Review: Gas Station Simulator (PC – Steam) ~ Let’s Fill ’em Up

Steam storeOfficial Twitter

Sometimes, a game just piques my interest. When I saw a game called Gas Station Simulator, I directly wondered… how is this going to work? Especially since we are talking about a gas station in the middle of nowhere. So is this title worthy of your time, or should you skip it? Or maybe wait until it’s more developed? Well, in this article you’ll find my thoughts and opinions on this game. Feel free to leave your thoughts and/or opinions on the game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

Let’s fill ’em up

In this game, you’ll play as an unnamed character who bought up an old gas station in the desert along a busy road. It’s your goal to bring back this station to its former glory. Your shady uncle is here to help you via the telephone.

When you arrive at the station, it’s in disrepair. There is not only trash everywhere, all the walls need a new lick of paint, the store attached to the gas station is totally gone and so on and so forth. With step by step missions, this game teaches all the different mechanics to you. These missions are a tutorial in disguise, but it doesn’t hold your hand. You are free to complete the objectives in any order you want, and you are also free to choose when you go to the next objective. Of course, you won’t be able to upgrade your gas station to the next level without completing all required missions.

Now, if you would play this game only to complete the missions, this game is rather short. It took me around 10-ish hours to beat all missions. Yet, there is more to this game after you have beaten all the missions. There are a lot of upgrades you can purchase to enhance the environment of the gas station. Most of them, but not all, are cosmetic in nature and don’t do anything to attract more customers.

Currently, there is a cheap DLC called Can’t Touch This out for this game. Personally, I recommend buying this DLC as well. Since it not only adds a small bit of post game, but it also adds a lot of new options to customize the look and feel of your gas station, and it’s totally worth it’s price.

This game also has achievements. At the moment of writing, this game has 91 achievements. Currently, I have played this game for give or take 25 hours and I have 80% of the achievements. Most of these achievements are easy to get. Others are a bit trickier to get and require either some luck or some practice. Especially the carting mini-game, to get that achievement you’ll have to become very good. Sadly, those cart controls don’t work for me. But, I’ll talk about the controls later.

Usually, in the first section of a review I talk about the story, the characters, and voice acting. Overall, the story is nothing special. It takes a backseat pretty quickly, and it’s mostly an excuse to string the missions together in a coherent way. Which is for this game a good thing, since it ups the replay value of this game.

Now, I want to talk about the voice acting in this game. Overall, the voice acting is decent, but I do have some things that I’d like to critique. I have nothing to remark on the performance of the voice actors. It sounds pretty good. But, the amount of voice lines is just lacking and plays in strange places. It doesn’t take long before you hear the same voice line over and over again. In addition to that, some voice lines play in situations where they don’t fit at all. For example, I heard a customer shout in the store when the register mini-game failed… “Look what you did to my car!”. I mean, how can a check-out in a store do that?

On top of that, I find it a missed opportunity that some situations don’t have voice acting at all. Your staff doesn’t have any voice acting. Also, as soon as customers step in their car, they have lost their voice as well. So, you’ll never hear a driver shouting to another driver to move. Also, you’ll never hear a customer shout when they aren’t being served.

These things break the atmosphere of the game a bit. It’d give the game a bit more life and immersion when customers only said the appropriate lines in the correct places and the staff would also talk. For example, a simple “Understood” or “On it, boss” when giving them assignments would go a long way.

Let’s play the balance game

So, what’s the gameplay in this game? Well, in the end there are few things your gas station has when you have completed all the missions. Each area has its own little mini-game that’s quick to get the hang of and has its own challenges.

The first is a place to fuel. In this place, you’ll have to fuel the cars of your customers. In this mini-game you have to press the left mouse button until the gauge reaches a certain level. The closer you stop pressing the left mouse button to the ordered amount, the better you get paid.

The second area that will unlock is the store. The mini-game in there is you have to scan all the items of the customer, while keeping the belt clean. As soon as an item either leaves the mini-game area OR drops in the basket without being scanned, you’ll lose that customer when you scanned all their items.

The next area that unlocks is the garage. In there, you’ll have to repair cars. The more you upgrade your garage, the more defects can be fixed with their own little steps. The garage is something you shouldn’t ignore since at the end of the game, this is the biggest source of revenue.

The final thing that unlocks is the car wash. This is a manual car wash where the mini-game is as simple as spraying the car down with water and remove as much of the dirt you can. All in all, this is quite late game and honestly, I leave it closed.

Here are a few examples of things you’ll have to do while serving customers. These are: managing your staff, making sure everything is clean, and the roads are drive-able, making sure you don’t run out of stock for the fuel tank/the garage or the store, unloading deliveries… Honestly, as soon as you get into the micromanaging of it all, you don’t have the time to keep open the car wash. If only you could put your staff to work to unload deliveries or to stock the store/garage OR even do the car wash…

And when you think, that’s all… No, there is the reputation mechanic as well. As soon as you complete a mini-game successfully, you’ll get a few reputation points that can upgrade your popularity level. The higher that level is, the better upgrades you can purchase. But, when you fail a mini-game, you’ll get negative points, and you’ll need to earn them again. There are also optional missions for bonus reputation points after you completed the story missions.

