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: 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. 

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

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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. 

NekoJonez’s December 2020 Update

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

Personal updates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blog news

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Dusk (PC – Steam) ~ Spinning Guns

headerSteam store page

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

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

Spinning guns

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

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

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

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

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

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

The running slide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nostalgic loading screen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

The good:

+ Addictive and fast gameplay.

+ The amount of homages and easter eggs are amazing.

+ The audio and visual design is excellent.

+ Andrew Hulshult’s soundtrack is a big plus.

+ …

The bad:

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

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

-Some UI issues.

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

Final thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

Score: 90/100

First Impression: Barn Finders (PC – Steam) ~ Let’s Find Our Stock

capsule_616x353Steam Store page

It’s no secret that I love to go to garage sales and thrift stores. I love looking around at those places to try and find unique items to add to my collection. So, when the developers of Barn Finders approached me and asked me to write a 100% honest opinion review about it, I didn’t hesitate. This game sounded right up my alley. So, after a few hours of playing this game, can I recommend this game or is this game worthy of a skip? Let’s find out while I invite you to write a comment in the comment section down below with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

Side note: if this game looks interesting but you want to try it out before you buy, there is a demo on the Steam Store. 

Let’s find our stock

840948bcfe9343c08c45cdb7d429eb43In this game you play as a guy who is living in a barn with Uncle Joe. He is your oldest cousin and together you run a thrift store. But instead of people bringing their stuff in, you go to auctions and go to barns to stock your store. 

The story in this game isn’t anything special. You travel from barn to barn while doing stops in your pawn shop. You also have to deal with your customers. You can accept or decline their offer but you can also haggle with them. Pay attention since some customers will rob you blind and even literally, there are thieves in this game. 

While there isn’t a lot of story present in this game, the atmosphere and setting of this game is really well done. I really feel that this game takes place in the late ’80/early ’90 in the more rural area’s of America. 

Now, there is something that confuses me a bit. There is voice acting in this game over the radio and the upgrade shop but all the other things are sim-lish. You know, mumbling like in The Sims. I honestly think that the game would be a bit better if this mumbling met the tone of the dialogue a bit more. 

Not everything has mumble dialogue, take for example the auctions. At the moments, you rarely have mumbling of the characters. Well, you do have it for the guy running the auction but that’s quite monotone and clearly a soundbite playing on repeat. Anyways, the voice acting itself on the radio and the mumbling is quite enjoyable for the rest. I feel that they give more atmosphere to the game and even bring it more alive. 

In terms of characters in this game, well there a few characters that you meet but there isn’t a lot of character building. While this can be a turn off for some people, I personally don’t mind that much in this game. But here is the thing, there is a limited amount of character models and quite quickly you will see the same people coming to your store. You also meet the same characters on auctions. I don’t know if they are the same characters but they are the same character models. 

All over America

10d3deb9968b4beb860b64739ecdf409The gameplay of this game is three part. The first part is simple, you have to run your own pawn shop. Thankfully there are no mechanics where you have to pay the electric bills and things like that. Most of the mechanics of maintaining a the shop are explained in the tutorial and easily accessible with the “F1” key. I love it when games have a clear and nice tutorial.

I do have some minor complaints about the tutorial. First of all, I don’t know why the part of the generator is still in the tutorial since you only have to do this once. Secondly, a small table of contents would have been amazing. Thirdly, there are some minor spelling errors like: “car Battery” instead of “car battery”.  And finally, the final tutorial has some text that runs off the yellow square while in the final square you see that they made the font small to fit it all in the yellow square… I mean, some consistency please. 

Now, the second and third part of the gameplay are kinda similar and kinda not. On some maps, there is an auction that you need to do before you can explore the map completely. And sometimes there is no auction. To be honest, I didn’t like these auctions one bit because I got the impression that they were a barrier to stop the player from progressing too fast into the game. The solution for making them more interesting would be that you would get some information about the other candidates and their shop, if you are able to outbid them or not. Since the only information you get about that is there is an amount of money on the map before you move to that place. 

