that – CENSORED –

So, would it surprise you if I said that I’m not even done talking about all the mechanics yet? Oh, I haven’t mentioned the power-ups, the random events, and the possible bonus gold you can earn by killing all the enemies, finding all the gold and secrets… Well, I’ll leave these interesting and fun game mechanics up to you to find out. There must still be something to discover when you play this game after reading this article, right?

Shoot everything

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You might have noticed by looking at the screenshots, that this game doesn’t have the most modern graphics. This game goes for a more retro aesthetic with some modern vibes. And the game succeeds in that quite well.

In the visual presentation, I find this game quite exceptional. I really like the visual presentation and animation of this game. From the enemy design to the animations on the weapons, I really think they are well done. Especially, when I saw some early footage of the game and compare it to what’s on offer now, it’s impressive how far this game has come. The only minor complaint I have in the visual department is a timer. Yes, a timer of how long your power-up is lasting. Since there is no inventory in this game for power-ups and health pickups, so it would have been nice to see how much a powerup is going to last when you want to use it to rush a boss or a difficult room.

To finish up my thoughts on the visual presentation, let’s talk about the UI. Overall, it’s quite well done but there are a few minor things that I would change. First of all, the “Reset Default Settings” is a great future but I would rather have that feature reset for example only the game features instead of resetting everything. Another minor complaint I have about the UI is there are no page numbers on the achievement page.

Speaking about achievements, it’s lovely that these give you coins in-game but I find them to also have them as Steam achievements. I mean, there are over 80 already. Maybe this is just me, but I almost got an achievement in every round, if not two or three. Maybe I look at achievements in a totally different light but I found them not rewarding to earn at all.

There is one thing that I haven’t talked about yet and I usually talk about quite early in my articles and that’s the audio of this game. First of all, let’s talk about the sound effects. The sound design of this game is close to perfect. On quite rare occasions, I didn’t hear some trap or pickup sound effects playing, especially during fights but that isn’t such a big deal. These fights are hectic enough when you try to manage large groups of enemies, the sparse health pickups, and the great sound effects of the enemies and weapons.

But I want to talk about the amazing soundtrack by Andrew Hulshult. Now, if this name doesn’t ring a bell. Well, let me just say he created the soundtrack of a little game called Dusk and Wrath: Aeon Of Ruin. Let me just say, if you enjoy the DooM 2016 soundtrack, oh man you are going to enjoy this quite a lot.

Overall, I would recommend this game to people who enjoy retro games and shooters. At its current state, I found this game quite addictive and I had a hard time putting this game down during my summer holidays. Before I knew it, I had put in 11 hours in this game and I’m not bored with it yet. I can’t wait to see what the second episode will bring to the table.

To be honest, I had a really hard time finding negatives to say about this game apart from the fire boss being too tricky for my liking. All the other things are things that are either quite minor or can change because this game is still in active development. I’m going to keep an eye out on this game and maybe you too.

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

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

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Official website

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

What is GameR-Mate?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s included?

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

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

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

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

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

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

The experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wrath

Steam Store pageWikipedia EntryOfficial website

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

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

Shall We Shoot Some Demons?

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

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

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

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

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

Forgotten Mechanics

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

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

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

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

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

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

Horror

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Impressions: Ion Fury (PC) ~ Is it “Hail to the Queen” now?

Ion_Fury_logo

Official websiteSteam Store page

Once upon a time, there was a game engine. It was called “Build Engine”. With that engine, a lot of masterpieces like Duke Nukem 3D, Blood and Shadow Warrior were created. Around 1999 – 2000, no new games came out that were made in the engine and the engine was sad. The King Duke Nukem had moved on to other projects. Well, sort of. It took FOREVER for his next game to come out. But, this year, something happened. A prince kissed the sleeping engine awake and it transformed into a new game. Wait, this isn’t working at all. Writing this introduction as a history lesson and a fairy tale isn’t working at all. Maybe we need a breath of fresh air. One was a Queen shows the ropes of the game instead of the king. So, shall we look if Ion Fury is successful in that quest or if it crashes and burns? This article is being written after I played the pre-release version until v1.02a. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of the article in the comment section down below.

Editorial note

Before I talk about the game, I want to acknowledge that I know about the controversy of this game. That the developers possibly made some transphobic remarks and there are some homophobic jokes. Personally, I don’t want to spend too much time on this controversy since a lot has been said and written about it.

My personal stance on the whole matter is simple. I’m under the impression that some things were taken out of context or provided with the wrong context and cancel culture did the rest. Also, let me be clear on one thing. I think that you should decide for yourself. Take a step back and take a look at both sides of the story before you make a decision and come to a conclusion.

About the homophobic jokes, one of them is a word pun that fits perfectly in a 90’s throwback game. The other homophobic joke is something that you have to go out of your way to discover. Where you have to enable a cheat and go out of bounds to a developer room where slang is displayed. So yeah, is this something you should take offense over or not…? That’s up to you to decide.

And that’s everything I wanted to say about the controversy. I’m here to review and talk about games. I’m not here to write long articles about drama or controversies. My mental energy is best to spend elsewhere, like on all the positive things in the world.

Bombshell, the next queen?

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In Ion Fury, you play as Shelly “Bombshell” Harrison who earned her codename defusing bombs for the Global Defense Force. Then everything changed when the firing squad attacked. The firing squad of evil cybernetic cult robots made by the equally evil transhumanist mastermind Dr. Jadus Heskel. Now, Shelly has to clean up the streets of Neo DC that she knows so well.

The story brings up in several locations and areas. While this game sort of works with different levels, the world is still interconnected. It feels like you are playing on one huge map instead. Speaking of the levels, each level is quite huge. Currently, the main story takes around 15 hours to complete. Now, this is the perfect length for a shooting game. But, that doesn’t mean that you are done after those 15 hours. You can still find a lot of secrets and easter eggs in the game. And on top of that, the Steam version will have Steam Workshop support which opens the floodgates for custom weapons and even custom levels.

While you play the game, the story takes a backseat. The story doesn’t take a lot of twists and turns or isn’t anything to write home about. Yet, the personality of Shelly is amazingly done. Her one-liners and personality is almost a carbon copy of Duke Nukem in female form. It’s great.

I love the voice work done in this game. The voice works for Shelly is done by Valerie Arem, who also did voice work in Final Fantasy 15, Zero Time Dilemma, Sailor Moon and many other series. She nailed it in this game. On top of that, Jon St. John, the original voice of Duke Nukem voiced the antagonist. It’s almost like the game is poking fun at the similarities between Shelly and Duke.

The charm of the voice acting and the one-liners is amazing. It was one of the reasons why I got so drawn into the atmosphere of this game. Even the enemy grunts are well done. So, this brings me to the sound design of the game. I have no complaints about the sound design at all. Everything sounds amazing and there aren’t any sound effects I would change or tweak. The sound mixing is great as well, I never had trouble with it.

Old game design

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Let’s talk about something you might have noticed already. While this game released this year, it looks and feels like it was released in the late ’90s. For some people, this might be a turn-off, but to me, it’s a breath of fresh air.

The game has this amazing retro vibe to it and makes me quite nostalgic about the times when I first played games like Doom or Heretic. Yet, the game manages to still look amazing. Every area is quite detailed and decorated. The color pallet is extremely varied and this makes the game easy to navigate while giving ample opportunity to hide secrets in various spots.

The gameplay of this game is quite simple. Like the old school shooters of yesteryear, you have to explore the level to find keycards to open doors in order for you to progress. When you reach the end of the level, you get promoted with a message: “are you sure you want to leave this area? You haven’t found X amount of secrets.” This is an amazing feature and made me go back several times to look if I haven’t missed any cracks or holes that might hide a secret.

The gameplay of this game is quite simple. While you are exploring the map, you have to shoot through various waves of enemies. Some of these fly and another move around. Currently, the AI of this game isn’t that smart but that doesn’t make them easy. The game provided me with a lot of challenges in the medium difficulty setting.

I had to redo some sections over and over again because there was just an overload of enemies. At first, I was annoyed by this. While the weapons are easy and fun to use, I found it annoying that I didn’t see how many bullets I had before I had to reload. But, after a while, I got used to the flow of the game and I was defeating these hoards of enemies. When you prepare yourself and really pay attention, the game isn’t that difficult. But, yeah, you will need to do some old school trail and error.

