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Writer’s Raid: Tomb Raider III – The Adventures of Lara Croft

Tomb_Raider_IIIWikipedia entry

I remember quite well buying a copy of Tomb Raider IV & V in one bundle. When I came home and placed the install disc for Tomb Raider IV in my PC, I was surprised that Tomb Raider III started installing. I didn’t mind so much, I found the files for Tomb Raider IV on the disc labeled Tomb Raider V. I already owned Tomb Raider V, so I got extremely lucky there. Since I took a look at Tomb Raider IV in the past, I think it would be more interesting for this project to take a look at Tomb Raider III. Now, what do I mean with “this project”? Well, a group of writers and myself took a look at the whole Tomb Raider series and like the Zelda project last year, there is a hub article you can find here if you want to read the other amazing articles.

The Adventures of Lara Croft

TR3-1In this game, Lara is searching for the Intifada Stone. When she finds the artifact, she gets approached by a researcher from RX Tech, who informs her about a meteorite that landed in Antarctica millions of years ago. This meteorite was used by the Polynesians to create various powerful stones, one of which is the Intifada Stone. So, Lara starts a quest to find all the stones before they fall in the wrong hands.

The story is quite interesting. The main arc of the story, I explained above. But the story takes Lara on several different journeys with their own story. It’s a bit like Tomb Raider V, but the big difference is that they aren’t remembering Lara’s adventures after her death.

So, compared to Tomb Raider II, what is new in this game? Quite a lot actually. The game was primarily made for the PlayStation and was meant as a sort of next-gen Tomb Raider. Core Design created a totally new engine for the game and a lot more. If you want to read up on the development, the Wikipedia page I linked above has a lot more to talk about.

The game did rather well. The game scored an average of 7/10 from different publications. If you look on GameRankings.com, the PS1 version even got a bigger score than the PC counterpart. It’s a 5% difference.

Now, the version I have in my collection is “Tomb Raider III – The Lost Artefact”. This is a version with some additional levels included. With these 5 additional levels, the game takes a nice 25 hours to beat the game, making this the longest Tomb Raider game in the series.

The story of the expansion pack takes place in between the story of Tomb Raider III. So, it’s no epilogue or prologue. Also, this expansion pack was only released for people who owned the PC or MAC version. Sadly enough, this game was sold as a standalone game. The previous two games also had an expansion pack which was either part of a re-release or free to download from the official website.

The game also provided quite a lot of new things and moves to play around with. Lara got some new abilities like using the monkey bars. The new things in this game include new swimming and water mechanics, quicksand and various other things.

I’m glad that I played this game on the PC since on the PS1, the save feature is restricted. The save feature works sort-of like the save feature in the early Resident Evil games. Where you have to find Ink Ribbons for the typewriters to save. In Tomb Raider III, you have to find save crystals to use the save feature in the main menu.  Since I love to save often in the older Tomb Raider games, I would have been so frustrated if that was also the case on the PC.

During the game, you go to India, UK, USA, and Antarctica. You can also visit Lara’s home in this game. If you are a first-time player, I highly recommend that you explore Lara’s home first. This way you can get used to the controls and the mechanics of Lara’s jump in the gym. Also, yes, I have fond memories of locking Winston up in the freezer.

How does it hold up?

TR3-2For me personally, this game was fun to play through. The game tested my retro gaming skills quite a lot and I enjoyed walking around the levels. While I had my share of frustrations when missing a jump or not directly knowing where to go, I still had a lot of fun exploring this game.

Now, this game hasn’t aged like fine wine. This game isn’t for everybody. While I don’t mind the dated visuals, I can understand that some people would hate the visuals. The visuals are early PS1 visuals. Yet, I feel they still have some charm and still look better than Tomb Raider I or II.

This game has decent controls. The big issue I have with them is that you can’t rebind the keys easily. There is some trickery you can do, but it shouldn’t be this annoying. Also, since I use an AZERTY keyboard layout, some keys were in different places. Thankfully, I got used to the controls after a few levels and I was able to pull of great moves.

Something that did age quite well, in my opinion, is the music and sound effects. While the soundtrack is extremely short, it’s still a joy to listen too. The soundtrack really fits the mood of the game. It’s relaxing when you are climbing and tense when you are fighting a boss. The sound effects pulled me into the atmosphere of this game.

TR3-3I really enjoyed the puzzles in this game. The only thing I had issues with was the vehicle sections. But, that was mostly because I didn’t know you could speed them up. After I learned how to do that, I had fewer issues with them. While it’s quite possible to play this game without a walkthrough, I used BadAssGamez’s walkthrough when I was stuck. He finished this game without using any medkits and got all the secrets as well.

In his video’s he also shows tricks on how to skip certain fights or how to easily defeat enemies. If you aren’t used to old-school Tomb Raider games, I highly recommend that you watch his walkthroughs if you need some help in beating this game. If you are used to old-school Tomb Raider games, this game will provide you with various challenges. My favorite level was the 8th level, the Temple of Puna. Mainly because it had various moments that reminded me of Indiana Jones.

I think that this game is still worth a playthrough. If you enjoy playing retro adventure games, I can’t recommend this game enough. I do understand that this game isn’t for everyone. There are moments where the game clearly shows its age. Don’t expect a game with a more modern polish, expect a game that challenges you in various areas that takes you back to when you were young and played games after homework on your parent’s computer.

If you want to give this game a try, it’s still being sold on Steam for 7€ and on GOG, you find Tomb Raider 1+2+3 together for 9€. So seriously, what are you waiting for?

That’s everything I wanted to say about this game. If you are interested in a full review of this game, please tell me in the comments. 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.

Writers Raid: Tomb Raider Level Editor ~ Lara Raided Fantombs

Tomb_Raider_Level_Editor

Today I want to take you on a journey. Together with various other writers, we decided to celebrate the Tomb Raider series. While a lot of people look at the early Tomb Raider games as games that didn’t age well, I don’t mind that much. True, the games aren’t the best to play nowadays, but I still enjoy them. I knew that there was a level editor as a child but I never took the time to learn the ins and outs of the tool. In the past, I thought that it was a cheating tool that allowed you to edit levels to give you an advantage. Anyways, the level editor, that’s the theme of this article.