While exploring the map, there are a different type of things you can collect. The first type are “trash” items. These are for example: packs of cigarettes or booze. These give you a small amount of money right away. The second type of things are the materials. These are obtained by destroying interact able objects like trash cans or barrels. These items can be used to repair broken items in your pawn shop. And the final type of thing are the times you can arrange a pickup for, to sell in your pawn shop. 

Apart from that, there are collectibles in each map. These range from new floor tiles or wallpaper to a secretly hidden golden toilet roll. Now, on a lot of maps, you have a bathroom you can interact with. Each time you interact with it, a small “character goes to the bathroom” sound plays while the screen goes black. I found this funny at first but I didn’t see the joke in it. 

I do have some minor complaints about exploring the maps. First of all, the meter for the amount of remaining items is janky. I’m sorry but what does count as remaining items? And why is this some sort of health bar instead of a number? The game shows you a number when you go to the truck…? Oh, yeah, trash items don’t count for that meter. 

Secondly, is it me or are some hitboxes of digging spots a bit off? I had to move away and closer from the digging location to continue digging. Speaking about digging, it would have added to the immersion if there was a bit more animation while digging and maybe that the item you were digging up started to slowly show?

And finally, why isn’t there a counter for the amount of resources you can still pick up or trash items that are still present on the map? That would have been a great help to know if I found every single thing on the map. 

Now, this brings me to two complaints about the maintaining of your shop. The first complaint I have about that are the various stations. You can let the item you are cleaning or reaping get in a very glitchy state when you drag the item a tiny bit out of the machine and then try to clean or repair right away. 

While I was researching why my items were glitching out, I found out that you can double bind a key in the option menu. But, more on the UI later in this article. 

The second complaint I have about the shop part of the game are the hitboxes of the signs. These are too janky to use sometimes. I had a lot of trouble trying to pick another sign to hang up. 

Close enough

ss_14a44569ca3559382eda63d13e670e25b43eea0d.1920x1080If you read the previous section, you might think that the gameplay of this game isn’t the best. If you got that impression, I’m sorry but you got the wrong idea. I found this game quite enjoyable to play. But, it does have a few problems that can be solved with some patches. There is a DLC coming in the future and maybe with that DLC, some issues might get fixed. 

Is this game challenging? Well, not really. There isn’t a lot of challenge in this game. This game is perfect for when you want to relax and don’t be afraid that you get a game over screen or get stuck in a difficult level. 

Visually, this game looks quite decent. Some textures look flat like the leaves on bushes and you have the occasional clipping of characters, but in general the visuals are quite good. Now, the area’s you walk around in are quite detailed and look real. Apart from the invisible walls that is but hey, you need a way to keep the player in the correct playing area. 

In terms of animations, they are fine. All the animations of the characters that are standing still, I don’t have any complaints about them. I do have a complaint that there no walking animation of the characters. They magically teleport to the location you need them in, and they do that with a puff of smoke. At the other hand, it sort of grew on me and I felt that it added to the charm of the game. 

Like the reference achievements, those grew on me as well. It’s quite clear that the developers had a lot of fun putting these achievements together. And I think I might try to get all the achievements since it adds one more goal to this game. 

Now, let’s get on to the audiovisual presentation of this game. Let me start with the sound effects, these are good. I don’t have any complaints on that part. I do have some complaints about the soundtrack. While the soundtrack is good and fits the atmosphere of the game quite well, I feel that there aren’t enough music tracks. There are moments when the silence could have been filled with a bit of music. Then again, of most these moments where when I returned to the pawn shop or when I was loading in a map… So, does this game have enough music? I don’t know for sure. 