Something that I really liked is the fact that this game has an autosave and a manual save system. So, whenever you are faced with a difficult section, you can save in advance and have a point to return to when you need to retry. The save menu provides all the information you might need and is a perfect example of a UI done well.

I like the way you die!

Earlier in this article, I talked about the visual presentation of this game. Now, the animations of this game are amazing. Some of them are a little bit gory, but they are over the top gory. Bodies can explode when you hit them with a rocket launcher, and the added sound effects are amazing. The fact that some parts of the world are destructible is great fun too. You can blow up some walls.

Now, speaking about blowing up walls… Something I found a tad bit annoying was how bombs were handled. You can throw them with the left mouse button, but you only light and throw them with the right mouse button. The reason I found the annoying is simple, in the heat of a battle I keep clicking my left mouse button to shoot and use my scroll wheel to quickly and easily select the weapon I need for the situation. But, because I’m so drawn into the game, I keep clicking the left mouse button and waiting for an explosion that never comes.

This is the only issue I have with the controls of the game. All other controls work flawlessly. Now, sometimes it’s a bit of a struggle to jump into gaps while crouched, but I quickly got used to that. These controls are quite helpful to explore the expansive levels to find the keycards, items, and ammo on the map. Some levels have a straight path forward but other levels have some branching paths with rewards for exploration.

It comes with the territory but there is some backtracking in the game. Once or twice I got lost in the level because I thought I picked up a keycard or found a keycard while I actually hadn’t done that. Oh well, these are things that happen in these old school 3D shooters. I think I have to pay better attention to the UI since it displays quite well which items you have.

Maybe that would help me to save up more ammo. Since sometimes I felt that I didn’t have enough ammo and other times I had

Speaking about items, this is were Ion Fury dropped the ball a bit. While the game is inspired by Duke Nukem 3D, the game doesn’t have a lot of items. In Duke Nukem 3D, you have a lot of different items to experiment with, like the Holo Duke and the Jet Pack. The two items that I found in this game are a radar and a portable med-pack. If only this mechanic would be expanded in a DLC or an update, that would be amazing. Also, I found the radar item quite useless and barely used it. But, that might be because I don’t fully understand the purpose of the item.

Everything comes together in a well-designed game with expansive maps and fun challenges to blast through. Together with a great soundtrack, this game can be a rush from start to end. Now, the soundtrack of this game is more electronica/dance than either rock/metal/orchestral focused soundtracks of the other games in the engine. I can totally understand why some players didn’t really enjoy the soundtrack, but that’s not the case for me.

While this game isn’t that long compared to other games I have played recently, I love to replay this game several times. Due to the updates changing the map layout since the pre-release, I love to find the added details since the updates or play through the game with the new mechanics and all the fixed bugs. And, as soon as I know the maps better, I might even play through the game on a higher difficulty setting.

Apart from the main game, there are also some additional gameplay modes. One of these is an endless mode where you have to survive wave after wave of enemies. This is quite fun since the better you do, the better drops you get to defend yourself. This is a fun distraction from the main game. The other modes are something that you will have to discover when you play the game for yourself. And let’s not forget to mention that in a future patch, we will have multiplayer!

In conclusion, this game is a well-crafted throwback 3D shooter. Apart from some minor issues, I don’t have anything negative to say about this game. If you enjoy playing shooters or retro games, you should do yourself a favor and check this game out. Feel free to support the developers by leaving feedback on their forums. Personally, I think this game is that good, I might even buy the big box collectors edition for my collection.

And with that said, I think I’m going to close off this article. I might talk a bit more in-depth about certain things or mechanics if I ever write a review but for now, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Gamer’s Thoughts: Difficulty in games

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

My own views on game difficulty.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How others think about difficulty.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Closing off

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

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

First Impression: Woodle Tree Deluxe (Switch) ~ Raindrops To The End.

Woodly TreeNintendo microsite

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

Raindrops To The End

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

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

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

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

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

Checkpoint mystery

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

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

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

A cute cover

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Impression: Project Zero 2 – The Crimson Butterfly (PS2) ~ A Sisterly Bond

Fatal_Frame_II_-_Crimson_Butterfly

Wikipedia entry

Ah Fatal Frame, a series I found quite interesting when I was a little child but fell in love with a few years ago when I was able to get my hands on a collector’s edition of the Wii U entry in the series. It was the 5th entry in the series and I loved it so much, I started to hunt down all the other entries in the series. Last year, I was able to get myself all the European released games on PS2, in a physical copy! While testing them out, I enjoyed myself quite a lot with Fatal Frame 2. So, I kept playing that game. It’s no secret that I enjoyed myself with this game since I gave a spot on my top 10 games I played in 2018. So what are my actual opinions on this game? Well, let’s find out! And as usual, feel free to leave a comment down below with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

PS: The article was originally going to be published this Sunday, but because today is my 26th birthday, I decided to publish it today as a birthday special.

A sisterly bond

fatal frame II screenshot 2The story starts out with two sisters running around in the forest playing. Suddenly, the pass a stone and it looks like the duo entered another dimension. The two get terrified that there is no easy way out and even worse, the two split up. Not willing, mind you. One of the two sisters gets mesmerized with a crimson butterfly that she keeps following.

So, you need to go look for your sister in a creepy and haunted town while you need to escape ghosts and try to find an exit of the city. The setting for this horror game is excellent. The voice acting in this game is really well done, the voices of the two sisters are excellent. I also loved the performances of the ghosts since they kept me on the edge of my seat in certain battles.

The story is mostly told through notes, cutscenes and the environment.  There are moments you are together with your sister and there are moments she sees that damned butterfly again.  She really likes these red butterflies. Now, the story so far has been quite enjoyable. While sometimes I feel that the story is mostly used to string levels and areas together, it’s executed extremely well. I really felt that something strange was happening and that there were higher powers at play.

Now, I am quite curious about where the story of this game will go. The mysteries are getting unrevealed slowly but I still don’t have any answers. Now, do you need to play the first game before you can understand the story of the 2nd game? Well, not at all. The story is totally independent of the first game, while a lot of story mechanics return in the second game, all the characters are new.

Also, I haven’t beaten the original game myself. Now, you might wonder why I have chosen to play this game on the PS2 and not go for the director to cut on the XBOX or Wii. That has two reasons. One, I don’t own an XBOX and two, the physical copy of the Wii game is extremely expensive. Now, when I was finishing up this review, I discovered that the game got released on the Nintendo eShop, so I bought myself a digital copy.

Anyways, we are getting off track here. The story itself is interesting. It’s two-fold actually. In one part, it’s about how to escape the village and in another part, it’s about saving your sister. So, I have the impression that this game has multiple endings. But, I have to beat the game to know that for sure!

Spooky Camera

project_zero_2-6Because this is a Fatal Frame game, the Camera Obscura shows itself again. If you have played any other games in the series, you know how this game plays. In this game, you have to explore an area that’s filled with ghosts. Some ghosts aren’t hostile but most of them are hostile. In order to defeat the ghosts, you have to take pictures of the ghosts. The better they are in the frame, the more damage they receive. The damage also depends on the film you use. There is an aspect of survival horror to this game since the amount of film isn’t infinite. The stronger films are really hard to find and quite rare.

Combat in this game is an awkward dance with the ghosts. You have to come close to snap a good picture. But, if they are too close, they can grab you and you get damage. So, you have to move backward. Now, the camera you use is quite old. So, it needs to recharge after each use. You have audio and visual cues to see when the camera is recharging.

To be honest, I found the combat controls better in the Wii U game I played. In my review of Resident Evil 4, I mentioned that I had difficulty with aiming my gun on the PlayStation 2. The same thing applies here. So, each play session, I have to get used to the controls. It doesn’t take too long, but it makes me miss the Wii U controls. Maybe when I play the Wii version, I won’t have this issue too much.

Now, this game doesn’t have an autosave. Much like Resident Evil 4, you can save at certain locations. In this game, it’s a red lantern on a pedestal. You have a limited amount of save slots, but that doesn’t bother me too much since it helps me to get more points. Side note, there is an improvement over the save system of Resident Evil since there is a small picture accompanying the save file.

Yes, the better the image, the higher the points you get. These points can be used to upgrade your camera. Upgrades like shutter speed or damage output. You can also find upgrades in various, sometimes hidden, locations to get certain things up to a higher level. There is a safer way of earning points as well. If you are able to take a picture of the scripted harmless ghosts, you get some bonus points. So, it’s highly advised to explore around and not go to solve the puzzles straight away.