History

Now, what’s the TLRE? What’s the Tomb Raider Level Editor? Well, it’s the actual tool that Core Design used to create the first 5 Tomb Raider games. This tool was released to the public in 2000. Included in the package were beta versions of various levels and a couple of completed levels. A bit later, Eidos Interactive released another few levels. You can dig deeper into the details of those levels on the Tomb Raider Wiki.

If you want to mess around with the tool itself, you can find it here. Out of personal experience, I can say that the tool works on Windows 10. There are various tutorials you can find online. On YouTube and on various forums. Here are a few links you could use:

http://www.tombraiderforums.com/forumdisplay.php?f=16

https://tombraiders.net/stella/trle.html

http://www.trle.net

https://www.aspidetr.com/en/tools/tomb-raider-level-editor/

There is also an updated fan version of the tool called Tomb Raider Level Editor Next Generation. It’s quite a mouthful, but it has more features than the original tool. It also has widescreen support and various other features. More information can be found on this website: http://www.trlevelmanager.eu/ng.htm or you can read about it in detail on this forum thread: http://www.tombraiderforums.com/showthread.php?t=216848

Before I continue with this article, I have to admit that I’m not that good at creating levels with the tools. So, if you are looking for a review of the tools, I think you are in the wrong place. In this article, I want to take a look at some random levels I played. Most of these levels are created by other people and the download link will be provided. If you want to play any custom created levels yourself, the best website to find them is: http://www.trle.net

Do keep in mind that all of these custom levels run on one the engine of Tomb Raider I, II, III, IV or V. So, don’t expect HD visuals or anything that the engine can’t handle. So, if you aren’t into the original Tomb Raider games, you might not get into these levels. But, if you are a Tomb Raider fan or enjoy retro adventure games, do give them a try. And don’t worry, there are reviews on almost every level on TRLE.net so you know if a level is good or not.

To play the custom levels you don’t need to have the level editor itself installed or any of the Tomb Raider games. The way how you play these levels is quite simple. After downloading a level, you unpack them and click on the .exe file. In some cases, you can hold the CTRL key down to adjust some options like the visuals and things like that. Sometimes there is a readme file included by the author to aid you when certain problems occur. Do read them, since sometimes there is useful information in there. Uninstalling a custom level/game is quite simple. Since you didn’t have to install anything, you can just remove the files.

For beginners

Now, if you decided that you want to give these custom levels a try and you haven’t played Tomb Raider in the past or it was too long ago, let me give you some advice to better enjoy these custom levels. This might look like a lot to take in, but you will get used it to when you play more levels. Start with the highest rated ones. Those are really well built and rarely have cheap traps or overly difficult jumps in them.

First of all, if you run a level that’s made in TRI, II or III, you are able to change the controls from the main menu using the option with the arrow keys. If you are playing a custom level created in TRIV or V, you are able to do so using the “P” key during gameplay. Here is the basic layout for the keys:

TRLE1

Feel free to use these pictures as a reference in case the game is in a different language. The sequence of this list almost NEVER changes. To my knowledge, you are unable to rebind the keys in levels created in TR I, II and III. In other cases you can select the action using the arrow keys, press enter and press the key you want to bind it too. Pay attention while you are doing this since the game won’t complain if you bind two things to the same key.

Alright, now while playing this game, know that the game never autosaves. You can save by using F5 and load by using F6. You can save at any location you want, apart from when you are in a cutscene. You can’t pause the game using ESC during cutscenes either.

Remember that Lara never automatically grabs ledges. You need to hold down the action button. So, if you jump towards a ledge, hold that button or you will fill. The same button is used to flick levers, pick up items, press buttons and so on and so forth.

You can save while hanging from a ledge, but press the action button right after the game loaded or you will fall. But, the action button is useful for so much more. From pushing boxes to open trapdoors. If you are stuck, look for a place where the action button does something. Also, when you are trying to open a trapdoor, always try the action button while standing in the middle of aside. The final useful thing to know is when you press action in front of a keyhole and you have the actual key, your inventory will automatically open.

Do experiment with Lara’s jump, since she is quite acrobatic. Something I love using backward rolls when I press a button and quickly need to run away. This can be done by pressing the up and down key together while you perform a jump. In one custom level, I have to jump back and forth between platforms to make it to the other side.

In some cases, Lara will be able to climb up. Whenever she needs to pull herself up in a tight spot, use the duck key while pulling yourself up. That way she will squeeze herself into the tight space.

Here is another hint. If you need to jump from a ladder to something behind you, don’t jump from the top. Lara will bump her head on the ceiling and loose height. You can jump from a ladder by pressing the down arrow and jump (while letting go of the control key), and then hold the up arrow and control. This technique will proof tricky at first, but practice makes perfect.

Now, I could keep explaining the whole move set Lara has. But that’s something you will learn when you play custom levels. Whenever you are stuck, simply google the name of the custom level and add “Tomb Raider Level Editor” behind it. 9.99 out of 10 chances you will find a walkthrough on it. Unless the level just released, in that case, you can either use the TRLE.net forums or wait a day or two.

Or you can experiment by downloading the level editor and playing the first two included levels. These have very easy levels that aid you in learning how the game is played. The download link can be found earlier in the article.

Oh, and it’s maybe handy to know how to exit a game. If you don’t find the quit button easy, just “ALT+F4” always worked for me.

Now, one annoying thing I want to mention is that “ALT+TAB” doesn’t always work. Be careful if you want to look at a walkthrough or something. Since it’s possible that you are unable to open the game again. It might either crash or black screen. If that happens, use task manager to kill the process of the game and load it up again. That’s why I use the F5 key to quickly save before “Alt+Tab”. If you use “Alt+Tab” the safest way to get back to the game is to “Alt+Tab” into the game again. It’s possible that it has two open windows, the best is choosing the window that has a title displayed. In most cases, that’s the name of the engine that’s used.