To be honest, it can become overwhelming quite quickly. Especially when you unlocked all area’s. This is why I’m so happy you can close the car wash, and you can enable/disable certain random events in the options’ menu. Don’t want to have to deal with Dennis, who vandalizes your walls? You can turn him off. Don’t want to have to deal with the rush hour party bus? You can turn that off as well. Don’t want to make sure you close your warehouse to avoid stealing? That’s something you can turn off as well. The late game challenge missions are something else.

And the final thing you can turn off, and something I turned off is the sandstorm event. This is a random event that ruin your roads and make them not drive-able and create a pile up. This is a big problem since there is only a certain amount of cars that can be present in your gas station. You can solve this issue with your excavator, but the controls for that are quite tough to control in my opinion. You also have to be extremely precise in order to scoop up the sand, and you can’t dump it anywhere else besides a sandpit at the edge of your station. It’s a mechanic that breaks the flow of the game for me, so I turned it off.

I’m convinced that while talking about all the different area’s your station will have at the end… I forgot to talk about a few mechanics. But overall, this game is a balancing act. You have to juggle various tasks to make sure your gas station runs smoothly, so you don’t have to loan money from uncle. It’s something you can do, but you’ll have a time limit to pay him back. “Or else, Uncle has other ways to earn his money back.”

The reason I can’t tell you what the consequence is, is because it’s extremely easy to pay uncle back when you use it wisely. I never had any moment where I was in trouble of not being able to pay uncle. I mostly used his loan when I was low on stock for the garage and after repairing a few cars, I was able to pay him back easily.

Now, let’s talk about decoration. First, the painting. You can paint your gas station. But, I honestly feel that this mechanic doesn’t work too great. The mini-game to stay in the green area of a slowly rotating circle is annoying and boring and there is no way to cancel when you selected the wrong color. There is also no way to paint the selling in the building itself. You can only paint the roof. Oh, and when you install additional bathrooms, forget painting them. Since, you are unable to enter those. Which is annoying, since the paint decays in this game, so you’ll have to reapply paint after a while and it’s so frustrating to see the dirty paint back there without being able to get there.

In general, all spots are quite easy to reach apart from a few spots in the storage area and the garage. The spots in the storage area are just a bit to reach and the spots in the garage are blocked because the tire rack is in the way and the game thinks you want to fill the tire rack.

Also, you can order a paint job, but this is something I did once and regretted right away. Since, I had a color scheme I got used to and this paint job paints almost everything white. It’d be so much more useful if the color you put on the wall is remembered and for example, for some additional charge that color is applied.

To be honest, I haven’t played too much with the decoration mechanics. I find the default gas station more then enjoyable to play with and first I want to be able to purchase all other decorations before creating a totally new store.

Running out of gas?

This game is being developed by a small indie game studio from Poland called Drago Entertainment. A few days ago, they shared an update on their plans for the rest of the year. Now, why do I talk about this in a review on one of their games. Because they are talking about new features coming to this game in the future and how everything works behind the scenes.

It’s quite clear that the developers are extremely passionate and find communication with their players important. Over the summer break, they also shared what the next update to this game will have. Something I really love to see is there is going to be a patch for the random crashes this game has. In the late game, this game can crash quite often at random moments. There are some work arounds that delay the crashing but at the moment, apart from waiting for the patch, no real fix has been found. Also, you’ll be able to open and close other sections of the gas station. This is something I was going to talk about in this section. I’m quite curious to see how the game preforms when update #7 lands, since it promises to fix the biggest problem I have with this game and that are the random crashes.

Visually, this game look quite good overall. You do see certain models a lot of times but it doesn’t bother me. I think something that might help is randomize the color of the clothing of your customers. Then, when you have the same model coming in, there is a bit more variaty. The animations of this game are great as well.

But, there are a few minor things in terms of the UI that I’d love to see changed. The first is a small one. Why is the default option when you open the main menu, “new game”? I can understand that for when it’s the first time you play the game, but when you reboot the game after a crash and mash a bit… It’s scary to see the game restarting.

And secondly, it’s a mix between a gameplay problem and UI problem. The car wash is extremely picky. Sometimes a car is done with a lot of dirt on it and sometimes you have to clean almost everything. A sort of meter on how statified the customer is would help a lot.

The soundtrack of this game is good. It fits the atmosphere of you working in a gas station in the American desert quite well. The only downside is that there aren’t a lot of tracks so it won’t take long before you hear repeats. In terms of the music, I like and dislike how they handeld it. In the buildings, it’s played from the radio. But, if you put the radio in the store in a corner, it’s possible that, that area is silent. In terms of sound effects, this game is perfect. I don’t have any complaints or even (nitpicky) remarks about them.

Apart from the random crashes, this game runs overall quite stable. But, there are a lot of glitchy moments where things mess up. I have seen flipped delivery trucks on route to the station. I have also seen trash bags glitching through the floor into the void. The physics can go haywire sometimes. Jumping into the side of a car can send it flying or moving in some crazy ways.

Thankfully, the game has a sort of reset button for when cars get flipped or get stuck and you are unable to get them unstuck. You can send an alien craft over your station and reset it all. But, do keep in mind that it also sends your staff into rest mode so, you’ll have to reassign their job.

Speaking about staff and jobs, I truly wish you could manage that a bit more. I’d love to see shedules or commands like: “When you are done resting, go to the garage and fix cars.” Then again, it’d ruin a bit of the challenge of this game micromanaging it all.

Overall, the controls are quite responsive and easy to learn. You can also rebind them if needed. Since, at first, this game thought I had an QWERTY keyboard lay-out but I’m from Belgium and we use AZERTY around here.