Oh yes, this game has puzzles. Some of the puzzles require you to analyze a photograph and try to work out where it came from. Other puzzles require you to find a certain key item to open a door or to lift a curse on a door in order to progress.

Like a lot of other survival horror games, this game also suffers from some jump scares. Now, I find the build-up to the jump scares pretty good. Most of the jump scares happen a bit off-screen when you haven’t encountered a ghost for a while. In the Wii U game, the jump scares were way worse. Also, it’s quite possible to miss some jump scares if you didn’t explore certain areas of the room.

Exploring the city and the buildings is made much easier with a great map system. The map draws itself while you are exploring. The area only adds itself when the area is discovered. Also, when a door is locked, the door isn’t shown in blue but in red. Now, if you unlock a door when solving a puzzle that is somewhere else on the map, I don’t know for sure if the door also changes to blue. Since, to be honest, I haven’t paid attention to that.

There are a few additional things to the combat and gameplay I’m going to keep a secret for this article. The only thing I’ll say about it is that there are a combo system and a few other features. The camera is used in so many different unique and creative ways, it keeps the mechanic from being repetitive.

 The atmosphere in the dark

fatal frame II screenshotThis game is totally worth to wear the title of a horror game. The atmosphere of the game is done extremely well. While this game first released on the PS, this game still looks amazing to this day. Some models and textures do show their age, but the lighting and visual design give an extremely creepy atmosphere. I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat during most of my play sessions. I even went as far as closing the curtains of my room or to play this game at night with a good pair of headphones and in the dark. Only the dim glow of my darkened LCD television to keep me company.

I have played this game without and with my headset on. I found the game better when I played with a headset or with a good sound system. I wouldn’t listen to most of the soundtrack outside of the game but in the game, it helps to build a scary atmosphere so well. Some tracks sound like wind blowing through the room or that something is chasing and/or following you. Together with the amazing sound design of the ghosts, this game is just creepy.

The ghosts don’t sound either human nor otherworldly. This is especially creepy because the ghosts moan and speak in Japanese. Well, most of them speak Japanese. Some ghosts also speak English and hearing that suddenly makes it even more creepy. They even managed to make picking up items scary with playing animation and a creepy sound effect each time when you reach down to pick up an item. You also never know what the item will be since it’s a glowing white orb on the ground. It’s also possible to find some items in various drawers and household items. So, explore away!

Now, the bulk of the story is told through the locations you visit. There are some cut scenes where somethings are explained, but the visuals help to tell the story. There are also some moments where you find a stone that tells some additional story to flesh out the story even more. Earlier in this first impression, I talked about how the two sisters entered a cursed village and they are trying to find their way out. In this game, you explore various locations. From a graveyard to a scary forest. You also explore various typical Japanese homes to a big shrine. While I was exploring, I really felt I was exploring an abandoned haunted village. The realism and attention for detail in the visual presentation is amazing.

Something I really want to praise this game for is that lighting. The lighting in this game is one of the strongest points. Of course, the game takes place during the night. It’s never light outside. At least, so far. I haven’t finished the game after all. The various candles littered around the village help to sell the atmosphere even more. The flashlight that you can control with one of the joysticks of the PS controller works flawlessly.

So, I think it’s quite clear that the atmosphere of this game is solid. When you want to play a good horror game, I highly recommend this game. The game also provides you with some good challenges. From tricky ghost encounters to clever puzzles. Now, you can run away from the ghosts, but you’ll lose points. And if you don’t get enough points, you might not be able to defeat certain bosses easily. Since, points = upgrades.

The controls are something that some people don’t like about this game. Personally, I got used to them after a while. I already talked about the struggle I had with the aiming of the camera. But, that also helps in the immersion department in a way. Remember, you are playing as a young Japanese girl trapped in a cursed village looking for your sister and a way to escape. Of course, you are scared and you are looking frantically for a way to defend yourself.

I’m almost forgetting to talk about the animation of this game. The animation in this game gets extremely close to the uncanny valley. I’m convinced that it’s in the uncanny valley for some. Especially how certain characters react and express their emotions. For example, how the two sisters like arms when they are witnessing something scary for the first time. They are looking for comfort with each other. It still blows my mind that there was such lifelike animation on the PlayStation 2.

I could continue to talk about this game for a while longer but most of it will be praising the game. If you are a horror fan, you really owe it to yourself to check out this game. The quality of the Fatal Frame series is up there with Silent Hill and the original Resident Evil games. I’ll talk a bit more in-depth about the game when I write my review. Consider the things I haven’t talked about in this first impression review as nice surprises when you decide to play this game.

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

Gamer’s Thoughts: General tips to start collecting

20170228201533-nintendohero.jpegAh, game collecting. It’s one of my biggest hobbies and I love doing it. Thanks to my video game collection, I’m able to talk about so many games on my blog and have so many different experiences. While I’m not the most hardcore of collectors, I do want to share some stories and advice if you want to start collecting retro and modern games. If you have any questions or you have advice yourself, feel free to leave a comment down below, I’ll do my best to help and love to hear the advice of other collectors as well. Also, know that this is some general advice. If you want to start to get really into collecting, then this article can serve as a nice base but videos like this one from MetalRockJesus are a great help as well

You will need space!

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Do realize that you will need some shelving space when you want to start collecting. Personally, I wish I had more room in my room to build more cabinets and shelves to store my collection.

There are various interesting cabinets that game collectors use. If you look at various pictures of people showing off their collection, you get a great general idea of what sort of space you can use for your cabinets.

Something I personally do is, storing my cartridges in plastic containers. This is to avoid dust and other damage to them. I also sort my games per system. So, I have a PSP shelf, a GBA/GBC shelf, Wii (U) shelf… This makes it easier to find a game when I’m looking for them.

I can speak out of the experience of collecting games all my life, you will need a lot of storage space. Better workout a good storage system before you start collecting. Otherwise, you will regret it extremely fast.

My budget & thrifting.

If you are worried about the cost of collecting, well, know that thrift stores and garage sales exist.

Here are some tips at garage sales. I personally trained myself in the ability to spot games by just scanning the stalls. It can really help if you are able to recognize the shape and color of the system you are collecting for. For example, I know that most PS2 boxes have are blue and/or have the name “Playstation 2” on top.

Another helpful thing to know is that resellers are a plague at garage sales. Here in Belgium, they arrive at the crack of dawn to buy every game they can get their hands on, while meanwhile, another person is setting up their stall.

The best way to do deals is to buy from people who sell from their garage or don’t have a lot of gaming items. Those people really want to get rid of the games and will let them go for a really cheap price. I have bought a ton of games for a really cheap price. For example, I was able to buy GTA 1 (PS1) for 1€ or Outlaws (PC) for 2€.

While you can haggle, don’t overdo it. For example, if they sell PSP games for 3€ a piece, I usually say, what if I buy 5 of them and pay you 12€. Try to check if they are willing to go below their asking price before you continue to haggle.

I ran the risk of looking around for a cheaper version of various times at garage sales. Sometimes I get lucky, other times, I got unlucky and saw some nice games get sold before my eyes.

Since I personally collect Gameboy games, I always have a Gameboy Advance in my pocket with me. Do test your games, if possible, before you buy them. To avoid regretting buying a game.

If you are buying PC games and such, check if all discs are there and if they don’t have a lot of scratches. I always check the games for any damage or missing parts before I buy them. I haven’t done this in the past and had missing discs and discs that weren’t able to be read.

Also, keep an eye out on people trying to sell their physical copies of Steam games. Or any other online distribution platform for that matter. Since you need that key to be able to activate the game, but if you buy it in a thrift store or in a garage sale; you have high risks that the game is already activated and the disc will be worthless. Unless you bought it digitally and you want a physical copy to add to your collection.

What do I do when I go thrifting and/or to a garage sale? Well, I take a bag or two with my handhelds (charged of course) to be able to test the games, I bottle of water, my wallet with the budget I want to spend, something to eat and my smartphone. I also try to not wear many game-related items on me. To avoid giving away that I know what I’m buying. I have seen too many items that people raise their prices because a gamer needs to pay a more fair price for their games…

I like to leave in the morning to do one round and I do another round around midday or in the afternoon. Why in the morning? The earlier you leave, the more chance you have to be before the resellers. Also, you will have the biggest selection of them all. Yet, you do miss a big advantage of something you have in the afternoon.