You can quickly load your game using F6, this is very handy. Since you can save everywhere, you can also save while on ladders or while hanging from a ledge. If you press the Action button (usually the CTRL key) during loading, you won’t fall off the ladder or edge. So, be careful with that.

With that said, it’s time for me to look at a few randomly chosen levels over at TLRE.net. I’ll give my opinions on the levels and a small score. If you know of some amazing levels, please do share them in the comment section down below. Footnote, every rating is on a max score of 10. Be aware, I’m not going to give these levels an in-depth review. Just some quick thoughts.

The Wolf Pack – Part 2

Image00001

Created by: JesseG

Created in: TR4

Rating: 9.25

Released: 23/08/2018

http://www.trle.net/sc/levelfeatures.php?lid=3065

This is at the moment of writing this article, the most recently released entry. This level isn’t beginner-friendly since it requires some precise jumps from ladders. Especially backward. To more experienced players, this level is a nice challenge.

In this level, the character model of Lara is replaced by a wolf model. This model is very nice to look at and the visual presentation fits the visuals of Tomb Raider 4 nicely. The custom music and sound effects are decent. It was quite unexpected to find more MIDI-sounding music in a Tomb Raider level.

At first, I found that the music didn’t fit the Tomb Raider universe at all, but the more I played the game and the more I heard the music, the more it grew on me. I’m adding the music to my game OST library since I like it that much.

This is quite a lengthy game. As a matter of fact, this game can take up to an hour to complete the three levels. In these three levels, you play as two different playable characters. Yes, you have two playable characters. You can swap between them using swap points you find at certain places. Both characters have different unique abilities. This is something I rarely see in TRLE levels and was a pleasant surprise to see.

Since I have played the second part before the first, I think it would be handy if the creator included some sort of link to download the first part of these levels in the download.

The only points of criticism are as follows.  First of all, while almost all sound effects have been changed, I found it strange that the sound effect of falling to your doom hasn’t been changed.

Secondly, I found the first jump from a ladder you had to do pretty annoying. I think it would be better if the platform had a different color or a bit more identification that you are supposed to jump there.

Thirdly, I think that the levels were either too long or too short. The first level was too long and the two other levels were over before I knew it. I think it would have been better if the first level was cut into more levels and the 2nd and 3rd levels were merged into one level.

Overall, a very creative level pack but needs some minor polish to get perfect. This level pack does a lot of unique things in the TRLE community and is really recommended for veteran players or new players looking for a challenge.

Personal score: 9/10

Wolfpack screenie

Lost in Temple

Created by: Sal

Created in: TR5

Rating: 5.98

Released: 11/10/2015

http://trle.net/sc/levelfeatures.php?lid=2873

This custom level is according to the TRLE.net walkthrough a remake of Fenician Temple 4 from Tomb Raider 3. Something that I didn’t like for this model is the outfit Lara is wearing during this level. I felt that it didn’t fit the theming of this level at all.

Lost in Temple screenie

While this level impressed me at the start with some amazing camera angles and two big rooms filled with jump puzzles, the issues with this level became clear to me quickly. This level has quite a lot of backtracking.

This level honestly got a bit boring in my opinion. For example, to solve one block puzzle I had to run from one room to another so many times.

Also, I was unable to play this game in full screen. I had to fix the broken shortcut to the setup tool, which was easy to do. Just replacing the path where the EXE of the game is located. I had to play windowed. But, from the reviews I have read, this might be a universal issue with Tomb Raider 5 and Windows 10.

This level would have been better if there was a bit more direction as well. I had to consult a walkthrough since I didn’t find where I was supposed to go. It turned out that I was able to grab a wall. The thing is, it used the same texture as the bottom part of the wall where the wall isn’t grabbable nor climbable.

Also, I found the walkthrough of the actual author of this level. And he had to speed up some parts of his video. Looking at that video, this level goes on for quite a while. I have quit playing this level when I had to fight enemies in the dark. I just felt done with the level.

Looking at the reviews on TRLE.net, I’m happy to see that there were people who enjoyed this level. Since I have seen much worse. This level is balanced and very detailed. But, it’s unpolished and isn’t fun to play in my opinion.

Personal score: 4/10

Poseidon’s Sanctum

Poseidons Sanctum screenie

Created by: Sarikman

Created in: TR3

Rating: 8.94

Released: 21/11/2011

http://www.trle.net/sc/levelfeatures.php?lid=2478

This level was quite a good one. This level is created in an unofficial editor called DXTRE3D created by Turbo Pascal. This level is also pretty tricky but it’s doable. You will have to think old-school Tomb Raider to find every secret and the way forward in these levels.

I had a great time playing these levels. If you decide to play these levels, I have a tip for you. At first, you might think that the camera does some weird things but pay attention when the angle changes. What is it showing you? Seriously, it shows some extremely helpful things.

Visually, this level looks amazing for using the Tomb Raider 3 engine as a base. I started Tomb Raider III right after playing this one to compare and I like the visuals a bit more at the custom level than in the original one. Sadly enough, there were some minor texturing issues here and there, but they weren’t too noticeable.

The music selection in this level pack is top-notch. I really liked how the music went more silent when you were underwater.

While this level pack has a few bugs, the author provided some screenshots and explanations on how to fix them or how to avoid these bugs. The author also provided a text file with some interesting advice for people who got stuck and not only that, it’s written in a way that Lara is talking to you. Very interesting and fun read.

I won’t talk too much more about this level since if you want to play an amazing example of what people can do with the level editor, just play this level. It’s one of the best I have played in a long while. I haven’t finished this level but I’m going to play this over my next break.

The only advice I could give to the author for this level is if you create bug pictures and such, use more than an arrow to point out ledges. If possible, give them a color or make it a bit more clear which ledge you mean.