Let’s talk about the UI of this game. Overall, the UI is quite well done. Yet, I already mentioned one flaw with it. The fact that you can bind one key to more than one action. I’m sad to report that there is another flaw with the UI. I would be able to forgive the fact you can’t name your profiles, if you were able to disable the frame limiter… Which has been spelled with an underscore in the build I reviewed for some reason… 😉 But the most annoying mistake in terms of the UI is the controls bind menu… The controller lay-out, why don’t you use the XBOX or PS style buttons? Why the literal generic button lay-out? 

Before I talk about the final thing, I want to mention that there is no stamina meter in the game. So, when you are running and you want to know how long you still have before your character slows down, good look… 

Anyways, the final thing I want to talk about are the controls of the game. This is something that really confused me at first but as soon as I got used to them, they clicked quite well. Most of this game is controlled with the mouse and keyboard. A lot of actions are with the mouse, like interacting with objects and NPC’s. Very rarely I found myself using the wrong mouse button, but I was able to correct myself quite quickly. The controls are extremely responsive and I felt in complete control of my character. So, no complaints there.

So, I have played this game for about 4 hours now. While I found some small and big issues with the game, I still want to recommend this game to casual or adventure players who want to play something relaxing. This game is the perfect game to wind down after a long day of work. Maybe this might be just me but I find the gameplay loop quite rewarding.

While the game has some rough edges, the fact that there is an in-game feedback feature and the fact that there is a DLC coming next year is giving me hope that this game will become an even better game. Some of the issues that I mentioned in this article can be solved with in-game mechanics.

The game runs amazingly smooth and I never had any frame dips. The only minor issue I still want to mention is that I found it quite unclear when a character has finished his or her dialogue. But, that doesn’t stop me from recommend this game.

So yes, it would be a shame if you skipped this 20€ game since I enjoyed myself and I found the positives outweigh the negatives by a lot. And I think I have said everything I wanted to say about this game for now. I might take another look at this game when I beat it but for now, I want to thank you so much for reading my article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Review: Paper Mario – The Origami King (Switch) ~ Fold And Turn

Official websiteWikipedia entry

2020 is quite a strange year. Back in May, we got a trailer for this game and to everybody’s surprise, the game dropped a few weeks later. The game has been out for around a month now and I have finished the game a few days ago. So, I want to talk about this game. Especially, since some people are quite curious how this game holds up compared to the previous entries in the series. The two previous entries in the series weren’t that well received, so will this game “save the series” or will it divide the fanbase even further like Color Splash? Let’s take a look at the game while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article. 

Fold The World

So, the story starts a bit similar to Sticker Star. A festival is held in the (paper) Mushroom Kingdom and something goes horribly wrong. In this case, the princess is converted to origami and suddenly, you meet an evil origami character called Olly that wants to fold the whole world to origami.

In your journey to save Princess Peach and save the Mushroom Kingdom from certain destruction, you team up with the sister of the evil origami character called Oliva. She is able to grant you special powers that aid Mario in his quest.

To avoid spoiling the whole game or sections of it, I’m going to try to keep story explanations to a minimum. But, I do want to give my honest opinion of the story. The writing and the dialogues are pretty good, the pacing is excellent as well. I barely felt that any sections were filler or padding. But, the story isn’t thrilling at all.

The structure of the story is somewhat like the Pokémon anime series. Just replace the gym badges with the streamers and you have the structure of the story in this game. Barely any of the characters, apart from the main duo, of course, go from one section to another.

The next point I want to bring up with the story is that it’s a bit too predictable in my eyes. I can’t pinpoint exactly why but I felt that I experienced this whole story somewhere before or that I had seen the arcs. I think that the main issue with this game is that it barely does anything creative story-wise.

Does this game have a bad story? Well, yes and no. Apart from the predictability and the “safeness” of the whole story, the charm of the story is so great. I have a few ideas that could have improved the story. The first thing is the world-building, I felt that wasn’t done enough. For example, you have an area called “Picnic Road”. Why o why are there no picnic benches? I mean, one of the previous areas had a whole barbeque setup…

The second suggestion I have is that there could have been a bit more side stories. A great example is with Luigi. Side-arcs, side quests, or just things to explore on the side. I know that you can free toads, fill in Not-Bottomless Holes but in most cases, those don’t affect the story that much.