In the afternoon, some people are getting tired and sick of standing with their stall at the garage sale and start lowering their prices. Most of them are happy if they are able to leave the garage sale with less stuff then they started. So, take that into consideration.

Index your collection & how to collect?

While I have quite a good memory in which games I have in my collection already, it’s always a great idea to have an index. This way you can easily look up if you already have the game or not.

Do put this index file in an easily editable file somewhere in online storage. Personally, I have the games I really want to find in a text document stored in my Dropbox. This way I can easily check while I’m walking at the garage sale which games I’m looking for.

Something I still have to do is make a huge list of all the games that are in my collection. Since I actually want to know how many games I own and how many games I own for each platform. It’s something that is on my bucket list for 2018. This will take quite a lot of time since I have big plans in mind.

Besides physical games, I do collect the merchandise. mostly figurines, clothing and various other pieces of merch. I have one big glass cabinet for all my figurines. I actually enjoy from time to time figuring out how to display them.

So, how can you start collecting? Besides going to garage sales and thrift stores, you can look at 2nd hand websites for people selling their games. Sometimes I buy “a lot”. This means that I buy a bundle of games that somebody doesn’t need anymore. In various cases, I buy games that I already own but I use these games to sell again or to trade.

Trading can be a great way to get rid of your duplicates and get new games into your collection. This is why networking is so important to collectors. I’m in a group of retro game collectors on Facebook and I follow various retro game reviewers on Twitter and YouTube. This way I learn from their experience and stories.

Do network! For real, almost all my coworkers know that I collect games and I have gotten so many games from coworkers who cleaned up their attic or their kids didn’t want their games anymore. One time, I actually was called up by a store that somebody brought in a lot of big boxed PC games and this way I was able to buy a game I always wanted to have.

Anyways, that’s all the general advice I want to give for now. I hope that you learned something about the art of collecting games. While I can tell and teach you a lot more, I’m going to close off the article right here. Maybe I write a follow-up article to this one with more advice and some stories of garage sales.

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

Publishing: Egyptian Adventure Game Mirrors Recent Great Pyramid Discovery

MOSELLE (SAINT LOUIS), Missouri, Dec 4, 2017 — The recent Great Pyramid discovery mirrors hidden chambers already explorable in the historical fiction epic adventure game Riddle of the Sphinx, currently funding on Kickstarter (http://kck.st/2A7QUbY). 

National Geographic (http://on.natgeo.com/2z7CjiL) magazine stated that the mysterious void just discovered will not be explorable, since there are no known corridors connecting the Grand Gallery to this “void.” Coincidentally, the Riddle of the Sphinx adventure game has mirrored these staggering developments and allows players to freely explore these new chambers.

Old World Studios (http://oldworld.studio), the developers of Riddle of the Sphinx: The Awakening (http://riddleofthesphinx.com), conducted a tremendous amount of research, to make an adventure game that modeled all of the existing monuments and chambers to exact specifications. But they went even further by building access to the many speculated hidden chambers and corridors thought to be within the Great Pyramid.

Charlie Tobler, co-developer and lead programmer, said: “We took some artistic license, of course, but much of what you explore is true to life as if you were to explore the Great Pyramid and Sphinx in person. Now people can experience one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, without all the red tape and expense involved in an expedition of that magnitude.”

“Riddle of the Sphinx came about because Karen and I wanted to explore what lay beyond the existing tombs and chambers in the Great Pyramid. We started with actual archaeological discoveries and scientific speculation and turned those into virtual-reality in Riddle of the Sphinx,” said Jeff Tobler, original co-designer/developer.

A recent Facebook comment reads, “Thank you for Riddle of the Sphinx. As a kid playing this game was pure magic.”

Another player emailed with this father-son recollection, “I have played many adventure games over the years… but [Riddle of the Sphinx] is one of the best (maybe the best) ‘adventure’ I have ever played. The best part for me was… to have my five year-old son… eagerly waiting in anticipation what was going to happen next in the pyramid… I was also amazed at the accuracy of the Great Pyramid.”

The new version is currently funding on Kickstarter (http://kck.st/2A7QUbY) and is slated to be released in September 2018. But the development team is offering a limited release Ancient Egypt’s Mysteries Revealed eBook and the official game soundtrack before Christmas for those who pledge to support the project at the Graffiti level and above!

Kickstarter

If you are interested in virtually exploring the mysterious void found in the Great Pyramid, head over to https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jefftobler/riddle-of-the-sphinx-awakening-discover-lost-tombs to get your hands Riddle of the Sphinx or more information.

Jeff and Karen Tobler founded Old World Studios (http://oldworld.studio) with the vision of allowing the exploration of real and fictional “old worlds” virtually through realistic and captivating adventure games. Now, with Charlie and Marta Tobler, their son and daughter-in-law joining the team, they have decided to take their epic adventures to the next level, allowing both new and veteran explorers to experience the wonders that have mesmerized players worldwide. Old World Studios is a subsidiary of LifeTree Games, a company with the purpose of providing exciting, yet wholesome, entertainment.

Review: Outlaws (PC) ~ LucasArts Pew Pew in the Wild West

250px-OutlawsLucasArtsBoxCover.jpgWikipedia entry

When I was on a garage sale trip in late June, I saw this title in a big PC box for 1€ at one of the last stands I visited. I was drawn to the LucasArts logo on the box. I didn’t think twice about buying it. When I got home, I took a picture of all the games I bought on that garage sale and people got hyped about Outlaws. A friend of mine even said that this is a game he wanted to see remastered. So, I got out my retro game PC, installed the game and started playing it. A few days ago, I finally finished the game so it’s time to give my review about this game. As usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the content of this article and/or the game. 

Old school shooter

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In this game, you take the role of a retired U.S. Marshall, James Anderson. After he comes home from the store, he finds out that his wife and daughter are kidnapped by two well-known outlaws. When you find out that they killed your wife and are on the run with your daughter, the case is on.

I do have to admit, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the story while I played this game. While the cutscenes that present the story are very nicely animated for the time, it didn’t grip me. I’m not saying that the story is badly written in any way, shape or form. The cutscenes I watched were thrilling enough to continue playing the game. The voice acting was decent as well. The only thing that I didn’t like about the voice acting was how cliche some voices were. Also, there wasn’t enough emotion in some scenes in my opinion.

Speaking of the voice acting, there is also voice acting during the gameplay. A lot of enemies taunt you with some lines over and over again. The only thing that could be better if there were more lines said. Since, if you hear the same taunts spoken in the last level that you heard on the first level, you stop paying attention to them.

This game is your typical early-3D style shooter. Each level has an end boss and in order to reach the said boss, you have to look for keys to unlock the doors they hide behind. The first time I encountered a boss, I died after two hits. I got so frustrated with the game, I almost rage quitted. After I calmed down, I tried again but this time, I waited and learned the pattern of the boss. When I killed the boss, a cutscene played and that’s when everything clicked for me.

Not long after that, I learned that the yellow arrow on the map screen is the location of the final boss. This is a pretty handy feature. One that helped me several times when I got stuck. The map screen was a good friend in this game. It helped me several times to find new ways when I got stuck or felt that I was running around in circles. There are three things I would change about it. One, have a sort of marker where doors are where you need special keys for. Two, a zoomed out map would be amazing. And three, I would have loved the see the level names like in DooM somewhere in the bottom of the screen.

Something the map screen did well is show how many secrets there are in a given level and keep track of how many you found. This was good fun.

This game doesn’t have an autosave feature. You can save whenever and wherever you want. Just hit the “Esc” key on the keyboard and choose the option “save”. The only thing I could have loved to see improved is that the time and date was displayed when the save was made.

Reload that gun

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This game has an amazing reload mechanic. In this screenshot, you can see how the revolver doesn’t have any ammo left. When you hold the right mouse button, you start to insert bullet by bullet in your gun. But, don’t worry, when you meet an enemy while reloading, you can just shoot. Even when your gun isn’t fully loaded. I wish more shooters implemented this feature. It speeds up the action so much and makes the gameplay more fun in my opinion.

I played this game on the medium difficulty. Let me tell you, this game can get intense. The game never gets too hard to be unfair. I have played a little bit on the hardest difficulty. Let me tell you, you have to use your cover or you won’t survive.

For the most part, the level design is very well built. I really liked all levels in the game. One of my favorite levels was the Canyon. Especially when you were able to shoot enemies from the cliffs. They have a separate animation for that and even a sound effect! It helped so much with building the atmosphere. In that stage, there was also one of my favorite stage gimmicks. There is wind blowing through the canyon. At certain places, when you weren’t moving; well, the wind moved you towards the cliff edges. There were a lot more stage gimmicks providing variety through out the game.