Personal score: 8/10

Final words

Thank you so much for reading my entry for the Tomb Raider Writer’s Raid series. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing this one. I play from time to time at various TRLE levels. I enjoy them quite a lot. Seeing these new levels makes my retro heart happy.

While I completely understand that there is a crowd that dislikes the old Tomb Raider, I’m not part of that crowd. I enjoy playing retro games quite a lot and I’m always curious about what adventures I’ll find myself in next.

I have been in various unique situations while playing Tomb Raider Level Editor. I wanted to write about this tool for quite a while now. It has been on my “to write about” list for three years now. So, the ultimate excuse was this project.

If you want to read some nostalgic articles from other writers about the Tomb Raider series, feel free to go to the hub article where various amazing writers talk about their experience of the Tomb Raider series. You can find a link here.

With that said, it’s time for my usual outro. Thank you so much for reading and I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to meet you in another article but until then take care and have a great rest of your day.

Tomb_Raider_raid

The logo for this project is created by The Well-Red Mage

 

Publishing: NTales Grand Launch Comes Great Features!

Grand-Player_FB.png

Updates to guilds, costumes & Challenging Coliseum!

Saviors are needed more than ever to keep the horde of monsters inside the Coliseum! Queen Laminia has released its latest research in Costume upgrade and enhancement to assist all Saviours in this challenge!

After a successful Global Launch; listening to feedback from players, and developing the much-requested features; comes the Grand Launch of 2D Pocket RPG NTales: Child of Destiny together with its biggest content update yet!

SOUTH KOREA — Queen Laminia is calling all Saviours to once again take up arms and save the Kingdom of Lancia as hordes of monsters amasses in the newly opened Coliseum! The Queen’s research team also released its latest Costume Upgrades and Costume Enhancements technology to assist all Saviours in their quest to save the world. These and more updates are coming as RuleMakr releases its biggest update to NTales to celebrate its Grand Launch! From the long-awaited guild features—increase in guild members, the availability of guild stores; too amazing costume updates; a challenging Coliseum to conquer; and plenty of powerful buffs!

With today’s major content update to NTales, guild members will be delighted to know that they can now change their respective Guild logo and clearly show everyone which powerful or coolest guild they call their family. In addition, Guild Masters can now post guild announcements and level-up their guild which grants an increase in their maximum membership and additional guild buffs!

What’s New in NTales Grand Launch

  • Much Requested Guild Features!
    • Increased Guild Levels
    • New Guild Medal and Guild Store
    • Change your Guild logo and post a Guild announcement!
  • Vital Costume Updates!
    • Costume Upgrade (2% increase in all stats), up to +10 upgrade
    • Costume Enhancement (15% increase in all stats), +10 upgrade max
    • Costume Dismantle
  • Conquer the Coliseum!
  • New Events with Awesome Rewards!
  • And many more!

NTales also announces the discovery of Upgrade Stones and Enhancement Stones which were found to give costumes 2% and 15% increase in all stats up to 10 grades! These upgrades and enhancements together with the new buffs, Saviours should be able to conquer the newly opened Coliseum full of mobs. The Queen has also declared rewards for those that vanquishes the most monsters and defeated the reigning Coliseum boss.

More Events and Awesome Prizes!

If that was not enough, the team prepared events for both new and old players. From daily login rewards to free costumes and hot time rewards, players will surely have enough supplies for their mission to save the kingdom! Don’t miss out on these events and awesome prizes!

Free-Costume-Shop

There’s no better time to stop the evil encroaching on the borders of the Kingdom of Lancia than today! Get the latest NTales: Child of Destiny only at Google Play to enjoy these new and exciting features!

For more information on the Grand Launch content patch, players are invited to visit the official Facebook Page and join our PLUG Community.

Official Links

Download the game, TODAY!

Google Play Store: https://goo.gl/gtRo5s

NTales: Child of Destiny Official Website: https://goo.gl/tVf8r2

NTales: Child of Destiny Naver Plug Community Link: https://goo.gl/33Q4PE

NTales: Child of Destiny Official Facebook Fan Page Link: https://goo.gl/DYPa9D

NTales: Child of Destiny YouTube Link: https://goo.gl/29KdBE

ABOUT NTALES: CHILD OF DESTINY

Grand-Launch-Daily-Reward

NTales: Child of Destiny is a complete take on MMORPG.

This new game offers a multitude of battles, exploration, and special features. Enjoy this new 2D Pocket RPG style! A linear storyline or get distracted with interesting sub-quests. NTales added twists of MMO by implementing Raid Parties, Guild War and PvP. Fighting along your side are adorable and powerful monsters with a PvP Mode of their own! A 2D Pocket RPG you surely can’t get enough!

Summon Pet, enjoy various PvE and PvP game modes! Classic hero classes to choose from but a wide variety of class build to your preference.

Game Features:

  • Accomplish impossible missions and side-quests!
  • Gear up your class with great costume, wings, unique equipment and items!
  • Challenging Battle Modes – Boss Dungeon, Infinity Tower, Time Dungeon and Pet Island
  • Summon cute and powerful pets to fight along your side!
  • Tag along your friends to defeat Boss Dungeon, join guild and party with peer!
  • Choose from 3 Classic Hero Classes: Warrior, Magician, and Cleric!
  • Journey to over 200 Maps – Sharpen your skill to defeat the monsters!

Quick-Charge-Box

ABOUT RULEMAKR

RuleMakr is a Korean Development Company recently established and aims to bring forth quality and new games from Korea worldwide.

 

Review: Pokémon Mystery Dungeon – Explorers Of Time / Darkness & Sky (DS) ~ Expansion Dungeon?

PMD3

Wikipedia entry

So, remember when Nintendo released an enhanced version of each generation? Games like Pokémon Yellow, Crystal, Emerald and Platinum come to mind. Well, they also did that once for their Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series. When Explorers of Time and Explorers of Darkness released, a year later Nintendo released Explorers of the Sky. I have beaten Explorers of Time but I haven’t beaten this updated version yet. Why did I decide to write a review then? Well, the core mechanics haven’t changed in this version. In any case, it’s time to take a look at this game, what do I think about this entry in one of my favorite game series? As usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on this article and/or the game. 