I do have to say that reviewing games that still get new updates with new features and bug fixes is quite tricky. Especially, since I don’t know to what degree I can talk about the glitches in this game. There are glitches in this game and most of them are either the physics engine doing strange things are characters doing strange floating stuff. Or talking about limiting mechanics like only being able to have a loan of 1K. We never know what will change in the future. So, maybe some points I talked about in this review will be irrelevant in the future. Like, how tricky it is to restock shelves sometimes. The amount of times I took stock from shelves by accident when trying to refill, it’s silly.

But, something I’m totally looking forward too is that in the upcoming days a new DLC for the 1 year anniversairy of the game will come out. And looking at the store page, it’ll be a free DLC. I’m quite curious to see what’s going to be in it!

The final thing I want to talk about is that this game has an autosave. You can’t set the interval of it but every few minutes, this game autosaves. But you can also manually save. The saving and loading in this game is really quick. You do have some minor texture popping when the game loads in for the first time but it fixes itself quite fast.

Now, with that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. I think it’s high time to wrap this one up.

Wrapping up

The bad:

-Still have some polishing up to do.

-Some mechanics like painting need an overhaul

-Silent staff

-The random crashes

The good:

+ Enjoyable micromanagement simulation.

+ A lot of freedom in terms of customization.

+ Amazing replay value.

+ Easy to learn but tricky to master.

+ A lot of post game.

+ Gets new content and bug fixes often.

+ …

Final thoughts:

Gas Station Simulator is one of those games that I’d recommend without any doubt in my mind. This game is quite enjoyable to play for everybody who enjoys simulation games that are a bit more hands on instead of your “spreadsheet simulator” where you stare mostly at stats.

While this game isn’t perfect and still needs some polishing and expanding for certain mechanics… The postives outweigh the negatives here by a lot. The biggest issue at the moment of writing are the random crashes but if the promised upcoming update fixes those, I think that this game can shine even brighter.

This game has an amazing foundation to become an amazing indie title. If this game gets polished up so it’s less janky and has a bit more content, I think you might have a winner here. I’d happily fuel up my tank with this game after a long day at work. But now, I’d fuel it up until it randomly crashes.

In conclusion, I quite enjoy this game with jank and all. It has a lot of charm and I can’t recommend it enough. I’m so glad that I gave this game a shot and I hope you will to.

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

Score: 80/100

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

Official websiteWiki

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

A journey through the world

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

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

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

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

Here, have some Zelda too

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s so close

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wikipedia entry

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

Hipster CSI in Ye Olden England

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pop! Here I am!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Skipping the skip

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steam store pageOfficial site

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

Monkey Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Open sea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Replaying

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Impression: We Happy Few (PC – Steam) ~ Pop Goes The Joy

Wikipedia pageSteam pageOfficial website

Being happy is a wonderful thing. Now imagine that you can take a happiness pill that makes you happy and joyful all the time. And on top of that, imagine that participation is mandatory, and you live in bliss… That’s the situation we have in We Happy Few, the game I want to talk about today. Now, to say that this game had a rocky release with a lot of bugs and glitches is an understatement. But, now that the game isn’t in early access and out for several years and the last update being from 2019, I think it’s the best time to take a good look at this game and if it’s really worth our time or that we should pop a Joy to cover up this game. Also, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and/or opinions on the content of this article and/or this game. Ready, let’s go!

Pop goes the Joy

In We Happy Few, we take on the role of Arthur. Somebody who is working for the newspaper and censoring unhappy articles. When he suddenly sees a picture of his brother, he gets a lot of flashbacks that makes him stop popping his mandatory Joy. What is Joy? Well, like I explained in the introduction paragraph of this article, it’s a drug that makes people extremely happy and that’s mandatory to take or else you will be killed or exiled to the slums. People who don’t take Joy and don’t see the dangers of the world be camouflaged by the drug’s effects are called Downers and are shunned by all the Joy takers.

Now, how did the world get to this place? Well, that’s something for you to find out. The concept and setup of this game is excellent and I personally think it’s amazing. I feel like I’m playing a game like Bioshock or Prey again. Somewhat open-world yet linear-ish games that take you on a journey through a deep and rich story. And from what I have played so far, We Happy Few certainly delivers upon that front in my opinion.

Couple this with amazing voice acting that really helped me to get even more immersed into the world and the game, I don’t have any complaints about the story and the delivery. The pacing is also good. Everything gets some depth, but it doesn’t stay on one subject for too long. Some sections feels a bit too small in my opinion but thinking about it again, it would ruin the great world building that this game does.

I can forgive the fact that there are a lot of lines repeated when you talk to the townsfolk because the way the towns are populated adds so much to the atmosphere, and it makes the game even more immersive. The fact I can interact with every person on the street, and they play a random line with the accompanying animation, it’s delightful. If this concept is tried again, I think it would be great if it had a bit more lines and variations between the townsfolk.

Anyways, that’s more then enough about the story and the setting. Let’s talk about the other aspects of this game. It’s possible that even when this game has a nice story and setting, the game isn’t fun to play. Remember that I talked about various technical issues in the opening paragraph of this article? Well, I’m sad to say that there are still several technical issues. Thankfully, most of them are visual oddities but nothing game breaking anymore. I once had a dead enemy instead of dying, t-posing and following me around the map.