In this game, you shoot with a lot of different guns. I liked the revolver the most since you can shoot quickly with it. It helped me to clear out a lot of crowded areas. But, all weapons have their own use in certain situations. The only thing I did have problems with is the dynamite. It never lit on fire, I had to shoot it always when I wanted to use it.

That disappointed me, just like the sheriff badge pick up. While these are rare to find, I don’t know what they do. So, I had to consult the manual. Apparently, it’s a shield and a damage increase. I didn’t notice any change with or without the badge.

What disappointed me the most was the frustrating platforming parts. This game had a few, very interestingly designed platform segments but due to the sometimes floaty and unreliable jump, this got to some frustrating deaths and/or me having to do that jump section all over again. When you are playing this game, master the run and jump and the crouch and jump as quick as you can.

Something that didn’t disappoint me was the manual. The manual for this game is actually beautifully created and designed. It features some additional background stories and information about the characters you meet in the game. It’s also themed like the wild west, just like the additional leaflet for the troubleshooting problems with the multiplayer.

Speaking of the multiplayer, this game has it. While I wasn’t able to experience it, from what I read, it’s a decent addition.

Wild West music

Outlaws

This game is, give or take, a 15-hour long adventure. I have to say, I think I’m willing to play through this adventure again. The gameplay is a lot of fun. The game’s presentation is dated but still holds up for retro gamers.

The animation is pretty good too. But if we are speaking of presentation, this game excels in two things as well. The soundtrack and sound design. The soundtrack is amazing. Honestly, it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite soundtracks I heard lately. I’m so adding it to my library of video game soundtracks to listen to while I write.

The sound design is well done as well. I played this game with a headset that blocks out a lot of the sound from around me. So, I was able to fully immerse myself into the game. I have proof that I was fully immersed into the game since most of my play sessions of this game were around 2-3 hours without a break.

Earlier in this review, I touched upon the jump mechanic. Overall, the controls are pretty good. The game has a fast flow to it and I didn’t have problems with the controls. Apart from what I mentioned earlier, the jumps.

When you play the historical missions, some jumps that you have to do are a bit pixel perfect. But, I won’t go too much in-depth about that since I already complained about that earlier in my review.

Something that annoyed me the most in this game is that some areas are designed to get a player stuck. I had to consult a walkthrough twice since I got stuck on two different levels. And both times, it was with one hallway I didn’t check enough or in a place, I forgot to crouch.

So, if you get stuck in this game, don’t forget you can jump ridiculous distances and crouch!

Something that took me by surprise and made me happy is the fact that some enemies were female! Yes, female enemies in a shooter. Some were even bosses of a level. Thank you for doing that LucasArts!

It’s quite clear that LucasArts made this game since there are a lot of easter eggs and references in this game. You can find aliens, Indiana Jones, Sam & Max and a lot more easter eggs. So, if you enjoy easter egg hunting, pick up a copy of this game and start looking!

The final thing I have to say is that I find this game too short. After I had beaten the game and the historical missions, I found it bitter sweet. I wanted to play more but I was happy that I had beaten the game. If only LucasArts was still around, then I would be able to ask/nag for a remake or a sequel to this game.

So, that’s everything I wanted to say about this game. I left some things out for you guys to discover. But it’s time to wrap up the article and get to the conclusion of this one.

Conclusion

The bad:

-The annoying parkour sections.

-Minor complaints about the map screen.

-No date/time displayed on the save screen.

-The voice acting was too cliche sometimes

-Too short!

The good:

+ Amazing soundtrack

+ Addictive gameplay

+ Great presentation for the time

+ …

Final thoughts:

If you look the negatives I listed, it’s quite clear that those are very minor problems. This game is so close to perfect, it’s annoying. The biggest problem to me was the annoying parkour bits that were difficult to do with the sometimes floaty and unreliable jump.

All the other issues are so minor, they weren’t too big of an issue to put a damper on the fun I was having with the game. If you enjoy games like DooM, Wolfenstein, Heretic amongst others, you owe it to yourself to check out this game.

I highly recommend this game to people who enjoy stealth games too. If you play it on the highest difficulty setting, this game is a great stealth game.

I’m so happy to have this gem of a game in a big PC box complete in my collection. This game is one I will most likely play again in the future since I enjoyed my time with it so much. Also, the soundtrack is pretty great and I can’t wait to listen to it while I’m on the road.

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

Score: 100/100

Gamer’s Thoughts: “Games are a waste of time”

gamedealsHappy Mothers day 2017! A phrase I hear my mom saying from time to time is: “I don’t understand why people enjoy games.”. That question actually made me think. Why do we gamers enjoy games? Why do people who don’t play games see them sometimes as annoying or time wasters? Well, in this article I’m going to give my two cents in the discussion. As usual, feel free to leave a comment about your opinion and/or my opinion in the comment section down below. 

Why do I play games?

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First of all, let me explain why I play games. In an article last year, I tried to explain why I play games. But in most of the article, I talked about why I collect games.

So, why do I play games? Well, I think it’s because of several reasons. The first reason would be because I grew up in a time where playing the Gameboy was the hip thing to do on the school playground. Pokémon was extremely popular when I was in elementary and I was hooked. Then my family took me to various garage sales and flea markets. I bought more and more games on the Gameboy and I got hooked.

The second reason is because it was a very easy conversation topic. When I was on a trip, I was able to talk to other kids easily thanks to games. Phrases like: “What are you playing?”, “Have you played game X” or “How far are you into the game?” are phrases that often crossed my lips as a child. I made so many friends thanks to games.

A 3rd reason would be that I was so interested in reading and telling stories. But why am I less addicted to movies or books then? Well, the interactivity is the biggest reason. The fact I can make a difference in the world the game is so important to me. That’s why I love games that have a great story.

So, in conclusion, I think due to nostalgia and the interactive nature of gaming, I got hooked on gaming and never let go. Nowadays, I even have a 4th and 5th reason. My 4th reason is that I’m interested in how people get entertained by games. If I had the right skills, I would have studied game design.

And my 5th reason is this blog, honestly. I love to share stories of games I played. And writing a blog about them is one of the best ways to share them. The best way is YouTube, but I burned out on making videos…

Why do people play games?

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I’m quite sure that gaming is here to stay. While some hardcore gamers won’t like the next sentence, but due to the casual mobile gaming market, there are much more people play games than ever before.

The fact that gaming is a national sport in South Korea and that people earn their living with playing games are more proof that gaming is here to stay.

I think that the reason why people play games is similar to why people watch Netflix all day or read books in their free time. It’s their way of entertaining themselves. To relax after a (stressful) day at school or work.

People will always look for a way to entertain themselves. Another reason is that the current generation is growing up with a culture where video games are everywhere. Speaking about that, games are becoming more and more accessible to young children. And look at me, when you do something since childhood, it isn’t easy to let go.

Why games can be annoying/uninteresting

5562ecfd-2740-4c50-b148-64b882408fa0 When I ask people who don’t play games, I sometimes get a reply like: “I don’t have the time for them” or “I’m not interested in them.” Which are both very valid arguments, in my opinion. But they aren’t good answers to why people can find games annoying or a waste of time.

Well, I have a few theories for why people think that games can be annoying. Keep in mind, this is just a theory. Why I think people find games annoying. Also, let me make on thing clear, I’m talking in very general terms in the following theories. I know that we as humans are a more complex race.

My first theory is that people don’t like the interactivity of the games. They enjoy TV-shows where they can sit down and just take in the content. Or you could replace TV-shows with movies, books, plays, concerts…

A 2nd theory is one I think makes a lot of sense of the older generation. The fact that they didn’t grow up with games but saw children and teenagers grow up with them. In their eyes, games would be a toy for children and for teenagers, so their interest fades away. “Why would something that’s meant for children is any use to me?” is a thought that summarizes this theory. A generation gap if you will.

A 3rd theory is because they don’t see the appeal to games. They don’t understand what can be so engaging in playing games. Also, they don’t understand what additional value games can bring to people since most games are entertainment games. There aren’t a lot of gamers who play educational games just for fun. And I mean, that their favorite genre is educational games.