250px-MD_Time_EN_boxart

Note: In this review, I will focus mostly on the Sky version of the game. But my thoughts in this review apply to all versions of this game except the exclusive stuff in the Sky version.

Note 2: To avoid mentioning the full title of the game every time, I refer to the games by only using the last word in the title.

Let’s form a guild

Pokemon mystery dungeon explorers of the sky 2

So, you start up a new game and you get a personality quiz. This will decide which Pokémon you will be during the whole adventure. For some reason, I love doing this quiz. I have played it various times and I always end up with the same Pokémon.

So, the story of this game. You play as a human that got turned into a Pokémon. You meet your partner on the beach. After your partner gets his special artifact stolen from some rival gang, you and your partner go and reclaim the stolen artifact. After you have helped your partner, both of you team up and go join the local guild.

When you join the local guild, you learn that somebody is stealing the time gears and which controls time in that given area. So, you set out on an adventure to stop this madness and restore peace to the land.

And that’s just the basic part of the story. This story goes much deeper. You go on various quests and adventures, it’s great. The writing in this game is great, but some jokes are more aimed at the younger audience. In the Sky version, there is additional backstory added to the game. There is also a longer epilog added to the game. I still have to finish the epilog, but I love the added stories so far.

The visual presentation of this game is, as you would expect from a Nintendo game, excellent. I can understand that the visuals might turn some people off since they aren’t upgraded too much from the original GBA title. Still, the detail in the artwork is well done. Also, the gorgeous full-screen pictures are an amazing touch. A common criticism of this game is that

A common criticism of this game is that the dialogues go on and on for too long. I honestly didn’t mind this too much, but I do understand why people complain. This game could have benefitted from some cutscenes, even when it’s just a big picture that goes over the two DS screens.

Was this needed?

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The expanded Sky version has a very mixed reception. While some reviewers hated this version, some reviewers loved it. The biggest issue is that the things that were added in this version were somewhat minor at first. Why do I say minor at first? Well, this version has much more polish than the original versions.

Why do I say minor at first? Well, this version has much more polish than the original versions. Also, there are some many things added like: new dungeons, new story, more starters, new places and shops… But most of them appear after a bit of playtime or is post game content.

I think that this could have been handled better. I think that the Sky version should have been the only one that got released. It’s the superior version of Time and Darkness. So, if you haven’t played these games yet, don’t bother with Time and Darkness, play the Sky version.

Another interesting idea would be a sort of “save file transfer” feature. So, that you transfer your save file from either Time or Darkness to Sky and you get direct access to the new features without having to replay the whole game.

If you have played Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Blue or Red Rescue Team, you know what you can expect in this game. You go through randomized dungeons while fighting various other rogue Pokémon. Your goal is to reach the end of the dungeon so you can continue to the story.

Sometimes you have sentry duty over at the guild. Then you have to guess which 250px-MD_Darkness_EN_boxartPokémon wants to enter the guild. I think this mini game would be pretty tricky if you aren’t familiar with Pokémon. But, if you are familiar with Pokémon, this shouldn’t give you too much trouble.

When you aren’t exploring a dungeon, you can go and visit the local town to buy items and upgrade your Pokémon. You can also go on various side quests and/or hunt after wanted criminals.

The core gameplay can be repetitive, yet enjoyable. If you play this game more an extended amount of time, it might get boring. But, if you spice things up with some side quests and trying to progress the story, the game stays enjoyable.

In Sky, there is a new Spinda Café added, which adds some new mechanics into the game. But, I’ll leave that for you to find out. One of them is a recycling mechanic and another is the lottery mechanic. That’s all I’m going to say about that. Check it out since it will help you in your journey.

When you die in a dungeon, you get kicked back to the start of the dungeon or the mid-way checkpoint. The catch is that you lose some items and almost all your cash. So be careful what you take with you since you can loose it when you aren’t careful.

The music for this game is excellent. There is one song that almost every time hits a cord with me. That song’s name is “Don’t Ever Forget – I don’t want to say goodbye…” and it plays near the climax of the whole game. To avoid spoilers, I’m not going to say too much about it, but it still gives me goosebumps while writing this part of the review. And I’m not the only one. Just go on YouTube and read the comments. Yeah, you will understand what I mean.

The music adds so much to this game. There are so many memorable moments that are made so much more powerful with the soundtrack. So, I highly recommend playing this game with a good pair of headphones. Thank me later.

A quick note about the sound design, it’s great. But honestly, due to the amazing soundtrack, it didn’t pay too much attention to the sound design to comment too much about it.

Snatch that jewel

Pokemon mystery dungeon explorers of the sky 1

This game can be pretty difficult in some places. But, most of those moments can be defeated with some grinding. Yet, sometimes you have or can get lucky and finish a difficult dungeon by finding the stairs on each floor.

In Sky, there are various tweaks at the difficulty. But the random monster houses can be so cheap. I died more than once because of this.

The controls for this game are great. I didn’t have any problems with them. The only annoying thing is that you attacking diagonally is a nightmare. I had to struggle with the controls more than once to do that. Also, attacking at a corner doesn’t work. Your attack always misses. This is fixed in later entries in the series.

Due to the randomized nature of the dungeons you enter, there is a lot of replay value in this game. But, you will miss a skip button for skipping the story bits.

Speaking about that, something that annoyed me was the end of the day after you finished your missions. You go through dinner with your guild and it takes a bit too long. I honestly think that a skip button for this would help. But, that would be tricky since sometimes at night time, you get important story bits. So, I can understand why it isn’t added.

This game’s length is great. If you play through the game to just beat the main story, you will have 30-ish hours of gameplay ahead of you. But, I have read that when you want to complete this game, you have over 150 hours of game time ahead of you.