Only I time during a mission, I was afraid that my save file got cursed by a technical glitch, but exiting and restarting the game solved that issue with me loosing only 2-ish minutes of progress, since that isn’t too bad. The auto-saving in this game works miracles! And you can still manually save whenever you wish in 10 save slots just in case you want to experiment in this game. Or want to make a safety save or make a safe you can use whenever you want to also finish side quests.

Emotional Telephone Booths

You could play this game without using any Joy, but I highly recommend against it. Simply because it isn’t that much fun always running from everybody, and the stealth in this game isn’t that good to hide away. Since, when you are seen, you can’t hide until you are off the radar, and you find a good spot. And if you think, let’s fight the enemies then… Do think again. Since, when you get violent, people act like Zombie Pigman in Minecraft. They make other people around you hostile, and you quickly get piled up.

In those moments, it’s recommended you find a telephone booth to pop Arthur’s favorite strawberry Joy and try to go to an area where the folks people aren’t angry at you. Since, the Joy is a timed mechanic. At the upper left part of your screen, you see a sort of timer that indicates for how much longer you under the effects of Joy. When that meter runs out, you better find a source of Joy OR hide from the surrounding people, since not taking Joy is a crime. Oh, and don’t overdose on Joy either since that’s going to be a bad trip.

So, how does this game play like? Well, this game is more a sort of adventure game. You can pick up various items to either play this game more stealthy, or play like me and go all in and don’t care about what happens. The difficulty of this game highly depends on how good you understand the mechanics of this game. Do you understand the crafting system and where each item spawns or do you understand how to skill tree works and how to use your points to buy the best abilities…

Something that you will have to understand is how the compass at the middle of your screen works. It tells you a lot about your situation and nearby quests. You can even select which quest you are tracking, like in the Fallout games. I wish other games had that too, since in Prey for example… You have several tracks on the screen that all lead to your active quests. Sometimes markers even say: “multiple objectives”.

There are several other mechanics in this game like a hunger, thirst and sleep system. While those meters can deplete, they don’t affect the game too much, sadly. Most of the effects in the game you have from this system is that your stamina depletes a bit faster, and you have to attack more. It’s a shame, really, since it could be an amazing mechanic. It feels undercooked and it shows. The fact that finding food and drinks in the world isn’t easy, or beds for that matter.

So, when you lose all your health, you get set back at the latest checkpoint, and you can try again. Overall, the game is somewhat forgiving in my opinion. I have seen games that are more difficult. I personally felt I was able to breeze through the game somewhat and if I did die or hit a roadblock, just trying it again from another angle seemed to help. During my playthrough, I didn’t have a lot of weapons, so I had to improvise and running in the open fields with a quickly recharging stamina bar helped me quite a lot. Since, most enemies aren’t THAT fast.

Something this game does quite well in the UI. I find the UI spotless and to the point. You get a lot of information without it having too much information or getting confusing. Some things in the UI are a bit clunky, like how you can’t multicraft or discard multiple items at once when you are overburdened, but I got extremely quickly used to it.

While this game has some minor negatives, I find this game quite enjoyable to play. I really like solving the puzzle in taking just enjoy Joy and the right items to craft the right things, so I can survive another mission and encounter. Since, experiencing the humor and world building that this game provides is so fitting for the gameplay and so enjoyable.

To Joy or not to Joy

I could start and go nitpicking on how certain animations look a bit weird or how some bodies ragedoll extremely weird, but honestly, I think it doesn’t really matter because the art team of this game did an amazing job on this game. Not only does this game run smoothly on my 1050Ti, it also looks pretty good.

I really have to applaud the effort in the difference you can see if you are or aren’t under the influence of Joy. It looks very differently depending on if you take or don’t take any Joy. And it even looks different when you overdose or take drugs. Speaking of which, I really like the intrusive messages that discourage drug use in real life. It talks about how your combat abilities in the game are improved, but it has very negative and different effects in real life.

Apart from some very occasional nitpicks, visually this game looks great, and I’m sure it’s going to hold up for quite a while. The lush fields and the amazing cities with a lot of attention to detail are really commendable. No wonder that with so much visual stuff going on, that sometimes residents are sitting on the air in front of a bench. You can’t simply account for every edge case. If I can give one sort of nitpick in terms of the visuals, I think a bit more character models for the citizens would be great since once I tried to get the whole city to chase me and I did see a LOT of duplicates… I don’t mind duplicates, but if you have 10-ish of the same guy chasing you… ah well, it ruins the good character model just a bit.

On top of this great visual design, you have some amazing sound design. The sound effects in this game are great. They fit the art style and the atmosphere quite well, and it gave me the right information to assess the situation. And not only that, it helped to immerse me quite a lot into this game. The little sirens for example to let you know you are caught and people are looking for you are a great tool to know you have to escape and hide until the sirens stops.

If you have read my blog in the past, you know I find the music in a game quite important. And does this game deliver? Yes. Yes, it does. The soundtrack is quite pleasing and fits the atmosphere quite well. It wouldn’t surprise me that I’m going to add the soundtrack to my playlists after I have played the game a bit more or if I have beaten it. Actually, I think I might just add it to my playlists after publishing this article.

All in all, this game highly surprised me when I saw the trailer, and I was afraid when I heard the news of the technical issues. But, then I gave this game a try and I have to say that I really like this game. It has its quirks that I had to get used to but it didn’t take long before I was running around with the fluent and responsive controls. I might have to learn the combat system a bit more, but I panic too easily in those sorts of situations and I tend to “mash the attack button and strafe” mostly. Whoops.