A 4th theory is the loud toxic minority that gives us gamers a bit reputation. People who do violent things and then blame it on violent video games. I think that media outlets especially can be a problem in this case. Since they give non-gamers the impression that every game is so violent and that it taints people their brain. Maybe we just need to get past the phase that certain styles of music and movies went through.

But, I’m getting off track. What I mean with the loud toxic minority are the people who actually go out their way to make the gaming community look like a bunch of unwelcome jerks. People who won’t help others to play games. Thankfully, there are a lot of forums, websites, and networks that are meant to welcome new gamers with open arms. But sadly enough, it’s the loud toxic minority that sometimes gives communities a bad reputation. And people tend to generalize… So yeah, I think I made my point clear here.

So, that are a few theories I have. I wonder how you guys think about them. Feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on my theories. But please, keep it civil. I’m open to discussion, but I’m not open to flame wars.

Wrapping up

So, should we force people to play games? Well, no. We should ask them why they don’t like games and invite them to give games a chance. I accepted that members of my family don’t enjoy playing games. I don’t enjoy reading that much while my mom loves to read a lot of books.

Before I forget, this whole article has been inspired by the quote of my mother I used in the introduction of my article. So, thank you, mom, for this great idea! I hope you had a great mothers day today!

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

Review: Pokémon Sun and Moon (3DS) ~ New Generation!

sun-moon-box-art.jpgOfficial website

Well, you might have seen this one coming from a mile off. Because I love playing on my handheld, I was ,of course, going to play Pokémon Sun and Moon. Well, I choose to play Sun. Also, I played on the old-school 3DS.  Because I haven’t bought a New 3DS just yet. I might do that next year when I have a bit more budget. In any case, it’s time to take a look at one of the biggest games from Nintendo this year. Is it any good or is it a failure? Is this game worthy enough to start a whole new generation of Pokémon or should we all shout to Nintendo to stop? Here is my opinion on the matter. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or this article in the comment section. One little note: I have written this review as spoiler free as possible!

Childhood of Pokémon

pokemon_sun_3ds_screenshots_2.jpgI have been playing almost every Pokémon game from the very first Pokémon games. I owe a lot to the Pokémon series.But, let’s not go into a whole personal story about how this series influenced my life. That story is for another time. Speaking about stories, usually, the story in these kinds of Pokémon games is pretty generic.

The start of this game is almost the same as all the other Pokémon games. You move to a new place and you meet the Professor of that area. He gives you your first Pokémon and you go on a quest. But it doesn’t take long before new and fresh story ideas get introduces.

To avoid spoilers, I’m not going in-depth about the story of this game. Honestly, I think that the story could be been written better. I can’t put my finger on why, but the story didn’t pull me in like other games can. I have a theory, though. This game tried to do something new with the Pokémon-francishe. They tried to stay away from the usual “8 badges, defeat evil team, capture legendary and defeat elite four” story. Yet, various story elements make a return.

I think that the story would have been better if some main characters referenced the older games. It would have been interesting if the Professor said: “Gyms, we don’t have that here. Here, you do various trails to earn Z-Crystals.”  Something I truly like in the writing is that it’s variable. The reactions after a big battle can differ if you have used something or not. Like characters can get impressed if you defeat them without using any Z-Move.

But that’s enough talk about the story. Since otherwise I might go into spoiler territory. Let’s keep it at: “It’s a decent story, but could have been polished a bit more.”

The visuals of this game are pretty good on the New3DS. I have seen various people on the train playing the game but the visuals on the old 3DS take a pretty big hit. I honestly think that some parts of the game look a generation behind on the old 3DS. If you want the best visual experience, I think it would be for the best that you play this game on the New 3DS.

The visual presentation of this game is pretty well done. Everything looks pretty colorful and pops out. It’s clear that there has been put a lot of care into the visuals. That brings me to another reason why I recommend to play this game on the New 3DS. The framerate. I’m under the impression that the game sometimes slows down more on the old 3DS systems then on the New 3DS systems. I had several times where I had to wait before Pokémon started attacking each other.

So, I’m really glad Nintendo didn’t implement any 3D in this game! Otherwise, this game would go in the single framerate digits. Which it sometimes comes pretty close too. Especailly in double battles for me.

Just a bit too much…

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This game adds a lot of new mechanics. It also upgrades some old mechanics to create a whole new experience. The clothing customization is back from Pokémon X and Y, and it’s still as expensive as in those games. The Pokémon Riding mechanic is also back, but now with a twist. You can page Pokémon in. These replace the HM’s from the previous games. Yes, HM’s aren’t in this game anymore. And no HM returns as a TM, so these moves can’t be learned in this game.

In this game, you can also have that Pokémon petting minigame and you have a Festival Plaza you manage. You can also take pictures from hidden Pokémon and receive likes. You can maintain an island in Poké Pelago and fight in a Battle Royale. So, with all these distractions, don’t forget you have the main story to complete. Oh, and let’s not forget that Pokémon can call for backup during battles. (If only you can bring in a second Pokémon at that stage…)

There is so much to do in this game, which is a positive in my book. While I can understand that it’s overwhelming for some people, where some mechanics get glanced over, but I think it’s handled pretty well in this game. The only nitpick I have is that the new features and mechanics are introduced too fast. You barely learned about the “picture taking” mechanic and ten minutes later, you learn how Pokémon Rides work. It can become a bit too much sometimes…

Which brings me to another point. In my honest opinion, there is sometimes just too many animations in the battles. Opening doors now require you to press “A”. You go into an animation to open the door, the screen goes to black and it shows you entering the building while the screen fades back in. But that isn’t the worst of it.

I wish they added a feature where you can easily skip the “Z-moves”. I stopped using the Z-moves since they take way too long to play. Here is an idea, what if after you have seen the animation one time, you can skip it the upcoming times.

But what bugs me the most is that when you capture a Pokémon. The amount of menus and visual flair you get is interesting and all, but sometimes I’m frantically pressing “A” to try and get back into the action.

Some familiar features also get a downgrade. The new fishing feature is lame in my opinion. You can only fish at a few spots. And sadly enough, some features like a Safari Zone and triple battles are absent from this game. Also, double battles are barely present in this game. Also, I haven’t encountered any hordes in this game.

Newcomer friendly

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So, I’m going to come out and say it. This game isn’t too challenging. I was able to get into the end-game without being defeated once. Sometimes there is no challenge. Once or twice, a fight got pretty dicey since I forgot to heal my Pokémon. Something I dislike a whole lot is that most trainers you meet in the routes don’t have more than three Pokémon. Not even the bosses. That’s such a shame. It’s improved when compared to the previous games (OmegaRuby and AlphaSapphire) but not enough.

This could have been easily fixed. Introduce difficulty modes in Pokémon. One for newcomers to learn the mechanics of the game and enjoy the games like it’s now and one for long time players like myself were everything is more difficult.

The game has too much handholding in my opinion. These things wouldn’t happen in the harder difficulties too.

One feature I love a whole lot is that now you get the result of an attack before you do it. So, you don’t have to remember which attack is effective to which Pokémon. The catch here is that you had to do the attack at least once against that opponent. So, when you do attack X to Pokémon X… you won’t see the results if you use attack X on Pokémon Y. Unless you have used attack X on Pokémon Y.

The controls in this game are pretty great. Apart from some minor menu issues, I never had any problems with them. Speaking of the menus, I love how you can choose the order of the buttons yourself. This way I can finally choose in which order I want my buttons. I love customization like this! If only the “B” button worked every time I pressed it. Yes, sometimes the “B” button didn’t cancel an option, it rather didn’t do a single thing.

The music and sound design in this game is amazing. While it’s not the best soundtrack in a Pokémon game, in my opinion, it’s one of the better ones. The sound design is pretty well done. I love the ambient noise in caves. You can sometimes hear Pokémon chirping in the background. It adds so much atmosphere to the game.

 So, I said everything I wanted to say about this game. It’s time to wrap this article up.

Final thoughts

The negative:

-The pacing of the new features could have been better.

-The game is too easy. A harder difficulty mode would have been welcome.

-Visuals aren’t that good on older 3DS models.

-Slowdowns on older 3DS models.

-So things would have too much visual fluff.

-Some animations should be made skippable or run faster.

-Sometimes the game is too cutscene heavy.

The positive:

+ Great visuals (on newer models)

+ Great soundtrack and sound design.

+ The story is decent. And there is finally a bit more story focus! Also, different actions mean different reactions.

+ There is a lot to do in this game, so this game is pretty lengthy.