It almost feels that the developers just cut out several sections to improve the flow or the pacing but with that, they also cut out too much. Sometimes a bit of padding or filler doesn’t hurt.

Oh, and before I go to the next section, I usually talk about the voice acting and voice work right after the story. And I can finish my opinion quite fast. That’s something where I think they could have done more but on the other hand, the animations are so good during dialogues that the very little voice work is “replaced” if that makes sense.

Turn Your Way To Victory

One of the biggest criticisms of the previous two entries in the Paper Mario series was the battle system. The games before those had an RPG style battle system. Then in Sticker Star and Color Splash, we got more of a sort of puzzle system.

I think it would make this review too long if I start to analyze the flaws of the two previous battle systems. For the sake of going forward, let’s focus on the battle system of this game. There is no real RPG-style battle system in this game. But, something that does return somewhat is the buddies from previous games. Now, before you get too excited, the buddies just provide a chance of an attack after you finished yours. And that’s it.

Before I talk about the puzzle battle system, I do want to mention a huge improvement compared to the previous two titles. At certain moments, you can find a health improvement. Besides having more HP, these improvements have other implications on the mechanics of the game. For example, after a few upgrades, I was able to just jump or hit these Goomba’s with my hammer and I didn’t have to go into battle. The only downside is that you don’t get all your coins like you would have defeated them in the puzzle battle. But, it does save your weapons for each little encounter.

Speaking about weapons, I barely had any problem with those. At the start of the game, I just stocked up on weapons and healing items and I do have to say, I barely had to go to the shops in the game to stock up on items. The game is quite generous with items to use in battle. A bit too generous for my liking.

The game is a bit too easy. Apart from some scripted sequences, I barely saw the ‘game over’ screen. Also, quite rarely, I felt challenged during the battles. Even when I was unable to solve the puzzle in front of me, I was almost always able to beat the enemies with relative ease.

Now, what is this “puzzle battle” I’m talking about? Well, if you look at the screenshot a bit higher, you might notice that Mario is in a battle area with four rings. Your goal is to line up the enemies in a line or in a group of 2 by 2. You can do that by either rotating a ring or move planed vertically.

In order for you to solve the puzzle, you have a limited amount of moves and time. But, here is where some amazing game design shines through. During the adventure, you can buy various items that give you more time, health and defense during battles. You can enable or disable all of these items in the pause menu. On top of that, you can invest your coins in more time or cheering. Now, what is cheering? Well, that means you can invite the Toads you have rescued during the adventure to aid you in healing or solving the puzzle in front of you. The only moment where the Toads don’t solve the puzzle is during the boss battles. But more on that in a minute. So, if you find the game too easy, you can challenge yourself more by disabling all these support items and not cheering or buying more time during battles.

So, do you HAVE to solve the puzzles to be able to attack the enemies? Oh no, you don’t have to. It just gives you an attack bonus that can one-shot most enemies. Otherwise, you have to rely on your partner or block the attacks and try again. Also, just like the previous games, when you time your button press correctly during the attack, you do more damage to your enemies.

I could talk more in-depth about the battle system but I want to avoid that this review gets too long. So, I’m going to link you to an interesting article of a great blogging buddy of mine Adventure Rules, who talks a bit more in-depth on the battle system on his blog. Be warned, there are some spoilers in his article. (And yes, I know that he is going to read this article… And no, the fact that I’m shouting him out here has nothing to do with it… Maybe… Maybe not. 😉 )

Now, let’s talk boss battles. These battles are the highlight of the game for me. The sheer creativity in these battles is just amazing. Each boss throws a unique challenge your way that changes up the battlefield or the way you have to solve the puzzle. It’s really amazing stuff. I’m not going to talk more in-depth about it to avoid spoilers but I found myself saying out loud, several times, “wow, this is creative and unique.”.