Do I recommend this game? Yes, I do. I highly recommend this game to everybody who enjoys playing adventure games in the genre of Bioshock, Prey, Alice in Wonderland… but might want to have a bit less shooting action in the game. It’s a unique game that really deserves a chance. It won’t be a perfect, flawless experience, but it doesn’t matter. And no, I didn’t take a Joy to write this segment. I really do enJoy … sorry, lame pun. I really do enjoy playing this game and can’t wait to see how it continues. Together with Prey, this game is going to fill my summer quite nicely. A summer full of joy and amazing adventures, one in space but this one… it’s an adventure on earth were not following the norm is going to move you forward and it teaches some nice life lessons when you think about it in that way.

And with that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game for now. I want to thank you so much for reading 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: Final Fantasy X (PS2) ~ Soccer under water.

Wikipedia entry

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

Blitz soccer under water

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s battle time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A bit stiff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Impression: Blue Dragon (XBOX360) ~ Helpful Shadows

BlueDragonWikipedia entry

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

Helpful shadows

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Missing: Depth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s power through

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And with that said, I think it’s high time to wrap up this article before I find another way to talk about the same point again in another way. There are a few things I’m leaving for the review when I have beaten this game but I have mentioned the most important things. Thank you so much for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care. 

Counting Steps: Pokemon Go!

General info:

Official websiteWikipedia entry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Counting on!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Pokémon Sword & Shield (Switch) ~ Want Some Tea And Battling Biscuits?

Pokémon_Sword_and_Shield

Official websiteWikipedia entry

Before I introduce the game, I want to mention that this article is a part of a collaboration with other content creators for the celebration of the Pokémon series, Creator’s Catch. If you want to read more Pokémon content on this 25th anniversary of the original Pokémon games in Japan, there a hub article with more information. In any case, one of my pieces for this collaboration is a review on the latest main series Pokémon games called Pokémon Sword and Shield which released in late 2019 and got two expansion packs in 2020. Now, should you play this game or leave this game at the wayside? Was the “Dexit” controversy right, when not all the Pokémon were going to be included, to boycott the game or shouldn’t they worry? Let’s find out in my review of Pokémon Sword and Shield. I have played the Shield version and most of the DLC for this review. So, what is your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article, let me know in the comment section down below!

Want some tea?

In-Game-Screenshot-2

This game takes place in the Galar region. This region is based on a place that’s extremely close to me. I just have to cross the pond for it. Our above neighbors Great Britain were the inspiration for this game. In terms of story, the structure of the game is extremely similar to the original games. There is less focus on a more unique attempt at gyms like in Pokémon Sun & Moon.

So, you start out in your home town, picking one of three starter Pokémon to set out on a journey to discover the secrets and the evil lurking over the region by going to each and every gym and trying to defeat the Pokémon league.

I’m going to be blunt and honest here. While the story has some fun and quirky characters, it’s way to stripped down of anything that gives some tension to it. There isn’t even an “evil team” in this game. The motivations of the antagonist are weak at best. The biggest flaw is that the story lacked depth.

I finished these games last year and to remind myself what happened in the story, I had to take out my strategy guide and skim through it to get the gist of it. Now, there are a few moments that stood out during the story but these moments were far and few between.

It’s a shame really, since the writing and potential for a better story are in the game. I’m not going to argue that the previous Pokémon games always had a very in-depth story but I’m going to argue that the story was more engaging and gave a better atmosphere to the game. For example, Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire tell a story about the climate in terms of the balance of land and water. Pokémon Black and White told a story about the moral of capturing creatures to help in work. Pokémon Sun and Moon told a story about how power can go and make you mad.

I can’t tell you what the moral or message of the Pokémon Sword and Shield games are. In a matter of fact, the actual climax and buildup is so see through that I’m quite sure that even a young child is going to see the twist at the end coming from a mile away. The DLC thankfully takes a step in the right direction, they feel a bit more fleshed out and still have a story to tell instead of something quite generic that the main story is telling.

I think I could ramble on and on about the story, but I think I should focus on review this game and talk about other elements as well, so let’s take a further look into this Pokémon game and let’s see why the fans of the Pokémon franchise are so divided on this game.

Some biscuits, please!

In-Game-Screenshot-18

Even when a game doesn’t have an enjoyable story, the game can still be quite fun. Now, let me first tackle the “Dexit” controversy. There was a group of Pokémon fans who were quite angry when it was announced that not all Pokémon would make it over into the Pokémon Sword and Shield games. I can totally understand from where these people are coming from but I can totally understand the viewpoint of the developers.

It’s a bummer for the fans that they might be unable to catch their favorite Pokémon or carry their Pokémon over from older games. I can totally understand the fear that it’s now possible that Pokémon are going to be locked behind a DLC-paywall. I would totally agree with that fear if the developers implemented a pay per Pokémon scheme, but thankfully enough, they didn’t. Thankfully in the DLC we got 200 Pokémon that were returning to the game for a reasonable price.

Now, what do I personally think about the whole Dexit controversy? Well, to be honest, I don’t mind the fact that not every Pokémon is in the game. And I’m going to explain myself. I think it would have been a huge workload to make close to 900 new models and make them work in the new game. In addition to that, I think it’s a great way to force players to experiment with the new Pokémon. Since why should you catch or try out the new Pokémon if you are able to catch all the ones you know?