So, that’s everything I wanted to talk about in this game. I didn’t talk about some parts, but hey, that means there are still surprises for you to find when you decide to give this game a try. So, it’s time to wrap up this whole review in the conclusion.

Conclusion

The bad:

-Some minor issues like not being able to attack at corners aren’t fixed from the previous entry in the series.

-The bad reception for the Sky version is understandable. Due to the release of Sky, the Darkness and Time versions look unpolished.

-This game could have benefitted from some cutscenes.

-A skip button for the story isn’t here. This would benefit 2nd playthroughs so much.

The good:

+ Great story and writing.

+ Great visuals.

+ Amazing music.

+ Fun, yet sometimes repetitive, gameplay.

+ …

Final thoughts:

If you want to give this game a shot, I highly recommend playing the Sky version. If you think the games are worth a replay, you might give the Time & Darkness a chance. But remember, like I said in the review, the Sky version is better since it has much more polish than the originals.

This game is excellent. This game is one of my favorite games in the series and I can’t wait to finish the additional content. I have beaten this game at least 4 times, so that’s why I wrote a review instead of a first impression.

I can understand people who are let down by the Sky version since they played Darkness and/or Time first. But, don’t let it discourage you to not play this game. You would miss out on a great Pokémon spin-off that is slowly growing into an amazing series.

This game doesn’t have too many flaws, but the flaws it has aren’t too big of a deal in my eyes. They didn’t stop me from enjoying the game and having a great time.

In any case, thank you so much for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing this. 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: 95/100

First Impressions: RollerCoaster Tycoon (PC) ~ Build Those Parks

RCT 1 (1)Link to Wikipedia entry

So, lately I have been playing Rollercoaster Tycoon on my old Windows 98 machine. This was one of the games I played as a kid over and over again. I couldn’t get enough of it. I remember that I didn’t have the patched version and I didn’t have the expansion packs. So, I didn’t get all the content and I got one nasty bug. I was unable to load save files. And to make matters worse, my sister and I were only allowed a limited time on the computer. We always asked our parents to not shut down our computer so the scenario was able to finish. Meanwhile we were hoping that nothing happened so we wouldn’t lose the scenario. Because everything can happen. While I was playing the game the other day, I was so close in winning a scenario… When just before the deadline, one of the most reliable and oldest rollercoasters crashes and I lose the scenario. Anyways, enough stalling. It’s time to take a look at this game. But for this article, I will take a look at the whole package. So, the two added expansion packs and patches are installed. “Loopy Landscapes” and “Added Attractions Pack”. As per usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on this game and/or the content of this article.

Build, build and build some more

RCT 1 (3)So, in this game, there isn’t a story to speak off. Well, some missions provide some minor backstory to the park you are going to play. But it doesn’t go very in depth about it. This game is about building parks. You have to build the attractions, roads, stalls, manage staff and prices and etc.

In the original game, there were 20 missions. But, if you install the expansion packs, you more than double the amount of missions. Surprisingly, both expansion packs add a lot of content. Here in Europe, the first expansion pack is called: “Added Attractions Pack”. In the USA, you will know this game as: “Corkscrew Follies”. Which is a way better name in my opinion, since it doesn’t mislead the player. Since the “Added Attractions Pack” adds more then attractions alone.

In any case, each mission is more difficult than the last. I have currently finished 4 missions and I liked them. The first park is a nice small park to get used to the mechanics and the last park was a tiny beach side park I had to build. So far, each mission brings something unique to the table. I wonder how far they took this, since I fear that this might end up in similar ideas with different skins.

This game was originally released in 2000. Sixteen years later, this game still looks wonderful. It aged pretty well. The attractions looks colorful and bright. The only thing I would have changed is that some guests had a more female look.

When you aren’t happy with the colors of the attractions, you can choose from a pretty wide color pallet. Want to paint the supports white? Well, you can. And the best part is, it changes in real time. And you can change the color of almost everything. When you get the color drop down, you can make it the color at your heart’s content.

The animation in this game is top-notch. It makes the game come truly alive. The walking animation of the guests are really adorable in my opinion. The visual presentation and the animation of the rides and guests of your park give a certain charm to the game.

Learn on your own

RCT 1 (1)While the missions have a set goal to reach like for example, have a rating of X and X amount of guests in your park before the end of month X. And then it’s up to you. This makes the replay value of this game extremely high. I’m quite sure, that no two parks are exactly the same. Every playthrough is different.

Here and there, there is some down time. When you are bored in the game. Mind you, that happened quite rarely with me. You can click the balloons the guests let fly to pop them or click the ducks to make them quack. Lovely attention to detail.

 

The most important thing you will need to play this game is a mouse. Everything is done in the UI. I really like how simple everything is set-up. The UI is so well designed, that I can pick up this game every time and I don’t have to look where everything was. There are a few keyboard shortcuts, but honestly, I rarely use them.

Play how you want

 

RCT 1 (2)

The game is can be unforgiving. When you fail your mission and you haven’t saved often, be ready to restart the whole mission. Some missions can take several hours to complete. A golden tip from me, save every few months. It will be easier when you need to roll back when you made a stupid mistake.

Something I really like is that even when your mission is finished, you are allowed to continue to play in the park.

I could talk for hours and hours about the gameplay of this game. Let’s just say that this game is pretty in-depth and has a lot of variety to offer. When you are bored with managing your staff, you can go build some attractions. Bored of managing the finances of your park, you can go and landscape your park. And so on and so forth.

But this game has a few problems in my opinion. The music is pretty nice to listen too, but I remember that when I played this game in the past without the expansion packs, I couldn’t let the rides play music. So, I ended up listing to my own music instead. The expansion packs added the feature to let any attraction pack a nice selection of music. Yet, some minor bugs stop me from enjoying it. When you let two rides play the same music, they play out of sync. And I had some music cut out on me when I just moved the attraction one pixel off screen.