Speaking about creativity, I’m still surprised at the huge amount of different puzzles in this game. Rarely I had similar or the same puzzle during the game and if there were, I barely noticed. I always had to think about how to line up those enemies to win.

Stardance

This review is getting quite long and I have only talked about the story and the battle mechanics. There is still so much to talk about in this rather enjoyable game. For starters, let’s talk about the Starman Theme in this game. I’m just blown away by the amazing remix that has heavy metal influences and electronic influences.

And the rest of the soundtrack, my lord. These tracks are just amazing. I think that this game might have my favorite soundtrack of 2020. If the soundtrack ever comes out on CD, you can be sure that I’ll add that to my collection. The soundtrack is even part of my playlist when I’m writing or games like Minecraft. Now, the sound design of this game is equally as well done as the soundtrack.

Overall, this game is visually quite impressive. In very rare cases, I found that some textures weren’t the best or that the scene had a tad bit too much lighting, but I think that most players won’t notice the moments that I noticed as a hobbyist critic.

The theming of the areas are quite well done as well. So yes, the visual presentation of this game is something to enjoy. It really shows the power of the Nintendo Switch in my opinion. The art style is also quite consistent, vibrant, and colorful. Couple that with great animations and you have a great and smooth running game. Speaking of smoothness, the only time I noticed some slowdown was during the loading of some battles.

The UI of this game is extremely well done. The only minor complaint I have is that you can’t change your weapons during a battle, but that isn’t such a big issue because you just need to remember to swap your weapons after a battle.

One thing I loved in this game is the mechanics in place to help players who have trouble with the game. The electronic manual is quite easily accessible and on top of that, there is a training area for when you need to practice your timings to hit enemies and such.

In most of this review, I have been praising this game and pointing out some minor flaws. To end off this review, let me talk about some things that I didn’t really like. The first thing is the overall running speed, I found that a tad bit too slow. After seeing how fast you can go to the Boot Car or on the ship, I found it a shame that there was no run button. That’s the biggest complaint I have about the controls.

The other issue I have with the controls is that it sometimes was a bit too tricky to hit some enemies with the hammer. But I think that the issue is that you are unable to interrupt the animation and most of the time I wished that I was faster with my hammer because I barely missed the enemy.

A nitpick I have about filling the Not-Bottomless Pits, I found that sometimes it was a bit too tricky to get in the right position to fully cover the hole with confetti. Thankfully, this problem occurred maybe two or three times in the whole game.

One of the biggest irritations in this game is how the bells work. You can buy three bells, one for hidden Toads, one for treasure, and one for hidden blocks. They ring when one of those is close, but I can’t tell the radius of those rings. Especially now when I’m trying to find some parts I have missed during my main playthrough.

But my biggest disappointment is the lack of a completion reward and post-game content. There is barely any post-game content to find and the completion reward is just a 5-second extended ending that changes barely anything. Oh, yes. You get a gold star instead of a silver star on your profile.

And with that said, I have said almost everything I wanted to say about this game. I did leave certain things out of this review because I wanted you to have some surprises when you play this game. So yeah, it’s time for the conclusion.

Wrapping up

The bad:

-The bells can be a bit irritating.

-There is no post-game/completion reward.

-The walking speed can be a bit slow.

-Overall, the game is too easy. You have to create the challenge yourself.

The good:

+ Charming story (even when there was more that could have been done with it)

+ Amazing soundtrack.

+ Creative puzzles and battle mechanics.

+ …

Final thoughts:

It’s quite possible that you will see this game on my top 10 games of 2020 list. This game came out of nowhere and really blew me away. I was expecting an “okay” or a fine game but I was blown away. I can understand that Paper Mario veterans expected more out of this game, but I don’t think we are going to get an RPG Paper Mario in the near future.