Just thinking about the workload that adding 900 Pokémon in one game is going to bring is making my head spin. Not only you need to make sure that there is the right balancing, but you also need to make sure that every Pokémon has it’s use and reason for existing. And let’s not forget the fact that you need to animate them in a large dynamax form as well. Also, just imagine that you had an extremely low chance to catch a certain Pokémon just because there are too many in one route.

It would bloat the game beyond belief. I think that it’s quite possible that when the next generation comes out, we are going to have close to 1000 Pokémon. So, you could start to argue that maybe we shouldn’t have new Pokémon in the next generation but discovering the new Pokémon is just half the fun of a Pokémon game isn’t it.

Anyways, I think it’s time to focus on Pokémon Sword and Shield’s gameplay isn’t it? So, how does this game play? Well, in terms of gameplay, nothing really changed. If you have played Pokémon games in the past, you know what to expect in this game. You train your Pokémon during Pokémon battles in routes and cities and try to defeat 8 gyms that specialize in a type to gain 8 badges to defeat the 5 strongest trainers in the region. Meanwhile you discover the truth behind the legend of that region’s legendary Pokémon(s).

For some veterans, the formula is getting a bit stale. I still enjoyed going through the whole game but I’m a bit disappointed that they are returning to the old school gym design. The trail challenges in the previous Sun and Moon games were such an amazing breath of fresh air. In this game, it’s a strange mixture between the old school gym design an a sort of challenge based design. It’s a step in the right direction to make gyms more fun but something that did surprise me is the fact that there are differences in the gym depending on the version you are playing. Finally, there are more differences between the versions then just the Pokémon you can catch. For example, in Circhester, you fight Gordie who uses rock Pokémon for the 6th badge if you play the Sword version. But in the Shield version, you fight Gordie’s mother Melony and she uses ice Pokémon to challenge you. Sadly enough, this happens for one other gym. I would love to see more in the future. More differences between the versions instead of just the Pokémon you can catch and/or some minor visual/text differences.

There are two unique mechanics in this game. The first is dynamaxing. With this mechanic, you can dynamax your Pokémon in certain criteria. You can use this mechanic during special battles basically. When you dynamax your Pokémon, they grow quite large and they can use extremely strong attacks. I could explain it in detail, but if you want to know more, Bulbapedia has an amazing in-depth article on it. This mechanic really puts an interesting twist on battling but I feel that this doesn’t scream Pokémon to me. It feels like just a spin on Mega Evolution which is basically Dynamax Lite now.

The second unique mechanic are the wild areas. These areas are basically quite open routes where you can do just a little bit more than just battle trainers, battle wild Pokémon and go from one place to the next. If all the routes were more as open and as large to the wild area, then I would applaud the developers. Now, the wild area feels painfully underdeveloped. You can camp and cook in these areas but that is just a small distraction at best. The things you can do while camping feel extremely limited and the cooking mini game is enjoyable but I rarely came back to it.

In the cooking mini game, you have to combine berries and a core ingredient to create all sorts of curry. You can find these ingredients in the wild area. These curries can give a boost to the friendship you have with the Pokémon and other very minor boosts. One of these boots can be to experience gain.

There is a multiplayer aspect to camping and cooking but to be honest, I haven’t used it nor have I experimented with it that much so I’m not going to comment on it. Feel free to talk about it in the comments since I would love to know if it’s fun or not.

Something I feel rather mixed about is the fact you can easily access the boxes anywhere in the world. So, that means you can easily swap your team members on the fly. Thankfully, they don’t fully heal if you switch them in and out of the box during your adventure, since that would have broken the difficulty of this game even more.

This brings me to the point of the difficulty of Pokémon Sword and Shield. Balancing a game just right is something quite tricky to do. I have written a lengthy article about it in 2019. Now, I’m sad to say that this game doesn’t deliver in that department. You have to go out of your way to make the game more challenging. There are various video’s and articles floating around on the internet to give you tips and tricks to make the game more difficult. I’m just going to give some examples: TheGamer and NintendoLife.

The aftertaste

In-Game-Screenshot-27

Now, it might seem that I’m ripping this game apart. Complaining about the story, the unique mechanics and the difficulty of the games. I think I’m going to run ahead of the conclusion of this article but I feel that Pokémon Sword and Shield could have been so much better, miles better in fact. The potential is there in the game.

The game controls amazingly well. It’s the first mainline Pokémon game on a console and it made the transformation quite well. While I got some minor slowdowns during some intense senses and during some battles after selecting a move, they weren’t too bad and the framerate got stable again quite fast.

Something I really liked in this game is the soundtrack and the audio design. Some tracks in this soundtrack like the battle theme of Bede or the battle theme of Marnie are absolute bobs. I also listen to the soundtrack from this game from time to time while at work and while writing articles. I enjoy it just that much. The sound effects add to the atmosphere of the game as well. For example, you feel that moves having the impact it should have to draw you in into the world of this game.

I can totally understand that some people are somewhat disappointed with the visual presentation of this game. Especially since some attacks have a 2D animation while some attacks have a grand 3D animation. To be honest, I didn’t mind it that much. I rather have a generic animation that can be used for every Pokémon that can learn or execute that move instead of the developers having to create a separate animation for each and every Pokémon that can learn the move.