Also, sometimes the game doesn’t save my settings or change them without asking me. Out of curiosity, I started up the tutorial and it changed the screen resolution. And I have to set the option: “Use real name of guests” each and every mission.

Oh, and there is not an easy way to go to the options from the main menu. You have to be in a mission before you are able to change any settings.

Something bugs me about the message to raise my entrance fee. When my entrance fee is already 30€, and some guests come only with 60€… Well, he spends more than half of his budget. Then, when I read the thoughts of my guests, I get complaints that rides and such are too expensive.

I also wished that there was a sign to stop my staff from entering an area. You have only a sign to stop from doing that.

Something I truly disliked was that, even when I put a security guard in the area; I still got broken benches.

In conclusion, I think that this is a very nice game is truly worth playing. I enjoy myself a lot while playing this game. It’s very well put together and challenging. There were a few things that could have been polished up a bit more. But the game we got is a real classic. This game is on Steam for 6€. It’s truly a steal for that price!

So, that’s everything I wanted to say about RollerCoaster Tycoon for now. When I ever finish all the missions or come close to it, I will write a review of the game.

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

First Impression: Giana Sisters – Twisted Dreams (PC) ~ Rip-off With A Twist

Giana-Sisters-reviewOfficial website

Sadly enough, my week off is nearly at an end. I enjoyed my time off quite a lot. But at the other hand, I did some work for my personal life. The consequence of that is that I could barely play games… But hey, I will have more time in the (near) future to write articles again. I also promised to write two articles this week. Perhaps three even. In any case, before I’m going to take a look to this title, first some small history lesson. This game is a spiritual successor to the original Giana Sisters. Why is it not the real sequel? Well, it’s more of a reboot of a controversial series. The original PC game was a Mario rip-off. It was called the Great Giana Sisters. I linked to a Wikipedia article that explains the gist of the history behind this game. When I saw this game on Steam (a while ago), I was impressed. I thought it would be a sort of HD remake. But it’s far from that. This is a reboot with new gameplay ideas, story and it’s own personality while not loosing the charm of the original. But what did I think of it…? Let’s find out, time to write a first impression after playing the first few levels. And as usual, feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on the game and/or the content of this article. 

Kickstarter

2015-10-11_00002Like a more famous game called Shovel Knight, this game started out on KickStarter too. From what I read, this game was actually a re-imaging of a remake that was made of the original Giana Sisters. Which makes this even more interesting, since the remake was released on my favorite platform of all time: Nintendo DS.

When I found this game on Steam, I was quite interested since it was different from what I played on the DS. In the DS game, it was more a sort of hard Mario-ish game with sisters instead of brothers.

The atmosphere was something else, the story was kind of basic… well, it was so similar to your typical Mario story it kinda hurts. But in my opinion, platformers like these have no real need of a story or can be excused when the story is rather at the generic side. Yet, the story in this game threw me off the hook. Like in the original, the story is barely explained. You had to make it out from the scenery and from the introduction cutscene. This left a lot open for the imagination of the player. How they did it, probably just good game design, the developers of this PC game made it work in Twisted Dreams.

The big twist here is that you can play as both sisters without having to depend on a power-up. In the original game, you had to find a candy hidden in a block (like a mushroom in Mario.) to change into the other sister that could shoot fireballs. Well, in this game, with a simple tap of the button… You change into the other sister.

Changing

2015-10-11_00001Changing in the other sister changes up the gameplay quite a lot. Not only the visuals change from bright & happy to dark & gloomy… The music changes and the whole atmosphere. I got the urge to try to look for a deeper meaning. If a game can pull this off, that means it’s drawing you in. Which is a damn good thing. I usually get easily bored of platformers. But when there is an interesting mechanic involved, well… That gets my attention.

Yet, there is a major flaw with this game and the are the keyboard controls. It might be a lot better on an usual QWERTY keyboard, but on an AZERTY keyboard it bugs out. The following issues I have with the keyboard controls:

  • The up arrow is JUMP. (Which is a crime in itself.)
  • The “W” key is to swirl around. On my keyboard that’s the “Z” key… Why display the “W” and confuse me?
  • A very handy feature to switch from sister to sister is missing from the keyboard controls. (It are the trigger buttons on a controller.)
  • The game showed the wrong buttons often. And what I mean here is that the tutorial showed how you can control the game with a controller…. While I was playing with a keyboard.

At first I thought, you weren’t able to change the controls. But it appears you can. You can change them from the splash screen. Kind of hidden, but okay… I might have gone off on a ramble there. In short, this game is best played with a controller.

The other stuff


2015-10-10_00001This game has two styles. This is a very interesting concept. From the games I have played, I haven’t seen many games do this. First let’s start with the visuals. This game looks very nice in my opinion. Both the colorful and dark side. It gives each sister their own personality. While I would have switched the styles around for the sisters… It works real well.

The level design is brutal in some areas. This gives the player a nice challenge. The developers where kind enough to not work with a life system but with a death counter. The amount of times you died, counts to your final score on that level.

Gameplay wise, this game is a platformer where you switch between two sisters. Each sister has her own abilities and uses. Sometimes you need to switch between the sisters to solve interesting puzzles.

This game has also a mindblowing soundtrack. It’s something I would seriously listen to from time to time. It’s catchy and melodic. I love how one song can sound so good in two different tones. (Like I said earlier, the music also changes when you switch between sisters.)

I would like to say a bit more about this game, but I’ll leave that up for the review. What I personally think of this game right now is that it’s an amazing game and that I can’t wait what they do for the sequel. But I truly hope that they don’t mess up the controls. If you like a platformer with some good challenge and an interesting switching mechanic, this game is right up you alley. I just hope that only AZERTY keyboards got this many issues with the controls… If I’m wrong, play this game with a controller, just to be on the safe side. Oh, and I reported the controls issues to the devs on the Steam forums. Who knows, maybe it’s fixed in a patch rendering my issues with the controls something of the past.

In any case, I think I’m going to wrap up this first impression here. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to welcome you and another artilce. Also have an amazing rest of your day and game on~!