I think that this game took major steps in the right direction of an enjoyable adventure game. I enjoyed my time with this game and I can recommend this game to everybody who enjoys adventure and/or puzzle games.

The biggest flaw of the game is that there is just a major lack of depth. There is so much more that could have been done and the game is over after 20-25 hours of gameplay. But, these 20-25 hours are quite enjoyable.

But this game gives me high hopes for the next Paper Mario game. Since if this is the direction that they are taking with the series, I’m carefully optimistic about the series again. While there is a very vocal veteran fanbase that wants the old school style of Paper Mario back, I think that is better suited for the Mario & Luigi series. I think that Paper Mario is better suited for games like this. But, that might be just me, I still have to beat the original Paper Mario trilogy.

But, I’m trying to see this game apart from the whole series that it originated from. And when I look at this game as a standalone game, I’m quite impressed with the game. Compared to the two previous games, this game makes a ton of improvements that make the game more enjoyable and entertaining to play.

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

Score: 85/100

Game Quicky: Bridge Strike (Switch) ~ Shall We Strike?

H2x1_NSwitchDS_BridgeStrike_image1600wNintendo.com micrositeDrageus Games portfolioOfficial website

A few weeks ago, my developer friends Drageus Games sent me a press kit about Bridge Strike. As usual, they provided a press code to me so I can review this game in my usual 100% honest opinion. Now, Drageus Games didn’t develop this game but a small team called Project R3D from Poland. Now, retro gamers who enjoy playing games on the Commodore Amiga might know this title. Yes, it’s from the same developers. Now, in this article I’m going to take a look at the Switch version. I just want to also say that this game is also released on mobile platforms. With all that said, I think it’s high time to take a look at this game in my usual game quicky format. Did this indie studio create an hidden gem or a game best skipped? Let’s find out while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section down below with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article.

We can strike!

NSwitchDS_BridgeStrike_04

In this game you play as an unnamed soldier who is piloting “The Eagle”. But more about the story in a later section of this article.

Since the game is also a mobile game, the gameplay is quite simple. With the right joystick, you move your aircraft around and you shoot with the A button. Simple controls and easy to understand. They are also extremely responsive. Most of this game was played with my Switch Pro Controller and it felt quite good to control.

If you just look at the screenshots of this game, it does look amazing. The visual presentation is something that I have to admire. It’s extremely well done and I dare even say that it’s quite impressive for being an indie game. Including the audio design, the sound effects have impact and the music is quite enjoyable to listen to as well.

Something I want to mention for sure that they I really liked the dynamic weather system. It was a nice surprise to see this amount of effort to the visuals.

We are out of ammo!

Now, I do want to mention something about the story. I can understand that this story for a game like this doesn’t need to be very involved or have very deep lore. For a simple top down indie shooter game, a generic plot can work. But, I do have some problems with the story this time around.

It’s a bit too generic. There is barely any to no world building in the story. Also, there is no explanation to why you should shoot down the bridges. Do you need to cut off your country’s supply lines?

But, you want to know something funny? The story does get explained and it gets more lore and world building. Believe it or not, it’s in the help section. Yes, the help section. Where you expect something like a tutorial or the button lay-out. Maybe this is a strange translation decision but it battles me.

In addition to that, when you read the story in the help section you get the impression that there is much more to the game then there actually is. That you have to fight a lot of enemies or stay hidden. Now, if the simple tutorial is anything to go by, I’m afraid that’s just nothing more than a bit of text. Besides moving your ships and shooting, there is nothing else in terms of mechanics.

And guess what, this means that the game falls into a pitfall of being repetitive quite easily. There are only three things you have to do in this game. One is shoot bridges, two is to slow down at fuel stations and three is dodge or shoot obstacles. That’s it. If you are interested in this game, I do advise you to play this game is short bursts, since this game can get a bit boring after a few levels.