This game is quite colorful and detailed. The visual presentation of a steampunk Great Britain is rather well executed and well done in my opinion. I really like the fact that battles with gym leaders are in a grand stadium, it’s something I always imagined as a kid. Then again, I wonder every gym battle can draw those huge crowds if this region where real. But that’s nitpicking beyond belief.

In terms of visuals, I have been comparing character models of Pokémon from Sun & Moon and Sword & Shield. I have to say that it’s a huge improvement and they look a lot better with better lighting and details in Sword & Shield. Now, you can clearly notice during the game that the developers hit the limits of the 3DS in Sun & Moon, so we should only get better models in the future. It’s also amazing to see that you can see the first Pokémon in your party to follow you in the overworld.

HM moves are a thing of the past in this game. This is something I really feel mixed about. It’s something that could be used to gate players from progressing too fast in the game in more unique ways instead of just blocking the road with various people. It also created more interesting puzzles by sliding blocks or having to dive under water. It’s something I’m going to miss to be quite honest yet I totally understand why it has been done. This way you don’t have to have a Pokémon in your party that’s simply your HM slave and make the world more open to exploration.

A huge positive in this game is the fact that they finally fixed the random battle system. You can finally see all the wild Pokémon in the overworld and avoid them if needed to catch a certain one. In addition to that, you can see which moves are effective against the Pokémon you are battling if you have fought the Pokémon before. If only there was an option to turn it off for more veteran players, that would be awesome. Like an option to disable the always on experience share or turn it in another mode would have been great as well.

This game also has a few online modes like raids and versus battles. But I’m not that big of an online gamer so I’m going to comment on those very much because I haven’t experienced them enough to talk about them. Now, you can do raid battles solo and those are fine but you feel that these are more enjoyable when you do them with friends or strangers online.

Something I’m totally forgetting to talk about is the fact that there is a way you can ease of the griding of your Pokémon! Since you can send them on jobs. In the Pokémon Centers you have a machine where you can play the Pokémon Lottery but more important, send your Pokémon on certain jobs. The better they preform on a better, the more experience and rarer items they will bring back. You can also choose for how long you will have to miss your Pokémon. It’s a sort of free daycare system.

That brings me to how content is somewhat locked in this game. The further you get in the game, the more items unlock. So, even if you were to cheat and go out of bounds towards another city’s Pokémon Center to go to the market, you won’t be able to buy more powerful items. It’s the same with collecting the League cards, which is just an immersion mechanic in the game.

Something new in this game is that there is an autosave feature. So, the days of manually saving are over. Surprisingly enough, there is an option to enable to disable the autosave feature. Now, I have mostly played this game without the autosave feature since I felt that my game ran a smidge better with it off.

The last things I want to talk about is the postgame and the DLC’s. Let’s start with the postgame. There is a minor silly additional story you get after becoming the champion. I’m sorry but I can’t take the characters in this story chapter seriously, I find it a bit ridiculous and silly. Apart from that, you can learn unique moves and do various other things. A nice list has been created by gamewith.net. Personally, I find the post-game content rather enjoyable apart from the silly story of course.

So, the DLC. I honestly have to say that it’s totally worth a purchase. The base game provides around 30 to 40-ish hours of content if you want to play the main story and the extra’s. If you add the two DLC’s on top of that, it’s another 10 to 20 hours on top of that. If you want to fully complete the game, you are looking at an adventure that takes close to 130 hours to complete.

The DLC is also amazing postgame content. It adds unique mechanics and is a step in the right direction when it comes to game difficulty. So, if you enjoyed the base game, I think that the additional 30€ is worth it for both DLC’s. They might be a tad bit on the expensive side but they add more then enough content to justify the price in my opinion.

To avoid spoilers, I’m not going to talk too in-depth about them, but one DLC is a whole new island to explore with a fun quest to find all the Digletts and to train a Pokémon to fight in one of two towers to choose between which legendary Pokémon you want in addition to the biggest wild area in the game. The other DLC gives a whole new boss rush rouge like mini game for legendary hunting and another new wild area.

And with that said, I think it’s high time for my conclusion. Since this review is getting rather lengthy isn’t it?

Conclusion

The bad:

-Rather underwhelming story.

-The game is too easy.

-Some parts of the game feel underdeveloped and underused.

The good:

+ Amazing visual design.

+ Interesting new spins on the gym battles.

+ Amazing soundtrack.

+ …

Final thoughts:

After I had beaten the main game and played parts of the DLC, I started a review of this game multiple times and scrapped it each and every time. This game has so many underdeveloped good and fun elements it hurts to see them dragged down by the two biggest downfalls of this game and that’s the weak story and the game being too easy for it’s own good.

I still enjoyed my time with the game but sometimes I felt that these games are becoming a shadow of their former selves. I honestly think that if the story had more depth and there were difficulty options, this game wouldn’t have divided the fanbase so much. Of course, you have the whole Dexit controversy thing, but as I explained before, I don’t find it too big of a disaster.

The game is still a blast to play with an amazing soundtrack, new and fun mechanics like the wild area’s and a lot of accessibility features like seeing the effectiveness of moves. Also, we are finally seeing more differences between both versions that just simply the Pokémon you can catch in the wild.

This generation took a few steps back and a few steps forward and I’m quite curious to see what we are going to get in the future. What games are we going to get in this anniversary year of Pokémon? Since I would love to see the franchise continue and thrive since this game proves that the formula can still be quite a lot of fun if it’s handled well.