Review #002: Minecraft (PC) ~ Virtual Lego’s with a twist.

Notch-Details-Minecraft-Update-Logo

Link to the game’s site.

Under which smooth stone are you sleeping if you never heard about Minecraft or Lego? This game exploded on the indy game scene and it’s the big hit of today. With over 10 million copies sold on PC and mobile devices, many many positive reviews, this game has to be good. I play it myself nearly daily and went to MineCon last year. But wait a minute, am I actually playing a good game or a messy torturing? Let’s look at the blocky world of Minecraft and let’s check how good the game actually is. 

The graphics suck? No, they look retro!

minecraft-castle-ruinsMany rant video’s how to say that Minecraft sucks will tell you that the graphics suck. Or that it looks bad. The defenders say that the game looks retro. And while the game looks indeed retro, it gives more the impression of Lego blocks in pixel form to me.

Honestly, this game can’t be reviewed in a graphic style. Yes, you can comment on the vanilla graphical looks, but there are so many texture packs that can change the look of the game that it’s impossible to review the graphic side of the game. And I’m not counting the mods to make the game look like “HD” and all the shaders.

If I needed to rate the vanilla graphics, I would praise it. Since all recent games actually go for a realistic look, this game stands out with it’s blocky and pixelated graphics. The vanilla look has never really bored me and I actually barely play with a texture pack. Saves me the trouble of updating it whenever the game updates. Also, I am a retro gamer so I feel right at home in this blocky world.

I don’t get why people bash so much on the graphics of Minecraft. They give me the impression that whenever something doesn’t have proper fingers, the game looks ugly. The people that mostly hate Minecraft are the people who like shooter games. It’s silly how their reviews are always negative. They aren’t really objective and they rip the game apart. As the Minecraft addicts praise the game. Anyways, I’m repeating myself here. Let’s continue.

Goal of Minecraft

minecraft-creeper-590x349

Another big complaint is that the game’s storyline, wait, what story? Well, the thing is that in Minecraft you make the story yourself. The game is a sandbox game and has virtually no limitations. There isn’t even a goal in Minecraft, as there is never a real goal in simulation and sandbox games.

The developers can give the player a goal. Like in the Sims, you need to keep your Sims happy. In Minecraft, the main goal is Survival. If you play in the Survival Mode that is. You also have the creative mode where you get all the blocks handed to you.

In the survival mode, you could mine ores, make a farm, build a home, fight mobs… You can do a lot. Exploring the randomly generated caves is in my eyes a lot of fun. There are actually many things to do in Minecraft, too much to talk about in one review.

There are people on the internet who always make new games within Minecraft itself. Minecraft isn’t going to get boring quick. You have PvP games, Survival games, shooting games, CTF… With Minecraft, you can always make a goal or find a goal to spend countless hours within the game.

The combat is actually a limited part of the game. You can fight mobs, where I think the skeletons are at 1.5 a bit too strong for my liking, and you can fight players. Your only weapons are a sword and a bow. You can enchant your weapons with various enchants, but different weapons in vanilla would be welcome. Thankfully there are mods who add more weapons when you need it.

On the subject of mobs, there are way too few enemies to fight. You have your explosive dude, slender man copy, dead archer, spider, and zombie. Let’s not forget the mutated pigs, the silverfish, blazes and ghasts. Those are all enemies in Minecraft. You have two bosses in Minecraft, one is the Ender Dragon, the other is the Wither. Both give you a challenge if you don’t have good enchanted equipment. But with the enchanted equipment the battles can be a breeze. The Ender Dragon gives you loads of XP when killed and the Wither gives you a Wither Star to create beacons.

So much to talk about

minecraft-snapshot

It’s obvious that this review isn’t complete. And it never will be. The game keeps updating and changing. Which is a lovely thing? New blocks are added, new mobs, new ways to play the game and bug fixes. The game can be very buggy and very complex.

Things I haven’t talked about in this review are the different dimensions for example. There are at the version of writing this review only 3. The End is the worst of them all. Other things I haven’t talked about are Redstone, multiplayer, custom maps, skins, and various other elements.

I have been praising Minecraft for the whole review now, let’s get to the negative side of Minecraft.

The AI of passive mobs is sometimes a joke. The villagers are a great example. They give so many Youtube LP’ers so many trouble that some even rage when they need to work with it. Trying to get a passive animal to follow you is annoying and sometimes very irritating. If you go too many blocks down or when you are in a crowded area, the animal can lose you and just do what it wants.

Minecraft asks a lot from your computer. It’s coded in Java but on computers, with a bad graphics card the game can lag and often have frame drops. It’s playable but with tiny render distance, the game gets a whole lot less fun quickly.

Online, there are way too many hackers. It destroys the fun for people. Griefers, raiders and various other trolls are on servers and sometimes bullying people. It breaks the game and really makes some people sad. Myself included.

Installing mods was difficult, but with custom launchers, it’s a breeze. I’m not going to go in-depth about mods since otherwise, we will be here for six other reviews.

My final point in this game is about the music. It’s amazing. But it barely and rarely plays. It’s a bit sad if only an option existed where you can get the music playing non-stop.

Conclusion

The good:

+ Amazing freedom. 

+ Has so many things to can you make come back multiple times.

+ Very cheap: 20 bucks.

+ Pretty game.

+ Very customize-able.

The bad:

– Herobrine is still in the game.

– The AI of passive mobs needs to improve.

– The game can sometimes be very silent.

Results:

Like I already said, I can get talking about this game for ages. I try to keep my reviews around this length and I know that I have skipped over a lot of the game elements. The mods that expand or change the game, the various online servers, online mini-games, the big community… Or even the big yearly event MineCon. I went to MineCon in Paris last year, videos are on my Youtube channel. 

Let me know in the comments what you guys think about this review and Minecraft. I enjoy it, very much. But it’s not perfect. Thanks for the updates Mojang and the great game.

Score: 90/100