+ …

Final verdict:

I’m somehow certain that this is an unpopular opinion but here I go… I think that this game is a step in the right direction for Pokémon games but there is so much missed potential. The game tries to please everyone. It adds so many new features to please longtime players but they make the game easy and accessible for newcomers.

The game could have been so much better if there was more content aimed towards the long time fans. Since due to the easy difficulty, this game is over pretty quickly.

Also, I think I’m going to buy a New3DS to play this game again in better visuals and have better performance. Since that’s something that really brought the game down for me.

I recommend this game to anybody who loves Nintendo, Pokémon and 3DS games. And to a lot of other people of course too, since it brings old and new fans together. And that’s something that makes me overlook a lot of the shortcomings of this game.

The game is great, but not perfect. The game could have used some more polish, but what we got is an amazing fun time and a great way to end the year. I’m so looking forward to what the Nintendo Switch port will bring.

So, that was everything I wanted to say about this game. Thank you for reading this review 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 on my blog but until then, take care and have a great rest of your day!

Score: 80/100

First Impression: Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies (DS) ~ I’m An Angel!

dq_ix_esrb_dsLink to Wikipedia entry

Lately, I’m playing a lot on my old Nintendo DS. The game that I’m playing is Dragon Quest IX. I have played this game right when it came out, but then I stopped because other games got my interest. I played this game right around when I started playing Golden Sun: Dark Dawn. In any case, this article will contain mostly my current opinion of the game. I’m currently 10 hours into the game. But, enough stalling. It’s time to talk about this game. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment down below with your opinion on this game and/or the content of this article.

Slow start

Dragon Quest IX 2In this game, you play as a character you design and make yourself. Your character is a guardian angel of Angel Falls. At the start of the game, you get a small combat tutorial and introduction to the world.

Everything was peaceful until suddenly disaster strikes. Something happens in the sky palace and you fall down to the world and lose your halo and wings. You fall in the town of, you guessed it, Angel Falls.

After those events, a lot happens. The plot only thickens and gets quite interesting. Yet, the only negative is that the start is quite slow. I was 2-3 hours in before the main quest started.

The writing is very well done. The characters are memorable. While I noticed some minor spelling mistakes here and there, I didn’t mind them too much.

The story feels episodic. When you finish one quest, another path opens and you go to another village to go on a new quest. This works very well in this game. This game is pretty long. If you want to beat the main story, you will have to put in around 50 hours. So, I’m looking forward to the stories I still have to play.

In any case, enough talking about the story. The difficulty of this game is almost a negative in my opinion. If you have read my blog before, you might know that I don’t like grinding for levels that much. It gives the impression that the game is longer then it actually is. This game contains some grinding, but it isn’t too bad. But, the grinding gets old real fast for me.

Buy and wear this shield

dragonquest9_218826In this game, there is something that really every RPG should do. When you buy new equipment, you see your character visually change. Not only in battle, but also in the overworld. This is a great touch, since it gives you the feeling of progression and growth of your characters. I can understand that this could be annoying to some people, since they prefer everything to look a certain way. But I honestly like it.

Visually, the characters and enemies look very well designed. Sadly enough, this RPG suffers from what I call the “multiple paint bucket syndrome”. There are various recoloring of enemies to make new enemies.

While I can understand that it’s hard to always make new enemies for each new area, I believe there are other methods. If you give the recolored version some minor visual changes like make them longer, shorter, wider, bulkier… That would go a long way.

Or you use the same enemy, but you buff them up. Wait, scrap that. Game design wise, this wouldn’t be the best solution. Since that could confuse a lot of players.

So, we were talking about the visuals of this game. The world design is something that is deserves praise. Every area has charm and feels alive. The animation is stellar. In short, I really love the presentation of this game.

One thing to note is that in some battles, I experienced some frame drops. This happened mostly when there were a lot of graphic heavy attacks in a row. Outside of battles, I rarely got slowdowns or frame drops.

You have two options in the control department. You can either use the touch screen for everything or you can use the buttons. Both control schemes work every well. The only feature you miss in the touch screen controls is the ability to swing around the camera a little bit in the overworld. But I rarely use it, so I don’t mind it that much.

This game is a full blood RPG and it has a big world for you to explore and adventure in. A big plus in this game is that you can see the monsters running around on the overworld. This makes it a lot easier when you need a certain item drop or when you need to defeat a certain enemy to complete your monster index.

You can design your own party in this game. You can tweak your party to your heart’s and playstyle’s content. Take your perfect party in to battle!

I can only say one negative thing about the battles. If they would added a health bar for the enemies, that would be amazing. I found it very frustrating that I had to hope that a boss died when I was at low health. It would be very handy to change your tactics.

There is just too much

dragonquestIXIn this game, there are also side quests. I haven’t done many side quests, so I won’t go in-depth. But you can get a quest from a character when a blue speech bubble appears above their head. Most quests I encountered are fetch quests.

But that is just one thing of many things that can entertain you in this game. You can also do alchemy, complete your monster guide or collect party tricks. There is a lot to do in this game. According to some websites, to 100% complete this game, you would have to devote months to this game. According to various sources, you would have to spend over 770 hours. That’s overkill in my opinion. There is just too much to do in this game. But the positive about is that there is always something to do in this game. You shouldn’t get bored with this game if you love playing RPG’s.

The music and sound design in this game is good. It could have been better if there were two or three more tracks in-battle. Since always hearing the same battle music gets a bit old. It’s still a great track, but I wished I heard some other battle music in normal battles from time to time.

In this game, you can only save in churches. You can quick save, but the quick save gets deleted as soon as you restart the game. I don’t know what happens if you quick save and then don’t save. Honestly, I don’t feel like finding that out. One thing, there is only one save slot.

This game offers multiplayer. But, I’m not going to talk about that since I haven’t played this game in multiplayer. And without experience, it would be hardly fair to talk about it.

In any case, I think I said everything I wanted to say about this game. Besides, if I forgot certain things, I will talk about those if I ever review this game. So, it’s time to wrap up this article.

This game is a very fun game. It’s one of the best RPG’s out there on the Nintendo DS. It does some things that every RPG should do but it also does some things that shouldn’t be in every RPG.

I highly recommend this game if you are looking for a challenge, a big adventure and/or an interesting story. But be prepared to put a lot of hours into this game.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing this. I hope I can welcome you in another article on my blog. But until then, take care and have a great rest of your day!

And the Award for Worst DLC Goes To…..

Fallout: New Vegas- Honest Hearts

I know what you’re thinking: this is bad writing. You shouldn’t reveal the answer immediately. Build some suspense! The reason I chose to do so anyway is not because some people like a tl;dr version, or because I’m pretentious and I do whatever the hell I so desire. No, it’s because I’d like to talk about Fallout first, and why this DLC was so disappointing. Prepare yourselves, because I have a feeling this’ll be a long one again.

In all honesty, I have not played the first two major instalments, though I did acquire them through GOG.com a while back and plan to play them some time. My first introduction was with Fallout 3. It didn’t run well, especially its DLC had serious performance issues, but I revered it nevertheless. It was so much fun. The engine used by Bethesda, its developer, has never been well optimised. Not for PC, not for consoles. Not for Fallout and not for The Elder Scrolls. But this is not a performance analysis, so I won’t go in-depth right now.

I fell in love with the world. Set some 250 years in the future, in a world where people in the fifties thought “Well, this is it: he pinnacle of art, style and technology.” Everything is inspired by old technology and the styling of the fifties. Monochromatic computer screens, old jazz and rhytm & blues music, clothing (what’s left of it), … Even futuristic items seem old. It just oozes with charm.

Story-wise I prefer the third instalment over New Vegas, hands down. I plan on comparing the two in a later article at some point in the future, so I’ll keep it at that for now. I even liked the five DLC-packs that were released. Broken Steel continued the story. It wasn’t incredible, but it was serviceable. Operation Anchorage was fun and brought a tonne of nice, new items to the party. Mothership Zeta was interesting and fun, though the story didn’t grab my as such. Point Lookout was my favourite, with it’s unique swamp location, barely touched by the nuclear bombs, and interesting storyline. And The Pitt was my least favourite, though still well above the quality of the DLC in New Vegas.

In New Vegas, we have four DLC packs, instead of the five in Fallout 3. I maintain that I prefer quality over quantity, so I didn’t complain from the start. But neither really rocked my boat. Maybe I felt less invested, because I find the world of New Vegas less intriguing to begin with, but regardless I should have had some investment.