So, should you pick up this game? I would recommend it but I would warn players that they shouldn’t expect an expansive story and a lot of challenge expect they create their own challenge. But, it’s still a great and enjoyable Pokémon game where you can sink a lot of hours into.

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

Score: 70/100

Remember, this article is part of a huge collab of content creators to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Pokémon in Japan. Want to read more articles and content? Click here to go to the hub article where we all take a look at the main line Pokémon games and various spin-offs.

Game Quicky: Colorful Colore (Switch) ~ It’s Sliding Time

colorfulcolorSteam pageNintendo.com microsite

On the day before my 28th birthday, I want to talk about a game called Colorful Colore. A game developed by a small team of developers and ported by Drageus Games over to the Nintendo Switch. As usual with Drageus Games, I got a free press code to take a look at this game and I’m allowed to give my 100% honest opinion on the game. So, in this game quicky article, I’m going to take a look at the Switch port and if it’s worth it to pick it up for the low price of 3 bucks or if you should spend your money elsewhere. With that said, feel free to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your thoughts and/or opinions on the game and/or the content of this article. 

Sliding just right

colorful-colore-switch-screenshot01The goal of this game is quite simple. You have to solve sliding puzzles to get from the start of the level to the end point of the level. There are 50 levels in this game for you to go through. I think the best game to compare this game too is Quell. 

There is an unique mechanic in this game where the blob and the tile it lands on has to color match. If you don’t have the same color, it’s game over and you have to restart the level. So, you have to find the correct way to the end before you get yourself stuck or make a wrong move. 

It’s a great thing that this game has been translated into Spanish and Portuguese, but it shouldn’t matter that much since the UI is so clean, the language of the game shouldn’t matter. The UI is extremely simple to use and get the hang off. 

Just like the responsive controls of this game. There is no input delay and the controls are fast and easy to learn. I don’t have any complaints about them since they allow to play my relaxing puzzle game in peace. 

This puzzle game is so relaxing with the colorful art-style and the relaxing sound effects and music, it works beautifully. I could nitpick and say that the same music track loops throughout the whole game, but it’s rather relaxing and brings me into the right mood to play this game. This game has that “just one more puzzle” mentality and I’m still amazed that this nice little game only costs 3€ and it has this high quality in it’s animations, visuals, music and sound. It’s a joy to slide in these puzzles and to solve them.

Sliding towards doom

ss_e29449a5e0c4dea278a8256d4ff5f426b8904ff4.600x338Sadly enough, there are some negatives I could say about this game. Things that could be improved or could be changed to make an even better game to play and to give it some more life. 

First of all, I was a bit disappointed to learn that stats are lacking in this game. It would be so great to see if I finished the level with the least amount of moves or with the fastest time. And if you could reset those stats in the options menu, where you even can’t reset your progress by the way, then it would be even better. 

Second, some of the teleport icons are too small. When I was playing this game, I had the most comfortable experience in handheld mode with the game at an arm’s length to my face. On my large 51-inch TV, I felt a bit more confused since I had to focus on the symbols on the teleporters for them to make sense which one is which. 

Thirdly, and I can’t tell if this is a problem with this game or with these style of games but I found it quite annoying to “loose my character”. Since this game uses teleporters, I sometimes didn’t notice where my character was. Thankfully, you can hear a “tud” when the blob lands on a wall but here is the annoying thing. I fell that Quell did a better job with these teleporters. They are less instant, use some more sound effects and the player bubble has some minor animation when you loose it. 

Now, my 4th complaint has to do with the unique color-matching mechanic. While I’m no expert on colorblindness, I can totally understand that this game might be quite tricky to play for people who are colorblind. One of my old class mates wasn’t able to tell yellow and red apart and that’s going to be tricky in this game. 

My fifth point is that there is no hint system. While it’s a good thing that this game challenges you in trying to find the right solution, it’s quite annoying when you are stuck on a certain level just because you are unable to figure one or two moves out. I have to be honest, if the hint system in Quell didn’t exist, I would have put the game down in a few levels. I’m afraid that I or some other players will do the exact same for this game. 

And my final complaint is a nitpick and something that this game can’t really solve. This game suffers from the “better played in short bursts”-syndrome. While it has that “one more level” vibe for me, I enjoyed the game quite a lot more when I played it in short bursts while going to the bathroom or while waiting for my food to cook. 

With that said, it’s time for the wrap-up and the conclusion of this article.

Does it slide right?

ss_3904a05c6a4abd54c4e048d31f5b09a065e13d00.600x338If you compare this game to similar games in the genre like Quell, this game comes close but not close enough. Yet, that doesn’t mean that this game is a bad game or has a lot of flaws. 

This game does a lot right and most of the mistakes this game makes have to do with a lack of depth. There are no big flaws in the fundamentals of this game since it explains the game mechanics quite well without holding your hands as if you are a small child. 

To be honest, I’m a bit conflicted on the platform that this game released on. This game would feel perfect to become a mobile game but that might have several ads and it would ruin the flow of the game. Yet, the small teleporters playing the big screen is biggest issue that this Switch port has. And of course the lack of something to aid the people who are colorblind of course. 

Now, should you give this game a try? If you are looking for an enjoyable small puzzle game, I think you won’t be let down by this game. It’s sad to see that there is a lot of untapped potential in this game but hey, it would be quite rude to ask for even more when the game is so cheap. So, if you enjoy games like Quell, I think this game might be an enjoyable time waster while in the waiting room or in the bathroom. 

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.