Something that would have helped is that there was a bit more for the player to avoid or play around with. For example, that there were power-ups or enemies that shot back. But after playing the raid mode and some of the campaign levels, I haven’t seen anything like that. And if only there was an autofire, that would be amazing sometimes.

EcLkwT-UMAAIy7mThe game does have a polished feel, but I think that QA looked over somethings. I mean, just look at this screenshot. According to the stats, I fired 13 shots and I got 14 hits. How does that even work when your shot doesn’t go through enemies? Also, 107% accuracy and only 2 out of three stars? Excuse me? Why didn’t I get the full three stars? Especially since the next level, I fired 36 shots, I got 35 hits and I got three starts with an accuracy of 97%.

That level was finally something else than shooting bridges, but it was destroy ships in the water. At first, I thought that they were there for decoration, world building. But these ships that posed no threat were enemies. Look, you do need to give the player a reason to destroy these ships besides giving them one coin as a reward. Since players get way more coins for destroying bridges, which is the name sake of the game.

Something I’m quite strict on is the UI design. It lacks some quality of life improvements. Things like, not going to the main menu when you exit a level but to the level select. Or, the tutorial being one of the first options when you pick “play the game”. Or having some sort of buzz sound when you can’t buy a new plane in the hanger.

If you are still interested in this game, I do not bother with the raid mode. I’m sorry but I got bored after a few minutes of playing this mode. It’s just an endless mission where you have to destroy bridges and the only thing that can kill you is either forgetting to fuel to flying into a wall or an obstacle.

And that brings me to the difficulty. This game is extremely easy and that’s the biggest flaw of this game. There is barely any challenge in this game. Especially since there is barely anything that can kill the player. You do only get three lives in the raid mode, but that’s it. If you make three mistakes, you can just restart. Actually, raid mode is an easy way to farm coins. But, that’s besides the point.

Also, why is there no way to either reset the statistics menu or separate that between stats from the mission mode and the raid mode?

Now, I can keep talking and talking but I think I can put my final thoughts in a nice conclusion, so I think it’s high time for that.

So, shall we strike?

I don’t like giving games a bad or luke warm review. I always try to find something unique and enjoyable in all the games I play. While this game has a lot going for it in terms of stunning visuals, great audio design and an interesting basic gameplay loop… It lacks depth and a lot of it.

Usually, I play a game for at least three to four hours before I even consider writing a first impression or game quicky about it. But, after an half hour to an hour of playing this game, I felt that I had seen everything that this game has to offer. Which is a shame, since looking at the mission screen, it looks like there are a lot of missions and a lot of effort and love that went into this game.

But, it all goes to waste because the basic gameplay loop isn’t engaging enough to keep people’s attention for too long. It can be enjoyable for a short bust or when you need to play a game that’s more laid back but I’m sorry, I have a hard time to recommend this game in it’s current state.

I know how hard and difficult developing a game is. I’m developing software to ease up the workload of the admin office in my school and that eats up a ton of my time. But, I rather keep developing my software until it works and covers everything. To be honest, I felt that I was playing a prototype or a vertical slice of the final product. (This is a game development term which means that you have something playable to give a publisher an idea to where you want to take the game.)

When I look around to what other bloggers are saying, I see that this game is getting a 6 or 7/10. And I’m sorry but I have to respectfully disagree with these scores. Now, if I have to give a score on anything but the gameplay, yes, this game would get a 7/10 or even higher from me. But, the unused potential of gameplay and the focus on retro gaming… I’m sorry but I can’t give a such a high score to that.

Now, if the developers are still working on this game and maybe there is more variety and more challenge in the game, I think that this game might become a lot better. But for now, it’s a game that falls flat on it’s face for me. If I’m overlooking something, feel free to let me know in the comments. But for now, I think that the current version I have played is getting nothing more than a 50/100 from me. But, do know that this low score is because the serious lack of difficulty and variety in this game. Everything else is quite well done.

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