The first two I played were Dead Money and Lonesome Road. The former annoyed me so much, I considered dropping out of the game entirely. Nothing else in both games gave me this feeling, ever, but this story was uninteresting, and the location was highly unappealing. I take it it was the intention to look unappealing, but it should not be revolting or appalling. I was relieved to finally finish and return to the Mojave.

The latter started very promising, in what looked like an abandoned nuclear missile silo. It was slowly paced and there were very few enemies. It almost seemed like this was created so the player would get invested in the story and atmosphere. A mostly non-combat DLC to teach us more about the world. But things quickly turned around once I progressed and got out of the silo. More combat, a mysterious figure that I couldn’t care less about on the radio, and nothing innovative in terms of world building. Like an Olympic diver performing a perfect reverse two-and-a-half somersault and landing flat on his stomach; promising, yet disappointing.

Then there were two more: Honest Hearts and Old World Blues. The latter had an interesting world in which scientists were isolated in a crater full of interesting locations, where not-so-ethical experiments had been performed. The story was decent and the “fifties-mad-scientist” vibe was fun, but after having been let down by most of the rest of the game, I still didn’t enjoy it as much as I probably should have.

 

Which brings me to Honest Hearts. Set in Utah, an area barely touched by the nuclear war of before, it had a decent setting. That part reminded me of the Point Lookout DLC from Fallout 3. What’s the story like? I couldn’t tell you. I beat it and I have no idea what it was about. How’s that possible? I’ll tell you: poor game design.

Let’s go back to Old World Blues (and in essence, every other map in Fallout for that mattar) for a second. Fallout has always been about exploring, as have all the Elder Scrolls games been. You could freely walk around the map and explore. You’d find new locations and some gave me new side quests, but none of them interfered with the main storyline of the game or any of its DLC.

(Map of Fallout 3, with all discoverable locations)

In Honest Hearts, I immediately became confused when the party I was travelling with all died within two minutes of arrival, and not ten minutes after first being introduced to them. I failed about half a dozen quests because of that, so I decided to load my previous save and try again. They all died again and the same thing happened where I failed a bunch of quests. Slightly aggravated and confused, I decided to look up if I was doing something wrong. Turned out it was a scripted event and could not be prevented, which means it was part of the main storyline.

Now why would I fail half a dozen quests for that? Why would the developers give me the impression that all the members in my party had little side quests they could’ve given me? The only quest remaining right now, was (verbatum) “Recover the map of Zion Canyon.”, pointing at a location all the way in the utmost North-Eastern corner of the map, with me all the way down South.

Everything felt like this was created by a fan or something, not by the actual developers. A mod, maybe. The writing and phrasing of the quests felt off and confusing. And then, a colossal error in judgement… The maps in the DLC are usually not that big, with thirty or so locations, allowing you to explore them in only a few hours. So as I often did, I explored the whole region first. It makes sense, doesn’t it? Especially considering the only quest available right now was “Recover the map of Zion Canyon.”

This has never been an issue. EVER. Not in Point Lookout, not in Old World Blues, not in any of the huge maps of the main storyline of the game. On my travels through the map of Honest Hearts, I encountered a few NPCs who had specific names, not just “Raider” or something else vague. Usually, these are people who are important in some (side) quest. Now in the main game, or any the other DLC packs, if you encounter a place where you find someone with a specific name, they will rarely attack you before engaging you in conversation. This makes sense. It allows you to get involved in some quest or back out of the situation, without killing that person and locking yourself out of a quest.

Not in Honest Hearts, though. I encountered two or three people with an actual name, who all attacked me on sight. I had little choice but to retaliate. They didn’t have any important items on them, like notes are keys to something, so at first I figured they were just minor characters. Why would I assume otherwise, when this game and its predecessor have never worked like that? I figured wrong. They were vital characters; leaders of local tribes. So when I finally explored the whole map and recovered the map of Zion Canyon, my screen went black. I thought the game crashed for a second, until a video started playing about how I had influenced Zion by killing these characters. Tribes disbanded, influences changed, and so on. It talked about everything I had done and I hadn’t done anything yet but explore and recover a map!

FNV

I can’t be the only one who explored before continuing the quest and be surprised by a sudden cut-off. Guess what, turns out I’m not. Turns out more people were kind of angry and confused. Turns out that in the beginning of the story, right after your party members have been killed, a character important to the storyline is somewhere behind or among the attackers and shoots one of them in the back (on the picture above marked with a red box). Me, being all worked up because of the battle, not realising he’s important and since he’s some distance away, I shoot him down. Since this is in the middle of a fight with half a dozen of people at the same time, I didn’t pay attention to the fact that he had a specific name. Killing him causes his tribe to turn hostile and in turn creates a ripple effect throughout the whole community of tribes, causing their leaders to attack me on sight too.

I guess, “technically”, it’s my fault for not paying attention to every single person on screen during a battle and thinking “Ooh, is he an enemy or someone important?”. I apologise for being kind of busy fighting for my life while bullets whiz around my head. I also apologise for having been confused by the demise of my recently acquainted party members, including the leader, who I though would be integral to the story and with me for the most part of the game. I should have played this open-world game more linearly, and I’m equally sorry I could not resist the urge to explore first, rather than ignore the world the developers have so painstakingly created around me, and just hurry through the quests.

Oh wait, no I’m not. This is crap and they should be ashamed.

EDIT: This, of course, is not the worst DLC ever and I’m sure plenty of people enjoyed it, but it felt really frustrating, and I do maintain the beginning of this DLC is highly confusing from the beginning and that little mistake at the beginning ruined the whole storyline for me. That’s what bothers me most and it’s poor design.

Gaming Nostalgia: Skipper and Skeeto 1 – Tales from Paradise Park

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Wikipedia entry

As a kid, I played a lot of children’s and educative games. Well, not all the time of course, but I have a lot of fond memories of it. When I went to MiseryLC’s place the other day, he was actually so kind to lend me his copy of “Skipper en Skeeto 1 – Pretpark” which translates to “Skipper and Skeeto 1 – Funfair”. It’s a very nostalgic game for us both, and I decided to write an article about it. So yeah, here we go! And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and or the content of this article. 

Rare game

61QY3X94DTLIf you are from America and you haven’t heard from this game, I won’t blame you. The creator of this game is actually from Denmark. While there is an English version, I grew up with a version in my mother tongue. I actually only just found out what the name of the game is in English.

I have fond memories of actually acting out this game with my sister. We hid objects to solve puzzles around the house and we played out the story with our own characters and objects.

Sadly enough, my copy got lost one day and I forgot about the game. After a couple of years, I started to play another game from my childhood again: Freddy Fish. Then, I wanted to play this game again. So, I went on a search on the internet to find a copy of this game. Then I learned how much this game went under the radar. I found various versions of this game in the original language, but I wasn’t able to find it in a language I could understand.

New copy

61AHHC15BXLIt’s a shame to admit that I haven’t played my “new” copy yet. I really should do that and write a sort of (quick) review of this game.

While the boxed version is extremely hard to find, the more common version you would find in Belgium is actually a version that was given away for free with a Dutch magazine for females. It still exists to this day. It’s called Libelle, and it’s full of topics ladies would read from the age of 18 and up.

It came in a jewel case with a little booklet telling you about how to install and the warranty. The usual stuff. Thankfully, the magazine hasn’t placed their logo all over the jewel case or disc (or in-game even.) The logo of the magazine is just in the top left corner once, and that’s it. Nicely done.

There are 11 mini-games in this game. All these games are optional and you don’t need to play them. But all the games are educational, for example, if you would click on the globe that you see in the screenshot (in-game of course), you would play a geographical quiz where you needed to guess where certain countries are. I actually remember some of them vaguely while writing this article. This is quite mindblowing if you realize that you haven’t played this game around for over 15 years.

Wrapping up

skippershouse

While I have memories of the sequel of this game, I think I said most everything I wanted to talk about this game. It’s always difficult to write these articles since you want to write a quite in-depth look about a childhood game you remember, but there isn’t enough content for that.

While I could talk about the animation, voice-acting and other things, I think I will save that for the review I’m going to write when I have replayed this game.

 I wish I played more entries in the series or even bought more of them since they are now quite rare and unrated. They are quite well done in educational games. I even dare say that they rival the quality of Humongous Entertainment! So yeah. I hope you enjoyed reading this short article about Skipper and Skeeto. I also hope I can welcome you in another article on my blog, but until then game on and take care~